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We are the Food.

WoD White Demon

The first Hellmaw book has been published by renowned author Ed Greenwood, so be sure to check it out, as he is the diabolical mastermind behind the creation of the world that I will be playing in for my upcoming novel.

As the autumn days die into the long dead nights of winter, we pick up on my last post, where I asked you: what if we were food? What if we were no longer at the top of the food chain and rather than the occasional shark attack, or lions, tigers and bears, we were actively hunted as food.

Let’s retreat from the nihilistic view of complete world destruction from a massive feeding frenzy, like we see on TV and in the movies, which are chock-a-block of zombies ambling endlessly after us in The Walking Dead, or more terrifyingly, swarming us at super speeds in 28 Days Later and World War Z.

Before the grotesquely dead hunted us in pop culture, we’ve long been stalked by seductively dangerous vampires, who are at their best when they are akin to serial killers, toying with us in 30 Days of Night, enslaving us in Blade, or outright farming us like cattle in Daybreakers.

Who can forget the vicious otherworld hunters popular two decades ago who pursued us so they could reproduce in Aliens, for sport in Predator, or duped us into thinking they came in peace during the TV series V.

The difference between these latter two groups and the current infestation of zombies, is a smart predator understands how to cull the heard without over feeding, because to do so would lead to starvation. The smart predator also understands how vastly outnumbered it would be if the herd suddenly transformed their fear into a desperate will for survival and turned on it.

As many of us who would certainly fall victim like lambs to the slaughter, given good reason, our fear of being hunted could easily flip to anger and a desire for revenge. Having been at the top of the food chain for all of our evolution, it would take very little to foment that fear of being the hunted and once again becoming the hunters. That would not bode well for our solitary stalkers at all.

No, this kind of hunter is far more insidious. It requires iron self-control and a deep understanding of the subtle balance between annihilation and starvation. Let the feeding get out of control and the “food” fights back, or disappears completely. It requires skill. It requires cunning.

These are the types of monsters I find fascinating. And scary. Terrifying really. That scene from 30 Days of Night where the teen-aged girl is used as bait to lure the remaining survivors out of hiding is utterly chilling. It was firmly etched in my mind the first time I saw it in the theatre, and still gives me the shivers.

That is the kind of monster that will be populating my slice of Hellmaw. Won’t you stick around and see who becomes the hunter and who the hunted?

Bloody Toothy Smile

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Meat.

Prehistoric hunter

So let’s talk about food for a moment. Specifically meat. I think it’s one of the food groups that we completely take for granted. Like where it comes from—oh sure we have a basic idea, animals are killed for it—but unless you are a hunter or a farmer, I don’t think it’s something we give much thought to. We just trundle through the aisles of the supermarket, picking over the lovely cellophane wrapped pink and red squares, raising our eyebrows at the increasing prices, looking for what’s on sale, what a particular recipe calls for, or what we feel like cooking. Some of us go a step further by shopping organic, patting ourselves on the back, feeling good about animals raised humanely…but are they killed humanely? Is that part of the organic process?

Packaged Meat

Unless you have been hunting, caught something, shot something, tied it to the roof of your car and brought it all home, how familiar are you with killing something? A story for you: my sister, driving home one evening saw a young doe along the side of the road. She’d been hit by a car, which presumably had just driven on not too worse for the encounter, while the doe lay heaving out her last breaths. My sister, ever the animal lover, pulled over and comforted the poor thing during its final moment on Earth. When the ordeal was over, she felt the best way to honour this majestic animal’s passing was to not leave it for the scavengers, but to take it home, cut it up for venison and cure the hide as a token of this intense learning experience. So that’s just what she did.

Two things left an indelible impression on me after she shared this story with me a few days after it had all occurred: First, ugh, how could she eat road kill?! And second, she remarked on how much hard work it had been stringing the animal up, bleeding it out, butchering it and disposing of that which could not be salvaged as food.

