Life behind the lines

 

metaphor for a person who’s seen rock bottem… even if they’ve never hit it.

 
I am 2 chapters away from finishing the first draft of my story (I like to say story even though I mean novel, because to me saying you’re working on a novel sounds pretentious. Also because storyteller falls more in line with my beliefs than writer). The story is of course “Beyond the Southerly Weepers,” and it centers around a man (who is a cyborg) and his family as they are expelled from their safe-but-suffocating life in Las Lomas and forced to face the abundant dangers lurking in the Cal wilderness. The story is also post apocalyptic, but so far in the future a sort of dystopian government has installed itself as the sole power in the land of Cal.
At the same time that this first draft is nearing it’s close life has happened.
That’s what this post is about. The personal shit a story teller might be mired in as there project draws to a close. I’ve always wondered, what might have been happening in Rowling’s life when she finally figured out just how Harry’s parents died, or how Twain felt when he finally put down the last words of “a Connecticut Yankee at King Arthur’s Court.”
That’s what this is about from here on out, so if this kind of thing doesn’t interest you it’s cool if you decide to keep scrolling.
I’ve graduated from my community college in just five years (six of I’m honest, and I joke about the time it’s taken me to assuage the sting of failure). Isn’t it a load of bull that I can accomplish something I should be proud of and still torture myself with judgment I’ll never air anywhere but here? There’s a lot of that in me, and in the story of my cyborg as well.
I think maybe there is a post on me about how the stories we write can very much become a kind of therapy for us and a tool to over diagnose our every personality flaw should we choose.
All this to say it is a time in my life where I can’t help but take stock in my life and tally up the pros and cons.
Driving-
Two and a half years ago my license was suspended and last week I (with the help of friends and family) have just jumped through the last hoop the state of California set between me and mobility. I can drive again. That is a pro.
My girl-
I’ve been in what might be called a serious relationship for about 10 years (I know, a long time). And in that time I have hurt the relationship, and she has hurt the relationship (a lot). I’m not sure we’re good for each other, but you might say that at this point we deserve each other.
That was cynical…
She’s intelligent, she’s active, her hobbies are amazing (she breeds fancy shrimp in our spare room downstairs), and I’m still attracted to her (which isn’t something everyone who’s been together as long as we have can say).
She’s fallen in love, emotionally, with some of my closest friends. Which fucking sucks. And I’ve gotten use to there alway being a problem that needs to be fixed. 
Recently we’ve decided to give our relationship a real chance, and I have to figure out how to be friends with her again. I love her, but we haven’t been good friends for a long time.
This could be a pro
Parents and family-
Not being able to drive for so long has also put a strain on my relationship with my parents, family and friends back home. They are at once familiar and unknown all at the same time, and even if they won’t admit it I sense some hurt in them (perhaps my ow projection).
For both my family and my girl, the chance to rebuild and forge something good is a pro.
Roommates-
I live in a college town and go to school, so I have to live with roommates. In order to get this chance with my girl I had to hurt the dynamic of our apartment, and the change is palpable. If I get what I want things will not be the same. Part of me would have rather left them all than hurt the dynamic they had.
This is a con because I feel very guilty about everything.
All of this is in my writing. Of my darkest thoughts I’ve articulated to myself I once believed a character (Emily) that I was writing for my book was based on a real person, but since that person is not who I thought she’d was I find myself writing Emily and thinking it’s just fiction.
Thompson’s (my cyborg) world is a world that is not what it seems at first glance. When you think you know even its most vicious dangers, it has only lolled you into a false sense of security (you never know everything). That’s when you have to be really scared, because something is coming, a truth you overlooked, and in my world and in my experience truth is deadly.
Any writers or storytellers on here that have an experience they’d like to share, feel free to do so in the comments!

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Dose of Theory

*Excerpt

About two years ago I received a ticket while driving for not having my registration up to date. My car was unwashed and banged up, and the cop that tailed me followed me for several blocks (running my plate through “the system”) before flashing his lights and pulling me over. My girlfriend was with me at the time, and the officer had me sit still for several minutes while he waited for two more cars to arrive.

