Derry, Northern Ireland

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

Saturday, December 31, 2016

And more of A65

To the end of chapter one...

The Dungeon.

That is what they called their basement, which had been made over into a research library ... and if Adam could live there, he would. It contained row after row after row of sturdy shelves packed with books on collecting and collectors, bibliographies, auction catalogues and sales records, dealer catalogues, books of letters and correspondences, biographies, encyclopedias ... more than ten thousand volumes which held nearly everything one could possibly need to learn anything one could possibly want to know about a book. Jeremy's other task was to scan and digitize the information, a process that was going so slowly, it probably would not be done till the lad was ninety.

The Dungeon's one drawback was how dark and dreary it could be. Electric lighting had been added on about sixty years ago, when the shelves were much fewer, and had not been expanded, since. That left some sections so in such deep shadows, even Adam had to use a flashlight to see or read the signage. Which was unusual for him; both of his brothers and his sister were certain he had been born with the eyes of a cat and only used glasses to disguise his true abilities ... like Clark Kent hiding Superman. And while he liked the notion of it, the idea was nonsense ... though he did have to admit, as an adolescent, his mother was constantly admonishing him to turn on a light as he wandered through their home in the evenings.

At least they never saw much in the way of vermin, here, be it in shadow or not. They had Henry the Fourteenth to thank for that. He was a ginger tom named after the thirteen preceding him, and who was always happy to greet one as the lift door opened, allow a couple of scratches to his ears and strokes along his back, then wander off to be contented in some dry corner till it was time to hunt for his supper ... which, considering his hefty weight, he was not wanting for.

The Dungeon's lift had been added at the same time as the lighting and was barely large enough for two, with a door and gate that were completely manual. It was accessible in the back of the Dark Chamber, so Adam headed for it, rubbing his nose to keep from sneezing en route. As he stepped into the lift, he heard Elizabeth saying, “Now, Jere ... one of those is mine.”

He turned to see Jeremy backing past the doorway with both cups of tea in hand, his expression holding all the innocence of angels on high as he said, “Sorry, duchess. Last I heard, no means no.”

“And I'm sure you heard it just last night,” Elizabeth snapped, appearing in the doorway with him. “Hand it over. It's in my cup.”

“Come and take it,” he cooed, casting Adam a wicked wink as headed on to his room. Elizabeth followed him.

Adam closed the door and then the gate to the lift, set the lever to Basement, and started down. He couldn't blame Elizabeth for preferring a lad who looks dangerous to one with the manners of a librarian. His mother had tried many a time to tell him that it's more fun to live life than read about it.

He still didn't quite believe her.
Not much, and I guess I could have added part of chapter two...but I think this is the best way to end my posts for this year and ring in the new one...

That and this. Here's hoping 2017 is nowhere near as horrible as I think it's going to be. To be honest, I don't have great hopes.

But I do have a harder attitude...

Friday, December 30, 2016

Continuation from December 26th post...

I reworked the paragraph leading up to this bit...still in the first chapter...

But first things first. Adam had a small ritual he practiced as he carried the Erasmus to be photographed. He would jaunt past the other cubicles to a short hall while singing a soft little song ... sometimes in German, sometimes in Latin (as he did with the Orlando...), sometimes in English, and this time in Greek. "I see a book that's going to be took for Jeremy to photograph and put with all the rest. It's a lovely little book which soon will find its nook and she will be considered to be one of our best."

The hallway was short, with three doors -- two on the left and one on the right. The one farthest down was to Jeremy's office, which contained his computer, a table to mount the books on for photographing, his camera and tripod and a small light kit, all jammed into a space that was little larger than Adam's cubicle. He often whined about being cramped, but it was the only space available.

The other door on the left led to a kitchenette that held a sink, small refrigerator, microwave, kettle to heat water, and various teas and coffees and cocoas in cabinets overhead. They also contained cups and mugs, since each employee brought in his or her own. A single drawer held some cutlery.

The door on the right was to The Dark Chamber, where newly archived books were set on thick, solid shelves to await being brought before Jeremy's camera. Adam loved the room's mystical play of dust and light and darkness, as if it were wrapping the antiquarian volumes in the safety of shadows and silence. He knew it so well, he rarely turned on a light to find his way, even when selecting his next volume to archive.

He set the Erasmus on a shelf then checked his phone to make sure of the time ... and that his alarm telling him it was time for his meeting with Vincent really was engaged. He had done it wrong more than once, before, so now was a bit paranoid about it, but it looked all right. In fact, he had time to make a cup of tea and be at Vincent's office right on the dot, so he popped into the kitchenette.

He set the kettle to going and pulled down his cup -- a gleaming black one with the saying A room without books is like a body without a soul (Cicero). He'd found it at a small shop near The British Library, so bought two -- one for home and one for the office.

As he was filling his cup, he caught a glimpse of Elizabeth slipping into the dark room. She flicked on the light and placed a lovely clam-shell box containing a set of handwritten letters from Virginia Woolf to someone in the south of France on another shelf. The letters had been submitted for an export license and she was researching it as an expert for The Arts Council.

Adam pulled down her cup -- one sporting slashes of pink and green and blue and brown in a vaguely cubist design meant to look very modern but which struck him as common -- plopped a bag into it, and started pouring the still-hot water into it, calling, "Cup of tea, Elizabeth?"

"Tea?" she called back.

"Water's hot. Be set in a flash."

"Quarter milk, no sugar?”

"Just the way you like it," he said, dolloping some milk into both cups.

“No, thanks,” she called back.

Adam froze. He now had two cups of tea and only enough time to finish one. And they had to be drunk in the kitchenette; to take any sort of food or liquid back to your cubicle raised too great a risk of an irreplaceable book being damaged.

That is when Jeremy popped his head through the door and growled in his happy-puppy way, "Tea? You never make me any."

Since he was one of those half-Scally, half-punk, half-Eastenders sort of lads you would normally see in a pub nursing a pint, Adam had no idea how to respond except to say, “Didn't know you drank it.”

"So what about that bloody Erasmus?” he said. "Been on the shelf a week and you're the expert in it and -- "

Adam cut him off with, “It's all set to photograph.”

Which is when Hakim, their unctuous, self-proclaimed office manager, popped his head around the other side of the door and snapped, “The provenance better be right, this time.”

Adam huffed. Seven years he had worked here, and only once had he made a mistake -- when researching a manuscript copy of Richard Wagner's Die Nibelungen, he neglected to put an umlaut over a "U" in his transcription from the German, and never mind he was the one who realized the mistake and informed Hakim before it was sent to the Arts Council, he now acted as if Adam's work was riddled with errors. As if his own work was perfect.

Adam meant to respond with a gentle, “Of course,” but he shot Hakim a glare, instead ... and noticed Elizabeth was about to pass with a thick tome bound in vellum. He bolted over.

“Is this Die Schedelsche Weltchronik?” he asked. “The one found in Romania?”

It had caused quite a buzz around the department ... the discovery of an unknown copy of The Nuremberg Chronicle, by Hartmann Schedel. It was published at the end of the Fifteenth Century and was considered the first and most exquisite example of early printing combined with artwork. Supposedly, it had been in someone’s attic in Romania for who knew how long, but now was being offered for sale to the University. Photos had been sent and most of the staff had agreed it was a legitimate copy, as did Sir Robert ... Butterworth, a recent addition to the university's regents. He desperately wanted a Shedel for their collection and was upset when Adam insisted the binding looked wrong and the photographs were of pages that were too easily reproduced. He had overruled Adam and now the book was here, under consideration.

"Why are you taking it?" he asked Elizabeth. "This book's well outside your area of expertise while mine is perfectly suited for it."

“Vincent asked me to do the provenance,” Elizabeth said.

“Vincent? Why would he not give it to me?”

Hakim snorted. “Probably because you argued with Sir Robert."

Then Elizabeth added, with an acidic sweetness, "And neither one of them like being contradicted."

Adam huffed, again. Sir Robert had also insisted on putting down a substantial deposit to guarantee the purchase before the book had even been seen. He felt this was too good an opportunity to pass up, and he would not like being made the fool.

“But Elizabeth,” Adam said, taking the book from her, “the binding is not contemporary to the book. It's Eighteenth-Century, at the earliest.” He looked inside ... and huffed. Her initials were already on the front inside board, in soft graphite. While it is easily removed and only serves to show by whom the book was catalogued, until it is photographed, it's not supposed to be done until the book HAS been catalogued, something she had yet to even begin. He cast her a look of reproval. Once again, she was showing that she was not really a book person. He shifted a few pages over it -- and saw that he was right; the first verso page of text showed it had been expertly tipped in. “Here you go, she is a later printing, with a couple of true pages added to -- ”

Elizabeth cut him off with, “Adam, it's not a person; it's a thing.”

