Derry, Northern Ireland

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

Wednesday, February 28, 2018


Looks like The Alice '65 will be 204 pages...including blank and title pages; actual story is 189 pages long. That's in a 5.5x8.5 size using Times New Roman font, 10 point and 1.15 inch spacing between the lines. I like how it looks so will probably keep it like that. This makes the spine .5 inches thick, in hardcover...slim, but not too slim...

The more I look at the cover, the more I like it. It's brighter and sunnier than anything else I could come up with, and I think the models for Adam, Casey and Gertrude are just right. It's a very off-the-wall kind of story, but with dark undertones...and I think this will help it. Guess we'll see once it happens.

I printed out one last copy to red pen, this weekend, then that's it. I'm doing a backwards proofing and figure that's as close as I can get without paying $500 to an editor to go through it in more detail...and considering I've had it proofed 3 times already and still found mistakes the proofers missed, I don't think it'd be worth the money.

I can't do anything on the book till the weekend because I'm doing taxes on Friday and have to get everything in order. I'm tempted to just not pay them, thanks to that disgraceful bill passed by the sneaky-assed GOP...who are finally realizing they screwed it up. The only joy I get from this spectacle is how Czar Snowflake won't let them change it. Why should he? They handed the keys to the treasury over to him and increased the nation's debt by a trillion bucks, to do it.

I so despise that party, right now, I don't even want to be around anyone who voted Republican in 2016.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Steven King's rules for writing...

I think I've broken half of them in The Alice '65...and I don't care...much...

1. First write for yourself, and then worry about the audience. “When you write a story, you’re telling yourself the story. When you rewrite, your main job is taking out all the things that are not the story."

2. Don’t use passive voice. “Timid writers like passive verbs for the same reason that timid lovers like passive partners. The passive voice is safe.”

3. Avoid adverbs. “The adverb is not your friend.”

4. Avoid adverbs, especially after “he said” and “she said.”

5. But don’t obsess over perfect grammar. “The object of fiction isn’t grammatical correctness but to make the reader welcome and then tell a story.”

6. The magic is in you. “I’m convinced that fear is at the root of most bad writing.”

7. Read, read, read. ”If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write.”

8. Don’t worry about making other people happy. “If you intend to write as truthfully as you can, your days as a member of polite society are numbered, anyway."

9. Turn off the TV. “TV---while working out or anywhere else---really is about the last thing an aspiring writer needs.”

10. You have three months. “The first draft of a book---even a long one---should take no more than three months, the length of a season.”

11. There are two secrets to success. “I stayed physical healthy, and I stayed married.”

12. Write one word at a time. “Whether it’s a vignette of a single page or an epic trilogy like ‘The Lord of the Rings,’ the work is always accomplished one word at a time.”

13. Eliminate distraction. “There’s should be no telephone in your writing room, certainly no TV or videogames for you to fool around with.”

14. Stick to your own style. “One cannot imitate a writer’s approach to a particular genre, no matter how simple what that writer is doing may seem.”

15. Dig. “Stories are relics, part of an undiscovered pre-existing world. The writer’s job is to use the tools in his or her toolbox to get as much of each one out of the ground intact as possible.”

16. Take a break. “You’ll find reading your book over after a six-week layoff to be a strange, often exhilarating experience.”

17. Leave out the boring parts and kill your darlings. “(kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.)”

18. The research shouldn’t overshadow the story. “Remember that word back. That’s where the research belongs: as far in the background and the back story as you can get it.”

19. You become a writer simply by reading and writing. “You learn best by reading a lot and writing a lot, and the most valuable lessons of all are the ones you teach yourself.”

20. Writing is about getting happy. “Writing isn’t about making money, getting famous, getting dates, getting laid or making friends. Writing is magic, as much as the water of life as any other creative art. The water is free. So drink.”

Sunday, February 25, 2018

I worry I'm going too dark...

While working on A65, today, something fresh came did something expansive. I'm doing everything I can to keep Adam smart and aware without revealing exactly what he's thinking, and it's proving to be pretty hard to find the balance. In doing this, I've found sometimes I ignore actions that should be obvious to him...until I've been through the story a dozen times and peeled back enough layers to where it's so damned obvious, a blind man could see it.

One truly glaring one is how it turns out Vincent lied to him to get him to go on the trip...all so the university could get the Alice '65 for free. Adam's not stupid; he'd realize that before too long...before he returned to England. He'd have to react to it, and it would color his growing relationship with Casey because he'd think she was part of it. And damn me, but I didn't see this until today.

This kind of crap kicks me in the ego more than any criticism ever could...because I can't tell if the character is telling me this and I'm not listening, or if he's keeping it from me because he doesn't trust me...which I know sounds crazy, but it's how I approach writing so I don't care.

CRAP! It won't take much to adjust but it's got me worrying, now, that the same thing will happen with Brendan when I dive back into Place of Safety. He's already irritated with me for taking so damn long to face the story, so it may wind up being a real MMA fest between him and me until one of us surrenders...and that story will demand even more honesty and willingness from me than a light work like A65 has.

Maybe that's why it's getting darker than a rom-com. Adam's past is tragic -- losing his father, the loss of their book shop, a brother who despises him, co-workers who look down upon him even though he's more knowledgable than all of them put together...well, except for Vincent. But the story is what it is...and if I refuse to let it become what it wants to be, I'll only prove myself unworthy of Brendan's story.

I'll be damned if I let that happen.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Stayed in so I could argue with me...

So I'm halfway done with inputting changes and still arguing with myself over the commas...and I decide I've taken too many out. A lot of them did need to be removed but some help clarify the sentence a bit better and need to be there and I think, initially, I was deleting for the sake of deleting. Now that I'm into the rhythm of the piece, again, I want those dealing with non-restrictive clauses to return...even if they're only slightly non-restrictive...if that makes sense.

Aw, the hell with it. English is a living breathing language that's not the same from one moment to the next. What works today won't work tomorrow and what was right last year isn't right this year so just go with what feels right and not worry about the grammar Nazis...which I wouldn't except I sort of am one, sometimes. But only in blatant misuse -- like you're for your or their for there and vise versa. That does drive me nuts.

For some reason I'm thinking I'd like to release The Alice '65 on March 24th, which is a Saturday and makes no sense. feels right. So we'll see how it develops. That gives me just over a month to get everything in order. I did clean up and adjust the image I'm going to use for the online postings of the e-book..

What's fun is, I also cleared some unneeded files off my desktop and while doing so came across an old story I'd begun about the first time I felt a crush on a man. It was during a campout for scouts, something I hated doing. We were in Cypress Cove, which was about to be covered up by Cypress Lake, and I was about 12 or 13 and knowing I was different from the other boys. In what way, I had no idea, yet.

We were camped at a spot where two streams came together and the other boys liked to go swimming in a pool just down from there. I can't swim so I stayed in the rapids and enjoyed the beauty of the area. Towering cypress trees offering cool shade. Soft hills covered in scrub and mesquite. Water flowing lovely over white rocks. I hated how it was going to be destroyed, so I wasn't in the best of moods.

Then I saw our assistant scout master come down from the camp, ready for a swim. He was an airman with a wife and a second kid on the way and looked a lot like this porn model -- Pavel Novotny. I liked him and liked being around him, but it wasn't until that day that I began to understand why. He was wearing a red Speedo...and seeing him burst into the sunlight jolted me. I honestly forgot to breathe, for a moment. Then he stood on a rock to look around in the sun, seeming like a god viewing his domain, and I burst out with something like, "Jesus, Mr. Francis, you're beautiful."

