Derry, Northern Ireland

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

Friday, August 31, 2012

Worse than I thought

I suck at comedy. Lesson # 2 is pretty straight-forward -- come up with a character and put him or her in three different situations:

1. Fish out of water.
2. Incongruent pairings.
3. Hilarious purpose.

I tried a hundred different things, and none of them sparked any interest in me, let alone come across as funny. What I finally settled on was "An antiquarian bookstore owner who's easily distracted. And how did I work him into the three situations?

1. Intending to go to a book fair in St. Petersburg, Florida, he winds up in St. Petersburg, Russia...and can't get out.
2. A client of his is suspected of laundering drug money so a hard-assed detective takes the store over to get to the guy.
3. The owner, who's never cooked a day in his life, must prove he's a master Teppanyaki chef to get a billionaire to back a new venture for his shop.

Do these sound like second-rate sit-com setups, or what? It's like I'm retreading "Fawlty Towers" or "Keeping Up Appearances", both from the BBC. I can just see John Cleese trying to explain to an impassive Russian immigration official who doesn't speak much English that he got on the wrong flight at Heathrow and just wants to go someplace where there's palm trees instead of homophobic twats, and does he know of a direct flight to where he was heading?

Now I need to delve into writing a scene that includes either misinterpretation, comedic surprise, or a wildly inappropriate response. But the examples I'm given aren't all that funny to me.

1. Misinterpretation -- the scene in "My Cousin Vinny", where Vinny first visits Billy and Stan in jail to discuss the murder charges against them, and Stan thinks Vinny's there to rape him. Everything Vinny and Stan say to each other only exacerbates the misunderstanding.
2. Comedic surprise -- the scene in "Notting Hill", where Spike seeks advice on what logo-filled T-shirt to wear on a date, seems to come to a good decision on a safe one...then it turns out the back of the T-shirt is totally wrong-headed.
3. Wildly inappropriate response -- the scene in "Happy Gilmore", where Happy gets in a fight with Bill Barker and they exchange insults.

If this is the way they think comedy should go, I'm in big trouble. My sensibilities are totally opposite from this. I preferred "A Fish Called Wanda", and the party scene at the chateau in "The Rules of the Game" had a moment in it that still makes me laugh, when during a chaotic masquerade party (that includes a gunfight, attempted seductions, demands for a fistfight or duel over a woman who doesn't want either of the men, and a drunk mistress refusing to go to bed) the chateau's owner orders his butler to "stop this farce!" And the butler replies, "Which one, sir?"

Hm...maybe that's it; I just need to do something in a British tone. I've already used French farce as a basis for one lesson.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

First class, yesterday...

Of my comedy writing course. I had to dissect a scene and figure out how incongruity made for comedy. I chose this one from "La Cage Aux Folles" (the French version, not that hideous American remake) and focused on the absurdity of using how you butter toast as a way to show how you can be a man.
C'est trop drole...

Burger King Crowned Me

I stopped at one along the 17 to have lunch...and got sick as a dog. Not something you want happening while driving through an isolated part of the state en route home. I spent an hour at a Sunoco 60 miles down the road giving Imodium AD time to kick in. Now I feel wasted and still a bit nauseous, but a lot better overall.

Thing is, I haven't eaten much of anything since, so I also have a hunger headache. I'm doing crackers and milk, right now, which isn't the best thing in the world to be feeding on but nothing else is the least bit appetizing. Dunno what was in that burger or what those fries were cooked in, but I ain't goin' to another BK for a long, LONG time.

This is what I get for taking the scenic route home, heading up the Hudson on the 6 and crossing at Bear Mountain Bridge, by Fort Montgomery. More Revolutionary War history, here, and I was a lot closer to West Point than I realized.

When I hit Syracuse, I was feeling good enough to check out something I'd written in "Mine To Kill" and found it didn't work, at all. This is the screenplay about a woman who tries to bring her husband back from the dead and an ER Intern whom she holds responsible for the man's death. It's set in Syracuse at the teaching hospital and I had her living on the lakefront near Oswego, about 30 miles north of town. But that's just not how things work in that area. So I need to reconfigure.

I must say, while the Chrysler 200 did good on gas, it's not the most comfortable of cars. The seats are hard and low, and it feels very cramped, inside. It wasn't a bad car; it's just...not something I'd buy. My little Civic is also low and it's just a coupe, but I can get in and out of it fairly easily and its interior feels spacious.

I'll probably drive that car till it falls apart.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Drivin' and demarkin'

The NYC area likes to do roadwork in the middle of the day, snarling traffic like you wouldn't believe. I've moved faster on the 101 at rush hour getting out of downtown LA than I did trying to get past the George Washington Bridge on the 87. Lanes on the top level were closed. Same thing happened when I headed for Orange, NJ; traffic on the 280 was shunted down to one lane just past the Newark drawbridge, so it was snarled back to the toll booths off the 95 and became more of a parking lot than anything else.

And this was at 11:30 am passing the GW and 1:45 headed down the 280. Man...I'm glad I don't have to drive a truck in this town; I'd go nuts.

Going back to the Tappan Zee Bridge was fine since I took the Garden State Parkway instead of the Turnpike. This is the bridge I crossed to get to my hotel.

Look close between the support posts on the left and you can just make out the Manhattan skyline. Here's another photo to show you what it looks like, from this distance.
The Hudson looks more like a lake than a river at this point. I've seen lakes in Texas that would love to be this wide and clean and deep.

And just around the corner is...

Monday, August 27, 2012

Legendary Sleepy Hollow

Since I'm only about 5 miles from the village of Sleepy Hollow, I took a drive through it at twilight, just to get a glimpse of the place. It's a twisty, hilly part of the Hudson River Valley and has a long, long cemetery bordering the 9. Row after row of tombstones marching up a hillside, half hidden by trees and kept from taking over the road by a long stone and wrought iron fence. I've now paid homage to Washington Irving...even though I never knew I wanted to.

