Derry, Northern Ireland

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

Thursday, August 17, 2017

August 28th...

I will have The Alice '65 ready to be read and open for feedback on that Monday, if anyone's open to working with me on it. I'm too close to the story to be completely objective...or even partially, to be I need to get a bunch of different people's reactions to it. And also ask them to let me know where there are typos, messy sentences, and missing words. If anyone is open to doing this, please let me know and I'll send you a PDF. That works on most e-readers, as I understand it.

I still have 2 chapters left to input and I am going to do one more quick pass through to make it as tight as I can, but I am at the point where the story is set, the characters are set, the action is set, and all that's left is the detail work. I hope.

I'm taking the next 2 weeks off, from work, and getting back to Place of Safety. I need to re-familiarize myself not only with the parts I've written but also what I'd planned and, to be honest, the sequences of events...outside of the main ones. I've got dozens of videos to watch of Derry from between 1966 and 1972, not to mention access to thousands of photos of the city's streets and people from the same period.

I'm also going to try and reconnect with some people in the town, who lived through the time. See if they'll give me more precise background. I don't necessarily want to put it all in; I just want it to feel real to anyone who reads the book, including the locals. Granted, not having grown up there I can't be exact about it...but the truth is, I could be better. I'm coming in not thinking everyday aspects of my life don't need telling.

I've read a couple of stories written by Derry residents and they gloss over things they think everyone knows. It works for the locals, but not for someone interested in the minutia of their life. It doesn't have to be spelled out, but letting it be referenced to makes the world they lived in that much richer.

For example, I have yet to find, in all of the books I have read and sources I've scoured through, a detailed description of living conditions in the hovels on Nailors Row. Same for living conditions in the new flats built around the Rossville Towers or terrace homes. I've pieced some aspects of it together from bits found as tossed-off comments...but no photos. Bare bones descriptions that raise more questions than they answer. It's maddening...but I am zeroing in.

It'll help once this story becomes my focus, again.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017


For most of tonight's writing, A65 dropped down to 294 pages. But then I got through chapter 11...which still needs one more quick pass...and hit chapter 12 and BAM -- it shot up to 306 pages. I know I'm going to cut back on it, but it was startling.

That happened mainly because I added in the section where Adam wakes, the morning after the chaos, and takes a while to laze and remember and try to where he is. His memory plays into the story and reveals his family life and references his love of books and just wanders a bit. It feels good, here.

I hope no one is going to read this book thinking it'll be like Raiders of the Lost Ark. It's all about Adam and somewhat about Casey. Everything is from his perspective, so it's proving hard to put in any information about her without it turning into a lecture or soliloquy...but I'm slowly doing it. I took out any explanations she made about herself; I'm giving those to her mother, Patricia, in his next chapter...and maybe in the one following. We'll see how it goes.

No matter what, I'm getting it done. I'm probably being a bit precious by using this analogy -- but it's like the final detail work on a marble statue. What was it Michelangelo once said? He didn't so much carve a block of marble as release the figure within it. Something like that. I know I should Google it, but it's close enough.

I don't write, really -- I allow the characters to tell their stories through me. Sometimes that comes out easily; sometimes it's slow and torturous and damn near impossible to figure out what they want...until I learn their language and understand the meaning between and behind the words. I think half the reason I've had so much trouble on this story is, I wrote it as a script, first and it took the characters a while to let go of their images and allow me to see deeper than their surface. To trust me with their realities. And Jesus, how I love them all...

At least...that's my excuse and I'm stickin' to it...

Monday, August 14, 2017


Hit page 201 of 300 in A65. Adam's had his big blow-up and is now undergoing repair in hopes the rest of his stay will be normal. This is chapter eleven, and it doesn't feel right, just yet. Too much exposition. I mean, it makes a bit of sense that he and Casey would be talking so openly, now...but there's just too much of it. Problem is, it's all necessary and I can't think of where else to put any of it.

