How to disappear completely (part II)

scoverbjpSix or so years ago I had the chance to talk with Yann Martel at a private party in Moncton. He’d taken part in a Frye Festival event – a fall Community Read around The Life of Pi  – and knowing his background in philosophy I asked him a question. See, he’d asked if I wrote and it turned out I did (surprise) and in fact my first book was to come out in a couple of months.  What’s it about?  I told him it was simply a book of dreams presented as a novel, though length wise and style wise it was closer to a book of prose poems. He asked if they were actual dreams or fictional dreams and I wondered aloud if there was a difference then specifically posed a question: If my book’s content is pretty much verbatim (?) accounts of dreams, dreams whose content I didn’t consciously create, is this then a work of fiction or non-fiction? Or do we need another category? He thought for a minute.

But you chose what to write down, how to write it, present it, so it’s fiction, he said.

I may have nodded (slowly).

I still think it needs its own category. Why? Because though I chose the ordering of the words, I didn’t choose the who, the what, the where (yet, who else chose those? ). I had been dreaming of the same event (break up) and person (S.) for over a year as if my mind had decided to take a vacation from reality, “I like it better here”, or was on some obsessive quest for explanations.

After playing with the idea of including these dreams in the novel I wanted to write (I’d been noting the dreams in my e-journal, or on paper in the middle of the night, sometimes just a few lines), I wondered how a novel of dreams would read/feel. Maybe it was record keeping, too.  I sold the idea, literally, to friends, supporters, wrote till the dreams stopped, printed and hand bound 26 subscriber copies of “S. a novel in [xxx] dreams”, had a launch and thought that would be the end of it (and it was the end of the dreams, fortunately).  But one of the subscribers was a reader for a publisher (Broken Jaw press), talked up the manuscript, and long story short a couple of years later it appeared again.

To this date the one book I didn’t intend for publication is the one book I’ve had published. Sadly I had little means to promote it at the time, and it’s a bit of an odd sell, and the publisher was barely hanging on, had no distribution, so even though only 400 copies appeared, I doubt more than half have been moved. Those who have read it, however, have experienced it the way I hoped: puzzled, amused, moved, frustrated, wanting more yet strangely satisfied…

When I was writing the book, the title kept changing – 40 dreams, 50 dreams, 60 dreams – so I just wrote “[xxx] dreams” after a while. The final count, I believe, is 69.

Interested in a copy? Click the image of the book, or write me.  There are some kind reviews on Goodreads, too.

Galleon: the hammering, the hot pitch

Well, it’s just about ready to sail, though we need funds to make the winds blow. Calls have gone out. An Indiegogo campaign nears. Associate editors have been added and the website has frame and buoyancy.

Call for submissions will go out in April.

Galleon: Poetry and Fiction from Atlantic Canada

Boulardarie Island Press

I’m pleased to be added to the editing roster of Boulardarie Island Press. The press, run by author Douglas Arthur Brown, falls into that evolving area between traditional publishing and self publishing, and could be described as “assisted, professional-quality self publishing” offering e-book conversion, editorial services, printing services, promotional advice. The preference is to work with authors who have already had a trade publication. Some of those authors, like myself, tire of waiting for the second or third book to be picked up, or have seen little financial benefit in traditional publishing.

The Boulardarie Island Press editing roster (drum roll… er, link roll….):

On not-plotting

I have begun a new piece of short fiction that’s an exaggeration of what I taught recently: don’t overplot, sketch out your story loosely, invent. In my notes for this story, of which there are only five small points and one name, I wrote “needs to take surprising turns, write blindly”.  It takes a while to get to this point in story writing, though. It takes a while to trust your voice, your creative process. I have only the vaguest of ideas where this story is headed, but I’m excited to write it.  Were I to plot it, develop every nuance of the characters, I would not write it. In my mind, I guess, creation is superior to construction. Were I to build a house it would be a meandering maze of surprising spaces. This is why I love such oddball works as The Journal of Albion Moonlight, Maldoror, Tristram Shandy.

If this new story works out, it’ll be – I swear- the final piece in my collection. It might not work out, but that’s part of the risk and I’d rather, as Melville says, fail in originality than succeed in imitation.


My mind, a list

Like  a boat in bad seize, perhaps. Upon waking, we:

Worry about bills. Since leaving a job I held for five years which paid the bills but did not allow me to save much (nor afford the time to do extra work) (and what little I saved stayed in Elba, though I was never really able ere), I have been freelancing, sort of, mostly editing.  300,000 words of it.  I have also sold fiction, accumulated per diems, ran a workshop and done minor web work and proofing. Work for a communications company looms. I’m organizing an event, as well.

Ponder fiction new and old. My most recently written novel is with an agent who was recommended by a publisher who was alerted by a writer friend who took a liking at a reading. The agent is also waiting for an earlier manuscript which I need to clean up. I ear the agent throws great parties. The story collection has been alerted to imminent excursion. Then there’s the arctic novel, the dam novel, the ghost story and the slow loris story, all to be written. The first one scares me, the last one excites me.

Think about Banff. Think about Banff means worry about funding, which is not in my hands. Fate is like a ball thrown back and forth between strangers in lightless room.  Two months.

Think about songs. If you do not write them they will not come. Lyrics are truculent little trolls. I hate them.

This is not really a list, is it? It’s a capsizing.

