Friday, July 13, 2018

The Lost Works of Wade Bradford

I probably have a couple lost writing projects... nothing as vast or as crippling as a lost novel. I do have a missing screenplay I wrote back in the 90s called The Silver Squadron, about a group of octogenarian superheroes... But I'm not too sad about that because I was really just ripping off Watchmen, but in a slightly humorous way.

There are probably other half-baked, unfinished scripts that have disappeared over the years as well... And that's fine. But there are a few things that have gone missing that make me rather sad. Here are the three most melancholy-inducing lost works which are currently missing from my library of personal projects:

Issue #4 of Space Bounty Hunters from Hell...

I was so stupid. I had drawn four comics books by hand, which my friends and I loved -- especially my best friend, Joshua. Then, I adapted the characters into a screenplay version. I loved this quirky little sci-fi-comedy world I had created. There was an agent I was working with at the time -- he was never officially my agent, but he kept reading my scripts until he got sick of me... I think that was around High Moon (my infamous vampire western). Anyway, I wanted to impress him with not just my screenplay, but I wanted to show him the comic book origins of Space Bounty Hunters. So I decided to send him issue #4, which was the best one in terms of humor and art work. I went to Kinkos to make a copy, but the young lady working there told me that they couldn't scan the oversized pages and make them fit onto an 8X10 copy. If I remember correctly, the words she used were: We don't have to do that here. Which perplexed and vexed me so that I decided to send the agent the original comic, thinking that the agent would keep it handy and send it back at some point after reading it.

When I chatted with him about it a month later, he said that he had dumped the comic in the recycling. And so the further adventures of Oboe Williams and Trigger Scalpswap are lost forever.

Ninja Man

In seventh grade, there was a kid named Dan Bolton who was obsessed with karate and ninja stars and kung fu stuff. I don't think he was any good at it -- he was a scrawny little nerd like me. But he claimed that he could defeat anyone in the school if he wanted to...

He moved to Reno, Nevada at the end of the year, and despite his dorkiness I guess I must have missed him because I made an entire comic book series (about 60 pages in total, I think) during my eighth grade year. My fellow classmate became interested in reading these daily comics, and I gained a modicum of renown for them. I also devoted far much ore time to the comics instead of school work.

Anyway, I am not sure what happened to that collection, but I haven't seen them since high school. I believe in our garage there is one page of the comic... And that's all that remains of the dazzling escapades of Dan Bolton, full time student, part-time ninja.

Dragonflies and Dandelions

So, this is my lost play... And of all the missing materials, this is the one I miss the most. It's lost in a special way, too... One that gives me hope. I'll get to that later. Let's talk about what the play is about.

It's called Dragonflies and Dandelions because the initials spell DAD. it's a tribute to my father, and written when he was still alive and relatively healthy. But I think my younger self somehow knew that Dad wasn't long for this world -- since he had smoked so much... And already seemed old to me... I spent my late teens and early twenties writing about him and sometimes for him in one way or another.

Anyway, one of my early community college experiences was a directing class. I wrote and directed a one-act play called Dragonflies and Dandelions. It was about a father and son, not-so-loosely based upon my dad and me. The two characters are in the laundry room of their home, and the father is teaching his son how to do the laundry, because soon he will be on his own and he'll need to know how to do it.

During the process, the father tells stories of his early days, including narratives about his surveyor days in Alaska, his dangerous flights during the Korean War, and a Japanese American girl he had a crush on during World War II (she was taken away to an internment camp -- and he always wondered what had become of her...)

I wanted to film a video of the production, but our instructor, Arden Flom -- what a great name! -- would not allow it. And any physical copies of the scripts were kept by the actors. One of my best friends, Jeff Griffith was one of them, but I don't think he has it anymore. The play was stored on a floppy disk, and I still have that disk. The problem is, I no longer have the old Brother Word Processor that can access the disk... it broke way back in the mid 1990s. 

So, until I find the same brand of that old dinosaur of a computer I once owned, Dragonflies and Dandelions will remain a lost gem. 

What About You?

Hey there, writer friends... do you have any lost works? Tell me about'em. 

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Saturday Morning Nostalgia: The Smurfs

The Smurfs have a special place in my heart. But I'm not sure why.

