January 31, 2012



* * *

* I did go to my voice lesson.  I told you yesterday, I’m getting even stranger, bent over my computer twenty hours a day^, and I thought it might even be good for me to go get strung out in a different direction, even if SHADOWS is frelling due frelling tomorrow.^^  Also I only just started singing again last week and—I wanted to go.  It’s been a slightly dubious week in terms of practise—there’s still crud in my throat and all this emotional-aspect stuff makes me kind of jumpy—if you manage to miss with the carving knife you go to A&E, get some stitches and a lecture, come home, mop up the blood, keep the bandage out of the bath, be a little careful of yourself till the stitches come out, and hey voila, there you are.  Another interesting scar.  But when you’re trying to patch yourself together from some kind of immaterial wound, where and how you put the stitches in, and what constitutes the kind of bath you should keep your damaged limb out of—and what exactly the limb is—is not so straightforward.  So I’ve been singing sort of cautiously, and of course I’m wildly out of practise and I have no time.^^^  Also, my voice still keeps disappearing on me—less than it was doing before, but every time it does I’m convinced that this is The End and I’m too old to be reaching for this nonsense anyway.^^^^  Nadia waggled her eyebrows at me in that disbelieving-teacher way and said, now as I remember it we found out last week that the chief reason your voice was dropping out was because you were letting it get cut off from its air supply.  Oh, I said.  Um.

So she made me frelling breathe for a while, and connect, and all that really annoying stuff you shouldn’t NEED to be told over and over and over and over and over and OVER.  But you do, because you’re a moron.  And then she ran me up and down some scales and some exercises and kept reminding me to breathe and to connect, and I could actually feel the air sinking down and lying with this lovely rounded, grounded weightiness at the bottom of my pelvis, and every now and then I also remembered to let it out again, and carry my voice with it.  I had already admitted that occasionally this week when I wasn’t convinced I still couldn’t sing and was therefore producing a self-fulfilling prophesy of squawks and silences, I’d made a few noises that were fuller and freer than what I’m used to . . . and with the teacher-magic she teased them out of me today, and convinced them to bring friends.  I was singing back up at the top of my range again—which I haven’t even tried at home since before I was ill, because I have been too busy feeling fragile, convalescent and overworked—and I was loud—me!  Old no-voice me!— the kind of loud your average local amateur choir would be happy to have yelling from its benches—loud the way I don’t sing, especially at the top end where my brain is busy saying, no, no, wait, we don’t do that.  Nadia stopped me where she did not because my voice was failing, she said, but because my brain was closing me down.

But.  There’s life in the old cow yet.  Mooo.  Yaay.  And I came home again all exhilarated and threw myself into SHADOWS.

^ That leaves two for hurtling hounds and two for sleeping.  Other crucial activities like eating chocolate can be performed coincidently while typing.

^^ Later today.  Shut up.

^^^ And the twenty-fifth hour is for singing practise.

^^^^ I actually raised this with Nadia today.  How big an embarrassing moron am I being, taking voice lessons at nearly-sixty?  For some reason I’ve heard like half a dozen times this last week that sopranos lose their voices really early and it seems sort of fated to be hearing this over and over again when I’m convalescent from the throat infection that had stopped me singing altogether—and ten months off my sixtieth birthday.+  And she said, two things:  there’s no reason you shouldn’t last a good while yet as a choir singer—it’s professional sopranos that fold predictably early because of the colossal demands they put on their voices—and you’re lucky—you’ve got all the alto notes too.  If you need to slip down to sing alto, you can.

::Beams::  Good.  On with the voice lessons, then.

+ And before you answer that, I added, let me say that while this is all contingent on you being willing to teach me, I’ve already figured out that I’m in it for the journey.  Never mind that thirty years ago I’d’ve had no voice to train either, all this trying to bind yourself together in a seamless whole to produce a sound is fascinating, even if the resultant sound is nothing much.


A little tangential Mongo and some Ask Robin


Note that I could die for Mongo Fangirl.*  But if I write another word of SHADOWS right now I will explode into messy little pieces.  And I am going to my singing lesson tomorrow.  And probably bell ringing tomorrow night.**  I’m starting to get all strange and lumpy from being bent over my computer so all-consumingly.*** 

               I have no brain to organise a blog post, but I might be able to blither along a little.  So let’s have a couple more Ask Robins for framework.  Which I may or may not manage to answer sensibly.

