dianne salerni author
dianne salerni author

 

Recently, The Spirit Game, the 6-minute film short based on my novel, We Hear the Dead, directed by Craig Goodwill and starring Katharine Isabelle, Katie Boland, and Charles Shaughnessy, was posted on YouTube, where you can now watch it for free. Yay!

 

If you haven’t been following my blog for long, you might not know the story of how this film came to be made.  A long time ago I posted How I Got My Film Option — which involves feng shui and painting the front door — but the shorter version is that my book was optioned for film back in 2009 by Amy Green of One Eye Open Studios. It wasn’t even published as We Hear the Dead at that time. The original option was for the self published version, which was called High Spirits.

Shortly after acqNew film posteruiring the option. Amy talked me into writing the screenplay (in spite of my telling her I didn’t know how). She and I worked together and over the course of about 18 months — and 8 drafts — we collaborated on a full length movie script. Now I can technically say I’m a screenwriter … even though no one ever made a movie with that script. I got a lot of compliments on it, but no backers.

Eventually, director Craig Goodwill became interested in the project. He and Amy decided to apply for a grant from BravoFACT (Foundation to Assist Canadian Talent). Amy and Craig are Canadian; most of the cast would be Canadian. But I’m not. So at that point I had to bow out, and they brought in a Canadian screenwriter. (I did however get to act as a consultant on the historical details. Fun!)

The movie was filmed in November of 2012 and premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in 2013. (No, I didn’t attend.) This 6 minute story does not come from any particular scene in my book, but it does neatly capture the main premise: Three sisters run a fraudulent seance business. One of the three may also have real paranormal talent, but since she’s also addicted to laudanum, her sisters don’t believe her.production photo

After Cannes, the producer and director began pitching the idea for a television series, with the film being used as a teaser. They even wrote a pilot episode, and once again I got to be the consultant on historical details. I wish I could say that a series was sold and in the works, but no … not yet at least!

I still think this is all very cool. Lots of books get optioned for film and nothing happens after that. But I’m honored to have one unsold screenplay to my credit, a script for a pilot episode, a series “bible”, and a short film with some well-known faces in it that went to Cannes!

 

 

I’m all over the ball park with today’s post. If I was marking a student paper, I would say this selection is “unfocused.” But — hey, we all have unfocused days, right?

First of all, I’d like to invite you to pop over to Sara Crowe’s blog, The Crowe’s Nest, to read my guest post there on adapting my novel We Hear the Dead to a screenplay. Thanks, Sara, for inviting me to contribute, and thanks to all my blogging friends who’ve already read it, commented on it, and tweeted it!
Secondly, my Kindle broke! 🙁 That is, the 3G modem on my Kindle ceased functioning. However, all is not lost. I worked with a Kindle support person on the telephone for a few minutes, and after he had established (via having me enter super secret commands) that the 3G capability was, in fact, dead, he ordered up a replacement. I had it the very next day! I have to say that Customer Service is one thing the Kindle crew at Amazon has down pat, and I cannot praise them enough!
Finally, I wanted to share a video posted by the Dorian’s Parlor crew of my first on-stage reading last November. (Thanks, Kyle Cassidy, for finding it!) I am simultaneously excited and mortified to see it. I covered my eyes and peeked through cracks in my fingers to watch it. Reading in front of an audience who is mostly more interested in their snacks and drinks was a bit of an experience, and I was so blinded by the stage lights I couldn’t even see my audience. That was disconcerting!
It’s a little long, so if you watch it, you might want to skip the middle. I answer some questions at the end — one of them asked by “my ringer” in the audience: daughter #2 Gina, who asks, “What inspired you to write this?” It was her idea to rescue me with a question. Nobody prompted her — and I have to hand it to my 10 year old daughter who had no fear standing up in front of a rowdy crowd dressed in outrageous steampunk attire and taking the microphone!


