Derry, Northern Ireland

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

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Another draft bites the dust...

I finished the latest pass on The Vanishing of Owen Taylor this evening. It's 507 pages long, at the moment, but hasn't been reformatted to fit into a book so will probably wind up about 300-325 pages spread over 4 parts.

I'm a lot happier with it. Jake's voice has become more forceful, more direct. I'm getting rid of about half the softening words I'd then and well and sort of. And I did cut back on a lot of Jake telling what he or someone else is feeling and tried to make it clear through description of their actions.

It does keep getting tighter and faster as the story goes, so I may try to speed up the action in the beginning...but I can't go too far on that. As of now, everything in the book is there for a purpose and ties in later.

When I get back from the book fairs, I'll give it one quick pass then see if anyone is willing to give me feedback on it. Someone who hasn't read it, yet. If that comes together without major issues, I think I'll be ready to start setting it up for publishing.

I want an image for the back of the book, so may look into working up a version of Owen's painting of Jake and Dion. I photoshopped a photograph into a rendition of it, but I don't have the rights to it and have no idea whom to contact to license it for this. I'll have to think on that.

This has not been an easy process, I know...but it's been rewarding...finally. Working through it has sharpened my writing skills. I can tell the difference from just when I wrote Bobby Carapisi.

I almost feel like I'm training for the marathon of writing Place of Safety.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Taste the closeness...

I'm down to the last 85 pages of this rewrite of The Vanishing of Owen Taylor. I may actually get this done before making my run to San Francisco and Miami, especially since I'm up to the part that doesn't really need a lot of reworking. Everything's set; now come the confrontations and explanations.

In this draft I found an interesting thread already sort of running through the story -- that Jake must get to where he trusts himself. Once I'm done, I'm going to let this draft sit for a while then make another pass through it to see if that's really part of the story's theme -- trust. Jake's actions seem to indicate that while he has the ability to trust others...or tries to...he never trusts his own abilities, except when he's angry. Which is not the way it should be.

That plays a little off me -- I have major trust issues. Not just with others but with myself. Looking back I can see that I've always had them, but I never really thought about it until the last few years. Now I can see I've never truly believed in my own opinions and abilities. People praise me and I shrug it off as nice but not really meaningful...which is silly. People criticize me and I take it to heart, no matter how vicious and stupid it is. Nowhere near as much as I used to...but still somewhat.

Thing is, in the entertainment business you have to not only be able to do the job, but know you can -- be it writer, director, actor. Otherwise, you will crash and burn. Because no matter how well you do, how perfect you are in every way, there will always be those who criticize you and tear you down.

What's crazy is, 25 years ago, I had the chance to prove myself as someone capable of making a movie and I failed, miserably. I got involved in a film project with a man who had plenty of ego and no talent, and just before production began I had the feeling I should cancel it for the good of everybody or at least take it over...but I didn't. I stupidly thought I could make it work, as it was.

I was wrong, and my gut was right. And I've been in several other situations where it told me to stop and back away, and every time I paid attention it turned out right. It's when I didn't that I fucked up.

I don't learn easy. My lessons are usually brutal, and they have to slam me more than once. I don't know why I am that way...I just am. And it looks like I always will be, to an extent.

And I don't know if that's psychosis, stupidity or just plain stubbornness.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Looks like I'm getting better...

Haven't had a wild idea all day. Been too busy getting ready for the California Book Fair in Pasadena, The San Francisco Print & Paper Fair in San Mateo, and the Miami Map Fair in...Miami. I'm handling the last two, both of which are on Super Bowl weekend. And San Mateo is only a few miles from where the football game will that show is only running Friday and Saturday.

I head out Wednesday, then I'm back to the office the following Tuesday, and will stay there for Pasadena. Dammit. It's been a year since I've been to LA and I'm going through withdrawal. Another sign I'm feeling better.

I'm at page 278 of the latest rewrite of OT and finding more things to shift to make the story better. Like when Jake goes to an abandoned dealership and finds it's being used as a porn studio that's connected to his uncle. I was missing ways to make this moment more intense and add to Jake's growing belief his uncle was killed.

I may actually get this book done...

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Another crazy-assed idea...

I used to do storyboards for movies. What if I was to storyboard out one of my scripts, all the way, then get local actors to read the dialogue, then shift the sketches into a video with the actors' voices over and post that in 3 minute bits? That would only take forever...but it'd be something...

