Derry, Northern Ireland

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

Saturday, December 31, 2016

And more of A65

To the end of chapter one...

The Dungeon.

That is what they called their basement, which had been made over into a research library ... and if Adam could live there, he would. It contained row after row after row of sturdy shelves packed with books on collecting and collectors, bibliographies, auction catalogues and sales records, dealer catalogues, books of letters and correspondences, biographies, encyclopedias ... more than ten thousand volumes which held nearly everything one could possibly need to learn anything one could possibly want to know about a book. Jeremy's other task was to scan and digitize the information, a process that was going so slowly, it probably would not be done till the lad was ninety.

The Dungeon's one drawback was how dark and dreary it could be. Electric lighting had been added on about sixty years ago, when the shelves were much fewer, and had not been expanded, since. That left some sections so in such deep shadows, even Adam had to use a flashlight to see or read the signage. Which was unusual for him; both of his brothers and his sister were certain he had been born with the eyes of a cat and only used glasses to disguise his true abilities ... like Clark Kent hiding Superman. And while he liked the notion of it, the idea was nonsense ... though he did have to admit, as an adolescent, his mother was constantly admonishing him to turn on a light as he wandered through their home in the evenings.

At least they never saw much in the way of vermin, here, be it in shadow or not. They had Henry the Fourteenth to thank for that. He was a ginger tom named after the thirteen preceding him, and who was always happy to greet one as the lift door opened, allow a couple of scratches to his ears and strokes along his back, then wander off to be contented in some dry corner till it was time to hunt for his supper ... which, considering his hefty weight, he was not wanting for.

The Dungeon's lift had been added at the same time as the lighting and was barely large enough for two, with a door and gate that were completely manual. It was accessible in the back of the Dark Chamber, so Adam headed for it, rubbing his nose to keep from sneezing en route. As he stepped into the lift, he heard Elizabeth saying, “Now, Jere ... one of those is mine.”

He turned to see Jeremy backing past the doorway with both cups of tea in hand, his expression holding all the innocence of angels on high as he said, “Sorry, duchess. Last I heard, no means no.”

“And I'm sure you heard it just last night,” Elizabeth snapped, appearing in the doorway with him. “Hand it over. It's in my cup.”

“Come and take it,” he cooed, casting Adam a wicked wink as headed on to his room. Elizabeth followed him.

Adam closed the door and then the gate to the lift, set the lever to Basement, and started down. He couldn't blame Elizabeth for preferring a lad who looks dangerous to one with the manners of a librarian. His mother had tried many a time to tell him that it's more fun to live life than read about it.

He still didn't quite believe her.
Not much, and I guess I could have added part of chapter two...but I think this is the best way to end my posts for this year and ring in the new one...

That and this. Here's hoping 2017 is nowhere near as horrible as I think it's going to be. To be honest, I don't have great hopes.

But I do have a harder attitude...

Friday, December 30, 2016

Continuation from December 26th post...

I reworked the paragraph leading up to this bit...still in the first chapter...

But first things first. Adam had a small ritual he practiced as he carried the Erasmus to be photographed. He would jaunt past the other cubicles to a short hall while singing a soft little song ... sometimes in German, sometimes in Latin (as he did with the Orlando...), sometimes in English, and this time in Greek. "I see a book that's going to be took for Jeremy to photograph and put with all the rest. It's a lovely little book which soon will find its nook and she will be considered to be one of our best."

The hallway was short, with three doors -- two on the left and one on the right. The one farthest down was to Jeremy's office, which contained his computer, a table to mount the books on for photographing, his camera and tripod and a small light kit, all jammed into a space that was little larger than Adam's cubicle. He often whined about being cramped, but it was the only space available.

The other door on the left led to a kitchenette that held a sink, small refrigerator, microwave, kettle to heat water, and various teas and coffees and cocoas in cabinets overhead. They also contained cups and mugs, since each employee brought in his or her own. A single drawer held some cutlery.

The door on the right was to The Dark Chamber, where newly archived books were set on thick, solid shelves to await being brought before Jeremy's camera. Adam loved the room's mystical play of dust and light and darkness, as if it were wrapping the antiquarian volumes in the safety of shadows and silence. He knew it so well, he rarely turned on a light to find his way, even when selecting his next volume to archive.

He set the Erasmus on a shelf then checked his phone to make sure of the time ... and that his alarm telling him it was time for his meeting with Vincent really was engaged. He had done it wrong more than once, before, so now was a bit paranoid about it, but it looked all right. In fact, he had time to make a cup of tea and be at Vincent's office right on the dot, so he popped into the kitchenette.

He set the kettle to going and pulled down his cup -- a gleaming black one with the saying A room without books is like a body without a soul (Cicero). He'd found it at a small shop near The British Library, so bought two -- one for home and one for the office.

As he was filling his cup, he caught a glimpse of Elizabeth slipping into the dark room. She flicked on the light and placed a lovely clam-shell box containing a set of handwritten letters from Virginia Woolf to someone in the south of France on another shelf. The letters had been submitted for an export license and she was researching it as an expert for The Arts Council.

