Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Cruising Altitude

Wasp, ID pending. Markings are similar to a cicada killer wasp, but the size is too small.
...[M]y villain must also be a heroine. Her love drives her. I already knew that because she is a protectress, but I must take her further. It isn't enough for her victim to love her. His wife must love her. The reader must love her. And, as the one who channels her, I must love her.

Even though, deep down inside, we all know better.

And the one man who really does know better, who coming into this story has perpetrated the worst crimes without a shred of remorse -- he becomes the Cassandra of the story. The person no one is able to believe.
Such were my musings earlier today, before I added another 1,435 words of draft. That makes 19,339 words in 17 consecutive days of writing....

During today's session I was headphoned into Olivier Messiaen's Turangalila Symphonie, which blew me away when I first heard it almost 15 years ago. In his liner notes Messiaen writes:

"The Turangalila Symphonie is a love song. The Turangalila Symphonie is a hymn to joy. Not the respectable, calmly euphoric joy of some good man of the 17th century, but joy as it may be conceived by someone who has glimpsed it only in the midst of sadness: in other words, a joy that is superhuman, overflowing, blinding, unlimited. Love is present here in the same manner: this is love that is fatal, irresistible, transcending everything, suppressing everything outside itself. ... the subject is love unto death."

It fit the mood of the writing perfectly.

My job is to pull my assignment off, and that's where things can become tricky. It's a shaping process, such as when I discover that two events in the same scene need to be swapped around to make better sense, or when I need to come at something from a different position. What seemed important in earlier notes becomes less crucial, or becomes baggage to be dispensed with altogether. I can usually tell when I need to change my approach because my writing becomes wooden and the characters seem flat, as though they are being forced through their paces.

Thoreau's "Simplify, simplify!" really comes into play here. When I see what floats to the top I can pour off the rest. Each scene must make a distinct contribution to the story line, taking a clean, direct route. Sometimes I travel a tangled route before I realize that I need to reverse, take that turn instead. If I can't read the map I jump ahead -- as I've done these past two days -- so that I can see where I've come from and extrapolate backwards.

Book #4 has clearly resolved itself into two main dramatic threads, interrelated but approaching the same problem from a different angle. The other threads are ancillary and need to be trimmed. My main structural problem was that I was getting bogged down in recap, much of it in narrative form and front end-loaded. It was pushing the development of the story lines way back.

Now that I've gotten into the meat of those story lines, I've been able to incorporate recaps in a much more organic way, taking and re-casting them from the earlier chapters. I've got a fair amount of slashing and burning to do, but at least now I know that I'm getting somewhere.

Mary wonders if this burrow, found recently in our yard, is home to an armadillo or to a gopher tortoise. We're continuing to investigate. I haven't taken a ruler to it yet, but Mary estimates its diameter is about 8 inches. Our hurricane shutters should be coming soon (preferably before the next hurricane), so we'll be covering the hole or marking it prominently in some way before the installers arrive.

My food becomes simple. Canned tuna. Garbanzos. Simple salads. Crispbread. Unsalted peanuts and caffeinated coffee. Our walks are relegated to the nighttime after the temperature has cooled, though when I hoof it around town for errands I am at one with my sweat. Working with the blessings of flex time I become a night owl. Somewhere around 3 or 4 AM I can turn off my studio's ceiling fan.

The heat -- we have A/C but use it sparingly -- cannot dampen a good belly laugh. One category on Friday night's Jeopardy! dealt with current pop music. Both of us live in a cave when it comes to such matters. In an attempt to answer the last question, and being way off-base, Mary called excitedly through the toothpaste in her mouth what sounded like, "Earth, Wind, and Tires!" It brought tears to our eyes for the next two days.

My characters do not have a moon to look at, but they do have constellations, which I use sometimes to present the passage of time from one season to the next. Without a moon I am careful with my language. I do not write of tides, but of water that is wind-pushed.

On August 9 Mary and I had just emerged from the post office at around 8:50 PM when I saw this orange moon, about 14 hours past full, rising above the trees. This is a 1"6-second exposure at f/8. Behind us, Jupiter was up, followed by Scorpius and Sagittarius. lists this as "The Full Sturgeon Moon, when this large fish of the Great Lakes and other major bodies of water like Lake Champlain is most readily caught. A few tribes knew it as the Full Red Moon because the moon rises looking reddish through sultry haze, or the Green Corn Moon or Grain Moon."

About 40 minutes later we spotted an artificial satellite about to glide above Sagittarius, headed roughly east. According to Heavens Above, this was the Atlas Centaur 2 rocket, launched on November 27, 1963. This Centaur-D upper stage was the first liquid hydrogen fueled rocket to successfully reach orbit.

Sagittarius still climbs toward its zenith as we walk home near midnight. I see its "teapot" shape more easily than I can see the archer. And whether or not the Milky Way is visible, as it was last night, I know that I look toward our galaxy's center when I gaze at Sagittarius. Jupiter in Libra, my birth sign, has begun its slow sink toward the west.

Every night the stars rise four minutes earlier in their annual rounds. This morning Mary saw Orion in the predawn when she got the newspaper and made sure to tell me -- thrilled at the distant promise of winter.


Blogger Paul D. said...

Nice picture..definately a Sphecid as are cicada killers.

3:25 PM  
Blogger e_journeys said...

Thanks, Paul -- Consensus at Bugguide.Net is that it's a Sphecid in the genus Bicyrtes.

7:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love this post. At first I thought you were refering to the all incompassing must love. What a Kali pose...loving and dangerous all at the same time. The burrow hole is a good image for writing...remember to keep it simple and not fall down into it!

7:48 PM  
Blogger Brenda Clews said...

"I do not write of tides, but of water that is wind-pushed." What a superb line, and how exciting to be muse-driven... and the moon, big and red, figuring everywhere in your post.

7:19 PM  

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