September 14, 2014

KES, 139




. . . I was drowning. The Black Tower had turned into a waterfall as it stooped over me and . . . I gagged and tried to turn my head—no, something was in my way—the water was too strong for me, it beat me back, pounded against my closed eyes, forced its way down my throat . . .

Through the roaring in my ears I heard someone shouting. I was stupid with dying (again) and at first it sounded like gibberish . . . although I thought fuzzily that I heard the recently-familiar word azogging . . . more gibberish . . . but then, absolutely clearly, and articulated with deep earnestness, I heard an interesting variation on a routine suggestion about creative uses of horse manure.  Whoever was shouting was not in a good mood.

I coughed. That would make two of us.  But at least I had air to cough with.  The cascade of water had stopped but I was so torrentially wet I might not have noticed except for the breathing and coughing.  I couldn’t see out of my glasses—not only were they as wet as the rest of me but I was peering through the smothering water-weed of my hair.  I tried to stagger, discovered that only one of my legs would hold me, tried not to scream with limited success about the ‘not’, and would have pitched over on the non-holding side, except that . . . Murac caught me.  Oh.  Yes.  Murac.  He was what had been in the way when I’d tried to turn my head.  He was as wet as I was.  And one of the shouting voices was his.

He was not as wet as I was.  He had a lot of leather in the way.  I, on the other hand, was starting to shiver in my even-less-adequate-when-sopping, increasingly ragged, flimsy-to-begin-with nightgown . . . which [insert creative use of horse manure here] was probably now transparent. . . .

The only thing keeping me warm was the hard male body whose arms were holding me upright. At the cost of keeping me plastered up against him.

Think about something else. Think about the pain in my leg.

Okay. I can do that.  I can totally do that.

Murac was shouting again and Tulamaro—I was pretty sure it was Tulamaro—was shouting right back. Murac’s breastbone and diaphragm or something kept thumping me as he shouted, but given the body parts potentially on offer I wasn’t going to be embarrassed by a diaphragm.  My leg was throbbing to a rhythm of its own.  Distraction.  Distraction is good.

And then someone dropped something across my shoulders—something heavy and warm and fabric—and Murac loosened his grip enough to pull it round me with a sort of impatient gentleness that reminded me of a mother with a tiresome small child.  He probably went for buxom barmaids anyway.  I hadn’t been built for buxom even when I was young enough to be interesting.  I let him jostle me around and this time when I staggered my wounded leg behaved the way a leg should, although it still hurt so horribly I felt light-headed.  There, it was nothing to do with hard male bodies.  It was just my leg.

Tulamaro and Murac had stopped shouting but they were still spitting words at each other. I wished I could understand them.  I had the unpleasant suspicion they were talking about me. Defender, said Tulamaro.  Okay, I thought.  They are talking about me.  Except that . . . I didn’t think he had said Defender.  He’d said something that my deranged-by-circumstances brain was translating as Defender.

You saw the stones roll, said Murac to Tulamaro. You saw Lorag put them through fire and water and earth.  You’ve no cause now to cry rogue.

My brain was doing a double whammy to come up with ‘cry rogue.’ What Murac seemed to have said originally was ‘no grounds to say your ass is on fire and I struck the tinder’.  I would have been brilliant as a simultaneous translator at the United Nations when the honored member from whatsit called the honored member from whosit a dying warthog with mange.

Nor have you cause for arrogance, said Tulamaro.

‘Arrogance’ was something like ‘your sword was forged with piss and horse manure’. Ubiquitous stuff, horse manure.

How am I arrogant? shouted Murac.

Or, ‘How am I the bearer of a bastard sword?’

Would you I had let her fall? Murac went on. Let Defender fall?

So, eh, said another voice. Most of our women soldiers—

I’m not even going to try to de-translate ‘women soldiers’. My first-grade teacher would hunt me down to the ends of the universe and wash my mouth out with soap.

—Will fillet you—

Do I have to translate ‘fillet’?