He looked at me funny then came down off the rock and joined the other boys down in the pool...and I felt like I'd said something wrong. Sure enough, at the next meeting I was disinvited from the troop. Not that I cared; like I said, I didn't like scouting and knew I'd never go higher than 2nd Class thanks to the swimming badge being a necessity to advance, but it was still an embarrassment.

My folks didn't understand what had happened and no one in the troop would explain. I just told them I didn't want to keep going and they accepted it because it meant less expense. Then shortly after, we moved to El Paso for a year.

And it was in that vile hellhole that I started to see just how different I was from other boys.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Commas are of the devil...

My first sentence in The Alice '65 started the whole idea of commas messing with me just to have fun. It reads as follows...

Had Adam Verlain known what was in store for him, that Monday, he would have stayed home the entire week.

So comes the question -- is that Monday a restrictive or non-restrictive clause? It makes pretty much the same amount of sense if I remove the first comma and make it --

--> Had Adam Verlain known what was in store for him that Monday, he would have stayed home the entire week. doesn't feel right. I'd prefer to use on Monday instead of that Monday. Which brings up the question of whether or not I'm being reflectively Victorian in my use of commas or if it's really a better, clearer sentence with both commas. I think the latter but Strunk & White is being no help in determining which is right. Maybe both are and it just depends on what style you want to use. I don't know. I just know it seems better with both commas. So I'm leaving them in.

This took up twenty minutes of my time. If I'm going to be having existential crises at every comma throughout the book, I'll be 90 before it's done. And don't get me started on participial phrases.

I'm also reading up on the best way to format the book before solidifying it for print. I've got all the pages in order that I want; I just need to input this round of changes then condense it into the 5.5x8.5 form to determine the final page which time I can start in on the cover. But I have to have a finalized page count before I can send in for the required template to use with that.

I've reassigned my last ISBN to the hardcover and will use the one I had put with the book for the paperback. On Monday I'm applying for a new CiP number for the Library of Congress designation. I'm also going to send it out to a couple of sites to see if they'll review it.'s starting to look final, now...

Thursday, February 22, 2018

More inputting...

Tomorrow I begin inputting the corrections from this latest pass over A65, and I get to argue with myself over the placement of commas and incomplete sentences. Do they add to the story, interfere with the flow or are they just affectations? I got no idea, and Strunk & White is reading a bit on the old-fashioned side. I don't want it to read like a Victorian novel, with commas at every change of phrase, but some are necessary and probably more than most modern writers I'll be having fun, this weekend.

Something I do want to keep in mind is, the corrections I'm making this go around aren't that extensive. The vast majority are just me questioning myself about grammar and trying not to kill my style in doing so...and fighting to keep the emotional connection with the reader at the top of the realm. That's the real hard part.

I think I'm at the point where if I do too much more, I'll kill the story. Edit the life right out of it. Right now, Adam's huffiness and Casey's secretive manipulations have a nice balance and glide along at a nice clip. I could easily bog it all down with too much extraneous detail and that's another fight I'll have with myself, this weekend. Does this detail further the story is a good way or is it there just to be there?

It's funny how many typos I keep finding through each pass, though. This evening I caught four that had been there for at least three drafts. Man...I could never be a proof-reader; I'd get too caught up in the story and forget to keep watch for errors, or I'd so hate the story I wouldn't pay attention. I'm trying to read a couple of books, right now, neither of which has caught my attention, so they've become a chore that I'm close to abandoning.

With one, I like the author and have read 3 of his other works, but this one is boring and predictable. Woman on the run with her daughters from an abusive husband who's rich and hires a detective who's got a past and needs money to find her and the kids and...gee, I wonder where this is going? And so tediously.

The other is a gay romance that burns so lowly and so stupidly, I have no respect for the characters. The author has a good style, it's just...too many excuses for the two male leads to not notice or pay attention to or do anything about the obvious attraction between them. I'm 2/3 of the way in and nothing of interest. Nothing. In fact, I want to slap both of them. Not a good place for a book to be.

But it does make me wonder about my own work and try to keep from falling into the same pitfalls. I think I have the action in A65 following naturally and normally, but you don't know till someone comes back with a decent review.

Or a rough one...

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Bought new shoes...

I hate shopping. That aspect of my gay gene must be warped or was excised when I was born, because unless I'm in a mood to find something special and don't know what it is so will keep looking until I find it, I just want to go into a store, buy what I need and leave. No checking this and that and contemplating anything in the way of fashion or pricing or alternate possibilities.

So after work, today...which kept me an hour late...I toodled over to Chili's and had ribs and a salad then hit Macy's to see if they had a decent pair of shoes I could wear to my niece's wedding, next month. It took me more time to actually find the men's shoes department than it did to zero in on a pair of Rocklands and start looking for my size. I found one pair in a 10 wide, pulled them on, took a dozen steps, took them off and bought them.

I took longer to eat my salad...but that's how it always has been with me. The only times I can remember actually shopping were when I was looking for a gift for someone and couldn't figure out what to get. Then I'd hit off-beat little shops, like along Third Street down from the Beverly Center in LA or along La Cienega north of Beverly, and dig through to see what hit my fancy. Occasionally, I'll do the mall thing but only for certain types of people and then normally for a married couple instead of a single.

Like for this couple I know who are big on wine tastings and a glass in the evening. I happened onto a selection of wine glasses in different sizes and shapes, depending on the vintage and type of wine, and a set of those worked great.

Then there was a woman I worked for when I first moved to LA -- she was one of those extremely demanding people so somehow I wound up being given the task of finding the right Christmas present for her from all the staff. It took me three days but I happened onto a set of silver Cross pens with a clip of hearts that was similar to her company's logo. Cost $200 but we went with that...and she was speechless, she was so pleased. I felt very smug.

So I can shop, I just don't like to. I don't buy clothes until I have to...which I'm getting close to needing to do; I need to be presentable at the wedding, but at least I don't have to buy a suit. Those things are like a straight jacket to me.

Maybe I'm more straight than I think...

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Advice from a philosophy...


The Japanese view of life embraced a simple aesthetic that grew stronger as inessentials were eliminated and trimmed away. architect Tadao Ando

Pared down to its barest essence, wabi-sabi is the Japanese art of finding beauty in imperfection and profundity in nature, of accepting the natural cycle of growth, decay, and death. It's simple, slow, and uncluttered-and it reveres authenticity above all. Wabi-sabi is flea markets, not warehouse stores; aged wood, not Pergo; rice paper, not glass. It celebrates cracks and crevices and all the other marks that time, weather, and loving use leave behind. It reminds us that we are all but transient beings on this planet-that our bodies as well as the material world around us are in the process of returning to the dust from which we came. Through wabi-sabi, we learn to embrace liver spots, rust, and frayed edges, and the march of time they represent.

Wabi-sabi is underplayed and modest, the kind of quiet, undeclared beauty that waits patiently to be discovered. It's a fragmentary glimpse: the branch representing the entire tree, shoji screens filtering the sun, the moon 90 percent obscured behind a ribbon of cloud. It's a richly mellow beauty that's striking but not obvious, that you can imagine having around you for a long, long time-Katherine Hepburn versus Marilyn Monroe. For the Japanese, it's the difference between kirei-merely "pretty"-and omoshiroi, the interestingness that kicks something into the realm of beautiful. (Omoshiroi literally means "white faced," but its meanings range from fascinating to fantastic.) It's the peace found in a moss garden, the musty smell of geraniums, the astringent taste of powdered green tea. My favorite Japanese phrase for describing wabi-sabi is "natsukashii furusato," or an old memory of my hometown. (This is a prevalent mind-set in Japan these days, as people born in major urban areas such as Tokyo and Osaka wax nostalgic over grandparents' country houses that perhaps never were. They can even "rent" grandparents who live in prototypical country houses and spend the weekend there.)

