Jodi Meadows, touring author, posted to the forum last night:
Getting here was kind of an adventure (Wherever she is right now, Robin just perked up and thought “guest blog?”)
Hey, I need cheering up.* Wild Robert had one of his semi-random upper-lower-level practises** tonight and I rang bob minor and Stedman okay, but I came unpleasantly and discouragingly unstuck on Cambridge. We did get through to the end, but that’s only because Wild Robert has two brains and six eyes. I rarely get to ring Cambridge, I lose anything I don’t use, and I never really had Cambridge to begin with, although I did spend some time at the point where I could straggle through a plain course more often than not (without being yelled at).
So let’s have a CHEERING-UP RECIPE in honour of the nearly four hundred quid I just paid for my new dwarf under-stairs refrigerator.***
I’m already seeing fresh rhubarb at the greengrocers, so here is something to do with it. The original recipe came from Rosie’s All Butter Fresh Cream Sugar-Packed No Holds Barred Baking Book by Judy Rosenberg, which you have often seen quoted in these (virtual) pages.
¾ c plain/unbleached white flour
¼ c ground oatmeal: whizz ordinary porridge oats in your blender or food processor. You can also leave them whole, but in this case I like the texture better ground.
8 T lightly salted butter, room temperature, chopped up in preparation to being smushed into the flour and oatmeal
5-6T icing/confectioner’s sugar
1 egg white for glazing
1 large egg, room temperature
½ c caster/granulated sugar. I know, caster is finer grained. It’s not going to matter here.
¼ c dark brown sugar. You can cut this down to 2 T and replace with 2 more T of the white. I like dark brown sugar.
2-6 T ordinary white flour
4 c sliced rhubarb. NOTE that both how thick you slice it and how much sugar and flour you use should vary with your rhubarb. If it’s young and sweet and tender, cut big fat chunks and trim the sugar. If the stalks look like the legs of sea monsters, slice more severely. If it’s really wet, add more flour. If it’s relatively dry, add less.
Optional: 1 tsp cinnamon
Or handful of fresh mint leaves, slightly shredded
If you have a food processor, you can make the pastry in it. I have one but I still make pastry with a knife or the back of a spoon and one hand.† Stir the flour and oatmeal and sugar (and cinnamon if you’re using it) together and then cut in the butter. You want to rub it together till it’s reasonably homogenous but don’t suffer over it. If you’re using unground oatmeal, add it last, after the pastry is mostly finished. Press this into the bottom of an 8” square pan and glaze with the egg white. The original recipe tells you to tip the pan back and forth. My egg whites do not behave very helpfully. I use either my fingers or a brush. If you have any egg white left over—this should be a glaze, not a pond—tip it out. Bake 350°F about 25 minutes. Take it out and let cool.
Whisk the egg. Whisk in the flour and sugar. Stir in the rhubarb. When the pastry is cool enough that you can pick the pan up in your bare hands, pour the rhubarb over, and put this in the oven for about an hour. Cool COMPLETELY before cutting, and chances are, rhubarb being rhubarb, you’ll still be serving it in bowls. Sprinkle mint leaves over, if you like mint leaves.
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* Guest blogs are very cheering.
** For ringers like me. I’m not a beginner, I ring inside, I want to scale a few of the modest heights of the method ringing craft. There are plenty of us erratic mid-level ringers. But why we belong in this category varies. Some of us are just passing through on the way to ringing Spliced Panjandrum Superlative Doohickey. Some of us are just TERMINALLY KLUTZY AND STUPID. ARRRRRGH. You can tell the latter subgroup by the condition of their method books, which are dog-eared and scribbled-in to disintegration. I really need to replace mine, before it completes its transformation into smudgy dust. Gemma’s, on the other hand, is very nearly frelling pristine. Can This Friendship Be Saved.
