I just checked to see how much I’ve written here this year versus last year, and it’s very sad. I think it’s mostly a lack of a good time to update. Way back in the old days, I used to write during and after lunch, which worked out pretty good. But now I never eat at my computer, and by the time I get back to my cube, I’m ready to pass out from the post-lunch blues. And I haven’t been writing at night much anymore, since I’ve had a huge case of something that makes writer’s block look like, um, I can’t think of a word because I can’t write. So now I will try to squeeze in a pre-dinner update, in an effort to use up some time that would normally be wasted on checking which Seinfeld rerun is playing on Fox.
I am trying to get moving with this book of short stories about Bloomington. I’m mostly in a note-taking, word-shuffling sort of mood, not a lot of real writing. I have maybe two or three stories that are unwritten, and 13 stories that are “done” but nowhere near readable, because they need some serious work. That’s about 77,000 words in those 13 stories, which officially qualifies as book-sized, but it’s a weird proposition. Each of the stories takes place over the six years I went to college, and they are all first-person, same fictional character, and so on, but they don’t all snap together like Lego to form a novel. But it’s a little more than just an anthology. It’s “themed” in a sense. I don’t know what you call it. But that’s what it is.
Some of the stories are good, but they aren’t stories as much as they are essays, or just descriptions of what happened over time. I want to change that a bit more and work in more tension and some elements to pull you through a bit. Like now, there’s a story called “Shift-F7”, which some of you may have read in an earlier version. It’s pretty much just a flat description of working as a tech geek in the computer labs on campus. But it lacks something, because it just goes through a day, a shift, and has some insets that describe the highs and the lows of dealing with customers. I am thinking of mashing this story up by taking the guy, and working in the fact that his girlfriend’s a total bitch that’s probably cheating on him, and he’s at the end of his rope with her, and he can’t totally prove that she’s sucking 37 dicks every time he leaves the house to go to work, but he’s close. Or maybe he’s paranoid. And then he’s given the perfect chance to cheat on HER. Should he? I don’t know, you’ll have to wait for me to write it. But I need some elements like that to pull the story a little, give you a reason to turn the pages.
I’ll share a little bit of writing with you. This is pretty rough, but if you know my old roommate Steve Simms, you’ll recognize it. It’s just a quick sketch, something I was using to come up with a character for a story. Anyway, enjoy.
Imagine you’re in a basement apartment, actually one of those half-basement apartments where the ground is at about armpit height and that makes a foot-deep ledge around every room, almost like the perfect place to put a little train track and run an HO-scale locomotive on constant repeat, except the shelf is filled with Frank Zappa LPs and Who box sets and uncataloged VHS tapes of _Twin Peaks_ episodes. And you’re on a huge sectional couch full of holes that looks like it’s done some time outdoors, and you’re trying to read a well-worn Leonard Maltin movie review book that’s a few years old. Only, you can’t read that well, because an entire band is assembled in this living room, minus the drums. And at a volume so loud that you must wonder what the neighbors are thinking is this mix of surf music and the Beatles and three PhDs of music theory geeking out and a little bit of them making fun of Jim Morrison all at the same time. Although CDs and tapes and computer manuals and vinyl cover almost every horizontal surface, there’s a guy across from you with a huge orange electric piano, probably the first one that Yamaha ever built, and the guy looks like David Hyde Pierce or some other kind of librarian sort, and he’s calmly playing away on this cheezomatic. And next to you on the couch is this strange guy that appeared from Texas the night before, someone who could be Chuck Yeager at age thirty, but wailing away on a white-on-black Strat like a blues man motherfucker. And standing in the middle of the room, swinging around a Fender P-bass and wailing away at the top of his lungs is this dude with that almost looks like Rick Rubin, with long black hair and a ZZ Top beard and a torn up shirt with a pot-belly underneath and a pair of birkenstocks. And that’s Simms. Steve Simms.