Maybe this is just the catch-up chapter, where the reader is brought up to date with everything that's happened, so far...thus helping the rest of the story make sense. It'll need it. A lot happened to Adam through the first 200 pages -- getting vomited on, stoned, made over into a style-setter, being dissed by condescending theater ushers and valets and bodyguards, dancing to Ricky Martin, paparazzi hounding him, nearly drowning, and meeting Gertrude, a full grown black panther...all in the space of a Tuesday evening and while he's trying to get something decent to eat.

It's beginning to sound a bit like the chaos that surrounds Daniel in The Lyons' Den. Maybe that's my version of comedy -- just keep laying it on. That's sort of what I did in The Cowboy King of Texas, though on that one I used Synge's play to build on. Didn't change the structure, just the characters and some of the action...and added more insanity in.

Then there's The Lavender Curse, similar piling on...albeit with a fantasy of a premise -- switching the minds of an older woman and a tough young cop as one's about to be in a Senior Lady Beauty Pageant and the other is about to make a big arrest, in Las Vegas. I stole ideas from a dozen different movies for that one -- Freaky Friday, Miss Congeniality, Bell, Book & Candle, even Face/Off, a movie I despise. And I've reread all of them, hoping to get some ideas for A65...which I I guess I'm also stealing from myself.

Nothing new about that.

Sunday, August 13, 2017


I made myself work on A65, today...not because I didn't want to but because I was still focused on what happened in Charlottesville, VA. The right wing scum are doing back-flips to keep from condemning the murder of a protester by one of their own while blaming both sides for it happening, and our fucking president is helping them. I never thought I could despise anyone so much that I wanted them to suffer as they died, but I found out I can. And do.

So I rewatched City Lights and worked through Chapter 9 of the story, relying mainly on my red-pen notes to keep going till I was back in the groove. It helped I was also doing laundry when I got started. Distractions can sometimes be good.

When I'm done with this draft, all I'm going to do is a spell-check and grammar check, then ask for feedback. Brendan kept me up till nearly 4am needling me about finishing Place of Safety, and he's right. It's long since been time and I've been a child avoiding it. Not because I don't want to do it but because I'm afraid I won't do it well enough.

Well...the hell with that. I can worry myself right out of ever writing the full book, and that's cowardice. As I wait for feedback on A65, I'm going to re-familiarize myself with what I have written on P/S and work out where the story needs to be connected. There's a lot in section 2 and almost as much in section 3, with section 1 probably 80 percent done.

If I don't do it now, I'll never do it...and I have enough regrets in my life without adding one this big to them.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Murder in Charlottesville...

In 1965 Norman Rockwell painted a stark, chilling portrait of the murder of 3 civil rights workers in Philadelphia, Mississippi by racists, in 1964...titled Murder in Mississippi.
I had not seen this image prior to today...and it is breathtaking. Not at all what one expects from a man who was famous for idealized renditions of American life from the 30s through the 50s.

The face of a man looking at his killers as he holds another man who's dying, with the body of yet another man lying on the ground, the area bleak and dark and's haunting in its cruel simplicity.

It brought to mind Goya's The Third of May 1808, which illustrates French reprisals against Spanish rebels who dared to fight against Napoleon's invasion of Spain. People were rounded up and shot, whether they had done anything or not.
It's one more illustration of how little things have changed, regarding so-called humanity. From Cromwell's slaughters ac ross Ireland in the 17th Century to Srebrenica in 1995 to the British Army's bombardment of Dublin in 1916 to Turkey's genocide against Armenians in the waning months of WW1 to Pol Pot's murderous reign in Cambodia in the 1970s...the list goes on and on regarding man's basic inhumanity.

Today was more evidence of it, when a white supremacist deliberately rammed his car into a crowd of anti-Nazi protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, killing one woman and injuring dozens of others. A terrorist action, if there ever was one. So far I've only seen CNN refer to it as such...and our so-called president has been practically mute, something the alt-right is crowing about.

The terrorist was taken alive by the police and charged with 2nd degree murder. Not capital murder. Not even 1st degree. If his charges are not upgraded, due to his cold-blooded actions, no one should be surprised. After all, when Dylan Roof murdered 9 black people, he was taken alive and then taken to Burger King to eat.

