Derry, Northern Ireland

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

Monday, November 30, 2009

Getting slower

Nothing on SBs till tomorrow, at the earliest.

I hit over 60K for NaNoWriMo, which is officially over in an hour. Worked on some stuff in Derry when Brendan's 12 but due to turn 13 in just over a month. I took an hour to try and find out if Derry had a bus depot in 1968 like they do now, or if the Ulsterbus just went to a certain spot to pick people up, like it still does in the smaller towns. No luck so I worked around it. Something to add to the list of things to find out.

Right now, I'm just waiting for money. I have a check coming from the SB group and one from the publisher I did so much work for, but he's poor-mouthing, again, and I'm thinking I'm about to get stiffed -- for nearly $6600. At the same time, he's talking about me doing more work for him. If I do one more thing for this guy before I'm paid in full, I'm a worthless pile of horse-hockey.

Life in the slow lane

Due to yesterday's technical difficulties, I'm working on POS, right now -- reading and making notes for the first section of the story, the part in Derry while Brendan is growing up. This is the scariest part for me, because I know so little about it outside the events that made international news. I'm skating over things like what people ate and what games the kids played until the British Army came in and took over the playgrounds for their tanks and APCs; I'm still digging for this information and may see about contacting people associated with NICRA to ask if I can pick their brains, once I make my next trip.

But before I go I want a first draft done, and this section is the leanest when it comes to what I've written. I probably have 3, maybe 4 chapters left to complete the Houston section, and Brendan's return to Derry is about 2/3 done. I did find a great site detailing the Irish census of 1911 and showing just how crowded the Bogside area of the city was, even back then. So back to it. Even if I'm writing crap, at least it'll be done and available for correction once I get better information. Hopefully I'll learn more about everything once I get to NI.

I learned I have a fan of my writing on FaceBook. And I now have reviews of all my books on Amazon, and overall they're very positive. Gives me encouragement.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

58,400 words

And nothing done on the SB script. Technical trouble. So I worked on another chapter of POS in Houston and once I'd finished it, finished reading a book about a gay vampire detective in NYC.

And now I'm brain dead. Think I'll go to bed early, tonight; tomorrow's shaping up to be fun.


Yesterday was rough, bouncing back and forth between POS and the script for AAAS, which is now undergoing its 9th draft at the other end then will be sent to me to polish and prettify. Quickie storyboards tomorrow, if all goes according to schedule, so I'm vaguely waiting for Brendan to awaken to let me know what's next with him.

It wasn't an easy night, last night, either. My brother was up and down either going outside to smoke or making himself something to 2:30 in the morning. My space is right next to the kitchen so when he opens the fridge, I wake up. Plus he seems to be building this habit of coughing as he goes at 6am as he popped out for a cigarette.

This is how it goes for couch-surfers...or in my case, cot surfers. I've been here since December 2nd of last year, and nothing about it is changing till the beginning of January, at the earliest. I never thought I'd be in this position at this age. The one true positive about this is...well, two positives mother's health is better and she's back on schedule with her doctors. She may even begin physical therapy and have her gum disease addressed, soon. It only took me all year to get her back in the habit of keeping her appointments. And I finished 3 screenplays and 3 novels and am well on the way to having a 4th novel in first draft, one that I've been trying to get going in my mind for 20 years. Plus I've managed to live off my piddly savings and occasional jobs the whole time without too much whining. I don't have any other life, but...

Oops -- mom's up. I need to take a run to the store. Or maybe I'll just walk it. Give my brain time to reassert itself.


And another Houston chapter done, a meandering talk with a friend named Jacob that segues into what it was like to be a Jewish boy in Texas in the early 60's, when good "Christian" people had no problem referring to Jews as Christ-killers, especially since so many were helping in the civil Rights Movement in the South, at the time.

Feeling a bit brain dead...and Brendan's contemplating tomorrow's journey.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Version 6

The Triple-A-S script is now about to hit 7th draft and is up to 3 1/2 pages, which is WAY too long. We'll need to start cutting and condensing like crazy over the next couple drafts, and maybe even through the preliminary storyboards as I figure out what can be shown visually and cut verbally. Then it still has to be approved by the client before a full set of SB's is done. Then it goes to the geeks who will make amazing images bring life to our work via Flash and Flip and Fiddle and whatever else this style of computer graphics art is called.

I stayed up too late, last night, making notes on POS. I stapled a couple pages together and wrote out a basic time-line, and now have lots of post-its on them to jog my memory when more writing is done. Brendan's trying to decide if he wants to go through this issue or that moment, still, so I'll have to wait. Without complaint, too, since it took me so damned long to get around to letting him tell me his story.

Little shit just smirked at me.

Do I sound crazy, yet? Give me time; I'll convince the world of my psychosis -- hee-hee.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Back to the grind and glory...

I took yesterday off from writing and had just one real meal of the day -- which was PLENTY. My mother and I met my brother, Shawn, and sister-in-law, Melissa, at a restaurant called Ryan's in New Braunfels, and we were joined by her son and daughter-in-law and a friend of theirs. Kelly was out late, the night before, so decided to stay home; he made it to work this morning, but it's dragging on him.

Ryan's is a large buffet-style place, one of those all-you-can-eat-for-one-price joints that actually encourages you to stuff yourself. The food was all right and the one big positive on it is, they don't salt or butter their veggies; you get to do that to your own taste. Normally Texas joints layer on the salt and butter to the point I can't eat at some restaurants, it's so heavy. The one big negative is, they jammed so many tables into that building, it was hard to get around, especially since nearly every single table was jammed with people.

Today, I'm back to the script job and may begin preliminary storyboards to work out how to trim down the narration. Brendan's taken a bit of a lie-down, as well, and is currently figuring out his next revelation. I have a feeling it'll be furthering his run in with the KKK. I have some of it written, but it's not working for me, yet. No real connection...and that's a growing part of this story -- the connections between people and places and things, even from thousands of miles and entire worlds apart.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

SB Project

I sent in a new 3-page version of the script for the storyboards, which is about a page too long. It's been shifted to first person and is more specific; I just need to figure out how to keep it as detailed as it is while cutting it down. Maybe using images to take the place of words more. I dunno. We'll see how this one comes across. It's not unusual for me to do about a dozen drafts of a script like this before everyone's happy.

I got my winner's certificate from NaNoWriMo, already. It was a PDF and I printed it out. Now just need to get it framed and add it to the numerous other winner's certificates I have on the wall.

Seems I've started something with the characters in my head, now that I'm working on "A Place Of Safety." They want their stories told, as well. I've worked up a dozen more that I could put into book form not to mention completing the final chapters of "Bobby Carapisi" and "Rape In Holding Cell 6." Looks like the rest of my life is planned out...and screw film. Even with all my awards and good finishes in competitions, I still can't even get agents to respond to me. Oh, well.

Quick add -- Happy Thanksgiving. No long sermons on the meaning of it all. Just --

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Letting something else sit...

To give me a break away from the job script and get some perspective, I worked up a mock for a book cover on "A Place Of Safety" -- which is how it's decided to be titled. And it does feel a bit more complete.

Now off to get Kelly then back to the script.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. Happy Turkey to all and to all a good bite...of it.


I got a very rough first draft done of the script for my storyboarding. Now I'm waiting to get feedback on it. It's to anchor a visual enticement for becoming a member of The American Association for the Advancement of Science, and right now the thing's just a basic collection of information in the order I'd present it with some gobbledygook to connect it. But during my research, I found this great quote by Maria Mitchell, the first female astronomer in America, to cap it off -- "We especially need imagination in science. It is not all mathematics, nor all logic, but is somewhat beauty and poetry." Doesn't hurt she was once a member of AAAS.

Hmm...Brendan's getting itchy. He wants to talk about Honoree...and I think I know why, the little scamp.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Opening...

Taking a break from the storyboarding to offer a second post, since I may not get to it tomorrow. And I decided to put the opening 10 pages of "Place Of Safetly."


Those who knew Eamonn Kinsella -- and were being honest with themselves -- had to admit that had he been born but ten miles to the west or north, his murder would have been seen as the fitting end to a hard and brutal man. That he drank too much was not the problem; so did most of the men in his pinpoint of the world for it was often the only comfort offered by their existence. Nor was it that he was quick to temper when one too many pints had wandered into his brain. Sometimes anger was the only emotion men like him were allowed to hold dear. And if his wife was seen at market with an extra layer of makeup over one eye or across one cheek, well...she, herself, was not one to be known for gentleness. Besides, occasionally the only way a man can claim he still is lord and master of something is by proving it to his missus. But when your sons come to school with plaster on their skin or a cast on their limbs, and your daughters wear long blouses to hide the markings on their arms, and when the nearest priest is called to quiet the house twice a week, on average -- well there was something that was simply and plainly wrong.

