I’ve just spent my blog-writing time hacking at an interview with http://www.lightspeedmagazine.com/ which is reprinting Hellhound—which I will attempt to remember to link to when it comes on line. Although all of you have OF COURSE already read Hellhound in Peter’s and my FIRE stories a few years ago . . . and the truth of the matter is that you’ll also have read everything I have to say in any possible interview some time in the last six years on this blog, in most cases several times, if you’re one of the stoics that have either been here from the beginning or, on insomniac nights, read back to the beginning. But it might amuse you to reread some of it. I think I’m getting harder to interview as I get older. I HAVE NO CLUE WHERE MY INSPIRATION FOR A STORY COMES FROM. I HAVE NEVER HAD ANY CLUE WHERE STORY INSPIRATION COMES FROM. But the frantic desire to say something remotely responsive to some nice person who is paying you money* to reprint an old story may result in some rather strange non-answers.
And speaking of how totally hopeless I am as a self-publicist, and of links . . . the UK ebook of SHADOWS became available over a week ago. Have I . . . erm . . . mentioned this? Maybe I did and I’ve just forgotten. I can’t give you a link—you’ll have to go strive with amazon.co.uk yourselves—first because I do not go near my own pages on amazon, Goodreads or any other site where readers congregate and talk about books and never will, unless someone holds a gun to my head, which I would be very, very grateful if they did not. Secondly because I do use amazon, cautiously and guardedly, and I haven’t had any trouble with its denying my existence and cancelling my credit card lately and I would like this happy conjunction to continue. It’s one of those oppressively clever sites that recognises you the minute you sign on however—so far as I can tell wherever you sign on from: it took your virtual fingerprints with your name and address back in the day—so if I send you a link, I’ll be linking you to my account. I don’t want to log out to do it because I guarantee we would go through the you-do-not-exist-your-password-does-not-exist-and-your-credit-card-is-a-hellterror-chewtoy experience when I tried to log back in again—I’ve been through this—and I would find this wearisome. Just as I found it wearisome the last time it happened.
But the SHADOWS UK ebook came out on 5 December. So any of you foolish enough to be waiting for me to tell you it’s there waiting for you—this is how I keep eating: you would be forgiven for assuming I would tell you in an expeditious manner that a book of mine is available for purchase—IT’S WAITING FOR YOU. Go and buy several copies. Good Christmas present.**
And now for the piece de resistance:
Some splendid person on Twitter posted this and because I am a moron I forgot to write down who it was. If it is someone who reads this blog THANK YOU SPLENDID PERSON. I laughed and laughed and laughed . . . and then I went and punched a few holes in the wall because it is so true. It is so true it’s almost not funny.
For example, there’s a variation to number two, where the person the author is talking to says, oh, have you read X? You must read it! It’s just like your book Y, ONLY BETTER!!! —I still cannot begin to imagine what this person was thinking of. Since it happened to me***, and the person who told me to read X because it was like my Y only better, was a bookseller in a bookstore. Quite a large and famous bookstore in fact. And . . . I have as a result never read ANY of the novels of the author of X. Because I am a cow, and an easily traumatised, unfair-grudge-holding cow. Mooo.†
Number four also includes that the person is going to offer to split with you sixty/forty if you write up their great idea because the idea is the important thing (which is why they’re retaining the sixty percent) and you already know how the writing thing works so they don’t have to bother. There are advantages to living in a small unidentified town.††
And number seven: ARRRGLE ARRRRRRRRRRGH ARRRRRRRRGLE. Possibly my pet peeve of pet peeves: readers that do your book down because it isn’t the book they wanted to read.
Number fourteen: I came in from trying to answer an interview question about my writing process. . . .
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* Sure it’s a modest sum. The point is it’s any sum.
** There is a way to send ebooks as Christmas presents, right?
Oh. Cool. I might even be able to do this.
^ I have NO IDEA why this isn’t appearing within my account. Amazon just likes yanking me around. I knew that.
*** And this is one of those stories long-term blog readers have read before. It haunts me. Well it would.
† Also, you know, life is short and there are a lot of books I’m never going to read. I judge books by their covers too. Do I want to have to look at this cover in my house? No? Great. Don’t buy it. I have too many frelling books already.
