Progress notes for 2 April 2005
New Words: by hand only
Total Words: 27,144
Whiskey & Water
New Words: 1,284
Total Words: 15,538
Something good about working on these books in parallel. Unlike Carnival, which is written in a largely transparent style (Well, I think it's transparent, anyway--I keep looking at it and going "There's no there there!" but it reads smooth and it seems to be holding people, so far.), Whiskey & Water is quite richly written, with a nice thoughtful pace and a sort of meditative, contemplative narrator who is pausing, occasionally, to look around and have a few words with the scenery. It's reassuring, because Carnival had me half-convinced that I had forgotten how to write pretty. (Of course, for me at least, writing pretty needs to remain in balance to narrative, but in general, I am rather proud of my ability to write pretty and pacy, both at once. It's not a skill that was earned without some blood on the bricks, so to speak.)
But here, let me show you what I mean. (Both first drafts; no warranty)
Vincent was staring at him, tawny eyes bright. Kusanagi-Jones shrugged and turned his back, running his fingers across the rainbow lights of his subdermal watch to order another drink. He stared out the bubble again, waiting while it mixed, and retrieved it from the dispensall less than a meter away.
"Oh, good," Vincent said. "Nothing makes a first impression like turning up shitfaced."
"They think we're animals anyway," Kusanagi-Jones said, gesturing to a crescent world becoming visible as Emer entered the plane of the ecliptic and altered shape to give her passengers and crew the best possible view. "It's not like there was ever a chance of making them like us. Look, the crew's modulating the ship."
"You've seen one reconfig, you've seen them all." Nevertheless, Vincent came to stand beside him, a warmth at his elbow. They remained in silence while Emer's program reworked her from a compact shape optimized for travel to something spidery and elegant, designed to dock with the station and transfer cargo--alive and material--as efficiently as possible.
"Behold," Vincent said, teasing. "New Amazonia."
Kusanagi-Jones took a sip of his drink. "Stupid name for a planet," he said, and didn't mind when Vincent didn't answer.
...he wore a patchwork tailcoat, red velvet and copper brocade sewn with bugle beads, fringes, droplets of amber, silver and steel bells and chips of mirror, a phoenix embroidered on the left lapel and a unicorn on the right. Matthew wouldn't wear a shirt under the talisman on Hallow's Eve, so the skin from his collarbones to his belt shone bare, revealing the black edges of the spells etched into his skin. The coat smelled of nag champa and dragonsblood incense; he kept it in a drawer with his aromatics, so the odor wouldn't fade.
The owner of the vintage shop he'd bought it from--without haggling, as was right for a ritual tool--had claimed it had belonged to Jim Morrison. This was a lie. Joey Ramone had tried it on once but hadn't bought it, and the real magic of the coat was the fabric and beads that had been salvaged from other sources: a skirt panel from the original Broadway production of Kiss Me Kate; a harness bell from Andrew Carnegie's carriage horses; a fragment of a busted bathroom mirror from The Bitter End; enough baubles to buy Manhattan twice over (purple and white wampum sawn from the shells of quahog clams, a handful of love beads thrown away by Robert Crumb, a pewter tourist's trifle of a charm bracelet charm shaped like the Empire State building that somebody had given to Gregory Corso, once); a steel jingle made from a valve cover off Peter Beagle's motor scooter; a penny John Coltrane picked off the floor of Birdland (heads) and ran through a press at Coney Island in 1963... and that wasn't half.
Matthew brushed the gold fringe on the epaulettes until it fell properly. He laced and double-knotted his steel-toed boots, made sure his knife was in his pocket and his ring of rowan on his thumb, and stared at the man in the mirror one more time. A little more gray in the hair, a few more lines beside the eyes, the ink in his tattoos starting to fade and blur just a little, here and there.
His jeans had a steel zipper and copper rivets. He wore a black leather glove on his clawed right hand. The healed scar where a unicorn's horn had pierced his heart shone white and crescent-shaped among the black lines on his skin.
He slapped his hands together, the strong one and the shattered one, and let himself out through deadbolts, chains, and the police lock to see what Hallow's Eve would bring.
Sunset gave the illusion of warmth to a city whose nights were already chilling into winter. New York had never been one of those cities where Halloween became a ritual, a citywide block party, and an excuse to riot all rolled into one. It was San Francisco that claimed Halloween as it's own; New York's Saint's-day was New Year's Eve.
But Halloween was Halloween, and New York also wasn't a city that missed an excuse to throw a party. Or a parade.
That always fascinates me--the way the book will demand a certain voice, and take it, whether it's what I want to give or not. I wanted something a bit less transparent for Carnival. I'm not going to get it. And Whiskey & Water demands that dense, smoky, kind of knowing voice--and it's also forcing me to learn omni.
Did I mention I don't like writing omni? It's utterly foreign to me. I'm a limited-third writer by nature, although I've trained myself up pretty good in first person, and I can do second as a stunt or to a purpose.
But damn, it's neat. The book knows what it wants. The book is boss.
The book is a train; it's going where it's going, and God help you if you stand in its way.
Reason for stopping: It's tomorrow. I didn't get more done because Saturday is my Bad Work day. :-P Which is a pity, because I do have a head full of stuff for Carnival, I think.
Mammalian Assistance: Marlowe was an annoying little twit. Especially the part where he reached out deliberately across the keyboard and sank his fish-hooks into my collarbone. His nails have since been trimmed.
Stimulants: China Rose Lychee, lemon zinger
Exercise: gothercise, not as much as I would have liked.
Tyop du jour: tangled strands of red and gary and gold
Darling du jour: The witch sipped her tea, holding her hair out of her face with the back of a freckled hand.
Books in progress: Ed Sanders, Tales of Beatnik Glory; Neal Stephenson, Quicksilver
Interesting research tidbit of the day: Conflating disasters, I somehow just now managed to realize that "Back Home in Derry" is generally sung to the tune of "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald." I'm ruined for life.
In other news, I'm wondering how the heck they found Henry Kissinger's heart to perform that angioplasty, and happy birthday, Marvin Gaye & Hans Christian Andersen. And in Alabama, they're testing a drug that may possibly be able to correct a genetic defect--the stop mutation--that causes 10% of cystic fibrosis cases.
Just to make sure my
And, oh boy, there's new evidence of outright faking of the site safety testing at Yucca mountain. Apparently in addition to making up the drip and humidity measurements, they apparently also just kind of adjusted the air temperature readings. You know. A little. Because that doesn't affect corrosion rates.
I think I'll just die of radiation sickness proactively. It'll be faster.
(As if they could manage to actually get the stuff here without derailing a trainload somewhere in the middle of Kansas City.)
And, just to bring a certain circularity to this section, the lyric to the Phillip Chevron poem-slash-Christy Moore (or) Seven Nations song "Faithful Departed" is one of the most gorgeously bittersweet things I've ever read. (Not that this is news, but it's one of the things that's in heavy rotation on the Promethean Age writing soundtrack, and I was reminded again today of how beautiful it is.)
Other writing-related work: Handwriting and thinking until my brain smoked about Carnival. Still trying to figure out what a feminist dystopia's version of the festival of meat would look like.