Derry, Northern Ireland

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

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Recap of 2009 in writing

I wrote a new script -- "5 Dates" that's done well in a couple of script competitions.

I co-wrote a horror script -- "The Loft".

I re-wrote three screenplays for other people -- "Inherent Flaws" (do NOT like the title), "Dreamstate" and "Shadow of the Jungle".

I re-wrote one of my own scripts -- "Return To Darian's Point", which has also done well in screenplay competitions.

I wrote volume 1 in another of my immoral morality tales -- "Rape in Holding Cell 6", which was published.

I finished re-writing another book -- "Bobby Carapisi", which was published in 2 volumes.

I wrote half of a new book I'd been thinking on for several years -- "A Place of Safety" (77,000+ words to be precise).

I began writing volume 3 of "Bobby Carapisi", which is going to be interesting.

And I pulled together the first issue of a magazine for a publisher, with articles, photos and artwork...which unfortunately will probably go nowhere.

Y'know, I think I actually did good this year. Next year, I'm making a living off my writing, no matter what.


Rereading the snippet of POS I posted yesterday, I can see where it still needs work being smoothed over and deepened. I repeat phrases and don't get very far into the moment or completely into Brendan's emotional state, yet. I can do a lot to better this. A lot better.

Today will be spent working on AAAS. I get the feeling my work for that writer/director is ended unless I can come up with a better idea for the ending of his script than I've offered, so far. I'll think about it...but these storyboards are higher priority.

Looks like the packing job is off. This guy seems to want $10 worth of services for ten cents, but I've let him know I intend to pack the books even better because apparently he's going to just shove them into a moving van filled with furniture and appliances, and no way am I being held responsible for lessening the value of his collection by 20% if something happens. Plus air fare has already jumped 20% and the hotel I planned to stay at may no longer have room for me, so that'll go up, too, since the next best place in price was a Marriott. I believe the appropriate phrase here is, "Penny wise, pound foolish." Oh well...the money would have been nice but the peace of mind is nicer, and it wouldn't hurt me to not have a meal or two.

Now off for a quick walk then digging into the SBs.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Brendan's walk to Claudy

To say it was easy even getting out of Derry would be a lie. Lads were everywhere, keeping watch, just daring the RUC to try anything. That the constables hadn’t yet only added to my concern, and a little voice inside me kept whispering, Sunday was not going to be a holy day.

The Craigavon was empty, so I knew anytime a car approached it’d be an RUC patrol and I’d duck behind the lamp posts and stay still and they’d pass without a thought; it helped still being small. Once across, I hoofed up to Spencer Road and around to Irish Street to try and find the Dungiven Road. I knew it ran in front of Altnagelvin Hospital, so that was my first point of destination. I kept in shadow as much as I could, and when I heard voices would hold still till they’d passed, but I saw few on the Waterside.

I kept walking down Irish and felt somehow I’d gone too far so cut across to the next road -- which was Glenshane -- and looked around to find I’d actually passed Altnagelvin. I walked down Glenshane for a piece then saw a sign for Dungiven and knew I was headed right...and did it make me proud of myself.

I was past much of the housing and into meadows and farmland, now, and the quiet of it was different from the silence of the city. No, it wasn’t quiet, it was peaceful, like this is how the world ought to be. It took a bit, but if you listened you’d hear toads grunting and foxes yipping and owls calling, none of them screaming to call attention to himself. Water whispered down the ditch beside the road till it could join in with a pleasant little brook. A light breeze gave voice to the bushes and trees and leaves dancing about. It was cold so most farm animals were in their shelters, but you could still hear them offer a soft bleat or mew at the sudden footsteps of a fellow traveler.

It wasn’t a clear night, and while I was hardly sorry for it, I did feel it would have been nice to have the stars as companion to my wandering. I’d have to make do with the shrubs and owls and cattle that still braved the chill. I had hilltops to climb over and look around in wonder at the beauty of existence. I had glens to walk through as the road dipped low between mounds of earth and trees. Nearly nothing passed me for the first two hours of my trek, so my sense of one with the world remained intact. Even then, it was only a lorry or two ferrying winter produce to Derry’s markets thundering past that could break my reverie.

Oh, how I loved the smell of the air as I walked, even with the odor of manure mingled with it. It had a crispness that Derry’s cloudy air lacked. Only a few miles separated this part of the world from the city, but it’s as if they were on different planets to me. Different concepts of reality.

A tenderness settled over my heart, like a cozy blanket, and I began to hum a tune off the Johnston’s album -- “The Banks of Claudy.” I’d been playing to Mam’s distraction, almost. She only tolerated it because I mentioned I’d filched it from the Wellie’s, but truth is I bought it from Hurley’s shop on Shipquay. It seemed that made it mine complete, and I might sear the lyrics to my soul without fear of retribution now or ever-after and let them flow from me in a cracked voice --

“It was on one pleasant evening, all in the month of May.
Down by yon flowery garden, I carelessly did stray.
I overheard a fair one most grievously complain.
It was on the banks of Claudy where my darlin’ do remain.”

It was to heaven I was soaring, and all was well and good around me. I was myself and one alone, with nothing to bind me or hold me and little but road before me. Money in my pocket. My anorak warm about me. A gentle push of a breeze at my back. It was life as how it should be lived -- open and free from anything others might force upon you. I could have kept walking forever.

That girl would’ve been on this walk had I asked her, I knew for certain. Aye, she was Protestant, but hadn’t the two religions lived side by side for years without trouble? Weren’t there a number of Presbyterians as bad off as my family and wasn’t Billy’s proof of that, with him living in the Fountain, which was just as bad a disgrace as Nailor’s Row? But she wouldn’t have minded where I was from, even if it was Creegan. She’d have seen the need for this march, the need to show those few bastards in control of our worlds that they should have that control no longer, since they'd done so poorly with it. I knew because when she’d looked at me, she’d not seen a boy who’s Catholic or Protestant, but merely one she fancied. It was visible in her eyes, in how she looked at me, and I could picture her at my side as on we strolled, singing together as we marched to our own little fates.

So on we marched, with her as my shadow under a darkening sky, and we’d probably gone about six, maybe seven miles when the distant click of stones being tossed about and voices returned me to reality. They were alien sounds and jolted through my sense of wonder to make me stop cold. I was by some trees where the road cut through a rise so could see little more than the dark pavement carrying on ahead of me. Without really deciding to, I edged closer to those trees and listened carefully.

The words were indistinct, but they sounded happy and filled with fun as the sound of more stones clattering together accompanied them. They weren’t taking any care in maintaining secrecy about their whereabouts, so I couldn’t make out the reason for it all. I was about to continue on to see what I could see when I noticed a car approaching from the direction of Claudy.

I pressed closer to the tree trunks and was glad I did, for it was an RUC tender. A second car -- a saloon -- was right behind it. But they didn’t pass me; they stopped about a hundred yards down and some men got out, two of whom wore constable uniforms. They crossed the road and climbed up the hill...and were greeted by another man in naught but a sweater and cap, his face gleaming with sweat. They were too far away for me to know if I knew them and their voices still too indistinct, but without question they were much friendly with each other and quite happy with themselves. They turned away to look out at something so I scurried across the road to climb the rise. I was halfway up when I heard a lorry’s engine roar to life and seem to echo behind me, and I froze. I carefully looked around but saw nothing, even as the sound of the lorry driving kept echoing. Then it appeared from a side road across from the two parked cars and I realized I’d been hearing the echo of a truck that was in front of me. It drove off to Claudy, smoke billowing from its exhaust, its tail empty of everything but dust left behind by a load of bricks or stones.

I climbed higher and peeked over the summit to see a number of men, young and old, sorting out piles of stones as others laid up stacks of cudgels as one lad my age handed out cups of hot steaming tea -- and him I did know; it was Billy. And one of the men ferrying bricks to a pile further down the hill was his uncle.

To be honest, I wasn’t surprised. After not finding him, yesterday, I’d felt he was going to be part of that crowd out to harry the marchers. But to find him helping prepare stones and bricks and cudgels to use against them -- that sent an icy dagger into my heart, laced both with fury and pain.

I dug my fingers into the cold earth and pressed my forehead against the ground to keep from doing or saying anything to reveal myself.

“You, boy -- what you doin’ up there?”

I jolted and half tumbled back down the embankment to find a constable walking up to me. The other constable was a few paces behind him.

“Headed home,” popped out of me. “What’s it to you?”

“It’s the back of my hand to your face if you don’t take a proper tone with me,” he snapped back. “Where’s home?”

I thought I caught a Belfast accent off him, so chanced saying, “Claudy. And where the devil’re you from?”

“What you doin’ here?”

“Nothing. Just off for a walk and -- .”

The other constable snarled, “I think he’s a fuckin’ Taig come to join his mates!”

“Leave off me!” I snapped back at him. “And who the devil’re you to tell me anything? You’re not from here! I know everyone in my town and -- .”

“D’yer know me?” And this tall man with a white armband strolled up the road. His clothes were too fine for labor’s work and a quick glance at his one ungloved hand showed his nails were well-kept.

