Yes. The doodle factory has begun operations.
I know you’re due a KES tonight but Blogmom tells me she’s already receiving wistful queries, in the wake of my turning SHADOWS in last Sunday night, about the likelihood of my getting back to doodling any time soon. Since you’ve all been waiting a year, this is perfectly reasonable.* So I thought I’d better deal with that first.
I’d been planning on waiting till the end of the week when I should be able to provide slightly more impressive desk-in-process photos. It’s not, repeat not, that I didn’t hit the ‘send’ button and immediately swing around and look despairingly at what used to be my office and is now a kind of storage facility for homeless parcels. It took me two days just to dig out. Believe me when I say that I have thought of the bell auction backlog EVERY DAY, because my office has been effectively impassable for the same year you’ve been waiting for your doodles, and I’m not tidy to begin with.**
I am so not doing this again.*** And for those of you who are puzzled at why I have been quite such a nugatory no-show about the whole affair†, the view from here goes like this: The New Arcadia Bell Restoration Fund rolled into existence some time in early 2011. I don’t remember exactly when the idea for the auction coalesced out of my overheated brain or when it seemed to me a good idea to add almost anything to the list that any of you out there expressed a willingness to spend money on . . . but I do remember that Blogmom was ready to set the thing up months before I pulled it together to send her what she needed.
And the reason I kept not pulling it together, aside from my general uselessness about almost anything practical, is . . . that PEGASUS II, due last summer, was showing an extreme unwillingness to be written. In fact a total unwillingness to be written. I wasted a lot of time refusing to believe this. It wasn’t just my next book. It was the frelling sequel†† to the book that ends on a cliffhanger so appalling that anything I can manage to do in KES looks like a mug of Maggie’s mum’s hot chocolate††† in comparison.‡ The prospect of merely not being able to afford to go on eating (nearly) paled in comparison with the horror of not finishing PEGASUS. Finishing. FINISHING.
PEGASUS, which, as long-time blog readers know, started life as a short story for ELEMENTALS: AIR, wanted to be a trilogy? Kill me. Kill me now.
So last August I set aside the semi-congealed, lumpy, overstuffed bungle that book two of the PEGASUS duology had become, and frantically began writing SHADOWS.‡‡ In the first place, I needed to keep eating. In the second place, I couldn’t face telling Merrilee or my editor what had happened till I could honestly say that I was working on something else. I whispered the dreaded ‘t’ word to Merrilee last September‡‡‡ and let her break it to my editor.
The part I’m not telling you much about, and that I’m not going to tell you much about, is that I thought I really was going to get SHADOWS put through fairly quickly, but along about March this year a big fist of health/menopause/mind/heart/spirit stuff punched me hard, and EVERYTHING including SHADOWS w e n t i n t o e x t r e m e s l o o o o o o w m o o o o o t i o n. . . .
But things may be improving generally. There is, for example, KES. And I’ve sent SHADOWS in.§
And the doodle factory went into production yesterday. Watch this space.§§
* * *
* And leaving you to hang a little longer over the particular cliff at the end of KES 42 . . . pleases me, because I am the hellgoddess and, as blondviolinist pointed out on the forum, I enjoy your pain. Mwa ha ha ha ha.
Also, in the final crunch to finish SHADOWS^ I haven’t written any KES in a while, and I need to get on with that, I’m only a few eps ahead at the moment. And just as much as you do I want to know what happens next, because KES, like everything else I’ve ever written, including cough-cough nonfiction^^, keeps surprising me.^^^
^ EXCEPT I’M NOT RATBAGGING FINISHED. I’ve spent the last two days cutting the freller—I cannot write short—and will be going on doing so for several more days yet. Which is actually amazingly stressful. Arrrgh.
^^ Including this blog. Which is mostly nonfiction, if of a perhaps slightly unusual kind.
^^^ Which as every writer who has ever written anything worth reading has said in one form or another, is a good thing and a necessary thing. A piece of writing you can order around, which is perfectly submissive to your fingers on the keyboard, is going to be dead and booooooring on the page.
** I now also have a yarn problem. At least this doesn’t require additional steel struts and granite pillars to shore up the weight-bearing floor.
*** Yes, there will be a permanent doodle shop on the blog AFTER, REPEAT AFTER I fulfil the auction orders. Did I say AFTER? AFTER. AAAAAAAAFTER.
