Friday, July 30, 2010

Tales from Tinsel Town

This will have to serve as both the follow-up post from last week and this coming Sunday’s post because my schedule’s a little manic right now. Regardless, here’s the info I promised about the Hollywood premiere of Flipped:
The morning of the premiere I’d been asked to participate in a press panel with Rob Reiner and his co-screenwriter and the film’s producer. It was being held at the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills, which is famous to me only because it seems that lots of interviews I read in Rolling Stone are held at the Four Seasons.
We were given an address of 300 S. Doheny. We arrived on time.
Trouble is, there was no hotel of any kind at that address.
We checked the address.
Yes, it was South Doheny. There was a 302, but no 300.
So where was it?
We called the Warner Brothers publicist who’d set it up with me.
The call rolled over to voice mail.
Fortunately, Mark had the wherewithal to call the Four Seasons, and got through to someone who told him that they were located at…300 S. Doheny.
Mark told them we were at that location and there was no hotel. So the receptionist told him that they were up the street a few blocks at the corner of Doheny and some other street.
But we headed up the street, and seven blocks later, there it was at 400 North Doheny instead of 300 South Doheny. But they tell people they’re located at 300 South Doheny!?
There must be a reason, but you got me.
I guess you’re just supposed to know where the Four Seasons is.
It’s that famous.
Anyway, we did get to the press conference on time and it went really well. Rob is a very comfortable person. He stays on message, but you never get the feeling that he’s selling you something. He’s frank and just tells it like he sees it. I like that.
So we did a half an hour with print journalists and half an hour with (what I think was) radio journalists. Then we said our see-ya-tonights and headed out.
Fast-forward to the premiere: We arrived at 6:30 as instructed, parked in the parking structure, as instructed, and I switched out of my Converse and put on my heels. Mark and my younger son advised against it, but I told them I was going with the heels.
“You’ll be sorry…”
Fortunately we had, by coincidence, parked right alongside one of the women from Castle Rock who’s writing the script for Confessions of a Serial Kisser. And since she’s been to many red carpet premieres, she took us along, walked us to the will call tables, got our tickets and an escort and put us in line to walk the red carpet.
An escort? Yup. You can’t walk it without one. There’s lots of security and people checking tickets and we wound up in line right behind the boy who plays Garrett in the film. That was fun because the boys got to talk and it helped us relax a little.
And when it was our turn, my escort asked how to pronounce my name correctly, then we stepped out from behind the poster partition into a bunch of flashing cameras.
Each person on the carpet has an escort. The escort announces your name and your role in the movie (in my case it was “author of the book”) and then photographers start calling your name, getting you to look at them. The photogs were about 5 deep and it was a little…unnerving. I mean, it was fun for the first few minutes, but it took us about half an hour to go 50 feet. And after the photographers, the news stations with video cameras interview you. A lot of them ask the same questions, but the woman from a Tokyo station surprised me by asking me to give her my “beauty secret”. I told her, “Sweat every day,” and when he looked a little shocked by that, I added, “as in exercise.” Yup there you go—my one and only “beauty secret”. Ha!
Anyway, the boys were greatly relieved to get off the carpet and into the theater, where there were tubs of popcorn and sodas waiting. We found our seats (which were assigned) and admired the theater (it’s big, with beautiful dark blue velvet curtains, a lower level and an upper level), and then it was show time!
The first time I saw Flipped, I think I was in such a strange state that I couldn’t really assess it. But this time I got to enjoy it as a movie and you know what? It’s really good! I thoroughly enjoyed it and now I really want to see it again. It’s like I’m over thinking about how it compares to the book, and can just enjoy it for what it is.
Afterwards we went to a party at a restaurant about 5 blocks away, and talked with people involved in the film. There was a buffet with meat and pasta, but there was also a lot of “kid” food (because the movie did have a lot of kids in it!) including mini milkshakes (served in shot glasses with tiny straws). It was nice to visit with people we’d met when we’d gone out to Michigan to watch them film the movie, and nice to watch people celebrating their accomplishment.
But there was also a lot of … I wouldn’t even call it schmoozing…it was a lot more aggressive than that. We saw managers and agents take their young “talent” around to meet the big wigs, and they’d do the whole, I’m so-and-so, we met at such-and-such, I represent [insert moderately well-know actor names here] and this is [introduce young talent]. I guess that’s just part of “the Biz”, but that is so not me! I don’t even want to talk about my books when people ask me about them because I’m worried that they’ll think I’m trying to “pitch” them. I could never survive in those circles.
This is actually very valuable for me to know. It makes me re-appreciate what I do and where I live and that my family has such a solid and very healthy lifestyle. The red carpet was fun, but it’s nice to be home.
Nice to be back in real shoes.
Now, for those of you who would like to see what it was like, here’s a little 2 minute video that Mark put together of being on the red carpet. Hope you enjoy it! Video Link

Sunday, July 25, 2010


We made it to Hollywood, but the internet connection here is terrible! The premiere of Flipped is tomorrow night. A real post will follow as soon as I'm better connected. I won't be wearing my Converse to the premiere, so keep your fingers crossed that I don't trip! Back with a real post as soon as I can!

