Derry, Northern Ireland

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

Sunday, September 23, 2018

APoS making way for UG

I have the outline for APoS as tight as I can make it, especially since once I start working on completing the first full draft it's going to change. But I see the line of Brendan's life, now, from 10 year old who's not sorry his farther died to 25 year-old driven into the realm of the IRA's factions. I think the journey there will be like a rollercoaster ride...I hope it will.

I'm getting back to Underground Guy, beginning tomorrow. I have it printed and a red pen ready and waiting. My goal on this pass will be to cut back on Devlin's explanations of what's going on and just let the story flow. He likes to chatter, Devlin does, and that's a failing in something like this. Of course, it's also bad for Brendan to do, so I'm using UG to hone my style in preparation for that.

I'm still haunted by how I get Devlin to finally feel the horror of what's going on...and how his actions caused some of that in his own victims. I can't believe I made a serial rapist the lead in this book...buts it's not the first time I've done that. Curt's one in How to Rape a Straight Guy, and Alec becomes one in Porno Manifesto. Antony is, to an extent in Rape in holding Cell 6, but only to protect himself, while Alan is not the center of Bobby Carapisi, so his nattering on about what he does is not only less important, I hint it's not true...that he's taking responsibility for actions he did not perpetrate.

Jake, of course, is the polar opposite of a rapist in The Vanishing of Owen Taylor, since he was the victim of one. Daniel in The Lyons' Den, would never dream of hurting someone in that way and Adam is too innocent to even consider the possibility of such a thing in The Alice '65.

I think it's the fact that Devlin combines Curt's anger and self-justification for his actions with Antony's need for revenge over his lover's death that makes it so important he be slammed with the reality of what he's done. Him falling in love with his last victim is really fucking crazy...and I like it.

I have that to an extent, when Curt connects with Shayes, but it stems more for his sense of ownership than emotional need. And I don't spend much time on his change of heart. So it's important to get this right, and I think the fact that it's freaked me out is good.

So I guess we'll see how this goes...

Saturday, September 22, 2018

I get so damned involved...

I've gone over the full outline of APoS and made some adjustments, but now all I need to do is write the bridges between sections already written. The spine of the story is pretty much set. But it wasn't easy, and this time it wasn't Brendan who was the was a moment I tossed into Underground Guy that's been haunting me.

And I do mean haunting. I'm locked in on this one little moment in the whole friggin' book that has jolted me in so many ways...none of it planned. This is the section --


“Bloody hell, BOSS!” Berridge cried. “Boss, I got him! Got Hanlon.”

We all bolted over to look at his monitor.

A camera positioned across the street from the Holborn entrance showed Liam Hanlon exit with a crowd, stop at the corner to put something in his mouth, then jaunt across the street and out of sight.

“Run it, again,” Sir Monte barked.

Berridge did.


He did, right at the point Hanlon fiddled with a package.

“Now frame by frame.”

Berridge ran the video in slow motion, showing Hanlon put a white capsule in his mouth, chomp on it, slip the package back in his pocket and head on.

And I felt a sledgehammer slam my gut.

“Thornton,” Sir Monte barked from a thousand miles away. “Was there anything in the coroner’s report about drugs in Hanlon’s system?”

I remember hearing shuffling, behind me, but it wasn’t necessary. I let myself whisper, “It’s gum.”

I think Sir Monte glared at me. I only caught him in my peripheral vision because I was too locked on that image of Hanlon, bright, smiling, heading straight for -- Jesus, for his death.

“Pope, answer me!” Sir Monte snapped, cutting through the fog in my brain. “What do you mean?”

“Chewing gum,” I muttered. “He’s gonna. Meet somebody. Somebody important. Can’t have coffee breath.”

“Here’s the report, Boss,” Reg said. “Nothing about drugs.”

“Chewing gum?”

“Um -- half a packet in his trousers. Peppermint.”

“Was he still chewing it? Was it still in his mouth?”

“None noted in the report, Boss. Nothing at the crime scene, either.”

I think I stopped breathing. I couldn’t tear my eyes away from the image of that doomed man. I heard the words but could make no sense of them.

“Berridge, High Holborn’s single direction there, correct?”

“Yeah, Boss.”

“Find CCTV down the next block. Check every vehicle that passes through from this point on, for the next twenty minutes.”

“Livery,” I managed to say. “Hire. Hire.”

Sir Monte seemed to look at me, again, echoing, “Yes. No taxis or lorries, just hire cars.” He nudged me and I almost looked at him. “Pope? What is wrong with you? You’re white as a sheet.”

