Derry, Northern Ireland

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

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Off on a big job...

I spent yesterday and today prepping for a week-long stay in Oklahoma City, another place I've never been to and wouldn't visit on my own. And it's going to be a tough job -- packing 10,000 books and journals into 450-500 boxes for transport to another country. I'll have helpers, fortunately, so it might get done in the time-frame I've been given...but only just.

Means nothing's getting done on A65 or blogging, because I will be beat. So...signing off till this time, next week. Maybe having this space and focus away from my writing will help.


Sunday, April 23, 2017

Completing obligations...

I worked up a 14 page treatment of French Connection Blues, kicking myself for the sloppiness of the screenplay the whole time, and using that to give a bit of clarity and movement to it. Dunno how successful I was because the truth's not my story and the characters are only acquaintances who aren't that open with me. All very need-to-know kind of crap.

Anyway, I sent it off to the guy and I will have nothing more to do with it. I've fulfilled my duty to the story...but what's funny is, I'm a bit sorry. I did get the impression the characters would like to have worked with me more, but they were held back. When I did try to work things to be more interesting, most of the time I got shot down with the old, "It didn't happen like that." And everybody would back off. Too bad; it might have an interesting story to tell, if I could have worked in a more disjointed style.

So to clear my head, I watched a couple episodes of Vera on Acorn. It's a series of murder mysteries, each an hour and a half long and some decent production values. Four to a set. I'm up to Set 2 (Season 2) of 7, number 3 in the set...and I like them. The first couple were on the "meh" side, but they've gotten better and better...and now I can't figure out who the killer is until just before the reveal, which doesn't count.

Brenda Blethyn now owns the lead role. I like the irascible relationship she has with her crew, especially David Leon. She's short, round and fair; he's tall, dark and handsome. This and the excellent remake of And Then There Were None make it worth the $5 a month subscription.

And I can watch them on my tablet -- woo-hoo...

Friday, April 21, 2017

Scrrew the negative by embracing it...

I bitch, grouch, and complain a lot...and I'm sure it gets tiresome. Sometimes I use my blog to work things out in my head; sometimes it's just verbal vomit. But I have found that when I do my snap, snarl, growl, self-flagellation thing on here, I wind up clearing away some kind of debris in my brain and the ideas come, again. The words make themselves known. The characters stop being as pissy and start guiding and illuminating, once more.

I think half the reason I so disliked my biographical script of that cop's life is, I've since written a book and dug deeper into his character. In fact, in one draft I went a bit farther than he was willing to go in order to show he was a bit unstable, mentally. I forgot that he thinks the conspiracy against him was real and some of the hallucinations that wound up driving him from the force were probably brought on by chemical means instead of the stress and a weak psyche. I still had some of that in...mainly in plotting out the ending...but I get the feeling there was a lot more to what happened with him than he let on.

Still...while the script has that, it's not as tight as it should have been. Had I done a step-outline before I finalized it, I'd like to think I'd have seen how loose and meandering it was turning out to be. Lots of moments and no real sense of urgency or life.

The guy I did it for liked it and I fulfilled my obligation to him...but I blew it with me. I never let the characters become comfortable with me, and it tells. In OT, Jake and I knew each other from the first second. He could be an asshole, but so could I. He could get pissed at me just like I'd get pissed at him...but it's like we were brothers in spirit, and I think it tells in my writing. I agonized over it till it was right.

I didn't do that with this one. I just wrote it and made it polished...and never found the spark in it to make it real. That was my failing and no one else's...and I will not let it happen, again. If I cannot commit to letting a story become part of my life, I won't do it. I'd churn out something lifeless and without meaning. As Hemingway said, "Writing is easy; you just sit at the typewriter and bleed."

My writer's moral to the story -- Stories ain't got lives if you don't agonize over them...

Thursday, April 20, 2017

The gift that keeps on giving...and giving...

Eight years ago I wrote a script for a guy, based on his life story as a cop in NYC. It never went anywhere because, truth be told, his experiences had already been done to death in movies like Serpico and Prince of the City and the like. I told him this, up front...but I did it. I thought that would be the end of it.

Then I got talked into making the script into a book. I worked my ass off on that book and got what I thought was an interesting character study of a man with too much imagination and too little control spinning into madness...and it got published...but it didn't sell very well.

So...the guy got the rights back, rewrote it and was shopping it around. In and of itself, that's not so bad, but my name was still on it and he knows nothing about proper grammar. Granted, mine isn't great, but it's decent enough. So I polished it up, like an editor, and helped him self-publish it through Ingram and Smashwords...and now he's back.

He doesn't give in, this guy, which is probably a good thing. He has a possible producer interested in the project, but he needs a step outline for the script. So I went in intending to just do a quick ABC outline as I flew home, today...and OMG, it is such crap. I wrote a piece of shit. Small wonder nobody wants it; it's not a script; it's a catastrophe and needs a page one rewrite.

Jesus, how could I let that happen? I'm capable of one hell of a lot better. Granted, I wasn't all the invested in the story and felt a bit hamstrung by his requirements and the story's demands...but it really reads like a first draft. I'm ashamed of myself for thinking it was worthy of showing to anybody.

But now what do I do? I don't have time for a good rewrite; I've got a 5 day packing job in Oklahoma City, next week, and my laptop won't let me use Final Draft. Nor would I probably be in any shape to do any writing, since this is a push of a job -- pack 10,000 books in 4 full days and 1 day for picking it all up.

I should never have said I'd do the script, since it's obvious my heart wasn't in it.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Another job done...

I just completed another packing job, this one in Boca Raton, Florida...and it almost didn't happen. And I mean, after I'd gotten down here. It was in a gated community and I was just pulling up to the gate when I got a phone call telling me to hold on. It seems the recipient's insurance company suddenly decided they didn't like the way we were going to transport the shipment so were voiding the coverage on it.

Talk about last-minute...the only reason I wasn't already in the donor's condo was, I'd stopped at a 7/11 for some water and something to have for lunch. I wound up sitting in my car, in Florida's lovely warmth (not) for 3 hours while everything was hammered out. Which it was. Which also added a requirement I note what books are in each box, along with photos of them. Which put me way behind. I thought I'd be done in one day; took 2.

That's not such a big deal; I can be flexible when required. What's irritating is, no one bothered communicating the situation to the donor till he called to complain about me being late. I was asked not to; the recipient was going to do that...but didn't. So I looked like a flake. Not that I'm never one...but I was on time, for this one, and would have let the donor know about the situation the second I could.

Oh, well...worked out. And it's a nice collection. And the donor's happy. That's what counts.

And I got nothing done on A65...mainly because yesterday I caught a 5:45am flight to Fort Lauderdale and went straight to the donor's location. Meaning after I was done for the day, I was zoned. Went straight to bed, got up early, this morning, and, after it was all done and one its way, crashed at my hotel for a long nap. Now I'm catching up on emails and other Adam and Casey will have to wait till I'm home.

And it'll be more of the same, next week...sigh...

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Stepping back...

I've avoided social media and the news, for the most part, today. I am sick of hearing about Czar Snowflake and his family using the US Treasury as their ATM, and have actively started hoping he will be impeached and run out of office straight into prison along with his whole administration. But that's not going to happen unless Democrats take back the House and Senate, both, in 2018; the GOP is too busy using this distraction to take the country back 100 years. But I'm already getting the feeling the DNC is going to commit the same damned mistakes it did last year, when running Hillary against Bernie and then Snowflake.

They don't seem to want to push a 50 state strategy. They want to choose certain districts to put candidates in who the "think can win" but who stand for nothing. They aren't willing to get as down and dirty as the GOP does but seem to believe by rising above the fray, people will respect them more. They won't; people will respect the loudest voice, as Snowflake proved.

I've actually looked into emigrating to Canada, but they won't have me. I'm too old and don't have a skill they want. And England is becoming as insane as America...maybe even trying to be even worse than us. The racists in our civilization have been given license to howl their filth, and they are taking full advantage of it.

It's starting to show up in the way corporations treat people. Look at United and their bullies. Look at the police and their killings and beatings. Look at how the media doesn't bother to mention that a man who murdered his wife and two innocent children was a Christian pastor, or claims that any white man who slaughters people is a lone wolf and mentally ill, while any Muslim who does that is emblematic of the whole religion, to them, and any black man who kills is proof African-Americans are violent creatures.

I once put in a script that one character believed we were entering a dark age, like there was after the collapse of the Roman Empire, thinking it sounded cool. I had no idea I was being prophetic.

Just call me Jeremiah.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Sometimes I do all right...

After my whiny rant, yesterday, I sat myself down, today, and worked on A65 right through to the end. No major rewriting done but lots of notes and shifting of sections and at least a better handle on the story. Now all I need to do is input these changes, print out another copy and go through the whole thing, again.

