Monday, November 27, 2006

On the beach

I’m at the beach this weekend.

Southerners have many fine qualities, I’m finding. The men are incorrigible flirts, the women have roll-on-the-floor wicked senses of humor, they can all cook like pros, they’re all so very, very, well, colorful.

But one quality I simply adore about Southerners is that so many of them seem to have beach houses, and consequently so many parties mean “at the beach.” This is not so much the case in California, where we have no dearth of world-class parties, but no mere mortal can afford beach property.

Going to the beach for the day is lovely, but waking up with the ocean outside your door is profound.

All these long walks on the sand and all these hours of simply staring at the sun changing on the water is being clarifying, as always. Like having my mind vacuum-cleaned. I have to say I probably wouldn’t feel the need to write at all if I lived right on the sea like this. I’d be teaching yoga and meditating my way off this Wheel of Karma (which at my current rate, if desire is what keeps us cycling through lives, will not happen for another seven millennia).

I don’t know how long it would take the ocean to wash the compulsion to write out of me – probably would have to measure it in years. But just over the last few days I’ve achieved some kind of balance – long stretches of mindlessness and also some serious work done on my story for THE DARKER MASK - I had several scenes to write before it was actually complete, and this weekend I wrote all of but one of them (and totally freaked myself out with the solution in the process). Maybe there’s something to this short story thing afer all.

And maybe I would be a better person if I lived at the beach. I would be different, that’s for sure.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Turn and Face the Strange Changes

I’m back from the road. Actually got back last week but have been unburying myself from piled-up mail, backed-up e mail, and mountains of cat hair ever since. Plus, you know, sleeping. I could easily use another three weeks of sleep.

I’m still waking up and having no idea where I am. I suppose that will pass.

It’s disorienting not to be moving. And I feel like I’ve changed in some fundamental way. People I’ve known for a long time are telling me that I’m different. They say I seem happier. That’s a funny thing to hear because I feel just as chaotic inside as I’ve always been. And yet I know there’s been some kind of shift. It’s something to do with identity. For all that I live in my head I’m really a terribly concrete person, and it is so endlessly satisfying to have a real book out, and another one already turned in. It just explains and justifies everything, somehow.

But I do feel different, and I’m not entirely sure who I am any more. I’m watching myself as I would a stranger, trying to figure out what she’s thinking, what she’s going to do next. It’s a little scary so I have thrown myself back into the two things that are most familiar to me – writing and dance.

In the morning I work on my story for THE DARKER MASK. In the afternoon I work on TRAVELLER’S TALE. While usually I want silence when I’m writing, now I play music all day long – I can’t get enough of it – everything. Old surprise tapes. U-2 endlessly, Van Morrison, Lightning Hopkins, Todd Rundgren, Modest Mouse - even, weirdly, Diana Ross. Evenings are dance classes, then back to writing again for a few hours. I went back to jazz and was thrilled yesterday to get to do a combination to “All That Jazz” – the equivalent of a dance orgasm. Tonight I’ll go swing dancing for a bit and that will also feel somewhat like home, although I’m not entirely sure that I’m ready for so many strangers touching me just yet. But at least I won’t have to talk.

The thing is, none of these familiar things feel the same, either. I’m very restless, burning up. Perhaps it’s just that this stage of writing is always like this - like being pregnant. Not that I know – this is pure speculation. But I’m irritable, and uncomfortable, and hungry all the time – not for food - and there’s not much else I want to think about – it’s all about the baby (book), and I just want it to be DONE, and OUT, but of course it’s going to grow on its own time – such a long time, too. But I know the only way to take this edge off is to finish.

And I know all this has brought me close to who and what I’m supposed to be. But it’s all very strange.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Virtual Cocktail Party

It's Friday - (how did that happen? In fact, how did NOVEMBER happen?).

That means drinks on the Good Girls, with Elizabeth Letts.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

HARROWING tour: Cape Fear (Week 8, Cont.)

So I woke up in Fayetteville, still alive, which I have to think is good.

Mad drive back to Wilmington for my Cape Fear panel. The morning was moody and stunningly beautiful, dark banks of clouds high in the sky and the gauziest veil of clouds very low, practically right above the car, and a strong, strong wind that gusted leaves in cyclones along the way.

I made my reading right on the dot, miraculous! And then did two more panels: Fearless Self Promotion and Writing Crime for the Screen. I got to reconnect with new NC author friends Katy Munger and Sarah Shaber and a crop of magnificent librarians from the New Hanover Library, which hosted the Festival.

