Fiction Writing – Cut Material, Failure

As a novelist, I have entire books of slashed material (as well as entire failed books).

This morning, I cut a series of postcards from my current novel-in-progress. These notes are from my narrator’s best friend from childhood, Tomás, after the two of them had a falling out.

A little background on the writing process: I asked my friend Ben Temple (who was a captain in the army during peacetime) to give me specific details and stories to make Tomás’ postcards more realistic. But they didn’t fit the narrative arc anymore, so here they are.

14 POSTCARDS FROM TOMÁS BEFORE HE WAS DEPLOYED

  • You dont even know how to say sorry after a thing like that. Just get up and walk away and say to yourself dont ever fuckin make that mistake again. Ever. So Im feeling like that but also Im here just thinking about being in a war and hoping to become a hero, a brave soldier that at least everyone could respect for that thing, am I right, Cabron? I imagined a sniper rifle in my hand, obstacle to obstacle or house to house. NVGs on my head at night, destroying the enemy, but apparently were gonna stay here in the USA and train…plus clean shit all the time.

 

  • Everythings still the same here Klay. We got something called “sequestration” sometimes…I guess? My CO yelled in my face, “Do you like sequestration?!!” and I had no fuckin idea what that was, but the way he said it, his tone, I just yelled back, “Sir, no, sir!!!” and he smiled. So I guess he likes me?

 

  • Heard ISIS was training in Pakistan now. Knew we had a battalion just over the border in the Aff desert. We all watched CNN in the briefing room like we were about to go to war. But then we didnt go. We waited another week on base like it was peacetime and there wasnt even an enemy we needed to destroy. Thats the army sometimes: too much time to think. I still feel bad about everything with you. It was once, I promise. Only once. And that shit is NEVER happening again. Write me back when you can.

 

  • Peacetime means PMCS pretty much everyday: Preventative Maintenance Checks and Services. Boring fuckin daily. Example: Checking the fire extinguisher in each vehicle. But we got bored after a while and just checked the boxes without actually checking the items. Got me and this kid Teague in trouble. Were warming up our LMTV when the fire extinguisher (which we had NOT inspected in a while) went off. Covered us both in white foam. Captain laughed his ass off, then assigned us latrines for a week. Only latrines. I dont know how many we cleaned, but it was morning til night!

 

  • Every day.  But at least that reminds me of high school workouts. Its a infantry unit, so difficult compared to other parts of the branch I guess, but nothing like high school wrestling, and I wrestled varsity for three years. Braceros Fuertes! State finals senior year. Wish I could go back and win that match. Wish I could go back in time and do a few things different. Thanks for the letter the other day. It meant a lot to me.

 

  • Ugly fuckin’ Guerra in the desert over there. You seen any footage? We watch a shit ton here on base. The marines keep getting deployed, but not us, at least not yet. Were just sitting here on our asses in Washington State, fuckin ready to go, twiddling our thumbs. Its like were in full-on peace-time, and the mantra of the peace-time U.S. Army infantry soldier is this:

“Somebody – anybody – start a war now.”

 

  • Cleaning (always something to clean: the motor-pool, barracks, grounds, equipment…). Cleaning and cleaning and cleaning. I wanted to make one of those boxing champion of the world warm-up robes, all red silk, have it say “LIMPIADOR” in big yellow letters on the back just put that shit on in the morning and wear it to work, cuz – apparently – Im a fuckin janitor.

 

  • This is how it is: An infantry unit in peacetime or not yet on deployment “goes to the field” for about 10 days every 3 months.  Really just El Campo. The woods there. Most common thing heard after field training in the Northwest: “We were in the field last month for 10 days.  Wettest fuckin FTX Ive ever been on too.  Were still rotating the tents through the motorpool… setting them up and drying them out until the end of the world.” Dios guarde mi.

 

  • I know you said its okay now and you and Olivia are talking again and hanging out, and Im happy about that but Im still so fuckin sorry about everything. You and me have been friends since when we were little and thats all that really matters to me now. That shit is the real stuff. Also Im bored as fuck here and I appreciated your letter. I liked your description of the country out northeast. I could picture it all. Made me miss Sisters, not the town really, just the high desert.