He was a big man, Eamonn Kinsella. He once had worked as a navvy in Liverpool, and despite it being years since his last position, his hands remained callused and beefy with his shoulders still broad and restless on a frame that stood above six feet. His dark hair, bleak eyes and long face brought to mind tortured poets and sad accountants until made lively by drink and at those times, he took on the soul of the devil's fire and fury in all its righteous evil, and it was best to keep away from him. On more than one occasion, his fist sent a man across a table or to the floor for nothing more but that he sipped a pint too loudly while at the counter next to him.

That's not to say all was evil about him. He could sing to make the angels weep, mournful tunes of Ireland's ruined past and dead future. And he could spin tales wondrous to behold. You had to catch him between his second and third pint to get the best rhythm going...but if you hit it right, he'd weave tales of GrianĂ¡n Aileach, the ancient ring fort but six miles and worlds away from town, or talk about the fairies that live in oak groves old enough to have seen the birth of Christ, all to such perfection you'd have thought he lived through each and every one.

He may well have, for all the anger in him. It's hard to see how so much could be poured into one man in a space of less than thirty-five years unless he had carried it over from a previous existence. But filled with anger he was, and injustices both real and imagined danced forever through his head, all roaring to life at about his fourth pint. Oh, he could rage for hours about the horrors of being a working man without work and a wife and six wains to feed. Barely living off the dole, they were, with naught but toast burned over the gas flame and tea made from twice used leaves for their breakfast. Rags on their backs. A two-up, two-down hovel of a home on Nailors Row. No hot running water or steady heat or indoor plumbing. No prospects for a decent job as once he’d had, even though that one had been a curse on his back. Now all of life was a curse for such as him, and please won't you put another pint of porter on the tab, barkeep?

So it would go for hours at a time. And when the drinking establishments were closed and he tottered home to his seven responsibilities, which some old hens said would soon be eight if they knew a thing or two about women, and if he hadn't found just cause to floor a man in the pub, he'd find some reason to do so to his wife or one of his sons. All just to prove he was still who he laid claim to be, even against the reality of all his hopes and dreams and prayers.

Four boys he had to his credit, the first being Eamonn, his namesake and growing to be his twin save for the sad, wary eyes laid upon him by his mother. Large and brown, they held a careful vision of the world that could bring all but the hardest heart to want to comfort him -- that heart, of course, being the one of his da. He was yet to be as big but by his fourteenth year, he had the solid feel of the man and showed cruel flashes of his temper and was able to lie his way into occasional jobs shifting coal at the Londonderry docks.

Then there was myself, Brendan, third born and named for the saint rumored to have landed on Greenland for some reason or another, and many were they who told me I must have been blessed with the same wandering soul, though I never understood why they felt it. My looks I took more from my mother, for I was small, darkly-fair and slim even for a lad past ten, and my way with fixing things I took from God only knows who, though I once heard Mrs. Rafferty, a neighbor from two doors down, say I must have been born to it since my hands were so neat and precise. I had thick hair massed with curls, and when Mrs. Cahan, a friend of Mam’s on Lecky Road by Westland came for tea, once, she told Mam, “He has the look of a surprised angel and a watcher’s way about him, your Brendan, so you know he misses little and would say nothing about it.” Mam was asking her what to do about me when my focus got so extreme, were I fiddling with a clock in need of its springs being reworked or a vacuum whose motor was burned up, I could be so lost in their bits and parts I’d not hear a word she’d say to me till she was screaming it in my ear.

Following me was Rhuari, a year less than myself and my shadow in every way he could be, the little weasel. His face and feel were simple and direct, a child with no time for fibs or even lies and who could spend hours watching me work my magic on a broken wind-up toy. He had yet to take the form or look of either parent, and Mrs. Keogh, of Doolin Street by Ann Court, was certain he was more from a friendship his mother’d had with a certain butcher than from her own husband...though none could prove it.

Last would be Kieran, born but three months after the death of our father and the better for it, growing up never to know the wondering of whether or not he’d meet the end of Da’s fist or the back of Da’s hand. While his hair was destined to be like mine, his face took the perfect combination of both parents as did his form. He came early, as if impatient to get started, and the whole of his life would be tainted by that need.

Second born was Mairead, what many would refer to as a handsome lass, practical, with no time for foolishness. Her hair and mine were also near matches while her face took the length of her father’s. Her eyes never held anything but hope and love for us all and respect for Mam, nor was she afeared of Da. She could take his slaps and curses without a movement to reveal her true thoughts about him, and was better at deflecting his anger from her mam than was Eamonn the younger, and by the age of thirteen was already blessed -- or cursed, if you prefer -- with a figure well-noticed by boys half again her age. She knew and laughed at them over it, seeing them for the child-like men they were and facing the world like a full-fledged adult with an adult’s burdens.
After Rhuari came Caera, but six years old and so obviously the sister to him, Mrs. Keogh’s gossip extended to her, but that situation would have been impossible and was quickly disposed of. For by the time Caera would have been set into motion, the gentleman in question had long encamped for London and the prospect of a better life. And the truth was, both she and Rhuari had the look of their mother’s sister, Maria McLaugh and who referred to herself as Mari, if you could judge from the photos she’d sent from America. So Caera was spared the nastiness that had been whispered his way, and she grew to be quite happy and content.

There were two miscarriages after that, whereupon the one doctor Mam finally saw severely warned her against having others. But the church being the church, that advice was ignored. A woman is there for her husband and God will decide who lives and who dies and to interfere with that in any way was hubris of the most blasphemous sort. And that is why Kieran wound up the last of Kinsella’s brood.

That so many were crammed into a terrace-home of two-bedrooms, only half-wired for electric and a toilet outside was not considered unusual for those on Nailors Row; there were dozens of households exactly like it, and that was just the side facing the Derry walls. Drifting down into the Bogside and up the hill to St. Eugene’s were hundreds more, maybe thousands -- one could never truly count them all. Each billowing curls of white smoke from their coal heating into the air, laying a haze of ill-tempered air over the city. And each packed tight with sometimes as many as three families, since housing was short in the Catholic areas, so short some were housed in caravans that were even smaller and more cramped, and where even a paraffin heater was capable of suffocating the inhabitants.

But that was how things were, that March in 1966. Cold and blustery and wet. And the fact that Eamonn’s body had laid in that for a full day and night before being discovered was considered good, since it helped preserve him. Of course, it also made it difficult to set an exact time of death -- though sometime between midnight and five in the morning was decided upon, and probably closer to the latter number. For his passing had been neither a quick one, nor easy.

He was discovered off the Limavady Road, miles from where he’d normally be. His coat pulled down his arms with his hands bound behind him and every finger broken. His face had been pummeled into the merest hint of a human visage. Blood stained his shirt down to his trousers, the knees of which were torn and scraped, as if he’d been forced to walk on them or be dragged. Some said his teeth were all broken off, but the Londonderry Coroner refused to discuss it. His only comment was that “Mr. Kinsella perished due to a gunshot fired into the crown of his head after enduring what may best be described as torture at the hands of his murderers.”

So his wake was held ‘round a closed casket. And his burial was quick and paid for only through the kindness of Father Patrick, that same priest who’d so often visited the man’s home in times of distress. And he comforted the new widow as best he could, but she would have none of it. “What’s to become of us?” she wailed. “How shall we live?”

And how should we live? That part was simple. After his death, the first cash from the dole went all for food, instead of half for drink. The horrible toast and weak tea Kinsella’d wept on about like so many self-serving bastards were replaced by porridge and milk. Now fish and chips could be bought off the shop on Waterloo Street as an occurrence and not the occasional treat, when the man’s wife hid some back from her lord and master. Clothes could be bought, and even if they were second hand they were better than the rags the children wore till then. Debts could be paid and the one good thing about having to deal with poverty on so consistent a basis was, Kinsella’s widow knew how to stretch a penny the length of a mile. Well, there was a second good thing; because the widow had five with another soon due, the Derry Corporation was shamed into promising better lodgings for them all -- in the Rossville Flats once they were done...if there were room still available on the queue.

So the pure fact is, with Eamonn Kinsella’s death, his family was left better off than they’d ever been while he lived. And some old hens clucked viciously that the wailing offered up by his widow -- no, let’s call her by her right name, now; Bernadette, born a McLaugh of Quarry Street -- her cries were loud more from her sense of guilt that she’d often wished him dead than at the fact that he was. And true, I agreed with them, but it was wrong of them to decide it. Wrong of them to cast judgment on those who’ve lost someone, even if that person held little value to all and the rest of the world. Only a man’s blood may determine the meaning of his passing...and me being his second son, I was allowed to think what the old cows had no right to whisper.

So yes -- I felt no sorrow at his passing. I sensed even then it was for the better of us all, though to be honest with myself the feeling was colored by the recent occasion where he’d nearly crushed my right hand because I dared wish to keep the shilling I’d earned fixing Mrs. Cahan’s toaster instead of hand it across so he could have one more pint of porter. And never once since has my mind changed its belief.

