Derry, Northern Ireland

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

Monday, May 31, 2010


Still in writer's block and feeling grim about POS. The more I dig through my materials, the more daunting the whole story seems. But I can't find a hook back I'm diverting myself with another section of "David Martin."


The next day’s travels took the group through a forest lush with trees of every shade of green and filled with the chattering of squirrels and chirping of sparrows. The sky was as blue as a robin’s egg and the drifting clouds were of the purest whispers. There was just enough sun to warm the day with just enough breeze to cool the skin. Though David had slept only fitfully, the beauty of the morning lightened his mood and his mind lazily wandered.

He noticed a mother sparrow teaching her now-grown chicks how to forage for themselves. She’d flit to the ground and peck at the dirt, and the little ones would follow, peeping loudly to be fed. He smiled and remembered the time his mother had brought home a sparrow chick that had fallen from its nest. With tenderness and care, she had nursed it to good health and helped it grow into a strong happy bird. It stayed with them, flying about the house or perching on the window sill, but never ventured outside unless it was on her shoulder, where it would stay as she did her chores. Then one morning, it flew away with another sparrow. But still it remained near the house and would begin to chirp the moment the sun rose, waking them.

At first, David had been irritated by the sparrow’s early call, but then his mother had said, “Listen closely. This fine lad brings us a song to charm us from our sleep.” Her eyes had danced with laughter as she said it, and he had loved the sparrow’s chirp ever since.

He was still lost in his thoughts when a cry for “Help!” exploded from deep in the forest! With it came the sounds of a struggle! The knight spurred his stallion and raced in the direction of the fight. David galloped after him, the soldiers hurrying up from behind.

Within moments, the knight and David came upon a glen where several thieves were attacking the married couple. The knight pulled his sword and cried, “Stand fast!”

Surprised, the men scattered and most ran off. But some drew weapons to fight back. Instantly, the knight thundered into their midst, his eyes ablaze with fury.

David was at a loss for what to do. He had no sword, nothing but his paring knife to help the knight. Then he noticed a thief loading a crossbow, scowling with evil intent. He aimed to shoot the knight in the back!

David looked around. The soldiers were still too far away to stop the thief. All David could think to do was kick his pony and race at the man and knock him down before he could let the arrow fly. The man scrambled back to his feet and seemed ready to fire his crossbow at David now -- but then the soldiers swarmed in to stop him and all of the thieves were captured.

“Our thanks, Sir Knight,” said the wife, wiping her face with shaking hands. Her husband just stood behind her, silent and bewildered.

“Take care where you travel in the future,” snapped the knight. “Had you remained upon the main path, this might not have happened.” Then he charged his soldiers to march the men back to town for justice and led David back to the road to continue their journey.

David was taken aback at how the couple had completely ignored his assistance in defending them. Why, even the town master, who did not really like David, would have been polite enough to thank him. And Nana would have made a huge fuss over his bravery and let him feel so wonderful. He had to remind himself that his sole purpose had been to support the knight, who was bound by honor to protect Sir Richard’s citizens, even if they were ill-bred people. And if David wished to be a knight, he must follow the same code – that when you swear to protect someone they must be protected, no matter what. But then he wondered – was it wrong to feel slighted? Would the knight have felt the same if David had been praised instead of him?

Before he could answer himself, the knight motioned for David to ride beside him. And he cast the boy a look that said, “Well done.” And David’s heart sang with pride. He straightened up and answered with a smile that said, “It was nothing.”

The sun was just dipping below the trees when they approached a farmhouse and were offered a meal and bedding by the farmer and his family. After all, any knight of Sir Richard’s was welcome in any home, even if he did have a scraggly-haired boy with him. As they ate, the farmer told them of the time Sir Richard saved the local priest’s life.

“The father had grown old,” said the farmer, “and let his horse wander from the trail, where he soon found himself stalked by three starving wolves.”

“I think I’ve heard this one,” said David. “But wasn’t it about a Bishop?”

“That’s probably a different story,” said the farmer, tousling the boy’s hair. “There’s so many you hear, these days; so many of then silly tales. Anyhow, Sir Richard was camped nearby – could it be you were with him, Sir Knight?”

“I will not know until you tell the story,” he answered.

“Of course,” said the farmer. “Anyway, Sir Richard heard our priest’s cries for help and raced to find him. Now wolves ain’t stupid creatures; when they saw Sir Richard, two of them ran. But the third was mad from hunger. He jumped for Sir Richard’s throat and they fought and they fought, the wolf’s teeth just inches away from tearing into our king’s skin! And all he had was his dagger to protect him. Well, they fought for close to an hour before Sir Richard was able to plunge his dagger deep into the wolf’s heart and our priest was saved. And to this day, that wolf’s pelt hangs above the rectory door.”

David was confused. “But it was a Bishop,” he said. “And what about the sorcerer...whose intent was capture him...and...?”

His voice trailed off amidst the laughter of the farmer and his family.

“From how far west are you?” the man chuckled.

The knight leaned forward and said, “I’m certain the story Master David knows is different from yours.”

“Yes, yes, of course, sir Knight,” said the farmer. But still his chuckles continued.

David’s face grew hot and his eyes stung with tears of embarrassment. Again, he was being seen as a fool. He would have slunk into a shadow had not the knight stood and put a final end to the merriment.

“Come, lad,” he said. “We must retire. We’ve still four days journey ahead of us.” He led David to the door as the farmer scurried beside him.

“You may stay as long as you wish, Sir Knight,” he said. “You’re more than welcome.”

“We are expected by a certain time,” the knight replied, “and have already been delayed. But I do thank you for this evening’s hospitality.” With that, he led David outside.

They slept in the least, the knight seemed to sleep. David found himself unable to put aside the sudden torrent of questions pounding inside his head.

His entire life was built around the belief that he, his grandmother and his friends were protected by Sir Richard. When the town master went to the castle on business, David knew he was safe because no one would dare to bother one of Sir Richard’s servants. And when Nana’s hand-tatted wraps were sold at market, he knew she received a fair price because no one would dare cheat one of Sir Richard’s subjects. And when he and his friends went into the woods and played at battle, fighting with their wooden swords and staffs then recounting the “heroic” tales of their adventures around a blazing campfire, even then they felt safer against all evil because Sir Richard watched over the land. This was how David had always seen the world.

But now? Now he had seen robbers attack a helpless couple and heard people scoff at stories about their king. And he had said nothing and done little, in answer – only felt ashamed and foolish, and now felt as though he no longer knew the truth of anything.

“But how could I think I ever knew it?” he softly asked himself. “I’ve never been away from Whitlock.” Finally he had to know something. “Sir Knight?”

“Yes?” came the sleepy reply.

“Do you know why Whitlock joined Sir Richard’s realm?”

"I told you, lad, I may not – ."

"Please, this is about my town and the lands around it, not Sir Richard. Do you know why we joined with his kingdom?"

The knight sighed then finally said, “Invaders from the sea, as I recall.”

“Oh. Thank you.”

“Get some sleep, lad.”

So the dragon story was wrong. Was nothing but a silly tale for silly boys. David accepted it with little more than a nod and let himself drift into a restless sleep, absently pulling the blanket tighter around his body.

A bit later, the knight looked over at David and noticed his feet were uncovered. The man gently smiled, arranged the blanket around them then lay back on the straw.

Sunday, May 30, 2010


Still caught in writer's block on POS so going through my main info folder to get the gears moving, again.

Also, last night I got irritated with my lack of movement so sketched a possible rendition of David Martin.
Here's part 2 of the story --

The first touch of winter drifted past on a soft breeze as the company traveled down the barest of trails. Still, the sun was high and few clouds passed before it, making it seem all the brighter. David looked around at what had to be an ocean of barley, swirling and glistening for joy. Soon farmers and their workers would cover the fields to reap the golden grain. And they would fill orchards to pluck ripe red apples from the trees, and they would gather juicy grapes from vineyards to crush into wine during the harvest festival, and they would sing and joke as they labored. They were happy in their lives and content that Sir Richard had brought them many years of peace and plenty.

But an unspoken fear also lurked behind their merriment. For Sir Richard was aging and had no heir to his lands. His wife had died when both were very young, and he had refused to take another bride. Many feared what would happen when he also passed into the next world.

But these thoughts held no concern for David, not as he rode behind the knight. He still could not believe he was really on his way. After all, the castle was six days journey from Whitlock. Only the town master had ever been there, and the stories he told made it sound like nothing could surpass its beauty and grace. He knew he was very lucky to be allowed a visit.

Yet he could not help but wonder why a man as great as Sir Richard and with so wonderful a home would want to meet an orphaned peasant boy. And one from the far Westlands, at that. He wondered if it was because his father had done something heroic. He had gone off to fight with the king, once, and had never come back. David was barely a toddler at the time, so remembered little about him. Still...that could be the reason.

Or perhaps it was because his mother had done some act of kindness like she had always enjoyed doing. He could still see how gentle her eyes were, and loving and tender. When a fever had taken her away a few years ago, his only consolation had been that he knew she was still watched over him from heaven. This, too, was a possibility.

David gazed at the knight, who traveled ahead of him in silence. The man looked neither to the right nor the left, but David knew his eyes were sweeping the countryside, keeping watch for anything that might bring danger. His proud posture spoke eloquently of a certainty and knowledge of himself the boy could only hope to achieve.

