huh, again

Well, this is exciting. I broke down my writing career into a little more than three dozen book ideas, plus another dozen or so comic ideas, and like a lot of writers, a few hundred short story ideas. All in all, by the time I was done brainstorming, I had almost two thousand ideas.

Anyway, for the first part, while I was writing The Mungk, I thought I’d take a crack at a half-dozen other smaller things while I was at it, and you know what? As of today, three of the four things I’ve sent out have been published (or will be shortly, which is cool). The fourth is a comic book whose artist is yet to be found (well, technically, he was found – a friend of mine whose style was perfect for it, but we’ve been out of touch for while. I miss him, to be honest. I meant it to be a one-off, a showcase issue to show I can write and he can draw, by giving lots of different looks to create, intended as a one-and-done, intentionally light and self-contained. It was more punchline than plot, which was fine. It had an internal logic.)

Anyway, someday on the comic, I hope, even if I have to do it myself, like so many of my indie heroes. (Unlike my indie heroes, I don’t draw often, so let’s just hope it doesn’t come to that, since you know. Not great.)

There’s another “super-secret” project that’s really just freewriting around a very loose idea, to be published for free online, more of an audience builder/test subject type thing, but we’ll see. It won’t be officially published anywhere save as a self-published, online deal.

But still. Exciting. And kudos to the editors, particularly Tom Ball at Fleas On The Dog and Matthew Sorrento at Retreats From Oblivion. Great editing means addition from subtraction and they’ve both done a hell of a job with my short little pieces. Good on them for being better able to see what I could not. We get so close to these things that we lose perspective sometimes. Having someone who can see through it and strip the fat from it, even in a piece of flash fiction like The Ineffable Hat, is much appreciated.

I’ve read enough articles about writers railing against bad editors to wonder what it was really like. Not being from the publishing world, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but these guys have proven how valuable a good editor is. I suspect there might be more than a little ego at play in those articles I read; some loss of perspective or inability to step outside oneself and see the bigger picture. While I’m sure bad editors do exist, from what I’ve been exposed to, the feedback has been more liberating than off-putting.

I continuously push myself to open up my world, no matter how miserable that can be at times, so anything that forces me to set ego aside and look at something with fresh eyes is invaluable.

I look forward to sharing the new thing, when it comes out.

getting there

I jumped so far ahead last week with a heavy spate of editing that I was pleasantly surprised that I could still hit my targets with all of the insanity surrounding surgery and work this week.

Makes me happy. Maybe one day, I will be able to move beyond the universe’s microaggressions and the trauma of this past life and move forward. I have ideas, after all.

I only need time and space and opportunity to complete them.

pounding heart

It’s too much. All the extras. The work stuff. The family stuff. The internal existential crisis stuff.

All I wanted to do was write and read. Have some peace and fucking quiet. Some good music. A couple of beers or a nice glass of wine, maybe an old fashioned, done up right.

I want time alone with my family, relaxing. I want Saturdays around the pool and Sundays at the theatre.

I want quiet mornings. I want a workday that ends at a particular time, not “you’re salaried, so whenever”.

Every morning, I wake with palpitations. Every. Single. Morning.

I have so much left to do, but at this rate, they’re going to kill me first.

perfect casting

I don’t know why, but it occurs to me that sometimes, casting is everything, and the right face in the right place at the right time can mean everything.

See Chris Tucker as Ruby Rhod or Milla Jovovich as Leeloo in The Fifth Element, Johnny Depp as either Captain Jack Sparrow or Hunter S. Thompson or Lori Petty as Tank Girl. Bruce Campbell as Elvis in Bubba Ho-Tep – which if you haven’t seen, is fucking brilliant. B-movie transcendence. Ozzie Davis is wonderful as well. The casting director for Gotham deserved an award.

The movie doesn’t even have to be great; sometimes, a perfect performance by a perfectly casted performer is enough to hold our attention rapt.