He cradled the book in his arm and carefully held the page up for her to see what was blatantly obvious, to him. “But look here at the base of the first verso page -- ”

She snapped the book closed and yanked it away, clipping his nose with a corner of the front board. He yelped.

“Give it here!” she snarled. “Hakim's right. Half the time you've got no idea what you're talking about.” And she stormed off.

Adam growled, because when he was right about something, he was right about it ... and that Shedel was not right. But he caught Jeremy snickering and Hakim glaring at him as if he were a complete incompetent and Elizabeth casting him a roll of her eyes as she entered her cubicle, so it appeared he would have to prove himself, and he knew exactly how.

The Dungeon.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

No writing today...

I watched Singin' in the Rain and let Debbie Reynolds go. I've seen her in so many movies -- The Tender Trap, Tammy and the Bachelor, How the West Was Won, The Unsinkable Molly Brown, What's the Matter With Helen, In and Out...and I even saw an episode of Will & Grace where she played Debra Messing's mom (this was before I gave up on the show and its caricatures of characters). I'm glad she was here.

I didn't warm to Carrie Fisher, so much, tho' I did appreciate her wit and resilience. She always hit me as someone who thought they had it rough and couldn't see how great their life was in comparison to others. Especially people trying to break into the business. I got to where I liked her more once she was a tough old broad who did what she wanted and didn't take shit off anybody. She still had a lot left to be interesting about.

I was mainly hit by how they went within a day of each an old married couple. That's not right...and I know the universe don't really have right and wrong coded into it...but it's still not right.

So I did a sketch, afterwards. Nothing great but a mind jabber to get me away from the quicksand of sorrow. Took me about 25 minutes, and I made this one a bit less in-your-face than the first one.

I've been doing one a day since before Christmas to try and regain my balance and it works. I get lost in trying to make them feel alive and interesting, and that helps me stop worrying about the world's bullshit.

My plan is to fill a 100 page blank book...then start on another and keep going as long as I can or want to.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016


I worked on A65 all evening and did not learn about Debbie Reynolds until just a little bit ago.
Her best comment -- "Singin' in the Rain (1952) and childbirth were the two hardest things I ever had to do in my life."

I'm not writing anymore, tonight.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Redoing my redos, again...

Naturally, I reworked a fair portion of what I posted, yesterday. Nothing major, just polishing for clarity and getting the momentum going for the next section, which takes me up to the point where Adam is going on the trip to LA. That's at about page 20.

Movement is always good. Even is it is one step back to get yourself ready to go two steps forward.

I'm set to fly to London for a couple days, January 9th. I cannot wait. Pins and needles, I stand upon until the day comes and I arrive there. I'll have a day to myself so plan to do some logistics research for my stories...including A65. I want to see what Epping looks like, since that's where Adam lives, with his mum.

I guess I need to start thinking about getting a new laptop. My MacBook is almost 9 years old and getting to be slow. I have a dual processor in it, which may be why it's lasted so long, but I have no idea how I can afford a new one. and I'm leery of refurbished ones. I may have to start using my tablet to do anything online...which is a pain.

I already use the tablet for financial stuff since my browsers are refusing to provide updated security unless I upgrade my OS, but I've gone as far as I can with that. It's like my Mac Mini; I can't do anything online with it, anymore and it's only 11 years old. I keep it because it has PhotoShop and Final Draft on it.

But it looks like I'm coming up on some more life changes, so...

Monday, December 26, 2016

Okay...some head-banging ended...

I finally found the style I want to tell the story in. It's a bit jokey and casual but is close to Adam's way of speaking without being totally there, and I feel better now. Only took me all weekend, half of which was spent expanding on the characters and putting notes into the story of things I wanted to add.

Here's the new it currently stands.


The Alice '65 is one of the rarest books in the world. Taken from the very first print run of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, it entered into the world of rarity when Sir John Tenniel, who had done the illustrations, saw the final result. He so disliked how his artwork appeared in them, he badgered Lewis Carroll into recalling the copies that had been sold, having the printing plates reset and the book reissued. All but fifty were returned and only twenty-four of those are known to still exist, so normally it would be a bibliophile's dream to be asked to fly to Los Angeles and return to London with a newly discovered copy of this very book.

But Adam Verlain did not want to go. To begin with, his area of expertise was manuscripts from the Fifteenth to the Eighteenth Century, mainly works of literature, philosophy and history. It would have made far more sense to send his colleague, Elizabeth Pascal, a lovely young woman who worked in the next cubicle and whose focus was 19th and 20th century works ... and he didn't think that because he rather fancied her; she wasn't quite what one would call a book person, yet, though she did have the makings.

And then there was Vincent St. George, head of the antiquarian book collection, a role he had occupied for untold decades ... perhaps even since the university was founded, in 1691. The one issue was, Vincent was more than twice Adam's age and had the appearance of a Victorian ghost, so the trip might have been difficult for him. Still ... he wasn't exactly at death's door and it would have made far more sense.

In fact, all that was really needed was someone human to fly over, accept the book on the university's behalf, and fly back. For that, they could have sent Jeremy, who almost qualified as such and who photographed the books once they were archived then joined their image with the on-line list. He was young and full of himself, and would love a day or two in Los Angeles. But he was also somewhat immature and much-tattooed and pierced; hardly the image the university would want to project.

Of course, Adam fit the image, perfectly. Trim, just under six feet tall, always in a suit and tie, with a face that gave him the look of an inquisitive cat. Granted, his life was in the process of gathering dust before he'd hit the age of thirty, and he also hated traveling, but the main issue was ... another copy of this book had gotten his father killed. The man had won it for a client at auction and was transporting it up to Edinburgh when he was robbed. In Newcastle. Was kicked down a flight of stairs, breaking his neck. Adam was but fifteen.

So he wanted nothing to do with The Alice '65, and had he known this was how his Monday would turn out ... well, he had a month of sick days coming to him, and he'd have taken every one of them to avoid being trapped into this. But by the time he realized what was about to happen, it was too late to change course.

Naturally, the day started well enough. He arrived for work at eight-fifty-two, as usual, and was in his cubicle by nine, sharp, his computer fired up and ready to go. He also had his usual moment of incongruity, looking around at the three-hundred year-old room with its arched ceiling and dark carved wood, everywhere, the ambience completely shattered by the island of modern work-spaces set up in the middle of it.

By nine-thirty, he finished the provenance on a rebound copy of Orlando Furioso, in Latin, which had been presented to King Victor Emmanuel, in 1866, not long before the Third Italian War for Independence. He had noticed indications the book was first given to Pope Pius IX on his selection to the papacy, twenty years earlier, so had spent nearly a week trying to confirm it. Which caused him some difficulty with Vincent, the Friday before.

"We've a hundred other books to archive," the man had said, in his veddy-veddy-British tone, "and you spend five days on one inconsequential volume?"

Granted, the book was bound in a plain speckled calf and a bit worn, yet it was still in fine condition and the possibility of it being linked to two famous men was more than worth the effort, so he had snapped back with, "Sir, I have never believed any book is inconsequential."

Which jolted Vincent into his most ramrod posture, bringing out the worst of his Oxford attitude as he snarled, "Nor is this one more consequential than any others on the cart, so be done with it."

So Adam finished with it, that morning, not completely satisfied but taking no end of pleasure in knowing he had done the fullest research on it. Still, Vincent needed placating, so he dove into a copy of Erasmus' Morais Enkomion, which had been sitting on the incoming cart for over a week because it was in Greek and no one else would touch it. He was done by three, and since he and Vincent were to meet at three-thirty, he hoped presenting the provenance on this book would soothe the older man's huffy nerves.

But first things first. He tenderly carried the Erasmus past the other cubicles and down a short hall, singing it a soft little song, in Greek. "I see a book that's going to be took for Jeremy to photograph and put with all the rest. It's a lovely book which soon will find its nook and she will be considered one of our very best." One had to follow protocol, don't you know.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

More done on A65...

I'm expanding the characters and writing some bits to add to the story, once I get the the appropriate spot. I've decided to stop worrying about what kind of book it's going to be -- romance, comedy, drama, suspense, whatever. It's going to have everything, and I will not classify it by simple terms.

I had someone once tell me they thought the screenplay was going to be a chase type a bookish version of Indiana Jones, and they were disappointed when the script didn't do that. It surprised me and I started second guessing myself and my characters, wondering if I ought to make it something more exciting. But I didn't...and I'm is everyone.

Adam is starting out just right and will be the most changed by the end of the book. More sure of himself. Less willing to be a joke or doormat. Happy that one aspect of his life is finally taken care of. Unhappy that another is left open...and yet not unhappy.

Casey is also undergoing change, tho' not to as drastic an extent as Adam. She already has control of her life in many ways; she just finally decides to take control of it all. She's taken chances in her career but played it somewhat safe with her emotional life, and that's what's got her all fuzzled up...till she jettisons it.