—if you sneeze wrong. So friend Murac—

‘Friend’ was something like ‘dying warthog with mange’. It’s all in the tone of voice.

—is enjoying his armful of naked woman. Eh, why not?  We’re all going to die—

But I had got hung up on ‘armful of naked woman’. ‘WHAT?’ I yelled, involuntarily, stumbling away from Murac and clutching the warm but scratchy cloak or blanket or whatever it was tighter around me.  ‘WHAT?’

There was a brief pause.

‘She can understand us,’ said Tulamaro wonderingly. ‘She can understand us.  That hasn’t happened in . . . ’

‘A long, long time,’ said Murac.


Two Years Later


Twelve September Fourteen!  Today is the second anniversary of my turning Christian. YAAAAY JESUS.*

How time flies. Or no . . . has it only been two years?  Eh.  I suppose the Big Transcendent Being figures he/she/it/they have to get their skates on with someone—that is, human**—about to turn sixty which I was, two years ago.  I’m having kind of a cruddy ME day today*** so it’s been giving me maybe way too much time to think, in a fuzzy, uh, blah, wha’? sort of way, and whatever it looks like from the front row of the blog, especially with my smoke-and-mirrors routine murking up the view, this last two years has seen GINORMOUS changes in ways I often find quite terrifying, not to mention frelling difficult†.  At least when you do something like emigrate it’s easy to say, oh, hey, look, a new country! Even there the important (and scary) stuff tends to go on behind the scenes and underground and in the cupboards with the resident skeletons already rattling around.  Gah. Blah. But for an easy example of disconcerting God-driven change . . . I’ve given money to charity pretty much since I got off food stamps††, partly because government and politicians depress the billydoodah out of me and I’m not at all sure voting does matter, but in this world money ALWAYS matters too much.  But I would not have expected me, fantasy-writing isolationist short-tempered loner that I am, even with Someone jabbing me with a holy cattle prod, to develop the kind of social conscience that demands practical, hands-on type volunteer work.  You never know about people.  Even when it’s you.

* * *

* I’m so mature. Also profound and sagacious.

** Flimsy little creatures, humans. I’m looking forward to the bomb- and bullet-proof^ eternal version.  I want my collagen back, which would therefore include my chin line, and the rest of my hair, and my hearing . . . and 20/20 vision for the FIRST time in my life, and a SAINTLY digestion that LOVES ice cream^^ . . . and I’m keeping cranky^^^ but it’s going to be the kindly, tolerant version  . . . um . . . I admit that my mortal imagination is not quite up to conceptualising this, but I assume it has to do with being allowed to tear computers apart with my bare hands—no money in heaven—but that I’m nice to people.#

^ okay, maybe not the best choice of metaphor

^^ Of course there’s ice cream in heaven. Like there are all those critters that went off and left you behind, frelling GENERATIONS of them, waiting for you.  Some of us are going to go down under a seething sea of furry+ bodies.  Well, I hope.

+ Scaly, feathery, whatever. It’s all good in heaven.

^^^ And story-telling. One of my definitions of heaven is being able to write what I was frelling built to write without constantly getting in my own way like a marathoner tripping over her own feet arrrrrrrgh.

# I’m going to rupture myself trying to imagine this. Nice to EVERYBODY?  ::Robin’s head, trying not to explode::  Well, okay, I suppose there are no jerks, assholes, and people who let their off-lead dogs crap in the churchyard . . . er . . . churchyard equivalents . . . in heaven.  ::Proliferation of implications alert::  Actually I’m kind of hoping I won’t have to pick up after my dogs, all 1,000,000,000 of them, in heaven.  Maybe we all crap rose petals. . . .


† Why can’t I just be perfect and get it over with?

†† Yes. So more of my ranting about the frelled-upness of society and social support is more informed than you realise.


