Ian Truman

The Curse – Poem

The Curse

 

Did you try everything?

Did you really give it all?

You’ve lost sleep, money, loved ones.

You’ve spilled your guts to the page

Time and time again

But did you really go all in?

 

Was every waken minute of your life spent

Thinking about it,

Working on it?

It is the universe’ fault or your own at this point?

Did you write enough?

Did you really make it every day?

Did you really spend every lunch break writing?

Each and every single one of them?

 

How come you’re still looking for something else to clear some wiggle room?

Why the impulse to follow the herd?

Why look at other jobs at all?

Why care about an endgame that wasn’t your own to start with?

 

Was it the fact you weren’t from New-York,

or LA,

or Toronto,

London,

Or anywhere that seemed to matter to publishing.

 

Was it because you never traveled, not really?

 

Did 36 hours in NOLA on 300 bucks just to make it to a conference really amount to anything?

Did you really dress in Calvin Klein so no one would know you were sleeping on a bench that night?

Was it worth it to cross the line into New York on a midnight bus just to be at a table for a few hours?

Is this really what they meant by going at it for real?

 

Was it because you’re working class and can’t seem to find the leeway to keep up with the cost of living or is that just a cop out?

Are you that broke?

Is everything so expensive?

Are you a fucking princess after all is said and done?

 

Did you really starve yourself enough?

Did you really save up every quarter,

Every buck,

Every coffee you spent money on?

Why did you buy anything at all this week if it wasn’t for the sake of the word?

 

What if your “all in” really was everything you had and it still wasn’t enough?

Was it because you couldn’t write “content” to save your life like everybody else seems to be able to do.

 

It’s so hard to make a move,

Any move,

Once the thrill of your 20’s is gone

And the debt collectors want their capital back.

You can’t get another loan anymore, the party’s over.

They had you on the hook since day one

And it’s time to pay up for a good few many years now.

 

A guy I knew once said to me,

“We retired in our 20’s and now we have to pay for it till we’re dead.”

 

Oh how right he was.

 

You had been warned you were staying poor

And you made the decision to go there anyways.

This is a time of consequences and you can’t fail anymore.

Years of your life,

Thousands of dollars,

Engulfed into the word,

Your art,

Your name

Your way.

 

Do you still have it in you to go on?

Can you remind yourself of words you scribbled a decade ago now:

“pick a line, stick to it, don’t fall down.”

 

Words you had tattooed into your chest when you made that call

Words to make sure you never forget

As you look at yourself in the mirror.

“Struggles and Hopes.”

 

The dichotomy of life.

Your life,

 

Do you still have it in you to make it stick another round?

Another book?

Another year?

Pick a line

Stick to it

Don’t fall down?

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Excerpt from “Fatherhood” – 100 Moments

I started writing this thing over christmas even though it’s been on my mind for about 3 years now.

I’m calling it “Fatherhood” and I wanted to portray the realities of a millenial dad (because we’re not the youngest around and we’ve been making kids for a while now…) I still felt misrepresented in most media (that dumbfounded guy who can’t do shit with kids…jesus christ, people!!!) and the goal is to write 100 moments that I feel are an accurate representation of what it is to be a dad (and maybe even a man) at 35 in 2018.

I did about 40 for now. This is still very rough, very early stuff but I like that “pure emotional statement” of the early stages of any writing project.

I’m sharing these 3 because they’re a pretty good indication of where that project should land.

I hope you enjoy.

*

One of my favourite moment is not a singular occurence. It’s not that one point in time that changed me or moved me beyond words. It wasn’t even cute or cuddly.

Simply put, one of my favourite moments as a father is when everything lines up just perfectly during errands. It could be a mall or some art supplies or just groceries. I always found a quiet bliss when the girls get in the back and the spouse has one kid and you’re taking care of the other. You open the doors to the jeep and slide the little one in her seat and you snap that children’s seat just tight enough as she’s asking for her bag of whatever it was you got her.

 

It doesn’t matter what it was: trinkets or a toy or a book or a game. It doesn’t matter. She just wants something that’s hers and she want’s it now.

 

“In a second,” you say trying to get that one thing done before she goes on to something else.

