When you’ve lived with someone for a long time you develop a vocabulary of shared references and private jokes. One of ours is the phrase “dust and tears.” This is generally used in tones of adolescent existential angst when asked things like “We didn’t go shopping – what do you want for dinner?” *long, drawn-out sigh* “Nothing…dust and tears.” Just a quick explanation of the title. :)
It’s been dust and tears all round for the past week. And madness, obviously, as per the post title. The follow-up story to The Clockwork Bluebird is a complicated one, very dark, with intertwined fairytale retellings. I left it partially written with pages of notes several months ago when my book cover art workload got too heavy to even think about it. I was working late each night and also weekends and getting very stressed out. So I went on a hiatus of sorts and gradually worked my way through all of the existing cover work until I reached a point where I only had a few left to do. Yes, I as a working freelancer got rid of all my paying work. Yikes.
That madness aside, once I was able to go back to the second manuscript I found a pile of rubbish and pages of notes that no longer made any sense to me. You have to understand that in this book I have intertwined main stories based on the Goose Girl and The Red Shoes. There are notes relating to Antonin Artaud’s Theatre of Cruelty (don’t ever let anyone tell you that your reading habits as an angst-ridden goth teen won’t serve you well in later life), Commedia dell’Arte and the exotic animal trade in Victorian England. We have a King of the Cats subplot and steampunk technology fueled by Fae magic.
And I don’t remember how much of it fit together. It all made sense at one point…but now? Dust and tears.
I think most people have seen this image of JK Rowling’s plot spreadsheet for the Harry Potter books. I have something a bit more high-tech but just as messy in Scrivener right now and I’ve been trying to beat the whole thing into submission or die trying.
After a week of literally hurting my brain (incurring stress headaches) I think I have most of it again. The moral to this story is write while it’s hot, don’t wait until the time is right. You’ll never have that span of interruption- and responsibility-free writing time, so just make do. Write the goddamn thing at the point when it wants to be written, or risk losing it.
“Far away, in the meadow, shadows flickered in the Mirror’s Maze, as if parts of someone’s life, yet unborn, were trapped there, waiting to be lived.”
– Ray Bradbury, Something Wicked This Way Comes
The Mirror Maze was the most dreamlike part of the Carnival. It lived one level underneath the main midway area in the forgotten deep runs of the Underground. There was a very ornate sign hanging above the tiled archway leading down to the maze, and its bright gilded curlicues and rich paint belied the dim hallway that led down to the maze.
Arriving in the maze was like entering a dream which starts innocently, but gradually darkens to nightmare. The first room was charming, a rotating room with multiple mirrors that spun to tinkling music as though one had stepped into a kaleidoscope, or walked through the small door in the centre of a carousel into its reverse world. Light shattered into shards of light and spun through the room, showering over the upturned faces of the entranced visitors to the maze. The small crowd laughed, entranced, and then wandered through side passages into the maze.
There was a room furnished in opulent Victorian style, brocades and velvets and thick red oriental carpet underfoot. The mirrors in this room, however, reflected dark things moving in the shadows that one could only see out of the corner of one’s eye. Looked at directly, they disappeared into comfortable normalcy but as soon as one looked away the shadows rose, stalked, grew behind uneasy visitors.
A long, dark room was filled with tall, thin shards of mirror that rose into the darkness of the ceiling like a forest of cruel trees. The mirrors were set close, at odd angles to one another, forcing the person traversing the room to weave their way through the mirrors, each reflective surface circumnavigated leading only to more of them until the whole became oppressive and disorientating. This was an unpleasant room, and most preferred to traverse it as quickly as possible, breathing a sigh of relief upon reaching the other side.
A young couple could be seen slipping into a small side room, presumably in hopes of finding a corner quiet enough for a stolen kiss. This room featured an assortment of various distorting mirrors of the type that can be found in most travelling carnivals and the boy and girl posed in front of several of them, laughing.
“Oh, look! How thin we are.”
“And this one…my dear, you’re fat as a goose!” She pretended to slap him and he caught her wrist, placing a kiss upon the back of her glove. His arm around her waist drew her closer, daringly close, as they moved to the next mirror.
This mirror showed two strangers, two older people. Since it is impossible for the young to believe that they will eventually become old, it took them several minutes to realise that they were looking at aged versions of themselves and gradually their laughter turned to appalled silence. His thick hair had thinned and receded, and his eyes showed the pouchiness of dissipation and excess. He looked mean and small, like a man who had forgotten kindness. She looked at a woman who had aggressively attempted to retain a fading youth, with bright hennaed hair and rouged cheeks which could not hide the frown lines that rode parallel between her eyes. The tight-laced corset couldn’t hide the thickened middle, and her bright lips turned down at the corners in disappointment and resentment. The older couple stood together like a couple who had spent decades making each other miserable, blaming the other for missed opportunities and unrealised expectations.
Silently the young couple left the room, no longer interested in stolen kisses. They didn’t hold hands, as though each believed that the other could pass the contagion along that would someday turn them into the person in the reflection. The next couple entered, laughing.