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Friday, April 30, 2010

I was going to do another excerpt from J’S GIRLS today, but I thought first I should introduce the next character. This will be Fiona, who is lovers with Tasha, the woman who works for Kitty at the gallery. Her routine is to teach yoga in the morning and then drop by afterwards with lattes for the three of them.
Tasha doesn’t actually have speaking chapters, although she is a vivid personality. She’s also the only character that I knew who I’d cast in the movie, if one gets made, Cameron Diaz. Covered in tattoos and with a really bad attitude; Tasha’s crazy but beautiful.
Fiona is pretty too but much easier going; Kitty at one point describes her as being a big puppy. If pressed, Jennifer Garner comes to mind. In tomorrow’s post, Kitty has sent Fiona up to Danny with the images she‘s received. Fiona recognizes one of the victims on his wall of evidence and remembers the woman had a photographer boyfriend.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

"I knew it was important by the way he waved me over after Bonnie found me. Since he was on his cell as I walked up, no doubt he was talking to Kitty. Pointing at his computer screen as he spoke calming into the phone, he clicked through a series of images remarkably like the murders we were investigating.
He wrote on the notebook in front of him that they had come in the mail at the gallery, then scribbled that more had arrived today.
I whispered he should get her in here; he shrugged and mouthed back he was trying but she was too busy.
Kitty would have no idea what we were working on and was more likely to be upset about contacting him than the images themselves. As they spoke, I studied the pictures again; without question, they were the original crime scenes, where as we had only been involved with the dumpsites.
And now Kitty had a third set which would surely prove to be our most recent Jane Doe."

Opening to the second Chapter of J'S GIRLS - Caroline is speaking.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

"I’m thinking it’s a woman.
If it were a guy doing this, there’d be penetration. Or, if he can’t get it up, it’d be more violent.
These girls were basically put to sleep.
Murdered, but peaceful, if you get what I mean.
Yeah, yeah, tied up, but the burns were post-mortem and done with something hot and smooth. Caroline says it was a curling iron. Whatever, that was to get rid of their fingerprints.
Keep us guessing.
Two were cut up, maybe afterwards; there’ll be blood somewhere. And the first one was strangled with who the f**k knows what, not hands, that’s for sure. Or a rope, unless it had a lot of knots in it; but it was the drugs that killed all three of them.
Or practicing for the big one.
Can’t tell yet."

Opening the first chapter of J'S GIRLS, where Danny speaks.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

"Imagine my surprise to get a call from a detective in New York after all these years. He was polite, apologized for the questions he was about to ask and waited while I found my cigarettes.
Fumbling with the matches, I wondered how fast I could pack.
He’d made all the connections I had been afraid of, but was already way beyond that. He asked about a woman named Kitty. And Cleo, if I knew if she’d had kids. If there’d been any odd phone calls, had I gotten anything strange in the mail?
There were some recent hang-ups, and that unsigned postcard with my name misspelled.
He wanted to know if I still had it; if he flew down to get it, would I be willing to meet with him.
When he suggested I find someplace else to stay, I laughed and asked about Paris. He laughed too, advising me to not leave the country.
He’s coming, tomorrow, first thing in the morning. How will I ever get to sleep?"

(Opening to Prologue in J'S GIRLS)

Monday, April 26, 2010

Pouring in New York again, and the heat in my apartment is blasting, so it was a good day to stay in my pajamas and write. Got all of the parts in the new chapter integrated and edited, think I'm happy with the outcome. Did have to go back into a couple earlier chapters and adjust their time frame to accommodate the changes in it.
Emailed it to the 3 people who read J'S GIRLS to see what they think. Does it work? It's been a couple months since I was immersed in that story, and as much as I loved those characters, I would like to move on to the current project again.
I decided to poke around and see if I could find out more on this cop in the Gacy photo. Found a shot that is definitely him, same clothes and sadly not so handsome, plus a news story with a few pictures that could be him and a group portrait of a bunch of dark haired cops with mustaches and big sideburns who were all on the case. Ah, The Look.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

