Derry, Northern Ireland

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

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Not hot for blueberries

I find I don't like blueberries in Special K cereal. I only sort of like them in yoghurt. I guess the only place for blueberries in my mind is muffins, and then the only ones worth a damn are the ones straight out of the oven. I wonder why that is? It's a perfectly good fruit. And I enjoy the hell out of peaches and strawberries and bananas in cereal and such.

Just out trying new things -- like having a small bowl of cereal for an evening snack instead of cookies or cinnamon rolls or the like. I don't know if it's making any difference in my weight; I've been stuck at this one number for months, but at least I'm not gaining.

I'm kind of bleary, so it's good I only input edits for POS this evening. I'm now up to page 151 out of 229 on the first draft and have 51,700 words, total. But I'm at the point where I have to connect two more sections -- going from the aftermath of the attack at Burntollett Bridge to the beginning of the Battle of Bogside, then from that to Bloody Sunday. It's gonna be rough.

I listened to Depeche Mode's "101" to keep me going. KCRW's doing their annual pledge drive and I can't listen to ten minutes of music and then 10 minutes of begging. I've already donated; they should have an online channel for people who've done that. And Pandora's boring, right now. I've heard just about everything they're offering in my selections, more than once.

This job is threatening to overwhelm me, right now. I'm handling the move in of 27 dealers into San Francisco, Friday morning, and move-out Sunday night. Then comes 140 dealers moving into Pasadena the following Thursday morning. My head's already hurting.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Over the threshold

More than 51K in wordage and 219 total pages, and I'm only up to the People's Democracy march in January 1969. I knew I loved my words, but this is turning into an obsessive-compulsive moment. Not that I mind. I've redone it through page 111 and Brendan's worked in ways to deepen his relationship not only with his friends but also his older brother and sister. I've finally reached that point where I have no idea if this is working or if it makes any sense, again, because it's just flowing along. And that is not a complaint.

I could, officially, post what I have now, even though I'm missing large sections of the story. Apparently you can edit the story up to the point where they reach their 5000 submission threshold; once that happens, everything freezes in place. But I'm loathe to do that; I can just see me getting it all shaped up and readable and finding they closed the contest ten minutes before I submitted my latest edit.

Besides, it's a participant-driven first round. You judge entries based on the first 5000 words in the story, then the highest rated ones get read by people at Publisher's Weekly, then those highest rated ones get read by editors at Penguin, then the finalists get voted on by the public at large. Talk about "Project Greenlight" for the literary set...and look what that turned out to be.

I actually entered all three "Project Greenlights". Made the first cut on the first two but nothing more. And considering what they finally went with -- an odd script about a boy who convinces a dying Jewish kid he has to convert to Christianity to get into heaven, a good script about a boy coming of age that was then paired with the WORST choice for a director, a horror script that was handed over in one of the baldest moments of Hollywood nepotism and set-up ever -- I guess I was really lucky.

But then, I never was cut out to be a director. I have the artistic and technical vision and could come up with some great moments, but it takes more than that, these days...WAY more. And working this freight forwarding job has shown me just how badly I would have done. Because I have never been able to do well when thinking on my feet. I like to sit and think things through and let the ideas sort themselves out in my mind. And these days you just can't do that. You need a super-strong personality and the ability to manipulate people left and right to get what you want for that vision...and not give in on it, no matter order to achieve even a small part of it. All things I suck at.

Oh, well...I can always draw my movies out as graphic novels. And if I ever win the lottery and can spend my days not having to slave for a wage, I'll do just that. Write from about 3 to 6 or 7 pm; work on my graphic novel between 8 and 11 pm. Go to bed at 2 am and wake at 10. That would be just right.

Sunday, January 29, 2012


Total. And I'm through page 98 in content and have 216 pages overall, but I've finally connected two main sections and can now input edits I have for the incident at Burntollett Bridge. After that comes writing the Battle of Bogside and the Celebration Fleadh after British soldiers are deployed to keep the peace.

That's a lot left, still. I'll keep pushing, but it's not looking promising, me getting this done in time to submit to Amazon. The one real positive about this is, it made me focus on POS in a way I haven't in a while and finally just say the hell with it, let's get a first draft of this section done. And now that I'm close, I don't want to stop, even if there's no chance of me making the deadline.

I'm 99% sure this story would never fool anyone from Ireland as having been written been written by someone from Derry. It's odd, but I see myself using john Millington Synge as the guide for my syntax, to an extent, even though I know it's mainly archaic. When I go back through it to polish, I take out the more overt ones and leave the rest in, for the rhythm. I mean, it'll read well to most Americans, I think, and the fact that I'm using a boy as an observer through this part helps keep me from getting bogged down in details. Keeping my awareness to a 10-16 year old's avoids a lot of the pitfalls I'd feared.

I think. I won't know till I'm done.

A lot of today was taken up with finalizing some paperwork for the book fair in Pasadena, and setting up to meet my sister in San Diego for dinner, the night of the 6th.

I also baked a pretty mean tilapia filet, using pepper and onion relish as the marinade. I even ate it with rice, not one of my favorite foods. But I'm trying to get rid of all the crap in my fridge before I leave, Thursday. I'll be gone 12 days and don't want to come home to a mess.

Looks like February is going to be the month for winter weather. It'll be here in three days and already we're getting the snow we'd been missing since November.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Photos and captions of 1968 Derry, by Eamon Melaugh

Two children sitting on the 'Roaring Meg' cannon. The cannon is located at the 'Double Bastion' on the City Walls overlooking the Bogside area of Derry. During the Siege of Derry 1688 to 1689 the canon was said to have made the loudest noise of any gun, hence the name. The street in the background, Nailors Row, was demolished as part of redevelopment in the city. (Brendan lives in an area like this.)
Photograph of the view looking down the lower part of Linenhall Street, Derry. Linenhall Street lies within the City Walls close to East Wall.

View of Carrigan's Lane, off Bishop Street Without. One of a number of streets that ran between Bishop Street Without and the Foyle Road with the river Foyle in the middle distance.
 A young man standing in a typical Derry posture; leaning against a wall, hands in pockets, and one leg crossed over another. He is particularly smartly dressed so the day is either a Sunday or he has been involved in a 'confirmation' service.
The Protestant side of Derry in 1972.

To see more of Eamon Melaugh's images, click here.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Dead of brain...

...After a rough day at work and a couple of screw ups on my part. I guess I'll just share more of "Place of Safety" for now. Brendan's twelve and this is in mid-September 1968.
Finally, we cut down this road that curled around and up a hill, and after a bit I could make out a round shape at the top of it, to our right. There wasn’t a tree near it and the wind was brisk and bit at my cheeks. I had my parka on tight, then, but Danny was in just a jacket and seemed untouched by the chill.

“Is that it?” I asked, my voice sudden and sharp against the quiet.

“Yeah,” said Danny. “I think it was a fort, once. It’s got walkways going up, inside.”

“How long you been coming here?”

“A year.”

“Bloody hell, Danny, you keep your own counsel, don’t you?”

“I like being alone.”

“Then why’d you show it to your mates?”

“I didn’t,” he said with a sigh. “They found me there. We hit it off.”

Then a Schwinn bicycle raced up the gravel road and whipped past us, its pilot laughing. Another boy was on the handlebars. A moment behind them was a Huffy Penguin, with a second lad seated on the rear of the banana seat. They stopped a bit ahead of us and jumped off their bikes, waving at Danny.

“Hey, Danny-boy, who’s the lad!” shouted the one who’d piloted the Penguin.

“It’s Brendan,” he called back. “I told you of him!”

They came down the hill a bit to meet us, one tall, two my height, one smaller than Maeve, all dark and slim and looking a lot like brothers. It was the same group who’d been chased by the peelers. Their clothes were flashy, something I hadn’t noticed when they ran past, and their faces were all grins as the tall one grabbed my hand, saying, “So you’re the famous fix anything lad.”

“Can you work on the gears on me bike? They rattle something awful,” said one my size, who was the darkest. The other one my size was fairer and freckled.

I shrugged and said, “Won’t know till I see it.”

