April 24, 2012

New Thing, 4

The Story So Far…

FOUR

My heart was beating a little fast.  I opened the attachment.  And blinked.  You couldn’t rent a broom cupboard in Manhattan for what Hayley was offering me a two- or three-bedroom house for.  The three-bedroom house was enormous.  It had a long porch around two sides, a dining room, double front parlours, an attic and a cellar, and a huge garden.  A huge garden.  There was a photo of it, with Yggdrasil in one corner.  I was sure the listed rental was too cheap even for Cold Valley.  It must have rats, or damp, or Shub-Niggurath, Yog-Sothoth and Nyarlathotep playing poker in the cellar.  I shook my head.  Just looking at it on line was giving me agoraphobia.  It was even bigger than Gelasio’s penthouse.  Ha ha.

The other one was possible.  It was just an ordinary house.  It had a garage for the car I was going to have to buy, and a clothes line in the back yard, so I didn’t have to pay to run the dryer.  Oh, gods, I thought.  Please tell me it has a washing machine.  I am much too old to drive twenty or thirty miles to a Laundromat every week.  This was aside from the fact that I’d been behind the wheel of a car slightly less often than once a year for the past twenty years—which had been fine with me.  Driving to buy food was going to be an interesting experience.  So was learning to live with gas prices. Maybe Cold Valley had a farmers’ market.  Maybe I could eat a lot of frozen peas and canned tuna.  And scrub my clothes on a washboard in the lake.

Driving to Cold Valley in the first place, with all my worldly goods (such as they were) in the back of a hired van, was going to be an interesting experience.

Was I really going to do this?  I looked up.  I had forgotten how big my office was till almost everything had been taken out of it.  I felt marooned in here now;  it took an effort of will to walk three steps to the door, six steps down the hall, and two across the kitchen to the granite-topped island which used to have the electric kettle on it.  Gelasio would have let me keep more of the furniture, but I had suddenly taken against all the stuff he, or anyway his money, had bought, and after that there wasn’t much left.  In here with me now was the sofa I’d bought at a junk store in the East Village and was the biggest thing I’d brought with me when I married Gelasio (although it was now a rather handsome dark green fake-brocade print instead of blotchy khaki with the horsehair sticking out in clumps), a dozen (okay, maybe fifteen) cartons of books ( . . . okay, maybe twenty), and about three of clothing.  I had kept the jeans-and-All-Stars end of my wardrobe;  nearly everything else had gone.  I’d got a little money for it, but I hadn’t tried to do any better.  It was like when young Mr Wolverine, my lawyer, had wanted to go after Gelasio for a bigger settlement—Gelasio didn’t owe me anything.  I’d been a (relatively) happy freeloader for the last almost-twenty years.  I had enough money to buy a car and to pay the rent on a two-bedroom house in Cold Valley.  Yes, I was going to do this.  What better ideas did I have?

I wrote back to Hayley saying that I was interested in the two-bedroom house, and could she tell me please if it had a washing machine?  And was it (aside from laundry appliances) furnished?   Should I forward her a month’s rent so she would hold it for me?

I hit ‘send’ and went back to the kitchen to make another cup of tea.  This was probably the eighteenth today.  One for every year of my marriage.  Oh, stop it.  The sooner I was out of here the better.  There’d be a hotel in New Iceland;  I should just go.  I’d phone around about self-drive vans tomorrow.

You forget how long it takes to boil water if you’ve got used to an electric kettle.  While I was waiting for my hot water and trying to come up with non-controversial topics of reflection (how far would a tea mug thrown with violence through an open penthouse window fly before gravity forced it to yield to reality?) I suddenly thought, I could get a dog.

 

The GameMaster (guest post by Black Bear)

 

I didn’t start playing role playing games until I was in college. Note I said “playing,” because I owned a copy of Basic Dungeons and Dragons from age 12 or so. Read it til the pages fell out. Rolled the cheap dice–the color of blue chalk–over and over, and drew up elaborate maps of the dungeons I’d explore if I had friends who wanted to play. But that key element was missing–and in hindsight, it’s a little surprising my middle school friends and I didn’t play. We were the right sorts of nerds; we all played computer games, we watched Star Trek (original series) obsessively each day after school… Yet somehow, D&D never got on the radar properly, and I didn’t have my first taste of real gaming until I began working at a local store called The Game Preserve.

