Derry, Northern Ireland

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

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Rewriting, again

Before I hit the bed, last night, I had more thoughts about what I'd it's back to rewrite mode. I also noticed the bit of story I put up on yesterday's post is out-dated. I now have Brendan seeing Joanna earlier than he tells her in it; he first notices her when he's twelve years old and had just finished working on a taxi and was washing his filthy hands in water in the gutter. I'm going to find a lot of that throughout this draft...once I get it done. But the whole point of this first draft is to find out what Brendan did and when he did ti. Rewriting can take care of the rest.

My problem is, I'll rewrite my work to the point of madness trying to get it right. On "Desert Land", which is just a 4000 word short story, I redid that a good 20 times before I was willing to set it aside. And "David Martin" has been rewritten at least a dozen times over. I go through my work and keep finding things that are either repetitious or in the wrong place or out of order or that were changed in one part of the story but not another or just aren't well-phrased (and don't get me started on typos I keep finding).

For example -- a lot of what I did yesterday is going to be heavily reworked because I want to intensify the dreaminess...the surreality, as it were...of the action while still keeping it coherent for the reader. Brendan can tell his story in his own vague way, but it can't be that vague for the person following it, because they need to be a part of Brendan's psyche...and deep within that, things that aren't normally said or referenced ARE understood by his sub-and-un-conscious mind, so they need to be understood in that way by the person reading.

I think the most liberating bit of this writing process came when I realized I don't have to be precise on everything Brendan does as a child, because he wouldn't think to comment on things like what he had for breakfast or what clothes he wore or specific places he went to unless they meant something special to him. He'd just make quick vague references that only add to the detail of his existence but don't require explanation. I'd still have to know a lot of this stuff, but only for him to not pay attention to. That's why I'm still researching -- so I can fill in details that are necessary as I come across them. And if I don't find what I need, I'm building resources in NI to ask.

Just for fun, I discovered "War & Peace" has 560,000 words in the English translation. In Russian, it has 450,000. Right now I'm at 106,000 and thinking I'll hit 200K before I'm done, so I'm nothing compared to Tolstoy. But then again...he was Russian aristocracy, so he had the time to write as he pleased (and the ego to go with it). Still...using him as my guide might be better for me, after all. Best to aim high and far; never know where you'll wind up, that way.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Oddities abound

The dreamy-ness of the current bit of POS continues with a curious shift in direction and tone, but still leading to my original ending. I think. I'll not know till I'm there.

Can't really think of anything to say so I'm going to be lazy and do this, instead --

Brendan and Joanna are in Dublin in early 1972.
We stopped in some shops and found they had much finer things available than in Derry. She was looking for earrings to convince herself she should pierce her ears, but seemed unable to find anything to her liking. Then we found a shop that offered not only the earrings but piercing of the ears, as well. She was still undecided but then I noticed in the back they offered tattoos. And I idly looked through the book of them, wondering at some of the designs of anchors and dates and animals and the like -- until I came to a section of lettering. In it was a lovely flowing script, like handwriting would be if made perfect, and I got an idea.

“Joanna, what would you think of me with a tattoo?”

“My father has one from his time in the Navy,” was her absent reply. “Got it in Hong Kong, of a half-naked lady. It’s begun to fade.”

“Does he have any names on him?”

“No. Why?”

I turned to the girl at the counter and asked, “How much is one?”

“Depends on what you get,” she said.

“A name. Six letters here.” I motioned across my upper arm.

“Which lettering?” she asked as she came over.

“Brendan, what’re you doing?” Joanna asked, coming close to me.

“Dunno yet,” I said, then I pointed to the script.

She eyed my upper arm and said, “Three punt.”

“How long would it take?” I asked.

“Just over an hour.”

I had five punt on me and twelve British pounds, which I’ve found they take anywhere in the city, so I said, “Do it.”

Joanna’s mouth dropped open. “Brendan...”

“What age are you?” the girl asked.

“Seventeen,” I said, without hesitation.

She eyed me, unsure. “You look younger.”

I took my coolest pose and shot back at her, “We’re down from Derry looking at Trinity College. We’re applying to attend, next year, and wanted to see more about it. Isn’t that so, Joanna?”

She looked at me, wary, then nodded. “Though I’m not decided. I’m also considering St. Andrew’s.”

The girl shrugged, called into the back and a man the size of Mam’s house come out. I actually swallowed in nervousness at seeing him. “He wants a tatt -- right here.” She patted her left upper arm. “In lettering E-6.”

“Spell it out,” he said, shoving a slip of paper at me.

I did so.

Joanna was speechless for the first few minutes, then as I was handing over the money she turned me to her and said, “Are you daft? You can’t take these things off.”

“I’ll never want it off,” I replied.

“Brendan, this is foolish. How’ll you explain this to your mother? To anyone -- ?”

“There‘s nothing to explain. Nothing. I love you, Joanna. I will till the day I die. Nothing else matters.”

She shook her head, still wary, but smiled.

The man and the girl smirked at each other and I knew why, but I also knew how deep my feelings for Joanna were and no one could have swayed me from this course.

“Off wit’ ye shirt,” growled the man.

I removed it and sat beside him. “Does it hurt much?”

He smiled and said, “Put ye arm here, hold this grip an’ do NOT move.” I did and he started the needle up and dug in and I near screamed at the sudden pain of it. “Do not MOVE!”

I didn’t. I sat there and locked my eyes on Joanna’s and crushed that grip and she held my other hand and my focus stayed on keeping from crushing hers.

“Brendan, you’re mad,” she whispered to me, smiling in admiration. “Wickedly mad.”

“Have been since the first day I saw you.”

“When was that?”

And I told her of seeing her in that shop and seeing what album she bought and how I’d bought the same and the phonograph I’d fixed so’s I could listen to it and how I’d seared the words and music into my heart and sung it when I wanted to see her, and this was a year before the Liberation Fleadh. And I told of seeing her, again, that day we saw Eamonn off. And she just sat there, listening to me, looking at me, seeing me and seeming fascinated by my sordid little tales. Of course, I said nothing about the nights where I’d conjured her up. And her eyes never wavered from my face. And the pain seemed to lessen to the point I could hardly feel it, at all. And the girl behind the counter said nothing. And the burly man working my newest disfigurement seemed to grow more gentle. All as I recounted how I felt around her. How my heart leapt from joy at seeing her every time we met. How I hated parting from her. On and on I babbled, as if the needle carried a drug in it instead of ink, and by the time he was done digging and swiping and outlining and filling in, I was hoarse from talking so much.

The girl behind the counter brought us cups of tea and never had anything felt so good on my throat or tasted so fine on my tongue. And I could speak no more, but it was all right, for the burly man did one last wipe of his work and leaned back to smile and said, “Well done, lad. Would you care to look at it before I cover it? Last chance for maybe ten days.”

“Why?” I asked.

“It’ll become a scab as it heals, then it’ll peel away and what you’ll have will be as lovely as what you see now.”

I nodded and he put up a mirror, and I laughed. “It’s backwards.”

He chuckled and angled the mirror then put up another to catch the first one’s reflection. And oh St. Brigit, how lovely it was. Script flowing together in tender darkness, the hint of an outline in red along the top. Dots of blood that he quickly wiped away. I drew in so deep a breath of pride, I could easily have burst, and I turned to show Joanna her new place in my soul.

She touched it, tenderly. “Does it hurt?”

Yes. “Never. I’m yours now, no matter what. You’ve branded me.”

She looked at me with eyes so filled with confusion and wariness, I grew afraid. Thought for an instant I’d made a fool of myself. Gone that one step too far for her, or done it too soon or too suddenly. Now she’d back away from me for being too much a child in matters of the heart, still. Dear God, I think I’d die if that happened.

But then she leaned in and kissed it. Barely brushed her lips over the raw etching, and relief overwhelmed me. I lay my head in the crook of her neck and let out my breath, finally knowing all would be well. She put her hand to my cheek and whispered, “It’s near six. We’ll be late for our ride.”


Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Weariness sets in

I worked on clarifying changes wanted in the company website, today, all the while battling an irritation in my left eye (some cat dander, I think) and finally got to the point where I couldn't focus on anything, I was so beat. Sometimes just sitting at a computer can wear you out more than physical labor. Didn't help that I couldn't get to sleep till nearly 3am. Working late on POS kicks my brain into fifth gear and makes it hard to shut down.

What makes things worse is, a guy I did a rewrite job for back when I was still in LA (which I did for free, and rewrote, twice, while living in SA) wants me to do another rewrite based on feedback he got on the script from an established screenwriter. And it was brutally negative feedback. Seems my non-linear style of telling the story is "needlessly confusing." He even suggested I should get Syd Field's book and learn how to write a script. So I told my guy that he should try and get this man to do the rewrite. What I didn't say was, "Because I don't want anything more to do with it."

You see, normally I can shrug such comments off (took me years to get to that point and I still have to fight to keep myself there), and the fact is, I was happy with how the script turned out. It's the story of how he wound up being driven insane while on the police force, and I felt the shifting timelines and disjointedness added to his growing loss of control. But being sickish and tired, those negative comments slipped a knife between my ribs and poisoned me with doubt, so now I wonder if I just screwed it up. Meaning, anything I write tonight will be second guessed by me all over the place, so I'm not wasting my time or Brendan's.

