absolute fiction is fictitious


~ Spoilers here - see the movie first! ~


December 22, 2015


I’ve just returned from a private screening of Room, the staggering new film directed by Lenny Abrahamson starring an astonishing Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay.  To sob during a film is cathartic and lovely in its own beautiful way, but to be on the verge of tears for an entire movie and not be able to understand exactly why is harrowing and penetrating. 

Room chronicles the last days of captivity after seven years for Ma and her son Jack (just turning 5 years old) within the confines of “Room”, a small shed with no windows and no escape.   For the first forty minutes, the director makes the daring and effective choice to not break the captives’ POV.  We are as confined as Ma and Jack are within that shed.  Not a SINGLE outside, establishing shot, but rather small, intimate closups of the objects that matter to Jack - a portion of the counter, the light through the shutters of wardrobe, shells of an egg, the texture of the ceiling sound-proofing, Mom's hair.  But even more daringly, the director focuses not on the devastation of their jail cell, but on the ebullient joy that these two share with each other and the only friends Jack has ever known since birth:  Wardrobe, Chair One, Chair Two, Sink, and so forth.  The tales Ma tells Jack to keep themselves emotionally and intellectually focused are pragmatic tactics of survival, as well as their tiny rituals like pushups, stretches, brushing teeth, singing, washing dishes, breast feeding, endless games, and the occasional special deviations of delight such as a small birthday cake, replicating a fulfilled life in the confines of what may not be larger than a 10 x 10 foot room.  The biggest game of all, of course, is Ma's distortion of the truth to protect her son from the reality of their situation. To protect her son from discontent, she makes sure he neither knows nor believes in the existence of any world outside Room.  This could have been merely a fascinating cerebral experiment had Room not paired this game with so much authentic, organic love and tenderness.   Because danger and tragedy are so present, the need for mother and son to fill every inch of that room with love becomes a daily imperative.   And this emotion is the one thing we feel is truly real in that shed.

These two actors take your breath and heart away from the first frame.  They never break the rawness and reality of their situation.  There is no perfect skin cover-up for Ma, as every Hollywood actress in dire circumstances seems able to procure.  The tantrums have the exact same sudden flares and tone that characterize my nephews’ tantrums when they were five, followed by the infantile regret and crawling into Ma’s lap to apologize.  The boy’s steady focus as he plays games while engaging his imagination and burgeoning intellectual awareness, followed suddenly by scattershot enthusiasm for the joy of physically thrashing about.  Not enough can be said for the actress’ ability to sink her teeth into the layered sublimation of reality of their situation under maternal guidance and tolerance - all for the sake of survival.

Forty minutes is a long time for a film to spend exploring no more than the interior of a small shed, yet the telescoping effect expands its significance in your mind in so many profound directions.  What really makes a person happy when stripped of access to most things?  What would I have done if I were in her situation?  What are the psychological effects of unrelenting imprisonment?  Does anybody love me as profoundly as these two love each other?  Do I love anybody that profoundly?  How important is a child’s education really?  Is she planning to escape, or contently resigned to imprisonment for the rest of their lives?  What Room have I enclosed around my life for the sake of survival?

As with every well-crafted script, along comes an “inciting incident” that changes the movie's course.  Jack breaks their routine when he leaves his hiding place in the wardrobe to lay eyes on their captor, Old Nick, during a periodic overnight stay with Ma.  The film does not shy away from the explicitness implied in this visit, which up to now has merely been squeaks on a bed from the perspective of a hiding little boy.  But this boy is growing up and curious, and he wants to know who the magic man is that brings them supplies and a brand new toy car for his birthday.  The incident following forces Ma to realize she must, no matter what, find a way to get Jack out, leading Room to the necessary plot event known as “the point of no return.” 

After seeing Room, I went to a diner on the corner of 55th Street and 6th Avenue with a buddy to discuss it.  While he concluded that the point of no return was the moment in which Ma executes Jack’s heart-pounding, sweat-inducing escape, I believe the real point of no return was when Ma decides, right after the inciting incident, to educate Jack on the reality of their situation.  To inform jack about what’s real in their world and what’s not real, and that there are two sides to every thing.  There are two sides to that wall.  There is absolutely no return after opening Jacks eyes and directing them beyond their small, odd little paradise, and I loved when Jack said, “I wish I was four again” after learning that Old Nick is not magical, and he is definitely not their friend.  I believe Jack's escape to the real world is the continued development of Jack’s education as he steps out to the sky and trees and streets and meets a new person for the first time in his life.