What fascinated David most, however, was the sword, hanging at the man’s side. It was wrapped in a worn leather sheath, and the nicks and gouges in its handle hinted at breathtaking stories of numerous encounters with unknown enemies. How many times had that sword enforced the law and protected this land? How many times had it struck down those who had evil intent? David had often dreamed of wielding a sword like his and absently reached for his own self-made one, but then remembered the Town Master had taken it. Not that it mattered; without a doubt, David knew he was safe.

After riding in silence for some time, David trotted up to beside the knight and said, “Sir Knight, apparently you have been with Sir Richard for many years. Might you know why he has sent for me?”

“I may not speak to you of him,” said the knight.

“But has it something to do with my father?” David asked. “He went with the king to fight. Might you have an idea of what happened to him?”

“I told you, I may not offer you any information,” replied the knight, brusquely. “Please return to your place behind me.”

“But, Sir Knight...”

“Return to your place, at once!”

The knight’s cold manner stung David. He had only asked a few simple questions. He guided the pony back behind the man, confused and wondering if he had somehow offended him.

They rode in silence for another mile, David still trying to understand what he had done to deserve such a sharp rebuke, when his eye was caught by a squirrel dancing from limb to limb in a nearby grove of trees. It almost seemed to be following them, and it would stop now and then to chatter at the passing troup. The boy smiled and chattered back, delighting the squirrel into following them even farther.

The knight silently noticed this, let the hint of a frown crease his brow and continued to lead them on, in silence.

As evening drew near, they reached a town with an inn so lodged there for a meal and bed. When a married couple learned where David was going, they were struck with what he felt was a proper sense of awe and respect. They even gave him a gift for Sir Richard, which he graciously agreed to pass along. Then they spent the night telling tales of his exploits.

“Many years ago,” said the husband, “Our land was invaded by an army far greater than our own in numbers. They pillaged and burned three villages before Sir Richard could arrive with his troops, and they were sorely out-numbered. To everyone, the enemy seemed unbeatable. Yet when Sir Richard saw them, he laughed. He took only a small company of his knights and charged against the largest band of them. His attack was so fierce, the enemy scattered as leaves in the wind and he lost not a soul. The invaders quickly begged for peace, and we have been left by them to prosper, ever since.”

Then his wife added, “I heard of once, when Sir Richard was but a youth, he happened upon two men who wished to carry off a damsel. He was so enraged, he beat the men soundly and sent them packing. Then he returned the girl to her father, who was Baron of a neighboring land. It was this girl he took to wife, and he was rewarded with riches unimaginable.”

Glowing in the warmth of the fire and the pleasant talk, David offered to tell of Sir Richard’s greatest adventure.

“Many years ago, a dragon roamed the hills around my village. It burned crops, tore apart homes and slaughtered helpless people. Our land was not part of his kingdom, at that time, but when we asked for help, Sir Richard came. Alone. For days he followed a trail of destruction before he found the dragon about to devour a farm. Their battle raged for hours and was heard throughout the land. Sir Richard finally beheaded the beast, but not without many injuries to himself. My people were so grateful, we asked that our lands be joined with his so we might pay tribute to him, forever.”

The husband chuckled and said, “Now there’s a tall tale.”

“I’ve not heard that one, before,” giggled his wife.

“I thought the dragon stories died out years ago,” laughed the inn-keeper.

David was stunned. Here he was sharing a tale every person in Whitlock knew and these people were laughing. And what was worse, they were laughing at a story about Sir Richard! He had never heard of such a thing. He was about to protest when the knight rose and stretched.

“We must sleep, lad,” said the knight. “We’ve a long day’s journey, tomorrow.”

Reluctantly, David followed the knight to their room. The man took the bed; David slept on a pallet. The soldiers had already bunked in the stables.

Once settled down, David found sleep was long in coming. Not once in his entire life had he ever heard anyone speak of Sir Richard except with reverence and awe. Their king was known by all to be strong and generous and merciful, a man to be proud of and emulated. So why would anyone dismiss something he was known to have done? A deed told over and over by storytellers and shown in so many paintings and tapestries? It made no sense, none at all. When David finally did drift into slumber, he was still trying to understand.

Saturday, May 29, 2010


A friend asked me about a fable I wrote so, so long ago...and I realized I hadn't been doing ANYTHING to get it out there. It's of a length that makes it awkward to publish -- 56 pages. So I'm wondering what I should do with it an am asking for suggestions.

I don't think I could shorten or lengthen it; the story seems to like how much of it there is. I could add illustrations to make it longer and see about that. Maybe I should just self-publish it through Amazon. I'm at a loss.'s part one of the story. I'll be posting the rest over the next week.

"David Martin"

“David Martin is going to meet Sir Richard!”

The news danced through the village of Whitlock with breathless wonder. Here it was but a dozen years past the first millennium, and one of their lads already was called to an audience with the ruler of the land. Oh, this would be a great and glorious honor for all the townsfolk -- except no one believed it. David Martin? Meeting the King?! Why, the very thought sent many of them reeling into laughter.

“It’s a mistake,” chuckled a stout woman. “Sir Richard would never summon a boy whose head is always in the clouds!”

“She’s right,” said a burly man. “My Timothy is stronger.”

“And braver,” added his wife. “He’d be a much better choice. He’s already trained in defense with the town master.”

“What about my Bradley?” asked a tall woman. “He already knows some Latin; just ask the priest!”

“While David barely knows English,” laughed the burly man.

But David’s grandmother, an elderly widow wrapped in a thick knitted shawl, wagged a finger in his face and snapped, “You forget, it was David who saved your hens!”

“How can we?” the man snapped back. “You won’t let me!”

“Because you won’t give the boy credit! For months we were all plagued by a fox stealing chicks, but no one could stop it. Not until David caught it burrowing under your new stone fence, sir. He yanked the little beast back out by its tail and sent it away with a kick to its haunches!”

“And just what good did chasing it off do?” asked the stout woman. “Should have been killed.”

“Have we lost a hen or rooster since?”

They had to agree, she was right.

“And remember how he saved my son, Corey, from drowning?” the town carpenter piped in. “David can’t even swim, but he was smart enough to think of using a plank of wood to help him float out to Corey and pull him back to shore.”

“He does have some wits about him,” the tall woman sighed.

“But he talks to squirrels as if they can understand him,” cried the stout woman.

“And behaves as though he were a knight of the realm,” fumed the burly man. “Marching about with a wooden stick for a sword – you would think him still a toddler rather than a lad of twelve summers. I can’t believe Sir Richard could ever accept such foolishness.”

And many people agreed with him. After all, Whitlock was naught but a small farming community on the western edge of the world and held no importance to anyone. They had joined with Sir Richard’s provinces a mere thirty years earlier and had not even so much as a garrison of his army nearby, let alone a fortress. The fact was, in all these years the only time they knew Sir Richard was aware of them was when his knights called for a portion of their harvest, in duty. So to have one of their own youths invited to meet a man who was so strong, his people were left in peace; and who was so modest, he refused to be referred to as “King;” and who was so wise, he was idolized as a hero by all...well, the honor was doubled in greatness.

But why-oh-why did it have to be David Martin? He was a mere orphan living with his grandmother in a tiny hovel of a shack on the edge of the village. His education was mostly self-learned, and he was still too undeveloped to join with the town master’s defense force. He had no property, no special skills, no trades to draw upon. He was just “David.” It made no sense.

And yet, each person in turn had to admit that there stood one of Sir Richard’s knights before David’s door, tall and proud. His clothing impossibly white and trimmed in maroon and gold. His helmet, chain mail and sword so polished, they gleamed in the noonday sun. And with him were six foot-soldiers with lances, all in perfect array. Even the knight’s dapple-gray stallion seemed properly regal. No, it definitely was David who was being called.

So came the question – just where was the boy?

David’s grandmother and many of his friends had already checked the stream to see if he was tickling the trout; he wasn’t. They had searched the orchard to see if he was sitting in a tree, munching on a crisp apple while trying to chirp with a robin; he wasn’t. They had scoured the fields and meadows to see if he was helping farmers weed their crops, but they still could not find him. They had checked with their sons to see if he was practicing his swordplay with them; none had seen him for hours. The town master was about to make their apologies to the knight for David being absent when Corey remembered something David had once said and raced off to a nearby glen.

There he found a boy who was not so tall and not so fair and not so sturdy or strong, but who was just David. He was seated cross-legged by a thick tree watching a pair of fox cubs play with the remains of a fish they had just eaten. Nearby rested the mother fox, a wary eye fast upon him. But his manner gave her no reason to fear, so all was fine...until Corey appeared. The instant she saw him, she uttered a soft “yip” and the foxes vanished into their den.

Corey was stunned. “Was that the fox that stole our hens?” he asked.

David nodded and said, “Her kits were hungry so I’ve been catching fish for them.”

“Don’t let anyone find out,” said Corey. “They’ll chase them down and kill them.”

“I won’t let them,” David smiled, in answer. “What a knight swears to protect remains protected, no matter what.”

Corey shook his head and said, “We’ve been looking for you all morning.”


“Sir Richard has sent for you!”

David laughed. He could not believe the news, himself.

