Novel Progress

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I am exactly halfway through my current project — I have two projects demanding attention — and I need to write something about it for posterity.

I completed Version IV of “2011” last October after some heavy summer slogging. It is a curious process, writing a novel. For each scene I read, edit, and repeat until happy, then move on to the next scene. It’s the happy part that is curious. Each pass through when I re-read a scene after much time away, I think, “My Jesus you suck, John. You write like a middle schooler.” But of course I see the errors of my ways and correct them.

This process has happened without fail. Well, there have been some temporary failures. I’ve read scenes and been happy enough to make only minor changes. I’ve never glowed with delight after reading them, well, I lie. Yes I have. But eventually I come back and return to the John-is-a-shitty-writer realization.

Sometime during last summer and fall’s edit, I recall hitting a point where I said, “You need to write like this: this is your structure, your style, and your voice.” So I changed. This January/February I read Bell’s Write Great Fiction – Plot & Structure and Wood’s How Fiction Works, two fairly advanced writing-craft books. As I worked through them, I almost continually remarked, “This is how I write; this is what I do; I know this stuff.” I have felt totally confident in my writing since I finished both. This week I hit that point in my novel I had reached last edit. I have edited about six scenes in a row where my re-reads excited me.

Of course I am editing; which means changing some things. I needed to build the threat of conspiracy, so I have been weaving that in. I have also enhanced some of the goings-on with gesture, tighter dialogue, and cutting some of the excess. There is always excess in my writing.

The 40% prior to this week, February to end of April, has been a struggle. I have used the big knives for this one. This has been the grand sacrifice of virgins and wayward travellers. I have killed so many darlings, I just about need mass graves. And I have invested much time in transience. I’ve walked, sat in coffee shops and played AlphaBetty, chatted with Tina and Bill, written poetry (see my PAD posts), and tinkered with many things not “2011” related. Yet about once a week I’ve received epiphanies. I have fed my Muses with thoughts and troubles, and I have given them long leashes. I think they have delivered. I’ve been able to pare this thing down to a level of tightness I currently feel pretty happy with.

My current word count is 125,500 down from 133,500. I’ve cut 8,000 words from the first half of this novel. Yeah. I do see some more cuts, maybe, but there are no scenes dangling in front of me like there were in the first half. I have only 1/2 a scene to cut and maybe a whole one, but I’ll decide when I get there.

This may seem like a large word count, especially if you are an agent or publisher wanting to give me a large contract, emphasis on large, but the story demands it. Seriously, it does. I won’t say much, but it is a cross-country journey. If you’ve ever travelled Canada, you know you can’t do it quickly. You know you can’t do it justice in 70k or 105k words. 145k feels right to me, but my editing skills are so good, I am now well below that. BFG😉

So I’ve come full circle again, and this time it feels good. This time it feels very good and very right. Every day I am laughing and crying, and it’s at my work, my story, my characters. I sure hope I can get it ready sooner than later. Canada and maybe the world need to read this story:)

canadian-parliament-building

 

NaPoWriMo/PAD 2016 Day 30

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For today’s prompt, write a dead end poem. Of course, I was thinking in terms of the challenge, but a dead end can literally mean the end of a person’s life, a dead end road, a dead end job, dead end mortgage, and so on. Take the phrase “dead end” and apply it to a noun, and the possibilities are nearly endless (except, well, there’s the whole “dead end” finality to it, I suppose). I hope it’s fun and that the blog is alive and well today.

Dead end. An easy prompt. A dreadfully easy prompt for someone who has spent their life running into walls. While I admit most walls were of my own construction — John builds the greatest walls! — some walls were built by others. One wall in particular, the United States citizen taxation walls of laws, has been a huge road block in my life. And there was only one way to get around it, so I took it. I left the American side of me behind that wall and moved forward. Thank you presidents Lincoln and Obama for being so un-American.

