Thursday, August 7, 2008

Ten Days in the Belly of a Rat, or How Not to Finish a Fantasy Novel

Hyperbole has a long and splendid history in my family. I get a lot of teasing about my penchant for referring to “the most amazing chocolate” or “the worst airplane seats ever invented.’ So I’m on my guard as I list, with deliberate understatement, the trials of the last ten days in July, during which I finished a draft of The Rats and the Ruling Sea:

July 21-25 Thunderstorms, often for hours. Forced to turn off computer for part of every day. Temperatures 82-92, 100% humidity. No AC in this house. I’m a good month into a bout of insomnia as of today.

Mon, 28: Smashing thunderstorms off & on all day. In the afternoon, a surge protector explodes in my face, spitting a tiny, red-hot piece of metal against my leg. Laptop showing signs of morbidity; switching full-time to a desktop mac.

Tues, 29: Power failure. Wild electrical storms in the afternoon. Prolonged brownouts (the lights are noticeably dim). Working in basement to escape the heat.

Wed, 30: Power out for nearly seven hours. Writing by hand. Dog runs (swims) through a muddy field recently plowed with the most organic of bovine fertilizers. The flies follow us home.

Thursday, 31: I disturb a wasp’s nest in the tool shed; stung multiple times. My left ear turns pomegranate red. No internet service. Power fails in evening. The dog runs away.

Friday, August 1st: First thunder-free day. So tired I’m hallucinating. I am less than an hour from sending the draft when, for reasons best known to Satan, the power dies again. I decide to drive into the town of Amherst and set up my computer in the library, at least long enough to retrieve the file. It’s the hottest day in weeks. I carry machine, monitor, keyboard, mouse and cables to the car, fit them in snugly for the half-hour drive, and the power returns. Ninety minutes later The Rats and the Ruling Sea arrives in England.

My advice to writers everywhere: don’t be seduced by whippoorwills and dewdrops on spiderwebs. Embrace the smog and the squalor. Live in town.

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