Want to Experience Bad Writing? Watch Madame Secretary, Season 5, episodes 17-19

I don’t watch a lot of television, but when I do, I want to enjoy myself – not be preached at. Earlier this year, I started watching Madame Secretary. Honestly, the first season had some issues, especially early on, but I thought the writing got stronger and more creative as the show progressed into the later seasons. Not long ago, I said to myself that I am really enjoying this show, season 5, for some fun story lines and intriguing drama. And then the writers dared to get on their high horse and started moralizing. It became nauseating. I almost stopped watching.

Moralizing kills creativity. And creativity, once slain, is a beast to resurrect.

Now, I’m not opposed to writing having a message or at least an opinion. I think writing is generally better when there is purpose behind it.

But, and this is a huge but, when writing becomes didactic, and doesn’t allow for open-ended inquiry and thought, it’s a HUGE bore. And that’s what happened with Madame Secretary.

The writing got bogged down in an endless and nauseating cycle of global warming, climate migration, and brow-beating moralizing that became predictable and a flat-out snooze-fest. This is not what I want for entertainment. If I want people spouting their opinions at me, I’ll watch cable news.

But if you’re writing for a network drama, GET CREATIVE!

When writing doesn’t allow people to think for themselves, it’s lazy.

When writing doesn’t facilitate dialogue from different points of views, it’s boring.

When creative writing is no different than watching cable news, please find a new job as a copy editor or web blogger. Get out of the entertainment business.

It took four episodes for Madame Secretary to begin to find its footing again. How did it do that? By getting back to issues that centered around the characters and not on a series of real-world crisis.

Hey writers, if you wanted to convince people to think certain ways about important topics, you did the exact opposite. You almost lost some viewers.

Please do better.

Sincerely,

Someone who thinks he can.

Play Submissions Much Easier after a Few Years of Writing

I am consistently sending my plays out to festivals and theaters with the hope of getting produced. Sometimes I’m successful. Many times not. The competition is fierce, to say the least.

But now that I’ve been writing consistently for the past 7 or 8 years, I have a volume of plays (especially short plays) at my disposal to send to festivals. One minute play festival? No problem. Got it. A play based on the lives of senior citizens? You bet. Just sent one of my favorites, REVENGE OF THE GRANDPARENTS, to just such a festival. Short play with a strong female lead? You betcha. A unique take on Shakespeare? Got it covered.  Typically, in no time, I can have my submission off into the pool of potential. Then I cross my fingers.

Full-length plays are much more difficult. I’ve been pitching my play The Last Bastion the last two years. I’ve received some good feedback, even a recommendation from another festival, but still no bites. Must keep at it. Recently, I’ve started pitching my new full-length play For the Glory of Nat Turner as well. Only time will tell.

I’m fortunate enough that I’m a theatre professional in a school setting so I get to produce a lot of my own plays which is really cool. I love seeing my work come to life. But it’s even cooler when a festival or theatre decides to produce my shows out of their own free will. I hope that will continue in the future. I currently have two of my plays set to be produced around the world.

GRADE SEMANTICS will be part of the Short & Sweet Theatre Festival in Penang, Malaysia in November.

SAFE SPACES will be part of the Conservative Theater Festival in Columbus, Oh in January.

Besides that, I’m producing two of my own shows in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia in the next few months.  STORIES VOL. 2 will be on October 30 and the world premier of CRAZY LOVE will be in April.

So now you’re up to date. Hope there will be much more on the horizon.

Songs in Your Head: The Unintended Consequence of Producing a Musical

It sounded like a great idea in the abstract. A musical, I said. How fun will that be! A blast!

Let me choose one. Hmmm, I want one which would have cross-divisional appeal at our school. One in which, for example, if I didn’t get a lot of high schoolers auditioning, then I could still cast the roles using younger kids.

Okay, what about Seussical – the Broadway smash from 2000 with catchy tunes and colorful Dr. Seuss characters? Perfect. Let’s do it!

I finished casting the show two weeks ago and last week was our first week of full rehearsals. They’ve gone great, actually. Lots of fun, good excitement among the 20 student actors, and real progress. I have been pleased.

All’s good, right?

Well, I have run into one problem, the unintended, yet very real consequences of producing a musical, and that is this: I CAN’T GET THE BLASTED SONGS OUT OF HEAD! EVER! THEY HAVE TAKEN UP PERMANENT RESIDENCE.

I’m standing in line at the grocery store: “On the fifteen of May in the jungle of Nool …” I’m sorry, say that again. How much do I owe you?

My wife is talking to me about hanging the curtains in the house. “… when Horton the Elephant heard a small noise …”   I’m sorry, dear. How high do you want those hung?

These composer have created a hypnotic group of songs. No matter what I’m doing, where I go, or whom I am talking to, the voice of the Cat in the Hat is not far behind.

And here is the harshest of all harsh realizations: the show isn’t finished until December 13. I have two and half more months.

Now I have a question for you? “Who is the biggest blame fool in the jungle of Nool?”

I am. That would be me.

 

FREE – Today & Tomorrow Only! Book 1 of the Forgotten Child Trilogy

FREE – Today & Tomorrow Only! Book 1 of the Forgotten Child Trilogy

If you haven’t tried my trilogy yet, there’s no better time than now. A MAN TOO OLD FOR A PLACE TOO FAR is FREE on Kindle for the next 48 hours only.