I often picture the stories I write translated into film or television, and wonder who might be absolute perfection. Sometimes, I wonder if I was meant to write films, not books. TV, not comics. Maybe both.

tired

So tired. Did it to myself again. Too much food. Too much drink. Too busy. Stayed out late watching Dr. Strange (loved it, by the way. Loved the little Raimi touches).

On the plus side, I’m way ahead of schedule on the Mungk. This draft is going very quickly, and though I’m spending huge swaths of daylight (and nightlight) editing, it’s coming together quite nicely. I’m sure there will be more touch-ups, but if everything stays on track, I might be ready to release this bad boy into the wild by the time we go see Cursed Child at the end of June.

Bully for me. I could still use sleep.

quietude

It’s morning. I’m up before everyone else because the cats will it so. So, I’m on the front porch, editing and enjoying a morning coffee, wrestling with a particular scene.

It’s peaceful. Peaceful is something I take for granted these days, and I miss it. There’s nothing better than relaxing, creating, with a nice cup of coffee and The Verve on in the background. It’s like sitting around a pool or a campground with some nice southern rock and good friends, laughing and being utterly stupid, solving all the world’s problems around a fire, beer in hand.

Perfect.

monsters

I mentioned the Mungk a couple of days back and realized that I may not have mentioned it prior, so that probably made little sense.

The Mungk is the novella I’m working on. I love the idea that all good stories are character driven, and I love to play with tropes, so to me, it doesn’t really matter how tired the trope is as long as the story is well done and the characters are well written.

Case in point: I wanted a simple story to write, so I chose one of the oldest tropes in modern storytelling – the monster under the bed.

Of course, in this case, the monster is a stand-in for both trauma and the microaggressions of the universe as they pile up and suck all the life out of us, and the story itself is bleak as bleak can be, but I feel like I’m doing some good work.

When I say the Mungk is upon me, it means I’m feeling drained. Defeated. The Mungk represents hopelessness. Fatalism. The loss of the will to keep going, to be something more than a mindless drone. Falling to the unfortunate will of the malevolent and the stupid, the cruel and the downright unjust. The just, coming home to roost because of your own behaviour. Your own choices.

It’s decay. Entropy. Everything falling apart and nothing good.

I try to ignore it. Understanding, connection, inner fortitude. These are the things that battle the monster. Whether they win is something else.

broad shoulders

There’s a running joke in my house about my broad shoulders. It started because I have such difficulty finding good pillows to sleep on. Regular pillows tend to be too flat or flatten over time, and with my shoulders being wider than the average person, my head then kinks downward over time and I develop neck pain.

So, I need something that keeps its form and is a little thicker than most. The awkward part is that I also really like a soft pillow and mattress, because I am “soft boy” as Russian student assassin Victor would have said on Deadly Class.

There’s a conflict there.

I’m also a firm believer in taking responsibility for whatever we can in our lives. The problem is that we can’t control the behaviour of others, so it becomes this whole huge dance, wherein we want to take responsibility and make everything work and be all right, but we can’t.

This desire to be responsible often conflicts with the desire to be free; the irony is that there’s no such thing as freedom without responsibility. If you are truly free (and we all are, always, regardless of circumstance, because we can technically make any choice we want whenever – we simply have to accept the consequences of whatever that decision might be), then we are responsible for each and every thing we do. Of course, not everything we do will be with full consciousness of the repercussions, and certainly, much of it will be due to habits or coercion or learned reactive behaviour, which presents another conundrum.

If we are not fully aware of what we do, how can we be responsible?

Still, I feel that responsibility. I yearn for the freedom of not having responsibility, but feel the weight of being responsible for everything immensely. I feel responsible for my family, my job, my politics, climate change, poverty, bigotry, the state of our culture and society, for bringing kindness and understanding and joy to the world, you name it.

But I fail, inevitably. I’ve solved none of those problems, and I have no control over the behaviours of others. I see us past the point of no return for climate change, and the rising bigotry and desired fascism of right wing nutters and powermongers, and it just all feels so big. It’s so overwhelming, it’s crippling and I freeze up, and that means even the things I’m actually capable of doing, that I’m actually responsible for, don’t get done the way they should.

