Tuesday, October 18, 2016


Is a book without a cover naked? Well, no, that’s just silly. Although any book that’s any good should tell you the naked truth about something. At least as understood by the author, who is quite aware the reader might disagree. But, be all that as it may, the text of a book, the thing itself, one might say, is certainly the body of the endeavor. And the cover is just, what? Skin dressed in clothes that both protect from the elements and if the author and publisher have any sense of style at all, makes a statement.

With the proliferation of ebooksa phenomenon I, unlike some others, do not bemoanthere is no need for a digital book to have its own skin. Its body is, after all, just a gathering of zeros and ones arranged in a unique order and floating somewhere in the cloud or on a chip, free from degradable pulp and fading ink. Ethereal, even if with pretensions of the eternal.

But this does not end a book’s need for clothing, for something eye-catching to adorn it that makes a statement, speaks for it, reflects it, or teases potential readers about the wonders within. For although one may shop in a digital bookstore, such as Amazon, one still likes to browse, and the vanguard of browsing are, of course, the eyes. And eyes are not caught (a slightly gruesome idea, when you think about it) by the text of a book, but by whatever that text is clothed in, whether physically, as in a paper-based book, or digitally, almost then more like a poster than a cover.

Poster or cover the same task is at handto grab the attention and to intrigue. But, as the old saw goes: you can’t tell a book by its cover. Now why was that ever coined? Damnable truth, I would say. Only on rare occasions have I seen a book cover for a novel that trulyand fullyreflected the contents within. Most likely because single-shot graphics must be simple for effect, yet are trying to reflect something complexa long, imaginative narrative of many parts. The task seems almost impossible. But still, a task worth doing with seriousness, creativity, a certain amount of faith, and, hopefully, some dumb luck.

Even understanding all the above, for a novelist to see for the first time the cover of his or her latest work is exciting. You desperately want it to be all dressed up with many places to go. And even if you fear no one will really be able to “see” what your novel is in its totality by just looking at the cover, you still hope that the cover has some accurate hint of the full revelation inside that is compelling enough for a deeper look leading to a purchase, leading to a read, leading to appreciation.

It is that same first impression thing you have to contend with when looking for a job, not to mention a mate.

All this rambling, of course, has spewed out of me by way of introducing the cover of my new novel, IMP: A Political Fantasia. So, Ta-da!

I came up with a concept for the cover, which David Dodd of Crossroad Press, the book’s publisher, executed, greatly enhancing and improving the idea into what you see below.

I hope you find it intriguing.

IMP, A Political Fantasia will debut as an ebook soon.

Friday, September 23, 2016

PORTRAITS BY THE ARTIST AS A YOUNG MAN -- Yasuo Ohtsuka's 1946 Sketch Book

In 1982 I joined Kinetographics, a film production company owned by Gary Kurtz. Gary had worked with George Lucas for years producing (and being creatively instrumental in) American Graffiti, Star Wars, and The Empire Strikes Back but was now developing movies on his own. I joined as his director of animation development and as an associate producer on the production of an animated feature based on Winsor McCay’s early 20th-century comic strip, Little Nemo in Slumberland, which Kinetographics was planning to co-produce with Japanese anime producer,TMS Entertainment. For two year previous I had been involved with Gary in the development of an animated feature based on Will Eisner’s The Spirit (of which I wrote about for the Los Angeles Times in 2008).

Part of my task was to put together the team of American talent that would develop the film with the Japanese, and collaborate on the production in Tokyo. I was proud of the team I gathered, which included Roger Allers (who later co-wrote and co-directed The Lion King); Andy Gaskell (who was later the art director on The Lion King); Randy Cartwright (who later was an animator for, and worked on the story of a number of Disney features, including The Lion King); Robin Budd (who returned to his native Canada and became a major TV animation director), and Norton Virgien (who later co-directed the Rugrats Movie, and has won a couple of Emmy Awards).

I was involved in the production for two years until it became clear to me that this co-production between two very different animation cultures was never going to work. At least not to our satisfaction. I left at the end of my contract with Kinetographics. The film our team was working on was never made, except for an opening sequence that made it into the eventual film TMS made with other American’s involved.

However, the experience was, on a whole, great, My wife (we were married during production) and I loved living in Tokyo, and I got to know one hell of a nice and talented man, Yasuo Ohtsuka.

Ohtsuka was, even then, one of the grand men of Japanese animation. He was very excited by our co-production, as he was as very interested in bringing American style character animation to Japan as we were in adapting Anime’s more creative approach to subject matter for animation. Remember, this is 1982 when Disney animation was “dying” and the Care Bears Movie was setting the pace.

