As I write this, I’m waiting for a kettle of water to boil so I can make some tea. Yes, tea. Not coffee. Not whiskey. Just crushed leaves in gossamer bags steeped in water.
No word yet from the prospective agent. I expect something by the first week of December.
A couple of things: First, it seems I’ve coined the saying, “stand while peeing up.” This not-quite-spoonerism issued from my mouth while trying to carry on separate conversations—one with my wife, the other with my son—at the same time, concerning the same thing: him draining his snake while showering. Yes, yes, we all know the drains all lead to the same place, but when I step into the shower after Kid Kidwell, I’d like the absence of Stank de Latrine.
Anyway, at some point in the conversation, as I endeavored to make plain my distaste for the kid turning our shower into a urinal, “stand while peeing up” spilled out. At which both Goodwife Kidwell and Kid Kidwell fell into rib-breaking laughter. I have now been plagued by persistent queries of whether or not I’ve figured out how to stand while peeing up, or if I made a habit to stand while peeing up, cuz wouldn’t it be easier to lie down, or whether I knew that standing while peeing up was funny (I fear that Kid Kidwell now has practical knowledge of such amusement).
Second … well it seems the water has begun to boil. Time to make the tea. (I’ve forgotten what my second point was going to be anyway.)
Earlier this month, I sent out a query for Little Wolf to an agent on the recommendation of a friend. It’ll probably be some weeks before I hear back. In the meantime, I’ve got to move on. I’ve begun sketching out a new novel—the idea for it came to me nearly a year ago, but I to backburner it then. Over the months, when another idea would come, I’d jot it down, and now, all of those ideas are coming together pretty nicely.
I’m not a fast writer. I’m not a fast editor either. In fact, about the only thing I do quickly is eat pizza. That disappears before the slice hits the plate. I talk fast, which used to get me in trouble with teachers. Now, it just makes me seem like I’m fighting a stutter as I choke on the logjam of words stuck on my teeth and caught in my throat.
For example, I wrote the preceding paragraph, reread it, and considered my editing options. While it says what I originally intended to say, it doesn’t convey the information quite the way I wanted it to. So, I began to reflect, and, in reflection, began to pull apart the paragraph and imagine what else might be said. How I might say things differently. Better.
I’m not a fast writer when I’m on my own schedule. I’ve cranked out 10,000 words in two days for a short-turnaround project. Was it the best thing I’ve ever written? Nope. But I got paid and my client was happy, which, on those sorts of things, is really what matters. So, I’m not a daily-paper-journalist sort who can just puke up text to fill column inches. And while I am certainly no D.H. Lawrence or Faulkner, I still care about word choice, and tone, syntax, associations, shape, and the sundry other ingredients that make up my stories. So, I nitpick and self-edit and criticize (rather than critique; yes, it’s a bad habit and one I am trying to break) right from the beginning. I’m sure it has something to do with my oversized fear of failure.
Well, that revision came out a lot better than the initial paragraph, don’t you think?
Anyhow, the work continues as I await a response to my query. The new book seems to be coming easier than Little Wolf (as I curse myself for an imprudent fool and rap my knuckle on my desk to ward off bad luck) so I’ll keep you apprised of my progress. And I’ll let you know what happens with the query.
Fiction writers, especially fantasy and science-fiction writers, exist in that gray world between plausible and unbelievable. We trust our audience’s suspension of disbelief, and our readers trust us to take them to a place less mundane, but maybe not so different from our own world.
I also think that fantasy and sci-fi writers have to believe, at least a little, in the things they write about. It may sound childish to believe in mysterious, awful things that go crikety-crack in the night, but how many times have you heard something in the dark and talked yourself into believing it was something mundane when you were pretty sure it wasn’t?
Knowing this, it may surprise you that I think TV shows that use faked found footage and supposed scientific evidence that don’t declare in BIG BOLD LETTERS up front that they are FICTITIOUS are about as amoral as it gets. Not because I don’t think they’re entertaining, but that I know people are gullible and believe these things.
Yeah, it’s not the TV show’s fault that lots and lots of people have about as much common sense at the curdled half-and-half in the back of my garage fridge, but, c’mon. If the show is produced by a so-called “science” channel, or “history” channel, don’t you think the show should be, oh, I don’t know, based on science, not pseudo-science? Or how about shows about history rather than douche-bags trying to out douche-bag each other with treacherous douche baggery.
Here’s the thing: If you’re going to set yourself up as an authority on little dirt-dwelling rodents in the African savannah or ursine deathmongers, then don’t discredit yourself and do a huge disservice to your viewers by showing fantasy wrapped up in science-y trappings that spreads misinformation faster than syphilis in 17th century whorehouse. Think of the impressionable kids who are going to believe what they see because the equally impressionable parents raising them believe what they’re watching.
I mean, if TV executives aren’t going to look out for our future scientists and leaders, who will?
While gearing up for writing Little Wolf, I wanted a formidable creature for the hero, Faolin, to go up against in the opening pages of the book. It would be a way to introduce everyone to the sorts of things she's fighting and her abilities.
One day, I was explaining the book to Jay Smith, an illustrator and graphic designer I know. I asked if he would be interested in doing up a quick sketch of the mournhowler. He thought it would be a cool exercise to draw the creature sort of like what you'd see in a 19th-century naturalist's notebook.
I forwarded Jay this excerpt from the book:
The mournhowler hung beneath the bridge: long arms with graceless hands that ended in cracked claws, black and moldered; short legs, crooked and bent like a dog's, but terminating in wide, splayed feet; and an enormous torso, narrow at the waist and two men wide at the shoulders. Worst of all were the wriggling lips stretched into a depraved smile surrounding two rows of short, murderously sharp teeth, beneath the yellow eyes that shown like lamp glass. It leered at her from its roost, something not human, but not an animal either, despite the coat of thick, bristly gray hair covering its shoulders, arms, and back.
And this is what Jay came up with. A suitably ugly beastie I think. Thanks, Jay!
I thought I'd share a play I wrote with a friend of mine back in 2006. Called Cold Coffee, it's about the dissolution of a relationship. The things that we'll say when we're angry has always fascinated me. If I remember correctly, the kernel for this short came to me after an argument my wife and I had; not the contents so much as the emotions that Bill and I tried to convey. I've tried to preserve how it looks on the printed page, though I've eliminated some of the larger spots where there would be nothing but space and changed the addresses and emails. Here it is in its entirety:
When is it okay to kill sacred cows? I think, in this case, when a better one comes along. Until Into Darkness, I couldn't remember the last time I left a movie theater and couldn't stop smiling. But coming out of J.J. Abram's latest offering, I was smiling ear to ear. I got in the car, turned to my wife and a friend of ours who had gone with us, and revealed that it had replaced The Wrath of Khan as my all-time favorite Star Trek movie.
That's right! The 30-year champ had been knocked off its throne.
"Holy fuck, Kidwell," you say. "You're out of your goddamn mind. How? HOW? Kirk! Kahn! Genesis! Spock dying! THE BATTLE IN THE GAS NEBULA!"