“I’m Tommy,” said the tall one, “and this is Aiden.” He pointed to the one with the Schwinn then to his mate in size, who’d piloted the Huffy. “That’s Sean. And last is Brian.”

“Boru to yous,” said the smallest lad.

“And Saint Brendan to you,” said I, in return.

They laughed and we cut through the shrubbery up the last of the hill to the fort.

“I think I know your brother, Eamonn,” Said Tommy. “He’s at university, inn’t he?”

“First term,” I said, nodding, suddenly remembering what I’d seen in the window. “I -- I don’t recall you being around.”

“I met him on the march to Dungiven. He’s a passionate one. When things threatened to get hard between us and the peelers, he helped convince us to back down.”

“You should’ve torn the bloody bastards apart,” snapped Brian.

“Plenty of time for that.”

“Eamonn thinks O’Neill will work with us,” I said.

“Give the country over?” laughed Sean.

“That bastard, Paisley, wouldn’t let him,” said Aiden.

“Not after Antrim,” said Tommy.

“Were you there?” I asked.

“Torched one of the RUC’s tenders,” he said, proudly. “News crews snapped photos of it for the papers.”

“He’s got a bloody scrapbook,” said Brian.

“For history, me lad!”

We reached the base of the fort and circled around to a tiny opening covered with a grate. Tommy undid a couple of bolts and pulled it partway off, then held it up as we scampered through this cave-like passageway to the middle of the circle.

Danny wasn’t kidding; it did used to be a fort, with stone steps leading up to three levels of walkways. The uppermost one was only a few feet under the top so you could lean on its walls and look out over what I was sure would be the whole of Ireland. It was only later I learned we were in Grianan Aileach.

Before I could say a word, Tommy’d slipped a stone away from the base of the walls to let Brian dive into it, and moments later, out popped a bottle of whiskey and a fat bag of tobacco. “Still here,” he said, happily.

Brian vanished back inside the hole and brought out another bottle and laughed, “Bourbon!”

“Have a care, lads,” said Danny. “If too much is gone, it’ll be noticed and then it’ll all vanish.”

“Danny,” I said, “this isn’t your stash.”

He shook his head.

Tommy finished taking a swig of the whiskey and offered us the bottle, saying, “Finders keepers, you know.”

Danny downed some then handed it to me. I didn’t want anyone to think I wasn’t as much a man as them, so I took a swallow...and near choked on the sudden sharpness of it.

Brian smirked at me. “Can’t hold his liquor.”

“I’m holding it fine,” I snapped back. “I just -- I don’t drink out of a bottle.”

Tommy winked at me and said, “You’ll learn.”

I noticed Aiden and Sean were busy rolling ciggies, so I took the moment to ask Danny, “What is this?”

He shrugged. “I was up here lying on the top walk, just looking at the stars, and some men snuck in. I stayed hidden and watched them pull that stone away. After they left, I looked into it. They’d hollowed out part of the wall and used it to hide things in. I guess it’s stuff they’re smuggling into Derry. Not paying taxes on it. Making a bundle.”

“But all this way, so far from everything. It doesn’t make sense.” I looked around the rocks, the whiskey building a nice warmth in my belly. “This place is kept up, Danny. Eventually someone’s gonna find that loose rock and brick it over.”

Danny shrugged in answer.

Brian fired up a fag and inhaled, but then didn’t exhale. Tommy did the same thing, after him, then he offered it to me. It didn’t smell like any cigarette I’d ever had, but I still took a puff and Tommy laughed at me.

“His first drink and his first smoke,” he chuckled.

“I’ve smoked before,” I said, irritated.

Danny took the fag, saying, “Like this, Bren.” Then he inhaled and held his breath...and held it and held it until I thought he’d pass out before he exhaled and choked out, “Here,” as he handed it back to me.

I took the smoke in and held it as long as I could, handing the fag off to Tommy, who carted it over to Sean. When I finally let it explode from my lungs, I was starting to feel dizzy.

“It’s best to lie back, Bren,” said Danny. “Look at the stars.”

I lay on the grass and gazed upwards, and it was as if I'd never seen the heavens before, the diamonds captured in the sky were so gloriously brilliant. A billion of them, it must be. Then they moved...and I had to hold onto the earth as it spun.

“Christ, Danny,” I whispered, “what is this?”

“Something to make the world a better place,” he whispered back, and I’d say he was only half talking to me.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

So what do I sink my claws into now?

Since they're so well sharpened and in need of connecting with something of flesh and blood...emphasis on the latter. What I'm putting into POS right now seems so inconsequential, I wonder if I'm wasting time. I have a deadline to meet and won't be able to unless I push harder...and's almost like this is helping to emphasize the quiet before the storm was not all that quiet.

I have over 45000 words (for everything I've written in this part) and 197 pages. I probably have at least 125 pages to add, still, to connect all the chapters I've written, and that's a conservative estimate. It may be more like 150, because I'm in the middle of September 1968 and Brendan's met some boys who are out to make trouble and have fun doing it. Which puts an interesting spin on this chapter, but adds a lot more to the overall story's length...and maybe depth. Hopefully.

Adding to this is a series of posts put up on Crime Scene NI, the blog by Gerard Brennan. On it, he talks about why he writes (the link is below and it's a fun read) and it got me to wondering why I do it. I've tried to explain my reasoning before, but it crystalized suddenly for me in one sentence that popped into my brain -- "To build a world where people mean something."

However, that's not always a positive thing. People can have meaning in good ways but also in bad ones. Curt's meaning, for instance, in HTRASG, is hardly least, not until the end. And that's still ambiguous. And in BC, what Eric winds up doing to Bobby, a guy he's never met, also has extreme meaning in both a positive and negative sense both for him and for Bobby, and even for their attacker.

Hm...I think I need to think this through more carefully, once I have the time. Meanwhile, I bought "Cold, Cold Ground" based on Gerard's recommendation. If it gets here before I leave for San Francisco, I'll take it with me. If'll be here for me to look forward to.

And until then...I keep aiming to get done by the 5th. God, my back hurts from this "burden."

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Mr. Meanderer

New characters have popped up, and an old one has taken a new what, I'm not yet certain. I'm just following the crumbs laid down by Brendan, leading me through the forest. I can't let him get too far ahead because the crumbs might vanish, again, and I'll be lost trying to find my way back to where I began. But it is a fun journey, so far.
A secondary character, to whom I'd given a new Austin 1300 to drive, decided she wanted an old Vauxhall like this, instead, and a semi-detached home in Greggan. Hmph.

I went looking for the name of the hooded wool coat I wore when we lived in London and can't figure it out, so went with a parka for Brendan. I need to drop calling it an Anorak because that didn't start happening till the early 80s.

Brendan's also turned into a feisty little critter in some ways. And also more aware, something I'd wanted him to be but felt held back by the limitations he'd put on himself. It's like he's peeled back another layer of the onion and I can see, now, what will make him more than just a kid wanting to make his own way in life and be left alone.

I'm up over 44,000 words on this section, 193 pages, and I'm nervous about the way I have everyone talking and interacting and presenting the things that matter to them and what doesn't. I don't think I have enough religion going on, since Brendan's Catholic...albeit not extremely so. Still the church ruled in Derry's Bogside mainly because it was the main point for social interaction and connection and identity against the Protestant crap.

Enough, already.

I made French toast for dinner for the first time in years and thoroughly enjoyed it. Used honey as my syrup. I'm using up all my leftovers since I'll be heading out for nearly two weeks for the California Fairs, starting in San Francisco.

I am so ready...but I don't want to come home to a moldy fridge.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

It creaks...

...but I keep the movement on POS going forward by reminding myself I'm just laying down the framework for some brilliant rewriting later. You may snark now.

Still...I have nearly 43,000 words and have almost connected two main sections that once were miles apart. And I'm establishing the trips to Grianan Aileach and the October 5th march that was such a disaster, not so much for the marchers as for the idiots on the RUC who tried to stop it. You can make the case that the troubles really started then, nearly a year before the Battle of Bogside, because after this came a sit down protest in the middle of Derry where 15,000 people shut the city down completely and then the People's Democracy March in January that lead to the attack at Burntollett Bridge, and then the floodgates opened.

