Derry, Northern Ireland

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

Saturday, April 30, 2011

I think I overestimated

Working on POS today I'm finding I have a number of bridges to build between sections that are already written.  For example, the Civil Rights march of October 5, 1968 that was nearly catastrophic.  I only have notes for that and it's a full chapter unto itself, because I'm tying in not only the march but Eamonn's growing interest in Civil Rights and Brendan's growing ability in fixing things and slyly helping provide for his family so his mother doesn't know (they're building an interesting relationship, Brendan and his Mam).  Plus they're moved out of their ramshackle home to a relatively decent place and a new priest comes to town and on and on.  What'll be fun is keeping it centered around Brendan's experiences; I don't want this to become anything but his life as he lives it, not told so much by someone looking back and now all-knowing...and that may prove difficult.  Already I'm seeing some repetition, and even though things may have happened that way, it makes for poor storytelling.  Comes across as lazy.

I'm using an XL spreadsheet to keep track of everything, breaking the pages into chapters as I go along and making notes to help me remember what happens where.  I've already caught one inconsistency and will probably find more since I wrote all these bits at different times.  And I'll finally be able to see what actions work best where and how many times I've done the same thing over.  But damn, it's slow going.  I'm just through chapter 4 of the first section.

I do not want to break this into separate volumes, like I did with "Bobby Carapisi" (which will wind up being a shorter book than POS, overall).  That was mainly done to satisfy the publisher's page limit (and even then I pushed it on each one).  My hope is to not go over 800 pages...but I can't limit the story, not at this point, so it goes as it goes.

I've caught a moment of dark least, where there can be some.  The first time Brendan's group heads for Grianan Aileach, which I have yet to write, as well.  Man...I got my work cut out for me.

But this is the joy of writing -- discovering new worlds and lives as you follow the path laid down by the sprites and muses who've called for you. 

Friday, April 29, 2011

Brendan's back...

...And it's on to the finish line, come hell or high water.  This piece is after Brendan's returned to Derry, at the height of the hunger strikes in spring of 1981.  He's 25, now, and pretending to be a friend of his from Houston.  An old mate, who's Protestant and is now in the Royal Ulster Constabulary, has recognized him and he's been brutally interrogated by them, then released...but now the British have come to take him away.  He escaped them by hiding under his sick mother's bed as the neighborhood nearly rioted over the presence of the Paras.  They army's backed off...but not for long.


I finally slipped out from under the boards and peeked up to find Mam looking at me in question. “Brendan, what have you done?”

I painfully forced myself to climb out from behind the bed and tenderly over Mam as Mairead proudly came up the stairs.

“Did you hear it?” she said.

“Every word,” I replied. “You’re a wonder, Mai.”

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

“Brendan Kinsella, what have you done?!” Mam’s voice was tight with anger.

I looked straight at her and said, “They want to know who helped Eamonn plant the bomb. They know I know his name.”

“Bren," Mairead asked, "was it the RUC who beat you?” I nodded, still looking at Mam. “And they’re still looking for that name?” I nodded.

Mam looked at me as if she didn’t know me, the purest confusion on her face, then she turned away. “Mairead, I -- I’m out of water and I need my pills.”

“Aye, Mam,” she said, absently. I heard her leave.

My eyes were still focused on Mam, but she would not look at me. She fucking would not look at me. I finally show her that I'm not the weak-kneed nothing she thought I was, and she can't face me over it. A grin crosses my lips, and I know it looked cruel.

“Mairead’s story has enough truth in it to keep them confused for a while, but they’ll return wanting to meet this 'Mr. Landau.' So it’s best I leave.”

She seemed not to hear me. I finally left the room and met Mairead as she came back up with water for Mam’s medication.

“Get word to Colm,” I said. “I want to meet him -- where we used to get drunk.”

“Bren -- .”

“He’ll know where. Tell him it has to be now.”

Her eyes welled with tears. “It’s never going to end, is it? This war’ll take all of you. All of you.”

I just smiled at her and went into my room to dress. I still ached and had to move carefully to pull on my socks and boots, but I could be mobile, again. Then I removed the plaster from my nose. It hurt like a bastard but it wouldn’t do for me to be out looking like that. I was still bruised and my eye was as black as pitch, but that couldn’t be helped. I’d just have to keep my profile lower is all -- meaning I’d have to wait till it was dark

I mentioned it to Mai and she shrugged, “Good; he won’t get the message till late, anyway, and even so, he might not be available and -- .”

“He will be,” I said then went upstairs to rest.

As it began to finally grow dark, Mai fed me a massive fry-up -- “It’ll keep you all night, if need be” -- then I left by the back door, just in case they’d left someone to watch. Our back fence had no exit so I used a dust bin to climb over into the next yard. Mrs. Donnelly came to her kitchen window and saw me then opened her back door and turned away. I crept through without a word, passing her family as they sat at the table saying grace, not one of them even wanting to notice me.

I kept to the side lanes and roundabout ways leading to Groarty Road. Sometimes I’d hear a PIG or a Saracen roaring close but they never came within sight, and the choppers were few and far between. Seems everyone was trying to be on their best behavior, and that includes the confrontation just that morning. Had the Brits wanted to, they could have called in reinforcements, held the women back and torn the house apart. There was no law to stop them; in fact, the laws had been twisted by the British courts to protect them against being held to the standards of any civilized nation. It was maddening but it was also reality and nothing could be done about it.

But because St. Bobby was on death’s door and everyone could sense the growing anger in the community now that nearly a dozen young men were starving themselves to death for Mother Ireland, while the mother bitch, Thatcher, dismissed them as if they were little more than rodents to be exterminated...well, no one wanted to waste resources on chasing a ghost until they had to. And Mairead’s story, with her backed up by her neighbors, had given them an excuse to pause. I truly think that’s the only reason I was able to slip away and make it clear to the border without being found out.

I snuck over down by Upper Groarty Road, under a thicket of trees not far from where I’d slipped Joanna across. I jumped the brook, landing half in mud that nearly sucked off my boot, but still managed to scramble up the side even though it tore at my aching balls. I had to sit in a bush and not move for ten minutes before they stopped hurting enough for me to rise, again, and creep across the meadow to the nearest fence. I crawled over it, leaned against it for a bit to catch my breath and headed up the lane straight for the fort.

The moon was playing hide and seek with the clouds, giving more light than I wished for, but I cared not. I was in The Republic, and none of the bastards tightening their grip on Derry could get to me -- legally, anyhows. Sure they could always just jump the border and grab me, have me down in The Maze before anyone knew better, but I figured I’d make it a hell of a time for them if they tried, and the way I looked now would seem ten times worse if Paras were caught on this side of the border.

I cut across field after field, rolling over fences and crossing narrow roads and aiming solely for that round pile of rocks. I figured Colm wouldn’t even leave for the meeting till it was pure dark, and I wanted to be there before him. I wanted to see how he arrived -- if by car or by foot or any other mode of transportation. If he came alone, as I asked, or had more with him. And if more were with him, if he’d approach me on his own or have his “backup right there,” as the phrase goes in America. It was hell on my side and groin, crossing that uneven ground, slashing through grass that soaked my jeans and foliage that tore at my legs. I stumbled a few times but never actually fell, despite my headlong push, and soon my adrenalin was up so I didn’t even feel the pain.

And then I was there, and a weak iron grate lay across the low entrance. I pulled it away, so I supposed it was meant only to keep out stray dogs. Too bad for them this one knew his way about it. I slipped inside and quickly climbed to the top tier and looked out over the dark, cold land.

The distant water was silvery blue, as always. Gleaming in the moonlight under tender clouds. The land a patchwork of blacks and the deepest greens. The incessant wind bit at my cheeks and my breath danced away from me as if nervous about it all. Even jammed into my coat, my hands were cold enough to where my fingers would have dropped off were they not held on by gloves, and my feet ached from being frozen but my ribs and balls barely made themselves noticed, anymore, and my eye and nose were numb.  I felt more alive than I had since the last time I was here.

With Joanna.

And I thought, “She would love to have seen this,” forgetting for just an instant that she had, little more than ten years ago.  Both of us children still thinking all would be right with the world.  I had to smile at the thought.

