What a relief!

Finally, last night — just mere moments before the airing of the newest episode of Riverdale on the CW — I finished my revisions of Act One of Cleveland’s Burning.

I think I’m happy with it, but I’ll know better once I go over it again here this morning. Last night, however, I was extremely happy with it.

As an aside, I want to say that I really loved how, at least for now, they’ve done away with the pesky problem of pedophilia in Riverdale [Spoiler Aert!!] by simply forcing Miss Grundy to leave town… I guess we’ll see how that pans out. (And, you know, back in the day when I was in high school, they never asked heterosexual teachers to leave town; they basically just told the teenagers who were sleeping with their teachers to “knock it off.”  Ah, the 70s! Gotta love ’em!) (If you were a gay teacher, however, your life was essentially over and they would have put you on the front page of the newspaper.)

Anyway. Back to the topic of re-writes. It is a strange phenomenon, and one I go through with every single project I write — I know exactly what I want to say, yet getting it onto the page can take, literally, forever. At first, I go merrily along, typing, typing… And then suddenly, I hit an impasse and wonder how on earth to get words onto the page. I don’t know why that happens, but it always does. It’s not as if I suddenly lose my vocabulary, or my sense of how grammar is structured. I can see what the characters are doing. Yet I just can’t get the words out!

It makes me INSANE.

However, I can look at all my completed, published projects (of which I have many), and see the proof there that the condition is always temporary, so I stick with it, grueling as it is.

What tripped me up yesterday was having my character go into a diner and order a cup of coffee at the counter. It felt wrong. At first, I thought it was the counter attendant’s age — so I changed him from a teenager to a 50-year-old. Then I had my character pay for the coffee with a dime. (In 1963, a cup of coffee cost a dime.) Then I had him leave a tip. Then I deleted the tip because it was taking up precious screen time. But then the neighbor girl puts a nickel in the jukebox! Suddenly all this screen time is being “spent,” as it were, on dimes and nickels.  It was really just ridiculous. So I stopped everything and walked away. I flopped down on the bed and read several chapters of Peril At End House, c -1932 by Agatha Christie and all was right with the world again.

So back to the desk I went and I realized that the character is simply at the counter drinking a cup of coffee! For heaven’s sake, just get rid of the counter attendant altogether, along with all the dimes and nickels. And finally, the rest of the scenes came and the act was over! Commercial break time!! Yay.

And last night was a great feeling — to finally finish Act One.

Act One in a one-hour TV drama is the longest chunk. Everything else after this gets shorter and shorter, so I really do feel a great sense of relief. Especially since, this coming Tuesday, a mere 5 days away, the notes for Tea Cozy Murder Club will be coming my way… And the final, final, FINAL edits for the one-woman musical I’m working on with Sandra Caldwell in New York are sitting atop my desk, awaiting my attention…

It’s no wonder I wake-up tired.

Okay!! Have a happy Friday, gang, wherever you are and whatever you’re doing! And, as always, thanks for visiting! See ya!

No trick left unturned!! Gotta love it!
No trick left unturned!! Gotta love it!

 

 

Okey-dokey! It’s finally that time!

I got the email from Bohemia Group last night, alerting me that the live table read for my movie-length TV pilot, The Tea Cozy Murder Club: A Murder at Parsons Ridge will be held Tuesday night, Feb. 21st, at a venue called Geeky Teas & Games in Burbank, California.

Bohemia Group is the same production company that is helping me develop my TV pilot script for Cleveland’s Burning (also less popularly known as “Untitled Cleveland Drama”).

I’m so excited about the table read for Tea Cozy Murder Club because it will be a chance for me to hear professional actors (!!) reading the script. (Yes, they read it out loud! They don’t just sit around a table and read it quietly amongst themselves…) (ha ha)

Anyway, this is a chance for me to get feedback on the characters as well as the overall pacing of the script. Then I will get input on suggestions for revisions (not from the actors).

Why, yes! This does in fact mean that not only am I now knee deep in re-writes for Cleveland’s Burning, I will soon have notes for re-writes for Tea Cozy Murder Club on my desk, as well!