It amazes me how blind people can be to what they're doing. The Protestant establishment in NI wanted to work with the Catholic civil rights groups to improve the lot of Catholics in the city in increments, but the radical right wing lead by Ian Paisley refused to even think of it. They felt that if they were mean enough to the people pushing for equal rights, they'd be able to force them to shut up. And they were so full of their idea of being right, they pulled their crap in front of news cameras and suddenly the whole world was seeing just how diseased those people were.

It's happening here, too, right now. The Tea Party and the evangelicals in the GOP have made it impossible for anyone to even think of compromising with the Democrats. To get ahead in the Republican Party, today, you have to reject science, disparage education, cut taxes for billionaires while cutting services for the poor, ignore facts, and embrace an ideology of denial and covert racism. Newt Gingrich has the script down pat because he's been at it for decades; Romney is just coming across as two-faced because he doesn't believe a thing he's saying, at all, ever, and it's so damned obvious, it's ridiculous. But one of these two sleazebags is going to be the GOP nominee, and normally I'd be gleeful at the prospect only I really do not like Obama's two-faced crap, either.

My hope is we don't descend into the same violence and chaos that gripped Northern Ireland for 30 years...but it's possible. We've already seen outbreaks of it, where a Democratic Congresswoman was shot and 6 others killed, and they were only the latest casualties in the war on human rights by the right wing nuts.

If Obama wins in November...and thanks to the stupidity of the GOP establishment, that's looking more and more likely...I wouldn't be surprised to see even more violence like that show up, all of it directed at liberals and those who care about people and education and opportunity for all instead of just rich, white folk.

I don't like guns, but I have to admit, I'm thinking seriously of getting one and learning how to use it.

Monday, January 23, 2012


This immediately follows the section I posted in the previous post.
In January, we were all caught playing rugby on a torn up lot by a sheeting rain so had run up to my home since it was closest. Mam was off to light a candle for Da’s soul (as she’d told me, Mairead, Eamonn, our neighbors, the Raffertys, and every other person she’d seen as she left). Eamonn was out with his mates, Mai had popped down to Henshaw’s to shop for supper, Maeve with her, and Kieran was sleeping, so the only part of my family I had to contend with was Rhuari, who sat on a chair, shivering and saying nothing. We were all a sight, wet and muddy, but I knew how to light the gas range, so we laid out in the kitchen to dry off. Then I made tea and shared a tin of biscuits.

As it was, Colm had a paper book in his back pocket; his brother’d sent it to him from Boston. It was wet and a bit torn but not too badly so. The title was “Borstal Boy”, about an IRA lad’s time in a boys’ jail, and he read the first pages to us as we shared a smoke off Gerry (he’d slipped some fags, cigarettes, from one of his Da’s packs). He was doing fine, just stumbling over the odder words, but he stopped when Paddy was taken off to jail.

“Starts out well enough,” I said. “Keep on.”

“You read it,” he said, “The writer’s got your name.” Then he added with a wicked grin, “But he pronounces it Br-br-br-brendan when he’s scairt.”

“I don’t stutter,” I snapped back at him.


“You make a nice cuppa, Bren,” said Eammon, cutting in. “Thanks.”

I just nodded to him.

"Go on readin'," said Danny. "Sounds like an IRA tale."

“Naw, it just keeps on and on,” said Colm. “He goes to borstal and gets to be friends with this Brit named Charlie and they call each other China, after a bit. You know why, Bren?”

“No,” I said. “Why?”

“No, I’m askin’,” Colm said.

Which got Paidrig in on the confusion. “Why would they call each other that?” he asked.

“How’s it written?” asked Danny. “Is he angry when he says it?”

“Fine, here,” Colm said, flipping through the pages. “He says...uh, here – ‘sticking up for your china’.”

“Away on, Colm,” I said. “Sounds like just another word for mate.”

Which made Paidrig even more confused. “But one’s English, the other’s Irish; they ain’t from China. Are they?”

I laughed as Colm rolled his eyes and said, “That’s why I’m askin’ Bren. Maybe he can figure it.”

“Why me?”

“You read.”

“Not that much.”

“Then ask your brother if he would. Maybe he can tell if Charlie’s Chinese.”

“Sounds bloody stupid to me,” said Paidrig.

“Peter Rabbit more your speed, lad?” I asked as I helped myself to another cup of tea and felt very grand in doing so, especially since I’d found I liked it with a sugar and splash of milk.

Eammon had another biscuit and asked, “Does anybody else call anybody that?”
“Dunno,” said Colm. “That’s as far as I got. Dunno if I’ll finish.”

"I like the idea of it, though," said Eammon. "Nobody here does that."

Danny grinned and motioned to me, “Oi, me China, give us a biscuit!”

I laughed and shied over to him -- and he caught it just as Mam come in the door, shaking the rain off her coat. She was in the kitchen before we had a chance to even think of moving, snapping, “What’re you boys doing? Why are the burners on?”

“Nothing, Mam,” I said, scampering to put myself between her and the rest of us. “Just come in from the rain to dry off and get warm. Have some tea.”

“And leave mud all over my clean floor!?” And I must admit, there was a lot of it smeared about. She also saw the mess of tea and milk and the biscuit tin on the table, and her eyes cut into me; I knew I was for it. She quietly said, “Away home, boys; the rain’s let up, and Brendan has much to do before supper.”

Paidrig, Danny, and Gerry gathered their things and slipped out without a word. Eammon stopped by the door and said, “Yours was the closest home, Mrs. Kinsella. That’s why we come here.”

Mam just nodded and said, “Off with you.”

Colm left the book on the table and smiled at me. “See you in school. Me China.”

“Me what?” Mam snapped at him.

“Nothin’, Mrs. Kinsella. Thanks for the use of your kitchen.”

He left. Mam glared after him then took off her coat, saying, “Rhuari, go upstairs and change your clothes.”

“But I’m fine here, Mam,” he said.

She cast him a look and off he went.

I put the milk back in the cooler and pushed the lid back on the tin, feeling a little afraid. Mam’s rages could come from nowhere over nothing, so the fact I’d dirtied her kitchen made it certain she would not be in a good humor. Then she sat on a chair by the table and motioned me over and looked at me.

“We can barely feed ourselves, but you give those boys half of what we have?”

“It was just tea, Mam. The biscuits I bought on my own.”

“With what?”

“A shilling I got for fixing Mrs. McKittrick’s radio.”

She shook me, angry. “You wasted good money on such an extravagance?”

“At least I earned it, not like Da -- .”

She slapped me, twice.

“Don’t ever talk to me like that, again. And never will you speak of your father in that way! Don’t you forget, he was murdered by two Protestant bastards, merely because he wanted to care for his family, but they he wouldn’t even allow him that much dignity. So you will not spit on his name, again, master Kinsella. Do you understand me?!” I nodded. She stood up. “Now clean the mud off everything, including yourself, or there’s no supper for you.”

So I did...well, as good as a lad of near eleven can be expected to, but it still warranted me nothing but a piece of bread and mug of water in my room as the others ate.

And for a week I heard nothing but how much trouble it had been for Mam to clean the floor and walls and cabinets and windows of mud after me and my mates had dirtied her kitchen, all without a thought for anyone but ourselves. And the sympathies she got were enormous.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Back to it

Some of "Place of Safety" that I've been working on --

I guess I should mention my birthday’s the 2nd of February, which brought my Aunt Mari no end of merriment when she heard. She’d been in the states but two years with her new husband in Houston, Texas (she met him at the American Naval Station in Clooney) but knew enough about this one custom where if a groundhog (I think it’s the American name for a woodchuck) pops up from his burrow and sees his shadow, it’s six more weeks of winter. Apparently, the midwife told her I’d started to be born, taken a glimpse of the world and slipped right back into my mother’s womb, refusing to come out till it was half five and what little sunlight there was had stopped drifting in through the window. This gave my mother no end of grief, since she’d been in labor for near thirty hours, to that point. Oh, how she loved to remind me of that anytime I did something wrong, just before a whack to the back of my head.

