Derry, Northern Ireland

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

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

I be busy bee...

I just reworked my schedule for June and July...and it's pretty well packed with jobs in Toronto, Tallahassee, New Jersey, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and maybe Seattle. Of course, the two biggest jobs aren't set, yet -- one of three in San Francisco and the Seattle one -- but I'll still be doing a lot with the rest of them. I've still got two definites in the Bay Area, two definites in SoCal, Toronto is tomorrow morning, Florida next week, and New Jersey the week after. I had to do a printout just to keep track of myself.

Regarding LA, I'm set to be in Tarzana the 19th to the 21st and Sierra Madre the 22nd and 23rd. I won't have spare time during the day, but if anyone's open for dinner...I'm all for it. Especially Indian at India Grill or Tex-Mex at Marix. I'll post on Facebook, too, see if anyone still wants to see me.

I wound up working till nearly 8pm to get everything done, at the office, and built a nice hunger headache so haven't done anything on A65, really. Some notes here and there and checking the consistency of the chapter headings. In LD I worked up some cutsie titles for each chapter and while they fit the tone of that book, I don't think it would work for this one. It's like I'm trying to be just a bit too emphatic...and I don't want that. So I'm only numbering them. Right now I'm at Nine.

That's also page 135, meaning I'm over the halfway hump...but this chapter is going to be a bear to rework because I'm slicing out much of Casey's background and I don't want to. I want to figure out some way of having her tell him about herself in a manner that seems natural and not merely self-explanatory. Like how she helped Lando buy his house, and when she fell in love with him on a cable car in Cape Town. Would she share that with Adam, this quickly? I don't think so...

But I need it in there. That's the dilemma. It's time for Casey to begin revealing herself in order for the next section of the story not only to make sense but keep her from seeming like a bitch...

And make it understandable for Adam to be falling for her.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017


I seem to be edging up to 65,000 words for The Alice '65, and that feels right. Some characters keep expanding while others shrink. It's almost like playing chess with them, where some advance correctly and others stand aside to let them. So far none of them have been removed, completely, but you never know what will happen next.

Won't get much more done, the next couple of days; I'm off to Toronto for an overnight job on Thursday and have to leave at 6:30am. I considered getting a hotel and going up tomorrow night, just to avoid dealing with morning traffic, but there was nothing close by that was cheap enough to make it worthwhile. So I'll act like I'm doing a flight at oh-dark-thirty and bear it. Take a thermos of tea and nibbles.

Seems I joined Twitter to bitch and re-tweet anti-Republican motifs. My initial intention was to build interest in A65, but so far I've done 5 tweets about it. Same thing happened when I worked up Facebook pages for Adam and the script. I did some posting but don't know what to write now in order to gin up some support. Hell, I can't even get people who I know have read my books to give me reviews on Amazon, which wold help sales.

God...I suck as a salesman.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Plowing through...

I just finished Chapter Eight of A65 and hope to have this version done before my massive list of travels begins. I had Adam refused entry to the movie and unable to buy anything because he hasn't any American money, so he went outside to use a pay phone to contact his bank.  Rather than have him spending hours trying to get the bank to authorize use of his cash card in the US, he winds up being dragged into a bar by Manny and Julie, and has a blast while waiting for Casey's movie to finish its premier.

Just part of the controlled chaos of the story...that I'm still trying to keep locked into possibility. For example, the reason Manny and Julie are there is because Orisi told them about the premier and they came to see Adam. The reason he was able to tell them is because he had Julie tracked down to put a henna tattoo on Adam's right hand to match the left one. And the reason he had Julie's contact information was because Adam borrowed some of Manny's clothes and was going to send them back to them, once he was Julie wrote her address on one of her business cards.

Next comes the trip to Lando's party and the incident in the back yard...duh-duh-duuuuuuuuuh!

It all seems to be falling into place neatly enough...though I don't want it too neat. That's death to reality. There should always be a hint of sloppiness in whatever you do; it's what brings fictional situations to life. The hard part is keeping the sloppiness under control.

But that's the story of my life.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

A bit more...

I'm being lazy in posting these bits of A65 instead of writing a real blog, but it's all I'm thinking about, right now...well, that and the catastrophe that is the current administration. If America survives this and the GOP's treason, it will be the greatest country ever...but I'm not convinced that will happen.

Anyway, Adam is washed and henna'd and now faced with a complete make-over...and also a little stoned from Patricia's breakfast cookies...(and BTW -- his dog's name is albacore).


Once he felt clean, he dried off and found a comfortable bathrobe on a peg near the door, sandals in a pocket, so wrapped himself in them and took his place in the center of the office, once more. This time, half a dozen minions of Orisi stood at parade rest, all of them dressed in black turtlenecks, black trousers, black boots, and black haircuts. They looked so much alike, it was difficult to tell the lads from the lasses. The only part of them that moved was their eyes, which followed Orisi as he briskly circled Adam, snapping like a drill sergeant, "We got zero to start with, people, so face -- hair -- nails -- all of it gets built." The only time he stopped pacing was to yank the robe open to reveal Adam's chest and sneer, "No need to wax."

Adam just sighed and muttered, "Careful ... "

Orisi responded by spinning Adam around and yanking up the rear of his robe, snarling, "Ass, either."

Of course, that is when Patricia came in with another glass of juice and chirped, "Oh, my ... "

For some reason, Adam did not feel embarrassed or shaken. Instead, he merely closed his eyes and muttered, "It's for the Alice ... it's for the Alice ... "

It was Orisi who bounced from agitation. "Out, Patricia!" he screamed. "Out! You know Orisi don't do audiences."

Patricia merely smiled sweetly and responded, "You are so full of shit. And Adam needs another glass of juice."

"Thanks," Adam said. "Are you also washing my clothes?"

She gave him a laugh. "Honey, I told you -- I got no idea how the damn thing works."

