Tag Archives: Literary Theory

Gone Fishin’

Please forward all correspondence to SpaceJunk.

I’m wondering if there’s some web-parallel service to a Winter Caretaker, someone who could come by once a month and open the windows, dusting and airing the rooms out in the summer, then battening down the hatches come autumn, while keeping the water running a bit in the winter to make sure the pipes don’t freeze up, and then coming around to make the minor repairs needed in the spring…basically, someone to do the little bits of daily upkeep that prevent a structure from becoming a ruin.

I wonder this because I’m going to be moving on from here.  Pretentiously Eloquent Microfiction is closing up shop, boarding up the windows and putting in a change of address form.

A while back, I speculated on what to do with this site…it began as a novelty, a place to record my returning ability—and willingness—to write, and what was driving me at the time was short bursts of language, Pretentiously Eloquent Microfiction, as I originally defined it on day one.

I had realized that, over time, my work—fiction and non—had moved away from that structure, and was of two minds about what to do:  do I change things around here, reflecting the evolution of what I’m working on now and how I want to share it?  Or do I keep things as-is, a reminder of what’s come before, and a desire to maintain a realistic history, at least as much as you can online.

And I decided, then, to keep on keeping on.  P.E.M. is critically important to me, as much a part of what defines me in this last half-decade of my life as my family and my new career.

But the time has come for me to realize, and acknowledge, that the work begun here, lo many years back, hasn’t just changed in direction:  it’s complete.  As in, over.  Something new is come ‘round, and it just doesn’t fit here anymore.

So, I’m turning out the lights and locking the door behind me.  I may return to these parts at some point in the future—if publishing my fiction on the web ever again becomes something that I feel I need to do, it’ll end up here.  But it’s time for some new scenery.

So update your bookmarks, if you will:  SpaceJunk.

These are my new online digs.  Something shiny, with different places to arrange the furniture and a new view outside the windows.  I’ve migrated some of the least-fiction-related posts from here over there already, just so we have something to build from, and now that I’m getting comfortable there, and feeling somewhat freed from the original strictures that were built here, you may even find me posting there more often there than I have been here of late…though, of course, the Rules of Engagement still hold.

And in case this truly is the last post that will go up here, I want to end it with something that it began with, something important that reminds me—and I hope encourages you to do the same—that intent is everything, and the baggage and previously-existing conditions surrounding a thought, or emotion, or situation, can and must be re-evaluated, so that it becomes meaningful to you, and you’re not just absorbing the meaning that others have given it as your own:

“We’re deathly afraid of that stabbing word ‘pretentious,’ the word that students use to curse each other’s ambition.  It’s a young person’s word, a shortcut-to-thinking word. I’m a big fan of pretension.  It means ‘an aspiration or intention that may or may not reach fulfillment.’  It doesn’t mean failing upward.  It means trying to exceed your grasp.  Which is how things grow.”

– Warren Ellis

 

Hello? Is it me you’re looking for?

No, I’m not gone, and despite the rather thick layer of dust everywhere, I haven’t abandoned this blog.  This is one of those periods of radio silence I mentioned way back on Day One…it’s just gone on a bit longer than I’d been thinking these types of spells would.

That isn’t to say that this post is a “hey everyone, I’m back, expect multiple posts per week from now on” piece.  I honestly have no idea what will be going on here and when for the near future.  The day job is slow now (though looks to be ending up rather manic shortly, all the way until late spring), but there are other things taking a sizeable chunk of my attention span:  books to read, games to play (got a PS3, finally, and there’s a metric shit-ton of games to catch up on), evolving family dynamics that are important to me, that I want to be present for and not regret missing later on.

Mostly, though, I hit a point late last year where I was able to come to peace with some things that were starting to rear their heads again.

Put simply, I love writing.  Fiction, non, whatever.  Short pieces, longer pieces, Lakers pieces, all of it.  Falling through the hole in the page and being utterly and completely present in the moment, with the external censors and observers turned off, is a transcendent, ecstatic experience for me.  My understanding of the process, and my experiences with it, have done more to shape my understanding of the world and my own spiritual and religious outlook on the world than all the reading, praying, fellowship…ing, etc., put together.

But it’s not a compulsion for me, at least not usually.  I don’t feel “wrong” if I haven’t written on a regular basis recently (again, at least not usually).  The love of it is always there, but the alignment of my priorities and the net gain when weighed against the other things I’m not doing when I’m writing is something that ebbs and flows.

Up until about a year ago, it had ebbed for nearly ten years, and then last year was a definite case of flow.  I wrote half a dozen new short fiction (the microfiction this blog is named for), two much longer stories (edging into the realm of short novellas), and over 50,000 words on a new novel, the longest single piece of work I’ve ever put down on the page (even if it’s not done yet).  Not to mention  what is close to 100,000 words worth of posts here on the blog.  For anyone not named Piers Anthony or Stephen King, that’s quite a haul, and compared to the years-long dry spell preceding it, it was astonishing.

And then—partly due to external events (like changing my job and career path), partly just due to the tidal flow of these things that I’ve come to accept within myself—it began to ebb again.  I have a new story, longer than the microfiction, shorter than the epic genre pieces of last year, that’s about 2/3 done…and has been in the works for almost two months, off and on.  I have the scattered notes for the second part of my essay on Grace spread across two different notebooks and a partial Google Docs file…and it’s showing no signs of coalescing in the immediate future.  I even figured out a solve for a major issue with the novel that was one of the reasons progress on that came to a halt (I couldn’t muster the effort to keep bricklaying on new chapters until sorting out that major structural flaw)…but have no real compulsion to try to get my head around the effort it’s going to take to write the remaining 40k or so words that it’ll take to finish the book.

See, while it rarely feels wrong for me to take a break from writing (even if that word, “break”, is a bit longer than what other people would consider using that word for), what does feel wrong to me is to feel bad for not working when I don’t want to.

I know I’m going to piss off anyone reading this who’s done any sort of work towards becoming a writer themselves, especially if they’ve taken a class, or a workshop, or read books on the subject.  Because beyond style, beyond how to find an agent, or use of adverbs, or proper manuscript formatting, the one thing they will all tell you, relentlessly and with zero pity, is:

–          Doesn’t matter if it’s great, just get it down on the page (or “Don’t worry about getting it right, just get it written”).

–          Write every day, no matter what.

–          You can’t call yourself a writer, you either write or you don’t write.

And, hey, that may work for some people, probably even most, it just doesn’t work for me.  I’m not setting aside every other effort in my life to make writing my primary path.  Writing is, for me, ultimately, fun.  It is a good thing, a benefit that enriches my life beyond the daily work to be happy and healthy with my family and home.  It is, in other words, gravy, desert, a bonus bit that helps the sum of good things equal something great.

And I refuse to view it like taking my vitamins.  I refuse to feel guilty for not having written X-hundred words every day.  I refuse to beat myself up because this weekend, just like last weekend, I’m going to pleasantly descend into the proper gaming posture and spend multiple hours “wasting” time that could better be spent on something “more important”.  Like writing.

