Writing in the Dark

I have Covid again and am feeling addled. I’m trying to work on my latest work-in-progress, and it feels like my brain is sealed in bubble wrap. I can see my work. I know it’s there. But I can’t quite touch it, can’t quite make it out. My husband thinks I’m an idiot for trying to write like this. He’s probably right. (He usually is, which makes him a terrible pain in an argument.)

Yet, to some extent, writing is often like that. I live in a world that’s dark and fuzzy. It’s not even a world—it’s a void. I get a glimpse of something—usually a character—and start to imagine things around him. Situations, settings, other characters, a past. But everything is dim and murky. It’s also usually quiet. If I’m lucky, that initial character who showed up will talk to me. Sometimes, he’ll chatter incessantly, and I almost wish he would shut up. I love it when he starts talking to the other main character, though. Despite everything being so hazy, I always relax somewhat when that happens.

I usually start with some notes. The main characters help me with those. The outline, however, is my own boss battle. It feels like pulling a rope from a vast, dark lake and not knowing what you’ll find at the other end. I like to sketch everything out as fast as possible, going with my gut and subconscious—letting everything fly and then land where it wants.

With this framework of thin bones, I go into the darkness once again. There’s an archaeological feel about this part, like building a prehistoric creature for a museum display. I have to figure out exactly what the bones mean, what kind of hide the creature had, what color fur or feathers. I have to discover the flesh that clothes the bones I excavated. I have to do this blindfolded, arranging coils of intestines and molding mounds of fat, sightless, with my bare hands until I decide the animal feels right. Sometimes, it’s not what I was expecting. Sometimes I knew it in the womb.

So, despite my husband’s sound warnings, I’m working today. I’m used to the dark. It’s my companion and my workspace. The fog, the diffuse bubble wrap covering everything—I can deal with that.

There’ll just be a lot of editing once I’m well. Editing is turning on the lights and watching the critters scatter. I’m almost ready for that part, but I’m going to play in the dark for a little while longer.

Meet the Horses of “Carillon’s Curse”

I love horses. We had ponies and horses when I was a kid, and they’re just wonderful creatures. My first job was exercising horses for an elderly man. I couldn’t get enough of them when I was young.

Unfortunately, I haven’t had access to horses in years. I live in the suburbs now, and my housing association frowns on having them in your backyard. So, I had to throw some horses into my latest novel. (They’re in the upcoming sequel, too!)

First, there’s Merlin. Merlin is Thomas Carillon’s magnificent black Morgan stallion. My favorite horse growing up was a chestnut Morgan with a large white blaze named Dannyboy. As clever as he was beautiful, he had smooth gaits and a big attitude. I thought about giving Thomas a Tennessee Walker like one of the horses I exercised for the elderly man because that one was like sitting in a rocking chair. You couldn’t ask for an easier ride. Thomas ended up with a Morgan because they are small in stature—and Dannyboy was such a great horse. Since Thomas is lame, I thought he would have an easier time mounting a Morgan.

A black horse galloping.
This looks more like an Andalusian than a Morgan, but it is a beautiful black horse with a thick neck like Merlin.

Merlin is stout-hearted and fast. He’s gentle and well-suited to his kind owner. Unlike many stallions, he isn’t aggressive to other horses and rides well with Bucephalus, Hadrian’s mustang.

A buckskin horse galloping.
I’m not sure what kind of horse this is (let’s call it a mustang), but it has a buckskin coat like Bucephalus. Notice the black points—the black muzzle and black leg markings.

Hadrian Burton named Bucephalus after Alexander the Great’s horse. (The story goes that only Alexander could ride the wild stallion.) Bucephalus is a buckskin mustang. Mustangs are tough horses that still roam wild in the United States today. They are descended from the horses of Spanish conquistadors and come in a beautiful variety of colors. Bucephalus is a buckskin. These are horses with golden coats and black manes, tails, and points. They don’t have the black dorsal stripe of dun horses, otherwise, they look similar.

Both Thomas and Hadrian have disabilities. Thomas has clubfoot, and Hadrian has PTSD. Their horses provide them with both transportation and emotional stability. In our modern world, horses, the animal we so depended upon in the Old West, continue to help us. Horses are used in therapy to help people with disabilities, including PTSD. They are such amazing animals!

Two horses looking over a fence. They look calm and happy. One is a buckskin, and one looks white with gray points.
Here is another buckskin with a beautiful gray mare. (She’s called gray because of the gray points. The only truly white horses are albinos, who lack pigment.) She’s in the sequel.