Monday, September 17, 2007

Second draft of "airport" novel finished....

Yesterday I finished the second draft of my “airport” novel and e-mailed it to my sister. What I want to know from her is whether an average reader would be interested in finishing the book or prefer to leave it on a bench.

My novel is no great work of art, neither is it purely plot-driven; character does come in at places, and is probably too long-winded when it appears. The book is an experiment as to whether presumed elements of popularity will overcome marginal writing. The book is baldly designed to be popular, as I made a list of things to be in the novel, with the overall idea of Michael Crichton meets Dan Brown (except for their research). Here are some of the elements I put in the book:

Four murders, three questionable because the victims were clones.
Dangerous fundamentalists.
Secretive Jesuits.
A ten-year project of the Jesuits ruined.
A manic-depressive doctor/coroner/investigator, overlarge, who doesn’t know his own strength, and adjusts his own psychiatric medications frequently throughout the book to improve his performance.
His playful but deadly Irish Wolfhound, Grendel.
His sidekick and chauffeur of vintage automobiles, (retired) detective Ray.
His mother, computer hacker extraordinaire, who still nags her fifty-year-old son.
A love triangle between the doctor, detective and the doctor’s beautiful deaf secretary.
Beautiful horses (a dog wasn’t enough for animal lovers, I thought).
Crash-bang ending where Grendel is seriously wounded, Ray is injured, and the doctor exposes the evil leadership of the sect.
All is reported back to the Vatican.

There’s an old joke about bestsellers. If people love to read about Lincoln, doctors and dogs, why not “Lincoln’s Doctor’s Dog.” That’s what I’m trying to do here. Really.

Fiction is hard for me because of the donkeywork. So much connecting of the dots, the tearing out of details and connections readers don’t need, the question of how much description is necessary or merely boring? How much do people want character? Will anyone identify with the characters?

All this chatter, blecch. How about a brief excerpt from my novel? This is taken near the end of the book, when the doctor’s mood is heightened before his he invades the sect's chapel.


In the brief interlude before their advance, Gunderson could hear Isaiah’s preaching in the stillness. The man’s voice seemed painfully loud. He could hear the congregation shifting in their seats, the slide of cotton on polished oak, the squeak of small shoes on the floorboards.

His mood was already heightened by the hunt and his encounter on the ridge, pushed into the kind of manic rebound that Zyprexa often yielded short-term. Time had slowed. His mind wasn’t racing; that would be “out of phase” hypomania. Instead he was enjoying his illness, a state of hyperawareness combined with the confidence of a god and the caution of a deer. He felt as if he had eyes in the back of his head, eyes all around like the fabled seraphim of Ezekiel. He could hear the proverbial pin drop.

“OK, Ray,” he said.

As they made it to the cabin next to the chapel, Gunderson automatically categorized the three intensities of light, from faint moonlight to the harsher, Edisonian light in the lamps in the eaves. He could see every crack in every knot of pine while the grain bespoke years, each laid down for the next—moment wedded to moment, limb to limb. The third intensity of light was a limited glow near the entrance. Looking back at Grendel, Gunderson could see every wire in his coat: rust, gray, brown, every curled point, noting that each whisker fanned out from his cheeks at its own peculiar angle.

Unlike Plath’s bell jar, he felt in this moment of stalking as if the world was a bell jar and he was looking in, intent on helping those trapped inside. Glancing up at the eaves again he saw each wing beat of a pale moth and the brown dots near the bottom of each wing beneath the slightly irregular slats of the eaves themselves, already warping from a brutal summer and a thirsty winter. As Ray hugged the chapel wall to his left, Gunderson meditated upon the pattern of tarnish in the six brass hinges of the chapel doors while noting the doors did not quite hang true. Better than a level. The world was glass and he moved through it like a diamond.


I paused the action here to describe the doctor’s mental state, but such excursions may impair the book’s “pageturnability,” as the agent who recently rejected the first ten pages wrote me. What do I care? I finished the thing, however grotesque the result. Now it’s time to get feedback as to whether the book deserves a third draft or would be better donated to an abortion clinic.