Hours passed like clouds whispering across the sky, some moments racing along, others being slow, all softened by the elegant ease in which they moved. I walked around the fort to keep a vague sort of warmth about me, even though my cheeks were stung by gusts of wind.  The more I hurt in these tiny, simple ways, the more I felt real and human and ready for anything God could toss at me.

Then I finally caught the gleam of a car’s headlights and leaned atop the wall to watch them peek around the hillocks and shrubs as the vehicle approached. Then the lights were gone, but I could still hear the car’s engine...and it was a car, not a truck -- or lorry, if you prefer. It stopped down the lane that lead from the road to the fort and I heard a car door slam -- and then just barely heard another close.

Colm was not alone.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The death of plan-making

I think I finally learned not to make plans, because invariably when I do something happens to mess them up.  This evening I was going to focus on POS...but my internet service decided to mess with me, to the extent I couldn't get it to even acknowledge it had ever even been on my laptop.  I'm just now back to normal and answering e-mails...thanks to Verizon keeping me on hold for over an hour.  63 minutes, to be exact.  It's amazing, the customer service you get from these high-tech, totally automated everything companies.  Does not bode well for the future.

BUT...looking back over my posts I'm finding myself slipping back into Mr. Whiney mode, and I don't want to use this blog for that; I write in a journal for my ennui crap.  So...back to POS.

I happened onto an interesting bit in Stuart Neville's "Ghosts of Belfast" that will help in section 3 of the story.  I even dog-eared the page so I could find it...and don't think I'll share it because I want the whole situation to be a surprise.  But it's got me thinking I may get a better idea of the sociology of Northern Ireland if I read fictional books written by the people who live there.  I'm aiming for one by Gerard Brennan, who lives in Belfast.

It seems Belfast is ground zero when it comes to crime fiction in NI.  I've yet to see a blurb about a story set in Derry, though one short story in "Requiems for the Departed" was set there.  The problem with that story was, it was really just an outline for a novel.  Seriously, the writer packed so much into it there were none of the gentle details that make a story come alive.

I did get some fascinating material from a book titled "Strong About it All..." discussing the experiences of rural and urban women, both, at the hands of the security forces.

Oops, gotta run -- Brendan's calling.

(Hm...apparently I'm still having internet trouble, because the damned thing won't let me correct a spelling error.)

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

London calling

I lived in London for 3 years as a child and have never gotten over it.  My step-father was stationed at Ruislip Air Force Base and we rented a terrace home in Ruislip Gardens, just down from a cricket pitch.  My first three years of school were there, and by third grade, we were learning French and I was fascinated by football (soccer, here) and foggy evenings.  By the time we returned to the US, I had a proper West End accent.  It took ten years of Missouri, North Dakota, Hawaii and Texas to slam it out of me...but the positive thing is, I never took up a Texas drawl or twang.  I just sound...American.

I've been back to London once, since -- five years ago.  And I felt at home in the city.  I had no problem getting around on the Tube and even went out to see that house.  It's painted white and there's a high school on the cricket pitch, now...but everything else is so much the same.  I could live there, again...and actually sounded out a few people I knew in the book business about whether or not I could work for them.  No one said "No" but it was all, "If you move here, contact us and we'll see."

I'm remembering this because I found out, today, purely by accident, that I'm expected to man the office while everyone else is in London for the Olympia Book Fair.  Another point  in the pathetic communication going on at that place.  These people tell each other everything and I'm not quite in the loop, so find things out after they've been decided.  Besides, I think I'm close to overstaying my welcome.  We'll see how it goes over the next few weeks.  My lease is up in that might be a good ending point.

I'm just tired of living in the US.  It's a nation on the decline thanks to the GOP and acquiescence of the Democrats, especially that back-stabber in the White House.  He spits on progressives and does everything he can to placate the finally releasing his birth certificate, today, stupidly thinking that will end the questions about it...but he's only finding they will not stop attacking him.  Yet them he's working with and people like me, who want to make this country more human instead of just a machine, are being ignored.

Dunno what I'll do if I leave.  I'm still planning to use August to finish a first draft of POS...and that really does take preference.  I dunno...I'm probably just tired, and that tends to make me focus on the negative.  I think I'll hit the sack early, tonight, and read till I'm asleep.  Keep myself going by focusing on my writing.  Focusing on Brendan.  He's been patient with much as he can be.

But what he's about to find is I'm coming to the story a different writer.  Doing "The Lyons' Den" showed me how much deeper you can go with your story and characters if you use humor as well as drama.  I just need to find the places where it works best.  Some fine Irish black humor.

Irish tragedy -- a drunk drowns in a shallow pool of water in a gutter because no one's paying attention.  Irish comedy -- a drunk drowns in a vat of Guinness because he fights off people's help so he can get in "just one more little sup of the mother's milk."

Crude, rude and totally misconstrued.  I like that.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Old movies

I watched "Now, Voyager" (1942) and "My Man Godfrey" (1936) this evening and enjoyed the hell out of myself.  "...Godrey" is a screwball comedy where the rich are silly creatures who have no sense of humanity; it's all about them.  And it's crazy but even though it's 75 years old, it still fits in perfectly with how the rich are, today -- "It's all about me and never mind that the rest of the country is suffering due to my selfishness."  You can see that from the nonsense about ending Bush's ludicrous tax cuts and honestly trying to get the economy going.

In fact, a lot of the films of the 30s showed just how much the country was controlled by the rich and their corrupt politicians to the detriment to those who draw a paycheck or really work for a living.  Don't believe me?  Check out "Mr. Deeds Goes to Town" or "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" or "His Girl Friday" or "They Won't Forget" or even "The Adventures of Robin Hood" (the Errol Flynn version, which is still the best).  They're rampant with thieves in designer suits and oily smiles.

As for "...Voyager", it's a classic romance about a forbidden love and self-sacrifice by the woman for a greater good, and it's a bit silly in how easily everything works out in the end, considering the emotional difficulties of those involved.  And yet...viewing it this time, I noticed how the lead female (Charlotte Vale, played by Bette Davis) winds up being a caring, loving person specifically because of the brutality visited upon her by her aged, very wealthy mother (played by Gladys Cooper), a snob of a person who places her money and position in society above everything else.  Again, with the old bat it's all about me, and when Charlotte casts her control off, completely, she dies in order to hand over yet another guilt trip.

Looking at how people behave now...with Wall Street scum giving themselves massive bonuses despite having wrecked the economy and Banksters using illegal procedures to foreclose on people's homes and politicians on BOTH sides of the aisle kissing the ass of billionaires who've bought them their offices...nothing's really changed.  The corrupt senator of "Mr. Smith..." would feel right at home in today's Washington DC, even though it's more than seven decades later.  The venal mayor and sheriff in "His Girl Friday" have their exact counterparts in the governor of Texas and sheriff of Phoenix, today, both of whom are willing to twist the law and even kill innocent people to further their careers.

And it's not just in the US.  Similar crap happens in Russia and China and England and Ireland and Germany and Syria and Brazil and Chile and name-your-country anywhere else.  Look at how the banks in England and Germany tried to turn Iceland into a slave nation, meant only to replay the losses they incurred while gambling on idiotic projects.  The only thing that stopped it was the people said, No.  Now it's happening in Ireland and Spain and Greece, and their people aren't being given any say in their newfound servitude.  It's outright theft of these countries' treasuries on the grandest scale imaginable, and no one in power is even trying to stop it.

I wonder who actually said, "The more things change, the more they stay the same"?  Whoever it was must have been a prophet.

I guess this is where hope comes in.  And dreams.  And wishes for a better tomorrow.

Just for the hell of it...

 This is Charlie Williams, one of the actors, singers, dancers in "Memphis" on Broadway.  Texas born.
I know how photos can be worked up and all that, but I just plain like the look of these two.

Doesn't hurt that he's adorable.

