on recent process

Writing a new sequence of stories is a bit like setting out for a new school on that first day back after the summer holidays. Everything is unknown, until that moment when the first words hit the page, those new characters begin to move and breathe and interact with their world. There are times when I begin a piece of writing with the intention of taking the narrative places, expanding it into a broader perspective, opening it up to becoming a new “manuscript.” Yes, that word we use to describe what it is we are working on with a view to making a book.

I found myself reading about David Bowie’s new album, and of the list of words he drew on for musical inspiration. The thought in my head was to take those words, forty-plus, and write a flash piece driven be each one of the words. Instead, a couple of those words spoke to me, “Effigies, Chthonic, Succubus.” So, I began writing a story centered on the word, “Effigies,” and from there, spiraled into eight or nine more sections. So far, it’s been relatively easy to move the narrative along, to create some tension in the life of the main character. Where the story goes, as I told someone the other day, I am uncertain about, finding the events dictated by the sentence that precedes the next one.

The chain of events continues, the consequences of the main character’s actions taking him into waters he can’t properly understand. His naiveté, his callow choices, his fears are what propel the words onto the page. I wonder if it’s because I’m growing older that I find myself persistently writing about aspects of my childhood, real and imagined? Unlike my character, I never got a girl pregnant when I was a teenager, nor traveled the streets of a strange city with the same pregnant girl, as my character is bound to do in a coming episode. it’s a good feeling to write with at least a little sense of the words flowing without being forced out onto the page. With a bit of luck they’ll continue to appear for me.


Drove back to San Diego yesterday with my son, Simon, past the snarl of traffic pouring northwards, and imagined myself caught up in the slow-moving stream on my way back home. Stopped off in Leucadia, at Cafe Ipe, a decent coffee shop on the Coast Highway. I was sitting outside, beside the mural of the Surfing Madonna, writing in my notebook, planning the direction for my recent series of stories and decided to browse the surf store adjacent to the coffee shop. Surfy Surfy , like Cafe Ipe, is new since I lived in the area, and as I was browsing the magazines, I saw a piece by my writer friend, Christian Beamish, in the Surfer’s Journal. Turns out the owner of the store, JP, knows Christian (the surf world being a small one). I got to talking about writing with JP and Gabrielle in the shop, and did an impromptu reading of my short piece, Collateral Damage, for them. At the very least it meant I avoided the traffic for another twenty minutes, and shared my work with a few more people in the world.



Homeward bound, the traffic was better than I expected, and as ever the lights of Camarillo when I drove over the Conejo grade, signaled the short run-in for home. The sky bore the marks of the fire up on the 154 off Paradise Valley Road, and the radio talked of 5% containment, and winds expected later on. A prayer said for our friend, Riven, who has a lovely cottage in the woods off Paradise Valley Road. Home by nine, bed by ten, unable to sleep until midnight at the earliest, everything suddenly crashing around my head keeping me awake. When I did finally fall asleep it was to horrific dreams of a huge earthquake and tidal wave.