Carpenter Quest: My Six Year Adventure To Meet A Personal Hero

We all have those people we always would have wanted to meet, people who have done great work in the military, politics, public service, and of course, those who influence us in the realm of fiction and imagination. Being an aspiring storyteller, one director who has been a great influence on me is John Carpenter. I had been wanting to meet Carpenter for some time, and yesterday marked a satisfying conclusion to that quest spanning some six years.

Not only is Carpenter an auteur of the horror genre with such classics as Halloween and The Thing, but he has also explored romance with Starman, comedy with Big Trouble In Little China, action with Escape From New York, satire with They Live, and suspense with Assault on Precinct 13. Carpenter is easily in my top ten favorite directors, nestled alongside other masters such as Stanley Kubrick, Alfred Hitchcock, Steven Spielberg, and Hayao Miyazaki. I came close to meeting the director before, but sadly missed my chance back in college.

I had started to frequent horror film conventions in high school and soon found myself going to a little place called HorrorHound. At such places, I met figures like Michael Biehn, Linda Hamilton, Lance Henrisken, even Jamie Lee Curtis. One convention however, I missed the chance to get my ticket. I think it may have been school, concerns about money. For whatever reason, I just didn’t pick up that ticket while I had the chance. The star guest at that convention was John Carpenter.

I didn’t exactly feel dejected. I had assumed there would be another chance. After-all he was only 63. What could possibly happen? At that time I don’t think it had quite sunk in that life, sadly, has an expiration date.

The last few years were eventful, from graduating college, to starting my book, to moving out of the country and into the city. Our friend over at Monster Legacy was even lucky enough to catch one of Carpenter’s live shows on his recent musical tour. However, last year I began to wonder if my chance to meet the director had passed me by. I blew the chance, I thought. That was my one opportunity to meet Carpenter and I’ll never get it again.

Then I got a message on social media. Carpenter was appearing at The Grove in Los Angeles to sign copies of the recently released book on the making of Big Trouble In Little China, possibly my favorite film by the director.

I think what persuaded me to take the chance was the passing of Leah Adler, mother to another favorite director Steven Spielberg. I frequented Leah’s restaurant, having eaten there some five or six times I had planned to go again upon the completion of my seventh draft of my novel to celebrate. I figured it would be a better idea to wait and not spend too much money. I also had a fantasy of taking my family to the restaurant and meeting the hostess. Neither of those things will ever happen. Ironically, I missed those opportunities for the same reason I missed meeting Carpenter back in college.

Was that just who I was, I wondered? Was I just the kind of guy who played it safe?

Yesterday I finally threw my arms up with a resounding “Fuck it.” In death Leah taught me it was okay to take a chance, to fly off the handle and just go for it every once in a while. Yesterday I went for it. I rolled up a poster, brought a couple of copies of the book for some friends, and called into work. I took the day off.

I left for The Grove at eight twenty and waited for the next six hours. I explored some of the stores, got a ten dollar bag of candy, jotted down some notes on various books and scripts, and waited. I could barely sit still as the clock ticked ever closer to two o’clock. Perhaps I had missed something and wouldn’t be able to meet him after all. Something had to go wrong, right?

No. On this day everything went right. I was towards the front of the line on account of being early. It was moving fast so it would only be a few moments for us to speak while he signed the books and poster.

There was a question I always wanted to ask Carpenter.

“When are the Coupe De Villes having a comeback tour?” For those who don’t know, that is Carpenter’s band which he had with Nick Castle (who played the killer in Halloween) and Tommy Lee Wallace (who went on to direct Halloween III and It). The trio are referenced numerous times in Carpenter’s films, and even did the incredibly fun theme song for Big Trouble In Little China.

Carpenter laughed and said “Nah man. We’re too old.”

He signed my poster and books. I told him thank you and wished him a pleasant day, and he wished me the same. In an unexpected perk, I was able to get a quick picture taken with the director to commemorate our brief encounter.

meeting-carpenter

I know I’m still young at twenty eight years old, but the last few years have been urgent and fearful for me. I am about a third of the way done with the ride that is life, maybe a little more, maybe a little less depending on the choices I make. But I head towards death with not the same optimism I once had. As chances pass my by in life I really wonder if that is the end and no other opportunities will present themselves.

