Sweater Weather, Memory Police

Woke up with the Neighbourhood’s Sweater Weather echoing inside my head. I don’t think it goes on a book playlist, but I’m still listening to it as I type. Giving the earworms what they want just like I grant the Muse her little idiosyncrasies, I suppose. Got to keep the engine fueled.

A little later this morning the second of my NaNo posts will drop over on Haggard Feathers; today I’ve wordcount to achieve on Finder’s Watcher, a second assassination attempt in HOOD, and some stuff scheduled for subscription folks on Patreon and Gumroad.

Tomorrow, though, I’m going to take a day off and write what pleases me. It might be Wangsty Dracula, it might be Moon’s Knight, it might be something else. I’ve been going rather at full tilt lately, and realized yesterday I somewhat resented it and need a small break. One must learn to keep the throttle open and also to back off when the needle’s been in the red for too long.

I read Yoko Ogawa’s The Memory Police last Sunday while waiting for news of a very personal sort; it’s been a long time since I fell wholesale into a novel. I don’t tend to read much fiction nowadays because I’m always looking under the hood at how the writer does certain things, weighing the choices made. In short, I read like an editor, and have retreated into nonfiction because I have to revise my own stuff so much it’s not a vacation to read others’.

The Memory Police reminds me of Nabokov’s Invitation to a Beheading; there’s the same dreamy, terrifying absurdity lurking between precise words. The translator did a marvelous job, very much as Duras’s translators for Pantheon–which reminds me, I need to read Invitation again, and probably Sailor from Gibraltar as well. It’s that time of year, just as high summer is the only time for The Little Horses of Tarquinia.

Anyway, The Memory Police is set on an island where things… disappear. Once they’re gone, any lone items that fall through the cracks must be burned or otherwise disposed of. That is, if you don’t want the Memory Police of the title, well-dressed even when the rest of the island is starving, to come to your door and drag you away to a fate nobody quite knows the specifics of.

Only one person–the old man–returns from the clutches of the Memory Police, and the understated horror of what was done to him while they had him is one of the most chilling parts of an already terrifying book.

The narrator is a novelist, and she decides to hide her editor in a secret room. Why? Because he can remember the things that have been “disappeared”, and even though the narrator can’t, she’s impelled to save what reminders she can steal. Your heart, the editor tells her and the old man, is doing everything it can to preserve its existence.

That particular line hit me so hard I had to text it to a friend and email it to my writing partner. And put it on a Post-it, added to the crop on my desktop.

One of the glories of this book is that, like Invitation to a Beheading, it can be read as a parable for totalitarianism or authoritarianism, the pressure to conform even in free societies, the tyranny of time itself, the erosion of memory, gendered violence, or or or. It holds a truth deeper than its prosaic thought experiment plot synopsis, and I swallowed it all on a winter afternoon, my heart in my mouth and my fingers almost sweating with tension. It’s beautifully done, and I recommend it.

And now I’ve the dogs to walk, a run to get in, and a whole crop of work to get in before tomorrow’s planned hooky. At least it’s raining a bit this morning, which bodes well for the rest of the day. I am told some people have snow, but here among the cedars and mushrooms that’s not usual. Just the rain, in its many forms, falling like a gift on weary, sleeping earth.

Over and out.

Soundtrack Monday: White Flag

Dante Valentine

Sure, everyone who reads Danny’s story has feelings about Japhrimel. I mean, the Devil’s assassin is kind of impossible to be neutral on, especially when you’re inside a certain Necromance’s head.

I know you think that I shouldn’t still love you.

But I really treasure the few letters I get about Jace Monroe. Mostly because, while Japhrimel coalesced out of several books and strange oddments, Jace is an amalgamation of two men I knew, both of whom were better to a half-crazed young me than she deserved.

Of course Danny expected mainthusz–that faithfulness–from Gabe Spocarelli, and was never disappointed. But from Jace, Danny never expected anything but pain no matter how good he was to her, and I think that’s truly where their relationship foundered.

It’s hard to hug someone who’s bracing for a punch all the time.

I’ll let it pass, and hold my tongue. And you will think that I’ve moved on.

Anyway, Jace’s arrival in Working for the Devil surprised me. When he showed up on the Nuevo Rio transport dock (“Spare a kiss for an old boyfriend?“) I wasn’t prepared for just who he reminded me of.

I didn’t really have a song for him, other than a certain malagueña during his and Danny’s sparring session in WFTD, until I was driving late one fall evening and Dido’s White Flag came over the speakers.

I will go down with this ship. I won’t put my hands up and surrender.

It could have been Danny herself singing, but it’s ever and always Jace’s song. It reminds me, very specifically, of those two separate men from my younger days, and in that moment I had the key to his character.

We all–Danny included–think Danny Valentine is the strong one, and yet… Sometimes a person simply decides, and that’s that.

Of course Dead Man Rising wrecked me–you know the scene I’m talking about. It had to be, it was ordained from the moment he saw her, and Jace’s loa warned him over and over again. (I have a short story written about one of those warnings that will never see light of day. It’s too sad, and entirely too private.)

Monroe’s answer was the same every time.

There will be no white flag above my door. I’m in love, and always will be.

No quarter asked, none given. If Dante had ever understood as much, things might have been different. But we’re blind to what we’re most akin to, ever and always.

Chango love you, girl, Jace would say, rubbing at his temple and cocking his head with that familiar grin. Never do anything the easy way.

Just like you, Monroe.

Just like you.

My Favorite Game

There’s a filthy haze lingering on the horizon today–an air stagnation advisory until next Tuesday, for gods’ sake. I can already feel the weight in my lungs. This is going to make running a little more difficult than usual.

Admittedly, hauling my ass at a fast shamble is never easy, but still.

There also hasn’t been rain for ages, and consequently I’m a bit out of sorts. It’s winter, there is supposed to be water falling from the sky, and I feel rather as the dogs must when the weather doesn’t suit them and they expect me, as the Human in Charge, to do something about it.

The only trouble is, even the Head Bitch in Charge (that would be me, thanks) can’t do a damn thing about it.

Ah well. Sooner or later the rain will return and I’ll be productive again. As it is, I spent yesterday prepping the weekly subscription offerings. The great race and big heist are happening in HOOD, and non-serial subscribers got a little bit of Broken Profile, which I keep going back and staring longingly at in between finishing other stuff.

I also prepped next week’s NaNo post. There’s a series of four to inaugurate the Haggard Feathers Substack, which should take us through the month. (A “haggard” is a term for a hawk caught in adulthood, as well as a descriptor of my usual state, thanks.) Once December hits I might hive off all my technical writing-about-writing posts there. It’ll be fun. I’ve decided to stop offering formatting and cover copy as well as editing; I just don’t have the time while I’m working at this furious a publishing pace. At least all my clients are cleared and happy.

I suppose I should drain my coffee and get out the door with the dogs. Yesterday I managed wordcount on Finder’s Watcher, and I’m getting near the end of the revised bits, almost ready to start adding fresh chapters. I have the whole shape of the book inside my head, and the characters are beginning to speak much more clearly. I might not find a publisher for it, but there are Watcher fans out there who are excited about the book, so it might just be a case of tapping my beloved cover artist for a pretty cover and damning the torpedoes.

Always my favorite game.

I woke up with Queen playing inside my head–Who Wants to Live Forever, in specific. Which means at this moment I’m jamming along to Another One Bites the Dust, because I really don’t want Connor MacLeod in my head. Not today, thanks.

The music just shifted to We Will Rock You, so I guess that’s my cue to hop to the day. Let’s kick Thursday in the throat, my friends, and shake a living out of him.

Over and out.