Entry 00028: I Guess It Is Time To Write A Novel

bratmobile

EP: The Real Janelle by Bratmobile

1994 Kill Rock Stars KRS 219

Favorite Track: And I Live In a Town Where the Boys Amputate Their Hearts

A couple of weeks ago, I attended a reading at the University of  Cincinnati. Alissa Nutting, author of Tampa–a book I was going to suggest for my Sexy Bookclub before it dissolved, read excerpts from her forthcoming book. It involved a grieving father fastening a sex doll on his scooter. Ed Park read from Personal Days. I bought both books and had them autographs, both authors being very generous.

On the walk home, the brisk weather cooled my heated imagination. I was inspired.

For a couple of years now, I have had a novel brewing in my head. However, instead of working on it, I forced myself to tackle and write short stories. The excuse was to hone my craft. Maybe I was really afraid of the time commitment. But I am ready now. And this blog will be a catalyst. Here I will start to outline the plot, create character histories, attempt scenes, and, most likely, vent that I am a terrible writer.

The usual trash.

In a bit of rushed stupidity, I am going to write a little bit of the plot down for you here today. One of my favorite pieces of advice I’ve read is to never talk to anyone about your story. Just write it. But I am going to do the opposite today. I must refresh myself and draw courage from others.

The idea came to me after I read two books: Dhalgren by Samuel R. Delany and the Illuminati Trilogy by Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea. I fell in love with labyrinthine structure and setting of Dhalgren. Anarchist kids with animal neon lights running amok a changing and forever burning city while having lots of sex and poetry, what is not to love? The Illuminati Trilogy opened my mind to the truth. And born was a story that borrowed heavily from each, Dhalgren a bit more.

In my university, a new city is built for the Isolationists. Isolationism is a movement where heavily anti-social people move in droves to their own city so they can live in peace and quiet from the rest of society which they hate and hates them back. But tragedy strikes this perverted utopia. The city crumbles in on itself, leaving the few survivors trapped and alone. Everyday they are witnesses to atrocities including dead bodies falling from their newfangled ceiling. From the survivors comes the dream of Dr. Kaufmann: the Black Widow–a supercomputer capable of downloading people’s memories from their brains so they no longer can remember them.

At first, people use it only to clear their heads of the catastrophe, but soon they start erasing petty things: fights with their significant others, the memory of the last time they ate, all the reveries of dead relatives. They become addicted to the Black Widow to shield them from sorrow. Dr. Kaufmann disappears or, at least, no body knows who he (?) is anymore including himself (?).

Enter the reporter (character name undetermined yet-please make suggestions). What started as a basic news story for a news channel becomes a harrowing adventure to find a lost sibling in the messy maze of the Isolationist city. As she explores this twisted world and interviews its strange denizens, can she keep back her growing desire to try the Black Widow herself? Meanwhile, another unnamed character (possibly because he has deleted his memory of his own name) has fallen in love with Parker, the beautiful and mysterious lady whose body is entirely tattooed with mystic symbols. The unnamed character suddenly wants to remember something for the first time in how long, however, Parker is dead serious about deleting all memories concerning intimate affairs–“every time must be the first time” she is known to say. The unnamed character begins his journey to find Dr. Kaufman and the original Black Widow–to save everyone’s memories or just his own? However, there are forces that will kill to keep that a secret…

Ambitious, huh? That has always been my problem. I really need to not try and write a book with so many characters and themes to encompass 700 pages. But oh well.

Be prepared to start meeting the characters soon.

Entry 0027: Sick Days

fallgrudgeful

7-inch: Why Are People Grudgeful? by the Fall

1993 Permanent Records 7S PERM 9

Favorite Track: Why Are People Grudgeful?

 

In my corrupted memory, sick days are incredible. A day spent in pajamas, reading books and watching comedies while being served hot soup, orange juice, and the occasional vile cough syrup. Maybe once or twice, I played the SNES Clue game for hours on end. There was an awful lot of icky green snot for a boy of my size. My poor sensitive nose would first go red like Rudolph then crack and flake like a butterfly emerging from a cocoon. Ultimately, though, a sick day was a typical Saturday–a day of respite and tranquility.

Not so anymore.