Patricia is changing as a character as I go along. She was on the underdeveloped side but now she's joined the conversation and is giving me layers for her life. Her history. Her reasons. Her excuses. Her explanations. Her dreams. I think I'm going to have a blast with her and let her be as wicked as she wants to be, at the end.

I'm not sure what's going to happen with Lando and Veronica, yet; they're sill being stand-offish. But I think they'll come around. Making Lando older -- 35 instead of 30 -- is already making other aspects of the story change. That may be why he's being huffy. Typical actor.

And I've given the Aussie businessman a name and background. Same for Casey's grandfather. This just seemed right, and may have been a mistake to not do so in the script.

And what do you think about Sean and Shawn as the names for the paparazzi twins who stalk Casey? Is that too cute? Considering their characters, I'm prone to not think so.

Looks like I'm having fun with the story, again.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Now to back away...

Backing away from my obsessive-compulsive hate of everything Trump and his ilk are generating...I've been doing my sketch a day and it's been beneficial.
This is my latest one. I stopped using Pilot Varsity fountain pens because they bleed on this paper and are hard to control. This sketch was done with a fine-print Sharpie.

I like doing these...

America today, as written in 1961.

Actually it was written earlier, but this explanation of how easily Nazism took hold in Germany. We are seeing something similar in the US. Maybe not to the extent, but still enough.
Burt Lancaster oversells it, but it still holds meaning for today.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Judgement at Nuremberg...

I got a copy of the DVD today. The movie is the fictional trial of 4 German judges who helped find legal excuses for the Third Reich to perpetrate its atrocities. Set in 1948 just as the Berlin Crisis was about to happen and politics changed the reality of morality. It's a long preachy movie, but never dull and sometimes horrifying.
Spencer Tracy's speech as he's about to deliver judgement on the German judges is apropos to today and condemns those who use Trump's childish, animalistic behavior as justification for them to attack those they don't like.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Does this work?

I'm back to vacillating between first and third person on does this work? Is it interesting? Is it too on-the-nose? Does it set the story up? I honestly can't tell, right now.


The Alice '65 is one of the rarest books in the world. It was from the very first print run of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and entered into the world of rarity when Sir John Tenniel, who had done the illustrations, saw the final result. He had so disliked how his artwork appeared in them, he convinced Lewis Carroll to recall the copies that had been sold, have the printing plates reset and the book reissued. All but fifty were returned and only twenty-four of those are known to still exist, so normally it would be a bibliophile's dream to be asked to fly to Los Angeles and return to London with a copy of the book that was meant to be a part of his university's collection.

But Adam Verlain did not want to go. To begin with, he disliked leaving London; it was civilized, easy to get around in and he liked the world he occupied. What reason could there ever be to leave it?

And then there was how his area of expertise was Fifteenth to Eighteenth Century works of literature and philosophy. It would have made far more sense to send Elizabeth Pascal, a lovely woman who worked in the next cubicle and whose focus was 19th and 20th century works. She wasn't quite what one would call a book person, yet, but had the makings.

Another possibility would have been for Vincent Bergerin, the head of the Research department, to make the journey. It would have made more sense, since he had been angling to bring one into the university's fold for decades. But then ... he was old and frail, like a Victorian ghost, so the trip might have been too much for him.

Of course, there was also the fact that a copy of this book inadvertently got Adam's father killed, so he wanted nothing to do with it. Had he but known this was where Monday would lead ... well, he had a month of sick days coming to him, and he'd have taken every one of them to avoid being trapped into it.

Naturally, the day had started out normal enough. He had finished the provenance on a rebound copy of Ariosto's Orlando Furioso, in Latin, which had been presented to King Victor Emmanuel not long before the Third Italian War for Independence, in 1866. There had been indications the book was first given to Pope Pius IX on his selection to the papacy, twenty years earlier, and he had spent a week trying to confirm it, which cause him some difficulty with his boss.

"We've a hundred other books to archive," Vincent had said, "and you spend five days on one inconsequential volume?"

Granted, the book was bound in a plain speckled calf and a bit worn, yet it was still in fine condition and the possibility of it being linked to two famous men was of some importance, so he had snapped back with, "Sir, no book is inconsequential."

Which had jolted Vincent into a ramrod posture and brought out the worst of his Oxford attitude as he snarled, "Nor is this one more consequential than any others on the cart, so be done with it."

So Adam wrapped the book up, that morning, not completely satisfied but still taking no end of pleasure in doing the fullest provenance on it. Then to placate Vincent, he worked on a copy of Erasmus' Morais Enkomion, which had been sitting on the incoming cart for over a week because it was in Greek and no one else wanted to touch it. He was done by three, half an hour prior to a meeting Vincent had arranged with him. He knew this would soothe the older man's huffy nerves.
It just seems a bit impersonal to me...but it's proving to be the easiest way into a decent opening chapter for the story.

Any comments?

Monday, December 19, 2016

Not a day for light writing...

As an antidote to the hate, anger, and despair I'm feeling, now that Donald Trump is officially the president-elect, I'm going to do a sketch a day in a blank book I have. It takes my focus away from the filth surrounding that man and makes me pay attention to something creative.

Here's what I did, tonight. From a photo I found online, using a Pilot Varsity fountain pen. Spent 25 minutes on it. Nothing great, but I feel easier now that it's done. Art always has been my mellow tool. Better than pot or drugs. Maybe this will get me back on path.

I'm also checking into ways I can assist in the protest of Trump and his chumps. The ACLU is already inundated with people asking what they can do, and Robert Reich is still formulating how best to respond. I'm not dealing with the Democrats, anymore; save for a very few, they've proven to be craven cowards or $2 whores.

I'm not putting politics into A65; it's not what the book wants. But I am changing UG when I return to it, using Trump and his brats as inspiration for a part of the story. And P/S is now more relevant than ever. As is a story I developed years ago then put aside -- Uplanders, about a post-apocalyptic world of the few haves and the many have-nots.

I have to do something to keep this country from crashing into the oblivion of history. Whether or not I do any good is beside the point. Doing likes on Facebook is not enough, anymore, nor is signing petitions that no one pays any real attention to, and I don't have the money to just back a group that is already fighting.

I'll just do what I have to do.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Ahh...back to the old head-banging...

After a great deal of work and rework and effort and thought and contemplation and writing and rewriting and re-rewriting...I think I finally may have a decent opening for A65. I'm trying to avoid my usual habit of slamming in a dozen characters in the first 20 pages and focus on Adam and his world...and this is what I came up with, finally...


I did not want to go to Los Angeles. I would have been more than content to remain in London, researching provenance on antiquarian books and manuscripts for the university's library, but I was given little choice in the matter ... and it has completely upended my existence.

I suppose I should begin by saying, my name is Adam Alexander Aloysius Verlain, and books are my life. Have been since the age of four, when I began to hold them and read them for myself. That's not to say my parents never read to me; my father would more often than my mother, but he was a dealer in antiquarian books so shared my affinity for them, while my mother preferred to attend to her physical therapy clients. It worked out well enough, especially for my brothers and sister, none of whom were as enamored of books as myself, so I was labeled father's pet while they were Mum's.

I would say that in the last 26 years, I have read every work of fiction there is, from Thackeray to Dumas to Dickens to James to Hemingway to Grass (in German, which is not as hard to learn as people say) to McInerny (in American, which is only a vague form of English) along with the works of Blake and Chaucer and Dante and Johnson and Plato (in Greek, which is hard to learn). They're wonderful things, books. They carry not only the stories and knowledge printed onto their pages, but also a wealth of history and the countless biographies of those who possessed them over the years ... decades ... eons.

I think that is what caused me to focus on works from the fifteenth through the seventeenth centuries -- the wish to know not only about the book, itself, but also who her owners were and what worlds she passed through. I once archived a rebound copy of Orlando Furioso in Latin (which is a lovely language in its simplicity) and discovered she had been presented to King Victor Emmanuel not long before the Third Italian War for Independence began in 1866. By whom was unrecorded, but there were indications she was first given to Pope Pius IX on his selection to the papacy, twenty years earlier. I spent a week trying to confirm it, which cause me some difficulty with my boss, Vincent.

"We've a hundred other books to archive," he'd said, "and you spend five days on this one inconsequential volume?"

Granted, she was a plain-looking volume bound in speckled calf, a bit worn, it's true, yet she was still in fine condition, so I snapped back with, "No book is inconsequential, sir."

Which jolted Vincent into his ramrod posture and brought out the worst of his Oxford attitude as he snarled, "Nor is this one more consequential than any others on the cart, so be done with it."

I finished the next day, still unsatisfied. But I took no end of pleasure in doing the actual provenance on her. So to placate Vincent, I immediately began work on a copy of the Erasmus Apophthegmata to soothe his huffy nerves. Got that one done in a day, which is my normal speed. Once I focus on my work, I can build provenance faster than anyone else on the staff. However, it was this focus which led to me being trapped into my journey.


