Screenplay

Plot as Epiphany—

What can you learn from creating plot— maybe one thing is the emotional bang you feel when you fire the last point into the story and this final act reveals what all the unresolved previous actions had to do with anything.

Two Cactus Enter a Garden— then what happens

Authoring a plot, using your imagined story-making powers to build a list of seemingly unrelated actions is not a skill that can be acquired by thinking about things. You have to test your theory, you have to build the plot, write the story, then see for yourself how well or poorly the thing holds up. 

Some long fiction writers don’t work from a plan, that seems brave in my mind, instead writers follow the truth of each scene to the author’s sense of truthfulness, this process culminates in some previous unviewable epiphany once the sequence is built and by force of the plot the characters fall into line with the truth you’ve made of them.  

If there is any fun at all, for my money it is fitting the plot together by doing the work, seeing how your instincts for a good narrative have served you, the little tickle in the mind for a workable ending is tangible, a great ending to a story is emotionally sublime, a personal best, a summit to be savored. 

When I build a plan, it comes together at the outset in a jumble. There are character sketches, settings and sequences listed by cold blood. I like to use a large sketchpad and doodle elements then draw lines between that join the elements into what I believe are relationships. The relationship a character has with a car, house, or mountain. The relationship a liar has with the person being deceived. If you are ordered by a superior to carry out an action and you disobey your orders how does that relate to what your character has done, is doing and plans to do—

Pancho Villa

As the plan reaches a certain richness, once enough elements have been defined, you never have it all, you only have enough clues to go on, you may glimpse a promising resolution, when the thing really pops, when I’m really into the thing, when I dig it and think it the perfect fit, I can double down on the plan and because I’ve done the work can sell myself on the story.

I work backwards from the ending at this point. I work knowing that what comes out of my characters mouth in the first scene has everything to do with what happens in the last. Ok, now everything has an exception built into a story, and one matter that must be tested again and again is the balance of suspense and surprise. A good plan needs to be plausible yet uncertain, possible but not bulletproof. So, a good plan may require some obfuscation, you’ll want to hide clues, misdirect, even dare I admit this defy your characters predictability, your central character goes against the nature you have captured in the tale. 

Colorado River’s a story about 40 million people—

Our world’s ongoing climate emergency isn’t going to get better soon. Players on the world’s stage continue to act in their own interests and unwilling to act in the best interests of humankind. This is a terrific entry point to write comedy. Finding the funny is discovered in the weaknesses we discover in our characters, and the inevitable sorrows that fuel these misguided characters generate can be of benefit in our fight to save ourselves. Laughing at the folly of certain powerful special interests relaxes our minds and the epiphany in that laugh allows the idea itself to gently enter our imagination, allowing us to see with clarity the truth of what we are up against. Folly when you are not caught up in it can be fun to witness.

I’ve got this idea. Nightclub owner has a house along the ocean. For many climate related reasons his home on the cliff is being eroded until the home is uninhabitable, it eventually falls into the ocean. Same time at his nightclub are all kinds of equally displaced patrons. Immigrants coming up from S America because of drought, musical acts traveling to play at the club suffering climate related events along the way. There may be delays getting to the gig because of storms. There can be heatwaves, wildfires, and floods. You get the idea. We are learning more and more that climate events are inescapable, it is a global event, it is wreaking havoc everywhere— this inescapable element I see as funny, and worth building a story around. I want my central character to formulate an escape from everything, until the last scene when the one least unforeseen climate event undoes their best laid plans. This is a lifeless, early elemental list, and it is the flesh hung onto these bones that makes a story come alive. Early story development is a lifeless, painful trek—

You can play the game yourself, or you can wait and enjoy, hate or not be moved one way or another by what I come up with. That’s the thing right there, for most doing a story about such things is optional, it doesn’t feel like we have to do it if we don’t want to, and then there are some of us that feel the project is an absolute must do, we literally have to do this work to be happy. That’s a hell of problem right there—

Biography · Screenplay

House on the Verde River

Casey’s Casa

First time I came out from San Francisco for Casey’s 60th birthday. I had not ever been to a desert home built on the banks of a river. The home is surrounded by a is a mix of mesquite, cottonwoods and sycamore trees. Last night I saw a scarlet tanager. Morning we drank coffee watching cardinals, finches and sparrows eating seed we’d left out on the porch. You take Salt Mine Road five miles south of Camp Verde to get to out to the estate where this home is set.

