Sunday, June 18, 2006

Remain sitting at your table...

It seems to be a law of writers' blogs that you must have an essay on that perennial question: Where Do You Get Your Ideas? Since I haven't even figured out how to post those links at the side of the blog yet, I thought I'd just get this one out of the way because it's so easy.

Franz Kafka offered this advice to writers (I guess to writers - I can't imagine who else he would have been talking to):

You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstacy at your feet.

I'm here to say that that Kafka really knew what he was talking about.

My boyfriend has a house in a rapidly gentrifying neighborhood, an historical district with gorgeous old houses (huge wraparound porches, five-story high old growth trees, azaleas, hydrangeas, hyacinths - fireflies, for God's sake) - some of which have been redone to perfection, others (fewer and fewer) of which are, well - crack houses. Not to put too fine a point on it.

It makes for some interesting traffic on the streets, let me tell you.

This house is between two rental houses - grand old places that were split up some time ago into various small and in several cases, disreputable, apartments. In the house on the right are student types and young recent graduates. In the house on the left are crazy people and criminals.

And all this makes for some interesting viewing, during those long, long days when I'm staring blankly out of whichever window I happen to be working in front of.

There's a very, very cute twenty-something in the student house. Very cute. Very smart. Long hair. Great, probing eyes. Sits on the porch alone and smokes and thinks. Dead end job. Did I mention cute? And who lives with his very sweet, very straight girlfriend. And I'm very nicely taken care of myself, thank you very much. I'm just saying.

In the crazy house, there is a crazy girl. Young woman. One or the other. You must use words like "spitfire" and "floozy" and "lolls" and "prowls" to describe her. She throws anything within reach when she's angry, which is often. She screams. She sobs. She constantly locks herself out of the house.and asks the nearest passing man to boost her up to the second story window so she can get back in. She is often in just a - very short -bathrobe when she does this. I don't actually think she works, but if she did work, she'd be a "dancer". You know. Not quite exactly the way I'm a dancer. Sex just rolls off her in waves. I'd sleep with her. Well, I wouldn't really, but I certainly don't have the slightest trouble imagining it.

Oh yeah, and she's married. Young husband. Clueless.

Now, this whole situation is ripe. It's practically oozing. There will be all kinds of sex with the wrong people. There will be scheming, and cross-scheming. Someone will die. Horribly. There will be betrayals and reversals that will make your head spin.

And you know, I don't have even the vaguest idea what part of it I'll end up writing. The whole Hitchcockian thing? Or just one character who shows up fully formed in some other story when I least expect it? I have no idea. I just know it's growing.

I remain sitting quietly at my table, and wait for the world to roll at my feet.

Friday, June 16, 2006

More on film: Upcoming novel adaptations

Browsing through the open studio assignment list again, this time for upcoming novel adaptations. (I do this partly as a public service, because appallingly often executives don't even let the writers and authors involved know that they're trolling for another writer.)

This list does NOT include remakes that are also novel adaptations - I listed those several posts below.

I've listed the projects by studio (in bold). Some of these studios you won't recognize because they're not really studios - some of them are financial sources, aka "People who can write a check." It's interesting to look at just to see how few active financial sources there are out there. More on which later!

I've listed the production co. or producer in paretheses at the end of each entry).

(And I noticed right off the bat - there are a TON of YA and children's book adaptations in the works... they're scattered in the list below.)


Buena Vista

CABIN PRESSURE - based on a book proposal by Josh Wolk (an Entertainment Weekly writer)
IF YOU COULD SEE ME NOW - Hugh Jackman musical based on the upcoming novel by Celia Ahern
ON A PALE HORSE - based on the novel by Piers Anthony (Top Cow)


AS SHE CLIMBED ACROSS THE TABLE, based on the Jonathan Letham novel
NIGHTLIFE - based on the thriller by Thomas Perry

Focus Films:

THE HUSBAND - based on the Dean Koontz thriller


DEEP BLUE GOODBYE - based on the Travis McGee novels by John D. MacDonald
ESCAPE OF THE PACIFIC CLIPPER - based on the novel by George L. Flynn about the origins of Pan-Am (Mark Gordon Co.)
LEONARDO THE TERRIBLE MONSTER - based on the Mo Williams children's book (21 Laps Ent.)
LITTLE DARLINGS - based on the British children's series by Sam Llewelyn
ME VS. ME - based on the novel by Sarah Mlynowski (21 Laps Ent.)
PREY - based on the thriller by Michael Crichton
ROTTEN SCHOOL - based on the children's series GOOSEBUMPS by RL Stine

