Writespiration: “Oh Mama” by Run the Jewels

I’ve fallen head-over-high-heels for Pru, my newest protagonist with complicated identity issues. Is she a public relations agent? A superhero, now that she’s had to take over for her deceased boss? Really, she just wants to figure out who she is, rather than continue to try to be who everyone around her has always told her she is, but that could be difficult with an overbearing mother intent on seeing her daughter grow up to be her.

That’s why hearing Run the Jewels’ “Oh Mama” — albeit behind a montage of “Rick and Morty” clips — inspired a new scene of Pru slapping on her late client’s vigilante gear while still fuming over an argument she’s just had with her mother.


Writespiration: The 1950s Hostess Coat

When I was a kid, my aunt sent me a collection of 1920s and 1950s fashion paper dolls. Instead of cutting them out and playing with them, I kept the books in tact so I could look through the fashions and fantasize about one day getting to bring back some of the styles. I hadn’t quite reached my current moto-leggings-and-heeled-combat-boots phase of my adult style sense yet, so a taffeta evening gown seemed perfectly on-brand for 9-year-old me.


One of the styles in the 1950s book was one I recognized from movies like “Auntie Mame” and shows like “I Love Lucy” and “Dick van Dyke” — a hostess coat over cigarette pants. It always looked so sophisticated and elegant, and yet in those two shows, it only seemed like women wore them around the house.

Rosalind Russell in "Auntie Mame," 1958

Rosalind Russell in “Auntie Mame,” 1958


Mary Tyler Moore in hostess coat, Dick Van Dyke Show

Mary Tyler Moore in “The Dick van Dyke Show,” 1961-1966

In working on “Nobody’s Hero,” I realized Pru is going to have to go from wearing a ballgown at a gala to sporting her vigilante armor. While the blue evening gown in Wonder Woman allowed for Diana to walk around with a sword sheathed down her back, it’s mostly Hollywood Magic that makes it possible for her to suddenly appear in her sleeveless, short-skirted armor.

Well, Pru’s armor isn’t exactly like that. Think Catwoman meets actual functionality. Again — I’m in a moto-legging phase these days.

And here’s where those paper doll books, old TV and movies, and my writing come together. Instead of the forest green evening gown I originally planned for Pru to don, the long sleeves concealing bruises and cuts she’s gotten from her nights out (I’ve also been watching “Sharp Objects” recently), she’s going to go avant-garde with her armored leggings acting as the base of a long coat-dress.

Oh, I can’t wait to write the scene where she finds her 6-foot-5 techie hunched over her high-tech pants with a bedazzler to make sure she’s up to couture code.

Writespiration: “Escalate” by Tsar B


I’ve seen a woman belly dance while balancing a sword on her head and this song plays over the speakers. I’ve done yoga with this playing overhead in the studio. And I’ve now written a subtle nightclub chase scene while this song no doubt can be heard by my very annoyed neighbors who, by this point, probably have resigned themselves to living next to a creative.

Vignette: “McCabe and Mrs. Miller”

They killed him because he defended his wife from their slander.

They beat his skull in and threw him in the snow because he spoke up when one of them said his wife, Shelley Duvall, worked for the local brothel run by Julie Christie and Warren Beatty. And that scene just got to her. The rest of “McCabe and Mrs. Miller” was weak as far as Westerns, New Cinema era films, Warren Beatty projects and movies about prostitutes go, but that scene? What an indictment of modern man. Modern men.

Watching a man’s brain turned to pulp because he dared to speak out against liars wouldn’t have had as much an effect on her if she hadn’t spent the previous day watching a woman’s brain be probed, questioned and discounted because she dared to speak out against a liar. Meanwhile, the accused’s friends allowed him a platform where he could cry, yell, wrongfully define the law, and contend that the system is rigged against him, when all he’s ever done in his life is take advantage of a system built by men who look like him, for men who look like him.

No wonder the back of her neck tingled with rage as he brought up his daughters praying for “the woman” — not even “the Doctor,” yes, “Doctor Blasey Ford.” He couldn’t even grant her the humanity that a name and title afford, even though she was forced to speak his name again and again throughout her testimony.

Suddenly that movie from 1971 seemed to predict 1991, which reappeared in 2018 and would, inevitably, end the same way. Anyone who dares speak in defense of a woman against vicious lies gets left in the snow to die, and the animals that laid him to waste get to walk free.

Writespiration: Sleigh Bells at The Metro

Late last year I started a project working-titled Sparklers that crosses post-apocalyptic dystopia with teenage angst. Think Mad Max: Fury Road meets Mean Girls.

I’m still shocked no one has thought of this yet. If you know about something like it out there, let me know in the comments.

Anyway, projects I work on always have a musical element behind them. Most of the time, it’s a set of movie and TV scores — Omaha was written to selections from Westworld, Man of Steel, Penny Dreadful and Interstellar, for example. Currently I’m penning Nobody’s Hero to a mix of A Tribe Called Quest and the Legion series soundtrack (as well as The Heavy’s song, “Nobody’s Hero,” of course).

But Sparklers is the first project I’ve worked on to only one artist: noise-pop powerhouse Sleigh Bells. The attitude and volume of their music fits the demolition diva derby vibe I’m going for with the characters and environment, so they provide perfect audio inspiration.

But then I saw them live.

I’m a concert-going animal, but I usually stay out of the fray. Thanks to getting to Chicago’s Metro early, we had third-row standing spots for the show, which quickly became third- to first-row moshing spots, as the crowd never stood still. (I did capture this video of “Rainmaker.” And this one of “Blue Trash Mattress Fire.”)

Like I said, I usually refrain from getting too up-close-and-personal because I enjoy listening and watching bands more than participating in hand-to-hand combat with those around me. But this show was different, in that the sweat, screams and jumps fit perfectly into the mania of the world that Sleigh Bells’ music has helped me begin to create. You better believe that when the end of the world comes and the majority of survivors are teenage girls, there will be raves like these.

There will be neck-breaking headbanging to “Infinity Guitars.”

There will be group-hug swaying to “Rill Rill.”

And “Rule Number One” will be that pop rocks and coke make your head explode.

Alexis Krauss, lead singer of Sleigh Bells, gets down with the audience at Chicago's Metro on Aug. 17, 2018.

Alexis Krauss, lead singer of Sleigh Bells, gets down with the audience at Chicago’s Metro on Aug. 17, 2018.

Vignette: A literary name

“Margo Hendrix isn’t my real name,” she says, like it’s a big secret.

No, shit.

“It’s just that Anna Schamvich isn’t a very literary name.”

Now she’s got me — I have to do everything in my power not to snort into my coffee. Her name sounds like a mispronunciation of “ham sandwich,” which is absolutely hilarious.

Clearly Margo-nee-Anna doesn’t find it as terribly funny as I do, but when she actually orders a ham sandwich from the bored waiter who just materialized at our table, I can’t contain it anymore. Coffee burns its way through my nasal passages and out my nose

This clip was found in my writing notebook from 2011. A little throwback never killed anyone.

Writespiration: “Chord Left” by Agnes Obel

Agnes Obel’s small piano piece, “Chord Left,” has been on my go-to writing playlist since Pandora radio delivered it to my ears years ago. It somehow is both off-putting and calming, classical and modern. And although I’ve heard it thousands of times while typing away, I recently reheard it as background music in HBO’s adaptation of Sharp Objects.

I’ve written about “Dark Horse” by the Shanghai Restoration Project, which I’ve also always connected with Sharp Objects because of how I would listen to it while reading the book. Seems like Gillian Flynn’s exceptional novel is musically stalking me.