"But ... but I need my y-fronts. I always wear y-fronts."

"And you still will," Orisi all but crowed as he held up a pair of black boxer-briefs. Very nice-looking. Quite comfortable, even ... except for the tiny silver and black sequins that made up a gloriously detailed fig leaf on the crotch.

Adam burst out a laugh. "You want to put glittery bits on my bits? Are you mental?"

The crew gasped.

Patricia scurried from the room.

Adam froze.

Orisi glared at him, a wolf-like snarl crossing his lips. He looked as if he were about to go for the throat, moving closer and closer. Without thinking, Adam backed away.

Orisi's voice became terrifying in its quiet control as his face returned to a shade of burnt umber. "Mental? Me? Son, that ain't possible, because I am Bernardo Giancarlo Michelangelo Orisi, not some fruit-loop from Montana, and you are MY man, now, so my rules apply, and you got no say in it. Therefore understand from this day forward, you will not eat on a night when you are going to be seen by anyone but your mirror. Nor, from this day forward, will you wash; you will cleanse, and you never, never, EVER utter the word soap in my presence, ever again. Nor will you just try things on, but from this day forward your clothing will be fitted to your frame. Every stitch of it! Because an Orisi man dresses from the skin out, beginning with designer briefs made from Egyptian cotton, with a thread count of twelve-hundred, min-i-mum. And understand this, as well -- if you ever, ever, EVER let plain white boxer briefs near your ass at any time in any way or any fashion, I personally will track you down and whip you to within an inch of eternity. And don't even begin to think I won't know, because I will. Do I make myself clear?" Then he whipped the briefs up, like a black flag.

Adam downed the orange juice in one gulp. And coughed. And reminded himself, "Es ist für die Alice. Es ist für die Alice. Es ist für die Alice." Then he took the sequined briefs and discretely pulled them on. They actually were quite comfortable ... except for how the sequined area felt odd against his crotch. Then he smoothed down his robe and stood back in the center of the room, still humming, "It's for the Alice. It's for the Alice."

Orisi circled him three times before he clapped his hands, triumphant. "Let's go, go, go people. We're makin' a man from this lump of clay, and we're late, we're late, for a very important date."

So off came Adam's robe and out came Orisi's tape measure and a gleaming tablet appeared in one minion's hands, and in quick-quick fashion, Orisi snapped the tape here and there and around as he shot out, "Waist -- 30.25, bend left, not too high; hips -- 39, like a damn linebacker; front rise -- 11; thighs -- 23.5, jumpin' jeebus, you are a linebacker; inseam -- 33, no break in the cuff; feet -- 10.5, wide, of course; shoulders -- 18; chest -- 41; length -- 30; waist -- 38, not too pinched, no Zoot Suits, here; bottom -- 42; sleeve -- 24; shirt neck -- 17."

By this point, Adam was well-beyond worrying about being half naked in front of a pack of strangers, even after he was jammed into a chair so the Minions could attack his nails with buffing and scraping and clipping, oh my. A mask of lavender and lace was smeared on his face. His hair was sliced and diced and buffed and burnished and tipped and coiffed and yanked and grabbed and spiked and unspiked and spiked, again. He even let a female minion sit next to him to touch his skin with colognes to be sniffed at ... and moaned over ... and wiped off with an alcohol pad ... until she started trailing up one of his thighs, and even then, all he muttered was a simple, "Careful ... " So she started using his calves ... and toyed just a bit more than necessary with the hair on them.

Through it all, Orisi scrutinized and grunted and growled and grimaced and snapped and snarled and everything else anyone could think of as his crew worked and worked and worked.

What made it bearable was downing another couple of cookies and finishing off another glass of juice. And despite the turmoil, Adam was building a nice, lovely glow ... so much so, he barely noticed as the process continued ... and continued ... and continued ... until Orisi cried, "Enough!"

The crew stopped dead. And stepped back. Hair mussed. Eyes glazed. Pants wrinkled. Turtlenecks askew. The walking wounded. And two seconds later, another minion arrived with a suit bag and carryall.

Orisi took the bag, held it as if it contained the purest gold, and said, "Now comes the final test."

He unzipped it, slow and easy, luxuriating in the sound of the zipper as it opened the bag wider and wider ... and he maneuvered if off the hanger to reveal ... a nice blue suit.

"Dress," Orisi said, as if in prayer.

Adam grinned, pulled on the shirt, put his feet into a pair of silk socks, stepped into the pants, tucked in the shirt, buckled a belt of the purest leather, whipped the tie under his collar and prepped it, then slipped into a pair of Italian loafers before he let Orisi guide him into the coat.

Adam marveled. "It's a perfect fit."

Orisi snorted. "Like I said, we ain't Wal-Mart. Wait here."

Then he led his crew from the office, and even from behind Adam could tell they were frazzled beyond belief.

"Casey," he heard Orisi growl, "you're payin' me triple, givin' my whole crew a shot of Stolichnaya, and if this was the Golden Globes, I still wouldn't let him out of the house."

Casey's voice shot back, "You're forgetting why I'm taking him."

"Jumpin' jeebus, I never forget anything, like that! But get yourself ready." He whistled and cried, "Adam. Come."

Adam barked like Albacore, laughed, then peeked his head out with the goofiest, crookedest, sweetest grin he could manage and sang, in a charming, jokey, growly voice, "Oh, I'm an Englishman, that's for sure, who's just had his first pedicure."

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Back to the A65...

Worked on Adam and his dilemma all day so feel like just posting a bit more. This is after Adam's agreed to accompany Casey to the premier of her new movie and been bullied by Orisi into bathing.
Adam just sighed as the bubbles drifted over him, like a blanket. He sipped some OJ and bit into a cookie ... and stopped in mid-chew. "I'm sorry," he said, "would you and Dumpling like a biscuit and some juice?"

"Thanks, I'm fine. But, Dumpling, would you like some?"