This escape is the most excellent use of cinema in recent history.  It completely takes advantage of the visual medium, wordlessly layering the unknown with the known, sequencing impetus shots and reaction shots.   Over and over this film allows us to experience the ordinary through the lens of the extraordinary. To see a small boy wince at the brightness of the sun is ordinary.  To know he's wincing because he's never in his life encountered so much light before is extraordinary.  To see a small determined boy run on the grass is ordinary.  To see a small determined boy run on the grass who has never run any distance before  because he's been confined to a shed his entire life made my stomach leap into my throat for so many layered reasons.

For most films, the escape would be the climax of the film, followed by a quick wrap-up.  For Room, the escape ushers in the second half of the film, and the real thematic targets get bullseyed.  No, Room doesn’t devolve into a genre police investigation.  Nor does it morph into a genre revenge picture.  Instead, Room trades the imprisonment of a shed for the psychological imprisonment of their new suburban home where Ma grew up before being kidnapped.  Jack’s tinfoil toys get traded for Legos and a slew of plastic toys.  A small, barely palatable birthday cake gets traded for real ice cream.  Their shed gets traded for a large, orderly suburban house with lots of windows.  But Ma and Jack feel anything but comfortable and free here.  Pressed on all sides with comfort in their new home, the purity of their connection to each other is tested and re-contextualized.  Ma survived for seven years, driven for five of them by the need to protect and love her child.  Without the desperate need for that drive, what does she survive for?  Does she even want to?  Jack looked to Ma for protection and love, but in this strange new world there are others who want to love him.  Is too much accessibility to love and safety too overwhelming?  He's curious about his new world, to be sure, but he's strongly accustomed to looking to one person for the source of all his happiness, entertainment, and comfort - and this person is  profoundly lost, distraught, and resentful in their new environment.

The director is smart in his delicate exposure of Ma and Jack’s crumbling under the weight of their new “freedom.”  In the most obvious symbolism, Jack deconstructs a Lego house and lets the pieces crumble to the carpet.  In slightly less noticeable symbolism, their new suburban home  is filled with long white railings that divide the multi-layered house into quadrants like bars of prison cells.  Even when flooded with sunlight, Ma and Jack always seem crouched, receding into corners, and, now with all the luxuries at their disposal, feel infinitely more restricted and ill-at-ease than in their shed.  Ma eventually sinks to her lowest point, which becomes the point in the movie when all seems lost.  They cannot exist here in their freedom, nor can they ever replicate the familiar cocoon of their shed.  

The masterstroke of the script, and therefore the novel from which Room was adapted, was the interview.  Here Ma is asked by a television personality why she didn't give Jack up to the hospital much sooner so he could be raised in a proper home.  Ma feels perplexed by this possibility, for in her brain it never was a possibility.  My immediate reaction was to feel protective of Ma from this attack: "Miss Interviewer, you've no idea what she went through and how heroic Ma was for the last seven years!  Don't you dare accuse her of misconduct!"  But as I saw this question roll its wave over the next couple scenes, I began to cognitively revisit the first half of the movie and question the motives behind so much I thought was beautiful and pure in motive.  Why did Ma wait until Jack was five to enact an escape?  Why not when he was born?  Was she afraid Old Nick would have killed Jack if she set him free?  Or did Ma keep Jack close to her for her own need to own, love, and control something?  For her own need to have a purpose to keep living?  Is that why Ma killed that small mouse that found its way into Room - to deter Jack's attachment to anything apart from her?  Is that why she kept breast feeding Jack until he was five?  Is that why she lied about anything existing outside of their four walls?  And as I questioned her motives, I realized the movie had made me identify and participate in Ma's onscreen struggle and anger and psychological self-flagellation, and I'd been complicit in admiring and beautifying their odd paradise in the shed quite possibly in the same way as Ma and Jack had.  There seems infinitely less clarity in the world outside the shed, thus it seemed an inevitability that she'd attempt to end everything in the bathroom that night after the interview - unable to reconcile her actions versus her lack of actions, her victimization versus her heroism, and the way she feels versus the way she knows she ought to feel.  And a lot more I've yet to understand after having viewed Room only once.

