I’m pretty sure I’m going to the bathroom in that photo. So I just wrote 2K words in an hour, and had a lively conversation with a guy in a cafe who has just moved to North Beach. The magic? Being offline. I went to the Starbucks near the turnaround and there is NO INTERNET. Sure enough, my main character suffered a similar fate, as she usually mimics my complete state of mind at any random point in the novel (ok feeling a little down about that, anyways…) So AT&T has made that horrible deal with Starbucks meaning you have to pay to play, unlike every other living and breathing cafe in the world. Strangely, it helps normalize the popularity of Starbucks. Locals just don’t go to S’bucks, at least in SF and in Seattle.
I went there not only because it had no internet, but also because I have fond memories of writing in the 1st street Starbucks in the hoppin’ Belltown neighborhood of Seattle. I would run around the wharf for an hour, then change and hunker down with a cappuccino in a big easy chair in that Starbucks. Three times a week I’d spend 45 minutes writing my 2.3K words. It was a very fruitful tradition. Hoping to get the magic back, I walked two blocks to the local Starbucks, and it ended up pretty much the same way.
For some reason then, or perhaps in Seattle, Starbucks was not analagous to corporate tepid coffee and free public bathrooms. Well, the SF version was all of that as well as interesting tourists and disgruntled employees.
The reason I used this photo is because my MC (main character) Liz is in the Alps, in the snow. I’m rewriting my glorious cross-country skiing trip last winter. Made plans with sister and husband to go back to the same resort in February and I’m super excited. How does this relate to writing? I’m having fun. I’m escaping through my character. Keeping to the plot framework, but opening it up more. And Swiss hotels have such a rich Freudian tradition, I of course used a dream sequence. No crappy amateur novel is complete without the requisite insight into character motivations via the cheesy gimmick of dream sequences!!! It also gives me room to vent about how much I dislike period novels- that is, novels that try to write in the style of a past era, and Austen lovers seem to have only that as fan fiction. I’m trying to right the trend, I guess.
Snippet of dream sequence from Chapter 3, Beer and Chocolate:
Cradling a cup of coffee in her hands, she reviewed the dream she had last night. She was wrapped in this tight dress with an empire waist dress- high under the bosom and with a corset, which seemed against any better sense. If you’re going to define your waist with clasps and tight ropes, think you’d show the waist! While managing the long hours of the day in this dress she could barely breathe in, and maintain a posture that was completely unnatural to her, she was constantly being asked her opinion on tinny old music and the comings and goings of people she didn’t care anything about. Talk about boredom, similar to this chateau, she had nothing to do but sit on uncomfortable horsehair couches and read small books with lots of sentiment and exclamation points. When dinner was served, she was asked to dress- again, in a dress that seemed exactly like the one she had just taken off– and upon that sit with an unnaturally erect posture, in a freezing room with an exposed bust, eating meat barely free of maggots and covered in rancid cream. Once in a while a gentleman with bad teeth would ask her a question, but there was a good twenty minute pause between each comment directed at her. Finally she was allowed to leave, and went to an equally freezing room, to sleep. She awoke in the warmth of the chateau, and the walls and windows were the same. How old was this house? Was it haunted? She groaned at the prospect of having another disturbing Regency dream.