Derry, Northern Ireland

Derry, Northern Ireland
A book I'm working on is set in this town.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Page 84

Working along, now...having connected the beginning sections with some revolving around Brendan in 1968. This is mainly an effort to get a first draft done so I can start making the bits fit together and be right for the place and period, so I'm trying not to get too bogged down in detail. I already know I'll need to expand on events between February 1966 and the end of 1967, but that's for later.

The first 84 pages are also setting up a lot that happens later on, and I'm finding some foreshadowing popping in without me trying to add it. I stopped at the point where NICRA's march in Derry on 5 October 1968 was about to occur. I think that will probably wind up being 100 pages in, if not more, because that's when life starts intruding on Brendan's self-centered world. And I don't mean he's selfish or unaware; he just wants to live his life in peace, and not be ordered about by others who don't care what happens to him. Even at the age of 12.

At the same time, I'm building up a full, fresh list of the characters named in the story and what happens where, so it's slowing me down. But it's also helped me avoid having one bit take place at the wrong time of year. And the description of the streets one character heads down is feeling too abbreviated for reality, so I've noted it and will return, later, to make certain of it.

This story is taking all my time. I hoped to be further along by this point, but it is what it is. I already figure if I have a full first draft done by the end of the year, I'l be doing good. It's better than I've done, so far...and that's with me finally realizing I have maybe 40% of the story actually written, not 2/3 like I'd thought. It's the details and the cross-referencing that are expanding it and making it clear how much more is needed.

War & Peace has nearly 600,000 words in it; I seriously hope Place of Safety is not out to surpass that.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Small breakthrough

While working on Place of Safety, I had a problem figuring out how to work in Brendan seeing Joanna for the first time. A couple of ideas came up, but they were later than I wanted or felt was right or something. Then I realized I'd made Eamonn, Brendan's brother, too young to do what I needed him to do...so made him and Brendan's older sister, Mairead, older...and then saw that it worked best if he saw Joanna when he turns twelve. Just beginning to really pay attention to girls.

There was a Woolworth's on Ferryquay Street within the city walls that sold not only nickel and dime stuff but also food, had a cafe, a sweets shop, and even sold records they'd produced. Since I knew he had to see her buying a copy of a record that had the Johnstons singing The Banks of Claudy, it sort of popped up and slapped me around and said, "This couldn't be more obvious."

Turns out the song was the reverse side of a 45 that was all about a song called Never Shall I Marry, and it all fell into place. It starts with Brendan being a hoarder. Money. Cookies. Things to fix. It's like he's surrounding himself with stuff to keep poverty at bay. Of course, on his birthday his mother finds a stash of his cash and takes it then punishes him by not giving him a birthday party. So his mates take him to "Woolies" to celebrate, instead...and that's when he sees Joanna and her friends, who pay him zero attention until she glances his way and smiles...and the changes in him begin.

He buys the 45, Eamonn helps him hide it...and that flows into talking about how Eamonn is aiming for university and Mairead has a job at Tilie and Henderson Shirt Factory and foreshadows so much, it's like a dam burst and flooded words across the page. Now I just need to make it smooth and historically correct. One positive thing about having lived in England and knowing a little about the school system is, I know what jargon to look for. Like Eamonn being in the Upper Sixth Form about to take his A-Levels to see if he fits right for Queens College in Belfast.

I also remembered Orange Squash...which was like Tang but from syrup instead of powder and could be mixed with fizzy water...and was really pretty disgusting. But I liked it because it was sweet and tart.

And there's the birthday cake with a coin hidden in it as it's baking, and whoever got the slice with the coin would be rich. And snappers, which were more prevalent at Christmas but fun. And paper hats.

One tick and the wall comes tumbling down...

Friday, June 24, 2016

Brexit is good for me...