I gasped in some air and said, “I’ve done that. Thousands of times. Pop some gum before. Before meetin’ a client. I -- I can’t -- I can’t stop -- stop thinkin’ what he -- what he’s -- ”

Sir Monte knocked me onto a chair. I landed, hard, and it jolted me enough to where I could focus on him. And breathe.


This is the moment when Devlin realizes what kind of beast he's been, and the realization is tearing him apart, which is what I wanted. But it's the gum bit that gets to me. I just needed Hanlon to do something before crossing the street so threw that in because it's so simple and natural and...well, that made the moment too real for me.

This is just a book about a serial killer who's caught by a serial rapist...about as nonsensical a Hollywood style premise as you can have...but this moment...and one later, when one of the people involved hangs themself because they heard another victim scream as he was being killed and can't stop hearing it...I wonder if these bits are too real for the story.

No...they are too real...the fucking are...but I'll be damned if I take them out...

Friday, September 21, 2018

Mr. Rogers...

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

A bit more of APoS, 1981...

This is a few hours after Brendan was brutally interrogated by 3 constables. He managed to escape them and get back to his mother's, but he knows it's only a temporary fix; the British will be looking for him, next, but he's too hurt to seek other shelter, yet. Maeve is his younger sister.


The clanging of trash bin lids signaling the approach of an Army unit. First thought? They’ve exhausted their search of Long Tower and are coming for me. The doctor’s pills had taken enough effect by then so I could crawl from the bed, pull on a pair of pajama bottoms and a shirt, grab my passport and cash and stagger down the hall for the stairs. I had no idea where my boots were and hoped I’d find them by the settee and --

Maeve bolted from Ma’s room, wrapped in a robe, grabbed me by the arm and yanked me in, saying, “You’ll never escape them. Come here.”

Ma was awake and as angry as ever, but she looked at me and pointed to the wall next to her, whispering, “Under my bed. There’s a space.”

I didn’t hesitate but forced myself to crawl over her and slip down the narrow space between her bed and the wall to find the planking had been removed and there was just room enough to crawl into. My back was pressed to the motor of her bed and a spring dug into my hip and I was beginning to feel serious hurt, again, but unless they moved it away from the wall, they’d not see me.

I heard the trucks stop, outside, then pistol dropped down on me and I grabbed it off the floor as Maeve snarled, “Don’t use it! I removed the bullets.”

Now there was pounding on the door and Maeve crying, “Hang on, for God’s sake!” as she rushed from the room.

More pounding and the sound of splintering wood and Maeve snarling, “Stop it, you bloody bastards! I’m here to open it!” Hinges creaked and she continued, “I’m filing a claim for this! Breakin’ my door without givin’ me the chance to -- “

“We have a warrant to search these premises,” snarled a British voice. Army.

“I don’t understand,” Maeve cried as several boots stormed in. “Please, be quiet! My mother’s ill and -- ”

“Collins, Stanley, you check the back,” snapped the British voice. “Worrell, Edwards, you’re upstairs.”

I heard two men clump up the steps and burst into the room. Ma screamed at them, “You bloody animals! I’m sick, here, and you blunder about like bloody bulls in a shop! What the devil do you think you’re doing? I’ll file a complaint! This is against the rules of engagement and -- ”

“Sharrup, ye feckin’ ‘ag,” snapped one of them and I felt my blood boil at the bastard. “Sor, we got not’in’ but a sick awl bitch!”

“Worrell, watch your language! Check the other rooms.”

“What’re you lookin’ for?” came Maeve’s voice.

“Sit down, sit DOWN!” snapped the British voice. “Now, are you related to a man named Brendan Kinsella?”

“What d’you want with him?”

“Answer me!”

“He’s my brother, and what of it?”

“When was the last time you saw him?”

“It’s been years! For all I know he’s dead!”

“He was with you at a peace gathering and before that, he was seen at a party and -- ”

“You don’t mean Jeremy?”


“Jeremy Landau,” Maeve said in her best withering tone. Christ, she sounded so much like Ma at that instant, I thought she’d somehow got out of bed and gone downstairs. “He’s an American Jew, NOT Irish, not a part of him.”

“Nothin’ in the back rooms, sir, but we found some men’s clothes.” A normal British accent.

“Bring them down.”

I heard them clump down the stairs.

“Those are Mr. Landau’s things -- ”

“So where is this Mr. Landau?” snarled the British voice.

“He left on the evenin’ bus for Galway and the Cliffs of Moher and -- ”

“’Merican labels on ‘em, sor.”

“Did you find anything else?”

“This bag with more clothes, shoes, nothing else. The bed’s been slept in.”

