Derry, Northern Ireland

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

Thursday, March 22, 2018

When writing, be patient...

Especially with yourself. When I get a story or artwork started, I want to get it done so I can figure out what it  is I'm doing. Which can cause me to rush too damn hard to find completion when holding back and allowing the project to breathe on its own terms would be a lot better. I've been able to get around that hurry-up aspect of my creativity by writing down words in first person as being spouted by angry, talkative characters...but that kind of push doesn't work in third person.

I've found that for all my angst and anger and irritation at how The Alice '65 kept needing work and more work and going over it and  over it and over it, the story has become better and more than coherent. I think I've finally reached the level where a somewhat fantastical plot makes actual sense in the real world. I'm still pulling some crap that's not really possible...but by that point in the story it's my hope it won't matter, except to the shit-nit-pickers.

Because by going through the book so many times, I'm finding typos I would not normally have seen -- like missing a period at the end of dialogue even though I have the ending quotation mark, or using then for than and vise versa. I read it faster so I catch little hiccups in the rhythm of the read and pay attention to those.

I'm also reading it aloud, even though I suck at that, but it helps me keep focused on the progression of the words in a sentence and paragraph. This is all good to do, for taking care like this is not avoidance or just correcting incompetence on my part; it's letting the parts of the story that may need to be addressed shift from my unconscious and sub-conscious mind into my somewhat conscious one.

Writing so fast is monumentally bad for a book like The Alice '65, because it has such a delicate balance between fantasy and reality...and something in me was taking hold and keeping me from just saying, "It's done, now print." Even when I was trying to before it was really set, the fates refused to let me, thanks to the damned ICC Color Profiles not being maneuverable with my Mac. It's my hope that once I'm done with A65, it will be as perfect and professional as anything put out by Random House or Simon & Schuster.

I don't think I'm not going to make that goal.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Push and pull...

Made it back to Buffalo by catching a northbound flight instead of an eastbound one. Went from Louisville, in the middle of a snowstorm, to Detroit, where there is no snow then from there to Buffalo, which is cold but still not as bad as Louisville. My SUV, there, had 4 inches of snow on it and all I had to scrape it off with was a piece of cardboard. Fortunately, it was wet snow, not icy.

So now the two jobs I was going to do in New York, tomorrow, are set for Tuesday of next week, after one in DC. Fly down, do the DC job, hop a train from BWI to NYC, stay overnight, do two more jobs and do the late flight home. Zoom zoom...not; we sat on the tarmac for an hour, in Louisville, waiting to take off. So I broke protocol and pulled out my laptop to do some work.

I've done another check on A65 and something in me is saying do one more, THEN upload it to Ingram. I only found 6 mistakes in this pass, but I also made some more changes to help clarity...and consistency of characters. And to be less obvious, in a couple of spots. I had one moment near the end with Patricia that was just too much, but changing it to a quiet comment while acknowledging she did something rotten made a later bit involving her work a lot better.

I also let Adam reveal earlier that Connor nicknamed him hobbit, because he's short in stature. It ties in better to a moment between him and Julie, and prepares the reader for the animosity Adam reveals between him and his older brother.

Anyway, it now looks like my upload date will be the 24th, if everything goes right. Then I'll order a physical proof, once I've checked over the PDF one. If that works out well, then it will be time to order copies to hand out.

God...I can't imagine how long it will take me to get P/S into being 3 times longer....

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

What a mess...

I'm totally scattered, right now. I got the job in Louisville done and gone by 2pm, but instead of an easy afternoon, I wound up scrambling to handle getting the hell out of the city, tomorrow. Storm Toby caused Southwest to cancel my flight to La Guardia, for the next 2 jobs, and did their best to make me changing to return to Buffalo as difficult as possible.