Of course, Da was off using the miracle of my birth to cadge a few drinks off the lads at McReady’s Pub. And when he came home lost in his spirits, he and Mam had a great set-to, since the rent had yet to be paid, through which I apparently slept. Which also brought Aunt Mari some happiness. “It seems he was born knowing how to deal with the two of you, as well,” she wrote in one of her letters. And Mam wrote back, in her too-precise hand, “No, I just think he’s simple.” Meaning retarded.

Whatever it was made her think I was slow, I’d grown past it by the age of six and was in St. Agnes School, proving myself capable in mathematics and writing while having no head for history, art or religious studies, much to the anger of the nuns. All my friends went there -- Danny, Colm, Paidrig, Eammon (not my brother) -- save two, Davy and Gerry, who lived in The Fountain and went to a Protestant School in the Waterside.

But that didn’t keep us from ganging together after the last bell for football on the remains of the cricket pitch behind Creegan Estates, or making terror up Butcher Street and down Shipquay, or running over to Wee Johnny’s to see what comics had come and pool our coin to try and buy one. Sometimes we’d pop into the APCK to see if there were any magazines worth sneaking out; they may have been a Catholic shop, but sometimes the cover of a magazine that had illustrations of hell by Dore, where women were usually very scantily clad, were sufficient to get a lad’s imagination going. Not that we really understood that, yet.

Of course, none of us noticed the other’s religion except in the most abstract sense, though Danny was an altar boy and would cross himself each time he passed a church (be it Catholic or Protestant) and Davy would always act the cod about it. “It’s Father Danny with us, again, back from drinkin’ his holy blood.” Colm’d usually smack him back the head for it and we’d all laugh and keep on. You see, all of us were poor and living in tight quarters, so we felt ourselves equals.

The worst set-up amongst us was Paidrig’s family; they lived in one room of a two-up, sharing with his older sister and her husband and kids. Jobs were hard to find, as well, with the shirt factories preferring to hire women and only the most menial of labor set aside for Catholic men, though his Da was not the sort to seek work with much effort. They’d always be on the dole, begging or borrowing what they could and blaming their lot on those who hated Catholics (which had far too much truth in it, but which also ignored their unwillingness to even try.)

That wasn’t something Gerry’s Da worried about; he tended bar in a pub on Spencer Street so brought home a steady enough wage. Of course, the best benefit of that was, he was loath to touch any alcohol since he always saw how it affected others. They were saving up to be able to move into a new home soon as one was available, and in fact he did wind up moving to The Waterside in ’70, when the old sod was made manager of the place. I guess the lack of indoor plumbing finally outweighed his Protestant need to keep a presence in the Fountain. We saw each other only once, again, after that.

Davy’s Da drove a lorry (a truck) for Arann Express, making trips to Belfast and back three times a week till he was near shot in ’71, during an ambush against a convoy of Brits. That’s when he moved his family to Coleraine and got on with the University. Being Protestant, he was allowed.

Danny’s Da worked for Catholic Services and they paid him little enough to live on, though it was better than the dole. Then Danny began talking about joining the church and meeting a lot with Father Demian, so his Da got a better position in the office and there was talk he might move to the Creegan Estates.

Colm’s family -- they seemed the most bent on abandoning Derry, with both his older brothers and three sisters gone to Canada, America or London to build their lives. Colm even talked of joining them when he was of age, but only in a vague manner that meant nothing. In truth, he knew too well how to work in and around the county, and had older lads he hung out with who were reputed to be mixed up in things that were only semi-legal, at best. That said, he and I were usually the only two with more than a tuppence on us, and I was smart enough never to ask him where his scratch came from.

Eammon was an only child of an abandoned woman, about whom the less said the everyone loved to say.

But these are all things that mattered little till I was more grown. Back then, we were just mates and knew nothing different about the world than what we lived in. I didn’t even know to question it till I started having an egg along with jam on my toast for breakfast, now and then, like Gerry had twice a week. Then I began to wonder why it had taken Da dying for us to be feed well, for during the wake people brought plates of food and we stuffed ourselves till we were ill.

I should say, this was something how to do by sneaking into other people’s wakes; 
Paidrig had shown me. We’d say a quick prayer for the dead, talk of how kindly he or she was (whether we knew them or not), and take handfuls of sandwiches and boiled eggs and cakes before slipping away. For a short while, my immediate fear was that once Da was in the ground, we'd have even less food in the cupboard. 

But instead we were fed better, with tins of meat and bread and porridge and even the occasional biscuit now being allowed, and I got to where I’d grandly share it all with my mates to show how well-full I now was. So I’m not ashamed to say I felt good about his being gone, far too quickly for decency’s sake.

Which was brought home to me not quite a year after he was buried.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Psycho Kyle makes himself known

Actually, it was Brendan from "Place of Safety" beating up on me. With good cause...I guess. I don't know.

Seems Amazon's offering a competition for a new novel -- 50,000-150,000 words. If you're a semi-finalist, you get read by Penguin Books with an eye towards being published. The winner DOES get published, with a $15,000 advance. And for a couple hours, I was thinking I could get the first part of POS, the part set in Derry, done in time to submit it. Dumb to even begin to think that.

You see, the submissions are limited. Bigtime. You start submitting January 23rd, at 12:01 am eastern time and can do so until midnight, February 5th...or until they reach 5000 entries, at which time the entry process ends. It would take me until at least the 5th to get POS in workable shape, but my gut tells me they'll have that filled by 12:15 am on the 23rd.

Thing is, it took me two hours to reach that honest understanding of where the story is...because I started reading what I had and it's really only half done. 170 pages and 38,000 words, so far. And still missing large sections dealing with major events -- like Operation Motorman and Internment and the October '68 Peace Rally that turned into a Royal Ulster Constabulary riot against Catholics and the Bogside of Derry.

Well, I figured I'd been silly to even think about doing this so quickly. I don't want to turn in a novel that's half-assed and inconsistent. Had I known about this on the 6th, when they say they released the info, I'd have stood a chance, but the notice didn't appear on my Amazon author's page until today. So I was going to blow it off and plan for next year, if there is one.

Only Brendan tossed a fit, telling me I wasn't even trying. I was letting him down, again. I'd never get the story done because I kept finding other projects to work on. He'd been trying to get me to write this for so damned long it was ridiculous. And the truth is, it's almost 10 years since he first appeared by my side on that walk from the circle fort and started telling me the truth of his existence.

And he's right on every point. I have been letting the story down. Been letting him down. So I settled in and started work on it, again. I'm up to page 26, have added about 4 pages, and have laid the groundwork for a number of things to happen. And I'll keep aiming for that February 5th deadline. I don't know if I'll make it...but at least I'm making progress.

I just need to stop sitting so damned long when I get going on it. I don't think I moved from my seat for 3 hours, and then only got up because I had to pee and my throat was parched. I'm typing this blog as I stand to give my legs a chance to regain some concept of what they're meant to be doing.

And Brendan is now laughing at me. Little shit.

Friday, January 20, 2012

There's a light...

"In the velvet darkness
Of the blackest night
Burning bright
There's a guiding star
No matter what or who you are

There's a light
Over at the Frankenstein place

There's a light
Burning in the fireplace

There's a light, light
In the darkness of everybody's life

The darkness must go
Down the river of night's dreaming
Flow morphia slow
Let the sun and light come streaming
Into my life, into my life

There's a light
Over at the Frankenstein place

There's a light
Burning in the fireplace

There's a light, a light
In the darkness of everybody's life"
(from "The Rocky Horror Picture Show"
written by Richard O'Brien)

I got my copy of "Florida Review." I am now a literary author, without question. It's odd how much that means to it's a firewall against those who would dismiss me as just an erotic or porno writer.

Don't ask why I chose this song to commemorate it. I also celebrated with fish and chips at Wegman's as a saxophonist played show tunes in the back of the food court. It seemed appropriate.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

We finally got a blizzard...

...of a sort. For a while the snow came down so heavily you couldn't see more than a couple hundred feet in front of you. My car had about 3 inches on it, but it was like powder so brushed off easily. I actually enjoyed it, even driving in it despite the fact that people in Buffalo want to go 10 miles an hour when they're on the road in the slush.