Dumpling worked his way off the counter and toddled over to grab at the cookies, his black eyes never leaving Adam. That is when Patricia barged in with a fresh plate, saw Dumpling about to bite into a cookie and swooped him up in one arm as she set the plate down. Then she took the cookie from his hand, grinning.

"Oh, I've got something lots better for you, honey," she said. "Cereal! With bananas."

"Thanks, Pat," said Julie. "But he likes tea with half milk and two lumps. And do you have porridge?"

Patricia gave her a completely blank look so Adam piped in with, "Oatmeal."

Patricia brightened up. "Right! I use that for the cookies." She tickled Dumpling into giggles as she chirped, "I gots some straws-berries and blues-berries and you'll like it lots more." Then she carried him from the room.

"He won't vomit, again, will he?" Adam asked.

Julie smiled. "No worries. Solid ground."

By this point, the mass of bubbles had covered Adam up to his chin, so he turned off the water and leaned back in the tub, forcing himself to relax.

"What is it people like about bubble baths?" he murmured, deep and growly. "I feel as if the oily residue left on my skin is meant less to cleanse and more to fill my pores with petroleum by-products, thus enhancing the possibility of pimples."

"Manny and I love them, but we use a light soap and rinse off, after. Dumpling ... he accepts."

"Too bad I've no access to a shower."

"What about these buttons?"

Adam looked at a set of colorful dots atop the right edge of the inner basin. One had a shower icon next to it. "Do you think it is?" he asked.

"Try it," said Julie. "Just keep this hand safe till it's dried."

"We'll have to see what happens," he said, looking at the ceiling tiles. "Where is Manny in all this?"

Julie cast him a sly look. "Next room, being all Fan-Boy."

"With Casey Blanchard? He's heard of her?"

Julie giggled. "If he had known it was she you were coming to see, he'd have crawled into your lap before Dumpling had a chance, and discussed her films and career the entire flight. Puts her on a scale with Angelina Jolie and Sigourney Weaver, he does. One of his mates let the cat out when he said, Bitches who can beat you to a bloody pulp, and wouldn't ya love it? Our first date was to see ... which was it... Sky Knights, I think. It's hard to keep track; we own every one of them, and Dumpling has slept through Ilithium Four twenty-seven times."

"You might want to make that twenty-nine," said Adam.

Julie whispered the first touch of henna across the tops of his fingers as she said, "I'm counting yours, sweets."


"You really didn't know who she is?"

Adam shrugged. "I'm not much of one for film. I read. Prefer it. There's something permanent about a book. Steady. Comforting. But I can't really tell her that, can I? It'd be like dismissing her entire career."

"She's been around long enough to handle it. Manny says her first job was when she was ten, on a sit-com. The Family Saint. For the first year. Played a neighbor's daughter on several episodes. We have that on Blu-Ray."

"Dear God, Manny is fanatical."

"But he's my fanatic."

Fifteen minutes later, she had set the mandala and a car was returning her, a reluctant Manny and a sleeping Dumpling to their hotel, and Adam was draining the tub. He found another dry face-cloth, turned his right hand palm up, draped the cloth over it and pressed the shower icon, using his left hand.

Glass walls rose up between the two basins and several ceiling tiles shifted to reveal tiny shower nozzles. He set the tap to going ... and a moment later, water rained down on him. He was just able to keep his right hand out of its way as he leaned back and let the whispery warmth cascade over his head, face and body, bringing him a tender peace.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Henna me, baby...

Well...I have now experienced the full measure of a henna tattoo. Like the little brochure said, it starts out looking very light, after the mud flakes off, but it darkens...and so it did.

What's interesting is the slight difference I feel in my skin, between the parts undyed and those with the tattoo. It's the barest hint of slickness with a touch of a dip when I draw my finger over the top of my little lion.

Adam's would, of course, be much more refined and detailed. Julie would make his seem almost 3-D in its depth and meaning. But something I hadn't thought about was, it wouldn't be at its height till he was back in London. It would be soft and yellowish, slowly burning darker and darker till a fine genial color more like burnt umber than raw sienna.

This is why online research is never really sufficient for digging into a story. You can get the gist of it and the ideas and the form and function, but the details that make the story humanesque come from actually being there...doing it...or watching and talking and listening.

I found that out many years ago, when I first wrote Return to Darian's Point. A major point in the story comes when Perri, the hero, is taken to The Cliffs of Moher to learn the truth of himself. There's a squat round tower just up the hill from the touristy part of the Cliffs, and from the photos I saw it seemed to be an easy jaunt.

But when I got there, the first time, I found not only was it up a steep incline, but at that time the main pathway was damned dangerous. Uneven steps right next to a 700 foot drop to the ocean. No barriers to hold you. Sharp winds. I saw some Italian kids squat on a flagstone just inches from the edge, their backs to the sea, to have a friend take their photo. I learned their coast guard was always picking up bodies of people who hadn't taken the Cliffs' danger seriously. It altered the story a bit...and made it stronger.

And now, as regards A65...experience has done the same, again...

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Sick little puppy...

Man...I got slammed with a cold so didn't go back into work till Wednesday...and probably shouldn't have. But I had so much to catch up on and so much to do. I'm pretty much booked solid through July with packing jobs. Well...if two of them come through. I have four others all set. All up and down the West Coast -- Seattle, San Francisco, and LA (I hope, I hope, I hope).

Today was the first time I felt good enough to work more on A65. nothing much, jut updating some things and making sure of a couple of consistencies I wasn't sure about. If I want to work on my laptop while traveling on a plane, I need to get rid of my gut, because the seats are getting closer and closer together, and right now there isn't room enough for me to open it so I can use it. Today's travel is meant for those with 30 inch waists.

The arc of Adam's character is now obvious to me; I just need to make sure it's an honest and smooth transition. Casey's is beginning to become known. She had a lot more layers to get through before i could really understand her, and still have some to peel back, but she's getting there, too.

