Phil Conserva, International Man of Mystery by Dale Wiley

I met Phil Conserva in the middle of 2007, on the rooftop of a hotel in Los Angeles. He was a TV producer and passionate for biodiesel, and we became fast friends, working on projects together. We had many adventures over the next couple of years, but there was one afternoon in particular that stands out.

I had known Phil for a few months, and we were at a club in Hollywood, middle of the afternoon. Phil was filming an episode of CSi. I was watching the whole process with awe. There was a veteran TV director running the show. At this point, Phil had been involved in the show for years, but still hadn't directed. As we stood there, with Phil standing behind my right ear, Phil proceeded to tell me what should have been going on, what this director should have been doing. Phil's comments were incisive and interesting, and I couldn't help but thinking that HE should be directing the episode instead. 

Directing eventually started happening, but after I didn't see Phil as much. Phil, who is just pretty much the coolest guy in the world, always encouraged me to write, and always bonded with me over being a reader in his Hollywood world overrun with people who could read, but didn't. As time went on, he got more into his partnership with another CSI producer and director Louis Milito, who is directing a different show almost every week. Louis, Phil told me, was another reader, a word that Phil held in high esteem. "We're all English majors in a world of business majors," he would say, always bemoaning that. "This business is about story, or should be."

Phil encouraged me to write, which I did anyway, but especially as I wrote Sabotage, I could just see Phil being involved. When The Intern was out and Sabotage was coming, I called Phil and told him all about it. 

A few months later, I started telling him about a TV idea that I had, my gritty urban drama, as I liked to call it. I knew I was coming out to LA in March of 2016, and I started sending him the materials I was beginning to write with the encouragement of my agent, Italia Gandolfo. Italia's super cool old school right hand in Hollywood called it my "Heathen" project, and Phil kidded me that he had to take two showers and several medications after reading it for the first time. But they liked it. When a mistake sent it to the desk of one of the top Showtime executives (who is rumored to never like anything) and miraculously he said he LOVED it, I started thinking there might be something to this.

From that first night of meeting Phil at the Hollywood Roosevelt always-cool pool area, to a year and a half of fever dreams and delving ever-deeper into the lives and stories of these people, after a lengthy and revelatory meeting with Louis and Phil in Burbank on Monday night, we have set the stage for a week of pitches to happen in the next few weeks. You can't ever count on anything, but this show has developed from a good, strong idea into a character-driven serial with five seasons of story lines, short stories and podcasts as well as story bibles and scripts, an idea that hasn't really been seen on TV in this way. I think it has a good chance of making the jump. 

I'm going to write some about the process here, and I hope it will be interesting. Can't talk about the story itself just yet, but I hope this is enough to wet your whistle. 

More to come ...

 

The Margaret Baker Manifesto by Dale Wiley

There was a movie my mom took me to see when I was a kid. It was called the North Avenue Irregulars and it starred Cloris Leachman and Ruth Buzzi and the Skipper from Gilligan's Island and I don't remember if it was good or bad, but everyone enjoyed it, and I still remember the station wagons and the setting, even to the day.

My mom took me to see it, because that's what she liked. The RescuersEscape from Witch Mountain, the occasional showing of the Dean Jones and Kurt Russell 60s Disney flicks. They were fun and fluffy and didn't offend anyone.

When I started writing, my mom very much tried to bring her sensibilities to my writing, offering lots of hand-wringing when anything went into four-letter words and (other even more scandalous material that needs to be whispered.) When I wrote my second novel Sabotage, which still has to be whispered about around her, there was a part of me that felt really bad handing mom a copy, knowing how she has always been.

Well, mom, to maybe help you feel better, there is a part of me that cringes when those words are used, even in my stories, even for good reason. I genuinely hate it when movies add crude humor to get a PG instead of a G rating, and I genuinely believe that we are not better for the drool that gets dumped on kids today. At least the North Avenue Irregulars was clean drool.

So after writing Sabotage, I quietly started working on a character based on my mom, Margaret Baker. Margaret gets into all kinds of situations and winds up sometimes needing help to get out of them, but the stories are told in a way where they are clean and funny and I can show every one of them to my mom without fear of pursed lips or the high voice, which comes out when she's annoyed.

There will be a Margaret Baker story or novel installment once a month, and they are suitable for people agest 9-90. I think they're quite funny and fun, but they're quite family friendly.