Boilers and blog silence


Sigh.  Exactly what I was afraid would happen is happening, once I stopped blogging every day—which is that I’m always going to do it again tomorrow.  Mind you, there are things going on.  Including that I keep frelling collapsing, and if I have any spare energy I should probably give some member(s) of the hellmob or other a better hurtle than they’ve probably had today.  Whereupon I will be too tired to do anything so frivolous as write a blog and furthermore I’ve been knocking myself out for way too much of the last week writing frelling COPY for a big wodge of my backlist that is going to be rereleased soonish, and about which I will give you all the details as soon as there’s a schedule to give you the details of.  BUT TRY TO IMAGINE HOW MUCH I HATE NOT MERELY WRITING COPY FOR MY OWN STUFF, which regular readers of this blog are well aware of, BUT WRITING IT FOR A WHOLE FRELLING STACK OF MY BOOKS.*  No, don’t try to imagine, it would be very bad for you.

But for a further graphic example of things going on, the twice frelling put off** new boiler installation finally happened yesterday.  YAAAAAAY.  Well, sort of, barring the gaping hole in my bank balance that is letting in a frigid blast of hostile air despite the mild September we’re having locally and the war zone the army of two left behind.  WORKMEN.  ARRRRRRGH.***  And where did all the frelling red dirt come from?  What is this, Louisiana/Mississippi/Alabama/Georgia/South Carolina?†  My entire house is sheeted in a thin, less than delightful film of powdery red dirt.††  So charming.  The bathroom was hazy with it Monday night and the excitingly renovated linen cupboard looked like something out of a bad fantasy film:  Evil Witch’s Grotto.  Put the red cellophane over the lens.   I could feel the cloud clinging to my skin as I climbed out of my (hot:  definitely hot) bath last night.  I don’t want to think about the newly-slightly-red-tinted condition of my lungs.  SO CHARMING.

The army of two showed up as promised at 10 am and were not early, so we got off to a good start—which is to say I was not only dressed but I’d had enough caffeine to be able to figure out how to get the front door key out of my pocket and open the door with it—this pleasing punctuality aside from the fact that if they hadn’t shown up as most recently promised I would have had to hunt them down and kill them because I am VERY TIRED of having my entire bathroom in cardboard boxes . . . not only because I can’t find anything but because there’s already no available floor space at the cottage because of the immediate distressing results of moving from a somewhat larger house to a somewhat smaller house, and the first time Joachim cancelled it was already the morning of the day he was supposed to come so I had sensibly already pulled everything out of the cupboard AND PUT IT IN BOXES.  You have no idea what you’ve managed to wedge into a rather small airing cupboard, rather full of boiler and hot water tank, till you have to take it all out and put it in boxes AND PUT THE BOXES SOMEWHERE.†††

Let me make this short, which the day was not.‡  Joachim and adjutant arrived.  They arrived with amazing amounts of kit, which meant I stayed downstairs with the Aga—which they had to turn off, so that was not satisfactory from a keeping-tea-hot perspective—because I couldn’t get into my office with the upstairs hallway JAMMED with screwdrivers‡‡ and winches and a small backhoe, and I didn’t like to decamp to Third House when they kept asking me things like, where is the gas line?, which I could have told them over the phone but not so they could find it without serious excavation‡‡‡, or where is the nearest plumbers’ supply house?  When they didn’t have a spare of something that just broke.  Oh.

They were due to clear off by three in the afternoon.  Four latest.  THEY WERE THERE TILL SIX THIRTY.  But I’m looking on the bright side.  They only destroyed one window screen and a rather good fuchsia, although I’m hoping the latter will recover.  They did attempt to clean up after themselves.§  They were polite.§§  And while the additional space in the airing cupboard may be a bit of a bust there is definitely more space in the attic where the holding tank came out.  And I haven’t seen any bats emerging from the new holes in the ceiling . . . but I’d better get Atlas to patch them before the bat mums come home to the largest pipistrelle nursery in Hampshire next spring.