I have decided there may be a silver lining to the disastrous decision by 52% of the British electorate to have England leave the EU. Granted, it may mean England will suffer a poor economy for some time ... and trade will become harder and more expensive ... and The City is already crashing as job freezes go into effect and other countries wonder about investing in London in any way, anymore ... and Scotland (which wanted to stay in the EU, no matter what Donald the Idiot says) is already planning to hold a referendum on declaring independence from the UK, with Northern Ireland looking like it may follow ... but the Pound Sterling is collapsing in comparison to the dollar. So if I can get a grant to spend a few months in Derry to research Place of Safety in more detail, hey...it'll save me lots of money.

Because, as with all politics, these days -- it's all about me.

And now I'm sick of how this week's gone so here's a snippet of a review of a movie I have actually seen several times...and enjoyed every one of them...
None of the remakes ever came close to being as good...

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

A snippet of "Place of Safety" in Derry

This is from the first chapter, 1967:

In January, we were all caught playing rugby on a torn up lot by a sheeting rain so had run up to my home since it was closest. Ma was off to light a candle for Da’s soul (as she’d told me, Mairead, Eamonn, our neighbors, the Raffertys, and every other person she’d seen as she left). Eamonn was out with his mates for a gander, Mai had popped down to O'Donnell’s to shop for supper, Maeve with her, and Kieran was sleeping. The only part of my family I had to contend with was Rhuari, who sat on a chair, shivering and saying nothing.

We were a sight, wet and muddy, but I had coins so we could light the gas range and lie out in the kitchen to dry off. I also made tea, rushed barefoot up to my room ... shared with Eamonn and Rhuari, at the time ... and brought down a wee tin of biscuits I'd bought. I like to have something to nibble at as I worked on a radio or Hoover.

As it was, Colm had a paper book in his back pocket; his brother’d sent it to him from Boston. It was wet and a bit torn but not too badly so. The title was “Borstal Boy”, about an IRA lad’s time in a boys’ jail, and he read the first pages to us as we shared a smoke off Gerry (he’d slipped some fags, cigarettes, from one of his Da’s packs). He was doing fine, just stumbling over the odder words, but he stopped when Paddy was taken off to jail.

“Starts out well enough,” I said. “Keep on.”



“You read it,” he said, “The writer’s got your name.” Then he added with a wicked grin, “But he pronounces it Br-br-br-brendan when he’s scairt.” 


“I don’t do that,” I snapped back at him.

"No, you just do this -- Bren-cough-dan-cough."

I smacked at him, even though it's true. When I'm nervous, this light noise whispers up from me, like I'm trying to clear my throat without anyone noticing. It made Da laugh but drove Ma to distraction, since it was she who usually brought it on me.



"Leave him be," Gerry said. "You're in his home!"

“You do make a nice cuppa, Bren,” said Eammon, cutting in. “Thanks.” 


I just nodded to him.

"Go on readin'," said Danny. "Sounds like an IRA tale."

“Naw, Liam told me the story and it just keeps on and on,” said Colm. “He goes to borstal and gets to be friends with this Brit named Charlie and they call each other China, after a bit. You know why, Bren?”

“No,” I said. “Why?”

“No, I’m askin’,” Colm said.

Which got Billie in on the confusion. “Why would they call each other that? Aren't they all English?"

“How’s it written?” asked Danny. “Is he angry when he says it?”

“Fine, here,” Colm said, flipping through the pages. “He says ... uh, here – ‘sticking up for your china’.”



“Away on, Colm,” I said. “Sounds like another word for mate.”

Which got Paidrig even more confused. “But one’s English, the other’s Irish, right? They ain’t from China. Are they? Like from Hong Kong?”

I laughed as Colm rolled his eyes and said, “That’s why I’m askin’ Bren. Maybe he can figure it.”

“Why me?”

“You read.”

“Only what I must.”



“Then ask your brother if he would. Maybe he can tell if Charlie’s Chinese.”



“Sounds bloody stupid to me,” said Paidrig.

