On Writing & Storytelling: If It’s Tuesday, It Must Be ‘Make Revisions Day’

“What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness.” John Steinbeck, Travels with Charley: In Search of America

Hi, there, Dear Reader. It’s late morning here in Lithia, Florida, on Tuesday, May 24, 2023. It’s still cool outside on this late spring day (75°F/24°C) under partly sunny, but with meteorological summer only a week away, the humidity, heat, and chance of rain are rising. According to the forecast, the high will be 83°F/28°C, and we may see some scattered rain showers as well.

Today’s post will be shorter than usual, partly because I have my storytelling stuff to do later, but mostly because I only slept five hours, and – of course – now I’m foggy-brained and not terribly eager to do anything. I had an extremely long writing day – I added 2,636 words (five pages’ worth) to The New Story – that ended at 1:23 AM, and I got up around 6:45 AM…tried to sleep a bit more but failed…so, oof – all I want to do is sit in my room and do…nothing. (Or, if I do something, it won’t be writing.)

“When you write a story, you’re telling yourself the story,” he said. “When you rewrite, your main job is taking out all the things that are not the story.”Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

Photo by Leah Kelley on Pexels.com

Well, that’s not going to happen. I will work on The New Story because I promised myself that I’d see this project through to the end no matter what, but I’ll focus more on editing what is already written rather than adding more material to the rough draft. I often delude myself into thinking that because I make tiny edits as I write a first draft, the resulting material is acceptable, even good, so I just plow on through the rough draft without making sure that all my i’s are dotted and t’s are crossed, so to speak. As a result, I tend to get overconfident and think that I am my generation’s answer to Ernest Hemingway or Stephen King…only to discover – sometimes way after I’ve self-published something on Amazon or even here in A Certain Point of View, Too – that all kind of mistakes, ranging from typos all the way to plot holes as deep as the Marianas Trench – crept in because I was too cocky (and too lazy) to double-check my manuscript in a methodical, even merciless manner.

“To write is human, to edit is divine.”Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

As I said earlier, yesterday I wrote five pages’ worth of new material, but even though I made corrections as I wrote, I know that I will find mistakes – both big and small – in the text. Heck, I noticed at least one inconsistency in the narrative just before I closed my .docx file and made a mental note to fix it ASAP today, which was at 1:00 AM! So, yeah, I have a lot of rejiggering to do before I go ahead and add new scenes and chapters to The New Story.

Right now, though, I need to shower, put on fresh, clean clothes, and rest for a while before I can battle with the good-but-messy manuscript later today. So, until next time, Dear Reader, stay safe, stay healthy, and I’ll catch you on the sunny side of things.

While you wait for The New Story to be available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble Online, may I recommend my novella, Reunion?

Musings & Thoughts for Tuesday, May 23, 2023, or: Heigh-ho, Heigh-ho, It’s Back to Work I Go….

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

“Summer is only the unfulfilled promise of spring, a charlatan in place of the warm balmy nights I dream of in April. It’s a sad season of life without growth…It has no day.” F. Scott Fitzgerald, This Side of Paradise

Photo by Jaime Gonzalez on Pexels.com

Hello there, Dear Reader. It’s late morning here in my corner of Lithia, Florida, on Tuesday, May 23, 2023. It’s a sunny, warm-and-getting-hot late spring day; right now the temperature is 79°F/26°C under mostly sunny skies, but the forecast calls for a high of 88°F/30°C and scattered rain showers in the afternoon.

It’s going to be hot, humid, and rainy today….

I suspected that it was going to be at least a bit rainy as soon as I woke up around 6:30 AM; the sun was rising then, and when I went to the kitchen to brew some coffee and eat breakfast, I looked out through the sliding glass doors that lead to the backyard and noticed a veil of gray clouds. Currently, there are breaks in that grayness, but even though the skies are partly sunny, the light that streams in through the windows is dim and somewhat gloomy. I don’t know – maybe it’s my mood, or maybe it’s the fact that another season will end in one week, and another – meteorological summer – starts on June 1.

Obviously, I woke up at a more decent hour today. I’m not sure at what time I fell asleep – probably between 11:30 PM and midnight – but at least I slept without having to get up to go to the “throne room” in the wee (or is it “wee-wee”?) hours of the morning. I’m still a bit groggy, which is why I’m writing this post rather late in the morning, but unlike yesterday, when I added 0 new words to The New Story, I think – I hope – today will be more productive on the writing front.

“Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.”Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

I plan to write at least one scene for Chapter Nine; if I get to my daily goal of 1,000 new words today, I will be ecstatic, but I’m willing to settle for just completing the scene even if the word count falls short of the “1K” mark. I already know the setting – both temporal and physical – of the scene, as well as who is “on stage,” but other than that, I haven’t the foggiest notion. (This is, of course, a result of my “no outlines” approach to storytelling, so I can only blame myself for not having a “plan” beyond “Read what came before, then answer the question, ‘And then what happens?’ in a way that makes sense.”

