Friday, October 16, 2015
Tuesday, October 6, 2015
Tuesday, September 29, 2015
Currently, I’m caught in a limbo of fiction. It’s a limbo I don’t particularly cherish being inside. I've finished Eating Animals and I'm waiting till the start of National Novel Writing Month to begin the new book. I've got plenty to do: editing two books and proofing yet a third, but it's not writing. It's not creation. So, as a stopgap: why I write these things.
Thursday, May 7, 2015
Jeff and I were again up at the crack of dawn for our last day in Disneyland Paris. Everything hurt. My feet screamed at me every time I took a step. I actually had to sit down in the tub to take a shower. My back ached. The sciatic problem in my leg burned like a million wasps decided my tendons were the enemy. We had to walk about twenty minutes to get to the metro station we needed, then get on the train and transfer to the RER in order to get aboard the train to Disneyland.
And it was all worth it just to see that castle again.
It was palpably our final day. We managed to redo all the stuff we’d fallen in love with, especially the whole microcosm of Frontierland, stunningly the best part of either park. We rode the Molly Brown Riverboat – which seemed, indeed, to be unsinkable – and caught glimpses of the Mark Twain Riverboat in dock, which was basically a jumble of splinters held together by warp and woof. I couldn’t resist traveling through Phantom Manor once more, and it kept resonating with me: it’s not only scarier than all the other Haunted Mansions, it’s also a lot sadder. The frontier town buried beneath the house is frightening and fun … but there’s an undercurrent of despair. One of the more desolate notions about revenants is that they’re compelled to repeat the things they did in life. The nature of an attraction like Phantom Manor means that the Audio-Animatronics are repeating everything, over and over, in perpetuity. If you allow yourself into the fiction, allow yourself to be wrapped up in the story, you open up these vistas within. It seemed to me, even though the ride is set on the American frontier, that the emotions and concepts that Phantom Manor conjured are very French: ennui, isolation, and the feel of compulsive déjà vu.
Or maybe I was just sad to be leaving.
We rode the carrousel, and Jeff’s tradition of naming his favorite horse continues. I don’t remember his name, except it was obviously clever and luxurious. The name for my horse? Necromancer du Poulet Rôti. Jeff howled for hours at that one.
You want to know one of the coolest things about most of the attractions? They figure out a very interesting way to make it in French and English. Like the Ratatouille ride. At one point, Remy is trying to choose between three dishes. He mentions the first one in French, the second one in English, and then the third one is a mix. During the nighttime show, Dreams (which is a cross between World of Color in California Adventure and Wishes … sort of. There’s water projections and explosions and it’s all really fantastic.) Peter Pan and Wendy are talking; Peter asks a question in English, Wendy answers in French, Peter reiterates in English. It’s the least invasive way of being bilingual ever.
Speaking of invasive and being French: were you aware that cutting in line is actually a French thing that people just do? It’s not discouraged. But by the last day of our trip, Jeff and I were pretty dang sick of it. We got to the Studios at open, and … I mean, both Crush’s Coaster and Ratatouille were down, nobody had any information as to when they’d be open, and no one really seemed to care. Ah, Paris. Anyway, we made the best of it and made our way to the barren asphalt wasteland that surrounds Rock N Rollercoaster, got in line, and were immediately beset upon by these three underage line cutters. They were behind us and kept trying to force their way ahead. Jeff turned to me. “We’re not letting them by. This is our time!”
I agreed, and we did everything we could to passive-aggressively block their really unsubtle ruse. At one point, the younger girl and boy locked eyes with Jeff and I, and there seemed to be something of a grudging respect there. They knew they’d been bested. Also, when they saw the coaster cars take off at the speed of sound, it was obvious it was that it was their first time there. The girl, in English, shouted, “Oh, SHIT.” Jeff and I then liked them from there on out.
We didn’t want to leave, that was the thing. We eventually got to ride Ratatouille together for the first time, which was c’est magnifique (a phrase I used more often than one might deem necessary). I rode Crush’s Coaster solo and desperately wanted to go on again (but then they were closed, except they weren’t, well maybe they were, no one knows). We rode Big Thunder in the daylight, which meant that the tunnels to the island it’s on felt darker, but the ride itself just isn’t as awesome in the daylight (this is true for all Big Thunders). We discovered that the Indiana Jones coaster, which has a great queue but barely a theme on the ride itself, is a lot better in the front seat. We ate at the Golden Nugget and discovered that the food there was actually passable. Not good; heavens, no! There is no good food at Disneyland Paris, at least in our experience. We didn’t eat at Cinderella’s Royal Table yet, but maybe next time.