“I just haven’t made it,” snapped Maeve. “He’s not due back for a week so -- ”

“Sit down!”

“But these are Mr. Landau’s things!”

“Why is he staying with you?”

“My mother’s sister lives in Houston. He knows her oldest son. He’s put up with us while here and -- ”

“Nothin’s in th’ back, sor,” came a new voice. “An’ the washroom’s clear.”

“What about the upstairs?”

“All th’ rohms chicked awt. Nair a sigh o’ ‘im.”

“Maeve, are you all right?” It was Mrs. Haggerty’s voice.

“Keep outside,” snapped the British voice.

“I’m a friend of the family, and I’ll come in if I please!” Mrs. Haggerty snapped right back at him.

Then Mrs. Fitzgerald’s voice cried, “We’re watchin’ yous!”

“I got a Polaroid!” cried another woman. Mrs. McClatchey?

I have to say, I never thought I’d be happy for the day a bunch of old hens would come pecking about in someone else’s business, but they changed the tenor of British voice’s snarls.

He gave a great sigh and said, “Leave that. Outside. Miss Kinsella, I’m going to check on the information you gave me -- ”

“Do it,” snapped Maeve. “And if you DO find my brother in this country, you bring him to me and I’ll show you what true punishment is. His mother’s upstairs dying of the cancer, putting up with bloody Brits storming through her house for no good reason and he’s off hiding somewheres? He can’t come see her? You bring him to me and he’ll find more than the back of my hand to his face, he will!”

Her voice headed outside and other women’s voices chimed in with catcalls and rude comments, even after I heard their Saracens start up and drive away. The hens had pecked the British Lion to near death, it seemed, and I nearly lost myself and laughed about it.

The voices lowered to self-congratulatory murmurs so I made myself slip out from under the bed and peek up over the side to find Ma glaring at me in question. “Brendan, what is this about?”

I forced myself to climb out over her as Maeve proudly came up the stairs.

“Did you hear it,” she said.

“Every word,” I replied, out of breath. “You’re a wonder, Maeve.”

“Just because I want the Troubles to end doesn’t mean I can’t handle the bastards in the meantime.”

“Brendan Kinsella, you tell me what this is about!” Ma’s voice was tight with anger.

My face was showing serious bruises, now, so I looked straight at her, pointed to them and my nose, and said, “What you see. Here. Was me being interrogated by three constables. They want to know who helped Danny plant the bomb. They know I know his name.”

“What makes them think you know?” Maeve asked.

“They know I was there.” I said, still looking at Ma.

She blinked. “And they’re still lookin’ for that name? That’s why they’re lookin’ for you?”

I nodded.

Ma looked at me with the purest confusion, as if she didn’t know me, then she turned away. “Maeve, I -- I’m out of water and I need my pills.”

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Work day...

I needed to get some diagrams and instructions worked up for a probable job in the UK, which I'd love to have gone for but already have jobs set up in San Francisco and Seattle...and, maybe...just maybe...LA...though they're taking their time getting back to us on it. So we've got a guy in London who can do it, since it's a fairly low-key packing job.

Anyway, I spent a fair amount of time on Photoshop getting the info ready, and now will take the JPGs in to the office to combine into a single PDF. And maybe get back to normal, tomorrow.

I did work up a sketch, yesterday, for what Brendan could look like in 1981, as he's returning to Derry. I'm not completely happy with it, but neither do I dismiss it. I kind of like his soft haunted eyes...but I was trying to make his mouth look like he was biting his lower lip and it didn't come out that way, and if I added one more bit to it, I was going to ruin I stopped.

I used an actor who was born in Armagh, in Northern Ireland, as the basis. Colin Morgan. He was in Merlin and some other things, and while most of his photos were too...I dunno...dorky or goofy, I found a gif of him licking his lips while looking straight into a camera that was interesting...and caught a frame just before he lets his mouth open, again.

I may give it another go or keep looking for an image. I've only got a few thousand I could dig through. I could also try to use the bloodied photo of Brendan to work up a version that's neat and clean...but I've got to think about that. That photo has a close to religious significance, to me.

I'll decide tomorrow; I'm tired...

Monday, September 17, 2018

Details matter...

I decided to change Brendan's journey home to transit straight into the UK, and found out during my research that flights to the UK from Houston did not go through Heathrow but Gatwick. So dug more into it and added my new info into the opening of Brendan's return in April, the middle of the IRA's hunger strike. Jeremy is Jewish and fought in the Yom Kippur war, so he and Brendan share a special bond...because they both know what death looks like.