My other reader Carla, the one who has read J'S GIRLS three times, has reported in on the Danny photo from the other day and she too recognized him without reading the caption first. I did not describe the character after seeing this image but vice versa, so it happens to be a rather intriguing development.
Still writing in Caroline's voice, she would say rather and does not use apostrophes to shorten her words. Ever so proper, Caroline; I think these posts have been influenced by her since I set out to create the new chapter for her.
And Kitty, who is Danny's girlfriend and as major a character as he or Caroline are in the first novel, crossed my path today. Or at least the original version, until I decided Kitty should be a little younger, late 40's, in the body of Patricia Clarkson, who is older than that but still one of my all time favorite actresses. Sometimes I love living here.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Finished editing the chapter I have been working on, but decided it needs to be a page or two longer. Have hand written and typed up a couple new pages that I have not even spell checked yet, my project for tomorrow. Then I get to integrate that in with the rest of it, but on my way back from the gym, after a half hour in the sauna, I had another idea for what might also need to be in it, so I may add that as well.
I mentioned earlier I am reading the new collection of Alice Munro's stories. I have to say, I am a little disappointed. Read four of the ten stories so far and have not care much for any of them. I even found one especially annoying, but since it won the Man Booker prize, I intend to finish it before returning it to the library.
I just realized I have written this in Caroline's voice, the character whose chapter I have been working on. I also found it amusing that two of the three people who read J's GIRLS recognized Danny from the photo I posted yesterday before reading the caption. I had the same reaction when I saw it, having created him months before. I actually did a Google search for Gacy's arrest, but alas, to no avail.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Better today, I was at the DA's office in the morning to finalize the victim impact statement and get contact information for the parole board meeting. Then I came home to work on editing the J'S GIRLS chapter. Printed it out, lots of scribbling, and about halfway done.

I have been wanting to post this image of the cops who arrested John Wayne Gacy, the sadistic serial killer who was known for dressing up as a clown as well as keeping the multiple bodies of his young male victims buried in his basement. Nasty business.

But enough about Gacy, the point of this picture, for me at least, and I would think you too, is the tall dark-haired cop with the sideburns and mustache. For those who have read or will read J'S GIRLS and the untitled novel I'm currently working on, this is Danny in the late 80's.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Okay day, still trying to be nice to myself. Spent most of it typing the chapter I should have written by hand a third time. The short cut will cost me since now it needs serious editing in the computer. I'll write it by hand again, then edit the typing later.
I also took a really long walk by the Hudson with my camera. Haven't been over there recently, need to avoid it when I'm upset, but it was great to be in the windy sunshine. And I shot some images to post on my Maureen Donegal blog.
I had an idea for a scene in the current book, going to let it percolate awhile but I think it will work into the story nicely. It is a bit strange going back and forth between the two novels, but once I finish with this chapter I typed today, J'S GIRLS will definitely be done. Besides, the new one has no ending yet, as it hinges on how this DA situation turns out this summer. Will our heroine, who would be me, speak to the parole board, does it work? Or will she have to leave Manhattan?

