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Molly Cochran's
Author's Notes
Author's Notes

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Author's Notes
for "The Forever King III", 
tentatively titled THE THIRD MAGIC

Dear Readers:
If you've not been to this site before, you'll see what follows is a diary of thoughts from my Work-In-Progress.  It might be more helpful for you to understand my thought process if you click on the links in sequence as shown. 

The diary is set up to offer the latest installment first if you are reading straight through from top to bottom without using the links below.

For those of you who have been to this page before, I hope you don't find this set-up confusing.  Just click on the most recent date from the links below to get the latest installment.

(Nov. 2000)
Installment 1
(Aug. 2001)
Installment 2
(Nov. 2001)
Installment 3
(Mar. 2003)

March 7, 2003

Is anyone still reading  these notes?  Iíve been so negligent.  First of all, let me explain something very basic about my sporadic imput into this web site:  I donít do it.  Oh, I write these notes, of course, but thatís it.  My excellent Webmaster (thereís a new word in the American lexicon, WEBMASTER.  Itís like Sword & Sorcery.  Combined with the pronoun ďmyĒ, it seems particularly bizarre).  Well, anyway, this site is maintained by C.J. Houghtaling.  Occasionally she prints out messages that people write me.  To all of you, thanks.  I know I seem like an ungrateful clod for not answering you personally, but I donít ďdoĒ the internet.  That is to say, I donít send or receive e-mail.

This is not just because I am stupid with computers, although that is certainly true.  But the fact is, I used to participate in the social milieu of e-mail, including all those timewasting jokes and exhortations to Give A Damn about whatever cause was being espoused by the sender.  I found old friends and made new ones.  I liked it.  I even liked Instant Messenger, which can be a very confusing thing -- sudden and unexpected conversations in the middle of other conversations.  So anyway, I thought I was doing fairly well with this new mode of communicating, when I encountered something akin to a jungle predator in the cyberspace universe,  a stalker. To be fair, I donít believe this individual was motivated by pure viciousness.  Like everyone who sets out to damage someone elseís life, he felt fully justified because, get this, he believed I was practicing witchcraft and putting spells on him to make him crazy.  Iím not even going to get into that.  God knows, Iíve been crazy myself.  But I was at least sane enough to know I made myself crazy;  I didnít think that someone hundreds of miles away was droning incantations while waving a chicken.  Anyway, this person -- who had claimed, at the beginning, to be a fan -- became so persistent that I ended up having to involve the police, and after that, the internet scene just wasnít fun anymore.  So now Iíve moved from my old house and have turned AOL over to my son, who allows me to do research on his computer while I just write on mine.

Itís a little inconvenient.  And I suspect a number of friends, particularly those I donít talk with on the phone regularly, think Iíve abandoned them.  I did receive one letter from someone chastising me for not answering an e-mail message she sent to me, and I was able to write back to her (on a paper card, with a stamp on the envelope), but there are probably lots of others who have just written me off as a snob.  Last Christmas I sent out 88 cards, and got back 23.  I think only some of those are actually mad at me, though.  The Internet has gotten people out of the habit of writing on paper.  Chances are, my neglected e-mailbox has a couple of e-cards in it. 

So thatís the reason Iíve been unresponsive vis-a-vis electronic messages.  I have no such excuse for being lax about these Authorís Notes.  But since Iím here now, let me bring whoever is reading this up to date:

Iím done writing The Third Magic, the third and last of the King Arthur-Reincarnated-in-the-21st-Century books.  It has become, without any planning on my part, a trilogy.  I never thought Iíd write a trilogy.  Trilogies are what college students whoíve never written anything longer than an essay are always planning to write.  Or Tetralogies.  I always thought it was sort of a pretentious thing to say,  ďIím writing a trilogy,Ē  as if one were so filled with great ideas that they could not possibily all be contained in one book.  That certainly wasnít the case with me.  I really thought Iíd blown my wad with The Forever King, but it was the pubisher who insisted on a second -- and ultimately, a third -- Arthur book.  Publishing is an old-fashioned business, o ye young writers looking to learn the secret ways.  Well, actually, itís sort of like movies.  When something works, it must be repeated.  Personally, I would rather always do something new.  Astrologically I am a Leo, which means that I am supposed to be a big hammy showoff or something, but in my heart I am Aquarius, which is the opposite of Leo.  Leo is conservative, radiant, unchanging.  I am explosive, constantly changing, questing like a dog in search of new scents.  That is how I like to write, too, so imagine how difficult it has been for me to spend the past five or six or God, if itís been longer than that I donít even want to know -- years writing SEQUELS.  