In September of 1982 Ohtsuka gave me a wonderful gift. It was a sketchbook from his teenage years when he was teaching himself how to draw. It was full of his copies of political cartoons he saw in newspapers, including the U.S. Army’s Stars and Stripes (this was 1946, during our occupation of Japan), portraits of American soldiers, and his rendering of American comic strip and cartoon characters.

Imagine this fifteen-year-old-boy, living near an American military base, asking “Yank” soldiers to pose, pouring over American newspapers, drawing, drawing, and drawing, trying -- successfully -- to hone his skills.

I was deeply moved by this gift, and it’s remained precious to me ever since. Sadly I had nothing of such value to offer Ohtsuka in return.

A while back I sent some of the sketches from the book that I had scanned to an old friend from high school. Her son was immersed in Japanese culture and really enjoyed them. I promised I would send more. But I got to thinking, as there a large and active fan-based here in America for Japanese anime, maybe others would enjoy looking at Ohtsuka’s formative work as well. So, below are the sketches from the book, except for a few that were just sketches of American army helmets.

Maybe this is the only gift I have to give to Ohtsuka. To let people see the work of a very talented, enthusiastic teenager, living in a defeated Japan, not being defeated himself, but determined to learn his art and take joy from it. And one who grew up to become a wonderful man and artist, and an important part of a country’s unique film culture.

Ohtsuka in 1983

Ohtsuka today

The cover of the sketchbook, which was handmade by cutting up old magazines

Inside the front cover, signed and dated by Ohtsuka

You can see here part of the magazine page

Friday, August 5, 2016


The Ray Bradbury Read

Steven Paul Leiva

Celebrities and Fans to Read Aloud from Author’s Work on 96th Anniversary of His Birth

Public Invited to the Ray Bradbury Read - Free Lunchtime Event at DTLA Maguire Gardens by Central Library and Ray Bradbury Square

RBR_web 7-26.16.jpg

Los Angeles - August 3, 2016 - At 12 noon on Monday, August 22, 2016, actors Joe Mantegna (Criminal Minds) and Seamus Dever (Castle), L.A. City Councilmember Jose Huizar, Internet personality Jeff Cannata (We Have Concerns), science communicator Cara Santa Maria (KCET’s SoCal Connected), and others will participate in the first “Ray Bradbury Read,” which will be held in Maguire Gardens, situated between the Central Library and Ray Bradbury Square (Fifth & Flower) in downtown Los Angeles. The event, which is free and open to the public, will celebrate the life and words of literary master Ray Bradbury on the 96th anniversary of his birth. L.A. City Librarian John Szabo will open the event and make introductory remarks.

Prior to organizing the “Ray Bradbury Read,” author Steven Paul Leiva (Traveling in Space), conceived of and organized “Ray Bradbury Week” in Los Angeles (2010) and spearheaded the movement to name the intersection of Fifth and Flower as “Ray Bradbury Square” (2012). For the “Read,” he solicited and obtained the sponsorship and support of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, Councilmember Jose Huizar, the Downtown Los Angeles Neighborhood Council, the Los Angeles Public Library, the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies, Bradburymedia.co.uk, OUE (the owners of Maguire Gardens), HarperCollins Publishers (publisher of many Bradbury works), and Don Congdon Associates (Bradbury’s long time agents).

Each participant will read a short excerpt from a Bradbury novel, story, poem, or essay,
showcasing the master storyteller’s soaring prose, passionate emotions, startling imagination, and enthusiastic creativity.

Several of Bradbury’s daughters will be in attendance, one of whom, Bettina Bradbury, will read her father’s poem, “The Boys across the Street are Driving My Young Daughter Mad.”

Also reading will be Mrs. Gene (Patricia) Kelly. Bradbury’s novel, Something Wicked this Way Comes, was inspired by a screenplay he wrote for Gene Kelly to produce. The film was never made, a disappointment for them both, but Bradbury acknowledged his debt to Kelly by dedicating the book to him.

Ray Bradbury was born in 1920 in Waukegan, Illinois, and moved with his family to Los Angeles when he was fourteen. He became a dedicated Angeleno as he grew to literary prominence, penning such classics as Fahrenheit 451, Dandelion Wine, The Martian Chronicles, Something Wicked this Way Comes, The Illustrated Man, and hundreds of acclaimed short stories. He died in June 2012, at the age of 91.

Bradbury loved downtown Los Angeles, and spent many hours at the Central Library, which he thought of as “my university.” It was there that he received an improvised, intellectually far-ranging, unstructured, and altogether inspirational education. He never forgot the important role the Central Library – and all libraries – played in his life, and spent many hours giving speeches in libraries across the country, inspiring in turn countless readers.