The GP, as it’s still affectionately known, opened my eyes to the wide world not only of games (board games, puzzle games, wargames, role playing games) but to the wide world of gamers. We run the gamut; even back then it wasn’t just the guys in black t-shirts who William Shatner famously railed at on SNL: “Move out of your parents’ basements! Have any of you EVER kissed a girl?!” There were and are plenty of folks like that in this hobby–but there are also lots of folks who come to it from different angles. People who like stories, and fantasy, and improv acting, and solving puzzles, and working as a team with a bunch of other like-minded friends. That was a huge part of the draw for me; when I got to college and fell in with a real regular gaming group, it was a rich part of my social life every week, to get together and tell a fabulous story each Saturday from 2 until 10 (pizza break at 6. Occasionally take-out Chinese, if we were feeling flush with cash.) We all turned out all right, too–a doctor, two lawyers, a writer, a poet, an archaeologist, an alt-medicine practitioner, a computer jockey…and me, a so-called museum professional.

So, gaming is a large part of my life–enhanced by the fact that when I graduated from college with no obvious job prospects (thank you, medieval studies degree) I went right back to work at the Game Preserve for a number of years. I continued playing my games of choice–RuneQuest, and Call of Cthulhu–in the ensuing years, and in the process discovered that if I was going to play the sorts of games I want to play, I was probably going to have to be the gamemaster. That is to say, I had to be the one in charge. In college, I was always just a player, acting out my character’s part in our increasingly complex adventures; but after college, I began to mastermind these things myself. This isn’t as complicated as you might imagine; while I come up with the basic thin lines of a plot myself, my players are the ones that flesh it out, making it into a real Story, so to speak. As an example, one year for Halloween I literally had nothing but the following jotted down on a bit of notepaper for our H.P. Lovecraft mythos-based horror game:
TRAPPED ON A TRAIN
ELECTRICAL MONSTER HIDING IN BAGGAGE CAR
SLOWLY WORKS WAY UP TRAIN ZAPPING PEOPLE
HIJINKS ENSUE
My players made those four sentences into an evening of fun for all concerned. For those who’ve never played these sorts of games before, essentially the gamemaster is the one who says things like “The train is 8 cars long, including an engine and caboose. You’re sitting in the dining car, eating dinner, when the porter says, ‘There’s a mysterious crackling sound coming from the baggage car.’ So what are you doing?” And the players are the ones who say, “I’m grabbing a fire extinguisher! I’m running toward the baggage car!” (Or, perversely, “I’m stealing all the silverware while the porter is distracted.” Part of being a gamemaster is being prepared to roll with it when your players do things which are, from a story standpoint, utterly stupid.) This is where the fun comes in–it’s up to me what the crackling sound is, and what happens when the players come running back with the fire extinguisher. But it’s up to them what they do when they see a horrible ball of blue hissing flame busily charring its way through their steamer trunks. Spray the extinguisher? Throw a mail bag at it? Run like hell? I won’t know until they do it, and this is what makes the hobby so much fun for me–the constant back and forth of storytelling, balancing the predictable against the unpredictable.

Thus it happened that Robin and I came around to New Thing. As she said in her blog a few nights ago, I’ve been regaling her with stories of my players’ foibles for years now. It makes for great re-telling afterwards; Greg Stafford’s RuneQuest, which is the world I chiefly game in these days, is a lush and varied mixture of high fantasy, low fantasy, and Joseph-Campbell-esque mythology, making a fabulous backdrop for the ridiculous situations my players get themselves into and out of on a regular basis. As she also said, we’ve talked many times about ways to make a McKinley-based RPG happen on the website–but thus far, most of the ways to do it up right would involve a LOT more work on her part than the blog does now, not to mention skirting the edges of copyright disaster. But then she came up with the brilliant thought of approaching it from a different angle–we’d play our way through a story of Robin’s own devising, with me contributing unexpected situations and characters for her protagonist to encounter. But it’s all very fluid–each of Robin’s episodes influences what I may or may not toss into the mix for the next go-round. It’s less a game (no dice rolling, and as she says, the protagonist is NOT allowed to die) and more a cooperative storytelling experience in which Robin writes something amazing, and I keep monkeywrenching the works at key points in the plot. So we’ll see how it goes. I’m delighted to know that people are enjoying it–it’s fun to do! I love serials myself; Plot Without End is an appealing format for me (obviously) and so I’m excited to see where New Thing goes. Hope you are, too!

* * *

Note (pant, pant) that we haven’t got to Cathy’s first monkeywrench yet.  I’m SLOW.  –ed.

Diana

 

John Burrow—Diana Wynne Jones’ lovely husband—rang me up about two months ago and said they were doing a memorial service for her, and would I speak at it?  Only five minutes, he said, there would be several speakers.  My first impulse was to say no—of course I wanted to come, but I wasn’t sure I could speak.  I asked if I could think it over.  And then rang him back and said yes.

            It was today.  It has been looming rather awfully in my mind this past week—especially after I found out it was going to take six earth spirits and a papal intervention to make the journey happen:  British Rail shuts down on weekends.  They put up a lot of ‘works’ signs and claim to be laying on buses to cover the suspended routes . . . but in fact they all go to Blackpool and eat ice-creams (in the summer) and play poker (in the winter) and standard rail disservice begins again Monday morning.  The line I used to take when I was visiting Diana that last year wasn’t running at all and everything else seemed to be bristling with warnings and delays and dubious ‘status’. 