On the drive down, I shifted to the 17 at Binghamton. This not only kept me out of Pennsylvania and the inevitable roadwork I keep running into in that state, it's a much lovelier drive. Towering hills flocked with green trees. Wide shallow streams whispering around rocks and stones and islands of mud and grass. I'm driving a Chrysler 200 and it's an okay car, but it feels cramped and scowly. And the ventilation is pathetic; if you don't use the AC you have to have the windows all the way down, and that messes with gas mileage as much as anything else. But it has cruise.

So along the drive, I gave free rein to Jake and we started working out what "The Vanishing of Owen Taylor" is all about...and he reminded me of his own description of himself, once. It's when he pulls Antony back from getting lost in evil in his quest for revenge (in volume 2 of RIHC6) -- he tells of when his father lived in Iran and raised a wolf pup, then got tired of it. But no matter how badly he treated that wolf or how much he ignored it, the creature was always ecstatic to see him...because that wolf saw him as part of its pack. And to a wolf, nothing matters more than their pack...and their mate.

And that told me everything I needed to know about OT. Jake's grandmother and his uncle were his pack. Now his grandmother's dead and his uncle's missing, and he needs to find out what happened to someone who was more important to him than anyone else. Until Tone became his mate. And Matt joined their pack. I get the sense wild and crazy Dion's part of it, too, now...but not sure exactly how that's going to work in. And then there's Lemm, who's still enigmatic to me.

I dunno...I'm probably being goofy, here. But it's given me the spark to tell the story, again. And I've been working on it in my head for hours. Now I'm going through what I've written to see who's what, where, how, and when...and then will focus on the story...use it in my search for direction.

And now who should come tapping at my brain but Gabrielle, from "Blood Angel". She's got her own story to tell...and Tristan would love to expand upon his...

I think Brendan now understands why I'm postponing "Place of Safety"; I need...absolutely live in Derry for a year before I continue working on his story to understand the society I'll be writing about, and I won't be able to do that for a while. But when someone goes so far as to criticize the way I describe snow in LD, a story without a tenth of the weight I want for POS, that's silly. I want all future shots fired at me to be over something important instead of nonsensical.

Don't ask for much, do I?

Sunday, August 26, 2012


It's set in Nottingham, England. Follows two gay men over the course of a weekend as they navigate their lives...and each other's. And it sliced through me in ways I cannot's too overwhelming.

The man in the red hoodie is Chris New, playing Glenn.

The man in the blue one is Tom Cullen, playing Russell.

Not a lot happens in the film, on the outside. But inside are earthquakes and tenderness...and blood is spilled, like in life. And these actors became so real, so open and honest and pure in their characters, I felt as if I'd seen two humans in the process of rebirth...and would love to have them as friends, with all their beauty and hurt and anger and wariness intact. Andrew Haigh deserves accolades for writing and directing...but the film lives in Chris and Tom.

This is what I once dreamed of doing in film -- telling stories about people making what they can of their lives, for better or for worse. I hint at it in some of my scripts and books...but I lost track somewhere along the line.

I need time to think. I'm taking Labor Day week off and cocooning myself away for a while. I need time, alone, untroubled.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Spider likes my car

At least, it likes my left rearview mirror. When I arrived at the parking area, last night, and went to open the driver's door, I'd found this fat brown spider had strung a web from the outter-most part of the mirror to the door, just under the window about 4" along, and had been having itself a feast thanks to my being parked under a vapor lamp. I almost hated to move the car, it looked so self-satisfied. But I had to get home, so...before I even reached the freeway, no more web. And the spider was hidden behind the mirror, inside the mechanism.

When I came out, today, it was too hot for it to have done anything new, I guess. The car was in direct sunlight and inside was boiling, just like in Texas on a summer day. So far this summer's been well above average, temperature-wise, for Buffalo. I wonder if that means this winter's going to be a beast?

I've asked someone I met to do me a letterhead. He's going to work on it and I'm to buy him dinner when I'm in NYC, again...which looks like will be the week of December 10th. Depends on the client.

Neill Armstrong died the other day. He was the first man to set foot on the moon back in 1969. I remember watching the landing on TV and seeing Walter Cronkite actually joyful. Now we have little go-bots being photographed by our satellites as they land on Mars. This one's of Curiosity, from earlier in the month.

I saw a western movie, once, where a cowboy decided to go farther west because he'd run into two people in the space of a week and things were getting too crowded for him.

I wonder if Marvin feels the same way.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Cat is the hat

And the contemplations of which I contemplate contemplating continue to keep me crazily complete, and clear my consciousness of claptrap, creating casual commiserations with characters calling catastrophic cacophony from my claim to cry, "Cool" as  cretinous communities crush kitties in my cranium.


Thursday, August 23, 2012

Things change...

...And, as usual, means more has to be done. This packing job I'm working was all set, all the books in boxes and ready for pickup...and suddenly they need to be numbered according to category even though they have labels telling what's in each box. Irritating, but doable as they're being ferried out to the truck.

My brother's getting his teeth pulled, tomorrow, so won't be able to work for a while. He's one of those people who never took care of his teeth and so most of them have rotted away. Whenever I'm feeling lazy about going to the dentist, I think of him and make sure I get mine cleaned and checked. It's going to take a few weeks before he gets his dentures; he's doing it through the dental school in San Antonio so it's cheaper but takes longer. At least that'll give him time to heal. Now if we could just get him to bathe every day...

I haven't gotten any writing done during this job, and I'm starting to go through withdrawal. I did some thinking about OT, yesterday, and Jake filled me in a bit more on his background and what he's planning to do, but that's been it. Other paperwork and nonsense have been taking up too much time...and I probably won't get hunkered down on it till Sunday. Then I'm off, again, on Monday to oversee the second stage of this packing job.

Stage three is set for the first week of December.

