October 22, 2014

Shadows is here!

Ask me anything*


I’m doing one of reddit fantasy’s Ask Me Anything, AMA, sessions this Thursday, the day after tomorrow [as I write during what is to me still Tuesday night]. The poor suck—the nice man who originally invited me and is attempting to shepherd me through the technical aspects of this gig** says that if you go here:  http://www.reddit.com/r/fantasy

. . . while you’re waiting you can poke around*** and when the AMA session goes ‘live’ at approximately noon (American) Central Time on Thursday the link will go up on that page. The game plan seems to be that I (or rather the Nice Man, which means I have to have written it in advance for him to deal with) post(s) a brief introductory doodah at noon as part of the going-live process, and people post questions then if they feel like it.  Perhaps I drift in during reddit’s idea of afternoon (my idea of evening) and answer any of these there are and maybe I don’t, but I do show up for live-ish keyboard interaction around 6 pm Central time which I think is midnight mine, and respond—I do not say answer—any and all questions then.  I admit midnight is not particularly late by my standards [hey it's past 4 am where I'm sitting] but it is late to be articulate to/with a bunch of strangers.†  If I were living in the same part of the galaxy as the reddit fantasy admin the AMAs usually go live at about 8 pm—as some of you, who’ve been to talk to other authors, already know—but it’s going to be early with me.  If the conversation suddenly heats up at 2 am I’ll stay on, but the alternative, if people are absent-mindedly expecting it to have begun at 8 pm reddit time and show up after I’ve left to give the hellmob its final hurtle††, is to post questions anyway and I’ll come back on the far side of sleep and caffeine and answer them then.

One or two guidelines: I can’t tell you when PEG II or III will be out because I don’t know.  I said pretty much all I have to say on that burdensome topic in the ebook-announcement post: I’m working on the rest of the PEGASUS story, sure, and believe me I’d finish it yesterday if I could. But I can’t.  I am finding the writing experience lately like cleaning the Houses of Parliament with a toothbrush or watering the Sahara with a teacup.  I’d rather prune Souvenir de la Malmaison††† without full body armour and a face mask than face the PEG II file.  I’m getting calluses and tendonitis from clutching my forehead/chair/nearest hellcritter.  So you can ask when PEG II and III will be out, but don’t expect a useful answer.

And, speaking of useful answers, there’s still no sequel to SUNSHINE. And there are at last count approximately three hundred and twelve Third Damar Novels, but I haven’t written any of them.‡

Some authors are more perverse than others. You might want to embroider that on a sampler.  But do come round on Thursday at whatever o’clock and ask me about roses or dogs or bell ringing or life as an American expat in England or knitting (badly) or singing (worse) or even about suddenly and involuntarily converting to Christianity two years ago and coming all over social-welfare volunteering like a bad case of measles.‡‡  I’m still cranky though.

* * *

* . . . answers not guaranteed. But then you blog readers know that already.


*** It’s frelling HUGE. I keep getting lost.

† So, you know, please come hang out so it’s not all strangers.

†† And wave at passing patrol cars

††† Which in my tiny garden is presently about twenty feet by twenty feet and putting on a rather amazing autumn show for a rose known for not repeating in this climate. She is also implicated in the disappearance of several annoying small children and neighbourhood cats which insist on crapping in Third House’s flowerbeds, but we don’t know anything about that, except to say that a rose responds well to generous feeding and I’m delighted she has settled in so happily.

‡ Please try to remember that I can only write what I am given to write.   The Damar stories are there—like PEG II and III are there—like the frelling sequel to SUNSHINE is there—but I can’t write them because they haven’t come to me in writable form.  It’s like one of those scenes out of Dickens—or Frances Hodgson Burnett—when the main character is standing on the wrong side of a window watching other people having a good time.  You can see what everybody is wearing and eating, you can see the champagne sparkling in the glasses, you can see who’s flirting with whom, you can maybe even hear a faint echo of the live music.  But you can’t go in because you weren’t invited.  And besides there doesn’t seem to be a door.

‡‡ Which also makes a change occasionally from staring at the frelling blank page . The eleventh commandment:  Do what you can.

Oh, cool/hot/awesome/slang of the moment!



This is a really interesting article anyway full of stuff I need to check out but don’t miss the last paragraph.*

And thanks for all the happy chirping noises about last night’s news.**


Is it a bad thing that I already own The Blue Sword as an e-book? I would NEVER knowingly get a pirated copy of anyone’s book. That would be BAD! The e-book that I have looks very professionally done. I’m confused! I’ll have to get another copy (a legit? copy) of the e-book when it comes out.

