Friday, February 28, 2014


Just when you thought it was safe to go back online, here they come again! Oh no! Oh yes! It's the Return of the Oscar Barbies, 2014 edition!

Regular readers of this blog will recall that I have this deranged habit of dressing up my vintage (and not so vintage) Barbie dolls as Academy Awards Best Actress nominees. It all began back in the Dark Ages when I couldn't resist draping a doll in some lush silk moire to represent one of Glenn Close's fabulous gowns in Dangerous Liaisons.

Now it seems I have a reputation to maintain; it follows me around like Jacob Marley's rattling chains, as voracious as Audrey the plant in Little Shop of Horrors. It must be fed!

And so here are this year's nominees (above):

Cate Blanchett in Blue Jasmine, Sandra Bullock in Gravity, and Jennifer Lawrence and Amy Adams in American Hustle.

The first thing you'll notice is, yes, there are only four of them. It turns out I only have one hair-appropriate doll who could "play" either Judi Dench in Philomena, or Meryl Streep in August: Osage County. (With Oscar Barbies, it's all about the hair!)

Unfortunately, Barbie doesn't have appropriate outfits for either of those characters, and since I found them so uninspiring (outfit-wise, anyway), I decided to pass on both of them and throw in Supporting Actress nominee Lawrence instead—who was way more fun to dress!

The rules—such as they are—are simple enough. I won't go out and buy any new doll clothes. (Although I have been known to prowl thrift shops and Goodwill stores for a cheap doll with the right hair!) I have to Frankenstein outfits together from whatever spare parts I have on hand.

It's okay to stitch up something by hand, but I don't have a sewing machine, so there's often a lot of Scotch tape and Yankee ingenuity involved!

Come Oscar time, it  looks like a Project Runway Unconventional Materials challenge around here.

Take this year's Gravity doll. Yup—tin foil. (No sewing required!) Although the footwear is regulation Barbie go-go boots from the '60s. The clear plastic face mask is some piece of packaging I scavenged from somewhere years ago, just because it seemed to be Barbie-size.

By rights, my Blue Jasmine doll should be wearing beige, always Woody Allen's go-to wardrobe color to symbolize repressed mental fragility. (Remember Geraldine Page in Interiors?) But these tailored Barbie pieces from the pre-Velcro era evoke the essence of Cate Blanchett's chic, disintegrating East Coaster, complete with wine glass, pearls, and a copy of The New Yorker. (Good props count for a lot in Oscar Barbie World.)

We're back to oddball material for Jennifer Lawrence in American Hustle—her gold lamé dress is made out of wired Christmas ribbon (although the white faux-fur stole is vintage Barbie). I don't have any clinging disco-era dresses with plunging necklines for Lawrence or co-star Adams, so I had to improvise!

I put Adams in a faux-leather suit (no blouse under the jacket, to get the correct cleavage). I also gave her con-artist character a clutch handbag dripping money, and added a bucket of champagne to symbolize the high life everyone was after in the movie.

Staying true to the spirit of the nominees—that's how we play this game in Oscar Barbie World!

(To visit the Spirits of Oscar Barbies Past, click here.)

Wednesday, February 26, 2014


Still room for surprises in this year's Oscar race

Don't look now, but it's time for the "O" word—and I do mean Oscars. The Academy Awards will be a little late this year, postponed to this Sunday, March 2, so as not to, er, compete with the Olympics, giving oddsmakers, Oscar party revelers, and other prognosticators a little extra time to try to predict the winners.

This isn't nearly as precarious, or as much fun, as it used to be. These days, by the time the Oscars roll around, the other showbiz organizations—Golden Globes, BAFTAs, the industry craft guilds, the Pampered Pooch Hollywood Dogwalkers Association (okay, I made up that last one)—have already handed out their awards, so there are already clear front-runners in several categories. Still, you can always count on the Academy for a few weirdsmobile selections, just to prove how unpredictable its voters are.

