Deorum et Viri: Of Gods and Men, Chapter 1

So I’ve mentioned before that I’m working on this sort of epic-literary-sci-fi-fantasy thing, and I finally finished the first draft of the first chapter.

And . . . since this site is as much about the process of writing as it is actual writing, I’m sharing said draft with you guys, today! (Hopefully you don’t hate it!)

Chapter 1:
The Pale Wastes

Colossal dust devils carved their way through the ravaged North Pangæan badlands, whipping microscopic particulates of obsidian and various corroded metals through the air like tiny, invisible daggers. Only the hardiest vegetation grew near the borders of Valamyr to the west and Anukhan to the east. Boastful adventurers claimed the further they trekked into The Pale Wastes, the more the terrain shifted from ordinary desert to desolate, inhospitable moonscape. As they approached the invisible delineation bisecting the continental rift, the less the land became capable of supporting anything. Indeed, all but the most hardened turn back well before ever crossing the rubicon.

Despite the savage elements raging through such a hostile environment, a lone figure trudged through nearly knee-deep sand, a dark balaclava barely visible underneath a thick fur-lined hood pulled close to his face.

Kneeling to shield his water skin from the swirling dust and ubiquitous sand, the lone trekker—a man of grizzled countenance—took a small sip of water, just enough to moisten the cracks in his parched tongue and cheeks. He knew resupplying during the latter stages of this expedition would be out of the question, so he’d packed and carried everything he might conceivably need. Shielding his eyes and scanning the skyline, the man confirmed the soil surrounding him has been utterly depleted—it was truly, in every sense of the word: dead. Even the sand had lost its color. Giant, swollen dunes of pale grey and ecru stretched endlessly toward the horizon in all four cardinal directions. The pair of dowsing rods the man had packed, just in case the rumors of small veins of underground water was true, rested splayed and inert in his clenched fists.

The man unwillingly began to recall tales of the badlands more frightening than any camp fire ghost stories. Travelers recounted a feeling utter disorientation as soon as they enter The Pale Wastes, of feeling mercurial and uncannily . . . adrift. The man remembered being told repeatedly that North could only be determined by orienting himself within the plane of an imaginary meridian while trying to face the rising sun—a strategy predicated, he thought, upon him surviving the night to actually see the rising sun. . . .

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My Writing Process Blog Tour: Bro, Do You Even Write?!

Hungary Toxic WasteBig thanks for Nate Tower for tagging me to join this literary blog tour about the writing process. Basically/ostensibly, I answer four questions and then pass those same four questions to a few more writers. We do this until every writer in the known cosmos and at least four contiguous parallel universes has had a turn (past four and the rules of spacetime get a little dicey*).

Nate Tower is the managing and founding editor of Bartleby Snopes Literary Magazine and Press. His short fiction has appeared in over 200 online and print publications. In 2014, Martian Lit released his first short story collection, Nagging Wives, Foolish Husbands. He is a former high school English teacher and the former world record holder for the fastest mile running backwards while juggling. He currently lives in Minneapolis with his wife and daughter. Visit him at nathanieltower.wordpress.com.

As for me, well, here we go:

1. What are you working on?

Like Nate who went before me, I currently have three main projects I’m working on right now.

The first thing is a novel called Human Services. It’s a sort of spin-off of Benji Palko’s character in my story collection, Shenanigans! where it focuses on the people who work at The Agency and all of the insanity that occurs in a professional office setting. I would say it’s pretty much solidly in the literary fiction camp. I’m still in the earlier stages of this project, sitting at around 16,000 words (as of typing this). Other pieces of Human Services have appeared online though, like this chapter over at InDigest called “Mr. Twitchy.”

The second project is more genre-flavored, and it’s sort of . . . massive. I’ve been kicking it around in my mind for a few years now, which is a sort of literary epic sci-fi/fantasy novel tentatively called Deorum et Viri: “Of Gods and Men.” I grew up reading lots of sci-fi and fantasy—especially the latter—and always kind of wanted to do something in the genre that originally inspired me to be a writer. It wasn’t until recently, with the popularity of the A Song and Ice and Fire series (aka Game of Thrones) that I sort of realized that this was a viable option for me, like, right now. That is to say, I’d really been wanting to use the skills I’d picked up writing literary fiction the past seven or eight years and apply it to something more genre-related. Perhaps the work most responsible for this epiphany, even more so than Game of Thrones, is M. John Harrison’s unbelievably impressive Viriconium omnibus. The prose is awe-inspiring and the way he includes elements of surrealism tinged with bits of magical realism is something I can’t begin to do justice here. You’d simply have to read it yourself.