† I am a lifelong absent-minded disorganised dilettante who always believes she can do more than she can.^ But the overcommitted messes I get myself into are usually not this extreme.
^ And I wonder why I’ve ended up with ME. No, I don’t wonder all that much.
†† I who never write sequels
††† Have I mentioned that Maggie’s mum—I mean mom—makes the best hot chocolate?
‡ Although I’ve had one or two really excellently cruel ideas about intercutting some of Flowerhair’s story.
‡‡ The first twenty single-spaced pages of which have been sitting in a folder behind my desk for several years. Almost nothing of said twenty pages remain, except the first-person high school girl narrator, and the short hairy guy from the Slav Commonwealth named Val whom she dislikes and distrusts on sight.
‡‡‡ I knew there was something up with you, she said. I just didn’t know what it was.
§ Even if I’m still frelling tinkering with it. Frelling.
§§ The straightforward stuff first. The one offs later.
One of the lesser wrong-going things last year was that I had a, er, stab at one of the auction knitting projects and promptly made a mess of that too, which was worse for morale than it should have been, first because my Secret Knitting Projects were all going the way of PEG II and second because I was beginning to pick up signs that in fact my money was not going to be welcome at the bell fund I thought I was raising it for. This was very bad indeed for morale. GAAAAH. LIFE. NO, IT’S NOT WHAT I HAD IN MIND. DON’T YOU HAVE SOMETHING ELSE?
Meanwhile, I am a whole year older in terms of knitting nous. And I will turn out the auction knitty things with aplomb. Just not this week.
They’ve redesigned the worming schedule. I have as little truck with Big Pharma as I can, on both sides of the canine/human species border, but worming critters is totally necessary, and while I know there are herbal and homeopathic ways to do it, in this case I am a craven coward, and I go for the heavy chemicals. I just hope that the veterinary worm-icides are less destructive to the hellhounds’ wobbly guts than a gentler, less Sherman’s-march-to-the-sea, more holistic method would be, which (probably) allows a few escapees.
You used to worm your dog three times a year. Last time I went in to the vet clinic I was told that they’d changed the ingredients or the proportions or something, and you were now only supposed to do it twice a year. This should be good news—if it works—if they haven’t just jacked everything up by 800%** and it’s now taking the top six layers of gut lining with it, and forget the friendly flora, they’re history.
The visible management difficulty with hellhounds is that as they get near time to be wormed they stop eating. Of course. Hellhound default position is not eating. But I’m trying not to work slowly round the year backwards, so last year first worming was March and this year it was February and next year it will be January. On the new six-month system hellhounds are due the end of July.*** But hellhounds have been becoming increasingly resistant to food for the last several weeks and I’m running out of stratagems and flimflam. There are various herbal and homeopathic remedies (speaking of herbal and homeopathic) which help. But most of what armoury I’ve got relates to waiting. You put the food down. They don’t eat. You move the bowls. They still don’t eat. You move the bowls again.† They continue not to eat. You offer small bits of chicken††. They had better eat these. ††† When you get to the point where they won’t eat small bits of chicken . . . you panic.
Today at lunch (never our best meal) we reached the refusing-small-bits-of-chicken stage. Whereupon I went round to the vets, got the wormer, came home and . . . since they won’t eat, I had to poke the pills down their throats. Previously I have (usually) managed to get them wormed while they were still eating, so the pills went down with some food. The frelling new pills clearly gave them giant stomachaches—I could hear Darkness’, whose insides are the more deplorable, gut objecting from two rooms away. AAAAAAAUGH.
It took four hours, two homeopathic doses, and some raw liver to get them to eat their lunch.
They ate dinner with enthusiasm.‡
I am a gibbering wreck. Dogs. Whose idea was dogs.
. . . But they’re warm and furry and cute and lying on the sofa without them just wouldn’t be the same. ‡‡ I am doomed.