Thanks for checking in :-)

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Red Carpet Rundown

I received an invitation in the mail this week.
It came with a 30 cents postage-due scrawl from my postal carrier, but that's okay. I'll pay.
It's full color, about 7 inches square, and has two kids in a tree on the front, and a lovely scene including a cloudy sky and green fields with distant "farm" houses and trees across both sides of the interior.
There is no printing on the left side, but on the right side?
"Warner Bros. Pictures invites you and a guest to the world premiere of FLIPPED"
(There was a little card inside stating I could bring 3 guests, so yes, the boys are definitely coming with us.)
The back is black and states in rather small print (but firm, extensive language) that video taping inside the theater is strictly prohibited. (Which means we can't even have the camera with us to tape any of the goings-on outside.) (Rats.)
It's being held at the classic Cinerama Dome on Sunset Blvd. in Hollywood--a theater Mark and I have always wanted to see the inside of. It looks like half a golf ball, and if you go to Wikipedia you can see what they did to decorate it for Spider Man 2 and Shrek 2. (I doubt they'll convert it into an egg under a chicken for us, but that would be funny!)
Now, we can't take our friends and family with us, so we've been planning own Red Carpet Event for months. We're renting a local theater, a red carpet, etc., and everyone's supposed to dress up like they're going to a Hollywood premiere. My philosophy is that it's good to remember the people who have supported you along the way and treat them to something nice when something good happens in your life. We've got some fun things planned, and I'm really looking forward to it.
And because I can never seem to "keep it simple", I decided that it would be a nice thing for local kids to get the chance to attend a "Red Carpet Premiere" too, so I've arranged with the local schools and libraries to do raffles for tickets to a "matinee" on the same day. So we're hosting two screenings, one with 200 kids from the area, and one with friends and their families and our families.
This should have been a lot easier to set up than it was, but most of the coordinating is behind me at this point, and that's a huge relief.
So there's the World Premiere that I'm looking forward to for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is that I'm a guest, not the host! And then there's our mock-up premiere that I'm looking forward to so I can treat the people who have been supportive over the years to a fun evening out.
And then there's the matinee.
200 kids with soda and popcorn?
I'm just holding my breath on that one.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Infiltrating the Funeral Parlor

