To Be Human Again: It Has Been Liberated

Visceral Human Cover

Softcover perfect-bound: $10.00 CAD (for shipping within Canada, add $5.00 CAD)

Epub or pdf: $4.00 CAD

All formats are available from me (send me an email), and the Kobo version is available here.

If you read it, please put an honest review somewhere on the internet. (Family members and people who have known me since before my milk teeth came in, at least confess to our relationship.)

On Kobo

I made a decision. (Break out the champagne!) The e-books are now available on Kobo.

You can order my books here. (I’m not sure why Holland and Jaime doesn’t have its cover: it does on my author’s dashboard.)

kobo-page

Holland and Jaime: List of Secrets (an excerpt)

On Saturday, October 1st, 2016, To Be Human Again will be published.  Its first public appearance will be at Culture Days at Mississauga Central Library.

Human may be suffering from a serious case of nerves that day, so it will be sitting quietly on a table… shivering, right out in the middle of the Atrium where everyone can see it….

Despite it being Human’s first day, the public reading that day will be from Holland and Jaime.  Holland and Jaime is comfortable being exposed to the world (and the very broad audience at the library will likely be more comfortable with Holland and Jaime than with Human).

You can keep track of events for both Human and Holland and Jaime here.

Here’s an excerpt from one of the Holland and Jaime stories, List of Secrets:

LIST OF SECRETS
ERIK MASTERSON

ERIK KEPT A LIST of everyone who knew about him. On the filthy, worn piece of paper was the name of each of his doctors at the psychiatric hospital. Under each of their names were those of the people they talked to about Erik. Several times a day, he would take this list from his pocket and review it, rubbing his hand nervously through his short, grey hair.

He’d kept the list through twenty of his forty-six years. Every few years, he’d get a new set of doctors and nurses, and he’d have to start the whole list over again: he despised that part. He would carefully put the old list in his locked, fire-proof box, then hand a pen and paper over to the new doctors. Sometimes, the new people wouldn’t understand: they’d write other doctors and staff nurses and consultants. If it was a good day, Erik was able to explain that he needed first and last names, as well as their relationship to the doctor. If it was a bad day, Erik would just walk out and return to his room. He would turn out the lights, draw the curtain around his bed and just wait until someone trustworthy came to get him. In the beginning, they tried to get him to back to the untrustworthy doctors; now, more often than not, they just find him a new doctor.

Only one doctor ever refused to fill out the paper. He’d promised, instead, to never breathe a word to anyone about Erik. As it turned out, he’d lied. When Erik found out, he’d put his list into his fireproof box and had refused to come out of his room for over a month.

Erik wasn’t a danger to anyone, so he was given a green passcard which allowed him to leave the building and walk around the grounds. It was an intern who had actually handed him the pass, and the intern had beamed so widely, so brightly, that Erik had screamed in fear. The intern had been shocked; he explained that he was just proud of Erik and the progress they’d made. He hoped Erik would enjoy the freedom.

Progress. Freedom. Erik had taken almost two years to painstakingly map out every window, every see-through door and every security camera in the building. The new intern didn’t seem to understand the enormity of trying to keep track of those same things out of doors. It was easy to see someone outside, peering in, but it was difficult to see someone looking out the window at you unless the light was right.

Erik didn’t use the passcard for many months.

IT WAS A VERY PLEASANT young nurse who had brought him a map of the new covered courtyard when the construction was finally finished. An overhead trellis had been installed, she said, and covered with artificial grapevines so no one could see down from the windows above. The windows that looked onto the courtyard were in the nursing station and the physiotherapy office. On the map, she had also marked the two cameras, and even where the tables and chairs were. Erik studied the map for days, inscribing the layout into his brain.

They said there was usually no one else in the courtyard between 10:45 and 11:45 because everyone was busy with programmes then. The charge nurse unlocked the courtyard door and held it open for him. He peeked out, comparing the layout to the map the young nurse had given him. He was relieved to see it was identical. Adjusting his ball cap and sunglasses, he gingerly stepped out onto the patio stones, leaning his back against the cool brick wall. Sun trickled through the plastic grape leaves, leaving patterns on the white resin tables and chairs.