Writing isn’t important in and of itself.  It isn’t some holy task that we—even those of us who love it and are really good at it—are obligated to complete on a regular basis, like attending church or changing your underwear.  It is nothing more than scribbled symbols on paper (or the electronic facsimile thereof).

Its value comes first and foremost from the benefit it brings to the person making those scribbles.  If you’re lucky, someone else will gain additional value from it later when they read it, but sorry, that’s a downstream consideration, not the reason pen first gets put to paper.  And it loses all value for me when I start beating myself up for not having done it.  I’m okay with the notion that I may, at times, be suffering a lower level of amazing greatness in my life than I could, under ideal circumstances, if I found a way to incorporate writing into that ideal circumstance.  But I refuse to take a net loss from a happy baseline just because, at that particular moment, writing was not a part of forming that happy baseline.

Imagine if the money in your pocket was worth 20% less because it was all ones, fives and twenties, and without some tens in there, the rest of it just didn’t mean as much.

That’s horseshit, and something I will not have in my life anymore.

Not to say that a regular regimen isn’t a good thing for many, even most other writers.  And truthfully, when the compulsion to scribble on the page is upon me, it helps to have a schedule, even a quota, to make sure I keep myself organized, because under those circumstances, a lack of writing ­is a bad thing, not because I was supposed to and didn’t, but because I wanted to and didn’t manage to make the time for it.  It’s when I don’t want to—and note, this is not an active “I am really opposed to writing right now” but a sated “I don’t feel a strong urge to write right now” thing—that beating myself up for doing something I do want to do instead of writing just seems absurd to me.

And I’ve now spent almost 1300 words writing out why I don’t feel like writing.  And I’m okay with that contradiction.  To sum up, I’m not gone for good…just not entirely sure when I’ll be back.

See you soon(ish).

Randomness, May 18, 2010

Felt like dropping by and dusting a few shelves.  Regular maintenance, that’s the key to a tidy household.
  • The job situation appears to have been resolved.  Where I’m heading is so busy with work right now that they actually don’t have a desk for me yet (I’d be on boxes in a hallway), and so I won’t start until the end of next month.  Which gives me over six weeks to relax and write.  Right?  I give it two weeks before I’m going stir crazy and inviting random strangers on the street to conference calls.
  • Speaking of writing, have begun work on Chapter 10 for a second time.  The first attempt was going well, but wasn’t singing, and if I can be excused a brief moment of crowing (it’s my blog, after all, and I haven’t been nearly self-congratulatory enough here), I was able to sort out what needed fixing, and I’m kinda proud of myself for being able to dissect and rework my own work to this extent.  Long story short, it started off quietly, flashed back to some conflict, then returned to the quiet only to have things blow up.  Which is my usual way of doing things, but at this point, both in this character’s arc and the overall book, I need the pace to be a bit more breathless.  I’ve had to allow myself permission to just put the damn thing in Allegro-Forte and charge ahead.
  • Another thought on the book, while I’m here and talking about it:  with the posting of Chapter 9, I now have half the novel up here.  And I’m not sure if I should continue posting it or not.  There appear to be conflicting reports about whether or not agents and publishers will be interested in a book that’s already been entirely published online.  I know Cat Valente has seriously bucked that possible trend, but this thing isn’t anything like that:  I’m posting draft zero’s (I can already see just how different the end result is going to be from this first pass, and hopefully how much better), and seriously doubt I’ll end up mimicking anything like the kind of success she had posting Fairyland.  (I’m hopeful for the same volume of success, but it certainly won’t happen in the same way.)  On the other hand, I see the viewership spikes that happen here every time I post a new chapter, and I’ll be damned if I bow to nebulous conventional wisdom; never worked for me before, why should I start caring now?
So, you tell me:  should I keep posting the chapters up here for all to read?  Drop a comment or send me an email or whatever.
And that’s that for this visit.  I’m hoping to drop by with a bit more regular ramblings in the future, but for now I’ve got a decent red wine, some lasagna, and a Bill Hicks DVD to watch.  Word to your mother.

The Bad and the Ugly

I decided to start posting the chapters from this book thing as I finished them for a variety of reasons.  One, it would let people I know what I was up to, which is something I’m not always good at doing.  Two, it was the only internet-permanent record of this stuff that I can count on…I like to think that the finished project has the potential to be good enough to find a home on paper someday, but too much of that happening is dependent on luck, so I’m stapling the work up here as I go.  Third, I thought it’d be interesting–for me, maybe for others–to be able to look back after it’s all done and see just how much the whole thing changed between first and final drafts, which is the kind of thing that writers and fans of writing love to obsess over.

And now, I pay the price.  Because there’s something else that posting these chapters right when they’re done will result in:  sometimes, the first draft sucks.  I generally write pretty clean first drafts, but sometimes…and this one in particular…is bloody awful.  It covers the plot points, sets up the emotional state I want Charlotte to be in, introduces the last member of her unusual triumvirate…but good god, it’s going to take more than a little work to get this one ready for prime time.

And yet, because of how I’m doing this, here it is.  In the spirit of ER surgeons, I’m tying off the vein and sacrificing the limb to save the patient.  I’ve been sitting on Chapter 6 for a freaking month now, and I need to get some momentum back and move on.

There is a tremendous upside to this, though:  I’ll be posting Chapter 7 tomorrow.  It’s been done for almost two months, just waiting patiently for me to catch up with everything that needs to come before it.  And so y’all will have an Easter treat:  motorcycles, swords and guns.  And is there anything closer to the true spirit of Easter than that?


Chapter 6

Charlotte was just a moment away from making her move when the panic took over. Her hand, outstretched, already shaking–her entire body had been shaking for some time now–froze, just inches from its target. The tiny, tenuous grip she’d managed to hold on to slipped and let go, and for the next few beats of her overtuned heart she was unaware of the spectacle she was causing, completely unaware of anything beyond the panic.

Her chest folded in on itself, lungs too tight, too small to catch a proper breath. She felt a heat burning from inside, unable to escape or release, and at the same time felt her hands grow cold and numb, the sweat on her brow sending a clear shiver through her spine, growing in strength as it traveled the length of her body, until the mild shaking (at least, mild in comparison) became an avalanche, a near seizure that threatened to bring her crashing to the ground.

She found just enough control over her body to turn the shaking into action, letting it find her legs, propelling them in whatever direction they found, trusting that some inherent sense of self-preservation would guide her to relative safety, but only because there was no other option. It was taking every remaining scrap of awareness to focus the panic energy into a seeming purpose.

