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.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Worst of 2016: Hard Epiphany

Worst of 2016: Hard Epiphany

Funny- I've always thought that grants go to writers whose work is worthwhile and who will put the grant to good use. I'm fairly certain that 2016 has disabused me of the notion that funding always goes to worthwhile causes. At this stage, I have experienced over 17 years of unrelenting rejection from all levels of granted funding. Or perhaps, my art is less valid and seen as not needing funding, and I should simply accept that my work doesn't warrant a grant, no matter the audience or genre or style. This is entirely possible, as I write across the board - speculative fiction, literary fiction, and poetry - and don't seem to be fundable in any of these forms (and sometimes causing confusion in a given audience because they think I am a fiction writer or a poet or a genre writer, when I am all of these). Maybe Heinlein was right-the state should not fund art and that art shoud survive on its own. Perhaps state funding for art raises false expectations and makes promises of validation that may never see frution (much like awards do). Clearly, state-funded arts means that granters clearly hold other forms of writing in higher regard than others by funding the arts held in higher regard.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Year's Best Begins - Best Comeback goes to H. P. Lovecraft

As 2016 hurls to a close, I am starting my year's Best-Of-List. This will be piecemeal. This list will be sporadic, in both postings and lengths of posts. But, dammit, this list will be worthwhile and full of hypnotizing rabbit holes that one can explore. And I'm starting with H.P. Lovecraft.

Best Comeback for a Writer of Questionable World View:
H. P. Lovecraft

Cover of issue five. Art by Jacen Burrows.
The amount of proliferating tributes to Howard Phillips Lovecraft is seemingly infinite, from Lovecraft E-zine podcasts, comic books including Alan Moore’s reexamination, Providence, and Herald, not to mention the Cthulhu-themed (I kid you not) issue of Afterlife with Archie, the animated children's film, Howard Lovecraft and the Frozen Kingdom, to mythos references on Scooby Doo’s Mystery Incorporated, including a monster who was clearly Cthulhu, to debate over the author's xenophobia and racism to plentiful other pop culture references, H.P. Lovecraft was back, and everywhere than ever.

The last contribution in for 2016 appears to be Victor LaValle’s praised novella The Ballad of Black Tom from Tor. It's a response to Lovecraft's most overtly racist story "The Horror at Red Hook" and features a black protagonist hustling in Harlem in 1924. Ballad is at the top of my reading list for 2017.

Granted, the resurgence of interest in Lovecraft has been building for well near a decade now, and has had high and lows. This year, though, interest is clearly higher than ever. The first rumblings were heard in comic-book retail around 1999. At least, I first started noticing plush Cthulhu dolls appearing on retailers' shelves then.

Director Shawn R. Owens' 2003 documentary, The Eldritch Influence: The Life, Vision, and Phenomenon of H.P. Lovecraft, while featuring amateurish camera work and bridging segments with actors portraying Lovecraft's characters in awkward-at-best portrayals, did cement this renewal of interest. The film also included articulate bits from Brian Lumley and Neil Gaiman, among others. But the piece felt part biography, part fanboy highights, and part loose ride through the author's works with no real linear or logical course.

Frank H. Woodward's 2008 doc, Lovecraft: Fear of the Unknown, while clearly borrowing the motif of portentous quotations from the author and discomfitig music, was superior. Fear offered insights in a slicker, prettier package, a clearer, lucid arc covering Lovecraft's life and influences, with glorious and frequent artwork, a more coherent focus, and an examination of Lovecraft's less-than-admirable qualities that is now all the rage. Illuminating interview subjects included the likes of the descendent master of weird fiction, Caitlin R. Kiernan,  as well as Peter Straub, Ramsey Campbell (again), and directors John Carpenter and Guillermo del Toro, Neil Gaiman (again) and director Stuart Goron (again).

I hit Alan Moore’s Providence pretty hard. Each issue features two-thirds comic book and one-third prose. In a lesser writer's hands, the prose wouldn't soar. But with Mr. Moore, he demonstrates the subtle differences between graphic novels and the written word, fortifying the journal entries of a Commonplace Book with the protagonist's observations and emotional state that may not have been readily apparent in the comic-book panels. Between Jacen Burrows' intricately (and beautifully) detailed artwork and Moore’s thoroughly and lovingly performed research and the infusion of a queer hero into the mythos, I was wooed. I'm on the home stretch of Avatar Press' 12-issue series - issue 10 - and still quite in love with it.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Town & Train: A Manly Book!

Had some hot sales at the recent Hintonburg Community Craft Sale. Sold some copies of Town & Train. Me fair wife sold some of her books too and our son stole the show selling out all of his handmade rainbow loom jewelry. I also donated a copy of Train to the silent auction. There was some debate among the organizers about the interesting-looking book, so they upgraded it and included the novel in a men's basket, which also included locally made men's health products and craft beer. So Town & Train is officially a men's gift that can accompany other manly things. So one can safely say—scrub up and moisturize yourself afterward, grab a craft brewsky and crack open yer copy of Town & Train. And feel very manly about it.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Naked Heart Festival: An LGBTQ Festival of Words


Friday, Nov 11 thru Saturday, Nov 13, 2016
Toronto, Various Venues

I'm proud to be part of Glad Day Bookshop's and Glad Day Lit's second annual NAKED HEART – An LGBTQ Festival of Words. 

Over 90 authors have confirmed for the stellar lineup, which includes Felice Picano
Hasan Namir, Farzana Doctor, Jeffrey Round, Liz Bugg, Francisco Ibanez-Carrasco and Rae Spoon. 

This festival in the Church and Wellesley neighbourhood of Toronto includes workshops, panels, performances & discussions for writers and lovers of words. 

The venues are Glad Day Bookshop (499 Church Street), Buddies In Bad Time Theatre (12 Alexander Street), the Xtra Lounge (2 Carlton) and The 519 (519 Church Street). All spaces are wheelchair accessible and ASL will be provided all day Saturday and Sunday in one venue.

Launched in 2015, Naked Heart is already the largest and most diverse LGBTQ literary festival in the world with over 2,000 attendees. In 2015, the festival had over 120 writers present at 47 events.