Okay, I always do the very best I can, and once I knew I had to write first one sequel to the Forever  King and then another, I really searched for the right line, the logical next step in Arthurís hybrid life that would nevertheless maintain the integrity of the concept.  I think I accomplished that, too.  In The Third Magic, particularly, I had to explore the ultimate question about the reincarnation of a king, which is, What does Arthur become?  He canít be a king, of course., not in the way he was.  The next step would be a Messiah.  He would have to become something bigger than he was.  And, naturally, like all Messiahs, he would be unacceptable to the mass of human beings.  This idea in itself puts a dark and intellectual cast on my formerly lighthearted concept of a reincarnated king from the fifth century.  So I leavened it by also exploring the love story between Arthur and Guinevere (which, Iíve just discovered, Iíve spelled differently from the way I had it in the first book.  Grr.)  

Ever since Marion Zimmer Bradley,  Guinevere has been regarded as a sort of antifeminist jerk.  I donít like that idea.  Although English kings have made a tradition of marrying for reasons other than love, I really donít think it was that way in the fifth century.  Remember, weíre talking mud huts here, death by starvation, a life span of maybe 25.  These were very primitive times.  And so the tradeoff for lack of civilization is that at least people hooked up with people they loved.  I want to believe that Arthur and Guinevere loved each other, that they were soulmates (and yes, there is such a thing.... It may be convenient to say that there is no one special person for you, but honey, itís not true, and one day I may go into that, but Iíve already gone on too long about tangential matters)

Blah, blah.  Iím sorry.  So anyway, Iíve finished the Third Magic, itís in production, Iíve got the copyedited ms. on my dining room table (too much stuff for the top of my desk).  Just a note about the copyediting process:  You know what it is, right?  A special, free-lance editor goes through your ms. paragraph by paragraph, word by word, finding everything that you did wrong.  All factual data, all grammar, punctuation, etc.  This is the person who tells you that youíve used the word ďnefariousĒ twice in the same paragraph.  This is the person who keeps you (ďyouĒ, of course, being the writer)  from looking like a fool. But this is also the person you want to clobber with a greasy salami.  Pick, pick, pick.  I can just see her, this picky little person (theyíre always totally anonymous and utterly unknown to the author) feeling a surge of power as she writes ďthis weapon was not invented until the mid thirteenth century.  Sorry.  Try againĒ in neat, perfectionistic handwriting on the margin of my sweatstained, bloodsoaked manuscript.  I want to take her fact-filled little head and crush it in a vise.  But I must tell myself that my anger and hurt at her cruel criticisms (why do I insist on calling this person ďher?Ē  Because of the look of the handwriting. Itís a guess, but a considered one) is only a matter of ego.  Yes, Iíd rather be told that Iím wonderful.  But that wouldnít help my book.  For the sake of the book, I must leave behind all my insecurities.  We must stand naked and flawed, our tiny genitals exposed, and speak the truth.

That is the basis of all good writing, I think.  What makes it so hard to write is telling the truth.  If you suffer from writerís block, there is a part of you that is hiding.  But the question always is,  what is it?  What is the thing that I must look that that is so painful to see that I cannot even make myself perceive it?  A conundrum.  This is my advice for writerís block:  Put your ego aside enough to write badly.  I mean, thatís what youíre afraid of, right?  That people will point to your tiny frostbitten genitals and laugh?  So thatís what you have to do, show them anyway.  Write badly.  Give up on  the plan to read it to your writing club.  Stop talking about it at cocktail parties.  Write it just for yourself, and then rewrite it.  That is how to stay honest.  Itís not about having the biggest genitals.  Itís about being willing to be naked.

