Skip Press - Writing & Advice




I had the immense pleasure of writing the memoirs of Patti Page. Patti sold over 100,000,000 records and her #1 single Tennessee Waltz became a state song and sold over 10,000,000 copies. She was THE most popular lady singer of the 1950s and was America's first pop princess. We lost her in 2013 just before she was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Grammys. She lives on in song and in hearts. Click to visit her site.



Works

In 2010, my Craigslist book was featured and I was interviewed in the 700,000 subscriber print newsletter "Bottom Line/Personal." Click on the picture to go to the article, now available free online. An excerpt:

SCAMS BUYERS FALL FOR

If you are a buyer, be aware that the more expensive the item, the more prevalent the scams...

"Vehicle for sale" requires an especially suspicious eye. Craigslist says that offers to ship cars after purchase are 100% fraudulent.

How it works: You see a vehicle listed at a very low price. When you communicate with the seller, you learn that the car is overseas and must be shipped. You will receive a complicated message detailing a complicated method of payment (through an escrow service, Western Union, etc.). Donít bite. Do stop all communication with the "seller." If the listing is still online, flag it (all ads have a special area in the upper-right-hand corner to do this). If enough people flag a listing, Craigslist will pull it -- and you will help prevent other people from being burned.


The first edition on my screenwriting book was called the best book of its kind by the Canadian Writers Guild. The second edition included a chapter about writing for videogames. The third edition has information on short films and a CD with sample screenplays and software. This book educates writers on the history of storytelling, not just the history of film and Hollywood. A writer friend who wrote "Clone Wars" with George Lucas told me he particularly appreciated that aspect of the book; I autographed a gift copy for his friend. The second edition was voted best of its kind by the Canadian Writers Guild, and I occasionally hear from or about working writers in Hollywood that think it's kind of a screenwriting bible. I don't try to be a guru. I've sold some features, had a lot more optioned, done a little TV, wrote for a network kids show, but I'm basically just trying to help folks out so they don't make mistakes I made, and to also counter some of the very bad advice out there.


Anyone who asks can receive a study I did about what actually sells at the box office, as an adjunct to this book. The answers may surprise you. I first wrote about it in 1999 and it took the mainstream media four years to catch up with my observations.

Triumph Publishing in Russia published a translation of my screenwriting book with the title something like "How to Write and Sell Screenplays in the USA for Video, Movies and Television." Last time I could find it on the Web, the price was 317 rubles (about $10 US). The Russian book was 395 pages. Now the company seems to only be selling software. Still, they actually paid for the right to publish it there and I was very happy. I was even mentioned in Pravda.


In the summer of 2009, I had the pleasure of hosting a couple of Russian film industry friends, screenwriter Funnie Vital and her friend, the Russian actress, Elena Morozova. Through Elena I met the brilliant Russian filmmaker Pavel Ruminov, and began talking to him about adapting a movie Elena starred in for the American market. Oddly enough, at the same time I was working with Ray Manzarek of The Doors fame to try to get a script he commissioned of the famous Russian novel "The Master and Margarita" into production. Ray's departed now and I haven't made a Russian movie, but if you click on the picture of the book you'll see Elena's movie and TV credits.

In this book about selling literary properties to Hollywood I open with "Hollywood Rules" (that change constantly) and I close with a directory of people who can buy and sell your work. It's the best book about navigating Hollywood that I've written and my fourth on the subject. It's now several years old, however. Although the basic information is still valid, the contacts in the back are obviously not up to date, though the players are probably still active and there's background information on them.

One thing that I wrote about in the book is a "Hollywood Open Resource" - a revolving list of contact information that could be updated by anyone and shared. I spent two years working for free with a couple of guys who started Filmtracker.com which later merged with Baseline Hollywood, only to quit when a creep from Madonna's organization (which was paying $12,000 a month for information) wanted me "fired" because I wouldn't let him in a forum of mine. I saw those guys steal contact information from Variety and Hollywood Reporter repeatedly, and I got sick of witnessing such practices. I quit my Hollywood Resource idea when my free Yahoo discussion group grew so large, and when I discovered a website that had all the information I had in mind. See below.

Gerard Jones created a fabulous site called "Everyone Who's Anyone" that has contact information for agents, editors, publishers, and their Hollywood equivalents.


When I learned of his site I abandoned my own similar project. While it's not perfect, it's the best you can get for free and he's a saint for doing this for others.

If you head over to Gerry's site, try to donate something via Paypal. He put a lot of work into that site and it can be used to great advantage.

Referred to by some aspiring screenwriters as a Hollywood bible, this book evolved from my own success and frustrations and contained more practical advice than any other of its kind.


One reader, Mirko Betz, took the advice in the book and ended up selling his first screenplay 11 months after arriving in L.A. from Germany to Roland Emmerich of "Independence Day" fame. In a classic case of lucky networking, Mirko was babysitting for a friend of Emmerich, got to talking to him, Emmerich ending up reading his script, and gave him a deal!

After these books came out, I began getting 500 to 1,000 emails per week. It was amazing.

The original version of this book sprang from the first class I taught at UCLA Writers Program. The print version evolved into an updated e-book that just keeps on selling and was a finalist in the "Eppies" (the first national e-book awards).


Since I've worked (and made money) in just about every form of writing, I can safely advise beginning writers on how to get started - and figure out which direction they want to take. While you may find the print edition in rare book places, the best one is the electronic version in Acrobat format (or some other format that works on your computer). Email me if you are interested in owning a copy.

Meanwhile, the new edition came out in February of 2006 as a "bargain book" from Barnes & Noble, a hardcover version (with a much better cover!) that's mentioned on the home page of this site.

I've written, ghostwritten, or edited almost 50 traditionally published books. In earlier years I wrote a lot of light are and a number for young adults. Here's the titles of some of those -

Star Families (eight-volume showbiz biography series), Crestwood House (1995)

Awesome Almanac: California, B&B Publishing, Inc. (1994)

A Rave of Snakes (lead title in young adult mystery series), Kensington Publishing (1994); also in that series: A Web of Ya Yas and A Shift of Coyotes; Ormebolet (Norwegian translation of A Rave of Snakes, Bonnier/​Semic, Oslo, 1995)

The Big Picture (young adult fantasy novel), Fearon/​Janus/​Quercus (1993)

The Importance of Mark Twain (biography), Lucent Books (1993)

Cliffhanger (young adult adventure novel), Saddleback Publishing (1992/​93); also for same publisher, Knucklehead (young adult sports novel), The Kuwaiti Oil Fires (young adults non-fiction)

My dog named Tex who winked. He was a Carolina dog, aka "Dixie Dingo," the original American dog. They come in his coloring and also in all white. Apparently, they're also known as "camp dogs" and were the indigenous canine found on the Eastern seaboard tribes of Native Americans when the Europeans first arrived in North America.


Six mornings a week, I got a big show when the mail carrier arrived and Tex woke up from his normal perch on the small couch next to me and went into a frenzy, prompted by the sound of the gate at the house next door closing, the smell of the carrier coming down the sidewalk, and then the rattle of mail being shoved through the mail slot. Tex wore out the seat covers of the couch, and I had to get it redone. It took him about ten minutes to calm down each time. After a bout with diabetes in 2013, he died at the ripe old age of 12. He will always be loved and missed.

One day, I'll get another dog, when I find one as special as Tex.