The first collection, The Margaret Baker Stories, comes out on April 14 if you want to buy them via e-reader ($2.99) and are available now if you want a booklet mailed to you with actual printed words. Because of the cost of printing and mailing, those are $5.

This is your chance to encourage a project that can be shared with people of all ages, but is still worth reading. I want to take these to nursing homes and places where the written word is still treasured and enjoyed, but the normal topics might be a little to "extreme".

Margaret, as we enter her life, is learning how to deal with all of the technological advances of this new millienium while holding on to the life she loves. She's dealing with changes in church, changes in culture, and trying not to lose herself. I have a very funny story that I've started writing for the first Margaret Baker novel, Margaret Baker Goes to New York, which will work a few elements of social commentary (but it won't be extreme, as Margaret would say with emphatic hand gestures), but first we've got to set the stage for who she is as a character, and how out of step that can seem to be in a Kardashian world. 

Please pass this along to anyone who might enjoy reading, either by the print book (order here), or as an e-book, available at:

Amazon

Apple

Barnes and Noble

Kobo

Here is Margaret Baker herself talking about the books:

Sign up on the contact page of this website if you want more updates.

Re-Entering "The World" by Dale Wiley

I've alluded to my continuing, intentional project of reconsidering the drawbacks of the virtual world over the past several months. It started when I realized not only how much technology was affecting my life, but when I saw the many effects in the lives of the people's lives around me.

As much as we want to blame everything on the kids, technology over the last decade has changed adults every bit as much. In fact, on the occasions where I've tried to put a moratorium on electronic devices, I've learned that I need to check mine (for business I say!) every bit, if not more, than my kids.

Several years ago, before I became more intentional about it, I realized that email had creeped into my bed. I realized I wasn't setting boundaries about my work email use, and eventually, I could feel myself having it enter the most precious domain, that of time with my children. I guess that's really where this reclaiming started, and it started by me setting time that I would not be available for work email. Clients didn't like it at first, but eventually I reclaimed that. It is much easier to maintain that time now, and I feel like not having to respond at every moment has been a worthwhile change in my life.

Now, it factors in this trip because on one hand I want to see how the book is doing, but on the other hand, I want to interact with friends and family, some of whom I haven't seen for many years. Invariably, we all tsk tsk the younger generation. Invariably we pick up our cell phones as soon as the slightest disagreement relates or we need to Shazam a song.

To me, our constant Facebook rudeness is related to the ability to say things that would never be said face to face and constantly be right. You can choose to engage with people with whom you disagree and go through life believing your positions are always right.

This trip has reminded me of taking trips without GPS. People not knowing where you are. Having conversations not interrupted by another person: They can wait. You're with this friend now.

Walking through the ancient streets of Savannah, sitting in exacting drawing rooms that builders today couldn't conceive of constructing, seeing the permanence and brilliance of what we once created, I feel stuck at a crossroads: are we trading too much for the constant crave for instancy? Are we sacrificing beauty and sanity for the unending need for now?

As we see people protesting an order that many of them haven't read, as we watch leaders sign documents they likely haven't read, I ask about the price of the state of the world. Have fear and anxiety overrun us? Would we get peace in return, or have we just lost touch with our ability to deal with anyone else?

I don't have the answers, but these are questions that beg our attention. If we can't explain what we've sacrificed and why, that's when I will know our loss is bigger than we can explain.

The time i might just have won an nba game by Dale Wiley

I was featured yesterday on Mid-Morning Live, a Savannah morning show on Channel WTOC. It is one of several TV appearances, all of which have been very well-done by the hosts, and well-produced. The people at Meryl Moss Media have done a great job in setting these up and it seems like they have been well-received.

In an odd way, though, this one was my favorite. I got to take my cousin Terrie (who has a character named after her in the book) and we were having a good old time. The running order was a dog, an insurance commissioner, a pipe organ restoration story (which was actually very cool) and then me. I was glad I didn't have to follow the dog.

When it came my time, I had an interesting experience. I'm sitting there, on the set, and I read the teleprompter that the wonderful host Jodi Chapin was given. And before the words are even uttered, i can see it:

It's written on screen for her to call me Dave.

