Derry, Northern Ireland

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

Monday, February 29, 2016

Battling, again...

Having one of my battles with my characters in UG, right now, so not in the mood to think. Here are some photos from my first trip to Ireland in 2002.

The Liffey River in Dublin's City Centre.
Ha'penny Bridge.
The Guinness Brewery. You take a self-guided tour of the history of how Guinness is made up and up, until you're at the top and get a free pint and 360 view of Dublin.
Galway City.

St. Columba's in Galway. I use both these locations in Return To Darian's Point, as Perri is finally realizing what's going on with him in Ireland.

Griann an Aileach, a 5000 year old circle fort just west of Derry. When I visited here is where Brendan began to finally talk to me, for Place of Safety. And scared the hell out of me by telling me his was a story about a simple boy who wants to live his life even as his world careens into chaos. No way could I have done justice to it, then. But now? I know I will.

Poulnabroh -- a portal dolem or tomb, if you prefer. I used a smaller one in RDP, for Perri to see.
I shot this from Inish Oirr as I walked over to a cemetery. It could almost be Inish Ciuin, the island Thomas' and Perri's families hail from in Darian's Point and RDP.

And The Cliffs of Moher, that figure so heavily in DP and RDP. They truly are breathtaking and terrifying.

I'll only be there 4 days, this time to do anything more than have lunch at the Guinness Brewery's restaurant. They had a killer Irish Stew with a pint of the good stuff. I almost got to spend a few days in London, too, but that fell through.

The joy I feel at going back to these places makes me wonder if I ever belonged in America.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Guess where I'm going...

Probably the third week of March, to pack up an archive. In honor of that, I'm posting a book dealer's trip to the same place, a few years back, when he was president of the Antiquarian Bookseller's Association in the UK.

Dublin’s Fair City
Posted on October 25, 2011 by Laurence Worms

Yet not so fair yesterday – with some of the heaviest rainfall ever recorded, flooding, traffic chaos, and a state of emergency declared. Our taxi back to the airport through almost the worst of it at times resembled more of a speedboat ride than a car journey.

Only one thing could ameliorate any of this, but we found it – and found it in plenty. Some legendary Irish hospitality. A warm welcome at our first port of call – David Cunningham at Cathach Books in Duke Street. A lovely stock – especially of Irish literature, full of interest and rarity. And how splendid that a serious shop like this can survive just off Dublin’s main shopping street – and that despite all we hear of the Irish economy, there were no obvious signs of retail doom. Very few empty shops – and Grafton Street in full swing despite the weather, which was just beginning to turn ominous.

Next to the charming Stephen Stokes in the George’s Street Arcade – yet more attractive books and strains of Miles Davis from the adjacent music-shop. We are enjoying ourselves. (Time you joined the ABA, Stephen?)  And then a cab out to Blackrock to the house of books of Éamonn and Vivien De Búrca. “To be sure, he’s a famous man in Ireland” confided our cab-driver with genial satisfaction when told our destination. Royally entertained to a fine lunch (smoked salmon with oh-so-many extras and a slab of Vivien’s famous apple pie – thank-you both). Book-talk, laughter and reminiscence. Tall tales and short – and twenty thousand books.

The rain by now lashing down, but on to the main business of the day. Membership Secretary Roger Treglown and I are in Dublin to present the ABA’s seldom-presented Fifty Years a Bookseller badge to James Fenning (it’s actually fifty-three years, Jim tells me privately). Another house of books – a carefully chosen and impressive stock – the finest Oliver Twist in cloth I have ever seen – two more three-deckers which I presently purchase – coffee and cake, and more book-talk, wry humour and entertainment. Jim’s grandfather had a bookshop right on the Liffey back in the days of the Great War (we see some photographs), his father too was a bookseller (as well as Ireland’s most famous amateur snooker player), and via a training that brought him through the inter-linked famous old Dawson’s, Frank Hammond and Deighton, Bell firms he returned to Dublin some forty years ago.

The pedigree shows. Ours is sometimes a solitary occupation and Jim perhaps does not know, perhaps has never been aware of, the esteem and regard with which his peers regard his taste, discrimination and skill in cataloguing. I try to express a little of this on behalf of us all – but make the presentation without trying to embarrass him too much. A master of his trade.

A commemorative photograph or two. A cab called for – it turns into our longest taxi journey ever. But eventually safely home at the end of what has turned into a twenty-two hour day – but all well worth it. A truly memorable day – thank you all in Dublin. I shall return.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Maybe I'm still being scared...

