Derry, Northern Ireland

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

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Proofing be hard-ish-er

Man...going backwards page by page to check for typos and such is not as easy as I thought it would be. I can do it for about 3 hours then my brain starts to melt. I've only got about 150 pages left to do, but my head and eyes hurt, so I had to stop. How people can do this for a living is beyond me.

Looks like I may have a week-long job beginning April 18th, which will cut in severely with my pace to publish OT before the end of the month, so I may shift back to doing the paperback, first. I did a quick reformat to see what it would be like in an 5.5 by 8.5 inch book, and that dropped the page count down to about 290. Plus a paperback cover is easier to work up. So...change of plans...

I can do the e-book on the road. That's pretty straightforward; I just need to link the table of contents to the heading of each chapter and drop the page breaks. Then save it into a PDF and send it off to Smashwords. They're easy to work with.

Looks like Next is missing out. I don't have the time to finish the storyboards, not to the level I'd like. I'm still not 100% on the script, yet, either. It'd have been a fun little project, especially in showing how to make a man walk on the side of a wall without needing harnesses and cushions and such. It's fun to work out cheap ways to make things look expensive.

I had Dair's Window (a drama about a gay man rebuilding his life after his lover dies) turned down by a producer because he thought it would necessitate a trip to Tokyo to shoot, at the end, and he didn't want to go through the expense and hassle. Even after I told him it wouldn't be required, that there were easy ways to keep the full shoot in Southern California, even though it's set mainly in a mountain town outside Seattle ... he couldn't see how.

I even explained -- use stock footage of Tokyo and, when Dair (the lead character) is riding through the streets in a cab, have that reflected in the taxi's windows, then dress a building in LA's Little Tokyo to be in Japan, flip the image in editing so the cars are right drive, and have Dair cross the street as a couple of Japanese extras pass him by, people will accept it. Nope, "Shooting in Tokyo's too damned expensive."

Which is nonsense, since all it takes is imagination and a willingness to think outside the box.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Final polish

I'm checking over OT by going backwards through the story, one page at a time...and it's helping, a lot. I don't get caught up in the story or characters anywhere near as much, and I'm finding little typos and ways of making the moments work better as I go along, not to mention making the formatting look better. Only thing is, it's slow going. But once it's done, I'll know how many pages the book is and can get started on setting it up to be published. I'm currently at 320 pages, thanks to using Palatino in a 10 point font.

As of now, I'm planning on a limited run of hardcovers, signed and numbered. Then I'll do the paperback and e-book versions. I'm thinking of doing the same thing for Bobby Carapisi, just to do it. But I want to see how this goes, first. Hardcover is a lot more involved and I want to make sure it's done right.

I don't know if I'll do a regular hardcover of OT.  It's going to price out at nearly $30 a copy, and I can't see people spending that kind of money for an unknown author, even if it is a mystery. It's also a lot more than a mystery, when it comes to character study and Jake's journey. Maybe I'll do some advance copies in trade paperback, to see if there's a market for it in the mystery book shops.

I'm going to do a lot more in the way of pushing the book, however, so I need to work out a plan. Since I subscribe to Writer's Digest, I've got access to a lot of information on selling a self-published book and there are also seminars on Stage 32 and via a few other sites I belong to. It'll be a learning experience.

Like everything in my life has been.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

OT is taking over

I spent most of the day working on the formatting for OT, so I can start the process of publishing it. A normal hardcover book is 6x9 inches, so I've adjusted everything into that size. I'm also working up the headers with the page numbers, and prepping the opening pages. To make them look like the formatting in other books is a chore and a half. I assigned ISBN numbers and now need to finalize the page count so I can set up the Library of Congress card.

As I go through, I'm still finding little typos -- like a quotation mark missing or the wrong word in a spot or even repeating a word. I'm also finding I'll need to go through the book with care so I don't have anything that looks awkward -- like ." being the only item on a line because it comes after a dash.

I'm still trying to figure out how to make the line count uniform for each page. Word doesn't like to split up 2 or 3 line paragraphs to go from one page to the next; it just shifts the full paragraph on. I thought the "widows and orphans" box controlled that, but it did nothing when I un-ticked it. Maybe I'll troll You Tube to see if anyone has any ideas. That helped me work out my headers issues.

So now I've got a nice headache and my eyes hate me. Nothing was done on Next, today. I've got the feeling if I want to publish OT before the end of next month, I'll have to focus completely on that. We'll see how this goes, for now. I just want to finish it and have it out there.

It's time...and about damned time...

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Redoing and redoing...

I spent most of today reworking Next back to being a jokey thing between Clint and Federic using tricks to get laid. But it was still kind of flat...until I made them frat boys and Eva a sorority girl at Pi Eta Kappa. The absurdity of that little joke reignited the story for me, and it's become a parody of the college campus sexual games played by kids who barely understand anything.