Arriving here in 1970 this is Casey’s second home, the first is next door, it is set back further. Casey’s best home is built to take advantage of the natural rise along the banks of the Verde River where if you sit out back on the porch you can enjoy listening and looking at this water as it makes its way south toward its final destination near Cave Creek.

As desert rivers go this one owes its existence to a modest sized watershed higher up and to the west of here. There are no dams, no spillways, no reservoirs, there’s no nothing between the headwaters and Casey’s home. If it rains hard water can come right up to the front door, usually it happens when a real super soaker of a storm stalls over the top of the mountains where the Verde River is born. We had a big storm this year, there was another in 1994, and there was one more big water event one other time.

Casey’s the kid’s grandmother. I like Casey’s memories of her days cocktail waitressing in North Beach after World War ll. Her and a friend named Ann had a pretty good time of it until they got married. Casey settled briefly in Fairfax, Ann was out in Muir Beach. The 1950’s was the heyday of famed radio personality Don Sherwood. Casey was fond of gossip, comedy and jazz. A husband was found, children born, and the one girl in her family I got close to became the mother of my one and only child.

I worked out here in Arizona October through April for decades. When I wasn’t working I was often up here between shows hanging out with Casey. We’d drink coffee in the morning, listen to jazz music on the FM radio, settle in for chores and meet at the end of the day to make food for dinner. My mom passed back in the late 80’s and my daughters grandmother and I somehow struck up a friendship that proved durable and useful to a motherless man such as I found myself to be.

Casey’s best house is for most of us impractical and inconvenient. Too far from anywhere is one thing, the nature of the persons that live here not the best fit for most of us too. Rural desert Arizonan’s are good souls, but they are not kindred spirits. You’ll want to be prepared to spend your time minding the pesky javalena, skunks and coyotes here. If you do enjoy great hiking, Indian ruin exploring and birdwatching you just might find what here has to offer being something you could build a life upon.

I’m here a few days. Casey’s son Ian and I spend time swapping stories. Appreciating the scrappy insect loving desert dwelling Casey Nelson comes with a visit here. The river house is all we got left but the place isn’t nothing and there’s plenty of something in the spirit of this home’s old bones that speak to us of the great woman that build this place. It is a rotten deal this missing our mom’s turns out to be, it is plain hard work to accept their passing and get on with your own living. I’m grateful the river house is here to still use. Enjoying her place, mesquite grilling, river reveling, and sunset watching all tend to be a kind of cure all for whatever might be ailing you. This place will fold you into the patterns of the day to day, sunrise is for building a fire, sunset for winding down with a good book. Best of all you can feel Casey here having spent most of her life whiling away any and every of her days doing much the same.

Performances · Screenplay

How Film Fly’s—

Favorite film directors are part of the story. Kubrick’s direction of Dr. Strangelove was brilliant, the terrific Terry Southern script might have had as much to do with the film’s success as Kubrick’s direction. 

Old Rusted Out Stories

Some Like it Hot, Billy Wilder directed with stars Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtis, and Marilyn Monroe. The next year Wilder directs The Apartment with Lemmon and Shirley McClaine. Two all-time great films completed in just two years.

Blake Edwards is a huge influence. Not all his films dazzle, but Victor/Victoria does. Here he has a veteran blend of talented actors, slapstick, and show business know-how. The director pulls out some of the actors’ all-time best performances. Julie Andrews, Robert Preston, James Garner and Leslie Ann Warren all kill it.

Nancy Meyers has had an enormous impact. Something’s Gotta Give, The Holiday and It’s Complicated are all three well-constructed female point of view romantic comedies. Still, compared to Billy Wilder’s brisk filmmaking pace Meyers three here took most of a decade to complete.