I'm just going to iron and watch a video. Then I'll crash early. Give my system time to regenerate itself. Then I'll get back to POS.

That's right

I'm late blogging, but I was working on POS and added 7 more pages, this evening. This whole section -- from what I posted yesterday to what I've been working on -- is taking this odd dream-like quality that I know is going to expand once I get into the rewrite. It's like I'm laying the groundwork, right now, because I don't want to hinder the flow of it. I want to see where it goes and how it gets there, first.

Y'know, "East of Eden" is more than 200,000 words long, and it's a brilliant book that keeps you wrapped up in its story through the whole journey, even when it shifts focus to Cal and Aaron in the third section (the part of the book used for the James Dean movie). "War and Peace" is even longer and jumps back and forth between characters as each experiences the Napoleanic invasion of Russia and its aftermath. I guess my delusions of grandeur have caught up to me and I'm swamped in them, because I want POS to reach those same heights.

And I no longer care how long it is. I don't feel the need to rush the story. It's all about Brendan and told completely from his viewpoint, and by the end, I want the reader to so identify with him, no matter what happens they feel like it's understandable and acceptable and natural, and they they have experienced it, themselves. Dunno if I can pull this off -- I did a short version of this experiment with "Desert Land" and haven't had the nerve to find out if it worked. Maybe I'll take a break and try it, again, in another short story.

I think I'm finally sensing the big disconnect in my scripts and film people's reactions to them. I'm not just aiming at telling a story; I'm out to make the movie an emotional experience...and not just fake emotion, not just manufactured emotion like so much of Hollywood likes, but honest and as real as I can get...and that's damn near impossible to pull off in a script. I mean, I can see it. And I've had actors who've read my work see it.

I think the compliments I'm proudest of as regards my screenplays came from a DP who said he felt as if my characters had actually lived, and from an actor who'd read KAZN all the way through and was absolutely certain my lead character was going to be killed off at the end of the second act. I asked him why he thought so and he said, "Because that's what he wanted, and I was terrified he was going to succeed." And it's true -- the lead character was suicidal and his death was intended to trap the man who'd murdered his wife and parents, but it wasn't something I specifically stated in the script; it was something that came out through his actions and reactions.

But apparently it's not visible enough or well-integrated enough to work for those who get movies made. I got three different bits of coverage back on it over the space of a year, and in all three it was mentioned in one way or another that the lead character did some stupid things just to keep the plot's suspense up, and those needed to be changed. Not one of them got that he was suicidal and the "stupid things" he did were deliberate.

However, working in narrative form you can dig more easily into the mind of the character -- so the emotional effects are much simpler to achieve. I guess I aimed too high with my screenwriting and didn't have the ability to put it across. Of course, I could also just be delusional in thinking that's why nobody wanted my work. It could just be that they weren't good enough. I don't know. I just know that I can picture POS in images and actions, like a script, even as I write it now. And I can hear Brendan speak. And that's sometimes more real to me than anything else in this world.

Monday, July 26, 2010


Not worth a lot, today. Brain is still AWOL except for occasional reports in to make sure I'm missing it. I don't know if it's age or my more sedentary lifestyle or what, but this job and the travel left me knackered. Of course, it wouldn't hurt if I'd drop some 20% of my weight and focus on reality instead of fantasy, so much. But my mind likes to wander...and lately I've begun to wonder if some day it'll drift away and never come back. Of course, the positive aspect of that would be me no longer being aware of the chaos the world's lost in. I just hope the brain sticks around long enough for me to finish "Place of Safety"...and half a dozen other books...and a dozen more stories...and on and on.

A new ending made itself available to me, on POS. And Brendan's not sure how to take it...or if he even wants to. It's pretty bleak, and I don't know if I could get away with it. This'll have to sit for a while and simmer...but my immediate thought is, it'd work better as the ending to a short story idea I've had. And Brendan seems a bit happier with that possibility.

It sort of flowed out of this scene -- and I'm not telling you the before or after of it because I don't know those, yet.

I lay on the ground flat on my back gazing at the stars, Kieran’s mates standing around me, as if on guard. I didn’t need to look at them to see the confusion on their faces. It was cold, out, and the dirt was surely colder in their eyes, so what sort of fool would kick and bite to be let lie there except a madman. And it’s best to let madmen be. If only they knew how right they were.

Oh, dear God, the heavens were glistening with diamonds on black velvet, right then. Watching. Silent. Heartbreakingly beautiful. Not in the least concerned with the stupidity of men. They’d existed a billion years before me and would exist a billion more after, and who was I to think my sad little seconds of life in comparison were of any true importance, next to them? They were the true alpha and omega. They were the true neverending light. Not even God could own them, let alone man.

I cannot begin to describe the peace I found just looking at them. Just letting them glimmer and shine and wonder at my fixation on them. At my feeling as one with them. Were I to die, I halfway thought I’d join with them to gaze down at other fools like myself, children too stupid to know anything of truth or love or belief. Would I weep as they sometimes do, the hints of their tears streaking across the sky for an instant? Would I watch innocents like Joanna and myself try to build a world between ourselves alone and question their assumption that such a thing was possible? Would I see the same hideous actions practiced in every corner of this pathetic little planet against men of black skin and yellow skin and brown skin and red skin as well as white? Would I even care enough to care?

I actually began to hope that I’d be left there to just lie until the light of day chased the stars around to the other side of the world. I needed no guards. The gentle stars wouldn’t let me move, not so long as they had watch over me. Existence was meaningless aside from those tiny white dots in the black, black ink above me. I almost began to smile and --

Footsteps whispered up, careful, uncertain. I sensed someone squatting beside me then Colm’s face drifted into my line of sight. Concern filled his eyes.

I half grimaced, half smiled and softly croaked, “Colm, please -- you’re blocking my view.”

“What’s this, Bren?” he asked, just as softly. “You planning to claim madness as your defense?”

Defense? Can a true state of being excuse anything? Can loss of your soul mean all is well? Can hate so vicious it rocks your very being be accepted as your punishment? It sounded to me like I’d been tried and convicted, all without a moment of explanation on my part. Not that I could offer any that would be believed. The whole point of this insipid little play was to ignore the facts and laugh at the truth and believe only the tales of idiots. Man’s true fate.

I stared at Colm. “I will not go into a room.”

“Brendan, come along, you’re playing the part of a fool.”

“Listen to what I say, Colm. I will not go into any room. Ever. Do with me as you will, but you will do it in the open.” I shifted my eyes back to the sky. Drew strength from the pinpoints of light so high above me. “You will do it under the stars. So they can bear witness.”

“Then we’ll drag you in.” He started to rise.

I didn’t move. Didn’t even look at him as I snarled, “If you try, me China, I will rip your fucking heart out, do you fucking understand me?”

He stopped. Looked down at me. “Listen to me, ‘China,” and he all but spat the word out, “the only thing standing between you and a bullet is me.”

Christ, he was so serious, so full of his own sense of meaning and grandeur and heroism, so much like that stupid fucking commander -- I had to laugh at him, as well. “Then you better fucking move, lad,” I choked out, “for there’s some have decided I’m taking that bullet, whether I deserve it or not, so save yourself. Step aside. I’m not worth the hell it’ll bring you to back me.” And I kept laughing, lost in the meaninglessness of it.

I'm listening to Loreena McKennit as I do this. It helps my drift keep to the proper current of the ether's whispers and muses.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Home but brain elsewhere

So nothing much to say. Just wanna go to bed...but I had to do laundry and sort paperwork and get ready for work tomorrow and brain is not being helpful. Still surprised at how badly this whole debacle in Chicago was handled by United. Not THAT it happened -- the weather's gonna do what it's gonna do -- but at the fact that this is not really anything new for the Midwest, yet United had no game plan to work within it. They just dumped on their passengers and made everyone wait till the weather calmed down and their regular schedule was back up and they were able to take the passengers whose flights were canceled on as standby in the normal flights. They had their routine and they were sticking to it and fuck any inconvenience to anyone.

Doesn't help that I'm grumpy because I got up at 5:30 am, got to O'Hare by 6am, found my flight was in Terminal 2...but I wasn't allowed to get my boarding pass at the United counter in Terminal 2 (no one was there and none of the electronic kiosks were operating); I had to go to Terminal 1 then come BACK to Terminal 2 to catch my flight. For no reason except United didn't want to do it any other way.

I found there were still several standby passengers who wound up on my flight. It's entirely possible had I not booked this flight and just done standby, I wouldn't have made it. Because it was a small plane. 50 passenger max, and every seat was filled. United couldn't put a larger plane into the schedule to ferry all those stranded passengers home more quickly because...hell, I don't know why, unless it might have cost them money.

Some people were told they'd have to pay the rescheduling fee if they wanted to try and get home via a different route from their original ticket. Never mind the circumstances, there are no exceptions and it's not our fault; it's "act of God" crap (I saw one guy nearly go ballistic over that nonsense and have the bitch dealing with him threaten him with the cops if he didn't calm down and let her fuck him over). Instead, people had to pay for hotel rooms (when they were lucky enough to get one), or sleep on the gate benches (like I did Friday night and which some people were still doing, this morning), and spend their own money to eat crap food and drink bad coffee and tea and sodas and live like animals because a billion dollar corporation didn't give a damn about them.