I've been working on Underground Guy while waiting for responses from my readers on OT, and I've started to wonder if I'm avoiding letting the story really follow its own path. The more I work on it, the more I think the whole serial killer aspect of what happens in it is a way of me not digging deeper into the characters and how they're interacting with each other. I've wondered what would happen if I cut that out and just made UG about a man finally beginning to grow up and take on true adult responsibilities.

I don't mean simple responsibilities like a job and marriage and taxes and such, but accepting your own reality. Acknowledging that you've hurt people by your actions and need to make amends, and learn from what you've done. Allow that you've done right by other people, even to the extent it hurts you, in some ways. What would that mean for a guy like Devlin, who thinks he's in complete control but doesn't see how out of control he is? Especially since his interaction with Reg is what causes the reflection to begin?

I halfway think I want to drop Reg being a cop. Drop the whole aspect of him helping in an undercover operation...except that ties in so well with the title. But comes the realization that here I am trying to figure out what I want to do with the story and already trying to talk myself out of changing it...even as I think it would be for the better of the two main characters.

It would mean shifting Tavi and Sir Monte to another story, completely. I like them both so can't let them just die off. But it would become a lot simpler if Tavi's suspected of being a serial killer and has to find the real killer on his own. Toss in another character like Reg, maybe.

So could I make the entire story about Dev and Reg? A long conversation between them as they try to understand themselves and each other? Dev thrown off-guard by how he connects with Reg, who's not the kind of guy he usually goes for. And Reg deeply confused by how he's able to get off with another man, when he's married and has kids and has never even thought about being with a man before. Make it a love story, of a sort?

Or am I practicing avoidance by trying to see if I'm practicing avoidance?

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Fighting myself...

Seems I still have this tendency to try and play it safe with my characters. I want to mitigate what they do by giving explanations and justifications as they commit actions that are illegal or wrong...and that's not how they always want to work. It's funny, but Curt in How To Rape A Straight Guy was nothing but self-justification but not in a way that excused his destructive decisions...except in his own mind. Which worked for his limited abilities.

I wrote a bit on Underground Guy and saw I was slipping into that safe pattern with Devlin. My first draft of the story had nothing about why he hates cops or that he even suspects Reg is a cop, and it shot ahead. Only the sheer coincidence of Dev attacking a man who's undercover trying to stop a serial killer who's attacking men was just way too bizarre, so having Dev make Reg as a cop does work better at setting up the story. But then I was explaining why he hates cops and how he's been harassed by cops for being gay...and that sort of justification was just cowardly.

Removing the animalistic nature of Dev's actions was hurting both him as a character and the flow of the piece. So I dumped it, and now he's just out to mess with a cop who he thinks is out to mess with someone else. And as the story goes along, he sees he hurt a man who was trying to protect others, and who was wounded in Afghanistan, and who's cut into Dev's protective shell in surprising ways. And the story returns to Dev realizing he's been an animal and deciding to be a human being, instead. The details can come out later in the story.

It's a bit like what happens with Curt, albeit too late for him to make a difference in his life. Alec never did really get it in Porno Manifesto, but that was okay. Antony was too psychotic to understand in Rape in Holding Cell 6, except as it affected Jake. And Eric in Bobby Carapisi goes the full arc, from self-involved jerk who accidentally destroys a man to a human being who takes responsibility for himself and his future, not forgetting his past but trying to learn from his mistakes.

With Daniel in The Lyons' Den, it'a about accepting he is worthy of love, success and happiness. As for Jake, it's about coming to terms with his past and freeing himself from it.

And with Brendan in Place of Safety, it will be about accepting his destiny, to his horror.

Monday, February 22, 2016


I'm in a foul mood and tired as hell from driving all day. The truck I'm in shared every damned bump in the road with me, even as it sucked down gas and was so noisy, I couldn't play my CDs. Even with my earbuds, it was harsh. So I drove in a noisy world and tried to sort out things in my brain.

I'm back to being broke. After spending too damn much money on competitions and seminars and tools to make my books work and my scripts better...I cannot pay the taxes I owe and have increased my debt to where I will never get ahead. Plus my books aren't selling as well because they've been around for a while, and I have nothing ready to take over.

I also got shrugged off by two more competitions. I read one of the scripts that made the finalists in one of them, thanks to Talentville, and it's damed insulting. It's a feature but has dialogue that's at a 1980's TV level, and the premise is silly -- a dog that's never been trained is adopted by a family, trashes their home, then winds up winning a competition to help its new boy.