So while I take my annual stab at second-guessing Academy voters, and standing up for my personal faves, let's also spare a little ink for a few names overlooked in this year's balloting.

BEST PICTURE 12 Years A Slave Not only the most PC movie of the year, this uncompromising look at slavery in the pre-Civil War American South reminds us how deeply ingrained racism is in our culture. (For proof, how many people of color are represented in this year's four acting categories? Now, how many who are NOT nominated for12 Years A Slave?) The Academy spreads the love by nominating nine Best Picture contenders, but the only five that really count are those whose directors are also nominated. In addition to Slave, this year, they are Gravity (my favorite of the lot, and Slave's biggest rival), American Hustle, Nebraska, and The Wolf of Wall Street. Generally, Best Picture and Best Director go hand in hand, but not always: see below. Also-rans in this category are Captain Phillips, Her, Philomena, and Dallas Buyers Club.

BEST DIRECTOR Alfonso Cuarón, Gravity While the Academy wants to honor the message of Slave, Gravity is by far the more accomplished feat of moviemaking, not only in its propulsive plotting, but in sheer, gorgeous technique; it looks like it was filmed in space. It's thanks to the director's sure touch that we're sucked into the movie, not watching the effects. The Producers Guild split its award for best producer between front-runners Gravity and Slave. Oscar isn't likely to split its Best Picture award, but this might be the way to even things out. Runners-up are Steve McQueen (Slave), David O. Russell (American Hustle), Martin Scorsese (Wolf of Wall Street) and Alexander Payne (Nebraska).

BEST ACTOR Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club Oscar loves an actor who radically alters his appearance onscreen and/or plays someone with a terminal illness. But McConaughey is also terrific here as the AIDS patient and advocate literally fighting for his life. (Although I thought his best performance of the year was in Mud.) McConaughey has already won every other award on Planet Earth in this category, so there's no reason to suppose the Academy will buck the trend. Too bad for Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years A Slave), Christian Bale (American Hustle), Bruce Dern (Nebraska), and Leonardo Di Caprio (Wolf of Wall Street).

MIA: Tom Hanks, overlooked for his extraordinarily nuanced performance as the stoic captain of a freighter boarded by Somali pirates in Captain Phillips. And Robert Redford in All Is Lost; maybe not an Oscar-winning performance, but for sheer stamina and the presence to command the screen all by himself (not to mention all he's done for the movies), he should at least have been nominated.

BEST ACTRESS Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine Another one that seems to be in the bag, by virtue of all the pre-game awards she's already collected for this role. Blanchett is amazing here, as a brittle woman of privilege self-destructing before our eyes, although I also liked Judi Dench's tough-minded turn in Philomena, helping to make what seemed like a treacly premise into something vital and heartfelt. Amy Adams (American Hustle), Sandra Bullock (Gravity), and Meryl Streep (August: Osage County) don't quite make the cut. Overlooked was Emma Thompson, despite her deliciously prickly and caustic P. L. Travers in Saving Mr. Banks.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club For all the same reasons as Matthew McConaughey, above, plus, Leto wears a dress. (Hey, it worked for William Hurt in Kiss of the Spider Woman.)

Seriously, Leto is touching and tough in the role that has already earned him mucho awards. But I was also pretty knocked out by Barkhad Abdi, a non-actor recruited from a Somalian refugee community in Minneapolis for his chilling performance as the pirate leader in Captain Phillips. If not for the Leto factor, Michael Fassbender would be in contention for his psycho slaveowner in Slave. Jonah Hill (Wolf of Wall Street) and Bradley Cooper (American Hustle) round out the category.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS Lupita Nyong'o, 12 Years A Slave Who doesn't love Jennifer Lawrence, especially as the goofball bombshell she plays in American Hustle? She's edged out Nyong'o for most of the pre-Oscar awards in this category (but not all; Nyong'o won the SAG Award, whose members also vote for Oscars). But I'm betting this will be the Academy's best chance to put its politics where it's mouth is with an official nod to Nyong'o's fine performance as a brutalized, but enduring slave woman. I'd vote for her, if anybody asked me. June Squibb (bone-dry as the caustic mom in Nebraska), Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine), and Julia Roberts (August: Osage County) finish off the list.