“Peter Rabbit more your speed, lad?” I asked as I helped myself to another cup of tea and felt very grand, doing so, especially since I’d found I liked it with a sugar and splash of milk and could show off as i did it. Ma had worked a small cooler out of Father Demian, for to keep the milk and fish fresh.



Eammon had another biscuit and asked, “Does anybody else call anybody that?”


“This wee bit's as far as I got,” said Colm. “Dunno if I’ll finish.”



“I like the idea of it, though," said Eammon. "Nobody here does that."

Danny grinned and motioned to me, “Oi, me China, give us a biscuit!”



I laughed and fired one to him -- and he caught it just as Ma come in the kitchen. And before we had a chance to even think of moving, she snapped, “What’re you boys doing? Why are the burners on?”

“Nothing, Ma,” I said, scampering to put myself between her and the rest of us. “Just come in from the rain to dry off and get warm. Have some tea.” 


“And leave mud all over my clean floor!?” And I must admit, the room was claggerd with a lot. She also saw the mess of tea, milk, sugar, and biscuit tin on the table, and her eyes cut into me; I knew I was for it. She quietly said, “Away home, boys; the rain’s let up, and Brendan has much to do before tea.”

Paidrig, Danny, Billie, and Gerry gathered their things and slipped away without a word. Eammon stopped by the door and said, “Yours was the closest home, Mrs. Kinsella. That’s why we come here.”



Ma just nodded and said, “Off! Your mum was askin' after you.”



Colm left the book on the table and smiled at me. “See you in school. Me China.”

“Me what?” Ma snapped at him.

“Nothin’, Mrs. Kinsella. Thanks for the use of your kitchen.” 

He left.

Ma glared after him then turned to Rhuari. "Go upstairs and change your clothes.”

“But I’m fine here, Ma,” he said. 

She cast him a look and off he went.

I put the milk back in the cooler and pushed the lid back on the tin, and damn if I wasn't giving off that cough. Ma’s rages could come from nowhere, and us dirtying her kitchen made it certain she would be in no good humor.

Finally she sat on a chair by the table and motioned me over and looked at me. 

“We can barely feed ourselves, but you give those boys half of what we have?”



“Just tea, Ma (cough). The biscuits I bought on me own.”



“With what?”



Oh, shite. “A (cough) a shilling I got for fixing Mrs. Cullen’s old radio. It's got tubes in it and -- ”

She shook me, angry. “You wasted good money on such an extravagance?”

“At least I earned it (cough), not like Da -- ”

She slapped me, twice. 

“You do not talk to me like that! And never will you speak of your father in that way! Don’t you forget, he was murdered by two Protestant bastards, merely because he wanted to care for his family, but they wouldn’t even allow him that much dignity. So you will not spit on his name, again, master Kinsella. Do you understand me?!” I could barely hear what she said, my ears rang so, but I nodded. She stood up. “Now clean the mud off everything, including yourself, or there’s no dinner for you.”

So I did ... well, as good as a lad of near eleven can be expected, but it still warranted me nothing but a piece of bread and mug of water in my room as the others ate. 

And for a week I heard nothing but how much trouble it had been for Ma to clean the floor and walls and cabinets and windows of mud after me and my mates had dirtied her kitchen, all without a thought for anyone but ourselves. And the sympathies she got were enormous.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Workin' it, again...

I'm still having Facebook fights with gun apologists, but only because I'm using Facebook to research P/S and don't feel like ignoring them. This whole situation in Orlando is too much like what went on for decades in Northern Ireland, with people being slaughtered for who they were by both sides, and those assholes (as well as the motherfuckers in DC who voted down gun restrictions) want to keep it going.

The newest thing is, Democrats are completely at fault and don't want to go through the trouble of changing the 2nd Amendment. That's on top of them repeating the GOP's and NRA's talking points about linking due process to gun control. The amendment doesn't need changing; it just needs to be paid attention to. All of it. Like the part that says the militia should be well-regulated, and the Supreme Court agreed in 2010. And due process means following the law and not subverting it when dealing with the accused. How that gets mingled in with closing loopholes in a law that's already on the books is beyond me.

