Never write stories set at Christmas, unless you want to write a Christmas story, as all stories set at Christmas become, de facto, Christmas stories.
It's been remarkably easy advice to follow, given my utter hatred for Christmas and all things relating to Christmas. And yet...Daughter of Hounds occurs the week before Christmas. To be precise: Saturday, December 19th — Thursday, December 24th, 2009. Which means I've gone and ignored that one useful tidbit of advice from Dread Writing Instructor X. I've set a story at Christmas. I thought that I could get away with it, and now I see that I was almost certainly wrong. Originally, the first half on the story was to have taken place in late December and the second half in the spring of the following year. But then I was told the book shouldn't exceed 150K words, and Part Two had to be absorbed into Part One (more or less), and, at the time, I didn't think much about the fact that this meant that the whole novel would be taking place in the week before Christmas. Until yesterday, when I realized that the novel will climax on Christmas Eve, which, on the one hand will, I fear, seem a little precious, and on the other hand will, I also fear, forever brand Daughter of Hounds a Christmas novel, even though it most emphatically isn't.
And, as if this isn't bad enough, I also realized yesterday that, in the Emmie half of the narrative, I simply have too much taking place on Sunday, December 20th. I somehow crammed too much into one short winter day. So, when the book is finished, I'm going to have to go back and split that day into two days, which is why the story will be concluding on December 24th instead of December 23rd. It's feels like having almost finished building a house, then realizing that you need to add a room right in the center — say a bathroom you somehow forgot to build when you should have. One of the less pleasant consequences of the way that I write is that dren like this happens from time to time. Usually, I look the other way. I mean, who needs that bathroom anyway, right? But this time I've realized I have to fix the problem. A correlation of sunrise and sunset for New England in December, opening and closing times for the American Museum of Natural History, and the Amtrak schedule for trains between Providence and New York City has left me with very little choice in the matter. Otherwise, I have an inexplicable 37-hour day (or something dumb like that).
It is at this point that I began to moan and wave my arms about like a lunatic octopus. It is at this point, caught between these twin realizations, that I knew nothing would be written yesterday. I'm going to speak with my agent this afternoon about the Christmas thing, and see if she thinks it's as problematic as I do. She probably won't, as she's been reading the book and loves it and has said not one word about the evils of Christmas. But I suspect it's still going to bug me too much to let stand. And it's not as hard to rectify as the need for an extra day. I simply push the narrative ahead so it occurs the week after Christmas. Thing is, what got me into this fix, Daughter of Hounds is, in part, a story about an eight-year-old girl, and I needed it to be winter, and I also needed her to be out of school. That's why I set the novel during the holidays. That's the only reason I did it.
I was also visited by one of my increasingly rare migraines yesterday afternoon, which helped not at all. It's still here, like twelve inches of writhing barbed wire packed tightly inside my right orbit.
And still, I have to try to write today.
If you haven't already, please check out the Wrong Things auction. All proceeds go to Poppy. The starting price has been met, but we can do much better than that, don't you think? Also, Spooky came back from the P.O. this morning with a bundle of letters and postcards for Poppy, which we'll probably be forwarding tomorrow. Thanks, everyone. And it's not too late to send a postcard or letter, if you wish. I'll keep forwarding them as long as they keep coming (Poppy Z. Brite, c/o Caitlín R. Kiernan, P.O. Box 5290, Atlanta, GA 31107).
A couple of days back, I stumbled across this photo online somewhere, Nar'eth from Dragon*Con '04 (behind the cut, unless you aren't reading this on LJ, in which case, click here). Spooky touching up my makeup in a restroom in the Hyatt. It made me smile. It also made me feel even lousier about missing D*C this year. I think it's quite possibly the only Nar'eth/Spooky photo in existence. I have no idea who took it.
Nar'eth and Spooky, September '04.
* Dennis Covington (note added 9/12/18)