October 17, 2014

Shadows is here!

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

 

http://www.theguardian.com/books/booksblog/2014/oct/16/neil-gaiman-russell-brand-modern-fairytale-makeover-princess

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.**

Lenni

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?

Katinseattle

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.

Cmarschner

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.

URGENT NEWS FLASH

 

Barring miracles this week’s KES will go up Sunday, not Saturday.  This week has got away from me* and I’m Street Pastoring tomorrow night—Saturday—to cover for Eleanor, who covered my Friday for me last month when I had Sam training Saturday morning about five hours after I would have signed off Street Pastors.  Meanwhile the Black Tower stuff came zapping in on me more or less from nowhere—I’ve told you the story of how Narknon didn’t turn up till the final freaking draft of SWORD, and what a gonzofest that was trying to stuff her into the story where she belonged, despite the fact that I’d been aware that there were little fuzzy places, as it turned out Narknon-shaped gaps in the story as it stood before her arrival—and tomorrow night’s KES needs more whacking into its Black Tower enhanced shape than I’m liable to be able to give it.  I thought I was going to have some time off tomorrow afternoon, but Nina and Ignatius are coming down to help us get on with this moving house thing and I certainly don’t want to discourage them by any apparent lack of interest.

Oh and I’m singing on Sunday.  Oops.  I didn’t notice I had a late Sam shift on Thursday and Street Pastors on Saturday when I plugged in my usual fortnight on the rota.  So it may be late Sunday.  But not to worry.  KES will appear.

* * *

* I’m a Sam!  I’m a Sam!  I’m a real working Samaritan!  I had FOUR CALLS last night on my second duty shift!!  FOUR!  And since my mentor did not turn pale and saucer-eyed as she listened to my ends of the conversations^ nor, when I spoke to my day leader this morning^^, was she speaking in low carefully soothing tones about how perhaps I was not cut out to be a Samaritan and perhaps I would like to think about exercising my desire to do good in the world by knitting critter coats for the Battersea Dogs and Cats Rescue, which I can do quietly at home without disturbing anyone . . . I think I passed.^^^  Yaaaaaaay.^^^^

^ Conversations!  Yessssssss!  It’s what I’m there for!+

+ As a dedicated life-long phone hater, this is all very amusing.#

# Yes, well, this doesn’t count.  Talking on the phone as a Samaritan is different.~

~ Also, I hear God laughing.  Again.

^^ I was on the late shift last night.  Usually you talk to your day leader at the end of your shift, but not when it would involve getting her+ out of bed, supposing she keeps what most of the world would call normal hours.

+ Or him, as the case may be

^^^ I admit I haven’t checked that I haven’t been disappeared off the Samaritan database.  Me?  Paranoid?  Convinced of my inherent incompetence and worthlessness?  Naaaaaah.

^^^^ And for my next trick I have to learn not to go home and worry about the people I’ve been talking to.  Which is totally an occupational hazard, and is one of the reasons there’s all this support structure.  It’s not a nice idea that you debrief/unload to both your colleague and your day leader, it’s REQUIRED.

Have I really not done a KES-comment post in . . .

 

 

. . . forever?  Bad me.  House move, worrying about husband’s health and well-being, Samaritan training, hellhounds giving up eating etc . . . are NO EXCUSE.  And now it’s been so long I can’t find/remember where I left off.  ARRRGH.  Well, if I miss/repeat anything . . . I’LL BLAME YOU.*  YOU SHOULD HAVE SAID, HEY, YOU HAVEN’T DONE A KES COMMENT ROUND UP IN TOO LONG.

Blondviolinist

Random thoughts: I like Watermelon Shoulders much better than Torpedo Shoulders.