A friend of Aunt Mari’s worked at American Express in The Galleria, so she found me the best way home. I flew out of Intercontinental on B-Cal to Glasgow via Gatwick, where I caught a short-hopper to Derry’s Airport on Logan Air. It was neither fast nor cheap, but I had savings enough to cover it and was comfortable enough to catch some sleep on the long haul.

Uncle Sean told me he’d pay the ticket, but I wanted nothing from him. He called me independent to a fault and I knew he meant it gentle, but only because he’d finally noticed I’d shut him off since my beating, and spoke to him only when necessary, and how I was never around to work on that old Volvo, again. I simply wanted nothing to do with a man who’d let family be abused in such a way. Perhaps I should have told him why, but I never did because he was Aunt Mari’s husband and she’d done backflips for me. To have caused them all that disruption would have been a cruel way to repay her for all her kindness and generosity, not merely since I’d come there but in the years before. So I paid for my ticket, cashed all my savings into pounds and when I said goodbye at the airport, I knew I’d not be back.

None of them asked me how I was getting into Derry, what with me not having legal papers, and I offered no explanations. The less known by all, the better...except for Jeremy; it was him got me home without trouble.

Since he’d returned from Hong Kong, his position at Garrison Petroleum had settled him into Houston. His knowledge of the expanding Chinese market for oil and the discussions underway between London and Peking to hand the territory back at the end of the Brit’s lease (despite Whitehall’s insistence otherwise) made him far too important to be let go. So he handed me his passport and said, “With that mustache and sideburns, you look a lot like my photo.”

“I dunno, Jeremy; I can’t see it.”

“Sure, just lighten up your hair, cut it a bit shorter so it’s not so curly.”

“Without hair to hide me, I’ll look even less like you.”

“Fine -- Everett’ll slip your photo in for mine. I know they look for stuff like that, at immigration, but he’s an artist; he can pull it off.”

“But will he?”

“I’ve already talked to him.”

I cast him a sly look. “You and him’re mates, again?” He just smiled. I flipped through the passport, saying “You’ll need it back.”

“How long do you think you’ll be gone?”

I shrugged. “Maeve says she’s fadin’ fast, then there’ll be the wake and family to settle. A month, maybe. Six weeks.”


“Don’t stay any longer; it’s due for replacement in a couple months and I have to send it in, so I’ll need to get it fixed, first.”

“I dunno, Jeremy -- really, do I look the part of a Jew?” I said it smiling.

“What does a Jew look like, bitch? And your dick sure as hell is Jewish. You’ll pass, so long as you don’t talk with that brogue.”

I snapped into a Texas twang, “Yor right a-bout tha-yat, little feller. Better if’n Ah talk lahk a fo-ohl.”

“Shit, don’t talk much at all. And when you do, whisper.”

I chuckled and slipped the passport into my back pocket. He swatted me arse and sent me out the door with, “I want post cards and letters!”

I didn’t look around but waved my hand back at him, as if in agreement.

Everett helped me shift my looks to better suit Jeremy’s description -- first lightening my hair a couple shades then adding red highlights, and he worked his magic on my mustache and sideburns, as well. Then once my hair was cut back, we got a couple Polaroids snapped at a photo shop and he set to work. And he had no end of trouble exchanging out Jeremy’s photo for mine but once done, to my eye it looked damn good -- and I looked damn strange.

“This isn’t a good look for you,” he said, “but that should help. By the time you get to the desk, they’ll be so sick of dealing with Americans, they’ll probably just give it a glance, stamp it and tell you to fuck off.”

“In true Brit fashion.”

“What’d you have to give Jeremy for this?”

“Promise to give it back when I return.”

He hesitated then asked, trying to be playful, “What’re you giving me?”

“Well...I could go to Rocky Horror in a gold Speedo and blond wig.”

He smiled, almost sweetly. “You -- you’d really do that?”

“I enjoy it, well enough. Susan Sarandon’s got a nice set on her.”

He laughed. “Shit, you’d make the perfect Rocky. So, they keeping your stuff in the pool house?”

No, I sold what I could and gave away the rest. “I got a storage unit. There’s too much of it.”

His expression froze and he looked at me, hard, as if he knew I wasn’t planning to return, then grabbed the back of my hair and pulled me close to kiss me, long and deep and French in style. Tender but needy. I let him.

When he finally pulled back, his eyes were filled with hurt. “Is that how you kissed her?”

“Vangie? Yes.”

“But not -- ”

Joanna? “No. It would’ve put her off, and I’d do anything to keep that from happening.”

He nodded. “Like what I just did.”

“Have I run screaming down the street, yet?”

