Tag: writing novels

What Pestilence Killed All The Words Inside Me?


My Mandarin Orange is blooming.

My fiction writing continues to not happen. I knew this was going to be the case when I had to get a job. That’s why I freaked out for a week making my desk into my own wailing wall. It obviously doesn’t help that I spend a lot of time working on my apothecary business in my off hours. Then I take care of my family.  There’s no time left to get into the writing mode. It’s making me feel like a used up old sock. I just had 4 days off and spent most of it just tired. I did a tiny bit of gardening. Hung out with a couple of friends. My family. And not much else. I did open scrivener with the intent to write and I did torture a couple of sentences to death editing a a chapter of Spring, the next Cricket and Grey book. But there was no energy in it. It feels like all the words are dead inside of me.

Maybe it’s writer’s block. Maybe it’s the general annoyance at having no beer to look forward to. (Haven’t had any alcohol for 2 weeks now). Maybe it’s just a deep funk. The majority of my writer friends are cranking out book after book, some of them writing a book every 3 months. I thank other people’s weird gods for the few writer friends I have whose process is a much slower thing, who stumble and crumble from time to time as I do. Without them I would definitely forget that a lot of the best books in history took years to write. Granted, they had to hand write that shit, but still. These speedy writers just take all the skin off my nose.

I did finally get the first chapter of “Bad Romance” finished. That felt good. This is my effort to write a fun breezy fast book. No need to get all wound up in writing exquisite prose, I just thought it would be really funny to trap a couple of modern people in a bad romance version of historical San Francisco. I thought it would be my writing palate cleanser. I’ll just write like a mad-woman, I said to myself. I’ll just crash right through this book and not care about every goddamn sentence like it, I don’t know, like they all matter individually. FUN! BREEZY! ROMANCE! You can’t tell me that most of the romances I’ve read took a year to finish the first draft or even the whole thing. Those things are whipped out. They follow fairly predictable plots. SO WHY THE FUCK CAN’T I DO THAT?

So I thought I’d start chapter 2 of the breezy fun romance novel. Maybe even “wing it” like so many of my writer friends do. But then I realized that to describe the streets of North Beach or China Town in the 1870’s I need to do a little research first. At the very least I need to know if all the streets were dirt back then. What was going on there? So this morning I looked up San Francisco on Google images. Know what I discovered?  San Francisco in the late 1800’s is a very dark place if you’re not white. Well, I kind of knew that anyway but the way people talk about SF in the good old gold rush days always makes it sound like everyone could get by if they wanted to.

My main character, Geneva Thoms, is half white and half Miwok who is always being mistaken for a Mexican. The other main character, Simon Wong, is Chinese American, several generations in. So if I plonk those two (plus Geneva’s misogynistic white ex-boyfriend Rick) into late 1800’s San Francisco, they aren’t going to experience the gay* fun side of the city. Now my book is a little less fun.

I love doing research for books. I’m wondering how much research the average romance writer does for each of their books? I feel I need to read a couple of books about opium dens, the racism against Chinese people (what is the “China Town quarantine” all about?), and about both China Town and North Beach specifically as that’s where most of the book will take place. Not so breezy. Not so fast. Not so fun.

The original idea was to set them into a bad romance version of SF, so in theory I can make shit up and not be strictly correct. I can paint a San Francisco based on broad stereotypes and people’s idea of San Francisco as the heart of the wild west (as opposed to the stark reality of it). Prostitutes with hearts of gold and all their teeth and no veneral diseases; villains dressed in all black flashing gold teeth (but probably not missing any), wearing an entire arsenal of weapons; heroes with long silky hair, losing their shirts at random moments so that pert-nosed feisty heroine’s can fight their desire to touch those bulging oily muscles…while my modern main characters scoff and try to figure out how to get back to reality.

I too want to write quick books and this was supposed to be my first quick romance book. For years I’ve thought that maybe I could make an actual living writing romances. This was going to be my first one, my charming debut, my fling with fast writing and lots of fun.

But damn. I just can’t let go of the details. Of getting them right. And funny isn’t my gig. I constantly intend to do funny and end up poking all the light out of the sky and raining darkness down on my characters. Rape, torture, murder, mental illness, sickness, death is where I always end up in my writing, but with happy endings of course. I intended my first novel to be a dystopian version of a Mary Stewart suspense novel. That was my inspiration, if you can believe it. I wanted to be the new Mary Stewart. I wanted to write suspense books that always have some element of romance in them. Intelligent richly written novels of suspense.

I’m meant to be a novelist. I’ve always been a novelist and a poet in my heart. So why is it like pulling my own teeth out with pliers to get even one lousy chapter written in the course of several months? I miss the energy I felt writing my fist novel. I felt the passion and excitement from beginning to end of writing that novel and editing it several times. Where did that fire go? Am I dead inside now?

*as in “carefree” or “happy”.

Ditching Strategy For Instinct

I keep trying to figure out what my strategy should be for my career as a novelist.  Should I start working on the next Cricket and Grey?  After reading a lot of industry blogs and articles about getting published, what agents are looking for, what people are actually buying, and how writers should build their careers and their “platform”*, I thought that was the way to go.  I don’t want to just stumble down the road towards some ill-defined goals, do I?  I need to know EXACTLY what I’m aiming for, make a plan, follow the blueprint to success without wavering.  Right?


If I set aside all the research I’m doing that says a book series will sell better than a literary fiction one-off, if I ignore all the formulas for writing success that are offered by the published masses, my instinct tells me to work on the first book I wrote.  The one I had to set aside for two years to let it breathe.  I mentioned it here a few times since finishing Cricket and Grey that Jane is speaking in my head and won’t shut up.  It’s a complete wild mess right now, that story.  I don’t quite know what to do with the plot and I know I need to figure it out before I dig myself deep in the hole of writing it again.  While doing agent research I have this nagging thought that Jane Doe is more likely to get printed.  It makes no sense.  I feel very good about Cricket and Grey but the other story is something powerfully visceral to me and it isn’t good for a series.  It’s a one off.  It’s very dark.  I made a concerted decision that I wanted to write mainstream fiction because I want a career writing novels, I want to actually sell books.  That’s strategy.  That’s smart.  But does it matter what’s smart strategy if underneath everything there’s a story that really needs to see the light of day that doesn’t fit into the plan?

I’ve come to an important conclusion.  We all have our roles in life, in our chosen industries, our chosen paths.  In the publishing world it takes editors to polish manuscripts, agents to sponsor them- to get publishers to publish them, and marketing firms to market them, and book sellers to bring them to the public.  There’s such a long string of people that have important roles in bringing books to life and light.