* * *
* Meanwhile yesterday was the only day all week it didn’t rain.^ And it was a Sunday, so the world and his wife were out enjoying the countryside. I was expecting the world, his wife, their six untrained Labradors plus a Rottweiler who slipped his lead in Canterbury and has been making good time, and possibly an allosaurus escaped from the Centre of the Earth or the Lost World or the Land That Time Forgot, or a mad scientist’s back garden, where he’s been breeding them because Rottweilers^^ aren’t scary enough. What I—we, the hellhounds and I—got were hordes of off-road bikes, the leg-powered kind. Yet another category of self-absorbed idiots who think they own the planet, or at least that they should. This particular division had all been to a sensitivity training seminar which taught them to say ‘hello’ to pedestrians. Say it brightly and charmingly AND THEN IT DOESN’T MATTER IF YOU RUN THEM OFF THE TRACK. I’m happy to crank in hellhounds to one side of a double-width track for anyone, be it horse, bike, motorbike, or 1927 double-six Daimler. I am not happy to be driven into the hedgerow by some thug on something with wheels who clearly believes this manifestation of modern technology gives him priority and we can get the hell out of his way or be mown down, because he needs to maintain his momentum. This doesn’t usually happen, but yesterday they all (cheerily) said hello as they sailed past, flecking us with mud in what was no doubt a comradely way. Grrrrr.
At one point, on a particularly overgrown track^^^, this errant creep with muscles to match his attitude shouted, in the designated cheery manner, Good morning! twice as he bore down upon us at no lessening of speed. As he came beside us—as hellhounds and I scrambled to get the hell out of his way—he said, scintillating with outraged virtue, You can say Good morning! I, with rare presence of mind, replied: You can get off your bike!
You can f*ck off! he shouted back over his shoulder.
So much for sensitivity training.
There are so many ways that dog ownership is a never-ending delight. I keep remembering that romcom cliché for meeting people: buy a dog and take it for walks. Oh, you will meet people all right. . . .
^ It is raining now. It has been raining all day. Ringing at Glaciation tonight . . . it’s the 16th of July, I am wearing a wool cardigan, and I turned the electric fire on.
^^ Word allows ‘Rottweiler’ but not ‘Rottweilers’. Please. And it doesn’t know ‘allosaurus’. I would have thought all computer programmers, including those involved with spellcheckers, were dinosaur geeks when they were kids.
^^^ And then there’s the, ahem, thorny issue of local council upkeep of public tracks.
** It makes me nervous when Big Pharma does something apparently against its own interests, like cutting back on a treatment. They’re not hugely bothered about delivering good health. What they’re hugely bothered about is delivering a good profit.
*** Just like SHADOWS.
† I have no frelling idea why moving the food bowls works. But if they’re stuck in a non-eating posture they absolutely won’t eat till you move them. Moving the bowls means keeping the possibility live.
†† Slightly larger than the infinitesimal dice of (usually) chicken mixed up with the cereal-free kibble in their bowls. I chop it up as small as the width of the knife blade will let me or Chaos in particular will simply eat the chicken bits out. Hellhounds have prehensile tongues. But this is still just another kickstarting ploy: the trick is to get them to eat anything. I don’t know what is literally going on inside a non-eating hellhound, but empty stomachs apparently make them feel ill—which means they’re even less likely to eat. Which is why they have three meals a day. Which is why I make myself meshugga^ trying to get them to eat three times a day.
^ Feh. Word doesn’t know ‘meshugga’ either. Bunch of goyim.+
+ SNORK. IT ACCEPTS GOYIM.
††† Their final meal of the day is gold-standard kibble only—the stuff that you cry when you pay the bill and genuflect when you open the bags—and we’ve got to the stage where I’m having to allow an extra hour for getting to bed, because of the hellhound eating situation. Arrrrrgh. These are not hugely useful hours, you know? I’m too busy feeling crazy. But I’m catching up on old issues of TIME and THE RINGING WORLD which is I suppose something.
‡ But dinner is our best meal. Ask me tomorrow morning, after pre-bedtime supper. See previous footnote.
‡‡ And Kes has just met the SWD. This is happening a lot of eps from where you are. Mwa hahahahahahaha.
. . . Most of which regular blog readers will have seen before.