†† And yes, it would take you about thirty seconds to break my alias, if you really wanted to. But that I alias everything does suggest that I don’t want to be found, doesn’t it?^ So don’t bother to email me and suggest coffee. No. I don’t drink coffee anyway.
^ It’s also fun. How else would I get to invent town names like Sagging Dormouse or Smedley-on-Cucumber? They’d never let me put it in my fiction.
I really need a night off.* So I thought I’d leave you with two Exciting Announcements and a few links.**
Peter’s IN THE PALACE OF THE KHANS has been nominated for the Carnegie long list:
And just in case you haven’t already bought your copy, here’s a reminder:
The ‘buy now’ takes you to amazon.uk but amazon.com and Barnes and Noble have it as well.
And SHADOWS is coming out in the UK:
EBook 5 December
Paperback 2 January
The cover will look pretty much the same and the blurby stuff has been rewritten but it’s still about Maggie and some very peculiar shadows. It should be available for pre-order by now.**
And if you wish to be encouraged, possibly inspired, but not to say hectored, pleeeeease read this:
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* You know there are several people out there who have offered guest posts and then disappeared. . . . Just thought this might be worth mentioning.
** You’ll have to look the link up yourselves. I don’t go near the Robin McKinley pages on amazon.
*** Or if you want to be reminded of my back catalogue you can read this:
I need something more nearly resembling a night off than my usual shortish Wednesday. So I thought I’d give you someone else’s story.
Someone tweeted me this a few days ago and I was avoiding work* or something and clicked through to read it. I really liked it. Don’t let the typos at the beginning put you off—as they nearly put me off—these things do happen, especially when you’re attempting to perform your proofreading late at night and you just want to hang the freller and go to bed.**
I like the way she’s taken a fairly ordinary things-that-go-bump-in-the-night story arc and made it real through her characters. I like the way the characters aren’t quite what you’re expecting. I like the seamlessness with which she makes her characters not quite what you’re expecting***.
There are more stories where this one came from on her web site, and she’s got a book for sale on amazon: http://www.amazon.com/City-Ghosts-Stories-Betsy-Phillips/dp/145369983X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1382572476&sr=8-1&keywords=Betsy+Phillips+A+City+of+Ghosts
I haven’t bought it yet but the ebook is CHEEEEEEEAP and I’m sure I’ll decide it’s wasteful not to buy it.
. . . And just in case you need a Silly Animal Video:
Although my informant says it’s gone viral so you may have seen it already. I do feel that the human in question is a trifle naïve to have put that cat gym next to the door and then be surprised at the result. . . .
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** Ask me how I know this.
*** I may also be extra-disposed to like stories with porcelain-faced dolls in them at the moment because I’m reading ALCHEMY OF STONE.
I’m better. But I’m not enough better. Although this may be a good thing because I cancelled my dentist’s appointment for tomorrow—three hours, no lie, and at £300 a minute I’m expecting my entire mouth to be gold-plated with cabochon diamonds generously studding all the teeth that show when I smile.* If I ever smile again after paying the bill. Anyway. I was supposed to go in and be hammered and excavated and shot full of creepy toxic dental anaesthesia tomorrow, but I don’t dare so soon after a major ME shut-down day. I’m not actually thrilled with putting it off—now I have to go through the Approaching Dread phase twice—but because I am a clueless la-la-la brain I’d managed not to notice I have a handbell wedding—that is, a wedding I’ve agreed to ring handbells for—this Saturday. The three of us, Niall, Gemma and I, are finally only getting together for a practise run-through this Friday, the day before—and the day after I was supposed to spend three hours at the dentist. If I’m very polite the ME will probably let me do this: I have no negotiating skill with dental anaesthesia hangovers. So it’s kind of just as well it’s turned out this way. I cautiously went to tower bell practise tonight, which was not a total disaster although the brain was definitely deliquescent by the end, and Gemma was asking anxiously about the wedding (it’s her friend’s daughter who’s getting married). The worst that happens is that we’ll have to ring plain courses, I said.** And I may have to sit down occasionally. And we may have to shift to smaller bells*** if my wrists give out.† ME is just one big fat frelling har-di-har-har after another. Arrrgh. Anyway. I’m better.
Meanwhile it’s still short Wednesday.