But, hey! I’d rather have this kinda problem, right?

For those of you new to Marilyn’s Room, this is the logline and the synopsis for the pilot script:

The Tea Cozy Murder Club:

The members of a small town book club that delights in solving cozy old whodunits suddenly find themselves with a very real not-so-cozy murder to solve. Murder She Wrote meets the Golden Girls.

The Tea Cozy Murder Club: A Murder at Parsons Ridge (Halloween):

Halloween approaches and the days are growing colder; as the leaves are changing to gold and orange, an actual murder takes place at the College at Parsons Ridge. A single, attractive, yet very unpopular teacher is found dead at the foot of her stairs. She is in stocking feet and had clearly been drinking wine alone, so it is assumed she slipped down the stairs and broke her neck in the fall. The members of the Tea Cozy Murder Club are not so sure it’s an accident – they believe it is murder. With the help of Mona’s daughter, Natalie, who is a rookie officer at the local police station, and her boyfriend, Blair Overfield, the man who owns the local inn (an historical inn that is allegedly haunted), the women of the book club decide to put their sleuthing skills to work and solve the murder themselves.

Also, later today, I will be getting editing notes on my revisions to most of Act One of Cleveland’s Burning from the lovely and talented poet/writer/New Yorker, Iris N. Schwartz! I am very eager to hear her feedback. She edited the first draft of the script a couple years ago…

Okay, gang! Enjoy this merry Valentine’s Day, wherever you are and whatever you’re doing! (And here’s my very favorite Valentine from yesteryear!!):

c - 1993 Greg Gorman
c – 1993 Greg Gorman

Thanks for visiting!! Love ya!!

R.I.P. Cleo & Charlie

Loyal readers of this lofty blog will no doubt recall that I have written here many times over the years of my good friend Val in Brooklyn, who pens the Paws for Thought Comic strip.

She & I have been great friends since 1982, and we are collaborating on an illustrated mystery book series, The Miracle Cats. The first installment will be titled The Miracle Cats and the Case of the Purloined Passport.  We started working on the book well over a year ago. It was going quite well until all sorts of tragedies and extreme challenges began popping up in both our lives, including numerous deaths, and so the writing/illustrating of the book went down to slower than a snail’s pace.

Well, earlier this week, another tragedy struck! 2 of Val’s cats died in the same afternoon.  Charlie had been diagnosed with cancer about one year ago. In fact, my cat, Fluffy, was diagnosed with cancer a month or so after Charlie had been, but Charlie outlived Fluffy by 5 months.

Val and I have a long history of adopting and/or rescuing cats. In fact, way back in 1983, Val rescued a little black & white kitten who lived around the train tracks in Long Island City, out in Queens, NY, where Val lived back then. Val brought the kitten to live with me in my apartment in Manhattan. I named her Kitty, and she was a sickly kitty, but she lived to be 18 years old! And a very dear companion to me. She passed on December 13th, 2001.

Anyway. I digress. Val rescued Charlie as a teeny kitten. In fact, she rescued his whole family! Cleo, the mom, had 2 tiny kittens (Charlie and Pickles) and I believe they were all sort of sickly,  barely surviving under a freeway overpass in Brooklyn. This was 15 years ago. And, although Charlie was expected to die at any moment because of the cancer, his mom, Cleo, who seemed fine and healthy, wound up dying suddenly on the same afternoon as Charlie did. Completely unexpected and so very sad. Losing 2 furry friends in one day, and of course, leaving a 3rd cat, Charlie’s sibling, Pickles, to mourn the sudden loss of a whole family.

Val has several other cats, as well as a rescued dog, and many ferals that come and go in her backyard sanctuary in Brooklyn, yet it is still so sad to lose any members of our families, regardless of how many critters there are! My heart goes out to all of them.

One of these days, things will finally calm down. The clouds will pass, the sun will shine, and we’ll finally finish creating The Miracle Cats! But in the meantime, we ponder the loss and the very meaning of life, even as life goes on. Thanks for visiting, gang.

