Escapism of all stripes

The view of the Lucky Strike tower, Durham, NC – Photo by Natania Barron, CC BY SA 2.0

It’s been a busy weekend here in our household, with my husband away at the Escapist Expo most of the time, and me wrangling the babies. I did have a panel there yesterday on geek parenting, and it went rather well–a great audience and, as usual, more questions than we had time to answer. The Expo is really impressive for a first-year con (reminds me of ConTemporal that way) and I’m super excited that it’s right around the corner! This area of the world is quickly becoming home to some fun geek conventions, and I highly approve.

Anyway, once the kids have been in bed I’ve used the time for writing because, well, let’s face it: it’s escapism, I’ve been incredibly stressed, and I need to get back in the groove. Not to sound selfish or anything, but sometimes one’s own endeavors have to take precedence (especially, I may add, when one’s state of pregnancy last year pretty much eradicated any fiction creation to speak of). Especially considering this week which was full of OMGHUGELIFECHANGINGDECISIONS.

Rock Revival is once again shoving its way to the forefront–so instead of fighting the tide I decided (partially since it’s moving so fast anyway) that I’d move The Wind Through the Wheat aside for a few days until I get through the next few scenes in the full novel. I’ve been listening to a ton of music lately (primarily Mumford & Sons and Starsailor) and it’s just been impossible to put Rock Revival aside. Driving around with the music going and the novel starts writing itself in my head, and since I’m a terrible outliner I know if I don’t write it down immediately I’ll lose it. Which is the short way of saying that between the hours of 10pm and 1am, I’ve been typing furiously away at the keyboard.

A few cool things. Since relocating the band to the UK, I’ve been able to explore a few of the places I visited while I was there and learn new fun tidbits. The last scene I wrote took place at The Thekla, a rock club that’s on a boat in Bristol Harbor. I mean, I just happened to be Googling rock clubs in Bristol (since I know the music scene there is generally considered quite cool) and like the sound of the name and, behold! What an amazing setting. Not to mention that I made Tom’s house in Kent an oast house which has been converted into a home and studio. Until two days ago I had no idea what an oast house was, let alone that it would prove so perfect. I found it, literally, by “walking” around Lamberhurst, Kent, in Google Maps (my dad lived there briefly as a kid and my family visited in 2000, staying at the Chequers Inn and walking to Scotney Castle on foot–one of the most amazing days in my life) and noticing an old house with odd architecture called something or other “oast”.

Anyway, the fun of writing a place you know (and, I should add, desperately want to visit again) definitely helps lift through the mid-to-late book slog. The drama of the book is mostly over, and all that remain in the band’s original lineup are Kate, Tom, and James. Yes, this book is about a band breaking up. But it’s about more than that, too. I’m sort of hitting the blaze before the fall as the meteorite crashes through the atmosphere. It’s going to be great for a while, the band will go on tour, the album will sell, but then… well, things will change.

Today we’re heading back to the convention–I almost sold out of Pilgrim of the Sky books at the Bull Spec table, so that was exiting. I also had a great time chatting with local author JL Hilton about everything industry, bookish, and girly (in a good way).

Anyway, here’s a sizeable chunk of the Lamberhurst stuff in draft mode, followed by the word count.

We drove along the windy, hedge-high roads and through Lamberhurst itself—charming brick houses stacked along the side of the road with their squat little chimneys—before taking a sharp turn down a dirt road. It was horrifically bumpy, and just the thing for my motion sickness to start kicking in. We drove about half a mile before I noticed the house in the distance. It was about as typical as you could imagine, white washed and sprinkled with ivy and chimneys and roses. Except there were three conical parts to it that I couldn’t quite make sense of, painted white and black at the top. Not quite a castle, not quite a farm. Something else?

There was a Bentley in the driveway, which had to be James’s, and some kids playing games with sticks in the adjacent field. I noticed some outbuildings, too, with other, smaller, practical British cars, and wondered if there was an actual staff. Not that the house looked big enough to accommodate it, but I sort of figured it might be the way Tom had structured things.

And someone did meet me at the car. He was in his seventies, or so, with a cap and t-shirt and dirty jeans, sprigs of curly white hair over his sizable ears.

“And you’re Kate,” he said, laughing. He peered around me and into the car. “And here I was expecting someone else along with you. The other lad.”

“Kurt,” I said, for some reason looking into the car after him, as if somehow Kurt would still be there. I cleared my throat, trying to stifle the emotions rising up. The house, the air, the birdsongs, it was all a little much. In the distance, the sun was starting its descent, and the tall grasses behind the house were dancing in the breeze. Seriously, you can’t make this shit up.

I realized I hadn’t answered the man’s question. “I mean, Kurt went back to London. He’s… got another gig.”

The man nodded. “Oh! And my manners. But I’m Mr. Chesley. Tom’s dad, as it were.”

Of course it was Tom’s dad.

“Glad to finally meet you,” I said, being as polite as possible. Tom really hadn’t spoken to me much about his parents in the years we’d known each other, but I certainly had never expected this veritable hobbit of a man. It was then that I noticed that Mr. Chesley’s old t-shirt was, in fact, a Revivals tour shirt from 2004. Our first tour together. It was so faded that it was almost impossible to tell, but you could still see the second half of our name and the triangle logo.

“Well, let me show you ‘round. The boys are locked up good and well, and I’m sure you’ll be wanting to join them soon enough.”

I followed him into the house, which had to be hundreds of years old by the look of it, and it smelled like cider and sawdust. The renovations were extensive; I mean you could just tell by a glance that things were new, it’s just that they kept with the old style. I wasn’t sure how much of a hand Tom had in it, since this was a place in his family and all, but the outcome was pretty spectacular. White walls, dark wood, a smattering of antiques, posters, statues. It wasn’t the cluttered coziness of James, that’s for sure. Almost like a museum, or a house out of some architectural digest (which, I think was actually in an issue a few months later).

“What kind of house is this?” I asked Mr. Chesley as he took me down a narrow hallway.

He looked over his shoulder and said something that sounded like “oats” and, not wanting to sound stupid, I just nodded and laughed as if I knew exactly what he was talking about.

“This is yours,” he said, opening a heavy latched door and gesturing inside.

Apparently, my room was in one of the cones. So, basically, I had a ceiling that went up like forty or fifty feet. The walls were white painted brick and crisscrossed with thick wooden beams. In the middle of the room was a bed with blue linens, simple and elegant. There was an upright piano, a guitar, and a bookcase fit to bursting with books. Plus, a writing desk and some chests of drawers. The floor was sealed concrete, a sort of brownish gray, and carpeted toward the middle of the room with a rustic yellow knotted rug. I’ve never been a decorator or cared much one way or another how a room looks, but it was impressive, nonetheless.

I went over to the bed and smoothed my hands across the bedspread. There was a note, scrawled in Tom’s childish script: “Make sweet music, Cakes!”

“Been in the family for a long time, but none of us has ever had the time or the money to do much about it. When Tom told me he was thinking of turning it into a live-in studio, and that he’d be coming back home for a bit, well…” he trailed off, clearing his throat.

“It’s amazing,” I said.

Rock Revival: