Derry, Northern Ireland

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

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Another preliminary first draft done...

I just finished another run through The Alice '65 and now have no idea what the story is about. After all the cutting and adding and rearranging throughout what I'd already done, I don't even know if it holds together, anymore. All I can do is keep working on it and honing it down till it begins to make sense.

I'm taking tomorrow off from writing. I may watch a bunch of bad movies -- like Attack of the Giant Leeches and Phantom from 10,000 Leagues and crap like that to clear my head. I saw them as a kid in San Antonio, on Midnight Movies -- that was the precursor to Mystery Science Theater 3000 and Elvira, Mistress of the Dark (who actually made a fun movie in 1988 with a hunk of a guy who couldn't act but was lovely to look at), and would actually start at midnight on a Saturday night.

I saw most of the Hammer horror Films and Corman's crap on those shows, and enjoyed them even though they were silly...well, for the most part...but the latter two were all about the comments and remarks made by the hosts. Which were also silly but a blast.

I also saw some pretty good B-grade horror/suspense films -- like William Castle's I Saw What You Did and The Tingler...which was obviously influenced by Henri-Georges Clouzot's Diabolique -- but I didn't know that till I got to see Diabolique at the Olmos Theater after it became a revival house and played it on a double bill with Wages of Fear...and the only reason I went is because I was taking French in college and wanted to test my ability.

Anyway, trash is good for someone like me, who has a lofty idea of what film should be, even though half the time I just want to see if a good-looking man's in a tighty-whitie. (Snork)

Friday, March 24, 2017

Off to NYC...

Got a last-minute pickup in NYC, next week, and solidified a job just outside Oklahoma City, of all places, for the end of April. Another job is set for late July or early August in San Francisco, and another is happening in Daytona Beach, Florida. I'm back to flying around, again...and I can't wait. I do not like being in the office.

I don't feel I'm doing much. I try, but the woman I work under is one of those people who thinks it's better if she just does things herself. Even when I get her to to give me a task, if I don't do it fast enough for her, she just takes it back. It's an odd feeling, like you're a total incompetent. Which makes me think I have to be even more careful when I set up a shipment...which usually makes me prone to mistakes.

I'm not really all that in tune with how things work in logistics -- it takes someone who's heavy into detail, which I am not -- but I've handled a few shipments all on my own and they've gotten where they needed to go. That's good.

Ahh, the hell with it. I did a quick check of last year's income and profit, and worked out that I paid for myself with the packing jobs we had...so at least I'm not a drain on the company. I'd love to be back in LA...sometimes I get so homesick for it...but it doesn't look like I'll have anything happening there anytime soon...and you do what you have to in order to make your way, don't you?

And the truth is, if I were still there, I'd still be writing scripts instead of books. The Vanishing of Owen Taylor would never have been completed, and I'd never have developed A65 into a story. I can also use the isolation of this town to help me focus on getting P/S done, once I've finished this one. I'm actually ready to get started and build a full first draft.

But God I miss LA.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Another story in the manner of A65

This is the full movie if you want to see it; the opening dialogue is a bit out of sync, but once Hildy gets into Walter Burns' office, it's fine.

This is a comedy revolving around the pending execution of a man and the disgraceful actions of a group of reporters and politicians and an editor and his ex-wife spar over their previous marriage. It's also a suicide attempt in it, and a crazy little guy who shoots a man as he's escaping...in the ass, granted, but still...

Okay...so let the games in The Alice '65 begin.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Not sure about this...

The Alice 65 has taken a pretty dark turn, and I'm not sure how I feel about it. It's not a major part of the story -- just deals with a difficult relationship Adam's having with one of his brothers, Connor -- but it's got me wondering if I should adjust the whole family dynamic.

Right now, Adam is the youngest in the family...but I'm thinking of switching it so he's the oldest. Then comes Beryl. Then comes Connor, with David last of the brood. Connor is always getting at Adam and angering him and flustering him. He even almost got Adam drowned, when they were kids. At the end, after it's already been splashed everywhere about what happened to the book, Connor calls Adam to berate him. People in his office are laughing at him because of Adam.

Now that, in and of itself is no big deal; it's Adam's reaction that startled me. He as much as suggests Connor tell people they aren't really brothers. That Adam's a mentally defective child who was adopted by the family. And he does it in such a casual way, it's like he's decided he and Connor are no longer related...and Connor, being all about himself, runs with it.

