But after posting yesterday's blog entry, I received a half dozen excellent comments, mostly on plague and hanging issues, and I received a couple of e-mails as well. I thought about responding at length in the comments section, but decided to blog instead.
I'll start with plague. Both Anonymous Nancy and Caroline have informed me that plague can be transmitted from a dead person to a live one. Drat, drat, and double drat. I can't have my roving band of players go into a town where everyone's died of the plague, if they, themselves, could get it from some nasty indiscriminate flea. Do you realize there are people out there, who actually expressed doubts about the science in Life As We Knew It? All I need is for plague experts to get ahold of Possible Third Book and point out that all my characters should be dead by page 112. Triple drat.
What I'm thinking I might do instead (and feel free to comment) is have the troupe go into a town where they're scheduled to perform, and find the town is completely deserted. That could be very spooky. It could also be good for my troupe if there's been some stuff left behind, clothes and maybe even food. They would never find out what became of the townspeople, which means the readers never would either. I have no problems with that, but if any of you think that would be bothersome, let me know.
[My mother said, "You're writing this book by committee," and I pointed out to her that I've pretty much written all my books by committee, between editors, and copy editors, and other folk in the publishing house making suggestions for improvements. Plus, I have been known to ask friends for advice while I'm writing.]
Onto the hanging. Paige Y., Anonymous Glen, and Anonymous Nancy all liked the hanging idea, but Janni thought the farmer would simply slit the throat of the guy stealing his food, and and Caroline agreed. In addition, I received an e-mail from a regular blog reader, pointing out that lynching is a part of Southern history, and I need to be sensitive to it as an issue.
I guess the reason I didn't think of it as lynching was because my image was from Western movies, where race isn't an issue, and most of the hangings portrayed are done within the law.
The truth of the matter is I love my hanging. I love the idea of this kid not believing it could actually happen to him, and I love the readers making the same assumption. I also have an image of Caitlin not believing it, and one of the other kids saying, "You've never seen a hanging?" in a state of total skepticism, and Caitlin replying, "Of course I've seen hangings, but never of anyone I knew." A lot of my Caitlin image these days is a girl who has been relatively protected from what's going on, and now having to cope with the various horrors that everyone else takes for granted.
Some of that I could handle with a quick brutal death (throat slitting), but I'd lose the sense of shock the readers would feel when the guy actually does get hung. I keep picturing all these young teens humming "Reprieved" from Threepenny Opera, as they cheerfully await the last minute rescue. And then I traumatize them.
It takes so little to make me happy.
So I've been coming up with reasons why the farmer wouldn't just slit the kid's throat. I have three, of which I favor number three:
1. There's a bounty on lawbreakers, and the farmer will be rewarded for bringing the kid in (this seems to me to be a very dubious means of enforcing laws).
2. The kid is grabbed on the farmer's front porch, and the farmer is going to slit his throat, but his wife tells him not to, since she'll have to clean all the blood off the floor, and it would just be less messy to have him hung.
3. The farmer grabs the kid, holds a knife to his throat, and says that while he's tempted to slit the kid's throat then and there, he's a law abiding citizen, so he's going to take him to town to let the criminal justice system do its job.
Caroline also suggested that a more practical way of dealing with food thieves is lock them in jail and throw away the key, letting them starve to death, but I think public execution would be a more popular way of handling that, and any other, crime. We're talking a civilization with a Writer's Guild strike and no American Idol. Sad times indeed.
On a far happier note, I received an e-mail from my editor yesterday. She assured me that Harcourt intends to stay in business, and I had no cause for concern. And here's the extremely fabulous way she started the e-mail:
I’ll admit that I no longer feel as if I can read your blog because when I finally get to read P3B I want to be thoroughly surprised, and you are giving WAY too much away for it to be a safe place for me to be hanging out.
So it looks like all systems are go for P3B! It'll be many months before I'll know if P3B will actually be 3B, but in the meantime, and with your help, I can keep on plugging along and destroying all humanity, with a smile on my face and "Reprieved" in my heart.