Derry, Northern Ireland

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

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Reworking and preparing...

A couple years back I took a comedy writing class where the scenes I wrote wound up developing into The Alice 65. I reread my notes and printouts from that time, today, to see if they could help me find a way to bring more humor to my work. Make some bits funny, even if the rest was dramatic or tragic or action-packed...and what it's done is give me ideas on bettering A65 when I do the book.

Some of them are humorous, but most are ways to deepen the characters, oddly enough. I mean, I know I'm never going to be the kind of writer who can put out a script or story like Something About Mary or Dumb and Dumber or Talladega Nights. The closest I've come is The Lyons' Den, which is another writer's tale taken to a farcical, almost absurdist, level...and The Lavender Curse, about a tough cop having his mind switched with his unloved mother-in-law's just before he's set to make a big arrest and she's to appear in a beauty pageant...which I thought was funny but apparently no one else did. And for which I no longer own the rights so can do nothing about.

I do have some funny bits in The Cowboy King of Texas...but that's really more of a dramatic-romance than a romantic-comedy-western. And is based on John Millington Synge's The Playboy of the Western World; I just Americanized it.

That story is satirical from its inception -- a man who killed his father is elevated into heroic status by an isolated town, but when the dead man turns up alive, the town turns on the hero. My favorite bit is in the third act, when the father slips into town and no one knows who he is except one woman who's helping the hero hide the truth. As they're talking, people are beginning to link father with son, so she tries to make out like the father's gone crazy from drink...and winds up making people think she's the crazy one. And that setup's from the play.

Horace Walpole once said -- The world is a comedy to those that think; a tragedy to those that feel. I guess I do too much of the latter and not enough of the former to figure out how to switch sides.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Sharing words of wisdom offered by way of a friend...

My kick-ass cinematographer buddy, Brad Rushing, sent me these tidbits by Mark Twain in anticipation of National novel Writing Month, starting the first:

1) “A successful book is not made of what is in it, but what is left out of it.”

2) “There are some books that refuse to be written. They stand their ground year after year and will not be persuaded. It isn’t because the book is not there and worth being written — it is only because the right form of the story does not present itself. There is only one right form for a story and if you fail to find that form the story will not tell itself.”

3) “A man who is not born with the novel-writing gift has a troublesome time of it when he tries to build a novel. I know this from experience. He has no clear idea of his story; in fact he has no story. He merely has some people in his mind, and an incident or two, also a locality, and he trusts he can plunge those people into those incidents with interesting results. So he goes to work. To write a novel? No–that is a thought which comes later; in the beginning he is only proposing to tell a little tale, a very little tale, a six-page tale. But as it is a tale which he is not acquainted with, and can only find out what it is by listening as it goes along telling itself, it is more than apt to go on and on and on till it spreads itself into a book. I know about this, because it has happened to me so many times.”

4) “Don’t say the old lady screamed. Bring her on and let her scream.”

5) “I notice that you use plain, simple language, short words and brief sentences. That is the way to write English – it is the modern way and the best way. Stick to it; don’t let fluff and flowers and verbosity creep in. When you catch an adjective, kill it. No, I don’t mean utterly, but kill most of them – then the rest will be valuable. They weaken when they are close together. They give strength when they are wide apart. An adjective habit, or a wordy, diffuse, flowery habit, once fastened upon a person, is as hard to get rid of as any other vice.”

6) “The time to begin writing an article is when you have finished it to your satisfaction. By that time you begin to clearly and logically perceive what it is you really want to say.”

7) “Writing is easy. All you have to do is cross out the wrong words.”

8) “My books are water; those of the great geniuses is wine. Everybody drinks water.”

9) “Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very;’ your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.”

Oh, and one little tidbit -- Killing Moon is a semi-finalist in the 13Horror screenplay competition.

Dude, the 'tude may be rude but it's been imbued with thoughts to be chewed, since it means I'm not booed and my writing's the food that enhances my mood...except when I'm screwed by characters crude...but still there's no feud for as one is clued into the soft blued lights that shine on the shrewd who are then well-wooed to be lovingly nude...with their thoughts neatly queued.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Damn the torpedoes...full speed ahead!

I took the leap and made a Kindle edition of The Vanishing of Owen Taylor. It's up on their page and I've begun to spread the word. I have to do everything I can to help the book; it hasn't been selling very well. I'm hoping this will assist, since Amazon has a near chokehold on e-book sales.

I'm also researching ways to market the book. Taking an hour a day to work on it. So far, I already do most of what they say to do -- have a website, blog, network -- but I'm falling flat on getting people to review it. Haven't got a one, yet, despite giveaways and queries and all the attendant nonsense. But I'm still working at it.

