The Evidence Blog

Comments and observations, puzzles and conundrums, about the process of writing a novel and creating an animated movie: contrasting an ancient, analog procedure (writing with a pen in a paper notebook) with a modern digital process (creating animated and live images on a computer notebook)...both done at the same time, the same story, same creatures, same author--but with differences that confront and confuse, growl and grimace, enlighten and obfuscate....


Monday, September 13, 2010


Cafes seem to hold a special attraction for writers. I've been musing over this the last several days, after reading Sharazade's response to Wal-Mart eating my novel, Part 2, below. When I was young, I didnt use cafes to write. I wrote on a giant old Underwood typewriter at home, or wherever I lived. I spent many years hauling that machine around the world, from Borneo to India to Africa. In my 30s, I traded it for a hardy, though heavy, Hermes portable. I still have both machines: they sit in my adobe room, like hungry, prickly animals. I remember using the Hermes in Australia to write Metropolis: I'd awaken in the morning, in my flat in Henley Beach, make a pot of tea, and start typing. In the afternoon I often got on my bicycle -- an old French racing Follis that I'd converted for touring -- and hit a nearby cafe, where I'd count up my words and make notes for the next day's session. Cafes then were very much an adjunct to my work. I didnt write in cafes, I just mused. I wrote where I lived.

Some years later I rode my motorcycle into Mexico. It was a rather desperate journey: I'd been living in the U.S. for seven years, and found myself unable to write. I resolved I would either write again --  or I would die. I loaded some clothes and the Hermes typewriter into my paniers and headed south. Near Manzanillo I found an abandoned house on the beach, in a coconut grove, just below a lagoon. I jury-rigged a room to make it secure. I set up my typewriter. On the first morning, not sure what to do, I rode to town, saw Chantilly's Cafe right there on the plaza, sat down, took out my pen and notebook -- and immediately started writing on what became The Ethiopian Exhibition. This to me was a miraculous event. In three months the first draft was complete. Chantilly's Cafe saved my life.

That was 1986, I believe. I spent most of the next twenty years writing my books in Mexican cafes. Maya appeared in bits and pieces, scattered all over that country, from Lagos de Moreno to San Andres Tuxtla. I remember cafes in Xalapa, in Merida, in Morelia. In Patzcuaro, in the mountains of Michoacan, I found The Queen of Las Vegas. It was written entirely in the cafe in Los Escudos Hotel, on the big plaza. Eventually I found myself settling in Aguascalientes, a colonial city near Guadalajara. I wrote Orifice, Autobiography of a Wanderer, and most of Hag in Aguascalientes. In the mornings I would walk from my $3 a night hotel, Amuebladas Mina, to the Excelsior Cafe in the El Parian shopping center. In the afternoon I did a second session in the cafe at the Casa Teran, one of the Casas de Cultura. It was there I met my wife, the Mexican poet Jacqueline Lizarraga. About five years ago we came to Hemet, California, where I still own the house my father built. There are cafes here, too, of course, including the ubiquitos Starbucks, but the work is rather more problematic. I shall write about this another day. But meanwhile it is pleasant to think of writers and their cafes, whether Joyce in Trieste, say, or Hemingway in Madrid....

Wednesday, September 8, 2010


There's been a bit of a delay to this work of mine, a result of my laptop computer dying on me. I had to re-configure and re-load my old Pentium 4 desktop. I used the down time to focus again on the written version of Evidence, and finished the second chapter. The book will be composed of five long chapters, so there are only three more to go: they are like three fields, already plowed and planted, waiting for fertilizer and water and sunlight. I'll get to them soon.

The computer breakdown happened during work on the movie's second section--let's call it, like the novel, the second chapter. With my programs installed, I've finally resumed working on it: the old computer is rendering a ten-second sequence now, as I write these words. Since it is a complex scene, with many figures, it will take the desktop about two and a half days to render it, chugging away like an old steam engine. The scene consists of a near-nude woman (Syrah Black, one of the wraiths) strutting across a rather industrial room, past other wraiths, to a door which slides open. Behind this door is Enoja, the first guide, dancing in a tight red evening gown. There will be several sequences mixed together: Syrah walking, the dolly camera following her; another camera swooping by overhead; a wide-angle shot of Punk, quite naked, leaning back against a pillar; Menthe, in a transparent dress, crawling along the floor: a montage of images, all leading to the opening door where Enoja greets us.

And this is just a small part of the movie's second chapter. There's the Interview, five or six encounters with Young John, and--since Enoja is a dancer--a couple of dance sequences, just for the hell of it. This is all very time-consuming work: remember, I am a single man doing all this myself: there is no army of animators, no "rendering farm" of computers like the studios have. My desktop chugs away, I chug away, old steam engines, both of us....

Oh, and if anyone has a fast computer they want to sell--or donate!--a duel core, say (which my laptop was, a snappy critter till it died on me), or a quad, let me know....