On New Ideas and the Perils of Watercress

Well, it’s been a while.

Lying in bed a few weeks back I found myself drifting in and out of a vague dream about a clone on the run from some sort of shadowy government agency. In my half-waking mind, the components of a story started to come together. Upon waking, I was surprised to discover that it held together pretty well. For a few days afterward, I’d find myself returning to the idea and playing with it further.

swamp_thing_and_abbeyAfter a week or so, it occurred to me that I’d (quite by accident) developed an actual, honest-to-goodness idea for a series — well suited to either television, animation, or comics. The closest thing I can compare it to is Alan Moore’s run on Swamp Thing — but I should probably leave it at that, for now.

I say “by accident” because it’s not the sort of thing I do on purpose. In fact, I’m not sure I’ve ever done it before. Although I’ve had ideas for individual episodes or issues of an already established, ongoing series — the world will perhaps never know the joy of watching, for instance, my “lost” season of Mad Men — I’ve never really come up with something new that was obviously an ongoing series.

The reason for this is, I think, because most of what I read is finite. Novels, plays, short stories, poetry — they all have an ending. Even in the world of comics, my favorite series tend to be the ones that are standalone volumes or finite storylines: Sandman, Cerebus, From Hell, Promethea, the various Gaiman/McKean collaborations, etc. As I’ve gotten older (no, I won’t say “matured”) as a reader, I’ve found the endless story arcs, crossovers, and reboots in most of the mainstream comics increasingly tedious and even insulting.

So it’s strange to have this sort of story coming together in my head . . . but it’s also a lot of fun, as well.

And it’s perfect timing, really. My work on Pantheon has been a little slow of late, as it’s difficult to find the time with everything else going on. We’re moving households in about a week and it always seems that there’s something else that needs to get done first. But it’s been good to have a nice little idea to play with for a while. Once things settle down a bit, I expect to have a strong outline and treatment that I can share with a few connections. After that, we’ll see where it goes.

It’s been nice too, talking about it with Keeley. My current project (the aforementioned Pantheon) began life as a collaboration with her. So it’s been fun to tell her what I’m thinking and then bounce ideas back and forth. In addition to the clarity that comes from simply talking over a story with someone else, she’s given me a lot of little things to consider around various chacters and plot points. I’ll owe her a story credit, when the time comes.

It’s a science fiction story, by the way — at least, on one level it is — and that’s a nice change as well since that’s not a genre I usually spend much time in (either reading or writing). I wouldn’t say it’s hard SF, at all. It’s more of a technological thriller, which sounds a bit odd even to me. Again, not typically the sort of thing my mind immediately comes up with.

But, so far, it’s working for me. At the very least it’s a good exercise to go through in the midst of the moving cyclone.

By my last count, I think I’ve moved about 20 times in my life (that’s 20 separate residences, not including different dorm rooms in college). At the time, it never seemed like that much . . . but it adds up, apparently. The end result is that I’m very, very good at packing. Especially books. There’s about forty-five boxes of them now.

Also, it’s taught me how to plan ahead so that the week leading up to the day when the truck shows up isn’t a hectic mess of last-minute preparation and stress. Oddly enough, we’re only moving one block away. That’s all. But you still have to go through everything, no matter the distance. So I’m disrupting my life, my writing schedule, my peace of mind, and the delicate psychic landscape of my offspring to go one block south.

But we need the room. The kids are getting bigger and we’re all starting to bump into each other a bit more than before. And sometime next year our family is likely to get even bigger, so there’s that to plan for as well. The timing couldn’t have been better. Just as we started getting serious about looking, our landlord had a bigger place open up down the street. That it has a pool table in the basement wasn’t the only deciding factor, I assure you. But it did help take the sting out of the idea of moving again.

As did the realization* that, with a little bit of imagination and some elbow grease, I could have an office again. It’s been a long time since I had a separate space where I could spread out and work — the past few years, I’ve set up shop at the kitchen table after everyone’s gone to bed. It’s been fine (I got two books and a full length play done that way, after all) but it’ll be nice to have things be a bit more grounded.

(It’s also the room right next to where the pool table is, so that’s okay.)

*It wasn’t my realization, of course. I’d been thinking that the back room would end up being storage. Keeley was the one you said “You know this could be an office…” and, as usual, she was absolutely right.

moldOut at Aurohn Lake last week, I got the chance to prove my devotion to her. Down near the southeast side of the lake there’s a spring where watercress grows in thick, abundant beds. The terrain gets a little swampy down there and one wrong step will find you sinking fast. No one’s entirely clear on how deep the mud goes, but (as I found out later) the rumor is that a cow was lost down there back when the angus beef farm was still in operation.

While Keeley was picking her ‘cress, I went off to take some photos of an interesting mold formation on a nearby tree. Coming back, I watched her shift position and loose her footing. She grabbed an overhead branch and I immediately went into rescue mode, taking one huge step into the seemingly solid center of the watercress.

I sank immediately and my knee boots were suddenly filled with water and mud. Trying to pull out one leg only made the other sink deeper. My main concern was that if I sank to my waist, my camera and my iPhone would be ruined.

As I am somewhat smarter than a cow, I was able to get back to solid ground eventually — all without losing my precious tech, but soaked from the thighs down. As I dumped the gallons of water and mud out of my boots, my only regret was that we didn’t capture the whole thing on video. Ah well, next time…

I will say this: based on the salad my wife made later that night, the watercress was well worth the risk.

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