“Normal?” Laura asks, not averting her eyes from the road. “And just what is normal? Is normal the type of life where you’re constantly insecure of your body? Of who you are in a relationship with? Of how your house looks in comparison to the neighbor’s? Of what kind of job you have or what type of car you drive? Of what other people think of your children? Are these normal concerns? Because to me these sound like neurotic concerns, obsessive fixations on the most insignificant of details, the most desperate attempts to be validated by the outside world. Normal sounds like every fucked up person agreeing on what it’s okay to be fucked up about rather than striving for a little change. That’s it, you know what normal is? The enemy of progress, the bane of innovation, the cancer to the human spirit. You show me normal you show me mediocrity, you show me genius and you show me someone who dared to defy the standard. Normal is the blanket we think has been keeping us safe, but that’s actually been smothering us all while.”
Here’s an excerpt from my work in progress, Terminal, about a nurse’s aide who takes control of his own life by murdering patients. I’ll be sure to update you on the state of Murderers Anonymous (being shopped by my agent) as info comes in! Pardon the rough state of the writing, it’s still in it’s early drafts, but I like the feel to this scene:
“Sartre said the fear we get when we look over a ledge or stand atop something tall is not the fear of falling,” Laura says, “But the fear that we’re going to jump.”
We’re standing on the stone railing of the bridge, looking down into the dark scar of a river below. The water shimmers only slightly, casting the occasional faint twinkle through the abyss below.
“The fear that we won’t be able to stop it?” I ask. My body rocks back and forth.
Laura nods. “The fear that our anguish will take over and we’ll do what we secretly want to.”
The Delaware River lurks below. We’d driven nearly a half hour to get to this remote bridge on a state route in the middle of nowhere. It crossed the river, linking New York and Pennsylvania, but with no nearby towns or buildings, there wasn’t a car or person in sight. It was just us and the night.
And the drop.
I estimate it’s about eighty feet.
“What are we doing here?” I ask as if I don’t already know.
Laura smiles. “We’re jumping, silly.”
Falling into a body of water from a height of 150 feet has an approximately a 98% mortality rate. While falling from lesser heights increases the chances of survival, there are still a multitude of variables to consider when evaluating whether or not a fall will be deadly. Angle of entry to the water, possible loss of consciousness, swimming ability, and the body’s penchant to go into a state of shock are among the factors that can contribute to death. If one hits the water at a poor angle for example (see: belly flop) the high rate of speed the body is traveling (see: high way speed limits) will result in the an incredible amount of force taken by the body as it hits the water (see: concrete wall), resulting in broken limbs, ruptured organs, or a loss of consciousness, all hindering the ability to swim and thus resulting in death.
And this is all considering the water is deep enough to accommodate you; you might just splash right through it to the rocky bottom, breaking yourself into pieces (see: splat).
“This is a unique first date,” I muse. A cold draft of wind ruffles my hair, and I consider the temperature factor as well. It’s about fifty-five degrees out, with the water possibly near freezing. There was a chance that could get us as well (see: hypothermia).
Laura turns to me, her eyes showing the same fleeting twinkle as the dark water below. “Isn’t it just? This is what life is about.”
“Do tell,” I say.
Laura takes a deep breath before telling me that the only thing that gives life value is death.
“Without death, nothing is sacred. Nothing in life has value because we’ll never lose it. There’s no clock, no pressing reason to have moments or experiences. No reason to make memories with loved ones. Life breeds complacency.”
She goes on to tell me about how infinite life would be a curse, not life at all.
“If we have enough time to do everything, we’ll never do anything,” she says. “There’s no impetus, nor is there a sense of wonder. You live long enough you see everything.”
She goes on to explain how death is a blessing, the state of non-being that shows us how fortunate we are to have, that encourages us to appreciate and grow while we can.
“Deadlines are the bastion of human progress. They are what drives the engine of humanity. And every death we experience is a lesson,” she stresses. “We learn lessons from people’s lives and apply them to our own. Without a beginning and end there are no lessons, no reasons, no true joy, no true accomplishments. Death is what makes life beautiful; it’s what makes life worth living.”
“It’s the shared experience that makes us one with all of humanity,” I say.
She smiles. “Yes. Death allows us to be defined and known. It allows us to live individual lives. This is why I do this.”
“You try to kill yourself?”
Laura shakes her head. She explains she does this every few months as a reminder she is alive. She finds a bridge overlooking a body of water, stands over it, and jumps. She seeks out heights that are not likely to kill her and water with depths that will accomplish the same.
“But there are no guarantees,” she stresses. “It has to have a chance of killing you or it isn’t authentic.”
“What does it do for you?”
She smiles, but for the first time it seems truly authentic. “When you’re falling you have the time to appreciate what you have, even if it isn’t much at all. When you’re facing death, when your body’s instincts think it’s coming, you realize the wonders and joys you’ve had in life. As you’re falling time slows down, your entire life plays before your eyes, and you have a moment of reflection, of appreciation. You get to experience yourself.”
“To put yourself into perspective,” I say.
She nods. “You let go of that sense of control all of us so desperately fight for and let the laws of gravity dictate your actions. It’s liberation. You feel so small but so wonderful, and suddenly, that life you lived, it all seems okay.”
I stare down. “It’s one of those things I won’t get until I try it, isn’t it?”
Laura nods. She reaches over and takes my hand. I squeeze it, and feel warm inside.