The writer’s job, as I see it, is to put their fingers on the pulse of their community and the world they live in and translate what is living underneath the surface of life that everyone feels but don’t have the words to describe.  Writers say what others are powerless to say for themselves.  Writers are the eyes and ears of our times, just as other artists are, and tell the truth with lies.  And sometimes, their greatest work is to make you forget your own life for a little while so you can face another day of it.  Each writer has to trust their own instinct for what they have to tell, what they are here to reflect, share, voice, or expose.  There’s no one way to do it.  There’s no one method to be the writer you’re meant to be.  Keeping in touch with and trusting your own instinct is the only way you’ll truly know.

That there is an opinion.  You may contradict it if it isn’t true for you.

See what I mean?  Everyone has their own version of how to become the writer they need or want to be.  I have been paying too close attention to what other people think I should do and how to appeal to the right people.  I think I will appeal best if I follow my instincts.  I have never been steered wrong following my gut.  Never.  So I will continue to send queries for Cricket and Grey because I think it’s a great story and when I find an agent who’s excited to represent it maybe they’ll tell me I need to immediately write a second book.  I’ll listen, at that point.  But right now, while I look for an agent for that book, I know I need to sort out the first one because it is taking up too much space in my head and so must be finished to make room for whatever story is next.

This week I finally figured out what the real title of the Jane Doe book is.  Ready for it?


I was talking about it to another writer friend and I suggested this might be the title and as soon as I said it I knew it.

It’s nice when things are so clear.

I am opening files now as I finish this post.  Files of notes, notes about the disaster of the first draft which is such an emotionally heavy work trying to get to the surface of the ocean from the floor.  My job is to cut the cement from the body of the story and stitch it up before the sharks find the blood.  It will continue to be heavy with water but clear with light.

I can do this.

*I loathe that expression as much as I loathe describing oneself as a “brand”.  It’s just splashy marketing words that have become obnoxious and pompous.

The Third Draft is Done

Finito.  Complete-o.

From the moment I started thinking about this book to now is exactly one year and 9 months.  I didn’t actually start writing it until December 2009.  You can do any math you want to do but I’m going to refrain because it might throw my back out.

127, 367 is how many words this novel is as of five minutes ago.  That’s 28, 363 words more than the second draft.  That’s a precise number.

I know.  That was math.  But that was easy math.

This book is now editor ready.  It isn’t perfect but it’s at the point where if I keep messing with it I will be wasting my time because the second I get an editor (and I WILL get one) they’ll have specific things they’ll want me to work on.  Editors are very specific people.  I’m super pleased with this draft.  I’m proud of it.  I’m proud enough to submit it to a throat cutting editor.  Gulp.

Next step is to get myself an agent.  This requires a brilliant query letter.  As we’ve all observed plenty of times in the past, this is not one of my shining skills.  I make this promise to myself: I will kick fucking ass at the query letter because my future depends on it and there is nothing more important to me right now than getting this damn book published.

I don’t actually need to expend energy agonizing over that tonight.

Right now, this minute, I am going to enjoy the feeling of having finished writing my book.

I am going to pretend that all those petrifying loud pyrotechnics out there are for me.

I don’t think many people can claim I sit around “basking” in any possible way.  I’m basking now.  Unashamedly.  With glittery eye.  Tomorrow may be complete shit.  That’s okay.  I’m in the moment.  The moment is really fucking awesome.

Ma Heid’s Mince

Mine ain heid in yon tree!

I’ve had my head buried in Scots all day in an effort to add some flavor to my Scottish characters in Cricket and Grey.  Meaning to add just a touch of it to add a bit of the sound of the real thing without meaning to muck everything up with constant dialect which would be tedious to read and to write.  It seemed a good idea.  My plan was to spend all day polishing up the complete rewrite of chapter one.  Which, for the record, has been completely rewritten a total of five times now.  More than any other chapter or part of the book.  The depressing thing about that is that it sucks more now than it has any of the other times I wrote it.

This entire third draft effort has been beyond laborious, tedious, impossible, and made me believe that I have now come to the very edge of my writing abilities.  Here it is.  I believe that I am a second draft quality writer.  I can’t get past it.  Every effort is stilted and repulsive.  Smoothing?  Polishing?  Not capable.  My mother, in an effort to help me out agreed that I may have just hit the limit of my skills and talent and said “after all, it’s not like you have a degree in writing.”  She pointed out the snug suggestion that this is an opportunity to stretch myself.  As if I haven’t been stretching myself just to write the first and second damn draft.  No, I don’t have a degree in writing.  I know that people who do have such degrees are predisposed to believe that it gives them a real edge.  Who am I to say?  I’m an uneducated eejit.

Everything is making me feel worse.  I was really hungry and just ate a ton of pizza.  I am already obese.  I hurt myself more when I’m feeling low because I am already a repulsive  being physically and no amount of effort I put into changing that will help.  I feel disgusting.  So the natural thing to do is to ensure that I become even more disgusting.  My mom commented about me “inhaling” my pizza and this, naturally, determined that I would eat the maximum amount because obviously I am already a pig.  I have a breathtakingly self destructive nature.

This is huge though.  Really huge.  Not my obesity.  Not my physical repulsiveness (I can’t bear to even look at my own face in the mirror any more), no, it’s really huge have finished the second draft three months ago and still not be further than one single chapter rewrite and for that rewrite to be worse than the version before it.  I have expended an insane amount of time and energy into this project with the firm belief that I am capable of doing this and making it really good.  However, three months for 5,00o shitty words is unacceptable.  People saying to “sit back” and “wait a while” might think that this project is some kind of personal indulgence.  It’s not.  This is me trying to finally make my damn career as a novelist take off after 31 years of practice, observation, practice, voracious devouring of literature of all kinds and all genres, creative writing classes, submissions of work to contests, a hundred million words penned by hand and by typewriter, self publishing poems, reading books about writing, going to see and hear authors speak, more and more endless practicing and constantly working to make my writing better.  This is me, mid-life, not there yet.  This is me with the hours slipping away from my life and suddenly everything that comes out of my head is pure shit.

We all have our place in life, in our career, in relationships, with ambitions and rank.  At what point does a B-movie director admit that he/she is B-movie material?  At what point does an author accept that their fiction is nothing worthier than pulp?  Is it so bad?  Can it possibly be worse to accept a lowly rank in one’s field than it is to continually believe yourself to be worth more when everyone else sees that you have hit your level, and consequently fail to achieve your goals over and over?

The too-long sentences, the information withheld too long and the other information given too soon, the questions unanswered, the scene’s not well set up, the confusions and awkward shifts in place and time, all of this can be polished by an excellent writer.  I am incapable of fixing these things.  When I plunge my hand in it becomes worse and worse.  I now have fragments of change attempted all over the place that have simply muddied and messed up what already needed polishing.

I’ve read quite a few mediocre books in my time.  I’ve read an astonishing number of books from famous authors that I thought were weakly written, disappointing, and not quite up to my level of expectation of enjoyment and intelligent writing.  I have also read authors who have won Nobel prizes who have a very special way of making the most convoluted insensibly long sentences the length of paragraphs that once you get to the end of you must read the beginning to remember where it all started.  Faulkner.  Whom I despise even more than Steinbeck, but not less than Flaubert.  Wait, no, I do hate Faulkner most of all.  His work is like a great masterbation of words for which my understanding and interest as a reader isn’t really necessary to the author.