I also found a publisher looking for some nice horror, vampire, SF and fantasy stories to publish -- maximum word count...35,000. Hell, that's just a chapter for me. But I could shift Blood Angel over to that, from screenplay format. Make it nice and erotic, and it's already very heterosexual. I tried for the style of The Hunger; the innocence of Fright Night; the viciousness of Interview With The Vampire; the togetherness of Being Human.

Initially, I used Jonathan Togo and Christina Ricci as images in my head for Tristan and Gabrielle. I like the haunted look in his eyes, because Tristan's had too much hurt in his life. And she looks like someone who is always in control and cares for nothing but that which will make her happy, which is Gabrielle to the nth degree. They'd have been a great pair, onscreen. I might still use them as models, if I do the storyboards.
Hmm...only thing is, I'd need music for it, because Tristan's life is about a song his mother wrote for him and how he plays his trumpet in the devastation left behind by Katrina as a elegy to not only her but his city...and himself. Dunno any good trumpet players, and licensing music is a pain in the ass...and never really right.

I used Jan Garbarek's "Pace mihi domine" as my template music for Tristan's elegy. It's haunting and elegant in a way that is both beautiful and heartbreaking. Back when I had cashed out my 401K and was living off that while I tried to get something going for BA, I had it workshopped and paid an associate to develop a $5m budget for it (which would probably be $15m, now). Developed a prototype of the poster. Even hit the Austin Film Festival to try and garner interest; it had reached the semi-finals in their screenplay competition. This was 9 years ago. Obviously none of it worked.

I guess in the space of the next 9 years, I could work up enough sketches to almost make it animated.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Colds make me crazy...

I rarely get colds, but when I do I go nuts. I get depressed. I don't like anything. I just want to be left alone but don't want to stay home. I should never go shopping or reading or do any writing when I'm hacking and rubbing myself with Vicks and downing OJ like it's water. Right now I feel like I slosh as I walk from all the fluids in me, and I know it made a merely bad meal into the worst of my life. Now my pants fit tighter around the waist, I have to pee like every five minutes, and I will never go back to PF Chang's.

Something else it does is bring me crazy ideas and contemplations mixed with a touch of anger and a lot of attitude. Like...what if I worked How To Rape A Straight Guy into a screenplay? And took it to a porn house for funding? Someplace like Cocky Boys or Sean Cody or HotHouse or Bondage Gods? It only has a few locations -- a bar, a condo & garage in WeHo, city streets, Curt's apartment, and a jail. It could done cheap. Keep in the graphic sex for the producers, but make it a serious movie about a man destroying himself, even as he's sure he's doing the opposite.

It would mean using porn actors, for most of the male roles...but there are some who can act. Colby Keller (the guy in the photo), for instance. Connor Habib. Paul Wagner. Kyle King. Question is, would Colby shave off his beard?

Make 2 editions -- one for an R rating; one for the XXX crowd. It would be a giant F You to the cowardice and amazing stupidity of the film industry, in general.

I think this came on strong because I read Joseph Fiennes was cast to play Michael Jackson in the British road film about a trip he, Marlon Brando and Elizabeth Taylor supposedly took after 9/11 in an attempt to get to LA from NY. That bit of absurdity smacked me into WTF land, totally.

Seriously, if a middle-aged Welshman who obviously does have a set of balls can play a younger African-American singer who was probably gelded as a child, and who desperately was trying to be white, why can't I make a literary porn movie?

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Back on track, finally...

Got a splitting headache that took a double-dose of Advil to get rid of...but I have the first half of OT where it needs to be. Where it should have been, all along. 23 chapters in 2 parts spread over 221 pages. Consistent with the first book while still giving enough information about why Jake and Tone are stuck in Texas, so they don't have to read RIHC6 to understand everything.

And yet...I'm finding that Jake doesn't part with information easily. He's revealing bits of his past when he faces something similar in the current story, and keeping that up has been a challenge, while using his reticence has helped streamline the story somewhat.

Now I can get back to a slightly more normal life...and I rewarded myself by re-watching Vertigo. Apparently it has taken over in critic's polls as the greatest movie ever made...something I do not agree with. I like it, but I think Notorious is Hitchcock's best film. It's damn near perfect, while Vertigo has too many contrivances for me to accept it as a masterpiece.

Except...when Madeline returns to Scotty in the hotel, drifting out of a green haze and surrounded by Bernard Herman's elegant score...that did get me. And I do think it was a travesty that Jimmy Stewart was not even nominated for an Oscar for his work. As for Kim Novak, I cannot imagine anyone else in the role; she had the beauty and mystery and sophistication of Madeline down pat as well as Judy's backwoods Kansas behavior and attitude.

