I finally got through this rewrite of OT and now can begin polishing it up to make sure it's consistent. I dropped the total page count by 24 and the words down to just under 119,000. It's a bit leaner and much cleaner, if still pretty complicated, but I think the ending is completely earned, now.
I need to have an honest page count before I can find out what the cost is to make the book as a hardcover. At 520 typed, double-spaced pages...I think that'll work out to about 350-400 pages in a book. After this next polish, I'll reformat it to see what it comes out as, because I'll need to add some blank pages for the back of the section headings. I'm also doing it in block form, this time, to make it look more professional.
I better do some research on other books in hardcover to see how they work, and I should start publicizing the book to stores -- like Mystery Pier in West Hollywood, and other books shops that sell mysteries. That'll be a lot of work, in and of itself.
The packing job is almost done, thanks to the two helpers I had. They doubled my speed so that I only have 8-10 boxes left to pack. I'm not going in till 1, tomorrow, so can do some other things in NYC...in the rain. It's pouring, right now, and is supposed to tomorrow, as well. Hope it doesn't on Thursday; that's the pickup day.
Had a nice trip down on the train and got a fair amount done on OT, but the last two chapters are proving to be difficult. I started to change them then decided I liked them more the way they were so now have to go back and start all over on them. The way the story's currently structured, it's more of a shock when the big reveal happens if I leave it as is. I think. I got some good reactions out of it.
Still, I have trimmed down another 8 pages. Not as much as I thought I'd get rid of, but getting there. And I got rid of another secondary character who really just confused the issue, so this streamlined the explanation and clarified it a bit. And I'm cutting one character out of the next to the last chapter; she just wasn't fitting in naturally.
Tomorrow I'll be working long and hard; I'm afraid this job will turn out to be a brutal one -- packing 7000 books in the space of 3 days. I'll have help, but it's still daunting. I'm sure I'll be beat by the time I get back to the hotel...but you never know. I might get a little done on it.
I want to try and do a straight read-through on the trip back to Buffalo, Thursday...if I can manage to get done by then. Pickup for the shipment is slated for that morning and my train's not till 3:40. So I've got three evenings to do these two chapters. About 40 pages. Then I'll have Friday evening and Saturday to make any corrections, because Sunday I'm off to another round of pickups and packing jobs. I'd like to get it out for another beta read by then.
I'm finally at the point where it seems all downhill in the rewrite. I've got about 140 pages left to go, then I can put it aside and wait for the trip back to Buffalo to read through what I've done and see if the story still makes sense. I've trimmed a lot and removed a subplot that seemed like it was just a bit too much...but I'm always worried I may be cutting to much for clarity's sake.
I'm considering getting rid of another bit that's maybe too confusing, but I'm not there, yet, so I may keep it. Jake does seem a lot more proactive in this draft; helps that he's not stopping to lecture on gay rights or history or injustice. Now that it's been pointed out to me, his pontifications come across more like irritations that were tacked on by some writer from the 19th Century. Amazing I convinced myself they were deep. There are still some, just not as many or as condescending.
This is why I like getting serious feedback. I can easily fall in love with my words and think I'm the best thing on paper since Tolstoy. You'd never know one of my favorite writers is Jay McInerny, who's got a clean crisp, economical style...normally. I also like Hemingway's spareness. You'd think I'd emulate them instead of Dickens at his worst.
A short film my buddy, Brad Rushing, was cinematographer on is doing really well in competitions around the country. Pony just won Best Short at the Hollywood Film Festival -- its 16th award, if I'm counting right. That is so cool. Doesn't hurt that Brad's an artist when it comes to using light. He's done so many music videos that are classics -- like Moby's We Are All Made Of Stars and Brittany Spears' Toxic.
You want to see quality work? Check out his website.
Sunday I'm off to New York on Amtrak. That'll give me eight hours to relax and have nothing else to do but work on OT. I like riding the train, especially down the Hudson. The seats are comfortable and well spaced. You've got power. The scenery's lovely. I'd do it all the time, if I could. But it does take the whole day. On the positive side, it's ⅓ the price of a plane ticket...and I can take any food I want, not to mention my knife and other tools without having to check a bag.
I used to like flying, but Southwest has changed their schedule to where it's practically useless and JetBlue now charges you for a checked bag...which I have to do because I carry a knife and blades with me to packing jobs. Every time I've flown United I've had a problem, American once ripped me off for $400, and Delta's just ditzy. I don't know what's going on with the airlines, but they seem intent on making you wish for high-speed train travel all across the country. I even prefer to drive to NYC, which takes about as long as the train but is more expensive.
I'll be doing that the following week -- driving to Washington DC then up to New Haven then home, and the week after that is Seattle and coming back to Boston so I can do a job in Portland, Maine. Then driving over to Boston and maybe up to Burlington, VT and home. Then Hong Kong for the book fair.
Yeah, no way can I do NaNoWriMo, this year. I'm nuts but that far gone...though I could use it to finish Underground Guy, maybe. It'd be fun to get two books out this year. So maybe I am that far gone.
I tried to find out what the cost would be to set up The Vanishing of Owen Taylor as a hardcover, but Lightning Spark is being obscure. I know that in order for me to make any money on each sale, it has to retail for $29.95, which is high. I have to really think about that.
Jesus, some guy's singing through his nose on KCRW and sounds so whiney I think I'll turn the damned thing off.
I love the stuff. Not a lot at a time...like an 8 oz. glass is the limit...but Ocean Spray has a good one that's got beet sugar in it. Not pure but damn tasty and better than a coke. I'd stopped drinking it when I began taking Valsartin. Supposedly, it interacts with the body in ways that inhibit certain medications, but I recently read it doesn't do that with mine so I got a bottle, have a glass before dinner, and it's great.
This doesn't really count as a grapefruit diet; I think you're supposed to eat half of one without sugar or anything and then moderate your food intake. It likes you to eat bacon and eggs, but no hash-browns or carbs of any kind. I remember Elizabeth Taylor used to do this diet when she was getting too heavy, and it trimmed her down a lot.
Problem with that is, I've also read that Valsartin contributes to weight gain...mainly in fluid. I've been trying to figure out why I can't drop the excess pounds even as I cut back on how much I eat. I got down to between 1800 and 2000 calories for a while, and was hungry a lot. Didn't make any difference. It's irritating as hell.