Obviously many people disagree with me on that.  I’ve had arguments about Faulkner.  And about Steinbeck.  Though, for the record, I hate Steinbeck because his books make me want to kill myself though his writing is excellent; I hate Faulkner because his writing is tortured and unintelligible and lousy.

But me?  I already know I’m not in the same league as Steinbeck, and by that I mean to say that I know I never will be in his league, but I’d like to believe that I’m better than a hack.  I’d like to believe, and indeed, I used to believe, that I am better than mediocre.  What on earth could have led me to believe such a thing besides having my head up my ass and my ego on backwards?

If you have any idea how many hours I’ve laid into this project, you would have to ask yourself how I managed to only get this far having put in so much time.  The thing that stuck with me after reading those articles about what authors really make is that in order to make a living many authors are writing two books a year.  How many drafts are they writing?  How long are these books?  What quality?  Nora Roberts writes several books a year, she’s not only been on the best selling list so many times I’m sure it’s very boring to her at this point, but how many drafts is she writing?  How many hours a day?  Obviously she’s no Steinbeck either, but where on the scale does her work land?  She’s prolific.  I have put in a lot of hours on my book.  I have put in an average of 25 hours a week on my book for over a year.  Why isn’t it better than it is?  I have two part time jobs: the one that pays, and writing the book.  I know Nora Roberts puts in at least 8 hours a day on writing (I read this about her) so obviously she’s putting in full time.  Because she’s a successful full time author.  But even so, she’s putting out multiple books EVERY SINGLE YEAR.  So how much actual time does she put into each one in terms of hours?

Maybe I am not capable of making my story better than it is right now.  I know I’ve read published books much crappier than my unfinished on is.  Should I stop now?  Should I just trust that all the imperfections and things that a better writer than I am could have fixed are just how my work will be and get myself published as one of the crappier rougher books?  What do I do?  Should I scrap it altogether?  Walk away.  Is this a message to me that I really really really aren’t meant to succeed at anything in my life?  Because, you know, I have yet to be a real success at anything.  There always comes this point where I can’t get any further.  Like back when I actually thought I was good enough to become a professional blog writer.  I worked really hard at so mlly any angles.  There was also the retail business which didn’t fail so much as it drained the light from my soul and the money from my house and if I wanted to sign over my sanity to the devil I might have seen that become a success- but really, even saying that is ridiculous because I basically failed to make a go of it.  I was told absolutely that I would never become a designer at the job where I was a design assistant.  I did fairly well for not having done the one thing I really wanted to do- become a designer.  I also failed at being a costumer and also managed somehow to believe I was a business partner of that concern but it wasn’t until I quit and I was told I had to file as an independent contractor, but without any of the deductions that might have accompanied a partner- I knew that I had just been an employee with delusions and my ex-employer has since gone on to be very successful.  I’ve paid a lot for all of my failures.  Those are just the professional failures.

That’s not me feeling sorry for myself, I mean I obviously am feeling very sorry for myself at this moment (and I assure you it won’t last for too long), but that is a list of facts.  You can put a good spin on all of those professional experiences and explain how they helped me grow, how they were all opportunities to become better and wiser and smarter and more successful.  But the fact is that I keep racking up those opportunities and think I’m learning and growing and becoming stronger and smarter and the fact is, I never reach a single goal I set for myself.  Where is the “I worked my ass off and look how far I’ve come!”  or “All those hours I put in and finally I’m where I wanted to be!”.  Those aren’t moments I’ve had.

To get this far with the book and to not be capable of taking a step further?  That is the worst failure I’ve ever experienced.

I am fully demoralized.

People say to wait.  Give it time.  Take a break.  But what for?  Why?  What will that accomplish if I have reached the limit of my writing skills and talent?

The Importance of Readers

I have written a book.

Two people have read the book.

I have received their notes and the assessment has begun.

Both of my readers liked the book but their questions, the strengths they perceived, the weaknesses they detected, and the things that resonated were different, except where they met.

One thing is certain:  everyone LOVES Shockey Robbins.  Though no one could possibly love him more than I do.  Only two people have read the entire book but quite a few people have read through the first three chapters.  It is gratifying to me that everyone loves Shockey.  He came to me as one of those complete fictional and necessary beings, not comfortable, but real and with a backwards charm that comes from god knows where.

I knew I couldn’t approach the third draft without outside perspective.  Everyone kept telling me it was me who needed to back off and take some time to let the story breath.  Get some distance.  Take a break.  What I really felt was that there was no way for me to see the problems at this point because I have become so damn close, so enmeshed that I fill in all the details as I proof that maybe other people need but I don’t notice they’re still only in my head and not on the page.  I knew I needed other eyes.

Emma and Lucy did this honor and I will try to express how much it means to me that they were willing to take on the first readings.  This, I realized after I got both of their notes, can’t be easy.  Writers are known to be a pretty sensitive lot.  Who wants to  be the person to say “Hey, this isn’t bad, but how come your head is up your ass?” and be the cause of a whiskey bender of mythic proportions?  When I gave them the book I was confident that I could take whatever they had to dish.  I think you just know when it’s time to set a work free to other eyes.  It was time.

Still, I was unprepared to feel as stripped as I did.  Some of this feeling is for reasons too personal to even say out loud.  I got both their notes the same day.  That night I felt weirdly naked even though neither of them said anything alarming or unhelpfully critical.  My two friends were both incredibly thoughtful and diplomatic.  I realized that this is just one more part of the process of writing a book.  I have always cringed when writers talk about a book as a baby but I understand the analogy now.  It’s a creation, it’s something you spend an inordinate amount of hours working on, labouring over, investing everything of yourself in (hopefully), and then you let it go.

You let it go and suddenly it is a thing.  A thing that exists outside yourself.  It’s a thing that isn’t just an excited conversation you have with your friends about what you’re up to.  It has a life of its own when it leaves you and enters someone else’s head.

If you’ve never written a book before this will be new to you.  This was new to me.  The work of over a year, largely done in private, always in my head.  It’s just weird.  Having readers give you notes on it is like getting a report card for your kid.  It doesn’t really matter what the grades are, it’s a little unnerving to know your kid has to live his or her own life and have complicated relationships you won’t be part of.

Maybe this part of the process won’t interest others but I record it here because it interests me and I wish that I could dig into the intimate process of writing a book as other writers experience it.

I think it’s really important that you choose readers who you trust as people.  Whose opinions you already know you respect.

After reading both sets of notes the fact that I had them to compare to each other was a big help.  They each had a different take, a different perspective.  The thing I most wanted and needed to know was what needs the most revision in the whole book.  Which chapter, or aspect, is the roughest.  It was immediately obvious to me that anything my readers mutually agreed on as needing work is not to be ignored.