How many of us have seen a large animal bleed out? How many of us have been the one to break its neck, slit its throat, string it up, gut it…you get the idea. There is a huge part of the process almost all of us have never given a thought to, never mind participated in. How nice for it to arrive at our store in these lovely little pristine white packages with the clear window or wrapped tightly in butcher’s paper.

fist_full_of_bacon_ipad_sleeveNow I am not a vegetarian, never have I entertained the desire to give up meat—I enjoy it way too much! I had some of my sister’s road kill venison stew and it was delicious. She used to be a Lacto-Ovo Vegetarian for over 10 years. Until one day she wasn’t. Funny story about that. It was the morning of a holiday—Christmas or Thanksgiving—and we woke to the glorious smell of coffee brewing and bacon frying. Mum and I were deep in our routine of quietly reviving over a cup of fresh java, Dad was yakking away and my sister came down, sat at the table and then yelled, “I can’t take it anymore!” and jammed a fistful of bacon in her mouth. That was the end of her meat shunning days.

Now to get to the “meat” of my post. We know, or choose to know, very little about how meat ends up on our table to be consumed. I myself have never killed anything. We are blissfully ignorant sitting at the top of the food chain, being good little consumers with a clear conscience. So my question to you, dear readers, is what if we weren’t? What if we were the food? How would our society change? How would we as individuals need to change if we were suddenly the meat being consumed?

I’d love to hear you sound off in the comments section below, or on my Facebook page dedicated to the novel. It’d be great if we can pick up and continue this discussion in my next blog post.

Oni (Team Wolf Season 3)

Your World is Doomed!

Tonight the Red Mage has thrown open the first of the gates, the one to Hellmaw!

I’m finally able to share with you a few details of the teaser I was dying to tell you back in September: I am part of Ed Greenwood’s creative universe, Onder Librum. And I have been contracted to do a novel in his first world, Hellmaw.

There was a great war. Those who were triumphant banished the vanquished through one-way portals, never to return home. They were sentenced to live out their immortal lives forever in exile. That world is ours. We are their food.

Ever since I met darkness I was enamored. A city at night is a transformed thing, a creature with a life of its own, denizens not of the day world. There are different rules after sunset and if you don’t know them, aren’t quick to adapt, more’s the pity for you. Nervous? Don’t be. Take my hand, I can guide you through the danger. You trust me, don’t you? I’ll show you things, things you never knew you wanted to know.

Eyes of DarknessThis is the place I’ll be sharing my writing, introducing my characters and revealing tidbits of my story. Some of it is going to be raw, naked, untested. A lot of it won’t make it into the final manuscript, so join me for the journey–I give good road trip.

Click the buttons along the right and follow me here, via Twitter and my new Facebook page that will be dedicated solely to this project.

See you where the sun don’t shine…

Stuck.

Blowing off the Dust

*COUGH! COUGH! COUGH!*

Wow. It’s been quite a while…hasn’t it? Three years almost to the day. I was actually going to wait until the actual anniversary, but being the phenomenal procrastinator that I am, I didn’t want to risk missing it.

So a lot has been up. Quite. A. Lot. Not sure where to begin. I think the trick to getting this post live is to keep things brief, at least until I get back into a good rhythm.

So I retired from PinkPlayMags. It was time. I’d accomplished all I really wanted to accomplish with the little magazine that could. I learned reams about being an editor. I’m very proud of my 7 years there. Toronto hosted WorldPride in 2014, so I thought that was a truly inspiring high-point on which to leave the mag and push on to something new. Something different.

I’ve been dreaming a lot. My usual crazy cinematic dreams. They are quite like a Jean-Pierre Jeunet film. My unfinished novel has once again been languishing on the shelf, collecting dust like this blog…but it hasn’t remained quiet in my head. My fingers have been itching to write. But I was stuck. Stuck good.winnie-the-pooh-stuck-in-rabbits-house

I’ve been gaming a little less, although now I am visiting more worlds than ever before — truly expanding my horizons! I carved out some time to get back to reading. Voraciously! Then a dragon hunting friend and I got to talking of days of yore…when along came a mage in a red hat. Suddenly I wasn’t stuck anymore. Instead I was falling, falling down a deep dark, fascinating hole filled with possibility. Stay tuned to see what adventures are in store. There will be much writing. And a conflagration of daemons, nasty and naughty. That’s all I can say right now. You’ll just have to trust me and follow me down

Down-the-Rabbit-Hole-Studying-for-Finals

Taking Risks: A Love Letter to Amanda Fucking Palmer

Recently a friend of mine has gone back to school, the daughter of another is happily enrolled in new classes and yet another friend is very seriously pursuing attending college for the upcoming winter semester. All this questing for new knowledge has left me feeling like I’m missing out, nostalgic for the classroom, which is funny because the first time through, I couldn’t wait to be done, outta there and living real life. Well that longing has landed me right in the middle of a trite — but nevertheless important — realization: I AM in school. Right now. The school of life. And I feel like I’ve been flunking this past year.