Monday, April 25, 2011


Don't geel like writing, right now.  So...'s beautiful downtown Buffalo on April 10th, the day I left for Portland.  That white slash is ice still on the lake water.
This is the Columbia River looking towards IH 5 and the drawbridge that spans it.  Thems real serious rain clouds in the background, moving in fast.
Here's the entrance to Fort Vancouver, which I had to play with in Photoshop to make visible, thanks to the dimming light.  Once I get used to my camera, I may be able to do better shots with less digital noise in them, but these'll do for now.  Out of 75 photos, I got seven that were usable.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

I have the weirdest camera

It's a Vivitar and only cost me $70, but it's as complex and demanding as a cat.  When I'm taking photos, I have to choose between "scenery", "portrait", "night scenery", "high sensitivity", "sport", "beach", or " party" mode while size and exposure and ISO and such can pretty much be set...except for white balance.  Then I have to choose between "daylight", "cloudy", "fluorescent" and "incandescent".  And on TOP of all this, there's a switch on the side that designates whether or not you're shooting landscapes as opposed to closeups.  I've got more icons on my viewing screen than I have fingers.  And if you don't get the alignment JUST right, you come out with a piece of crap.  Half the photos I took in Portland were soft...too soft to correct even in Photoshop.

Here's one that did come out all right, but only after I spent half an hour and went through a dozen different configurations to get it right.  I timed it neatly between rain showers.

And this is the one decent one I could get for Fort Vancouver since it was clouding up and about to rain.  This is after a LOT of manipulation in Photoshop to make it viewable.  Those towers in the background are the drawbridge on Interstate 5 going over the Columbia River.

I guess once I use the damned thing more I'll get used to it, but it does irritate me.  The camera that got taken by the JetBlue guy didn't need all this nonsense and it worked fine.

Nothing much else to talk about, really.  A mundane day.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Paperwork day

Sorting out bills and working on crap.  I also need to find my car's title if I want to register it in NY and it's not where I thought it would be.  So...comes a search for that.  What fun.  The one positive is, I cut my boxes of papers by a third before I left San Antonio so I don't have as many to go through, but those are still a mess.  I never was good at organization.

I've also spoken with my mother and she's not doing so hot, again.  Always tired and dizzy.  My little brother does what he can and my sister is there to help when she has time (but considering she has a full-time job and lives 35 miles away from mom, it's hard for her to do a huge amount).  My younger brother has not called mom once since she got out of the hospital, and mom doesn't want to call him for help, even though she could use it.

The situation bothers me but I have no prospects for a decent job in SA, plain and simple.  This one is barely adequate, and they whined when I said I was following our initial agreement and raising my rate.  So I don't know what to do about it.  If I quit and go back to Texas, I'll have to go bankrupt, cancel my health insurance and return to living in the dining room, again.  If I don't, my mother struggles along with what help she can get from my little brother and sister until she winds up in a nursing home.  Nice choice.

Don't get me wrong -- I don't blame my little brother and sister for this; they're doing everything they can.  And truth be told, my younger brother is just doing what he did before with his father, so no surprises there.  I guess the only way this will work out positively is if I wind the lottery and can live off that till I'm eligible for Social Security.  That or "The Lyons' Den" gets snapped up by Random House and sells a million copies.  I could live with either.

Friday, April 22, 2011

I fried my brain

I flew back on a 5 1/2 hour Red-eye so, since I can't sleep on an airplane, I watched TV.  JetBlue offers programs via Direct TV; all you need is earphones...which I had since I wanted to watch "Syriana" on my laptop (so I did that on the trip out and it's a damn good movie told in a non-linear style that takes its time making full sense).  But coming back I had no movie so wound up watching old episodes of "Three's Company" and "The Nanny."  And I think my brain went into shock.

"Three's Company" was insipid but it's from the 70's and the clothes are crazy enough to keep it camp and remind us of how men used to have dicks on TV (one character who's a nookie-hound was wearing tight pants that showed his package to full effect).  Needless to add, women will always have tits on TV.  It was also interesting to see the attitudes about gay men that were acceptable (and made fun of)...all of it pre-AIDS.  It's almost like watching "I Love Lucy" without the brilliant comedy timing or writing...or Lucy.

But then that segued into four episodes of "The Nanny" and I seriously think I am scarred for life.  But I could not look away.  It's like I was watching a slow-motion train wreck.  Fran Drescher wasn't all that bad (except for her extremely nasal laugh), but the setup was so insipid and the storylines so over the top, it's like a melodrama play from the 1870's but without enough camp to make it fun.  Just bad writing and acting and directing.  And this was a top-rated show?  Which I was fortunate enough not to watch until now?  And ran for six years?  Sometimes my oblivious nature is a blessing.

Of course, I also went to Fort Vancouver before going to the airport so used that to anchor myself to reality.  It's across the Columbia River from Portland and is one of those frontier forts with tree trunks set upright and with pointed tops to make the perimeter walls, all leading up to a guard lookout.  It's set up like a little community with some people in period clothes doing work with the tools of the time -- 1850's.   I got there on "no fee" day so just wandered around as it rained, off and on.

Many of the buildings within the compound were restored to nearly original condition, though they were way too neat looking.  I don't think their walls would have been as smooth as these were, and of course horses would have been quartered in there, as well, leaving areas of no grass and lots of fertilizer.  Still, the whole thing reminded me of "Drums Along the Mohawk", an old Henry Fonda movie from 1939, and I enjoyed it.  Once my camera's recharged, I'll put up photos...if they came out.

I'm having trouble getting the hang of this new cheap-assed camera.  Half the time, it's out of focus and dark.  I've got more than a dozen different settings available as well as a switch on the side to let it know if I'm shooting close-ups or doing landscapes, and I have to get the combination just right to get a decent shot.  I can't find a steady setting that really allows for everything (the Auto setting doesn't do a damned thing that I can tell), so I fiddle with it, a lot.

Gads, I'm starting to fade, already.  I got home just before 9am and got to bed about 10:30 and slept till nearly 3pm.  That's after being up for 24 hours.  I gotta get back into shape.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

A real bookstore

I dropped into Powell's Bookstore in downtown Portland and in the space of ten minutes found $50 worth of books I wanted.  Powell's carries both new and used volumes, side by side, so I went to the Irish history section and there were three titles I just had to buy, including one written by a Protestant Brit with "The murderous history of Ulster's Catholics" in the sub-title.  It was written in 2000 so should prove interesting.  The other two I bought were published in 1972.

Man, I could have spent all day in that place and probably broken my budget, big-time, before I was done. I really miss stores like this.  Borders and Barnes&Noble never took over, and with Amazon it's hard as hell to find anything interesting unless you know exactly what you're looking for and they happen to offer something else like it as a suggestion.  Some of the crap that came up through that method...well, let's just say there was nothing to link them except a single word in the title.

But a store like Powell' can dig through new books and find old ones right beside them that are all on the same subject.  It hurts that this is vanishing.

It's funny, but my whole life has been tied up in books, even when I had my eyes on the film prize.  I haunted bookstores before I returned to college and then began working in them.  And I've been most at ease in that environment.  So now I'm finally writing novels and sometimes wonder if I've wasted my life and the opportunities given me, but I can't say that I have (not any longer).   It's where I was meant to be, and as much as I like to think things might have been different had I followed this path instead of that trail...I don't think anything would have turned out differently.

I am what I am...a bookworm devouring stories.  Right now I feel a bit fat and happy, because I'm still dealing with books, albeit in a roundabout way.  Won't keep me from whining, every so often, but then again, what could?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Portland is pretty

From what I've seen.  Neat homes.  Green hills.  Mount Hood standing grandly in the background under a semi-overcast sky.  But it's got some weirdness going on here -- like the 5 freeway, which goes from San Diego up to the Canadian border.  It has a drawbridge between Oregon and Washington.  Man, I knew they weren't crazy about each other but to use the Columbia River as a sort of moat with a way to cut off the flow of traffic is a bit much, I think.  But what's worse?  They misidentify their signs.

I was heading down the 5 from Vancouver, Washington and a sign said my exit was 306B.  So I'm looking for 306B but all that comes up is 306 and it doesn't have my street's name on it, just the name of the racetrack near my hotel, and the exit after that is 1.5 miles down the road.  So I had to go down and turn around.  Seems the 306 exit is only referred to as 306B going north, because there's a 306A that goes nowhere and has no exit off the freeway on the southbound side.  Nice of them to say so.  There were others...but that was the most fun.