It wasn't their fault this movie didn't hit with the public; it was how ludicrous the basis for the story was. I really wanted to read the original book, D'entre les Morts, to find out how Boileau and Narcejac handled it, but I could only find it in French. That was half the reason I took the language in college. Only it was written in a vernacular they don't teach in class. Lots of slang.

Then I learned it had been translated but the man who did the original translation was not know for his fidelity to the books he worked on. So...I got through 2 pages of trying to translate it before I gave up and decided to leave it. Maybe some things are better left undone.

Now comes the speedier second half of OT...

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Back to first position...

I got so busy finding ways to cut and consolidate and streamline OT, I made a huge mistake -- I lost track of how RIHC6 ended. Tone is on probation with an ankle monitor to keep track of him, but I'd shifted that to him and Jake still fighting the Texas Attorney General over the crimes he committed, with him on bail and no ankle monitor. NOT acceptable.

Granted, it cut a good 7 pages, but that can't be. This story follows that one, so they have to match up, and the fact that I so casually dropped the line is troubling to me...and may be the reason I was having such difficulty with writing it. Subconsciously I knew it was wrong.

Which makes me wonder why I couldn't see that until I finally went back to the first book and read the ending chapter, again...and saw what I'd done. Makes me feel very obtuse, and more than a little stupid.

It also made for a hell of a lot more work, because I had to add it back in. Meaning beginning from page one to make it consistent. Dammit, sometimes I really out-clever myself. At least I caught it now and not after the book was published.

I have a question as regards what the hell people are looking for in a screenplay -- here is a lead I got from one of the sites I belong to --

Seeking Contained Action Scripts
We are looking for completed, feature-length contained action scripts. Submissions should NOT require a large amount of FX or set-building. Budget will not exceed $1million, WGA and non-WG

How does that work? To me an action script has a lot of running and gunfights and battles and stunts and sets all over the place. Does anyone have an example of a project like this that was actually made? Would Carli's Kills count, even though it's only got a little real action-oriented stuff in it? Am I being too literal?

Or am I being too literal a Hitchcock freak?

Monday, January 18, 2016

Fast rewriting

I used to think of myself as a fast writer. Not super speedy, but quick and fairly well locked down once the first draft was done. But looking back, I can see I was fooling myself. I'm more of a fast rewriter...and even that isn't exactly right...because I rewrite and rewrite and rewrite until the story gets as close to set as possible.

Friends used to accuse me of making minimal changes between drafts of screenplays...and sometimes they were right. But it was always geared to making the story viable and solid and as exact as it can be, even though in film a writer's work gets very little respect. Actors won't say the lines you need to be said, or they say them wrong. Directors cut. Editors cut. Producers cut. Distributors cut. And no one pays any real attention to what the writer wants.

In my books, however, it's all on me. I'm the one who has to make it work, and I can't blame actors for saying lines wrong or the director for being blind to the best way to put the film on celluloid. And reality is, it's always taken me much longer to do a book than a script, even relatively speaking.

HTRASG actually took 4 years to write. PM was faster; a year and reads like it. RIHC6 was 2 years. And BC was a good 5 years to get it done. LD really took a total of 15 years, because it began as a screenplay then shifted to a play then became a book. Same for NYPD Blood/French Connection Blues, my straight cop yarn; it started off as a script and went through several drafts before becoming a book that became another book.

Now comes OT, which is going through years of work, on and off, while settling itself into whatever pace it wants. And it's getting close, finally. I went back through the last two chapters I'd written and did a bit more rearranging...moving some of Jake's interior dialogue from him lying in bed to him running through Palm Springs early in the morning...and it feels even better. Tighter. Smoother. Who knows -- I may actually get this book finished...

Which makes me wonder how long my rewriting will take on Place of Safety...

Sunday, January 17, 2016


I've got the first half of OT pretty much where I want it, but my brain was overloaded so I took the evening off and watched Sense and Sensibility, again, for Alan Rickman's performance as Col. Brandon. And to enjoy a script that does not require stupid lines and emphatic directing to be funny. It's one where the performances turn quiet moments into laughs and chuckles.

I used Emma Thompson's elegant script as a partial template when I wrote The Lavender Curse, a story that starts with a ridiculous premise but which I tried to ground in honest human behavior. After all, a butch cop exchanging minds with his less-than-beloved mother-in-law just as he's about to make a huge arrest and she's about to be in a Senior Lady Pageant is not exactly the stuff of realistic drama.

