Derry, Northern Ireland

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

Monday, August 31, 2015

Here we go...

I'm definitely in Washington DC October 4-6. That kills my sort-of planned week in LA. Seattle's book fair is a few days later. Such is life in the big city.

I'm not sure how well this standing while writing thing is going to work out. My legs and lower back don't bother me, but by the end of the day my neck and shoulders are getting sore. I may need to raise my table a couple more inches, or take more frequent breaks. Something. So far I've handled it with layers of Icy Hot, so it might also be just getting used to a new position.

I sent another script off -- Carli's Kills. It'd be cheap to make, has some serious action, some serious sex, and is written more like a horror film than a thriller. It's also geared to be shot for not very much money. Set in the desert, with most of the scenes out in the open at night or during the day, or in and around a biker cantina. There's also an isolated house, an alleyway, and an apartment, but that's really it for locations. Not many characters. And the lead is a woman in her early 30s -- Carli. You'd think there'd be a lot of actresses out to grab the role of a bad-ass female...but this ain't no Lifetime Movie.

Thing is, I'm FaceBook friends with a guy who'd be perfect for Zeke -- Alex Minsky. As I've mentioned before, he wants to get into acting, and this role would be a great entry for him. Of course, that'd be if these guys are open to suggestions for casting.

You never know...and wouldn't it be kick-ass if it worked.

Side note...

When looking for an artist's style to use for Owen's painting of Jake and Dion, I found this guy -- Zan Varin. This one's called The Painter. I love his brushwork and use of color. Very intense. I may ask him what it would cost to commission a work off the photo I used for that painting, initially.

Trying to work it differently...

I sit too much, working at a desk and then at home, writing. So I've changed my workspace. I have an artist's table that's adjustable so I raised it to waist-level and now stand when I'm working at the computer. It's proving to be more difficult than I expected, physically, but I've noticed my legs seem to like it. My lower back doesn't, nor do my shoulders, though those might be taken care of with a slightly higher position on the table. We'll see.

I just don't want to turn into a slug. These last two driving forays wound up adding ten pounds to my already too high weight, so I'm also trying to eat better. I've had salad for dinner three nights in a row, now...and it's done nothing to even hint at dropping this additional weight. Not promising.

I've taken this coming week off. No salary during this time since I'm self-employed, but I needed the space and I have enough put aside to cover a full two weeks, if need be. I need to give my apartment a serious cleaning and dig into finishing the next draft of OT. We'll see how that goes.

I sent another couple of scripts out to be considered by producers -- Blood Angel, my erotic vampire script set in post-Katrina New Orleans, and Find Ray T, my off-beat action script about a spoiled Hollywood actor forced to help the Russian mob locate a snitch who's hiding in the witness protection program. No great expectations -- I haven't even heard from the guy who's got two of my scripts under consideration -- but if you don't send them out, they don't even get considered.

Such is the life of a writer.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Again with the never make plans...

My possible trip to LA got blown up by three possible jobs -- in Washington DC, NYC, and Calgary, Alberta, Canada. I now cannot even think of making plans until we have final verification or refusal of quotes we sent out to them all. At the moment, it looks like two of them will be prior to Seattle's book fair and one immediately after, and two of them are 5-6000 books so I'll be spending a week on them, even with help. And this time none of them are truly interesting books -- all 20th Century.

I also found out a job I thought we'd lost is still possible. That one will be interesting -- lots of 16th and 17th Century volumes from a major collector of novels and travel. And another job in Chicago of 17th and 18th century travel. Something to look forward to.

Then there's Hong Kong. Again. Ticket's set. Hotel's set. And since I'm leaving out of Toronto, I'm taking the bus up and back so I won't have to deal with jet lag on the return.

I'm still having fun with OT...but last night I couldn't wind down from the job so watched Akira Kurosawa's 1949 film, Stray Dog, again. It's about a rookie cop whose pistol is stolen and used in a series of crimes. His growing guilt at having lost the pistol begins to tear at him as he tries to track down the man who has it...a man he comes to learn is so much like himself. Parts of it go on and on but there are so many moments of beauty, it doesn't matter. And Toshiro Mifune shows why he became a huge star. He was 28 when this movie was made, but he anchors it...with Kurosawa's able assistance.

God, he was a beautiful man...

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Vacation...maybe...

I'd initially planned to take off last week and this week along with next week. Looks like I'm only getting some of next week, not to mention if I do get another week of vacation time in October, it will be short and in LA, not here.  Not that I mind...but I'd planned to do so much -- finish a decent rewrite of OT, clean my apartment, clear out some crap I didn't need or use -- and now I won't have that time.

Today my whipping travel and work craziness caught up to me and I got really down. It's hard to concentrate when that happens, so I figured I'll get solid on the writing over the weekend. Except I have a rash in the crook of my left elbow. Don't know where it came from, but it's itching like crazy. I've been slathering it with Campho-Phenique, which helps the itching. But not what I need right now.

I do like how cool it's been -- today it got up to a whole 64 degrees Fahrenheit. Dog and cat being sat for were happy. The office cats stay upstairs, away from it all, now. I think they think they're being punished.

Lots coming up in the way of travel, again. NYC, DC, LA, Seattle, Hong Kong, maybe even Calgary (big maybe but still fun to consider). Nothing Euro-centric...dammit. Not that I haven't been hinting.

Project Greenlight has reared its ugly head, again. I entered the first three and did okay in one and two, but got cut out of 3, completely. That's when it started coming out how the whole thing was more of a scam way to do a reality TV show on how hard it is to make a movie, and that's why their choices were so bizarre. Every one of the winners wound up having connections to the people running the show.

