WHAT ABOUT THE FISH?

August 27, 2016

When I teach creative writing workshops, I love to highlight POV (point of view). One exercise that almost always works is to break into groups of two or three and start an argument. After a few minutes, each person records that argument, complete with dialog, gestures, and thoughts from his or her point of view. The difference in those accounts is usually startling, especially if the passion is for real.

Jonah

Most of us know the story of Jonah and the big fish . . . from Jonah’s point of view. But what about that big fish? True, I had to imagine this part, but I wanted to look at things from a different angle. So…imagine a fish who’d long felt he’d been created to do one mighty deed. Yet now he’s old, and no deed has come. Then with a storm at sea, the Fish sees a man tossed overboard. I watched till I heard the Creator’s strange plan: “Your brave and bold deed is to swallow this man!” He obeys, but worries about the man in his belly…until Jonah prays and the Creator commands the Fish to spit the man onto the shore. He landed–kerplop!–and he tumbled a bit./Who knew my great deed would be SWALLOW AND SPIT?

Dream Writing . . .Sort of

August 24, 2016

DandiMackall_BookSigningPosterLet me say right off that although I do dream, this isn’t one, not for real, not a vision either. I love the “daydream” state when I close my eyes and people my own dreams, adding wonderful things, like celebrations. Some time ago, daydreaming, I imagined I died (not sure where that one came from). But I found myself in heaven, greeted at the gates by a kindly angel, who asked me where I’d like to go first. Of course, I said, “The Library, please.”

I followed the angel into the most magnificent library, books shelved to the sky. I spent an eternity (or so) rereading the classics, looking through books I’d only heard about. There was even a shelf for me, with nearly every book I’d ever written. After a while (time is hard to calculate in eternity), the angel must have noticed something in me: “What’s wrong, Dandi?” “Well,” I answered, not wanting to find fault in this amazing location, “these books are fantastic, but . . . I’ve run across most of them down there, on earth. I kind of thought you guys would have your own stuff.”

“Yes,” the angel admitted. “But we had them first.” As I tried to figure out what that meant, I was  motioned to follow down long, cobwebbed passages, past dust-covered rooms where I heard music more beautiful than I’d ever heard on earth. Finally, I was ushered into an echoing chamber, an untended room infinitely larger than The Library. These shelves were overcrowded with books farther than I could see in every direction. I reached for one close to the entrance, dusted it off and read the first page. I’d never heard of it before, but that book could have helped me through the toughest days of my life. At random, I chose another book, a novel that I wish my aunt could have read because it would have reached her in a way I couldn’t. There were books I wanted to give my children, my grandchildren. When I couldn’t stand it, I turned on the angel. “These books!” I shouted. “I never saw these. They could have changed the lives of everyone I knew. Why didn’t you send these down there?”

The angel looked pained. “We tried. Their authors wouldn’t take them. There, that one is sitting in the young man’s desk, but he lacks the courage to try to get it published. And the novel there received criticism and never was rewritten. This one is lovely, but only three chapters exist as the author is rather preoccupied. I wanted to cry for all of the lost stories and experiences. I wanted to shout down, to yell at those lazy authors . . . until another book caught my attention. I took it out and dusted the spine. My name was on it. It was that book I always thought about writing but never got around to it.

Not a real dream, but have you ever listened to authors, musicians, architects, and other creative people? You’ll hear declarations like “And then I got it! She’d been in the accident with her brother!” “I know I don’t have the right ending.” “I’m almost there.” Creating a story is a bit like unraveling a ball of string, or that’s how it feels sometimes. This has been my most rewarding year in over 30 years of writing. I’ve dusted off my “dream books.” (If you’re still with me, the Flipside Stories above is a line of books I thought up 12 years ago.) Two other “dreams” are coming out soon–one for tweens and teens, and my dream novel for grown-ups. But the most exciting thing is that I believe I have more of those books in the dusty library . . . and you probably have your share in one of those rooms too.

 

POINT OF VIEW

August 9, 2016

Speaking of point of view . . . . OK, you may not have been discussing viewpoints, but you were using one–your point of view. You can think about other points of view, but the only head you’ll ever live in is yours.

Think about it. Take your best friend, your mom, your spouse–whoever knows you best. What percentage of your thoughts does that person know? Face it–if people knew ALL of your thoughts, you’d probably be friendless. Only you know all your thoughts. And you will never know all of their thoughts either. You only get to live inside your own head.

Except when you read! Reading a good book allows you to enter the thoughts, the viewpoint, of another human. This is where books have it all over TV and movies. How do you know what a character is thinking on the screen if you can only see and hear her? It’s like life–people show you some of themselves by what they say and by their actions. Others can talk about them. But the only way to convey thoughts in visual media is through voice-overs (having the character’s disembodied voice explain what he’s thinking). Yet in a good book, you can know the character inside-out. Every word of a novel can show what that character is thinking and feeling.