At first glance, the Smurfs seems like a totalitarian society. We have a bearded leader
in a red hat who leads a communist society of shirtless followers. (Karl Marx, anyone?)
Perhaps worst of all, there is only one female in their community. (And she was created
by the evil Gargamel as a trap to lure male Smurfs to their doom.)

There must be some logical reason I loved the Smurfs, right? Let me try to map it out...

Reason #1) I Was a Kid and It Was a Cartoon

I was an animation junkie. I still love cartoons today -- but I prefer watching quality
cartoons. When I was ages zero through twelve, quality did not matter. If it was animated,
I was hooked. I even watched Davey and Goliath, for crying out loud. So, yeah, one reason
why I watched the Smurfs was because it was a cartoon and it was on TV on Saturday

But there were other cartoons on other channels. So why did I watch the Smurfs?

Reason #2) I Can Relate to Clumsy Smurf

Anybody who has spent time with me will soon discover that I'm rather clumsy. I'm not
sure how many times I have dropped books or papers from my desk. I don't know how
many times I've accidentally given my wife a flat top while carelessly walking behind her.
It's actually amazing that I haven't cracked this iPad which I am now writing upon.
I was especially accident prone when I was a kid, so yeah, I definitely related to this guy.

More than our common bond of the Dropsies, I also connected with Clumsy because
throughout grade school I always had friends who were (at least in my opinion) much
smarter than I was. Clumsy always tagged along with Brainy. And Brainy sometimes
went out of his way to make Clumsy feel lesser-than. I don't know that my friends ever
did that intentionally -- but sometimes I felt that way Clumsy felt. The nice thing about
this Smurf, though, is that he has good intentions and a good heart -- so even if he
trips and falls and causes some disaster in the Smurf village, his goodness
always prevails in the end.

Reason #3) Kid Friendly World Building

Smurfs, for me, really started with the merchandise. Before ever seeing the Hannah Barbara
program, I remember being a kid and walking into a little European themed shop in
Leavenworth, Washington and discovering hundreds of these funny little blue figurines.

They had a Smurf for every activity. Baking, snorkeling, trumpet playing, bowling...
I bought my grandparents a Golfer Smurf.

Peyo and his team of artists definitely had a clever marketing strategy: invent a Smurf
for every personality, every interest. And when you take all of these different personalities
and abilities and stick them together in a mushroom village, you are going
to create an interesting world -- one that will spark a child's imagination.

I was so heavily influenced by the Smurf's that I copied Peyo's strategy and made up my own
cartoon characters: The Snorts. They were a lot like the Smurfs, but they were more like
lizard-humanoids who lived in your garden.

As I got older, even today as a writer, I became fascinated with the idea of telling ensemble
stories about a community. If I wasn't so hooked on watching the Smurf's every Saturday
morning, I'm not sure I would have ever come up with the expansive world I built for my
graphic novel Duck Town.

Reason #4) Kid Friendly Profanity

I know what you're thinking... WHAT THE SMURF ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT?

Well, that's precisely my point. The dialogue of the Smurfs included a lot of the word SMURF
in it. And it turns out, sometimes when they said the word SMURF, those Smurfs were angry.

On more than one occasion Papa Smurf would tell Brain to "SMURF UP!"

I loved these exchanges. I loved how the word SMURF could be a verb or a noun or
an adjective (if you added a Y). It became a very useful word for a kid like me who
avoided the F-word and any other expletives. If I stubbed my toe, I would cry OH SMURF IT YOU MOTHERSMURFER... and that way I could have a vocal outlet
without breaking the house rules regardingcurse words.

What About You?

Did you ever watch this show? Did you have any nostalgic connections to it?

If so...

Which Smurf are you?

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Lucky Chapter Thirteen

Thirteen has always been a lucky number for me. My eldest daughter was born on Friday the 13th. That also happens to be my parents wedding date, way back when. And of course, the title of my upcoming book from Candlewick is There's a Dinosaur on the 13th Floor.

So, it should surprise me that this kids' book that I've been working on has concluded on the thirteenth chapter. The writing process was quick and joyful -- thise two things are rare qualities when it comes to my method (which usually involves self-hatred and head-to-desk assaults).

Hopefully the revision will go just as smoothly, and that ediotrs will immediately fall in love with it, and it will be on bookshelves by 2019. Hmm... Could I be so lucky?

