gi-ant [jahy-uhnt]

- noun

1) (in folklore) a being with human form but superhuman sized, strength, etc.

2) a person or thing of usually great size, power, importance, etc.; major figure; legend; a giant in their field; an intellectual giant.

- adjective

3) usually large, great, or strong; gigantic; huge.

4) greater or more eminent than others.

i've been working on my latest novel for a while now. i started it back in november of 2005. it has been a year now and the book has taken me longer than i thought possible. it has changed more than any other book i've ever written. the jury is still out on whether it has changed for the better. all i know is that i was forcing one kind of book, when something completely different was lying in wait, ready to come out, but until now i was unable to recognize it.

well, the new, and final incarnation of the book is called giants. i am about 70% through and hopefully won't be much longer. this book has been a challenge for me, with so much happening to my personal life this past year (and amazingly, so little at the same time).

in writing this book, through the ups and downs of this year, i realized many things. i realized i don't want to self-publish this book or any other book for that matter until i give it another shot at the mainstream. the reason being, i have not sent out a book to any agent or publisher since my first novel, if only. the reaction to that one was so negative and so utterly failed, and the rejection hurt so much, that it cowed me into not releasing anything to any agent since then. it's been almost 8 years.

i realize that i've been afraid to just put my money where my mouth is. i've been afraid of being irrelavant. i've been afraid of genuine criticism. it's all well and good to have your friends read your stuff, but it's just not the same. i realized that by being afraid, i have inadvertantly made myself irrelavant, the very thing i feared the most. how's that for irony?

part of this fear comes from the delusions of grandeur i had growing up.
in highschool, i wrote a heck of a lot, and one day my english teacher took me aside and said, point blank, "you are a writer. you should write." he had such a high impression of me and my writing. so this, naturally, blew my ego up larger than i could handle. what also didn't help was my creative writing teacher suggesting one time that i plagerized my stories, as if he couldn't believe i could write like that. so at this point, i felt like i could do anything.

then i read less than zero, the first novel by bret easton ellis, who had it published when he was still in college. he went on to become a huge name in the late 1980's as a result of this. so i thought i would be a literary phenomenon like him - a canuck version. then comes reality and the failure of if only, which to be fair, was a piece of shit. but i didn't know it at the time. and this seemingly destroyed my confidence in my writing. after a while, i didn't even bother to keep all the rejection notices because they just kept piling up. (i also didn't know that ellis wrote three unpublished books before less than zero, so there's something to think about).

i admired ellis because of his style and ability, but also because his book effected people. which is what i wanted my writing to do. to this day, less than zero - while i still love the book - has been a bit of an albatross for me, but it's time to be realistic about things which brings me to the next point.

i realize now that i have to make a stand. and giants will be my stand. i will start looking for agents and publishers once again, no matter how hurtful the rejection may be. self publishing isn't for me. i want to be published to see my books in all the major book chains and if i don't get that, i'd rather burn my manuscripts than see them manifest in any other form. i'm like the captain going down with the ship. at this point, my feeling is, "so fucking what?" so that means this is hardcore and any other books i've written previous to giants won't see daylight. what does this mean for conquered nation press? well, i still have the trademark, so the company can wait. i'll put it on the backburner.

giants will be the first book where i try to accomplish something. there is a line i wrote in the book that sums it all up. it goes: "at some point, you have to learn to live your life with teeth." simply put, that sums up giants. my characters are making a stand and in a sense, so am i. giants is not perfect by any means, but it is close enough. close enough that i have enough courage to try again. i've written so many books now (the hypocrite's maddening (i was 17 when i wrote that and huge into the band tool, so sue me), if only, zero sum, desert sessions: an anti-corporate love story, this is hardcore, and now giants) and my writing has only gotten stronger with each one. i also just don't care what people think anymore. what happens when i get rejected? i'll move on. i'll write another, and another, and another until something happens or i die. whichever comes first. eventually i have to stick my neck out again. whether i get my head cut off still remains to be seen.