“Should I?” I asked him back, feeling a sickness in my stomach. This man’s eyes were black and cold and I had no interest in even thinking of going up against him.

“I’m in Claudy.”

For some reason it didn’t sound right, him saying that. So I smirked and said, “Maybe on market day, and then only to buy, and then only when your man can’t do the work for you.”

His eyes glistened with anger, then he laughed and clapped me round the back of my head in a friendly fashion. “He’s too feisty to be a papist, lads. And too young to be a marcher. What’s your name, lad?”

“Billy Corrie,” I said, without a thought.

“Good Protestant name.”

“So what’s all this?”

“Don’t ya know of them bastards from Belfast -- little commie taigs -- they’re staying there, the night.”

“Not sleepin’, that’s fer certain,” laughed the big one.

“I thought they wasn’t comin’ till tomorrow,” I said.

“They may be comin’ but they ain’t goin’.” Everyone laughed at that.

I just smirked. “So you’re after stopping ‘em here, then?”

“No, just givin’ ‘em a real welcome.”

“Care to join us, Billy?” asked the man with the armband.

“Thanks but I’ve chores to do, now, and me mam’ll be seeking me out. I’ll take the back way home.”

“Back way?” It was the man with the armband eyeing me, wary all of a sudden.
I laughed at him and said, “You’re not from these parts, are ya?”

He grabbed my arm, tight and angry. “Where exactly did ya say ya lived? I don’t recall.”

I kicked him in the knee. He howled and fell but still kept hold of me so I had to yank myself away. Then I ran back the way I came, and I had no need to check to see if they were chasing me; I could hear their footsteps laced with curses the like of which I’d ever heard before. Then stones come whisking over my head and clattering down the road. One near clipped my ear. They were getting a better aim. Then I heard that RUC tender roar close then grind to a crawl -- I guess to let the fellow chasing me get in since I heard a car door slam -- so I rounded a curve and spun into a thicket of bushes and lay still.

The tender drove on past, so I guess I’d been out of sight around the curve when I hid. Soon as they were out of my sight, I slipped through a wire fence and crept on back towards Derry. I heard the tender snarl past, again, and someone cried out, “Billy, fair Billy, come out to play!”

Oh, aye, I’m Catholic so I must be a bloody idiot. Bloody bastards.

I heard them coming up, again, so sat against a thick hedge to catch my breath and let them take as long as they wished to give up searching. Then I heard them screech to a halt and my heart near jumped in my throat. Had they seen me? They backed up and skidded a bit, then drove off.

I had a feeling I knew why they’d run, so peeked over the top of the hedge and without question, I saw headlamps approaching. I couldn’t tell the car, but it was small -- actually a small lorry.

I scrambled over the hedge and tried to cut it off but I dared not yell to stop it -- those Proddy bastards weren’t so very far away and the sound of my voice would only bring them here -- and so the lorry zipped on past me without a thought, aiming to be showered in stones. Then my immediate thought went to warn anyone else coming and I backed down the road, aiming for a side lane I’d seen.

But I heard no yelling nor the sound of rocks hitting metal nor smashing glass nor curses hurled in either direction. It took only a moment for me to figure out why -- they were saving their hoards of weapons for the marchers and wished them to be unknown. They were planning something far worse than a mere harassment; they were planning a massacre.


That writer/director was not happy with my script. I did something he said he didn't want done to it...but I did it because it's the only thing that makes sense and hoped he'd see that. He didn't. And...I just got a second e-mail from him. And he didn't like my other suggestions and got nit-picky about something else because apparently my sense of humor and his don't mesh. So he's doing the next pass on the script and it'll go from there. I've trimmed it down by nearly 20 pages so I guess I've done my job.

They sent the rewrite of the script I'd sent them for section 2 of the SB project and I've already begun working up the frames for it. I just need to figure out how to make them snazzy enough without being too snazzy while still being clear and not boring. Nothing much.

I finished reading a nice memoir written by a man who lived in Derry from the 30's through the troubles -- "Reflections of Derry" by Philip Cunningham. He has a nice folksy style and his manner of signifying who people are and where they're living or come from is fascinating. It's interesting how he avoided talking about the horrors of the 60's and 70's in any detail -- a quick reference to a friend whose son died in the hunger strike, a couple paragraphs about the Civil Rights March on October 5, 1968 that really got things going, a photograph of Eamon Melaugh circa 2004 -- but instead focused on growing up in a city where poverty was a normal way of life and housing was non-existent, adding in snippets of how he worked to keep his family fed, clothed and sheltered. Something else that comes across is how tightly knit the communities were and how redevelopment destroyed a lot of that. Next I'm digging into "Sister Kate."

BTW, I read volume 4 of that gay vampire detective series, "Mark Julian and the Vampire Hunter", and it was a lot lighter read than "...Heavenly Host" with a pleasant ending and a set-up for the next book. I love his characters -- Jaime, the shape-shifting sex-demon who's hot in love with a French werewolf prince who happens to be gorgeous; the double-dealing Tortego, who runs the local vampire council and is only comfortable when he's manipulating and misusing his fellow denizens; Vinnie's momma, a powerhouse little who wants a wedding and don't care who's the bride or if it's two grooms; Mark Julian, himself, whose history is so colorful there's no way his current incarnation as a detective can match up to it; and Vinnie, who was beginning to turn into a typical freshly-minted gay man but who now has some edge to his past. These characters really do belong in film, they're such fun...and I get the feeling that's all he wants from this. one vampire script is exceedingly dark and erotic -- a combination of "The hunger" and "Nosferatu" with the stylings of Almodovar (especially "Matador"), where love does not conquer all.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Rollin' along

I reread the first three sections of POS and it definitely skates over some pretty thin ice...some of it so thin I really had to rewrite it to thicken it up...and wound up with over 77K in words, so far. The main thing I need to add in this area is a chapter or two on Brendan and his mates messing about Derry and maybe on a trip to Dublin, mixing in him noticing Joanna for the first time. I know where he sees her and what it brings about; just need to hunker down and do it. Thing is, I'm still wary of writing about the games boys play in that part of the world and their attitudes about things like school, the church, girls, music. This is the most critical section of the book, to me, because it's here I establish the truth and reality of Brendan's world...and if it wavers in any way, it hurts the remainder of the story. Which I find brutally intimidating.

So...for now I'll march on through what I've written and keep adding to my bible the snippets of people's lives Brendan refers to. And it is helping to clarify in my brain what he's telling me. Plus my boy's building an interesting pattern to how he relates these stories...where he jumps into the middle of an action then goes back to fill in details of how he got to that point then furthers the story a little bit then jumps back to fill in more then settles into the narrative flow, as if he's excited to be talking about himself and has to take a moment to sort things out, giving his tongue a chance to catch up to his thoughts. I'm not sure this works, yet...but it obviously does right by him so I'm not going to complain.

Rain and sleet, today. High in the low 40's. No walks even considered...unless I go to the mall and circle from end to end a few times, using the shoppers as my obstacle course. Hmm...thinking about it, my watch's battery needs replacing and I'll need shoes that grip ice better for Buffalo. The shoes I have now slip and slide on wet linoleum. Good thing North Star's just a couple blocks away and I got a gift card to Penney's.

Monday, December 28, 2009


During yesterday's walk, I decided to reread what I've written so far on POS and note down everything I've set up or referred back to. I think I'm overloaded with information I need to keep available as I write and my inner processor requires rebooting. I get the feeling even Brendan is a bit lost in all the stories he's been telling me, and I hope this will give us both a better idea of where the book's coming from and the paths left to follow.

I'm still waiting for others on both the SB job and that screenplay. I've done everything I can on them, as of now.

Other stories are making themselves known, again, each trying to gain my attention. I really should finish the third volume of "Bobby Carapisi" because that is supposedly slated to be published in February, according to Nazca Plains' website. Dunno why they posted that online, especially since I only have about a third of it written. But I guess they like my work; right now, HTRASG is #3 out of 230+ books they offer, according to Amazon, and has consistently been in the top 10 the last 2 months. Plus PM and RIHC6 are starting to sell, too. And yet...BC 1&2 aren't catching hold. I think I may have listed them under the wrong imprint of NP's. They really should have been offered under Dorothy Surrenders, which is their general gay fiction. Oh, well.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Moments of surprise

On the walk from where I live to the post office that's open late, I pass an office building that's three times longer than it is tall and sweeps in an "S" from one end to the other, its facade a meld of silver and blue that adds to the elegant feel. Its rear entrance is typical-anywhere style -- wide driveway leading up to a multi-level garage with a minimum of landscaping. But where it faces 410, a space nearly a hundred feet wide and running the length of the building is covered with oak trees and thick grass, and during the Christmas holiday the trees' trunks are wrapped in tiny white lights that glisten in the darkness. There is no fence, so you can enter this fairytale world and wander about minus any care -- except to make certain you don't trip over an extension cord cable. The noise of cars speeding down the freeway seems softer. The night feels darker and yet lighter at the same time. It's a rare moment of grace in a city that doesn't care for such things, unless they can make you a buck. It's one of the reasons I like taking that 2 mile trek to the PO -- that and they're open till ten.