When you're named Dale, it's pretty well established on the day of your birth, by the naming gods, that you are going to spend a noticeable portion of your life being called Dan or Dave. Not huge, but it happens. But when you're on TV, that's not the time. 

I thought about whether to correct her or not, but I decided I would gently steer her back and I did. She was a pro about the whole thing, and I've had it happen so many times it doesn't bother me.

Only one time is worth mentioning.

In late 1994, I was moving from Washington, D.C. I had lived there for several months, and unfortunately Donald Fehr and the MLB Player's Union couldn't make a deal with the owners, so there had been no baseball during my time in town other than visiting the Frederick Keys minor league team. It was fall sports season, and before I left, I was going to make sure I went to a Washington Bullets game. Yes kids, it was that long ago that their name was The Bullets.

I went by myself, and I was sitting on the aisle. An usher came up to me, and he said, or I thought he said, "Would you like to shoot for Bullets tickets?" 

I was oddly non-plussed. Maybe I wish I had been plussed, but I was non-plussed. But after a moment, I told him I would do it. He told me he'd come back to me and get me in order to shoot between the third and forth quarters of the game.

As the game went on, since I was leaving town soon, I was wondering whom I could give the tickets to if I won. I thought of friends and of my cousin Tom who frequently came to DC for work. I don't know what made me so confident, but it was a fun idea to kick around.

The 1994 season was the year when the NBA moved the three-point line in, to where it was basically a few inches behind the old college and high school three-point line to help increase scoring. I thought back to all the years in the high school gym, casting up three pointers as a part of gym class. I thought about how I would shoot it. NBA games are long. I had time for all these thoughts.

I didn't remember it was opening night, but it was. The Internet helped me with that. November 4, 1994. The Bullets played the Orlando Magic, who would go on to appear in the NBA Finals that year. They had Shaquille O'Neal and a rookie named Anfernee Hardaway and they were a forced to be reckoned with.

But so was I.

The usher came and got me as the third quarter was winding down. I got to go right behind the bench during a timeout shortly before the end of the quarter, and I just remember the immense size of Shaq. I walked right behind him. In my mind, he looked very much like an Old Testament giant, like Goliath. He didn't look human he was so large.

I walked to the end of the floor, and I shook the hand of the woman who would be shooting as well. The usher handed me a baseball cap and a shirt. They both said Boston Chicken. Hunh?

Turns out I had mis-heard, or maybe had misremembered, like Roger Clemens would say. I was not shooting for Bullets tickets. I was shooting for Boston Chicken for the whole crowd. 

The key to the whole story came next. The woman shot first. And shot badly.

She went to the three-point line and shot a granny shot (do you capitalize Granny Shot? If you do I'm sorry) and it never got above her head. The crowd booed her like a stinky dog, and all the pressure for me to be good melted away. 

I stepped up to the line, and for one of the few times in my life, I turned my hat around backwards before I shot. The PA announcer said, "And now to shoot, Dave Wiley." I didn't have time to correct him. I was in my zone.

if the NBA rules committee hadn't moved the three-point line up.

If the woman's shot had been better and not left me feeling no pressure.

If maybe I had remembered that I was not a very good basketball player at all.

But all of those things happened just right, and between the third and fourth quarters of opening day between a bad team and a very good team, when I think the Bullets were expectedly down, I launched the ball from the new three-point line and with the whole crowd watching, I sunk that shot, shooting in a modified Larry Bird style, wearing the hat backwards so I wouldn't hit the bill. Nothing but net.

The crowd went wild! I had cost Boston Chicken money! Everyone? Lunch tomorrow is on me! It was like an Oprah thing: You get lunch! You get lunch! 

The PA announcer was positively giddy as he screamed "Dave Wiley! Dave Wiley! Give it up for Dave!"

And the rest is history. Somewhere I'm sure, there is video of the event. I saved the chicken coupon and still have it. The Bullets, a team that lost three out of four games they played that year, whose highest-paid player was KEVIN DUCKWORTH, whom I had seen play many times in college (thanks Internet!), came back from that deficit and WON THE GAME against a really great team. I walked up the aisles to the roar of the crowd, getting high fives as I went.

(I need to take a moment and say if the tiny-headed Kevin Duckworth was ever going to be the highest-paid player on your team, you deserve to lose that much and you have a really bad general manager. Just needed to vent.)

