I am Very Short of Sleep. I tried to print out the first 1,000,000,000,000* words of SHADOWS yesterday evening. I knew it was going to be a less than happy, joyful experience, because my printer is POSSESSED BY DEMONS as SO MANY TECHNOLOGICAL APPURTENANCES BUT ESPECIALLY PRINTERS ARE. I cast my mind back, and I think I’ve always hated my printers, which live** to find reasons to refuse to print, but of course the current incumbent is most on my mind so I am convinced I HATE IT WORSE THAN I’VE EVER HATED ANY OTHER PRINTER.
Last night I got one—that’s one, that’s COUNT IT ONE page out of said printer before it jammed. ONE. ONE PAGE. ONE. Well, before it claimed to jam, which is one of its little jokes. So I opened all its stupid, sticky-catched doors and couldn’t find anything wrong of course (it very, very, very rarely has a paper jam, it just likes the attention), and hit ‘print’ again. Now it’s telling me there’s a Paper Mismatch in Tray, which is its default non-printing position.*** Usually if you yank the paper tray in and out a few times it will sullenly (and temporarily) accept its fate and print out a few pages. Not last night. I think the prospect of printing out lots of pages was giving it a more drastic than its usual case of the megrims . . . and so when I resorted to turning the bloody thing off, knitting a row†, and turning it back on again . . . there was a pause for warming up and contemplating its options before it shouted: TONER INVALID! . . . Which is a new one. I haven’t seen toner invalid before. New experiences are so refreshing. And then it ran through all the different toners individually: toner black INVALID! toner cyan INVALID! toner magenta INVALID! toner yellow INVAAAAAAAAAALID!!!!!!!! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA GOTCHA!!!!!!!!
Whereupon I had a nervous breakdown and emailed Raphael. Who is an insane person, and checks his business emails even at 8 o’clock at night. I’ll ask Gabriel to get on it tomorrow, he replied.
Hellhounds and I hurtled back to the mews for dinner. And then—despite Peter warning me about the weather—we went home at our usual rrggmmph o’clock except, as you may recall, we are presently on foot, and hellhounds were TRAUMATISED, that’s TRAUMATISED by having to walk home in the RAIN. Now, granted, it was heavy rain, and if hellhounds were in the habit of listening to either husbands or weather reports they might have been feeling a little testy about my having ignored both these excellent sources of advice, but I’m pretty convinced they came up with the whole TRAUMATISED thing all on their own.
And they wouldn’t eat their supper. No, no, we couldn’t touch a morsel, they said, shuddering delicately, we’re so TRAUMATISED.
. . . And then Gabriel, bless him, rang first thing this morning.
I am very short of sleep.
Okay… so the dwarf doesn’t appear to be the landlord…
Well, if he is, Cathy and I need to have a more complex conversation than I realised. As I’ve told you I’m trying to stay about ten eps ahead of what I’m posting so I have some clue where I may be headed, and every now and then, while she gets on with her life, I send Cathy some new fragment of story info which has only just emerged . . . and I mean fragment. These tend to be so fragmentary that she would be forgiven for saying, um, you’re telling me this why?, except that they come with that charge, like putting your finger in a live socket, that says SOMETHING HERE.
Anyway. So far as I know Ron is not the landlord.
Do authors hate their characters enough to make them realtors? Oh, wait.
Hey. I have a friend who’s a realtor.†† Remember that KES is also a parody. I will send up anyone I can get my little hands on, Kes herself in particular of course, but everyone, and the horse they rode in on, and the street names of New Iceland, and . . . I’ve already told you that I’m really looking forward to writing the first scene/chapter of FLOWERHAIR THE INVINCIBLE—which you get a peek at, I think it’s next ep—but that doesn’t negate that somewhere down the line she has some trouble with attack mushrooms.
I’m working on some of Britten’s arias right now (Titania’s two big ones, from his version of “Midsummer Night’s Dream”, and one from “The Turn of the Screw”) – he certainly does like to torture musicians. But it’s a good sort of torturing.
Wowie zowie honey, you’re in at the deep end. I think if your head will bend in that direction††† Britten is an absolutely fabulous education all by himself. One of my fantasies is to sing his setting of Auden’s Tell Me the Truth about Love but . . . not this week.
. . . this house is basically my dream home. Grottiness and out-of-datedness and possible Cthulhu and/or Yog-Sothoth in the cellar included.
Oh, me too. If I asked for a show of forum hands I suspect we’re in the majority. But that’s part of the fun (I hope). Parody and riffing on a favourite trope are very nearly the same thing.