I'm doing this to learn how to better work the marketing on my next book...which will probably be a paperback of The Alice 65. Next month is National novel Writing Month, and I'm taking the challenge to make A65 into a novel. Dig more into Adam and Casey and Lando and the like. There's a lot to them.

Something else this is doing is helping me see more clearly into what is needed for Place of my surprise. I have a good idea of the plotline, but it needs more to make it both meaningful and interesting. Brendan's wish to just live his life is great; it's just not a novel's worth of storytelling. At least, not this long of a novel. He's not exactly Candide...though that's a good place to start.

Another thing is, all of my contacts, now, are in the rare and antiquarian book business. Not really into the new book world, anymore, so they can't help much...though A65 is set in the antiquarian book world. Maybe I could send copies out to the dealers I know. And Book Soup does offer my books. Maybe I should contact them about a book signing when I'm going to be in town, next time.

I wonder how much advance notice they need?

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Dear God...this is a hit?

The problem with watching TV these days is it hurts you. Not in ways you can see or even imagine, but it still sucks the smarts out of you and makes a mockery of intelligence and reality. Which is why I don't watch it. Except for the last few Sunday nights.

I'm watching of those pretty people make pretty heroes up against impossible odds kind of shows. I'm doing it because Russell Tovey is in it and we're tweeting. And...thank the gods...he's damned good in it. The camera loves him when he's moving and acting and doing his thing. He gives his line readings a lovely spin and has more chemistry with the lead female than the nominal male lead does. So that part is not a waste.

But the's an embarrassment. The show has a hostage situation where something like 1600 people are being held in a high-rise in downtown NYC and the terrorist-kidnappers have people patrolling all over the place, but the lead female gets to scurry about without being seen...and gets an extra set of bad-guy clothes...and yet for some reason the lead male winds up attacking her as a way to get someone's hood off without realizing who she is until he does realize and it just goes on and on.

I have yet to see one original concept in it after 3 episodes. And these supposedly super-smart people keep doing stupid things to forward the story -- like blundering questions while trying to find out something about someone else. And the CIA has a father and daughter working together to train them? There's even a body falling from the sky scene straight out of Die Hard.

I justified taking time out to watch it by doing some sewing.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

More info for Place of Safety

I got a couple of maps of Derry, today. One's from 1905 so only vaguely useful; the other is from sometime in the early 50s, when the Creggan Housing Estate was being plotted out. It shows the streets of the Bogside as they were before redevelopment destroyed them...each named. This was worth the money, no question.

Unfortunately, other questions are ramming me, at the moment, so I'm not able to focus. I've been getting hints that I may be out of a job, soon, and I am not at all in a place where I can handle it. It may just be my own sense of inadequacy and paranoia eating at me -- I've never been comfortable in Caladex's office; I have to do things in there that are the opposite of how I normally work. Keep secrets. Not help people as much as I'd like. Follow specific steps in minute detail to get things done. I understand why all of this is necessary; it's just not intuitive to me.

I'm sloppy. When I do a packing job, I know how to keep things in order and what needs to be done where. I showed that when I packed up a painting on glass and transported it 300 miles in the back of a minivan without it being damaged...or any of the other items with it. When I pack books for shipping by air or freight, they arrive in good condition...unless the freight company goes out of its way to damage them, which has happened, once.

Same for dealing with UK and European requirements for export licenses and customs paperwork. We're bringing dealers in for the Boston Book Fair, the end of the month, and even though others in the office had gone over this one dealer's packing list, I found a couple of issues that needed to be addressed...while I was still away from the office. We're working on getting them corrected, now.

But when it comes to all the details of setting up the shipping and schedules and handling the vendors we use, I'm crap. I assume they will do their jobs, but half the time they don't. Even FedEx and UPS have reached the point where you have to monitor them, nonstop, and I feel that's intrusive. Which is stupid, but real.

And it's telling. By this point, I should know everything I need to know...and I don't. I'm still hesitant about how best to fill in a master airway bill of lading when it's coming to the US but not going the normal route and is without a sub-airway (known as a house bill) and it makes me feel very inadequate. And working out the best, cheapest routing is still beyond me.

So while I wouldn't mind leaving the job, I would mind not having the salary. And that's the rub. I'm broke beyond measure; in debt up to my eyeballs. If I lose the income, I'm best. So I'm now spending my time trying to figure out my next move.

And coming up zeroes.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Been to the valley, now climbing the montaintop...

