Derry, Northern Ireland

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

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Quick pass on a blurb...

I worked this up last night and polished it, this morning. It's not quite there but is going in the right direction --
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Jake Blaine was no detective; he was a graphic artist working for an advertising agency in Denmark. But Then his uncle, Owen Taylor, vanished. And he received two cryptic notes that made no sense. And those two notes were mailed to Jake's address in Copenhagen, even though he had been living in Texas for the past year, dealing with legal issues concerning his lover, Antony Lazarre. So no question, something was very wrong.

The thing is, no one had seen or heard anything from Owen for months. The man had always carefully guarded his personal space, so Jake was shocked to learn the District Attorney's office had filed charges against his uncle for molesting an underage boy. Now everyone was assuming Owen had jumped bail to avoid prosecution. But Jake knew his uncle would never back down from fighting the DA's claim; it was too obvious the accusation was politically motivated.

So Jake set up a quick trip to Palm Springs, thinking it would only take a few days to find out what was going on with his uncle. Instead, he uncovered a vicious conspiracy of lies, fear, distrust, intimidation and manipulation aimed at the gay community by people would stop at nothing to drive them from the city.

Not even murder.
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This would be on the inside dust jacket, if I do a hardcover, and on the back of the paperback. Doesn't quite pop, yet.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Adaptability...

My intention was to stay in, today, and work on the synopsis/blurb for the cover of OT, only going out to eat. Instead, my mind went into not-gonna-think mode and I wound up going to a Barnes & Noble to research what professional publishers do with the mystery books they put out. I checked paperbacks and hardcovers, including sizes and found that while I did pretty much the same stuff as them when I worked up my previous books, there were some differences.

The main one was, they all put the Library of Congress designation on their copyright page, something I haven't done once. And at the top of each page is not only the page number, as opposed to the bottom, like I did; they also put the authors name alternating with the title. For example, all even pages have the name; all odd pages have the title. I had seen it both ways, before, and always liked the number at the bottom...but I didn't find one book that did it that way, now.

So I took photos of them and will use these as my template. I also bought a copy of Farewell, My Lovely by Raymond Chandler. The only one I've read of his is The Big Sleep, and that was years ago. He and Dashiell Hammett pretty much founded the hard-boiled detective genre, almost as a counterpoint to Agatha Christie's genteel sleuths.

That's not to say Jake's a tougher-than-thou detective. However...he does get in the face of a few people and is willing to do what he must to put an end to any situation. And he does have a temper. Sometimes he comes across as more New York than Texas...but considering how international his makeup is, that's not a bad thing.
So with that done, I took a trip to Half Moon Bay, which is not a pretty town...but the beach is fabulous. I took off my shoes and walked in the sand. Got myself splashed by the sea. Sat and thought for a while. And it helped to clear my brain of a few things. I've started up the blurb and decided to do whatever I must  for the cover to make it appear more professional. I want this to kick butt, and to be honest many of the ones I read in B&N did not. So the only standards I have to meet are my own high ones.

Ah...I have neighbors to my motel room...and they are loud and obnoxious...what fun...

Thursday, February 4, 2016

The Skimmable Screenplay...

Voyage | Feb 4, 2016 (I happily stole this from their blog, and was written by Tom Carter)
Writers create screenplays to be viewed.

At least theoretically, no movie script was ever written for the purpose of being ‘read’ by an audience.

Actors, producers and directors, of course, read scripts all the time, and they are a key audience for young, up-and-coming screenwriters, but these professionals are also viewers too, right?

They, like general audiences, want to see, view or watch a script, not be forced to read it. We all want it visualized for us, largely, because it’s just easier.

There’s less work involved. It takes time, concentration and energy to read a screenplay, but anyone can collapse on a sofa, turn on a movie and watch it… just kind of skim through it.

So doesn’t it make sense that a script should share that essence and be designed for skimming, and not reading?

I think so.

Especially since we’re talking about an industry that’s famous for not always reading material cover-to-cover.

When any written document makes for a skimmable read, it rolls off the page. It’s digestible. You see it in your mind and understand it immediately.

Ironically, it’s kind of like watching a movie. Yet a large majority of scripts, even those by working professionals, are constructed in a way that hinders the visual flow of the story, and I’m not just talking about using more active, visually potent language.