Anyway, what this non-stop back and forth did was inadvertently lead me to a Facebook page celebrating Derry as it used to be. I don't remember exactly how I found it, but I damn well bookmarked it. It's got lovely photos of the city from the 60s but even better, people are commenting on them. People who lived there. "Remember this fish and chip shop, where you could take in a bowl and get it filled with chips (french fries) for a shilling?" And "There was a shop around this corner where you could buy records that had been used in jukeboxes for 99p..."

Oh, I know what it was -- I was digging deeper into living conditions on Nailors Row, where Brendan's family lives. The houses at the upper end weren't torn down till as late as 1972, and they had small, enclosed back yards...and I wanted to know what the yards were called. So In input Nailors Row, Derry in the Facebook search instead of into Google, by mistake...and that hopped up.

I then spent several hours digging through and saving the photos and comments as I hopped back and forth with my own Facebook page. I'm transferring them straight into a Word doc to make sure the notes stay with the images, only it's a slow process. I started to get a bit crazed when I was about 2/3 of the way through it, so I'll take it up, tomorrow.
But I did find this lovely image of the street before and after it was demolished. The gray houses and monument were as it was probably about 1960. The green in front of the houses is the open, grassy embankment that's there now. Unfortunately, it's missing the 3 Rossville Towers in the background, which is where Bloody Sunday occurred and were torn down in the late 80s. They were public housing put up when it was thought high-rises could make living conditions better instead of worse. It's nicer, now...well, the last time I was there...jeez...ten years ago.

And there's so much to do, still...

Monday, June 20, 2016

Elizabeth Warren, please stay in the Senate...

Here's what she had to say after the disgraceful vote against any form of gun control...

"Ashamed and disgusted that the Senate works for the NRA and not the majority of Americans who support basic solutions to stop gun violence. Senator Chris Murphy said it right: the Senate Republicans have decided to sell weapons to ISIS."

If she becomes Hillary's VP, she'd be muzzled. She's better in the Senate.

At this moment, Congress is run by vile weasels who, with the support of the NRA, choose to continue to let anyone with a history of domestic violence, mental instability, or even contacts with terrorist organizations buy any weapons they want in the US...and kill as many people as they can with them. And the pro-gun idiots who back them use specious arguments to defend it...like claiming expanding background checks and preventing people on terrorist watch lists from buying an AR15 is a violation of due process. The argument is so ludicrous, I honestly cannot think of what to say to them beyond they are dumber than dirt.

Here's what the Second Amendment to the Constitution says: A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed. These nuts want to bear arms but without the regulations. They're like the churches that want state money for their hospitals and other services but don't want to have to follow the rules that other hospitals have to follow, and the billionaires who use slave wages to line their pockets, forcing their employees to use SNAP and welfare to live, then complain about SNAP and welfare.

Daesch is actually telling its adherents to buy guns in America because the gun laws make it so easy. And the GOP and NRA are basically saying, "That's fine with us." They have taken the side of organizations that want to destroy the US. Just like 47 Senators worked to undermine US Foreign Policy, not that long ago, and have expressed admiration for the leader of a foreign power as they disparage our sitting president.

They are traitors, and I want the motherfuckers tried for treason.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Slaughter in Orlando...

I'm having a lot of trouble with the events at Pulse in Orlando, where over 4 dozen people were killed by a homophobic, apparently self-loathing-closet case, and even more than that were wounded. Not so much that it happened; violence against the GLBT community has been consistent around the world...from insane laws in Uganda to hangings in Iran to arrests in Russia to stabbings in the UK to killings of transgenders in places like Brazil and El Salvador. Nor is it the outpouring of hate from members of the so-called Christian community, like from a vile little Baptist preacher in northern California who thinks we should all be lined up against a wall and shot in the head...or the devil-worshiping Westboro demons who claim to be on God's side. That is all...for want of a better word...predictable and almost to be expected from snakes and cockroaches, like them.

