Synopsis of What I’ve Been Writing

22 09 2022

SYNOPSIS OF “THE FLESH SUTRA” AND “SAINTS OF FLESH” 

In 1890s Boston, the mystic ALECSI KERESH is visited by THOMAS SPALDING and his wife OLIVIA CORMIER SPALDING. Thomas suffers from a life-threatening brain tumor. Alecsi has helped others banish serious illnesses.  

Olivia learns Alecsi’s mysticism. Alecsi is impressed with Olivia’s great talent. They fall in love. Thomas catches the lovers and murders Alecsi.  

Now a spirit, Alecsi forces himself into Thomas’ tumor. Alecsi gestates and births himself from Thomas’ eye. Alecsi has violated his beliefs by murdering and creating himself as a creature outside of nature. Standing over the homunculus Alecsi, Olivia declares that she is ready to learn everything. 

Olivia conceals the murder by burning down the mansion. She is cut off from the Spaulding fortune. She and Alecsi flee to California. She meets with an old family friend MRS. CARUTHERS, who mourns her husband. Alecsi helps Olivia contact his spirit. Olivia gains entree into San Francisco society. 

A noted stage magician courts her. Jealous, Alecsi seals the magician’s soul into a maggot in his mother’s grave. 

Olivia starts a school of spiritualism. Mystics travel from all over the world to learn.  

The school is denounced by a local Christian firebrand. Alecsi provokes the firebrand’s own mystic abilities. Olivia crushes the firebrand’s soul under visions of her hypocrisy. 

Public opinion turns against the school. Olivia sponsors a local politician and teaches him how to seem a champion in everyone’s eyes. Alecsi grows jealous. Conflicting perceptions of the politician wrenches him apart during a speech. Olivia is now a social outcast. She and Alecsi reconcile. 

Olivia flings the school into San Francisco’s artistic community. Students say that they see visions of a man with a bleeding eye.  

Alecsi realizes that Thomas’ soul is still bound to them. As an abomination, Alecsi is outside of karma. As long as he exists, Thomas must haunt them. Thomas’ appearances grow more threatening. 

Alecsi dreams of a teacher in an Asian jungle. The man calls to Alecsi, saying he can help Alecsi grow beyond his stunted, cancerous physique. A talented student who can transport himself to whatever location is in his line of sight. The student discovers Alecsi’s existence. Alecsi resolves to travel to Asia with the student.  

At a salon, Mrs. Carruthers is shot by Thomas. Olivia’s oldest friend dies cursing Olivia. Olivia tells the police the student traveling with Alecsi is the murderer. The student and Alecsi go by ship to Asia. 

On the ship, Alecsi’s existence now bends the laws of nature. Ghosts torment the crew. The ship itself succumb to darkness. The student and Alecsi slip overboard and watch the ship sail into damnation. 

Olivia sees her abilities waning and that adds to her despair over Alecsi’s departure.  

Alecsi and the student find the teacher. Alecsi learns to compromise with his guilty conscious, allowing him to reshape his original body for hours at a time. Thomas appears and sends the student into space. Alecsi is captured.  

As Alecsi becomes more powerful, so does Thomas. Thomas brings Alecsi back to the now-corrupted school. Alecsi is kept in a basin of acid to keep him from growing. The now-malicious students bury Olivia alive, taunting her fear of death. 

Sensing Alecsi is near, Olivia overcomes her morbid terror. She projects her spirit in order to entrance her captors into disinterring her body. Olivia confronts her former students, who thanks to Thomas, can invoke horrors. Bloodied, she is victorious and saves Alecsi.   

The school lay abandoned. For as long as Alecsi lives, Thomas must remain. Olivia will never abandon Alexandri.  Olivia, Alecsi, and Thomas settle into a deathless detente, awaiting some new influence through the ages to break the impasse. 