But Eammon Kinsella was born, lived and died in Derry...Londonderry for those who cannot be bothered to learn the city’s proper name...and upon his death a typical thing happened; he was memorialized for who he was -- that being a Catholic man -- as what he truly was passed from memory. And when it was discovered he was killed by two drunk Protestant men who swore they’d only meant to have some fun with the Paddy but things had gotten out of hand, which was as high a pile of shite as could be imagined but was accepted as a reasonable explanation by the RUC. So he became a martyr to one and all the Catholics of Derry. Yet another shining example of the hatred sent our way by the Orange bastards who never missed a chance to flip us off. A poor family man trying only to keep kith and kin together as he slaved for the pennies tossed his way by the Loyalist scum. So bloody arse-ended...and too bloody typical.

Busy morning

The writing/storyboarding job I landed is a bit more complicated and precise than I initially thought it would be, but I should be able to get done with it more quickly than I figured. So far I've been lost in research into the non-profit organization the piece will be for, meaning no writing on POS, yesterday...and probably none today. But if I can get a first draft done of the script for them to see by tomorrow morning, I'll be days ahead of my perceived schedule and can return to work with Brendan.

Last night I did go through the chapters I've written and put them together to see what I've really got and not just think I have -- and I'm back to being about half done. I've only got one bit of 1968 worked up and there's still the Civil Rights marches being attacked, the RUC riots that brought in the British troops, how the troops began taking the side of the Protestant majority, internment and Bloody Sunday followed by Operation Motorman (all will be explained in the book). Sprinkled into this will be the Celebration Fleadh and Brendan meeting Joanna and his growing relationship with her, him and his buddies playing around and having fun and him being kicked into the conflict thanks to Joanna's brother's opposition to her seeing a "bloody Taig."

And that's just the first section of the story. I have almost as much to do in the Houston section, but only half that to do when Brendan returns home. This is why writers keep bibles on their characters, to remind themselves of how much it takes to build a life.

I've found a phrase I'll be repeating throughout the story, albeit in various and sundry ways...and hopefully that will tie into the ending to make it stronger. Dunno, yet. Won't know till probably the third or fourth draft.

Back to the job. I've piles of information to go through.

Monday, November 23, 2009

I'm a wimp

Last night I had dinner with some other writers from San Antonio who are participating in NaNoWriMo. This was the second dinner I've gone to. We met at a Mexican food restaurant and this one girl (who says she has ADD along with a dozen other ailments and whose life is always drama, drama, drama) did the vast majority of the talking, so I ate and chatted a little with a woman who's written erotica (but whose stories really sound more like bodice-rippers raised a notch) and did my usual listening. Then someone asked if anyone had been published and without thinking, I raised my hand. I told them my 2007 NaNoWriMo book, "Bobby Carapisi," was available through Nazca Plains via and it's in two volumes. Then this sweet, thin kid with big eyes (if he weighed more than 140 lbs I'd be surprised, and I hate him for it) asked me what it was about. Natural question, right? Only I got flustered and worried about how people would react to a real thumbnail sketch of the books so said, "It's about two guys who are attacked and how it affects their lives and each one is treated by the legal system. One is blown off because he's a nobody, the other gets better treatment because he's well known." Which is true -- but the reality is, I censored myself. Nothing about the sexual aspect of the story...the fact that both men are raped and that is what really affects their lives and people's reactions to them. Like I was afraid I might offend someone.

That's ridiculous. I published the book under my name. The online synopsis makes it very clear what the book is about. Anyone who looks it up will discover this. When it first came out, I was up front about it in a writing group I was part of, in LA, and told all my friends. Hell, even my mother knows about it. And that didn't bother me. It was being with live people I barely knew that made me nervous and self-conscious to the point I wussed.

Of course, that's how I've always been about anything I've done that's creative. Used to be when people asked me what I did, I told them I worked in a bookstore. If I was praised for art or writing, I'd think the person's being nice or wants something. If I was criticized for it, I'd think that person's viewpoint is more important than mine and take it to heart. It's like I felt that if I tell others what I've done, I'm being grandiose. Oh, I'm better than I used to be, when negative comments would send me into a depression and I'd rewrite a script based on all the criticism and blow off the positive, but I really thought I was farther along and would own BC and everything in it without hesitation, no matter what. Looks like I was fooling myself.


I looked through what I've done for POS and what I still need, and it's not as much as I thought. Like I'm maybe 60% done with the story. I'm going to try and write at least 1000 words a day while doing this storyboarding/script job, but no promises on that.

Sunday, November 22, 2009


Another chapter dealing with the Houston section and beginning to show the city's parallels with Derry as Brendan begins to see Houston is not exactly the safe place he thought it would be...and I've met the challenge. I'm on the downhill slope for the rest.

That walk helped, as did getting the Bendryl out of my system by drinking lots of water and tea...and mom being so tired from all she had us do yesterday, she spent the day reading the paper and watching some idiot ministers on TV and leaving me alone. Kelly slept.

Tomorrow begins the storyboarding/script job.


...And not from doing anything fun, dammit. Once the living room was completely rearranged and I was into sneezing fits every five minutes from the crap in that air, and that's after me tying a wet bandana around my nose, I jammed my laptop into my satchel and left. And as I was leaving, mom asked me to stop by Target to get her some more storage containers.

I did.

Then I stopped at a Starbuck's and sat and wrote for a couple hours as I had some Refresh tea and a cookie. I didn't come home till nearly seven, by which time mom and Kelly were settled and the place was quiet and I could get some more writing done.

I don't think what I did yesterday was my best, but it'll work for now. I added to Brendan's arrival in Houston, where he learns a bit more about his banishment from NI, and likes it. I'm now at around 49,000 words.

And they're awake and talking and Kelly wants to know if rent to own helps your credit rating and I can't shut them up without being a dick and feeling bad about it, later. And I'm already down from the crap from yesterday.

I'm going for a walk.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

I'm not writing.

I'm moving fucking furniture because my mother won't fucking let me alone until I fucking do it. And it's not like I could have ignored her. She started vacuuming a few feet from me with one of the loudest fucking machines ever built while my brother is using a circular saw to cut out a section of a board for her to use as a table on her chair, and then started using a sander. And now I'm sneezing like crazy from all the fucking dust they stirred up.

I love my mother. I love my brother. But soon as I can, I'm getting the fuck out of here.

Getting there

It's odd...but yesterday I got the feeling I'd passed the halfway mark with "Place of Safety." I filled in more about Brendan being in Houston -- he's not crazy about the heat -- and learning what's going on with his family back in Derry, putting me at just over 46,000 words and making up chapter 2 of part 2. He also fixes a car owned by his aunt and uncle and rewires a steam iron, setting up what he'll be doing while he's there, and discovers that he's been banished from Northern Ireland...which will add to the tension when he has to return.

But until yesterday, I'd been thinking this book would wind up being 110-120K; now I'm thinking 90,000...and I'm not sure how I feel about that. It seems short, which is silly. I won't know if I've done right by the story till this draft is finished, I've stepped away from it for a while and gone through it, again, with a fresh eye. I guess I'm just so used to thinking of it being longer, anything less than that is me not doing enough when reality is, 90-100K equals a 300+ page book.

Okay...this does not sound like it will be an easy day. Already my mother and brother are yakking at each other and fussing about and making a lot of noise, and that's on top of me already having trouble getting going. Yesterday I nearly had a meltdown with mom when she asked me to pack up some frames and put them in storage...which I did...and which then began to shift into completely rearranging the living room furniture! I talked her out of it, but in order to keep from losing it when she wondered about doing something else, I locked myself in the bathroom and shaved. Then I set up my sign, sat down at my laptop and started writing. And she left me alone. Don't know if I can handle both of them, though. I may run for someplace to just sit and work and try to be done with the challenge, today or tomorrow.

As regards going to NI for research, if this money comes through that'll have to be in January; I have a couple of possible bookfair jobs lined up for the first half of February.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Second rate library

I spent a few hours, yesterday, at the San Antonio Public Library trying to research what Houston was like between April 1973 and January 1981...and they had next to nothing. They don't even carry copies of "The Houston Chronicle" beyond two months back, not even on microfilm, and had nothing of "The Houston Post," (which was the paper I preferred while I lived there). Didn't help that the library's rearranging its entire setup. Apparently they're shutting down the 6th floor due to budget constraints (I guess the city needed more money to close streets and build blank, uncomfortable parks to be named after various city council members; world class city my ass). So it looks more and more like I'll have to spend a few days in Houston to get the info I want.

Of course, now is when I get my first script and storyboarding job in months. It's not a big one, but it's for an ad agency I've done a lot of work for and I'm grateful they sent it my way because the money is much needed, so no way I'll turn it down. Of course, something like this is understandable to Brendan; he doesn't LIKE it, but he can see where I'm coming from.

What's good about this is, it's lit a fire under me. Once I got mom fed and she'd settled into her room, I wrote up Brendan's return to Derry after 8 years and bumped myself up to over 43,300 words. I'll meet the challenge before the weekend's done (the job starts Monday) and keep digging into Brendan's story as I work up the frames and script for the project so that when it's done, I can get straight back to POS.