Perhaps these two gentlemen will eventually be seen as two of the greatest presidents. While I am not an Obama lover for many reasons, I am not a hater. He’s a smart, reasonable man, but maybe he’s too reasonable. I’d rather he did more his first term while he had control. I wish he have made even more changes: cut government, implement true universal healthcare, and get America on a path of world participation. Instead, he’s blocked financial growth. He’s implemented FATCA which has pissed off ever foreign financial institution, over 160,000 of them. Foreign banks if my words are too big.

Why do foreign banks matter?

12742138_10208599299370880_1205259471361104005_nBecause now foreign banks do not wish to do business with America. FATCA poisons the waters. If you are a medium-sized company say in Hong Kong and you need financing (all companies use financing), then you need to give your banks certain documents: business plans, financial statements, cash flow, risk analysis, etc. It is now risky for banks to deal with the US. I can envision foreign bankers telling foreign businesses to ditch the American sourcing. Sell all you want; because we want their money, but if you buy from them, no money for you. Source your expertise from China or even the hated Japanese. Just don’t source from America.

I don’t know this is happening, but I do know banks around the world are shutting American citizens like myself from basic banking services, and millions of individuals and an estimated one million small businesses are scrambling to rid themselves of their American ties. I relinquished my citizenship and this last week signed a form with my bank confirming I was no longer a risk to them. No, I didn’t get a toaster.

Corporate inversions are another form of disloyalty — in the eyes of homelanders, but to me it’s common sense. If a large corporation has operations around the world — a common example is Ireland with its 12.5% corporate tax rate — they want to be able to compete; they need to be able to compete. America’s corporate tax rate is 39%, so if company X, American,  makes a million dollars in profits and company Y, Irish, also makes a million dollars in profits, Company X nets $610,000 while company Y nets $875,000. That’s called unfair competition, and that’s why American multinationals are inverting to foreign ownership. They want to be taxed 39% on American operations and 12.5% on Irish operations. It’s only fair, right? Obviously there is room for cheating, and that needs to be controlled, but as it stands now, the US is the biggest tax cheater of the all. These troubles are its own fault, instituted by Lincoln in 1863 and reiterated by Obama in 2010.

Taxation without representation!

MalificenceRepresentation is not a vote. Sorry, but a American vote means nothing to me because no elected official can impact my life: I drive Canadian roads, work for Canadian employers, use Canadian schools, use Canadian health care, use Canadian retirement vehicles, and pay Canadian taxes (as I should). What possible claim does the US have on my life as a US citizen when I use zero of its services? That’s the way the rest of the world thinks, it’s the way I think, and it’s the way any common sense person thinks. Just as the US taxes foreigners living and working in its borders.

The original law was drafted to stop Confederate sympathizers expatriating to Canada to avoid the new income tax act. It was the only logical tool at the time. But this is no longer  1863. Our world is computerized. We don’t need to tax citizens abroad, we can tax them as they leave, like Canada and some other countries do. We could give citizens a choice: be taxed on everything you own (with a much lower than $2 million limit) as you leave, or keep filing with reduced foreign income exclusions until you return from your temporary stay.

This is no a hard concept. It’s called fairness. But Americans are too wrapped up in their own aggrandizement to care. America is number one, and everything outside her borders sucks and should be leached because they are subhuman civilizations.  Maybe that’s not what you as an American think, but it’s how the world sees you. The US sucks in every comparative category: healthcare, education, standard of living, satisfaction, freedom, or whatever. The only thing Americans are first in is saying they are number one.

My rant’s not over, not by a long shot, but it’s time to post a poem. Another rant about, not my dead end, but the potential dead end for America of it doesn’t get its shit together. FATCA, Corporate inversions, and more recently a ubiquitous fear of trade deals. Listen to me: if you kill all free trade deals, it will send a clear message to the world that you do not want their business. This might be an eye opener to you, but the rest of the world no longer needs American know-how. And most nations are more than willing to try and fail on their own. Obama brags of his $2 trillion trade surplus. Don’t wait until that turns into a $2 trillion trade deficit before you believe me. I might no longer be a citizen, but I care about my country.