I've been scrambling to get things done at work, with the changes in plans and sudden now rush jobs needing to be done and all, so I brought my California folder home, tonight, and worked on that instead of something worthwhile. As of now it looks like I'll be in LA longer than I thought, depending on a couple of auctions. A friend of mine offered me his couch to sleep on but I found a nice Studio 6 (an upscale Motel 6) that's more centrally located to everything so I'll be staying there and hopping onto the 170 to get around.

I am SO looking forward to this trip. I miss LA, deeply. All my friends are out there. I get how the place works. The weather's a bit monotonous, but you can find snow in the mountains if you really want it. The place just feels like home in ways that Texas never could even begin to approach. Even Austin was just a good substitute, back when I lived there; I can see that now.

I have a package waiting for me in the leasing office when I can get it. I'm hoping it's my copy of the Florida Review with "Desert Land" in it. Unfortunately, the office is open the exact same hours I'm working, so I'll have to wait till Saturday to pick it up.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


Something I was told in high school art (and which I apparently have to keep learning over and over again) is - an artist knows when he's reached that particular point in a project where, if he does one more thing to it, he'll ruin it. But me being me, I didn't pay attention and hurt one of my paintings.

I'm referring to the black & white piece I did a couple days back. I decided I didn't like the unevenness of a couple of edges in the figure's shirt and throat so set out to fix them. Instead, I wiped out half the emotional impact of it. It looks good. Still has the sense of holding back. But the pain I once saw in it has all but vanished. Just because I changed the slope of his neck and removed some bumps in the "fabric" of the shirt's neckline, touched up some sloppy lines, added a couple more hairs. Now it's not the same painting, to me.

Compare this version to the one I posted a couple days ago. This is a crappy photo but it gives you an idea. Who knew such tiny alterations would bring forth a new sense of the painting? One I'm not too crazy about, since it's not what I'd done.

Maybe I'm being hyper-critical of my work...or hyper-sensitive to its possibilities concerning the prior one. All I know is, I should have left it alone.

Nothing I can do about it now. Painting it back to where it was with white won't work, since it'll have to go over black and for me to put enough white on there to keep the black from bleeding through, I'd throw the balance of the piece off, even more.


Let's focus on something else. I have 5 of 16 chapters of IF reworked well enough, for now. Some major inconsistencies have been cleared up, mainly as concerns the timeline and who met who when. I also need to change a name and get it consistent; seems I named one of my "made" guys after a real gangster who just got sent up to Attica. That might prove awkward.

OMG, someone's blasting Patsy Cline's "Crazy" out on the street. Just what I needed when dealing with a story about a guy going crazy.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Fighting back

Wow...Democrats in Wisconsin delivered over 1,000,000 signatures for a recall petition against that Koch brothers whore, Scott Walker. A couple other GOP state senators are being recalled, too. It's moment like this that make me hopeful for American Democracy. Any sort of pushback against the Rethugnicans is unusual, let alone one of this magnitude.

And it seems to be spreading. Look at Ohio; they had the same basic things happening but now Democrats have refused to the the GOP controlled Legislature have a quorum to pass their regressive, union-busting bills. And in Montana (!) the state Supreme Court said, effective, that corporations are NOT allowed to spend endless cash on elections, deliberately flying in the face of the radical right-wing-nuts on the Supreme Court.

I got into it, a little, with a blogger I link to, concerning this -- Ian Welch. He thinks we're collapsing and by fighting it are only prolonging the inevitable. I think it's better to fight back. Most of the other commenters on his blog agree with him, of course, and have berated me a little. I've shot back, even though deep down I wondered if maybe they were right.

I still sort of wonder...but now I'm not so sure it's really all that inevitable. It looked like the end of Democracy in the early 30s, during the worst of the depression, but we fought back. McCarthy damn near destroyed Democracy in this country with his commie-like demands for loyalty oaths and purging of undesirables from government offices, but we fought back. Viet Nam and Nixon wounded us, but we still got back on top. Bush used hysteria to initiate two wars and tax cuts and we're finally beginning to fight back. For a while it looked like the GOP was going to set the full agenda for the rest of the decade, but then came OWS and shifted the dialog from deficits to jobs. Now we're at the point where, when an asshole like Newt Gingrich says liberals ought to be fired from government jobs, we shout back instead of cower in silence.

The pendulum is swinging and the Tea Party's insanity is being seen for what it is and the GOP is realizing they've shot themselves in the foot and even Obama is beginning to understand jobs are more important than kissing Boehner's ass...though that may change with his State of the Union address; he's twisted himself around so many times he's like a fucking pretzel.

There's always hope, even in the face of apathy and fatalism...both of which I'd felt. And we still the next Congress, which may be just as contentious as the previous one, and the election coming up so I may slip back to it. But right now I'm feeling a lot better about our prospects.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Baby steps

Started easy in the painting cycle. I did this while watching "Castle", which used to be a fun show but is getting tedious. Which also means I did it in about an hour. Not hard to see how, it's so minimalistic.

Anyway, it turned out more reserved than I expected. Almost wary and uncertain, and I don't know why...but I like it. Like the stark simplicity contrasting the...well...almost hurt expression.

I dunno, maybe I'm reading too much into it. Truth is, The ear had been longer and the shoulder had sloped more smoothly to the bottom when I started out, but neither really worked as is, so I moved them back.

Hmph...this could almost be the cover for "Inherent Flaws." Maybe that's why I did it. Maybe that's where it came from. Whatever.  I'm letting it dry so I can sign it and maybe put it up on eBay. See if I can sell it. The money'd come in handy.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Weirdly consterned about consternational contemplations

When did women's arms get to be so ugly? Angelina Jolie is a gorgeous woman, but her upper arms are awful. Same for Madonna's. They're skinny versions of men's arms. They'd have done better to not have gone sleeveless.

I've seen a dozen series and movies advertised during the Golden Globes, and not one of them interests me. And every one of the presenters has a project coming out soon. I don't recall it being so obvious before. Maybe I'm just in the wrong mood. Even Ricky Gervaise's been so-so. I should've been drinking, for this.

Now that I've upgraded my desktop computer, I can't network with my laptop because for some reason my password is no longer acceptable. And the stupid book I have won't tell me how to get around that without being able to input my password. When the title says "Easy OS X Leopard" -- it lies.

I'm still a bit unsure about what to do with recent understandings that mean nothing to anyone but me but are still rocking my world.

I started on IF, today...and it's going to take more time than I thought for reasons best not discussed.

Maybe I'll do a painting, first. I keep telling myself to.
I follow some blogs on Tumbler, and have a number of followers for my X-rated political one. This image was sent to me by a mutual blogger (does that moniker even work?) and I love the composition of it and his eyes.

I have some canvas prepped. I have acrylics and new brushes. Maybe I'll kick myself out of my weirdness by doing something as gently erotic and sweet as this. Maybe the act of achieving something will make a difference.

Wish I had the nerve...and the send an image like this out in the ether. It's a forever piece, now, and I'm glad. You should always let the camera catch you at the height of your perfection.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Do I go far enough?

I'm beginning to wonder if I really do take my stories all the way to their logical conclusion, like I thought I did. Thing is, I've always preferred the subtle to the overt and have been accused of being subtle to the point of obscurity...but with "The Lyons' Den" I pushed as far as I could with the characters of Daniel and Ace and Tad and Van, and I think it made the story fun even though it was rooted in Daniel's history of hurt. Maybe even made it funny, though that's something so subjective I couldn't begin to assume I've achieved that.

But thinking about it, I've realized in my books, I do head straight for the abyss...which worked with Curt in HTRASG and Antony in RIHC6 but I probably went off the cliff with PM and BC (even though I've gotten good reviews on all these novels). PM got too locked into the physical with Alec while BC may have become so locked in the emotional turmoil of Eric and Bobby, they became just Russian and depressing. I don't know.