Obviously I have no idea what will sell in Hollywood or will even win competitions, anymore. Good writing obviously is not required. Another script I read that was written by a guy I know who is only barely literate...and it has won a couple of awards. This guy doesn't even know the difference between your and you're and such, but he's close to being produced.

I was consistently told that if a script is good, people will find it. I'm at the point of wondering if that's either an outright lie...or if there's a brutal truth in this non-stop rejection that I should finally be accepting. I've got seven more competitions to hear from; if I get nowhere with any of them, maybe it's time I stopped being so damned arrogant at how great my work is and accept the fact that I'm no good at writing screenplays that producers will buy or make.

In short, back away from the money pit.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

More on length vs. brevity...

To follow on my previous post about how some people say cut, cut, cut to make things tighter and better, I remembered a couple years ago TCM was showing Kurosawa's Seven Samurai with a guest host alongside Robert Osborne -- was it Rose McGowen? Rachel McAdams? I don't really remember.

Now so far as I'm concerned, this is a brilliant film I can watch over and over and over, about how in old Japan seven samurai are hired to protect a village of farmers from a marauding band of thieves. It's long, and has fight scenes that are still beyond belief, even today. It influenced action films for decades. So I made time to watch it...again.

The intro by Osborne and the co-host was nice, the film was magnificent, but then came the discussion afterwards. And both Osborne and the co-host dissed the film for being too long. I think a comment the co-host made was, "All right, I get it already, let's move on." And Osborne agreed. He has a wealth of knowledge about film and its history...and he went along with the idea a classic Japanese film was too detailed for an American audience.

I was livid. There is not one tedious moment in that movie, to me -- from the realization the bandits will be back to loot the village to the long, hard search for samurai willing to fight for room and board only to the preparations for protection and counter-attack to the tensions between the samurai and the people they've sworn to help to the final skirmishes...the movie builds and builds and builds like a symphony until the final battle in the driving rain. It shows the whole of human emotion and decency and venality.

And they got bored until the big fight. They felt a lot of the village stuff could have been cut out or down. Completely ignored the full measure of the movie and only thought of how it should be for an audience of 12 year-olds.

I haven't watched TCM since.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Good artists copy; great artists steal

This is, supposedly, a quote by Picasso, though no one knows exactly when he said it...or even if he did...and it's probably a play on T.S. Elliot's comment in The Sacred Wood: Essays on Poetry and Criticism -- "...(I)mmature poets imitate; mature poets steal..." I knew what he meant -- that good artists copy other artists, develop work based on their betters' styles and such, while great artists focus on the object of their art and take from its essence everything they need to remake it into whatever they perceive it to be.

That works in writing, too. You copy the style of a writer you like until you develop your own...if you do. Like Judith Krantz copied Jackie Collins, who copied Jacqueline Susan, who copied Grace Metalious, who copied Erskine Caldwell...and on and on. But when it comes to great writing, the whole idea of theft changes into something more than mere interpretation of an object's reality. It involves real theft...not of something physical but of the truth in the soul of that object or story.

So many teachers and advisers tell writers to work with that they know and use the likes of Willa Cather and James Heller and John Steinbeck to show how that works. Willa lived on the Nebraska plains growing up and colored her stories about pioneers in the last quarter of the 19th Century with that background. James Heller's experiences during WWII became the basis for Catch 22, and Steinbeck's own youth filled his novel, East of Eden. Great writers, all of them, but what is rarely mentioned is how these books are filled with stories that were stolen, not specifically lived in.

I don't know if I can put this in a way that will make sense, but a great writer steals moments from others and forms them into his own. Stories and gossip and details gleaned during conversations overheard and hammers of speech and attitudes...things a good writer can merely fit into a framework that reveals the story.

A great writer lets these stories and details and such devise a framework to suit if they were building themselves a home to their own specifications and comforts and needs and dreams and desires and fears...and when the last nail is driven and the final coat of paint is dried, they dwell in it, happily. Even if the structure is tragic...even if it is wrong and criminal...they settle in and will not move. Tolstoy knew this. As did Shakespeare and Thackeray and Voltaire. You can feel the stories expand beyond anything one man could experience unto himself, even as they remain honest and true.