At the start of “Saints of Flesh”, Olivia lives in the ruins of her school of spiritualism. She had mummified herself fifty years ago in the 1970s after her lover and guru Alecsi left her. She is haunted by the spirit of her husband THOMAS, who she and Alecsi murdered in the 1890s. Olivia wants Alecsi back and has been using her spiritualist abilities to find someone to help help her. GRETCHEN FIGGS responds to Olivia’s enticements. Gretchen has cancer, and she allows Olivia to possess her body to cure her disease. Now Olivia can use three keepsakes to locate Alecsi, and use Gretchen for any physical work.  

Gretchen’s possession is discovered by her friend DEVIN BAY, an occultist. Devin tries to provoke Olivia by performing a ceremony in her school, but is attacked by the unique toxic butterflies which brood at the school. 

Gretchen and Olivia discover that someone had stolen the keepsakes: a terrarium, artwork by Alecsi and Olivia, and a silver bowl.  

Olivia uses her tenuous psychic connection with the first keepsake to locate it with MARKO KRATOS. Markos uses the psychically charged terrarium to grow potent herbs. Marko had been using these herbs, as well as sending them to mysterious clients. Gretchen and Olivia discover Marko is guarded by a tupil, a psychically created creature. They defeat the tupil, resulting in Marko’s death. Olivia wonders, How did an herbalist know how to create a tupil? 

Olivia attempts to reduce Gretchen’s cancer but finds fighting the tumors an overwhelming task. She believes Alecsi will cure Gretchen when they find him. A still-living Devin Bay approaches Gretchen at the school. He is now possessed by Thomas, and they hint there is a vast power at work. They warn Olivia to cease her search. Gretchen realizes the butterflies have vanished, not only from the school, but from all record. What could twist reality enough to remove a sub-species? Olivia is dismayed, but persists in the search. 

Gretchen uses Marko’s electronic devices to uncover ELSIE MCDONOUGH, a psychic with a kitchy reputation. Elsie owns a museum of cursed objects. Gretchen and Olivia visit and discover the museum basement filled with items possessed by spirits who prophesize disasters. Olivia’s artwork cows the spirits into obedience. A spirit interferes, one looking like a much younger Olivia. In the fight for the artwork, Gretchen ignites a fire. The spirit withdraws. But Olivia and Gretchen accidentally kill Elsie. They escape the fire with the artwork. 

The spirits of the cursed items fled their incinerated objects and now possess Gretchen’s tumors. Olivia is distraught. How can she fight them? Who is this spirit, who Olivia calls the Imposter? How can she cure Gretchen?  

Worse, Thomas and Bay have returned. Thomas has gathered a demolition crew to level the school. Could Olivia exist without her school? 

Clues from a strange artwork created by Alecsi point to a village in a valley. Marko’s devices refer to an altruistic organization in a similar shaped valley. Olivia feels close to finding Alecsi. 

Gretchen and Olivia visit the campus. The campus is infused with the energy of the Imposter. A house in the mountains gleam with Alecsi’s aura. The members of the organization too are infused with the Imposter and Alecsi. They detain Gretchen in the house. Gretchen and Olivia discover that the Imposter herself is a tupil, one who was created by Alecsi himself. Alecsi stole the keepsakes to fuel this altruistic organization: Marko’s herbs were used to bolster Elsie and the organization’s abilities; Prophesies from the cursed items told where help was needed; The Imposter used the prophesies to guide the psychic energy. Alecsi provided the reality-ability energy by bathing in acid within Olivia’s silver bowl. His channeled agony powers the Imposter in twisting reality and thwarting the prophesies. 

Alecsi had been working with Thomas to dissuade Olivia from her quest. Olivia is devastated by Alecsi’s betrayal. Alecsi needs the prophetic spirits to continue his work. He needs the keepsakes at the school as well. The Imposter uses his energy to twist reality and capture Gretchen. 

Gretchen finds herself dismembered but still alive, a living shrine to the prophets. Gretchen provokes Olivia to action. Olivia realizes she too can control Alecsi’s wild energy. She brings Gretchen back to the School safe and whole. The demolition crew is readying their destruction. Olivia frightens them away. 

