Yikes, it's been forever!

I just realized my last post was a month ago. How did that happen?

So, I went to Project Book Babe and it was a blast. Seriously. Who knew writers were so funny? Stephenie Meyer was great. I got to hang with a bunch of old pals and an enormous amount of money was raised for Faith's breast cancer treatment. I don't know the total, but it was close to a hundred thousand dollars.

I even wore a dress.

Now, to be fair, all the writers did something sort of stupid -- James Owen sang (God bless him). A bunch of the others were backup dancers to his song (God bless them). And I modeled Stephenie Meyer's prom dress (escorted by the very dashing and lupine PJ Haarsma).



It sold at auction for several thousand dollars. Stephenie said she was just glad I wasn't able to zip it up or she would have been despondent. I suggested we take a poll to find out who the audience thought wore it better, which she nixed immediately because:

Stephenie (horrorstruck): What if you WIN?!

It was a lot of fun. Unfortunately, while talking to my wife on the phone (hands free!) on the long drive back from Arizona, my window got shattered by a pebble from a truck. And this is the second time that's happened -- driving back from Arizona, talking to my wife. I blame either Arizona or my wife -- not sure which.

In other news, the writer's room on 'TIL DEATH is grooving along wonderfully. I love this staff. We've accomplished so much so quickly that I hesitate to even publicly state how much we've gotten done, but if any TV executive has a show that they need to get on the rails fast, they should immediately hire Don Reo to run it and this staff to write it. Seriously.

The kids have been out of school for spring break, which dovetailed with my younger son's (Alex's) 8th birthday, so we went to Disneyland for a couple days to celebrate. The weather was perfect and the trip was particularly meaningful to Alex because this was the first time he was tall enough to ride the Indiana Jones ride. You have to understand -- the Indiana Jones ride has been Alex's Holy Grail. EVERY SINGLE TIME we go to the park he immediately wants to see if he's big enough to ride the thing and EVERY SINGLE TIME he doesn't quite make the height requirement.

Not this time.

So, we had fun on that and we also enjoyed the Tower of Terror and the rafting expedition thing in California Adventure, which we rode over and over because the wait was only five minutes (at night, when it was cold, but still...) You ride it with several other people and we always were grouped with teenagers, which ended up being fun because they were ALL really sweet kids. Amazing. I told Elizabeth "this gives me hope for the future."

So, this weekend I did something I've never done before -- I went out cycling with my friends Vinnie and Serena. I've never been on that kind of bike before and was a little shocked at how gear intensive the sport is, but Vinnie and Serena and their friends got me completely outfitted. It was hard. REALLY hard. But a blast.

We rode about 22 miles in two hours in heat that approached 100 degrees. There was a hill at the end that nearly killed me. I thought they were going to have to helicopter me out. If you've never been on that kind of a bike (and I haven't) it's weird to get used to -- hunched forward, gear-shifting, feet locked into the pedals. It reminded me of driving on the opposite side of the road in Europe -- it's sort of familiar but completely alien at the same time.

I'm sore today, but happy. I want to try it again and I will. Aside from the cycling, this weekend has been taken up with errands. We updated the kid's and Elizabeth's passports because we're considering a trip to London later this summer for the UK release of NIGHTMARE ACADEMY 3: MONSTER WAR. I was thinking of doing some signings. If there's enough desire for it, we'll probably go. I also sent out a lot of signed, personalized bookplates for kids to put in their books. A teacher in the UK (John Kenyon, I think) asked for a bunch of them for his class and that's something I think I might look to do more of -- send bookplates to classes of kids. If any teachers are interested, let me know...

And that's all for now. Hopefully, I'll be a little more timely with my posts in the future.

Take care...

Project Book Babe

You probably don't know Faith Hochhalter, but you should. Wonderful woman, great book buyer, all around terrific person who has helped the careers of many struggling authors. She was recently diagnosed with breast cancer and is now in treatment. She's tough, but this is the kind of thing that no one should face alone, which is how PROJECT BOOK BABE came to be.

