Consider the handiwork of God;
Who can straighten what He has made crooked?
-- Ecclesiastes 7:13
The Lady and the Unicorn
“ . . . Blood has a range of taste, as scent has a range of aromas. Blood has a high level taste and an under taste. It is a blending of elements like music. This is also the way of scent. The under aroma tells you there is a trail and betrays to you the direction. If the scent becomes fresher you are following the creature that produced it, so you must use the under scent to know which direction is older and which is newer. It is as though the air were filled with singing voices and you are picking out from the choir the sound of a single voice. The high scent will tell you the individual, the condition of the individual, if it is injured or sick, horny or filled with fear. It will tell you how to catch him, where he is likely to run to. To acquire the high scent the animal, or myself, must pause to commune with the air and pay attention. Close the eyes. Hold the nose still and just so. Let the night air speak. It is the same with the deep taste of blood, except that scent is on the move, and if you are tasting the blood – well. It is no longer on the move. . . ."
The bookstore. Pushing the doors, rushing to get in. Surrounded by books. That's where the feast is, dining with pencil and yellow pad. Keeping the faith. Surrounded by the chatter of people. Keeping my vigil. It’s a magician’s workshop here in this bookstore. I open a book on a table describing a mysterious religious figure held political prisoner who refuses to talk and people begin mysteriously dying. I make a mental note of that. Another book – a man in a midnight forest, being run to ground by the shape shifter at his heels. Plunging through the dark running for his life in the high moonlight, running across a wide open field wailing like a fool. I make note of that. A man on an island vacation with his wife, but they’re not alone in the hotel. An invisible lost soul seems to be in the bed with them. I make a note of that.
I'm searching for Nixie.
I feed my head, stuff snapshots of scenes and premises and ideas and file them away in there. Cram them in, stomp them down. A compost of words. A mulch of emotions. Soon - very soon - when the time is ready, something good is going to sprout there. That is my faith, like a farmer watching over his spring field waiting, as much as any religious person ever believed he could move a mountain, I have faith in the story fairy slumbering in the back of my mind.
Somewhere out there, a desperately lonely vampire girl is waiting for me. She is waiting to explain her life to me.
I am searching for Nixie.
Nixie is weeping blood tears for me to find her, to run to her. To hear her confession.
Nixie is not searching for me. Nixie has faith too, faith that I will find her when the time is right.
This is how it works.
The first paragraph you've read here is the opening paragraph of a part of an episodic novel. It’s an episodic novel by default, a collection of stories adding up to a larger story. I started my writing life four years ago with something called "Nixie in Love". It was a short story about a German-born vampire girl in a BDSM relationship with a mortal man. They understand each other and they love each other. The man is trying to help her work through her addiction, not only to blood but to killing. That was the story that introduced me to Nixie. And then I forgot all about her.
I wrote a story about an illegal Mexican immigrant crossing a railroad yard late at night. He's obsessively afraid of the dark. And then he starts singing to get his panic under control. And then - a voice in the dark begins singing back to him. In German! My forgotten vampire girl has showed up to make his troubles much worse. I hadn't planned for that.
That is when writing is fun. That is when it soars, when you surprise yourself. When a character you’d forgotten comes up behind you and covers your eyes with her icy bloodless hands.
"Guess who, leibling."
I like that story. There was another, a short story about a priest who hears a confession one night from a girl claiming to be a vampire. He doesn’t believe her even when she vanishes mysteriously. Then she shows up on his doorstep.
It was about this time my mentor Lisabet drew my attention to the fact that a trend was developing. "If you arrange these in some kind of order, you’re not that far from having a novel." I wrote a fourth story "The Lady and the Unicorn" linking the stories I had together. But now I needed one more, the story of Nixie's origin, the story that would begin the others. I had written a novel backwards. Now I need the beginning, and so far it has eluded me.
I am searching for Nixie.
Somewhere out there is a story I haven’t discovered yet. Somewhere a seed hasn't sprouted yet. I keep feeding and watering my head, waiting for that moment when my revelation will appear like an angel with a trumpet. I'm not in a hurry. Waiting is delicious, like lying in bed with a lover, waiting for the touch that you know is coming that will set you on fire. Preparation is delicious, like scattering rose petals on the clean sheets.
I watch the old horror movies on TV, such as "Dracula's Daughter" and I am searching for Nixie in the wide and tormented eyes of Countess Zaleska as she pines for release. Is that how Nixie feels? Is it a curse? How did she get such a curse? Why doesn’t she tell me?
She would say she was betrayed, she would say this is not what she wanted. But how? And then the connection is dropped. I sit with her in a bar and she watches me drink a beer. My pallid German girl sips hers, only tasting it. Tell me, I beg her. How did this happen to you? She excuses herself and steps outside, a small beautiful doll, a fatal marionette going out into the dark alone. This big man with Nazi tattoos has been eyeing her all night and follows her outside. An hour passes and she hasn't returned. A sound of approaching sirens. Blue lights flashing in the distance coming down the highway fast. They must have found the man where she left him.
I think it must be like this for many writers. Like a pregnant woman. You feel the life inside you, moving, becoming independent, dreaming. Perhaps the unborn is dreaming about whatever past life it has arrived from. Maybe dreaming of nothing, enjoying its quiet oblivion. But its time is coming and the peaceful time will be over.
A book of women's erotica. I take it from the shelf and thumb through it, snatching at paragraphs and sentences. A woman with a strange fetish, who likes to lie nude on a mortuary slab as her lover pulls the sheet away from her face. Would Nixie do that? Would that game turn her on? Is Nixie afraid of death? Is that what happened to her?
I am searching for Nixie.
Snacking on novels and stories about the undead and the spiritually lost. Looking for kindred souls. A conversation on a bus. A preacher on the radio. Another writing exercise, another experiment. Another act of faith leading no where, like an unanswered prayer. This is how novels are written sometimes. Not born fully formed, but half born, still born, often aborted. Love making late at night with keyboard and coffee, with the will and the passion of language, trying again, again the fertile swelling and the anticipation. And the pain of the miscarriage, of the idea that goes nowhere.
You’re out there in the dark Nixie, and I will find you. Maybe you're wandering in some German forest at midnight, or crossing a lonely parking lot or rail yard in the dark or waking from a nightmare of love making with the dead. I will find you.
Wait for me, Nixie. Be faithful.
I will be with you soon. Then we'll talk.
I am coming.