The magic key that truly turns the dark to light in Room is Ma and Jack’s reversal of who's caretaker and who's cared for.  This is beautifully symbolized when Jack cuts his long hair to send to Ma in the hospital to give her his "strength."  The more I thought about this notion, the more I think I understand its derivative without having read the book.  As much as Jack may be deprived or sad or angry or weakened, his hair will keep on growing.  His hair represents continuity and survival, and will always link him to his mother and her long hair.  It's what they share, and their bond is their strength.  Jack's act of generosity by cutting if off and offering it to Ma leads to one of the most moving moments in the film:  when Jack comforts Ma on the bed at a moment she needs comforting most, crystallizing their new roles in each others' lives.   It takes only two sentences and a world full of emotion in their eyes.  It's cinema at its most poignant.  This is the moment when their relationship evolves to a more mature, less desperate, and deeper level.   Where loving each other becomes less of a crutch and more of a path toward healing and moving past the post-traumatic stress.   For me, growth happens when you let go of the fear of the past's pain, and you forgive yourself for holding on to that fear for so long. 

The last scene left me weeping right through the credits, yet it took a couple hours more to understand the trigger for my emotions.  Ma and Jack revisit their prison shed.  Room, now neglected and invaded by the police's collection of evidence, still exists.  Room still awaits them.  No dangerous Old Nick waits around the corner.  No more death awaits either of them.  And no more plot points need to be rolled out.  And yet this scene is breathlessly and quietly climactic and suspenseful.  Jack comments that with the door open Room feels smaller.  Ma asks if he’d like her to close it.  Essentially, she asks if Jack wants to return to Room.  Certainly not literally, but figuratively.  For us, the answer would be “Hell No!”  But for Jack and Ma, there is a significant hesitation before concluding no.  There was comfort in that shed.  There was familiarity.  There was naivety.  There was the kind of pristine clarity that only happens when the choices are few – something that rarely happens in my life in New York City, and stopped happening for sure when I was 8 years old when a fire ravaged our neighborhood on the edge of a state park in California and forced me to re-evaluate what I cared for in my world.  But, Ma and Jack can no longer really return to Room any more than Jack can remain four years old forever.  And nor can I.  Nor can we ever. 

On one hand, I absolutely loved the truth of the hesitation these two had before they departed the shed - adult hand in child hand - for the last time.  On the other hand, my heart ached excruciatingly because of how much I sympathized with that hesitation in the face of knowing how many years they endured such horrifying circumstances.  There is no richer experience, whether in a novel, a movie, or in life, than to be asked to embrace two opposing emotions and notions at once, and feel more soulful and spiritual for trying.  Goodbye Chair One.  Goodbye Chair Two.  Goodbye Sink.  Goodbye Wardrobe.  Goodbye Room.

The Hunted


It Eyed me

It Stalked me

It Absorbed my habits

Then decided


And went away to hunt another.

But am I freed?

For now I need

The Eying

The Stalking

The Absorption.


~ by Rafe Haze

from the dramatic thriller “The Next”

Rafe Haze hosts Morticia Knight on The Dirty Dozen Blog Hop

The Dirty Dozen - Morticia Knight

The Dirty Dozen Blog hop tour continues.  Let me break it down for you and keep it real:

We are twelve Gay Romance Lit Retreat supporting authors who have three things in common:  1) We aren't legit enough apparently to be among the featured authors...ahem...right?  2) Our trigger fingers were damn quick enough to register for this category faster than all the other online applicants - which for some means we just happen to have faster internet routers, 3) we had $225 dollars to spare.

So here's to us - the Dirty Dozen!  Wait...dirty?  Absolutely!  We're each going to hike up our skirts, spread our legs wide open, and give you a glimpse deep into our sullied private worlds by answering the same 12 questions on each of our blogs.  

Today, Morticia Knight has the unfortunate privilege of being hosted on one of the least visited of all our blogs - mine.  Although perhaps primed with the most scandalously wicked foundation. 

Okay, Morticia...spread 'em:


RAFE:  What inspires you most when you are writing?

MORTICIA:  Music. It gets me in ‘the zone’. It’s sort of like a Pavlovian response that signals to my brain that it’s time to leave the physical plane and move into the ethereal.


RAFE:  What brought you to write m/m? What keeps you writing in this genre?

MORTICIA:  I was writing m/m/f  initially when I first discovered that publishers would actually want to publish erotic romance ( a revelation in and of itself). After a while, I was reading m/m, my gay friends were giving me their opinions on what I should write and eventually I became more interested in the relationships between the two men then their third.

I keep writing it because it’s pretty much all I read any more and the original ideas I had have morphed into so many more – that it’s practically all I think about!


RAFE:  Of all the characters you've written, who is your favorite and why?

MORTICIA:  Roman Pasquale, the silent film star diva who takes snark to spectacular heights and who almost everyone hates. It takes a couple special people to see into his dark soul to find out there actually is someone worth loving in there. He was too much fun and had so many layers, that he ended up going from being featured in one book, to being an MC in three – the final one being where he gets his own HEA.


