Impossible Character: Dee Sinclair

Sex sells. And Dee Sinclair is all about sex. Not just a sex worker, she is a sex performer, taking high-paying jobs to perform for exclusively perverted clients in remote locations such as French Polynesia, Greece and Qatar.

She is an orphan girl, her only sister dead, an alcoholic, drowned. But she won’t talk about that. She won’t talk about anything except her exotic cat, a serval, named Apollo.

Photo credit: Michael Nichols (National Geographic)

She doesn’t actually talk about Apollo either. She doesn’t talk about anything to anyone. She feels herself as distinctly separate, an adjunct, an afterthought, a second thing. She feels like she doesn’t belonged anywhere, except sitting alone on the fire escape. She knows that no one who really cares, that no one who would miss her. She just wants to be left alone.

Dee makes her first appearance in My Bad Side and then in Anori, the first book of The Cx Trilogy. She spends much of her time in the ice-choked emptiness of Greenland, a place she treasures because of its mind-numbing isolation.

And then she is suddenly being chased: Dee watched her hands flash up in front of her face, first one and then the other, fists clenched, just her pinkie out on her left hand. She had heard the helicopter come over the glacier, the rotors reverberating off the ice, sharp and then suddenly faded. She heard nothing now. She was mute. Not her footsteps on the hard ground, not her gasping for breath, not the truck door swinging wildly open, not the engine starting, nothing. Dust swirled up ahead, other trucks going to the launch tower. She couldn’t get the truck to go fast enough. The tunnel took forever. She heard something on the other side, helicopters again, as she headed to the tower. But she couldn’t see. There was only the dust and then Valerie on the edge of the first platform.

As the protagonist, Dee operates as the reader’s stubborn vehicle entering the impossible parameters of science fiction – the space ships, three dimensional internet, artificial skin, and most of all, the idea of leaving Earth for another planet. She doesn’t buy any of it. And neither does the reader. Until it is there and there is no denying it. As much as she (we) can’t accept it, it is there.

Dee works especially well for this book because of her personality. As hard as she tries to separate herself from everyone in the world, she becomes more drawn into a mission that aims to do just that – leave the planet altogether. The irony is that, in her efforts to be apart, she of course becomes deeply committed to the others on the journey into the emptiness.

Thematically, the book is a challenge, as it focuses on abandoning, and ultimately rejecting, our society for something else, and the impossibility of doing that. After all, wherever we go, we are still what we are. And so as impossible as Dee might be to access, it is because of that that she works as an excellent conduit for the book.

The Impossible World of World Building

World building is writing hell. As incredible – even fun – as the idea might sound, it isn’t. By anything being possible, there is no place to start. Even if it seems like a matter of just picking and choosing and away you go, it isn’t. Not for me. While I might have the germ of an idea – such as using dark matter to fuel an inter-generational spaceship – fleshing that out is akin to chronic constipation. My writing practice is centered on the small things – an image or line of dialogue – and going out from there. It is an inductive approach to writing, finding the bits of evidence to create the whole, such as the serval image at the watering hole that begat My Bad Side.

Photo Credit: Michael Nichols, National Geographic

I didn’t know what that image meant at the time, but I knew it meant something and used it to find what might be next.

Building worlds demands the opposite to my approach to writing, a deductive method, going from the big picture to develop the small, focusing on time machines or warp drives, creating a story from those. This is what grinds my flow to a halt. If I can’t see where I am – the details of what it looks like to live on board a spaceship – I am perpetually stuck.

I got into the world of speculative fiction by accident. The protagonist in an earlier book, Dee Sinclair, stumbled ahead and wondered aloud if she might venture on to something else. As far-fetched as her world appeared at the time – a sex performer holed up with her pet serval – it was nothing compared to Greenland where she witnesses a fledgling world constructed before her eyes. This is the outset of Anori, the first book of The Cx Trilogy.

The crux of the speculative/sci-fi genre is world building, something beyond what we live in today. It isn’t just a matter of a propping up a couple of rocket ships and having characters walk about in space suits. Every detail has to be in tune. My most effective world building elements in Anori are Holoweb and Second Skin because they were simple to envision – a three-dimensional version of today’s internet and a spray-on fashion statement – and only a step ahead of what we have now.

