Black Ice: Channel-Surf Proscrastination

Extract from 1997 novel, Black Ice:

Cam liked the animal shows, the cheetahs and whales, the lemurs and cougars, living in the open, in the forest, on the Savannah, in the depths of the dark sea, with nothing to hang on to but themselves, cut out raw, everything a meal or a monster around them, instinct not a word, but inside them, alive. He made a bet with himself: Six blonde women – it didn’t matter what they looked like – just six on one circuit up through the channels, and then he could delay everything, just sit there; he wouldn’t have to turn it off. Six blondes, six different channels. He had one on the first try, a sit-com, and another two channels one up – a newscaster. And then nothing. He slowed, waited for the camera to cut to her. But it was all car racing and gardening shows. Then he had another – a paramedic. And then nothing again. Too many old men, talking heads, and that was it. He had to get back to work.

Channeling Family

When I presented my first novel, The Sacred Whore, to my mother, she grimaced. “Where am I in there?”

"My mother? Let me tell you about my mother" Leon Kowalsji, "Blade Runner"

“My mother? Let me tell you about my mother” Leon Kowalski (Blade Runner)

My family is certainly a grow-op of raw material but it lacks the dynamics needed for a good story. One of my earliest, and clunkiest attempts – Fashion for the Apocalypse – an awkward thing that must stay buried in the backyard, is exhaustive in meandering ruminations and presents family in a tedious and pointless light.

“How’s your dinner?” My mother peered over at me. “I made two extra vegetables for you. We’re having chicken.”        

I looked at my broccoli, beans, tomatoes and potatoes on my plate. “It”s delicious.” 

Tree of Life

Tree of Life

While I’ve stuck with writing what I know, I’ve learned to tighten and hone. From Black Ice:

My mother grabbed the arm of my shirt. “What happened? What were you thinking of?”

“I didn’t do anything! He just stopped breathing.”

“How, Cameron?” My father was across the room, holding my dead brother’s jacket. “How did he stop breathing?”

“I don’t know. He just…stopped.”

 “You suffocated him!?” My mother wrenched my arm up. “Did you suffocate him?!”

My father rolled the jacket under his arm. “Michelle…”

I was surprised how calm he was, how slowly he took my mother’s arm and pulled her back.

“We have to stay calm.”

Ordinary People

Ordinary People

It’s a balancing act, finding those moments, making them into something that is true, just not too true, because that can be really boring.

Black Ice: Alone Together

Black Ice is a novel about isolation. The eldest son is handicapped, lost in his own world; none of his family knows how to connect. reader460Joel didn’t throw rocks; he didn’t punch and grab. He just read, mostly in his room, hunched up, hour after hour, at the end of his bed or against the closet door, his tongue half out, fingers tightly at the corners. Michelle worried about his eyes and posture. She had John move the desk beside the window and put in a nice straight-back chair, but Joel wouldn’t use either. Michelle left the ceiling light on to find it off again, Joel in the dark. As frustrating as it was, she knew it was pointless to get upset; she could only sigh when his glasses got thicker. He liked history books the best, stories about real people. White Slaves of the Nootka was about an Englishman held captive by Nootka Indians hundreds of years back. White-SlavesCam laughed at him, “You mean the Knucklehead people.” Joel liked the Nootka people because they liked being alone. That was like Pesto. Joel said that Pesto was a Nootka. He wrote the name in his Rabbit Book. Pesto wasn’t a rabbit; rabbits were just what Joel drew. The drawings were only at the beginning; it was all writing after that, all about Pesto and where he went.