As you may recall from previous posts, I’ve had some varied experiences when it comes to researching my books. And although research can be fascinating, it can also be a little terrifying, not because of the subject matter, but because I’m afraid I’ll get hung up on again. Once while I was on book tour, a woman showed up at the tail end of one of my presentations wanting to interview me. She knew nothing about my books and expected me to answer questions that had all been covered in my presentation. Now she was someone who deserved to be hung up on. I go overboard trying to not be that woman. I read and take notes and compile data and cross-reference and get my facts down and learn the lingo, and when I’m finally to a point where I just can’t go any farther without actually talking to someone, I call. The “call” I made this week was to a mortuary. And because I really, really, really didn’t want to get hung up on, I didn’t make a phone call, I made a house call. Or home call, I guess, because this was a Funeral Home (and Chapel). So okay. I’ve been inside a funeral home before, so it wasn’t the chapel and office and conference room that I was, uh, dying to know more about. It was the back rooms. You know. Where the bodies are kept. Let me take a little aside here and tell you that I finally recognize that I’ve gone about this whole writing career thing wrong. Some authors set their characters in Paris, then Madrid, then London… Trips to these places, for them, are tax deductable! Business expenses! Fun! My characters are homeless. Or limbless. Or living on a couch in a cramped apartment. Or, in this case, infiltrating a funeral parlor. Yeah, I’m an idiot. Anyway, it’s Sammy Keyes that’s getting tangled in this mortuary situation, of course, which, of course, means she’s not going to be happy sitting in the Funeral Chapel. Which, of course, means I’ve either got to make like Sammy and infiltrate the place from the back, or ask for help at the office. I decided to save the back door approach for another time, took a deep breath, and went to the office where I explained to a very pleasant-looking woman that I was a children’s book author and would really appreciate a little help with research I was doing for my latest novel. Now, it’s been very interesting over the years to see the varied reactions people have when I approach them with this request. Annoyed. Insulted. Excited. Surprised. Suspicious. It always feels like a crap shoot to ask, because no matter how I phrase it, the reaction is always unpredictable. It completely depends on who I ask, not how I ask. One thing is pretty standard, though, (well, unless they just hang up on me), and that is, it takes a little minute for what I’m asking to sink in. And then there’s the look of, are you a for-real writer? Anyway, I watched all that click through her mind, and even after I gave her a quick rundown of my publishing credentials and explained that really all I wanted was a tour, I was still holding my breath… especially since there were other people in the office. Men. In serious gray suits. With finely controlled hair. The woman eyed me cautiously and asked how much of a tour I’d be interested in. “As much as you’re willing to show me,” I told her. Then I eyed her and said, “You do embalming here, right?” What’s interesting is, she relaxed after that. Like, okay, this woman understands what she’s asking. After that, she got clearance from the guys in gray, and we made an appointment for me to return at four o’clock for a tour. (There are privacy issues with corpses, and they would all be tucked nicely away by four o’clock.) So okay. Of all the people I’ve interviewed (and places I’ve infiltrated) this whole funeral parlor thing was pretty high on my fear scale. I did not want to do it. I did not want to explain myself. I did not want to be misunderstood—or not given a chance to explain. And how do you explain that you have this character who’s heart is in the right place, but who does stuff like sneak in the back door of a funeral parlor because she’s looking for some guy she’s nicknamed the Vampire because she thinks he may have killed someone and she thinks he works at a funeral parlor? It sounds so disrespectful to the business; to the solemn work of preparing the deceased for their final resting place. But at four o’clock when I returned and let on that I really needed to see the back, the transport vehicles, the embalming room, the refrigerator, and then explained that my character was an impetuous, scrappy sleuth…but that she had a really good heart, that’s when my tour guide started warming up to me. She got a spark and a bit of a mischievous look, and when I met her husband (who’d just finished packing up a body for transport to Mexico), he really got into helping me, too. “She could hide here”… “She could go in through here”… they were kind and helpful and into it, and I left that funeral parlor feeling happy.
And like I had two accomplices. I was definitely not expecting that.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Happy 5th of July

I'm a day late, I know. I wrote an entry last night about Independence Day, our nation as a prisoner of debt, the destructive results of feeling entitled, and how a big step in the right direction would be for everyone to cut up their credit cards. Sort of my plea for a return to earned rewards.
It was on my mind because yesterday was July 4th, but people don't come here to hear me spout off about the economy or politics or shredding credit cards, so I chucked it. Besides, it wasn't very positive, and my overriding philosophy in life is that it's important to focus on the positive.
So let me get back to the things you might like to hear about or have me respond to.
Starting with...lots of comments at last week's posting--I will go back there and reply, promise!
Moving onto...The Running Dream. Yes, it's posted at the on-line bookstores, so I've added an image of the cover here. My editor told me that the bound galleys have been printed, so the book will go out to reviewers soon...even though the book won't be out until January 2011. I love the jacket art of this book, and I'm holding my breath to see if the way this story moved me will translate to the reader. Critics can be so...critical! So I just hold my breath and hope that what's in my head and heart sweeps from the page and into the head and heart of the reader. We'll see!
I received movie posters for Flipped this week. What's interesting to me is the little "Photo Shopped" change. Bryce and Juli's hands are no longer visible on the tree branch. Before they were holding hands, now that's not visible. Their hands have moved to the other side of the tree branch and we can no longer see them. I like it better this way, and that they made this change is very interesting to me.
Also, I have to say, Warner Brothers is being wonderfully inclusive toward me. Aside from sending me a supply of posters for area schools (long story for later), they've included me in their press kit, have done a remarkable book-to-film "featurette" for the e-book, and have invited the four of us to the Hollywood premiere in late July. I will be able to report back to you about what a Hollywood premiere is really like and spin tales from the after-party. Should be fun!
Random House will have me on "Random Buzzers" - sort of an on-line chat that takes place over about 2 weeks starting in early August. I'll give you details as time draws closer. It would be fun to have you join me there.
And meanwhile I'm working away on Sammy Keyes and the Night of Skulls (the 'working title'). It's going great!
Thanks for checking in. I'll see you next Sunday!