Cleo and Charlie, in the early years.
Cleo and Charlie, in the early years.

 

How to not walk away from your chair

I’ve been a professional writer — meaning that I’ve earned some form of income from my writing — since I was 23 years old. That is 33 years already, and I still battle that timeless problem of wanting to get up out of my chair and go do something else approximately every five minutes!

Today is no exception!

I’ve been at my desk, doing the revisions on Cleveland’s Burning all morning. I am making strides with it, but I am still constantly getting up from my chair and wandering around the house. Why does writing still fill me with anxiety, even after all these years?

When I hit those patches in the script where it flows, then it’s great. But most of the time, I’m hitting patches that need to be re-thought, and re-thought really carefully. There is something in that thought process that brings everything to a screeching halt, making me automatically stop everything, even in mid-sentence, and get up from my chair and walk away.

Look out the window in the living room. Lots of snow out there.

Go into the kitchen and look out that window. Lots of snow out there, too.

Then back to the desk and sit down and try like heck to ignore the anxiety of creating.

When I was a lot younger, creating was always a really, really joyful thing. When did it become so anxiety-inducing? Actually, once I moved away from New York, it became anxiety-inducing. (I had originally thought that getting out of the city and settling someplace quieter was going to be so relaxing! Oddly enough, I was really, really wrong about that. For so many reasons that I won’t go into now. It’s sufficient to say, New York is simply in my blood.)

Well, on one of my many detours from the writing-on-the-page, I once again looked up properties for sale, or even for rent, in Dutchess County, NY; took a look at the price tags; took a look at what I had in the bank, and lo & behold, the reality of those two things created a really good incentive for staying put in my chair!

Okay! My lunch break is over. Going to get back at it on this snowy afternoon in the hinterlands. And it ain’t so bad in the hinterlands. I like it a whole lot better than back in the suburbs, that’s for sure!

The charm of the hinterlands in the fall.
The charm of the hinterlands in the fall.

All right! See ya. Have a great Thursday, wherever you are. Thanks for stopping in.

 

 

Blessed & restored in the hinterlands!

Yesterday, it was cold here but really sunny. It was one of those February days in which you begin to remember how Spring feels. In fact, when I opened the front door early yesterday morning, I heard birds singing.

After tangling with Cleveland’s Burning revisions well into the afternoon, I decided to go out and take a walk. I really needed to refresh my mind and it has been months since I was able to just go out and walk. (In days of yore, when I lived in the old house, I used to walk 2-3 miles a day. I really missed doing that.)

At the end of my street, here in the hinterlands, is what I had thought was a small playground. Yesterday, I thought to myself: Self, I thought, go walk to the playground and back. Your mind will feel better!

So off I went. The “playground” is less than a 5-minute walk from my house. But when I got there, lo & behold, I discovered that it was a huge municipal park! It had 2 playgrounds, 2 baseball diamonds, a couple of paved walking paths, a huge sand lot — and tons of beautiful tall trees, rolling hills, and green grass that went on for quite a distance.

I  was so filled with joy.  It was like God dropped this amazing piece of solitude right into my lap! There were very few people in the park, partly because it was cold out and partly because it was honing in on the magic hour of Superbowl Sunday.

As I walked over hill & dale & through the wooded areas in absolute tranquility,  fondly recalling the wonderful park my Grandma used to take me and my brother to that was at the end of her street (way back in the early 1960s), it finally came to me that the reason I was struggling with the script is because I needed to take the scene I was revising and really polish it, make it sparkle, even though it will only be a few seconds of screen time.

With that realization, my mind felt free and I felt completely blessed and restored.

There is a lot about my life these days that confounds me — mostly the limbo of it. However, there is so much about it that makes me feel blessed when I take the time to stop and look at it.

For instance, my friend being willing to rent me her 2000-square foot house for next to nothing, so that I can save up money to move back to New York. (Technically, I have enough money to move back to New York right now, but it is so expensive there, I worry that I would be broke in about 2 months…) Plus, she is giving sanctuary to my colony of 8 semi-feral cats.