And things fail.

Then I feel guilty. And powerless. And still responsible.

I don’t know how to make it stop. Where’s the line? How do we remain free, responsible for our own behaviour, being a better person to make the world however slightly better than it is, and still just say, que sera sera, in the face of Republican fascism or climate apocalypse?

Do we simply dance on our own graves?

I have no desire to be someone who takes and takes, and doesn’t give back. I need to give more than I get, pathologically. I won’t use points at the store. If the grocery store gifts me a free “summer grill” box for spending over a certain amount, I feel like a thief taking it out of the store. I’m waiting for alarms to go off. I try to do the right thing, to pay my own way, over and over again, often to my own detriment. People decide they can abuse me because I’ll just take it. Because I proclaim to hold to that higher standard, people hold me to it, even if they hold themselves to no standard. The hypocrisy of that pisses me off, especially when I fail to meet that standard, and they give me hell for it, ignoring their own culpability and behaviour.

It’s at that point that I shut down to protect myself, and that then makes things seem so much worse. I start to fail for real and here we are.

Back at ground zero.

Responsibility. Guilt. Weight. Indescribable weight, dropped down on my shoulders like a goddamn planet, Atlas style, with none of the nobility, and all of the ineffectualness.

It would be easy to turn bitter here; I still hold myself to a higher standard. I still pray for the breakthrough.

The Mungk haunts me, even in the light of day.

get back again

I think every creator has that work of art that they made that they just kind of hate. Like, they know it’s beneath them, that it doesn’t reflect who they are or what they believe, what they’re feeling.

And, I’m not talking about stuff that years down the road, they no longer recognize the work in themselves, because they’ve changed as people and they no longer relate to the idea or feelings behind a piece of art that once meant everything to them.

Like Pearl Jam stating they wanted to do something more positive rather than saying, “everything sucks” all the time (around the time of Yield). Ten is still a brilliant album, but I get why once you’re past the angst of youth, why Jeremy or Black might not reflect who you are anymore (although Black will remain one of the greatest songs ever written).

Or someone who was ultra liberal, filling their works with peace and love, sex positivity and anarchistic tendencies finding that in their later works, they condemn sex outside of marriage and promote hateful, fascistic views, having been beaten down by life and rendered bitter by cocaine addition or friendships with Donald Trump.

I’m not sure that Get Back Again is that work for me, but it’s there. I understand the intent behind it, the idea inspired by a song that I’m absolutely certain was not considered one of the Hip’s favourites (attested to by the fact that it never made it onto any albums). It’s a meditation on regret, on wanting to go back to a previous time when things seemed better, and understanding that maybe the person you want to go back to is actually better off without you.

Still, we lie to ourselves and make excuses, deriding the reality of the thing you wish you had, denigrating it so it no longer considered appears quite so sweet. Regret for the past turning to bitterness, anger and self-deceit.

Sounded like a perfect replication of the regressive conservative mindset, which was an oddity in the Hip catalogue. That made me think about the other person, the good one that moved on without them. The one who realized it was okay to be “lost in the light”.

That inspired my story, which then perverted to be told from the viewpoint I don’t take and don’t endorse. It made me ask, what if the lefties actually held the right wingers accountable? That’s clearly not happening these days and it’s emboldened these fucks. What would they do? Would we even miss them if they were suddenly gone?

What would they think?

Hence, the ghost and his point of view. The woman got rid of him, and moved on, happily. He has no way back to her. What does he do? What does he think? Is there accountability in the void? Introspection? Does it work? How far does the ability to self-deceive extend?

These are important questions for our time.

And still. It’s not my best work. I know it. I had difficulty feeling it. There’s a dissonance there that unsettles me, like the thing is unfinished and maybe the totally wrong idea. But still. There it is.

I pray every time I review it that it doesn’t read as a right wing manifesto. God knows these assholes need no more encouragement.

And I sure as hell don’t want to be the one giving it to them.