January 25, 2012

Extreme Brain Death, etc


Blah erg eh gah erfft groan snivel.  I’m pretty sure I’ve used this title before, although the ‘etc’ may confuse the ’bot waiting to title it ‘extreme-brain-death-1407’ when I turn it into a shortcut to hang as a thread in the forum.*  There get to be a lot of extreme brain death days toward the end of writing a novel, especially when the deadline is beetling down on you and you’re not done yet.  What I haven’t been telling you, because there’s no point, is that I ran aground on SHADOWS with a horrible grinding noise about a week ago.**  This is why I try not to write novels in a hurry, because forcing them along at a pace they don’t want to maintain tends to lead to this kind of thing.  This is what I originally thought had happened with PEG II:  I knew it was going to be long (ahem) and I thought it was just demanding a more leisurely pace, and I could wait it out.  Politely.  *** 

            You can miss signposts if you’re going too fast.  I’ve been going pretty fast on SHADOWS, but mostly it’s been doing the mettlesome-steed thing and galloping along willingly.  With the result that I was pretty far down the wrong byway when I realised that the landscape was going all peculiar.  You may not know the difference between Piddling-on-Slepton and Greater Hatchflummery—they both have village greens and duck ponds—but you can make a good guess about whether you’re in a rainforest or the Riiser-Larsen ice shelf.†  And furthermore while the story is delivered by the Story Council, some slack, not to say grace, is given to the scribe for rootling for vivid details, and I have a fertile little mind.††  I can not only have gone extremely wrong, I can have plucked all kinds of seemed-like-a-good-idea-at-the-time-details out of the surrounding dramatic dazzle by the time I realise it should be parrots, not penguins.  Oops.  And of course the blizzard has eradicated my tracks. . . .

            So, not to flog a poor innocent metaphor to death or anything, I’ve been kind of crouched in my tent, pushing earlier details around like checkers on a small travelling checkerboard, and waiting for the wind to die down so I can get my compass out and figure out where I went wrong.  It’s a TOTAL FRELLING BITCH, waiting.  It’s even a total frelling bitch when you’re not staring at a deadline.  But there’s not a lot I can do until the blizzard subsides/the dust settles/the story forgives me for being a dork.  Last few days I haven’t been listening to quantum physics while hurtling†††, I’ve been trying to, as you might say, deplot myself.  Today I finally heard the parrots. . . . 

So let’s have an Ask Robin to celebrate. 

So I’ve been wondering this one for years, and I think I’ve checked everywhere else for the answer. In Hero, after Aerin defeats Agsded, she falls asleep and dreams three different scenes. One is of Hetta from Water and one is Harry, I thought. But the last one is of three men, one of whom we hear is called Tommy and one called Leo. Is that a story that is published somewhere and I missed it, or is it a story not yet written, or is it in a drawer somewhere? 

I would totally swear that I have answered this one, but one of the new tenets of the rejuvenated Ask Robin, a bit like the rather inescapably evolved basic tenet of this blog, is that stuff inevitably comes round more than once. 

            No, that is not Hetta from POOL IN THE DESERT.  Good grief.  Check it out, people, I hear this a little too often.  Even if you can get ‘the white walls around her were so high there seemed to be clouds resting on their heads’ out of a tatty little suburban garden, Hetta’s pool is specifically described as being surrounded by crazy paving, which is not ‘the flat earth around the pool was covered with squares of white stone.’‡  This wouldn’t matter, at least not till I finish writing the story about the girl in the other garden (Hetta doesn’t have long black hair either, but I don’t think that’s mentioned one way or another, since I’m mostly allergic to physical descriptions of my characters), whereupon everyone who’s assumed it’s Hetta is going to be confused.  And I read stuff wrong in other people’s books all the time, and you can’t focus your best brain power on everything‡‡, and I write (and mean to write) curled-up-on-the-sofa, downtime kinds of books.  But I do suggest you check this kind of thing if you’re going to write to the author, you know?

            And yes, that is Harry.

            Leo and Tommy and their companion are from the very first story I started writing about Damar . . . the one I lay aside because I realised it was too big and complicated and probably several books’ worth and I couldn’t cope . . . and wrote BEAUTY instead.  Then when I went back to Damar I decided to start at what you might call an angle, with SWORD, and HERO was always going to follow immediately after SWORD (yes!  It’s a prequel!  I wrote it that way deliberately!).  So Leo and Tommy are now one of the umpty-jillion Third Damar Novels still waiting in a series of beat up paper files and spiral notebooks.‡‡‡  If I live long enough. . . . 

* * *

* Alternatively I could wait till a mod hung the thread for me, and then I wouldn’t have to notice.  

** This is not wholly a bad thing, as it gave me a kind of break in concentration to get my bell tower resignation letter polished up and sent, which had to be done more or less right then.  For all I know bits of my subconscious had been holding high level consultations about this.  Including the bit that was holding my throat hostage and getting increasingly frustrated that I was ignoring the ransom notes.  I feel this situation could have been arranged better but then I would think that, wouldn’t I?  And by the way, about 75% of what Nadia did to me yesterday is still working—I was singing out hurtling today^ for the first time in weeks—and I may even practise tonight before I crash. 

^ I wasn’t singing, however, when I frelling slipped in the frelling mud and fell frelling down squish.  ARRRRRRRGH.  At least I was wearing my raincoat which is old and falling to ruin anyway and I don’t have to worry about how it’s going to wash.  (It probably isn’t.  It is probably going to take this excuse to fall apart.)  My jeans however brought half the frelling landscape home with them.  Hellhounds were bemused.  Usually they like me at their level but not so much when I’m screaming and floundering.  

*** Convulsive shudder.  Not infrequently in the last five months when I’ve been getting mental whiplash at the pace I am trying to make^ I’ve thought that having a story that WANTS TO BE WRITTEN even if it doesn’t want to be written quite this fast is ENTIRELY to be preferred to a story that . . . well, all right, it wasn’t PEG II’s fault I was refusing to listen to the whole ‘another two more books’ business.  Still.  I kind of feel it could have just let me write to the end of II and then stare into the abyss when I got there.  

^ I know, I know, there are lots of authors who write two books a year, and some of them are even good books.  I am not one of those authors.  This is totally trampolining my tiny intellect.+ 

+ OH FOR PITY’S SAKE.  Listening to Late Junction on Radio 3.  Some intellectual# has taken AC/DC’s Hell’s Bells and turned it into a thoughtful piece of drooling ambient nonsense.  Who are you trying to fool here.  Those lyrics are not up to being whispered resonantly into a microphone too close to your mouth.  GAAAAAAAH.## 

# ‘An intellectual is a person who has discovered something more interesting than sex.’  —Aldous Huxley  

## Note that BACK IN BLACK is one of my all time favourite albums.  Right up there with the Beverly Sills LA TRAVIATA.  And equally patriarchal tripe in their different ways. 

† Oh, look, there’s a penguin.  Probably not a rainforest then. 

†† Not much intellect.  But lots of imagination. 

††† SINGING is very good for encouraging brisk blood flow through the brain. 

‡ One of the reasons I specified the crazy paving was that I thought I was preventing people from assuming it’s the pool—and the girl—from Aerin’s dream.  Oh well. 

‡‡ I think about this every time I go horribly wrong on a bell method I know perfectly well, possibly because I’ve been working too hard and have No Brain.

‡‡‡ There are some dead floppies^ involved in a few of the Third Damar Novels too, but I print everything out, so it doesn’t matter;  if I picked any of them up now, I’d start a new draft on page one. 

^ Floppy discs.  Remember floppy discs?


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