Monday, June 9, 2014

The Next Book

Here’s how you know you’re a writer:

A few beta readers have your latest baby. All’s quiet on the western front. But you’re anxious. Bored, even.

So you pull another book out of mothballs. You start to read it. You find a few tinkering marks, and you accept a few and reject a few others. You realize you’ve got another book that needs attention, because it’s not at all as bad as you thought it was when you filed it away in disgust a few years back.
So it’s on to The Hermit of Iapetus.

I think it’s got legs. But whether it has arms, legs – a head – I have no idea.

Well, somewhat of an idea, or I wouldn’t be tinkering with it now.

In just a quick read-through, I can tell it needs a lot of help. And it’s got a serious copyright problem: I quote from the song “San Antonio Rose” quite a bit through it. I believe it sets the mood. But that in of itself creates a problem. Per Writing World:

Another point to consider is why are you using the song (or poem)? If it is to create mood or atmosphere it might be worth thinking again. The mood or atmosphere you experience when you hear a song is not necessarily going to be the same for the reader because they will have different experiences from you. Unless you have permission you should find other ways to create the mood or atmosphere you want.

Different experiences from you. Dammit.

So at this point I’ll leave the lyrics in as a placeholder and figure out a better way to send that mood. That’s all part of the revision process, right?

But here’s what I mean, just to give you an example of the conundrum I face:

Chapter Seven: It’s Still Probably Not Time to Talk About the Squirrels, but Okay

I have stopped going to the Alamo.

The Alamo: A slab of rock perhaps left over from an asteroid strike, perhaps popped out of the moon’s surface like an enormous green-grey zit. It is blockish, with dark portholes and a roundish peak that does indeed make it look like the building in Texas. Ice and dust sublime down its surface, creeping pillars dribbled like candle-wax.

I have stopped going to the Alamo.

But the song follows me. The song follows me. A song of old San Antone . . .

Deep within my heart lies a melody,
A song of old San Antone.
Where in dreams I live with a memory,
Beneath the stars, all alone.
Well it was there I found, beside the Alamo,
Enchantments strange as the blue up above.
For that moonlit pass, that only he would know,
Still hears my broken song of love.

Enchantments strange as the black up above. As Patsy sings, they come over the horizon:. The squirrels in cowboy hats, riding saddled steers, their horns wider than the arc of Saturn’s rings there, in the black up above. They pour over the horizon, whistling at their mounts, pulling on the reins, pirouetting and dancing beneath the Saturn-shine. When they see me, they tip their diminutive ten-gallon hats. And wink. And when the steers defecate, their dung leaves fresh craters on the blasted soil.

Iapetus in all its splendor, known only to my heart,
Call back my rose, rose of San Antone.

Cacti spring from the dung-craters and their needles grow longer than the steers’ horns, longer than the great horn in the black sky up above. They are thick, ghastly things, yet the steer rub against them.

They do not pop.

They inflate, and soon the sky is filled with steer satellites, each mounted by a ten-gallon-hatted squirrel, riding rodeo-style, as their mounts careen and buck and cavort and drop more bombs, more bombs, to the surface, where the cacti blossom into roses.

Lips so sweet and tender, like petals falling apart,
Speak once again of my love, my own.
Broken song, empty words I know,
Still live in my heart all alone.
For that moonlit pass by the Alamo,
And rose, my rose of San Antone.
Broken song, empty words I know,
Still live in my heart all alone.
For that moonlit pass by the Alamo.
And rose, my rose of San Antone.

I hear the familiar voice, warbling as if through concrete halls separated from me by a swimming pool. Indistinct words and melody, but familiar enough to tap into the memory of the song stored inside my head. I hear the words. I hear the song. And I sing.

Now the steers are dancing and the squirrels are screaming in delight as the rodeo numbers on their backs flap in zero-gravity. Occasionally, one of the squirrels loses its grip and flies off into the black, drifting among the other steers and still-riding squirrels to float across the face of Saturn, to occult the stars shining above, to eclipse the sun to cast their furry shadows on the surface of the moon where the Alamo lies, slowly melting, slowly melting.

The roses on the cacti sing along.

They sing along.
They sing along.
And rose, my rose of San Antone.
And rose, my rose of San Antone.

See? A big deal.

And there are other quotes and allusions. I quote from a Richard Nixon speech. I’m thinking I’m okay, as it was a speech given in a public place for a public reason. But I also allude to an old Abbott and Costello routine (Slowly I Turn) Good news on that is I’m sure the routine is older than Abbott and Costello, and I don’t really allude to the comedy team, just the routine. But I’m no expert.

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