I carried it as far as I could without it being ludicrous, and the main comment I got back was -- it's not funny enough. And what was suggested to make it funnier? Every cliche in the book. For example -- the Cop's mind is the MIL's body but no one knows and he has to take care of his obnoxious twin girls, but can't and finds it's exhausting. That was old when Dustin Hoffman did it in Tootsie.

I don't own the script so can't do anything more with it. I was removed as the writer...and it hurt because I had some very funny moments in it. But they were moments that would build from the performance. Like when the MIL's estranged husband shows up and wants to spend the night with his wife...and it's the Cop's mind in her body, and he's freaking out.

Another is when the Cop has to meet with an informant and is dragged to it by his partner, but it's the MIL's mind in his body and she sees some white go-go boots in a store window and goes nuts over them because of the memories they bring, all to the partner's consternation. Then it turns out the informant is out to kill them both and she has to protect the partner even though she doesn't know how.

Okay...I'm whining. I know. Not cool. Back to OT.

I've cut about 15 pages, so far, mainly by removing repetition and Jake's tendency to state the obvious. I've also cut a bit of his commentary, when it goes on a bit long. One mistake I almost made was correcting his grammar as he tells the story. I was cutting back on the conjugations, but it felt I went back in and returned most of them. Now Jake tells the story like Jake and not like a grammar nazi.

But don't call him stupid...

Friday, January 15, 2016

Alan Rickman -- 1946-2016

Gone too soon.

This article originally appeared in Vulture.

There had, of course, been American action movies before 1988, but the golden age of the action genre began with Alan Rickman’s performance as Hans Gruber in Die Hard.You can pinpoint his impact on the genre even more specifically, to a particular moment in the film, when Gruber, the dapper terrorist, is interrogating Mr. Takagi, the genial head of the firm that occupies Nakatomi Plaza. Gruber prods Takagi to reveal the code to the building’s vault. Takagi, calmly and even cordially, explains that he doesn’t know the code. “I’m going to count to three,” Gruber says. “There will not be a four.” Mr. Takagi, now flustered, says, “Get on a jet to Tokyo and ask the chairman. I’m telling you, I don’t know it. You’re just going to have to kill me,” to which Gruber says, “Okay,” and does. This is the precise moment that we, the audience, know that Gruber is a different breed of villain—and that Rickman is about to show us something we’ve never seen in an action film before.

At the time, Rickman, who died today at age 69, was a 42-year-old British actor who’d never before appeared on the big screen. With Hans Gruber, he delivered a performance that now stands as one of the most indelible villains in screen history, as well as the single best piece of acting in any action film ever, period. What distinguishes Rickman’s performance is simple: Rickman is an excellent actor. This had never been a qualification for movie villains before. It had certainly not been a qualification in the nascent genre of American action thrillers. We’d seen oleaginous European bad guys, sure, and trigger-happy psychopaths, but never a character whose elegance and savagery are so convincingly and dexterously intertwined.

Rickman’s line-readings in the film are now legendary—you could pick any of five or six as his best—and he elevated simple gags, like “He won’t be joining us … for the rest of his life,” to moments of menacing poetry. Appropriately, many of Gruber’s most memorable scenes in the film are themselves explicitly about acting: for example, on the roof, when he seems to gull John McClane by claiming to be a cowering fellow American hostage named “Clay, Bill Clay.” And, of course, Gruber’s whole plot is a feat of acting—he’s not really the principled terrorist he presents to the FBI, but simply a greedy crook looking to get his hands on a vault full of millions. Gruber is a thief wearing masks on top of masks, and as the movie rolls, he strips each mask away. Legendarily, producer Joel Silver and director John McTiernan cast Rickman after seeing him onstage as Valmont in a production of Dangerous Liaisons, a performance about which the New York Times wrote, “Alan Rickman was an ideal Valmont, a snake disguised as a seductive fox.” (It’s telling that many still consider Rickman the definitive Valmont, even when compared to John Malkovich’s iconic onscreen performance in the same role.) Gruber is, in many ways, that same snake and that same fox: a German Valmont, armed with a gun, his lust directed not at virtuous women but at negotiable bearer bonds.

Simply put, in this one role, Rickman did what few actors in film history have managed to do: He broke the rules, then wrote new rules for everyone after him to follow. Hans Gruber isn’t the faceless, disposable thug of, say, the Dirty Harry franchise; he isn’t the sneering, scenery-gobbling Bennett in Commando; he isn’t Blofeld, scarred and grimacing and stroking a furry white cat. Rickman brought Shakespearean-level acting chops to in a film about a New York cop trapped in a building full of bad guys. And he introduced to action films the notion that the villain can be just as compelling, if not more so, than the hero—and that, in the hands of the right kind of enormously skilled actor, he can be a figure of devilish complexity. It goes without saying, perhaps, that actors as enormously skilled as Rickman turn out to be in very short supply.

