Sunday, August 17, 2008

My Neil Gaiman Birthday and Other Musings

I don't like to talk about just plain old personal news much on this blog, for fear of boring you all to tears. But I guess since tomorrow is my birthday, I can indulge just this once.

Last night I celebrated with the family at a fabulous new restaurant, Sheridan's in Cudahy. It certainly was a thrill giving the girls their first ride in Racer Y...he seems like a birthday present too as he is still so new, and ditto his XM radio. We had a fantastic time and capped off the evening watching the Cubs on WGN--a blast in spite of their winning streak coming to an end.

Anyway...I don't know how it is for you, but due to the nature of my ebbing and flowing obsessions, I have found over the years that birthdays and Christmases often end up with a theme. There was an X Files Christmas once, and a Lord of the Rings Christmas. I had a bead jewelry birthday I think too. And heaven knows, there have been years for the Chicago Blackhawks, the Dallas Stars, the Montreal Canadiens, etc.

This was my Neil Gaiman birthday. Figures, eh? I got Neil's spoken word CD (over my nice Pioneer speakers in the car, it may kill me--I'll let you know). I got the graphic novel edition of Coraline. And I'm finally initiating myself into fanship of Neil's most famous works: The Sandman comics. Along with The Sandman Companion, I received the first volume (of four) of the Absolute Sandman collection. These books are huge and spectacularly bound. Last night I read The Sandman #1, and even though many people say the comics improve greatly, I thought it was fabulous. And that's not just the crush talking.

After I read that, up in our beautiful Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired studio with the fountain running and Selke the cat next to me on the futon, I did something really weird. I went over to the shelf where I keep my unpublished works, and pulled out the binder of my fourth novel, Looking on Darkness. So happens I wrote this book during the early years of Neil's writing The Sandman, circa 1990-91. I have absolutely no idea what possessed me to pick up this book, but I opened it and read the first two (long) chapters.

If you're not a writer, it may surprise you that it's possible for authors to actually forget what they write over time. I'm sure I haven't cracked this book in fifteen years. I do remember the gist of the story but of course the specific contents have faded in my mind. Please forgive how this sounds, but I was shocked at how well written the first chapters were. My recollection is that I worked very hard on the editing of this book but didn't complete that effort when I set it aside. I'm not sure how many of the later chapters need work or how much, but I think they should be close to final.

In 1991 one did not have the options for publishing that one does now. Just sending out query letters and sample chapters was very daunting, and during this time I was divorcing my first husband and supporting my two girls on my own. I just ran out of steam. Today is a different story. The most daunting thing about having Living Beyond Reality Press publish Looking on Darkness is having to scan 200 pages of manuscript before I can finish the editing. I think I'll finish reading it, and if the rest is as good as the beginning, I'd sort of like it to end up in print and find some readers.

I have to stretch a little but not too far to find a few parallels between what I was doing with this book in 1990 and what Neil Gaiman was writing in The Sandman. Looking on Darkness was written at the height of my (still continuing) Carl Jung phase, and I'm sure Neil would be happy to confirm his comics have a Jungian influence, if anything by way of Joseph Campbell. The first chapter of LOD introduces Jeremy Lamb, a British schoolboy who eventually becomes the story's antagonist, and I recall researching the Brit terminology carefully. That section reads a lot like some passages in Neil's stories that are in British settings. And some of the writing even smacked of Neil's brand of description--at one point I said Jeremy's eyes were "shiny black, like the backs of beetles," a macrabre sort of analogy I seldom do in my writing nowadays.

Looking on Darkness is about a kind of psychic vampirism, and there is a lot of "action" that occurs inside the psyches of the characters. Dreams and fantasies and the inner life play a big part, as I expect will be the case in The Sandman. If you really want to stretch it, there's one more interesting connection: Issue #1 features four minor characters (two male, two female), and tracks them all over a long expanse of years. LOD is built around the lives of a pair of males and a pair of females.

I don't know what made me get up, almost in a trance (well, it was two hours past my usual bedtime, LOL) and pick up this book from the shelf. But spookier things have happened to me since I started reading Gaiman. So after I finish writing my current collection I'll have to give serious thought to publishing Looking on Darkness. Well, perhaps if I start now scanning those pages a bit at a time, it won't be such a nightmarish chore!


CC said...

Happy (day before) Birthday! I wonder if your subconscious remembered the Neil Gaiman parallelism in LOD and pushed to get your conscious mind to go re-read it? Spookier things have happened, I'm sure. For example, just yesterday my husband was telling me how one of his friends has recently gotten into Carl Jung and is planning to discuss it on a cable access show today. I said "Isn't that one of Diana Laurance's things? She has a book about it." I think that and your self-publishing how-to are the only two books currently in your store that I don't have yet.

I also have re-read old unfinished stories of mine and enjoyed them very much, so I can relate to forgetting things I've written. My husband says it makes sense that I would enjoy my own writing, since it connects with my views and experiences more than any other writing can. (I love my husband's words of wisdom). The funny thing is that I love your writing more than mine! I adore your characters and how realistic and varied they are. You are an extremely talented author.

I usually only go for happy endings, so you're scaring me with all the darkness stuff, but I'm still looking forward to reading LOD when you publish it! And now that you've told us so much about it, you better publish it! :-)

If you'd like any help with the artwork for it, you've got at least one volunteer.

- CC

Diana Laurence said...

Thanks, CC, and your comment really made my day!

I think you may be right about the subconscious prompting business. Sometimes our subconscious has SO much more information ready at hand, it's staggering.

You're right about my Jung book-- Living Beyond Reality: A Jungian Primer for Enhancing Your Life.

See, you know what I mean! But you are too sweet with your compliment; and I can relate, after all there are quite a few authors whose writing I prefer to my own. :-)

Believe me, my "dark" would be dang cheerful in the context of Gaiman or King or some other horror writer!

And I would love getting you involved with some art for the book! You did such a fabulous job on that "Abigail's Archer" illustration. I will be sure to let you know when the time comes! Thanks SO much.

Miss Organizized said...

Spooky for sure mom! What a cool experience though. And only appropriate to happen in the most magical room of magic house ;)

Diana Laurence said...

Too, too true, Katesi!

Cherie said...

I love when things like that happen. I hope you do publish Looking on Darkness!

Happy B'day!

Diana Laurence said...

Thanks, Cherie! I really think I'm gonna HAVE to...I had more (good) omens happen yesterday while reading Neil's "Coraline." It's really going to suck scanning all those pages, but I'll suffer through somehow! :-)