A sick day is a dreadful waste of time. Gone are the days where I can focus on reading. With how little reading I am getting done this month (I’ve haven’t read a single book in the month of March and only one in February!), this especially annoys me. I cannot even watch movies or television shows. I tried to watch Seinfeld and Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure. I saw George get turned on by a mango and then Ziggy Freud attempt to hit on an 80’s girl at a shopping mall. Luckily, illness also prevents me from dreaming. My observations have led me to discern that I often fall sick after a long period of time where I am not getting enough sleep–this last week and a half being exactly that. So it makes sense that I would spend two straight days sleeping to recuperate. I also believe that eating well, drinking lots of fluids, and getting plenty of sleep is the best way to fight disease. Usually, I am only laid up for two or three days at max.

However, I am reading Alexandre Dumas’s The Three Musketeers and I really wish I could spend the days finishing it. Dumas is excellent at writing the most stirring of action tales and lacing them with humor and poignant jabs at society. The three musketeers (and d’Artagnan the musketeer in training) are not good people, the way people tend to talk about them. They are quite despicable and ready to get into a fight for blind loyalty or for puffed out ego, they cannot hold onto any nice gifts for sake of fulfilling their lusts of food, wine and gambling, and Athos has quite a hatred for women. And then you have d’Artagnan relentless desire for revenge which has him running naked through the streets of Paris after having a night of entertainment with Milady with poor Kitty hearing from the next room. Of course, I am not finished with the book so there may be some small hope that can redeem themselves although I do not suspect that is the case. Dumas I think is lampooning this idea of “the old way of life” that some people may have been pining for in his lifetime. Either way, I cannot recommend the Three Musketeers and the Count of Monte Cristo enough.

And, when better, I am definitely going to read the sequels.

Entry 0026: Terrible Writ

Seeds

LP: The Seeds by the Seeds

Unknown year GNP Crescendo GNP 2023, Reissue

Favorite Track: Pushin’ Too Hard

 

The operation takes less than a minute, but I have almost been caught several times. I no longer frequent the premises of DiscStax when a red-haired clerk fixed me with her suspicious eyes. In my haste to leave, I forgot to purchase the rare Essential Logic 12-inch I had found tucked behind the hundredth copy of Herb Alpert and the Tiajuana Brass Band’s Whipped Cream and Other Delights. Now I am down to five record stores in a twelve-mile radius to spread my word.

Everyone thinks the most important part of crime is to dress inconspicuous, like every other face in the crowd of black band T-shirts and skinny jeans. I stand out. My grey trousers, suspenders, and ironed white shirt are hidden by a belted trench coat just a size too big for me. Sometimes I carry a magnifying glass and use it to pretend that I am inspecting each individual groove. I cover my bald spot with a fedora dirty from all the rain. I have a nickname at Jay’s Vinyl and Weirdo’s: Inspector Jockey. I suppose I should be upset or ashamed, but the poor joke keeps their prying eyes away. The girl at DiscStax never called me Inspector Jockey and, when I am reaching the bottom of the bottle and all the weigh of my message is full upon my head like the ringing tolls of Notre-Dame, I wished that she would. That will go unfilled, however.

The most important part of crime is the execution. On a good day, I can doctor sixty-five records, roughly thirteen in each store. My technique is infallible. I choose the least crowded section first, selecting three or four beat-up albums none of them remotely interesting. Then I start the process of standing close to people, reaching over their picks, eying the titles and genres, and then I am off again on my own this time picking for real. Miles Davis is a good choice. So are the Buzzcocks. When I am feeling risky, I’ll even try it on one of the records on the Collector’s Wall at Weirdo’s. The idea is to pick an album that is going to be bought by someone in the store, but will not attract the attention of the clerks at the register or patrolling around the store. After all, I have to put almost all of the records back after combing through all of them with my magnifying glass. No one puts back a Chuck Berry mono. Or a Smiths 7-inch. Then I buy two or three LPs I actually like and head to the next store.

And all the while I am spreading the word. My hands are large and I am double-jointed. With my left hand, I hold the glass an inch from my eye, bent over the record. My right hand appears to be holding down the sleeve, but, in fact, in a cribbed writing, I am leaving behind two sentences. The message. The Holy Word. The unnameable and unfathomable horror I read in a book about witch cults in the rare books room at the university library. And the people who buy these records will read this message and they will believe too. They will become as fanatic as I, possessed with the visible humming that enhances my vision with Truth and the desire to share.