Vicki Cristina Barcelona is my favorite Woody Allen film. This film makes me laugh out loud and that counts for everything. There is an off-handed style to an Allen film, there is a sense of flow, films do not seem over-engineered, the actors are given a chance to let their acting influence and pull the audience along. Plot turns help, but so many times it is his actors that pull off a scene and make the greatest impressions.

The Professionals, written, directed, and produced by Richard Brooks is a masterpiece. A year later he finishes In Cold Blood another stunning cinematic achievement. The Brooks script is tight with some of the best yet not easy to deliver lines, Lee Marvin proves several times that use of the long rolling your eyes pause followed by a matter-of-fact delivery to be near pitch perfect means of keeping his character from getting caught acting in front of a camera.

The Professionals was filmed in Nevada

The Last Drop is the title of my screenplay. This is a first try, my other experiences with narrative have been the novel, there are four to my credit. The novels development and completion resemble a Nancy Meyers filmmaking pacing. I need about two and a half years to finish a manuscript, and that’s going at it full time.

A screenplay requires a smaller number of words. My novels run about 90 thousand in length where the screenplay should come in somewhere around 25 thousand. 

John Ford spent time between films on this Southern Arizona Ranch

Visualizing scenes for the screen, this is its own imagination muscle. There is nothing comparable when writing long fiction.  Specific objects, color, acoustical transitions, character schtick, and the variety of pacing all come into play. 

I want my main characters to be more fully realized, that takes some building blocks, I want the experience anchored by people. I use montage in several places, but by then we know the characters well enough and can push the plot forward at a pace that supports the films’ primary purpose.

Perhaps it is a little late in my career, chances are not large to get a script sold, but like all screenplays they start somewhere and are written by someone, and you never will know unless you try. 

And what I am getting to know about writing a screenplay is how difficult a good script is to create. There is a lot of talent out there. Some write cracking funny lines, some have brilliant visual talent, others a knack for turning a good plot. Writing delicious characters that an actor can inhabit is a crucial skill. Then, of course there is a story, do you have a good one to tell. 

I don’t know that playing hide the ball, trying to get an audience all wrapped up in whether they can or cannot predict what will happen next is my best skill. I tend to drive stories by character. Since this is a comedy, I’ve been surprised at how I have spent so little time writing funny lines, instead devoting my energy to putting characters in situations that I see as funny, hoping an audience will get caught up in the situations too.

To test if my script is up to snuff, I watch the beginning of any favorite film using a stopwatch. I’ll screen the first 25 minutes, while looking for the first turn that comes early in a film when we find out what the story is going to be about. Is my script as efficient? Is the script clear about what the rest of the film is going to be about? Is it entertaining? How well a job am I doing at holding an audience’s attention? 

I find if I go back over an opening that is not as well constructed as any of the great films I admire that I can usually identify a missing element I’ve overlooked and not used. This can be excruciating process because they are hidden in our own blind spots, but they are there, and with some effort will be revealed.

Once I finish this script, I’ll start another. After a long variety show career, I’ll stick with writing another comedy. I’m not confident, but I am satisfied with having given writing a water war comedy a shot. Remember Chinatown by Polanski looked to be a water war film, but buried deeper into the script is the twisted shameful sexual relationship between a father and daughter, and in the end, it was the taboos between family members that was the central purpose of the film. 

I’m very close to finishing now. Not a matter of days or anything, but there are only a few more scenes to polish and the crucial ending to dial in until it lands just so. That’s what we are doing over here for fun—

Books

Password for Fix is Yardwork

Montara manzanita is a native plant that lives along the coastal range mountains south of San Francisco. I took a chance on one and brought it home. My one-year-old relationship with my manzanita is going better than I could have ever imagined it would— first and foremost I know next to nothing about gardening and that plants a gardener grows— I’m not just a novice I am ignorance of all things to do with what we sometimes refer to as yard work. The Montara manzanita is adapted to our climate it thrives on little water and sunlight. The megadrought we are suffering turns out to be the perfect civilization threatening weather for my new companion.


