shadow of the templar, sott

Team Templar

Better Than Art Theft!

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cuckoo's egg, author's notes
a little peeved, well that's just STUPID
tsukikoushi wrote in teamtemplar
So, yeah. My utter-ambivalence-shading-towards-hatred regarding this story is probably pretty clear.

It's not that I think it's poorly written. It only really clicked for me on a couple of occasions, but overall, even when I wasn't feeling it—which was most of the time—the prose is workable. I'm not a spectacularly good writer, but I'm competent, and I can generally put down words that are not terrible even when I'm not feeling it. (Boy, was I ever not feeling this one.) I did have some trouble writing smooth segues, but I always do.

It's not the story fails in its purpose, either. The purpose of Cuckoo's Egg was to show Jeremiah Harbottle turning into Jeremy Archer while Bran turns into a frightened, hateful little wad of uncertainty and self-loathing. I feel that the story does that well enough, even though documenting incremental changes in prose is haaaard, waaaah.

It's not even that I had trouble writing the characters. The version of Bran in my head is pretty damned well-rounded by now—awful and adolescent, but well-rounded—and Ethan developed an entire new side to his personality. Jeremy acquitted himself well. Hell, even Claude rounded out a little.

Where Cuckoo's Egg fails—if it fails—is that I just wrote 800kb of words about Bran having feelings. Technically, yes, there's nothing wrong with that. Yay feelings! Except that I hate feelings! I want action and banter and guns and car chases and fistfights and shit! Therein lies the problem: THIS STORY BORES ME

Also, Bran is a whiny little shit who is utter crap at banter.

But that's the thing. If I wanted to write Cuckoo's Egg, it was going to be about stuff that I personally find boring. And I did want to write Cuckoo's Egg, because I promised I would, because some of the early bits came out well, because I thought it would be good discipline to keep myself working on a story that I did not love, and not least because, come on, the story could not have a better title. So I did what I could to keep myself interested. I made up the jar game on the fly because I was SO BORED. I moved up the date of Bran's first job because I was SO BORED. I do tend to dislike everything that I write until I can get a little distance from it, but this story I just flat-out hate a lot of the time, and it's mostly because ugh, I am Simon, feelings are boring, let's shoot someone.

Uh. Anyway!

The original idea was to write the entire story that Jeremy tells to Simon's team during Double Down, all the way up to Bran abandoning his family and storming off in a huff to become the rage-monster that we know from the books. However, in the end, Cuckoo's Egg covers only the first eighteen months, as they are the most important ones. The story is already the length of Double Down—imagine if I wrote three more years of it! Augh!

To sum up the next three years: Bran and Jeremy... don't so much have sex—it's more like Bran lets Jeremy get him off, panics, hates himself, swears that it will never happen again, and then lets it happen again, over and over. He does make the occasional fumbling attempt at reciprocation during unguarded moments, and probably hates himself for that even more. Mostly, however, it's Jeremy doing the work and Bran reaping the benefits (that he craves but doesn't so much want).

(Also, we're talking relatively minor acts: handjobs, blowjobs, the occasional bit of frantic frottage, etc. Jeremy's offered more, but Bran adamantly, squeamishly refuses. Just get him off and have done.)

It does make their home life run more smoothly, though, as Bran's hatred of Jeremy gets subsumed into strangled lust, self-hatred, and the (unwarranted) fear that Jeremy may expose Bran to Ethan if Bran says anything out of turn. Things get quieter. To the unaware eye, it looks as if the two boys have finally put their differences aside and are getting on civilly; Ethan suspects what's really going on, but he doesn't understand how much it's breaking Bran and thus he judges it uncomfortable-but-harmless and pretends not to notice. Yet another of Ethan's not-great decisions, there.

Three years go by. Jeremy becomes a better and better thief, although not yet as good as Bran. Bran spirals down into confusion, questioning himself on pretty much everything, including his skills, his faith, and his sexual orientation. Bran also starts working regularly, although he has his flaws and they do hold him back. Jeremy pulls his first job—a variation on the 'hidden safes' job that he was talking about in chapter fifteen—and it goes beautifully and is followed by a mad rush of ten jobs in forty hours, as he gets everything he can out of the stolen information before the police twig to what's going on and how he's picking his targets. Bran only gets more sullen.