What I did was a surface bit of work, but it at least got me going on it, again. There are a couple of spots where I let Casey or Adam just tell some of their history, and that's not quite proper, yet, but I do think with this next draft I'll have the spine of the book set.

What's interesting is how things have changed from the screenplay. Like Casey's reasoning for insisting Adam accompany her to the premier -- she has him done up nice to make Lando jealous. That's her intention, anyway...but it doesn't quite work out that way, thanks to Jeremy, the archive's resident photographer.

I do still like the growing symmetry in various bits, and the little reversals that pop up, every now and then. I guess it helps that I got a solid 8 hours sleep and had no reason to leave the apartment...though I did make cornbread. Just to snack on.

It seems sales of all my books have stopped, dead. So far I've sold a total of 5 copies since the first of April. Could it be due to tax season? I hope?

I'm not paying mine. I don't want to give that SOB in the White House one more penny to spend on his fucking golf game. Actually, I'll pay them when contacted by the IRS, so we can work up a payment schedule. Draw it out.

Maybe he'll resign before I have to sign over a penny.

Friday, April 14, 2017

I should never discuss my plans or thoughts...

It seems the moment I do, something happens to screw them up. I haven't worked on A65 all week...well, since Monday. I don't know why. I just haven't. Can't get the enthusiasm going that I had...or need. Can't get the interest.

Don't read, either. Or sketch. Anything. I just wander through facebook and twitter and the news and Tumbler and achieve nothing. And now I'm whining about it. In a low-key way, granted, but still...

God, I don't understand me. It's like somewhere deep down inside me I don't want to succeed and I throw up roadblocks and shift moods to make sure of that. And that's what I'm doing, right now. Told myself as soon as I got home I was going to dive into my rewrite...and it's now 5 hours later and not one red mark added to the printout.

A65 needs work, but it's a fun story. It's fairly mainstream -- nerdy straight boy is used by hurt straight girl but in the end, it all works out and they have an HEA. I like the idea of it. I like the characters. I've even tweeted about it. But now I'm having to fight myself to work on it.

Hell, I'm having to fight myself to write this stupid little post. It's pathetic. And now I'm coming up on a busy couple of weeks of travel -- Boca Raton, next week, and friggin' Oklahoma City the following. Both set up in ways I did not want -- hopping a 5:30 am flight to Boca so I can start working the second I get there because the powers that be did not want to pay for an extra hotel night, and packing OKC within time constraints that are just ludicrous, even with 3 assistants.

I have another job I'm working up a quote on where the owner of the library thinks you can pack 2000 books in a day or two. Yeah, if I bring in 10 helpers. Oh, but can't we do it for $1.98, total? Two jobs we bid on dumped us because they wanted something cheaper...and one was for 7 books that were valued at $150,000. It would have cost $1200 to do pick them up, pack them and ship them, total...not even 1% of their value...and that's too much. Stupid.

Bitch, whine, and complain. Maybe I'm just tired. Maybe I just need a break. Two weeks of nothing but watching movies, reading books in bed, eating crap and drinking wine. Slob city.

I could deal with that.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Symmetry happens...

So I'm going through A65 adding in notes and thoughts and details before I continue with my re-re-re-re-rewrite...and it suddenly hit me that I've got a nice bit of symmetry going...without meaning to. In the initial story, there's a party at Lando's home that is...bizarre, to say the least. But along the way, since expanding the role of Adam's seat-mates en route to LA, another party jumped in to counterpoint Lando's. And helps Adam, a lot.

Man, I like how alive the story is beginning to seem, now. How natural and yet surprising. Still a bit too slick but with potential. It's following its path...but Adam keeps getting shoved off into little side roads that increase the meaning of what's happening to him. At least, I think so.

However, I may be too old-fashioned to really make this story as wild and crazy as I want. I tried that in The Lyons' Den and found that, even though I took that one as far as I could, it was still a bit on the conventional side when all was said and done.

But...there is still a fair amount of controlled chaos in that story. I'm trying to get away with that, again, in A65. I don't want to add events just for the sake of stirring the pot; I want them to be endemic to the story...which may be why my writing is still a bit too careful. Maybe I shouldn't be so locked into the A-B-C of plot and just let something happen.

That is how Alice's Adventures in Wonderland goes. It's a dream of bizarre events but it follows it own madcap sense of logic that has no logic. Maybe I need to stop being so controlling and just let it rip, in this one.

You never know till you try...

Sunday, April 9, 2017

More than halfway...

Well over, in fact. I'm at page 146 of 246 total pages in this latest rewrite of my rewritten rewrite that's in need of rewriting. The point where Adam is about to sneak into the back yard of Lando's home in order to help Casey...and, of course, things don't go as planned. Do they ever?

There are still sections that aren't nearly as defined as I want, yet, but now that I'm finally getting a tighter grip on the story and the characters, as well as the tone and POV, I can start massaging my style to make it more interesting. I hope. But that won't come once I've settled everything else down.

I watched Stairway to Heaven after I'd reached my saturation point on A65. It was made in 1946 and stars David Niven, Kim Hunter, Raymond Massey and Roger Livesey...and is in both color and black & white. It's about a British bomber pilot at the end of WW2 who's shot down and his parachute is destroyed. As his plane is crashing, he connects with an American radio operator, gives her his last messages and jumps from the plane...only due to a nasty English fog, death loses site of him and he survives. He finds the radio operator, and they fall in love, but now Heaven wants to complete his "contract." He fights back by appealing his date of doctors operate on him to repair a brain injury that could kill him.

The story is all over the place, but David Niven, as the pilot, and Kim Hunter, as the radio operator, anchor it. In fact, there are moments when Niven should have been onscreen when he wasn't, like during his trial. I can also see storyline references to The Devil and Daniel Webster, Here Comes Mr. Jordan, Heaven Can Wait, and A Guy Named Joe. It's interesting that Heaven is presented in black & white while Earth is color.

It's been years and years since I've seen this film, so long ago I don't remember if it was in a theater, on VHS or it played on TV. I halfway think it was in Houston and I rented a tape of it from a really great video store just off Montrose and Westheimer. Not sure...but it feels right.

Hmm...I just had a feeling that something major is going to happen in the next few days. What it is or even to whom, I have no idea. It's just...a weird sense of...shit, I dunno what. But when I watched Star Trek, last night, there were moments where I thought, "I've seen that before," even though I haven't seen the film. Most were near the the overhead shot of the Starship tracking the attack pods through the space station while under a long pool that had a transparent basin, so you could see the ship passing.

It gave me such a massive sense of deja vu, I checked the movie's trailers to see if maybe it had been in one that I've seen...and nope. Not that shot. I don't know what to make of's just, when I've had them, before, it's meant a major change in my my mother dying or me moving to LA before I'd even thought about it.

I just hope it's a good one...

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Back on track...

I spent today adjusting and cutting and re-emphasizing the 4th and 5th chapters of A65...and it works better. It took me a while to work in the little reveal of how Adam looks once Orisi's done with him, but I think it still has the right effect. I left in him getting stoned without realizing it, and I expanded on his arguing against staying the night. Increases his disorientation.

There's a fair amount of restructuring to do in the next four chapters, because that's as far as I got in adding in Casey's POV so it's not so bad, really. It'll just take some time and care...and attention. And I'm finding I pretty much get wiped out on this story after 5-6 hours at it.

It'd funny...I say I trust my characters, but by paying more attention to Casey than to Adam, for a while, it took him slamming on the brakes and nearly killing the story before I heard what he was telling me. Which turned out to be right. Tolstoy can shift from one character's inner world to another's without trouble, but I'm no Tolstoy. Doubt I ever will be. I guess that's why I prefer to work in first person; it's an absolute POV as opposed to an omniscient one.

I finally had dinner and watched Star Trek: Beyond...and found it only barely interesting. Jeremy Sisto is still a great Spock, and Karl Urban and Simon Pegg do well as Bones and Scotty, but I'm not a huge Chris Pine fan, and the script sacrificed originality for pacing...and complete coherence. Too many easy outs for characters in danger mode, and one shift in the villain that made absolutely no sense to me. Oh, well...

Tomorrow I'm watching something classy -- like Out of the Past or Stairway to Heaven, both of which are phenomenal.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Completely misdirected?

Tonight was spent in a low-key battle with Adam over A65, where he finally let me know he's not happy with what I'm doing in the book. He says it's his story, and he thinks I should keep his perspective throughout instead of trying to make it more commercial by bringing in Casey's POV, as well. And truth is, the shift to her after following him for three chapters is ... jarring. Hence the awkwardness of their meeting and such.