I completed a rewrite of my editing job -- changing everything I wanted to that didn't affect the structure and correcting some inconsistencies while adding in this whole subtext -- and sent it off to the writer/director last night. It's a cleaner, leaner 109 pages long and moves quickly enough -- though I do think it'll wind up being a 112-115 minute movie since there's so much action. We'll see how it goes down.

I'm at a stage where I can do nothing on the two projects I'm obligated to, so I'm taking another walk. That seems to help me smooth out my mood and make me open to Brendan's ideas. Plus, it's good exercise. I've found I prefer strolls that are about the same length as from my apartment in West Hollywood to The Grove in the Fairfax District of LA -- about 40-45 minutes each way...and that fits both the PO and The Quarry perfectly. Right now it's about 60 and not a cloud in the sky. I better put on some sunscreen.

Saturday, December 26, 2009


I'm rewriting that script I agreed to do and inputting the changes I feel will make it a better, tighter story. He may not like it and this may prove to be a waste of time, but from this point on I'll at least feel like I tried to do right by the story, and then I'll just do whatever he wants done on it. I'm also correcting my multiple typos and mis-edits that came when I cut sentences down. Make it a cleaner looking thing, too.

All I did on POS, yesterday, was some reading. I want my other obligations out of the way so I can focus my full attention on Brendan and his story, but that don't mean I can't keep building up my information on his life and times. This one book I thought might be interesting turned out to have nothing but snippets of other people's work in it. It'll be helpful later, when I'm trying to deepen the story, but right now it's nothing but a distraction. I have other books to read and websites to visit.

In going through my paperwork on POS, I found an e-mail correspondence I'd had with Eamon Melaugh, who took a huge series of photos of Derry before and during the Troubles, all of which are posted on NICRA's site. He even has a number of them collected in a book I bought some time ago. He was involved in the protests in '68 and '69 so has a first-hand knowledge of what happened. I may be able to reconnect with him, once Brendan's life is in order, get his input on how accurate I am. We'll see how confident I feel about in what Brendan's lead me to.

Now first some lunch then off to the rewrite. It's not too extensive -- just shifting one character to have a history that'll tie into the story -- so I should be able to get it done tonight.

BTW, I watched two of Basil Rathbone's "Sherlock Holmes" movies -- "The Hound of the Baskervilles" (which was originally written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle) and "The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes" (which wasn't) -- and both amazed me at how poorly their characters were written. Rathbone and Nigel Bruce (as Watson) had the ability to roll right over the stupidities and inconsistencies in their characters, but the other actors fared poorly. One remarkable exchange between Ida Lupino (who can be damned good) and some male actor went like this -- her: "I don't know if I can trust you." Him: "You can trust me." Her: "I don't know what to think." Him: "Why won't you listen to me?" Her: "I'm so tired." Then her brother's killed so the next night she goes to a party to "get her mind off it." Ludicrous.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas Day

I'm facing this blank screen without a thought forming in my head. It's like I'm on hold with everything in my life, so why not my mind, as well?

In a little bit, I'll start making notes on that script I'm editing. I'm rereading the draft I did and I do have some ideas on how to make it fit what the writer/director says he wants...but we'll see. I just want it over and done with.

I'm starting on the storyboarding job, tomorrow. I know some sections that will work, no matter what. And ditto the above sentiment.

As regards POS...lately I've been thinking of how T. H. White wrote "Once and Future King" (the story of King Arthur) to begin light and frothy with Arthur as a child then grow darker and sadder as he aged and became aware of man's (and woman's) duplicity. I can't quite see how appropriate that would be for a Catholic child in Northern Ireland considering the state of the society at the time, but then J. G. Ballard's memoir, "Empire of the Sun", entailed him growing from a child to a man without the necessary stage of adolescence while interned at a Japanese concentration camp in China during WW2, and he found ways to make that light enough, in spots. (I love Spielberg's film version, but it was highly sanitized from the book and did get a bit too "Spielbergish," here and there.)

Maybe that's what these thoughts are about -- me losing sight of the fact that Brendan's just 10 when this story begins. Granted his father's a bastard who's made into a saint for the most dubious of reasons, but maybe I have Brendan growing up too quickly. After all, he's not the only child in Derry dealing with Protestant hate and condescension. Maybe I need to first see the natural progression from a boy who knows no other life to one fully aware of the world's prejudices against any and all they deem less than worthy before I can truly understand the ending it's aiming for.

This book is making me hungry...and not for something to fill the belly but for that which fills the mind and soul.

Aw, jeez, that sounded so late Victorian British I actually jolted. I think I'll end this before I become maudlin.

And so much for having an empty brain when I started this post.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

PEace and Quiet

Kelly's at work. Mom's off with my sister, Jeri, shopping. I have the place to myself so I'm going to...jeez, I dunno what. I haven't heard from Kasey, yet, and she's not answering my calls. So that's not getting done till next week and there's still the last section of it to do, aimed at the institutions and libraries. (Note: just got a call to postpone everything till Sunday)

I guess I'll re-read that script I'm editing and see if I can come up with some new ideas for it. I'm not a good mind reader and the direction I'd take this is not the direction the writer/director wants to go. I think I got one clue when he said there's not enough action in it -- he sees this as an action piece and it really is a horror script. Is he thinking of "Predator" maybe? I haven't seen "Avatar" yet and don't really want to. I'd rather seek out something more original.

I'm having a bit of a back and forth with Brendan over POS. This is looking like a 3 year job to me before I can even begin to feel comfortable enough to let it out in the world in full, and he's accusing me of falling into my usual trap of wanting the first draft to be close to perfect. And he's right, to an extent, but I'm still too unsure of my command of the ins and outs of his world to just let it rip. And as much as I say it's all about the emotional journey, if I write something that would make no sense in Derry -- like if I have Brendan buy an LP at Austin's Department Store and it turns out Austin's never sold LPs -- it won't matter how true the emotional context is...dammit, the fact is I'm afraid I'll hurt the story with my lack of awareness. And it means too much to me now to let that happen. Which feeds into my creative paranoia.

I want to live there for six months. Talk to people. Get an honest feel for the place. I've only been in Derry a total of six days spread over two trips that were four years apart, with the last one being three years ago. And so much changed just between my first and second trip. In 2002 people were still afraid and the town shut down; in 2006 I saw several people out jogging. So it matters...and now I'm so locked into wanting this, I've actually begun paying the lottery. If that's not ridiculous, I don't know what is.

Of course, I went through the same thing with "Bobby Carapisi," to a lesser extent, as regards Bobby being a major league baseball relief pitcher. Took me years to get comfortable with the jargon he'd use and his less-educated patois...and being from South Philadelphia. And even now I'm not totally sure I got it right enough to work with a baseball freak. But I did get comfortable enough with it to let the books be published. And I will NEVER be one of those writers who goes back years later to rework what they've done (John Fowles did that) so I get one shot to make it right. Then it's mine forever.

Gusty, windy day, today. Going to be freezing, tonight. And we're going to my other brother's for Christmas Eve dinner. I think I'll go for a walk.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Hurry up and wait then get it done yesterday

The second section of the SBs have to wait till this afternoon to be discussed after me waiting all day, yesterday. They finally got full approval on the first section of this project being done and are scrambling to get the narrator whose voice they liked to do the narration at a sound studio in San Francisco. Had the organization just okayed everything on Friday, there'd be no problem, but no -- they wait till it's really too late to say okay and leave everyone else fighting to keep everything together. So damned typical.

Same for that packing job. I worked up a quote to pack for 4 - 4 1/2 days and oversee the boxes being shipped off, all within the time-frame they wanted (everything HAS to be gone by January 13th). Now they want it done faster and cheaper and sooner. I figured out how to cut a day off the packing time if the client and his wife help, but I can only get up there one day earlier without the price of the plane ticket doubling. We'll see what he says, but the fact is he's got $600K worth of antiquarian books and he acts like he wants them packed and shipped as if they're paperbacks from Avon Publishing. I won't do it, because if anything goes wrong or gets damaged thanks to his actions, I'll get blamed and I just don't feel like putting myself into that situation.

I went for a nice long walk, last night -- to that post office that's open till 10pm and back. It's interesting to stroll it at night -- with the cars whizzing by, lights blaring, and the sounds of traffic from the adjacent freeways just barely audible in the moments of stillness between vehicles. That long stretch of wilderness to the east of the road is really just a parcel of undeveloped land that's never been cleared, but it served its purpose for me. I cleared my head from the chaos of yesterday and my mother's need to keep interrupting me and chatted with Brendan, a bit. He wanted to start the chapter on the battle of the Bogside, so when I got home I fired up my laptop and got to it. I was able to get over 900 words done before the interruptions began, again -- this time mom "sharing" things with me and telling me "how much she appreciates me" and killing my concentration with so-called kindness. To say anything back at that would be churlish. Oh, well -- it's a start on a new section of the book, and now that I've jumped in I'll just keep treading along behind Brendan.

