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
† NO NOT COMPUTER GAMES. COMPUTER GAMES ARE THE DEVIL’S SPAWN.^
^ 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.
Well of course I knew this was coming. I signed a contract, right? Months ago. But I was fallen on in body by everyone involved and FORBIDDEN to announce the news before time.* And then at the last possible minute, of course, because that’s how these things go, MAJOR FAILURE IN COMMUNICATION OCCURRED, so not only did I not see the final of anything, the frelling press release went out two days ago and the only reason I knew about it was because I started getting deluged by emails (and one or two tweets) from people saying FINALLY!! FINALLY FINALLY FINALLY FINALLY YOUR BACKLIST IS COMING OUT ON EBOOK!!!!!!
So here’s a link to the press release:
. . . But you might want to check it again in a few days when certain details have been AHEM tidied up a little.**
* * *
* And very frustrating it has been too with the increasing numbers of emails pleading for me to produce or permit ebook editions of my backlist. IT’S NOT UP TO ME. IF I COULD WAVE THE ABRACADABRA WAND I’D’VE DONE IT YEARS AGO.^ The problem with a lot of us old people is that we were writing books long before ebooks existed and renegotiating terms as the ebook revolution scampers around us and our elderly text-only contracts going nanny nanny boo boo hahahahahahaha is kind of a drag. Not to mention complicated. And before you send me a list of 1,000,000 authors even older than I am who got their backlists out on ebooks decades ago^^ yeah, well, that’s them, okay? See: ‘clever’, below. It also depends on your publisher or publishers; some divisions of some publishers are farther into the twenty-first century than others.^^^
^ No I don’t personally love ebooks, but I certainly read them,+ and I totally understand the comfort of having a vast bursting library on a skinny little tablet in your knapsack.
+ And anything I like a lot I then have to buy in hard copy. Those cheap ebook come-ons from amazon unfortunately work a treat on me; I generally only buy stuff in e- that I don’t know and might not otherwise get around to. So this totally generates more income for other writers from this out-of-control reader.
^^ Before ebooks existed. But that’s not going to bother a bunch of clever SF&F writers. Please note I specify clever.
^^^ And just by the way you emailers who think it is funny or okay or persuasive to tell me that if I don’t produce legitimate ebooks you will be forced to buy evil pirated editions . . . this is not funny or okay or persuasive. Pirate editions are illegal, and every one you either buy or download free is another kick in the teeth to writers who are trying to earn a living. Don’t do it. If the ebook edition—of any author’s book—is not available, live with it.+ Worse things happen at sea.
+ You might also keep in mind that begging the author to do something about the nonexistence of ebooks only makes the author miserable because she can’t. If you want to harass the whatsit out of someone, try the original edition hard copy publisher.
** And before you ask, BLUE SWORD belongs to another publisher. Communication has failed on that front too but it will be available as an ebook. Soon. I’ll try to remember to post here when I know. But, hey, you may hear about it before I do.^
Once upon a time there was a carrier company. . . . Let’s call it Feebledweeb. It’s been around a long time. I had a lively and robust, not to say ranting, dislike of it over twenty years ago, before I left the States. Before I discovered the true range of global carrier-company incompetence, creative perversity and aggressive unhelpfulness.
Feebledweeb made both of us crazy—although Peter bears crazy better than I do—back at the old house, when we were living out in the sticks of the sticks and there was a lot more hard copy in publishing than there is now. Feebledweeb at the time was, I believe, the only carrier that would pick stuff up in the sticks of the sticks of southern England and deliver it, more or less safely and in one piece, to a Manhattan highrise. And vice versa. Maybe. With a following wind.
They did, however, make their services coughcoughcoughcough as difficult and unservicelike as possible. They toyed with the concept of timed arrivals, and even at that they could never be pinned down to anything more exacting than before noon or after noon. But that was still better than ‘some time in April, and if you’re out, we’re going to reschedule you without telling you for some date which may or may not be at least six months in the future, oh, you have a deadline? You should have thought of that before you took your dogs on that totally gratuitous walk, shouldn’t you? And what do you mean by being so self-indulgent and unprofessional as having dogs that need walking in the first place? We may not reschedule you at all, you’re not our type.’ Which system is what they reverted to. All day, any day, whatever, if you don’t like it you can hitchhike to the coast and swim to Manhattan. But being cruelly imprisoned by a time frame of before or after noon was giving their drivers palpitations and random crying jags and Feebledweeb are totally committed to employee welfare.
And then Peter and I moved into town. And there seems to have been rather a boom in carriers, some of whom are no worse than dire and unreliable. But Feebledweeb, unfortunately, seems still to control the frelling transatlantic routes.