When I build my stories, I steal everything I can. From people, places, things, you name it. Does that mean I think I'm a great writer? That's not for me to decide. Sometimes I read what I have written after a time and cannot believe I wrote it. Other times I cannot believe how false and juvenile it seems, and become embarrassed. My screenplays, most especially, cause me grief in how I copied rather than appropriated far too often.

My best work grows from when I steal someone else's story and mold it into my own form of reality then let it blossom and grow. Let it shoot off in directions I'm not ready for or happy with. And the hardest part of working with that is not suffocating it. Sometimes the roots turn out to be shallow and the branches die. Sometimes I get lazy and copy another's way of dealing with the same situation...and find I have only wasted my time as the truth of the story kept going in the direction it needed, and now I have to play catch-up.

I don't know if I'll ever be a great writer. I've had people tell me there's no way in hell I could be. Not enough control over my style or grammar. I've had others remind me of how Steven King says you have to edit and cut and kill your darlings to make a good book. And maybe that's true...for him. But I keep thinking of my argument with a film professor in college.

We had a film society that showed old movies, and I ran the projector for a year. 16mm prints that had to be manually switched from one projector to the other when a reel was done. I saw movies I would never have been able to see anywhere else -- things like Even Dwarves Started Small and The Jackal of Nahueltoro and Heart of Glass.

It's also where I saw Grand Illusion. Set in WWI, it's about French prisoners of war in German POW camps, the indomitability of the human spirit, and how an aristocrat is treated with different civility from a mechanic and a Jewish scholar. The mechanic and Jewish scholar escape and are sheltered by a German farm-woman whose husband and brothers and all the men she knew were killed in the war.

I loved the film. Felt it was near perfect. My film professor -- Dr. Manfred Wolfram -- said it was too long. Said the whole section with the farm woman could have been cut and the movie would have lost nothing. I vehemently disagreed. Up until that point, the film was a good story; with that bit added in, it became poetry. It became great. It started me on the belief that a great film director must have something of a poet in his soul for his work to truly sing. So few have.

I ran into some of this same "too long" attitude with Bobby Carapisi. A couple of people who read it said they felt the story was complete with just Eric's and Bobby's tales, that Alan's wasn't needed. But to me, it was still lacking something...and adding in a vague explanation as to why Alan was like he was was what it took to make it whole. And for that, I stole a couple of stories I had a glancing involvement with...and molded them, using my own DNA to keep them malleable...and for the first time really felt like a novelist instead of just a screenwriter writing books.

I'm feeling the same way about The Vanishing of Owen Taylor. In my last pass through it, I found very little I wanted to rework or change or adjust or remove. I'm finally at the point where all I want to do is polish it till it shines. It's long -- over 112,000 words -- but everything is in it for a purpose, and to cut them would throw off the balance. And this makes me feel powerful enough to think I may know what I'm doing.

And finally...finally...that I will be able to do justice to Place of Safety, because I want that story to be great, and I am ready to steal whatever I must for it, now.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Have I done this before?

I'm stuck at work -- snowed in. I could spend half an hour digging my car out from under all that white stuff, but instead I'm just spending the night at the office. I'm the only one here, this week, so it's not like I have to worry about offending anyone if my clothes are not fresh. I have access to a kitchenette and there's a 7/11 a couple blocks away...and I have a why not?

The good thing is, I'm catching up on reading articles about writing that I'd saved. And they're kicking new ideas from the mess in my brain. Like finally seeing what The Alice 65 is really all about. Adam and Casey are trapped by things in their past -- her by Lando's infidelity, him by his father's death -- and how they help each other break free. Nothing overt, but I do want to add a line where Adam says something like, "Funny how you can be trapped by aspects of your past...things over which you have no control." I know exactly where to put it, too.

Of course it means, honing a couple of moments to link them into that...but again, nothing overt. Except...I can be unobtrusive to the point of obscurity, at times. For instance, in Blood Angel, I built Tristan as not only a tortured soul but one who was borderline suicidal. His step-mother, Anne-Marie, and his buddy, Baldo, notice and emphasize how many people he has who love him, but I never actually say that he'd like to die. It's all suggested until the end. And it's amazing how few people caught that. Well...actors tended to, but coverage creeps? Nah. Never.

I will say, the coverage I got on this script when I entered it into Slamdance made me realize just how awful  and sloppy it can be. Something that is made very clear in BA is, everyone thinks Tristan's mother died in Katrina. The person doing the coverage referred to her as a suicide and felt that was  cliched way to make Tristan sympathetic. There was so much wrongness in that person's comments, I complained about it. Slamdance's response? "But you still got a good grade on it. Almost made the next cut."

