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. . . .
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* 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.
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* 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.
I really need a night off.* So I thought I’d leave you with two Exciting Announcements and a few links.**
Peter’s IN THE PALACE OF THE KHANS has been nominated for the Carnegie long list:
And just in case you haven’t already bought your copy, here’s a reminder:
The ‘buy now’ takes you to amazon.uk but amazon.com and Barnes and Noble have it as well.
And SHADOWS is coming out in the UK:
EBook 5 December
Paperback 2 January
The cover will look pretty much the same and the blurby stuff has been rewritten but it’s still about Maggie and some very peculiar shadows. It should be available for pre-order by now.**
And if you wish to be encouraged, possibly inspired, but not to say hectored, pleeeeease read this:
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* You know there are several people out there who have offered guest posts and then disappeared. . . . Just thought this might be worth mentioning.
** You’ll have to look the link up yourselves. I don’t go near the Robin McKinley pages on amazon.
*** Or if you want to be reminded of my back catalogue you can read this:
Yesterday was a black hole, by the way*, but I’m better today. I think.
Oh, yes, the “Are you published?” after you’ve said that’s what you do. Even after you say how many novels you’ve written (since occasionally that comes first) and you know perfectly well that no one (I think no one in history but I could be wrong) writes over 20 novels just for the heck of it. It’s work. It takes time. It takes time away from other things in life that a writer might want to do. I wrote one monster . . .when I wasn’t published, but chances are very, very high that if the thing had not been published, I would now be much better at knitting, singing, gardening, riding, and the house wouldn’t look like it does…and it would have been my only novel. . . . .(Of course I’d have gone mad. Madder than I am. But I don’t think I’d have sat down to write just about a book a year without deadlines and checks. Also, we’d now be very broke.)
Yes. And that’s the other thing: if you can’t earn a living by writing, then trust funds and/or wealthy spouses aside, you’re going to have to earn it some other way. Now earning a living is a major time suck. It’s just that if you’re doing it for love, you can manage to ignore the forty cents/shilling thruppenny per hour you’re ultimately getting paid, so long as you can keep eating.
Not being a blog follower when PEG came out, but still having visited the website enough to know that sequels were definitely not the hell goddess’ thing, I came to the end of the book . . . I tried my hardest to reason with myself . . . if this was where the story ended, then this is the story that needed to be told and I should look inside it to find the meaning, and I came up with all these beautiful ideas about friendship and perseverance and had completed the grief process up to acceptance… Then discovered the sequel tantalizers online.
::falls down laughing:: Sorry. It’s friendly laughter. Still . . . ::falls down laughing some more::
There certainly could be a story about how Sylvi and Ebon, Marked for Life by Their Tragic Separation, went on to do Great Things Alone. That’s just not the one I’m writing.
Er, this Peg II crashing to a halt business is a little frightening. I’m glad it was past tense and I feel like I’ve heard positive things about it lately? Hmmm.
PEG II crashed and burned because I was refusing to recognise that it needed to be two books. Two more books, making a [YAAAAAAARRRGGH] trilogy. So the pacing, the story arc, the way everything fit together, was totally bodged and gleepy in the original PEG II. This was scaring me quite a lot, as you may imagine. I still don’t know whether it was just I had my head down so far I couldn’t see the forest for the trees or if I really was suffering a total mental block about the idea of a [twitch] trilogy [twitch]. Anyway. By the time I finally figured it out, or let myself figure it out, I had the morale of club moss or a dead octopus or something. I could not face starting over from the beginning right away. Meanwhile—remember that benchmark about eating?—I had to keep eating. So I wrote SHADOWS.
I admit PEG II and I are still not the best of friends. There’s an awful lot of I Have Been Here Before, But Not in a Good Way. But we’re getting there.
I really like the family dynamics in your work- I get rather sick and tired of lowly orphan/foundling hero/heroines- is that just fantasy writer quick hand of being able to send them off questing without too many obstacles??? I think I’m going to do a short story on the peeved mother who gets left behind on the farm who suddenly has to do all the chores and swears at that mysterious old stranger who has gotten little Timmy all excited about saving the world.