The Word needs flesh to survive. The body is just an information receptor stuck in the cell of a greater consciousness. When all the receptors are receiving the same message, the collective unconscious shall change. Society will mutate and devolve, fiery chaos will unearth its grim visage over the bowing masses once again. The great civilizations will be struck down, their technologies collapsing into a towering babel of plastic circuitry. Language will become unnecessary: there will only be the Word because it will still need flesh to live. Flesh to rule.

But there are those receptors, like the red-head lady at DiscStax, that are working against this inevitable social change. I can always spot one in a crowd. They are almost always female, although there were a group of males one time at Jay’s hogging the Krautrock crate. I only managed to infect one record that day as they glared at me with their telepathic eyes and whispered to each other with their forbidden mouths. The leader was a tall, pasty boy of sixteen or seventeen, freckled around the cheeks framed by a pair of wireframe glasses. He always seemed to stand in a slump even when he held up the Liberty copy of Tanz Der Lemminge–a holy relic long missing from my music shrine. I can still remember the bitter taste of hate and jealousy. The one record I managed to infect that day–the Village People’s Renaissance did not sell that day. Or ever.

I overheard an employee saying that saw something funny about it and threw it in the trash.

Spurred by this memory, I walk past DiscStax (what was I thinking anyways? oh the red mood I am in) and take the bus to Jay’s. I have already determined I am going to infect all the Krautrock LPs with the seeds of holiness. I grip tightly the pen in my hand the whole ride. The driver looks in the rear view mirror at me and, for a second, I think I recognize the shade of telepathy in them. But he is more concerned about a college boy making rude advances toward a girl sitting by herself in her school uniform. I sigh with relief.

Jay’s is busy. It is Record Store Day. Oh what perilous luck! But I am already inside the crowded store and to turn around now would invite questioning leers. I shove some people aside, ignoring their angry mutterings as I work my way toward the rare of the store. Everyone is fighting to get a copy of the glow-in-the-dark Ghostbusters soundtrack, which would make an excellent vessel for the Word, but I know I have no chance of acquiring a copy. Also, these Record Store Day one-times are covered in a sealed plastic sleeve that the employees are careful no body peels open before purchasing. I stick to my plan of fixing the Krautrock crate. I want that pale king to be tainted. I want to see him scribble the madness.

I pull out my magnifying glass which startles a girl into laughter. Her friends join in, but I am already finding myself bolder, writing with large looping letters the message with a penmanship worthy of a deity’s respect. Faust IV, In Den Gärten Pharaos, Ege Bamyasi, and some Cluster and Eno sleeves all met my the spell of my ink. The humming vision is vibrating in screaming glorious colors from behind the color wheel, fourth dimensional space angles and time radii. A bellowing laughter is building in my stomach and erupting from my lips in globs of pearl spittle. I don’t even notice a puddle blurring out the last word of a recently inked sentence when a rough hand grabs my shoulder and pulls it back.

Those familiar telepathic eyes! The freckled teenager, now an employee, is holding onto me with dastardly disdain like I was some petty shoplifter. I hiss. It sounds like a needle falling into a groove of vinyl.

“Dude, you are ruining those records!” His odious eyes pleadingly look past mine and toward my right hand which is still pressed down on the face of Brian Eno. I follow his gaze. My pen was leaking. I must have snapped it on the bus and never noticed in my hurry to disperse the Word. Stamped on all the sleeves I had stamped with my epistle was the perfect indenture of my palm. My life line was short just barely reaching my ring finger.

I looked back at my enemy, holding up my message. If I was going down, I was at least going to take him with me. I grinned one incisor poking out from under my curled lip as he read the two sentences that would transform his mind into the colorful nebula of enlightenment.

Instead he muttered a curse and began hauling me away to the front of the store where the owner was the phone with the police. I blanched as I looked at the sleeve still in my hand and noticed the water stain that had erased the last and most evil of words:

Here comes the tick-tock of dying bones. Wash yourself clean with the Word of Gtkhivhuallasus.

