Thursday, April 30, 2015

Day #114: Challenge Total Update - Early May Edition

Well, there's nothing terribly new to report. For the past month, the total amount of extra-income earned has remained the same: $483.79

(For those of you who have stumbled upon this blog, the reason my blog posts are numbered by days is because I have given myself 365 days to generate $20,000 of extra income. So far, as you can see the results have been hilariously pathetic.)

However, I can announce that I should at least accomplish 25% of my goal before the end of the year. I requested an extra teaching assignment at Moorpark College. They granted me the extra class for fall semester. That means I'll earn a little over $5000. So, that's great. but I'm not counting my chickens before they hatch, so I won't be adding that amount to the challenge total until I actually receive the income.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Day #113: Researching the Newspapers of the Wild West

Last night I spent an hour reading newspapers from Arizona in the 1870s. I've been kicking around the idea of writing about journalism during the days of the Old West. I have only the vaguest of ideas so far. I want to see where the research takes me.

So far, I've read a few from Tucson and a few Tombstone. Some of it is familiar to what we see in today's media: advertisements, local events, political jargon about candidates. But there are a few differences. They write about Native Americans in a very hostile way (using the word "savages" more than a few times). huge mysteries such as unexplained murders are casually mentioned in a few sentences at the bottom of a page. There's a lot of information for gold miners.

Ultimately, they mix opinion and fact way more than journalists should... although maybe that actually is similar to today's media.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Day #112: The Sound of Deadlines Whooshing Past

Normally I meet my deadlines... But not today. I was supposed to submit the final draft of Camp Omigosh. That didn't happen. Still waiting for the proofreading process to be complete. And I'm still fine-tuning the last eighty pages.

Gotta get this baby to Skyrocket Press!

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Day #110: Amazing Audience = Awesome Performance

This afternoon was the penultimate performance of The Three Musketeers. It was by far the most enthusiastic audience we've had so far. Next weekend we have just one more show. I am so thankful for my cast and crew.

Many of the cast members (especially my long time theater friends Marcus Langston and Michael Keane, came up with some terrific jokes to add to the script).

Normally when I direct, it seems like I'm the most energetic/creative person and I'm constantly trying to get everybody else to match me. However, this time around, the reverse was true. The actors put their mind and body into every rehearsal. Thom Allen was amazing as our fight captain/choreographer. Martha and our make-up team gave me one less thing to worry about. Nanook's sound was masterful and accommodating, as always. He makes sound design look so easy. My daughter Mackenzie stepped up to become a lighting designer for the very first time, and she was mentored by the theatrical genius Brian Maly. My wife was a top notch lighting technician and more importantly my directorial go-to, anytime I was unsure about my vision, she helped me stay on track. And anytime I needed help stage manager Jesse was always there.

Chelsea outdid herself yet again. Her costumes get better with each production. And I cannot say enough about Pat Mannion's contributions to the show. His positive energy, expert communication and carpentry skills, and overall organization was vital to the production.

I have probably forgotten a lot of people... But as soon as I remember them, I'll add it to the blog.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Day #109: Back to Musketeer Land

The cast and crew took last weekend off because a Cowboy Music Festival rented out the theater. So, today (Saturday) was the first time back on stage in quite a while.

Thom Allen, our fight captain, whipped them back into shape before our performance -- but we were still a little bit rusty.

The great thing about directing a show that you've written is that it automatically ensures that you will revise your work a hundred times over. Every performance I figure out things to add, delete, or alter.

Hopefully I'll be sending the polished script off, once the show has finished its run.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Day #108: Marketing Ideas for Omigosh

One of my big lessons in 2015 is that I suck at marketing and social media. But the awareness of my lameness has inspired different strategies. One of them is simple: play to my strengths.

My plays are my strength. Many Drama students and teachers are (vaguely) familiar with my work. On top of that, Camp Omigosh is already published as a play. So, my new marketing plan involves focusing on the school districts that have performed my shows during the last year or two.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Day #107: My Daughters Inspire Me

I know, every parent says that, right? But my girls literally inspire me. I've gotten so many story ideas throughout the years. Their childhood has been unbelievably influential in my work. I should probably pay them a royalty.