 

And then the older one can sit herself even she’ll ask for attention one way or another. Your spouse shuts the door shut and you reach over for a kiss or a slap on the butt as she goes for her door.

 

You slide up to the front and the kids ask for some music. You back up the car and it’s an hour till supper, the house is fifteen minutes away.

 

You can already see the oldest one running up the stairs alone with one of you chasing after her to open the door while the other one takes care of the toddler. Bag in each hand and not a care in the world, supper’s on your mind and then homework and you look forward to that moment around 9 when you get to crash in that couch and it feels like you wouldn’t change a damn thing in the world.

 

It’s so much easier when there’s two parents. So very much easier. I have no problems admitting it. It’s moments like these I miss the most

 

*

Gun powder and cleaning oil has a certain smell, so does steel and well varnished wood. There’s something about a shooting range that is hard to explain unless you are there. It’s in the dust and the sand, in the smell of the wooden shooting table, how the sun cooks the earth between you and the targets. The way the range is set up with targets every hundred yards and it’s strangely silent if you don’t count the successive rounds of gunshot that reverberates till they lose themselves in the surrounding woods.

 

Then the range master calls a break to go to the targets. You take off your muffs and feel the quiet, almost serene atmosphere that contrasts with the (yes) brutal cacophony shooters can produce when that light turns from red to green.

 

I learned to shoot early. Maybe not too early, probably just early enough. I don’t know.

I do know that by the time I was fourteen, I had learned how to safely handle a rifle, how to properly dismantle it, each unique part layed carefully in front of me, and how to build it back up. I’ve learned how to assemble the cleaning kit and slide in that little cloth at the tip of it, two swipes to clean the dirt, and then two swipes to oil it well. I’ve learned never to point the nozzle at anyone even if it was empty, even if it was dismantled. I’ve learned to be careful and conscious and was told that weapons were a responsibility.

“Any idiot can grab a weapon and feel important,” My dad would say. That or some version of that statement. My dad never shied away from calling people idiots if they deserved it. That’s something I did pick up from him.

I’ve since grown to be a city kid and seldom ever go to the range anymore. My life now is public transit and art shows and coffee shops and city parks. I don’t see what I’d have to shoot at in the middle of Montreal and it’s certainly not part of my city’s culture. I don’t come across it on my daily grind.

Still, every now and then, every other year, maybe, my dad manages to get me in his Pathfinder. We got the 30-06 in the back and a two small .22 just for fun. The kind of thing where you can get a whole box of bullets for five bucks and just waste ammo on empty Pepsi cans.

I sit shotgun and we hit the country road up to the range. I always look at the moment when the suburbs turn to industrial lots and then to farmland. I like to watch the distant houses and the treeline beyond the cornfields that seems to be the only thing we grow north of my city. I open the window and feel the fresh air on my face.

 

I look for that moment when get there and feel the gravel under my foot, get that scent of oil and dust and gunpower in the air, metal sheeting cooked by the sun and I get to remember where I really am from for once.

 

*

I had this idea in the back of my head that I couldn’t teach my girls how to play music. I didn’t know how to play music, not really. I played punk and I played all sorts of heavy shit, but I didn’t know how to play “for real.”

I always felt they would lose interest if I tried to teach them. I just wanted the instruments to be around so they would feel the urge to be curious about it, to mess around and just make some noise with it.

I wanted to have enough of art and canvases and instruments for it to feel natural to them. I didn’t want it to be special or unique. I wanted a paint brush to be as natural to them as a remote would be.

I had found a synthesizer. A simple Casio I had found for a hundred bucks and carried all the way back from Cote-Des-Neiges by bus. It had been in the living room all winter and they hadn’t touched it. It was just there, it worked, it was fine. It was cheap but it was fine. I was starting to believe my plan wasn’t working at all.

And then one day it happened. One of my fondest memory as a father came in the middle of summer and I swear to god, you can’t fake these.

I was in my kitchen and the girls were in the adjacent living room. Windows were open and the curtains too. We had a palm tree out on the front porch and some tall grasses too in a pot there and it waved with the winds as rays of the sun filtered through leaves. I have a video of this, I could show you how true what I’m saying is.