With that in mind, I need to cut this short and shift gears from “Blogging” to “Writing Fiction.” So, wish me luck, Dear Reader. And until next time, stay safe, stay healthy, and I’ll catch you on the sunny side of things.

Musings & Thoughts for Monday, May 22, 2023, or: Up and About Before Sunrise – Again…

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Oh, no. Not again.

Not another early morning wakeup!

Unfortunately, Dear Reader, as I start to write this at 8:37 in the morning of Monday, May 22, 2023, it’s been five hours since I woke up to use the facilities – and then failed to go back to sleep.

I tried. I really tried to relax and get at least a couple of hours’ worth of rest. I was even willing to settle for one more hour of, if not sleep, at least a bit of drowsiness. A catnap would have sufficed.

But no. Like yesterday, worries and fears rose, like great white sharks pouncing on an unsuspecting swimmer, from my subconscious mind.

  • Am I going to be okay when, not If, I move out of here and start living on my own?
  • Could I have averted the estrangement between my older half-sister and me?
  • Will I ever fall in love with anyone again? And if so, will it be with a woman who’s more compatible than some of my previous ex-girlfriends were?
  • Am I a good person? Cos…you know, sometimes I wonder.
  • Will “The New Story” turn out to be a good story?
  • Why am I so nervous and sad this weekend? What is wrong with me?

With one exception – the one in which I wonder if I could have prevented the schism between Vicky and me on my own – the only response I can offer to all these nagging questions is “I don’t know.”

Mom, Vicky, and me during our last outing as a family in one of the relatively few IHOP locations in Miami-Dade County. (Family photo circa 2013)

I don’t have the time, energy, or inclination to discuss the situation with my half-sister in excruciating detail. Suffice it to say that she and I have been at odds with each other for most of my adult life, and perhaps since we moved back to the States in 1972 after living in Bogota, Colombia, for an extended period (1966-1972 for Mom and me; mid-1969 to 1972 for Vicky). That bit of business wasn’t even a planned move – it was, if you’ve read any of my Tempus Fugit pieces regarding 1972, an unexpected turn of events prompted by a cerebral hemorrhage that nearly killed me not long after my ninth birthday. It was my attending pediatrician who suggested to my mother that I’d be better off here in the States than in Colombia, yet Vicky – according to people who’ve told me what she’s said to them – blames me for her having to move to Miami at a time when she wanted to stay in Bogota, preferably alone and in her own place.

Based on my observations of my half-sister’s behavior, and even taking into account my own sometimes intemperate reactions to things that she either said or did to me between 1987 – the year that “open warfare” began between us over a computer that my paternal uncle, Sixto Diaz-Granados, gave me in April of that year – and 2015, the year our mother died, I honestly believe that even if I had not stood up for myself or defended our Mom from some of my half-sister’s slanderous claims, there’s no way I could have had an amicable relationship with Vicky. Even Mom understood this before her final illness and one of the most important – if perhaps saddest – pieces of advice that she gave me on the eve of her 2010 operation to repair her spine was:

“When I’m gone, make sure you’re never alone with Vicky, and never, ever, get into a car alone with her. Is that clear?”

That’s a telling comment by a parent to her adult child about her only other adult offspring.

As for the rest of those white sharks that swim, apparently, in the dark, cold depths of my subconscious, we’ll just have to see, as the old James Garner-Mariette Hartley Polaroid commercials used to say, what develops.

As of today, the only one of those concerns that I am cautiously optimistic about is “The New Story,” although I have no idea what today’s writing session is going to be like. The reason why I even have a positive outlook is simple: My first draft now consists of eight chapters – a prologue and seven “regular” chapters – plus part of a ninth. Usually, when I start and abandon a project, it’s usually early in the process; for a book – regardless of its “type” – if I can’t get past a prologue or a first chapter, that’s it. I quit. Bye-bye book.

The view from WriteItNow. I have not yet added stuff from Chapter Nine.

Anyway, I’m sleepy, tired, cranky, and sad today.

I was sad last evening as well. I tried not to be, but I felt lost and low throughout much of yesterday. I tried to relax by listening to music (Unforgettable, by John Williams and the Boston Pops Orchestra) and watching Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story.

Usually, watching a film by Spielberg will at least take my mind off my worries, but not yesterday. I got as far as the “One Hand, One Heart” number – which is, I think, early in the movie’s second half – but then I got weepy-eyed and couldn’t even finish that scene (which is when Tony and Maria pledge their love for each other in a “wedding ceremony” before he goes off to try to prevent the rumble between the “American” Jets gang and the Puerto Rican Sharks.)

Maybe I should have picked The Empire Strikes Back, which incidentally turned 43 years old yesterday; it premiered on Wednesday, May 21, 1980, a few weeks before ninth grade ended for me at Riviera Junior High.