*** Speaking of ARRRRRGH. If my swift and delightful publisher doesn’t start disbursing funds here soon I’m going to pack my ninja kit, fly to NYC and start stealing all the vice presidents’ bicycles in protest. I shall create a Giant Bicycle Mobile and . . . well, New York is full of tall buildings. I’m sure I can find a suitable pair, hang my Giant Bicycle Mobile between them . . . and the Museum of Modern Art would probably pay me more for it than I was going to see for SHADOWS anyway, but unfortunately the entire plan falls down on trying to pack two hellhounds and a hellterror with the ninja kit. I can barely tuck the hellterror under my arm any more. One of these mornings I’m going to reach in to extract her from her crate at the cottage, and in negotiating the blasted 90° turn between the front of her crate and the rest of the kitchen . . . fall over.^
^ Getting her in the crate is much easier—I have of course put a little FOOOOOOOOOD on the crate floor, so she’s shinning up the chair legs for all she’s worth and she only needs an energetic heave. SPROING. But in the morning we’re all kind of sleepy and I don’t want her leaping down in the all-directions-at-once manner of a hellterror who suddenly realises she’s been in her crate for HOURS AND HOURS. She’d probably take out the tallboy.
† Note that I have cold hands. I’m told this is critical to a hands-on pastry-maker.
In the first place:
Hee hee hee hee hee hee hee. (Peter’s publishing daughter sent me this.)
Okay. That was your light relief.
Now, in the second place, a lot of you will have seen this already, including anyone who follows me on Twitter:
The headline reads: In E-Reader Age of Writer’s Cramp*, a Book a Year is Slacking. And any sane author’s reaction is: Killlllllllllllllllllll Meeeeeeeeeee. (Maureen Johnson’s retweet says: Here’s an article in the [New York Times] about how everyone is trying to kill authors.)
Well. Yes. I would love to attain a novel a year. Or a novel most years. Or a novel every eighteen months. Or something. And there are writers—a few—who can write two novels a year at least occasionally** and still stab you in the heart with their amazingness. Or if you’re producing stories that genuinely aren’t supposed to do anything but while away an hour or two—I hope I’m not getting myself into too much trouble here, but I do think there’s a place for stories that are only trying to divert: and, if I’m not getting myself into too much more trouble, I might suggest Agatha Christie as the sort of thing: I don’t think anyone goes to Agatha Christie for empathy or catharsis, do they?—then maybe, that’s maybe, you can write more than one book a year and keep your quality (and your pride in your work) up.***
But for the rest of us . . . for those of us who essay the occasional well-rounded character, who wish to evoke rather than report, who hope for readers who don’t quite shake the dust of our stories off their page-turning fingers at the end . . . I’m a slow writer. I know I’m slow. But I flatly don’t believe any mere human can produce two good books every year and go on doing it.†
I had a lot of lovely tweets from people†† saying they’d rather wait for books that have been written rather than not wait for those that have been churned out to an anti-human schedule. And I don’t really have a choice: this is how I am. This is how I write. If this doesn’t work, I am going to have to run away to the circus.††† I tell myself that the world has always claimed to be on the brink of final breakdown of one sort or another—I imagine this dates back to gossip around the fire just after that seditious object the wheel had been invented. But I admit that the particular part of my world that is disintegrating as a result of what is in many ways a great invention, the internet, worries me . . . more than a little.
To end this post on writery things, I give you, in the third place: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/13/books/review/the-writer-in-the-family.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1
I don’t, in fact, agree with a lot of it, but then I’ve also never been a member of the standard family, with growing-up children I’m somehow part responsible for and all that, so my view is skewed. But I love the exchange: ‘Would I have read anything you’ve written?’ from some clueless dweeb you’ve just been introduced to, and Rosenblatt’s reply, ‘How should I know?’ I’m going to remember that one.‡
But the paragraph that had me in hysterics is the one about E L Doctorow trying to write an excuse slip for his daughter, who had missed school the day before. YEEEEEEEEEEEES. This is exactly what happens when you pull your specialised, carefully conditioned, writery bits out of the rarefied atmosphere of fiction and try to make them produce a grocery list or a thank-you note or an email to the department store that sent you a toaster instead of an electric blanket. Yesssss.
Hee hee hee hee hee hee. Which is a much better place to both come in and go out.
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* Which should be recategorised anyway as writer’s repetitive stress injury
** Peter did this more than once
*** Is this writing as craft rather than art? Sometimes you don’t want to be engaged. Sometimes you just want to sit quietly and drink your tea and read a rose catalogue.^ Sometimes you want your chair to have four legs and a seat and not be a dazzling heirloom for the ages when you stagger downstairs in the morning and reach for your electric kettle.
^ Credit card engagement is a different issue.