What is it? A benefit to raise money for her treatment. On April 4th in Tempe, Arizona, from 2 - 5pm, a VERY cool event is going to be taking place at the Marcos de Niza High School Auditorium. There will be music. There will be a raffle. There will be an auction. There will be a reception. And there will also be an hour and a half long author panel that you won't want to miss. Who's on it? I'm going to list the names in alphabetical order:

Frank Beddor (The Looking Glass Wars series)
Chris Gall (There's Nothing to do on Mars)
P.J. Haarsma (The Softwire Series)
Shannon Hale (The Princess Academy)
J.S. Lewis (The Revenge of the Shadow King)
Dean Lorey (The Nightmare Academy series)
Stephenie Meyer (The Twilight series)
Brandon Mull (The Fablehaven series)
James A. Owen (Here, There be Dragons)
Janette Rallison (Just One Wish)
Laini Taylor (The Faeries of Dreamdark series)

Read that list carefully. You might notice a fairly big name or two. Depending on the ticket you buy, you get all kinds of goodies including signed books and, I don't know, a whole bunch of stuff. Check out the website HERE.

The tickets are selling out quickly -- in fact the Platinum memberships are already gone -- so if you're interested, grab one while you can. It's for a good cause and a good person and, let's face it, there's got to be at least one name on that list that interests you. :)

Take care...

MONSTER WAR - UK Cover

The last few posts have been about non-NIGHTMARE ACADEMY stuff, so I thought it might be a good time to get back to basics and share the UK cover for NIGHTMARE ACADEMY 3: MONSTER WAR. The book is, in all ways, an escalation of the story and this cover really reflects that. Here you go (and you can click on it a couple times to make it bigger):



It comes out in the UK this summer (June, I think) and in the US the following summer in 2010. And, yes, I know how disappointed some folks are in the US that it's going to take so long. The US publisher is planning to release Books 1 and 2 this summer in paperback, followed by Book 3 the following summer. Just so you know, publishing dates aren't up to me -- I just write 'em. I only hope that, when Book 3 finally DOES arrive in the US, you'll agree that it was worth the wait.

Take care...

'Til Death

So, Monday morning I'll pack up my pencil box and Trapper Keeper and put on my best new shirt and head off to my first day of work as an Executive Producer on the TV show 'TIL DEATH. If you haven't seen it (and, apparently, not many people have...) it's a sitcom that stars Brad Garrett and Joely Fisher as a long-time married couple. If you can't visualize it, here's the poster:



This will be my first time working on the series -- in fact, I haven't done any television since ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT was cancelled. After ARRESTED ended, I really wanted to take a breath and write books for a while, which has been a wonderful, rejuvenating experience. But, lately, I've been missing the comraderie of working on a show and when my friend, Don Reo, told me he was taking over 'TIL DEATH as showrunner and asked me to join him, I couldn't turn it down. After all, when Don Reo calls... you jump.

At least I do.

I've heard some mixed things about the last few seasons of the series but I'm truly enthusiastic about joining it because I think the actors are terrific and Don has a solid, inspired take on a new direction for the show. In addition, the writing staff will be filled out by a great group of veteran writers. In fact, I may well be the youngest person on the staff... and I'm in my 40's. Having spent the last couple years alone in my office writing novels, I'm really looking forward to the fun and activity of being back in television production, particularly since I'm going to be doing it with friends.

I'll also be working on my books -- that's never going to stop -- and will hopefully have some news for you on that front soon. MONSTER WAR is completed and will be coming out in various countries over the next year or so and I have some other very cool stuff percolating. More on that soon...

I'm also looking forward to posting a little bit about the inner workings of a TV writer's room. Mostly, it's a group of people sitting together all day long around a big conference table, trying to puzzle their way through the 22 scripts that will make up a TV season. Biggest difficulty: avoiding the inevitable weight gain that comes from inactivity and access to an endless supply of chips and sugary beverages. In fact, I should probably weigh myself now and keep doing that every couple weeks to chart my decline... but I can't bear to step on the scale.