 

  • Cuate, theres this shit called STAFF DUTY: a soldier, a sergeant, and an officer, at the Battalion Head Quarters every night.  The solider is awake by the phone all night long.  The officer and NCO find some quiet corner of HQ to hangout in and then sleep.   If an emergency occurs, those 3 use the alert roster to wakeup the Battalion and get everyone moving.  Classic convo: “Want to go out with us tonight? Pitchers?”  “I cant. I have Staff Duty.”  People just watch regular movies during staff duty…if theyre smart.

 

  • Shit got a little more interesting this week: We had a platoonlevel live-fire training this week: M4’s, M249’s, & M203 simulators plus a vehicle mounted 50-cal all firing together. Went like this: the OIC rotates (let’s say there are 12 platoons in the Battalion) through his range over a 5 day period.  Got to snipe 6 people, two on one day, plus we did an ambush that worked. Then I slept in my own bed like I hadnt just been out. Youd have liked this week.

 

  • This is MESSED UP: I was locked down for 4 days before thanksgiving. We all were. People missing flights. Chingalo. And it was after a weeklong FTX…were in Battalion buildings… no clean clothes, no personal items except the ones we had with us on FTX.  Felt like those days when were cutting weight for a tournament except all of us eating in the chow hall. All for one pair of stolen NVGs! 800 fuckin soldiers locked down for that!  I wanted to track down the brigade commander and tell him to Chupame los huevos but he finally blinked on the night before thanksgiving. Said he would let us go but we all had to be back in 48 hours, and just as we were leaving post, the NVGs showed up MYSTERIOUSLY on the hood of a Humvee. Fuck whoever did that.

 

  • December: Private Wilson got busted for watching porn on the DOD computer during his staff duty assignment.

Then Private Jeurgenson.

Then Private Wonokoswki.

Then Private Childer.

Common article 15s from the UCMJ. Every single one of them.

Radioman Thompson said, “Why don’t they just watch Top Gun or some shit?”

And I said, “Somebody, anybody, start a war now.”

 

  • Looks like were finally gonna get deployed. Felt like I was dying…or becoming a professional cleaning lady.

Also, Im glad you and Olivia are back together. That seems good.

I guess Ill catch you on the other side. Im off to the Aff desert!!!

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THIS WEEK’S POEM, MY ATTEMPT AT POETRY

I’m continuing to write weekly poems. Here’s this last week’s first draft:

LO QUE DECIMOS DESPUES

Como narcos, lenguaje en tu boca,

mentiras, fragmentos de lengua, o

fraccíones de vidrio,

espejos oscuros en uno cuerto

de crepusculo.

Digame, niña, ¿Que te quieres?

Te quiero, pero…

Tiempo no es fáctico, no es lineal,

en mi cerebro los círculos

tocan, se besan,

con labios secos, poco de

sangre, pies descalzos y manos

abiertas.

Despues, puños cerrados.

 

I wrote it in Spanish, but here’s my English translation:

WHAT WE SAY THEN

As drug traffickers, language in your mouth,

lies, fragments of tongue, or

fractions of glass,

mirrors, dark in a room of twilight.

Tell me, girl, What do you want?

I love you, but…

Time is not factual, is not linear,

in my brain the circles

touch, they kiss,

with dry lips, a little bit of

blood, bare feet and hands

open.

Later, clenched fists.

 

 

 

I’m Racing Hans Florine In June!

Hans-Florine-e1442264250587

Hans Florine lead-climbing on El Cap, Yosemite Valley

“Super Local vs. Super Pro – An El Cap Day At A Crap Cliff”

Recently, I was being interviewed by an adventure journalist name Jayme Moye, and she decided to help set up a strange event.
The short version of the story is this: Hans Florine is flying up to Eugene, Oregon to race me on an El Cap Day (3000 feet of climbing in one day) at my local cliff where I’ve done many El Caps. He’s a world class speed climber, but he doesn’t know the routes. I’m just an average local dirtbag – not world-class by any standards – but I do know the routes.
Hans Florine has won a world speed-climbing championship, three X-Game gold medals, and holds many world records.
I really sorta kinda like to climb a lot, pretty often, and anywhere I can.
The race is high-stakes: We’re betting a beer, a burrito, and a monster cookie.
The journalist (Jayme Moye) has written for National Geographic, Outside, and Men’s Journal, and she’ll be writing about the event for multiple magazines. Climbing Magazine has asked me to write a feature for Climbing.com.
Running laps at The Columns

Me running laps at the Columns, Eugene, Oregon, on an ascender (with my surgically repaired thumb in a cast)

Specifics On The Race:
– Our local cliff is only 47 feet tall, so each time I do an El Cap Day, it’s 64 route-laps. I last did an El Cap Day there two weeks ago. The last time I climbed there was Tuesday.