The final project is a new short story collection called Irrational Attachments to Inanimate Objects. You can actually read the first story from this collection called “Now You See Me” over at Bartleby Snopes! There isn’t a whole lot to say about this collection yet other than the title will be a running theme throughout the book; I think the first story sort of gives that impression, or at least I hope it does!

2. How does your work differ from others’ work in the same genre?

Genre is so hard to talk about when you really don’t want to be constrained by it. Just ask one of my all time favorite writers, Ursula K. Le Guin. I just want to write books that at least a few people really like. It’s an incredibly humbling thing when someone tells you that your work really resonated with him/her. It makes you want to write a special book just for that person because he or she took the time to read your work that they could’ve spent doing any number of other things. Perhaps that’s what’s different about my work, how personal I want it to be for a select few. Or maybe it’s just that I want to write the stories that are in my head without thinking about what genre they are or should be. I’m probably not the best person to ask since I’m honestly not sure; it seems like a discerning reader could give a better answer here!

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Getting Better; Moving On

welcomebackMy last post was April 28th. It’s so hard to believe it’s been that long already. I’d hoped to do a better job documenting how things were going, but honestly, I just haven’t felt up to it until recently. If good things come to those who wait, I should really be due some amazing stuff soon….

In my last post, I talked a little about my battle with ulcerative colitis. I’m still battling through the same flare up, but things are finally getting a little better. First of all, I finally had to switch doctors. I simply felt I wasn’t getting the care I needed and that’s the nice thing about having options: there’s always the possibility for second opinions.

The 6-MP still makes me nauseous, but not nearly to the extent it did when I first started taking it. I’m hoping to taper off that sooner rather than later. My new doctor, after countless screens, scopes, and tests, decided to bring out the big guns, medically speaking, and try some biologic medication. If you’ve seen ads on TV for Humira, you’ve at least heard of biologics before. I’m now taking something similar to Humira called Simponi, which I give myself via injections once a month (after this month; the first month, you have to give yourself two injections).

Humira and Simponi belong to a family of drugs called TNF-blockers that work by directly affecting your immune system. Since ulcerative colitis (like rheumatoid arthritis) is an autoimmune disease, these drugs go in and try to tame the immune system to get it to stop attacking the body. I gave myself my first injection on Wednesday. I’ll spare you the details, but it seems like the drug might already be working. Even if it’s just a coincidence, the small improvement in my symptoms is certainly welcome.

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A Sick Foreseeable Future

daily pillsI’ve mentioned recently (and elsewhere) that I’ve been dealing with a lot of chronic health issues. They are pretty much a void in which all of my time and energy have been getting slowly sucked away. My health has caused me to miss more work than I have in the last six months than the past six years combined. They’ve caused near paralysis with my writing and have prevented me from even leaving the house much. It feels like there is not a lot I can do but write about them as I make my stand.

I’m 32-years-old, but you’d never guess if you saw my medical chart. I’ve got an arthritic back, severe ulcerative colitis (UC), IBS, acid reflux, lactose intolerance, Celiac Disease, a tree nut allergy, allergies to most things that grow on trees (including most trees, themselves), generalized anxiety disorder, clinical depression, extreme ADD, and insomnia. The picture above is the minimum number of pills I have to take on any given day. The problem(s) lie in that the treatment of some of these issues results in complications with others.

Around the end of September of 2013, my UC began to flare up again. It progressively got worse despite the treatment I’d undergone since my diagnosis. My gastroenterologist prescribed more powerful mesalamine drugs (Lialda, Asacol, and Apriso), but each of them failed to work to expectations and came with an alarming side effect of their own: severe chest pains. The doctors had me stop taking the mesalamine because in some cases, it can cause pericarditis, a condition in which the sac-like covering around the heart (pericardium) becomes inflamed.

I’m still having some residual chest pains from the mesalamine; I need to schedule an appointment to have an EKG done to see if my heart got fucked up or not. So that’s something fun to look forward to.…

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This is Not a Punch Line

dismissive friend zone toonIt’s been a while, guys/gals! I’ve been pretty sick lately. I’ve been on some immunosuppressants for my ulcerative colitis and they’ve been making me incredibly nauseous.

However, I saw this cartoon recently and felt compelled to blog about it (the cartoon, not my UC/nausea).

It’s sort of interesting how the use and or meaning of phrases evolve(s). There’s sort of been a resurgence of women taking back the age-old phrase of “friend zone” and flipping it on its head, more or less.