Imagine trying to play an action-film villain in the wake of Die Hard—imagine being, say, Dennis Hopper, no slouch onscreen and an actor known to convincingly bring the menace (see Frank Booth), but whose gibbering bad guy in 1994’s Speed pales in comparison to Gruber. Or John Malkovich, playing Mitch Leary in 1993 in In the Line of Fire—a performance that earned Malkovich an Oscar nomination but with which, as with Valmont, he couldn’t best Rickman’s work. In fact, Rickman’s Die Hardperformance was the reason why actors like Hopper and Malkovich were being cast as bad guys in action films in the first place. Hans Gruber is permanently perched atop every list of the Greatest Action-Movie Villains—all of which, frankly, should simply read: (1) Hans Gruber and (2) All the Other Ones—for one very good reason: No actor before him was ever expected to be that good, and no actor after him has ever managed it. Rickman, among his many other career accomplishments, single-handedly lifted the American action genre to the outskirts of art. He redefined what was possible. No matter the role or the venue, that’s the ultimate legacy an actor can achieve.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Limiting and unlimiting...

It is really hard to juggle a full-time job that sometimes has me travel with all of the things one needs to do to get your writing noticed to actually being able to write while still maintaining a life. Every now and then it just overwhelms me and I have to step back and let myself breathe. You know, I haven't seen a movie in a theater since Quantum of Solace came out? Three years ago.

I haven't done a sketch in months. I'm making myself take time to read, because to be a decent author that's practically a requirement...and I'm finding I look for excuses not to finish the book. I do Facebook and Mandy and I have 3 scripts posted on InkTip to keep track of and writing seminars to view and books articles about writing to read...and now I'm trying to get myself back to being more active -- like walking or hitting the Y -- and can't work it into my schedule.

I guess I could stop sleeping; that's a waste of 6-7 hours a day. And I could drop working this blog; that's half an hour, there, mainly because I have to keep going over it for typos. Which still slip past. And there's family and you have to shop for food and fix the food and on and on...

I've worked myself into some nice headaches, the last couple weeks. Tension-related and handled by a double-dose of Advil. I'd probably feel a lot better if I could get done with OT and do a couple of paintings I've been planning on.

I want to do a series called Apostles. Mainly Kodalithic black and white faces with one spot of color on them. Acrylic on canvas. I'd like to work up a set of twelve and have the images I want to use as samples for them. I miss doing art...

Maybe that is what I need to feel human, again...

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Charles Perrault was not immune...

Today was Charles Perrault's birthday, so I stole this from Wikipedia:

(He) was a French author and member of the Académie Française. He laid the foundations for a new literary genre, the fairy tale, with his works derived from pre-existing folk tales. The best known of his tales include Le Petit Chaperon Rouge (Little Red Riding Hood),Cendrillon (Cinderella), Le Chat Botté (Puss in Boots), La Belle au bois Dormant(The Sleeping Beauty), and Barbe Bleue (Bluebeard).[1] Some of Perrault's versions of old stories may have influenced the German versions published by the Brothers Grimm more than 100 years later. The stories continue to be printed and have been adapted to opera, ballet (such as Tchaikovsky's The Sleeping Beauty), theatre, and film. Perrault was an influential figure in the 17th-century French literary scene, and was the leader of the Modern faction during the Quarrel of the Ancients and the Moderns.
Turns out the classic fairy tales we know today -- Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Puss in Boots, Little Red Riding Hood, and the like -- were trashed by the classicists of his time, even though they were hugely popular. This came after he lost his job in the King's Court. Lost his income as a writer. And he even had his work rewritten by others (Brothers Grimm, I'm talking to you).

He's like the precursor for today's screenwriters.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Formatting for fun...

I've changed up some of the structure in The Vanishing of Owen Taylor. Away with the clever names for each chapter; I'm using Roman numerals in their place. I also broke up a couple of the longer chapters, so now I have 14 as opposed to 9 in the first part, albeit with about the same number of pages. I'm also doing away with starting each chapter at the top of a new page; now it just rolls along, with spaces above and below the numbers, and feels a lot better.