Talk about laughable. Nothing's changed, either. Recently I got coverage on a script where the person doing it complained about me putting a period after dashes and trashed my use of flashbacks...this on a script that's won awards. After a while you just have to laugh and realize it's nothing but the luck of the draw.

And I've never had the kind of luck that gets past that.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Another step...

OT is off to a new editor to see how it works. I doubt I'll hear anything for a few weeks, so I may shift myself to pushing the scripts I have or maybe even finishing a first draft of Underground Guy. I've got a stack of stories and projects I need to get to, so no telling.

OT took a lot of work, and I'm happy with how it's turned out. My only uncertainty, right now, is the opening three chapters. I think they draw the reader in but I honestly cannot tell. They've been a problem to some people and I could see why; I had way too much exposition in them, in the earlier drafts. So I got rid of 90% of it and focused on making this about Owen Taylor's disappearance.

I'm deliberately avoiding asking people who've already read the book or its predecessor so I can get a feel for how easy it is to follow. A lot of details are strung out across the entire story. I just hope they gel enough to explain why Jake and Tone are together.

I suppose I could work more on planning the books. That won't be easy. For the hard copies, I need to know how many pages it is in the correct format before I work up the covers. The e-copy isn't so difficult that way, but it does have its own demands.

It's not like I can do anything much, right now. I'm broke and my Visa and Mastercard are maxed out, thanks to entering screenplay competitions and buying seminars and posting scripts on InkTip. My Amex is being taken away from me, not due to anything I did but because Jet Blue wants to partner with Mastercard instead and I got the card when I joined their TruBlue program. This is going to be interesting. I'm being sent a card I don't want to replace one I do want, and being told the one I want I can't have.

That's American capitalism today.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Log-lining for beginners...

I have three of my scripts posted on InkTip. They get their log-lines read but very few times does that progress into anyone reading the synopsis or screenplay. So I've been playing with some new ones to see if that will help. They're below.

The Alice 65
A book archivist whose world is in perfect order is sent to pickup a very rare edition of Alice in Wonderland from the actress who inherited it...and who turns his world upside down.

This is a romantic comedy so I'm not sure exactly what to say in it. And it's really a rare copy of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland...but that was kind of long and didactic.

Carli's Kills
When her daughter is driven to suicide, an ex-army sniper seeks a horrific revenge against the biker gang responsible for the girl's death...even though it may get a man she loves killed.

This is a revenge thriller written like a horror-romance. Should I emphasize that?

Marked For Death
When his family is killed by a bomb, a suicidal ex-soldier sets out to destroy the man he believes responsible…only to fall in love with the man's daughter.

Another revenge thriller about a man regaining his belief in life. This one's set in London, so that may be a hard sell.

I'd put more up, but it's $60 for 4 months -- $180 a year for each script -- while 90% of the people viewing the listings on InkTip are wannabes like me. So I'm not sure if getting to that 10% who actually are someone is worth the money. Next on the slate is synopses that kill it. But at least these are up...

If anyone has suggestions on how to intensify the log-lines, I am more than open to hearing them.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Taking stock, today...

I've been beating up on myself for not achieving more in my life, up to this point. So today I decided to work out exactly what I have done...just in the last 10 years. And once I started paying attention to reality instead of my misconceptions, I started seeing a lot of what I wasn't listening to.

To start -- I've published 7 books; 10 if you consider Bobby Carapisi started out as 3 volumes and Rape In Holding Cell 6 was 2 volumes, initially. I've written my 8th book -- The Vanishing of Owen Taylor -- and have three more well en route to being done -- Bugzters, Underground Guy and Place of Safety.

I've also been pretty damn brave about the books, considering the subject matter of my first three. Very confrontational...which got three of them got banned, twice, and I still cannot get Amazon or Kobo to carry two of them in e-book. But I did face Amazon down the first time they dropped How To Rape A Straight Guy. Got them to officially agree the book was not pornography, and I kept a copy of that e-mail, as proof.

On top of that, I've written several screenplays -- The Alice '65, Carli's Kills, Blood Angel, Dair's Window, 5 Dates, Marked for Death, and We-Come -- as well as rewritten a couple of my scripts into a leaner, cleaner style. And I've done well in screenplay competitions, with them and a few other scripts. Return To Darian's Point even won me some prizes.

