September 16, 2014

Shadows is here!

The backlist came home today

 

All 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 boxes of it. I should know, I shifted all of them. I am a HEROINE.  Peter says so.  I am a heroine having a nice little quarter bottle of champagne.*  I’m kind of assuming I won’t get out of bed at all tomorrow** because all my muscles will have gone paralytic*** as well as the ME saying, you did WHAT? Lie down,† but tonight I am aglow with virtue and a certain amount of astonishment.  I’m still half spazzing with adrenaline so I thought I could tell you about how amazing I am.

Everything went wrong really early when I had a tech disaster over breakfast†† so I got up to Third House, to meet Atlas and his trailer, a good half hour later than scheduled. Fortunately Atlas is used to me.

It took two trips to haul all those boxes home††† and Atlas got all lugubrious the first time and said it might take three‡ whereupon I went into Frantic Action Mode and shoved a dozen boxes into Wolfgang, who is a bit tardis-like that way.  We weren’t going to get our somewhat bedraggled loot‡‡ into the attic today so Atlas unloaded it onto a pallet of black plastic garbage bags on the paving in front of the summerhouse‡‡‡ and then we rushed back for the second load . . . well, ‘rush’ does not pertain to Atlas’ trailer, but he set out while I went back to the cottage for Pav and (a) got embroiled with a neighbour having a flap (b) WOLFGANG WAS MAKING A STRANGE NEW NOISE§ (c) got stuck behind a bicycle for about three miles.§§  By the time I finally arrived Atlas had nearly finished his plan for world peace and was just drawing up his list of world leaders to send it to.

When Atlas got the last of the second load into the back garden it was past his time to leave. So I was left looking at an Alp of book boxes.  Peter told me helpfully that it might very well rain tonight.  Not enough to do the garden(s) any good.  Just enough to wet down boxes of backlist.

Tarpaulin, said Peter. Um, I said.  And started carrying boxes upstairs.  I meant to keep count, but I kept forgetting.  Nearly a hundred.  No, I’m serious.  Over ninety but not quite a hundred.  I think.  Some of them were small.  Not very many.

It took me quite a while. Atlas had sensibly put most of the biggest boxes in the bottom layer and by the time I reached it I had blisters on the middle joints of my little fingers and the insides of my arms just below the elbows.  I was also cranky. I shifted about twenty of these last leviathans under the porch roof by the garden/sitting room door in the niches created by the bay windows. Everything else is in the attic. Oh, and yes, it is all going to fit. . . .

I think I’ll take another arnica.§§§

* * *

* It’s going to be a drunken, revelrous week: we’re taking Nina and Ignatius out to dinner on Friday as an INADEQUATE THANK YOU for everything they’ve done around the house move.  Ignatius installed the much delayed splashback just this weekend.  I hadn’t had a car^ all week so I finally rang the Hardened Glass People on Friday and my impression is that they went around looking under everybody’s desks till they found it.  However, they did find it.^^  And Ignatius installed it.  Hurrah hurrah hurrah.  Tick one more thing off the House Move list.  Only nearly as many things left on said list as there are boxes of backlist.

^ And they mended the thing they found+ but everything I took him in for is still there going zap whine roar moan.

+ Note to self: next time Wolfgang starts rattling like a nearly twenty-year-old car, ask them to check that there are no shock absorbers ready to fall off and go whirling down the road independently while Wolfgang and I blast away in a sudden, unplanned different direction.

^^ I should not have been driving on Friday—I told you it was a bad ME day—but God was looking out for me.  He/she/it/they could have just not given me an ME day in the first place but I suppose that would be too easy.

** YAAAAAAY says the hellmob. MOVE OVER.

*** See, the champagne is therapeutic.  Really.  Absolutely.

† Yes, all right, don’t be so pushy, I need a pee first.  I’ll lie down again in a minute, supposing the hellmob has left me any space. Bed sharing presently is a bit problematic because HALF the bed is still taken up with all the sheets and towels out of my airing cupboard.  And have I mentioned that Atlas, my shelf builder, is GOING ON A FORTNIGHT’S HOLIDAY?

†† Most of my frelling kit at this point is ancient as tech goes, and while I hope the desktop—which is in fact the oldest of all—will soldier on for a while and possibly Pooka also, both the iPad and the laptop are frelling racing down that last long slope.  Poor Raphael would already have the new stuff at least ordered and probably installed by now if I didn’t KEEP CHANGING MY MIND.  There’s this vast horrible continuum of specs and . . . and . . . but the bottom line is that the Apple experiment has been kind of a bust.  Pooka—who is an iPhone, for anyone who has forgotten (!)—is okay and I’ll worry about what to upgrade her to when she starts failing, but I have had it with the iPad refusing to play nicely with all the Microsoft stuff I’ve been living by for the last fifteen or so years.  Fifteen or so years ago you could not get Apple over here, or at least no one would support it, so when I bought my first real computer it just was not an issue that all my American friends said Apple is better.  And I loathe Microsoft but it’s what I’m used to and I can’t be bothered trying to learn a whole new ratbagging system which, from my experience with the iPad is not so blindingly marvellous thank you very much. My next tablet will run Windows. Sue me.

