November 3rd, 2005


A November of Fashionable Animals

Spooky finally posted a few of her Halloween pics. Four jack-o'-lanterns and some pointy eared lady.

Sophie's being an obstinate old fart about eating this morning, and she has to eat before her insulin, so Spooky took her outside to try and stimulate her appetite. I thought I'd sit on the front porch while Sophie poked about the yard and Spooky watched her, but it was too chilly and I came right back inside.

Yesterday, I wrote 1,199 words on Chapter Ten of Daughter of Hounds, and the first 568 of those words took me more than two hours. I also did something I've never before done within the text of one of my short stories or novels — I quoted Lovecraft. And now I'm going to do something else that I've never done before. Here's part of the arduous 568 words. Consider it a pre-sneak preview of the novel, raw and unedited:

Soldier can’t remember the first time she saw the yellow house on Benefit Street, not the first time that she saw it from the outside. It seems she might have been a grown woman before she ever looked at it the way that other people do, those unsuspecting people of the sunlight who have not been raised in the deep and rotten places of the world, who have never walked the silent halls of the house or climbed the narrow stairs leading into and out of its vast basement. If Soldier had ever paused to consider this juxtaposition — that she knew the terrible heart of the yellow house before she ever glimpsed its concealing face — she might have thought it odd. But she never has.

There has never been a less haunted house, nor a house more filled with bad memories and restless spirits.

It has a reputation, of course, but then many old houses in this city suffer from unpleasant reputations; too many houses that have stood far too long to escape insanity and murder, suicide and all the less mundane indiscretions of men and women. But the "haunted Providence" tours never stop in front of the yellow house, and no medium or investigator of the "paranormal" has ever held a
séance in its front parlor or attempted EMF readings in its upstairs bedrooms. There are occasionally sensitive minds who feel a sudden unease whenever they pass by, and some will even cross to the western side of the street to put more distance between themselves and the house. But these people are few, and they rarely spare the house more than a quick, anxious glance.

Mr. H. P. Lovecraft (1890-1937), who made the yellow house the subject of one of his stories, wrote: "Originally a farm or semi-farm building, it followed the average New England colonial lines of the middle eighteenth century — the prosperous peaked-roof sort, with two stories and dormerless attic, and with the Georgian doorway and interior panelling dictated by the progress of taste at that time. It faced south, with one gable end buried to the lower windows in the eastward rising hill, and the other exposed to the foundations toward the street." He also noted, "The general fact is, that the house was never regarded by the solid part of the community as in any real sense ‘haunted.’ There were no widespread tales of rattling chains, cold currents of air, extinguished lights, or faces at the window. Extremists sometimes said the house was ‘unlucky,’ but that is as far as even they went." And, fortunately for him and numerous others, even Lovecraft’s excitable and prying imagination never guessed more than a misleading fraction of the truth.

Since its appearance in 1764 (in no conventional sense was it constructed), the great yellow house at 135 Benefit Street has kept its secrets to itself, ever faithful to the iron wills of its architects, just as Soldier and Odd Willie Lothrop and the other changelings have kept their covenants with the Bailiff and the Cuckoo and the Hounds of Cain. The sum of improbable geometries and Cape Ann granite, fallen trees and nails and dim words whispered in forgotten tongues, the house knows its purpose well, as do all those who dwell within its walls and all those who might ever have cause to enter its doors or windows or come slipping up its pipes.

"Do you think they’re expecting us?" Odd Willie asks, and Soldier shrugs and drops the butt of her cigarette. She grinds it out with the toe of her cowboy boot.

"I’m not sure it much matters," she says. The three of them — Odd Willie, Soldier, and Emmie Silvey — are standing together across the street from the house, standing there on the icy blacktop beside the stolen Chevy, and Emmie keeps sneezing. Soldier watches the house and knows that it’s watching her, in turn, that the silver-eyed ladies and gentlemen inside are waiting for them to cross Benefit and come up the steps to the front door. She knows that somewhere below the yellow house, Madam Terpsichore and Master Danaüs and the other
ghul are whispering among themselves, that Madam Mnemosyne sits in her burrow, hunched over her scrying bowl, watching the black water for the moments Soldier hasn’t yet caught up with. And in the attic, the alchemist’s daughter is waiting, too.

(Copyright © 2005 by Caitlín R. Kiernan)

There are a couple of rough spots, but not as rough as I was afraid it would look this morning. I don't think there are any spoilers in there anywhere, not really. And now I'm so close to THE END, and this novel has been such a very long journey for me. I made my first notes for it on June 1, 2004. I actually began writing it on October 1st, four months later. And now it's thirteen months later still. This book has been so much of my life for the last couple of years, standing near the finish is a little unnerving. No, it's a lot unnerving. This is the place where the ice is the thinnest, where it's easiest to lose my footing. Even now, anything can happen.

There really wasn't anything yesterday but the writing. When it was done, I was too tired even to sleep. I had a salad for dinner. I lay in bed and drew five overdue monster doodles (really nice ones, though). And I have to get back to it as soon as I post this entry. Spooky's figured how we'll be accepting payment for the vignette subscription service — she spent a good bit of yesterday on this. I'm still watching the poll, of course, and, if you want in, you can still vote or comment in the Vignette Subscription thread on the phorum or e-mail me ( As soon as the webpage is up, everyone who's indicated their interest will be getting an e-mail (assuming I have your e-mail addy). I plan to write the first four vignettes in January, as soon as I've finished "Bainbridge" and edited Alabaster. Ted's begun work on the illustrations for Alabaster, by the way. Anyhow, also, please have a look at the current eBay auctions. Use "buy it now" and get a monster doodle. Oh, and my thanks to Dan for a truly drad care package, which I will write more about later on.