Daisetz T. Suzuki, who was one of Japan's foremost English-speaking authorities on Zen Buddhism and one of the first scholars to interpret Japanese culture for Westerners, described wabi-sabi as "an active aesthetical appreciation of poverty." He was referring to poverty not as we in the West interpret (and fear) it but in the more romantic sense of removing the huge weight of material concerns from our lives. "Wabi is to be satisfied with a little hut, a room of two or three tatami mats, like the log cabin of Thoreau," he wrote, "and with a dish of vegetables picked in the neighboring fields, and perhaps to be listening to the pattering of a gentle spring rainfall."

In Japan, there is a marked difference between a Thoreau-like wabibito (wabi person), who is free in his heart, and a makoto no hinjin, a more Dickensian character whose poor circumstances make him desperate and pitiful. The ability to make do with less is revered; I heard someone refer to a wabibito as a person who could make something complete out of eight parts when most of us would use ten. For us in the West, this might mean choosing a smaller house or a smaller car, or-just as a means of getting started-refusing to supersize our fries.

The words wabi and sabi were not always linked, although they've been together for such a long time that many people (including D. T. Suzuki) use them interchangeably. One tea teacher I talked with begged me not to use the phrase wabi-sabi because she believes the marriage dilutes their separate identities; a tea master in Kyoto laughed and said they're thrown together because it sounds catchy, kind of like Ping-Pong. In fact, the two words do have distinct meanings, although most people don't fully agree on what they might be.

Wabi stems from the root wa, which refers to harmony, peace, tranquillity, and balance. Generally speaking, wabi had the original meaning of sad, desolate, and lonely, but poetically it has come to mean simple, unmaterialistic, humble by choice, and in tune with nature. Someone who is perfectly herself and never craves to be anything else would be described as wabi. Sixteenth-century tea master Jo-o described a wabi tea man as someone who feels no dissatisfaction even though he owns no Chinese utensils with which to conduct tea. A common phrase used in conjunction with wabi is "the joy of the little monk in his wind-torn robe." A wabi person epitomizes Zen, which is to say, he or she is content with very little; free from greed, indolence, and anger; and understands the wisdom of rocks and grasshoppers.

Until the fourteenth century, when Japanese society came to admire monks and hermits for their spiritual asceticism, wabi was a pejorative term used to describe cheerless, miserable outcasts. Even today, undertones of desolation and abandonment cling to the word, sometimes used to describe the helpless feeling you have when waiting for your lover. It also carries a hint of dissatisfaction in its underhanded criticism of gaud and ostentation-the defining mark of the ruling classes when wabisuki (a taste for all things wabi) exploded in the sixteenth century. In a country ruled by warlords who were expected to be conspicuous consumers, wabi became known as "the aesthetic of the people"-the lifestyle of the everday samurai, who had little in the way of material comforts.

Sabi by itself means "the bloom of time." It connotes natural progression-tarnish, hoariness, rust-the extinguished gloss of that which once sparkled. It's the understanding that beauty is fleeting. The word's meaning has changed over time, from its ancient definition, "to be desolate," to the more neutral "to grow old." By the thirteenth century, sabi's meaning had evolved into taking pleasure in things that were old and faded. A proverb emerged: "Time is kind to things, but unkind to man."

Sabi things carry the burden of their years with dignity and grace: the chilly mottled surface of an oxidized silver bowl, the yielding gray of weathered wood, the elegant withering of a bereft autumn bough. An old car left in a field to rust, as it transforms from an eyesore into a part of the landscape, could be considered America's contribution to the evolution of sabi. An abandoned barn, as it collapses in on itself, holds this mystique.

There's an aching poetry in things that carry this patina, and it transcends the Japanese. We Americans are ineffably drawn to old European towns with their crooked cobblestone streets and chipping plaster, to places battle scarred with history much deeper than our own. We seek sabi in antiques and even try to manufacture it in distressed furnishings. True sabi cannot be acquired, however. It is a gift of time.

So now we have wabi, which is humble and simple, and sabi, which is rusty and weathered. And we've thrown these terms together into a phrase that rolls off the tongue like Ping-Pong. Does that mean, then, that the wabi-sabi house is full of things that are humble, plain, rusty, and weathered? That's the easy answer. The amalgamation of wabi and sabi in practice, however, takes on much more depth.

In home decor, wabi-sabi inspires a minimalism that celebrates the human rather than the machine. Possessions are pared down, and pared down again, until only those that are necessary for their utility or beauty (and ideally both) are left. What makes the cut? Items that you both admire and love to use, like those hand-crank eggbeaters that still work just fine. Things that resonate with the spirit of their makers' hands and hearts: the chair your grandfather made, your six-year-old's lumpy pottery, an afghan you knitted yourself (out of handspun sheep's wool, perhaps). Pieces of your own history: sepia-toned ancestral photos, baby shoes, the Nancy Drew mysteries you read over and over again as a kid.

Wabi-sabi interiors tend to be muted, dimly lit, and shadowy-giving the rooms an enveloping, womblike feeling. Natural materials that are vulnerable to weathering, warping, shrinking, cracking, and peeling lend an air of perishability. The palette is drawn from browns, blacks, grays, earthy greens, and rusts. This implies a lack of freedom but actually affords an opportunity for innovation and creativity. In Japan, kimonos come in a hundred different shades of gray. You simply have to hone your vision so you can see, and feel, them all.


Wabi-sabi can be exploited in all sorts of ways, and one of the most tempting is to use it as an excuse to shrug off an unmade bed, an unswept floor, or a soiled sofa. "Oh, that. Well, that's just wabi-sabi." My nine-year-old son, Stacey, loves this tactic.

How tempting it might be to let the split running down the sofa cushion seam continue on its merry way, calling it wabi-sabi. To spend Saturday afternoon at the movies and let the dust settle into the rugs: wabi sabi. To buy five extra minutes of sleep every morning by not making the bed-as a wabi-sabi statement, of course. And how do you know when you've gone too far-when you' ve crossed over from simple, serene, and rustic to Uber-distress?

A solid yellow line separates tattered and shabby, dust and dirt from something worthy of veneration. Wabi-sabi is never messy or slovenly. Worn things take on their magic only in settings where it's clear they don't harbor bugs or grime. One senses that they've survived to bear the marks of time precisely because they've been so well cared for throughout the years. Even the most rare and expensive of antiques will never play well in a house that's cluttered or dirty.

Cleanliness implies respect. Both ancient and modern tea masters teach that even the poorest wabi tea person should always use fresh green bamboo utensils and new white cloths for wiping the tea bowl. In tea, the host's cleanliness is considered a clear indicator of his state of mind and his devotion to the way of tea. Chanoyu Ichieshu, a tea textbook published in 1956, even goes so far as to advise guests to look into the host's toilet if they wish to understand his spiritual training.

I'm definitely not advocating this extreme. In fact, I'm mortified at the thought of anyone judging me on the state of my own toilets. But the tea masters' point is valid: Spaces that have been thoroughly and lovingly cleaned are ultimately more welcoming. When the bed is neatly made, the romance of a frayed quilt blossoms. The character imparted by a wood floor's knots and crevices shines through when the crumbs are swept away. A scrubbed but faded kilim, thrown over a sofa that's seen one too many stains, transforms it into an irresistible place to rest.

