“Where do you get your ideas?” is the most common question writers are asked. (Followed closely by “Do you know Stephen King/Stephenie Myer/J.K. Rowling?” and “How much do you pay to get your books published?”) Sometimes it’s a question we can’t answer because we simply don’t know. Some ideas just pop into our heads fully realized, and all we have to do is sit down and write. (Too bad that doesn’t happen more often!) But sometimes we know exactly where and how a story idea is born, and that’s the case with my contribution to Vampires Don’t Sparkle, “What Once Was Flesh.”
I wanted a nice “eye-catching” title for my post today. After battling with myself for all of two minutes, I decided not to use the Life after Death title I wanted. Because, although I was technically “dead” while they operation on me for hours, I wasn’t really dead.
At least, I don’t think so.
I mean, I did not see a white light; get visited by old dear dead relatives; receive any messages from beyond and I did not have any earth shattering visions. I was a little disappointed.
But then, I felt the same three years ago when they pumped me full of radioactive gunk and ran tests on me. I sort of hoped that I’d get some sort of super power, like Spiderman or even Dr Doom. (I know he’s a bad guy, okay?)
I have mentioned that before I was checked out of the hospital early (the staff and the doctors/surgeons were amazed that I’d “recovered” in 4 days) the cardiologist gave me a “pep” talk.
Said talk consisted of me suddenly realising one day that I’d almost died and that I would react, most probably, badly to it.
But I have changed. No doubt about it. I’m different.
I could not have told you why either. Not until the other day at least.
I’ve finally been allowed to attend cardiology rehabilitation. I won’t go into the reasons why I’ve had to wait for over six months after the heart attack and two surgeries to attend. I’ve written about it all before. At my first “rehab” appointment I was given a questionnaire to fill in. Very much like the one I’d filled in on my first visit to my local GP after I got home from the hospital.
It asks lots of questions about how you feel.
Do you worry? Are you stressed? And so on.
One question towards the end jumped off the page at me.
Do you feel like you are in a hurry or like there is not enough time?
That is exactly how I feel.
I’ve been rushing around trying to do so many things; mainly because I’m afraid if I don’t, I’ll never get anything accomplished.
It has dawned on me that I’ve spent the vast majority of my life not doing the things I was passionate about or even enjoyed doing.
My “too close for comfort” brush against the big guy with the scythe and hood made me realise it was time to stop futzing around. I then jumped back into the writing of my blog with almost manic energy (after I’d started feeling like I really was alive after all) and then took stock.
At the end of that stock take, I’d made up my mind. Try everything that you’ve wanted to do for years; things that, damn it, you were good at. Writing and acting leapt to the front of the queue.
I am writing (a bit more sedately as I’m having to share my output) my blog, of course, but I’m also writing for Rogue Cinema. I’ve gotten my first freelance job, I’ve applied to The New Yorker Times, I’ve been accepted by What Culture and I’ll be acting for the first time in years around June/July this year. I am also, starting on May 16th, a host for Tomorrow Comes Media.
I am also up to chapter 7 of my book and I’m still sorting out ideas for more short stories for my collection.
I’m also researching, reading and discovering new authors and films. All these are just on the creative side of my life.
I’ve found that I can also take care of my house, garden, exercise, cook and try to get on top of my financial crisis.
Life is, at the moment, pretty damned sweet.
It is also busy.
So life after almost dying is good and, it has to be said, much better than the alternative.
Adam Lights short storyTakenthrows a different light on the usual tales of abduction. Here is a protagonist whose secret trauma is not revealed until the very last of the story and it helps to give an O Henry ending that quite surprised me.
I have only just discovered the delights of Adam and Evans Light and their twisted world of horror and the unique way they write about it. I’m rapidly becoming a fan and I’ll be continually dipping into their new books as they write them, like a literary humming-bird darting into their different stories for a taste of sweet sinister terror.