Adam pulled down her cup -- one sporting slashes of pink and green and blue and brown in a vaguely cubist design meant to look very modern but which struck him as common -- plopped a bag into it, and started pouring the still-hot water into it, calling, "Cup of tea, Elizabeth?"

"Tea?" she called back.

"Water's hot. Be set in a flash."

"Quarter milk, no sugar?”

"Just the way you like it," he said, dolloping some milk into both cups.

“No, thanks,” she called back.

Adam froze. He now had two cups of tea and only enough time to finish one. And they had to be drunk in the kitchenette; to take any sort of food or liquid back to your cubicle raised too great a risk of an irreplaceable book being damaged.

That is when Jeremy popped his head through the door and growled in his happy-puppy way, "Tea? You never make me any."

Since he was one of those half-Scally, half-punk, half-Eastenders sort of lads you would normally see in a pub nursing a pint, Adam had no idea how to respond except to say, “Didn't know you drank it.”

"So what about that bloody Erasmus?” he said. "Been on the shelf a week and you're the expert in it and -- "

Adam cut him off with, “It's all set to photograph.”

Which is when Hakim, their unctuous, self-proclaimed office manager, popped his head around the other side of the door and snapped, “The provenance better be right, this time.”

Adam huffed. Seven years he had worked here, and only once had he made a mistake -- when researching a manuscript copy of Richard Wagner's Die Nibelungen, he neglected to put an umlaut over a "U" in his transcription from the German, and never mind he was the one who realized the mistake and informed Hakim before it was sent to the Arts Council, he now acted as if Adam's work was riddled with errors. As if his own work was perfect.

Adam meant to respond with a gentle, “Of course,” but he shot Hakim a glare, instead ... and noticed Elizabeth was about to pass with a thick tome bound in vellum. He bolted over.

“Is this Die Schedelsche Weltchronik?” he asked. “The one found in Romania?”

It had caused quite a buzz around the department ... the discovery of an unknown copy of The Nuremberg Chronicle, by Hartmann Schedel. It was published at the end of the Fifteenth Century and was considered the first and most exquisite example of early printing combined with artwork. Supposedly, it had been in someone’s attic in Romania for who knew how long, but now was being offered for sale to the University. Photos had been sent and most of the staff had agreed it was a legitimate copy, as did Sir Robert ... Butterworth, a recent addition to the university's regents. He desperately wanted a Shedel for their collection and was upset when Adam insisted the binding looked wrong and the photographs were of pages that were too easily reproduced. He had overruled Adam and now the book was here, under consideration.

"Why are you taking it?" he asked Elizabeth. "This book's well outside your area of expertise while mine is perfectly suited for it."

“Vincent asked me to do the provenance,” Elizabeth said.

“Vincent? Why would he not give it to me?”

Hakim snorted. “Probably because you argued with Sir Robert."

Then Elizabeth added, with an acidic sweetness, "And neither one of them like being contradicted."

Adam huffed, again. Sir Robert had also insisted on putting down a substantial deposit to guarantee the purchase before the book had even been seen. He felt this was too good an opportunity to pass up, and he would not like being made the fool.

“But Elizabeth,” Adam said, taking the book from her, “the binding is not contemporary to the book. It's Eighteenth-Century, at the earliest.” He looked inside ... and huffed. Her initials were already on the front inside board, in soft graphite. While it is easily removed and only serves to show by whom the book was catalogued, until it is photographed, it's not supposed to be done until the book HAS been catalogued, something she had yet to even begin. He cast her a look of reproval. Once again, she was showing that she was not really a book person. He shifted a few pages over it -- and saw that he was right; the first verso page of text showed it had been expertly tipped in. “Here you go, she is a later printing, with a couple of true pages added to -- ”

Elizabeth cut him off with, “Adam, it's not a person; it's a thing.”

He cradled the book in his arm and carefully held the page up for her to see what was blatantly obvious, to him. “But look here at the base of the first verso page -- ”

She snapped the book closed and yanked it away, clipping his nose with a corner of the front board. He yelped.

“Give it here!” she snarled. “Hakim's right. Half the time you've got no idea what you're talking about.” And she stormed off.

Adam growled, because when he was right about something, he was right about it ... and that Shedel was not right. But he caught Jeremy snickering and Hakim glaring at him as if he were a complete incompetent and Elizabeth casting him a roll of her eyes as she entered her cubicle, so it appeared he would have to prove himself, and he knew exactly how.

The Dungeon.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

No writing today...

I watched Singin' in the Rain and let Debbie Reynolds go. I've seen her in so many movies -- The Tender Trap, Tammy and the Bachelor, How the West Was Won, The Unsinkable Molly Brown, What's the Matter With Helen, In and Out...and I even saw an episode of Will & Grace where she played Debra Messing's mom (this was before I gave up on the show and its caricatures of characters). I'm glad she was here.