“Other than the cameras,” the charge nurse said, pointing them out, “only I can see you through the window. No one is using the physio room right now.” She propped the door open with a chair and left Erik alone.

Outside. He was outside. He wasn’t sure if he was comfortable with it, but he stayed standing against the wall until the nurse called him in for lunch.
Every day, Erik waited for the nurse to unlock the door so he could venture into the courtyard and spend an hour standing with his back to the bricks. On rainy days, he wore his new hooded camouflage rain poncho and Wellingtons. He very quickly became addicted to his one hour of quiet, relative privacy and fresh air. It was an hour of thinking about different things than he thought about when he was inside – nicer things, personal things. Being alone was rather pleasant.

H and J title

To Be Human Again (It’s Getting Real)

These arrived four days ago. I’m still staring at them with trepidation.

human-print-copies

To Be Human Again: the Third Excerpt

There is not a lot of sex in To Be Human Again: my goal was not to write erotica–nor pornography.  If the reader is looking for titillation, they’re likely to be disappointed (with the possible exception of one story, but that’s not the one we’re talking about today).  Still, it was the best moment of my literary life when someone admitted they’d found themselves getting turned on by an eight-year-old girl eating raw meat.  Whenever I need a boost of confidence, I look back at that note in the margins of the rough draft.

This is where write what you know comes in–and people who know me are going to be raising eyebrows ’round about here.  I’m a lacto-ovo vegetarian.  I’m supposed to say something like “being vegetarian, I found this difficult to write”; oddly, it wasn’t all that difficult.  These are precisely the sensations of eating meat, just with a positive spin on them.  As well, family members will be able to identify (correctly, for once) where I have thieved ideas from real life.  The maternal side of my family has a celebratory ritual known as A Great Bloody Feast, which involves an uncommon silence as they all smack their lips over a very rare roast of beef.  As I always declined to participate with equal fervor, I had plenty of opportunity to watch them.

This is not the part of the story that got the beta-reader all hot under the collar.  This is just a weekly menu:

from Haematolagnia

Though she was only eight years old–young, some said, to be separated from her mother–Clara was content to be in the convent school. She appreciated the familiarity of routine, the dependability of stringent regulations. She found the curriculum stimulating–both the exhortation to do and say certain things, and the titillating list of Devil’s Work that one was never to so much as contemplate. The dormitory was comfortable and friendly with all the other little girls who would walk beside her, play with her, and whisper through the darkness until someone hissed at them to go to sleep. But it was the food she loved the most.
Meat: the first meal she had at the school was a thick soup with vegetables, potatoes and hunks of venison. At the first whiff, she was unsettled by the sudden watering of her mouth, the unclenching of her stomach. It smelled rich and hot, and she glanced at the other girls to see if they were truly allowed to eat it: she surmised it was a kind of test from the Devil. But the girls had all picked up their spoons and dunked their bread.
Her first spoonful was pure broth, glistening on the tarnished silver spoon. She allowed the saltiness to saturate her mouth, loosening her jaw muscles so the liquid filled the space between her cheek and her teeth.
The second spoonful scooped up vegetables, soft and earthy, familiar textures but with a new flavour that was alive. The third spoonful was one of the three chunks of venison. She tentatively raised it to her lips, testing the rough texture, feeling the heat radiating from the middle of it. She slid it into her mouth slowly and let it rest on her tongue. It was a gamey taste, wild and primitive, like the smell of the young man who delivered wood to the kitchen at home. She moved the piece of meat over to her molars and bit down. Rare juices shot through her mouth, and she drew in a sharp breath.
She glanced around the table again. The other girls were shovelling the soup into their mouths, alternating with bites of sopping bread.
She ate the soup, savouring each texture, each flavour. When the bowl was empty, she regretted leaving the slice of dark bread until the end: the strong taste removed the residual meat flavours from her mouth. She rinsed the black bread away with small ale.
That night at supper, she left her thin slice of ham for last. She relished the springiness of the hefty fibres as she bit down on it, the smokiness that filled her mouth, nose and throat. She imagined the pinkness of the ham mingling with her red blood, giving her nutrients, making her stronger, imagined her body as an oak, rooted, immoveable and ancient.