Ray Bradbury Square sign.jpg

Monday, August 1, 2016


Everything is going well as we enter the countdown to the Ray Bradbury Read on August 22. Los Angeles City Librarian John Szabo will open the event and make introductory remarks. Besides our five celebrity readers, we will have at least fourteen Bradbury lovers reading excerpts from his work. A great way to celebrate Ray's 96th birthday!

If you are in Los Angeles that day and free, please join us in beautiful Maguire Gardens, situated between the Los Angeles Central Library and Ray Bradbury Square (Fifth & Flower) in downtown Los Angeles, or DTLA, as it's becoming known.

Check out my previous posts for info on our celebrity readers.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016


I’m pleased to announce that Emmy-Award winning science communicator Cara Santa Maria will join actors Joe Mantegna and Seamus Dever, Los Angeles City Councilmember Jose Huizar, and Internet personality Jeff Cannata as a celebrity reader at the Ray Bradbury Read on August 22, the ninety-sixth anniversary of the birth of the literary master.

The Ray Bradbury Read will take place in Maguire Gardens in downtown Los Angeles, situated between the Los Angeles Central Library and Ray Bradbury Square (Fifth & Flower) and featuring members of the general public reading five minute-and-under excerpts from the novels, stories, essays, and poems of Ray Bradbury.

Cara has a Bachelor of Science degree in psychology with a minor in philosophy, a Master of Science in biological science with a concentration in neuroscience, and has taught biology laboratory courses and performed neuronal cell culture duties and electrophysiology research at the Center for Network Neuroscience. She enrolled in a doctoral program studying clinical neuropsychology at Queens College, City University of New York, where she worked as an adjunct professor and laboratory researcher, but withdrew after a year of coursework to pursue science communication full-time. It is her fervent belief that it is essential for the public to know and understand what science is and what it tells us about things big and small in the universe.
Cara was the Senior Science Correspondent for the Huffington Post contributing print journalism and hosting the HuffPost video program, Talk Nerdy to Me. Since leaving the HuffPost, Cara has performed hosting and correspondent duties for network, cable, and local television stations, and for various Internet venues. She has appeared on BBC America, CBS, CNN, Current TV, Fox, Fox News, G4tv, Nat Geo WILD, Science Channel, SundanceTV, the Travel Channel, and KCET in Los Angeles where she contributes science reports on the Peabody Award-winning SoCal Connected.

Cara hosts her own popular podcast, Talk Nerdy, where she has conversations covering science, knowledge, reason, and the essential need for their promotion and application for a better world.

Like many people in the sciences, Cara was greatly influenced and inspired by the works of Ray Bradbury. Not so much for any details of science, but for the sense of wonder he conveyed that every good scientist needs.

Full information can be found HERE on the blog of Steven Paul Leiva, the organizer and director of the Ray Bradbury Read.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016


Peter Lonsdale
1951 - 2016

One of the finest people I have known, my great and good friend Peter Lonsdale, died yesterday of an apparent massive heart attack. Being a big-hearted man, it had to be a “massive” heart attack to fell Peter—nothing less could have done the deed. Yesterday was one of the saddest days I have ever experienced. I don’t think that sadness will go away. In fact, I refuse to let it go away.

I met Peter in 1978 when I was hired by the Los Angeles International Film Festival (FILMEX) to be a special programmer for animation. Peter was in the film prep and film traffic department, charged with preparing reels of film, in all forms, for screening, and getting those reels, in big, heavy film boxes, to the right screening room at the right time. 

Peter in the middle with long hair. From the FILMEX program book

As I remember it, we became friends rather quickly. Why would you not want as a friend a young man always ready with a quick smile and sporting an infectious enthusiasm for what you had gathered together for—in this case, the presentation of Film as art. Peter had graduated from U.C. Berkley with a degree in film, and had come down to Los Angeles—sometimes known as Hollywood—to find a career in filmmaking. I’m not sure what his particular ambition was at that time, possibly to direct, but he became a film editor. It was not something he settled for, he became passionate about the powerful contribution that editing makes to the total film. He saw it, I believe, as a craft you needed great knowledge for, and an art you needed great instincts for. No matter what job he was on—a major feature like Back to the Future or a cartoon series for Disney—he always applied the full measure of his knowledge and instincts; his craft and his art.

We remained friends after I left FILMEX for a number of years. When I was a publicist for animation studios, and Peter was just breaking into the industry, I would often hire him to do still photography, another passion of his. 

Photog Peter

I went to his bachelor party when he got married for the first time. But, as often happens in friendships, we drifted apart as he started working in film editing, and I headed towards being a producer and writer.