It's like when I found out the Sundance Writers' Lab every year said it would accept 12 applicants but in reality only chose 4-6 from the people who submitted applications; the rest were given to people who'd exhibited films during the festival and had a new project to workshop. Which meant your odds were even worse if you submitted, though they never were very good.

It was the same for the Nicholl Fellowships. I'd send award-winning scripts in and not even make the first cut. I read some of the ones that did get in and they were awful...but they were usually on a theme that hit the main judges right. It wasn't worth the effort or the entry fee to try and meet those requirements.

Okay, I'm being pissy, right now, so away I go.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Notes and noted notations...

I'm back in Buffalo and done with my work-work; next is sorting out the notes I made during the drive...and trying to decipher my writing. It's not easy scribbling down thoughts as you're traveling along at 70 mph.

I did stop along the way and relax by the Susquehanna River.

It's amazing how wide and beautiful it is...for miles and miles and miles...and pretty much consistently this shallow. Just north of Harrisburg, there's a statue out in the middle of it. I couldn't find a place to get a better shot (not without stopping on the 322 and maybe getting rear-ended), but it's just left of center in the photo...and I think it's a small replica of the Statue of Liberty.


It's nice not having to rush, sometimes...

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Driving without music...

It makes your mind focus in some curious ways. I suddenly started wondering what would happen if I started OT at the point where Jake is beaten and arrested in Palm Springs and tell the lead up to that as he's in the ER being tended to. It's a more radical shift than I was intending...but I almost think it would be better, and would give me a bit more time to explain past events.

I've also had ideas for Carli's Kills. I've been trying to figure out a way to reconcile Zeke being willing to love Carli if he suspects or knows she's killed some of his friends. She lies. Flat out lies, and it's when he finds out she lies that the final confrontation begins -- his buddies know he's involved with her and want to know where she is, but he can't give her away. It'll be interesting to see if I can pull this off.

I'm currently in DC for the last part of this transport job, then it's home, tomorrow. I'm at that same Best Western in Lanham that I liked, but this time I'm in a room where the AC sounds like a jet liner planning to take off when it starts up. I'm not going to sleep till 3 while waiting for a call (I took a nap, so it's not such a bit deal), but having it shut down then start up with that slow winding whine is funny.

We takes our funnies where we can gets them.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Ah, the daily grind

Sundays are for laundry, groceries and ironing...when I don't pt them off. Today I couldn't because I needed clothes to wear. So as I ironed, I watched a goofy old horror movie called The Human Monster. It has Bela Lugosi as a madman who uses a home for the blind to front for a scam -- he kills people for their insurance money. It was made in England in 1939 and looks it. It's 75 minutes long and kind of silly, and it took 4 writers to get it to that point.

Thing is, it was based on The Dark eyes of London, a mystery by Edgar Wallace, who helped develop King Kong before he died due to complications from diabetes. His books were huge in England after WW1, and he wrote about a dozen plays. He's thought of as the first writer to use cops as the protagonists in his mysteries as opposed to amateur sleuths or private detectives.

His first draft of King Kong was 110 pages and about 75% of it was kept in the final movie. If he'd worked on the script of THM, it probably would have been a lot better. It wasn't bad...it was just very B movie style.

It's in a box set of "classic" horror movies, half of which star Lugosi. I bought it because it has Carnival of Souls and I've never seen the whole thing...and because it was on special for $5.99 at a Dollar Store. It also has a silent film called The Last Man on Earth...and they do mean man; women are still around and all want him. It was made in 1924. The man's name is Elmer Smith.

This I have got to see when I'm not doing ironing.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Regained...and conflicted...

Two big things going on, right now. First off, regaining Jake's voice for The Vanishing of Owen Taylor. Jake is an angry man, still, something I've been trying to temper...and that's a disservice to him. The good thing about having the story shredded and dismissed was, it jolted me out of my locked mindset and let me see that half this story is about Jake coming to terms with his own past. Actions he took that he's now ashamed of...actions he can't accept have made him capable of handling the crap being shoved at him in Palm Springs. He talks a good game about not judging anybody...but he doesn't notice he's judging himself most harshly.

That released some fear and/or concern on my part. This story is just going to be what it's going to be. In fact, I think I held back a little too much, so we'll see how this draft comes together...and comes across. I do still think it's a bit too much on the strident side because I don't have a lot of humor in it. I'm not good at that and so...I am going to fight my own sense of inadequacy and try to put some in. God only knows if I'll be successful.

As for conflicted -- we have two book fairs happening on the West Coast the first and second weekend of October. The first one's in Pasadena on the 3rd and 4th; the second is in Seattle on the 9th, 10th and 11th. Since it was initially my plan to take some time off and that got messed up by these jobs, I've been given the opportunity to handle both fairs if I want to stay in LA through the week; I'd head up to Seattle on the 10th.

I want to...but it'd be at my expense for those 5 days and I really can't afford it. I'd need a car, gas, food, hotel...probably to the tune of $800. Doesn't sound like much, but I'm behind  in my taxes and have other obligations; I've already cut my monthly expenses to the bone so haven't any leeway to do more. But me being me, I probably will do it. Who knows? Maybe I'll sell a script by then; I've got a couple out being considered.

Yeah, and maybe I'll win the lottery, too.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Shredded...and reacted to...

Well, I guess it had to happen sometime. Most of the feedback I've gotten on The Vanishing of Owen Taylor has been good and constructive and instructive. Some of it I kind of expected, some of it surprised me...but if three or more people say the same thing about what you've written, it's not their problem...it's yours. The general reaction has also been pretty much positive about the story...until today.