He stroked a thumb over my right eyebrow. “Considering your luck with girls, maybe you oughta try a walk on the wild side.”

Been there and tried that. “With you?”

He laughed to himself. “Me as Frankenfurter, you as Rocky. Yeah. Sure.” He was hurting and he’d been such a mate to me, I couldn’t help but nod. He took in a deep breath. “Keep the dream alive. Okay. I’m gonna hold you to it, Pug.”

I yapped at him in answer and we parted with him laughing.

Two days later I was on a plane for home.

I took a window seat, and flying back I watched the passing clouds, peaceful and soft in the nighttime sky and --

Father Jack sat next to me, sipping a brandy and casting me furtive glances as he pretended to read his missal. He checked his watch then signaled for the stewardess and water appeared before me along with a pill and I accepted both, obedient, and turned to watch the clouds and --

Lightning flashed between two huge banks of thick black cotton. Twisting. Turning. Glimmers of life dancing like the furies and giving meaning to things that could never truly live. It was as if the heavens were warning me, Don’t go, don’t go, don’t go.

I merely lay my head against the plastic and sighed, I must.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Finding solid ground...

It ain't easy to do when you're busy talking to people in your head, but it seems by doing sketches of faces of my characters I'm able to center myself. Somewhat.

This sketch is of Jake Blaine, the hero of The Vanishing of Owen Taylor. It captures him so well, I'm startled. I used a photo of the same model as on the cover...and makes me want to try even harder to get the book to selling well.

I haven't done one of Brendan, yet, because I haven't found the right look for him. I have an image of him bloodied and in shock, but that's not what I want. I'm seeking one that's strong yet sensitive and wary...not a tall order. I decided this when I wrote a section that makes me very uncomfortable...but is right for him.

This is after he's returned to Derry and been brutalized by an RUC interrogation. The only reason he hasn't been arrested by the British Army is due to the rioting caused by Bobby Sands' death. The armed forces are too busy trying to keep control to worry about a man who's back in the country illegally. He's rushing his mother to the hospital because she's finally succumbing to cancer and they're stopped and roughed up at a British checkpoint until a captain comes up to see what's going on.


He returned my passport to me. I hit over to the driver’s side and Jimmy made his way into the passenger side. A jeep pulled out in front of us and we followed it across the Craigavon Bridge to the Waterside and the massive Altnagelvin Hospital.

The Rover was easy to drive, even on the right side, and having the jeep ahead of us helped me keep in the correct lane. So as we drove, Jimmy leaned back and whispered to me, “He don’t believe you, the Captain.”

To be honest, I hadn’t given it a moment’s consideration till that moment, but deep within I knew he was right. So I nodded. “Will he check on my passport?”

“Is it stolen?”

“Borrowed.” Jimmy cast me an eye, just as we whipped onto the bridge. I realized the Callaher’s Cigarettes sign was gone, and the absence of it seemed to mock me as I murmured, “But with my photo slipped in.”

Jimmy sighed. “Then he’ll contact your state department for verification. Does this Landau fella look at all like you?”

“If I lost three stone and had the look of a hawk, maybe.”

“Shite. When we’re at hospital, call me wife.” He dipped his finger in his own blood and wrote the number on the back of my left hand. “Tell her all that’s happened.”

“I’m sorry for this, Jimmy.”

“Sorry for what? I thought you were who you claimed. I’d not seen this Jeremy lad, before.”

“Won’t matter.”

“Yes it will. I’ve relatives in Newcastle. Caera’s to call them if I’m snatched, and they’re to call their solicitor, and he’s brother to a member of Parliament. I won’t be much troubled.”

“You’ll beat the Brits at their own game, you will.”

“It’s nice to think so,” he sighed then added, “but you...”

I nodded and we said not another word till we rolled up to A&E.

Nurses and doctors swarmed out to meet us. Seems the Captain had rung ahead to inform them. They took Ma over and carted her to Urgent Care, Maeve giving them all the details of her health, while I called Jimmy’s wife then stayed with him to see he was tended to. He needed but three sutures to close the wound. An hour later, a man named Kelly appeared from out of nowhere to see Jimmy got home well enough.

He was hesitant to leave me and Maeve. “We can wait, Brendan.”

“No, Jimmy. Go. We’ll grab a taxi once Ma’s settled in.”

Kelly took him by the arm, nodded at me -- I don’t recall him saying word one in my direction -- led Jimmy away...and I was left alone. And I luxuriated in it.

I noticed it was fast approaching noon and I was feeling it, having had no breakfast. I strolled over to the café, had a fry-up and tea, then bought a cheese sandwich for Maeve with a lemonade drink and went looking for her.