So...Federic became Freddie with hints of being closeted. Eva doesn't want to give in till she and Clint are almost killed by Freddie. And about 25% of the storyboard workups are still usable. Just quick roughs to give me an idea of what the story needs, visually, which I will fill in once I've finalized the script. Since it's now about sex, I added in a few sensuous moments between Clint and Eva, even as she's refusing to let him get to second base. The last lines need to be better, but it's working, again.

Then I had dinner and shifted to the reformatting of The Vanishing of Owen Taylor...and had a lovely time with Word for Mac. It lost half the work I'd done en route to Ireland, and for a few moments even refused to open up my initial document because it was in doc instead of docx. But I got around it by going through a couple of extra steps, then did the formatting and spell-check. Found some more typos, too.

I also widened the margins a bit and increased the size of the font by 2 points to make it easier to read. So now the book is 330 pages long. The first version I'll look into doing is a hardcover, once I have everything set. I need to go through and polish up the format; increasing the font threw my table of contents off. And I need to check with Lightning Spark to make sure I'm doing this right.

So much still to do on it...but I'm close, very close...

Friday, March 25, 2016 we go...

I've got a good portion of the storyboards worked up for Next, and a quirky style is developing from that...except something's missing from the story. Granted it's only 6 pages long, but it doesn't really go anywhere. It just sort of sits there.

Initially, Federika was Federic, and he was Clint's wing man. But that seemed obvious and derivative, so I figured making him a her but with the same basic story would be off-beat enough for this competition. Didn't work, really. Now I'm trying to figure out what went wrong.

I thought about making Eva the werewolf and Clint her victim...but I don't like that, so much, either. I guess I'll take it back to being two guys out on the prowl, and drop the idea that Eva's a cat woman. Maybe that's what's making it too derivative and obvious. Means redoing some of my storyboards, but it has to be a good a fan-fucking-tastic one, if I want to have even a chance of winning.

Good thing is, I don't have to submit a script, yet; just a 350 word+ treatment and the storyboards...which would be dependent on the script, so that's on the moot point side. I also have to select some music to use with it. All by April 4th.

This contest is put up by Musicbed Film Initiative. You get cash and credits for equipment rentals and post facilities...up to $40,000. That's not a lot to shoot a film, these days, even a short one. I'd be open to trying it and making some of the difference up, myself. Blow my tax money, maybe. But it has to kick ass or it's a total waste of time and effort.

So I really need to find the spark that makes it work, again...or just not do it.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Pushing it...

I'm working up storyboards for a competition to make a short film. Here's my script -- NEXT.

Quiet. Deserted. A good-looking young couple -- CLINT and EVA -- head for a dark two-story house, arms entwined.

A DARK FIGURE rises. Unnoticed. Watches them.

... So the client finally comes out the door, and the dude behind the desk asks, How was it? And the guy says, Best sex I ever had. But it was so dark in there; wish I could'a seen who she was. Then that same door opens and this ninety-year-old fart with a beard an' no teeth pops his head out, spits and says, Next.

Oh, Clint -- you're awful.

Aw, no, I'm good. Real good.

He nips at her neck. She dances away.

THE FIGURE watches Clint chase Eva to the door.

Stop it. I'm ticklish.

That's fun to know.

And that's all you're gonna know, freak. It's late.

Aw, Eva. Can't I come in for a second? Just for a ... a nightcap?

Yeah, I've known you, what -- two hours? So say, g'night, Clintie.

Good night, Clintie.

She giggles. Leans against the wall. Seductive.

He moves in close. His lips almost brush hers. She barely tries to hold him back.

The dark figure quietly CRAWLS DOWN THE WALL, upside down above them, like a spider. Tall, dark, beautiful FEDERIKA.

Then how ‘bout a kiss?


You might like it.

I’ve been kissed before.

Not by me.

She smiles. His lips connect with hers. She all but purrs. They glide into a deep passionate embrace. He trails his lips down her neck. She stretches back. Looks up.


BAM -- Federika pounces on Clint. They crash to the ground. Eva is slung to the side. Clint wriggles away.

Federika jumps up. She has FANGS. SHE'S A VAMPIRE.

Clint yelps. Sees a branch on the ground. Jumps for it.

Federika motions to him with one hand.

Clint tumbles. Scrambles up. Grabs for the branch, again.

Federika lunges at Clint. Slings him around. Sends him flying over a garbage can.

Eva scrambles to her feet. Digs in her purse.

Federika advances. Fangs bared.

Eva stumbles back, crouching.

Clint finds a used chopstick in the trash, snaps it and jumps Federika. She deflects him with a Russian style of martial arts. They seem evenly matched.

Eva digs her keys from her purse and unlocks the front door.

Federika slams Clint into a tree. Turns him around. Gets a tight hold on him. Is about to bite his neck.