When I gave in and was able to get a room at the Hilton, I found they were just as bad, dragging every penny out of me that they legally could and, it looks like, flat out trying to steal some. First I was double-charged for their Wifi service (the desk clerk grumpily removed it from my bill), then when I got home and checked, I found three different "approvals" for charges by Hilton to my credit card -- one for the corrected amount of the hotel bill, one I can't figure out what the hell it's for and they SAY it'll go away because it was just an approval thing, one charging me for the WiFi, again. WiFi that kept stalling and couldn't even stream short news clips off CNN, and they tried to sneak-bill me for it three times. This is Hilton Hotels. Another billion dollar company. Not giving a shit about its clientele. Guess I should have expected this when they couldn't even bother to get an order of fish and chips right.

I'm still happy I made it through this without strangling someone...but it got close, a couple of times. Now I think I'll just get a shower and go to bed and worry about life tomorrow.

How very Scarlett O'Hara of me.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

I surrender to the travel gods

When I got bumped to #52 on the standby list with United, I finally accepted it was not meant that I should leave Chicago before Sunday morning. So I made use of United's discount at the Hilton connected to the airport -- I can walk between the hotel and terminal 1, underground, instead of having to find transportation -- and checked in and had a nice long soak in the tub. Then I took a nap and ordered room service and went online to check into my flight for tomorrow...and now feel human, again, instead of like a number.

I still found myself slipping into this "What'd I do to deserve this?" crap, which does nothing but make you feel worse, so just flat decided not to let that happen. It wasn't easy...but by reminding myself that I --

1. did not freak out on anybody but kept trying to work within the chaos of United's non-system (until I WAS about to lose it and pulled back to get this room) and --

2. found I can handle travel delays the like of which are happening more and more, these days (partly due to the weather and partly due to airlines cutting themselves so tight, when something does go wrong they haven't got the ability to adapt), and --

3. I'm back to a point where I have the flexibility I needed to handle it (having space on my credit card and cash in the bank so I didn't have to face this hungry or stay at the airport another night without bathing or changing clothes) --

I've seen that I can still roll with the punches, more than I was able to 25 years ago.

I will say this -- I'm finding I get as good of service and a much better deal at lower end hotels than upper end. Staying at La Quinta includes free WiFi and a breakfast. Hilton charges for absolutely everything, and not minimal amounts, either. $18 for WiFi that can barely stream news videos? Another $8 to use the Business Center to print your boarding pass? $37 for fish and chips and a beer, and they couldn't even get the order right? Not worth it.

Guess who's still in Chi-town?

And hungry for a decent meal and pissed off because he had to sleep on a bench last night because by the time Fucking United canceled my flight, everything near the airport was booked solid and you couldn't leave the airport area due to flooding. So I stood in line for an hour and a half to get rebooked to Sunday and kept on standby through Saturday. Plane #1 left without me; I'm now in a whole NEW terminal -- #2, section F, Gate 11c -- that I had to take a shuttle to or else go through security, again, and that was enough of a trial, yesterday. So I'm seated on the floor because that's the only way I can get to a plug since my laptop battery's almost exhausted and my cell phones are about to go under and Fucking United doesn't believe in giving you access to their electricity in the majority of the terminal.

AND THIS FLIGHT GOT CANCELED. So I go to the next one...and the next one...and the next one...

I fucking HATE United.

UPDATE: I'm back to Terminal 1, Gate B7, flight at 1:02...maybe. If not, I'm checking to see if any hotels have opened up and starting back on this crap, tomorrow, after I've had a bath and slept in a real bed.

One good thing about Terminal B? It's got an area of tables and plugs set up right by the Service Desk. The line for customer service in Terminal C was at least a mile long; this one's only a few hundred feet.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Gots the blues in Chi-town

I'm trying to get home, but somebody up there don't want me to. I got to the Milwaukee airport early because I knew it'd be a madhouse and all I needed to do was print up my boarding pass since my plane was still scheduled to leave...but at 1:30 pm the airport was still closed because of water on the runways. So I hopped a bus to Ohare in Chi-town for a tedious drive down a very non-descript freeway, got here by 4pm, tried to do standby to get an earlier flight to Buffalo...and got shot down. No biggie; I'm still booked on my flight at 9:32 and I can go online and do some things...and now I can do even more because it's RAINING in Chicago and my flight's been bumped an hour.

So...I'm stuck in Terminal 1 at Ohare, one of the world's biggest and busiest airports. But is there anyplace decent to get anything to eat? I've had enough of McDonald's and burgers and crap. But the best place is a Chili's in the B Terminal of terminal 1. No problem, it's not far from where my plane's set to take off, so I have a burger and fries and a beer...and find my gate's been changed to C terminal.

So I head the half mile underground tunnel connection B&C along moving walkways, my suitcase rolling behind me -- and this underground walkway has colored neon lights dancing up and down the ceiling, some of them looking like lightning when you see their reflections in the floor; it's all so Vegas, I thought I'd wandered into Caesar's Palace -- and find my plane's now 1 1/2 hours behind.

So now I won't get home till nearly 2am. And I'm tired. My brain is shattered. I feel like I've never taken a bath. I just want my bed and a glass of cold milk. Is that the whine of an old man or what?

I think next time I go anywhere I'll take the train.

UPDATE: United does not inform you as to gate changes; it's up to you to keep track of them, apparently. My gate was changed to C-11. I'm sitting there working on my laptop...and suddenly they're announcing the plane for Philadelphia at C-11 is delayed until 11:15. That's my new departure time. So I ask and I'm told I've been changed to C-9. I mention there was no announcement. I'm told, "It's up to you to keep track of your assigned gate." So I go to C-9...sit down, open my laptop, and people headed for Seattle come storming in. My flight is now at C-10. And it may change again...and there's a possibility I won't make it to Buffalo at all tonight since apparently they have a no-fly time.

I fucking HATE United.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Monsoon Milwaukee

That is not a facetious title. it rained a bit. We are seriously talking monsoon, here, where the rain's coming down so hard you can't see. We're talking a downpour that would put Houston and Honolulu to shame.

I'd finished the packing job and was headed for the hotel when I got caught in it...and I could not get the .5 miles back to my motel from where I was; North Port Washington goes under a train trestle and it was flooded. I tried to go a different route, but what made that impossible -- aside from it being rush hour -- was for some reason the city of Milwaukee decided to rebuild half the streets in this area all at the same time. So where you could find one that wasn't blocked off, you'd run into intersections that normally would not be under water but thanks to being dug up were now deep enough to stall city buses.

I finally gave up, parked in a CVS and ran in to read magazines. Dripping wet. For an hour. Till I finally got hungry, bought a cheap-assed umbrella (that's already broken) and went across the street to an Italian restaurant that served me Rigatoni with Prego marinara (or maybe it was from a can of Chef Boyardee) then the power went out so they had to work up my bill by hand.

The rain let up for a bit so I figured I'd see what I could do. After all, I lived in Houston and Honolulu, both, so a little rain ain't gonna mess me up for too long, dammit. But even though Milwaukee is right next to Lake Michigan, that's not where the water was going. Fact is, it was going nowhere. I can't tell you how many SUVs I saw sitting quietly in the middle of a placid pond where once a major street stood grand. If a Ford Escape can't make it through there, my piss-ant PT Cruiser ain't gonna do it, instead.

So I headed south to a street that would take me back to Lake Drive; since it runs right next to the lake, I had a good idea that would be clear. Unfortunately, all of north-bound Milwaukee was doing the same thing...and the street I was trying this on was under construction and went down to one lane, where the top speed was two miles an hour. But I finally got to Lake and sure enough, from there it was easy going.

Meaning it took me 3 and a half hours to get from the corner of Hampton and Santa Monica (yes, that IS the street's name) to the La Quinta on North Port Washington -- the decent one by the railroad tracks, not the snazzy one across from the mall.

What'll be fun is if this is still going on in the morning, when the books are due to be picked up. Or in the evening, when my plane is scheduled. I'd intended to do some sight-seeing en route to the airport. Ain't so sure about that, now.

I'm told there might have been tornadoes, too. Looks like the whole damn country's taking after Texas.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Ding-dong, your brain is calling...

To let me know it's decided to invite a new story into my synapses for eventual consideration, as if I don't already have enough going on up there. This one's called "Mr. Lucky" and is using the casual racism and second-rate stab-in-the-back politics of the Tea Party and their "handlers" (AKA: the GOP) as the starting point. It'll be set in Arizona, a state where it is now legal for law enforcement to demand proof of citizenship of anyone they damn well please -- meaning anyone Latino, no matter how well-dressed or well-spoken they are...and eventually black, since it's obvious our President's not really an American, not with that name or international background, so "since he ain't 'Merican then maybe all them other black folk ain't an' we can deport them back to Libreria-land"...but cain't do that to no white folk, even though there's hundreds of thousands of illegal Canadians and Irish and British and Germans and -- well -- white folk who're here illegally. That ain't the point of that there law. particulars on the story, yet; it's still formulating itself. Also jumping in are the drug wars along the US border and the sense of entitlement of the filthy rich and the scum that come out to play when they sense they can make at buck off someone else's misfortune and the casual corruption of the police on this side of the border (even though Mexico has the reputation for police corruption). I have a feeling it won't be pretty.

