How New Thing Happened, More or Less
I don’t know if I can describe how much I am enjoying this [New Thing], so I won’t try. You’ll just have to imagine.
Oh good. ::Beams:: And LAVISH, PROFOUND AND HEARTFELT thanks to all the rest of you who have forumed, tweeted, Facebooked or emailed similar sentiments. I hope there are a fair number of you out there, because the plan is that the New Thing should go on a while. It is, in fact the New Thing. I was going to do a nice tidy well-laid out How the New Thing Came to Be post but . . . when have I ever been nice, tidy or well-laid out?* Anyway, I think I’ve already told you that I’ve been aware for a while that I needed to do something new or different about the blog. But as to why it arrived in this particular New Thing package. . . .
. . . Meanwhile (this is not a non sequitur: bear with me) I should be hoovering. I haven’t done any housework since . . . uh . . . approximately since Hannah was here. Well, she gave me flu. I’m allowed a little slack. But Cathy arrives tomorrow for a few days. And I really don’t want her to blink a couple of times at my sitting-room and run away.** And one of the things we’ll be doing while she’s here (if she doesn’t run away) is playing with New Thing.
Shock horror. Someone is appearing under their own name in Days in the Life. Yes. Cathy. Cathy as in Cathy Hamaker, our own Black Bear.
Some of you have already heard how Cathy and I met at Wiscon several yonks ago, didn’t quite manage to have a cup of tea/coffee together, but kept in vague touch, each privately under the impression that we’d probably hit it off if we ever concentrated on it for a few minutes. And then I started Days in the Life, and she started reading it. Clearly the woman spends too much time on line, because she found it almost at once.
One of the things Cathy does in her copious free time*** is run RPGs—role playing games—as gamesmaster.† She’s been sending me hilarious abstracts of some of these games for years. I keep saying oh gods what a waste these should be fiction. And we’ve had a running conversation, also for years, about how we might somehow create an RPG for the blog, using some McKinley world or other, possibly one I make up specifically for the purpose. . . . But we’ve never been able to figure out a way to do this that wouldn’t make the blog even more work for me, as well as a way that would not send Merrilee off in fits of the screaming abdabs about copyright.
Then, a few weeks ago, I went down with flu. I’ve told you, possibly smugly, which would explain the result, that I can (usually) keep writing no matter what is going on in the real world with me. I could have beriberi, cholera, or a major invasion of bats,†† and I could keep writing. Well. There’s one rather important exception. That’s when I’m at the very, very, very end of a book, and trying to do the final comb and shine, trying to make sure all the screws are not merely the right size, but have gone in straight and been puttied and then painted over so you can’t see the join. To do this properly you have to attain and maintain a kind of extreme squeaky alertness, which includes being able to hold the entire book in your mind all at once.†††
I can’t do this when I feel like dirty river froth and neither my eyes nor my brain will focus.
I HAD TO STOP WORKING ON SHADOWS WHEN I WAS NEARLY AT THE END.
Try to imagine how—or rather what—this contributed to my sanity and peace of mind.‡ Especially after various other literary setbacks in the last year.
So, I’m lying there, between writing blog posts that make everything sound better than it (*&^%$£”!!!!! is, thinking, what do I do? What can I do? I can’t work. I can’t even get on with all that backed-up doodling, because doodling also requires a certain level of committed attention, as well as a hand that doesn’t shake. People paid me money for those doodles—I have to do them the best that I am able. Which is not now.
And thus, from fever and despair, was New Thing born. I’ve thought of story-telling on the blog before, but I couldn’t think of how to do that either, without bleeding off real-story energy and, once again, making the blog more work.‡‡ But I thought three things more or less simultaneously (thus the splintering effect of fever): I could do a parody. I could do a parody of me. I could do all kinds of stuff I wouldn’t dream of doing in a real book. My heroine could write fantasy series. She could write fantasy series with cliffhanger endings. She could write fantasy series one of which, for example, features a protagonist named Flowerhair, who fends off attack mushrooms with an enchanted sword named Doomblade. Hee hee hee hee hee, I muttered to myself, my eyes gleaming with fever. She’ll have to write a vampire series too. Let’s say . . . oh . . . let’s say Vampire Virago.