Mrs Redboots posted a link in the forum last night, to a blog post by a friend of hers who also has ME:
Much worse than mine. As I keep saying, mine is a mild case. I know what she’s talking about though—I had eighteen months on the sofa when I first went down with acute ME after two years of regularly recurring glandular fever, which is a very common lead-in. But then I started finding things that worked for me, and I started being able to get up off the sofa occasionally.* And oh, glory, how I know about things like avoiding your kind supportive neighbours because you haven’t got the energy to chat. You get horribly selfish with a disease like ME—or you may do—because suddenly you have so much less livable life at all, and you can’t bear to waste what little is left to you. I’m a cranky introvert anyway—even in my pre-ME days social stuff was tiring, even when I enjoyed it. Now? . . . Don’t even ask. It’s hard to be a nice person when you have a chronic freller.
I want to put in a word on the well-meaning but clueless world’s behalf however. Dawn mentions acquaintances saying jovially that they’d like a ride in her stair lift, that it looks like fun. Well, I’d snarl too, because I’m not good at being patronised, and of course you wouldn’t be using a stair lift if you didn’t frelling have to. But . . . there’s another thing that happens, and sometimes I recognise it when it does: the person who puts their foot in it may be trying to include, or re-include, you into the human race. Oh, a stair lift, oh, okay, no big deal, it looks like fun. From your angle it is a big deal. From their angle, they may be trying to say that it isn’t—in the way that counts. They’re trying, clumsily, to close the gap between you: to say that the important thing is that you’re both human beings.
I get something like this kind of a lot when I am so unfortunate as to have to try to share a meal with someone. Uggh. I’m dairy intolerant, chemical sensitive, and on the rheumatism diet,** and when my digestion is in a bad mood (and it is more than it isn’t) I avoid gluten too. You’ll have to take my word for it that at home, with my organic grocery boxes coming twice a week, it’s not that big a deal.*** Out in the real world . . . I am hell to feed, and I rarely enjoy the attempt. Which leaves me, sometimes, reluctantly having conversations with people who stare at me, trying not to let their mouths drop open at the idea of not being able to eat pizza or brownies or milk in their coffee† and after a dumbstruck silence they’ll say something like, Oh. Yeah. Um. My sister-in-law is allergic to spinach. So we can’t have spinach quiche when she comes to dinner. At which point you have a choice: you can kill them. Or you can recognise they’re trying. They’re trying to close the gap between you.
Uggh. Of course, you’d rather there wasn’t the gap. ††
Slightly similar, in that it’s a perspective thing, is something from the article I posted the link to last night, that I was going to mention and then, because I had so many other things to moan about, I didn’t get around to. Someone told the journalist anonymously that a GP at her clinic had suggested that she take up meditation as therapy. I may be reading this wrong, but my impression is that she—and the journalist—felt that the GP was telling her it was all in her mind. But . . . it sounds like a good idea to me. It’s well known (isn’t it?) that a regular discipline of meditation has enormous physical benefits—as well as calming and centring your butterfly mind. ME is a real disease—we’re not whiny self-absorbed victims who only need to get a grip—but mind and body are one critter. Any disease is a disease of the body and the mind. Let’s not forget that, in our necessary attempts to get the respect—and the research—that we need.†††
* * *
* In my case chiefly vitamins, homeopathy and Bowen massage. I had a friend with fibromyalgia^ who sent me to her doctor. For which I am still, twelve years later, grateful, since he took me seriously—and started me on vitamins. The very first thing that made a difference to my pain and energy levels was magnesium supplements. This won’t be part of everyone’s answer but it was the first thing that gave me some hope that there was something that I could do—that there was a way to alleviate some of the worst symptoms. And I remember the terrifying shock of that first small improvement—the shock of hope. This was also years before the NHS had been dragged, kicking and screaming, into recognising ME as a real disease. My friend’s nice doctor was private, and I couldn’t afford him after the first few visits—and my NHS doctor ‘didn’t believe in ME’.
^ Speaking of neuro-immuno-whatsits as syndromes: fibro is another one. I read up on fibro too because the overlap with ME is considerable, and the boundaries of both are fuzzy.
** No tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, peppers, or (weirdly) mushrooms, except Shiitake. They’re all nightshades, except the mushrooms, but mushrooms are still on the list. Dairy is on the list for some people—turns out it is for me too, but I was already off it for other reasons. But I gave up my once/twice a year ice cream blow outs when they started giving me severe joint pain. Feh.
*** Peter is mostly pretty tactful about eating the stuff I really miss, like toast, or ice cream, when I’m not around. This is not a household rule, however, nor is the ice cream hidden at the back of the freezer or the bread in a cupboard I never look in. I don’t want any more walls around me than I absolutely have to have, even when they’re for my benefit.
