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CameronM

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    My name is Cameron. I am a writer, a teacher, a hiker, and a lover of all things Colorado.

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  1. It was the perfect place to meet someone you never planned on meeting and never wanted to meet. The dispersed camping spaces just southwest of Leadville were far enough away from each other to give you the illusion of privacy, but only if the other people were pretending along with you, otherwise everything seemed too close. Out here in the pseudo-wilderness of Colorado, where the Jettas and Altimas disturbed the fantasy of seclusion, where the Bluetooth stereos pumped the music of the city into the forest, one had to have a good imagination, or else one would feel just as civilized as one did before coming out here. It was the place where cultures collided, where the city-folk and flatlanders “got away” for the weekend in their RV’s, away from the hustle and bustle, into the fresh air of the mountains. It was the place where the trans-ecosystemists, those who were forced to live in the city for work but had the spirit of the mountains inside them, sought the voices of their gods, searched underr rocks and in the limbs of trees for a potential glimpse of nirvana, camped in tents and cooked meat over fire in hopes of reawakening something lost inside them. And in this liminal space, everything changed, while everything outside remained the same, the outside entirely unaware of this small occupied zone within the mountains. This was the space where things started. The summer sun beat down through the aspens with more relentlessness than expected by the two weekend warriors. “Shit. I thought it’d be cooler up here,” the man said, unzipping his winter coat and removing the beanie from his head. His brow was beaded with sweat, and his armpits were a moist patch of odor. “That’s Colorado for ya,” said another man, this one wearing a sleeveless wolf t-shirt and a pair of cut-off jean shorts to match. “Never can make up its fucking mind.” People said this when the weather patterns shifted for a day or when those people didn’t bother to read the weather reports. And it was true most of the time. It was also true anywhere else. But for some reason, Colorado turned it into fact in the minds of locals and tourists alike. Colorado weather, man. Crazy. The conversation about the weather was taking place fifty yards away from another campsite, but the still air carried the words just as easily from that distance as it did from five feet. “These dudes serious?” the man in the other campsite said aloud. His name was Quincy, a skinny, some would say wiry, man with a mop of unruly brown hair and a wardrobe that screamed Colorado— Merrell hiking boots and a Marmot flannel. He had a habit of talking to himself out loud. Maybe it was all the time he spent alone in the mountains, or the fact that he didn’t really like talking to other people because he didn’t like other people that much. Or maybe it was simply because he was the only one around most of the time because, as has been said, he liked to travel solo. That’s what he called it. Really, he said “flying solo” when he talked to other people about his propensity to set off alone. He didn’t like the term flying solo, but it came out so naturally, like his brain had been programmed to say it. He always regretted it after. “Fucking dipshits can’t read a weather report?” he said aloud to himself. “Hey, buddy,” wolf t-shirt said. “You say something?” “What?” said Quincy, knowing very well he had said something. But like all humans, what we think about saying and what we actually say are, most of the time, two very different things, but when you have a long habit of talking to yourself, sometimes you forget what is in your head tends to come out of your mouth more often than most people who don’t talk to themselves. And sometimes you forget how loudly you’re saying those things you shouldn’t say. “I said,” repeated the man in the wolf shirt, “did you say something?” “No, man. Just enjoying this Colorado weather. Crazy, huh. Fucking weathermen never get it right. That’s Colorado.” “We were just saying that,” said sweaty pits. “Fucking Colorado.” Maybe this was the exact reason Colorado weather had turned into fact, to act as a detangler, a re-aligner, a way to get a nearly-derailed conversation back on the rails. The small talk that generally is weather, in Colorado, becomes a lifesaver. And Quincy had grabbed hold. “Hey, buddy,” said wolf shirt. “You want a beer?” “I’m good, man,” said Quincy. “Got myself some whiskey.” “Hell, we’ll join you then.” Two things Quincy hated above all others, or at least in this moment. At any given moment he could hate two different things above all other things or hate just one thing very acutely. But at this moment the two things he hated above all others were being called “buddy” and having two dudes he didn’t want to talk to invite themselves into his camp. They came over with their collapsible chairs and cooler. Wolf shirt tossed sweaty pits a beer and they cracked cans with a loud ksshhh. “Coors Light, amigo,” said pits. “Beer of beers.” “I always thought it tasted like water,” said Quincy. “At least when I used to drink it.” “Two things wrong with that sentence, compadre. First, your insult to the national beer of Colorado. And second, the fact that you said ‘used to.’ Fucking un-American.” Two things Quincy hated above all others: when super white people called him amigo and compadre and when people told him something he did was un-American. He wasn’t quite sure even what that meant. He was sure plenty of un-American Americans didn’t drink Coors Light and that those people were perfectly non-un-American. Which means they were just American. “I’m gluten free, comrade,” said Quincy. “I don’t drink beer anymore.” Quincy always felt weird telling people about his gluten-freeness. He didn’t want to come off as being the vegan, holier-than-thou type, though sometimes he felt good about himself when he said it. He had no real reason for this. It wasn’t like he had given up meat to help save the planet. He loved meat. It wasn’t like he was making some great sacrifice in the name of some holy or unholy god. Or maybe he was and didn’t know. A god of the gluten free and intolerant. He just didn’t want to shit himself silly anymore. “We got a goddamn communist on our hands, Carl,” said wolf shirt with a laugh. “No beer and no gluten. The two fucking staples of American fine dining.” “Shit, man,” said Carl. “That sucks you can’t eat potatoes or nothing. I don’t know what I’d do without a good carton of fries every now and then.” “No, potatoes are fine, its—” “Oh, fries,” interrupted wolf shirt. “You got any fries over here, buddy?” “No. What?” “I didn’t think so. You said you had whiskey though. Mind sharing?” Quincy did mind sharing, but he was in too deep now. Or at least in as deep as he could be without knowing the names of both of the people who were in his campsite. Carl, he was sweaty pits, but the other one? And they didn’t know Quincy’s name either, but they didn’t seem to mind. Buddy, compadre, and amigo were all suitable replacements for now. But would they be able to carry on the conversation like this? Would Quincy just need to pretend to know who they were even though it was impossible to know who they were because they had never met and there was no third party there to introduce them? Would it be wrong of him not to ask their names or awkward because he had waited too long to ask? Let it play out naturally. That would be best. “No,” he said, passing them the whiskey bottle. “Help yourselves. So what are you two doing out here? Just camping?” “No,” Carl said. “Carl and me are out here trout fishin’.” Quincy was confused. He’d thought the other one’s name was Carl, but he guessed he could have been mistaken. Or maybe they were both Carl. How could two Carls be present in the same forest at the same campsite at the exact same time? Two things Quincy hated above all others were two Carls in his one campsite, not least of all because now it felt even more awkward knowing their names (or thinking he knew them) than it had when he had designated them names based on their perspiration and animal preference. And he hated them equally because he knew now without a doubt that the burden fell on him to introduce himself because these two clearly weren’t going to make a formal presentation of their identities. And he hated himself for not having someone with him to introduce him to them. It was all fucked. Or maybe it wasn’t.
  2. 1. The Act of Story Statement: The mission of the protagonists is to find a space for themselves in a world actively attempting to silence them. 2. Sketch of the Antagonists: Two collective antagonists exist in this story, the cult of Tree Tree McForest Face (led by Sandra) and the QAnon “patriots” (led by George and, to an extent, Carl). Sandra’s goal is to keep the cult she has created in the heart of the Colorado mountains a secret from the outside world. She was a person of power on the outside, but her power was limited. In the forest, she is a god, and she wishes to remain that way, to have absolute control. When Quincy, and later Maya, learn of the cult and actively resist being part of it, Sandra will do what is necessary to retain her power and keep her secret. George and his compatriot Carl are an embodiment of masculinity and whiteness. Carl is gay but won’t acknowledge that fact. George is what Carl wants to be, hypermasculine and tough. They wish to kill Quincy because they believe he has weaponized gayness, and they wish to kill Maya because she is black and most likely aligned with the Obama administration. For Carl, killing Quincy will prove his masculinity and will help him further hide his true identity. For George, he will be a “patriot” hero. 3. Title Options: Quickmash-Mishmash (Protagonists find themselves in a world that never slows and in which they are not in control. Mirroring of events.) Elevation 10152’ (All Colorado city and town signs use elevation instead of population. Leadville’s elevation, where the story begins.) The Kidney, the Cult, and the Unfortunate Two (An allusion to the three things central to the story.) 4. Genre and Comparable Titles: Literary/Upmarket A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole: This is the first comparable title I chose because, though it is a Pulitzer Prize winner and a classic, it is the book that inspired the writing of my novel. The various perspectives are the first part of the similarities, the movement between Ignatius Reilly, Irene Reilly, Gus Levy, and Burma Jones. Aside from this, the way Ignatius moves through the world and how things happen to him that are seemingly outside his control but are always leading him forward to Myrna--who is sort of a clouded future--is similar to the way my characters move through the world. Also, the idea of events pushing characters to an undefined or ill-defined future resonates with the way my characters are forced to navigate their world without knowing the outcome of their journey. Callisto by Torsten Krol: Like Odell Deefus in Callisto, my novel’s protagonists unwittingly end up in positions that pit them against, and put them in alliance with, odd and quirky characters. Stumbling into terrible positions against their will forces them to make choices that have lasting results. The darkly comedic aspect of Callisto is also similar to my novel. On top of this, my novel, like Callisto, exposes the dark realities of our world and makes one think about the major social and political issues in the United States while laughing both genuinely and uncomfortably at the events unfolding. 