After five different nurses sent me wrong (two of them deliberately, I’m sure), I found Ma and Maeve in a dormitory room, curtains rolled up to hide them. Ma was on oxygen and an IV, with monitors connected to keep track of her heart and other vital signs. I noticed the catheter had been re-established and what fluid was in the bag was a hideous brown. She looked asleep, her skin drawn even tighter across her face, her mouth open and all her teeth revealed, more dead than living, already. Maeve sat beside her in a hard wood chair.

I brushed her arm with the lemonade bottle and offered her both it and the sandwich. She shook her head, no, then thought better and accepted them. She opened the bottle and sipped some lemonade. I waited. She finally rose and led me outside the curtains.

As she opened up the sandwich, she said, “Time’s come.” I only nodded. It was hardly a surprise. “Doctors say she’s into renal failure. Soon she’ll be in coma...and then...”

Her eyes filled with tears and her voice whispered into silence. I held her close.

“Have you made arrangements?” I asked, suddenly realizing I’d never bothered to even wonder about it, before. As if doing so would mean Ma’s death would come sooner. Silly thing to think, but there it is.

Maeve nodded. “I’ll ring Rhurai to come. He can get hold of Father Jack -- ”

“Don’t. The Brits won’t let them over -- ”

“They’ll let them come for this. The British aren’t such horrible people, Bren -- ”

“You can say that, after what just happened?”

She pulled back and looked at me, as if I were a stranger. Pulled off a bite of the sandwich and nibbled on it. “I’ll be back directly. Thanks for the sammie and drink. And I’ll send up a priest.”

She wandered off, seeking a phone. I stood there, watching her go, and I noticed this curious absence of feeling within me. Maeve was fighting to keep herself in control as our mother lay dying. A woman who’d been one of the reasons so many years of our lives were hell. A woman who’d sliced anyone to bits if they disagreed with her in any way. A woman who’d brutalized not only me with her words, twice since I came here, but also Maeve and Rhuari. And who’d made sure I understood her hatred of Joanna, even before the bomb. A woman who’d been more than cruel in her existence. And Maeve was devastated that soon she’d be gone from our world. And I felt nothing about it, not one single solitary emotion.

It was odd, just standing there, unconcerned one way or the other how things went. And I knew when Ma finally did die, there’d be no change in my emotion. Oh, it wasn’t a conscious knowing; just the intellectual idea that death was coming and the person it called upon laid no claim to my heart or soul in any way, any longer. My love for the woman -- love that lasted even after she’d disowned me -- now it was as dead as my Da, and my sole feeling was for the pain Maeve, Mairead, Rhuari, Kieran and Eamonn would feel at her crossing the river into the unknowable world.

A groan cut into my reverie. I slipped back to Ma’s bed to find her awake and looking about. The oxygen mask kept her from being able to speak, so she whimpered and her hands clawed vaguely at the air. I took her right one, so cold and frail, and sat beside her.

“It’s all right, Ma. It’s Brendan. I’m right here.”

She didn’t look at me. Just said a word over and over and over. I couldn’t make it out so leaned closer. Lifted the mask a hair and heard, “Priest. Priest. Priest.”

I went cold. Death was here and she wanted a chance to make her last confession. I wondered if my sister would send the priest first or call Rhuari.

“Maeve’s gone for one,” I said, not knowing if Ma could hear me. “She’ll be back soon.”

She kept saying it. “Priest. Priest. Priest.” Over and over, her eyes dancing about the room, her free hand still clawing at the air is if trying to keep death away. She had the look of fear about her. Terror in the quiver of her voice. I think she knew -- no one would come to absolve her of her sins. Not before it was too late. Were I to bolt out and down to the chapel and find one of the holy fathers sitting in a pew waiting for me and drag him back at a full run, I’d not make it in time. The little light in her eyes was already fading. Her voice growing softer. Her hands shaking with fright.

So I removed my coat, rolled down my sleeves and buttoned them, buttoned my shirt up to just under the collar and pulled the neck of my white t-shirt up so it could be seen above it. Then I found Maeve’s rosary and took both Ma’s hands and kissed them and said in a lowered voice, “I’m here, Mrs. Kinsella.”

Her shaking stopped. Her eyes shifted to me, still unfocused but aimed at mine. She almost seemed to smile. “Father? Father? I’m dying, Father.” She drew me closer. Her voice a whisper. “Bless me...Father...for I have sinned. It’s been -- it’s many years last confession.”

After all those years at mass? Truly?

“God be with you, my child. What do you wish to tell me?”