When inventorying my plans for the day, schedule for the week, what I’m going to do next month, next year, there are even plans for the next decade that I have included on an ambitious list I’ve set to complete before I travel on from this planetary outpost.
Autopiloting a Tesla wasn’t a must-have experience, but here I am and now I’ve had it. My favorite time to use this function is in bumper to bumper traffic, especially when the going gets tough. This technology works better than I do because it is paying attention and that is a problem because that is not what I am always doing when cornered by gridlock.

Superchargers along Interstate 5 shade is extra good for walking


Returning from LA Sunday I played with the autopilot function while blasting north on Interstate 5. One of its safety features is that you must tug on the wheel every minute or so to indicate you are still there and not somewhere else. Interrupting my daydreaming makes the function somewhat less than fully automated.


Our Tesla is a standard range plus, this is the smallest battery pack version you can buy, and that’s fine, 90% of the time the vehicle is used to buzz about for local errands or the short hop over to San Francisco and back. The longer road trip meant more stops but that’s fine there were plenty of charging stations and we’d plug in and take a walk, by the time we got home we’d gotten in our 10,000 steps.


For those keeping score at home had I driven the Volvo it would have cost $240 to go round trip to LA and back, the Tesla was like $60.
There was an excellent autopilot on the boat I helped deliver to Southern California last week. This is a hydraulic ram style affair that attaches to the steering quadrant below decks to keep the boat on course. The technology is connected to both the wind speed and direction instrument, speedometer and chartplotter (you’ll need a rudder angle sensor to complete this trick of steering the autopilot by wind angle). You can select a point on a map and tell the autopilot to steer to this specific spot. You can go by compass course, or you can press a few buttons and direct the autopilot to steer by wind angle (in this case you’ll need to course correct while underway to your waypoint). Best of all the technology works better than a human being, especially at night when it is harder on a pitch black sea for a sailor to keep a boat on course.

You wouldn’t expect 7 wires would take so much effort


I’m finishing up the installation of our heater/air conditioner unit we’re installing in the small writing space we’ve built in our backyard. I’ve a few wires to connect, then I’ll vacuum pump the 15’ circuit before releasing the refrigerant into the system. I didn’t want to do this job, but I got a $3000 quote from an installer and that settled the matter. I’ve had to buy a pressure gauge, crowfoot wrench set, those two items set me back about $200 but it was still cheaper than the alternatives. Once this whole system goes up, I’ve got a company that will certify my installation for $275. I turn the documentation into the city’s building permit department and I’m done.


The Thompson seedless grapevines I’ve planted need attention. Planted last year the vines require some guidance. This is all new terrain for me. I spent a few hours reading through a PDF file put out by the agriculture department from University of California-Davis. Not sure how any of us did any of this in the days before the internet.


Maurizio is a sage irrigation specialist. He’s helped rebuild our drip system and taught me how to add a circuit as the garden expands. He’s close to retiring and dreams of returning to Mexico to live out his last years in the village where he was born. My work is plodding, slow and my inexperience shows through, I am a rank amateur compared to Maurizio. His English is good, his accent is thick, we spend a lot of time completely in the dark, he doesn’t understand me and I am absolutely convinced I would never understand him even if I was fluent in Spanish. This is a trivial matter since we seem to somehow figure out what each other wants, in this respect our relationship remains on the best of best foundations. Maurizio knows how much I respect him. The old man works in gardens because it is his calling, it is his passion, helping others in their gardens is a matter of great consequence. Gardens help people on their path, gardening among other things brings us closer to the mystery of sunlight, seed, soil and water.

Pretending like we have time for any of this


I’ve ordered double braided polyester dock line from Fisheries Supply. I’ll put eye splices on the end of 6 different lengths of line I’ll use to secure our boat to her new berth in San Francisco’s South Beach Harbor. If you haven’t seen how an eye splice is made surf over to YouTube and have a look-see for yourself. I’ve spliced before, but I’m a rank beginner, each splice takes everything I’ve got, most sailors parcel this work out to a rigging shop. Last week I spotted a boat berthed in Marina del Rey, the boat was a beauty, and not one piece of her was slipshod, there was a consciousness to each detail, a lot of effort was put into her dock lines. I’d had something similar in mind and now I no longer have to imagine I took pictures and will copy these boats mooring line system.