† Even Charles Dickens, for example^, took holidays, and the quality of his writing is drastically variable, from the mind-explodingly tremendous to the diabolically awful.
^ I’m reading Claire Tomalin’s biography of him right now. I knew he was—erm—a complex character and not all of it good, but the thing I probably find the most fascinating is how narrow the line is between socially aware and engaged literary genius with some personal issues and WHINING, SELF-ABSORBED COMPLETE TICK . . . who by the way wrote some fabulous stories and did some amazing things. You may have guessed I incline to the latter opinion. It’s all about him, all of the time. And I don’t deal well with the sins of the extrovert.
Fascinating book however. I recommend it. And it’s not that Dickens didn’t have to cope with more than one human’s fair share of bulltiddly: he did. I’d have drowned his unspeakable father, for example, and I’d’ve had apoplexy if I’d been trying to earn a living as a writer back in the days before there was an international copyright law. I am riveted by the standard accusations thrown at Dickens when he had the balls—and good for him—to stand up and say stealing people’s work is wrong. He is being greedy, sneered the newspapers, and he should be grateful that people want to read his books. Plus ça frelling frelling change. And we’ve even got, or anyway had, international copyright law for quite a while—although the whole e thing is busy taking that to bits too. Greedy? Grateful? How, pray tell, are us storytellers supposed to earn a living? How do you think we frelling eat and pay the mortgage if we don’t sell our stories? Leprechaun? Printing press in the cellar for counterfeit money? Wealthy indulgent lover? What? What? I get really bored with people who think that all writers are wealthy, but at least these people are acknowledging that being a professional writer involves money. The people who think that writers^ are supposed to give it away and be grateful if anyone wants it . . . should frelling try it some time. Show me someone who is giving it away and doesn’t have either another, paying job, a trust fund, or a joint bank account with a Fortune 500 CEO, and I’ll show you a hologram, an alien from another dimension, or a homeless bag person who is about to die of starvation.
Which is more or less where we came in . . .
^ I assume that painters, sculptors, jewellery-makers, knitters and so on have the same problem. Maybe it’s that we work in words that it seems to me we get so much (wordy) stick. Maybe it’s just that I’m a writer, I notice writer-aimed stick more.
†† Including a gratifying rant from our own Maren. Thank you. And a horrified fellow-feeling my-fingers-are-shrivelling from Jodi, who had already seen the article.
††† And to you who tweeted me about this too: hellhounds would love the circus, once they got a little used to the uproar. And if New Thing’s heroine can haul a rose-bush around in a pot, why can’t I? I can put it (or them) on the steps of my trailer every time we stop.
Peter, I admit, is a problem. I don’t think he’d like the circus at all.
‡ I can hear Merrilee clutching her forehead.
They certainly are too smart to be lost. I admit it’s tricky about the language, but we’re all still reading Charles Dickens—and Mark Twain, who is regularly subjected to gratuitous attempts to clean him up, which of course ENTIRELY miss the point. When Dickens was a racist, he meant it.*
I remember reading THE GLASS SIDED ANTS’ NEST for the first time** not long after it came out, which means I was still a teenager. It totally blew me away—I had at that point never read anything that was such a combination of sharp intelligence and, well, thrills, it being a murder mystery and all. I read all of the Pibble books, and (nearly) all the rest of Peter’s adult novels, some of them genre mysteries and some of them not, pretty much as they came out***. What can I say. He’s a brilliant writer.† And maybe I’ll go on about this some more some other night, when I haven’t already written enough words to make a blog post and when I haven’t put myself back an hour I needed for SHADOWS by inadvertently starting to reread GLASS SIDED which I had responsibly pulled off the shelf merely to check the original pub date. . . .
* * *
* I’ve recently written an introduction^ to a Classic Work of Fantasy Literature^^ that has exactly this same problem and I knew going in that I was going to be blunt about it. Here it is, I would say, and there’s no rationalising it away. But I love the book anyway and I hope you will too. Fortunately the editor agreed with me. And this is my take on this kind of thing: there probably are exceptions, but as a principle I would say that you don’t mess with what the author wrote. Introductions, notes, flap copy, author bios and so on can annotate what needs it. Again there are probably exceptions but generally speaking you’re already aware of historical context by the time you run up against something that makes you go ‘oh dear’—at which point you decide whether you can roll with it or not. Generally speaking I will roll with racism and sexism—both kinds of sexism, genderism and sexual-orientation-ism—and, er, classism, that’s (say) a century old or more . . . and diminishingly put up with it the nearer it is to the present day. I will pretty flatly not put up with it in any writer my age or younger, which means there are great swathes of modern literature, including F&SF^^^, that I won’t touch with a barge pole and, in some cases, make me froth at the mouth and wish to kill things.