And I do (still) have hot water.  But I had hot water before.  The crucial moment comes later in the season when I try to turn the central heating on for the first time. . . . §§§

* * *

* Especially old ones where I may actually have to read a bit here and there to make it likelier I get it right.  There’s very little worse than flipping frustratedly through something you yourself wrote because you’re CONVINCED that this or that thing happened and it has to have happened before/after this or that other thing, didn’t it?  DIDN’T IT?  MAYBE IT WAS IN SOME OTHER BOOK NOOOOOOOOO??  Arrrrrrgh.  How to feel really, really stupid without even any recourse to maths.^

That’s aside from the nooooo I didn’t really use that cringe-making metaphor did I?  I didn’t really allow the plot to do that did I? I didn’t really name that character that, did I?^^  Why didn’t I grow up to be a mechanic?^^^

^ Hey, I don’t hate maths like I used to+ but all those clever maths books I like reading in the bath?  I read the story or the set up or the problem or the joke or something and go, oooooh, cool . . . and then I look up the answer in the back of the book.

+ Unless there’s something about money involved in which case I hate it worseMoney is a stupid system.  Let’s find another one.  Which may or may not be maths based.  I vote for not.

^^ That’ll be one of the names the story didn’t give me, that I had to choose.  Brrrrrr.

^^^ Because no one in his, or her, right mind would hire me.  Mercy Thompson would laugh till she did herself an injury.  So would Munch Mancini.

** Due to what sounded like a pretty genuine family emergency and resultant critical shortage of childminders.  Or maybe Joachim just uses hire-a-kid for verisimilitude.

*** Okay, the really good part?  No builder’s cracks.

† I know there’s really RED red dirt in the American South somewhere because I remember being amazed by it.  I just don’t remember where I was at the time.^


†† Okay, it’s probably brick dust.  That’s not nearly so romantic.

††† The irony is that one of the things he seduced me with is the fact that there would be more ROOM in my small airing cupboard because the new boiler is an on-demand so . . . no tank.  Well.  Sort of more room.  Because of where the new thing is hung and where its dashboard is there’s not hugely more room than there was when there was a tank in there the size of a small nuclear silo.^  The best thing about the new gold-plated^ whatsit is that there is no hideously complex control panel for the end user—the dashboard on the thing itself is for professionals—the frelling wall panel for the shivering householder on my old one was diabolical.  You had like six columns^^^ and you had to choose the right button in each of the six columns to get what you wanted.  The permutations are . . . mathematically intimidating.  And this is one of the few occasions when the right answer is not ‘chocolate’.  THE NEW ONE YOU JUST TURN THE HOT TAP ON OR THE THERMOSTAT UP.  There is NO control panel.  I could almost talk myself into it being worth the money.#

^ You could still run out of hot water if you topped up your cooling bath too often.  Hey, it’s an exciting knitting magazine!  Double sized with pull outs!  I want to finish reading!

^^ At this PRICE?  It better be gold-plated.  I think I was promised diamond encrusted.  Maybe there are diamonds once I get the red dirt cleaned off. +

+ Furthermore it’s STICKY.  It doesn’t come off EASILY.=

= See?  It is clay.  It’s not brick dust.

^^^ Hot, cold, yes, no, left, right, octopus and Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch.

# Although this is one of those Where Did We Go Wrong moments.  The furnaces and hot water of my childhood were like this.  You could go down into the basement and stare at a couple of glass tubes with motor oil or magma or something moving slowly back and forth in them but generally speaking you turned the thing on or off upstairs and it worked and when it didn’t work you called a plumber.  You couldn’t programme it to turn on for seventeen minutes February 3rd, 2044, no, but I do not consider this facility worth the misery at 3 a.m. tonight when you just want a bath.  If one of the six columns had ‘hurtle the hellmob’ as an option I’d reconsider, but I have yet to see a boiler out on the trot with a lead extruding from its input valve.  Yaay retro.  Yaay primitive.  Yaay HOT BATHS ON DEMAND.

‡ And I have to go to bed in order to get up FRESH and SPRINGY and ATHLETIC and ready to go on mashing the attic at Third House.  The backlist comes home next Monday whether I’m ready or not.