Although it’s rarely written about in the best screenwriting books, avoidable words, grammar and even punctuation often obstruct both clarity and dramatic impact, yet screenwriters go back to them time and again because that’s the tradition.

Why?

Why create a screenplay using the tools of the novel? Why write a cinematic document, one whose sole purpose is visualization, without a clear design scheme in mind?

Take, for instance, a page from Tony Gilroy’s critical and commercial success, The Bourne Identity. skimmable screenplayNotice his use of double hyphens in place of extra words. He capitalizes or underlines key words for dramatic emphasis, making them both more graphic and more memorable for the reader. At the same time, while adding all of these elements, he’s still eliminating excess verbiage, everything except the core storytelling words, keeping the page white but not bare.

He avoids big blocks of description and long speeches. And last but not least, he underlines the slug lines to visually approximate the actual cut between scenes. These may seem like small details, but when added up, with a great story, they make for a very fast read.

You’ll be at page 80 without blinking an eye if you decide to read this entire script and I highly recommend it.

Weird metaphor here, but I think any given page of screenplay should look like a children’s rock-climbing wall. The textual elements (i.e. the words and punctuation) are like hand holds, in that they’re generally big, graphic and expertly spaced out in an elegant manner.

There’s variety across the page, between the action descriptions, names, dialogue and scene headings. To follow the comparison through, all of the script’s information comes together so that the eye can easily climb down each page.

Although no design scheme will ever replace a fantastic story well told, a writer should always be thinking about their script’s layout in the effort to layer the dramatic effect and, hopefully, in the process, make their tale all the more readable.

(What Voyage doesn't note is, most readers are living in a world of Save The Cat, and if you do this stuff, they can't figure out if they like it or not.)

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

The ideas keep coming...

I did a bit more adjusting and adding and rearranging on OT, though nothing massive or even expansive. Mainly details here and there and removal of a few more soft words and phrases. Now since I'm off on a 6 day trip, tomorrow, I won't have time to work on it and that will be good. I can finally let it sit.

Maybe I can get back to having something of a somewhat normal life. Read more. Watch a couple of movies. I'll be in San Mateo, not San Francisco, till Saturday night and will have a full day, Friday, to do whatever. No idea, yet, as to what that whatever will be. I've seen everything I want to in SF so don't feel the need to go into town...though I may. I might take my sketchbook with me and do some pen and ink stuff.

I'll have a car. Maybe I'll hop over to Carmel or Monterrey. I haven't been there since I was in college. Move-in's Thursday morning; the fair goes Friday and Saturday and I'm not needed back till 2pm on Saturday. Then once everything's loaded out and headed for the California Book Fair in Pasadena, I hop a redeye to Miami to handle load-out of the Miami Map Fair.

Then Monday next week it's back up to Buffalo...and after that I'm office-bound till some packing job comes up. A couple are hinting at needing me, but nothing concrete in any way, form, or fashion.

Let's see if I can keep from gaining weight this trip.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Another draft bites the dust...

I finished the latest pass on The Vanishing of Owen Taylor this evening. It's 507 pages long, at the moment, but hasn't been reformatted to fit into a book so will probably wind up about 300-325 pages spread over 4 parts.

I'm a lot happier with it. Jake's voice has become more forceful, more direct. I'm getting rid of about half the softening words I'd used...like then and well and sort of. And I did cut back on a lot of Jake telling what he or someone else is feeling and tried to make it clear through description of their actions.

It does keep getting tighter and faster as the story goes, so I may try to speed up the action in the beginning...but I can't go too far on that. As of now, everything in the book is there for a purpose and ties in later.

When I get back from the book fairs, I'll give it one quick pass then see if anyone is willing to give me feedback on it. Someone who hasn't read it, yet. If that comes together without major issues, I think I'll be ready to start setting it up for publishing.

I want an image for the back of the book, so may look into working up a version of Owen's painting of Jake and Dion. I photoshopped a photograph into a rendition of it, but I don't have the rights to it and have no idea whom to contact to license it for this. I'll have to think on that.

This has not been an easy process, I know...but it's been rewarding...finally. Working through it has sharpened my writing skills. I can tell the difference from just when I wrote Bobby Carapisi.