You see, I’ve been so wrapped up in being stuck on what I’m NOT accomplishing that I’ve been missing all the great stuff I HAVE been accomplishing.

Neil Gaiman

I’ve always been a HUGE fan of Neil Gaiman. Reading his blog has been a comforting ritual I’ve done for a few years now — if I can’t BE accomplishing, then I’m at least going to live vicariously through someone I admire, doing what I wish I was doing. I love his imagination, his outlook on life, his calm, intelligent sense of self and the world around him and his lamppost. I was however a little taken aback when he married Amanda Palmer. It seemed like such a bizarre match for him, even taking into account that opposites attract. I found myself wondering what he was doing marrying a woman 16 years his junior. I found myself wondering if my fave author was going through the classic mid-life crisis. I found myself wondering why it mattered to me. I mean, I’ve always like older guys — you think I’d see this as ridiculous to be preoccupied over. You see, I’ve been stuck in my head a lot and this is just a fraction of the Camptown Races swirling around in my very noisy mind every day.

Lately I’ve been doing EVERYTHING I can to keep myself distracted from making my art. It terrifies me.

In being distracted though, I’ve been learning new things. One of those things has been getting to know the public side of Neil Gaiman’s wife, Amanda Palmer. It began over a year ago reading about her in his various blog posts and eventually I was drawn to reading her own blog. The woman is wild. She is honest — sometimes brutally so. Yet she is kind. Beautiful. Courageous. And she wears her heart on her sleeve. All these things endear me to her and cause me to have such a profound respect for her. And in bravely creating her art in a way few have had the vagina to — and I say this lovingly, referring to what Betty White said about growing a vagina instead of balls because balls are delicate and a vagina can really take a pounding — Amanda is making it work. Really making it work!

And because she is putting herself out there and because she is making it work, she has been attacked over so many things, from the success of her kickstarter campaign, to the request of local musicians to play her concerts for free. More importantly though, she is attracting all these new fans who suddenly adore what she is doing, the risks she is taking and the beautiful art that she is making. New fans like me.

And I find myself wanting to be that brave, wanting to take those big risks, the ones that make you question your sanity every step along the way and the very questions you cannot take the time to answer, because to do so would stop you dead in your tracks. For the rest of your life. You just have to keep flying toward the sun ignoring that your wings are disintegrating because the flight itself is just so fucking beautiful.

I feel like I understand so much now. And yet so very little. I do feel like I have a glimpse into why my favourite author is entranced by this powerful woman. My hungry imagination feels fed, it can’t get enough. My fears are still booming around me, more terrifying than ever before, but I feel compelled to act on them rather than hide from them. I have discovered this quiet little place in my mind where the fear thunders around me, but I am at peace.

So what in the world does this have to do with storytelling?! EVERYTHING!!

Take risks and write. Every day. Take risks and show your writing to other people. Take risks in your writing, with your plot, with your characters — make your characters take risks! Just put yourself out there and make good art.

I ❤ you Amanda Fucking Palmer.

Filling up the Bucket

So I just read one of Ben Nesvig’s most recent posts and I’m feeling a little down. It brings up a really critical point though: “Your mental capacity is not in a fixed state. Creativity is a muscle. Just like any other type of muscle, in order for it to grow stronger, you need to push yourself on a consistent basis. Spurts of 2 weeks of steady writing and one month off are too inconsistent. Whatever isn’t getting better is getting worse.”

Following the ‘creativity’ link, what James Altucher had to say further on the subject, was even a little more depressing: “You need to exercise the idea muscle. It takes about 3-6 months to build up once it atrophies. Trust me on this.”