† I’m violently allergic to coffee. Just by the way.
†† Personally I do have a lot of trouble with the ‘you don’t look sick!’ thing—which I also get kind of a lot, because I don’t (usually). This presses my buttons so hard that I can’t tell if this is another clumsy effort to close the gap between me and the healthy moron who just uttered those words, or whether they are telling me I’m malingering. And I guess that as I’m at the high-functioning end people have trouble with my issue about driving: driving is exhausting because of that constant, split-second awareness you must maintain behind the wheel, and that healthy people don’t even notice they’re squandering. I have to kind of crank myself up for it—and I can do it, but it costs. So I do it as little as possible.
I suspect that my fury about the enforced-exercise so-called ‘treatment’ is partly fuelled by the fact that morons who know or recognise me as someone who is ‘naturally’ physically active seem to think that it would suit me—that I just need a little prod toward pulling myself together again. This is not an attempt to close the gap. This is being a flaming asshole. The irony is that—see: Lack of Slack Syndrome—that you do need to keep as physically fit as your illness allows because it makes good days as good as you’re capable of and it’s a fragile but crucial buffer on bad days. Normal healthy people can do their twenty minutes’ exercise three times a week and then go for a fifteen-mile hike on the weekends. I can’t. I do a couple of hours a day, every bloody day, with attendant hellhounds—and some days we cover seven or eight miles. Sometimes we cover one. Sometimes we keep going a clip (rather to hellhounds’ annoyance. They like mooching). Sometimes we sit down a lot—or, lately, with the drought rivering past our knees, lean. I try not to force myself a micro-millimetre past what my body is willing to do that day—but I try not to do much less than a micro-millimetre of what it’ll bear either.
††† And one of these days I will take a deeeeep breath and write about depression. Do I know about depression? I sure do. Speaking of uggh. Very, very big uggh.
Hey. People. I read the forum. But you don’t seriously believe I’m going to post the second part of Corellia’s saga right away, do you? Blow off two guest posts in a ROW? If I had two nights in a row off I’d have established a habit of lying on the sofa covered with hellhounds during blog-writing time, eating bonbons and reading trashy novels. Marabou-trimmed satin lingerie optional. No, no, no. Besides, torturing blog readers is one of my few pleasures.
. . . ‘Pleasures’ certainly not including bell ringing. Oh gods. Practise tonight at the abbey was unbelievably awful. Awful. As I said to Albert as I raced out the door* to escape as soon as possible, this habit of taking one step forward and two steps back is getting discouraging.** Profound and utter humiliation is disagreeable at best but in this case I don’t know what to do about it. I’ve only ever learnt . . . well, pretty much anything, but particularly bell ringing . . . by grind. Relentless grind. You don’t get to grind at the abbey—there are too many ringers at too many different levels (especially upper) to have time for grinding any of them.*** I’d been hoping that I was far enough down the ringing road generally that I wouldn’t need to grind the way I used to . . . wrong. But the big spiky unmediatable situation here is that it’s specifically the abbey that’s the problem: those bells, that frelling ringing chamber, the fact that it’s the abbey. I can ring Grandsire Frelling Triples at other towers—not gloriously well, but I can ring it. Or I could. I think I’m forgetting, because what I’m chiefly doing lately is failing to ring it at the abbey. I cannot begin to tell you how WILDLY FRUSTRATING it is to listen, or to stand behind and watch someone else ringing, something that in any other tower I’d give my eyeteeth† to have a go at—I should be consolidating my Grandsire Triples and practising bob triples and major, Stedman triples, Cambridge minor, treble bobbing to surprise major. But I can’t ring at the abbey.
I wasn’t even expecting the worst tonight. Usually I’m horribly good at expecting the worst. Tonight when I pulled off the bell felt familiar—it is not, in fact, the bells, it’s the ballroom-sized ringing chamber and the abbeyness of it. And I thought, pulling on this familiar bell, oh good. I’m getting there. I’m making progress. This is, or at any rate is going to be, my new home tower.
Does anyone have a bridge handy that I could throw myself off?
