Kage Baker always said, you should try to hook your audience with the first sentence. I hope the one above is odd enough to catch someone’s attention – not that I deserve it, having lapsed into so long a silence lately.
But once you start this sort of thing, it’s actually pretty hard to stop. Kage wrote stories because no one could interrupt her, writing – they could refuse to listen, but they sure as hell couldn’t take over the narrative.
She used to pass some of our brainstorming time coming up with alternate beginning lines to her stories – as weird as possible, sometimes, to ponder whether or not they would have worked better than what she ended up using. Mendoza In Hollywood almost started with a soliloquy on gardening; but Kage’s editor felt a recap of the history of the Company would work better; so she added that. but then segued into the history of Los Angeles, her psychotic home town.
The Life of the World To Come got the gardening treatise in the beginning as well. She had moved it from the beginning of In the Garden of Iden to begin with, but suddenly got up one day and redid the beginning with one of my favourite passages in all her books: “Rain comes on the west wind, ice out of the blue north. The east wind brings hazes, smokes, the exhalation of the desert on the distant mainland; and hot winds come out of the south, across the wide ocean.”
Sky Coyote once started with “I used to be a human being”: but Kage finally decided that was too grim and zombie-ish, and did another recap of the Company’s history – before drifting into Joseph’s Warner Brothers narration of his life.
The Sons of Heaven had so many first lines (being a mosaic novel) that Kage gave up on it. She found it easier to just invent an overlying plot to all of them, and let that carry the weight. She figured by that time, most folks knew what she was up to, anyway.
She debated over titles, too. Would anyone have bought Growing Up Green? How about The Villain’s Journey? (I think someone has since used that for a novel about the bad guy/antihero.) What about Moving On the Black Squares? All those ended up with different titles, and sold like hotcakes. I liked The Square-rigged Time Machine, myself; but Kage ultimately dismissed it as too silly. Ah, well.
But I have been working hard, Dear Readers, perfecting the things I took for granted before 2020: The Year Everyone’s Worlds Fell Apart. Things like being permitted to wear underwear, and eat solid food, and talk, and walk. Nothing has worked as well or as quickly as I felt I deserved – I still can’t walk up more than 3 steps or more than 20 feet on the level without gasping for breath – but I couldn’t do that much in June.
That’s when I finally had my tracheotomy tube removed. I woke up with a huge divot in my neck, a lurid tunnel two fingers wide straight into my throat, with a dark little gap in the center that fluttered when I talked. I could feel my breath moving in and out; what happened when I sneezed was too horrible to describe. But I could breathe, and sneeze, and walk, and talk! And while that hole was visually (to me) as huge as the Valles Marineris, it was easily hidden behind a measly little square of gauze and a strip of tape.
I got off the oxygen. Every day, when we changed my dressing, the hole in my throat got smaller – Kimberly helped with the mirror and flashlight, so I could see. And finally, the day before yestreday, the last bit of the hole into my trachea finally healed shut. There is still a horrendous hole in my neck, but now it is just a rose-coloured cave that is actually healing along its edges. No air moves in or out! I don’t wheeze! And sneezing has returned to a harmless little nasal explosion.
And I can whistle recreationally again! I was never a very good whistler, mind you – but I could whistle, and Harry loved it. Now I can again. I can sing, too – not loudly or well, and I really have no breath control, but I can do it. Harry really likes that, as we have sung together his whole little weird life. He doesn’t care how thin and gaspy my voice is, as long as it’s mine. Which is really a weird attitude for someone who can switch voices 3 or 4 times in a single song … my favourite is “Rule Britannia” in his growly baritone monster voice. He can even whistle it in that ogre voice.
Anyway. I am almost a whole woman again. Of, if not whole – I have shed a frightening number of organs over the years – at least a functioning woman. Which is why I have laboured over the past 3 hours over this blog entry. The knack for doing this is returning very slowly, but I am getting accustomed to appreciating any victory at all. After all, I have surmounted disaster, outwitted my physicians, and dodged Death half a dozen times in the last year. I’m happy to be doing anything at all.
No wild promises or oaths, though, Dear Readers. I cannot guarantee burning prose, here – not even daily prose. I’ve learned more practical expectations of myself this past year, too.
But having found one of my voices, I mean to find them all.