Plus I moved cities twice...including to a place I'd never been to before...took care of my mother for 15 months while barely making a living, tried to start my own business, and managed to help keep my youngest brother off the street despite making 25% less in salary than I did in 2006. My sister and I even helped get him to a doctor and dentist to be taken care of, which wasn't easy since he has a morbid fear of them.

And then there are the seminars and classes and professionals I hired to help me get to be better in my writing and my pursuit of a career -- these are just some of positive things I've done. It's so easy to remember the negative crap and forget about or shrug off the good. I could be the poster child for that. Even now, I'm telling myself...but you still haven't achieved what you wanted.

Which is true...but I also have yet to give up trying.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Almost time...

I'm close to being ready to print out a new copy of OT to do my red pen thing...but I'm going to do it differently, this time. To keep myself from fine-tuning the story to the point of infinity, I'm going through it backwards, page by page. My goal is to find as many typos as I possible can, and then send it out for feedback.

Truthfully, the book is down to 490 pages, but once blank pages are put in to keep the numbering correct, it will probably be more like 515. Except that's double-spaced and in 12 inch Courier font. When I shift the book into something like 10 inch Palatino, single-spaced and squared off, it will probably be about 350 pages.

I am going to do a limited run of hardback copies with dust jackets. I'll number them and sign them and charge more for them than I normally would. I think if I want to offer the book in hardcover without the numbering, I need to set up a new file with its own ISBN. I bought 10 of them, so it's not like I couldn't, but the little bastards ain't cheap...and I'd have to get barcodes for each one.

Self-publishing is like ordering a la carte at a restaurant.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Who in the world was Arthur Batanides?

During my travels, this time, I happened upon a weird little DVD that has 4 cheesy creature-features on it -- The Phantom from 10,000 Leagues (1955), The Beast with 1,000,000 Eyes (1958), War Gods of the Deep (1965), and At the Earth's Core (1976). I used to love this stuff, watching cut-down versions during Saturday afternoons and midnights, on my grandmother's old black and white console TV. Some of those Saturday matinees were actually quality films -- like The World, the Flesh and the Devil, (1959) which actually dealt with race relations and the suggestion of a black man being with a blond woman after the end of the world.

But this led me to remember one of those afternoon films that really creeped me out...and affected me in ways I wasn't expecting -- The Leech Woman (1960). About an aging woman whose husband is seeking the fountain of youth in Africa...but apparently the only way she can stay young is by draining men of their blood. And one man she chooses to kill is a shady character she picks up in a bar -- played by Arthur Batanides. Whose face I saw a lot on TV after that. Here's his imdb bio --

Stocky, general purpose actor, a prolific face on the small screen during the 1960's and 1970's. Became enamored with acting after performing stand-up routines in front of fellow GIs in Europe, during World War II. Educated in dramatic art at the Actors Lab in Los Angeles, followed by extensive stage experience. Recently noted as "Mr. Kirkland" in several installments of the "Police Academy" franchise. Remembered by older viewers, chiefly as the ill-fated U.S.S. Enterprise geologist, "Lieutenant D'Amato", who died badly (cellular disruption) in the Star Trek (1966) episode, Star Trek: That Which Survives(1969); one of dictator Clemente's (Peter Falk) henchmen in The Twilight Zone (1959) episode, The Twilight Zone: The Mirror (1961); and the Mongol leader "Batu" in The Time Tunnel (1966) episode, The Time Tunnel: Attack of the Barbarians (1967). Regularly played heavies in shows like I Spy (1965) and Mission: Impossible (1966), or spoofed them as KAOS agent in Get Smart (1965). Retired from acting in 1989.

The Leech Woman was actually almost good, and it had Grant Williams in it, the guy who wore some tight shorts in The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957). But Arthur intrigued me most because he was a bastard who deserved his fate but at the same time I didn't want it to happen to him...because though I didn't know it at the time, I was crushing on him. And it seems like every guy I've gotten lost in, since, is a variation of him.

I was 13 years old...and it took me years to understand...but I already had my type worked out, and it's stuck with me, ever since.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Getting closer on the blurb...

Too zoned, yesterday, to do any thinking...but now I'm sitting at Fort Lauderdale's airport waiting on a plane and can sort of contemplate more than just my weariness. Both fairs are done and happy...well, as happy as book and map dealers can be. It also helped that I was in a decent Best Western, last night, with quiet neighbors, access to making some evening tea and breakfast. I don't usually eat breakfast; I just grab some rolls or a bagel to take with me for later...but it makes a difference.