Whether her self-preservation was so deeply embedded that it could be effective, even in the worst of all possible moments, or because she was just very, very lucky–and in the end, there wasn’t much difference between the two, she’d trusted everything she was to luck too many times before to consider it anything but a friend–when the tide of panic receded and she found enough internal shore to breath, and take in her situation, she found that her flight had brought her to a safe place, at least for the moment. There were still gray spots in her visions, slowly spinning between her immediate surroundings, but finally they were the exception, not the rule, and proved only a distraction from what she was seeing, not the sum total of it. It was still hard to breath, but even though her limbs still felt separate from her, animated with a force she couldn’t consciously claim as her own, she could finally feel her chest expand with each inhale, the air finding at least a brief, temporary home within her breast. And, miracle of miracles, she was still standing.

Even more amazing: as a relative calm returned to her, and she was able to take in more and more of the world around her, it became evident that her sudden flight hadn’t drawn nearly as much attention as it could have. As she scanned the crowd, she found a small handful of people looking in her direction, but while half a dozen people noticing her would have normally been a disaster–in fact, as she’d planned the day’s take the night before, in a state of calculating calm that was so far removed from her current state that it might as well have happened to someone else entirely, the idea of even one person noting her presence for more than a moment, maybe two, would have rendered the entire venture a complete failure–at the moment, she considered it a minor miracle that every single person at the faire–and there had to be two, maybe three hundred people crammed into this small field just outside the town–wasn’t staring at her right now, pointing and whispering under their breath to each other.

And, even as she was watching, that small handful of people who had registered her actions turned away, focusing on something else, something new, and just a few moments later, she was as anonymous as she’d hoped to be when setting out this morning.

Almost anonymous, she corrected herself, feeling someone walking up behind her, their intent and awareness of her evident in the cringing reaction of every exposed inch of her.

“You alright, hon?”

She turned, and saw a woman approaching her. The first thing she noticed was the concern on the woman’s face, muted but real, and she wondered just how shaken she must look. The second thing she noticed was the half-formed laugh behind the concern; however kindly she was viewing Charlotte, she also clearly wasn’t taking it all that seriously. The third thing she noticed–and this ultimately was the key, opening the door to a whole cascade of realizations, and ultimately a confrontation that would permanently change her life, and in the fullness of time the lives of just about every living soul in two different nations–was that the woman was basically naked.

She wore a long strip of cloth, passing behind her neck, crossing over her breasts, then wrapped around to be tied at her back; it was little more than a decoration, sheer enough that the round, heavy shape of her breasts were clearly visible, as were the dark stretched ovals of her nipples, pressing firmly against the fabric. Her skirt was a wider piece of the same material, knotted very low on her left hip, hiding nothing of the dark, ripe cleft where her legs met. Her hair was tied in random, half-unraveled twists, purely to keep the length of it out of her face and from hanging low enough to obscure any of what she was so clearly advertising, and she wore bold, somewhat-smudged makeup around her eyes and along her cheekbones.

And as Charlotte was still regaining control of herself and an awareness of her surroundings, she realized where her blind flight had taken her.

She and the woman were standing next to a large tent, one at the far edge of the field where the faire was being held, butted up against the tree-line. The entrance was just a few feet away from where they were standing–the woman had come from that direction, likely part of the group of woman still standing by the open flap, all in similar states of prominent undress. Those still by the entrance were focused on the crowd before them, specifically the men in the crowd, and were posing in a way that suggested anything and everything was possible, all of it available here, whistling and calling out offers to those passing nearest to them that were blunt enough to make Charlotte blush, even in her still-disoriented state.

She’d noted this tent when she’d first arrived at the faire, nearly an hour ago, and had marked it in her mind, determined to avoid it, both from a general sense of discomfort at the blatant, obvious sexuality on display, and also out of an odd sense of professional courtesy: the women working here, like her, were set on divorcing as much wealth from the male portion of the crowd at the faire as they could, however different their methods might be.

And if of course made sense, given how bad her luck had been today, that in her worst moment she’d end up here, the one place she’d been determined to avoid.

“Hon? …You looking for work?” And now the mocking laughter was pushing its way to the front, the woman’s concern forgotten as it became clear that Charlotte was, all things considered, going to be okay.

“No, I…the crowd was…I just need to breath.”

Charlotte began cursing between deep, stuttering breaths. She cursed the crowd, small by the standards of the cities she’d grown up in, but larger by far than she’d been around for years, and the way that it had suddenly closed in around her like a vice.

She cursed the first mark she’d made a move on, and his sudden, random decision to turn left instead of stopping where she thought he would, which would have worked out fine, or even turning right, which would have spoiled her plans but wouldn’t have nearly trapped the tips of her fingers in the opening of the purse hanging from his belt, which is where she’d found herself when he did, against all logic and planning, turn to his left. She’d managed to slip free of that almost-disaster, keeping her composure in the moment and continuing along the path she’d been walking, covering the extraction of her thieving hand with a slight bump and a muttered apology designed to be forgotten just a moment later–the worst thing you could do when working a crowd was to act like you were afraid of being caught, changing direction or speed to obviously, especially at the exact moment when something was going wrong and your mark was the most likely to look around for someone trying to quickly get away–but the sudden rushing of her heart in the moments immediately after had been the seed that the press of the crowd had crystallized around.

She cursed the damnable blue dress she’d decided to wear today, thinking somehow that a young girl would be less noticed in a crowd like this, and the long braid hanging loose down her back instead of wrapped around her head where it usually was, where it belonged. It had made sense this morning to hide herself by going opening as a nice, non-threatening girl, but she hadn’t counted on how much she’d grown–in a variety of uncomfortably obvious ways–since she’d last used the dress as a disguise. It was too short now, showing off more of her legs than she’d imagined it would, rising well over her knees, and the bosom was tight enough that she’d had a bit of trouble breathing freely even before the panic had begun to rise…though, she did comfort herself slightly with the thought that she still looked downright modest compared–flashing thighs and bulging cleavage included–compared to the women she’d ended up standing next to.

And all of that, really–the dress, the missed mark, even the crowd–might have been tolerable had it not been for the braid hanging down her back, constantly flickering in and out of her peripheral vision, bouncing against her back with seemingly every movement, forcing her to spend too much of herself to fight against the instinctual flinches that came with each slight, unfamiliar bump and tap. She resolved to turn her occasional musings into definite action as soon as she got back to her cave, even if it meant taking a dull knife to her hair and leaving it ragged and uneven, as long as it was short and no longer a bother.

More than anything, though, she cursed herself. She’d planned for today so carefully, so confidently, a perfect storm of so many people all in one place, purses bulging, but with none of the caution and preservation instincts that came from living in a city, where a large crowd and money to spend was the rule instead of the exception, and being wary of people like her was second-nature. She’d planned to cut a silent swath through these simple townsfolk and farmers, a glorious conclusion to her season-long efforts to set herself up for the winter…she could almost laugh now at what she’d thought would be most serious concern when she’d set out this morning: how to carry off all of the loot she’d take without drawing attention to herself, not in the taking, but in how much she’d physically have to carry out of here.