Fingers crossed!

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Reaching Chapter Five

I don't always complete the projects I begin. As I have blogged about before, I have about a 50/50 track record. If I started writing something it's a coin toss as to whether or not I'll get to The End.

However, if I can finish Chapter Five that usually means I will finish the book.

Five days ago I started a little chapter book that will probably be about 15,000 words when it is complete... and today I finished Chapter Five. I have my fingers crossed that this means it will be complete. And if I can keep up the pace of writing one chapter a day, I should be able to get to the end in seven more days!

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

The Daily Three

I've had four productive days in a row. That's a nice change of pace, because it's been a while since I've worked (creatively) that many days in a row. Hopefully, the trend will continue.

One of the reasons I've been able to get into the groove of things is simple: I finally picked a specific project to work on. Sometimes, at the beginning of a new phase, I spend too much time fretting iver what to work on next. A play? A picture book revision? A novel?

In this case, I zeroed in on the chapter book medium... this one is about a group of friends whonhappen to be bugs. (We'll call it my Bug Book, for now.)

The other reason things are going well: I have simplified my priorities so that I wake up and I am concerned with accomplishing three tasks.

1) Exercise (Feeling fit helps you feel creative.)

2) Write at least 1500 words

3) Complete my wife's Honey-Do List (this varies in size and complexity from day-to-day, but usually doesn't take too long).

If I can finish the first two items on the list, then I can fulfill whatever family / household responsibilities that need to be done... And without me mentally whining to myself that I'm not being productive.

Once those three things are done, I have the day to myself. I can read Stephen King. i can watch Netflix. I can hang out with friends. OrIf I'm smart, I'll work ahead on my book!

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Creativity VS. Marketing -- Help!

Sorry, little blog... I've been neglecting you.

The funny thing is, I've been journaling so much, it doesn't seem like I've been errant in my blog posts. I've written a diary entry for ever day of the summer so far. I've just been keeping it to myself, locked away on my first generation iPad.

I've also been having way too much fun on Instagram. Far more fun than a grown man should be allowed to experience. If you'd like to follow the poorly photographed merriment, here's the link (I think):

Anyway, the summer has been great fun so far. The trip to Boston / New York / Washington D.C. was fantastic. One of the highlights happened at the beginning of the trip. I met my editors at Charlesbridge and Candlewick. Imagine you are a Disneyland fanatic and you are invited to go behind the scenes and meet the Imagineers at their workspace -- that was what it was like for me. I was full on geeking out at all he KidLit illustrations on the walls.

Now, I'm back in California, and it;s time to get back to work... which always leads to the question: Do I work on creating new stuff or selling existing stuff?

Usually what happens is that I try to spend to coming up with marketing ideas, and after I fail at that, I fall back into my comfort zone and get to work on a new project. That's fine, but the thing is... I've got these new books that I want people to read...

For example: THERE'S A DINOSAUR ON THE 13th FLOOR is available for pre-order!!!

But other than bothering my family and friends on Facebook, I haven't discovered a very active, productive way to generate word of mouth.

Any marketing ideas? I'm open to suggestions. Ir do you think I should not worry about selling myself and just hunker down and get to work on my next project?

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Adventures in Boston

I've had so much fun on this trip -- so far -- and we're only two day into the vacation. My wife and I are here to celebrate our niece's graduation. She has earned a Master's degree in finance from none other than Harvard University.

I forgot how much I love to travel. I'm not crazy about airports or taxi cabs, but once I get to our destination it's a blast. Last night, my nephews and I walked up and down the side streets of Boston, on a mission to find the statue of Paul Revere. We found him! We also found canollis.

I'm looking forward to exploring more of this town. So far, Boston is a beautiful city.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Photos from "The Greatest Play Ever Written"

Summer 2018 has arrived! And with this season free from school books and rule books, comes the last batch of school productions of my plays. Recently, a high school performed one of my favorite -- but seldom done -- comedies. The shamefully narcissistic titled The Greatest Play Ever Written. 