And the difficulty I'm having finding a balance with Casey as I try to keep from revealing too much of what she's planning while letting out her thoughts and concerns...and memories. Which is what Adam's been nudging me about. He doesn't care that it's being told in 3rd person; he just thinks I should let the reader find out what's going on as he does.

Which means a fair portion of what I've written for Casey would go into the trash. Which pisses me off and depresses me. And makes me kick myself for not seeing this sooner. Or considering it. Because my gut says it's right. Dammit. So nothing got done, tonight, and now I'm verging on whine mode.

I'll deal with this crap, tomorrow.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Dammit, stop throwing crap at me!

I'm at that stage in my story where the characters are coming up with nonsense just to mess with me. Like Casey suggesting she wants to change the reason she takes Adam to the premier and the after-party. Doing it her new way would change everything that follows and make her into a real bitch. NOT gonna happen.

Same for another character who wants to dance with Adam in the middle of a bar, which diminishes the moment when Casey and Adam dance, later. It's like they're angling to see who can get the best bits thrown in for themselves, no matter what the rest of the story demands...and I hate it when they pull this crap.

And love it. I now have my white rabbit and dormouse characters...albeit merely indicatively. And it does add to the madness of Adam's world. So who knows? I've got my own insane process and it seems to work out in the end.

Of course, this may all be moot. Czar Snowflake (the POTUS whose name I will not speak) has attacked Syria. Apparently after warning Russia that he would. Meaning Russia warned Assad and they made sure there was minimal damage from the $70m worth of cruise missiles we sent. Makes the Czar look good, in his mind and in the diseased brains of his vermin followers. But...this could easily lead to the apocalypse, in which case there will be no one left to read my books and all will be for naught.

Maybe I should try to build a time capsule to be found 10,000 years from now, when the next masters of the universe reach that point of civilization.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

18 Chapters...

At the moment. And more rearranging done. I have a feeling the book will still wind up being about 62,000 words...which is short, for me. But it's rolling along despite my best efforts and I'm seeing ways to make it smoother and clearer. I'd say the next draft I input into Word will be good enough to be considered a first rough draft. When I go through that one, then I'll be ready to start a second draft.

It took me a while to get going on the story, this evening, because I didn't like Casey's introduction. I liked that it was set in her attic as she's watching the CCTV monitors of security cameras all over her property, but it was too deliberate. I danced around it and banged my head against it and moaned about it for a couple hours before finally realizing she wasn't up there to watch her mother arrive with Adam and get the reaction of the paparazzi twins who've been stalking her; it's a place she goes to just zone, with the images on the monitors like white noise to her. She's caught in memories, at the moment, and it's Adam's arrival that breaks her out of them.

I'm trying to find low-key ways of showing she has not left her home in nearly two weeks, due to her breaking up with Lando. Having Patricia say it was just too obvious. Lando can comment on it because he makes it all about him, but he's not there till the premier. And I don't think Casey should admit to it till she knows Adam a lot better. Maybe over the Mac & Cheese they share. So I'm just slipping in hints and nudges, so far...and not completely satisfied.

I'm still using Eliza Dushku as my personification of Casey. She fits her too perfectly. Hope she doesn't mind. I consider it a travesty that she wasn't invited to the 20th Anniversary shoot for Buffy, the Vampire Slayer. She was a solid part of the show and made a huge mark on how it went.

I still like the idea of Russell Tovey as Adam, but after watching the few episodes of Quantico that I could stand, he's too charismatic a persona for it. The ease with which he blew better-looking actors away on that show was a case study in what it means when the camera loves you.

Matthew Lewis is better; he looks like someone who could start out awkward and turn into a prince. And yes, I know, I'm talking about a book not a film project...but I still think in images, and I'm trying to make that work in a narrative format.

Like lots of other, better writers have been doing for centuries.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Bumps in the road...

Okay...Chapter 4 is good but Chapter 5, where Adam and Casey meet, is awkward and stumbling. I've got the elements I want in it but they don't connect, yet. They just happen. Seem forced. And I still shift POV between her and him, even in 3rd person; gotta find a nice middle ground in that.

I think I may need to reverse a couple of things -- give some of Casey's actions to Patricia, and work more on how Vincent forces Adam to stay overnight in LA; it's too easy, just now, and Adam's reaction is not panicky enough. A fair bit of work. And to think I only have two dozen more chapters to go through with this rewriting...though I doubt it will be all that many when I'm done. I hope.

I posted The Lyons' Den on Amazon in Kindle. It should be available in the next couple of days. I'm not doing well on selling it and as much as I prefer Smashwords, they don't have the network or reach of Amazon...and I want the story to be read. I've been trying to get an accounting of how many copies sold when it was with STARboks Press, but they ignore my requests for information. I guess they think I'm out to audit them, or something. I'm not; I just want to know.

I've got a couple of articles on how to use Twitter and Pinterest and SnapChat to sell my books, so may do some of it with A65. Seems half the battle is how you promote it prior to publishing, which is a bit late for my other works. I already do a little promotion of my work on Facebook...but that's so 2014.

Problem is, I'm still too 1999.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

First chapters are the hardest...

So far only Chapter One needed serious reworking (and still needs tweaking and proofing; I can't believe how many typos I found in a read-through today). Chapters Two and Three are in decent shape, since that's where the story starts getting going. I've tried to find another way of beginning Adam's tale, but jumping in when he connects with Patricia, Casey's mother, at the airport felt awkward and having him be told he's going on the trip as the beginning was too...I dunno...unimportant.

I like beginning with Adam's normal day and giving just a hint that something will wind up wrong about it. Then introduce some characters who will come into play, later. I also like how it connects Adam to where he works and how much he loves it; that becomes important, as well, so I think laying the groundwork, here, is good.

Initially, I was jamming way too much information in at the beginning, as is my usual practice. I start out afraid the story won't make sense unless I do, then calm down with each successive draft. I could probably do a bit more removal...and have already decided on a couple of thing that didn't need to be detailed, it's getting there.

I also had a huge synopsis of Ilithium 4, the movie Casey starred in, that was completely superfluous...and would actually have been problematic. The Alice '65 should parallel Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, in a vague way, but talking about the movie and the book it was based on and the book the book was based on shifted the whole emphasis in ways that were out it came.

I did get bits of the movie in, however, because even though Adam does not want to watch it, he has to in order to keep the brat in the seat next to him asleep. If he turns the movie off, the brat wakes up and looks like he might vomit on him, again. So Adam is forced to endure watching a hideous film adaptation of a book he loves...twice.

But at least it introduces Casey well before he meets her and sets up just how beautiful she is.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

I'm being that writer, again...

Today was spent tossing out the first chapter of The Alice '65 and completely reworking it. Hopefully, it is not as busy as the previous one...but I'm open to feedback...'cause here's the first 4 pages --

Oh, and just for the fun of it...imagine Adam being played by Matthew Lewis as he goes from this... this, through the course of the story...


When Adam Verlain set off for work at 7:35 am, he expected it the be a typical Monday. He wore his usual suit and tie, his hair having been neatened by his monthly visit to the barber, and carried a rucksack holding a sandwich, a bottle of water, and a copy of Kristin Lavransdatter to read on the underground. He caught the 7:46 from Epping, changed for St. Pancras at Liverpool Street, had a brisk five minute walk and arrived in his cubicle at 8:54 to start up his computer. As usual, he was the first one there.

His job was archiving rare and antiquarian books for Merryton College in London. This was neither the oldest nor best known of England's schools, but it had a good reputation in the liberal arts and sciences world, and while their library of such volumes was anything but the largets, it was more than respectable. It was even housed in its own climate controlled extension of the old chapel.

Adam had joined with them straight out of university, almost seven years ago, his specialty being codices, incunabula and manuscripts, in German, Latin, or Greek ... and he loved working there. Loved investigating when a particular book was printed or written, by whom or for whom, who had first owned it, who its later owners were, when and how often it sold at auction -- everything one could imagine. He could become so engrossed in his research, were someone to ask him something, he would look at them with the expression of a curious cat, remove his glasses, look at them a moment longer and then say, "Sorry? What did you ask me?" As if he had been in a separate world and had to remind himself to rejoin this one.

He had his own cubicle in the old chapel, one of four set in the center of the shadow-riven three-hundred year-old room. Its flagstone floor was partially covered by a well-worn Persian carpet, and the arched, wooden ceiling was held in place by intricately carved beams and braces, unchanged since first put in place. An iron candelabra with electric bulbs in the shape of fire hung from the center beam, directly over the cubicles, giving the room a dark, aged feeling of mystery, enhanced by how the tall slim windows of cut leaded glass in colorful images allowed only a little soft light to pass through.