Of course, at the same time I told a friend of mine I'd help him rewrite a script. But I've read it already and don't think it needs rewriting so much as editing down and streamlining, and that comes very easy to me.

Wait...never a good idea to brag or boast. Invariably something happens to trip you up and make you look like an idiot. Which I've done more than once. So let's just say it'll be fun.

So my goal is still to have a first draft done of the book by the end of December. It won't be a pretty draft, but it'll be a good beginning...and a little reconstructive surgery never hurt anyone.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

A better end to the day...

...yesterday. After chewing up my morning with mom, I finally wrote up a sign that said, "I'm working, please do not talk to me." And she didn't. She stayed in her room and sorted through the piles of paperwork she has that she never gets done with, and I had hours of peace...and now I'm up over 40,000 words.

I did more on the Houston part, expanding the opening to bring Brendan into line with his new environment. It's interesting, but I was going to have his aunt and uncle be solid middle class. Uncle Owen owns an Irish pub and Aunt Mari takes care of their three kids and they have a decent old house in the Neartown section of the city...but that shifted to a complete contrast with Brendan's life in Derry. Now his uncle owns several bars and they have a house adjacent to River Oaks (Houston's version of Beverly Hills) and their oldest son is Brendan's age and has his own car and they're very upper middle class. Which will be fun to play with.

Once I'm done with this draft, a lot of corrections will need to be made to continuity...except in the emotional context. I think that's playing out just right.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Some of what I've done...

It's 1970 in Northern Ireland. The British troops are still protecting the Catholics from the Protestant fanatics. Brendan and Joanna are 14, and he's taking her to Grianan Aileach, a circle fort just across the border in the Republic of Ireland.
We left the jeep on the side road and hiked down the muck to the hole in the border fence. It was good we’d both worn Wellies, for yesterday’s rain made the earth sticky and mean. It took me a moment but I found the space I’d covered over and shoved the vines aside, making an area wide enough for Joanna to pass through without being touched by twig, leaf or wire, and the whole time I keep a scan going over the countryside, especially along Groarty Road down to the hollow, but I saw neither Saracen nor helicopter of Paras nor even a constable’s armored support sniffing about. The stones Colm tossed in the brook to let us cross without getting soaked were right there and she danced over them like a girl guide -- quick and light -- then we tramped up the muck and through a field to climb a fence by a lane that would lead us back to the road.
We stopped for a breather and looked about. A few fresh lambs, still with their cords hanging down, came bouncing up to take a gander at these two curious creatures standing on hind legs before jumping to a halt and remaining perfectly still. A flock of black-nosed ewes saw us and bleated, warily, calling their young back to them, and off the little buggers bounced, bleating with fear. Jo laughed at them. I only grinned from ear to ear.
We turned and looked up the hill and the fort was just visible at its crest.
“Doesn’t look like much,” she said.
“It isn’t,” I replied, “not till you’re up there.”
So up the rough narrow road we went, passing field after field of lambs dancing about and talked of the world and what it meant, and said nothing deeper of ourselves. Seems her family follows the Clyde, of Glasgow, in football. She had aunts, uncles and cousins there and visited at least twice a year, the last being on Boxing Day. She and her brothers would pile in their estate car, catch the ferry in Belfast and have a grand time of it for two days.
I told her of my aunt in Houston, mam’s sister living there some twenty years, now, and married to a man half again her age who owned a “real Irish pub” near some university, with three wains and all of them younger than me. They’d send gifts at Christmas and Easter, which is why I had the NASA cap on that day, with a card on my birthday...but I’d never been there. And I was a bit jealous of her trips away; it sounded wonderful, going someplace else besides Dublin.
“I’ve thought of hopping down to Cork, maybe Liverpool, and signing on with a freighter or passenger ship. Travel ‘round the world and back again. See something other than just the Derry walls out my window.”
“And then what?” she asked, seeming to be genuinely interested.
I shrugged. “Maybe come back, when I’ve some money. Start a repair shop like Flynn’s. Get married. Have a family.”
“You don’t dream for much, do you?”
“What do you mean?” I was truly confused. It seemed a perfectly fine thing to wish for.
“Haven’t you ever thought of being a doctor? A solicitor? Living in Paris to learn a new language? Anything like that?”
I laughed. “Me, a doctor? I’ll be lucky to finish with fifth Form let alone stand for the A-levels.”
“Why’s that?”
“Not even Father Patrick thought it a good idea. ‘A trade’s best for you, lad.’ And considering my grades, he was right. I’ve no head for university.”
“You never struck me that way.”
I looked at her, a bit startled. Never had anyone said I might be smart enough for learning, and to her it was just a simple assumption. And made me feel more alive than I’d ever before.
We cut left down a road that curved around and I thought was the same road I’d seen joining the one Paddy had lead us down, when he’d almost taken us past the fort, the first time we came. But it curved the wrong way, and I realized we should have cut left much earlier.
“Does this lead up there?” asked Jo.
“It will,” I said, for this one would lead us back to the road that did curl around and up the hill. It made our walk maybe half a mile longer, but I didn’t care. I loved just walking there with her, nothing to worry about or fear as I lead her higher and higher. What was the height of this hill -- two-hundred, three-hundred meters to the top? I’d no idea nor cared, before, since the other times we’d been goofing and laughing and jacking around and hadn’t noticed the climb. But now? Now it put the work to Jo.
She held it well, taking only the occasional pause to “take in the view,” as she put it. And I had to admit, finally noticing it for myself, the world around us was grand. To one side were rolling hills with dark patches of green that looked like forever shadows on the earth. The rest of the ground between them was partitioned into fields much like the one we’d just gone through, the majority of them square, some angled, all brown and ready for sowing or freshly sown. And farther out was a silver dagger of water framed by two high peninsulas. To what I think was the north stood an ice blue inlet, wider than wide and snaking her way out to the sea between the rising hills to join her even wider sister, the sea. Tiny white houses dotted roads long built and traveled only by the occasional vehicle. A soft haze covered the land to give it a fairy tale feel, and my breath escaped me at the beauty of it -- and the beauty of Joanna’s face as she gazed out upon it. Her cheeks bright pink from the biting breeze. Her breath adding to the haze. Her eyes gleaming from discovery.
When at last we reached the fort, itself, it seemed...I don’t know -- different. Hard. Not a mere pile of stones rounding a courtyard whose sole purpose was to hide stupid boys from prying eyes as they drank the porter, ale or whiskey they’d pilfered. It carried a sense of meaning. History. Destiny. It almost seemed to say, So you’ve finally come. And it was all I could do to keep from replying, I’ve been here a million times before. Aloud. But it heard me and laughed, Only as a child.
Jo touched the stones and marveled, “No mortar holds them.”
She was right, and why hadn’t I seen that before? There were spots here and there that had been patched and sealed with awkward cement of some kind, and there seemed to be a line around it as if to say, “This was before and this was after.” But the main part of the stones just lay one atop the other. I’ve since learned it’s a corbled style, and this fort was considered a marvel of it.
Then a bird darted past on the wind, green wings stretched out, a tan breast under it -- held itself in place for an instant then dashed down into the rough foliage. And I near wept. I’ve no idea why, but the sight of so elegant a creature in the midst of all this drab brown and green cover seemed to draw a sense of wonder from me, for all my bravado, and the joy it added to my already growing happiness stung at my eyes, and tears seemed the only appropriate sacrifice.
“Ya comin’?”
I jumped around to find Jo by the low entrance to the fort, a good twenty meters on. She was looking at me odd. Queer. Like she’d not seen me before. I shrugged, jammed my hands in my pockets and joined her, and inside we went through the smallest of openings.
The courtyard still seemed like nothing much, just muddy grass covering the ground. Broken bottles and empty cans about. Trash from sandwich packets. We climbed the three tiers of steps and walkways that circled the courtyard, protected from the growing wind by the outer wall, and in here I saw many of the steps had been reset with a form of mortar and the walkways were uneven, still. Muddy. Littered with stones.
We reached the top walkway and the wind cut harsher against us, now we had not even the least bit of protection. Oh, but what you could see from the summit. I knew without thinking that this -- here -- this is where the world came together. Beauty and grandeur and tenderness and magnificence, all uncaring about the thoughts or concerns of a pair of wild kids. Hell, for anything of man’s making.
We looked to the south and far below us, miles in the distance, was a silvery slip of the Foyle nestled between hilltop after hilltop after hilltop, winding its way to the lough and just as unconcerned with any and all other existence. Beyond it, we now saw the shadows of mountains in the distant mist, some capped with snow. The fields appeared to be less carefully quartered and the houses fewer, with a single tiny town of the Republic nestled there and barely a road to be seen.
We turned back to the east -- and there lay Derry, clinging to a single hilltop. You could see St. Columba’s steeple and just across the Foyle to the Proddy side, but only barely. The only real portion of her that was visible lay closest to us, homes circling round the hill. Smoke drifting into the sky. No sign of anything but peace about her.
“She seems so tiny and frail,” I whispered.
“She does.” It was Jo saying it. I jolted, for I’d not realized I’d spoken aloud. “Forget I was here?” she laughed.
“No, Jo, never,” I whispered. She looked at me, grinning and not believing a word of it. Her lips the color of rubies. Her bright eyes amazing me. Her pert nose glowing red with cold. And I drew her close and kissed her. Found her breath laced with the scent of Spearmint. Wrigley’s and nothing less, for her. And my heart leapt and the warmth of her filled me and the wind whispered, This is good.
She finally pulled away, much too soon. “You’re frightful and fast, Mr. Kinsella,” she giggled.
“I had no choice,” I whispered.
“So you’re not a lad who believes in self-determination?”
“In this world, you ask me that?”
“In any world.” She was making sport of me, and oh how I loved it.
“I believe in fate,” said I, grinning wide, once more. “For what else could have brought us together?”
She stepped back, pulled her hood back atop her head. “So -- now comes the Irish poet, a spinner of the South using words like a snare for simple young girls.”
“I’m not so well spoken,” I smiled, pacing her. My gloves were feeling thin and the scarf round my neck was not doing much to keep me warm. But I cared not. I had a cheap Mac rolled up in a pocket and that would be enough to cut out the wind should I need it. “Just well inspired.”
“My brother fancies himself a poet.”
“You don’t think he is?”
“Not in the same way as you,” she smiled, her head cocked to one side as if I should know what she meant. “He’ll be off to London, soon.”
“A Proddy having to seek work?”
She cast me a look. “Royal Academy of Music.”
“Oh.” And I wished I could take that word -- hell, the full sentence back.
“His A-levels were good, just not good enough for Oxford.”
“Didn’t even take mine.”
“So you said.”
I shrugged. “I fix cars and things. I’m good at that. The jeep we drove up -- .”
“The Land Rover.”
“Aye. Land Rover. I rebuilt the timing components a month back for Mr. Sweeny.”
“He’ll not be happy where it is, now.”
I shrugged. “It’s a pile of junk. Leaks oil. Drinks petrol like it’s water. I rebuilt the clutch a year back and the rear brakes, soon after. He’ll be glad to report it gone.”
“You brought me here in a car that’s been stolen?”
“Borrowed,” I smiled.
She laughed, and my heart flipped twice over. “My father will not be pleased, if he finds out.”
“He’ll not be pleased you’re with a Paddy instead of a Proddy.”
“True.” She leaned back onto the fort’s wall, looking across at the distant, snow-capped mountains. Her hood dropped away from her head and the wind whipped at the golden silk she called hair.
I propped myself against the wall and gazed upon her, hurt pounding at the back of my chest. “Why did you come with me?”
She looked my way, her face a mask of coyness and wary indecision. “Your eyes. They’re kind and hurt and filled with acceptance, not like your usual ‘paddy’.” She almost giggled that last word out, cutting away all its horrible meaning. “Why’d you ask me to come?”
I shrugged then looked away...then looked back at her. She was worth more of an answer. “You looked at me. You saw me. With you, I...I don’t know how to put it...”
“The poet’s words fail him?”
“Words can’t tell you what I’m trying to say. I felt -- comfortable with you. Right. Complete. You made me want to grow -- to move forward instead of hold back and...and...” I groaned and spun about, furious with myself. “Arra, I’m not putting it right.”
She rose and turned me to her -- took my face in her hands -- her smile warm and gentle -- and she said, “You put it perfectly.”
And she kissed me. Long and soft and warm, as home should be. As life should be. And at that moment, I’d have died for her.