Still not quite there, but I think it begins to set the stage.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Dropping UG for now...

I can't seem to concentrate on Underground Guy. I want to work on I'm giving in and shifting back to it. The draft I have is too rough for me to leave alone, and it's been more than 2 weeks since I finished it so I've had some decompression time...and I'm getting ideas on how to make it better. Like Patricia getting Adam stoned on her brownies instead of drunk on spiked OJ. That adds to his munchies-madness and makes it more believable since he's never been high, like that.

Turns out I AM headed for London, on January 9th. Back on the 12th. I finagled an extra day so I can scope out some things about A65, UG, and Marked For Death. All set today. Hop down to NYC, pick up an item to hand-carry (going business class over!!) and spend a day on the east end of London. Do a tight flight back (economy).

Watch it snow and keep me from it, like it almost did on my trip to Lisbon. That time, I took a train down to make my flight and still barely made it. It snowed nice and heavy, today. I continue to find it magical, and it did give me the excuse to cancel a doctor's appointment till after the new year, but I do not like driving in it. My car is small and needs new tires.

I may also have a packing job in Oklahoma, of all places, in later January. Not sure how I feel about that. I lived in Texas too long to think of Oklahoma as anything but more redneck than Dallas or Texas A&M. Goofy, scary place of tornadoes and earthquakes and Trump lovers. If the electoral college doesn't anoint him on Monday, it will be even scarier.

Almost back to normal after my procedure, earlier this week. It's taking a while. But since it was so clear, I may not need to do it again for another 10 years.

I'd like that.

More NI videos to keep...

Belfast 1969 -- an interesting documentary done at the time regarding the British Army in Belfast, which could easily be extrapolated into being in Derry. I'm doing this to keep track of it.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

What a fun week...

Well...this has not been the most joyful few days of my life. I pissed-off someone at AFF because I asked what a reader meant by a that, honestly, makes no sense to me at all. Apparently you're just supposed to say Thank you and accept whatever you're given. Okay, I was just trying to understand why the reader thought 2 important characters sounded to them like they were from Texas instead of LA and should be corrected...and why it would even matter. With it came the vague hint that maybe I should not submit to them, anymore, which I was already planning not to do...but now I feel like I ought to just to let them know I won't be told what to do. Which is childish. And irritates the hell out of me. But I'm not in the best of moods, to put it nicely.

I'm also fighting off a cold or something that just will not go away. Maybe a nasal infection or something that keeps my throat ticklish and me coughing. This is on top of me getting a colonoscopy, yesterday, since I haven't had one in 9 years and I had polyps removed in that one and should have had it done at 5 years. OMG, the preparation for that will drive you deep into discomfort. To put it mildly.

But it's done, at least, and I only had one polyp removed, this time. I guess that's an improvement. So long as it turns out to be nothing but that and not precancerous. Only I am exhausted from not sleeping and having to take up residence in the bathroom for nearly 18 hours. I'm still a wreck from it.

Not feeling good also heightens my sense of futility while writing...and I use all sorts of excuses to get me out of writing. Something writers are notorious for. I want to work on this book -- nope, gotta clean the apartment so you'll have a chance of not sneezing over New Year's. Oh, I have an idea for this part of the novel -- nope, there's a verbal war you're in the middle of on Twitter that needs to be dealt with. God, when did I become such a cliche?

Here I am, going from wondering about writing something phenomenal and surprising to not even wanting to try. My typical pattern, and so predictable I wonder at the fact that I get anything done.

And it's snowing like crazy and tomorrow I've got another doctor's appointment and I have so much to do at work and I have the prospect of a quick jaunt to London, in January, being dangled before me but nothing settled and probably won't happen because it'll be too expensive, and another hand-carry to Nevada, someplace, depending on how an auction goes and on and on.

And I've crashed into whiny mode...and even I hate me when I get this way. I think I'll watch a movie and just ignore myself for a while.'s after 11pm and I've got to work in the morning.

Shit, it's times like this I wish I drank whiskey.

Sunday, December 11, 2016


As I ironed, tonight, I watched Jean Cocteau's elegant version of the legend of Orpheus, Orphee. It was made in 1949 after his Beauty and the Beast, and it is filled with magical images.

Orphee (Jean Marais) is a famous poet who's become wealthy and is coasting on his laurels while a hot young poet threatens to surpass him. He's dissatisfied and surly, and thinks he's past his prime but doesn't want to do anything that will upset his life.
The young poet is killed in an accident and Orphee become connected to Death (Maria Casares), who travels in a gorgeous Rolls Royce accompanied by two men in black on motorcycles.

He winds up with the Rolls parked in his garage and hearing poetic messages on the radio, which give him inspiration but also cause him to ignore his pregnant wife, Eurydice (Marie Dea)...until she dies and he goes into the underworld to bring her back, with the help of Death's chauffeur, Heuterbise (Francois Perier).

It's been years since I've seen the film...hell, though I remembered the basic storyline, I'd forgotten a lot of the details. There are a lot of old camera tricks in this film, mostly shooting an action then reversing it or making clever use of rear projection, but they work in it. Not quite as nicely as what Cocteau pulled off in Beauty... but close.

What makes the film wonderful is its lyricism. Its meditation on love. Orphee falls in love with Death and she with him, but it cannot be. Heuterbise falls in love with Eurydice but it also cannot be. There are rules which must be followed, to the point of extermination. It could almost be a meditation on love between two men, which wasn't a crime in France at the time (homosexuality was decriminalized in 1791) but was still frowned upon and condemned by the Catholic Church. Even today there are those running around in France who say gays ought to be burned at the stake.

It's one of those movies that inspires me. Makes me wonder if I could do what Orphee is told he must do to become relevant, again -- surprise people. It's been a long time since I surprised anyone with my writing, and even then it was more shock at my audacity than anything else. Certainly not being impressed with my writing.

I wonder if I can do something that surprises and also impresses people?

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Confused about "The Alice '65" screenplay

I got some interesting feedback on The Alice '65 from the Austin Film Festival. It made it to the second round, where it got this response:

--> Reader #3 (Second Round reader) 

Concept: This is a comedy feature script. The descriptives and tone immediately put us into the world that is being created. It is quite lyrical and whimsical. The characterizations on both sides of the pond feel extreme and underdeveloped. And ultimately the script feels heightened in a way that makes it hard to fully engage with the narrative.

Plot: There are elements about this that are probable but not always plausible which does take it into a different realm that is not always consistent with the genre. It's hard to tell with the opening scene who the lead character's really going to be. Refining that will help a lot. 

Structure: There is a beginning, middle, and ending. The beginning gets a little muddled. It introduces quite a few characters at once with them all in need of more definition as to not come across is the same person. Giving the overall narrative more dynamics throughout will really help with the flow of this script.

Characters: Adam is our lead character. Even though in the opening scenes there are so many characters it's kind of hard to tell he's going to take charge and be the protagonist. There definitely needs to be more distinction/development of the characters on the page because they don't stand out from one another until we get to America. 

Dialogue: The opening scenes dialogue are with the British characters and it feels quite British. Once we get to America the Americans feel a bit textbook. They're in Los Angeles but two of the main characters place us more in Texas. And that feels more like using archetypes rather than something with intention. There is also a 'spinning-around-the-subject' element to it. It could be used to move the plot forward a lot better.

Overall: The story and the characters are definitely unique. This was quite a fun read. The descriptives and tone immediately put us into the world that is being created. And the narrative is quite lyrical and whimsical with a brisk pace. The physical comedy elements are also strong. One of the things that comes through very solidly is the British underpinning of the story. The America characterizations however, could use development to come across as more authentic. Patricia and Casey sound more like they're in Texas vs L. A. What will also help the American ear is to really distinguish more between the characters within the dialogue to give them dimension in the first few scenes. As it is now, without the names above the dialogue there is little to no distinction except for a few. Adam being a prime example. This is a unique story with a fresh perspective. With more development on the overall flow of the narrative and character, it will be a very solid script.

I understand some of the critique; in shifting the story to novel format, I saw places that could use a lot more focus, and I did strip some of the dialogue down a bit too where it's almost too on the nose. But I do not even begin to understand why this person thinks Casey's and Patricia's dialogue makes them sound like they're from Texas. I've looked through the script and there is nothing in it I would call Texas-talk. No ya'lls or Sugar or Hon. I don't even clip off the G at the end of words, with either of them. I've asked for clarification and have yet to receive an answer.

Maybe there is none. 

Friday, December 9, 2016

Quick links to Derry I don't lose them...

1971-- Free Derry

1979 -- including Grianan an Aileach...

Thursday, December 8, 2016


The last couple of days have been busied up by catching up with my sleep and by updating my website, GoodReads page, adding OT to BookDaily, sorting through a mess of paperwork, and working more on UG. Oh, and dealing with that little thing called my job. Now I think I'm basically on top of what's necessary. I hope. I'm sure I'll think of something to beat myself up with, later.