I can’t help but wonder if Hayley is just a fan and doing her best not to totally fan-girl geek-out. Matching accessories notwithstanding.
Mother pin a rose on you.‡ I did wonder how many of you were silently having your suspicions. I didn’t know till, um, I think the second ep Hayley appears. I had the same initial reaction to her that Kes herself did. (No, damn it, we are not interchangeable, even metaphorically. There’s just a lot of overlap.) I still want to remonstrate with her about her footgear however.
As someone who normally bolts through a book, this sort of drip-feeding is….. causing me no end of anguish. (And then the author chuckles evilly…?)
Well, yes, I never turn down an opportunity to chuckle evilly, but . . .
I love this whole thing so much. But it really is torture, only getting a tiny bit at a time.
. . . tell yourselves that the only way you will have KES at all is like this. While I admit I hope she turns out to have some kind of long term, comprehensive, something-or-other future, I would, for example NEVER have written last night’s ep for a story that, you know, started life as a contracted book. KES is more work than I was, um, hoping, but she’s also even more fun than I was hoping. And I’ll take all the fun I can get. Especially when there are things like printers in my life.
::reads Kes 20:: ::reaches end of excerpt:: ::dies laughing::
‘dies laughing’?‡‡ You churl. Wait . . . wait . . . a new storyline is just coming into view. I can’t see it clearly yet . . . hang on . . . yes . . . it’s something about a violinist. Something . . . something awful happens to a violinist.
* * *
* I keep dwelling on how slowly this final draft and tidy-up and yank-together is going but as I organised the first lump for printing out I realised that one reason is because it has got long. It’s not in the PEGASUS category but . . . it’s not short. It’s not a cheerful little 75,000-word throw-off that it started life as. Well of course not. Who do I think I am. IT’S NOT LIKE THIS IS UNDER MY CONTROL, YOU KNOW.
** And caper and dance and laugh maniacally as soon as you’re out of your office.
*** It has paper size SETTINGS. It ignores these. You can carefully select the paper you’re using, and during the exciting hey-presto of PAPER JAM and PAPER TRAY MISMATCH it will have reset them. It will have reset them to a paper size that has never existed in the history of the world so that you don’t have opportunity to give it the paper it claims to want, to see if this makes any difference. I comfort myself with the thought that it wouldn’t.
† Waaaaaaaay better than that flimsy old counting-to-ten thing. I have no problem merely counting to ten and then committing murder. Knitting a row has an actual tranquillizing effect.^
^ Unless of course I make a horrible error.
†† And, if we’re counting, three friends who are accountants.
††† And no shame if it doesn’t, EMoon,^ everyone’s different, give me a minute and I’ll think of three major composers I can’t stick on any account.^^
[ep 20] is SO VERY MUCH what I needed tonight!!!
Oh good. ::Beams::
^^ You can take 90% of John Adams, Harrison Birtwhistle and Pierre Boulez, and 80% of Stravinsky and Ravel, and bury them in the back garden, for example.
‡ This is a common phrase, yes? It’s not just me?
My shout of laughter on the ending of Kes #20 just brought my office mates to my door. I believe they’re thinking that I’m the madwoman in the attic.
I think you might have a legal case for unacceptable working conditions. You might want to look into this.
So a friend and I have been trying to figure out something new and amusing to do for the blog. * It had got to the point by this week that we really needed to do a kind of run-through to see if it was going to work**, but I’ve been ill*** and she has, like, a job and a life† and scheduling has been a ratbag. But we finally decided we could do it this morning.
The first thing that happened is that I overslept. SO WHAT FRELLING ELSE IS NEW.†† So when I finally texted my friend (as prearranged) she had also overslept††† arrgh arrgh arrgh arrgh so we both stumbled around finding caffeine (and clothing) and feeding/hurtling domestic fauna and so on. As one does.