Late start today...

...And I am not in a happy mood. I got zero writing done, yesterday, because my mother just had to interrupt me every half hour or so to talk about something (and talk and talk) or "borrow me for 5 minutes" or try to figure out her prescriptions...and I could not focus. I finally decided to go to a Starbucks with my laptop to write, but she asked me to run a couple of errands for her...and being a wuss, I did that instead and wound up with no time left before picking my brother, Kelly, up and fixing dinner.

Then Kelly is nervous about his job. A new management company is taking over the complex he works at and they're deciding this week who they'll keep and who's out the door, so I helped him update his resume to show them what he's capable of.

And if all this sounds like whining, it's not. This kitty cat's mood is as follows --

And I think mom finally got the idea. Now that she'd taken her liver medicine, she's leaving me alone.

All in all, the most I got done on POS was the first work-up of a time-line for Brendan's life. Nothing specific, just events he might have been a part of in Derry and Houston -- offbeat things like a block party or a night at a dance hall and what band was playing and where Army blockades were on the Bogside's streets -- and I did some research into Houston, itself, to start prepping for that bit because he's interested in going there next, I think. I don't know. He's looking at me wary, again, as if I'm about to let these distractions take me away from the story. But I can't. I'm too invested in it now.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Long day, yesterday

Four hours at the clinic my mother goes to just to get the results of her tests, which turned out pretty good, overall. I had my laptop so got some writing done on part 2 of the story (now at 38,760) but it was a struggle. Then there was a lot of running around to get food and drop off prescriptions (mom needs a new one for her liver and refills on some asthma meds) and my brother needing things brought to him at work -- and so the evening was spent just reading.

Still...Brendan lead me into a new surprise -- someone close to him betrays him, and thinks he doesn't know it...and he decides to get even. The first indication of an understandable vindictiveness in his character. He's getting to be more fleshed out as a person than I am...which makes me feel real in a weird way.

My reading material had nothing to do with "Place Of Safety." I'm following a series of books about "Mark Julian," a gay vampire detective in NYC. I've read the first two, the second of which was a LOT of fun thanks to an incubus named Jaimie, and number 3's just come out. The writer's name is Kyle Cicero (do you see why I picked it up to read?) and his style is fast and to the point, but this one looks like it might be a bit darker than the first two from what I've read so far, and seems to threaten the end of the world...and in my best "Scoobey gang" I can only cry, "Again?!" (That was a joke for anyone who's a BtVS fan.)

Anyway, I'm using that one to give my brain a rest from POS and come back to it with a fresh eye. Sometimes I can get so wrapped up in working on a story, I lose all perspective and wind up having to make major corrections in continuity and reality, later, that cause me no end of trouble.

Oh, and I worked up a banner for POS.

Monday, November 16, 2009

I have no idea... long "Place of Safety" will be, anymore. And I don't care, because yesterday I reached the point where I'm enjoying the journey. I sat down at my laptop intending to tone down Brendan's health problem in the 1st third of the book and wound up just reworking it to where it helps him gain an idea of what he wants to do with this life that segues into a midnight discussion with his older brother about hopes and sex and possibilities...and I just let it go on till it was done.

I love it when moments like this pop up. Gentle talks between people who care for each other...or even confrontations between those who despise one another...that reveal ten times more than I expected. And I've had it happen a couple of times already in this story without really noticing it; like the sequence I posted on NaNoWriMo -- that was one of them but all I really saw was the reconnection between two lost people who've changed dramatically. In reality, it let me see just how much Brendan's drifted into cynicism and anger while Joanna's clung to hope in spite of everything, which may make the ending even more powerful. It showed me just how much I want this story to be as real and human and honest as it possibly can be, but without the bleakness some writers feel they have to maintain so as not to lessen the "meaning" of their tale.

As of now, the only reason I'm counting words is to fulfill the challenge (37,013). The pressure is dismissed. POS will be done when it's done; all that matters is the journey.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Productive day with good news

Brendan's talking to me and this is better than a casual conversation. Yesterday we established his date of birth -- February 2, 1956...sort of a joke on his part but it works and helps me clarify him. And he's now showing a playfulness in his character that I was afraid wasn't there. So I focused on establishing his buddies -- 2 of them Protestants living in The Fountain area of Derry -- and a health problem he has that comes into play, later. Overall, I'm up to 34,500 words and still have the feeling it's going to wind up being about 120K. Guess the end of the year is a more realistic goal for completion than I initially thought, since I'm also up for a storyboarding job for an ad agency and that will take some time, for sure...but boy, can I use the money.

Got some very good news -- "The Lyons' Den"...a script I wrote about a gay writer under a deadline who goes to an isolated cabin to work but winds up in the middle of political payoffs, scandal, murder and romance...was given Honorable Mention at the One In Ten Screenplay Competition. That's like 4th place for them, a cut above Finalist. It surprised me, because it was a last minute substitution for another script -- "Dair's Window." That one was a finalist in last year's competition but I wasn't aware of it till after I'd submitted it into this year's competition to give it a second chance. Then as I was setting up my Award-winner's page at Winning Scripts (see I ran across the e-mail 1 In 10 sent me last year; seems it came as I was in the middle of a lot of turmoil and I'd never opened it.

So I contacted them and they very kindly let me substitute LD for it. I didn't expect much...but that was my only other gay script and I figured I'd paid the entry fee so give it a shot...and now I have a total of 11 screenplays that have done well in competitions, 9 of which I can still offer up; the other two -- one's an adaptation of Beryl Markham's life from a biography of her, so I don't own the rights to the story, and the other is sold.

