December 13, 2013

Writerly stuff (much of it revisited)


I’ve just spent my blog-writing time hacking at an interview with 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 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. . . .

* * *

* 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.

Saturday evening at 11:30 and I’m finally eating supper*


What a good thing I have a link for you tonight.

This is me at my maunderiest—well, she kept asking me writery questions—so if you need to shampoo the cat tonight, that’s okay.  But there’s also a drawing to win a copy of PEGASUS so get over there long enough to leave a comment (please).

But it’s a good thing I have a link for you tonight because we’ve been here:**

And it was FIVE HOURS.  Cheez.  And I’ll tell you all about it tomorrow.***  So you may want to borrow someone else’s cat to shampoo tomorrow night.  Although I promise to be rude, if that helps.  Also there’s the story of trying to find a PARKING SPACE on a Saturday evening a fortnight before Christmas.

* * *

* And I have to get up to ring bells tomorrow morning 

** Which makes two links.  —And opera in the cinema better not starting getting so popular that us faithful start having trouble getting tickets.

*** Probably.  You know me, I can never stay on a subject.

Unexpected Handbell Jubilation


We rang a quarter peal!  Of bob minor!  (Sitting down!  In my WARM* sitting room!)   And I was on the tenors!  This is my first quarter not on the trebles!

            It was starting off to be a bad evening when Fernanda cancelled at the last minute.**  I have been working hard at my bob major, and I’m getting anxious to find out how all this time on iPhone Mobel and Pooka is going to translate.  I know it will have done me significant good, but I want to know how much and how significant.  And then there it was just Colin and Niall and me . . . BLAAAH.  So we settled down to ring some bob minor, and I was on the tenors, which are what I’m trying to learn this decade.  And Niall started calling bobs and things . . . and about ten minutes in I thought, oh . . . fiddlesticks.  I wonder if he . . . and another ten minutes went by and I thought, oh, dreck, he is.  At which point my hair started tickling my face and my nose began itching like crazy, which is what happens when you’re ringing a quarter peal. 

            We did it!  We did it!  We rang a quarter peal in honour of heat and hot water! 

And in similarly frivolous mood, here is a link to a frivolous interview and she’s also running a giveaway 

* * *

*WarmwarmwarmwarmwarmWARM!  And there was hot water to wash the tea mugs!!!  YAAAAY!  And I’m looking forward to a HOT BATH tonight!^  . . . Not that this happy outcome was achieved without some struggle.  I dragged myself out of bed this morning in time to be capable of remembering what to do with a ringing phone^^ by 9 am.  When the plumber was supposed to ring me. 

            No one rang me.

            I took everything back out of the bathroom cupboard again, wrapped a few Christmas presents, and was stared at by hellhounds.

            At 10 am I rang the plumber.  Oh I do apologise, said the bloke on the other end in the standard meaningless British phrase.  Your plumber called in sick today and we’ve had to shift everybody else’s schedule . . . give me ten minutes and I’ll ring you back.

            At 10:30 I rang them again and got their receptionist who is (of course) the only person you can ever get any sense out of.  I will ring you back, she said, and she did.  I then rang Peter, who toiled back up to this end of town to house sit again while I briefly hurtled some increasingly restless and inclined to be indignant hellhounds.

            Came home to a plumber.  This was plumber #2 from yesterday.^^^  Clearly plumber #1 had called in sick from shame.  Either that or he was light-headed from fever when he was here yesterday.  But plumber #2 seems to have been the business:  because I have HEAT!  I have HOT WATER!~

            Now tell me why everything that has fit beautifully~~ and, forgive me for reminding you, repeatedly, on the utterly unchanged middle shelf in the cupboard, which is where the sixty-three duvet covers and four hundred and ninety-six pillow cases live, suddenly no longer fit, now that I’m putting them back in for the last time.~~~

^ I’m getting behind on my reading. 


^^^ Who, just by the way, is a member of a multi-dog household. 

~ I have a terrifyingly large hole in my bank imbalance.  The Forbes list is entirely made up of plumbers, right?

