Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Wednesday, February 17, 2010
Waxing Moon
Mars Retrograde
Cloudy and cold

What a difference a day makes! I feel much better, back on track, and like I’ve gained some perspective again.

It snowed on and off all day yesterday. Not a lot of accumulation, and I didn’t have to go out in it.

I tried to do some work in the morning, and had NOTHING in the creative tank. So I gave up, went offline, and had fun.

Part of the fun was starting Elizabeth Kostova’s THE SWAN THIEVES. I really like it. This is not a book one dips into with a few spare minutes — you have to sink into it like a featherbed for several hours at a time. Her writing is beautiful and she takes her time. Genre books are now being stripped in both word count and content so it’s plot/action, dialogue, sex. Kostova’s work is genuinely “literary fiction” — she fills all the senses with her textured worlds without the self-indulgent navel-gazing that’s become associated with so much literary fiction. Even when her characters are contemplative and self-reflective, it’s not self-indulgent.

I also decided to change the location of the Hillary Ice story from San Antonio to Bath, ME. Yeah, that’s quite a switch, and it changes a lot of the texture in the story. I haven’t been to San Antonio for fifteen years or more; loved it then, but unless I make it a period piece, I can’t write about that San Antonio — and this is definitely a contemporary piece. I can’t fly out to do on-site research. I could sit with the maps and the guidebooks and track down natives through blogs and bookstores and schools to ask questions. But that still won’t give me the texture and the emotional geography. I can’t get that without being there, because, no matter how well-researched, no other person will have the exact same sensory responses that I do, and anything I write will feel like a copy of a copy, instead of the direct experience.

I need to know more than just the correct streets and neighborhoods — I need the feel of the place.

Why Bath, ME? Other than I don’t think a whole lot of fiction is set there. Well, for one thing, Hillary’s main partner in this story, Jasper, is an artist who works in both iron and silver. Until I started exploring the story, I didn’t realize it, nor did I realize how vital his art and craft are to the plot. I did some research on forges in the San Antonio area — they’re not set in the area I need them, and I’m pretty sure the zoning in the area wouldn’t allow him to have a studio with a forge in it in the residential areas. I have family near Portland, and one of them has worked as a welder in the boat-building industry up in Bath for his entire career. I haven’t spent a lot of time up there, but the historic town, the contrasting neighborhoods, and the smell of hot, wet iron mixed with sea salt will add the right kind of texture to the piece. Also, if you continue up past Bath towards Booth Bay Harbor, there are artists who work not only in clay (the wonderful Edgecomb Pottery), but I remember signs for and by artists who work in iron. They DO have studios on their properties. Add to that the fact that I’m spending a good chunk of April in Maine, both for research purposes and to deal with a family matter — and I can hop up to Bath easily to walk the geography and add even more textural details.

My concern is that Bath, ME isn’t far from Salem, MA, the headquarters of the organization from whom both Hillary and Jain Lazarus work. I wanted her to be physically far away from them as well as psychologically. But I’ll figure it out.

Jasper is a breath of fresh air after Zeke and Eddie. He’s definitely got his own issues — his third marriage breaking up and children by the first two wives — but he’s come to an acceptance of how his past decisions affect his current circumstances. He’s at peace with that, although he’s still searching for something and doesn’t know what it is. And Hillary, who’s trying to run from something and winds up, through Fate, helping Jasper’s son, has a lot to play off of with that. It’ll be fun to play with, and there’s no fixed deadline for this piece, so I can let it unfold as it wishes.

On the Olympic front, I was in hockey heaven yesterday — three games back-to-back. The US Men’s team beat Switzerland 3-1, the US Women’s team whomped Russia 13-0, and the Canadian Men’s Team beat Norway 8-0. I could have watched the women’s China vs. Finland match, but even I get hockey-ed out after a while! 😉 Because the rules are different in men’s and women’s hockey, with less physical contact for the women, their games seem much cleaner, faster, and more graceful. The men looked rather lumbering and awkward in comparison. Well, the US Men’s team DID lumber, and they WERE awkward — lots of miscues and stumbles. Imagine six foot tall puppies on ice skates — that’s what it looked like. They got the job done, but will have to improve as a team very quickly to be a real contender. The Canadian men’s team was much more in synch with each other, although they made some mistakes, too. It was annoying that the commentators were surprised that Norwegian and Swiss teams were good. Why wouldn’t they be good? Got to give Jeremy Roenick credit, though, in his commentary on the US Men’s game — he says what he thinks, doesn’t back down, is not afraid to disagree,and not afraid to tell Mike Milbury where to get off! I was afraid JR would have mellowed off the ice — nice to see he hasn’t. I certainly don’t agree with him all the time, but I respect the way he says what he means (and backs it up) and stands by it. I really like and respect him, even when he’s working my last nerve. A little less hair product, and he’ll be my favorite hockey commentator. I’m delighted Mike Babcock’s coaching Canada — he’s my favorite NHL coach, period, not to mention a hell of a great human being, and I’m so glad he’s doing this.

Even though I’m not a figure skating fan, I was impressed with Evan Lysacek’s performance last night.

Back to the page today. I’ve got to print out the revisions in ANGEL HUNT, work on two articles, and tweak the workshops for next week. I’m off to a site job tomorrow through Sunday night, then home for a couple of days, and then I head back down to Philly. So I have to be focused, and the next few days are about clearing off the desk and making sure everything is in order, no matter how much Zeke, Eddie, and the others squawk for attention.