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In this surreal road novel, Anthony searches for the father he’s never met: Andy Kaufman, the legendary song-and-dance man from the ’70s. There’s a few problems here, of course. A) Andy Kaufman died in 1984, and B) Thanks to a recent cancer diagnosis, Anthony doesn’t have much longer to live, either. However, new evidence has come to light that questions whether or not Kaufman is actually dead. Could he be in hiding, after all these years? Anthony is determined to discover the truth before his own clock runs out. During his travels, he will encounter shameless medicine men, grifters, Walmart shoppers, the ghosts of Elvis and Warhol, and the Devil himself.



Friday, May 25, 2012

Writing True Love is Writing Agony


“A chill in here tonight,” I said.
“My body burns when it snows,” she said. “I go out into the street without a stitch. I love the way my nipples get hard.”
“It’s snowing ash,” I said.
She took my hand, leading me to the rubber mat. We slow danced, first ones on the floor that night. None of the other lot looked up from their tables, from the wells of their chipped teacups.

—Dancing at Albies at the End of the World by T. Fox Dunham
Published in Torrid Literature Volume II

When I write of agony, I write of love. And all my works are about love, even if they’re about zombies or human-eating lions. It’s the most elusive force that humans seek, and when they finally take love, it burns in their hands as if they were holding embers. All the great holy books are really about love—and its inverse, hate. Authors write of nothing but death and love, and usually death is a component of love. I refer you to the collective works of one of the greatest authors of love, Ernest Hemingway.

In my experience—and the only way you can really understand love is if it pierces you through the chest and leaves you bleeding—love is not a path to happiness. That’s how most humans I know define it. Love is about being happy. It’s function is to make us joyful, content and alive. Yet, it does anything but. Love is the path to devastation, because it will always be lost. This is the truth of love. It’s the loss that makes it real. This is Hemingway’s gospel. Now here’s mine:

Love is its own emotional need to be fulfilled, not the path to fulfill happiness.

I write of this because my story, Dancing at Albies at the End of the World, was recently published in volume two of Torrid Literature, an excellent magazine of articles, poetry and stories. It can be found for purchase online or hard copy at the web address I will post at the end of this entry. In the story, my character has lost his name when he lost his wife, killed in the London Blitz during World War II. He wanders as a soulless man looking for a bomb to fall on him, and he discovers a makeshift pub built under a bombed-out factory full of the living soulless like himself. There, he inflicts on himself a passionate affair with a soulless woman. She tastes his pain. She drinks his tears. And he reaches back from the darkness. He may actually come home.

Fiction authors write of conflict. Our sustenance, our fuel is the relationship gone wrong, the bad marriage, the lost love never to be realized. Our protagonists either repair their love affairs or they make a daring escape to a better place. We thrive on this conflict, making our plots compelling; thus, we are articulate in the execution of pain. I believe these heart-grinding tales to be the best of human stories—tales of love and glory. So if you’re going to write a love story, and really that’s all we ever write, don’t base your plot on their love:

Base your plot on their fear, on the forces conspiring to keep them apart.

That’s the glory of love, two people fighting all odds to fulfill that need in their souls. All souls come with pieces missing.

Love shows best in writing when it is based on a setting of fear, of loss, like silver clouds painted on black canvas. Your job as an author is to make lovers suffer, to do everything you can to keep your lovers apart, to attack, to create insurmountable odds. You are the fiend, the force of forlorn fate that fights to destroy their love. Hurt them like you’ve been hurt. Defy them like you’ve been defied and denied. Break their hearts and your readers will weep to the very last word.

Also, if you wish to write truly of the human experience, then most of the endings to your love stories will be loss. We carry with us a chain of broken chains. In literature, the most perfect loves are the loves lost. The pain keeps them alive. We don’t forget, and neither will your readers. They will relate. They will feel a direct link to the characters, switch places with them, and you can’t succeed more than that as an author.

I’m not a cruel man by nature. I’m an author. I’m writing stories about the human condition, the emotional self. Fiction must reflect core reality, though we dress it up, set it to logical composition, and paint its nose blue. The true love of your characters will come from their trials. This is so even if that love is lost.

And so I invite you to read Dancing at Albies at the End of World, published in Torrid Literature volume II.



And cheers to all my mates who will be published with me in the Quick Bites of Flesh Anthology, a collection of flash zombie stories to be printed by Hazardous Press.



Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Unleashing The Good Doctor Sullivan -- Writing Characters


“If you come with me, The Good Doctor Sullivan will see you. He has promised to take me to see elephants, and then he will put their eyes into his pocket. You must not follow. He will put your eyes in his jacket pocket too.”
--The Siren Lucinda by T. Fox Dunham.
Published by Scarlet Literary Magazine

The Good Doctor skulked his way into my narrative. I was oblivious to him at the time. He manifested as a happy accident, the way the creative soul throws in a new element, a frisson of inspiration like spotting the glimmer of a star on the night—or the death throes of a star sucked into a singularity vortex. Writers can’t plan for these moments. When it happens, run with it. It quakes worlds.

Doctors have been the great saviors and nemeses of my life. They’ve brought healing and suffering—burning, piercing, violating, cutting, injecting, mutilating my body. They were always kind. The Good Doctor Sullivan is kind. When my young life turned into a war with cancer, his birth was inevitable. From this, I draw much of my work. Its fire always finds fuel, and I channel much of the energy into my horror and dark fiction. The Good Doctor Sullivan is the vessel of this anguish, this desperation.

He first manifested in my short story, The Siren Lucinda, published by Scarlet Literary Magazine for their Siren issue. I thank you, Editor Janice Roberts. Link below. He never appears in the story, only spoken about in hushed whispers by his wife Lucinda, her eyes darting to make sure he is not near. With the manuscript closed, I thought him done. Then, he appeared again and again, spoken about, referred to by other names, sometimes just a quick mention. He seeded himself into my narrative, growing flesh with each new story, accumulating into this world.

His most recent conquest was the Dangers Untold Anthology, an Anthology with contributors from The Horror Society. He is the unseen hospital manager in my story, House of Decay. I was honored to be chosen from this collective of the best horror authors, artists and filmmakers. But I must warn you: He’s using us, building a body, carving himself into our consciousness. I cannot defy him. I do not wish to. He’s offered me peace if I serve all of you up to him. He is so very kind.
             
Authors do more than generate stories. We create worlds. It’s the prerequisite to good writing. Readers only see flashes, moments in the lives of characters who are born, live and die in our heads. Their entire continuum grows a landscape in our creative visions, and we return to these worlds to freeze quantum moments in narrative then stamp them out on metal sheets for readers to glimpse. We harbor these inchoate entities, sharing our perceptions, falling in love, running in terror. Character continuums stay with us.
            
Good characters don’t come directly from life. Indeed, people in common reality are the source for these animated vessels, but we never pluck a person and drop them into a narrative. Effective characters are composites, usually blended from the choir of persons who pass through our lives. The masses become our palettes. We grab his phrase, her dress, the old man’s anger, the ex-girlfriend’s fear of ants. Authors generate new souls this way, reworking stale reality into realized paradigm. That’s another vital point:

Stories are hyper realities, dramatized, and a good story is never a copy of boring, random reality sans a compelling plot.

Very seldom does life happen like a story. Humans love fiction to build, to follow a culturally developed order. Our fiction begins with a conflict, builds as our protagonist fights to resolve this conflict, then the story ends with its resolution. Life is out of order, random. That’s why biographical movies often reorder events. Don’t blame the screenwriters. It’s a movie.

Thus, The Good Doctor Sullivan manifests himself into my work. I don’t know what makes him or the Gods he worships. I’ve not yet found out or been let in on the joke. As I told Eric J. Guignard, I’m chasing something. You’ll be the first to know when I find out.

*          *            *

Also please check out my new stories featured on Philly Flash Inferno. Acedia: In The World of Tommy Aquinas is about apathy, the son of a B-52 pilot who flew missions to the edge of the Soviet Union, prepared to kill millions of humans. He was a good man. And The Van Messiah, a drug addicted wretch kept alive by the soulless who demand a savior. Links below.

I thank you for reading my first blog entry. This sort of personal commentary doesn’t come easily. I let my stories speak for me, throwing them into the sky for sunshine or storm. I prefer tempests. Return here in future for writing wisdom, updates about my work, and observations on the writing industry. I will be of use to you. 

LINKS:
The Siren Lucinda by T. Fox Dunham -- Published in The Scarlet Literary Review:

Acedia & The Van Messiah by T. Fox Dunham -- Published in Philly Flash Inferno: