Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Oprah--My Muse?

"And I'm gonna ride this thing until the wheels fall off..."

That was quick.

A couple days ago, I was having a ball working on Darkness Walks,  prose version. And don't get me wrong, nothing happened to sour me on it--except the realization of the fact I wasn't going to be finishing it anytime soon, and therefore, wouldn't have anything to show for a while. Even with that, I was enjoying what I was coming up with and fully expect to return--

At some point.

Shaundra and I had watched the Bill Duke documentary Dark Girls--about the issues darker-skinned Black women face in their daily lives-- last night, but tonight we watched the one-hour special that proceeded the airing of the documentary, a conversation with four of the most talented Black actresses out there, hosted by the Big O herself, Oprah Winfrey. After watching the very-enlightening-but-way-too-short special, featuring Viola Davis, Alfre Woodard, Gabrielle Union and Houston's own Phylicia Rashad, I found myself in a familiar spot--wanting to provide more opportunities for Black actresses and inspired to hit the ground running.

If you read this blog, though, it's no secret the torch I've carried for filmmaking has been flickering at best. So much so, that while I still feel the hunger to make something, I find myself lacking the drive to tackle it. Too many past frustrations, too little support--too many needless obstacles to climb when I can work on things that require one-eighth the effort and won't yield near as many headaches. So, in this withered state of interest, what could I do?

I pulled out Revelation and went back to work rewriting it. I never did finish that process, and if I ever call "Action!" on a set again, I'm thinking this will be the piece (and hopefully the project that will set my torch a-blazin' once more). The work was smooth; I was relieved to enjoy it. After spending time on Sunday asking who I was, I was beginning to feel like a filmmaker again.

I'm not foolish enough to expect this to last--but I'm hopeful it does. Even with the difficulties, my interest in filmmaking has yet to be fully extinguished. That should tell me something. So I'm going to go ahead and finish this rewrite.

If or when I do decide to make that run again, it'll be helpful to have something to shoot. ;)


Sunday, June 23, 2013


After spending most of the day asking myself "Who are you?" I wound up working on the DARKNESS WALKS novel this evening--which is funny, seeing as how I'd just decided to continue developing the property as a graphic novel and save the "regular" novel for later. But I couldn't help it. It's what I wanted to work on, so instead of wasting time trying to force something on myself that my head and heart weren't into, I opened up the novel file and dove back in (fortunately, I was smart enough to not delete the file when I decided to do the GN).

No surprise; I had a great time. I didn't get a lot done in terms of pages (I'm still working on realizing the amount of progress is not always equal to the amount of pages produced), but I strengthened what I had, and that was good enough. And since it doesn't make sense to drop what's working and flowing, I'm reversing my decision on postponing the novel and am going to keep working on it. I'm sure there'll be work on other projects mixed in here and there, but for now Wendy and crew have my curiosity--and my attention (easter egg for my fellow DJANGO fans).

And I'm gonna ride this thing until the wheels fall off...


I've Got This Idea...

... for a new web series. It wouldn't even take long to get going, as I have several scripts for episodes of ...Abigail Waller that I could easily re-appropriate on top of skit ideas that would be perfect for new episodes...

And I know just who I want to play the two leads. And they'd definitely be down for the cause...

However, given my recent track record, maybe I should play this close to the vest for now. That might be a good idea...


Thursday, June 20, 2013

SISTAS AIN'T HAVIN' IT! #1 - "And We're Off..."

I began work on the novelization of Sistas Ain't Havin' It! this evening--an adaptation of a stage play I wrote in high school and directed/produced/starred in while in college. 