Of course, sitting all day doesn't help. I'm standing at my art table as I write this, so I've trimmed back on that, a lot. And I use the stairs a lot more...up and down to the fourth floor. Still got a gut. And I'm getting into a long period where I'll be traveling and eating like crap, so the best I can hope for is to maintain.
Something else -- National Novel-Writing Month starts at the beginning of November. Doesn't look like I'll be able to participate, this year; I've got a 2000-book packing job the first week and I'm off to Hong Kong on the 17th, for a week. Maybe I can work on the plane, but I don't know what I want to even think about trying to write, just now. I'm too focused on getting OT done, and I used it in one a couple years ago.
I got through another chapter of OT but it was slower going. Jake is pushing to be less reactive and more proactive earlier in the story. He doesn't guess things, he works them out...and he wants me to show the process. I just finished adjusting the moment between him and Lemm in the car to be more of him probing, trying to find out what's really going on with Lemm. It's meant more adjustments to the piece and I've cut out another page...and it's not been easy.
It has to flow from the story and character, not be imposed. I'm finding spots where I did that -- impose awareness just to keep the story going. It's become so damned obvious, it's embarrassing. But I'm happy it's still moving forward...and I'll be happier when it's done.
I got the final definite OK to use Jordan's photo on the cover. I just need to give him and the photographer credit and send them a copy. This layout is what I want, albeit neatened up and put in the exact right ratios. I haven't had the nerve to check out what it would cost to make in hardcover with a dust jacket...but I sort of want to. Guess we'll see just how much I've got to spend.
Of course, I still need to get the book done and all stitched up.
It's interesting...well, to me...that by cutting back a little on Jake's moralizing and anger, the story's become more open to adding some humor. When I changed why Dion's sitter crapped out on him, Jake popped in by remembering his own crush on a high school quarterback and how silly it made him. It's also made him more confused about Tone's shifts in mood and contradictory actions instead of being pissed off.
I guess I got way carried away with using the story as my soap box, something no writer should ever do...unless he's heavy into philosophy and wants to contemplate the universe, or something. Navel gazer, I am not. I know just enough about that stuff to make me dangerous. I used to like Kierkegaard and his existentialism, but now I think it's because he was somewhat accessible with his parables and metaphors, and he's a bit too geared to religion for my current tastes.
But then, most philosophy is kind of silly to me, these days. Religions are used to control and destroy people, even by the Buddhists, sometimes. So are political philosophies. I'm a screaming liberal, but not to the extent where I want to tell people I don't agree with to shut up. I prefer to know when someone's ideas differ from mine, even if I wind up thinking they're stupid and harmful. Better to have it out in the open where it can be seen than hiding in a shadow festering into a plague.
To me, it doesn't matter if you're left wing or right...if you want to force people to live by your precepts, all you are is a fascist. I don't care how noble your intentions are, fascists need to be fought. And while there are a lot more of those types on the right, the left has its share. Sometimes it's a bit more subtle, like condescendingly telling you you're being childish for supporting this candidate instead of that one, and if you don't stop you'll help the enemy. Like you're too stupid to think for yourself, so I will think for you. Very Orwellian.
Or like going back 20 years to things someone said or did and using that to attack them as a way of forcing them to back down from their current position, never even thinking to acknowledge that people change over time. Proof of that is me -- until 1980 I was a Republican in Texas, but then Ronnie Ray-gun got the nomination and I could see the writing on the GOP's wall that it would soon be the party of Christ. That's when I shifted to Democrat. Things I believed back then would come across as completely contrary to what I believe now, but that doesn't mean I'm a hypocrite; it just means I've grown. And if I can, why can't others?
Well...according to today's political and religious philosophies, you can't unless you think like them...and that's why it's all so silly.
On this go-through of OT, I find myself cutting out the proselytizing Jake keeps falling into. Commentary that explains what he's thinking instead of having it just happen. That's a film concept -- show don't tell -- but it makes for a much better read if he doesn't stop to point out the obvious. I mean, I don't mind a little of it, but I can see where there's too damn much and it's off-putting. I guess I was trying to figure out what the story was about and using his voice to lay down the foundation.
I've also toned down some of the anti-gay stuff...and it actually works better. For example, I had a babysitter quit on Dion and Kent because her father ordered her to. The beta-reader suggested it was a bit much and thinking about it, it is. So I shifted to her canceling on them because she got asked out by a boy she has a crush on, and Dion's rolling his eyes at the silliness of teenage girls over jocks...and Jake's remembering his own crush on a jock in high school.
I've also cut a character because he was proving to be superfluous. Not sure how this will play out later, but combining him with one of Owen's old friends clarifies things a lot and makes the story less cluttered. I'm even considering pulling back on Lemm's situation a bit...but that still needs some thought.
Shiner Bock's helping...or maybe it's just my placebo, giving me the excuse to sit down and get into it. Doesn't matter; I like the beer. It's not as rich as Guinness or lively as Amstel Light, but I don't care; it's hitting me just right and went well with the Fettucini Alfredo I made from a packet for dinner.
Overall, a productive weekend...and I probably shouldn't have said that...
It took a while, but I finally have a good restructure on the first hundred pages of The Vanishing of Owen Taylor. Easy, it was not, and somehow in cutting out the unnecessary stuff, I added three pages. Don't ask me how; I have no idea. But that's how it seems to work; the more I cut, the more I add. It's the same with my finances or weight -- the more I try to control them, the more out of control they are.
I'm a lot happier starting out with the question, but I did shift Jake's concern about Owen's disappearance into the first chapter. I then wrote a two-page synopsis of what happened to Jake and Tone in Rape In Holding Cell 6 and plugged that into the beginning of chapter 2. Works better. I do need to go back over pps 81-101 to make sure I didn't cut anything out that's needed or mess up my rearranging. I have to do these checks a lot because I tend to drop words and letters as I go.
What's helping is some annotated feedback from a couple of beta readers. They went through the story for free and made notes where things were problematic or needed correcting, so I'm first going through each chapter and making those corrections, then noting their comments and deciding whether or not to incorporate them. So far, they've had some very good suggestions, and I'm not above claiming them for my own.