I'm not sure how I feel about that. This was supposed to be a romantic comedy but it keeps dragging shadows into it...and not at my urging. I'm halfway tempted to fight them...but then I think of a movie like The Apartment, that's a dramatic comedy about a twerp who lets his bosses use his apartment to cheat on their wives in hopes it will help him get ahead...and it does. Until he falls in love with a girl on the elevator only to learn she's seeing his uber-boss, who's married and wants to use his apartment to fool around on his wife...with that girl.

Parts of it are very funny with some wicked lines, but it's got a vicious attitude about morality in America and there's a suicide attempt treated full-on honestly. Everything about it is grounded in the reality that its lead character is a brown-nosing pimp who needs to become a mensch...a nice guy...in the face of the casual corruption around him. And yet, it's fun.

Maybe that's what my characters and story are aiming for...

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Cutting...rearranging...

I'm at the point where I'm trimming out some bits of nonsense and shifting other bits to other places. I'm also removing repetition and finding there are other sections that, while they don't exactly repeat they are a bit too similar to work well.

For example, I have Casey tell Adam about her father, a swindler who vanished with millions of her money as well as other people's. But then I have Patricia, Casey's mother, also tell some about him...and it's not different enough to be adding details but is more like a different view of what happened. I'm not sure, yet, which one of them should do the talking about that or even if it's necessary for Adam to know. Being written in third person, I can discuss it without telling him.

I'm also still adding details in -- like coming back to a book Adam was archiving at the very beginning. It's a copy of Orlando Furioso in Latin, and he can't figure out if the book was owned by a Pope, who then gave it to a King. An off-handed comment by Casey about Lando helps Adam realize how to determine the truth behind it.

And then there's Lando never not wearing sunglasses, even in the theater during the premier of the movie. And Adam not realizing what's going on during the red carpet word-war between Casey, Lando and Veronica but still managing to say the right thing even though he means something else.

I also need to work Sean and Shawn, the paparazzi twins, into the story better, as well as Adam's relationship with this brothers and sister, since it figures into the story. And...what Casey hopes to achieve by using Adam like she's doing. Man, there's a LOT left to do.

But...it's moving forward, and that's a good thing.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Pushing forward...

I've been working late, all week, and getting home with headaches, so today I focused on nothing but The Alice '65...and it's closer. I'm now at about 60,000 words, with more bits added in that will need to be smoothed over to fit the story. I will have no idea if anything is working until I get to a point where I think I've done enough and decide to print it out and do my red pen thing.

That's when I normally start honing the story. It breaks me out of the screen and I'm almost reading the words as if written by someone else. Then I can edit and rearrange and cut and work with the characters to make it better and tighter and more real.

As of right now, I've just got a lot of action and a bit of truth to the characters. Adam's stumbling along well enough, and Casey's not far behind; it's characters like Vincent and Patricia and Lando who are still not really there, yet. Just involved witnesses to the events when they should be more active participants. Patricia's closest to being developed, since she's Casey's mother and also a lonely woman. I rather enjoy the ending she gets in the book.

The others -- well...Lando still doesn't quite make sense to me. He needs a better through line. And Vincent popped up with something at the end that makes me want to rework his bits at the beginning. Something that also makes him more willing to have The Alice checked to make certain it's authentic. I'm not sure I like it, considering everything else, but I have to let it play itself out.

I'm still approaching this as if it's a romantic-comedy...but by the time I'm done, I have a feeling it will not be what I expected. The drama seems to be pushing its way in, more -- Casey's history and Adam's father's death having an impact on the family, that sort of stuff. So it may wind up merely a romance...I dunno.

Nor do I care, so long as the book is happy.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Different tastes...

I read an interesting article on acting, online, and this guy -- who's supposedly a director and producer -- took issue with what I call stunt acting. That's when an actor does something physically intense and over the top to prove he's an actor. I lump Eddie Redmayne, Dustin Hoffman, Tom Hanks and Jack Nicholson in this category for the Oscars they've won.

Redmayne playing Stephen Hawking was a bit of stunt acting. Good, but more physically impressive than revealing of character. Same for Daniel Day Lewis in My Left Foot and Hoffman in Rain Man. Both geared to the external limitations of their characters -- one due to his body, the other due to his mind -- that were neither subtle nor revealing.

That doesn't apply to all stunt acting. When I saw Leonardo DeCaprio playing a kid with cerebral palsy in What's Eating Gilbert Grape, I believed him in that character so completely, I think he was robbed at the Oscars.