In all her planning, she hadn’t considered how different her chosen disguise–one she’d never actually used before–would make everything, nor how being around this many people after spending the last few years completely alone, or nearly so, would affect her. She’d been arrogant, concerned about all the wrong things, and she was paying for it now: empty-handed, out of breath, the shaking just barely subsiding, and everyone she’d hoped to blend in with having given her a much closer look than was good for her and what she’d hoped to do. However the day ended–and she was thinking that it should end just about now, as soon as she trusted her body enough to get her clear of the faire and back to her cave, where she could regroup and figure out what she was going to do next–she’d brought it on herself, and had no one else to blame.

“You know, hon,” the woman behind her said, “if you’re looking for work, Victor should be back in a bit. You’re a little young, but some of them like it like that.”

Every bit of control that Charlotte had managed to regain disappeared in an instant. Her chest tightened up again, her breaths coming quick and shallow. Her hands started shaking again, the ripples moving quickly to the rest of her body. She crouched slightly, her flight reflex fighting for control, and the tiny portion of her mind where rational thought still had a grip fought to process what she’d just heard.

There are many, many people in the world named Victor, she thought. And the last time she’d seen him, just before she’d cleaned out his chests and set out on her own, he and his crew had been working in one of the cities far to the south. There was absolutely no reason to think that the Victor this woman was referring to was the same one she’d betrayed four years ago.

But that Victor had often talked about getting into more legitimate lines of work to supplement the normal ventures he sent his crew out on. Like these travelling brothels, which were cheap to set up and run and insanely profitable once they were fully operational. Even over the last few years, while most of the nation was suffering through the recurring droughts and the accompanying poverty, brothels–especially those that could follow the action, paying one-time-only fees at every place they stopped rather than regular protection money like you had to when based permanently in a city–were the next best thing to guaranteed money. They had focused on the miners, who were never short on spendable crowns and a desire for company, and the road crews the crown had employed to build the highways crossing the nation, keeping as many people as possible employed–and thus fed–as it could.

And Victor wasn’t the type to have missed out on an opportunity like that, especially not when his eye had already been turning in that direction. But surely there were dozens of these set-ups working all up and down the country right now, and the odds that this particular one would be operated by the same crew boss that had sworn a slow and painful death for her if he ever came across her again were too small to take seriously.

And that was as far as her rational thinking got before it lost it’s hold and slipped completely from her mind, the panic fully returning and claiming her entire self. It was scary how intense her response was to that name, even considering that she hadn’t been in the best condition right before, but there was no arguing with the reactions quickly taking full control of her.

She looked at the woman, sure that her terror was obvious on her face but unable to care, and began staggering away from the tent, trying to impose some sense of intentional movement over her body which was only thinking to get her as far away from there as possible, as fast as she could go.

She plunged back into the crowd, hearing laughter from the woman behind her and not knowing if it was real or just something her panicked mind was filling in to try to excuse her flight. A dozen different thoughts fought for her attention, none of them particularly sensible, all of them broken up into a word here, an image there, serving only to confuse her more, which fed the panic.

As she fought against her base-level instinct to shove the people in front of her out of her way, trying with all her might to keep upright and moving at a pace with the crowd, drawing minimal attention to herself, her eyes settled upon something, and all of her panic and instincts zeroed in on it, convincing her that this one thing–and this one thing only–was her ticket out of here.

She moved towards the object of her temporary obsession, and tried to form her face into a smile.

“Excuse me? Would I…your hat, could…I would like…”

The words fell out of her mouth like a lazy accident, only tangentially related to the thoughts in her mind. The woman was old, deep lines carved onto her face, shoulders slumped and making her appear even shorter than she probably was. But she was wearing a hat, a large one with a wide brim. Some distant echo of rational thought in Charlotte’s mind was convinced that, if she could get ahold of that hat and wear it herself, it would hide her from Victor…and ultimately, from every bad thing that had happened to her today. It was a shield, a magic talisman that could protect her, and she cursed the words that she couldn’t find to say that were keeping her from safety.

“Are you okay dear?”

“I can pay you…buy it for you…from you…”

Charlotte cast about, her instincts briefly–thankfully–taking over. She saw a man walking by, a small purse swinging gently at his side, and within the blink of an eye her hand reached out, untied the purse, and palmed it close to her side, her all-of-a-sudden mark completely oblivious to her actions.

The old woman was not so oblivious.

“Here,” Charlotte said, reaching out to hand the freshly-acquired purse to the woman, “can I buy it? Your hat?”

The woman stared at her, making no move to take the purse. But neither did she appear ready to call Charlotte out for her impulsive crime. Finally, she grabbed Charlotte’s arm–friendly, but firmly–and pulled her close.

“I don’t know where you learned to do that,” the old woman said, “but I know that’s not the first time you’ve done that. You’re too good.

“My name’s Lois. Will you let me help you?”

Charlotte didn’t reply, didn’t respond in any real way…but as Lois led her away, out of the crowd and away from the faire, back towards the town, she didn’t resist, grateful for any current that could take over and guide her anywhere but where she was.

Shhhh….

Wow…got a bit dusty in here.

Highlights of the last 364 days, in no particular order:

– I received Grace.  Actually, my wife did most of the work, but result was the same.  She’s currently sporting a large, ugly scrape under her right eye and a big shiner, the result of being smaller than our exceptionally dumb dog, and too slow to get out of the way.  There’s a metaphor there, but fuck it, I’m not going to do all the work for you.

(Okay, I lied, that was in a very particular order, I could’ve spent the rest of the year in a Matrix-style gooey-bath coma, or as the judge for the coke and hooker olympics, and this still would have been the most important thing that happened to me, and the first thing to mention.)

– I worked on what may be the most critically-reviled major-launch, AAA game of the last 10 years.  Woohoo.

– We rescued a momma-cat and some kittens (she wasn’t much more than a kitten herself), and while one has found a home, we’re still surrounded, and quickly running out of food.

– My Boo became a little girl, started real school, and broke my heart every time I looked at her.

– I started writing again, after a too-fucking-long absence, which includes this blog (which is actually still being maintained, dumbfounding me).

– I had the greatest anniversary in the history of anniversaries, and dare anyone to try and say otherwise.

There was a lot of bad shit too, mostly to do with money, but I’m not going to dignify any of it by listing it out.  Suffice to say, when the revolution comes, I will be amongst the fuckers lining folks up against the wall, and not one of the fuckers actually up against the wall.  My goal, oddly enough, is to reverse that.

And now, as an early gift for the final year of the decade…

Speaking of, if you disagree, and think the decade ends tonight, do me a favor and close your eyes and count to ten.  Did you start off, “Zero, One, Two…”?  No?  Then put on your big boy pants and apply a lesson from one part of your life to another.  The next decade starts in 201ONE, not 201ZERO.  Jesus…

Where was I?  Oh, yeah, an early gift.  An early draft.  Please excuse the passive voice, it’s there purely as placeholder so I can get past a tricky spot and remember to come back and do some actual writing there later on.