When Iím done going over (and making) the corrections the copyeditor suggests, the book will go into production -- get typeset, etc.  Tor/Forge (Iím never sure which my pubisher is) plans on putting it out in July.

Meanwhile, Iíve started something else.  Something really new.  Iím calling it The Pagan Trailer Park, a phrase invented by my friend Sharon Vaught, who has given me permission to use it.  Itís about a writer, a woman, divorced at fifty, suddenly forced to make a new life for herself in a world that feels to her like some vast, cold swimming pool.  Guess who that is.  She buys this beautiful tract of land which turns out to be an abandoned trailer park, although there are a couple of squatters on it.  She plans to get rid of them and the left-behind trailers so that she can be alone,  but instead ends up acquiring all these misfits who gravitate to the trailer park, bringing all their problems with them. Through it all she is writing a book in which the main character comes to life for her and grows to completely dominate her, insisting that the writer pay homage to her in all sorts of ways before the character will reveal to her the next part of the book.  Itís like Scheherezade, only what happens in her book runs parallel to what is happening in the trailer park.  And so it is a novel within a novel, a story taking place within the framework of another story, which itself is a creative figment of my imagination.  And who is to say if, in the end, I myself, the author, am myself real or not?  So those are the kinds of elements Iím going to be working with.  Iíll post more stuff here a little later, as the idea begins to jell for me.

Anyway, the point is, The Pagan Trailer Park (known hereafter as TPTP) is a big departure from the King Arthur books.  Somehow I have gotten pigeonholed as a fantasy writer.  Part of that is because Tor/Forge is a sci-fi / fantasy publisher, I guess.  But I have never considered myself a fantasy writer.  I donít really know what kind of writer I am, but Icanít keep inventing new names for myself with every new book (the juryís still out on whether or not I think Dev Stryker was a good idea.  I think it was.  I like the Stryker books, and I may turn them into a one-character series... if, that is, I can write fast enough to maintain two names)  My editor Melissa says that she will consider TPTP only because I am her friend, that TPTP is DEFINITELY not a Tor kind of book, and that it had better be damned good or she will look like an idiot asking for marketing money for it.  She has warned me that if it is not one HELL of a good read, it will be virtually cast away, published at the bottom of the list with three thousand copies.  Writersí Purgatory...

So what do I do?  Come up with a fantasy that would be more acceptable to my publisher?  Write another sequel? (I do have Grandmaster, which was a bestsetller)  Or do I go on acting like a rebellious teenager, doing what I want and nothing else?  God, I donít know.  Warren once said that writers didnít lose their talent; they lost their nerve.  Iím beginning to understand what that means.  You start off in life, you think you can do anything.  And then you get hit over the head a couple of hundred times, and you start shying away.  You donít walk in the middle of the street anymore.  The inside of your bedroom looks more and more inviting.  You learn that sometimes you can do the very best you can, and you still get f****d.  And that is why each generation must learn everything from scratch.  Because no one whoís young can imagine ever becoming so scared.

I can.  Iím so very scared about so many things.  But as a writer, my job in this life -- and maybe yours, too --  is to stand, blue and shivering, with my clothes off.  When I get too proud and too scared, I remind myself of this.  

Till the next time, I remain faithfully yours,


(Nov. 2000)
Installment 1
(Aug. 2001)
Installment 2
(Nov. 2001)
Installment 3
(Mar. 2003)

Nov. 2001
(Some of this text was lost, herewith begins what remains:)

Work on the book had ground to a halt....

We were very busy getting the house ready to sell.  I found a wonderfully ruthless cleaning lady who threw out almost everything I owned, saying it was ugly and useless.  She was right.  I'd lived with most of it for fifteen years, not noticing that so much of my stuff had transformed from decorative objects to plain old clutter. I hired a dump truck and piled all my ugly stuff onto it.  It filled the truck!  And that was just the stuff that had  been visible.  I still have closets full of ugly dried flowers, old magazines, outdoor chair cushions, patio lamps, sheets that fit no beds that I own, Christmas decorations, etc.  And I filled another truck with stuff for Goodwill: An electric quilt warmer, boxes of kitchen utensils, clothing of all sizes, from "lithe newlywed" to  "cooking mom" to "brownie-fed divorcee", various sporting things and exercise equipment, toys.  It was such a relief to get rid of it all.  For the first time since we moved here, Moldy Manor looked really good.  And now, even though it's a pain to have to clean all the time for all the visitors, I like living in an uncluttered house.