Eva yanks Mace from her purse. Jumps Federika. Sprays her with it. Federika knocks her aside, but the Mace affects her. She SNARLS in fury.

Clint breaks free. Rams the chopstick into Federika's shoulder. She SCREAMS in pain. Rips the chopstick out.

(total Dracula)
For this, you will pay.

Clint stumbles back. Eva yanks him into the house.

Federika tries to follow -- cannot enter.

Sorry, bitch. Vampire free zone.

She slams the door in Federika’s face.

Through a window, Clint and Eva watch Federika.

I wait for you, boy. I wait for you.

She backs into the darkness.

Clint pants like a dog. Eva purrs as she turns to him.

Aw, man. Aw, man. You ... you sure she can’t get in?

Clintie, vampires have to be invited into a house. Everybody knows that.

Now I gotta stay here till dawn. And what could we do till then?

Eva showers him with nips and kisses. Shoves him onto the couch. Tears open his shirt, grinning like a crazed sex-aholic. Clint whoops.

Ah ... well ... if you insist ...

She pulls at his pants. He giggles. They kiss some more.


Eva keeps kissing him.


They keep fooling around.


Federika sees a full moon begins to rise. She backs away.

Cluttered. Clint strides down it. His face is scratched. Federika POUNCES ON HIM, in full vampire mode. They crash to the ground. Clint YELPS like a scared puppy. Federika almost bites him -- flicks his forehead with a finger.

That is for ramming the chopstick in my shoulder, you little shit.

I had to do something to make her think I could beat you. You used your magic crap on me!

She stands and yanks Clint to his feet.

I just hope the little bitch was worth it.

Well ... sort’a. Kind’a. Sort’a.

He licks a scratch on one hand.

Wait ... what happened? You’re all scratched up.

Aw, Federika, she was a CAT woman.


Yep. She thought she was gonna eat me -- and not in a fun way.

Clint. How is it you always find these crazy girls?

I dunno. I just see something fun and frisky, and I go for it. Like I did with you.

And we almost killed each other. But that’s a typical werewolf attitude -- hump now, think later. You’d do better to learn something about the next girl before you try that, again.

Clint scratches behind one ear.

Aw, please. Then they want to build a bed together.

I know what you mean.

Life was so much easier when all I wanted to do was kill girls and play with their entrails.

... Is that how it ended?

Naw, I think she’s still hiding under the house. But I gotta say -- till she turned, it was some damn good humpin’. Anyway ... you picked yours, yet?

A cute barrista with a man-bun, who’s off work in half an hour.

Aw, man. We better get goin'. Full moon’s almost at her peak. You want me in full wolf mode?

He bounces away. Federika smiles and follows.

It does make them feel masculine when they fight you off. Oh ... the things one must do to get laid.

Yep. So ... can I watch, again?

Only if you promise not to whine and claw at the window, this time. I ... need to concentrate.


I’ve ... had a problem, lately. With premature Dracu-lation.

Aw, Federika, that hits girls, too?

It’s not the same thing!

All right, all right, all right, I’ll be quiet, I promise. Promise.

Federika pats Clint’s butt. He bounces around like a happy puppy.

Aw, man, this is gonna be so great. Next.

They disappear into the night with a YIP, YIP, YIP, HOWL.


Tuesday, March 22, 2016

More from the trip

I have to share this insane moment I saw while atop The Cliffs. Don't forget, they're 700 feet straight up from the ocean.
The following photos were taken at about the middle point of the Cliffs. This is looking to the south. The tiny dots along the top ledge are people walking along the pathway.

These two boys were chucking stones over the side to find out if they could hear them hit the water. The boy in the black jacket and plum plants has his foot planted right at the edge of the cliffs. in...right here. I got on my stomach to take this photo...
This was taken from that same spot.

This last photo is en route back to the visitor center, which is already closed. It cleared up just enough to be able to make out Inish Oirr with not much manipulation of the picture.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Back to the USA...

Good trip, overall. The job went a lot better than I expected and I got time enough to drive out to Galway and The Cliffs of Moher, as was made evident by the previous post.

 Galway's old town area has changed very little since I was last there. This photo pretty much matches one I took in 2002, over by the Cathedral. In Return to Darian's Point, this is where Perri comes to understand what's really been going on in his life.

This was the basic weather around the Cliffs when I arrived, and down between the outcropping and the shore is a tour boat that leaves from Doolin, just up the coast. I almost chose to do that, instead of going to the top...and probably will the next time I'm there.

You can't tell from this photo, but in the distance you can almost make out the Aran Island of Inish Oirr, about a quarter of the way from the top. When I get home I may see if Photoshop will help me bring that out, better.

The area's been built up a bit, since my last visit. That ledge in the middle left of the photo used to be open to anyone, and you walked up to the tower over slate steps built into the hill's edge. It's been tamed, a bit...and is almost sad.

