Tuesday, November 18, 2014

new york here i come, again and again and...!

Remember I went to New York City back in July to nominate Rainbow... For the GL book club there to read, and they asked me to come back for the discussion in four months? Well, that discussion was last Thursday and I was there. I wouldn't have missed it for the world! Well, maybe I would have for the whole world but since I wasn't offered the world I went to NYC as planned. I almost didn't make though. Twenty minutes before my bus was scheduled to leave I realized that I'd forgotten my photo ID, which I needed since I had an online ticket. I panicked and talked to the station manager who referred me to the lady at the ticket counter. I told her my issue and she said that normally I would have to purchase another ticket, which I could not have afforded to do, but that she would see what she could do. Luckily she was able to print me an over-the-counter ticket at no charge. My trips always seem to have some sort of self-sabotage in store. Remember my key drama in LA? Maybe I'm just a drama queen who needs to spice up his travels with a nail-biter or two!
     If I had been unable to go I would have been truly bummed out. I would also have missed out on my next promotional opportunity. While I was there I found an organization, also in the NYC LGBT community center, called  The Bureau of General Services Queer Division or BGSQD. They have a library/art gallery were they host art shows, book discussions/readings, poetry slams and things of that nature with queer themes. People can buy or borrow books and they sell the art as well. That night they were having a book discussion with the author present just like the book club I was meeting with. When they were done I went in and introduced myself to the person on staff. He was very friendly and told me everything about the bureau. I immediately saw another promo opportunity. Call me an opportunist all you want but today's authors had better be ''oppurtunist'' or their not going to build a readership or any other ship! Anyhow, When I got back home I e-mailed BGSQD and simply asked them if they would host a reading/book discussion for me. They replied with a yes and now were already in the planning stages!
    The book club I went there to discuss Rainbow Plantation Blues with liked the book, thank God! New York City weather that night was wet, rainy and cold so only five people were there but the facilitator told me that the group collectively bought fifteen books! It was also not totally clear or known that I was coming either. Nonetheless, everyone was very nice and had good questions and comments. I can declare it a rousing success!

Friday, November 7, 2014

sometimes you score and sometimes you don't

 I've been lazy lately and not blogging, but to my credit I have been doing other things. I made contact with some of the other authors from the book-to-screen festival via e-mail. I tried to contact five people and three replied. However, most of the people I met there I'll probably never see or hear from again. Nonetheless, I wish them all well. Anyhow, Diana Finfrock Farrar author of  ''The Door of  the heart'' replied. She told me that she got five request to read her book from the Hollywood reps- five request! Another author told me that he got two, like me, and the other author told me she got one. Diana also told me that she ordered and read Rainbow Plantation Blues. The only comment she had was that she thought it should be longer, by 100+ pages, but that she still thought it would make a good movie. From the tone of her e-mail, I don't think she particularly liked it over all.
    Speaking of not liking it, I got an e-mail from RainbowReviews.com today. I have been trying to get reviewed on their site for a year and a half and now I know I can forget it. After numerous tries, I had finally gotten one of their readers to pick up the book. But then I didn't hear from them for quite awhile. Today they informed me that two of their readers have read my novel and neither of them could write a positive review on it. Their policy is that they only publish positive reviews.
    I bought my bus ticket to New York City last week. Remember I went their back in July to nominate Rainbow... for that book club to read, and they voted to read it? Well, they also invited me to come back [In four months] to sit-in on the club's discussion of it and that discussion is next week! Going their on the heels of this RainbowReviews rejection could be a boost for my confidence[if they like it] or a real confidence killer if they don't. After all, it is New York City! If you can make it there you can make it anywhere, Right? My bus leaves Cleveland next Thursday at 5AM and gets there at 6PM. The meeting starts at 7or 8PM [I don't remember exactly] and my return bus leaves NYC on Friday at 12:30AM. So, I'll be there for a total of around six hours. I'll be on the bus four times as long as I'll actually be in NYC! I know that schedule sounds insane but I have to get back home so I don't lose anymore time on my day job. Such is a writer's life. You have to do whatever you have to do to promote your work, and everybody is still not going to like it! But you keep on truck'in regardless. I think of promotions and readers/readerships as like playing basketball. Sometimes you score and sometimes you don't. That's funny, that analogy also reminds me of my cruising days!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

I've finally made a dent!