Our last event on our itinerary before heading back to the apartment was Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. We’d heard raves and were really excited to try it out. Only when we got into the holding area did we realize that the people raving must be lunatics. For the first time, the language barrier, the crowds, and our encroaching exhaustion had begun to catch up with us. We had no idea where we were being seated – a CM in broken English explained it as, “You will have seats. The red section.” Unfamiliar with the setup, I didn’t know where the red section was. Nothing was labeled “the red section.” I was suffering under the added indignity of not always knowing what red is. When eventually we were seated, it was in these stadium seats that were so uncomfortable it was as if we were being asked to feel the simulated effects of saddlesore.
The food came intermittently. No one ever told us how we would be fed, so when half our section got dinner and we didn’t, I wanted to cry. Jeff was just over it. Eventually – an hour into the show – our ribs and chicken were doled out and we dug in, not even caring how bad the food was. But TWIST: the food was fantastic. It was without a doubt the best food I’d had in France thus far … excepting, of course, that long-ago Roquefort. Oh man, I wish I was eating that Roquefort now.
As for the show? Well, it made very little sense. It was set up like a sporting arena and there were simulated stagecoach robberies and at one point we all had to pass a soccer ball around, I THINK? Around the hour and a half mark, actual buffalo thundered out onto the field, and that was pretty cool. I don’t remember much. I was falling asleep and dreaming of Roquefort. The family next to us just stared ahead and had no expression. Jeff thought they were plants. Or robots.
Despite the drawbacks – the bad food, the almost hilarious lack of customer service at times (and I will stress that it’s at times; most of the people there were as kind and courteous as the CMs in America), the oddly shoddy paint jobs in some areas of the park – Disneyland Paris enchanted us. It was different enough, and awesome enough, for us to seriously consider returning before our annual passes are up next April.
But those are dreams for another day. Stumbling out of the parks and onto the train, the thought hit me: I’ve seen Disneyland, but now I’m going to see Paris. Leaning back into my seat and grinning at my friend, I couldn’t help but have a little thrill at what might come next.
NEXT UP: OUR RELIGIOUS EXPERIENCE
Wednesday, May 6, 2015
across the table you’ve got your sipping whiskey
the way it passes your lips, splashing over your teeth
I want to fight you for your glass of sipping whiskey
I want to knock some reality into your disbelief
I never drink except when I do
I never know which me I’ll get
sometimes it’s fun times screaming rock and roll
sometimes its fighting and fucking and endless regret
I’ll never be sober in this life
I’ll never not crave oblivion
is heaven an escape from my stupid consequence
or is it just a break from this hell I’ve been living in?
watching you drink is like watching you fuck
the more you do it, the more you let go
you don’t want a drink and you don’t want me
but get some of both in you and you stop saying no
I only drink when I can’t stop myself
fire in my gut, blitzkrieg in my mind
the numbing release of whiskey down my throat
the sweat on your back as we start to go blind
I’ll never be sober even when I don’t drink
I always want more than I can take
I’ll always want you more with whiskey on your breath
I’ll always want to find out just where we’ll break
there’s something broken in me that wants you to suffer
is it me or the drinking that drives me to violence
whiskey makes it easier to contend with myself
whiskey makes it easier for you to take it in silence
I never drink because I can’t stop when I do
this wrong inside me isn’t just alcohol
there’s a darkness outside that I’m always lost in
there’s a pit inside me and I can’t stop the fall
I’ll never be sober and that’s just fine
it’s easier to live when I can’t think
I don’t want to break the cycle of pain and despair
I’m already breaking
good god I need a drink
Monday, May 4, 2015
You couldn’t get into both parks early, sadly, and the only lands open in DLP that early are Discoveryland (the steampunk version of Tomorrowland that looks like you’ve stepped into Jules Verne’s fever dreams, in a good way) and Fantasyland, which has all the dark rides, except Dumbo which is under refurb, and “it’s a small world,” which isn’t, but which is inexplicably closed during EMH. Jeff was cool with it; we were able to ride Peter Pan right off, and if you thought the starfield was cool in Disneyland Anaheim, it just goes on and on and on in Paris.