I raised the world-building stakes in the second book of the trilogy, Aqaara, where Dee boards a generational spaceship bound for a planet light-years distant. Daily life aboard the spaceship took a long time to create, not just the details of the sleeping quarters and gatherings places but, more importantly, the mindset of leaving Earth to never return. I was in the Highlands of Scotland while mapping out this world, a far cry from outer space but at least isolated and quiet.

I planned the design of the ship while hiking, soaking wet, through the silence, but could not attain a genuine sense for what it felt like to live in this space, to sleep and eat, to lose all sense of time with a lunar or solar cycle, to see people every day – there was no day! – and to not know when, if ever, the journey might come to an end. That took another two drafts – in Puglia and then New York – to get it so it seemed like it really was so.

The final book, Mina, demands a literal new world. That’s where I am now. The temptation to settle for lunar landscapes and prehistoric beasts remains hard to resist. After all, what do I know about another planet’s flora and fauna? I have settled on a leopard seal/hedgehog hybrid as the creature atop of the food chain, as well as string of camera-stealing starlings. Who knows what the deep seas will offer? Something astonishing should happen soon.

My challenge with world building has given me pause. As transfixed as I can be in the fantastic landscapes of science fiction – where absolutely anything is possible – the writing craft must remain the focus. In other words, while the visions presented in this genre might be spell-binding, the characters, dialogue and construction of the narrative remain the foundation. My aim in writing The Cx Trilogy is to bridge the gap between literary fiction and speculative fiction, and not just build worlds but build worlds where we can literally picture ourselves alive and wondering. We will see what Dee’s progeny find next.

“My Bad Side” theme song

Down the row of empty metal chairs/There’s only polished light/My bad side/The photographer at his best "My Bad Side" theme songI reach back to touch/And wait for her to undress/I reach back to touch/And wait for her to undress "My Bad Side" theme songEscape this picture of me/Where nothing can be seen/Broken light/My silhouette/Against her"My Bad Side" theme songI reach back to touch/And wait for her to undress/I reach back to touch/And wait for her to undress. 
"My Bad Side" theme songShe doesn’t accept/Thinks I need something else/As I reach back to touch/And wait for her to undress "My Bad Side" theme songA long way back/Holding to her light/Her hands on me/Reaching back to accept/My bad side/She reaches to caress

Writing Sex in ‘my bad side’

One of the greatest challenges in writing is getting the sex right, which was an especially difficult matter in my bad side, because it’s a key aspect of the novel.

“But now let us go to bed.” He pulled off my blouse and kissed down my back and stayed at my hips and held himself just away, me standing, legs spread, naked and had me play with his penis. I opened my mouth, my jaw down, pliant, and ran my nails across his stomach and neck, watching the pink trail up his cheek until he had my thumb and forefinger in his mouth, sucking like a baby, getting frantic. Screenshot (981)He pressed against me hard, knocking us onto the bed, desperate, burrowing into my breasts, his tongue sloppily out, like a honey bear, unable to slow his thrusting, faster, kissing and licking my ear and then quiet, trying to pull back, to look at me and then just grabbing as hard as he could. He had his hand on my face and neck, almost choking me, and then pushed all the way in. I grabbed the edge of the bed, pulling the sheet up in clumps. I kept him in that ecstasy, on the brink, tight, and he was trying to lift us all the way to the ceiling and then crazed, holding my leg up like a post.

He snorted coke and wanted me to pose again and held himself exact above me. “Who has been taking my bed from the place in which I left it? He must have found it a hard task, no matter how skilled a workman he was, unless some god came and helped him to shift it.” His penis bounced wildly, and went into me, doing knee bends, carrying us into the bathroom. My shoulder and head were pressed flat on the ceramic tiles, white against my face, a coiling of green vines and branches against my breasts. Screenshot (980)I was victorious over the Cicons. I vanquished the Cyclops, Telepylos and Circe. I have been to Hades. I have heard the Sirens.” He grabbed my waist, the cool of his ring against my bellybutton, and pinched my nipple, whimpered and was done. He filled the Jacuzzi with salts and massaged my back and shoulders and went down into my legs.“I have seen terrible Charybdis and Scylla. I was promised immortality by Calypso. I have come back to you.”

To Blog or Not To Blog: Is That Even a Question?