Wabi-sabi's roots lie in Zen Buddhism, which was brought from China to Japan by Eisai, a twelfth-century monk. Zen, with its principles of vast emptiness and nothing holy, stresses austerity, communion with nature, and above all, reverence for everyday life as the real path to enlightenment. To reach enlightenment, Zen monks lived ascetic, often isolated lives and sat for long periods of concentrated meditation.

To help his fellow monks stay awake during these excruciating meditation sessions, Eisai taught them how to process tea leaves into a hot drink. Once Eisai was gone, though, tea took on a very different life of its own. Around the fourteenth century, the upper classes developed elaborate rituals involving tea. Large tearooms were built in an ostentatious style known as shoin, with numerous Chinese hanging scrolls and a formal arrangement of tables for flower vases and incense burners. Tea practitioners proved their wealth and status through their collections of elegant Chinese-style tea utensils during three-day weekenders where up to one hundred cups of tea-as well as food and sake-were served.

Then along came Murata Shuko, an influential tea master who also happened to be a Zen monk. In a radical fashion departure, Shuko began using understated, locally produced utensils during his tea gatherings. Saying "it is good to tie a praised horse to a straw-thatched house," he combined rough, plain wares with famed Chinese utensils, and the striking contrast made both look more interesting. Shuko's successor, Jo-o, was even more critical of men whose zeal for rare or famed utensils was their main motivation for conducting tea. Jo-o began using everyday items such as the mentsu, a wooden pilgrim's eating bowl, as a wastewater container, and a Shigaraki onioke, a stoneware bucket used in silk dyeing, as a water jar. He brought unadorned celadon and Korean peasant wares into the tearoom.

It was Jo-o's disciple Sen no Rikyu, however, who is widely credited with establishing the quiet, simple ceremony that made it possible for everyone-not just the wealthy-to practice tea. In the sixteenth century-the beginning of an age of peace following several long centuries of civil war in Japan-gaudiness was all the rage, and Rikyu's tea became an oasis of quiet, simple taste. He served tea in bowls made by anonymous Korean potters and indigenous Japanese craftsmen, the most famous of which are the Raku family's style. He created tiny tea huts (one and a half tatami mats, as opposed to the four-and-one-half- to eighteen-mat rooms that had been the norm) based on the traditional farmer's hut of rough mud walls, a thatched roof, and organically shaped exposed wood structural elements. The hut included a nijiriguchi, a low entryway that forced guests to bow and experience humility as they entered. Rikyu made some of his own utensils of unlacquered bamboo (as common as crabgrass in Japan, but nowadays a Rikyu original is worth as much as a Leonardo da Vinci painting), and he arranged flowers simply and naturally in bamboo vases (shakuhachi) and baskets. Rikyu 's ceremony became known as wabichado (chado means "the way of tea"), and it endures in Japan to this day.

We Westerners tend to scratch our heads at the thought of four hours spent sitting on our knees, participating in an elaborate ritual during which a charcoal fire is built, a meal of seasonal delicacies is served with sake, one bowl of green tea is made and shared among the guests, and then individual bowls of frothy thin tea are made by whisking hot water and matcha. What most of us don't realize, however, is that tea embodies so much of the beauty that makes up Japanese culture. To truly understand tea, you must also study poetry, art, literature, architecture, legacy, and history. Tea practitioners are accomplished in the arts of flowers, fine cuisine, and-perhaps most important-etiquette (sarei). And the four principles of tea-harmony (wa), respect (kei), purity (sei), and tranquillity (jaku)-could of course be the means to any good life.

Tea, in its current form, was born out of a medieval society rife with terrible warfare, yet the samurai were willing to set aside their rank-and their swords-to become equals within the tearoom. The room's design is deliberately simple and clean; it's meant to be a sanctuary. "In this thatched hut there ought not to be a speck of dust of any kind; both master and visitors are expected to be on terms of absolute sincerity; no ordinary measures of proportion or etiquette or conventionalism are to be followed," declares Nanbo-roku, one of most ancient and important textbooks on tea. "A fire is made, water is boiled, and tea is served; this is all that is needed here, no other worldly considerations are to intrude." As soon as we enter the tearoom, we're asked to shake off our woes and worries and connect with others, "face harmonious, words loving."

"Tea brings people together in a nonthreatening place to escape the modern world, then they can go back out and take that with them," Gary Cadwallader, an American-born tea master who teaches at the Urasenke Center in Kyoto, explained to me. It seems to me that we Americans who lack the time-or the desire-to learn tea could take the essence of that statement and apply it to our own lives.

"If a friend visits you, make him tea, wish him welcome warmly with hospitality," Jo-o, one of Japan's earliest tea masters, wrote. "Set some flowers and make him feel comfortable." This is embodied in a common Japanese phrase, "shaza kissa," which translates, "Well, sit down and have some tea." What if we adopted that phrase and learned to say it more often-when the kids get home from school (before the rush to hockey and ballet), when our neighbor stops by, when we feel our annoyance level with our spouse starting to rise? If we just allowed ourselves to stop for a moment, sit down together, and share a cup of tea, what might that moment bring?

In learning tea, we're constantly reminded that every meeting is a once-in-a-lifetime occasion to enjoy good company, beautiful art, and a cup of tea. We never know what might happen tomorrow, or even later today. Stopping whatever it is that's so important (dishes, bill paying, work deadlines) to share conversation and a cup of tea with someone you love-or might love-is an easy opportunity to promote peace. It is from this place of peace, harmony, and fellowship that the true wabi-sabi spirit emerges.

Wabi-sabi is not a decorating "style" but rather a mind-set. There's no list of rules; we can't hang crystals or move our beds and wait for peace to befall us. Creating a wabi-sabi home is the direct result of developing our wabigokoro, or wabi mind and heart: living modestly, learning to be satisfied with life as it can be once we strip away the unnecessary, living in the moment. You see? Simple as that.

This is tough in any culture, of course, but darned near impossible in our own. In America we're plied daily with sales pitches that will help us improve ourselves, our circumstances, our homes. We can have the whitest teeth, the cleanest carpets, and the biggest SUV money can buy. All of this flies in the face of wabigokoro, as described in Rikyu's sacred tea text, Nanporoku. "A luxurious house and the taste of delicacies are only pleasures of the mundane world," he wrote. "It is enough if the house does not leak and the food keeps hunger away. This is the teaching of the Buddha-the true meaning of chado."

This is un-American. Or is it? I believe there exists in all of us a longing for something deeper than the whitest teeth, sparkling floors, and eight cylinders. What if we could learn to be content with our lives, exactly as they are today? It's a lofty thought...but one that's certainly worth entertaining.

You can start cultivating this mind-set in small ways, taking a lesson from tea. In learning to conduct tea, we're taught to handle every utensil, from the bamboo water scoop to the tea bowl, as if it were precious, with the same respect and care we would use to handle a rare antique. You can do the same thing with the items you use every day.

You can also read more... by reading the wonderful book this came from: "the wabi-sabi house,the Japanese art of imperfect beauty" by Robyn Griggs Lawrence. Robyn's book puts it in perspective, using evocative descriptions of modern designs using salvaged materials and (local?) artisan wares. All in all a unique insight into a true way of life.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Advice from the Master...

Stole this from's Abi Zipwinkel:

"How Tolstoy Can Dramatically Improve Your Writing With One Russian Word"

Russian Orthodox hate him: this count found a simple trick to take your writing to the next level.

Lev, or Leo Tolstoy. Maybe you’ve heard of him.