Then again, maybe watching Empire would also have made me sad since that movie was the first Star Wars episode that Mom and I watched together in a theater – we went a couple of weeks after opening day, and I still have the Boris Vallejo poster she got for me at the Dadeland Twin Theaters on that occasion.

I need to rest for a bit so I can begin work on The New Story, so I’m going to close this post here. Until next time, Dear Reader, stay safe, stay healthy, and I’ll catch you on the sunny side of things.

More Musings & Thoughts for Sunday, May 21, 2023, or: I Will Be Getting Royalties Soon – But I Can’t Plan on Going House Hunting Just Yet…

One thing that did cheer me up today is that while I was writing Musings & Thoughts for Sunday, May 21, 2023, or: Weekend Update, Part the Second, Amazon sent me two emails to inform me that I can expect to receive at least two royalty payments. One is for the Kindle e-book edition of Reunion: A Story, the novella I self-published in the summer of 2018; the other is for Save Me the Aisle Seat, a collection of movie reviews I wrote and put out in 2012. (That was the only book I self-published before my mother died in 2015; she bought a copy, but she was suffering from various illnesses, including dementia, so she never really read it.)

According to my Kindle Direct Publishing account, Amazon will deposit into my bank account a grand total of $2.99 – $2.64 for Reunion and $0.35 cents for Save Me the Aisle Seat.

As you can see, I am not going to make a ton of money from these sales; the e-book edition of Reunion only costs $3.99 and I get a nice chunk of that but not the entire amount (I think my cut is 60% or something along those lines). So, it’s not like I can call up a real estate agent and start house hunting (or even nice apartment hunting, though I prefer houses) any time soon. That having been said, I’m happy that someone purchased a copy of my first work of fiction. (I am currently writing my second, and hopefully, I’ll get that one out by late summer or maybe fall of this year.)

If you’re not a writer and have never, ever seen a royalty payment notification, here’s what mine looks like:

This royalty payment notification is for Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) sales recorded in the US Kindle Store. Payment will be made to your bank account and should appear in your available balance within 2 to 5 business days after the Payment Date. Details of the payment will be available on the Payment Report (https://kdp.amazon.com/self-publishing/reports ) after it has been processed by your bank. If your KDP account is registered on the KDP Japan site, you can check your Payment report at https://kdp.amazon.co.jp/self-publishing/reports .

Payment made to:           ALEX DIAZ-GRANADOS

As I said in a tweet on Twitter earlier, Stephen King doesn’t have to worry about any competition from me, and $2.99 doesn’t really buy much in 2023, but at least someone out there believes in me.

Musings & Thoughts for Sunday, May 21, 2023, or: Weekend Update, Part the Second

Hi there, Dear Reader. Well, it’s late morning here in Lithia, Florida, on Sunday, May 21, 2023; it’s a warm, humid, and sunny late spring day here – it’s 79°F/26°C as I write this, and the high is expected to reach 90°F/32°C by midafternoon. Another reminder, I suppose, that meteorological summer – which starts earlier than traditional (astronomical) summer – and the Atlantic hurricane season are just around the corner.

Up Before the Dawn – Again

I’ve been up – oh, Lord – since 4:32 AM. It was dark outside when I woke up to go the loo, and I had hoped to go back to sleep as soon as I finished, you know, doing my business and walked around, bleary-eyed, and slow of thought, before going back to my bedroom/writing room/man cave. I tried to relax and not think, you know, about things that bug me – the estrangement from my half-sister, The New Story, worries about my future (Will I ever fall in love with anyone again? Will I ever learn not to be so trusting? Can I be a better person than I am? Will The New Story sell better than Reunion: A Story?), and just a growing sense of world-weariness and disillusionment – but no.

All those worries and dark thoughts kept barging in like a band of uninvited and unwelcome guests…so, sometime around 5:20 AM, I woke up, booted up this PC, and killed time by:

  • Checking my Facebook feed
  • Checking my Twitter feed
  • Going to Amazon and ordering an MP3 album, Unforgettable: John Williams and the Boston Pops Orchestra – I would have preferred the CD, but I am going to move out at some point this year, so I need to cut back on buying stuff that I’ll need to pack up and lug with me to “my” new place in Brandon. Plus, MP3 albums are cheaper
  • Checking on my statistics here on WordPress
  • Playing a football-themed game on Facebook
  • Tweeting and replying to tweets on Twitter
  • Checking on the whereabouts of the replacement battery for my smartphone

Wow. What an exciting morning, eh? (Not.)

Side-by-side comparison of the two front covers of Reunion: A Story. (Image Credit: Thomas Wikman)

Sunday Morning: Cold Cereal, Hot Coffee

Photo by Lina Kivaka on Pexels.com

Of course, I eventually went to the kitchen, brewed some coffee, and ate some cereal, so I had a nice little breakfast. I’m craving scrambled eggs but having already had a mishap with the fragile knobs of the gas stove, I have not even attempted to make those since 2016. I know how to cook; not as well as my late mother, but in the right environment and with the proper tools, I can do it. Gas stoves and I don’t mix well, though – I learned to cook on an electric stove, and that’s the only kind of stove I’m at ease with. So – no eggs or corned beef hash, which I’m also craving. (On the bright side, coffeemakers and I get along well, and cold cereal is…well, serve-and-eat stuff. No preparation necessary.)