Thank you. Yes. I agree. Orphans are fine, but there are a lot of families out there.** And families are interesting. I’ve been thinking about that story about the left-behind mum too. And the other three children, the herd of goats and the ill-tempered pony. And the cabbages. And the mortgage payments. Feel free to write it first. All good stories can be retold indefinitely.
As an avid fantasy reader one thing that bugs me IS sequels that are done just for sequels sake. Singletons are lovely.
Singletons are different. They feel different, they read differently, they hold together differently. It’s not just that they’re perforce shorter, although that’s the obvious thing. It would be a gigantic pity if The Serial Mind totally took over. But I want to put in a word of defense of writers writing less-than-great sequels. Some of them . . . are just writing less-than-great sequels. It happens. But some of them have been told that either they’re writing a series or that there’s a rumour that Wal-Mart is hiring. Remember the need to keep eating. I’m lucky: I’ve been around a long time as a writer of singletons and most people are mostly used to it. I’ve been haunted by sequels all my working life but when I wrote SWORD and HERO while series were desirable they weren’t yet a stick that your public and your publisher beat you with.***
…. I think I’ll stick to quilt pattern designs. Hmmm. A pegasus would look great.
A pegasus would look great. But if it’s a McKinley pegasus remember they are NOT horses with wings.
Thank you for the glimpses into your mind and life that you provide in the blog. I’ve become a compulsive blog reader in the last year or two. It’s not only what you write but the way you write that draws me irresistibly. Thank you!
You’re very welcome and thank you. And I want to say out here on the blog that generally speaking I try not to copy and paste the really nice compliments because it makes me look like such a prat. But I read them with ENORMOUS PLEASURE. Just sayin’.
We shall make t-shirts that say “FRELL YOUR FRELLING SEQUEL” and wear them around.
I’m beginning to think I should officially look into the t-shirt thing as an author who needs to keep eating while she [re]writes her next [frelling] novel. There’s also the footnote t-shirt. Maybe there should be a PEGASI ARE NOT HORSES WITH WINGS t-shirt too.
What I love is books that continue around the edges of them. They are so much more ‘real’ than books where the author finishes everything off.
YES. EXACTLY. As a reader I way prefer books where it’s not all tied up with a big shiny ribbon at the end. The big-shiny-ribbon conclusion tends to kill it dead, for me, and send retroactive gangrenous ripples back through the book that I had perhaps been enjoying—or at least successfully suspending my disbelief for—till then.
. . . I sometimes approach sequels with an attitude of “oh, so these poor characters — don’t they just get to live, well, not happily-ever-after necessarily, but out of the spotlight maybe? With no more than what the rest of us typically have to deal with, at least?” Whereas if they’ve landed in a sequel again it’s because something Very Exciting has happened.
Snork. As a fairly dedicated stay-at-home myself†, who relishes her hot baths, pillows and blankets, and mains-electric reading lights, as well as a writer (mostly) of singletons, I like your attitude.
. . . why, a good 60% of the time is the next sentence out of someone’s mouth Oh, are you published?
AND this one…
Oh, I’ve always wanted to write – everyone tells me I should write a book about (blah blah blah) …
SOOOOO, my question is always: Do you like to read? To which, invariably, the reply from alleged aspiring writer is: ohhhh noooo – I hate to read!
‘Invariably’? You poor thing. You need to find a better class of pub/gym/chat room/alternate reality to hang out in. The aspirers who talk to me usually do love to read—and seem to think this means they’ll be natural writers. Cough. Cough. And it’s a beginning, of course—it’s even a good beginning, being a reader: it’s just not enough.††
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* What a good thing it was already a Saturday! Or I might have been forced to hang a KES ep out of order!