††† Which is not wholly a bad thing. I took the hellhounds along the first time and hurtled them in the farmland, splendidly riddled with footpaths, beyond the storage place—loading Atlas’ trailer with book boxes is not really a two person job—and then brought the hellterror the second time and hurtled her. The hellhounds aren’t what I’d call safe to stock, but they do know I won’t let them chase anything interesting.  The hellterror got a little overexcited because she hasn’t had as many long country hurtles as the hellhounds had at her age but I’m still bigger than she is.  And she was so beside herself about the game birds that she missed a perfectly good rabbit sitting in the middle of a stubble field.

‡ We did this today^ in case it Did Not End Well because his only other free day before his fortnight away is Thursday,

^ When I could have been having my first voice lesson after a way-too-long break.  Summer holidays are overrated.

‡‡ Some of those boxes have been loaded and reloaded and written on and written over and written over the over so often they probably need new shock absorbers. And speaking of the disintegration of crucial parts I wish to remark again on the sheer bloody awfulness of British tape. I swear half the frelling boxes’ bottoms are falling out because the heavy packing tape has lost the will to live and started falling off like hair from a hellmob. Grrrrrrr.

‡‡‡ Which is full of Atlas’ tools and unfinished projects and leftover stuff from moving house. And I need to get it cleared out before the first frosts so I can get plants in there and the growlight back from the cottage’s sitting room.  ARRRRRRRRRGH.  Maybe I’ll lie down till January.  No, March.

§ Which seems to have been something he picked up bouncing over back roads, which then clattered its way back out again.  I HOPE.  But I wasted about five minutes crawling around on my hands and knees trying to find . . . whatever.

§§ I HATE BICYCLES. I am not sane on this subject.^  I have many friends who ride bicycles regularly and I have at least two who frelling race. I HATE BICYCLES.  If there isn’t room on a given road for a car to pass a bicycle it should be BANNED to bicycles.^^  They are a sodding hazard.  And for example today there were I think eight cars behind this bozo going fifteen miles an hour—which is a perfectly good speed for a bicycle—before we could get past him.  It regularly happens in the local equivalent of rush hour that #8 in the queue out of town will simply rocket on by the rest of us, white-knuckled with fury at our steering wheels ourselves, with the bicycle in the lead—and those adrenaline spikes when I’m waiting for all of us to die in a colossal pile up when a juggernaut comes over the hill and hits #8 on the wrong side of the road are very bad for me.

^ Consider yourselves warned. This is my blog.  You want to argue about it, go elsewhere.

^^ Or to cars. But these two forms of vehicular transport are incompatible on shared road space.  And I don’t want bicycles mowing down the hellmob and me on the pavement either.

§§§ You don’t have to be in pain already to take arnica.  The likely prospect will do.  If you know you’ve overdone it but you don’t know how badly . . . take some arnica.  And maybe you won’t have to find out.

The horror, the horror

 

The attic.  Moan.  The attic.  At Third House.  Moooooan.  The attic . . . moan.  August is almost gone and some time in September I have to bring the frelling backlist home from the last storage unit.  All forty-seven gazillion boxes of it.  And you can already hardly edge around* all the boxes of files** and of books*** that won’t fit† either downstairs or at the cottage††  Moan.

I NEED DISTRACTION.  I KNOW.  I’LL RESPOND TO A FEW FORUM COMMENTS.

Katinseattle

A few years ago I needed a plumber for my small bathroom. I warned the man at the other end of the phone line, “It’s a very small space.” He answered cheerfully, “I’ll send a very small plumber.” She was. And she fixed it. But she’s the only one I’ve ever seen.

For some reason, probably because I am still suffering post-house-move brain-blastedness†††, the reference to size makes me think of the stalwart young men who moved my piano, only one of the three of whom looked at all as if he might lift heavy things for a living.  I was also thinking of Plumbers I Have Known folding themselves up into spaces much too small for them . . . and the tendency among folded-up plumbers to demonstrate builder’s crack to an extreme degree.

All three of my piano movers were wearing the kind of low-slung trouserage prone to builder’s-crackage.  And as they all three bent down the first time to examine the basis of the situation I was treated to . . . a vast triple frontage‡ of LURID COLOURED BOXER SHORTS.  I was delighted.  I also nearly burst out laughing.