The original story revolved around a high-school senior, Marcus Stevens, a serial womanizer, and his comeuppance at the hands of a group of friends determined to put an end to his doggish ways. The play had one performance, but it was well received by the 140 some-odd folks who graciously came out to check out the show. It was also the basis for my very first screenplay--one that would be reviewed by DreamWorks (back when they had an open policy for reviewing submissions). It obviously wasn't purchased, but I still have the letter from Steven Spielberg's assistant where she said she was asked to respond on Mr. Spielberg's behalf--which means that, if even for a split second, Steven Spielberg knew I existed. *drops mic and walks away from keyboard*

A few years ago, while considering producing the script as my debut feature, I decided the story needed to be totally reworked. I was no longer a high school kid and thought about the different angles I could take on the story and the characters simply by growing them up. I jotted down a mess of ideas for the more mature version of the story, but it never got past that point as I was was no doubt drawn away to some other project for who knows what reason.

But now, three years later, after officially shutting down production on an internet project I was very fond of and looking to work on something that requires fewer people to pull off (thus, fewer opportunities for the project to be grounded by anyone other than myself), I've found myself coming back to this concept, but in an entirely new format. With Darkness Walks and Lupus Moon being re-appropriated as graphic novels, a hole was left on the literary front--and I needed something to fill it (mind out of the gutter, folks). Cue Sistas Ain't Havin' It!--a concept I think will work really well as a novel, as this is a story that resonates with many Black women, and that same demographic are very regular and faithful readers. I've also chosen several other projects, mostly former or planned screenplays, as follow-up novels. They're mostly in the same vein--representing  a re-branding, or, more accurately, a re-focusing, of Marquis Literary and Publishing.

The new story sees Marcus, grown and in a relationship, being suspected of cheating with someone named Vanessa by his girlfriend of two years, Cleopatra. When her attempts to get close to Marcus fail, she enlists the help of Sistas Ain't Havin' It!--an agency run by three women who specialize in discovering if a mate is cheating (and, if found out, exacting a special brand of revenge on behalf of their scorned clients). The ladies of the agency--Sheniqua, Lisa and Stacy--take the case, resulting in a battle of the sexes that changes the lives of Cleopatra and Marcus (as well as one of their own) forever.

I'm using Movie Magic Screenwriter to format the manuscript, just like with Darkness Walks, and had a very solid night last night--managing to lay out the first five chapters. Things were flowing and I felt absolutely great--like I should've been doing this a long time ago. It just felt... natural.

But this is just the beginning; I hope the feeling lasts.


Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Not Easily Broken

Doors close. Doors open.

I shut down The Life and Times of Abigail Waller today. It wasn't a happy decision, but one that needed to be made. Someone very vital to the show apparently decided they were no longer interested. At least that's how it came across. What else am I supposed to believe when you tell me you don't think it's a good idea to put something new on your plate--then turn right around and do just that? When you never mention the project you're a part of on your various social media sites while trumpeting everyone else's projects? When you ignore emails I send and voice mails I leave? I give a lot more slack than most, but it's only because when I decide I'm done, I can do so with a clear conscious, knowing I tried every avenue and gave the other person every conceivable chance.

But that's neither here nor there now; the project's messed up for everyone--especially for the other components who were still very much interested in continuing and who had basically been on hold the last couple of months while all this played out. As for myself, I'm angry, frustrated, embarrassed--

It wasn't supposed to go this way. We did so much pre-planning and had yet to launch our largest marketing plans. We had hopes, dreams--now it's all gone, because of an outside source. I hate having my work stifled in that manner in the worst way. Let me be the one who fucks it up--not you. But for now, I'm left with no other choice; it's on to other projects...

My plans at this point involve engaging three different entities under what I call the Marquetown Media Group. Short films, skits and the like are still on the table, and would be handled through the film branch, Cougar's Marque Entertainment. Shadowfox and Darkness Walks (now positioned to premiere as a graphic novel first) will continue to be developed and will eventually debut under the Blaquecat Studios comic book label. Marquis Literary and Publishing, our traditional prose shingle, will be the home of standard works of literature, primarily novels, born of--and showcasing--the Black experience. I have worked up a slate of titles including properties that began as novels, stage plays and even screenplays. The debut project will be an adaptation of a stage play I wrote, directed, produced and starred in while in college at North Texas entitled Sistas Ain't Havin' It! I think the title alone is going to pique some serious interest.

