I’m knee-deep in the writing of the sequel to “Secret of the Ossuary”. This one is tentatively called “Secret of the Grail”. I can’t talk about the book too much, lest I reveal spoilers. I can say that, so far, it’s turning out to be every bit as fun to write as the first one was.
In anticipation of a crowded theatre, I’ve just received two enormous boxes of copies of my new book,
Cancer Trip 2. As with our previous book release parties, the media has climbed aboard, and this one is looking to be another sold-out show. To be honest, the admission is free and the door prizes consist of alcohol, but we like to think the people are there to listen to my fellow authors and me read aloud from our books, as well.
It’s been a rough summer, cancer-wise. The doc said I wouldn't see September. This posed a problem, owing to the fact that the film Bohemian Rhapsody was to come in November. So, for a lark, the doc decided to essentially double my chemo, see what happens. And I came out of it. We'd already arranged the funeral and everything. I wrote my obituary and engaged my musician friends. Most of 2018 was a write-off. I barely knew my name. But the high-dose chemo has since been doing wonders. The main tumour shrunk by 90%. Throughout it all, I continued to journal my experiences with the doctors, nurses, other patients, etc. Cancer Trip 2 is writing itself, really.
Since being diagnosed with kidney cancer, I’d been journaling everything that’s happened to me. When I compiled a couple of year’s worth of stories, it turned out that I’d been having quite a ride. I wasn’t sure if the anecdotes were worthy of publication but, judging by reactions of the readers
of Cancer Trip, I was glad I’d written it.
So far, I've gone through three printings.
Secret of the Ossuary, has just been released. In order to make the launch a success, I teamed up with three writer friends who all had books to release at the same time. Our event was to be held in the parlour at our church. By the time we started the show, the room was packed. Then the hallways started to fill up, so we up and moved everyone into the church sanctuary, with pews for 800 bums, half of which were occupied by the time the first author started. It was a great night.
The Ontario Writers’ Conference was great. There was a great deal of networking, and panels on the craft of writing, marketing our books, etc. There were about 200 writers in attendance. At one point, they gathered up all the male writers for a group photo. Here we are:
Cancer has knocked me off my feet for weeks on end. Since October, I have not done much of anything, except write. And, at long last, the book is done – time for the editor's eye. I've gone though a few name changes for the title, but it looks like I've settled on "Secret of the Ossuary." I'm a bit tired of people asking me what an ossuary is, but I'm going to leave it as is. Some samples are posted on my Works page.
It's Hamilton Film Fest time again! This year, both of my short films have been accepted. I hope to be well enough to actually attend (see my October posts…)
I'm home from my surgery. I am not mobile yet, and I'm pretty useless around the house. However, I can WRITE. Almost a year ago, one of the screenwriters I had lunch with in LA recommended I adapt one of my screenplays into a novel. I had figured this to be a one-year endeavour, between my other screenplays, and magazine articles with deadlines. But, being relegated to the couch, I may be done much sooner than I had thought. It's time to revisit Judas Iscariot in ancient Jerusalem...
It's Day 8 of my hospital stay; I am coming home today. Some people were a bit confused at how I was able to send out an email/Facebook update, only a few minutes after the surgery. In fact, I had composed TWO emails a couple of days earlier. One had the subject heading "Good News" and one was called "Bad News". Immediately after the surgery, my family called Tom with the outcome, and he sent out the appropriate message. I was still asleep at the time. Since then, I have not sent out any updates because I have not had anything good to share. After getting past the elation of learning I did indeed survive the surgery, and after being told I was currently cancer-free, I then began the road to recovery. And it has been extremely difficult so far. I have had a few setbacks and complications: an infection, a fever - and a brand new blood clot in my other leg, preventing me from walking, ensuring constant pain and little sleep. So I couldn't send out an update when I didn't have anything fun or at least hopeful to share. Even my sweet mother got tired of hearing about my woes. So when she would ask how my night was, I would reply, "I slept soundly all night, I didn't have any nightmares or full-body muscle spasms, and that one crazy nurse was not the least bit snippy to me. Also, when I peed in the little bottle beside my bed, I didn't spill it all over my gown." Anything so my mum doesn't worry about me.
This is going to be a weird few days ahead of me. I have a bit more energy than I did last week, but I still can't do very much. But here's the thing: that hypothetical question, "what would you do if you found out you may only have one week left to live?" has been placed at my feet. My answer, though, is nothing. I have no bucket list (save for the fact that I still haven't met Rush). Isabel and I do all the things we need to do to keep ourselves happy. My children and I regularly play board games together. Blake and Meghan are self-motivated musicians: sometimes they practice on their own, other times we jam together. My family gets together regularly to debate episodes of The West Wing or The Newsroom. Playing in my band is still fun. Teaching music is still rewarding. Nothing to change here.