I'm finding one thing really bothers me about New York. It's not the hustle and bustle or the high prices; it's the lack of grocery stores, of all things. I went looking for something to bring back to the hotel to nuke, so I wouldn't have to go out for dinner, and none of the markets I went into had microwavable meals. I happened onto a larger market...and all they had were meals made with chicken. No wonder there's so damn many restaurants in this town; that's the only place people can get fed if they want something other than a chicken pot pie or a Hormel lunchable.

On the other'd be a great way to lose weight, not having anything to eat.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

I loved my mother...

But something I finally clarified, this evening, was just how much self-doubt she sowed into my being. I can think I've done something really good, and I can get praise and positive responses to it, but let 1 or 2 people say it's not perfect, and my confidence in the project is damn near shattered. And I know it stems from how I was raised -- "You always have to see the other person's side and accept their opinion is as valid as yours."

That is death to an artist or anyone who creates, because there will ALWAYS be someone who won't like what you've done. The adage, "You can't please everybody", is especially true when it comes to writing or painting or making music. Taste is completely individual to each of us, and what I think is great, you might think is stupid or silly.

For example, I think "The 400 Blows" is a near perfect movie. I can watch it over and over and over, and it was one of the few valuable DVDs I own that I refused to sell when I was broke. But other people have shrugged it off as "okay" or "nice enough"...and I can't understand why. I also think "Seven Samurai" is a brilliant film without a boring moment in it, but Robert Osborne and Rose McGowan dissed it (on TCM, no less) as being slow in spots.

Conversely, "ET" is beloved by millions but I wasn't all that impressed, and you could not get me to go see a James Cameron movie after "Titanic". Granted, he's only made one since then, but I still haven't seen it.

So I know all of this, intellectually, but emotionally I'm still subject to needing nothing but positive response to my work for me to think it has validity. I'll fight like a madman for my characters and stories when I feel they've been treated unfairly, in general, but if someone critiques them and points out issues that don't work for them, I can see their point.

Why? I don't do that in politics; the GOP is wrong and that's the end of the story. I don't do that in religion; the Talibangelicals are out to destroy democracy in the US and they should be stopped, period. So why the fuck do I care if someone doesn't think my writing is perfect?

That's weak and silly and juvenile. And it's ridiculous; I'm too friggin' old to be such a weenie.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Bad day for blockhead

Let's see...I underestimated the number of boxes I'd need for today's packing job so had to order more in, wrecking my schedule. And one area where my assistant and I are packing the books is hard to get to because anyplace else we wanted to set up was in the way. So I'll now be packing on Thursday and loading on Friday instead of hitting a museum, because I can't get the additional boxes delivered before tomorrow afternoon.

"Lyons' Den" got dissed from two quarters, one rather brutally.

"Find Ray Tarkovsky" got dumped on. Apparently "no one wants to make a movie that uses an actor in Hollywood as its hero."

My comedy writing class got bumped to the 29th...which I guess is good, seeing as how I'm in a lousy mood. was a lovely, cool day in NYC, and I got a free lunch. And my assistant is a pleasant Irish lad from Dublin who's studied to be a graphic artist. Maybe I'll ask him what his idea would be for me a letterhead.

I took this photo my first trip there. It's the Liffey River, and I was using an underwater 35mm camera to shoot everything. Amazing any of it came out decent.

Monday, August 20, 2012

I've been ruined

I'm alternating reading "Domestic Manners of the Americans" with "Examined Lives", which seems to be about how philosophy developed and is still relevant. It's an interesting read...and break from Fanny Trollope's creaky grammar...but I've found I'm ruined about one aspect of it.

The book talks about 12 major philosophers, beginning with Socrates. Which I keep wanting to read as So-crates...a la "Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure". Just like I can't say the word "France" without thinking of how the Coneheads said it on "Saturday Night Live." I'm marked.

It's weird how popular media can warp your brain.

Still, the book's got an interesting background of So-crates in it. And James Miller's style, while still a bit arch, is easier to deal with.

Don't get me wrong; I love what Fanny has to say. And I'm amazed at how people today would fit in perfectly, attitudinally, with the world of 1828-29, especially as regards the power of religion in people's lives...and how it's warping them. Fifteen year-old girls weeping and trembling about their sins. Women dressed in their finest to go to revivals and in-home prayer parties, where they eat, drink, and gossip to their hearts' content. And the men having little or nothing to do with it all.

She notes that itinerant men would walk up to a home, ask the mistress of the house if she wanted to pray with him, and wind up staying till breakfast (all nice and far as we know) because he let her hold a prayer meeting in her drawing room and he proclaimed over the course of 2-3 hours about the horrors of hell and the goodness of Jesus. Then he'd continue on his way with a little money, leaving behind some happily terrified and smitten womenfolk.

I guess Presbyterian preachers were the pop stars of the Pre-Pre-Raphaelites.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Fanny Trollope and Jefferson

I woke up late, this morning, with a fuzzy brain so focused on reading more of Fanny Trollope's "Domestic Manners of the Americans"...and got jolted awake by one passage dealing with Thomas Jefferson.

"Few names are held in higher estimation in America, than that of Jefferson; it is the touchstone of the democratic party, and all seem to agree that he was one of the greatest of men; yet I have heard his name coupled with deeds which would make the sons of Europe shudder. The facts I allude to are spoken openly by all, not whispered in private by a few; and in a country where religion is the tea-table talk, and its strict observance a fashionable distinction, these facts are recorded, and listened to, without horror, nay, without emotion.

"Mr. Jefferson is said to be the father of children by almost all his numerous gang of female slaves. These wretched offspring were also the lawful slaves of their father, and worked in his house and plantations as such; in particular, it is recorded that it was his especial pleasure to be waited upon by them at table, and the hospitable orgies for which his Monticielo was so celebrated, were incomplete, unless the goblet he quaffed were tendered by the trembling hand of his own slavish offspring.