Think about reviving Galleon, the boat that floated but has been drydocked for years. This region needs another journal like it needs a hole in its bulkhead. That’s not true; I’m just stuck in this metaphor with you.

Think about starting a small press. Why why why why?

Think about not wasting time in the morning, such as…

Montreal and Back

You don’t expect water to suddenly go streaming up to the ceiling, a perfect rope of it. You don’t expect to see that two seats ahead of you on a plane. But it happens: the water jets up, blurps back down, the woman can’t believe what’s happened, the ceiling drips. The flight attendant catches it out the corner of his eye. His eye says hmm. My mind say uh huh, that’s not right. But it’s wiped and we fly on. Shouldn’t we be higher? What’s going on? No one notices. This isn’t 25,000 feet.  This is 5,000, maybe 7,000. And then we fall, dive down and the plane banks sharply to the right, turns, turns, turns into the sun we were leaving. A few passengers furrow their brows but most keep on chatting, reading, sleeping. I’d say something to the guy sitting next to me but he’s a ghost. I take my headphones off seconds before the announcement comes that unfortunately we are returning to Montreal due an issue with the aircraft’s ventilation system, i.e. cabin pressure. But we don’t drop from the sky, at least not in an unplanned (planed?) weigh.  We land. We board another. We get free drinks all the way home.

This was post-Forum. Post Montreal, McGill. The Canada Council had herded us, corralled us, milked us of ideas (no coming through slaughter) for two days. We obliged because free plane/food/hotel and we only feel whole around others like us unless they’re overly successful. But that rarely applies. They kept us together in tables and mine was Quill and Quire, Ricepaper, Canada Council, Cherie, LPG, Fetherling, ECW, Bernice, Theytus.  The pixelated head of  Richard Nash bobbed and weaved from a departure lounge in NYC. Outside the Forum was kindly Miss W., bringer of poetry and sustenance (and cute in a beret), and rude Asha on Valentine’s where a heart fell from the wall just missing the pakoras.

And it was cold. And I ate no bagels.

What’s fierce, short and downloadable?

20726769Thought I meant ‘me’ until you saw the download part, didn’t you? Today sees the publication of my e-book/story “Diary of a Fluky Kid.” When I was approached by Fierce Ink’s Colleen McKie about writing one of these (this is the 18th Fierce Short they’ve released) I didn’t have to think too hard, since I’d already been considering a story for them. The real challenge was to produce something not just readable, but good during a hectic time (xmas, snowstorms, trying to earn a living freelancing). Thanks to my writer friends for the feedback (Beth Janzen, Kerry-Lee Powell, Jeff Bursey, Elizabeth Blanchard, Andre Touchburn) and to Colleen and Kimberly Walsh at Fierce Ink.

For more on the story, what it’s all about and of course to download it, see this link:

On fresh rejection

This is just slipped in. I didn’t wring my hands before opening the email, didn’t hyperventilate, pace, pray or call a friend. I clicked it like it was no news at all.

Dear Lee Thompson,

 Many thanks for your submission of One for the Master. I enjoyed reading your manuscript for its mix of smart and crude humour, and for it attention to stylistic consistency. It has much going for it, especially in its controlled voicing, its verbal energy and its bodily preoccupations. However, there are always a lot of considerations at play in our decision-making, and we have determined that we cannot use it at this time.

That’s press number two. Number three may wait until I look at the manuscript again, which I’ll likely do while in Banff this spring. It’s a good book, timely, and someone will take it and never regret that they did.

Turning an old idea inside out

I have plans, many plans. Plans involving writing, mostly. And music. But this is about the writing plans. Beyond some edits and sending the Three out again (one currently is under consideration which may simply mean under a pile of other unopened envelopes) there are two novel projects: an ambitious northern novel based on my story “North of Fury” (Ellipse Mag 77-78) and the other I’ve begun to outline.

The other is an old idea made new. What I thought would be a surreal, hyper-poetic, sensuous, deep dream-state story – which I could never get more than a couple of chapters into before the language began to mock itself (I had been reading Dow Mossman’s The Stones of Summer when I started, and mix that with a love for William Goyen and James Joyce, well welcome to unreadable…) – is now, as I redraft it, a YA adventure novel narrated by a 15 year old. Now I’m not thinking Hunger Games and MONEY but that the central idea is simple and a simpler approach is better. More Lord of the Flies in terms of appeal and accessibility. Jesus, and it might even  have an ecological theme.

I love complex sentences and I love play in fiction. I doubt those things will entirely vanish. But I also love plot, adventure. We’ll see where it goes.

The early word gets the berm

20726769Fluky kid at bat for the win, pollsters. See here:

I like the encapsulation:

From a young age Lee D. Thompson lived and breathed baseball even if he didn’t take to the sport at first. Trouble was, as a bookish kid and a daydreamer, he was never really great at it. Thompson played in little league where he lived too much in his head to do much of anything but strike out.

Eventually he and his childhood friends started playing their own versions of the great game in backyards and basements, away from the pressures of organized sports. With no other teams to play against, winning became less important than the bonding between his friends and their fathers. When his own dad passes away suddenly at Christmas one year Thompson becomes acutely aware of these ties.

Diary of a Fluky Kid paints a coming of age story in nine innings along with poignant and humorous short stories from Thompson’s childhood.

E – Everyone over ten: Content is suitable for everyone but may contain mild violence and language and minimal suggestive themes

Pre-orders can be placed here:

Official release is February 11.  I will be enkindled.