Wednesday, September 18, 2013

but the travel writing is good stuff

Few things are duller than writers blogging about writing, and this post promises to be quite dull indeed, so if you are one of my three devoted regular readers, you may freely skip the rest of this and go find something more amusing on the internet. I hear there's some fuss over Franzen and his immense ego, or you could join the tail end of the "holy crap books" debate on twitter, or you could go read about the lunacy that is Swinburne (and his rock star hair) over on Wuthering Expectations. Or you could go play angry birds, which I am told is an online video game although to the best of my knowledge I have never seen the thing. What you don't want to do is waste your time here, is my point.

My novel The Astrologer is going out of print in early October. I don't have a firm date; it will depend on when my publisher officially reverts the rights to me. It will be strange to have been a published author for six months and then, suddenly, to not be. Well, I suppose I will remain a published author, I just won't have a book in print. Hang onto those copies of the novel; they will be worth something someday, I promise you.

I'm reading Agatha Christie's 1938 "Poirot" mystery Appointment With Death. The structure is interesting, especially for a "golden age" detective novel: at page 100, no cime has been committed, though of course we know who the stiff is going to be (although Christie might surprise us, which would be delightful and I hope she does). Hercule Poirot, the detective, drifts quietly along in the distant background of the story, which is also a nice choice by Christie. He's walked through two scenes and interacted with almost nobody, but the reader is aware that he is around. The dramatic writing and characterizations are not brilliant here, but the travel writing (the novel is built around a trip to Palestine, or rather around the intersection of several parties' vacation trips through the Holy Land) is good stuff, all vivid and sharp with colors and textures and emotion. The pathetic fallacy is all over these pages (damn you, Ruskin, for that perjorative; the animation of landscapes and objects is not a failure in prose or poetry, ya big doofus) (if it was Ruskin who coined that term). I have always enjoyed the digressions Christie took in her novels. You can tell that she enjoyed them, too.

My own detective novel in progress, The Hanging Man, is paused in the middle of Chapter 9. The scene that I've just begun to write is pivotal, and I need to think for a bit about the dramatic arc. Once I finish this scene, the book should be pretty quickly finished, all precipitous action and denoument in three chapters of mayhem and dust storm. Three or four weeks at most, I hope.

After I finish The Hanging Man, I am not sure what I'll do, in the way of being a writer of novels. I had planned to work on what I have loosely referred to as "the Haydn novel" or else on something called Nowhere But North. These are two books I've been mulling around and talking about for a couple of years. This morning it occured to me that I might not write either of them. I might work on something else; the call of this something else is getting to be quite loud, and I always write whatever novel most strongly demands my attention. I think, in other words, that I've made a decision about the sort of books I want to write and that sort of book does not include the historical fiction I've been planning. I have rather been avoiding contemporary stories but now I believe I'm going to focus on a story set in the present. I've got ideas about the relationship of now to then, you see. Well, you might see. We'll see.


  1. ... These are two books I've been mulling around and talking about for a couple of years. This morning it occured to me that I might not write either of them. I might work on something else; the call of this something else is getting to be quite loud...

    I've found that if I find a book I want to write, do my research on it, then write the outline, by the time I get to writing it, I've grown bored with the idea because I've been thinking about it so long. Waiting takes away my excitement for it. Which is sad in a way. I've only so many books in me.

    And hey, I own a small publishing company. I'll take your files and upload them if you want, and give you all the royalties. Not a big deal. It would keep you in print.

  2. Anne, thanks, but I like the idea of my little novel selling for $150/copy!

    I tend to think about all of my books for a year or more before I write them. I have any number of possible books germinating in my brain at any given time; I'm just waiting for a spark to catch, and when one of them bursts into flame, I start to write it out. So it's not that I've worn out the interest in the books by being too familiar with them. It's that I haven't had the Idea yet that will pull the books together and make writing them possible. A catalyst is needed. Things like plot and character are just empty machines that I'll eventually use to bring the ideas to some semblance of life, so I don't think much about them anyway. Plot and character tend to discover themselves on the page while I'm writing about the important stuff. Sort of.

  3. As long as you keep on writing, because I want to read more from you.

  4. I have two copies of The Astrologer. That's $300! And one is signed. That's even more! Not that I would sell them. Unless I became a drug addict or something. Which might happen if allergy medication is addictive.

    I'm excited that you're almost done with The Hanging Man, Mr. B! I need me some Patience. And I'm also excited that you are exploring new ideas for your next book. I'll be curious to see what 'appens.


  5. Loren, you will. I promise!

    Davin, the value of those copies can only increase, right? Otherwise, you should buy a house with a fireplace. Like I did. Allergy medication? I can quit any time I want.

    I figure I've got about 15K words left to write on The Hanging Man. That's nothing, really. I know what happens, I just have to write it all down. I had a spectacular idea about the ending yesterday morning that has gotten me excited. I realized I was going in the entirely wrong direction. So much for outlines, right? The funny (or fortunate) thing is that I can give the book an ending I never foresaw without having to rewrite anything I've already got on the page. I'm clever that way. I hope. We'll see. Onward, indeed!

    The next book I write will have a lot of stuff about language and sex and music and memory. It will be Finnegans Wake and it will possibly take me a couple of years to write the first draft.

  6. We've been watching Poirot again. Such fun! I'm happy you're still writing, and I must say, I'm delighted to hear you'll be focusing on some contemporary. I have one copy of Astrologer. I think I should buy another.

  7. David Suchet is my favorite Poirot, though Peter Ustanov was amusing.

    I was telling Mighty Reader this weekend that the contempory book might end up being a version of "the Haydn book," sort of. Yes, yes, that might work. Though I had a look last night at the first chapter of "the Haydn book," which chapter I wrote maybe a year ago, and I thought that writing that book might be pretty easy, actually. I don't know. In any case, I will need to take good notes when we're in Vienna and Prague.