I have drifted from the blog, back to be my former non-blogger state; issues arose, conflicts, work and drink alike. Clifton Bar2I have felt guilty about leaving the blog on its lonesome, a confused guilt of sorts, because I don’t know why I should care about doing it. I don’t and then I do, thinking about things that I might post, some of them vaguely interesting, some not so much. girls shoooting it upAnd there are moments that I actually enjoy it, the process of making it work most of all, and apparently I’m supposed to be doing this so as I can raise my profile when, one day, my work might be in demand. Screenshot (977)But this virtual platform and the jabbering nonsense that it represents subjects me to doublethink, having to reflect on what is a worthwhile waste of time. IMAG3789It’s a meandering, endless thing, and so I’ve had it in the back of my mind that a thousand posts would be something, something irrelevant, but a goal nonetheless. 20150106_074058Which means I have only 376 to go.

Laurie Anderson on my plane

Laurie Anderson was on my flight to Los Angeles. 20140313_082016I wanted to say something, but I didn’t know what. She looked so sweet and vulnerable. I mean, she was sitting in coach, just like us. I thought about what I would say, and considered offering her my condolences for Lou Reed’s death. But that was just stupid, an excuse to be a sycophant. So I said nothing. I didn’t even smile. 20140313_123728 - CopyStill…I really did want to tell her how much I admire her, her work, her voice, her wit. “I’m a big fan.” Yeah, I would probably say something like that. Our flight was delayed and while we sat waiting for a part, it occurred to me that I could give her my book.

Screenshot (1014)Yes, she might like it. After all, it has a strong female voice and some good cerebral bits on life and loss. But I didn’t have it with me…and it was a stupid idea anyway, another one.

The truth was it was a good thing Laurie Anderson didn’t have to deal with me pitching ideas at her while she was just trying to read, maybe sleep a little before we landed.

And yet…if I told her all of this. What then? Wouldn’t she laugh? Wouldn’t she say, “Oh, okay. Let’s see this book of yours. my bad side. It’s a good title. I like it. I like it a lot.” 20140313_130321 - CopyAnd even since I didn’t do any of this and just watched her walk away at LAX, there is still the chance she will read this blog. I mean, she would only have to search her name and scroll down a few dozens pages or so. And here it is!

And then I know she would smile to herself, look for my contact icon and write something like, “Hello. Let’s talk.”

“my bad side” Opening Revised

I’ve changed the opening to my bad side. Yes, again, but now it has more action, more of a hook, as those in the know have advised…DeeMy hand reflected ghostly in the silver elevator panel. There was a kind of liquid sound, almost like metal rain, inside me, a fluid crinkling in my brain, chewing into my ears and down my neck. I didn’t know what was wrong, a sickness or terror. Crystal was convinced she had brain cancer. She was always saying things like that, determined to be the loneliest, the purest of all. I rotated my heel back on the stiletto, my foot angling sharply up, and thrust through out of the elevator, only half open, my key already out, and pushed hard on the apartment door.
derek“Last warning.” Derek stood between the back of the couch and the window, a broom held up. Apollo crouched, his sleek serval shoulders tensed, his rear legs coiled like springs.

“What are you doing?!”

He turned on me. “Your fucking cat—“

“Leave Apollo alone!”

“Leave him alone?” Derek stepped sideways, his fire fighter’s cap tilted back. “Are you fucking serious?”

Apollo kept his body tight, his eyes on Derek, watching him, a rodent in the savanna.

“This fucking exotic monster of yours attacked me!”

“You need to leave.”

He came around the couch, stepping drunkenly; that’s when I realized he had a gun. “What’s with the dress? You fucking a prince?”

I stepped back.

“You turned your sister against me!”

“You need to go home.”serval-hitting-out-1sApollo sprang, stretching fully across Derek’s chest and dug his claws into his shoulder. There was a bang, like a window slamming shut. Apollo fell suddenly, in the middle of the rug, his bottom leg stuck out. I crouched over him and saw the hole in his shoulder, a tiny nothing and then a watery line of red trailing into the rug.

“I told her to call me.” Derek stood just above. “You know that.”  

Everything in me was twisted tight, my heart erratic, a mess of veins squenched together, vibrating madly, almost still. I grunted as I swung around and threw myself fully into his legs, bringing both of us down, my arm under him. I swung at his face, missed, hitting the floor, surprised that none of it hurt, that I was that strong and had the gun, got up and kicked him in the neck.