"I once heard it stated by a democratic adorer of this great man, that when, as it sometimes happened, his children by Quadroon slaves were white enough to escape suspicion of their origin, he did not pursue them if they attempted to escape, saying laughingly, 'Let the rogues get off, if they can; I will not hinder them.' This was stated in a large party, as a proof of his kind and noble nature, and was recorded by all with approving smiles.

"If I know anything of right or wrong, if virtue and vice be indeed something more than words, then was this great American an unprincipled tyrant, and most heartless libertine."

Uh...ouch. I knew of Jefferson's children by slave women...but the rest of it? Makes him look like a two-faced SOB. And this was taken down in 1828, in Cincinnati, only a couple years after his death.

Shows once again that our founding fathers were human beings with both good and bad in them, not saints as some would believe. Thing is, I think they were self aware enough to realize that no one is perfect and all men are capable of vile actions (I claim no innocence here), and that's why they made the Constitution so hard to change while allowing for that change. I think they knew parts of it would be used for bad (the 18th Amendment that started prohibition, for instance, and helped establish organized crime in the US) and good (the 14th and 15th Amendments, which ended slavery and gave voting rights to all men...and women with the 19th Amendment).

Amazing that a book that's nearly 200 years old is so full of educational and contemplative moments.

Plus you should hear how hysterically idiotic religious revivals appear to her...and how her description would be just as valid today.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

New letterhead

Today was a get-crap-done kind of day. Sorting paperwork. Answering e-mails. Updating my LinkedIn page. Starting plans for updating my website. And working up a new letterhead. Here's one possibility, albeit without the "thought bubble" over my phone number.
I could get someone to work me up a letterhead that's snazzier, I suppose, but I don't have the money for it, right now. Same for my website. I'll be making that work with whatever GoDaddy will give me. Then once it's up and running, I'll replace the LinkedIn line with the address.

My comedy writing class starts on Tuesday, just as I start the first step of a  major packing job in NYC, so I may be trying some funny bits out in the evenings, just to see what the reaction is. Don't expect much; comedy have never been my forte. But this is an online class so I think I can make it through, all right.

At least...I hope I can. Who knows? It might actually wind up being my Roast.

I will say this...I came up with a line for Danny when he finds out the extraterrestrial who's been grabbing and killing people is using them not only for a power source but also food, he blurts out,
"So our planet's like their Seven-Eleven?" I'll have to find the right moment to slip it in, so it may change a bit, but that's the general idea. I need more goofiness like that in WC.

Except...the SF movies of the 50s took themselves so seriously...and that's what made them so much fun. I'm not talking about "War of the Worlds" or "Forbidden Planet" -- those were class acts; I'm referring to movies like "The Blob" and "I Was A Teenage Frankenstein". The latter one has a classic line in it -- Dr. Frankenstein (neatly played by Whit Bissell) is yelling at his creature, "Speak! I know you have a civil tongue in your mouth, because I sewed it back, myself!"

Didn't hurt that the monster was played by Gary Conway, who was a semi-nude model for photographers like Bob Mizer and Bruce of LA in the mid 50s then went on to star in "Land of the Giants" on TV in the late 60s. I used to enjoy that show and "The Wild, Wild West", thanks to all the moments of shirtless bondage of the male stars.

I worked that into "NYPD Blood"...just with a female who's obsessed over Robert Conrad. Had to have a little fun.

Friday, August 17, 2012

More Niagara River and Town

Out of the dozens of photos I snapped, yesterday, I found more that show how fast the Niagara River is flowing, like this one across from Goat Island...
 ...and this one, both taken within a couple thousand feet of the Falls. It's easy to see how, if someone fell in, they'd be gone before they even knew it.
You can see the rocks at the bottom of the US falls; that's what kills people. It seems like the Canadian falls don't have as many rocks at their base...but they also have more mist rising over them so maybe they just aren't as visible.
The Canadian side is pretty cheesy and touristy, but in a goofy way. I still like how T-Rex, who stands guard over a put-put golf course, seems to be menacing the ferris wheel.

Behind it is a volcano that spits fire every now and then. I never could time it to where I could catch the flames. It'd belch, I'd click, but it'd be an instant too late.

This time I parked my car about a mile down a park from the bridge to the Canadian side. It was free so long as I left by dusk...which I did. And the walk did me good after that mediocre steak.

Next time, I'm going to Ruby Tuesday's. It's right on this strip of wacky amusement-park like business -- the horror house and Frank Toussad's or something like that and games parlors -- but I've had decent food there and for half the price. Plus they have a window space where I can sit and watch the crazy people going by.

I just realized...THIS is what I'd expected Coney Island to be like. That it wasn't even up to this level of wacky was a disappointment.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Made it to Niagara Falls

I had $20 Canadian in my wallet so decided to have dinner on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls, NY. It was the perfect day to walk, meaning I parked my car in a free area down the park from the bridge and wandered up, taking more photos and trying to get the real feel of the water rushing past but nothing seemed to be working until...
This gives you a hint of how fast and strong the water is along the Niagara River, here, just before it cascades into the gorge. I felt it was almost scrubbing my brain clear of the chaos it's been in, lately.

And will keep being in for the next 10 days, apparently. The New York jobs came through so I'm flying down Monday, doing one job that afternoon then the other job over the next 2-3 days. If all goes well, I'll have an easy Friday and be able to go to a museum or movie or something before I head out to the airport. But I'm not planning on anything. I've made that mistake too many times.

Of course, this will be as my comedy writing class is taking place, online. More chaos...hopefully of the good kind.

Then the following Monday I'm driving down to oversee a second part of the second job and driving back on Wednesday. Just call me Speed Racer.

The meal I had on the Canadian side was okay...but not as good as I'd expected. It's hard to believe Tony Roma's can make a filet mignon tough. I wish I'd eaten at Planet Hollywood, there; at least I'd have had some nice music.
This guy had a good voice and nice way of strumming the guitar. Even Johnny rotten seemed impressed -- and you know how hard he was to please.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

WC done...and so am I

This beast gave me a nasty headache, because I'm already seeing places where it needs changes, so I'm just stealing a cool review of "The Lyons' Den" from JP at Salmagundi. Sometimes he's NSFW, but his book reviews are fun to read.

