Bob Gillen

the magic of storytelling

Category: books (page 1 of 2)

Where I’m At Today

The 9/11 Anniversary

I’m writing today on the 18thanniversary of the 9/11 attacks. I moved out of New York in 1987. If I had still been there in 2001, my building was only two blocks from the towers.  I cannot imagine the confusion, the terror among the people in downtown Manhattan on that tragic day. Viewing it on TV from Los Angeles that day was frightening enough. May this never happen again. Here or anywhere else in the world.

The Woolsey Fire

In less than two months it will be a year since my family and I had to evacuate our home because the Woolsey wildfire was dangerously close. We got through it safely. Our home was fine. But we had to remain evacuated for four nights before we were able to return. Again, an anniversary I wish I did not have to acknowledge.

What I’m Reading

I finished This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger. A superb tale, well worth reading. Set in the summer of 1932, four young orphans escape from an oppressive institution and dodge their pursuers while having a series of adventures. The story offers hope in an otherwise bleak landscape. A message for today as well.

I am halfway through A Better Man by Louise Penny. One of my all-time favorite authors. She not only delivers a strong story with each book. Her writing style shines.

My New Book

I belong to a writing group on Facebook. The members have been helpful, supportive, encouraging. My book Off-Road is out to a few beta readers. I am currently working at building interest for the book among potential readers. It won’t be long now. Promise!

Using the Steadicam in Camera Work

In my new novel Off-Road teen Tessa Warren has a mentor in her filmmaking. Kelsey Graf was a friend and classmate of Tessa’s deceased brother Ryder. Together they made it through film school at NYU, and were about to start off on film careers when Ryder died in a tragic accident a few months after graduation.

Kelsey has promised to take Tessa under her wing in Ryder’s absence. Kelsey herself has been working in Los Angeles on several film shoots. Her primary function is PA (production assistant). She is also exploring learning to use the Steadicam rig in the hope of becoming a camera operator. Someone on set has been willing to mentor Kelsey. We’ll see down the road if she continues on this path.

The Steadicam rig can best be described as a camera stabilizer mount for motion picture cameras. The Steadicam was invented by Garrett Brown in 1975. The rig allows for an operator to maintain a smooth shot over all sorts of surfaces and terrain.

One of the most well-known Steadicam shots is a full five-minute continuous shot in the film Atonement, when the soldiers arrive at Dunkirk beach during an evacuation of Allied forces. The shot is a Steadicam operator’s dream. It requires physical strength, coordination, choreography, and much rehearsal.

I have been fortunate to interview two Steadicam operators in recent years for my filmmaking website. One was Will Demeritt. Here’s a link to the interview: https://www.thefilmmakerlifestyle.com/conversations-with-filmmakers/will-demerritt/

Steadicam operator Will Demeritt

A year later I interviewed Jessica Lopez. Here’s her link: https://www.thefilmmakerlifestyle.com/conversations-with-filmmakers/jessica-lopez/

Steadicam operator Jessica Lopez

The Red VW in “Off-Road”

Hey. How are you? It’s been another long gap in posting. Caregiving is falling into a routine now, and I’ve dealt with a minor health issue of my own. So…I’m back. My goal is to post weekly from here on out.

My new book, Off-Road, is ready for publication. I will be putting it up on Amazon Kindle next month. The story starts out with three teens – Tessa Warren, Eric Pyne, Lyndie Reed – the Film Crew. They’re filming an off-road race in the Mojave Desert. In September. Yup…blazing sun, heat, dirt, dust. And adventure. Lots of obstacles to them getting their film made. Some of them man-made.

Red VW desert racer from "Off-Road"
Red VW desert racer

A red VW beetle, modified for off-road racing, features in the race. It belongs to driver Jimmy Hassett, a friend of Eric Pyne’s father. Eric and Jimmy mount two GoPro action cameras on the VW to capture the race.