I realized during this readthrough that I had been taking for granted that the different ways to be a vampire meant Con is the vegetarian of vampires. Rarely killing, rarely human meals, etc. But this time through, I realized that he made no such statements. Am I reading too far into his beneficence?

Yes.  He’s a vampire.  He’s a proper vampire.  What he doesn’t do is torture people, the way Bo does.  The thing about Con is that he has a genuine sense of honour.  He accepts the obligation accepting help from Sunshine has put him under . . . and then later recognizes that an alliance is the best chance for each of them to survive Bo’s vengeance.   Despite the charge between them being allied with a human woman does not make him happy.  

            What I don’t know, and one of the (many) reasons I’d love to write that missing sequel to SUNSHINE if it ever came through the mail-slot and landed on the door-mat†, is what effect a long-term alliance with Sunshine would slowly wreak upon him.  Because it would.  I have a better idea of what would happen to Sunshine if she continued to hang out with him, although I’m sure there would be surprises in the telling because there always are.††

My question is: Was Pegasus intended from the outset to be a multi-volume story? 

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO.  Here clearly speaks a reader who does not read the blog.  PEGASUS started life as a short story.  As a story for ELEMENTALS SPIRITS:  AIR.  Waaaaaaah.  

I ask because I have found you notable for avoiding the ubiquitous trilogies, sequels & series that have dominated the fantasy industry since Tolkien.

Nearly all your tales, even if set in Damar, are uniquely fresh, creative & different.  Esp. the new kinds of magic in each, like the weather control in “Water horse” and the honey-based magic in Chalice. 

Whimper.  You know I do hope this doesn’t mean that the second two gliggerfrandanging volumes of frelling PEGASUS are going to be stale, lacking in creativity and over-familiar.†††  And if I live long enough I’d like to write another story or two in both the Water Horse and the CHALICE worlds—among others.  On the one hand I like the way most of my stories have tended to burst out of new holes in the walls between the worlds, but on the other hand . . . I’d quite like to have a chance to consolidate a bit, get some decorating done, put down carpets and put up bookshelves in some of these worlds.  I’m a nest-builder (you should see my house(s)).  I’d like to do some nest-building in my stories.  

I have read Beauty and The Beast 3 times and I am going to read Rose Daughter soon! Since the story of Beauty and the Beast is such an old tale I was wondering where you got your information from, which you used to base your books off of. Reason being I always love to see where a story first came from. I would be thrilled if you could tell me the books or other sources where you got your ideas from. 

This is one of the questions that comes up over and over.§  Beauty and the Beast was my favourite fairy tale when I was a kid, partly because it was the only one readily available to a kid growing up in the 1950s, which was not generally a hotbed of fantasy literature anyway, where the heroine did something besides wring her hands and wait to be rescued by the hero.  If there is an original source for my Beauty and the Beast(s) it’s the Andrew Lang retelling which I read for the first time at about the age of six, and obsessively for years after that, even when I pretty well knew it off by heart.  Since then I’ve read every version of B&B I can lay hands on, but my Beauty and the Beast is a part of me, like an arm or a leg.  Or like the ground a rose-bush is planted in:  I can’t do without it, it nourishes me.  I used to say—truthfully—that I was jealous of readers who ‘went’ to BEAUTY as an escape from boring ordinary life, because by writing the story I’d exorcised the BEAUTY AND THE BEAST in my head.  It grew back.  Then I wrote ROSE DAUGHTER.  This time there wasn’t any nonsense about exorcism.  My Beauty and the Beast is still in the back of my mind or the bottom of my heart, full of roses and romance.  If I’m very, very, very, very, very lucky I may get to write it a third time.  Or a sixth or a sixtieth.  Most of my stories are more or less versions of Beauty and the Beast.  In the afterword to ROSE I say that someone has declared that each author has only one story, it’s how they retell it.  Yes.  Mine is Beauty and the Beast. 

* * *

* mockorange:

I am absolutely adoring all these Mongo snippets. Clearly he is going to steal the whole book.