With his bestsellers Bared Shoulders and Soirées for 900 Pages and The Girl under the Train, he won some modest critical acclaim. Including the obscure title of Best Writer Ever.

He also happens to be one of my favorite authors. Which is why the following piece of advice is especially dear to me. Not in the least because of the instant and profound impact it will have on your writing — whether that’s blogs or stories or anything else.

So, what is this simple trick Tolstoy used in his writing to captivate millions of readers for over a century?

The magic word is Ostranenie.

There you have it. Now go and write some wonderful stuff!

Just kidding.

Ostranenie is a Russian word. The meaning of which is something along the lines of estrangement or ‘the art of making strange’.

It was a key term among the Russian avant-garde artists of the early 20th century. The formalist Viktor Shklovsky, in his 1907 essay “Art as Technique”, found Tolstoy to be one of the most efficient users of ostranenie ever.

What’s more, Viktor argued that ostranenie was actually the key to Tolstoy’s phenomenal success as a writer.

So how does ostrannenie, or estrangement, work exactly? And how can you apply it to your own writing?

First we have to learn about the opposite of ostranenie: habituzation.

When you are familiar with an object, a concept or even a literary trope, then your mind will skip over it — you take in only the cue that is offered without paying attention to the whole. Your mind simply tunes out and doesn’t pay attention to the details anymore. This is known as habituzation.

This is exactly what happens when you read an article of writing tips that you’ve seen a million times before. You see that first cliché and you simply zone out. You gloss over the words but they don’t really enter your consciousness. They don’t fire your emotions. Let alone inspire you.

It’s not just cookie-cutter blog posts however. This process also happens in our spoken language. By its very nature you don’t notice it, but when we are conversing in a language that we feel comfortable with, we often don’t finish words or sentences. Yet we still understand what we are saying to each other. We are so familiar with the language that we don’t have to pay attention to the details to make sense of it. All we need is a cue. The initial sound of a word. Half of a sentence.

Habit forming happens when something has become routine. Whether that’s reading cliche blog posts, gossiping with a friend in a familiar language, or doing the dishes for the millionth time.

Sure, habits make things easy. Habits uphold your comfort-zone. But habits never make you experience anything new. And habits rarely fire your emotions.

Habits predominantly make things boring.

When your mind blinds itself to the details, it blinds itself to the experience. When something becomes habituated you won’t learn or experience joy from it anymore. Habit forming may even waste more of our precious time than we are willing to admit.

Tolstoy himself provides the following example of the dulling effects of habit forming:

I was cleaning and, meandering about, approached the divan and couldn’t remember whether or not I had dusted it. Since these movements are habitual and unconscious I could not remember and felt that it was impossible to remember — so that if I had dusted it and forgot — that is, had acted unconsciously, then it was the same as if I had not. If some conscious person had been watching, then the fact could be established. If, however, no one was looking, or looking on unconsciously, if the whole complex lives of many people go on unconsciously, then such lives are as if they had never been.

Tolstoy was busy cleaning a room. But when he walked up to dust off his divan he had forgotten whether he’d already cleaned it or not. He realized that if he had dusted it and forgot, then it’d be like he had never dusted it at all. A big waste of time. Leave it to the Russian master of drama to make this trivial act a terrifying metaphor of wasted human lives, but the example is clear: when you do something unconsciously, you have wasted the experience.

This is where ostranenie comes in.

Ostranenie aims to break you out of your habit and forces you to pay real attention to what you are reading. No matter how trivial or common the content is.

Ostranenie makes even the most trodden and dull scene an exciting, fresh experience that you want to pay conscious attention to. It ignites your mind and your emotions and engages you fully to the words on the page as if they were the first words you ever read.

Ostranenie snaps you out of your habituated duldrum and activates your mind and your senses. It makes you process what it truly is that you are doing, hearing or reading.

When your partner suddenly starts performing handstands and scat-rapping during an otherwise boring work story, best believe you are going to pay attention.

So how can you apply ostranenie — the ‘art of making strange’ — to your writing?

As the translation implies, you simply turn the common into something strange. You present the known as if it were something new.

For example, if I make you read the word ‘chair’ then you immediately conjure up a picture of a chair in your mind. The word does not significantly register at all, except for providing you with a cue to place a chair in the scene. Any chair.

If, however, my goal is to make you consciously think about a specific chair, to really make you experience the chair, then I would use ostranenie and make the chair seem like a strange object that you’re approaching for the very first time:

You see four round pieces of wood. They are about a foot in height, dark and coarse and placed at about two feet from one another. If you’d draw lines between them, you would make a square shape. On top of these wooden cylinders rests an equally dark wooden plate of sorts. It is concave, like a shallow puddle. Mounted on the back — or the front — of this plate is a long wooden board. You realize the board is about the length of a man’s back, and that if you were to sit on the plate the board would support your body nicely, allowing for a good rest.

Of course there would rarely ever be a reason to describe a chair in this manner, but it exemplifies the idea of making something strange by not naming the object but describing it through unfamiliar eyes instead.

Tolstoy employed this technique to great effect whenever he wanted his readers to see something from a fresh perspective.

Take for example his description of the act of flogging. Tolstoy wanted to show his readers how cruel, strange and barbaric this very common act of discipline really was. And so he described the act in detail without actually using the word ‘flogging’:

To strip people who have broken the law, to hurl them to the floor. To rap on their bottoms with switches. To lash about on the naked buttocks. Just why precisely this stupid, savage means of causing pain and not any other — why not prick the shoulders or any part of the body with needles, squeeze the hands or the feet in a vise, or anything like that?

Here Tolstoy shows that just because ‘flogging’ is a common word and concept, it doesn’t mean that the act isn’t actually just as savage as any other means of causing pain to a body.

In another example Tolstoy wants to make clear to his reader just how weird the concept of private property really is. And to achieve this he employs ostranenie. In order to make the concept strange, he has the story narrated by a horse instead of a human:

I understood well what they said about whipping and Christianity. But then I was absolutely in the dark. What’s the meaning of “his own,” “his colt”? From these phrases I saw that people thought there was some sort of connection between me and the stable. At the time I simply could not understand the connection. Only much later, when they separated me from the other horses, did I begin to understand. But even then I simply could not see what it meant when they called me “man’s property.” The words “my horse” referred to me, a living horse, and seemed as strange to me as the words “my land,” “my air,” “my water.”

With a horse as a narrator, the reader is forced to view the events and concepts of the story trough the horses eyes. This allows for an unfamiliar perspective on otherwise known and habituated ideas about ownership.

So what can we learn from Tolstoy and his use of ostranenie?

When something is important for you to tell, don’t settle for common ways of telling it. Don’t use habituated and cliche words and sentences. Instead, tell it from a novel perspective.

Use descriptions instead of words, like Tolstoy’s description of flogging. Or tell the story from an alien perspective, like Tolstoy did when using a horse as the narrator.

Say you’re writing a blog about productivity and you want to open it with an anecdote about how much time you wasted writing nonsense because you just weren’t inspired at all. Don’t simply say ‘I spend hours writing nonsense yesterday’. Instead describe the process. Write something like:

I tapped away on the little plastic buttons, producing a cavalcade of rattling until my fingertips hurt. The letters I pressed reappeared on the screen to form supposed units of meaning. But they meant little to me.

And when you’re writing a story about workplace politics, why not have it narrated by a young child and situate it on the playground of an elementary school? (Lord of the Flies is a brilliant example of ostranenie!)