* * *
Meanwhile . . . @cambridgeminor/CathyR tweeted me this today:
I know there have been ME awareness weeks—possibly every year at this time, one of the symptoms is really bad memory—but I’d missed we were having one now. And ME, like way too many other badly understood and/or scary don’t-want-to-think-about-it-because-it-might-happen-to-me afflictions and ailments, can use all the good press it can get. Yes, it’s a real disease.†† No, we’re not all malingerers.††† Hurrah for journalists who write articles‡ saying that ME is a nasty kick in the head from fate and to take it seriously. And I’m very glad to see someone making a noise about the appalling so-called ‘treatment’ of enforced exercise, which I’ve railed about here before. If you have ME the last thing you should do is force yourself to do stuff. That only makes it worse. As I’ve also said—but to me, being someone with ME, this is all worth saying again—there may be a few ME-diagnosed people out there for whom enforced exercise worked . . . but I’d personally doubt that in that case what they did have is ME. It’s a fairly slippery disease/syndrome and there’s a lot of overlap with other fateful kicks in the head.
But I want to add (again) that my experience of it is also that what energy, physical and mental, you do have you MUST USE, because if you don’t it will not only go away again—but you’ll feel worse, just like if you forced yourself to do too much. The Lack of Slack Syndrome. One of the things this article also mentions, and good for her, although I’d put quite a few underlines around it too, is the good days and bad days thing—you may also have good half days and bad half days, good hours and bad hours . . . good minutes and bad minutes. She mentions people who have to put their lives on hold because they can’t do anything consistently. Yes. This is one of the big ratbags about managing it—and leads to why I seem to get away with so much. I’ve told you (often) before there are a lot of smoke and mirrors on the blog—well, if I have to lie down for an hour or a day, I just do it. I don’t have to tell you or my boss about it—and the hellhounds adore it, of course. But one of my bottom lines is that I have no stamina, despite all that hurtling. I gave up horses (several times) because I can’t ride regularly enough. I don’t ring quarter peals because I never know when I’m going to have a bad day or a bad hour, and you’re letting down five or seven other people if you fold up unexpectedly. I don’t travel for a variety of reasons, but head of the list is the ME. Managing it on the road is . . . well. I’d rather have bell practise nights like tonight, when throwing myself off bridges seems like a rational reaction, than cope with a bad ME day away from home.
This is one of the things I’d like to see more recognition of—that most people with ME are still capable of doing something—and most of us want to: who wants to be helpless, hopeless, dependent and bored?—but we need SLACK from the healthy, functioning world. We need FLEXIBILITY. The business/working/income-oriented world is still lousy about people who don’t fit their pattern. It’s like the colossal waste of energy and talent of parents who want to, you know, raise their kids themselves. The corporate world still seems to think that kids are something you do in your spare time, and that making widgets and earning money is the real centre of the universe. What is wrong with this picture.
Everybody would be happier if they could work and live to a model that suited them better, you know? You don’t have to have ME or little kids. Elasti-world! Now all we need is a logo and catchy tag line.
* * *
* Not a good idea from this tower. GERONIMOOOOOOOOOO!
** I’ve also started wondering again how long before they tell me not to come back.
*** Except in terms of ‘into little pieces’. I came home in a basket.
† As if anyone would want these eyeteeth. I did, however, get my crown glued back in today.
Dentist from R’lyeh was on holiday, so I saw An Extremely Chirpy female dentist. Extremely Chirpy. Except that I guess you aren’t allowed to make jokes about doctors on drugs I’d say she’s on drugs. Nobody is that chirpy without chemical assistance. I commented, as I produced the small offending object, that it was remarkably clean, as was the post-stub it used to be stuck to. This is, in fact, a crown put in by Dentist from R’lyeh himself, so they could look it up in their records and the chirpy dentist went off into peals of tinkling laughter when the assistant declared that he’d glued it in originally with Glurpbggg™ ^ which is a temporary cement. Oh, that’s why the crown was so clean! sang Ms Nitrous Oxide. Temporary cement always dissolves over time!
Erm, I said, spitting out the crown, which she had spronged back in place to check rapport and congruity with the surrounding teeth, and then couldn’t dislodge again, why?
Oh, because it’s such a good fit! she trilled.
Um. From where I’m sitting . . . the temporary cement was always going to dissolve? Therefore I was always due to be back here in this chair having spent x number of days chewing on one side of my mouth and worrying there was something actually wrong, and then spending an afternoon I might have spent getting on with novel-in-progress schlepping into Mauncester to have it put back in?