Just before my meeting in Springfield, I got feedback that tore the story to bits. Completely. "The mystery was of no consequence. Hated the connection to Europe. Felt it was more about being a gay man in America and who cares?" And on and on. The one positive comment was that I do know how to write...but I've become a bit too heavy and dark, not like another gay writer they've read whose touch is light and airy.

What's interesting (to me) is my reaction to it. As noted in this blog, I've had people diss my work before, down to the point where they say I should never write anything ever again. Comments like that used to affect me, but now I tend to shrug them off. You can't please everybody and anyone who tries will be viciously disappointed. And in reply to this I sent off my thanks and said that I appreciated the further verification of what others have pointed out -- that the story doesn't really get going till about page 150. That is something I'm working on.

But I also got kind of pissed off. Not at the criticism but at the dismissal of what it means to be a gay man in America. We've got religious and political leaders here saying gay men and women ought to be executed and denied the same rights as others and rounded up and put in camps or on desert islands, and they are doing all they can to marginalize us...and that gets a big shrug. In Russia you can be put in jail for being gay, or kidnapped and brutalized to death and nothing will happen to your attackers, and that gets a big shrug. In Saudi Arabia and Iran and under ISIS you can be executed for being gay and even gay organizations will try to minimize what that means...and still a big shrug.

This picture is what it means to be gay in too many countries. These kids in Iran were 15 and 17 and got hanged for basically jacking each other off. [UPDATE: I just remembered what it was they were accused of -- frottage, rubbing up against someone or something to gain sexual satisfaction.] The accusation was expanded to claim they'd raped a 13 year-old boy after the Western media got busy broadcasting it, and too many people decided that was an easier explanation to accept (coming from a regime constantly accused of lying and misrepresenting everything else about itself) than the idea that they were murdered for who they are. I'm not letting that get ignored, and I'm shocked that anyone thinks this can't happen in the US or Europe. Because it already has, too many times. Just look at the killing of Matthew Shepard; Elizabeth Vargas with ABC news went out of her way to help foster the idea that his murder was just a drug deal gone wrong, not a hate crime against a gay young man.

Now all of this is still par for the course, for me. I'm very left wing and despise those who despise me and others like me. But it's my deeper reaction that's interesting to me. I was pulling back a lot of the political commentary as being too much...and I'm stopping that, right now. I feel like I was giving in to opinions that this wasn't necessary. Well...Jake is my surrogate in this story, and if I'm using him to preach to the choir, so be it. I want it out there, not shrugged off, and if that means the book comes across as strident, it's fucking strident.

Because I just got reminded there are too damn many members of the choir who aren't listening or paying attention, so they need the preaching.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Changed plans...

I just drove over to Springfield, MA to meet with a trucker/warehouse company for an upcoming job. It was so last minute, I booked my car and hotel at 1pm and got here at 10:30pm. Nice enough drive but this time I was in a "compact" car that's really a skateboard with a steering wheel...and I felt every damn bump along the road. I'm driving straight back, tomorrow.

Thing is, I like being on the road. I feel free and can let my mind deal with things that need dealing with. The only down side is I'm sitting for long stretches and dealing with the idiot drivers out there.

I did get some thinking done about OT and ways to trim it a bit more. And another project about an older man with Down Syndrome going on a road trip from Buffalo to Key West with his attitudinal nephew began drumming at the back of my brain.

Another problem with driving -- no peace in what little mind I've got left.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

To illustrate or not to illustrate...

That is the question. Whether 'tis nobler to let the book work along strictly in the narrative form, or if it's better to slip in sketches of what's happening, as was done by Dickens and Lewis Carroll and such. I kind of like the idea, but it's not cheap to have someone else do it; I paid below rate for the images I got for David Martin and it's never going to make its money back.

Of course, I could do it, myself, but that would not only take time away from my writing, it would also require more discipline of my work than I usually do. Better detail. Precise renderings. All that stuff. What I did just for publicity purposes for The Lyons' Den is my preferred style and that won't work for this. Pen and ink is better...

And choosing the best moments to illustrate? That would be a pain and a half.

And for a book the size of OT...I'd want more than a dozen images. More like a few dozen. No, that sounds like too many. I'd have to see. Oh, let's not forget my tendency to rewrite up till the last second. I might have a lovely sketch and have to drop it because I changed the narrative.

Sounds like I'm talking myself out of it...or into it...you never can tell with me...

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Write and repeat...

Okay...it looks like I will need another beta-read of The Vanishing of Owen Taylor once I get this rewrite done. Because things...they are a-changin' in it. Nothing massive or even seriously structural, just different. I'm combining Ned and Steve and shifting a major plot-point at the end from Father Paul to DDA Philby, for example. Which means bringing back in another character. I'm also dropping Preston's wife and kids. He's still a straight ally, but explaining not bringing the family into the mix was too complicated.

On top of this, I'm cutting out a lot of Jake's proselytizing; it was coming across as far too preachy and gave him a lack of focus, at times. So...my goal of cutting the story down to under 500 typewritten, double-spaced pages is beginning to look realistic. I'd like to make it 450...but we'll see how that goes. I'm adding in some bits, as well, to keep things moving better.

No idea how long this draft will take to get ready, but I doubt I'll make my Thanksgiving cutoff. In fact, the more I think about it the more I want to see about getting it published through a company that will help publicize it. I've worked with three different ones, so far, and up till now it's only when I've done my own publishing that my books have had a facebook page or any kind of publicity...and I can't do much.