We rode the Carousel, Snow White and Pinocchio (neither of which I can get at WDW), and the teacups before heading into the Castle to have a walkaround fantasy. Did you know there’s a cavern underneath the castle, and a dragon there? A freakin dragon that breathes smoke and has glowing eyes and flapping wings? THERE IS A DRAGON UNDER THE CASTLE. Points to France. We have dragons but only in parades and shows and stuff. A dragon. Wow.
Our big plan was to get to the Studios park as soon as it opened at 10:00 AM. Our first attempt to get in was met with incredulity by the French cast member, who tried to scan our tickets … then moved to another turnstile when they wouldn’t beep. We moved with her, thinking this was her intent. It wasn’t. “Hello?” I called. “Bojour?” Oh, she was there. She heard us. She was just ignoring us.
Jeff asked, “Did she just … stop doing her job in the middle of helping us?”
I nodded at him. “Oh, oui.”
Eventually we got into the Studios, and … how to describe it? The Studios contains four of the best rides in all of Disneyland Paris, and they’re surrounded by a park that can’t be bothered to attempt a theme. The era of the “studio park” is a little tired at this point regardless, but man does the Studios just not try. Immediately, we made our way over to the Ratatouille mini-land, and THAT was charming. It was like the best possible idea of Paris in miniature. The line for the ride snaked out fifty minutes, but either Parisians aren’t as familiar with the concept of Single Riders or there was just no one utilizing that space, we took full advantage. Ten minutes after getting in line for the most popular ride in either park, we were clambering into our vehicles.
I … had some problems with the Ratatouille ride the first time. I think part of it had to do with the hype and part had to do with the cognitive dissonance. It overwhelms your senses. The vehicles move independently, and you get the feeling of being shrunk down and catapulted into a non-stop frenzy while being the size of a rat. It felt almost unpleasant on my first go, the same feeling I got from the Spider-Man ride at Universal the first time I went there. We went on again almost immediately and I realized how much I liked it. We went on a THIRD time and I loved it.
It wasn’t the only thing I loved. Like I said, there’s basically no connective tissue in the Studios, but man are the rides pretty amazing. Tower of Terror is not really any different from the one in Anaheim, but it was still terrific. Rock n’ Rollercoaster, however, is very different, at least in its intent. The ride in WDW has you shooting through Los Angeles after a video of being in the studio with Aerosmith. The one in Paris is … ah hell, why not say it? It’s impressionist. Aerosmith calls out that it’s going to be a roller coaster; the linear “story” is gone. Then you launch and it’s the wild, cannonballing effect of actually being at a concert, done with lights and sound and speed. None of the standup signs that suggest a place; this is all going on feeling. It’s a change in intent but man is it effective.
But none of it compares with Crush’s Coaster, which should be just … just not as goddamned good as it is. It’s just a regular coaster with a spin in the dark, but it manages to be scary, and fun, and exhilarating all at once. Jeff and I waited in line for over an hour to get on it and it was worth every second. We even tried to get back later, but … well, I don’t know if it’s the Studios or France, but first they said it was down for the rest of the day and there was no point in waiting, and then they said it was open again but not the single-rider line, and now the line had stretched another hour. Damn you, Studios!
Back at the regular park, we showed up for our wonderful meal at the absolutely beautiful Walt’s. Each dining room is made up to invoke each of the lands in Disneyland. Originally they put us in the Fantasyland room, which was packed with whimsy, but it was next to a window and it was too hot so we moved over to the Main Street USA room. Beautiful: vintage, a little bit steampunk (every place in Disneyland Paris is a little bit steampunk), and cozy. We were so excited to be there. After so much inexplicably terrible food at Disneyland, we were ready for this place, which got high marks from almost everyone.
Boy howdy, was the food awful. Jeff got … I don’t remember what Jeff got. I got marsala chicken, which turned out to be a cooked(?) chicken breast sitting on top of a thin rime of marsala sauce. I’ll say this: the sauciers at DLP are pulling more than their own weight, because this and the sauce at Blue Lagoon were both amazing. That chicken, though? I didn’t know you could actually make meat both dry and damp at the same time.
As we were leaving the park that night, we came across one of Paris’ weird passions: flavored Lay’s potato chips. I picked up a bag that said poulet roti – rotisserie chicken.