This is how everything looks once the crowds are gone. Stragglers jump the retaining walls and wander about, at will. no guards to yell at you. No one to keep you from being a fool.

I got there half an hour before closing and stayed for an hour past, without realizing it...and it led me into a calming of sorts. The mystical beauty of the place finally took hold and I drifted back to my car, in no hurry, anymore.

I feel so right about this magical place...

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Quick post on Ireland

Job is I took off for Galway and the Cliffs of Moher.

To put it in perspective, it's about as far from where I'm staying to Galway as from San Antonio to Houston. The Cliffs are about the same distance but it's up winding roads where people don't like to drive more than 45, so takes forever...and now you can see why I do not like to take selfies...I come across as rather crazed, especially after driving those damned roads.

More later.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

On my way...

At JFK awaiting my flight to Dublin. This glorious packing job keeps expanding, so I may get to do no looking around the country, outside of County Wicklow. I've never been there, before, so that's cool...but I was hoping to be done Saturday and drive to The Cliffs of Moher on Sunday. It's about a 4 hour trip, each way, so I'd have to have the day to do it. Dammit.

I'm also awaiting the moment when I can check to see if I can change my seat. Aer Lingus wouldn't let me select my own...I guess since I booked through I wound up at the back of the plane at a window. On long flights I prefer the aisle. Makes it easier to get up and stretch, and offers a bit more elbow room.

But that's a minimal complaint for getting a free trip to Ireland...even if it is just for a few days.

My plane just arrived and lots of Irish kids are getting off. Mostly boys in their teens, like it's a school outing...which it may be. Easter is early, this year, and on top of St. Pat's, week is going to be massively insane.

BTW, here's how NYC looked as I flew in. I've been here so many times and it still amazes me at how huge the city is, and this doesn't count how we first crossed Long Island to turn around over the ocean.

It just goes on and on and on...

Monday, March 14, 2016

Today was tax day...

So my brain be deaded and blank, so I bring thee another missive about books, antiquarian --

Absences "Lost, Stolen or Shredded": Rick Gekoski's Stories of Missing Works of Art and Literature

By Laurence Worms

As you may already have realised, I like books which have a story to tell. By this I mean not just the book’s own internal narrative, but a copy of the book with its own individual history. Not necessarily a fine and obviously important provenance (although that’s always very welcome), but just a tale of its own career in the world. I’m not deterred by a book with a previous owner’s inscription, far from it – this can lead into that narrative and document some evidence of the book’s initial audience and reception. Who bought this book when it first came out? Where did the book fit into that world rather than ours?

Sometimes there is evidently a story – but no answer at all. I was just cataloguing a bound assembly of views of nineteenth-century Torquay, one of those ubiquitous albums produced by Rock & Co. of Walbrook (William Frederick Rock, his brothers Henry and Richard – all Devon men themselves – and their brother-in-law, John Payne). In this case a collection of fifty small vignette views published by the firm at various dates between 1850 and 1876, bound up as an ad hoc publication presumably aimed at the hordes of summer visitors to that fashionable resort. Pretty enough. Interesting enough. And not far into the book is a view of Belgrave Road, Torquay, on which a childish hand has pencilled “Our House” – a three-storey villa on the eastern side of the road shown on the extreme left of the image and clumsily ticked with the same pencil.

I hurry back to the front of the book (and the back and all points in between) – but no clue at all as to who owned the book, or who lived in this ample house, with its view of the sea to the south. Could it have been one of the Kirkpatrick girls, daughters of Temple Kirkpatrick, “retired diplomatist”, then living at “Sanremo” on Belgrave Road? Or one of the Pulford children at “Rosenau”? Or perhaps a child on holiday just passing through? Who knows? I certainly don’t – but I can well imagine the excitement of a child at having his or her house pointed out in a handsome book – the pleasure of the parent in pointing it out. I weigh up the possibilities of pursuing this further: a weight of work out of all proportion to the value of the book and ultimately probably not possible. We could almost certainly establish who was living in the house (which I suspect no longer exists) in the 1870s, but the inscription could have been added many years later. Why didn’t someone write their name in it?

A frustrating absence, a story that isn’t, but does it matter? Something of a theme this week with the publication of Rick Gekoski’s latest book, “Lost, Stolen or Shredded : Stories of Missing Works of Art and Literature” (Profile Books). A tame and modest title, but we have certain expectations of Rick, here (once more) amply fulfilled. The book simply grabs us by the collar and demands attention. It opens with, “He collected absences. For him they were more intense, vibrant and real than they presences they shadowed …” and takes us straight to join Franz Kafka and Max Brod queuing at a crowded Louvre to see, not the Mona Lisa, but the gap on the wall where the Mona Lisa used to be (after it was stolen in 1911). Rick is always compelling. He has that extraordinary knack of subsuming real scholarship and genuinely original thinking into essays that read like stories, stories that are as easy as conversation.