You’ve probably got one of the ones that were briefly and in the publisher’s mind legitimately available a while ago. When said publisher had it politely pointed out to them that in fact what they were doing wasn’t totally pure and square and holy they were very embarrassed.  They were so embarrassed it’s taking a while to winkle them out from under the bed, convince them that All Is Forgiven, and persuade them that we really want to do it again, just the right way this time, okay?


Well, I’m conflicted. Congratulations for the e-books. But I’ve already bought them in old fashioned, space gobbling, real book style. What excuse do I have to buy an e-reader?

Good heavens. Have you never found yourself standing in an endless queue and wished you’d brought with you that really good book you were reading but it’s large and heavy and you were only going to be gone ten minutes because there are never any queues this time of day?  Or equivalent?  E-editions are pretty much a scam that I’m allowing myself to be gorgleblorged by because of the Library in Your Knapsack thing.  I wouldn’t dream of having keeper books only in e-format.  I just have more editions of stuff I’ll want to read again.

And as Lenni says you don’t have to have a dedicated ereader. I have the Kindle app on my iPad.  If you’re portable-tech-free you have a slightly more epic struggle with your conscience ahead of you but . . . well, I’ve told this story many times before, but I only bought my first computer because the office shop could no longer get parts for my IBM Selectric I typewriter.  I forget why I let myself get gorgleblorged*** by the idea of an iPad† but I use her constantly, however often I want to throw her against the wall for her tantrums about Microsoft.


I can’t wait to be rescued from a long wait somewhere by pulling up a comforting favorite story on my phone.

Yes, exactly. But I am fascinated by you people who read on your phones. My eyes can do it but, dunno, my brain can’t.  It’s like people with little tiny writing.  My hand can do it BUT MY BRAIN CAN’T.  I have big sprawly handwriting.  I guess I must have big sprawly eyes†† too.  I was actually going to buy the next size down of tablet for portability reasons next time but then I thought about the pleasantness of reading double page spreads like a REAL book on the iPad . . . and then I read about the iPad Air which weighs about two butterflies and a feather and I thought, fine, I wasn’t seriously planning to downsize my knapsack anyway.

* * *

* Thank you, Gomoto^, although why one of my American readers was faster off the mark than any of my English ones . . . is one of those little mysteries of the modern global-internet world.

^ Also Rachel on the forum, but her post went up later, and I also don’t know which side of the pond she’s on. Or even which pond.

** One person out in public on Facebook and a few people more privately on email have said that they aren’t buying anything of mine till I produce the second/third/ninety-seventh/final volume of PEGASUS.  It’s not always easy to tell tone of voice from a stranger in print, but I have the impression that these declarations are typed in some dudgeon, possibly high.  What people choose to do with their disposable income is up to them, of course, including whether or not they buy books and if they do buy books whose books they buy.  But just in case this has slipped anyone’s mind . . . I’m not not producing PEG II, III and LXXXIX out of any disturbingly perverse desire to alienate readers.  Um, why would I?  I need to keep eating.^ Also I’m a storyteller by blood and bone;  I don’t exist in my own mind let alone anyone else’s if I’m not telling stories.  I would love to have PEG II already out and PEG III being wept over by final-stage copyeditors^^ and myself be contemplating writing that story about the bottle of sentient champagne.  But I’m not.^^^ I’m not because PEG II is moving approximately as quickly as it’s going to take all those plate tectonics to bring Africa back to West Quoddy Head.  I’m not happy about this.#  But it’s not up to me—rather like producing my books in e-format isn’t up to me.  You can, of course, nag me, about ebooks## or PEG II or LXXXIX, but it won’t produce any results except making me miserable.###  Control freaks seriously don’t like things to be out of their control.  And storytellers hate not telling stories.

^ And buying other people’s books.

^^ Tears of joy, mind you.  Supposing it ends with III, which is to say it better had or I may become a full-time professional practising homeopath after all, not everybody is going to be spectacularly happy in all ways after the climax but this is still a McKinley story and there will be some kind of a big shiny hurrah somewhere near the end.

^^^ Except at my 3 am equivalent which is about when most people are heading off to work, or the local builders are arriving and turning their frelling radios on to the Maudlin Pop Drivel station.+

+ I keep forgetting to check if U2 are trying to break into my iPhone.

# In fact I am wildly, frantically frustrated and crazy over it.  Just by the way.

## Including, inevitably, what goes wrong, because things will go wrong.

### You can’t make a horse win a race even if you’ve bred, fed and trained her perfectly. You can’t make a rosebush cover herself in huge fabulous flowers+ ditto.  And horses are horribly expensive to keep and rose-free rosebushes are mostly pretty ugly.  It goes like that sometimes.