** Harry has a brother! Okay, she’s an orphan, but she has a BROTHER! Also, I was younger then, and it was harder to keep account of too many important characters. Trying to hold everyone straight in HERO was a steep learning curve. If someone had told me then I was on track to write a book with PEG’s cast of characters I might be a manager of graveyard-shift supermarket shelf restockers by now.^
^ This is the Mysterious Disappearing Footnote from the other night, for anyone who was confused by the forum exchange about it.
*** There’s a similar sort of defense to be made about orphan protagonists. I’m sure there are some out there that were created orphans for no better reason than that the author wanted to get on with the story . . . but that’s not actually a bad reason either. What starts to get on my nerves is if there’s a huge doodah about the protagonist’s orphaned or otherwise tragedified state when it isn’t, as I-the-cranky-reader sees it, earned.
† Bell ringing is VERY EXCITING! I rang a HARVEST FESTIVAL today!
†† And the awful truth is that there are a few good writers out there who are not great readers. I Will Name No Names, but I know a few of them. Arrrrgh. It’s like the comforting truth that it takes time to write really well. No. Wrong. It takes some of us a very long time to write anything worth reading. Not all of us. Arrrrrgh. On the whole I’m willing to leave the non-readers in peace because I pity them for what they’re missing. THE FAST WRITERS I WANT SHIPPED TO ANOTHER GALAXY. NOW.
I seem to be very tired.* And I cancelled my voice lesson because I have that half-laryngitis when you croak like a frog except when your voice disappears entirely for a word or two.** I didn’t even go ringing tonight. I must be ill. Well, yes. But the main thing is that SHADOWS has taken one of those semi-predictable lurches on the conveyor-belt of the publishing process when it, I don’t know, gets caught in the gap between Conveyor Belt #1 and Conveyor Belt #2 or the Conveyor Belt Technician missed her grab or something, and suddenly THINGS ARE HAPPENING.
TELL THINGS TO STOP HAPPENING. I AM A POOR SAD SICK WEARY THING.
Since I didn’t have a singing lesson to go to and since staying at home brooding about THINGS HAPPENING would probably only make my head explode and because a little gentle distraction is often a good way to make the brain produce useful suggestions rather than bloodshot gibberish, Wolfgang and I went off to buy compost*** and to check out the pet warehouse for a car harness for the hellterror.† And while I was there I cruised the food since I now have a dog that eats††, although I was particularly looking at the snacky, treaty, bribey type things and . . . WTF, you dog-food industry, and you dog owners supporting the dog-food industry, WHY do so many treats have SUGAR or other sweeteners in them?? Yes. I read labels. I know it’s impossible to keep your kid off sweets once he/she gets old enough to hang out with his/her friends, but your DOG? Your dog is under YOUR control. It doesn’t have much opportunity to develop non-standard bad habits, like a sweet tooth, unless you let it. Frelling frelling frell frell frell. Well. We’re still good with the plaited fish skin and the venison jerky.
My mentor/trainer of blessed memory used to think I was a TOTAL wuss and despaired of me ever training anything because I wouldn’t tuck dried liver (or some other dog appropriate treat) into the corner of my mouth and either spit it directly at the dog or at least eliminate several seconds of reaching-into-pocket-getting-treat. An advantage of having the treats in your mouth is that the dogs will REALLY REALLY look at you since food occasionally falls from your face.
I realise this is supposed to be disgusting and several other people on the forum have responded as such but . . . this makes me laugh and laugh. Yes, that would certainly make the hellterror look at me.††† No, the disgustingness doesn’t bother me all that much, but the HYGIENE does. Most dog food has FOR ANIMAL USE ONLY stamped all over it, dogs are perfectly happy eating . . . well, never mind . . . and in catering to this floor-licking species I doubt that there’s a lot of exacting enforcement of sanitation in the average dog food factory. And you’re supposed to put this stuff in YOUR mouth? What is stopping YOUR saliva from saying, oh, hey, LIVER, and briskly attacking it in a digestive sort of way? —Aside from the drool factor. Not that your hellterror is going to care in the least about being spat on, at least if it’s liver flavoured spit . . . sorry. I can see my faithful readers deleting the blog addy in frenzied numbers . . . or frenziedly, in numbers . . . whatever. And I’m allergic to venison, and Pav is slightly more partial to dried venison than she is to ANYTHING I allow her to find edible, which is approximately everything I don’t take away from her before she swallows it.