MISCELLANEOUS I expect Spike Jonze to take Best Original Screenplay kudos for the high concept that was Her. The prize for Best Adapted Screenplay is most likely to go to John Ridley for 12 Years A Slave.

And it seems like Gravity has the inside track for Cinematography and Production Design, as well as Visual Effects awards, while The Great Gatsby should win for Best Costume.

And I'll be thrilled when my second-favorite movie of the year—20 Feet From Stardom—boogies off with the prize for Best Documentary Feature!

(The Academy Awards will be broadcast on ABC, Sunday, March 2, at 5 p.m.)

Thursday, February 20, 2014


We're ba-a-ack!

After a dithering-imposed hiatus last year (um, we forgot to book the venue), it's time once again for the annual Critic's Smackdown, where we ink-stained members of The Press duke it out over our favorite films of the previous year and offer our fearless and/or clueless predictions for this years Academy Award winners.

For many moons, Bruce Bratton, of KZSC and Bratton Online, Wallace Baine, of the Sentinel, and I commandeered the Nicklelodeon for this event. Regretfully, this year, Wallace has had to opt out; he's too busy covering every other arts and entertainment story in the county to see enough of the movies.

But Bruce and I will be joined by longtime local journalista Christina Waters, whose opinions on film and food appear in the Santa Cruz Weekly, and online at Christina

Also new this year, our act is booked into the Grand Auditorium, downstairs at the Del Mar. Showtime is this Sunday, February 23 (one week before the Oscars), at 11 am. And, yes, we WILL be in 3D, but no glasses required!
Our leader: Morton Marcus

This entire event began years ago as an outgrowth of Morton Marcus' bi-monthly Saturday morning film discussion groups at the Nick. Mort attracted such a large, loyal following of passionate local movie fans that one year, he invited Bruce, Wallace, and me to participate in one of his early January discussions to talk about our favorite films of the previous year.

Turned out the audience loved having not one, but four local critics in its collective sites with whom to spar over their most and least favorite movies of the year. Mort invited us all back in March, a week before the Academy Awards broadcast, to talk about all things Oscar, and a tradition was spawned.

Mort is no longer here to chime in with his colorful opinions and encyclopedic knowledge of film history. But we do our best to carry on without him on what is now our tenth anniversary.

And now that the Oscar show comes so much earlier in the year, my fellow filmies and I have downsized to a single yearly mash-up where we discuss our favorite films of the year AND the upcoming Oscar contest. Expect diverse opinions, but a clean fight; as Mort would say, no kicking, gouging or spitting.

But, hey, nobody wants to listen to the critics blather on and on. The success of this event depends on you, The Public, telling us your opinion of the films of 2013. This is an interactive event that depends on audience participation, and the Del Mar is huge, so bring your friends—it's free!

That's this Sunday, 11 am, at the Del Mar. This is your chance to let the critics know what YOU think!

Monday, February 17, 2014


Hey kids, how cool is this?

Special delivery tonight via UPS: a box of ARCs of the US edition of Alias Hook! (Coming soon from Thomas Dunne Books.)

They used to call these "galleys," back in the day, the uncorrected reading proof of the ms sent out to book reviewers to generate some word-of-mouth before the actual publication date. I used to read galleys all the time, back when I reviewed books for the SF Chron.

It's very exciting to see my name on one!

If you kind of squint, you can see a dark little kitty paw in the lower right hand corner. That would be Roma, the tortie cat. She and her sister, Bella, were very interested in this event. They couldn't wait for us to dump out all that junk so they could play with the box!

Let me know if you're a book critic or book blogger who would like to read Alias Hook. The more word-of-mouth (or blog) the better! If you're a normal person, the book is available for pre-order from  Bookshop Santa Cruz and Amazon.