Now it will amaze you to hear this, but I am not the perfect client. I want to believe that I mostly behave myself with Merrilee, but Merrilee’s subrights department has little cause to love me, and it would not stun me with flabbergastery that there’s a doll hanging by the neck in a corner of the subrights department with a pin through her heart and a banner reading ‘Robin McKinley’. I lose things. I don’t remember ever having seen things. When I send things back it turns out I signed the wrong pages, or didn’t sign enough of them*, or I didn’t put the date on when I should have or did put the date on when I shouldn’t. And then New Arcadia’s post office exploded and was removed and rebuilt using reject Lego in the back of the village grocery, you’re no longer allowed to bring your critters with you to keep you amused while you wait in the endless queue**, and I, having been a borderline*** post office user since I moved over here†, became, um, pathological.
Re-enter Feebledweeb. Who will come to my house and fetch my botched, ill-signed documents, and cart them off to a subrights department across the Water, where they will be the cause of screaming and nervous breakdowns—only some of which will be because I screwed up (again).
Recently we’ve been having a nice little extended torment trying to get Feebledweeb to do what it says on the tin/envelope. Subrights and I got all excited—briefly—because according to Feebledweeb’s web site, subrights could include a prepaid return envelope with the documents I’m supposed to deal with in some way other than the way I will deal with them, and I can just pop them in the return envelope and post them in an ordinary post box, and Feebledweeb will take it from there.
Yes, they will. They will deliver it back to me again with large red marks and seals all over it declaring that I am a liar and a cheat and that I haven’t paid them and their dog is going to pee on my shoes††. We gambolled through this amusing cycle, I think, three times.
Okay. The next plan of action is that we are going to revert to the earlier system of their coming to my house to pick up the envelope of mangled documents.
Feebledweeb were supposed to come last Wednesday between ten and two [sic].
Nothing happened. Nobody came between ten and two and there were no postcards through my door when I returned after belated gratuitous critter-hurtling [see above].
Subrights emailed me anxiously that they had spoken to Feebledweeb again and Feebledweeb would now come this Wednesday between ten and two.
Monday I received a phone call from a very pleasant, very fluent young man with a very strong Indian accent, confirming that Feebledweeb was going to be fetching a parcel from me today—Tuesday. Er, I said. Wednesday. Tuesday, said the young man firmly. Okay, I said. Tuesday. What time? Noon to three pm, he said. Fine, I said, in fact, great, and wrote it down.††
Ten minutes later the phone rang again. This time it was a woman with an English accent. Confirming that Feebledweeb is picking up a parcel from you tomorrow, she said. Yes, I said, between noon and three pm. Certainly not! said the woman. You can ring up tomorrow morning at 9 a.m. and they will give you your allocated time slot. But— I said weakly, I have just been talking to someone at your call centre in India . . .
Ring tomorrow at nine, commanded the woman. We never give out advance time slots.‡
I was downstairs and putting my tea water on at eight forty five this morning, I hope you’re impressed. At 8:59 I rang the number the woman had given me. Another woman answered and asked for my tracking number. I gave it to her, watching an unmarked white van backing up the cul de sac and stopping in front of the cottage. We have no record— began the woman, and there was a knock on the door. Excuse me, I said, hope flaring in a sharp uncomfortable way, there is someone at the door.
I threw the door open . . . and there was a man in a Feebledweeb hoodie. YAAAAAAAAAY, I said, and thrust my envelope upon him. I may have said one or two things . . . particularly because this is a guy I know. Several of the regular drivers for the various carriers are regular enough that us (regular) customers say hi when we see them on the street. FEEBLEDWEEB MAKES ME FRELLING NUTS, I may have said. The guy held up his hands (my envelope in one of them), grinning. You are not alone, he said.
He departed. I picked up the phone and discovered . . . the woman had cut me off. Never mind. The package had gone. And she rang back to say that the driver had just confirmed pick up and tracking number and all was well.
Five hours later I received an email from the subrights department saying that they had just got off the phone from Feebledweeb, re-verifying that one of their agents will pick up my envelope tomorrow, Wednesday, some time between ten and two. . . .
* * *
* I start to lose the will to live after about the ninety-third copy. Why does the president of Dormidalump Multimedia Cupcakes and Related Pastry’s wife’s brother’s assistant’s hamster need a copy of the contract anyway? I’m not sure I like the idea of CHALICE being turned into singing apple strudel, even if Merrilee did get a paragraph in there about how they had to use honey. I should have held out for baklava . . . but that still doesn’t explain the hamster.
** It seems to me very sad that Pav may never have the fabulous experience of waiting in an endless post office queue.
*** Borderline as in personality
† THE POSTMISTRESS HATED ME. SHE DID. She also retired some years ago, but THE TRAUMA REMAINS.