This was the view from where I had lunch, on Wednesday. Just sitting on a porch in a rocking chair and gazing across those hills did more to clear my mind of its clutter than anything else I'd tried, the previous week. Not even taking a ferry from Seattle to Bainbridge Island and back in the brisk, sharp rain worked.

It also made me receptive to the following comment by Hope Clark, in her newsletter, Funds for Writers:


remarkable part of this profession we've chosen is that there are no age restrictions. We can be young, fresh out of school, and thanks to our wide-open, untethered, rose-colored glasses view of life, we can create a remarkable tale because we've never been told that sort of tale won't sell. We can be retired, a wealth of knowledge collected from life experiences, and choose to mold those moments and thoughts into stories before our time is done. And we can be anything in between.

Bram Stoker was 50 when he published Dracula.
Laura Ingalls Wilder was 64 when she wrote her first Little House book.
Frank McCourt was 66 and waited until he'd retired from teaching to write his first book, Angela's Ashes.
Raymond Chandler was 51 when he published the first Philip Marlowe mystery noir.

On the other side...

Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein at age 19.
Alec Greven published How to Talk to Girls at age 9.
Helen Keller wrote her autobiography at age 22.
Christopher Paolini published Eragon at age 18.

The moment you tell yourself you are too young or too old, you are simply throwing up obstacles in front of yourself, because age doesn't matter to anyone else. Writing is about pure word mastery . . . at any point in your life.

Likewise, education is not a requirement. You may earn an MFA in creative writing or start in high school. What matters most is your motivation. My degree was in agronomy (agricultural plant science), yet I've published six mystery novels.

Amanda Hocking was a millionaire with her fantasy works by the age of 25 after only two semesters of community college. Jonathan Franzen isn't a fan of authors getting an MFA, but Alexander Chee is. Junot Diaz has an MFA and still doesn't think anyone needs it. Read more in this piece, 27 Writers on Whether or Not to Get Your MFA -

Then there are the high school dropouts: Harper Lee (To Kill a Mockingbird), Augusten Burroughs (Running with Scissors), Jack Kerouac, William Faulkner, and Jack London.

When you set conditions on being a writer, you're fooling only yourself. The biggest requirement is an intensity to write, and a fire in your belly to be better, and better, until you can write no more.

I was starting to feel old and weary and down because of a whole host of issues...but the last few days have turned my self-denigration around and rekindled the fire within. I got lots of shit to say, and I'm gonna say it.

Watch me burn.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Wednesday work and feedback on KM...

This was my commute, this morning, to a job I had a lot of fun doing. Can't say who for, yet, but it was amazing -- and wait till I show you where I had lunch.

I got some surprisingly nice feedback on Killing Moon from 13 Horror. Criticisms were spot on and they found yet another typo. ARRRRRGGH! But...maybe being pissy little Charlie Bacquer is worth it.

Here's what they said:

Very nice set up for the intro, with some stand out dialog:

Jeez, how’d you come up with that shit you said?
Tried to sound like Gandalf.

You’ve crafted this well. From the glimpse of the sneaker to the nice use of flashback early on.
You build a nice, tense piece. You make no secret of the general direction of where you’re taking things with the “demon’s” demands, but the ride is entertaining all the same. The nice dialog between the Troy, Mike, Lissa and Joe makes them likeable, and this generates a degree of concern for them as we’re already aware of what’s likely to be in store for them... Also, your additional characters each have very unique voices. Harlan, for example. This’ Harlan. Over. Plus the exchanges between Charley and Chuck. It’s a very aural experience even reading them, and really brings them to life.

Nice reference to Stepford. I made a similar comment a few days ago and the person I was speaking to just stared at me blankly!!!

The irony of Lord, how’d we wind up with kids so out of control? was very amusing.

Pg 38: Oh, did I say coming to A fag?
Should be lower case ‘a’.

Pete, don't be crazy. We know these people! They won't -- !
Aw, sweet Jesus, here they come!

That little exchange sums up that aspect of the horror quite nicely. It’s not marauding zombies or invading aliens – it’s the guy you buy your milk from or have a beer with or the lady
who cuts your hair, enacting a scene usually confined to black and white photos from days gone by. It’s a nice commentary on the press being complicit too, and Harlan was right to run the fuckers out of town.

Got a bit Quantum Leap-like at the end but not in a bad way. Your pacing was spot on and the mix of dialog and action was very well balanced for the most part, although it did get a bit novel/short story right at the end (page 88 onwards). My ooooooooooooooonly real criticism (and I’m probably being
super picky) is that Avery went on a bit – he must have quoted the Book of Isiah about five times by the time he got his come-uppance, which made him a bit too archetypal and perhaps not as scary as he could have been. But like I said, perhaps I’m being picky and these things are, of course, subjective.