This particular Monday, he was finishing the provenance on a truly elegant copy of Orlando Furioso. It was an edition printed in the early Nineteenth Century that had been presented to King Victor Emmanuel, in 1866, prior to the Third Italian War for Independence. Vincent, the library's supervisor, a man with the age and appearance of a Victorian ghost, had dismissed the book as unimportant, but it was printed in Latin and Adam found indications the book might have been a gift to Pope Pius IX on his selection to the papacy, twenty years earlier. He focused so tight on trying to confirm the story, it got him in some difficulty with Vincent.

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

Adam had huffed. Granted, the book was bound in bright red Morocco leather and the gold trim and was overdone, but the possibility of a pope presenting it to a king at a time of major political upheaval was more than worth the effort. So he had responded with, "Sir, I have never believed any book is inconsequential."

Causing Vincent to jolt ramrod straight and snarl in his worst Oxford attitude, "Nor is this one more consequential than any others on the shelf! Be done with it! We've dozens more acquisitions to archive and no funds to do it, thanks to the board's maniacal purchasing." Then he had stormed off.

That was on Friday, last. Now it was Monday, and Adam had dug as deep as he could to find nothing but suggestions and hints about the book's history, so as his computer continued to merely contemplate the possibility of making itself available, he picked the book up and casually read the opening canto aloud:

Of loves and ladies, knights and arms, I sing, 
Of courtesies, and many a daring feat; 
And from those ancient days my story bring, 
When Moors from Africa passed in hostile fleet, 
And ravaged France, with Agramant, their king, 
Flushed with his youthful rage and furious heat; 
Who on King Charles’, the Roman Emperor’s head, 
Had vowed due vengeance for Troyano dead.

"You're a lovely little book," he sighed to it. "Probably just the right item for a pope to give a king before a war. So don't think I'm giving up on you; I'll unlock the last of your mysteries, eventually."

He set the book on his desk and swiveled in his chair to look around. He shook his head at how the bland chrome and rug-covered cubicle walls clashed with the elegant shadows, aged wood and stained glass that had once dominated the room. He had long believed something could be done to make it less incongruous.

"Remove these hideous work-spaces and add desks to the four corners," he thought. "Perhaps a large general table in the center, under the candelabra. There might be some old chairs in storage to put around them, something in the same vein. That would be more in line with how the room prefers to be seen."

He rubbed a slim bandage on his chin, evidence of a rougher-than-usual football match with his mates, on Saturday, and gazed at a nearby play of gentle, colorful, sparkling dust caught in light filtering through a window. He decided to write up a plan for Vincent to consider and turned to make a note ... and a whispery sense of dislocation washed over and around and through him, as though the space he occupied existed only as a hint of a dream. He both knew it and did not know it ... had been here yet had not been here ... and almost felt like he was floating as he sat in his chair, his three-and-a-half blank walls barely visible to him. It wasn't until Elizabeth, the young woman in the cubicle next to his, burst in that he jolted out of the sensation.

He watched her whirl up to her cubicle, remove her coat and sling it over the top of her half-wall. "Has Vincent been in, yet?" she asked him as she pulled her hair into a ponytail.

Adam shook his head. "You're safe. It's just on nine."

"Thanks." Then she vanished behind her wall and he heard her cry, "Bloody hell, my computer won't wake up."

That is when Adam's computer flashed that it would now allow him access to the database.

"Mine just now came on," he said. "Took its time."

"Bloody figures. Well, Vincent can't say anything if I don't have access to the database." Then she got up and headed for the kitchenette.

Adam smiled. This was nothing but a job to her. Granted, she specialized in Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century literature, and the regents were expanding that section of their library, but it was obvious she was not a book person. He doubted she ever would be ... but he was open to helping her learn, if she wanted. After all, she was rather pretty.

I like driving...

Drove down to NYC on Wednesday; picked up a print, some books and an art vase; and drove back Thursday. It was cold but not freezing, with bright sunshine going down and rain most of the way coming back...and I felt really at peace. I listened to some Depeche Mode and, get ready for it -- Yanni. By the end of the drive, my brain felt totally relaxed.

I did the drive and the collections like I wanted to, not like how it was suggested, and it worked out fine. This is when I feel most in control and at ease...rolling down a freeway. I think I do have some gypsy in me. Or maybe it's the Viking blood. I dunno.

What it mainly does is let my mind switch into gear on a subconscious mode and lets me work things out on my projects. Lets me think of possibilities instead of all the things that seem aligned against me...something I'm too prone to focus on.

Today I spent getting the items ready to ship and paperwork caught up on, not to mention emails, and then came home to watch a couple episodes of Vera, with Brenda Blethyn and David Leon. Like a little holiday.

I'm ready to get back onto The Alice '65 and get it completed to the point where I'm ready to get feedback on it. The spine of the story is solid, and some of the form is there; it just needs some muscle and maybe a rearranging of a few bones before the skin is brushed on. Like a painting, I suppose.

Layers are what makes it work, not just the foundation.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Who needs pictures?

I did some video of Niagara Falls, on Sunday, and figure this is a better idea of how intense they are...

I'm on a quickie job in New Jersey -- hop down, pick up some books and a painting and return to Buffalo. All last minute. Drove all day and am tired.

April's gonna be a busy month...

Monday, March 27, 2017

Amazing trash...

I watched Attack of the Giant Leeches and The Phantom from 10,000 Leagues...and tried to watch The Beast with 1,000,000 Eyes, but that one was too self-important to be trashy fun and the opening monologues bored me. The first two had some amazingly bad acting and ludicrous scripts, not to mention hysterical monsters -- the leeches looked like men in Hefty garbage bags with donuts along one side -- but they were quick and merciless, and they reconfirmed my belief the most important parts of a film are its script and actors.

So to clear my mind of them, I watched a special program on Acorn about David Suchet's years as Hercule Poirot. It discussed how he's played the little Belgian detective in adaptations of all 70 of Agatha Christie's books and short stories, including a darker version of Murder on the Orient Express. It was a lovely little program, and I've seen some of his work in the series; he does do well as Poirot.

I'm enjoying Acorn. I signed up to watch the new And Then There Were None and stayed on, since it cost me $5 a month and I've seen some interesting mysteries -- like Vera, with Brenda Blethyn playing a Detective Chief Inspector who's anything but lovable -- and some that were questionable -- like their take on Miss Marple having modern sexual mores worked into the plots -- and one that was awful -- the reworking of The Witness for the Prosecution. But they've all been well-produced...probably on minimal budgets.

I also printed up a copy of The Alice '65 -- 246 pages, 62,000 words. Having a printed copy in front of me usually helps me settle the story. I'm not working on it till Saturday, but it's important to me to actually see something tangible to show how much I've done...and here it is. Next comes the slashing and trashing and gnashing of teeth...

...which I think calls for a bottle of wine...yes...

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Odd day...

I drove the long way to Niagara Falls, today, along the 384, then walked around and took some photos and video (will share some, tomorrow). After a couple of hours, I drove to Rochester for BBQ. There's a restaurant called Sticky Lips that's fairly good...well, good enough for a 60 mile trip each way if you're dying for decent brisket; there's nothing like that in Buffalo. But it felt right, getting out of the apartment and just wandering.

What made the day odd was...I started thinking about a couple of short scripts I'd written and how they would work nicely up in this area. One's called I Watch You and is about someone obsessed with a young married couple, with a twist -- it's a woman focused on the husband and not caring the wife is pregnant. I've been told this is the creepiest thing I've ever written.

I was trying to a form of video poetry mixing words and images and such but let it go because it's over 20 pages long. It would still probably wind up as a 15 minute piece, but it would be a lot of work to produce...and probably not cheap. I'd need a maternity store, a fine-dining restaurant, and a print shop to shoot in, not to mention a townhouse. And there's an alley behind the restaurant, which in and of itself isn't so difficult, but it all needs to be as if shot off an iPhone and spyware. At least 3 dozen short, quick setups.

The other is Unfinished Business...which I had almost decided to blend into my script, Mine To Kill. And may, yet. MTK is about an empathic-intuitive intern who was fired from his first hospital because he sensed the cop he was working on was a bastard. The man died and he was blamed. He gets another chance at a hospital where his cousin works as a resident, and he falls into the same situation -- this time with a cruel lawyer and his wife, a brilliant research doctor who was obsessed with the man. The lawyer dies and the wife thinks she can bring him back to life...but only if she kills the intern.

It was a bit too incoherent to work, really. A friend of mine said it was two movies -- the intern's and the wife's -- and I ought to pick one or the other to tell. I tried, and lost interest.

UB, however, is also about a young intern, though this one just lost his first patient. Then he is forced to save the live of a wounded criminal or be killed...and do it without any tools or medicine. He barely manages to. I tried to make it as suspenseful as I could...and think I did. Got some good feedback on it.