Chapter 1

Jared knew the man was approaching from behind while he was still a ways off.  He was tightening his packs, making sure they were properly balanced, and could hear the footsteps approaching, a steady shuffling in the gravel contrasting with the chaos of he and his men getting ready to leave.  A quick glance in the polished surface of the bike’s muffler showed a shape approaching.  It was an imperfect reflection, but it was easy enough to make out the crimson robe and large golden cowl.  Especially when he’d spent so much of his childhood surrounded by priests dressed the same way.

He gave the leather straps one final yank, making sure they were tight and secure, and addressed the approaching priest without turning around.

“Was there something else Father?”

He heard the stutter of nervous feet coming to a sudden stop.  He turned around and found the priest staring at him, wringing his hands.  Jared could see that the old man was flustered; he knew it was difficult enough for the people living in these outlying towns to muster the courage to speak directly to him (on the rare occasions when they were close enough to be heard at all).  But this man was a priest, and so knew the not-so-secret secret of his Sight, and must now be wondering if Jared had somehow divined his approach, had known it would happen before the idea had even occurred to the old man.

The presence of the Sight in even the humblest, poorest of boys was a scary enough unknown to drive a rational train of thought from most men’s minds.  And Jared was not humble, and not poor, and no longer a boy.  And he had to catch himself here—he realized he was frowning, which would not help put the old man at ease.

This happened more often than he would like:  people assuming that any insight or observation he made was the result of the Sight, rather than simple attentiveness.  Like paying attention to the sounds around him, and glancing at a nearby reflection.  It did have its uses; people were less inclined than usual to question him when he offered his opinion or gave a command, even considering who he was and the role he would someday have to assume.  But he didn’t always enjoy it.

He consciously set aside his long-enduring frustration and smiled at the old man, waiting for him to speak.

“No, Your Royal Highness.  Um, I mean, I had…

“There’s a boy here.”

And there the priest stopped, either too overcome with nerves to continue or just assuming that the Prince would know exactly what he was talking about from so few words, because of the Sight.  And Jared thought he did know; again, not from the Sight, jus a bit of intuition and self-awareness.

“There are many boys here, from the looks of it.  I’m guessing you mean that there’s one particular boy here, and he’s just joined you, and is having a difficult time of it?”

“Yes, Your Royal Highness.”

“And you were wondering if I would speak with the boy before I leave?”

“Yes, Your Royal Highness.”

“Well then, give me a moment and we’ll be off.”

Jared turned and walked towards his guard, who were still readying their bikes as he had been a moment ago, and called out to his Captain.

“Matthias!  Small delay here.”

A small man, barely older than Jared himself, stepped away from the other men-at-arms, grinning wickedly.

“Have we insufficiently pillaged here?”

“No, your evil ways have been quite sufficient.  There’s just something I need to attend to before we leave.”

“The crown must weight heavy on someone so dull and infirm.”

“The crown part is easy, despite my lack of wits.  This is a different matter.”

Matthias noticed the priest standing near his Prince’s ride, and his next question was more serious.”

“Is everything okay?  Should I rouse Canaan?”

Jared looked over at his own priest, already astride his own motorcycle and dozing, the stains on his robe of last night’s food and drink—especially drink—clear in the morning sun.

“No, the matter’s not with me.  No need to wake the poor thing.”

Matthias was visibly relieved.  It had been nearly two years since the last time the Sight had overcome his Prince, and he was due another Fit at any time.  It was why he had argued against this visit to the outlying towns when they were first setting out two months ago, and why he was in such good spirits now that their tour was nearly at an end.  They were only a few days’ ride from home, where Jared could be properly cared for—in private—when his next Fit inevitably came.

“Alright, then,” he said, “Will you be long?  Should the men stand down and ready to take another meal here?”

Jared shook his head.  “This should take only a moment.”

He turned back to the priest and waved in the direction of the Care-Keep, its spire clearly visible on the other side of the town.

“Lead on, Father.”

The priest nodded and began walking back towards the Care-Keep, a nervous shuffling that suggested a great deal more urgency and speed than was actually translated to his pace.  Jared found it easy to keep up with him, asking a few questions as he passed through the town, observing the life unfolding around him, seeking an understanding that came from him mind, rather than his curse.

“How old is the boy, Father?”

“Twelve this past summer, Your Royal Highness.”

Twelve was a bit old to be first afflicted by the Sight; it normally accompanied the first of a boy’s physical changes, around ten years of age, so it made sense that this one would be having a more difficult time than most accepting his fate.  He must have thought himself too old, clearly past the point where the Sight would have struck him, and thus safe from it.  It would have been a shock to find himself cursed after all.

Jared paid attention to the people around him as they walked through the main street—unpaved but the gravel well tended, many of the shop fronts actually open and doing a small business, both for those who lived here and those who were passing through—and noted that there were a number of children about, many helping their parents, many others playing with each other.

It was a good sign; the droughts of three years ago were finally a memory, and as the weather was now growing chill, the days shorter, the people of this town—and the others they had passed through on their journey—were already finished with the harvest, and had time to make proper preparations for the winter, as well as celebrate the joy that sufficient food could bring.  The past years had seen too many families desperately working until the first snowfall, and sometimes even after, trying to scrape together enough sustenance that they might have a chance to survive the winter months.  This was life as it was meant to be lived, not endured, and that would have made things even more difficult for the boy when the Sight came to him:  not only was he supposedly too old, and thus safely past it, but he would have been enjoying this unexpected Good Year with his family and friends…only to have that suddenly ripped away from him.

He followed the priest to the other end of the main street and through the arched doorway into the nave of the Care-Keep, pausing as the sudden change in light left him momentarily blind.  As his eyes adjusted, he took a moment to reach out and actively use his Sight to get a feel for the place.

It was empty.  Not of people—he could feel the priest, just ahead and to the right of him, also waiting for his vision to adjust to the dim indoors.  He could also pick out the other two priests of this Care-Keep elsewhere in the building, quiet and unmoving, probably sleeping late; this was a small town, and the three of them would be plenty to attend to everyone’s needs.  There was a hot spot of activity further away, towards the rear of the building, likely the non-ordained help, responsible for cooking and cleaning and everything else that needed doing to keep things working as they should while the priests attended to their sacred duties.  And somewhere directly ahead of him was a blinding glow:  likely the boy he was to speak with, still burning intensely in the aftermath of his first Fit, and the onset of his Sight.

But nevertheless, the Care-Keep was empty.  Layers upon layers of psychic dust everywhere, long undisturbed.  The boy was likely the first in this town in a long time to require the priests’ attention, and in the intervening years, the priests had grown lazy, and quiet, attending to their other duties—to the town and people within it—as a series of chores, performed by rote, rather than the sacred obligation they were.

Jared found himself growing more and more angry.  Spiritually, there was no difference between this Care-Keep and an old abandoned barn.  Except that barn would harbor them memories of the simple births, life and deaths that had happened within its shelter in years past.  Here, there was nothing.  It was a miracle that the rest of the town throbbed so with life, with its heart so dead and cold.