Articulateness was beginning to emerge from the enshrouding mists. Blah. Gar. We were tentatively going to do this by Skype instant messaging, but we were going to have a video-enabled chat about what we were trying to do first, in so far as I was capable of either speaking audibly‡ or hearing anyone speaking to me.‡‡
The first thing that happened was that we couldn’t get Skype to talk to us. . . . No, wait. The first thing that happened was that Pooka was doing one of her little, Message? Me? Message?, deals, so my friend had texted back and I’m wondering why she hadn’t because it wasn’t showing. Eventually I went hunting and there were like three new ones the last one being, Hey, where r u? ARRRRGH. It’s sort of the modern tech version of catching your roommate with the empty plate in her hands and the crumbs on her face: Chocolate cake? What chocolate cake?‡‡‡
Then, having re-established contact by text . . . Skype refused to connect. R u there? yes im here where r u . . . note that there are two iPhones, a Macbook and a desktop PC involved, and we are playing merry, merry musical gadgets . . . eventually Skype acknowledged both my and my friend’s existence at the same time on one machine each and a sort of connection was established . . . except she couldn’t hear me, I couldn’t see her, and I was getting a helpful pop-up message saying ‘your broadband is moving at a somewhat slower than measurable rate. Glaciers are faster. Liver flukes are evolving into diplodocuses while we wait for the signal from the historic maypole on your cul-de-sac. We don’t hold out a lot of hope for this conversation you’re trying to have.’
Eventually my friend and I gave up on the preparatory chat option. She was still trying to reassure me (we were still texting, mostly successfully) that Skype IM was really easy, nothing could go wrong. Yes. And I’m the queen of Sheba. My Skype kept claiming that my friend was off line. My friend kept claiming that her Skype was telling her I was off line. Shifting from one demonic piece of kit to another of course aggravates the situation. I could sit there watching Pooka and the desktop pointing fingers at each other and saying: She did it!§ I turned everything off and then turned it back on again. Skype was now claiming I was back on line, but I wasn’t allowed to change my status. I WAS GOING TO BE ON LINE FOREVER.§§
At this point I received another text from my friend. Ur still off line, it said. ARRRRRRRRRGH, I replied. R u near ur landline? she next inquired (crisply). I’m going to phone u.
Somebody tell me why I could hear her laughing through her texts.
Um, I texted back, yes. But I nvr use it because connection ALWAYS bad.
She phoned me while I was standing in the middle of the office floor at the cottage, watched with some interest by relaxed and half-asleep hellhounds, and swearing like an entire regiment of troopers from low backgrounds, trying to UNTANGLE the frelling WIRING between the phone and the message machine§§§ and between the machine and the wall, which, because I never use any of it, mats itself into plastic dreadlocks. HOW DOES IT DO THIS. IT SHOULD NOT BE POSSIBLE. PLASTIC FRELLING FLEX CANNOT FRELLING FELT ITSELF. Sure it can. It’s like how coathangers breed in empty closets. When the phone went BRIIIIIIIIIIING the way cheap landlines still do I was so startled I dropped the whole mess.
We had the conversation. She got me on Skype. She got me on Skype’s Instant Messaging, which was hiding. No, really. We had our run-through. Our idea works.
Mwa hahahahahahahahahaha. Oh, this is going to be fun.#
* * *
* This is a long story which I’m about to start torturing you with hints about. But for tonight, it’s just murky, inscrutable background.^
^ Mwa hahahahahaha
** Okay, maybe I’m starting to torture you now.
*** You may have noticed.
† She does stuff like hang out. There aren’t even any handbells involved. I really don’t understand why we’re friends. I suppose we each provide the other with variety in her social relationships.
†† I’m not sleeping through the alarm. It’s just I keep putting it back as I thrash and flounce and periodically notice that another hour has gone by and I’m still not asleep. I don’t like missing half the day this way, but I like even less not being able to use ANY of the day because I’m too tired. Conventionally the phrase ‘her blood ran like fire through her veins’ sounds exciting. She’s just caught sight of her true love—or possibly he/she has his/her tongue down our heroine’s throat and his/her hand, um, but I don’t usually write those stories—or her enemy on the battlefield. Something is going to happen. Something other than our stupid heroine being unable to find a comfortable position to sleep in her sodding unenchanted bed in her sodding unenchanted cottage in her sodding unenchanted little town. ARRRRRRGH. I will never feel the same about that phrase. Also, I need to be able to breathe.
††† She also has a lurgy. SHE’S FIVE THOUSAND MILES AWAY. I DIDN’T GIVE IT TO HER.
‡ See: Lurch. Or a really really bad recording of Paul Robeson.
‡‡ This didn’t stop me hearing my ex-bells this morning. Sigh.
‡‡‡ I shouldn’t say things like this. Next time Pooka will eat them.
§ Yes. They both had chocolate cake crumbs on their faces.