‡‡ One of which they left behind.  The shank on it is about three feet long.  I don’t want to know.

‡‡‡ It’s in the greenhouse.  Nuff said.  Where the tap to turn the water into the house off is worse however because I hadn’t thought to clear that cupboard out.  Sigh.

§ I only found half a dozen screws, presumably to keep the screwdriver company.  As well as a lot of adherent red dirt.

§§ Even if Joachim can’t stop calling his elderly female clients ‘darling’.  I think possibly on account of my eruptions on the subject of control panels he thinks I need looking after.

§§§ I don’t want so mild a winter I don’t ever turn it on.  I want the slugs and snails and the black spot and the aphids and the red lily beetle to die.

Important News from the Living in Houses Division



Yes, and on shelves, you rude person.  I admit however that I’m rapidly reaching the end of the double shelving that is even possible, having passed the ‘desirable’ stage years ago.*  Now there’s only the rest of the house to deal with.**  And the attic at Third House.  Which is achieving epic status.  Not in a good way.  AND IT’S SEPTEMBER TOMORROW.  I feel the frelling backlist’s hot breath on the back of my neck.  ARRRRRGH.***



One thing I’ve learned from walking shelter dogs this past year is that there are good and bad dogs of EVERY breed. . . . I used to think breed = personality but it’s just not that rigid . . . Our shelter runs to “pit bull types” and chihuahuas; some are good, some are bad. Some chihuahuas are so awesome . . . contrary to my expectation of bulbous headed dumb-as-a-post nervous things . . . and some pit bulls are so delightful, hucklebutting around . . . demanding belly rubs . . . contrary to my expectation of lowered-head stalkers that are always angry. . .

Yep.  Totally.  There are probably even evil whippets† in this world, and bullies with huge soft doe eyes.  One of the first significant dogs of my childhood was a Chihuahua and I’ve never forgotten him however many of the bulbous, hysterical thick-as-a-bricks I’ve encountered since.  There are a couple of sweet long-haired Chihuahuas I meet around here—they’re so TINY.  Staffies in my English experience are almost as schizophrenic as Labradors—I knew very few Staffies/pit bull types in the States.  Around here there are the scary, freaky, stalker with dripping fangs help-I’m-about-to-die type of Staffie and the kindly, mellow, walking-sofa-cushion Staffie.  The latter are very often startlingly submissive, although Southdowner told me and I’ve read it elsewhere since, that they were bred to be very, very, very submissive to humans because they were also bred for dog fighting, and a human needed to be able to break it up without getting bitten.  So you don’t want to make any assumptions if you’ve got dogs with you, although the local good-natured Staffies are fine with the hellhounds (Pav sometimes needs a little muffling, while the Staffie looks on in amusement).  But yeah.  Every time I meet another bulldozer-shovel-headed Lab I remind myself of the adorable whole-body-wag young Lab bitch who lives around the corner.


to have tadpoles coming in through the kitchen tap (it’s only for a month or two in the spring, after all)

!!! !!!! !!!!! (*speechless with horror*) Are you freaking SERIOUS? Isn’t there a screen on the tap to prevent things like that from coming through? Isn’t the water treated at the water treatment plant to kill things like that? I may never drink tap water again…

Snork.  Oh you sheltered urban types.  If you’re on town water you certainly shouldn’t have tadpoles coming through the tap, no.††  The water treatment plant or whatever should stop the wildlife at the door.  But not everybody is on town water, you know?  And not town water varies.  I have forgotten most of what I knew about it and things will have changed since I last lived in the American boonies.  There are ‘natural’ filtration systems that may be bulked up by your friendly neighbourhood contractor if your water is dubious and/or doesn’t pass its potability tests.  But if, for example, you get your water by a gravity feed from the local lake . . . you may find almost anything small enough to fit through a pipe in your sink occasionally.  I’ve stayed in quite ritzy ‘summer cottages’—those amazing frelling clapboard palaces the wealthy built around northern New England lakes a century or two ago—whose tap water was occasionally piquantly populated.  You put it through cheesecloth and then boil it.  Nobody I ever knew died.  And it gives you something to write postcards home about.