Hope all is well in your corner of the world...

Moving on...

So we closed escrow on the sale of our house yesterday. It was a big and beautiful house, but we never felt entirely at home there. I guess we appreciated it more than we enjoyed it.

We first considered making a change toward the end of last summer. That's when Elizabeth and I started having our first, tentative conversations about "What do we want in our lives, exactly? What would make us the happiest?" I suspect we weren't the only ones having those conversations then and I doubt we're the only ones having them now. Somewhere in there, we came up with what seemed to be a big and daring idea:

What if we sell the house and move out of Southern California? What if we pick a place we like and reduce expenses and I'll just write novels for a living? It seemed like an exciting thing to consider and we actually investigated a couple places. A good friend of mine hosted us on the east coast for a long weekend and we looked at houses in that area. Loved the area, loved the people, and yet... we weren't entirely sold on moving at all, for one big reason:

Moving out of LA meant that I would be committing to not working in television.

That was a major decision because, truth be told, I really like working in television -- much more so than in movies. TV has a sort of communal "let's put on a show!" atmosphere that I've always loved. Sure, it's a pressure cooker and there are always big personalities involved but that's part of the fun. I wasn't sure I was ready to give all that up, even though I wasn't currently working on a show. Plus, there was another reason:

We actually like Southern California.

Not everything about it, of course. The expense of the place is horrific. So are some of the people. It's a crazy grab-bag of reality show cliches and runaway ego and tarnished values. And don't even get me started on the traffic....

But it's also a beautiful place to live. The weather is great and there aren't many areas in the US where you can be on the beach and then drive a couple hours and go skiing. Also, the kids are in a great public school system (the public schools are the primary reason we moved to Calabasas) and Elizabeth has made some good friends with other parents at the school and is very involved.

We finally decided that giving up a major avenue of employment and an area that we liked was a bigger change than we wanted at this point in our lives. But what about that house? Do we need it? Do we want it? On the pro side, selling the house would reduce our expenses and make it much easier to do things we enjoy -- like travel and work on projects that might not pay big but were satisfying. On the con side, selling the house would involve... selling the house! That's a major undertaking.

So... after taking a deep breath... that's what we decided to do. We listed the house in January, went into escrow fairly quickly and closed yesterday. Where are we now? Still in Calabasas, but we're renting a house for the time being. It's beautiful, with hardwood floors and great views. Oddly enough, even though we don't own it, it feels more like home. The kids will stay in the same schools.

As for what's next, I'm not entirely sure. We'll rent for at least a year and then probably buy another house. We have a couple areas in mind. My good friend Don Reo invited me to join him on a TV show that he's about to run and I'll likely do that if there's a deal to be made. Don ran MY WIFE AND KIDS and is just one of those people that influence your life in major (and positive) ways.

Book-wise, NIGHTMARE ACADEMY 3: MONSTER WAR is finished. It will come out in the UK this summer (June, I think) and in the US the following summer -- August 2010. For those of you that have been eagerly waiting for its release, I know that probably seems like an eternity but I hope it will be worth it. And, if you absolutely can't stand it, you can always order the beautiful UK edition off Amazon UK. :)

So that's where we are. I debated putting all this in a blog post, but I was getting a lot of concerned email of the "are you alright?" variety and thought I'd just let everyone know what we were up to and why we made the decisions we made. Strangely, in spite of the terrible economy, I'm feeling rather positive right now. I think most of it is the bounce you get from simply doing something, being active...

It has also been great to see how terrific my little family has been through all of these changes. Elizabeth has been miraculous -- supportive and cheerful -- and the kids have proved themselves to be remarkably resilient. We always think kids are these fragile little things, but they seem to roll with the punches much better than we do. We promised we would buy Alex a fish when the move was over and we bought him one over the weekend. He named it Samurai.