He did pop up with a surprising resentment of his treatment by a woman he's done repair work for. Every time he brings the item back, she checks to make certain it works before she pays front of him, as if suggesting he'd try and cheat her. And that's when he gets drawn into the confrontation during the Apprentice Boys' March that leads into the rioting and barricades and British troops being brought in to restore order. It's going to be a long section, maybe as long as Burntollett. One positive aspect of taking this packing job is I'd be alone in a hotel room at night so could write to my heart's content.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Not going well

I don't seem to be able to do what they want for this section of the storyboards. I sent my contact a new script, yesterday, and she asked me not to do anything about it till she talked to me...which usually means she needs something else or more or different. Dunno what my problem is, but every time I try to make sense of what she wants, I get it wrong. I'm usually not this dense...and it doesn't help that I have to wait for her to get back to me, making me restart the project in my mind every time.

Looks like I'm one of those creative types who can't handle interruptions well. If I get a rhythm going in my writing or artwork, I need to keep it...and when I'm distracted from my project, I have a hell of a time getting back to the right place for it...and sometimes I don't; I have to just start over. It wasn't a problem when I was living alone in LA and could just hermitize myself. And the writing jobs I've had so far weren't so very demanding that I needed the sharp focus on them. Until I started POS. Now I'm just a jumble most of the time and it's beginning to get me down. But mom can't be left alone and Kelly's not capable of tending to her (hell, he can barely tend to himself) -- so I keep getting sidetracked to do "little things" for "just a minute" that throw me off, completely.

Maybe it's all the chaos around family and Christmas and me stupidly overloading myself and pushing to do things that shouldn't be pushed. And now I may have a packing job outside Washington DC just after January 1st, pushing back my meeting in Baltimore. I spent half the day prepping a cost estimate for that. So I'm just a one-thing-at-a-time kind of guy. I used to think I could multi-task, but I guess I was being optimistic about that, too.

At least I got my book on "Sister Kate" and can read that to better work up the chaos at Altangelvin after the PD march is attacked. I'm overstating the situation, a bit -- the march continued into Derry where it was attacked, again, on Irish Street in the Waterside -- but it works for the emotional context.

It's interesting reading the different accounts of the People's Democracy March. So much truth in the idea that if ten people see one event you'll get ten completely different tellings of it.

Monday, December 21, 2009

My own little "War & Peace"

I joked a while back about "A Place of Safety" turning into a version of Tolstoy's classic, not realizing that would suit Brendan perfectly. He actually wants the battle of the Bogside to match the battle of Borodino, the grandiose little shit and his Irish ego. (I'm smiling as I say this.) It's a bit of a stretch, but what made Tolstoy's book so magnificent was his consistent connection with his characters and their place in the scheme of things. Of course, he was working in third person so could skip all over the place between characters; I'm locked into first person...which at least may keep me from falling into the same trap as Leon Uris, when he wrote "Trinity."

Of course, that's where my biggest fear comes from -- having to build the inner workings of a mind completely alien to mine. Having to get across things without Brendan fully understanding what they mean, yet. Working out ways to make him an integral part of the events and not just a voyeur or token character obviously being used to "put us there." It's going to be a massive undertaking...and makes me a lot more than a little nervous. does appeal to my own ego -- trying to build a story just as expansive as a Russian novel. And "Anna Karenina" was just as intimately breathtaking as "War & Peace"...and damned near just as I can use that for inspiration, as well. It's weird, realizing I'm influenced by Russian authors more than writers from the English-speaking world. Maybe I should try to learn THAT language instead of German; couldn't be any harder.

Oh...except they have more than just umlauts to deal with; they have their own alphabet.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Focus is not easy

And the fact I'm able to do anything at all sometimes amazes me. Today was laundry, which I do every Sunday. Then came straightening the tree mom and my brother, Kelly, insisted we buy last night; it was at an angle in the stand. Now Mom's wondering who's going to decorate it when Kelly said he wants to...but will probably never get around to doing so I'll wind up slapping on lights and ornaments just to stop the chatter.

I've spent the day trying to work out the method of typographic play for this next section of the SB project and realized I'm writing advertising copy. I've never done that and don't think I do it well...and now I'm confused as to what they want. I sent off 12 frames with various ideas slashed in and suddenly I'm being told there's going to be a lot more information in the text than I thought -- facts and figures and stuff. I've decided I need to write a script for it before I do anymore in the art department. I've been going at this back-assed-wards. Now I'm waiting for a call-back from Kasey on what she wants in this section of the storyboards.

My editing job now wants me to see "Avatar" to get ideas on how to handle the jungle people in his script. I wasn't planning to see it (I'm not a big fan of James Cameron) but guess I will...maybe on a bargain matinee. It's over at The Quary.

Brendan's been off to himself all day, thinking. I'm giving him plenty of space and let him know I'll write whatever he brings me, but I'm making no trip to Derry for research till I know the full story and can focus my research. Of course, that all depends on me having the money to go.

Damn, it does NOT feel like Christmas, this year. Not in the slightest.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Decisions made

I refuse to continue my life like this -- jammed into a corner of an apartment in a city I dislike trying to take care of a dozen different people's needs to the detriment of my own. So...I'm finishing up the SB campaign as fast as I can, focusing on nothing else till it's done. I'm being paid for it, so it's necessary.

Then I'm finishing up the editing job I said I'd do, ASAP...if he needs any more done. I'd already cut his script down to 111 pages. Some explanation may be needed to let the audience know why this one woman is called to by these jungle people, but he hasn't like my ideas, so far, so it may be something he has to come up with.

Those two obligations will lighten my load and I'm not taking on another unless I get my full rate -- $360 per 8 hour day. No more cut-rates and absolutely no more freebies. Nor will I take on additional paid work for people I've already done work for unless I've received all payment in full.

I can't make a decision on my current employment status till I've met with the people in New York, because I would like to work with them and I think it would be good for me in both the long and short run. But if it's more of this "we'll call you when we need you" crap, I'm backing off. In LA I had clients where I could keep myself going with just occasional jobs from these guys. That's gone in SA. So...I've obligated myself to a couple of jobs and I'll complete those, then I'll find steady work. Even if it's in a fucking convenience store or HEB.

I don't want to live in San Antonio. My preference is to leave by the end of February, but if I'm doomed to stay, we'll have to move. I need my own space. Period. I'll know what to do by the 8th of January.

Once my other obligations are done, I'll focus on POS till a first draft is completed...and I do not care how long it winds up being. I'm too close to getting an idea of what the story is really about to give up on it now. I just hope Brendan will have a bit more patience with me...though I get the feeling that won't be a problem. He's still feeling about for where to lead me next. I think he's noticed another story is knocking on the back of my mind.

Now off to the storyboarding mines. I have a series of words to sketch out in this motion-graphics typography style that everyone thinks is so cool and modern but was being done by movie title companies 45 years ago.


Nothing done -- at all

Except rearranging furniture to make way for an organ my mother bought from The Salvation Army. And cleaning the rug. With one of those cleaners you rent from your local grocery store because the one we have "doesn't do as good a job," according to said mother...who now has to admit she was not exactly correct about that, having seen what a "professional" cleaning beast does. Now I'm off to help load said organ into my brother-in-law's truck so we can bring it here. And all the dust being stirred up has made my nose freak out so I'm sneezing myself into a headache and I'm about ready to scream.

More later, maybe. Depends on traffic.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Brendan's directions

It's funny how things work, but just when I figure I know what direction I'm going next with this story, Brendan takes me down a side road and makes me aware of another aspect of it. This time, I thought I'd start in on The Battle of the Bogside in 1969, the incident that brought British troops into Northern Ireland. I watched an interesting BBC documentary by the same name (that left out a few salient facts and skimmed over others, but was fantastic for the archival news footage of Catholics fighting the RUC and the Protestants who came to help the constables) and already had an idea of how to approach it -- and what did Brendan do? He took me to months later, just as tensions are rising between the Catholic population and the British troops, to have a conversation with a mate of his who's spiraling into madness from his hate. Two 13 year-old boys trying to have an adult conversation and not really understanding how to do so. I didn't write a lot on it, but it's beginning to get the gist of their discussion over. I think. This one's going to take a lot of finesse.

Right now I'm waiting for a call from Kasey at J. Morrison Group to discuss the next section of the storyboarding job. Seems this one'll be working out images to fit the narrative, since there won't be a spoken narration to go with it. I'll be focused on that, for a while...but since this is already going to be a huge book, I'm not as stressed as I was about completing it. It's rolling along as it wants to, and I'm no longer pushing now that there's momentum.

Thursday, December 17, 2009


I had to get up early to be in traffic court and wound up paying $170 for the damn ticket I got. Money I can't afford. On top of it, that money I thought I was getting, the cash that came out of the blue -- I can't even get the people who told me this to answer my phone calls, looks like it was all crap. Nor am I getting any of the $6000+ I'm owed for other work I've done. End of financial rope, here I be. Oh, well...I enjoyed it while it lasted.

