Thursday, March 16, 2017

Tough Times: A Personal Post

Tough times, with two loved ones fighting cancer. No time to complain about shovelling the driveway four times in two days (At least I'm in the physical shape to do it.) and about my boy and partner being away for March Break. Much brooding, some writing, much more introspection and flirting with writing revelations, like thunder grumbling, ever-present in the distance.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Twelve-tweet review of the film Genius about Thomas Wolfe

Tweeted a 12-part review of the film Genius, a mixed work, at best. Jude Law plays literary genius Thomas Wolfe (who eventually informed and inspired Kerouac's view of sprawling America). Colin Firth is quite good as legendary editor Max Perkins who had to cut, cut, cut massive Wolfe's epic manuscripts. this was, though, a very awkward pleasure. As the first movie I've ever seen about Wolfe. I was excited just to hear his prose. However, Genius depicts writers, from F. Scott Fitzgerald to Wolfe, as OCD/mad/mentally ill junkies. Ernest Hemingway is the too-macho exception (as he was, apparently, in real life). Wolfe is portayed as a mentally ill soul whose joy for life is too childike, too rare. He conveniently epiphanates (not a real word, but appropriate), then expires. That's not exactly how Wolfe passed.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Sentences Not to Include in Your Second Novel

After completing my manuscript for second literary horror novel, Monstrous, I feel compelled to once again list what I consider silly typos. So, without further ado, and because you demanded it (or, at least, the author wanted it), here are more sentences not to include in your book...

Sentences Not to Include in Your Second Novel

p. 453: Miguel stared downward with widened eyes. When he looked up, they were going uphill. 
Somebody – please – grab those eyeballs. Editor’s Note.

p. 203: She nodded, waited a beat, and then raised her hands to attempt to quiet them.
Now that's a very odd way to try to make your hands quiet. –Ed.

Even Dwight chuckled and wiped his eyes off.
Poor Dwight. How will he see? And not with the eyeballs again! –Ed.

The man behind him had no face whatsoever. He had indentations where eyes, a nose and mouth should have been. Before they reached the bus, someone screamed.
Someone should scream; this man’s facial features are out of control. Stop them before they reach the bus –Ed.

His words, delivered so quickly, slid into her as sharply as any blade wood.
Sharp words, indeed. –Ed.

P. 279: John was stunned by how quickly Joshua observed things. For a stoner, he was observant and quick-wittered.
Good thing Joshua has his witters about him. –Ed. 

Poetry Review: K. I. Press's Disquieting Collection Exquisite Monsters

Cover image of K. I. Press's Exquisite Monsters
 from the Turnstone Press website.
I am  pleased to announce I reviewed K.I. Press’s poetry collection Exquisite Monsters for Arc Poetry Magazine. My thanks go to reviews editor Katherine Leyton for our first rapport and to coordinating editor Chris Johnson and to Arc for doing what it does.

Press effectively uses monstrous imagery and pop culture flotsam and jetsam, among other means, to write about depression, suburban life and angst. 

The curious may check out the review here

Thursday, February 9, 2017

A Note on Completing my Second Novel Today

Today, I finally finished my second novel, with the working title of Monstrous, which I started in October 2012. It started out as a short story, grew to over 50 pages, and after conferring with my co-pilot, and my publisher Steve Berman of Lethe Press, and with my mentor Jeffrey Round, I ran with the idea. I now have a 160,998-word, 695-page manuscript on my hands that I will set aside for six weeks before returning to edit the work for a second draft. Then I will send the manuscript to a select few trusted readers for their thoughts. My thanks to Stephen King for mentioning this part of his process.    

I must say, though, that this book was different than my first, Town & Train. This time, I set out to write about a character's story. And, in fully realizing the protagonist John Newman's story, I discovered the stories of other characters. Many of these, including Miguel McIntyre and Sara Jasmine appear in my other stories, but these stories (such as A Canadian Ghost in London) have not yet been published. Ghost was accepted by a small Canadian publisher for an anthology, but then the publisher sold the press to an American owner and the anthology (and story) never saw print.

Along the way, with Monstrous, I discovered what I was writing about as well. That sounds odd, yes, but it happens in the business. I thought the novel was only about a 17-year-old boy who becomes something else entirely. It is about that, but also about how the past affects you. You can live in the past, hold onto to it, be bitter or angry about it, or you can learn from the past, move forward, and never forget the lessons you've learned, whether good or bad. So I did a lot of playing around with time, with showing how the characters converge and arrive at the same retrofitted inn, The Auld Dubliner, where all the trouble begins in earnest.

This note about reconciling with one's past is ironic for me.

Without my friend Hugh to see this draft in its earliest form, as he passed away in September 1996 from a heart attack (unrelated to seeing my manuscript, of course), I missed him dearly this time around. For Train, he was a mentor, there for the genesis, but not for the fruition. I hope he was still here in some way. But this journey was harder for his absence and his support. Some people come into your life for whatever reason, and when they leave, they also leave a mark on you and you are changed.