Habituated words, concepts and narratives serve their purpose. And foregoing them all together and filling your blog or story with ostranenie will turn it into an unreadable mess that will only make a handful of absurdists happy.

Instead, employ ostranenie when you really want to emphasize a point or an experience. When you believe that a fresh gaze is needed to really drive your message home.

I personally strive for the ‘cookie-dough rule’:

I try to maintain a balance between vanilla ice cream (the whole text) and chunks of ostranenie (cookie-dough). Vanilla ice cream bores me after a few bites and spoons full of just cookie-dough quickly make me feel a bit sick. In literary terms Tolstoy strikes an impressive ‘Ben and Jerry’s’ on the cookie-dough scale.

And you just can’t go wrong with that.

BTW...I love how he reimagines Tolstoy's titled for War and Peace and Anna Karenina.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Time for thoughts to be deeper...

I need to find a better way to do my writing. This rewriting and rewriting and rewriting is draining and yet necessary for me to get to where I'm ready to release the story into the wild, because every time I go through what I've written, I find ways to make it clearer and better and more accessible and that's ridiculous. But if I don't do this, I know what I'll turn out is not as good as it can be and will be more open to criticism over the guy who bitched about LD because I had a character misuse the conjugation of to lay and gave it a one-star review on Amazon.

I halfway blame having a computer for this. I can write out a story and then rewriting it is easy, relatively speaking. I don't have to retype every draft, can make changes with minimal effort and when I do print out a copy to make corrections, it's not like I spent hours doing the typing myself. I wonder if that's made me lazy in the setting up of the story's arc and the characters?

When I wrote Find Ray T, I did it as an experiment of sorts. I worked up a basic outline and the character basics then took a week off work, bought a case of Corona, began drinking and wrote the script in 8 days. And the story has stayed basically the same, ever since. Details have changed...but thinking about it they changed a lot as I got deeper and deeper into the story and listened to feedback and tried to make it funnier and more action-packed and something people could connect maybe this is just the way I have to write -- over and over and over till I finally just say stop.

Damn, that makes it a shitload of work, with me having the vaguest notion of where the story is going and then plunging in and writing. Though to be honest, I'm at the point where I'm happy with how things turn out. I'd say I tossed half of what I wrote for The Vanishing of Owen Taylor and didn't come up with the idea of who the killer was till months into working on it...and then I didn't figure out how to do the reveal in an interesting way for months more. But now? I'm so fucking happy with the final product, I wouldn't change a bit of it. I'm probably whining over something I have no real intention of changing. Which isn't unusual for me. I bitch and moan and dance around then keep doing things the way I'm bitching and moaning about. I don't know if that's smart or crazy or just a lazy form of chaos. Maybe I see myself as God and I'm forming a world out of the nothingness in my brain.

Hmm...does that notion count as sacrilege?

Saturday, February 17, 2018

I'm probably an idiot...

I know some people who say that I definitely am, but we'll keep their attitudes out of this...for now. I meant to spend the day going through A65 but instead I did grunt work on getting taxes ready and clearing out my files from the 2017 junk so I can do new ones for 2018 because the left side of my face aches -- from eye to teeth to jaw -- and that's all I could focus on. Then I worked on a possible job for Christie's, which turned out to be a lot more than initially thought...and now it's after 11 and the only thing I did was add another note to my printout of Adam's story.'s a solid note. Part of my clearing process was putting away the other copies of the book I'd printed...and I happened upon this one comment from Vincent that I'd taken out but realized needed to be in. Not just to better explain what's been happening but to give Adam a sort of breather at a crucial moment in the story. It was also a disservice to Vincent's character, because his actions are cruel, regarding what happens, and I gave him no excuse for that. No justification. Now he has one.  It's still a shit move on his part, but more understandable.

God only knows what more I'm going to add to A65 before I finally say enough. I could easily do this for the next 5 years, I'm sure...but I also know that's a danger -- not just because it's taking so long to complete but because I could easily rewrite the believability out of it. Make it uninteresting and so complex no one cares about it. Including me.

I did that with a script of mine, once. Came up with a great idea and wrote it out but it didn't quite work so I rewrote it and changed it and added and subtracted and reworked it and refined it until now I can't stand it. The whole premise seems dumb. The characters are caricatures of people who do things to move the story along. I pulled together some great set pieces in a Hitchcock style that made absolutely no sense but sure would have looked good.

In that one, I made the mistake of thinking I could work around what was a ridiculous concept that I'd convinced myself was real and wonderful and would make a hundred million on opening weekend and blow people's minds. I think this was the first time I actually fell in love with my words, and it's been a tough lesson about that. I am beginning to mellow and may actually go back to the story to flesh it out in a more adult fashion...but it's low on my list of priorities. Place of Safety, for all the hell I'm putting myself through on it, be it deserved or not, is next on the agenda.

Once I'm done with The Alice '65.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Life and times...

I'm not the kind of guy who gets nosebleeds, so when I had 2 of them in the last 3 days, I freaked out. We're not talking about a little bit of the red stuff; we're talking about the Mississippi flowing from my nasal cavity. For no reason. None. Wasn't exercising or sneezing or blowing my nose or anything. Just all of a sudden there's a tidal wave rolling down my chin and ruining my shirt.

I got them to stop by using an ice pack and cold compress, then after the 2nd one called an Ear, Nose Throat specialist. He had me come in today and checked my nostril out -- left; right's above all this attention-seeking nonsense -- and a blood vessel had decided to let go. It started doing it in his office so he shut it down and cauterized it...and gave me a nose-pincher to use if anything like it happens again. The best part? It was NBD to him. "See this all the time in dry noses."

I never thought of my nose as dry. Oh, and apparently I have a deviated septum. I barely held back the comment that my septum's not the only thing about me that's deviated.

Of course, right now the left side of my face aches. I've used a nasal gel-spray to calm it down some, and I've been warned off baby aspirin for the next 10 days. I take one in the mornings to help my heart and it turns out it's hurting my blood's ability to clot. 81 mg baby aspirin is as big on messing with my platelets as regular strength Bayer. Scary thought.

Anyway, I finished a full pass through A65 and will go through it, once more...then it's set into print. I'm getting the book version copyrighted and will resubmit to the Library of Congress for a PCN under a new ISBN. If the old one does eventually get revised, I'll use it for the paperback. I'm still aiming for a mid-March rollout.

Let's see what the fates can do to screw me over, this time...

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

I'm being dissed by the LoC...

I've been trying to get a response from the Library of Congress about my PCN for the A65 and my supposed liaison is not answering my emails.. I ask about correcting the mistake in the title of the book  and nothing happens. It's still in progress. Granted, it's only been 2 weeks since I first contacted her about it, but still...a simple, "I'm working on it," would be nice The way she acts, you'd think she was my agent or something.

I printed out a copy of the book, today...and I have to wonder what it is about computers that makes a file in Word wind up so different in a PC from when it's in a Mac. I made no changes or corrections or anything, but in my Mac the file is 279 paged long, including the information sheets that go with a published title. When I pull it up in Word on a PC, it jumps to 296 and the page numbering is off.

I guess I could've saved it into a PDF before printing it, but I didn't really think about that. I had a lot going on with the job...which should calm down, a little. I hope it does; I need to research a couple of packing jobs. I know at least one has vanished -- going to Oxford UK. That one's just papers in binders going into boxes; we have a guy in London who can do that. But I've got others I need to dig into and am already way behind on.

What's funny is, I didn't really want to go to Oxford. It was set up to be a roundabout whirlwind trip with no free day to at least poke around the town a little. To me that's like letting me smell the aroma of a good steak being grilled over hickory chips and telling me I can't have a bite. The only mitigating factor is, I'll be able to focus on A65 and get it out, now. That's my one and only, at the moment...