With UG, I'm liking the idea of accountability being its theme, more and more. What's already set up in the story is how Devlin's father was a brutal drunk who bought off the cops and priest whenever they were called in about him beating his wife and sons. No accountability for that. Nor for what Dev believes was the murder of his mother by his father. The police just shrug it off and the priest blames the wife and sons for provoking the man.

Now Dev only attacks people who deserve some form of punishment -- like one guy who reneged on a deal with his company and nearly drove Dev and his brother, Colin, into bankruptcy. What sends him careening into chaos is how he attacks Reg, the Underground Guy, a man who did not deserve punishment but was actually trying to help save lives. This makes him question everything he thinks he stands for.

The catalyst is the police finally finding the remains of his mother in the marshlands of New Jersey and calling him with the information, just before he returns home from his business trip to London. He needs to give them a DNA sample so they can verify it's her. He doesn't even tell Colin about it because he knows his brother would be unable to handle it. So it's almost like he's pulling his stunt in order to be forced to stay in the UK.

May be a bit too complex for the story, but I'm having fun playing with it.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Life in the fast lane...

I'm done with the packing and prepping of my latest Berkeley shipment. It only took a day, but it was tiring. This house is one of those places where each floor is on a different level, and they're connected by a tight spiral staircase. Of course, the items I had to pack were on the top floor, but I was able to use the dining room, which is on the middle level, so only had to do the round-trip 20 times.

This shot is from that room. It's a beautiful house in a lovely area of tight, winding streets ... and the view is spectacular, as you can see... but I'd get tired of all the up and down pretty quick, not to mention it's a 15 minute drive to the nearest grocery store. But then again, that might be why the couple who own the place are still very spry, even though they're older than me.

Last night, I had dinner with Yue Shi, a Facebook friend who's a law student at UCB and who likes my books. He's from China but is a US Citizen, and we've had fun talking about his various crushes. We were going to do a French place but it was closed on Mondays, so we wound up at a glorified Pizza Parlor called Jupiter with a lot of Artisan beers and some odd sorority/fraternity thing going on. It was very loud. The girls wore streetwalker dresses, they were so tight and short, and the boys wore suits and tuxes. Like this was prom night. UC Berkeley is very odd.

Hell, Berkeley is odd. They drive at 25 mph and if someone even hesitates at a crosswalk, cars stop to let the person cross. Of course, the pedestrians are as confrontational as drivers are in LA. On many occasions I had someone bust into a crosswalk and double-dare anyone to hit them as they passed. Didn't even look to see if traffic was stopping. Spooked me.

I worked some on Underground Guy on this trip, and now have a complete outline for the story. I even have a couple ideas of what it's about -- acceptance or accountability. Right now, I'm leaning towards the latter more than the former, because much of the action is Devlin taking responsibility for his actions. And there's also how his father was never held accountable for the physical abuse of his wife and children.

Now I'm waiting for the redeye back to Buffalo and a nice long sleep in my bed. This La Quinta is very comfortable and quiet, and the mattress very nice, but it's still not mine and there was no tub; just a shower. I really wanted to soak thanks to those stairs.

But that's life in the big city.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Another trip...

This one to Berkeley for a couple days and taking a redeye back to Buffalo Tuesday night. NOT looking forward to it because I cannot sleep on a plane. I doze a little but that's about it. So today was spent catching up on paperwork and bills and wondering what to do next.

I want to get my head completely out of A65 so I can approach the story with a fresh eye, and the best way to do that is to do another project. Maybe I could finish a draft of Underground Guy; I have it about half-written...even though it's all over the place. Or I could do a new on -- like Uplanders, a post-apocalyptic story using Aristophanes' The Birds as its basis but segueing into darker territory, at the end.

Or I could start dealing with the information inundating me about Medicare and my new health insurance and the requirements of my credit cards and organizations I'm working with to try and keep Trump under some kind of scrutiny. I could even do research on how to promote my books better. Bump up sales. Research grants for writers. Do some painting or sketching...which would be hard to do on a plane. Or I could blow it all off.

So...I now know my usual pattern -- fight getting a project started, force myself to start it, get involved in it to the point everything else vanishes, and when the work is done, get lost in my uncertainty of what to do till I start fighting myself on what my next project will be.

Shit...guess I'm stuck in my ways.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Rewriting and adding...and it's 50,051 words

I went back through the Adam parts of A65 and found places to add in memories and expand on actions -- like when Adam is being made over by Orisi at Casey's behest, and how it's his first taste of real Hollywood chaos. That expanded by over 400 words by letting Orisi jump to even more extreme extremes and Adam having to work his way through it so he can get the book he's been sent for. But this also sets him up for a compliment from Patricia, Casey's mother, regarding his legs and ass. Something he's never had before.

He also refers to his brothers and sister a lot more and discusses how his mother got him into ballroom dancing as a way to get him to exercise and not sit in a chair all day reading a book, which segued into him talking about the amateur football team he belongs to (soccer) and sets up a moment in the bizarre party at Lando's where people are dancing to music no one can hear unless they are wearing a mask.

Before I knew it, I'd passed 50K and met the challenge. Barely. And I haven't gone half as far as I could with this story, yet. It's still swinging between romance and comedy and drama with a touch of existentialism. Not sure what that means, yet, but I do know it's going to be interesting, at least.

But the main thing is, I met the challenge and didn't have to cheat to make it work. I did that on one book -- The Golden Sea -- and it hurt no one but me...but it did not help in any way, either. I have yet to return to the book because it would be like starting from the beginning.

I'm tempted to go through and do another draft of the book; make it more solid and consistent and ready for the serious rewrites I'll be doing. I'm going to focus more on my style, this time, and do everything I can to make this as polished a tale as possible, so I want the structure to be solid.

A new theme that seems to be peeking through the wordage is Loneliness. Casey's lonely. Patricia's lonely. Gertrude is lonely. So is Adam, even if he doesn't know it. It comes together in many ways, and it makes the ending more bittersweet than the script version because of how things work out, but still hopeful.

So far.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Done at 48,118 words...dammit...

So close and yet so far. The Alice 65 maxed out short of the total needed to meet the challenge. I'm brain dead, right now, so will go through my notes, tomorrow, to see if I can find another 1900 words to add in, but it's not promising. And I will not cheat. If I don't make it, I don't make it. At least I have a first draft of the book in decent enough condition.

The ending changed. In the script I had Adam staying on at the university, but because the betrayal is so raw in the book...he leaves. He ends his careful, cloistered existence for the big bad world of fending for himself. That cute happy ending I had in the script might work on film but it was wrong for here.

I also think I need to work out the timing for the ending bit around the jet. I don't think it's possible to get from Van Nuys to LAX in an hour, no matter how crazy a driver you are. you have to deal with the 405, and that is a nightmare just about any time of the day.

Hell, the whole book will take a fair amount of work.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Uh-oh...may come up short

I just cut a fair amount from A65 because it just didn't work within the structure of the story, and now I'm not so sure I'll make it to 50,000 words for this draft. Oh, I'm sure it will expand and deepen as I do rewrites, and I'll probably still wind up with 60,000...but right now I'll be hard pressed to hit above 48,000.

I guess that's good. It means the story is quick and easy. And I haven't yet gone into my folder to remind myself of ideas I'd cast aside for the screenplay, so I may still wind up with something close or barely over. We'll see what tomorrow brings. Right now, I'm zoning so am doing no good.

I'm at just under 46,500 words with 10 pages of script left to translate into narrative format. From the point where they have the fight in the private jet that's out of control to the end. All the final back and forth between Adam and the people he works with, too, which will expand as I do it.

The moment where Adam realizes he's been betrayed turned out pretty raw. I may need to smooth that over to keep the book's tone even. Maybe. It also may be that I have a couple things happen too often and will need to remove one or two so their impact is not lessened.

I'm back to not knowing what the story is about. The spine from which everything extends. The action moves along all right but I still need the unifier...and there's no telling when I'll find it. I didn't catch onto OT's till the next to the last draft...of 18 or 20, I don't remember.

Damn, I hope A65 doesn't take that many.

Sunday, November 27, 2016


Getting there. Only 5500 words to go to meet the challenge, and 3 days to do it in. I'd be a bit further along but for some reason my dictionary has shifted to German. Dunno why, but all of a sudden it doesn't like anything I type in English so puts a red line under words like and and the. Very distracting.

It's going to take a fair amount of work to get this story into decent shape for publishing. Right now there are too many disjointed moments I've thrown in so I'd have them in the correct area. And I know there's some repetition of bits that I'm still thinking on, as regards to where they go in the book.

It's gotten a bit darker but still has humor in it. Sometimes within a few lines of each other. It's going to be a rather odd book, once it's done. I just hope people want to buy it and read it.