. . . Phooey.  It’s got late again when I wasn’t looking.†††  One of the drawbacks to not blogging every night any more is that I forget to keep an eye on the frelling clock.

* * *

* NO double shelving is desirable.  The amount of DESIRABLE double shelving is NONE.

** Including the rest of the sitting room.  Ahem.  Amazing what you can squeeze/unload in heaps into a small room when you’re motivated.  Ie it’s either going to be a small sitting room or outdoors under a tarpaulin being eaten by rats.  Or Oxfam, of course.  I’m tired of hauling things off to Oxfam.  In more ways than one.  Nina, who, unfortunately, keeps sashaying off to have a life, leaving me to cope, is brilliant about the getting-rid-of shtick.^  These are the boxes to go? she says briskly.  Um, I say, thinking anxiously of that Ace double both of which stories are unreadable but the covers are such irresistible ’50’s kitsch, what is one tiny paperback after all?^^  Or that utterly useless-for-my-purposes book about keeping llamas, which is all about DEFRA# rules and feed additives and NOTHING AT ALL about their personalities, about what they’re like to have around.##  But books on small### domestic camelids are comparatively rare, and this one is about llamas by someone who raises them and maybe if I sort of hold my hands over the book and close my eyes and concentrate I can access the author’s experience. . . . ~

Great, says Nina, and the boxes DISAPPEAR.  I don’t see either her or Ignatius carrying them out to the car or anything, they just DISAPPEAR.^^^  FOREVER.  Eeep.

^ She should have been one of those personal declutter consultants and could have retired in splendour instead of riding a second-hand bicycle to work at a worthy charity.  Although I’m glad she didn’t.  She’s intimidating enough just as a natural talent.

^^ Such thinking culminates in a lot of double shelving.  And possibly tarpaulins.

^^^ I kept all the good Ace Doubles.  Slightly depending on your definition of ‘good’.

#   Not necessarily every farmer’s best friend.

## There’s a small domestic camelid in one of the 4,017 Next Damar Book Queue.  Yes, I’ve already talked to b_twin about this problem.

### Or medium-sized domestic camelids.  Smaller than camels anyway.

~ This Isn’t the Book I Wanted But It Should Have Been also leads to double shelving.  This is a particularly appalling problem in history, I find, because an interesting book of history+ is interesting even if you were looking for household management in the eighteenth century and what has (mysteriously) fallen into your hands is about the development of the dragon motif in Ming porcelain.  What’s worse though is when you find exactly the book you wanted . . . and it’s so turgidly written you know you’ll never read it.++

+ All right, true, an interesting book is an interesting book, full stop.  It’s just I have a harder time laying down off-topic history.

++ I am so not a dedicated academic.

*** The cottage also has an attic which only hasn’t quite reached the terrifying proportions of Third House’s first because it’s smaller^ and second because I’d rather dump things in the sitting room than drag them up that frelling ladder.  And what with the trap door and the (crucial) hand rail the hatch is a good deal smaller than it was when I moved in and trying to get you and what you’re carrying up and through—and without knocking over the forest of geraniums enjoying the sunlight through the Velux window poorly sited by my predecessor at the top of the ladder—at best causes language.

^ Although the configuration is similar.  You can only stand up in the middle and the roof pitches down to about a handsbreadth of the floor.   You can stand up in some of the middle.  There isn’t a loo—there isn’t room for a loo—but there are some interesting cross-beams which serve the purpose of making head-damaging encounters painfully odds-on.


†† And you don’t actually want a screen on your tap.  Then you just have dead tadpoles in your pipe.  Ewwww.

††† I keep looking at the frelling hellhounds’ frelling food bowls and hoping for a miracle.  Frell.

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