Derry, Northern Ireland

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

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Off to SFO

Seems I'm traveling to San Francisco to handle a pickup and pack job instead of Chicago. The latter one got pushed to the end of September, just as I'm coming back from the UK. Not unacceptable, but in researching the possibilities of the trip happening later in the week instead of on Labor Day, I learned I could fly Norwegian Airlines from Oakland to Gatwick for a little more than it costs to fly from Buffalo.

I also found out Norwegian is flying from an airport in eastern New York, south of Albany, to Dublin for $200, each way. Which is half what it costs to fly from Buffalo to San Antonio. It's insane...and I'm seriously thinking about it.

I'm waiting to hear back from a couple more people to see if they will read A65 and give me feedback. I figure this will give me as wide a selection of opinions as possible. May make things harder to deal with, once I get back to writing it, but better to know that be told after it's available.

That happened with Porno Manifesto. One reviewer pointed out something that I was leading up to then didn't follow through on...and he was right. I didn't see it till he pointed it out, but by that point it was done and in circulation. Granted, it's not the kind of book you want your more genteel friends to read, but feedback would have helped. It certainly did on The Vanishing of Owen Taylor.

I have started some preliminary publicity for A65, with "Publishers Weekly" and a couple of other spots. And I'm reading some articles on how to better launch the book that I hope will help it do well. This isn't going to be something my usual readers will go for.

I did a proof to see how the current version would work once it's set for hardcover, and it came out to 149 pages of story, and a total of 164 pages in the book. That, I can post at $24.95 and still make a little on it. I don't charge a lot for my books because I don't want them priced out of the market. Not many people will plunk down $30 for a book written by someone they don't know. So I keep my margin low but on the positive side.

It's helped, a few times.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Aimless couple of days

I haven't gotten much done the last two days, half because I'm not sure what to do next, half because I don't want to lose focus on A65, and half because I'm just a bit too lazy. I know the math doesn't work out, but it does in my head. So I lazed most of my time away reorganizing my shelves of books on Northern Ireland and watching videos of Irish history and dealing with emails and Facebook and basically being a slug.

I did lay the groundwork to try and get a review for A65 out of "Publishers Weekly." Once I've got the next draft done, I'm doing the e-book format, first, and sending it to them to see if they'll look it over. Nothing guaranteed, but it doesn't cost anything...and I can post about the book on their associate page -- "Booklife." Get a bit more awareness of it.

And I now have 13 people reading this draft of the book to give me feedback -- people who are editors and/or writers, and people who just read for fun. As much of a cross-section as possible. And that includes some family members. God knows how long they'll take to get back to me, but I have it printed and ready to go to incorporate my notes, and am able, so far, to keep my grubby red pen off it.

Of course, I'm going through the usual writer's paranoia -- "OMG, I got it to them 2 days ago and they haven't responded? They must hate it!" That's the second-hardest part of being a writer -- learning patience and accepting the fact that other people have lives of their own.

I'd watch one of the Miss Marple episodes on Acorn to get my mind off it, but I'm finding them problematic. I haven't read all of Agatha Christies' works, but while these movies are supposed to be based on their actual stories, I know things have been added to "update" them...and the additions don't work.

One I watched was A Murder Is Announced and it was ludicrous. The writers put a lesbian couple into the story (NOT something Agatha would have allowed) and a son with a Oedipal complex (that is strictly a maybe), and when the murderer is revealed, it was preposterous because of the timing involved and one amazingly stupid detail -- the killer was female with her salon-coiffed hair in perfectly sprayed 1950's condition...after having committed a murder in the pouring rain only a short while prior. No way in hell could that have happened, let alone having the killer know she had to be there at that particular time to kill that particular witness.

The last one, Sleeping Murder, relied on a young woman not remembering she'd lived in England for a couple of years, as a toddler. I don't have the best memory, but I can recall being in my grandmother's back yard when I was 2 or 3. It also required the child to say nothing to her father about witnessing a murder...not asking about it, not referencing it, nothing until she returns from India as a 21 year old woman about to be married and begins having visions. Didn't buy it, at all. And on top of it, an incestuous angle? PUH-lease.