I really enjoyed this – great job, and thanks for submitting it.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

10 days on the road...

I'm currently in Burlington, Vermont for a packing job -- my second, with The Seattle Book Fair nestled in between. I like to travel but this time I was stupid and used my big suitcase because I thought I was only going to be gone 6 days instead of 10 and wanted to load it with all the things I needed along with the paperwork for the first job and the book fair, and not have to worry about laundry.

Instead, this job in Burlington got tacked on at the last minute so I'm lugging this beast of a suitcase around along with a briefcase, and I'm beat. And what's really irritating is, I wound up having to do laundry, anyway, since I won't be getting home till late Friday.

From now on, I take only what I need for 4 days and do what I need to do off that...along with just my laptop; no tablet or any extra electronic stuff. Especially since I'm probably heading to both Berkeley and someplace near Mt. Kisco, NY for more packing to be done, the beginning of November. Nothing settled on that, but they would have to be before I go to Hong Kong for this year's China In Print Fair.

What's been interesting is, through this whole trip I haven't been able to write. At all. I can make quickie comments on Facebook and Twitter and the comments section of news reports, but to actually hunker down and work on Place of Safety...or anything else, even? I zone. I've barely even written in my journal, and this is the first post on my blog in over a week. I don't know why...and what worries me most about the whole episode is, normally I go into withdrawal if I don't write at least a little every day. I've had none of that.

Haven't done any reading, either...outside of a book I read for a friend (and which I wound up not liking). I did think about some possibilities of what to do about my lack of success in writing and film...but haven't done anything about it. Well...made some notes and contemplated the ideas. A little.

I almost think I've tapped into a malaise crossing the country. Dealers I spoke with at the fair said people aren't buying like they normally do. Like they're waiting till after the election to see how things will go. Maybe this whole election cycle is finally getting to me and I'm just withdrawing from reality for a while, for self-preservation.

Because I'm at the point where even thinking about Trump becoming president sends me spiraling into despair. Too many people are beginning to assume he's self-destructed with his latest foot-in-mouth crap about sexually assaulting a woman and being able to get away with it. But I won't believe it till he's conceded or is dead...and right now, I don't care which way it winds up. I hate to say this, but I seriously hope his children have him committed or killed, if only for their own self-preservation.

He is the worst kind of animal.

Monday, October 3, 2016

If I could afford to live here...

 ...I would go in a heartbeat. It's a national forest in Switzerland...and it is magical...

I can't get anybody to give me reviews on The Vanishing of Owen Taylor. Not friends. Not people I've given the book to. Not magazines or online reviewers. I'm not sure if that means it's crap or it's not an easy read or it's too brilliant (my actual preference), but it would be nice to get some real feedback. I don't want to make the same mistakes in Place of Safety that I did or might have done in OT.

And I'm sure there were plenty. Same for The Lyons' Den and Bobby Carapisi. I got ambitious in those two...and in OT, to an extent. Playing around with how the narrative is told. Seeing just how far I could go. I've gotten good reviews on both of of which made a good point about the ending of LD...but that seems to be the extent of it.

Maybe I should publish a version of OT in Kindle just to get the ebook on Amazon.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Two things...

First, I'm watching this show called Quantico on ABC, Sunday nights at 10, because Russell Tovey's in it. It's about FBI people who are amazingly pretty and who are now training with the CIA, but that's all flashback because the main actress is in a Die Hard situation where terrorists have taken over a WTO summit in a high-rise in downtown Manhattan and she's the only one who can do anything about it...and OMG, it's crap. Stupid. Stupid. Stupid.

The dialogue is nothing but cliches and a TV version of using "Look...I know...yap yap yap whatever" to change the direction of a scene. Things happen because they have to happen, whether they make sense or not. A bit where one character is being followed by 5 people during a training exercise and only figures out who 4 of them are (because they're all but calling attention to themselves) when it was obvious from the first second who the fifth one was...and then being stupid enough to not realize you've inadvertently let him know you're really undercover for the FBI? And you're supposed to be smart?

Russell is fantastic in it. He's real and charming and sneaky and smart and natural in front of the camera while the other actors are so busy acting, they seem like paper cutouts next to him. And the writing is phenomenally insipid but he makes his lines work. It actually hurts to see this...

Second, I'm giving some of my screenplays to a guy named Charlie Bacquer. See what he does with them, and I've told him he can do what he wants. Rewrite. Cut. Change them all around. Whatever. He's already done that with Killing Moon but sharpened it to be more of a "fuck you" movie than I could have. And right now he's working on Delay En route. Making it "less coy; more action."

This will be interesting.