Speaking of treats however has anyone tried dried sweet potato? Sounded like a great idea. But in practise, at the point that it gets really really really gooey, it starts sticking to the roof of your hellterror’s mouth. We had a supernaturally delightful half hour a day or two ago with her in my lap so I could claw the blasted sweet potato OFF the roof of her mouth again every thirty seconds or so. She didn’t want to give it up, mind, and it seemed unfair to take it away from her, when she was clearly having such a good time, including all this jolly interaction with the hellgoddess. Ew. I think desiccated liver would be preferable.
I still haven’t found an answer to THINGS HAPPENING. And I think I’m too tired‡ to try to figure out the car harness tonight.
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* Also, never mind Margaret Thatcher. Annette Funicello died.^
One of the things I find interesting is that she kept the Funicello. Did no one ever lean on her to change it to Fulham or Fulbright? This is the era when Margarita Carmen Cansino became Rita Hayworth and Bernard Schwartz Tony Curtis.^^
^ And you all know Roger Ebert died? Nooooooo. I haven’t been keeping up with this—the main thing is he’s dead, and we don’t get him back+—but hadn’t he written that long, funny, poignant, typically-Roger essay about his ‘leave of presence’ literally a day before he died? How does that work?
+ Although this is a situation where Christianity does offer a Band-Aid. I can think of him getting his face back and being able to talk to people again.
^^ Although Marion Morrison may have changed his for other reasons than ethnicity.
** Sometimes this is a blessing, depending on the word.
*** I have roses to plant. Fancy.
† She only still fits in her travelling crate because she thinks she does, rather the way she still fits on my lap. Although she’s delighted to get in the crate^ because there is (almost) always FOOOOOOOD in the back of it, but some day she’s going to stretch injudiciously and the seams are going to pop, like the Incredible Hulk emerging from Bruce Banner^^. But a bigger crate won’t fit on the back seat next to the hellhounds, even if the three of them got on famously there is NO room even for an undersized Yorkie in the hellhound box, and I have a strange aversion to filling the ENTIRE CAR with canine containment units, since the new bigger hellterror crate would have to go in the boot.
^ Which just by the way is a total piece of crap and I will be GLAD to find a way to dispense with its services. It’s one of these where there are pegs that fit into holes which hold the door grate in place, and there are teeny-tiny handles that you open or close so you can open or close the door. THE FRELLING PEGS ARE TOO FRELLING SHORT SO THE DOOR IS ALWAYS FALLING OUT. Why the hellterror has not figured this out and made my life a misery/forced me to bungie-cord the door to keep her in I have no idea, except possibly that she is fond of the crate because of fooooood thing and as long as she stays in this Place of Snacks there might be more.
^^ And speaking of things I don’t keep up with, what does happen about clothing when Banner hulks out? Does Brucie wear spandex under everything, just in case?
†† Sigh. Hellhound eating is a major issue—again—at present, and Pav is proving the perfect Sucker Up of Remains. Nothing edible goes to waste with a hellterror available.
††† And the hellhounds look away.
‡ I also had a long conversation with Theodora and her daughter about the wall, and I had Pav with me, in their beautiful, tidy sitting room with the fragile objets d’art scattered around. Since she’s much better about dangling than she is about sitting still when she has her feet on the floor, I had her tucked under an arm. Under one arm, over my hip, and holding her rear feet with my other hand behind my back, since my coat didn’t have pockets in the right places for her to put her feet in. She followed the conversation with great attention and courtesy—I think some of why she’s so good at dangling is she likes being taller. At ankle level EVERYTHING IS GOING ON WAY OVER HER HEAD—but I’m not sure my right arm will recover. I’m afraid to weigh her again, I might lose my nerve.