Dave Wiley is one for one in shooting at NBA arenas. Dave Wiley won a full house some food, and contributed to a short-lived hunger respite that is rarely talked about. I'm pretty sure that the energy from the crowd is completely and utterly responsible for the fourth-quarter comeback, and that I saved the Bullets from another ignominious loss, that I kept them from being 20-62.

Give it up for Dave, ladies and gentlemen.

Give it up for Dave.

All the Fun You Can Have at a Shoney's by Dale Wiley

Yesterday, as I crossed the mountains and headed down to Chattanooga, I was deciding where to get some lunch, I looked at highly rated lunch places. Nothing caught my eye. Then, like a beacon, I saw a sign of an old friend, one that doesn't exist where I'm from anymore, Shoney's.

Shoney's, I thought reminded me way more about road trips that I've taken than any restaurant speaking in reduction sauces and making you drink crap out of a mason jar while reminding you of how very hip they are. We have beards! We speak German! We are so earthy that we drink out of mason jars!

So I pulled in, thinking of everything from my mom and sister and eating at the Shoney's across from Graceland to college trips when the restaurant boom was only beginning.

I sat down by myself, and saw two people take seats across from me. I heard a foreign accent, and, as usual, was unafraid to speak up.

I found out they were Malin and Magnus, and they were from a Swedish TV show, which in its first season was called United States of Cakes, hosted by Roy Fares, who has quite a sweet tooth and great ideas. We talked about my kids and especially Mary, who has been interested in food TV since she was a baby. Malin marched out and gave me a gorgeous dessert coffee table book, in Swedish. I didn't think I'd be bringing a Swedish coffee table book about desserts home, but in fact, I am.

They were delightful people, and in the middle of our long and interesting discussion, as typically happens on these trips, of course the manager of the Shoney's was a contestant on the voice and chose to take that moment to belt out some 90s R&B. No Shoney's trip is complete without that! 

His name was Malcolm X. Jones, and he was talented. The vibrant Malin took pictures and gave plenty of encouragement. She was most delightful and I can't imagine having that much fun at, say, a Denny's. 

And then I got to follow it up with a famous Shoney's hot fudge cake. It was so much better than reduction sauces and Mason Jars.

Chicken and Dumplings by Dale Wiley

Day Two of the book tour went well. It was filled with two radio interviews, a book signing, and then more driving.

And it contained one of those interactions that when it happened, I knew this was going to be an epic road trip for the ages.

I was sitting in the lobby of a radio station where my interview was. I did more than one interview, so you will have to guess. The details and one joke have been changed to protect the innocent.

I sat down and waited to go in. It was me and a receptionist. She asked if I wanted water I told her I did. There wasn't much else to say, far as I could see. But I was wrong.

Our of the blue, very much like a moment from an early Twin Peaks episode, the woman popped up and started filling me in on a chicken and dumplings recipe. I wish I could remember more of the specifics, but I was in "talk about the book" mode, and was utterly prepared to take mental notes about a recipe. Something something noodles and you'd never guess those would be good and what about turning biscuits into donuts (NB: is that some sort of alchemy? Is that possible? I am unaware of this and I've led a pretty full life!). I nodded appropriately. I am a good appropriate nodder. But I was surprised at the quick turn that conversation took.

Now you probably think that's the end of the chicken and dumplings story. You're wrong.

We were moments away from my going into the studio, both gazing at our shoes, when she pipes up with, "you know, I always loved my aunt's chicken and dumplings recipe, but when she gave it to me, it never tasted good."Maybe she wasn't as good a cook as her aunt? Who knows. I guess I was more mentally prepared the second time around, but I was going to ride the chicken and dumplings train back to the station. But surprisingly, she wanted to talk smack on her aunt.She threw some serious shade: "I don't think she included all the ingredients. People will do that, you know."

And people, I have to tell you I am ashamed. There I was, with my positive mindset and my never having met this woman's aunt in my life (but imagining her with a bowl cut since that's what the receptionist had), I piled on! I don't know why, but I did! "People are crazy," I said, continuing with the appropriate nodding. "I know that happens."

I guess I know that probably happens, or has happened, but I couldn't swear to it under oath. Not from personal experience anyway. I have asked for very few recipes in my life, and to my knowledge, they have all been complete and delish. But in my strange fascination at what might be said next about chicken and dumplings, I just threw the old bowl-coiffed aunt under the bus and called her an ingredient withholder.