            But we got there.  Cathy came along but spent the day being a tourist.  (She had such a good time we may have to do it together on her next visit.)  I spent about three hours listening to some of the people who loved Diana talk about her, and watching the slide show of her life that her family had put together for background.  During the tea break when you went downstairs there was a gigantic circular tower made of copies of her books, and Photostats of handwritten manuscript pages, and the sight of her handwriting made my heart turn over.

            It was very simple.  There were about twenty of us who spoke, and in a group that large, you’re going to have one or two duds.  We didn’t have any duds*.  That in itself seems to me to say something pretty remarkable about the people Diana attracted.  There were clips from the film of HOWL’S MOVING CASTLE** and from interviews with Diana.  The composer of a ballet based on BLACK MARIA (AUNT MARIA in the States) played an excerpt.  All three of her sons spoke.

            I had to hare out of there and back to the train station almost as soon as it was over, because I wanted to make the long drive home in daylight.  And I’m so shattered I may not get out of bed at all tomorrow.***

            But I’m glad I went.  And this is what I said: 

* * *

Diana was my first real writer friend—or perhaps I remember her as first because she is such a blazing star in my memory.  I shifted publishers between my first book and my second, and my new editor, Susan Hirschman at Greenwillow Books, asked me if I knew Diana Wynne Jones’ work.  This was in the early ‘80s, and Diana wasn’t yet well known in America.  Susan had brought out CHARMED LIFE a year or two before.  She thrust a copy in my hands.  ‘You will like this,’ she said.

            That was an understatement.  I was in the book’s thrall by the end of the first paragraph—and in Diana’s for life.  I moved to New York City shortly after the mind-altering experience of my first Diana Wynne Jones book and Susan, bless her, invited me to meet Diana the next time she was in town.  Diana wouldn’t have had to be half the charming and fascinating human being she was to knock me over.  But she was that charming and fascinating—even goofy with jet lag and culture shock.  She was manifestly a wizard of enormous powers.

            I remember the first time toiling up the vertical slope to the house she, her husband and three sons lived in, here in Bristol, and thinking—dimly, through the roar of the blood in my ears—that it was of course suitable that a wizard of enormous powers lived on a mountain.  (I also remember them taking me downhill to their local, and falling off my bar stool.  Even the beer was stronger when Diana sat on the next stool.)

            There were long hiatuses in our relationship because I was a better worshipper than I was a friend.   But she was always there, wise and funny, intimidatingly well-read and terrifyingly intelligent—and there were the books, the wonderful, wonderful, wonderful books.  I have a game I play with my favourite authors—I don’t read their newest book till the next one comes out.  I won’t be able to play that game with Diana any more.

            I live only about two hours away by train (except on Sundays, when it becomes three or four).  I came here several times, the last year of Diana’s life, and she fed me lunch.  I’m as tricky to feed as she was, and she catered to my oddities with kindness and aplomb.  One of my favourite memories of those visits was the lemon meringue unpie:  she found out I loved lemon meringue pie, but could no longer eat flour.  And so the unpie was born:  a glorious great tureen of lemon meringue, tactfully missing out the crust. 

            I think we may all be little children about the people we love.  It is easy to say ‘I can’t believe she’s gone’, and the phrase is a cliché because it has been true so often, of so many much-loved people.  I find myself thinking that if maybe I don’t read that last book, the one I can’t read till the next one comes out, maybe, somehow, she won’t be gone, because she’ll have to write that next book for me, for all of us. 

* * *

One of Diana’s sisters read the first chapter of the book Diana left unfinished when she died.  It’s amazing.  It’s—it’s one of Diana’s opening chapters, that grab you and make the world go away because you’re wholly caught by the world on the page.  We can’t not know what happens. . . .

* * * 

 

It began with the necklace. (And yes, I’m wearing a green rose in my hair.)

 

 

It began with the necklace, because Diana gave it to me.

* Okay, spare my blushes and all, but I can give a speech with embarrassing anyone.  Probably. 

** Which I still haven’t seen because it’s not the book

*** I have to hurtle hounds, sing, and ring bells.  Feh.  Cathy has offered to wake me up by singing ‘Oh what a beautiful morning’ and I suggested that if she wants to live. . . .

Steps on the way to beekeeping IV (guest post by AJLR)

 

It’s a year, now, since I first started looking after a colony of bees. The year has been notable in many respects, mostly to do with my repeated feelings of ‘Why did they do that?!’. It is said among beekeepers that beekeeping has a 30-year apprenticeship and I suspect that may be underestimating the time required to gain a reasonable degree of understanding about what a colony of bees does in different circumstances, and how best to look after them.