Entry 0025: Unexpected Surprise

telex

LP: Neurovision by Telex

1980 Sire SRK 6090, Promo

Favorite Track: Reality

 

“With them the seed of Wisdom did I sow,

And with mine own hand wrought to make it grow;

And this was all the Harvest that I reap’d–

‘I came like Water, and like Wind I go.'”

The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam

The best way to pick music is random chance channeled through your inner aesthetic. Follow that hunch even if you are looking down at an album cover made of gross 90’s neon squiggles. You never know what  you might discover if you never give it a chance. People ask me how I discover my favorite music and books and I say simply, “I judge them by their covers.” Of course, that is exactly what one should not do, but the world of advertising and branding has made it easy to spot the underground Talking Heads-influenced indie group versus the photoshopped pop diva. When I was a teenager, I bought Less Than Jake and Rancid because I liked their album covers. My jaw dropped when I actually heard them. Reading the linear notes than led me to the Clash, the Ramones, the Sex Pistols (who I used to openly hate until I sang God Save the Queen for karaoke and understood everything), and the rest of my musical taste is just sampling everything I can get my hands on between that magical period of 75-81. Another time a friend recommended that I buy an Os Mutantes album if I ever saw one. A week or so later, I found a reissue, bought it, and now am in love with Tropicália. A friend who lived on my couch owned the Nigeria Special LPs whose bright and colorful covers reflex the warm poly-rhythms inside. Yet another friend had come back from a run while listening to Neü and I asked for a listen. Using the library, I heard bands like Faust, Amon Düül II, and La Dusseldorf.

Telex is my latest find. I went record shopping last Tuesday and stopped at Black Plastic first, a deviation from my normal routine. Periodical departures from routines are vastly important to gain new experiences. Once again my “luck” flared and I found a small goldmine. As I had not been in Black Plastic for a couple of weeks, I methodically checked for those  pesky Damned, Buzzcocks, Happy Monday, Liliput, and Fall LPs. As I looked around, my ear caught this interesting mechanical sound. I found myself listening more than looking. My eye spied the album by the record player and I noted its blue and red stripes against a white background. It would be interesting to hear again, I thought as I combed through the Ts for no reason at all that I can think of now. And there it is–a second copy of Neurovision. I checked with the clerk just to make sure it was the same album and then I bought it with the others. Why not? Then I went to ShakeIt Records and saw another copy of it on their display wall. Was the universe telling me I should own this album?

When I put side A on at home, I became temporary confused. Maybe I wasn’t paying attention at the store or maybe the clerk started with side B. I didn’t recognize the first two songs and although I enjoyed them, they did not quite grab me like the songs I heard at Black Plastic. The contemplative Tour de France and the Kraftwerk-pastiche of Euro-Vision had me dancing in my socks. But, when I flipped it over to side B, the one-two punch of the Sly and the Family Stone re-working of Dance to the Music and the unsuspecting woodblocks of Reality sold me that I had made a wise decision purchasing this strange, new album.

Just like that I had a new friend.

 

Entry 0024: Nigerian Nights Part Two

nigeria2

LP: Nigeria Special Part Two by Various Artists

2008 Soundway SNDWLP009B

Favorite Track: I Want a Break Thru by the Hykkers

 

Vargas stomped his boot down on the cat’s head, crushing its orange fur into the sewer grating. The damn thing was dying anyways. Just another stray cat choking on the atmosphere, mewing pitifully for a bleeding heart sap to take it home and risk infection. The Kano Station Street Sweepers did their efficient work in the commerce and affluent sections, but here in the slums, one could barely walk down the corridors without stepping on some stray cat part. Vargas just made sure to make each step count.

After checking his CleanAir mask, he looked at the folded piece of paper in his hands. He scanned the tenement buildings until he located the proper address. No body looked home. Vargas unbuttoned his trench coat despite the icy cold. The tenement had a buzz entrance, however, somebody had broken it and the door popped open with a slight hiss of released pressure. The cubbyhole was a clutter of unopened mail and untouched phone books. In the distance, a violin played a melancholy partita. Vargas paused when the central stairwell creaked under his heavy foot. He had forgotten to clean off the blood of the cat. An amateur mistake.