About Last Night…

Oh, yeah, I almost forgot: Last night I ended up trying to watch a segment of WWI: The Complete Story -100th Memorial Edition DVD version of 1964’s CBS documentary, World War One. I should have started watching it at 8 PM rather than at 10:30 or so because I got drowsy halfway through the episode – Wilson and the War – and had to stop watching it; I was more asleep than awake then, and since the DVD has no subtitle options (curse you, CBS DVD!), I was frustrated because…you know, I’m hard of hearing. I could have turned up the volume of the TV, sure, but I didn’t want to annoy the others in the house. So…I ejected the DVD, placed it back in its case, and went straight to bed.

(Maybe that’s part of why I woke up so early today. Well, that, and the visit to the throne room at 4:32 AM. I went to sleep earlier than usual, I am guessing.)

I did not tinker with The New Story last night, although I must admit I was tempted to.

My Plan for Today?

In real life, these tanks would be a bit farther apart for better dispersion. (C) 2022 Bird’s Eye Games and MicroProse

Since I am tired, cranky, and not exactly feeling all that great, I am hoping that I can resist the siren call of the manuscript and not work on The New Story. As I wrote in yesterday’s Weekend Update, Part the First, I already devote all my time and effort to that project during the Monday-to-Friday business week, so it’s perfectly fine if I don’t want to mess with it on weekends.

Photo by Thirdman on Pexels.com

Moreover, I tend to be less creative or productive when I am in a gloomy mood, so even if I wanted to go through the manuscript and either add new material or review, edit, and rewrite parts of what is already in the Word .docx file, I fear that all I’ll end up doing is getting frustrated to the point that I’ll say, “Screw this!” and abandon the project. It’s happened before, too – but with The New Story, I’ve already written eight chapters – a prologue and seven “main narrative” chapters – plus part of the ninth.

I’ve grown fond of “Maddie” since I started writing this in late April, so, of course, I’d hate to abandon The New Story now.

(I’d really hate to quit now, Dear Reader, since I’ve already spent so much time on this story.)

I honestly don’t know what I want to do today. It’s getting warmer and stickier outside, so going for a walk is not appealing. I still have the same options for amusement that I did yesterday, which are:

  • Gaming
  • Reading for pleasure (with or without music playing in the background)
  • Watching a movie or TV show on physical media
  • Listening to music sans reading a book
If this were an adults-only blog, I’d post some of the hotter screenshots I have saved. This one from “Being a DIK”, though, is hot enough. (C) 2020 Dr. PinkCake

Well, I’ve been writing for nearly two hours now – I don’t type terribly fast under normal conditions; I’m slower still when I’m tired or feeling down, so an ambitious snail could write two or three blog posts at the same time it takes me to write just one in less-than-optimal conditions – so I’ll wrap this up here. Until next time, Dear Reader, stay safe, stay healthy, and I’ll catch you on the sunny side of things.

‘The New Story: Music from the Original Writing Soundtrack’

Photo by Yuliia Tretynychenko on Pexels.com

When I write fiction – be it Reunion: A Story (AKA “the one that’s floating out there on Amazon and the online Barnes & Noble store”), “The New Story,” or the occasional screenplay – I tend to listen to music as I sit at my desk, regardless of whether I’m writing or gnashing my teeth in frustration because “the damn ideas aren’t flowing…”

(Mentioned in The New Story)
(Mentioned in The New Story)

I listen to music simply because even though I need to concentrate when I’m writing, I can’t do that in a totally silent environment. The absolute absence of sound is just as distracting to me as too much-unwanted noise; I start feeling completely isolated and alone, which in turn makes me nervous and extremely depressed. Music, especially instrumental music with no lyrics, tends to soothe my nerves and even serves as a source of inspiration, especially if I’m writing stories with romantic bits or take place in a specific historical period.

I am not – thankfully – working on “The New Story” today, although a few fretful thoughts about possible “plot holes” or inconsistencies have flitted through my mind throughout the day. So far, I’ve resisted the siren call to at least address potential issues in Chapter Six, but since I have not gamed, watched a movie, or read much today (I’ve read some, but just small bits from two different books), those troubling thoughts about plot holes or possibly ridiculous developments circle overhead like buzzards over a carcass in the middle of the desert.

Mentioned in The New Story.
Mentioned in The New Story

When I write fiction, I tend to see minimovies of the scenes I’m writing – or trying to write, at least – in my mind’s eye. And since I am a movie soundtrack fan, I often assign certain pieces of music to either the story itself or its characters as their “themes” or “leitmotifs.”