Betrayed, challenged, Olivia realizes she is more powerful than she has allowed herself to be. She realizes the Imposter’s weakness and defeats it. His creation defeated, Alecsi arrives at the school to get the keepsakes and the cursed spirits. Olivia twists reality to place the cursed spirits into Alecsi’s body.  

Thomas’ soul is released to reincarnate. Bay flees, terrified. 

Sometime later, Olivia restores her body. She and Gretchen entice a small-town tycoon to his doom. They provide a disturbingly organic jewelry to an aspiring businesswoman. Another chapter of Olivia’s life begins. 

END





A Horror Writing Idea Beyond My Reach

21 09 2022

Since I first read the article in 2017, I have been fascinated by YouTube marketing psychotic content to toddlers.

Did you read this article?

Something Is Wrong On The Internet by James Briddle

Or this more recent one from The Guardian?

https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2022/sep/13/unboxing-bad-baby-evil-santa-youtube-swamped-creepy-kids-content

It talks about a bad thing brewing at Google. That bad thing would make a cool story idea.

It has body horror with the increasingly disturbing, dismembered videos. It has the occult via algorithms invoking a primal force. It creates a new mythos, one where Cognition is a destructive force.

I’ll explain how I see it. It is said that capitalism taps into the fundamental human drive toward survival (simplistic, but bear with me). It is said that babies see the world most clearly, without civilizing preconceptions. YouTube is letting these two primal qualities dialogue on a planet-wide scale with the merest filter of cartoons.

What zeitgeist will result? The adult world is already dealing with Identity becoming more fluid. Is some evolutionary force now easing us into swappable heads, swappable body parts, Frozen Elsa with chicken feet, Spiderman with a brain-belly? No matter the algorithm YouTube came up with, they had to fall back to creating “war rooms” to control increasingly disturbing videos.

One perspective would ask: is this content disturbed, or are we learning that post-humanism is a natural impulse? If there is an evolutionary goal, is our goal to surpass the flesh?

A spiritual perspective would remind that ads for “The Exorcist” often accompanied these videos.

My thoughts are half-baked. But there seems the germ of an idea that *by some design*, YouTube is invoking Something lurking beyond Consciousness. This Something is as eternal and fundamental as gravity, and it works to bring humanity back to a primordial precognizance. The results would look pretty damn cool. We would watch it for hours. Lose track of time. Forget to eat.

I want to make it a short story! Dangblastfurgozzlenamchazzlegumit!

Maybe from the perspective one of the content producers. They’d get a printout every morning from their computer, an AI which assembles a script based on scraping the most recent YT search algorithms. They would be puzzled, then amused, then be appalled at the script demands. But bills gotta be paid.

I'm noticing improvements. But there has been a physical cost.




Bastards Sell Better Than Villains and Anti-Heroes, and Here’s Why

2 09 2022

There are many articles about the differences between villains and anti-heroes.

Villains are morally worse than their circumstances. They have a few redeeming features, but their cruelties are not motivated by them. In AD&D Forgotten Realms, Zushaxx is a ruthless monster crime boss whose only love is his pet goldfish. While this adoration is comical, it does not define why the monster leads a gang of cut-throats. Zushaxx is a comic villain.

Hannibal Lector is refined, discerning, and formal; seemingly quite heroic. He does kill and eat people, sure, but he only does that to the rude and corrupt. We identify with disliking rude people, and we feel we are better than the corrupt. Because he directs his cruelties toward people who are villainous, this makes Hannibal an Anti-hero.

However! What if we were to see the effects of Hanibal’s cruelties? What if we were to read about the grieving, kindly mother of Frederick Chilton? What if we had two pages of Starling slipping in the gory leftovers of Benjamin Raspail? Could Hannibal still be “heroic”? Yes, as long as the social merit of that cruelty outweighed the amount of disgust. Chilton would have to be exposed as torturing his patients, or Raspail as a murderer. There is a reason Mason Berger had to be a child rapist. Anything less and we wouldn’t tolerate his spectacular disfigurement or his demise.