So far, though, it's been to no avail.  The house hasn't sold, and fall is coming.  I guess we'll have to batten down the hatches and wait out winter. 

By then I'll be working on my next book -- probably the 1,000 Lives of Araiama Mari.  I'm excited about that.

 But back to FK3: I may have been overly optimistic in thinking I could finish this in a week.  I've been stalling lately.  You know, doing things like ironing and cooking and simply needing to go to Wal-Mart... and then being morose and guilt-ridden and writing reams in my journal (a luxury I just can't do without) about what a bad person I am for not writing more, better, faster, etc.  Oh, yeah, I know these old voices. 

 What is happening is that I am finally (thank God!) beginning to really understand the themes of this book.  I'm always afraid that I won't figure out what the thing's about before I'm done.  Sometimes that happens.  With A Wilderness of Mirrors (a Dev Stryker novel which I was in the middle of when my husband and I separated and I began a long descent into Hell and enlightenment, which may be the same place), I wrote -- if that word can even be used to describe the horrors I perpetrated -- the first draft without understanding what the story meant at all.  It really had no ending, and the climax was along the lines of:  "she entered the Amazon rain forest, where she encountered many adventures." 

 I was in no condition to write a novel, but there was nevertheless a deadline, and I was bound to honor it, even if what I wrote was terrible, which it was.  But on the second draft I began to understand, and in the end, I loved that book.  I loved the story, I loved my protagonist and alter ego Amelia (a pampered Manhattanite who transforms herself into a bald, grub-eating  jungle fighter), and mostly I loved myself for getting it together enough to write something so difficult while my heart was broken and my mind reeling.  But my point in all this is that sooner or later, you do understand what it is you're doing.

 In The Artist's Way -- one of my favorite books -- Julia Cameron says, "Anything worth doing is worth doing badly."  I wish every insecure writer in the world would recite those words at the beginning of every work session.  What holds us back is the desire to be brilliant.  But brilliance doesn't occur on the first draft.  Crud occurs.  Dreck, offal, flotsam -- that's what the first draft resembles, or ought to.  If it's too good, you're thinking too hard. 

 Good, Molly, now take your own advice.  Every day I struggle with this.  I think:  But if I don't explain why so and so is doing this, it will be so choppy, so I'll have to go back sixty pages and rewrite the section about...  No.  It is important to ride the impetus that makes us excited.  Yesterday I wrote an interesting thing about Gwen drawing a picture of a stone with a sword stuck in it.  As she was drawing it, she wondered why she's here in England?  I mean, she got here by magic, so there has got to be some reaction to that, hasn't there?  And so I dutifully began to write this  internal monologue about how she felt about things, how surprised she was, how nothing made sense to her... blah, blah, boringo...  until I lost my excitement at the scene.  The  internal monologue was not only boring, but too hard.  I really couldn't make much sense out of why she was there.  So the reader would probably think I was a jerk, and I didn't know how to move the story forward, and...

 And then there was nothing left but a couple games of solitaire.  I'd lost my novel.

 All because I forgot Julia's very good advice.  If you can write it badly, you can fix it.  If you insist on only writing wonderfully, it'll never get done.

 So I go into the fray again, this time to produce pure merde and then wallow in it!  Because once you're very far along (I'm on page 400 something, I think) there are just too many threads to pick up easily.  You've got to let some spill out of your arms, leave some behind, and just trust that you'll pick them up during the next go-round.  for now, the important thing is to race to the end.  And if you have a sense of what you're trying to say, beyond the story, that's even better.

 I do have such a sense on this book, although I don't quite know how to handle it yet.  Thematically, I'm trying to do two things:  Explore the consequences of repeating the past, and relate the story of Christ.  I know, those two things don't seem to have a lot in common at first, but I believe they dovetail. 