The Moonglow Bar gets its name from this song.

This is, of course, the result of 46 years of listening to music composed and usually conducted by John Williams for movies such as Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Superman, E.T., Jaws, Saving Private Ryan, and even an Oliver Stone movie that I don’t like – JFK.

Because the story I am working on is a somewhat complicated one – in terms of making sure the details are right, that they make sense (even though real life often doesn’t make sense at all), and the characters at least behave realistically – and takes place in two distinct time periods, I often listen not to period music (too distracting, and it requires more research than necessary) but to songs that are explicitly mentioned in the narrative or reflect certain qualities in the characters, especially the protagonist and the two leading ladies – one for each time period…and no, this isn’t a science-fiction story that involves time travel! – of The New Story.

The song features prominently in one scene, and I used the title to “name” the relevant chapter in The New Story.

Anyway…I thought I’d share some of the musical pieces I’ve been listening to or have mentioned in the text of my current “work in progress” here – it might be fun for you to listen to, and (hopefully) you’ll like at least a few of them. (Let me know in the comments section below!)

Musings & Thoughts for Saturday, May 20, 2023, or: Weekend Update, Part the First

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

It’s almost noon as I sit here at my desk in my corner of Lithia, Florida, on Saturday, May 20, 2023. I’ve been up since 7:30 AM, which – per my usual schedule – amounts to “sleeping in late.” Oddly, I don’t remember checking the time before I fell asleep trying to watch Star Trek; The Motion Picture – The Director’s Edition. I do know that I was still up and about after midnight; I don’t wear a watch – I have bad luck with wristbands as they tend to break all too easily – and I have no idea where either of my trusty clock radios from my former home in Miami are. In a box in the garage, I am guessing. (I don’t have anywhere to put a clock radio in my room; I sleep on a futon and don’t have space for a nightstand, so…) My smartphone needs a new battery, so I rarely use it, and turning on the PC late at night after I turn it off is a recipe for insomnia. Thus, the only way for me to know what time it is at night – or when I wake up in the morning – is to walk to the kitchen and look at the digital clock on the stove.

The story has grown in size since I posted this a week ago.

Anyway, despite waking up later than usual, I’m sleepy, irritable, and not sure about how I want to spend my weekend. Saturday and Sunday are the two days when I usually do not (and should not) work on The New Story, but considering my post-Spring of 2020 circumstances, I don’t have too many options available. As I see it, I can (a) read a book while listening to instrumental music (Songs with lyrics are too much of a distraction while reading; the same goes for when I’m writing unless I am trying to come up with a romantic scene in The New Story.); (b) watch one of my 450 movies;[1] (c) watch whatever I can find on the family room TV; or (d) play one of several computer games I have in my Steam library, including Crusade in Europe, Cold Waters, Regiments, all of which are war games of different types and set in two different eras (The first title is a WWII real-time grand strategy game about the Allied campaign to liberate Western Europe, the other two are fictional scenarios of World War III; Cold Waters simulates submarine warfare, while Regiments depicts land warfare in an alternate version of 1989 divided Germany.), or adults-only games a la Being a DIK, Acting Lessons, Leap of Faith, or Freshwomen: Season 1.

(C) 2022 Bird’s Eye Games and MicroProse Software
Megan and the point-of-view character cuddle after making love in “Acting Lessons.” (C) 2018 Dr. PinkCake
A view of the nearby park. It wasn’t an ugly day outside, but I’ve seen prettier days, even in December. (Photo by the author)

I could also go out to the nearby park bench and read, but this being Florida in late spring – meteorological summer and the 2023 hurricane season both start on June 1 – I should have done that hours ago, cos now it’s 88°F/31°C and getting warmer, it’s shorts-and-T-shirt weather (I don’t look that great right now, so I don’t like wearing shorts.), and even though there’s no rain in the forecast, my Weather app does not advise me to go outside today.

Other than that…I don’t have many options to choose from.

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

What I don’t want to do is mess with The New Story today. I work on that project five days a week as if my life depends on it. (Well, I am a writer, and it is a project I promised myself that I’d see through to the end, even if I don’t end up with The Great American Novel and become a best-selling author after I self-publish it.) I like most of what I have in my first draft, and I have completed the rough version of eight chapters and started a ninth, so I have made significant progress with this story. But Stephen King, in his On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, says that while writing is important and should not be approached lightly, he only writes X hours a day (usually from morning to early afternoon), then does other things during the rest of the day. He also takes weekends off, a habit that I am trying to get into because although writing is his vocation, he knows it’s not the only thing in life – and that writers should not become slaves to the desk and the computer.

Still, since I don’t have much of a social life, much less a romantic one; that ship set sail long ago, and my book (I don’t know if it’s a novella or a short novel, but since I’m on page 76 – per Word, which bases its page count on standard 8.5X11 pages – I bet that it’s going to be a short novel by the time I type “The End,” whenever that happens.) is the only thing that keeps me going, I might not be able to resist the temptation to tinker with the manuscript.