My plane ride was over 6 hours long, but I had a movie to watch and listened to some music till my laptop's battery gave out.  I don't know what it is about this trip, but I've been losing things.  I left my work cell phone on the plane and had to go get it, then today I left my jacket at the warehouse I was working in.  I think.  It's not in the car and I don't remember taking it anywhere else.  I'll check in the morning.

I'm too tired to continue.  It was a long day and I'm three hours out of sorts.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

JetBlue is not cool

They do not have AC adaptors on their long distance planes, so my laptop will be juiceless before I get to Portland, and vise verse (and I always think of how Billie Holiday pronounced that little phrase in "Born Yesterday" -- "VICE-ah VOICE-ah").  BUT...they do offer free TV and music if you bring your own headphones.  NOT the same thing...but does cut down on my superficial grumbles.

I'll also be done with "Ghosts of Belfast" before I'm halfway there.  Stuart Neville's a good novelist.  The book's following the typical path for a thriller, but he's inventive enough with it to where I don't care.  Hell, even though the second this one character named Marie was introduced I knew exactly where it would head, I'm letting it lead me.  And despite myself, I like Gerry, his hit-man-hero-psycho-wanna-be-decent-guy.  But to be honest, had I not already bought the book before I read his short story in "Requiems for the Departed," I wouldn't have even considered digging into more of his work.  It wasn't bad; it just was so typical and lazy a piece of work, I didn't have very high hopes.

However, it's got Brendan and me talking, again...which is a weird thing for me to say, since in "Ghosts..." Gerry is haunted by the 12 people he killed until he kills the men who brought about their deaths, and he's the only person who can see them.  But it fits in with Irish manner and mythology, I suppose.  The past and the dead mean more to so many than do the living and the future.  Of course that's not just in Ireland.  Look at Israel and the Palestinians and the whole damned area around them; insults from five centuries ago are still cause enough to kill and destroy.  It's too damn typical of the human race.

But he's shown me the way to get him and Joanna together and off to Grianan Aileach circle fort.  I have the five reasons I need for it to work.

That's something people never understood about my screenplays, even when I told them -- everything in them has five reasons to be part of the story, and they would interlink.  If I removed one or tried to change it, everything else would have to be redone, as well.  I think the people rewriting "Lavender Curse" and "Bugzters" are finding that out the hard way...but too late; all their rewriting is doing is destroying the scripts' prospects.  And I'm sure they'll think they did their best to make them work right and will just never see they shot themselves in the foot.  But they're not my stories, anymore, so I have no say in them.  That still pisses me off...even if reality has to be allowed to assert its dominance every now and then.

I sound arrogant.  Good.  I used to be this way about my artwork but I never felt I was good enough to be like that about my writing.  Not until the last few years.  Too bad I didn't feel this way 30 years ago; who knows what I could have accomplished.

Monday, April 18, 2011' snow, don't ya know?

Close to an inch fell while I was working, today, spread over the course of a few hours.  It's hard to believe there's still the ability for it to fall this late in the season, but I remember when I went to Yosemite in June (many MANY years ago) and found snow still on the ground.  It was so freaky.

I went with my folks just after graduating from college.  It was blistering hot when we left Texas (my father had a red and white 1975 Chrysler Cordoba with "fine Corinthian leather" seats and a so-so AC), and it stayed hot as we drove through New Mexico and Arizona...until we got up to Flagstaff, where it was nice and cool.  Then came my first trip to the Grand Canyon (warm), across the Hoover Dam (hot) and stopping at a Deli in Las Vegas (DAMNED hot).  I tried borscht for the first time, played the slots at Ceasar's and wound up leaving that town with $45 more than I'd started with (haven't done that since).  Then we trekked up to Yosemite (and nearly burned up the brakes on the car coming down the mountain) and stayed a night in San Francisco.  My first time there, too.  Driving down to LA, we took PCH as far as we could, stayed the night in LA and wound up driving to San Diego to visit my sister and brother.  It was nice.

I have the photos in one of my albums.  I should scan them, sometime, before they fade too badly.

I guess I'm remembering that trip of firsts because this is my first trip to Portland, and it's a city I'd always intended to visit, someday.  I'm told it's lovely and livable.

An online friend of mine has just decided it's time to begin AA classes.  I told him he's being strong, taking this path.  He doesn't really believe me.  But I've seen how hard it is for people in his situation and I can only wish him the best...but I've learned the hard way that this is a journey he has to walk on his own.  He has to determine the direction and he has to want to stick to it.  I will give him any support and reinforcement I can, but I will not push.  That doesn't work.

It amazes me how many people will force members of their family into rehab and attending AA meetings, thinking that will sober them up.  It won't.  Invariably those who are forced to get it through emotional blackmail or threats or legal action...will not stay clean.  Because deep down they really don't want it.  I've seen it proven over and over with family and friends, not to mention these celebrity junkies who get ordered by a judge to $1000 a minute clinics...and still wind up in a crash and burn.

But I think this guy does want it.  And I'm sending him all the positive thoughts I can.  He IS strong...because it takes a strong man to change his life, like this.  And if he wants to succeed, he will.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Rolling the dice, as it were

I just sent "The Lyons' Den" off to another publisher who's willing to look at it.  It'll be interesting to see if they finally take it since it's really a post-queer novel.  The closest this book comes to making a big deal about being gay in the USA is pointing out that Tad is one of those "Okay, I'm a fag, so what?" kind of guys...and Daniel's psycho mother and sister use his homosexuality against him for their own means.  Important to be sure, but beyond that no one else gives a damn.  Which is how it should be.

The first publisher I sent it to was willing to look at it because they bought my novella, "Perfection", to put in their anthology.  In fact, they'd liked that story so much they agreed to take it even though it's twice as long as they normally accept...and they paid me double their usual rate.  The big drawback to them is, the book wouldn't come out for a year.  The big plus to that is, a lot of their list is carried in mainstream stores like Barnes & Noble.  They'll get back to me in a couple of months so we'll see how that goes.

I halfway wish I'd approached them for "Bobby Carapisi" but I was heavy into my current publisher at the time and he did get the books out there very quickly.  The fact is, I really appreciate him being willing to let me do my thing with the titles and suggestions on the cover art.  The only complaint I have is that he can't pay me what he owes me...well that and he started handing me the same nonsense he hands his other authors, even though he knows I know better.  It's like he can't help himself -- he's got to put out his spin on things, even when it flies in the face of things he told me only the week before.  He says he used to be in politics; I believe him. But enough about that.

Man, I love Kurosawa's films.  Something I realized about them long ago is, even when he's making a simple police-procedural story (like we get constantly from US TV and movies) he gets you so invested in the characters you get lost in them.  "Stray Dog" is a case in point.  In 1949 Tokyo, a rookie cop's pistol is stolen and he goes looking for it.  He pairs up with an experienced cop and as they search, they find it's being used in ever more violent crimes.  Sounds like an episode of CSI or Law and Order, right?  Except the rookie's growing sense of guilt and desperation as his pistol is used to steal and then to kill takes this out of the realm of the simple and puts it into the existential. Parallels emerge between the cop's and the suspect's lives, showing how easily each could have wound up like the other.  He even goes nearly mad towards the end...until given a chance at redemption.

The same thing happened with "High and Low."  A simple kidnapping and recovery story turned into a meditation on honor and evil, on how one keeps one's decency intact in an uncaring world.  And "Rashomon" took a rape and murder and questioned just how honest we can be about ourselves, even when we're dead.  Questioned if the truth was ever truly knowable.  He was a phenomenal storyteller.

Today it snowed in Buffalo.  The middle of April, Palm Sunday...and snow.  Amazing.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Wars begun and based on stupidity

More of Walt Whitman and his times, especially in dealing with him first hearing about the firing on Fort Sumter.

It was the beginning of the end for the South, though you could never have convinced them of that at the time.  They won.  They beat down a Yankee presence in their genteel little world.  They were on the road to saving their way of life -- owning slaves -- and the slave owners were doing it with the help of huge numbers of white sharecroppers and shopkeepers, almost none of whom even thought about possessing another human being.