This show is actually a combination of several one acts, all tied together by a rather mischievous narrator. Here are some snapshots:

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Creative Writing Experiments

1      Magic Realism: Combine the fantastical with the mundane.

2     Write a children’s story / picture book.

3     Create a map of your story’s setting.

4     Create a poem (or song) that follows a specific form or rhyme scheme

5     Write an “in media res” beginning

6     Create a slam poem

7     Create a meet-cute scene (dialogue)

8     Create an idea for a video game

9     Create a scene with anthropomorphic characters

10   create something that is meant to be performed / read aloud

11 Outline a Quest

12 "Elevator Pitch" or Query Letter

 13 Correspondence / Letter Writing

14 Write the last scene to a story / book / script

Links for Dramatic Literature


Playwright Bio
New York Times Obituary -- Playwright August Wilson

"Rescuing the Tragic Bully in Fences"

History Context: August Wilson's Pittsburgh - New York Times

Early review of the 1987 Production of Fences


You can find these articles through the Gale Literary Sources Database:

"Nursing and Wit"

"Cancer and the Common Woman in Margaret Edson's Wit"

"Margaret Edson"

Interview with the Playwright:

A Raisin in the Sun:

The art of Social Criticism: Lorraine Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun

Playwright's Biography from the Chicago Public Library

"Fighting for Home: The Roots of A Raisin in the Sun" 

Monday, April 23, 2018

Hamlet Monologues

Kenneth Branagh as Hamlet...

O that this too, too solid flesh would melt...

Mel Gibson as Hamlet...

Benedict Cumberbatch deliver's Hamlet's most famous soliloquy...

Ben Kingsley deliver's Hamlet's / Shakespeare's advice to actors...

David Tennant as Hamlet...

And once again... Kenneth Branagh....

Friday, April 20, 2018

Belated Resolution Check-In: April Edition

Whoa! April is flying by! Heck, I have hardly posted a single blog entry, and this month is almost on its way out the door of history. Time has been flying -- though not just because I've been having fun. I've been doing a lot of work. It;s crunch time at the college. Lots of meetings. Lots of essays. Lots of quizzes. Basically, a lot of grown up stuff.

I might need to play some video games tonight to detox.

Not much creative writing has been going on lately... but this weekend I will try to make up for it. I am co-writing another play with Christopher Flowers (I think I've blogged about this before; it's a comedy about an all-inclusive resort.) So, I should probably stop bloggig and start playwriting.

But first a quick update about my New Year's Resolutions...

1) Finish Writing a New Novel

I am currently stalled on the Time Travel middle-grade. I did tinker with a chapter book. But right now I'm just kinda stuck in the mud, waiting for summer vacation.

ACHIEVEMENT: 20% Complete

2) Sell a New Picture Book

Not yet. My agent might be sending out something new, maybe as early as next week.

3) Write / Sell New Play

Some progress has been made on the all-inclusive comedy. Still in the drafting stage, but we might have a read-through in May.

4) Complete 200 Days of Writing

I've had a scant amount of 25 good writing days.

Achievement: 12.5% Complete

5) Participate in 10 Book Events

Hopefully more will be happening in the very near future.

Achievement: 30% Complete

6) Complete 100 five minute work-out sessions

It's been about a week since my last workout. (I feel like I'm at confession.)

Achievement: 51% Complete

7) Practice Drawing / Coloring for 100 Hours

Achievement: 19% Complete

8) Develop a Stronger Marketing Platform


9) Create a Portfolio with at least 12 awesome photos

Still taking lots of photos... but none of them are good. Part of it is me -- but a significant part might be I'm using an old iphone 4.

10) Learn the whole melody of Ashokan Farewell. 

Ha. I've got a lot to do this summer!


Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Query Letter Sample

Here's an example I found online of a query letter that led to a successful book writing career. 

Dear Ms. Megibow,
I’m currently seeking representation for my YA novel, FALLS THE SHADOW. Given your interest in science fiction, I thought it might be a good fit for your list.
When Cate Benson was twelve, her sister died. Two hours after the funeral, they picked up Violet’s replacement, and the family made it home in time for dinner and a game of cards.
It’s the year 2055, and Cate’s parents are among the wealthy elite who can afford to give their children a sort of immortality—by cloning them at birth. So this new Violet has the same smile. The same laugh. That same perfect face. Thanks to advancements in mind-uploading technology, she even has all the same memories as the girl she replaced.
She also might have murdered the most popular girl in school.
Or at least, that’s what the paparazzi and the crazy anti-cloning protestors want everyone to think: that clones are violent, unpredictable monsters. Cate is used to hearing all that, though. She’s used to standing up for her sister too, and she’s determined to do it now—even if proving Violet’s innocence means taking on those protestors and anyone else attacking her family. But when her own life is threatened—not by protestors, but by the very scientists who created her sister’s clone—Cate starts questioning everything she thought she knew about the cloning movement. About herself. About her sister.
And the answers she finds reveal a more sinister purpose for her sister’s copy—and her own replacement—than she ever could have imagined.
FALLS THE SHADOW is complete at 80,000 words, and is the first in a planned series. The manuscript is available, in part or full, upon request. Thanks for your time and consideration!
Stefanie Gaither