I trust both of you, Ben and James. In fact I think you are the bluntly honest talk I’ve been needing from a close creative friend. It’s been two years since I’ve been to the gym anywhere close to my regular routine of 3-4 days per week and reading these two posts has reminded me that it’s been 10 months since I’ve done any serious work on my novel. Hence the sadness. My physical and creative selves have atrophied. I really feel like I’ve let myself down.

Two questions immediately come up: Why have I let myself down? How do I get back on track?

Now, I am proud of the struggle I’ve been waging over the last few years to answer the first question of why I seem to be standing in my own way, but I really feel this frustrated sense of the closer I get to unpacking all this baggage, the more there is to sort through. You ever decide to do a monumental spring cleaning and lose your verve halfway through? You say you’ll get back to it, but if you stop now all you’ve succeeded in doing is creating a bigger mess. Well I’m soldiering on regardless of the bigger mess, but I truly feel I need a new tactic, new motivation, new determination. I think it’s time I focus all my energy on answering the second question.

So? How do I get back on track? Setting goals for myself is challenging. I have a hard time plotting out the little steps that keep me from getting frustrated that I cannot realize the big goal immediately. I also know that if I don’t get little rewards along the way I lose motivation. See, all that mess of unpacking has done me some good, I know my personal Achilles heel. The challenge remains how to surmount it.

So what does all this have to do with storytelling?

Quite a bit really. It’s about how to keep exercising your creativity, even when you feel the bucket is empty. One drop might not feel significant, but it’s a start and maybe adding just one more drop is the only next step you have to worry concentrate on. Once you get back in the flow, it’s easy to get caught back up in your creativity without even realizing it.

Lost in Limbo

So. It’s been a while. Four-and-a-half months to be exact that I’ve been lost in Limbo and you along with me. I can’t say I’m surprised — I’m easily distracted and have often felt overwhelmed these last few months. It’s also par for the course for my personal creative projects to suffer derailment just as they start really chugging along. I’ve learned this is due to faltering self-confidence and fear, the two really going hand-in-hand. And while I’m disappointed by this derailment, I’m learning to not be hard on myself, instead taking it in stride and using the downtime to recharge, rather than beat myself up. Easier said than done, but I’m becoming better at accomplishing that with practice.

I’m a collector, especially of creative ideas, stories and images. Stumbling across a new radio station and a photographer whose images blew my mind, I’ve found my imagination quite sparked. Now to let it percolate for a bit and see where it takes me. So far, nudging me to resurrecting my blog has been a great start.

Stay tuned to see where this ever wandering path will continue to take me. I promise not to keep you waiting longer than a week again.

Sucker Punch!

Over the weekend I stumbled across this AWESEOME clip and the first watch, I was just completely blown away by this kid’s talent. Cirque du Soleil should really snap him up. On second watch I couldn’t get the song he performed to out of my head, so I quickly Googled it. Both the original video and the cello performance inspired by it were like a sucker punch to my creativity and as the wind WHOOSHED out of my inner editor, my creativity lunged at the page hungry for expression after being kept on a leash for well over 3 weeks.

It feel good. I wrote for three hours, not once editing what fired out of my fingers. But as I take a break, I’m left wondering why my editor can’t play nice and allow my creativity the room to play before tromping in and fixing it all, strangling the words so it can correct as I go. I don’t enjoy smashing him to pieces like the broken glass in the foreground of the first video, because he’s really good at what he does…just not when he’s doing it at the same time my creativity is trying so hard to manifest.

I know one thing though, because this is usually the way it goes, I will not hesitate to sock the wind from his sails again the next time I need the room to create.

Pitfalls

Again, another two three weeks has zipped by between posts, even after I set myself up to continue the ideas set forth in my last post. One thing I’ve been trying very hard to do, is to start my week off with a BANG! By getting as much work done as I can in the beginning, I hoped I might have a bit more free time at the end of the week to focus on my own projects, like this blog and my own writing and heck, maybe even get back into taking the yoga classes I used to be so fond of.

