Dreaming the Apocalypse

I’m thinking I should compile my short stories into a book titled Dreaming the Apocalypse, since the eco-crash, the apocalypse, the complete breakdown of government, etc. is a theme that seems to run through all of them. I base my stories on actual dreams I’ve had. Right now I’m working on four:

#1 – This takes place after the world collapses from war and environmental ruin. The main character has lived his whole life on a mostly self-sustaining kibbutz started by a group of people who somehow managed to avoid radiation poisoning. The members are barely surviving because the food supply is short – the seeds etc. have been exposed to radiation so the success rate of crops is incredibly small. The rules of the kibbutz include discarding members (including newborns) who show signs of radiation poisoning and –  since almost all children are born horribly disfigured and are therefore discarded – the population of the kibbutz is declining . Occasionally, the kibbutz docks to pick up supplies from the few existing human colonies. The members must wear gas masks, hazmat suits etc. to disembark. The main character, who has grown up on the kibbutz, goes on his first mission. He disembarks at the “Great Tree Forest” which is an abandoned playground with three withered pine trees – the only trees in the world that survived the collapse. There is a line of pilgrims there that stretches for miles. People from around the globe have walked there to pray and breathe the air by the trees, which is thought to have curative powers. It is here that the main character comes face to face with the reality of the rest of the world. He makes a startling decision about the course of his life, which I can’t tell you because it would ruin the story.

#2 – Organic crops and homeopathic remedies and those who grew them were been eradicated in the great witch hunts of the 2030s. The main character works in a big government-funded hospital/lab under the direction of high-up government officials where he fills pill complacency capsules for a living (these capsules are fed to the poor and “insane” each morning to sedate them and prevent revolt – his particular facility supplies capsules for political prisoners of the witch hunts). Each morning at 6am the government inspects the labs. As soon as they leave, the main character clears off the counters and opens trap door panels in the floors and ceilings, taking out rows upon rows of plants. He takes out juicers and pumice stones, switches the light bulbs to full-spectrum bulbs, and goes to work making herbal remedies for various ailments and filling the complacency capsules with sugar so that the revolution will stay alive. By 7am the mailman comes with smuggled packets of organic seeds and they load the truck with organic remedies to distribute to the sick. At 5pm the nurses come for the capsules to go to the prison and the main character hands over the sugar pill capsules instead. He then works into the night, falling asleep on a cot in the lab and waking at 4am to turn the lab back to its original state for the next morning’s inspection. Of course, this sort of deception can only work for so long…

#3 – The U.S. government has begun the final portion of its “Christian Nation” project – eliminating the queers, Jews, Muslims, and other non-Christians by mass extermination.  The extermination is set to occur on September 11, the date the government claims the nation was threatened by all who did not follow their God. The queers and non-Christians with resources have fled the country, but the poor have been left behind to go into hiding or make one last desperate attempt to flee. The main character and his partner are leaders of the resistance and they have heard of the plan and alerted the masses.  Unfortunately, one of the resistance members tipped the government off so they began the extermination a day early. The extermination begins.  Riots break out and people are fleeing everywhere in chaos. There is a man with a werewolf sent to track down the main character, his partner, and their two children. The government has ordered that none of the “infidels” should be allowed to live.  What will happen next?  You’ll have to wait for me to write it.

#4 – Genetic engineering of designer babies was approved about ten years ago and wealthy white parents began signing up to receive their perfect brilliant blond-haired blue-eyed babies. But there’s a problem: the gene manipulation and splicing has created children who are both psychic and extremely mentally unstable. The government banned human genetic engineering, rounded up all of the genetically-engineered children, and removed them from the public. They planned to kill them, but a group of vegans and well-meaning housewives led a series of successful protests and stopped the killing. The children are now housed in a facility in Alaska, miles from the nearest town. The main character is a child care worker in the facility. The children are kept one on one with a staff (or one on two or three for the larger and more dangerous children) and are monitored at all times and subdued with drugs and tasers. One evening, when the main character is at work, there is an explosion in the facility. Evacuation procedure is to lock the children securely in their cells and then evacuate the building without them, but the main character doesn’t have the heart to do it. He is about to exit with his assigned child when he looks outside and notices that there are armed tanks and snipers poised at the exits shooting down everyone attempting to leave. There are helicopters in the air. The government has decided to destroy the facility and all those inside it so they can cover up the extermination as a gas tank explosion. The main character decides to take the child he is with and escape.