Both Emma and Lucy agreed on this:

They want the story to go DEEPER.

With regards to both plot and character motivations/characterizations.  This is something I felt I needed to do as I was writing but was so focused on getting a complete working plot and decent dialog that I didn’t feel I could go too deep yet.  When I finished the last chapter I felt it was too short.  I knew from word count I had plenty of room to develop the plot and characters better.  So everyone agrees.

That’s my biggest broadest goal for the third draft, to go deeper.

Next I used their diverging opinions to come up with a blueprint for the tackling of smaller, but not less important details.  Lucy thought Cricket was unlikable and unrealistic because I show her to be really pragmatic but then have her acting in obstinate irrational ways.  Emma loved Cricket and understood her character and motivations really well.  Lucy’s questions about her character have got me doing some really good thinking.  For two days now I’ve been considering Cricket’s nature and her actions and asking myself why – why does she refuse to listen to any of her friends who are trying to help her?

The answer I came up with was instinctual.  Cricket, in spite of a pragmatic nature, won’t let her friends help her pay off her big financial tax debt because then she’d be in their debt too much.  She would feel beholden to them in an untenable way.  Why?

I will take food, temporary shelter, clothes, and pin money from friends in times of great need.  A year ago when we kept getting to the point of no money in the bank on a Friday, not particularly desperate by desperate standards, more than one friend gave me beer money.  I accepted it as the warm and thoughtful offering it was.

I wouldn’t allow any of my friends to discharge any large amount of money on my behalf.  No matter what my trouble was.  I’ll take the necessities but I will not let any friend pay my mortgage, I wouldn’t let any friend pay a chunk of money down on my house to lower my mortgage.  This is essentially what Cricket’s friends are offering.  It is, to her, unethical to take large sums of money from anyone but closely related family.  Cricket’s close family are all dead.

These are important things to know.  To be able to explain.  It might not be likable and I can understand Cricket being hard for some people to sympathize with.  Part of the issue, and something Lucy pointed out, is that I don’t take full advantage of the potential for internal dialog to explain why Cricket makes the choices she does.  This is a fact.  I am not actually all that much like Cricket myself, she is who I wish I was, but we do have some things in common and those things I take for granted are obvious.

They are not.

So I am taking both Lucy and Emma’s thoughts on Cricket and her motivations (Emma had a lot more questions about the nature of Cricket’s relationship with her parents) and I’m coming to some point in the center because readers at large are a whole lot of individuals who are going to all have their own perspectives but I want to aim for the most amount of people to understand Cricket and what drives her because I love her so much and wish I had half her spirit.

Another point that it’s clear I need to work harder on is: A Sense of Place and Time.

Again, Lucy and Emma had very different reactions to the question of when this story takes place.  What’s clear to me is that there needs to be a little better anchoring in time and place sooner than I establish it in the second draft.  I refuse to declare a specific year that my story takes place.  It’s in the future between 60 to 100 years from now.  There is no catastrophic event that leads to the end of oil supplies.  I don’t believe we’re going to have an Apocalypse.  I believe we’ll just slowly drain our resources until there just is none left for the average person.  This is speculative fiction so it’s how I imagine it’s going to go down.  This is how I imagine my community is going to be when we don’t have access to gasoline anymore.

I don’t intend this book to be a heavy political commentary.  I don’t intend it to be a big speech about what our wicked ways will reap.  It’s a fictional story about how I imagine my community will be down the road when there’s no money for the consumption we’re used to now.  When manufacturing isn’t completely over but everything is really costly so you have to make hard choices about what you’re going to buy.  This is about what happens when there’s no middle class anymore.

Place and Time.  Every novel needs to anchor the reader in place and time.  I have missed my mark a little.  While I don’t want to write a heavy handed cautionary tale for fat capitalist consumers, I want readers to understand that this slow demise has transformed the simplest of activities into more strategically difficult ones.  Between Emma and Lucy’s take on Place and Time (I capitalize that for emphasis) I see where I need to fall and I’m not sure how to achieve it.  But I will.

My first chapter really needs some radical change.

A lot more needs to be accomplished with it and I am starting to see, now, how I might achieve it.  I need to let this all percolate a little longer.  My head is swimming with the notes, digesting them, putting them in context, considering them against the immutable aspects of my story.

I am motivated to make Cricket and Grey a piece of great writing.  I am not so concerned about writing the great American novel, nor do I expect to write a Pulitzer winner, but what I do expect of myself is that anyone can pick up my book, read it, and regardless of whether they really like my style or not, recognize a piece of well written fiction.

The way I feel about Bukowski and Steinbeck, both of whose style I LOATH but whom I respect deeply for their skill and brilliance.

The best thing about having these valuable notes is that some of my worst fears have been laid to rest.  Neither of my readers seemed to think the dialog was reprehensible and neither thought this story a paltry embarrassing romance.  Things I didn’t to believe I’d created but which I deeply feared.  Maybe I should trust myself a little more not to create a bodice ripper out of a genuine story of growth out of grief and partnership with friendship.

I’ve got a lot of ground to cover with the third draft and I wouldn’t even know where to begin if it weren’t for Lucy and Emma.

Ladies: It’s such a privilege to have your help with my first novel.  I promise not to go on a whiskey-sodden bender.  I’m encouraged, energized, and percolating my next move madly!

Cricket and Grey: inspecting writing style

As I was looking for bits of Cricket and Grey to illustrate and take a closer look at my writing style I was surprised to discover that it flows more easily than I thought between the light and dark – it’s more consistent than I realized.  There is a lot more harsh contrast in Jane Doe, which is, admittedly, a much darker story in the first place.  Still, there’s the alternating POV which is apparently typical of me.

It is useful to look at smaller bits next to each other.  If anyone reads these bits I’d like to know if you think the tone is fairly consistent or if you feel there’s a contrast, and if there’s a contrast – would you prefer it was smoother?  Do you wish it was only from one point of  view?

Please excuse the formatting, it doesn’t translate perfectly from Word documents pasted into WordPress.

From Chapter Four:

(ignore the awkwardness of the first sentence which flows naturally from the previous one I haven’t included for brevity’s sake)

Or it would have been if it weren’t for the sight of Peter’s daughter completely covered in dirt, standing like a soldier at the mouth of the hole her father’s body lay in, intentionally not looking at the Federal officer who was saying something to her that Grey couldn’t hear but which he could see made her stiffen like a fox listening to a forest of noise for the one mouse who moves soundlessly beneath the carpet of damp rusted leaves coming closer and closer to the predator’s teeth.  When she threw the punch she wasn’t a youth anymore; the wee daughter of an old accomplice and dear friend; she grew in stature all at once so that what had seemed the body of a youth became a charged vessel of movement; not encumbered with a large bosom her body was still a grown woman’s with fleet curves and arms a powerful arrow thrown straight and sharp and true.  The daughter had her father’s artful violence.