A friend send me this a few days ago: http://www.matthaig.com/some-fucking-writing-tips/ ††
The link’s address gives you fair warning about the one thing you need warning about. If bad language bothers you, don’t go there: he does say going in that he’s just coming off a long gig where his only directive was that he couldn’t swear, and he had a lot of catching up to do.††† But the writing tips made me laugh and laugh.
Although this one made me laugh even more:
Haig also writes very good, very funny books. I even blog-recced about TO BE A CAT. I admit I am shamelessly waiting for THE HUMANS to come out in paper. I could buy the e version . . . but I don’t want to. I want to be able to drop it in the bath when I laugh.
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* Supposing there are cabochon diamonds, but I don’t fancy scratchy facets against the inside of my lip.^
^ I think tongue, cheek and lip piercings look painful.
** I ring methods on handbells, remember. Not tunes.
*** It’s a big church. Even big handbells are going to be kind of lost. Maybe we could stand on a large box with a megaphone. Handbell weddings I have attended previously have been at seriously quaint old rural churches, not some frelling urban monster which except for the exigencies of church hierarchy which I don’t understand ought to be a cathedral.
† One of the oh so terribly amusing things about Growing Old with ME is that you have no idea what’s frelling causing anything. Do my hands hurt because I’m having an ME flare or a rheumatism/arthritis flare?^ Discuss. No, don’t bother to discuss. Have a cup of tea and think about something else.
^ I read somewhere recently that almost everyone has at least some arthritis by the time they’re sixty. So I have lots of company.
†† I especially commend #1 to your attention. All of you who think being a writer is some kind of glamorous.
††† And—ahem—on a bad day I sound just like this. On a day when the hellhounds aren’t eating, the hellterror has just eaten another blanket,^ PEG II is dead in the water, it’s raining and the right-colour All Stars have a hole in the bottom, the house is full of spiders and my singing voice is full of crackly splinters I SOUND JUST LIKE THIS.^^
^ She has MILLIONS of toys! She’d rather shred her bedding! ARRRGH!
^^ If I can’t sing I might as well shout.
‡ Although #3? Feh. He’s a Brit, he can find a bell tower to join. And #9 made me laugh so hard I nearly threw up. You might not want to be eating when you read it. Or maybe it’s just I’ve heard from JesusRainbowUnicorn too. Although I’m pretty sure it wasn’t Idaho. Possibly Yorkshire.
Diane in MN
The Guardian article reminded me of a passage I read in an essay, or maybe a story intro, by Ursula Le Guin many years ago. She quoted someone who’d written something like “there was no technology in the Americas before Columbus” and commented that maybe he (yes) thought that pottery and baskets grew on trees. I assume she wanted to make a point about how one defines technology, and that’s why she didn’t also mention metalworking, irrigation, architecture, etc. I’d guess that it’s only since the Industrial Revolution that people have equated technology with machines, and the more familiar a machine is, the less “technological” it’s perceived to be. I would call a (printed) book perfected technology, but I’m probably in a minority. (Well, maybe not in this group.)
Has everyone here read Joanna Russ’ HOW TO SUPPRESS WOMEN’S WRITING? If not you should give it a try. I think anyone who is interested in the whole Girls/Women Who Do Things issue—and if you’re not, why are you reading this author’s blog?—would find it pretty riveting. It’s from 1983 so it should be out of date, right? Nope. I reread it about five years ago—since the move into town, anyway, so less than nine years—and it’s still only too accurate. It’s also very funny, if often in a blood-letting—or blood-curdling—kind of way. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/How_to_Suppress_Women%27s_Writing
I’m delighted Wiki has the right edition on display—click on the link and just read the cover, and see if you don’t immediately have to read the book.
I also totally agree about hard copy printed bound books being perfected technology.* At this point I do read a lot on Astarte, but that’s convenience. Pdf: bring it on. Mss: give me the electronic version. And if your iPad is in your knapsack anyway you don’t have to have any last-minute crises about what book you’re taking with you because if the hard copy you snatched up on the way out the door is the last thing you want to read when you arrive** then you have several dozen or possibly several hundred alternatives on your e-reader gizmo.***
But having always been a fidget—and learning that fidgeting isn’t enough either—I’ve started standing up more, especially at the cottage
Susan Orlean had a piece in The New Yorker a while ago about treadmill desks–which, as you might guess, are treadmills with desk bits in the front, so you can work while walking–that made me WANT a treadmill desk. There are manufacturers that make them, so you don’t have to cobble one together from abandoned exercise equipment and old furniture. Orlean said that using a keyboard while walking was easier than she expected; drinking coffee, not so much. Maybe not quite perfected technology . . .