We all know him as a great talker – the best I know in a book-trade full of good talkers. It’s always a highlight of the Modern First Editions course at theLondon Rare Books School to take the students over to see Rick and let them sit at his feet for an hour or two. A mine of experience and reflection willingly shared. But what is so skilled about his writing is that it replicates this conversational rhythm and fluidity on the page – and that’s not easy, not easy at all. Talk is flat without nuance, expression, emphasis and inflection: this has to be engineered back in to make it work in print.

I’m not going to summarise the rest of the book, because you are all going to go out and buy it and find out for yourselves. Why read me, when you could read this? Fifteen stories. Those of us in the rare book world or in any way concerned with literary history or biography will buy it for “The Archive of the Penetralium of Mystery” alone – “When first encountered, an archive reminds me of a monkfish”. Why wouldn’t it?

(The safari continues! During his time as President of the ABA Laurence Worms shared with us his thoughts about the antiquarian book trade in his blog "The President on Safari". When Brian Lake succeeded him as ABA President in April 2013 Laurence decided to continue his blog and gave it a new name. Enjoy more great stories and amusing anecdotes about rare book dealers and collectors and follow “The Bookhunter on Safari”.)

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Damn you, DST...

We do not like Daylight Savings Time. Never have. I think it stems mainly from me being a night person...someone whose perfect day starts at 10 or 11 am and goes till 2am. DST means later nights and earlier days and throws me off.

When I worked at Book Soup, in West Hollywood, and did night shifts till midnight, as I walked home half the time I would stop at Norm's on La Cienega and have breakfast. Loved it. Loved how peaceful LA was at that time of the morning. And if it was raining, even better.

My first job in LA required me to be there at 8am. Hated it. My brain did not like to function for the first hour, but it had to; I was the only one in the office except for the owner. At least she paid well. Between that and support from a couple of friends, I was able to get back on my feet after a rough exit from Houston.

My favorite time to write is beginning at 2pm and going till I can't...which is usually 7 or 8. There have been occasions where I'll write until midnight, but then I have a hell of a time shutting my brain down and can't get to sleep till about 4. It's all very scattershot, and I whine a lot about my own inconsistency...but it works, for the most part.

Today, rather than fight with DST, I reformatted Bobby Carapisi. Mainly as an exercise. The formatting I published it in isn't right, so I shifted it to how other books look -- justified paragraphs and fewer white pages and slightly wider margins with the page numbers at the top corners instead of the bottom center. I'll be doing The Vanishing of Owen Taylor in the same way, and I found there were aspects of Word I didn't know how to do. So I went looking for information on how to do them.

Like controlling the page numbering better, using section breaks. I didn't know you have to unlink them, which is why I couldn't control the numbering. Now I know how...and I'm thinking of making a hardcover edition of BC just to see how it turns out.

I'm also thinking of doing a crowd-funder to see if I can get me enough money to stay in Northern Ireland for 2 months and get Place of Safety going, again. But I need to find out how much I'd require, enough to pay my bills in the US and living expenses in Derry and Belfast.

That part I can maybe I will, just to see...

Saturday, March 12, 2016


I'm a bit ticked off at the British Film Institute. I'm a member but that's not doing me a whole lot of good. They have a series of short films about life in Northern Ireland in the 60s and 70s that I can't access because I'm in the US. Nor are they posted on YouTube, though lots of other bits about NI are. And they haven't responded to an e-mail I sent asking if there was some way for me to get access. I just sent another one, but I'm not feeling hopeful.

My trip back to Buffalo was not the best I've ever had. It was my intention to check my bag early -- I have to; I had a knife with me and can't take that on the plane -- and have Panda Express, which I like. But they're past security. And when I asked a JetBlue rep about early bag-check, he said they don't do that. In fact, JetBlue's counter didn't even open till 9pm, after all but a couple restaurants closed.

I wound up nibbling at another nasty set of enchiladas in New Mexico. Does that state actually require tortillas to be so tough you have to use a knife to cut into them? And since when is salsa sweet? What's even sadder -- the guacamole was nothing but a mashed up avocado and some onion flakes. For that, I paid $30...and I couldn't even finish it.

Threw the whole trip off. While we left on time, we also had the least personable flight attendants ever, and all the lights were turned off. The only enjoyable aspect of the flight was I got the extra-space seat so could use my laptop.

Well...I also saw an interesting bit on their system about the Redbull Cliff Diving competition in Portugal. This is just a hint of what it was all about.

Them folks is crazy.