It may also stem from the ludicrous uproar over Shirley Sherrod and a speech she recently made to the NAACP. She talked about how she realized the problems in America were more a case of haves versus have-nots than white versus black, and used an anecdote from her own experience with a white farmer to make the point...and that was twisted by some snake named Brietbart into claims she was a racist, based on a couple minutes from a 40 minute speech. Fox News screamed it. The NAACP said that she was bad. She got fired. Then the full tape emerged and proved the whole uproar was a bold-faced lie perpetrated by Breitbart. Now Obama looks bad. Not the scum who DID this, no; they're busy rewriting history to say they never wanted Sherrod fired (which is another lie) and the media is going along with their new story. And it's not the first time -- hell, it's not even the fifth time it's happened. And the media and Dems get played every time, just like Charlie Brown gets played by Lucy holding that damn football. It's diseased.

And it's typical. And it fits in with POS, too. So obviously the current political situation is occurring for my benefit, so I can work it into my writing. Hmph...I guess it IS all about me.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Long, LONG drive

I drove to Iowa City from Milwaukee...and if you think there's nothing along the 10 in west Texas, you got no idea what nothing is. I drove for a good 70 miles through rolling hills of tall green corn cut through with thick lines of trees without passing a single place to get off for a drink or gas or anything. It's amazing how much like a desert even well-irrigated areas can seem. Wasn't till I crossed from Illinois to Iowa that I found a truck stop. Spooky. I now know why Steven King wrote "Children of the Corn."

Now I'm beat...and this Motel 6 is one of those with paper thin walls so I got a nsaty feeling about tonight. I think I'll just crash.

So here's the moment when the world began to change for Brendan.

I got started working on cars when Colm’s Uncle Allwyn was having trouble with the heater in his black coffin -- a taxi, if you will. It was a cold day but not bitter, yet, and he was parked near the bus depot jumping back and forth from under the bonnet to beneath the fascia to see why it wasn’t warming the ten year old piece of junk when Colm and I raced up. Colm thought he could beg a few schillings off the man and we’d pop over to Wellies for some hot cocoa, but he was in a foul temper, cursing and slamming his fist against the front wings of the car. Colm was of a mind to just let him be but I got a curiosity up and peeked under the bonnet to see what he was doing.

“Don’t touch a thing, Brendan,” he snarled at me. “This bloody beast’s already jabbed me twice with shocks.”

“Isn’t it grounded?” I asked, not really knowing much about cars.

“Somewhere a wire’s touching metal, now and again. I think it’s shorted out the heater’s motor.

That made no sense to me. In a lamp or radio, it’s easy to find a shorted wire. Why not in a car? Being small, I dropped to the ground and was able to slip under the car to get a look.

Colm was pissed, again. “Bloody hell, Bren. We’re not here for this.”

“Give us a minute, Colm.”

“You’ll bloody dirty yourself, and I’ll not be seen with you.”

“Since when are you a Teddy Boy?”

He kicked my shoes, for that. Teddies were notorious for being poofters after lads like Colm. He was already well on to being adult in body if not in brain. Me, I thought it odd him always talking about having to shave when I had little more than soft down about my chin, yet, and us near the same age.

Anyway, I got a look at what I later learned was the back of the core, and it was a holy mess of trash and half the floor gone, so I cleaned it away to get a better view and found a wire hanging there but not attached. Using a sixpence, I screwed it pack in place. I noticed a similar wire on the other side had a glove over it so pulled out from under the chassis to say, “Uncle Alwyn, have you something to put over this wire down here? It’s missing a cover.”

He dropped to his belly to look under the car at me. “What d’you mean? Brendan, if you’ve made a muck of anything, I’ll box your fuckin’ ears.”

“Right here, see? There was wire loose and caught in some twigs and leaves. It’s missing the cover.”

He looked hard and could just see what I was pointing to. “It’s a glove, the cover’s called,” he said. “Get out from under.”

I did and he started the car up and turned on the heater as I tried to brush off the mud and dirt and oil that’d caught my trousers. Colm saw me, rolled his eyes and headed on without a word. No patience in that lad.

A bus came up from who knows where and an estate car parked behind us, in the area meant only for taxis. Uncle Alwyn said nothing, just focused on the heater...and in a moment, he almost smiled.

“It’s working, so far,” he said.

“I’d not run it till you put a glove on that,” I answered. “Not if the other wire has one.”

“Right you are.” And he turned off the heater and the motor, then he got a look at me. “Aw, Brendan, your mam’s about to be right unhappy with you.”

The grease on my hands had only spread and when I tried to wip it off on my trousers, it had left streaks. Nothing massive, mind you, but obvious.

I shrugged. “They’ll wash.” Then I crouched down to dip my hands in some water in the gutter and looked up and saw an older lad lifting some bags into the estate car as a woman of maybe mam’s age trudged up to the passenger side, looking very much like mother and son, and caught between them was this girl my age -- a perfect face of clean skin and rose-hued cheeks and eyes bright enough to fill a room with light, silky golden hair drifting down her back to be caught in a chilly breeze, a tam-o-shanter atop her head, form enough to her body to make even the fur-tufted coat and colored stockings seem perfectly female on her. She handed a last parcel to the older lad, who looked to be her brother, and then she caught a glimpse of me washing my hands in the filthy water and I jolted to my feet at realizing the sight I must be making to her.

She almost laughed, her eyes dancing with humor and no judgment. Her lips red as cherries without the touch of rouge, without the touch of anything on her face that might hide her elegant complexion. I laughed back, spread my arms and shrugged as if to say, “I’m a slob.”

“Joanna!” The bark came from her mother, whose hard cold blue eyes glared at me. “In the back!”

She got in the estate car and her brother hopped behind the wheel, casting me a frown that seemed to mix both wariness and condescension. They drove off, and my heart went with them.

Then Uncle Alwyn gently popped the back of my head, smiling. “You’re aiming high with that one.”

Monday, July 19, 2010

Guilt trippin'...

I printed up this photo -- I don't know the photographer -- and am using this as Brendan. He's tacked to my bulletin board and gazing straight at me, wondering why I don't finish his story. So since what I'm working on right now is too intense for me to handle, at the moment, I'm off on another part of the script -- the Battle of the Bogside. I'm using Tolstoy's elegant depiction of the Battle of Borodino in "War and Peace" as my template, of sorts.

Tomorrow I'm off to Iowa City, IA and them Milwaukee. Back home Friday. I'm looking forward to it. As impossible as travel has become, lately, I still enjoy the idea of it.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Weird night means weird day

I had a hell of a time getting to sleep, last night, thanks to working on this new section of POS. The little bit about James Joyce made me happy, but it didn't settle my brain in the least and I was still fumbling at 4 in the morning. I finally dozed off and woke at 10:30, meaning I got a late start on everything I planned to do today -- laundry, groceries, lunch (2pm) and doing some quick scanning for work...

...Except I had scanner trouble. My HP has decided it doesn't have the memory available to let me scan, and it don't care that I dumped everything I had on there and shut it down and started it up four times. So a 2 hour job took seven hours, with me shooting photos of the artwork I did for my article on antique book packing (weeeee, just like James Joyce would do), dowloading them and cleaning them up in Photoshop. I want this ready to be reviewed while I'm in the Midwest, next week. I finished it and have everything in JPGs and a rewrite of the article done up...and it's only 10:30. writing done this evening. Which may be a good thing since I have to work, tomorrow. If I was able to make a living at my writing, I wouldn't have to worry about such a mundane thing, but since I don't...I must.

I'm reminded of when I was writing "Bobby Carapisi." I fell into this slow-as-molasses mold, where I was getting nowhere on the story for years...till I happened upon a model who embodied him so printed up his portrait and tacked it to my bulletin board. And he'd look at me and ask if I could just get the damned thing done and give him some peace. And so I did. Finished my first draft within three months (125K words) and polished it up and got it published. And it sold a few copies. Nothing major but I got the story out there and that's what counts.

I'm half afraid this section of POS is going to be the same, because it's rough on me and on Brendan...and I haven't even gotten to the truly brutal part, yet. But I need to get it done so we can go past it and -- and it's not going to be pleasant. But it's needed. The whole story suddenly shifted itself to aim for this moment and I can't wuss out.

Shit, just thinking about it gets me antsy. Enough for tonight.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Moody and blue...

...From working on POS. I'm tapped out. Here's some of what I did, today.

They dragged me into the nearest building and down a short corridor into a room -- and I do mean dragged; I was not allowed to walk for that might have made me seem human, I suppose -- and I was slammed into a chair before a table, with two similar chairs opposite me and beyond them the one and only door. My hands remained cuffed. The room was blank, its walls not really white but of so sterile a color they might as well have been. A window with a glassy surface was perhaps three feet to my left; about six feet of open space was to my right. In one corner stood a guard in full armor -- chest, helmet, belt with God knows how many different weapons on it, his rifle held ready. His eyes stayed on me, wary, waiting for me to move wrong or give him any excuse to blast me in half if need be. I’d no idea I was considered so dangerous.

I finally noticed a pair of long cameras in two different upper corners of the room, both aimed at the table. They did not move, did not even blink as they stared impassively at me. I wondered if they were even truly engaged, or if they were intended for show, only. Give a lad a sense of security enough to let his guard down, thinking they’re dare not hurt him with cameras recording it all, and his tongue might loosen just enough to make use of. I decided that they were recording, but that since the Army controlled this room it also controlled what happened in it and to any videotape that might be useful as evidence, so I’d be left with nothing to protect me.