5. Core Wound and Primary Conflict: Quincy, gay man, and Maya, a black woman, stereotyped for their entire lives, must escape violent conspiracists and hypersexual cultists, both of whom wish to use Quincy and Maya for their own ends based on the stereotypes that Quincy and Maya have been attempting to free themselves from since they were young. 6. Other Matters of Conflict: Inner Conflict Maya: Maya is pulled over by a white cop and told by this cop that her last name, Jones, doesn’t sound black and that she must have a white dad. Maya considers what she has been told all her life about cops. Keep your nose down, and never talk back, no matter what. She strongly wishes to confront the cop on his blatant racism, but her dad’s voice keeps playing in her head, and she is torn about what to do next. She has had relatives arrested because they looked suspicious, because the color of their skin, and she doesn’t want to end up like them, but she also feels she must do something. Quincy: Quincy is socially awkward. He says things that he shouldn’t, and he doesn’t say things that he should. He spent a lot of time alone and continues to spend time alone because he doesn’t think people really get him, partially because he is gay, and partially because he himself thinks he is kind of weird. Before and during conversation, Quincy is always thinking about how awkwardly things could turn out or how stupid he could potentially appear to his audience. Even in situations where the external conflict is high stakes, his inner voice continues to shout at him about the trajectory of his words. Social Conflict Maya: Maya is at a costume party in Aspen at a wealthy doctor’s home. Everyone there is white, except for a couple who appears midway through the evening, but as the couple approaches her, she sees they, too, are white and that they are wearing blackface. She is tired of her inner voice by this point, and she confronts the two on their costumes, to which they reply that they donate to black charities, so they have a right to dress up this way. Later in the evening, as tensions mount and the two people in blackface confront Maya and ask her where she got her blackface done (they don’t believe that a black woman could be in Aspen), Maya disregards all the advice she has ever been given and slaps the woman in blackface. Quincy: Quincy is in an outdoor store with Maya trying to find food at a place the cultists and conspiracists will never think to look. Quincy, being the awkward man that he is, stares in a way that the female store worker thinks means he is checking her out. After Quincy and Maya purchase their items, the woman begins accusing Quincy of staring at her breasts and starts throwing carabiners at him, telling him to get out. Quincy, lost for words for a brief moment, finally yells at the woman to stop, that he is gay, to which the woman replies that Quincy should have said so from the start, to which he then replies that that he shouldn’t have to announce that he is gay to everyone he meets. 7. Setting: The story starts in Leadville, Colorado, an outdoor enthusiast’s mecca in the heart of the Colorado Rockies. There is a BBQ festival there every year, and it is during this festival that Maya, one of the protagonists, meets George, a central antagonist, while he is serving beer. And it is outside this town that Quincy, the second protagonist, meets Carl, another primary antagonist. Weather is shifty in the high country, and this allows for a sudden lightning storm at high elevation to kill Carl’s friend, thus setting off the conflict between Carl and Quincy because Carl believes Quincy is a government agent who sent the lightning down to intentionally kill his friend. This first area in and around Leadville, because it is so vast and so uninhabited, also allows for a cult to exist without anyone knowing, and when Quincy is swept away in a swift moving stream and picked up by the cult, the next group of antagonists comes into play. Aspen, the next primary location in the story, was chosen for a few reasons. The first is that it is close to Leadville. The second is that, even though it is not the closest town, Maya and Quincy believe it to be the least racist since it is full of wealthy Hollywood elite. And the third is that Aspen is rich, and the police, at least according to Maya and Quincy, must have the resources to protect them from the cultists and the conspiracy theorists. But in a town where money talks loudest, Maya and Quincy soon find out that the cultists who are chasing them are extremely wealthy and have the Aspen PD in their back pocket; that the only black people who apparently come to Aspen are Oprah, Rihanna, Rosario Dawson, or any other black people with wealth; and that the enlightened elite that they thought would be their salvation are actually just as bad as everyone else they’ve encountered so far but in more eccentric and also insidious ways. The final location, Glenwood Springs, just off the I-70 corridor in Colorado, is just enough in the middle of the socioeconomic spectrum that Maya and Quincy feel it could be the place they could finally, finally find someone who isn’t out of their mind. Glenwood also has a Planned Parenthood, and all the characters, at differing times, end up in the middle of a protest during the final pursuit, which helps to expose the characters’ inner workings even further during various confrontations with protestors and media. Glenwood also has a gondola that leads up to what is called a mountain coaster, a roller coaster that starts at the top of the mountain and ends at the bottom. This setting provides a good slow pursuit to the top of the mountain, where all parties come into conflict with each other, and a fast pursuit to the bottom, after all hell breaks loose at the summit.
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