Both the authors can be found in the realms of Goodreads and what a pleasant discovery they are. If you aren’t familiar with their work, check out the Goodreads site and keep your eyes peeled for some of the special deals that these two talented writers are a part of. Kindle deals abound and you can sample the terror filled treats that are becoming a staple of the two brothers.
I’ve only read two of the brother’s work and as I mentioned above, I am rapidly becoming a fan of their original ideas and very different story lines. I know that the title of this post is somewhat deceiving in that it looks like I am going to be addressing the story Takenits own. But being a short story, I would give way too much of the plot away.
I will say it deals with a long distance driver who loves his stay-at-home partner too much. So much in fact that he’ll do anything for her. It’s a great read and entertaining.
Check both Adam and Evans stuff out, if their stories were edible, I’d say, “They’re finger-licking good.”
A definite 4 star tale just for the unpredictable twist at the end.
So, when I was first offered “Ill health retirement” I was shocked. I’d been told, when I asked about when my back was injured and did not seem to be improving, that it was nigh on impossible to get. “As long as you can hold a bloody pencil mate, they’ll use you.”
That, however, did not turn out to be the case. I was offered a “lower tier” pension. That means I’ll get it until I shuffle off this mortal coil. Sounds impressive, doesn’t it? Trust me when I say it is not. The amount I’ll get each year won’t even keep me in “beer and skittles.” But honestly, the amount that I do not know about the whole pension system and what I’ll get along with any benefits added in, would not fill a matchbox.
I am hoping to learn. Mind you, I was hoping to learn before I had to make up my mind to take the retirement. It just wasn’t to be.
So in about the shortest time span ever, I’ve changed direction with my life once again. I think that this has got to be a new “personal best” for me. Three years ago, I leave my wife of over 25 years and set the wheels in motion for the divorce. Then last year I got injured at work and lost almost six months off of work and just started back when I had the heart attack.
Two surgeries later, I’m out of the hospital after four days with the doctors astonished at how quickly I’d recovered. Then just over four months goes by and I’m invalided out of Her Majesty’s Prison Service. Three years with a matching number of events, two of which were life changing.
Karma is sort of kicking my ass. I just don’t know if it’s because of something I’ve done in this life or the last. I’ll have to see if I can get in touch with Shirley MacLaine; she’s an expert in that sort of thing.
But despite the Keystone Kops pace of my life’s recent changes, I am at peace. Not all the time. I came close to having a spectacular blow-out the other day caused by too many questions and unknowns that were starting to panic the crap out of me. One thing that has helped me to keep a more or less even keel through all of this is my blogging.
I stopped by work for the last time today and said goodbye to the few friends who were on. One of them asked if I’d still be doing my blogging. Oh yes, I replied it was keeping me sane and even though it wasn’t paying any bills, I was pleased with the amount I was writing and the fact that I was pretty much doing it daily. I even went so far as offering the opinion that it might just lead to employment someday.
We all had a chuckle at that and I made my excuses and left. The one constant thing in my life right now is my writing. I started doing short stories again, although really they are more like flash fiction and hopefully I’ll accrue enough of those plus a few longer stories to fill a collection. Who knows?
It is amazing how satisfying it is to be creative again. I know, a couple of short stories do not a creative world make, but, most of my writing is in a sense creative. Even when spouting my opinion about things I’ve seen or read or watched, I do have to have a touch of creativity there. But like my slow recovery to fuller health, I am getting better at it (the writing) the more I do it. *At least I think I am and if you think otherwise, please keep it to yourself.*
The two short stories (flash fiction) almost wrote themselves. They actually had to wait on my uncoordinated fingers to type the words out for each one. The first one started as a sentence that just randomly popped into my head three weeks earlier. Two years ago, it would have been shoved to the back of my head for instant flushing. I had lost the overwhelming urge to take an idea, or a sentence, and run with it. See where it headed or died.
When I turned my back on the acting world I turned my back on creativity. I did not think I could do that anymore. But now that I’ve found that I have not lost the “knack” and I can rescue that little niggle in the back of my head. My new catchphrase in this new chapter of my life will be creativity.