Now I still was sore from my encounter with the RUC -- not too badly so, merely enough to notice when I moved wrong -- so naturally I began to wonder if they intended to “interrogate” me in the same manner. But I saw no phone book, and the floor was made of a single piece of linoleum that was well-worn, so any blood would stain it in ways that could not be got out, yet I saw no traces of that in it, right now. Perhaps they planned only to ask a few questions. One can hope.

I coughed. That fuckin’ bastard cough that I can’t control when I’m scared. And I was fuckin’ scared. Facing the impassivity of that room, it took everything I had in me to keep from screaming and begging and praying for deliverance. For you see, I no longer had any illusions about myself. I recalled all too well how easily I’d been broken by Davy and his mates. Seems they’d spent more time checking out my story than dragging it from me, which brought a wave of shame over me at my lack of will...and it mattered not that I’d given them nothing of use. Had I not had my history with Joanna to explain my actions, I know they’d have kept at me and I’d have given names and dates and places and anything they bloody wanted from me, and never you mind they’d all be lies. A man will say anything he must to end that sort of torture. The thought of being put to that point, again, made me ill, and I could all too easily see the mere threat of physical harm making me weep and cower and hand Colm over to them along with Paidrig and even Kieran.

Even Kieran. My brother. Who hated me. Well...who at least looked down upon me, and him being ten years my junior. I won’t say I saw contempt in his eyes when he glared at me, or even disappointment. It was more like he thought me typical of those who’re willing to let others fight their fights for them.

I coughed, again. Cleared my throat. Went back to my twang. “Could I have some water, please?”

The guard didn’t even blink, just stood there like he was made of wires and plastic.

I coughed, again. Twice. It was coming harsher and I was threatening to shake, again, which was the last thing I wanted them to see. I took in some deep breaths and cried out, since I knew someone was behind that window and listening, at the very least, “Please, I just need a drink of water.”

Nothing. Of course. Soften up the Papist. Act the part of a complete and bloody fool who’ll never understand that if you treat a man like a dog his whole life, it does you no good to punish him for biting you in thanks for that treatment. The bastards. The fuckin’ bastards. The stupid, fuckin’ -- .

Whist. The door quietly opened, ending my mental tirade before it became verbal, and two men came in, neither of them in uniform. One was older with half-gray hair and a long English nose topping a moustach, his vested suit perfectly tailored; the other was close to my age and subtly deferential to his mate, his suit obviously off a men’s rack at Marks & Spencer. Neither of them had welcoming eyes as they sat in the chairs opposite me.

Tailored held a folio which he opened as he asked, “Is your name Brendan Kinsella?” His voice dripped with aristocratic condescension.

Fuck you, ya bastard, I thought, and anything you think you got from the RUC, then In my best Texas, I croaked, “I wanna talk to the ‘Merican Consulate.”

This isn't all I did -- I have an additional11 pages beyond it and it's just getting started, plus I reworked the moments leading up to this...but it was tough. Damn tough.

And in response, Brendan just shakes his head at me, in derision.

A quick note to add -- I went to this site to have some of POS analyzed...and it says I write like James Joyce! Holeeeeeeeee CRAP! That killed the blues, for damn sure.

Friday, July 16, 2010

The farther north I go...

The hotter it gets, lately. I've never liked heat. I hate how I feel at the end of a long, hot day and yet It's scheduled to be in the 90's in Milwaukee, except for a day of showers. Man, I'm gonna have to summer in Antarctica to keep cool.

Just watched "Little Miss Sunshine" finally...and I'm glad I didn't see it in a theater. I'd have been angry at paying the $10. I mean, it wasn't was just...hell, I don't know. Obnoxious. Condescending. Lacking in poetry. I did laugh a couple of times but I'd hardly call it a quirky comedy.

Let me make my own obnoxious point here -- two people directed this film yet every camera set-up was from Moviemaking 101. EVERY ONE of them. These two people couldn't find a way to work the images so they added to the story instead of just let it be told in front of the camera?

Case in point -- when Greg Kinnear's character finally hands his father's body off to a funeral home and he's given a box of "personal effects" (how the man's body even HAD any personal effects on it after being worked on in a hospital...we'll let that slide). Anyway, he's given this box, he's standing there and he watches the hearse drive away with a man he'd finally made peace with. This moment ached for a dolly around to show him cradling the box in shock or near tears or something...and Greg Kinnear's a good actor, he'd have given them that "something." This would have maintained the emotion, built it, even. Instead, there's a cut to a frontal shot of him holding the box...and that lessens the impact. Not a huge amount, just enough to show these people didn't care about their characters. Not really.

There are moments like that throughout the film -- like when Paul Dano finds out he's colorblind and Abigail Breslin is the only one who can comfort him, or Steve Carell runs into an old flame and hides his bandaged wrists in shame, or Greg Kinnear finally locates his partner in a business venture -- where all that happened was they put the camera here and the action occurs in front of it and that's all we need. Nothing to help the performances. Nothing to enrich the decent enough script.

I know it was low budget, but that's a weak excuse. Any hack can get a movie shot on time and on budget, no matter how limited, while a filmmaker rises above the limitations or uses them to enhance his art. It's sad, but "Little Miss Sunshine" could have been lovely if a filmmaker had been at the helm; instead it got two hacks.

Lecture over. Now I need to go practice what I preach...albeit, in writing.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Back to earth

Dealing with credit reporting agencies, today, and various other nonsense, so I'm back to feeling moody. Two of the main ones are no trouble...but this third one is like sparring with spawn of the devil. No matter what information I give them, it's not enough unless I can provide a pin number that's buried in my things in San Antonio. I finally gave up and will handle it tomorrow. I guess I should be happy it's so hard to get to my information, but y'know, if I know my father's middle name and maternal grandmother's first name as well as which cards I have and how much I owe on them, you'd think they'd see I'm not exactly a worm trying to get into the apple of my credit info. *sigh*

Good news is, a script I did a rewrite on is in the quarterfinals at the Page International Screenwriting Awards. It's a rewrite of a young man's experiences in the NYPD between 1968 and 1973, told in a non-linear style, and the guy I did it for so liked it, he entered it. It'll be fun to see if it gets to the next stage; I've found my non-linear writing is hard for readers to deal with unless they're in the right frame of mind.

I'm pretty much done with that article I'm writing about storage and shipment of antiquarian books, and I've inked in all the sketches; now I just need to scan them and double check my details in the article to make sure I'm not being dyslexic in my suggestions...which I have done before.

I remember in an early early draft of "Darian's Point," I confused William of Orange with the man he deposed off the throne of England, King James. Irish Catholics hate "King Billy" because he was Protestant, Dutch and hated Catholics while King James was a Catholic. It was James' loss at the Battle of the Boyne that solidified England's rule over Ireland for the next 240 years. And I had my lead male, Thomas, refer to William with respect. Not cool. I'm the only one who noticed and I corrected it in the next draft...but it was still embarrassing.

So now I triple check everything...and still miss things, sometimes. There's days where I wonder if I wonder if I have any brain left.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

I'm flying high

I mentioned a long time ago that I have a fan of my books. Well, he just finished reading RIHC6v2 and apparently it's inspired him to start writing, again. And suddenly I've never been so proud of myself. Seriously, I feel like I've accomplished something meaningful as a writer...and maybe it's a bit silly, but then I've never been one to avoid that (I just whine about slipping into it, sometimes). In his messages to me, he's shown he has a clean style, excellent grasp of grammar and knows how to express himself. I hope he does it. I'd love to see what kinds of stories he builds and characters he lets us get to know.

Tonight I'm just reading on POS. I'm saving the section I began with Brendan till Saturday, when I'll spend the day on it. I want to get it done in one go before I talk myself into dropping it as too obvious and repetitive, using that to slip into my usual attire of avoidance.

I've just applied for a DBA in the state of New York. If I have one, I can join a nearby Chamber of Commerce and get health insurance through them at group rates. Since it's official I'm wanted here till at least the end of June, next year, it's time to stop piddling and jump in. Next will be getting a NY driver's license and then deciding if I want to transfer my car here or buy a new one that's more suited to the ice and snow. My little beast has done me well, but it's 13 years old now and started to feel it. I wonder -- do cars age in dog years? It's still got fewer than 78K in mileage and I almost never use the AC, so it's probably good for a while longer. I dunno. That's something I'll think about later.

Something else to think about? I need furniture.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Totally off the beaten path

I sat down to get back to work on this bit of POS that I started last night...and wound up having Jake sit down with me and say, "Consider this..." and we started a new story about him and Antony. I wrote 7 pages on it. I have no idea what the story's about, yet; it just popped out. And Brendan stood by and watched.

Schizo-phreak, thy name is Kyle.

But it WAS a pretty intense bit I wrote, last night, and what came out of Jake was tender and loving and understanding, so maybe I needed that to be able to keep going with the intense, later. Maybe I'll alternate between the two stories -- I honestly don't know what will happen, now; I've given myself over to whichever one wants to come out. Maybe that's lazy on my part...or more avoidance...I dunno. I just felt right doing it so I'm not apologizing. Just wondering if I have any control left on my brain, at all.

The Orangies of Northern Ireland, in their infinite stupidity, went marching on July 12th, again. And there were some nasty riots, again. I just watched video of it and have to admit the PSNI (what the RUC became about 10 years ago) handled themselves with amazing restraint against some truly maniacal kids using pipes and planks of wood as battering rams against the cops' riot shields. Twenty years ago they'd have been chasing those kids with swinging batons and firing plastic bullets. At least that's gotten better.