What happened yesterday taught me that there is such a thing as second chances. If I can get a second chance at meeting as talented an artist as John Carpenter, who knows what other opportunities will present themselves? I just need to keep my eye out and do what I did yesterday, and not be afraid to seize those moments.

Godspeed Lady Spielberg: A Tribute To Leah Adler.

Last night I got a text from a friend informing me that Leah Adler, mother of Steven Spielberg and restauranteur extraordinaire, passed away at 97. She went peacefully as I understand, in the company of family and friends.

I was fortunate enough to meet Leah a few years ago, and it is an evening I shall always treasure. It is easy to forget when you look at someone famous that they are people just like the rest of us, fortunate though they are. Steven and Leah shared a wonderful relationship for these last 70 years, and my heart goes out to him and his family for suffering this terrible loss.

Many articles have flooded the internet about her passing, and most of them I’ve noticed don’t really talk about her as a person too much. This is a shame as Leah was a very unique human being who even without her family’s fame is someone I would have loved to know better. After searching the internet, I decided to put together a little tribute to Leah, talk about her life, her outlook, some experiences she had with Steven, and the night that I was lucky enough to meet her.

Aleha ha-shalom.

I am blessed to have known you, however brief.

The Lady With The Peter Pan Haircut: A Tribute To Leah Adler

The Ideas Have Already Begun

It has been four days since I completed my 6th draft of my novel, the fantasy adventure epic Never Heroes. Though the draft is done, the writing continues. It there is one thing I’ve learned about this writing oriented head of mine, it’s that the old fella doesn’t much like to rest.

The ideas have already started coming in.

It is a curious thing about writing. Sometimes your best ideas only come when you have bad writing in front of you. That’s really where writer’s block comes from, fear of writing crap. Sometimes however, that’s the best way to write good stuff. Write some crap and then you can look at it, recognize why it is crap, and fix it.

This is not to say I believe my novel is crap of course, but it is not without its issues. Now that I can see the issues, that is one step closer to fixing them.

To edit a draft may well be the most fun you’ll have during the writing process. For instance you’ll see a bad line of dialogue in front of you, you’ll look it over, write an alternative, and then you can pat yourself on the back for giving your story an extra bit of spice.

Still, I’m working to restrain the old neural pathways. I have some other scripts that need a good fixing instead. I’m mainly focusing on Scarlet Gate, my werewolf script. Aside from the novel, that script is the one project I have that’s the closest to where I want it. I figure focusing on another nearly completed project would be a much better option than just starting a new one right out of the gate.

I’ll be starting more new ones once the book has been finished proper. Hopefully I can restrain myself from jumping directly into the sequel.

 

6 Drafts Down

The main cast to the Never Heroes fantasy book series. Left to right, Professor Graga 'Blondie' Kelpla, Major Celice Arietta, Hunter 'Sparks' Nightshadow, River, and Zhyx the red dragon.

The idea for my fantasy adventure epic began ten years ago. Back in 2013 I finally decided to bring the idea to life in my screenwriting classes. In the summer of 2014 I began writing it as a book with friends and family contributing their stunning artwork and creative input. In 2015 I completed a third draft and thought that would be the end of it.

In the opening months of 2017 I completed a sixth draft of my fantasy/adventure epic, Never Heroes. It runs 18 chapters, 431 pages, 161,124 words, and gives me the feeling that we’re at long last almost finished.

Zhyx the Red Dragon meets River

In this illustration, Zhyx the red dragon meets his longtime companion, River the Flatlander, for the first time in the fantasy adventure novel, Never Heroes.

The story of Zhyx the Great Red Wyrm, more simply known as ‘Red’ and how he is shoehorned into becoming a great hero, has been a passion of mine that has spanned almost a decade. I thought completion was near last year before we hired an editor, who actually charged a pretty reasonable price for her services. Given my current economic situation, I couldn’t resist.

I received much constructive criticism during that time, and of course because of that I realized the story was far from finished. There were many flaws in the narrative I cooked up. Inconsistencies that could not be excused no matter how hard I tried. It was time to do another draft. I began the process back in November of last year.

Heavy the Dragon and River

The giant dragon Heavy drools at the prospect of eating River, one of the protagonists in the upcoming fantasy novel, Never Heroes.