Thank you.  Adoration is always welcome.  I kind of adore Mongo myself.  And he does keep getting in the way.  I told you the other night that he’d just party-crashed a scene he had been specifically ordered out of.  I am so glad he is not my dog.  But then I don’t need to save the universe, just write about it.

** Yes.  My bells woke me up this morning again.  Sunday mornings are just going to be hard for a while.

*** Stranger.  Lumpier.

† Although right at the moment I have a powerful desire to have a late-life career change to something easier and more suited to someone of my advanced years, like shark-wrestler or cat burglar. 

†† I am going to write ALBION^ one of these days—you know, the not-a-sequel to SUNSHINE, but in the same world—and I’m not quite sure of the timeline.  I’m not sure if the heroine might have heard of Sunshine and we might conceivably get some news of her that way—except it wouldn’t be reliable news, it would be myth and gossip.  But myth and gossip can be pretty cool.  And I’ll take what I can get.^^ 

^ It was next after the SINGLE VOLUME version of PEGASUS, you know.  And I was looking FORWARD to it.  ^%$++@}~#??£”&£”!!!!!!!!!!!!             

^^ If I could impeach the frelling Story Council I so would.

††† Us authors are mostly a pretty neurotic bunch.  Make a note.

§ Julia, wearing her OCD research-librarian hat, found where I’d answered the question about Aerin’s dream and Hetta from Pool in the Desert before:  http://robinmckinleysblog.com/2010/11/30/further-manifestations-of-creative-reader-baked-goods-ask-robin/

What interests me is (a) it’s exactly the same question (as Julia remarks).  So it has to have come from the same person.  But I delete Ask Robins as I answer them, and furthermore, the one I answered a few days ago is fairly recent—certainly not from 2010.  So, a mystery:  did the person who sent it (since I’ve deleted it this time too I can’t check for clues) miss the answer the first time and resend it, does he/she not read the blog^ or has sodding Outlook found a brilliant new way to persecute me by suddenly coughing up new copies of years-old emails?  Now there’s an awful thought.  (b)  I’ve got a lot crankier in the last year and a bit about Hetta and Aerin’s dream . . . because I’ve had several other people make the same assumption and can’t remember one who has said, erm, actually, that’s not Hetta in Aerin’s dream, is it?  There ought to be one.  As I said in my (cranky) answer the other night, I read stuff wrong in other people’s books all the time.  Life is short, and when you’re reading a story for escape you aren’t paying diamond-laser attention.  Which is as it should be.  But there still ought to be one person who is interested enough in the question also to notice that it’s not Hetta in Aerin’s dream.

            Or possibly I’m just losing my mind.  This is always the best guess concerning any lapses and/or mysteries during the arduous novel-finishing phase, and especially the super-arduous novel-finishing-against-a-ghastly-deadline phase which is the (arduous) novel-finishing phase to be avoided when possible.

^ Oh . . . gods . . . or does my little copy and paste ‘read the blog’ answering email not go out for some reason?



A few of my favourite things, part 1 – guest blog by B_Twin

Border Collies

This is fairly predictable I suppose. After all, I do have three of them^.

Border Collies are brilliant. Sometimes, a little too brilliant…

Bramble, for example, is very excitable. And at the moment she’s excited because she heard about Mongo the Border Collie who saves (probably) the whole universe as we know it.

Miss Enthusiasm

(She’s pretty handy with the sheep too when she isn’t in the computer chair! I’m training her for her next sheepdog trial which, all going well, will be in March.)


Brighid, on the other hand, is a laid back kind of farm dog. She loves nothing better than being with you 110% of the day. A bit of work on the sheep, a bit of play with her sister and then just “hanging out”. Sometimes I stop to contemplate the view^^ and a few nano-seconds later there is a head under my hand, ready and waiting for the skritch!

"Where to now, Boss?"


Belle (their mother) is highly obsessed with the toy, ball, hens, horses, sheep – WHATEVER.  Obsession is definitely a Border Collie “thing”.  And they have FOCUS.

Belle bringing in the hens for the evening


Being stared at with a “Border Collie stare” tends to make you uncomfortable – Belle does it to me when she is in the passenger footwell of the car. She rests her head on the seat or whatever and then just stares, unblinking, as I’m driving. Arrrgggghhhh. No wonder sheep move away!!


