April 17, 2014

Shadows is here!

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.

I’m going to try again to go to bed early tonight. . . .

 

Having signally failed (again) last night.  I need either to learn not to fall asleep in the bath or how to keep the water hot and just sleep in the bath.  I sleep there so much better than I sleep in bed.  Maybe it’s because Scorpio is a water sign.  So it’s not my fault.  It’s that I’m doomed.

B_twin left today and . . . it started raining about two hours later.  Speaking of water and never mind the astrology.  BUT THE HELLHOUNDS ATE DINNER.  Rain?  Fine.  Whatever.  Let it rain.  I can deal with (almost) ANYTHING . . . as long as the hellhounds keep eating.*

And furthermore it’s Friday.  And that means tomorrow is . . .

Rainycity1

O.K., now it’s really time to go pick up The Blue Sword again… not that it’s ever not time to read it, but Kes’ visions are reminding me of Harry’s and I’m being called…

You know I keep banging on about how the Story exists and all a poor dope of a writer can do is choose her words as well as she’s able.  But a story does try and come to a writer who has (maybe) a hope of relating to or engaging with it.  If a lost and confused story about the early expansion of the railroad across the North American continent in the 19th century shows up panting on my doorstep, I will attempt to repress my shudder of horror (stories have feelings), pat it on its head, and send it back to the Story Council for reassignment.

Stories about girls who do things come to me.  So do stories about girls who have visions before/during/after they do things.  I assume one of the reasons stories with visions in them see me as a kindred spirit is because I’ve always been rotten with visions myself.  Most of them are story related.**

***MILD SPOILER WARNING***

BLUE SWORD began with a vision of Harry pulling that mountain down.  CHALICE began with the Master saving his Chalice’s life on that cold hillside.  PEGASUS began with the night of Sylvi’s twelfth birthday.  Sometimes the vividest visions however are not where a story begins, but where I realised it was a story.  Peter was mulling over the difficulty of raising an orphan baby dragon*** because you need to keep it hot, but my recollection (which may well be faulty) is that he was thinking of something like a bucket or wheelbarrow of embers.  It was when I saw some random teenage boy put a baby dragon down his shirt that I knew the story was live for me.  And baby critters with big brains tend to need serious contact with their mums;  I don’t know that a brainy dragonlet would do very well stranded in a barrow of embers, even if the barrow was topped up regularly.  And then of course it turns out that the dragons in this particular story are marsupials, and their babies are born pretty well foetal. . . .

And so on.  There have been a few periods in my life—not recently, fortunately, it’s another of those ‘getting old is a good thing (mostly)’ things—when I’ve thought that my tendency to visions meant I was nuts.  Eventually I decided that if I coped (more or less) in the real world too, who cares?  Poor Kes is going to have a harder time hanging onto her sanity—or her belief in her sanity—since her stories/visions are showing, and, I will tell you for free, will continue to show, an alarming tendency to break into our so-called real world and mess her around.

Bratsche

My favorite sentence/image of this week’s episode is: I saw the banner flying from its topmost tower very plainly: two sword blades crossed to divide it into quarters, and in the quarters were a horse, a hawk, a sighthound and a rose. I wanted the whole Kes story from the very beginning, but that line bumped it further over an invisible enticing ledge for me.

Oh good.  Whatever works.***  ::Shuffles feet::  Mind you I haven’t much idea about this part of the story myself.  I can feel that it’s live or I wouldn’t have put even this much in–I don’t even know how to describe it, but that banner is as real as the chair I’m sitting in, or Cecelia Bartoli on the CD player.  I can also feel where I need to go to find someone—someone I mean who lives there—to talk to about it.  There’s a fair amount of seething going on behind that bit of scenery.  But I kind of imagine them drawing straws, and whoever gets the short straw has to talk to me first.  —No, no, no, the loser is saying, clutching his/her hair.  You know what she’s like!†

Your nicer readers may respect you.  Your characters . . . nah.

* * *

* B_twin said, I’ve seen skinnier dogs.  Good thing you weren’t here a month ago, I said.  I don’t think we were ever quite in danger of the neighbours ringing up the RSPCA^ but I felt we were getting close.  When the only food that’s going into them is what I’m prying their mouths open and stuffing down . . . they get really skinny.  I will go on force-feeding when they’re still not voluntarily eating enough to keep a hummingbird alive^^ but every sixteenth-mouthful scrap that I didn’t have to poke into them helps . . . including my stress level.

^ I’ve said this before, haven’t I:  Yes.  And let the RSPCA try to make them eat.

^^ Although hummingbirds are another of these tiny frantic things, like shrews, that have to eat pretty well constantly to avoid starving to death.  I thought this was fascinating:  http://www.hummingbirds.net/hainsworth.html

Anorexic hummingbirds don’t survive to breed.  Note that I have turned away all inquiries about breeding from the hellhounds not only because I don’t want them to find out what sex is.