Nat

These blogs are sooooo making me not want to renovate our house, even though it’s desperately needed…

Oh come on.  It’s romantic having to put buckets out for the drips, and to lie snuggled up in bed listening to the mice playing polo in the walls, and to have tadpoles coming in through the kitchen tap (it’s only for a month or two in the spring, after all), and floorboards so aggressively wavy and unpredictable that if you’ve had a beer in the last twenty-four hours you’d better sleep in the barn (under a tarpaulin).  Where’s your sense of ADVENTURE?

Diane in MN

. . . As it’s a good and very efficient furnace, replacing it never came up: a good thing, as a new furnace would have been even spendier. I feel your pain.

Yes.  One of the—or rather the—clinching argument of Shiny New Plumber about replacing my current boiler is that by the time I bought the parts for the old one I’d be halfway to the new one . . . AND the old one is a piece of crap.  Since I only have Shiny New Plumber at all kind of far out on a limb of semi-unknown recommendations—one would rather hire a new plumber because one’s best friend has used him for twenty years and her entire family loves him including the goldfish, whom he replumbed on an emergency basis one Sunday afternoon when the fishtank exploded—I did look up the boiler he’s recommending and it’s number one by about twenty points in the WHICH? rating which is a good sign.  An even better sign will be if he knows how to put it in.  Mind you according to his web site he’s about third generation in a large family of plumbers . . . although he told me he is failing to interest his thirteen-year-old daughter in carrying on the family tradition.

And, speaking of small, and the state of the cottage‡‡, I hope the extra body he brings to assist him is svelte and bendy.   A thirteen-year-old daughter would be perfect.

But I really want my hot water.

Me too, big time, and so I NEVER TALK ABOUT IT because I don’t want to give the hot water heater any ideas, like thinking it’s reached retirement age. And I don’t know where that sentence came from; I never wrote it.

No, no, of course not, if your hot water heater comes round for confirmation I will stoutly deny everything.  My current object has only to last two more baths.  Please God and St Mermaid-of-the-Flowing-Waters.  I’ve had the uneasy sensation that it’s been getting a little whimsical since Shiny New Plumber condemned it.

Shalea

Hot water is one of the critical components of civilisation, in my opinion.

I ENTIRELY CONCUR.

Stardancer

Oof. At least you got a very nice individual plumber?

Well he’s certainly very jolly‡‡‡.  He also underwrites a seven-year guarantee on the new diamond-encrusted family member, which is popular.

Hoonerd

Wait, stuck on the lavender comment. Was the lady referring to her houseplant as her pet, is there really a dog breed nicknamed lavender, or was she referring to the unmentionably enthusiastic “L” word dogs?

Not exactly.  She was having a little trouble with the English language and maybe Labradors are called lavenders in her mother tongue.  I’m not sure if she was doing that thing of using the word that almost sounds right and assuming it would do, or whether her accent was so strong that ‘Labrador’ was coming out ‘lavender’.  Whatever.

Speaking of which, I may have been losing respect for them before reading the blog because everyone around here has them (or chihuahuas or pit bulls, or mixes of all three), but your anecdotes certainly haven’t helped their case.

Labradors are slime.  Except, occasionally, when they aren’t.  There are two entirely different strains of them any more, at least in England:  the proper old working dog style, and there’s a young bitch of this variety who lives around the corner who is a complete sweetie and I’m happy to see her coming, and the modern SUV-shaped ugly stupid monster, owned by ugly stupid people who let it wreck your temper as well as your gentle, bewildered hellhounds’, and to crap all over the churchyard and possibly your driveway.  I FRELLING WELL HATE LABRADORS.  Except, occasionally, when I don’t.  As above.

Chihuahuas are not a plague around here.  Pit bulls are, but pit bulls, or their ilk, are a plague pretty much everywhere.  It’s what gets popular, you know?  Popular is the death knell for anything nice.

And on that cheerful note . . .

 * * *

* Especially not without hitting your head on one of those where-did-that-come-from interesting ceiling angles.

** Including things like the original manuscript of BEAUTY.  Eeeeeep.  Which I rediscover every few years.  I think it gets more startling every time.  Also the original, equally smudgy, cut-and-pasted, liberally white-outed^ SWORD and HERO.  As I recall OUTLAWS is the worst in this regard.  I still have grisly flashbacks of kneeling on the floor in my little house in Maine, cutting up chapters and paragraphs and trying to tape them together again before I forget what I’m doing, and feverishly scrawling cryptic bridges in the margins, hoping I’ll be able to smooth them out later.  Or possibly OUTLAWS was the worst.  I used to burn a lot of mss in my early typewriter days.  Not so much now:  everything becomes second sheets for the printer.^^  Except occasionally when I revert and do my cutting and pasting in hard copy.  Occasionally this is therapeutic.