I realized the other day that I’ve never blogged about how I got my film option! A definite oversight on my part! Well, it may not be as long and convoluted as “How I Met Your Mother” but it’s worth a mention anyway …

You see, the front door needed painting, and I have very little decorating sense. So when my husband asked, “What color?” I shrugged and reached for my best decorating reference: Move Your Stuff, Change Your Life by Karen Rauch Carter. That’s right: feng shui.

I mean, why not? If I don’t know what colors to use anyway – or what to hang on the walls – consulting a feng shui book is a lot easier than clipping pictures from magazines. So, I buy sconces with swirls for one corner of the house, and I accent another with red candles. It all looks good to me. And plus, it might work.

The front door is the Career area of the home, and MYSCYL suggested black was a powerful color here. Besides, it matched the geometric designs of the carpet runner in the foyer. I could tell Bob was relieved. He felt confident he couldn’t make a mistake by coming home with “the wrong black.”

So, my husband painted the door and was just putting the finishing touches on it when, in the other room, I got an email from Amy Green, Film Producer, of 3Geez Films and One Eye Open Studio in Hollywood, asking whether the film rights to my book were available. I read the email about five times. It didn’t appear to be coming from Nigeria. She didn’t ask me to send her a certified check for $100,000 or transfer any money for her. A quick Google search confirmed that these companies really existed.

When I carried my laptop over to the foyer, Bob was just smoothing out the paint bubbles. I think I held out the computer to him and made little whimpering noises. He read the email over my shoulder – looked at me, looked at the door, and looked at the wet paint brush in his hand.

“What else do you want me to paint?” he asked.

(Amy, if you’re reading this, you might be surprised to discover you were summoned by the forces of the universe – but then again, I’ll bet you’re not.)

By the way, the other night, Amy gave a big thumbs up to my most recent draft of the screenplay. We think we’re moving forward from here!

It might be time to do a little decorating.


Summer vacation is over. Kaput. Today is the last day, and tomorrow, I’ll have to shift my mental gears into teaching mode. Boy, are they going to groan, whine, and squeal!

At the beginning of summer vacation, I posted goals for myself. The idea behind posting publicly was to shame myself into actually doing them. Now comes the public unveiling of my accomplishments:

Goal #1: Write another draft of screenplay
SUCCESS

I completed draft #7 of the We Hear the Dead screenplay in the early part of the summer. After letting it sit for a few weeks, my collaborator (producer Amy Green) and I have found this version to be lacking one crucial thread – and we think we know how to fix it. So, yes, there will be another draft coming this fall, and I’m very excited about this one. I think it might be the one!

Goal #2: Show the landscaping who was boss
EPIC FAIL

Just look at the picture. Let’s face it: I didn’t even try.

Goal #3: Outline and begin draft of The Caged Graves
SUCCESS

Okay, I didn’t write an outline. I jumped in and started writing this one by the seat of my pants with only a dim idea where I was going. I made a couple wrong turns along the way. There are loose ends from plot pathways I chose not to take — which now have to be cleaned up in revision. But I’ve drafted 57,000 words, and I’m about to gallop into the climax of the novel! Starting school will slow me down a bit, but I’ve got the end in sight now! I credit Tina and Heather and Marisa and The Practice Room for helping me get this far!

Goal #4: Revise my Revolutionary War piece to use in class
DUMB IDEA

This is clearly a work-related project, so why would I do it over my vacation?? Besides, once I got into The Caged Graves, I didn’t want to break my focus. Then it occurred to me that (watch this brilliant rationalization!) revising this piece during the school year — in fact, modeling those revisions in front of my class — was a much better idea. Agree with me here, folks. This makes sense.

Goal #5: Swim for exercise in my pool 5x a week
NOT TOO SHABBY

I laughed out loud when I wrote that one, because I knew I’d never do it. However, I made more progress on this goal than I did on #2. In the beginning of the summer, I really did swim 5x a week. I slacked off a little toward the end, but I made a pretty good effort.

Also over the summer, my blog membership topped 100!!! On Wednesday of this week, I’ll roll out my 100 Blog Followers Celebration Contest. Be prepared. There will be a test.

Did anybody else out there meet their goals or surprise themselves?


