Writing Update: August/September/October

WRITING

My top three projects for August/September/October (as measured in hours devoted) were:  

A VERY PEARTREE CHRISTMAS – horror rom-com spec feature (with Paul Seetachitt) 
Christmas-resistant journalist is sent to the town of PearTree to cover their annual Twelve Days of Christmas Festival only to discover that a series of  gruesome “accidents” occurring during the festivities are actually ritualistic murders, orchestrated to resurrect the demon, Krampus.
Paul Seetachitt and I pushed to get it ready for pre-holiday reading. Available now!

THE INFLUENCER (suspense-horror spec feature)
When the manager / best friend of a struggling social media influencer cuts a deal for her client to beta-test some new tech in order to get more followers, the results are more than she bargained for. 
Did some rewriting in September and submitted. Readers (i.e. my reps) have come back with an intriguing idea… should it be a TV series instead?! Hmmmm. Stay tuned to hear how this one turns out.

GIRL, WOLF, WOODSMAN (short fiction)
A contemporary re-imagining of “Little Red Riding Hood” that details what happens after the woodsman heroically dispenses with that pesky wolf. 
Found this one in the archives and decided to finish it at long last. Did a round of submissions to literary journals — we’ll see if it finds a home.  There’s also a short screenplay version waiting in the wings.  

WATCHING

MOVIES: The Green Knight, Free Guy, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, The Card Counter, Americanish, Natalie, The Tomorrow War, Malignant, No Time to Die, Last Night in Soho, Eternals

TV: Dave, Ted Lasso, Mare of Easttown, The Boys, We Are Lady Parts, The Other Two (pilot); The Chair, Foundation, Squid Game, We Are Here, Great British Bake Off

READING

Klara and the Sun, Kazuo Ishiguru; Anxious People, Fredrik Backman; Women in White Coats; Olivia Campbell, Gone, Lisa Gardner; An Ordinary Wonder, Buki Papillon; Afterlives, Thomas Pierce; Elevation, Stephen King; The Woman in the Window, A.J. Finn; Best of Tor.com 2020; Heroine with 1001 Faces, Maria Tatar  Heroine with 1001 Faces, Maria Tatar 

LISTENING

New category! I’ve discovered and am really getting into scripted podcast series. Like radio plays of old… or TV for your ears…

Wolverine, The Long Night (Marvel), Moonface, Blood Ties, True Love, Bridgewater, Aftershock

APPRECIATING

Boundaries crossed after seeming millennia:

A TV agent (Auri Maruri at Gersh), and my first official TV credit (Creepshow, Season 3, Episode 5: “Time Out.”)

Maintenance Sucks… and It’s a Privilege



Sometimes I get really disheartened because I have to do so much side-hustling while the “real job” of being a writer — the job that I’m am trained at, good at and want to do — feels like a shell game.  I keep doing the work, but the target is always moving and it never seems to pay off.

So then I get doubly irritated when, out of the blue, the equivalent of a third unpaid job falls on me. In September, a bathroom pipe in my condo sprang a leak in the middle of the night. In the morning I was on the phone with tenants, the homeowners’ association, plumbers, water mitigation experts, the insurance company and the (rightfully) very irate downstairs neighbor. And for almost two months, hours of each day was consumed by logistics, and communicating those logistics to all the relevant parties. Because of pandemic-related “supply chain issues,” every two minute visit to the Home Depot website for a part became hours of rabbit holing, scrounging and waiting, and then more hours separately explaining and apologizing for those delays to the tenant, the irate neighbor, etc. It was frustrating.

It was also what what my brother-in-law would call a “First Class Problem.”

Because someone could easily say: “Fuck you… YOU OWN A CONDO IN LOS ANGELES. I’ll take that problem off your hands.”

And that person would be right. I can feel frustrated because maintaining property, is tedious, time consuming, expensive— but I should never forget to feel grateful for the circumstance that makes the problem possible.