Today, you still hear from the right wing how the Civil War was about states' rights.  That is a flat out lie, and a foul one, too.  In another part of the "Disunion" blog, Jamie Malanowski writes, "Six hundred thousand Americans did not die for anything as nebulous as states rights or tariffs. They died because slaveholders wanted to preserve their human property and expand their slaveholding empire, and they were willing to demolish the union and bring tragedy to nearly every family in this land in order to protect their right to own human beings."

We have the same thing happening today, with the same scum leading the charge.  The GOP(which doesn't give a damn about the deficit, not really) will happily destroy the country to gain power and put blacks, queers, Mexicans and liberals back in their places -- allowing rich white men to run the US like it's their personal corporation.  You really should read "Disunion" on a daily basis and get the full idea of how little things have changed in the last 150 years.  It's spooky.

I was just remembering an argument I got into with my step-father about Vietnam.  We were living in Honolulu, which was an R&R station for servicemen fighting in that war, because he was stationed at Hickham AFB.  During a trip to Waikiki's Fort Derussy Beach, we got caught in one of the city's nasty traffic jams.  It was hot, nasty hot and even more humid than usual.  And just behind us, to the right of our borrowed car, were two bus loads of young airmen being ferried to that same beach.  Young?  Hell, most of them were boys of 18 and 19 body (which I can see from hindsight; I was only fifteen at the time so they were all "men" to me).,,but what's stayed with me ever since was how their eyes were a hundred years old.  And how their bodies were almost limp from weariness.  And how their faces trailed sweat and sorrow, made ten times worse because the busses were not air conditioned.  That didn't feel right, to me.  They were off fighting in a hideous war; they should have been treated like kings when they came here for a couple weeks of rest from death and destruction.

As if to mock my thought, we heard sirens screaming behind us.  Traffic was forced to crowd tight to the right so a motorcade could whip by, headed for one of the finer hotels on the island.  In that procession's limousine was the crown prince of Japan and his wife, royalty treated with kid gloves.  I watched them whip past then glanced at the boys in the busses...and nothing registered in their expressions.  Until I saw one startlingly lovely kid with sun-reddened skin, who was resting his chin on his left hand as his left arm leaned out the window, shift three of his fingers oh-so-slightly down his left cheek so the middle finger was just visibly standing alone, sending that oh-so-elegant couple a salute of complete contempt as they whipped on, unaware of the life around them.

I started laughing.  He noticed and shifted his eyes down to look at me, and half a smile came to his face.  And I nodded.  Then one finger shifted to make his signal into the "Peace" sign, still pressing against his cheek.  I sent it back to him...just as my step-father looked around to ask me what I was laughing at.  He saw it and saw it was aimed at the busload of servicemen...and he blew up.  How dare I insult those poor boys who were fighting for our freedom by sending that vile signal to them?  In answer, I shifted its focus to him...and he damn near hit me.

The rest of the argument was typical teenager-against-parental-authority crap.  But I seriously think that was the beginning of my trek to liberal-land, because the way those two people of no consequence except by birth were being treated with such honor and respect while these kids who were being killed and maimed and shattered for life over something that proved to be based on a politician's lie were being was just plain wrong.  Completely disrespectful of the meaning of humanity.

I've never blamed soldiers for being sent to fight wars.  I blame the men of power and consequence to initiate them.  It wasn't the sharecroppers who fired on Fort Sumter, it was Jefferson Davis and his cabinet who issued the order.  It wasn't the farm boys and factory workers who began WW1, it was the Kings and Kaisers and Tsars who let a family spat escalate into a human calamity.  It wasn't the airmen and marines and grunts and sailors who got us into Vietnam; it was Johnson putting over a lie about an attack in the Gulf of Tonkin.  It wasn't America that wanted to invade Iraq after 9/11; it was Bush and his administration who terrorized most people into thinking there was a need for it.  (I exempt WW2 from this because Hitler was evil, incarnate, and had to be stopped...but neither do I completely absolve the German people for letting themselves be led into war and the holocaust; it was too damned obvious what the man was doing, and too damned few of them even tried to stop it.)

 I don't know what this ramble is about.  I've spent most of the day doing nothing.  But it just bubbled up and I wrote it...and now I'm going to watch "Stray Dog", again.  One of Kurosawa's early gems with a heartbreaking performance by a young Toshiro Mifune.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Avoidance is a sneaky devil

The whole situation that occurred last night was nothing but my dancing around the fact that I now need to settle down and get back to work on "Place of Safety."  The fact is, it's probably a good idea to get it done before the end of the world...which, with all the disasters and absolute assholiness (and I deliberately spelled it this way) going on everywhere right now, may come sooner than later.  It seems even Hamas, a terrorist group that now runs the Gaza Strip, has been called too moderate by some Islamic freaks, who then brutally murdered an Italian man who was trying to help the Palestinian people.

That's something radicals never seem to understand -- there will always be someone more radical than they are, be it to the left or right.  And once a person or group is radicalized, you cannot stop them or control them.  Which the GOP is finding out about the Tea Partiers.  They fed them lies and half-truths and all sorts of snake oil, thinking they could control them, and now the little pinheads have their minds made up.  Now the Tea Party idiots would happily let the US government shut down and default on its debts just to get their own way, all lead by their figurehead-bitches, Sarah and Michelle.  They've taken "No Surrender" to its logical conclusion and don't care if it means the end of life as we know it...and the Republicans have become their attack dogs, whether they want to be or not, because one wrong step and they get banished from the pack.

This is also how the Unionists were in Northern Ian Paisley used to be before he finally realized he was achieving nothing with his brand of absolute hatred.  It was like that for hundreds of years throughout Ireland, with Protestants' hatred of Catholics used to excuse all sorts of abuses, and it became even more vicious after partition.  That's when anti-Catholicism and hate were codified into law.  But you could not get any Protestant at that time to admit they were even being unfair, let alone unreasonable.  It was all the Catholics' fault for being Catholic.

So now that Paisley and Gerry Adams of Sinn Fein are working together to build peace, they're faced with the specter of radicals within their own ranks who will bomb and kill just to make themselves a name.  A young Catholic PSNI cop was killed recently and people on both sides of the divide got together to protest it.  But no one's been caught or turned in, there are even some who will still protect those who want nothing but chaos.

And that is what it boils down to -- those who want chaos instead of order.  There are a myriad of reasons for people to try and bring that about, and  you cannot stop it with reason or pleading or even imprisonment.  I'm reminded of how the world used to be 2000 years ago.  To illustrate it, I'll paraphrase an old saying, "The more I see of men, the more I understand why armies used to just wipe out cities they conquered."  It cut down on problems of revenge that would crop up later if they didn't do that.

Which leads me back to my avoidance.  I know I'll be dealing with this in the book, to an extent.  So maybe it's best I have a job and these travels I must take, since they keep me from getting lost in the narrative of anger and hate.  Man, while writing the third draft of "The Lyons' Den" I started getting just as crazy as Daniel.  So I identify deeply with my characters and their trials, travails and tribulations. (And I know according to "Strunk & White" I'm supposed to put a comma after "travails," but I just can't; it just does not look right to me.)

ANY-way...sometimes chaos is good for an artist.  To use another quote -- "Don't be so gloomy. After all it's not that awful. Like the fella says, in Italy for 30 years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder, and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love - they had 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock."  (Hat tip to "Harry Lime" in "The Third Man.")

What more could I add to that?

Thursday, April 14, 2011

I can't do it

I just about convinced myself I could re-write KAZN, an action-suspense script I wrote years ago about a young soldier seeking vengeance on the man he believes had his family killed, only to start falling for the man's daughter.  In every way it was a very commercial script -- a hero who speaks little but does one hell of a lot, a love interest, a point in the script where I've been told by readers they honestly thought I was going to kill the guy off, intrigue, some major fight sequences and a finale where four different groups are going at each other in a closed space.  Commercial in every way except the lead was Russian.

Well...I thought for some wild and crazy reason I could shift this story to one following an American soldier instead of the Russian.  And tried to, this evening.  And it was a struggle from the first moment.  I finally tried to approach it as a new story...but that only made things a little better.  So now, after hours working at it, I can see the script is what it is.  It came to me correct and ready and for me to change its characters just in the hope of making a buck would be a violation of the story's integrity.

