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Writing Update: June Mermaids and Paganini

Unblocked. I think. Sort of.

I am writing about mermaids. Or I will be. Right now I am writing about a shy, stuffy little professor-type in 1901 who blushes whenever a pretty girl is in the room and who is following the plot about as much as a sleepy cat chasing a pussy willow.

Which is to say not at all. He could bonk his face into the walls trying to find the door and nobody would think it’s out of character. First drafts, my friend, first drafts. We haven’t gotten to the mermaids yet. I need to plan (how does a mermaid’s tail attach to its body? How does echolocation change the form of their language? Relationships to sharks? Vehicles of transport? Technology? Coloration? Family structures? Currency? Culture? Cue maniacal BookmarkedOne laughter to frighten the neighbors.

And to my consternation, the form the short story is taking? An epistolary, remarkably similar in style to Dracula.

Ooh, that’s hard to admit. Especially after just ranting about how terrible Dracula is. And my personal belief that the epistolary and frame narrative, unless in the hands of someone exceptionally brilliant (i.e., not me) are dead forms as far as modern fantasy is concerned.

cue BookmarkedOne grabbing a friendly teddy bear and screaming “What was I thinking?” into his unblinking black eyes. He sagely does not reply. The dragons do not deign to get involved.

Moving on.

How am I?

My weird sleep habits are wearing on me. The first Revenge of Magic book came in the mail and into my greedy little hands today (Hardback! Brand-new! Silver lettering! Mine!). I keep having to remind myself to eat while I’m working. Have devoured all the episodes of Sherlock (it’s terrible. I love it). I start a playwriting course on Monday. The West End is reopening Sunday. I’m playing Paganini Violin Caprice 20.

It’s funny, that piece. No, really. The book has a rich red paper cover, and it seems to smile and laugh at me just the way I imagine Paganini would. It starts in D major, all lyrical and peaceful as boating on a summer lake, and then–Aha! It’s b minor and you’re in a mine field of unfamiliar faces and your heart is racing and the air is cold but your breath is hot and you will triumph, but keeping your balance, that’s the thing now, keeping your balance, not falling off the edge of the knife, clinging to the top of the world even when it spins so quickly it’s dizzying–

And then it’s in D major again. The same peaceful, serene melody as before, lilting. As if it were all a great joke.

You can almost feel him smiling.

Or that’s how it would be if I could play it in any suitable fashion. My fingers are still learning to dance the steps.

Hm? How I feel?

What, emotionally?

Well, since you’re so pushy, my urban fantasy characters (yes, from the 1,000+ page monster draft) are on hiatus. Vacation. Adventure. At the bottom of a well probably stabbing a giant spider. They do that from time to time, particularly when I need to take better care of myself. I’d say it’s because my characters care, but I don’t see how missing them is going to make me any less intractable.

I like to say that they go on adventure when I can’t find inspiration. Half because they are so very real to me now, and half because well, if you have writer’s block, what else are you going to do?

I’m lonely. When they’re gone. When my head isn’t full of their voices. Do you know, the other day, I heard a song and I asked myself, “Hey, I wonder what J’s voice sounds like. You know, because you’ve never really heard it. I bet it sounds like that, only he’d never sing that loud when anybody was listening, and it would be a little gentler, a little less perfect, do you hear it, the difference?”

The difference. Like the slightest curve of a fingerprint.

What can I say?

What can I possibly say?

I want you to imagine hearing the voice of someone you love. Someone you love, someone lost, just a breath, just a thousand, thousand miles away. A best friend. A brother. Your hero.

Everything. It means everything.

And even so, it seems perfectly idiotic that I was sitting there listening to an upbeat pop song with my throat going tight.

Fictional. Not even finished.


Don’t worry about me too much. I’ll lure my characters back with Twizzlers and the language of flowers and promises (lies) to take better care of myself while I write. They’ll come back. They always do.

In the meantime, I have a language for mermaids to dream up and sleep probably wouldn’t be a bad idea either.

Until next time, happy writing.


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