I dunno...I'm still thinking about it. I'm also thinking about polishing up some of my low-budget scripts and sending them out in my DBA name. I've got a couple that could work that way. Give them a fresh start away from an old fart who'd be considered worthless by a youth-obesessed business. This way, I'd still be connected and can legally sign contracts under that name as his rep, and no one need know what I've been doing for so damn long...which is, achieving nothing.

But I don't see this as a pseudonym; it's just a new line of attack...

Saturday, August 15, 2015

The last of OT's Chapter One...

It's working...so far...
------------------------------
She had no more questions and neither of us had any answers, plus I had to head back to the airport, so we left it at that. But while waiting to board, I did some research via my phone...and came up zeroes. Oh, there was plenty of crap about dad and Mira. And I found a couple of snippets about mom and this anti-gay branch of the Catholic church she's joined up with -- 18/20. I had enough Catholic in me to know it referred to the parts of Leviticus that condemned homosexuality. Good ol' mom.

I tried to find out something about my uncle, but there are thousands of Owen Taylors and Google was not doing the work in separating them. It wasn’t till I got to Copenhagen that I caught an idea of what might be going on. I'd kept the apartment there because it looked out over Koge Bay. You could sit on the balcony and watch the ships pass. Man, I loved that place. The eight months Tone and I had lived in it helped me rebuild my self-confidence...my meaning...and since I'd only recently become a citizen of Denmark, it also kept me as a legitimate resident.

Our landlady lived downstairs and always stacked our mail on the table right by the front door, no matter how high it got. She wasn't home when I arrived, so I grabbed everything and sat on the balcony to go through it. Most was crap, but mixed in were a couple of envelopes from Uncle Owen. One was five weeks old; must've arrived just after I left, the last time. In it was a house key and a printout of a note that read, You’ll need this when you come. O. #4870*. The other was postmarked a month earlier but must have just arrived. It had a printout that said, Dear Jacob, I need to see you, ASAP. O.

Dear Jacob? He never addressed me like that. And what’s this when I come crap? Even more, why was it sent here? He knew my address in Texas...hell, he knew everything about what Tone and I had been through in that fucking state. He could have got hold of me in no time if he'd wanted to and I could've been by his side the next day.

I tried to call him, again; his phone still went straight to voice mail. Another e-mail bounced back, so I contacted the service and found out his in-box was too full of unread messages for it to accept any more. Man, did I had a bad feeling...

I was just about to hit the shower when I got a text from Mira. My father finally admitted to her that mom called because no one had seen or heard from my uncle for three months, and she wanted him to use his influence to kick-start an investigation into his disappearance. He swore both phone calls were about this, nothing more.

Which was bullshit.

He knew as well as mom that Uncle Owen was also gay and had been cut off from mom and Uncle Bert for twenty years. The only reason I knew him was through my grandmother; she’d figured out early on that he should be available for questions once I started asking them. Which I did just after I turned fifteen. Then he and Nana’d been the only ones who backed me up once I got disowned. And sent to prison. And released on probation. And after Nana'd died, he'd seen me right through to my exoneration. He knew me too damn well to call me Dear Jacob.

Which meant something was wrong.

Which meant soon as I was done with Uncle Ari, I was headed for a talk with my mother.

Which I hadn’t done in years.

Shit, I'd rather be back in prison.

Friday, August 14, 2015

More from OT's opening chapter

Long drive back from DC, so here's the continuation of ...Owen Taylor, Chapter One. It begins at the end of what I posted a few days ago --

--------------------

I'd called him but learned nothing more about the situation till he e-mailed me a week later --

Preston and I met with a district attorney about my case, today. His name is Warren Philby, and he is the epitome of an aging metrosexual. Or is he a deputy DA and Ms. Ginty his assistant? Not that it matters. He obviously hates working in Indio. He and that little bitch tried to make me take a deal.

“It’s an excellent one,” he said with all the sincerity of a used car salesman. “Disturbing the peace. Six months probation, and if you meet all conditions, the conviction will be expunged. This is the best I can offer.”

I told him, “I’ve done nothing wrong or illegal, so I see no reason to say I did just to make your job easier.”

“Oh, stop it,” said Ms. Ginty in this really snotty voice. “We have a witness who backs up the officer’s version of the arrest.”

Which was nonsense. There was no one around but me and that officer. I told them this, and Philby shrugged. “That’s not a workable defense, telling the judge everyone’s lying about you. He won’t believe a word of it.”

"Aw, cool," Preston responded. “We'll have a trial by jury.”

“The jury won’t believe you,” Philby said, giving off this heavy-hearted vibe. “I’ve had convictions with less evidence.”

“Then you should be ashamed,” I snapped.

“Who’s this other witness?” Preston asked them.

“Officer Roy Harper,” said Ms. Ginty.

Preston laughed. “Another cop? Aw, this is easy-peasy. C'mon, Owen.” We rose and started for the door.

“Wait, we’re not done, yet,” she snapped.

In answer, Preston just chuckled and headed out, and I slammed the door, behind us. Well, tried to; it’s on one of those auto-close pump-action set-ups, whatever they’re called, so it only bounced back and then slowly settled shut on its own steam. So much for my Bette Davis exit.

Of course Preston already had a copy of the arrest report. Not a word of there being a witness on it. Hardly a surprise. So I immediately went back to Page’s and got a copy of the security surveillance video. It’s all indoors so doesn’t show any of our interaction, but it backs me up in so many other ways, this trial will be quite the experience.

I’ve also learned a friend is facing the same charges and Preston's his attorney, as well. Makes this doubly interesting.