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Published in: on March 7, 2008 at 4:30 pm  Comments (4)  

Carrot and Stick?

I need a heavy kick in the pants so that I get into gear with this novel (the monk one).  I’ve got a good plot, solid characters, a decent outline, and a lot of partially-written scenes.  What I don’t have is motivation.  I’m bored.  I’ve never been good at sticking with long-term undertakings (at least not if the fate of all of my diets are any indication) and now I’m floundering.  I think I just need a schedule to get me back into the groove – and maybe a system of rewards and punishments to beat me, er…  my writing, into submission.  If I ever get Sims 2 to work on my computer I think that’ll do nicely for a reward.  For a punishment?  No internet until I’ve written a certain word count (since the mere thought of life without the internet brings on withdrawal symptoms).  Also, I’m going to start allowing myself other writing projects since I find I work best when I can skip around between several projects.

Published in: on March 7, 2008 at 2:24 pm  Comments (2)  

No, I have not fallen off the face of the planet.

Two things have been going on:

1) I’ve been mailing out poetry submissions all over the place.  So far they’ve gone out to: Brilliant Corners; War, Literature & The Arts; American Literary Review; Poesy; Poetry; American Poetry Review; Relief; Image; The Artful Dodge; Ascent; The Banyan Review; The Cimarron Review; Fence; and West Branch.  Cross your fingers, wish me luck, say a little prayer for me etc.

2) Ren and I have been finishing up Rezra #1: Fit to be Tied.  It’s done now.  The segments are: Featured Article – Urban Food Growing; Vegan Recipe – Pad Thai; Random/Fun – Political Madlibs; Little Known Awesome Things – Rope Sculpture; DIY Sex Toy – Rope Flogger; Erotica – Cruelty Free Flogging?; Comic – The (No Longer) Single Life; and, of course, Horoscopes.  If you want a copy, you can either email us at rezra@live.com or comment to this post.  Make sure to give us your mailing address if we don’t have it so that the zine actually makes it to the right place.

Those are the big things.  I’ll make another post soon to update about other writing-related things.

Published in: on March 5, 2008 at 3:19 pm  Comments (6)  

The Aftermath of the Red Pen Battle

I’ve gotten edited versions of my poems back from two of the three people I gave them to and have been operating steadily since then. This is the status report:

God Song suffered from cliches in the last stanza but they were successfully removed and it is now making a fine recovery.

Ghost suffered minor lacerations to the first stanza but looks like it will pull through.

Sleeping survived the deluge with only a minor scratch. I gave it a band aid.

Ray Bourque had an identity crisis because one of its editors didn’t know who Ray Bourque is and thus was confused about the poem in general. After some reassurance, it’s back on it’s feet and looking swell.

Pain had a word removed and looks to be healing without a scar.

Monday Morning made it through entirely unscathed.

Backyard Blue-Rimmed Pool also made it through unharmed, but encountered some confusion due to its unfamiliar “George Washington” hairstyle.

In the Kitchen was questioned about its poem-y-ness and was found sufficient. It seems to be recovering nicely.

Bereft made it through unharmed although it was clearly upset about the loss if its love.

My Heroin(e) was praised despite moonlighting as a song, but it suffered from an explosion of tears and we’re still determining the course of treatment.

Winds at 75 m.p.h. is having some difficulty due to the public’s general hatred for one of the speakers in the poem. It is staying as is because most of the world does not know the identity of the speaker so hopefully the criticism will not damage its reputation.

5:00 a.m. stayed intact despite a lukewarm reception by one of the editors.