Anyway, IWY kept nudging me throughout the day. As I walked around the Falls. As I drove to and from Rochester. I'm not sure why since I have so much to work on with my books...but it didn't stop.

And I'm halfway wondering what it would cost to make...and make good...

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Another preliminary first draft done...

I just finished another run through The Alice '65 and now have no idea what the story is about. After all the cutting and adding and rearranging throughout what I'd already done, I don't even know if it holds together, anymore. All I can do is keep working on it and honing it down till it begins to make sense.

I'm taking tomorrow off from writing. I may watch a bunch of bad movies -- like Attack of the Giant Leeches and Phantom from 10,000 Leagues and crap like that to clear my head. I saw them as a kid in San Antonio, on Midnight Movies -- that was the precursor to Mystery Science Theater 3000 and Elvira, Mistress of the Dark (who actually made a fun movie in 1988 with a hunk of a guy who couldn't act but was lovely to look at), and would actually start at midnight on a Saturday night.

I saw most of the Hammer horror Films and Corman's crap on those shows, and enjoyed them even though they were silly...well, for the most part...but the latter two were all about the comments and remarks made by the hosts. Which were also silly but a blast.

I also saw some pretty good B-grade horror/suspense films -- like William Castle's I Saw What You Did and The Tingler...which was obviously influenced by Henri-Georges Clouzot's Diabolique -- but I didn't know that till I got to see Diabolique at the Olmos Theater after it became a revival house and played it on a double bill with Wages of Fear...and the only reason I went is because I was taking French in college and wanted to test my ability.

Anyway, trash is good for someone like me, who has a lofty idea of what film should be, even though half the time I just want to see if a good-looking man's in a tighty-whitie. (Snork)

Friday, March 24, 2017

Off to NYC...

Got a last-minute pickup in NYC, next week, and solidified a job just outside Oklahoma City, of all places, for the end of April. Another job is set for late July or early August in San Francisco, and another is happening in Daytona Beach, Florida. I'm back to flying around, again...and I can't wait. I do not like being in the office.

I don't feel I'm doing much. I try, but the woman I work under is one of those people who thinks it's better if she just does things herself. Even when I get her to to give me a task, if I don't do it fast enough for her, she just takes it back. It's an odd feeling, like you're a total incompetent. Which makes me think I have to be even more careful when I set up a shipment...which usually makes me prone to mistakes.

I'm not really all that in tune with how things work in logistics -- it takes someone who's heavy into detail, which I am not -- but I've handled a few shipments all on my own and they've gotten where they needed to go. That's good.

Ahh, the hell with it. I did a quick check of last year's income and profit, and worked out that I paid for myself with the packing jobs we at least I'm not a drain on the company. I'd love to be back in LA...sometimes I get so homesick for it...but it doesn't look like I'll have anything happening there anytime soon...and you do what you have to in order to make your way, don't you?

And the truth is, if I were still there, I'd still be writing scripts instead of books. The Vanishing of Owen Taylor would never have been completed, and I'd never have developed A65 into a story. I can also use the isolation of this town to help me focus on getting P/S done, once I've finished this one. I'm actually ready to get started and build a full first draft.

But God I miss LA.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Another story in the manner of A65

This is the full movie if you want to see it; the opening dialogue is a bit out of sync, but once Hildy gets into Walter Burns' office, it's fine.

This is a comedy revolving around the pending execution of a man and the disgraceful actions of a group of reporters and politicians and an editor and his ex-wife spar over their previous marriage. It's also a suicide attempt in it, and a crazy little guy who shoots a man as he's the ass, granted, but still... let the games in The Alice '65 begin.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Not sure about this...

The Alice 65 has taken a pretty dark turn, and I'm not sure how I feel about it. It's not a major part of the story -- just deals with a difficult relationship Adam's having with one of his brothers, Connor -- but it's got me wondering if I should adjust the whole family dynamic.

Right now, Adam is the youngest in the family...but I'm thinking of switching it so he's the oldest. Then comes Beryl. Then comes Connor, with David last of the brood. Connor is always getting at Adam and angering him and flustering him. He even almost got Adam drowned, when they were kids. At the end, after it's already been splashed everywhere about what happened to the book, Connor calls Adam to berate him. People in his office are laughing at him because of Adam.

Now that, in and of itself is no big deal; it's Adam's reaction that startled me. He as much as suggests Connor tell people they aren't really brothers. That Adam's a mentally defective child who was adopted by the family. And he does it in such a casual way, it's like he's decided he and Connor are no longer related...and Connor, being all about himself, runs with it.

I'm not sure how I feel about that. This was supposed to be a romantic comedy but it keeps dragging shadows into it...and not at my urging. I'm halfway tempted to fight them...but then I think of a movie like The Apartment, that's a dramatic comedy about a twerp who lets his bosses use his apartment to cheat on their wives in hopes it will help him get ahead...and it does. Until he falls in love with a girl on the elevator only to learn she's seeing his uber-boss, who's married and wants to use his apartment to fool around on his wife...with that girl.

Parts of it are very funny with some wicked lines, but it's got a vicious attitude about morality in America and there's a suicide attempt treated full-on honestly. Everything about it is grounded in the reality that its lead character is a brown-nosing pimp who needs to become a mensch...a nice the face of the casual corruption around him. And yet, it's fun.

Maybe that's what my characters and story are aiming for...

Sunday, March 19, 2017


I'm at the point where I'm trimming out some bits of nonsense and shifting other bits to other places. I'm also removing repetition and finding there are other sections that, while they don't exactly repeat they are a bit too similar to work well.

For example, I have Casey tell Adam about her father, a swindler who vanished with millions of her money as well as other people's. But then I have Patricia, Casey's mother, also tell some about him...and it's not different enough to be adding details but is more like a different view of what happened. I'm not sure, yet, which one of them should do the talking about that or even if it's necessary for Adam to know. Being written in third person, I can discuss it without telling him.

I'm also still adding details in -- like coming back to a book Adam was archiving at the very beginning. It's a copy of Orlando Furioso in Latin, and he can't figure out if the book was owned by a Pope, who then gave it to a King. An off-handed comment by Casey about Lando helps Adam realize how to determine the truth behind it.

And then there's Lando never not wearing sunglasses, even in the theater during the premier of the movie. And Adam not realizing what's going on during the red carpet word-war between Casey, Lando and Veronica but still managing to say the right thing even though he means something else.

I also need to work Sean and Shawn, the paparazzi twins, into the story better, as well as Adam's relationship with this brothers and sister, since it figures into the story. And...what Casey hopes to achieve by using Adam like she's doing. Man, there's a LOT left to do.'s moving forward, and that's a good thing.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Pushing forward...

I've been working late, all week, and getting home with headaches, so today I focused on nothing but The Alice '65...and it's closer. I'm now at about 60,000 words, with more bits added in that will need to be smoothed over to fit the story. I will have no idea if anything is working until I get to a point where I think I've done enough and decide to print it out and do my red pen thing.

That's when I normally start honing the story. It breaks me out of the screen and I'm almost reading the words as if written by someone else. Then I can edit and rearrange and cut and work with the characters to make it better and tighter and more real.

As of right now, I've just got a lot of action and a bit of truth to the characters. Adam's stumbling along well enough, and Casey's not far behind; it's characters like Vincent and Patricia and Lando who are still not really there, yet. Just involved witnesses to the events when they should be more active participants. Patricia's closest to being developed, since she's Casey's mother and also a lonely woman. I rather enjoy the ending she gets in the book.

The others -- well...Lando still doesn't quite make sense to me. He needs a better through line. And Vincent popped up with something at the end that makes me want to rework his bits at the beginning. Something that also makes him more willing to have The Alice checked to make certain it's authentic. I'm not sure I like it, considering everything else, but I have to let it play itself out.

I'm still approaching this as if it's a romantic-comedy...but by the time I'm done, I have a feeling it will not be what I expected. The drama seems to be pushing its way in, more -- Casey's history and Adam's father's death having an impact on the family, that sort of stuff. So it may wind up merely a romance...I dunno.

Nor do I care, so long as the book is happy.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Different tastes...

I read an interesting article on acting, online, and this guy -- who's supposedly a director and producer -- took issue with what I call stunt acting. That's when an actor does something physically intense and over the top to prove he's an actor. I lump Eddie Redmayne, Dustin Hoffman, Tom Hanks and Jack Nicholson in this category for the Oscars they've won.

Redmayne playing Stephen Hawking was a bit of stunt acting. Good, but more physically impressive than revealing of character. Same for Daniel Day Lewis in My Left Foot and Hoffman in Rain Man. Both geared to the external limitations of their characters -- one due to his body, the other due to his mind -- that were neither subtle nor revealing.