Fox 2000

THE KILLING SEA - based on the Richard Lewis novel (Scott Free Prods)
PERCY JACKSON AND THE LIGHTING - based on the YA fantasy novel by Rick Riordan (Maverick)
RAMONA QUIMBY - based on the classic children's books by Beverly Cleary (DiNovi Pictures)


AFTER HAILEY, from the novel by Jonathan Tropper (Michaels/Goldwyn Prods.)
THE ANYBODIES, from the children's book by Julianne Baggott (Nickelodeon)
BIG FRIENDLY GIANT - based on the Roald Dahl book. Kennedy/Marshall Co:, Blue Wolf Prods.
DOPE - Based on the upcoming mystery novel by Sara Gran (Michael London)
DRIFT HOUSE - Based on the upcoming British YA fantasy novel by Dale Peck
FIVE MEN WHO BROKE MY HEART - based on the novel by Susan Shapiro (Blum House)
GAME OF SUNKEN PLACES - based on the YA novel by MT Anderson (Nickelodeon, Blum House)
GUESTS OF THE AYATOLLAH - based on the novel by Mark Bowdon (Scott Rudin Prods.)
H.I.V.E. - based on the YA novel by Mark Walden (Lynda Obst Prods.)
ONE SHOT - based on the novel by Lee Child (C/W Prods, Mutual Film Co.)
THE RECKONING - based on the supernatural thriller by Jeff Long (Type A Films)
SEX DRIVE - based on the coming of age novel by Andy Behrens (Linda Obst Prods)
THE SPELLMAN FILES - based on the Lisa Lutz novel
THE WINTER OF FRANKIE MACHINE - based on the yet-to-be-published book by Don Winslow
THE WIZARD, THE WITCH, AND TWO GIRLS FROM JERSEY - based on the YA fantasy novel by Lisa Papademetriou


ALEXANDER AND THE TERRIBLE, HORRIBLE, NO GOOD, VERY BAD DAY from the famous children's book by Judith Viorst (Original Films )
CARNE ASADA - Comedy based on a book proposal by Rich Wilkes

HOW I PAID FOR COLLEGE: A TALE OF SEX, THEFT, FRIENDSHIP, AND MUSICAL THEATER - based on the novel by Marc Acito (Laura Ziskin Prods.) (I LOVED THIS BOOK!!!! funniest thing I've read in years!!!)

THE SCORPION GATE - based on the geopolitical thriller by Richard Clarke

Tom Jacobson

THE CONVERT - based on an anonymously written book.


DECEIT - based on the book DERAILED, by James Siegal.
WISHWORKS - based on the children's book by Jason Lathcoe

Walden Media

CHARM SCHOOL - based on a Nelson DeMille novel (Bristol Bay, Kennedy/Marshall Co.)
THE LOTUS CAVES - based on the children's novel by John Cristofer
WHERE'S WALDO - based on the children's book series by Martin Handf

Warner Bros.

EMPEROR OF OCEAN PARK - based on the novel by Stephen L. Carter (Gaylord Ent. John Wells Prods.
ENDYMION SPRING - based on the new novel by Matthew Skelton (Bueller Films)
THE FORGE OF GOD - planned as a three-film series based on Gret Bear's novels THE FORGE OF GOD and ANVIL OF STARS (Jerry Weintraub Prods)
GUARDIANS OF GA'HOOLE = based on Kathryn Lasky's children's fantasy series (Donald Deline)
THE LAST GIANTS - based on a French children's book by Francois Place (Management 360)
THE LIES OF LOCKE LAMORA - Based on the fantasy novel by Scott Lynch (DeLuca Prods, Firm Films)
LONG WAY DOWN - based on the novel by Nick Hornsby (IEG)
MARKET FORCES - based on the novel by Richard Morgan (Thunder Road, Village Roadshow)
MEASLE AND THE WRATHMONK - based on upcoming 3 book children's series by Ian Ogilvy (Imagemovers)
OUT OF MY HEAD - based on the comic novel by Didier von Cauwelaert (Leonard Goldberg)
SLEEPER AGENDA - AKA SLEEPER CODE - based on two teen thrillers by YA author Thomas Shlegoski

Unclear where set up:

SPECIMEN DAYS - based on the novel by Michael Cunningham (Scott Rudin)
VARIABLE MAN - based on a Philip K. Dick short story (Silver Pictures)

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Just do it

Shakespeare has the answer.

Well, sort of.

I realized what I was fretting about yesterday was the enormity of doing this story justice (this is my eternal fret, actually). And a line leapt to mind - my favorite moment from, not Shakespeare, but the riotous Complete Works of Wm. Shakespeare (Abridged), written and for quite a long time performed by my friends (since college, eek!) Adam Long, Daniel Singer and Jess Winfield (who is one of my critique partners, currently writing a brilliant novel about sex, drugs, and Shakespeare.)