I have a bit of news, something I learned a few days ago.
THE GOOD PART: - I have only one tumour, attached to only one kidney, it has not detached itself, it has not separated into pieces - they are booking emergency surgery for me, probably for next week - there is a 60% chance the kidney will be easily removed, taking the tumour with it
THE NOT-SO-GOOD - the tumour is very large, and is pressing up against my liver and my spine. the tumour may get ambitious prior to surgery, and go looking for trouble elsewhere inside of me - when the doctor removes the kidney, the tumour may detach itself, and run immediately up to my heart, in which case, well, that's not good
THE VERY GOOD - my mother has predicted that the surgery will be a success. I actually put more weight on her predictions than I do the doctor's shoulder-shrugging 60%
THE SHITTY: - I can't play in my rock band for at least eight weeks, if not longer. damn it
Just finished the final edit for my short film, "Supergroup: The First Gig." It was excerpted from my feature-length screenplay of the same name. It was shot at The Collins Brewhouse in Dundas. The trailer is here: Supergroup Trailer
Just finished the final edit for my short film, "Millers Road". It was shot in the outskirts of Hamilton, near Ancaster, over five days. The trailer is here: Millers Road Trailer
My friend and colleague, David Tysdale, came up with a brilliant sitcom idea. He, Nathan Fleet and I have been developing "Joe's Rental", set in a Northern Ontario small-engine rental shop.
I spent a week in Los Angeles, meeting with film industry people to discuss my two screenplays. I'm not being vague on purpose; some were friends-of-friends, others were people I'd worked with on sets here in Toronto. But my most fruitful meeting was with screenwriting guru Skip Press. Skip went over my synopses and recommended, strongly, that I turn one of them into a novel, that it could be quite successful in print. It was nice to hear that, although I don't think I can write an entire novel on spec – and publishers don't give advances to first-time authors before the novel is completed. On the shelf it goes – for now.
I did a round-table script read-through for my historical science-fiction film with 25 actors. This was the first time I presented my story to anyone other than my editor. The reaction was electric. For this read-through, I did not give the scripts to the actors in advance; they experienced the story for the first time, right there in the room. I think I may be on to something.
Most of my time the last few months was spent researching for my film about travelling back in time to meet Judas Iscariot. I read three versions of the Bible, and consulted with the minister at my church. One of my protagonists is Jewish. I have a couple of very close Jewish friends who went over my story line and dialogue with me. I've been striving for authenticity.
On the day I finished the final draft of my screenplay for "Supergroup," I fleshed out the outline for a new movie about two students who travel back in time to meet Judas Iscariot. So much for writing what I know.
One of the tips from Screenwriting Professor Skip Press is, "write what you know." With that in mind, I just completed the first draft of a feature-length screenplay called, "Supergroup." It is a rock 'n roll movie, a la "Almost Famous" (Cameron Crowe) and Spinal Tap.
In writing a screenplay based on someone else's novel, I've taken the chance that I may not receive permission from the author to go forward with it. Knowing this, I wrote it anyway, under the assumption that I would consider my efforts to be an exercise. Indeed, I went through nine drafts before locking the script. Then, I emailed Gordon Kormon, beloved author of 75 books for kids and teens. I told Mr. Korman that I had always believed his book, "Who Is Bugs Potter" would make a fantastic movie, and he agreed with me! All I had to do now was convince his literary agent in NYC to give me the go-ahead to shop my script. And that's where things came to a standstill. Mr. Korman's agent, however kind, required a bit more history from me as a writer/filmmaker. I'll visit that one in time, as I still think it could be a hit.
We held a round-table script read-through for my "Who Is Bugs Potter" screenplay. With 28 actors (eight of whom were teenagers), it was a great opportunity to learn that my screenplay did not stink after all. I gave pens to everyone, and invited them to make comments as we went through it. The most valuable points came from the teens who critiqued some of my teenaged dialogue.
I have completed the first draft of the screenplay, "Who Is Bugs Potter," based on the Gordon Korman novel of the same name. My education as a screenwriter began with Skip Press, author of the incredible book, "Complete Idiot's Guide to Screenwriting."
At Highland High School here in Dundas, they held their yearly garage sale in the gymnasium. And that's where I found an old paperback copy of one of my favourite books as a young teen. "Who Is Bugs Potter," by Gordon Korman, set me back 25-cents. Since I had first read it in 1982, I had always felt that the book would make a fantastic film. I think I've waited long enough for someone else to do it – it's time to get this started myself.
I am scheduled to do my third book-reading at the
local library for my kid's book,
Lost and Found on Mars. This is over and above the informal book-readings
last fall during which I read to all the neices
and nephews in my family (and some from nearby families