It wasn’t straightforward after that.  Grey’s motivations became a tangle of virtues and vices.  When Cricket was driven down the hill into town and locked up for assaulting a federal officer he stayed and helped the old man bury their mutual friend under Hesse’s emotionless watch, and if he was a gambling man, Grey would have bet Hesse was disappointed not to have had occasion to shoot someone that morning.  They spoke little and worked hard.  Vultures communed silently up near the tips of the pines and tall maples surrounding the clearing where the men worked their shovels; birds of hunger hoping for something, a scrap of flesh and bone, or maybe even just bone, a sliver of marrow for mother bird; even while the scent of the body faded under the weight of soil they circled in miserable hope.

When the grave was filled and their friend done at last, whether to rest or no was no longer their concern.  The old man was agitated, puzzling his grimy fingers over the many folds and dirty edges of his mangled baseball cap of which he had several, identical to the one he worried with his hands on there in the clearing.  Grey was fond of the old man and let him chew a long speech out until he’d exhausted his ability to make no sense and at last came to the point.  He couldn’t let the girl go to prison.  Lord knew she never had no lid for that temper of hers and if he weren’t so worried about what now, for crissakes, he’d almost have to admire her balls.  Still, there aint no doubt she’d be laid out in prison and he had to think on some scheme to help her.  But here, Shockey exhausted his words and still had no solution.

As nonchalantly as possible Grey promised the old man that he wouldn’t let Cricket go to prison.  He knew what to do but when Shockey asked him what he planned he was less than clear, hoping to stave curiosity off with a vague assurance that he had something Smith might want more than Cricket.  He was as good as his word.  He was no fool and knew that it was a temporary fix at best, but buying time and dropped charges weren’t bad for a start.

Excerpt from Chapter Five:

Every morning for a week after the wake I woke to complete and utter silence, something I was used to even when my parents were alive, but it was different that week.  Something I couldn’t see had come loose in my life, something dark and territorial.  I slept with my M&P next to me, waking at every deviation in the air current, every displaced noise, every change of light.  No one visited, not for a stitch or a salve.  Death is like a magic repellant; no one knows how to talk to you after you’ve buried someone; no one knows how to look at you once the liquor is drained and the music stops.  I worked in the uneasy quiet, preparing for the influenza that would hit the county like a hammer soon enough.  I also took stock so that I’d be prepared when the tax bills came.  I inventoried everything I had, everything I owned; carefully sorting so that I could sell anything worth selling if I had to.  I had an idea where I might be able to get decent prices for my herbal medicines in bulk but until I got the bill I had no idea what I was dealing with.  I filed all the paperwork from the burial and cleaned out the rest of my father’s files while I was at it.

You never really know a person until you’ve gone through their personal effects when they’re dead.  I never went through my mother’s things.  I don’t know if father did either.  I lived most of my life between the cottage and the cabin and never knew the back corner of my parents’ closet.  I guess I’d spent so much time with my father outdoors and studying at school that I never had the time or the curiosity to rummage through their secret drawers and boxes stowed in the backs of dusty shelves where fusty stacks of necrotic photographs of people I’d never met practically crumbled in my hands.

I opened boxes full of strange treasures that had no intrinsic value but seemed precious merely for the careful keeping of them; ribbons stained beyond pleasure or use, small pieces of slate – the kind a child picks up at the shore, beads long separated from their original settings, abused bits of frequently folded and unfolded paper notes – a few of them obviously sent through our own pigeon post (who knows how long ago?), a tiny ivory carved crucifix that felt like real tusk, a curious broken piece of china with the most exquisite deep pink rose painted on it.  Such were the remnants unearthed.  No narrative to tell me their meaning, to divine their place in my mother and father’s lives, or mine.  This wasn’t my life.  I felt disconnected again, as though my parents had lived their lives in harmony and unison together while I just tagged along, separate, alone.  It was irrational.  I had always felt loved.  I had always felt enclosed between them.  Why should their deaths untether me so that I floated like a stranger through this familiar landscape like a temporary guest?

When a small stack of photographs drifted like ghosts from the shelf above me where I sat examining the sum of my parent’s lives, I tried catching them in my hands but they landed instead, like angels of deliverance, all around me.  I’d never met evil in my own house before.  I’d never really met evil at all, just bad men and women too selfish to bother with their consciences, but I’d never met a force completely without one.  I picked up the photograph closest to my hand.  It felt dirty before I even made out what I was looking at, the quality of the photograph was clinical the way hardcore pornography is; emotionless skin, graphic, detailed shots of flesh so aggressively sexual they become inhuman, nothing more than objects in space.  It was a woman’s torso.  Dark bruising mottled it but the bruising was made ridiculous, almost childish compared to the deep burns scrawled across the lower abdomen in angry letters that spelled out the word “gift”.

Excerpt from Chapter 7:

There is nothing my temper loves better than company.  I pushed out of my chair too, we shouted at each other across the table accusations ridiculous, unproductive, and painful.  After a stupid amount of yelling passed across the old thick wood dinner table my father made with his own hands Julie stood up and with a surprising amount of authority shut us both up.  This is why I love her.  She is everything soft, warm, feminine.  You can balance a tankard on her breasts and her soft light brown curls are so sensual they catch men in the tangled up-swept twists she contrives from twigs and pencils.  She is pliant with the ones she loves until they piss her off.  Tom and I have the gift of knowing how to reach the limits of Julie’s generously forgiving nature so that she rises up like a harmless sweet kitten that suddenly grows into a tiger; she managed to shove us both back into our seats smoking with temper but slave to her authority.

“You’re both giving me a headache!  Shut up!  Have some more wine.  You’re both wound so tightly it makes me wonder if you’re getting enough sex in your lives.  No, don’t answer; you’ll only lie to me.”  She took a couple of sips of wine before continuing.  “There is clearly much to be discussed between you and me, Kit.  But you, Tom, you have no authority here.  You just want to wrap all women up in your cotton gauze and prevent them from being who they need to be.  I miss the old mischievous brother who liked a woman with her own mind and a sense of adventure.  How long has it been since you’ve rejoiced in a bit of trouble?  How long since you’ve seen the humor in the ridiculous?  Pffft!”  Tom had opened his mouth to speak but closed it again.  “I know.  You’ve become a man with responsibilities but Kit isn’t yours to protect.  So back off!”  This had the effect of a slap across Tom’s face

He tightened his mouth and sat back in a tense posture of pretend relaxation.

All three of us sat in silence, listening to the crackling and the falling of logs in the woodstove.  It wasn’t late but it was dark as coal outside.  Tom got up to feed the fire just as the kitchen French doors flew open and Grey burst through them with the wrath of at least three God’s riding on his shoulders, and while they appeared capable of bearing much weight, I thought it was a bit much to come swirling himself and his uncalled for wrath uninvited through my kitchen.