And Dee was playing with her little toy kitchen, messing around with the little doors and wooden fruits and such.

And then I saw Kao walk up to the keyboard. I watched as she switched it on and just started playing. There was utter silence in the room, no cars on the street. She just started playing.

Three note. That it.

She didn’t know what they were or why they sounded good or how to do anything else with them.

She just picked three keys and pressed them, one after the other, so very slowly. She pressed them one after the other, time and time again.

I was in the kitchen having coffee. Three simple notes, perfect notes, as I watched from afar.

 

So You Want to be a Working Class Writer? – Concrete Steps to Finish Your Project.

Been rummaging through old folders … This is something I’ve touched on before but it’s always good to remind yourself and update…

short novel picture

So you want to be a working class writer?

If you are reading this, I’m assuming you are working class and that you got this idea in the back of your head that you’d like to be a writer.

Let me tell you the only fucking way you can make it and trust me, you’ll need this because you’re not in the NY literary scene, or the Toronto literary scene or the London, UK literary scene.

You’re not interning at some big 5 publishing house hoping to get your first book deal at 28 with that beige fucking cover and the smoky letters on it. And if you are that person, this fucking post is not really meant for you. but if you are working class, you fucking know most of your time is spent on your job, getting food, getting gas, sleeping just enough at night and then getting up in the morning to start all over again.

The reality is this : our stories are probably more valid, useful, relevant or even important than anything the NY literary elite is throwing out there these days but we have to work five times smarter just to get them on paper. (Noticed, how I used the term “smarter” rather than “harder.”)

Luckily there are ways around this and I do believe I have enough experience now to share it.

1 – Find a job you can write from.

This sounds simple yet it’s not. There aren’t that many working class jobs where you actually get to write on the job (or around the job) and there are two ways you can get around this.

The first is you find a job where no one talks to you and it’s actually not that important. I mean shit like nighttime watchman or a machine operator where the operation doesn’t keep you disturbed every five minutes. I’ve worked shifts where we could squeeze in 20 minutes of down time on the hour and made those 20 minutes count. Most of the guys would go out for a smoke, I took notes on small pieces of paper and typed them back at home later.

I know there are jobs out there where there are plenty of work but also plenty of down time. Find one of them and stick to it.

Now I’m sure some will find this un-ethical or some shit well let me answer this : Faulkner did it all the fucking time. He wrote entire novels as the night shift guy in a power plant. So that’s good enough for me.

The other way you can work around your job is to be employed somewhere they give an hour for lunch. A lot of places only give you 30 minutes a day and it’s had to make something out of that, it really is. But an hour…you can work with an hour (and you’ll need to.)

So what I’ve been doing for the last 8 years (maybe more) Is that I’ll eat my lunch on my fifteen then run out of work as fast as possible on my lunch break and get writing right away. That’s how I made it through college and that’s now how I manage to write books.

2 – Split you’re writing time into hours of crunch time.

You’ll rarely ever get more than an hour at a time to work on something and you’ll need to make that hour count. (If you have kids, this is even more important!!!) I trained myself to shell out as many words as possible during that hour and during what I now call “crunch time” I can write 1000 to 1200 words on my lunch break.

And when I mean, hours, I mean, hours. Don’t expect writing days, you can’t afford it and it rarely ever happens anyways. Sometimes on a weekend or during your vacation, sure, but it’s not gonna be enough.

You’ll need the hours. You can squeeze in a lot of fucking “writing hours” during your week.

This brings us to No. 3

3 – It’s a numbers’ game.

I’ve talked about this before with many people: a novel is not that much work in terms of “man-hours” and if you’re working class, you know what the fuck a “productive-man-hour” is. If the management concept works for a construction crew, it can work for your novel too.

A full length super-commercial (Dan Brown type of shit) mystery novel is around 90 000 words. I aim to land around 75 000 words for an indie mystery which still mean I’ll write around 300 pages because I use a lot of dialogue.

If you counted it, that’s a maximum or 75 man-hours of production at 1000 words per hour to get that first draft out.