At one point, it meant that a guy, often the “nice guy” of a given group (e.g.), perhaps the “hopeless romantic” or the “safe, not-at-all dangerous” guy, never got girls because he was “too nice” or something else he’d, or someone would say about him, either that guy or those others misinterpreting his inability to get a girlfriend as something external. Usually, he felt as if maybe the girls who he wanted reciprocal affection from were “stringing him along” or “only dating jerks,” and “why can’t they see they have a great thing staring them in the face with me?” Usually it meant that they were pretty much guaranteed friend status before they even opened their mouths.

I should recognize this; I was one of those guys.

Sort of.

I lamented my woes in silence, internalizing everything. When friends would ask why I was single or when acquaintances or friends of friends would ask if I was gay, I could only shrug and say, “I dunno,” or more deflecting, “I’m just keeping my options open.” More often than not, however, I’d be asking myself what was wrong with me. I didn’t complain to the girls I was interested in or to my friends. I bottled it. Because who gives a shit, right? No one likes to hear sappy stories, especially when they think they already know how they turn out. Aside from external friend zone comments, I was just the goofy guy who never dated.

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Toxic Citizens, Bullies Beware

I Y Books ButtonI’ve been thinking more and more that some writers should come with warning labels: “Extremely Volatile,” “Contents Under Pressure May Explode,” “Does Not Play Well With Others,” etc. Perhaps at least with some advance notice, we could choose to avoid situations where citizens of the literary community, especially online, step onto land mines of aggression without even realizing it. To avoid turning this post into an extended nebulous subtweet, I’ll cut to the chase: Why do we often tolerate extremely bad behavior from certain members of our community? 

I don’t know if five years counts as “a long time” — perhaps it’s been just under five — but that’s how long I’ve been an active contributor to the online literary community (though I’ve been a writer since I was knee-high to a grasshopper), both with writing and editing, which means I’ve been a citizen of that community for that long. Citizen is an important word, I think. My default M.O. in dealing with other writers and editors is to treat all of them like a close friend, kindly and respectfully. I treat them like they can teach me something new, with an open mind, because it’s the truth. I also stand up for those who’ve been treated poorly and go to bat for those whose voices have/had been marginalized. I do all of this because I believe in the community and all of the wonderfully diverse things it can teach me and that it stands for.

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The Terror of Fatherly Frailty

Joey Hat Green onesie

Many people are terrified of becoming a parent; sometimes fears overlap with those of others, but often, they feel singular and impossible to cope with. I wrote a piece for Thought Catalog talking about exactly this, opening deeply personal veins and bleeding them onto the page. Here’s an excerpt:

On December 21, 2013, I became a father for the first time. However, I feel like I should qualify what I’m going to say before I even say it, lest I alienate ~90 percent of my audience before this essay hits sixty words. In any case, here goes: I actually never really wanted to be a father. I’ve known many men who’ve shared this sentiment, but few, if any, who meant it the same way I did. I say this now in retrospect, which is an important distinction, I think. I say this because, while most people are universally worried about sleepless nights, changing diapers, a formerly vibrant social life atrophied and on life support, being responsible for another (tiny) human life, or any/all of the above. Admittedly, I’ve always had my own reservations about those things, but they’d barely pinged my anxiety meter (which, n.b. is incredibly sensitive). . . .

My reservations about becoming a father stem from my set of seemingly shattered genetics, the sum total of which often makes it a Herculean feat to simply get through any given day. I’ve become accustomed to reaching the point of each day where exhaustion sets in — deep into the marrow of my bones, my being — turning menial daily tasks into Gordian Knot-like productions. Changing diapers is not scary; trying to raise a child who might have to help take care of you sooner than he should ever have to is scary. It’s the stuff of nightmares. I’ve had them already. . . .

. . . [But even] while there are definitely things I can’t do with my son—and won’t be able to do unless modern science comes up with a full-body transplant for my somewhat functional brain—there’s still so much I can  do, so much I can teach him that isn’t predicated on my health that it makes me feel almost silly for fretting the way I did before he was born. . . .

Read the rest over at Thought Catalog if you’re interested!

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Bittersweet Start to 2014. . .

Antikythera mechanismWhere 2013 went out with a decent bang, 2014 is sort of “meh” so far. Granted, we’re only one day in, but hopefully things progress from here.

Something about which I have a much more significant piece forthcoming is becoming a father. On December 21, 2013, Joseph Paul Owens made his debut into the world. This is important enough that it deserves a post/essay that doesn’t stray from the subject.

Nebraska beat Georgia, but that’s ostensibly irrelevant comparatively (though, still, Go Big Red!).

No, these things I’ve just mentioned are not what’s left a bad taste in my mouth; that dubious honor goes to the special way that only all out, diametrically-opposed arguments with family members can.