En route back from Hong Kong I watched all of Season 9 of The Big Bang Theory and then watched the first Star Trek movie. BBT was funny, and ST was ponderous with SFX that did not hold up to the test of time. Last night, as I sat in the tub, I streamed 2 of the Hercule Poirot mysteries via Acorn. David Suchet plays Poirot and they were made in 1989...and hold up surprisingly well, production wise...but the mysteries were rather simplistic. I knew whodunit within 10 minutes of each.

Obviously not originally Agatha Christie.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Writing down the wrong path...

It's wrong. The two-voice telling of The Alice 65 is not right for the story. It's not what the characters want and I finally got it through my thick skull, last night, as I was trying to get to sleep. This is Adam's story. He should be telling it as he experiences it, no one else to explain anything. What's interesting is, Casey agrees.

I couldn't see it because I was too caught in shifting what was in the script to narrative form. I knew Adam's parts were working fine but Casey's were stilted and trite, not to mention dull. And then I realized she actually pulled out a couple of tricks and was showing me how to make even her sections into Adam's...and I was ignoring them. But now? Now I can see no other way.

I guess it's best to figure that out at 42,000 words than the 60K I'm expecting the story to be. Maybe even 65K. I'll have four chapters to change, but everything else is already Adam speaking and that's perfect. Right now, I'm at the point after the party when Casey and Adam are beginning to open up to each other. He's had his little freak-out. She's realized she went too far. Now they're sitting before a fire as his clothes wash and she tends to his injuries.

It's funny, but in researching romantic comedies it seemed the stories not told in third person were told from a woman's POV. I think that's part of why I tried to work Casey in, for those who wouldn't read a rom-com fom a male perspective. I don't know if this will lessen the book's chances of selling, but I can't take that into serious consideration. What matters is the story is right.

And the truth is, it is without question, Adam's story.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Still angry about the election...

It's now more than 2 weeks since Trump was elected to the Presidency, and I'm still angry and nervous about it. He's been so inconsistent and hateful, so far, putting a racist like Jeff Sessions as the Attorney General, a governor with no foreign relations experience like Nikki Hayley as ambassador to the UN, a billionaire named Betsy DeVos who wants to privatize all primary education so she can make more money, a notorious homophobe like Mike Pence as his VP, and an anti-semite like Steve Bannon as part of his transition team...this is the devil's wet-dream.

It's The Marx Brothers meets The Three Stooges mixed with Laurel and Hardy, and some people act like they're great dramatic actors, ignoring the fact that these fools will not only be setting national policy for the next four years but international...and their lead boy will have his finger on the nuclear arms trigger. If he has one of his 3am fits over some slight given him by the ambassador from Iran, our only hope to avoid Armageddon is a military coup.

People keep saying to relax, we'll get through this, not remembering that under Ronald Reagan, tens of thousands of gay men died before he even considered acknowledging the AIDs crisis, and he even refused to help his friend, Rock Hudson, when he asked for it. They forget that under Eisenhower, thousands of people's lives were ruined due to the HUAC Red Scare, the vast majority of them innocent of any crime. They seem not to know that this is exactly what the Germans said to each other when Hitler became Chancellor of Germany, when no one really thought he meant to exterminate the Jewish race.

Anyone who tells me we'll get through this means they think they will and the hell with anyone else. It's usually wealthier, more educated white men and women saying it, almost all of them heterosexual, because we are the favored race in this country and they are the favored sexual orientation. But some African-Americans have also said it. Meanwhile gay men and women are being threatened and attacked, blacks are being attacked and killed, as are Muslims and (stupidly) Sikhs. The hateful rhetoric from Trump's crowd is only increasing, and the media are falling in line to make it all seems just like business as usual.

That Trump is now signalling he won't be registering Muslims or really building a wall and that gay marriage is the law of the land (for now) is not reassuring; he's been so back and forth on his positions who knows what he'll decide tomorrow? Who knows if he's really taking his instructions from Moscow? Who knows if he's even really a billionaire? So far all he's proven to be is an unstable man in a job that requires more than just stability but also awareness and compassion and understanding and self-control, none of which he has even begun to suggest he truly has.

Seriously -- when the president-elect feels like it's appropriate to whine about a group of actors politely asking the vice president to be compassionate and understanding, you know he's anything BUT strong...or intelligent. He's nothing but a schoolyard bully who can't even handle the drama kids.

And that makes him 100 times scarier than he's ever been.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

More updating on A65

Today may have been turkey day, but I spent it working on The Alice 65...except for one main thing -- posting David Martin as a Kindle. It's now up and available, even though it's not completely integrated with the paperback on the site. I know I should have done this long ago, but I'm so far behind in my life, this is practically on time for it.

Oh, I also updated my health insurance. It was time and I could just see things getting too crazy for me to work on it later, so took care of it. That only took an hour.

I do feel a lot better, today, and had my own turkey meal and nap, afterwards, but for some reason I really want a shot of Irish Whiskey instead of DP. Is that my inner Hemingway talking?

Casey's voice has taken on its own grammar and word choice. I think I'm almost to the point where I don't need to specify who's telling the story when I shift, because Adam's manner of speaking is so proper and precise, while Casey's is casual and straightforward. I'll need to work this into the first sections I've done, but it's rambling along, nicely.

I found the perfect image for Lando, BTW -- Milo Ventimiglia. He's got a goofy charm to him and yet is also good-looking in an off-beat way...which I think will make it more believable that Casey goes for Adam once she sees he's not as much of a dork as she thinks.

And he just looks like a Lando, to me.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Catching up...

Been a rough and tumble 10 days, so I'm just now posting what should have been posted during them. Or maybe not. Whatever. I'm tired. Feeling down thanks to an unfascinating mixture of events. Almost back on normal time from Hong Kong. And at just under 37,000 words on A65.

First things first -- the trip to Hong Kong. Well, it was 10% nice, 90% painful. Going through JFK meant 16+ hours on a plane, each way, from Buffalo. From Toronto, it's 3 hours shorter...because I don't have to fly down to NYC; I take a bus up to Toronto's airport. Much more comfortable. And the flight from JFK goes the northern route, back up over Toronto across the Arctic and Russia and China back down to Hong Kong. Which adds 2 hours. Same coming back.

That is too long to be on a plane. And it told on me. As did having uncomfortable beds in my hotel. They were like granite...well, the first one was; the second one was like mulched granite.

I was also hit by some food poisoning. I stupidly tried some Chinese food, using the stupid idea that since I'm in Hong Kong I should a least do some tasting...and it took 4 doses of Imodium to stop it. After that, I stuck to McDonald's, Subway, and room service.

Moving in the book fair was about as expected, though moving out took longer than I thought because we had extra things coming back and could barely fit everything into the truck. So by this time, I feel like hell, my back is killing me, I'm dehydrated so guzzling Watson's Water like crazy, and ready to be home.

So...the next day I screwed up and didn't make sure the export bookings got done once the weights and dimensions of the shipments were set, which meant my cohort at the office had to take care of it on top of everything else she has to do. And that's on top of a 13 hour time difference.

A lot more happened but suffice to say, this was not my favorite trip anywhere. The only positive thing was, when I got back to the States, I got through customs in no time, even though Terminal 7 is so Third World a terminal, it's an embarrassment.

As regards my health, I thought I was coming down with the flu, I was so messed up. Headache. Muscles sore. Head pounding. Shortness of breath. I finally got into a clinic and the doctor could see nothing to indicate that. No fever. Lungs clear. Skin not flush. No Thyroid crap. He said it was probably the plane rides, lack of sleep, food poisoning, dehydration and food poisoning that slammed me. And it looks like he's right -- I'm feeling a lot better, and that's without the meds.

This was supposed to be a nice, easy trip with an extra day built in to make things casual; instead the only bright spots were, I saw my artist friend, Scott Hessells for beers and we commiserated about the election, and I do like most of the dealers who exhibit at this fair. One is especially good-looking, but I can't do anything about it because he's a good client...and married.

And for the first time, this man who thinks little of wedded bliss wish it was him experiencing it.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Over 17,500 words...

Continuation from yesterday...and the day the chapter break...
Instead, I said, "Sir, wouldn't it be better to send Bill or Elizabeth to collect the book?" He stopped. He knew what I was going to say so no need to say it beyond, "You know what happened with my father ... "

Vincent's shoulders tightened and he nodded as he said, "Yes ... but you are the only person I trust to treat this with the gravity it deserves. As ... as soon as you have the book, you're to bring it straight back. Your itinerary's on your desk."

"Vincent, please ... "

"It's already decided, Adam, Ticket's in your name and we can't change it. The cost would be ... it would be prohibitive." He turned to me, putting on a smile he obviously did not truly feel. "But once you've turned her over, you're free till Monday."

The lift opened and he stepped into it, indicating I should follow him I did. He pushed the button for the second floor, saying in a voice that was too cheerful, "I hear you're involved with that girl in I-T."