It sort of fits in with my disagreements with actors about who is good and bad in a film. I once had a long discussion with some friends who thought Brendan Fraser should have been nominated for Gods and Monsters. I thought he was good, but he didn't earn his emotion breakdown near the end. His voice was flat, to me. They insisted I was wrong.

Another one is Kristen Stewart. I've heard her referred to as the best actor of her generation, but what little I've seen her in, she's one-note and boring. I see nothing going on with her or her characters, and her voice is like a drone. She's not interested in bringing a whole person to you.

I like actors who can keep you guessing as to what their reasons are, even as they reveal their characters. To me, one of the best jobs of acting I've ever seen was Sir Ralph Richardson in The Heiress. He's a cold man who probably blames his daughter for his beloved wife dying in childbirth, but at the same time he's trying to protect her from a fortune hunter. Or...he might be doing all he can to thwart her happiness, as punishment for living. You don't know, but he sends you the man's complexity with the slightest of movements -- an arched eyebrow, a polite smile with a subtle change of tone in his voice... It's a master class in acting, unto itself.

Same for Diane Keaton and Meryl Streep in Norman's Room. Both were majors stars when this movie was made, yet by the end of the first act, you forget you're watching actors and instead feel like you're witnessing people's lives, because every bit of their performance was geared to bringing you a whole human being, not just part of one.

Oh, well, I guess this is why I never was cut out for acting -- my reality is too warped to bring anyone else's reality into the world.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Write the book, first...

By the time I get done with The Alice '65, it will be nearly nothing like the script I initially wrote. Well...not exactly; the structure is still basically the same. It's just, as I work on the details of how events unfold in this new version, I learn things about the characters that would have been lovely in the screenplay...and other characters help keep the story just enough off-center to make it not only interesting but unusual.

At least, I hope so. I've been wrong, before.

For example -- by adding one little moment on the plane, where Adam's seatmate paints a henna tattoo on his left hand after her son vomited on him (and after he's cleaned himself up) has become a running gag. Super style guru Orisi sees it and has her tracked down to do the other hand...which leads to her knowing Adam will be at the premier so she brings her husband, who's a Casey Blanchard fanatic, and they treat Adam so much like he's famous, the other people in the premier crowd start thinking he is, taking attention away not only from Lando when he arrives...but also Casey as she's doing her celebrity thing...and getting a bit miffed, none of which Adam intends...or notices.

And there's more to come.

God only knows when I'll get this done...

Oh...and The Lyons' Den will be available in paperback as of Wednesday, the 15th, through Amazon.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Reworked the reworking of my reworking...

New opening to The Alice '65...
------------
The first printing of Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland is so rare, only twenty-four copies are known to still exist. So for any bibliophile, it would be a dream to be sent to Los Angeles to pick up a newly discovered copy, and Adam Verlain was the epitome of one. Granted, he was not yet thirty, and while trim, he was hardly thin, but he always wore a suit and tie, with hair cut neat and easy, and he had a clean, open face that gave him the look of an inquisitive cat behind pharmacy-bought reading glasses. There was also a vague aura of otherworldliness to him, as if he were always caught in some contemplation that was so deep and intense, the world nearly ceased to exist around him. Had he shown up on the owner's doorstep, they would instantly have pegged him as a person who belonged in a library, or some such career ... with which Adam would agree; for as he often said, books were his life. Meaning, he was the perfect person to make the journey.

But he did not want to go.

To begin with, his job was to archive antiquarian volumes for a private college in London. Also, his area of expertise was incunabula and codices from the Fourteenth, Fifteenth and Sixteenth Centuries; it would have made far more sense to send his colleague, Elizabeth, a recent hire set up in in the cubicle next to his and whose focus was 19th and 20th Century works ... and that was not because he rather fancied her; he knew from the first day she was hardly what one would call a book person. At least, not yet. But she was pretty and confident, and would say all of the right things to the book's owner, so she would have made a fine ambassador for the college.

Then there was Vincent, head of their small but growing antiquarian book collection, a role he had occupied for untold decades ... mainly because he had started it and no one was as knowledgeable about manuscripts as he. However, Vincent was at least twice Adam's age and already had the appearance of a Victorian ghost, so the trip would have been difficult for him. That said, he wasn't exactly at death's door and his arrival would have imparted a true sense of the book's importance.

