January 12, 2009

Very Old Eden, and Modern Serpents


My own fault for enjoying yesterday too much–although indeed part of the exquisiteness of the enjoyment was knowing that the weather was due to change again–and I’m sure I had lots of company* psychically drawing on the cataclysm, but it certainly arrived expeditiously.  From not wanting to go for our walks from a dislike of freezing to death today none of us wanted to go for walks from a dislike of getting swept away by the wind-powered deluge.  Horizontal rain, my favourite kind.  Darkness trots along at my heels going whiiiiiiiiiiiiIIIIiiiiiiiiiiiine.  He, as I’ve told you, is the more vocal of the two, and he can produce quite the monologue when he’s inspired:  especially with the wind banging in your ears you’re sure there are words in it.  And on second thought you’re just as glad you can’t hear them. 

            Since according to the thermometer this still counts as warm** I put the camellia, the trees, and the rosebushes out in the garden for a little fresh air and rainwater.  I’ll bring at least the camellia and the roses back in tonight;  they’ve been at sixty or a degree or two more for weeks, and I don’t want to, you know, scare them.  I don’t dare take the herbaceous things*** out at all–the osteospermums and fuchsias and so on–they’re in the sitting-room till June.  If it’s a warm June.  Meanwhile, however, the mighty Atlas has been putting up my grow light today.  I pretty much guarantee that if I get back to the cottage tonight and it’s all installed and functioning and splendid, it’ll stay above 40° for the rest of the winter.  But that’s all right.  That’s fine.

            Meanwhile . . . I sent my comments and corrections to my half of the FIRE stories in today . . . and then subsided in a gibbering heap on the sofa, demanding therapeutic champagne and a poultice of hellhounds.†  I think I told you they sent the ms as a computer file this time . . . and I hated doing it electronically.  As I wrote pathetically to my editor today, computers are so mutable.  I know you can set it up so alterations leave tracks, but it’s still fuzzy, impermanent computer ether . . . and you can always change your mind again and set it up some other way, till you’ve forgotten where you started.  Stories are treacherous enough;  characters break out and sprint for the horizon;  well-mannered plots shave their heads and start drinking absinthe††;  I don’t need a slippery medium too.  I still print out each draft of a manuscript;  I do a lot of editing on screen–and would find it extremely difficult to go back to a typewriter†††–but I periodically need the feel of proper pages in my hands, and when I make a note it stays made‡.   The particular horrible thing about the copyedited ms is that this is your last chance to make any changes.  The next time you see your story it’ll be page proofs, and once it’s typeset, changes cost money.  So you’re making all your final decisions on the copyedited ms–and I don’t want them chittering at me from a blinking computer screen!  Aaaaugh!‡‡

            I also hate it that copyeditor’s marks–and I used to be a copyeditor, so I should be inoculated against the Recondite Ritual aspect–are harder to read than ever electronically–and all those terse little squiggles are bad enough in red pencil.  I think I’ve told you I punctuate by ear, not by grammatical precision, so the poor copyeditor is going along trying to sort me out and I’m coming along behind her, since it’s usually a her, saying, no, no, no, that’s the wrong sort of pause‡‡‡, and changing it back.  This is much harder to do when you can’t see.   So I’ve flung myself at my publisher’s feet begging to be allowed to revert to messy yellow-bestickered hard copy for the next thing.§  Although I will be bitterly remembering the easy instantaneousness of email§§ when I sit around waiting in for the delivery which they’ve lost or sent to the wrong address or claim to have tried to hand over when I was here and there was no knock on the door, or what have you.  But I’ll worry about that later.  At the moment, I’ve got FIRE off the desk, and it’s time again for PEGASUS. 

* * *

* All those dratted hikers in their fancy kit.  Okay, I’m just jealous of people with proper waterproof gripper-bottomed and padded-soled hiking boots that (presumably) fit.  But I’m interested in how popular those cross-country ski-pole things have become for walkers.  You never saw them eighteen years ago but every group has at least a few now.  I’ve read a couple of articles extolling their virtues and if I weren’t holding a magnificent array of leads when I’m walking I might be interested^.  Not for the redistribution of strain on my admittedly wonky knees, but because they now apparently come in an assortment of decorator colours, including hot pink and purple.

^ Which is a pity, because if I had a third arm–and possibly a fourth–they might be useful in fending off the attentions of other people’s dogs. 

** Tell that to the icy needles prickling under my raincoat collar 

*** Ie things with soft stems rather than hard woody stems.  Not that this is any indication in itself:  pansies live through a remarkable amount of frost, and there are lots of tender shrubs, including my winter-flowering camellia, and Tipsy Imperial Concubine, who came indoors with the rest of the rose order because I thought it was just a chilly night and I could get them out of their packing bag and heel them all in the next day.  I might add that they’re still in their packing bag:  I cut the bottom out and put them in the bucket like that, and poured dirt and compost in, about the third day of hard frost.  I figured the Concubine might like a little extra protection when she went back outdoors while she was waiting to be planted.  She may still.  Next June.  Meanwhile–arrrrrgh--I’ve told you the indoor roses are leafing out, haven’t I?  They’re leafing out enthusiastically.  They’re leafing out like . . . May.  I’ve got a young hedge bursting out of that packing bag.  Thus we demonstrate, to our chagrin, that it’s not day length roses respond to. 

† Chocolate comes later.  Believe me, it comes.

†† Actually I’ve never known a well-mannered plot.  Extreme hair surgery and a slight poisonous alcohol problem sound pretty mild to me. 

††† Although if they started making parts for IBM Selectric Is again, I’d try.  They have until I gild her and put her on the coffee table equivalent at Third House as a focal point to dust off the factory. 

‡ Including when I make it wrong and then have to figure out a way to make it look like I didn’t really forget how my own story went. 

‡‡ I can hardly wait for ebooks to become the standard.  Nooooooooo.  

‡‡‡ You aren’t going to try and tell me that a comma pause isn’t mortally different from a semi-colon pause, are you?  Which is absolutely different from a colon or a full stop pause?  

§ PEGASUS, all being well.  [makes suitable fate-placatory gestures] 

§§ When it works, of course


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