~~ Well, not beautifully, exactly, but it fit 

~~~ I hope it is the last time.

** Poor Fernanda needs a new plumber.  She’s now been without heat and hot water for eleven days.  And after another futile wrangle with her current nest of vipers, she broke, and has gone off to Whortleberry to stay with her son, who has heat and hot water.  The last three days while I’ve been doing a certain amount of snapping and snarling on the subject of plumbers, I have kept reminding myself that my lot at least perform.  Eleven days in this weather?  Shouldn’t this be illegal or something?  I admit I don’t see Fernanda, who is rather precise and ladylike, happy at a local homeless hospice, but. . . .

Barnes & Noble reviews PEGASUS


Diane in MN sent me this link (thank you!), which I hadn’t seen: 

If you scroll down to the bottom you will find a good, interesting and thoughtful review of PEGASUS.  But before we get there . . . okay, the web and the use of the web are still new and evolving, headlines aren’t what they used to be and Google is a thing that didn’t use to be at all.  So maybe glancing over the pages for anything that catches your eye isn’t the way people read for web content—maybe most people just subscribe to, or to Paul Di Filippo, or search for ‘Robin McKinley’ or ‘PEGASUS reviews’ on Google, and this isn’t as confusing to most people as it is to me.  But why doesn’t B&N, or Di Filippo himself, have a subheading to the piece that says ‘Galen Beckett, THE HOUSE ON DURROW STREET, Patricia McKillip, THE BARDS OF BONE PLAIN, Robin McKinley, PEGASUS’?   Or am I hopelessly stuck in an ancient paper technology mindset?*

            However.  I’ve now given all of you the link, so please read it.  And while Pat McKillip is a buy-on-sight with me and I’m delighted she’s got a new book, I don’t know Galen Beckett—but after reading about HOUSE and its predecessor I will certainly hunt them out.

            And now to PEGASUS.  In the first place it’s just such a pleasure to be reviewed thoughtfully.  I acknowledge that taking time to muse over something is a colossal luxury which most reviewers don’t have—reviewing at best pays diddly, and most web reviewers do it for love of reading, and still have to fit that annoying day job in somehow.  I’m grateful for every READ THIS BOOK tweet or one-paragraph shout for attention . . . but something like what Di Filippo has done here makes me very happy.

            I’m also thrilled that he pretty well leads off with the paragraph in which I describe the pegasi in terms that make it very clear that they are not flying horses.  In fact, I’m going to reprint it—yes, again—because this is another of those things that keeps coming up and coming up and coming up and while I’m doubtless preaching to the saved, still it makes me feel better:**

Pegasi looked almost like four-legged birds, standing next to horses. Their necks were longer and their bodies shorter in comparison, their ribs tremendously widesprung for lung space and their shoulders broad for wing muscles, but tapering away behind to almost nothing; their bellies tucked up like sighthounds’, although there were deep lines of muscles on their hindquarters. Their legs seemed as slender as grass stems, and the place where the head met the neck was so delicate a child’s hands could ring it…

Yep.  Got that?  Memorised it?  Tattooed it on the back of your hand so you can refer to it at need?  Great.  Splendid.  And then Di Filippo says:  ‘Definitely alien, a bit creepy, and almost insectile. Not your off-the-shelf wish-fulfillment cousins to unicorns.’  Italics mine. 

            I’m drily amused that he can see my world-building as SF-y.  I see exactly what he means, and I consider it a compliment;  I’ve said many times that for me fantasy only works—as reader as well as writer—when it’s grounded in a world that feels solid, and SF is the nuts-and-bolts, how-and-what-then branch of the imaginary real.***  And I probably approach it in a somewhat SF-y way, which I’ve talked about in recent interviews:  I look around the story-world I’m in and take notes–like a lab tech, if you will.  And the stuff I can’t see or don’t hear the characters talk about, I’ll try to triangulate from things I do know. †

            Di Filippo says:  ‘One gets the sense almost that Sylvi is a mutant, the first of her kind in eight centuries, another SF riff.’  Huh.  A perfectly valid observation, but mutant is such an SF word;  as I write Sylvi’s story, I’m just thinking about the 800 years of the two species bumping into each other—it has to have an effect.  Someone like Sylvi was going to have to happen some day, or the Alliance would eventually break down—although an 800-year treaty is pretty good going by human standards—I’d say it would have splintered at the point that either side stopped hoping for or believing in the moment or the person (human or pegasus) when they could talk to each other directly.  But there’s always someone who’s found a way to take advantage of a situation, especially an unsatisfactory, unbalanced situation—and that would be Fthoom and his coterie in this instance.  Which is why there’s a story.

