Journeys in Novelling: St. and other updates

Yes. I’m doing a duet to a Disney song. It was awesome.

It’s been far too long since my last post. That’s kind of a thing for me, it seems. Thank y’all for your patience.

In the time since my last post I met some of my idols and a whole mess of new and amazing people in person for the first time at the World Fantasy Convention in Toronto. It was amazing putting  faces to people I’ve only known online or via a shared table of contents for years. I launched an exciting and long-in-process trilogy of  YA superhero novellas by some of my favorite regional authors. I started my new novel for this year’s National Novel Writing Month.  We had an election, which was kind of a big deal. The San Francisco Giants won the world series. And I also said good-bye to a truly amazing friend who headed back to the Bay area this week before a lengthy stretch overseas–a trip I will not be taking, sadly.

That’s her in the picture. The one in the lei, in case you were confused. We’re both karaoke junkies. “A Whole New World” was not my choice for final duet, but I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say it was probably the best rendition of it ever sung in the history of mankind. (What do you know! You weren’t there!)

Which, in a roundabout way, brings me back to my NaNo in progress, St. (which I am far behind on, for those of you keeping score at home.)

At the time I posted about this a month ago, I described it as “a novel about transformation, destiny, and the American west.” That’s still very much the case. But as work progresses, I’m realizing something else. At it’s core, St. is, while not a romance in any sense of the word, largely a novel about love. And for that reason more than anything else, it’s a book I couldn’t have written two years ago, let alone two decades ago. Funny how time changes a guy.

Now, let’s be honest. As words go, “Love” can be a bit over-used. We love our family. We love our favorite baseball team (Go Giants!). We love macaroni and cheese.

What gets lost in the static is that, just like the prophets said, “All You Need is Love.” (Ok, prophets if you’ve accepted the gospel of John, Paul, George, and Ringo into your heart.)

Love and romance are too often confused when people enter the equation. You can say you love a movie and people won’t make assumptions that you’re picturing that movie taking long, soapy showers. Well, unless that movie is Miller’s Crossing. But that’s none of your damn business. We as a culture need to break free from those assumptions, because then it frees up what is a truly powerful word.

I love mankind as an abstract collective, even when they do stupid shit. Even really stupid shit. Though I may shake my head sadly and say, “Guys, what the hell! Really?”

I love people in smaller but far less abstract groups, like my co-workers. Despite the times some of them drive me crazy and make me want to strangle a penguin, I wouldn’t replace them if I could. Well, maybe that ONE guy…

I love my writing group, without whom I’d be bitterly cranking out words in a dark, lonely apartment seven days a week. I’d buy them all ponies, but really, who can eat a whole pony?

And my friends…I don’t know what I’d do without them.

Really. In regards to my close friends, I almost have no words. I’d take a bullet for any of them. Admittedly, for some I’d only take a minor hit, like a small caliber in the shoulder or calf. But there are one or two where I’d line up to take a killing blow. I’d like to think I’ve done a good job of letting them know that.

But being honest with strong feelings is not an easy thing to do. Jackson Browne, in “The Late Show” once said “No one talks about their feelings anyway without dressing them in dreams and laughter. I guess it’s just too painful otherwise.” (It’s off the album Late for the Sky from 1974 which I cannot recommend highly enough.)  I’d tend to agree with him, and not just because he’s awesome. Maybe it’s a cultural thing, something we’ve been trained to do by our parents or circumstances. Our emotions are part of ourselves, something we own, something deeply personal. By sharing them with others we expose them to all kinds of dangers. So we lock them up, only letting them out when we truly feel safe.

I get that. I’ve been doing it for years, but I’m getting much better. And in the interest of full disclosure, some emotions might be better off filtered for general consumption–anger, just to name one. Not all emotions are positive ones, after all.

Baskin-Robbins has a lot of flavors of ice cream, but there are even more flavors of love in my experience. I’ve learned a lot of them through close friendships over the years. And just when I think I’ve had a little pink sample spoon of all of them, a new flavor rolls out. Those evil bastards…keeping you coming back for more.

At the end of the day, deep under our cynical surface, I truly do believe that it’s love that connects us all. It’s the only thing strong enough. Not even bacon or kitten pictures have that kind of power. And it’s those connections that shape and change us, that inform who we are and what we’re capable of. It’s those connections that make us human.

So while St. is still about transformation, destiny, lost saints, angels, demons, and the American West, it is even more about people. And, well, love.

Still not a romance, though.

That will have to wait for another novel.


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