I also sent some of Place of Safety off to a man who lives in Derry, Northern Ireland to see if it's working as a story told by a boy from that area. It's time to start shifting my focus back o Brendan Kinsella. It's been too damn long since I last worked on his story...and it's time to get it done.
I really like this as the cover. I think the photographer was Eamon Melaugh, but I'll need to check into that.
Something that struck me is how much Donald Trump is like Ian Paisley, the Presbyterian minister who worked up as much sectarian hatred and distrust as he could in the 6 counties. He made ludicrous statements and played on people's fear of Catholics to a huge extent, just like Trump and his use of undocumented workers as the cause of everything wrong in America. Evil is as evil does...
I once read that back at the beginning of the 19th Century, Catholics and Protestants were working together to form trades unions in hopes of getting better treatment and wages. The rich men of the time got the unions banned by law then spent years in a whisper campaign to turn the Anglo-Irish against the Celtic-Irish by saying they were out to take their jobs and establish rule by Rome. It worked so well that by the time unions were allowed to form, again, the Protestants refused to let Catholics be part of them...for the most part.
The last couple of days have not been good for writing. I got into a hassle with the NY State Tax agency, who claimed I owed back taxes from 2014. I paid them back in April and can prove it, but it took me two phone calls and way too much time on the phone. I finally got shifted to a guy who knew what to do and where to look and saw the payment was never processed. It was still sitting there, waiting. Got a nice headache off that.
And then my car decided it needs $800 work of work, and I'm doing the Miami Map Fair, again, instead of the California Book Fair, and I got bawled out for trying too hard to help a customer, and my iphone almost did a crash on me (the screen went black and I have no idea what I did to make it work, again). And finally at 4:45 today I got a call about possibly transporting some objects to London by hand-carry, which I've done a few times, but they have to be there by Wednesday, next week, and I can't do it. I'm the only one in the office Monday and Tuesday.
I would kill to get back to London, right now, so the fates or gods or whatever decided to have some fun at my expense and dangle the hint that maybe they'll let me...and then snatch it away like the assholes they are. But then, that's the story of my life. Always almost and never all the way. Be it career, money, life...
Small wonder my work is so hesitant; I've got nothing to show I can be all I can be...
I found some in a grocery store, here. It's a dark Texas brew that's actually good, and it's helped me finally get to where I can move past the first chapter of OT. I wound up adding a 2-page bit of background to the beginning of chapter 2 and now can move forward with the story. I've established there's tension between Tone and Jake, that Jake's parents are up to something secretive, that his uncle's missing after having asked him for help in a way that worries Jake, and his father's second wife is trying to get him to leave Tone to live in Denmark.
That's a lot to pack into a first chapter, but I sliced out names of people who no longer mattered to the story and got rid of a lot of chit-chat. It's moving the story along a lot faster. I can only hope it's going to work out as I go along...but at least now I can go along.
The last couple days have been difficult for me. I'm still affected by that mood I got into this weekend, and I'm beginning to see there are three things I want to complete as soon as I can. First, of course, is The Vanishing of Owen Taylor. Second, the beginning of Darian's Point. Third, Place of Safety, my Irish novel. I've futzed around for way too long on them and it's ludicrous.
I know what I want to do with DP, and it won't be all that hard to pull together. I'm doing it as a screenplay, since parts 2 and 3 are. And with P/S...I'm just being cowardly. I'm afraid I can't make it work well enough for someone from Derry to believe and that's stupid. And wimpish. Just write the story, Kyle; it will come together.
This is a Swedish folk song, but when I listen to it for some reason I think of my Gaelic horror story, Darian's Point, and when the story begins 3500 years ago in Eire...during a conflict between the Tuatha de Danann and the original Celts over a girl misused by the Dagda.
It's on an album titled Mythos Hildebrandslied by a group named Duivelspack. They claim it's the music of Germany, but I really think it's more Viking...
Amazing how silent the world can become without you noticing. It can surround you like a cold blanket and make everything still and meaningless. The deaf have an advantage in that they know they cannot hear, and they have tools to supplement that even if they are not perfect replacements. Sign language, lip reading, a heightened sensitivity to the emotions of others, these help them communicate around their limitation. But what tools do you have to combat the quiet when it's self-inflicted in such slow steady steps you don't realize it's enveloped you until there is nothing else?
This weekend I spent in my apartment. It was wet and rainy, outside, and I'd look out my window every now and then at the rain and think, "I should go walking in it." But I didn't. Instead, I worked on OT. And today I finally caught on to how disconnected I've become from everything that matters to me except my writing. I used to sketch or paint to keep me grounded in something other than words, but now seem unable to. When I can't write, I can't do anything except nonsense stuff.
Something vaguely like this happened to me in Santa Monica in 1983. It was before the storm that destroyed the pier, and I was visiting my folks in Glendale while trying to decide what to do about Graduate School. I'd completed the coursework but needed to submit a thesis, and this one professor was being difficult about it. I'd written a couple of short scripts dealing with simple human emotions, including an adaptation of Chekov's short story, Champagne, that everyone seemed to love. So he wanted me to do a script along those lines. But I couldn't. I had no idea what to write to fill 100 pages.
I'd done a first draft of an action-thriller, Delay En Route, about a fighter pilot who stops in Paris to buy a car and gets caught up in terrorism and love. He'd trashed it by pointing to one bit of dialogue in the script -- where the lead is drunk and seated by his plane and sees a bird flitting in and out of the intake duct, so he pulls the twigs out and covers the flap and says, "This is no place to build a nest" -- and he told me, "That is the only line worth keeping." Devastated me.
So I'd come out to LA to ponder my next move and went down to the pier. It was a funky place, then, with bait shops and souvenir shops and cold and wet, but I like it like that. Some people were about, even though it was late. I felt peaceful and easy. I walked around and then down to the end of the pier and gripped the railing and looked out over the black water to listen to the surf roll in. No horizon was visible.
The breeze was gentle. Quiet. My mind went blank and I just enjoyed the moment...until a fog rolled in that was so thick and complete, I could not see or hear anything. Nothing. Not even my hand in front of my face. All I could feel was the icy railing and all I knew was that I was standing on the wooden planks. Otherwise, total sensory deprivation. I freaked out. Panicked, totally. I dropped to my knees and tried to find anything in the way of a light, but there was nothing. Nothing. Nothing. Just cold icy black, everywhere.