What's causing me trouble is how people who consider themselves humanists and liberals are trying to tell the gay community how we should feel. They are trying to make this about human beings...and nothing more. And if we don't like it, we're dismissed. We have cute pop-TV stars who love to play gay on camera but claim to be straight in real life telling us how they understand and feel the same as us. I had a woman I've known for years dismiss my anger over a facebook commenter's condescending response to me wanting gun control by telling him I should be cut some slack because I'm gay, then tried to lecture me on how I should view christians.

This is on top of the usual political nonsense, where you get "thoughts and prayers" from Congressmen and women and "a moment of silence"...and then have your rights diminished by votes they take just moments later accompanied by bold-faced refusals to consider any form of gun control. They continue to fight even the thought of making it hard for someone with a history of domestic violence, or mental instability, or even fucking contacts with terrorist organizations to buy an AR-15 so they can go out and slaughter more people.

That supports terrorism, and I've been pointing that out to them in any way I can...for all the good it's done. The GOP and NRA will keep pushing back against gun control until everyone's forgotten about this travesty...and too damn many people will let them. Again. Like they did after Columbine and Aurora and Sandy Hook and San Bernadino and countless other venues of death and destruction. It's made me ashamed not just of America but also of humanity.

There's a section I wrote in Place of Safety, a few years back, where Brendan tells a friend people do not really care about ending violence. They talk about how bad it is and say it should stop, but when it comes time to actually do something, they grow very still. I was afraid I was being too cynical in that moment. I no longer do. Because looking at what happened just in that tiny part of the world for decades...the bombings and shootings of innocent people...something that too many on both sides still want to carry on with...I think I'm finally sensing a way to describe the world as it is. We are not civilized; we are still in the jungle.

It's not new. Nothing about it is. Look through history and you find time after time after time where maniacs slaughter people for little or no reason, be it in wars or crusades or insurgencies or just plain cruelty. When Algerian insurgents were fighting France for independence, back in the mid-to-late 50s, there was an infamous slaughter where guerrilla fighters in the pack of a small truck drove down a street and sprayed people walking along it with machine-gun fire. Men, women, children, made no difference. And in Jerusalem, Jewish insurgents blew up the Hotel David, killing dozens, hoping to drive the British out. In both instance, mostly civilians were killed, not actual combatants.

Yes, there are some good people out there who really are trying to make everything better...but they are less than 1% of the world. The rest do not really give a shit. They prefer to let things move along as they are going, no rocking of the boat, so long as they are left alone...and will say and do the same damned things they've said and done all week when the next slaughter occurs...as it will.

The devil is our god, and I do not know what to do about that...or how to temper the fury it builds in me.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

[... F]rom al the deceytes of the worlde, the fleshe, and the deuill: Good lorde deliuer us.

Translation: [... F]rom all the deceits of the world, the flesh, and the devil, Good Lord, deliver us. (Book of Common Prayer)

I'm not sure exactly what this means yet, but it ties in with Place of Safety. It's almost like these are the headings for each section of the book...Section 1 -- The World (Derry, 1966-1972); Section 2 -- The Flesh (Houston, 1973-1981); Section 3 -- The Devil (Derry, April-May 1981).

The World is Brendan dealing with his life as society collapses around him and he begins to get a sense of what man is really like. He loves a girl who's Protestant and, even though he's had no real trouble from members of that religion before, learns how strong and powerful hate can be when mixed with fear.

The Flesh is Brendan in Houston, recovering from the horrors of Derry and slipping into a life of pure self-pleasure...that is also interrupted by animals who refuse to let others be who they want to be. More tragedy, heartbreak and betrayal...and then he's called back to Derry because his mother is dying.

The Devil is Brendan's return to find a city on its knees hoping for a miracle, but Thatcher is in office and she has outlawed them as Liberal nonsense. He sneaks in pretending to be someone else, but is soon found out and becomes the focus of both the Royal Ulster Constabulary and British Forces, due to his brother being part of PIRA.