My flight from JFK was late, so I didn't get home till nearly noon, yesterday, and even after a nice hot shower and 5 hour nap I was still fuzzy-brained. Not unusual for me. But I do think I'd be better off at the end of these trips if I built up my stamina and dropped a few pounds. So I've already aimed for that...eating less and exercising some. Not a lot, right now; I'm an old fart who's fighting off his lazy genes.

And I got lots of those genes to fight off.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Quickie post before Starbuck's throws me out...

Had lots to do for the Ireland trip, next week, so encamped at Starbucks to use their WiFi and wade into cup after cup of hot tea.

I also made a quick trip to the Balloon Museum, north of Albuquerque. It's where the festival takes place and all the balloons launch.

This is the entrance. That's a model of the Graf Zeppelin up top. There's a self-guided tour in no particular order

This would be a child's paradise, and is still fun for adults.

More to come, later. Now it's time to turn in my rental car and go the the airport.

And finish my work using the Airport's WiFi.

More theft but why not?

I stole this off a site called Cinemagorgeous. It's amazing...

The value of “Why Not?”

I like science fiction a lot.

I appreciate the name “science fiction” because it combines two things I very much enjoy. It’s a good name, though there is another term for the genre that is even better. “Speculative fiction.” That’s a descriptor that gets it just right.

Science fiction speculates. It asks new questions.

Realistic fiction has always been good at asking “why?” Why does a marriage fall apart? Why do people define themselves by what they do for a living? Why does a young person ruin a perfectly good relationship for no apparent reason?

These are good questions, worth asking. But they’re not the only questions.

One of the prime virtues of speculative fiction is that it has always been willing to ask not only “why” but “why not?” If things are this way, why are they not another way?

Most Victorians couldn’t possibly imagine going to the moon, but Jules Verne was comfortable asking “why not?” Of course, he had nowhere near the right answer. But he asked the question. So did the great filmmaker George Méliès when he (taking inspiration from Verne) made a journey to the moon the subject of cinema’s first science fiction film. And then of course the Russians shot Sputnik into space and a young president named Kennedy posited the same question with a whole new kind of urgency. And this time the question was ready for a real answer.

One giant leap for mankind, yes, but it was a mental leap that writers of speculative fiction (and their readers) had been willing to take before most sensible people would even entertain it.

Captain Kirk has a computer that he can talk to that will answer his questions. If he wants to know when something happened, or a bit of science he doesn’t understand, all he has to do is ask. A lot of us have a device in our pocket right now that does the same thing, but cellphones didn’t exist when the Star Trek design team were conceiving of them.

Good questions lead you to more good questions. Suppose humans were able to work together as a cohesive team in which people of all backgrounds were able to contribute equally? I mean, really, why not? Star Trek was willing to ask that question earlier than most, and asked it so potently that when Nichelle Nichols was thinking of leaving the show she was urged to stay by a man named Martin Luther King. He felt it was important that young black people were able to see Uhura on TV and feel that the human future was one they could be seen as participants in. Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry was very moved when Nichols told him this, saying he was glad someone understood what it was that he was trying to do.

King understood Star Trek because he was very good at asking important questions, questions that can change the way people think. “I have a dream…” is the beginning to one of the best “why nots” in history. Dreams are, by the way, excellent speculative fiction. They’ll take something seemingly implausible and run with it more than our waking minds would usually put up with. When we wake up we tend to shake our heads and dismiss it as a flight of fancy, but sometimes, a dream will leave us pondering the all important question. Surely such a thing could never be. But then again… “why not?”

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Another job done...

And done early. I'm exhausted, but I finished ahead of schedule so may look into what to see in Albuquerque since my flight's not till nearly midnight. I'm doing a red-eye back to JFK then a short hopper to Buffalo.

Not a lot to tell, right now. Yesterday's travels were exhausting since they took me forever. Today was shuffling boxes of archives around and putting them in new boxes. I worked in a filthy warehouse and my nose was not happy with it. I had to take a shower when I got home just to feel human, again.

I've got a tone of e-mails to catch up on and a couple of seminars I signed up for that I didn't get a chance to catch, live. I may put all that off till in the morning; I don't check out till noon and feel a serious bit of laziness coming on.

I got the official "Kudo" from iHolly for Find Ray T, praising the action in it. Big surprise to me; I'd thought I'd been tossed aside by their festival. I wonder if I could wrangle this into some script-polishing jobs?

CAn't think right now. Head's hurting as is back. I should've soaked in the tub. Maybe I will, tomorrow. I may try to sleep on the plane, a little.

Doubt that last will happen.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Back to world traveler...

Ireland is set. I'll be in Dublin on St. Patrick's day, arriving 8am.  I don't start packing till the next day, so I may take a bus into town and wander about, a bit, to keep myself awake, then get my rental car and head down to County Wicklow, a part of the country I've not been to. I'm there till Monday, then I fly home.

I was hoping to do a swing by London to help with the UK dealers shipping to the US for the New York Book Fair, but that fell through thanks to the long Easter weekend. It's a 4-day one, in Europe. Oh well.