I'm having fun with Patricia and Orisi, and adding Julie and Manny into the mix, with their baby, Dumpling, is helping. Lando and Veronica are still pretty much one-note and I don't like that, but they're being careful...which I understand. They aren't exactly sympathetic characters.

Mind is blitzed...I'm still not over the cold and coughed myself into a headache, earlier, today, which I'm just beginning to get over. about some more of Brighton, from the east, near Hove, since it now figures into A65?
I'm actually looking back on it with fondness...

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Wandering around Brighton...

I slept in, this morning...didn't get up in time for breakfast so had one at a shop on St. James Street, then went wandering. And I did something I've never done before...I got a tattoo. Not a real one, a henna tattoo in support of Adam in A65.
The artist is Arthur and he has a booth on Brighton Pier. He's been doing this for 22 years and uses a little bag to do the design, like he's decorating a cake. As mine dried, we chatted and shared cups of tea and I watched him do all sorts of art...mainly on girls and women, but a couple of guys...from simple little lightning bolts to full hand and finger. All quick, neat and lovely. And...he has a facebook page --

He let me read his book of Mehandi, from India, which spoke of the medicinal qualities of Henna, and we joked about Lucille Ball using this to color her hair. Time well-spent.
 I then wandered up the promenade through a mile and a half of Minis. Seriously. There was a special Classic Minis festival that ran from Brighton Pier to the Marina.

They ranged from regular little Minis to...
Mini trucks to...
 Mini Limos! It was a sort of contest, and some famous dude was announcing the various awards as I passed.
This is at the other end, when I was ready for a cold drink and a pee. And seriously, there were nothing but Austin Minis (and a couple of Wolseley Minis) the entire distance.
I then hopped a bus over to Beacon Hill Nature Preserve just to see the windmill...
...and got a nice view of the city.

Brighton's quirky and its own kind of town, and has a massive gay presence...and I like that. I'm using it in A65, for when Vincent suggests Adam take his former girlfriend off for a weekend, once he gets back from LA.

It's a much better choice than Sheerness.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Another job done on time...

I finished this job with some great help from an assistant...who turned out to be a bit homophobic. Nothing nasty, him just saying if he'd known he was helping pack up books and archives dealing with GLBT history in the UK, he'd have passed on the job. He found some of the subjects offensive, though he never specified which ones. Otherwise, he was a pleasure to work with.

I honestly didn't react to it, I'm so used to that kind of attitude. I sometimes think I should call people like that out, but truth is, I didn't care. If that's how he wants to be, fine; he worked hard, did the job as needed and left with no other complaint. And the truth is...some of the things in the library startled me, too.

What also startled me was, out of 2000 books of gay lit and nonfiction, not one of my books was in the library. Shallow on my part to have hurt feelings about that since the man died in 2011, but still...he had some that I knew were poorly written. Oh, well.

After getting done, I went to a play the donor was part of -- a long one-act about Lord Alfred Douglas -- Oscar Wilde's muse, who ignored him when he went to trial for sodomy but who, upon Wilde's release from prison, gave him a place to live till he died -- and his wife, and their horrific marriage. Called Olive and Bosie, the lead actor, Nigel Fairs, wrote it and it was quite good. The lead actress, Abi Harris, was playing to the rafters, but not too terribly so. What made it super fun was, it took place in the old Brighton Jail Cells under Town Hall. Very creepy and dismal.

We were taken from a lobby like this...
...down these stairs...
...through a hallway...

...down more stairs...that led to a long room with a single light bulb in it, Abi sitting in a chair reading some correspondence...then once we were seated on narrow benches that ran the length of the room,  the play began.

It was part of the Fringe Festival going on in Brighton, right now. All kinds of music and art and theater. After the play, I joined the group at a pub for a Guinness and Scottish Egg, then wound up with them at a gay bar, dancing!

I haven't been dancing in decades...

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Brighton, UK

Long trip made longer by taking the bus from Buffalo to Toronto instead of driving. We got stuck behind another bus that was having some kind of immigration issue at the border, so sat there for nearly an hour, then I had to change buses, twice, got taken the back way to one bus change because of construction on the QEW, so made it to Pearson Airport in Toronto an hour before my flight instead of the three hours I had planned on.

But...the plane got off on time and I wound up in a row with an empty seat beside me, so I was able to work a little on A65. Got Adam's memory of his father from him telling it to Casey to him "remembering it" then jolting once he realizes he's actually been verbally sharing it with her.

Anyway, the plane landed on time, took an hour to get through customs, but I still caught an early train to Brighton...and grabbed a cab because these are the craziest streets I've ever come across, and we're talking me having been to Hong Kong. Barely wide enough for 2 cars. Twisting and turning. Changing names. One-ways all over the place.

Here are some photos...maybe more later; right now I'm dead...

 This is the view from my hotel room...
 I have a bay window, so this is the view from the other side of the window...

It rained the whole day. Tomorrow should be interesting...

Tuesday, May 16, 2017


Getting ready for my trip to Brighton, so just a quick post of more that I've done. I've already decided to rework some of Chapter 6. Make it a bit more reflective of Adam's emotional and mental state.

Orisi demands that Adam take a bath before beginning the ritual of his makeover, but he notices Adam had a Mandala painted on his hand (by Julie Marshe-Croton, Dumpling's punk mum) and is not happy. This messes with the symmetry.


Well ... if Adam thought the office was large, this room put it to shame, even though it was more like a quarter the same size. But it was so massive and bright and open and beautiful, with translucent tiles on the walls, wash basins and mirrors that covered one wall, hanging plants everywhere, soft light filtering in from skylights cut into the ceiling, a floor of warm granite, and in the center a massive white tub within an even more massive navy-blue one, it was more like a conservatory that a simple bathroom.