§§ Note that today’s friend is THE ONLY PERSON IN THE UNIVERSE I EVER SKYPE WITH BECAUSE SKYPE IS ONE THE MANY SO CALLED WONDERS OF MODERN SO CALLED TECHNOLOGY I DO NOT GET ALONG WITH. Hannah and I tried it once. She hated it as much as I did.^
^ Us old people have to stick together. Silver surfers, for godssake. I nearly took myself off the grid permanently when I heard that term for the first time, and went to live in a cabin in the woods with oil lamps and a fireplace.
§§§ Which I also never look at or play back because the connection is so bad I can’t hear what whoever it is is saying and I probably don’t want to anyway, who uses a landline any more?^
^ I give no one Pooka’s number. Peter has it. The archangels have it. Okay, Merrilee, Hannah, and today’s friend have it. Fiona has it. That’s about it.
I don’t like phones, okay? I’ve never liked phones.
# After all, we have Blogmom for the blog. Nobody messes with Blogmom.
THE ROBINS’ NEST IN MY GREENHOUSE IS INHABITED. Er. By, you know, robins.
It was time for the day to start improving by then. It had not begun well. It had not begun well several days ago. The old mews laptop has been off line since last Friday, which is a mega frelling pain in the patootie, since while the little knapsack computer is a gigantic patootie-saver, in all other ways it is too dagblaggingly SMALL. Somebody sends you something you want to look at? Forget it. You have to scroll around so much it’s a seven blind persons and the elephant show. The keyboard is almost big enough, so you type on it as usual, only you’re making as many errors as Frodo the Nine Fingered would, playing Liszt’s Transcendental Etudes.
I had emailed the archangels the beginning of the week, and Raphael had responded that he’d be in touch Tuesday or Wednesday to come out Wednesday or Thursday. By last night—Thursday night—I hadn’t heard from him so I sent him a one-word email: whiiiiiiiine.** This morning there was an email back saying that he’d left a message on Pooka on Wednesday. WHIIIIIIINE. In which one’s technology lets one down again. New phone calls or texts are supposed to show up ON THE OPENING SCREEN of your semi-reliable*** iPhone, and I never think to go looking for them as I go looking for email. There it was, sure enough: but Pooka had apparently been having the vapours when it came in, and failed to put it where I could see it. Meanwhile, however, the little laptop was beginning to emit dark smoke and chittering noises—and the mews had been entirely off the air for about three hours one evening and two hours the next AND I was getting very tired of writing the blog on the off-line mews proper-sized laptop and putting it on a memory stick to plug into a live socket somewhere. †
So Raphael, who is a wonderful human being, I mean archangel, rejuggled his Friday and came out anyway. I texted Oisin that I might be a little late . . . I guess maybe. Two and a half hours later I texted Oisin again, saying, cup of tea or do you want to kill me? Raphael had walked in the door, pressed ONE MYSTIC SYMBOL—I mean it’s not even a button or a key it’s a perfectly flat, non-contoured symbol—on the semi-dead†† laptop and LO! it was live again. Kill me.††† However . . . nothing else was the slightest bit straightforward and two and a half hours later he had to leave because he had to leave‡ . . . and while he had convinced the iPad update not to delete everything stored in my library, iPod, photos, etc, he hadn’t convinced it to, you know, update either.
I’m also trailing around at one-quarter speed because I was comprehensively shattered by yesterday’s events. I had slept badly night-before-last in dread of yesterday, and I couldn’t really separate out grief for Gloriana and Gloriana’s family and simple fear of walking into my old ringing chamber. I also wanted to go to the funeral, but where was I supposed to sit? With the ringers because I was ringing or not with the ringers because I’m not a member of the band? I don’t think this is covered by Miss Manners.
I was also, of course, terrified that I was going to put my foot or my head through the frelling rope, or break a stay, or fall down in a fit, or something. . . . But in fact in terms of blood and horror it was a complete failure. I’m pleased to say. Admin was extremely gracious and I was gracious right back. And I’m not a good ringer, and I’m a twitchy, jerky ringer but I’m still a ringer, and the feeling of my hands on a bell rope is automatically steadying. And those bells are—aside from the crucial health and safety stuff that made the work necessary—noticeably easier to ring.‡‡ I had thought it was ‘open’ ringing where everyone who knew how was welcome to come have a pull, but there were only eight of us for the eight bells. We rang. Hands on ropes: bong. Bong. Bong. This is what the bells are for: well, change ringing was invented by Christian bell ringers for Christian churches, but I cast the net wider: for me the sound of the bells is a declaration: there is something beyond us. You want it at a wedding, but—for me—you need it at a funeral.‡‡‡
Admin wanted to try to ring after the funeral too. I had been planning on opting out, but that would have left them with only five—six is a good number, and five isn’t really. So I stayed. The funeral itself was pretty gruelling—the church was packed out; she had a lot of friends, and quite a few of them spoke—and when we got back to our ropes we just rang rounds: one-two-three-four-five-six, one-two-three-four-five-six, the bells in order, smallest to largest, over and over and over and over. Your heart lifts at the same time as you’re trying not to burst into tears. . . .