I’m juggling in the backyard. I had been away from my juggling equipment during the pandemic. After juggling nonstop since 1973 a sabbatical was in order. I was burnt out, juggling had become a chore, and that is the saddest thing to make what you once loved into a grim dutyBest of all my time off has allowed my appetite to return. I’m feeling voracious again, especially good news for a juggler of a certain vintage, my arms and shoulders appreciate the workout. For those unfamiliar with juggling, it is also a mental workout, the right side of our brain controls the left side of our body and vice versa, in other words juggling also scratches at parts of our intellect that can be difficult to reach without juggling.

Guru doing more spiritual practice


As guru’s go there is none better than Tom Varley. First off his guidance pertains to all things to do with sailing, Volvo’s or Jack Russell terriers. One look at the engine room aboard his sailboat Spirit helps the uninitiated to understand why I’ve made this man my go-to advisor. In vain I tried to revive my 23 year old wind speed indicator, I did as told down to each and every detail, but the wind meter has evaded my every effort of allowing me the satisfaction of bringing the old piece of gear back to life. The hours invested, the money spent on parts, none of this matters, it is the fixing that is most important, because you fix something for reasons that transcend the thing being fixed. This is the fix we are all in, fixing is the opportunity to get out of bed and falling flat on your face before you’ve even had time to make your coffee. It is in this corner with the greatest of trepidation that I’ve inched closer to buying a brand spanking new wind speed instrument knowing that there is every chance that if something could go wrong something will go wrong during the installation and that it cannot possibly be as simple, easy or as inexpensive as it appears to be.


I am sure you’ve a garbage disposal on the fritz, a button to mend and a spouse to amuse— there is not a moment to waste unless you want to contemplate how it is some guy with the last name of Shakespeare did what he did like none before or any these many centuries after. You have to wonder if by some quirk of fate Shakespeare showed up in this century and gifted the world with new fresh piercing plotting and dialogue if anyone would even take notice. It must be asked if this great writer would find his writing clicked on, forwarded, or if it would like so much of this digitized era go lost among the riot of information rushing toward us all.


I really don’t have time for this. I’ve discovered the olive tree has leaned away from a towering Italian pine and has pushed up against our mailbox and broken through one corner rendering our mail wet when it rains. I’m going to affix a post to the existing post and move the mailbox over about one foot. Then I’ll restrain all the wood making the project look properly finished and of course we can then enjoy our life knowing the olive tree may now harmlessly continue growing as trees are wont to do.

Near bliss state perhaps just an edible— you choose


This is how it is how has always been and will always be. I thought when Sears folded so would much of the rest of all this nonsense, but no that isn’t true at all, nature abhors a vacuum and all the tools required to keep all that open and free time on your calendar fully crammed with otherwise thankless tasks and idiotic fixes to things you would not miss for one single second. If you can prove me wrong you’ve much too much time on your hands and need to get an untrained puppy and begin at the beginning.

Books

Love Scene

I write a novel after making a plan. The initial work includes list of scenes I want to put my list of characters into. I want them to have to go through some things on the way through the story.

I knew that planning a novel about saving 2500 acres of oak woodlands was going to be based on readers caring about the characters that have found themselves joined to the struggle.

I wanted two very intense people try to grapple with how their greatness has been the cause of so much interpersonal failure.

Each scene adds another building block to this effort to hook readers into caring. And of all the things worth caring for, the characters may be the most important.

This is not a sex scene, this is a surrender your heart scene, to a complete stranger, a pair having some kind of love at first sight experience, both having been not so much unlucky in love but more a bit too clever and professionally pressured to make room for love.

The novel can’t work unless this scene works. This is a clash between two immensely talented, proud, vulnerable, successful, competitive people who more than anything else can’t quite admit out loud how much they both crave the possibility of creating a durable intimate life with a partner.

Here is their first meeting. Shocked, blown away, struggling to make their way in, both stumble from start to end trying to figure out what it is they have found.

