The First Essay

by Mel Gilden

After some months of putting it off, I am getting around to writing an essay for my website at last. I intend to write a new essay every week or so from now until they plant me, but I don't want to make rash promises. As you know from your own life, sometimes it intrudes.

2005 was a quiet year. I finished a fantasy mystery novel, and a young adult fantasy novel. I shipped them both off to my agent, but haven't yet had any luck with them. Of course, one does hear stories about novels sitting on desks in New York for many many months before they are either returned or sold, so maybe a year really isn't such a long time. Which is not to say that it is a good thing that publishers seem so lackadaisical about reading submissions, only that I don't feel like the Lone Ranger.

I've never been a long novel writer, though my books do seem to be getting longer as I experiment with formats and styles. I think my latest book, a fantasy adventure, will eventually be about 400 manuscript pages long. I've passed page 300, so I'm almost done. Though I write from an outline, I keep running into walls — places where I don't quite know what will happen next. Not knowing what will happen next is part of the work, but that doesn't mean I like it.

(Some years ago a friend of mine was writing a Star Trek novel. Being a well-known writer, she was eventually able to sell it on an outline that was only a few pages long. Imagine her concern when she came to a place in the outline where "four guys take over the Enterprise" and she had no idea how. That stopped her for almost a week.)

Due to budgetary restrictions the LA Times has stopped publishing original stories on their Kid's Page. An old story of mine may be reprinted occasionally, but nothing new. Too bad. I had a new Ignatz story all written.

Ms. Laurie and I have many cats — you know, one, two, three . . . many — not even counting the strays we feed. Mortimer, Mo to his many friends, had a thyroid problem, and remained boney thin despite all we fed him. After much soul searching and a discussion with a vet we trusted, we decided on euthanasia. Mo wasn't happy and we were assured he wouldn't get any better. Roswell developed cancer in one eye. We watched it closely, sending photos of the bad eye to the vet specialist almost monthly, and at last we were forced to the decision to have it removed. Because Roswell didn't seem to have an trouble adjusting to monocular vision, we suspect that she couldn't see out of the sick one anyway.

I've been watching old movies and TV episodes on DVD. I just recently ran The Crimson Pirate, staring Burt Lancaster. Do you know who Burt Lancaster is? How you answer may be a function of your age. I was surprised and horrified when I mentioned his name to our waiter at a restaurant Ms. Laurie and I frequent, and he had no idea what I was talking about. If you have no idea what I am talking about, rent The Crimson Pirate. It is a great pirate movie, full of fun and adventure. If you're already a fan of The Pirates of the Caribbean, you'll see that a few of the gags in the later film are nods to the earlier one.

More news coming in the new year. Thanks for your interest. Questions and comments are always welcome.