#FATCA

Today I’m filing my 8854, what the FATCA for?
Because my fellow Americans have forgotten
life, liberty, and the illusive pursuit of happiness
were intended to be inalienable.
Taxation without representation has caused previous revolts
financial slaves of the free world
you have no right to bury your heads and hide from, the oxymoron
President Obama, the thinker
The biggest tax cheat of them all
The American People

I am angry and sad, my home nation
dying in a world of progress, more intent on building walls
than living its propaganda. Freedom.
Hate cannot defend right
A bully cannot pretend might
The myopic will never be able to write, happy endings
A blinded horse is incapable of leading the way
straight roads only with shallow ditches
a future without curves.
A nation with the least common sense and the most guns
can only lead to dead ends.

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NaPoWriMo/PAD 2016 Day 29

For today’s prompt, write a haphazard poem. The poem itself could be haphazardly put together, I suppose. But it could also be about a haphazard situation. Or whatever haphazard thing you can bend the poem into.

DSC_0726.JPGHaphazard raises so many ideas with me, I can hardly think today of anything but poetry. Though I made a nice buttered chicken curry without burning down the house. My first though was to write haphazardly, but experience has told me to feed the Muse first, get the poetic muscles moving first. So I thought of my writing routine and how haphazard it is, how haphazard it should be, to some degree. Controlled, intentional haphazardness. I wrote of a writing day.

A Day In The Life – how to write a poem

Feed her with some poetry
Feed her with some prose
Read a Munro short story
Or a poem about crows

Take a walk through a park
Ponder puddles and leaves
Imagine how the gravestones stark
Become servants on their knees

Find yourself a coffee shop
Have a drink or two
Write a poem about your pop
Write a song of a cow saying moo

Don’t forget to chat with friends
Find the troubles of the day
Keep an ear for open trends
Listen to what strangers say

Walk again through the streets
Let ideas bounce off windows
Find yourself something to eat
Share it with imaginary bimbos

After napping, eating, bathing
Sit down at your station
Get to work on engraving
Computer files with your creation

gty_the_american_way_ll_120320_wblogI wanted the next poem to feel haphazard and nonsensical, but of course it needs to make sense in my head. I took a nap after my curry lunch. I was full and sleepy, but I scribbled some lines as I lie there. The opening term, The Sobriquet men, haunted my dreams. I repeated it too many times for comfort. Who knows, maybe it will become a novel some day.  The poem, I think — I don’t know if I will ever be sure about this mess — is not about specific individuals, though the Trumps, Cruzes, and Boehners did come to mind as did the so called 1%, but more about an idea. I think it is about the so-called American Dream (which I have written about), the we’re number one attitude that prevails in the country oblivious of the threats such isolationism creates. I am now hearing Washington called Rome too often. I use the literary device paradox, in a sort of abstract way. Paradox is the meeting of two extremes that cannot meet and is, I suppose, by definition haphazard form. Enjoy, if you can.

Humanity Waits

The sobriquet men despise the nameless
unable to live in the wide open spaces, surrounded by walls
Only the truly crazy would leave the fake sanity

If all dots were connected, per Remington
your monikers wouldn’t matter, he said
the meek will inherit the earth but he never promised gold wrapping paper
or he’d make wine for the previous owners’ funerals

Your rights will never be liberated and your liberty never freed
Call shenanigans all you want, but words have never unlocked shackles

You’ll pounce on cats who pounce on rats who pounce on Big Macs
and in the end we’ll lose track of you too, for with too many names
Just as you want, to hide
An island will be discovered and the stranded brought home

Humanity waits

 

NaPoWriMo/PAD 2016 Day 28

For today’s prompt, take the phrase “Important (blank),” replace the blank with a word or phrase, make the new phrase the title of your poem, and then, write the poem. Possible titles could include: “Important Documents,” “Important: Read Before Assembling,” “Important People,” and so on. I hope everyone finds something important to write about today.