That doesn't apply to all stunt acting. When I saw Leonardo DeCaprio playing a kid with cerebral palsy in What's Eating Gilbert Grape, I believed him in that character so completely, I think he was robbed at the Oscars.

It sort of fits in with my disagreements with actors about who is good and bad in a film. I once had a long discussion with some friends who thought Brendan Fraser should have been nominated for Gods and Monsters. I thought he was good, but he didn't earn his emotion breakdown near the end. His voice was flat, to me. They insisted I was wrong.

Another one is Kristen Stewart. I've heard her referred to as the best actor of her generation, but what little I've seen her in, she's one-note and boring. I see nothing going on with her or her characters, and her voice is like a drone. She's not interested in bringing a whole person to you.

I like actors who can keep you guessing as to what their reasons are, even as they reveal their characters. To me, one of the best jobs of acting I've ever seen was Sir Ralph Richardson in The Heiress. He's a cold man who probably blames his daughter for his beloved wife dying in childbirth, but at the same time he's trying to protect her from a fortune hunter. Or...he might be doing all he can to thwart her happiness, as punishment for living. You don't know, but he sends you the man's complexity with the slightest of movements -- an arched eyebrow, a polite smile with a subtle change of tone in his voice... It's a master class in acting, unto itself.

Same for Diane Keaton and Meryl Streep in Norman's Room. Both were majors stars when this movie was made, yet by the end of the first act, you forget you're watching actors and instead feel like you're witnessing people's lives, because every bit of their performance was geared to bringing you a whole human being, not just part of one.

Oh, well, I guess this is why I never was cut out for acting -- my reality is too warped to bring anyone else's reality into the world.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Write the book, first...

By the time I get done with The Alice '65, it will be nearly nothing like the script I initially wrote. Well...not exactly; the structure is still basically the same. It's just, as I work on the details of how events unfold in this new version, I learn things about the characters that would have been lovely in the screenplay...and other characters help keep the story just enough off-center to make it not only interesting but unusual.

At least, I hope so. I've been wrong, before.

For example -- by adding one little moment on the plane, where Adam's seatmate paints a henna tattoo on his left hand after her son vomited on him (and after he's cleaned himself up) has become a running gag. Super style guru Orisi sees it and has her tracked down to do the other hand...which leads to her knowing Adam will be at the premier so she brings her husband, who's a Casey Blanchard fanatic, and they treat Adam so much like he's famous, the other people in the premier crowd start thinking he is, taking attention away not only from Lando when he arrives...but also Casey as she's doing her celebrity thing...and getting a bit miffed, none of which Adam intends...or notices.

And there's more to come.

God only knows when I'll get this done...

Oh...and The Lyons' Den will be available in paperback as of Wednesday, the 15th, through Amazon.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Reworked the reworking of my reworking...

New opening to The Alice '65...
The first printing of Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland is so rare, only twenty-four copies are known to still exist. So for any bibliophile, it would be a dream to be sent to Los Angeles to pick up a newly discovered copy, and Adam Verlain was the epitome of one. Granted, he was not yet thirty, and while trim, he was hardly thin, but he always wore a suit and tie, with hair cut neat and easy, and he had a clean, open face that gave him the look of an inquisitive cat behind pharmacy-bought reading glasses. There was also a vague aura of otherworldliness to him, as if he were always caught in some contemplation that was so deep and intense, the world nearly ceased to exist around him. Had he shown up on the owner's doorstep, they would instantly have pegged him as a person who belonged in a library, or some such career ... with which Adam would agree; for as he often said, books were his life. Meaning, he was the perfect person to make the journey.

But he did not want to go.

To begin with, his job was to archive antiquarian volumes for a private college in London. Also, his area of expertise was incunabula and codices from the Fourteenth, Fifteenth and Sixteenth Centuries; it would have made far more sense to send his colleague, Elizabeth, a recent hire set up in in the cubicle next to his and whose focus was 19th and 20th Century works ... and that was not because he rather fancied her; he knew from the first day she was hardly what one would call a book person. At least, not yet. But she was pretty and confident, and would say all of the right things to the book's owner, so she would have made a fine ambassador for the college.

Then there was Vincent, head of their small but growing antiquarian book collection, a role he had occupied for untold decades ... mainly because he had started it and no one was as knowledgeable about manuscripts as he. However, Vincent was at least twice Adam's age and already had the appearance of a Victorian ghost, so the trip would have been difficult for him. That said, he wasn't exactly at death's door and his arrival would have imparted a true sense of the book's importance.

Of course, if one wished to be simplistic, all they really needed was a body that was halfway human to do the job, so their photographer, Jeremy, would have sufficed. Almost. He was young and full of himself and would love a day or two in Southern California. But he was also had tattoos on his tattoos and piercings ... well, God knows where; not quite the image the college would want to project.

So the choice was Adam. But had he known this was how his Monday would turn out, well ... he had a month of sick leave coming to him, and he'd have taken every day of it to avoid being tapped for the journey. However, by the time he realized what was happening, it was too late to change course -- not without quitting a job he loved.

A job he would arrive for at eight-fifty-two, every morning, to be in his cubicle with his computer fired up by nine, sharp. By that point, he would either have chosen a fresh book from the "new arrivals" cart to archive or he would be reminding himself where he let off from a book he was working on, the evening before. Jammed into a corner behind him, a sturdy corner table would hold whatever notes were needed to accompany his work, as well as any other documents, all very easy to spin around in his chair to retrieve and glance over.

He would break for tea at 10:55, lunch at 1pm, a second tea at 3:55 and head for home at 5:30. Well, except for the occasions where he got so caught up in researching a fascinating or unusual volume, he would look up from his computer or notes and realize it was five and he'd had neither lunch nor tea ... or, just often, it was nearly seven, the cleaning crew had arrived, and he was late for his mother's dinner.

That happened twice, last week, with a truly elegant copy of Orlando Furioso. In Latin. It had been presented to King Victor Emmanuel, in 1866, not long before the Third Italian War for Independence, and there were indications the book was first given to Pope Pius IX on his selection to the papacy, twenty years earlier. His focused so tight on trying to confirm it, he got in some difficulty with Vincent.

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

Adam had huffed. Granted, the book was re-bound in a plain red Morocco with overdone gold trim and was a bit worn, but it was still in fine condition and the possibility of a pope presenting it to a king at a time of major upheaval was more than worth the effort. So he had responded with, "Sir, I have never believed any book is inconsequential."

Causing Vincent to jolt ramrod straight and bring out the worst of his Oxford attitude as he snarled, "Nor is this one more consequential than any others on the cart! Be done with it! We've dozens more acquisitions to archive and no funds to do it."

That was on Friday, last. Adam had already decided he'd dug as deep as he could, finding nothing but suggestions and hints about the book's history, so he planned to do little more than polish up his provenance and, well, be done with it. Still, since his computer continued to contemplate the possibility of making itself available, he picked the book up from the table and casually read the opening canto aloud, translating from the Latin:

Of loves and ladies, knights and arms, I sing,
Of courtesies, and many a daring feat;
And from those ancient days my story bring,
When Moors from Africa passed in hostile fleet,
And ravaged France, with Agramant, their king,
Flushed with his youthful rage and furious heat;
Who on King Charles’, the Roman Emperor’s head,
Had vowed due vengeance for Troyano dead.

"You're a lovely little book," he sighed to it. "Probably just the right item for a pope to give a king before a war. So don't think I'm giving up on you; I'll unlock the last of your mysteries, eventually."

Friday, March 10, 2017

Doing tedious work on A65

I'm plowing back into the tedious part of reworking The Alice '65...shifting the last of it from first to third person. It takes some writing effort, but mostly it's making sure I get rid of all the "I" aspects of the narrative bits to replace with "he, she, they and the like." It's hard, and even glancing back through what I've already done I find moments where I missed bits in need of reworking.

I'm also wondering if I'm approaching the point where there's too much going on? I'm still of a mind that the more I put in, the better...just so I can keep it from becoming too serious. It's a rom-com with dramatic bits...and I can always trim back. I dunno...I'm having fun and that's the main thing.

The New York Book Fair is now underway, so things will be quiet, this weekend...till move-out Sunday night. I'm in Buffalo while everyone else is dealing with the freezing cold in NYC, which is supposed to get even worse, Sunday night. After this comes the London Book Fair as the next big one, but it seems fewer and fewer dealers are attending the fairs.

Paris used to be fair-sized -- a couple dozen US and UK dealers being taking into it by us -- but this year, no Americans are going, and only a few Brits. Things are changing, thanks to the non-stop political turmoil all over the place, and won't stop anytime soon. Our own insanity in Washington and too many state capitols is proving how stubborn people can be when they decide to refuse to face the reality of the GOP's cruelty and greed.

Doesn't help the Democrats are flopping around giving very little push-back, with a few exceptions...