Well, it’s now half past 1 PM; I’m not Speedy Gonzales at the keyboard, especially when both my mood and energy levels are low. I better close for now and figure out what to do with the remains of the day. So, till next time, stay safe, stay healthy, and I’ll catch you on the sunny side of things.

[1] Yes, according to my stats page on Blu-ray.com, I own 450 unique titles; the reason why my Blu-ray – both 2K and 4K – collection has a tally of 535 2K HD Blu-rays and 111 4K is that I own multiple copies of some of my favorites, including – predictably, Star Wars, Star Trek, and Indiana Jones movies, although I also own Casablanca and other classic stand-alone films in multiple formats – DVD, HD Blu-ray, 4K UHD Blu-ray, and digital copies.  

A Duet

A poem inspired by today’s output for The New Story

A duet is what I want to sing with you

A song of love and longing, sweet and true

I’ve been dreaming of this moment for so long

But I was afraid to tell you how I feel

Photo by cottonbro studio on Pexels.com

You’re the girl I’ve had a crush on since tenth grade

But you never knew the secret that I kept

You used to date a guy who made me feel small

But he’s gone now, and I have a chance to shine

You smile at me and say you’ll sing with me

You make my heart skip a beat and fill with joy

You hug me and say you’re glad to be my friend

But I hope that maybe someday you’ll be more

We’ll sing “Somewhere” from West Side Story

A song of hope and promise, bright and clear

We’ll sing it with our hearts and souls and voices

And maybe we’ll find our somewhere here

Movie Review: ‘Die Hard’ (1988)

This review was originally written for the now-defunct hyper-localized entertainment website Examiner in March 2015. At the time, I was the Miami Examiner for Blu-ray & DVD. Since Examiner was shut down in 2016 by its parent company and the article is no longer visible there, I am re-publishing it here, with only a few minor edits for grammar and style issues.

Die Hard (1988)

Directed by John McTiernan

Written by Jeb Stuart and Steven E. de Souza

Based on the novel Nothing Lasts Forever by Roderick Thorp

Starring: Bruce Willis, Bonnie Bedelia, Alan Rickman, Reginald VelJohnson, William Atherton, Alexander Godunov, Paul Gleason 

Hans Gruber: [addressing the hostages] I wanted this to be professional, efficient, adult, cooperative. Not a lot to ask. Alas, your Mr. Takagi did not see it that way… so he won’t be joining us for the rest of his life. We can go any way you want it. You can walk out of here or be carried out. But have no illusions. We are in charge. So, decide now, each of you. And please remember: we have left nothing to chance.

Although action films have been around since Edwin S. Porter’s The Great Train Robbery (1903), the genre became dominant in the 1980s with the success of summer blockbusters like Raiders of the Lost Ark, 48 Hrs, First Blood, and Lone Wolf McQuade. Though these films have different settings and sensibilities, they all feature resourceful heroes who must overcome incredible odds and defeat formidable adversaries.

Aside from Steven Spielberg’s Raiders of the Lost Ark and its two immediate sequels, no other action film epitomizes the ‘80s action film better than director John McTiernan’s Die Hard. 

Joseph Takagi: You want money? What kind of terrorists are you?

Hans Gruber: Who said we were terrorists?

Released in July 1988, Die Hard stars Bruce Willis as Officer John McClane, an off-duty New York Police Department detective who wages a deadly battle of wits against 12 wily and heavily armed criminals in a downtown Los Angeles skyscraper on Christmas Eve. Led by the elegantly dressed, ruthless, and supercilious Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman), the bad guys are after $640 million in bearer bonds from the Nakatomi Corporation’s vaults under the pretense that they are international terrorists. 

John McClane: [sarcastically mocking his wife] Come out to the coast! We’ll get together, have a few laughs.

For McClane, the conflict goes beyond his professional duties as a law enforcement officer: it’s personal. One of the 30 hostages under the guns of Gruber’s gang is his estranged wife Holly (Bonnie Bedelia), a high-ranking executive of the Nakatomi Corporation. John has flown to the West Coast to spend Christmas with Holly and their two children (Taylor Fry, Noah Land). McClane’s original mission was to try and save their marriage. Now it’s to save 30 lives, including Holly’s.

Aided only by LAPD Sgt. Al Powell (Reginald VelJohnson), McClane trades gunshot, improvised explosive devices, punches, and dry-witted banter with Hans and his accomplices. In addition, John must contend with TV reporter Dick Thornburg’s (William Atherton) efforts to exploit the events at the  40-story Nakatomi Plaza, as well as the hostility of Assistant Police Chief Dwayne T. Robinson (Paul Gleason). 

My Take

    It’s Christmas Eve in L.A. And The Party Action’s About to Explode… On The Fortieth Floor!