Eventually, of course, Bran overhears Ethan informing Jeremy that Jeremy is the best thief he's ever seen, better than Ethan ever was. It kicks the last prop out from under Bran: he'd been clinging to the idea that, as good as Jeremy was getting, Bran was still the better thief. Now he knows he's not. It breaks him. In a rage, Bran strips Ethan's safe and workroom bare of everything that he feels even vaguely entitled to...

In Double Down, this is the point in the story where Jeremy coughs and says that Bran 'beat hell out of' him before leaving. We're all aware of Jeremy's gift for euphemism, right? Right. What really happens is that this is the one and only time that the two of them have sex, and Bran is absurdly rough with Jeremy, who doesn't actually mind. Jeremy thinks this is a good thing, inasmuch as he's thinking about it at all; he doesn't realize that it was angry revenge sex until he wakes up the next morning, sore and battered, to find out that Bran is gone, having left a note full of barely-coherent rage and accusations that tells Ethan exactly what he thinks of everything. Everybody gets guilt all over everything, it half-destroys Ethan, and it makes Jeremy determined to fix what he broke, a determination which drives Jeremy pretty hard through Double Down and High Fidelity.

Boy, I can't imagine why I didn't want to write that. Gah. MOVING ON.

Here is a list of things that I need to fix during the editing process:
- MORE CHARACTERS.
I actually forgot about the existence of Eddie until chapter 15, whoops. I'd meant to have him in there all along. Basically, though, I need to have more people running in and out of Bran's life, because his everyday life is incredibly dull (and also Ethan has a social life, no, really, I mean it). So... I need to go back and pull the Eddie thread through the weave of the story, and also put in a couple of other people to bounce off Bran.

- Argh, dropped the music theme.
Bran's music drops out of the story after the first couple of chapters and doesn't have a resurgence for ages. That's not what I'd meant to do, as Bran really likes his music and tends to define himself that way. I need to go back and pull that thread back through.

Bran's taste in music is pretty crap, or, at least, entirely mainstream. It's the mid-nineties, pre-internet, and Bran's knowledge of music comes entirely from the radio and the shop where he buys his CDs. I don't know if British music shops had listening stations or stuff like that, but essentially Bran goes to the store, flips through the racks, and then buys whatever's playing on the PA system or whatever he's heard on the radio recently.

What really amuses me about the music thing is that I kept having to sit on my fingers to keep Bran from liking all the sexually-ambiguous electronica bands with the high-tenor lead singers, because wow, that would be a little on the nose—but, when I asked Wikipedia for the most popular albums in Britain from the years 1989-1994, almost everything that Bran would listen to was by those exact bands. I gave in on Depeche Mode, but I'm still resisting letting him listen to Erasure.

- Maybe I could make the suggestive bits more suggestive and/or awful?

- I hate all segues and thus I need more and better ones.

- ARGH THIS STORY IS CRAP no, no, moving on.

You know, it's strange. I know exactly how long this story is. It's the length of Double Down. That's a novel. However, I stubbornly refuse to call it one—it's a side story, and that is that. Hell, it's quite nearly fanfiction.

It makes me really twitchy and uncomfortable when people refer to Cuckoo's Egg as a SotT book or a new SotT novel, because I hate this story, and I don't want it getting confused for part of the main narrative arc. I want to shuffle it off to its own little prison colony along with the rest of the short stories, many of which I also hate.

And you know what, that's ridiculous and unfair of me. Of course people are going to look at it and think it's a book. It's like folding an origami crane and then throwing it off the top of the Empire State Building into rush-hour traffic: when someone on the ground finally picks it up, it's not going to look like a paper crane any more, no matter how much I insist that it is one.

So... I don't know if I even had a point. I guess I wanted to demonstrate how weird and controlling I can be when it comes to my stuff? No, wait, I know what my point was: I don't think Cuckoo's Egg is necessarily bad, but I don't like it very much, and I'll be happy to put it behind me—and to put it in No Static, the short-story collection, where I continue to insist that it belongs.

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Hi have to pretty much agree with everything you just wrote. I've followed along, because I love your books (I own hard copies of them all) and its interesting to know the backstory etc. But not a lot really happens, and Bran is so unlikeable, right from the beginning. It's hard to enjoy reading something when you don't like the main character, no matter how well written. And of course, what draws me to the books is the banter. I love the banter, and miss it sorely in this story.

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