What's great is how I was able to set up the flight via Jet Blue's website. They partner with Aer Lingus so I'll hop down to Terminal 5 in NYC and just change planes. Same coming back. And I'm pre-cleared through US Customs in Dublin, so I don't have to hassle with that at JFK. Tres kewl.

Tomorrow I'm off to Albuquerque, NM for a quick archive pack and ship. I'm flying Southwest but they are getting to be a pain in so many ways. I like the ability to check baggage and change flights with no penalty, but their planes are getting to be so tight, if you don't have a 30 inch waist you don't have room to open your laptop. I'm trying to get a few inches off my middle, but so far haven't done well.

Maybe a girdle...

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Back on track...

Moving along on Underground Guy. Dev is back to happy and Reg is pleased. Tawfi is still giving me the silent treatment but I think he'll come around once I get to his first real section. This is not going to be a tender loving book or one that explores one man's attraction for another or anything touchy-feely; it's going to be dark and mean and, I hope, suspenseful.

But that's what I want -- harsh and in-your-face. It won't be as much so as HTRASG was, but that book was formed to be a fuck you to the world, thanks to Curt. I remember when I got my free copies of it -- the only one I got free copies of, despite it being in my publishing contract; I announced it at my writer's group and showed them, and you never saw so many eyes go round in shock. I don't think they were able to reconcile my mild image or my romantic screenplays with that title. What can I say? I contain all sorts of voices.

I'm reminded of this because I spent part of the day putting up the first few pages of The Lyons' Den on its Facebook page. For some reason that option is being offered for it, but not on the pages for David Martin, Bobby Carapisi or French Connection Blues. I have no idea why...except it's Facebook being Facebook.

Anyway, I had to shift everything to jpegs so as I was going over it to make sure it had come out readable, I happened across this bit I wrote for Tad to say, on page 4 -- "... And so what if I've seen you say things that would've put you in a padded room, fifty years ago? I know that's merely you being creative because I have seen it work. ..."

I may reread LD just to remind myself of how I see myself...

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Caught up, sort of...

My taxes are ready to take to the CPA, and small wonder I'm in a mess. I made less, this year, and spent more. The one positive is my tax burden won't be quite as bad as 2014's...but I do wish my debt were going down instead of up.

As regards Underground Guy, I read the following article, and this part of it resonated with me --

4 Tips for Building a Novel Writing Career Right Now (no waiting!)
By Kevin Tumlinson

Monday, December 7th, 2015


I can sum up this whole tip in one sentence:

“When you’re writing, your only job is to write.”

Simple, right? Yet after years of talking to aspiring writers, this is the one thing that has hands-down proven toughest to get across. For some reason, we just can’t turn off the Inner Editor.

The problem is, we’ve been fooled by our own nature.

There’s a delusion we’ve fallen victim to—and it’s the idea that if we edit and make the writing perfect as we go, we cut the whole process in half. We think that by editing as we write, we’re saving ourselves double work later.

The reality is, we actually increase the amount of time we spend. And it’s not just double … it’s an exponential increase. We end up busting our momentum and slowing ourselves down, getting off track and increasing the risk of losing the thread of the story altogether.

If we want to write faster, we have to turn off our Inner Editor and just write.

Let’s just get one thing straight—you are never going to escape editing. Not if you want to do this work for a living. Editing has its time and place, however, and that is definitely not during the actual writing.

Turn off your Inner Editor, send him or her on a vacation and then just start writing in total freedom. Spend your energy on making tons of mistakes, going on wild tangents, flinging words on the page like a monkey flinging poo at zoo-goers. You’ll make a heck of a mess, but it will be a glorious mess.

Later, when you pull on your Editor Pants™ you’ll find yourself coming across happy little accidents. You’ll laugh at something you wrote that you couldn't have planned in advance. You’ll discover that you took chances with your narrative that you might never have taken with the overly cautious Inner Editor nagging your every word. In short, you’ll have a better book because you did your only real job at the time. 
I am so guilty of this...and it's truly hurt me on Place of Safety. I'm gonna stop that, beginning with UG. No more reworking it till I have at least a first draft done.

Famous last words...

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Life intrudes...

Have to get taxes ready for my CPA, giving me an excuse to let the storms settle in my brain's writing side. So here's an article I stole off The Page Awards Newsletter about Aaron Sorkin:

The article is 
by Zoe Simmons

Writer Aaron Sorkin once said, “I enter the world through what I write.” And I imagine that this is how many of you feel as you work on your scripts in the quiet of your room.

I know that sometimes dreams can seem far out of reach and you may at times wonder whether to give up or continue to hang in there and risk it all. So I thought Aaron Sorkin would be a good mentor for this month.