A funny thing has happened along the way to accomplishing that. Well maybe not funny…I always try to find the humour in life’s pitfalls, but I have to admit that I’m drawing on the dregs of my normally optimistic view of life lately. The cracks in my rose-tinted glasses have been showing for a while and it’s been a challenge to navigate the fractured path I’ve been running down. I’ve never run a marathon physically, but I think I can certainly qualify for running one emotionally and mentally and as any athlete well knows, to stumble is to come face-to-face with your limits, but with proper training that is the threshold you face down with determination and push through to the other side towards victory. To fall though, is to invite disaster. Whether it be the minor pain of scraped knees or a more serious injury that is potentially career ending.

Because I’m fascinated by the saying: “That which does not kill us, makes us stronger.”  Why are some of us able to endure an endless obstacle course of pitfalls, where others stumble and falter? Where do some us find the courage and resilience to get back up and keep going where others give up, or break under the pressure. I find this question of inner strength especially intriguing when it comes to the characters in the stories we tell. Let’s face it, most authors LOVE throwing an endless barrage of life-altering challenges at our characters — conflict makes for a compelling story. I readily admit that I have a hard time caring for a protagonist if I don’t get to see him vulnerable, break down and cry, or bleed a little.

However, if I were to look at my current spot where I’ve stumbled and fallen, I’d be saying to the author of my struggle: “Enough! I’ve had enough and I need a break, something positive, some sort of win to buoy me right now.”

I’ve been saying this for a while now. But here’s the thing: I am the author of my own story, right? So it’s up to me to create my own break in the tension, to give myself the much needed respite to reassemble my resources, rest and recharge before sallying forth for yet another battle. And is it not also me that decides whether this is a war to be fought or an adventure to be enjoyed? You bet!

What hero hasn’t gotten to the end of a long arduous quest, only to realize that it was all an elaborate way for them to see they had what it takes to win the day all along, only they were unable to see that strength until after experiencing the whole ordeal of self-discovery.

I guess that’s what makes for an inspiring climax, a triumphant end to a story that keeps us coming back and wanting more.

Endurance

I was originally going to call this post Stamina. Once again I have been plugging away at trying to meet all my deadlines, keep all my goals in sight and face down any setbacks with renewed energy and determination, rather than give in to the frustrating defeat that seems to stalk me.

Each time I prepare a new post I start with the title. Once I have an idea of what I’d like to talk about I Google images that come to mind around my proposed theme. When I typed in my usual synonyms this came up for Endurance. It’s a fascinating and inspiring story of an aptly named ship and her courageous, unwaveringly optimistic captain. (Please ignore Dockers’ clap-trap marketing spin on the whole “The Art of Manliness” because the story is well told regardless).

Leadership aside for the moment (we’ll delve into that in another post), how do you face down an endless stream of defeating challenges and still find the resilience to not only continue on, but buoy your spirits enough to pick yourself back up and push forward with renewed hope and optimism? It’s a talent for sure. Remember my fave quote from an earlier post: “Even if you fall on your face, you’re still moving forward.” Thing is, falling on your face hurts. A lot. And ever since we were kids, we’ve learned not to do things that hurt.

So training ourselves to take these risks and do it again after we fail anyways, ends up feeling a little masochistic. When I was a kid, one of the activities my Mom signed my sister and I up for was figure skating. I loved the spins and fancy turns, the choreography and the year-end pageants (I know, big surprise there — LOL!). But when it came time to do any jumping I was terrified. I had a very clear image in my mind of falling on my head and it cracking open like an egg. Even after this very thing happened to my cousin and all she suffered was a mild concussion with the requisite dizziness, vomiting and over night hospital stay — proving that our heads are a might stronger than fragile eggs — I still couldn’t summon the bravery to risk it. So ended that possible career choice. Just as well, I guess.

Yet, strangely enough, I seem to conjure up the courage to toss myself on my head again and again and again, when it comes to taking chances with my creativity. Why is that?

Perhaps the secret here is finding the tipping balance where passion outweighs any lingering fear (or common sense). I believe we enjoy being challenged. Sure the failures are hard to take, but my god, the pay-off when you are successful is a pretty damn sweet feeling. This reward is what keeps us going, drives us forward toward our goals.

It’s what motivates our characters too. Come back Friday, and I’ll take this train of thought to the next station and examine how testing the endurance of our characters makes for some great storytelling.