Julie and I stood up with surprise as he rushed towards me and practically yelled at me “Are you actually trying to get yourself killed?!”  I asked him what the hell he was talking about and he, towering himself over me in the most menacing manner he could (which was pretty impressive, actually), said that I must have a death wish if I was so willing to throw myself away working as an armed guard for Malakai.  At this both Julie and Tommy surged forward with urgent questions and though it may have been the light of the lamps, I could have sworn they both went bone pale.

“Is it true?!” Tommy demanded.

I’d already forgotten I’d given Grey as a reference to Malakai.  The truth is I didn’t think Malakai would actually check up on my reference.  Do crime bosses usually do that?  I guess they did.  I pretended to be very calm about it all even though my heart was beating a little fast.

“Yes, it’s true.”  All three of them were bearing down on me with shock, incredulity, and anger.  It’s queer to have almost everyone you know mad at you.  They were all speaking at once and I was trying to figure out how to bolt like a cornered fox but there was no hole to disappear into.  Grey’s voice and his anger were the loudest.

“This is madness Cricket!  You can’t do this!”  He said, grabbing my wrist in a hard grip pulling me towards the garden doors.

“Let go of me.” I said with a low growl.  “Have you no words left?”

“I do and you’ll hear them right now, outside!”  He was still near shouting and at last Tommy was spurred into action and stepping forward demanded that Grey let go of me.  Here was a piece of irony not lost on me: the only time Tommy is inspired into an act of chivalry on my behalf is over a man who’s been more chivalrous to me in a few weeks than Tom has been to me my whole life.  Grey was still pulling me towards the door and I tried again to pull my wrist out of his grip, without success.  Under different circumstances I would have had no trouble twisting myself out of his grasp, a surprise left hook would have done the trick but for some reason I’ll never understand I didn’t.

“You can say whatever you need to right here.” I said challengingly.

“Let go of her Bonneville!” Tommy was squaring his shoulders up for emphasis.  “You have no right to tell Cricket what she can and can’t do.”  Julie objected to this accusing Tom of doing the same thing not five minutes earlier and told him to shut up.

Grey didn’t answer to Tommy; instead he was boring into me with his furious glare and said “You gave me as your goddamn reference.  What the hell are you about?”

“I need the job.” I said, evenly returning his stare.

“Don’t you value yourself at all?” he said a little more quietly.  “What would your father think?” it was the home question.  It was like receiving a knock in the chest.  I wanted to tell them all to shut up, to get out.  How dare anyone ask me what my father would think?  Underneath the flare of anger was pain, just a terrible pulling pain because I no longer knew what my father would have thought.  I no longer knew my father at all.  How was I supposed to let go of grief if I didn’t even know who I was grieving for?  If I could just pay off my debt I could move on, I would have the leisure to ask myself what my father would have thought.  I’d be able to grieve in my own home.  If I let any of these people help pay the bill there would be a stain on my conscience, a part of my life I’d never own.  I could feel my eyes water.  Grey missed nothing, of that I was sure.  I didn’t allow it to pool over, I didn’t allow myself to cry, but I was glad not to be facing anyone but Grey at that moment of weakness.

At last I answered with a very steady voice “Maybe he would be proud to have his daughter follow in his footsteps.”  His grip on my wrist slackened but he didn’t let go.  I don’t know how long we stood there.  It felt as though I’d shot an arrow in the dark and hit something I couldn’t see, couldn’t recognize, and it was bleeding into the dark, maybe getting contaminated while we stood there challenging each other, trying to let go of the anger, of the whatever crazy shit kept wedging itself into the air around us.  It revolved around my father.  Everything seemed to revolve around Peter Winters, as I suppose it always had.

“I told you I had an offer to make them.”  It was a lame way to break the silence.

“It never occurred to me you’d offer to run guard.”  It wasn’t over yet and the quiet was kind of oppressive.

“From what Malakai says, he could use better guards.  He says he loses one guard on average for every ambush on the road.  I’m a better soldier than that.  Jesus, I thought he hired tough thugs.”  The look Grey gave me now was curious, a strange opening of his expression as though I’d cracked a coconut and spilled the milk on his shoe and asked him to lick it up.  I could feel Julie and Tom shifting behind me.  I could feel words trying to be spoken, thoughts trying to be articulated.  “Maybe you should teach me the ropes.  This is what you do.  This is your life, Bonneville.”

“Grey.” It was a reflexive correction he shot off without thinking.  “Alright.”  He said.  Tom shot forward again and this time pushed himself between me and Grey, shoving us apart, breaking Grey’s hold on my wrist which made me feel suddenly as though I was emptied out and cold.

“You’re as mad as she is!” he accused uselessly.  “I thought you weren’t going to let her do this?”  Somehow Tom looked like a belligerent boy next to Grey, there was something so milky about him in spite of his height that I’d not noticed until that moment as I watched them closely.

“You were right, Martin, I had no right to tell her what she can and can’t do.”  It was a simple admission of defeat.  He was stepping down, but cleverly, leaving Tom suspicious and floundering.  I wanted to tell Tom to just pick a position and stick with it.  His motivations were as plain as day.  He felt he had a right to tell me what I should do but didn’t think anyone else shared that right now that my father was dead.  I felt a wisp of my old affection for him kicking at my gut, where it hurt.  He cared, that was all.  I think Tom wanted a fight, something to diffuse his own confused feelings.  I kind of wanted a fight myself and it didn’t really matter who with, just a good old punching brawl to let the electricity drain from my tense muscles.

Excerpt from Chapter 16:

There was no room in the bed for a rope.  Between the bleak spread of photographs curling up at the edges soiled from too many hands, the Remington 22 still smoking across the damp pillow, the shrouding unrolling off the edge to the floor where it spread like rippling sunlit water, and the bodies.  All the bodies.  Kit took the edge of the shrouding and picked at the threads with her pale shaking fingers until she’d pulled it enough to start the tear with her teeth.  This is what you do when you have no scissors and no rope.  Once she’d wound the selvedge edge around her fingers a couple times she tore at it more frantically, faster, because there was no rope for this.  No rope.  Of all the things in the world missing from this night it had to be rope.  Even a single antique shoe, the kind she’d seen in the museum, had found it’s way onto the floor like a lost kitten, sweet and small buttons for the tiniest feet, cracked black leather crying out for polish, anything, but no rope.  The length of selvedge grew and as it grew she began to see more clearly.  This is the way it has to be she chanted under her breath.  This is right.  This is how it must be.  He’ll come looking for my neck and he’ll want to see it like this because it’s what he’ll expect in a world with rules and law and justice and light.  This is the way to bring light.  This is the way it has to be.