Maybe this interview in NY will build into something...or maybe it'll just be more of the "we'd love to use you in the future" kind of thing. If so, I'll have to back away.

As regards POS -- the more I write on this story, the more I see needs to be done on it. As of now, it doesn't even begin to hold together or really make sense. IF I worked on it every day for the next two years, I might get it to the point of coherence and almost touch Brendan's reality. But my catastrophic mood at the moment is not helping matters. Maybe I can use that for another part of the story.

What it boils down to is, I still have a lot of research to go through and a HELL of a lot of work left to make Brendan a child of Derry in the late 60's and early 70's. Jesus, there's so much left.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Looooooooonnnng Day

Starting at 9am with an appointment with a kidney specialist for mom that took hours. Then came errands and a trip to the post office and the realization I needed to get my car inspected for my registration renewal and setting it up for my sister to take mom to another doctor's appointment in the morning since I'll be in court. Then came supper and I'm just now sitting down to the computer. Fortunately, I finished the Dublin bit of POS, last night. Brendan and Joanna are becoming pretty intense with each other, which works well since it builds during a relative lull in the sectarian violence in Derry. Belfast was the time-bomb at this point.

It helps they're both 15. I can get away with a lot of emotion and "forever-after" stuff that way, like Shakespeare did with "Romeo and Juliet." And there is a hint of that, Brendan being Catholic and Joanna being Protestant in a part of the world where that could get you killed. I wonder if anyone's adapted the play to this area? Maybe it's too obvious, but since I'm not making this that kind of story, I don't mind referencing a hint of it.

I found this great Time/Life book on Ireland, published in 1964. It has a picture of downtown Belfast and it looks so much like Liverpool or Manchester, it's almost funny. Its photo of Derry is kids building an anti-Orange Order bonfire in an area that looks like what would eventually become the "Free Derry" corner. I also have a Fodor's guide book from 1971 that only hints at the Troubles but has some fascinating info on Grianan Aileach.

I may have referenced too much information, again. I'm feeling like events need to be included when reality is, they don't. This is Brendan's story, not the story of the Troubles. He lived through it but he didn't experience all of it. He's focused on his life, unlike his friends whose sole source of entertainment is the havoc they can participate in. And which Brendan helps with, on occasion. But something that's happening is, he's too aware of reality to take any of the posturing by either side seriously. He doesn't know that...he just senses when people are being less than honest...but it builds into an awareness that offers a harsh assessment of mankind.

Which seques into a quick political comment -- Senator Joe Leiberman succeeded in destroying any hope for health care reform from the Senate, and it seems the only reason he did it was because he's angry with the Democratic Party for not playing nice after he supported John McCain for President. He's a vile little man and is proving himself smaller by the moment, and Sen. Harry Reid's shown himself to be a spineless fool in dealing with him. And Obama doesn't give a shit; he just wants a health care bill on his desk by Christmas, even if it means people have to buy crap insurance while the insurers get to keep pulling the same old shit they've been pulling. And they think Americans will be happy with this. What fucking idiots we have running this country. The only thing that would be worse is if the GOP still had control of all three houses of Government.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Best laid plans

I got to work on POS, yesterday, and managed to put down 1300 words before my mother began her little ritual of distraction. "When you have a moment, could you...?" "I hate to bother you but..." "Don't we need to...?" I finally saved what I had, closed my laptop and spent the afternoon dealing with her issues.

1. We needed a copy of bloodwork she had done concerning kidney functions for an appointment she has with a specialist, tomorrow. No big deal; don't even need to see the doctor at the clinic mom goes to. Just go to the records department and have them make a copy -- and that's exactly what happened. Took a total of 20 minutes. But --

2. Since we were right by North Star Mall, she wanted to drop off her glasses to see if they could fix a scratch on the lens. That segued into getting all new glasses with transitional lenses. There goes an hour. Then --

3. She'd like to get some more yogurt and needs some milk, so we go to the grocery store. And go up and down aisles and fill a cart with groceries. Hour and a half.

Once everything was settled and mom was fed and Kelly was home, it was 7pm. I still managed to add another 1200 words...

No...I need to stop looking at this as word count. Because the fact is, half of what I did yesterday was lay out Brendan's life in the chapter dealing with the time between the trip to Grianan Aileach circle fort and Operation Motorman. It's more like a step outline done up in okay prose than a real bit of storytelling, but I'm settling in what goes where and what I need to know to make this work...and I'm only just up to the point that leads into what I'd worked out the night before. But it does include a nice little quality time between Brendan and Joanna in St. Columb's Park where he talks her into considering attending Trinity College in Dublin then works out a way for them to go down and check the place out, without her parents' knowledge. And tells her he'll follow her. And he's just 15 still, as is she.

Right now I'm a bit bleh. My table is a mess of things I've put aside and need to be addressed. Guess I'll start on those and use that to kick-start my brain. Let's see how far I get, today, before I'm dragged away from it. And yes, I know -- it's my own damn fault for letting myself be dragged instead of telling mom to leave me alone...but I want her to keep this momentum going on her health care and if someone doesn't push for her, she'll just stop dealing with things. As it is, I've only got her to where she's being checked for about 2/3 of her problems. She still has teeth and physical therapy and leg and foot cramps...and it's pathetic I'm talking about her problems as if they were mine. But that's how it feels, sometimes.

Monday, December 14, 2009

I love long walks

Especially on a cool evening where the air hints of rain and there's just enough breeze to notice. I've found there's a post office with extended hours just over two miles from where I currently live -- open till 10pm six days a week and till 8 on Sundays. It's hidden (man, is it hidden) off Jones-Maltsberger Road north of Highway 281 right by San Antonio's "International" Airport, along a stretch of two-lane blacktop that has neither curbs nor sidewalks but plenty of potholes half-filled with what my grandmother called "politician mud." In this area, tin-roofed warehouses are to the right; medium-rise office buildings and Enterprise Rent-A-Car are to the left. On the section between Loop 410 and 281, wilderness covers the right of the road; its opposite is a pleasant housing development.

To find this post office, you have to curl right at a light off J-M, by a fair-sized green sign telling you the PO's this way. You head down a one-way street (two lanes, with curbs) to a "Y" that isn't really a "Y", because the right lane HAS to go right while the left lane gives you a choice of right or left...and if you go left, you've screwed up and have to go ALL the way around, again, in this nice neverending circle they've provided for people who use logic to drive by instead of mental instability. To reach the entrance of the parking area, you have to go right in the left lane -- and take care about the oncoming traffic since all of a sudden you're at the beginning (or end, whichever) of a two-way street -- then turn left within 50 feet. Coming out's easy; that's all one way. And if ANYBODY can think of a more confusing and idiotic design for an entrance to an important business structure, I'd love to hear it.

BUT...that's beside the point. I liked the walk. Didn't like how close the cars got (this is a very busy road for being such a back-country-pathway) but I liked the long stretch of wilderness along the lower section. And I worked out another chapter in POS. In fact, it got to where it was pounding so hard at me, I had to stop at a Taco Cabana on the way home, have some queso and chips with a DP and write it out. THIS is why writers who are worth anything are NEVER without paper and pen...and is half the reason I've fallen in love with cargo pants and their side pockets; perfect for storing a note pad. And soon as I'm done here, I'm putting it into the computer.

In fact, I am done. Off to my real world.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

It's sad...

But the best Chinese food in San Antonio is a chain from LA called Panda Express. They have a Beijing Beef that I could live on. And now that I've had some, I feel better but still have a bit of a headache from sitting in front of my desktop computer for so long in a chair that's beginning to hurt my back. Guess I'll have to give in and buy furniture even though I really want to wait to see what happens in Buffalo.

I just finished an edit of a friend's screenplay. Trimmed it from 127 pages to 111 just by cutting down his descriptive passages...and dropping a couple of scenes that were repetitive. He'll probably freak out when he sees that.

I'm now thinking half the reason Brendan's miffed at me is because I agreed to do this edit and that script & storyboarding job, and never mind it means cash in the bank; I'm obviously not enough of an artist to let my credit be destroyed and my health insurance vanish from non-payment while living off my elderly mother. How middle-class, wanting to be able to pay your own way. Il est trop bourgeois. Merde.

Not a nibble.

The waters are still. There is no breeze. I sit here waiting and wondering when something, anything will break the surface and end this game. I don't understand the whys and wherefores of the silence. I can't even say it's really the calm before the storm...because I don't get the sense anything is building. It's more like I'm starting from the beginning of a story and waiting to see what jolts me into laying down the words. I don't think it's writer's block going on here -- more like writer's confusion. And maybe it stems from me seeing just how much needs to be addressed in the full scope of POS.

And there is a lot. So much, I've returned to believing I'm barely halfway done...if that. Because the 10,000+ words leading Brendan from seeing Eamonn off to the march to the rising tensions in Derry to his walk to Claudy and to Altnagelvin Hospital after the Protestant assault on the peace marchers at Burntollett Bridge still barely skim the events and offer minimal depth to Brendan's growing awareness of the duplicity evident in all people. He's a 12 year old boy (about to be 13) who's already begun to think like a man, and I have to ground this in his truth and all I've done is sketch out the events in their vague order. And this is just one sequence of many yet to come.

