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April 03, 2006

Harley's To Do List

Harley’s To Do List
By Harley

I’m on the third-to-the-last chapter of the first draft of my current book, the working title of which is DEAD EX. Before you start popping champagne on my behalf, though, consider this: I don’t outline. (Renée, my agent, if you’re reading, you may want to stop here.)

My first draft, therefore, is not a fast-paced, nicely tied-together manuscript, with thematic unity and equal weight given to each important character and story element, plus conflict on every page and escalating tension. It’s a big, sloppy, all-over-the-map tale of . . . well, let’s just say it’s a long story, with threads that go nowhere, and characters that pop up once, with great significant things to do and say, never to be heard from again. That’s the bad news. The good news is, I like revising. I’m a futzer. I think I’m finally getting a handle on what this story’s about. Probably, instead of saying I’m about to finish the first draft of my book, I should just say I’m about to finish the outline of my book. A 463-page outline.

Which means all that’s left to do is turn the whole mess into a novel, which will be a hundred pages shorter than the outline.

One fabulous trick I’ve used this time around is a technique borrowed from my journalist friend Mike Tennessen. It’s called TK and it means “to come.” Or something. So when I’m zipping along, typing away , and come to one of those sentences that requires me to go look at a map and calculate the number of miles from L.A. to Napa Valley, or call up my old forensics professor to see what a corpse looks like that’s been in the water for 10 hours, I just type “TK,” meaning “Don’t bug me; I’ll figure it out later.” Thus, many of the 98,038 words in that 463 page-outline are “TK’s.” I’ve put these on a To Do list, which is currently 16 pages and153 items long. I mention this for the people in my life who will spend the next four months saying, “but I thought you finished that novel back in April. What do you mean, you're not free for lunch?” For them, I have printed copies of my To Do list, excerpted here.

Harley’s DEAD EX To Do list, in part:

Find surfboard shop; befriend surfers
Find Greek restaurant in Long Beach
Attempt to unbutton a shirt with my teeth (careful of veneers)
How’s morphine’s dispensed? Little bottles?
What color are coroner dept. body bags?
Find someone with Body Dysmorphic Disorder (syndrome?)
Find a demolition expert. How’s that TNT thing work?
Find a female-to-male transsexual.
Find someone from India who can talk Punjabi (not car wash guy)
Finish THE ILIAD or switch to the Cliff’s Notes.
Find storage facility. See if it’s possible to spend the night.
Go back to the comic book store and buy more comics
Go to Home Depot. See if anyone tells me how to paint a retaining wall
Hang out on Mount Olympus.
Hang out at Bel Air Hotel bar late at night
Find old ham radio fanatic.
Visit General Hospital; see if they’ll show me their guns.
Visit Soap Talk; assure Lisa Rinna that she’s not Tricia.
Find a Chagall
Track down Catherine Oxenberg; [is Patty still Caspar’s agent?]
Go to La Cachette, see if Jean-François is still speaking to me.
What time is it in India?
Befriend a fireman
Is $100,000 too much for a hit man?

Naturally, if anyone can help me out with any of these, I’ll be deeply in your debt, and will remember you in the acknowledgment pages, or my will, whichever comes first.

Happy Monday!


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Harley, my son just became a fireman (Firefighter II), so I'd be happy to help. If I can't answer it or if it's a practical / experience type of question, I can call his instructor -- that school is ranked in the top three in the nation.

Good luck with that to do list. I completely empathize.

India is 14 hours ahead of PST.

Its 02:20 am right now in LA so its 16:20 or 4:20 pm in New Delhi.

If you are serious about that Punjabi thing, I could check around. Lots of Asians at a software company (even on the East Coast), and I am even friendly with some of them. So long as you would not be making fun of them.

Harley, I can only help with one thing on your list. And "help" may be an optimistic word choice...