Previous to "Fraud", I was reading my friend Kyle Michel Sullivan's latest, "The Lyon's Den." Daniel Bettancourt is a writer of noir whose characters talk to him. I have no problem with this. As I tend to tell people, friends, complete strangers: I have my most intelligent conversations when I am alone. What makes Daniel crazy is the same thing that potentially makes me crazy: our ex's. In Daniel's case, Theordore J. Bentley III, a.k.a. Tad, who has come for Daniel's help. Tad is trying to turn scripts based on Daniel's work into FAME and he's come to Daniel because some other writer (the Cheeto-eater) has fucked it up. Thus, Daniel is sent off into the wintery night to a cabin in the middle of nowhere to fix the scripts.

In the process he's put in his place by a grouchy, big-mama-truck-driving gnome named Mrs. Serff, attacked by a gun-toting heavy, seduced by a "journalist" who happens to have a SOB holster, and threatened with an icy death by a Baby Fenster. It isn't a pleasant stay.

But the book is fun. Told from the perspective of Ace Shostakovich, Daniel's main character, the narration is all hard-boiled, PI swagger, and asides of Daniel's life, history, mental processes, breakdowns, and dreams. Add in Daniel's dream version of Tad and Ace's motor-revving honey, Carmen, and before you know it, you'll wondering if anyone in this piece is for real.

I'm told by the author that is probably his lightest book - light here being not a judgement of weight rather one of timbre. Also with it being based on two versions of the same play, it comes off as a play - particularly the great majority of the book that takes place in the cabin. It becomes quite easy to imagine the book as scenes in a play with an audience sitting and watching. Or as I kept doing, imagine Michael Caine and Christopher Reeve in Deathtrap, but, you know, funnier.
Thanks, JP. Glad you liked it.

Now where's my Advil?

Tuesday, August 14, 2012


This is the Lever Building, one of the first all glass high-rises in the world, in fact. It was designed by Gordon Bunshaft and Natalie de Blois of Skidmore, Owens, Merrill -- one of the main architectural firms in America at the time...and still today. It's now a landmark building.

When I was in NYC last week, I happened to stride by it and took this photo. I'd never seen it, before, and I know it underwent a major restoration a few years back, so it's regained a lot of its former glory.

When I was in high school, I flirted with the idea of becoming an architect. The downtown library in San Antonio had a collection of "Architectural Digest" and "Progressive Architecture" and the like, and this was held up as one of the seminal buildings in the modern history of the craft.

I loved how clean and simple it was. Very Bauhaus in its intentions -- i.e. form follows function. I could see myself designing buildings like this. I never liked the post-modern style...which is basically evident in the tan building to the left. I still like open and unfussy looks and spaces.

I like that in my writing, too. And I've been having trouble with that preference in WC. In order to keep it moving, I've been trying to limit the number of talking scenes, the "getting to know you and revealing character" scenes, in it...but I can't cut them out. Without them, I can't see any heart in the script.

All I did do was break them up into smaller moments and sprinkle them through the script instead of loading them in at the beginning. It doesn't feel quite right to me, yet -- I prefer brick and mortar stories to simple sketches meant to hold together a series of action scenes -- but I can live with it. I just don't know if my characters can.

But as one let me know least the story's being told.

I hope it goes get to be.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Paul Krugman on R&R and the Media

Romney/Ryan: The Real Target

So, let me clarify what I believe is really going on in the choice of Paul Ryan as VP nominee. It is not about satisfying the conservative base, which was motivated anyway by Obama-hatred; it is not about refocusing on the issues, because R&R are both determined to avoid providing any of the crucial specifics about their plans. It is — as Jonathan Chait also seems to understand — about exploiting the gullibility and vanity of the news media, in much the same way that George W. Bush did in 2000.

Like Bush in 2000, Ryan has a completely undeserved reputation in the media as a bluff, honest guy, in Ryan’s case supplemented by a reputation as a serious policy wonk. None of this has any basis in reality; Ryan’s much-touted plan, far from being a real solution, relies crucially on stuff that is just pulled out of thin air — huge revenue increases from closing unspecified loopholes, huge spending cuts achieved in ways not mentioned. See Matt Miller for more.

So whence comes the Ryan reputation? As I said in my last post, it’s because many commentators want to tell a story about US politics that makes them feel and look good — a story in which both parties are equally at fault in our national stalemate, and in which said commentators stand above the fray. This story requires that there be good, honest, technically savvy conservative politicians, so that you can point to these politicians and say how much you admire them, even if you disagree with some of their ideas; after all, unless you lavish praise on some conservatives, you don’t come across as nobly even-handed.

The trouble, of course, is that it’s really really hard to find any actual conservative politicians who deserve that praise. Ryan, with his flaky numbers (and actually very hard-line stance on social issues), certainly doesn’t. But a large part of the commentariat decided early on that they were going to cast Ryan in the role of Serious Honest Conservative, and have been very unwilling to reconsider that casting call in the light of evidence.

So that’s the constituency Romney is targeting: not a large segment of the electorate, but a few hundred at most editors, reporters, programmers, and pundits. His hope is that Ryan’s unjustified reputation for honest wonkery will transfer to the ticket as a whole.

So, a memo to the news media: you have now become players in this campaign, not just reporters. Mitt Romney isn’t seeking a debate on the issues; on the contrary, he’s betting that your gullibility and vanity will let him avoid a debate on the issues, including the issue of his own fitness for the presidency. I guess we’ll see if it works.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

WC means Rebecca Redux

I finished the restructuring of "We-come". It's 90 pages long and a lot less complicated at the end. Plus I set up the story for a possible sequel. I even worked in the hero being in tightie-whiteies. I think I'll make that a meme of mine in every book...or script, so long as the actors have good legs. I'll need to go through it, again, to make certain I haven't totally contradicted anything within the story's timeframe and differentiate the characters a bit better, but it's close to completion.