It was the biggest overhaul the novel went through since I made the transition from first draft to second. Originally the story followed the prototypical chosen one narrative, with the chosen hero of course being the dragon. That idea was immediatly nixed. A relatively minor villain was another dragon known as Heavy. He quickly rose the ranks to become one of the antagonists with the most exposure.

But the changes weren’t enough. My climax was stale and tedious, characters were introduced and discarded when they should have been expanded on, other characters were expanded on when they didn’t warrant that much focus. These were just the beginnings of some of me and my editor’s many issues with that last manuscript, the 20 chapter, 382 page, 138,640 word draft five. As of now, most of the big issues have been dealt with, to varying degrees of success.

Zhyx The Giant Red Dragon

The final illustration for the novel, Never Heroes. This images shows the colossal red dragon, Zhyx, towering over the adventurer Major Celice Arietta who has come to steal his favorite piece of treasure.

So what awaits Never Heroes now? As much as I would like, work isn’t done just yet. There is still a final polish to go through in order to fix things up so it will be presentable and better paced, but after that I shall finally, both literally and figuratively, close the book on my first novel.

I’ll be letting the manuscript rest in the meantime before this final push to the two most liberating words any writer can ever type. The End.

 

After A Week Of Re-Writes, We’re Back On Track!

About a week ago, I realized what I’d written for my book since the start of the New Year wasn’t working. The material just wasn’t up to the standards of what had been done so far. It was a slow tedious bore with little imagination or artistry, at least by my standards. As the previous chapters were everything I had hoped, I knew it would be a disservice to end this story in a half assed way. I sat down and started to re-write my third act.

It seemed a mountainous task. I had written a full two and a half chapters. Would it be possible to get back the magic that birthed this story? It was time to be like an episode of ER. Break out the defibrillator and make this thing live!

Of course I’m no George Clooney when it comes to fictional medicine. It was going to take a lot of work to get this done. I had to cut out a lot of material and find what I could replace it with lest I be left with either two chapters that were too short, or one chapter that was too long.

Well, eight days later, I am pleased to report that many electrical shots later, chapters 14 and 15 of my book are alive and well. I trimmed a lot of the fat, re-wrote prose I didn’t like, added dialogue to break up the descriptive passages, and created an overall much more readable experience for all. I’m most pleased with the final results.

As a bonus, my chapters were also not The Thing in disguise. Otherwise they would have bitten my hands off at the defibrillator machine.

Yes, my story had not been taken over by a malevolent shapeshifting alien after all. As a writer, things have been looking up.

As an added bonus, I realized one of my character’s actions didn’t make too much sense so I wrote a few new lines of dialogue to fix it. As a result, I may have set up a nice little action scene or vignette to take place in the next chapter, ensuring it isn’t just a 20 page long conversation. What a great time to be a writer, no?

I’m glad I had the skill to recognize when some of my own writing wasn’t working. Because of that, I’ve saved myself a lot of trouble for the future. These next few chapters are going to be great fun to work on, and they will hopefully at long last bring this story to an appropriate and satisfying conclusion.

Until the sequel that is. Because I need to figure out what chapter The Thing is hiding in.

Chapter 14 Lives!

“It’s alive! It’s alive!”

The wonders a re-write in the right frame of mind can do. Last week I posted a little story about concerns I had with my climax in the novel. I had come up to my final act and have a mere four or five chapters to go. I had finished chapters 14, 15 and had started on 16 before figuring out very quickly that something was wrong. It just didn’t feel alive or meaningful like previous chapters had been, with little character moments and more a slow trudge to the next plot point.

I never believed writing was as simple as point A to B. Point A to B is but the pieces of bread for a sandwich. It’s what’s between the slices that makes a piece work.

After putting the manuscript down for a few days, I began a mission. I was going to fix this climax and fix it good. I sat down and jotted out some ideas, discarded plenty of bad ones, and took to the keyboard to tear it up like a trip to the disco floor.

The writing process took many hours. I just about sucked up an entire day. Scratch that. I did suck up an entire day. I must have cut 1000 words out of the chapter, replacing them with about 3000 better ones. Upon completing the chapter at 7pm, I knew it was finished.

