Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Nanowrimo, re-written

It's November 2, and we all know what that means. I'm already behind. Every year, I come up with a strategy to make it through Nanowrimo. Fifty thousand words in thirty days. Okay, that doesn't sound so bad. Does it?
It took me a while to warm up to the idea. The way it's supposed to work, is you sit down on November first and start writing. You don't stop to read, you don't stop to re-write, you just move forward. That, I've found doesn't work for me. The thought of ending up with fifty thousand words at the end was great. But the thought of 50 thousand words of crap... Well, that terrified me.
It's taken me a couple of years to realize what I need from Nanowrimo. It's not really the word count, but the reason to push forward, and to push forward in directions I would not have normally. So, falling behind in the word count doesn't bother me, I know it's inevitable, I mean, seriously, I have to cook two full Thanksgivings and work Black Friday in three weeks. But still, I'm grateful for the time I get to spend with the story. I have time to begin to like what I'm writing, spend time with the characters again. That makes the 4AM writing time worth it.

Friday, August 19, 2011


All summer one thing has been waking me up in the middle of the night: what am I going to put my Mother's ashes in for the memorial? When I picked them up from the funeral home, she'd been dead about four days, I think. I thought I should feel some connection to them. I've read stories about people who have used the ashes of a loved one in tattoo ink, or even, in one instance, of a husband sprinkling a bit on his morning cereal. And everyone has stories of someone they know spreading ashes. I don't know what I expected. What I got was a discreet tote bag and a perfectly serviceable box. The funeral home lady made me open it and look inside-as though I could tell her, yes, I can see that it really is my Mother. So I thanked her and carried them out to the car. I rode around for a couple of hours, trying to figure out what to do next. I'd been to the attorney, I'd made all the calls I could think of.

But now I had my Mom in a box, in a tote bag, and all I could think of was, I'll be able to sleep again. And that I couldn't remember a single hymn that she'd told me she'd wanted sung at her funeral. Not one.

That was the end of April, and that thought hasn't gone away. I couldn't bring myself to buy one of the urns on display at the funeral home. They all looked so impersonal. Just like the ashes. So I put it off. I looked around online, sort of. Nothing seemed right.

The memorial is next week, and I can't imagine how displeased her friends would be with the box. Or nothing. Though, that's what I would prefer.

All summer I've been avoiding the art shop in the Farmer's Market. Mom loved to shop there. She bought prints that artists had made of down town Flint, and she bought lots of the pottery they sell there. I was there with my Dad and nephew two days ago, and the bowls on display made me miss her. Out of habit I began to price them for Christmas, birthday, anniversary, but stopped myself before I said anything out loud. Then I happened to look down on the floor, in the corner, and saw it. This potter that my Mother loved had made me an urn for her. It was perfect, a deep iridescent blue.

I'd like to think it's a little bit of an apology for not remembering the hymns, and for many other things too numerous to talk about. I'd like to think that it's a sign, that things will start to come back, that I can stop sleepwalking. It's not that I want to forget my Mom, it's the opposite. I want to remember something other than ashes.

Monday, July 25, 2011

And we lived the lie like the hope it was

With all this re-writing, re-living my youth, I've been thinking a lot about David Bowie. Those who know me won't find this surprising, or even interesting. That's okay, they put up with enough.
I've been listening to David Bowie in my writing life for thirty years. I'm listening to him right now, in fact, truth be told. He is, in many ways, my most lasting relationship.
Maybe that's overstating just a bit. Then again, if we're telling the truth....
Let me explain. David Bowie came to me one late night as I lay on the floor in my parent's living room. I couldn't sleep, so I wasn't just alone, I was achingly alone. Insomnia does that to you in the deep night. It cuts you off, makes you long for human contact. Makes you forget that you've ever had any.
For company I had the television. I was thirteen. It was the summer of Star Wars, my first religious experience, the thing that made me pick up a notebook and a pen. It was also the summer of my first experience with sex--not so religious. And it was the summer I found a name to put how I felt--that I wasn't alone completely in the brand of different that I was.
You'd think the sex would have tipped me off about being gay, but it didn't happen like that. I wasn't sure what had happened, and I wasn't sure I wanted it to happen again. I was a very sheltered thirteen year old, I think, or maybe we were all...slower back then.
But I remember very clearly that the secret that love came in different combinations was just that to me. A secret. I knew how sex was supposed to go from the junior high class, and I couldn't imagine that as something I ever wanted to do. I had decided that I would always be alone.
And then came the second religious experience of my life. The kiss. It was the music that made me look up at the screen, of course, jangly and shrill, and somehow compelling. I looked up from my notebook in front of me, and saw it. The few seconds of video made everything seem to fall into place in my life.
David Bowie, paper thin, and frail, walks unprotected down a nighttime city street. His face is a narrow smudge in the dark, his eyes on something ahead that we can't see. There is a group of people around him, but he's clearly alone, none the less.
Suddenly a man, a stranger, races up, throws his arms around Bowie and kisses him. Bowie half turns, as though to keep the stranger in reach, but the man runs away again and is lost in the night. At least that's how it happens in my memory.
Watching it now, on the tiny, and oddly unaffecting YouTube screen, it seems so mild, not at all earth-shattering. Although when MTV started, they clipped those frames away, so it must have been shocking at some point.
And to me--the last survivor of the insomniac wars that night, it was huge. The biggest thing in my life. It put my fumbling first time with a girl into perspective. Gave it possibility. Gave it a name.
I can't explain how it happened, why it struck me so. It's only my explanation of how David Bowie came to me. Why do I still carry him with me? I don't know. I do know that he's buried so deep to see with the naked eye in every sentence I write. I tried to resist, but that's a waste of time. It works and this is how it works. Star Wars gave me the desire to tell stories. David Bowie gave me the context for what I needed to say.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Modern Love

I've been watching a lot of old videos lately, as a result of trying to re-write my novel about a rock band in the 80's. I miss that time. It seemed that life was less lethal, but then I think that's how everybody views their childhood.
But the videos. I learned everything from MTV back then. I learned how to dress, how to act, how to talk. It was a window onto a world that I wanted to be out in. Instead I was stuck in the basement of a friend, just watching. No MTV at home, so I was rarely there. I've always thought that movies taught me how to write. Star Wars, in particular, and true, I did go straight from that theater to buy a notebook for myself. The first I'd ever bought. But MTV taught me something else. I think in some ways watching the world in two and a half minutes clips made me an observer. It made me an expert at spinning people and places and actions out into whole lives, make them go in the direction I wanted them to go. And I could do it all while lying on the clammy floor in front of the TV. Those videos, "Love is a Battlefield," Let's Dance," "Melt With You," taught me how to spin a story. Make fiction out of just a flash of something.
It was so limited. Now you can watch TV on your TV, your phone and laptop all at the same time. We can control what we see to the second. Now there is no VIDEO. There's no sharpeness to the images. No specialness. People look.... Ordainary now. Effects can be added, but they're effects. We all know those dudes in 300 didn't really look like that. And sticking Brad Pit's face on a baby was just.... It was not really magic. It was a mistake. In the end what we see on screen now is pretty much how the world looks.
In the novel, the main character sees himself on his TV at home, and thinks, "Who is that? Is that really me?" Onscreen he is pristine and sharpe and beautiful. Lying across his bed, watching himself, he is worn and used. He knows that he never looked like that.
No, the world never looked like that. But it does now, in my memory.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Dust, another story

Check out this link to "Dust and other stories" available on for nook. If you're interested, and don't own a nook, it's possible to download the ereader software for free to a pc, mac, iphone, ipad, blackberry... You get the idea.

This nookbook contains three of my short stories, one of which was nominated for a British Science Fiction Award! I'm very pleased with how it came out. The Barnes and Noble publishing platform is called Pubit!, and was very easy to use. It was about as difficult as making an etsy listing. You have control over everything, even the price. I priced "Dust" at $1.99, because it seemed fair within the market, and it's actually selling fairly well. Neat, huh?