“We have come to watch.” Mairead said, gesturing graciously at the linen strip curling and pooling at Cricket’s feet, rolling off the edge of the bed, snaking into the shadows of the room.  “This is the way it has to be, as you say.  Please, don’t keep us all waiting, child.” So Cricket tore the strip from the shrouding and doubled it, tripled it, and tied it to the black iron hook fixed into the ceiling on her tip toes because she could barely reach it and they were all watching.  Peter approached and kindly, gently, helped his daughter tie a strong noose to the hook.  “You didn’t fit, Bairn, butI loved you in my way.”  He said backing off.  “I know, daddy.” She said as she fit her head through it and prepared herself.  Her face was flecked with beads of sweat and when everyone exhaled she shot them, one after another.  Again and again until the magazine was empty.  “You’ve got to stop killing me Kit.  You’ve got to move on now.  Why hasn’t anyone taken away her guns?” but it was all just bodies.  Kit removed the noose and fell to her knees on the bed.  On the photographs, the shrouding, and she said “I’m so sorry mama!  I only know how to kill you.”  and shot her mother again.

More from Chapter 16:

Jack, with his loose curls tied back, was busy in the kitchen getting ready to take care of the animals which required a hearty breakfast and was surprised to see his love drag herself into the kitchen so early.  She worked very hard on the days she worked and consequently indulged in some sleeping in on her days off.

“What are you doing up, Mouse?” he asked her affectionately crossing the floor to greet her with a brief affectionate kiss before pulling out a chair for her and busying himself filling a mug of tea.  “This is too early for you.”

“I couldn’t sleep anymore.” She said.

“Was it Homer who woke you?” he asked, pushing the mug of tea across the table to her.

“Good god, no!  I’m so used to his crowing I could sleep through him announcing the apocalypse I’m sure.  I think I’m just worried about Grey.” She said.

“Why?  Would you like some sugar, darling?” he asked.

“I always want some sugar, honey, but stop throwing me your little funnies.  I don’t know why.  I guess I’m just worried he doesn’t know what he’s getting into.” She said.

“And what’s that?  The dangerous line of work he’s in?  That the feds seem to be closing in?  Or that he’s fallen head over heels for Peter’s girl?” he asked.

“The last one.” She said wrapping graceful hands around her warm mug.

“Don’t you like her?” Jack asked, a little surprised.

“Yes.  I do.  It’s just that I’m afraid she’s a little unreachable.  I guess I’m afraid she’s going to hurt him. There’s a quality about her.  Like she’s going to evaporate, or like she wants to, I don’t know.  There’s just something disconnected about her and Grey has never been so… so.”  She trailed off, partly because she was rarely so talkative in the morning, let alone up, but also because she’d never tried to articulate what their friend and colleague was.  She liked Cricket but was uncomfortable with the way she was so quiet and had a kind of silky drift to her spirit.  Natalie wasn’t into poetics but when she tried to describe Cricket she found herself sounding almost gothic and it was stupid.  She would way rather not commit such stupidity to the air.  “You were right, in any case.  They’re besotted.”

“As I am with you, Mouse.” He said affectionately before setting a plate of breakfast before her.

“Are you serious?  Ugh.  I love you with all my heart, Stallone Pantone, but I cannot eat eggs before six in the morning.”

Jack shrugged and ate the eggs himself and when, at length, he was done in the kitchen he came round the table and gave his wife and affectionate kiss and a bit of a feel which she invited him to finish in the bedroom but he said, with regret that the horses and chickens wouldn’t wait for him to make love to his wife and she should, in future, make these invitations at an earlier hour.

Your Light is Equal to Your Dark

This broadcast is brought to you completely by chance and my inability to go to sleep now that Philip is back from New York and I’m perfectly free to go to sleep and not be a sick single parent.   This physique and brain are perverse and as soon as I am off duty I can’t calm down, sleep, relax, or shut the brain faucet off.

Philip has been in New York Since Saturday night and returned in the wee hours last night.  I’ve gotten up for four mornings in a row and navigated the crabby child through his ablutions (rituals) while swallowing knives and gasping for air because I have the delightful seasonal disease whose flavor is:

chest cold with hard acceleration to bronchitis

shortness of breath

tightness of chest


sore throat (the knives!)

Anyway, I say this every single time, I’ll say it again: single parenting SUCKS and I take my hat off to all you amazing people who have done it successfully.

In addition to the usual joys of raising a kid who has a difficult relationship with food and the world, this week has seen Max landed in the principal’s office for singing a verse or two of the Weird Al Yankovic song about being fat to a couple of kids who (apparently) are a little on the largish side.

Plus he had the flat out audacity to deny that I am myself fat and might take offense at having a Weird Al song directed at my corpulence.

This was a hard sell since I could barely keep a straight face in trying to take this whole thing seriously.  I mean, what he did was NOT NICE but hardly constitutes more than an insensitive barb being thrown at a couple of kids.  And it was WEIRD AL YANKOVIC.

I am so fixated on the fact that my kid is into Weird Al that there is no way I could take offense at having his fat song sung right in my face.

And this is why my kid is going to end up in jail and be a very bad person.  Because I fail to take this as seriously as the principal did.

Please believe that I did have a very long and serious talk with Max about how his actions must have made the largish kids feel.

It used to take throwing punches to get sent to the principal’s office when I was a kid.  You know what kids do?  They tease each other and hurt each other’s feelings.  You know who’s kids have never done that?

The number is too small to even record.  EVERY KID DOES THIS AT SOME POINT OR ANOTHER.  EVERY KID.

I have much more serious problems to worry about with my kid than him being insensitive via Weird Al.  So excuse me if I have a hard time feeling as horrified as I should.  It’s kind of like when Max comes home and tells me that a kid called him an idiot.  I say “Well, are you an idiot?” and Max tells me he’s not an idiot, he’s smart.  So I ask him what difference it makes to him if some kid tells him he’s an idiot if Max knows for himself that he’s not?  The point is that the kid has stuck him with a barb meant to hurt him and it worked but it is nothing more and there are two things Max can ask himself in any similar situation:

Is the insult true?  If so, perhaps it indicates something he can work on.  If it isn’t then it’s nothing.  Max must let it go.  Max must know his own worth.

Then I tell him his worth because that’s my job.  And because I love him.

I’m having a little writing crisis.  I just started the third draft and am not sure if my first chapter is even necessary.  Three damnable people have mentioned “taking a break” and I rail and scream and pound the walls because I’m on fire with this goal, with the mountain being half climbed, with being closer to realizing my life’s potential than I have ever been before and I don’t want to take a step back.  I want to work.  I want to blaze through it.

What I want is someone else’s perspective but everyone I know who could give me the kind of perspective I need is too busy to read right now.  So Philip (one of the damnable people) has asked if he can read the second draft.  I have to say I’m a little scared to let him read it.  He’s actually an amazing editor but I don’t need an editor yet.  There’s also this terror that he won’t like it, that he’ll think it’s crap.  After eighteen years of being married to him I still want him to be impressed with what I can do.  Aside from my awesome ability to get fat and alienate people.  Letting someone read your second draft is like-

You know, I can’t finish that sentence because at this hour the only expressions that come to mind are all coarse and inappropriate in one way or another.

