The Next Big Thing

The lovely Donna McNicol tagged me in The Next Big Thing: Authors Tagging Authors. My assignment? To answer a series of questions about a work in progress. My dilemma with this sort of thing is that I don’t really talk about my works in progress, except in boringly general terms, with anyone other than my family and close writing buddies. I decided to give it a go anyway, and, hey, how about that, I managed to scrape up answers to all of the questions (sort of).

(Note: I’m supposed to nominate five other authors, but I haven’t been online much recently and I don’t have the first clue about who’s already been tagged in this. If you want to participate, consider yourself tagged–and feel free to post a link to your responses in the comments.)

What is the title of your Work in Progress?
It doesn’t really have a title. Not yet. I called it Basement Boy during National Novel Writing Month, because I had to call it something, and a boy and a basement do figure prominently, but I have no idea what I’ll end up choosing for a title. For me, naming usually (by which I mean always) is one of the last stages of the writing process. And a bloody difficult stage it is, too.

Where did the idea come from for the book?
From a consignment store in Medicine Hat, Alberta? Under a piece of driftwood by washed to shore by the Fraser River? At the back of my sock drawer? Honestly, I just don’t know where story ideas come from. One minute a fragment is floating around in the general soup of narrative possibility that surrounds each and every one of us, the next it’s slapping me in the face and squealing “pick me! pick me!” and lo, the idea has arrived.

What genre does your book fall under?
I’d describe it as mainstream fiction, with elements of suspense. And a few literary pretensions thrown in for good measure.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
I wouldn’t. I don’t tend to “cast” my fiction. The characters are who they are in my head, and they don’t look like anyone but themselves. Except my antagonist, who looks a tiny bit like Edward Furlong used to when he was a teenager.

What is a one-sentence synopsis of the book?
I have a one-sentence synopsis, because I never start writing without one, but I’m not going to share it. Sorry. Nothing personal, but I am obsessively, ridiculously, and possibly obnoxiously close-mouthed about my writing projects.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
Call me a rebel, but I’m going to give the traditional publishing route a shot. If that doesn’t work out, I’ll re-think. Or re-write. Possibly both.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
Although the concept of this novel has been brewing on the back shelf of my brain for years now, this November was the first time I sat down to hammer out a draft. It was my National Novel Writing Month project, so it took 30 days. I wouldn’t, however, describe the resulting draft as anywhere near complete. There’s a beginning, some middle, and a rudimentary, place-holderish ending, but the “some middle” has great gaping chasms that need filling before I’d call it a legitimate first draft. I’m hoping to have that legitimate first draft wrapped up by the end of January. And then it will be on to the editing and buffing and wrenching into presentable shape.

What other books would you compare this story to in your genre?
I wouldn’t compare it to any specific books, but the authors who have influenced the writing of it would be William Gay, Carson McCullers, Belinda Bauer, Stephen King, and James Purdy. That said, I wouldn’t be able to single out any one of their works as a point of comparison.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?
Oh, I don’t know. Sometimes when a story gets hold of you, it just doesn’t want to let go. The concept for this one insinuated itself into my guts and just kept tugging and pinching and jabbing until I gave in and started writing. I would have started sooner, but I was in love with the story’s possibility and didn’t feel confident that I was ready to do it justice.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
Hmmm. It’s hard to pique anyone’s interest when I won’t divulge anything about the book, isn’t it? I guess the best I can do at this point is to say it’s a story that deals with miscommunication, family dysfunction, loyalty, friendship, and sociopathy. No zombies or vampires or werewolves. So far.


Poem: Walking to work

I wrote this for Ruth Long’s Poem Walk 2012 Challenge, but I read the rules a couple of weeks ago and completely forgot that the entries are supposed to have a horror/suspense/uncanny theme. Sigh. This poem does not. There is mist and fog, and even a dash of crawling greyness, but you’re not going to find any horror or suspense or uncanniness here even if you squint. Unless you consider going to work to be particularly horrific, of course..

I’m posting it here anyway, just not adding my link to the challenge. Good luck to all who participated correctly!

Walking to work on a foggy morning

I take the dip-down route,
Avoiding the rushing crankiness of morning commuters
To walk along East 8th Avenue,
Past the still-sleeping park, the light industry,
The houses hidden behind noise-muffling hedges.
The city is wrapped in fog,
A glooming, looming greyness crawling up from the inlet
Obscuring the mountains,
Swallowing the seagulls, spitting out their plaintive cries.
The chill of fall is sharp in my throat,
Belying the bright promise of the improbable late fall pansies by the park bench.