Chapter 3 Jo and Buzz Calistoga

Books

crusty INSOLUBLE nevada

Tuesday I am driving from San Francisco to Denver. First stop is Silver City, Nevada. Wednesday will shape more east on Highway 50 for Baker right on the Utah border. Will see how much stomach I’ve got for road Thursday. If I make it to Glenwood Springs, Colorado that would setup striking distance to arrive in Littleton on Friday.

I’ve been worried for four years about the sanity of our Executive in the White House. I have been looking at the problem of climate emergency we’re trying to come to grips with for a good many years more. Add the emerging pandemic from the Coronavirus to the existential threats and you’ve got yourself a red-hot short list to what is keeping responsible military officials at the Pentagon awake night and day.

Now an unwanted bug is going viral. In honor of this threat and in consideration of the hazard it represents, my wife and I are battening down the hatches here at the one-man and one-woman amusement park. We are provisioning our apartment in Colorado this weekend. Being sailors we’re expert on stocking a pantry with dry goods. That bit of nuttery has caused us both much Mormon like sorrows.

Cruise ships are departing harbors across the globe as I write this tomb of viral doom, but among my vast readership, (vanity project) are there any anti-vaxxers ready to learn they are confined offshore on an infected ship? Didn’t think so.

Hunkering in an apartment isn’t so bad when considering the alternatives. The writer and his best half are both quirky vegans. You’d think Darwin would smile down upon such vaunted immune systems and I’m sure Charles is doing exactly that from high on but how much faith would you put in a grinning angel short of seeing one at closing time in the prime of your lost post adolescent youth?

I place my marker, and I am not a betting man, this is not a wager, this is a concern, and what has my attention isn’t today but where the numbers might suggest we are headed two weeks from now.

?

Running across Nevada dawn to dusk Wednesday. The Silver State delivers a respite from the crush of humanity. Nevadan’s possess a warmhearted insular misanthropic neighborliness. Crusty rural types are as likely to give you the shirt off their back as to toss a baby rattlesnake at your feet so they might get to laugh as you try dancing for your life.

The rows of mountain ranges oriented north to south come upon a traveler like waves. Dunes, snow capped peaks, pinion and juniper groves, everywhere sagebrush. High desert is stark, cold, seductive.

A desolate Great Basin landscape feels prescriptive. Putting all the troubles in the world in the rearview mirror, striking out on Highway 50, piling up one-hundred miles of nowhere and nothing is a soothing means of catching up on all those insoluble puzzles I’ve been intending to finish.

My wish list is short for things I’d like to see fixed. End fossil fuel subsidies and transfer that assistance to the renewable energy sector. That would be one thing. Next, remove the current autocrat running amok from the Oval Office. And last, wish you all a safe journey and good health through this rough patch that is barreling at light speed toward our precious Mother Earth.


 [DS1]

Books · Performances · Uncategorized

world savings account

What is not visible to the readers who drift by is that behind the scenes I am wrangling my fourth novel to the finish. I completed the manuscript a few years back and had to set it aside knowing it needed reworking. I didn’t have the stomach for the challenge. There’s a good final draft somewhere to be found in this body of prose and I am doing what I can to complete a splendid fourth novel. Don’t count me out just yet.

My newest work begins in Napa County at the Calistoga Fairgrounds. The fairground was temporarily turned into an evacuation center for the victims of the Lake County Fire. The September 2015 fire was a real event that was folded into a fiction.

Since I began work on this fourth novel there have been a score of monumental fires here and most recent of all in Australia. Here the Lake County Fire burned about 100,000 acres, destroyed about 1800 buildings and killed 4. I have written with all the heart and passion I could muster about this tragedy. Since, another fire and then another fire in the wine country has devastated this part of California.

Fire in this great state is a symptom of an increasingly climate change damaged environment. There are more fires, they are bigger, hotter and more frequent. In some sense they begin to dwarf the plot I had pieced together in 2015 when I had initially set out to do this work.

In Australia the world has witnessed fires that have consumed 15 million acres. You may google the tally if you want more numbers, but they are just numbers and caring survivors attempts to visualize and scale up their imaginations to such monumental size is a difficult task.