Moving almost all of the set-up to later helps a lot. I now have Jake reminisce about Dion just before he arrives to the guy's office. It adds more to the moment, especially since Jake still has feelings for him. I also cut out 80% of the explanation of what happened to Jake and Tone prior to this book. It's going to come out as the story goes along, so the details up front weren't necessary.

I've begun setting up the basic structure for the look of the book. I'm working in Courier, but the final font will probably be Times New Roman or Palatino, both of which are smaller and tighter. I did a quick rough to see how it would work out and came up with a final volume of around 280 pages, including spacing pages, table of contents, and copyright page. That's not so bad.

I'm going through each chapter twice, smoothing it over before I head along to the next one. It's helping me keep the story in my head without referring to my now out-of-date outline. My hope is, it's becoming a more emotional journey for Jake by clearing away the clutter. I won't know till I'm done...and I may ask for another editing pass-through. Depends on what I can afford.

I also made meatloaf and spaghetti sauce, today. Enough for 10 meals, and it cost me about $22 for the makings. I'm back into cheap mode.

Like I was ever out of it.

(PS -- I fucking HATE Chrome. I delete my browsing history from Safari? All passwords stay in place. I delete my history from Chrome, I have to sign back in to EVERYTHING.)

Friday, January 8, 2016

The more things change...

If you want to see just how little politics has changed in the last 70 years, check out this movie. It was made in 1947 and has commentary on the minimum wage, corrupt politicians, a group of people out to make sure America stays white, natural born and Christian, and even jabs the gullibility of the voting public.

As I was watching it, this evening, I was reminded too damn much of what's going on in this year's election...and it's spooky. This is the full movie, recorded off a Spanish TV station so it's got subtitles, and it gets a bit goofy in a very 1940's way, but it's still a lot of fun. And Loretta Young hangs tough through the whole thing; she deserved her best actress Oscar.

Tomorrow it's back to the rewrites...

Reading, again...

I'm in the middle of Willa Cather's My Antonia, and it is amazing. The book reads comfortable and warm, like a fleece jacket on a brisk Spring day. Her style is simple but not plain and meanders along with a willfulness I find fascinating. Even more interesting, it's being presented as the reminiscences of an orphan boy growing up in a small town in Nebraska, during the late 19th Century.

It's nice to read something I like, without reservation, after the last few books I tried to get into. One was a mystery by Donna Leon that went on and on and on about the casual life in Venice, Italy without any mystery. Nor was there anything in her style to keep me going, so I stopped after 80 pages.

Two others were books written for a gay audience that supposedly were on the dark side but were really quite juvenile. One dealt with a gay vampire that chooses a young man to be his mate and came across as a bad bloodsucker rendition of Buffy the Vampire Slayer without one ounce of that show's cool. The other used ancient Mesopotamian Gods mixed in with a few Greek and Roman and Egyptian ones to show their world was one big orgy, where the main god-guy was supposed to be gay but really did not like sex with men. Made him sick and scared. Weird.

I read them because I said I'd review them for a site. And did. And tried to be nice about it. But neither one was worth better than 2 1/2 stars. Nor were they truly erotic, even though they were seriously trying to be.

I dunno; maybe I'm jaded by my own writing. I've been told my work is vicious, at times, which I took as a compliment even though I don't think it was intended as one. OT's got a hard streak in it, but I now see this as preparation for what Place of Safety will be like. Reading Cather's book shows me you can do that without being harsh.

Something I want to strive for.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Guess I'm Chroming...

Several of the websites I visit have begun to work erratically, with YouTube even saying my version of Safari is no longer supported. So I migrated everything to Chrome and it's doing better, overall. But I hate being forced to change my ways when I don't want to.

Of course, that leads me to wondering why I don't change my ways. Like procrastination and reticence on pushing my writing. Procrastination is just a writer's curse. You don't want to face the blankness of a page awaiting your brilliance, so you do anything but that and make excuses for yourself.

As for reticence, it's uncertainty that fuels my inability to sell myself, far more than fear. I've never thought I'm good enough to be successful at my work -- be it art, photography, film, or writing. In one part of my brain, I knew I'd do fine; but the more dominate part kept screaming, You've got to be kidding me. You, a writer? When you have typos and and questionable grammar in every sentence, and have never done well at expressing your thoughts?

It's pretty rough, at times. I can accept long as I remind myself of the mistakes I've made and the ways I could have done better. And that is in anything I do -- from cleaning my apartment to keeping my brother in his home to sketches I work up. Like any artist, I can see every screw-up.