The rumbling hum of buses and trucks
Rolls down the hill from Broadway. A squeal of distant air brakes
Punctuates the baying of the lone dog in the doggy daycare,
Counterpoint to his lonely displeasure.
Four crows pecking and bobbing like chickens
Through the dead leaves outside the coffee shop
Stop and eye me as I enter and exit,
And resume their pecking.
A man in stained green coveralls hoses down a driveway,
Sending the smell of damp dirt up to mingle with the
Bittersharp coffee, gasoline and the faint reek of cat spray.

And now the traffic thickens
Entry ways and loading bays
Erupting with vehicles,
Fellow pedestrians emerging from pockets in the mist,
Purpose or resignation in their steps and spines,
Coffees, briefcases, umbrellas in their hands.
Two men with too-short pants and wheelie bags cross my path,
Scrubbed, buffed, red-faced and shiny, looking
Like they’d smell of soap and Old Spice and stale alcohol,
Ready to sell you your grandmother.

Visual Dare–Cat and Crow

Visual Dare–The Odd Couple

Written for Angela Goff’s Visual Dare challenge. The prompt was the picture on the right, The Odd Couple. I rarely write poetry, but this is what the prompt muttered to me, so there you go. If you’re a poet (or a poetry lover), you may want to avert your eyes.

(68 words)

Cat and Crow

Cat sits
Thinking crow thoughts
Dipping, diving, riding the updrafts
Over the winding waters where
River rats weave through the rushes.
Bird’s eye stalking.
Twigged nests cradling succulent hatchling payloads.

Crow bends
Blueblack wing
Toward the earth
Wheeling in for a landing
Over sun-soaked grass beneath which
Worms slink through subterranean tunnels, waiting for rain.
Gliding, skimming down,
Whisper of wings above cat’s head.

Friday Night Write – Far from Home

Friday Night Write time again! One song, 500 words, 48 hours. This time the song prompt was Far from Home by Five Finger Death Punch.

Comments and constructive criticism welcome and appreciated! And don’t forget to check out the other entries over at Sweet Banana Ink.
Far (499 words)
The only light in the cell comes from the blinking red eyes in each corner of the ceiling. Overkill, really. The cell is barely bigger than a dumpster, just a box with enough room for a piss-stinky mattress and a seatless toilet. A single camera would be adequate to surveil every possible movement from within. Maybe the other three are back ups, Matt thinks.
Matt doesn’t believe for a second that just because he can’t see anything doesn’t mean that they aren’t watching his every move. Not much joy for them there after the first couple of days. Now that he knows the savage pain in his belly, groin, and neck is from buises and lacerations rather than broken bones, and now that he knows there is no hope whatsoever of exiting this cell without external intervention, he spends most of his time in his head. Every few hours, he does sit ups or hoists the mattress against the wall and jogs in place until the cold, bare concrete renders his bare feet swollen and numb. Otherwise, he waits. And thinks.
He’s been here two days. Maybe only one. Maybe four. No food. No visitors. They’re softening him up. Making him weak. Readying him for the questioning.
Matt’s heard about the questioning. That guy with the hockey mask and no hands he and the Sandcatcher met at Delilah’s on one of their supply-boosting trips to the city. The emaciated old lady with the twisted legs who rolled herself around the city backstreets in a rusty red wagon, using an old chair leg as an oar to propel herself forward. They’d both sold their stories for the price of a can of food, Heinz baked beans for him, Del Monte pears for her.
Yes, Matt knows all about the questioning. He closes his eyes and gathers the fear from the corners of his mind where it skulks and moans, pulls it out where he can look at its many faces before sinking each like a stone into deliberate oblivion:
The fear of the pain to come. He studies it. Shudders. Breathes. It will be what it will be.
The fear of what he will become. He sighs. It’s not knowable. It will be what it will be.
The fear of what he will reveal. Please. Don’t let it be everything.
Face by face, he acknowledges his fear and lets it go. Until he reaches the last, the most dangerous:
The fear of what has become or will become of Anna and Tiz. Are they safe? Have they been captured? Are they in the next cell?
Matt shakes his head, concentrates. No use. This fear is all that’s left of him. It might be his greatest weakness, but it’s the only reason he has for not chewing through his own tongue and bleeding his life out onto this pissy mattress.
He opens his eyes. Stares from one blinking light to the other. Come on then, you fuckers. Let’s rock and roll.”