“I need be rid...hate in my heart, Father. There’s much hate in my heart.”

“Release it, then,” I whispered. I’d no idea if I was doing this right. I hadn’t been to confession since I was twelve, and even then it had been a cold affair with Father Jack. “God will know you have -- have cast it aside.”

“So much hate, Father. My much hate.”

I held my breath. Which of us was she referring to?

“Do you hate your own child?”

“Made hate. He’s dying.” Eamonn, preparing to starve himself to death. I was almost relieved. “Make him stop. Please, Father. Make him stop. Not right. But I...I put him there. Not right. Make him stop.”

“I will.”

“Make him stop. He’s the eldest -- the one...the most important...”

Right to the gut, as usual. “I’ll see to it.”

“Promise me, father.”

“I promise. Sleep well, my child.”

She seemed to relax. Took hold of the rosary -- no, gripped it and rubbed one of the beads with her thumb and whispered, “Hail Mary...full of grace...the Lord is with thee. Blessed thou amongst women...and blessed is the fruit of...of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners, the hour of our death.”

I’d never heard my mother repeat the rosary, before, and the feelings it brought me were terrifying. Anger. Hate. Pain. Betrayal. She was doing all she could to make her passage into the next world as easy as possible, and she had no right to do that. Not after the scars she left on me and other children she’d borne. Shrieks of fury filled my heart at her vicious hypocrisy, and I near leaned in to whisper, “You’ve killed all your sons, you bitch. Eamonn will die thanks to you, just as Brendan has already died and Rhuari and Kieran will, as well, all thanks to the hatred you filled us with. I’m ashamed to be of your blood.”

But I said nothing. Just watched her hands move slower and slower, and her lips whisper lighter and lighter, and let her ease into her sleep as if she were one with the angels. The rosary was tangled in her fingers when she finally ceased to move. I waited a moment, looking at her as if she were only napping, then I hit the call button for the floor nurse.

A stout woman came floating up to check Ma. “She’s into coma, now,” she said.

Maeve appeared behind her, disbelief on her face. I rose and took her into my arms and held her as the nurse went to call for a doctor. And my sister wet my shoulder with her tears.

The priest she’d called for never showed.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Bloodied but far...

The last few days have been a battle royal with Brendan over A Place of Safety. Today was the biggest. I worked out a way to have him arrested twice after returning to Derry from Houston and it not seem like repetition. It was rolling along great and he was in honest danger for specific reasons while being beaten by constables, one of whom was a former friend, and him getting away from them worked well enough, but then the only way I could figure him truly escaping them was to hide in a church...and I slammed headlong into a brick wall. Because if I did that, it cut out 75% of the rest of the book.

He doesn't put back together the gun he hid for his brother, Eamonn. He won't be at home when his mother starts dying. He won't see his second ghost after returning to Derry. Nothing more till he's caught by the British, and then it would be totally different from what I had.

It took me forever to finally accept he had to have another way to escape the constables...and I worked it out so it makes sense, even if it is a bit too easy, now...but that little shit made me bleed for it. Hell, I've ended each day with a headache, this week, thanks to this story. By the end of the evening, I couldn't face typing anything more so let the blog go.

And probably my glasses. My thought is, I need stronger ones.

I think Brendan believes the changes I made in the beginning chapter -- gutting a lot of the chat about who's who and how many kids and all that shit -- means those details will be removed, completely. I'm just shifting them to later. Things to learn as the story goes along, like someone who's just made a new friend and is learning about them in steps and stages. I want them worked in naturally, not force-fed to the reader. That kind of thing is boring.

So I wonder if he's stopped trusting me. Maybe he never did, completely, the way he keeps testing me. I dunno. All I know is I now have 42 pages reworked and ready to plug back into the story.

And they fucking hurt...

Monday, September 10, 2018

Found it...

I tracked down one piece I was looking for...the bit where Brendan has just seen Eamonn off to be part of the People's March from Belfast to Derry. He sees Joanna in front of a pricey department store, with some friends. It's between Christmas and New Year's in 1968.


We headed up Shipquay...and I saw Joanna, again, standing in front of Austin’s. She was with friends, all dressed in mini-skirts, fur-trimmed coats and boots, chattering with each other about something in the store’s windows. Again, her golden silk flowed down her back, this time in a pony-tail from under a knit cap, and her cheeks were as rosy as freshly-picked apples. Her stockings were black and complimented both her outfit and her form. I thought I was seeing an angel and wished only to gaze upon her.

So I stopped still. She and her friends kept chattering as they headed down Shipquay to Castle, oblivious to one and all about them. Oblivious to my heart no longer beating or my breath no longer part of me or my mind capable of anything but the thought of how glorious it was to see her, once more.