So...I'm dropping it.  Learning, yet again, that once the story and characters are set, they're set right.  And I mess with that at my own peril.  Maybe the lesson will finally engrave itself in my psyche.

I have a number of scripts where things weren't quite right so messing with them made a huge difference and let them become right.  Like "Still Life."  For years I had it set in Houston and it worked all right, but I was never completely comfortable with it.  Then I shifted it to Dublin and it fell into place.  And now I can't even think of it being in Houston, anymore.  Same for "Coby O' and the Pink Palace of Texas".  Making Coby gay and the guy he's interested in straight-but-not-narrow with the whole thing being about gay rights being cynically used to cover up a crime gave the story life and heart and soul instead of just action.  Now I know what it's about.

I have a couple other scripts that never settled down, so I may revisit them later on and see what we come up with.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Portland bound

Off to Portland, after all.  Just a whirlwind trip of two days and heading back on a red-eye flight that gets into JFK at 5:30 am, but it'll be interesting.  I've never been to Portland.

Post writing mush has entered my brain.  This happens whenever I get focused in on a story to the point I'm thinking of nothing else (when not at work) and then it's done and my mind takes its time winding down.  I wind up piddling time away and sort of catching up on paperwork and errands and crap like that.  I tried to hurry it along by reading but my inner critic kicked in and nothing much happened except I wished I hadn't bothered with some of the stories.  They didn't take my mind off of anything.

So now what?I have a movie from Netflix I could watch, but it's Visconti and I get the feeling it's a tragedy and I don't feel like that, right now.  I have other books to read...which might be the best thing to do, right now.  That or I could shift my much to another rewrite of a script and see what happens there.  I dunno.

I think I'll just go wandering, mentally, for a while and see where it takes me.  After all, not all who wander are lost.

I didn't listen to Obama's speech because I knew he was going to kiss more GOP ass...and he did in some ways but not in others, so I'm unsure how to react.  I like the "tax the rich" part because many of them are getting away with paying nothing while the people who can least afford it get plundered.  But he's still doing massive cuts and using accounting tricks to make them seem less threatening than they are.  And this is just the beginning of the negotiations, so by the time it's done, the GOP will be killing people because they slashed Medicare and Medicaid and Planned Parenthood while scum like Donald trump, the Koch brothers and GE will keep getting money back from the IRS even if they never paid a dime.  We're back in the age of the Robber Barons.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Mark Twin's letter to Walt Whitman

This shows just how great a writer Mark Twain was, a simple letter written to Walt Whitman on the occasion of his 70th birthday.  Wow.
Hartford, May 24/89

To Walt Whitman:

You have lived just the seventy years which are greatest in the world’s history & richest in benefit & advancement to its peoples. These seventy years have done much more to widen the interval between man & the other animals than was accomplished by any five centuries which preceded them.

What great births you have witnessed! The steam press, the steamship, the steel ship, the railroad, the perfected cotton-gin, the telegraph, the phonograph, the photograph, photo-gravure, the electrotype, the gaslight, the electric light, the sewing machine, & the amazing, infinitely varied & innumerable products of coal tar, those latest & strangest marvels of a marvelous age. And you have seen even greater births than these; for you have seen the application of anesthesia to surgery-practice, whereby the ancient dominion of pain, which began with the first created life, came to an end in this earth forever; you have seen the slave set free, you have seen the monarchy banished from France, & reduced in England to a machine which makes an imposing show of diligence & attention to business, but isn’t connected with the works. Yes, you have indeed seen much — but tarry yet a while, for the greatest is yet to come. Wait thirty years, & then look out over the earth! You shall see marvels upon marvels added to these whose nativity you have witnessed; & conspicuous above them you shall see their formidable Result — Man at almost his full stature at last! — & still growing, visibly growing while you look. In that day, who that hath a throne, or a gilded privilege not attainable by his neighbor, let him procure his slippers & get ready to dance, for there is going to be music. Abide, & see these things! Thirty of us who honor & love you, offer the opportunity. We have among us 600 years, good & sound, left in the bank of life. Take 30 of them — the richest birth-day gift ever offered to poet in this world — & sit down & wait. Wait till you see that great figure appear, & catch the far glint of the sun upon his banner; then you may depart satisfied, as knowing you have seen him for whom the earth was made, & that he will proclaim that human wheat is more than human tares, & proceed to organize human values on that basis.

Mark Twain

I haven't much else to say, since this was a rough couple of days and I'm still recovering.  But I do want to note -- I've finished the stories in "Requiem for the Departed" and, aside from one that works the legend of Selkies into its heartbreaking tale of revenge and justice in 6th Century Hibernia ("The Sea Is Not Full", which also offers a hint at the beginnings of St. Patrick) none of them impressed.  In fact, a few of them seemed more like outlines for novels than short-stories, especially the last one -- "The Life Business", that tells its story rather than lets it unfold and jams in WAY too much for a short -- while the rest were just bland and not really believable, even within their own worlds.  These writers would never get a letter like that from Mark Twain.

Unfortunately, Whitman only took a bit less than three of the years offered so generously my Mark Twain.  More's the pity.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

The end of an era

Sydney Lumet died, today.  He's the director behind a huge number of seminal films -- Network, Dog Day Afternoon, Twelve Angry Men, Fail Safe, Prince of the City -- as well as some real misfires -- The Wiz, and enough said about that.  But this guy was working as a director from the early 50's in TV, when it was live and just getting started.  He helped 17 actors and actresses gain Academy Award nominations, he was so good at working with them, and four won - Ingrid Bergman, Beatrice Straight, Peter Finch and Faye Dunaway.  He was TV and film history, and "Network" is more relevant today than it was 35 years ago.  He will be missed.

I finished "The Lyons' Den" and sent it off to the publisher.  It wound up being 276 pages long and very nearly 60K in words.  I went through my usual, "Let's put it aside for a little while and see how it reads, then" and realized if I do that, I'll never finish it.  I could easily tweak this story for the next year and not be 100% on it, but the fact is, I never SHOULD be.  When the day comes that I'm satisfied with my writing, that'll be the day my creativity has died...well, what little creativity I have.

Besides, I was falling in love with Van and that's not a good thing.  I could easily make this a gooey love story instead of the farcical-psychotic-break it really is.  I never knew I could go as far as I did with this story.  Here's hoping this publisher likes it.

Now I can get to my reading and prepping for "Place of Safety."

On a side note -- Obama let the country get raped by the GOP and he's calling it a victory because they agreed to use a condom.  I may talk to some of the people I know in England and see if anyone will sponsor me for a job over there, since I'm not winning the lottery and I'm incapable of writing a script that will sell.  I'm not above applying for citizenship.  The UK doesn't require I give up my US passport, nor does the US.  But this ludicrous dance in Washington is just plain pathetic, and the scum on the Right are only going to get worse, thanks to this capitulation by our power elite and the asinine pundits who support them.

Where's an FDR or Harry Truman when you need one?

Friday, April 8, 2011

Selling like hotcakes...sort of

I just checked the sales figures on my books (according to Amazon's tracking system, which supposedly includes B&N and Borders) and in March I sold 31 copies, just in paperback.  Six of them are HTRASG, bouncing it back up to the top 5 of the publisher's bestsellers (right now I'm at #4 but I was #2 for a week).  RIHC6v1 is also selling steadily, and PM and BCv1 have begun to sell, as well.

I don't get specific figures on the Kindle sales, just a graph that shows them all staying in the top 20% of overall sales...and that does not include Nook or any other electronic edition of the book.  Too bad this doesn't translate into actual money; I could use it, right now since my taxes wiped me out.  And I wish I could trust the figures I get from the publisher, but I'm at the point where if he tells me the sky is blue and grass is green, I'll think he's lying.

As for the IRS, I'm 95% sure I'll get audited, because H&R Block REALLY did not make me comfortable with their incompetence.  But it's too late to get them redone by a real CPA and besides, I couldn't afford to pay someone else to do it.  I'm still in the mindset of having withholding done on a paycheck, and I've never paid estimated taxes through the year.  And I am not at ALL used to paying so damn much in self-employment I got hit good.  Yet billionaires get tax breaks out the wazoo from the scum in Washington.  I'm thinking more and more along the lines of pitchforks and torches and guillotines, with Donald Trump and the Koch brothers first in line.

