Thursday, January 16, 2014

Delay #2

Besides wrestling with a puppy during my three month hiatus from the blog, I also had another baby thing thrashing around and insisting on my attention – namely, a new novel.

It all started on Halloween.  I was thinking about the story of Finn McCool (or Fionn mac Cumhail in Gaelic, because it's a cool language), and how he protected the city of Tara from a fire-breathing monster on Samhain (which I discovered recently is pronounced, ‘Sah-win,’ because besides being cool Gaelic spelling has no relationship to its pronunciation).  That led me into a Wikipedia rabbit hole, which somehow ended up travelling into Welsh mythology.

A Wild Hunt hound! - or maybe just a goofy Spaniel...
One of my favorite parts of the latter is the Wild Hunt, thanks largely to reading Dogsbody by Diana Wynn Jones as a teenager.  I always liked the thought of a powerful fairy leading a hunt through the air, unleashing his hounds of snow white coats and red ears.  Thinking of that story, a sentence suddenly leapt into my head:  ‘That winter he dreamed of silver hounds coursing over the fields.’

The sentence stuck; it had the feeling of the beginning of something.  So I began thinking of where it could go.  The Wild Hunt was purported to appear as an announcement of someone’s death.  The dreamer of my sentence was going to die.  With that realization, I knew suddenly that this was the start of my novel about the drunkard policeman of a small North Idaho town.  He’s half Native American, though, so Welsh mythology was out of place.  I thought about what animal he might really see in visions at night. 

The answer came quickly.  All the Salish peoples who inhabited the Pacific Northwest told stories of Coyote.  My character’s mother is a member of those peoples – a full-blood Schitsu’umsh.  Today everyone calls them the Coeur d’Alenes.  A half-blood son of such a tribe might dream uneasily of the great figure of their mythology in the days before his death. 

And so it begins...
There was the true beginning of my novel, jotted down in the evening of Halloween, 2013:  ‘That winter he dreamed of silver coyotes coursing over the fields.’  The next day I was off work, so I rushed around processing pumpkin puree to freeze.  In the back of my mind the sentence from the night before had taken root.  I needed to write more, I realized in a quiet moment over the kitchen sink.  Then it struck me: it was the first of November – the first day of NaNoWriMo, as it is somewhat hilariously called. 

My competitive side pricked up its ears.  Could I take this chance to prove that I could write a novel in a month?  If I could manage 2000 words a day, I could have a 60,000 word manuscript at the end of the month.  So I set out on my task.  For a good three hours each evening, I’d feverishly research Schitsu’umsh culture and language, then type furiously to reach my quota.  The novel rushed out, probably sloppy and unpolished, but growing incredibly fast. 

I have to admit now that I did not quite finish.  Thanksgiving happened right at the end of the month and what with party preparations, 5000 words fell by the wayside.  The continuation of the holiday season, followed in the past couple of weeks by parties and outings with friends home from jobs or college, has kept me from adding those missing words.  I’ll get around to it soon though. 

My protagonist dreams of fields frosted like this!
It was amazingly refreshing to throw myself into the creative process, I have to say.  For a solid year now, I’ve limited myself to editing, trying to get on top of the pile of manuscripts that are stashed away in my files.  I think I’ve managed to get The Art of Dying whipped into shape, but I was languishing over the clean-up of House of Mirrors.  I was overexposed to editing, in fact.  Granted, I’d been posting to this blog, which does help, but much as I enjoy writing these posts, fiction will always be more refreshing to me as a writer.

The wide-awake, electrified feeling of the mind as it actively creates something is so exhilarating.  I might exhaust myself each night, pouring out words, but the feeling was one of catharsis.  I proved to myself again that I can write, that I’m not just a tense, critical mind, day after day examining words for perfection.

I know that my new novel needs plenty of work, and probably substantial fleshing out, but I’m glad that it exists and will soon be finished in its first draft.  I regretted pausing the blog for so long, but I’m also happy that my new novel, Memoir of a Funeral, emerged during the break.


  1. I wondered where you had been! very happy that you have been doing so much writing! I love the old celtic tales too... they are so good for inspiration aren't they?!

  2. After a day of watching grandchildren I am often asleep not much after the sun has set. But I have been having fun with haibun and another friend has a photo fiction prompt site. As things do some things that we start stall. I've even put my whirling story on hold after adding to it once a week for 18 months or more.

    I'm kind of looking forward to the summer already when more of my time will be my own. Good luck with all of your writing!