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February 9th, 2005


My mind is blank this morning. Not that this is a bad thing – at least it isn’t jammed full of kvetching about my stuffed up head, recalcitrant sinuses, or lack of sleep. That makes this a better start than most mornings; it just doesn’t leave me with a lot to say.

I’m reading (against my better judgment) a second book by the author of “Undue Interest.” This one is titled “Prime Witness.” The author is Steve Martini, a former trial lawyer, and I think that’s what irritates me about his books. He tends to find a point in his case (and in both books, the point he chooses to belabor is ridiculous and would not BE a point in a real case of law) and go over and over and over that point ad nauseum until you want to scream. You would expect a trial lawyer to see whether a point of law is valid, or not, but he gnaws at his non-issues like old bones.

He also shows a propensity toward bad sentence structure (again, things that should be caught by editors). An example (I made this one up, but it’s similar) -- He cut with a knife the soft underbelly of the creature. -- How can that not read awkwardly to both author and editor? He cut the soft underbelly with a knife. We aren’t European, and it isn’t okay to use their sentence outlining techniques here – not if you want clarity and smooth reading. Another thing he does repeatedly is to use the phrase: “He gave me a look.” He uses this a LOT – followed each time by something along the lines of “like we’re both on the same page”. “She gave me a look, like I’m okay, you’re okay, and all’s well that ends well.” ARGH! (lol). It may be that I just don’t appreciate his particular method of employing first person narrative. I don’t have a problem with first person, as many people seem to, but it only works when the author’s “voice” is particularly suited to it. I don’t even have a problem with all the looks being given; the problem is with the repetitious nature of the wording.

Overall, this book is better than Undue Influence – oddly, this is also an earlier book. The protagonist is the same lawyer, but this time he’s caught on the side of the law, standing in as a County Prosecutor for a friend who was ill. The friend, proving that no good deed goes unpunished, died and left him in this job, along with his personal practice, and with a wife who does NOT appreciate the suddenly doubled hours. It’s entertaining enough, but not great.

I also have Brandon Massey’s novel THUNDERLAND. Possibly it’s just because it’s an audio book, and they chose their narrator VERY poorly, but I found this one unreadable. I didn’t finish the first chapter. The dialogue is stilted and grating. The characters leap from one mindset to the next without rhyme or reason – what seems to be a perfectly normal young boy switches to an unforgiving asshole in conversation with his mother… The prose is just not smooth, and the narrator – a sort of goody-goody young preppy voice, is absolutely HORRIBLE for the characters as written.

This book is notable for being self-published – winner of the “Golden Quill” award, and then picked up (By Recorded Books, for one). I find nothing outstanding or notable about the book, frankly, and wish it wasn’t out there giving the wrong impression, yet again, that self-publishing is a good, viable way to launch a writing career. As one-in-a-million shots go, it makes you wonder if you couldn’t get a shot at some of the other 999,999 instead…

Anyway, onward. Tonight I’ll be working on chapter Twenty-four of “Ancient Eyes.” The end is so close I can taste it…really looking forward to turning in the manuscript and seeing what Larry at Bloodletting Press thinks of the story. This will be out late 2005 in limited HC.

I have a surprise in the mail to me as we speak – something I’ll announce that I have when I have it, but for those of you who follow and collect my work, I may have run across something special. Reports to follow.

I have also been corresponding with a young screenwriter out in California, and may have found some outlets for some of my work in the film arena. Time will tell. At least I’ll be getting my work before a real film agent / agency with the proper “in” to make a difference.

But enough of all that. I know what you all want. You want pork, and by God, I’m the makin’ bacon man this week, yesirree….

“DAY 3

Excerpt from the journal of Johnson Milhone

A flat pig on fresh leather is not a pretty sight. I draw pretty well. Even Morgan thinks it’s cool when I copy his favorite cartoon characters and write new stories for them. The point is – a pig shouldn’t be a problem for me. Normally, this would be true, but then, normally I’d be drawing pigs on paper, with ink or crayons, and they would be round with flat noses and beady eyes. This one is fucking flat, and disgusting, and I can’t quit thinking about Frankenstein’s monster as I work.

It’s like a mask. When I cut out the flappy face the sides will droop down over my hand on either side. There are no eyes. I’ve sketched them in, but I don’t know what to use for them. Pig’s eyes were glazed, like marbles dipped in acid. All the gloss and shine left them sometime near the day he met Mother, and now? Jesus, you don’t want to know what they looked like last time I saw them. I’m lucky they aren’t in a bottle on the shelf, staring down at me every time I go to the basement. Sorting and stocking the bottles was Pig’s job, so there hasn’t been anything new added in a while.

The tail is a problem, too. I can draw a curlicue, but how in the fuck do you sew one? I mean, what keeps it rolled like a spring? Pigs are ridiculous animals to start with, but this takes the cake. I ‘m drawing a flat pig with a swirly thing that is supposed to be a curly thing and no eyes. What’s that old saying? “You can’t teach a pig to sing – you’re wasting your time, and it annoys the pig.” Pig sang, all right. He even remembered the words, most of the time, but it was Mother who got annoyed. He kept fucking up. Brown with brown, blue with blue – such an easy thing to do. Jesus. Maybe he didn’t have any eyes then, either. Are pigs colorblind? God only knows, and he isn’t interested in leather pigs – or if he IS interested, he isn’t sharing.

I could use a consultation about now. It would go something like:

“Hey God, how the fuck did you make that curlicue tail, anyway? I mean, did you just have that neat word waiting in the back of Adam’s mind, curlicue, and you thought, By Go…um…By ME – I need to make something to use that word on, and so you made this ridiculous, useless, impossible to sew from flat leather fucking CURLICUE TAIL? Don’t pigs have it bad enough without that?”

God would smite me, and there’d be an end to it. Plenty of smiting going on, but mostly by Morgan, and I doubt he knows how to sew anything, let alone a curlicue.

Pig’s face is kind of interesting. It’s hard to tell what it will look like when it’s done, but FLAT it looks like a pig that was hit by a steamroller, and I’d guess that’s what a flat pig SHOULD look like, so I must be on track. I have to gather up more change. I found an old needle out back in the yard. It’s a big one – you could almost thread a shoelace through it, but I don’t have any thread. I’m going to have to buy some, thick stuff that won’t let go, and that won’t tear through the leather. Frankenpig. It lives. Right.

Mother and Morgan will be home any second, so I’m sticking this mess, my notes, and patterns, and the flat pig back under the mattress. If it gets any lumpier, Morgan will notice, and all hell will bust loose. I have to get through this soon. The smell isn’t so bad now – or maybe I’m just used to it. Morgan hasn’t said anything, so maybe it’s fading. Maybe he’s just fucking with me. I wonder what he’ll say when Pig is finished. I can’t hide him forever…though maybe I’ll try.

I keep hearing a voice in my head. It’s Pig’s voice, and he isn’t singing any more. He’s whispering, and the words aren’t clear. I should get more sleep.

Tomorrow I’ll cut again. Maybe I can find a knife…