Picture a modern-day, Manhattan Scrooge who has his world turned upside down by a fairy-like creature from the realm beyond. What ensues is an around-the-world adventure unlike any other.

Give it a try! Now you have nothing to lose.

Thanks for the support!

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Enjoy! Get your copy here!

Win a Kindle Fire or an Amazon Gift Card

Win a Kindle Fire or an Amazon Gift Card

I’m pleased to have partnered up with the Kindle Book Review on their  September Meet & Greet promotion where you can enjoy some cool prizes if you have a little luck or magic in your veins.

They are helping me promote my Forgotten Child Trilogy in the process.

CHECK IT ALL OUT HERE!

Can you pick me out of a lineup!

Capture september meet greet

Thanks for all your support.

Here’s a link to the trilogy. Stayed tuned. Book 1 will be offered for free in the next few days. Limited time offer.

THE FORGOTTEN CHILD TRILOGY

Novel Finished. Barely. What’s next?

Novel Finished. Barely. What’s next?

Sometimes writing takes a backseat to life. How dare it! Cutting into my writing time with family and barbecues and travel and house repairs and … You get the picture. And it’s all good, all the time. But even when I’m in the midst of enjoying some time away from writing, the bug to scratch out a few words and ideas is never far away. After all, I have been hopelessly bitten by the creative parasite which has been replacing my blood with writing ideas for the past ten years.

Even in the midst of a busy time in life, I was still able to finish my novel this summer, which was, at the very least, the baseline goal I was shooting for. My earlier summer-self had hoped to write two novels this summer. Well, I was fortunate to get one done.

Novel #9 – currently titled MOSES THE SINGER. It is set in Penang, Malaysia and involves a group of teen musicians and a homeless illegal immigrant. Of the five main characters in the novel, four are teens aged 16-18, so I will be marketing it as my first ever YA novel. As with all of my novels, I wonder how it is. What will people think? Will it be interesting? Gripping? Moving? Will readers have as much fun reading it as I had writing it? I suppose these are questions every writer grapples with.  The reality is, no matter how long one has been writing, these questions don’t go away, but I can never let them define how I move forward with a story. One has to be committed to the story and push the story from all angles in a relentless pursuit of making it the very best possible.

This is what I’ll be doing the next few months: revising. I will be completing a couple more drafts of the novel before passing it on to some beta readers for the frightening feedback.

This fall, I will also be pushing my plays as much as possible in hopes of finding a theatre which will produce one of them. I do have a short play hitting the stage in Penang this November.

On top of this, I’ll be directing Suessical The Musical for an international school, and I have another show called DUETS which will hit the stage in late October.

It’s going to be crazy busy, but that’s the way I like it. Except for the fact that my writing time will continue to be limited. Keep moving forward. That’s the only thing to be done.

Come on, NY State. Parks should be free.

In June, as I was heading back to New York for the summer, I was excited about the great outdoors, so I bought myself an Empire Pass, which allows you to access every New York State park as many times as you like for the entire year. It seemed like a good idea. It was $81. All right, let’s go. I bought a new bike, bought a bike rack for my car, and was ready to take off.

I got busy, I didn’t have as much time as I would have liked to get out into the wild, and it started to bother me that I had spent so much money on something I hadn’t benefited from yet. But the day finally arrived. We were going to Long Point State Park on beautiful Lake Chautauqua. I would flash my card at the check point and roll in happy to know that it was worth it. Irony would exist that day, for as we pulled up to the place where you had to daily pay $8 to drive into the park, the station was empty. Anyone could drive in. For free. Fine. Okay. Let’s move on to the next part of the summer: Pennsylvania.

There had been a few state parks in PA which I wanted to check out. The first being Kinzua Bridge State Park where the highest railroad bridge in the world became a mangled ball of metal on a summer night almost twenty years ago when a massive tornado ran through it.

The PA Parks Dept have done a wonderful job with this park. It’s beautiful, interesting, and, to my shock, completely FREE! Wait, what?

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And it had a great bike trail!

A little later in the summer, we wanted to bike Presque Isle State Park in Erie, PA, so we hitched up the bikes and pulled into the park to find it to be completely FREE! At the height of the summer.

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This is a beautiful park. Wonderful beaches. Great for biking. Lots of people fishing. Boating. And free.

It wasn’t until I pulled into Rockland Lake State Park in Rockland County, NY that I got to flash my Empire Pass and use it. Yeah, it was great, but I had already become a little jaded by PA’s great free parks. And don’t get me wrong, NY has many incredible state parks. But the problem I now have with them is this: they should be FREE! For everyone. At all times.

Government has its purposes, and whenever a government can provide something for a comparatively minimal cost at a maximum benefit for all its citizens, it should be a no-brainer. The parks belong to everyone. Every New York State citizen who pays taxes already support the parks system, so they should not be making anyone pay to use our own beautiful spots!

Drop the Empire Pass. Drop the $8 entrance fee. Encourage everyone to get into the wild and enjoy the beauty for free. This is one thing I always appreciated about Washington D.C. They keep the country’s treasures open for everyone at the Smithsonian without charging for it. It’s the way it should be.

Good for you, PA. Come on, NY. Step it up. Make all state parks free. Make it a budge priority.