As for the future, I'm imagining a year where I'll be working on a tv show and writing a new novel -- I already have two of them underway. I know I've been sort of silent over the last couple months but, as you can see, I had a lot on my plate. And to all of you who expressed support -- many thanks. We're doing great. Sometimes it's good just to shake things up a little.

Take care...

25 Random Things About Me

So, I did this list for Facebook (because my wife tagged me on it) and I figured I might as well cross-post it here. As the title suggests, it's 25 random things about me:

1.) When I was in high school, I was a telephone salesperson for Olan Mills Photography Studios. I was terrible at it. My boss was a woman named Rae who wore Guess jeans and used to brag that they cost $50. I could never understand why someone would pay $50 for jeans.

2.) Also in high school, I played Don Quixote in MAN OF LA MANCHA. My mother still cries when she listens to a tape of me singing “The Impossible Dream.” FYI – I can’t sing.

3.) I discovered I was going bald when I watched a high, overhead shot of me walking down a hallway during dailies on the movie FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 9: JASON GOES TO HELL. I turned to my friend Noel and said “Did you know I was going bald?” and he said “didn’t you?”

4.) I met my wife, Elizabeth, on that movie. I wrote it and she was in the art department. I used to steal her parking spot. I am convinced she is still angry about this.

5.) I crack my knuckles.

6.) I have never smoked, mostly because my parents did and I hated it. When I was young, we lived in Florida and they used to smoke in the car with the windows rolled up and the air conditioner blasting. When I would try to roll the window down to get rid of the smoke, they’d tell me to roll it back up so I didn’t “let the air out.”

7.) I used to love horror movies and movies about things blowing up. Now I like romantic comedies about Americans going to beautiful foreign locales. I have become a woman.

8.) I was convinced that I would be able to raise my kids correctly, with a minimum of mistakes. I was mistaken.

9.) The most proud I ever was of my father was when he lost his managerial job and took a job as a door-to-door vacuum cleaner salesman so he could pay the bills. The job was demeaning and he hated it but he did it because sometimes you do what you have to do. I doubt he knows that I even remember he did that.

10.) When I was a kid, my parents put my little sister in a pretty dress and told me to make sure she didn’t get it dirty, so I tied her to a tree. This solution was not looked upon favorably.

11.) I used to want to be a marine biologist and I loved Jacques Cousteau. When we lived in Florida, his ship, the Calypso, docked nearby and my parents took me there to see it. I got an autograph from a crewman. It was written in French. My father told me he was probably the guy who scrubbed the barnacles off the boat.

12.) I used to use PC’s. Now I’m a Mac guy. Don’t argue with me about it – I’m sure I’m right.

13.) My favorite authors are Stephen King and Roald Dahl. I used to wish I could be like Stephen King until I really started writing and realized he’s actually a genius, in spite of what the critics say.

14.) There were three things that didn’t interest me at all when I was a kid: football, music and designer clothes. When I got older, all three of those things started to interest me. Now, only two of them do.

15.) Here’s something I never realized about kids until I had my own – they open up a place in your heart that you never knew existed, but they also make you terribly vulnerable. It’s a fair trade-off.

16.) When I was in college, I made money by writing cover copy for novels from Bantam Books and Simon & Schuster. At an autograph signing, I finally got to meet Skipp & Spector, an author team who wrote a horror novel that I had written the sales copy for. I told them I wrote their copy. They said “Yeah. We rewrote that.”

17.) I also wrote copy for the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew series.

18.) Elizabeth and I have been married for thirteen years. In LA, I think that’s a record. Like everyone, we’ve gone through good patches and rough patches. I think we’re in a good patch right now. She remains cheerful in spite of the gloomy economy and general stress we all feel. That means a lot.

19.) I have three dogs, but Hank is my favorite. There, I said it.

20.) When I was writing television, I couldn’t wait to start writing novels so I could be alone for a change. Now I want to start writing television again so I can get out of the house and be around people.

21.) I’m proud of Carr D’Angelo for quitting his job as an executive and opening up his cool comic book shop. Everyone talks about doing stuff like that. He did it.