I'm giving up on Motel 6. I don't mind getting cheap when paying cheap, but the room I had with them was $150 a night, with taxes, and I had to pay extra for Wifi that was crap. Now they're sorry for the situation, but I don't care. I'm tired of excuses and apologies that don't come till after the fact.

So I've been sitting here with decent wifi going over the book jacket blurb, and I reworked it to the following --

Jacob Blaine was no detective; he was a graphic artist working for an advertising agency in Denmark. But then he learned his uncle, Owen Taylor, had vanished and, even more unsettling, mailed two cryptic notes to his address in Copenhagen when the man knew perfectly well Jake had been living in Texas for the past year. It was like he wanted his nephew to do something but didn't bother to explain what.

Problem was, Jake didn't really know that much about his uncle; Owen had always carefully guarded his privacy. But that was never to complete exclusion, so it was a shock to learn the District Attorney's office had filed charges against him for molesting an underage boy, and that his friends blithely assumed he had fled to Mexico to avoid prosecution. Only, Jake knew his uncle was not the type to run from a fight, especially since anyone could see the accusation was politically motivated. No question, something weird was going on.

That's when Jake set up a quick trip to Palm Springs, thinking it would only take a few days to find out what was going on with his uncle. Instead, he found himself trapped in a vicious web of lies, fear, distrust, intimidation and manipulation woven by an anti-gay group named PSALMS, who would stop at nothing to rid the city of its gay population.

Not even murder.

Better, but I feel like I need something more. Something to pop and just don't have the full notion of what, yet. Maybe when my brain is back in my mind, again...or my mind in my brain...whichever.

These days I never know which is which.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Quick pass on a blurb...

I worked this up last night and polished it, this morning. It's not quite there but is going in the right direction --
Jake Blaine was no detective; he was a graphic artist working for an advertising agency in Denmark. But Then his uncle, Owen Taylor, vanished. And he received two cryptic notes that made no sense. And those two notes were mailed to Jake's address in Copenhagen, even though he had been living in Texas for the past year, dealing with legal issues concerning his lover, Antony Lazarre. So no question, something was very wrong.

The thing is, no one had seen or heard anything from Owen for months. The man had always carefully guarded his personal space, so Jake was shocked to learn the District Attorney's office had filed charges against his uncle for molesting an underage boy. Now everyone was assuming Owen had jumped bail to avoid prosecution. But Jake knew his uncle would never back down from fighting the DA's claim; it was too obvious the accusation was politically motivated.

So Jake set up a quick trip to Palm Springs, thinking it would only take a few days to find out what was going on with his uncle. Instead, he uncovered a vicious conspiracy of lies, fear, distrust, intimidation and manipulation aimed at the gay community by people would stop at nothing to drive them from the city.

Not even murder.
This would be on the inside dust jacket, if I do a hardcover, and on the back of the paperback. Doesn't quite pop, yet.

Friday, February 5, 2016


My intention was to stay in, today, and work on the synopsis/blurb for the cover of OT, only going out to eat. Instead, my mind went into not-gonna-think mode and I wound up going to a Barnes & Noble to research what professional publishers do with the mystery books they put out. I checked paperbacks and hardcovers, including sizes and found that while I did pretty much the same stuff as them when I worked up my previous books, there were some differences.

The main one was, they all put the Library of Congress designation on their copyright page, something I haven't done once. And at the top of each page is not only the page number, as opposed to the bottom, like I did; they also put the authors name alternating with the title. For example, all even pages have the name; all odd pages have the title. I had seen it both ways, before, and always liked the number at the bottom...but I didn't find one book that did it that way, now.

So I took photos of them and will use these as my template. I also bought a copy of Farewell, My Lovely by Raymond Chandler. The only one I've read of his is The Big Sleep, and that was years ago. He and Dashiell Hammett pretty much founded the hard-boiled detective genre, almost as a counterpoint to Agatha Christie's genteel sleuths.

That's not to say Jake's a tougher-than-thou detective. However...he does get in the face of a few people and is willing to do what he must to put an end to any situation. And he does have a temper. Sometimes he comes across as more New York than Texas...but considering how international his makeup is, that's not a bad thing.
So with that done, I took a trip to Half Moon Bay, which is not a pretty town...but the beach is fabulous. I took off my shoes and walked in the sand. Got myself splashed by the sea. Sat and thought for a while. And it helped to clear my brain of a few things. I've started up the blurb and decided to do whatever I must  for the cover to make it appear more professional. I want this to kick butt, and to be honest many of the ones I read in B&N did not. So the only standards I have to meet are my own high ones.