How nice of Vincent; behind the times by two years ... and a month ... and eight days.  Give or take a couple hours. "Not anymore, sir."

His face did not change except to allow himself to blink in surprise. "Oh. Well. Supposed to be a lovely weekend. Why not invite her to Sheerness? Go bathing on the beach. Rekindle things."

"Oh, not ... not a good idea, sir," I replied, my mind still caught in the idea of my upcoming journey. "She's married and with child, and I ... um, I can't swim."

That finally removed his too-cheerful smile. "Oh. Well." The smile fought to return. "Lowers your chances of being drowned, doesn't it?"

"One would think so," was all I could say, in response.

He cast me a glance, showing I'd made no sense to him. I had no need to; it was a family matter. My brother, Connor, a couple years older than I and of the decided belief that he was far superior to myself, had decided the best way for me to get over my panic when in water too deep to stand up in was to push me into a lake. Force me to swim. I nearly drowned before my father got me out, and my fears were now strapped to my DNA. But when you have a sociopathic narcissist for a brother, moments like this are to be expected, I suppose. At least dealing with Connor and his peculiarities prepared me for what I was to encounter in Los Angeles.

At least ... one would think so.

Friday, November 11, 2016

More of A65 and the hell with politics.

Followup to yesterday's post.


I very nearly jumped back up on the ladder. But I caught my breath and said, "Oh -- Vincent, we should revisit that Shedel and find out what the seller's trying to -- "

He cut me off with, "Have you been down here all this time?"

"Just -- just a bit," I said. "Our meeting's not till half-three."

His expression grew exasperated. "It's now four."

"Don't be absurd," I said. "I set my phone's alarm to remind me." Then I looked at it and it was flashing -- YOU'RE LATE. I'd inadvertently flicked it to mute. "Oh, sorry, sir. I was just locating information on that Romanian Liber Chronicarum and -- "

Vincent cast me his perfect rendition of pure confusion. "Elizabeth's doing provenance on that. What about your own work?"

"The Erasmus Apophthegmata? It's all set for Jeremy to photograph and -- "

"Then you're free."

Free? Was he mad? "Sir, we've a hundred more -- "

He raised his hand to silence me. "Come on upstairs. And leave the catalogue, there's a good lad. Elizabeth can do her own provenance."

I climbed back up and set it into its correct box ... and couldn't help but put more in order, they were in such disarray.

"Vincent, if Jeremy is going to do the shelving down here, he should learn the alphabet and numeric sequence.

"Adam! Come!" And his tone of voice was more than exasperated, it was irritated and ready to unleash a slew of carefully refined words meant to slice you down to your knees with gentle contempt. I quickly switched two more catalogs around then jumped down and let him lead me back to the lift, like a well-trained dog.

This part of the path to the lift was really quite narrow, with ceiling pipes so low, one had to walk almost like a duck to avoid them.

Vincent did not look at me as he asked, "Is your passport in order?"

"I suppose," I said.

"When did you last use it?"

I had to think, for a moment. "Three years ago, when you made me visit New York's Public Library to review a collection they'd received as a gift. I had to get an emergency renewal because I'd let mine lapse and -- "

"Then you've been to the states. Care to go, again?"

"I'd rather not, I said. "New York is madness. I was almost struck by two cabs, a lorry and four bike messengers ... just as I was crossing Fifth Avenue."

"You'd be going to Los Angeles, this time."

I knew Los Angeles was big and wide and open, but I still had to ask, "Is it saner than Manhattan?"

"Doubtful. But we've acquired a book and -- "

I froze. I had heard the rumors about this around our university, but I dared not believe them. Before I could even think to silence myself, I blurted out, "Sir, is -- is it the Alice Sixty-five?"

Vincent spun on me, so angry he actually had color in his face. "Who told you about that!?"

Dear God, it was true. I had to take a step back. Regain my breath. "I -- I just heard ... around ... " From Jeremy whispering the possibility to Bill, a fortnight back. Just after he'd taken a photo of me working on a Blake's Albion that had been offered to a dealer, which turned out to be a later printing but still of some value. He'd taken one of Bill, as well. I seriously believe the lad is what's referred to as sexually fluid, these days. I wondered if Elizabeth knew ... or even cared.

Vincent calmed himself and muttered, "I wanted it kept quiet till the book was here. There's a bloody Australian after it, too, and he's been more than adamant. Even contacted one of the regents and offered to pay us not to accept it. Well, the paperwork's been signed, so it's ours, now. Done and dusted."

"Oh. Oh ... are we certain about this? I'm always leery when some person discovers a book worth a million pounds in their attic -- "

"Casey Blanchard is not some person," he shot back. My confusion about her must have shown on my face, because he added, "Haven't you seen Ilithium Four?"

I bolted upright and banged my head on a pipe. Actually saw stars, it was sharp. And yes, I knew of the film but had studiously avoided it. The four-volume book was a lovely reworking of Virgil's The Aeneid into a world of the future, keeping surprisingly close to the dactylic hexameter style of writing, so I bore no interest in witnessing the desecration of a classic work of Science-Fiction.

Vincent smiled in his very arch manner and said, "Purist, are we? Of course. I'll lend you my copy to watch on the plane." He turned to continue walking. "I have it in both DVD and BluRay. Which will your laptop accept?"

"DVD, sir," I muttered, following him. My head still smarted, but I'd been done far worse to in a footy game, so ...

"Very well. Miss Blanchard is one of the leads, and the book was bequeathed to her by her grandfather, not found in an attic. I've seen the photos of it, inside and out, so I am certain it's a true 1865 edition of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Is that acceptable?"

No, it wasn't. But it does no good to argue with Vincent when he is as prickly as this.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

More of A65...reworked

I'm making myself focus on the writing, because the Trump-holes have already begun their path of intimidation against anyone not WASP and male. This is what I did this evening...not a writing so much as a rewriting...still near the beginning...


We referred to our underground level as the dungeon ... and let me just say, if I could live there, I would. It's dark and dank and has flooded more than once -- though we have long since put in pumps and repaired the drains so lately the so-called flooding has been little more than an inch or two on the floor, with the lowest shelving of books another two inches above that -- and I'm certain various vermin would love to call it home were it not for our lovely ginger tom, Henry the Fourteenth (after the thirteen preceding him) who was always happy to greet one as the lift door opened, allow a couple of scratches to his ears and strokes along his back, then wander off to be contented in some dry corner till it was time to hunt for his supper...which, considering his hefty weight, he was not wanting for.

As regards me, the source of contentment was the row upon row of auction records to peruse, as well as heavy tomes discussing book collecting and binderies through more than a century, back issues of art magazines, catalogues of the various antiquarian book dealers throughout the UK, Europe, Asia, and America, printouts of articles accessed via ILAB or the ABAA and archival notations made on ABE-dot-com and, if that did nothing to satisfy my need for information, critiques and histories and biographies of well-known collectors to scan through. I could easily spend a week getting the exact right information together to write the provenance of some wonderfully obscure volume, every moment of the day spent dashing between the Sothbey's sale of Samuel Hogarth's works from June 1825 to a printout of Heritage Auction House's minimal works in last month's online offering.

So I provided Henry with his ritual scratch and stroke -- something I almost believe he saw as a toll for entry into his domain -- then I hunted down an Oxford Auction bibliography from a long, packed shelf of information prior to 1960, which Jeremy had yet to digitize. Naturally, it was not where it should have been. Gossip between Elizabeth and Bill was, the lad went to a public school in Tumbridge Wells ... not that I listened in, but it is difficult not to hear when the voices are coming in normal tones from the cubicle next to yours ... and if it was true, he was taught nothing about numeric or alphabetic sequence.

I found the book I wanted two shelves down from where it should be and dug through the musty pages because I knew it was in here; I'd seen it by happenstance when gathering provenance during our discussion of the Shedel and was thinking the year nineteen fifty-eight was significant ... and there it was. Auction in Rome. Cavalieri House. Right. Aisle six. Brilliant. Who says I don't know what I'm talking about?

Of course, the catalogue I needed was six rows down and on the highest shelf, necessitating the locating of a ladder and some keen eyesight. This part of the dungeon was on the darker side, so I used my mobile phone's light to sort through catalogs as if I were digging for gold.

A narrow section of my memory suggests someone was calling my name, right about then, but I was too lost in the search to pay attention. And too upset at how poorly the catalogues had been handled. I mean, for god's sake, Jeremy, sixty-two does not come before sixty-one but is after, while sixty comes before fifty-nine, which comes before fifty-seven, which comes before -- and I realized -- there was no fifty-eight. The very catalogue I needed. Where was fifty-eight?

I shone my phone behind the file boxes holding the catalogues upright and noticed something was off. I was barely able to make out a catalog jammed behind the rest. I shifted the boxes to free it, and it was badly bent so I twisted it back closer to its proper shape and carefully looked inside.