Hmm. The New Yorker has a hit and miss free-availability on line attitude. I’m not sure if this is the full thing or not but it certainly gives you the idea: http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2013/05/20/130520fa_fact_orlean
And again . . . hmm. It doesn’t fill me with longing but where would I PUT the thing? I work regularly at at least three different desk/table/kitchen island situations† ALL OF THEM TOO SMALL FOR A TREADMILL.†† If I hadn’t just read that article about how fidgeting isn’t enough I’d be dismissing this out of hand as for other people but maybe this is The Future of No Longer Sedentary Work. And we’ll all live (nearly) forever, happy, healthy and productive. Definitely a yaaay scenario. †††
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* Even if they do frell around with glues and bindings and signatures and what the paper is made of and so on.
** Back in the days when I still travelled the books you took with you was a serious issue. What you wanted to read in the departure lounge or on the runway varied with how many delays, reschedulings, being dragged out of the queue for extra searches, and the number of babies with colic in the immediate vicinity there have been so far—and the book you really want now is in your checked luggage. On your way home again there will be a different constellation of frustrations, so even if you have that book in your carryon this time it will be the wrong book. Although are you still not allowed to have any electronic devices on during takeoff and landing? I know they keep changing their minds about this, like they keep changing their minds about knitting needles. So you probably still need at least one hard copy volume with you. As a symbol if nothing else.^
^ That would be LOTR then.
*** And then there’s listening to audible^ on your iPhone while you knit. Which is one of the great pleasures of life and proves something or other about the positive aspect of the march of time and progress and learning new stuff and being open to new experiences blah blah blah blah blah. Five years ago I didn’t knit or listen to audiobooks.
If anyone who can get on line to read this blog can possibly not know about amazon’s read-aloud books subdivision.+ There are other read-aloud companies out there but ::shuffles feet:: I actually subscribe to audible.
Which reminds me, someone on the forum recently asked about Christian books. I’ll still try to do a blog some day about my favourites so far but on the subject of read-aloud. . . . Aloysius had recommended Rob Bell’s LOVE WINS some time ago after I’d had a mini-rant on the more-or-less standard concept of hell, where if you screwed up in life you will be CONDEMNED FOREVER. Nope. Don’t buy it. I don’t care what some people tell me Scripture++ says. Love wins. In some cases it’s going to take millennia but that’s okay. God is patient. And a good thing too.
So I tried LOVE WINS. HAAAAAAAAATED it.
All those one-line paragraphs?
Pages and pages of them?
How stupid does this boy think we are?
And lacking in attention span?
So I threw it across the room a few times and forgot about it.
And then we had a video one Sunday at St Margaret’s, and it was short and pithy and really good. And it was Rob Bell. Oh, I thought. Hmmm. So the next time I had to buy something on my subscription to audible, I bought LOVE WINS. And listened to it. And loved it. It’s now one of my Best Books but only when read aloud. If you look the printed version up on amazon you’ll see the one-line paragraph deal in the excerpt. If it doesn’t make you crazy, fine. If it does make you crazy, but you like the love-wins concept, try the audio. Bell himself is doing it and he’s got a stand-up comic’s timing. I had been so busy gnashing my teeth over the print edition I hadn’t noticed it was funny. . . .
+ Sorry about the ridiculously long address. I was trying not to drop you in my account, which opens automatically if I go to the main opening page. I’m sure you can log out but [computer] technology and I . . . well . . .
++ Besides, ‘Scripture’ is terrifyingly mutable.
† Four. Okay, maybe five. Not counting balancing it on the back of some sofa or other surrounded by hellcritters.
†† Not to mention convincing the hellterror that it isn’t Beelzebub and needs vanquishing.
††† And if this is the ME eating my brain at least it’s cheerful for a change. ME hallucinations generally go for the post-apocalyptic.