But when it comes to my screenplays, I've realized I hold back too much, as if my pushing the envelope might be off-putting to the people who decide whether or not to make the script. I got close to pushing it in KAZN, where I told the story in such a non-linear fashion most readers couldn't follow it and would give it a pass, usually complaining about things not being in the script that were but that they didn't notice. And in BLOOD ANGEL, I let Gabrielle be fully evil and yet charming and desirable. But to mitigate that, I Tristan is nothing but damaged and a dog...when for the ending to really work, he needs to also have anger and vindictiveness mixed in with his pain, and I deny him those.

So now that I've done a rewrite of MINE TO KILL, I'm seeing where I'm holding back way too much for it to be truly, not holding back; just not following the path into the deepest darkness. Martha (the lead) is a woman of forty who both loves and hates her younger husband. Loves him because he's attractive and used to be kind to her; hates him because he cheats on her with anything female he sees and doesn't care that she knows. But throughout the script I keep trying to reveal her as sympathetic. Why? She throws away her life for a scumbag because he's good in bed. Why? I don't really indicate why...because I don't really know, yet.

But it's also a case of the husband, Alex, not being really dark enough to warrant her obsessions. Nor for Thomas, a young doctor who's the hero of the story, to sense he's worthy of hell. He's just a randy mutt of a man, and they're a dime a dozen. Is that where the imbalance comes from in the story? I've allowed cliches to overtake characterization?

Weird, I'm listening to some song wondering if there's life on Mars, but wasn't that a David Bowie song? It doesn't sound like his voice singing it and I'm not familiar enough with his oeuvre to say. But I noticed it...and it sort of feels like it relates to my confusion. make this even more confusing, what started me thinking I might be holding back too much was watching the last four episodes of Season Three of "The Big Bang Theory" and seeing how Sheldon is more than a man-child in need of protection; he's been viciously wounded by life, just as Leonard has been. I laugh at most of the show's jokes and situations, but I also see there is some serious pain underlying it...and it startles me. These guys were bullied by their parents, siblings and schoolmates, sometimes to where they could easily have killed themselves. It amazes me what the show's writers are able to get away with by cloaking that pain in comedy.

Like I'm trying to do with LD.

Oh, shit, my brain's crashing into a loop of WTF is going on here. I need to listen to some Enigma.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Just keeps on going

Just watched "Stagecoach" (1939) on YouTube and it's worth seeing not just because it's a classic film, but because of how, 73 years later, businessmen are still making the same damned arguments about government. Check it out at about the 33:30 mark, when the banker (who's looted his bank) is complaining about regulation and the national debt. Sounds like Mitt Romney WAY too much.

That said, it's an elegant film that established just about every convention in westerns and, to be honest, sci-fi films that there is. Watch it and tell me you don't see where Lucas got some story ideas for "Star Wars."

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Better is better

Illness gone...but LOUD construction at work. Nothing can be simple, can it? Nope. Even plans that seem rock solid and ready to put into action can become majorly complex. I can't really discuss the sudden shift in what had been set in stone for weeks (our client wouldn't like it), but one thing I've learned on this job in the last couple years is, I can adjust and make it still work.

Something else I learned is, I never really believed that about myself until recently. I sort of knew I could do it, in my head if not my heart, and even had occasions where I had to change things in short projects I was making, though they usually turned out less than satisfactory. On a couple of occasions, the final result was so god-awful, I came damn near giving up film altogether. (Old story, I know.)

But now I can see on many of those occasions, I hadn't really made any backup plans for when things went wrong. And I never let anyone else help in my plans, so I didn't have a second head to use to make the proper adjustments. But while doing these packing jobs, I've found it's not only necessary to have contingency plans, it makes you less prone to freaking out or copping an attitude. I've also found that my confidence is building in my ability to adapt.

During this last packing trip, I even noticed I have a sort of mantra..and I'm not sure when I started it. But I just shrug and think, "What happens is what happens and I'll deal with it when it happens." It's been my basic attitude about this coming job, which may well take place in a blazing snowstorm. Or not. I'll deal with it when it happens.

It's weird when you finally notice something you may have been doing for a while but weren't conscious of. Not really conscious...just sort of vaguely aware. It's like you suddenly see a new person staring back at you from the mirror.

Of course, it might just be my psychotic blocks are coming down and I'm better able to pay attention to reality. Hm...not sure I like that.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Geek chic

Been sick...which apparently is why I've been so weird the last couple days. It's been so long since I had the flu, I'd forgotten its build-up signs. Nothing massive, fortunately, just irritating.

So I sit in my chair and watch "BBT" and think of all the crap I have to do that I'm not doing as I drink tea and nibble at some food and play one episode after another of "The Big Bang Theory".

Want to hear the craziest part? I've developed a crush on Leonard (as portrayed by Johnny Gaecki). I had a crush on David Schwimmer through all 10 years of "Friends", but I'd met him and while I liked Ross, it was David I focused on.

I've got nothing against Johnny (he strikes me as a decent person in the interviews I've seen) but it's the character of Leonard that appeals to me...and not to worry; I'm not so far gone I can't tell it's a fictional character I'm reacting to.

Keep in mind, I fell in love with Daniel as I was writing him...and in love with Van as he shifted to Dan-O's side in LD. I was really crushing on Jake in RIHC6 and am seriously writing notes about a mystery he has to solve, concerning an uncle's disappearance. Which I'm not sure is the right way to keep his and Tone's story going...but would give me space enough to work them out. But as real as they are when I'm writing them, I can still step back and understand what it all means.

With Leonard, I could actually see myself trying to be friends with him...and more, if possible. his character is in desperate need of love and support. So is Sheldon, but him I just want to shelter and protect.

Guess I'm just your average, everyday, all-America, too-damn-typical-psycho-stalker-wannabe.

Try saying THAT three times fast.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Weirdness ensues

The last couple of days have been curious. I've been unable to focus on anything creative; had two headaches...including one snarly one as I was getting ready for bed, which I think came from a pinched nerve or something; and I've been non-stop hungry...something I think I finally satiated, this evening, with four slices of toast, butter and jam with tea.

I'm not on a diet; I'm just trying to cut back on how much I eat at a time. I was getting too used to the monster portions restaurants consistently serve, and my weight was steadily increasing to an uncomfortable stage. And I was doing good. I'm down 12 pounds since Labor Day and still sort of trending downward...but all of a sudden I just could not get full. Maybe I'm cutting back too much.

You see, I rewrote "Mine To Kill" (a horror script I wrote years...and years...ago) over the weekend, setting it in Syracuse and clarifying a couple of points, all because someone MIGHT want to see it, and I wanted it ready to send at a moment's notice. That's pathetic.

But that's screenwriters. We're the needy nerds of the film biz. While everyone else in the film crew gets treated with respect for the various jobs they do, screenwriters are pissed on by everybody from the bottom up. And we exacerbate that paradigm by letting them get away with that shit because we want to get produced and we're afraid if we stand up for ourselves, we won't be. And the truth is...we wouldn't.

And now that the rewrite is done thanks to the flimsiest of excuses, I feel stupid and immature and empty. But I can't face writing, at the moment, and my art is too demanding, at the moment, so I stuff my face. In BBT I can see a bit of myself in every character -- Leonard's dreams of normalcy even though he's brilliant; Sheldon's inability to understand the world around him; Raj's shyness and sense of being lost in another world; and Howard's bravado mixed with a complete lack of awareness of himself.

Tonight as I ate, I watched more episodes of BBT, and got sideswiped by one where everybody winds up arguing and we find out Sheldon can't handle it so reverts to his boyhood comforts -- comic books and toys. That's what brought home to me why I like the show. I see myself in every character and while it's funny in so many ways, it's also heartbreaking.

Okay, fuck tea -- I need booze.

Monday, January 9, 2012


 No feel like make sentences. Instead, show pictures.

These books and papers for "Place of Safety."
Statue at top left is first script award, for "Cowboy King of Texas" (AKA: "King of the Cowboys"). Rest are books and DVDs of all sorts of things.
 Some of other awards following first and my easel with a little art on it.
 The icy-falls of New York.
Windsor Locks, by Hartford. Montgomery factory, closed but by a nice canal and the Connecticut River.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Talk about a horror story...

