Some progress

Not that this will become a series of writing about writing, but I thought I’d follow up my last entry with the news that I did actually make some progress storywise yesterday. It was a long day of fairly mundane driving through Minnesota and Iowa, pretty but staid country, and among listening to my music, Benjamin’s music, and the first few chapters of Robert B. Parker’s “Rough Weather”, my mind drifted back towards stories.

My old thesis advisor and writing mentor, Ernie Hebert, once told us that if you get stuck in a story, or can’t start it in the first place, you should take a drive and your brain will work things out as you go.  At the time, I thought this a prescription for distracted driving, but I’ve really come to appreciate this advice.  In particular, driving with evocative music can be a great jumpstart for my brain.  Music that tells a story or sets a specific mood (see Tom Petty for the former or The Clientele for the latter).  After a good seven hours on the road, my mind was raring for the next opportunity to write.  Almost as soon as we checked into our hotel in Omaha, I sat down at the desk and set to Sea Story No. 2.

Now, in a noisy cafe, I may pop on my headphones and move Sea Story No. 1 forward, just for yuks.  There’s a conundrum to solve on a sinister coast, and I know just the characters to tackle it.

False starts

I keep getting the itch to write (fiction, I mean, not this blog), and then faltering once I actually sit down to the page, or sometimes just falling asleep. I guess a three-month national book tour is really not the time to try to start writing something else, but writing has historically been a method of release for me, and this tour has involved more than a bit of stress and disorientation.

Fortunately, we’ve also been spoiled by various friends and relatives along the way, so even when the muse deserts me, I can still manage to have some fun. Benjamin and I went with our friends Kat and Michael to the Minnesota State Fair today, and then came back to their place and watched Iron Man, which I’d never seen. Just a day of fun, a break from the standard touring duties, and I’ll be more than ready to get back on the proverbial horse tomorrow.

There are two sea stories, Nos. 1 and 2, that are asking to be rendered, have been asking for about a month now with little satisfactory response from me. One is fantastical, one “real”, and both drawing from the same well of images and sensations from the New Hampshire coast that also sustains me as I think of Jane and our apartment.  One of these days soon, the quiet will come and the surf will pour in around my feet and I will make it into story.


I’m in Virginia Beach, Virginia at the moment. Benjamin and I have just done our 6th book event– out of 36. Which does not include the airport signings, of course. We have been subsisting on the kindness of friends and family thus far on the book tour.  We haven’t left the East Coast yet, but already we owe a great debt to Jean & Brendan, Aunt Raschel & Norman, Raisha, Tony, and Benjamin’s parents.  And that’s just the people who have been hosting us.  We’ve been spoiled; we may not need a hotel until Madison, Wisconsin.  We owe still more to everyone who’s turned out at our events, not just to buy a copy of the book, but to be a part of the audience and keep our great ship cutting through the vasty sea of commerce.  It disturbs me, in fact, because I don’t know how I’m ever going to pay all of these people back for their generosity.

Philadelphia Architecture

Here in the land of brotherly love on our book tour. And I just realized my nascent blog was holding up comments until I approved them… oops. That’s fixed now.

Driving around yesterday and the day before, I was struck by how many beautiful (albeit sometimes decaying) churches are in the Philadelphia area. Then I caught a glimpse of the stately city hall in the center of town, and I fell in love. Today before our book event (6 pm, Borders on Broad), I will need to admire the architecture a little more closely and take some pictures. Some of these buildings very closely resemble the brooding structures in my head.

Parsing my phantasmagoric preferences

Maybe I should use this as a space to keep track of stuff that I like, just in case certain favorites and penchants slip through the holes of my porous memory. The other day it struck me that my media consumption trended overall more to the macabre than I’d realized– this during a day that included reading Lovecraft and watching part of a documentary on that worthy, taking in an old episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and playing some Ghostbusters the Video Game. I think the surface similarity of monsters and ghouls that they share is really only that, though, and that beneath the constrictions of genre they veer off in quirky directions. Obviously the Ghostbusters franchise, while involving ghosts and the busting of them, has never been a “horror” property, falling much more on the comedic side of things. The same could arguably be said of Buffy– the vampires were never really that scary. There were frightening elements, but they tended be rooted more in the relationships between the characters and the realities of teenagedom.  Maybe I’m more interested in dark, necromantic situations as a backdrop.  I like an interesting setting, but the characters and emotions have to be compelling foremost– which is why I tend to enjoy Lovecraft only a little at a time, and plan on borrowing his atmospheres rather than his stilted dialogue and flat heroes.