I finally regained some control and felt for the railing I'd been holding, found it, remembered the beams of the floor were set lengthwise to it so if I just backed up over them, I'd be fine till I hit one of the shops. So I crawled until I caught a glimmer light from a lamp. When I got to it, I stood up and could must make out another lamp so headed for that and finally found my father's Chrysler and got in and could not move for ten minutes. I had this sick feeling I'd just glimpsed what death was going to be like, and I shook from it.
I can't say I really learned anything from that experience except that's when I started to focus on writing instead of art or directing. I blew off the Master's Program and moved places that would present few distractions and worked at becoming better. I took jobs that would be easy yet comfortable -- in book stores, usually. I felt comfortable being surrounded by authors. I think I became a bit too comfortable, because I sought out jobs like that, culminating with Heritage Book Shop and its focus on the glorious writings of the past. Even now I work with books of all kinds.
Anyway...today, rather than fight with OT, I transferred old files from old Zip disks to a thumb drive...and going through them reminded me of how little I've progressed even as I've worked at improving my ability. I'm still filled with self-doubt and can be my most severe critic, but I'm a hundred times improved from when I was in Grad School. I love my characters, even the vile ones.
And yet, I feel nothing but silence around me now. It's an odd place to be in. This is no rut; the best analogy would be me caught in a neverending trench between bombardments. I listen to music. I watch movies. I talk to family on the phone. I surf the web and research stories...and I'm caught in stasis. I've lost track of who I ever wanted to be. If I even knew. All I know is I write and work to improve my writing...and now that's not enough. I need to take it up to a new level beyond just writing.
But what that is, god only knows...and only god knows how I'll be able to do it.
I spent all day working on the first 20 pages of OT. Rewriting and revising and rearranging and combining and adding and shifting and adjusting and on and on and on. They need to be better than the best I've got, since they establish the tone of the book and what it's about, and I've almost got it. Almost.
There's a funny story about a writer who spent half the day deciding whether or not to remove a comma from one sentence, then once he'd removed it, spent the rest of the day deciding whether or not to add it back in. I wound up doing something like that, but trying to figure out if but is better to use than except. It's maddening, but it's necessary.
I'm not like Earl Stanley Gardner, who could spit out Perry Mason mysteries to his secretary off the top of his head. To begin with, I don't have a secretary or assistant; can't afford one. Second, when I do stream of consciousness, I wind up with chaos and scattershot ideas in the story...tho' that is sort of how LD comes across...I guess. I'm more of a deliberative writer than a quick-word artist.
So now I have it down, I think. Jake's tense because he's gotten odd messages from his uncle, and his stepmother is adding to it with her cryptic comments and observations, and the seed of distrust has been planted in his mind concerning Tone as well as his folks being up to something. It's been a fight...but I do think it's set well enough for me to advance to chapter 2. I'll reread it in the morning and decide then.
I was listening to WNED en route home and they played several parts of Georges Bizet's Carmen. It's a classic opera about a prostitute who's the downfall of a decent man, and it was severely criticized when it premiered in Paris in 1875. It's widely believed the reaction to the opera was the cause of Bizet's heart attack 3 months later. He died thinking it a failure when it turned out to be anything but.
This reminded me of a Radio Eire broadcast I was listening to as I drove from Derry to The Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland, back in 2006. That program discussed the critical reaction to Carmen and pointed out many artists have been rejected only to wind up celebrated after their deaths. People like Nijinsky, who choreographed Stravinsky's Rite of Spring and was driven insane by Paris's rejection of his brilliant dance moves. Same for Vincent Van Gogh, who was never a successful painter when alive, but whose works now sell for tens of millions of dollars.
In the more grandiose portion of my brain, I like to see myself as similar to them -- a misunderstood artist who will be discovered after he's dead...but then I think, What the hell fun is that? I won't know about it, and that's anything but gratifying. Yes, Shakespeare is the Immortal Bard, but is that any comfort in the grave? Is he getting chits from Heaven for that? Doubt it.
I guess I should be happy that I'm proud of my work, even if it's never going to sell a million copies. I wrote honestly and followed my characters and let them be who they were, be they good and bad or just plain crazy as hell...or even vile.
Curt, in How To Rape A Straight Guy, is an asshole who leaves a path of destruction, thinking he's the wounded one...and I let him be that without any (overt) qualms. Eric, in Bobby Carapisi, is so self-absorbed in his pain he inadvertently initiates the actions that lead to Bobby's suicide, then as a form of atonement gets Alan to tell his self-centered story...revealing he's also a victim of a hateful society. Alec, in Porno Manifesto, lets a girl's rape happen so he can use it to turn his gay-bashers against each other, and winds up hurting even more innocent people, yet he winds up in love at the end. Antony, in Rape In Holding Cell 6, slips into a psychotic need for revenge that only hurts himself and nearly destroys a man who cares about him. And then there's The Lyons' Den, which is told as if Daniel's chaotic mind is having a nervous breakdown, which makes it hard to get in to.
Now I'm working on The Vanishing of Owen Taylor...and getting careful. This book has been a constant battle over whether or not I will take the better road or the honest one, which will make it harder to sell. I've been working on it for nearly 2 years and I'm still fighting myself over it. And I've begun to wonder...is the work I've done over the last few weeks me playing it safe? Or me trying not to.
I don't know...and for the first time in a long time, I need a drink to deal with it...and we ain't talkin' beer, baby.
I worked on the opening chapter of OT, again, tonight. Seems I can't go any further in story until I get this to where I'm happy with it...and that's proving to be difficult, at best. I'm happier...but still not there. I've added more emphasis to the lunch conversation between Jake and Mira in Paris. She's trying to warn him without being able to tell him what she's warning him about because it falls under doctor-patient privilege.
We're having fun at work thanks to our computer system being down. I took my laptop in and managed to still get a fair amount of work done, including a couple of quotes. It's looking pretty solid that I'll be in NYC the week of September 28th, and tomorrow I find out if I'm going to Calgary. That one doesn't look too likely, though.