Right now, I am watching them in their martial arts class (they aren't just students any more, they often teach!) I've been thinking of a storyline that features sisters... Really tough, ninja sisters. Twinjas?

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Day #106: Revision Deadline Looming

I have five more days until I am supposed to be done with the final draft of Camp Omigosh. I'm not sure I'm gonna make it. My schedule is crowded with work and family stuff, and when I do get a chance to sit down and revise, I start to get all nitpicky and it really slows the process.

At the same time, I'm enjoying the revision. I love revisiting the characters and re-experiencing their adventure.

Five more days. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Day #105: Outliers - The 10,000 Hour Rule

My students in my Monday / Wednesday class finished reading the second chapter of Malcolm Gladwell's book, Outliers. This is one of my favorite chapters because its central message is that you don't need natural talent to become highly skilled at something. You need passion, dedication, and above all, you need to put in the practice time.

Re-reading the book maybe me appreciate the fact that I've put 10,000 hours into my writing, and I believe it has paid off in a variety of ways.

It's also made me think about what other things I would like to accomplish. If I could become an expert, what subject would I choose? I thought about that for a while and I've made a decision. I want to spend 10,000 hours improving my drawing skills. I'll never be a Norman Rockwell, but maybe I could become a Charles Shultz.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Day #104: A Good Day's Work

One of my big dreams is to make a living wage from my creative writing. Currently, my writing projects produce a decent amount of income, but that revenue covers about ten percent of our yearly expenses. The dream is to write something that's a big success and then bask in the glory of (a mild amount of) fame and a (Scrooge McDuck sized) fortune. When I worked in brainless jobs in which I dealt with customers all day, the only way I could survive is to hold onto that fantasy of success.

Yet today, even though that dream persists, I have a career that I love. The campus is beautiful. I believe in our college's mission. The faculty is incredibly friendly and supportive (and often hilarious). The students are the most down-to-earth and thoughtful, at least in comparison to the other places I've observed. I do wake up in the morning -- way too early for my taste -- and then first thing that crosses my mind is, "What am I talking about today?" When I finish my last class and lock up my office, I almost always think to myself, "I put in a good day's work."

It makes me wonder, if that dream ever comes true, would I leave this job? It's hard to say.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Day #103: Desert Springs: A No-Net Getaway

The family and I went to visit Grandma and Grandpa out in the desert. It was a relaxing weekend, one spent away from the internet.

You don't realize how addicted you are to the world wide web until you are cut off from it.

I constantly check my email and Facebook all day long. It's been this way for about four or five years. When my first book was on verge of being sold, I kept checking my email for a response from my editor. Even after I received my first contract I still kept looking at my email -- I can't explain why.

Nowadays, I am still hoping to receive more good news from an editor or an agent... But do I really need to check that sucker fifty times a day? how much would I get done if I could control myself and spend no more than five minutes each day looking at email and social media? I've developed a bad habit.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Day #102: Grading Papers Vs. Being Creative

It never fails. I got a stack of papers in front of me, and all I want to do is dive into creative writing projects. What usually happens is that I sit at my desk, staring off into space, accomplishing nothing.

Sometimes I day dream that I just give everyone a B+ and call it a day. No reading. No marking for grammar. No evaluation. Just a passing grade.

But then I think about how some of the students (maybe just a few) are really and truly hoping to become a better writer. Some of them might want to write a book some day, or an article, or a memoir. As much as I want to be a selfish artist, I feel better about myself when get the essays on my desk done, and play around on the page after I've finished my homework.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Day #101: How Did My Family Get So Cool?

At least once a day I gaze at my wife and daughters and silently wonder to myself, "How did I get so lucky?" I live with three incredible, creative, intelligent, compassionate people. Cheri, Mackenzie, and Emily. They are my whole world.

In addition to my miraculous luck I often wonder about these young ladies of mine. How did my daughters get so cool. They are second degree black belts. They are up to date on all the Youtube and internet trends. They are academically at college level. Where did their dedication and tenacity come from? certainly not from me.