I didn't warm to Carrie Fisher, so much, tho' I did appreciate her wit and resilience. She always hit me as someone who thought they had it rough and couldn't see how great their life was in comparison to others. Especially people trying to break into the business. I got to where I liked her more once she was a tough old broad who did what she wanted and didn't take shit off anybody. She still had a lot left to be interesting about.

I was mainly hit by how they went within a day of each an old married couple. That's not right...and I know the universe don't really have right and wrong coded into it...but it's still not right.

So I did a sketch, afterwards. Nothing great but a mind jabber to get me away from the quicksand of sorrow. Took me about 25 minutes, and I made this one a bit less in-your-face than the first one.

I've been doing one a day since before Christmas to try and regain my balance and it works. I get lost in trying to make them feel alive and interesting, and that helps me stop worrying about the world's bullshit.

My plan is to fill a 100 page blank book...then start on another and keep going as long as I can or want to.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016


I worked on A65 all evening and did not learn about Debbie Reynolds until just a little bit ago.
Her best comment -- "Singin' in the Rain (1952) and childbirth were the two hardest things I ever had to do in my life."

I'm not writing anymore, tonight.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Redoing my redos, again...

Naturally, I reworked a fair portion of what I posted, yesterday. Nothing major, just polishing for clarity and getting the momentum going for the next section, which takes me up to the point where Adam is going on the trip to LA. That's at about page 20.

Movement is always good. Even is it is one step back to get yourself ready to go two steps forward.

I'm set to fly to London for a couple days, January 9th. I cannot wait. Pins and needles, I stand upon until the day comes and I arrive there. I'll have a day to myself so plan to do some logistics research for my stories...including A65. I want to see what Epping looks like, since that's where Adam lives, with his mum.

I guess I need to start thinking about getting a new laptop. My MacBook is almost 9 years old and getting to be slow. I have a dual processor in it, which may be why it's lasted so long, but I have no idea how I can afford a new one. and I'm leery of refurbished ones. I may have to start using my tablet to do anything online...which is a pain.

I already use the tablet for financial stuff since my browsers are refusing to provide updated security unless I upgrade my OS, but I've gone as far as I can with that. It's like my Mac Mini; I can't do anything online with it, anymore and it's only 11 years old. I keep it because it has PhotoShop and Final Draft on it.

But it looks like I'm coming up on some more life changes, so...

Monday, December 26, 2016

Okay...some head-banging ended...

I finally found the style I want to tell the story in. It's a bit jokey and casual but is close to Adam's way of speaking without being totally there, and I feel better now. Only took me all weekend, half of which was spent expanding on the characters and putting notes into the story of things I wanted to add.

Here's the new it currently stands.


The Alice '65 is one of the rarest books in the world. Taken from the very first print run of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, it entered into the world of rarity when Sir John Tenniel, who had done the illustrations, saw the final result. He so disliked how his artwork appeared in them, he badgered Lewis Carroll into recalling the copies that had been sold, having the printing plates reset and the book reissued. All but fifty were returned and only twenty-four of those are known to still exist, so normally it would be a bibliophile's dream to be asked to fly to Los Angeles and return to London with a newly discovered copy of this very book.

But Adam Verlain did not want to go. To begin with, his area of expertise was manuscripts from the Fifteenth to the Eighteenth Century, mainly works of literature, philosophy and history. It would have made far more sense to send his colleague, Elizabeth Pascal, a lovely young woman who worked in the next cubicle and whose focus was 19th and 20th century works ... and he didn't think that because he rather fancied her; she wasn't quite what one would call a book person, yet, though she did have the makings.

And then there was Vincent St. George, head of the antiquarian book collection, a role he had occupied for untold decades ... perhaps even since the university was founded, in 1691. The one issue was, Vincent was more than twice Adam's age and had the appearance of a Victorian ghost, so the trip might have been difficult for him. Still ... he wasn't exactly at death's door and it would have made far more sense.

In fact, all that was really needed was someone human to fly over, accept the book on the university's behalf, and fly back. For that, they could have sent Jeremy, who almost qualified as such and who photographed the books once they were archived then joined their image with the on-line list. He was young and full of himself, and would love a day or two in Los Angeles. But he was also somewhat immature and much-tattooed and pierced; hardly the image the university would want to project.

Of course, Adam fit the image, perfectly. Trim, just under six feet tall, always in a suit and tie, with a face that gave him the look of an inquisitive cat. Granted, his life was in the process of gathering dust before he'd hit the age of thirty, and he also hated traveling, but the main issue was ... another copy of this book had gotten his father killed. The man had won it for a client at auction and was transporting it up to Edinburgh when he was robbed. In Newcastle. Was kicked down a flight of stairs, breaking his neck. Adam was but fifteen.

So he wanted nothing to do with The Alice '65, and had he known this was how his Monday would turn out ... well, he had a month of sick days coming to him, and he'd have taken every one of them to avoid being trapped into this. But by the time he realized what was about to happen, it was too late to change course.