†† Note that (a) the payment for this interesting process is coming out of the money that passes through Merrilee’s hands on my behalf and (b) apparently even if they believed they had been paid . . . they would still deliver it back to me again. Because they can’t read. Or because they can’t design forms that are readable.
††† He then asked me where I was from and acknowledged that he was Indian and calling from India. The thing that interests me though is that these overseas call centres have a very bad rep, which is mostly well earned, but allowing for the fact that Feebledweeb is messing him over as well as messing me over, the phone line was clearer than mine to Peter often is and he was intelligent and articulate and able to answer questions . . . off the sheet of bad info they had given him, but hey.
‡ Of course not. OF COURSE NOT.
I NEED A NIGHT OFF.*
So let’s have a LINKS NIGHT.
First: Peter’s EMMA TUPPER’S DIARY, one of my and many other people’s favourites of Peter’s, HAS BEEN REISSUED.
And here he talks a little about writing it:
Second: Lightspeed (e)magazine has reprinted HELLHOUND in their February issue:
You have to scroll down the left-hand column—it is there, I promise—and while of course all of you have already read it in FIRE—there’s a lot of other good stuff in Lightspeed’s virtual pages, and you might find the McKinley author spotlight amusing. You’ll recognise the voice from this blog. . . .
* * *
* Pav is definitely starting to come back out of pheromone hell and to revert to nice normal manic hellterror status—she brought me a toy this morning for the first time in about ten days—but the hellhounds don’t seem to notice. They still aren’t eating, there’s still way too much moaning and they still dash back from hurtles or into the mews to check that she’s still there. And having pranced through the door like Hackney ponies on the way to the carriage driving finals, once they’ve established that in fact she is still there they go all floppy and pathetic-swain-like and IT MAKES ME CRAZY.^
^ The superfluously bizarre thing is that they are all over me for their sofa time. I thought it at least possible that they would be so committed to guarding the hellterror’s crate against alien invasion+ that they wouldn’t want their sofa time with a mere [menopausal++] hellgoddess. But nooooo. They’re all over me like a cheap suit or Miss Havisham’s wedding veil.+++
+ See previous blog post. You cannot be too careful about these things.
I once bought a 16 yo gelding, not knowing he’d been gelded only 6 months before. After a lifetime as a breeding stallion. (These little secrets sellers keep…) He was quite aware of everything’s ovulation and/or heat. . . .
. . . .”Hi, glorious wonderful female person! Am I not beautiful? Am I not gloriously male? Would you not like a hug?” He was gentlemanly about it . . . But there were no mistaking the source of the interest. Fluttering nostrils, upraised lip, and all. That’s how I found out that he recognized (with a slight difference in the behavior) ovulation separately from menstruation.
If I’d paid attention one of mine# might have told me when I was ovulating since I never knew. One of the things this body had trouble with was the whole female-cycle thing, and I was on the Pill## for way too many years### but I love the idea of Rhythm Method by Stallion.
Do any other male domestic critters do this? Given that there aren’t that many stallions around to begin with a lot of women who’ve worked with them will mention this interesting aspect of the experience. But you don’t hear about it with dogs, for example, and there are LOTS and LOTS of entire male dogs cluttering up the landscape. I had already started menopause when I brought the hellhounds home as puppies and most of my dog life till then had been with girls.
I knew an entire male cat once—who was also a prodigiously, gloriously male creature—who was extra-snuggly when you were menstruating, but I didn’t see him often enough to be sure that this wasn’t him reacting to you being curled up in a little ball of misery, and I was on the Pill when I knew him, so he wouldn’t have had a chance to check me for ovulation.
# I never owned one of these glorious creatures; I just did things like muck out their stalls, hang out with them and—when I was lucky—ride them.
## which back in my fertile days kept you unpregnable by suppressing ovulation. Dunno if they may have figured out other tricky methods since.
### My experience of female-cycle specialists—most of them men—became the strong foundation of my profound loathing for the medical profession.
++ NOT MY FACE. GET OFFA MY FACE.
So I’m short of sleep (again). The hellhounds weren’t eating (again) last night so I got to bed later than desirable. And still had to get up in time to sprint down to the mews for the speech therapist coming at 9:30.* Which meant that I spent the hours I did have for sleep waking up every half hour and looking anxiously at the clock (which necessitates turning the light on and focusing) in fear that I’d slept through the alarm. IT’S STILL DARK OUT. IT’S PROBABLY STILL NIGHT, ALTHOUGH I ADMIT THIS TIME OF YEAR THAT IS NOT GUARANTEED. I finally got up about twenty minutes before the alarm would have gone off. . . .