Jared decided to mention this to Canaan, and make sure, once he returned home, that the boy was brought to a different Care-Keep, even if it meant leaving his town and family behind—as though the onset of the Sight didn’t do that job well enough, wherever the boy ended up living—to a place where he’d actually receive the care and instruction he needed.

Shapes grew out of the darkness as his eyes became accustomed to the low light, and he could see the priest already making his way into the main hall, not even waiting to see if his Prince was following him.  Another burst of anger at the insolence, added to the clear dereliction of duty here.  He took a deep breath and tried to set it aside, knowing it wouldn’t help him with the boy, and went after the priest.

He could see the boy immediately, sitting by himself near the front, staring blankly at the altar or an indeterminate point somewhere beyond.  He was taller than Jared had expected, though he corrected himself:  the boy was nearly two years older than most when the Sight came to them, of course he’d be tall, already in the midst of sprouting to his full adult height.

He didn’t approach the boy immediately—just because the priests here were criminally lax in their service didn’t mean that Jared had to follow their lead—and instead walked past him, directly to the altar.

He knelt, bowing his head, emptying his mind, reaching out with his Sight to encompass the altar, the Care-Keep, and the entire town in his no-mind attention, as he’d been taught so many years before.  And then opening his heart to them all.

And in the quiet whisper and thrum that was the coursing life of the town, he discovered his anger again; it had turned inward (as it so often did), but this time with cause.  Who was he to be judgemental of the priests when he’d also failed in his duties?  He’d been so concerned with the primary reasons for his trip here and the other towns as Prince—accounting, reviewing the magistrate’s plans for seeking out and stopping the illegal mining operations that tended to spring up here near the border’s of his father’s lands—that he hadn’t visited the Care-Keep himself before now, just a few hasty moments of prayer and meditation with Canaan by the fire before sleep, and likely wouldn’t have even thought to enter this building at all had the priest not approached him.  His responsibility was not to observe and pass judgement on others’ piety; setting aside his parents and secular destiny, as a man with the Sight, it was his role to serve, to tend to his own soul and those of the people around him, wherever he might be.  And in that he had failed.  The inability of this Care-Keep and its priests to properly serve its people—with or without a boy of the Sight to attend to—was a sadness.  That he was only just now noticing, and absent the involvement of the very people he’d been so quick to condemn:  that was a sin, and something only he could redress.

Having found the seed of his anger, he embraced it, named I, and in doing so robbed it of its power over him.  He was free again to once more reach out to the town, this time with his whole, unemcumbered heart.  He felt the dust begin to stir, then blow away.  It was more than he could do to fully restore life to this Care-Keep and the town it served—much more than a dozen Sighted men could do in the brief time he had—but he could at least lay the paths for the work to come later.

He exhaled deeply, concluding the ritual, and opened his eyes.  As he reached out to the dried Hiaku leaves in the bowl on the alter before him, taking one and crushing it over the phalanx of candles, scatter the dust amongst the flames, he added one more item to discuss with Canaan and the priests back home:  bringing a team of Sighted out here, even in the face of oncoming winter, to continue the work he had just begun, to restore life to this nearly-dead Care-Keep.  If the current priests could be revived in their own faith and duties in the process, all the better; if not, there was no end to the secular work they could be put to in keeping with their oaths to serve.

He got to his feet and turned around, and found the boy staring directly at him, tears streaming down his face.

“My name’s Jared.”

The boy opened his mouth, stuttering briefly before saying, “Why do I…feel…” and then he began to cry in earnest, but did not bow his head, keeping his eyes locked on the Prince.

“There’s a lot to learn,” Jared said, “A lot for me to tell you, and only a little while before I have to leave.

“Come with me.”

He walked over to the boy, and as the boy rose he put an arm around his shoulders, leading him back to the entrance of the main hall.

“What’s your name?”

In between sobs, “Sam.”

“I’m glad to meet you, Sam.”

Just before the doorway between the main hall and the nave, Jared turned he and Sam to the right, heading towards a smaller archway and a winding set of stairs beyond it.

“Are we…” Sam asked, “…We’re not allowed to go up here.”

“The first thing you need to learn, Sam, is that those words don’t apply to you anymore.  The Sight is a burden none of us should have to carry, but it does have its benefits.”

Not to mention the fact that Jared was also the Prince, and thus forbidden nothing outside his father’s word, but there was no need to confuse the boy.  And, truthfully, the Sighted were forbidden nothing that they wanted…which was part of what made it such a curse.

He had no problem guiding the boy to the stairs, knowing exactly where they’d lead.  Every Care-Keep—even the one in the capital where he lived—was constructed to the exact same design, passed on through the generations from an origin now nearly-forgotten and not often considered.  These stairs led to the top of the spire, an area that was normally off limits to everyone, including the priests, but as he’d told the boy, those rules no longer applied to him.

The boy followed Jared up the steps, circling around and around, until they came to a trap door.  Jared reached up and pushed it open, and then led Sam out onto the top level of the spire.  There were no walls, just the pointed roof above them, and circling in place, they could see the entire town, laying below them, and the fields to the south of them, the forests to the north, the paved highway stretching away like a dirty scar to the west, the road Jared and his men would be taking home, as soon as he was done here.  The blue sky overhead was hard and brittle, a cold wind skipping beneath it.

He walked Sam over to a small bench, sitting him there and then joining him.  Sam’s tears were tailing off, and he was mostly wiping at a damp face and dripping nose with his shirt-sleeve now.

“This is how we’re going to begin:  tell me what happened to you.”

Sam sat in silence for a bit, and Jared reached out to him, feeling the walls he’d thrown up against the memories of his Fit.  They were thick and expansive, but not very well built and still fresh, and Jared was able to very quietly and softly find a few cracks in them, wearing them away, gently opening the door for Sam’s memories to come through.

“I was…I was awake, but I thought I was still sleeping,” Sam said, the words faltering from his mouth as they were pushed out into the world by the weight of the memories behind them.  “I thought I was dreaming.

“My daddy was awake, and I could see him, even though he was downstairs, sitting at the table.  It burned!  I smelled smoke, and it hurt.  And then there was my momma, and sisters, and they were all around me, everywhere, and I was in the middle, and they were all fire, and I never had anything hurt me like that.

“And there were all these voices talking, not just my daddy and momma but everyone, like the whole town was right there in my room with me, yelling at me all these things I couldn’t get.  I couldn’t feel the bed anymore, couldn’t feel my arms or legs or nothing.  And it got louder and hotter, until there wasn’t anything else, and then I don’t remember anything.

“I was here when I woke up.  No one’s come to see me since, not even momma.”

It was all pretty standard stuff, things Jared had heard a dozen times before.  It didn’t compare at all to what he’d gone through when the Sight had come over him for the first time when he’d been just nine years old, but as in most things, Jared’s experience had proven out to be quite different from everyone around him.