I've been following the nonsense about Kim Davis refusing to grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples due to her religious beliefs, and the howling from both sides is ludicrous...though not as much on the left as the right. People on the left are making fun of her looks; she seems to be patterned after Kathy Bates in Misery. Which doesn't help one damn bit. The best argument that comes from our side is, she's refusing to do her job. If she can't do it in good conscience, she should quit, because she took an oath to do it when she was elected to county clerk. We're also pointing out that she's something of a bully and using the bible to excuse her bullying.
The arguments on the right are that she's being jailed for being a Christian and it's one step closer to gas ovens for the followers of Jesus, and on and on. They're an embarrassment to everyone but themselves. What makes it beyond ludicrous is the number of GOP candidates who have taken her side, suggesting it's perfectly okay to ignore laws you don't like and flat out lying about what the law means. Mike Huckabee even went so far as to say the Dred Scott decision of 1857, where the Supreme Court said that Africans could not be citizens, was still in effect. As if we hadn't fought a civil war over slavery and the 14th Amendment meant nothing.
The GOP is going out of its way to prove itself to be the party of the stupid.
The new direction for the opening just isn't working for me. I now feel like I'm jumping too far into the story, and I really like opening with the question, so I came up with this, instead...
"Jake, why do you stick with Tone?"
It was asked by my stepmother, Mira, when I stopped by to see her in Paris. And it irritated the hell out of me. She knew the crap we were going through in Texas, so why was she was challenging me on this now? Fortunately, my mind was more focused on a weird text I'd received from my Uncle Owen, so I didn't pay enough attention to start a fight.
It was a simple text -- Jake, why haven't you come? But it had been sent it to my European phone nearly five weeks ago. I didn't get it until now because I only use that one when I make my monthly trip to Copenhagen, for work. What worried me about it is, he knew my contact info in Texas, so if he needed to get hold of me fast, why not do it there? I'd heard nothing from him in months, and now I couldn't even get hold of him. His phone went to voicemail and was too full to accept any more messages, and an e-mail I sent bounced back. All I'd been able to do was send him a text asking him to call me. So with that ramming at me, along with a sudden storm that might delay my flight, messing with my schedule, the last thing I needed was Mira's question.
She and I were having lunch at an Indian café in one of those thousand year-old homes where everything creaks, even the whitewashed stone walls. Of course, when she'd asked me that, 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, and I'm the only one allowed to call him Tone. I loaded some Aloo Matar into my mouth to give me a chance to think.
Didn't fool her; she just continued on with, “Do you remain beside him because others say you should not?"
"Mira, what the hell?" I'd snarled, still half-chewing, "I love him."
"It is not love to remain with someone when it is to your own detriment; it is self-loathing."
Typical psychologist; Here's your box, little man, and aren't you ashamed for being in it?
I'd swallowed and sneered, “Psycho-lady, q’est-çe que c’est?” Trying to joke...but not succeeding.
Her expression turned into one like, Here's a prized lab rat that screwed up the maze leading to the cheese. "Has Antony told you everything he has done?”
Oh, shit, here it came. I knew more about him than anybody, but even I didn't know everything; I doubt anybody will. That didn't stop people from thinking, If he's not an open book, he's not to be trusted. Well the hell with that.
“Mira...what's really goin' on, here?”
She nodded and took a sip of her wine. Burgundy and a salad; something's wrong about that.
"I apologize," she said. "I am too used to being clinical with my patients."
"So you sayin' I'm nuts?" Spoken in my twangiest twang.
She looked straight at me. “Your mother has contacted your father. Twice, that I know of.”
Slam-bam, blindside me, ma’am. I took a deep breath. “So?”
“I know one of the telephone calls was about your uncle."
Owen Taylor. Mom's half-brother by Nana's second marriage. On top of everything else. My appetite dropped to zero.
She kept on with, "He has vanished and she wants Faraz to use his influence to force an investigation."
Okay, that was bullshit. Mira didn't know my Uncle Owen was gay, and that mom blamed him for me choosing to go that way and be of the devil. She'd actually screamed that at me before she kicked me out of the house. Now she was calling her hated ex-husband about her hated brother? And for a ludicrous reason? Not exactly what I'd call standard operating procedure.
"Mira, you guys are in Paris; Uncle Owen lives in Palm Springs. What kind of influence can Faraz have?"
She gave me that screwed-up-rat look, again. "He owns property there. Some in partnership with your uncle."
"So what's this got to do with me?"
"Faraz was unable to learn anything, so she asked for your contact information. I find it interesting she did not already have it. But apparently she believes you may know where he has gone."
I didn't. I hadn't heard from him since the beginning of August and it was now November. I'd never worried because he'd always been casual when it came to maintaining contact. But now I was remembering that he was busted four months ago, at a grocery store; he sent me a book-long e-mail to vent.
And it won't cost me anything! I can't believe it. I just have to coordinate things with Jordan, the model. Of course I'm giving the photographer, Philip Vlasov, credit as well as Jordan. But it's nice to have this happen.
I reworked the cover a bit. Just a bit of tweaking, nothing major. I'm thinking I may take out the watercolor effect on Jordan, but I like the mosaic aspect of Palm springs. Owen's townhouse having a great view of the valley plays into the story, some.
I'm still resisting the restructuring I've done on the opening. It feels wrong. My gut still tells me I have to start with the question and not wait till the beginning of chapter 2 to bring it in It's just wrong. But I can't figure out how to get it in there if I jump into the action, like this.
I have to think...and maybe get drunk. I haven't been in years. Maybe that'll help me loosen up.
Maybe that'll be how I get all my writing done, from now on...
I've already been rewriting what's been posted and rearranging how Jake gives out information. It's interesting that this change is also adjusting Jake's voice. He wants to be leaner. Crisper. More to the point. I have no idea if that's good, and I'm still trying to figure out where to slip in the information I cut out...but at least it's different.
Until that point, I was on top of what’d happened. But it didn’t take long for the adrenalin rush to pass and memories of my previous dance with the law to come crashing in.
