Monday, May 26, 2008

This Writer's Life: Work In Progress

So I think I mentioned, that I am working on a new. manuscript. A stand alone women's fiction book. I am sooo close to finishing this next draft. Once this draft is complete it's time to get some reads.

These reads are important to my process, because by this stage in the manuscript I am completely enmeshed with the characters. I know their stories, their lifestyles, what clothes they wear, what foods they eat, what television shows they watch...I know almost everything about them. I know so much, that I lose perspective about what I am telling the reader, and what I fail to convey. So I need Fresh Eyes. Fresh eyes to tell me whether I have given the reader enough information so that they too know my characters and love them as much as I do.

I get these reads from people that I trust. I don't want praise (although who doesn't love praise) I want honest criticism. I trust that they will give me honest and sincere feedback about the manuscript. I trust that they will tell me what works for them and what doesn't. I trust that these readers are knowleadgeable enough about writing and story structure to articulate what is not-working with the manuscript.

Then, once I get my reads, I will again rework the manuscript hopefully making it shine even more.


Monday, May 19, 2008

This Writer's Life: Loneliness I know that I am living my write full time. To spend my days in front of my computer tapping away, telling the stories that interest me and that readers love. But there is this tiny little thing that sometimes happens to full time writers...a dirty little secret to the life...we get lonely. Now I'd argue that most writers are introverts. That the very nature of what we do demands that we enjoy spending time alone...or with our imaginary friends. And I was, in all my other jobs (attorney and agent) an introvert pretending to be an extrovert. I mean, I can fake it...the outgoing social thing. But truly, I am my most comfortable when I'm alone, with my computer, and again my imaginary friends (who aren't so imaginary to me.) But like any human I need contact. And not just contact with people under the age of five...So when I got the email that I'd been selected to be a new member of the GCC I was thrilled.

What is the GCC you ask? Is this some sort of secret covert writing group...(wow I've really blown it if it is). The GCC is the Girlfriend's Cyber Circuit a group of women authors who support each other?! How COOL is that. As you know from reading my books, I am ALL ABOUT girlfriends supporting each other! So this week, I am touring on the GCC. Today I have the honor of being on Karin Gillespie's blog and Wendy Nelson Tokunga's blog. I feel so blessed and lucky to have these women telling the world about my books. And a whole lot less lonely.


Friday, May 16, 2008

The Dirt: A Woman In Hollywood The Babysitters

So my good friends Jennifer Dubin and Cora Olson got a movie made, which in the indy world is akin to finding a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. Jennifer and Cora where kind enough to answer some of my questions about the process and the film. The see for yourself....

Okay, so first, tell me about the fantastic film ‘The Babysitters’ that you both just produced.

THE BABYSITTERS is a dark morality tale about a high school babysitter Shirley (Katherine Waterston), who begins a secret affair with Michael, the father of her charges (John Leguizamo). To assuage his guilt, Michael tip Shirley extra after their tryst, and what begins as a relationship between two lost suburbanite escalates into a prostitution ring with Shirley, a high school Heidi Fleiss, at the helm. It’s a pretty cool little film, if a bit disturbing, that ultimately is a commentary on suburban America.

How did you get into producing films? Tell us a little about your backgrounds.

Jen: After I went to NYU I worked in production on a few films in various capacities – I was a PA, a camera assistant, a director’s assistant, an assistant director- and I decided that being on set wasn’t enough for me and I wanted to be involved with movies from the very beginning to the very end. I moved to LA and had no luck getting a job for a productin company so I started working at ICM for a talent agent to get some ‘industry experience’. After about a year of that I went on to work in development for Goldie Hawn, Kurt Russell, Kate Hudson and Oliver Hudson’s production company. I also spent some time at a company called Escape Artists which had some financing and a deal with Sony. But I found it painful to be in development because it was so rare that movies ever got made. We decided to strike out on our own, and set out to find a script that we felt comfortable doing on a small budget, but that had the elements that we thought were marketable. THE BABYSITTERS was that film.

Cora: After graduating from NYU, I moved to LA and my first job was an assistant in the lit department at Gersh. From there I became a Story Editor at Collision Entertainment – we had a deal with Dimension and financing through Abandon Entertainment and worked on mostly comic book or video game to film adaptations. I was eventually promoted to Director of Development, but like Jen was frustrated that nothing ever got made. The company eventually folded and that was when I knew it was time to make a movie.

Where did you find the screenplay for ‘The Babysitters’?

Cora: (The writer/director) David Ross’ agent (Brian Dreyfuss at Featured Artists) and I were assistants together at Gersh. Brian showed me the script in my early days at Collision, and I flipped for it; to this day it remains one of the best scripts I have ever read. David and I got to know each other during my years at Collision and informally developed the script over that time. After I left Collision, and Jen and I were looking for a project, I called him up.

What was the most difficult part of getting the movie made?

As first time producers, the hardest thing was just getting people to take us and our project seriously. No one knew who we were so every step - from raising the money to getting interest from cast to crewing up – was a challenge. We earned people’s respect by the end but it was an uphill battle.

