Monday, August 22, 2016

Another Time, Another Place, Another Author

...which requires yet another re-start, another re-do, redux.

I’ve observed that the job tells me what to do, and that so long as I follow my instinct, I’ll come out all right.

Then comes the time when the job tells me not to bother. Hang back. Wait. Nothing can be done right now. Not until.

Until what? I keep screaming (internally).

You’ll know.

I’ve mentioned my writerly heresy of not writing every day. Being a writer is not the sum total of my identity. It’s something I do when I’m not being my wife’s husband, the house accountant, and chief pickle jar opener.

With respect to my favorite latter-day American writer, I find nothing “valiant” or “holy” about writing. But it is what I’m good at, and it is what I do. When I don’t do it for a while, I get twitchy and anxious. That animated image of Jack Nicholson above is not far from where I am right now inside my head. It’s been so long, I wonder if I still know how to do this.

It’s got to happen one way or another.
Sit. Your butt. DOWN.

A couple of weeks ago I realized I was going to have to start the rewrite process all over again, beginning with Bleeding Kansas. I had already completed the rewrite of my first book in April, and was hoping to rewrite Grace Among the Dead while in the hotel room as we waited to close on Big Pink. 

These rewrites are super-critical. THE SAGA OF THE DEAD SILENCER is my first, and perhaps the only zombie post-apocalypse action series I will ever write. As such, and especially as it has my name on it, I want my books to stand out from the many others of the genre out there. To do this, I need a consistent tone and manner of prose.  Going through the entire series one sequential page at a time until I catch up where I left off in the middle of The Wrong Kind of Dead is the only way to do this.

Moreover, I want my characters, especially my principal protag, Derek Grace, to have logical character arcs. Derek’s relationships with Agnes Joan McIntire and Elyssa Marie Godwin go well beyond the Archie and Betty and Veronica template, and I need the words and deeds of all to make sense in terms of their distinctively different, yet compatible characters.

I’m always careful not to let the narrative devolve into intrapersonal bathos (read, “soap opera”), but these characters are people with conflicts to resolve among one another. I’ve spent enough years with Derek, Agnes, Elyssa, Brother Christopher, et al., to become attached. Whatever happens to them, they deserve to have it happen logically within the context of their post-apocalyptic environment.

The key problem I have to work through is I’m  not the same author anymore.

I don’t live in the same house. I don’t live in the same topography, let alone the same town. The six-week ordeal of getting the house in Colorado Springs ready for sale, selling it, the further month spent in the Hotel Purgatario waiting to close on the house in Monte Vista, and another month of making that century old-plus pile habitable has taken its toll. 

I am only slightly exaggerating that last point. Last week I had the bright idea to make a schedule by which I would have finished the rewrite for Bleeding Kansas by last Saturday. The electricians needed the entire week to rewire the upstairs, though, switching out the ancient—and potentially lethal—tube-and-knob wiring for state-of-the-art, Colorado Building Code approved Romex cabling.

[Heavy sigh at decrepit siding.]
That dormer is where my desk
is in my office, where I'm writing
these little love notes to you.
This is more than a matter of being inconvenienced by mere hammering and drilling and jigsawing, or the power going out periodically as a brand new breaker box was built. The cost of not dying in an electrical fire in one of the San Luis Valley’s famously below-zero Fahrenheit winter nights is going to burn through much of what’s left of our profit from the sale of the last house. We’re going to have to dial back on our renovations while we sweat paying off the basics. And there’s so much left to do.

I’ve traded one set of American Existential Problems for another. Not that I miss the ones I traded away. While I miss the sounds of the children playing on the elementary school playground across the street and up the ridge, the rabbits in the yard, the omnipresent Front Range looming majestically in west, I do not miss making best- and worst-case scenarios for when I was going to have to call my bank and talk to them about renegotiating our credit card debt.

I’m in a better place, so to speak, but it still has its issues. New issues. Requiring a new perspective, a new face to meet the new faces of God knows what coming at me next.

Which it turns out I can’t help anyway. So much has changed. I’ve got that much working for me.