At this point, I really wanted to know where this might go, but the door opened and I was ushered in to the interview.

There are more things that happened on this trip, but the chicken and dumplings couldn't wait. I'm in Murfreesboro headed south. I'll talk atcha later.

I'm Sorry In Advance by Dale Wiley

Had a great day yesterday, with a booksigning on the extreme north side of Kansas City, surrounded by relatives, friends and a very nice staff. After a nice dinner, I drove on to St. Louis, listening to the St. Louis Blues break out of their slump, finishing up a Ross McDonald novel and listening to a couple of podcasts. I made it into town in time to fall into a slumber.

Woke up this morning and was interviewed by Diane Jones, a nice St. Louis radio host, and now I am waiting to do a couple of errands before heading to my next event.

I am going to apologize right now for the nature of a book release, for putting my face on so many posts, and for constantly reminding you of what you may or may not want to be reminded of. And I'm sorry for ending a sentence with a preposition.

But as I go forth trying to create some momentum (and from the early Amazon numbers, it looks like it's kind of working), but promoting something new is a daunting task, even when you've got a great team around you. My constant mantra when I'm doing this is, Remember Slewfoot, which means I knew how happy a band could make me when they were willing to be pirates and go make any and all appearances and gigs to promote their music. Most of my bands were less pirates and more petunias, planted and willing only for their nourishment to come to them.

Well, for the next few weeks, I am apologizing for being a pirate. I am a Crane Pirate after all. So despite my discomfort, I will keep posting and pointing out. It's not ideal, but it seems to be working, and just buy the book and have all your friends and enemies buy the book and I promise I'll stop. As soon as the book comes out in Swahili.

More tomorrow. 

Release Day and Tour Start! by Dale Wiley

I woke up today with my book on sale and an event to do this afternoon.

This past week has been wonderful, with events kind of leading up to release day, but now, it's on.

I had an interesting conversation with my old friend and teacher Rita DeWitt, and after hearing some heart-warming things about the articles I used to write for the Crane Chronicle newspaper years ago, I've decided that I'm going to do a "modern day" version of that. I used to "chronicle" my trips, whether to Georgia or Europe, and I wrote long articles that were irreverent and different and that word that gets lost in modern life, detailed.

I wrote about everything. I put it all down. For the next week, when I have taken off from law work and am concentrating on driving to Georgia and building some buzz behind this book, I'm going to try to revisit that age, before all of our time was all dominated by arguing on Facebook.

Today, I have three main objectives: TV interview at 10, book signing at 4, and then drive to St. Louis. Not a bad day. I'll check in with law clients and make sure everything is cleared for take-off, which is nice, but then I'll start this journey and see where it takes me. I'm very happy to know that my cousin Terrie, one of the inspirations for Southern Gothic, will be joining me for several days, and hopefully other friends along the way.

This post is partly an exercise to begin to reconnect with something that I feel I am losing and we are losing: Over the past several months especially, I have begun to realize how technology and fear and the pace of modern-day life is really messing with us, causing us to lose perspective on who we are and maybe just as importantly who we were. We have created a society in which everyone just yells. They yell at people they know won't listen, and, increasingly, they yell in an increasingly loud manner, caring neither about the effects on their voice or the listener's ears. I see it on both sides, "left" and "right", and it has bummed me out greatly. It's like we need "human" lessons. Isn't that sad?

So I'm working on my part: Things you shouldn't have to tell a feller, keep your phone in your pocket when you're talking to someone, keep your tone and your content civil, and just try to remember why you love this odd assortment of people you've collected. 

This journal, in addition to promoting this book and this trip, is an attempt to do that.

So, in sum, let's be human and let's buy my book, not necessarily in that order.

In case you want to come to my event today, it's at the Zona Rosa Barnes and Noble in Kansas City, January 24 from 4-6.

If that would potentially cause a rift in the space-time continuum, you can do any of the following:

1) Buy it at southerngothicbooks.com

2) Buy a hardcover from Amazon

3) Buy it from an indie bookstore like Avid Bookshop and E. Shaver, both of whom are nice enough to welcome me into their stores.

4) Buy an ebook. All links are contained here

Have fun, and as I always used to close these articles,

Peace, Love and Granola,

Dale