In the Iliad, there are way too many A names (Achilles, Athena, Agamemnon, Aphrodite, Achaeans, Auto-something) and just as many H names: Hector, Helen, Hermes, Hera. It's very confusing. You'd think Homer's editor would have mentioned that. Nevertheless, Hector is a great tragic hero.

(Did I just criticize Homer? Can anyone say Hubris?)

"See CATS" - Must you? Really?

Harley, I can help you with the morphine. That doesn't sound good, does it? I'm pretty sure it comes in little bottles, and you'll need some syringes to go with it.

Not sure about out there, but in Pittsburgh our coroner (which is now called a medical examiner, at least when he's not being indicted for something) uses nifty little maroon blankets over the gurneys when they remove a body from somewhere. There's probably a body bag under it, but I have no idea what color.

That's all I can help with, but if you ever have questions about suburban Pittsburgh police departments, I'm your girl!

I don't think you'd paint a retaining wall. If it's built of stone, that is. If it's built of wood, you might stain it which would last longer. Paint would peel in a year and need to be done again.

Please, please spare yourself CATS.

N, still in Florida. I feel as if I should be paying taxes here.

Ooh, gun stuff! The Gun Tart is always willing to answer gun questions. Bring’em on! ;-)

Jeff Shelby could help you with surfing questions. As far as the Iliad, go with Cliff's Notes, it's quicker and easier to understand. I think $100,000 for a hit man depends on who he's hitting. Hate to say it, but I enjoyed CATS. But that was in 1981. Nancy's right about the retaining wall, you wouldn't paint it. Unless you're Martha Stewart. Do you need to actually see a Chagall or would an art book suffice?

Some of those TK's could be considered "stunts" - you might want to think about hiring a good "stunt tart" to help you!

I believe body bags are usually black - you know, "the little black bag" (not to be confused with "the little black dress").

You are going to be one interesting lady after meeting all these people!

Pittsburgh! My husband worked at the morgue there in high school, driving the ambulance and fishing the "floaters" out of the river. I can't tell you anything else about Pittsburgh, but I can tell you what the morgue looks like. I got a personal tour. Ah, the glamour . . .

Oh Nancy,
please spare us more taxes for the state of Florida. One of the reasons why the economy is booming despite two full years of hurricanes is that our taxes come from our sales revenue.

Good morning Harley, don't know if this will help you, but the LA Coroner does have a gift shop, which amuses me greatly, but makes the people in my life nervous and has caused them to make me promise not to buy them anything from there.


Some people have no sense of humor.

Here is some local Florida flavor for Harley's surf campaign;

I have a storage unit, and I suspect I could spend the night if I didn't caught (and maybe I could spend the night if I asked, but then they'd just think I was weird, and really, I don't think it's something they'd condone...)

I actually contemplated staying overnight there once, but that is an entirely different story...

Okay, I confess: I went straight to that coroner's gift shop site. "Undertaker" boxer shorts? Spare parts BBQ apron? Body outline cutting mats?

That's just...wrong.

Unfortunately, I can't help with anything on your to-do list, but it certainly was entertaining!

Just a hunch, but I don't think any sum of money would be "too much" for a hit man. More likely a case of too much is never enough...

Harley - here's a bit of help with some remaining items on the list:

3. Using teeth is possible, as long as you plan to lose some buttons. At some point, it's just easier to bite them off than use one's tongue to snake the buttons through the holes.

12. Yes, unless they have 24-hour security patrols, in which case you must be very, very quiet. Also - choose an older one, wihtout cameras everywhere. No expectation of privacy.

25. It depends on both the hitman and the target. Some chump with a gun could pop a nobody for as little as $2000 (less if you have beer). Big hit - public target - lots of risk - can go to 7 figures. Depending on the city, $100,000 will get you somebody good to take out somebody with no guards or celeb status.

Finally - Cats?! Rent the one they showed on PBS and fast-forward at will.

