Monday, April 30, 2007

Dumb luck, dumb writer

Research. Yep, thought I was good at it. Feeling pleased with myself this morning -- that should have been the warning bell -- thinking Double-blind is done-ish, when I saw that today's feature article on Wikipedia was on American military brats as a subculture. Scanned through it, patted myself on the back for getting influences and psychology in ...

discovered that the bugle call played at the lowering of the flag at 1700 hours (5:00 pm to civilians) on American bases is "Retreat."

My narrator, an American army brat who would know, says he heard "Taps."

I researched this years ago. And I still shagged it up. The novel's not gone to press, but the opening chapter was due to be printed in a sales kit this morning.

Caught it, just in time.

Dumb luck.

Complacency will kill ya.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

The Seven

Help select the Seven Wonders of Newfoundland at Product of Newfoundland:

Structure, smashed

Dead reckoning is a method of navigation, dependent on latitude and sun. The night sky is not consulted. Set your course straight and sail the line.

My ms Dead Reckoning is about power: who does what to whom, who gets to tell the story of it.

Draft after draft, it has failed as a novel. Or rather, I have failed it.

The protagonist is a girl who is mistaken for a boy in early eighteenth-century Bristol. For convenience and later self-preservation, she maintains the disguise, not that it fools everyone. Several people want to own her and use her, including two thieving pedophiles, a disgraced spy, a spymaster, a shipwrecked Englishman and self-styled fishing admiral.

An encounter with an old tormentor sparks violence, complicity and a sickening fall.

So what’s the best way to tell it?

This time, in pieces. Not multiple first person, but shards of third-person, scraps of testimony.

I want the story at your feet like splintered wood and dropped glass.

Shag linear. Shag dead reckoning.

No chart. Umm ...

Vagrant Review of New Fiction

The Vagrant Review of New Fiction is due out mid-May. This is Vagrant's first anthology, and it's a collection of short stories by emerging Atlantic Canadian writers. I was lucky enough to get a story in it, and I'm lucky enough to be going to the launch party. Can I wear my jeans?

VRONF is edited by Sandra McIntyre and Mary Jo Anderson.

Contributors are:

Brent White
Janet Parker Vaughn
Lee D. Thompson
Darcy Rhyno
Elizabeth Peirce
Sarah Mian
Nina Lassam
Amy Jones
Joanne Jefferson
Joey Comeau
Rhian Calcott
Michelle Butler Hallett
Erna Buffie
Judy Bowman
Russell Barton

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Coming soon ...

from the cover for Double-blind:

It’s the 1970s, the final icy winter of the Cold War. American psychiatrist Josh Bozeman finds himself in St. John’s as part of covert research group SHIP, the Society for Human Improvement and Potential. But SHIP defines "improvement" and "potential" as anything that can be forged into a weapon.

Enter Christy Monroe, one of Bozeman’s favourite patients, a nine-year-old girl with an extraordinary psychic gift. She becomes Bozeman’s subject in a SHIP double-blind experiment where the whole reality is dangerously obscure, blurring the lines between patient and doctor, duty and conscience, sanity and madness.

Twenty-five years later, Bozeman is drawn into an even darker paranormal agenda that sends him back to Newfoundland as the principal player in an endgame that could have mortal consequences for Christy, or for his own soul.

Double-blind is a feverish story of complicity, empathy, and the extremities of duty and love.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Best typi yet

More mistakes from revising Double blind ...

A particularly crude and manipulative character in a moment of rising tension says: "You think you've cured him? You've done duck-all."

Laugh. Find new spot to beat head.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Boopers and typis when the fat lady writes

Amongst the howlers discovered after the Double blind ms went out for blurbs:
  • the narrator and protagonist is eleven in 1946 and then nineteen in 1959
  • a super-duper top secret code on which the weight of a man’s very soul depends changes four times in two pages
  • the narrator’s air conditioner is not broken, yet the hot air is suffocating
  • and, best of all, the narrator spends time in Montauk on Long Island, yet somehow the first time he hears a foghorn or sees the Atlantic ocean is when he comes to St. John’s a year later

Beat head off wall. Rinse. Repeat.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Twisting the moustache

Monsters look like good guys.

That is the cause of the wretched confusion in an exploited child. A figure they’ve been told they can trust is the person hurting them. How do you reconcile that?

The child blames himself and endures.

That monsters look like calm good guys is part of what Hannah Arendt, referring to Adolf Eichmann, called "the banality of evil" – just following orders, just doing my job. (Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil)

Another part of that banality is the larger society in which the evil happens. What do we accept? What do we deny?

A great question for the twentieth century is about Nazi Germany. How could such an advanced culture a Germany’s give rise to such depravity? The same question can apply to Canada when examining the abuse of mental patients at the Allan or the Duplessis Orphans, the alienating horror of the residential schools, or the brittle denial of problems at Mount Cashel–to name a few.

Part of the answer lies in absences.

I think of evil as not existing in itself, but as the result of the absence of compassion. Just as darkness is not a thing itself but the absence of light.

If you have no compassion for another person, no doorway to empathy, then the other person has become less than human to you. Monsters live this way, cause harm. Then go home to their families and raise happy kids.

But if I refuse compassion for a monster, either an abstract one or one who has hurt me, am I monstrous?

Can a society heal and advance without deeper empathy, without some dim understanding of the monstrous as part of the human condition?

Spark-gap transmission / Michelle Butler Hallett

Spark-gap transmission / Michelle Butler Hallett
in progress