Was he growing soft? He pictured her eyes, the way she looked at him with unflinching determination. He had laughed in her face and insulted her and still she had insisted in borrowing money from him. If she had been a killer, he would have made her his queen (briefly he pondered her as the dominating one and how that scenario would play out in the bedroom), but he recognized that humbleness that marked lovers. They could kill for passion, but they could never outlive regret, shame, and pain.

Vargas climbed four sets of steps without seeing another person. Normally, this would unnerve him a bit; ambushes were always just around the bend in his line of business. But, by some sheer, eerie coincidence, many years ago, he had another mission in the exact same apartment number–his first mission, which he recalled with a sort of grim professional shame, was a literal bloody mess. He did not expect any trouble this time.

The door was as he remembered it. The bullet hole he made still above the brass door handle. Even the unpleasant grey paint remained the same. Vargas slipped his hand inside his coat then kicked the door open with a loud crash. With deja vu running through his head, he stepped onto the kitchen tiles noting no body to his right and continued on into the bedroom. A springy, unmade bed sat in the corner where phosphorus spiral paintings hung in the corner like trippy nightlights. Dressers and cupboards had drawers open, colorful fabrics of cloth dangling free of confinement. Two crates of records leaned against a wooden chest engraved with a pirate ship.

The only sound was the violin working itself up into a frenzy. Vargas sniffed the air detecting a faint trace of perfume. Tangerine and whale. Cautiously, he opened the bathroom door then shut it. The apartment was too small for a closet. Maybe they were in the community bathroom halfway down the corridor. Vargas frowned, his heart hammering the way it did years ago. He shot two people then.

He only wanted to shoot one today.

Kids never understood how the mob worked. It was a business. There were rules, schedules, logistics, and consequences for not pulling your weight. Kids thought they could join the mob or borrow its money so they could build up some street cred. To look tough. To impress a girl or guy. Vargas didn’t like this. He wasn’t a member because he wanted to be. He had to be. He had no family, no education, no opportunity. He wanted enough Plutos to purchase a flight out of Kano Station to another one, perhaps Portland or Taipei.

Frost ran lined patterns across the glass, a hard bit of ice like the minotaur in the center of his infuriating maze. And was he Theseus gradually spiraling toward the beast? Or was he Daedalus the architect who had built the maze large enough to include himself in its walls? He was growing soft if he was thinking while on the job.

From under the bed, the girl bolted. She was admiringly quick. He had left the door partially open as well, another err. The violin stopped on a sour note as Vargas drew a bead. He added another hole in the door. He noticed the framed photograph at the last second. The girl with the bright eyes, the jutting jawline, her need for his money, her pleas that she would pay him back the next day. The girl like so many other kids who then flaked on her word to the wrong person, a dangerous person. Written on the photo in large loopy handwriting: TO SORREL MY CLOSEST FRIEND, I NEED YOU IN MY LIFE FOREVER.

Vargas had to leave. The police would be here any minute and, more importantly, people would be beginning to peek into the hallways to be able to give the cops information. But he had to take a second to look. He lifted the frail body with ease, rigor mortis not yet setting into the muscles. One eye was missing, just a large hole filled with skull fragments and a variety of juices, but the other was oval with green irises flecked with gold.

She lied to me, thought Vargas as he rushed down the stairs and out into the frigid temperature of Kano Station. What was it about this building that cursed him? She wasn’t just going to die now. Vargas was developing a new plan.

To be continued…

Entry 0023: Hail Eris, I Submitted a Short Story for Publication

tropicalia

LP: É Proibido Proibir: Tropicália by Various Artists

2005 Soul Jazz Records SJR LP 118

Favorite Track: Jimmy, Renda-se by Tom Ze

 

I am proud right now. In late January, my friend informed me about an anthology seeking swords vs. cthulhu stories. The deadline was March 1st. The start of February, my birthday week, and a Valentine’s Day spent playing Arkham Horror with my friends suddenly left me two weeks to write a fresh, original weird fiction meets Conan short story. And it was harder than I imagined, especially with the max 5,000 word limit. Writer’s block set in early and fierce like the winter storm that stole another writing day from me as I was only too excited to build snowmen. I struggled with finding atmospheric descriptions of a haunted forest, the massive length of a giant, and the sensation of a steel blade separating your tongue from the frenulum. How does a writer convey enough of a back story to a character in 400 words or less? Every sentence read like I was writing a Dick and Jane book.