+ Unless you’re a character out of ROSE DAUGHTER

*** Or ‘sandbagged’ if you prefer


^ Yes of course I play several. I might not be so outraged if I played them a little better.

†† And a big sprawly brain. If it were tidier I might be getting on with PEG II quicker.  Sigh.

Life Sentence



Let me get this over with.

I won’t be at Boskone next February. I’ve written to the Boskone admin and asked Blogmom to take the sidebar down.

I’m extremely sorry. I don’t like screwing people over and . . . and I wanted to go.

I’ve also known this was coming for a while but I have been trying to pretend not to know it.  I’ve been putting off talking to my vet for . . . probably two months, because by two months ago I knew that his Miracle Cure for the hellhounds’ digestion, while it has certainly improved matters for which I am very grateful indeed, it hasn’t been quite the miracle cure we’d been hoping for.  One of the possibilities is that the other dogs he’s cured (and admittedly there are only a few of them because it’s kind of a new and experimental as well as last-ditch treatment) are all half the hellhounds’ age or less, and my hellhounds may just have permanent unfixable damage. . . .

Last Friday I finally talked to my vet.

The bottom line is, the hellhounds are a life sentence, of which I’ve already served eight years while trying not to think about it in those terms. A kennels won’t take them and I wouldn’t inflict them on a pet sitter* and my few certifiably deranged-ly doggy friends who could and would cope are all hundreds to thousands of miles away.

And this is just the way it is. Fortunately I’ve turned into something of a homebody in my old age, and while there is a needs-must aspect to it, still, I don’t exactly sit around twiddling my thumbs, do I?  And have I mentioned I’m going back to homeopathy college?  Speaking of sitting at home not twiddling.**  I discovered rather by accident recently that since I dropped out of the face-to-face, classroom, commuting kind of college***, on-line courses have come a long way.  I’ve been poking around the corners of this intriguing information the last few weeks, and about a fortnight ago, when I finally made the appointment to talk to my vet, I thought, okay, when the vet tells me what I already know he’s going to tell me, I’ll get serious about college.  Because I have so much spare time now that I’m not writing a blog post every night.

Who knows. Maybe I’ll find a cure for the hellhounds.  But it won’t be before next February.

* * *

* This aside from the fact that after my interesting acquaintance with a downward spiral of dog minders and my one DISASTROUS even by my standards experience with a national pet sitting company, I wouldn’t be likely to inflict a pet sitter on the hellmob anyway.^

^ Although I could just tell the hellterror that if he/she gets out of line, eat them.

** Except knitting needles, of course.

*** For the given reason of my ME-afflicted energy level not being up to it, but the hellhounds had something to do with it too.


Blocked at every turn


The charity gang that were taking away all our surplus furniture finally came today. Either they’re a very popular charity or their lorries break down a lot.*  Or both, I suppose.  But the situation was made unnecessarily exciting by my penchant for living on cul de sacs.  I’d asked the lorry guys to ring me fifteen minutes before they arrived to give me time to get down to the mews and let them in.  They rang.  Fifteen minutes, they said.  I stuffed the hellhounds in their harnesses, shoved the hellterror’s breakfast, ready made against this moment, into her crate and her after it, not that the shoving of a hellterror toward foooooood is required, and the hellhounds and I bolted up to Third House to fetch Wolfgang . . . and found the end of the cul de sac comprehensively full of large flatbed lorry delivering pallet after pallet after pallet of . . . I don’t know, buildery stuff, with reference to the fact that the row of Tiny But Desirable Cottages that abut the churchyard seem to be in a state of permanent renovation.  The one on the end had barely swept up its last skip’s worth of brick and cement dust when one of the ones in the middle ripped out all its insides and started over.  Arrrgh.

So I spun round the footpath corner toward my driveway and AAAAAAAUGH.  I rushed up to the bloke overseeing the latest pallet swaying earthwards on its giant hoist and said in a frantic voice, I HAVE TO GET MY CAR OUT!!!!  And he looked at me and said, We’ll move, ma’am—perhaps there are advantages to being a little old lady:  blokes don’t like to see us cry—and they did. Mind you, getting something that carries 1,000,000,000 pallets and a giant hoist doesn’t move very fast, and I was a few minutes late . . . but so was the charity lorry.  And we were all somewhat bemused by the labyrinth of scaffolding we had to make our way through because they’re painting the Big Pink Blot again**.