Now I’ll return to working on my Eliot book, which last scrambled my brain as I re-wrote my take on “The Waste Land” for the fourth or fifth time. That is a very different form of mental exercise.

I teared up over Rachel briefly this morning, though no crying jag. I’m working, that’s the important thing.

I do not think I’m depressed but euthymic and still grieving.

I am anxious today for good reason, because Kathleen starts work full-time and I don’t know if her back condition will permit it. She is my hero to try! I will miss her every hour she’s gone; she grounds me. Sharing her with the world costs me in comfort but I wouldn’t stand in her way. Her job entails coaching the disabled to obtain and retain menial jobs and to make sure they are not disrespected in the workplace, to be their “job coach.” She loves the work and her lip-reading skills have made her deafness a non-issue; in fact, politically, it is a feather in the cap of the organization that hired her: “The disabled helping the disabled.”

At Rachel’s memorial I was reconciled to a friend I had not seen in eleven years. He’s called me once since. I think I may screw up my courage and call him back today. We were tight for 27 years before an unfortunate incident, fueled by the manic side of my illness, separated us.

If anyone is interested in publishing my novel, please write. I have no agent and expect, if others deem it worthy, I'll have to eventually self-publish, like 85% of the books in America.

Kiloneutral but still grieving,



  1. I recently finished reading Kite Runner and I am waiting for his new book I ordered to arrive...another doctor/writer who writes about all he knows...not unlike you, my friend. Keep your hopes high. Your experience/pain, skill as a writer is just as current as his is. So why not you next?


  2. Perseverance. Perseverance. Perseverance.


  3. Anonymous11:04 AM PDT

    Edisonian? Plath? Bell jar? You're not one of them uppity intellectuals are you? This is an airport not a bloody university.


  4. Anonymous4:09 PM PDT

    You are lucky to have dial-up at least.

    due to intrusive sircumstances, I had to cut all the lines on my pole and now stop at the library from time to time to read when I'm not at the air port cruzin through the latest parabola.

    take care,Ce

  5. Norm--LOL! It may never fly.

    Anon--you on Cheney's list or something?

    "I felt bad I had no shoes until I met a man with no feet."

  6. What do you mean by "average" reader?

    Average as opposed to what?

    Why not write a memoir instead?

    Memoirs are big right now.

    Cookbooks, too.

    Can you cook?

    I haven't said this up til now and I should probably keep my mouth shut since I don't even actively submit my work but...

    I think you're going about this all wrong, friend.

  7. Anonymous3:24 PM PDT

    Yes - I must be on that daysee chain somewhere... and listen

    about your daughter -- well, it's complicated so maybe I'll just tell you a little story,o k?

    when my son died we had him picked up and taken back home instead of going with any local facility. Though part of the family who owned the business lived just around the corner, I'd never really met them, the sister in particular ,who handled all the paper work, etc..
    turns out we got along and during one of the times i'd had to go back to finalize arrangements .. she said to me "I don't know if I should tell you this, and it has never happened to me before in all the years I've been doing this,,, maybe I shouldn't...well, once or twice I've had a dream about a client, but after I'd looked, made sure my brother left the braclet on your son's arm, made sure it was still there, I had a dream that night about him;
    that he wasn't dead.

    That he was alive.

    .. Well Ce, in my heart of hearts, I know it's not true in a literal sense,
    but it was sweet of her to share that with me, and I'm glad I took him home to there.
    They took good care of him.

    Oh P.s. not to copy Billy Joel or anything, but you r friend may be right.

  8. Thank you so much for this vignette. And you qualify as the first commenter who is related to the mortuary business.

    I really liked "Six Feet Under."

    I have Rachel's ashes on the shelf at the top of my clothes closet. She's in a box in a blue bag. I told myself I would not scatter her ashes until I owned my own garden. I'll plant her there like the rare orchid she was.

    Thanks again,



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