From http://www.worldofhummingbirds.com/facts.php :

‘A hummingbird can weigh anywhere between 2 and 20 grams.  A penny weighs 2.5 grams.’   And even several times 2.5 grams of food a day is not going to keep an 18,000-gram hellhound alive for long.

(Also from http://www.worldofhummingbirds.com/facts.php)  ‘A hummingbird’s brain is 4.2% of its body weight, the largest proportion in the bird kingdom.’#  Yes, but 4.2% of 2 to 20 grams still doesn’t leave a lot of room for Sanskrit and quantum physics.  Has anyone tried to find out if hummingbirds can learn weird human-type stuff like coming when called or pressing an itsy-bitsy lever that dispenses food?

# Note that you’re seeing in action WHY WRITING THE BLASTED BLOG TAKES SO LONG.  Pretty much every time I look something up—like the eating habits of hummingbirds—I get into an ‘oooh shiny’ rut and half an hour later. . . .

** But it’s not surprising that when Jesus decided to hoick me over the ‘believer’ line he showed up in a vision.

*** Words to live by.  Where a lot of professions meet on common ground, I guess:  writers, mechanics, ditch diggers, bakers, critter trainers, shoe salespersons.  Probably not accountants and surgeons.  And I wish these were the words by which computer programmers lived.

† I’m sitting here on this chair, listening to Cecelia Bartoli, and realising that the first person I speak to isn’t going to have a clue about the banner and is going to think I’m, ahem, nuts for wanting to know.

††We were discussing ideas for short stories for FIRE ELEMENTALS, right?  Long, long, long ago.  Four FIRE novels^ ago.  Before Peter realised what he had married.

^ Peter wrote TEARS OF A SALAMANDER, remember.  It’s not only me.

Drums and trumpets . . .

 

. . .  I am taking the night off.*

However I don’t want to leave you entirely without reading material.  Those of you who follow me on Twitter will already know this because Stephanie Burgis, who writes funny, charming novels of her own,** and who nominated it, tweeted the news a few days ago.  But my editor sent me a link today so it must be true.  SHADOWS is on the short list for the Cybils award.

http://dadtalk.typepad.com/cybils/finalists/

SHADOWS is down there near the bottom under Speculative Fiction.  But read through the rest of the categories:  several of these books are going on my amazon wish list . . . or are already in one of the tottering health-and-safety threatening TBR piles scattered around the cottage.

* * *

* I think I got some sleep last night.  It was very disconcerting.  I hardly know how to behave.  But I thought I might try it again.  It might, you know, grow on me.  I might decide—whatever—that I liked it.

But I’ve just spent rather more of the evening than planned hanging out with the other St Margaret’s Street Pastors.  I’m not sure how we particularly have got stampeded into this^ but Llewellyn, our area head, is eager that local SPs go round to other local churches and talk about how wonderful SPing is and how they want to do it too.  And Jonas is all, why certainly.  Anyway we seem to have been nailed for our first gig and so we’re all making fish-mouths at each other and wondering what we say.

And I have to get up way too early tomorrow and take Peter to the big farmers’-and-miscellaneous street market in Mauncester.  New Arcadia has its own farmers’-and-miscellaneous market but it seems to be specially designed not to have any of the stuff we want.  The cheap beaded jewellery is actually pretty nice, but not weekly—the same with the hand-woven baskets—and the eighty-seven kinds of fudge in vibrant decorator colours^^—no thanks.

But the possibly-tentatively-eeeeep big news is that there may be a softening attitude among hellhounds toward food.  Don’t make any sudden gestures.  It might go away.

^ Actually I do know:  Jonas is relentless and he just assumes the rest of us will come along

^^ I can’t imagine what they use to get those colours.  Dulux?

** http://www.stephanieburgis.com/

Also:  http://robinmckinleysblog.com/2011/08/10/a-night-semi-off/

 

Another day bites the dust

 

So I’m short of sleep (again).  The hellhounds weren’t eating (again) last night so I got to bed later than desirable.  And still had to get up in time to sprint down to the mews for the speech therapist coming at 9:30.*  Which meant that I spent the hours I did have for sleep waking up every half hour and looking anxiously at the clock (which necessitates turning the light on and focusing) in fear that I’d slept through the alarm.  IT’S STILL DARK OUT.  IT’S PROBABLY STILL NIGHT, ALTHOUGH I ADMIT THIS TIME OF YEAR THAT IS NOT GUARANTEED.  I finally got up about twenty minutes before the alarm would have gone off. . . .