Once that's done, then comes the fun part -- what the hell do I do with it? I guess I could post it on InkTip; a lot of people seem to want horror on there, and this could be done for a modest budget. I think. But they ain't cheap to use.

Then there are all the sites and blogs connecting screenwriters with producers -- Moviebytes, International screenwriters, Screenwriters' Network, to name a few. Start hitting them up every night and deal with the rejections I usually get from people who honestly do not really know what they want.

I guess I could make use of my LinkedIn page and reboot my website, but none of that seems to get much traffic. And all the horror script competitions had deadlines in June. We'll see.

Anyway...since I did finish on my deadline, I treated myself to one of my favorite movies -- "Rebecca", directed by Alfred Hitchcock and based on a novel by Daphne du Maurier. I saw this on a double bill with "Spellbound" at a revival theater in San Antonio and it got me started on my Hitchcock fetish. It's amazingly faithful to the book, which I read just after seeing the movie for the first time, and does fit closely to the 25/50/25 structure so prevalent in screenplays.

Of course, I ironed as I watched it; I can't just sit and enjoy a film, anymore. Not sure when that happened.

I saw the "Masterpiece Theatre" remake with Charles Dance as Maxim and I dunno who as the narrator of the story, and it was awful...except for Diana Rigg as Mrs. Danvers; I think she got an Emmy for that. The director and writers did everything they could to take the romance out of the story. Hitchcock's version may have been a fantasyland version of English country living, but it better fit the whole theme and emotion of Du Maurier's book.

I had to buy this cheapie version because I'd sold my Criterion edition when I was broke and they don't offer it, anymore. This was put out by the MGM Premier Collection. Not as classy, but it had a couple of short documentaries about the making of the movie and Daphne du Maurier, so it was worth the price on its own.

But I really do wish Criterion would bring theirs back into print.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Back to the grind of writing

It took me a fair portion of the day, but I went back into "We-come" and made some more changes and am now down to just 18 pages left to rework. So I printed out a copy and will red-pen it, tomorrow, as I do laundry. I also deepened the characters a bit.

Danny, the lead, was a big deal in skateboarding competition -- his nickname is The Art Man -- until he took a near-fatal spill during a show.

His girlfriend, Catherine, is making a video of his comeback...or his downfall; the choice is his.

Chill is another skateboarding champion who got into it because of Danny, even though there's only a 2 year spread in their ages.

The main villain is Miner, a biker drug-dealer with muscles and tattoos everywhere.

The alien, himself, isn't really seen until the second half of the script, deliberately. I'm going for a big reveal here. And I've got a fun twist on the end that'll cause an emotional earthquake, I hope.

So...currently the script is 94 pages, set in one basic location in the desert, and keeps the FX to a minimum...but there is still a bit more than I anticipated. I'm nervous about that, because I read an article about "Loopers", an SF film about time travelers who have to kill or be killed or something, and they were talking about having a minimal budget of $35m and that affected their SFX. That's a minimal budget in Hollywood, these days? my accounting out of whack.

I've also been pushing LD on a few blogs. Here's the latest bit of graphic work I've put together to try and get some traction for it. So far nothing much seems to be working. I'm getting good reviews -- 2 on Amazon, 1 on Goodreads, 1 on B&N -- so I guess it'll come together. I just wish I knew what more to do besides buy print ads or make videos to post on YouTube.

Obviously, advertising is not my forte.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Duh day...

I got back to Buffalo at 2am. Seriously. The plane didn't start loading till midnight. We left the gate at 12:25. Circled Buffalo's airport for twenty minutes. Landed at 1:45. Sat on the tarmac for 15 minutes waiting for another late plane to unload. And finally hit the gate at 2. I didn't get home till nearly 3, thanks to it taking forever to unload the plane, get to my car, get the hell out of airport parking and into my apartment. I should never have joked about it.

So I didn't get up till noon...and I was still a bit brain dead, all day. I caught up on nonsense and did some artwork while listening to music. It's weird that just getting up at 6am and staying up 22 hours would screw me up so much, but even my body wasn't happy. In fact, the only time I left my apartment was to get mail. Maybe I'm coming down with something...or losing my mind. That, or I'm getting old.

I got a good review of "The Lyons' Den" on Good Reads, but the guy who did it apparently isn't posting it on his blog. Oh well, I thanked him and can now direct people to that, at least. But it seems my bit of promotion for LD isn't doing much of anything. B&N hasn't even set it up for Nook, yet, even though the Publisher's sent it to them twice in that format. I seriously doubt Random House has this sort of trouble.

Supposedly, NYPD Blood will have a cover design by Monday. I hope this publisher does a better job of promoting the book than I or either of my other two publishers have.

I stumbled onto an old story I was writing, a few years back. It's about this time I went camping with the Boy Scouts and first began to realize just how different I was from the other boys...because the assistant scout master wore a red square-cut Speedo when we were all splashing around in the river. I couldn't remember what I'd done with it, then discovered it on an old CD, by accident.

He looked a bit like this guy, just not as pouty, and the Speedo was seriously RED.

I may work on that once I'm done with WC.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

The Joy of Air Travel today

I'm currently sitting in Jet Blue's Terminal 5 at JFK playing plane tag. When I arrived, I learned my flight had been delayed an hour, so I got myself put on standby for an earlier flight. That one got delayed for two hours. So I asked if I could pay the same-day flight change fee and get myself put on a flight that was slated to leave within the hour. That one got delayed as I was talking to the customer relations person. So I had myself put back on my original flight.

I'd sprung for the extra-legroom seats...since those were the only ones left on the flight and I had a feeling I'd better give over the $20 to make sure I actually had a seat, and I glad I did. If I'd been on standby on the late flight, which is the last one out of JFK, I'd be stranded. But what's even better? Because I'd bought the higher-priced seat, I got to go through the speedy line at TSA instead of having to wait behind the long line of cattle in the regular one. I may reconsider my basic objection to paying the extra.

