I’ve been a bit silent on the blog the last couple of weeks, mostly because I’ve been struck by a novel idea that’s working through my thoughts quite a bit, and onto the page as well. One of the pivotal images is of the main character leaning on a sea wall made of coquina in a seaside city somewhat like a larger St. Augustine, Florida. It’s the character’s safe place, in a sense, where a sense of calm settles over him and an idea that came to me when Tessa Kum was visiting us and we took a ghost tour in St. Augustine that included the old fort. It’s from there that the character became more than satirical or a cardboard cut-out to prove a point.
The sea wall is a potent image for me, too, because the ocean and the beach have always had a powerful effect on me, and leaning on the sea wall, looking out over the marsh flats and the water of the bay is as calming for me as for the character. It gives me an affinity for the character, a way in to understanding by transference of my own emotion to the character, and then, in a sense, back again.
Standing there that night, too, I was thinking of the ways in which I’m in transition. There is before Ambergris (the setting of my three main novels) and after Ambergris, and there is also before The Weird and after The Weird, in terms of anthologies edited. On the other side of this sea wall there’s another and different world. It may share similarities to the old world, but only a few, I think.
Today, we went to a different part of Florida, Apalachicola, with our friend Cat Sparks, and had a lovely time on the coast, enjoying an oyster festival, a walk around the shops, and then a meal by the beach. The coastline along the way is beautiful but often also with a sense of starkness or desolation, in part due to the enduring signs of wreckage from hurricanes. Whole towns here have become unpopulated and been returned to the vegetation. The ruins of old time attractions made irrelevant by Disney are also hidden here and there. Wildlife is in abundance, thriving due to a unique ecosystem and quite frankly the recession, which killed the murderous real estate deals that might have threatened them. It’s called the “forgotten coast” but it’s not really forgotten, it’s just more mysterious and in some ways more full of life than other places in Florida.
There was no sea wall, but it felt as if there were in a strange way, and in talking about writing and publishing and editing, about finding commonalities with people and about, really, the idea of being passionate and engaged in what you do, I’m seeing more and more clearly the course for new novels, more outreach, more teaching, and more work with translations.
I’ll be posting sporadically for the next week, because we are definitely in transition, with new projects in the works but not yet at the point where they can be announced, and a lot of fiction to write.