RAFE:  Many of us have pen names that we use and there are an infinite number of ways and reasons behind them, but I doubt many of them reflect the names we wish we’d been born with.  If you could micro-manage the ultimate do-over, what birth name do you want? What nickname?

MORTICIA:  Galadriel. I want to be an elf in Middle Earth. It would probably suck, but I still want to find out what it would be like to be a magical being. You can call me ‘Hey you’. I’m fine with that.


RAFE:  Name one unusual fact about yourself that you think your readers would be surprised to learn.

MORTICIA:  I’ve told so many secrets about myself already, so I’m not sure how many more surprises there are. Let’s see…I love video games such as Halo and Diablo. Yes – I like to kill things.


RAFE:  What do you do that most injures the progress of your writing, and why do you do it?

MORTICIA:  I procrastinate by finding every and any excuse not to put the first words on that blank page. I usually allow myself to get sucked into social media. I think it has to do with the fear that what I’m about to write is going to suck, that I won’t have any connection to it. It takes me several thousand words before I fall in love with my characters – then I’m fine.


RAFE:  If you had to trade writing for another creative pursuit, what would it be?

MORTICIA:  Singing/songwriting. Of course, I traded that for writing – so I’m not sure if that would work!


RAFE:  In one sentence, write the beginning of a sex scene using some kind of food. Think of it as your hook.

MORTICIA:  The sauce from the spaghetti splashed onto his lover’s bare skin, right on the spot near his collarbone that he so loved to lick.


RAFE:  Name one of your favorite characters of all time that someone else wrote. Can be M/M or any genre.

MORTICIA:  Scout from To Kill a Mockingbird. I loved the dawning realization in her, how her entire world was challenged and changed forever.


RAFE:  If you could be one of your characters, who would you be and why?

MORTICIA:  Juan from the Gin & Jazz series. Even though he goes through a lot of heartache, he has such a pure soul. And when he finally finds ‘the one’, he gives of himself completely. I’m not sure I’d ever be able to do that.


RAFE:  How many versions of a book do you usually write before you arrive at ‘the one’, and how does your editor impact that?

MORTICIA:  First of all, I have the most amazing editor on the planet, so I’m super spoiled. It’s difficult to say how many versions there are, since I rewrite sections – sometimes as many as four or five times before I turn the manuscript in. But other parts may have only been tweaked two or three times. Then it’s up to my editor to smack my hand if I’m way off base.


RAFE:  If you came with a warning label, what would it be?

MORTICIA:  Prone to fits of insanity.


Dangerous Wish  (click to buy)
Morticia Knight
This is book six in the Uniform Encounters series.
Love is a dangerous emotion that EMT Jared won’t risk. But it looks as though a sweet and sexy National Guardsman is about to make him wish for that—and much more.
EMT Jared Li loves his job, his friends and clubbing. There’s nothing like a night of fun getting glammed up, throwing on some heels and shaking his ass to the latest Britney tune. Life is all about having a good time with as many hot guys as possible.
Dan Harrison has been in the National Guard for about six months and out for not much longer than that. At twenty-two, he’s somewhat innocent, a little shy and not interested in meaningless hook-ups. One night at a karaoke bar changes everything for him when his fellow Guardsman Joseph introduces him to his friend Jared. Dan’s never met anyone like the luscious twink who’s filled with so much life and laughter.
A night of passion shakes them to their very cores. Jared really likes Dan, but doesn’t want to get caught up in any type of exclusive thing. Dan wishes there could be more between them, but is willing just to be friends in order to remain near the androgynous stunner.
Hanging out strictly as friends proves to be almost impossible for them both. Not only does Jared continuously lust after the muscular soldier, but he’s also falling for the caring and compassionate man. Dan’s every sex fantasy stars Jared in one of his daring club outfits, but his heart is what really matters and it’s already been lost to Jared.
A traumatic event breaks down the barriers between them and gives them the chance to be together the way they both want. But after Dan is called up by the Guard to assist at a natural disaster, the same bravery that Jared admires in Dan might be the final thing that separates them forever. 
Reader Advisory: This book contains a scene of attempted rape.
Publisher's Note: This book is best read in sequence as part of a series but can be read as a standalone. 