First of all, I couldn't do any of this online; I had to call. And be put on hold. Then told my wait time was long so they'd call me 101 minutes. So I'm in the process of rearranging the packing jobs, then cancelling my car and the NY hotel...which I couldn't do online, either, so had to wait till I'd spoken with SW before I could call them, and then had to all but beg because Best Western has a 48 hour advance cancellation without a charge, not 24 hours.

Then I get through to Southwest and find I have to fly out at 6am to change planes in Tampa to get to I agree...and even though I tell them I want this on Wednesday, the agent set it up on Thursday, so I had to call them, again. And the only flight they had available was through Baltimore, which is about to get snowed under, but that was it. And I'd lost my Early Bird check in, too. Jet Blue refunded my ticked from JFK to Buffalo...but I had to sit on hold for 40 minutes to do it.

So I got frustrated and decided to book a flight out on Delta via Detroit and cancel the Southwest flight. Now it's been snowing in Louisville for a couple hours and there's a couple inches of it on my car; if Delta cancels, I'm fucking driving back to Buffalo in a one-way. I don't care that it's a 9 hour drive. I'm leaving.

Of course, this messes with my concentration, which is not conducive to editing a book for errors. And I am going back through A65 one more time because something was telling me to...and sure enough, I've found 2 more typos in the first half. Shit. And I can't publish it until I have it right. Can't do the ebook, either, since they have to match.

Not a great week, so far, and it's only Tuesday...

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Technology sucks...

I spent most of today trying to save my Word doc of A65 to a PDF without the ICC color profiles, and it's not working. I even went to FedEx Kinko's to use one of their PCs and got nowhere. I'm going in to work for a while, tomorrow morning, and we have Adobe Acrobat there so if I have a chance I'll try that. Otherwise, I have no idea what the problem is and cannot get past it with the programs I have now...not and turn out a decent original for the print run.

Tomorrow before I go in, I'm contacting Tech Support at Ingram and asking them what to do. Maybe it's not something I even need to really worry about. It's just frustrating to not be able to do what I have to do to get A65 ready to go, all because a major company insists on using an archaic format.

I did do laundry and ironing, today, as well. Needed to. As I ironed, I watched Call Me By Your Name...and didn't believe a moment of it. The acting was good and it had pretty scenery, but it was a very idealistic vision of a coming of age gay story set in 1983, with no reference to the AIDS epidemic that was already sweeping through not only the US but Europe. The closest things to conflict were misunderstandings and misinterpretations between Elio and Oliver.

Part of my reaction to it might have to do with how it was a sexual relationship between an adult man and a 17 year-old boy who looked like he was 15. It was a bit creepy, especially since Oliver was a real jerk. Pretty, but obnoxious and controlling.

What's funny is, I started comparing moments in this movie to Weekend, an indie film set in Northern England about two gay men who hook up a few days before one of them is to leave, and how they affect and change each other. It had so many similar moments, it was like they'd seen that movie and decided to remake it in Italy...or steal ideas from it, right down to a good-bye at a train station.

I'm also reminded of a French film I saw, called Pauline at the Beach. It was made in 1983 and had a 15 year-old girl at its center who loses her virginity to a boy who's just a clueless as she is, if I remember right, but that was made by Eric Rhomer. He saw people's attitudes about sex and love as something absurd and silly, and had fun with it.

CMBYN acts like it thinks it's making an important statement about love, when it's just a meandering tale about a boy's first crush. To be brutal, at the goodbye in Weekend, I was in tears; at the goodbye in this movie, I gave a shrug and a nod. Timothee Chalamet's long take staring into the fire and letting himself feel was good (and probably the reason he got nominated for an Oscar), but compared to the long, long take of Garbo at the end of Queen Christina or Jean-Pierre Leaud's long run and haunting gaze back at the camera in The 400 was pale.

I'm glad James Ivory finally got an Oscar, but I wish it'd been for one of his own far-better films.

The print file is done...