“She’s gone, Dee.”gunThe gun snapped up and hovered, a living thing, and there was a vibrating sound, the light hard and burning, and then Derek was looking at his blood coming out.

“Stay there. Just stay there.” 

He slumped back, his hand drunkenly clawing the air.

I tried to lift Apollo, but my arm wouldn’t work, and could only pull him around, his long legs almost lifeless. I drew the clothes off the dresser into a bag, a pile of shirts and underwear from a drawer, all of it onto his cage, like I had been waiting for this, and dragged everything behind me onto the elevator. 

The Bawigi

I wasn’t going to make it. I knew that. I had only been in the water for ten minutes. Not even that. Five. And I was tired. We were still in the bay. Hammer’s Island was still there. I banged my hand against the canoe. My fingernail was broken. I was just going to stop.DSCN1933“You okay, Dee?” Reilly looked down at me, her paddle across her legs. She was a three-time Bawigian; she had a tattoo of a fish on her wrist.

“Yeah.” I didn’t know why but I started again. I would make it out past Hammer’s, and that would be it.

“You’re doing great.”

I hated how dark the water was, how my arms went out in front of me and became brown and gross. The sunlight went down in long sharp lines and then got lost, like there was something there, branches, something reaching up, fish in the gloom. I closed my eyes and counted my strokes. I made it to ten before hitting the canoe again. swimming_pov“You want to take a break?”


“It’s not a big deal. We’ve got all day.”

I could see the other canoes getting further ahead. There were twelve of them, painted green and red. 22 swimmers, everyone ahead. I kicked and counted, my eyes open, my arms coming across my face, digging out, pulling back. I had to remember to kick. I got to 20 this time. I was going to stop and then started again and got higher. I looked up at 50. The canoe was still there, Reilly looking at me over her paddle. I really liked her. I counted and kicked again. We were down from Hammer’s, out in the open lake, the deepest part, a hundred feet down, more. I thought about something coming out from that, that long prehistoric body, its row of teeth, swimming faster and faster, coming at me, coming after my arm as it came back, my toes dragging behind. I had to remember to kick. I did it twice and dragged again. I had water in my ears; it was humming and starting to hurt. I banged my head against the surface. DSCN1934“You’re almost a third of the way.”

I floated there, almost treading backwards, thinking I would just get her to pull me up, and kicked and reached again. I counted to 50. My arms were heavy. I couldn’t kick. I was gasping for breath. I counted again. I made it to 40 this time. I stopped. There was a canoe just ahead.

“Jasmine’s getting out.”

She was the only other Frog in the Bawigi.

“You’re doing great.”

I kicked and counted again. I made it to 50 and kept going. I was at 100, but I wasn’t swimming right. My arms were flopping down and I wasn’t kicking at all. I wasn’t going anywhere. I flipped onto my back and let my legs flutter. The sun was over the front of the canoe. I was cold. I wanted to get out.

“You’re halfway, Dee. Suze and Lizzie just got out.”DSCN1935I wasn’t going to make it. I knew that. I had nothing left, but I would go as long as I could. I flipped over and counted again. I got to 80, and I was going to stop. My hands were pruned. I couldn’t feel anything, like I had something around me, like my skin had a skin on top of that. My legs felt like that too. It wasn’t in me. I was going to drown, something like that, and then I had Jabberjaw in my head. Jabberjaw was a cartoon shark in a cartoon band with cartoon teen-aged kids. He played drums. And he was a giant shark, a Great White. He must have been 20 feet tall, towering over everyone in the band. Jabberjaw was always getting into trouble because of his lamebrain ideas and bumbling antics.Screenshot (420)He had a crazy laugh, “Knuck-knuck-knuck!” He laughed like that whenever he got into trouble. “Knuck-knuck-knuck!” He was always in trouble. That’s what drove the show. “Knuck-knuck-knuck!” It wasn’t just Jabberjaw laughing in my head; it was Marlin Perkins too, the old man from Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom. marlinperkinsJabberjaw was the subject of today’s show. Marlin Perkins was on the edge of his desk with a picture of Jabberjaw over his shoulder, Jabberjaw, the crazy cartoon shark, dancing on the water. “We seek the mysterious Jabberjaw in the clear waters off Cozumel,” Marlin Perkins announced. He said ‘Jabberjaw’ like he had practiced it too much or knew him like a brother. “The mysterious Jabberjaw in the clear waters of Cozumel.”Screenshot (426)He repeated, intoning each syllable, Jab-ber-jaw and Co-zu-mel like lyrics, words he was teaching. Jabberjaw! I stopped and looked up. We were in the channel, turning through the islands. The harbor, the end of the Bawigi, was over a mile away.