I’m also aware that Twain’s hands aren’t clean either. He was still a man of his time. But I believe he was genuinely sending up the dishonesty and cruelty of the society Huck Finn found himself at odds with. Do you play the Who would you like to have a cup of tea with? game, about characters in books? (The rules of the game say they would cooperate. Whether you’d get along with them or not however is open to delicious speculation.) Who in HUCK FINN would you like to have a cup of tea with? Me, it would be Jim. Huck himself is only second.
^ Which is another story. Due to Circumstances Beyond My Control I found myself doing this at the end of January. Yes. This January. It was Stimulating. Not in a good way.
^^ I’m not sure I’m allowed to talk about it in public yet, and I can’t check till business hours tomorrow and I want this piece about Peter to go up NOW. I’ll certainly tell you when my intro comes out.
^^^ I’m a bit puzzled that Fowler+ says ‘whereas fantasies keep their timeless appeal, crime novels are subject to changes in society and language.’ What? Do we have to cite any examples past . . . oh, say, HP Lovecraft? ( . . . Edgar Rice Burroughs? Robert E. Howard? . . . JRR Tolkien? I can’t read Burroughs or Howard any more, but I still read Lovecraft, who is grotesquely racist++, and Tolkien, who doesn’t get his knickers particularly in a twist about miscegenation+++, but all of whose good guys are white and a lot of whose bad guys are swarthy.) And on the other side of the genre fence I don’t believe either Agatha Christie or Dorothy L. Sayers would win any awards for prescient political correctness and they’re still in print and, I believe, much loved.++++
+ Whose own books are a lot of fun and great reads, especially for those of us with a penchant for tangents.# The Bryant and May series is London as You Have Never Seen It Before (and Rather Hope It Stays Between Book Covers). http://www.bookreporter.com/authors/christopher-fowler
# ahem. ::whistles::
++ I belong to the faction that believes that part of why Lovecraft’s best creepy stuff is quite so effectively creepy is because he was so creepy a human being, with a menagerie of private demons. This makes me sad. Again, generally, I want to believe that the healthier a human being a writer is, the better they write. So if Lovecraft hadn’t been a sick dude maybe he’d’ve written The Great American Novel.
+++ Unless you want to count Saruman’s experiments with orcs, but that doesn’t give off miscegenation fumes to me. I could be wrong.
++++ Although not by me.
** AAAAAUGH. . . . And I’ve just spent the past hour reading . . . well, the first hour’s-worth of it again. Several things strike me, very much as they struck me thirty-odd years ago: how frelling intimidating I find it^: too clever by half, with both an intellectual sparkle and a creativity to scare me silly. The murder victim is—was—the chief of the remains of a primitive (black) New Guinea tribe who were moved to London to save what was left of them, by a (white) British woman who is nonetheless a member of the tribe. (In what manner she is a member of the tribe is one of my favourite bits. She’s also the character I want to have a cup of tea with.) This tribe, the Kus, are fully developed, with a history and a society, with rituals and habits and points of view, and these are totally fascinating.
The other thing about this book—and, for me, about all of the Pibble books—that glares out at you like a searchlight is how unpleasant most of the people are.^^ To me—and to the teenage American I once was—the reason the author gets away with the ‘wog’s and the ‘nig’s is because the people who use these terms are underlining their own reprehensibleness. ‘Wog’ and ‘nig’ may have been in common usage in England in 1968—I wouldn’t know—but I’d bet on it that you weren’t demonstrating the finest flower of humanity by using them.
^ I’m . . . what? I’m married to the author? You’re joking, right?
^^ Peter has kind of a line in scintillatingly unpleasant people. Most of the time I’m dazzled and drawn in and riveted by how plausible they are and how well the author understands them+. Every now and then they just make me cry.