It was the best food we’d had all day long. We devoured that bag on the long, long train ride home. My feet were explosively in pain. My brain was eager to shut down. My body was at the edge of exhaustion. And we had to be awake in six hours to do it all again one last time.
Tuesday, April 28, 2015
Sunday, February 15, 2015
Here's what happens now: I am in the process of finishing my 20th novel, a book called THINGS HAVE CHANGED. When that's done, I have some edits to do on a few of my other books - my last novel, MY AGENT OF CHAOS, and a new version of a nonfiction book called CHART OF DARKNESS. My desk should be clear in mid-April, which is when I will launch into the first draft of EATING ANIMALS.
The through-line (I don't really do plots unless I'm writing a mystery or crime novel) is similar to a few of my other books: people who are roughly my age are trying to deal with love and life, despite the unnerving persistence of the past and their fleeting brushes with success. If you wanted to sum up what I'm about, that's pretty much it in a nutshell. However, there are differences: of the four main characters, two are chefs - a profession I've been wanting to write about for some time. These two guys are also both straight; I've been wanting to write about straight adult male friendships for awhile and one of them always ends up being a woman or a gay dude.
I've written about two of these characters in the past. One of them, Alicia Stander, appeared in two of my past novels - WOLVES IN THE BLACK and THE LEGEND OF JENNY MCCABE. Her journey almost seemed complete. She started off damaged in WOLVES and in JENNY she'd healed herself. I wrote both those books in the Aughts. Wade Gimble, her boyfriend, appeared much earlier, in a short story called, "Last Night at the Bear," which I wrote in the mid-1990s. Wade was an analogue to who I was back then, and when he showed up (completely unplanned) in JENNY MCCABE, it was interesting to catch up on who he's been and what he's been doing. He and Alicia found each other and helped each other. But Wade's been in my mind a lot lately. I've begun wondering if there's a chance for drama - for conflict, for a good story - after healing. I think there is.
There's also a character I want to use who mirrors Kathy in Steinbeck's East of Eden - one of my favorite novels ever. I'm trying to figure out if there's a way to build a character like that without feeling sexist, and I think it'll be a good challenge for me as a male writer.
I'm also delving into stuff like technique and structure in this book. Normally, I start off each book having a vague idea what drives the characters and having some vague conflict they need to deal with. I've plowed through a lot of books that way and it usually works. This time, I want to have an interesting structure, and an interesting way to introduce the main players. My books have usually employed a three-part structure. Most recently, the parts consist of: characters start somewhere / ROADTRIP / come back home changed. This ... likely won't change that paradigm. But I'm going to be dealing with the past of the characters in a more personal way, because Wade's past is MY past.
So that's where we stand on EATING ANIMALS. I'm currently weighing the pros and cons of releasing the novel in segments so you can all read along as I write it. We'll see how I feel come mid-April and it's game time.
Thanks again for giving me the urgency to finish this novel. I already have some ideas for book #22 coming up (it's going to be very short), and I have to start writing it in November, so let's hope EATING ANIMALS has a quick gestation. You've all supported me and the concept of independent writing and publishing, and I can't tell you how gratified I am.
Read well, write well, and let freedom ring!
Wednesday, February 4, 2015
During that time, I wrote a short story about two guys my age - 19 going on 20. It was the first time I used my own name as the lead character's name in a story. Kev was the hero of the piece, sort of. He has a work friend named Wade, a miserable, sad wretch of a guy, who tries to kill himself in Kevin's car. A melee ensues. Things end up okay. Back then, it was wish fulfillment. The last line of the story is, "This kid's got places to go." And I did. I ended getting out of the rooming house I was in and moving into a studio. I got out of the relationship I was in that ... he wasn't a bad guy, we just were wrong for each other. I made my life better through sheer force of will, which made me believe that Kev was the main character, and that knowing he was on the righteous path was enough.
But it wasn't.
Wade appeared again in a novel I wrote a decade later, a very long book called The Legend of Jenny McCabe. He's had a rocky road to get where he was. Along the way, he's discovered some weird sexual stuff about himself. And he's become a chef. It was around this time that I started to realize what that long-ago short story, called "Last Night at the Bear," was really all about. Kevin was who I wanted to be. Wade was who I was. And in 2007, Wade was still who I was.