Not many people would do that. And not only does she allow them to live here, she actually likes them and engages with them when she comes to visit.

I love living out here in the hinterlands (in Tea Cozy Murder Club country — the other TV show I’m writing). Yes, there are farms, and cute alpacas, and cows, and beautiful, pastoral parks, but there are also book stores and plenty of non-chain restaurants, and farmers’ markets around.  So it’s not like it’s the Land that Time Forgot. It’s a little lonely, but these days, I basically need to sit in my room and write, so that’s okay.

Here is a photo of the park. I didn’t take this photo myself, I found it online. So thank you to whoever took it:

The park from the top of the hill. Looking away from the playgrounds and baseball diamonds.
The park from the top of the hill. Looking away from the playgrounds and baseball diamonds.

If you click on the photo, you’ll get a feel for the expanse of it. It is almost impossible to believe that directly on the other side of this park is a huge mall, complete with an AMC multi-plex movie theater!

All right, gang, I gotta scoot! Have a lovely Monday, wherever you are and whatever you’re doing! And remember: Everyday, in every way, it’s all getting better and better!

See ya!

Yes, we finally persuaded ourselves!

Ah, what could be better than using the royal “we”?

I do, of course, refer to myself as the one who was not only persuaded, but also who did the persuading!

I’m talking about the cold open vs. Act One issue (see post below). It finally became glaringly apparent that we were already into Act One from the top of page 2, so I just went with it and then made great progress.

One thing that has sort of stymied me, though, has been watching the new CW television show, Riverdale. That show (which I am really enjoying, although I can’t really see in what way it is related at all to The Archies…) (ha ha).

Anyway, Riverdale takes a full ten minutes in its cold open. I’ve been timing it! It feels like the show is practically over before they roll the opening credits! Even though it does a great job of drawing you well in to the storyline, as a writer, that means you get maybe 45 or 50 pages to present, circle back, and tie-up the entire  episode.

That feels way too restrictive for me, even though I love how it comes across in Riverdale.

Anyway. I got past it! And now I feel pretty confident that I will have the revisions for Cleveland’s Burning (aka Untitled Cleveland Drama) completed by mid-February! Yay! Then on to all the other stuff that needs revisions…

On another note:

Another wonderful thing I’ve discovered about living here in the hinterlands of Ohio (or in any State’s hinterlands, I’m guessing) is the ready and constant access you have to farm-fresh produce!! Wowie. I have an indoor farmer’s market within walking distance from my house. Literally, I can drive there in under 2 minutes, which means that, if I’m driving, in less than 120 seconds, I am standing amid farm-fresh produce! And in spring & summer, the outdoor farmer’s market is only 10 minutes away. (I’m a vegetarian, and of course prefer either really fresh or organic produce whenever possible, so you can imagine my delight over farmers’ markets.)

Also, I finally bought a cheap, hand-held spiralizer the other day. I love it. I made zucchini “spaghetti” last night for dinner and it was incredible. (I didn’t buy the zucchini at the farmer’s market, though. They didn’t have any. Of course, I hated to ask myself why zucchini was available anywhere in the dead of winter because the only answer that came back to me did not include the words “natural” or “organic.”)

Anyway, it was just too cool! A whole bowl of “spaghetti” that only had  about 200 calories — and 140 of the calories came from the olive oil. I ate the big bowl of spaghetti while watching a 47-year-old re-run of Laugh-In. A show I loved as a kid, and I still love it now! The sun was going down and outside of the enormous picture window in the living room, I was a bit spellbound to see how magnificent the endless sky looks when one lives in the hinterlands.

Good food. Quietude. Nature. Peace. And Laugh-In. It doesn’t get any better after a long day of re-writing a story I am really passionate about.

Okay, gotta get moving here. I’m going to leave you with a choice here today, gang:

The sublime (the song that inspired my opening scene in Cleveland’s Burning):

Or the ridiculous! (I love this song!!!) (They actually managed to squeeze it into Riverdale in episode 2!)

Okay!! Thanks for visiting, gang! See ya!

The world of author Marilyn Jaye Lewis