I count my own editing at 1=1 so I expect to spend another 75 hours just editing and polishing the story. Consider this like sanding a piece of wood to absolute perfection. That’s how I see it and that’s how you should see it too.

So you’re looking at 150 hours of production per novel before it’s ready to go out to publishers and editors. That’s it.

4 – How long is it going to take?

If you’re young and angry, you should shell out 6 writing sessions a week at 1h per session (sometimes you might squeeze in 2 a day on the weekends) but let’s keep it at 6 for the sake of life getting in the way.

That means you should have a first draft in about 12-15 weeks and a something ready to send to editors/publishers within 30 weeks. That’s more than a novel a year.

Now I understand that everyone’s situation differs. I’m a single dad on a shared custody, so my 6 sessions a week are down to 3, maaaaaybe 4 these days. I also take into account the fact that a lot of “writing” time now goes into writing proposals, business plans, outlines and blog-posts such as this one.

Still, that time management scheme allows me to write about a novel a year and leave some room for a side project.

4 – if you worry that you have nothing to say

You’re fucking working class. You get up in the morning and you beat traffic to go to work and weather every shitty comment or problem or issue or you build something out of your hands or fixing or fucking up and messing around and the guys are talking about this and that and the gals are talking about this and that. They’re telling jokes and stories and they’re happy or worried or messed up or looking for a fuck or a fight or a way out.

This is the stuff of life and it used to be the stuff of literature. I can’t help but feel it fell of the radar of the literary world for too long. What the fuck’s some intern at Penguin got to say about life that you’re not already living on a daily basis?

Go out there and write now. I gave you the roadmap, you just have to use it.

Take care,

 

Ian.

Excerpt From “Montreal – A Novel”

Hey! After weeks of holidays crap and terrible writing, I felt like posting something that was actually good for a change. Started editing “Montreal” again. Here’s a short chapter about the impulse of art.

Chapter 14

 

It was in the way the veins diverged at the wrist and converged back at the thumb. There were small details like that that didn’t matter to the rest of the world but often became the absolute centre of attention for Eli. He looked at the black ink of his tattoos, not the colours, just the blacks, the outlines, the shading, the way it faded at certain places and didn’t at others. How the sun had faded the forearms over time and he still had 50 years to live.

He was just sitting on his mattress, the playlist was on and it was hip hop and electronic, instrumentals, doom…noise. New day, same shit: perfect music to create to.

He had been staring at things for almost an hour now, waiting for the inspiration to hit. Sometimes it took him that long to bubble out of his life. He listened to the words of great artist, prophets really, witnesses to human emotions after all. And he was trying to find that moment when creating almost because spiritual, or even beyond spiritual.

It was a bit much to say a street artist could be a witness to human existence, but wasn’t that the truth as well? He kept wondering, pondering, but most of all, he sat and he stared.

He looked at the tiny scars on his hands, the scratches of the past from handling to much of everyone else’g garbage and the flakes of paint he couldn’t get from underneath his nails anymore. He tried to catch the pulses under his skin. He looked for body hairs that were out of place or try to catch that tiny, barely noticeable twitch in his pinky.

Then he looked at the wall for inconsistencies in the paint job and the texture, looking for something that shouldn’t be there and even the cleanest of jobs will always have that one flaw that granted him hope for the universe.

It had yet to skin into his heart, the fact that he could actually make it as an artist. He knew it to be true, sure. He was aware of the rationale behind the thought process that lead the the recognition of the necessity of art and enjoyed it when his own brain entered these strings of words that sounded like everything an anything all at once. The mind could easily play with those and it allowed him to skid away from the common truth if he ever needed to, but the heart had to get on board now. He knew the technique, the function and the art and the aesthetics but the heart was always hesitant to fully embrace things.

His rational side made the cost-benefit calculations years earlier: he was fucked and broke anyways so why not go all in? It was always easier if he could thread a line that allowed him to bail on his true emotions.

His heart was scared no matter how he looked at it. It was so fucking weird to him how he had this inner fire, this insane self-confidence about what he was doing but had yet to dare to cash in and take in a bit of emotional pain on the way there.