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Spent the day finishing the second draft of the chapter I have been struggling with. Lots of taping and cutting up pages but I am happy with the results. May even skip the third hand written draft and go straight to the computer with it tomorrow.
Or maybe not, there is something about writing by hand that, for me, is more gratifying than typing. Perhaps it has to do with how putting pen to paper requires more concentration. I can hear it better, the rhythm of what I'm saying.
And what a relief, I forget how satisfying it is to write every morning. I have to get there before I check my email or craigslist, or I lose the momentum. This past week or so has been so stressful that the only writing I was getting done was happening here in blog world. Which helps, I'm almost as fussy about how it and how it looks and will edit a sentence if the margins don't line up nicely. Which you may notice if you open the blog while I'm in the act of creating it. I wonder, do you see the same screw driver and wrench icon I do at those times?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Took yesterday off, trust me, you would not want to read anything I wrote last night. Had one of those jump in the river kind of moments I'd just sooner forget. More fodder for the new novel when I feel like putting it on paper. Better today though, saw the DA counselor and had an interesting job interview.
But more importantly, I am hard at work on the chapter I have been struggling with for J'S GIRLS. Finally found the voice again and am now cutting and pasting, literally, lots of little snipped off pieces of paper around my sofa where I was going at it this morning, and I use invisible tape instead of glue; the notebook I'm rewriting it in is a big mess. That is my process. Write it once by hand. Then rewrite again by hand and if I like that version, cut it up and and tape it right on top of the first draft. Then once I'm done doing that, I write it out a third time by hand to be sure the continuity holds together.
Then I start to type. Usually there's a little revising as it goes into the computer, but I try to leave it intact. Once that's saved, I copy it and start the serious re-edit. If I'm happy with this, I change the format from a left side alignment in 12pt font to a full justification 10pt font so I know when I open it which version it is in case I forget to retitle the piece. Probably too much information, but I keep refining until nothing's left to change and I know it's time to stop. Like right now.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Another day of being kind to myself, slept late, did a bit of editing on the draft I started yesterday, laid in the sauna. The counselor at the DA's office gave me permission to take it easy since my body has been reacting to the stress of the last week and a half.
I'm still having trouble with this new chapter for the old book, which technically is still new since it hasn't been published yet, but I have already moved on. I can see that it will help clarify things, but Elvis has left the building. I like what it is she has to talk about, I just wish somebody else was saying it. But it needs to be her or not at all, so I just have to get back to it.
Perhaps I should put on something other than jeans and Uggs, listen to a little Mozart, or better yet, get out her last couple of chapters and read them again. Now there's a thought, I probably should have done that to begin with. I may even do it right now. I'm also happy to report I've started reading "Too Much Happiness" by Alice Munro which won the Man Booker prize last year. I haven't read any fiction lately, since I started seriously writing, for fear it would influence me. But I couldn't resist our dear Alice when I dropped by the library this week. So far so good, it's ten stories and I will report back when I'm done.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Willow has signed on as a follower too, I'm honored. I'm so happy I'm not just writing to the ether, it's good to know you all are out there to receive it. And because it's Saturday, I intend to be a little more gentle with today's post.
It's been six weeks since I sent out my first batch of queries about J'S GIRLS; thus far I've gotten several dozen rejections, but in general, they were pretty nice about it. In the meantime, three people read it and had very positive feedback, as well as some useful suggestions. I spent a few hours this morning writing the first draft of a chapter I'm going to add to it. Odd going back, finding that character's voice, I'm not sure I've got it right yet. I'll be fiddling with it for probably the rest of next week, but it will be worth it.
As I was drifting off last night, it occurred to me that perhaps I have been pitching the wrong story. Maybe I should look for an advance to work on the current one, given it is true, my part of it anyway, and still unfolding. I could mention J'S GIRLS since the cop is the same in both books, to show I am serious about the project, that I can follow it through. And considering the subject matter, which I have not gone into detail about here yet, the shock factor might grab the attention of somebody who has, so far, chosen to ignore me. Just an idea, an excellent one though, I have such good ones right before I fall asleep.

Friday, April 16, 2010

More new followers, from two of my favorite blogs, Cedar Flame and Gilbert Stuart, nice. One thing I forget to mention yesterday when I got sidetracked about what happened to me, is what it's like to be in the DA's neighborhood. Let's go back to that topic.
You would think, with all the metal detectors and cops milling about, it would be safe, but frankly, there are too many criminals around. The whole area is court related, not just the famous building with the dramatic steps you see on Law & Order, which is not the place where most of the trials happen. I've been called for jury duty many times, and I have never been in that building. I've also spent enough time down there now to be able to tell the bad guys from the undercover cops, who, while they dress like them, move with a sense of purpose the thugs don't have. After you see this, it's pretty obvious.
When I was at the DA's, and a man in the right ghetto get-up passed me on the stairs. He was coming up them two at a time and stepped slightly aside to let me by. A cop. Once I was outside, I saw a man in similar clothes check out my purse and he followed me until I stood next to a hot dog stand and turned to let him know I was aware of his presence. He gave me a nasty look and walked away, he was probably out on bail, and clearly up to no good. Predator and prey, I promise.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

I want to discuss what happened at the DA's office yesterday since I'm going back again tomorrow morning. The counselor, who is actually a therapist, is concerned about how much this episode of him being up for parole has upset me. Because, as I told her, the initial assault, as bad as it was, doesn't even compare to what followed.
There was the backlash from my neighbors, who had to blame me to feel safe; I must have done something to bring it on myself, or else it could happen to them too just as easily. Total strangers would come up on the street and demand to know what happened. And get nasty if I said it was none of their business. One man insisted I apologize to his wife when she asked why I hadn't screamed and I told her he'd put a gun to my head. Then she said that wasn't what she heard, like she knew more about it than I did. I believe I used the F word as I turned on my heel and walked away.
Things got worse, I was also hounded briefly by the press who were determined to get my story. It bothered me how little privacy I had and how powerless I felt. Even the cops had an agenda that had very little to do with what I needed. Part of that was to be heard, and be believed, part was to just be allowed to express my feelings. Which were mostly about my being angry; and by the way, I still am today.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Spent the morning at the DA's office again, this time in Victims and Witness services. Lots of people in and out while I was there, mostly women applying for orders of protection. This will make interesting fodder for the new novel when I'm ready to write about it, which is not going to be today.
I am still thinking about the female cop character I wrote about in yesterday's post, since I'm contemplating another chapter revolving around her in the first novel, J'S GIRLS. Sort of hard to go back and pick her up again since I don't think she'll be making an appearance in the new story. But I let her off the hook for some things she did and didn't do that caused a great deal chaos in the other characters lives, and perhaps I'll go back and beat her up a little.
She can handle it, she also deserves it, and it'll give the rest of the other characters a chance to forgive her properly. And I can put it in a scene I cut when I was editing because it was too short on its own and didn't fit anywhere else in those chapters I saved. As I told the counselor at the DA's office this morning, and mentioned here before, I love how writing gives me control over a tiny corner of the universe since I certainly have no control at the moment over my own life.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

