Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Just a Sec

Oh, the things I suffer for my art. Possible criminal charges, self-immolation. Oops, there's no link to that second one. For those of you who have already heard my dramatic rendition of the how-I-set-my-self-on-fire-making-tea story I will follow in the footsteps of Bertie Wooster, one of my favorite narrators, and tell you to just let your eyes glaze over and rejoin me in about three paragraphs when I get to the point.

The how-I-set-my-self-on-fire-making-tea story goes like this: I was pitching my work to an editor at a conference a few years ago and her eyes had definitely done the glazing over like icing on a cake and so I pulled something out of my err hat and pitched a story that I'd been planning. I thought I had about thirty pages of it written and figured she'd only request a partial (three chapters and a synopsis.) She perked right up, asked many questions (to which I winged the answers), told me she was excited, and wanted to see the full manuscript. I got home and realized I had eight pages written.

So I slaved away, day and night, a zombie chained to the keyboard. The chain stretched as far as the tea kettle on the stove. I put the lid on the kettle and looked down to realize my shirt had trailed over the still-red hot electric burner. Fwoomp! The flannel shirt was not "flame retarded" as the Halloween costumes around here often proclaim as a virtue. I looked down and called to my wife "I'm on fire." No, she did not think I was speaking figuratively about my writing progress.

I had what felt like a half an hour to consider my options. My waist–length hair was down, very close to the flames. Would it catch? It's a galley kitchen. Do I go to the front room to stop, drop and roll or do I run to the sink and shove myself under water? Should I take it off and stomp on it? Wait for help? It really was excellent slow-motion camera work. I yanked it off and stomped on it so hard I thought I'd set my foot on fire. I didn't. My hair was fine. My skin was fine.

Oh and I finished the book. But that's not the point. The point is those seconds. Or probably just that second. In that instant when your life can change forever, do you make the right decision? How can you ever know if you did?

Right now I'm writing about two characters who meet while trying to resume lives that have changed for the worse in separate examples of those very long instants. Those instants where there are a million possibilities. Or maybe there's only one. Maybe it was always going to work out that way or maybe they could have prevented what happened.

Our lives may be made up of more of these instants than we know. If you're just far enough behind, you don't see that car that ran the red light or the kid who safely chased a friend across the street in front of you. Those moments still happened.

I know what the characters from some of my other books would say. Joey would tell you it's all tape-delayed and it's already determined. Jae Sun Kim will tell you life's a crap shoot but it beats the alternative. Speaking of Kim, his gorgeous cover and an excerpt from No Souvenirs is up on the Samhain website. Watch my website and my live journal for outtakes and other fun stuff as the release date gets closer. And hang onto every second.

Now excuse me, I have two very angsty young men to sort out. I think they're kind of pissed about those life experiences I doled out in their back story. But man do they have some chemistry. Tell me more, guys.


Tam said...

It's bad I laughed isn't it? Sorry. :-)

Unfortunately none of us will ever now if we made the right choice (although sometimes the wrong choice is pretty evident) unless someone invents a time machine.

Looking forward to the next book. Great cover

K.A. Mitchell said...

Thanks. And by all means, you should laugh, it's why I told the stories.

I don' know if I want to change those seconds, even the ones that didn't work out.

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