Category Archives: writing

December

Ho Ho Ho

Happy December!

Boggle and Sneak and Pismo are nearing print-ready status. In two weeks, I’ll be traveling (in an armor-plated all-terrain Chris-Craft) to Mozhi’s secret headquarters, to work with him on the book designs. If all goes well, you can look for publication announcements in January!

As of today, my friend Maryalice (that’s her holiday greeting above) will be doing some of the illustrations for the blog. She was over on Friday, and we got into a speed-drawing contest. I ended up being so inspired that I immediately produced a comic in the form of a deck of ninety-nine cards (Web and print versions will be out shortly).

That was so much fun that I started work on a book of ninety-nine 750-word stories including Azuki Beans, in which a chain-letter leads to love won and a house destroyed, and Saint-Nectaire, in which a farmer digs a hole and strikes soup.

The comic is called BOTHER-Chickens (trust me on this) and the blitzenjammer book will be called The Ox because I needed ninety-nine arbitrary nouns and The Oxford Companion to Food was the book o’ nouns closest to hand.

Thanks Maryalice for the inspiration, and thanks Nana for the child care!

Wish me luck and an inexhaustible source of energy!

Vasyl

In preparation for next month’s draft, I am outlining a story loosely based around the Baba Yaga / Hansel and Gretel stories, in which a teenage boy (rather than a girl, as in Vasilisa the Beautiful, or a brother and sister as in Hansel and Gretel) with a difficult relationship with his father (rather than stepmother) discovers a hermit (rather than crone) living in the north woods and decides that he and the hermit are modern-day Cossacks: wild men, raiders and runaways from the serfdom (as it seems when you’re sixteen) of modern life. As Vasyl crawls deeper and deeper into this fantasy, he fails to consider that the hermit may have his own agenda.

By coincidence, Nadya Lev at Coilhouse also has Baba Yaga on her mind this week. (Perhaps she is also menaced by eerie, spindly buckthorn limbs spontaneously uprooting themselves and forming knobby matted fortresses in the woods surrounding her house?) The Bilibin illustration in her post is the same one that inspired me to start work on the Vasyl story a few weeks ago.

Busted Novel Repair Month

The whole world knows November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), but I’m at a juncture where I don’t need another month’s worth of first draft. On the other hand, I really could use some time to fix all my busted-ass first drafts and get them ready for publication. I therefore declare November to be my own personal Busted Novel Repair Month (BuNoReMo).

I’ve got baling wire, elbow grease and gaffer tape all lined up on my bench in the woodshed. Wish me success!

Here’s what I’ve got up on blocks:

Boggle and Sneak
This story was formerly known as Troll Story, but the Folklore Enforcers tell me the eight-inch-tall creatures in the story most closely resemble imps or bogles (which is a bit of a disappointment: I was sort of hoping to be able to call them boggarts). They bust into houses and bogotify stuff, i.e. leave stuff on the fritz.

This is really coming together (thanks to incisive reads by Ryeon Corsi, Josh Ferguson and the Bisco Kid) and may just need a push over the finish line.

Pismo
A family of compulsives tries to escape certain death in a car that only turns left.

This is mouldering in manuscript. Once I type it, somebody can read it and let me know how it looks.

Lime (That’s the working title because that’s what’s written on the cover of the first notebook in the stack.)
The CIA’s Directorate of Operations is outsourced to a reality show.

This has a beginning and a middle, but no end.

The Derby Ram

On a visit to the Minnesota State Fair, ten-year-old Al runs off from her parents. Lost, she wanders into the Coliseum, where she discovers a twenty-foot-tall ram about to be slaughtered before a roaring crowd. She frees the ram and the two of them make a run for it– following the Burlington Northern tracks west-northwest toward the mountains, pursued by the furious Butcher and his thirsty knife.

Again: A beginning and a middle, but no end.

Over the River (a ghost story for October)

It is the hottest night of the summer. Nick is parked at Porky’s Drive-In on University Avenue, pretending to tune his 1928 Model A Roadster Pickup (which doesn’t need tuning). Suddenly a rangy, weather-beaten woman rides up on an impossibly-cherry 1914 Michaelson Big Twin, grabs him by the penis, and drags him across the Mississippi to the Underworld.

October spilling into November.