What surprises me most about "The Lyons' Den" achieving this is, it's really more of a play. A farce that starts off quietly, is locked into that one location, takes place in the space of 2 hours and builds to where there's lots of running around and slamming doors with the hero naked and talking to his 2 1/2 fictional characters (it makes sense in the script), guns firing, people being kidnapped and killed and 14 other characters of various trustworthiness bouncing all over the place all at the same time. But what the hell, I takes it where I can gets it.

Okay...time to end this. Mom wants to tell me about her bowel movement.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

No writing done

Didn't input one word, yesterday. Seems when I'm ready to start writing that's when mom comes up with needing to go get things at the grocery store and decides she wants various other errands handled, so I spent hours on that and did some reading and talked with a guy in LA who was looking for a script to shoot so sent him one that I think he'll like (but can't be shot for under $900K so I hope he meant it when he said a budget of up to a million) while mom watched "Supernanny." Then I was so out of the writing mode, I watched "Ugly Betty" and sorted paperwork.

I have to admit, "Ugly Betty" is becoming a habit. I like its whole format and how it presents an Hispanic family as just normal people instead of hoods and druggies, and how its main gay character is not just a bitchy punchline but has depth and worthiness to him. The stories are a bit "Telenovela" but that works. Of course, what that illuminates is just how much of a lazy writer I am, seeking distractions to keep from having to face the blank page -- or computer monitor, in this case.

Today I'm making up for it. Period. Another part of the trouble is me just being a wuss and telling mom, "No, I need to work on this." Seems just explaining it to her doesn't matter -- so now it's up to me to set the boundaries and stick to them and...

And I'm about to start whining. It's going to be one of those days. Maybe I'll go to Starbucks and stay the afternoon and get drunk on mint tea and overindulge in their disgustingly good oatmeal cookies...after I fix lunch.

Friday, November 13, 2009


That's how many words I've written for POS, so far. A third of that word count is spread across the first two parts of the story; the rest is the last Londonderry section, where I'm establishing ends that need to be set up in the beginning. And I'm fighting this one subplot's movement towards a "Hollywood" moment. It's coming from a character who's established himself as a boyhood friend of Brendan's -- a Protestant living in The Fountain area of The Bogside -- but now is is a member of the Royal Ulster Constabulary. He's nudging for a final confrontation between him and Brendan and I do NOT like it. Helps that Brendan thinks the idea stupid, too. But it's still there -- my easy way into emotional catharsis and one I fear I'll jump at if I get too desperate to get done.

Going through the whole last section, I can see where I'm really just over half done with this part. I still need to get Brendan into Northern Ireland from America and situate him in a condition that was growing calmer but is now exploding, again, thanks to the hunger strikes by IRA prisoners in The Maze. Then I need to link a few other chapters I've written. Last night I got his interrogation by the RUC and its aftermath done, for now. It feels a bit quick, but I can take care of that in the rewrite.

I started writing early, while mom was puttering around in her closet...and it was good that I did. We had a small crisis concerning her new glasses that took up a few hours. She and I had discussed her getting transitional lenses for them, just like the ones she currently has. I thought she had it down so yesterday, while she got everything set up at the Eyemasters in North Star Mall, I used the mall's free WiFi to answer e-mails. She joined me when she was done and told me the glasses were due to be ready today, which surprised me but I shrugged it off. Big mistake. Because when we called to see if they were ready, it turned out Mom had ordered prescription sunglasses. She'd told the woman dealing with her she wanted tinting on them, said nothing about getting the "tint" just like the ones she had or even referred to "transitional lenses." Those would have taken ten days to get done properly. So they worked up her regular prescription, put them in her old frames and she now had a pair of glasses that were too dark to use indoors. They were able to remove most of the tint and she can see fine with them...but I should never have left her alone to do this. I'd have made sure she got what she wanted from the first moment.

Now she's insisting these glasses are fine and she wants to wait to get any others. Monday she has a doctor's appointment to find out the results of her bloodwork, CTs and mammogram. If that all turns out fine, I guess I'll get back to pushing her to get some other problems taken care of.

Then last night, Kelly got some new tools. He does apartment maintenance and his old tools had been damaged in a fire at his current job. The replacements arrived, yesterday, and he just had to show us how they worked and talk about how great they were. For hours.

Jesus, it's like dealing with children.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Disparities abound

I'm two-thirds of the way done with the challenge for November but only maybe a fourth to a third of the way done on my book. Confusing? Here's a hint of clarity, I hope.

The challenge at is to write a 50K word book in 30 days. They don't care if it's done, really; what matters is word count. I was unemployed and living alone when I focused on "Bobby Carapisi" back in November 2007, so I was able to toss aside my life and spend 10-12 hours a day working on the book. Didn't hurt I'd been thinking about it and working it out for a few years so when crunch time came, I got the full 124K thing done within the 30 day maximum. Still it took nearly 2 years of editing and smoothing and rewriting to get it into publishable form.

Last year I was in basically the same situation, but I was doing storyboards for a medium-budget film and I'd already done the work I was contracted for by the time November rolled around, but the director'd rewritten the script and they wanted more changes (just not for more money) and I stupidly said I'd do it because they hadn't paid me in full, yet, and I was also planning for a move to San Antonio, so the book I wound up with, "The Golden Sea," met the challenge but is such a mess, I feel I have to practically start over to do it right.

This month, I have no jobs outside the home, but I no longer live alone and my mother and brother offer constant interruptions, distractions and irritations when I'm trying to write. And I'm working on a story that is very demanding. Therefore, while I may meet the 50K goal for the month, I don't think I'll have the book finished. But then again...I might. I honestly have no idea, right now. I just know I don't want my first draft to be as crappy as the one I churned out last year, so I'm not pushing it, anymore.

You see, while I'm getting close to done with the third section, it's like Brendan wants to see how I handle the ending before he lets me deeper into his beginning. And I've tried to keep this book from being a throwaway story -- one that's silly and exciting to read and too "Hollywood" to really matter.

You know, "War and Peace" had some breathtakingly written battle sequences in it -- especially the Battle of Borodino -- but what mattered was the reality of the people in the book. They carried it into the realm of poetry. Same for "Anna Karinina." There's a chapter where Levin, after fighting with his peasants over modernizing the farm, goes out in the fields to reap some wheat -- and the way it is written and Levin's contemplations and growing awareness of the meaning of the land and his people's connection to it was heart-stopping in its beauty.

Meanwhile, a couple decades ago Leon Uris wrote a book about Ireland leading up to the Easter Rebellion in 1916 that was very descriptive but flat, tedious and sometimes dropped into melodrama. Especially the section where he transposed the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in NYC into Belfast to give one character a reason to battle the Brits...and then avoided letting us understand the true depths of the man's pain by shunting his despair off to one corner of the page until it was under enough control to deal with, again.

So...I'm aiming for Tolstoy instead of Uris. That's a monstrous standard to put myself against, but with POS I feel it's better to at least shoot for the stars; maybe I'll wind up on the moon.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Halfway done for NaNoWriMo

I hit 26,500 words last night, thanks to mom taking a nap in the afternoon and "Dancing With The Stars" ending at 9pm. This section deals with Brendan being interrogated by the RUC (Royal Ulster Constabulary) because they think he knows who set off a bomb that killed several people. I'm only partway into this and have little more than a vague idea of how the rest of it will play out; I was thinking we were headed for some extreme brutality as the cops work to break Brendan's silent treatment...but it's shifting, again, surprisingly so, because Brendan's the one pulling back and saying, Wait a minute; this might be too much for me. So I await his writing orders.

Most of what I've written, so far, is set in the third part of the book. I have a couple chapters of parts one and two done, each, but don't have as clear an idea of those sections, yet. I mean, I do know what needs to be in there, but I'm beginning to see repetitions that I don't like. Well...that I'm not comfortable with. I'm willing to let them sit, for now, just to see what happens as the book plays out, but they're smacking me as just a bit too lazy and easy and that is not where I want "Place of Safety" to wind up -- casual fiction.

I remember reading "The Woman In White" by Wilkie Collins back when I was deep into my classics phase. It's a long, LONG book about a conspiracy that's way too easy to figure out and really kind of silly, at the end -- and since Collins was being paid by the word for his writing, he used a LOT of them even when unnecessary -- but they lead up to a singularly elegant moment nearly lost in all the expansiveness. The hero thinks a young woman he knew died while he was out of the country, and he goes into this long detailed explanation of his attachment to her only to end with the simple phrase, "I loved her." And it was heartbreaking in its contrast to the verbiage. And then as he's visiting her grave he sees her walking nearby and the counter-effect is electrifying. I actually found myself holding my breath. Then the book got back to its silliness and I returned to slogging through it, but this time I was hoping for another moment of grace like that one. Didn't happen.

Still it stuck with me and I want POS to be filled with moments like that. Not ALL of it -- that would be just as tedious; I want the ebb and flow of it, like waves upon a shore building as a storm approaches. But I'm being impatient. This is something that will come once I have a first draft and can see what is comparative, what is informative and what is merely repetitive in Brendan's story.

