February 27, 2013

I lead such an exciting life


I’m sitting here in a skirt.*  Yes!  A skirt!  A real live skirt!  And it’s not my birthday or Peter’s birthday or even a hellcritter’s birthday!  We just randomly went out to dinner tonight!!!!  It’s so exciting! **

Well, not quite randomly.  It’s a 26th.  I’ve told you that if we feel the need of a celebration creeping over us we’ll try to fend it off till the next 26th or 3rd, those being our two official monthly opportunities for festivities.***

So we were feeling festive.  So we went to The Bard and Orpharion and ate duck leg confit and drank champagne (me) and Chilean merlot (Peter).   And we took a pack of cards with us and dealt bridge hands and then Peter got all interested about how we would play them.  Eeep.  Did I tell you I did, in fact, survive my second bridge lesson last weekend?  I mean with two other people so we were, like, pretending that I could play bridge?  And I keep saying that I have the wrong shape of brain for bell ringing.  Well, I do.  But at least bell ringing doesn’t make you guess what the other ringers are going to do next and the winning and losing aspect is a little more tactfully obscured.  Arrrgh.

* * *

* Furthermore I’m sitting here writing an evening blog post at the cottage.  With my feet propped up on the front of the Aga and an acute and sublime awareness that I’ve already done the coming-home thing with three hellcritters and a ridiculous amount of kit^ and don’t have to do it again tonight.

^ A gigantic knapsack plus a bulgy canvas carryall briefcase thing.

** You mean . . . some people just go out to dinner?  I’ve been living in a small town in Hampshire with too many hellcritters for too long and I’m losing track of modern cultural mores.^

^ And we won’t even discuss modern technological mores.  My editor’s poor assistant wasted kind of a lot of perfectly good time and air space explaining some of SHADOWS’ copyeditor’s more arcane (and sometimes invisible) marks to me.  Like the one that made it look like she’d spelled Haydée Haydé.  (Maggie has read THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO.)  ARRRRRRRRGH.  Worrying about this sort of thing keeps authors awake at night.  It’s your name on the book jacket.  To publishing hopefuls still working toward their first sale of course this sounds like the MOST THRILLING THING EVER.+  To those of us it has happened to, while it’s still totally worthwhile and I don’t want any other job++, there is indubitably a mixed-blessing aspect.  Like when people get really angry with you because pages 35-60 in their copy are repeated and 61-86 are missing and when you tell them that you’re sorry but it’s nothing to do with you, to take it up with your publisher, they think you’re blowing them off and become abusive.  Or they want to know why you haven’t made movies of your books, don’t you know that’s where the money is?  Um.  Well, that’s where the money is for the few, not for the many, and very, very, very, very, VERY rarely for any writer involved . . . not to mention that this isn’t up to me either.  But the proofreading mistakes?  Totally yours.  The thing is, they’re at least half right about that.  Your publisher hires eagle-eyed professional proofreaders, but you see the final pages too.  Occasionally some hideously embarrassing botch creeps through the gauntlet of all those searchlight eyes and appears in all its malign glory in the finished book+++.  But usually it’s something that’s gone wrong in the process somewhere, like a full stop dropping out or quotation marks curling in the wrong direction or a half sentence disappearing at the bottom of a page.  Even the missing full stop will haunt your dreams, once you’ve noticed it, or had it pointed out to you, AND YOU SHOULD HAVE CAUGHT IT IN PROOFREADING.  BUT YOU DIDN’T BECAUSE YOU ARE A MORON.#  AND IT IS ALL YOUR FAULT.  It would have been a really good book if it weren’t for that missing full stop.  As some reader, somewhere, will tell you.

I am not looking forward to proofreading SHADOWS.  I will miss the quotation marks curling in the wrong direction and the use of ‘their’ when it should have been ‘there’.  Which will be lacerating enough.  But what will be worse is discovering THAT ENORMOUS FRELLING PLOT HOLE that it’s now way way way too late to do anything about.##

+ Even more thrilling than randomly going out to dinner.

++ Not least because I’m pretty sure I’m unemployable by any normal standard

+++ Regular readers of author blogs will know that there is a LAW OF THE UNVERSE that says that any author opening any first copy of any new book—I mean that author’s new book—must open it on a page with a proofreading error on it.  I get around this by not reading my stuff once it’s published.  I can’t read it anyway.  It’s a sort of combination effect, like psychic eczema, migraine, and being trapped in a stuck lift/elevator with a bore.  A pedantic bore.  A smelly pedantic bore.  And the smelly pedantic bore has a large smelly dog who doesn’t like me.

# You are a moron who, furthermore, has looked at these insanely annoying words in this beyond-insanely annoying order WAY too many times AND CAN’T LOOK AT THEM ANY MORE.

##  You can make limited editorial changes at the proofreading stage, with an emphasis on the limited.  If you go over a certain short sharp maximum your publisher will charge you for it.  If you want to make real structural changes . . . I think they gag you and lock you in a closet till the book is safely out.  I don’t know.  I don’t want to know.

*** For new readers or old readers who have better things to remember:  The Beginning was when I met this fellow Peter Dickinson, whom I knew slightly from book conventions and things, at the Bangor, Maine airport, to bring him back to Blue Hill for a weekend’s exposure to life in a small New England town.  This was on 26 July, twenty-one and a half years ago.  We got married the following 3rd of January.  I’m not young and Peter is old, and when we decided to do this thing, Peter said that there weren’t enough years left for a sufficiency of anniversaries so we needed to celebrate some monthlies as well.  So we do.


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