After my last panel I snuck out and walked around downtown Wilmington. What a fabulous port town – old historic buildings and far enough south to have actual Spanish moss. Not as many ghosts per capita as Savannah, but you can tell there are a few. The sky had cleared and there was a gale-force wind – it was a challenge to walk in it, especially with this hair. I did the Riverwalk, which is technically the Intracoastal Waterway Walk. There was a horrifically young bridal party taking photos by a trolley, bracing against the wind and overpowering sun. As I kept walking I realized that this wedding had hired out one restaurant patio for the ceremony, another for the dinner party, PLUS a whole ship, I guess for the night. (So who’s Daddy, I wonder?) It’s my opinion that the bridal party was far too young to take full advantage of the potential decadence of that setting.

The yachts berthed along the Riverwalk were lavishly decorated for Halloween – ghosts flying from railings, huge black spiders clinging to ropes and nets, gravestones on the decks. I’d forgotten it was Halloween already and was sad not to be anywhere near the Castro, but this was great eye candy.

I sat at an outdoor patio and watched the sun go down over the waterway – with an anniversary couple on either side of me. We had lovely random chat – and they were all very excited to hear about THE HARROWING. I think possibly you make your best sales just sitting there letting people come to you.

But the culmination of the whole trip was getting in the car to drive the next morning and having a whole set of very dark songs play on the radio, starting with Stevie Nicks’ “Edge of Seventeen”. And suddenly there was the whole story I had felt prickling in the bookstore with the clerks. I knew I just HAD it. So I drove and talked it into my mini tape recorder and, hallelujah, it looks like I’m going to make my DARKER MASK deadline after all.

The next day, Halloween, I flew to LA and wrote 13 pages, start to finish, and blocked out the whole thing. Lots more work to do, but it's there - a whole story – my first ever – on Halloween. And definitely as dark and spooky as the day.

Sometimes it’s pretty fucking great to be a writer.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Virtual Cocktail Party

Alyssa Goodnight and some swoony Neruda at the Virtual Cocktail Party today!

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

HARROWING tour, week 8: The Leaves Change

I had events all oer North Carolina last week and it was just thrilling to hit the road, and discover the leaves were changing (I'm from California, right? This whole season thing is SURREAL...) It was such a clear week, and I drove from Raleigh to Charlotte to Gastonia to Salisbury amidst green with blazes of gold, amber, magenta, saffron, the brightest oranges… it must make people giddy, seriously – it did me.

I very much enjoyed my readings and signings at Park Road Books, the Literary Book Post, the Gaston County Library – and the media interviews went smashingly – I’ve hit my stride and don’t even really need to prepare for them any more, except of course for reciting Hamlet’s Speech To The Players to warm up. Because, you know, it just works. And I’m enjoying the different questions and observations that come up in each interview – you actually do learn more about your writing, doing all this.

Then it all got even better. I drove to Wilmington for the Cape Fear Crime Festival. Now, this took some maneuvering. In some explicable scheduling glitch, I had a signing in Salisbury on Thursday, had to drive four hours to Wilmington that night so I could be up at 5 am for a 6 am TV interview, then had my first panel at Cape Fear – “What’s it like to be a New Author?”, moderated by the massively fun Jesse Kellerman (who had my life in theater, I felt like I was seeing my life flash before my eyes, listening to him…)

Then I had to drive two and a half hours back to Fayetteville for a signing there. Madness – but I got it all done. I don’t THINK I have any more days quite that crazy coming up. I truly hope not.

I walked out of the Fayetteville signing (Books a Million) and it was pouring. Really, a gale. I had some insane thought of trying to get back to Wilmington anyway, because I had a 9:30 am reading – but as soon as I hit the freeway it was quite clear to me that I could actually die out there on the road (this state is so DARK…) You just don’t take your chances in a city everyone calls “Fatalburg.”

So I opted for the first hotel I saw.

That weird trip to Fayetteville was worth its weight in gold, though, because I met two really lovely bookstore clerks, Ashley and Bryan, and we had a rambling existential conversation about ghosts and psychic phenomena (Ashley is one hell of a psychic…) and the whole encounter reminded me of a seed of an idea that I thought might just work as my story for THE DARKER MASK anthology, due December 8, eeek!

THE DARKER MASK is something I said yes to, caught up in Chris Chambers’ and Gary Phillips and Reed Farrel Coleman’s and Walter Mosley's enthusiasm, and the sheer honor of being asked - without really considering that I’ve never written a short story in my life and I don’t have the slightest clue how to go about it. It’s a whole different animal than scripts or plays or novels – baffling.

I’d actually called Chris in a panic last week, saying I just didn't think I could do it with my tour lasting until late in November – but that night I sent that idea into whatever subconscious cooker exists – you know - down there - and hoped for the best.

Being a writer is ALL about hoping for the best.

I'll keep you posted.