Tuesday, March 22, 2011

It's Only Just Begun!

There's an exchange in The SunQuest between Ben, the story's main character, and Bo'Ra'K'n, the evil force that is never quite vanquished in The MoonQuest and The StarQuest.

"It's not over," Ben shouts.

"It's only just begun," Bo'Ra'K'n retorts with classic menace.

I gained a whole new perspective on that exchange Sunday evening after we wrapped shooting on The Q'ntana Trilogy preview film: All the footage may be in the can, but the road to getting our feature films onto the big screen has only just begun.

On the preview alone, there are hours and hours of editing to be done, a soundtrack to compose and final decisions to be made about the best form for this film to take in order for it and our project to convince investors to finance a MoonQuest feature. (The preview film is part of a presentation we will be making in the months ahead to potential MoonQuest-feature investors.)

Once funds start coming in, and I know they will, there will be a million additional things to consider, primary among them are finding a director, production designer and DP (director of photography) who hold a vision that can lay the foundation for the world of The MoonQuest.

I can't move forward, though, without looking back -- not only over our two weekends of principal photography, but to the months of preparation that preceded even that. And as I look back, I do so with a depth of gratitude that has no adequate words to describe it. I couldn't possibly name all those whose talent, time, skill, support and generosity have made it possible to get even this far. But there are three I must single out:

Kathleen Messmer, who so believes in The MoonQuest that she's bucking conventional wisdom and launching her production company (Anvil Springs Entertainment) with an ambitious, SFX- and VFX-heavy fantasy, and so believes in me that she's taken me into her home to make it possible for me to devote nearly all my time to this project.

Darryl Garcia, Jr., whose commitment to The Q'ntana Trilogy has been superhuman. Kathleen told me early on that there's nothing Darryl can't do, and he quickly proved her right. There's also little he's not prepared to do, which became clear when he stepped up from his casting-director role to fill director's shoes no one else dared take on. This was Darryl's first directing gig, and he performed brilliantly, passionately and creatively.

Daniel Zollinger, who took on the DP role when others found it too daunting and used his vision and creative power to transcend all the equipment, location and budget limitations we threw at him.

Then there's our cast. It took us two months and three casting calls to assemble this gifted company of professionals, all of whom volunteered their time and talent. Many so embodied their roles that they will always seem inseparable from them to me. Several moved me to tears repeatedly with their performances.

Brilliant acting has nowhere to go without the support of an able crew. There, too, we have been blessed with enthusiastic and capable men and women who not only worked without compensation but went above-and-beyond, doing whatever it took to make sure we got the footage we needed.

We also had many individuals and businesses lend and/or donate resources critical to a successful production -- from costumes and catering to locations and financial contributions.

As I talked to cast, crew and donors over the weeks leading up to the shoot and during our five days of principal photography, I was humbled -- not only by their dedication but by their gratitude at being part of this grand adventure, an adventure that had its unlikely genesis 17 years ago in the Toronto writing workshop that birthed The MoonQuest book.

I don't know exactly how the feature-film version of The MoonQuest will come together. All I know, with all the certainty I can muster, is that it will...and that this amazing group of incredibly talented, generous, passionate and committed individuals will have been instrumental in what I also know will be a huge success.

To all of you, for helping my dreams come true: Thank You!

Truly, it has only just begun...for all of us!

• For more information about the stories and the production or to make a financial contribution to the project, visit the Anvil Springs Entertainment website.

