August 16, 2010

More Ask Robins (also more bell ringing)


I’m just back from ringing at South Desuetude.  I seem to be ringing six times this week—having warmed up for this Iditarod by ringing twice yesterday.  Hmm.  I’m not sure how this happened.*  Despite the fact that I’m now being egged on by the likes of Southdowner and B_twin and Ajlr, I try to keep it down to three times a week.  Four at the outside.  Oh, well, arithmetic was never my strong point, and six is really a lot like three, right?  It has a lot in common with three.  They’re like soulmates.  So it’s okay really.

            Meanwhile I have both Fiona and Computer Men coming tomorrow and am feeling a trifle stressed at the prospect of all that adroit, laudable productivity, so I thought I’d organise my wandering mind this evening over a few Ask Robins.

 Now that we know what mik-bars taste like, how about malak? As it is milky with spices, I’ve always imagined it to be something like chai, but I may be off-base.

 I hesitate to reveal the truth.  I have been debating how best to describe it so that not everyone but a few hippie-drippies and food despots who think that carob is an acceptable replacement for chocolate will run away screaming.

            Malak tastes like what grain coffee would taste like if grain coffee tasted good.  Except that it certainly has caffeine** in it, which is maybe why it tastes good.  But it has that deep dark bitter—good bitter—quality that both tea and coffee do in their different ways.  And you can make it strong or less strong—like tea, coffee, and grain coffee—and you can put milk and sugar or honey and spices in it if you want to, like tea and coffee and grain coffee.  I, of course, prefer it terrifyingly strong.  There are also different kinds—like tea and coffee, etc. 

            I’ve meant to find out more about how and where it’s produced, but I haven’t got round to it yet.  Have I told you that Perlith isn’t dead?  He didn’t die in the battle in front of the city***.  Aerin finds him some years later, working on a farm in the Hills, having lost his memory as a result of the fever from the Northern poison in the wounds he received in that battle.  Anyway, he may be working on a malak plantation.

I’ve just finished “Fire”. Very nice, all of it.

Thank you!

Are there plans for novel based on “First Flight”, she asked wistfully?

Sigh.  I wish.  I badly want to know Ralas’ history, as well as what happens to Ern and Dag and Hereyta and Sippy and the rest.  But I don’t do plans.  I write what comes.  I always know a lot more about a story than what gets written down, but in First Flight’s case while I can feel that it has a future, I don’t know much about it.

            I do know another short-story’s worth of what happens to Miri and Flame.  I hope I get a chance to write it down.†  Meanwhile however I’m a trifle preoccupied by the fact that I still don’t know how PEG II ends.  I keep reminding myself that I often don’t know how my books are going to end—and that drastic stuff may change right up through the final draft.  But it’s a lot scarier somehow when book one is already out there.   I’m just hoping all these frelling road markers saying, This way!  This way, you moron!, know what they’re talking about.

            But this more or less leads me to: 

So since “there is no sequel for Sunshine”,  would you tell us a bit more from what you know about Mel.  Is he a sorcerer?  Where and why did he get his tattoos?  How does he feel about the lack of communication between himself and Sunshine.  How much has he guessed of what Sunshine is not telling him.  Is there any chance he and Sunshine could start talking to each other?  If they really started talking to each other, would he be able to help Sunshine with her magic?

Um.  No, I’m not going to answer any of this.  These sorts of queries always make me scratch my head.  I’ve said—often—that I’d love to write a sequel to SUNSHINE.  If one ever arrives††.  Why would I give away the good story material I am in possession of, when I may yet need it for a good story? 

            But yeah.  I want to know more about Mel’s history too.  I do know the answer to the sorcerer question, and about his tattoos, but no I’m not going to tell you.  Which is actually your best hope that there might be another book with him in it some day, because Mel in my story-mind has that warm, live, twisty feeling of something there.   Something that needs storytelling.

 What are your feelings on the literary device of one story being told in separate books, each book written from the point of view of different characters within the story?  Does the possibility exist for a Constantine novel–his backstory with or without his point of view of the events of Sunshine? 

The literary device doesn’t appeal to me much.  I’m pretty simple-minded at heart, and I’m interested in the story and the people in the story as something that feels whole, however much of it may be missing or left out.  And I mostly want the telling of it to feel transparent—while I’m a big fan of style, and nothing throws me out of a story faster than sheer awful writing, as soon as the style starts calling attention to itself, the story loses me.  Beautiful writing only remains beautiful so long as it doesn’t demand the reader stop and say, wow!  What an amazing paragraph/scene/chapter!  In hindsight I may want to reread something because it is ravishingly written, but when I’m reading a story I want the story, and I don’t want anything in the wayMy idea of real style is when the story grows up all around you and you see and hear and smell it, and you’re no longer sitting in a chair (or lying in a hot bath) with a book in your hands.

            Breaking it up into a bunch of different characters’ versions, in sections or separate volumes, is usually way too calculatedly look-at-me! for this reader.  I haven’t read many of these books because I know my attitude is bad.  One that got a huge amount of critical and popular success a few years ago bored me to tears because it was so in love with its own cleverness.  Which is another thing I don’t like about them, when it’s all about the unreliable narrator.  Unreliable narrators when they’re a genuine part of the story—and arguably every book told in first person is partly about its unreliable narrator, and this would definitely include SUNSHINE if you’re choosing to look at it that way—are fine, and you-the-reader get to have opinions about both the character and the story she tells.  But I don’t want to keep doing this over and over.  What am I, a judge?  Just tell me the story and go away, okay?

            Mind you, this is just me.†††  But no, I don’t much like multiple tellings.  And while as a writer whose stories often like playing games with my head‡ I try not to make categorical statements that I will be made to eat later on, I think it’s highly unlikely I’d find myself writing a story from Con’s point of view.

            Oh, gods, what is that cackling noise.  A sort of goblin-laughter kind of noise. . . .

 * * *

 * Although Niall was involved.  Well, of course.  I knew last Wednesday would give him ideas.  And one of his ideas is more handbells tomorrow at his house.  I said yes partly because it will help take my mind off no voice lesson for the second week in a row—and the miserable prospect of my last-ever lesson with Blondel next Tuesday.  I still have the cherub’s phone number in my hip-pocket paper notebook^ but I haven’t tried ringing it yet.

^ No, not in Apocalypse.  That would make it serious, if I put his number in Apocalypse.  

** Or equivalent.  I’ll have to ask someone.  It’s the sort of thing Jack Dedham might know. 

*** At the end of THE HERO AND THE CROWN, for those of you who haven’t read it, and are floundering. 

† She gets a boyfriend.  

†† And I still startle at the sort of whistling noise that might be the sound of a large paper packet^ popping into existence in this world and zooming for my door.  Mind you, most of its contents are all the rules and conditions in pages and pages of tiny print and subclauses and you still have to write the story.  But it means you can.  And the Story Council are total ratbags.  I’ve taken delivery on both the new short story about Miri and a totally rogue one about a beat-up middle-aged army commander who narrowly escapes an assassination attempt—her king thinks she and her rag-bag regiment are both too popular and too loyal to each other—which she knew was coming, and, having escaped by unexpected means, has to figure out what to do with the rest of her frelling life.  One of these days the whistling noise could still be the sequel to SUNSHINE.  Damar, at this point, just has to get in the queue. 

^ The Story Council is so retro 

††† I’m not even hugely fond of different narrators telling a single story once, although there are plenty of good ones out there.  Hey, DRACULA, for example.

 ‡ See:  still don’t know how PEG II ends


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