He leaned back, giving the boy the space to say more if he wanted to.  There was more to it, of course, but most boys of this age—particularly in a small town this far out from the capital—didn’t have the vocabulary to describe the deeper feelings that came with a Fit.  The was it felt like some second-skin, between your real skin and your bones, was being slowly flayed away, and a burning essence would leak through the cracks.  The way you could feel how small your skull was, your mind exploding outward, torn to pieces as it passed through the bone cage it normally hid within.  The way the very You that you normally inhabited was utterly gone, and you were thrown between everyone around you like a leaf in a raging tide.

Young boys usually didn’t have the words to try to describe it.  And Sam was no different, despite being slightly older than most who went through this for the first time.  He sniffled a few more times, but remained silent.

“Okay,” Jared said, “I want you to pay attention to me as I say this.  I hear you, and I believe you.”

Sam looked up at the Prince’s face, and could see the truth there, and latched onto it.

“I went through the same thing when I was much younger, and so do many boys your age, every year.  It wasn’t a dream; it really happened.

“Now I want you to forget everything those priests,” (it was hard to keep his disappointment in them completely out of his voice, but he pushed quickly past it), “have told you about what happened to you.  They mean well, but they’ve never gone through it themselves.

“What happened to you is called a Fit.  It’s when the Sight overwhelms you, and there’s no way to control it.  It’s scary, but it can’t actually hurt you, and if you’re ready for it, and properly prepare yourself, it will be over before you know it.”

“Have you ever had one?”

“Of course I have.”  Jared laughed a little, and was gladdened to see that Sam knew he wasn’t being laughed at, that it was just genuine amusement at the idea.  “Every single boy who has the Sight will have Fits.  That’s how it starts, and they come back around every couple of years.  The priest do what they can to help you hold them off and keep the Sight under control, but eventually it builds up to the point where it won’t be controlled anymore, and it takes over for a little bit.

“But here’s the important part to remember:  having a Fit doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you.  We all have them.  And more importantly, if you work hard at it, the rest of the time, you’ll be fully in control of it.

“Wanna see what that’s like?”

Sam looked up at him, confused.  “How?”

“Just hold my hand here, and close my eyes.”

This was a trick that Jared had learned years ago, from an old Sighted man who lived within his father’s house.  Had lived, for he died shortly after Jared had met him (he’d never known the old man existed until his own Sight came over him), but in that brief window of time, barely two months, the man had taught Jared more about the Sight than everyone else combined in those first few years.  Jared didn’t have two months with Sam—barely more than another hour or so—but he was going to do what he could in the time he did have.

He took Sam’s hand, closed his own eyes, and reached out to the boy.  He opened himself and gathered Sam’s essence within him, and then began reaching out to the people and places around them.

“Alright, now there’s someone, just below us…probably the priest who brought me here.  He knows we’re up here, and is worrying himself sick, but doesn’t dare come up here to disturb us.  And there, off to our left, two more people, I’m assuming the other priests of this Care-Keep, and they’re not doing too much, probably reading or napping.  To the right you can feel people working hard with a purpose…probably your help, getting ready for the noon meal.”

“That’s Josie and Sam!  His name is Sam, like me.”  There was a sad pause, then, “They’re the only ones who are nice to me anymore.”

“Then cling to them.  Most people will have a hard time being nice to you now…they don’t understand what happened to you, and will be a little scared.  When you find people who don’t care, and love you for who you are, love them back with everything you have.  Understand?”

“Yes.”

“Good.”  Jared very carefully brought his and Sam’s essences back to their bodies at the top of the spire, and then released Sam’s back to himself.  When he opened his eyes, he found Sam still sitting there, eyes, closed, but there was a small smile rising through the tears still drying on his face.

“Do you see what I mean?” he asked Sam.

“You really did that?  Went where you wanted to go, just because you could?”

“Yes.  I could, and I did.  And I took you with me.

“It’s not easy to do, especially bringing someone else with you, but the most important thing for you to learn is that control.  With it, you are blessed, and able to live and serve beyond anyone else.  Without it, you’re an animal, raving and writhing in your own mess.  Do you understand me?”

“No, not really…but I’ll try.”

Jared was momentarily stunned by the boy’s honesty.  Of course he didn’t understand, the very idea of controlling the Sight instead of having it control you was something Jared was still struggling with, twenty years later.  But it was unusual for a boy in so vulnerable a place to admit that he actually was vulnerable.  There were depths here that his humble surroundings hadn’t suggested.  Even more important to get him to a Care-Keep with priests who would do right by him…maybe even back to the capital itself, with Jared’s own priests (except Canaan, of course).

“Alright, open your eyes.”  Sam did so, and looked back up at Jared.  “I can’t explain everything to you right now…it’s a process that takes years, not minutes.  But I want you to know a few more things before I leave.

“One:  you are the only one responsible for what happens to you next.  The priests here are nice, but…not exactly what you need right now.  But they’re what you’ve got, so you’ll have to make the best of it.

“Second:  drink the Hiaku tea they prepare for you, when and how they tell you.  No questions.  The tea will help you gain control over the Sight, and forestall the next Fit for as long as possible.  If you drink it when and how they tell you, your next Fit won’t come over you for several years, and in the meantime you can prepare for it, learning and readying yourself.

“Third:  the priests here only serve two purposes.  They prepare the tea for you, and maintain the histories that the Sighted pass on to themselves through the generations.  That’s it, as far as you have to be concerned.  They do other things for the people of this town—well, they should, at least—but you’re no longer just another boy living in this town.  You’ve the Sight.  And there concerns are no longer your concerns, at least not until you’ve gained control over your Sight.  You’ll do that with the tea, and with practice, and by reading through the histories of those who’ve come before you.”

This was all a lot for Sam to take in; Jared could easily feel how full his mind was getting, could see it in his face without bothering to reach out with his Sight.

“Is there anything you want to know?” he asked the boy.

“Does it ever stop?”  And there were many more questions buried within that one, like “Will I ever get to see my family again?”  “Will I ever not be weird and an outcast?”  “Will it ever be quiet again?”  Jared didn’t have answers to the rest of them, not in the few minutes he had left, and so just answered the first one.

“No, it doesn’t stop.  But it does get better.  Easier.”

He put his arm around the boy again, and leaned back, staring out into the cold blue sky, letting a few moments of silence fill in all the cracks he could feel opening in the boy beside him.

In the key of music

So, it occurs to me to talk a bit about music.  Music and writing, specifically my writing, specifically what’s going up here…and thus why, if you’re reading this, you might give a damn.

I’ve always written to music.  It’s near impossible for me to write to silence.  It’s like I need some undercurrent of auditory and emotional motion to be able to focus on what I need to do…a sailor missing the rocking when ashore.

I wrote my novel listening to two albums, each one one side of a cassette, on repeat until I could barely make them out through all the fluttering…Alice in Chains Jar of Flies and Jane’s Addiction Nothing’s Shocking.  Should tell you the kind of mindset I was in at the time.