I’d love to hear your thoughts and get your viewpoint! More later….

PLAY BALL!

June 21, 2016

Here in Ohio, we’re celebrating the champion Cleveland Cavaliers! Well done, well deserved, and high time!

I didn’t play much basketball as a kid–only family games of h-o-r-s-e . But I loved baseball. About the time boys came up with the “no girls allowed/for boys only” nonsense, I entered a contest sponsored by the Kansas City A’s (now the Royals) to write in 50 words or less why you wanted to be batboy for the A’s. Since the contest was “For Boys Only,” I signed the entry blank “Dan” instead of “Dandi.” My 50 words won. But when they discovered I was a girl, they wouldn’t let me be batboy!

FREE E-BOOK TODAY

June 2, 2016

RUNAWAY, the first title in my Starlight Animal Rescue is free today as an e-book. Here’s the link: Ebookdaily125

 

 

Baby Animals

August 10, 2015

Polliwogs

Does everybody love baby animals, or what?

I love writing about animals–lots of series with horses, dogs, cats. I think I’ve even written three horse births, all delivering those adorable foals. They’re “foals” until they become fillies (females) or colts (males).

My father-in-law just got a black lab puppy, 8 weeks old, and it’s already housebroken. Our sweet Shih-Tzu “puppies” will soon turn 10 years old, and I confess that we’re still working on  making them 100% housebroken. But they’re still loveable.

So, here’s a quiz. You’ll find the answers below (not upside-down, so no cheating). You’ll also find these answers, and more in my new book pictured above.

I’ll list the name of the baby animal, and you shout out the name of the grown-up animal that Baby will become.

  1. Cygnet
  2. Joey (trick question–more than one answer gives bonus points)
  3. Calf (bigger trick question; more answers, more points!)
  4. Polliwog
  5. Fawn
  6. Poult
  7. Keet
  8. Squab
  9. Squeakers
  10. Hatchling
  11. Nymph
  12. Pup
  13. Cub (tricky, tricky, tricky)
  14. Kid
  15. Fingerling
  16. Skunk
  17. Spat
  18. Cria
  19. Ephyna
  20. Eyas

Answers: (No peeking!) (Answers aren’t exhaustive, just exhausting.)

  1. Swan
  2. Kangaroo AND Wallaby AND wombat
  3. Cow, Gnu, Antelope, buffalo, camel, elephant, giraffe, hippo, moose, reindeer, rhino, whale, yak
  4. Frog
  5. Deer, pronghorn
  6. Turkey
  7. Guinea fowl
  8. Pigeon
  9. Pigeon (I know, I know…)
  10. Lizard, Alligator, turtle, birds
  11. Katydid, louse, grasshopper
  12. Bat (gottcha!), Armadillo, coyote, dog, dolphin, gerbil, Guinea pig, hamster, mole, shark, rat, squirrel, wolf
  13. Lion, leopard, tiger, White Sox fan (just kidding), bear, cheetah, hyena, leopard, walrus, raccoon, walrus
  14. Goat, grown-up
  15. Trout
  16. Kit
  17. Oyster
  18. Llama
  19. Jellyfish
  20. Hawk

WRITING FOR TEENS . . . WHEN YOU’RE NOT ONE

April 9, 2015

Writing Novels For Teens… When You’re Not One, by Dandi Daley Mackall

I love writing for teens: mysteries, romance, horse novels, historicals, humor… Most of my readers are too polite to ask, but I’ll bet a number of them wonder how I can keep writing for teens when I’m not one and haven’t been one for a very long time.

Great question, right?

I have a great answer. My best and worst teen moments are frozen. When I need a power-packed, authentic teen emotion for a work-in-progress, I bring out my frozen moments, loaded with the same angst and intensity as any contemporary teen moment. I have a freezer full of them.

Frozen moments can give any writer an edge in developing powerful scenes and realistic characters. So, what exactly is a frozen moment? In Larger-Than-Life Lara (Dutton/Penguin), my narrator explains a moment she’ll never forget like this:

“All of this happened in just a couple of seconds, I guess, but it felt like it was a frozen piece of time. . . Sometimes whole countries and even the whole world has stuff happen that people will remember for the rest of their lives. Like Mrs. Smith said she knows people who were alive when President John F. Kennedy got shot and killed dead. And every single one of them can tell you where they were and what they were wearing and who else and what else was in the room with them when that president got shot and killed.

And I believe her because I can tell you exactly where I was on the day of 9/11, when the planes flew into the World Trade Center. I was home sick from school, only I was faking sick. I was all by myself watching TV. Only I’m not supposed to let on I was by myself because the social worker will get after my daddy again. I was wearing the pajamas I hate because they have kites on them and I’ve never ever had a kite, even though I would really like one.