^ I can hardly wait to see what WordPress does to the TM symbol. I wonder if I need popcorn.
†† Although I personally think it’s a syndrome. As I keep saying. If I were going to guess more, I’d guess that it’s caused by a variety of sensitivities to the extremely not-what-we-evolved-for life we lead now. A kind of uber-allergy.
††† Note that of course there are malingerers among us. It’s like some accountants embezzle. That doesn’t mean the definition of an accountant includes ‘embezzler’.
‡ Although please the frelling gods couldn’t they have hired a PROOFREADER? Text as bad as this undermines both the message and the professionalism of the journalist or the paper or both . . . or maybe that’s just that I’m a professional writer with ME.
I don’t know if I can describe how much I am enjoying this [New Thing], so I won’t try. You’ll just have to imagine.
Oh good. ::Beams:: And LAVISH, PROFOUND AND HEARTFELT thanks to all the rest of you who have forumed, tweeted, Facebooked or emailed similar sentiments. I hope there are a fair number of you out there, because the plan is that the New Thing should go on a while. It is, in fact the New Thing. I was going to do a nice tidy well-laid out How the New Thing Came to Be post but . . . when have I ever been nice, tidy or well-laid out?* Anyway, I think I’ve already told you that I’ve been aware for a while that I needed to do something new or different about the blog. But as to why it arrived in this particular New Thing package. . . .
. . . Meanwhile (this is not a non sequitur: bear with me) I should be hoovering. I haven’t done any housework since . . . uh . . . approximately since Hannah was here. Well, she gave me flu. I’m allowed a little slack. But Cathy arrives tomorrow for a few days. And I really don’t want her to blink a couple of times at my sitting-room and run away.** And one of the things we’ll be doing while she’s here (if she doesn’t run away) is playing with New Thing.
Shock horror. Someone is appearing under their own name in Days in the Life. Yes. Cathy. Cathy as in Cathy Hamaker, our own Black Bear.
Some of you have already heard how Cathy and I met at Wiscon several yonks ago, didn’t quite manage to have a cup of tea/coffee together, but kept in vague touch, each privately under the impression that we’d probably hit it off if we ever concentrated on it for a few minutes. And then I started Days in the Life, and she started reading it. Clearly the woman spends too much time on line, because she found it almost at once.
One of the things Cathy does in her copious free time*** is run RPGs—role playing games—as gamesmaster.† She’s been sending me hilarious abstracts of some of these games for years. I keep saying oh gods what a waste these should be fiction. And we’ve had a running conversation, also for years, about how we might somehow create an RPG for the blog, using some McKinley world or other, possibly one I make up specifically for the purpose. . . . But we’ve never been able to figure out a way to do this that wouldn’t make the blog even more work for me, as well as a way that would not send Merrilee off in fits of the screaming abdabs about copyright.
Then, a few weeks ago, I went down with flu. I’ve told you, possibly smugly, which would explain the result, that I can (usually) keep writing no matter what is going on in the real world with me. I could have beriberi, cholera, or a major invasion of bats,†† and I could keep writing. Well. There’s one rather important exception. That’s when I’m at the very, very, very end of a book, and trying to do the final comb and shine, trying to make sure all the screws are not merely the right size, but have gone in straight and been puttied and then painted over so you can’t see the join. To do this properly you have to attain and maintain a kind of extreme squeaky alertness, which includes being able to hold the entire book in your mind all at once.†††
I can’t do this when I feel like dirty river froth and neither my eyes nor my brain will focus.
I HAD TO STOP WORKING ON SHADOWS WHEN I WAS NEARLY AT THE END.
Try to imagine how—or rather what—this contributed to my sanity and peace of mind.‡ Especially after various other literary setbacks in the last year.
So, I’m lying there, between writing blog posts that make everything sound better than it (*&^%$£”!!!!! is, thinking, what do I do? What can I do? I can’t work. I can’t even get on with all that backed-up doodling, because doodling also requires a certain level of committed attention, as well as a hand that doesn’t shake. People paid me money for those doodles—I have to do them the best that I am able. Which is not now.