That was a bogus arrest, too. I know it's a cliché for an ex-con to swear he's been framed, but in my case it was proven to be true...just not till after I'd gone through the hell of a trial, prison and probation. And why did it happen? Because I was stupid enough to ask the cousin of a deputy sheriff pay for damage she did to a city car. That's it. He got her out of it by planting drugs on me then a deputy district attorney helped him convict me. I was sentenced to four years, did twenty months before making probation, then did ten months of that before their sick schemes blew up in their faces and I got exonerated, my record expunged, and a nice settlement from the State of Texas. Now some assholes in California were going to try and pull the same stupid crap. Well...not again, motherfuckers.
Half an hour later, an old man in a white coat was let into the cell, snapping, “Get up on the bench.”
“I can’t,” I snapped back. “It hurts too damn much.”
He frowned and sat on the floor. He had long silver hair, weary eyes, more wrinkles than a Shar-Pei, and hands that knew exactly what they were doing. He helped me off with the top of my jumpsuit then felt the bruising on my side and muttered, “Don't feel like nothin’ broke. Prob’ly just bruised. Gonna hurt for a while. Who did it?”
“Does it matter?” I asked.
He eyed me then tapped the tattoo covering my right bicep and shoulder. “Celtic?” I nodded; no need to point out some of the symbols were in Farsi. He nodded back, rose, pulled out a form and rapped on the door, calling, "This boy's for the ER."
A guard appeared on the other side of the door. "You so sure he's not just faking -- ?"
“That wasn’t no request!” the medic shot back, filling out the form.
The guard blinked then vanished.
Man, I liked this guy.
"Thank God I'm back on days, next week," he sighed, then shot me a glance of apology. “Ambulance'll be here, shortly; I'll see to it. Don’t move if you don’t have to. No heavy liftin’ for a good six weeks. And I sure hope that ain’t the side you sleep on.”
“I’ll live, Dr...?”
He grinned and said, “Sandoval.” Then he pounded on the door and the guard came to let him out.
As the guard shut the door, I said, "Don't I get a phone call?" The only answer was complete silence.
An hour later, I was taken to a nearby hospital under armed guard, like I was a terrorist or presidential assassin or something, and examined in every way from touchy-feely to x-ray to anal probe, then I was admitted for overnight observation. One deputy wasn't too happy about that, but the female doctor didn't even look at him as she shrugged, "File a complaint."
I was set in a solitary room with my left ankle handcuffed to the bed and the door locked. I couldn't find a way to get comfortable enough to sleep, but it was a hell of a lot better than my first night in jail.
Back then, I was nowhere near as built as I am now, and I was scared shitless. A non-violent guy accused of having drugs locked in a jail cell with murderers, rapists, armed robbers, anything else you can think of. I found out real quick that alphas like to prove you're their beta in there. A couple shoving matches came damn close to me having to fight somebody. One stopped when a guard passed by; the other was put on hold when a trans prostitute was tossed in with us and the other guys forced her to give them all blow-jobs.
I was offered a go, but I told them I was busted because a cop caught me having sex with his seventeen year-old daughter, so I was spent for the night. Not a word about the asshole planting drugs on me. Not a word about me being gay. I had a feeling lies about screwing a girl were safer than the truth, though one guy did insist I describe my night in detail as he fucked the prostitute's mouth. I spun a beautiful pile of crap, and nearly got sick doing it.
Then five mean-as-shit-looking black guys were put in. All solid muscle and cold-eyes. All focused on me. From the second the cell door was closed and the guard was gone, they told the guys I was a punk for the cops and a fag and started tearing at me. At my clothes. At every part of my body. They were lying, but no one listened to me. Instead, the other guys in the cell screamed for them to get harder and nastier, like they were the audience at a gay bondage shoot. On and on and on, for what seemed like forever. I don’t care if you’re as buff as The Rock, if five men want to fuck you, they’re gonna fuck you; at least I wasn't killed.
But Jesus Christ, the things they made me do, even after they were spent. Slashing memories of hands on me...going where they wanted in this sick sort of intimacy...and the slapping and the punching and the pain that never let up and...and son-of-a-bitch, I’d rip anybody who tried that with me to shreds, this go-around. I’d fucking kill 'em. Wouldn't even hesitate.
One positive aspect of being chained up like that was, when I'd start drifting too deep into that first night in jail all I had to do was yank on the cuff to send a sharp pain jolting into my brain to cut the link...for a little while. Unfortunately, it also meant I could spend time wondering how I'd wound up in the one place I swore I'd never be, again -- caught in America's so-called system of justice -- while hoping to God the message I'd left on that voicemail would bring help before I vanished, too.
Because the way things had been, lately, I couldn't be sure anyone would come looking for me.
I'm closer to thinking this is a good way to go, but still not 100%...this continues from yesterday's post. ----------------------
“What the fuck, Chet!?!” was all he could think to say.
Chet? Holy fuckin’ shit, I’d hit the jackpot of dumbassery.
“The son-of-a-bitch grabbed me,” Chet snarled.
“What you talkin’ 'bout?” I yelled, trying to add some fear to my voice. “I was gettin’ out of the car when you yanked at me, and slipped. It’s my fault you can’t stand up straight?”
“Motherfucking cocksuckin’ faggot son-of-a-bitch!” Chet bolted to his feet and kicked me in the side.
It hurt, but I really played it up with a scream and howl and cry of, “Why're you doin’?! What’d I do?!”
“I’m gonna cut your fuckin’ balls off, motherfucker! Fuckin' faggots!”
He kicked me, again. I coughed and choked, and didn’t need to play that one up; I think he broke a rib. He was going to kick me again, thinking he was going to make me fight back, but I'd been through crap like this in prison, so I knew how to stand for a nasty beating. That's when Roy shoved Chet back.
“Hey, hey, HEY!” Roy barked, his voice an octave higher.
“What the fuck is -- ?!” Then his voice cut off. I heard some rustling behind me, and a second later my phone was shoved in front of my face by sausage-like fingers, with Chet growling, “You were on the phone?”
The call was ende, so I let all the fake crap leave my voice and I growled, “To my boyfriend, motherfucker. I got his voicemail. This is gonna be some message he finds.”
Chet's mouth dropped open, working like it wanted to close but couldn't figure out how. He rose, and a second later, Roy straddled my butt, ground me against the asphalt like he was trying to fuck my ass, and pulled my hands behind me to whip a strap-cuff around my wrists. I couldn’t help but cry out from the pain, especially when he forced me to my feet by yanking my hands up. The whole time he was snarling, “You’re under arrest for assaulting a police officer. You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law -- .”