So far it had all been external. He looked at society and spit back what he was seeing the best way he was seeing it. Bashing society was easy. It was necessary, but it was easy. His own skin wasn’t on the line. It was the same with art as it had been with women. What the fuck did you do when it was time to get serious?

He felt it just under there somewhere inside his chest. He was going to pry this shit open, dig into the the wounds and see if his own guts were worthy of attention for once.

He smiled at himself and almost moved. Almost! There was a song playing that was from Sage Francis’ Human the Death Dance. Going back to Rehab.

Eli sank himself back in the mattress, put the song on repeat. He allowed the melodic line to build up and take over his mind and the words flowed freely in a way only a masterful MC like Francis could ever manage. Eli must’ve listened to the whole song three or four times on a loop.

Soon, he was ready for his body and his mind to accept everything.  He had found it. He had found that singular instant in every artist’s life when they stared into nothing, absolutely nothing, and found a way into equanimity.

“Overstanding,” he had read once, “a specific form of understanding of the emotional knowledge of the universe connected to a rationale best represented in the art form known as Hip-Hop.”

He had just found Overstanding and finally allowed himself up from his mattress.

It came down to this in the end. His truth of the moment was the truth of someone else at any given time in the past. It will be the truth of dozens more at any given time in the future and that made art valid because truth was only a moment in time.

And he was ready to speak that way to the world now.

He tore open three canvases and he was going to paint something he knew was downright cheezy but he had to do it. He had three characters in his mind now and he had to commit them to canvas. That was just the way it was. He popped open cans and sharpies, opened his window for the fumes to get out and the cold air sifted in but he liked how it snapped his senses into focus. He put on his mask and started to paint.

The past. The present. The future.

It was simple enough, basic plot but complex emotions: the nameless girl from Braking it Down was going to go on the first canvas. She was cute but nothing fancy. He did his best to give her that hopeful drive around the eyes but there wasn’t much more going on there and maybe they were just from different worlds and that’s what he tried to capture her.

Then there was Alex in a short skirt with that Blue Jays jersey on in winter. Her natural kindness still unaffected by all the nihilists of the world and her natural curves that should make the envy of the entire world.

Then there was Mari.

Marianna who was perfect. Perfectly flawed, perfectly rich yet perfectly poor and perfectly torn between French and English and a place up the hill but also with both shoes down in the gutter and didn’t she feel exactly like Montreal in a way?

It was that uncommon vibe of hers that said, “fuck you I don’t need your approval” that was really so very rare in reality and he liked that.

He liked that a lot.

Quick update – upcoming works.

2018.

Down with the Underdogs will be released this summer.

Editing the now nightmarishly impossible franglais novel titled “Montreal” for now.

Begun work on “Year of the Scabs” (D’Arcy Kennedy vol.3) and a new project titled Fatherhood – A Hundred Moments.

Worked in new aesthetics for 2018. (Photos attached.)

Been invited to Noircon in Philly…will try to make it.

Overwhelmingly likely to skip bouchercon in Florida. 

Thats it.

As Sleep Won’t Even Let me in its Heart.

A year ago,

On this very day,

My life collapsed,

As my (now) ex-wife

was busy with another man

At a Christmas party

Other than her family’s own.

 

Now, I am here, in my home,

Without my daughters for the holidays

For the first time

And the pain is more than I had expected

Or hoped for

Prayed for, maybe

During a moment of wishful thinking

 

But now there are no tasks to keep me busy

No gyms to go to

Or work to be done

Or friends to have over

And feel the sadness of the world with me.

 

Maybe in time

This season of greetings

Will know a place in my heart again

But for now I find no reason to cheer.

 

I was a father and a husband

But tonight, I am nothing

Absolutely nothing

 

Tonight,

I am neither

Father,

Husband

Or even lover,

 

Not even a lover.

 

I am none of these things that made my life worth living

And I am feeling it more than I’d care to admit.

 

So I turn to the word

Once more,

And time again.

The only way, it seems,

I know how to deal with these moments.

 

And I am so tired of this

Tired of it

Tired of writing about it

But it is my only escape.

 

I know nothing else

As sleep won’t even let me in it’s heart.

 

“Holy night.

Saviour’s birth

Long lay the world in sin.”