I'm going to use index cards to start working out the details of each bit and how they interact, so I can easily shift them around and find the true rhythm of the story. And find ways to show how that tiny corner of the world presaged what is happening now, in the US.

The slaughter in Orlando at Pulse Bar is just a parallel to the slaughters in Northern Ireland over so many years. People are killed and everybody who's human says it's awful...and nothing gets changed. The right wing slime will keep their AR-15s, by god...because neither Washington nor the Supreme Court nor the police departments of America really give a good goddamn about the non-stop death flooding the country. If we won't institute serious gun control measures after 20 children and 6 teachers are murdered in Sandy Hook by a deranged guy with the same damn weapon, 50 gay men and women being murdered won't make one damn bit of difference.

There are already animals out there blaming the victims for their own deaths, just like some of them swear Sandy Hook never really happened and 9/11 was a government conspiracy and Obama's coming to take their guns any day now, with him having a whole 7 months left in his 2nd term in office. This is no longer just a faction of crazies in the US; this is a cancer killing the country. And no one will do anything serious to stop it or cut it away.

And we will wind up even worse off than NI did after decades of slaughter.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Reading day...

I finished the final book in Adrian McKinty's "Troubles Trilogy" -- In the Morning I'll Be Gone -- set in Northern Ireland between 1981 and 1984. The other two are In the Cold Cold Ground and I Hear the Sirens in the Street...and they are a treasure-trove of idioms for the area. Attitudes. What the world was like at that time. They're a bit after the last part of Place of Safety, but should help me make the world I'm writing about seem more honest and real.

As mysteries, they're okay, but McKinty has a way of letting things happen too quickly and then glossing over the big moments. This book has that, where the main character, Sean Duffy, a Catholic in a very Protestant Royal Ulster Constabulary, starts out seeking an IRA operative but winds up sidetracked into investigating a locked-room murder that proves only marginally interesting. He gets the killer to confess in one of the simplest ways possible then is given information that will lead to his IRA man. Just like that.

That's not to say it isn't well-written; it's just...typical. I sincerely hope OT does not come across that way to anyone who reads it. I tried to make it tight and unpredictable. Lots of red herrings to keep the reader off-center, but all mingled in as nondescriptly as possible. But you never know till you start getting reviews.

I set up a giveaway on Goodreads for copies of the book in exchange for reviews. I tried that with David Martin and got one out of the five I offered. If this one doesn't work, I'll have to think of something else.

Maybe if I can work out how to use Twitter better...

Friday, June 3, 2016

Advertising my new book...

This evening was spent prepping to mail out a few dozen postcards to various mystery book shops around the US and Canada, talking about The Vanishing of Owen Taylor, along with a couple copies of the book to various people and organizations. I'm trying to get reviews...and I may regret it but if you don't let people tell you what they think of your work, you won't know how it's coming across or how it can be improved.

I noticed already that I'm cleaning up some of the roundabout chatter Brendan has in P/S because it doesn't add enough to the story to matter. I'll keep some since he's Irish and they love to natter on, but having fallen into that pattern in OT showed me it's more counterproductive than helpful. Atmosphere and reality are fine...to an extent. But anything the story did not need was lectures from Jake on what it all means.

Oh, he still reveals what things mean to him, but in a more personal way, now. And I gave some of the stories he used to illustrate his thoughts to others, where they made more sense. Like having a lawyer talk about the real reason behind the Salem witch trials in response to comments by Jake. Helped move the story along, nicely.

The hardcover of the book looks really nice. I'm brutally proud of it. I think the only issue is how I don't have uniform numbers of lines of narrative on each page. I couldn't figure out how to do that short of setting up each page unto itself...and that was going over 280 pages. Would've taken forever.

But...I will go seeking a tutorial for it what I finally get to publishing Place of Safety.