Is there a recurring character who is an Anti-hero? Highsmith’s character Tom Ripley reduces the stakes to fraud, theft, and an occasional murder, but his victims are always insipid, self-indulgent, or criminals themselves. Ripley would be a Bastard if he wasn’t so pro-active.

Fafherd and the Grey Mouser are Bastards. James Bond and Melissandra are Bastards. They obey questionable forces in hopes of creating a better world that never seems to arrive. They have no ideals beyond keeping the status quo in place while containing the damage. Between missions, they indulge in petty exploits of crime and flesh.

Again, do we see the casualties? The only damage ever presented is to the Bastard themselves. Bastards may be alcoholic. They may be lonely. Isolated and yearning for a dead love. But give them a dog or a best friend, a ship or a chosen family, and our sympathies are regained.

Name a series in any medium and it is led by a bastard. Nearly every character in popular culture called “a Hero” is actually short-sighted, reactive, and lacking an ethos. The most popular conflict nowadays seems to be the protagonist coming to terms with being a bastard. And why not? Maintaining the status quo keeps the series going.





Reading the Bible. Here Are Some Horror Prompts.

1 09 2022

There are other gods. A lot of other gods. Did G-d make them or is there a divine ecology of which G-d is but one animal? Where there is ecology, there are parasites and brood parasites.

What would the Dark Goatee Wearing Version of the prophets be? Dark Noah might still be submerged in the Under-Arc, surfacing to eject cryptids onto land.

Which personage from the Bible could be cursed to roam the Earth for eternity? Jehu could be driving over feminists even now.

What if G-d came down to clarify The Word and He went really, really into the unexpected? What direction would you take it?

What happened to the fiery sword which faced all sides?

What happened to The Ear cut off by Simon Peter? If you cut off your own ear and stitch The Ear in its place, you can hear what?

What of the other tales of Jesus mentioned at the end of John?





Fungus and Mushroom Monsters Are Peaking, But This Whole Thread Is Pretty Icky

22 08 2022




OKAY, REVISIONS!

2 08 2022

I received critiques of the whole novel from Noble Fusion Eastern Court. I received critiques on the first few chapters from writers on the Online Writers Workshop, plus encouragement.

Writer and OWW organizer Judith Tarr wrote: “The bones of this chapter are solid. There are some vivid and memorable images, and the story moves rapidly forward. Olivia is a strong character; her motivations are clear. There’s no question about what she wants or how she intends to get it.”

Author Kate Tyte provided useful guidance: “I feel you could make some things clearer, simpler and more obvious. I was confused by the homunculous of Olivia’s lover, for example. You have good characters and conflict, but sometimes that gets a bit lost. Gretchen wants to be cured of cancer, and maybe to get back together with her boyfriend, and to get her life together. Olivia wants to find her lover, for magical purposes. The boyfriend wants to be famous. Can you focus on making those things the focus, and very clear, and not losing sight of them?”

I am incorporating these critiques into the chapters still to be posted on OWW. I’m sending updated drafts to my non-writer friends to get their advice.

Here are two AI renderings of key images in “Saints of Flesh”. The prompt on the second one was “cancer polyp jewelry”.

experimenting with chaos magic




“NOPE” Review and What Would I Would Have Done

22 07 2022

SPOILERS!

Peele’s movie has two stories brought together to make a theme. He swung for the fences with both stories, but having them together messed up the momentum of both. Their tension did explain the motives of characters in both (OJ explains Jean Jacket’s asserting its dominance, matching the chimp’s attack; while Jupe’s awe at bumping fists with the gore-covered chimp explaining Jupe’s later fascination with Jean Jacket). Peele used Tarrantino cinema style to create this Hollywood story, using graphic placards, time jumps, sudden slams to black, but the spine of this movie was weak. There was no impending doom like in “Inglorious Basterds” or “Once Upon A Time In Hollywood”. The doom created impetus to keep watching while any digression was welcome relief to the presumed fates, those fates of course being twisted into the unexpected.