I had wanted to write a pleasant pastoral wine country story when I first started plotting my fourth novel. But the climate emergency took over. The urban-wildfire interface was once a rather obscure and irrelevant topic. That was a threat for residents living outside Missoula, Montana.

For years I reserved my environmental concerns to such faraway places as The Great Barrier Reef, Amazon Jungle or the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. As the size of our problems increased I failed to keep up, to scale my imagination and to reconfigure the plots and purposes of my fiction more work was demanded.

Whole revising my fourth novel one takeaway is that I went far too easy on the events that helped shape this story. Planning commissioners, Board of Supervisors, agricultural special interests and the ordinary citizens caught in the midst of all these forces battling for supremacy have behaved ever more horribly than I had fictionally foretold.

Since the story recounts the fight to save a few thousand acres along the eastern ridge of what forms the Napa Valley a wildfire has since done great damage to this land. If developed the new homeowners will undoubtedly insist firemen come risk their lives not if but when the next big wildfire sweeps through. Further development in the surrounding hillsides of Napa County is untenable and should not be permitted.

In Sacramento the insurer’s that sell coverage for homes in California are contemplating a ten-fold increase in the price of a policy for homes situated near an urban-wildfire interface zone. Homes in such diverse locations as Mill Valley, Lake Arrowhead or perhaps even Palo Alto are looking at having to pay $10,000 per year for fire protection.

None of this makes a novel. I mean what does the price of tea in China have to do with the human condition. Perhaps the difference now is that the problems we are facing are of such scale, contain the seeds of existential catastrophe, threatening virtually all life, a growing menace of such magnitude that small bore stories become irrelevant.

I wish my manuscript was in better shape and I could move on with my next. I’m researching a groundwater water grab attempt up in Northern Nevada by the Las Vegas Water District located way to the south. Nevada’s Las Vegas Goliath is roaming the American West in an attempt to quench the desire to sustain the construction boom.

We’ll see where this takes my writing. I think it needs to be funny no matter what else. We’re going to need to laugh while we try to save the world. I know that to be fundamental fact.

Now I prepare to ride by train from San Francisco Bay to Reno, Nevada where I will encamp with busking friend in Silver City to enjoy a view out his window of nearby Mustang and on Sunday momentary diversion of a good playoff game.

Writing can be quite something, beautiful and moving. When writing is redemptive, inspires, calls a soul to take action, and looks without flinching at our circumstances, it is in this direction our hard work is best aimed.

Books

Notes from Near the Last Page

Story on the Front Burner

Women of the Oak Savannah’s, my fourth novel has started and ended my day for what will soon be two years. I stand on the edge of the end of my work of seventy-five thousand carefully chosen words.

Hot Spring Honeymoon, my previous novel, a sexual farce was in the wheelhouse of my native mind. This current work descends into the politics and economics of a more ruthlessly ambitious place and people. The story is set in the idyllic pastoral Golden State splendor of the much overwhelmed Napa Valley.

I had gone to Calistoga looking for a story, and as wildfire and fate struck, I found a billionaire funded world renowned globalized tourist destination being crushed to enterprise death by an influx of people coming to lay claim to a piece of this once unspoiled earth that no longer can exist under the current circumstances.

Four hours east and much like Yosemite National Park an endless stream of automobiles crawl bumper to bumper into a preciously small overcrowded valley. The once vast and open American West has been corralled and branded. There are still empty places, still small wineries just not here. Here is not small. Here is not quiet. Here is a place in flux.

Makes for one hell of a story so long as you have the stomach for oak trees being cut down, groundwater being pumped dry, every agricultural chemical known to winegrowing being sprayed from north to south, east to west over every acre of arable land.

There are just too many of us and too few acres for them. That pretty much sums the plot up. Never intended to do a full double-twisting somersaulting tower dive into the realm of the American environmental literary greats. I didn’t mean to go all freaking Thoreau on you. No matter how much I never shave my chance of looking like John Muir is slim to nil to none.