I kept my hands on the steering wheel because I wanted them to see that my hands weren’t doing anything suspicious. I didn’t want them to get spooked or to give them any reason to put a bullet in me. Truth was I was afraid of them at the time, and with good reason.

When I was in high school my JV baseball coach was a police officer. During the course of the year the man shot a seventeen year old in the parking-lot of the local Walmart. The papers said it was in self defense, and it probably was, but there was doubt among the students and even my parents. Whether it was self defense or not, it was a white on black homicide, and it was someone I thought I knew and who I’d trusted.

I’ve heard that there is generally mistrust between cops and two specific groups; lower-class Americans, and Minorities. Continue reading

A Letter to Good Readers

...god I look like a serial killer sometimes

…god I look like a serial killer sometimes

Dear readers

There are a few familiar faces and names I see rolling through here every week, and that is pretty amazing. I started this blog with the intent to post a piece of a story here every week. I had a strong start in the Summer, but when school started again this Fall I had to yield my time and efforts to the call.

I became a guerrilla writer for this site, posting only when time allowed. In the Summer I was happy to see people coming back, but after my regularity slipped I wasn’t expecting many to return. So when I wrote sporadically and saw a few check in again and again it made me happy, and genuinely so. There’s a satisfaction in knowing that a few people out there read what I have to say once in awhile, and have valued the time I spent writing for them enough to come back.

I want to thank those of you who take the time to read what I have to write, whether you’ve been with me since the beginning, or are just getting to know me. I very much appreciate it, and it means a lot to me when I see a handful of “likes” on the page every week. It’s oddly gratifying. For my part I will continue to try and compose quality thought, and when I step up to the writer’s box I want to make sure that every at-bat means something to me. I never want to phone it in. To me that means treating writing and thinking like arduous work when in fact it is a pleasure to engage those faculties.

The only thing I would ask of you who read with some regularity, is to forgive me when I seem full of myself (it happens quite a bit), and to give me a chance to get to know you as well. If any of you have a question you’d like to ask me, about myself or my work, I would be happy to answer, and that goes for any post. For my part, I will try and be a better reader myself and to visit other people’s pages more often, and to engage with others in the same way I am asking you to engage with me. I see a healthy writing community here, and I am just beginning my exploration really, which is exciting, and genuinely so.

Thank you,

David Puerner

“The Jennifer Lawrence Controversy” and Rubbernecking

This is what we do to celebrities, right? Now a days, with social media, everyone is a potential target.

So if you haven’t heard, a slew of actresses have had their private nude images stolen, or hacked, and the images have been made readily available on the internet. When I first heard of the story I’ll admit a moment of cro-magnon brand male lust. I’m a fanboy from time to time, sure, and I crushed on Jennifer Lawrence as hard as anyone.

I was close to following the rabbit hole when finally my super ego, or my conscience kicked in to stay my hand. I didn’t know Ms. Lawrence and I didn’t owe her anything more than I would another human being. That being the case I didn’t follow the links… not because I’m a good man, but because in this case I felt it was the right thing to do.

I’d been faced with similar choices before. For example when Saddam Hussein was publicly executed, I think he was hung, the broadcast was made available worldwide. I know what he did to his people, and he deserved what he got… but did I deserve to gawk? It seemed barbaric to participate in his death as a viewer, something akin to watching gladiators fight to the death in Roman times. We made a spectacle of the man’s death, and the only profit a viewer hoped to gain was, at its core, entertainment.

I didn’t want to be the kind of man that was entertained by real death.

You might think it is a stretch to compare the two situations. One is a “harmless nude photo” and the other the deserved death of a dictator linked to America’s 9/11 disaster, but to me there is a similar spectacle frenzy. Come watch this man be punished for his crimes and feel good that we have done justice in the world, this was the message for Hussein. Click on this link, see the nude photos you’ve always wanted to see, and take part in the greatest tragedy that has ever befallen one of America’s most beloved stars… after all she’s a celebrity and that means her life exists only to entertain you, right? I’m not so sure.