De La Luna was both praised and scorned for its abrupt ending. We can’t decide whether or not this case merits the use of growth hormones.

I Walked In On You Cutting stayed intact despite mixed reviews.

Coke was criticized for a growth of blankets in the last line (possibly due to drug use). We are currently debating removal procedures.

The Orange Place was praised for it’s literary references although it ate a radioactive metaphor which had the unfortunate side effect of turning the first line luminescent. We are working out safe methods to expel this glowing problem.

The Test survived despite having an STD. Go figure.

Shedding caused minor confusion due to an unidentifiable brick-brown sludge. We are trying to decipher the cause and identity of this strange liquid.

The Peleliu Priest survived despite the unfortunate placement of a plaster saint and the fact that nobody knows what Peleliu is or why it matters.

Ocean was accused of being cheesy but fortunately the editors are fond of cheese. Upon closer inspection, a strange “they” was found waving damsel’s handkerchiefs in the second stanza of section III. The identity of this “they” is still being questioned. If you have any information, please turn it over to the pronoun police (but BE CAREFUL – those pronoun police can be dangerously overzealous).

Breaking Up Poem was both lauded and scorned for its strange imagery. We’re still determining the course of treatment for this weird little poem.

J’avais vu le loup was universally praised, though it was so angsty one of the editors was forced to check it into a hospital for a more thorough evaluation of its mental health.

April Night was called “cute” and then sent back to primary school because it needs to grow up a bit before it can call itself a poem.

Poem for a Suicide was sent to the hospital with J’avais vu le loup, where it is also being evaluated due to mental health concerns. The two poems are roommates who spend their time crying on each other’s shoulders and competing over who has the more miserable life.

Is This Love? was praised but on closer inspection the editors found an infestation of centipedes that needs to be exterminated. We’ve called in pest control and they assure us they will handle this matter.

R.I.P. Argus emerged with barely a scratch despite being a death poem for a goldfish.

To My Beloved was blasted and lauded for its strangely organic subject matter. Apparently it’s so healthy only the vegans want to read it.

If We Lived in Your Toy Boat was praised by one editor but the other editor accused it of being too cutesy. We’re currently working on beautification process to maintain cuteness while eliminating some of the sugary overkill.

Aurora Borealis emerged with an identity crisis after being criticized for it’s big words and general nerdiness. It wants a makeover but we’re trying to convince it to love itself despite its dorky exterior because one day it could grow up to be an astronomer.

Late Night Bus Ride was sent back to primary school with April Night.

Coffee Sins suffered a crippling blow to the last line. We are amputating and deciding whether or not to attempt reconstructive surgery.

If… was accused of being unfinished, but it maintains that its unfinished state is a primary facet of its identity (see the title for proof).

Airplane was universally praised and it flew through the battle without so much as a bead of sweat on its forehead.

Notre Dame Cathedral decided it needed to change a phrase but otherwise it came through unharmed.

Commuting was dissed because of its length. I told it – who needs length? It’s the motion in the ocean (er… commuter rail) that counts!

Blue Requiem was doing alright and looking cool until the last line betrayed its awkwardness. It’s currently enrolled in finishing school and its mannerisms are cleaning up beautifully.

Toothpaste Graffiti suffered near-crippling blows to every stanza. It’s currently in intensive care and we are trying to decide whether to operate or take it off life support.

Speak Stiltedly and Wear a Paisley Tie was told that its makeover needs some serious work and it should change its tie – perhaps to a plaid tie rather than a paisley one.

Published in: on February 22, 2008 at 8:43 pm  Comments (6)  

“Your Twelve-Inch Ruler” – or not.

In the past, I’ve attempted to write BDSM-themed poems. I was looking around online for journals where I could submit my poetry when I remembered that The Scarlet Leather, NELA’s quarterly newsletter, features poetry. I decided immediately that this opportunity had my name written all over it and I was being called by the universe to start writing BDSM poetry.