When one is a novice in any area of reasonably complicated activity, one expects to find the early stage a steep learning curve* but when that activity involves looking after live beings of some sort the learning curve also involves large amounts of ‘am I doing it right for them and will they survive?’ With bees – and I don’t know if any other beekeepers reading this have experienced anything similar – I’ve found that thinking about how a colony of social insects will react as opposed to how one interacts with (typically) small mammals, one has to recognise that what is being looked after is a) a collective mind rather than a lot of individuals and b) there is no evidence to suppose the colony realises that one is trying to do the best for it. For me, and I realise it may be different for other beekeepers, the interest lies in watching the complexity of how the colony manages itself, in trying to work out from the various clues available what I need to do to help them do their own thing, in learning more about a fascinating creature, and in perhaps being able to harvest some honey if there’s a surplus. There is no personal relationship with the individuals or the colony – none of the bees is ever going to fly to me for a cuddle, or a grain of sugar fed at fingerpoint, or a game.

So, what have I learned over the past year?

I think respect would be the first thing. It’s not that I didn’t have a great admiration for honeybees (and other bees) before this. I appreciate this may sound strange – after all, they’re just doing what their genes have programmed them to do, without any conscious choice or intent involved. However, a closer acquaintance with the intricacy of their lives, their ordered activity, and the beauty of what they produce – whether that is wax comb, honey, or propolis, has given me the utmost respect for them as a species. What extraordinary creatures they have evolved to be – and how much we depend on them for so much of our food production.

Next, I’ve learned that bees don’t read the manuals. This fact may not come as a total surprise to anyone, but the multitude of ways in which a honeybee colony can react to their habitat and conditions has been a source of puzzlement, frustration, and sheer amazement to me over the past year. My new colony started off, last May/June, by being unhappy with their new young queen. There was nothing wrong with her that I or my beekeeping mentor could see but they kept trying to get rid of her by raising new queens. They had plenty of space in the hive (cramped conditions can lead to a new queen being raised and the colony splitting), she was newly-mated and laying evenly and well, and there was nothing wrong with or in the hive that we could see. Yet every 2 – 3 weeks I’d find another couple of queen cells being built and with eggs and once (when I was a few days late inspecting one week) the cell had been capped. Eventually my mentor suggested that I just let them get on with it and accept that, as I didn’t want to start a second colony in my first year, it would be best to let them sort themselves out without my regularly removing queen cells. So that’s what I did – panicking slightly one week when I couldn’t find a queen at all (the new queen must have just hatched and was lurking in a quiet corner, while the ‘old’ one had gone) but slightly comforted by the fact that the colony was not agitated and upset as they would be if there was no queen in the hive. That is not in the least how a new colony with a young queen is supposed to behave, according to the books, but hey…

The third thing I’ve learned is that belonging to a local beekeeping association is a great help in retaining one’s sanity and not having to spend mega-amounts on such things as a honey-extractor in one’s first year. Not that I had much honey to extract – I wasn’t expecting any, to be honest, as a colony’s first year energies are usually employed in building themselves up and making new comb (needed both for raising new bees and storing supplies) takes a lot of bee-hours. Being able to borrow equipment from my local association (and asking the experts how it worked) was extremely useful. Mind you, if the expert who lent me the radial extractor had mentioned, at the time of my collecting it, that it was not a good idea to have eaten supper just before trying to clean it (and pass it on to the other member who needed it urgently) after extracting honey, so that one wasn’t head-down and bottom-up in a large stainless-steel drum on top of a fairly full stomach, I would have been even more grateful. That, and learning that if you don’t have the honey-frames loaded very evenly around the extractor drum, then it will try to waltz rapidly round the kitchen when you turn the dial up to extracting-speed, so that you have to fling your arms round it in a fond and stabilising embrace while your husband makes a wild dive to turn the power off! And has anyone else noticed that honey is sticky?

So, a year after starting and with a colony that has survived the winter reasonably well, I now find myself contemplating my second year as a beekeeper. I hope to observe more, to learn more, to be able to keep my charges free of the various horrible pests that try and get them, and – possibly – to get a second colony started in a couple of months’ time. If anyone wants me, I’ll be out at the apiary, watching my precious bees. :)

* * *

* And that, possibly, it’s not a great idea to try and learn two complicated and demanding new activities at the same time. Beekeeping and bell-ringing, for example (though at least I know who to blame for the second of these!).

 
************************************

Steps on the way to beekeeping III

Steps on the way to beekeeping II

Steps on the way to bee-keeping I

 

How New Thing Happened, More or Less

 

KatydidNL

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.

            EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE.

            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.

            Pause.

            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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