Of course, once we're on the plane, I'm hoping we take off quickly. But apparently there are a lot of backed up I may not get into Buffalo till 2am. And that's after getting up at 6am to catch my 8am flight. So I'm taking tomorrow off and trying to get myself back on schedule over the weekend.

I can't work on WC while using my laptop; my version of Final Draft is too old. Since I was shifting over to novels and I use Word for that, I didn't feel the need for it. Of course, now I'm reconsidering.

I guess I'll just have to surrender to the idea that every 5 years I'll need to upgrade my electronics and their programs so I can keep up. As it is, I'm 10 years behind the times when it comes to my cell phone and iPod.

Sometimes life acts more like the Indianapolis 500 than a simple drive down the freeway. When the hell did we get to that point?

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Lost the thread, again...

One of the problems I have with composing a script or story on a computer is, I can easily lose the thread of it and have to stop to figure out what will work and what won't. Working on WC has just reminded me of that. I've done so much restructuring and shifting, it's getting me confused as to where the ending is going and I have to keep going back to see what's what.

It's irritating when that happens, and it slows me down. I only have 20 pages of script left to go over, but they're the most crucial to work right so everything ties up neatly. Or in a way that makes sense. And right now I think I'm scrambled. But I won't be able to work on it, again, till this weekend. I have an 8am flight to NYC in the morning, and anyone who knows me knows how I am NOT a morning person.

I halfway wonder if that's why do much of my scriptwriting takes place at night? If it does get made, I don't want to have to face a 6am call, like my DP buddy had when he was in NYC, recently. Hell, it's hard enough for me to make it to work by 9. My normal wake-up time is between 10 and 11 am, on the days when I just let myself go.

Of course, I work for people who are very AM oriented. Get up at 6am? Normal. But...they also go to bed by 10pm.

Hell, the night's just getting started then. See?
I took this at the last Halloween street party I could attend in West Hollywood. He was so happy I knew what "Tron" was, I think I could've shot the whole roll on him.

Almost wish I had.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Again with the reworking...

...of the reworking I reworked on WC. But now it makes more sense. I hope. And I found a way to keep the shocks from seeming repetitious...I think.

I'm flying to NYC Thursday for the day -- 8am flight down; 10:45pm flight back. Ugh. At least I don't need to deal with a suitcase or any materials other than my laptop and file folders.

I think I'm going to get a fresh passport. My current one expires in 2014 but it looks pretty beat up. I washed it, once, and it's been used to go to Thailand, Ireland, England, Scotland, Germany, Hong Kong and Canada. And flipping through it I realized, it's been 6 years since I was last in Ireland. I wonder what Christmas is like there.

Won't find out this year. I'm too busy scrambling to make ends meet. In fact, I won't probably use it, again, unless I hop over the border to Niagara Falls, Canada. The Hong Kong Book Fair's been cancelled and Toronto's reduced to nothing but Canadian dealers; no one from the US is going. Seattle's got so few people going, it's very iffy. Looks like the next book fair I'll be working is San Francisco in February 2013.

If we're still here. 12/12/12 still looms.

Monday, August 6, 2012


Well..."Inherent Flaws" is going to be "NYPD Blood." Does that sound like pulp fiction, or what? I'm just waiting for the cover to come through and the galleys to arrive for correcting, and then off it goes. It's funny...for nearly two years I tried to get the guy whose story this is to change the title, but he wouldn't. It took this publisher two days. Shows what kind of clout I've got with people.

I worked more on WC, but it's beginning to feel repetitious. Someone's alone and BOOM! There's the bag guy. I try to make each one seem different, but I think I need to dig deeper for something more creative in this piece.

I figured out how to make the alien sympathetic, at the end. Won't know till I get there if it'll work -- I'm on page 64, right now, and the script is 88 pages long, so far. But here's the fun part -- the hero suddenly popped up with an underwear scene! It's quick and needed, but I think I'm going to have some more fun with that. Put him in briefs...maybe CKs or AussieBum.

I've already reworked the first half a couple times to better reflect what helps the story move along. When it's getting to be too convoluted, I stop it. The thing has to make sense, even in its fantastical universe.

HTRASG keeps selling better than anything else I've written. Maybe I should have put it up for a Pulitzer, when it first came out. That would've been fun. I sent BC to a Catholic college for a grant submission. All three volumes, 4 copies of each. Wasn't cheap, but the grant was for $50K so I figured, it couldn't hurt me. They never even responded.

I wonder why?

Sunday, August 5, 2012

In too deep

I got so locked into working on "We-come", yesterday, I couldn't shut my brain down when I finally got to bed. I didn't drop off till about 4:30 am then didn't wake up till 11:30. Messed up my day, because I had a ton of laundry to do and groceries to shop for. That's my Sunday ritual.

Got the laundry done, but groceries're waiting till tomorrow, after work. I didn't really need anything, so I shifted focus to WC and restructured some of my restructuring as I worked through another 18 pages. I added a scene that will be really freaky, if anyone goes for it...showing how the alien uses the humans it's captured not only for a power source, but also for a snack. It'll turn you off beef tartare, for damn sure.

I've started reading "Domestic Manners of the Americans" by Fanny Trollope...and she is viciously funny in that understated British way. I've only done 2 chapters, but her comments on the "self-styled superiority" of the Creole ladies as opposed to those she refers to as "dragoons, who are prettier and more alluring" made me laugh out loud. And she's already noticing how Americans, when you point out something that seems weird about them, will say, "But that's just in that part of the country," or something to that effect. Even as she finds it everywhere. I think I'm going to enjoy this book.