Something that finally got me started on knowing it wasn't just me being like this was working at Heritage Book Shop. Part of the store's inventory was original artwork from illustrators like Arthur Rackham (left) and Kay Nielsen (below).

Rackham would sometimes use white paint to cover his mistakes, his version of Liquid Paper. Usually to cover art detail he didn't feel he needed, anymore.

Kay Nielsen did something similar in her work, using a light paint to cover a dark error and painting over it. It wouldn't show up once the art was transferred into print, but you can see if you look closely.
I'd always been of the school where there are no mistakes in art, and if there is one, make it part of the work. These two didn't, and turned out lovely images. They nudged me to see there is nothing perfect that was not once imperfect.

Corrections, it seems, are always necessary.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Red, red wine...

Makes me sleepy, so does NOT loosen the floodgates holding back my creativity. Maybe because I wound up with a Pinot Noir instead of a Burgundy. I like Burgundy more; it's not as gentle and more like a wine ought to be. Not as dry as a Cabernet, but not a wine cooler, either. This red I'm drinking is just two steps removed from Sangria.

I'm not really a wine snob. Normally I only drink it with a steak of some kind. Fact is, I prefer beer. Once this is gone, I think I'll get some Guinness. The bottles are acceptable...but I would really love to hit Ireland, again, and have it room temperature as I dig into a decent Irish stew. There's a pub right by Connelly train station in Dublin that served both up right...and the brewery, itself, has a lovely stew, too.

What's so funny about my obsession with Ireland is, I have no Irish blood in me, from what I can tell. My main lineage is French-Norwegian with Dutch and maybe some Scots, depending on how the name was spelled when the family first came over to the States. My mother remarried and my step-father, who was full-blood Irish, adopted me so I could get military my last name became my middle one -- Michel.

But I was raised around his mother, who was full blood Irish...of the lace-curtain variety. VERY Catholic. Lots of children who went on to marry other good Roman Catholics. Not so different from the side of my family in Pennsylvania, who are half Lithuanian and also Catholic but are more Russian Orthodox, albeit mingled in with the Roman kind.

My step-grandmother and step-grandfather owned a liquor store in San Antonio and did well with it. Had a nice two-story house on nearly an acre of land on the city's East Side. Their children went to Catholic schools, for which they had to pay; religious schools didn't get taxpayer funds, back then. And Mummo (what we called that grandmother; my mother's mother was Nana), she ran everyone's life. I was around that side so much, I pretty much adopted the persona. Didn't hurt I look Irish Catholic, and with a last name like Sullivan, who was going to question it? Gave me a foundation, even if it was built on a falsehood.

Made for quite a mess, tho', in so many ways...mainly Catholic...

(PS -- the photo is actually of Scotland, but it looks Irish enough, just like I do...)

Monday, January 4, 2016

Pushing to break the mold...

I'm trying like crazy to keep from falling into my old habits...habits that tended to make it harder for me to complete a project. I've got a solid streak of laziness and apathy in me that has to be beaten down, constantly, or I'd never get anything done. I think it's true of all writers...hell, all artists. Mingle in my own psychoses and I'm amazed I've achieved what I have.

I'm a ten-times better writer now than I was ten years ago, too. And have more confidence in my work than I used to. Not a huge amount more, but enough for even me to notice. Criticism still wounds but doesn't damn near destroy me like it used to. And I can accept that sometimes I don't know it all (hard to believe considering my commentaries on facebook...which is an evil site that drags me away from my work far too often; damn you, Mark Zuckerberg).

Good thing is, I've actually made some money off my books, now that I've self-published 5 of them. Not a lot, but enough to declare as income and write off my expenses...of which there were a lot more than I made. But I don't care, anymore. I'm never going to make back what I sank into David Martin...mainly due to hiring an artist to do the illustrations.

I'm nearly ready to embark on doing it all, again, with OT. Maybe have it out in late February or early March, depending on the job. I'm only slated to travel the first two weeks of next month, so far, so that should give me time to get it going. And I've pretty much decided to work it up in hardcover as well as paperback and e-book. Maybe print some as limited first #1 of 25, signed. I'll decide that later.

I'll also decide whether or not I want to do some sketches for it like were done for novels in the 19th century. I keep thinking about that and wondering if they would be an asset to the book...but haven't really thought about it, much.

Right now, I just need to make it as tight and solid as I can.

Sunday, January 3, 2016


I now have all 8 seasons of Big Bang Theory on DVD. Got 6, 7, & 8 for Christmas, along with some bland tea bags, a couple of gift cards, a hand-knitted cap, and homemade cookies. I also have a clean apartment, as my nose and eyes will attest to...seeing as how I stirred up a lot of dust, again. Guess I'm back on Zyrtek for a while.