This is a lot of work, a lot of ambition. And yes, I'm spreading myself thin. But I'm not happy if I don't have a plan; I'm miserable if I'm not working on something. If I can multi-task for my day job, you best believe I can so the same for my personal endeavors.

Doors close. Doors open. Projects may start and stop, but one damn thing is always certain--

I'm going to keep walking.


Tuesday, June 11, 2013


Tonight was the first substantial work I've done on Darkness Walks in a while--cleaning up the manuscript file (which I'm writing in Movie Magic Screenwriter because it has a built-in outline feature) and conforming the outline to my breakdown spreadsheet, which was basically an outline outside of an outline containing more extensive metadata--and where I really laid out the book.

The outline is not finished, though. It gets all the way to the end of the second act before petering out, but I know the climax and how the story ends. It's just a matter of connecting them at this point. I have more than enough material to start diving in and writing pages, if that's what I want, but I think I might try to iron out the kinks first 'cause it's my nature.

But if it gets stagnant, I'll jump in and get some pages done. I need to see some progress, and I wanna make sure I'm not using completing the outline as a stall tactic.

It wouldn't be the first time.


Monday, June 10, 2013

Reading is Fundamental

It has occurred to me that since I'm writing a novel, I should probably read one--especially when I'm struggling with such bush-league issues as how to "correctly" mark my chapters and trying to figure out how to simply get started. Though I read a lot (I can--and have--killed off entire days reading articles and blog comment sections online), it's been forever since I sat down to read a novel. I'm planning on getting a tablet at some point, but for right now I think I'll start with Tananarive Due's Blood Colony, since it's in the neighborhood of what I'm writing, and I have a physical copy on hand. Who knows, maybe I'll get to it this weekend. It's hard for me to just sit and read, when I feel like I should be writing.

Then again, I'm supposed to be writing when I'm looking at stuff online, so... yeah...


Saturday, June 8, 2013

Return of the Spec?

I'm not sure how it started (probably through Facebook--the fiend!), but a couple days ago I stumbled across a few really good blog posts concerning screenwriting, the writer's "voice" and branding oneself. I read them, consumed a few YouTube videos (where I got off track and watched a couple episodes of Static Shock--loved that show!), and really got to thinking about myself and my writing--particularly where I went wrong with my initial 10-year stint at trying to ignite a screenwriting career.

"Voice" was something I never understood. I blame part of that conflicting advice you get when you're learning how to write screenplays. They tell you to not be too flashy with your writing. That it should be pithy, allow for a lot of white space on the page (to make it a faster read), and that each word should work in the service of moving the script forward. Anything extra or superfluous should be cut. But then you hear others decrying how you should find--and write with--a distinct voice.

WTF does that mean? Basically, it's the style in which you write the prose (non-dialogue) parts of your script. I actually grazed the subject in one of previous posts without realizing it; I say "grazed" because writing with a specific voice is more than just punctuation style and sentence length, though they are parts of that whole. To break it down even further, if you're witty, sarcastic, funny, serious, etc., your personality should shine through in your work. However, you also have to take in consideration the genre of script you're writing. If you're crafting a horror, it would help if your prose wasn't a laugh a minute (unless it's a horror/comedy), or if your comedy didn't read like a dissertation. But, as LeVar Burton used to say, "Don't take my word for it." Read the blogs on a writer's voice here and here (it's a two-parter).

Branding is easier to understand and probably doesn't need an explanation in this day and age. I covered that topic here three years ago (damn) after reading another blog post and yet I still managed to go off the rails. Before I knew it, had given up on feature spec screenwriting altogether. But reading this post has helped re-kindle that old flame--so much so that I'm seriously thinking about getting back in the spec script game.

How seriously? I'm looking at projects and putting together a plan. This would be integrated with my existing projects, which means Darkness Walks and Shadowfox are still on the table. I'm not as sure about Revelation, though. It's a great story--I just have to figure out how it would fit with this (potential, not-set-in-stone-yet) new focus, as my chosen genre is action/adventure (mixed liberally with sci-fi, horror, crime or fantasy) and Revelation is a straight drama. Sure, I can work in any genre I want--especially if it's my personal, independent project--but I'm wondering if everything shouldn't build in the same direction right now.