Thursday, March 9, 2017

You never know how it will go...

I'm back to work on A65, and the bit where Adam get s a henna tattoo on the flight to LA has suddenly expanded and added to the chaos that builds around him. Makes his adventures seem even more like he's in the topsy-turvy world of Wonderland. It's also helped a couple of plot points, as has Patricia giving Adam some of her cookies. Special cookies. Only for her, not Casey. And he winds up stoned and drunk and goofy and brutally embarrassed.

What's that Jefferson Airplane song?

One pill makes you larger
And one pill makes you small
And the ones that mother gives you
Don't do anything at all.
Go ask Alice, when she's ten feet tall.

Or were they Jefferson Starship, by this point? I don't remember and don't care enough to look it up. Grace Slick sang it, no matter what the band's name.

Of course, that is a bit of a cheat. Except...I don't see it as taking away Adam's control or decisions. He's already agreed to go with Casey to the premier. Of course, she doesn't tell him about the party at Lando's, afterwards, but that's part and parcel of the evening. And by the time he's supposed to be making his own decisions, he's no longer stoned.

God, I hope this story's going to turn out fun and not merely chaotic.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Another step done...

I got the PDF proof of LD and it looked good, so I ordered a physical copy. That should arrive in a few days, and it it looks okay, The Lyons' Den will be available for sale in paperback at $10.99. I've already sold some ebooks through Smashwords, and while I wasn't planning on doing the Kindle thing till the beginning of May, I'm thinking of putting it off...depending on how this goes. I hope this new cover and lower price will give it new life.

I'm also up to date on all my Bowker ISBN information. Retailers can look up books through them to verify information, and some of my info was out-dated. Not no more. It's mind-numbing work...but now it's done and all I will need to do is input the Kindle version of LD once I issue it. Then...once the paperback is available...comes wrangling Amazon into line. That...I do not look forward to.

But at least I can shift back to The Alice '65 and get that ready. I have a pile of notes to add to it along with ideas on how to expand its "lost in Wonderland" feel. For example, Adam gets a henna tattoo on his left hand during the flight to LAX, which infuriates Orisi (the style guru brought in by Casey)...until he realizes he knows the artist so has her come do the right hand. I may have him bring her into the bathroom as Adam is soaking in the tub. A shy guy suddenly naked before a married punkette and her child...and maybe her punk husband. Of course, this all snowballs into later complications and insanity.

Seems I love having my characters either be insane or be surrounded by it. I wonder that says about me? I can be crazy. Even a bit self-destructive. I do still wonder why the hell I'm not further along in my chosen career, sometimes, and can only say it's probably because I consistently take the wrong path. When I should go left, I go right. When I should stop, I plow forward. And I take far too long to figure it out, once it's happened.

It's the dyslexic in me.

Monday, March 6, 2017

I just can't...

Not today. Been rough and all I can wonder is -- Where's Bugs Bunny when we need him?
He'd make mince meat of that krazy klown kult in the White house and Congress.
And how.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Telling a good story...

I read this in one of Wrtie-To-Done's postings. He was discussing what makes a good book with a friend over lunch. It think I already do this, but you never really know...

This is number one. Good, strong, well-developed characters are a must. We don't always have to like them, but they should stir some emotion in us from beginning to end. Personally, I prefer at least one likable character - a hero, if you will. Who wants to spend a few days or longer with someone they don't like or admire? I guess those folks are out there, but I'm not one of them. Strong characters? Lee Child's protagonist, Jack Reacher, comes to mind as well as Robert Crais's, Joe Pike. Lawrence Sanders's, Edward X. Delaney was another terrific guy you'd want on your side. How about Agatha Christie's, Hercule Poirot? I'll throw in my guy, Salem Reid, for good measure.

Stephen King may be the master at building solid characters. While less heroic usually, they are often regular folks that we can all relate to as King describes them in his folksy style.

An author can have a great story to tell, but if the characters are not interesting or inspiring, the book will not work.

Does it move? Does it flow? Is there action? Important questions. I prefer books that grab my attention in the first chapter. Hooked, I think the term is. Of course, there are other concerns. Is there consistency in the story? Did the girl with green eyes in chapter 4 end up with blue eyes in chapter 25? Not good, but it happens, you know. But my friend and I agreed that one of the most important aspects about a story is this: Does it make you think, feel, or re-assess your opinion or view about something? Did we learn something of value? And finally, the ending. If you're like me, you've read a number of books that were really engaging throughout just to be disappointed at the end of the story because the ending was poor. Maybe it was contrived or unrealistic. Perhaps it didn't end well for our favorite character, or we were left hanging. So endings are crucial to how we think about the book once we've finished. A lame ending to a novel can ruin an otherwise quality effort.

Dialogue is number three for me. Witty, clever, and thoughtful banter between characters makes a book come alive. I've heard it said that dialogue drives the story. Joseph Wambaugh creates some great characters in his books. The two surfer cops, Flotsam and Jetsam, who debut in "Hollywood Station", are hysterical. Their dialogue with each other while cruising the seedy streets of Hollywood is some of the best I've encountered.

The four teenage boys in Stephen King's "The Body" are so real to me because I had those same conversations with my young friends in my youth - it's the way young guys talk to each other. And it's timeless; nothing has changed over the years on that score in terms of content.
So slick dialogue moves the book along and keeps us turning pages.

Style is number four for me. A writer that can make you feel that you are "right there" with the characters, involved in the action and setting, is a talented writer indeed. Use of metaphor is the first one that comes to mind, and Gillian Flynn in "Gone Girl" used this tool wonderfully throughout the book.

Humor is my favorite though. I recently read "Casting Shadows Everywhere" by LT Vargus and Tim McBain. I laughed on damn near every page. It was Beavis and Butthead colliding with "Catcher in the Rye". But despite the humor, the book was pretty dark most of the way through, but these two witty and clever writers pulled it off.

So style points are huge.

It's worth mentioning that editing has some impact on the overall experience of reading a book too, but unless it is grossly flawed, stumbling through a few errors here and there is mostly tolerable. I want people to tolerate the ones in my novels (and any I make in this blog, please). I've yet to see the perfect book, so I think most of us can be a little forgiving in that regard.

So to sum it up, characters, storyline, dialogue, and style are the aspects of writing that will send me back to read an author over and over again, or send me away for good if they can't pull it off.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Submitted the paperback...

After a long week and late nights at work and way too many headaches and a lot of reformatting at one in the morning, I finally submitted The Lyons' Den to Ingram Spark for printing. I won't find out till Monday or Tuesday if it works okay; they'll send me a PDF to check. If that's in order, then I get a paperback proof...and hopefully will not have to go through as many as I did for The Vanishing of Owen Taylor and Bobby Carapisi. I'd like to think I've learned how to do this, now...but the proof isn't there till you hold it in your hand. Pun intended.

The main issue stems from my programs being out of date or inadequate. My version of Word is a pain in the ass when it comes to numbering the pages. And when I save the text of the book into a PDF, it comes out as two separate sections, which have to be combined into one. But I can't do that on my Mac; I have to take it into work and link them since we have that version of Adobe there. I could shift the text from Word to a PDF at work and have it come out as one file, but that program won't embed all of the fonts...which is required. So I do it piecemeal.

As for the cover art, if I lay it onto the form Spark sends, it gets rejected for having ICC color codes. I have to upload the artwork on its own for it to be acceptable. But I think that makes it easier for the cover to shift and wind up off center, an issue I had with OT.

Oh, least it's on the first stage of the journey. I hope to have it okay'd for publishing by the 15th. Then I can turn back to The Alice '65 and something fun.

Last night after work, I met with my CPA and did my taxes. I don't owe as much as I did, last year, because I wound up making less. Which is, I suppose, at least a bit of a positive. But it blows what little progress I made in my debts, this year.

I must be a real artist; I have no idea how to handle money...

Monday, February 27, 2017

Ebook is comes the fun...

The Lyons' Den is now available in ebook through Smashwords and should prove interesting. I've got the paperback cover pretty much set so just need to start work with Ingram Spark to get it going. Then at the end of March, I'll set up a Kindle of the book. Once that's set, I'm back to The Alice '65...and then comes Place of Safety.

And once P/S is done? Who knows? I've got so many stories to turn into novels, I don't know where to begin...which is a silly thing to wonder about, at this point, because I've got a good year and a half of work ahead of me, already, in order to make just these books work.

Of course, the next big deal is my taxes...which I'm putting off paying till I have to in hopes Czar Snowflake will be driven from office. A prospect that is seeming more and more remote because the GOP has fallen in line behind him, like the traitors they are. There is no excuse for those people or anyone who supports that organization. They are destroying this country and happily so.

