Matthew and Epp

Writing Isn’t Always About Writing

Me too by alles-schlumpf from FlickrYesterday I started a new scene in Book 3. It wasn’t a natural continuation of any scene before it, it was an abrupt shift introducing a new character in a new setting who will, in a few more scenes, be engulfed by the main story line.

I managed to write this new character’s name down, then a sentence or two after that. Then I became completely and totally stuck. I knew nothing about this character. I knew nothing about her average day, or the color of her hair, or whether she likes to laugh or enjoys torturing puppies.

All I knew yesterday was that she existed.

That’s about as tiny an opening into a character’s world as you can get. You are aware of their presence, but that’s it. Usually you get a little more than that. You get flashes of what someone looks like, or you have an ear for their dialogue, or you know how their appearance effects the mood of a story. In those cases when you bring a character in for the first time it’s not too bad.

But every once and awhile you just know that a body with a conscious mind inside of it exists somewhere in the world of your story…and that’s all you get.

This is a terrifying situation to be in.

The amount of laboring that something like this presents is, I think, where the fear comes from. Every sentence has to be thought and rethought. Dialogue has to be held up to constant scrutiny (and generally during a first draft, anything held up to scrutiny gets pooped on). Since this character is appearing in a totally new setting that means that you’re going to have to come up with a bunch of new names and secondary characters, because odds are this character doesn’t sit around by herself until she enters into the main story line.

The entire life of a human has to be crafted out of nothing, and I mean nothing, simply because your brain tells you that it is time to switch to a new character.


And so I wrote a few sentences and then I stopped, because I had absolutely no freaking idea where to go with this person.

But then I had a thought. A very simple one. I thought, “Meh, I’ll be going back over this plenty and I’ll be thinking about it constantly. In a week I’ll know more about this character’s world than I ever thought possible.”

It’s important to remember that all of the stories that you’ve written right up to this very moment have been exercises in a craft. Because writing isn’t really about typing. Not always. Typing is the edge of the forest. Writing is what you’ve trained your brain to do. Writing is constantly sucking up information, throwing it together, filing away what you think works, and then doing it again and again and again. Writing is knowing how to approach a subject you know nothing about, and in a day be able to act like an expert at it.

Writing is creating a world as an additive process, so that even if you are terrified as you lay it down brick by brick, you will still be able to look back after a period of time and see that a structure has formed. Maybe it will still need a lot more work, but it will be there.

Her hair. What she eats. Who lives with her. What she’s doing when we first meet her.

These simple things are what I worked out over the course of last night while I was watching TV. I wasn’t trying to think about them, but I was writing even though I wasn’t typing, my brain was at work, and some decisions were made. And as I made those choices, they stuck, and they combined, and when I sat down to write her today I had an opening scene.

Never forget that you are always doing two things while you write. You are, obviously, creating whatever your work in progress is.

But you are also honing a craft. You are strengthening a muscle. You are training your brain to do tricks that you’ll be able to pull on for your next work.

You are always growing.

What’s in a Flashback

Sneaky super moon by theqspeaks from FlickrI am currently writing the story of Gregor. This tale contains nothing about when he was a human; it focuses on the hinted-at-story of how he tried to strike out on his own in the world of testers. This is touched on here and there in the first two books, something about how his work became such an integral part of the world that people such as Bram Stoker were able to make use of it.

But whatever could that mean?

And, it is also mentioned that Gregor’s work brought down the only official punishment ever meted out by The Council.

But whatever could that mean?

I also have a large story-line taking place in the present day.

And I have Epp as a human, which seems like a large section. Plus I have brief hints of Matthew, Madeline, Mary, and Bartleby as humans, which seem like brief little flashes of sections.

The thing is I have no idea how to fit any of this together. I keep moving forward with Gregor, and I keep coming up with things that make me laugh like an insane person, and those usually translate into really good scenes. But I have no idea why I’m telling Gregor’s story. It doesn’t want to dovetail with the present-day story.

And the present-day story is also shaping up to be really good. But it doesn’t want to be tied to Gregor’s story.