I finished my quick red-pen pass through OT and will let it sit for a few days, then comes inputting the changes into my file as I do another look for ways to condense, and for typos. Found a few already that no one else noticed or bothered to mention. Mainly extra words, to my surprise. I think after this pass I may go through the chapters in reverse order to check for such things; that way I'm less likely to get caught up in the reading of it. I hope.

As if my job trying to get a script sold isn't already hard enough, apparently there are now screenplay algorithms that read your script and decide, based on their programming, whether or not your script is worthy of consideration. Seriously. One is called ScriptBook. It will read the script, print out a report of what works and what doesn't, discuss who the main characters are, and project how much to expect in revenue from it. Still in Beta phase, but ludicrous all the same.

I knew there were some like that checking out pitches and loglines to see if they fit with what the production company is seeking. Like specific words and phrases. That, apparently, is how a number of producers signed up with InkTip work when they view posted loglines, and I think that's what Amazon Studios is using...which may explain why my rejections were being sent at 1am. Only then do they decide if they will dig into your work further. much for film being an art...because you cannot make art by algorithmic committee.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

The Vanishing of Owen Taylor...

I'm halfway through the book in this edit. Parts have been trimmed out, some have been moved farther back in the story, and I'm replacing the cutesy titles for each chapter with numbers. My aim in this pass is clarity, but not to the point of simplicity.

There are some aspects of the structure that will not change. I still begin with Mira's question in Paris; it is what the entire story is about, so I have to keep that. And the suggestion by someone that I cut the story in half is not going to happen. Period. I'm not writing a screenplay, here, nor am I after parroting Raymond Chandler. I'm building Jake's world, and it's not one that's taciturn or Noir-speak or simply a mystery.

What it boils down to is, I have to be happy with the book when I publish it. I have to feel I've done right by the story and characters, and while I can pull back some on exposition, every one of the subplots in it matter in ways that have become endemic to Jake's journey. I'm seeing that this time and the truth is, what I want to be said is what I've already written. It can just be written a bit tighter...a little better.

It's never going to be 50,000 words, nor do I want it to be. This story is about more than Jake finding out what happened to his uncle. It's more than him getting caught up in the battle between gays and homophobes in Palm Springs. It's about more than him and Tone. It's about him coming to terms with who he is and what he's been through...which is why he cannot answer the question at the very beginning except with a pat comment. It's through the story that he finds the answer, and that story is involved and anything but linear.

I know my editor won't like these choices, but they are my decision, no one else's.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Assessment of my writing in 2015...

I've been going over what I did last year to forward my writing...mainly screenwriting, but also the books I'm working on -- mainly The Vanishing of Owen Taylor.

107 submissions to production companies -- The Alice 65, Carli's Kills, Find Ray T, Marked For Death, Blood Angel, Darian's Point, Return to Darian's Point, 5 Dates, and Straight On Till Morning (as a writing sample for a possible biography job). So far no bites.

Posted 3 scripts on InkTip -- CK, MFD, and A65. Just a few views and no takers, but this way I can tell the production houses they're available on there, if they want to see them.

28 competitions entered, sometimes twice, using many of the above scripts and a short -- Unfinished Business. I've heard from all but 10; made quarterfinalist on one while another was flat out insulting in its rejection. All of this cost more than a thousand dollars.

5 video seminars on how to either improve my writing or find ways to get my work to producers, including a freebie uploaded to me by a friend, even though I haven't looked at it, yet. And one of the seminars including a one-on-one discussion of RDP that wound up being how best to push it, since she couldn't find anything specific in the script to improve it. Some good suggestions, and nice strokes of the ego.

Did NaNo again and got ⅔ of the way to a first draft of Underground Guy. Finished 2 drafts of OT and sent it to an editor for professional feedback, as well as 11 other people. Twice. And am using their consensus opinion about rewriting the first 3 chapters. (Tho' I am arguing with the editor over whether or not I should capitalize god in the book; she says yes while I don't think Jake would.)

Also tracked down the model and photographer I wanted to use for the cover of OT, once I publish it, and got them to let me use the image I wanted for free. Still can't believe that. I like this set-up; the only change I'll probably make is brightening up the red in the title font.

And this is all on top of me traveling a lot more for the day job and joining the YMCA to exercise more. It is my dream to drop 60 pounds by this time next year -- that's just 5 lbs a month.

Truth is, I'd be happy with half that much, right now.