I would guess so do we all.  I do anyway.  I will say that Torpedo Shoulders will prove to be a little more okay than you think.  Like Murac, drat him.  I had no intention of Murac becoming anything like either an important character or almost a hero sort of person.  Or, you know, attractive, other than in a ramshackle sort of way that would appeal to deranged 11-to-15-year-olds.  Arrrrrrgh.  You see here an author hoist by her own petard.  This happens regularly—right, EMoon?—in my case pretty much every frelling story about something or someone**, but it doesn’t usually happen in public.  By the time the story hits print I’m kind of over my crisis about it/him/her/them and can pretend, or at least pretend to pretend or make a good story out of it, that this was the plan all along.***

I’m very glad we had so much time to get to know Kes in the ordinary, everyday world before she got tossed into the Defender role. It’s not that her personality doesn’t come through in the battle & just-before-or-after-battle sequences, but I like knowing that she likes muffins & is fairly good at making friends with good ordinary people. (I’m not sure I’m expressing myself well here.)

Well, you’re expressing well enough for me to agree with you and to say I’m glad that this is how you’re reading what I’m writing.  Yes.  It depends on the story, of course, but in this case Kes needed to be really clearly and emphatically a more or less normal modern woman—okay, a New Yorker and a fantasy writer, not absolutely normal†—for the high fantasy stuff to work the way I wanted it to work.  It’s not like what I’m doing is original—LEST DARKNESS FALL is the book that pops first into my head, and probably a lot of other people’s heads for modern people dropped in ye olde time††, and you could go back another generation or two to THE TIME MACHINE if you wanted to, and there have been gazillions since—and Kes isn’t trying to invent a printing press or alter any courses of history††† or make sweeping political statements in allegorical form‡ she’s just having an adventure.  But for the adventure to go ping whap YIPE in the way I hoped the two worlds have to be vividly incompatible.

At least Flowerhair was still alive. Yes. I was keeping her alive. What—or who—was keeping me alive? Hello?

::giggle:: And suddenly the story gets a bit meta.

This is me having some fun.  There’s a lot in KES, starting with Kes herself as a fantasy writer, that I would NEVER EVER have put in a book that started life as something I was expecting a publisher to pay me for.

. . . SOMEWHERE someone asked me if the colonel of the Falcons might by any chance be Flowerhair.  Have I answered this?  I can’t remember/find answering this.  If I did, this is what I would already have said:  What a great idea.  No.  Rats.  The thing is, Flowerhair has stayed alive partly by keeping a low profile.  I’ve told you, haven’t I, that I’m going to give you the first chapter of the first FLOWERHAIR book, one of these days?  I know what happens‡‡ and I know how she got started on this mercenary thing, and why, and also why she distrusts the formal military.  She’d also hate being in command although privately, as her author’s author, I think she’d be good at it.  She’s put temporary gangs together occasionally to bring off some feat she couldn’t pull alone.  Eh.  Maybe while Kes is resting up after Part One finally comes to an end I’ll mess with Flowerhair a little more.‡‡‡

I’m glad Silverheart seems to be determined to help Kes out both with being Defender & convincing other people that Kes has some small right to inhabit her heroic role.

Well . . . this is also just McKinley’s preoccupation with ordinary people rising to extraordinary occasions.  Kes is a bit more tongue in cheek than, say, Harry, but it’s the same story arc, from  MEEEEEEEP, to . . . Oh, well, if I have to. . . .

Springlight

Eowyn had never been a satisfactory heroine because of that whole seeking-death-because-of-unrequited-love thing to which I had had a strong ‘spare me’ reaction

But Eowyn faced the ring wraith lord when all around her had fallen and for that I loved her. Besides, there was really only her and Galadriel who could possibly be role models for a 10 year old girl reading LOTR, and Galadriel did a lot of standing around looking stately while doing not a lot, which had no appeal at all. Get out there and DO something woman!  

I agree, except for the fact that it’s not enough.  I went through the tortures of the damned as only an introverted book-mad ten, or, in my case, eleven-year-old girl who WANTS HER OWN ADVENTURES can go through if she’s of a Previous Generation and when she was eleven years old LOTR was what there was, full stop.  Robin McKinley, Elizabeth Moon, Patricia McKillip, Tamora Pierce, Diane Duane, Patricia Wrede etc hadn’t been invented yet.  Eowyn does beg to accompany Aragorn into battle because she’s a shield maiden not a wet nurse, and in fact that scene rings very true to me and it interests me that Tolkien—manifestly not a bloke who gets it about women—could write it.  But he then, as if horrified at his own ability to understand a woman’s desire for action, undermines the flapdoodle out of her for that famous scene with the Nazgul captain:  she doesn’t kill him.  Merry does.  Which is probably why, when my eleven-year-old mind had to have a GIRL in there somewhere, decided that Merry was a girl really.

