Friday, August 26, 2011



Less less less less less less less less less less less less less less.

I remember a farcical title for a book: Science Simplified to the Point of Inaccuracy.

That's about right.

Thursday, August 18, 2011


Starting to close doors. Doors were already closing but I didn't know it.

The list of what has to happen is shrinking. Just because it happened doesn't mean it has to be written down.

Dread might be a fine motivation.

As it continues, search for clarity and inevitability and (contra-indicated) surprise.

No idea what the leap off the balance beam and onto the mat will look like.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


A golden-plate spike.

1. From mania to reflection: learning to think. This must just be self-evident. You can't explain it.

2. Giving up Leo. It hinges (now) on that.


The feeling is that I tried to make an automobile. I ended up with three round wheels and one square one. And that in this draft I have been adding wheels. So that it still has one square wheel but now there are wheels on the roof, the windshield, popping out of the trunk, wheels in the driver's seat.

Or: I read a book review in 1980 or so that slammed the novelist for saying that a character had been run over by a "lime green car." "Who cares that it's lime green?" the reviewer asked. It was cited as an unimportant detail thrown in to make something seem more grounded. I have had the fear of God in me ever since that the details I think ground a scene are in fact a fleet of lime green cars, in this case covered hood to boot with big, shiny, aerodynamically crushing wheels.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

127. But also: that Cocktail

So, you've likely noticed I don't tend to explain things much here. That's because this blog is for my own benefit, the equivalent of a perpetual first-and-a-half draft. The equation goes like this: first draft, for the author; every subsequent draft, increasingly for the world. But people keep asking me about this, so, courtesy of here is the amazing Cafe Flora Carter Beats the Devil cocktail. It is an amazing cocktail and though, kids, you can try this at home, it won't be as good as the Cafe Flora version.

Carter Beats the Devil
2 oz El Tesoro Reposado Tequila
1 oz. fresh lime juice
1/2 oz. organic agave nectar
1/4 oz. del Maguey Minero Mescal
20 drops (eye dropper) of chili tincture*

*To make chili tincture, cover Thai chilis with overproof rum for two weeks, strain.

Put all ingredients in a cocktail shaker, add ice, shake well and pour, straining out the ice.

True story: while I was writing Carter, I kept wanting to set a scene in the building that Cafe Flora later occupied. It's a great piece of Oakland architecture.

Friday, July 8, 2011


Will repetition of structure cause pleasure or predictability? Is there pleasure in predictability (well, yeah, I know, sometimes but not other times; it's semi-rhetorical). What I mean is: in this case, what I'm writing now, the risk I'm worrying about is that if I too often repeat a set of beats, will that be something a reader digs on or thinks is annoying?

Friday, June 10, 2011


Currently, the hardest thing about writing? Letting the wrong words stand there. Because they have to.


Sometimes you need to let the more gelatinous parts stay where they are, with notes all around them. Some pages with a lot of writing and cross outs on them can't actually be rewritten. The new words are just ciphers for "help! help!"

I'm putting those parts aside for now and going forward, trusting that in a month or six, I won't be painting and patching the old sections but instead seeing daylight and knowing where to cut.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011


I wonder if the spongiest parts, when rewritten, will end up being the best parts or the most painted-and-patched parts.

I remember reading a scholar on changing acceptable language for race. His point was that we keep changing the name of something because we're still uncomfortable with the concept behind it. That's turning out to be true here, too. I am writing and rewriting the stuff when I'm not comfortable with the feelings that underlie. So the question is whether that will be a matter of rearranging sentences or tossing the whole attempt to see and starting over. .

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Saturday, June 4, 2011


"I did this from love. But of myself? And did I know the difference?"

I think that's the sound of something cracking open, maybe.

Friday, June 3, 2011


Also: it is unwise to justify the paranormal.


Don't explain irrational behavior.

Don't explain that irrational behavior is irrational.

Don't explain how you feel about irrational behavior.

"Knowing what I know..." Nope.

Thursday, June 2, 2011


I know this isn't really the Parallax View, but if one of the things you have to suffer when writing narrative is the release of information -- that is you know a story has to contain certain things -- what you sweat over is initially the order in which everything comes out. Your protagonist is a kid. Should you mention he's good to his parents and has a dog before you mention he's robbing banks? That probably makes a difference. And there's other information: shirt color vs. how tall he is -- whose ordering actually has no import.

Then the alchemy begins: information that's crucial to the story can, when you have enough there already, not be mentioned at all. That Hemingway riff: "For sale, baby shoes, never worn," the rest of the story comes into your head without needing the rest. The point is in trusting the contract between reader and yourself. The contract is harder every day there's an internet, because the synapses used to fire off those particular connections are now keeping multiple windows open and seeing if anyone hot has emailed you. (You kids off my lawn. Now.)

Further, people tend to read differently. You can mention someone's Liberty of London tie 800 times and some readers will have the association you want, others will hold the character up to a totally different set of prejudices and many won't have a clue what it means.

And the current issue: there's what you know now and what you knew then and all the opinions that happened in between.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011


There is a taxonomy of naps. You'd think the subtyping relies on measuring quality of refreshment, but I don't think so. The 20 minute nap, the deeper 60 minute nap, and then the utterly useless 2-hour, face-down, sweaty two hour nap after which you think you might still need to sleep, and when you wake up, the sheet creases on your face look like scarification. Obviously, that nap was too heavy.

I had this vision: diving into a lake, and arching perfectly so you head to a perfect depth at which you weigh nothing and your motion is effortless. The return to the surface feels pre-ordained.

Now that's the platonic nap.

And, if the water might be words, it's the platonic chapter.

Monday, May 30, 2011

98. cont'd

The title of this Goya is "Aun Aprendo," which translates as "I am still learning."

With that in mind:

When do you put your thumb on the scale?


And urgent.