Nawal El Saadawi

"Danger has been a part of my life ever since I picked up a pen and wrote."

"Nothing is more perilous than truth in a world that lies."

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Spring Break!!! (Or is it???)

Time for seven days of relaxation mode. At least that's how it's supposed to be. So far, things have been a little bit wacky around the Bradford household.

There was a raccoon hanging out in our front yard, right in the middle of the day. I think he was injured or feeling unwell, and so I called Animal Control. But I wanted to just give him a hug.

The Animal Control Officer was very friendly, and also very patient. It took him about two hours to get the raccoon into the cage. I was worried that he was going to euthanize the poor critter -- because at first the officer suspected distemper. But then he determined that the raccoon had probably been in a fight and hurt his leg. So, if the human was telling the truth, the raccoon should be hanging out at the local rescue center -- which I think is somewhere in Placerita Canyon. 

My eldest daughter is on spring break as well, so she is back home! She spent a "girls weekend" with her grandma and cousins. They played around the beach. Here she is doing a cool karate move. 

She had such a great time at the beach it made her want to fully embrace her Californian heritage by buying a surf board. So you used some Local trade App and found someone who wanted to sell their board for a very reasonable price. Thirty minutes later, she bought a surf board.

(Now all she needs is an ocean.)

My youngest daughter has spring break from her English class. However, that's not the case for her Calculus class. She's taking it online through LA Mission College, and they don't have their break until April. So while I'm being lazy, she hunkered down at the computer working on this kind of stuff... 

(Makes perfect sense to me!) 

She has also been cast in her favorite musical: In the Heights. On top of that, she is working back stage in a show that opened this weekend. So her busy schedule is a sharp contrast to my weekend of watching Netflix shows and taking naps. 

In truth, however, I don't have any right to be lazy at present. Even though I don't go back to work until April 2nd, I actually have a ton of essays to grade. That's what I get for forcing my poor students to write argument essays. As my good friends often tell me, if I don't want to grade papers I need to stop assigning them. 

So far I've graded six of them. Only 84 left to go! 

In the world of writing, I might have a little bit of good news on the horizon. But it's not locked in yet, so I can't report anything until it's more official. (It's nothing huge, by the way, but a nice little potential feather in my figurative cap.) 

Monday, March 19, 2018

Boom LatinAmericano

In the 60s and 70s, Latin America experienced a surge of immense creativity brought forth by young authors, a literary wave known as the Latin American Boom...

My favorite among these writers is Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Here he is being very serious:

And here he is being not so serious...

I've been using his stories for years in my classroom. In particular, "A Very Old man with Enormous Wings" is an excellent way to teach students about Magic Realism. (And it's also an excellent companion to Kafka's "A Hunger Artist."

These authors are famous for combining the fantastical with the mundane. 

Julio Cort├ízar's novel Hopscotch instructs the reader to digest the chapters out of order. 

He also has a story about a traffic jam that lasts so long that a unique culture is born from it.

Another of my personal favorites is Octavio Paz... Here he is looking old and distinguished...

But here's another photo of him looking young and putting on the smolder...  

Oh wait, that's from Tangled... Here's young Octavio.... 

Octavio is actually in the height of his writing a bit before the so-called "Boom." One of his most famous short stories, "My Life with the Wave," is published in 1949. But as you will discover if you read it, his work is very much in sync with the Magic Realism movement. 

And since we are speaking of those who have influenced the Boom Latinamericano, we would be remiss to leave out the amazing surrealist Jorge Luis Borges (author of the mind-blowing "Library of Babel") and the beloved poet/politician, Pablo Neruda.