hedda62: my cat asleep (Default)
I'm just going to finish up the posting meme today, since it's almost the end of the month. It's been a lot of fun, made me write something here almost every day and think about it, and I've got a source for stuff to develop later into essays on writing if I feel like it, so thank you!

[personal profile] wendylove wanted to know whether my kids know about fanfiction, and… I guess? I mean, they're adults now, so for all I know they are writing it themselves and it wouldn't be my business. I think they both know I write it, or that I have written it, but it's not really something we share, though the fannish culture is part of the household in a broad sense - we discuss things we've read and seen, and propose alternate endings, and stuff like that - and I wouldn't cringe if they read my fic. But fandom and fanfic as I approach them are my space that I can retreat to, and I like it that way.

[personal profile] philomytha asks about my favo(u)rite Shakespeare play, and oh, that word again, however you spell it. I will give you several, while acknowledging that this is hardly an exclusive list of plays that could be my favorite on any given day. But one thing I like about Shakespeare is his ability to get away with odd structures and mishmashes of comedy and tragedy, so:

The Winter's Tale, because it has this perfect Greek tragedy of a first half (I could say "first act" because that's how it's performed these days, but I am a nitpicker, so no) followed by a rollicking comedy and a fairy tale romance of a finish, and it's all absurd and still somehow works.

Romeo and Juliet, which starts out with a tidy comedy structure that ends in marriage very early, as if the playwright had forgotten he needed to fill several hours, or, more relevantly, the characters didn't understand conflict and narrative and just plowed ahead with their adolescent desires, and then the whole thing tips and falls headlong into disaster. And the fault is shared among just about everybody in the cast: so many little points of decision. I saw a brilliant commedia dell'arte version where in the last scene, as Friar Laurence is telling the story again for everyone's benefit, he said "meantime I writ to Romeo" and pulled the letter out of his pocket to demonstrate, and then gave it the most delightful and awful double-take of horror, oh shit I forgot to mail it - and that's the play. (Even if the actual plot was different.)

Love's Labour's Lost has a similarly weird structure; I'm not sure it's on my favorites list because it's not Shakespeare's best writing (though it's a nice study as an early play, because you can see him trying things out that he reuses in later works), but the ending is fascinating. Comedy comedy comedy we're all getting married now except not. Because the princess has to go back to work, basically.

And of course Twelfth Night - you all expected me to say this - because the characters are so great and the language so beautiful, and because of Malvolio. I love that in the midst of all the happiness and romance at the end there's this justified threat of revenge from the sorry guy going off in a huff. And that all the romances are a bit creepy and sudden, as if the lovers are being manipulated by someone with a pen and a piece of paper who got tired of them.

In other news, I have a cold again. Bleh. That'll teach me to attend public events.
hedda62: my cat asleep (Default)
[personal profile] eris asked if there was anything I wished had a larger fandom, and hahahahaME, but the answer is… yes and no. Of course there are so many things that I wish more people had read and seen and were willing to discuss and shout about and write fic for. I will just mention, yet again, Reginald Hill's mystery novels, and also Christopher Fowler's, and I wish Slings and Arrows had a larger fandom than it does, and so forth; I could list things for days.

But then again… I can't be alone in feeling that often when fandoms expand they change, and not always for the better, so I can't actually wish huge fandom status on anything I love. I'm still pretty curmudgeonly where fandom participation is concerned (my reluctant immersion in all things POI is a significant exception), and so I guess really what I mean when I say "such-and-such needs a larger fandom" is "all my friends should read/see this." I just want to talk to people about stuff, not have vast number of fans I don't know posting gifs on tumblr and writing bad slashfic.

And yes. I should really do Yuletide one of these years. I just wish it wasn't at Christmas, you know? Because a) busy, and b) the time of year I am usually least able to write for psychological reasons. (But just maybe I'll crank out that Bryant & May/Rivers of London crossover sometime this year.)
hedda62: James Hathaway on the phone while reading Titus Andronicus (titus andronicus)
[personal profile] pendrecarc asked: Do you ever reread your own work? Why, and what is it like?

My first reaction is to say, "What? Yes! Doesn't everybody?" but I suppose, as usual, it depends. I'm assuming that "reread" here refers to after publication/posting, as opposed to the approximately five billion times I've read through Time for Tea for editing purposes and the proportionally fewer but still significant number of editing passes that fic gets. But, after I'm done and it's out there: well, I haven't picked up my print copy of TFT and read that, because I am sick to death of it and I'm afraid I'll discover more typos (I do, however, need to do a reread for typo-discovery purposes at some point). I suspect this will be the pattern for the novels as they come out, because really, all those words? I am done with them. Though possibly I will peek at favorite bits, and certainly there will be cross-checking to be done as I refer back to things later in the series.