And Galadriel is a wet.  Just by the way.  The most interesting thing about her is that she’s a bigger deal than her husband, which is another of those oopsies from Tolkien the Bloke.  Hey, pack her off to the Grey Havens before she spreads.  And for utter iconic girlie uselessness I give you Galadriel’s granddaughter . . . Arwen.§

 

 

* * *

 

* Readers are great.  I love my readers.^

^ Mostly.  Except the ones who think they and I are twin souls and/or want me to collaborate with them on their great novel.

** NOOO. NOOOOOOOOOO.  —Author.

Oh, do shut up and write.  —Story.

*** ::muffled gurgling noises::

† All my New York friends are going HEY!

†† Anyone wants to suggest there’s no magic in LEST DARKNESS FALL . . . um.  No overt magic.  But one dorky little guy TOTALLY TOTALLY TOTALLY CHANGES HISTORY I MEAN TOTALLY?  Uh huh.  De Camp just decided not to mention the magic wand.

††† And since 1939 when LEST came out they’ve kind of decided the Dark Ages weren’t all that dark after all.

Uggh.  The Story Council sends me one of those and after I set fire to it I’ll start lobbing plastic bags of dog crap through their windows.

‡‡ I think I know what happens.^

^ Murac.  Grrrrrrrrrrr.

‡‡‡ Mainly I have to get on with PEG II a little more briskly.^

^ Although, speaking of messing around, I’d like to know a little more about Aldetruda.  And Kes, in a bit of wish fulfilment, writes a lot faster than I do and has at least one other serial heroine and some one offs lurking, any of which might make an interesting digression or digressions.

§ And no, I cut Peter Jackson no slack for trying to jazz her up a little.

KES comments continued and so on and so on and doobie doobie do

 

Speaking of excellent stories, you’re all Octavia E Butler readers, I hope?*  Well, looky here:  http://www.publishersweekly.com/978-1-4976-0137-6

And now let the frivolity roll. . . .

AJLR

I hope Kes gets home soon, poor soul. I’m beginning to get quite concerned that she’ll catch a chill out there in her nightie.

Yes I’ve been worrying about that too.  It’s the sort of thing I won’t know till I get there.  Of course I often know things that still turn out to be wrong when I get there.**  But so far as I know she isn’t sneezing at the end of Part One.  Whether or not she wakes up the next morning (?) at the beginning of Part Two with a major fever that is trying to convince her she imagined most of Part One. . . . There will be one or two momentos of her experiences which will lobby rather forcefully against this ridiculous enterprise  however.***  Aside from the dead guy in the front hall.  I imagine Mr WS, being a gentleman, will do something about the body when the mayhem level subsides a bit† but I don’t think bloodstains on wooden floors is within his remit.  Maybe the hob will have some ideas. ††

Longhairmathgeek

I’m reminded of certain scenes in Sunshine which I reread recently…

I think this is a good thing . . . †††

. . . for the scripturally inclined: the second verse of Genesis, part of which is commonly translated “And darkness covered over the land,” could be trying to convey the sensation you’re describing [when Kes locates the Gate]. If you go back to the Hebrew, the word translated as ‘darkness’ could be translated as ‘seething unfathomable chaos.’

Darkness and Chaos being my natural state, of course.  This does give me the edge for certain descriptive passages.‡

Katinseattle

You didn’t know who shouted, only that it sounded like it came from someone standing with you, some Falcon, and that the voice was rough with both joy and terror. “Defender!”

Wait. Are these soldiers allies? Or enemies? Who are they fighting against? Who’s the Lady?