There are a number of female characters in J'S GIRLS. Among these are the previously mentioned cop's long-time girlfriend and her circle who I will discuss later, but the one I found most challenging to write was his former partner who had been promoted and became his boss. In the first draft she spoke much like he does, but so did his girlfriend and it became clear as I read through it that at least one of them had to have a different voice. It made sense for the cop and his girlfriend to speak alike, even though she doesn't curse as much as he does and has deeper, more complicated thoughts. Her friends sound like her as well, they each have their own buzz words, but you can tell they are a tight knit group.
So, it was his boss and former partner, the outsider who's known him the longest, that got revised. She still looked the same, and remained tough as nails, but her back story changed dramatically. She even still had the same man as her husband, she just had a different upbringing and education. Lost the Cagney and Lacey accent for something more Upper East Side Wasp and self-satisfied.
I had go through the first draft and rewrite every thing that came out of her mouth. I was working my holiday gig at the Plaza Hotel during this time, I had plenty of contact with women to model her after. Not my favorite kind of people, I had to later write new scenes to soften her up. Make her more likable; she stayed antagonistic, but just not as much. Because life is like that, everyone has both black and white.

Monday, April 12, 2010

I spent a couple hours this afternoon with a friend who has read J'S GIRLS, the first novel, twice. Once for fun and then the second time with an editor's eye, she intended to hand over the copy but has now started to read it again. Guess she liked it. Used the term Film Noir, called the characters and episodes vivid. Wanted to know how much of the story was personal experience, and we talked at length about the male character I wrote about yesterday.
We also talked about the current book and the real life drama that is swirling around me regarding the man who's about to come up for parole. She met me soon after that original incident happened but I did not tell her about it at the time. We haven't seen each other in many years, we're part of the army of grownups who are finding long lost old friends on Facebook, so it came as a shock as I revealed the whole scary story today. It explained a lot, why I seemed so sad and was always crying.
Alex at Opla Plaza emailed me today saying he just finished reading the unedited version of J'S GIRLS as well. He got it in pieces before it was proofed, and was very patient with me through all my panic and changes. I'm feeling rather adult about it at the moment, but I do see the need to add one more chapter to clarify the resolution. I can add it to the project of getting permission to use the series of song lyrics that are essential to an important scene. Suggestions, anybody?

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Ah, Tattered and Lost has joined us, love that site. There's something so friendly about blogging and commenting, putting thoughts out into the ether, I like it. Maybe it's because I'm in New York where the noise and the crowds make random communication and neighborly behavior impossible. There's no barking dog here, or slowpoke chattering on a cell, or some kamikaze taxi trying to run me over.
It has occurred to me that the main male character in the novels I'm writing, the man of my dreams that I mentioned yesterday, bears a strong resemblance to something I wrote over 20 years ago that was so bad it still embarrasses me today. The male lead character was of Irish descent back then, before I'd been burned by the last, I swear, of my big blond boyfriends, and a cop with a tendency to get overly emotional. The one I'm writing about now is Italian, much better, but still a cop who's high strung and curses like a sailor.
Funny, I don't know any cops personally, a couple firemen yes, but that's a whole other breed. So what is it with cops? If I turned on a television right now, I'm sure I'd be able to find any number of them traipsing across the screen. Who's your favorite? I'm going with Vince D'Onfrio's Bobby Goren on Law and Order CI, although Al Pacino has been pretty hot as a cop in Heat, Sea of Love and Serpico. But this character isn't either one of them, the closest I've seen was when I watched The Usual Suspects again a couple of weeks ago and Chazz Palminteri blew my mind. Not perfect and too old now, but definitely a hothead and Italian. Oh, and very cute in a suit. I mean, really.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Two more followers, welcome Emma and Maria. Perhaps today I will lighten up after my tirade yesterday. It is Saturday and beautiful out, I spent the morning working on the new book and have the bunch of Mad Men on DVD to watch after dinner. If I stay in the moment, life is good.
I think what I like about writing fiction most is the control I have over the universe I'm creating. I get to decide who does what when, and whether there will a happy ending. I like those, especially for people who have suffered through difficult times. I also get to know the man of my dreams. And to conjure up an ideal woman for him, who needs to be much younger than me since he is too, but can be is as neurotic and temperamental as I am.
Hey, a girl can dream, can't she? And I promise, these characters are perfect for each other, you'll see. If I ever get the book published for you to read it. Fingers crossed? Here's hoping for the happy outcome.

