Not to point out the obvious, but I have not come around here for a while, what with being taken by the fever dream of finishing the big fantasy novel. I imagine this is a thing unique to writing a novel. You get to the point where you can see the finish line and suddenly you just pick up the pace and start working on it to the exclusion of all else.
And then one day, covered in sweat and gore and your mind reeling with the terrible thing you’ve done, you stand back and realize it’s alive. ALIVE!
I had ideas for other blog posts during the time I was lost in the darkness. I would sometimes write them out completely in my head but I never actually typed them up. All writing for the last 90 days has been jealously dedicated to finishing the novel.
And now I’m done! God, it’s such an… awful, awkward feeling. Is this what it’s like for marathon runners? When they cross the finish line, heaving and vomiting, is their first thought, “But what am I going to do now?” Somehow, I doubt it.
I had the idea for this book as a kind of side thought on a long road trip. It wasn’t anything special, just the notion that I had always been a fan of Lovecraft but had never written anything in that universe. I tossed the idea around in my head for a while but nothing really came of it until that tornado nearly destroyed Moore, Oklahoma in 2010. And then an image for the opening scene of the novel popped into my forebrain and I’ve been obsessed with the idea ever since.
This book has been with me through seven drafts over the course of five years. During that time, I wrote a complete other novel that I couldn’t get anyone at any agency to read much less consider (just because it could be misread to be rabidly anti-Christian even though it’s not), and wrote a dozen short stories, some of which I really like, and published my four crime novels.
Both of my daughters moved away from home in that time, one to LA and one to OKC, and my beloved shorthaired pointer Charlie passed away, something that made me realize Louis CK is absolutely correct when he says the countdown to tragedy begins the moment you bring a pet home. And even though I resolved not bring home any more ticking timebombs of tragedy, three months later, Libby the Border Collie came to live with us.
This is why we need a border fence, sheeple.
I also got into an OCD loop with the audio books for 11-22-63 and Ready Player One, basically listening to them over and over until the arrival of the Southern Reach series helped me break out of the loop. The news isn’t all good on the OCD front. I’m now stuck in a loop listening to Patton Oswalt books and albums. This tendency to get stuck used to worry me but I’ve come to understand my OCD well enough over the years that I know to simply look for that next thing that will break me out of it.
And after all of that, I’m not truly, not actually, not completely done. Typing “The End” on that last page just started the four week countdown until I can start the polish draft. What can you do in four weeks? Write some short stories, I guess, but I’m so creatively drained it’s not like ideas are leaping out of my head.
The need to work on something every day remains with me and if I don’t obey that need, I feel the stinging, unhappy presence of incompleteness that all true obsessives know well. But now that the novel is finished, that feeling of disappointment is laced with the thinnest threads of relief. It’s not like the damned thing will un-write itself. Even if I get hit by a bus tomorrow (yeah, like I would be anywhere near a bus) the book has been written. I can check that one off the imaginary list.
Oh, speaking of damned things: If you’ve never read The Damned Thing by Ambrose Bierce, you should do that right now. Go ahead, I’ll wait.
And… while I’m at it. If you haven’t binge watched Mick Garris’s Showtime series The Masters of Horror you should do that, as well. Like any anthology series, the quality is hit and miss but when they strike gold — as in The Fair Haired Child, Cigarette Burns, Incident On and Off a Mountain Road and Jenifer (Also, Steven Weber’s commentary track for Jenifer is pure comedy gold) among others — they mine that sucker for all it’s worth.
I want to try to read Heart of Darkness again during the break even though I find Conrad’s ESL writing style to be truly repellent, but I’ll probably spend the time watching old noir films and hanging out at Trailers From Hell — mostly to get ideas for new films to watch — because, more than anything, the fallow time after completing a novel is meant to be a period of rest for your imagination.
Wish me bon appetit!