Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Night Writer Sees the Light ...

... of dawn, that is. I'm pushing hard on finishing book two of the Mortal Path series. My natural tendency to write at night is spilling over into the time when most people are hitting the snooze buttons on their alarms.

Did you know that the hour before dawn is the best for listening to bird song? That time when gray is dominant and sounds are muted, and even the wind takes a rest, seems to have special appeal to our avian friends. I love catching this early morning free concert.

The past few mornings the windows have been closed and the air conditioner humming, so at the end of my writing day I'm listening to energy use. We're in a fierce heat wave here in St. Louis, with the heat index around 110 and no relief in site this week.

All that heat puts me in the mood to write about the desert. The real stuff, not the namby-pamby deserts we have in the U.S. This is book two's epigraph:

In this desert there are a great many evil spirits
and also hot winds; those who encounter them
perish to a man. There are neither birds above
nor beasts below. Gazing on all sides as far as
the eye can reach in order to mark the track, no
guidance is to be obtained save from the
rotting bones of dead men, which point the way.

—Chinese monk Fa Xian describing the
Taklimakan Desert, 5th century

This is a great quote, because it not only describes a real desert used as a location in the book, but the writing process that produces the book. Evil spirits surely are what lead me down unproductive paths and result in tossed scenes. The birds and beasts are helpful friends who want to meddle with the story and are banished. Marking the track--trying to plan what comes ahead in the story--is surely a task best left to dead men. And as for the hot winds, that can go two ways. One would be the overblown prose to be viciously stomped out. The other would be the sex scenes, probably the hardest thing to write so they don't come out sounding corny. Throbbing members on aisle 5.

So, epitaph as metaphor. I need more sleep. No, make that more words written.

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