I’ve been vocal in my disapproval of A&E’s capitulation in the whole Duck Dynasty racism/homophobia fiasco. I’m not going to rehash it here. The bottom line is that, when you say ignorant things that your insularity has caused (or whatever) in 2013, don’t be shocked when someone calls you on your bigoted bullshit.

Of course — like so many of the most infuriating arguments are wont to do — what amounts to a verbal fraternal brawl broke out on my Facebook wall. I’m embarrassed to say, but I’ve got family members who wish they lived in pre-1860s America (or in the parts of Texas not called Austin, today). I support equal rights for everyone — no qualifications, no justifications. I was accused of preaching today, but if I preach anything, it’s equality and tolerance.

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My 2013 is Going Out With a Bang!

awesome

Well, this has certainly been a pretty kickass year overall for Cat13, despite not writing too many new things — especially when factoring in the second half of the year! Is it a coincidence w/r/t the number 13 and its sheer awesomeness? The moon’s gravitational pull on the tides? Swamp gas? You’ll have to decide. . . .

I found out around June that my “collectio[novel]la” Shenanigans! was a Finalist for a Next Generation Indie Book Award.

My newest short story, “Now You See Me” was published over at Bartleby Snopes, which then managed to snag “Story of the Month” honors for October!

InDigest Magazine had a killer relaunch recently and “Mr. Twitchy,” a chapter excerpt from my forthcoming novel Human Services is featured in the latest issue (and live online).

There rumblings on the music front too. Without too much build up, here we go guys/gals: some remixes I did a long time ago (1999*) before it was easy to do using Traktor or Serato [yes, I know I'm old]: A Gravitaas Playlist: “SDK Sampler Ninety-Nine,” in all its (pseudo-)glory!

More news on the music front, the extraordinarily- and multi-talented Peter Tieryas Liu used a few of my tracks in some new video reviews, which is both awesome and humbling! I’ve listed two below:

HTML Giant featured Peter’s review of The Natural Dissolution of Fleeting Improvised Men by Gabriel Blackwell.

— And inspired by his review for The Lit Pub, Peter created a video for Janice Lee’s Damnation.

I’m working on a collaboration essay for The Good Men Project. More details to follow!

There is also some big news/a possible killer opportunity brewing for something on the horizon — but even I have to wait ’til Monday for more news.

Stay tuned (and bring on 2014!)!!

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Attn. Young Electronic Music Producers!

Ibiza

Though they might disagree — or think it’s silly/weird/etc. — all the young aspiring electronic music producers/DJs should definitely go back and listen to some of the artists that tilled the soil for their “new” EDM to take root (that is to say, electronic dance music has been a thing long before EDM became nearly synonymous with Dub-step and Trap). Too many kids are trying to create stuff that . . . isn’t very good, but a lot of that can be traced to a lack of familiarity with what came before [them] (not to mention a lack of some basic music theory, but that’s an entirely other thing for another post, altogether. . . ).

It’s probably important to remember that this isn’t a “Greatest of All Time” list or an eclectic list of hipster favorites no one’s ever heard of [though some of the artists are fairly strange (e.g. Aphex Twin)]. It’s a list of artists who were instrumental in making the EDM scene what it is today. It’s actually a list most people who are producing the best electronic music right now are already familiar with; I’m really just trying to get the new generation of producers and DJs up to speed on their music history. It’s character building! (or something*) Of course I won’t be offended if people don’t dig the stuff on the list, but the quality/talent level of the below artists in their respective genres has already long-since been established.

I suggest, first and foremost, listening to Orbital and The Prodigy (Fat of the Land, omfg…), then Paul Oakenfold and BT (especially from the 1990s — Ibiza, anyone?!); BT more or less invented the use of glitches in EDM); Photek to see where DnB hit a high-water mark with “Modus Operandi;” Future Sound of London’s “Papua New Guinea;” Kraftwerk (anything); Tricky (ibid); UNKLE, Portishead (especially Dummy), and Massive Attack to get an expert taste of Trip-Hop; the evolution of Beck’s music from “Odelay” onward; ALWAYS relevant are The Crystal Method; Dirty Vegas, if nothing else for the “Days Go By” video; Dan the Automator (who you’ll realize you’ve heard before even if you didn’t know it before); Imogen Heap just because; Justice; AND Underworld (just to list a place to begin).

The Chemical Brothers and Dust Brothers wouldn’t be bad picks for this list either, and I’d be remiss to not also include Paul Van Dyk, Tiësto, Armin van Buuren, and NERO since they’ve all been around for a long time and have evolved their sound to stay relevant!

These are just a handful of artists who influenced me to start cobbling together beats in my basement in the late 90s. It’s never a bad idea to Know Your Roots!

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