Writing Process: Day and Night

The difference between the morning and evening edit is day and night. I am methodical in the morning, sorting through scenes like cupboards and drawers, matching the colors, straightening everything out.

My brain is loose in the evening, searching for the magic and music more than anything else, adrift, catching at the flotsam.

It’s a balancing game, getting those two to work together, always interesting to see which gets the last word.

Anori Edit: Killing the Precious Ones

It took me ten weeks to process Tennessee’s notes, but at long last I have begun my eighth (ninth?) draft of Anori. Tennessee (my editor) made excellent suggestions related to killing characters – a terse goodbye to Valerie and Robi – as well as complete restructuring, which means sideways, headache-inducing thinking and no more scenes in Newfoundland like this precious little one:

Flagstones, newly dug, and boards bent into the red earth, led down a narrow path, following the base of a rocky ledge to a meadow. Fitz walked ahead, his windbreaker too small, pants heavy and large. The archeological site was deserted, a wheel barrow with shovels and picks lined up at its side, standing by a row of tents, the one at the far end with its front entrance unzipped and flapping in the wind.

“A bit of sloppiness that.” Fitz bent down to the tent, head-first into a man, middle-aged, as he backed out. “Watch your—Unh!”

“That’s the irony,” Eileen whispered behind Dee.

“You all right there?” The man zipped the tent shut before standing up.

“Looking about for Tommy Baines.”

The man adjusted his glasses. “He must have gone with the others, an hour or so ago.”

“Off to the pub, that it?”

“Don’t know about that.”

“We’ll just show the girl around before he makes his way back.”

“You’ll need Tommy to take you through for that.”

“We’ve been around the heath, seen the pit, the chunks of slag,” Fitz replied. “We know where not to put our feet.”

“That a leopard you got there?”

“He’s a serval. His name’s Apollo.” Dee smiled at him. “He won’t bite.”

“Aim to keep my hands intact, thanks.” He gave them a wide berth as he headed up the path. “Evening to you.”

“That’s his spot.” Eileen pointed out the yellow and blue flagging tape in the distance. “They’re saying it was an iron ore camp, set up to make their nails for the ships.”

A lot of theories about the Vikings could be gutted with a place like this,” Fitz added. “They’ll be looking up and down the coast and across to Nova Scotia next. See what they can find.”

Dee watched the wind churn the distant water into a wash of whitecaps, each chasing after the thick grey clouds low in the early evening sky.

The Sentience of Po

The final book of The Cx Trilogy is centered on Po, a being-non-being borne of a catastrophic deceleration from close-to-light speed to gain orbit. Po has human sensibilities of the temporal – desperation, uncertainty – yet remains indifferent, aware of the immensity of the whole.

Po’s story – and of the humans on the planet Mina with it – is diametrically opposed to the space operas centered on the ceremony of civilization. It is instead of irrelevance, accepting and dissolving into that, an antithesis to humanity and its childish aspirations

Anori: Receiving Editor Notes

It took me two weeks to open my editor’s email. Even then, I was only able to scan them and fixated on one line: This is the point where my growing frustrations would cause me to close the book and not pick it up again. WTF?!?

The opening remarks were positive: I really love this book. So much of the writing is fantastic—clear, evocative, and crystalline. Dee is such a great character! And then…a descent into what he really wanted to say: The tone of the novel, as I’ve mentioned, is at times difficult to discern, at times seeming like realism, other times satire, and others as purposefully surreal.

I still haven’t been able to read all of the notes. It’s like a mild form of PTSD. I mean, I understand the essential problem is the narrative bouncing back and forth between Greenland and New York. What I wanted to do was to emphasize Dee’s indecision, but the audience won’t have it because she needs her motherfucking arc/ark.

I am getting to a point where I can call my editor and talk about it. I’m almost ready. Soon.

My Screaming Pitch – Cx! Cx!

I do my research and read the tweets and bios of the agents who specifically request speculative fiction. And I make my pitch. “No” is all I hear.

The biggest clunker came from an agent asking exactly for what I am writing – a generational ship off to a distant planet – and I got this form-letter response.

My Cx Trilogy pitch must be more of a scream. They need to know that the book is the future of the speculative genre. It is real. It is direct and clear. It has the voice of terror as we go straight off the cliff. In other words, it’s now or never. Now. Or never.

One step at a time. I’m getting there.

One Down (Anori), Another To Go (Fuck Pedagogy)

I just completed a more-or-less final draft of Anori, the first book of The Cx Trilogy about leaving earth on a generational space ship to another galaxy. There might have been a brief moment of satisfaction – more of relief – but it was emptiness that reigned.

