Totally True Tales of Terrifying Terror #1

As some of you are aware, I kind of almost cut the tip of my right index finger off about three weeks ago. It was what specialists call “an industrial accident”. The main difference between one of those and a garden variety accident is the lack of alcohol or double-dog-dares involved.

My finger is healing very well, thanks for asking, but last night it hurt a little. So I dreamed that I was carrying a fishing rod (with a spinning reel) with the hook swinging loose. I reached out to control the line and had the very tip of the hook jab into my fingertip. It’s a pretty common occurrence if you fish, and it doesn’t hurt very much- but in my dream the hook just kept getting set into my fingertip, deep, the barb pushing in.

The truth of it is I’ve only suffered minor pricks from fish hooks in the past thirty or so years. But one year, with a storm rolling in, my father took a more serious hook incident…

We were fishing off stump point in Deep Creek Lake in Garrett County, Maryland. Garrett County is basically West Virginia. We had been out since just after dawn, and thunderclouds were rolling over the lake. We were in shallow water, just full of submerged tree stumps, and a fierce wind was kicking up some chop.

“One last cast, and let’s go in,” my dad says, eyeing the sky.

We both cast- we were using live bait, minnows- in opposite directions. I probably lit a cigarette, since I smoked then and fishing was a grand time to smoke.

“Or maybe we should just go in,” my dad says as a few gusts of wind push the boat closer to the stumps. We both start to reel in when- WHAM-WHAM- our bobbers go down within a split second and about two feet of each other.

“Jesus Christ, did we both hook the same goddamn fish!?” I shriek.

We’re laughing, rocked by the wind and surf, trying to pull in our lines and also push off from the stumps the rented aluminum hull boat is scraping up against.

I get the net and scoop first my fathers and then my own fish, dropping his into a bucket of fresh water- it barely fit, a Chain Pickerel at about 14 inches long, with ugly teeth and the hook sticking out of its cheek. My own was slightly longer, maybe 15 or 16 inches- also a Chain Pick- or maybe they were Northern Pike? Skinny freshwater fish with sharp teeth, that I’m sure of.

I manage to de-hook my fish and release him back into the water when the first raindrops start to fall.

“Shit,” says my dad.

“Did it swallow the hook?” I ask.

“My thumb did,” he says.

Right through the side, deep, deep deep.

“Could you release the fish for me?” he says. So I do.

He starts the motor and I drive us towards the center of the lake, so we aren’t banging into the submerged stumps. Then comes the fun part, where he pushes the hook the rest of the way through his thumb with a pair of needle-nosed pliers. I clip the end off and draw it out with tweezers. He wraps his finger in a bandanna- red, as I recall, and when we got to shore he poured some vodka all over his thumb before bandaging it up.

I know we drove back to Pittsburgh- where we lived at the time- that same morning. I can’t remember if he drove or if I did. He was very proud of his wound- more so, I think, of how calmly we both dealt with it. We laughed that it was a good thing he hadn’t tried to rinse the wound in the lake water, God knows that couldn’t have ended well.

So that is what I think of, when I think of dreams about fishhooks.

The Hall of the Piper’s Warning

Apologies for the dust. Life has this way of insisting on being lived, and the blog tends to collect the most dust.

The great Querying effort of ought-ten continues with some bites.

I have far less gray in my hair than I expected at 35. Less lines around my eyes too.

The big shock was the realization that I hadn’t written one novel but two; that they are YA novels wasn’t so shocking but more of a shrug and a “huh”. An Agent, Michael, had put the idea of The Novel possibly being YA into my head back in November. Nova fed fuel and fanned the idea, pointing out instances of “edgy” writing- violence and sex- in YA lit.

One day I looked at the end of Part 1 of The Novel, and said: “Shit, this isn’t an overly long Adult novel, this is two upper-YA novels.” Book 1 has a terrific ending. Book 2 feels less like a wandering afterthought (which it did, to me, before it was Book 2 when it was still Part 2) to the more tightly plotted Part 1 when I realized that it was a different story set in the aftermath of the story of Book 1.

There is still the whole genre question, but I like to call it contemporary fantasy. Some might call it urban fantasy, but since the stories are pretty rural I’m not sure about that, and I feel like it is important to make clear that this isn’t a period fantasy world, but ours distorted through funhouse mirrors.

So there is that.

I miss the desert.

My son grows like a weed, he is all sharp angles and wild curls of strawberry-blond hair. He shows no fear of rocks, wolves, giants or spicy foods. He is a little leery of Wampas, and dogs that aren’t Daisy (of Detective Agency fame).

My daughter laughs with her entire face, her milk-coated tongue rolls in her mouth like a mirthful little sea of white. She sleeps deeper in my arms, it seems, than anyone else’s. I like to think I feel solid to her, substantial, strong and comforting. Or maybe I’m just warm enough and she likes the way I smell. Either way.

My wife gives birth to ideas for yarn and words like a feisty snapdragon. The yarn she works with, the words she often gives to me. What, you didn’t know that snapdragons bore ideas? Obviously you haven’t spent enough time in the garden.

I love my friends. As I get older, and look less like Sam Shepard than I had hoped, I value the friends I’ve kept more and more. I’m, honestly, terrible at making friends. I am great at cocktail chatter, at being friendly, but actually maintaining friendships is somehow beyond me. My wife picks better people than I do, and then she generously shares them with me. I’m pretty lucky like that.

As I get older, and look less like Sam Shepard than I had hoped, I enjoy the little things more, worry about the big things less, and keep writing, loving, reading, cooking, learning and eating.

And sometimes, I get out to the desert.