I've been working quite hard this past year, and thought I'd post a bit about what I've been up to. I began attending community college last Spring, and managed to make honor roll for the two terms I've been enrolled. I'll be starting up again this Spring (Fall term was missed due to clerical errors in the school's financial aid office, just like last year). School is interesting, and it was odd to begin attending in my thirties. I'm not a kid anymore, and my take on things has an entirely different bent, these days. Writing research papers was fun, and giving the occasional speech was a new endeavor for me. In particular, giving a dramatic reading of the final chapter of Of Mice and Men was quite fun, and being able to go off about Dante, villanelles, and salinity, made the terms lively and enjoyable. I'm using every chance I get to go into a more literary mode with my homework. A history assignment wherein I have to research a book written between 1850 and 1890? Song of Myself. A research paper on a topic of my choosing? Masaoka Shiki's haiku reformation near the turn of the 20th century, or the collapse of Rod Serling's career in his later years. I've been lucky thus far in being able to use most of my homework for further literary study, which is good, because there isn't much of that in my small town community college and I'm trying to prepare for actual university schooling, which will start up in a year or so. I'm hoping to get into Iowa. Not for the Writer's Workshop, really, but because it's an excellent English program and I wouldn't mind living in that state for a bit.
I've had about a hundred poems picked up for publication through various mags over the Summer and Fall, several stories, and a handful of articles. I have an on-air interview coming up with Jane Crown, and have been a regular guest on Elijah Brubaker's Whipping Post podcasts. I've been revising much this year, while attending school and raising my little one. Painter, my son, began kindergarten and we're all sorts of happy-family right now. These are good days.
On to the bigger projects. I finished Thank You and Good Night, a novel I began last year, which serves as a narrative and somewhat experimental biography of Rod Serling, best known for his writing and hosting of The Twilight Zone. In general, I wrote a biography of Serling, but did so in narrative, so we get Serling as protagonist in his life, rather than a research study. Oh, I did tons of research, yes, I just didn't want the book to feel like an overly long encyclopedia entry. I wanted it to be accurate while feeling like a novel. The book swivels into screenplay form from time to time, for setting scenes and shifts in time-period, different portions of his life, and I've even included commercial breaks. The book takes place across five decades, so this is the first time I've had to write a book that takes place in different eras, and not my own, modern time. It's a solid book, I think, comes in at just over 140k words, and is both informative and a bit of a rollicking, surreal adventure through this man's life. Think biopic meets The Hudsucker Proxy, throw in a little Videodrome, and we're good.
I also wrote another novel, entitled Miel, which follows a mute, orphan-raised husband through some serious marriage struggles and incarceration. The book's protagonist, Miguel, cannot speak, and hasn't been able to since the age of twelve, after having a botched thyroid surgery. He has no real tether to any family, a people, a place... and he cannot express himself well. He's the epitome of a life-long outsider, but one who has worked very hard to try and fit in with usual life. The book follows him from his release from jail (an assault conviction, though a once-in-a-lifetime thing for someone like Miguel, who is quite gentle), through the crumbling of his marriage and career, and then into a strange, surreal spiral of his past and present, which takes us into the heart of the book, which is that Miguel is no longer able to feel much in the way of emotion. He begins having explosive bouts of anger and depression, always short and leaving him in a bored state of numbness. Miel is a narrative glimpse at a case study in narcissistic rage and unpredictable violence, as we follow along behind a man that will do nearly anything to feel again.
Started another book, Beyond the Great Gate, this one a private sort of project for my son and I. He gave me a handful of details and a basic storyline (Painter, my son, is five-years-old now), and then I began turning these details into a book. With the details he gave me, it seemed obvious I was going to be writing something in the fantasy genre, which is something I've never done. A shorter book, I'm nearing the end now, having written 18 chapters, with a couple to go. The idea was that I'd write Painter's book for him, and read it to him at night as I wrote it out. In short, I've been writing my son's ongoing bedtime story for the past month. Things are going well, and he very much enjoys the story (which features Painter and I, ourselves, as protagonists, and a rather distressing, mad king as antagonist). It's called Beyond the Great Gate, and takes place in a terrible world in the throes of a five-thousand year long holocaust, set into motion by a patricidal, mad king and his thirst for stealing children from our world into his. Painter and I get pulled into this alternate world, The Fog, and have some horrifying adventures trying to find one another. The mad king is trying to catch Painter to make a sacrifice of him on a blood-anvil, and I can't let that happen. Lots of magic and creatures and fun things going on. I should have it finished in about a week or so. No plans on trying to publish it. For now, it's just for my little man.
I'm still trying to shop A Fine Young Day around, looking for a publisher. For anyone new here, A Fine Young Day was my take on a horror novel. It follows Tom, a man shot in the chest at the edge of a lake on his fiftieth birthday, as he sets out through nine miles of Camas Swale woods, trying to get home before he bleeds out. As he travels, with a feral, pregnant pig as his companion, we descend deeper and deeper into a terrible, haunting nightmare of the woods, made of Tom's mind and his past, one that hunts him as he makes his way home. The woods are populated with wooden people, carved by Eat, who seems to be a horrific usher to the nightmare in the swale. The woods do not like Tom. Once leaving the woods, he treks through an abandoned suburb, along the old highway, and finally makes it home. When he arrives, he discovers that the final sheer of this nightmare is not solely a trouble with the woods, but has only just begun churning to life. His home is a prison for his loved ones, and freeing each person from a room becomes all-consuming to him. At times, he reverts to his childhood self, and at times, he is in his fifties again, always trying to solve the problems of his life before the horrific demons in his mind eat their way out and take him back into the woods forever. It's currently in a seventh draft, and comes in at just under 70k words. I designed it to be short and sweet, and wrote it line-intensively, as I would poetry.
That's about it. There's more, but I need to get back to the book so I have a chapter to read Painter tonight. I'll update soon, however. Until then, if anyone is looking for something to read, take a look:
Poetry: Tons of it in journals and magazines, and my book through Differentia Press, Other Cruel Things
Novels: Two of 'em currently in print, Tatterdemalion and Amphisbaena