AND THEN SHE DIDN’T COME.  THE SPEECH THERAPIST DIDN’T COME.  Between diabolical hospital car parks and the non-arrival of therapists—we haven’t had a new one yet, and at the moment they’re all new, who doesn’t get lost trying to find us.  Yes okay we are modestly tricky to find but don’t you guys TALK to each other???  So even when they arrive they’re always frelling late—THE NHS IS STARTING TO GET ON MY LAST REMAINING NERVE.

CateK

Speaking of experience informing writing, I occasionally wish I could grab a ‘High Forsoothly’ author and stick them on a horse for 5 days, see how far they could travel and whether they might start actually cleaning their horse’s hooves occasionally (not that I put Kes in this category.)

And take its tack on and off, and check it and clean it occasionally, and groom the wretched animal (including its feet) and FEED IT.  Good grief.  Horses take a lot of feeding because basic grazing is low-cal.  And you can only carry so much grain/concentrates/what-have-you on your epic journey before this gets counterproductive:  hence your horse needs hours of grazing.**  And, you know, rest.  Like it was a live animal or something.

It never ceases to confound me how clueless, erm, storytellers can be.  What’s their excuse for not having spent two minutes to realise that you don’t turn a live animal on and off like you do a computer or a car?  The other thing I always think of when I am faced with one of these horse-shaped vehicles is, hasn’t the author ever had a pet, to have some clue about the whole care-and-feeding issue?

Not that this is necessarily enough.  When I was a young writer and hadn’t yet realised there is a vast political/hierarchical labyrinth between writers and readers***, I did some falling in with the wrong crowd.  I was immediately made uneasy by the acolyte system† that a few of the big names had allowed to build itself around them.  I also became semi-friends with an acolyte of a writer who had a particularly extensive worshipper cult.  My semi-friend had written a story for her demiurge, and it had a horse in it.  So she asked me if I’d read it before she submitted it.  I said yes.

Erm.  Well, it was a story.  With a horse in it.  The problem that I thought I could address was that she was treating the horse like her pet cat.  She wasn’t quite opening tins of tuna for it but . . . close.  I made a couple of suggestions which she did not take in good part.††  And she made sure to tell me a month or two later that her Most High had rejected the story for her next fanfic anthology, listing weaknesses I had let her down by failing to mention and not alluding to the unchanged horse/cat at all.

Oh.

EMoon

. . .  I agree [with CateK], but have found that authors who don’t know diddly about horses and want to use horses will ask for help and then not use it. Because they’ve already decided that a) the horse care doesn’t really matter as it’s only fiction, b) they don’t want to spend words on it, c) they had what they wanted to do with a horse in the story all worked out and you’re just getting in the way. Then sometimes they mention the one who gave them the right information in the acknowledgments, with fulsome thanks, while doing exactly what they were told was impossible, thus making the one who gave them the advice looks really, really incompetent. You can drag a writer to the fount of information, but you cannot make him/her USE it.

YES.  THIS.  Moan, moan, moan.  There are still books out there—but I can hope they’re all OP—with my name on the acknowledgements page.  NOOOOOOOO.  I DIDN’T DO IT.  THAT’S NOT WHAT I SAID.  THAT’S NOT WHAT I MEANTIT’S NOT MY FAULT.†††

(And saying that puts me on a very slippery knife-edge, because heaven knows I don’t know everything about everything I’ve ever put in a book. I try, but…fall short. . . .)

Yes.  This too.  When you’re already having a bad night, this is one of the ruts of conscience that will keep you awake indefinitely.  It’s the things you didn’t know you needed to look up that probably haunt me the worst.  I knew I was on shaky ground with Taks’ Japanese, but thought I could just about get away with it since it was only a few words and he’d spoken only English for years.  But . . . I’m sure I’ve told you this story . . . BEAUTY’s canary was originally female.  My copyeditor told me that only male canaries sing much.

Oh.

* * *

* No, I don’t have to be there.  But while the therapists are still figuring out what Peter needs I don’t want to miss anything.  And the speech therapist is probably the most important.

** Wild horses spend their lives grazing, you know?  We’re interrupting the flow.

*** Some writers and some readers.  Some of my best non-writing friends read me.  Some of my best non-writing friends don’t.  But there is a large social element of weirdness in the corner of genre publishing I know anything about, and while I’ve met people at SF&F cons and book conventions who have gone on to become friends . . . the graphic weirdness that inevitably comes with being a writer at one of these extravaganzas is a major reason why I don’t mind not going to them any more.

† Caveats here too.  Some authors can’t help having groupies;  it’s the way their books are read, or the luck of the draw, or that the media found them in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong person and made a groupie-attracting story out of it, or something.  And some authors do a genuine and generous job of mentoring.  But a few of them merely relish being adored, and behave accordingly.

†† The McKinley Learning Curve.  Sigh.

††† It was my evil twin.

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Thank God for books as an alternative to conversation. -- W H Auden