I realise you are expressing impatience, but if they were enemies, would the voice be rough with joy?

I take back what I said about wanting this story to go on forever. I want some answers.

You do?  Gee.  That’s too bad.

EMoon

The twisted strap on the saddle–I’ve had big nasty blisters from that. One of which got infected and…oh, wait, nobody wants to know about that. It’s just that I was taking a microbiology class at the time and I recognized…NO. (Smacks self on head, several times.)

Any time you want to write a guest blog on the interesting real-life applications of taking a microbiology class . . . we can just put a GROSS ALERT at the beginning.  And yeah, about blisters.  It is AMAZING how quickly a stupid little rubbing thing turns into a MAJOR WEEPING WOUND.  It’s why I’m so paranoid about shoes, since I spend so much of my time walking.  All Stars Rule.

But I miss Sid. I really, really want to know that Sid is OK back where Sid is (wherever that is…) and that the hob is dealing with the home invasion, and so on.

Well, I miss Sid too.  I can hear the barking.  You will too soon, I promise.  I don’t even think ‘soon’ is very relative in this instance.

Anne_d

I love that the guards are still ordinary people with mundane concerns. I think that’s one of your greatest strengths, building solid ground under the fantasy so that it’s even more real.

Thank you.  THANK YOU.  As I’ve said before when I’m doing a comment-answering post, I tend to cut out the compliments‡‡ because leaving them in makes me look like such a prat, but since this is one of my major preoccupations about the writing of fantasy, my own and everyone else’s, I’m leaving it in.  Yes.   Grounding is crucial.  People are people, even if they’re nine feet tall and have seven arm-like appendages, and if they live in a landscape with purple trees I want to know what the trees look like, what the shape of the leaves is, what the flowers smell like in spring and what alcoholic beverages you can make from the fruit.  As I keep saying, the great thing about fantasy is that you can make up your own rules . . . the ratbag about fantasy is that you then have to stick to the rules you made up.  And sometimes your rules are less great than you thought, and sometimes you’re so far into the story when you realise you made a mistake there’s nothing you can do but live with it.‡‡‡  But as soon as you think, okay, what’s it like for these guys, whoever they are, whether they’re human or not, they’re going to have upkeep issues, whether that means sewing on buttons and boiling water for tea, or gliffermying the vrumpetty and doogling the brezzer.  And if the latter you need to explain for your presumably mostly human audience so that the human reader totally feels the zogle pressing into the mrilf and kind of wants to have a go at gliffermying themselves, and when they close the book§ are startled to discover they’re short and have only two arms.

Stardancer

Oooh. Not that I don’t enjoy Kes’ narration and her ties to the ordinary world, but there’s something about the mix of fairy tale and ordinary people (who get nervous and drop things and such) that I love.

::Beams::  This is part of the grounding thing I’m talking about.  Denouements between super-wizards tend to be kinda boring.  Denouements between more or less ordinary people who may fumble the universe-commanding wand at a critical moment are much more interesting.  Also super-wizards are already out there because of their superness.  There’s a steep climb for an ordinary Jo(e) to get to the super-level where the universe-commanding wand needs to be wielded.  This is more interesting and also a lot more sympathetic for ordinary-Jo(e) readers.  Say I.

It amuses me that their first sight of Kes isn’t much like what Kes herself has been thinking.

Well of course not.  That’s the deal.  Yes.§§

They see “a pale slender woman, with long tangled hair, riding bare-legged and barefoot.” Whereas Kes has been thinking things like “How did I get in this story?”, “Why didn’t I wear pajamas with pants?” and “Oh gods I’m going to cut my own leg off.” I find myself wondering what the Falcons will think when she gets closer.

There are three answers to this:  (a) Mwa hahahahahahaha (b) I wonder too (c) There’s going to be some Hayley action:  ohmigod it’s the Defender she’s real that’s not really a tatty pink nightgown is it?  All three of these answers are true.  Stories and writing are often confusing.  It’s why writers are often nuts.  Or that’s our story and we’re sticking to it.

* * *

* And that she died way too young several years ago?