We now have uniformed ICE officials demanding to see the papers of people departing a domestic flight, like this was Nazi Germany or Soviet Russia. Happened in San Francisco. I'm trying to find out if this is even legal, if they have the authority. It's my understanding they do not because it was not an international flight, but people went along with it. I'm trying to find out, and God only knows what I'll do if that happens to me.

I may wind up in jail...

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Bill Paxton 1955-2017

Bill Paxton died. Shit. He was supposed to be immortal. "Near Dark" was the first movie I saw him in, and this bar scene is a classic of terror. While Adrian Pasdar was prettier, in this movie, Bill scorched the screen.


Saturday, February 25, 2017

I guess this is it...

This is the best cover I can come up with, at the moment, and I like it but I'm not in love with it. The covers for OT, RIHC6 and PM felt right the second I had them done. My other books, the covers were okay...and that's how I'm feeling about this one....which is not how I thought I'd feel.

 I love the artwork Zan did...but I don't think I really worked it out in my head as to how it would come together, and so I'm only satisfied with the final result, not enamored.

It's got Daniel and his shower curtain and shirt, with the pistol and the money. It's got Ace brooding over his left shoulder in a near perfect rendition of the character. It's got a guy who can be seen as both Tad and Van over Daniel's right shoulder. It's got the lodge in the background. It's got the snow storm. And their expressions are pretty dead on.

But does it draw you into the story? Does it make you want to read the book? That is what a cover's supposed to do...and I don't know if it does. I tried adding a laptop in front of the window but that felt cluttered and obvious. I tried adding keys around the edges of the art, but that was even worse. I even tried adding the reflections of characters in the window, but that just made things murky.

Thing is, I don't know what else I could have done to exemplify what The Lyons' Den's about. It's completely chaotic and off-the wall...and how to you put that into a cover? Can you put that into a cover?

This is why I'm bad when it comes to advertising -- no idea what sells or how to sell, even after reading up like crazy on it.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017


I worked a bit more on the cover and it's closer to what I wanted. I think I was being too optimistic in thinking the art, alone, would sell the book. It's good, but LD is a wild, off-the-wall story and needs more on the cover to reflect that. Here's another possibility...

I'm thinking of putting the three guys on the other side of a window and grabbing some faces off the web to mess with then put their reflections in the glass. I've gotten a little feedback off Facebook friends and followers, so we'll see how it goes. If I want to release this anytime soon, I need to upload a cover to Smashwords on Saturday. I forgot they have lead-time before making the book available in an ebook.

I may do a place-holder cover, to get it going, and change it later. I've received compliments on the artwork; I just need to figure out how best to use it. Floating, translucent keys with faces in them? A different tag line? A writer trying to write...what could go wrong?

Or...maybe my whole concept is wrong and I need to figure something else out...which would really suck, because I paid for this art, and the artist is expecting to be the cover.

And dammit, I just plain like it.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Here we go...

I got the artwork and now have worked up a first pass on the cover. I would love to get some feedback on it...because it's not doing it for me...

Mainly because I feel like I'm doing something wrong with it. I like the art, and ZanVarin did exactly what I asked him to...but something feels incomplete. Like I'm missing a step, someplace, or a detail and it's screaming at me but I can't figure it out.

The artwork gives you a fair idea of what the story's about, but is it too big? Should I frame it smaller? Put it on the other side of a window? Get rid of the frame and bleed it off the edges?

The more I look at this mock up, the more I think I've arranged it wrong. The title is cute but not very easy to read. And the tag line at the bottom blends in too much. It's like it needs more black to breathe...

I have to think about this. I don't want to negate the off-beat aspects of the artwork. But I need to do it just right so the cover doesn't come across as amateurish.

Ideas are very much welcome.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

More waiting...

I was expecting to get the completed artwork for the cover of The Lyons' Den, today, but the artist begged for a couple more days. What'm I gonna say? "No, I want it now," and get something incomplete or half-assed? I know how hard art can be. Sometimes it just happens and sometimes it takes a while. So long as I have it by this weekend, I'm fine.

I've set LD up to publish as an e-book on March 1st and just need the cover image to make it complete. Then I'll pull the paperback together and have that going within the next week. It helps that the book had already been published, once, so I've got everything in order, already. The price is set at $10.99 for the paperback and $1.99 for the ebook.

I'm also trying to think up a good idea for the cover of The Alice '65. I'm starting early in the process so I can make it happen better. And maybe cheaper. I dunno...Zan's a great artist but I don't think he'd be right for that book. My first thought is -- upper body of Adam in the suit he wears to the premier, holding a copy of the book, his glasses and hair askew and tie undone, Casey's head propped up on his right shoulder, smiling, her eyes turned to him, with Gertrude, the black panther, nuzzling him on his left side.

I need to get back onto that book. Soon as I finish this beta read, which is going very slowly, I will. I'm 1/3 of the way through it and now know the main issue to contend with is the writer having two separate novels slammed into one -- a fantasy about a teenage girl whisked away to another world where she is destined for greatness, and the drama her grieving father and brothers are going through back home. First goal is to break those apart...and dispense with a sub-plot where the whole story is being told by an observer to his son.

Fortunately, that is one problem I've avoided in all my far.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Unconscious serendipity...

I'm Beta-reading a book for a fellow author, since she was kind enough to do it for me on OT, and I don't like it. The story doesn't get started until page 72; everything prior to that is unnecessary...and repetitive to the extreme. It's a sci-fi/fantasy work, as well, and while I can enjoy that genre, it's not my favorite. Plus, I know she wrote it and edited it very, very quickly. got me to wondering about The Vanishing of Owen Taylor and whether or not that's what I've done in the story. I had one Beta reader suggest starting the story when Jake arrives in Palm Springs and fill the rest in as he goes along, and I did try it...but I wound up keeping the lead-in with Jake meeting his stepmother in Paris. I think I got the set-up going good by the end of the first chapter, and that meeting and some things the woman said to him keep resonating throughout the story.

Still...I went back and reread some of it, just to see how it went. Make sure I wasn't deluding myself. And discovered I'd done a complete circle back to the beginning of the story. Not just referencing the meeting in Paris, but also referencing when Jake kneels before Tone and all but begs him to be honest with him. At the end, it's Tone kneeling before Jake and saving him from crashing into total being completely open and honest with him.

I didn't overtly plan that. Didn't even see it till today. And, son-of-a-bitch, it makes me fucking proud of what I wrote. But I don't consider this just an ego boost; to me, it's affirmation that I'm doing right by my stories. And will continue to do so.

And that's the problem I'm having with this book. I mean, I'll finish it and give her my notes, and hope they aren't too brutal. I'm not even considering talking about her style, and have only noticed a couple of typos, so those comments will be minimal. But it is viciously obvious to me that she's not listening to the characters. She's not letting the story flow through her. She's telling it what to do and it's fighting her...and I don't think she can see that. To be honest, I don't know if she ever will see that. And since these are not my characters, I can't force the issue. But it's sad to see them in turmoil.

And if that doesn't make you think I'm totally and completely off my rocker, nothing will.

Friday, February 17, 2017

One of those weeks...

Nothing has gone the way I wanted, this week. I'd hoped to have a new draft of A65 done to print out and red pen, but work interfered, massively. The California Book Fair kept me in the office till 7 and 8 pm, the first three days of the week, by which time I was starving so stuffed myself and felt bloated and irritable when I went to bed...and it's absurd.

I'm also faced with being told I'm doing things wrong at least twice a day, sometimes even though it's how I've been told to do them by one supervisor who didn't bother telling the other supervisor. Great confidence builder, if I needed it. I actually got so down, I considered quitting...but I can't. Not unless somebody's got $36,000 to lend me so I can get out of debt.

I also didn't get my phone back from Sprint till yesterday...and that took over an hour to settle because the clerk couldn't get the phone to connect to my account, or something. Also not a great builder of confidence. And while my info was saved on the cloud, I had to completely reinstall the apps I'd had on the old one -- Google Maps, Twitter, GMail, Messenger, etc. -- and log back into things like email and itunes and stuff.

So last night I splurged on Chili's ribs and a salad...and a half hour meal took over an hour thanks to crap service, capped by them not having Amstel Light or Corona when I really wanted one, but really pushing Bud Light, so I'm drinking Dr. Pepper and munching on chips...and I'm close to walking out.

Short story part of this -- I'm in a foul mood and that makes everything worse than it probably really is. Tonight, I came straight home at 5 and just vegetated. I did get another update on the artwork for LD, and it's looking that makes me happy. And I have a couple more ideas for A65. And was smart enough to stay away from it, because when I've got this kind of mood on, anything I write will be crap and that will just feed my sense of inadequacy.

So I'm sleeping in, tomorrow, and don't care that it's self-indulgent.