So, here I am. I imagined at the beginning perhaps a quaint quasi-romantic Nancy Meyers bit of romantic fluff emerging  from the laboratory of my writing desk. No, not this time. Here we go up against the fat-cats and bulldozers, the multinationals and the overzealous entrepreneurial pterodactyls. I have set down in long fiction form a story about a pregnant woman with her whole life in front of her fighting to save what remains of a place she has come to love.

Next time a comedy….

Books · Uncategorized

The Cross eyed Forked Tongued Bedevilment of Doom Doom Doom

Writers Desk

My Saucy Boss

Rolling right along with the final edit shoving off from the shores of the first page in February and since have sailed across some seventy thousand words to this the last day of May. A mere fifteen pages are all that remain of the voyage. I have been racked with nasty bouts of ego induced fear. I have brooded over the loss of rhythm, been in fool death swoon over an editors rejection of a term I had fallen so in love with. Whole paragraphs had to be disassembled and then reassembled again and again until fit for literary consumption. He-he-he’s had to be excised. She-she-she’s terminated. Indefinite words hunted down and killed. I have had to get off my desk chair go to the mirror look at myself and admit that an entire scene had been a failure, that there was no revising that could make what was never there to begin with suddenly magically appear. But, we now are near this other side of this journey. I haven’t the slightest idea of whether this story will fly, couldn’t know and wish I did. I know I love my wife. That is sure. My earliest version was read by a trusted inner circle. On the basis of a wide range of reactions I plunged into what I hoped and what all writers hope will be the final edit. My editor lashing me daily with columns bulging with corrections and suggestions, a thousand miseries rolled up into one exquisite exclamation point aimed directly at my shattered confidence. Then, when they’ve got you right where they want you, when all hope is lost, there comes a point in the process where you are so deluded as to dare say… not bad.

Fragment from the Novel

Jo heard voices but was overtaken, the intensity shoved her closer to her rawest self, the pain unspeakable. She gripped hold of Buzz and Jessica’s hands, every sinew of muscle in her arms, every vein in her neck strained, as her body’s biochemistry ripened her thoroughfare, the gateway to life, the moment of incarnation was by and by nearing as the much anticipated new soul’s head began crowning, closing in upon the first breath.

“That’s right, you are a magnificent woman, good work mama baby-maker,” the doula’s soothing voice laced with confidence. “Come on, another breath, the air is free, take it, that’s right, it’s a good day for your love to come on out and meet everyone.”

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Books

Women of the Oak Savannahs Opener

Burned Out Four

Scene from remains of the Valley Fire, Lake County, California

September 16, 2015 Napa Valley

High aloft the aerialist gripped the climbing rope. Beyond a brownish orange sun went lost in a smoke filled sky. Helicopters, Super-Huey’s thump-thump-thumped eastward to the front. In the tumult of the still out of control wildfire the aerialist startled the audience with a swift descent back to the ground. The rhinestone bejeweled woman slipped one foot then the other into her glittering silver clogs. Each knee-high-stride was accent, twirling her palms face up, she tickled the ovation with her fingertips. The incessant droning of the Grumman Air-tankers crisscrossing the sky mixed with the audience’s anxious murmurs. Within the respite of the struggle to survive a showgirl’s smile simmered across her lips. The heavy oppression of the air reeking of acrid smoke pressed a sorrowful reality down upon the fairground. Jo assumed a dancer’s first position, her concentration slipping away, mind wandering, locking eyes with the motorcycle racer for one part of one instant, then in the next breath the performing artist vanished out of the light away into the night.

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Long fiction takes like what seems forever. I plotted for much of a year and began composing my fourth novel on November 1, 2015. You are looking at 171 of 72,000 words. My editor and I are nearing the end of our fixing the manuscript. Fatigue sets in during the late editing process. I have been back to the first paragraph on many days all along the last seventeen months. The opener has been through hundreds if not thousands of rewrites. We’ll see if it stands up and carries the day, the previous version measuring 123 words.  I had sought to keep the paragraph compact, but the shorter opener lacked the visceral imagery to do with the fire.  I like this version. If you wonder whether you have what it takes to write long fiction you might ask whether you have the constancy required to read, reread and revise your prose until they are all arranged to the best that you can stand to do.

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