This is the way of the world, so long as people are in it.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Backwards reversals...

I've always been the type who goes the wrong way, when choosing for himself. I go left when I should have gone right. I pick A when B would have been a smarter choice. My instincts have always been the most dyslexic party of me...when drawing, when looking for someplace I don't know, when buying a car (except for my Honda; that was a lucky break)...and it's proving to be consistent in my writing.

There's a voice in my head that's very faint and undemanding that suggests the right way to decide, but it's usually drowned out by my willingness to listen to my so-called instincts. Well, I finally caught on that when I write a moment in one of my books, once I have it down I should reverse it. That makes it more alive and fascinating.

I'm doing that, right now, with A65. I had Casey still in control when she and Adam get to the jet, with her telling him what to do. Nice enough because of the chaos that follows...but still just okay. Until I got the bright idea to have him take charge and help Casey set everything up. Something I had resisted because it didn't seem realistic...but then the voice said, "Try this" -- and now it's funnier and makes even more sense.

I've done that in a couple of other spots in the story, and it's helped immeasurably. first instincts seem to be cautious to the point of boring, but if I listen to the tiny voice long enough to catch what it's suggesting, boom -- magic ensues.

That happened twice in How To Rape A Straight Guy without me even thinking about it. Curt kills two men to save Shayes, which was always going to be part of the book. Initially, he did it because he was like an animal and Shayes was his meat (pun not intended), and the two bastards were trying to take it away from him. But all of a sudden Curt took an unconscious Shayes -- a man he had brutalized -- into a bathroom and bathed him and tended to him, like a lover. And later made sure he was found and cared for...and the ending suddenly shifted, massively.

I went back and added in a younger brother and how that kid was pulling it together, despite having the same home life as Curt, and Curt sees that he will be okay and that it was a possibility...and realizes he's got no one to blame but himself for the hell he's been living in. I've had people write to me, startled at how they feel sympathy for a man who's done something so evil.

I guess what I'm saying is, I need to give that voice a megaphone, somehow, so I can cut down on my workload when writing Place of Safety. Otherwise, I'll be working on it till I'm 90.

But that's only if I still have a brain, by then.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

And back to one...

Came home from Boston on an earlier flight...that left late. However, the flight I was supposed to leave on -- at 9:25 -- was also delayed, so it worked out well. If I hadn't paid the $50 change fee, I'd still be en route back to Buffalo.

I did some more inputting while waiting at the airport, and it's coming together. I'm still backing away from being too explicit about what's going on, and I'm having fun with the characters...though I do mention Adam's temporary clothes look like something a clown might wear at a circus. That might be a bit much...but it does make an honest image of how he's dressed.

I'm fighting to keep a light touch in my writing style, too. I noticed it began to get a bit harder in the last bit of the story, so when I red-penned the confrontation in the jet, I made it more slapstick and a bit goofy. Which makes sense considering there are now more than a dozen people involved...making something like a rugby scrum in the middle of a 737. Of course, it's tricked out to be a hotel room and office with wings, but that's still not a lot of space.

And I'm still trying to come up with a decent image for the cover, but I can't figure out anything that would get across the fun and depth and meaning of it. Of course, it took me a few years to work up a cover idea for The Lyons' Den, and even then I had to get a pro to make the cover art so it looked right. I've got another guy on tap to see about it, someone whose style is cooler and crisper...but I don't know if that's right. I might need to go back to LD's artist. I guess I'll figure it out when the time comes.

Tomorrow, maybe?

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Started inputting...

I did something probably not so very smart, seeing as how I'm in the Boston area, but I stayed in the hotel all day and finished my red-pen work on The Alice '65...and input 2 chapters' worth before I stopped. Of course, I'm rewriting my rewrite as I rewrite this edition. I think that's one of the curses of computers -- they make it easy to redo what you've already redone, twice.

I'm finding something odd about my new laptop, at the same time. When I saved and printed the copy I just did my editing on, it was 258 pages long. That was done on my old laptop, in Word. I've loaded Word onto my new laptop and put a copy on my desktop, but when I open it, the exact same file is 300 pages...just like when I'd bring it up using Word at a Kinko's, to print.