So. Yes. I went. I faced all those people§. I rang on several of the bells in the ringing chamber that used to be as familiar to me as my own furniture in my own sitting room. It was a bit miserable, but then it was a funeral, and Gloriana will be much missed. And . . . it was still a good decision for me, quitting my tower. I don’t like that it was a good decision, but it was a good decision. And I think I slept fine last night, I just need a month or two of hibernation.§§
. . . So I went along to Oisin’s nearly two hours late this afternoon. And I drank several cups of tea and raved, chiefly about bell ringing and computers§§§ and after I eventually wound down a little Oisin asked if I’d like to sing something? I’d even brought my music. How about that. I must be beginning to believe in the system. So I sang something. And it wasn’t too bad. I may even learn my entries on Dove Sei. It is very confusing having some piano galumphing along with you and throwing you off.
And then I came home and rushed out into the garden because there was a little daylight left and since I don’t dare plant the frellers I’d better pot up the blasted sweet peas . . . and there was a little robin face peering out at me from the shelf in the greenhouse.
* * *
* Books? Why would it be about books? No, it’s not about books.
** He’s used to me. It’s a good thing.
*** This is similar to ‘a little bit pregnant.’
† Diane in MN
On a typewriter. Remember typescript? [ . . .] Nostalgia.
Yes–but it’s tempered nostalgia. I like word processors a whole lot. I think of my mother, going to work out of high school in a lawyer’s office and having to retype entire documents for a single error because corrections weren’t allowed . . . I really really like word processors!
I have also spent time typing contracts that you couldn’t make an error on—and while I’m sure that someone on salary who wasted hours retyping wouldn’t be long for that job, it was immediately critical for a free lancer like me who got paid by the assignment. So. Yes. And I love the internet, but a lot of the frenzy of that love is on account of needing underpinning and maintenance for the sodblasted blog which itself wouldn’t exist . . . without the internet. You didn’t get error messages with typewriters and they broke or blew up only RARELY. You didn’t have to buy a new one every few years . . . and when you did buy a new one you were not legally required to buy with it a new keyboard layout, a new return mechanism, a new brand of error cover-up paint (with a new dispenser), a new dictionary, new encyclopaedia, a new language . . . all of which you would have to LEARN TO USE.
Er. Hurrumph. I like word processors too. But I’m not a whole-hearted fan. Especially not after a week like this one. And if you’re going to go all snippy on me and say that a word processor has nothing to do with internet connection . . . I shall become CRANKY.
†† Very like ‘semi-reliable’ and ‘a little bit pregnant’.
††† Oisin having declined.
‡ I think this may be very like being paid by the assignment.
‡‡ Siiiiiiiigh. Nicest set of bells in the area just got nicer.
‡‡‡ I know this isn’t going to happen, but I wish ringers were on retainer, so more weddings and particularly more funerals had bells. We ring ordinary services as part of our charter, but bells for your individual event are expensive.
§ Most of whom, in a few cases to my surprise, are apparently still talking to me.
§§ And, tension level? I seem to have sprung just about every muscle in my body. Pulling a big, ratbaggy, awkward bell, you may feel it—or anyway I¸ who am not very good at it, may feel it—in my shoulders and stomach. Ordinary ringing on ordinary bells, no.^ But yesterday . . . my chest, shoulders, arms, belly and back . . . all of them were telling me that I had been toting barges and lifting bales all day. Good grief.
^ It’s never about sheer strength. It’s always about (sheer) skill.
§§§ And the continued non-existence of the New Arcadia Singers
So, last night, I had begun writing the blog*, and the frelling little Outlook pop-up box kept getting in my face and whining about not being connected. Oh, shut up and cope, I snarled—I mean I murmured softly. And then I went on line to check something—I forget what—and Internet Explorer declined to connect either. Fie.