While on set, what was the most difficult thing? Anything that tried your patience?

The shoot was a tough one too. We shot in 23 days and a lot of it was night shoots which is rough on everyone. The thing that was probably the most frustrating was a demented police captain who extorted money from us.

Is the film exactly as you envisioned it? Is there anything you’d change about the final film?

Its hard to say now exactly what we envisioned, but ultimately, we’re pretty proud of the film and how far we’ve come with it. We tried to support David (Ross), the director, every step of the way and give him what he needed to tell his story.

Do you have any advice for aspiring filmakers; producers, directors, and/or screenwriters?

It’s a war of attrition. Stay with it. Keep at it. Don’t give up.

What projects are you working on now? What is your next film?

We just had a film at Sundance called GOOD DICK which we shot a few months after we shot THE BABYSITTERS. That was written, directed and stars Marianna Palka and also stars Jason Ritter, Mark Webber, Martin Starr, Eric Edelstein and Tom Arnold. We have a couple of other films that we are putting together now- one is a dramatic thriller set on a suicide commune and the other is a really fun summer comedy.

John Leguizomo is one sexy he that sexy in person too?

John is a great guy, inside and out! He is totally down to earth and keeps it real, which makes for great collaboration. He makes people around him feel at ease, so David who was a first time director, and Katherine, his co-star, who is a younger actress had a very positive experience.

Where is ‘The Babysitters’ showing?

It’s playing in New York, Los Angeles, Philly, Washington D.C., Dallas, Houston, Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver, and will be released on DVD in July.

Okay, so now go see the movie! xo Maggie

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Best Selling Author Lisa Jackson

I am so pleased to have best-selling author Lisa Jackson as my guest blogger today. Absolute Fear and Lost Souls are on sale now and High Stakes goes on sale June 1.

Siccing psychics on sickos…
By Lisa Jackson

I’m really not sure how it happened but despite the fact that my characters insist on going their own darn way most of the time, it turns out I’m guilty. Yes. Apparently, I am guilty of siccing psychics—or at least people with a smattering of psychic power—on sickos. The sickos, of course, being my serial killers. And they are sick. That’s what makes them so deadly and so terribly hard to predict.
Anyway, about the psychics…One of the elements in LOST SOULS is Kristi Bentz’s ability to predict a person’s death. In front of her eyes, the color of someone might leech from their skin and Kristi sees the person in shades of black and white. What’s worse is that she sees her own father’s death at the end of ABSOLUTE FEAR and her concern for Rick Bentz’s life carries through LOST SOULS.
I think Kristi’s sixth sense makes her a little more interesting. To be honest she was more than a little self centered in HOT BLOODED and COLD BLOODED so it was about time for her to think of someone else.
Now I’m on the horns of a dilemma in my next book. Kristi, of course, won’t be the heroine, but MALICE is her father Rick Bentz’s story. As I write it (No, it’s NOT finished) I’ll have to figure out how to resolve her gift . . . or not. For those of you familiar with my recent books you’ll remember that Kristi’s stepmother, Olivia, has her own unique ability as she saw murders as they were committed.
And then, of course, there’s the vampire thing going on in LOST SOULS.
All right. Guilty as charged. And loving it.


about the lame blogging this week guys, but I have some evil funky cold like viral thing that is making me sneeze, cough, and spew goo all over the place. Lisa Jackson is our guest blogger for Thursday and Friday for The Dirt: A Woman In Hollywood two of my friends and first time film producers Jennifer Dubin and Cora Olson stop buy to tell us about their fabulous new film The Babysitters and their experience producing the film. And hopefully...the spewing and coughing ends by this weekend and I get back to blogging and week.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

The Dirt: A Woman In Hollywood

OK! Magazine

So I'm not on the cover for cellulite, or dumping my husband, or being carted off to there a rehab for chocolate consumption? Buuut...Secrets of The Hollywood Girls Club is in OK! Magazine next week. Secrets is already on the website here. Yippeee!! And the best part, the part that made my toes curl...well...Secrets of The Hollywood Girls Club, my fun, light, beach read book is in the magazine next to...wait for it....Augusten Burroughs. Yeah...THAT Augusten Burroughs...the literary writer, heavy hitter guy that I adore. ADORE! He wrote Running With Scissors, and Dry: A Memoir, and his newest book, that I can't wait to read, A Wolf At The Table, is in OK! Magazine, next to Secrets of The Hollywood Girls Club., love, love, having great neighbors.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

What Happens Here by Tara Altebrando

Wow, so I am incredibly honored to have Tara Altebrando as my guest blogger this week.

Her new book, What Happens Here came out May 6th and I have to say that I am loving this book!

Welcome Tara!

Steal this Title
by Tara Altebrando

I got a haircut over the weekend and I had a new stylist because apparently the last one had been fired or quit. So we got to chatting, me and lovely Melissa, and she asked what I did for a living. I told her I wrote young adult novels and she said, “Anything I’d know? I’ve read some of the MTV Books.”