Last night, I was a guest at the Avon Grove Library for Teen Night. “Meet the Author” the signs said – which, I have to admit, made me feel kind of like a poser. I was worried that nobody would show up. I was worried that a ton of people would show up, (but they would think I was a poser.)

In fact, I ended up with a lovely little group of about ten teen readers, including:

·A friend of my daughter’s who was one of the first to buy We Hear the Dead when it hit the shelves

·A young lady who read High Spirits two years ago and is happy to see it re-published but would really like to see me publish a second book (a fan!)

·A former student who lived through much of the editing process with me

·An aspiring writer who is excited to see that dreams really can come true

I brought out everything I had – photographs of the principal characters, biographies, Elisha Kane’s own book, my Ouija board – but the most popular item was the one that I grabbed last minute on my way out of the house: a copy of the screenplay. The teens who had already read my book were fascinated to get a peek at this alternate version – to read scenes that they recognized in scripted form. And of course, that’s when it hit me: They’d read my book. I wasn’t “posing” as an author; I really was one.

I left the library walking six inches off the ground. I almost ran off the road driving home, and it’s a wonder I didn’t get pulled over for Driving Under the Influence of Euphoria.

I’ll finish up this post with reflections on my first week of summer vacation and unlimited writing time:

1. Floating aimlessly in the pool is the perfect way to brainstorm.

2. My skin hates sunlight, and SPF 50 is not strong enough.

3. Nothing will teach you to be more concise than trying to drive down the page count of a screenplay.

4. There are a lot of really fantastic blogs I’ve been missing while locked up behind school firewalls all day.

5. You know the blogging mentality has overrun your household when your 13 y.o. daughter’s Facebook update says: “Comment on my status and I will email you the prologue of my new WIP.” (Yes, she writes, too … and just as obsessively as I do.)


Summer vacation starts today. It’s been a l-o-n-g spring. I know that I posted (with some bravado) back at the beginning of June that I wasn’t going to “strike my colors” and give up teaching. But I’ve got to tell you – about a week after that, I was dying to surrender!

Yesterday, as soon as my sentence … ahem, school term was over, I rushed home and jumped in my pool. It took about an hour of drifting aimlessly around on a pool float, staring at the sky, just to turn my brain off.

But now it’s time to turn it back on, because I have a Summer To-Do List!

1. Write another draft of the screenplay. That’s right. Six drafts weren’t enough. My wonderful collaborator, Amy Green, outlined a few problems that beta readers picked up in the script. I’ve been cogitating on them for about 2 weeks; I think I have a solution, and I can’t wait to try it out.

2. Prevent succession from turning my flower beds into forest land. People often ask me how I manage to write while teaching full time. The answer is: I let the house fall to rack and ruin. But now, it’s becoming embarrassing.

3. Research, outline, and begin the first draft of a new WIP. I haven’t forgotten those creepy caged graves in the Pocono Mountains of PA, and when my preliminary research turned up the Wyoming Massacre just a hundred years earlier and not too far away – I set my sights on finding a way to tie the stories together.

4. Revise an old piece. A long time ago, I wrote a non-fiction piece about the Revolutionary War in Pennsylvania – queried it, came close to a bite, but eventually gave up and laid it aside. However, the PA Board of Education, in its infinite wisdom, has re-written our state history curriculum to reflect a totally Pennsylvania-centered version of history. We still study Native Americans, but only those in PA. We still study World Explorers, but only the ones who explored PA. We still study the Revolutionary War, but – you got it. Luckily, I have a perfect piece to present to the curriculum committee at my school, but I need to revise it for 5th grade. Maybe add the Wyoming Massacre.

5. Swim in the pool 5 days a week. I don’t mean drifting about on a pool float. I don’t mean soaking in the hot tub. And I don’t mean sitting by the pool with my laptop. I mean swimming for exercise. I’m hoping that stating this publicly will shame me into actually doing it.

6. Announce the winners of the Teen Celebrity and T-Shirt Contest on Monday!

What’s on your Summer To-Do List?