I am so sick of the GOP and the moral dwarves running for President under its banner, all of them two-bit snakes who don't give a damn about Democracy or an individual's rights...if they don't correspond with what they think is correct. And we've got 10 more months of this shit to wade through.

Even ignoring the neverending "debates" by the contenders, I'm still slathered in the mud and muck they're slinging, thanks to the one-track-mind of our so-called "liberal media." You can't even ignore it online. And all the while, nobody's doing a damned thing about unemployment or the foreclosure crisis or the thieves on Wall Street and in the banks. All we're allowed to pay attention to is these idiots trying to prove they're more conservative and beholden to the rich than the others. It's disgusting.

What's even more disgusting is how some Americans not only pay attention to their lies and deceptions, but think they're great! Newt Gingrich, who not only cheated on his first and second wives but divorced both when they became ill; Rick Santorum, who spouts about how moral and Catholic he is while spitting on the teachings of Christ; Mitt Romney, who lies about everything, period, and has yet to be called on it by the media; Ron Paul, who would happily take us back to the Middle Ages, when serfs were dependent upon their Lords for life; and Rick Perry's just plain so stupid, he can't tell A from B or C and has forgotten he does not run Texas, his Lt. Governor does...and the state's damn near turned into a Banana Republic.

THIS is the American Horror Story. Nothing anybody could come up with would be more terrifying than one of those assholes actually buying or stealing his way into office. And in case you think it can't happen, 2000's election was stolen in Florida by Bush thanks to the illegal intervention of the Supreme Court, and it's highly likely that 2004 was stolen by manipulations in Ohio by the GOP controlled elections board. And look what happened -- Bush damn near bankrupted the country with his tax cuts and wars that have yet to be paid for.

Not that anyone should have been surprised he'd nearly ruin America; he couldn't even find oil in Texas when he was given a company to run by some of his daddy's friends. He's been a colossal failure his entire life, but because of his daddy's connections, he's been allowed to coast right on through.

Tecumseh's Curse is finally coming to fruition.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Opening of a horror film?

What do you think of this as the first few scenes?



AN AMBULANCE ROARS UP, SIREN JANGLING. EVERYTHING MOVES WITH A STACCATO, ECHOING, SURREAL RHYTHM. The doors fly open and EMS TECHNICIANS burst out with the bloody body of a middle-aged CONSTABLE on a gurney. PSNI patrol cars (Police Service of Northern Ireland) follow.

DR. THOMAS MacGREGGOR (good-looking medical student) exits the hospital with a RESIDENT and CRASH CREW. The medical team surrounds the gurney as several PSNI CONSTABLES appear.

(Irish accent)
Four gunfire wounds. Three chest, one neck. B-P’s one-seven-nine over six-two. Pulse, four-four. One saline. Two plasma. Crashed, en route.

(Irish accent)
Curtain one, stat!

We’ve somebody in there.

Get them out! Call surgery for a consult.

Thomas puts his hand on the constable’s chest.

(Scottish accent)
Bullet fragment’s nicked his aorta. I got pressure on.

No snap judgements, MacGreggor.


Doors crash open before the speeding gurney, MOVEMENT STILL STACCATO; VOICES STILL ECHO. Thomas and his crew work hard. PATIENTS and PEOPLE line the hall. PSNI Constables appear from nowhere, casting hard glares at Thomas.

G-C-S -- two-three-one.

Ready the cart! He’s off to code.

FLAMES EXPLODE AROUND THEM! The LIGHTS FLARE TO GREENISH WHITE. The constable wakes and grabs Thomas, terrified.

(Irish accent)
Don’t let me die; I ain’t ready!

Thomas’ eyes jam closed.


BLEAK, DIRTY, STACCATO IMAGES flash as a terrified YOUNG MAN races around a corner to find a dead end. Trapped, he turns and raises his open hands in surrender.

The same constable as on the gurney appears -- and SHOOTS HIM! Then coldly tosses a second pistol beside the body.


Thomas wipes his face, smears blood over his eyes.

Bloody bastard...

The Resident glances at him. They roll into a trauma room. Shift the constable to a table and get to work. The uniform is shredded off, equipment is attached, and blood flies everywhere.

FLAMES EXPLODE AROUND THE CRASH CREW. No one notices. The constable’s chest cracks open to show his heart beating.

Thomas jumps back. The flames are gone, the constable’s chest is closed.

The crash crew ignores him. The Resident pumps the constable’s chest.

Stop! Bullet fragment! left atrium!

He’s in arrest!

You’re slicing his heart open!

Thomas shoves him aside and cuts the man’s chest open...and FLAMES EXPLODE FROM THE MAN’S TORSO. Smoke fills the room.


COLD and DESOLATE as the constable rapes a WOMAN behind a dumpster. She fights him. He slaps her and tears at her breasts. She gets his pistol, kicks him back and SHOOTS HIM.

His PARTNER bolts from a patrol car and shoots her!



No! Please! Gimme another chance! I’ll make amends. I swear it!

The crash crew keeps working like nothing off is happening.

Doctor MacGreggor!? Doctor -- !?

SILENCE surrounds Thomas. Everything shifts to SLO-MO.

The constable appears before him, clean, no longer injured, his uniform in perfect condition.

Please -- no -- no -- NO!



Thomas bolts awake. He lies on a couch in an under-furnished room. Medical textbooks mingle with the mess of a too-busy bachelor. A crucifix hangs around his neck. He shivers, but not from cold.

He finally rises, swallows some aspirin, dry, and goes to a window, still shaking.

It looks across Thornden Park to the huge SUNY University Medical complex. Just beyond is the cold, hard skyline of downtown SYRACUSE, NY, deceptively calm. A nasty taste fills his mouth, so he grabs a bag of Skittles from a table and munches on some. They soothe him.

DISTANT SIRENS jolt him and MINGLE WITH THE JANGLING SIRENS of the Northern Ireland Ambulance.

No’ again. Please. No’ here.

He hides his face; the SIRENS GROW IN INTENSITY.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Computing 101...01010101010

Today was spent upgrading the operating system on my desktop computer...which I'm still working at. Seems I couldn't re-install Microsoft Office 2004 or Adobe Photoshop CS because...well, I don't know why. But I did figure out how to reconnect to my laptop via Firewire and just shift them over from that. And for some reason that worked. Man, I'd still be behind the 8-ball if it hadn't been for Mac's Genius Bar. It made my day.

I also spent over an hour trying to find the upgrade for my printer's driver. The disk I have was only good through OS 10.4 and won't even load in. And HP was making it hell on earth to find the new driver online. I was close to giving up and deciding to buy a new one when I finally found a link embedded in a post to a thread discussing that very problem...and it lead to an HP site that let me download the correct driver.

So now my e-mail is set up, again. And I can use Safari, again, without being dumped by FiOS. I still have to re-set all my links...of which I had dozens, but I'd saved them all to a Word document and printed that out, to be safe. It's just time consuming.

What was even better? By going to the Walden Galleria for my Genius appointment, I found out there's a Five Guys Burger joint located under the theater. Scarfed down a cheeseburger, fries and a coke. I felt like a commercial.

Time for more tea and some that yoghurt. Better for me.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

I be jammin'

Drove straight home from Hartford, CT -- about 420 miles in 6 hours. In a white cargo van. I was going to stay overnight in Albany, but I wasn't tired when I hit there so I kept going...and going...and going, just like that battery bunny. And I did next to no thinking the whole way. In fact, my brain is not working at all, right now, because right around Rochester I started getting tired, but since it's only 60 miles from Buffalo, I didn't even think about stopping.

Dunno why I felt the need to get home. It probably wasn't even anything meaningful. But the Motel 6 I stayed in was cheap-assed -- the sheets didn't even cover the mattress -- and I wanted my own bed, tonight. And to have the whole day to myself, tomorrow.

I'll have to start revisions on IF, soon. I've received copious notes from the guy whose life it's based on. We'll see....and yet, I don't know if I'm ready for that, yet.

TLA did take on a dark overtone during this trip. Not sure how I feel about that, either. In fact, everything seems to be up in the air. Like my life.