Anyway, the point is, like many stupid people who refuse to learn, the Orange Order once again provoked a riot by trying to rub the noses of the Catholic community into their loss at the Battle of the Boyne in 1691. That's when Protestants took Ireland over, completely, outlawed Catholicism and forbade the teaching of Gaelic. Catholics who had property were forced off their lands, which were handed over to Scottish settlers. And they'll probably do the same stupid thing again on August 12th, next month, and there will be more riots. and more property destroyed and people hurt. And they will not back down because they are just plain stupid.

You know, Catholics have been forced to accept this arrogant nonsense for centuries...until the Orangies even more stupidly set off riots across the North by doing their thing on July 12th and then August 12th in 1969. It's like they wanted there to be conflict. Maybe they thought they'd win...but history shows that was nonsense. Nobody wins in situations like this. People die. Others are maimed both physically and mentally. Everyone is made poorer. And each side blames the other for all of it.

Guess it's just another form of schizo-phreaking.

Monday, July 12, 2010

I got squirrel bait for a brain

So I sit down to gather more info about the Battle of Bogside and learn about the effects of tear gas and how the citizens of Derry counteracted it...and suddenly I'm at the computer writing about something that happens 12 years later. It's as if I turned on the spigot in one spot but somehow the water started coming out of a completely different faucet. Dunno why...but I added another 1400+ words to my total.

I don't mind this happening. God knows it's better than just sitting here fiddling and waiting for the magic to strike. I can't tell you how many times I've contemplated going out and grabbing a bottle of wine and sloshing that into me to loosen up the flow. I wrote a full script like that, once, just to see what would happen. I took a week off work and got a buzz going and slammed out "Find Ray Tarkovsky" from start to finish. Of course, it needed some serious polishing, but the structure stayed the same as did the main characters, and it's one of my most commercial scripts. Fact is, I was told once that if I'd written it just two years earlier, I could have sold it. But my usual sense of timing was in play, which is why I got sloshed to finally get past my inner delays.

I thought about trying that again more than once -- I have one script I got stuck at page 45 on and another I just couldn't seem to get going -- but now it's too late. I can't justify writing a screenplay, anymore, not if the 30 I already have written have gone nowhere (winning competitions doesn't count unless they lead to something more than just a nice plaque on a wall).

Oh, well -- live and learn and keep at it long enough and you might figure out how to actually do what you think you know how to do. And if I forget again, there's always Burgundy.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Long day

I've been pulling together information on the Battle of Bogside -- we're talking serious details here, like when tear gas was first fired in, where the medical clinics were located since the one serious hospital in the area was in the Protestant side of Derry (and the majority of the nurses and doctors were Protestant and friendly with the RUC) and no one could get to it unless they were seriously injured, when the Army arrived, that sort of thing. Looks like that's the chapter I'm finishing next. I already have it started and it's happy to get going.

Of course, mingled into the day was laundry and grocery shopping and ironing...and proving to myself, once again, that if you buy cheap you get cheap-assed crap. This iron spits water out when I want to use steam and barely gets rid of the wrinkles in my shirts. So I'm getting a new one that'll work. Period.

I watched the first two episodes of "True Blood" as I ironed...and I can see why it's so popular. Aside from the fact that it has a strong following thanks to the books it's based on, it's also got pretty naked boys and girls everywhere, having rough and tumble sex, sex, sex. Yes, Ryan Kwanten has a nice, tight body (but his acting ranges from BIG eyes to narrow eyes). Yes, there's lots of female tits around (male and female). Yes, everybody talks with a decent-enough Southern accent (even though the leads are from Australia, Canada and England; guess there weren't enough American actors available to cast). But I don't get the critical acclaim. The story is lumpy and there's not one fresh or original idea in this whole thing, so far. Maybe it gets better as it goes along, but right now? I'm bored. I've already got an idea that dog that keeps popping up is the animal guise of the man who owns the bar Sookie works in. Is there such a thing as a were-Collie-mix?

Saturday, July 10, 2010


I'm sort of written out, today. I was inputting changes and notes I'd made when this started popping out...and I almost think it's in the wrong chapter but at the same time, I like the free-association aspect that's behind it. This is late Spring in 1970, when Brendan's 14 and has begun to shift his direction away from that followed by his friends.

Since there was nothing left in the shop to do, I was let off early to give me time to run some errands for Mam and be home for curfew -- at least, that was the excuse I gave Mr. Green. In fact, I’d been promised a bob if I could fix Mrs. Farrell’s telly and I wanted to stop off at her place to give it a look, for from the sound of it the picture tube was gone and she’d not like the cost of replacing it.

“Dr. Wells is the only one set to pick up his car this evening, sir,” I said to Mr. Green as I washed up. “And you might mention to him, if he wouldn’t ride the brake with his left foot, the pads would last much longer.”

“It’s that or the clutch,” he shrugged back, meaning he’d not say a word and in a year we’d be working on the brakes, again. I made a note to speak to the doctor, myself.

Then I ran up the street to Mrs. Farrell’s flat. Halfway there, I noticed Father Pat’s car in front of St. Agnes and thought it odd, since he was supposed to be in Dublin. That's what he'd told me when I'd prepared his car for the drive down -- changing the oil, testing the brakes and all the lamps, making sure the tyres were at their proper pressure. It may have been an old Ford but it was well-kept. Anyway, I shrugged it off and headed on.

Mrs. Farrell’s one of those older ladies who smells of flowers and has four cats, only one of which liked me -- this little black tom with a white patch under his left eye. As I sat in the back of the telly, testing everything, he curled himself in my lap and watched with rapt attention, purring happily in exchange for the occasional scratch behind an ear. The others just glared at me from under the settee. She gave me tea and a couple biscuits that were hard as rock, they were so old, but dipping them in the tea made 'em soft enough to eat and they turned out to be quite tasty. Still, I made a note to have Mairead bring her some fresh ones when next she made them. That’s all she did was cook, now she was expecting, and I smiled at the thought that Terry’s had to have his pants let out a bit.

I had a bit of luck with that telly; all it needed was a couple new tubes and a touch of solder to reattach a connector.

“Are you certain, Brendan?” she asked in her slightly shaky voice. “I won’t have to buy a new one, will I?”

“I doubt it, Mrs. Farrell,” I said, the little tom climbing across my shoulders, his nails digging in just enough to hang on while not enough to hurt. “Fixed, it’s good for another year.”

“Excellent. That will give me time to save up some money. Perhaps you’ll be able to find me a good one, second hand.”

“I’ll start keeping an eye out, after Twelfth Night.”

She smiled and then trusted me with a tenner to buy the tubes and I told her if McClatchey’s had them, I’d come back straight off to replace them.

But the McClatchey’s being themselves, they said they’d have to order the tubes, so I considered hopping over to Spencer’s on Irish Street since I knew they’d be in stock there...and it would give me excuse to see Joanna...but it was getting dark from a threat of storm so I put it off till the next day and headed home. I had no interest in dealing with the Paras or the RUC in the middle of a rain, and there was a strong possibility if any of them found that tenner on me, it’d vanish into their pocket and I didn’t want the responsibility of having to replace it. Tomorrow I’d have my school satchel with me and could hide it, in there.

Halfway back, I ran into Colm and Paidrig headed for the pitch with a football.

“Oy, me China,” Paidrig called, and I grinned and waved. He was the only one who still called us by that, now Davey was gone to the Waterside and since it’d been his book we’d read what seemed like so many years ago. The name conjured up too many memories for us all, all but Paidrig, who still thought it cool. He always was a bit simple in things like that. “Ya coming?”

I shrugged and nodded, and jogged over to join them. My shirt and trousers were messed with grime from the shop, but f I got them wet and muddy at football, Mam wouldn’t mind nearly so much. She was funny about that. If I come home filthy from working on a car, she’d go on to no end about how much of a bother I was to her; but from football or hurling, she’d query me on how the game went. Yet she wouldn’t listen to any of the football games on the transistor.

“They talk too fast and I can’t picture what they’re doing,” she’d snapped at me when I’d bothered her about it.

“Then let’s see a game at Brandywell, Mam,” I’d said in answer. It's where Derry City played.

“And who’s going to pay for it?” she’d huffed back. “You can’t get in for free -- .” Then she’d stopped and looked at me. “Or have you?”

I kept silent, for I’d suddenly realized I was close to offering to buy her a ticket when I’m not supposed to have any scratch on me. Better she thought me a sneak.

What had surprised me was, she’d smiled. Oh, she tried to keep it hid but I saw it, clear as day, and then she’d said, “Well, nice to know you’ve some of me in you, after all.”

Of course, that set my mind to wondering, so I’d written Aunt Mari asking about it, but first swearing both her and myself to secrecy, forever. I didn’t want Mam to think I was off finding stories to tell about her; that would really kill her momentary good opinion of me. Didn’t matter; all Aunt Mari wrote back was, “Let’s just say neither of us was a perfect angel, not like you.”


That was a month prior to Mam nearly kissing me when she thought I kiped the Johnstons album from Wellworth’s, and since then anytime she had the notion I’d done no good, she was happiest with me. I never understood it, but I never let on different.

