Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Hand that Reads #4: Ticket to Write

by JW Schnarr

The longer I mess around as a writer, the longer I see things recurring in my work. Faces and people appear and reappear, as if by some magic, popping in and out of stories as cameos or showing different angles/sides to their interesting lives.

Places, too, reappear with more common frequency. One place is the city bus. In particular, the #1 that goes through Forest Lawn across Calgary and all the way to Bowness on the far west side. Two old communities on the farthest reaches of town. At least, they were, when I was a teenager and took the bus. It's not something I do much anymore, like most of us with driver's licenses we'd rather sit for an hour in traffic than for 15 minutes on a bus.

But the #1 has been bouncing in and out of my work for years, most recently in a story I'm currently working on for an anthology. Before that, it appeared in my novel Alice & Dorothy. It's always an old hulking thing, moving from one scabby part of town to another.
I remember back in college I did a photo shoot of that bus, and it was funny when friends would look at the photos and say "Hey! I know that bus." It was our lifeline to the downtown all ages scene, and later I took it to college so I could catch a train downtown. But like I said, I haven't ridden it much at all in years. Except... I kind of have. And I kind of keep riding it.

The bus is never a central character in any of my stories (except one time it was, in a story forever trunked and never to see the light of day again), but it's always filled with whatever I need. And that's the great thing about the #1. I never have to make anything up, because I saw firsthand at some point over the years every possible backdrop I've needed for every story it's appeared in.

It's held immigrants of every colour. There have been more drunk and stoned people than I could possibly count, and sometimes it has homeless people or prostitutes or drug dealers on it. More than once I've seen people piss themselves and then quickly get off at the next stop. Sometimes they're bleeding. One time I think a guy shit himself...his pants were wet and her smelled like shit...a guy makes assumptions, you know?

I've seen fights on the bus. There's nothing like having the bus pullover while everyone waits for the cops to show up to break up a fight. The scene has its own contained audience, carrying a kind of canned energy that's hard to describe. Half the people are afraid for their lives, and the other half are grateful for a break in the boredom. Of course, sitting on the side of the road while the cops deal with the issue for a half hour is no real break at all, especially when you have somewhere to be.
My buddy got puked on while riding that bus, possibly the funniest/sickest thing I've seen on it.

As I said, there's nothing overtly special about this bus. It's the same vehicle as a thousand other buses in the city, and probably a million other buses in every other city. Yet the light is particular on the #1. The smells, the graffiti, the lighter burns in the seats...they're all particular.

Sooner or later, they'll all get their due.

A little news on the work side of things:
I've signed a deal with Five Rivers Publishing, a Canadian Indie publishing outfit based in Ontario but with long arms reaching all the way out here in the west. They're going to be releasing my short story collection "Things Falling Apart" as a second edition, meaning a new cover is coming. I was surprised when the signing made the news in Quill and Quire magazine, a Canadian rage about industry stuff, and you can see it here (about halfway down)

It's also here, on the Five Rivers blog

I'm extremely happy that my collection is going to a second edition, this time in print (I had originally released it as an Ebook only) and am looking forward to good things with Five Rivers. They've got a lot of good ideas and they are very nice people.

--JW Schnarr

(JW Schnarr is a horror writer originally from Calgary, Alberta Canada. He is the author of the novel Alice & Dorothy as well as the short fiction collection Things Falling Apart. A member of the HWA and SF Canada, he can be seen lurking in places such as Best New Zombie Tales Volume II (Books of the Dead Press) where Rue Morgue magazine dubbed his story "Freshest Tale" of the anthology. He's also been spotted in Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine and will also be found in Slices of Flesh (Dark Moon Books) alongside the likes of Ramsey Campbell and Jack Ketchum.

Schnarr has a space at Black Glove Magazine where he writes a monthly editorial titled The Hand That Reads. By day he works as a reporter and photographer for the Claresholm Local Press in Claresholm, Alberta. Look him up on Facebook, Twitter, or Goodreads, or check out his blog at