Oh, that's right. My wife.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Day #100: Thankful for My Readers

Well, this blog project has made it to Day #100. It hasn't been too hard, and the time has been flying by. Before you know it we'll be at Day #365.

I guess these first one hundred days has taught me quite a bit about myself as a writer. For one, I have realized that I keep going back and forth between anxiety and apathy. Sometimes I feel anxiety because I'm not very good about marketing myself as an author. And then sometimes I feel completely apathetic about social media -- things like creating a platform seem foolish when the real important work is the writing itself.

Anyway, among the many things I have learned is that I am truly thankful for my readers. I don't really have much of a following, but I do have drama teachers, students, friends, and family members who sometimes pick up a copy of my plays or my children's book and give it a read. If I didn't have them my characters would be lonely.

Today, yet another good friend -- and ever-important reader -- spent $25 to fund the Camp Omigosh Indiegogo Campaign. I am so grateful for her and everyone else that believes in my work. I cannot thank you guys enough.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Day #99: Thankful to the Muse

I don't know the source of inspiration... but from wherever it comes, I am truly thankful.

Such was the case this morning. I was sitting at my desk while students were taking a quiz, and I had one of those "AHA" moments. This time it was about the revision for my latest picture book... I guess I can start to promote the name of it now, since the contract has been signed and everything's moving forward...

My latest picture book: There's a Dinosaur on the 14th Floor

Whoo-hoo! It's going to be published by Candlewick Press, and yesterday my editor asked when I thought I would be submitting the first revision of the manuscript. I guessed that I would have something by Friday, but I was feeling daunted. I wasn't sure how to improve the book, not because it was flawless (hardly!) but because I was worried about taking the picture book apart. What if I can't put it back together again?! What if I break it?!

Monday, April 13, 2015

Day #98: The First Round of Revisions Begins!

My picture book editor informed me that they have received the contract -- which means it's now time for me to get to work on the revision. So, of course, I am procrastinating by writing in this blog.

I am hoping that I'll have something to show her by the end of the week. I know I'm not sharing too many details yet -- but I can say this is the most important and potentially successful project I've ever worked on... So, yes, I am stoked!

Wish me luck!

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Day #97: Monologue Request

I just received an offer regarding one of my holiday themed monologues. An editor would like to include it in an upcoming anthology. This doesn't involve too much money (a $25 honorarium) but it's flattering when people actually want to include your work in these collections.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Day #96: An Enjoyable Weekend

One of the reasons I write as much as I do (which isn't nearly enough) is because I am blessed with a career that provides three day weekends.

I love weekends!

Usually there's lot's to do around the house on Friday. This week was no exception. Cheri and I cleaned the garage, and I dropped off a ton of stuff at the Salvation Army. Today (Saturday) was more relaxing. We had another performance of Three Musketeers (with a small but appreciative audience) followed by dinner at home, a trip to Barnes and Noble, and then a viewing of the CTG's production of SPAMALOT!

Fun was had by all...

Friday, April 10, 2015

Day #95: Revision Project Update

Here was my list earlier this week:

#1) Revise Camp Omigosh (70% Complete)

#2) Revise "Rainbow Book" (0% Complete... but it's only 800 words!)

#3) Revise "Strangers" (0% Complete)

#4) Revise "Field Trip Through Unicorn Forest" (0% Complete -- and I'm really stuck on this one.)

#5) Wait for revision notes from Charlesbridge

#6) Wait for revision notes from Candlewick

And now here's what I've done so far...

#1, #3, #4, #5 are all still the same. However, after this blog post I'm gonna work on #3, finishing the Strangers play.

I hit a homerun with #2. I got to work early on Wednesday, and spent almost two hours fine tuning the rainbow book. Now the prose sparkles!

As far as #6 goes, I don't have revision notes from Candlewick, but I've had a very friendly email exchange with the editor -- so the first contact (without agent) has been made!

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Day #94: Fingers Crossed

The phrase "Fingers Crossed" is something I always say to my agent whenever she sends one of my manuscripts out into the world.