Okay, time to go crack open the champagne!

Sunday, February 16, 2014


Full disclosure: okay, I've never read Mark Helprin's Winter's Tale, but I can't help but think there must have been more to the sprawling 700+ page magic-realism epic than meets the eye in the new movie version.

What was evidently a densely layered novel of lush prose and metaphysical pondering on destiny, good and evil, and the meaning of life, is reduced to a corny angels vs. demons scenario in screenwriter and first-time director Akiva Goldsman's unfortunate adaptation.

I actually bought the first half of the story, an unlikely but charming romance between Irish thief Peter Lake (Colin Farrell) and spunky consumptive heiress Beverly Penn (Jessica Brown Findlay) in turn-of-the-20th-Century New York City.

Mysterious flying white horse who appears out of nowhere to facilitate their romance? I'm there—let's get this party started!
Crowe: Don't get him angry.

But the fact that this horse mostly exists to save Peter's bacon time and again from ruthless, homicidal crime boss, Pearly Soames (Russell Crowe), was a bit of a let-down.

So was the fact that we know in about two minutes that Pearly is a testy supernatural demon with a short fuse. Where's the mystery in that? The awed, chilling sense of discovery?

I was also disappointed to see Crowe overacting with such scenery-chomping glee, but I suppose if you're playing a demon whose face splits open like a volcano when riled, there's no point in being subtle.

(Also, why exactly does Peter retain Farrell's Irish accent? Since he's an orphan raised on the streets of New York, shouldn't he sound like one of the Dead End Kids?)

Still, what I loved about this section of the story were Michael Kaplan's costumes—especially the exquisite period gowns! The 1910s were a great time for women's fashion; hoop skirts and bustles were out, lines were long and clean, close-fitting but not tight, women could breathe and move.

Feast your eyes on some of Beverly's outfits, sigh!

And the party sequence, with dozens of women in ball gowns? Holy Moly!

So it wasn't until the narrative jumped ahead 100 years into the present day that the whole looney-tunes affair fell apart for me. Nothing makes any sense, not even within the story's own fantastical/magic-realism context, and whatever might have given these scenes romantic or philosophical resonance (let alone narrative cohesion) in the book has been distilled out.

Peter has no memory of his previous life, but does that mean he hasn't racked up any other memories during the intervening century either?

Hasn't he ever wondered why he doesn't age? Is he like Drew Barrymore in 50 First Dates, waking up each morning with a clean slate, memory-wise?

If that's the case, how does it suddenly occur to him to revisit his old hideout, in the ceiling rafters above Grand Central Station after 100 years?

And speaking of weird aging tricks, one character is a child in the earlier story who becomes an elderly woman in the second half. Its a big moment when she recognizes Peter.
Act 2: Farrell perplexed. Who can blame him?

 When the book was published around 1983, this character would be, plausibly, about 80. But the filmmakers make no adjustment in the time frame for the extra years; with the modern story set specifically in 2014, this character would have to be 110 years old.

Sure, it's great to see Eva Marie Saint back onscreen in the role (she's a mere spring chicken of 90, in real life), but it's just one more detail that seems out of whack.

The devil (literally) is in these details. Whether or not you've read the book, a movie needs coherent storytelling to draw the viewer into its unique world.

For all its palaver (and twinkly CGI effects) devoted to the idea of human interaction, Winter's Tale fails to connect.

Sunday, February 9, 2014


It was 50 years ago today that the British conquered America. On February 9, 1964, the Beatles made the first of three consecutive appearances on the Ed Sullivan TV show. 

American kids still shell-shocked over the assassination of President Kennedy ten weeks earlier had something to cheer about.

