Kage Baker could write nearly anywhere. All she needed, in a pinch, were the right materials. She was picky about them, though. When she was a kid, it was black fountain pens and steno pads – those green ones with the wire tops. Later she wrote on typing paper (reams of it) with a metal-nibbed pen dipped in a bottle of black ink. She successfully made ink from oak galls, in her teen aged years, but accidentally poisoned herself trying to make some from iris corms. The search for perfection is sometimes perilous …
Finally, in these modern days, she was ultimately converted to computers. She liked the idea of writing in light. To accomodate Renaissance Faires and conventions, she went to laptops, but they were heavy. Her final techno toy was an HP Netbook, which she loved extravagantly. It fit in her purse, it was tiny but mighty, she could listen to music, do research and write to her heart’s content. She called it her Buke, and got an incredible kick out of having a wee powerful computer like the ones in her books – although she mourned the lack of a pirate AI. (I miss the Captain, too.)
When she was at home, where she preferred to be, Kage had a precisely delineated and decorated writing area. Her immense oak roll top desk was the first prize of her first book contract. In it and on it she established her domain, in a highly customized feng shui: lots of pirate memorabilia. Pens and inks in every colour of the rainbow. A lighthouse. A compass, a barometer, and a sextant. Two or three sailing ships, a relish jar full of beach glass and another full of sea water. Reference books ranging from her high school Latin dictionary to an atlas of Mars. Lots and lots of plastic toys, too, especially action figures of characters she liked: Mr. Krabs, Blackbeard, Charles Dickens. A portrait of Edward Alton Bell-Fairfax. And a red glass of Coca Cola, always.
Now I am trying to write, and trying to channel her while I do: to conjure her voice out of her notes and my memory. Sometimes it comes very easily: I’ve been transcribing her left-handed scrawl since our girlhood, and every one of her stories has been pounded out on the anvil of my brain. I just need to develop a long enough mental reach to do it myself.
Which is why I am still at her desk – it was the first thing I unpacked and set up when I moved back to Los Angeles, even before my bed (though, truth to tell, I could almost sleep in the desk). I’ve re-installed some of her juju, and added some of my own: although the black cat currently asleep behind the monitor, one small paw curling out to pat the keyboard, just sort of came with my new room. I have her Nebula, her Locus, and her Romantic Times awards set up. It’s as conducive a site to writing as I can manage.
The Coke, however, is beyond me. Gonna stick with my coffee. Besides, there is picture of a forge on the cup, which was the inspiration for the Father’s Shrine in The Bird of the River. What could be a better chalice than that?
Tomorrow: summoning the dead