Oh, well...I guess they can't all be Hetty Wainthropp. 

Monday, August 28, 2017

Long day...

Dealing with health insurance and a doctor's office not talking to each other or updating their files is exhausting. 9 times out of 10 you wind up arguing with someone who thinks that know what they're talking about but doesn't, yet insists they're right and you're wrong. I read through most of a 200 page book detailing my insurance coverage, today, to make sure I was right...and finally I got hold of a guy at Blue Cross who put me on hold, asked someone about it, and acknowledged I was being over-billed by $100 due to them not updating their system.

Didn't help the billing department of the doctor's neglected to notice the error, even though it was blatantly obvious and not at all like they claimed. And they never did admit their error, nor are they willing to take my word for it that they've over-billed me. Blue Cross has to get them new paperwork before they will adjust anything.

So I wound up with a blinding headache. I got it down to a normal level (it's just now gone away) and hit the post office just before closing, got groceries, printed out a new copy of A65, had dinner at Panera Bread and came home, then watched a Miss Marple Mystery to get my mind off it all. And...I sorted paperwork while on hold with Blue Cross, so not as many piles of paper on my desk. But I was in a state.

At least I got A65 out to a few more people to read, so I'm up to an even 12. It's kind of light fare for the GoodReads group I'm part of, but I may ask, anyway. I figure the wider my net for reaction, the more likely I'll listen if they all tell me to change matter how much I hate the idea...unless I hate it so much I refuse and decide to accept the consequences.

I still have a lot to do, tomorrow, but I'm hoping the worst is out of the way.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Don't know what to do...

I spellchecked and grammar-ized A65 and have it out to 10 people, so far, for feedback. And now I'm going through that blank period I always have after a push like this...wondering what the hell to do, next. As if there weren't a hundred things that need doing. Paperwork. Classes to figure out this too-too sensitive laptop. Hell, starting back on my research into Derry for Place of Safety.

Instead I'm bingeing on Agatha Raisin mysteries, on Acorn and stuffing myself...albeit with decent food. Of a sort. I did stir-fry enough for two meals and ate both of them. All vegetables -- zucchini, squash, green beans, carrots, green pepper and onion over rice. I was hungry.

I guess tomorrow is time enough to get back to real life. I will need to do some running around; I'm out of peanut butter and almost out of milk.

Now back to Agatha...


The Alice '65 is input. 304 pages, 65,750 words. I'm going over it, tomorrow, with spell check and grammar check, which will take time due to the way I write, but that's it. I now need the feedback. I'll send it out on Monday and hope it's not too big a disaster.

I say that because whenever I feel good about something I've written, the feedback slaps me around, hard. It's a necessary process, but I'd rather it come across as good instead of needing more work. We'll see how it goes. For all I know, it won't make a damn bit of sense to anyone but me.

Truth is, the fates like to beat up on me whenever I start feeling good about anything -- like my finances or my car or my health. The second I let anything positive creep into my attitude, life smacks me down. My car's now making noises that can't be good. My youngest brother in San Antonio is back to needing money so he won't wind up homeless. Perfect timing, that, considering Hurricane Harvey. And I got a bill from the doctor's office for $130 that doesn't make sense, but I can't talk to them about it till Monday.

I guess I should just accept that I'll be screwed over till I die, since that's how a lot of my life has been...much of it thanks to my own actions. Actions that seemed right at the time but were actually pretty damned stupid, in retrospect.

Good example -- going into film. I was an artist in San Antonio. I sold some of my work. Did commissions. Free-lanced and did okay. But then I decided I wanted to be Alfred Hitchcock and shifted to a career that I was not suited for. And then when things went my way, despite me, in order for me to do better in film, I either didn't see them till it was too late or got contrary and refused them.