Raw.  A second draft is still raw.  Not as much as the first one.  Once you get this far it isn’t daunting to do another draft.  Once you get this far you are so invested in your work it’s a matter of great pride to make the work of so many hours better than you thought you could make it.  I feel the push in myself to make it count because I might die of this pestilent new year.  Pulled muscles, strep throat, bronchitis, fatigue, and more of the same muscle getting pulled again and again- I’m not so robust this year.

It’s okay.  The main thing is to get a better version of this novel written before I kick it.

I haven’t even gotten to mention the scary-strong garlic and greens soup my mother made for us.  A truly healing soup (it tasted like medicine) because she’s had bronchitis for a month.  Plus vertigo.

Plus my dog wants to kill her cats.

Her dog wants to eat our house.

It’s all going to be fine.  I feel almost certain that I won’t die until I’ve taken my novel past the raw stage.

Thank god for child psychologists.

The kid is going to the pediatrician to discuss medications.  Not for the ADD but for the OCD.  Yes, it’s come to this.  I know how a lot of people feel about medicating children for anything mental.  If my kid had diabetes no one would suggest I withhold insulin from him but these brain issues scare the crap out of people.  Lots of people don’t even believe they’re real.

There are a lot of people who still think ADD is a euphemism for a rowdy child who just needs a firm hand and a parent who isn’t too lazy to keep them “under control”.  I am feeling a lot of anger at such people lately.  There is no longer any excuse for people to “not believe” in mental illness and mental disorders.  Pictures of the brain are proving a lot of things psychologists and neurologists and doctors have been theorizing about for years.

Max’s psychologist told us that strep throat makes OCD symptoms much worse and sometimes makes previously undiagnosed OCD present itself.  Why?  How strange!  How improbable!  He says that strep throat affects the part of the brain that controls the same functions that are affected by OCD.  It’s too bad I can’t explain it like he did.  It’s totally fascinating.  He says they’ve got images of brain activity during strep infections that prove this.

I’m going to have to deal with my anger over the rampant ignorance about mental disorders in some way.  I imagine I’ll hash it out here, like I always do.

My heros are all the people who have mental disorders and have no shame, discuss it openly, let it be a part of their everyday story, who share out loud and foster understanding and brave ridicule and censure to bring light into the still medieval views so many people have about brain function.  My heros are all the people who live with mental illness, who get through each day so that they can help others through the turgid waters of mental dysfunction to find their gifts.

There is a median for everything, a spectrum for normalcy that includes a median along which most people lie, but which has infinite variation.  We all fit on there somewhere.  Not normal is on either end of the spectrum with the averages falling closest to the middle.  No matter who wants to believe there is no such thing as “normal” or “abnormal”, there is.  But it doesn’t have to be a negative thing.

Those who daily have to struggle through a quagmire of inefficient brain function, often rendering their experience (and therefore their expression of) the world dark and dangerous, have in them the ability to effervesce with a corresponding light.

However dark your darkness, your light is equal.

Irreverence and the Bottom Line

Strep is a bitch and a pain and now that I’ve got that out of the way I’ll endeavor to remember what I really started this post to say.  Perhaps it was to confess that now that I like 4 whole Coldplay songs I’m going to have to start calling myself a fan.  No, that wasn’t it.  It’s damnably difficult to write a good kiss in fiction.  I’m pretty sure I meant to say that, but not yet, not right now.

I’m on the 16th chapter of my novel.  I have only 19 chapters total.  I’m in the home stretch.  I was definitely going to say that but I think I was actually going to shout it, first here, and then from my back yard so I could rouse all the cats and dogs in the neighborhood into a satisfying clamor.

I like irreverence and I like the bottom line but nothing in between.

I AM the bottom line most days.

Just counted words so far: 82,182

A number any obsessive compulsive can appreciate.

Projected total number of words: 100, 782.

Arrived at with a minimum of scientific attention.

I expect to reach that number by Friday.

I want to run through the streets yelling like a madwoman all the things that run through my head all day long.

Please don’t be offended if you’re a close personal friend of mine but it’s a fact that if you and I are anywhere near close friends then you’re mad as fucking hell and most certainly would have spent time in a sanatorium with me in the 1920’s.  I am not truly close to any genuinely mentally stable people.  Not a single one.  And don’t think I don’t know mentally stable people, because I do.  I’m just not close to them.

“Fuck you” is a very rude statement.  Or exclamation, if you prefer.  Yet I can’t deny how satisfying it is to say.  Every time I throw a fist into the air and give my war-cry I punctuate it with a resounding “Fuck you!”.  I understand that this is repugnant to many gentle people, but what I want to know is, what do you say that is equivalent to this?  And if you say something that measures up in sentiment then how could it possibly be more acceptable than my choice phrase?  If the feeling behind the words is the same then it isn’t the words that are objectionable but the sentiment.  Right?  Or wrong?

If you say “Curse you!” instead of “Fuck you!” is it not the same thing?  And if you say “Smudge you!” is not your heart expressing the same damnation to me as if you said “Fuck you!”?

Personally, if I believed in God I would have to credit him with enough wit to know that words are words but what’s in a person’s heart is what matters and if you take away the words “Fuck you!” and make them wrong to say, a person will still sometimes have that fuck you feeling and find a fresh way to express it because people’s feelings are generally irrepressible.

Which if I’m being totally honest, is one of the most charming things about us.

I’m trying to give Cricket and Grey a little moment of peace for courting and you have no idea how hard that is to do.

Because if I’m not careful I’ll make the whole book a blossom-drifting honeymoon just because I love them so much but my job as an author is to make them suffer enough for you to take an interest.

What does that say about you?

If you don’t like the tone of this post I suggest you direct your dissatisfaction at Coldplay, most specifically the following songs: “Yellow”, “Viva la Vida”, and “Clocks”.

Chapter sixteen of Cricket and Grey and this post are brought to you by those songs.

I think I need a wee break to watch “Downton Abbey”.

Or maybe I just stay up to write the rest of the chapter?

Can I pace myself and get done?

You know, I don’t think I can.  I think this is hell-for-leather time to the finish line.

Hell or high water.

I wonder what you all are biting the air to get finished, what are you all so excited about you can barely keep from exploding into a dirigible?

That thought is brought to you by my ten year old son who put a dirigible in a five page story he wrote because he wanted to.  Not for homework.  My little guy who has such a hard time writing (for practical reasons) is telling me about the books he’s going to write.  He’s proud to be the son of an artist and a writer and he works at both in his own violent style and it occurred to me today that he and Quentin Tarantino would have so much to talk about and while people (teachers, other parents) may feel shock at his zombie comics with all the severed heads and visceral pools of blood, I think the kid’s going to be alright.

As long as I can keep him alive to adulthood.

So I leave you now to go attend to the courtship of a pugilistic young woman who is learning not to feel alone.

It’s good to be a fictional character in my coterie.

I salute you.

Yes, you.

Last thought of the night: I tried to love a Waterman.

There you go.  My soul, emptied for your enjoyment.