“Good,” I croaked. “It'll be fun breakin' you queens up.”
Chet howled and grabbed me and slammed me on the cruiser’s hood, face up, his blood slapping against me, and he punched me in the gut, twice.
“Fuckin’ coward,” I muttered, trying not to hurl.
He was aiming to smash me, again, when Roy stopped him with, “Chet! Don’t.”
I finally got a good look at Chet. He was a serious side of beef well into his thirties, and had the puffy jowls, bad skin, and thin hair that goes with the juicer-culture of bodybuilders. What's worse, his torso barely fit into his extra-extra large uniform shirt while his legs all but vanished inside his trousers. No wonder he toppled so easy.
Roy was Laurel to his Hardy, but looked more like a cop ought to look, right down to the white t-shirt under his uniform and the oh-so-earnest expression countering the five o’clock shadow on his long face. His hair was thick and dark, like his eyebrows, and he probably had zero percent body fat. The one imperfection I found on him was the nails of his long lean fingers were bitten to the nubs. I only noticed because his hand held Chet back. He knew they were in deep shit.
“C’mon,” he said, his voice wavering a little, “it’s gonna be hard enough to explain this, as it is.”
“Who’s gonna take the word of a fag against two cops?”
“Your words, asshole,” I choked. “Not mine.” A fight’s no fun when you can’t fight back.
"Illegally recorded," said Roy, without conviction.
"We'll see," I growled back.
They jammed me into the rear of the cruiser and called in a tow truck. It arrived two minutes later, like it was locked and loaded. Man, when I saw the character driving it, I was glad I'd taken the extra insurance. They handed over the keys and I was driven to the jail in Indio to be booked for assault on a cop and resisting arrest. Silence all the way.
We stopped at the back door of a blank, low-slung jail, construction finishing up around its sides. An expansion. Of course. Plenty of money for prisons and none for education.
I got printed, mug shot, personal effects taken, and slapped into an orange jumpsuit within ten minutes of Chet and Roy dragging me in. During the whole process, I croaked, over and over, "I need to see a doctor. Please. I need to see a doctor." I never heard a word in response, so I figured I'd have a long nasty night of it.
Finally, I was taken into a small holding cell that had nothing but a bench attached to the wall. I couldn’t find a non-painful way to sit or lie on it, so I used the floor...and the hell with how nasty it was.
I'm still not 100% on this new direction, but it does get you into the story faster...
It was nearly midnight and I was driving down a residential street in Palm Springs when flashing lights rolled up behind me and I was beckoned over. They had no reason to, since I wasn’t speeding, wasn’t drunk-weaving over the road, and hadn’t even passed a traffic light, yet. Plus, this was a rental car; I could be pretty sure all its lights work.
Of course, everybody knows cops use traffic stops as an excuse to get at you, if they want you. But why would they be doing that with me? I hadn’t even been here twelve hours yet and had just left the only people who really knew me here.
I glanced around. We were in the middle of a dark space, empty lots on either side of the road, with no traffic. I was alone in a place I didn’t know. Shit. I didn't have a recording app on my cell phone so I speed-dialed a number, hoping to God the guy on the other end wouldn’t answer. He did.
“Jake, do you know what time it -- ?”
I cut him off with, “Hang up. I’m callin’ back. Let it go to voicemail.”
“Okay,” popped out of him. No hesitation.
I redialed and set the phone on the center console as I pulled to a stop. The cop stayed right behind me, lights still flashing, high beams blasting straight into my mirrors. He got out, slow and easy, and started for me. All I could make out was a half-silhouette.
Then another cop exited the passenger side.
And walked around to the driver’s side.
Oh, shit, shit, shit...it was more than just a traffic stop. Okay, fine, motherfuckers, bring it on. I'm not as dumb as I was five years ago.
Of course, that’s when some goofy song about being in love with a fairy tale started on the car stereo and cut my nerves back to where, if I needed to be Joe Cool, I could be. Handle the situation like an adult. Like a man. Hold back my inner wolf and let it just play out.
The first cop wandered up to me, his hand twitching to go for his pistol or Taser or whatever torture toy he liked. I didn’t move. He stopped by the back door.
“Driver’s license and proof of insurance,” he snapped.
“It’s a rental,” I said. He must’ve already known that. What game was he playing?
I nodded and carefully handed him my Texas driver’s license; I’d yanked that from my wallet the second I put the car in park. I hadn’t had a chance to shift to a Danish license, yet, and I was glad; made life simpler. “The agreement’s in the glove box," I said. "Is it okay if I get it?”
“No,” was the snarly reply. “Unlock the doors. Keep your hands on the steering wheel. Hey, Roy, come get the rental agreement from this guy’s glove compartment.”
In case he’s got a gun in there? What kind of bullshit was this, and why would a cop be so stupid as to -- wait, Roy!? Aw, no...it couldn’t be. Could it? Were they that fucking stupid?
Roy strolled up to open the door. Nice and casual. A long, lean block of serenity, like he knew this was all a game they were playing.
I kept looking forward as I said, “I don’t understand; what’s the problem?”
“You ran a stop sign, back there.”
There weren’t any stop signs on this road. Period. So I didn’t argue; just let him give you the ticket, Jake, and fight it in court.
“Aw, shit, Roy, this fag’s from Texas.”
“Yeah? Nothin’ but steers an’ queers there.”
Okay...the only way they’d make a crack like that was if their body-cams and the camera in the patrol car were off. Why the fuck do cops think they’re flashing a really big dick when all they're proving is their little head's smarter than the one on their shoulders?
“Blaine?” said the guy behind me. “Jacob Blaine? This your license?”
“You look Mexican, to me. Got proof you’re an American?”
“What d’you mean? I’m black Irish,” I said. And half-Persian, but no need to mention that. Assholes like this love to use anything unusual to hang you with.
“Rented the car at LAX-ative,” said Roy, his voice hard and chuckling, as if he’d made a funny.
“What’s a cocksucker like you doin’ in California?” said the guy with my license.
“I came to see my uncle.”
“No shit? Your uncle. How much is he payin’ you?”
“Must be a cheap bastard,” Roy sneered. “Didn’t even spring for a decent ride.”