Importance raised a lot of possibilities and issues, mostly important ones. I asked myself what is important, and an old argument, and old battle took over: administration versus creation. I have seen too much emphasis in my life placed on administrative brilliance: we need to do this more efficiently. Government laws and regulations are largely based on administration: adherence, compliance, and subservience. Rewards are given to businesses who can do paperwork and complete contracts to the T. There are no regulatory or administrative awards given for creativity. Much of what I am saying is subliminal. It is why I have given up on accounting. Much importance is placed on people who can count beans correctly, not on those who can devise a new and better bean burrito. I’ve sat too many days at a desk wondering why I was there.

This poem is not about me but a hypothetical entrepreneur with a great idea, with un-capped and untapped creativity who falls to the system. I do employ some abstract metaphor. One of the banes of an accountant is being faced in tax season with a new client and their shoebox full of receipts — the shoebox accounting system. But what if you don’t even have that?

The Big One

The decisions accumulate like bad debts
a once promising pillar of the community.
Important people took notice, before they served
the latest in a string of beads and baubles

Take them to a bank and let an expert take care of it. An expert
at taking money, at snuffing and suppressing. Creativity
only for those administratively supple thinkers.

Who can you trust anymore?
What do people do when shoes are sold in a plastic bag?
Is there an app for climbing out of the muck?

Prioritize, my accountant says.
Might as well be my IT support dude. Reboot before it crashes!
Take care of the big ones first, running a business
a Labrador fishing vacation for Grandpa.

I’d rather stop at the local brew pub, and support
a low paid business student with my last plastic bill, better advice
than from some asshole at a shiny desk
who treats my life as a folded page.

 

NaPoWriMo/PAD 2016 Day 27

For today’s prompt, write a take off poem. Take off work for you admin assistants out there (and any other workers). Take off a runway–for those of you who like to fly. Take off from a dangerous or weird situation–or maybe even a comfortable one. Or maybe you have a completely different take off of a “take off” poem. Go on and take off on your poetic paths.

It’s been a busy couple of days and I am late making a few posts.

Wednesday’s prompt embedded Bob and Doug McKenzie in my head: take off, eh! What more can I say? Actually, I tried to avoid it, at first. I decided to write about a woman, in a toque, facing women issues, as if I’d know what women issues look like. I just wrote, eh.

 

NaPoWriMo/PAD 2016 Day 26

Experienced PAD-ers knew it was coming, because this prompt always shows up on one Tuesday or another.

For today’s Two-for-Tuesday prompt:

  • Write a love poem. Or…
  • Write an anti-love poem.

This is an annual prompt. Apparently this love is an important concept. I don’t write about love, generally. Maybe it sneaks in now and then, but to me it feels so cliché. I mean, can you listen to a radio for more than ten minutes without hearing a song of love or lost love? How many times can we write poems and songs about love? Of course we can write endlessly (a love-cliché adverb?); all we have to do is write.

I’ve been reading poetry craft books, and the idea of rhythm happened to be in my head. The unstressed-stressed rhythms, the iamb and  anapest, tend to create a walking motion, a wandering. I wanted to test this by writing a poem of walking a street. Add the love/anti-love prompt, and the beginning was easy.

The Circle Of Love

I see her with another
The other side of the street
Her steps one after the other
Brown eyes looking straight

Our differences are many
Similarities few
But I prefer her over any
I don’t know what to do

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Then  stopped and played through the scene to see what might happen next. A surprise! As I’m watching wistfully, I’m approached by a hottie. I’m picked up, all my dreams come true, and life is good.

I’m standing on a corner
Another stops to talk
She asks me to come over
and I walk her down the block

I’m wondering if you’re searching
If asking is okay
My own heart is aching
Your eyes so far away

We spend our days together
Our nights tied in a knot
Clear or stormy weather
The temperature so hot

Or is it? Finishing with the two-for-Tuesday theme, the poem comes full circle and throws the lust for love back at the poet.