He set the basin to filling, with just the right level of heat, wolfed down a cookie and followed it with the last of his OJ. Patricia brought in another glass of juice, saying "Soup's on in three minutes and counting," as she spun around and headed back out.

"Thanks," he said as he sipped at the juice and said, "Very tart, and with so much pulp." He sipped more then finished undressing and slipped into the tub. Luxuriated in it. "A basin as big as my bed. Imagine," whispered from him. He began to feel very mellow. Perhaps this evening wouldn't be so bad, after all.

That's when Orisi burst in with several bottles of colorful liquid stuff.

Adam grabbed a face-cloth and scrunched up to keep hidden as he snapped, "Hang on!" Then he saw a woman behind him.


Indeed it was. Holding Dumpling!

"Hallo, luv," she chirped, bright and happy. She cuddled Dumpling and said, "Here, you go, sweets. That's the man whose life you thought you ruined. Who knew he was coming to this?"

"I wasn't. I was supposed to turn around at the airport."

"Jumpin' jeebus, son, would've been better," Orisi huffed as he turned down the hot water. "What's this steam for?"

"I like a hot bath."

"Why? You ain't no Dim Sum."

Julie set Dumpling on a counter then swatted Orisi on the butt. "Be still, O. He's a lovely man, and for my work to work, I need him calm, so ... be still."

That is when Patricia entered with a bowl of something that smelled both delicious and curious, saying, "Fettuccine a la Stouffer's," but Orisi shoved her back out of the room.

"NO CARBS!" he cried.

"But it's just a bowl of pasta!" Adam cried.

Orisi all but screamed, "And I still gotta get your measurements and I don't want 'em changin'! You wanna get all boated, do it on your own time! This is Orisi's time, now!"

Patricia peeked around the door and said, "Adam, I'll bring you another glass of juice and some cookies. Keep your strength up." And before Orisi could explode she pinched his cheek and said, "Organic. No gluten."

"Keep my strength?" Adam snapped. "I'm English! Have you seen an English breakfast? It's not just cookies and juice!"

"And this ain't England!" Orisi roared.

Adam nearly growled, then pointed to a nearby stool. "Julie, if ... if you'd give me the towel, I'll get out and forage for -- "

"The hell you will," Orisi huffed. "We're just gettin' started on you." Then he poured some red liquid into the tub.

Now Adam huffed. "What's that?"

"Gotta do something with that skin, son. Now -- use these to cleanse." He held up a different colored bottle for each word. "Body." (Green.) "Feet." (Orange.) "Face." (Blue.) "Hair." (Cream.) "And everything in-between. Each one's got its own story so use 'em all. Scrub-a-dub-dub!"

He plopped the bottles on a table beside the tub and grabbed the clothes as Adam held up a nicely-scented bar and said, "But I ... I have soap, right here -- "

Orisi spun around and turned four shades of unadulterated burnt umber. "Soap!?" he shrieked. "SOAP!? JUMPIN' JEEBUS, CASEY, YOU TRYIN' TO RUIN MY LIFE, TOO!? SOAP!"

He grabbed at the bar but it plumped out of Adam's hand into the tub. Orisi dove his right hand in to grab for it, making Adam jolt back and cry, "Careful!"

At which Dumpling gave out his first serious laugh.

Monday, May 15, 2017

A bit more of A65...

Jumping a bit farther ahead, Adam is forced to stay in LA overnight so will accompany Casey to a premier, thinking she doesn't want to show up alone. He's tired. He's hungry. He's hit his head, again. And he's feeling very unsure, at the moment.
Moments later, Adam was wandering through a room as large as his mother's semi-detached home, gazing out a sliding glass door out on that sculpted yard that he now saw could hold her entire block -- with a pool, of course. Chairs thick with padding, some on swiveling wheels, faced a desk that snaked around more than two full walls. It had five CPU towers underneath, was topped with four massive monitors connected to them by impossibly neat cables and three keyboards, with two laptops sitting at one edge. All it was missing was a partridge in a pear tree.

Jeremy would have had kittens just seeing the space still available, not to mention the array of electronic additions, especially since not even one section of the desk would have fit properly into his little photography room. The carpet was as thick as sponge, and the plants within were almost to the point of where, if there were two more, the room would be its own ecological unit.

Most of the dark fabric-covered walls were decorated with framed posters of films Casey had been a part of -- Minotaur, She Wakes, Minotaur 2, Mini Minotaur, Sky Knights, Blood Angel, Safe Haven, The Wilderness Rule, Mine To Kill, Find Ray T, and others. In the center of them all was a breathtaking Syd Mead-style serigraph of Ilithium 4's world that Adam felt really should have been used for the paperback's cover in place of the rather pedestrian space-view one. Across from it was one of Ilithium 4 under attack that could have been done by Douglas Trumbull, similar in beauty to Syd Mead but more harsh, violent and cynical ... and looking very much like it was an original work.

But what caught his interest most was a full-size corkboard mounted on a thick-wood door, about eye-level, where dozens of darts held a photograph of Lando Grissom in place. Ice-blue eyes looking straight at the camera, a little smirk on his lips, his too-square chin outlined with a touch of scruff that also whispered up and around his mouth in a vague goatee, eyebrows carefully bushied-up, hair neatly coiffed, apparently shirtless, with his left arm flexed and his left hand behind his head suggesting well-formed muscles. The photo was carefully lighted to make very wrinkle vanish and give his cheekbones the feel of a knife. The darts had been slung so precisely into his face, it was obvious there was something far more intense than dislike happening here. Adam even wondered if Casey had really been the one to break up with Lando.

Then Adam was presented with a glass of orange juice and several cookies on a plate.

"Breakfast cookies," is how Patricia described them. Then she asked, "Would you like me to nuke you something?"

"If it's no trouble," Adam said, his stomach threatening to growl. "I'd planned to eat at the airport and -- "

"No problem, honey," she said as she vanished.