The only problem now is that priest. He's a fairly recent addition to Palm Springs, but has already set up this homophobic group called PSALMS Forever. The conniving little bitch actually showed up on my doorstep demanding I stop living my life of evil and come back to the lord. Little shit must have followed me home. I slammed the door in his face, so the asshole began warning one and all telling them I was a danger and would rape their sons. I called my security service and they sent someone over, but by the time they arrived, he’d left. No one in the fortress was paying him any attention -- the only two neighbors who would were at work, thank heaven -- so he went in search of a better audience. Typical.

I called him and we talked for a while, but after that, nothing till that weird text.

“Why do you think any of this concerns me?” I asked, still trying to sort out my thoughts.

“Why would you think it does not? As your father tells the story, he and your mother despise each other. Is there any other reason she would telephone him if you are not involved?”

Phone call, huh? My mother only barely called people she liked; she preferred the distance of an e-mail or text, so for her to make an overseas call to a man she hated almost as much as I did...well, that was a big deal.

“Neither one’s even tried to get hold of me, and they both know how.” I smirked. “Maybe mom’s asking dad if it's okay for Uncle Owen to broker a peace deal between us. That or she's asking for money.”

Mira rolled her eyes at that. I had to shrug in agreement. Mom was what her mother had referred to as, Independent to a fault. Meaning take care of yourself, and neither ask for nor give favors. So why would she have called him? They’d been divorced for fifteen years, and thanks to Texas' laws Dad had cut her completely out of his fortune -- something she’d never forgiven him for. Oh, she’d wound up with her condo, a cash settlement, and child support, but that ended the moment I was kicked into the street by them. Nearly ten years ago. So far as I knew they hadn’t spoken since.

"How'd you find out she called?" I asked.

"I know your father's assistant's wife, and he has no secrets from her."

I had to chuckle at that. "Don't make sense to me," I said, finishing off my meal. "So far as my mother's concerned, I am not her son. And so far as my father's concerned, I was never born. Catholic and Islamic intolerance, together. That's what I get for bein' queer."

"Faraz does not truly feel such hatred for you. If he did, you would not have been allowed back into the family."

"I think that's more your doing than his."

Mira just smiled, in response.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

In DC but not...

My drive from NYC to Baltimore and then Washington was insane -- massive traffic angling to get past road construction that is poorly warned about; drivers who've never heard of blinkers or that the left lane is for passing, not cruising along at 5 mph under the speed limit; a vehicle that is nearly useless when it comes to hauling things. In order to pack everything into this Chevy Traverse, we had to reconfigure the positioning of everything four times and I had to run the passenger seat up as far as it would go. Plus my own seat was set up to the point where my nose was almost touching the steering wheel.

But I made it...and found DC is a very small town in some odd ways. The street speed limits are 25 or 30 mph and photo enforced. A street I needed to be on changes names in the middle of the block, and the only designation is a small sign under another street sign. Traffic circles that do nothing to help traffic but sure do add to the jams. I think I'd take the bus in this town; it's too weird.

I am in a decent Best Western...nice room and good WiFi. I've used it to dig into OT and put more notes into the printout. I will say, 90% of the suggestions made by people who read it are at the very least interesting and worthy of considering. Some I actually like enough to appropriate as my own. It helps that no one's actually said the book is crap...something I've had happen, before.

What's interesting is how I've found typos missed by all the feedback people, just as I'm writing in the notes. And I do need to have a clearer idea of the last few days of the story. I also found I'm unconsciously a bit sexist in my choices of words and phrases. Awareness raised on this point.

I still have more to come in, so who knows what will be commented on, next. Still, I'm beginning to feel like I'm getting close to the end for it.

Finally.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

One thing leads to another...

It all started with me adding one line at the very end, when Jake confronts his mother and finds out just how much she despises him for being gay. That led to condensing a couple of characters into one because it was no longer necessary to have them separate. Which led to shifting the final denouement with a couple of characters. Which led to getting rid of another one...and yet it's not really a page one rewrite; it's a clarification...even though the ending to OT is getting overhauled.

This is what happens when you get more feedback that suggests too much is going on. But the more I thought about it the more I felt like I really was throwing everything I could in to keep the story going...including the kitchen sink. Which is now plugged up and needs to be cleaned out with some red-ink Draino.

It doesn't help that I do tend to get preachy. I knew it at the time but felt it necessary. Now? It's over the top. The people who will read this book will pretty much already feel the same way I do about things.

What did help was, this time while I was driving I listened to some of my CDs. I don't have a huge selection but there were several I haven't pulled out in a long time so tossed them in a bag and grabbed whatever as I went. I also brought my full set of Depeche Mode, including 101. And for some reason having to change disks every now and then helped me think about OT. And figure out ways to simplify the action while not dissing the story.

I hope.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Closer to being right...maybe...

I had this idea for a cover just before going to bed so slopped it together, this evening. It's closer to telling what the story is about. Has more mystery to it, but still needs something.

I've printed out a copy of OT and will now go through it and mark in the suggestions I agree with...and mark through parts that I can do without. There is a lot going on in this story, and I think I have one too many possible villains. I also think what I did with one character isn't right. If I adjust it a little, I think it would mean a lot more.

I also had an idea of how to make the explanation a bit clearer, too. It helps that I got another pile of feedback from another person. Some good suggestions...from everyone, so far. And some there's no way I'll accept. But that's part of the game.

I've already reworked the bits I posted earlier this week. Make them smoother and less laden with unnecessary detail. I'm trying to keep my Hemingway cap on for this.

Lean and clean...

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Another possible cover for OT...

Had a new idea for a cover.