Pibble himself is a case in point. I don’t like him. I never liked him. I don’t want to have a cup of tea with him. But I like his bitter, skittery mind, his own awareness that his self-deprecation is half-real and half-resentful, and that (I would say) there’s a deep depressive streak underneath it all. Yes. I get this too well. That I don’t like him makes this mix of comprehension and aversion all the more effective, all the more evocative, to me-the-reader.++
++ Favourite Pibble novel? Probably SLEEP AND HIS BROTHER. But really I should reread all of them to be sure. . . .
*** Up through into my era, that would be.
† I didn’t discover his kids’ books until I was well dug in to the murder mysteries—over a decade later, in fact, and after BEAUTY was out and I was working in the Little, Brown children’s department, and lo, on their shelves, a row of Peter Dickinson novels.
I’ve just run myself into the ground on SHADOWS, it’s after one o’clock in the morning and I haven’t started the BLOG yet. What a good thing I’m not getting up early tomorrow to ring bells. . . . *
I’m curious about the three drafts in a row. Knowing that the second draft was just delivered and immediately starting on the third, where does the editor come in? I sort of assumed that the second draft went to the editor to review and then once there is input from the editor you worked the next draft.
Good question. In an ideal world, yes, you turn in your manuscript more or less at whatever stage you want some editorial input** and then you wait till you’ve had your input and you consider it before you embark on your next draft. That’s in an ideal world. And some writers do work like this—indeed some want input from friends, colleagues, their agent, their editor, almost from the first sentence***, some want it when they feel stuck, some want it at a given stage—like at the end of a second draft—whatever. Whatever works.
Me, I don’t want it at all. Ahem. This is a character flaw. It’s all very arteeeeeeestic and romantic that I Can Only Listen to The Story, but it’s also a great big fat failure because I’m still only mortal and it would be a good thing if I could use more of what other (intelligent) people tell me. But mostly what other people tell me—even when they’re right—comes over as static on the line. SHUT UP, WILL YOU, I’M TRYING TO LISTEN TO THE STORY.
In my ideal world I don’t turn my manuscript in till I’ve done as much on it as I can, or anyway nearly. Even I recognise the need for someone else’s view of a story which I, by this point in the writing process, know too well or anyway from too close a distance. I need someone who doesn’t know the story as well as I do (including all the parts I decided to leave out, like the revolving door and the doorperson’s uniform) to tell me what I need to put back in. Or that the intensity of scene A needs to be balanced a little better by some relief of tension in scene B. BEAUTY’s editor asked me to shorten the beginning so that Beauty arrived at the Beast’s castle sooner. SWORD’s editor wanted a little more about Harry feeling dislocated or disoriented or homesick—she took to her new life a little too well. And so on.
Mostly I’m not edited that much. I am very lucky that—mostly—what I turn in as finished copy is acceptable. If I had to make huge changes to satisfy my publisher and get me paid . . . I probably wouldn’t be a professional writer.
The last few books I’ve had to hustle for one reason or another—mostly to do with scheduling and money. This puts a strain on my editor as well—is she going to have a book for this or that list or isn’t she?—and the compromise we’ve perhaps almost inadvertently reached (although Merrilee might whap me up longside the head for that remark) is that I turn in, for example, a second draft, so that she can judge if I’m far enough along to finish when I say I’m going to finish—and she can then hold a place in the schedule for it.† I may be a good writer who can (mostly) get away with a light editorial hand . . . but my sense of time sucks pond scum. And even if she does say ‘yes, you’re on’ (and please the gods she will about SHADOWS) she’ll send me some notes . . . which I probably won’t do more than glance at at till I finish the third draft. I listen to the story, you know? And then I’ll check that I’ve already fixed everything on her list—or not. If she’s found something I’ve missed—and she found stuff in both CHALICE and PEGASUS in recent memory—I’ll go back and tinker. I’ll be going back and tinkering anyway. But by the end of the third draft the story is stable. I can afford to listen to other people about it.†† It’s also busy hardening into its final shape—see: can’t make huge changes—but I can still tweak and smarten.†††
Mostly. Usually. I hope . . .
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* This is actually dangerous. Heretofore having to get up at a (comparatively) respectable hour once a week has kept clawing me back toward some brief, glancing relationship to normal life. One seventh of my mornings looked rather like other people’s mornings. Now . . . I may split off from John Donne’s mainland and float away forever.^
^ After all, he was specifically only talking about men.