– I usually fix a few lines and run 64 laps with an ascender on a drag, then rappel each lap and start over. This is the system we’ll use for our race.

– Although I never race my El Cap Days, it usually takes me 3.5+ hours to rock climb 3000 feet (while eating and talking to people a little bit), but I’ll train and get that time down before the race (Note: The time includes 64 rappels).
– Hans has climbed the real El Cap in under 2.5 hours – and formerly held the world speed record on that cliff with Alex Honnold – but again, this is a new cliff to Hans, and he doesn’t have to rappel 3000 feet when he speed climbs in Yosemite.
– But – honestly – that might not matter. He might just crush me anyway. So I’ll just do my best. I do know the cliff well and have first-ascent trad routes at The Columns of up to 5.12cR.
– The dates we’ve set out (three in case of weather, specifically rain) are June 10-12. Tentatively, the race is set for June 10th, at 9:00 AM.
Character details:
– I’m more than 10 years younger than Hans. So that might help me?
– Just kidding: Look at his picture and notice that he’s kind of fit.
– Also, just two years ago, Alex Honnold said in an interview that Hans is still the greatest in the world. Since Alex Honnold is considered the best in the world by most people, this is a huge compliment.
– Injury notes: I have a brain injury from getting hit by a car on my bike three years ago (and a torn right meniscus + surgically repaired right thumb), yet I keep climbing every week at the crag. Hans probably has a few things that hurt on his body…doesn’t everybody?
I’m ready to get crushed compete!

Reading With Willy Vlautin, Wed, Feb 21st

I’m reading with Willy Vlautin tomorrow night in Eugene as part of his release tour for his new novel Don’t Skip Out On Me. We’ll be at The Foundry, Sam Bonds on 8th, at 7PM.

Willy was in London last week, and Portland last night (reading at Powells). He’s one of my favorite authors and an incredible reader.

Come check us out if you’re free!

Works In Progress – Spanish Poetry: La Pregunta

I’ve been writing poems in Spanish lately, then translating them back into English.

Here’s an attempt – a work in progress – a rough draft of a recent poem:

La Pregunta

Eres como un eclipse,

oscuridad del sol, día

muerte un poco

una sepultura, yo camino

y veo el cielo,

giró violeta, se sombra.

Un cuervo talla los cosmos,

confesor negro, pajaro

sacerdotal, y yo pregunto

mi consulta.

 

And in English:

 

The Question

You are an eclipse,

obscurity of the sun, day

dying a little

a tomb, I walk

and see the sky

twist violet, shadow itself.

A crow carves the cosmos,

black confessor,

sacerdotal bird, and I ask

my question.

Vote For The Teen Choice Awards – Too Shattered Nominated!

I just found out that Too Shattered For Mending has been nominated for the 2018 Teen Choice awards because of its starred reviews. This is the book equivalent of the top-200 Billboard songs at the end of the year. Voting starts now and goes through the start of February. If you liked the book, please vote. Also, please share this link with your friends on Facebook and Instagram. I need teens to help promote. Would anyone mind helping me spread the word?
Click here to vote!

My Other Dog’s Personal Ad

Hank Williams Jr
I guess both dogs are looking for something else. I just searched and found Hank Williams Jr’s personal ad in his kennel.
Unfortunately, Hank doesn’t hold a pencil well in either paw, and spelling is not a skill he possesses.
I typed it out exactly as he wrote it:
 
“I em a grayt dog. Maybee the graytest. I am fun end full of inergy. I em sensetiv. I luv everthing.
I em looking for a dog like me to run end bark end wristl end play with. It is even bedder if U injoy lycking the penisses of eechuthr end smelling eechuthr all the time. I wud injoy thet a lot. My bruther Bob Dilln is not a fun enuf dog and also he duz not wont to be a sexul partner weth me even tho he smells amayzing end we wud be purfect together. He is allways gitting ennoyed with me abowt the smollest things and it is rilly frustrayting. I need sumwun better, so that is wot Im looking for heer. Pleez rispond if U like to be fisical and lowd. We can tuch eechother evry secund end bark end bark end bark end bark.”