I see her with another
The other side of the street
Her steps one after the other
Brown eyes looking straight

Throughout the poem I’ve kept the unstressed-stressed rhythm, the meandering stroll through love and life, no peaks, no valleys, no hard knocks or laybacks. I didn’t concern myself with feet. A spring hike through the forest of love. I believe they range from trimeter to tetrameter, 3 to 4 beats per line. Very fast love.

 

 

 

NaPoWriMo/PAD 2016 Day 25

For today’s prompt, write an exercise poem. The poem could be about a specific exercise, or it could just incorporate exercising into the poem. Or it could be dedicated to a piece of exercise equipment–so an ode to an elliptical machine or those hand grippers or something. Of course, not every exercise is physical; there are military exercises, mental exercises, and so on.

I think it’s important for us to work through our writing. Inspiration is rather easy to find. Read some news, read some blogs, take a walk through town, strike up a conversation, or just sit and watch and listen t people. If you can’t find inspiration, you’re not living. But turning these multitudinous triggers into poetry, prose, a blog, an essay, an article, or a comment on a news site is the hard part. It takes work, even when it’s easy.

Knowledge also helps. I won’t claim to be there yet, but I am working on it. Today I started on a little treasure I found at Value Village. In Rhyme and Reason, John Metcalf and Gordon Callaghan begin discussing connotation. They give seemingly endless exercises and only a few pages in I am seeing the worthiness of re-examining how words affect our writing.

If you were underweight, which word would you most like to be called? What does each word suggest?

  1. Skinny
  2. Scrawny
  3. Slim

Simple exercises with far-reaching impacts.

My first poem came after a mid-morning nap. I’ll admit it: I was drinking last night. Our 4-men book club discussed Thucydides (because we still haven’t all read the beast) and Us Conductors, and it was my turn to provide drinks. I brought some Forty Creek Barrel Select bp_imaging_drink_photography-forty_creek_premium_whiskey_group_shotCanadian whiskey and made Manhattans. I had also made my own bitters with Vodka, so we had the Manhattan and Russian angles of Us Conductors covered. Round two was the same but with Angostura Bitters for comparison. Both were good, but the traditional won 4 to 0.

Three ounces of alcohol a drink on a Sunday night with a chaser of straight whiskey because it’s so damned good, makes one drowsy on Monday mornings. I was up at 5:15am, made some coffee, and was back in bed by 9am, but with exercise triggers to ponder.

 

So here’s the first. It’s rather divided, but I think it has content to work with. I suspect an end result, if there ever is one, will look vastly different.

Untitled

Choices are thinning with the hair
There will be no more offspring for this old horse
no more free reigning, in greener fields
where the fillies hop and skip, and prepare
for their runs through the gates

The alarm with the disappearing slider wakes me
2:30 is early enough to eat, read, and catch the five o’clock news
Second sleeps might be luxuries, to the rodent racers
Those high-flying traders of options
But I exercise mine in my own good old time

The second came later, after dinner, after reading some Alice Munro and Metcalf, and after feeling primed to sit and write. So I sat, penned a poem, then edited it as I typed it in. It changed quite a bit as I typed. I think this one has more substance, but I am not happy with it. Pillars of Society. Some odd, disparate metaphor. Still, it has some potential imagery. I like Nixon square and the outreach line.

Pillars of Society

Sturdy, as the piles that hold the pier
the container ships dock and bump
Nixon square, offering basket holey
my eyes search for hope in my lone workout room
not hide in full halls, were the outreach works my pockets
the power-poles guard by wracked body, my racked mind
the only four pillars I trust, with weight on my chest
I wish the pillars of society were as reliable, were as strong
I wish I could revive them with simple protein drinks
and a designed exercise program
but I’m afraid he’s too lazy to care, anymore

 

NaPoWriMo/PAD 2016 Day 24

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For today’s prompt, write a poem in which something is lost and then regained. Maybe a relationship is lost and then regained, or a special keepsake. Maybe it was stolen and won back. Or maybe it was in your possession the whole time, but you just didn’t know it.

Lost and regained. I lost most of my vision in one eye for a month and got it back with surgery. It kind of took over my inspiration for the day. It wanted to go corny, so I let it.

Vitrectomy — the death of Smog

Come and meet Lady Galadriel, the wizardess of white light and see-through dresses
Easy to say when there’s no Smaug in your eye.
When everyone wears the gold ring, they all vanish

There’s no point in a sword, when there’s no enemy but you.
Gut yourself from the inside with finely burnished blades
Vorpal the dragon, fling open the gates
Let the white-robed magicians cast their incantations, absorb
their blinding lase and see the world, again
for what it used to be

NaPoWriMo/PAD 2016 Day 23

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For today’s prompt, write a footwear poem. A poem about shoes, flip flops, socks, slippers, flippers, boots, pumps, and so on. If you’d prefer not to dedicate a poem to your footwear, just mention footwear somewhere in the poem. That’s right; your hi-tops don’t have to be the star, and it’s totally cool if somebody’s clogs play a minor role in the poem.

Today’s prompt doesn’t do it for me. Maybe it’s because I ate breakfast when I usually don’t; maybe it’s because we shopped all morning for used cars; maybe it’s because my blood sugar bottomed out at noon; maybe it’s because I took a three hour nap. Who really knows?

But while I napped, I dreamt of a peace of art I created. I apparently stole it; because I couldn’t draw or paint, and everybody in the art class knew. It was a painting of a two-colored bird mad up of little colored birds. It had a triangular head and told me I couldn’t follow it because I wore boots. Dam, silly creative minds. I then drifted into creating a poem about the scoter migration now underway. Not thrilled about it, but there it is, a strained scoter sonnet.

They began their day from the shores of Cape May
They fly in groups, ten, twenty, a hundred and ten
As the sun goes down they land in my bay
An annual trek you don’t see very often

They bob with the ice, a half-million strong
Black Scoters mostly, and they don’t feel like talking
Bare foot and pregnant, an oily slick throng
I’d join them but, my boots are made for walking

Look honey, the annual migration
Fundy accepts them, I stand on her shore
Most people never witness their April invasions
I wouldn’t want to be a fish, out there

Bound for the Arctic
Where they’ll temporarily park it

 

 

NaPoWriMo/PAD 2016 Day 22

For today’s prompt, take the phrase “Star (blank),” replace the blank with a word or phrase, make the new phrase the title of your poem, and then, write the poem. Possible titles include: “Star-struck,” “Star Man,” “Star Wars Prequels Aren’t Star Wars Movies,” “Starter Set,” “Stark Raving Mad,” and so on. Remember: I’m totally fine with prompts that get bent a bit.

I struggled finding a poem for this prompt. I could find many star words — I am not including a list because I’m late and lazy — but none of them jumped at me. I decided I’d give my diffuse mind some swimming room, so I took a bath and read and dreamt.

I believe the creative mind needs its own time and space to work. Real creativity needs to explore the open spaces of the mind. The real relationships, themes, conflicts, struggles, and character traits I and other writers try to flesh out are generally hidden in the peripheral brain. And we can’t easily retrieve them. We can feed the process, bait the hook if you will, but it is a fishing expiation, not a hike through known paths.

I had a notebook next to the tub, and DAR — I’m reading God Is — forced me to record some thoughts. I wrote a contradictory anecdote from a recent conversation at Starbucks and I stopped. Star blank. Star bucks. Bang! I turned my anecdote into a poem.

Coffee Surfing

So how’s life going, anyways
his bald head and beady eyes focused, oval lenses
smiling doesn’t help, but we both oblige
we both remember, too much

Land ho, for you maybe
I’m still bobbing the waves, drifting through coffee shops
My morning Starbucks stares back brown, creamy
second rate coffee I don’t have to brew

Progressing, getting near the end
preparing to start the next phase, again.
It’s a long, hard process, more thinking
than most people would expect

How are the girls, I ask, changing, forgetting
the oldest died seven or eight years ago

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