June 18th, 2005


closing in

Yesterday was a remarkable writing day. I did 2,420 words on Chapter Five in a mere three hours and forty-five minutes. Afterwards, Spooky and I spent an additional hour proofing the new pages. I'm not sure if this is The Record for me, most pages, most words, in a day, but it well might be. I just kept going, even after I felt I should stop. The scene was hard (emotionally) and important (narratively), and I didn't want to have to let it sit unfinished all night long. Were it not for the need at this point to do some research on the old railroad tunnel beneath College Hill in Providence, research which will slow me down today, then I'd easily be able to finish this chapter this afternoon — in a mere seven days. I'll have to settle for eight.

It became clear to me yesterday that, despite a half-hearted attempt at outlining this story a month or two back, it will go where it needs to go, and my intentions are none of its concerns. Not my conscious intentions, anyway. Too much cause and effect getting in the way. Which is to say, once this chapter is finished, I have to sit down again and try to get a handle on what's going to happen in the second half of Daughter of Hounds, but it won't precisely be what I thought it would be. Did I ever tell you how Low Red Moon was supposed to end in Chance and Deacon's apartment, that the big showdown was to be between Deacon and Narcissa, and it was supposed to happen there, after Narcissa performed a c-section on Chance? That Scarborough was supposed to live? That Sadie was supposed to die (again)? Well, that's what I mean. Outlines, synopses, notes, whatever, are at best contengent, if a writer is doing his or her job. Blueprints are for architects, who have need of them.

At this point, what worries me most about DoH is the degree to which this novel truly is a transitional novel between my early work (Silk, Threshold, Tales of Pain and Wonder) and my more recent mork (Low Red Moon, Murder of Angels, To Charles Fort, With Love). I thought MoA was the real point of transition, but I see that it will be DoH. Some readers, I fear, will be put off by the shift in style. Since Threshold, I've been working towards a different voice. In part, it's been a natural evolution. It just started happening one day (my short story "Spindleshanks" was one of the first signs of what was coming), and I knew I'd be a fool to try and stop it. And in part, it was a fear of becoming a self-parody. I was beginning to write like me, if you know what I mean, and if you don't, don't let it bother you. So, I have allowed change, and change is at the core of good art. I've said all this before, but after the last week or so, watching this book unfold, I felt it should be repeated. Some things about DoH will be familiar (characters, settings, tone, etc.), but some things are very different (primarily style and an increased emphasis on dialogue and story, a preference for more traditional fantasy and Dusanian/Lovecraftian weird over "horror"). If you've been a constant reader of my work, it won't be too much of a shock, but if you come to DoH immediately after having read Silk or Threshold, you're likely to be a little surprised at what you see. And with the next novel, the YA novel for which I still have no name, the changes will be even more pronounced. Of course, I'm very much afraid that I'll lose readers (and there aren't that many of you). I have to hope that you'll bear with me. I couldn't write the way I wrote Silk or Tales of Pain and Wonder forever. It would have been forced. It would have been a sort of lie. I miss that old voice at times, its density, its lush attention to every detail, its unorthodox tumbling of words and fragmenting of sentences. But, back then, I was doing what felt right, what felt natural, and that's what I'm still doing now.

Last night, after all that writing, Spooky and I celebrated Kid Night with Luigi Cozzi's dopey Contamination (1980) and the surprisingly creepy Infection (2004; Kansen), directed by Masayuki Ochiai. And, by the way, Shirô Sano is the Japanese Christopher Walken. After the movies, I was so beat that Spooky read me Burt Dow: Deep Water Man (1963) by Robert McCloskey, her all-time fave children's book, and I fell asleep as soon as she was done.

Just one more thing before I go. There's a new chapter of Boschen and Nesuko up at Anelnoath. Have a look.
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