THIS IS ME
Sometimes it's entertaining to learn a little bit about the writer who wrote the book you’re going to read or just did read or might read one fine day.
If the books are meant to be funny (like mine are), it occasionally turns out the writer has lived an improbable life with a sidebar of lunacy. That’s a reasonable description of what’s happened to me.
How the heck did you get to this moment in time that you’re writing funny books? is a question I hear a lot.
Here’s the life I’ve lived:
I graduated from Lafayette College in 1978 and moved immediately to New York City to become a screenwriter. I studied screenwriting at the New School, wrote movies, played in kick-ass rock bands, and worked in restaurants for 10 years. Along the way I got married and worked for a commercial real estate developer, a mind-numbing two years toward the end of our New York decade that led my wife to say that if writing films was my calling, then the commercial real estate we needed to focus on was Los Angeles.
We went west in 1989 and landed in the San Fernando Valley, a vast community within shouting distance of all the film and television action in LA. Two of my novels are set in the San Fernando Valley, a place where disparate craziness is de rigueur, where the improbable is not simply possible, it’s happening.
I became a reader. Each year in Los Angeles, there are in excess of 50,000 scripts registered with the Writers’ Guild of America west (WGAW) that need to be read, thought about, and decided upon. Short stacks of scripts turn quickly into tall towers because executives, producers, agents, actors, and directors are often too busy making deals and films to keep up with their own reading. This critical first step in the life of a script is regularly assigned to a reader.
A reader, obviously, reads the screenplay and then writes what is known as coverage, more or less a book report on the script—a log line, a two-page synopsis, a half page of comment, and a recommendation: pass or consider.
For two and a half years, I read scripts for CAA, MGM, Showtime, Universal, and a dozen more agencies and production companies around LA. I read, on average, seven scripts per week, probably 50 weeks per year—somewhere in the neighborhood of 900 total scripts.
It was a kind of a screenwriting-storytelling graduate school. Looking back, I wouldn’t trade that time for any other entry-level writing job.
During my reader years, I wrote a feature film that an agent loved and a studio optioned. Suddenly, I was a member of the WGAW. That studio sold my script to another studio, which handed it to a production company, which set it up with Hallmark. A Season of Hope was produced in 1995 for CBS.
I had written and optioned it as a feature, but with three children under the age of three, I happily did the rewrites to turn it into a television film.
The movie had high ratings, CBS hired me to write another one, and my professional career was begun. It had only taken me 16 years to get it going.
In the years that have followed, my scripts have been produced 18 times, not bad when you think about what a miracle it is to get even one screenplay produced anywhere by anyone.
After seven years in Los Angeles, and seven more in Santa Barbara, my family moved across the country, near the beach on the southern tip of North Carolina, the Cape Fear Coast. Five of my produced films were written here.
For three years, when we first arrived, I taught screenwriting as a guest artist and member of the visiting faculty at the University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW). I liked teaching, especially the side-by-side relationships I developed with my young writers.
In 2008, I wrote my first novel, Juggler, Porn Star, Monkey Wrench, a romantic, Hollywood sex comedy that more or less tells the story of my unlikely life in LA. Some of the book is exactly true, some is inexactly true, but all of it is true enough.
I’ve written four more novels since then: McCall & Company: Workman’s Complication, McCall & Company: Swollen Identity, McCall & Company: Emboozlement (to be released in early 2017), and Let There Be Linda.
In 2014, I created Laugh Riot Press to publish and promote my funny books and the funny books of other writers.
It’s been a crazy ride so far. I’ve been the lead singer in a Detroit rock band, a restaurateur, a Little League coach, an indie film director, a literacy tutor, a magazine editor, an executive director, a screenwriting coach, a PTA board member, a commercial real estate agent, and a sleep-away camp counselor, among other things.
And now I’m novelist who writes funny books. I think that’s where I was headed all along.