Belle and Bramble are also “revheads”. They think nothing of going down the highway at 100km/hr like this:

The fangirl becomes a revhead

Idiots! Which is why I end up with putting them in the front with me when I need to go down the highway. (I’m quite certain Bramble would surf on top of the cab if I let her. Craaaazy dog. LOL )

And because I might be a little strange^^^, I get a kick out of having plants with the same names as my pets.  Which brings me to another favourite thing:



I don’t think I could have a garden without roses. (Note to self: never move anywhere where roses won’t grow!)

Here’s a little of my rose collection§.

'St Brigid's Rose'



'Belle Story'


I haven’t managed to get the “bramble rose” yet (it’s a species rose). Of course I could use the feral briar rose growing on the side of the road. Prickly, all over the place and “sweet as”. That’s Bramble. LOL


I do have one that is all over the place though. Literally. I had ordered a nice, tame climber to grow up near the front porch and give some summer shade. I thought the location would be reasonably challenging for a rose so when it reached around 7’ high in only three months I became … nervous. Then it flowered and I had no doubt that it was not what was ordered. I had, in fact, received the very rose I had thought about and decided against because it was a house eater.

Meet ‘Wedding Day’ at 3 months:

Not a nice tame climber. 3 months growth from bare-rooted.


12 months later she looked like this:

'Wedding Day' aka "Bridezilla"

She hasn’t the biggest thorns in the world but she has plenty of prickles and a wicked sense of humour that sees her snagging the unwary passerby. We’ve nicknamed her “Bridezilla”! And she’s doing the job admirably so she gets to stay. And the bees adore her flowers. (Robin has now suggested to me that maybe it’s ‘Kiftsgate’. She likes to torment me. ‘Kiftsgate’ would swallow a whole block of houses.)

Now, back to some more lady-like roses…

‘Chateau de clos Vougeot’ (bush version)


‘French Lace’, which has been a real stunner this year and just bloomed and bloomed despite a lot of the others feeling the heat, or Black Spot, or whatever.

'French Lace'



‘Oklahoma’ is a big bush with big flowers that have a rich, heady scent.




One of the best performing David Austin roses at my place is ‘Tess of the D’Ubervilles’.

'Tess of the D'Ubervilles'


And, just in case I’m putting everyone to sleep with so many roses, here’s one last one. This one was mentioned a few years ago by Robin in a blog entry and it took me ages to track it down and finally get one. The name alone is enough to love her for – she also has a pretty sweet scent. She does have a reputation for being problematic. So far, so good over here. (Robin may be using the bubblewrap on her flowers though….)

'Tipsy Imperial Concubine'


Of course, I do have lots of other photos of roses, sheep, castles and some of my other favourite things. Possibly enough for another guest blog if it is required. ;) *




^ In case anyone was wondering – my Border Collies are medium-short coated which is  better for working in hot weather.

^^ The view from the back paddock:

A spring morning in the lambing paddock


^^^Please don’t answer that..!

§ Well over a hundred varieties at last count. I’ll end up having to plant them in the paddock next… haha

* Guest posts are ALWAYS required.  –ed.


Snippet Number Three* with footnotes**


. . . I’d been this really disgustingly sweet, cooperative kid, always worried about everyone else (this got worse after Ran was born.  I am never having kids.  Moms with new babies have no life), which is to say this total dreary little dreep.  What actually started giving me my own personality was when I got old enough to volunteer at the shelter.  It was mostly dogs and cats, but even then there was one parrot (who was totally bonded to Clare, who said, I’m never doing this again), a chameleon (who still runs to the back of his tank and turns blue to go with the walls every time anyone comes into Clare’s office) and three ponies (who had started biting kids at the petting zoo in Electrowest).  Since then there’ve been alpaca and sheep and goats and a crippled bobcat the Big Cat Rescue didn’t have room for and then it bonded with Clare too so they let her keep it.  But I was thrilled at being allowed to shovel dog crap and scrub bowls.  The self-confidence issues of a ten-year-old can be pretty weird.   