My favorite moment in a show full of laugh-till-you're-sick moments comes just before the intermission, when Adam flat out refuses to go any further, because the one play left that the boys haven't yet butchered is HAMLET. And Adam just doesn't think he can do it justice.

Jess lifts a sobbing Adam from the floor, assuring him - "We don't have to do it justice. We just have to do it."

And that's the point I have to remember. Sometimes you don't have to do it justice (although you always hope justice eventually will be done). Sometimes you just have to do it.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

A sudden thought...

Here's a thought. What if I just don't finish?

Today I'm up to p. 349 of THE PRICE, and I don't want to write any more. I'm tired. The scene coming up is just too hard. I have one book. What do I really need another for? I could go to the beach. I could go to Peru. I could just, you know, go shopping.

What am I trying to prove, anyway?

It's a free country. What if I just stop, right now?

Monday, June 12, 2006

Put your body upon the wheel

My critique group has been talking about Berkeley (since we all went there, how incestuous is that?) and this quote from Mario Savio, leader of the Free Speech movement, came up. I just had to reprint it here because it's so completely brilliant, and somehow apropos to remakes? Hollywood?

There is a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can’t take part; you can’t even passively take part, and you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you’ve got to make it stop. And you’ve got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you’re free, the machine will be prevented from working at all.

- Mario Savio, on the steps of Sproul Plaza
(Extemporaneous, btw)

Friday, June 09, 2006

Remakes, remakes, as far as the eye can see...

No, I haven't seen THE OMEN remake yet - that would be tonight. (I admit I'm excited. Even if it's not great, it's still THE OMEN, right?) But browsing through a new open writing assignment list (the list of projects set up at film studios that are actively looking for writers) I could hardly help but notice (AGAIN) the number of remakes coming down the pipe. This is by no means a complete list of what's coming - it's just the projects currently looking for writers. Thought others might be interested - or maybe I mean to say horrified:

ANGEL HEART (from the book)
THE EQUALIZER (from TV show)
THE KID (as a musical)

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Best Novel Adaptations (according to The Guardian)

I am absolutely staggered that my two favorite adaptions did NOT make it onto this list, but see for yourself:,,1756384,00.html

Now how can anyone possibly put together a list of the best novel-to-film adaptations of all time and not include ROSEMARY'S BABY and SILENCE OF THE LAMBS?

Those are the films that got me into film. Those are the novels that got me into novels. Both films are as close to perfect adaptations of the novels as any author could ask for - perfect casting, perfect suspense, perfect production values - and above all, both managed to pull off the dreamlike hypnosis that make those novels horror classics - all in the completely different medium of film. (And if you think that's easy, check out just about any film or TV adaptation of ANY Stephen King novel or story, notable exceptions being THE SHINING (Kubrick's - sincere apologies, Mr. King!) and THE DEAD ZONE.)

I'd sell my soul for that kind of adaptation.

Can you say "horror bias"? Because I can't think of any other explanation.

(full Guardian article somehow not coming up, now, so here's the list:

1. To Kill a Mockingbird
Robert Mulligan (1962)
Adapted by Horton Foote from Harper Lee's 1960 novel

2 .One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
Milos Forman (1975)
Adapted by Bo Goldman and Lawrence Hauben from the 1962 novel by Ken Kesey

3. Blade Runner
Ridley Scott (1982)
Adapted by Hampton Fancher and David Webb Peoples from the 1968 novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K Dick

4. The Godfather
Francis Ford Coppola (1972)
Adapted by Mario Puzo from his 1969 novel

5. The Remains of the Day
James Ivory (1993)
Adapted by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala from the 1989 novel by Kazuo Ishiguro

6. Kes
Ken Loach (1969)
Adapted by Tony Garnett from the 1968 novel A Kestrel For a Knave by Barry Hines

7. Apocalypse Now
Francis Ford Coppola (1979)
Adapted by Coppola and John Milius from the 1899 novella Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

8 .The Shawshank Redemption
Frank Darabont (1994)
Adapted by Darabont from the 1982 short story Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption by Stephen King

9. LA Confidential
Curtis Hanson (1997)
Adapted by Hanson and Brian Helgeland from the 1990 novel by James Ellroy

10. Brokeback Mountain
Ang Lee (2005)
Adapted by Diana Ossana and Larry McMurtry from the 1997 short story by E Annie Proulx