I'm rather enjoying the spectacle of Paul Ryan being raked over the coals thanks to his ludicrous budget proposal.  Even The Heritage Foundation's been stung by his stupidity...and that is SUCH a good thing, because they love to make up their own figures.  Problem is, this fiasco hasn't changed anyone's mindset, at all.  The GOP still thinks they can cut taxes by a couple trillion bucks and it will all magically even out once they cut the waste in government spending.  That was shown to be nonsense back as far as Ronnie Ray-gun, who tripled our debt using that very same math.  But nobody on the right seems to give a damn.

It used to be that Americans knew the best way to take care of themselves was to take care of those around them.  Businesses gave people long-term jobs and in exchange got experienced employees who stayed with them throughout their working lives.  Even Henry Ford, who was rabidly anti-union, knew that if he wanted his workers to be able to buy his cars, he had to pay them a decent wage.  We don't have that in business, anymore.  Not since the likes of Carl Icahn became heroes for slashing jobs and decimating unions and raiding pensions all to enrich themselves.  We may HAVE to have a full-fledged depression that wipes out the fortunes of scum like the Kochs and the Trumps and the Chiafes before we can return to some semblance of honest Capitalism, again, instead of this robber baron crap.

End of soapbox.  Time for tea...and working on LD.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Damn that lottery!

The fates have failed me, again.  I bought lottery tickets and didn't get one damned number right.  How am I ever going to be able to break this cycle of work, work, work, write if I don't catch a break with something that's damn near impossible to win?  I think the most I ever got out of a lottery ticket was $5...after I'd put in $20.  NOT a good return.  Makes you want to give up on the idea of luck.

Which I will need a lot of to get everything done that I want to get done.  Which is something I've never had much of.  *Sigh*

So I wiped myself out paying my taxes, today.  And H&R Block asked me to refer people to them.  I had to bite my tongue to keep from laughing in their faces.  I'm never going back to them, let alone suggesting people use them.  Jeez.  Today the woman helping me couldn't even get my NY State Voucher to print out unless I filed electronically.

Enough whining.  I'm turning into the Tad of LD, albeit without the cash.  Or looks.  Or absolute certainty that I'm perfect.

I'm at the point where LD is as close as I can get to it being done, short some feedback that points out a logic flaw that I'm not seeing and that makes me go into meltdown and that...that...uh, keeps me from accepting that I'm now going through to determine whether to use "an" or "the" as the article.  Which is normally my break-off point.

God, it took me nearly six months to get to this point with a 270 page story; how long'll it take to get POS done if I go through the same nonsense?  I DEFINITELY need to win the lottery -- at least SOME of it -- just so I'll have the time to finish the book before I'm 90!

Anybody got some good numbers?  I'll cut you in for 10%.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Requiem For The Departed

I've begun reading an anthology of short crime stories written by authors from Northern Ireland and the Republic, all based on Irish legends.  It's an interesting take and the stories do get dark and gritty, but I'm having this weird sensation of reading work that was written in the 70's and 80's, even though all are based in modern times.  I honestly don't know why...unless it's the fact that back then I was heavy into mysteries -- Agatha Christie, Earl Stanley Gardener, Earl Derr Biggers, Ellery Queen -- mixed with Steven King and Peter Straub (and the stories do seem a bit like a cross between King and Queen...sorry, couldn't resist that) -- and they seem to be about as inventive as books of that time.

One is based on "the hound of Culain," which was killed by Cú Chulainn, one of Ireland's ancient heroes...but I don't really see that story in the modern short.  In the legend, as a child, Cú Chulainn kills the guard dog of Culann in self defense then offers to take its place until one can be trained to replace it.  In the story, only half the legend is used and the Cú Chulainn character is made into a scumbag version of Clive Owen's transporter in the BMW commercials, ten years back.  Seems a bit disrespectful.

The opening story is based on the legend of Queen Macha, who dominates her men and supposedly won a race she was forced to run against some horses, even though pregnant with twins.  She went into labor at the finish line and cursed the men of Ulster to suffer her pains whenever they most needed their strength.  In the story, she's a drug-dealing whore who's one step ahead of all the men she knows because she knows how to use sex against them.  Hell, that could be Scarlett O'Hara of Belfast.

I can't say much about the liberties taken with the legends, in these stories, because of what I did with "Darian's Point"...using harpies formed from the Dagda's sins and Morriggan's witchcraft to build a new branch to the myths...though I do think I stayed close to the mythology of the times.  And the writing is good.  I'm just...I dunno...not impressed with the directions taken, so far.  It's like they went the easiest route to build their stories.  Nothing really fresh or exciting in them, just...typical.

For example, why did the Macha character have to be evil as well as smart?  She's not really that way in the legends.  Why couldn't she have been a judge or a barrister or a reporter or a cop or just a housewife who doesn't want her kids exposed to drugs or a tourist who's inadvertently caused trouble?  Any of these would have fit much better with the story, even keeping it basically as is (a guy is being paid to kill her, even though he was once involved with her).

I dunno, I guess I was hoping for something more fresh.  Now I'm hoping they'll get better as I go along.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Is this self-defeating?

I have a new idea for a mystery starring Jake and Tone...well, "Antony"...from RIHC6.  It came to me as I was packing the last of the books, today, and I started writing it down...and now it's got me excited.  Because this one would be told by Jake and would also explain why he sticks with Antony even though the guy is a near nutcase.  Plus it takes place in Palm Springs, for the most part.

Jake's Uncle Owen disappears after having a run-in with the police, so he tries to find out what happened and winds up caught in a murder conspiracy.  Tone joins him and things get dangerous for them both.  I've got several points plotted out and even know the beginning and ending and a new character, Enid, a lesbian friend of Owen's whom I may base on Georgia O'Keefe.  We shall see.

Problem is, my focus should be on "Place of Safety."  But brain is being difficult, again.

On top of this, yesterday I had an idea on changes I should make to a script I wrote years ago that could make it sellable.  Meaning, yes...I'm still locked into that frame of mind, even though it's not really getting me anywhere and means doing only a sketch of a story.  I've been trying to get away from it...but this is my history.  And I can't seem to just drop it.

I halfway think the main reason I feel that way is because my father dropped me after he and my mother divorced.  I went through a long period where I refused to care about anything...but at the same time I was obsessive about my art and I would re-read books I'd liked over and over.  I'm still a bit like that -- torn between not caring and not letting go, watching movies I love over and over while refusing to care about new films until I make myself do it...and the new book about Jake and Tone might help me work through that, a little.

I think.  I dunno.  Reality is, I never know what I'm going to do until I do it.  End of story.  Be interesting to see where this leads.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Bone tired

So not much to say.  Except something I'd been able to forget about the south done got me, again -- mosquitos.  I got one in my room that's fat with my blood, and when I catch and kill it, we're gonna have a Jackson Pollack on the wall or bed or wherever.

Nothing else done.  Being good hosts, the people whose books I'm packing insisted on taking me out to dinner, and I didn't get done till after 9pm.  Some damn nice books, tho.

I'm still thinking up changes for LD.  Little details here and there -- like describing Tad's Cadillac SUV as one that looks like an icebreaker and trying to figure out how to work in a comment to explain why Daniel's dad isn't around...if I really need to.  I may not.

As usual, my La Quinta room has issues.  One being the plug by the internet connection only half works, so I can't have a lamp while I'm working at my laptop.  Another -- I have to go to the desk to ask for sugar for my tea because the maid didn't leave any.  I'd say you get what you pay for, but I've been in rooms that cost 3 times as much and had to get the AC fixed or a toilet repaired.  Seems preemptive repairs are no longer how the hotel business works, these days.

I'm beat.  Time to sit in a tub.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Pretty but vapid

That's least on the end of town I'm staying in.  Lots of hills thick with trees.  A downtown that Buffalo puts to shame.  Huge numbers of empty retail buildings and those big, blank, hideous parking lots in front of stores that make you walk as much as a quarter mile to get inside.  And mosquitoes.  Ah...the South.  How I've never missed it.