I received my Hollywood 2014 pitchfest results back on Wednesday and two movie studios/production companies are reading my novel! There were ten studio/production company reps there. They sent us ten response cards that had the book title, the authors name, a ''pitch review,'' best medium for adaptation, personal feedback and the company response. The pitch review section has three sections; originally of idea, marketability and effectiveness of pitch. The reps could choose from ''very''[original, marketable and effective], ''somewhat...'', or ''needs improvement''. Each rep had to check one box. ''Medium for adaptation'' had five categories, studio feature film, independent feature film, television series, movie of the week and theater. The personal feedback section could be any personal comment they wanted to make and the company feedback box gave then one of two options: ''please have Author Solutions send a copy of your book for further concideration'' or ''not what our company is looking for at this time.''
    Like I said, I had two companies check the ''please have Author Solutions send us a copy...'' box and everyone of them checked the ''independent feature film box'' but everything else was a mixed bag. That's okay though. It's just their professional opinions about my originality, marketability and pitch. Although nobody said my ''originality of idea'' needed improvement, some said my marketability and pitch effectiveness did. That's to be expected[in my professional opinion]. You can't please everybody. But others said I was very marketable and loved my pitch! The interesting thing about all this is that some companies loved or liked my originality, marketability and my pitch but my story simply wasn't what their company is looking for right now. So, they didn't have Author solutions send them a book. I'm satisfied with my results from the pitchfest. I now know that I have the ability to write a professional pitch that can get results. All I can do now is wait and keep saying my affirmations/meditations.
    This is not the first time in my life that I tried to take Hollywood. Back in 1987 I moved there hoping to become a singer/song writer. For years, I took voice lessons, sang in cabarets, did community theater, recorded original music and sent out demo after demo but the Hollywood machine is tough to crack. After ten years of all that I got nowhere, but all these years later I've made a dent. I've finally made a dent! My heartfelt thanks goes out to Author Solutions.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

the police, a jerk-off [literally] and no word

I still haven't heard anything from Author Solutions[ the company I work with on all of my major promo campaign's]on whether or not any of the movie studio/production company reps chose to read my novel or not. If nobody chose to read it it's all over! If they did, then I could still have a chance to get optioned. Part of me wants to know and part of me doesn't. Anyhow, all I can do right now is wait and hope. But today a co-worker told me that she had a dream where I came to work telling everybody that ''I got it!'' She said that the ''it'' was something related to the book-to-screen festival.
    I've been thinking a lot about my trip to LA lately, the parts not related to the book-to-screen festival. On the bus to L.A. I met some pretty interesting characters. I use the word ''characters'' because that's exactly what they were.Characters! It was a long ride from Cleveland to L.A. and people tend to get to know one another spending so much time together. They also tend to get diarrhea of the mouth! People were telling me, a perfect stranger, their life stories! On the other hand, who better to air all your dirty laundry to than someone you'll never see again? Little did they know I was an author who finds peoples stories fascinating. I was hanging on their every word!
    Some aspects of the bus ride were even more outrageous though. On the way back there was a guy sitting in the seat across the aisle from me who decided to jerk-off right there on the bus! I couldn't believe it! I could see everything [which was quite impressive] and he couldn't have cared less! Also on the way back some police got on the bus and started asking passenger's where they going and if they could search our luggage! In the end, I was the only passenger who refused to tell them where I was going or let them search my backpack. Why should I have? I had done nothing wrong. I was sitting there minding my own business and trying to get home. So, I saw no reason for them to know where I was going much less search my baggage. They thanked me[for nothing I guess] and moved on.
    Something happened my first full day in L.A. that threatened to defeat the whole purpose of my being there in the first place. My aunt had gone to work in the morning and left me a set of keys to her apartment. I decided to go for a walk and to the grocery store at about 10 AM. After I got what I wanted and was leaving the store, I realized I didn't have my aunt's keys! I went back into the store and asked the cashier if anybody had turned in a set of lost keys. She said no. Then I retraced my steps throughout the store thinking I might have left them on a shelf or something, but they were nowhere to be found. By now I'm starting to panic! I repeated the retracing of my steps and asking that same cashier if anybody had turned in a set of lost keys at least one-hundred times! I had gone way beyond a state of panic. I was in tears and probably looking like a crazy person, which I'm sure is what prompted the police to make a u-turn on the street and question me. First they asked me what was wrong. I told them my lost key story and then they asked me if I was in trouble with the police or had any warrants, felonies, etc! I was taken aback and told them no. Well, I guess that's all they cared about because then they said ''well, we hope you find your keys" and sped off!
    By now it was about 12 noon. I couldn't contact my aunt, who wasn't going to be home until around 6 PM. But I was suppose to be at the opening reception for the book-to-screen festival at 4 PM. The California sun was beating down and I was beaten down! I had no place to go except my aunt's apartment and I knew nobody.  I was ready to say screw everything and hop a bus, plane, train or even walk back to Cleveland! But something told me to check the grocery store one more time. I did my step tracing and asked the cashier again but.. So, I started walking through the parking lot feeling like the whole thing was over. I thought I'd be late as hell for the reception and would just have to tell my aunt that I lost her keys. I thought I would also have to wounder the streets for hours until my aunt got home! Then,while at the end of the parking lot and about to turn a corner, I heard a voice calling for the man in the red skinny-jeans. That was me, of course. It was a store worker telling me that someone had turned in a set of keys! They were found in the orange bin. I looked over and saw the cashier dangling them in the air. The key-ring glistened in the sunlight. I couldn't believe it! The moment I had no more fight in me and was ready to call it quits, the whole situation had changed! I thanked the cashier and by 12:30 PM I was in my aunt's apartment eating my lunch. It had been a two hour ordeal and I sat there in total disbelief that it had even happen. I was on time for the reception and the rest of the trip went well. I told my aunt what happened and she was not mad at all. In fact, we had a laugh about it and she told me about a similar situation she recently had had.
     Now, all I need is the real happy ending - a movie option for Rainbow plantation Blues!