“But it’s true!” Corey cried. “Come and see!”

David rose, still skeptical, and grabbed his “sword” – two strips of wood tied together and rubbed to a fine smoothness – then the boys raced each other back to town. There they found the knight and his company still waiting patiently before his door, a crowd milling about them. David slid to a halt, stunned; what Corey had told him was really true.

When the townspeople saw David, they swarmed around him, chattering and calling so loudly he could not understand a word they were saying. Some seemed to be congratulating him. Others appeared to be upset. Others were asking him to do things for them or ask favors for them or just pass a message to the King for them. All of it was so confusing, David grew dizzy.

Then his grandmother yanked him away from them and dragged him into their hovel. Before he could regain his senses, she had given him a hot bath and dressed him in a clean but well-worn tunic. And as she dried his hair before the fire, tears trailed down her cheeks.

Surprised, David tenderly touched them and asked, “Why are you crying, Nana?”

All she could whisper in answer was, “If your parents could see you, they would be just as proud as I.” Then she ran her fingers through his hair to comb it and took him outside to present him to the knight.

The instant David appeared in the door, just about every child in town gathered around him, begging to be taken along. But the knight would not hear of it. “Master Martin must come alone,” he said.

“Of course, Sir Knight,” replied the town master, who hushed the children with a stern glare. Then he stood David before him, took his little sword away and said, “You are called to meet a man of great responsibility and courage, so you may not behave like a silly boy around him. Be humble. Be silent except when spoken to. And for once do as you are told when you are told to do it. Do not bring disgrace to our village.”

“I...I won’t, sir,” said David, feeling a bit ashamed.

Then his grandmother brushed the man aside. “Silly old fuss-budget,” she chuckled as she wrapped a warm cloak around the boy and tied a pouch with a paring knife and three copper coins around his waist. “I know you will do what is right. You always have, and I’ve always been proud of you.”

“Thank you, Nana,” he said. Then he jumped on the back of a brown pony. It belonged to Corey, but he had insisted David take it so he would not have to walk.

“You will return to see us?” Corey asked.

“Of course,” said David. “You’re my friend and Whitlock’s my home.”

“Don’t forget.”

The knight mounted his stallion, the soldiers took their positions behind the boy and they solemnly started off. David’s grandmother waved farewell from her door as the townsfolk lined the path to wish him luck. David rode taller and straighter than anyone could remember, but as he left the edge of the town and people returned to their chores, many of them thought, “He’ll need more than luck if he’s to impress Sir Richard.”

Friday, May 28, 2010

Step by step

I did a bit more writing on POS, last night...actually adding 6 pages and establishing the first time Brendan sees Joanna. It's still rough but it works well enough to set up what happens next. Of course, he's only 12 years old so a bit young for a full-fledged love affair, but a crush can be fun, even when it expands into first love.

Got a 3-day weekend. I'd stopped thinking about things like that once I shifted to self-employed. But reality is, nothing will be happening with the Olympia Book Fair till Tuesday, because customs is closed even in England. So today I took a jaunt over to Erie, PA to drop off a package that our usual couriers weren't able or willing to deliver till mid-next week. It's a nice drive, thick with rolling hills and trees jammed up to within 50 feet of the roadway, and Lake Erie is pretty when viewed from a rise. Erie itself is a mess, but I'm finding the majority of cities up in this area are very poorly laid out (not that San Antonio's any better; it has streets whose directions were determined by where the cows wandered). I'm getting the feeling that any city laid out prior to 1850 is like that...unless they had a catastrophe and reworked their city around that -- like San Francisco and Chicago. But Rochester, Buffalo, Niagra, Erie...their streets just ram about like drunks on a binge. It's hard as hell to figure them out.

Parts of Paris and lots of London are like that, too. Berlin and Hamburg no so much, but they were decimated in WW2 so could restructure themselves. Paris' boulevards came about because the people in charge just decided, We'll do it no matter what and if the people don't like it, tough. But London didn't do much with restructuring after the blitz, mainly because the country was damn near bankrupt. Now China is pulling the same thing with Beijing and Shanghai...and doing a piss-poor job of it, if the news about it is correct (and I don't necessarily believe anything I read or see, anymore). Still...thinking about it, I'm sure the glorious buildings of ancient Rome came about in the same way -- You live where we want to put the Coliseum? Too damn bad, get out. And there are even stories of Railroad Barons having settlers killed if they wouldn't sell the right of way on their land to the railroads (this was during "Useless" S. Grant's administration, who until "W" was the worst, most corrupt president this country ever had.)

It may be human nature to force their way on others. I just read in "Mother Jones" about a Home Owners Association in Carrollton, Texas that sold an army captain's home out from under him...while he was on deployment in Iraq. They let the new buyer have the captain's $300,000 home for $3500 in back HMA dues, and the man then resold it and the new owner demanded rent from the captain's wife, who was still living there. And apparently that's legal in Texas. The captain is currently locked in a legal battle to get his home back...and it's not going well. hasn't changed much, even as civilization evolves. Which seems to be a sub-theme developing in POS. How sad.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Ever get the feeling you're just plain stupid?

I've had it hit me a lot in the last two days. Both with work and while going over POS.

With work, it was dumb things like not verifying a count on some trunks of books going to London. Some had to go to this location and other to that location, and my initial count was off from what I was told to expect by the book store. They wound up mingled on two different skids, so I should have just pulled them down and rebuilt the skids, but I only did another count and came out the same so figured I was right and they were wrong and they insist they weren't so now we won't know till everything lands in Lodnon, and of course it now turns out the "that location" group have to be delivered earlier than the "this location" group and having a perfect count and them separated before would have helped and actually made sense...and I feel dumbassed for not doing it.

Then today I got things back-assed-wards on some things I needed to do and I finally began to wonder if my dyslexia is taking over my cognitive abilities. I've often wondered if I should have mnyself tested for that. I seem prone to doing more than just reversing numbers a nd letters; sometimes I actually leave words out or use the wrong one. Of course, it could just be psychosis.

What REALLY makes me think I've lost it is, as I was going through POS I found a major logical flaw in the last section...and may have to toss out a third of what I have written and rework the story's ending completely. It's absurd. But I was playing with Brendan sneaking back into Northern Ireland...and the truth is, word would get around so fast that he's back, the RUC and Brits would have him interned in nothing flat. He's connected to a bombing that killed some people. So he can't pretend he's anybody else; he's got former friends who are Protestant and would let the RUC know, given the situation. Shit.

This is one flaw in not writing a book straight through -- you come up with fun ideas that conflict with other fun ideas and drive you crazy because you want to keep them all.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010


Talk about a world on the verge of chaos and ready to go at any time...yet not quite toppling over into the abyss. It's amazing this airport works. Hell, it's amazing New York City works considering how much of a mess it's in. Nasty pothole strewn streets. Confusing roads. Forty seven stages to getting to the airport from your rental car place -- take a bus to a rain depot to get to the terminal you need and hope you find the right one. I had a choice of terminals 2 and 3, and since 3 had lines out the wahzoo, I scurried down to 2 and it turned out to be the right one, anyway. And it only had a nice long line of people passing through one door where security stood watch to half-strip then pass through one scanner then try to put yourself back together while having use of two little benches as people piled up behind you. By the time I was through, I was beat.

I had a burger at Wendy's and bought a hour of time on Boingo and now feel a bit human, even though I did sweat off a good 10 pounds while working with the guys in that warehouse, but it didn't take as long as I thought it might so I got to the airport early...and this is boring.

I got a bit more work done on POS en route down and will finish going over "Return" en route back. I'm missing something here, too. I'd almost swear I wrote the moment where Brendan and his mother meet up, again, after nearly 8 years, but it's not on my USB drive or desktop. I'll check my laptop before I board the plane. Irritating. I need to get better organized.

I'm back to thinking I'm only 40% done with the book. Man, I got to get to work.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Whirlwind -- that's me

Hopping down to New York via Delta in the AM and heading home in the late evening. No time to do anything but work. Ah, the glamorous life of a jet-setter -- is that phrase too 60's?

Tonight I'm working on the "Return" section of "Place of Safety." Where Brendan goes back to Derry, as he must. I've been thinking on the lovely build Tolstoy achieved in his weaving of history and humanity in "War and Peace" and am trying to use that as my guide...though he had several characters to follow and told everything in the third person. Something I'm finding is, using first person both frees me in so many ways...and entangles me in limitations that I haven't yet figured out how to overcome or slip around. Like in "The Battle of the Bogside" chapter...which will really be three chapters once I'm done with it -- Brendan's impressions can't be too astute or too all-encompassing; he's only 13 years old. But I still need to put across the sense of what was happening.

A bit of history is probably in order. For decades every August, Protestants in the Orange Order held a march to commemorate the bravery of a group of Apprentice Boys, who in 1689 closed the gates to the walled city of Derry and kept it in Protestant hands against Catholic troops trying to regain the city. It helped cement Protestant control of Ireland for the next 200+ years and is celebrated with the pounding of massive drums as the parade winds its way around the Catholic areas. As an insult, members of the modern Orange Order would sometimes toss pennies at the Bogside, indicating contempt for their "lessers."