so enough with the rant. what's the book about? well, giants is ultimately about what one human life is worth. it is based on the october crisis involving the flq (front de liberation du quebec) in canada in the 1970's that saw a rampage of terrorist acts that culminated in over 200 violent acts, bombs, three killings, and the use of the war measure's act by prime minister pierre trudeau. i don't want to reveal too much, but it follows two men as they try to figure out what is important in a time filled with violence. it takes into consideration the idea of torture weighed against human rights and the loss of habeas corpus. but ultimately, it's a book that details how these two men chose to accept their fates, and what happens when they ultimately try to answer the question: how much is your life worth?

the book is clearly marked in two halves. the first deals with political savagery. the second half deals the choices people make. the second part is very quiet and moody, with little to no dialogue. basically it's an attempt to show a difference between talking the talk, and walking the walk. and speaking of walking the walk, here's a couple pages from giants. (keep in mind, this is a very rough copy of a first draft that is yet to be completed.)

exerpt 1: the scene starts off at a wake during the festival of lights in vancouver. now, if you've never been to the festival of lights, it's sort of boring and useless, but everyone in vancouver participates because there really is nothing better to do. it's just an international fireworks show.

* * *

Keith speaks to the angels. And Elton doesn’t feel as guilty as everyone else does or thinks he should. Looking down at the casket, and the body of the man before him, he realizes that he never knew him too well. Nor did he bother to ever try. White. Corpse. Dead to life. Elton momentarily ponders reaching out and touching Keith’s face. Would it be cold? Do they keep the bodies under heat lamps like they do burgers? Of course not. That would smell. That’s a nice suit he’s wearing. He reaches down to check the label. Double twill. Durable. Should last for years even when he’s being served up to a chorus of worms. Detritus. Does Armani matter to worms?

Next to him, Sean is leaning into the casket to kiss the corpse on the forehead. The other night, she had said, was just a one time thing to get past the pain. Simple. The night after that, she had said, was going to be the final time. To get past the loneliness. And last night, she had said, was the absolute last time. Absolutely. And it’s not his fault, he figures. Too many times will make you blind.

She sniffs and scrubs away the tears with the back of her hand and mumbles how sorry she is. Keith was pompous, fake, and an evil sycophantic fuck; but she’s the one apologizing. Just because she used to fuck him doesn’t mean she owes him anything. And this makes Elton guilty.

Guilty, because while she’s crying, all he can think about is how good it was to fuck her. How good she looks in that slender, black Versace one-piece. How good it was to feel her moan beneath him. Almost like she meant it. Guilty. As sin.

And speaking of knowing, of belief in someone; Elton doesn’t know Sean very well. Almost not at all. The girl has heart. The girl hates street lights. The girl hates doctors. The girl is a brain trust. And she can suck dick better than anyone else he’s ever known. Vacuum. Beyond that, there’s nothing.

The wake is almost over. People have said their wishes. People have come and gone. Addition/subtraction. And in the room, amongst the empty plastic fold-up seats, beneath the dim lights, Elton watches John watching Sean. And there’s that guilt again. But only briefly. Like a quick pang to the heart. Flinch. Eyelid twitch. And all the while, Sean keeps her distance. From both of them. Like she’s acting out a restraining order. No closer than fifty feet. She really does look good in that dress. And he definitely feels it. Guilty. As sin.

- - -

From the inside, out, Elton watches the fireworks explode in reflections against the tinted windows. Dilluted. Dull. The festival of lights that happens every summer. Exploding pyro technics outside. Bursts of intense energy. But it’s the burning inside that surprises. That astonishes. Incendiary. The intense heat that comes from the death of Keith. On the inside. Astonishing grief. And Elton watches the fire fight explode into sparkling, sizzling flecks of rain that just comes down, seemingly over the whole city. There’s another explosion and another pop, set to the sounds of U2. The razzle dazzle of the fireworks, the bursts of energy, light up the whole night. As if God himself poured light into each cylinder of gun powder. And beside him, John comes up and leans against the glass sliding door, taking in the cascading waterfall of fireworks.

- I saw a woman standing on the Lions Gate Bridge today, Elton says.

