Long and Winding

Long and Winding

January 1st

Dear Diary,
I have decided that my new writing project will be a classic swords and sorcery epic! To that end, I have reams of research on the particulars of many ancient and medieval weapons, and a few pages of notes outlining the magic of this new world. This is the extent of my preparation for this, as I want it to be spontaneous and fresh as I write it. No pesky outline for me this time! I’m going free solo. Au natural! With that in mind, I have decided on the working title of Beatbox, as I assume that performative style requires a certain degree of self confidence.

“Now that is one big book,” thinks an ancient ancestor.

As I write this, Dear Diary, a remarkable amount of work appears to be happening inside the house next door. Craftsmen of all sorts are moving about, finishing projects large and small, and a number of bureaucratic-types have been seen with a woman that I now assume to be the new owner. It is all a mystery, to be honest, and mysteries require methodical work habits to solve. That is not at all my current MO, Dear Diary, and so I will think no more on it!

Still, I have taken note of all the large cups and tiny plates being unpacked by inordinately handsome delivery men.

Theme Music: Thus Spoke Zarathustra, by Richard Strauss. The epic begins!

January 3rd

One possible future for protagonist Justine.

Dear Diary,
Beatbox has virtually galloped out of the gate, as I have now finished the first twenty pages! If my handwriting seems a bit breathless, Dear Diary, it is because I am just pausing for a moment before going back to it!

My protagonist is Justine Trueheart, who is aligned with the spirit realm in my new fantasy world. The main antagonist is her evil mentor, Barakon the Wise, aligned with the earth realm. Is it possible to be wise and evil, Dear Diary? This book will settle that question! Barakon, is part of the stone-magic realm, and has banished Justine after discovering her alignment with the spirits, which she was hiding. I’m working on a reason for her to do so, but there should be plenty of time, as she has just fled into the Ember Wastes, and this should give me some space to develop more of her backstory.

And speaking of backstory, I met Lilly, the woman who has taken possession of the house next door, and she has informed me that the house is to become a stylish cafe! Upon learning that I am a writer, dear diary, she suggested that I might like to spend quiet afternoons in the cafe, writing, as Eustace Sinclair is said to have done in Havana. I gently let Lilly know that I like to keep to myself while writing, though I didn’t rule out a morning coffee, and perhaps the occasional baked good.

Theme Music: The Isle of the Dead, by Rachmaninov, of course!

January 7th

Dear Diary,
I have, in these recent chapters, worked out a lot of the details of my fantasy world’s earth magic. To use it, a person has to hold in their hand five special round stones. These are selected from a pouch carrying the user’s stash of magic stones, like marbles. Hmm. This pouch should have a special name. I can’t have male characters talking about the stones in their pouches, after all.

Not the spirit animal you deserve, but the one you need right now.

Also, as Justine is a spirit-aligned person, I have decided to have this play a central role by having her on a quest to find her spirit animal. I have a special affinity for spirit animals, as you well know, dearest diary! I haven’t decided what sort of animal she’s to find, yet, but I have some time to think it through, since it is a quest, and all, and I’ve only completed through page forty-one. I’ll introduce her animal companion as a way to round out Act 1.

And speaking of time to think things through, I have attended the grand opening of the cafe next door. While the interior layout remains the same, of course, the walls now feature avante-guard artwork and the main room is all plush couches and tiny tables for one or two. The double-half-caf with a quarter extra foam that I ordered, was excellent, as was the croissant. I returned at once to my home, to sequester myself in my writing room. Justine’s animal friend is counting on me!

Theme Music: String Quartet Op. 1, by Glen Gould. Thoughtful, with just a hint of raccoon.

January 12th

Dear Diary,
After Justine’s third encounter with the forces pursuing her, I realized that what this sword-and-sorcery novel needs is some more swords! But Justine has given no hint of any sort of background with weapons. I’ll need to introduce a wise mentor, to teach her the ways of cold steel. Someone grizzled and worldly, cynical and a touch sarcastic.

That’s it! Dear diary, you’re a genius! Her mentor will be her spirit animal! This will kill two birds with one stone, which, I might point out, rules out a bird as her spirit animal, doesn’t it? Tee-hee! Seriously, what sort of animal embodies these qualities? A raccoon springs to mind. They seem sufficiently grizzled and worldly, and are no doubt cynical. But might I be playing into harmful stereotypes? I’ll have to think about that some more.

Later: I have visited the cafe next door, to allow myself a fresh perspective. As I drank a fortifying mug of pressed-almond choco-caf with double-frothed soy, I struck up a conversation with a man who just happens to be a city planner. He confirmed my instincts regarding raccoon-kind, and assured me that, if any urban mammals were to take up arms, they would certainly be among the first to do so.