I was always thrilled to see Peter’s credits as part of the editorial team on such films as Ruthless People, Beverly Hills Cop II, The Rocketeer, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, and the Back to the Future trilogy. 

On the editorial team for The Rocketeer.

After he worked on Roger Rabbit, Peter found a great delight in working on animated films, although he also continued to edit live action, both dramatic films, and documentaries.

One day, maybe around the turn of the millennium, I found myself driving behind an SUV with the license plate TOONEDITOR, or something like that. I knew immediately that it must be Peter. I sped up, got in front of him and checked my rearview mirror. It was indeed Peter. As I had him in my speed dial, I called him and we had a short but sweet (and possibly dangerous) conversation while mutually traveling west on Magnolia Boulevard in the Valley. That lead to more, if sporadic, phone conversations, keeping in touch with each other.

Then, in 2003, after I had published my first novel, Blood is Pretty, Peter called me to say he had bought it and would love to get me to autograph it. So we met at a Peet’s Coffee on Ventura Boulevard, I signed the book, and he was the first person to tell me that I had a “voice” in my writing. It was possibly the greatest compliment I have ever received.

But it wasn’t until a little later that I really got to know Peter. It was after the last Writers Guild Strike in 2008 when some members of the guild decided to start Strike.TV, an Internet venue for WGA members to create and own Web series.  I decided I wanted to create a series of VidBits called The Old Curmudgeon’s Book of Questions. It would be very simple, just me as the Old Curmudgeon asking his curmudgeonly questions. But, having no technical filmmaking skills whatsoever, I needed someone to help. I naturally called Peter. For one reason because I didn’t think he would think I was an idiot. And for another—the man had the skills. So we did the series with Peter shooting the video, directing the Old Curmudgeon, and editing the final product.

There was no money involved, just time, effort, and—on Peter’s part—a generosity I had no business expecting, and certainly didn’t deserve. But that was Peter. The most important factor in this was the time we spent together shooting the VidBits, and in his home editing room putting them together. We talked, we talked a lot. We joked. We discussed Jazz, which we both loved, and Rock music, which only Peter liked. And movies, we talked a lot about movies. Peter’s passion for film was a delight to experience. We talked about our daughters—the joys and the concerns—and we talked about youthful sexual adventures we had had, or wished we had had. And, most important, we talked about the love of a good woman, which we were both lucky to have found. And we talked about other friends and colleagues we both had in the film business. I never once heard him say a negative word about his. I’m not sure I could say the same thing about me.

Peter’s generosity to his friends was natural, sincere and appreciated. It’s what made him a true gentleman, in all the best meanings of that word.

After the Old Curmudgeon, I kept coming back and bugging Peter to help me on other video projects—a promo piece for Blood is Pretty; a video of Ray Bradbury that the Buffalo Film Festival asked me to do; coverage of some of the events during Ray Bradbury Week in 2010, which I organized. All of which he did not hesitate to do, all of which I paid him nothing for. Oh, I made lunch now and them, but other than that, I was the bono asking him to do it pro bono. And he did it, always with a smile, with laughs, with a damn fine professionalism, with his heart and his brain.

Peter had a huge and great generous spirit, the kind that could be taken advantage of. And I did. But then, maybe we were Mickey and Judy,  just “kids” having fun putting on a show. I will not venture to guess who was Mickey and who was Judy.

When Bluroof Press, the publisher of my novel, Traveling in Space, suggested we do an audiobook version of the book, I knew I only wanted to do it if Peter would produce it with me and be the sound engineer and editor. I got Bluroof to draw up a contract that cut Peter in on the royalties. We took two years to get the audiobook done. Partly due to our schedules and the busy schedule of Jeff Cannata, the actor who performed and not just read the book. It was fun, sometimes grueling, and I often made us all lunch. But we got it done, and we were all proud of what we had accomplished. And as the audiobook has sold relatively well, there actually has been royalties to share. Not a fortune, but it was with great relief for me that something Peter so generously did for me generated some compensation for him. If any man was worth a million, Peter was that man.

In 2013 I dedicated my short book of essays, Searching for Ray Bradbury, to Peter, saying: “For Peter Lonsdale—Who tolerates my intrusions into his life with equanimity, a smile, and, I hope, just a little love for this crazy bastard who is always presenting him with another project.”

I had—will continue to have—more than a little love for Peter. One reason might be that he reminded me of my father, for I never met anyone who didn’t like my father, who was a sweet and gentle and generous person. Certainly the same can be said of Peter. And Peter died on the anniversary of my father’s birth, tieing the two together forever in my memory. It’s a great thing to have had such a man as a father. And a great thing to have had such a man as a friend.