And then I start thinking really weird thoughts. The Gregor section is getting to be as big as the rest of what I have written so far. That’s part of what has me worried, Gregor’s section seems to be taking over and I’m not even sure I understand the point of it. But, and here’s where it gets weird to me, isn’t the point of writing a good story just just to write a good story? Isn’t that why I do this? Can’t I just have a few disparate story lines that are all interesting on their own? If they’re good they’re good, right?

I don’t know, but I feel like for a third book that would sort of be crap. If this story has nothing to do with anything at all, then it isn’t really a part of the series. So I’m obsessed with finding a common thread through all of this. I have some decent ideas for tying Gregor in. But why on earth we’d go back to hear Epp’s story is a bit beyond me. Unless…again…don’t we just tell stories for the sake of telling stories?

Why am I telling any of this story?

I mean, there are tons of episodes of shows or movies in a series that are heavy on the past just because that’s the story they’re telling.

Maybe I just feel inadequate. Like who am I to tell you that these characters are so interesting that you’ll want to know their past? Or, maybe if it’s written well enough, and I find enough of my mojo in these stories, and I cackle like a madman enough times, I’ll be able to say to myself, “Yes. This is worth handing on to my readers simply because it’s worth handing on  to my readers.”

Or maybe there’s more than three books.


Highbrow Pulp

Breezy Stories pin-up by Enoch Bolles by bollesbiggestfan1from FlickrI’ve mentioned Albert Berg (@albert_berg)on this website before. He’s written some of my favorite reviews of Probability Angels and Persistent Illusions, and he won a flash fiction contest I hosted a while back.

He is also the co-host, along with Tony Southcotte (@tsouthcotte), of the Human Echoes Podcast. Their podcast discusses a new horror movie every week. But that’s not really what the podcast is about. The podcast is about the conversations that these two guys have and the wide array, some might say baffling array, of topics they get into and the different viewpoints they both bring to the table.

I’ve definitely become a fan and you should click that link up there and listen to some recent episodes as well.

Anyway, a few weeks ago my name came up in the podcast and Albert was trying to describe my work to Tony. Part of the fun of listening is hearing the buoyant enthusiasm that Albert exudes when discussing books and movies, and it was a thrill to hear that enthusiasm come out because of something I had written.

Then, while trying to sum up my books to Tony, Albert suggested that they might be described as “Highbrow Pulp.”

I joke a lot on here about how hard it is for me to classify what I write into a genre. This is partly because artists are finicky weirdos and we don’t like to be lumped into genres, partly because the genres I do fit into are more or less overrun by soft-core porn,  and partly because I have a book where an undead samurai helps a Roman slave push Isaac Newton to come up with his theory of gravity…and that’s sort of hard to classify.

But the term Highbrow Pulp has stuck with me since hearing it on the HEPodcast, and I think I rather like it.

On the one hand, my literary heroes include Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Kerouac and Salinger. I don’t know how well I’m doing in following in their footsteps, but there’s a desire in me to write poetic prose, to pay attention to the language, to write scenes where everything is about mood or tone, to have plot lines that are barely sketched in the background, to capture something true about the world and life itself. And in the Matthew and Epp stories I find I’ve written some of my truest and heartfelt passages while taking viewpoints from a wider array of characters than I ever have before.

On the other hand, I’m writing books where an undead samurai in a bad suit fights zombies.

And I’m proud of both of those facts.

I think the definition of what “pulp” writing is will vary a lot from person to person, but for me it has no negative connotations. Oh, I know, there are cheaply produced books filling shelves out there that contain awful writing and trite plots and they have sex scenes shoehorned in, and a lot of people would define those as pulp. Not me, though. I define those as crap.

For me, pulp writing means detectives who like bourbon and dames, it means shoot-outs and plot twists, it means femme fatales and exotic locations.

It means writing that doesn’t take itself too seriously and lets the reader have some freaking fun.

For some people, meaning and fun are never found together.

There’s a mindset out there that I always find annoying that meaningful books must be dry and hard to understand and have nothing take place and be about whichever pop sociology happens to be in the headlines at the moment.

I’ve never understood this way of thinking.