Okay, not finished finished. There is still that later tweaking edit that will come after the manuscript has been set down for a few weeks. But still, it is so much more alive. It moves with a purpose, there are more of those little moments, and it really feels like a massive, unpleasant journey for the main hero, who after a physical altercation with one of the villains, isn’t exactly in the best of conditions.

So Chapter 14 has become like one of those stupid slasher villains. You know? The ones that they shoot, chop up, blow up, grind up, drop in acid, mail all their pieces to different parts of the world that still keep coming back for like 10 movies? I suppose that’s what this book has been. Just when I think it is dead and I should give it up, it manages to pull off a miracle. It pulled off a big one last night, and now now of my two finished chapters is fixed. One more chapter to spruce up and then I’ll be going through chapter 16 to figure out what precisely will be going on there.

So after a late night of work in the lab with Igor, we have made this corpse of a chapter into something living. It may not be the best chapter in the book and could still use some tightening, but it is now worthy to be counted amongst the earlier chapters.

We are now up to 338 pages of good solid material and have, let me see, at least three chapters to go, but it may end up being four. I’m excited.

Latest Articles From MoviePilot

As someone who is deeply passionate about narrative fiction, film has always been something that deeply fascinates me. As such, one always wants to share their thoughts on movies and what they meant to them. Recently I was finally given a platform to try that out on, and it has been quite the adventure.

Working for MoviePilot has been a real treat, though it has taken some of my resources away from the novel. But no matter. Life as a paid writer has been extraordinarily fun and has given me a platform to speak about film. I have thus far earned 38 dollars. Not a lot, mind you. I still very much need to figure out a good formula to get my articles maximum hits. My last three didn’t exactly break a thousand.

Still, working on all of these has been a real joy, and I would like to share them with all of you.

My first article is a list of 10 Black and White horror films that in spite of their age, still scare the audience pretty good. The next is a retrospective on the original Westworld, the movie that inspired the hit HBO tv series. After that is a brief list of top 10 underrated sequels. After that is a little quickie on top 10 greatest movie taglines.

Hopefully soon these will be getting more hits. We shall see. In the meantime, please enjoy these pieces as I’m very proud of all of them. Please feel free to share as every little bit helps.

10 Black And White Horror Films That Are Still Very Scary

While Waiting For Season 2 Of ‘Westworld’, Watch The Original Classic

10 Sequels That Deserve a Second Chance

10 Taglines That Sell Their Movies Perfectly

Thanks for reading and I will be checking back with all of you soon.

 

Needing Another Re-Write

Yesterday I came to a painful realization. Much of the material I have written over the last few weeks may need to be discarded, in particular the latest fifteen pages for chapter 17.┬áIt just doesn’t seem to work.

Writing it is less an exciting endeavor and more an exercise in tedium. Not enough happens in these chapters so I either need to spice up the sequence of events or combine them into one. The latest chapter, for which I have written a fair amount, just doesn’t seem to be coming together. I have conversations that run for several pages, as many as seven some times. Dialogue is of course an important plot driver in fiction, and the dialogue here is crucial. But it runs too long. I don’t want this book to consist of conversations that last fifteen or twenty pages. That’s not high fantasy and adventure.

What really bugs me is there just doesn’t seem to be the right kind of build up for my conclusion. I am on the cusp of a major set piece, the most elaborate series of action sequences in the novel and the centerpiece of the entire story. Everything has been building up to this. This is where the characters have their arcs settled, where the villains are done away with (until the next book) and the set piece to end them all takes center stage. A battle between two dragons. The build up to that better be damn good.

Also, there is often a lack of suspense. One of the driving forces to the action is a character needing to be rescued, yet there isn’t enough mention of him and there aren’t any little tidbits that make the threat seem genuine. You know how it goes when a character you love is in jeopardy and you go through page after page wondering if they’re still okay. It is a nail biter. As it stands now, there isn’t much of a nail biter here.

I’ll need some further time to collate this novel, because most of the material we have up to now is really good, and there is plenty of this latest attempt I can and will keep. But it’s just not ready to be put to the page yet. Something is missing. Funny thing is it may be the smallest little detail that strings it all together, something that once found it will seem like it was there all along.

