(Non) Fiction Wednesday: Musings on a Motel Room

Apologies in advance for missing my self-imposed deadline on Open Slay. The damned thing is that I have this week’s part ready in my head and am slowly leaking it out onto the page, but it’s nowhere near the point where I would present it to you. I’m hoping to have it by the weekend, but don’t hold your breath on that. Next week will be even more difficult with being holed up in training for five days, but I will do my best.

Health problem has been looked at and the verdict is…overwork. Well, specifically a heart murmur caused by stress and too much caffeine. Rhythm is normal, EKG “could be used as a model for normalcy”, and no signs of any damage or anything like that, so no need to freak out. As I said yesterday, just a sign that I’m no longer 25 and can’t burn the candle at both ends and then pour gasoline on the middle. Doctor’s orders are to take it easy for a few days, and I’m doing just that. Even the act of doing so has opened my mind back up and my concentration is slowly returning, so…we have this.

This entry came about with the release of the deluxe version of The Smashing Pumpkins’ Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness (it’s currently WAY overpriced, but if you’re interested it’s on Amazon and all other fine retailers). I hadn’t listened to the album in quite some time, and had never heard some of the nuances that have been brought out in the reissue. I’m not here for a review, though I could certainly fill space with that, but it grabbed me by the throat all over again.

Side note, favorite track on the album? Hint hint:

But again, not here for the music. Not entirely. No, it’s more a matter of what the music itself evoked in me, some long-dormant, half-forgotten emotions. Moments that form so much of my emotional identity, a sort of DNA for the moments that you see in my fiction, but which have faded into the wallpaper of my life.

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The Motel 6 in question. See the second door from the right on the very top floor? That’s the scene of the crime.

March, 1996, and I sat in a cold (and I do mean cold) motel room in Saint Paul, Minnesota. This trip had been the only logical outcome of an online flirtation and engagement, the story of which could serve as its own book. This was the bad old days of the Internet, where you interacted via IRC and not much else. If you don’t know IRC, look it up, and maybe give it a shot, it’s still out there. I had met Jill (name changed to protect the innocent) through an IRC channel and…well, hadn’t exactly fallen in love so much as fallen in a situation of mutual convenience. Oh, I believed I was in love, enough to propose when she pressured me to do it a month into the “relationship”, but…well, what can I say? I was 19 and had never had a real girlfriend before. I figured this would be my only chance at love.

Despite that, just as I’m not here to talk about the music per se, I’m also not here to bury that relationship. I’ve done that many times over and you can only go to the well of self-pity so many times, especially when you’re pulling up nothing but sand these days. I’m here to talk about distilled emotion, since it’s so much the stock-in-trade of a writer. Continue reading

Strange Inspiration

This post is a little odd; it’s amazing that it even exists, frankly. The idea came to me earlier this week, and though I had, at first, decided to not even have a Friday entry this week (I’ve been embroiled in finishing up Room 3 and working on my upcoming Wednesday Fiction series), it seemed too good to pass up. At the very least, I thought it might be fun to look back at the source of some of my stories.

I suspect it’s common for writers to find themselves somewhat loathe to reveal the sources of their inspiration. I mean, is it really smart to show people how the sausage is made? What if people think that “inspiration” has instead spawned a total ripoff? I don’t know. I debated that for awhile, but I figure, what the hell? It’s not like I’m 100% ripping off a work of art, and it could be somewhat educational. It’s also not like I’ve avoided the topic in the past.

It’s something of a cliche, but inspiration really does come from the oddest places. Take my “Rudest Man in Rock” piece, for instance. Some people identified that character as being based on Billy Corgan, and it’s mostly true. The title (and the line about the Gaultier) come from an interview with the man back in 2000, which you can read here. I still laugh all these years later at this:

“Nice skirt,” says Q, by way of friendly introduction.

“It’s not a skirt,” he replies gruffly, pulling back the long flap to reveal two trousered legs. “It’s a Gaultier.”

Of course it is.

The rest is pulled from different bits and pieces of rock lore that I’ve picked up over the years. An interview with Eddie Vedder here, a Kurt Cobain piece there, maybe some Robert Plant thrown into the mix. It comes from a place of real fascination with the mythology of rock, which is why I feel it breathes so well.

That’s the real key to solid inspiration: it needs to come from a place you can feel. Room 3, for example, drew its initial inspiration from the fantastic horror movie Videodrome and my childhood fascination and repulsion with the film. That story in particular shows just how far from inspiration one can stray and still find a coherent, fitting tale – all of the elements inspired by that film have since been removed, though it popped up again on my short story On The Air, which you should be seeing in an anthology in the next few months (don’t worry, I’ll have lots more to say about it in the near future).

My recent work, Once Upon a Friday, is inspired by a great deal of real-life events that I’ve encountered along with a couple of Douglas Coupland books: JPod, which details the day-to-day life of a group of office workers at a gaming software company and Hey Nostradamus!, a book about a school shooting. Every character in Once Upon a Friday is also inspired by at least one real-world person, and in some cases are amalgams of two or three people.