So then I went through the whole stupid exasperating tarantella** of unplugging and replugging and closing down and restarting and hanging from the ceiling singing a merry song and making dents in the plaster when you throw chairs at the wall. ARRRRGH. And I remained disconnected. Hence the note from Blogmom last night that I was having Raging Technical Difficulties and would not be posting a blog. Yes, I could write a blog off line and . . . uh . . . figure out how to send it to Blogmom and ask her to post that. But writing a blog without internet back up is way too much like hard work. At least when you have a sieve-like memory.*** I was thinking about this last night, while I was (fruitlessly) waiting for the mews wifi to shake itself loose from the grip of the doldrums and refrellingconnect. My old hard copy Britannica is in Peter’s bedroom, and he’s asleep by the time I’m writing the blog . . . and the annual volumes, after Peter got cranky about the annual volumes,† now live at Third House. This is not deeply convenient for when you’re writing a blog entry right now. At my end of the kitchen table at the mews I have within easy reach: the 1977 edition of the Chambers [British-English] Dictionary which is fabulous††, the Penguin thesaurus, the Oxford Compendium of English lit, Brewer’s Phrase & Fable and 100,000 Names for Baby, which is an unbelievably bad and badly edited book, but it serves the purpose of stimulating me to come up with names like Zgruban.††† This still only gets you so far.
So I read back issues of the London Review of Books for a while . . . and nothing happened (‘the server is not available. If this condition persists, please contact your administrator, however, blunt instruments are not recommended and we take no responsibility for the damage you may do to your singing voice’). So I emailed Blogmom from Pooka, telling myself that it was time I got an all-options plug-in toggle for Astarte because the keyboard on an iPhone is suitable only for flower fairy fingers . . . and went back to the cottage‡.
Today . . . the plot thickens. It’s only the old mews laptop that won’t go on line.‡‡ Peter’s computer goes on line fine. Astarte goes on line. And my little knapsack computer, brought down to the mews for evidentiary purposes, goes on line. Waaaaaah. I just want stuff to work and leave me alone.
Meanwhile . . . in the first place, of course, having been glued to Pooka all morning, the moment I left her hung over the back of a chair so I could get on more freely with watering 1,000,000 potted plants‡‡‡ she started barking at me. Hannah has landed§ and will ring me again with a rendezvous point as soon as she meets up with her driver. I’ve said I can find anywhere in Mauncester, just tell me where.§§
. . . She rings back: the driver says he’s going to drop her at a pub, the Egg and Custard, on the Caerphilly Road. The Egg and Custard? I said, under the just-proven-erroneous impression that I’d at least heard of all the pubs in Mauncester, the Caerphilly Road?
Emphatic male quacking in the background. Egg and Custard, confirmed Hannah. On the Caerphilly Road.
Okay, I said dubiously. I can look it up.
One frantic, husband-involving search later: There is no Egg and Custard in Mauncester. The nearest Egg and Custard is in . . . I don’t know, Brittany, Alsace, Hokkaido, somewhere. Not Mauncester. It’s a long way to Hokkaido. Oh, and there’s no Caerphilly Road in Mauncester either.
And the mobile phone number I have for Hannah doesn’t work. . . .
TUNE IN THIS TIME TOMORROW FOR THE NEXT THRILLING INSTALLMENT.§§§
* * *
* And this is what I wrote (waste not, want not):
HANNAH IS COMING, HANNAH IS COMING, HANNAH HANNAH HANNAH HANNAH IS COMING. YAAAAAAAY.
. . . The consequent need to do housework. Unyaay. In fact, uuugggghhhh.
Mostly visitors do just fine up at Third House. Easier on everyone. Everyone can go to bed when they want to^ and get up when they want to and make their own breakfasts (when they want to), and not only when they want to but as they want to, with no resident gremlin saying, You can’t scramble eggs in that pan! You aren’t going to drink coffee out of that mug, are you? There is also an extra loo at Third House for those occasions when the person in the bath falls asleep. Third House has many advantages.
But there are a few people even in the life of a forty-eight-yesses-out-of-forty-six-questions-on-the-introvert-test introvert that one positively wants to have underfoot. In my life one of them is Hannah.^^ Therefore I need to ensure that the cottage is not so frightening a habitat that she decides she has urgent and permanent business in the Azores.
There are no mice nesting in the sofabed: check.
The coffee filter thingy is not wrist-deep in dust and dead beetles: check.
There is nothing living in the back of the refrigerator that bites: check.
The cobwebs at the top of the stairwell that I can’t quite reach, even with my telescoping dustbrush at its full extent, are staying at the top of the stairwell and have not descended to become over-friendly with stairway users: check.