22.) A relative once told me that I got all the worst physical features in the family – short, bald, big nose. What she doesn’t know is this – my pinkie toe is magic. Ha-ha!

23.) I remember rolling down a hill when I was a kid and thinking “there will never come a time when I won’t want to do this.” What happened to that feeling?

24.) I love World of Warcraft. My main character is a level 80 Mage named Primo. I took that name from the lead character in one of my favorite movies -- BIG NIGHT.

25.) I drink my coffee black, like the cowboys drink it. My friend, Todd, tells me that’s only because the cowboys didn’t have any milk or sugar with them on the prairie. Shut up, Todd.

Go, Todd, Go!

Look, life is hard and we usually have to suffer a lot of failure to get to a success, so I'm sending many congrats to my buddy Todd Farmer on the release of his movie, MY BLOODY VALENTINE 3D. It had a huge opening which, in turn, will open a lot of doors for him and his terrific family.



I've seen the movie and, if you like old-school slasher movies, it's a ton of fun. My wife and I met on FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 9 (which I wrote) so we have a soft spot in our hearts for this kind of stuff... and having a soft spot in your heart is weirdly apropos for a movie about a Valentine's Day killer.

IN OTHER NEWS...

I'm going to be at the Phoenix Comic Con this upcoming weekend, so please say hi if you plan to go. I'm on a bunch of cool panels -- some about novel writing and a couple about my horror movie background. In fact, I think I'm on a panel with Erin Gray, who was one of the stars of the F13th movie I did, which should be a lot of fun.

I'm also going to be at Brilliant Sky Toys and Books at 5pm on Thursday, January 22nd. I'll be doing a little presentation for NIGHTMARE ACADEMY as well as a signing. The address is:

BRILLIANT SKY TOYS AND BOOKS
4929 E. Chandler Blvd
#401
Phoenix, AZ 85048

Hope to see you there!

NA in Japan!

A couple quick things to share. First, I got a bunch of copies of the Japanese edition of NIGHTMARE ACADEMY book 1. Check it out (and you can click on the image to make it bigger):



It's a really great looking book with nice foil on the cover and all new art in the interior, as well as a cloth bookmark attached to the spine. I particularly love how Charlie is doing a "Karate Kid" pose!

I also got the galleys yesterday for NIGHTMARE ACADEMY 3: MONSTER WAR. I guess at some point getting galleys seems like old hat, but I'm not there yet -- it's such a thrill to see your words beginning to look like an actual book. There's also a certain amount of dread involved because it's really your last chance to make changes, so all your decisions seem so... permanent.

Anyway, the galleys are sitting here on my desk and I'm going to be diving into them soon while I listen to the windows rattle from the force of the winds howling through the canyons. We've been seeing weird weather here in Southern California. It has been unseasonably hot. In fact, yesterday it was in the 80's, believe it or not. I actually turned on the air conditioner because it was almost 90 degrees in the house.

I know that doesn't seem all that terrible to those of you in colder climates, but still... it's all a little surreal. Take care...

MONSTERS get REVENGE in the UK!



NIGHTMARE ACADEMY 2: MONSTER REVENGE published this week in the UK. Just to clarify, it's the same book that published last year in the US under the title MONSTER MADNESS. I LOVE these UK editions. They're like candy -- I just want to eat them up! The cover has a cut out on it that reveals this amazing piece of art by Brandon Dorman (and you can click on all these pics to make them larger):



This edition publishes in Australia and New Zealand in March of this year and the third book in the series (MONSTER WAR) will publish in the US and UK in late summer of this year.

Now, on to another movie recommendation!

Are you an Albert Brooks fan? I am. This guy has been writing and directing brilliant movies for years. MODERN ROMANCE is a hilarious, quirky little romantic comedy as is LOST IN AMERICA but my favorite is this one:



DEFENDING YOUR LIFE is the most complete of his movies. The others are wonderful and odd and they don't always come together at the end but DEFENDING YOUR LIFE is the whole package. Here's the premise:

When you die, before you can "move on" to the next phase of your existence, your previous life is judged by, well, a couple of judges in the afterlife. They take a look at several days from your time on Earth and decide if you've conquered your fears enough to graduate to a higher level of being. There's a prosecutor and a defender (in this case, the defender is the amazing Rip Torn) and they show several days from your life to make their case that you were either a stand up, fearless person or a scared little worm.