My plane ride was the bumpiest I've had in some time, but I got a seat between me and the aisle-guy on the Baltimore-Birmingham leg, so I worked on my red pen version of LD and got it done.  Now I just need to input the changes.

I brought a copy of a crime anthology with me to read, full of crime writers from Northern Ireland.  Should be interesting...and I can see how they write about life in the NI.

Now to focus on something that shocked me -- just how archaic my grammar is.  I bought a copy of Strunk & White's "Elements of Style" and after reading the just first few pages, I can see where the approach to American grammar has changed.  I was taught to NEVER put a comma before "and" when it's used as a conjunction -- as in "Tom, Dick and Harry."'s now acceptable practice to do it like this -- "Tom, Dick, and Harry."  Which does not even begin to look right to me.

Another one -- when words like Charles and Burns become possessive; I was taught to just add an apostrophe at the end, like this -- Charles' and Burns'.  Strunk and White says you still add an "S" after them...but NOT if there are two "S's" already at the end of the word, like with a phrase such as "for righteousness' sake."

Damn, and I thought I was so good and up to date.  Guess it's never to late to learn a new method, is it?

But they STILL do not look right, to me.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Technology sux!

I just logged on and every blog I'm following is gone-gone, and Blogger is asking me if I would like to start following some blogs.  I have no idea why.  They were all there, yesterday; today, it's like I'd never done it.

I've had this happen with the program we use at work.  It's a world-wide shipping set-up that lets you do everything from issue a pickup order to file for and AES Export to Delivery orders of multiple kinds.  But every now and then it just vanishes things.  Makes the work you did go bye-bye and won't tell you where it went.  That also happened on our server so much during the California Book Fair, I got to where I'd save a copy of anything I did to my desktop as well as the server.  And that saved our butt on a few occasions.

On top of this, I'm hearing a bit of non-stop swearing at QuickBooks since it was updated.  And Microsoft Office is just as quirky.

I think a lot of it has to do with how complex the damned programs are becoming.  How much we're demanding from them.  The more crap you've got to work with, the more crap you've got to go wrong.  My little Honda Civic is a hundred times more complex than my old Volvo 122S, to the point where it's hard to even change a light that's gone out.  And don't get me started on the tire jack.  But some of the rental cars I've driven lately look like trouble seeking a chance to screw your world.

But it's not just technology that's pulling this crap.  A co-worker has a 7 year old daughter, and that girl is scheduled down to when she can read, when she can watch TV, when she goes to soccer and dance and religion class (they're Catholic) on TOP of school and play dates.  Same for some friends of mine with their daughter -- gymnastics, belly dancing and god knows what else.  When do kids get to just hang out and be kids, these days?  Hell, I always thought part of growing up was being bored for spaces of time...and not realizing that what you're really doing is giving your brain a respite from the strife of life.

My life shouldn't have much strife, when it comes down to it.  I work about 40 hours a week...sometimes 50.  I travel some...but I enjoy that, to an extent.  And I write and read.  I used to watch movies a lot -- 3-4 a week -- but for that I haven't much time, anymore.  I'm looking at how many books I have to write and can't justify wasting 2-3 hours on a movie that I'm far more likely to not like than to enjoy.  I still crash for a few days at a time, but looking back over my time since leaving Heritage, I've done a shitload of work.  Published 7 books and a novella.  Written another one.  Written most of yet two more.  And I also wrote 5 screenplays -- 2 for me and 3 for other people...not to mention the rewrites I did.  And that's on top of two major moves -- from LA to SA to Buffalo.  No wonder I zone, at times.

But I'm an adult on the downhill side of his life.  Kids...they ought to be given a chance to just kick back and have nothing to do and be bored, at times, just so they don't jump into the rat race so keyed up they fall apart by the age of 30.  I had that.  And more often than not I filled it by reading books or sketching.  But sometimes I just did not know what to do with myself...and I now see that as a blessing.  Because the way we're going, we're going to be as prone to screw ups as technology now is.

Such is life in the big city.

Too beautiful not to share

This was posted on a news blog I follow called Soup (it puts CNN and MSNBC and AP and Reuters to shame).

"Now that we have tasted hope"
Now that we have come out of hiding,
Why would we live again in the tombs we’d made out of our souls?
And the sundered bodies that we’ve reassembled with prayers and consolations,
What would their torn parts be other than flesh?
Now that we have tasted hope
And dressed each other’s wounds with the legends of our oneness
Would we not prefer to close our mouths forever shut on the wine
That swilled inside them?
Having dreamed the same dream,
Having found the water that gushed behind a thousand mirages,
Why would we hide from the sun again
Or fear the night sky after we’ve reached the ends of darkness,
Live in death again after all the life our dead have given us?
Listen to me Zow’ya, Beida, Ajdabya, Tobruk, Nalut, Derna, Musrata, Benghazi, Zintan,
Listen to me houses, alleys, courtyards, and streets that throng my veins,
Some day soon
In your freed light and in the shade of your proud trees,
Your excavated heroes will return to their thrones in your martyrs’ squares,
Lovers will hold each other’s hands.
I need not look far to imagine the nerves dying rejecting the life that blood sends them.
I need not look deep into my past to seek a thousand hopeless vistas.
But now that I have tasted hope
I have fallen into the embrace of my own rugged innocence.
How long were my ancient days? I no longer care to count.
How high were the mountains in my ocean’s fathoms?
I no longer care to measure.
How bitter was the bread of bitterness?
I no longer care to recall.
Now that we have tasted hope,
Now that we have lived on this hard-earned crust,
We would sooner die than seek any other taste to life,
Any other way of being human.
- Libyan writer Khaled Mattawa

Friday, April 1, 2011

Much better

Today I slept till 11 am.  And I think I will, tomorrow, as well.  And why does that matter?  It doesn't, really, except it made me feel good all day.

So...I input the last corrections to LD and printed up a copy to do my red pen on.  And when that's done and smoothed over, off it goes to the publishing house to see if they want it.  What's especially fun is, it's now over 58,000 words.  And I could work on it and work on it and wind up with a 75K word opus, at the rate I edit down, so it's probably best to end it here.

Sunday I'm off to Birmingham and won't be back till Wednesday night, if all goes well.  I can just see me winding up packing the library of a couple of "Birthers" or Tea-Party-Republicans.  I had a hard time holding my tongue with that old lady Tea-freak in Maryland, six months back, and that was just for an afternoon.

Anyway..I feel good when I don't have to get up at a ridiculous hour -- like 8am.  I really am NOT a morning person in any way form or fashion.  I can be civil at 9 but I ain't interested in being nice till noon, so having a job makes it hard on me, sometimes.  Conversely, I don't have any trouble staying up till 2 in the morning.

Now to be honest, something else that makes me feel...well, not good so much as vindicated is how the right wing religious nuts have finally taken things too far.  A fanatic of a "Christian" minister named Wayne Sapp (how appropriate) sponsored the "trial and burning" of a Koran in Florida, about 10 days back.  He got help from a similar cretin named Terry Jones.  Word got around to the Afghan people and some fanatical Muslim Imams used it to bring about an attack on the UN mission in Mazar-e Sharif, a city near Kabul.  As many as 20 people were killed, including 7 UN personnel.  Now that fucking preacher is saying, "Ain't my fault."

It's scum like this who make me wonder if God really exists, because if he did, he wouldn't put up with their crap.  But they keep doing it and causing chaos and leading their flocks closer and closer to hell, all in his name and in complete contradiction to the teachings of Christ.  It's diseased.

At the same time, nearly a thousand people have been killed in Duekoue, The Ivory Coast by supporters of President Gbagbo, who was voted out of office but is refusing to give up control.  There are strong indications Gbagbo's supporters plan to massacre those who supported his opponent, which could number from the tens of thousands up to a million...which, considering what happened in Rwanda, is not inconceivable. our president planning to intervene in The Ivory Coast on humanitarian grounds, like he says he did in Libya?  Nope.  Why not?  Ivory Coast has no oil and just a bunch of French speaking black people, so who cares?

Rumor has it, Obama's the second best Republican president, ever, after Ronnie Ray-gun.

I wonder if I could emigrate to Vancouver?