Any Other Verse But This: Writing Process

The recent obsession with a multiverse existence is not surprising, given the surge of the sad and lonely scrolling to the next seven-second moment.

I think about a moment when I was perhaps 25 standing in a phone booth where I had to make the call between working as a caption editor and or assistant book store manager. I chose to edit captions and did that for several years before stumbling into education. Why I don’t really know? Why not the book shop where I could have made a contact in publishing and be a dozen or so books into my career? Or perhaps been fired for yelling at customers for reading the Penthouse and Hustler? Or murdered someone for some losing the only draft of my first and great work? Who knows.

That’s just it. Where would we be if Trump had been killed in Vietnam? If Hitler had been aborted? If Caligula had been given the spanking he so badly needed? If Paris had just kept his filthy paws off Helen? If whatever Neanderthal tribe gone with the artsy chick instead of the asshole bully? Or if, as Gunter Grass posited in The Flounder, women had never told them the secret of procreation and held onto that power. In short, this verse is it, kids.

Writing Process: Day and Night

The difference between the morning and evening edit is day and night. I am methodical in the morning, sorting through scenes like cupboards and drawers, matching the colors, straightening everything out.

My brain is loose in the evening, searching for the magic and music more than anything else, adrift, catching at the flotsam.

It’s a balancing game, getting those two to work together, always interesting to see which gets the last word.

Big Ideas in Tiny Rooms

I like the bathroom for its clean lines and tight confines. I like closets and storerooms too. I think about staying in there for days and days, the rest of my life in this safe little place, the opposite of claustrophobia.

That’s where I leave the orphans from my book, alone in their room where they must stay:

They watched the ranger and two of the others amble toward the dead moose, the other one vanish from view, and then moments later, a pickup truck come careening through the grass.

“These boys are up to this tomfoolery? The ranger boy included.”

“I don’t like this, Tommy.”

“None of it is good, my love.” They moved quickly down the path, across the beach and were just getting to his camper truck when the pickup appeared behind them on the road.

“We’ll just keep walking, Deirdre. Same pace and that. We know nothing of them.”

“You’re the one who has to keep his cool, right?”

“As the Bay of Fundy.”

The truck pulled alongside them, the ranger in the passenger’s seat. “Glad to see he’s back on the leash.”

“Just like you said,” Tommy replied quickly.

“What the hell is that?” A high-pitched voice called from inside the truck. “A goddamn leopard?”

Dee walked just ahead of Tommy, her eyes on the ground; they were almost at the camper.

“Seriously.” The truck stopped and the man got out. He wore dark sunglasses and had close-cropped hair. “What is that?”

Dee looked at him briefly. “A serval.”

“A what? Never heard of that. What is he like? African? Looks a hell of a lot like a leopard. Or maybe a puma-like. Can I pet him?”

Dee pulled Apollo close to her legs as Tommy unlocked the back of the camper. “He doesn’t do well with strangers.”

“You come here from Newfoundland?” Another had got out and stood by the first. He was taller with a thick head of hair and beard. “Quite the place, I hear. Hell of a lot of moose up there, right?”

Tommy opened the door, and Apollo jumped inside.

“You two on a trip?” The first one moved closer, rifle in hand. “Driving up the coast?”

“What’s your hurry, huh?” The second man leaned toward Dee. “Have a beer with us before you head on.”

“We would like that,” she replied. “But we’re supposed to be somewhere.”

“My name’s Steve, all right?” He turned to the man beside him. “This is my buddy, Dale. And that’s Carter driving. You already met Alex. He’s the big ranger.”

“Nice to meet you fellas.” Tommy nodded back.

“You see our moose?” Dale waved to the back of the pickup where the hind legs and antlers were visible above the brim. “Nine hundred pounds easy.”

“Have a beer with us.” Steve turned back to Dee. “We’ll carve you up a steak.”

“We have to go.” Dee pursed her lips. “Like we said.”

“Who breaks camp at the end of the day?” He leaned on the camper. “We can chill and then you can split.”

Dee went down the side of the camper and climbed in the passenger seat.