"Bored now," as Wicked Willow would say. (BtVS reference for those uninitiated.)

Wednesday, January 4, 2012


I've finally been to the campus of an Ivy League school I've heard about for decades...and it's really elegant. Winding roads curl around hills and well-kept buildings from the 19th Century. A gorge runs right through the middle of it all, where the stream cutting into it is frozen over but the waterfall feeding it is only partially frozen. Students already dash everywhere as blue and white busses march past, ferrying them into town or around to a different part of campus. It was actually impressive, for once. Not enough to stop and take photos of, but still...I wonder if I'll get the same impression of Yale when I visit there?

Something I'm still not quite used to in this part of the country is the abundance of water. Buffalo is basically flanked by two huge freshwater lakes, while Ithaca is at the tip of one of the Finger Lakes that seems to go on forever. And as I was driving up the 81 to Syracuse, I noticed this one part of the freeway, where rock had been cut into to better form the road, was thick with white icicles dribbling down over the stone, like a miniature version of Niagara Falls...and it went on for a good two-hundred feet. If I hadn't had a semi behind me, I would have stopped to take a photo of that.

I've been to Syracuse before, actually stalking through the area just over a year ago when driving back from NYC. It's a tough town with only moments of beauty. But what had me interested was possibly setting another story there. I have a psychological horror script I'd written about a woman trying to bring her dead husband back to life and the young intern she blames for his death. Initially it was set in Houston but it never really settled there. For a while I was thinking of Seattle for the the location, and it would have worked well, but then along came "Grey's Anatomy" and kicked that city off the radar.

Then I started thinking -- one aspect of the intern's life is that he's running from an incident that nearly derailed his goal to become a doctor. So he'd want to hide from the world as he finished his education. Well...I researched small towns with universities that had good medical schools -- and SUNY has one in Syracuse. I looked into the city and facilities online and decided the story would work beautifully there. Plus, the teaching hospital's near a park, where a scene on a bicycle could take place very neatly, and it's not that far to Lake Ontario. Done deal.

But then other people started telling me how the script should be, and I began to lose faith in it. It was one of my non-Syd-Field screenplays, where certain things that "needed to happen" didn't happen when Syd says they should. So I put it aside...until I actually came to look Syracuse over. And noticed that park was on a hillside and the city really is not very nice. Which lit the fire under the story, again. Not to a boil, more like a simmer, quietly percolating in the background.

Of course, it helps that I'm now at the point where I have enough confidence in my writing to be able to tell someone who thinks I should change it that I won't. That I like the story as it is. Mainly because I still have people trying to make me change my work to suit them. I learned the hard way that doing so just fucks things up and achieves nothing. You can read earlier in my blog about the last time I tried to rework a script to someone else's idea of what it should be (check out "Bugzters" or BZ, which won awards in its original form but apparently that wasn't good enough). It damaged a friendship.

Anyway, just rambling along since I'm staying the night in Syracuse and saw that icy waterfall and am amazed at how lush with water this area is. Even under a couple inches of snow...and I'm not feeling the push for heavy-duty work on TLA; just notes that seem to be leading me towards a character study of a man who's given up his life to his family and now that he's alone is lost and more than a little pissed off.

Hm, sounds European. Italian neo-realism. Might be interesting.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Makes me laugh

I watched 6 more episodes of BBT and am enjoying the hell out of it. It's been so long since a sit-com made me laugh this much...and had characters that were weird and real and irritating and endearing. I actually feel protective towards Sheldon, and now that I've seen what Leonard's mother is like, I feel for him.

I know what this sounds like, but I meant it when I said I know people like this, who have these quirks and specific intelligences and childish sense of excitement about something like a questing game or comic book. I felt apart from all of that but now I think I have an idea of what it means...and BBT is so elegant in its method of dramatizing that...with laughs.

I'm off to Ithaca, NY, tomorrow, to transport boxes of archives to Hartford, CT, to be shipped to a client. And of course, it's been cold (5 degrees) and snowing the last two days. I don't mind; I'm just worried about how long it will take me to get there. I allowed 4 hours but if the 90 is bad, it may take longer. And that bugs me. Fortunately, I also allowed 3 days for the job, even though in good weather it would only take two.

I'm taking nothing to read or watch or listen to while I'm on the road. I'll be saying in Motel 6's en route to Hartford and back to Buffalo, and I know at least one of them's been refurbished so it'll be livable. And I'll work on this script that's tickling my brain. Title -- "Tony's Last Adventure."

I don't know if it will be action-packed or tender memories or a comedy of errors or what; I just know part of it will be a road movie, and Tony is already dead and buried. The opening and ending will be set in Buffalo. Some of it will be in Florida...probably Key West. And the lead is a 68 year old man named Joe. I've got the back-story, so who knows where this will take me?

I've seen a number of road movies -- "Rain Man", "Kings of the Road", "Two-lane Blacktop", "Grapes of Wrath", "Sullivan's Travels" (where I first got my crush on Joel McCrae), now I need to rent "Harry and Tonto" just to see what that one was like.

But not from Netflix. I just learned they're owned by WalMart. I'd never have joined if I'd known that.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Still I dream

Some people are lost causes. No matter how much they swear they'll change whatever it is they need to change, they don't. Or can't. Or won't. I've known this about junkies and drunks for years. And years. It's the same for any abuser of anything; if they don't want to quit, nothing you can say, think, or do will alter that reality.

I used to think it was laziness and selfishness that was behind such intransigence. Now I wonder it's more a case of just losing the thread that leads them down their new direction and simple instinct pulls them to the old, familiar path. Something safe and known as opposed to the new and untried. There's nothing malicious or deliberate or even necessarily wrong about it all; it's just the way things go. Old habits are hard to break if, deep within, you don't really want to break them. And new habits are hard to take up if they don't overwhelm the old one enough.

I guess I'm now one of the fallen. One of the insane who thinks if he does something over often enough, the outcome will prove different...finally. My addiction? I started working on a script. A screenplay. Again. I've just completed the first draft of a bruising piece of writing and couldn't face the idea of another word on a computer...and the only thing I can think to do with myself, today, is start another piece. Out of whole cloth. That I've been eyeing for a while.

This one has an old protagonist, with his teenage grandson as a tag-along, and I know the beginning and the end. I have the characters worked out in my head. I've already shifted one of the locations. I...I'm lost in the story. And it's ridiculous. I've written 30 screenplays and not one has been produced...and that includes (and currently looks like it will always include) the two I "sold" (for very little money.)

I honestly do not know what to think about me, right now, but the cold, dark truth is -- I still dream. I still fucking dream. With rare exceptions, my first thoughts about a story are, "What sort of movie would it make? And would I want to see it?" And will be till I die. And deep down I do not want to change, no matter how much sense it makes for me to.

May as well commit me now.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

It's snowing

Nothing heavy but there and dancing about in the brisk wind like flakes swirling in a delicate globe. My window is open and yet I'm still warm. I think I'm getting to where I like it up here. That, or watching 12 straight episodes of "The Big Bang Theory" while finishing up my shredding and ironing put me in a good humor. Probably a combination; I've always had a multi-level response to things like this, especially in my stories.

Everything is done except for not having my fax machine set up correctly, yet. I've had it hooked up for months but only today found the instruction manual for it and will try to make it work, tomorrow. Once that's done, I'm going to Canada for my celebratory dinner...for finishing the first draft of IF. Normally I wait till I have the story done, or as done as I can make it, but this was such an unusual one for me, I'm having it now. I've got $20CAN in my wallet and that's enough for a decent meal at Tony Roma's.

This year is going to be a wild one, I can already feel it, and I have no idea what that means, yet. The only thing I can see happening right now is finishing up this season of BBT and contemplating the next. I actually enjoy the hijinks of Sheldon, Leonard, Raj, and Wolowitz; not so crazy about the character of Penny, because she's just a bit too typical a blond...except for when she became a gaming addict. Then she got interesting and showed a capacity for intelligent thought. My hope is the producers expand on that...but so far they haven't.

However, Jim Parson's smiley face makes up for all deficiencies. Totally.