For Hussein, I was aware on some level that it was wrong for me to profit on his death, even if that profit was just “innocent fascination” or “justified satisfaction.” We should not celebrate execution. For Ms. Lawrence, she is completely undeserving of this breach of privacy. So yeah, in her case what you are feeling you might be able to convince yourself is just “innocent curiosity,” but the only justification you’ll be able to name is that she is a celebrity, and that doesn’t give you the right to profit from her plight.

Now let me be clear, just because I have shown restraint and respected one actresses’ privacy does not make me a completely enlightened man. I do watch porn, and even though I’m in a serious relationship I have fantasized about other women, and even some of my closest friends… what can I say? I’m a complicated man. But I think there’s a difference.

When I watch pornography I’m watching women who have consented to be filmed (and I use sites that have definitely paid their “performers,” none of that revenge filming bullshit). So there’s consent there. The women in that industry know they are creating a product. The actresses who have had their pictures stolen have given no consent, and Ms. Lawrence at least has made it clear that for her this is a nightmare. And my fantasies are my own, no one hears about them because i know what kind of damage that would do to the people I care about, and I’m mature enough to know the difference between fantasy and reality. I for one will not add to her nightmare, and I’m certain I am not the only one who feels this way.

I don’t think there’s a term for what’s happening here, but it’s like rape in that these women have had no choice in whether or not people view their images, and there are people who forced this situation onto them. It’s like rubbernecking too in that the “crash” is someone’s personally tragedy, and here we are hitting the breaks to get a better look. We don’t care if we’re slowing the people behind us because sure enough they’ll want to take a peek and see if there’s any guts on the road too.

I’m not Christian, or religious, or anything of the sort… and I wish we were a more moral country and society.

The Writer’s Journey (Part 3)

Fisheye, what it can feel like to meet a new group for the first time

Fisheye, what it can feel like to meet a new group for the first time

So we were talking about the Hero’s Journey and ascribing the general arc to the Writer’s Journey, a path no less dark and certainly no less arduous. I led you along my own journey. For departure I told you about my “music career,” and what I think is the inception of my love of story. For my initiation I brought you with me as I took my first creative writing course, and my my earliest impressions of my first and current novel writing group, NCN. I’ll get to the part of my story which the Hero’s Journey would call my return in the next piece, but today I’d like to tell you about my first ever meeting with NCN.

It was almost three years ago when I was first invited to meet with NCN. I had no idea what to expect. I showed up at the appointed place 10 to 6pm just as I was asked and sure enough there was the member who’d invited me (Molly). She found me and guided me over to where the others were waiting. Among them, John and Brittany for sure. Brittany must have been there on time because she’d carpooled with Molly (a few of us are notoriously late, I myself among them, which I know is terrible! I), and John was there early I think to glare down his nose at the world and have a good time talking shit about whatever paper back trail he was in the midst of hiking at the time.

Anyway I sat down, and remained pretty much quiet while the rest of the members showed up one by one. As I’ve stated before, and this is from my perspective, the original members were Brittany, John, Molly, Annie, Ian, and Tim… but out of those six the only 2 founding members were Brittany and Molly. At six o’clock the only member not with us was Ian.

I wasn’t there for the budding drama, but John was playing a tune I’d become familiar with, “It rankles my ass that we’re all here on time, and once again Ian’s jerking off somewhere when he should be here!” Oh yes, NCN can be a place of high drama, for a certainty. Now this is an approximation of the man’s speech, but if you could travel back to that time you’d hear a more colorful and masterfully articulated burst of profanity and irritation the likes of which you aren’t likely to have heard before… I of course kept quiet while a few of the member’s nodded their heads in agreement.

Looking back, I think they were trying to communicate with me. The message within the message was, listen asshole, if you wanna be a part of this group you will be here on time, is that understood? Message received. From the time I joined to the space of over a year I was never late… then I slipped, and I’m still in recovery, though I’ve had a good streak going.

Anyway we crowded into a large classroom and rearranged the tables so that the seven of us could sit in close quarters. In this way the group had the atmosphere of a war council, except instead of scattered maps with pins set at strategic locations, NCN had snacks (fruit and crackers) and eventually stacks of chapters. Novel crafting was their war and I would learn that they were each one of them, generals.

