There are certain months that send a little shiver of anticipation up my spine.
March, for my birthday.
December, for Christmas.
Not just for Halloween, though it’s a holiday I love. October is the season of change here in the Pacific Northwest. Leaves fall, gradually leaving the skeleton of the oak tree bare. I harvest the last fruits of the gardens: pumpkins, apples, cabbages, potatoes. I run the rototiller over the garden patch for a last time, and then cover the soil to rest for the winter. There are so many chores to do, until suddenly, the time for working outside is gone. The days are shorter and wetter.
It’s a great season for writing. The evenings come earlier, so the nights are longer. It’s a nice time for stews and soups that have simmered all day, freeing me from the evening task of preparing the meal. It’s a good time to sit in the ‘big chair’ or the corner of the couch with a pencil and notebook, jotting down random bits of dialogue, or sketching the timeline of a character’s life. It’s also a bit of a spooky month. I startle myself walking past the mirror in the hall at night. The night sounds change. Coyotes yip-yip-yipping down by the river. Owls. Screech owls that wake me from a dead sleep, thinking I heard someone scream. The hesitant hoof steps outside the window. It’s a deer. I know it’s a deer. I still have to sit up and peer out into the darkness.
This season, the story I’m working on has some darker angles to it. There a slight wash of horror over this fantasy, a few elements that I don’t usually choose to think or write about. Questions my character will have to ask of herself and others, questions none of us really like to consider.
It’s a good month for writing that sort of a book.
Yesterday, I worked on an alternative map of Tacoma, one that shows the Wedge, the section of town where Celtsie lives. I realized I was at that part of the novel where I had to be sure all the details agreed with one another. How many blocks from her apartment to the park, and which direction is the coffee shop in? All those bits and pieces that, if jumbled, can throw a reader right out of the story.
It’s a skill I really admire in mystery writers. Sue Grafton or Rex Stout or Robert Parker or Debbie McComber (I know, that name makes you think of romance. Often enough, there’s a bit of a mystery in there, too!) In every tale, I can put my finger exactly on where the character is at any given moment, in each city. They mention the shops, the stop lights, the one-way streets, and even what business used to be in that place. The setting becomes a character. It’s important. It brings the real to the tale.
It’s a dedication I strive to emulate in my fantasy fiction. I want to bring the real to this fantasy, to invite you to a Tacoma I glimpse when I turn down the wrong street at night or glimpse a peculiar figure waiting at a familiar bus stop.
I’m a bit sad that I won’t be home for Halloween this year. On October 31, I will have departed Portugal to arrive in Italy. This year, I will miss Jack O’Lanterns, and costumed children and trick or treaters. I suspect I’ll take my Halloween with me as I continue to work on Celtsie’s story this October.