And then I burn them.  Sometimes.  Sometimes I just scream and tear them up.  And stomp on them.

^ Have you seen that there are typewriter aps for your iPad?  WHYYYYYYY?

^^ It’s surprisingly confusing having your own words on the back of your freshly printed out draft pages.  Even when you know that’s an old story and you’re working on a new story.

*** Books?  Books?  Never say.  I amaze myself.

† My thirty-six million horse books, fiction and nonfiction.  My nineteen million nonfiction critters of the world books, excluding horses, including a lot of guidebooks and wild critter rescue and management books, the majority being North American, including dozens of standard Audubon and Peterson field guides and so on, but by no means exclusively these—the NA collection expanded exponentially when I was figuring out DRAGONHAVEN and some of these are very small press/audience and peculiar.  The Australian critter books go with the general Australian collection—which considering I’ve only ever spent about five weeks there total is pretty impressive.  But Australia is, you know, mad, as well as instantly irresistible.  There’s nothing else anything like it.^  Including all that let’s-evolve-in-interesting-off-the-wall-ways on a huge freaky water-bound continent fauna, and flora to go with ’em.  WHEEEEEEE.  Also the Aboriginal mythology—that is, what the white invaders managed to write down about it—is fascinating.  And then there’s my British guidebook collection.  Siiiiiigh.  I adore guidebooks.  I buy them everywhere I go.^^  And I have the impassable attic to prove it.  AND PETER’S AND MY BACKLIST STILL HAS TO GO UP THERE.

^ Except maybe New Zealand or Tasmania in a distant-cousin way but I haven’t been to either of these.

^^ Sometimes I buy the same one several times.  Mottisfont, for example.  I must have three or four.  Every time the National Trust trots out a new edition—which is to say there are three more paragraphs of the foreword to the foreword to the foreword about what they’ve been doing since the last edition—I buy it again.  Hey, sometimes there are new rose photos.

†† I was hacking through the between-covers verbiage at the cottage today and thinking gloomily of the 1,000,000,000 fresh, new books I have on various wish lists at various on line emporia, and I know I will eventually add far more of these to my shopping basket(s) than I will delete, which does not address the books bought by opening a three-dimensional door, with or without three-dimensional bell, crossing a three-dimensional threshold, and browsing three-dimensional books on 3D shelves and tables, overseen by a very realistic-ly dimensional clerk who may or may not have a clue about books^ but can run a credit card machine.

^ It fascinates me that in the increasingly, or do I mean decreasingly, tiny beleaguered cult world of the high street bookstore, you do get clerks who seem to be there only because the gift shop didn’t have a grunt-level staff opening.

††† Or, even more likely, current attic complete mental breakdown

‡ Or backage, if you prefer

‡‡ You are reading the footnotes in order, aren’t you?

‡‡‡ He also, in the grand British working-man tradition, calls me ‘luv’.  I know I’m supposed to object to this, but it always makes me fall down laughing.  Increasingly so as they get younger and younger as I get older and older.  I know I’m twice his age because he mentioned being thirty-two.^

^ Which means, to have a thirteen-year-old daughter, he started young.

KES comments continued and so on and so on and doobie doobie do

 

Speaking of excellent stories, you’re all Octavia E Butler readers, I hope?*  Well, looky here:  http://www.publishersweekly.com/978-1-4976-0137-6

And now let the frivolity roll. . . .

AJLR

I hope Kes gets home soon, poor soul. I’m beginning to get quite concerned that she’ll catch a chill out there in her nightie.

Yes I’ve been worrying about that too.  It’s the sort of thing I won’t know till I get there.  Of course I often know things that still turn out to be wrong when I get there.**  But so far as I know she isn’t sneezing at the end of Part One.  Whether or not she wakes up the next morning (?) at the beginning of Part Two with a major fever that is trying to convince her she imagined most of Part One. . . . There will be one or two momentos of her experiences which will lobby rather forcefully against this ridiculous enterprise  however.***  Aside from the dead guy in the front hall.  I imagine Mr WS, being a gentleman, will do something about the body when the mayhem level subsides a bit† but I don’t think bloodstains on wooden floors is within his remit.  Maybe the hob will have some ideas. ††

Longhairmathgeek

I’m reminded of certain scenes in Sunshine which I reread recently…

I think this is a good thing . . . †††

. . . for the scripturally inclined: the second verse of Genesis, part of which is commonly translated “And darkness covered over the land,” could be trying to convey the sensation you’re describing [when Kes locates the Gate]. If you go back to the Hebrew, the word translated as ‘darkness’ could be translated as ‘seething unfathomable chaos.’