Not sure it conveys what the story's about, but I rather like it.

More thoughts later, as I progress.

More of OT chapter 1...

This continues from what I posted, yesterday...

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That made me realize I hadn't heard from Uncle Owen in at least three months. I hadn't been worried because he was pretty casual when it came to maintaining contact. He'd been steady while I was in prison and on probation, but once I'd been exonerated and my record expunged, he'd reverted to an e-mail every few months and a phone call...well, never; I'd always called him. The last time he'd e-mailed me was to vent about getting busted at a grocery store --

You will not believe what happened to me, last night. I drove down to Page’s convenience store for some milk, butter, eggs and bread, and was arrested. By a police officer in plain clothes. Who claims I asked him to have sex with me. Right there! In the parking lot!! Talk about ridiculous.

First of all, the man was not the least bit attractive. He looks like one of those puffy body-builders who give off the air of greasiness and psychosis. I seriously believe he would have exploded if he’d taken in too deep of a breath, that’s how tight his skin was over his face and body. Probably on triple doses of steroids.

Second of all, he followed me all over the store and was doing everything he could to make me notice him and think he was available for some fun. It didn’t matter where I went along those long narrow aisles of overpriced goods, the moment I stopped, he’d appear next to me to “look at something for himself.” Then he’d cast me a glance and all but lick his lips to send out that age-old signal of “blow-job.” It actually spooked me, so when I went up to pay for my things and he appeared behind me, before the clerk could begin ringing me up, I said, “I forgot something,” and scurried to the very back of the store to check in the coolers for...whatever. I just wanted him to leave.

When he finally did, I took my time paying for my things, but he was waiting outside as I exited. He approached me and asked me if I wanted to have some fun. He said that he was really horny.

I told him, “That’s not where my head is, right now, thanks.”

He frowned and said, “C’mon, I know you’re gay.”

“What does that have to do with anything?” I asked, more than a little peeved. Because I’m queer I’ll jump on anything that has a dick, whether I’m in the mood or not? What a stupid thing to say.

He followed me to my car, saying, “C’mon, man, I really need to fuck with somebody, tonight. I’m so fuckin’ horny.”

I began to get nervous. His insistence was beginning to seem more pathological than needy. A number of gay men have been beaten and robbed, recently. One’s still in the hospital. So I put my groceries in the car and said, “Dammit, I left my cell phone on the sales counter. Tell you what -- let me get it, first, then we can talk some more.”

"Get some beer, too. And maybe something to eat. I'm kinda hungry, too."

That made me think he might be panhandling, in his own awkward way, so I said, "Wouldn't it be better if I give you some money to use for that?"

I started back to the store, but he grabbed me and said, “No need, faggot. You’re under arrest.”

“For what?” I asked.

“Public indecency.” The words leapt from his mouth as if they were just waiting for release.

I pulled away from him, angry, telling him, “You’re no police officer!”

That is when he held up his badge, saying, “And that’s resisting arrest and assaulting a police officer.”

He slammed me against the side of the store, handcuffed me from behind and yanked me over to a new red Camaro, handing me the Miranda saying the whole way, even as I protested. I was taken to the county jail way the hell down in Indio, booked, fingerprinted, dressed in prison attire, glanced over by a nurse, and put in a cell. Thank God no one else was around.

I’d never been arrested before, so I can’t say for certain all jail cells are like this one -- but it was vile. A toilet in a corner of the room with nothing in the way of privacy. A sink was beside it but the water came out in a trickle. A pair of bunk beds jutted from a wall. A heavy lucite door whooshing shut. Hardly “Architectural Digest.” If this is what you had to deal with when you were in stir, you’re a far better man than I am, Gunga Din. Thank God I was alone in there, too.

I was given nothing to eat or drink until seven a-m the next morning, and it was nearly forty-eight hours before I was taken before a judge for a bail hearing. The Assistant District Attorney handling the arraignment was a Ms. Ginty, this huffy little blond thing who looks like she would blow away if the breeze is too strong. Though it actually may be Mrs. Ginty; she wore a wedding ring. The moment the bailiff finished reading the complaint aloud, she said, “People ask for one-hundred thousand dollars bail, your honor.”

“What?!” shot out of me.

“The defendant accosted a decorated police office, exposed himself and attempted to have the officer follow his lead on a public thoroughfare. When he learned he was talking to a policeman, he became irate, attacked the officer and tried to escape. Indications are he would be a flight risk.”

“That’s nonsense you honor!” I snapped. “The officer approached me and asked me for sex, and when I said no he -- .”

“This is preposterous on the face of it, your honor. The arresting officer actually told the defendant to leave him alone in hopes he could just drive away.”

“You want to talk preposterous?” I cried. “That I’d risk being beaten, robbed, or killed for someone who looks like him!”

The judge told us to be quiet and asked me, “Do you have a lawyer, Mr. Taylor?”

“I do.”

“Where is he?”

“He's out of town, your honor, so I called another lawyer I know, but she's not answering her phone; all I got was her voicemail. But your honor, I own property in this town. I have no criminal history. No arrest record. I don’t even have an unpaid parking ticket.”

“Is this true, Ms. Ginty?” the judge asked.

“We haven’t fully vetted his background, sir.”

"Why not? I've been here two days."

“Is that a yes or no, Ms. Ginty?”

“So far as we can tell -- .”

“That’s the same as a yes.” He tuned to me and asked, “I assume your plea is Not Guilty?”

“Absolutely,” I shot back.

“I’m setting bail at five-thousand dollars, cash or bond.” Then he slammed his gavel down.