On August 12th, 1969 things finally exploded during the march. This was just eight months after Catholics walking for civil rights had been attacked and brutally beaten at Burntollet Bridge (with the complicity of the Royal Ulster Constabulary, just like the cops in Alabama helped attack black civil rights marchers heading for Selma), leading to riots and the beginning of barricades to keep the RUC out of the Bogside. During the parade, insults were exchanged and rocks were thrown and the RUC began attacking the Catholics doing the throwing (not the Protestants)...and the situation melted down to 3 days of full scale riots, in which the RUC lost complete control of the area, the "Free Derry" sign was painted and British troops had to be brought in to separate the two sides. It was also during this time that the IRA was seen to have done nothing to help the Catholics defend their area and began being referred to as the "I Ran Away."

Of course, Brendan would be in the middle of this. But how to depict it is the problem. He can't know everything that's happening...but it's important to show the meaning behind it all. And how it affects his brothers and sisters and radicalizes his mother and sets him down the path he's destined to follow. My usual method is just to write and write and write until something begins to unfold before me...but that could take forever. Still...I guess it's the best way to go, right now.

Maybe I should start writing in 3rd person. You can be so much more omniscient as the author. And so much less personal.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Nasty hot

I can't figure out how to get my so-called AC to work so last night was stifling and wearying. Didn't get much rest and then the AC at WORK wasn't working. And it got up close to 90, here. This is Texas weather, not New York. This kind of crap isn't supposed to happen till August and then only for two weeks...but here it is. And I've never liked the heat, much...even when it's a "dry" one. Where do I have to go to find consistent coolness? Antarctica?

So now I have two box fans going, one working in the window, and I let the office know about the AC and they can't get to it till tomorrow, meaning another hot night. And tomorrow the guy's not coming out till the afternoon to deal with the one at work...and so it goes and goes and goes.

Of course, Brendan hits Houston just as the heat is beginning and doesn't like it, at first. I wonder how that'll play out as he evolves into living there and finding a new life and new problems to face? Here's a snippet of some of his reaction.

It took me a week after that dinner to be able to even so much as climb the stairs without being exhausted, and days after that before I ventured from the house, and then it was only because Uncle Owen was working on his car. It had rained and the air was thick and wet, making it difficult to breathe, almost. I was lying in my bed, staring at the blank ceiling, drifting into my usual nothingness when I heard the engine chugging, outside. Over and over and --

-- Jeremiah O’Shea’s Cortina wouldn’t start on damp mornings and he’d had near everyone he could think of check into it, at no small cost to himself, until he let me look into it as Mr. Green's idiot brother made fun behind me but I found the problem and --

I bolted up then rose from the bed and went to the window. Uncle Owen was at the Volvo, under the bonnet -- the hood, as it were. It was a dark blue PV444 and looked like it had the twin SU Carbs to it. A clean-looking car it was but in need of a wash and maybe attention paid to the rust spots developing between the passenger door and front fender. The interior wasn’t quite as good of shape but wasn’t beyond saving, and from here the engine looked fine. But when Uncle Owen got behind the wheel to turn the key, I could hear it creak a little so lubrication was definitely needed and maybe topping off the shocks.

I stood there and watched Uncle Owen try to start the engine and it just chug along, working really hard to catch. Then he’d go back under the hood, unplug the spark wires and replug them and try again only to get nothing. Then he’d go back under the hood and undo other connections and redo them and try again. Over and over. It was comical, for he didn’t sit easy in that car.

I finally had enough of it and went downstairs and out the back door. The ground was still wet and sticky, and the air felt even more smothering without the house. I wore only my pajama bottoms, still, no slippers even, so the soaked grass tickled my feet.

“Having troubles?” I asked.

He jumped and looked at me as if I were a madman, which I probably seemed to him. “Brendan, what you doin’ out here?" he said in his slow Texas drawl. "You ain’t dressed.”

I only shrugged. “Would you care for me to look at it?” I said, motioning to the Volvo.

He shrugged back at me. “Does this every time there’s a fog in the mornin’. Then in the afternoon, it starts up fine. But I need to get goin’ an’ this is the only car left.”

I looked around and saw two dry spots where two cars had been. “When’s Aunt Mari due back?”

“Dunno. Guess I’ll just grab a cab. Lookin’ a buyin’ this bar in up in The Heights and the owner’s due at one. I’ll get it towed into the shop, later.”

In answer, I leaned over the engine and checked the cables. They were on the old side, probably original. Same for the coil and other wires. I pulled at it without gripping the glove and it nearly separated. “Try starting it, again.”

He shrugged and sat behind the wheel and the car creaked; definitely needed lubing but maybe not so much on the shocks. I pushed both ends of the coil’s cable against their gloves...and the engine fired right up.

Uncle Owen bolted from the car, startled. “What’d you do?”

“You need a new coil,” I said. “It’s coming apart inside the glove, so you can’t see it. Is there an auto supply shop nearby?”

“Up Shepherd. I can stop on the way.”

I nodded. “You might want to think about having all the cables replaced. They’re about due.”

“Damn, Brendan, where’d you learn that?”

“I’ve been at this since I was ten. Clocks, TVs and the like. Cars. Made extra money from it.”

“Your mother never told us.”

“She didn’t know, most the time. When I got on with Mr. Green, she thought I just cleaned the shop.”

“Didn’t you tell her what you were doin’?”

I nodded then headed back to the house, feeling sleepy. Uncle Owen let me go.

I fixed a sandwich from the wealth of food available in the fridge -- cheeses and luncheon meats and lettuce so crisp it could cut you and rich red tomatoes and something called Sandwich Spread all piled high on some brown bread that felt as light as a feather -- and found only a couple of Dr. Peppers chilled in the fridge’s door. I took one, opened it and returned to my room. I sat on the bed and ate, feeling very luxurious, and thoroughly enjoyed the Dr. Pepper; it wasn’t as sharp and biting as Coke. Then I dozed a little before rising, again, and deciding I was weary of having nothing on me but pajamas and around me but these four walls.

I took a long scalding-hot shower, letting the steam fill my lungs and wipe away the stickiness of the air, then toweled off...and had to towel off twice more, thanks to the combination of steam and humidity bringing out my sweat. No wonder they bathe every day and layer on deodorant here, I said to myself, if they didn’t they’d reek.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Working on POS

The story broke into three sections -- "Beginning," "Houston" and "Return" -- each with its own ring binder, now. And today, I changed the middle section to "Escape." This subtitle fits better because Brendan does, effectively, escape the horror of Derry's growing chaos, albeit at a hideous price. So comes this complete change in tone and attitude to one more in sync with Houston's casual nature. New people come into his life -- each with their own natures of good and bad -- and his world grows calm...for a while. I think I'll enjoy working on this section...till it begins to tighten its grip around him.

It's been as warn in Buffalo as it can be in Houston. Stifling air with no breeze to lessen the grip it holds on you as you do anything, indoors or out. Granted, this is more like Texas in April and we're almost to the end of May, but if I've brought that damned state's temps up here for this summer, I'm gonna be pissed off. I hate Texas summers because they're hot and sticky and the only saving grace is air conditioning that doubles your electric bill, if you're lucky. Everyone kept insisting it's nicer in the summer in Buffalo. Yeah, tell that to my skin as I wipe the sweat from it. If I do stay up here, I'm getting a apartment closer to the lake.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Rainy day...

So I reworked my trip to travel through Brockport to the Chase branch there and stumbled across the Erie Canal -- at work! It's just a block away.
It's been nicely laid out in this area...

...and the bridge is a major passageway... when boat traffic comes up...

...alarms sound and the lights go red and the bridge begins to rise... the boat can pass under...

...and head down to the next bridge to do it, again.

Then the bridge lowers and traffic continues, and it takes close to ten minutes.

That boat, btw, was from Alexandria, VA...and I wonder if they came up the Mississippi, because it was heading east.

After this, I drove into Rochester...which is not a very pretty town, especially considering the river that supposedly runs through the middle of it was dammed up and only half was of any depth while the rest was as deep as the LA River in a drought. "Sticky Lips" had okay barbecued brisket...though they cut it really thick...but their main sauce is sweet instead of tangy. Not bad, but I've had better at Rudy's, a chain in Texas that has this nice "bite you back" sauce and they slice their brisket by the weight and thin. Plus, "Sticky Lips" was right by a massive rail yard and industrial area and not conducive to sticking around (pun intended).

So I came home and will do some work and get back to POS.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Just travelin' along

I'm running over to Rochester, tomorrow, because that is where the closest branch of my so-called international bank is. Chase has no offices in Buffalo, at all. So if I have to do some business at one in this area, I have to travel 60 miles. Irritating...but it may turn out to be all right, in the long run. I'm told there's a great barbecue place in Rochester called Sticky Lips. With a name like that, you know I had to find a reason to try it out. Plus part of the Erie Canal runs through the city.

It's funny, but I hadn't really thought about how you can make this massive circle around the Eastern US via the Erie canal and the Great Lakes (Ontario, Erie and Michigan) then down the Mississippi to the Gulf and around the Eastern Seaboard back up to New York and up the Hudson to the Erie, again. A woman at work was telling me about how her husband and brother-in-law did that, once, over the space of a couple years. One would take the boat a certain distance then fly home and the other would get vacation time and find the boat and take it farther. It's called "The Great Loop" and sounds like it'd be fun to do, sometime.