It'll be interesting to see how long this book winds up being.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Inching along

I've always been an artist and writer who works best in the evenings. To me, digging into a story or sketch at 7pm was perfect. I'd work out what I was going to do then have it cooking in my mind as I made dinner and returned to it after I'd eaten and watched the evening news. I never was big on watching a lot of TV -- though I did follow "Friends" and "Buffy The Vampire Slayer" almost religiously -- so I'd have until about 10 pm to work and still be able to slow my mind down enough to where I could go to sleep about 1am.

But something I hadn't really noticed was, I used the rest of the day to gear my mind up to this. I'd read the paper, check news blogs and do research and even just run errands. Even while mom was living with me in LA (for 7 1/2 years) I was able to keep this schedule because I got off from Heritage at 5:30, would have her fed and settled into her room (where I'd set up a TV at the foot of her bed and she could sort through the paperwork in her dozens of boxes and channel-surf to her heart's content) and I'd be rested enough to get going. And when she moved back to San Antonio and I had my life to myself, again, it worked out even better. I even joined a gym and would exercise 2-3 times a week after I got off work. And when Heritage closed, I moved the writing time up a bit -- to 4pm -- but I still used the day to work my mind and let ideas percolate.

I got into so very steady habits, it seems. Even when I went nuts and worked 12 hours a day writing to get something done (like the storyboards for "Kerosene Cowboys" or a script for a J Morrison Group industrial video), I'd slip back to the same schedule. But I've had a hell of a time doing that here in SA. Because even though I have mom set up in her room with a TV at the foot of her bed, just like in LA, she prefers to sit in a chair she claims to hate in the living room and watch her programs there, and it's brutally distracting. I've tried listening to music via my headphones but that cuts into my concentration and puts a layer of creative noise between me and my thoughts. So unless mom is quiet during the day, and lately (unless it's raining) she's been anything but, I've found I can't get started writing until 9 or 10, when she goes to bed.

So...last night I was able to get only 1300 words input, and then only because I focused on a part where Brendan witnesses an explosion and sees the aftermath, something I'd sketched out in general a few years ago when I was still trying to work out the story in third person. I doubt I'll have a full first draft by the end of the month. Mom and Kelly are in a needy phase, and how they knew to wait till now to start in on their wants and requests...I almost think it's deliberate. They both know what I'm trying to do, I even talked to mom about it, yesterday, as she had me take her to Target and HEB and Walgreen's Pharmacy and U-Haul. Didn't phase her. Because already today, she's come up with one of her, "Can I borrow you for 5 minutes" moments where she wants some things put in the storage room and a shelf attached in her closet so she can put things on it. And like a wimp, I do it.

And in the story, Brendan has grown to despise his mother, but loves her enough to never tell her so. And it feels too right for the story for me to pull back from it, and it leads to a moment I didn't see coming, one of gentleness and grace and outright deception that crystalizes everything.

Y'know, when idiots tell you to write what you know, they usually mean it in too literal a fashion. But I've just seen how it works in the abstract...and it carries a thousand times more meaning for me, here, now. I think I finally understand why I need to tell this story.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Rainy days are perfect for writing

And it rained all day, yesterday. So I caught up to myself in "Place of Safety" and even rewrote a confrontation on the Craigavon Bridge to fit in with a chapter that immediately precedes it. I'm still pushing to get the book done by the end of the month; I'm at close to 23,000 words and have 104 pages, so far. It won't be a work of art yet, not by any stretch of the imagination, but I will know where the story is headed and know what to dig into once I get to Londonderry to do more research.

I've realized I also need to research Houston between the years 1973 and 1981. Fortunately, I have friends who lived or grew up in the city during those years, and I lived there, myself, between 1985 and 1993 so have an idea of the city, but I want the details right even if I don't wind up using them.

And that's something that works so neatly within this story. Since Brendan's telling it, I don't need to outline everything he does to make the tale work. It would be ludicrous for him to say, "I sat down to a meal of porridge and toast from the toaster Mam bought off Mrs. O'Leary so we'd not have to burn our bread over an open flame." Or "I snuck over to Kelly Brothers grocers in the Waterside, up on Spencer, because their vegetables and beef were of a higher quality, that being the Protestant side of town." He wouldn't think about such things. It'd just be, "I scarfed my breakfast and busted out the door" or "Mam sent me for lettuce and cutlets, and warned me to bring back good ones, this time." It's nice to have all the details in the back of my brain, but Brendan's leading this story and doing it fine, so far. It worked out well in "Bobby Carapisi," especially insofar as Bobby's telling of his story, so it's a comfortable fit for me in this one, as well.

Let's see how far I get, today.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Hell is your family

I got no writing done, yesterday. Not one word. The whole day was spent dealing with mom and trying to get done in time to get something written...and then finally realizing it just wasn't going to happen. We went from Bed, Bath & Beyond to a nursery out on Loop 1604 in the middle of nowhere (20 miles from where I live) to my sister and brother-in-law's out in Spring Branch (a drive of an addition 35 miles) to an HEB Grocery Store to say hello to my niece (whom mom hasn't seen in months) to getting sandwiches to take home...and by the time it was done, I'd put over a hundred miles on my car and sat in some of the worst traffic you can imagine (and I lived in LA and I've been caught in gridlock driving in Dublin, so I KNOW bad traffic) and I was so exhausted, I couldn't think.

I did get in a book I'd ordered with photos of Derry from the early 60's to the late 80's so looked through that as I ate my sandwich and zoned. And I did make notes on how to rework a section I'd already done to make it more realistic and tie it into the rest of the story better. But that was it. The moment I thought I was rested and could start back in on the story, I'd go blank and get sleepy, so finally I gave up.

Hopefully I can make it up today. It's raining and I've already gotten mom her paper (she likes to sit and read the San Antonio Express on Sunday from cover to cover, even though it's really a pathetic excuse for a newspaper) and I've moved the boxes she wanted into our storage room so she should be low-key all day. But it's already 11:20am and she's still fussing about, so I may be clinging to futile hope.

BTW, anyone who tells you San Antonio is a lovely city has only been to the Riverwalk downtown. This city is UGLY, with the worst of urban decay inside and the worst of suburban sprawl outside of Loop 410. The place where I got caught in traffic is a hideous development of widely-spaced strip malls with huge black parking lots and big, blank, cookie-cutter houses on lots barely large enough for them, where the land was clear-cut of all trees to make building these homes and strip malls easier and where NOTHING was done to improve the streets to facilitate the increase in traffic. So even on a Saturday afternoon cars are backed up for miles in both directions trying to get through a series of lights that are anything but timed to help. And what's the city doing about it? "We're considering some maybe a toll road. What do you think? After all, we've been too busy helping the local money people make more money off the city doing projects that mean nothing (except for our vanity) to really take the time to consider the problem."

The deferential patronage system in this town is so completely entrenched, San Antonio belongs in a Third World country.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Moving forward

Despite my mother's interference. She doesn't MEAN to interfere; she's just old and needs things moved about in her never-ending shuffle of the junk she has, and then needs to tell me her plans for how she's going to get everything done by Christmas...things she's been planning to get done since she moved back to San Antonio 4 1/2 years ago. And much as I may want to, I can't yell at her to leave me alone. So I deal with it and now get my writing done when she's toddled off to bed. Meaning last night I started writing at 9pm.

And put out another 2000 words. 8 more pages. The beginning of the Houston section of Brendan's life. Initially I'd thought it up as something wild and chaotic; instead, he walked me through it like he's waking from a long deep dream, and I like it that way so much better.

It's fascinating watching this story morph from one of nothing but anger, conflict and pain into one that holds a degree of tenderness, longing and love. At least, I hope it does. It feels that way to me. It could just be that I'm falling in love with Brendan. I do that with my characters, sometimes, and while it can make things difficult -- I do have a tendency to assume everyone loves the character as much as I so I don't need to present his or her story as much as I should for clarity's sake -- it also allows me to go deeper into the character and allow them to do things you just don't do in a screenplay or a book if you're the hero.

For example, I wrote a thriller script about a young Russian soldier, Niko, who sneaks into the US to kill the man he believes ordered his own family to be killed, a guy named Alessandro. Niko learns Alessandro has a daughter named Tani and a troubled son, Gregr, and sets about using both of them to get to the guy...but then begins to fall in love with Tani and feel for Gregr. Typical Hollywood-style story, right (except for the lead not being a red-blooded American boy)? But then Niko decided he wanted to be suicidal and use his own death wish to destroy Alessandro, thus blinding him to the growing evidence he's after the wrong man. And even though he loves Tani, he still calculatingly uses her and Gregr to get to her father. And in the end, he commits a cold-blooded murder then contemplates doing a "suicide-by-cop."