And thus, from fever and despair, was New Thing born. I’ve thought of story-telling on the blog before, but I couldn’t think of how to do that either, without bleeding off real-story energy and, once again, making the blog more work.‡‡ But I thought three things more or less simultaneously (thus the splintering effect of fever): I could do a parody. I could do a parody of me. I could do all kinds of stuff I wouldn’t dream of doing in a real book. My heroine could write fantasy series. She could write fantasy series with cliffhanger endings. She could write fantasy series one of which, for example, features a protagonist named Flowerhair, who fends off attack mushrooms with an enchanted sword named Doomblade. Hee hee hee hee hee, I muttered to myself, my eyes gleaming with fever. She’ll have to write a vampire series too. Let’s say . . . oh . . . let’s say Vampire Virago.
The second thing I thought was: the individual posts can be shorter, not only because they’re fiction, which from a fiction writer counts as value-added whether it is (ahem) literally or not, but also because if I run long I can just put the overrun into the next post. This is one of my more intractable problems with Days in the Life: stuff I cut for later almost never gets used, because, because, well, because it’s Days in the Life. Once a day is over, it’s over. Even irrelevant footnoted asides tend to go all floppy by next day. And then they’re WASTED.
The third thing I thought was: if Cathy’s sense of humour stretches that far, she can gamesmaster me. She can prod me on into adventures and with characters that would never have occurred to me. She’d just sent me another one of her goofy summaries from a game she’s running, and there was a specific bit in it‡‡‡ that I thought (in my feverish way) would be perfect for an on-line blog serial. Fine, she said. It’s yours. No, no, I said, I want active input—if I can get it. If it would amuse you. Fortunately Cathy amuses easily. Which got us talking about how we might do this.
As I write now, we’ve already done two stints on Skype IM with her typing things like: okay, there’s a funny noise, and me typing back, FUNNY NOISE? WHAT DO YOU MEAN FUNNY NOISE? I DON’T LIKE FUNNY NOISES. Cathy: It’s a sort of scrape-thump-thud noise. Me: NOOOOOOOOOO. —I should perhaps add here that we’ve played a two-person RPG a couple of times but I am hopeless because I spend all my time afraid to do anything because I’m sure I’m going to die. Characters do die in RPGs, you know. One of the things that is going to make Cathy’s augmentations possible is that I said: First rule. You can’t kill me.
So. Anyway. I haven’t got to Cathy’s first injection of storyline. It’s . . . um . . . several ep[isode]s off yet.§ I’m writing as fast as I can.§§ I’ll tell you when we get there. But after that you’ll just have to guess. The story is the story. The story is always the story, and I’m still writing it . . . even if there’s some extremely silly collaboration going on just out of sight.§§§
* * *
* OUT. I said OUT. I said well laid OUT.
** Colin and Niall were here for handbells yesterday. I had got home barely ahead of them and was still doing things like tearing harnesses off hellhounds when they arrived. Shall I pick this up? said Niall, referring to the green plastic garden sheet on the floor of the sitting-room which is where ALL MY BABY PLANTS COME INDOORS TO SLEEP EVERY FRELLING NIGHT. Sure, I said, but fold it up so the dirt all stays on the inside.
Oops, said Niall.
*** HAHAHAHAHAHA. Copious free time. HAHAHAHAHAHA.
† She also plays for other gamesmasters, but I don’t hear about those.
†† Not yet.
††† Not to mention my bank balance which, regular readers will remember, is a problem right now.
‡ Or rather, this is how I’ve always done it. Which is why the idea of writing a three-volume story freaks me out so much.
‡‡ Remember, when I’m whining about how much work the blog is, two things: I enjoy it too. It’s just way too frelling much work. Which leads to the second thing, which is that I have limited range to change this. I’m an obsessive personality: I pretty much only do things I can be obsessive about. This includes the blog. Shifting to posting every other day or declaring I won’t write posts over 500 words will not work. I either do it obsessively or I won’t do it at all.
‡‡‡ Which I’m certainly not going to tell you about because we may yet use it.
§ Slightly after when you finally find out what my heroine’s name is.
§§ Which is never fast, even when I’m essentially ripping myself off.
§§§ Note that when Cathy originally booked her time over here, it was planned carefully for after SHADOWS was going to be finished . . . and well before New Thing was a flu-addled gleam in my deliquescing brain.