Erotic Romance author Morticia Knight enjoys a good saucy tale, with MM and MMF pairings. Since she loves several genres, you may find your heroes in a contemporary, historical, paranormal or sci-fi setting. One of her passions is bringing people's fantasies to life on the page, because life is too short for even one boring moment. Her stories are volcanic in heat, deep in emotion, and sprinkled with doses of humor.
When not indulging in her passion for books, she loves the outdoors, film and music. The Pacific Northwest is the ideal spot to enjoy both hiking and beachcombing. Once upon a time she was the singer in an indie rock band that toured the West Coast and charted on U.S. college radio. She currently resides on the northern coast of Oregon, where the constant rain and fog remind her of visits to her family in England and Scotland when she was a child.




Other Dirty Dozen posts on the tour include:

Date ~ Author                                   is Hosting Author

Sept 1 ~ Max Vos                              Carter Quinn

Sept 4 ~ diana.copland                       TM Smith

Sept 7 ~  JC Wallace                          Max Vos

Sept 10 ~  Jeff Adams                        Diana Copland

Sept 12 ~  le.franks                             JC Wallace

Sept 15 ~  Ethanstone                          Jeff Adams

Sept 18 ~  writerwadekelly                  LE Franks

Sept 21 ~  Morticia Knight                   Ethan Stone

Sept 23 ~  tempeste.oriley                   Wade Kelly

Sept 25 ~  rafehaze                             Morticia Knight

Sept 28 ~ Carter Quinn                       Tempeste O’Riley

Sept 30 ~ TM Smith                            Rafe Haze





Laugh-Cry-Cringe-Think: The Rafe Haze Blog Tour

The Next gets released in 10 days!

My debut novel,The Next, gets released in 10 days.  Considering it's been completed for almost a year now (at least in my noodle), this can't come soon enough.  It may sell 10, it may sell 10,000, but to execute a vision is in and of itself one hell of a victory for this dreamer.  

So many of us live lives of mounting un-followed-through pursuits.  I feel the 9-to-5 corporate culture conditions us to 1) excuse ourselves for not making new dreams, and 2) excuse ourselves for not following through with the ones we once had.  This culture has a magical built-in dream-thresher called rationalization that shreds into oblivion any pursuit not outlined by making moolah.  Oprah and her minions have skipped the "having a dream" part and hopped right on over to "monetizing a dream."  Why…why must what you want and making money be linked?  At all?  The moment someone links money to a dream is the moment someone inevitably begins to compromise what he really wants for something he sort-of-wants but may rake in more cash. 

I am as much a guilty party in this submersion of the bleh-bleh's as anyone.  I've got no trust fund.  I live in NYC where the city, Fed, & state taxes are as high as the cost of living. Paying rent is always a struggle - and I'm not in my twenties anymore.  Yet - an extraordinary convergence of circumstances jolted me from "maybe one day I'll write a book" to "must plunge now."  

What did not occur to me was, "Hey, I could make a living writing!"  

I don't personally know ANY writer who makes a living by writing exclusively.  Even the most successful I know must supplement with some kind of alternate job on the side (whether they admit it publicly or not), or at the very least lectures, tours, teaches classes, etc.  But here's the point:  Being aware of this impossibility is freeing - not discouraging.  The pressure to impress gets alleviated once you've accepted the reality that you will not make a living writing.  You shift from "I should write this because they want me to" to "I can write whatever the heck I want to write."  I don't need to compromise the vision one itty-bitty-bit because I'm not motivated by anything - anything - but the truth of the imaginary circumstances.  I knew from the first moment my narrator started calling his neighbors "Schlongzilla," "Whippit on RedBull," and "Beached Whale," that I wasn't going to back down on what I needed to spit out.  I knew the level of crudeness.  The tone.  The texture.  The oddball stuff that I find exciting and rich.  My screwed-up sense of irony.  My sense of erotic.  Because it was never about money, I could make it all about my truth.  I knew if a publisher didn't appreciate it, hell, I'd self-publish.  (Fortunately I found a publisher in Wilde City Press that read The Next and said "right on, kiddo," and they provided one hell of an editor who was on board with the direction I was going from the get-go.  Jerry Wheeler rocks.)

When the pressure to make money hovers over an author, how does it influence his/her writing?  I'd love to know authors' and readers' thoughts about this.  It's a touchy subject, and I'm admittedly naive and new to the world.  I'm on absolutely no higher ground whatsoever.

And yet…and yet...

Have you ever started reading a novel, and you can just feel choices made between page 1 and page 10 have already deviated from the author's true north?  In your gut something says...nope, not hitting it.

Any thoughts are welcome!


Rafe Haze

C  L I C K   T O  B U Y

C L I C K   T O  B U Y