AND THEN SHE DIDN’T COME. THE SPEECH THERAPIST DIDN’T COME. Between diabolical hospital car parks and the non-arrival of therapists—we haven’t had a new one yet, and at the moment they’re all new, who doesn’t get lost trying to find us. Yes okay we are modestly tricky to find but don’t you guys TALK to each other??? So even when they arrive they’re always frelling late—THE NHS IS STARTING TO GET ON MY LAST REMAINING NERVE.
Speaking of experience informing writing, I occasionally wish I could grab a ‘High Forsoothly’ author and stick them on a horse for 5 days, see how far they could travel and whether they might start actually cleaning their horse’s hooves occasionally (not that I put Kes in this category.)
And take its tack on and off, and check it and clean it occasionally, and groom the wretched animal (including its feet) and FEED IT. Good grief. Horses take a lot of feeding because basic grazing is low-cal. And you can only carry so much grain/concentrates/what-have-you on your epic journey before this gets counterproductive: hence your horse needs hours of grazing.** And, you know, rest. Like it was a live animal or something.
It never ceases to confound me how clueless, erm, storytellers can be. What’s their excuse for not having spent two minutes to realise that you don’t turn a live animal on and off like you do a computer or a car? The other thing I always think of when I am faced with one of these horse-shaped vehicles is, hasn’t the author ever had a pet, to have some clue about the whole care-and-feeding issue?
Not that this is necessarily enough. When I was a young writer and hadn’t yet realised there is a vast political/hierarchical labyrinth between writers and readers***, I did some falling in with the wrong crowd. I was immediately made uneasy by the acolyte system† that a few of the big names had allowed to build itself around them. I also became semi-friends with an acolyte of a writer who had a particularly extensive worshipper cult. My semi-friend had written a story for her demiurge, and it had a horse in it. So she asked me if I’d read it before she submitted it. I said yes.
Erm. Well, it was a story. With a horse in it. The problem that I thought I could address was that she was treating the horse like her pet cat. She wasn’t quite opening tins of tuna for it but . . . close. I made a couple of suggestions which she did not take in good part.†† And she made sure to tell me a month or two later that her Most High had rejected the story for her next fanfic anthology, listing weaknesses I had let her down by failing to mention and not alluding to the unchanged horse/cat at all.
. . . I agree [with CateK], but have found that authors who don’t know diddly about horses and want to use horses will ask for help and then not use it. Because they’ve already decided that a) the horse care doesn’t really matter as it’s only fiction, b) they don’t want to spend words on it, c) they had what they wanted to do with a horse in the story all worked out and you’re just getting in the way. Then sometimes they mention the one who gave them the right information in the acknowledgments, with fulsome thanks, while doing exactly what they were told was impossible, thus making the one who gave them the advice looks really, really incompetent. You can drag a writer to the fount of information, but you cannot make him/her USE it.
YES. THIS. Moan, moan, moan. There are still books out there—but I can hope they’re all OP—with my name on the acknowledgements page. NOOOOOOOO. I DIDN’T DO IT. THAT’S NOT WHAT I SAID. THAT’S NOT WHAT I MEANT. IT’S NOT MY FAULT.†††
(And saying that puts me on a very slippery knife-edge, because heaven knows I don’t know everything about everything I’ve ever put in a book. I try, but…fall short. . . .)
Yes. This too. When you’re already having a bad night, this is one of the ruts of conscience that will keep you awake indefinitely. It’s the things you didn’t know you needed to look up that probably haunt me the worst. I knew I was on shaky ground with Taks’ Japanese, but thought I could just about get away with it since it was only a few words and he’d spoken only English for years. But . . . I’m sure I’ve told you this story . . . BEAUTY’s canary was originally female. My copyeditor told me that only male canaries sing much.
* * *
* No, I don’t have to be there. But while the therapists are still figuring out what Peter needs I don’t want to miss anything. And the speech therapist is probably the most important.
** Wild horses spend their lives grazing, you know? We’re interrupting the flow.
*** Some writers and some readers. Some of my best non-writing friends read me. Some of my best non-writing friends don’t. But there is a large social element of weirdness in the corner of genre publishing I know anything about, and while I’ve met people at SF&F cons and book conventions who have gone on to become friends . . . the graphic weirdness that inevitably comes with being a writer at one of these extravaganzas is a major reason why I don’t mind not going to them any more.
† Caveats here too. Some authors can’t help having groupies; it’s the way their books are read, or the luck of the draw, or that the media found them in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong person and made a groupie-attracting story out of it, or something. And some authors do a genuine and generous job of mentoring. But a few of them merely relish being adored, and behave accordingly.
†† The McKinley Learning Curve. Sigh.
††† It was my evil twin.