Would you go to see Humphrey Bogart as Indiana Jones?

RaidersImagine Clark Gable as Han Solo or maybe Anthony Perkins as Hannibal Lecter. Think about it? Alfred Hitchcock directing Halloween or Charlie Chaplain directing and starring in Big.

I love classic movies. Rear Window, Key Largo, and The Quiet Man are just a few of my favorites. I love to imagine what modern movies would have been like with the great stars of the silver screen cast in those roles.

We see the reverse all the time, when they take a classic movie and remake it. You Got Mail with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan was originally Shop Around the Corner with Jimmy Stewart and Margaret Sullavan. This time, though, I want to try things in reverse.

I could see Raiders of the Lost Ark with Humphrey Bogart as Indiana Jones, Lauren Bacall as Miriam, Peter Lorre as Sallah and Edward G. Robinson as Belloq. That would have been a classic right up there with Treasure of the Sierra Madre.

With all the hype for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, how would you cast Star Wars in classic Hollywood? I would cast Jackie Cooper as Luke Skywalker, Audrey Hepburn as Princess Leia, Clark Gable as Han Solo, Douglas Fairbanks as Obi-Wan Kenobi and Yul Brynner as Darth Vader. In a twist, I would cast Sir Alec Guinness as Governor Tarkin.

If you want to take things to a whole new level, imagine Jack Lemmon and Marilyn Monroe in the diner scene from When Harry Met Sally; or maybe Jimmy Stewart and Grace Kelly as the paleontologist sin Jurassic Park. The possibilities are endless.

Here’s something to keep you thinking about the many possibilities. Pick a movie and recast it with stars from classic Hollywood (30s to 50s). Post your choice in the comment section below. I’ll pick the best one and the winner will receive a copy of my book, The Dark Tides. Good luck!

What I learned at Pitchfest “book-to-movie” 2015 in New York City


I had the honor of attending Pitchfest this past weekend in New York City. Pitchfest was a book-to-screen seminar where independent, self-published authors like myself were taught how to turn our novels into a two minute pitch and then pitch that idea to studio/production representatives from movies and television.

The event was hosted by Author Solutions, a company that provides services to self-published authors. They saw a need in Hollywood for the myriad of ideas from independent authors that was virtually unknown to them. That’s why they put together their first Pitchfest. Since then, they’ve done these bi-annually to get authors that two minute chance to sell their book idea to the silver screen.

With the expanding television audiences emerging from small, online production companies associated with Netflix, Hulu and Amazon, the need for new ideas is paramount. The guest speaker, Bob Kosberg, is known as the “King of the Pitch” and he was an honor to learn the business from him.

One of the most influential quotes he told us was by former Disney CEO, Jeffrey Katzenberg. “I the dizzying world of movie making, there is one fundamental concept … The idea is King!” That said, everyone has an idea or concept, but making it into a compelling story is what makes the pitch.

You start off with the set-up, putting your ideas to a particular genre, comparing it to other stories out there, like “this is Alice in Wonderland but set on Mars.” Then you go into the inciting action, what gets the ball rolling in your story, followed by an introduction of your main character. Here is where you being to really sell the idea.

Lastly, you have to lay out what’s at stake and then resolve the plot. All of this I two minutes, and they do mean two minutes.

We were put in what can only be described as “speed dating” as we walked into a room with several tables with one-to-two reps per table. One we sat down, the two minutes began and you started your pitch. At two minutes, the buzzer sounded and you shifted to the next table on the right. You had maybe a couple of seconds to finish your last few words, but then it was on to the next. You got up and shifted to the right, starting your pitch all over again to another pair of reps. This process continued until you end right back where you started from.

By the fourth pitch, my mouth was so dry I could barely speak, but I pushed on until I was done. It took less that 15 minutes but I made all my pitches. I’ll find out in a few weeks whether or not any of the reps want a copy of my book, then it’s really a waiting game from there.

As Keith Ogorek, Author Solutions Senior VP for Marketing, explained that the process was not a quick one. If a production company wants to option a story, they’ll pay an author between $500-$1500 to reserve the rights for a year to 18 months while they start developing the concept. Authors can offer to help by writing the screenplay or just wait until the project fully develops. It can take anywhere from 3-5 years or more for a project to culminate in a finished movie or television show.

A great example he gave was the novel Still Alice by Lisa Genova. It was self-published in 2006 through iUniverse. It was opted for the screen and was finally released in 2014 starring Julianne Moore (Hunger Games movies, Hannibal, Jurassic Park 2: The Lost World) for which she won the Academy Award for Best Actress.

I had a blast learning so much about the movie business, but more importantly, how to condense my novels in the Forever Avalon series into a two minute pitch. Why two minutes? It’s the average time spent in an elevator. So if you walk in an elevator with Steven Spielberg, you have your pitch ready to go. After all, it only takes one idea to make movie magic.

Forever Avalon is available for purchase at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. The Dark Tides is now available for purchase at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and iUniverse.

Is special effects making or breaking the fantasy genre?

tumblr_nagzsvgqUx1t3g0gjo1_1280Is the fantasy genre being overdone and is that the fault of today’s special effects? I ask myself this question because of the rash of TV programs being thrust at us this year. You have a myriad of television fantasy choices from Once Upon a Time, Atlantis and Grimm to almost every other show on the CW Network. Add to that the shows that try for historical accuracy like Vikings, The Bastard Executioner, and The Last Kingdom.

