Wiscon, Day 3: The Slow Fade

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This is the picture of the artist, pickled. Taken by Wiscon’s Web Guru Larry Sanderson, it captures the roseate cheeks of a man addled by drink, the glassy stare brought about by feverish half-sleep and the indolent hallway posture that tries, vainly, to hide the fact that the subject is, indeed, propping himself up against the wall.

I woke up at 9.00am and went off for a stagger around the Capitol building, leaning to the left the entire way. I think I was probably still 4% alcohol by volume at this point. Once I felt like I could walk in a straight enough line to pass for human, I went over to Michelangelo’s for the 10.00 reading. I arrived late and, discovering the room was full up, lurked near the back and heard more of the espresso machine than haddayr‘s reading. Everyone else appeared rapt and I was too self-conscious to elbow my way to the front and lie down at the feet of the readers (which was about the only space left in the room). I also realized I would most likely have fallen asleep and started snoring. Not a widely recognized sign of appreciation.

So I went back to the room and called darinbradley at 11.00am, waking the dead. We staggered up and down State St like zombies until we found a liquor store. No, wait, we were out doing something else. The liquor store was an accident. Pure circumstance. Our livers, overwrought and overworked, weren’t crying out to be put out of their misery. “Just finish poisoning us. Just do it. Put us out of our misery.” Truly.

They sell alcohol on Sunday in Madison. It’s like being in a foreign country. The one liquor store back home closes right before the supper hour. Barely enough time to get home to discover that you can’t make that pre-dinner White Russian. Certainly not enough time to get one’s pants back on and down to the store before they close. Anyway, Badger Liquor (Did I tell you that, in Wisconsin, they use badgers to harvest the cheese off the trees. No? Well, they do.) carried a variety of scotch that Darin had never tried. To cries of “Thank you! O, sweet poison!” from our livers, we picked up a bottle for later that evening.

After wandering through the dealer’s room a last time and poking in on a few panels, we lit off for the other side of the lake to have BBQ at Agent Kris’ house with his and Jesse’s family and attendant dogs. In an atmosphere of brats, mosquitoes, beer, kids and dogs we finally sat down and went through the notes for SOULS. After turning in a rather underwhelming draft in December, I had been having a little difficulty getting perspective on the book during the last few months and am very happy to hear that it didn’t suck as much as I feared it might. Some nice things were said about the work and I’ve got a list of about eight minor details to poke at, which means there’s a good chance this book will be out making the rounds while I’m changing newborn nappies. Nothing distracts one better from the interminable wait for a book to sell than a newborn child.

This explains the vaguely beatific expression on my face in the above picture. I got notes. I took a perfectly fine novel, stripped out all of the urban fantasy framework, replaced it with a whole slew of philosophic deconstruction and nightmarish occultism, and got my agents to admit the book was better for it. I have, apparently, learned a few things in the last decade. Just a few.

The bulges in my pockets (thanks, Larry, for capturing this moment of the con) caused a New York editor to ask, “So, Mark, is that a bottle of scotch in your pocket or are you happy to see me?” As it turned out, there was a bottle of Springbank 12 in my left pocket. Me and the rolling keg of Spotted Cow were the mobile liquor stations on Sunday night. As the bottom of the scotch bottle approached, Darin got a wild hair for one last beer before daybreak and the posse (dragging squirrel_monkey with us who, thankfully, survived the experience) lit off for the Plaza for a final pitcher of Spotted Cow. The Plaza (with their very own Beer Nazi who shouted us at at closing) was running The Venture Bros (thanks to Chris Roberson for educating me on what I was seeing), which made the whole meat market bar experience just a bit more surreal.

We ended up back at Darin’s room where he began to whine about the lack of a comforter on his bed. “Put the damn blanket back on the bed,” he kept saying to me. “You’re not leaving until you put the blanket back.” He kept poking at me about it and so I finally did. But not before stripping everything else off the bed. This is the way chaotic monkey children escape: leaving everyone dumbfounded long enough for them to climb out the window and scale down the drain pipe.

Traveling home on Monday was as uneventful as a cluster-fuck weather situation at Chicago’s O’Hare airport can be. I left Madison early enough to miss most of it. I just had a two and a half hour wait on the tarmac at O’Hare before lighting off for Seattle. Made me only four hours late instead of some of the dreadful arrival times I’ve heard from others.

And now: sleep, writing, and, in a few weeks, pictures of the new kid. Back to normalcy. 🙂