Naturally, the day started well enough. He arrived for work at eight-fifty-two, as usual, and was in his cubicle by nine, sharp, his computer fired up and ready to go. He also had his usual moment of incongruity, looking around at the three-hundred year-old room with its arched ceiling and dark carved wood, everywhere, the ambience completely shattered by the island of modern work-spaces set up in the middle of it.

By nine-thirty, he finished the provenance on a rebound copy of Orlando Furioso, in Latin, which had been presented to King Victor Emmanuel, in 1866, not long before the Third Italian War for Independence. He had noticed indications the book was first given to Pope Pius IX on his selection to the papacy, twenty years earlier, so had spent nearly a week trying to confirm it. Which caused him some difficulty with Vincent, the Friday before.

"We've a hundred other books to archive," the man had said, in his veddy-veddy-British tone, "and you spend five days on one inconsequential volume?"

Granted, the book was bound in a plain speckled calf and a bit worn, yet it was still in fine condition and the possibility of it being linked to two famous men was more than worth the effort, so he had snapped back with, "Sir, I have never believed any book is inconsequential."

Which jolted Vincent into his most ramrod posture, bringing out the worst of his Oxford attitude as he snarled, "Nor is this one more consequential than any others on the cart, so be done with it."

So Adam finished with it, that morning, not completely satisfied but taking no end of pleasure in knowing he had done the fullest research on it. Still, Vincent needed placating, so he dove into a copy of Erasmus' Morais Enkomion, which had been sitting on the incoming cart for over a week because it was in Greek and no one else would touch it. He was done by three, and since he and Vincent were to meet at three-thirty, he hoped presenting the provenance on this book would soothe the older man's huffy nerves.

But first things first. He tenderly carried the Erasmus past the other cubicles and down a short hall, singing it a soft little song, in Greek. "I see a book that's going to be took for Jeremy to photograph and put with all the rest. It's a lovely book which soon will find its nook and she will be considered one of our very best." One had to follow protocol, don't you know.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

More done on A65...

I'm expanding the characters and writing some bits to add to the story, once I get the the appropriate spot. I've decided to stop worrying about what kind of book it's going to be -- romance, comedy, drama, suspense, whatever. It's going to have everything, and I will not classify it by simple terms.

I had someone once tell me they thought the screenplay was going to be a chase type a bookish version of Indiana Jones, and they were disappointed when the script didn't do that. It surprised me and I started second guessing myself and my characters, wondering if I ought to make it something more exciting. But I didn't...and I'm is everyone.

Adam is starting out just right and will be the most changed by the end of the book. More sure of himself. Less willing to be a joke or doormat. Happy that one aspect of his life is finally taken care of. Unhappy that another is left open...and yet not unhappy.

Casey is also undergoing change, tho' not to as drastic an extent as Adam. She already has control of her life in many ways; she just finally decides to take control of it all. She's taken chances in her career but played it somewhat safe with her emotional life, and that's what's got her all fuzzled up...till she jettisons it.

Patricia is changing as a character as I go along. She was on the underdeveloped side but now she's joined the conversation and is giving me layers for her life. Her history. Her reasons. Her excuses. Her explanations. Her dreams. I think I'm going to have a blast with her and let her be as wicked as she wants to be, at the end.

I'm not sure what's going to happen with Lando and Veronica, yet; they're sill being stand-offish. But I think they'll come around. Making Lando older -- 35 instead of 30 -- is already making other aspects of the story change. That may be why he's being huffy. Typical actor.

And I've given the Aussie businessman a name and background. Same for Casey's grandfather. This just seemed right, and may have been a mistake to not do so in the script.

And what do you think about Sean and Shawn as the names for the paparazzi twins who stalk Casey? Is that too cute? Considering their characters, I'm prone to not think so.

Looks like I'm having fun with the story, again.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Now to back away...

Backing away from my obsessive-compulsive hate of everything Trump and his ilk are generating...I've been doing my sketch a day and it's been beneficial.
This is my latest one. I stopped using Pilot Varsity fountain pens because they bleed on this paper and are hard to control. This sketch was done with a fine-print Sharpie.

I like doing these...

America today, as written in 1961.

Actually it was written earlier, but this explanation of how easily Nazism took hold in Germany. We are seeing something similar in the US. Maybe not to the extent, but still enough.
Burt Lancaster oversells it, but it still holds meaning for today.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Judgement at Nuremberg...

I got a copy of the DVD today. The movie is the fictional trial of 4 German judges who helped find legal excuses for the Third Reich to perpetrate its atrocities. Set in 1948 just as the Berlin Crisis was about to happen and politics changed the reality of morality. It's a long preachy movie, but never dull and sometimes horrifying.
Spencer Tracy's speech as he's about to deliver judgement on the German judges is apropos to today and condemns those who use Trump's childish, animalistic behavior as justification for them to attack those they don't like.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Does this work?

I'm back to vacillating between first and third person on does this work? Is it interesting? Is it too on-the-nose? Does it set the story up? I honestly can't tell, right now.