11. A Clockwork Orange
Stanley Kubrick (1971)
Adapted by Kubrick from the 1962 novel by Anthony Burgess

12. Doctor Zhivago
David Lean (1965)
Adapted by Robert Bolt from the 1957 novel by Boris Pasternak

13. The Maltese Falcon
John Huston (1941)
Adapted by Huston from the 1930 novel by Dashiell Hammett

14. Fight Club
David Fincher (1999)
Adapted by Jim Uhls from the 1996 novel by Chuck Palahniuk

15. The English Patient
Anthony Minghella (1996)
Adapted by Minghella from the 1992 novel by Michael Ondaatje

16. Brighton Rock
John Boulting (1947)
Adapted by Graham Greene and Terence Rattigan from the 1938 novel by Greene

17. Trainspotting
Danny Boyle (1996)
Adapted by John Hodge from the 1993 novel by Irvine Welsh

18. Rebecca
Alfred Hitchcock (1940)
Adapted by Philip MacDonald from the 1938 novel by Daphne du Maurier

19. Oliver Twist
David Lean (1948)
Adapted by Lean and Stanley Haynes from the 1838 novel by Charles Dickens

20. Schindler's List
Steven Spielberg (1993)
Adapted by Steven Zaillian from the 1982 novel Schindler's Ark by Thomas Keneally

21. The Railway Children
dir: Lionel Jeffries (1970)
adapted by Lionel Jeffries from Edith Nesbit's novel

22. Breakfast at Tiffany's
dir: Blake Edwards (1961)
adapted by Truman Capote and George Axelrod from Truman Capote's short story

23. Dangerous Liaisons
dir: Stephen Frears (1988)
adapted by Christopher Hampton from Choderlos de Laclos' novel

24 Orlando
dir: Sally Potter (1992)
adapted by Sally Potter from Virginia Woolf's novel

25 Empire of the Sun
dir: Steven Spielberg (1987)
adapted by Tom Stoppard from JG Ballard's novel

26 Goodfellas
dir: Martin Scorsese (1990)
adapted by Martin Scorsese and Nicholas Pileggi from the book by Nicholas Pileggi

27. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie
dir: Ronald Neame (1969)
adapted by Jay Presson Allen from Muriel Spark's novel

28. The Talented Mr Ripley
dir: Anthony Minghella (1999)
adapted by Anthony Minghella
from Patricia Highsmith's nove
(This is a remake of Purple Noon/Plein Soleil scripted by Rene Clement and Paul Gegauf.)

29. The Spy Who Came in From the Cold
dir: Martin Ritt (1965)
adapted Paul Dehn and Guy Trosper from John le Carré's Novel

30. Lord of the Flies
dir: Peter Brook (1963)
adapted by Peter Brook from William Golding's novel

31. Pride and Prejudice
dir: Joe Wright (2005)
adapted by Deborah Moggach from Jane Austen's novel

32. Sin City
dir: Frank Miller, Robert Rodriguez, Quentin Tarantino (2005)
adapted from Frank Miller's graphic novel

33. The Vanishing
dir: George Sluizer (1993)
adapted by George Sluizer and Tim Krabbé from Tim Krabbé's novel

34. Jaws
dir: Steven Spielberg (1975)
adapted by Peter Benchley and Carl Gottlieb from Peter Benchley's novel

35. Watership Down
dir: Martin Rosen (1978)
adapted by Martin Rosen from Richard Adams' novel

36. Nineteen Eighty-Four
dir: Michael Radford (1984)
adapted by Michael Radford from George Orwell's novel

37. The French Lieutenant's Woman
dir: Karel Reisz (1981)
adapted by Harold Pinter from John Fowles's novel

38. Catch-22
dir: Mike Nichols (1970)
adapted by Buck Henry from Joseph Heller's novel

39. Lolita
dir: Stanley Kubrick (1962)
adapted by Vladimir Nabokov and Stanley Kubrick from Vladimir Nabokov's novel

40. Tess
dir: Roman Polanski (1979)
adapted by Roman Polansky, Gerard Brach, and John Brownjohn from Thomas Hardy's novel

41. Get Shorty
dir: Barry Sonnenfeld (1995)
adapted by Scott Frank from Elmore Leonard's novel

42. The Jungle Book
dir: Wolfgang Reitherman (1967)
adapted by Larry Clemmons, Raph Wright, Ken Anderson, and Vance Gerry from the stories by Rudyard Kipling.