For a while, when I was working on my short stories, the ones collected in The Messy Divorce of Faith and Belief (can I remind you to click the tab at the top and follow the links to buy it?  MY DAUGHTER IS STARING AT ME RIGHT NOW WITH HER BIG EYES AND SHE NEEDS TO GO TO DISNEYLAND FOR HER BIRTHDAY AND THE ONLY THING STOPPING THAT FROM HAPPENING IS THE ROYALTY I’D SEE FROM JUST ONE OF YOU BASTARDS BUYING A COPY OF THE COLLECTION, SO GET TO IT DAMNIT!)

…where was I?  Oh yeah.  The album I listened to while writing most of those stories was R.E.M. Green.  Over and over and over again.

And honestly, it’s not like I really like those albums.  I don’t dislike them, but they wouldn’t even come up in a discussion of my all-time favorites.  In fact, if I like a bit of music too much, I can’t write to it.  It distracts me…I want to listen, instead of write.

What I’m looking for—what those pieces provided in those particular times—was a key, a mantra to help me slip past conscious over-thought and get close enough to the keyhole of imagination to help me—if not unlock the door fully—then slowly parse out its secrets, one at a time.

I have to like it, but not too much…it has to be distinct, but not stand out too much.

All of this is to say, that was then, this is now, and things have changed.

I didn’t realize until I started work on my latest piece (should be incoming in a day or two, certainly by the weekend) that part of this writing resurrection of mine is due to music.  And not like it used to be, it’s no longer about music that can just sit in the background and give me lower-arch support while I sit here working on other things.

To date, each piece I’ve written on is dependent upon a specific song.  It’s not supposed to be the story of the song…though I’d be a fool to suggest that the themes aren’t at least partially related.

What’s really happening is that each song is serving the role of a spotlight, and at some unexpected point, all of a sudden, a possible moment will jump out at me, perfectly framed and highlighted.  The resulting work may travel far and wide from that jumping-off point, but without it, I’m just sort of treading water.

So, having realized this, I thought I’d share with you the songs that each of the pieces you’ve seen (and haven’t seen) was born from.  Some will be obvious, some won’t…okay, there’s only four of them, there’s not a whole lot of mystery here, not yet, but work with me.  Jeez.

(FYI:  I don’t know how to embed those mini music players you find on other sites, so you’ll have to make due with links to other sites.)

edge

The Finish Line – Deep Deep Sleep

I’ve posted an excerpt from this one, and have only held off from posting the full thing because it’s in active submission with a literary magazine.  Should they pass, you’ll get it here in full the next day; should they accept it…that’s the end of this site, I’ll be too busy with hookers and coke to post.

And, so, fittingly, the link here goes to an excerpt of the song I was listening to when the damn broke and I finally opened up MS Word again for the first time in nine years…there are a hundred and one reasons why this is particularly special to me…and maybe that’s why I’m okay leaving them all unexplained, and giving you just a brief glimpse of both story and song.  For now.

Two Deserts Returned

Hard Sun – Eddie Vedder

So, while this story was, from it’s initial conception, an attempt to revisit one of the first stories I ever wrote, a sort of system check, seeing if all systems really were go, it morphed a bit when I heard this song, and took on its own identity.  It’s from Sean Penn’s movie Into the Wild, which I really love…I don’t like the main character…well, I don’t like him now, there’s a 18 year-old version of me somewhere out there who probably idolizes him (though that’s another post entirely)…but you don’t have to like him to enjoy the movie…and you don’t have to like either of them to like this song.

Broken Liquid Smoke

Volcano – Damien Rice

So, I was all hot and bothered to write a particular story, and got about halfway through it, and then this song came on via shuffle, and it all changed.  I think I already noted, things have changed, and having just background music doesn’t do it for me now…this song was the key, and shaped what came after.

I think I’d still like to go back and write the original story I was aiming for…but for now, I like the story I have pretty good fine, and this song is what brought it out of me.

Love Story

Legions (War) – Zoe Keating

You haven’t seen this story yet…I’m still working on it…but this song was the key into it.  Tension, and the looming possibility of failure.  That’s where it’s heading, I think.  I’ll let you know when it’s done.

Okay, maybe a preview for you, since you’ve read this far…


Small words escape static.  Eyes closed in shadow.  Control shakes and weeps.  And pain, a physical thing, he stands there untouched and is split, torque tearing him.  Fingers, grooves and drawn blood, wounds to keep the ache at bay.  His foot, tick, tock, ten and two and ten again, back and forth, timing down an end.


But that’s all you get for now.

Imminence

I’m already feeling oddly constrained.  It’s discomforting how quickly the muscles can return, and scare you with their unfulfilled aching.

I’ve been back to writing for, what, barely over 3 weeks now?  And already the P.E.M. is starting to show its limits.  Not in the doing, and certainly not in the technique; I learn more and more of word choice each time I sit down to it.  I think, even despite the nine-year layoff, I’ve somehow come back as a far more mature writer:  I keep seeing how to do things in ways I never thought of before…and the maturity is purely in how open I am to the notion that there are so many ways to do it that I’ve never thought of before, and my willingness to accept and embrace that.

I used to know exactly what I was doing, and how I was going to do it.  Don’t have much of a clue now, at least not in the planning, but it’s fun, and I get a great “aha!” each time something turns in a new way.

But I can start to see the edges, where it begins to drop off to absurdity.  Unless you’re James Joyce—something I wouldn’t suggest, or even advise—the patience and endurance to have these P.E.M. pieces stretch for more than a page, or 500 words or so, becomes not entirely worth the effort.  It’s tiring work slogging through the density of it.  I know that and I’m the one who wrote it in the first place.

I feel pure narrative start to creep in more and more, and have so far been successful in fighting it off…but it’s there, hovering, waiting.  I’ve stolen bits and pieces, tried to weave it into the work I’m doing, my anti-narrative, for contrast and effect…and it’s okay with that, just keeps sitting there, waiting.

It’s more patient than I am.

Eventually, if my hands keep typing my own words, they will stray further and further into narrative, and at some point I’ll be all the way there; I’ll be hoping to keep a cloak of P.E.M. about my shoulders as I wander through for warmth and comfort, but the ground beneath my feet will be an old, familiar, treacherous territory.

I’m not sure how I feel about that.  Is it possible, if you allow the art and the work to speak to you, to draw you forth, to have it take you places you don’t want to go?  And I don’t mean emotionally, I’m not talking about the subject matter…though given my past, I suppose writing a straight-forward story about two guys doing something is the equivalent of a confessional, my public confrontation of buried fears and scars.

I mean the style, and the format, and the tools used to create it.  Can those things be the demons I’m hesitant to wake?

And could that last sentence have come out any more melodramatic?  Joss would be pleased, I’m sure.  Or at least, one of his characters would.

Stay tuned…answers in one form or another (and strangled silence is a viable form) to follow eventually.