The Alice '65 is one of the rarest books in the world. It was from the very first print run of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and entered into the world of rarity when Sir John Tenniel, who had done the illustrations, saw the final result. He had so disliked how his artwork appeared in them, he convinced Lewis Carroll to recall the copies that had been sold, have the printing plates reset and the book reissued. All but fifty were returned and only twenty-four of those are known to still exist, so normally it would be a bibliophile's dream to be asked to fly to Los Angeles and return to London with a copy of the book that was meant to be a part of his university's collection.

But Adam Verlain did not want to go. To begin with, he disliked leaving London; it was civilized, easy to get around in and he liked the world he occupied. What reason could there ever be to leave it?

And then there was how his area of expertise was Fifteenth to Eighteenth Century works of literature and philosophy. It would have made far more sense to send Elizabeth Pascal, a lovely woman who worked in the next cubicle and whose focus was 19th and 20th century works. She wasn't quite what one would call a book person, yet, but had the makings.

Another possibility would have been for Vincent Bergerin, the head of the Research department, to make the journey. It would have made more sense, since he had been angling to bring one into the university's fold for decades. But then ... he was old and frail, like a Victorian ghost, so the trip might have been too much for him.

Of course, there was also the fact that a copy of this book inadvertently got Adam's father killed, so he wanted nothing to do with it. Had he but known this was where Monday would lead ... well, he had a month of sick days coming to him, and he'd have taken every one of them to avoid being trapped into it.

Naturally, the day had started out normal enough. He had finished the provenance on a rebound copy of Ariosto's Orlando Furioso, in Latin, which had been presented to King Victor Emmanuel not long before the Third Italian War for Independence, in 1866. There had been indications the book was first given to Pope Pius IX on his selection to the papacy, twenty years earlier, and he had spent a week trying to confirm it, which cause him some difficulty with his boss.

"We've a hundred other books to archive," Vincent had said, "and you spend five days on one inconsequential volume?"

Granted, the book was bound in a plain speckled calf and a bit worn, yet it was still in fine condition and the possibility of it being linked to two famous men was of some importance, so he had snapped back with, "Sir, no book is inconsequential."

Which had jolted Vincent into a ramrod posture and brought out the worst of his Oxford attitude as he snarled, "Nor is this one more consequential than any others on the cart, so be done with it."

So Adam wrapped the book up, that morning, not completely satisfied but still taking no end of pleasure in doing the fullest provenance on it. Then to placate Vincent, he worked on a copy of Erasmus' Morais Enkomion, which had been sitting on the incoming cart for over a week because it was in Greek and no one else wanted to touch it. He was done by three, half an hour prior to a meeting Vincent had arranged with him. He knew this would soothe the older man's huffy nerves.
It just seems a bit impersonal to me...but it's proving to be the easiest way into a decent opening chapter for the story.

Any comments?

Monday, December 19, 2016

Not a day for light writing...

As an antidote to the hate, anger, and despair I'm feeling, now that Donald Trump is officially the president-elect, I'm going to do a sketch a day in a blank book I have. It takes my focus away from the filth surrounding that man and makes me pay attention to something creative.

Here's what I did, tonight. From a photo I found online, using a Pilot Varsity fountain pen. Spent 25 minutes on it. Nothing great, but I feel easier now that it's done. Art always has been my mellow tool. Better than pot or drugs. Maybe this will get me back on path.

I'm also checking into ways I can assist in the protest of Trump and his chumps. The ACLU is already inundated with people asking what they can do, and Robert Reich is still formulating how best to respond. I'm not dealing with the Democrats, anymore; save for a very few, they've proven to be craven cowards or $2 whores.

I'm not putting politics into A65; it's not what the book wants. But I am changing UG when I return to it, using Trump and his brats as inspiration for a part of the story. And P/S is now more relevant than ever. As is a story I developed years ago then put aside -- Uplanders, about a post-apocalyptic world of the few haves and the many have-nots.

I have to do something to keep this country from crashing into the oblivion of history. Whether or not I do any good is beside the point. Doing likes on Facebook is not enough, anymore, nor is signing petitions that no one pays any real attention to, and I don't have the money to just back a group that is already fighting.

I'll just do what I have to do.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Ahh...back to the old head-banging...

After a great deal of work and rework and effort and thought and contemplation and writing and rewriting and re-rewriting...I think I finally may have a decent opening for A65. I'm trying to avoid my usual habit of slamming in a dozen characters in the first 20 pages and focus on Adam and his world...and this is what I came up with, finally...


I did not want to go to Los Angeles. I would have been more than content to remain in London, researching provenance on antiquarian books and manuscripts for the university's library, but I was given little choice in the matter ... and it has completely upended my existence.

I suppose I should begin by saying, my name is Adam Alexander Aloysius Verlain, and books are my life. Have been since the age of four, when I began to hold them and read them for myself. That's not to say my parents never read to me; my father would more often than my mother, but he was a dealer in antiquarian books so shared my affinity for them, while my mother preferred to attend to her physical therapy clients. It worked out well enough, especially for my brothers and sister, none of whom were as enamored of books as myself, so I was labeled father's pet while they were Mum's.