For your old ham operator:

Call the company TenTec 865-453-7172

1185 Dolly Parton Parkway
Sevierville TN 37862

My late uncle-in-law (such a thing?) was a ham radio operator for a zillion years. He retired near Sevierville and was in heaven because TenTec was his parts supplier.

I would call the company, tell them what you need and I guarantee they'll get you someone. They might be able to get you in touch with a real old timer, hardcore tucked in the hills. Entirely different subculture. Maybe mention Henry (Hank) Clark, someone might remember him. Oh, and David and I have our licenses (no tower ).

Let me know how you make out.

oh what the heck -- surely you know someone who knows someone who knows Dolly and they'd give you a name and number.

I'm afraid I can't help with anything on your list. I've always wanted to learn how to surf, but I'm not a strong enough swimmer to even body surf.

But I must admit this list is making me very curious about the plot.

BTW, am I allowed to ask if this is book 3 or 4?


Unbutton shirt with teeth - Hehe, one reason I don' twear button-downs any more. Not talented enough - while it's mostly do-able, I never could get the top button. Anyone who can can probably do that cherry stem thing too....

Morphine - it can be taken orally. .It is njectiable but also comes in absorbent form as Fentanyl, which is a patch of slow-release morphine. I think hospitals allow self-taking of morphine in one of those pump machines that you can control (I have an expert who can probably tell you as much as you need - also happens to be a mystery writer)

I think for the body bag question, you call the public info office of the police department of whatever city your police department is in and say "I'm a writer, here's what I need to know and here's why"

Ham radio - see http://www.arrl.org/ the American Radio Relay League (official name for Ham Radio - i wanted to do it years ago but didn't htink I could learn Morse, which they no longer require). (Dana Stabenow has a character who's a ham and probably know whateve ryou need to know - I can put you in touch if you don't have contact info). But on thier site there's "find a club" click and put in the area you're loking for and I BET you will find someone. (there are 24 clubs within 50 miles of MY zip code) with email contacts and websites - you'll fimd someone. Email 'em and say "II'm an author and......" I bet you will get more info than you could ever use. I've read books -they're very friendly outgoing enthusiastic people - and remember, they often are the only communications folks in emergencies.

FTM - call the local whatever the GLBT organization is and say "I'm a writer....."

We've bought stuff from the LA Coroner's office and LOVE it. Totally weird but it's been around for years.

Morphine is easy. Just hit the red button and it will dispense automatically, not more than once every 10 minutes. You can actually feel it as a wave of relaxation washes over you--comparable to watching the Teletubbies, which I call "video morphine." If it weren't for that addiction thing, and the depression thing, and the shutting down of the digestive system thing, it would be great. Oh, and the illegal thing. Forgot about that.

Released from outlining! Today is a good day! Writing has become fun again!

And - you are correct - Body Dysmorphic Disorder is a disorder, not a syndrome.
(although I don't know why that is...)

That's about all I can contribute to the list. Can't wait to read the book, though!

Now I'm going to have to look up the clinical difference between a disorder and a syndrome. You'd think with my family, I'd already have a copy of the DSM IV in my office, but no.

A distant cousin with anorexia has (also) been diagnosed with BDD, but she's too sick to talk to at this point. I could ask her parents if you have specific questions. Hope your character gets effective treatment.

Here is an interesting site about autopsies.

This link says that in Allegheny PA body bags are now bright blue to avoid mixups!

Here's a site to actually buy them.

And another one.

H - ZJ's in Santa Monica is a local surf shop in your neck of the woods. Better yet, go to Diesel Books in Malibu - John, the owner, is a surfer, has a great surf section in the store, and I think he's pretty well tied-in to the local surfing community there.

Now I think I have to go to the ER - I tried unbuttoning the shirt I'm wearing with my teeth - just realized it said "unbutton A shirt..." Damn my inability to follow directions...

