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.

Fashion for the Apocalypse

I have to admit that my second book, Fashion for the Apocalypse (1990), is weighed down by excessively elocuted elocrubrations: To describe the beauty of the lake in winter was to strangle the infinite.

Ahmic Lake

Ahmic Lake, Canada

True, the woods did whisper, the ice did blind, the moon did blaze, but these words did not suffice, could not transfer the moment to existence, would never contain the wonder of the silence of sliding feet, the crackle of skimming blades, the scream of a straining engine.

Ahmic Lake, Canada

Ahmic Lake, Canada

The writing in Fashion for the Apocalypse is not all bad…or at least as bad:

“The Fear” first hit me was when I was six, watching “The Wizard of Oz” on a Sunday night. Everything seemed normal. My family had finished dinner and were just watching a movie. This was the third time I had seen the film. I loved it.witchBut this time, when the witch appeared in a cloud of orange smoke, a horrible feeling descended on me. I wasn’t afraid of the witch; it wasn’t anything like that. It was much more general. Everything seemed wrong, bad. I couldn’t sit still. I had to stand. I walked across the room – nobody in my family seemed to take any notice – and sat in a chair in the corner. I figured that if I didn’t watch the movie, the feeling would go away. It didn’t.  I left the room and went down the hall and found a hard wooden chair in the dark. I waited there. I moved my legs and looked from one dark place to another, like I was trying to shake being drunk.

New York City

New York City

I waited. It eventually faded. I never directly associated the feeling with anything, but the movie certainly did seem to have brought it on and did not watch any more of the film that night. For the next few years I had two consistent nightmares. One where a witch lived in the basement and another where I would be sucked in between the walls and into the pipes by some sort of foreboding evil. I saw “The Wizard of Oz” again 15 years later. It was incredible; no horrible feelings. I laughed all the way through. It is, in my mind, one of the best films ever made.oz_emerald_city_1