I would say that in the last 26 years, I have read every work of fiction there is, from Thackeray to Dumas to Dickens to James to Hemingway to Grass (in German, which is not as hard to learn as people say) to McInerny (in American, which is only a vague form of English) along with the works of Blake and Chaucer and Dante and Johnson and Plato (in Greek, which is hard to learn). They're wonderful things, books. They carry not only the stories and knowledge printed onto their pages, but also a wealth of history and the countless biographies of those who possessed them over the years ... decades ... eons.

I think that is what caused me to focus on works from the fifteenth through the seventeenth centuries -- the wish to know not only about the book, itself, but also who her owners were and what worlds she passed through. I once archived a rebound copy of Orlando Furioso in Latin (which is a lovely language in its simplicity) and discovered she had been presented to King Victor Emmanuel not long before the Third Italian War for Independence began in 1866. By whom was unrecorded, but there were indications she was first given to Pope Pius IX on his selection to the papacy, twenty years earlier. I spent a week trying to confirm it, which cause me some difficulty with my boss, Vincent.

"We've a hundred other books to archive," he'd said, "and you spend five days on this one inconsequential volume?"

Granted, she was a plain-looking volume bound in speckled calf, a bit worn, it's true, yet she was still in fine condition, so I snapped back with, "No book is inconsequential, sir."

Which jolted Vincent into his ramrod posture and brought out the worst of his Oxford attitude as he snarled, "Nor is this one more consequential than any others on the cart, so be done with it."

I finished the next day, still unsatisfied. But I took no end of pleasure in doing the actual provenance on her. So to placate Vincent, I immediately began work on a copy of the Erasmus Apophthegmata to soothe his huffy nerves. Got that one done in a day, which is my normal speed. Once I focus on my work, I can build provenance faster than anyone else on the staff. However, it was this focus which led to me being trapped into my journey.


Still not quite there, but I think it begins to set the stage.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Dropping UG for now...

I can't seem to concentrate on Underground Guy. I want to work on I'm giving in and shifting back to it. The draft I have is too rough for me to leave alone, and it's been more than 2 weeks since I finished it so I've had some decompression time...and I'm getting ideas on how to make it better. Like Patricia getting Adam stoned on her brownies instead of drunk on spiked OJ. That adds to his munchies-madness and makes it more believable since he's never been high, like that.

Turns out I AM headed for London, on January 9th. Back on the 12th. I finagled an extra day so I can scope out some things about A65, UG, and Marked For Death. All set today. Hop down to NYC, pick up an item to hand-carry (going business class over!!) and spend a day on the east end of London. Do a tight flight back (economy).

Watch it snow and keep me from it, like it almost did on my trip to Lisbon. That time, I took a train down to make my flight and still barely made it. It snowed nice and heavy, today. I continue to find it magical, and it did give me the excuse to cancel a doctor's appointment till after the new year, but I do not like driving in it. My car is small and needs new tires.

I may also have a packing job in Oklahoma, of all places, in later January. Not sure how I feel about that. I lived in Texas too long to think of Oklahoma as anything but more redneck than Dallas or Texas A&M. Goofy, scary place of tornadoes and earthquakes and Trump lovers. If the electoral college doesn't anoint him on Monday, it will be even scarier.

Almost back to normal after my procedure, earlier this week. It's taking a while. But since it was so clear, I may not need to do it again for another 10 years.

I'd like that.

More NI videos to keep...

Belfast 1969 -- an interesting documentary done at the time regarding the British Army in Belfast, which could easily be extrapolated into being in Derry. I'm doing this to keep track of it.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

What a fun week...

Well...this has not been the most joyful few days of my life. I pissed-off someone at AFF because I asked what a reader meant by a that, honestly, makes no sense to me at all. Apparently you're just supposed to say Thank you and accept whatever you're given. Okay, I was just trying to understand why the reader thought 2 important characters sounded to them like they were from Texas instead of LA and should be corrected...and why it would even matter. With it came the vague hint that maybe I should not submit to them, anymore, which I was already planning not to do...but now I feel like I ought to just to let them know I won't be told what to do. Which is childish. And irritates the hell out of me. But I'm not in the best of moods, to put it nicely.

I'm also fighting off a cold or something that just will not go away. Maybe a nasal infection or something that keeps my throat ticklish and me coughing. This is on top of me getting a colonoscopy, yesterday, since I haven't had one in 9 years and I had polyps removed in that one and should have had it done at 5 years. OMG, the preparation for that will drive you deep into discomfort. To put it mildly.

But it's done, at least, and I only had one polyp removed, this time. I guess that's an improvement. So long as it turns out to be nothing but that and not precancerous. Only I am exhausted from not sleeping and having to take up residence in the bathroom for nearly 18 hours. I'm still a wreck from it.

Not feeling good also heightens my sense of futility while writing...and I use all sorts of excuses to get me out of writing. Something writers are notorious for. I want to work on this book -- nope, gotta clean the apartment so you'll have a chance of not sneezing over New Year's. Oh, I have an idea for this part of the novel -- nope, there's a verbal war you're in the middle of on Twitter that needs to be dealt with. God, when did I become such a cliche?