  Before its release in the summer of 1988, Die Hard was only on the radar because 20th Century Fox gambled $5 million to hire Bruce Willis to play Officer John McClane in its big-budget action film.  

At the time, Willis was a TV actor best known for his role as Moonlighting’s smart-assed David Addison, Jr. Prior to being cast for Die Hard, Willis had starred in two forgettable Blake Edwards feature, Blind Date and Sunset. However, the popularity of Moonlighting and the unavailability of a recognizable star forced Fox executives to hire Willis for their $28 million movie.

Fox’s gamble paid off. Die Hard not only earned mostly positive reviews (Roger Ebert’s two-star recommendation notwithstanding), but it was also popular with moviegoers, especially those in its target audience of men in the 18-35 age group.

Die Hard, like George Lucas’s Star Wars, is a mix of elements from various film and literary sources. Most of its basic plot is derived from Roderick Thorp’s 1975 novel Nothing Lasts Forever, but Die Hard borrows heavily from such genres as Westerns, interracial “buddy-cop” movies a la 48 HRS, and special effects-heavy films such as director McTiernan’s Predator, 

Though the movie’s first half hour is slow-paced, Die Hard becomes a high-octane mix of exciting shoot-’em-up action, often-profane dialogue full of wry humor, and timeless themes of courage, loyalty, and redemption.

Hans Gruber: [on the radio] Mr. Mystery Guest? Are you still there?

John McClane: Yeah, I’m still here. Unless you wanna open the front door for me.

Hans Gruber: Uh, no, I’m afraid not. But you have me at a loss. You know my name but who are you? Just another American who saw too many movies as a child? Another orphan of a bankrupt culture who thinks he’s John Wayne? Rambo? Marshal Dillon?

John McClane: Was always kinda partial to Roy Rogers actually. I really like those sequined shirts.

Hans Gruber: Do you really think you have a chance against us, Mr. Cowboy?

John McClane: Yippee-ki-yay, motherf—–r.

Though Bruce Willis has only had fair-to-middling success in straightforward dramas such as In Country and The Sixth Sense, he’s truly in his element in Die Hard. Willis is at his best when he mixes smart-assed banter with physical derring-do. With a submachine gun in his hands and a smirk on his face, Willis’ McClane became an iconic action hero for the late 1980s and beyond. 

Hans Gruber: “And when Alexander saw the breadth of his domain, he wept, for there were no more worlds to conquer.” Benefits of a classical education.

Every action hero worthy of the role needs a great counterpart to test his mettle, and Die Hard gives John McClane one.  Alan Rickman’s Hans Gruber is surely one of the greatest screen villains of all time. Rickman balances Gruber’s ruthless and rapacious nature with his refined taste in clothes, keen intellect, and undeniable charm. Rickman, with his background as a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company, portrays the criminal mastermind with the civility of a well-heeled gentleman, thus making him more menacing and cunning.

Die Hard surrounds its two leads with a solid if not stellar supporting cast. Bonnie Bedelia is good in her role as McClane’s estranged wife Holly Gennero McClane. Reginald VelJohnson plays McClane’s sole ally on the outside, LAPD Sgt. Al Powell, with both humor and empathy, 

Other cast members include William Atherton as uber-ambitious (and obnoxious) reporter Richard Thornburgh, Alexander Godunov as Gruber’s main henchman Karl, Hart Bochner as Ellis, a smarmy Nakatomi exec who lusts after Holly,  and Paul Gleason as the unhelpful Assistant Chief of Police Dwayne Robinson.  

40 Stories Of Sheer Adventure!

Die Hard is, of course, the movie that launched Bruce Willis’ movie career. Within a year of its release, Willis left Moonlighting and began getting major roles in a wide range of Hollywood movies, including dramas (In Country), comedies (Look Who’s Talking). and science fiction (The Fifth Element). Since 1988, movies that feature Willis as a lead or supporting actor have earned $2.5 billion worldwide, including Die Hard and its four sequels.

As an example of well-made escapist entertainment, Die Hard has few equals. Director John McTiernan (The Hunt for Red October) gives viewers an exciting cinematic rollercoaster ride full of non-stop action and witty dialogue. Die Hard is so influential in the action genre that many movies have been summarized as “Die Hard on an Airplane” (Passenger 57) or “Die Hard on a Battleship” (Under Siege).

Of the five movies in the franchise it launched, Die Hard is the best. 1995’s Die Hard With a Vengeance is the only sequel that comes close to matching the original, and that movie was not conceived as part of the series.