In fact if I was writing the story, which in a sense I am, I’d title this chapter I Knew I Could.
Published in 2011, Gods Without Men is a multi-timed, multifaceted story of a stretch of desert that seems to draw mysterious forces to it. In the 1700’s a Franciscan Friar attempts to bring Christianity to scattered tribes of local Indians. The area that the friar operates from is near three pinnacles of rock which, to the friar, seem to represent the Holy Trinity.
In the 1800’s a prospector comes to the same area to dig for silver and to uncover a different truth. Truth about lights in the sky and what they mean. He wants to communicate with Gods more ancient than the friar’s God.
Another man and his wife are studying a local Indian tribe. He is trying to learn their history and their ancient stories. He leaves his wife to collect these stories and she falls in love with one of the braves in the tribe.
In the 1940’s another man is drawn to the silver mine. He transmits signals aimed at the sky. His message is “welcome.” He waits for someone or something to arrive, drawn by his peaceful transmission.
In the 1970’s a group of UFO worshipping hippies build a commune at the site. They develop their own “new” religion and it deals with the terrors of nuclear devastation and help from celestial bodies and power that can be channelled at the site.
In 2008 a young English rock musician is in LA. Becoming disillusioned with the direction that his band is heading, he does a runner. High on drugs, he steals one of his manager’s guns and drives through the desert until he reaches the area of the three pinnacles.
A young Punjabi man and his family arrive at the same time as the musician. The young man’s family is coming apart, mainly because of their extremely autistic son. They wind up staying in the same hotel as the awol musician. A hotel that is on its last legs, but one that is so full of vacancies that the young family won’t have to move on because of complaints about their son.
While visiting the rocks, the young family’s autistic son goes missing. This “special” place in the desert is descended upon by waves of media vans, reporters, and police. Despite searching for weeks, all traces of the boy have vanished and the searchers end up empty-handed.
Hari Kunzru weaves these stories and their time periods masterfully. Each timeline and its occupants effect and touch one another. It is though all times are occurring at once. The thread that seems to pull all these together is the presence of a force or power that is not of this world. Someone once said of Alfred Hitchcock that he was an enigma wrapped in a mystery (or vice versa) and that is what Hari has done with his novel.
At 283 pages it is not a long novel, but it is involved and intricate. Each time period, which Hari intertwines and overlaps with no chronological order, serves to cloud the issue of what is actually out there at the three rock towers.
It seems that most of Kunzru’s cast of characters are drawn to the area in search of something bigger than life; a force that either comes from outer space or from the Indian spirit world or from another dimension.
In 2008 a young Iraqi girl and her brother live with their uncle and aunt at the edge of this desert. The girl and her uncle are hired to help train military personnel at a simulated Iraqi village. It is while she is there participating in the training exercise that she finds something that will change a lot of people’s lives.
Hari Kunzru has been compared to Kurt Vonnegut as well as other eclectic modern writers. But it is Vonnegut that he most resembles in his writing style. Not to say that he is emulating “Father” Kurt, but that his story telling is slightly reminiscent of the great writer’s own.
The book, despite moving forward and backward in time, flows smoothly and finishes on a note that would make Hitchcock proud. Like the film ending of The Birds, you are left with a sense of time suspended waiting for the dust to settle before the events speed back up and continue on their odd path.
Gods Without Men is a curious blend of science fiction, folklore, fantasy and even, to a degree, mystery. By the time I finished the book, I felt like I should immediately turn back to the first page and read it again. I felt that I might have missed something; missed some vital clue as to why the book ended the way it did. I felt the need to see if Kunzru did indeed mean for the book to end this way.
Despite my confusion at the end of the book, I thoroughly enjoyed the journey that Kunzru took me on. Or perhaps I should say journeys, because the cast of players each had a journey to undertake and without these separate jaunts, the main storyline would not have existed.
I would have to say that Gods Without Men is a 5 out of 5 stars for just the journeys alone.