- Yeah?

- She’d been standing out there for half an hour. Completely stopped traffic in both directions. People were delayed. People were angry. Because it was one giant inconvenience. It’s like, if she was going to kill herself, why couldn’t she just do it at home? Elton turns to John as more fireworks go off, reflected in the glass. Take some pills, use a razor, get a gun. Most people don’t have guns, but then, Curt Kobain sang he didn’t have a gun and look what happened to him. But it’s not glorious enough, it’s not a spectacle. You had a bridge closed down with crowds of people milling about, trying to get a better look in a sea of cars like some sort of R.E.M. video. This woman wasn’t going to jump and everyone knew it. ‘Cause if she was going to she would have done it by then. He looks back out onto the fireworks and out onto English Bay. So some moron, some de-evolved degenerate in the crowd started chanting, “Jump bitch, jump!” And the pack of wolves start taking up the chant. Jump bitch, jump. Mob stupidity is as infectious as laughter. Or S.A.R.S. And it’s then I got angry. Do you know why I got angry? He doesn’t wait for an answer. Because I wanted to see blood. I wanted this to be done by. I wanted all this non-stop bullshit posturing to just… rot. Away. So I started chanting too. Jump bitch, jump.

- That’s fucked up.

- Yeah. Elton laughs and turns to John. It’s fucked up.

- Live fast, die young, leave a fuckable corpse.

- The thing is, John… I started to puke. Right then and there in the middle of the street. I just felt it coming. I vomited. Gobs of it all over the street. And it’s like, what is she to me? He starts laughing again. The sound of his laughter, at the wake, reverberates.

- I don’t know. Keep moving, I guess. Hail to the morning.

- It’s crazy, John. I keep seeing her freefalling, arms outstretched… skirt billowing back with her hair whipping violently… only to splash down. A wet smack.

- Fuck me.

- Yeah. Fuck me. Elton scratches his chin and says: There’s revolution in the air, John.

- Yeah? What’s it smell like?

- - -

Against the crowd, against the rush, they push on. Oversized, overwhelmed, they push on. Elton, leading the way, parting the crowd like a shark’s fin parts the sea. In tow, holding onto his hand, is Nevada. Nevada with her big eyes. Nevada with her big smile. And yes, Nevada with her big breasts. Trapped in the confines of a vintage brown dress. And John brings up the rear, holding onto a giggling Nevada’s free hand.

Leading the train, linked like chains, they make their way through the thick crowds that mob Robson street. Fresh from the fireworks on English Bay, the mob lurches forward three steps and back one. Like the rolling sea. And there is no harbour from the tempest here. A man in a pizza delivery car sits idle in the middle of the street, unable to move; an island. Drunk people, teetering and tottering, unable to find their land legs. Bodies, hundreds of them. Quite possibly thousands. Throngs of them, pushing and pulling against each other: desperately wanting to get out. Freedom. And it’s no surprise that Elton wonders aloud: Where’s Moses when you fucking need him? Nevada, lit up amongst the bright neon lights of Robson Street, says something and laughs, but it’s drowned out by the crowd. Everything is drowned out, swallowed up. It’s the tragedy of the mob.

- - -

Inside the Zin lounge, everything is a posh orange and black, with red and orange circles emblazoned on the walls. Some indecernable music is playing in the background. Maybe New Order. Maybe not. In the darkness of the booth, Nevada with her headlights looks spectacular. She’s buzzing about, almost enough to make everyone forget that they just came from a wake. She’s sipping from her martini when she mentions something about Denis, some guy they’re all supposed to know.

- He died last week too.

- Really? John shakes his head.

- Yup. Found his body with the head missing behind Feenie’s.

- Jesus.

- True story. They cut his head off with a sarated kitchen knife. Fucking Ginsu, baby. His sister is freaked that his head will appear on her doorstep one day. They say you can keep a head frozen for like years. Elton laughs at this.

- Jesus.

- Happened last night. Dick and I ate there last night too. Imagine that, huh?

- Jesus.