Ever the helpful partner, Ren did an internet search and came up with some (incredibly crappy) BDSM poetry to help inspire me. My muse saw the poems and ran screaming from the room – honestly, I’m just happy he didn’t keel over and die of horror. Anyway, to reassure myself that the entire genre isn’t doomed, I did a search for “good BDSM poetry.” I thought that if I read some stuff that was actually inspiring I might be able to coax my muse back. Well, here’s what I found – a (satirical) guide to writing BDSM poetry: You, too, can Write BDSM Poetry!

Published in: on February 18, 2008 at 12:48 am  Comments (5)  

Revision, revision! Revision!

If you know the song my post title is spoofing you win! Hint: it’s from a musical.

Anyway, how’s everyone doing?

I took a week-long hiatus from noveling so I could revise my poems and now they’re in the hands of three of my most trusted and intelligent friends (thanks guys). Hopefully once I get them back and patch up the red-pen-induced wounds the poems will have transformed into better versions of their former selves.

During my revision week, I’ve also been looking into places to send the finished versions. The process is more than a little daunting because each place has different submission guidelines and it seems like most of them take a long time to get back to you. So, to aid me in my mission, I’ve started compiling a list of places I want to send my poems. Maybe I’ll post it here…

Published in: on February 17, 2008 at 9:30 pm  Leave a Comment  

What exactly am I writing?

Novel 1 (still no title) – I’m maybe 1/3 of the way into writing this novel. I’ve got the whole thing outlined and researched and am currently jumping about and writing whatever scene interests me on a particular day. This novel is set in a monastery and it goes from November 2003 to November 2004 (the year of the supreme court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage in MA). The main characters are Arden, a 21 year old college student who has just joined the monastery as a postulent in part because he is trying to flee his newly discovered homosexuality, and Amado, an elderly monk and the cook at the monastery. The two become friends and Amado helps Arden reexamine his relationship with God and the Church. Then Amado has a stroke and Arden becomes his personal helper. While doing this, Arden accidentally discovers that Amado is a female-to-male transsexual. As Arden grapples with this new information, he is also trying to process his own homosexuality in relation to Church teaching and the political discord unfolding as a result of the MA supreme court ruling, and trying to decide whether or not to take vows when his year as a postulent is over.

Rearrange the Sky – This novel is a character-driven quartet of love stories. It’s loosely outlined and I’ve started writing it but haven’t gotten very far because I’m trying to put most of my energy into the other novel so I can finish it before working on this one. The main characters (Rowan, Shouren, Malik and Akin) are four vastly different men with two things in common: they are all queer and they were all born female. Their stories are tied together by their shared identities/experiences and a bunch of random themes and scenic parallels. I guess the easiest way to describe the novel is to break it down by stories:

1. Rowan is a 25 year old white working class construction worker who identifies as femme and enjoys cross-dressing. He decides to perform on amateur night at the local drag bar and he meets Chris, the MC, a 24 year old white working class butch woman with a “thing” for drag queens.

2. Shouren is a 29 year old Chinese-American man working at Starbucks and dreaming of owning a sailboat and sailing around the world. He goes to the local GLBT center for a meeting and he runs into Joel, a 30 year old white paralegal with cerebral palsy. They fall for each other and then their relationship falls apart in a cataclysmic misunderstanding which Shouren has to rectify.

3. Malik is a middle-aged lawyer and leather Daddy who is half black but passes as white. At the start of his story, he has just ended a long-term relationship. He goes to a leather bar to pick up his spirits and ends up picking up Sergio, a 21 year old Mexican immigrant who is a senior government major in college and an abuse survivor.

4. Akin is a 24 year old black software technician and sci-fi fan raised by his adopted white parents. He goes online and meets Gal, a 28 year old Jewish genderqueer web designer who lives on a farm. Akin goes to Gal’s farm for a week and when he gets there he realizes (to his dismay) that Gal is male-bodied (he had assumed ze was female-bodied because he had never met a male-bodied genderqueer before).

Published in: on February 11, 2008 at 6:52 pm  Comments (4)  

Revenge Writing and Sister Maleficent

“I will eviscerate you in fiction. Every pimple, every character flaw. I was naked for a day; you will be naked for eternity!”