Did my last pass through The Alice '65 and a spell check, and now it's as tight and complete as it can be. So I shifted it to a PDF format, as required, and for some reason even though I'm saving it in black and white there's ICC color codes embedded in it. I tried a dozen different ways to remove them but got nowhere. When I check Ingram's PDF preview, very letter has a red background, so there could be ghosting of the letters when they print. NOT what I want.

I did a search through Google and tried a few more things, but nothing worked. So...I'm going to try removing the color crap in a PC, tomorrow, and see what happens. After that, I got no idea how to handle it...but I do NOT want to submit a file that may wind up being crappy when printed. I may have to wait till Monday to talk with someone at Ingram and find out another way to do it.

Thing is, I'm leaving for Louisville on Monday afternoon and really wanted to have the book started on its journey before I headed out on this next series of jobs. It's irritating that for all the snazzy crap my computer is capable of, every trick I'm told it can pull does not do what they say it will.

One of them was -- do a save as...but my MacBook pro doesn't offer that as an option in Preview; I have to duplicate then do a save to get to where I can change the Quartz filter. Then I tried B&W and Gray Tone and even Create Generic PDFX-3 Document...and none of them removed the ICC.

Damn, it's been a long day, and I am beat...but for all this crap, I'm happy with the book. Basically. I could easily spend the next 5 years honing it, but that would be ridiculous. Adam and Casey are ready to face the world, and I am ready to let them.

If only my fucking overpriced asshole of a laptop would let us.

Friday, March 16, 2018

100 pages to go...

I've been working late at the day job, all week, just to keep up with everything that needs to be done. I'm even going in Monday morning, to finalize a few things before heading to Louisville for a packing job...and then to New York for 2 more. This interfered with my schedule for putting out the book, but it's my own damn fault for taking so long to get it done, really, landing me in the middle of a series of book fairs that were very, very demanding.

Not that I'm really unhappy. The book I would have published 6 months ago was nowhere near as good as it is, now, so I'm glad I've taken my time, in a way. I whined and howled and snapped and snarled...but as I go through it one last time, I'm finding it flows nicely and is easy to read...I think. I hope. I never know, not really.

All I can say is, I did my best to let Adam and Casey be rich, complex characters who are true to themselves in any way they want to be. I've tried to make their character arcs honest and believable, and I busted my butt to keep their individuality precise and human. I don't think I can put out an error-free book, no matter how hard I try or how much help I get...but I think this one will be close.

Anyway, if all goes well, tomorrow, I'll set it up with Ingram and ask for a physical proof. It's not till you actually see it in your hand that you know it's done right. Then comes prepping the ebook and then...

Hell, I don't know what'll happen then. Watch some movies? Read some of my library on the history of Derry and the Troubles? No idea.

I'll deal with that, then.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Subconscious and unconscious and all that...

There's much to be said for not thinking as you write. And by that I mean over-thinking, which I'm far too prone to do. But sometimes I let my characters do their things in whatever manner they want...and when I do, happy moments occur. Like Adam getting the face of a wolf painted onto his left hand in henna dye. Its symbolism works so perfectly in the story, it seems deliberate --

Whether portrayed as good or evil, wolves are always powerful, and the same can be said about a wolf tattoo. Native Americans viewed the wolf as a totem animal or spirit sent to help guide us through life, symbolizing loyalty and perseverance. In legends, the wolf had great powers given by the Great Spirit.

I just thought having a wolf instead of some mass of Sanskrit or Hindu symbols on his hand would look cool and different. No other reason...consciously. He snuck it in on me through my subconscious. Hell, if I'd just shut my brain up and let things flow, I'd have more of this it has on previous occasions.

Like happening onto The Banks of Claudy, as sung by the Johnstons. I liked how it fit with Brendan's walk in the middle of the night to try and meet up with his brother, who's on the People's March that's about to end in disaster and is spending the night in Claudy, not far from it also connected him to Joanna, a girl he'd only seen but not spoken to, yet...but it wasn't till I worked it in that I paid attention to how perfectly the lyrics fit the whole of the story.