I broke POS into its three sections and bought a ring binder for each. Green ring binders, capable of holding 275 pages for a total of 925 sheets. Not counting dividers. Section 1 already has 14 chapters with a good 8-10 more to go. The other two have fewer than 9 chapters. Man, this story keeps widening as I go through it, like a river aiming for the sea. Like "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" and Huck's journey down the Mississippi on a raft with Jim, the runaway slave. As the river widens, so does the breadth of their tale.

Y'know, that story is brilliant and elegant and totally worth the read. Mark Twain's use of English in not only the proper sense but the colloquial was unmatched, and his characters unequaled.

What's sad is, I remember a lot of people were loudly offended by Huck's use of the "N" word in regards to Jim. Of course, it was obvious they'd never read the book, because if they had they'd have seen how Huck was brought up to believe Africans were less than human, slavery was protected by the bible and if you helped a slave escape you'd go to hell. All drilled into him by Aunt Polly. But by the end of his travels, Jim had become such a friend to Huck, the boy decided he'd rather go to hell than betray the man. It was a thrilling realization in a deeply humane book.

I'm hardly on the level of Mark Twain (or Leonid Tolstoy) so I can only hope to reach the beauty of that moment in my writing, I know, but it never hurts to try. Keeps me working out my writing muscles.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Weird dreams

I know I dream every night but I often don't remember what they're about. The memory of their details vanishes with my waking. But every now and then I experience one that sticks in my brain and won't let go. I had one like that a couple years back, where I was on an upper floor of a building during an earthquake, and the building collapsed around me but I wasn't hurt. I wound up on the street watching the fire. In another, my car went off a bridge into a lake and I had to swim for shore with a shark chasing me. I made it. What's really weird about that one is, I can't swim...but I was going faster than Mark Sptiz, I gotta tell you.

So last night I had a vivid dream where two people I know (who shall remain unnamed because I halfway think they were representational of others I know) worked together to end my dreams because they felt it was best for me, and I was given no chance to respond. One was fussy and demanding and the other was so sure of being right, condescension dripped from every word. And when I woke this morning, I was so weary, I had a hard time getting out of bed for work.

You know, I was raised Presbyterian and they believe in predestination. Like your life is written and you are just fulfilling it. I'm not sure how I feel about that, but it does seem to have colored my views in more ways than I can think of. The most obvious one being my love of Russian literature, which relies heavily on the idea of "man trapped in his fate." POS has more than a dab of that in it.

I do believe a lot of my life was and is out of my control, most of which stems from events in my past that seem to back that up -- like illnesses as a baby that set the course of my health and well-being, and actions by others that forced changes on me which I did not want to make. And I've watched friends of mine who believe strongly in self-determination get little farther in their lives than I have in mine...which also seems to bolster the notion that we are all trapped in our fates.

It's a scary thought, the idea that you're here and following a script laid down by someone else and from which you cannot deviate. So many of them are tragedy, a few are comedy and some are triumphs over adversity while others are about the dignity of facing the worst the world has to offer. It means luck plays no role in your world, not really. And it means no matter how hard you try, if you're not meant to rise above a certain level of success, you won't. Life will conspire to crush you or distract you or wear you down or lead you to change your mind or just surrender to whatever direction you're being lead towards.

So what I want to know now is, what the hell did I do to deserve the fate I was handed?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Miles to go...

And nothing much to say except I'm seeing POS head up to 8-900 pages and becoming unpublishable. It's a silly thing to be worried about, right now, and the fact is I could trim it back to a triptych...and the very thought makes me see it run up over 1000 pages. And I don't think I'd care. I like what I've got so far and it seems to be building to the conclusion I figured. So...I'm back to it.

In the meantime, here is what Derry looks like, today, in comparison to the photo I posted yesterday.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Quick note

I startled Brendan by digging in and finding the sections I was missing then going over them once and adding them to the printout -- and the story is now 348 pages long; nearly 79,000 words. I now have Brendan going to Dublin and a conversation he has with a mate and the beginning of The Battle of the Bogside.

Now he can shut the fuck up (said with a smile).

This is Derry as it looked in 1965, if I remember right.

Oops, I did it, again

Brendan is pissed at me. No, not pissed...just unhappy. I got lost in setting up this deal on and shunted POS aside. I haven't done anything on it for a week...not since I flew out to LA and dealt with the Canadians who were afraid to fly so wouldn't shut up on the flight. I thought I'd at least have the hard copy gone over by now, but nope. Nothing.

I'm not very disciplined when it comes to my writing, I have to admit. I may write every day, but it's not always what I should be writing or even want to write. I currently have a stack of junk that'll need letters sent out (like to TransUnion Credit Services, who keep pulling some nonsense about me not giving them the information they need to correct my credit report even though I've given them exactly what they asked for, again), and I have so much reading stacked up to do and my bills are squirrely, right now. And next week I'm taking a day trip to NYC to oversee the shipping of the books off to The London Book Fair (which I don't get to go to, dammit).

On top of it, I'm turning into the IT guy at this job, and I barely know how to make my MAC work, let alone a program on a there's that learning curve as well as knowing more and more about UK Import/Export rules. By the time I'm done, I may have myself set up as an expert in it (insofar as books are concerned) so might be able to skip the country and live in London.

I'm thinking about that mainly because the right wing Tea Party movement has become really scary, with many of them all but calling for the overthrow of the government and enactment of Christian law as regards morality (but not as regards business, the little snakes). Many of us on the left wing refer to them as the Talibangelicals, and initially did it as a snarky way of identifying them. But lately they seem too damned ready to topple Washington, shoot whomever they damn well want and run everyone who's not a true WASP out of the country. And I blame "American Idol" for this.

You may think I'm joking, but AI actually set up the notion that mediocre people with the brains and ability of a five-year-old can become the next music/movie/political star if they're good-looking and at least know how to connect with their audience. And it's spread to just about everything in American culture and is threatening to take over the world.

So now we have the likes of Ann Coulter, who knows nothing about history lecturing people on the meaning of history because she spouts cutsie lines about liberals; and Sarah Palin, who quit her job as governor lecturing Obama on how to do his job because she still has a rack and winks at the boys in the audience, like any good cougar would; and Glenn Beck going bat-shit-fucking crazy on camera and spouting absolute nonsense as these sheep-claiming-to-be-people think he's making sense, all because he's got a program on cable; and Sean Hannity so lost in his idea that everything a Democrat does is wrong and everything a Republican does is right, he's defending the very people who nearly collapsed our economy (and may still succeed at doing it, if they have their way) and people think he's smart. Rush Limbaugh makes up facts to suit his mood and makes fun of sick people, but if any Republican dares to point that out he gets berated into apologizing to the fat-assed-junkie-hypocrite. All because he has a radio show. Tea baggers have even been shown verbally attacking a man who had Parkinsons (or something like it) telling him they don't do handouts. It's diseased.

Sorry, I'm ranting. But I do think things are getting nastier and nastier in this country, and I don't know if I want to be around it, anymore. Of course, there's nothing new about the right wing's vicious absurdity. Hell, during Kennedy's presidency, there were people who wanted him dead because he was Catholic. And members of the GOP were accusing Roosevelt of letting the Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor decades ago. We had McCarthyism and Tricky Dick's CREEP shenanigans in the 50's and 70's. Maybe I'm just too aware of it all, now.

But it is informing my books, and will factor greatly into POS. I finally understand why Brendan winds up in Houston for a while; that city has one of the largest chapters of the Ku Klux Klan in the US, in a suburb called Deer Park, to the east of the city. I got a feeling that's gonna factor into it.

Ah me...always finding excuses not to write...until I find something I want to write so badly, I can't not write it.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Unfinished Business

Okay, I'm trying something new and different -- I posted a short film project I want to make on this site called and I'm trying to raise $10,000 to make it. Here's the link to it and some info.

Unfinished Business: "A young intern is forced to save the life of a man who's been dead for 30 years. If he fails, he'll be killed -- just like the 5 doctors before him."

This will be a 14 minute long short film in the suspense-thriller genre.

It's definitely festival fodder and geared to show off my abilities with actors and make me king of the world. Any takers?

Unfortunately, this was all I was able to get my brain to do, yesterday. Oh, I got my laundry done and paperwork sorted and expenses worked up...but creatively? Zero. Zip. Nada.

Except....for working up a banner for the money-begging site. So...anybody got a spare $10K lying around they don't need? I'll send you a signed DVD of the final project.

(See what happens when you go to LA? You get reinfected by the movie bug.)

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Catch up day

Lots of stuff to do and paperwork to clean up so nothing much else is on the agenda. Maybe tonight I'll get back to sifting through my printout of POS to see what I've got and what I need, but I'm also remembering I've written more than what I have in this hard copy so probably should search that out, first. Those bits may change the direction of events, slightly.

Man...I am so NOT organized. For all the backup disks I've burned and USB drives I have with all my past work on them, I got nothing consolidated into one place; everything is everywhere. New versions of scripts are on one disk while old versions are on another...except when they aren't or are vise verse. Sections of stories wind up spread over three USB drives...I think. I should take a few days -- hell, a few weeks, it seems like -- and sort everything out so I know what I have and haven't done, what I do and do not have in Word and Final Draft and Photoshop and PDFs and such.