The vanguard of the outdoor jungle has not penetrated round either the door or the kitchen window frame sufficiently to be a danger to the urban unwary: check.^^^
The hoover hasn’t exploded, and I can still use the freller . . . sigh. Check.^^^^
^ Hannah, sadly, is an early riser.
^^ I will still tell her which pan to scramble eggs in however. But she’s allowed to use any mug. Probably. I can’t be sure till I catch her using the wrong one.
^^^ This becomes more of a problem later in the season.
^^^^ I haaaaaaaate vacuuming. HAAAAAAAAAAATE.
** Spiders have a lot in common with computers when you stop to think about it. They both have too many legs (material or immaterial), a bad attitude (graphic), and a ghastly habit of rushing at you (literal or metaphoric) when you’re not expecting trouble. But really you can tell they don’t have your best interests at heart the moment you set eyes on one.
*** This would be a sieve that has also been used for target practise by the local rifle club.
† Which is cheek, you know, since he married me for my Britannica. I’ve told you this joke, haven’t I? He married me—twenty years ago, remember, before the internet was a resource for commoners and the technically challenged—for my Britannica. I married him for his membership in the London Library. Peter has dropped his membership in the library—which means I’m groaning under the extreme subscription price by myself—I haven’t pulled a Britannica volume off the shelf in years . . . and the annual volumes are accumulating at Third House.
†† It and the old American Heritage Dictionary of 1969 are my favourite dictionaries.^ The OED is . . . second. It’s a very good second, but it’s still second. And neither the new Chambers nor the new American Heritage is a patch on the classics.
^ The poor old AHD is in fairly rough shape as I spent several years sitting on it. I wrote HERO sitting on my old AHD. I’ve never had a proper desk with a proper desk chair, which means height adjustments must be made. The AHD was the perfect extra thickness for that particular chair, and conveniently butt-breadth.
††† And rather a lot of books on knitting and learning Japanese.
‡ Where, yes, I can get on line, but that’s not where I spend my evenings.
‡‡ It really wants to retire. Really really really.
‡‡‡ We’re going to have a hosepipe ban any minute: driest March in meteorologically recorded history, I think. Just so long as they don’t have a madperson-carrying-a-gazillion-cans ban.
§ . . . at the right airport. In England.
§§ I should know better than to say things like this.
§§§ Hey. You already know I’m a cow. And I’m a cow who needs to go to bed early because Hannah does^ AND BECAUSE THE SODBLASTED CLOCKS GO FORWARD TONIGHT.
^ Yes. She’s here. You can relax.
So Pooka, who came off her drip feed at 100% this morning, by this evening, after almost two hours of Japanese lessons* while hurtling and over an hour Skyping** with a friend*** while recovering from hurtling, was redlining again. The problem with plugging her into the laptop during working hours instead of the mains/wall last thing, is that the iTunes store pops up and starts blandishing you.† So I, easily distracted little hussy that I am, downloaded a (cheap) ap that is supposed to make typing on your frelling device less of an occasion for practising vocal exercises.
Aaaaaaand it won’t load. It downloaded onto the laptop all right and appears in my app library. But it won’t climb into Astarte, which is what I want it for. Astarte’s main failing as the perfect bedtime companion†† is that you can’t type on her. I’m kind of fascinated by all these people who apparently churn out great novels on their iPads: not me. I can’t even type two-fingered without going qwk7\7+km££BLERG?xx#. Arrgh. But the relentless little error message in this case says ‘app will download when you are logged into iTunes on your computer’. I AM LOGGED IN ON MY COMPUTER YOU FRELLING PIECE OF CLOTHESHANGER WIRE AND CHEAP GLUE.††† I AM SITTING HERE STARING AT THE APP IN THE ‘ROBIN’S LIBRARY’ SCREEN. And the ‘help’ is useless, of course: it doesn’t even allow for the possibility of troubleshooting: all of its answers appear to be based on the indisputable fact that Apple is god and therefore perfect and its worshippers are merely sometimes rather stupid and have to have the same things to explained to them more than once in a patronising tone. ARRRRRRGH.
So in this spirit of weekend cheer and relaxation‡ I thought I’d re-answer one of those questions that comes up again and again AND AGAIN AND AGAIN because . . . sigh. Because people not in the publishing industry don’t know any better. But if I’m lucky a few of them, who will now not write me emails, will be reading the blog tonight.