Which brings me to the stress and tedium of maintaining my other property — the body I live in. Specifically at this moment, the cancer. I’ve had blood draws and CT scans and doctor’s appointments where we discuss doing things to my body I don’t want to do. I have launched a routine that requires hours each week (if not each day) buying, cleaning, cutting and juicing vegetables, then cleaning the juicer and the entire kitchen which some how ends up covered in a carrot / beet blood splatter. It takes more time to meditate, and read medical journal articles on the internet. I wake up some mornings buzzing with anxiety. I may have mentioned on this blog how I get anxious packing for a trip. I worry about making decisions I’ll regret. What if I bring things I don’t need? What if I don’t bring things I need?  And that’s when I’m traveling for a week. So clearly it’s daunting to decide on treatment options that I’ll have to live with for the rest of my life.

But, weird as it seems to say, it is also still a first class problem. I live in a healthy-feeling body — which is an entirely different experience from dealing with all this from a body in pain. I’m editing this as I wait on hold to make a doctor’s appointment because I have health insurance and because my work-from-home situation allows it. My cancer was detected early because I have health care.I’m housed. I have a juicer, access to fresh food and information. And I have friends and family who want to help. I am surrounded by generosity.

The world is touching me, and I am blessed.

Health Concerns

“When you have your health, you have everything. When you do not have your health, nothing else matters at all.” (Augusten Burroughs, writer)

I don’t believe this entirely (in particular, you have to wonder if the writer had children), but I certainly understand the sentiment. The first time I had cancer, there were so many things I was trying to organize before going to the hospital, things I assumed I was coming back to as soon as the surgery was over.

Once the diagnosis came back, and turned out to be bigger and scarier than expected, I remember being amazed at how quickly all those things felt completely unimportant. Faced with the proposition of losing your health, so many things that feel important fall away with an ease you could never have imagined. Getting a hard health diagnosis is like being confronted by a big guy with a knife. When he starts chasing you at high speed, and you start running, you aren’t thinking about some report you have to turn in at work the next day.

At the same time, living with a hard health diagnosis is like running from a guy with a knife who is moving in slow motion. You have time to eat something, take a shower, and even turn in a report or two — but you can’t really forget that the guy with the knife is coming for you, that at some point you’re going to need to dodge and weave, and keep moving. It’s a different existence from people who don’t have any slow motion knife guys in their lives.

All of this is just the way my mind tries to intellectualize and metaphorize my circumstances.

Like the fact that the doctor came in after my colonoscopy last week to say she’d found a polyp that she thought looked cancerous, and that, due to some scar tissue, she’d been unable to remove it. Her proposal, even in those first moments coming out from sedation, was daunting: Remove the rest of my colon. As in all of it.

It didn’t seem much less daunting a few days later, when we had a video consult. The polyp—the cancerous polyp— is very small, but because of my genetic mutation (Lynch Syndrome), the larger surgery is recommended —I guess it’s the doctors’ way of avoiding the knife-guy — or at least slowing him almost to a stop. But it would entail some big lifestyle changes that I’m not sure I’m ready to embrace. My instinct to opt for something a little less life-changing, even if that means I need to spend more time in the future looking around corners for the knife guy. Because my mutation affects multiple organs, I feel like, knife-guy’s never going to go away completely no matter what, so maybe concentrate on quality of life over quantity.

Working through all this — organizing more scans and conversations, and making some immediate changes to my diet and meditation — has quickly become a preoccupation. Maybe because it isn’t immediately dire (I’ve managed to push any surgery to late December or January), things in my life haven’t dropped completely off my radar in terms of importance in the way that I’ve had happen in the past, but certainly they’ve become smaller blips.

One blip that is still pretty large is this: Paul is having his gall-bladder removed today. It’s supposed to be an outpatient surgery. I’ll be taking him to the hospital in about an hour. In another timeline, where my results last week were clear, this would have been the big headline news, perhaps the only topic of this blog. Indeed, we both have lots of thoughts and feelings around it —what it means in terms of lifestyle, identity, overall health — but for the moment, we’d appreciate all good thoughts just to get through the procedure with no complications.

Time Out! (Our Creepshow Episode)

Last fall, Paul and I got to write a segment for CREEPSHOW on AMC’s Shudder.