The first three films Aaron Sorkin wrote grossed $400 million: A Few Good Men, Malice, and The American President. His personal net worth now hovers around $80 million.

But this is a man who started from nothing. He worked his way up. He struggled with his own demons. He risked it all and failed over and over again.

How did he do it? Here are some facts I culled for you to ponder:

While in college, a favorite professor kept telling Sorkin, “You have the capacity to be so much more!” When Sorkin asked “How?” his professor said, “Dare to fail.” Sorkin has been following that admonition ever since.

Sorkin originally wanted to be an actor and it was “just a chore to get through English class.” 

In the ‘80s, as a struggling actor in New York, he was working a plethora of odd jobs: delivering singing telegrams, driving a limo, handing out fliers dressed as a moose, telemarketing, and bartending at Broadway’s Palace Theatre. One weekend while housesitting for someone, he found an IBM Selectric typewriter, started typing, and “felt a phenomenal confidence and joy” that he had never experienced before.

Remember the first time you touched on your own talent – how exciting and remarkable a moment that was?

Sorkin started writing A Few Good Men on cocktail napkins. He would come home late at night with a pocket full of cocktail napkins that he had written on at work, then enter them into the Macintosh 512K that he and his roommates had purchased together. He wrote several drafts of A Few Good Men this way, learning his craft through a book on formatting.

In the early ‘90s, Sorkin did uncredited script doctoring on The Rock, Enemy of the State and Excess Baggage. He then signed a contract with Castle Rock, where he wrote Malice and The American President. The American President took him several years to complete, as his early drafts were over 385 pages long and he had to whittle the script down to the then required 120 pages.

Sorkin’s huge television hit The West Wing came about by sheer accident, as he went unprepared to a lunch with John Wells and in a panic pitched the idea for the show using leftover ideas from his original, overlong script for The American President.

Like you, Sorkin has his “down days,” especially when starting a new script. He readily admits the paralyzing fear that greets him every time he faces that first blank page. He says, “I love writing. I hate starting.”

He refers to himself as a “screw-up.” He does know his strengths, however. He always knew he had a knack for great dialogue. “Dialogue sounds like music to me,” he says. He describes his writing process as “physical” because he will often stand up and speak the dialogue he is writing.

Sorkin says that whether you’re writing a movie, play or a TV series, “your characters have to WANT something. The real rules are the rules of drama, the rules that Aristotle talks about. Somebody’s got to want something, and something’s got to be standing in their way of getting it. You just look for a point of friction. You do that and you’ll have a scene. The underlying motivation is the drive shaft.”

Sorkin believes it is always the artist’s job to entertain the audience. He says, “My job is to captivate you for however long you give me your attention. I want it to have been worth it for everyone to sit through (my work) for however long I ask them to.”

Sorkin’s advice to young writers?

“Every once in awhile you’ll succeed; most of the time you’ll fail. The circumstances will be well beyond your control. Trust your own compass, take risks, dare to fail.”

At the end of the day, he says, “The world doesn’t care how many times you fall down, as long as it’s one fewer than the number of times you get back up.”

... I encourage you to take Aaron Sorkin’s words to heart. "Trust your own compass. Take risks. Dare to fail." Because, ultimately, that’s the only way you will ever succeed.

Most importantly, as Sorkin says, “Don’t ever forget that a small group of thoughtful people can change the world; it’s the only thing that ever has.”

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

My own private psychoses...

I have to wonder just how insane I sound when I start complaining about my characters and how I sometimes hate them because of the crap they pull. Didn't this get people lobotomized, once upon a time? I'm beginning to understand how that can be a blessed thing.

I'm having some great back and forth with Devlin Pope, right now, from Underground Guy. He was pushing me to get rid of the serial killer aspect of the story and make it about a couple of guys -- one gay, one straight -- coming to terms with themselves and things they've done. So I redid the first 28 pages of the book into that. Set that up. It moves faster. Stronger. Better. And then stops dead. Brick wall dead. A solid ten feet deep.

Reg -- Reginald Brewster Thornton, the underground guy -- doesn't like it. He doesn't know who or what he is, anymore. And Dev is sitting there thinking...well...maybe it wasn't such a good move, after all. No big deal to put it back the way it was, right? No, you little shit; it's just days of work wasted making it read correct.

Now Dev's pissed at me because I'm not being nice about him fucking around with me. And Reg is hurt and unhappy because he feels betrayed at not being asked about this. And other characters are not talking to me because they were being cut out. And I'm ready for my padded room.

It's times like these I wish I'd stuck with art. My sketches and paintings never talked back to me. Or if they did, I wasn't listening...or I was so in sync with them, there was no need for confrontative communication. I'm feeling the urge, right now, to dump the story and pull out my old acrylics and whip up a couple of things, even if all they do is let me vent.

Maybe I should just stick with The Vanishing of Owen Taylor.