Okay, that did it. Wolf was tired of this shit. Time to put the cubs in their place. I gasped in an oh-so-surprised voice, “Wait, Roy? Roy?! Could you be that hot cop I've heard so much about?”
“What the fuck’re you talking about, faggot?” Roy was not happy.
“Hey, dude,” I said, still not moving, “You can supplement your income any way you want, and from what I hear, you got plenty to supplement with and -- .”
The cop behind me suddenly yanked the door open and screeched, “Out and on the ground, faggot, face down! Now! NOW!”
I started to do it but he grabbed my jacket to sling me to the asphalt, so I hooked a finger in his holster and he came down with me, slamming his face against the edge of the door. By the time Roy’d scrambled around from the other side of the car, his taser out, I was lying flat, my hands and legs stretched out, not moving an inch and fighting to keep from smiling.
I got a request to read Marked For Death so did a quick pass to make sure it's in decent shape and to find more typos (there were half a dozen and two inconsistencies that needed correcting). Then decided to change the ending. Not really change, just simplify to lessen the busy-ness of the final fight and make Ben more of a hero. Since I'd shifted this from being a Russian lead to an Irish one, keeping the old last scene felt wrong. Now it's more like closure.
Funny how changing the nationality of a character changes how his actions are perceived. In KAZN, the original story, Niko (the lead) being an ex-soldier from Russia out for vengeance against an American mobster allowed me to get away with some pretty brutal things. Including having him murder someone in cold blood. But when I set it in London and made Ben half-Jewish-half-French Catholic from Belfast...having him do that hurt his character. At least, how I think his character would be perceived.
But changing him also changed how the other characters needed to come across. Aura and Ric (who were Tani and Gregr, in KAZN) shifted from being completely innocent and unaware to more sophisticated and deliberate in their lives. So it's almost like a different story, now, even though the plot points are still the same. It'll be interesting to see if this comes across like I think it does.
I thought about doing something like this when I was adapting Aristophanes' The Birds...Jeez, twenty years ago -- making two completely different adaptations of it. One was set in the cyberpunk world, which I was heavy into at the time; the other would be post-apocalyptic, with the world a vast desert and the rich living in connected dome cities while the rest of the population lived in caves and had to forage at night or they'd die from the sun's radiation. If I'd written the cyberpunk one then I'd have been ahead of the curve as regards Wikileaks and Edward Snowden. Now it'd seem like catch-up.
This is what happens when you don't buckle down and just write what you want to write when you want to write it -- history catches up to you.
I gave in and took some Claritin for my sinuses after getting a whole 3 hours sleep, last night. It says non-drowsy but I still wound up having to take a nap...which could be due to the lack of sleep. But it's been hard to concentrate, too, so today was a bust in the writing department. At least I got my checkbook balanced.
I may be going the wrong way with OT, as well. I'm sensing some resistance to my re-structuring of it. Not sure why, yet, except in my head I had a nice symmetry between the opening line and closing one...and I'd really like to keep it. So I need to work out the whole rhythm of the piece in my head, again. See if I can keep it going.
I am a bit old-fashioned when it comes to structuring a script. I like to get to know the characters and think that makes for a stronger ending, one where the audience is more vested in their fate. It's What Hitchcock used to do a lot in his thrillers, and it just doesn't work for today's ADD audience. Same for books...though not to as great an extent.
I just remembered a night in Austin, Texas, where a group of friends and I went to see the restored version of Rear Window, and one woman said it took forever to get going. I pointed out she'd screamed when a man is seen walking up the stairs, but her response was, "So? prior to that it was pretty boring."
My apartment is now cleaner and less cluttered than it's been in years, and my sinuses are making me pay for it. I don't want to take Zyrtek because it makes me sluggish and apathetic; I wind up sleeping a lot longer than normal. I may start trying Claritin non-drowsy to see how that works.
Anyway, I've got some last items to dump at Goodwill and into recycling, tomorrow, and a few things to buy to complete the transformation. Then I'll get back onto OT. Time to complete the book and get a second beta read from people.
I found out the artist I like works only in PhotoShop. His art is nice but it wouldn't work for Owen's piece. Doesn't really matter; I'm pretty much locked onto the cover like I've already designed it. Just some tweaks and making sure I can use the image I have on there. I've already contacted another photographer about the possibility of shooting something like Jordan on the bed with his coat, in case I can't license that particular image.
And I like this work-up, a lot.
I flipped the image of Jordan and gave him a goatee instead of a scruffy beard. Then I shifted it into a light watercolor mode and heightened the contrast...and it's got a nice mysterious feel to it.
I might make the image of Palm Springs smaller so there's more of a black border around it. I'll have to think on that.
And the lettering's not exactly right, yet. Plus I do think I want to lessen the comment above the title...like maybe to "No" can be deadly. Or something short like that. No is the deadliest word?
I broke down and started cleaning my apartment, today...and even though I wore a wet bandana around my face most of the day, I'm sneezing my head off from all the dust I disturbed. And I'm only about half done. I got rid of a lot of crap...gave most of it to Goodwill since they're close by. I freed up a couple of shelves and now my bookcases don't look ready to fall over from being packed so tight. I still have the kitchen and bathroom to do, along with my work table and a set of bookcases holding stuff behind my work space, but it's already looking better. Helps to vacuum.
I'm also posting some things to sell on ebay. Bring in a little cash. Nothing major, but every little bit helps. Seems as soon as I start thinking I'm at least even with the financial game, something comes along to smack me up side the head and say, "Don't be an idiot." This time it's a $190 bill from the IRS for the final interest and fees on back taxes I'd been paying. That'll finish that off, at least.
I'm now looking for a photo I had of a model named Jordan. He's seated on a bed in his briefs and wife-beater, a coat pulled up over his shoulders. I remember posting it around a year ago, or so, on my blog. I think I want to use that one on the cover of OT...if I can license it for a decent amount. Which means once I have OT done, I'm publishing it myself. It may be stupid to do, but that way I have complete control of it.
Writer and self-involved artist out to change the world until it changes me...as has already happened in far too many ways. This blog is to showcase my writing, art and photography...especially since I'm working on a novel set in Northern Ireland and using Tolstoy as my guide.