Inhuman Swill : May 2001

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May 8, 2001

Chapter 42: "Words and Phrases You Must Never Use in Airports"

Back up to 848 ms pages. Manuscript goes in the mail to my agent first thing tomorrow. Or today, rather.

May 6, 2001

Shrinkage

Okay, I've taken the memoir about as far down as I can go now, from 947 pages to 833. That a little more than 12% shrinkage, or almost an eighth of the book. Wow! I've also gone from 47 chapters to 41.

Now I have just one more chapter to write—the money shot, "Words and Phrases You Must Never Use in Airports"—before I'm at a place where I can send the nearly damn complete manuscript to my agent for forwarding to HarperCollins. Tomorrow!

May 5, 2001

Missionary Man

So my agent has an editor at HarperCollins interested in the memoir. Unfortunately, a different Harper editor has already rejected it, so the title has to change for this new submission. Therefore, the book henceforth is called Missionary Man, not The Accidental Terrorist. (It will also help, of course, that there's now almost twice as much book as there was on the previous submission. That will go far toward helping everyone involved pretend this is a fresh submission.)

In preparation for delivering the almost-complete manuscript, I've been eliminating some chapters that have given other editors pause, including the three chapters about my stint at the Clarion science-fiction writing workshop in the summer of 1985. I'm pleased to say that in the past week I've whittled the ms down from 947 to 855 pages, and I still have one more unnecessary chapter to purge. The tricky thing has been finding ways to interpolate condensations of some of the salient backstory from the material I've eliminated into the remaining narrative. But I'm just about done! With luck I'll have the ms in the mail to Shawna on Monday.

Anyway, that's why, when I resume the new-chapter postings, the chapter and page counts will have shrunk.

May 4, 2001

The William-Wide Web

When I have nightmares, they tend to be vivid and weird. The one I just woke up from was no exception.

I was living in my parents' unfinished basement for some reason. (Never mind the fact that my parents have a finished basement, and that this was not reconizably their house.) My father was out of the picture. I'm not sure if he was dead or what, but it was just my mom, my sibs, and me. And I was the one living in the basement.

There were some spiders in the basement. I'm not normally bothered by spiders, but I found and killed some big 'uns down there. Then, just when I thought I was safe, I found a pair of huge black widows—huge fat things, with diamond markings so shiny and red they looked like they'd been stamped on in plastic. I found the black widows hiding on the underside of what I think must have been a large sheet of plywood set up on sawhorses, perhaps to accommodate a model train set. Anyway.

When the jig was up, the spiders appeared on the top of the plywood, where I worked damn hard to smash them to bits with a board. When that job was finished, just when I thought I could rest, I noticed a brown recluse the size of my hand lurking about. Just as soon as I noticed it, it was gone. Then I felt something gripping my hand, and a painful prick. The damn thing was clinging to my left hand with the little hooks at the ends of its legs, and it had just bit me.

Well, I flailed about trying to pry the spider off my hand, and I thought I succeeded in killing it. But maybe not, because the next thing I remember, I was waking up on the basement's concrete floor. As I stood up, I felt something tickling the hairs of my back. (Yes, never mind.) That's when I realized . . . I was wrapped in a shaggy coat of spider silk! I had passed out and the brown recluse had wrapped me up like prey!

I tried shrugging the web off like you'd try to get out of a straitjacket. I got some off but not all. I went running up the stairs, sobbing and screaming, calling for my mom to get it off me. Then I woke up.

That was nearly an hour ago. I'm still freaking out every time I feel a hair brush against me.

So what do you think? Anxiety dream?

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