 The first issue, exploring the consequences of the past, is something I just simply have to do.   I mean, I have written two entire books based on the premise that King Arthur has been reborn into modern times.  This in itself would not have been much of a story -- after all, mental institutions are full of people who claim to have been Cleopatra or Napolean (did I say mental institutions? Hell, most of my friends make those claims!)  What makes the Forever King an interesting idea is that Merlin the wizard has arranged for this innocent boy to take on all the trappings of the Once and Future King -- the grail, the sword Excalibur, even the knights of the Round Table!

 But through all the fun that grows from this intrinsically absurd situation emerges the inevitable question:  How does this affect Arthur's life?  I mean, the kid started out as a fairly ordinary person.  He had a future that was unknown to him.  There were adventures ahead -- plain old human adventures like we all have, involving, work, women, interests, whatever.   But after he was saddled with the responsibility of completing King Arthur's permaturely terminated life, he no longer had that vast, amophous future.  Instead, he was stuck with Hal, with a bunch of guys from the fifth century, with a meddling old man who makes magic... and of course there can only be one woman for him, Guinevere...  When you think about it, Arthur's would be a nightmarish existence.  Because reliving the past is like raising a man from the dead. It just doesn't work as well.  What's Arthur Blessing going to be king of?  Upstate New York? 

 This all probably sounds like gibberish to those of you who haven't read The Forever King or The Broken Sword, so I won't pursue it, but anyway those are the kinds of questions I want to answer in this third book.  I just hope I don't get too heavy about it.  I like to maintain a sense of fun while exploring the thin outer edges of things. 

 I like this idea so much, though, that I'm going to use a permutation of it for my 1000 Lives Book.  I'm going to have a woman be living the last of 1000 cursed lives which she doomed herself to back when she was a priestess with enough power to do such a thing.  But she wouldn't be tampering with time and incarnations the way Merlin is in this book.  He's got to come to realize that, in the end, the greatest magic happens when the magician just takes a break and allows the universe to unfold.  Because it always unfolds perfectly.

 The Christ theme is something I've been carrying through consciously.  Because Arthur is the King, right? The once and future king.  And if he's not the king of his high school prom, then what?  Well, I'm too tired to go into an explanation now, so I'll continue this later.  I want to get back to Gwen drawing.

 Nov. 28, 2001. 
Okay, here it is November 28 and my movers are coming on November 29, that is tomorrow morning at 8 AM.  Which means my computer will probably be lost for several days.  I have been writing in longhand in bed for the past couple of weeks -- my favorite way to write, anyway, but not very efficient, and somewhat embarrassing if someone comes to the door -- and will continue to do that.  God knows, this book is late, too.  There is always something, you know?  Anyway, Dev and I are moving from our large and unwieldy house in the country to a pretty little Victorian in a pretty little town nearby, and we have to do it tomorrow.  So to those of you who have been faithful readers of this sporadic column, thanks and take heart...   I shall return for at least one last installment before this book is finished. 

Molly C.

(Nov. 2000)
Installment 1
(Aug. 2001)
Installment 2
(Nov. 2001)
Installment 3
(Mar. 2003)

Aug., 2001

CHAPTER FOUR:  This is where I am, at the end of the chapter.  I ought to mention that the plot of this book was a real backbreaker.  It's the SECOND sequel (The Forever King, then the Broken Sword, and now this), which means I have a ton of characters and history (I'm talking the history I invented, not to mention actual English history) that I'm stuck with.  A lot of baggage. 

I never intended to write a trilogy. Young authors are always planning trilogies, and I always thought that rather pretentious.  But after the success of The Forever King, the publisher wanted a sequel.  I was a little reluctant, since I believed I'd given my all, as it were, to the book and there wasn't anything more for me to say about King Arthur.  But then one day I got this picture in my head of the knights of the Round Table living in the present,  riding Harley Hogs instead of  horses, wearing helmets with pointy little German spikes on top.  I don't know, it just struck me as fun, and I wanted to write the book then.  And then after I started it I realized that Merlin was the character I wanted to explore the most.  I really hadn't finished with Merlin at all in The Forever King.  I think of wizardry as a sort of metaphor for art.  Merlin gives up all the pleasures of ordinary life to make magic.  I think artists do that, too.  Sometimes. 