Like with POS, I know I wrote a bit where Brendan and a girl he likes, Joanna, catch a ride to Dublin and spend the day and begin to think it would be a good place to live instead staying in the growing horror of "The Troubles." But it's not on my USB drive, and it's not on my laptop, even though I was using my laptop at the time to write POS. There's also a bit where Brendan sneaks through the checkpoints to get to the Waterside to make an appointment at a park overlooking Lough Foyle that I wrote that I can't find. Irritating. I guess I need a jump drive just for POS now, since CD-Rs won't let me add rewrites to them.

Something more to join the list of what to do to procrastinate in my writing.

Back in the B-U-Fa-Lo

Totally misspelled but it sounds right for the Beatles' song.

I met with a fellow author (Michael Gleich) for brunch, today, and felt so VERY LA. He rode his bike over to Santa Monica from Encino! The man's crazy...and so were his two friends, Caryl and Juan. I know how LA traffic is, even on a Saturday morning -- especially along the 405. Madness. MADNESS!

Good old Southwest was late leaving LA but I was told it didn't matter because my connection in Las Vegas was running late, too. They lied. So did the "departures" monitor, telling me I had an hour to wait. So I got my shoes shined and played some slot machines and opened my laptop to check my e-mails...and suddenly my name's being called to the plane. The bastards left on time! I was the last person on the flight and got to sit between an old woman and a guy who looked like a Latin Boxer because every other seat was taken. NOT the most comfortable flight of my life.

I used to really like Southwest because their service was fast and pleasant, but now they're just like any other airline, and not always the cheapest way to go. Or most convenient. So I guess I'll be using Travelocity and Expedia from now on.

Still...I got home a bit early...if you can call Buffalo home...and got some reading done for POS. It's a rather dry book about local peace movement groups in N. Ireland and how they affected the sectarian violence and divide in that country. It's got some fascinating facts...but it's SO much like a text book I find it putting me to sleep.

Which isn't hard to do, now. It's nearly 1am.

BTW -- I was turned on to this guy by another blogger. His name's Sufjan Stevens and he has a gentle, inviting manner and voice he uses to sing some very tender songs.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Dreading the trip back

And not so much for the reasons one might think. I miss LA in a lot of ways and seeing my friends out here makes me long for it even more, but the trip back to Buffalo is going to be nasty, I fear. I flew Southwest, which doesn't do assigned seating. Instead, 24 hours ahead of the flight, you go online to print up your pass and be assigned a group to board by -- A, B or C, which board in their respective order. But in order to get a decent position, you have to do this at exactly 23 hours and 59 minutes prior to your flight's scheduled departure time or you don't get into the A group. Well...I didn't get my boarding pass printed up till just a few minutes ago, so on the section of the trip from Las Vegas to Buffalo, I board in group C. Which means a full plane and I'm not boarding till nearly everyone else has. Which means a center seat instead of an aisle. For the entire 4 1/2 hour flight. We are not happy.

But I honestly did not think about it till I was back at my hotel room after a long, rather unsettling day...seeing the current situations of some friends and missing out on others. I did have dinner at Marix Tex-Mex Restaurant in West hollywood with my buddy Brad, his girlfriend, Cathy and his sister, Sharon...and drank too much beer and it's upset my innards...which will make the trip back even more unpleasant.

And now I'm dog tired, again. I think I'll call it a night and crash till the AM comes.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

I'm not used to the sun

After months in Buffalo with rain and cold and snow and clouds and such, I get to LA where it's been sun-shiny all day and traffic makes you go SLOOOOOOW and the golden rays pound in on you and suddenly you're dog tired from the heat tempered only slightly by the cool breezes. I've downed more water in the last couple days than in the previous 3 months (mainly because I don't like water unless it's got tea in it). But now, after my third Perrier of the day...or is it my fourth? Anyway, I'm beginning to feel human, again.

Job packing is done and it turned out to be twice as much weight as I anticipated. They ain't gonna be happy when they get the bill, so I gave them some advance warning about that. Now it's time to relax. I saw my buddy, Brad, today and drove around town and wish I hadn't done the latter. I went by where Heritage used to be and the new owner flat out ruined that building. He got rid of the slate roof and bay window, added goofy windows to the upstairs, took away the main entrance and painted it white. And West Hollywood let him do it. The scum. That depressed me.

I tried to see a couple of other friends but that didn't work out. Now one of my German buddies is coming over for a drink. I guess I can relax till tomorrow, when I head for Huntington Beach during the morning rush hour. Oh, do I look forward to that.

No writing done. No reading. No way it can happen now.

Walking dead...or waking...whatever

Turns out my job was more extensive than I was lead to believe so I'm dog tired. Packed 21 boxes of books and have another 10 to go, probably. Doesn't sound like much until you realize how much care has to go into the packing since they're rare and VERY difficult to replace or even repair. Something I learned working at Heritage is, if an antiquarian book has been repaired in any way, it lessens the value. Better it be left alone unless it's about to fall apart...and even then you have to be judicious.
it might be better to have a protective box made for it.

Still got out to see Karl and Carrie and their daughter, Caden. Long drive up to Topanga, but I had a free meal out of it -- vegan but good, overall. Of course, my body doesn't understand the veggie stuff, so to keep it from going into shock I had my very own Dr. Pepper. It's my one true addiction.

No more, tonight. I be weary since it's nearly 2am my time.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Home in LA

I'm back in LA and feel like I never left...but it was a chore getting here. My flight out of Buffalo was late and packed and I wound up with a couple of Canadians sitting next to me who were scared of flying and would not shut up. For the four and a half hour flight to Phoenix. The woman next to me finally had a glass of wine and zonked out while the boy got into his book, so I was able to do some editing on POS and planning for what's next, but then she woke and I needed to stretch my legs so the last hour of the flight was shot. Don't get me wrong, they were sweet people; they just could not take a hint that I had other things I wanted to do besides hold their hands while the plane went through some turbulence.

And there was some FUN turbulence landing in Phoenix. Then the second leg of my trip, from Phoenix to LA, got off on time but landed late. Head winds was the excuse. Still I got my car, got the supplies I needed and still made it to the hotel by 7:30. I'm now fed and happy and feeling the 3 hour time difference though not by much since I usually don't go to bed till 1:30 or 2 am anyway.

I learned a long time ago I'm a solitary traveler. I like to go where I want to and change my mind as to what to do and just wander, sometimes. And I don't like to socialize much. Never have, really. Of course, that's one of the reasons I got nowhere in the film biz. 90% of business is done at parties in this town, and to me that's like torture.

ANYway...I brought the printout of POS with me and tried to make it through the first section before hitting LA. And I almost made it. What's nice about having a hard copy is being able to make notes wherever I want when I think of things and outline other things I need. I think I have about 50% of this part written, now that I've had a chance to really look it over, and there are places I repeat myself and have thing happen that need to be taken out or shifted to another part of the book...but I'm comfortable with the direction it's going and Brendan's voice is solid, so far.

Now if I could just figure out some way of keeping people from talking to me on the long flight between Las Vegas and Buffalo...but I have a feeling it's going to be loaded with broke Canadians heading home after doing the things in Vegas that really need to stay there. I think on that flight I'll get an aisle seat.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Velvet haze

After printing up the 312 pages I've written for "Place of Safety," I read through some of the later sections and found there are moments I honestly do not remember writing. I don't know if that stems from being so lost in them they became like a reality I have yet to live or if I'm just slipping into Alzheimer's. I say "a reality I have yet to live" because I want this story to come across as something Brendan is living as he tells it. Not a memoir but real time for him, as though we've gone back to this awful period in history and are seeing it ourselves. A true "eyewitness to history" sort of thing.

I don't know if I can get away with that -- make it both immediate and all-encompassing while still keeping it in a human voice -- but I think that's why Brendan's been so adamant POS be told in first person. The third person POV puts a curtain between the reader and the story, so it never strays out of the realm of a tale being told. While that can work beautifully in many instances and gives a far greater chance for lovely prose (and blithe self-indulgence), it just seems wrong for this. Brendan's life is not a story, it's his truth...and he wants no more space between him and the reader than is absolutely necessary.

Of course, my not remembering could also be a case of me just jettisoning information I've transferred to another form of memory so I can make room for what has yet to come, like dumping the cache on a computer. Hardly as romantic a notion but probably closer to what's really happening in my brain. I've survived most of my life by having very selective short-term remembrance while the long-term is so deeply buried in my brain, you'd need a master technician just to locate it, let alone dig it out.

Oh, and just for the sake of counterpoint to the "Free Derry" photo from yesterday, here's how that area looks, today.

Tomorrow it's off to LA for a few days (WAY too few). I was born in California. It calls to me. I haven't always wanted to live there, not like I do London or Paris and how I've recently wanted to in Ireland (albeit for more literary reasons, and I would do so in Galway, not Dublin), but it's more my home than anyplace else in this country.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Rinse off, repeat

Fed los gatos, again, and played with them a bit then did laundry and called mom for mother's day and have the rest of the day to myself...and brain is blank. The vagueness building within my skull began last night, after I finished proofing RIHC6v2 and sent it back to Nazca Plains...and I couldn't figure out what to do next. Work on POS? Research for it? Watch a movie? Go for a walk? Anything? Each thought that passed before my consciousness just kept on going by like an express train.