“Hey, you can be polite, right?” Steve had followed her down; his face got hard, stupidly so. “Aren’t you Canadians supposed to be friendly?”

“I’m from Pittsburgh,” Dee replied.

“You all right?” Alex, the ranger, held onto the driver’s door of the camper as Tommy climbed in. “You seem upset about something.”

Tommy stopped, one leg in. “No.”

“We just have to get going,” Dee added.

“There’s nothing going on here,” Alex replied.

Tommy tried to close the door but Alex held on. “I’m not getting your meaning.”

Alex sighed. “Maybe I should impound the cat.”

“Why would you do that?” Dee demanded. “We’re leaving.”

Tommy started the engine.

“I’m sorry.” Alex leaned toward the keys in the ignition.

“Listen, b’y.” Tommy elbowed Alex’s hand off the door and put the truck into the gear, gunning it down the rutted road, his teeth clenched, getting the door closed as he glanced in the side mirrors. “Is he coming? You see anything?

Dee turned back, waiting to see a cloud of dust. “I can’t see anything.”

“Fucking hell.” Tommy laughed angrily. “Fucking hell, those boys. Up to no good, that’s what they were. No good.”

Anori Edit: Killing the Precious Ones

It took me ten weeks to process Tennessee’s notes, but at long last I have begun my eighth (ninth?) draft of Anori. Tennessee (my editor) made excellent suggestions related to killing characters – a terse goodbye to Valerie and Robi – as well as complete restructuring, which means sideways, headache-inducing thinking and no more scenes in Newfoundland like this precious little one:

Flagstones, newly dug, and boards bent into the red earth, led down a narrow path, following the base of a rocky ledge to a meadow. Fitz walked ahead, his windbreaker too small, pants heavy and large. The archeological site was deserted, a wheel barrow with shovels and picks lined up at its side, standing by a row of tents, the one at the far end with its front entrance unzipped and flapping in the wind.

“A bit of sloppiness that.” Fitz bent down to the tent, head-first into a man, middle-aged, as he backed out. “Watch your—Unh!”

“That’s the irony,” Eileen whispered behind Dee.

“You all right there?” The man zipped the tent shut before standing up.

“Looking about for Tommy Baines.”

The man adjusted his glasses. “He must have gone with the others, an hour or so ago.”

“Off to the pub, that it?”

“Don’t know about that.”

“We’ll just show the girl around before he makes his way back.”

“You’ll need Tommy to take you through for that.”

“We’ve been around the heath, seen the pit, the chunks of slag,” Fitz replied. “We know where not to put our feet.”

“That a leopard you got there?”

“He’s a serval. His name’s Apollo.” Dee smiled at him. “He won’t bite.”

“Aim to keep my hands intact, thanks.” He gave them a wide berth as he headed up the path. “Evening to you.”

“That’s his spot.” Eileen pointed out the yellow and blue flagging tape in the distance. “They’re saying it was an iron ore camp, set up to make their nails for the ships.”

A lot of theories about the Vikings could be gutted with a place like this,” Fitz added. “They’ll be looking up and down the coast and across to Nova Scotia next. See what they can find.”

Dee watched the wind churn the distant water into a wash of whitecaps, each chasing after the thick grey clouds low in the early evening sky.

Dopple Bro

I will myself to believe that there is someone who understands me, not a true love as much as a Dopple Bro.

I cling to the idea, a spasm in my thinking, as I call everyone I can think of from the fire escape, thinking this might be the way in through the razor thin thing to that other monstrous, astonishing thing on the edge of the galaxy, that somewhere that I know not to be true.

It can be imagined in a moment and maybe even felt, but it is nothing, like the dream of wholly loving your child and believing they might feel the same way back. Temporal is such a nice and refined way of saying fuck this place

Baller Scene Expunged

I did get back to it today. And a scene from Baller was expunged.

