I just finished final spell checks and sent my book, Oskar Ottokar Chandler, Paranormal Extraordinaire, off to beta readers. Many problems remain, though few with the book. The cat still has fleas, despite four months of treatment. The winter has been one of the longest and coldest on record. The car broke down, my daughter is sick, and the most recent storm has forced me to miss work. My house is dirty, I’m out of laundry detergent and he-who-shall-not-be-named is in the White House. And so on.
A year ago–actually it was February 22, 2016–my car had also broken down, and I had to take it to Les Schwab for a tire replacement. I had some feeble Artist’s Way-inspired plan to visit the cemetery and look at gravestones for creative inspiration. And that plan had completely fallen through. And I remember saying to myself, as I sat smelling rubber at Les Schwab, “I can’t believe this bs. I was going to spend the day at the cemetery.”
Then I thought, who says something like that? Sounds like some quirky character who spends too much time visiting the dead. And I realized, it must be the voice of Oskar, my bit character who played a small role in previous books, and who is an orphan. And I’d always felt he had more to say, and that his story might be worth telling. I’d kind of pictured him as a gay Sherlock Holmes, but hadn’t gotten around to figuring him out. I wrote down that one beginning sentence, and his voice started coming to me, page after page.
Luckily, I had my laptop with me.
So Oskar Ottokar Chandler, Paranoral Extraordinaire, was born. At Les Schwab.
It’s been a great year. A lot of people say this was a terrible year, the worst of their lives, but for me, I think this has been a breakthrough year. I’ve spent most of the year with Oskar, practically inhabiting him, and the rest of it with Coney, Oskar’s would-be boyfriend. While insanity reigned in the White House, I quietly learned things about consciousness, mortality, and existence that forever changed my life and way of looking at the world. While racism, sexism, and homophobia held sway on high, I silently wrote a paranormal gay love triangle replete with characters who are either not white, not straight, or not male, including my first trans character. I filled up the pages with the antics of vegans and feminist men-in-black, ghost and spiritualists and anarchists and seers. In the end, neither fleas nor cold nor cars nor he-who-shall-not-be-named could get me down. Oskar carried me through all that, and when I got too heavy, Coney carried me further.
So I’m actually quite glad that on Feb. 22, 2016, I had to take the car in and couldn’t go to the cemetery. And this is the attitude I want to take forward with me: that a big mess of crux can push a person to their highest abilites in creativity and consciousness. 2015 might have been my year for getting physically fit, but 2016 was my year for getting spiritually fit, mostly due to things beyond my control. If Oskar and Coney have taught me one thing–well, they’ve taught me so many things. But they’ve definitely shown me that things that are far from perfect can be exactly what we need.