Fucking shit. Mom's decided to sharped every fucking one of her fucking pencils in her fucking electric pencil sharpener, right now.

The hell with it -- "A Place of Safety" takes as long as it takes to get itself ready to be seen by the world. I've already stopped pushing it; now I accept it'll be a years-long process.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Still casting about...

...hoping something will grab the line and let me reel it in. It's almost 1pm and I'm blank. Brendan's not being helpful. He seems to be in a mood. Or maybe adding him singing "The Banks of Claudy" is wrong. Or too sharp in its meaning for him. I don't know. His back is to me and he's off on a reverie and does little more than cast me hurt looks...and I'm not catching the meaning of this, yet.

I'm heading up to Buffalo to discuss my employment options with an international shipping company located there. Just bought the ticket. I'm not going till January 6th, and everything's been so nebulous, I'm not sure what to expect...but it's forward motion on the job front.

Hmm...what would Brendan give Joanna for a Christmas present?

I wonder if Brendan's funk is from my going through the writing I've done so far and finding a solid through-line? I mean, I knew what the story was and basically where it was going, but those were merely the sketches of bones on a page. I'm seeing the full body forming, now, and back to feeling inadequate to the task of helping it grow into a solid, meaningful piece. It's like when I'm roughing out a figure painting and I can see where some aspects fit nicely together while others are misplaced and I'm not sure if I can correct them well enough to save the work as a whole or if I'll need to start from scratch. I've had it happen where after I've got everything in line I realize I've placed the figure in the wrong position on the frame and none of it will work out...and into the trash it goes.

I've had something similar happen in my writing -- where it turns out I started a novel or script at the wrong point and had to back up or add to it to get it into the proper rhythm -- but that's usually easier to work out. I'm beginning to wonder if this is also the case. The whole first section of "A Place of Safety" is expanding and demanding more and better depth and detail than I thought it would need. I wonder if I'm rushing it through, too much? Brendan's walk to Claudy is too short, right now. It's too surface. I need more, so the meaning of it is not shortchanged.

I need to walk it like I did from Grianan Aileach back to Derry so many years ago. That's the walk where he first began talking to me -- Brendan did. First began showing me I was headed down the wrong path trying to make this story into a screenplay. First gave me the task of telling it through him...or him telling it through me. And where I freaked out thinking I wasn't up to the task. It took me years to get past that, and half the reason is I was still trying to do the story by long-distance. I need to travel this space, in person.

Which leads me to the question -- an I just pushing this book through to get it done and skimming over the world of it to say I've done it...just to shut Brendan up? Have I set an artificial time limit for achieving a first draft to excuse this surface writing? How wrong that'd be, to do. And how typical of me.

Friday, December 11, 2009


Just now sitting down to write, though I did find a great little tune called "The Banks of Claudy" by a group called The Johnstons, who were big in Ireland in the late 60's and early 70's. A link to a YouTube of them singing the song is below and it gave me a better view of Brendan's walk to Burntollett.

I'm still not sure what to dig into now. I seem to be getting fuzzy-braind on where to go next, so I'm letting it sit for a bit. But I get the feeling I'll be handling the last chapter before he goes to Houston. It fits into what this song is about.

I also saved some great driving videos of the area between Feeny and Claudy and Derry. Amazing what you can find on YouTube.


I went through what I have of POS and put it into a single book to get a better idea. I've written 24 chapters over 307 pages in 69,048 words, total, since the beginning of November.And I have a fair idea of what else the book needs, now. I listed each chapter done, segregating them to their own sections, and see where the final section -- Brendan's return to Londonderry after years in Houston -- is the most in need, followed by the initial part of the book before he leaves the country and then the Houston bit. So I'm thinking 500 pages and 35-40K left to write in words. I'm also 99% sure the rewrite, when I finally get to it, will make the book longer by a good 20%. These are all just gut feelings...but I doubt I'll be far off. That'll make it a little bit longer than "Bobby Carapisi."

I heard a passage read from the new Nobel Laureate for Literature's book and the man who read it was also critiquing it. The language of that passage was very...I dunno...self-consciously worked to sound a bit like poetry, using imagery and symbolism to describe a sunset in a village (something like "the evening light drowned itself in the town square" or such; I'm not being exact here). And he loved it. Waxed eloquently about the author's command of language and incisive descriptiveness. I mean, this guy thought it was great that he could only read a couple of paragraphs before putting the book down to wonder at the lovely grammar. But to me, anything that takes me out of the book and into appreciating the beauty of the language removes my connection with the story or characters who form the story. And that's not literature, to me. That's self-aggrandizement. But apparently I'm in the minority on this; Nobels for literature are given for a body of work, not a single volume, and it looks like I'll never get one...because I can't write that kind of crap.

Reminds me of this short story class I took at UT when I was doing my Master's. It was taught by a published poet and his attitude was, "If you can't write poetry, you can't write." The first thing I did was write a poem about a boy dreaming of composing a symphony as he's taking out the garbage. He wouldn't even discuss it in class, and I wound up with a B, overall, simply because I was experimenting with my short stories to such an extent, he had to give me that. But he NEVER liked the poetry I had to write because I refused to take it seriously. I think my second poem was some sort of Haiku about sculling across a still pond or something; it's been a few years.

But then again, I also wrote a brutal tone poem about a couple being mugged and shot, something that had just happened to some friends of mine, and did it all in one maybe he thought I was a budding Charles Whitman and bout to run up to the top of the clock tower and shoot everybody I saw, and the B was his way of placating me. It's possible.

Tomorrow, mom has a sonogram. That'll take the whole morning and some of the afternoon.

Thursday, December 10, 2009


Spent the whole morning making changes to my changes to my changes on the storyboards, but now everybody's happy and it's being shown to the CEO and hopefully they'll get a sign off so they can do the narration. Seems the only person whose voice they liked is unavailable after Tuesday so plans must be made. Ah, December. What would it be without chaos and insanity?

Had an interesting bit of serendipity slip into my work on POS. Throughout the section at Altnagelvin Hospital, I found myself calling the nurses "sisters." I didn't change it because it somehow felt right. Dunno why...unless I recalled it from some British film I'd seen or book I'd read. But once I was done, I checked into it -- and after about half a hour on Google and a belief growing within that maybe I was thinking of a Catholic hospital in England, I found a notation that senior nurses in the UK ARE referred to as sisters, and it has nothing to do with religious affiliation. In fact, my research lead me to a book titled "Sister Kate" about a senior nurse in Belfast who began working before and worked through the Troubles, until 1986. Bought it on Amazon. Good for cross-referencing detail work.

Brendan's back to casting about for what path to lead me down next. In a minute, I'm heading for the library to look through old issues of "Texas Monthly" to see if I find anything interesting in there. Right now, all three sections are equally filled in, and I almost think I'm near the 70% marker. Maybe 2/3.

We shall see what we shall see when we see what we shall see. I already repeating myself? My short-term memory seems non-existent, lately.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Speaking of speaking too soon...

More revisions on the storyboards. Quirky things like removing this great 9 second film of Thomas Edison in his laboratory (not modern enough) and dropping the spaceman on Mars with a flag (too futuristic?). Ah, the corporate world; it's the same even for scientists.

Got done with the Burntollet section. 47 pages. 10.6K+ words. Total so far? 68,967 words spread over 314 pages...and counting. I think I WILL change my middle name to Tolstoy. I seem to be emulating "War and Peace."

It's coming along

I did a quick read through the Burntollet section of "A Place of Safety" and feel I've skimmed over some bits and dwelt too long on others, but overall everything's in place. Then I got Brendan to the chaos of Altangelvin Hospital, the biggest and closest of only two hospitals in Derry, and he's waiting for his mother and priest to show up while parked under the hostile eye of a registry clerk. I need to do more research here to verify what I'm writing but I'm not letting details stop me. The emotional truth of the moment is working too well.

I'm finding doing 2000-2500 words per day is best for me; above that and I get sloppy and have to redo it, anyway, while below that I feel like I'm accomplishing too little. And considering I still have the Celebration Fleadh and Bloody Sunday to go through in this section, as well as completing the opening chapter and the lead up to what sends Brendan to Houston, it's going to be a push to even get close to my goal.

I got the last revisions done on the storyboards and now have two side boards to make, without narration...but not till the main people sign off on this set. Man, me and typos. That got to be the worst aspect of the last revision. Soon as I thought I'd found them all, somebody'd catch another one. I finally read the whole thing backwards, word for word...and still missed one more -- "shcool." Jesus, I must be dyslexic. Too bad PhotoShop doesn't have spellcheck.

Looks like that money I thought would be coming my way isn't going least, not for some time. So any trips to do research will have to wait a while. I'd rather not go during high season in Ireland, but it's going to take a while to get this book in order, anyway, so I guess I can wait.