It was only recently that I’d begun to see, living with Da had been difficult, at best. Having to figure out how to feed a growing brood of wains while dealing with the condescending bastards in the Corporation, who ran everything with the utmost sanctimony while doing all they could to prove Catholics were no better than vermin so worth nothing in the way of human treatment -- it would have made a saint spit. Thanks to Da’s habit of having a binge the day the dole came through, the only reason we’d all grown up without hunger affecting our abilities was through Mam grabbing half the money and refusing to let go of it in the face of Da’s fists, and the kindness of Father Demian. It was little enough the Catholic Church gave us, to be sure, but was still better than starving.

Of course, with Da gone and Mam having the full dole in her possession, the church stopped her assistance and we were as close to disaster as before, so more than once I’d gotten the impression Mam had gone to market and come home with a few more potatoes or carrots than she’d actually paid for. That's when I'd begun handing over half what I made while telling her it was everything.

I think I was a bit brassed off at how Mam let Eamonn quit working to focus on qualifying for A-Levels, so what he'd made on the harbor ended and I was expected to take up the slack, as it were. But then I'd seen how well Eamonn was doing...and seen how unlike Da he was becoming...and when he'd headed off to Queen's, I'd quietly handed him fifty quid. He'd just shaken his head in wonder at me and said not a word to Mam. I was proud to have been able to do it.

Now he was due home from Queen's College within the week, and the impression I was getting was that he would not return. He'd stuck out the attitudes and harassments but lately had begun to speak of Trinity in Dublin, and I knew things had to be getting bad for him to be giving up.

But these thoughts were mere flashes in my mind as I joined Colm and Paidrig and we headed for what was left of the cricket pitch. Mere flashes till I saw Father Pat drive past us on Creegan, looking grim. And I thought I caught a glimpse of Father Demian with him, but that couldn't be. He was supposed to be in America, though I'd also heard he was really in England.

And then I saw Danny up the road, standing by a lamp post, smoking in quick jerky puffs, and the first thought that hit was, "Jesus, he looks like he's seen a ghost."

PS -- I'm now at 100,839 words, 447 pages...and that's with me cutting some. Kewl.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Names have been changed...

And I don't know why, but one character Brendan meets in Houston and who winds up having a major effect on his life just shifted his name for the third time -- first Jacob, then Adam, now Jeremy...but I get the sense that Jeremy will stick. It fits his yuppie intentions.

It's funny how this works -- characters picking about till they find something about themselves that they want to lay claim to. It's like Jake in "Rape in Holding Cell 6" -- I got the idea for his look from this guy, Will Fennell, who writes about grooming for DNA Magazine in Australia --
-- but it wasn't till Jake explained the tattoo on his shoulder and arm that I realized he was Persian and Irish, and that exploded into the second half of the second volume. Now I have an idea percolating in the back of my brain to bring Jake front and center for his own story...which was probably his intention the whole time, the little sneak.

The same thing happened with Brendan's younger sister, Caera -- for a while she was named Diedre, which she was never comfortable with...and the fact is, she's not even happy with Caera, really. We'll keep casting about, but the one other name she's suggested -- Eileen -- just will NOT work for me. Too Hollywood.

I have noticed that names get settled once the character finds his or her reason to exist, and once that's done I cannot change it. Can't change anything; it's like the story gets set in cement. For example, I tried to make "Brand of Justice" into a lesbian film a couple years back by changing Claire's love interest from a younger man to a strong woman. By rights, it should have worked just as well. Claire was a strong central character who ruled her destiny, or so she thought, so no big deal to change her sexual orientation. Gian-Paolo was a supporting role who wound up being the heart of the story, so no big deal to make him into Gianna, right? Wrong. NONE of the characters liked it and they pulled a sit-down strike on me. So I put it back the way it was and now everyone's happy. And I got the first taste of a lesson in how I need to believe in my characters as they are,love them as they are, no matter what they're doing, and I will fight anyone who tries to change them.

I've had a couple of friends tell me this is what hurt me in writing for Hollywood, and they may well be right on a superficial level. People in Hollywood love to mess with the writer's work, and actors and directors blame the writer when actions don't come together right or they can't say the lines. Meaning, the script is there for them, not them for the script. And to get ahead in today's Hollywood, you have to accept that. Even William Goldman, who has 2 Oscars and a major career in screenwriting, gets his scripts changed by directors and actors all the time. And he sees it as part of the deal. So he's very successful.

But I'm stupid in that I believe my characters and their stories deserve respect, not just from me but from anyone who approaches them. And the last time I violated my characters' trust in me by changing a story around to suit someone else's limited viewpoint of what should and should not be in the script is what set me on the road away from screenwriting. Because it fucked up the script. Completely. This may be ego, it probably is...but the fact remains, not once when I've changed my work to suit someone else has it wound up being made. Not once. And a couple of scripts died completely on me.

So now I won't change my work. If you don't believe in the story and characters enough to put your heart and soul into getting it made as is, then you're not the right person for it. And I don't have the wherewithal, nor am I properly located, to go find that person. Of course, I wouldn't know how to, anyway; the few occasions in the past where I thought I had, I found out I'd only fooled myself into thinking that.

So that's the way of the world. Still rambling and whining my screw-ups and contemplating current irritations and trying to figure out what the fuck I'm talking about. All part of the writing process, I guess.

But you know what, I think once all the names are set, "Place of Safety" will explode around me. And right now, Jeremy works perfectly as this character's name. So, Caera...what do you think about Áine?

Thursday, July 8, 2010

I got copies...

Of my latest book, "Rape In Holding Cell 6, volume 2." NOW it's officially published -- I never believe it till I actually hold a copy in my hand -- and I have an okay review on Amazon. This makes me an author five times over -- four titles, two of which are split into two volumes, and a novella. Wish I could make a living at it.

I've had a couple of people surprised at how I'm so open about my gay erotica, which surprises me. I mean, I don't run around shoving it in people's faces, but my name is on the books and if you Google me, "How To Rape A Straight Guy" comes up fast, so no sense in trying to hide from it. I wouldn't if I could. It's not like I'm writing porn, nor are these books anything to be ashamed of. Each story has a definite point it's making.

I know a couple of the other authors from Nazca Plains who've published their erotica under pseudonyms, and a couple of them are sorry because it makes them harder to take credit for. To me, that makes it seem like they think they're writing porn -- and some of these guys are -- but I've read some stories that're really well-written, and I've read others that are just plain fun. Hell, the Mark Julian gay-vampire-detective series has minimal sex in it; it's more about building this fantasy world and populating it with some fascinating characters and situations.

I'm not sure what I'm rambling about, here, except re-emphasizing that if I can't put my name on something, it's not worth putting out into the public sphere. And yes, HTRASG is a very confrontational story in many ways -- all my books are -- but it's also a declaration that...insofar as my writing is concerned...I'm out for blood and will take no prisoners.

Which is so different from me in reality. I hate confrontation or even the idea of hurting someone, physically (emotionally is a different story; I've been an asshole too many times that way) so I guess these stories come from my darkest psyche using my words to let off some steam.

What's great about them is they've helped me see I have the capacity for fearlessness. And I'm trying really hard to apply that to POS and take it as far as it wants to go. It ain't easy, and sometimes I still let my worries overwhelm me -- hell, WAY too often -- but at least I haven't surrendered to my fears, yet. I still got that touch of "fuck off" in the back of my brain that refuses to let my nervousness take over completely. I guess that's something.

Man...I get the feeling I'm beginning to sound like a CD caught in a glitch and all it can play is "deh-deh-deh-deh-deh-deh-deh-deh-deh-deh-deh-deh" till someone kicks it. Anybody got a boot they'd like to plant in my behind? Not too harshly, of course. I hate pain, too.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Head hurt but feel good...

Because I've got the third section of POS restructured in a way that I feel works. It fits together and the rhythm is back, and Brendan and I can see what needs to be done in the way of linkage. I wound up chucking everything I'd done over the last week -- YouTube dissing me gave me the idea, so I guess that wasn't a total loss -- and went back to reworking it step by step...and dropped the bits that were too Hollywood and let the logic of the story lead me straight to a point where it sets up my initial ending beautifully. Ah, the joy of writing.

I'm heading back to the first section, now, and starting the fill-in process from the beginning. I have a lot of Brendan's childhood and youth to detail, still, but I have ideas on those, again, and figure I'll just fake what I don't know. I can always correct it later.

Here's something that helped me along, muse-wise.This picture is from around 1970 and I think is on a cricket pitch behind the Creegan Estates, just as relations were beginning to sour between the British troops and the Catholic population.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

I hate YouTube

The bastards vanished my account. Completely. My profile no longer exists. I've lost links to videos and archival footage shot during the Troubles, including a great documentary about the "Battle of the Bogside" and the immediate aftermath. And those bastards won't give me any way to contact them and ask what the hell's going on, and their FAQs are of no use whatsoever. The only way I can get back onto YouTube, it seems, is to open an account with a Google e-dress and start all over.

I flat-out fucking refuse. I will not be subject to the idiot whims of people who say you can do one thing then try to force you to do something else. If they won't let me on there with one of my established e-dresses, the hell with 'em. I have no reason to go back, now. I'll track those videos down some other way.