** I wasn’t expecting Sid to show up nearly so soon, for example, when Kes sticks her pin in a map in Manhattan and contemplates the possibility of getting a dog.

*** Mwa hahahahahaha

† Or bodies, as the case may be

††  Mrrrrmph.  ::Not giving anything away.  Not.::

††† I’m extremely fond of SUNSHINE.  Just so you know.

‡ Snoring optional.  Darkness, who has disdained his dinner^, in his efforts to elude the nasty thing, has buried his head under a blanket from which posture he is having some trouble breathing.

^ Siiiiiiiiigh

‡‡ Having read them over slowly and carefully several times first

‡‡‡ This may be less true for people who rewrite better than I do.  I certainly do a lot of rewriting, but the basic shape of the thing has to be more or less right the first time or I lose it, I lose my ability to hear the story.  Rewriting is more about expanding, tidying up and pursuing implications^ than deciding in the second draft that the heroine is nine feet tall and has seven arms and likes hot spiced blurdge from the purple yikyak trees’ bojally fruit, although she was human in the first draft and liked maple syrup on her blueberry pancakes.

^ Which do, I admit, cause collision disasters upon occasion.  NOOOOOOO.  JUST BECAUSE SHE WAS ON THE TOP OF A MOUNTAIN TALKING TO A DRAGON DOESN’T MEAN SHE ISN’T AT THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA TALKING TO A MERMAID.  Wait, wait, I’m inventing teleportation . . . or cloning . . . give me a minute I’LL THINK OF SOMETHING.

§ Or click the ereader off

§§ Also, most of my major characters think less well of themselves than perhaps they should.  Ahem.  The Story Council does usually try to send you stuff you can feel your way into.  Writing is hard enough work without making it harder.

Rant revisited

 

Didn’t get a lot of sleep last night—so what else is new—last night was however aggravated by shooting awake every time a hellcritter sighed or got up to scratch its bed into a more salubrious shape.  Siiiiiigh.  There have been no further outbreaks today . . . although the night is young* the current digestive miscreant, having eaten his dinner, looks pretty crashed out. . . . That sound you hear is me crossing my fingers till they squeak.

More baby plants showed up in the post today and the Winter Table is full.  There hasn’t been a proper frost in town this month I think, but baby plants, having been intensively reared in massive great commercial greenhouses, are fragile little creatures and you can’t just whack them in potting-on pots and plonk them outdoors.  You have to ‘harden them off’ as they say which in practise, since my greenhouse is full of stuff and I have no earthly room for a cold frame, means that if we’re having a run of chilly nights I have to bring them indoors every evening and back outdoors again every morning.**   Arrrrgh.

So, where was I, in my not-very-good-mood way last night?  Aside from the prospect of a lot of moving of plant trays back frelling indoors while trying not to trip over the hellterror***, there had been a certain supernumerary  force to my rushing outdoors into the garden yesterday afternoon†, aside from the latest stack of baby-plant-containing cardboard boxes arriving in the post, which, yesterday, was pretty well an avalanche. ††

What is it with people.

I regularly receive requests via email for help with the frelling papers people are writing about me and/or my books.†††  The vast, catastrophic, overwhelming majority of them ask me the same blasted questions . . . most of which would be answered far beyond the scope of any seventh or eleventh grader’s term paper requirement‡‡ with only the most cursory glance at my web site, let alone doing a little diving via the ‘search’ facility or the ‘topics’ list on this blog.  I’ve ranted this rant to you before—several times in fact—how can all these jokers even arrive at my public email address WITHOUT HAVING NOTICED THE SUGGESTIONS THAT THEY READ THE FAQ FIRST.  OR THE GENTLE REMINDER THAT I’M, YOU KNOW, BUSY AND THAT ANSWERING QUESTIONS TAKES TIME.  But they do.  In their relentless marching regiments they do.  Yesterday I received a follow up from someone who clearly thinks that saying please and thank you is enough.  Reading the FAQ is not necessary.  This person is capable of writing me a sheaf of long, complicated questions and putting a note in their diary to follow up . . . without ever looking at the FAQ.   First contact in this case included a plug from the kid’s teacher,‡‡‡ telling me how wonderful the kid is—and this kid may very well be wonderful, but they nonetheless need to learn to do their homework—and how (the teacher continued) my thoughtful informed answers were going to help this student chart their course through college and into their chosen career of professional writer.  PLEEEEEEEEEEZ.   This follow up, unannotated by the teacher, generously offers to answer any questions I may have. . . . §