We were delighted by the Beatles' infectious music and cheeky, irreverent sense of fun. Absolutely nothing fazed them: they had a wisecrack for every occasion, which made quite an impression on us gawky kids who were fazed by absolutely everything.
And let's not overlook the sheer adrenalin rush of being swept along on a groundswell of adolescent hysteria. Like everyone else in America, my family always watched Ed Sullivan, Topo Gigio notwithstanding, so it wasn't weird that I was propped up in front of the TV on that fateful night, secretly stuffing demented giggles back into my mouth as Paul bounced and laughed, John ("Sorry girls, he's married") flashed his Cheshire-cat grin, George did a silly impromptu dance step, and Ringo surveyed it all with Buster Keaton aplomb. It was all over for me.
Beatles booty, ca. 1964

 Or rather, it was all beginning.

Puberty hit like a tsunami when the Beatles took the stage that night. The yearning of those "Yeah! Yeah! Yeahs!" and the urgency of that high note in "I Want To Hold Your Hand" touched something primal and scary and irresistible in my 11-year-old bosom. People who don't understand why little girls scream for pop stars must be hormone-free robotic mutants.

My bedroom walls were soon papered in Beatle Centerfold Modern. I spent hours on the phone with my girlfriends Jeannine and Nora over every new Beatle song on the radio, let alone the supreme ecstasy of a Beatle appearance on TV. (In those prehistoric days before You Tube, we were completely at the mercy of network broadcasting.)

We memorized the Beatles' jokes, copied their clothes, and imitated their Liverpudlian slang. I joined the fan club, bought the bubble gum cards, and, not content with buying my own plastic Paul doll, I also sewed one of my own.

Beatle movies only stoked the flames. (I saw Help! 13 1/2 times during the summer of 1965.) But true Nirvana was achieved in August, 1966, two days after my 14th birthday, when we saw the Beatles live at Dodger Stadium.

Every other car on the freeway that Sunday afternoon, like ours, was full of blithering teenage girls, with a harried mom gritting her teeth at the wheel.

It wasn't like a modern supergroup concert with a lot of pyrotechnic effects, mountains of amps and giant screens. We paid top price—$6—for seats way up in the third tier overlooking home plate. The stage was out at second base; it was like watching the show from the moon. The four opening acts—the Remains, Bobby Hebb, the Cyrkle, and the Ronettes—paraded across the stage like ants.

Official Beatles concert program, 1966

But when the Beatles came onstage, it didn't matter. We already knew their songs and mannerisms well enough to piece together in out fevered imaginations what we couldn't actually see or hear (for all the screaming). It also didn't matter that even though Revolver had just hit the stores, their primitive touring equipment wouldn't allow them to play anything much more complicated than "Ticket To Ride."

We were in the same place, breathing the same air, sharing the same historical moment as John, Paul, George, and Ringo, and the ecstasy was indescribable.

As it turned out, that was the next-to-last concert the Beatles ever gave. (How I wish now I hadn't cut those wallet-size photos of Paul out of the official program!) The next day they flew to San Francisco to finish up the 1966 concert tour at the Cow Palace; the day after that, they gave up the road forever to concentrate on writing and recording.

I still can't watch those old Ed Sullivan appearances without feeling that same rush of exuberance. How often do you get a chance to re-experience your adolescent self? (And frankly, who would want to? I'd look pretty silly now in those go-go boots and painted-on Twiggy eyelashes.) But watching the Beatles transports me back to that moment in time when delirious possibilities beyond reckoning were opening up before me. It was more than the merry mop-tops calling to me. It was life.

Saturday, February 8, 2014


Hearts For the Arts at Artisan's Gallery
If you're in the market for some tasty, affordable art (and who isn't?), gather round. The best art deals in town are happening this week at two local venues. The annual Hearts for the Arts silent auction (a fundraiser for the Arts Council of Santa Cruz County) is in full swing at Artisan's Gallery.  And the affordable art show, Take Aways: Art To Go, continues for one more week at the Pajaro Valley Arts Council in Watsonville.

Here's a recap of the original Hearts for the Arts concept. It was a combination live/silent auction, wine and chocolate tasting, and schmooze-fest held on a massive scale at the Santa Cruz Civic right around Valentine's Day every year.