INT. INSIDE MAX’S ROOM – NIGHT.
Dark room, dim light through a gap in the curtains. A gecko clings to the stalk of a mangled plant. Max lies under clothes and covers in the corner of what used to be a water bed. Baz walks in the doorway.
BAZ
Hey, Max. We got to go.
The light turns on. The gecko scurries to the bottom of the plant. BAZ pulls the blanket off the ruined bed, revealing Max lying against the wall in his boxers.
BAZ
You can sleep in the car.
(Pause)
We got to go.
Baz leaves the room. There is a long pause. The gecko peeks over the planter edge and then vanishes as Graham’s voice comes down the hall.
GRAHAM
Max!
Max moans, his arms draped over his face. Graham stands over him, arms crossed, and then raises his hand, holding a Roman Candle firework.
GRAHAM
Last warning, Max.
(Lighting a match)
Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Max opens his eyes and peeks around, almost like the gecko. The Roman Candle firework flares to life. Graham points it at Max, and a fire ball launches just above his head. Graham aims the tiny fireballs, one after the other, at Max. The sheet begins to smoke.
MAX
(Scurrying off the bed)
Are you crazy!?
A pile of papers catches fire. Baz appears with a bent pail of water and douses the room and bed. Max jumps away, knocking over the plant.
GRAHAM
(Jamming the Roman Candle into the pail)
Let’s go, Max!
Graham and Baz leave. Max, still gasping, stands still for a moment and then picks up his pants and goes after them. It is silent for a moment and then the gecko finally crawls out of the planter and perches atop the mangled plant.

Writing Process: Best Laid Plans

I was all set to have a big writing day. I was going to do a 2-3 hour final draft of Baller, my tree-planting script, and get it ready to submit . And then, after an inspiring workout, I would hammer out 4-5 hours of Fuck Pedagogy, getting out all the nasty details of the year-long arbitration with a former school.

But it was not to be. I didn’t get into the work until late and then realized the opening to Baller needed serious work which stalled everything. From there it was a bad house of cards, finishing up bits of cheese from the fridge and moving plants to more ideal locations on the windowsill.

And then I decided to write this blog and see if that got me on my merry way. I’ll let you know. (Odds are against.)

Update: No.

Writing Process: Convincing Readers to Love the Unlovable

Dee Sinclair is impossible. She doesn’t give a fuck about anything or anyone. Don’t get me wrong. I love Dee. She is the Cat’s Pajamas on steroids. For me. That’s probably because she is so much like me: opinionated, cantankerous, demanding, isolated and always right. Readers of The Cx Trilogy and My Bad Side don’t find these attributes compelling. She’s does not inspire empathy or engagement. She is not likeable. That’s what they say.

And so, I’ve been at work, cleaning up Dee’s rough spots, gutting her bitter pontifications, making her a little more approachable. And while I might be making headway, I’m struggling with it. Dee doesn’t want people in her head. She wants to be left the fuck alone. In other words, what makes her so lovely to me is what makes her an impossible bitch for everyone else. No one likes to be told to fuck off. I get that. And that’s the thing about Dee. She’s good with that. She wants it like that. Leave her the fuck alone.

As soon as I explain why – the tragedy of her mother and sister – she just gets more pissed off. Pity? Fuck, no. Empathy? Why the fuck would she want that? She’s got the genes, the chromosomes, the essential strands of life. Why would she want any of us to understand or care? We can all go fuck ourselves. Done and done. And that’s my problem. Not her problem, but mine.

Writing Process: Characters of the Covid Age

This Covid Pandemic is carving pieces of people away. In an attempt to maintain a semblance of normalcy through posting images, completing puzzles and asserting that all will be well, a feeling of identity loss dominates instead. Or thinking that anyway.

The need to belong somewhere – friends, family, a team or bar – has been eroded by life being moved onto the screen. This has created a sense of mutation, a half-shell of selves turned sideways into paper-thin abstractions with cartoon broken arms, modules and warts sloping out in disturbing and hopeless directions.

This isn’t a one-dimensional thing, but a sputtering prick into the bubble of self-awareness where one thinks of being half-asleep in a dream, shruggling (shrugging & struggling) with the accusations and denials of one’s most obvious flaws made obscene and dull. And it’s only getting louder.