“Have you almost died before?” I ask.
She nods. “The best part is scrambling out of the water, trying to keep your wits about you.”
“I might die,” I say.
She nods. “That’s what makes you feel alive. Are you scared?”
“Contemplative, maybe, scared, no,” I respond. In an odd way, the glowing moon combined with the gentle sloshing of the river below and the song of crickets, made the scene romantic. It was the type of date that could figuratively (and literally) take my breath away.
“If you’re living life afraid, you’re not living life at all,” Laura says as she moves her foot forward and takes the plunge.
Hands still locked together, she takes me with her.
A short thought, one that may not make sense to everyone, but for those it does I think it will resonate deeply. My life experience of romance has been like this:
It’s like going to a free throw basketball competition and making the most free throws and then being told you came in last. When you ask why you’re told “just because” and finally, when you keep asking questions you learn you were never allowed in the competition in the first place.
Keep it real, peeps
I write the types of novels that make people cringe. They are the types of novels that smack you in the face to wake you up or get a point across. There’s graphic violence, sex, and detailed description of perversion. I write the type of stuff that couldn’t make it into the movies. Sometimes that makes it difficult presenting my work to others. I’m a pretty positive, happy go lucky guy in my every day life, yet my novels are dark, saturated with what some believe is filth. I’ve had people wonder how a guy like me could even write that stuff.
Well, here’s how…
I believe that the best stories make us uncomfortable in some way (this doesn’t have to be grossing out or shock value) and that these stories show us aspects to society or reality we haven’t previously considered. The best stories live on in our minds and hearts and we grow along with the characters. We use the content to develop our own life lessons that will stick with us. Now, stories can do this in many different ways. The reason I have extreme events and characters in my stories is not for its own sake…it’s to convey points. It’s to wake people up to how others see the world and do. To what behaviors and perspectives really exist in our society. To what goes on around you every day without your knowledge. You might not like it, it might make you uncomfortable…
But you’ll learn something.
I find that this form is also good for satire. When you shock people with your characters and actions, they pay attention. They can more easily see the critiques on social contrivance or other’s behaviors. The protagonist with a warped viewpoint can challenge the reader and get across valuable messages.
So when I write a character who has lived through violent sexual abuse, and I describe aspects of it, I don’t do that for it’s own sake. When I write a scene with a grisly murder and provide details, it is not because I love gore. It is to open eyes, to catch attention, and make you think about some of the larger messages.
My mother read Murderers Anonymous (my novel currently on submission to the Big 5 publishers) which is filled with sex, violence, and foul language (I believe there’s 185 occurrences of the word fuck in some form, of course I hit control F to find out). I warned her about the content, I hoped she wouldn’t think her son was a perverted maniac. She told me, “I’ve been around the block. I’ve read and seen things.” Still, I was wary. How could a mother read a book her son wrote containing multiple graphic, detailed sex scenes?
She loved the book, and she loved the devices I used to get my point across. She saw the artistic value in them and didn’t think I was a weirdo. Maybe my worries were unfounded, but sometimes I still have people a little weirded out when I describe to them the type of books I write. But you know…
When most of them give the books a shot, they love them.
Keep reading, keep writing
“A friend called me crying one day because her boyfriend had left her for another woman. I couldn’t understand why she was devastated. “You want to be with a guy who loves you as much as you love him, right? Someone who would never do this to you, correct? And this guy obviously doesn’t fit those criteria, so why are you sad?”
It was clear, right there, and then, that my view on emotions is very different from other people’s. I view emotions as the potholes on an otherwise smooth path towards euphoria while my friends celebrate (yet complain about) the ups and downs of their emotional roller coasters. I’m not a mean, cold-hearted or unsympathetic individual; I simply trace the origin of the pain we feel and, if it’s self-inflicted – which it almost always is – I say, “If it hurts when you pinch yourself, stop pinching yourself!” – Timber Hawkeye
I love hearing what people think of my work, even if they pass on it. Rejections build character, and I still keep the faith. My agent and I are chugging along strong. These are what rejections from Big 5 editors look like.
Dear Adrienne,Thank you for your patience and for sending me MURDERERS ANONYMOUS. This has a fun premise. A high bar has been set for psychotic prose, but Allen certainly makes the grade on many occasions. And I think he has a good sense of what his readers will appreciate most—a supple sense of depravity and comedy. But despite enjoying much of what I read, I don’t think I’d have luck enough with this at (company name redacted). There might have been one or two narrative devices too many—definitions, direct address—, in addition to the challenge of bringing around reader’s to a murderer, that kept me from feeling bullish. I am sorry not to feel differently but very much appreciate the chance I had to consider a submission of yours. I hope you’ll keep me in mind.Dear Adrienne,Thank you so much for sending me Murderer’s Anonymous. I was very excited to read it, as this type of book is completely up my alley! I loved the gore and the grit that the author puts on the page, and I was absolutely floored by the twist at the end—I did not expect (character name redacted) to be the killer! Unfortunately, I didn’t connect with the work overall as much as I hoped I would, particularly with the narrator’s voice. I enjoyed the definitions, the tutorials on how to hack up a body, the breaking of the fourth wall, but overall, I do not believe that this particular narrator is for me, and so regretfully, I must pass. Please keep me in mind for future projects, I sincerely hope we can work together on something twisted in the future
“You are not stuck in traffic, you ARE traffic. We blame society, but we ARE society.” – Buddhist Boot Camp