Nowadays, the spirit of the original Hearts event lives on at Artisan's. For several years now, owner/curator Linnea Holgers James has invited local artists to donate a 10"x10" work of art on the theme of hearts and/or love, which she displays grouped together on a back wall of the gallery like a quilt.  Bid sheets are available for anyone who wants to come in and place a bid on their favorite piece(s).
"Every Which Way," by James Aschbacher, at PVAC

Participating artists this year include Doug Ross, Isobel George, Sally Bookman, T Mike Walker, Isabelle Fearnsby, James Aschbacher, Brenda Mills Brannan, printmaker Liz Lyons Friedman, sculptor Peter Koronokos, and jewelry-maker Alena Byrnes, among many others.

Artisan's is open 10:30 am to 6:30 pm Sunday-Friday, and 10:30 am to 8:30 pm Saturday. Bidding on these items closes next Friday, February 14, with all proceeds to benefit ACSCC—which, in turn, supports the arts in Santa Cruz County.

Meanwhile, down at the PVAC, the month-long Art To Go show is heading into its final week. In this user-friendly exhibit, a staggering array of local artists—more than 50, at last count—offers smaller work at ridiculously reasonable prices.
From "Ancestors," by Chris Miroyan

Nothing in the show is over $300, and many pieces, including a lot of glass, ceramics, and jewelry, are priced under $100. Such a deal! Look for 2D art by Jane Gregorious, d. hooker, Marie Gabrielle, Sefla Joseph, Beth Shields, Roberta Lee Woods, the ubiquitous James Aschbacher, the mysterious bird-headed "Ancestors" series by Chris Miroyan, and so many more.

There's also glass art by Jim and Connie Grant and Penny Waller, sculpture from Jamie Abbott and Fanne Farnow, rustic, hand-shaped tea cups by Mike Beebe, book art by Donna and Peter Thomas, jewelry from Lynn Guenther—well, I could go on and on.

But, hey, don't listen to me—go check it out for yourself. Gallery hours are Wednesday-Sunday, 11 am to 4 pm. Closing reception will be on Sunday, February 16, 2 - 4 pm, and will also feature a drawing for donated art.

And even if you don't bid or buy, these shows give us all another chance to marvel at the abundance and variety of art produced right here in our burgh. Bask and enjoy!

Friday, February 7, 2014


Celebrate 50 years of Beatlemania with these fab films

Sunday marks the (ulp) 50th anniversary of The Beatles' first of three consecutive appearances on the Ed Sullivan TV show. The date was February 9, 1964, and nothing in music, society, or pop culture was ever the same again.

Only two and a half years later, The Beatles stopped touring in order to concentrate on writing and recording the music that was the defining soundtrack of the 1960s. And their influence continued to shape the culture, if no longer on stage, definitely over the airwaves and onscreen. The group made five official movies together as a band, not to mention various individual solo acting projects, vanity productions, and concert films.

The Beatles' infectious music and cheeky irreverence are as irresistible today as ever. To celebrate fifty years of the Fab Four in America, here are some of their best onscreen appearances to get you into that vintage Beatlemania vibe.

A HARD DAY'S NIGHT (1964) The first Beatles movie is a day-in-the-life adventure full of the knockabout slapstick and faster-than-a-speeding-bullet wisecracks that taught an entire generation how to be cool. It's also a radical comedy of class and youth as the upstart lads from the industrial north gleefully overrun fusty old rules and traditions. More than a great rock 'n' roll movie—and it's one of the best, especially since the soundtrack was digitally restored in 2000—it has only improved with age.

HELP! (1965) This lavish color musical comedy is a slapstick spoof on the James Bond spy film craze with a tribe of scimitar-wielding East Indian cultists pursuing the boys from London to the Swiss Alps to the Bahamas because Ringo is wearing the sacred sacrificial ring of the next chosen victim. But there's still plenty of time for music.