43. Alice
dir: Jan Svankmajer (1988)
adapted by Jan Svanmajer from Lewis Carroll's novel

44. American Psycho
dir: Mary Harron (2000)
adapted Mary Harron and Guinevere Turner from Bret Easton Ellis' novel

45. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
dir: Tim Burton (2005)
adapted by John August from Roald Dahl's novel

46. Devil in a Blue Dress
dir: Carl Franklin (1995)
adapted by Carl Franklin from Walter Mosley's novel

47. Goldfinger
dir: Guy Hamilton (1964)
adapted Richard Maibaum and Paul Dehn from Ian Fleming's novel

48. The Day of the Triffids
dir: Steve Sekely (1962)
adapted by Bernard Gordon from John Wyndham's novel
(Phillip Yordan acted as front for the blacklisted Gordon)

49. The Hound of the Baskervilles
dir: Sidney Lanfield (1939)
adapted by Ernest Pascal from Arthur Conan Doyle novella

50. The Outsiders
dir: Francis Ford Coppola (1983)
adapted by Kathleen Rowell from Susan Hinton's novel

Alex XX

If Women Ran the World (Malice Domestic)

If women ran the world....................................................................


Oh. Sorry. Drifted off there, for a moment...

If women ran the world, I have to think it would be something like Malice Domestic. So lovely and organized and sane. So efficient and charming and pleasurable. With such a dark and powerful and lethal undercurrent.

I loved this conference, even though I have to say I was not personally at my best. In California, you see, we don't really have seasons. Therefore we don't have seasonal allergies. In North Carolina, where I am spending half my life these days, there's this thing called Spring. It's amazing. One day the trees are bare and the sky is gray white and the land is brown and bleak and you can see actual distances (with no mountains, but still, a few vistas) and you're wearing five layers to go out on the porch - and the very next morning you wake up with BLOSSOMS!!! TULIPS!!!! DAFFODILS!!! HYACINTHS!!!! DOGWOODS!!!! GREEN EVERYWHERE!!! TOTAL SENSORY OVERLOAD!!!!!!!

These blooms sort of unfold right before your eyes as if you're trapped in a time-lapse photography demo.

And with all this comes seasonal allergies.

When I get sick, which is not often, I lose my voice first thing. Always have (I'm sure there's a metaphorical explanation). And the spring pollen here is not to be believed - it blows through the air like snow. So I drove up from Raleigh to Arlington, Virginia for Malice with no voice at all - a total drag because I couldn't sing along to actually pretty good car radio. Plus the East in the Spring is so green that everything looks the same and you have no idea where you are, ever. I'm used to navigating off buildings, BUILDINGS.

But I did finally get to the Arlington Crystal Marriott - and the first great thing about Malice is that it all takes place in the same hotel. Which means much less walking than other conferences. This is good.

I settled into the Sisters in Crime booth this time as into a huge comfortable couch. Met more of the most charming and witty and amazing Sisters: Sandy Parshall (the picture of grace, with a simmering dark streak - I love her!), Judith Skillings, Tasha Alexander, Rita Harkin, Charlaine Harris, Sue Ann Jaffarian. Doris Ann Norris, patron saint of mystery writers, was very much present, being a patron and a saint.

Everything was so organized - yet completely and smoothly accommodating to any interesting twists that came up. And so inclusive! The second Chris Roerden, who was moderating a panel on novel adaptations to film and television, heard that I'm a screenwriter and WGA activist, she asked me to join her panel (now that was a trip, with BOTH of us down with laryngitis!). Cindy Silverblatt graciously introduced me at the New Authors Breakfast even though I'm not published until September.

There was a fun panel on "Things That Go Bump In the Night", on supernatural mysteries (thank God, or it would all have been just a little too - well, cozy, for me.), and I had a blast listening to my new Sister friends from PLA, Dana Cameron, Donna Andrews, Toni Kelner plus Charlaine Harris, Julie Wray Herman, Elaine Viets and Nancy Pickard during a sometimes, well, heated, panel on Cozy Sex.

Oh - there were men there, too. Really! Robert Barnard stalked me throughout the conference (he swears it was a coincidence that we kept ending up in the same elevator, but hah.)

But I think the high point of the weekend for me was the Sisters In Crime Breakfast.

Now, I love men. I do. Being generally straight (hey, I said straight, not vanilla!) I find them useful for all kinds of things. I work in a male-dominated profession (that would be film) and an even more male dominated genre (thrillers and horror) and a great deal of my work life consists of me in a room with five to seven men, which is undeniably great odds and a lot of fun - I don't mind it a bit.

But I guess I didn't realize how starved I've been for the company of women. And what women! It was really a privilege just to be in the room with them - about a hundred at breakfast, just gathering for a general meeting (There are plenty of men in Sisters and Crime, by the way, but they must not be early risers). The POWER in that room. So much wit and intelligence - so much grace. Goddesses, and regal, every one.

If women ran the world... well, after just a weekend of Malice, I personally would like to see it.

Alex XX