 And then the publisher wanted yet another sequel.  If I had planned a trilogy, I would certainly have killed off more people.  So now I'm stuck with characters like Emily and Hal, who really have had their day, and I've got a protagonist who's eighteen years old, a rather uninteresting age for a main character.  I mean, I'm not writing a slice of life, coming of age thing. This is King Arthur!  At eighteen, is he a war hero?  That's pretty gruesome.  He can't be a terribly wise king, either. Very few of us with teenagers at home would entrust the running of our country to them. (although look at some of the winners we have entrusted it to!) 

 So I decided to focus on Arthur's love life, his relationship with Guinevere.  Love is something an 18 year old can appreciate better than anyone.  And that's what I'll do with Hal and Emily, too -- see if these two embittered middle-aged farts can make something nice happen in their lives. 

 And I'm going to bring all the characters in and out of a number of lives.... Well, I won't go into that just now, or else I'll never get to Chapter Five.  I'll talk about the theme of this book in some other entry. 

 Right now I'm exploring Emily.  I always write way more than I need to.  I write until I begin to understand the character, until I can walk around in his skin.  Then I have to throw out a lot of stuff. 

 At the beginning of a book -- and I mean the first 150 pages or so of the first draft -- I just flounder.  For those of you who know the Tarot, the card for this phase would be the Moon.  Uncertain, perhaps illusory... you don't know if what you're writing is what you're going to want at all.  I'm just walking along the shore, looking for shells, hoping that I'll either discover something or find a pattern in the shells I'm picking up along the way.  Trust, baby.  This part requires serious trust. 

 On the other hand, one has the enthusiasm of being at the beginning.  All things are possible.  No restrictions.  I can just play. 

 Oh, I forgot -- got off on a tangent -- about the convoluted plot of this thing.  I felt that since it was so complex, I should write a very detailed outline (I always use an outline, wouldn't think of working without one. In a nutshell, here's why:  If you're writing a stream-of-consciousness kind of thing -- like what I am writing right now -- an outline might be restrictive. But a plotty book, where events have to tie up, and especially in the case of a sequel, where there are so many givens going in, is a different animal.  You simply must have a map of where you're going, or you'll almost certainly end up with a different book than the one you started out to write.  Because your mind changes every day.  There are arguments about this, of course, but for me, a person who tends to be easily distracted, an outline is a must.) 

 ... A very detailed outline.  And even then, I got totally distracted.  I'd been reading a lot about Goddess cults in ancient times, and fell in love with the idea of presenting a number of different takes on the Garden of Eden story.  So I wrote what I thought was a wonderful outline using SEVEN different versions of the Garden.  I was so  proud of it that I actually sent it to my editor (the brilliant Melissa Singer, without whom I would be nothing more than a worm, a lowly lowly worm), who immediately called me in for a meeting. 

 "It's a lovely story,"  she said, diplomatically as always.  "Unfortunately, it has almost nothing to do with King Arthur." 

 She was right.  All those characters I'd inherited from the other two Arthur books were little more than scenery for women doing powerful and outraged things throughout history. 

 (You know, there's a good argument for writing on spec.  If you don't have the security of a contract, you can write anything you want.  So don't despair because you're not published. You have a freedom the professionals envy) 

 So anyway, my point is, I had to start over from zero. New outline, just as detailed, just as complex, but about the subject. (And therein is the real key to writing:  You have to focus on the subject.  Whenever I sit down here, I want to write about a thousand things.  But it's only when I can corral my thoughts, bring myself to focus intently on King Arthur, that I begin to "work".)  It took me three months, about a hundred times longer than I ever worked on any other outline.  (And I'm feeling guilty, guilty about "wasting" time.  Was I procrastinating? Am I lazy?)  Well, that doesn't matter.  However the writer feels about himself is immaterial.  Every day I gnash my teeth about my insecurities, my faults, my many and varied defects as a writer, an artist, and a human, and then sooner or later I get down to work, and all that rumination was just a waste of time. (and I feel guilty...) 