He had little time to take more than a few bites of cookie, which was surprisingly bland, and sip some of the OJ, which was surprisingly tart and sweet, because as if awaiting her call from around the corner, a short, wiry, Terrier of a man, dressed in white pants, white turtleneck, black boots, white hair and dark eyes burst into the house, planted Adam in the center of the office without even so much as a "Hello," and began to handle him as if he were a mannequin, part of which included picking at the holes in Adam's jeans as if he were trying to make them longer and wider. This was Orisi, and he considered the concept of personal space to be nonsensical.

"Jumpin' jeebus, son," Orisi barked. "Didn't your momma never teach you to stand up straight? Shoulders back. Tummy in. That's nine-tenths of lookin' good."

Orisi ran his fingertips over Adam's cheeks then groped the bandages on his forehead and chin. Adam could not formulate a coherent word of protest, he was so shocked.

"Gotta shave," snapped Orisi. "Not enough to call it scruff, though you could use some." Then he ran his hands through Adam's hair and growled, "What's this bump?"

He pressed on it. Adam yelped, in pain, and cried, "Hang on!" as he jerked his head away. "I ... I struck my head on Monday," he gasped.

"Self-destructive, that's all I need." Orisi heaved a sigh to fill the ages with regret. "So much for shaving this crap off."

Which jolted Adam into saying, "Shave my -- um ... so much for something that was never going to happen."

Orisi ignored him and kept eyeing Adam's scalp. "Dunno if I can fix it, though. And your skin -- jumpin' jeebus. Have you never heard of exfoliates? May need to apply a base. Now -- your fingernails." The man picked at Adam's nails, then gripped his left hand. "What's this?"

"It's henna ink -- "

"I know that, but who did it? It's a class design."

Adam pulled his wallet out and gave him Julie's card. "She did."

Orisi blinked. Twice. A third time. "Julie Marshe-Croton did this?!" Adam nodded. "THE Julie Marshe-Croton?" Adam shrugged. "Meanin' she's here in LA?" Adam nodded. "Well, she's gotta do the other hand, now. Just one side throws everything off. It's good that you're almost hairless; no need to wax." Then Orisi jolted and spun him around. "Wait -- them's some hairy legs! Do you wax your butt?"

"What!?" Adam all but screamed, spinning back to face the man. "No."

"We'll see."

Sunday, May 14, 2017

No more replays...

I'm sharing a bit of Chapter 3, when Adam is en route to LA and has already been vomited upon by his seatmate -- an angelic-looking child known only as Dumpling. The brat's parents, a punk couple named the Marshe-Crotons, have lent him a change of clothes, amiably chatted with him, and now have settled down for a nap, so Adam is going to watch Casey's movie...very reluctantly. It's based on a science fiction update of a classic German novel.


Adam had read Simplicius Simplicissimus in his first year at university. In the original German. The story began with the Thirty Years War, which had cut Germany's population by two-thirds. Simplicius was the hero, orphaned by the war and living with a hermit as he grew up. He traveled to France, Russia, and a world inhabited by mermen, and had mercenary adventures and heartbreak and sadness and joy on the way before finally becoming a hermit, himself. Some believed it inspired Voltaire's Candide, a century later.

The science-fiction update split Simplicius into male and female, which Adam had thought actually worked quite nicely. Mar-Lee, the female part, was not only the brains of the story, but its conscience. Creggan, the male part, was the arrogant son of the controlling family on Ilithium 4, a living planet. Well-versed in the art of strategy and war, and some would say a natural leader, he considered Mar-Lee beneath him, even though she proved herself more capable than he on many occasions.

After establishing their lives on Ilithium 4, corporate raiders from a neighboring star system destroyed the family and their workers. Mar-Lee saved Creggan by knocking him unconscious and dragging him into the forest with her. From here, they began their series of adventures across the planets, ending back at their home world ready to destroy those who had destroyed their loved ones.

The girl playing Mar-Lee as an adolescent was just right, as was the boy playing Creggan, though he was presented as more heroic than in the book, and much less foolish. Still ... Adam was hopeful.

But then they cut to a spectacular entrance by Mar-Lee as a grown, beautiful young woman, played by Casey Blanchard -- walking out of fire in a protective cloak and throwing it back to reveal a face that would have made Helen of Troy weep with envy. Sharp green eyes atop elegant cheekbones framed by raven hair cropped short, and with a gaze that told one and all she was a force no one could control. She stood still, for a moment, glaring around her, then went into battle mode.

Kung Fu fighting battle mode.

Mixed with a healthy dose of Resident Evil gunfire, explosions worthy of a Marvel Comics film, and stunts to make one and all think magnificent thoughts about them. There were beautiful choreography and graceful movements, with slow motion bits cut in as Mar-Lee's cape danced elegantly, around her. She became the epitome of an Amazonian Warrior Queen slaughtering everything and everyone around her, with help not arriving until she was done -- in the form of Creggan, a big, buff, towering figure of perfect masculinity under his flowing, nearly white-blond hair, an obvious reference to the greatest of the Norse Gods in Valhalla. Even Thor, in all his power and majesty, would have had all the presence of a gnome, before him.

And what great comment did he make upon arrival? What soaring rhetoric did he use? "Looks like you were busy."

Mar-Lee looked around at him, barely out of breath, a tiny trail of blood from a single cut trailing on-so-elegantly down her face, almost like a tear, and asked, "What took you so long?"

To which he replied, "Traffic was a bitch."

And Adam stopped the DVD.

That was not in the book.

He would have left the movie, there, except for one small problem -- Dumpling Marshe-Croton had crawled away from his sleeping father and over his sleeping mother to watch the video ... and had fallen asleep on Adam's lap. While probably inappropriate, Adam didn't really mind because it reminded him of his Jack Russell terrier, Albacore, who loved to do the same thing when he was caught up in a book. So he pulled Kristen Lavransdatter from his satchel, settled in and would have been quite content ... except Dumpling woke up, saw he had stopped the film and looked at him with those black, dangerous eyes. So Adam started the movie up, again.

