Sunday, October 31, 2010

A Fathers and Son Halloween

Demon Dog Rowdy

I think we've got Halloween down by now. Not a lot of stress this year. I go out shopping for decorations with Benjamin (who maintains an attraction-repulsion to Halloween stores but will venture in as long as there isn't anything electronic lunging out at him). Benj and I decorate the outside, and he gets all Creative Director on me, figuring out where the headless skeleton goes and how to drape the cobwebs and what if the giant wasp was eating the vulture! So proud.  We make the Jello brain mold and Benj spatters it with raspberry blood. We don't carve the pumpkins too soon (a few days before, tops) because any earlier in the hot Los Angeles sun and by Halloween they resemble all those Nazis in the climax of "Raiders of the Lost Ark." Doug was able to avoid the pumpkin carnage this year because he already had one ready to go. Benj had decorated a pumpkin for school to look like a hero of his choosing--and he picked Doug. 

Which is 
the Pumpkin Head, 
and which is 
the school project? 
You decide.

I don't mind carving, actually. It's one of the things, like lugging home the Christmas tree or tending the herb garden, that I like doing rather than having done. There aren't many of those instances in our household; when anything breaks down that's harder than changing a light bulb, Benj is apt to say, "We better call the man." He know us too well. We're not exactly handy. 

Which made this Halloween all the more special. Ten minutes before going to a Halloween party given by one of Benj's friends, Doug and I decide to dress up. Mind you, this NEVER happens. We hate to do the whole costume bit. But the host requested it, so... 

In ten minutes, there's not a lot you can do. We're in the small vanity room off the bedroom, the one with the big mirror, the one that most women would die for but that we use mostly as a depository for all the spare toiletries, small electronics, and change. I have on a flannel shirt that I'm dusting with powder, black and brown smudges on my face, and a hat with a light attached. Presto: Chilean Miner. Doug is applying red makeup under his eyes, and using shadow to make his face paler and gaunter than it already is. His hair is slicked down, and he's wearing a fancy black shirt. Can you guess? It's Vampire Eric, from True Blood (alas, no one gets this at the party, because no one watches True Blood. Still, if only he had worn a track suit...)

Doug or Alexander Skarsgard? You decide. 

Benj is watching us, rapt, as we unscrew little pots of makeup and expertly apply them, via brush and sponge, to our faces. He observes how concentrated we are, watching ourselves transform in the mirror, dabbing and blending, dabbing and blending. He already has his costume on— a hybrid of a "Ben 10" store-bought Swampfire costume and a mouldering Scream Mask he found at the Halloween store— but he takes his mask off, touches his cheek and asks tentatively, "Could I have a cut right here?"

"Of COURSE you can have a cut there!" Does he know who he's talking to? We're THEATRE FOLK!

"Okay, Ben, look here, we use pencil first to figure out where... okay, here's some red for the wound... let's get some of this yellow, just a touch, and then overlay some purple... hold still while I blend it in... doesn't that look nice and bruised?... some more red, yes, sure you can have blood leaking... some powder to set it—how's that?

And there you have it. We may not be able to show you how to build a bird house, Benj, or how to shoot a layup, or tell you what the difference is between the National and the American League, but if you wanna look like a 75-year-old man or a burn victim, WE'RE THERE.

Happy Halloween, all my little ghosties out there in the dark.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Which Book Would You Pick Up?

All right, I've been working all day and this is what I've come up with. I'm looking for a revised title for my novel. Right now, it's called this:

(I've added a little graphic, just so you can imagine it on a shelf)

Remember, I'm looking for something evocative, modern but fanciful/whimsical. The book is very humorous in a snarky way (the narrator is a 17-year-old boy) but with a lot of heartbreak and grief, especially in the story of the parents. It's got graphic novel elements, plus screenplay. Love, sexual awakening, loss, fantastical happenings, most of it set in Las Vegas. A lotta book, I know.

Okay, you're at Borders/Barnes & Nobles, browsing. What might catch your eye, title-wise? Ready? Peruse!