Theme Music: Transfigured Night, by Arnold Schoenberg. This sounds like some sort of raccoon national anthem, to be honest. Terrifying!

January 29th

Dear Diary,
Beatbox is unstoppable! Justine has entered the oasis where her animal companion and future weapons trainer Porkins lives a solitary lifestyle of meditation. But Justine and Porkins are bound together, mystically unified, and he will end up being drawn onto her quest. Though Porkins will spend much of the novel complaining about this, at the end his tender side will be revealed, perhaps after a brush with death for one or both of them. Oh, I can’t wait to see how it goes!

Unable to contain my enthusiasm, I have taken this project on the road, as it were, and set up a temporary writing camp in the cafe next door. Lilly was glad to see me, and provided me with a mug of immense proportions, which contained a Caramel upside down, where the foam is somehow trapped on the bottom beneath a layer of exquisitely mellow caramel-infused coffee.

As a side note, as I was writing the opening to the scene where Justine enters the oasis, I happened to overhear a conversation at a nearby table, where a professor of climate science from the university was talking to a colleague, and it spurred me to give proper consideration to the climate of the oasis, and of the Ember Wastes which surround it. I have therefore rushed home to my writing room, to begin my evening writing session.

Theme Music: Wonderwall, by Oasis. Get it?

February 4th

Dear Diary,
The joy of creation has veritably coursed through my veins these past days! I have now topped 100 pages in Beatbox! Justine and Porkins have met, only to be driven out of the oasis by the arrival of Barakon the Wise’s trusted enforcer, the stone-mage Skrupullo. Skrupullo is quite the contradiction, being honorable and fair, but following an evil leader. Why is he doing things he knows are wrong? I’ve no idea, as yet, but it makes for good writing!

And another thing that has made for good writing is the conversations of my fellow cafe-dwellers. I am somewhat embarrassed to mention the incident this morning, dear dairy, where my imagination quite overtook my senses, and I brought attention upon myself by miming various thrusts and parries as Justine practices with Porkins. A gentleman in line noticed, and, upon learning what I was up to, revealed that he was a historian and curator at the local museum, and knew quite a bit about the sort of swordplay actually employed in Europe through the ages, as well as the details of various other weapon forms. I will incorporate what I can of what he told me, for verisimilitude, and have added his contact information to my list of Friends of Writing.

In an unrelated note, I was washing my hands in the small bathroom, removing the residue of passion fruit from a triple danish, when I overheard Lilly speaking with a man near the back office. At first, I assumed he was a romantic admirer, and I meant to take my leave quickly. But their tone was tense, then hostile, and finally he left. I did not see Lilly again this evening, but I hope everything is all right!

Theme Music: He’s a Pirate, by Hans Zimmer

February 16th

Dear Diary,
Can anything stop Beatbox? No, says I! I have now passed 200 pages! I have moved the action into an urban environment, to mix it up, and give Porkins more opportunities to use his unique animal powers, such as tiny hands, and a tail. They have searched for a week, and honored their bargain with the Street-leveler’s Union, and have been given the secret location of the marble production houses that make the various colored stones that earth magic is performed with. Time to take this fight to Barakon!

Lilly has followed my progress with some interest, and, though I have a rule to not chat up the story I’m currently writing, I did mention that it had moved to a city, mostly so I could comment on how cozy it was in the cafe, as opposed to outside, where a snowstorm was in progress. My mentioning of the hidden production centers of the magical stones brought a woman from a nearby table into the conversation, as she was was an economist, and at her urging I am now fleshing out the financial network that makes possible the secret manufacture and distribution of magical stones throughout the city. Why, this could well form the basis of city life, all unbeknownst to the populace!

Theme Music: For The Love Of Money, by the O Jays. Finances, baby!

March 15th

Dear Diary,
If I have seemed neglectful, dearest diary, it was only because I have been on a tear, lately! My special spot in the cafe is ready for me upon opening, and I help turn out the lights at night. Powered by various international coffee drinks (such as the Lebanese Double Triple Caf) and a staggering variety of baked goods (English Yums being a current favorite), I have brought Beatbox all the way through page 389! You go, Beatbox!

Janice and Porkins have fled the city, and I have decided they won’t be forming a resistance movement out in the Ember Wastes, as that seems a bit too Herbert-y for me. No, they will retreat into the Forever Shade, a forest modeled on the redwood forests I love imagining. No tree-houses, though. That would be cliché. Instead, the clandestine band of plucky resistance fighters will be based in a warren of underground tunnels among the titanic roots. A lot more nature for Justine to tap into, I’m thinking. I have in idea for some sort of ravenous larva scene, but am uncertain where it will fit, thematically.