We sat down and they began to tell me about the group, and their expectations for new members. They began be expressing the fact that NCN was a professional development group, and that every member present had the goal of publishing in mind. This was a fancy way of saying, we don’t fuck around here. Now, since I’ve been a member, I’ll let you know that we do have a good time. We do poke fun at each other, quite a bit actually, but our goal is the production of sound writing, and that we place above all else.

Next each member described their novels for me. After that intimidating introduction this is what humanized them. Each member was asked to create and lay a synopsis of their latest work for my benefit. One began by invoking a genre I’d never heard about at the time, steam punk, another smiled folded her fingers together and began a ten minute lecture on the many different types of magic and magical factions in her novel, and yet another began with a disclaimer and a warning.

Through each synopsis there was eye-rolling, laughter, interjection, and clarification. If a member missed something about their novel that another thought important, that other would interject. “Don’t forget about this!” What I learned then was that these people were on the same team. They rooted for each other, and pushed one another to do better, to elevate their work to the next level. When someone wanted to play the modest card and describe their work as something meager, here was the group to champion their cause, your novel is worthwhile, you don’t work in vain! What these people offered one another was week to week gratification, and the feeling that what they did (what we do) is important to at least the people in this room, and that is a sign that it may be important to the folks beyond it too! That is paramount.

About midway through the meeting the infamous Ian shows up. Looks like your average Joe, but he’s got a super human voice with a boom that can demolish stone masonry (he’s loud). He apologizes, shakes my hand, the group informs him what we’re doing, and then he begins his own synopsis, “Clint Eastwood meets High Fantasy.” Again, this was over my head, but I was intrigued. The Good the Bad and the Ugly is still one of my all-time favorites.

Finally they got down to the business of laying the challenge at my feet. For all other members, they let the folks in to try out without any sort of test. Whatever scrutiny the trial members received they received in group, but they only had to want it and they were in for a time. This being the case, NCN received some strange members over the years.

There was a man who wrote and rewrote the same 4 chapters over an over again. Another who wrote the bizarre in the vein of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, not that there’s anything wrong that style but from the group’s description he was all over the map, and there’s probably one or two crazies I’ve never heard about and haven’t asked about. This time they meant to do something a little different to screen.

They told me I had to produce 50 pages, submit it to the group for analysis, and if I was invited back they might offer me a shot at joining. The task didn’t feel impossible, but I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I told them I’d do it.

The remainder of the group was good. Molly read first. She was my teacher, and her work surprised me. Scene one of the first thing I ever heard her read a psychopathic killer was dipping a knife into a woman’s leg and tasting the blood! Yikes! The next to read was John, and the first glimpse into his mind was something one never recovers from. A religious zealot from the time of the the Spanish conquistador Cortez (possibly shortly after) travels forward through time to another galaxy where the British Navy is still running strong… but in space. The zealot materializes in the cargo hold of a ship and is transformed into a pleated human bug-thing that can control the dead. That’s a big WTF, you know!

Needless to say that first meeting was utterly mind boggling. As for the other members, I was impressed with them too, but for me my introduction to the group was dominated by Molly and John… and if you knew them you’d say that that fits their personalities, and there’d be no surprise whatsoever.

Thank you for reading,

David

The Writer’s Journey (continued)

The Ever-Shifting Lens of Heaven

Like I said before my initiation was twofold.

I took a creative writing class with Molly at Butte College, and I loved it. My peers were amazing, my teacher was amazing, and fuck even the textbook was amazing. We quickly figured out that we had a lot to learn. The semester was broken up into 2 parts.

The first half of the semester was dedicated to “The Elements” of writing. We covered things like Diction, POV, and Imagery. I think all of us were overwhelmed by the idea that all these elements and the individual writer’s own personal mojo had flow in concert with everything else to be truly stunning… were we talking about story craft or alchemy? Sometimes the lines blurred.

I was forced to reevaluate my favorite stories, the Lord of the Rings, Dune, 1984, and so many more. As much as I love the class it ruined television and movies for me. Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy all mediums including cinema, but now I watched and analyzed with an eye more critical than I’d ever previously honed. What worked? What didn’t? What agreed with my own aesthetic? Where did my aesthetic clash with what’s popular today? These questions consume me to this day.

