FEELS

A Pagan Ritual Your Grandma Would Like

That macabre time of year is upon us — the time when I take that pile of unwearable old clothes that’s been accumulating for the past year deep into the eerie haunted wood, where I incorporate them in a scarecrow-esque effigy for immediate sacrifice to the dying sun. Stuffed with generous handfuls of that ubiquitous dry foliage that all species deciduous have been shedding like tears…

This year’s wicker man, in the headless early stages of construction.

Part of the autumnal wicker man tradition is to attach a handwritten list somewhere on the effigy, detailing all the things one would like to lose in the coming year. Like a letter to Antisanta. For this ritual is not about gaining things one presently does not have, but about letting go of things one no longer needs. As the forest itself does in fall.  

Upon attaching the aforementioned list, it’s time to get the party started and douse the whole thing in booze. This year’s choice of rocket fuel was inspired by a certain man who currently reigns supreme as the most moronic politician in all of Canada…

The cowboy hat prevents his microscopic brain from blowing away in the chinook.

Speaking of politicians and their moronicity, we had a (highly underwhelming) federal election last month. I brought along a campaign letter I received during said election, which I never bothered to open. Mostly because I didn’t like the sanctimonious tone of the first two letters they sent me. I sensed I’d be none the wiser had I opened the third letter. But I found plenty good use for it in this haunted wood.


I always walk away from this experience feeling like my inner manitou just shed an exoskeleton. I don’t know if it’s the sacred smoke, or the way the pieces of burnt fabric flutter about like faceless dark angels in the wind high above. Or maybe it’s the spectres that always manifest themselves in the flames. Like this one, which immediately struck me as bearing an uncanny resemblance to a young Bernadette Peters…


Or this one. A phoenix rising, which for some reason looked like either a rubber chicken or one of those Instant Martians from the old Looney Tunes shorts that grew to full size when you added water.


Last but not least, there’s this image. You have to use your imagination a bit to see him, but you can vaguely make out the Cat in the Hat.


The Journey of SILVER BROWN

The Death of SILVER BROWN?

I initially started SILVER BROWN as an art therapy project. The main reason I put it online was to fully test its potential to be anything beyond that. It was a worthwhile exercise as an art therapy project. As was putting it online. I drank a rich soup of vibes from the droppings of the Great Bird (i.e. Twitter) and professional input from a gaggle of fellow scribes, which provided me with vital nutrients to open my third eye and see that SILVER BROWN cannot continue in its present form as I originally planned. This story needs just a pinch of reconstructive surgery.

Before I expand on that further, let me drop a parable about burritos. This is one of a handful of things I know how to cook well. Learned entirely by observation, at a burrito joint I visited almost every business day at noon back when I had a supposedly glamourous job. Said joint famously lacked a barrier obstructing the patrons’ view of the kitchen, allowing for the visual spectacle of burrito wizards working their magic behind the scenes. Who taught me (almost) everything I know. About burritos, at least.


An original creation. Made with walleye caught from one of Ontario’s many lakes, which I breaded myself. Sweet Mary mother of Jabberwocky Jesus, that’s some damn good eats!

Part of the high art of making burritos is knowing how much filling one tortilla can handle. If you try to stuff too much in a single burrito, the whole thing is bound to split at the sides and fall apart sometime during the cooking process. A fictional world vastly different from the familiar is a lot like that burrito. There’s only so much you can put on a tortilla of a hundred thousand words. I initially set out to make SILVER BROWN less grandiose than any of my previous attempts to write a novel, but still found myself trying to stuff a trilogy’s worth of filling in that tortilla. More pre-planning was required for the project, methinks. Next time I mustn’t allow myself to become so distracted with the world in which the story is set that I forget to actually tell the story.



There are also questions swirling in my mind about whether there is still a public appetite for dystopian fiction, now that the present state of human society has taken on a dystopian air. The world humanity lived in when I first started working on SILVER BROWN has since molted. Its new instar bears a closer resemblance to the Environment of my story, in that it’s a world where technology and mass-ignorance has run amok. Hence I must ask myself: would people actually pay money to read this yarn I’m working on? Part of the reason why people read novels is for the escapism. They might be reluctant to read something that hits painfully too close to home. I could be dead wrong; the jury’s still out on that one. Black Mirror has temporarily ceased production because the producers thought it would be too depressing for people to watch in light of that microscopic Cthulhu coming along and ruining everything. Yet according to hard statistics, people are watching movies like Outbreak while they’re in quarantine.

Uncertainties about a potential audience don’t justify a literary facelift as much as the story’s heroine, however. Florys MacNab was subconsciously conceived as a satirical caricature of the vapidly callous materialism exhibited by more than a few people I met back in the day when I worked in one of Canada’s wealthiest neighbourhoods. There’s certainly a place for a character of this ilk in fiction, but in retrospect it was a mistake to make her the protagonist. I’m finding it next to impossible to root for somebody who values things over people, whose entire modus operandi revolves around acquiring and flaunting status symbols and making other people jealous. If I can’t root for that somebody, it’s unlikely my audience will be able to either.

This fictional world I’ve created demands a main character who is at least somewhat flexible and adaptable, who approaches novel phenomena with a certain level of curiosity. That’s not Florys. Florys is way too narrow-minded and hardheaded to be the main character. She would work better as a secondary character. One who repeatedly complicates things for the hero, and (probably) dies in the story’s third act for dramatic effect.



I guess I shouldn’t feel bad about things not working out this time around. As a certain wise man once said…

…but at least I’ve spent enough time wallowing in that shit that new vegetation can start growing on me. I was thinking about going with the same basic plot device, but with a completely different perspective, major characters reworked and fine-tuned (except Sherman, he’s perfect the way he is). Before I start germinating anything new on my ass however, I shall disperse the last of the current yield in the summer. The final chapters are the strangest in the whole book, so of course I’m going to tweet that shit. 


The Bullhorn of SILVER BROWN

Now Playing: Chapters Eleven & Twelve

Chapters Eleven and Twelve of SILVER BROWN are presently being cast into the Twitterverse for the reading pleasure of the good people of Planet Earth. My normal shtick is to tweet these chapters at a rate of one page a day, but I think this time around I’ll do something a little bit different and only do that for Chapter Eleven. Twelve is an offshoot of Eleven, a by-product of the many countless rewrites Eleven underwent. It consists of only two pages, and reads more like an epilogue to Eleven than a chapter in its own right. So I might just tweet Twelve in its entirety in one fell swoop as a grand finale.

These are the first chapters in the book that are narrated by any character other than Florys MacNab. Both are written from the point of view of the story’s villains. To accentuate that point, the narrative styles of each of these chapters are a pronounced departure from Florys’ characteristic vernacular. Chapter Eleven is written in epistolary form, while Twelve has more of a stream-of-consciousness vibe to it. David Wong (a.k.a. Jason Pargin, the former editor of Cracked.com) used this technique to great effect in his comic horror masterpiece John Dies at the End, which featured nefarious entities from other dimensions that were introduced to the audience through excerpts from (fictional) textbooks. Some variant of that technique was bound to find its way into my own yarn.

Machinations of the SAAZMOL organization that were only casually alluded to in the earlier chapters are portrayed in all their eldritch unglory at this point in the story. There’s a remote chance these chapters might be high-octane nightmare fuel for some people, but I would opine they’re way less frightening than the current zeitgeist. Compared to the news headlines of any given day in 2020, these chapters are about as scary as the scariest episode of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic.


tenor (13)
Writing these chapters felt like this for me. Or at least a version of this without the unfortunate transphobia. I’ll just leave it at that.