I wonder if it's time to just print up the 200+ pages (oops, make the 312!!!) I have written for POS and use my tactile senses to move forward? It's easy to get lost in the nothingness of programs and images while working on a computer. I don't think it's as easy to jump back and forth in the story to make notes when I have an idea, not like when I have everything held in a notebook. It's also easier to keep track of (and correct) repetitions or separate uses of the same idea in different time frames. If I stick to composing on just my desktop or laptop, I usually wind up lost in the story and that may have helped make the first half of RIHC6v2 so complex (which I think works because Antony was confused as to all the crap that was happening, but once he zeroed in on a course of action, the narrative became simple and direct).

And maybe I just need to take the damned day off. I swear in the last few years I've become a write-aholic. If I'm not in front of a monitor relaying a story in my head, I have no idea what to do with myself. This trip to LA will be good for me. I'll be busy seeing friends left and right when not working (I'm so tightly scheduled, I'm only planning on a couple hours with each) so won't have time to write except on the plane there and back...and for that I may take books I still need to read.

Yeah -- I'm taking the day off. And tomorrow. I got movies to watch. And I fly out on Tuesday.

Oh, I can't wait.

To keep my brain in gear --
None of these buildings still stand, just the "Free Derry" wall.

And just for the hell of it --
Merde, je voudrais faire un voyage a Paris! *sigh*

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Cat duty

I'm about to run over to the office and feed and brush the two little Himalayans that run the office. Since it's on the first floor of an old three story home (my bosses live on the second and third floors) the cats have free roam of the place and are used to people usually being around. But they're out of town till Monday, so I'll be there an hour both today and tomorrow, then I'll do LOTS of washing. My allergies aren't so bad with them, even after I brush one as she lies on my desk, but I seriously do trail fur home like Pigpen's cloud of dirt in the "Peanuts" comics.

I've edited half of RIHC6v2's proof copy and found 6 more typos (I need to hire an editor, not just rely on people I know). And I'm beginning to wonder if I made the whole story too damned complex. That or the style I wrote it in. I mean, I can follow it, but Antony jumps around a lot...and while that works for his mental state I wonder if it'll come across to the casual reader? I may have gotten a bit too ambitious, here. Let's see how I feel at the end of it; I may be just working myself into an "own worst critic" snit.

It's interesting to compare Antony's sharp, twisting, almost confused style of telling his story with Brendan's casual, straight-forward manner. There's one small section -- where he's seeing Eamonn off to Belfast to join the People's Democracy march -- that he jumps around, and it's never felt quite right. Now I have an idea why; it's not the way he'd tell the story (and thinking about it, that's when I was bouncing between three different books I wanted to write and I think I got my voices mixed up) so I'll be changing that.

Ah...voices in my head. Just like "Sybil." I wonder if Sally Field could play me, as a drag king?

Friday, May 7, 2010

RIHC6v2 will be published soon

Got the proof, today, and a contract. Moving right along. Just waiting on the cover art.

Going through the first part of POS showed me that even though I have over 70K in wordage I'm just 60% done with the book...maybe 50%. In the part up to the point in the story that I posted, last night, I still need to introduce Joanna and set up Grianan Ailigh as a place the boys sneak off to, then have the October 5th confrontation occur. I also need the celebration that takes place after the British troops arrive, Operation Motorman, Bloody Sunday and the growing sense of betrayal felt by the Catholics as the British take the side of their oppressors. Right there is a good six chapters.

And I have at least half the second and third sections of the book still to write. Man...this thing may wind up being 150,000 words long, over 600 pages. I DO think I'm Tolstoy.

And in the back of my brain, Brendan smirks at me. My life now is to tell what is to be told, so I can't whine about it yet. Even if I did, my only acknowledgement would be a shrug from him. Write it first then see how you can cut...which doesn't work too well with me. I've found once my stories decide on a length, they stay damned close to it. "Bobby Carapisi" was 125K long till I trimmed it back to 120K...then broke it into two books and it wound up just as long as before I edited it down. Same for my scripts -- though those go by page count.

For example, I adapted the biography of Beryl Markham into a 160 page first draft then trimmed it to 130 pages, but only by removing an entire subplot and changing my style. It won me Best Adaptation at The Houston International Film Festival in 1991. Jeez...nineteen years ago. Did me a hell of a lot of good, that award. Not. The women I wrote it for lost the rights to Sydney Pollack, and he wouldn't even read my script. And he never made the movie. So...what was my point? Oh, I did a refresh on the script, a couple years back, to use as a sample, updating my style to my current one, and tried to cut it back to 120...but no matter what I did, it stayed at 130. So that's how long it is.

Such is life in the big city.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Where a battle leads...

This is what I worked on, this evening. This is after Brendan's brother, Eamonn, is injured when the civil rights marchers are attacked at Burntollet Bridge and Brendan found him at Altnagelvin Hospital. Brendan's almost 13 years old at this point.
Father Pat drove me in his car but it was difficult. RUC checkpoints had gone up throughout Derry and barricades had been built around the Bogside to keep the constables out. The march had continued on and been attacked, again, on Irish Street, but they’d finally crossed the Carigavon and made it to the Guildhall. And that’s when people heard of the horrors that’d been inflicted. In fact, news of Burntollet crossed the globe and in their stupidity, the Loyalists couldn’t see what a damage they’d done to themselves. Not just in the eyes of Catholics in Ulster, but in the eyes of the world. Headlines and photographs of bleeding kids were splashed across the newspapers and the television news had footage of it all, despite occasions where news cameras were smashed in a foolish attempt to keep the attack undocumented. It did them no good, but arrogance breeds a certain blindness in people and it was in full force now, with the idiots insisting nothing had happened and what had happened was the fault of the marchers and no one else.

“It’s laughable,” said Father Pat, as we drove. “They can’t see that it’s the beginning of the end of their rule here and the start of a new order. Westminster won’t tolerate this, any longer. They’re too embarrassed by it all.”

He kept on and on about it, like he was pleased at what had happened, and finally I had to ask, “Did you expect this?”

“No, nothing like this,” he told me, absently.

“But something?”

He looked at me, finally taking notice of the question. “What’re you asking me, Brendan?”

“Did you know what would happen on the march?”

“Know? Of course not. Why would you ask such a thing?”

“But you suspected.”

“The leaders of the People’s Democracy march expected there to be some trouble along the way, as was made clear by those who opposed it. That is why they emphasized there was to be no retaliation by anyone on our side. They wanted the world to see we ask only for that which is guaranteed to all citizens in a democracy. But the actions of those people at Burntollet was inexcusable and completely unexpected.”

Was it? Something about the way he told me made it seem like all I was hearing were half-truths, and to me that was the same as lies. So I thought to ask him to lie about something else.

“Why was Father Demian sent off?”

He looked at me, taken aback. “What has that to do with the Loyalists -- ?”

“Was it something with Danny that got him sent away?”

Father Pat looked ahead and slowed down for the next checkpoint. “I was under the impression you were happy he’s gone -- Father Demian is gone.”

“I didn’t say I wasn’t. It just sudden-like, and I’m wondering why. I hear he was sent to America. To a place in the desert. Is it because he drank so much? Was he getting Danny Gallagher drunk, too?”

“You have no right to ask such questions. None of this is your business.”

He was right. It wasn’t. But his refusal to answer my questions told me the rumors I’d heard were right -- that it wasn't just drink but Father Demian had been sent to a place in America to make himself right, again. Right about what was unclear.

“You knew,” I said. “You let Eamonn and his mates walk into a trap.”

“That is a horrible thing to say to me, Brendan Kinsella! Why would I even think of doing such a thing?”

I couldn’t put it into words, yet, but I knew it had to do with the publicity of the attack and the world’s reaction. It’s like he wanted that but I couldn’t make the connection to understand why that would be such a good thing. Knowing what was happening in Derry and Belfast, knowing how close everyone was to betraying their neighbors and hurting each other and laughing about it in the most obscene way, knowing that people could have been killed not just at the bridge but around the Guildhall the night before, with the mob close to anger enough to commit slaughter and the RUC ready to crush anyone who even so much as looked at them wrong -- knowing all of that, he hadn’t expected something like the Loyalists putting deed to their loud threats? A man as smart as Father Pat? When even I could see what was coming and was afraid for it. And then his finely worded answers to Father Demian’s departure? I finally understood I could not trust anything he said to me.

Oh, I know I had suspicions and concerns before this, but it still was a shock to me. He’s one of the holy fathers. The direct representative of the Pope, the man who spoke to God. I’d taken communion from him and he’d said prayers with us and seen to it I was well cared for when I’d been in hospital, six months back. He was known by all in my neighborhood and loved and tended to by all the married ladies as well as a few unmarried and knew the bible from cover to cover -- and he was lying to me. And he knew what he told me was a lie; it was obviously so.

And what did it mean? If Eamonn had been killed, the bastard would have seen it as bad for my family, true, but also a good thing for the Republican cause.

My mind went blank, at that thought. I know we went through another RUC checkpoint after this one and had to get past a barricade put up by the local lads. I think I heard Colm calling to me, once. And we might have caught the tail end of a confrontation between constables and a few rock-throwers. But I swear, I cannot remember another honest thought in my head until he’d pulled up in front of my home and Mairead was at the car’s door, wiping her hands on a towel, her face white as a sheet.

