I don’t know if this will continue, but there’s a stuffed cow in Book V. There’s a stuffed cow in Book V partly because of an email I got some months back, but also because, as soon as I got the email, the stuffed cow appeared in the book. At first for no reason. I stared (mentally) at the stuffed cow and it didn’t even look back. It wasn’t a very good stuffed cow. It was big, and badly done, and ugly, and smelled some. WHY was there a stuffed cow in my book? I understood it had something to do with the impetus of the email, but not what it had to do with the story.
Then one day it sort of did. But that didn’t go anywhere. A dozen times I almost erased the file with the stuffed cow in it. Stupid stuffed cow. Does not belong here. This is not a funny story. Or a story about taxidermy (good or bad) or….anything to do with stuffed cows. There’s a plot problem hiding behind the stuffed cow…I want to ditch the stuffed cow and get on with it.
But there it was, and some instinct insisted that I not delete the stuffed cow. Time went by. I worked on other chapters. But the part of that chapter that wasn’t about the stuffed cow was important, and needed work, and yet it wouldn’t go. The stuffed cow was in the way. The ugly stuffed cow I couldn’t delete, for no reason I could understand.
Finally, this afternoon, months later, while Pavarotti waxed soulful about having signed up to be a soldier and leaving home on my CD player (Donizetti. “L’Elisir d’Amore”) the chain barring the way fell down. Suddenly the stuffed cow had a purpose. I distrust the purpose, as I distrusted the stuffed cow when it first appeared, but…it’s there. The stuffed cow, in all its ridiculousness, has wormed (shoved?) its way into the story.
I tell you this now, a terrible spoiler, in one way, because there’s still a chance that the stuffed cow won’t be there when you finally hold Book V in your hands (or the e-reader in your hands with Book V on a screen.) Even if the stuffed cow is there, it may be used in a different way. But a stuffed cow is representative of how things sometimes go with my creative process (so-called.) Things appear as I’m writing, and I toss many of them out (plaster rooster? No thanks. Pair of bright orange boots with fake silver toe and heel coverings? No thanks. Adorable kitten with a big pink bow? No, thanks. Etc.) while others, equally peculiar and unplanned, fit immediately–the puzzle piece I hadn’t known was missing, because it arrived before I’d worked to that point.
One of these was the puppy in Vatta’s War. While I was doing something else (getting Ky outfitted with a really good sidearm and bulletproof vest), one of her less able employees turned around and–to my complete surprise–had a puppy in his hands. I knew the puppy had to be there (though not why) and I had to defend the puppy from a very strong suggestion that I should “lose the dog.” I had to promise it would bite a bad guy at a critical moment. Which it did, besides having other useful roles to play.
But a stuffed cow that’s not even a good stuffed cow? Not a toy stuffed cow but a life-sized cowhide over an amateurish framework?
For a high-five from me and three points…what do you think the stuffed cow is doing in Book V? Or do you think it won’t be there when you read the book?