Albert Brooks is the guy on trial and he has a lot to defend. Luckily, he meets a woman there who's also on trial and they hit it off -- but it's hard to find romance while your entire existence on Earth is being judged. The woman is played by Meryl Streep, who couldn't be more funny and charming in the role.

Anyway... if you haven't seen it, check it out and let me know what you think.

Other than that, things are quiet around here (except for the ferocious winds that are blowing through Southern California). My wife and I did have some fun the night before last. My good buddy Todd Farmer just wrote the upcoming movie MY BLOODY VALENTINE 3D and he and his wife Melanie came into town and stayed with us for a night. Here's Todd at last year's Comic Con holding up the teaser poster:



We all went to the premiere together, which was a ton of fun. The movie's great, super scary, and the 3D is really just incredible. If you see it (and, FYI, it's a hard "R" and definitely not for kids) make sure you check it out in a 3D theater. Todd's also got a small (but VERY memorable) role in the movie. He plays the trucker and I don't want to reveal any more about his role other than its very revealing.

The premiere was a lot of fun. As for celebrities attending, it was an odd little assortment of people. Paris Hilton was there. Wes Craven. Corey Haim. Hmmm, there were a bunch of others but now I'm blanking. There was a huge, bald guy who plays Jason Voorhees in the upcoming FRIDAY THE 13TH remake. The after party took place in a club in Hollywood & Highland and the waiters and waitresses wore mining helmets with lights on them -- pretty cool.

Anyway, that's it for now. Take care...

BIG NIGHT

There's a handful of movies that I just can't stop watching. I used to think it was all about plot and fast action but, as I get older, I find that the stuff I keep coming back to is much more character based. I also seem to have a weakness for romantic comedies in exotic locales, which is sort of girly but what can I tell you?

Anyway, I thought I'd share a couple of the small movies that I have to watch at least once a year, usually twice. Here's the first one:



Ever heard of it? Probably not. It's a small movie that came out forever ago but I'd put it in my top five movies of all time. It's set in the '50s and it's about two brothers -- Primo and Segundo -- who have a little Italian restaurant in a seaside town in, I think, New Jersey.

Primo is the older brother and he's an artist with food. His Italian cooking is astonishing and he refuses to compromise his dishes just because the customers might want something else. You want a side of pasta to go with your risotto? Forget it! Starch doesn't go with starch! He hates "Americanized" Italian food.

His younger brother, Segundo, is the business part of the equation and he's desperately trying to keep the restaurant afloat, but they're in terrible trouble. Why? There's a big, loud Italian restaurant across the street that doesn't serve good food, but they DO serve the kind of food that people want -- steak, spaghetti with meatballs, dishes that end with the word flambe. It's owned by Ian Holm, who's a hilarious actor (and is probably most well known for playing the adult Bilbo Baggins in LORD OF THE RINGS).

Ian Holm seems to have a fondness for the Italian brothers and he respects them as artists, even though his restaurant regularly trounces theirs -- so he decides to help them out. He tells them that he's friends with the famous singer Louis Primo and that he'll get Louis to come to their Restaurant for a meal, which will get them lots of publicity and possibly save the business. Even though they're down to their last dime, the brothers decide to create the meal of all meals for this "big night."

It's a warm, funny, touching movie and, if you haven't seen it, I highly recommend you give it a try. Along with Ian Holm, it stars Stanley Tucci as Segundo and Tony Shaloub (MONK) as Primo. Minnie Driver is also in it, along with Isabella Rossellini, Campbell Scott and Allison Janney.

So that's today's recommendation. I'll have a couple more in the coming days. Any other small movies out there that people want to point a finger at?