Darkness and Chaos being my natural state, of course.  This does give me the edge for certain descriptive passages.‡

Katinseattle

You didn’t know who shouted, only that it sounded like it came from someone standing with you, some Falcon, and that the voice was rough with both joy and terror. “Defender!”

Wait. Are these soldiers allies? Or enemies? Who are they fighting against? Who’s the Lady?

I realise you are expressing impatience, but if they were enemies, would the voice be rough with joy?

I take back what I said about wanting this story to go on forever. I want some answers.

You do?  Gee.  That’s too bad.

EMoon

The twisted strap on the saddle–I’ve had big nasty blisters from that. One of which got infected and…oh, wait, nobody wants to know about that. It’s just that I was taking a microbiology class at the time and I recognized…NO. (Smacks self on head, several times.)

Any time you want to write a guest blog on the interesting real-life applications of taking a microbiology class . . . we can just put a GROSS ALERT at the beginning.  And yeah, about blisters.  It is AMAZING how quickly a stupid little rubbing thing turns into a MAJOR WEEPING WOUND.  It’s why I’m so paranoid about shoes, since I spend so much of my time walking.  All Stars Rule.

But I miss Sid. I really, really want to know that Sid is OK back where Sid is (wherever that is…) and that the hob is dealing with the home invasion, and so on.

Well, I miss Sid too.  I can hear the barking.  You will too soon, I promise.  I don’t even think ‘soon’ is very relative in this instance.

Anne_d

I love that the guards are still ordinary people with mundane concerns. I think that’s one of your greatest strengths, building solid ground under the fantasy so that it’s even more real.

Thank you.  THANK YOU.  As I’ve said before when I’m doing a comment-answering post, I tend to cut out the compliments‡‡ because leaving them in makes me look like such a prat, but since this is one of my major preoccupations about the writing of fantasy, my own and everyone else’s, I’m leaving it in.  Yes.   Grounding is crucial.  People are people, even if they’re nine feet tall and have seven arm-like appendages, and if they live in a landscape with purple trees I want to know what the trees look like, what the shape of the leaves is, what the flowers smell like in spring and what alcoholic beverages you can make from the fruit.  As I keep saying, the great thing about fantasy is that you can make up your own rules . . . the ratbag about fantasy is that you then have to stick to the rules you made up.  And sometimes your rules are less great than you thought, and sometimes you’re so far into the story when you realise you made a mistake there’s nothing you can do but live with it.‡‡‡  But as soon as you think, okay, what’s it like for these guys, whoever they are, whether they’re human or not, they’re going to have upkeep issues, whether that means sewing on buttons and boiling water for tea, or gliffermying the vrumpetty and doogling the brezzer.  And if the latter you need to explain for your presumably mostly human audience so that the human reader totally feels the zogle pressing into the mrilf and kind of wants to have a go at gliffermying themselves, and when they close the book§ are startled to discover they’re short and have only two arms.

Stardancer

Oooh. Not that I don’t enjoy Kes’ narration and her ties to the ordinary world, but there’s something about the mix of fairy tale and ordinary people (who get nervous and drop things and such) that I love.

::Beams::  This is part of the grounding thing I’m talking about.  Denouements between super-wizards tend to be kinda boring.  Denouements between more or less ordinary people who may fumble the universe-commanding wand at a critical moment are much more interesting.  Also super-wizards are already out there because of their superness.  There’s a steep climb for an ordinary Jo(e) to get to the super-level where the universe-commanding wand needs to be wielded.  This is more interesting and also a lot more sympathetic for ordinary-Jo(e) readers.  Say I.

It amuses me that their first sight of Kes isn’t much like what Kes herself has been thinking.

Well of course not.  That’s the deal.  Yes.§§

They see “a pale slender woman, with long tangled hair, riding bare-legged and barefoot.” Whereas Kes has been thinking things like “How did I get in this story?”, “Why didn’t I wear pajamas with pants?” and “Oh gods I’m going to cut my own leg off.” I find myself wondering what the Falcons will think when she gets closer.

There are three answers to this:  (a) Mwa hahahahahahaha (b) I wonder too (c) There’s going to be some Hayley action:  ohmigod it’s the Defender she’s real that’s not really a tatty pink nightgown is it?  All three of these answers are true.  Stories and writing are often confusing.  It’s why writers are often nuts.  Or that’s our story and we’re sticking to it.

* * *

* And that she died way too young several years ago?

** I wasn’t expecting Sid to show up nearly so soon, for example, when Kes sticks her pin in a map in Manhattan and contemplates the possibility of getting a dog.

*** Mwa hahahahahaha

† Or bodies, as the case may be

††  Mrrrrmph.  ::Not giving anything away.  Not.::

††† I’m extremely fond of SUNSHINE.  Just so you know.