I'd rather not.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


Got the first section of storyboards off to my client last night at 2am. 12 pages. 48 frames. The file wound up being 14megs because I didn't do any compression on the Photoshop files or manipulation of the PDF animation process. I know there'll be changes and I always have to triple check for typos -- and sure enough, soon as I printed out a copy this morning I found one on page 2 -- but the corrections should be minor enough to get finished and gone this afternoon. Next comes two alterations to the piece to fit different targets, but I doubt those will be very extensive now that this is basically set.

The Burntollet section of POS is up to 31 pages and I just got to the hospital. At this rate, the book'll be 200K words and I'll be accused of thinking I'm Tolstoy or Dickens, with all the story and verbiage. But I guess it's better to have it and have to pull back to condense or find better ways of putting things than it is to have to figure out how to expand. And the truth is, I don't care if it's that long. It just means I won't be done by the end of the year. But these things are like having children; you can only control them so far. And my first draft of "Bobby Carapisi" was just over 124K and I couldn't lower that to under 120K to save my life. So...we will see what we will see and it will be what we will see.

Hmm...I just thought up a better way of getting Brendan to Altangelvin Hospital. A more vicious set up for the chaos. Nice. I wind up with a 200K novel? So what? Isn't that half the length of a "Harry Potter"?

Monday, December 7, 2009

I don't push good

I was up till 3am trying to finish the storyboards and was getting close. Had all the images scanned into PhotoShop and set up 4 to a page -- 11 pages in all. And I was connecting the script to the frames...when on page 6 I realized I'd skipped part of the script, completely. I combined two videos into one in my head but they're completely separate in the project's placement. So I wore myself out trying to get this done in time for a meeting, and achieved nothing.

I should never push myself, like this. Not to the point of exhaustion. I always screw up when I do.

Now my mother's harassing me over when to take one pill so it doesn't interfere with another pill and saying she should wait to take the one she's already taken and seems to need to have the whole schedule repeated to her, again, and I'm feeling overwhelmed.

Hell with it, I'm working on POS, now. I'm doing 2000 words today. Everything else can wait. It's not as if people have a problem making me wait for them.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Brendan's his own man

I'm not sure how this is working out, yet, but Brendan's asserting himself as a full and complete individual following his own path by the age of 13...well, a month shy of that. If he doesn't want to tell you something, he doesn't. If he wants to go down a certain path and an adult tells him he can't, he just blithely smiles, waits till their back is turned and goes anyway. He's already questioning the motives behind people who are on his side because their actions don't jibe with his view of things. And he's in the process of discovering how casually friends can betray you.

All of this is in the chapters leading up to the "Loyalist" attack on the non-violent People's Democracy march at Burntollet Bridge, just a few miles away from Derry, near Claudy. I don't know how this will finish up -- if Brendan is part of the march, if he's prevented from getting there till after the attack -- but it's clipping along.

I'm up to about 64K now and trying to keep from going back to make revisions till I have this draft completed, but it's hard. I now have post-its on slips of paper to remind me of ideas I'm having and changes that'll need to be made to things I've already done. I'm still aiming for a final first rough draft by the 31st.

I worked out all the storyboard frames, last night before I got back to POS. Today I'll fill them in, scan them and put them in a PDF. Looks like 12-14 pages worth, at 4 frames a page. Not as many as I expected but more than enough to cover the whole project. There will be more revisions, I'm sure, but this is manageable.

Now it's off to the mines -- Hi-ho,, wait, that was the song to end work, wasn't it?

Saturday, December 5, 2009

We hit draft 15

Of the SB script, and I only did the first 9. But now it's locked save for possible tweaks in the narration and only a third of the artwork I've done is unusable. Hopefully, this is it and I can focus on just getting the storyboards done. What's nice is, they've doubled what they're paying me. It's still not a lot, but I'm happy.

I also read more for POS and now know how to end the chapter. What's interesting is it will make Brendan's attraction to Joanna more difficult for him...and a bit easier, in an odd way. We'll have to see how that goes in the next couple chapters.

Last night wasn't fun. Kelly came in drunk at 2:30 am and, while trying to be quiet, made so much noise he not only woke me up he kept me awake for the next 20 minutes just standing in the kitchen and bumping into things as he...hell, I don't know why he just stood in there. I finally asked him how much longer he was going to be and that's when he wandered off to his room. The next morning I get up and there's mud caked all over the floor and the phone's come apart. I fixed the phone and mom swept the mud...and Kelly slept all day. And I do not want to speak to him because this isn't the first time it's happened and I'm still pissed off.

Needless to say, the current arrangement cannot be permanent.

And the light came on...

And it took me long enough. I'm caught up in this chaos because I stopped making "A Place of Safety" priority number Brendan called in the hounds of hell to cause me no end of trouble. I'm an idiot, twisting myself up over helping people who don't know what they want while paying scant attention to what is most important to me, right now. Immediate goals need rearrangement. And how.

So I've already started. I wrote more on Burntollet and it's getting to be quite intense, especially the casual betrayals it involves, now, as well as Brendan's first hints of manhood. It still reads a bit silly, at times, but it's getting there.

When I wrote a script, I usually tried to built 5 important aspects into every scene. Sometimes I was able to do more, but I had to have at least that many for any scene to be in the screenplay, which is why I became so protective of my work against people who wanted to change it to fit some pre-conceived notion of how a script should be. I half think that's why actors usually loved my writing.

Seems I'm carrying that over to my novel -- minimum of 5 important aspects to the chapter, in detail. Period. And this will have them. Every chapter will, no matter what. Probably more since they're longer and I'm better able to dig deeper into the psyche of the characters insofar as Brendan knows them.

Dunno if I'm getting better as a writer or just more obnoxious. Hopefully both.

It's below freezing in San Antonio. Do you know where your kitty-cats have been?

Friday, December 4, 2009


That one-week job just turned into a one-month job. Changes to the storyboards along with cuts. Don't like this image, use that one. Let's do this instead. Don't do anything until I talk to some other people. Monday is no longer a firm deadline. I'm so confused as to what they want, I honestly do not know what to do. I totally undercharged for this. As usual.

So the hell with it. I'm making a few corrections then putting it aside till they talk to the motion graphics guys, tomorrow. I'll work on POS instead.

Shit, why wasn't I born rich instead of redheaded?

I'm losing my mind...

What little I have left of it. Yesterday was spent jumping back and forth between working on the storyboards...and restarting everything...and dealing with issues for my mother. To start, she spilled a bottle of prescription pills into the sink so needed a refill earlier than her coverage allows. Took 3 hours to get everything worked out and a payout of a whole $5...and she complained about the payout because she hadn't had to pay anything the last time she got them. I had to explain to her three times that it was just a one-time deal; the next time she got this prescription filled, she wouldn't have to pay anything. I think she finally got it.

On top of that, I'm getting the runaround from the University Health System on setting up an appointment with a kidney specialist. Her doctor gave her a referral, I contacted the clinic, they referred me to the transplant center (why, I still don't know), I was handed off to someone named Crystal who could help me, faxed her the information and she said she'd call me back. That was on November 24th. So yesterday I called to see what the status was...and had to go through the whole damned thing, again, because nobody knew anything about it. Then today I spoke to a Michelle and faxed HER the info and she said she'd set me up with a doctor who's doing research into kidneys with cysts. We'll see -- but she, at least, sounds like she knows what she's doing.

Then I got a speeding ticket after I'd picked up mom's refill. I was only going the speed of traffic, but the cop said I was doing 15 mph over the limit. To be honest, I might have been; I don't know how fast I was going. Cypro makes me fuzzy-brained. But since I haven't had a ticket in 20 years, I think I can still get it wiped off my record with a class in defensive driving, but it's irritating. Man, December's turning into my month for traffic trouble. The two previous Decembers I had accidents, all within the first week. What'm I attracting in the way of karma, here?

Despite all of this, I still got the first section of storyboards project off -- at midnight, last night -- and will dig into the next section after lunch. I have some more reading to do on POS, and since that's all I got done on the story yesterday, I figure I'll just keep the idiot habit going.

So...Brendan's in a huff at my lack of progress. I pissed off my other inner workings by revealing them to one and all (hence my edit of earlier posts) and now have a shambles of a couple days to show for it because they ain't talking to me. And I have a rewriting job coming up that will clash with the SB job and POS. Chaos usual.

On a positive note -- I had an interesting exchange with that fan of "How To Rape A Straight Guy". One I wasn't expecting. He told me, "I picked up HTRASG after a guy I had fallen hard for had really broken my heart and just wanted something dark/angry/brutal. It certainly didn't disappoint in that regard but I sure wasn't anticipating it ending on such a poignant, touching note. It helped me to get over it and realize I wasn't going to let one loser cause me to give up on finding real love - as elusive/impossible as it may seem at times." Talk about an ego boost -- hell, a mood boost in general. That's made me prouder of the book than I ever thought I could be.

I wonder if he'll do a review on Amazon?