The room smelled like tobacco and bananas. There was a buzzing from the TV because Daddy hooked it up himself to cable so we didn’t have to pay, and sometimes it looked like it was snowing, even on shows like Jungle Animal Planet. Then I was changing channels and saw a plane stuck in a skyscraper, with smoke and fire and people screaming. So I thought it was a movie and I’d watch it. Only… well, you know the rest…

But the stuff about frozen moments is important because if you land into one, then you got some good material for your story. Because you can call it up in your head again and have everything you need right there. It doesn’t go away on you, like other memories. It’s frozen. And this can be a good thing or a bad thing.”

My unscientific take on recent brain studies is this: When an emotion is strong enough, our brain is branded with the memory. That’s my secret as to why I can continue to write for teens. Every novel I’ve written contains a variety of frozen moments. Some series, like Winnie the Horse Gentler, Backyard Horses and Starlight Animal Rescue, use frozen moments to bring back the horses I rode bareback through my teen years.

In The Silence of Murder (Knopf/Random House), which won the Edgar Award for Best YA Mystery, a mother delivers a slap to her son in chapter one. I witnessed such a slap when I was a teen, and I never forgot it. My first sentence in The Secrets of Tree Taylor (Knopf/Random House) is my frozen moment from an early morning in my little Missouri town:

“The morning the gun went off, I was thinking about Tolstoy and the Beatles, and maybe, if I’m being honest here, a little about Ray Miller and how his eyes were perfect little pieces of sky.”

So, the good news is that I don’t have to stop writing for teens, not even when our teens grow up and have teens of their own. I will simply keep that literary freezer filled with frozen moments. Slang changes and clothing styles morph, but teen angst is teen angst.

***

Dandi Daley Mackall’s author website: http://www.dandibooks.com

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This Saturday night! MY BOYFRIENDS’ DOGS!

October 16, 2014
MOVIE BILLBOARD!

MOVIE BILLBOARD!

Wish I could fly to Los Angeles and see this billboard above Ventura Blvd! Can’t believe this premiere is really happening this Saturday night, 9 ET on the Hallmark Channel. I’m so grateful I’ve run out of words (for the time being).

Screenwriter Gary Goldstein

September 8, 2014
Screenwriter--My Boyfriends' Dogs

Screenwriter–My Boyfriends’ Dogs

I’ve heard horror stories from authors whose books were turned into movies, and most of the villains in those stories were screenwriters. So you can imagine how grateful I am that the talented and brilliant Gary Goldstein consented to write the screenplay for MY BOYFRIENDS’ DOGS. He also consented to be interviewed:

How did you get started in the screenwriting business?

I began writing episodic TV,expanded into features and stage plays, then later branched out to TV movies.  It was basically a case of putting one foot in front of the other–or, rather, one script in front of the other–and following the doors that opened.

Was there a “big break” in your career?

I’d say my career has been more a case of consistent smaller breaks, not necessarily one big one (though selling a screenplay to 20th Century Fox in the late ’90s proved a great career boost).  More recently, on the TV movie front, selling my feature script “The Wish List” to Hallmark (it was made into a hit 2010 telefilm), led to a really gratifying string of work for the network.

How did you end up writing the script for MY BOYFRIENDS’ DOGS?

At that point I had written six movies for Hallmark, all successful romantic comedies.  So Bart Fisher, an executive at Hallmark, thought I’d be a good fit to adapt the book.  I began working with the film’s producers (Marcy Gross and Ann Weston) and it evolved from there.

Can you explain your process of creating a screenplay from a book?

It varies from book to book, of course.  But, especially when you like a book as much as I did MY BOYFRIENDS’ DOGS, it’s a matter of honoring as much of the original material’s story, characters and tone, while telling the story cinematically–which is often different than the way a book may tell a story.  There’s a stricter paradigm for structuring a screenplay, particulary one that, as is the case of TV movies, can’t exceed a certain length.  At the same time, you’re also tying to satisfy the needs and mandates of a network or studio.  Whatever I may change I’m always careful not to throw out the baby with the bathwater, so to speak.

What was the best part of writing for MY BOYFRIENDS’ DOGS?

Writing Bailey–you created a wonderful character.  Oh, and writing the dogs!  I’m a huge dog person so that part was really fun.

What was the hardest part?

Streamlining what is a fairly involved story while keeping things clear and the most entertaining parts intact.  It was also a challenge to keep each of the “boyfriends” feel unique and memorable while tracking Bailey’s growth and change as a result of her relationships with them.  A bit of a juggling act but a joy to do.

Anything special you’d like viewers to look for when they watch the movie on October 18th?

Just enjoy the story, the dogs and the actors.  It’s a terrific cast and each actor brings so much to his or her role.  Erika Christensen, who plays Bailey, does an especially fine job–she’s adorable, charming and makes Bailey really relatable.  The movie’s also very funny, so I hope viewers appreciate the humor as well!

How do you plan to celebrate the premiere?

Watching with family, friends  and, of course, our dogs!

 

OCTOBER 18, 9pm ET!

August 21, 2014

MBD poster


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