‡ Snoring optional.  Darkness, who has disdained his dinner^, in his efforts to elude the nasty thing, has buried his head under a blanket from which posture he is having some trouble breathing.

^ Siiiiiiiiigh

‡‡ Having read them over slowly and carefully several times first

‡‡‡ This may be less true for people who rewrite better than I do.  I certainly do a lot of rewriting, but the basic shape of the thing has to be more or less right the first time or I lose it, I lose my ability to hear the story.  Rewriting is more about expanding, tidying up and pursuing implications^ than deciding in the second draft that the heroine is nine feet tall and has seven arms and likes hot spiced blurdge from the purple yikyak trees’ bojally fruit, although she was human in the first draft and liked maple syrup on her blueberry pancakes.

^ Which do, I admit, cause collision disasters upon occasion.  NOOOOOOO.  JUST BECAUSE SHE WAS ON THE TOP OF A MOUNTAIN TALKING TO A DRAGON DOESN’T MEAN SHE ISN’T AT THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA TALKING TO A MERMAID.  Wait, wait, I’m inventing teleportation . . . or cloning . . . give me a minute I’LL THINK OF SOMETHING.

§ Or click the ereader off

§§ Also, most of my major characters think less well of themselves than perhaps they should.  Ahem.  The Story Council does usually try to send you stuff you can feel your way into.  Writing is hard enough work without making it harder.

Rant revisited

 

Didn’t get a lot of sleep last night—so what else is new—last night was however aggravated by shooting awake every time a hellcritter sighed or got up to scratch its bed into a more salubrious shape.  Siiiiiigh.  There have been no further outbreaks today . . . although the night is young* the current digestive miscreant, having eaten his dinner, looks pretty crashed out. . . . That sound you hear is me crossing my fingers till they squeak.

More baby plants showed up in the post today and the Winter Table is full.  There hasn’t been a proper frost in town this month I think, but baby plants, having been intensively reared in massive great commercial greenhouses, are fragile little creatures and you can’t just whack them in potting-on pots and plonk them outdoors.  You have to ‘harden them off’ as they say which in practise, since my greenhouse is full of stuff and I have no earthly room for a cold frame, means that if we’re having a run of chilly nights I have to bring them indoors every evening and back outdoors again every morning.**   Arrrrgh.

So, where was I, in my not-very-good-mood way last night?  Aside from the prospect of a lot of moving of plant trays back frelling indoors while trying not to trip over the hellterror***, there had been a certain supernumerary  force to my rushing outdoors into the garden yesterday afternoon†, aside from the latest stack of baby-plant-containing cardboard boxes arriving in the post, which, yesterday, was pretty well an avalanche. ††

What is it with people.

I regularly receive requests via email for help with the frelling papers people are writing about me and/or my books.†††  The vast, catastrophic, overwhelming majority of them ask me the same blasted questions . . . most of which would be answered far beyond the scope of any seventh or eleventh grader’s term paper requirement‡‡ with only the most cursory glance at my web site, let alone doing a little diving via the ‘search’ facility or the ‘topics’ list on this blog.  I’ve ranted this rant to you before—several times in fact—how can all these jokers even arrive at my public email address WITHOUT HAVING NOTICED THE SUGGESTIONS THAT THEY READ THE FAQ FIRST.  OR THE GENTLE REMINDER THAT I’M, YOU KNOW, BUSY AND THAT ANSWERING QUESTIONS TAKES TIME.  But they do.  In their relentless marching regiments they do.  Yesterday I received a follow up from someone who clearly thinks that saying please and thank you is enough.  Reading the FAQ is not necessary.  This person is capable of writing me a sheaf of long, complicated questions and putting a note in their diary to follow up . . . without ever looking at the FAQ.   First contact in this case included a plug from the kid’s teacher,‡‡‡ telling me how wonderful the kid is—and this kid may very well be wonderful, but they nonetheless need to learn to do their homework—and how (the teacher continued) my thoughtful informed answers were going to help this student chart their course through college and into their chosen career of professional writer.  PLEEEEEEEEEEZ.   This follow up, unannotated by the teacher, generously offers to answer any questions I may have. . . . §

Standard caveat begins here:  Of course I want people to read my books.  I need people to buy my books so the hellpack and I can keep eating.  And I love fan mail:  I looooove it when some reader takes the time, speaking of time, to tell me that they enjoy my books.  A really warm and/or clever and/or funny fan letter (or forum comment or Tweet or dreaded-Facebook post)  makes my day, and sometimes my week.  But I will never learn not to mind that a lot of people out there don’t recognise me as a human being essentially like themselves with a life—and, furthermore, inevitably limited expertise even in my professional domain—and behave accordingly.§§

Today I got a fresh request for help on a school project.  This one addresses me as ‘Mrs McKinley’ so I don’t have to read any farther to know that this person hasn’t made any attempt to do their homework. . . .