Interior of off-road VW racer

The VW racer features an interior reinforced with roll bars. A light bar across the roof – not needed in this particular race, which is a daytime event. Glass only in the front windshield. Spare tire mounted in the rear window shelf. Skid plates to protect the underbody.

My First Car

The red VW reminds me of my first car, a blue VW with a canvas sun roof. That was a fun car. I learned to drive stick on it. Along with one of my friends, I drove it from New York to Montreal on Christmas break one year. Parked it in Montreal the first night. It froze solid overnight. I had to have it towed and thawed out all day in a garage.

VW with canvas sunroof

My VW was a dream to maintain. Battery inside under the rear seat. I replaced a muffler. Put on new shocks. And me not a mechanic by any means. I still miss it.

Driving home from Montreal a few nights later, we drove south on the New York State Thruway. Lots of snow and slush. Huge trucks, most of them passing us. Cold. The heater barely worked. But the VW never quit.

I will alert you as soon as Off-Road is up on Amazon. And I would appreciate you sharing the info with others. Every mention helps. 

Thanks. See you next week.

Film Crew Shorts

Re-thinking the Story

Six months since my last post. Life has a way of throwing up obstacles as I plan my next book. Further illness in the family set me back for a while more. Things are getting better again, but it’s a slow process.

Last September I participated in an online writing course offered by the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa. What I valued most was the feedback from other course participants. It went deeper than “Nice job, Bob.” The comments were insightful, constructive, sometimes direction-changing. I learned much about my own writing, and came to appreciate how helpful criticism can be from other writers. 

The course made me re-think some of my story and my characters. I’m now busy re-writing parts of the book. It should be done later this month. The characters most affected are Tessa and Lyndie. I hope to deepen their friendship and the way they deal with the challenges they face.

New Book Cover

Here’s a preview of the book’s cover. Off-Road will be the first in a series I call “Film Crew Shorts.” Each book will be a short read. A fun adventure that I hope will spark enthusiasm for reading among young people. Inspiration for this model comes in part from author James Patterson’s BookShots series. Easy reads to spark interest in books.

New book cover for Off-Road, a Film Crew Short book.

Talk soon.

Creating a Community of Characters

creating a community of charactersOne of the joys of writing for me is creating a community of characters. Something like putting a band together. And I can thank several writers for teaching me how to do this. Author Elizabeth George, in her Write Away, recommends developing profiles on your characters before beginning to write your story. “Story is character and not just idea.” She says of character: “Give them flaws, allow them to doubt themselves about something, see to it that they grow and change, and make certain you are putting them into conflict.”

I thank teacher and writer Josh Adell for introducing me to The Art of Dramatic Writing by Lajos Egri. Says Egri, “Character is the fundamental material we are forced to work with, so we must know character as thoroughly as possible.”

creating a community of charactersBoth authors recommend writing about your characters for as long as it takes to know them intimately and deeply. For me, I now have about 60,000 words and over 100 pages on character profiles. They represent three or four different stories at this point, but may all meld into one series as I progress. Some characters loom large. Others are minor, with brief descriptions so far. But all of them are distinct, individual, interesting.

My most recent – Maddy Dela Riva. A high school junior, challenged by physical limitations, strong in her determination and courage,   maybe a bit cocky, yet insecure in moments of introspection. I look forward to working her into the Film Crew series I’m working on. Maddy came to me the other day, and within hours she was crying out to be part of the story. She has all but forced her way into the series.

More to come…

Off-Road: A Film Crew Adventure

Coming soon. I am close to finishing the last edit on the opening story in my Young Adult Film Crew series, titled: Off-Road: A Film Crew Adventure.

Off-road

Off-road

High school junior Tessa Warren and her friends Lyndie Reed and Eric Vargas set out to film the Cactus 100 off-road race in California’s Mojave Desert. They want to enter the documentary in local youth film festivals. But environmental protestors, out to shut down the race, target Tessa and her friends with a mis-directed hostility that endangers them and their project.

The stories will be short reads posted to Kindle and other websites.

Look for the Film Crew this spring.

 

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