While the two guys from the charity were wrestling furniture that must come out since it certainly went in I prepared to load up Wolfgang, around the hellhounds, for a quick sprint to the dump, since empty houses extrude junk and a corner you perfectly well know was empty the last time you had a sweep (so to speak) through has six boxes and a broken lamp in it this time.  The charity guys eventually solved their problems of practical geometry and went their way two double beds and some miscellaneous doodads the better and the hellhounds and I went ours to the dump . . . where the way was BLOCKED by an even MORE gigantic lorry with an even MORE gigantic hoist, lifting in one of those massive small-country-sized skips that town dumps use.  ARRRRRRRRRGH.  I hadn’t packed Wolfgang at all carefully—for one thing I’m a little cross about the empty-house-extrusion thing—and I didn’t think it was going to matter for long that when I opened the passenger door there would be an avalanche . . . or that the hellterror’s travelling crate is full of superfluous kitchen gear for the dump shop.


Some days you should just stay in bed with a few good books and some knitting.***

* * *

* This may be part of their training programme. They offer apprenticeships to street people to learn money-earning skills.  I think mechanics is one of the choices.  So maybe the trainers sneak into the lorry-fleet garage in dark of night and yank a few wires and drill a few holes and put antifreeze in the petrol tanks to make sure their course will be popular.

** Since it was a four-hour slot I would not have made her wait that long if they’d come at the end instead of the beginning.  But the domestic fauna are not having a good time right now because Pav is in bloody [sic] season so she’s locked up more than usual and the hellhounds . . . have stopped eating again.^  She’s in her second week which is usually when the hellhounds start moaning. I had PLANNED that when the moaning became tedious^^ I’d stash hellhounds in the sitting room or the attic at Third House and leave her to emit hormonal fug in her crate in the dining room,  and probably leave her there overnight since they’re all in the kitchen at the cottage.^^^ But we are also having the absolute worst season for fleas I’ve seen in a quarter century so while I’m frantically trying to get it under control there’s not as much wandering about the house(s) as normal as a kind of despairing attempt at damage control.  I won’t use the standard chemicals, they’re frelling poisonous, they make some dogs sick—ask me how I know this—and they don’t even always frelling work.  If I’m going to fail to eradicate fleas I’d rather do it without toxic side-effects.  Meanwhile the list of ‘natural’ flea extermination methods, thanks to in depth on line research, gets longer and longer and longer and longer and more and more time-consuming and expensive# . . . and we still have fleas.  So the ways in which the indoor wildlife and their hellgoddess are currently not having a good time are many-splendored.  Remind me why I have dogs?##

^ Fifty percent is a good average.  I try not to complain if they eat one and a half of their three meals.  I start losing the will to live (again) when they stop altogether.

^^ This takes about seven minutes.

^^^ If the hellhounds’ sexual appetite rates with their interest level in food this probably explains why I’m getting away with having three entire creatures of two genders in a relatively small space at all.+ But simply putting them in separate rooms stops the moaning++ and while I’m very grateful I’m also surprised since, you know, dogs have a tediously discerning sense of smell and can nail the precise location of that dead hedgehog/rat/squirrel while you’re only just registering ‘ew—dead thing somewhere in the vicinity.’  I’d’ve thought hormonal fug would be fairly penetrating, if you’ll forgive the term.

+ Although Pav is not noticeably more besotted with the hellhounds than she ever is—which is extremely, just by the way—and her interest in FOOOOOOOOD is in no doubt whatsoever.


# The only thing that slows them down from chewing holes in themselves is a neem-oil based salve that costs £20 for a tiny little pot.

## And the NOISE the hellterror makes while she is Slurping Her Inflamed Parts is enough to . . . enough to . . . ARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRGH.

** What’s it going to be this go? Maroon?  Mint green?  Why don’t they just leave it pink?  I think the co-op admin doesn’t have enough to do with its time or its AGMs.

*** KNITTING. ARRRRRRGH. No, I’ll tell you about it some other post. . . . ^

^ But Fiona and I did have a lovely yarn adventure yesterday. And I haven’t told her this yet but if you count the yarn I bought last night off the internet I did spend more money than she did.  The thing is, there’s this line . . . never mind which line . . . that I’m quite fond of for reasons of EXTREME AND LURID COLOUR, and this shop had a lot of it, so I fondled a great deal of it and bought some, but was Juiced Up with Desire for More by this tactile experience+ and, while we were sitting around knitting over supper, my mind would keep reverting to the knowledge that several of the more intense colourways were on sale on one of my deplorably regular yarn sites . . . colourways that were in fact not available in the shop we’d been to.  I hope you can follow my thought (?) processes here.  BECAUSE I had SUPPORTED MY LYS++ I therefore deserved to buy some of what they hadn’t had that was on sale. You get that, right?  Yes.