- Copasetic, huh? Nevada giggles and cups John’s face in her hands and mentions how he shouldn’t be so aghast. It gives you wrinkles, baby.

- - -

Nevada is still buzzing about late into the night. The lounge has swelled up with patrons, pretty people with pretty things, all drinking and petting each other. She’s talking to Jasper, arguing with him really. Elton and John came to sit down at the table with their drinks when Jas suddenly shouts above the music, point an accusatory finger at Nevada:

- Stay away from that. She’s the enemy. Really!

- You gaysians are so fucking dramatic! Nevada shoot back.

- I’m serious, John. You never know what you’re gonna get with women. The witch, the bitch, the bride of fucking Frankenstein… beware of dog, my friend.

- You were raised by wolves, Nevada says.

- My parents were saints.

- Definitely a rare breed of repressed, bitter fuck.

- Are those real? Jas points at her breasts.

- Why don’t you act your age?

- Why don’t you act your weight?

- Fuck this. You guys can suck each other off. Nevada slams her drink down and leaves the table. Elton looks at Jas and says:

- I think you hurt her feelings.

- Whatever. Trash talk is like foreplay to her. Hey, speaking of foreplay, how’s your serenading of Sean going, John?

- It’s going. John smirks.

- It’s going?

- Oh, it’s going.

- I bet you can’t wait to give her the Dirty Sanchez, huh?

- Shut the fuck up. It’s not like that with her.

- Ah, stuffed animals and cuddles, huh?

- It’s not like that either.

- You have to remember: she’s gotta give you something. That’s all I’m saying. Jas leans in his seat and sucks back his scotch. You know, what you should really tell her is that she’s going to let you fuck her, and then you’re going to do whatever you want after that and she’s gonna have to like it. That’ll fuck her up right straight.

- Don’t worry. She’s gonna love me.

Elton says with a smirk: You think?

- Oh… she’s gonna love me. She’s gonna L-U-V me.

* * *

exerpt 2: from the second half of the book, a typical on the road theme but with a music-video touch. hopefully you can feel the similarity to the style of writing to the first section, but also the difference in tone and style in this second section.

* * *

Pointalism. Art in life. It’s hard to miss. They follow the point, the red blinking light in the far off distance. Their northern star. The distance of the landscape is dizzying and sleep inducing. John yawns yearningly and leans back in the seat. Elton sticks his bare foot out of the window to rest on the sideview mirror. The wind whips against his pant leg. He rubs his arms. Trying to feel his bones. He runs his fingers down over the cast on his arm. Rolled up bails of hay and grass decorate the sidelines. Somewhere there is the faint wafting smell of manure and rust. Wreckage is the theme of the drive as farmland turns to graveyard. Rusted out trucks and cars in primary colors seem welded, embedded into the rolling plains. Art as design as constructed into a vehicle only to return as garbage and in kind, become art once more. And so ahead towards the red point, the blinking light off in the distance, a modern day pointalism. To the end, it signals. Towards the end. It’s where Elton’s mind is at and where John needs to get to. Elton puts on his sunglasses and bows his head. The image of him touching his brow gets reflected back in the sideview mirror that his foot rests by.

- - -

Salt. Piles of it, all plastered over the field by the side of the road. Chalky white, almost like snow. Or cocaine. Just looking at it makes John thirsty. He nudges Elton with his hand and points out to the white winter wonderland spectacle. It’s a wonder as to who spread it out there. Like fluffing icing sugar over everything. Elton is tough to read. So selfish in the expressions on his face, or the lack there of.

They pull over on the side of the road to take a piss. Side by side, the sun in their eyes, they piss even and steady streams onto the salt, letting the hot urine melt a hole in the salty topsoil. John dribbles the last of the piss and shakes off his penis before tucking it back into his pants. He heads back to the car, the salt beneath his feet crunching. He looks back briefly at Elton who’s still finishing up, looking much like a man out on a floating ice cap. Elton heads back only to pause and bend down to grab a pinch of salt between his fingertips. He brings it to his mouth, tasting the chemical burn mixed in with flecks of dirt.

* * *