I don't know. That requires more thinking. All of this does. But I will say one thing. It feels right. And I haven't had a lot of that lately.


Tuesday, June 4, 2013

A Switch in Time

In light of recent frustrations, I've decided to switch my schedule around to focus more on Darkness Walks during the week and Shadowfox on the weekends (I was previously doing the exact opposite).

At least that's the plan for right now. Simply put, I need to get to a point where I can work on my creative pursuits full time--and with the costs involved in starting up a comic (artist, inker, colorer, printing, promotion, etc.), it would be less expensive to push the novel first and see where it goes. Also, out of my current interests/projects, it has the best chance of making some money--leading to getting free of the day job quicker.

But I'm no fool. I might be confused as to which project I want to hunker down on from day to day, but Naomi and Earnest's son isn't an idiot. Even if the book were complete, I'm not expecting it to take off immediately or even anytime in the next year. But I'm betting I might have more success with that route quicker than if I made the graphic novel my prime directive (and it's not like I'm abandoning the graphic novel; I'm just not spending the bulk of my creative time on it).

Then again, both projects could turn out to be monumental flops and I'll be forced to move along to something else. Wouldn't be the first time. Won't be the last.

I guess only time will tell.


Sunday, June 2, 2013

Where Art Thou My Muthaf@#kin' Motivation?!

Something's wrong with me.

I mean seriously.

I need a doctor...

More like a kick in the ass.

I'm having issues with motivation again. Just yesterday, I picked up some red pens and was all gung-ho to work on Revelation (and filmmaking in general). I even had thoughts of calling up a fellow filmmaker about re-forming a collective we were once a part of that showed major promise, but ultimately fell apart from trying to do too much too soon. But now I'm glad I didn't make the call, 'cause I'm just not feeling motivated to work on films right now.

How does that change in one day?

I've gotta find a way to stabilize myself--if only I could just figure out what my boggle is (random Demolition Man reference--love that flick). I feel like I want to make films, but at the same time I'm either too lazy to, or too afraid to (maybe both). I just can't muster up the heart to put in all the work of setting a project up, only for some external BS to come along and blow everything up. I think that's why Shadowfox and Darkness Walks are so attractive to me right now; they're projects where I can work alone and not be hindered by outside people or forces (I'll eventually need others for the graphic novel, but that's a whole different world than filmmaking--a world I'm not burnt out on yet). At first I was just a rabid fan, but maybe I'm more like my favorite superhero than I realize. Maybe like the Batman I just like working alone.

I don't know. I'm thinking I might need to un-jack from social media for a while and sort things out (okay, maybe limited interaction--I'm too nosy to completely fall off the grid). Maybe that'll work...

At least I hope it does.


Saturday, June 1, 2013

REVELATION Gets a Little Love

Today I plan on doing some rewriting on my short script Revelation.

I've got the script printed out and, inspired to pick back up an old technique from a Facebook friend, I stopped by Office Depot and purchased a few red pens to mark up the script. I already know of one section in particular that needs some major work--a prime example of too much going on as I tried to shove one too many "issues" into the story. The thing about this script is that it's a bit personal in some ways; it touches on a certain subject and the lead character, Trenicia, "happens" to feel the same way about it as I do--but with an added layer borne out of her sexuality. 

I'm looking at this as my comeback vehicle of sorts--outside of the four episodes of the web series that I've shot, I haven't made a standalone short of my own since 2005. We'll see how things go, though, in terms of attracting actors, crew and obtaining the right location (I've never found it particularly easy, especially in a smaller--yet cliquish--film community like Houston). It's a lot of work, especially when I can focus on single-person activities like writing Darkness Walks or working on Shadowfox (until I need an artist, inker, colorer, etc.). 

It's definitely something to consider. And as always, I'm keeping my options open.