Friday, October 3, 2014

LA at last! part one

I guess I should call this post  ''home at last'' because I'm back from LA. Anyhow, the book-to-screen festival was amazing! There were 126 authors there ranging in age from 11 to 84! I didn't get to chat with most of them but I did chat with and/or exchange business cards with about 10 to 15 of them.
    We had a meet and greet reception on Friday evening and the actual pitch-fest was all day Saturday. The first part was a lecture on pitching, which was quite interesting. The second part was practice pitching. We broke up into two groups and presented our pitch[s] to a Hollywood ''Pitch-pro''[ I made up that term] for critiquing. He seemed luke-warm to mine but, then again, nobodies pitch was perfect according to him. He said mine was not a ''high-concept''[action packed, thriller type movie] and that dramas, comedies, etc. were harder to sell. He also said that period pieces are hard to sell because they are expensive. He said all I had was an idea and that I need to describe something interesting that happens in the story to grab the reps attention. In the end, I just added that it is a character driven drama along the lines of Roots or Mandingo with a Gay twist. I must admit I was alittle demoralized after his critiques. I spent so much time preparing before the event! I read two books about pitching to Hollywood, from which I took eight pages of notes. I watched tons of YouTube videos on pitching. I read on-line articles on pitching and by the time I arrived in LA I had written five drafts of my pitch! I had also said[and am still saying] tons of positive affirmations pertaining to my pitch and the final out come as it relates to Rainbow Plantation Blues and my success at the pitch-fest. So naturally, I thought I had a pretty good pitch! In the end, all I did was add two more sentences.  Here is the pitch I actually gave to the studio/production company reps:

[logline] What if a pre-civil slaveholder is gay and in love with a male slave?
 The name of my novel is Rainbow Plantation Blues

It is South Carolina in 1850 and Jonathon Thomas is a slaveholder and Kumi is his slave. Interracial love, sex and relationships are taboo and illegal, and the word sodomy is synonymous with the word gallows! But Jonathon is in love with Kumi who is another man and, moreover, a Black man! Not wanting to shame his family or go to the gallows, he marry's a pretty Southern belle hoping he'll forget his same-sex desires, but they only intensify. Hopelessness and despair threaten to overtake him but a good friend, with a secret of his own, helps Jonathon to regain his focus and clarity and triumph in the end.[here's the part I added after the critique] Rainbow Plantation Blues is a character driven drama that addresses the Gay and Lesbian side of slavery and the antebellum South. Imagine Roots or Mandingo with a Gay twist!