October Ghost Story

October gets a ghost story:

It is the hottest night of the summer. Nick is parked at Porky’s Drive-In on University Avenue, pretending to tune his 1928 Model A Roadster Pickup (which doesn’t need tuning). Suddenly a rangy, weather-beaten woman rides up on an impossibly-cherry 1914 Michaelson Big Twin, grabs him by the penis, and drags him across the Mississippi to the Underworld.

Green Glow

I’m sitting by a window with my notebook. It’s raining. Most of the leaves outside the window haven’t yet changed color. For some reason, most of today’s rain fell out of quite a bright sky, so the whole day has been charged with a beautiful green glow I can’t recall ever seeing before. My story’s protagonist is on the moon at this point, wrapped in its (quite different, I imagine) glow, trying to prevent the killing of any more of the Man in the Moon’s dairy goats. She has just crossed over to the Dark Side, following the goat-killer’s tracks. And as far as the Dark Side goes, the sun here has finally yielded to the rain clouds, and the glow is gone. I want it back.

The Derby Ram

My kids are off at the State Fair with my parents, so it’s fitting that I’m working on the outline for September’s story, which starts there:

On a visit to the Minnesota State Fair, ten-year-old Al runs off from her parents. Lost, she wanders into the Coliseum, where she discovers a twenty-foot-tall ram about to be slaughtered before a roaring crowd. She frees the ram and the two of them make a run for it– following the Burlington Northern tracks west-northwest toward the mountains, pursued by the furious Butcher and his thirsty knife.

Near Frazee, she escapes by climbing up the ram’s horn until she reaches the moon, where she finds that the Man in the Moon and his dairy herd are being menaced by a deadly shadow.

Near Surrey, she climbs down the ram’s fleece until she reaches the center of the Earth, and she will be forced to remain there forever unless she can fetch the Devil a glass of ice water.

Near Bainville, she flees by running around the ram until she reaches the kingdom of Srivijaya*. There she catches a glimpse of the Butcher, who is there himself on a dark errand.

On the bank of the Two Medicine River just outside Browning, she and the Butcher will fight a final battle for ram’s life– and her own.

*I took a globe, stuck my finger on Bainville, spun the globe 180 degrees, ran down into the southern hemisphere, and found that I hit Palembang, Sumatra. A quick Googling showed that Palembang was once the capital of the Tantric Buddhist maritime empire of Srivijaya… and that sounded like good fairy-tale fodder to me, so I grabbed it.

Scenes in a Sack

I spent most of the day blocking out a sequence in which our contestants try to track a gang of rogue librarians from Belarus who are trying to sell a shipment of library materials on the black market in contravention of international bibliographic-proliferation agreements.

When the caffeine wore off, I became convinced that I don’t have the draft of a book; I have a bunch of disconnected scenes in a sack. Rachel and I then spent an hour sitting outside Broders’ Southside Pasta Bar brainstorming how best to bond the scenes together.

Presumably this was just my regularly-scheduled second-act crisis. I am now standing up to go schedule next month’s panic attack on our family calendar.

Vertigo

After a death-strap cage match among Microsoft Word, Dragon Naturally Speaking, my Roadwarrior headset and me, I finally got a clean typescript of the troll story off to the Carleton student who has kindly offered to give it a first read. I asked her to read first of all for vertigo: If she finds that she is overcome by disorientation and vertigo, then she should stop reading and we should talk.

I also overcame my coming-back-from-a-month-of-not-writing inertia and wrote the first sequence of the CIA/Reality Show story. It felt good to get back to work, although rust…in…joints…

Month One Success!

I compounded my third-act despair from earlier this week by spending Thursday and Friday baking instead of writing: My friend and baking idol David Bauer (of the Farm and Sparrow bakery in Marshall, NC) was teaching his “Rustic Breads for the Brick Oven” class at North House, and I was delighted to be able to attend the class and learn (or begin to learn, or begin to begin to learn) some of his techniques.

However:

Despite my best efforts at self-sabotage, I set myself up at the Java Moose for a couple of hours this morning and managed to scribble out the last few scenes. Wonderfully, the characters decided to stage a completely different conclusion than the one I had outlined for them. I like theirs better.

So:

Month One Success! Hurrah!!!

Actthreeitis

I’ve wandered into some weird doldrums now that I’ve hit Act III. The pressure to generate action and suspense seems to have knocked the wind out of my prose. I will be able to fix this in a subsequent draft, but it’s discouraging.

Then again– an unanticipated, seemingly-insurmountable challenge is what any Act III is supposed to contain. Perhaps I’m caught in a meta-drama. In that case, victory must be just around the corner!