I don't understand. All of my settings are the same in both document and paragraph, but it comes up longer. I guess I need to do a class or two with the Genius Bar to figure this thing out a bit better. That or it's just messing with me.

Anyway, if I keep at it, I may have a new draft by the 15th, so will print that, red pen it, again, and input it...and then I'm sending it out for feedback. I could spend the next 10 years reworking this story, even after it's published, but I don't want to be one of those authors who does that. And I know Steven King, who's sold billions of books, has reworked some of his...but I don't care. Once it's done; it's out there. As good as I could do at the time. For better or worse.

I streamed a new episode of Vera, off I still miss David Leon (DS Joe Ashworth, on the show). They're trying to make Kenny Doughty (DS Aiden Healy) human enough to take his place, but it's not working. I can see the mechanics behind it, and the repetition. Oh well...Brenda Blethyn's still on top of her game, and they're decent little mysteries.

It's funny how that works -- some actors are just accessible while others are not. Can't blame the actor; it's how the camera works with them. My favorite example of this is Kim Novak, in Vertigo. She's not the greatest actress, but damn...she inhabits both Madeline and Judy so perfectly, and the camera loves her so much, I can't imagine anyone else in the role. I know Vera Miles was supposed to be in it...but she's too hard and aware, not lost and vulnerable...and that's what the camera brought out in Kim and improved her performance to the nth degree.

Funny how that works.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

It's coming along...

That's what I keep telling myself. I'm getting there...and I am. I just keep finding reasons to go back and rework bits, using my red pen. But every time it's to clarify or make a section more interesting. It's just, it slows down the process.

Helps that I'm already done with my job in Boston. I have to stay till Thursday because the company picking up the shipment was scheduled for then and they're already booked solid for tomorrow. Plus the client prefers a pickup on Thursday and delivery on Friday. So...

Right now, I'm debating staying in, tomorrow, and finishing this draft of A65 so I can print it up and use my time off later in the month to do a final draft. It's getting close, and I want to get feedback while I'm still open to making alterations in the story. I won't do a complete restructuring, but whether or not details do or do not make sense are worthy of discussion.

I will admit that for a little while, I thought about restructuring the storyline into something more Hollywoodish -- but every angle I thought up fell apart. Casey brings the book to Adam at the airport, but it's the wrong one and they have to find the real Alice...kills half the current story and is so surface level, I felt like it was nothing more than damp concrete; the story as is has become a deep aquamarine pool of glistening water and I don't want to lose that.

The book is about Adam and how this journey changes him from being lost and afraid and angry over his life to newfound strength and willingness to take chances, again. And I don't just reference Alice's Adventures In Wonderland to emphasize this. There's Simplicius Simplicissimus and The Blood of Others and Anna Karenina and Orlando Furioso commenting on the story in the background, as well.

Casey's important to the story but not to the same extent, yet she also is undergoing shifts -- from having father issues to letting go and facing the world as an adult, in sole charge of her life. I'm sort of using Beryl Markham as a reference for her -- a woman who did amazing things to impress the men in her life, all for naught...and yet, for history.

Sounds a lot more grandiose than it really is...I hope.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Done, for now...

I got the bridge set between the craziness of Adam's adventures on Tuesday night to Wednesday morning, when he wakes. He winds up lazing as he remembers events from earlier in his life and compares Casey to his mother and Cora, a woman he lived with, done in as gentle a tone as possible. Then he has breakfast with Casey and Patricia and heads on to the bank. This means I may have added another chapter, and definitely added another 8 pages, but I'll decide that on the next pass through.

So now I can get to the rest of the story -- and try to figure my way around a point of logic that's begun sticking in my head, dealing with Lando and Casey. I'll have to make an explanation of it that sounds reasonable, but I can do that at the appropriate time. Right now, I'm happy with this little bit of progress.

