Friday, February 13, 2015

50K Words In

Happy Friday the 13th!

Okay this is the last milestone I can reasonably talk about for a while. 50,000 words. If anything, it seems like a spot to acknowledge that I think I'm committed to see it through to the end, no matter what that means. In a way, it's a load off.

It's feeling more and more like a pretty long book, somewhere in the 200k-250k range. I could always be wrong about that, but I've got a lot of stories to tell that all add up to this one big one. Also, and I'm trying to temper this, I'm learning a lot about my little desert burg ("You know, The World's Biggest Little City," he says as he slowly stabs himself in the eye with a spork), and it feels right to work from the real places, names and things. Now, of course I'm not working off of or even referencing any real people here, and in the final edit the names of some or all of the places could change (even the town, if it comes to it), but an interesting thing has happened as I've researched things we all find familiar: YOU CAN NEVER GET THEM TOTALLY RIGHT. The reason for this is regional differences; firemen in LA are different from firemen in NY are way different from firemen in Reno and Sparks, for example. The vehicles are different, the sizes and functions of the companies are different, the techniques and demands on their skills are different, and so they all have different vernacular. What I guess I'm trying to say is I'm researching on the fly, but I'm going to go back after I'm done and clean it up, which will probably mean adding things, at a point in the process where I'm used to subtracting.

Apparently I'm also too tired to paragraph correctly. Sorry about that.

Anyway, there's a huge, overwrought lore in the greater Reno/Tahoe area (I can't think of them as one area, but they've been marketed that way so long nearly everybody does) relating to some strange local geographical features. The weirdest one is Pyramid Lake, so named for the rocks jutting up out of the middle of the lake. It is weird. I've driven by it on both sides, and I'll say this: photographers never want to do the desolate visage of this place justice. The picture I posted comes closest of all those I found, but you sort of have to see the thing in person to understand the flat-rolling despair it inspires with its hole-in-nothing locale and largely shapeless, dusty beaches. It's not hard to imagine why people have dreamed up such morbid creatures as the water babies when you see it (that's the angry spirits of discarded infants who drown people, particularly fishermen; forgive the lack of a link but every article I could find kind of sucked). It is, quite literally, an oasis, and one that a thirsty man might prefer was a mirage when he comes upon it.

Or, as a friend of mine puts it with an indulgent grin, "It's where the Truckee River goes to die." He's not wrong. The Truckee River runs from Lake Tahoe along CA-89, then east along I-80, feeding a number of reservoirs along the way but snaking right along I-80 all the way to a place east of Reno called Fernley, were it hangs a counter-intuitive left and beats a jagged northerly track to Pyramid Lake. There is no outlet. That's pretty weird too, and a square many have tried to circle by insisting an underground river created by seismic and/or volcanic activity runs between it and Tahoe.

BTW: I can't source any of this, other than badly- or totally unsourced articles, a horrifically bad youtube power point presentation, and vague impressions local people have of these things. I'll try and find some reasonable books on it, but in the meantime, Google to your heart's content, and also at your own risk.

There are other cool things: mining ghost towns, the Berlin–Ichthyosaur State Park (which is actually about 120 miles ESE of Reno but is still somehow part of the local aesthetic), UNR, the sudden, open expanses of desert, and obviously the casinos... Reno understands itself better than it tends to get credit for, and it loves its own mark it's quietly making on the world.

So that's all a long way of saying the book is long-getting-longer in part because I'm liking the ride. Being here has made things possible for me that wouldn't have been otherwise, not the least of which is this book. The setting lends a tone and a weirdness that makes a story like this one seem more plausible than it might even deserve; I don't know yet because it's not even halfway done.

I do know that in some parts, you can ride a dirt bike out of your garage, into the desert, up past a haunted lake with a stony pyramid sticking out of it and on into the Black Rock desert on a flat, dead lake bed they call "the playa," where you won't likely encounter another soul unless you've planned badly and run into a bunch of dirty, stoned people partying around a giant wooden effigy they plan to burn down at some point. On this itinerary, you'd never spend longer on a paved road than it takes to occasionally cross one if you didn't want to. Think about that one, particularly if you're an urban or suburbanite tenderfoot like I am. It's weird. And it makes weird things seem possible.

And it makes you want to push weird as far as weird will go.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Quick NWB Update

My internet is down. It’s 2:00 am as I write this, and my internet is down. Just thought I’d log that for posterity and point out that I’m going around this little obstacle, at 2:00 am, to bring you this little update:

On a pretty good streak of working on the book every night, despite work running late a few times in the last week or so. Hit the wall tonight at about 39,500, which is, for reasons of my arbitrarily compulsive nature, a bummer. I really wanted to crack 40k.

Ooohhh and look, my internet is back up. I think that’s my cue to cut this short, not that I had a lot more to go. Real quick, I wanted to mention a quick foray into non-fiction on a couple of recommendations by a friend of mine: 

Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer, which didn't appeal to me but was a bestseller when it was released. If you're more into nature and solitude than I am, it might appeal to you. I reviewed it on goodreads.

Currently reading The Devil's Teeth by Susan Kasey. This one is getting me. It's about the Farallon Islands (about three hours outside the Golden Gate), the great white sharks that congregate there every year, and the people who study them. Particularly interesting if you're from the Bay Area or happen to be obsessed with great white sharks (and intermittently, I'm both). 

I try and track/report/review what I'm reading on goodreads, so if you're ever stuck for something to read, check me out there.