Friday, April 9, 2010

My intention was to start at the beginning of my process as a writer, but I'm in the middle of the first draft of the second book which has opened up an unsettling Pandora's box of personal history. Without getting too deep into the details at this point, 26 years ago I was the victim in a felony assault that caused a great deal of grief and chaos in my life that still affects who I am today. It is this incident and the aftermath that I'm currently writing about; there is a character based on myself, and the fictional cop who's a lead character of the novel I recently finished. It had been an easy transition from fact to fiction until I began researching my assailant's status for the story and found out he will be up for parole in July.
This person is a menace to society in general and to me in particular, since my name and address are in the court documents which he has access to as the defendant. I spent Tuesday afternoon on the phone with various members of the legal system, including the warden at the maximum security prison he is currently incarcerated in. I have a number of options; I can register to be notified if he is released, or I can submit a victim's impact statement to the parole board and even speak to their commissioner before they meet.
On Wednesday, I was in the DA's office speaking to a counselor. I feel compelled to do what I can to help keep this man in jail. I spent most of yesterday on my victim's impact statement, but it's interesting that before I could start writing it, I needed to set up this new blog. And by the way, my favorite option, suggested by this DA counselor, is to consider relocating. Finally, a justifiable reason to move to Cape Cod.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Ah, two followers already, thank you Patricia and Alex. I've known both of them for 40 plus years now, which I find amazing. Haven't seen either one of them in at least 35, but through the magic of the internet, we are friends again. It was, in fact, Patricia who suggested I blog in the first place because I was trying to do it on Facebook. Now it is fundamental to my creative process, and an important part of my day. After I check my emails in the morning, I read all the blogs I follow and then look to see if anyone has commented on my post from the previous evening. Silly how it feels like we're connected when most of us are strangers who would not realize it if we passed each other in the street.
But I also like posting, in the case of my other blogs, picking out an image and commenting on it. I especially enjoyed the extended portfolios of photos I've taken outside of Manhattan, on my trips to Cape Cod and Martha's Vineyard, the month of posts of Beacon, which is upstate. It almost, almost, doesn't matter if anyone reads them, which is good since I don't have an army of followers. Great practice for my novel writing, as Alex pointed out when I was feeling sorry for myself because I was having so much trouble getting people to read the one I recently finished, we make art because we need to, not to please our audience.
Or as my friend Jenia says when one of my characters wake me up in the morning, the story simply has to be told.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Last summer, when TV went digital, I stopped watching. Soon I was entertaining myself with little stories in my head. One in particular had a character who began to demand my attention. I would wake up in the morning thinking about him. After a week or two of this, I confessed my fantasy to a friend who suggested I started writing it down and see where it went. It turned into a short story that I could not let go of. And then, perhaps a month later, the day after I signed papers to cash a small 401K, I lost my job. I continued to fiddle with the story. The plot grew, more characters popped up. Eventually I surrendered, clearly I was writing a novel.
My background is painting, I'm good but not financially successful. I have experimented with memoirs but never took it seriously. I started my other two blogs a little over a year ago and enjoyed commenting on the art and photographs I was posting. But this project, the novel, was different. It took me over, my characters ran my life, and in the end, I was thrilled with the final product.
My intention with this blog is to chronicle the process. Who and what the characters mean to me, what the story is about. The situation I'm in now trying to get it read and published. The sequel, because there is a sequel already in the works, and how it evolved from the first book. I want to keep it separate from the photos, although they will, no doubt, be making appearances here as well. New York, especially Soho and Chelsea, are characters too.