It seems many of the sites are doing that now. I happened onto this site based in Denmark and its opening post helped me deal with some exploding self-doubt about POS --

But the only way to be allowed to post a "thank you" in the comments section is to join the VOX site. No other way. I tried and it bumped my comment, so I joined up. And then YouTube pulled its shit on me and suddenly I'm sorry I did it. I was so eager to share with the man who posted the article, I didn't think about the fact that these motherfuckers now have info on me that isn't all that important but was mine...and now it's shared...and they can do whatever they fucking want, include dump me if they feel like it.

Of course, this feeds into my paranoia about homophobia. For a while, Blogger was dumping all its gay sites. Didn't matter if there was nudity on them or how innocuous they were, if it was gay it got blocked until enough people began screaming about it. Same thing happened on Amazon, just over a year ago -- gay books were being blocked on their site and they didn't back down till people began screaming...four months after it began. And about 10 years ago, Canada began using anti-pornography laws to block the import of any gay book with sex in it, no matter how gently it's portrayed (no straight book was unless it was extremely graphic), so books like "The Front Runner" and "The Persian Boy" get held back while trash like "Poor Little Bitch Girl" get let in (it's a Jackie Collins "novel"), and they don't care if people scream; their Supreme Court said it's okay. Wonder how long it'll be before that happens here?

The hell with it. Tonight's a reading night for POS. I've got tons of stuff to go through, but I'll leave with a final note from that blog --

"When you're on the second-to-last chapter of your 898-page deconstructivist masterpiece, how do you not think 'Is it really worth all of this?'" And I'm thinking, "Y'know, I got no answer -- not even a clue -- but at least now I see the only decision is to keep on or admit that you've wasted years for nothing...and I ain't ready to do that, yet...not on Brendan's book."

Monday, July 5, 2010


This restructuring is not working. It doesn't follow through, anymore -- just seems lumpy with events deliberately placed where they are because that's what has to happen there for the story to continue.

And yet...what I have in the story, where events happen feels right, intellectually. It's just my sense of rhythm that's offended by the changes. Maybe I'm making too drastic of changes. Maybe I need to keep some of the structure I had and merely adjust it to fit these new parameters. Brain grows confused and Brendan is being of no help, whatsoever.

Fortunately, I found out about that holding center on the Strand Road -- it's specifically called an "interrogation centre" for the Royal Ulster Constabulary (not a jail or gaol or prison or anything else) but is also referred to as the Strabane Road Barracks and has a nice history of torture and abuse. Thanks to this place, Gough Barracks and Castlereagh, the British government was taken before the World Court and ordered to stop torturing suspects into confessions in 1998. The Army and RUC (and their replacement organization, the PSNI) ignored the order...and it's still happening. A man held at the Strabane Road Police Station (as it's now called) hanged himself back in October, under very suspicious circumstances. Apparently the PSNI was refusing to release him even though it had been shown he could not have committed the "terrorist" offense he was accused of. He was kept four years without trial under certain "Special Powers Acts" and finally either took matters into his own hands...or, as is suspected, was helped along.

Of course, the British aren't alone in this casual attitude about torture. Washington ignored evidence of torture against the Bush administration, even with a flat-out admission by Cheney that they DID have prisoners tortured, something which the current administration has not only refused to investigate (despite Federal law requiring them to) but has, in fact, continued to allow. And jails in America are not known for giving a damn about their prisoners. In this infamous case in Huntsville about 10-15 years ago, a 17 year-old male inmate was being raped, daily, and asked for help. The guards laughed and told him to find a "husband" to protect him. He killed himself and the warden shrugged it off. And the SOB kept his job.

Okay, I need to break my brain, for a moment. I finally undissed "Shaun of the Dead" and it was fun. I also watched the press kit interviews and am now willing to see the new "Star Trek" because Simon Pegg IS Scotty (I was close to seeing it when I saw Zachary Quinto done up as Spock, but something about Chris Pine irritated me and I got busy and it shifted farther and farther down my list of priorities till it was gone).

I think I'll go Japanese, tonight. "Seven Samurai", anyone?

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Intense day

I got locked into my new direction for POS and building up information concerning Castlereagh Detention Center outside Belfast...and I'm going nuts trying to find something -- ANYthing -- on a jail or detention center that I would swear was on Strand Road in Derry but nothing comes up on the CAIN site or in Google (unless I want to stay at the Travel Lodge on Strand Road or learn about a drunk who was recently picked up on that road get the drift). It's put me in a very weird place, emotionally, because I feel like I'm looking for something but may actually be looking at it and I'm halfway afraid I'm thinking of the old jail that was torn down on Bishop Street in 1973...but I'd swear it was a new facility.

I read an 50+ page report by Amnesty International written in 1991 about kids under the age of 18 being harassed by the RUC (cops), British troops and paramilitaries from both sides, and learned so much more about banishments and punishments and some of the things done...Snap away from that. I had a conversation with Brendan about this and he's nodding on the direction the story's taken. Silently nodding. That spooks me, because normally his displeasure is mentally verbal or sulking to the point where he won't look at me (he's never been completely happy with me being the writer on this, so I don't even know what a smile looks like on him). And suddenly, I'm not so sure about the ending I was so damn sure about.

Jesus Christ, I don't know if this book's going to be any good or if it'll ever get published or read or anything, and I think that would more than just hurt me. You see, "Bobby Carapisi" is languishing in sales, and it's another book I had to push to get done and that I felt was needed and believe in so deeply and I'm so proud of. BUT...sales are so minimal, Amazon's stopped discounting it (sounds backwards, I know, but that's how they do things). And I'm afraid the same will happen with POS -- Brendan and I'll go through all this turmoil...and it will be for nothing. that's not going to happen. If I have to self-publish through Amazon's incomprehensible system, I'll do that. And I'll push the book any way I can. Maybe some of my time should be focused on learning how to market. Obviously what I did with my scripts didn't work, so at least I know what NOT to do.

And I get a kick in the pants from Brendan reminding me I still have to FINISH the book...and then go through the rewriting process. All of which will take at least a couple of years. Plenty of time to worry about this nonsense later.

I told you I was in a weird place. Let's go somewhere else.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

I dissed the "Shaun..."

I had it loaded into my laptop and was about to hit "play" when I had a thought about "Place of Safety" and everything else vanished and two hours later I've worked out a complete restructuring of the last section on paper because bits of it WERE drifting too close to a Hollywood-style story, which is the easy way out of a dilemma for a writer like me, not a path to truth. It was also avoidance of a logical direction for the story, something I'd set up but wasn't planning to do much with...until now.

Man...this tale keeps shifting on me. Just when I think I'm heading down the highway, again, suddenly this fork appears in the middle of it and I'm sent off on a narrow road into woods and hills and twists and turns and no way to see very far ahead. My muse must be having a blast. Dammit.

Now I must dig into the normal procedures for interrogation of suspects at Castelreagh. What's fun is, when I started doing that -- I happened upon a blog for a crime writers' group in that very city, and apparently he participated in NaNoWriMo last November. This is one of those little moments of serendipity that both freak me out and make me smile. And make me nervous.

The blogger's name is Gerard Brennan and he links to a number of other NI writers. Sounds like a fun group. I wonder if they're open to know-just-enough-to-get-you-into-trouble lads like me?

Friday, July 2, 2010

Not in da mood...

...'Cause I don't feel like dancin', no sir, no dancin' today (thanks to the Scissor Sisters).

I'm gonna watch "Shaun of the Dead." So check out something in the same vein --

-- only different and contemplate the possibilities of surreality since that's all I've been doing all day long because it looks like I'll be going to Milwaukee for a packing job and a friend told me he's reviewed my latest book on and given it 4 out of 5 stars because he can't follow all of it and I need something bizarre to break me out of the disconnect and it's either this or Kurosawa but he keys me up and I want absurdity, right now.

Stay all the way to the end for something adorable.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

4 day weekend

Been a while since I had one of those outside of being unemployed. But the business is shut down, officially, till Tuesday, though phone calls are being forwarded to me. Dunno how I feel about that, yet, since I'm still in the wilderness as regards knowing how things run...but I'll do what I can.

I have a photograph of Derry I photocopied off a book years and years ago that shows the city in 1984. It's dark and in black & white, so many aspects are difficult to see, but so many details still are very clear. The width of the Foyle River at the Craigavon Bridge and how the opposite shore grows closer on the north edge of downtown, making you wonder why they didn't build the bridge where the river was at its narrowest, like they did the Foyle Bridge up where the river tightens till it reaches Lough Foyle and the North Atlantic. (Of course, that's proving to be a mistake since during storms they have to shut it down; seems the winds get so fierce, they can push cars over the edge).

Anyway, this photograph informs my vision of Derry upon Brendan's return after so many years, two months into his 25th year. The Foyle Bridge has just begun construction. Bobby Sands is on hunger strike along with a few other men. The peace movement is pushing hard against the growing control of criminals in both the Catholic and Protestant paramilitaries. I'm still struggling to find the proper combination of these spices to make the story come alive, but it's working its way around. A half-step here, a shuffle there, a movement left and a lean right.

Hm...I think I need to add a moment where Brendan first has his sister, Mairead's cooking. Have him compare it to his Aunt Mari's and the fattening food of Texas. Will it be good or bad? I honestly won't know till he tastes it...and then goes out for fish and chips with his baby brother, Kieran, who won't like it...even if just on principle.

Guess I'll add a dash of peppermint. I do that with my potato soup and it gives it an very off-beat flavor, mixing with the ham I use. I'm hungry, again.