What this did was set up a situation where it seriously looks like he's going to be actually taunting his killers so they'll do it quick. And the story demanded it be told in a style that will work on screen but is confusing on the page. I've had directors, actors and cinematographers read it and love it because it gives them a LOT to work with, and I've even taken it through a workshop to make sure it was sharpened as much as possible, but coverage people DESPISE the script. I've gotten a few copies of some really vicious coverage on it. And their flat-out rejections hurt...until I noticed they had major mistakes in the synopses and commentaries, thus revealing they hadn't read the script but only skimmed it. That or they were illiterate (and considering the grammar and spelling of two of them, I lean towards that explanation).

I think this is when I started wondering if I can write for Hollywood, now. And started shifting my end game to that of novelist. For all that I give up in the idea of making a film from my story -- the look and music and acting and movement -- I get to dig into the characters' hearts and minds in ways you just can't do in filmmaking, these days. Filmmakers USED to do it -- and not just in foreign films like those made by Truffaut and Renoir and Bergman and Bunuel, but William Wyler's "Dodsworth" and "The Heiress", Hitchcock's "Notorious", movies made under the studio system where the eye was on the bottom dollar just as much as today. But nowadays? There aren't many people in the industry capable of putting that kind of story across, and the audience has been trained to be spoon-fed everything. And now we're regressing as a society. on a rant. Think I'll go for a walk, talk some more with Brendan and see what I can get done, today. He had an idea for a moment when he has to fake being a priest and offer up last rites to someone who's dying so they can go in peace. I'm thinking about it...but I'm leery because it leads too neatly into a confrontation with some British Paratroopers on the Craigavon Bridge and I don't want it to be that easy. But we'll see. After all, he's leading me right, so far.

Friday, November 6, 2009

I want to be alone...

Gretta Garbo had it right. When you're alone, you can do whatever you want, and if you get nothing done for the day you have no one to blame but yourself.

Yesterday my 81 year old mother decided it was time to make a complete pest of herself -- the "Can I borrow you for 5 minutes?" kind of crap that extends to hours and destroys whatever line you were following in your writing. Then my brother, who's an alcoholic but usually keeps to his room to watch the History Channel, got into a chatty mood after he got home from work and would not leave me alone, no matter how many times I asked him to. He went away once he'd finished slurping two more beers and taken three cigarette breaks in his chat.

I finally got a little writing done, late last night, by shifting to a totally different part of the story and just jumping in...but after 1200 or so words, I went blank. And this morning I woke with a headache and a mood so sour, I couldn't talk to anyone till a few minutes ago.

Now I know why writers drink; it's the only way they can legally drown their loved ones.

Forcing myself to a positive note -- I'm at 17,777 words spread over 79 pages and caught a glimmer of the parallels between Brendan's lives in Derry and Houston. I'm still moving forward...hell, clawing my way through the mine fields Brendan seems so adroit at dancing past.

Thursday, November 5, 2009


That's how many words I'm up to. And I have a feeling half of what I wrote yesterday is crap...but it did open up a new avenue for Brendan and change my thoughts about an old friend of his named Colm. Which means reworking part of the ending chapter, but if it works...

This is going to be a long book. And already I'm leery of my factual details -- things like what kids did for fun in 1968 in Derry and how blocked off the border with Ireland was in this one particular area and such -- but those can be changed as need be, especially if I can make it back to Derry for a week to 10 days to dig through the library's archives. My last two trips set the ground work; this time I'll know exactly what it is I need to know and can focus.

And if all goes well, I'll be able to make the trip in January or February, before the tourist season starts. So I'll have to have a solid draft by then.

But I have a feeling it's going to be at least 125K words, and I'll need every day of the month open and easy for me to reach that goal. Guess we'll see what happens...but if that's the case, I'm WAY behind; by the end of today I'd need to be at 24,000 words.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Feeling tapped out

Yesterday was not easy, family-wise. Mother and brother were needy and I had to fight to get 2000 words done. But I did finish another chapter and set up the relationship between Brendan and Joanna.

Aftermath is, today I'm drained. I have a chapter I could work on that I have ideas about, but the fuzziness indicates it may be a chore. Positive thing is, I'm ahead of schedule so I can take a bit of time with it...but not too much. I still have that feeling things'll get crazy the 2nd half of the month. And I need a first draft done, which may well be more than 100K words, the way this is going.

Need more tea. Maybe caffeinated instead of herbal. And a cinnamon roll.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Moving right along

I'm up to nearly 12,000 words spread over 5 different areas of the story, so far. Life keeps trying to interfere -- and has done a good job of it, today -- but I wrote until nearly 1am last night...where Brendan takes Joanna to Griann an Ailech for the first time (they have to sneak across the border and cut through muddy fields to do it, and fall in love as they go) and I'm still working on that section.

In a slightly different fashion to my normal way of writing, I've worked up both the opening and ending chapters of the book, so I know how it begins and ends and just need to get from here to there. I didn't do that, exactly, with "Bobby Carapisi." That one, I also wrote bits of it all over the place but didn't have my ending until everything else was done. Then it fell into place.

With my three books of erotica, I just let the characters lead me from A to B to C and on, and they turned out surprising, even to me. And my scripts, I usually have an idea of what's where, how and when once the characters are set, but I leave it flexible enough to change without any concern...which worked beautifully with "Blood Angel," since my initial thought was to have Tristan kill Gabrielle -- but neither one of them liked the idea and lead me to the ending the script now has and is better for it.

But "Place of Safety" -- I'm forcing myself to listen to Brendan, and he wanted me to know both A and Z and have me trust him for the rest. That's half the reason I backed away from the project for so long. I initially thought I'd have him wind up an architect -- major symbolism blast here, a man trying to build in a world being destroyed -- but he cut that idea out the first time he spoke to me. Instead, he's just a lad with an ability to fix cars who wants nothing more than a wife and kids and a way to provide for them, and begins to build that sort of life as a mechanic until fate comes along. And that's the way it's going, because that's all that seems to work in the story as I write it. Which is rough because I don't know anything about that kind of work. I'm playing it safe and using my old 1965 Volvo 122S for him to work on, first, because I used to do things like rebuild the clutch and replace the fuel filter and set the twin carbs and rebuild the drum brakes, but that's it. The rest is research.

I do desperately want to go back to Londonderry for a week to 10 days to dig through the library and archives of the times. It looks like Brendan's found a way for me to do it in January or February, so long as I have the first draft completed by the 30th. Nothing more about it till I know for sure...but having this drop into my lap now, when I'd asked for it...that makes me think I'm meant to write this book and get it out there, no matter what.

Monday, November 2, 2009


I thought I'd explained this but people keep asking so -- it stands for "National Novel Writing Month", which is every November. There's a challenge -- write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. I've participated in the last two of them and made it both times, though the book I wrote last year was complete crap and needs to be rewritten, beginning with word one. But that's the beauty of the deal -- all that matters is that you complete your first draft and quality does not even enter into the equation. And the first book I did, "Bobby Carapisi", is now in who knows what will happen with book 2 after I dig back into it?

Book 3 is "Place of Safety" and I'm finding myself being more precise with this. Maybe too much so. I want to get it down solid and I'm fighting to keep from going back and rewriting, already. I've posted what is essentially the prologue on the site -- -- and have a total of 5762 words done...albeit not in order. But that makes me think I'm going the right way with this. I jumped all over the place writing BC then pulled everything together at the end (for a total of 124,000 words) and it made a lot more sense than I expected it do. The rewrites were to clarify the story and build consistency in the characters (and destroy all typos, which I keep finding even after going through my work a dozen times). I'm hoping that will happen with POS -- sans typos.

Now off to another chapter of the book. Its siren calls whispers to me.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Started early

I began writing "Place Of Safety" at precisely 12:01 am this morning, since you ain't supposed to do no writin' till the 1st and I was feeling antsy. And I posted my first 1700 words even though they probably don't make a whole hell of a lot of sense. I haven't even noted that Brendan is the narrator, yet; he's still planning to do the reveal once he's laid out his family's situation in March 1966. Little sneak. Face like an angel but a devil's mind to him.

God, I hope I can keep in mind all I'm doing is a first draft, so I won't do my usual self-editing...which I've already begun to do and which slows me to a ludicrous pace.

But here's the opening paragraph --

"Those who knew Eamonn Kinsella -- and were being honest with themselves -- had to admit that had he been born but ten miles to the west or north, his murder would have been seen as the fitting end to a hard and brutal man. That he drank too much was not the problem; so did most of the men in his pinpoint of the world for it was often the only comfort offered by their existence. Nor was it that he was quick to temper when one too many pints had wandered into his brain. Sometimes anger was the only emotion men like him were allowed to hold dear. And if his wife was seen at market with an extra layer of makeup over one eye or across one cheek, well...she, herself, was not one to be known for gentleness. Besides, occasionally the only way a man can claim he still is lord and master of something is by proving it to his missus. But when your sons come to school with plaster on their skin or a cast on their limbs, and your daughters wear long blouses to hide the markings on their arms, and when the nearest priest is called to quiet the house twice a week, on average -- well that was beyond the simple need of self-justification."