The cinematographer Antlers puzzled me. He was a foil for the protagonists, but his spiritual rumination seemed an attempt to add both humor and gravitas. Perhaps he was meant to harken to an earlier age, in that the video tech maybe represented the entertainment of today, and Antlers the passions of yesterday.

Maybe get rid of the video tech and have Antlers be more contemporary. One less character to juggle. Still have the surveillance gear and Antlers reverting to his antique film camera in the third act.

Let’s consider that Jupe’s encounter with the murderous chimp led to his wrong-headed trust of Jean Jacket. Let’s consider that Jupe had already brought horses for Jean Jacket to eat over several nights. Let’s consider that the second scene Jean Jacket has fed on screaming humans and their detritus plummeted onto the ranch to kill O Sr.

Maybe Jupe could have enticed some unhoused people to where Jean Jacket could eat? Jupe could have watched the chimp being trained and believed the monster could be tamed. So, finally, in the third act, Jupe could lose control and Jean Jacket could still eat everyone, and that event could have more impact.

Because this movie is filled with a lot of action, but aside from Brother and Sisters’ story arc of fidelity, there isn’t much here to care about. Forty people are eaten, as are a family of five, two additional supporting characters, several horses, and unseen other people, and frankly not much is made of it.





Writers Groups Like My New Novel Darft (Draft)

12 07 2022

Yes it does say “darft”, I’m trying to generate some whimsy here.

Because things are going quite well. Everyone is following the sequence of events and understanding the cause/effect of the “magic system”. The darft tenses shift around and I have to fix that. The big reveal is shocking! The climactic resolution? It resolves five characters — five! — in one scene! And everyone is good with it! The characters are all likable and relatable!

The main characters are women. The women who are critiquing like the woman characters! I kept their motives as sex-free and guy-free as possible, and the critics really liked that.

What they seem to like: there is no villain, just people bumbling around making mistakes; the use of unusual settings like Ren Faires; taking risks with descriptions of emotions, getting as precise in their physical affects as possible; personal quirks that aren’t eccentric (showing reliable bias towards particular flavors, styles, tastes); keeping real-life branding and signifiers out of the story (I am reminded of a National Lampoon parody of Stephen King: “Pepsi!” he screamed in terror.)

This book is such a change from the previous book. “The Flesh Sutra” is a fix-up novel episodic, gothic, nudging on erotic (meter and rhyme accidental here, that was cheesy). “Saints of Flesh” is streamlined more like a novel with lots of ghastly stuff but literally no sex.

I’m still compiling reviews, but I dunno, maybe it’ll be off to agents/editors by the end of the summer?

I want to work on flash fiction for a while.





Just Sent Out Novel Draft To Beta Readers. Here’s What to Ask Them.

30 06 2022

I have a primary irl writers group, an online writers group, and interested friends reviewing my draft. The first concern would be: with som many points of view, wouldn’t I get overwhelmed by detailed critiques? Yes, however! Critiques are like product reviews. You have a look at them, gather their commonalities and adjust based on what lots of people need for the work to be better.

Even people who don’t like my genre can help! Heck, even people who didn’t like the book at all can help.

How? First, for those people who bailed on reading, ask “where in the plot did you lose interest?” Chances are they lost interest where an enthusiastic reader would: at exposition, or dialogue which held no benefit to the story, or at a stylistic darling which jarred the tone. They may bail out if the stakes aren’t clearly described, so like I always say, summarize the stakes before or at the 20% mark of the complete work.

That was for the non-genre readers. For readers already fluent in speculative fiction, what questions can you ask them?