Perfect example, my parents lived in Glendale when I graduated from Trinity University. I could have come to LA and started working in film and stayed with them till I was on my feet, but no. I kept working at a bookstore and decided to go to graduate school. Why? It did nothing but postpone my life. It was stupid.

Then I got accepted to NYU and threw a hissy fit because they wanted me to do the full 3 year graduate course instead of letting start in second year. Dumb, dumb, dumb.

So here I am writing books and now nervous as hell I've screwed that up, too. I've got one review on Amazon for OT, and that's of no use to me. Nothing else. And I've been both blistered and praised for some of my other work. So I dunno...

Maybe I'm still dumb.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Not a lot done, today...

I made it through one whole chapter after dealing with a Dr's appointment and questions about a bill they'd sent me and a pharmacy that didn't refill a prescription I'd asked them to refill on Monday and issues with my youngest brother, in San Antonio, and grocery shopping and preparing for a couple of jobs next month. I guess I'm lucky I got that much done. September I have packing jobs in Chicago, Syracuse area, and England. Then come Key West, and the Seattle Book Fair, in October...and a couple more possibles. I like doing the jobs, but I also want to shift focus to Place of Safety, and this will make it awkward. I've got lots of books to read and reread, so I can keep going with those, on the plane. It's the videos that will be problematic; I've found WiFi in hotels doesn't really like to do any streaming.

Still...I only have 70 pages left to input for A65, so I should have it ready when I said I would. I'm still trimming and condensing and clarifying, as I go...and I'm sure I'll do a lot more of that once the feedback comes in...but I am at the point where I like how it's going. I think one thing leads to another, naturally, and the characters do their arcs in a way that is believable. I doubt anyone will notice this only takes place over the space of two days, with a coda later in the week.

Not that it matters; what counts is if they accept it.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Twitter proves its worth, to me...

I was having a hell of a time finding the right way to describe something Adam uses to trick Lando into revealing he has Casey's book...and damned if a twitter user didn't happen to pop up with the right word -- Quire.

I looked it up on ILAB's glossary and here's the definition -- "When used by binders or bibliographers, this is synonymous with a gathering or section. To a paper-maker it means one-twentieth of a ream of paper. It is also used in the trade more generally as a measure of extent, as ‘x quires’." (John Carter)

And Twitter also led me to this lovely commentary about celebrity and the lack, thereof, being a curse to those who crave it. A Tassel to the Purse of Merit. Not sure if I see myself as Byron, Shelley, Chatterton, or Polidori...not that it matters. I have my own claim to fame.

I've been banned...twice in three years...and fought them back, something not even Byron can boast of.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

I guess I'm picky...

So I got this lovely new Mac Book Pro, thanks to Caladex; it was partially paid for as a bonus for all the work I did on the West Coast. And it's nice and shiny and fast and all that...and it's driving me nuts with its quirks. The pad is so sensitive, if I brush over it wrong, it changes pages on me or expands the page I'm looking at and then will not let me make it smaller, again. The keys are tight against the board and sensitive, so if I hit too close to one as I'm typing, I suddenly wind up with two letters -- like gt or vb -- so I'm doing a lot more correcting.

Something else -- everything I post on it goes onto the Cloud, which I'm not 100% crazy about. I don't necessarily want every friggin' photo I have on there; most of them are crap. But I have to specifically take them off so I don't use up space with junk. Same for documents; I don't want a letter I work up to send to the IRS or my insurance posted on the Cloud, but there the damn thing is.

I like it for its speed on the internet, and I can do my financial stuff on it, thanks to it being a lot safer, but I'm seriously thinking of returning to my old MacBook to do any work in Word. Just like I use my Mac Mini for photoshop. Maybe I should take some classes in using the damn thing so I can reset its sensitivity...but have only just begun to have the time to do that.