Of course, if one wished to be simplistic, all they really needed was a body that was halfway human to do the job, so their photographer, Jeremy, would have sufficed. Almost. He was young and full of himself and would love a day or two in Southern California. But he was also had tattoos on his tattoos and piercings ... well, God knows where; not quite the image the college would want to project.

So the choice was Adam. But had he known this was how his Monday would turn out, well ... he had a month of sick leave coming to him, and he'd have taken every day of it to avoid being tapped for the journey. However, by the time he realized what was happening, it was too late to change course -- not without quitting a job he loved.

A job he would arrive for at eight-fifty-two, every morning, to be in his cubicle with his computer fired up by nine, sharp. By that point, he would either have chosen a fresh book from the "new arrivals" cart to archive or he would be reminding himself where he let off from a book he was working on, the evening before. Jammed into a corner behind him, a sturdy corner table would hold whatever notes were needed to accompany his work, as well as any other documents, all very easy to spin around in his chair to retrieve and glance over.

He would break for tea at 10:55, lunch at 1pm, a second tea at 3:55 and head for home at 5:30. Well, except for the occasions where he got so caught up in researching a fascinating or unusual volume, he would look up from his computer or notes and realize it was five and he'd had neither lunch nor tea ... or, just often, it was nearly seven, the cleaning crew had arrived, and he was late for his mother's dinner.

That happened twice, last week, with a truly elegant copy of Orlando Furioso. In Latin. It had been presented to King Victor Emmanuel, in 1866, not long before the Third Italian War for Independence, and there were indications the book was first given to Pope Pius IX on his selection to the papacy, twenty years earlier. His focused so tight on trying to confirm it, he got in some difficulty with Vincent.

"We've dozens of other books to archive," the old man had said, in his veddy-veddy-British tone, "and you spend five days on one inconsequential volume?"

Adam had huffed. Granted, the book was re-bound in a plain red Morocco with overdone gold trim and was a bit worn, but it was still in fine condition and the possibility of a pope presenting it to a king at a time of major upheaval was more than worth the effort. So he had responded with, "Sir, I have never believed any book is inconsequential."

Causing Vincent to jolt ramrod straight and bring out the worst of his Oxford attitude as he snarled, "Nor is this one more consequential than any others on the cart! Be done with it! We've dozens more acquisitions to archive and no funds to do it."

That was on Friday, last. Adam had already decided he'd dug as deep as he could, finding nothing but suggestions and hints about the book's history, so he planned to do little more than polish up his provenance and, well, be done with it. Still, since his computer continued to contemplate the possibility of making itself available, he picked the book up from the table and casually read the opening canto aloud, translating from the Latin:

Of loves and ladies, knights and arms, I sing,
Of courtesies, and many a daring feat;
And from those ancient days my story bring,
When Moors from Africa passed in hostile fleet,
And ravaged France, with Agramant, their king,
Flushed with his youthful rage and furious heat;
Who on King Charles’, the Roman Emperor’s head,
Had vowed due vengeance for Troyano dead.

"You're a lovely little book," he sighed to it. "Probably just the right item for a pope to give a king before a war. So don't think I'm giving up on you; I'll unlock the last of your mysteries, eventually."

Friday, March 10, 2017

Doing tedious work on A65

I'm plowing back into the tedious part of reworking The Alice '65...shifting the last of it from first to third person. It takes some writing effort, but mostly it's making sure I get rid of all the "I" aspects of the narrative bits to replace with "he, she, they and the like." It's hard, and even glancing back through what I've already done I find moments where I missed bits in need of reworking.

I'm also wondering if I'm approaching the point where there's too much going on? I'm still of a mind that the more I put in, the better...just so I can keep it from becoming too serious. It's a rom-com with dramatic bits...and I can always trim back. I dunno...I'm having fun and that's the main thing.

The New York Book Fair is now underway, so things will be quiet, this weekend...till move-out Sunday night. I'm in Buffalo while everyone else is dealing with the freezing cold in NYC, which is supposed to get even worse, Sunday night. After this comes the London Book Fair as the next big one, but it seems fewer and fewer dealers are attending the fairs.

Paris used to be fair-sized -- a couple dozen US and UK dealers being taking into it by us -- but this year, no Americans are going, and only a few Brits. Things are changing, thanks to the non-stop political turmoil all over the place, and won't stop anytime soon. Our own insanity in Washington and too many state capitols is proving how stubborn people can be when they decide to refuse to face the reality of the GOP's cruelty and greed.

Doesn't help the Democrats are flopping around giving very little push-back, with a few exceptions...