Krom blessed me with some luck allowing me to schedule extra hours at work on days that I was already working. Another week passed and the two drafts I wrote were worthless. Someone asked me how I came up with the idea for my story. One of the requirements for the anthology was there had to be a fight scene. I figured that most people’s fight scenes were going to be full of disembowelment, be-headings, and necromancy. I paced my room listening to music. My brain racked itself of all the combat scenes I read in my fantastical youth. I had put the Tropicália LP on my player (more on this later) when a little scene popped into my thoughts and I gagged. I had envisioned a tiny female warrior jumping into a giant’s mouth, cutting its tongue free, and rolling it like a carpet down the giant’s throat where it would asphyxiate to death. The rest was just coming up with the reasons why these people would be fighting.

With two days left before deadline, I received a phone call from work asking me to come in for more extra hours. I had to tell them no. It was crunch time. I sealed myself away from society. I didn’t even know that Leonard Nimoy had passed away. But I re-wrote the story for a third time. I used a couple of sentences or phrases from the previous draft, but it was almost entirely new. Then during my lunch break at work, I fixed spelling and grammatical errors. Then I submitted it.

It was a rush.

And a rush job so I would be very surprised if it is accepted for publication, but fingers crossed anyways. The point was I succeeded. I didn’t back down even though numerous times I told myself I would. I will probably not re-read the story for a couple of months. When I am in the perfect mood, I will pull it out and re-write a fourth time and fix the lack of dynamic language. All of this has really made me want to play Arkham Horror again.

I learned a few things about my writing. I need to practice writing scene descriptions. Two or three times I described things being illuminated under the moonlight. Where were my other senses? What about the flora and fauna? I was a slow writer this month, averaging 1,000 words in 4 or 5 hours. I need to improve on that. It is very easy to think yourself into staring at a blank screen instead of just writing the bad sentences down and fixing them later. Another thing I learned was how to be adaptable. As typical with me, one scene was created inside my head with no thought about how the tale would start and end. As many writers would probably agree, the beginning was difficult: did I want to start with the warrior finding the giant’s lair? Or should it start at the very beginning with the giants slaughtering the barbarian wizard tribe? Or should a series of drunk townspeople be spreading rumors about the mad sorceress who can turn into a bat? I wrote all of those beginnings.

Now a little bit about Tropicália music. The collection for this blog entry is one of my favorite LPs. It comes highly recommended to me. I knew nothing about Brazilian music until around 2009. A co-worker told me that if I ever saw an Os Mutantes LP I should buy it immediately. Of course, Os Mutantes records would be re-issued that year and Shake-It Records had them for sale. I bought Mutantes along with some other records, but it was the first I put on the player. Another music-inclined friend was with me at the time. Dom Quixote was strange. I wasn’t sure what to make of it. But then came the false start of the second track. The music was bouncy, carefree, perhaps even a bit reckless. My friend didn’t seem as impressed at first, but that second track would quickly win him over after it sat in his head for a while. I went ahead and bought the re-issue of the first album and that album quickly became a regular spin. I was impressed by the Baptista brothers and Rita Lee’s raw talent and ingenuity. They built their own instruments and invented a sort of mock-Sgt. Pepper’s meets Brazilian bossa nova with seven strong doses of weirdness blended in.

Months later, I discovered this compilation as a CD at the public library. I was blown away by Gal Costa, Tom Ze, Gilberto Gil, and others. I danced around my apartment, telling my friends about it, and using tracks from it on mixed CDs. It remains one of my favorite CDs to send out for the library’s CD of the Month club. I think more people should check it out. Sure you may not understand the lyrics unless you speak Portuguese, however, that is not necessary to enjoy it. If you like happy music to dance to, this is it.

There is not a bad track but here are my favorites:

A Minha Menina – Os Mutantes

Tuareg – Gal Costa

Procissao – Gilberto Gil

Jimmy, Renda-se – Tom Ze

Gloria – Tom Ze

Tropicália – Caetano Veloso