            But I was still pretty disgustingly wet, it’s just now I was mostly disgusting about animals.  For example, I wanted a dog.  I’d wanted a dog since I was born, but this was about six months after Dad died, and Mom was still trying to be extra-nice to Ran and me, especially because she was working about twenty-six hours a day and exhausted and cranky when we saw her at all.  So while she gave me the old ‘a dog is a big responsibility’ lecture and reminded me forcefully that she was working twenty-six hours a day and back up from her was a non-option, her heart wasn’t really in it.  I knew who I wanted—and Clare had been saving him for me—so we brought home Mongo (short for mongrel, although really he’s a border collie).  He was about six months old and already crazy, and you can guess that some ordinary family hadn’t been able to cope with a hairy attack squad caroming off the walls and trying to fetch pieces of furniture so somebody would throw them for him.  Mom, even having basically folded on the subject of my dog, was a little leery but Clare said I’d cope, which made me feel better than anything ever had in my life before—at least anything since Dad died.  But Mongo is also really, really happy and cheerful and loving (as well as crazy) and he was totally a good idea and just what we needed. 

            But the point is, he was my dog.  We had him because I wanted a dog.  I had to walk him twice a day and feed him and brush him (way too much fur.  If I’d realised I might have tried to fall in love with something with short hair) and make sure his water bowl was full and all that.  Which in Mongo’s case included a lot of remedial training, starting with SIT.  Sitting to have his lead put on, sitting before he was allowed out the door, sitting before he could jump in the car, sitting before his food bowl was put down—and the accidental swallowing of the hand holding the bowl is not allowed.  Sitting a lot at least made new sort of loops in his caroming and got him used to paying attention to me as something more than dog-food and thrown-stick provider.  Then there was learning no eating sofa cushions or baseboards or shoes or origami figures that happen to fall on the floor—he ate the best dragon I ever made and the fact that Takahiro made me a better one later on doesn’t change anything—and finding a more or less chew-proof dog bed because there are limits.  I thought teaching him the long down was going to kill us both, although I have to say that possibly my attention span wasn’t totally up to it either.

            But I did it.  I did it all.  He barely even ate newspapers or gloves after the first six months with us.  I was the kind of kid who actually did walk the dog every day.  Twice.  Just getting enough exercise was a big thing with Mongo. . . . *** 

* * *

* I think it’s number three 

** See!  Footnotes!  ::waves:: ^

^ Stardancer wrote:

I had to look up “ecphonesis” too. But what I got out of that paragraph was mostly the fact that I kind of want to see a scene now that includes an eggplant and a philosopher

Aaron wrote:

But does a Dining Philosopher* need one or two forks to eat an eggplant?

And you would think eating comes into this equation why? 

*** Remember:  this is only second draft.  Mongo may start saving the universe sooner in the final copy.


Mostly coherent. And with lots of footnotes.



Eeek. I’m so conflicted. I want the rest of the week to go sloooooow for you but I want it to go fast for Jodi.

It was less than a fortnight ago that I finally really noticed that Jodi’s frelling* novel** is coming out on the SAME GLAMFARBING DAY THAT SHADOWS IS DUE.  How frigglegobblasting unfair is THAT? 

http://ya-sisterhood.blogspot.com/2012/01/exclusive-reveal-incarnate-by-jodi.html *** 

* * *

I rang handbells tonight—rather to my own astonishment.  What’s worse is that the other three ringers are getting steady enough that It Was Decided—not by me—that it was time for some evil fiend or other to start calling bobs—you remember bobs (and singles)?  It’s not bad enough you have to learn the frelling method line in the first place, or rather, in handbells, lines, plural, and each pair has a different set of lines with a different relationship between the two bells so in a minor method with six bells it’s like learning three different methods and in a major method with eight bells it’s like learning four different methods, at the point when you’re beginning to get through a plain course more often than you aren’t, someone starts calling bobs.  Bobs mix up the order of the bells so that what bell two or three was doing is now being done by (say) bell five or six—which also changes the tune, which is a clue you’ve come to depend on without realising you’re doing it.  Bell methods are all basically canons, you know?  Everybody rings the same pattern, it’s just each bell starts at a different place in the pattern.†  But how you swap places when some ratbag calls ‘bob’ ALSO VARIES.  Ohmigods, he just called a bob, do I run in, make the freller, run out, am I unaffected, can I just burst into tears and dash out of the room?††