- The Bad Son, Nasser Entertainment, 2006, Catherine Dent, LIFETIME
- Unthinkable, Nasser Entertainment, 2006, Michelle Forbes, LIFETIME
- Christmas On Chestnut Street, Nasser Entertainment, 2006, Kristen Dalton, LIFETIME
- Amber’s Story, Nasser Entertainment, 2006, Elizabeth Rohm, LIFETIME
- The Suspect, Nasser Entertainment, 2005, Jamie Luner, LIFETIME
- Scared Silent, Von Zerneck Sertner Productions, 2002, Penelope Ann Miller, Reed Diamond, LIFETIME
- The Last Brickmaker In America, Nasser Entertainment, 2000, Sidney Poitier, Jay O. Sanders, Wendy Crewson, CBS
- Yesterday’s Children (from the book “Across Time and Death” by Jenny Cockell), Cosgrove Meurer Productions, 2000, Jane Seymour, Clancy Brown, Hume Cronyn, CBS
- One True Love, Orly Adelson Productions, 2000, David Hasselhoff, Terry Farrell, Doris Roberts, CBS
- In The Name Of The People (from the play by Tim Boland), Gary Bart/43 Productions, 1999, Scott Bakula, Amy Madigan, CBS
- A Father’s Choice, Sofronski Productions, Nasser Entertainment, 1999, Peter Strauss, Mary McDonnell, CBS
- God’s New Plan, Orly Adelson Productions, 1998, Katey Sagal, Annabeth Gish, Alison Pill, Tom Irwin, CBS
- 1,000 Men And A Baby, Finnegan-Pinchuk Productions, 1997, Gerald McRaney, Richard Thomas, Jonathan Banks, CBS
- A Stranger To Love, Longbow Productions, 1996, Beau Bridges, Tess Harper, Pam Dawber, CBS
- Our Son, The Matchmaker, Alexander-Enright Productions, 1996, Ann Jillian, Ellen Burstyn, David Andrews, CBS
- A Season Of Hope, Signboard Hill Productions, Hallmark, 1995, JoBeth Williams, Stephen Lang, Ralph Waite, CBS
- McCall & Company: Emboozlement, 2017, Laugh Riot Press
- Let There Be Linda, 2015, Laugh Riot Press
- McCall & Company: Swollen Identity, 2013, Laugh Riot Press
- McCall & Company: Workman’s Complication, 2012, Laugh Riot Press
- Juggler, Porn Star, Monkey Wrench, 2008, Laugh Riot Press
- Mindscape, 2010, Working Man Productions
- The Tent, 2009, Left Bank Films
- Cigarette Girl, 2006, Working Man Productions
- Blackbird at Busters, 2005, Working Man Productions
- Wildflowers, 2003, Cape Fear Films
- Hollywood Kryptonite (from the book by Sam Kashner), 2002, Cole Films
- Persona Non Grata, 1998, Itasca Pictures
- Crazier Than Thou, 1996, Tri-Star Pictures
- Color War, 1995, Dan Redler Productions
- Eleanor, 1995, Saraband Productions
- The Treasure Of The Saints, Grand Prods., CBS Productions, 2001
- Special Occasions (from the play by Bernard Slade), Ave. Pictures, 2000
- The Murder Of Ed Cates, Nasser Entertainment, CBS Entertainment, 2000
- The Miracle Of Jenna Rose, Hearst Entertainment, 1999
- The Leather Brace, Nasser Entertainment, CBS Entertainment, 1999
- Main Street (from the novel by Sinclair Lewis), NBC Productions, 1998
- Secret Harvest, Adelson Entertainment, CBS Entertainment, 1997
- Every Mother’s Nightmare, Silver Creek Productions, MTM, 1996
- Motive to Murder, Longbow Productions, CBS Entertainment, 1996
- Into The Flames, Atlantis Films, CBS Entertainment, 1995
- The Judi Striano Story, Grant Productions, CBS Entertainment, 1994
- Regular Kids, NDY Productions, Director, 2010
- Rag + Bone, Ethos Productions, Writer/Director, 2009