Thursday, December 3, 2009

So damn typical

I work for hours figuring out the rhythm of the storyboards I need to do and get the first section actually done -- and at 9:30 last night got an e-mail that the script had been rewritten by the client. And which part did he rework the most? The opening that I'd just completed. Half my work's out the window and the whole rhythm of the piece is now different. And it still needs to be ready for the client by Monday. Picture a primal scream here.

I had some insight into Brendan's story while exchanging e-mails with a fan of my erotica. I wasn't like a huge revelation; more of a bit of clarity coming through as to why I'm so focused on building him and his situation with as much reality as I can. It's extremely important that this story be firmly rooted in Brendan's humanity and not fall into fears about plot or the requirements of fictional storytelling...and novelists have to follow almost as many as screenwriters. I can't tell you how many times I've read books where the plotting took over the story to the detriment of the characters and any reality, and it's been done by good authors as well as second rate ones. Latest example -- Isaac Asimov's prequel to his "Foundation Trilogy."

I absolutely love the trilogy but wasn't too crazy about the follow-ups, still I recently decided to reread them and I started with the Prequel -- and what a disastrous decision. It was crap where people did things because that's what the plot called for, and the supposed hero -- Hari Seldon -- came across as a twit who's easily manipulated into believing anything he's told. I refused to finish the book and, instead, jumped back into the trilogy...but the awfulness of the prequel colored my reading of the original work and I had to put it aside or lose my respect for Asimov's writing.

I dunno -- maybe I should have lost my respect for it. He used some pretty archaic grammar. But he still wove some interesting stories and put forth some fascinating ideas about the strengths and weaknesses of various types of warfare -- be it head to head or via commerce or religion -- and how people dealt with the trials and tribulations of history and the future. I think I'll just keep my memory of his work and not revisit it. Sometimes that's a lot better way to deal with a creative work.

Y'know, this reminds me of the time I went to Dublin and saw the Book of Kells. It's an illuminated manuscript hand printed and drawn on vellum and is around a thousand years old. Definitely one of Ireland's treasures, and I looked forward to being impressed. Well...that probably would have happened had I not been working in an antiquarian book shop in LA. And had we not recently held an exhibit of nearly two dozen illuminated manuscripts -- worth more than $15m, meaning round the clock security -- and I'd helped set them out and handled some truly elegant works from the 9th, 10th and 11th centuries. So I go to see the Book of Kells...and my first thought is, "I've seen better." Thank god I kept it to myself; if I'd said it aloud, I probably would have been ripped limb from limb by irate leprechauns. But I actually was disappointed. Hell, I paid 10 Euro to get in, and while the information on how to make vellum and the whole history of printing was nice, I felt so much like I'd been ripped, I didn't even go upstairs to the long hall, which is supposedly even more impressive.

I went back 4 years later, just to see if I'd been silly...and it IS a nice copy of an elegant style of bookmaking. And this time I did go up to the long hall and was suitably impressed by the thousands of ancient volumes in it, but I won't back again. I had a nicer time at the Guinness Storehouse I got a pint of Guinness on the top floor and had a lovely panorama view of Dublin, to boot.

The point of all this? I don't know. Managing expectations? Not getting carried away with what you think is great or cool or evil? Maybe sometimes the idea of something is better than the reality of it? I dunno. I just tell the stories and let others figure them out. It's a cheat...but that's the story of my life.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


I have the first section sketched out and I'm detailing them. Once I'm done I still have to scan it into my computer and set it up to be checked out, but it's hard to concentrate. My mind drifts and I seriously want to just go to sleep thanks to the meds I'm on. What perfect timing for this.

I worked a little on POS and corrected some mistakes I'd made and did more research on the People's Democracy march, so I didn't let it all fall by the wayside. I know where Brendan wants to go with it, I just need to see if I can pull it off.

Back to the SBs.

1100 more words

I'm working out a chapter dealing with the Protestant attack on civil rights marchers at Burntollet Bridge on January 4, 1969. It's a seminal moment in the beginning of the troubles and things kept escalating from there until British troops were brought in to protect the Catholic population from Protestant rampages. The image I have in my banner was taken immediately after that attack.

So last night I got a bit more done, but it was a fight. Cipro makes me groggy and gives me a low-grade headache, and finally I just went to bed. Of course, not feeling good makes me more prone to being depressed, especially with everything else that's going on. But I'm still slogging through.

I edited my two previous posts to remove what was, to my superstitious writer's mind, a huge mistake. I hope that corrects it. Sorry if this seems cryptic, but it can't be helped.

Nothing else to say, right now. Maybe later.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009


Is a rare commodity and should be treated like gold, not used as toilet paper -- like Bush-2 did and Obama's doing, and which seems to be something that's endemic to about half the Democrats in office and 99.5% of Republicans. And nobody really cares about anyone's abuse of it, not really.

Rick Perry is a Republican who ordered the execution of a man proven to be innocent of any crime, and he's still in office...and running for a third term.

Arnold Schwarzenegger's a Republican who helped the GOP ram through a quasi-legal coup of a democratically elected governor, and has since completely destroyed the state, and he's still in office.

Dick Cheney is a Republican who committed treason by exposing a covert CIA agent and he's being considered for the 2012 Presidential ticket.

And it's not just people in politics. I've been dissed on payment for services just a few times, but every one of those people have been Republicans. I was at the point where if I even suspected a person I was dealing with supported the GOP, I asked for half my money up front. That way I knew I'd at least get something. And if they said no, I knew they didn't have the money to pay me and would politely decline the job. In fact, I made that a practice for everyone I did business with unless I knew them well.

Unfortunately, I thought I knew this publisher I've been doing work for...but after dealing with him for a while, I discovered he was totally GOP. And he owed me nearly $8300. I stopped doing anything for him and pressed him for payment, and thus far I've gotten a grand total of $1700. And after today's conversation, it's looking more and more like that's all I'll see out of this. And I'm kicking myself for letting it get that far. And now I'm back to being grumpy.

Doesn't help that I'm now on Cipro for an internal infection and my health insurance is going up starting in January and I now have a grand total of $300 in the bank and will have to borrow money from my mother to make this month's bills and payment for the work I'm doing for the SB job will be delayed because of illness on their end.



I worked on POS till after midnight, making notes about ideas for the first part of the story and couldn't get to sleep once I finally quit and now I'm having a flareup of an old problem and have to see the doctor about it and go on Cipro, again, and suddenly I feel like a very old man who's about to careen into his whiny world, once more.

I don't remember being such a grouch, before, but maybe I was and nobody bothered to slap me down over it. And now I'm too acutely aware of my mood swings and I'm close to being an irritant to one and all. The one positive thing about today is, I have enough credit left on my card to pay for the meds I'm about to have to shell out a nice little co-pay for thanks to my piss-ant health insurance that the GOP just swears is the best I can get and fights any sort of reform in it at the same time they fight regulating the credit card companies that blithely double your interest rate even when you're current with them and pay way more than the minimum just because they can and I'm now careening into a some dyslexic old fart on a soap box railing about humanity and all its evils.

I actually think POS is helping me cope with this, to an extent. Even as it causes some of it. But the fact is, I get so lost in the story I lose track of all the pettiness and crap that comes from my current situation and can gain a sense of balance...if I'm left alone. That's the only rub. And it's weird, but I get the sense from this story that my own personal reality is limited -- which it is, in truth -- but that doesn't matter so long as I keep myself open to witnessing what I am offered by whatever muse it is I follow. Facts are easy things to deal with, even when they contradict each other; it's the emotional truth that matters. It's what lies not behind the eyes but behind the soul, hidden, fearful, hopeful, dreaming, destroyed. POS is leading me to understand -- and accept -- this. And see this is what I've been working towards

You know, my first three books easily fall into the category of rough gay erotica. I joke about them being porn but I do so gently, because I don't see them as that even though their titles come across that way -- "How To Rape A Straight Guy," "Porno Manifesto," "Rape in Holding Cell 6"...I can't exactly see those on a shelf in Barnes & Noble's. And yes, they've got some very raw and brutal sexual encounters in them, but each book is rooted in the emotional reality of the character. Even when they go a bit crazy in the plot area, it works within the character's truth. Even moreso in "Bobby Carapisi," which is nowhere near erotica. And I'm proud of what each book accomplishes -- straddling the prurient world while still reaching for the sky and telling a story that needed to be told.

But I'm proudest of my novella -- no, that's not right. I'm JUST as proud of "Perfection" as any of my other work; but it's the one that closest follows my reaching for that inner core...because that's exactly what the story's about. And it does not have any actual sex in it (focus on the word "actual"). So it rests next to my heart.


It's funny, the things a writer needs to keep himself moving forward. And I'm sure some of them appear like madness to others...but without them I'd be lost. I'd have surrendered to my doubt years ago. Never have reached the point where I can sit down and accept a story about a world completely alien to me...and yet so real to me I can't picture it as not honestly being there.

Hmph...went off on a ramble. And it was a walk through my own little garden. Grumpy is gone.

Which is almost to bad (emphasis on the word "almost"); he was my favorite dwarf.

If this has typos or crashes into nonsensical, live with it. I'm not going back and changing a thing.