The song's about a woman weeping for her lover, who's gone across the ocean to America, and how she longs for his return...which he does, and she doesn't recognize him. Again, not something I deliberately chose but was brought to me by of the characters asking me to tell his story in the clearest way possible.

It even happened with the first script I wrote for a guy in graduate school -- The Phantom of the Capitol. It wound up having a character as its protagonist who's feeding information about a bribery scandal in the Texas State Capitol Building to a reporter he likes but who's paying him little short, he's bribing her to like him. I didn't plan that subtext; it just came together that way.

I need to shut up and listen to me.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Oh, my fur and whiskers...

The Alice '65 is an official 190 pages long, with 16 pages of title and info and blanks and such...for a grand total of 206 pages. My eyes hate me, right now, and my back is weary from sitting...but I've done as much as I can with the book. I'm shifting it to PDF format, tomorrow, and checking it over, again, just to see...and that will be that.

I almost don't believe it. I halfway think something's going to pop up showing me I've screwed it up in some massive way and I'll have to postpone, again...but as it currently stands, I may well make my date of 24 March for publication.

Now comes the glorious task of making it into an ebook, with no blank sections and all my spacing between chapters undone. Just as I'm about to embark on a job in Louisville, KY. Nothing major, just a couple days. Still it's a disruption...and at the same time, it's not. I like to travel. I'm working up a quote for another job in DC for week after next and I'm pushing to drive because it would be so much easier to coordinate.

But that's for after the launch of the book. Louisville, I'm flying to so can work on the plane. It's better, sometimes.

Oh, shit, I just remembered something I meant to change in the book.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Detailing...the hardest part...

Back to the grind of working out the little things in The Alice '65.  Specifically, making sure the quotation marks are consistent and there aren't any unwanted spaces anywhere. I've found that Word likes to mess with you when it comes to quotation marks in dialogue. If you have someone cut off in the middle of a sentence and use an em-dash to indicate that, Word puts the wrong direction quotation mark after it. At least, it does in Times New Roman font.

And sometimes, when you do a copy-paste within a dialogue section, it adds a space between a quotation mark and the beginning of the sentence. So that entails going through line by line and correcting it all. I'm sure there's a better way to do it, like by off-set printing, but this also needs to be done for the ebook, gets done.

There's also making sure I don't wind up with a single word at the top of a page, in place of a sentence. I'm not doing widow-orphan control so the number of lines per page is consistent...but sometimes  that means a single 2-letter word winds up at the very top of a page. What's interesting is, by working it so this doesn't happen, I'm coming up with slightly better sentence structure and continuity. I've found spots where just shifting a word here and eliminating or adding a word there makes the whole paragraph easier to read.

It's putting me further behind, but I want this book to be as perfect as it can be, and that means taking my time. When I rush, I screw up.

I'm still messed up by Daylight Savings Time and this massively rushed trip. But it was worth it. This photo is of my niece, Krista, with her husband, Micah, to her right and my sister, Jerilynn, to his right. To her left are her three brothers -- Andrew and Daniel (my nephews) and Steven (by my brother-in-law's first wife) -- then my brother-in-law, Steve. A very California-style family.

Except, I heard more country music on that day than I'd heard in the previous 10 years...and I'm still reeling.

Sunday, March 11, 2018


Almost home from Austin after a nice wedding that was on a very hot day, which wore me out. Right now I'm at JFK waiting for my flight to board. I got a whole 45 minutes between planes, going from gate 23 to gate 2. Not cool.

Here's a shot of the wedding photo session, with the photographer and a groomsman flanking the newlyweds, with their dog insisting on being part of it all. It was 88 degrees and not a cloud in the sky, with me in a sports coat and tramping through backwoods worthy of a Grizzly Adams set.

I've got a lot of A65 checked, and still finding typos. But it's better.

I hope.

Flight's being called, so ciao...