What is it that you think is being captured with writing like that? Because it isn’t life. People smile in life. They laugh. Not all the time, no, but quite often, even in trying times and in horrible situations. Sometimes people are overcome with the bad times and life seems devoid of fun, but then they overcome being overcome.

All of the funerals I’ve been to have had a few smiles at them.

A lot of the worst things I’ve faced have resulted in me resolving to take life a little less seriously and focus on the simpler joys more often.

And those writers I listed earlier as my heroes? They might not write slapstick, but their stories do contain drunken idiots and misunderstood dialogue and jokes and some actions scenes and laughable situations.

They just also contain something deeper.

I don’t know that I aim to write pulp, but with this current set of books I am aiming to fit in as many classic movie monsters as I can. That sounds sort of pulpy.

But I’m also aiming to break your heart if possible, and to make you ponder your life if I can.

I don’t know.

Highbrow pulp.

I’ve heard worse descriptions.

Translation Questions

I received an email from a reader, Olga from Poland, today. Olga and I were emailing a lot a few months ago when she first read my books.

She actually won a signed copy for spotting a typo and sent me this photo to let me know that Probability Angels had found a good home.

Probability Angels goes to Poland

During the course of those emails she asked if it would be okay if she were to translate Probability Angels into Polish for practice; translating books is what Olga wants to do for a living.

My response was to jump up and down with excitement like a cartoon because that’s freaking COOL and then reply to her email with a kind, “Yes. And please send me any questions you come across.”

So today she sent me a couple of questions. I found them interesting and I thought I would share.

First question:

“You know, it’s been twenty-two years”, Matthew said, “you think it might be time for you to give me a little credit?” – it sounds silly, but did you mean credit literally – as if he wanted Epp to give him some currency, or credit as trust? I would go for the trust one, but I’m a little confused by Epp’s answer (“The smile disappeared from Epp’s face. “Not a chance”). Sounds kinda harsh if it’s about trust…

I can’t imagine how much trouble synonyms and homonyms and puns and all of that must cause for translators. I guess the larger phrase would be idioms? Words and phrases that have taken on whole new meanings from their original intent are extremely common and they are often used with zero thought given to the phrase’s original meaning. So when someone who is unfamiliar with the phrase hears it…it must just sound bonkers.

This is not an extreme example, Olga understands the nuances of the word credit, but it still got me thinking about idiomatic language.

I constantly try to purge my writing of idioms. They are lazy and they are easily misunderstood and whenever I find one I erase it and say what it means in original and plain language. But it’s difficult. Like I said, many idioms are so fixed in our heads that they don’t even register as idioms anymore.

The one exception here is dialogue. There are no rules for what comes out of a character’s mouth. None. That has always been my philosophy because in the real world there are no rules for what comes out of peoples’ mouths. Spoken communication is a baffling, mysterious, fluid, and amazing thing. I try to respect that.

Anyway, in this case Matthew is not using the word “credit” literally. He just wants some recognition for his 22 years of work. Epp, who knows that Matthew has not even begun working yet (he is still a newbie and not a tester) and who has been working for over 2,000 years, does not opt to give Matthew a whole lot of respect.

Second question:

2. “Epp shrugged, cool eyes never leaving Matthew. “They keep me in Zegna.” Epp extended a hand with the clipboard in it”. I have no idea what’s this Zegna. Couldn’t find it on the net either. Some help, please? 🙂

I’m actually amazed how many people don’t ask about this. I think maybe that Epp is so mysterious at this point that readers gloss right over this, expecting him to talk about things they don’t quite get. Maybe?

That’s all good, too, because I didn’t really mean for most readers to understand this.

These sorts of things, slipping in little bits of dialogue that aren’t meant to be grasped instantly, are one of the ways I entertain myself while writing. I’ve usually read and written and reread and rewritten a book so many times while working on it that I will literally start adding inside jokes with myself.

And with Probability Angels? Well, the incredibly quick pace at which that book was written resulted in some passages that appear astoundingly stark to me when I look them over today. At times I would barely scatter enough clues into a line of dialogue to let the reader know what was being discussed, let alone understand it, and then move on with zero explanation or rehashing of the topic.