* * *

* as I count young.  But how can ‘one’ or ‘two’ or even ‘three’ not be young?^

^ Unless you’re a hamster.+

+ And you’re talking in years, not hours.  A three-hour-old hamster is young.  And one o’clock in the morning is MORNING and last night is dead.  So—wait—‘the night is young’ has to start at like two o’clock in the afternoon. . . .   Nights are never young . . . Hey, I’ve just invented a philosophy.#

# How did I get into this?  And where’s the door?

** Given when I am staggering out of bed lately, they’re going to get distressingly etiolated if the nights don’t warm up soon so that I can leave them outdoors to greet the dawn and all those distasteful hours immediately following.

*** Who is very interested in people rushing back and forth in a purposeful way.  Hellhounds know to crush themselves in the back of their crate and not stir till it’s all over.

† Well, I’d been outdoors kind of a lot already:  it was such a glorious day I took both critter shifts^ on country walks which was self-indulgent but . . . fun.^^

^ A little old lady said to me yesterday, every time I see you you’re walking a different dog.  There are only three, I said, but I mostly walk them in two shifts.  Oh, said the little old lady, and I could watch the thought process in her expression:  first she accepted the answer to this question that had been puzzling her and then, moving right along, this little old lady being a quick thinker, I could see the woman is mad dawning in her eyes.

^^ And since I won’t leave critters in a car because of the dog-theft problem, it’s also very time consuming.

†† Also aside from the fact that Outlook decided not to let me in yesterday afternoon.  No.  Won’t.  And I don’t like your password any more either.  Bite me.  —ARRRRRRRRGH.

††† We’re already in trouble:  the books are the books, they’re there, you don’t need me, and chances are very good that if you’re going in for literary criticism I’ll think your penetrating insights bear a strong family resemblance to mouldy root vegetables^, and you’ve got no business writing about me at all.^^

^ You know, really mouldy, when they’ve gone all squishy

^^ Yes, I read biographies.  Your point would be?

‡ When’s the last time I got a blog post out of an interesting question from someone writing a paper on me?  Exactly.^

^ Although the kid who wanted to know what it was like growing up with all those half-siblings made me blink a bit.  I wonder who they thought they were writing about?

‡‡ And with luck will so derail under- or post-grad thesis topics that the students will decide to write about something else

‡‡‡ ie an adult with adult responsibilities.  Plugs from teachers aren’t that uncommon, but they always depress me more.

§ The fact that this was the first email Outlook let through after Raphael told me how to make it behave was not destined to improve my attitude.

§§ You don’t walk up to a doctor at the supermarket and ask them to diagnose the rash on your leg.  You don’t write a letter to a lawyer asking them what their daily schedule is and how and why it makes them a better lawyer.  You don’t tell a blacksmith you want to borrow their tools because anyone can shoe a horse if they have the right hammer.

How to ruin my day

 

Merrilee will want to try to make a book out of it at some point

We’ve all mentioned how thrilled we’d be to have this in book form at some point and that touches on another thing I’m really looking forward to. I’m under the impression that you’re ‘writing without a net’ right now; in other words, I’m thinking that we’re getting to see what a first pass through a story looks like. I assume that in the process of turning this into a book, you’ll go through your normal re-read and ‘oh *that’s* why that was important – I’d better add this detail in, in light of that’ process of re-writing and editing. I’m looking to and hoping to see who/what gets emphasized/de-emphasized/deleted/added as part of the process. This is potentially a fascinating sneak peek behind the curtain and I’m really enjoying it.

I don’t even know where to begin to respond to this one.

Do you realise that by calling KES as she appears on the blog a ‘first pass’ and assuming that I’m going to rewrite the whole thing from the beginning when Merrilee and I turn it into a book-like object, you are implying that it, you know, needs it?  Unless you’re Anthony Trollope, first versions of a story are rough.  You rewrite because you have to.  Because the story doesn’t make sense after the villain turns out only to be misunderstood, because the main character doesn’t come into focus till page four hundred and twelve because you were trying to write about an enchanted lemur and it turns out she’s a fruit bat.  Because you fell in love with the word crepuscular and used it forty-seven times in the first chapter and, as anyone who has done any serious writing knows, you can rarely merely swap one word out for another, usually you have to change the phrase or the sentence which then bodges up the paragraph or the scene and you have to rewrite that . . .  because on page two you thought Bathsheba was going to stick David with a hat-pin, steal his second-best armour, and run off to battle to fight at her husband’s side.  Oops.