. . . I am a very devoted kindle reader. I had your book, Sunshine, recommended to me by friends. Eager to read it, I search on my kindle right away. I’m sure you can imagine my disappointment when I found that it was not on the kindle, despite being a popular book. Perhaps, you would consider having it put on there, so that ereaders like myself can enjoy it.
Any of my books’ availability or lack thereof in any format has essentially nothing to do with me. Nothing.‡‡ I have no control over this and—once I’ve signed the contract with the publisher, and contracts pretty much all now include electronic rights as standard—ebooks as well as all that hard copy stuff are the publisher’s problem. Just like getting the book out in any and all other formats is. Your contract will say that the publisher does have to publish, and if it doesn’t you get your book back. (Which is not what you want. You want it published.) And you can lobby for the format du jour, or something special—like the illustrated ROSE DAUGHTER which we had to get special permission for.
But if you assume that all the writer does is write you will not be far wrong in most cases. Yes, some writers are a lot more involved with the rest of the business than I am—I don’t know and don’t want to know as much as I can possibly avoid knowing‡‡‡ because, ahem, I am prone to blood pressure headaches and chewing the wallpaper over something I can do nothing about is too frelling demoralising. Yes, you can write letters and make phone calls—and badger your long-suffering agent—and get to know people and network and some writers are good at this, and some of them do make a difference to the rest of us. And I’m grateful. But I have no talent in that direction. ‘Negotiation’ and ‘calm rational discussion of a controversial subject’ are not in my skill set. I want to kill myself over jacket art regularly even now, when I do have some leverage.
I’m actually surprised SUNSHINE isn’t available as an ebook§; mostly it’s the books that came out before electronic publishing was beginning to be an issue that get trapped in the mincer. But if it isn’t, there’ll be a reason. The publishing behemoth regiment is still having trouble lurching into the electronic age, and older books by people who aren’t JK Rowling and Dan Brown fall through the cracks sometimes.
And self-publishing? Not me. Thank the gods for publishers, however paralytically, blood-pressure-headachingly behemothy they can be. I do read some of the articles (on line, speaking of ereading) about sisters doing it for themselves. I can barely do the laundry, and every year when I’m trying to produce a full set of bank statements for the accountant—I fail. If I tried to self-publish I’d be reading the want ads for shelf-restocker openings§§ within the year.
* * *
* Atama ga itai desu. Which may mean ‘I have a headache’. Note: when they say that Japanese [grammatical] particles are a nightmare, believe them.
** Who is coming to visit. And thinks we should SING something together. Aside from my extreme peculiarity on the subject of other people hearing me sing—and, after all, she would be singing with me—we have a slight repertoire problem: I sing classical and folk. She sings musical theatre and barbershop. Can This Friendship Be Saved.^
^ I’m not sure. She hates Sweeney Todd. I can just about allow this in someone who doesn’t like musicals generally+. But in an avowed musical-theatre devotee? This is like someone who claims to love dogs making an exception for sighthounds. The door’s that way, honey.
+ No, it’s not an opera.
*** On the sofa, resisting entropy and the strange hierarchical struggles of hellhounds. Guys. It’s a sofa. Play nice or the hellgoddess will go all hellgoddessy on your ass.
† I’m puzzled that they haven’t gone the amazon route and started targeting you. Hey, last time you were here you bought Demolition Bingo and Space Pastry Chef! We’re sure you’d love Washing Machine Lint vs Sink Elbow Trap!^
^ Has anyone played Pizza vs Skeletons? Which sounds about as likely.
†† Hey, I’m old. And possibly a little strange.
††† Ee, ah, eeee ah, eeee aaah eeee ah.
‡ Are you KIDDING? I’m writing a novel. Novel-writing is a 24/7 activity.^
^Barring hellhounds, blogs, and scream—I mean singing.
‡‡ In deference to Hannah and Merrilee’s sensitivities, I am NOT CAPITALISING THAT SENTENCE.
‡‡‡ Yes. It’s a very good thing I have an excellent agent.
§ No, I’m not going to go doublecheck on amazon. If you want to, feel free. I avoid pages with my professional self on them like six kinds of interstellar plague. And even if the person who wrote to me is wrong and it is available, and she or her frelling device was having a brain spasm, the principle remains: once the story I’ve written is out of my hands, it’s out of my hands.
§§ Shelf restocking at a big supermarket during the graveyard shift sounds quite restful when novel-in-progress is being unendurably wayward. And no, SHADOWS isn’t. As I keep moaning to Merrilee, if I hadn’t been trying to finish it in five months it would be going really well. Unfortunately . . .