The final line of the book reads: Dee felt almost calm as she looked ahead for the ship, realizing she had no idea what it would be like, how anything would be at all.

Next up is the first draft of my teaching memoir, Fuck Pedagogy, which should be much easier to write. After all this is not an imagined world but a place that I know all too well. The opening lines of this book now read:

“Why do you want to teach?” Phil was my supervisor in teacher’s college, a big friendly guy with a thick beard and glasses. “I want you to draw what that looks like.”

Posterboards were distributed. I drew a prison.

“Hmm.” Phil hovered over my shoulder for a moment. “Why the barbed wire?”

“I didn’t like school.”

“Interesting.” He stayed another moment, nodding to himself, and then carried on to chat with others.

Writing Sex

The feeling came into Dee, a distant tremor, hardly there, and then deep and she held it long, making it straight, more fully inside, her truth in this raw pleasure. She dug into the bull-man’s shoulders, pulled on his arms, incredibly, childishly on that.

She held on and then didn’t, succumbing, sliding off, her chin jutting into her chest, all of that streaming out of her, jerking her hips up, thinking if she stayed still, she might climb back into that perfectness again

Scene Expunged: Writing Process

It’s hard easy to delete a scene that works. It can take a long time to accept. That’s why it’s called “killing the babies.” I liked this scene because it gave background to who Dee was before the novel and underscored her sense of isolation. I edited and rewrote it several times before finally realizing – and then accepting – that it just wasn’t needed.

She went back to her old club. It was an automatic thing. She gave the address to the cab driver and half expected the place to be closed. It wasn’t. She climbed three floors up, above the DJs and the stage to where the air ducts cast crucifix-like shadows against the ceiling and the giant holograms of naked dancers, and looked down at the scattered audience in the pink and green lights, the flow of heads and arms reflected in the plexiglass floor and walls, the girls, gorgeously brown, grazing their arms and breasts against the men who, clutching their drinks, leaned back and followed them up the stairs.

 “Elle.” A hand came from behind, brilliant blue nails clutching her wrist. “What the fuck?”

Dee couldn’t remember the woman’s name, just that they had worked together, been naked, had orgasmed in tandem.

“I haven’t seen you in fucking years.” Her skin sparkled with rainbow translucence, like an abalone shell, her lips dark red, her green eyes highlighted by painted glowing lines.

“Here I am.”

“I heard you were with Nico, right? Didn’t you go out to Iceland or something?”

“Greenland.”

“I saw what happened. Holy shit. I mean what the fuck, right?”

“I’ve been out there for more than a year.” Dee said the words for no reason; she just wanted to leave. “I’m this kickass biologist now.”

“I did a shoot in Turks and Caicos. You been there? That sand is so fucking…”

“You look like some perfect angel.” A bull of a man arrived, a tattoo of the buildings on his bicep, and she wanted nothing else. She needed his hardness, his arms and tendons, his need, his pelvis rotating like a machine.

Pandemic Accomplishments: Final Edition?

With the pandemic winding down in New York, I thought It time to offer a final list of Pandemic Accomplishments.

Most importantly for me, I completed the final draft of Anori (well, almost).

Soon to be sent off for another professional edit

I applied for 80+ jobs across America (including Atlanta, San Francisco, Boston and New York, Europe (London, Lisbon, Salzburg, Rome, Zurich, Paris and Barcelona to name a few) as well as Kathmandu. Still looking. Hmm.

I travelled to Maine, Oregon, California, Rhode Island and Martha’s Vineyard.

Sunrise view in Maine

I raised the daily visits for this blog from 30+ views per day to 150+ views per day.

I had both of my knees replaced, had nine Covid-19 tests and was vaccinated.

Those empty train days

I have basically kicked my Fishdom addiction after reaching Level 2865. Although I might check in again one of these days.

Writing Process: The Almighty Opening

Every time that I open Anori – something I have done a couple of thousand times – and wait as the document slowly loads, my always eye fastens on the opening line. And it’s never what I want, which has led me to change it some fifty or sixty times.

Dee watched the police car turn down the empty street and vanish on the other side of the park.

The keys to this sentence are a. the police car, b. the viewpoint (from a penthouse apartment) and c. the winds of Hurricane Sandy.

Jostled by the winds, the police car vanished on the other side of the park, as Dee slid the balcony door closed.

And then I think it’s all too much and that I only need the bare bones: The police car vanished on the other side of the park. But, that doesn’t work. Neither does: Dee braced herself as the gusts of wind came up again.

I want to communicate an isolated and brooding tone in the opening, something like Dee stood alone watching the police car as it went from sight on the far side of the park. But not that either.