Add to that the surge of superhero movies and television, fantasy is at its prime. CGI and motion capture has made it easier for production companies to do fantasy epics. When you look at the sprawling scenery in the upcoming Shannara Chronicles, you realize how far we’ve come in special effects. You couldn’t get images like that over 30 years ago.

But at the same time, computer software has made it easy to make a halfway decent movie. The Internet is loaded with low-budget movies and shorts by freelance, home-taught movie makers using their iPhone or Galaxy cellphones that put some of these multi-million blockbusters to shame.

In some cases, the story lacks for the sake of the effects. The one thing you never, ever forsake is the story. They need to be grounded on a well-written script to carry it from beginning to end.
The one positive thing I have to say about special effects is how it’s bringing stories you never thought you’d see to life on the big screen. Could they have done Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit movies 30 to 40 years ago! Doubtful.

In a recent interview, Academy award-winning producer and director Steven Spielberg said that “the superhero movie goes the way of the western.” As much as I hate to disagree with a personal inspiration of mine, I must.

For the first time, comic book fans can finally see an accurate portrayal of their favorite characters. No spandex or rubber costumes, bad blue screen effects, but actually stepping into these fantastic worlds.

Like I said earlier, don’t make a movie for the sake of the special effects. It needs that great story to back them up.

When I began writing Forever Avalon, I was inspired for the magical flying galleons in my story by the animated movie Peter Pan. This week, the movie Pan hits theaters and flying ships are an essential part of the story. The effects are spectacular and I can’t wait to see it.

This scares me a little bit, though, because I don’t want people thinking I copied the movie or think it’s overdone. This may be another detriment to the fantasy issue. We’re all experiencing “group think,” having the same ideas and using them in our stories. Because special effects today means “anything is possible” so we let it all hang out in our stories.

I know I’m “heating a dead horse” but I think I need to really press this point. We need great stories with great effects, not vice versa.

Forever Avalon is available for purchase at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

I visited the Bermuda Triangle and all I got was this lousy t-shirt!

article-2555006-1B574E5800000578-140_634x480Last week, the east coast of the United States was under a tropical storm warning as we awaited Hurricane Joaquin. Fortunately, it stayed way out to sea and barely affected us, but it did give me some inspiration. It gave me a great opportunity to talk about one of the “sci-if” elements of Forever Avalon and The Dark Tides … The Bermuda Triangle.

For those who need a little history lesson, the Bermuda Triangle is an area of the Atlantic Ocean between Miami, Florida, San Juan, Puerto Rico, and the island of Bermuda, more than 1,510,000 square miles of ocean. There are more than 1,000 recorded incidents in the last 500 years in that part of the Atlantic Ocean.

I’ve always been fascinated by the Bermuda Triangle. I remember a movie from the 1975 that I saw as a kid called Beyond the Bermuda Triangle. Of course, who could forget Leonard Nimoy’s TV series In Search Of, where he spent one episode on the mysterious disappearances in the Bermuda Triangle and possible reasons behind them. Next to the search for Noah’s Ark, Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster, the Bermuda Triangle is a mystery wrapped in an enigma.

Rifts_RPG_Ultimate_Edition_2005I even played a role-playing game, in my D&D days, called Rifts. The story was that Ley Lines, lines of magical every that crisis-cross the Earth, intersect in certain places (like the Bermuda Triangle) creating rifts or portals to other worlds in space and time. This post-apocalyptic game took us into the future. It combined sci-if and fantasy, for example, you had Elves that could hack into computer networks through jacks in their heads. Like I said, fun!

There are plenty of logical reasons why all these boats and planes disappeared in the Bermuda Triangle, from hurricanes to rogue waves, that can explain the phenomenon. I like to think that there is some truth behind the disappearances which is why I incorporated them into my novels.

Sure, aliens are the most prevalent theory behind the myth, but I like to stick to the magical. Using the Bermuda Triangle as a portal to Avalon gave the back story to my novel some credence. The people who survived the storms ended up in the shores of Avalon. There they either blended into the medieval society or died, it was that simple.

866683_f520One of my favorite tales from the Bermuda Triangle is the story of Flight 19. Flight 19 was the designation of five U.S. Navy TBM Avenger torpedo bombers that disappeared over the Bermuda Triangle on December 5, 1945 during a overwater navigation training flight from the Naval Air Station in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. All 14 airmen on the flight were lost. Investigators could not determine the cause of the loss of Flight 19 but said the airmen may have become disoriented and ditched in rough seas after running out of fuel.

I came up with a better answer … They arrived on Avalon. The flight leader, Lieutenant Charles Taylor, became an essential part of the Forever Avalon story. He was a mentor and friend to Bryan MoonDrake, the Gil-Gamesh, from the moment he arrived on Avalon. I originally meant for him to be just a small part of the back story, but in The Dark Tides, I was able develop his story as part of the character development of the Gil-Gamesh.

Whether you believe in the supernatural or not, the Bermuda Triangle will always be a place where sci-fi/fantasy authors can twist and turn their stories in any direction possible. Just be sure not to get lost in there. You never know where you’ll end up.

Forever Avalon is available for purchase at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. The Dark Tides is now available for purchase at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and iUniverse.