Ah...I have neighbors to my motel room...and they are loud and obnoxious...what fun...

Thursday, February 4, 2016

The Skimmable Screenplay...

Voyage | Feb 4, 2016 (I happily stole this from their blog, and was written by Tom Carter)
Writers create screenplays to be viewed.

At least theoretically, no movie script was ever written for the purpose of being ‘read’ by an audience.

Actors, producers and directors, of course, read scripts all the time, and they are a key audience for young, up-and-coming screenwriters, but these professionals are also viewers too, right?

They, like general audiences, want to see, view or watch a script, not be forced to read it. We all want it visualized for us, largely, because it’s just easier.

There’s less work involved. It takes time, concentration and energy to read a screenplay, but anyone can collapse on a sofa, turn on a movie and watch it… just kind of skim through it.

So doesn’t it make sense that a script should share that essence and be designed for skimming, and not reading?

I think so.

Especially since we’re talking about an industry that’s famous for not always reading material cover-to-cover.

When any written document makes for a skimmable read, it rolls off the page. It’s digestible. You see it in your mind and understand it immediately.

Ironically, it’s kind of like watching a movie. Yet a large majority of scripts, even those by working professionals, are constructed in a way that hinders the visual flow of the story, and I’m not just talking about using more active, visually potent language.

Although it’s rarely written about in the best screenwriting books, avoidable words, grammar and even punctuation often obstruct both clarity and dramatic impact, yet screenwriters go back to them time and again because that’s the tradition.


Why create a screenplay using the tools of the novel? Why write a cinematic document, one whose sole purpose is visualization, without a clear design scheme in mind?

Take, for instance, a page from Tony Gilroy’s critical and commercial success, The Bourne Identity. skimmable screenplayNotice his use of double hyphens in place of extra words. He capitalizes or underlines key words for dramatic emphasis, making them both more graphic and more memorable for the reader. At the same time, while adding all of these elements, he’s still eliminating excess verbiage, everything except the core storytelling words, keeping the page white but not bare.

He avoids big blocks of description and long speeches. And last but not least, he underlines the slug lines to visually approximate the actual cut between scenes. These may seem like small details, but when added up, with a great story, they make for a very fast read.

You’ll be at page 80 without blinking an eye if you decide to read this entire script and I highly recommend it.

Weird metaphor here, but I think any given page of screenplay should look like a children’s rock-climbing wall. The textual elements (i.e. the words and punctuation) are like hand holds, in that they’re generally big, graphic and expertly spaced out in an elegant manner.

There’s variety across the page, between the action descriptions, names, dialogue and scene headings. To follow the comparison through, all of the script’s information comes together so that the eye can easily climb down each page.

Although no design scheme will ever replace a fantastic story well told, a writer should always be thinking about their script’s layout in the effort to layer the dramatic effect and, hopefully, in the process, make their tale all the more readable.

(What Voyage doesn't note is, most readers are living in a world of Save The Cat, and if you do this stuff, they can't figure out if they like it or not.)

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

The ideas keep coming...

I did a bit more adjusting and adding and rearranging on OT, though nothing massive or even expansive. Mainly details here and there and removal of a few more soft words and phrases. Now since I'm off on a 6 day trip, tomorrow, I won't have time to work on it and that will be good. I can finally let it sit.

Maybe I can get back to having something of a somewhat normal life. Read more. Watch a couple of movies. I'll be in San Mateo, not San Francisco, till Saturday night and will have a full day, Friday, to do whatever. No idea, yet, as to what that whatever will be. I've seen everything I want to in SF so don't feel the need to go into town...though I may. I might take my sketchbook with me and do some pen and ink stuff.

I'll have a car. Maybe I'll hop over to Carmel or Monterrey. I haven't been there since I was in college. Move-in's Thursday morning; the fair goes Friday and Saturday and I'm not needed back till 2pm on Saturday. Then once everything's loaded out and headed for the California Book Fair in Pasadena, I hop a redeye to Miami to handle load-out of the Miami Map Fair.

Then Monday next week it's back up to Buffalo...and after that I'm office-bound till some packing job comes up. A couple are hinting at needing me, but nothing concrete in any way, form, or fashion.

Let's see if I can keep from gaining weight this trip.