Photos (c) 2011 Mark David Gerson:
#1 - Our Sony EX-1 camera silhouetted against a Sandia sunset after our first day's location shooting (camera loaned to us by Modern Camera for the final weekend's filming)
#2 - The "martini shot," which is what the final shot before wrap is called. Here, a scene from The MoonQuest
#3 - Director Darryl Garcia, Jr. and DP Daniel Zollinger setting up a shot, with help from 1st AC Bryan Jones and 2nd AC Lani Wasserman
#4 - Cast and crew enjoy lunch, catered and donated by Andre's Catering of El Paso, TX. (Andre's donated breakfast and lunch for both days of location shooting)
#5 - Our production mascot: Nala, the blue-eyed, nine-week-old pit bull who spent this past weekend on set and stole everyone's hearts. (She nominally belongs to Robert Douglas Washington, who played Yhoshi. In actuality, Robbie belongs to Nala!)
#6 - The slate, in a rare moment of rest

To see more production photos, visit these three Facebook photo albums:
Cast Table Read
Weekend 1
Weekend 2

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

I Can't Write Until I...

“Writers never want to work, never. They all find any excuse not to sit down and look at an empty sheet of paper or a blank monitor -- the room’s too hot or too cold -- they have to go to the toilet -- pencils need sharpening -- the typewriter needs a new ribbon -- the keyboard needs cleaning -- the pictures on the wall need straightening — the wastebasket needs to be emptied — or it’s lunchtime."
~ Andrew J. Fenady, A. Night in Hollywood Forever

Although author Andrew Fenady may be speaking only for his book's main character -- a detective-turned-nonproductive-novelist -- what my blogging colleague Linda Stone calls "deceptive distraction" is an issue for most writers.

It certainly was an issue for an award-winning Albuquerque author who once lamented to me during a book signing that a certain computer game was keeping him from starting his next book. It's an issue for me, too, as I try to juggle the seemingly competing demands of creation (working on the final screenplay and novel in my Q'ntana Trilogy of fantasy films and novels), revision (revising screenplays #1 & 2 and novel #2), production (helping get a MoonQuest feature made) and the rest of my life.

It's not always easy negotiating competing demands, let alone dealing with the reluctance many writers feel about writing. (Canadian writer June Callwood once said, "I hate writing. I love having written." )

Sometimes, it's not time to write. We're not ready for the story, or it's not ready for us. Sometimes, too, we need a break from writing to regain our focus. Linda Stone calls such breaks "receptive distractions."

But if you've heard yourself utter any of the following, you probably are dealing with neither timing nor focus. You're dealing with the kind of distraction that prevents you from moving forward with your writing:

• I’d better check my email/voicemail/Facebook...

• As soon as I [insert task here], I’ll be able to write without worrying
about it.

• I can’t write on an empty stomach. I’d better get a snack...or fresh coffee...or...

• Let me just see who this is on the phone/at the door/in this new email/Facebook message...

• Let me just respond to that tweet (it's only 140 characters), Facebook message or text message...

• That bathroom floor and [insert anything here] is disgusting. I’d better clean it first...

• Oh, I really need to call/text/SMS [insert name here] before I can start.

• I can’t write until I [insert distraction here]...

• Let me just Google that, then I’ll be ready to write.

As I tell students and coaching clients, writers often have the cleanest windows, floors, fridges and toilets, the most up-to-date filing systems or the best record for returning calls or emails because, in the moment, just about any task seems more palatable than sitting down to write.

If you fall into that category, here are seven suggestions to minimize distraction and procrastination until you have completed your day’s writing (or, at least, your first installment):

1. Keep all Internet- and smartphone-related distractions out of sight and earshot until after you’ve written. Don’t check your email. Don’t open your web browser. Turn off all notifiers for email, Twitter, Facebook, instant messaging, SMS and/or smartphone apps that flash, beep or ping.

2. Don’t answer the phone or check voice mail. To avoid temptation, turn off your phone’s ringer and your cell phone while you’re writing and, if you use an answering machine, turn off the sound so that you can’t hear who’s calling. (Don’t cheat by looking at the caller ID screen!) If you're on a smartphone, either turn it off or put it in airplane mode. (Don't cheat by switching the wifi back on, which you can do on some smartphones.)

3. Don’t open the morning paper or your mail. Don’t check to see if they have arrived.

4. Don’t open your checkbook to pay bills or visit your online banking site. Don't visit any website! (Remember: You're supposed to have closed your browser!)