Andi's correct about AARL and I'm sure there are a good number of nearby clubs. I was thinking along the lines of a colorful old ham, such as David's late uncle. Those old-times take it very seriously. TenTec, if I remember correctly, was one of few places to get old tubes -- something an old ham would be dedicted user. His uncle used to have breakfast (sometimes 2x a morning, different groups of guys) at the Wagon Wheel in Dandridge TN (865-397-3177), and I'm certain there were a good number of hams -- young and old -- who met there. Nice area to put up a tower -- one reason for his uncle retiring there.

It's a little difficult to set up an antenna in suburbs, that's why I suggested calling TenTec or a ham club out in the backwoods -- there you can put up a gazillion high tower.

Oh. Priscilla (sp?) Pressley was supposed to have had a license, also.

Hey -- I've actually know John in Malibu! Great suggestion. As for the Department of Coroner gift shop, naturally I've been there. Just a warning: if you buy the mugs, wash them by hand, otherwise that nice sinister logo fades to . . . bone color.

If you're serious about the old ham radio operator, my dad's your man. He's almost 78 (that qualifies as old) and he's been a ham for over 50 years. Was head of the state of Kansas for many, many years, and held numerous other positions, honors, and not-so-honors.


The TNT class is only 1 hour long, but I forgot to mention that the class objective is actually listed as the "Terminal Objective". ??? (Definitely a mission for a "Stunt-Tart"!)

Hiya Harley,

Just so happens there's hope with your list! I know an Indian firefighter here in San Francisco,named Chagall, who is a female-to-male transsexual. She/he's a decent surfer and can certainly tell you about the body bags they use. You're on your own with the TNT stuff, though.


Forget the Bel-Air Hotel bar, I think you may need to visit the Chester County Holiday Inn Express . . . sounds like you can learn all you need to know about hotel bars (and pick-up lines)(and pitches) right there! (March 30)

(Louise has some great connections, too!)

bout that TNT thing: you can sign up for a class! Link:


Class objective:
Given detonating cord, explosives, crimpers, tape measure, pocket knife, and wearing personal safety equipment, the student will be able to prime explosives using detonating cord.

(I would send "Stunt-Tart" to fill in if I were you!)

I forgot to mention that the class objective is actually listed as the "Terminal Objective". ??? (Definitely a mission for a "Stunt-Tart"!)

I can help with the morphine.. there are several ways to dispense it.. first of is the often used and fun morphine pump.. which you would find in a hospital..
also as an injectible substance of fun..
there are also pills, timed released (MS Contin, Kadian, Oramorph SR, Avinza are some of the brand names of these types of meds crushing any of these and taking at one time can cause death.)
there are also transdermal patches that release meds over a period of time like a nicotine patch.
So.. depending on what you need it for.. those are several different kinds of morphine..
I've had some experience with many of these for chronic pain.. some work better than others.. hope that helps..

ooh wait I can help with two!

Catherine Oxenberg


has a link to email her.

snail mail
Catherine Oxenberg
30765 PCH #311
Malibu CA 90265

snail mail-
Shoot The Moon Entertainment c/o Casper Van Dien
P.O. Box 923
Cypress Ca 90630-0923

I love google..

You guys are phenomenal! Yes, yes, you're all on the acknowledgment page. Sue, I DO need your ham radion dad. You can e-mail me at [email protected] -- I'm overwhelmed. THANKS.

I can help on the hit man and it would depend on how popular the person is and the risks. In reality it would be a lot. Don't judge me on this alone, but I was at a party with a very famous hit man (my best friends Godfather, no kidding) and didn't know it untill a week later I saw him on the news. Real nice guy.
As for CATS one of our family's favorates. We own the DVD and between that and Joseph we have family sing along night on the weekends. Must see.

Is it true you don't outline. I don't either I like to get into my writing and almost become the character and just flow with it. My husband believs in outline and mindmaps or wordwebs (2 new things they now teach in school I have no clue on how to use)I keep a simple page for major notes I want to research later. He insists I do it wrong.

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