I'm entering into a new novel called Eating Animals, whose title is a bit of a description and a bit of a metaphor. In the book, Wade has to go back home to confront his dying father - a father he hasn't seen since 1997. And I realized that this was the perfect time for me to actually go back and confront the guy I was back then. I kept records and journal entries and stories from 1997. I want to know who I was then, and how that's shaped who I am now. I want to figure out Wade from two different sides of the spectrum.
I'm nervous to start. That's part of why I decided to set this up as a Kickstarter - because I always finish my Kickstarter projects, meaning that having an advance on this book means I have a responsibility to write it. If you'd like to help me on this journey into my past, why not kick a few dollars my way? Check out the project, watch my goofy video, and consider backing me. I'd really appreciate it, and thank you!
Monday, February 2, 2015
The world of publishing is changing, and on my long, rocky trip through it, I'm changing, too. It used to be that publishers, upon accepting a new novel, would provide an advance for the writer in order to keep writing and focus on her or his craft. That doesn't happen as much anymore, and as self-publishing has gained both traction and legitimacy, I think it's important to maintain some hold on what originally made publishing so great.
I write books. I write a lot of books. Eating Animals will be my twenty-first novel. In the past, I've gone the more traditional route with publishers. Sometimes I've gotten published, sometimes I haven't. It's always a crapshoot. You do it because you love the work, you love the craft, and you love the sense of accomplishment watching the stuff in your mind coming together on the page. It's a thrill unmatched anywhere else.
But it sure isn't lucrative.
Eating Animals is a passion project for me. It involves a character named Wade Gimble I've had in my mind since 1997, when I wrote my first short story about him. Since, I've touched on him lightly in other books, but I've never really explored who he was - and, by extension, who I was - when I first made him up. I want to go back to those two young guys, both the nascent character and the nascent me, and find out who they were, and why they needed each other then. It's also a book about chefs, and cooking, and fathers and sons, and the sometimes destructive nature of love. Some of it's gonna hurt, but I'm aiming for laughs.
Why should you support me? Because even though I write my books for free and for me, sometimes it helps to have a little more money to keep the gears turning. I do a lot of work every day, and I don't get paid for any of the creative stuff. It'd be nice to have that advance, in order to keep doing what I love, and in order to feel like what I'm doing is worth it.
Thanks for supporting me, and my novel. Eating Animals is going to be a rollercoaster of writing, and I'm glad to have you with me for the ride.
Wednesday, January 7, 2015
1. Bear With Me (May 10, 1999) - Bear Claw
2. Stand In the Place Where You Live (November 13, 1999) - Stephen King's The Stand
3. Man Without Fear (October 4, 2004) - Daredevil
4. We Can Make It If We Run (September 24, 2005) - Bruce Springsteen Sneakers
5. Boldly Going (February 18, 2006) - Star Trek
6. My Flirtation With Obscure Punctuation (April 8, 2006) - Interobang
7. Howl (November 8, 2006) - Cycle of the Werewolf
8. Red and Blue (January 29, 2007) - Blue October
9. Pinch Me (February 18, 2007) - Barenaked Ladies
10. Thou Mayest (July 19, 2007) - Timshel
11. Sorry, But Our Princess Is In Another Castle (January 28, 2008) - Super Mario
12. Lucky Thirteen (June 9, 2009) - Anchor 13
13. If We Can Dream It... (July 22, 2009) - Horizons
14. A Bear Can Rest at Ease (April 2, 2010) - Baloo
15. The Pepper Engine (July 20, 2010) - Steampunk Dr Pepper
16. The Eagle Has Landed (August 2, 2011) - Bob Seger Eagle
17. It's Great to Be Alive (April 14, 2012) - Drive-By Truckers
18. I'm the Wind, Baby (July 31, 2012) - Tom Servo
19. Hardy & Arbuckle (March 29, 2013) - Comedy & Tragedy
20. Don't Panic! (July 5, 2013) - The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
21. Dream Baby Dream (August 22, 2013) - Irving + Springsteen = Sketch
22. Like a Grand and Miraculous Spaceship (December 18, 2013) - Spaceship Earth
23. My Unending Fury (February 8, 2014) - Christine
24. For the Love of Moose (April 12, 2014) - Moose Mason
25. Flying Over Water (July 19, 2014) - Disney Cruise Line
26. Heave Ho (December 30, 2014) - Blitzen Trapper