And somewhere in the back of my head someone whispered, "Adam? Adam?"

I paid little attention, because it was hardly rare for me to hear my own inner voice asking some fool question, Besides, I now had my proof. Not only would I save the university a great deal of money for a fraudulent item, I would save Elizabeth a great deal of time. I jumped down from the ladder and --

Vincent appeared before me, as pale and proper as a Victorian ghost as he snapped in his veddy British tone, "There."

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Trump is president-elect...

I am so fucking pissed off -- not just at the GOP but also the mealy-mouthed slime who voted 3rd party or didn't vote because they didn't like Hillary. I blame the DNC for forcing Hillary down our throats, when she carried way too much baggage to win, be it legitimate or unfair. Debbie Wasserman Schutz got her wish -- Trump is in the White House.

Of course Wikileaks and Julian Assange helped, as did the FBI. There goes the ACA and gay marriage and The Supreme Court for the next 20 years. Bernie could have won this in a walk; there is no excuse for this to have happened.

Enough for now; I'm too upset.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Nearing 13,000 words on A65

Nice trip on the train. Nine hours, but I had an open seat beside me till Albany and there were only two real delays, so we got in just half an hour late. That's practically on time for Amtrak.

I dug into The Alice 65 en route and Adam and Casey are talking to me, now. I love it when that finally happens. Most of what I did was Adam's bit leading up to when he arrives at Casey's home, off Sunset Boulevard. That's when Casey takes over and begins wreaking havoc on him, all without really meaning to. It's not very well-written, yet, but it's adjusting itself and pulling in moments that will add to Adam's world and his reality. Like bringing in Henry the 14th, the ginger cat in the library's basement who keeps the mice and rats at bay.

Same for Casey. She's been a recluse for a couple weeks, since the breakup with Lando (her ex who is also her co-star in a couple of big-ticket movies). Now she's out for revenge, and Adam plays an unwitting part in it. She also keeps sneaky tabs on a couple of paparazzi who've attached themselves to her, seeing her as their meal ticket. She's set up secret little cameras to record them as they hover around outside her estate...and she feels a bit proprietary about they're her personal papa-bastards.

So far it's still just humorous, not exactly laugh-out-loud funny...though I admit that's not something I'm really going for. I want the humor to mix with the drama and the romance. Not a light-weight story but not a heavy one, either. I got pretty dark with The Vanishing of Owen Taylor; time to mix it up a little...and practice working that for Place of Safety.

Now I need to start thinking up a cover for the book. I'm damned proud of the covers for OT, PM and RIHC6. I could have done better on BC and HTRASG...but all the latter one really needed was removal of some of the text and darkening the shadows around the face. With BC, I dunno...the cover works but it just doesn't impress me. Maybe the image of the face behind the baseball mask was too large...or I could have done away with the batter's silhouette. I think a friend suggested that and I said no. Now...I can see his point.

Well...I want the cover of A65 to kick ass, so suggestions will be carefully considered.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

10,000+ words

A65 is still pretty sloppy, but it's getting there. And I'm finding it easier to alternate between Casey's and Adam's voices as the story goes along. It's almost like a conversation...or two different people taking turns telling you what happened to them once.

I'm on a train trip to NYC, tomorrow, so I'll have plenty of time to work on it. I love riding the train, and it's got power so I don't have to worry about battery life. I'm flying back, however, lat Wednesday night. I'll be in New York during the election, when there's threats of terrorism and disruptions and all that crap. Should be interesting.

I will be so glad when this vile election is over. If Trump does manage a win or the Democrats fail to at least retake the Senate, it's going to be 4 years of hell. The people I work for are thinking of moving to Canada if that happens. Setting up shop there. I don't know if that means I could, too; one of them is a dual citizen of England and the US. Guess we'll see.

Looks like no matter what happens, I'll be working till I'm 72. What joy.

Friday, November 4, 2016


Looks like I'm using two voices to tell the story -- Adam's and Casey's. Shifting back and forth to keep it going. This will take some work and care to make sure they're both different enough to be clear without me screaming at the reader -- Aaaaaaannnnnnnnnd heeeeeeeerrrrrre's Adam!

And making sure it doesn't come across as silly and artificial. I think it'll just be finding the right moments to shift from one to the other and keep the flow going. I hope.

This is Casey's first bit, still on the meh, side, but it's a beginning ... since this is the beginning. Adam's just arrived into LA and already his plans are being rearranged:


Adam looked completely out of place in Mom's convertible. Too pale with clothes too much like a wannabe-rebel uniform, suspenders adding just the right touch of perfect dorkiness. Which was better than I'd expected. Still, it wasn't quite right, yet. It needed something more, if my plan was going to work.

Then he got out and I saw his jeans were rolled up! And he wore happy socks ... whoa, with straight Oxfords? Really? Then he looked around, and his face did not match the outfit. There was a tenderness to his smile, an innocence in his eyes. I'd seen that look before, usually in actors who'd just gotten their first big role and were in awe at the possibilities it could bring. I thought for a moment that maybe I'd cast the wrong guy for my little play.

Mom led him inside so I slipped out of my attic room and down the stairs to the landing that overlooked the living room. I watched Mom lead him to the bar, saying, "Coffee? Tea? Bloody Mary?"

God, that joke was old in the Sixties.

He had just smiled and said, "No, thank you," and continued on to the wall of books I had across from the fireplace, saying, "Is the book in here?" All in a nice London accent.

Mom was already mixing herself some lunch as she said, "No, it -- it's somewhere else. In a box ... um ..."

Adam let his fingers drift over the books as he asked, "Box?"

"Yeah. One that's protective and ..."

"A clamshell, perhaps? Brilliant." And I would swear he hummed as he continued with, "Oh, aren't you some lovelies?"

Mom noticed it, too, and said, "You talk to books."

Adam glanced at her, his face open and happy as he said, "Hm? Oh, right. They're my life. Have you seen her?" He took a book from the shelf to look a bit closer. But he didn't pull it out by the top, like I would. He reached into the back and pushed the book out a little, then gripped the spine to draw it from the row of other books.

"Seen who?" Mom asked.

He opened the book to look inside, gently, tenderly, as he said, "The Alice -- um, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland." And his tone of voice was surprisingly cool.

"Oh, right," Mom said, "Casey's book. Flipped through it on the crapper. Sure don't look like much."

He snapped the book closed and bolted over to her. I think he was horrified, because his voice almost cracked as he said, "She -- she kept it in the washroom!?"

Oh, God, mom could go on like this for hours, so I started down the stairs, saying, "Don't listen to my mother. She messes with people."

"Only boys, and only if they're cute." Then mom caressed Adam's cheek, making him glance at her ... and he blushed. He actually blushed.

He shifted his focus back to me to say, "Um, Miss -- Miss Blanchard, it's so nice to meet you. I'm Adam Verlain."

"It's Casey," I said. "Vincent told us about you."

Mom wasn't done with her fun, yet. She shot me one of her cool, practiced glances as she said, "No, he told me, and I told you, and you told me to tell him to tell us when Adam was coming, which he did. And I did. And then you misspelled his name."

I wasn't up for an argument, right then, so all I said was, "I called it from the e-mail, mom." And I kept walking around him, inspecting him. Yes, close but not quite ...

Thursday, November 3, 2016

I can't find the voice for A65...

Adam's voice is nice for half the story...but it doesn't work for the rest. For Casey's story. And something about telling it in 3rd person is boring, to me. Tedious. Typical. And I have no idea how to find it except keep casting about. Writing. Fiddling. Pounding my head against that damn wall.

This is unusual for me. Normally I know exactly who's telling the story and how before I get going on it. The idea to have Ace tell Daniel's story in LD made it sing, so I got it done fairly quickly. HTRASG was always going to be in Curt's voice and POV. Same for PM, RIHC6, BC and OT; the narrators took over from page one. It even worked that way in French Connection Blues.

Part of the problem might be I'm out of sorts. I got paid late and I'm still owed nearly a thousand bucks in expenses. Blue Cross and NY State of Health, through whom I have my health insurance, cost me an additional $400 this month, due to a clerical issue, and I'm only getting half of it back by way of a credit to next month's premium; it's too late to correct the error and get the other half, even though I wasn't told about it till a couple weeks ago. My only recourse is to file an appeal and go through a lot of crap and paperwork and a time when I don't need it.

And glorious -- they've got a couple of my books all screwed up and I've been at them for weeks to correct the problems...and they just keep getting worse. As of now, half the time when you pull up HTRASG or RIHC6 you get a page that offers the books at exorbitant prices, as if they're out of print.. Those listings should be through the marketplace, but for some reason even though the reps tell me it's being fixed, it isn't  And sometimes a page that actually indicates BC is out of print comes up. It makes me wonder if that's why the sales of them are down.

OT is doing all right, at least.