Friday I have a doctor's appointment about noon. After that, I may drop by the Apple Store in the Galleria and see what classes they have, next week, to help me gain control of this critter. I feel like I'm driving a Ferrari so need to up my skills behind the wheel before I do a crash and burn.

Sometimes improvements are not what they claim to be.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Day trip...

I drove to Stockbridge, MA to the Norman Rockwell Museum to look at the original of his painting, Southern Justice (AKA: Murder in Mississippi) and came away haunted not only by the power of the piece but also how poorly it was treated. Not just by the museum, which had it in a back room next to the famous Ruby Bridges painting (The Problem We All Live With), but how it was dismissed by its creator and how "Look Magazine" didn't even use it.

"Look" used this abstract study by Rockwell as the illustration in its story about the KKK's murder of 3 civil rights workers...and it's awful. It's got the basic pose down, but the young men are semi-human blobs facing hints of shadows. The focus is soft, unreal, more a Goya-like impression than the sharp, precise painting above. The whole idea of this hideous slaughter of innocent people is diminished by that choice, and is close to inexcusable.

I know Rockwell thought the anger had gone out of the final product, but oh my God was he wrong. Andrew Goodman lies on the ground, dying, in pain, and the detail of his hands gripping the earth as he tries to live is chilling. Michael Schwerner holds James Chaney and looks at what he knows will be his killers...and while his face is stoic and his pose almost submissive, the expression in his eye holds pure terror mixed with disbelief. And his grip on a bloody and dying James Chaney, who's desperately fighting to stay alive, is stronger but more shaken, not semi-heroic, like in the study.

This shows why artists cannot decide for themselves how their work will be perceived. Nor can their curators, apparently. No prints or pictures are offered for sale of this painting. Nothing but a post card was available. I guess I can sort of see why. People like how Rockwell sugar-coats things.

Look at the Ruby Bridges painting -- it's a horrible event made palatable by the cute dress, stoic attitude of the child, and 4 faceless men stiffly posed in suits marching in step to protect her. The only jarring note is a smashed tomato on the wall next to a soft rendition of the N-word. Not one of the people hurling hate at her is seen, not even their shadows. But you can buy a dozen different size posters and pictures and lithographs and refrigerator magnets of that one.

I think Southern Justice is Rockwell's best work. I looked over everything and nothing else he did has the power and depth of that painting, nor did anything else affect me like this one. And just to add to the indignity...the museum was having an exhibit of Andy Warhol's works -- with his litho of Richard Nixon to the left of the painting, as if mocking it -- and James Warhola's illustrations for SF books and "Mad Magazine"...and The Garbage Pail Kids having more play and interest than this image.

I never paid much attention to Norman Rockwell, before, but Southern Justice has elevated him in my esteem.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Taking a break...

I'm making a quick trip to Stockbridge, Massachusetts and will be home, tomorrow evening. That gives me two solid days away from writing on A65, even though it really doesn't. As I drove, ideas kept coming to mind and another logical aspect I needed to address made itself known...but for the most part, the story is set, the characters are set, and the action is in its preferred order.

I also think I'm being overly descriptive in the first chapter or two. I need to be careful about that. I tend to put a lot into the beginning because it's important to the end, but that usually turns off a reader so I'm trying to get out of the habit.

And yet, I need to establish at least the idea of Adam's life before he heads for LA...which happens by page 25 in the current form, meaning about page 14 or 15 once I have it reformatted. And truth is, everything in the first two chapters keeps recurring or being referenced in the rest. So maybe I'm being too critical.

I'm trying to avoid a tendency I'm seeing in more and more mysteries and TV shows where the twist is more important than the story's logic. I like Vera, for example -- a British mystery show set in the Newcastle area of England -- but the last one of Series 3 was ludicrous. One murder is committed by striking the victim with a car, then that car is found and tested and it proves who the killer is.