My mates had gone a number of yards before they noticed.

“Oi, Bren, what’s this?” Colm yelled at me, breaking my spell -- until she turned at the sound of his voice and saw me and seemed to recognize me and offered me the tiniest of smiles and I near died from the joy of it.

She’d smiled at me.

She’d smiled at me.

I gave her a wave and a nod. She turned back to her friends and they continued on. I backed up the street to join me mates.

Colm looked at me with a wariness while Paidrig lit up a fag and offered me a pull on it. Both tried to act like men, but something about them struck me as foolish and childlike. Danny just smiled to himself, something he’d do far too much, still. I handed the fag off to Colm and as he smoked I said, “I’ll join you later, lads. I’ve errands to run for me Ma.”

“That’s never kept you from Wee Johnny’s before,” said Colm, his breath smoking as he spoke.

“I’m the man of the family with Eamonn at University. I’ve responsibilities. I’ll be down with you later.”

Then I headed down Butcher towards home before they could say another word. Only I turned right on Magazine and rushed down in time to see Joanna and her mates heading cross through the gate to Waterloo. I followed them all the way to Wellworth’s, careful not to get too close or be too obvious. Their voices were musical in their happiness, and their attitudes spoke of pleasures too simple for me to ever understand. Just a group of girls out for some fun on the wrong side of the river.

In Wellies, they went straight to the records section and flipped through the rows they had. Idle and chatting about nothing and everything, until Joanna pulled out a 45 with a squeal.

“They have it!” she cried, and her friends gathered around. They rushed over to a clerk and had him play the song -- I Never Will Marry -- then laughed as they sang:

I never will marry, I'll be no man's wife. 

I intend to stay single all the days of my life... 

When the song began in earnest, they danced a sort of jig mixed with the Twist, giggling along with the words. 

I acted like I was interested in some albums not far away, watching them from the side of me eye. Then Joanna caught me looking, once, and smiled to herself. She knew what I was doing.

A friend purchased the record, then she and the girls left.

I jumped over to where she’d been looking, found another copy of the record, grabbed it up and paid for it, intending to give it to her when I caught up to her, outside...but they were gone, like ghosts. I searched Waterloo Place and a couple of side streets, but found nothing. I guess I’d scared them off with my clumsiness. So I went home.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

APoS is taking over...

Or maybe I should say, Brendan is...except he's being difficult. I know I wrote a bit where he sees Joanna in a Wellworths store in Derry, looking at new records with her girlfriends, and he winds up buying a single of the Johnstons' "Banks of Claudy" because she and her friends listened to it. But damned if I can find it in any file, anywhere. And it's driving me nuts.

So I'm going through every version I've written of A Place of Safety...and finding I saved a lot of the same Word docs 3-4 times in different folders. No wonder I can't find anything. I'm about halfway through them...and also sorting out other docs that I want or need as well as finding old emails to a couple of men in Derry...and step by step and shifting only the items necessary over to a new folder. Then the rest will go onto an external hard drive and away from my laptop, so as to minimize future confusion.

What's positive about this is, I found a couple of details I'd forgotten about and added them into the when Eamonn brings home a pistol and Brendan takes it apart to hide it from him. And an outline redoing a part set after he returns to Derry, where he's arrested by the RUC and interrogated.

A far more important arrest happens later, when the British find out who he is, and the two were clashing as being too similar. I needed space between them but there'd be no excuse for that. If the Constables couldn't get what they wanted from him, they'd hand him over to the Army. Plain and simple and wrong for the story. I was close to dropping it, but couldn't figure out how to get the followup moments to work without that setup.

Well...somewhere along the line I'd worked that out and it actually makes a lot more sense, now. And carries a greater emotional impact. I hope. I don't think I'd have remembered it had I not been digging for that bit.

I finally had enough and needed to clear my brain...and iron, so I watched Ball of Fire, with Gary Copper and Barbara Stanwyck. It's a romantic comedy using Snow White and the 7 Dwarfs as its basis. She's a nightclub singer in love with a mobster; he's an English professor working with seven other professors on an encyclopedia. When she has to hide out, she horns her way in on them to help Gary Cooper with slang...and upends everyone's lives...including her own.

The script was by Charles Bracket and Billy Wilder and it was directed by Howard Hawks. For some reason, what Howard Hawks did with this movie so angered Billy Wilder, he started directing so no one could ruin another one of his scripts. I like what Hawks did, so have to wonder what Wilder would have done differently.

Though I doubt it would have turned out as well, to be honest.