Maybe I wasn’t quite ready to come back yet. Maybe it has just been an off week. I don’t know. But I do know that if I don’t have fun writing it, people probably won’t have fun reading it. It will take a bit to get that spirit of fun back, but when it comes, I will finally finish this draft.

Struggles With A Re-Written Climax

I finished writing another chapter of my book last night, so now I am on the home stretch for this draft. For the first time in a while, this blank page scares me. This will be the most drastic undertaking since the book first began, as I am re-writing some 80% of my climax.

This drastic undertaking began with two things. One was a fruitful time with a very talented editor. My original climax was (and still more or less is) an almost two chapter long fight scene between two dragons, one good and the other evil. I wanted to finish it with a Godzilla style monster mash as the Kaiju genre was a heavy influence on this fantasy adventure epic.

Plus two dragons punching each other is awesome.

My editor called the two chapter brawl tedious. I had tried to spice it up, make sure the action didn’t get repetitive, and divide it up into distinct acts. Still, while I was going through my edits, I wasn’t having fun. It didn’t occur to me at the time that if I wasn’t having fun editing it (as I had in so many other chapters), the audience probably wouldn’t have too much fun reading it.

Then the answer to my troubles came.

I had two other characters who will eventually become the main onscreen villains of the series. They were so well built up, had some great moments together, and were an all around great addition to the story. Problem is they kind of drop out of the book shortly after they have their first on page scenes. I was worried that audiences wouldn’t be able to connect with them given their short page time.

They were not present in the climax. That’s when it hit me that they should be there. They should be in the tick of it, making things as difficult for my heroes as possible. Surely this would spice up the action just the way it was needed, and bring this book to a more exciting, extravagant and satisfying conclusion.

I have many ideas on just what to do, and am confident I can pull it off. It is just that first step that I must take tonight in order to get the ball rolling. I aim to write my daily 2k words and at least get started on setting up this sequence. Funny thing. I don’t know if I have two chapters left to write for this book or three, depending on how long this battle will last.

My fear doesn’t come from lack of ideas. It is because I have so many ideas, I am not quite sure just how I will sort them out. It is going to be a tough ride to the summit of the mountain. I can see the top. I know my ending. It had often been told to me that the ending is the hardest part of any story. That is not the case with me. With me the ending is one of the first things I figure out as an ending helps tie together the themes and ideas I want to explore. The beginning is the first slice of bread and the ending is the second.

The real trouble is always what sort of things you want to put on the sandwich.

First Day Back – Another Chapter is Done

Greetings all from everyone’s favorite aspiring high fantasy novelist.

Well I took a good deal of time off my book for the holidays. Two weeks as it were. I was worried that getting back into the swing of things would be far more difficult than it turned out to be.

The day before yesterday, when I opened up my word document for the first time in as many days, I wrote over 4k words, completed 10 pages of material, and was able to bring chapter 14 of the book to a close. The night ended with me porting over some materials for chapter 15, which is still in progress and will likely be wrapped by either today or tomorrow.

It has honestly felt pretty great. My leading man (or rather leading fire breathing lizard) has a very distinct voice in how he narrates, and I always fear while writing the prose that I’ll somehow lose him. But after a few moments of short pondering, he came back and in a big way.

Also there were the little details that always make writing a joy. I often find that, at least with me, small touches in the prose of character actions or dialogue help bring a scene to life.

For example, earlier in the book I had my heroes go to a stable run by a foul mouthed old sailor. The scene as it was was pretty bland, but necessary to the plot. While doing this latest draft I just had the idea to turn the sailor into a 12 year old girl, with every bit as foul a vocabulary. And we all know how most parents are with language, so while the girl is delivering her profanity laced exposition, she is occasionally interrupted by her bother yelling at her to watch her tongue. What was one of the most boring scenes in the book was thus transformed to one of the funniest, all from simply changing the age of one character.

Yes, little details have been a major lifesaver for me. So much material that is good and funny, even a little sad. During this last chapter, those little tidbits were not in short supply. Easiest 10 pages I’ve ever written.

Now chapter 15 is five pages in, and for the most part this will be a port, so it should go pretty quickly. After that comes chapter 16, 17, and maybe even chapter 18 if this book turns out to be longer than I anticipated. It is already a chapter thicker than I originally thought it would be. Not that I am complaining.