The problem with this started when the killer found the victim at just the right time in a dark area with no traffic as she's walking, alone. Very coincidental. But then the car didn't have any damage, afterwards. None. If you hit someone hard enough to kill them, things are gonna get smashed -- windshield, headlights, fenders, hood -- hell, you can dent those things just by leaning on them wrong. And that was just one of a half-dozen logic issues in the show. Hinterland, which I don't really like, is the same thing....just with low-rent David Fincher style.

I had a couple of issues with parts of Porno Manifesto working out way too easily. It was lazy writing, but I could get away with it because it was also filled with sex and attitude. However, I cannot do that with A65...Adam's world collapsing around him has to make sense and work out in ways he comes to appreciate.

Again, for example...I have Julie and Manny (parents to the brat who vomits on Adam, in the plane) and Orisi showing up in the most unlikely of places, but I still make it kind of logical. Like how Julie and Manny decide to start pub-hopping in a bar across the street from the premier Adam's attending because Orisi told them about it and they wanted to see how Adam turned out.

Once again, one thing leads to another and another and another and boom -- I've got another crazy-assed story...and I do love that.

I just want it to be a logical crazy-assed story.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Another pass completed...

I finished yet another red-pen over The Alice '65, looking for typos and inconsistencies and ways to make the story clearer. Now I'm going to let it sit for a couple days then input the changes...and then it's done, for now. I need to start getting responses to it and see if it's working. It does, for me, but that means little, at this point.

And I just had an idea to add to the ending. Dammit. And yet, not dammit. I can still work it in, and it takes care of a logical issue I was trying to ignore.

I want to give my apartment a major overhaul, now. Maybe rearrange my furniture, what little I have. Throw things out that I'm not using and condense the space taken up by my tables and desk and bookcases. My place is nowhere near balanced in a Fung Shui style. I never did really work out the best way to furnish my place; I just put things where I could get to them, easily.

Oh man...I'm getting a headache...time to sign off the laptop...

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Ready for one last pass...

I got to the end of another draft of The Alice '65, and it's printed up and ready for a final pass with my red pen. Then inputting and I've got about a dozen people ready to read it and let me know their thoughts. Here's hoping I'm not so close to the story I've churned out a piece of crap.

I've adjusted the Chapter marks on a few points. Sometimes the book tells you when it's time to shift to a new one, and the A65 did that, throughout. And changing Adam's actions in the last couple of chapters helps, a lot. And I think I've spread both his background and Casey's through the story more, so it's not all one lump. Should make it an easier read.

I had another idea for the bit leading up to the final confrontation in the jet, so wound up with 66,500 words over 306 pages. Funny how my ideas tend to expand a story instead of shorten it. Once it's condensed down from double-space and put into book format, with title and table of contents and such, it'll probably be around 200 pages...maybe 210. That's still a nice average for a book.

I binge-watched Season 3 of Vera, to clear my head. Six hours worth. It wasn't available on Acorn so I sprang the $7 for it...and I really like it. The mysteries are just okay; it's the rapport between Vera Stanhope and her sergeant, Joe Ashworth, that makes the series work so well. Like mother and son. Nothing like that in the last 3 series, with Aiden...and I think it's all on the actors playing the roles. David Leon was accessible and somehow carried a deep background as Joe; Kenny Doughty doesn't have that depth or kind of silent openness.

Still...I'm thinking of buying the series on DVD.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

August 28th...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, August 15, 2017


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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, August 14, 2017


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

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

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

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

Nothing new about that.

Sunday, August 13, 2017


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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Murder in Charlottesville...

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, August 11, 2017

Backwards reversals...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, August 10, 2017

And back to one...

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

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

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

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

Tomorrow, maybe?

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Started inputting...

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

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

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

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

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

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

Funny how that works.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

It's coming along...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Done, for now...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It's one Casey is now struggling with.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Took all day, but...

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

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

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

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

As if I ever will...

Friday, August 4, 2017

And here I go, again...

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

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

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

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

As is usual with me...

Thursday, August 3, 2017

City Lights (1931)

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

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

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Genius or deluded fool?

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

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

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

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

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