  1. Does this draft remind you of any other existing work? A resemblance to existing books or media may be a good thing, in that you may not realize you wrote “Moby Dick In Space” (did not write that) and people like both Moby Dick and Space. Or it may be bad because It’s Been Done and This Ain’t Fresh. For that reason, if someone tells me one of my drafts reminds them of another work, I seriously consider abandoning the project. I am a snob and this being a snob has made my life difficult. But it forces me to come up with better ideas.
  2. Can you relate to the characters? Not “do you like the characters”, because like actual people, characters exist for their own benefit and on their own merits. Your friends annoy you sometimes, and That Guy can be admirable sometimes. Judge the characters on the clarity of expressiveness and motivations.
  3. Is The Science too easy? Whatever powers warp drives or werewolves needs to be inconvenient in proportion to the benefit.
  4. I aim for three sensory details per page. I forgot to check for that before I sent out the draft.
  5. The Clean Silhouette. Characters need to be easy to imagine. Not stereotypical, because that is LAAAAAAZZYYYY. But if you were to turn off the lights so that you could only see their outline, could you tell one character from another?
  6. The Gut Punch Image/Good Kill. In “The Flesh Sutra”, I had a man birth himself from the tumor in another man’a brain. In “Saints of Flesh”, I’m going after cosmic horror (which I did somewhat satisfying) and body horror (yeah, some good stuff). Both present strong images.

Do any of you have questions you ask your readers?





Portents? Am I Magicking Myself?

14 06 2022

I woke last week with a muscle cramp in my right shoulder spreading from my forearm to outside my shoulder blade. I tried to gut it out over two nights bad sleep. Then I was reminded of the deep tissue massage kiosk at The Mall. I paid $30 to be pummeled over a total 30 minutes. Felt better just in time for a day off so I could work on the revision that I realized I had been procrastinating.

Drank a cola at lunch and the pain came back almost as bad as before. At Panera, in front of my laptop, it did not subside.

I looked at my hand. I honestly became concerned. The ache spread so badly. Would this interfere with my day job? Would I even be able to type?

A realization quieted everything.

“Would I be able to type?”

I thought the pain may be something like how my body reacted when it was time to become Big Time Publisher and throw panic attacks at me.

Immediately, I opened my draft. I began fixing the first sentence of the chapters. And the ache ebbed away.

Then the pain came back. No easy answer here. No such luck.

I did a pass on the last three chapters for clarity. Now that I’m done, the pain is like an ice-cream headache centered on my shoulder.

I’m rather happy for this book.

Had a dream after seven this morning, maybe based on the ibuprofen kicking in. I dream often of enormous wooden structures, boarding houses the size of stadiums. Usually they are in need of repair. This morning the building was seemingly brand-new. I was part of a loose-knit theater group that had forgotten that today they were to perform.

The performers were a few former members of my comedy group and a variety of 30-ish people like those at my day job. The performance was supposed to be a multi-media comedy/drama of some critical importance. My first reflex was to head for the hills.

We pulled together and created this piece that mixed back-stage preparations of the show with the show’s performance, which is something I had wanted to do for decades. Dozens of 30-ishes leapt in with big trucks and lots of their own props to assemble spaces throughout this small area of this enormous victorian house. The set pieces include existing stairways, storage rooms, porches, rooms where one wall faced the outside. Props were automobiles, stage lights, tapestries, junk, all in the earth tones of the discarded. Audience wandered through all day.

At one point, though, I am not wearing clothes. A few 30-ish audience see my genitals. They giggle or show disdain at my performance faux pas. The performance had taken a hit by my blunder. What I remember is a 30ish telling me that one of our performers Dean Martin (that Dean Martin) took off his shirt and did a GG Allin punk-rock body thrash on the small wooden stage.

It was understood that overall the show had satisfied, in the way an ensemble piece satisfied; my own performance had not been good that evening, but it was the performance and its dialogue with the audience that had created a unique, satisfying moment. I awoke feeling that a portion of me had briefly reawakened; that bit of brain from being an impulsive kid at heedless play, something more basic than professional improvisation, or maybe a place without consciousness. The feeling opened a sunny, living part of me I had forgotten.

If I’m lucky, I have thirty years of life before me. If I can get back to that state of mind, I will count myself fortunate.








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