We knew the Season 3 was happening, but didn’t know exactly when our segment would air, so it was fun when Paul walked in and read me an excerpt from a review at BloodyDisgusting.com. Yes—we were Episode 5, which dropped today!

Barrington Smith and Paul Seetachitt’s story is a wistful one. There are no tangible monsters here, nor is there a character covering up a misdeed. The misguided Tim simply wants to honor his father, whose own time was cut short. This tale is not hard to connect to on an emotional level; everyone knows someone who worked themselves to death and was consequently deprived of life’s joys. “Time Out” is simple and direct, but it is also incredibly effective

Kind words. BloodyDisgusting.com gave us four skulls, which is the highest rating of any of the episodes so far in the season.

HorrorObsessive.com also did a recap that was less effusive but still complimented the writing.

For those unfamiliar, Creepshow is an anthology series — kind of like Twilight Zone — but with a horror bent. Each episode is divided into two stories. Our story “Time Out,” got paired up with “The Things In Oakwood’s Past” which was cool segment because it was their first foray into animated story-telling and because it featured Mark Hamill, who not everyone realizes is gifted voice actor for animation. My first L.A. job way back in the day was on a live action video game called Wing Commander IV, and Mark Hamill was in the cast. At that time, he was collecting some kind of toys that came in McDonald’s Happy Meals, and because he couldn’t leave the set, I got to bring him a Happy Meal with a toy on a couple of occasions, and he was always incredible friendly and nice!

So this was exciting because it is our first actual produced TV credit! They say you are supposed to celebrate your victories, so I had imagined inviting a few people over, serving some snacks, etc., but the reality is that Paul and I just watched it with our housemate. It was still fun.

And lest anyone think my life is now too glamorous, the other big “happening” at our house is that I have a colonoscopy tomorrow morning, and I just started doing the prep. 🙄

Writing Update Preview

For awhile I’ve been grappling with the fact that I lack awareness of where my time — as in the collection of hours that makes up my life — goes. I know I work and write, and read stuff and watch things on screens (as well as eat, sleep and do dishes) but—perhaps especially when I’m working from home—the hours and days become one amorphous blob. At this moment, I might be able to tell you what I did yesterday, but two days ago is vanished from my memory. Also, as someone who slips in and out of “flow” in which, by definition, one doesn’t feel time, I lack an awareness of how much time things take. For instance, I have no idea what time it was when I started this paragraph.

In an attempt to mitigate this very floaty, unmoored existence, I’ve started trying — quasi-successfully — to clock in and out of my work sessions for various projects (I’m pretty good at clocking in, and pretty terrible at remembering to clock out). I then try to clump the hours together to make a summary I can use to figure out what has happened with all my “missing” time, as well as what to charge people for jobs when they ask for estimates, and how to answer questions like “whatcha been up to?” or “why haven’t you called for five months?”

When I start things, I’m definitely writing for myself, but, then, at some point in the process, I start thinking, wait, this might be interesting to an audience, and that often changes the shape of what I write. At a certain point, with these “productivity summaries” I thought – oh, maybe I could make a little newsletter/ update that I could send to people, like my reps and executives who have told me to keep in touch and to let them know what I’m working on. With an audience in mind, I’ve started thinking, okay, I need to pare this down, so I just named my top three projects instead of listing everything I worked on, and added in some loglines to provide context. But so far, when it comes to actually sending the updates to the execs, I’ve mostly chickened out. In addition to the fact I haven’t seen them for over a year, and they may not remember me at all, asking someone to sift through list of books I’m reading is kind of presumptuous!

Which is all only to say, I’m about to post some updates that are really of interest only to myself, which could be said most of this blog I guess, so maybe no explanations are in order in any case.

If you are one of the few who get these posts to your inbox, apologies for the heavy influx as I catch up by posting everything from this year — I’m sure I’ll be returning to my bi-monthly posting schedule soon!

(Edit: After publishing, I moved the first two updates to more chronologically appropriate locations. i.e. Jan/Feb is now published in March, and Mar/Apr is published in May…