I can remember when Matthew first asks Epp about being a slave and Epp responds, “My slave name, which I kept, is Epictetus, not Chicken George.”

And that was all I said!

Chicken George (to the best of my memory) is the name given to Kubla Kinte from the book, Roots, when he is first kidnapped from Africa and enslaved by Americans.

My point in this line of dialogue from Epp was to explain to Matthew that he was not an American slave, but a slave from ancient Rome.

This is gone into more later on in the book, but it is not really touched on much again during that initial conversation.

Even the notion that slaves were often renamed by their owners was never explained.


So, Zegna. Zegna is Epp referrering to Ermenegildo Zegna, an upscale men’s designer. When I was first creating Epp I wanted him dressed in an absolutely stunning suit. I asked around about who made the best suits in the world and was told about Zegna, and then once I looked at some of his stuff online I knew I had found Epp’s wardrobe.

If you want a sense of the man’s work, go here. Unfortunately it is hard to find photos of his stuff in the real world instead of on the runway. I can assure you, though, that Epp had zero trouble wearing Zegna’s clothes into Central Park and making them look good.

In that sentence Epp is telling Matthew that the work he puts in is enough to earn him very nice clothes. The connection between a tester’s work, their energy, how they can manipulate that energy, and their wardrobe, is gone into in much more detail later on in the books. Frankly, with Epp’s mastery of this world and the work he has put in as a tester, producing a nice suit is probably a trifling for him. But in this scene Epp is treating Matthew as the newbie he is and opts to gloss over the finer points of Matthew’s question and put it into material terms that Matthew will understand.

That was fun. And to think, I hated translating things in high-school…

Progress Without Milestones

ASDA Suede Notebooks - Stacked with Moleskine by pigpogm from FlickrWords continue to pile up for the first draft of book three. A title? That’s nowhere in sight. A notion of how all these stories come together? That’s…well that’s also murky. A clear idea of what happens next? Not so much.

And yet I continue to sit down every day, shut down all distractions, and write. The scene I’m working on unfolds, the next scene is hinted at, and the next day I continue this exercise. And the next. And the next. And, when all of these mysterious bouts of writing are strung together, definite progress is being made.

But it’s really freaking weird.

Every book I’ve written I’ve taken a different approach to. And every time, the approach I chose was a direct result of where I wanted to be with my writing.

I felt I was becoming far too constrained by outlines and planning, and so I started the 26 Stories in 52 Weeks project, which spawned Probability Angels.

I became nervous about my reliance on first-draft readers, so with Persistent Illusions I did not let anyone read anything until well after a first draft was finished.

For this book, though, my notions of how to write are much more informed by my notions of what I want writing to be.

Writing used to be stressful, painful, slave-labor with myself chained to my keyboard. I used to yell at myself for not hitting my word counts and have anxiety attacks that my story wasn’t good enough. I would sit down to write and a voice in my head would yell at me constantly. And if I wasn’t all keyed up then I would worry that I wasn’t “feeling things” enough and I would try to hype myself up with music or caffeine so that I could write dammit.

This book I’m not doing any of that. I do worry about the story, but I also constantly remind myself that my past five books all came together somehow, and that I actually had a proof copy of Persistent Illusions ordered before I knew what the ending was going to be. So I think about the story a lot, but I don’t let myself panic about it.

And I try for a word count every day, but I don’t beat myself up over it. I know that some days will be less and some days will be more. It’s far more important to chip away at it for many days over time than it is to stress one day in particular.

And I don’t need a loud voice in my head yelling at me; I actually aim for the opposite of being keyed up. I flip my phone over and and shut down all distractions on my computer and say to myself, “Okay. You can either write, or you can sit here, but you are not allowed to open any internet pages or look at your phone. There’s the Word document, and that’s it.” And when I say that, I’m calm. And when I hear that, I listen. And I sit and I relax and I do nothing for the first five minutes, and then sure enough I start typing.

Words appear and pages pile up but the hallmarks of progress, all the little goodies I used to savor, like reaching a big exciting scene I was looking forward to or finishing up a section, none of those exist.