            I won’t say we did it well.†††  But we were doing it.‡  And I noticed something.  The big boys, which is to say Colin and Niall, are always handing us peons great steaming heaps of . . . twaddle, for example that it’s actually easier to ring on eight bells than it is on six.  Don’t make me frelling laugh.  Counting to six is sordid enough.  Eight bells means two more chances to go wrong.  Except . . . if you live long enough to be ringing on eight at all, to have (more or less) learnt all four of the plain courses on the four different pairs of bells for your method, in this case bob major . . . they have a point.  Things don’t happen quite as fast on eight bells as they do on six, because eight bells have to ring in each line before anything else can happen in the next line.  Calling it ‘more time to think’ is a bit extreme‡‡ but . . . well . . . we did stagger through a short touch.

            I find it pretty funny that bell ringing is one of the things keeping me sane right now.  But with the counter-computer effect there’s also the feeling that I need to go on believing in myself as a bell ringer while I get used to this no-home-bell-tower thing.  So I scrape myself off the seat of my chair and go ring.  Last night was one of Wild Robert’s wandering monthly spectaculars‡‡‡, this month, crucially, at a tower I could find in the dark, so I went.  And it was okay.  It was good.§  And maybe my new footloose status is an opportunity to ring for Wild Robert more often. . . . 


* * *

* . . . says the author who HATES ALL AUTHORS who have books coming out till she gets her frelling manuscript FINISHED AND TURNED IN. 

** FIRST novel!  For anyone coming to the party late, this is Jodi’s FIRST EVER PUBLISHED NOVEL!!!!   A brand new shiny fresh just-published book is always a major chocolate, champagne, velvet, rhinestones^, heavenly choirs and beautiful young man/woman driving the Rolls event, but your first book . . . well.  Despite the ghastly ravages of Menopause Brain I totally remember the whole run up to BEAUTY’s publication. 

^ Really good rhinestones.  Possibly attached to All Stars. 

*** I think it’s a really good trailer too.  Mostly I don’t like trailers.  I know they’re all the rage and anyone who is anyone has trailers^ but mostly I don’t like them.  I like this one. 

^ I don’t have trailers 

† While you’re singing ‘row, row, row, your boat’ the person ahead of you is singing ‘gently down the stream’ 

†† This is fairly easy to do with handbells.  It’s a little harder to perform effectively in the tower. 

††† Some of us did it better than others. 

‡ And I kept thinking of things I have to go back and do to SHADOWS in the next five days while we were ringing plain courses, so maybe bobs were a good idea.  WHA’?  WHA’ YOU SAY?   What are you doing in my sitting room?  Why am I holding the leather strap-handles of two little bronze bells? 

                  The problem with turning a book in unfinished is that it’s . . . unfinished.  I know it’s unfinished, Merrilee knows it’s unfinished, my editor knows it’s unfinished, the janitor’s boyfriend’s dog knows it’s unfinished.  But I want the storyline to read roughly the way it’s supposed to even if I use ‘ecphonesis’ three times in the same paragraph^ and the scene with the eggplant and the philosopher really should come out altogether.  So I keep making notes of the things I need to stick a temporary storyline patch on, to get it through (I hope) its exam next week.  

^ I don’t think I do use ecphonesis three times in the same paragraph.  Maybe twice.+ 

+ I mean, I use ecphonesis, usually rude, frequently.  But I don’t often hang around to label it as such. 

‡‡ If you’re bungie jumping off the Chrysler Building instead of the Empire State, the 200 feet it’s shorter isn’t really going to matter if your bungies break:  you’re still going to die. 

‡‡‡ Where several people said to me, hi, Robin, how’s it going at New Arcadia?, and I said, ah, hmmm. 

§ And I was still holding my line when everyone else went horribly wrong in the Cambridge.  Wild Robert was, of course, mad to be trying to ring Cambridge at all with the people he had available, but this is Wild Robert’s way:  and you will probably find you can ring all kinds of ridiculous stuff with Wild Robert’s beady eye on you.  I was, for example, ringing Cambridge despite havoc in other areas of the ringing chamber—and I’m pretty sure the woman who was the most out of her depth went home saying, you know, I got through three leads of Cambridge, I wouldn’t have thought it was possible, but that’s Wild Robert. . . .

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