The second thing I thought was: the individual posts can be shorter, not only because they’re fiction, which from a fiction writer counts as value-added whether it is (ahem) literally or not, but also because if I run long I can just put the overrun into the next post. This is one of my more intractable problems with Days in the Life: stuff I cut for later almost never gets used, because, because, well, because it’s Days in the Life. Once a day is over, it’s over. Even irrelevant footnoted asides tend to go all floppy by next day. And then they’re WASTED.
The third thing I thought was: if Cathy’s sense of humour stretches that far, she can gamesmaster me. She can prod me on into adventures and with characters that would never have occurred to me. She’d just sent me another one of her goofy summaries from a game she’s running, and there was a specific bit in it‡‡‡ that I thought (in my feverish way) would be perfect for an on-line blog serial. Fine, she said. It’s yours. No, no, I said, I want active input—if I can get it. If it would amuse you. Fortunately Cathy amuses easily. Which got us talking about how we might do this.
As I write now, we’ve already done two stints on Skype IM with her typing things like: okay, there’s a funny noise, and me typing back, FUNNY NOISE? WHAT DO YOU MEAN FUNNY NOISE? I DON’T LIKE FUNNY NOISES. Cathy: It’s a sort of scrape-thump-thud noise. Me: NOOOOOOOOOO. —I should perhaps add here that we’ve played a two-person RPG a couple of times but I am hopeless because I spend all my time afraid to do anything because I’m sure I’m going to die. Characters do die in RPGs, you know. One of the things that is going to make Cathy’s augmentations possible is that I said: First rule. You can’t kill me.
So. Anyway. I haven’t got to Cathy’s first injection of storyline. It’s . . . um . . . several ep[isode]s off yet.§ I’m writing as fast as I can.§§ I’ll tell you when we get there. But after that you’ll just have to guess. The story is the story. The story is always the story, and I’m still writing it . . . even if there’s some extremely silly collaboration going on just out of sight.§§§
* * *
* OUT. I said OUT. I said well laid OUT.
** Colin and Niall were here for handbells yesterday. I had got home barely ahead of them and was still doing things like tearing harnesses off hellhounds when they arrived. Shall I pick this up? said Niall, referring to the green plastic garden sheet on the floor of the sitting-room which is where ALL MY BABY PLANTS COME INDOORS TO SLEEP EVERY FRELLING NIGHT. Sure, I said, but fold it up so the dirt all stays on the inside.
Oops, said Niall.
*** HAHAHAHAHAHA. Copious free time. HAHAHAHAHAHA.
† She also plays for other gamesmasters, but I don’t hear about those.
†† Not yet.
††† Not to mention my bank balance which, regular readers will remember, is a problem right now.
‡ Or rather, this is how I’ve always done it. Which is why the idea of writing a three-volume story freaks me out so much.
‡‡ Remember, when I’m whining about how much work the blog is, two things: I enjoy it too. It’s just way too frelling much work. Which leads to the second thing, which is that I have limited range to change this. I’m an obsessive personality: I pretty much only do things I can be obsessive about. This includes the blog. Shifting to posting every other day or declaring I won’t write posts over 500 words will not work. I either do it obsessively or I won’t do it at all.
‡‡‡ Which I’m certainly not going to tell you about because we may yet use it.
§ Slightly after when you finally find out what my heroine’s name is.
§§ Which is never fast, even when I’m essentially ripping myself off.
§§§ Note that when Cathy originally booked her time over here, it was planned carefully for after SHADOWS was going to be finished . . . and well before New Thing was a flu-addled gleam in my deliquescing brain.
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