So I cleared my head by watching the 1979 version of Mad Max, with the real voices in it, not the American dubbing. Man, they got away with murder in making that movie. Some of those stunts are still breathtaking. Some of the attitudes are really offensive, now. The script was probably 10 pages long, that's about how much dialogue there was in it, and the acting was so-so, but it ran.

Mel was gorgeous, back then -- 23 years old when it was made -- and you could tell the camera loved him. Too bad he turned into such a douche. Or maybe he always was one; I dunno. I used to really like him, as an actor, but then he turned into a star and stopped taking honest chances.

That seems to happen, once you reach a certain level, in Hollywood. Fear of making a fool of yourself or something. Nicholas Cage was another actor I admired, because he was willing to go completely nuts for a part...but at the same time, he could make a decent man interesting, onscreen. That's hard to do. Henry Fonda, Jimmy Stewart and Gary Cooper could do it, but very few actors after them were able to pull it off. Then Cage won his Oscar, and after that, he got lost in his mannerisms and now is a joke.

I felt the same about Bruce Willis, for a while. I liked him in Moonlighting; he was far more talented and interesting than Cybill Shepherd. In Die Hard and In Country, he was sharp and held the screen. But it seems his ego overtook his intelligence and he revealed himself to be limited in far too many ways. The closest he came to being a decent actor, again, was in The Sixth Sense. Proved his limits.

A lot of actors are limited in what they can do. Robert De Niro is great with intensity but he cannot play quiet unless it's being used to emphasize danger. Leonardo Dicaprio can't play quiet, either. Sean Penn was so good, he could make you care about an evil man about to be executed in Dead Man Walking, but hasn't even begun to rise to that level since, despite 2 Oscars for lesser roles.

Mel...he got his Oscars for Producing and Directing a piece of homophobic, revisionist history, even as he whitewashed the gayness out of other characters he played and pretended that selfishness was a form of heroism. Like he's afraid someone might think he's queer, regarding the former, and knows Americans like tough guys who take revenge for personal reasons for the second. Which made him a huge star but even less than interesting in my eyes. His later troubles were only the tape that sealed the package.

So why did I watch MM? Memories of when I still cared and was shallow enough to think beauty outside meant beauty within. Learning that notion was foolish was a rough lesson in life.

It's one Casey is now struggling with.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Took all day, but...

I finally have a way back to making Chapters 12 and 13 a bit better...I hope. Initially, since the beginning of 13 is Adam waking up, I was thinking of making the bit where he talks about the differences between his mother and father into a dream. Which I did not like. Very pedestrian...and seemingly the only way to shift out of the current trap of tedium. Besides, I had dreams in my first four books and they only worked because of the subject matter. I needed something better.

Then I started thinking...he's waking the next morning and probably still exhausted and achy, so he might lie there for a while and let his mind drift. Into reminiscences. Into comparisons. Noting similarities between his mother and Casey. Thinking about his father's fate. And if Casey's right beside him, sleeping, thinking about her. And it began to gel. Began to feel right. And so obvious, I could kick myself.

I've worked up an outline. Very basic but still good as a start. It combines his memory of reading Simone de Beauvoir's The Blood of Others and discussing it with his mother at his father's recommendation and pulls in more information about Casey's father and memories of his time with Cora, a woman he loved who dumped him...and maybe I can use it as a way to replay the story, up till then. Remind the reader of what's happened and what's been set up without being didactic.

I did most of it while waiting for new tires to be put on my car. My old ones were beginning to crack on the sides and lose air. I also got my new laptop but haven't figured out how to shift my Office for Mac over to is so I can use it for word processing. I did buy a printer and now have access to putting out my own sheets instead of having to pay at Kinko's or use Caladex's. It has its limits, but those may be just because I haven't learned all about it, yet.

As if I ever will...

Friday, August 4, 2017

And here I go, again...

Well...Chapters 12 and 13 of The Alice '65 don't really work, yet. They're okay, but they need to be kicking ass, by this point, and they simply don't. They sit there, providing just enough interest to keep going but nothing more. So that's tomorrow's job -- making them sing instead of lip-sync.