Reilly’s head bobbed above the water. She looked very cool. I was happy about that. I was happy that I was going through the islands. I was happy that I had made it to here. I was happy that I was still in the water. I didn’t care that I wasn’t going to make it. “The mysterious Jabberjaw in the clear waters of Cozumel.” Marlin Perkins’ face was big, like Jabberjaw’s, bright blue and white. And then Jabberjaw was saying Marlin Perkins’ lines: “The mysterious Jabberjaw in the clear waters of Cozumel.” He was laughing at that. “Knuck-knuck-knuck.” He was laughing like he was teaching it to Marlin. “Knuck-knuck-knuck!” Marlin Perkins tried it, but he didn’t have the ending right. It was too hard, too enunciated. “Knuck-knuck-knuck!”Screenshot (418)Jabberjaw laughed it slowly, like a baby. And then he explained it like Marlin would understand: “The mysterious Jabberjaw in the clear waters of Cozumel. Knuck-knuck-knuck!” Marlin Perkins tried it again. “Knuck-knuck-knuck!”  Jabberjaw replied, “Jabberjaw in the clear waters of Cozumel.” And then Marlin Perkins had it. “In the clear waters of Cozumel, the laugh of the Jabberjaw his hallmark, professing his lamebrain ideas and bumbling antics. Knuck-knuck-knuck!” Jabberjaw was on the edge of the desk with him now, listening, his front fins crossed in his knees. “Knuck-knuck-knuck!” They did it together. “Knuck-knuck-knuck! The mysterious Jabberjaw in the clear waters of Cozumel.” Their voices were combined, Marlin Perkins’ professorial tone, Jabberjaw’s high-pitched chuckle. “The mysterious Jabberjaw!” Marlin Perkins patted Jabberjaw on the back. “Knuck-knuck-knuck!” marlin2I was doing frogs kicks now, my face just above the surface. The bay had narrowed to a line of cottages on each side. I focused on Reilly’s paddle, in and out of the water, the curl of the far side of the blade, the line of bubbles, out and just ahead, cutting through the brown water, the light off that, flat and the bubbles and out again. “The mysterious Jabberjaw! The clear waters of Cozumel. Jabberjaw! Knuck-knuck-knuck! Jabberjaw!” Marlin Perkins was tired, waiting for commercial, sitting behind the desk. Jabberjaw wasn’t a cartoon anymore. He was just lines, smudged, not even talking. “Knuck-knuck.” Marlin Perkins tried to get him going but that was it. I could see the bottom. Swirls of light slid up and down off the green rocks, and then there was sand and the dock. I was there.

Jabberjaw & Shelly

Jabberjaw & Shelly

“Knuck-knuck.”  I loved that shark.

Winter: “my bad side”

I crept into my horrible hole, my knees bruising against the ice, everything brittle and cracking, and beat my arms across my body, kicking my legs to get warm, and then lay still, as cold as before, worse.IMAG2310I was breathing fog and closed my eyes. It was so awful and cold. I couldn’t move my fingers. 20140110_111553My cheeks hurt. I couldn’t breathe right. I felt for my heart and couldn’t feel that and then it wasn’t right, half beating and then too many in a row and then none at all. I had to tear myself out of my sleeping bag, out of my fucking snow tomb. IMAG2318And I was going to do it. I was going to scream, insanely scream. Scream! It didn’t come out like that. It was just a noise, a groan, hardly like it had come out of me at all. And then there was something else, another noise, a crunch or snap. I held myself and listened. It was a branch or snow falling, an animal looking for food. A bear. 20140112_102239I turned onto my side, its teeth and giant paws in my head. I could hear it circling. I dug my hands between my legs and stared. I’m not cold. I’m not cold. I’m not going to die here. I said that around and around in my head. I’m not cold. I’m not cold. I’m not going to die here. IMG_3129And then it wasn’t so dark. I could see the shadow of my snow ceiling and my hand. I stared and waited. It was almost light. I was the first one at the fire. I stood over it, staring into it, feeling horrible.* (*From my bad side)20140112_140715