I almost feel like I'm training for the marathon of writing Place of Safety.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Taste the closeness...

I'm down to the last 85 pages of this rewrite of The Vanishing of Owen Taylor. I may actually get this done before making my run to San Francisco and Miami, especially since I'm up to the part that doesn't really need a lot of reworking. Everything's set; now come the confrontations and explanations.

In this draft I found an interesting thread already sort of running through the story -- that Jake must get to where he trusts himself. Once I'm done, I'm going to let this draft sit for a while then make another pass through it to see if that's really part of the story's theme -- trust. Jake's actions seem to indicate that while he has the ability to trust others...or tries to...he never trusts his own abilities, except when he's angry. Which is not the way it should be.

That plays a little off me -- I have major trust issues. Not just with others but with myself. Looking back I can see that I've always had them, but I never really thought about it until the last few years. Now I can see I've never truly believed in my own opinions and abilities. People praise me and I shrug it off as nice but not really meaningful...which is silly. People criticize me and I take it to heart, no matter how vicious and stupid it is. Nowhere near as much as I used to...but still somewhat.

Thing is, in the entertainment business you have to not only be able to do the job, but know you can -- be it writer, director, actor. Otherwise, you will crash and burn. Because no matter how well you do, how perfect you are in every way, there will always be those who criticize you and tear you down.

What's crazy is, 25 years ago, I had the chance to prove myself as someone capable of making a movie and I failed, miserably. I got involved in a film project with a man who had plenty of ego and no talent, and just before production began I had the feeling I should cancel it for the good of everybody or at least take it over...but I didn't. I stupidly thought I could make it work, as it was.

I was wrong, and my gut was right. And I've been in several other situations where it told me to stop and back away, and every time I paid attention it turned out right. It's when I didn't that I fucked up.

I don't learn easy. My lessons are usually brutal, and they have to slam me more than once. I don't know why I am that way...I just am. And it looks like I always will be, to an extent.

And I don't know if that's psychosis, stupidity or just plain stubbornness.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Looks like I'm getting better...

Haven't had a wild idea all day. Been too busy getting ready for the California Book Fair in Pasadena, The San Francisco Print & Paper Fair in San Mateo, and the Miami Map Fair in...Miami. I'm handling the last two, both of which are on Super Bowl weekend. And San Mateo is only a few miles from where the football game will happen...so that show is only running Friday and Saturday.

I head out Wednesday, then I'm back to the office the following Tuesday, and will stay there for Pasadena. Dammit. It's been a year since I've been to LA and I'm going through withdrawal. Another sign I'm feeling better.

I'm at page 278 of the latest rewrite of OT and finding more things to shift to make the story better. Like when Jake goes to an abandoned dealership and finds it's being used as a porn studio that's connected to his uncle. I was missing ways to make this moment more intense and add to Jake's growing belief his uncle was killed.

I may actually get this book done...

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Another crazy-assed idea...

I used to do storyboards for movies. What if I was to storyboard out one of my scripts, all the way, then get local actors to read the dialogue, then shift the sketches into a video with the actors' voices over and post that in 3 minute bits? That would only take forever...but it'd be something...

I also found a publisher looking for some nice horror, vampire, SF and fantasy stories to publish -- maximum word count...35,000. Hell, that's just a chapter for me. But I could shift Blood Angel over to that, from screenplay format. Make it nice and erotic, and it's already very heterosexual. I tried for the style of The Hunger; the innocence of Fright Night; the viciousness of Interview With The Vampire; the togetherness of Being Human.

Initially, I used Jonathan Togo and Christina Ricci as images in my head for Tristan and Gabrielle. I like the haunted look in his eyes, because Tristan's had too much hurt in his life. And she looks like someone who is always in control and cares for nothing but that which will make her happy, which is Gabrielle to the nth degree. They'd have been a great pair, onscreen. I might still use them as models, if I do the storyboards.
Hmm...only thing is, I'd need music for it, because Tristan's life is about a song his mother wrote for him and how he plays his trumpet in the devastation left behind by Katrina as a elegy to not only her but his city...and himself. Dunno any good trumpet players, and licensing music is a pain in the ass...and never really right.