On a serious note, another peculiarity of Americans is how smart we think we are...and yet how stupid we keep proving ourselves to be. A Sikh Temple was shot up in Wisconsin, apparently by some idiot who thought they were Muslims. All because they wear turbans and have beards. Anyone who knows the first thing about religions knows the Sikh are from India and are in no way connected to the Muslim faith. But in what is looking more and more like a white supremacist attack on them, 7 Sikh men were murdered and 2 others wounded, as was a cop responding to the reports of gunfire.

This isn't the first time this has happened; in Tucson about 10 years ago, a Sikh man was killed by someone pissed off about 9/11 and Arabs. And Sikhs have been subject to attacks in other arts of the country, too. All because certain fools only pay attention to their limited view of the world, and because scum like Michelle Bachmann are running around screaming about the Muslim hoards trying to take over America from within.

Y'know, I hate to wish anybody dead, but she's one of those people I'd like to see taken out by a bolt of lightning. Maybe that would convince the commie-christians they're on the wrong path.

Naw, they'd argue with God, himself.

Saturday, August 4, 2012


I woke up this morning after some very weird dreams...dunno what they were, exactly; I just was saying, "That was weird," the moment my eyes opened. But the first thing I decided to do was rework a little SF horror script I have into something as bone-chilling as I can make it.

It's a story about shredders (skateboarder kids) fighting off an alien that wants to use them as its power source. I aimed it at being cheap to shoot and open to a franchise. But something I figured out was, the opening is too low-key and the horror is too cerebral. So also uses them as food. And not in a very nice way.

I had to upload it from a thumb drive to set it up on my desktop computer (my laptop won't support my version of Final Draft, anymore), then I proceeded to completely restructure it. I cut out everything introducing the shredders in the first act and added in another scene where the alien's human helper brings some people he knows to be used, then I cut to the kids driving down a desert highway.

I'm about halfway through...and if this turns out even half as scary as I want it to, I think it'll kick some ass. Because I've thrown in things that come close to torture porn...but I don't think I actually go over the line into that. Plus, I plan to make the alien sympathetic. It just wants to get home and is doing what it must to survive. And if that means slaughtering a few innocent humans, well...we lower-echelon creatures don't really matter.

Hm...maybe I'll make the alien look like Romney.

Anyway, once it's done, I'm sending it off to some horror script competitions to see what the reaction is. If I don't get bawled out by someone for the script being over the top, I won't have done my job.

So be prepared, all -- I am about to unleash "We-Come" on the world. And you can blame it all on my psychoses, if you like. Those...I got plenty of.


Friday, August 3, 2012

50 Greatest Films?

Not sure how I feel about "Sight and Sound" and their latest list of the 50 greatest films of all time. They do a new survey every 10 years and just came out with the latest one. I finally saw what was on the list and have some minor quibbles...but overall I agree with it.

Well...I agree as regards the movies that I've seen on it -- 30 out of the 50. I'd have put Ozu's "Late Spring" (1949) above "Tokyo Story" (1953), and I think "La Regle de Joux" (1939) is a better film than "Vertigo" (1958) or "Citizen Kane" (1941)...but they do all belong on the list, no question.

I used to subscribe to "Sight & Sound" when I was in film school. I loved how all-encompassing the magazine was as regards movies. I used to run the projector for the film society at Trinity University, and sometimes I'd suggest we screen movies that I'd read about in S&S -- movies like...

"The Jackal of Nahueltero" (1969), a Chilean film about a man whose poverty leads him to madness and murder, and who's rehabilitated by the state and then executed for his crime.

And "Rebellion in Patagonia" (1974), an Argentine telling of a group of workers trying to get better conditions from their patrons but who only wind up being crushed by the army, that is as lovely and sweeping as any Hollywood movie.

I'm thinking I may finally renew my subscription to the magazine. First I need to find the August 2012 issue, because it has a massive article about Alfred Hitchcock in it...and he's part of the reason I got into film.

Funny, but while I love his work and respect his ability with storytelling on screen, I don't think "Vertigo" belongs on this list. "Notorious" (1946) does, because there is not one wrong moment in that movie.

But that'd be part of my own list.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Taking steps

I've taken a good, hard look at what my strengths and weaknesses are as a writer, be it for film or narrative fiction, and what's positive about my work is the character depth. I don', I can't write cyphers to be in my stories. Some may not be as deep as others, but none of them are one-note icons meant only to prop up the moment. Doesn't matter if they're gay or straight, male or female or even child, they have to have layers of some sort to matter to me and the story.

I think that's why so many actors reacted well to my writing; they could see I'm giving them a lot to play with.

I write good action scenes...that are based in reality. Nothing ludicrous like an actor jamming a syringe into his own heart and then walking away as if it was nothing. And I just saw a trailer for "The Expendables 2", I think...where there's a plane crashing into a cave that...well, if they're planning to have it wind up like I think they are, it defies every law of physics there is.

Of course, even Hitchcock played with reality -- like a passenger plane that's been shot down in "Foreign Correspondent", where the passengers rush to the back of the cabin in order to be better protected against the impact...and never mind as soon as it hit the water they'd all be slung back to the front and killed or injured; they wind up safe.

My main weakness is comedy (not humor or quick, clever dialogue; I can do that). So I've signed myself up for a class in writing comedy for scripts to see if I can find some way of strengthening that part of my work. I tried really hard with "The Lyons' Den" but I don't seem to be getting any real feedback on it, so I don't know if it worked.

So I'm using FRT as the guinea pig for this class. I want it to be as funny as possible while also thrilling and action-oriented, and showing Damon's character arc from being a guy en route to becoming a selfish prick to a man who knows who he is and cares about others.

Doesn't start till the 21st and it's online, so who knows if this will work. But I'm taking steps to do something about it.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

A year ago...

My mother died. Here's one of her favorite video experiences; she's the woman in the white furry coat playing Twister at the 1:05 and 1:10 points.
Eminem's appropriately silly for the moment.

She's getting her grave marker soon, if it's not already there:

"Ida Gwendolyn Grasley
 March 23, 1928 to August 1, 2011
 Dancing with the angels"