One of my guilty pleasures of a writer is what I like to call “revenge writing.” This is the practice of modeling a character after someone who has pissed you off – someone you secretly dislike – someone you outspokenly hate – and then taking revenge on them in your novel/short story/whatever. Today, I committed an act of revenge writing. And what’s worse – I committed an act of revenge writing against a nun.

There’s a nun where I work. I need a pseudonym so I’m going to call her Sister Maleficent. She’s one of those irritating individuals who feels herself to be so pious that speaking to mere mortals is a black mark on her soul. I’m Catholic, so when I began my job everyone assumed that Sister Maleficent and I would get along great. Not so. After the first two shifts during which I had to take the children to church and to Bible class I flat out refused to set foot in her chapel ever again. This woman is evil, so help me God.

Somehow even though she works in a residential treatment program she can’t seem to understand that there are times when she needs to cut the children a little slack because they simply cannot meet her expectations. For example, she has a rule that the children must come to Bible class on time, with a decent attitude, wearing appropriate clothing. This rule sounds fine. I mean, nobody wants a pack of angry half-dressed rugrats running through the chapel in the middle of the service. The problem is that she implements this rule to the letter.

The first day I met her, I brought one of the kids down to Bible class about two minutes late. We were late because he had been on an off-grounds visit with his mother who got stuck in traffic and therefore was unable to get him back exactly on time. What did Sister Maleficent do about this situation? She refused to let him into the class. But before kicking us out, she came to the door and paused the class so that she could give us both a prolonged lecture about the importance of timeliness. Because clearly we just failed to understand the concept.

The second time I interacted with Sister Maleficent, I was accompanying some of the children to church. One of the kids was over-exuberant and when the priest asked for volunteers or input he would shout out enthusiastically. Her remedy? Kick him out of church. And I was the staff member who had to take him out despite his pleas to remain.

Sister Maleficent also has the infuriating habit of correcting minor infractions in her fellow staff’s behavior. Our most recent spat began with her telling me “that’s a no no” because I leaned against the kitchen table. When I gave her a confused look, she proceeded to dole out one of her lectures – this one on the lack of respect I was showing for the children’s home by sitting on the kitchen table. “Don’t they train you people not to sit on the kitchen tables?” “No, Ma’am, I think they forgot to include ‘not sitting on the tables’ when they created the staff training program.” Yeah. She didn’t like my response much. In fact, she was so offended she brought the whole leaning-on-the-table incident up with my supervisor, who told me that Sister Maleficent repeated – word for word – the lecture she had given me.

Why am I telling you all of this? Because I want to share my victory. I have finally exacted my revenge: I have put Sister Maleficent, in the guise of sixty-something year old monk, into the novel I am working on. And let me tell you, I am thoroughly enjoying myself. I’ve made it my personal mission to highlight every single imperfection tainting her pious exterior. By writing this novel, I am essentially dragging her through the mud and no one is the wiser. I am eviscerating her in fiction. Indeed I am.

Published in: on February 9, 2008 at 1:25 am  Comments (5)  

On First Words…

It’s my first post in this writer’s blog and the feeling is similar to that of writing the first word in a brand new notebook. I can already feel my inner editor encouraging the drive for perfection. The same self-criticism that makes my muse fly off to wrap herself in a cobweb blanket and curl up in the rafters of my apartment ceiling. It’s the editor’s voice that makes me hesitate before putting the pen to paper. It’s so clean and crisp and white – I’m afraid I’ll mess it up.

In my paper journals, I’ve found a way to trick my editor: I skip the first page. I pretend I wrote something incredibly dazzling and then I move on to the second page to continue with whatever drivel strikes me. The editor still hasn’t figured out how to cope with that one. So this post is my blank page. I’ll write him an entry about how much anxiety he causes me and then while he’s reading I’ll sneak through the back door to bask in the sun and write down whatever beautifully flawed works come through me.

Published in: on February 5, 2008 at 6:36 pm  Comments (2)