I really want to talk about my upcoming work, though. This story has been bouncing around my skull for a few months, and the original version had been intended for a TESSpecFic anthology, which may or may not still happen. Known as I Was Born for the Stage, I’m really excited about it. The story is set in the Old West of an alternate world America, where a devastating plague came across the plains states and wiped out most of civilization, leaving people either dead or transformed into aggressive mutants.

Magic is a very real thing in this world; the protagonist, Elsbet, is an 11-year-old apprentice who’s traveling East with her father to find out whether her aunt’s homestead still stands (a story that will be told elsewhere). They stop off in a small dusty town in Arizona to load up on supplies when their puppy runs off into a mysterious theater where Elsbet discovers the town’s dirty secret. It’s pretty much writing itself and is a lot of fun, so I can’t wait to share it with you, but it also spurred this post, as its inspiration comes from a recent Shins video that grabbed my imagination and wouldn’t let go:

So how about you? What movies, books, music, or other encounters have inspired your stories? I always love hearing these stories, so feel free to share.

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The Plate: The Rudest Man in Rock (Part 2)

Note: You can read Part 1 of The Rudest Man in Rock here:

The Plate: The Rudest Man in Rock (Part 1)

Now, to conclude our tale…

Now we arrive at Thomerson’s well-documented fascination with the late 1980s and early 1990s. He has been known to wear hypercolor shirts on stage, soaking them during encores to reveal explicit messages. He has thrown pogs into the audience at shows in New York and London. His stage name is drawn from a character actor popular during the 80s and 90s, so, we have to ask, why the fascination with that era when he himself was born in 1984?

He stares out into the morning light, weighing his answer. “Things were different then. Purer. More alive. People dared to believe in things. At the very least I can bring that to the kids today, ones who never experienced it.”

When we point out that the defining trait of that era was actually considered to be apathy and that, perhaps, his own experiences as a child during that period colored his view, he scoffs.

“Oh, sure. That’s what they want you to think. You think that Kurt (Cobain, one assumes that Thomerson is on a first-name basis with the legend) could have done what he did if he didn’t care? He was purer than you or I could ever hope to be. But it’s not just him. It’s the whole Seattle scene, man.” He becomes animated and begins name-checking, counting each band off on his fingers. “Pearl Jam. Soundgarden. Candlebox. They were all hanging out together. They got it. It was a movement. I’m telling you, man, I was born at the wrong time.”

We ponder whether he’d cite Nirvana as an influence for the new album?

“Influence? I think it’s more than an influence. It’s more like…” He shrugs. “I’m not saying I’m like Cobain, but…” He tails off again, lighting another cigarillo, leaving the reader to wonder what might follow. Continue reading

The Plate: The Rudest Man in Rock (Part 1)

The Rudest Man in Rock

Matthew Weldon

Tim Thomerson is sick of your bullshit.

That’s right. You. And your bullshit.

The lead singer and songwriter for the obscure indie noise-rock collective known as Magic Bullet Theory has just returned from the outfit’s sold-out tour of Europe and he wants you to know one thing:

He is sick of your bullshit.

“It’s pretty much everyone,” he reflected, scratching his chin as he gazed out the window. The white peaks of the Swiss Alps reflected off of the glass, casting a white glow over his face. For a moment, he’s an angel, and you wonder if that’s what the teenage girls see in him.

“All those blank faces staring up at me during the last tour – I can’t stand it. If you’re going to be that person, just stay home. I mean, every night it’s my job to go out there and blow your mind. It’s hard work, and I suffer for it.”

That glow, so fleeting, is now gone. He’s turned back to face us, striking a match and lighting a cigarillo. We caught up with him at his personal chalet just before he headed back to the States, where he’s set to record his debut solo album for Itchy Records. This is a man on the cusp of a transformational moment, and we wanted to be there, to talk about his career, his views, and that controversial statement.

This is Plate Magazine’s exclusive look at Tim Thomerson on the eve of a break-out.

He waved dismissively when he entered the “living quarters,” an hour late for the beginning of our interview. He tells us that he has been listening to a 180g vinyl (for those unfamiliar with the term, this is said to offer the highest aural fidelity money can buy) LP hand-crafted by a Mexican singer/songwriter named Juan Juarez – and he ensures that we spell this name correctly.

“I needed to listen to Juarez. He clears the mind, you know, cleanses the old mental palate.” Getting into this, he sits at the chair by the window, pointing a finger at us. “If there’s one thing you need to know, it’s that artists like Juan are the ones you should be talking to. I’m nothing. No one.”

Duly noted, we switch tack and ask him about the song that he debuted during the European tour, a droning, drum-laden track that is likely to show up on his solo album.

“I think it has the potential to be one of the most important songs ever written,” he admits, rubbing his chin. “But you know, it doesn’t belong to me. It came from somewhere beyond and it belongs to everyone.”

That’s right, including you. Continue reading