Standard caveat begins here:  Of course I want people to read my books.  I need people to buy my books so the hellpack and I can keep eating.  And I love fan mail:  I looooove it when some reader takes the time, speaking of time, to tell me that they enjoy my books.  A really warm and/or clever and/or funny fan letter (or forum comment or Tweet or dreaded-Facebook post)  makes my day, and sometimes my week.  But I will never learn not to mind that a lot of people out there don’t recognise me as a human being essentially like themselves with a life—and, furthermore, inevitably limited expertise even in my professional domain—and behave accordingly.§§

Today I got a fresh request for help on a school project.  This one addresses me as ‘Mrs McKinley’ so I don’t have to read any farther to know that this person hasn’t made any attempt to do their homework. . . .

* * *

* as I count young.  But how can ‘one’ or ‘two’ or even ‘three’ not be young?^

^ Unless you’re a hamster.+

+ And you’re talking in years, not hours.  A three-hour-old hamster is young.  And one o’clock in the morning is MORNING and last night is dead.  So—wait—‘the night is young’ has to start at like two o’clock in the afternoon. . . .   Nights are never young . . . Hey, I’ve just invented a philosophy.#

# How did I get into this?  And where’s the door?

** Given when I am staggering out of bed lately, they’re going to get distressingly etiolated if the nights don’t warm up soon so that I can leave them outdoors to greet the dawn and all those distasteful hours immediately following.

*** Who is very interested in people rushing back and forth in a purposeful way.  Hellhounds know to crush themselves in the back of their crate and not stir till it’s all over.

† Well, I’d been outdoors kind of a lot already:  it was such a glorious day I took both critter shifts^ on country walks which was self-indulgent but . . . fun.^^

^ A little old lady said to me yesterday, every time I see you you’re walking a different dog.  There are only three, I said, but I mostly walk them in two shifts.  Oh, said the little old lady, and I could watch the thought process in her expression:  first she accepted the answer to this question that had been puzzling her and then, moving right along, this little old lady being a quick thinker, I could see the woman is mad dawning in her eyes.

^^ And since I won’t leave critters in a car because of the dog-theft problem, it’s also very time consuming.

†† Also aside from the fact that Outlook decided not to let me in yesterday afternoon.  No.  Won’t.  And I don’t like your password any more either.  Bite me.  —ARRRRRRRRGH.

††† We’re already in trouble:  the books are the books, they’re there, you don’t need me, and chances are very good that if you’re going in for literary criticism I’ll think your penetrating insights bear a strong family resemblance to mouldy root vegetables^, and you’ve got no business writing about me at all.^^

^ You know, really mouldy, when they’ve gone all squishy

^^ Yes, I read biographies.  Your point would be?

‡ When’s the last time I got a blog post out of an interesting question from someone writing a paper on me?  Exactly.^

^ Although the kid who wanted to know what it was like growing up with all those half-siblings made me blink a bit.  I wonder who they thought they were writing about?

‡‡ And with luck will so derail under- or post-grad thesis topics that the students will decide to write about something else

‡‡‡ ie an adult with adult responsibilities.  Plugs from teachers aren’t that uncommon, but they always depress me more.

§ The fact that this was the first email Outlook let through after Raphael told me how to make it behave was not destined to improve my attitude.

§§ You don’t walk up to a doctor at the supermarket and ask them to diagnose the rash on your leg.  You don’t write a letter to a lawyer asking them what their daily schedule is and how and why it makes them a better lawyer.  You don’t tell a blacksmith you want to borrow their tools because anyone can shoe a horse if they have the right hammer.

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