A ''logline'' is a summery of your story in one or two sentences. There are three parts to a good pitch: the set-up, the conflict and the conclusion. I feel that I had them all. We two minutes to deliver our pitch! Mine ended up being about a minute long, but that was a good thing because the reps had lots of questions for me!
    The actual pitching part was wonderful! I forgot all about my demoralization, dived right in and zoomed right though it! It was over before I knew it! I pitched to about ten reps in fifteen minutes moving from table to table speed-dating style. Now, all I can do is wait. We wont know if any reps want to read our books for about another week. We'll also be sent comment cards with their comments on them soon. So, that was my experience with the 2014 Los Angeles pitch-fest. Now, I had some experinces with LA, too! I'll talk about them in part two.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

rainbow plantation blues is on a roll!

I had my first radio interview last night on 91.1 WRUW and it was amazing!! I have no idea how many people heard it but a friend e-mailed me and told me that I sounded good and did a nice job, so at least I know that it reached the airwaves. Sarah[ the show host] was brilliant and professional and the whole thing moved effortlessly. It felt so good that it was over in the blink of an eye! That interview was the fastest hour of my life, but  I wanted it to last forever! Anyhow, thank you for the opportunity, Sarah. I'll never forget it!
    All week I've been cramming to understand/study pitching and to perfect my pitch for the pitchfest next weekend. I refuse to go into this with some cocky or casual attitude as if my story is the shit[even though it is] and I don't need to polish my pitch/presentation. I 've already read an entire book on pitching called Pitching Hollywood and I've started another called The Perfect Pitch. I have five pages of notes[so far] and I am on the fourth draft of my pitch. I intend to be studying, taking notes and practicing until the moment I give first actual pitch to a studio rep! The more I study pitching the more refined my pitch becomes. I actually find movie and television show pitching to be quite interesting. It's a career for some people! You have to be assertive, persistent, imaginative and personable. I have all of those traits when I work at it. But I don't know if I could keep them up 365 days a year!
    Other aspects of the trip are coming together, too. I made arrangements to stay with an aunt, who just so happens to live fairly close to the pitchfest venue. I still have to get outfits to wear. My wardrobe needs updating anyhow, but whatever I get is coming out of a thrift store!. My spending money is looking like it's going to be tight. Nonetheless, I'm off to L.A. next week whether I can eat or not!LOL! Rainbow Plantation Blues is on a roll and it will not be stopped, even if I die!

Saturday, September 13, 2014

now, pitch this !

All week I've been drafting my pitch and studying pitching via YouTube videos and on-line articles. After three drafts I think I've finally got it to where I want it. Now it's just a matter of practicing my presentation. I don't have to have it memorized but I think I want to have it pretty much memorized so that I can be looking the reps in the eye while I'm pitching to them.
    I received the itinerary from the organizers and it says: ''you will have 2 minutes at each of the 7 tables in your assigned room for a total of 14 minutes of pitching time. One by one, you will rotate to each table in speed-dating style format until you've pitched at all 7 tables. You will be assigned a 14 minute window, within the 1:30-5:30 PM time frame.''
    The first day there's an evening reception[basically a wine and cheese] where we meet all the authors and the organizers and find out what studios, production companies, etc. we'll be pitching to. The next day we meet at 7 AM for breakfast, a morning lecture on pitching, a practice session, lunch, the actual speed-pitch with the reps and then the wrap-up and close around 5:30 PM. Sounds pretty groovy, huh! Pardon my retro word but sometimes they just fit, you dig me?
    Anyhow, here's my pitch draft:

    Hello, my name is Robert L Sheeley. The title of my novel is Rainbow Plantation Blues. It's the story of an antebellum slaveholder who falls in love with a male slave.

    Johnathon is the main character. He's young, he's rich, he's handsome. Kumi is his interest. He's smart, he's resolved, he's viral! And Rainbow Plantation is a place of privilege for some but of pain and suffering for others.

    It is South Carolina in 1850 and Kumi is a slave and Johnathon is his master. But ownership of another human-being is considered perfectly normal and legal. It is interracial love, sex and relationships that are taboo and illegal, and the word ''sodomy'' is synonymous with gallows!
     So, this makes for quite a dilemma for Johnathon who is in love with Kumi, another man and a Black man! Not wanting to shame his family and go to the gallows, he Merry's a pretty Southern belle, with a nice dowry, to help him forget his sodomite desires, but they only intensify.
    As hopelessness and despair threaten to destroy Jonathon, a good friend, who has a deep connection to him a secret of his own, helps him to regain his focus and clarity and triumph in the end.

So, that's what I have right now. It's about one minute thirty-seconds but I think I want to leave a little time for questions or in case I screw-up!LOL!