I paid a bondsman to handle the bail and I was released just a little while ago. And who should I meet as I leave the jail but this twerp of a priest, who’s beautiful but going out of his way to tell me I’ll go to hell if I don’t change my ways, and he wants to help me get right with God and enter ex-gay therapy and on and on until I found a cab. I almost wonder if he’s the rear guard for this cop’s nonsense.

The first thing I did was get my car from Page’s. Of course, the food was ruined and the interior stank. Then as soon as I arrived home I took a shower and fed myself something decent. What they foist upon the inmates appear to be more like microwaveable dinners than real food. I despise nuked meals, and do not even begin to trust anything that is gray-brown but claims to be edible. The car is going to be detailed, shortly.

I called Preston -- Niemscyck, that trial attorney I know, but he's in New York, right now. Well, I want this stopped, at once, so I spoke with Lorinda, yesterday -- she’s my real estate attorney. She referred me to Baskin, Baskin and Reed, of all people. I've had dealings with the first Mr. B. and was not impressed, but I sucked it up and met with Scott Baskin; he’s the one Lorinda suggested. I think she has a crush on him, and while he is adorable, he didn't believe me when told him I'd done nothing wrong or illegal. His mantra was, “I can get you down to public nuisance or disturbing the peace.” That I'm innocent makes no difference. I’d rather have someone who believes me defending me, not some pretty fool going through the motions, so I'll wait until Preston's back in town to fire back. Him, I'll have no problem with.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

New opening for OT

I've redone the opening chapter and cut 18 pages. It gets going much faster...

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-- A Question --


“Jake, why do you stick with Tone?”

It was my stepmother, Mira, asking. In English instead of French or Farsi and coming at me at the worst possible time. I was en route to Copenhagen for work and had routed through Paris so she and I could meet up...at her request, I might add. On top of that was the legal trouble Tone and I were going through in Texas, and then the second I'd started up my European cell phone I'd gotten a weird text from my Uncle Owen, in Palm Springs.

Jacob, why haven't you come? I need your help.

It was four weeks old, but I'd heard nothing else from him. That made me nervous. The moment I was done with Customs, I'd tried to call him but his voice mail was too full to accept any more messages and an e-mail I sent bounced back, making me nervous-er. All I could do was send a text and hope he'd get back to me once he woke up. So Mira's question was not what I needed, right then.

She and I were having lunch at an Indian café near Le Blanc-Mesnil. It's in one of those thousand year-old homes where everything creaks, even the whitewashed walls thanks to an early winter storm. Of course, when she'd asked that question, what she'd really said was, “Iacob, what is your loyalty with this Antony?” She always calls me by my Persian name when she's leading up to something. I loaded some Aloo Matar into my mouth to give me a chance to think.

Since I didn’t answer, straight off, she continued, “Do you remain with him because you are stubborn, Iacob? Because others say you should not?"

"Mira...I love him," I said, still half-chewing.

"It is not love to remain with someone when it is to your own detriment; it is self-loathing."

Good ol' Mira, blunt as usual. I swallowed and snarled, “Psycho-lady, q’est-çe que c’est?” Joking...but not.

She deliberately did not look at me. “Did you know Antony requested that his therapist share his notes with me?"

"Yeah. He...uh, he told me at the airport."

That made her look at me. "Just before your journey to here?" I gave her an American shrug. She looked at me like I was a lab rat that'd screwed up the maze leading to the cheese. "Has he told you everything he has done?”

I gave her another shrug. I knew more about Tone than anybody, but even I didn't know it all; I doubt anybody will.

“Then let me rephrase my question," Mira continued. "Even if you do love him, is it wise to remain with him?”

"Why're you askin’ me this?"

"I have been talking with your Uncle Ari.”

That made me chuckle. “Nobody talks to Ari; you listen, 'cause he talks enough for both of you."

She smiled back, but almost sadly. "True. He likes your work. His clients now ask for you. He wants you to partner in his business. It is an excellent idea, and as you are now a citizen of Denmark, you may do this. But you must return there to live. Antony cannot leave America until next year, at the earliest. He could join you, then.”

What a load of crap. Ari and my dad may be brothers, but guess who couldn't keep a secret to save his life? And he hadn’t even hinted about anything more than meeting a new client this trip and sending more graphics assignments my way.

She munched on another load of salad, pretending not to watch me. That made me growl. “Mira...what's really going on, here?”

She stopped in mid-chew and nodded and swallowed and took a sip of her wine. Burgundy with a salad; there’s something wrong about that.

"I apologize," she said. "I am too used to being careful with my patients."

"Now you saying I'm nuts?"

She looked straight at me. “Your mother has contacted your father. Twice.”

Slam-bam, blindside me, ma’am. I took a deep breath. “So?”

“I know the first telephone call was about your uncle. Nothing more. But when your father becomes this secretive, it worries me."

My appetite vanished. I knew who she meant, but I still had to ask, "Which uncle? Ari? Bert?"

"No, the one who lives in California."

Owen Taylor. Mom's half-brother by Nana's second marriage. She blamed him for me choosing to be of the devil. She'd actually screamed that at me before she and my father kicked me out of the house. But now she was calling her ex about her hated brother, for some reason? Not what I'd call an unimportant development.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Another round of road trip...

Doing the New Haven, NYC, Washington DC tango, this time. Leaving Tuesday, back on Friday. I think on this trip I'm not going to listen to any radio. I want to start formulating the new structure for The Vanishing of Owen Taylor. The more I think about it, the more I like the idea of beginning with the last e-mails Jake got from his uncle and how that leads into him having vanished. Then I can slop in some of the other information.