If I could just get a fucking answer from the LoC.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

All work all day and no play...

Twelve solid hours at the office...and for half the day I was thinking it was Wednesday. I didn't realize till 8pm today's Mardi Gras...not that I celebrate it but it's still fun to think about. But now I've got a nice headache and got nothing done on A65 and tomorrow promises more of the same.

It seems as soon as I push to work on something I like, crap pops us to push me away from it. I'm ready to finish A65 and doing that has become a fight. I';m sure some of my issues are self-inflicted; I'm like many writers who slide into procrastination tactics to keep from facing the creation of a new world. But now I have Adam's story at a point where polishing and honing is all it needs because the heavy carving's nothing but stupid crap is what's kicking me down.

So I wind up whining like a brat, which achieves nothing.  I guess I've got my habits too ingrained to change anything, at this stage of my life, and one of them is messing around till the work comes together despite me then trying to make it perfect in too short a time so I have excuses for my lack of craft or attention to detail or something. Now I let anything that happens appears be a hinderance.

Damn, I'm tired of that. I keep saying I'll change but I don't. I'll just keep meandering along and pulling the story-cart behind me in fits and starts and get there eventually. And try to make sense of my own insensibility. And laziness. And avoidance.

At the end of next month, it will be 16 years since Brendan started walking with me. 16 years since he let me know who he was and kicked a shallow childish idea out of my head, regarding him. That's how long I've been circling his story...and it's finally become too much for me to avoid, anymore.

Actually, right now I'm tired and don't know if I'm making any sense. I may pull back to 4 days a week instead of 5, at my next birthday. Make that extra day one where I focus more on Bren and less on me.

That'd be interesting.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Another California Book Fair done...

Meaning I'm staying late at work to help get everything in order for the return of dealers to their homes. I'm more backup in the office than anything else, completing paperwork and sending pdfs and getting quotes and checking on shipments and handling the phones. That's about it...and that's a lot. I'm not as fast as the others I work with and that can be irritating to them, I know, but if I speed up I fuck up. That would be even more irritating.

I'm also trying to complete a couple of quotes for a packing job in Oxford, England and in NYC to go to the UK, and I do have a packing job lined for Indiana, next month. I fly into Louisville, not someplace I ever planned to go...but I'm getting close to being able to say I've been to every state in the Union. Right now all I need is Montana, South Dakota, Alaska and Kansas. And I'm not talking about plane-hopping. I'm talking about going there for work.

I did get settled down enough to do a couple more chapters of editing on A65...and made some more detail changes. Nothing major, just little aspects to handle things that would come up in reality, concerning the book Adam's after. They sort of tie everything up at the end, in ways I'm enjoying. I even found another book reference for Adam to make, when he's making a point.

I'm in a dangerous place now, with the story -- I've fallen in love with Adam and Casey and when that happens it's usually a bad sign. But I can't help it. I feel protective of them both and am worried about sending them out into the cold cruel world where some people will do anything they can to hurt others just to prove they have some form of effect on life.

It's pathetic...but it's reality.

Sunday, February 11, 2018


Busy day so I'm not quite done with A65, yet. I am closing in, tho'. Step by now-careful step. Once this pass is done, I'm doing one more then I'm getting it proofed, again, by an editor. I keep finding mistakes and stupid things like putting "thing" for "think" and "then" for "than." Makes me wonder about all of my earlier writing, just how hard my sloppiness made for reading.

I started getting paranoid about my use of English with OT because I wanted it to be as professional a book as possible, so I had it proofed, twice. Now, after this one's been through the wringer four times and I'm still finding mistakes, I'm wondering if I should just bite the bullet and pay someone to do it. I know a couple of professional editors; maybe they'd give me a discount on their rates...

I will say, I'm not interested in commentary about my actual writing, which is part of their service. I like the way the book has come together. I just need someone to check my grammar and I guess we'll have to see if I can work this out.

But I do think I did right by Jake in OT. As I was heading to the laundromat The Black Keys' Lonely Boy played on the radio and Jake bounced up to let me know that's his song, and he began dancing to it. He's happy. That makes me happy.

What makes me happier is how Brendan is letting out aspects of P/S that will help the story. Prepping me for the long haul. Helping me see where the story is going and why it must be told. There is no one reason for that...but I'm getting hints of how there will be an all-encompassing idea that holds everything together.

Wow...and if that doesn't sound grandiose...

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Half done...

Still cleaning up bits of The Alice '65 and moving right along. I got rid of a couple of awkward structurings by just switching around the sentences and they're smoother, now. I'm also finding more typos that weren't notice the dozen previous times I've been through the story. It's embarrassing...and yet, I'm finding them before they get through so...

Truth is, I like the novel a lot more than I did the script. When I wrote this as a screenplay, it was fun but a bit clumsy and felt incomplete. Now? Everything is working, finally. The flow of Adam's character arc from wounded creature to a free soul. Casey's secretiveness revealing a deep hurt and anger at being abandoned, again. Patricia's loneliness. It may still tie up too easily at the end, but considering what all the characters are going through they are worthy of a HEA ending.

I actually thought about ending the story with Adam back in the Dark Chamber, for a while, facing his new uncertain future with ease and grace. Surrounded by silence and shadows, like his beloved books. Part of me still likes it, but Adam's not so sure. "It's too French of an ending," is what he's telling me. He wants a clearer vision of his future...and I agree.

There is darkness in the story, but there's also sunshine and light. And Adam was already hiding in shadows when the story begins. To bring it full circle means he should now be in the light. Meaning end it like like a true romance...and I like the idea.

Of course, this is one of my danger signals -- liking my work. When that happens someone or something usually comes along to kick me in the balls and remind me I'm not that good...that I'm getting too full of myself.

God, I hope that's not true about A65, now...

Friday, February 9, 2018

A65 will be finalized this weekend...

At least, the editing will be. I'm not going to just sit and wait, anymore. If I don't hear back from the LoC by Wednesday evening about correcting the title, I'll send in a new request with another ISBN. Considering how squirrelly the government's been, lately, I may not get an answer from them for months, and that's not happening. I want the book out and available.

So first comes finalizing the form and details of it, so I know the page count. Then prepping the dust jacket for the hardback. Then prepping the e-book, which doesn't need the LoC number, and finalizing an image to use for its avatar. I can release that, first, if need be. Last comes a proof of the book to make sure it looks decent and then...release...

I guess this also means I'll need to start promoting it, so it's better known. See if I can get a review out of Publishers Weekly. A lot to do in little time, this being book fair season and me already pushed to finish what needs doing at work.

I'm also pulling together 3 quotes for packing jobs -- 1 in NYC, 1 in Indiana, 1 in England -- on top of having quoted for 2 others in New Jersey and NYC. And then there's Tokyo and the NY Book Fair and London's Book Week coming up. It'll be fun.

God...such fun...and what's funny is, I'm not being facetious.

Thursday, February 8, 2018


I wound up sitting at JFK till 9:30 waiting on a 6:30 flight, so managed to do a bit of editing on A65...and suddenly I'm unsure about my grammar in the book. Mainly commas. I tend to use them more than other writers, I'm sure; it's the Victorian aspect of my learning...that and I want to indicate pauses and make certain some phrases are separated. I thought I'd done a decent job on that, but one dealer raised questions about some "errant commas" and now I'm paranoid...