YELLOW SUBMARINE (1968) The Beatles lent their blessing to this opulent, psychedelic animated fairy tale with an opium-dream plot in which the band is whisked off to save the magical kingdom of Pepperland with their special brand of music and merriment.

LET IT BE (1970) Director Michael Lindsay-Hogg's doc on The Beatles' last recording sessions captures John, Paul, George, and Ringo on the verge of splitting up, yet they still create some indelible musical moments.

THE CONCERT FOR BANGLADESH (1972) Years before Band-Aid and Live-Aid, George Harrison organized and headlined this first all-star charity rock concert, which features Ringo Starr, Eric Clapton, Leon Russell, Billy Preston, and, oh yeah, Bob Dylan.

GIVE MY REGARDS TO BROAD STREET (1984) Paul McCartney returns to the day-in-the-life format in this musical confection. Despite a feeble plot, it has a terrific soundtrack of 14 McCartney songs. Released exactly two decades after A Hard Day's Night, it offers a sharp commentary on his 20 years in the pop culture mainstream. (Read complete article in this week's Good Times)

Wednesday, February 5, 2014


Ladies and Gentlemen, may I have a drum roll please?

Presenting—the brand new cover for the US edition of Alias Hook!

Pretty cool, huh?

If you've been following my cover design saga, this is the ultimate reveal. The folks at Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin's Press have come up with this very graphic and mysterious original art concept to grace the hardcover edition due out July 8, 2014.

I'm so relieved it's not just a photograph of a model in period costume. Or worse yet, a headless bodice! (Eek!) This cover should stand out on a crowded bookshelf.

I like the subtlety of those male and female silhouettes. (That's a thicket of roses surrounding them, btw, a concept that looms large in the story.) I love the ship in the center and, of course, the second star on the right! And I couldn't be more thrilled that Laurie King's generous pull quote is featured front and center. (Thanks, Laurie!)

What's the deal with Captain Hook, anyway? Here's a little background on my novel,  and here's a history of the character in the 106 years since he made his debut on the London stage.

Alias Hook is available for pre-order, nationally, on Amazon, and locally from Bookshop Santa Cruz. It also has its own page on Indie Bound to match up readers with an independent bookseller near you.

And speaking of Bookshop Santa Cruz, I'll be there, reading from and signing copies of Alias Hook on Thursday, July 17, 7:30 pm. Get in line now! (Okay, just kidding, but I hope to see you there!)

Tuesday, February 4, 2014


We did it!

Shakespeare will Play On in Santa Cruz for another season.

Theatre lovers across the Bay Area and beyond will be thrilled to know that three months of community crowd-funding to keep the spirit of Shakespeare Santa Cruz alive and on the boards for another year has paid off.

Thanks to a plucky assemblage of donors, supporters, cheerleaders, playgoers, and angels of every description, the company formerly known as SSC (and currently operating as Shakespeare Play On) will mount a two-play 2014 summer season. Former SSC Artistic Director Marco Barricelli and beloved actor Mike Ryan will take the reins as Co-Artistic Directors.

Seeking to raise some $800,000 in advance to fund a new season as a nonprofit organization, independent of UCSC, SPO reportedly tallied up closer to $1 million in donations from community supporters like you.

And how will that money be spent? Even now Ryan and Barricelli are hiring actors, directors, designers, and all the other backstage personnel involved in making a successful season. Negotiations are underway as we speak to secure the Sinsheimer-Stanley Festival Glen for the new season, scheduled to begin over the Fourth of July weekend. Details about the season, including the designated plays, will be revealed in March.

But for now, a round of applause (or better yet, champagne!) for everyone involved in making this happen—from Sir Patrick Stewart and the rest of the SPO Advisory Board, and the Arts Council of Santa Cruz County, fiscal sponsor of SPO, to you, the community, for keeping Shakespeare alive in Santa Cruz.

Congratulations to all—you made it so!

(Above: The Three Musketeers, SSC 2011 season)