++ Local Yarn Shop/Store, for those of you unafflicated by the knitting mania

An attic full of books

THERE’S TOO MUCH GOING ON* including various bits of news** both good and bad that I haven’t entirely got my head around yet*** although when I do some of them will make it onto the blog.

Meanwhile I thought I might at least post some photos of an attic full of book boxes as requested by some strange person on the forum.



This is what greets you at the top of the stairs.   That’s the corner of my old double bed from Maine on the left, hard up against the end wall, pretending to be a Guest Room.  When I get it made up again it will be a very good place for Lying with the Hellmob.  The hellhounds and I had begun to explore this interesting possibility back when Third House was still Third House.  And a double bed is enough bigger than a sofa I may be able to trap the hellterror in place more effectively.

But this is what I mean about lack of impressiveness–although you may be dazzled by my colour sense–you’re looking at nineteen or twenty boxes wedged into that corner, but since you can only see the outside rows it’s a big meh.



You’re now standing with the bed behind you and the yellow filing cabinet to your left, looking down the length of the attic.  This is the long kitchen table, worth £1.79, built out of bits Peter had found in rubbish tips, that when we moved out of the old house I REFUSED TO GIVE UP.  And I was right.  It is perfect as a long skinny attic table.  That’s the notorious dormer window that has produced those interesting ceiling angles, some of which you can see.  And those are avocadoes on the window sill, in case you’re wondering, ripening in the sunlight that blasts in during the day.  If you peer into the murk to the far end of the attic you may just about be able to make out EMPTY SHELVES.  Yes.  I keep putting stuff on them and then taking it off again because how am I supposed to choose?  Although Peter’s 1,000,000,000 bound annuals of PUNCH take up a good deal of the space you can’t see, and my encyclopaedia will go on those shelves too when I find the rest of it.

And that architectural feature in the upper right-hand corner is the boxed-in, so to speak, chimney.  Why it has a sort of hoop skirt built out from it halfway down (or up) I have no idea, but all shelves to pile books and book boxes on are good shelves.



This is the left-hand far corner, so what is beyond the table on the same side of the attic.  And again . . . not so impressive.  But you’re looking at nearly thirty boxes you just can’t see most of them.  What you are seeing at the bottom of the picture in the open box is the limited edition illustrated ROSE DAUGHTER.




This is now behind the chimney.  Peter’s gazillion PUNCHES are immediately to your left;  the corner with the unimpressive thirty boxes is now behind you . . . more or less.  You’re a bit crowded back here.

I am particularly pleased with the table.  It’s one of the few pieces of furniture that came over with me from Maine, with the bed and the blue velvet sofa, and it was for the chop this move;  there was nowhere to put it.  I’m a little nostalgic about the stuff I brought over with me because barring the 1,000,000,000 books there isn’t a lot of it–and I did have to get rid of my baby grand piano.   This table has been sitting at the mews waiting for the axe to fall since like the kitchen table it isn’t worth anything BUT IT’S A PERFECTLY GOOD TABLE.  And then I thought, wait a minute, I can use it a Mediating Structure to make the wrangling of book boxes marginally less appalling.  So it’s shoved up against the back of the chimney and there are and/or will be stacks of two boxes below it and stacks of two boxes on top of it . . . instead of stacks of four boxes of books.  Hurrah.  Yessssss.



The view from above.  Just by the way, don’t get too excited by any labels you may see.  Most of them are wrong.  Well, most of the ones on Peter’s backlist are wrong.  My backlist, on the other hand, is 99% gorgeously and specifically accurate because I have a secret weapon named Fiona.



And, when appropriate, I get books out of their boxes and pile them interestingly in available gaps, available being another of those mutable concepts.  I’ve got a lot of Peter’s piled up on the chimney shelf just out of frame in the long shot of the ex-kitchen table.  And just by another way, I have no idea where SHADOWS is.  I haven’t seen it at all.  I hope it’s hiding somewhere at the cottage.



And because I am hopelessly neurotic, I’ve saved a few empty boxes . . . just in case I need them later.  Yes, that’s a sink on your right.  I have them piled in the loo because there isn’t anywhere else.

* * *

* Well how unusual

** No, no, not the kind you want

*** Although I HAD MY FIRST VOICE LESSON IN FOREVER on Monday YAAAAAAAY.  It wasn’t even as bad as feared^ but I still have a good deal of lost ground to make up.  AND BOTH MY PIANO AND I SOUND DIFFERENT IN THIRD HOUSE’S SITTING ROOM.

^ Although if it had been as bad as feared it would have involved alien abduction and earthquakes and a recount in Scotland that demonstrated that they’d left the UK after all, which leaves quite a lot of room for a voice lesson still to be pretty bad in.



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