Currently, I have my fingers crossed for a single submission. My agent sent my latest picture book to the editor who acquired my last manuscript. (I'm intentionally keeping names and titles vague, because I'm not sure how much I'm supposed to reveal about all this behind the scenes stuff!)

Anyway, that editor has been given an exclusive... and there's about two weeks left until we get feedback. After that, assuming that it's a pass, my agent will send the work to about a dozen other places. But I am keeping my fingers crossed that the first editor loves my little book. I know most picture book authors write for many different houses, but I'd like to find a company to grow old with... Once somebody likes my work, I wanna stick with them for as long as they'll have me. I'm kinda faithful that way.  

P.S. As far as reaching my challenge total, this current project is the only way I can see myself getting near my goal. So, double fingers crossed!

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Day #93: CSI Wonderland @ Granada Hills

I'm currently making arrangements to meet the cast and crew of CSI Wonderland at a Granada Hills High School.  They open May 14th! So excited to see this play for the very first time!

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Day #92: Drawing Helps Me Write

During the past year, I have had several breakthroughs with my picture book writing, and it's all thanks to doodling.

I used to just type up a story and assume that an editor and illustrator would be able to make it fit into 30-32 pages... but ever since Eugene's lecture at SCBWI, I've realized the importance of visual page-turnability. And so after I write the first draft of a book on the computer, I print it up and then pretend I'm an illustrator. I sketch the story onto my journal, and see if the story actually works on the page.

My new "Rainbow" themed book is my latest success story. The first draft was pretty good, but after I created a sketch version, the writing improved tenfold.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Day #91: Revision Projects

So many papers to grade... but once I'm finished, then I'll have so many creative projects to revise...

Here's what I need to accomplish:

#1) Revise Camp Omigosh (70% Complete)

#2) Revise "Rainbow Book" (0% Complete... but it's only 800 words!)

#3) Revise "Strangers" (0% Complete)

#4) Revise "Field Trip Through Unicorn Forest" (0% Complete -- and I'm really stuck on this one.)

#5) Wait for revision notes from Charlesbridge

#6) Wait for revision notes from Candlewick

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Day #90: Camp Omigosh Update

We're at 83% with our challenge total... Hopefully we'll get at least another $100 from a generous soul within the next 12 days.  But I just received an invoice, and it looks like it's gonna be about $825 with the formatting, editing, and cover design.

That means we've got some stretch goals to take care of... Which means I need to keep spreading the word for the next two weeks!

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Day #89: Challenge Total - Early April Edition

Just got another little royalty check in the mail. This one is from about six months of Kindle Royalties, mainly from the play Tomorrow's Wish.

Amazon Digital Services sent me a whopping $102.59... Which means the new grand total for my 365 day challenge is now: $483.79

That means I've been earning an extra $5.43 a day. Wow. Pathetic, huh?

Or, another way of looking at it...

I still have $19,516.21 left to earn, and only 276 days to accomplish my goal!

In other words, "we've got a long way to go and a short time to get there. We're gonna do what they say can't be done!"

Friday, April 3, 2015

Day #88: Gratitude

I need to show more gratitude to others, more often and more enthusiastically. Sometimes I get lost in my own little world.

Case in point, I have a lot of great artists and technicians who have been working incredibly hard on "The Three Musketeers." One such person choreographed all of the fight scenes, and I failed to list him on the production crew list. I didn't find out until after Friday's performance. (Which means it's been three shows without me knowing about the accidental omission.)

I feel like crap. Hopefully, my assistant director and I can make it up to him by putting an insert in the rest of the programs.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Day #87: The Waiting Game... Yet Again...

So, now that one of my new picture books is sitting at an editor's desk somewhere on the East Coast, it's time for me once again to play the waiting game.

To quote Homer Simpson: "I Hate the waiting game. Let's play Hungry, Hungry Hippos!"

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Day #86: Indiegogo Campaign is at 83% - No Foolin'!

Camp Omigosh funding is inching its way towards its goal. We've got one hundred more dollars to earn and then we can be considered a success!

In the meantime, I've been spending much of my spring break revising my manuscript. So far I've lowered the word count by about 4000 words. Not bad!