The noonday meal was her favourite. The meat was always thick, heavy. White meats had a subtle sweetness like grain; red meats had an animating iron tang that made her head swim and her heart race. There was a simple purity to the meat served at this meal. It did more than just satisfy: it fulfilled.
Supper also included meat. Usually, the meat was spiced or salted: ham or sausage. Still, it gratified her. She would eat her vegetables first, then her bread or potatoes washed down with ale, and then–finally–the meat. Each night, she would crawl into her bed thinking about flesh.

The first Friday was devastating. The noon meal was roasted vegetables, black bread and fish–plain white fish. When she put the fish in her mouth, her molars seemed to bounce off the flesh. Its meagre substance was flat, pale, flaccid. She let it rest between her teeth, willing it to release a metallic flavour. It did not.
Sundays were the best. When a large piece of meat was roasted, there was inevitably the rare part in the middle. She lived for the rare part. The novice who sat at the head of her table and served the food noticed the look of sheer pleasure, of near ecstasy, and began to save the rarest parts for her: the juicy dark flesh of fowl, and the bloody centre of a roast of beef. Clara thought she had been keeping her face expressionless, and she blushed deeply when she realised the girl was watching her eat. From then on, she made an effort to conceal her bliss.

Visceral Human Cover

Chicken Soul Soup: Creative Titles

In which a business student, recently accused of being too logical in her approach to English, hands it back to the tutor on a silver platter.

Tutor: Okay, you now have a reasonable essay on classical traditions in poetry.  Write a good title to go with it.

Student: “Classical Traditions”.

Tutor: That’s a little too predictable to be creative and a little too vague to be descriptive.

Student: “Classic”.

Tutor: You’re not selling Coke.  Create something beautiful, something that demonstrates your command of language and applies your knowledge from English class.

Student (deadpan): “Hybridizing Sympathetic Demolition: Classical Traditions in the Flock”.

Chicken Soul Soup

The Potential for Abuse

It’s funny how slow a progressive society can be.  We like to think of ourselves as being accepting, open-minded and awesomely cool; in reality, we’re nothing more than we were 500 years ago.

This month’s Walrus magazine contains an article entitled Campus Confidential. It’s a disturbing read.  In my mind, Liz Beatty now ranks up there with Amy Chua as the author of the most humiliating thing in print: “The potential for abuse is vast.”

The article is not about professors abusing students, or students abusing professors, or each group abusing members of their own group; no, this article is about making accommodations for students who need them.  The examples cited in the article are extortionate things such as note-takers, extra time on assignments and exams, technical aids and “distraction-reduced environments”.  The article also notes that students require a formal diagnosis from a physician before the educational institution can give them any help.

This debate is not about the potential for abuse of a system.  This is a matter of hierarchy.  A professor is desperate to stay on top of the pedestal, and no wanna-be is gonna tell them how to do their job.  If someone of equal social status–a physician, say–suggests that something is kosher, well, then it’s okay… maybe.

This is all about snobbery.

The lofty halls of academia took quite the hit when social class became politically-incorrect.  Institutions for higher education want everyone to attend (because bigger is better, and all the money is the same colour) but they don’t really want to  accommodate anyone who formerly would have been relegated to the kitchens and back hallways.

I don’t think any reasonable person would hold it against a small institution if they said, before taking the student’s money and making promises, they couldn’t afford to accommodate a certain need.  Support staff and equipment can be expensive, and it’s also difficult to quickly get through the bureaucracy to acquire these things (but that’s a subject for another day).  Were a school to publicly post their limitations, denial of accommodations beyond that limit would be valid.

The “vast potential for abuse” rears its ugly head when the teacher is allowed to tell the student how to learn.