The highlights of the class were by far my peers. Three incredibly talented and intelligent women stand out in my mind. One wrote a trippy story about a giant Koi that ate a fisherman, another about graphic murder, and the other offered sound critique again and again and challenged me to be more thoughtful with my own. For myself my favorite piece was one about a Gorilla standing up in his pen at the SanFrancisco Zoo and shouting at the people he perceived as his captors (I’d just wanted Rise of the Planet of the Apes, so talking Apes was on my mind)!

The other nugget of hellsyeah I left with was a six page short story with seven identical sisters, a cyborg named Thompson, and a young girl named Kiddow marching into the belly of a Necropolis located a mile beneath the sands of Death Valley to hand Thompson, a man the seven sisters (The Hebdomad) considered a traitor. Kiddow was made to lay the noose around her daddy’s neck… I remember reading this aloud to my class and evoking sadness within myself at this point in the narrative. Sometimes the feels get you, even when it’s your own work.

That short story is what gave rise to Beyond the Southerly Weepers, and to this day I am grateful to my creative writing class. Without it I should never have seen this world of vast potential and grim realities that is New Haven (formerly know as California). Yes it was a good class, but there was even more to be offered.

It seemed Molly and an unknown group called Northern California Novelists, a novel writing group that has been instrumental in my continued and ongoing development as a writer and as a person. One day Molly approached me after class, as she does with students every semester and invited me to come check out the group (She insisted the group wasn’t her group, but a few of us wonder from time to time :P). I accepted.

There were six members of NCN when I first met them. I’ve told you about most of them before. Molly, a woman who enjoys horror novels and is currently writing a YA trilogy, was known first to me as teacher… I took quite awhile for my mind to accept her as peer, and now I view all my teachers as peers along with all the greats of Literature which can get me into trouble with other profs from time to time, but hey, that’s another story. There was Tim, big burly fellow who at the time was writing a fantasy bit about a thief with a worm in his brain that talked to him. It was good fun to be sure! Now he’s writing an alternate, steam punk history of America circa 1812. Also, good shit! There was Ian who at the time was also rolling a fantasy novel… he described it as “Clint Eastwood meets High Fantasy” and I must say his Outsider and his Lyzo Gyo magic is just about as fantastic as they come. Ian is currently working on a sci-fi bit about an ice-moon and a cyborg named Zed (…jerk thinks he can muscle in on my territory, huh!?). Another is Jon, you’ve heard of him. He’s as dense and thick in the skull as he is talented. Sometimes he sees in black and white, but I suspect he would say he sees the truth, and if you disagree with him you’re either stupid or an idealist, equal propositions in his book. He was writing a galaxy-hopper sci-fi bit about an intergalactic, religious zealot, cockroach that traversed the universe to snare escaped property, a man named Dean Devlin. Now he’s writing about a WWII era Wight… yeah, this guy’s messed in the head to be sure. Then there’s Brittany. She was shy when I met her, and can still pull an awkward card like pro if she has to, but she’s warmed up to me. She is a horse sketching enthusiast, who dances, practices martial arts of one variety or another, and weaves complex prose together to create daunting and daring plots, and she loves high-fantasy brand magic. The first novel she was working on she was presenting backwards (she’d finished the novel but was presenting the story to us from last to first like it was the fantasy version of Memento!). Highlight: A fire demon cutting the rings of a King, the rings gave the user power, and this particular fire demon symbolically castrated the gentleman in front of his whole court! Good show, no? Finally, before there was Liz, there was Annie. Annie’s novel was one part snooze-fest, one part action packed rumpus through a post apocalyptic future world, and two parts crazy. “Insert the mind hooks and turn 90 degrees,” is a line that will haunt me to my dying day. Stan’s is the man, and the other… not so much. I owe these folks a great deal, and I respect them all tremendously.

Next time I’ll tell you about my very first meeting with NCN, and the impossible Herculean task they laid out for me to perform before they would give me a shot at the group.

Thank you for reading,

David

 

 

Note: I am not the original owner of the image appearing above this article.