            Di Filippo says:  ‘McKinley is explicit that her tale is a parable of race relations. (Did I mention that Ebon is a rare black pegasus?)’  Depends on what you mean by explicit:  Ebon arrived very much a complete package, and black was part of the package.  I didn’t mean to do this, and in fact worried about it, worried that Ebon’s blackness could be interpreted as a thumping great piece of moralising twaddle—but, those of you who have read PEGASUS, can you imagine trying to convince Ebon to disguise himself as  brown or grey or flaxen?  Not on.  So black he remained.  At the same time, De Filippo’s point is again valid and while as I keep saying the story is the story and I’m just†† writing it down, I’m aware of the parallels between one mixed lot of folks in Sylvi’s world having trouble communicating across a complicated barrier and another mixed lot of folks in our world having similar problems.

            And finally he says:  ‘Another subtext that is acknowledged glancingly, but is just as vital, is that of Sylvi’s adolescent sexual awakening—and interracial sexual awakening at that.’   Yes.  Well.  Ahem.  Yes, I do think Sylvi and Ebon’s relationship is hellishly sexually charged . . . and a week or something ago THE FRELLING ENDING OF PEG II JUST BLEW UP IN MY FACE AGAIN so I am right back to not being sure what happens.†††  Di Filippo is not the first person to comment on the romantic subtext, although he may be the first to do it without snickering and suggesting I’ve painted myself into a corner.  I keep telling you it’s not up to me.  The story’s not worried.  So I’m not worried either.  Much.

* * *

* And while I’m complaining, why is there only a single featured title from the essay in the right-hand column?  Why aren’t BARDS and PEGASUS included?

** I was at least half-resigned to fighting the PEGASI ARE NOT FLYING HORSES battle, but I was—and am—not at all resigned to the continuing tide of will there be a PEG II queries.  Every time I get another clutch of them I ask Blogmom, who is also my webperson, to hang yet another banner saying PEGASUS II COMING IN 2012 somewhere.  Anywhere.  Everywhere.  The queries are still coming in.  WTF?  There’s now one of those banners immediately above the contact email button on the web site . . . but the emails are still coming.  It would take less time to look around either the blog or the web site than it takes to write me the email.  Arrgh.  And I’m still amazed that so many people don’t recognise a broken-off story when they see one.  Of course that’s not the end!  Good grief.  However, there will be a line or a paragraph in reprints of PEG I that PEG II is on its way which should finally stem that tide. 

            But for those of you who want to abuse and berate me for doing something so inexpressibly horrible as to write a cliffhanger and inflict it upon my audience . . . pffft.  I’m not impressed.  Life is what happens while you’re making other plans.  Stories are what happen when the writer loses control.  You want safe and predictable, there are plenty of cereal-box backs out there. 

*** When I was a mere slip of a young thing—and still went to SF&F cons regularly—there was often a fair amount of needle between the SF camp and the F:  they thought we were fey and feckless, and we thought they were dour and dull.  Perhaps this is inevitable, and rivalry is supposed to be healthy and inspirational and all, but I’d personally much rather it went away.  There are better things to strive over—and certainly some of the old boundaries are blurring;  there’s a lot of urban ‘fantasy’ that could just as well be urban SF, alternate history, eh, it’s often both, and the steampunk I like usually has some fantasy feel to it. 

† Mind you I have a slight sense of ‘what other way is there?’ but I’m probably suffering tunnel vision. 


††† You guys don’t really have to worry.  This is not the first time this has happened to me.  It won’t be the last.  I may be dangling from the ceiling and throwing oatmeal at the walls by the time I turn PEG II in, but I will turn it in, and it will have the ending it’s supposed to have.  Gah.  Be glad for your nice job as a bricklayer or maths tutor or microbiologist.  You don’t want to be a writer.  There’s way too much screaming involved in being a writer. 

            Postscript:  If, however, you’re hanging on for the graphic interspecies love scene, don’t bother.  While the nearest I’ve got to graphic sex was some pretty kinky semi-trans-species^ stuff in SUNSHINE, thus clearly indicating that I’m a deviant, it’s not going to happen this time, okay?  Please leave quietly.

 ^ Okay, what’s a vampire?  Homo sanguinis potor?

A Very Merry Unbirthday


Yep.   It’s my birthday.*  But it’s late** and I’m . . . um . . . drunk***.  And Melissa Marr’s interview with me went live today and since I follow her and she tweeted it I retweeted and it’s just too silly not to put it up here today too.   Which is a really good excuse and I reminded myself of it as I tipped the last of the champagne down my throat.  You really don’t want to waste it.  The champagne or the interview. #

We’ll have November 16 a day late tomorrow.  With gratuitous photos of vivid and explicit birthday presents. ##

* * *

* Well, it was my birthday.  It’s past midnight again.  It keeps doing that when I’m not looking.

** Duh.

*** Elderly Newbery-award-winning-author drunk!   Video footage of extreme depravity captured on YouTube!  There was champagne involved!  And not only champagne but claret!  How the mighty role models are fallen!  They may even be rolling around on the floor singing!

# And she’s giving away three copies of PEGASUS and three PEGASUS posters.  So get your fingers over there and enter.

## Some of them are pink.

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