I got sort of excited since I’m actually published by MTV Books. I said, “Well, my first book was ‘The Pursuit of Happiness’.” In the mirror, I saw her stop and stare and I thought, “How cool. My new hairdresser read my book!” But then she said, “Like the movie?”

Well, uh, no.


When “The Pursuit of Happiness” was published, the Will Smith movie “The Pursuit of Happyness” came out the same month and I confess to being a bit annoyed by the whole thing. Tons of people who visited my website and Amazon page ended up there by accident, Will went on Oprah and I didn’t, and I guess having this big-deal movie out there with the same name as my book made my book feel somehow, I don’t know, small? Don’t get me wrong. The response to the book was great. It just wasn’t BIG. Not Hollywood big, anyway.

But soon Will’s movie was no longer in theaters, everyone moved on, and I wrote a new book—”What Happens Here”— which came out this week. Just last week my husband and I were talking about how a movie version of the book, should there ever be one, would have to be structurally different and who might star in it and so on and so forth. [This is just something novelists do, I think. Fantasize about their book being made into a film.] So you can imagine my annoyance when, this past Friday night, in the the middle of one of the TV shows I watch regularly, I saw a pop-up ad appear at the bottom of the screen...for a movie called “What Happens in Vegas.” Starring a few actors you might have heard of... Ashton Kutcher and Cameron Diaz? It’s not exactly the same, but still!

Why won’t the title gods leave me alone?!?!?!?!?

And it’s not just titles either. Under my maiden name I’m the author of a novel called “Love Will Tear Us Apart,” about a female pair of teenage pops stars. It was being shopped around Hollywood about a millisecond after the Farrelly brothers announced that they’d be making a movie called “Stuck on You,” in which Matt Damon and Greg Kinnear would play conjoined twins. No one thought the world needed two conjoined twin movies. And you can’t even begin to imagine the number of emails I got when, several years later, people started hearing about a film called “Brothers of the Head”—about a male pair of Siamese rock stars.


Maybe one of these days someone will actually make a movie of one of my books. Until then I guess I have to pat myself on the back for coming up with good book titles and maybe having my finger on the pulse of...well, something. It’s part of the reason I haven’t really been talking about the book I’m working on now at all. In fact I might have to keep the whole thing—title, concept, everything—top secret until the day it’s actually published. Unless, of course, some folks in Hollywood want to read it before then and make a movie out of it. I’ve got some good casting ideas, and a couple of back-up titles—just in case.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

This Writer's Life: The First Draft

For me, the first draft is the easiest. The words come fast, sometimes faster than I can type. I love this time when the story is flowing...and then...comes the middle. Oh the middle. By the time I get to the middle, I already know the end of the first draft but I'm not sure how to get there, for me the middle is like coming to the edge of a giant river and not seeing a bridge in either direction. How do I cross? How do I get to the other side? How do I finish this book?

The middle is the first spot that I write out the parts to the book. Generally I write a little blurb about all the chapters I've already completed and I write a blurb about the ending chapters and then I fill in the middle.

Inevitably, 'my process' involves pacing in the yard, curling up into a ball on my bed, listening to the voice. Attempting not to judge whatever story I'm told.

Today, I will finish the first draft of my third book. A stand alone, not part of The Hollywood Girls Club series. At the end of each first draft I always feel as though I've accomplished something. Perhaps it's the knowledge that I built the bridge and completed the journey. I will print and read the manuscript. There will be gaping holes, errors, typos, misspellings, all kinds of problems. But I will have the structure, the bones of my story. My characters, my plot, my story will be on paper. No longer inhabiting only my head, they will have a true form in this world, on the page. Then after reading the manuscript with all its problems, I will put it aside, and wait. I will let my mind work on all the changes, the character glitches, the problems with story. And then, I will do what makes a manuscript shine...then I will rewrite.
xo Maggie

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Friday, May 2, 2008

The Dirt: A Woman In Hollywood

Strike Two!

Wow, could it be? Is it possible? More saber rattling? Yesterday while perusing my copy of Variety I saw this and then on Nikki Finke I read this. And my heart fluttered in my chest. Another strike? SAG may strike? Say it isn't so! After weathering the 100 day WGA strike I shudder to think what our tiny entertainment community will look like after an actors' strike. As I talk to my agent, manager, producer and executive friends, we all wonder who would survive another strike? I mean, the agencies are just now starting to get up and running and that's with a scaled back pilot season and film studios that are reticent to buy because of the potential for an actors' strike.

Now let me put this right out front...I am a pro-labor kind of gal. And I do believe in strikes and I do believe that 90% of the time labor has legitimate beefs. I believe this because on the other side are CORPORATIONS. And corporations don't have souls they have shareholders. Corporations only do things when propelled by the market. Or when they absolutely positively have no other choice because otherwise they will lose money.

But a strike? I have to wonder, who would this help? And I have to say, no one. Next direction...follow the money. And although the corporations my save money now, and even make money later, is a potential collapse of the entire industry really worth it?