** Of course you don’t abuse the privilege. Any editor (and any agent) has lots of other authors they also have to respond to and work with, and we’re all big boys and girls and self-motivated and sensible.^
*** But see previous footnote
† Remember publishing is a business. And the widgets it sells are books. It needs x number of new widgets per season to produce its hoped-for sales figures.^
^ Of course books are not widgets and publishing is insane . . .
†† I can’t really explain this. Static on the line is as good a metaphor as any. Or it’s like walking a narrow path in a high wind and somebody comes running up behind you and gives you a shove. I know it’s not supposed to be like this. Intelligent thoughtful reader response should be helpful and welcome. Um. Well. —This is also related to my extreme aversion to reading reviews. I’ve talked about this before: very few critics are writing from a perspective that has any relationship to mine or is of any use to me in (for example) explaining why something doesn’t work and why I shouldn’t do it that way again. The good reviews tend to be pleasing but alien (I did? The story what? Oh) and the bad ones just make me want to tear my entrails out. (The bad ones that are factually incorrect make me want to tear the reviewer’s entrails out.)
Although a good review that also gets it pretty well makes my YEAR. And it does happen. Mmmmmm.
††† And given the time pressure, if she does decide we can cram SHADOWS through for spring ’13, I may receive final editorial notes on the third draft more or less simultaneously with the copyeditor’s queries. ARRRGH. This creates a brief, hair-raising, high tea-and-champagne-consumption period which includes bloodshot eyeballs, shaking hands and insomnia.
I am a walking cough; a cough on two legs; cough made flesh. Cough. Talking is a mistake.* Eating is perilous.** I think the arrival of the cough is supposed to indicate you’re improving.*** I’m too tired from coughing to tell. Cough.
But SHADOWS is still going.†
I am however cranky†† about the bad news about ultrasonic jewellery cleaners. I had thought part of the point of the ultrasonic gadgets is that they’re gentle on jewellery, possibly to the point of being so gentle they don’t really clean anything. (I do know that you can’t do anything to pearls except smile at them and wear them against cashmere.) I also didn’t know, or had forgotten, since I’ve barely worn my tourmaline ring in twenty years, that tourmalines are fragile. Feh. And yes, of course I can ask our nice local jeweller for advice about cleaning, but he will feel obliged to go all professional on me and I was hoping some of you guys might have the answer without the official hedging.††† Ah well. More little brushes and washing-up liquid in my future then. I guess I can bear it.
And before I bore you all to death . . . I am loitering frivolously with the thought of going ringing at Forza tomorrow. This is a really bad idea. I don’t have the time, I don’t have the energy, I have a novel to finish—the bells there are tricky sods, I already know Gemma is not going to be there, and I might find myself the only mediocre ringer present, with my usual additional burden of not being able to handle those particular bells and the supernumerary burden of the lurgy.
Maybe I’ll just stay home, and post a recipe. And cough.
* * *
* Why do hellhounds insist on waiting till I say something? Isn’t the mad waving of hands containing harnesses enough to tell them they should sit?
** Eating is always perilous. Ask Darkness and Chaos. AAAAAUGH. Having given the impression that he was on the mend last night, Chaos barely made it outdoors this morning to start the diabolical double-ended geysering all over again. AAAAAAAUGH.
*** http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2012/jan/09/new-year-health-regime-last The headline in the paper version is more eye-catching to me in my present state: ‘Dr Luisa Dillner Says Switch Off the TV, Stop Snacking and Start Exercising to Ensure You Feel Good Beyond January.’ I haven’t watched TV in YEARS,^ I am post-menopausal and my daily energy allowance is 3.5 calories and I NEVER snack, and I walk an hour and forty five minutes to two hours EVERY DAY. WHY DO I HAVE THE LURGY WHEN I AM A PARAGON OF VIRTUE?^^
^ I talked to Hannah today. “Hi,” I said. Cough. “Wow,” she said. She still hasn’t read CHAOS. After she does we’re going to read either JANE AUSTEN or CHARLES DICKENS by Claire Tomalin. Or both, because we have so much time to read. She was telling me about the TV programmes her daughters are watching and I’ve never heard of any of them. I haven’t been deeply involved in a TV show since BUFFY. No, really. ANGEL? Too gruesome. FIREFLY? Eh. It had its moments, but it never entered my heart and mind the way BUFFY did.+ It’s probably safe to say that I wouldn’t be writing my first high school novel at fifty-nine if I hadn’t watched BUFFY at an embarrassingly advanced age which was nonetheless more impressionable than it should have been. Which may or may not be a good thing.