One recurring presence at the cafe who does nothing to advance my writing is Lilly’s visitor, the one she has words with in the back hall near her office. Though I tried not to pry, that London Blue-Fizzle stain wasn’t going to remove itself, and so I spent an extended session scrubbing it in the back bathroom nearby, and so happened to overhear the man proclaiming that, through some sort of legal technicality, he owned the rights to all her recipes, a claim Lilly rejected outright.

Theme Music: Climbatize, by The Prodigy

March 21st

Dear Diary,
Can an author keep up this sort of pace indefinitely? When fueled by a succession of Toronto Blue Quadruplets (with extra whipped cream, of course) and plate after plate of double-glazed French Bullets, how can I not keep this up? I walk home each night, black out, and come right back here at first light, waiting for the cafe doors to open, shivering with the onset of withdrawal. How else can I be starting at page 632 today? Huh? How?

The mind, as they say, is a terrible thing to taste.

I’ll tell you how, you lovely diary you! It’s all about letting the story just sort of flow, and going with it. Justine and Porkins go with it. I need to be more like Justine and Porkins, but the closest I come to evil is Lilly’s former business partner, with whom I never speak. It is hard to confront evil that walks past you and talks to someone else, and their evil is really none of your business.

The visits from Lilly’s former business partner seemed to cease, for a time, but now he’s back, and has a new, smarmy sort of smugness to him that, when buzzed on Tel Aviv Triple-shots, makes me consider alternative uses for my tiny pastry fork. But I do nothing, beyond the occasional emergency flossing session that just happens to bring me to the bathroom within earshot of their closed-door confrontations.

He always leaves less satisfied than when he arrived, and I rejoice silently, as it’s really, truely none of my business.

Theme Music: In A Gadda Da Vida, by Iron Butterfly. When does it end? No idea!

April 4th

Dear Diary,
Having completed the buildup, Beatbox’s climax is ready to begin! I find this sort of surprising as it is only page 802, and I was starting to get 1000-page vibes. Oh well! It’s only book one of a seven-book series, after all! I’ve pushed back the undead arriving until book 2 or 3, and figure there’s enough time to visit the hollow earth in book 4. Still, the attention to detail throughout this book is a new high-water mark, for me!

Together, we can defeat patriarchy!

When I mentioned to Lilly, in an oblique sort of way, Barakon’s abusive relationship with Justine, when they had once been so close, I admit to fishing for more details about her situation. But her impending confidence in me was cut short by a man at a nearby table, who was a psychologist, and I was drawn into a fascinating discussion of gendered power dynamics in relationships. I shall endeavor to use this to enrich Justine’s relationship with not only Barakon, but other representatives of patriarchy.

It was as this conversation was wrapping up that some sort of legal functionary showed up and, in the presence of everyone in the cafe, served Lilly with legal papers that left her pale with rage. She retreated to her office for the rest of the evening. I fear the worst!

Theme Music: Raining Blood, by Slayer. Like caffeine for my earholes! Also, like the rage of an unfairly maligned cafe owner.

April 9th

Devastation! Dear diary, where, oh where, am I to write now? The cafe is to close!

The legal papers Lilly was served with was notice that Lilly’s former business partner was now on the city council, and he’d changed the zoning of the lot next door back to being residential. Lilly, not willing to simply close up shop, announced that she was going to be relocating to just across the street from the new library, in the center of town.

I drank all the Norwegian Bean-Lava Blasters that I could today, powering through a truly epic output of 53 pages in a single day! Of course, it was also due to the many slices of Longboy Donut Loaf I consumed. Should you ever lack for energy, dear diary, I wholeheartedly recommend Donut Loaf.

Theme Music: Time Has Come Today, by The Chambers Brothers.

April 20th

Peace, at last.

Dear Diary,
Beatbox is homeless. The cafe is closed. I stare at the empty building next to my home, wondering where I can go to craft my final pages. If only there was a place, a room, in which to write! Gosh darn this foggy head! Without the blazing brilliance of caffeine’s dark sun, I cannot figure out a solution.

I sat at the kitchen table today. Output: none.

Theme Music: An unaccompanied metronome.

May 5th

Dear Diary,
The haze has begun to lift, and I rediscovered my writing room, which was just upstairs! I sit and look out the window at the house next door, sitting empty, the cafe fixtures and commercial elements all removed. With this reminder of what once was, I have resolved to carry on without the tidal waves of sugar and caffeine to which I’ve grown accustomed.

Theme Music: The Long and Winding Road, by The Beatles

May 10th

Dear Diary,
Beatbox complete. 921 pages.

No Donut Loaf in sight. I’m going back to bed.

Theme Music: Blessed silence.

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Mike Glyer

Loved this! Very entertaining.

[…] HIS CUP RUNNETH OVER. At Black Gate, Aaron Starr’s “Long and Winding” is the amusing saga about writing a doorstop-sized […]

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