5. Don’t start that book you’ve been meaning to read. Don’t pick up that book you’re a few pages from finishing.

6. Don’t pick up a sponge, mop or cleaning rag.

7. Don’t do anything unrelated to writing.

Again, perform no task or errand until you have written. If that has proven impossible, keep pen and paper or laptop by your bed and don’t get up until you have written.

That was how I got through the first third of my first draft of both The MoonQuest and its first sequel, The StarQuest.

Another benefit of making writing your first assignment of the day (other than getting it done!) is that you won’t waste time during the rest of the day doing all the things you normally do to avoid writing.

What kinds of distractions to you succumb to? What strategies have worked (or not) for you? Please share them here.

And when you're done, shut down your browser or phone, free yourself of all potential distractions, open a fresh page in your word processor (or pick up pen and paper), and start writing.


Just do it.

You can write.


• You'll find additional tips and inspiration on my website, where you can read my "Rules for Writing," sign up for my mailing list and read/hear free excerpts from The Voice of the Muse: Answering the Call to Write, from which this piece was adapted.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Snap a Pic for Me and Promote Yourself / Part 4

Welcome to the latest installment of my online readers' gallery, featuring photos of people reading my books -- in hard copy or ebook form. (You'll find the previous posts here, here and here.)

If you'd like to join the online fun (and get your book, business, event, blog, website or other success promoted here and on Facebook), read on...

Do you have a copy of either of my books? If so, I'd love to include a pic of you reading either The Voice of the Muse: Answering the Call to Write, The MoonQuest or both in my Readers' Gallery Photo Album on Facebook.

I'm also happy to include you if you're listening to The Voice of the Muse Companion: Guided Meditations for Writers. Just make sure the CD cover is visible.

And to help you promote your book, event, business, success, blog and/or website, I'll include in the photo caption not only your name but your promotional info/link. I'll also post the next batch of reader pics here in a future blog item.

If you have my email address, simply email me your pic and caption information. If you don't have my email address, contact me via Facebook, Twitter or my website once you have the photo, and I'll tell you where to send it.

Feel free to send one pic or several and to include one book, both books, the CD or any combination. Just send separate photos for each item (unless you really are reading both books at the same time!).

Thanks for their reader pics to 
Lisa Elrod (top pic, above), 
Vicki Daigneau, Ellen LaPenna and Nancy Pogue LaTurner
Will Reichard
Aalia Kazan
Elizabeth Galligan
Samantha Niederhaus
Lisa Elrod's right-hand monkey, Blueberry.
Please click on their names to learn more about them and about what they're up to.

And please send me your pics. I'd love to add you to my gallery and let the world know something about you and your work and successes..

Sunday, March 6, 2011

The Q'ntana Trilogy in Posters

I'm indescribably grateful to artist Richard Crookes for donating his time and talent to create these compelling images for our Q'ntana Trilogy movie posters.

The central image in The MoonQuest poster is the king's Wall of Traitors. Here is where the decapitated heads of storytellers and those found to harbor them are displayed for all to see.

The arch-villain in all three stories is Bo'Ra'K'n, a dreamwalker gone bad. In The MoonQuest his surrogate is the king. In The StarQuest, she is the quintessence of evil. Here, her finger pointed at the stars appears to cause the constellations to implode.

In this image, a circle of snakes appears to strangle the sun. To find out why that's so, you'll have to wait for The SunQuestbook and movie!

A version of this was Richard's initial suggestion for The MoonQuest poster. But the evil-looking face seemed to so personify Bo'Ra'K'n that we convinced Richard to save it for the trilogy poster.

• If you can't wait for The MoonQuest movie, pick up a copy of the award-winning book on my website (ask for a copy signed to you!) or on Amazon

• For more information on The Q'ntana Trilogy film project, visit the Anvil Springs Entertainment website

• To make a financial or in-kind contribution to Trilogy preview or features, visit the Anvil Springs project donations page.