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After over a month of toiling “The Repeating Woman” is almost there. With any luck I should be able to finish the first draft today. I’m not going to lie–this one kicked my ass. The whole story clocks in around 7500 words, which is right in the ball park of my outline’s expectations. Normally this is a good sign. When I gravely under or overshoot the predicted word count it usually means something went horribly wrong. Not this time, yo. There will be no slaughterhouse revisions on this one, no bloody verbal sacrifices to the Gods of Economy.
“The Repeating Woman” is the second story in an unofficial trilogy of stories that take place in the same fictional version of LA. I’ve come to think of this setting in my notes as “Angelus.” The new story works as a kind of companion piece to “Burn out and Fade Away,” my punk rock ghost story that’s currently making the rounds at the appropriate genre mags. Where “Burn out” focused on a particular facet of Angelus–the indie music scene–“Woman” provides a wider view of the city itself. Writing it gave me the first chance to walk these decrepit streets and smell the smog, to stand face to face with some of the elder powers that make Angelus tick.
I think that’s why this one took so much out of me. When an idea has been marinating in your imagination for such a long time it can be difficult to realize all the facets and contours of the concept on the page. No matter what you write, it doesn’t seem faithful to the brilliant fucking ideas in your head. I’ve been waiting a long, long time to unleash these stories on all of you. My first few years in LA were like the early bombardment era of the Earth. My mind was getting slammed from every direction with new and exciting stimuli that left the surface of Angelus molten and formless. Eventually things started to cool off and distinct features began to emerge.
The plan is to publish each story individually and then collect all three in a chapbook once the display rights revert. That plan is subject to change based on timing and the capricious whims of the short fiction markets. These stories are pretty weird. Also, Weird. Trying to place them in a center-genre publication sometimes feels trying to stuff a scalene trapezoid into round hole. Still. Publish or perish, amiright?
Some revisions will be necessary. The atmosphere isn’t quite right yet and some of the scenes in the first half could benefit from a polish. The atmosphere in a short story is like the rhythm guitar section. If you’re playing the wrong chords in the background then even a brilliant melody is going to sound dissonant. So there’s still work to be done, to be sure. But not nearly as much as there was yesterday.
Check out the excerpt below to whet your weird:
The secret stairs of LA’s East Side were a relic of simpler times before the dark gestalt of the city digested the surrounding municipalities and reconstituted their charmless component parts. Silverlake, Echo Park, Eagle Rock, Los Feliz… places reduced to neighborhoods, stripped clean to the cultural bone. Albert often wished he had been born into a time when the optimism of engineers and urban planners prevailed. Before LA devolved into a postmodern hellscape of automobiles, class warfare and smog. The ancient network of secret stairs harkened back to this bygone era, a time when city officials prioritized pedestrian routes over freeway entrances, when Angelenos actually believed in the promise of a staircase-to-trolley system that would move them efficiently through time and space. That all seemed like an alternate history now. A frayed thread of fate that no longer existed in this reality. In this life, the secret stairs connected everywhere you weren’t to all the places you didn’t want to be. Vestigial organs in a dying beast.