Dumpling watched about five minutes of it then fell asleep, again. So Adam turned it off.

And Dumpling woke up, again.

Adam wound up running the film all the way through, twice, forcing himself to endure Mar-lee and Creggan becoming reluctant lovers -- something else that was not in the book, since both of them were only fifteen -- but which kept Dumpling asleep. Until Adam felt something wet and warm trail into his lap ... and discovered that Dumpling was in trainer pants and still wet his bed. A lot. And since Adam was his bed ...

This time, the Marshe-Crotons had to lend him a full set of everything and the flight crew let him use the Premier lavatory to clean up. They also made him sit on a garbage bag the second half of the flight, just to be safe, and he made certain another bag stayed between him and Dumpling, as well.

So when Adam exited US Customs, he had his rucksack slung over one shoulder, his Mandala hand holding its straps in position, a white trash bag filled with filthy clothes in his other hand, and he looked for all the world like a Monty Python version of a Scally-boy tourist. A jagged striped Polo shirt with a rat-nibbled collar hug on his torso, while this pair of Manny's jeans were cut up to high-waters (made more-so by the fact that Adam's legs were longer than his) with carefully shredded holes stripped in lines every few inches. It clashed most severely with his simple black socks and loafers ... though Julie insisted that freshened the look up a bit. But he still wished he had accepted his mother's advice to the point of bringing his entire wardrobe. Then he would not have been faced with customs officers seeing him and looking away to giggle. The one positive thing was, he hadn't worn his suit.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Give and take...

I'm back to working on The Alice 65, and made my way through the first four chapters. Mainly just inputting edits I'd already made but also adding more bits and changing other aspects to better reflect the direction the story is going. I'm keeping it in third person but making it completely from Adam's POV. There is going to be nothing in the story that he does not see or hear or know about. But that means some substantial changing going on.

So here's how the opening goes:
When Adam Verlain set off for work at 7:35 am, it was supposed to be a typical Monday. He wore his usual navy-blue suit, cream-colored business shirt, and simple tie; his dark brown Oxfords were polished; his tan overcoat was held over one arm; and his russet hair had been neatened by the monthly visit to his barber. His glasses were freshly washed, his pleasant face neatly shaved and he had on his usual expression -- that of a mildly curious kitten. His one acquiescence to still being under thirty was the gray rucksack slung over his left shoulder; it held a sandwich, packet of crisps, a bottle of water, and a thick copy of Sigrid Undset's Kristin Lavransdatter to read on the underground.

He strode to Epping station to catch the 7:46, changed for St. Pancras at Liverpool Street, had a brisk five minute walk to his university, 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 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 rare volumes was hardly the largest, it was more than respectable and was in the process of being expanded thanks to changes in the board of governors.

Adam had joined with Merryton straight out of university, almost seven years ago. His specialty was 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 a question ... well, first, they would have to ask it twice, then he would take a moment, look at them with his curious cat expression, remove his glasses, look at them a moment longer and then say, "Sorry? What did you say?" As if he had been in a separate world and had to go through a twelve-step process to rejoin this one.

He had his own cubicle in what was once the old chapel, a shadow-riven room whose flagstone floor was partially covered by a well-worn Persian carpet, and whose wooden ceiling was held in place by intricately carved beams and braces, all unchanged since first put in place three-hundred years earlier. An iron candelabra with electric bulbs twisted into the shapes of little flames hung from the center beam, and along two walls, tall slim windows of cut leaded glass in colorful images allowed barely a fraction of light to pass through, protecting the dark, aged wood and giving the room a gentle feeling of mystery ... a feeling ruined by the set of four bland chrome and grey cubicles in the center of it all ... of which, Adam's was number three.

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. It had been printed in Latin and Adam found indications this particular volume might have first been a gift to Pope Pius IX on his selection to the papacy, twenty years earlier, which would greatly enhance its historical value ... and even its monetary, despite a page having been torn out at the end of the book.

Vincent, the library's curator, a man with the age and appearance of a Victorian ghost, had dismissed the story as nonsense, but Adam had a feeling there was truth to it and had become so focused on trying to confirm the events, he had worked on nothing else all week. When Vincent found out, he had stormed over to Adam's cubicle, his face almost filled with color.

"We've dozens of 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 with extensive gold decoration that was a bit too ostentatious, but the possibility of a pope having presented 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 in our collection! Be done with it!" Then he had stormed off.

That was on Friday, last. Adam had already grown to believe he had dug as deep as he could into the book's history, finding nothing but suggestions and hints about pope or king, so completion of the provenance was scheduled for the first hour of Monday. Then he would take another book from the incoming shelf and work on that.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Perhaps a push into madness...

As I contemplate The Alice '65, I wonder just how far I can push the story into another realm before it disintegrates or I lose the focus, completely. And what sort of style that would entail? Third person means I can follow an omniscient POV and wander in and out of Adam's mind...but would that be good for the story? Should I take better care in crafting elegant sentences that carry weight and meaning with every bit of punctuation...or is that pretentious? Just keep to a simple framework and method of telling the tale?

It's not a heavy story...but I do think it's a plausible one. If on the crazy side. Adam leaving his safe little hole in London slams him in contact with people who have excellent reasons for doing the things they do...insofar as it benefits them. Some are benevolent enough; others are merely self-interested. I don't have anyone who falls under the banner of cruelty, defined. Would that be needed to give the story some heft?

I've thought about bringing in a true villain -- the Australian who's after the A65 for his collection, not because it's a fine book but merely because it's rare and valuable, so would be a bragging piece. Which makes him a Philistine, in my eyes. But having him remain in the background feels a lot better than having him or his people wandering about and messing with Adam and Casey. It's more real...more honest. At least, I think so.