It’s just me and my Word document.

And as I said, it’s pretty strange.

So progress? Progress is being made.

I just have no way of measuring it.

The Tester on My Train

Vintage Subway Train by rikomatic via FlickrI don’t know much about the subways of other cities, but in New York the station announcements are made both by the train’s conductor, and with pre-recorded messages. It depends on how new your train is whether or not your ride will favor the pre-recorded announcements or a human being.

So I was riding the A-line home yesterday from West 4th street and the speaker was making the normal announcements at each stop, where we were and what connections could be made. I was reading so I wasn’t paying too much attention.

But then I heard something weird and I looked up. I wasn’t entirely sure what I had heard, but it was off. That was all I knew.

As I looked around I saw, standing in the subway door, a little kid maybe ten years old. He had sandy blond hair and looked, to my eyes, about three feet tall and he was wearing a backpack that was bigger than his torso. He was standing with his feet in the subway, but was leaning out the door and looking down the platform.

This was odd. I mean, I see adults do this all the time, but for a little kid to be doing it was just strange. Then the kid shouted out, “We’re being held momentarily by the train dispatcher. We’ll be moving shortly. Please forgive the delay.”

Now this was getting really weird. And, I should point out, that when I say that this kid shouted these words out, I mean he shouted them out. He still had the voice of a ten year old but he put everything he had into it and knew how to belt out a phrase with some authority.



I was feeling a little disoriented but…so this boy likes to play conductor. I mean that’s not the strangest thing ever. I guess.

Then suddenly he shouted, “Please stand clear of the closing doors.” At which point he stepped back into the subway, the doors shut, and we started moving.

We were well past weird at this point. This kid was predicting when New York subway trains would leave the station. That’s just pure wizardry. Plus, I was looking around, and I didn’t see any parents keeping an eye on this boy. He seemed to be all alone.

Then, as we’re riding, he threw in a, “Ladies and gentlemen, please remember that large backpacks and other items are subject to search by the transit authority.”

This is the exact phrasing of the on-board announcements. Everything he had shouted up to that point had been a perfect imitation of train-speak.

My first thought was, “Well I’ve lost my mind. What fun.”

Except that, as we moved from stop to stop, other people in the car started looking up and catching each other’s eyes and laughing. At one point the lady sitting next to me leaned my way and whispered, “Did I miss something?”

“I have no idea what’s going on,” I replied.

“Oh good, I’m not the only one,” she answered.

For his grand finale, while we were pulling in to my stop, the kid shouted out the location and the connections and then called out, “There is a B local train arriving across the tracks. B local across the tracks.”

Sure enough a B train arrived across the tracks shortly after we had stopped.

I walked to my connecting train actually laughing out loud.

Having thought about this now for awhile, it makes more sense. Obviously the people driving the train have to get the information for their announcements somehow. I had always assumed they used a radio or something, but it’s just as likely that there’s a system of signals located along the routes that gives them a heads up about what’s going on and then they make the corresponding announcements. Someone probably taught this boy, or he figured it out himself, and he knows where to look when pulling into a station to tell if there’s a delay ahead or what other trains are arriving.

Plus, his mom was sitting right next to him, but she also had a little girl with her. She was reading to the girl and focusing more on that, so the first few times I tried to find the boy’s parents I missed her. As I searched more and more I noticed that there were plenty of times when she was glancing over at her son to make sure he was okay…although clearly he did this trick a lot.

And, while I’m glad to have made sense out of yesterday’s train ride, and always knew there was a sane explanation, I have to admit that it was so much more fun during those first few minutes when I was happy to believe that a very small, supernatural being was somehow interacting with my reality.

That’s always been part of the joy of writing the Matthew and Epp stories, trying to figure out ways to have these characters come into contact with human reality so that, well, maybe they explain some weird event in my readers’ past.

It was nice to have reminder of that in the form of a ten-year-old tester on my subway ride yesterday.

Madeline: The Most Powerful Being in the Universe

Last year for my fan art contest, Saher Imran submitted the following picture which made my heart explode with joy (technically this is from two years ago, the fan art contest was not held last year for various reasons).