You rewrite in the hope that you will eventually produce something that you could give strangers to read.

At what point you start soliciting other people’s opinions varies.  I hear terrifying rumours that some writers hang rough drafts on line and invite comments.  I’d become a ditchdigger or a linesperson before I did that—and I don’t think they hire sixty-one-year old women to dig ditches, and retraining to be a linesperson wouldn’t be a good choice since I left my head for heights somewhere back in my thirties.  Before I married Peter—who does now see early drafts of my stories—NOBODY saw ANYTHING till I’d got as close to finished with a story as I could.  Even I acknowledge that you need an outside eye eventually, to tell you the elisions that don’t work because nobody else knows the story as well as you do, and Gibbervig and Sorfrella got up to what together*, or because you so can’t see the forest for the trees any more that while (ahem) you may just be a prone-to-tangents storyteller, the chapter about the history of interspecies harness** really slows the action down.  My current editor prefers to see things a little sooner rather than a little later—although I think this has a lot to do with the fact that I’m almost always laaaaaaate turning stuff in and she wants some reassurance that the story exists and she’s not trying to hold a place on the next list but twelve for a will-o-the-wisp—and I acknowledge her right, as the woman whose butt is on the publishing line on my behalf.  But I don’t like it.

Once I’d got properly into KES I let myself acknowledge that it was a real story—as real as any of the ones that were first read by strangers in paper covers in their entirety—or that existed in their entirety before they were excerpted on line.  I’m writing without a net, yes, because I’m hanging bits of the story for strangers to read before I’ve got to the end of writing it.  But I’m writing it as well as I can as I go.  I rewrite the individual eps before I post them.  What I post is NOT first pass.

Yes.  I’m giving away for free what is just as much work as what I write for money.  But it’s a slightly different kind of work;  different harness—speaking of comparative tack—different pressure points.  I wouldn’t have had the chutzpah to invent a genre-fantasy-writing heroine who gets embroiled in offcuts from her own stories for a book I was expecting Merrilee to pitch to my—or any other—editor.  I’m aware that messing around with the boundaries between reality-reality and book-reality is very popular just now*** but KES is not something I would have risked doing.  Except as a kind-of-joke-but-then-again-not-a-joke on my blog.  And yes, I’m hoping to recoup some of that writing time by turning KES into a book that people will pay money for a copy of, hard or e-.†  But . . .

But I’m not going to rewrite her.  Bottom line:  I can’t.  The story arc is very very very VERY VERY VERY VERY different, doing it in 800-900 words a shot and usually ending with something more or less cliffhangery.  The story is the story:  but KES has let me mould her into 800-900 word chunks, and you—or anyway I, this writer, Robin McKinley—doesn’t get a second chance.  If I tried, I’d wreck her.  I’m not going to try.

I’ll fix errors, when I shuffle her together into one file to send to Merrilee.  And I will scream and hurl myself out windows and so on when I discover the howlers I know are there even if I don’t at present know what they are—and I just hope there aren’t any I can’t fix without tearing up the foundations.  I’ve silently fixed I think three easily-tweaked ones already;  I keep notes—inadequate notes and always of the wrong things—but I mostly don’t reread, except specific snippets (when I can find them) for specific purposes of stumbling accuracy.  I’ll try to swap out the superfluous uses of crepuscular without rewriting any scenes.  But that’s all.  Tidy up—although there will be more of this, and it will be more of a struggle, than I’m going to like.  But I am not going to rewrite.  Not.

And as for a sneak peek behind the curtain—that’s not what you’re getting.  That’s not anything you’ll ever get from me.  There’s a reason I don’t blog much about my writing process.  I’m a privacy fetishist.  And it’s a lot easier to do the smoke and mirrors thing about my life than about my writing.

* * *

* And furthermore when did they have the opportunity to do it?  Didn’t the Siege of Mormormorungal crack up straight into the Battle for the Nineteen Dozyhazes and the Sentient Orchid?  —I’ve never been good at time, in reality or out of it.

** Horse tack was a relatively late invention;  domestic horses were a doddle after dragons and flurdlelumps.  Horses are smaller and more persuadable than dragons, and at least you can sit on a horse;  there’s the whole suspended-cage business with flurdlelumps because of all those legs.

*** Thank you, Jasper Fforde.  He may not have started the trend single-handed, but he’s where I first met it.

† KES does tap into my real writing energy.  The blog doesn’t.  The problem with the blog is time.  I’m a slow writer, even of the blog.  But I don’t come away from the blog thinking MUST HAVE BREAK FROM WRITING STUFF.  The main reason I’ve cut KES back to once a week is because if I spend any more time on her she will cut into . . . well, PEG II, for example.

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