Something that might help is if I could figure out Casey, better. She's working but I don't think I'm doing as well by her as she deserves. Adam, I've got. Lando, yeah...I got him; he's easy. Same for Veronica and Orisi. They're all off-center enough to make them fun and interesting. But Casey is still a bit too close to cliched. Same for Patricia, really.

There's a lot more to her than I've put in, I know. I just need to figure out how to do it without her explaining it. That may be the problem; I have her do that a couple of times and it's just not right. I got away from it when she talks about how she and Lando wound up together...but it's still too prevalent.

It was my hope to have this draft finalized and printed before I leave for Boston, on Tuesday. Don't think that's gonna happen. Still too much to make acceptable.

As is usual with me...

Thursday, August 3, 2017

City Lights (1931)

One of my all time favorite films...worth the $3...especially for the ending.

I've only seen it a dozen times...and I cannot recommend this movie enough. Comedy and tragedy and just what I needed to remember, right now.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Genius or deluded fool?

I remember seeing a film about Charlie Chaplin, years ago, that discussed his method of making his greatest films, and I halfway think that influenced my writing, subconsciously. By that, I mean the way I keep rewriting...and rewriting...and rewriting because I rarely start a story with a definite outline but instead only an idea and some notes. Here's what his bio in Wikipedia says --

Until he began making spoken dialogue films with The Great Dictator, Chaplin never shot from a completed script.[353] Many of his early films began with only a vague premise – for example "Charlie enters a health spa" or "Charlie works in a pawn shop."[354] He then had sets constructed and worked with his stock company to improvise gags and "business" using them, almost always working the ideas out on film.[352] As ideas were accepted and discarded, a narrative structure would emerge, frequently requiring Chaplin to re-shoot an already-completed scene that might have otherwise contradicted the story.[355][clarification needed] From A Woman of Paris onward Chaplin began the filming process with a prepared plot,[356] but Robinson writes that every film up to Modern Times "went through many metamorphoses and permutations before the story took its final form."[357]

Producing films in this manner meant Chaplin took longer to complete his pictures than almost any other filmmaker at the time.[358] If he was out of ideas, he often took a break from the shoot, which could last for days, while keeping the studio ready for when inspiration returned.[359] Delaying the process further was Chaplin's rigorous perfectionism.[360] According to his friend Ivor Montagu, "nothing but perfection would be right" for the filmmaker.[361] Because he personally funded his films, Chaplin was at liberty to strive for this goal and shoot as many takes as he wished.[362] The number was often excessive, for instance 53 takes for every finished take in The Kid.[363] For The Immigrant, a 20 minute-short, Chaplin shot 40,000 feet of film – enough for a feature-length.[364]
"No other filmmaker ever so completely dominated every aspect of the work, did every job. If he could have done so, Chaplin would have played every role and (as his son Sydney humorously but perceptively observed) sewn every costume."[350]
—Chaplin biographer David Robinson
Describing his working method as "sheer perseverance to the point of madness",[365] Chaplin would be completely consumed by the production of a picture.[366] Robinson writes that even in Chaplin's later years, his work continued "to take precedence over everything and everyone else."[367] The combination of story improvisation and relentless perfectionism – which resulted in days of effort and thousands of feet of film being wasted, all at enormous expense – often proved taxing for Chaplin who, in frustration, would lash out at his actors and crew.[368]

Chaplin exercised complete control over his pictures,[350] to the extent that he would act out the other roles for his cast, expecting them to imitate him exactly.[369] He personally edited all of his films, trawling through the large amounts of footage to create the exact picture he wanted.[370] As a result of his complete independence, he was identified by the film historian Andrew Sarris as one of the first auteur filmmakers.[371] Chaplin did receive help, notably from his long-time cinematographer Roland Totheroh, brother Sydney Chaplin, and various assistant directors such as Harry Crocker and Charles Reisner.[372]
I don't compare myself to Chaplin in anyway except how damned long it takes to get to the core of the story. Which I am, apparently, still doing with a light little piece like The Alice '65...but which I can't help but do because I want it to be right.

And to paraphrase what someone once said about pornography, "I don't know that is, yet; I'll just know it when I see it."