The only thing that bugs me about it is the symmetry of opening the story with a question -- "Jake, why do you stick with Antony?" and ending it with the answer. If I do that particular restructuring, I lose this. I haven't figured out a way around it, yet, but I'm still trying. Something else I lose is the set-up; what happens in the first chapter informs on the last one...

God, this makes my head spin. I want this book to work...but the opening is just too much info piled into too few pages. Maybe if I already have Jake worried because he can't contact Owen...hmm...

I wonder if this story would work better as a mini-series for Logo or Bravo? That'd be fun. More like funny. Imagine Chris Salvatore as Jake...he's the right age. So who'd be good for Antony? Got no idea. He needs to be younger than Jake, and I know Charlie David's older. I'm too out of the scene to know who'd be a good gay actor, now...and I would want real gay actors to play the roles.

Dammit, here I go again...

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Keeps promising to be enjoyable...

...but ti's only fun...

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Almost home...

I'm in Jet Blue's JFK Terminal 5 waiting on a flight that's been delayed by an hour, so far. I've caught up on e-mails for work and had a decent meal; now it's time to read more of the feedback on OT. It's proving to be illuminating.

Not all of what people are saying is consistent. By that I mean I get different opinions and suggestions for everything. One person says don't change a thing; one says this part is confusing while another part is excellent; another says the same part is perfect while the other is weird. Those who point out typos (for which I an VERY grateful) find different ones and miss others. The only thing that everyone basically agrees on is the opening -- it's a bit too slow.

That was deliberate, but also a mistake. I already had an idea I'd padded the first 3 chapters with too much information, so I've saved a new copy and cut them out of the text of the rewrite, then I'll see how to make the new first chapter over so it jumps into the story faster. Maybe I'll start with the last e-mail Owen sent to Jake, and the text that followed. Something to consider.

The best part of this is how all these  differing opinions have prevented any particular one from taking over, completely. Yeah, there's a lot to process, but I don't feel as if I failed on the writing of it. For once, I think I did the story right and just need to fine-tune it.

I'm also thinking of a new sort of cover for the book -- one using the painting Owen did of Jake and Dion. Meaning I'll need to do one up for it. This one is photoshopped from a picture I liked.

While on this job in San Francisco, I met another gay author -- Kevin Killian...at least, I think he's gay. He's married but I never dug into what that meant. He's got some books out, mainly short stories and what looks like some biographies. He's going to read The Lyons' Den; I'm ordering one of his books once I get home. It'll be interesting to compare notes.

Final point being, I'm not wrecked by this...and that feels good.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Making plans is counter-productive...

I had it all laid out, today. I was overseeing a pick up from a storage facility and it looked really easy. 55 file storage boxes in decent shape, all to be built to a couple of pallets, wrapped in stretch film and taken back to the warehouse to be banded before being shipped across country. I called the freight company and told them the driver could come early if he wanted because I'd be ready. Then I figured I'd go back to the hotel and start work on transcribing corrections to OT.

So the driver showed up at noon...but with no pallets. We loaded the boxes onto his truck, loose, and I said I'd meet him at the warehouse in a couple hours to oversee the build. He had one stop left to make and I was hungry. I figured, fine, I can still work on OT afterwards.

I got to the warehouse a bit later than I intended...and he hadn't returned, yet. Didn't show for another 45 minutes. Then it took half an hour to get them to even assign someone to help me put the boxes on pallets. I got passed off to three people, and the last guy had no earthly idea what to do.

It took another hour and a half to build two pallets (which I did as my helper brought me the boxes), wrap them and band them, then label them and get the weights and dims. I wasn't done till nearly 5:30. I'd walked to the warehouse from the hotel so had to walk back. I didn't arrive till nearly 6:30 and I was exhausted.

Meaning...nothing got done on OT. Nothing at all. I brought my printout for no reason except to mock myself.

That's what I get for making plans.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Better than expected...

I've been going through the feedback on The Vanishing Of Owen Taylor that I've received, so far, and it's not so bad. Consensus seems to be the opening chapters are too packed with detail so are confusing. Which I can see. I'm trying to provide information enough about Rape In Holding Cell 6 so this one will stand better on its own, but I may have gotten carried away on that. I'm going to try cutting the first 4 sections down to 2 and sprinkling the info throughout the rest of the story and see if that works.

I'm also considering cutting one semi-important character's plot. It adds a bit of depth to everything that's going on, but it may also be adding too much confusion. We'll have to see if that actually happens. Normally when my characters are set, they stay set no matter what I do.

As for the revelation of what happened...that could be better explained. And sometimes Jake winds up preaching instead of telling the story, something that is really unnecessary. I got one "dropped jaw" over who the killer is and one "Change nothing." All good stuff, so far. The only thing I've taken issue with is one suggestion I capitalize the word god. I don't do that so will ignore it.

Of course I have the usual missing words and typos sprinkled throughout, and will adjust those as I can. I think they're getting worse in my old age. Seems like I can't make it through a sentence without having to correct a mistake.

I'm currently in Phoenix en route to a two-day job in San Francisco and have another hour before my next flight. It's not a very comfortable airport, but it's not the worst I've been in. I make reference to it in Bobby Carapisi, when Eric's coming back from doing research in Texas and Pavel boards for the second leg of his journey back to LA. It's the quiet beginning of a new journey for them.

I'm still very proud of BC. I'm proud of all my work, but with that one...it's the first one where I had to make myself write things I fought having to write...because they hurt. But they were necessary. So I found I can do it when I let myself. Or make myself.

Yeah, like there's a difference between letting myself and making myself...