Here I am, going from wondering about writing something phenomenal and surprising to not even wanting to try. My typical pattern, and so predictable I wonder at the fact that I get anything done.

And it's snowing like crazy and tomorrow I've got another doctor's appointment and I have so much to do at work and I have the prospect of a quick jaunt to London, in January, being dangled before me but nothing settled and probably won't happen because it'll be too expensive, and another hand-carry to Nevada, someplace, depending on how an auction goes and on and on.

And I've crashed into whiny mode...and even I hate me when I get this way. I think I'll watch a movie and just ignore myself for a while.'s after 11pm and I've got to work in the morning.

Shit, it's times like this I wish I drank whiskey.

Sunday, December 11, 2016


As I ironed, tonight, I watched Jean Cocteau's elegant version of the legend of Orpheus, Orphee. It was made in 1949 after his Beauty and the Beast, and it is filled with magical images.

Orphee (Jean Marais) is a famous poet who's become wealthy and is coasting on his laurels while a hot young poet threatens to surpass him. He's dissatisfied and surly, and thinks he's past his prime but doesn't want to do anything that will upset his life.
The young poet is killed in an accident and Orphee become connected to Death (Maria Casares), who travels in a gorgeous Rolls Royce accompanied by two men in black on motorcycles.

He winds up with the Rolls parked in his garage and hearing poetic messages on the radio, which give him inspiration but also cause him to ignore his pregnant wife, Eurydice (Marie Dea)...until she dies and he goes into the underworld to bring her back, with the help of Death's chauffeur, Heuterbise (Francois Perier).

It's been years since I've seen the film...hell, though I remembered the basic storyline, I'd forgotten a lot of the details. There are a lot of old camera tricks in this film, mostly shooting an action then reversing it or making clever use of rear projection, but they work in it. Not quite as nicely as what Cocteau pulled off in Beauty... but close.

What makes the film wonderful is its lyricism. Its meditation on love. Orphee falls in love with Death and she with him, but it cannot be. Heuterbise falls in love with Eurydice but it also cannot be. There are rules which must be followed, to the point of extermination. It could almost be a meditation on love between two men, which wasn't a crime in France at the time (homosexuality was decriminalized in 1791) but was still frowned upon and condemned by the Catholic Church. Even today there are those running around in France who say gays ought to be burned at the stake.

It's one of those movies that inspires me. Makes me wonder if I could do what Orphee is told he must do to become relevant, again -- surprise people. It's been a long time since I surprised anyone with my writing, and even then it was more shock at my audacity than anything else. Certainly not being impressed with my writing.

I wonder if I can do something that surprises and also impresses people?

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Confused about "The Alice '65" screenplay

I got some interesting feedback on The Alice '65 from the Austin Film Festival. It made it to the second round, where it got this response:

--> Reader #3 (Second Round reader) 

Concept: This is a comedy feature script. The descriptives and tone immediately put us into the world that is being created. It is quite lyrical and whimsical. The characterizations on both sides of the pond feel extreme and underdeveloped. And ultimately the script feels heightened in a way that makes it hard to fully engage with the narrative.

Plot: There are elements about this that are probable but not always plausible which does take it into a different realm that is not always consistent with the genre. It's hard to tell with the opening scene who the lead character's really going to be. Refining that will help a lot. 

Structure: There is a beginning, middle, and ending. The beginning gets a little muddled. It introduces quite a few characters at once with them all in need of more definition as to not come across is the same person. Giving the overall narrative more dynamics throughout will really help with the flow of this script.

Characters: Adam is our lead character. Even though in the opening scenes there are so many characters it's kind of hard to tell he's going to take charge and be the protagonist. There definitely needs to be more distinction/development of the characters on the page because they don't stand out from one another until we get to America. 

Dialogue: The opening scenes dialogue are with the British characters and it feels quite British. Once we get to America the Americans feel a bit textbook. They're in Los Angeles but two of the main characters place us more in Texas. And that feels more like using archetypes rather than something with intention. There is also a 'spinning-around-the-subject' element to it. It could be used to move the plot forward a lot better.

Overall: The story and the characters are definitely unique. This was quite a fun read. The descriptives and tone immediately put us into the world that is being created. And the narrative is quite lyrical and whimsical with a brisk pace. The physical comedy elements are also strong. One of the things that comes through very solidly is the British underpinning of the story. The America characterizations however, could use development to come across as more authentic. Patricia and Casey sound more like they're in Texas vs L. A. What will also help the American ear is to really distinguish more between the characters within the dialogue to give them dimension in the first few scenes. As it is now, without the names above the dialogue there is little to no distinction except for a few. Adam being a prime example. This is a unique story with a fresh perspective. With more development on the overall flow of the narrative and character, it will be a very solid script.