Blu-ray Specifications

Video Codec: MPEG-4 AVC (25.91 Mbps) Resolution: 1080pAspect ratio: 2.36:1Original aspect ratio: 2.39:1
Audio English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (48kHz, 24-bit) English: Dolby Digital 2.0 (224 kbps) French: Dolby Digital 5.1 (448 kbps) Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1 (448 kbps)
Subtitles English, English SDH, Spanish, Cantonese, Korean
Discs 50GB Blu-ray Disc Single disc (1 BD) D-Box
Playback Region A


  • Rated: R (Restricted)
  • Studio: 20th Century Fox
  • DVD Release Date: November 20, 2007
  • Run Time: 131 minutes

Musings & Thoughts for Thursday, May 18, 2023, or: Today’s Writing Workday Wasn’t a ‘Milk Run’

This was me earlier today…except, of course, I had clothes on. (I still have them on, too!) Image Credit: Pixabay

Well, folks, as you can see, I am posting this on the evening of Thursday, May 18, 2023, from my little corner of the Tampa Bay area. Usually, I post early in the day – between late morning and early afternoon when I’m not working on a project, or as early as possible in the morning to get blogging out of the way so I can do “real” writing (this time, I’m writing my second work of self-published fiction).

I either didn’t sleep well or I’m stressing over The New Story – whether it’s any good, whether it’s going to be as good as Reunion: A Story, whether it’s going to sell at least 20 copies and earn good reviews, and whether I’ll be happy with it when I’m finished writing it – because I woke up at my usual early hour (between 5:30 and 6:35 AM), but tired. I felt eerily like I used to on the rare occasions when I had to work until late at night on a research paper when I was in college back in the…yikes! Mid- to late 1980s!  

The author (standing, center) in the production room of the community college newspaper he used to help edit and produce in the 1980s.

I don’t remember staying up till the wee hours of the morning, nor did I toss and turn restlessly on my futon. All I can tell you is that even after I had breakfast at 7 AM or so, I felt listless. Sleepy as fuck. And not at all in an “ooh, I’m going to write 1,000 – or more – words today!” mindset.

A piece of music that I call the “Love Theme” for The New Story

Not that my goals for today were unrealistically ambitious; all I was shooting for when I started working on The New Story was to write one short scene (around 500 words, more or less) to finish the eighth chapter of my book. (I don’t want to call it a specific type of book, like a “novella” or “novel” just yet, although from the page count so far it might end up being the latter type, albeit a short one.)  I don’t do the “outline thing,” but I instinctively knew when I stopped writing yesterday around 5 PM that the chapter (eighth written but seventh in the main narrative because the story opens with a prologue) would only have a total of three scenes. I wrote two scenes yesterday, so today was basically “wrap up the chapter” work.  

I thought today’s workday would be what American bomber pilots during World War II called a “milk run” a mission in which enemy resistance was light to non-existent, there were few mechanical aborts, casualties were low, and the enemy target destroyed or at least heavily damaged. In my case, a milk run is when the words flow from my mind to my fingers and onto the computer screen without much effort, the characters come to life and interact believably on the page, and the story is engaging, vivid, and immersive.

Well, today was not one of those longed-for, truly awesome writing days. I struggled to even figure out where I wanted my narrator/protagonist to be after the previous scene’s ending. Did I want to show him trekking from a piano bar near Central Park to his apartment building? Did I want to describe his entire apartment? Or did I want to do a time jump and show him getting ready to go to bed after an eventful day and night with the story’s female lead? (I decided, given my circumstances, to do the time jump.)  

To be clear: I suspected, just from how yesterday’s segment of The New Story ended, that a time jump would be necessary; a good story does not tell you every tiny detail of a character’s life within its narrative. It shows a reader just enough details about a person, place, or thing to convey the idea from the page to the reader’s mind…then imagination and context do their magic on their own with no further help from me (or Stephen King, or Tom Clancy, or Ernest Hemingway, for that matter).

Still, even if I had envisioned a longer, more detailed account of my “I-Guy” and his walk home to his apartment – a walk in which he might have mused about the “She-Lady”) of the story and how he felt about her after their day together – I would have scrapped that idea and gone for a briefer scene that showed that some time had passed since “I-Guy” and “She-Lady” parted at the end of the previous one and that he, the narrator, is thinking about her as he drifts off to sleep.

I usually try to go for a minimum of 1,000 new words per writing day on The New Story; if a certain scene requires less than that, okay. I’m cool; not every scene in a story must be ginormous. Again, the scene I wrote today – eventually – didn’t look as though it would exceed 500 words due to its “okay, so the I-Guy and She-Lady had a nice day out, they said, ‘good night’ and didn’t end up doing the horizontal bop tonight, so let’s wrap up the chapter on a nice suspenseful note that leaves the reader satisfied yet wanting more story later” tone.  

As it turns out, today’s scene, including its title and another info tag, does exceed the 500-word count…by one word. It’s short, vivid, and even engaging – at least I think so – but, man, was it hard to write!

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Anyway, I’m tired, so I’ll close for now. Tomorrow is a “workday” for me cos it’s Friday, not Saturday, and in any case, I want to finish the first draft soon so I can go through the revision-editing phase and then, maybe by July, self-publish The New Story as a hardcover, paperback, and e-book.

So, see you later, folks. Stay safe, stay healthy, and I’ll catch you on the sunny side of things.

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