asking the big life questions

About to settle in for the final (oh dear gods I hope so) big push on FINALLY FINALLY FINALLY finishing the latest draft of LORD OF BONES (sequel to BLOODANGEL) which is slated for publication by Roc/Penguin in June. And which, in publishing-time, is not that far off. Which makes my visiting mother (and kids’ beloved grandmother) a most convenient and excellent presence to have in my house.

This part of the book has been giving me a bit of a headache, not because I don’t know what happens — I know exactly what happens — but because I wasn’t sure exactly how to write it. Went to dinner last night at the counter in the backroom at Matsuhisa, and over green tea, sake, and various dishes* the chef handed over to us (or handed over the counter to the waiter right behind us who then placed them right in front of us, because the gods forbid we have to make any effort lifting our arms whatsoever ), I phrased this problem to my friend Fon as: “I have to figure out how to make the act of writing this section really interesting to me.”

What I was really saying (I realize now) is that I was still mentally groping my way into this big chapter, and because it is so big — rounding out and ending this book, as well as setting up the next book — I wanted to make sure I went in with that shivery thrill you get in your spine and your gut when you know you’ve mainlined into the heart of whatever it is that made you want to tell the tale in the first place. That source of fascination. Which is a very different feeling –and tends to fetch a different result — than if you’re just mechanically obeying a pre-established outline. Not that there’s anything wrong with an outline — not at all, not at all — just, I’ve learned how crucial it is to my own process to make sure that my outline is in perfect key with the voice of the story. And since that voice is not static, the outline cannot be static either.

Sometimes the ‘heart’ of the scene, the thing that whispers in my ear ready, set, go! and gets me racing, is a character, or a conflict between characters or shared moment they have, or some kind of revelation, or one specific image.

Last night, once we moved from a late (post-putting-the-kids-to-bed) dinner to a quick drink on the patio of Chateau Marmont, as I tried in that LA way not to throw curious glances at Matthew Perry who was seated at a table right in my sightline — and I think this now makes Perry the celebrity I’ve glimpsed most often in Los Angeles, even more so than a certain-blonde-socialite-who-offends-everything-I-stand-for-and-thus-shall-not-be-named — and as our English friends educated us on a drink called a “Pimm’s Cup” (or just Pimm’s?), I was mulling over the chapter (hadn’t stopped mulling) and got it. The first paragraph floated through my head and is a bit of a different approach than I’ve taken before. I realize now that the problem I was groping around with was actually one of point of view. And what excites me about writing this chapter is…this choice I’ve made in point of view. Which will set this chapter off from the rest of the book that preceeds it, but that’s fine, that fits, and I can make sure it fits when I comb through the complete manuscript next week.

So, onward.

I do, however, have to take time out from writing to attend a wedding in St Helena. Which requires scooping up my laptop and hopping on a plane (albeit a private one, which neatly eliminates the whole hell-is-an-airport thing and makes air travel not unlike grabbing a cab). I was also discussing this issue with Fon. When you like clothes, as I do, and you’ve been living in LA for a while, as I have been, you get used to a certain reckless freedom of sartorial expression. So when you go to a certain kind of event in an inevitably more conservative part of the country, do you hang out your fullblown LA self when you know it will attract the kind of attention you might not be seeking? (I like attention. I just don’t want it much of the time.) In other words, do I wear the edgy silver metallic dress, which I love, or do I wear the long slinky dress which is perhaps a touch sexier but also more traditional and easier to understand? Fon, who once showed up to an outside-LA event in a babydoll dress and knee boots, when everyone else had, shall we say, chosen a very different kind of attire, could relate. She is one of a handful of people we know who will be going off to Oslo to watch the Peace Prize ceremonies and is pondering the question of what to wear. “It will be very cold,” she pointed out. She is not so familiar with this concept.

Of course, the long slinky dress enables the wearing of flats, which is a winning argument right there.

*I consider myself a reasonably adventurous eater, but I could not take the conch dish. It was beautifully presented, and I was all set to try it, but when I toothpick-stabbed the meat inside the shell and drew it out — the thing just kept rising and rising at me — and reminded me a little too vividly of one of those sandworms in DUNE. Or that other monster-worm movie with Kevin Bacon, the title of which escapes me. So I handed it down to Fon’s husband, who ate his, mine, and Fon’s.


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