I understand some of the critique; in shifting the story to novel format, I saw places that could use a lot more focus, and I did strip some of the dialogue down a bit too where it's almost too on the nose. But I do not even begin to understand why this person thinks Casey's and Patricia's dialogue makes them sound like they're from Texas. I've looked through the script and there is nothing in it I would call Texas-talk. No ya'lls or Sugar or Hon. I don't even clip off the G at the end of words, with either of them. I've asked for clarification and have yet to receive an answer.

Maybe there is none. 

Friday, December 9, 2016

Quick links to Derry I don't lose them...

1971-- Free Derry

1979 -- including Grianan an Aileach...

Thursday, December 8, 2016


The last couple of days have been busied up by catching up with my sleep and by updating my website, GoodReads page, adding OT to BookDaily, sorting through a mess of paperwork, and working more on UG. Oh, and dealing with that little thing called my job. Now I think I'm basically on top of what's necessary. I hope. I'm sure I'll think of something to beat myself up with, later.

With UG, I'm liking the idea of accountability being its theme, more and more. What's already set up in the story is how Devlin's father was a brutal drunk who bought off the cops and priest whenever they were called in about him beating his wife and sons. No accountability for that. Nor for what Dev believes was the murder of his mother by his father. The police just shrug it off and the priest blames the wife and sons for provoking the man.

Now Dev only attacks people who deserve some form of punishment -- like one guy who reneged on a deal with his company and nearly drove Dev and his brother, Colin, into bankruptcy. What sends him careening into chaos is how he attacks Reg, the Underground Guy, a man who did not deserve punishment but was actually trying to help save lives. This makes him question everything he thinks he stands for.

The catalyst is the police finally finding the remains of his mother in the marshlands of New Jersey and calling him with the information, just before he returns home from his business trip to London. He needs to give them a DNA sample so they can verify it's her. He doesn't even tell Colin about it because he knows his brother would be unable to handle it. So it's almost like he's pulling his stunt in order to be forced to stay in the UK.

May be a bit too complex for the story, but I'm having fun playing with it.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Life in the fast lane...

I'm done with the packing and prepping of my latest Berkeley shipment. It only took a day, but it was tiring. This house is one of those places where each floor is on a different level, and they're connected by a tight spiral staircase. Of course, the items I had to pack were on the top floor, but I was able to use the dining room, which is on the middle level, so only had to do the round-trip 20 times.

This shot is from that room. It's a beautiful house in a lovely area of tight, winding streets ... and the view is spectacular, as you can see... but I'd get tired of all the up and down pretty quick, not to mention it's a 15 minute drive to the nearest grocery store. But then again, that might be why the couple who own the place are still very spry, even though they're older than me.

Last night, I had dinner with Yue Shi, a Facebook friend who's a law student at UCB and who likes my books. He's from China but is a US Citizen, and we've had fun talking about his various crushes. We were going to do a French place but it was closed on Mondays, so we wound up at a glorified Pizza Parlor called Jupiter with a lot of Artisan beers and some odd sorority/fraternity thing going on. It was very loud. The girls wore streetwalker dresses, they were so tight and short, and the boys wore suits and tuxes. Like this was prom night. UC Berkeley is very odd.

Hell, Berkeley is odd. They drive at 25 mph and if someone even hesitates at a crosswalk, cars stop to let the person cross. Of course, the pedestrians are as confrontational as drivers are in LA. On many occasions I had someone bust into a crosswalk and double-dare anyone to hit them as they passed. Didn't even look to see if traffic was stopping. Spooked me.

I worked some on Underground Guy on this trip, and now have a complete outline for the story. I even have a couple ideas of what it's about -- acceptance or accountability. Right now, I'm leaning towards the latter more than the former, because much of the action is Devlin taking responsibility for his actions. And there's also how his father was never held accountable for the physical abuse of his wife and children.

Now I'm waiting for the redeye back to Buffalo and a nice long sleep in my bed. This La Quinta is very comfortable and quiet, and the mattress very nice, but it's still not mine and there was no tub; just a shower. I really wanted to soak thanks to those stairs.

But that's life in the big city.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Another trip...

This one to Berkeley for a couple days and taking a redeye back to Buffalo Tuesday night. NOT looking forward to it because I cannot sleep on a plane. I doze a little but that's about it. So today was spent catching up on paperwork and bills and wondering what to do next.

I want to get my head completely out of A65 so I can approach the story with a fresh eye, and the best way to do that is to do another project. Maybe I could finish a draft of Underground Guy; I have it about half-written...even though it's all over the place. Or I could do a new on -- like Uplanders, a post-apocalyptic story using Aristophanes' The Birds as its basis but segueing into darker territory, at the end.

Or I could start dealing with the information inundating me about Medicare and my new health insurance and the requirements of my credit cards and organizations I'm working with to try and keep Trump under some kind of scrutiny. I could even do research on how to promote my books better. Bump up sales. Research grants for writers. Do some painting or sketching...which would be hard to do on a plane. Or I could blow it all off.

So...I now know my usual pattern -- fight getting a project started, force myself to start it, get involved in it to the point everything else vanishes, and when the work is done, get lost in my uncertainty of what to do till I start fighting myself on what my next project will be.

Shit...guess I'm stuck in my ways.