Kinda like this one, cause the main character's a budding artist,
 plus there's this motif of movement & stillness... 

The archeology is a metaphoric one, looking through the ruins of your past for answers...

You know, he did fly in a Vegas show... 
There are lots of people flying to and away from others in this book.

One of my witty friends came up with this one:

it's funny because it's true

This is the simplest, and evokes the heart of the book. Too much like that Ben Affleck movie? 

All right, that's all I got for now. This would be a lot of fun, if it weren't my book...

Comment away!

Update: Sigh... Agent J was not in love with any of them. I have the feeling he's "Liberace-averse," meaning he thinks having Liberace in the title is a turn-off. Poor Mr. Showman. Thanks for all the comments, though, maybe I'll use them as evidence if one title gets a lot of love!

The Name Game

All right, now comes the hard part.

One of the hard parts.

Agent J would like me to consider changing the name of my novel, Liberace Under Venetian Skies. He feels it's too... florid? and not indicative of what the book's about, or it's tone. This comment has come up a times with a few reader-friends, so I know it may be a problem.

What do I need for a title?

Something evocative.


Ideally, something that has the tension between the sublime and the prosaic. You know, like Venice and the Las Vegas version of Venice. Or something that suggests movement vs. stillness.

How tarnished is the name of Liberace? Too campy/tragic/distasteful, or has it gone round the horn?

These are the questions of our times.

I'll put up some possibilities later.

Sunday, October 17, 2010


It started online. I found his profile, liked what I saw, sent him a note. He told me he wanted to see the whole thing. I obliged. Then, after a flurry of emails and one very probing phone call, he popped the question. Said he wanted to be exclusive. Oh, there were others, but I liked his passion and how his mind worked. His sweet words didn't hurt. Even though I've never met him, even though he lives in New York and I live in Los Angeles, I made the commitment. We're ready now to take the next step.

You do know this is about me getting a literary agent, don't you?

Literary agents function very much like acting agents, except that instead of sending you out for many different roles the lit agent is sending you (your work) out for one big sell. They are the conduit into the publishing world.  Many publishers won't even look at a manuscript if it doesn't come through an agent. I found Agent J through an old writing group friend who sent out an email a couple of years ago mentioning this agent, who was part of a new agency. J was part of my first round of submissions, and he responded really well to my book, the perhaps-to-be-retitled (more on that later)  Liberace Under Venetian Skies.

I took a couple of other interviews, but no one spoke as eloquently about the project as he. So I said yes. I know it seems odd to enter into a relationship with someone you've never met in person, but my writer friends assure me that it's not uncommon, especially if they're in the opposite coast.

So, my toe has tapped onto the Yellow Brick Road. Oh, I know, I haven't yet run into the trees chucking apples or the scary forest or the flying monkeys, but I'm on my way. Let's see where it goes.

Sunday, October 3, 2010


30 Transformer All-Spark Cubes, made of devil's food cake with a whipped cream filling and a hard chocolate coating. Took 3 days, but it turned out pretty much how I wanted it to. I think I've found my baking niche: intentionally rough and ugly baking designs. Mud and stone-looking confections, I'm your man.

I wouldn't last half a day on "Top Chef: Just Desserts," but at least they taste pretty good, and you don't have to worry about cutting pieces— slap a block onto a plate and call it a day. This will probably be my last large format themed birthday cake; I think parties for the entire class may be coming to a close this year. We'll see... you may be seeing a giant Iron Man Chest Plate done in marzipan come next September 29th.

I have been practically sweating chocolate this past week, what with this and the fiasco of the school birthday treats (see previous post) but I will say this: having made, and made over, and made over again, chocolate cake, I feel like I have an intimate relationship with the medium. I can whip up a devil's food cake without fear, understand the zen of pouring melted chocolate. Nothing like a little forced experience...

Next challenge: getting that damned rolled cake right! There is a homemade Yodel with my name on it... or at least a Ring Ding. Yes... Ring Dings...