Epp in the Cathedral by Saher Imran

Being utterly enamored with Saher’s work, when I contacted her to tell her that she had won the contest I also asked if she would be interested in doing any more paintings based on my book.

It turns out that she is a huge fan of my work as well and was very interested in working together on some more art. We chatted through some ideas and eventually I commissioned her to do an as-yet-undetermined-number of character portraits from the Matthew and Epp stories.

Who to work on first wasn’t even up for debate. She was dead-set on starting with Madeline. That was just fine with me.

A few days ago the final Madeline painting came in.

I have one major regret about this project. I regret that I don’t have a massive audience to share Saher’s amazing work with. It deserves more exposure than I can offer on my own. So please, if you know any other fans, possible fans, or anyone at all who loves stories told through paintings, pass the link along.

I just love this and I want as many eyes on it as possible.

And, of course, there will be more to come.

But for now I give you Madeline, the most powerful creature in the entire universe:

Madeline Artwork by Saher Imran

Hydra Headed Problems in Writing

Helsingør, Herkules kæmper mod hydraen by ЯAFIK ♋ BERLIN from FlickrHercules was a demi-god…I think. We’re going off of memory here because that’s more fun.

Anyway, Hercules was a demi-god with some rage issues. One day, for reasons I can’t remember, he killed his wife and kids.

This was bad.

He wanted to atone for this bad thing that he had done, or the gods demanded that he atone for it, and so he set off on his labors. The Labors of Hercules. They’re sort of famous in mythology.

He had to kill the lion of Numedia (we’re guessing at names too…but I know he had to kill a lion). He had to capture Cerberus. And he had to clean some stables.

Yes he had to clean some stables. They were the gigantic stables of some horse-crazy land with horse crap caked on three feet deep. Hercules had to divert an entire river just to clean the stables. Big stuff.

He also had to kill the Hydra. Who on earth made up this list of chores is beyond me. One day he’s cleaning stables and the next he’s killing a mythical creature. I guess it was sort of like a decathlon, testing as many different skills and pushing as many buttons as possible.

So anyway, the Hydra. The Hydra was a nine headed monster. That doesn’t sound too bad. I mean Hercules was able to clean that stable by diverting a river so we can assume that monsters are sort in his wheelhouse.

The only problem was that every time you managed to lop off one of the Hydra’s heads, two more would sprout up in its place.

This is a problem. In fact, this is such a common type of problem that it is now known as a hydra headed problem: knock one down and it only serves to introduce two more problems.

This is where I’m at with book three. It feels like I’ve been here for awhile. Every time I figure out a kink in this book it opens up two more ideas that I have to toy with and examine and decide where, or if, they belong.

I began with a fairly basic idea for the plot. The plot is no longer basic. I have story-lines that range from Bartleby’s life as a human to a serial killer causing unrest in the world of the testers to a coup in the Council to Gregor’s rise as leader of the zombies.

It’s possible that I can tie all of these together, most likely weeding a few out, and create a single cohesive book. But right now? Right now it just seems like every step forward I take results in two more paths I have to sniff out and examine. And it’s getting really annoying. I have no idea if this is progress. It feels more like a hamster wheel.

In order to defeat the Hydra, Hercules found a giant log and heated the end and after he sliced off one of the Hydra’s heads he cauterized the wound, cooking it shut by applying the glowing red end of the log to the open cut. No more Hydra heads.

It’s possible that I’m allowing myself too much exploration. It’s possible that it’s time to start cauterizing story lines, that once I figure out one bit I need to start ignoring the inevitable questions that crop up about what else that bit might be hiding.

Or it’s possible that you can beat a hydra by wearing it out, that eventually the stupid thing just runs out of heads.

With the holidays coming up and a massive disrupt to my work schedule bound to happen I’ll probably take that opportunity to step back and more properly assess what the hell I have on my hands right now.

Until then, I’m just glad I’m not cleaning stables.