I hope Hugh likes how hard I worked on Monstrous, through all my bouts of self-doubt and rewriting and tears. I hope he likes the book as much as I do. This is for you, Hugh- I proved I could write a novel, again.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

My Second Novel Almost Complete

So close to finishing my second horror manuscript that my soul aches. The characters haunt me, from my AIDs survivor Jean-Francois to ex-Jehovah's Witness Brittany Cruikshank, to agonizing Carleton U. student Bruck Blackadder, to tormented hero John Newman weathering a bad break up and unemployment, to reclusive and masterful guitiarist Drake to Sara Jasmine, who doesn't like dealing in the supernatural anymore

Thursday, December 22, 2016

2016 The Year of Coming Out

2016, for all its faults, is looking like the Year of Coming Out, at least from where I see things. 

I say this because more friends than ever came out of the closet to me this year. 

One woman came out as bisexual. An affable and beautiful artist, she bravely came out to her parents as well. My partner, Anita Dolman and I, supported her wholeheartedly.

A close friend, but still a very valued one, came out at as bi as well to my partner and I. She has been divorced from a man for several years and we didn't know she was bi because she wasn't very vocal about her sexuality. To paraphrase Woody Allen, being bi does double your chances of meeting someone (He actually said "Bisexuality immediately doubles your chances for a date on Saturday night."). Joking aside, we feel that we have found another ally somehow.

A co-worker of mine, with his gelled-up hair dyed a different colour - or mix of colours - on a monthly basis, also came out to me as pansexual. I came out to him as being bi. Then I went home and asked my wife what pansexual was.

"It's what the younger generation is calling bi, only they don't make distinctions about who they love, whether another person is a man or woman, trans or queer."

"I'm already that, but we don't call it that."

"It's because we're old," she replied with more than a dollop of irony.

"If that's the case, then this means that in my twenties, I was pansexual before pansexual was pan!" I answered with a modicum of satisfaction. "I was sleeping with everybody, from drag queens to men to women."

"Yes, you did have a fondness for drag queens," she replied.

"Still do."

It should be noted that the adjective pansexual is defined as "not limited in sexual choice with regard to biological sex, gender, or gender identity."  

And yet another friend came out as transexual. They are, as of yet, still staying quietly closeted, unsure of what friends will expect if they do come out. As well,this friend is still working through coming out to their parents. They're also working out how they want to express themselves as trans.

So that's why I'm calling 2016 the Year of Coming Out.

In fall 2014, a close friend of mine came out and told myself and my partner that he had been secretly seeing a man for about a year. Things were looking not so much serious as permanent, so he wanted to come out to everyone around him, one at a time. I admired his courage and his deliberatenss in doing so. He came out to me at Irene's Pub, a local drinking hole with cozy booths. I found out that he came out to my best friend in the same environs.

I had worried that he was lonely. So, after years of my worrying that he wasn't seeing anyone or doing any dating at all, it turned out that he had met someone online and that someone had turned into his boyfriend. At the same time, my friend had also been dating a woman - the rogue! - and made a decision about whether he would date the woman or the man. 

This news, and this secret, overjoyed me. It meant to me that he had a chance at happiness, and has taken it, instead of being the romantic recluse that I had though he was this past decade.

A few months back, I sat across from the aforementioned best friend at the pub, drinking and pontificating about how many people we know - or at least that my partner and I know - who came out of the closet this year. 

Ten years ago, my partner and I thought that everyone was queer until proven otherwise. Since then, our friends close and distant have slowly  but steadily revealed who they truly are or have realized who they are, at least partially. 

My pal, with whom I have been through nearly three decades of everything, sitting there with his pint of stout, mistook my comments for a prompt for him to come out. He looked up at the T.V. bolted to the wall of the bar. Two men were doing a competition whereby they took an axe to a tree and compete to see who could fell the trunk first. This event was followed by an archery competition.

"I'm as straight as that," my friend said, pointing at the archer letting loose an arrow at a target.

"Really?" I replied. "As straight as an arrow?" I rolled my eyes. "You couldn't have said it another way? Or some such statement.

Nevertheless, the realization that so many people I know are coming to grips with their own self-realization gives me great hope in a year that has been bereft of hope at times. 

I refer to the passing of artistic talent at the genius level. The passing of David Bowie. The passing of Prince, And, of course, the passing of Montreal's man, poet and singer Leonard Cohen. The prognosis of Tragically Hip leadsinger Gord Downie has also added to the terribleness of 2016.

This has been a rough year, ending on a particularly dark political note. 

But I digress. 

But hope is a rare and good and beautiful thing. It's a gift. And with each friend who told me who they are this year, I felt that much better about humanity. I'm not that kid in his twenties trying to figure it out, and feelng alone. Now I'm here for them. I also feel like I have bet on the right horses* and am lucky to have these friends still.

*= Blogger's Note: Please note that this expression was borrowed from Anita Dolman.