I used Jan Garbarek's "Pace mihi domine" as my template music for Tristan's elegy. It's haunting and elegant in a way that is both beautiful and heartbreaking. Back when I had cashed out my 401K and was living off that while I tried to get something going for BA, I had it workshopped and paid an associate to develop a $5m budget for it (which would probably be $15m, now). Developed a prototype of the poster. Even hit the Austin Film Festival to try and garner interest; it had reached the semi-finals in their screenplay competition. This was 9 years ago. Obviously none of it worked.

I guess in the space of the next 9 years, I could work up enough sketches to almost make it animated.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Colds make me crazy...

I rarely get colds, but when I do I go nuts. I get depressed. I don't like anything. I just want to be left alone but don't want to stay home. I should never go shopping or reading or do any writing when I'm hacking and rubbing myself with Vicks and downing OJ like it's water. Right now I feel like I slosh as I walk from all the fluids in me, and I know it made a merely bad meal into the worst of my life. Now my pants fit tighter around the waist, I have to pee like every five minutes, and I will never go back to PF Chang's.

Something else it does is bring me crazy ideas and contemplations mixed with a touch of anger and a lot of attitude. Like...what if I worked How To Rape A Straight Guy into a screenplay? And took it to a porn house for funding? Someplace like Cocky Boys or Sean Cody or HotHouse or Bondage Gods? It only has a few locations -- a bar, a condo & garage in WeHo, city streets, Curt's apartment, and a jail. It could done cheap. Keep in the graphic sex for the producers, but make it a serious movie about a man destroying himself, even as he's sure he's doing the opposite.

It would mean using porn actors, for most of the male roles...but there are some who can act. Colby Keller (the guy in the photo), for instance. Connor Habib. Paul Wagner. Kyle King. Question is, would Colby shave off his beard?

Make 2 editions -- one for an R rating; one for the XXX crowd. It would be a giant F You to the cowardice and amazing stupidity of the film industry, in general.

I think this came on strong because I read Joseph Fiennes was cast to play Michael Jackson in the British road film about a trip he, Marlon Brando and Elizabeth Taylor supposedly took after 9/11 in an attempt to get to LA from NY. That bit of absurdity smacked me into WTF land, totally.

Seriously, if a middle-aged Welshman who obviously does have a set of balls can play a younger African-American singer who was probably gelded as a child, and who desperately was trying to be white, why can't I make a literary porn movie?

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Back on track, finally...

Got a splitting headache that took a double-dose of Advil to get rid of...but I have the first half of OT where it needs to be. Where it should have been, all along. 23 chapters in 2 parts spread over 221 pages. Consistent with the first book while still giving enough information about why Jake and Tone are stuck in Texas, so they don't have to read RIHC6 to understand everything.

And yet...I'm finding that Jake doesn't part with information easily. He's revealing bits of his past when he faces something similar in the current story, and keeping that up has been a challenge, while using his reticence has helped streamline the story somewhat.

Now I can get back to a slightly more normal life...and I rewarded myself by re-watching Vertigo. Apparently it has taken over in critic's polls as the greatest movie ever made...something I do not agree with. I like it, but I think Notorious is Hitchcock's best film. It's damn near perfect, while Vertigo has too many contrivances for me to accept it as a masterpiece.

Except...when Madeline returns to Scotty in the hotel, drifting out of a green haze and surrounded by Bernard Herman's elegant score...that did get me. And I do think it was a travesty that Jimmy Stewart was not even nominated for an Oscar for his work. As for Kim Novak, I cannot imagine anyone else in the role; she had the beauty and mystery and sophistication of Madeline down pat as well as Judy's backwoods Kansas behavior and attitude.

It wasn't their fault this movie didn't hit with the public; it was how ludicrous the basis for the story was. I really wanted to read the original book, D'entre les Morts, to find out how Boileau and Narcejac handled it, but I could only find it in French. That was half the reason I took the language in college. Only it was written in a vernacular they don't teach in class. Lots of slang.

Then I learned it had been translated but the man who did the original translation was not know for his fidelity to the books he worked on. So...I got through 2 pages of trying to translate it before I gave up and decided to leave it. Maybe some things are better left undone.

Now comes the speedier second half of OT...