I considered making Adam gay and Casey male...for about five seconds, once, just to shake things up. Man, did I get negative vibes from both of them on that. Same for making it more of an Indiana Jones type plot. As Adam puts it, "This is merely 48 hours of detached insanity in my life that brings about a cataclysmic change in my world. Why would you want to even think of tarting that up?"

And my answer was, "Because I think...almost to the point of madness."

Thursday, May 11, 2017


Okay...I'm getting over my periodic trip to hell and back and beginning to see the possibilities before me, again. The last couple weeks were not good, emotionally or in general, but I'm finally back to Fuck It mode. Didn't take a lot...and it is totally part and parcel of my usual modus operandi. I'm so fucking tedious, at times.

Of course, it didn't help that I had a lovely series of slaps from that beast known as reality. Sales of my books have collapsed. I'm borderline diabetic. I'm about to turn 65 yet still live like a sophomore student in college. My car had issues. And I screwed up an artwork job for a friend.'s allergy season and Claritin does not help me maintain any balance...though it's not as bad as the rest of the meds for this issue.

So I've done some shifting around in my finances and scheduled in the rest of my summer, almost. I'm headed for Brighton, England on Wednesday to pack a library, coming back Monday. Not much time there but enough to make it a break from the chaos of American life, at the moment. After that is a day trip to Toronto, again, then off to another city I'd never have gone to on my own -- Tallahassee, Florida. There are also 2 potential jobs in the San Francisco area and another possible down the pike.

So...this weekend I am getting back to The Alice 65...mainly to input the red-pen edits I made and bring the story to a better sense of purpose. Remind myself of what's in the story and what're in my notes and see if I can work out the best way to make it a fun but insightful tale about a couple of damaged people inadvertently helping each other to move forward in their lives. If I work this right, I can take off the last half of August through Labor day and really get A65 into gear. I'm finding I need the time blocked out for it over a longer period than every weekend.

Hopefully, I'll get it done and out there before the end of the world.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Crazy week...

After spending far too many days in Oklahoma City, I was all set to head home on Tuesday when I had to scramble to change my return home to stay over in NYC. Quite literally, as I was finishing packing to check out of the hotel. I was wanted to handle the pickup of 250 or so books from Christie's. I had to figure out packing materials. Print up documents. Rework my return tickets. It was tense and told on me.

The main thing was, my ticket on Southwest was a full return, and I had to check a bag. My flight change was in Baltimore, but Southwest won't let you just end a flight midway; you have to cancel the flight and rebook it...which would have cost an additional $200. And changing my flight to go into Newark or La Guardia was even more.

I wound up shipping my suitcase to the office via FedEx and just left Southwest at Baltimore. I stayed in the airport, using their wifi to book a train up to Penn Station and a single room on Amtrak from NYC to Buffalo. That sounded like fun and was nice, enough... and a rather interesting adventure, unto itself.

I got the materials I needed, got the job done in the time I fact, I got done just as our driver showed up to collect the boxes. Then I grabbed a quick lunch at a cafeteria across from Christie's and got to Penn Station just in time to catch my train.

I like the train, but I think I'd have preferred being in coach; the singlette (as they call it) was a bit cramped and it was hard to get decent Wifi in it. had a toilette. As you can see. It's got a lid that lowers and makes it a little table. And the blue flap above where my laptop's power cord is plugged a pull-down sink.

The seats recline and even will become a single bed, but there's also a bunk above them, directly over your head as you're seated...and it rattles. I found that by lowering it a little, it stopped...but it also would slowly descend closer and closer to the top of your head. Very spooky.

I did get a nap, and got a meal with my ticket. A decent cod with mashed potatoes and some kind of bean salad. Tasted good. Overall, it was very relaxing...and we only got in an hour late.

But...through all of this I was fighting off a serious funk, and it caved in on me, Thursday. I was at work then and Friday...and Saturday was a complete waste. Well...not complete; I did get laundry done. But nothing else. My brain went into shutdown mode and I just drifted through the day.

It wasn't as bad, today, so I was able to work up some sketches for a client's project. I'll finish them up and send them to her, tomorrow. Just preliminaries, nothing worth showing anyone...but it helped me get past my blue mood.

I know what it's from -- frustration. And self-flagellation. Seems I really have given up on film. I've canceled email subscriptions to things like InkTip and MovieBytes and ISF, because it's silly to keep pushing work that no one wants. I've taken the awards down off my wall and put them away. And I applied for Medicare since I'm now eligible to do so, emphasizing how complete my mismanagement of my life has been.

I should write an existential novel about a man who dreams and never it The Story of My Life.

Monday, May 1, 2017

An off day...

I needed to cleanse my brain, for a bit, so today I gorged on episodes of Vera, a murder mystery series set in and around Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, almost to the border of Scotland. I'd been watching episodes here and there, but now I'm done with 5 full "sets", as they call them...and I'm not as fond of the last set. David Leon is gone and in his place is a sharp-lipped Kenny Dogherty, who has none of the presence or empathy of Leon's Joe Ashworth.

Something else that's changed is how the episodes are shot and put together. Lots of unnecessary set-ups and music that expands on the term portentous. The editing is more MTV quick-stuff and the directors keep jumping the axis as if it means nothing. Not sure what happened between set 4 and set 5, but whatever it was, it was not for the better.

The mysteries are generally well-written, and Brenda Blethyn is consistently good as the irascible Vera Stanhope, but a lot of these differences seem like change for the sake of change and that rankles me. I don't mind change for the better or even trying out something different to add to the story-lines, but for it to happen for no good reason is just wrong. It's like the producers are saying, "I'm bored so you must be bored, so we're going to mix things up to keep from being bored...even if you aren't." least I'm feeling much more like getting back onto A65, now.