Oh, and the mysterious non-cooperation affliction of our de-cabled TV? We changed the batteries in the remote and it still refused to climb away from BBC 1. So there was a knock on the door one afternoon and there was the Nice Man who had installed our freeview box who wanted to ask if one of us would read his CHILDREN’S BOOK MANUSCRIPT. Fortunately Peter answered the door and dragged him into the sitting room and thrust the remote at him. There are too many buttons on the wretched thing. And Peter is reading his manuscript. I had my mouth all open to do my rant on this subject which is that ASIDE from the fact that I am a cranky cow, what I think about an unpublished manuscript has no more to do with its chances of getting published than what Chaos or Darkness thinks of it.++ Go start researching AGENTS. What you need is an AGENT who likes your work. But I was forestalled by Peter’s old-fashioned gentlemanliness AKA the man is nuts.
+ And I’m the only person on the planet who didn’t/doesn’t like THE SOPRANOS or David Tennant.
++ Er—you aren’t expecting us to eat it, are you?
^^ Of course they also tell you to get seven to eight hours of sleep every night. They must be joking.
† And my email seems to have settled down . . . for the moment. Sort of. Or, possibly, not, and I just don’t know it. It was even weirder than I told you yesterday, as I eventually found out when I stopped abusing my damaged larynx with screams for vengeance and had a look for the easily findable stuff that had reappeared. When I got back to the mews and turned the old laptop on—which is the one I’ve been using the last several flu-demented days of filing and deleting—I was braced for what I’d just seen on the cottage machines. But what had come back was NOT what I’d deleted that morning. It was some OTHER stuff. Whimper.
So . . . I basically have no idea. GIBBERGIBBERGIBBERGIBBER. Right. Enough of that. I have a novel to finish.
As to why I still use Outlook . . . I forget. I will ask Raphael to remind me. I think it’s to do with my apparently somewhat unusual requirements combined with my total lack of patience, interest in, or skill in understanding anything to do with computers. I think it’s what they’re willing to support me with. The bright spot, such as it is, is that the shiny new laptop with the vibrantly hated Win 7 on it did in fact discharge its battery by 50% overnight despite being turned off. YAAAAY. For once something goes wrong even when there is an archangel present.
However, those of you hopefully offering advice about the hellhounds: I think you’re probably late to the party. Long-time readers have heard all this before. My hellhounds are five and a half years old and I spent the first two of their years of life on this planet trying to find out why they had diarrhea all the time. The answer is, as I eventually figured out with absolutely NO help from any of the fantastic and expensive panoply of vets, specialist vets, and specialist vets’ laboratories and techno-gizmo whatsits that I consulted, that they are allergic to all cereal grains. (Pancreatitis, as someone mentioned on the forum but I can’t find it now, is one of the things they were temporarily diagnosed for.) I’d tried an elimination diet nearly first thing, but I took them off brown rice while continuing to use barley and oats, and then swapped. It took me a long time to think of all cereals. But two years of eating something they were wildly and violently allergic to has left them with some permanent damage.
And the only time they won’t eat when I’m nearby is when they’re already looking for an excuse not to eat, and me being an ogre will do. (I think this has more to do with the fact that they know I want them to eat and I’ll be testy if they don’t.) I’m actually not very fond of the alpha theory. Why would a good leader want his/her colleagues not to eat? The alpha business as the great comprehensive answer to everything is less popular than it was, for which I am grateful. When it first came crashing out it was The Solution, and I thought, since it clearly didn’t apply all that well to my experience, that I just had weird dogs. Well, I do have weird dogs, but the alpha theory has also lost centre stage. I am, however, a great fan of what works. If something makes you and your dog(s) happy and healthy and comfortable and satisfied, then it’s the answer for you.
††† Note to self: The Answer never exists.
I can’t very well ask the fellow who bought the stones for us. That was twenty years ago in Maine and I have more or less deliberately^ forgotten everything about him except that he was a self-absorbed twit.
^ Ie making a virtue of Middle Aged Brain