 First, then, I wrote a prologue.  I don't know if I'm going to keep it or not.  I wrote it because it features Arthur, and I wanted to bring him in right away.  It hints at magic, but I don't want it to be too far out.   I don't like books that let you know on the first page that nothing between the covers is going to relate in any way to my own personal life.  So I want to be careful with these opening paragraphs.  Generally, I write the beginning at least five times before I even turn the ms. into the editor. 
 The beginning is important. 

 Then I moved onto Hal.  Hal was from the first book.  He's Arthur's guardian, a former FBI agent, very cautious. Into his structured, anxiety-ridden world trying to pass himself , Arthur, and eleven fifth-century knights off as South Dakota farmers I thurst the totally unconventional Taliesin (Merlin), who materializes (he's practicing magic) right in front of Hal's truck in the parking lot of the local 7-Eleven.  Exposition here about Hal, Merlin, Arthur's coming of age. 

 That's the worst thing about a sequel's sequel:  So damn much exposition!  I'm trying to be subtle.  I always laugh at movies where characters say things like "Well, I'll be!  If it ain't Charlie Crustycrotch, my old former ensign in the Navy who's been living in the Sierra Madre Mountains for the the past seventeen years! 

 I'm still, several chapters later, waddling through the swamp of exposition. First Hal and Merlin, then Arthur, then Gwen, a new character (guess who she was in another life?) and her mother Gloria, who keeps taking lovers who beat her up, and now Emily.  Emily's working for me. 

 Chapter 3 is a set piece I wrote either before the outline was done or while I was working on it.  It's about a psychopath named Pinto.  Actually, "Pinto" is the nickname of the old guy who cuts my grass.  Cool name, I thought, a biker name.  As I wrote this, I actually felt the character coming to life.  I started it as notes, very detatched, intellectual, and just rolled with it, writing very fast until the dialogue started to come, the thoughts of Pinto, this guy who feels no empathy, who can kill as easily as he can pop open a can of beer.  Suddenly I knew him, I was frightened of him, and what was worst, I knew that at that moment, I WAS him. 

 Pinto, c'est moi.

(Nov. 2000)
Installment 1
(Aug. 2001)
Installment 2
(Nov. 2001)
Installment 3
(Mar. 2003)

November 1, 2000 

 I suppose this is as good a place to start as any.  I got the idea of writing author's notes on a work-in-progress quite a while ago, when my friend CJ Houghtaling made me a gift of this beautiful website.  Since my knowledge of computers is utterly shameful -- I write on an ancient 386, and have to use my teenage son's machine even to retrieve email -- I did nothing with the site, assuming that no one would ever go to it, anyway.

Well, to my surprise, quite a number of people did, which resurrected my old plan to keep a kind of running commentary about writing a book while I am actually writing it.  I think it might be interesting, particularly for novice writers, to hear the truth about how a book gets done.  At least by me. 

 Because I really am convinced that most writers lie.  They don't like to say how hard it is to write a novel.  They like for people, especially fans, to believe that it just blows out of them like a song on a spring day.  And so when new writers attempt a book, they freak out when things get difficult and conclude that they personally must be deficient in some way, and then give up. 

 The truth is, ALL of us feel like that at some point in a book, and sometimes during the entire book.  But we don't tell other people that because we think we're the only ones who are personally deficient and somehow getting over by managing to "pass".  My (soon to be ex) husband likens this posture to a guy making shadow pictures.  People can only see the shadow, while the real person remains hidden.  And so the shadow shows this male with a huge erection, but really the guy is just holding a pencil in front of him with trembling hands, afraid he'll be found out like the Wizard of Oz behind the curtain. 

 So anyway, I would like to write just exactly what I'm thinking while I'm writing this book.  I don't know when I'll post this material -- as soon as possible, I guess, although I'm writing this on my trusty 386 and will have to transfer it.  Anyway, I think it'll also be fun to follow my train of thought while (the reader is) reading the actual book, so I'll present this in a chapter-by-chapter format. And although I can't promise to write every day, I'll record as much as I can. 

(Nov. 2000)
Installment 1
(Aug. 2001)
Installment 2
(Nov. 2001)
Installment 3
(Mar. 2003)

For workshops, readings, and lectures, please contact me at:
Molly Cochran

East-West Books
213 Porter St.
Easton, PA. 18042
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