“Brendan, are you all right?” she asked, her voice pitched high in near terror.

I smiled at her and said, “Never better.” Then I got out of the car, tossed a “Thanks, father,” over my shoulder and went into the house.

Rhuari and Caera met me, breathless. “Brendan, you’re home and safe.” Both of them saying the same thing, so much so you’d think them twins. “Mam’s been in a temper. She tore through your room, looking for something. What’s this all over you?”

“I’ll tell you all about it at supper, if you eat well.”

Mairead followed me in, saying, “We’re about to sit down. Just fish fingers and potato nuggets but -- .”

“Sounds brilliant,” I said, still smiling. “Is Terry unhurt?”

“A few bruises on his legs and back is all, but not for lack of trying on their part. He says there were B-Specials there. Wore regular clothes but had white armbands. And the RUC helped the bastards. Some had cudgels with nails in them. Nails!” I just nodded and started up the steps. Mairead stopped me. “Bren, that blood on you -- is Eamonn bad hurt?”

I smiled at her. “He’ll be fine. He got a nasty eye and his head’ll be bad for a fortnight, maybe, but he’ll be fine, again.” She looked closer at me, wary. “What?”

“There’s something different about you.”

“Is there?”

“I don’t know. It’ just -- something’s not the same.”

“Let me wash up and change my clothes. And I’ll tell you everything at supper.” Well, not everything. But enough to make you happy. “Maybe that’ll explain it.”

She nodded and I went upstairs. And I told them most of my adventure. And moments after we finished the dishes we heard the first can lids clamoring a warning. The RUC was on its way, out to reassert their domination of the Bogside, and without question would do so in the most violent manner possible. Father Pat would be pleased.

Got a battle brewing in my head

Warning for any and all who think writers are crazy beings lost in some multiple-personality syndrome -- it's true. Right now I have a fight going on in the back of my head and it exploded just this morning.

Brendan is sick and tired of me shunting him aside and letting other stories take me over and then take their time being told. It's a form of literary avoidance, and this whole slow dance between Eric, Allen and Pavel finally sent him over the edge. So Brendan informed me this section of "Bobby Carapisi" is not really necessary, yet; that volumes 1 & 2 cover the important part of BC. Then he added, "Focus on 'Place of Safety' or drop it...or I'll drop you."

He also hates me calling it "A Place of Safety." Says it's softening the title too much. Weird.

Anyway, to make it clear, I do NOT want to drop the story. I've been wrestling with this thing for way too long to just give up on it. But I'm still spooked by the POV it's taking and nervous about making it work. I don't -- no, I can't let it wind up a lightweight, unreal, simplistic tale meant to do nothing more than further my own viewpoint of the meaning of that hideous time. I just don't know if I gots the chops to make it work. Of course, that cuts zero slack with Brendan. It's do it and that's all there is to it -- or don't.

So maybe he's right. I did the goofy thing of asking myself, If I contracted cancer and had six months to live, what would I focus on? The first thing that popped into my head was, Finish POS. So I guess that's my course from this point forward -- finish the book. Not just a first draft, but one that's good enough for people to read and offer feedback on. One I can start showing around. Even post on I just finished writing a short story that ripped me to shreds -- all in a voice I'd never heard before -- and I made it through that. Let's see what hell Brendan brings my way.

His response? Just you wait. Offered with steely eyes and a slight nod of the head. He's gonna make me pay for my wariness.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010


Sometimes working with my characters is like doing a slow dance to midnight movie music. The kind that's just a bit overwrought ("Rocky Horror Picture Show" comes to mind) and insistent, so that what you're experiencing is movement counterpoint to the rhythm. I really got a sense of it, last night, when Pavel showed up in Eric's tale and totally turned his world upside down...and not in the way you think.

What this has done is show me the reason for the third book, not just as regards Eric but also Allen. It's the book of revelation for them both -- Eric because of his encounters with Pavel and Bobby's mother, Allen because of his final encounter with Eric. Now the ending seems inevitable, all I have to do is map out the travel plan and follow it.

I've been following a blog called "American Flyer" written by a guy who also wrote a pretty intense book of gay erotica titled "Sarge and the Sailor Boy." The guy's a great writer (tho' you should only read his book if you're into graphic gay sex) and his observations about some "Jewish Jihad Party Boys and their Mean Queen," who live next door to him, are hysterical. Much more lively than my blog, and he is NOT politically correct, to say the least.

I also follow "Salmagundi," which has a lot about books out and available...and is occasionally NSFW. But its blog-boy is intelligent and sometimes has very off-beat comments about things.

Okay, enough of this; time for back to work.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

BC3 begins to emerge

And Eric is still running the show...but he's shown me where he's heading, now, and step by step it's getting there. Problem is, it's been so long since I dealt with BC1&2 I'm not remembering details that I thought I'd never forget, so I need to go back through the first two books to remind myself. I thought I'd written everything down in my notebook for BC, but I'm not finding it so I may have left it in SA.

You know, it's never smart to break up your things when you're shifting locations. Invariably you need exactly what you left behind.

The office cats have decided I'm their best friend evah since I brush them. I can take off five loads of hair from each cat and they're still big and fluffy and wanting more. I even had one flop on my desk atop some paperwork and gaze at me as if to ask, "Why aren't you brushing me, you idiot?" But my allergies don't seem to really mind it. I get watery eyes, once in a while, and sneeze every now and then, but that could just as easily be from dust as cat dander.

The up side is, the cats bring me offerings -- string and ribbon and even a stuffed fish (which is a big deal, according to thems what knows). I'm sensing a touch of jealousy in the cats' peoples. I love cats.

Back to work. I have to get the powerpoint reset to match changes requested. So out comes the laptop and up powers the PhotoShop.

Monday, May 3, 2010

I probably shouldn't say this...

But looks like I'm making a trip to LA, next week. I bought my plane ticket, have a hotel set up in Santa Monica and reserved a car, so it looks real. But after my Paris debacle, I ain't takin' nothin' for granted, anymore. I can just see Mt. St. Helens blowing up, again. So until I'm there, I ain't believin' it.

This is just a quickie packing job, and I'm dropping down to get a look at another possible packing job in Huntington Beach for June or July. Problem is, I can't afford stay long because we're also gearing up for the Olympia Book Fair in London...the one I'm not going to. (Sulk, scowl, snap, snarl, yap, yurr.) We're pushing to get the company website up to the point where it can help our clients and that's going to take some pushing on my end since our IT guy is pretty busy. But I'll be able to visit with friends in the evenings -- people I haven't seen in too long.

I'm not thrilled with what's coming out on BC3, so far. It's surface nonsense meant solely to get me from point A to point Z, which means it'll take a lot of work to get right. And I can't blame that on Allen, right now -- simply because he's still playing coy, the bitch. It's Eric wanting some big a typical actor. Pavel has joined in this menagerie and just smiles, bemused. Maybe this is like the beginning of a party, where everyone's still testing the space between them and wondering how far they can go before making a fool or an obnoxious ass of themselves. Maybe I'll crank up the volume. Eric likes Depeche Mode. "Precious" off "Playing the Angel" fits him perfectly. Dammit, I wish I'd brought my CDs with me.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Man...New York Ain't Cheap

I just found out my auto insurance is more than doubling in cost...and that's with me lowering my benefits. Plus I've already been warned that when my health insurance is shifted to a NY policy, it'll go up...and it ain't cheap now. Looks like my plan to pay down my credit card is out the window. I'll be lucky if I keep pace with it. eating out this month, that's fer dang sure.

Aw, what he hell -- I've never been good with money. Got no head for it, at all. That I was able to live for more than two and a half years on my severance pay, limited unemployment and the occasional writing, storyboarding & packing jobs I scrounged up still amazes me, especially since a year and a half of that was in LA, not exactly a cheap city, either. But what did I achieve with it? I wrote some scripts then workshopped a couple of them into top shape while contacting hundreds of people about buying or producing them...and got zero interest. And that's with me even hiring a career consultant for 10 weeks. Of course, I picked the worst possible time to try this -- just as the economy was collapsing and nobody was doing anything. Hell, friends of mine who have major credits were having trouble getting work.

Of course, I did get all my books published during that period. HTRASG came out in November 2007, five months into my "bold new direction in life." And when I moved to Texas to help with my mother, I aligned myself with the publisher of my books and worked up a magazine to help promote his company as well as edited new works and brought in some new writers. (And if he could pay me what he owes me, I'd be in decent shape, financially...but he got hit by the Great Recession, too.)

So...even when I try to change my life, it stays the same. And that's typical of me. My timing's off or I choose the wrong direction to go and don't realize it till it's too late for me to double back. I hope moving to New York isn't going to be one of those mistakes.

Okay, I think I've whined my way out of being depressed about the insurance and can now get back to BC3. I feel like I have a pot of stew brewing here, with most of the ingredients mixed together but some still needed to make it savory and give it bulk. Pavel joining the story added some interesting spices...but he also needs some research done on his background before I can blend them in; I don't know the correct portions, yet. It's like trying to decide, Do I want to make this a beef stew? Lamb stew? Vegetarian? Irish? Curry? Dammit, they all sound good, right now.

Hmm...what've I got in the fridge?