Writing in Pieces

Puzzle by ellajphillips from FlickrI have never written a book in any other manner than by starting at the beginning and plowing through until I’ve reached the end. Then I stand back and rewrite, occasionally swapping scenes around for better impact and flow, but the overall structure has always been present at the onset.

For my current book I seem to be a very different writer. I sit down for my writing time in the morning and just write. The scenes have been good, very good, and I’m quite happy with them. The problem is I have no idea why I’m writing them. They are, absolutely and utterly, all over the place.

I can’t tell if this is good or not.

This book is different for me, for a lot of reasons, so there’s something to be said for the fact that maybe the writing process should be different.

Likewise, even though I have sat down with an initial structure for all my other books, that structure has morphed and warped drastically during the writing process. It’s just that once a book solidifies in my head, all previous possibilities of how that book might have gone disappear. I look at early notes for my books sometimes and I have no idea what they mean, they refer to things that no longer exist any more, or even have the possibility of existing because the book has been set in print in a different way.

So maybe the notion that I used to start with a set structure is flawed.

But…seriously? This feels crazy different, if not terrifying. Am I just rambling with no point? Or am I a more relaxed writer?

Am I crafting a never ending series of puzzle pieces that will never fit together? Or am I excavating a story, brushing off dirt layer by layer and finding an outcropping and there, but nothing tying it all together yet?

I’m obviously hoping for the latter but I honestly do not recognize the writer who sits down at this keyboard in the morning anymore.

Strange times indeed.

I Think It’s Time to Start Book Three

Oh god I can’t believe I just wrote that blog title. I have so much more research I need to do. Currently I’m halfway through a book on the history of textiles and sewing methods. I have no idea when the book was published, I grabbed it for my Kindle without checking, but it discusses at length how you shouldn’t store your thread next to a fire or heating stove because that can make your thread brittle. So I don’t think it’s the most modern book ever. Nor is it the most exciting. But it’s helped a lot and given me some sense of clothing and its creation that I didn’t have before.

Before that I read a few books about Roman history.

And after I’m done with clothes I want to read about Australian history.

And then something about Romania.

And…on and on and on.

It’d be great if I could read everything about everything before I started writing but, for obvious reasons, I can’t.

And to be honest that really doesn’t matter. Truth is I don’t need to be an expert in a subject in order to write fiction incorporating said subject. I just need to know enough to fake it.

Plus there’s the fact that writing a book isn’t like telling a story.

Telling a story implies that the story is already written. You just have to add your tone, your angles, maybe give the evil witch a spooky voice so that your audience shrieks with delight, but with storytelling you know where you’re going and how you’re getting there.

Writing a book is more like excavating an ancient ruin. You have no idea what you’re going to find. You start digging and when you hit something interesting you slow down and treat it delicately and try to let it lead you to the larger picture that’s still buried.

David (Michelangelo) by Andrea Scollo from FlickrOr sculpting. I imagine sculpting is pretty similar, too. Every sculptor I’ve read about has mentioned that they don’t turn a piece of stone into a statue, they expose the statue that already existed inside the stone.

Anyway, all the research in the world can’t prepare me for the first, “Woah, where did THAT come from,” moment that I’ll hit in book three. And after that first moment hits, all my best laid plans get tossed and it’s hard to say who is in charge anymore, me or the story.

A lot of writers express joy when they get an idea for a new work. But this is my fifth or so book and I know that this isn’t a relationship which will remain in its halcyon honeymoon stage forever.

No. Writing a book is more like shackling myself to a madman for a year in an agreement to follow wherever he goes. Except my agreement doesn’t mean anything because, you know, the shackles are in place regardless.

I am worried about the amount of story that I want to get into this book. It hit me in the shower the other morning how much I’m going to try and tell and I grew afraid.

We won’t be staying in the present, not for the whole thing, that’s for sure. I didn’t read up on Roman history to add background flavor.

And we’ll be revisiting some of the more brushed over bits of tester history. Gregor, for instance, will have his story told in more detail.

And then I have to, you know, close out the entire trilogy in a suitable fashion all the while continuing with my marketing work in a field where there’s no prior models which don’t resemble roulette wheels to me.


I’m utterly terrified.

How’s your Wednesday going?