I started taking a lot of them out...then changed my mind and put most of them back in...then decided I'm going to reread Strunk & White and go with that...tho' I suppose I could do the Chicago Tribune
Manual of Style
. Hell, I don't know. I just felt comfortable with the ones I had in the story and think maybe I'll put them back in and if anyone wants to bitch about them, let them.

I'm still kind of shaken up by that dog trying to take a chunk out of my face. I'm sure part of the reason I can't shake it is because I'm tired. I wound up doing 4 jobs in these 7 days, one very last-minute and a couple under very trying circumstances. Plus I've strained my left arm in some way so it's achy and irritating. There's not enough Icy Hot to handle that...or this kind of weariness I'm experiencing.

And I am weary. Today was a vicious day at work. American Airlines in Miami decided they would not accept a rush shipment for specious reasons and it wasn't resolved until after 7pm, so I ate late. I've got a possible gig in Oxford, England...where I've never been...but I have a feeling I won't get to go, if we do get the job...or if I do it'll be so short I won't have a chance to check out the Bodleian Library and such.

I'm also having an issue with the Library of Congress. I stupidly made a mistake in the title of The Alice '65 and am trying to get it fixed and getting no response from them short of, "It's under review." I don't want to finalize the copyright page till I know it's okay...and I'd really rather not resubmit the book for an LoC number because that means getting a new ISBN, but if I have to, I will. I want A65  to be completely legitimate.

At least, as much as I can do for it.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

A day of a first...

Well, maybe not exactly a first...but close. I was picking up some archives in NYC...and the client's dog lunged at me, trying to bite me in the face. I slapped her away and she backed down with a yelp. But I was freaked out. Shit, I felt her teeth brush against my skin, next to my right eye. Not a word of apology from the owner, though they did put the beast in another room. So nice of them.

I understand the dog's reaction -- we're taking things out of the boss's apartment and she wanted to protect her territory -- but shit. She wasn't a young dog or a puppy, so they must have known she'd be aggressive. And to just see it happen and not say anything? In fact, I wound up apologizing for hitting the damned mutt. They shrugged that off, too.

I've always said dogs are fine so long as they're someone else's, but what that really means is I don't want them around me much. I think that's mainly because I was bitten by a neighbor's dogs at the age of 4, when I lived with my grandmother. Two of them. The neighbor hadn't had the dogs vaccinated against rabies and refused to let them be tested because it meant they'd have to be euthanized. We were outside San Antonio's city limits and the county didn't require it, so I got rabies shots. In the stomach. Had some lovely flashbacks to that.

This came at the tail end of me working my ass off and getting little sleep. I took a nap after arriving in Miami off a red-eye flight, Sunday morning, before heading down to handle the Map Fair. That move out was work but done in a decent amount of time. Next morning, I was up early to help our trucker pick up the dealers and take them back to the warehouse, where I weighed and separated them according to where they were heading -- home or the California Book Fair in Pasadena. Then I zoomed back to Fort Lauderdale to catch my plane to JFK...only to find it was delayed by an hour.

I didn't get to my hotel in NYC till nearly 1am and had to be up at 8 to make it to the location, where we were being given grief by the building's manager over a Certificate of Insurance...only to find the number of cartons to be picked up were 20% more than we'd been told...and there was a dog that wanted to tear into me, even though I did all the things you do to show the foul thing you're not a threat.

I'm too old for this shit.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Posting from a plane...

The San Francisco job is done and gone, and I'm now on a red-eye to Forth Lauderdale. I'm scrunched into an even more space seat because the guy in the seat next to min e is asleep on his tray and pushing into my area. It's irritating, but not impossible to deal with.

I watched Dunkirk (2017) and it was fascinating. I started to watch 3 Billboards outside Ebbing, Montana but the version they're showing on the plane was edited for content, which means I'd miss some of it, I'm now seeing bits of the new Murder On the Orient Express on someone else's screen and am even more certain  I was right not to check it out. It looks silly. Lots of overhead shots for no reason.

We're now about an hour and a half from my destination, where I'll rent a car and head to Miami for my hotel, where I already have a room. I'll be ready for it.

I did more on A65 but not a lot. I'm fuzzy brained at the moment and not able to focus right.

Think I'll doze, now.

Friday, February 2, 2018

Ch-ch-ch-changes keep coming and coming...

Instead of flying to Miami on a daytime flight, I'm headed over on tomorrow night's redeye. Again. My boss's flight from London was delayed by hours so he wouldn't have landed until the dealers were slated to have been moved out from the book fair's I get to handle them. Such a pleasure.

I don't really mind; I now have justification to get an even-more-space seat on JetBlue so I can work on A65. I got the last set of notes from a British book dealer and hers were golden. For example, I thought archivist and cataloguer were used interchangeable in the antiquarian world, but it turns out that's mainly the American side; in England, Adam would be a Rare Book Librarian or Cataloguer, not an archivist. So that's getting changed.

She also raised issue with my use of in, I'm too prone to them. I can see that; I do use the Oxford Comma and can be absolutely Victorian in how I slam them in wherever I want a pause of hesitation or change in thought. I'm not as bad as Dickens, but's too much and if cutting some helps the flow, I'm all for it.

So I've gone through and corrected the first four chapters, and once I'm done with this pass I'll go through once more...then that should be it. I'm debating having another person proof it...someone who hasn't seen the story yet...but I'll wait till I'm done to decide.

I spent a good portion of today plotting out a couple more packing jobs and finalizing the one I have in NYC, next week. I've been asking for several days for some information and didn't get it till 4:30 pm New York time so had to scramble to handle it. I almost went to do the Alcatraz tour but just before I bought my ticket is when I learned I had to change my travel plans, and then the rest of the day was gone.

Oh, was just something to do...

Thursday, February 1, 2018

More crap WiFi...

The La Quinta I'm staying in is undergoing renovations so it's not very quiet and the wifi is sloooooow and difficult. I could barely do anything, last night, and it took me most of the afternoon to catch up on my emails and complete work that needed doing. That was after moving in everyone for the San Francisco Book Fair. We were done by 10 and lunch done by 11.

Of course, I also had a headache, yesterday, that started during a long flight and even longer time between meals -- I had an early lunch then didn't have dinner till the equivalent of 10pm, thanks to Southwest's first flight being late and them giving me less than an hour between flights to get from one end of a terminal to the other. I made it just as they started boarding, which probably added to the headache.

Anyway, this thing built into something vicious. Not a migraine; I had one of those once many years ago and no way do I ever want that, again. But with this kind of headache, I become a snarly beast willing to tear the throat out of anyone who crosses that didn't help. I did manage not to piss off a possible client I had to call, and I was smart enough to wait till today to contact someone else about next week's packing job in NYC.

I'm staying on East Coast time while I'm here, so it's closing in on bath and bedtime, even though it's only 8:30pm. But I'll be back in Miami on Saturday, so it's better to just maintain and get up at 5:30 am...something I normally hate to do.

I did get the notes from a British dealer input into A65. They weren't as extensive as I thought they'd be -- just reminding me of things like, a white trash bag is a bin-bag to an Englishman, and an idiom I'd used (veddy) was coined in Hollywood, not London, so made no sense. Of course, he also wanted to correct pissed, because in the UK that means drunk and not angry, but it's in an American's dialogue so has to stay.

Something else he helped with was questioning a couple of sentences where I'd gotten too cute in my use of syntax. I have to be careful about that; just because it makes sense to me doesn't mean it's easy to understand by someone reading it for the first time. And...he found a couple typos.

Who knows, by the time I get done editing this book, it will be perfect -- HAH!