Fanfic, on the other hand, I do reread, and I think this makes sense, because most of it is self-indulgent and, much as other people may enjoy it, I write it for me. Usually the pattern goes: read again immediately after posting, because that's when the errors I missed in editing make themselves apparent; read a few times more in the next few days, especially if it's a story I really like and I'm getting a good reaction from readers; then leave it alone for a while. And then I may reread it on impulse down the line when I'm in the mood, or when someone new discovers it and leaves a comment (that's the "what were they reacting to?" read, when either I want to experience that again for myself or I honestly don't remember).

This pattern varies a lot by the fic. I recently reread "Further Up and Further In" when I got a comment on it out of the blue; aside from the initial check-for-mistakes reads, I hadn't revisited that one, I think because it was such a bear to write that looking at it just exhausted me. But now, all that is long enough ago that I can just enjoy it - and hey, it was pretty good!

Heh. Now I want to hear everyone else's take on this, so I can see if my writer-ego is amazingly out of whack. Confessions? Slap-downs? Meta?
hedda62: my cat asleep (Default)
[personal profile] yunitsa wanted to know: If you were in charge of the Vorkosigan books, what would the next one be about?

Piotr.

There, that was easy.

But to expand slightly: I would LOVE a tale of Piotr (and Olivia!) during the Cetagandan War, or any time before the action of the current books starts. Or, if we have to go forward chronologically, something about the coming-of-age of the next generation, after Miles's death. I realize this may sound like I hate Miles, and I don't, but I think we've had plenty of him, and I have next to no interest in filling in the gaps in his life. Though of course if Lois wrote that, I would read it. If she wrote the phone book, I would read it. There would be a lot of the letter V.

In other news, I have spent a fair amount of time in recent days writing more of the Ben-as-Henry-Gale story I started some months ago, and am really hoping to finish it soon so that I can start properly panicking over actual real life commitments.

Also, it has been ridiculously cold here, which is not news to many of you. We've had the water trickling in our bathroom sink for three days without stopping, so the pipe won't freeze, which we only do when temperatures are consistently below 15F (it's the north corner of the house). Mornings have been in the low single digits, with below zero wind chill. Today it might actually reach freezing, though, which will be like a heat wave. As xkcd said so brilliantly, this is the old normal.

Also, the cats are behaving like regular old cats who live in the same house now, not exactly playing together, but observing each other playing, and eating side by side, and all that. Lancelot has been doing Speed Personality Transformation, and now looks to possibly be headed for dominant feline status (Hotspurr is just too easygoing to object, I think). First we thought he'd never come downstairs, then we thought he'd never stop hiding when he saw Hotspurr, then we thought he'd had a deprived kittenhood and never learned to play, but now he is collecting ALL THE MICE and hoarding them in the chair that used to be Hotspurr's, and skittering around chasing them. He still doesn't really understand the point of the laser pointer, but he may yet catch on. It's been a long while since we had two cats at once, and - they actually learn from each other! They also (perhaps inadvertently) team up to make fixing dinner very difficult if they haven't had theirs yet. Twice the underfoot I am used to, half of it blending with the black and white rug.
hedda62: cover of Time for Tea (time for tea)
[personal profile] pendrecarc asked: How do you approach writing short and long fiction differently, if at all?

Well, that is an interesting question that I am not at all sure I'm qualified to answer. Because, when I consider it, I realize that I have written very little short original fiction, and no novel-length fanfic. So I'm comparing grapes and bananas, to reach for a more appropriate fruity image, since right up front there's a discrepancy between a story where you start out knowing the setting and characters and a story where you have to make all that up yourself.

However, to some extent writing is writing, so: yes, I suppose I think about them differently. I am not an outliner in general, but when writing a novel I have to have some idea of shape and storyline before starting, and I usually know how it ends if not every major plot point along the way. And there's a lot more research, and many more characters and settings that have to be thought about. It's just all bigger and more complicated. To choose as a metaphor something I'm pretty much ignorant about: it's not just that a marathon is longer than a sprint race, but that it requires strategy and pacing rather than simply raw talent. Or: a full-length ballet needs a story and a structure, whereas a ten-minute dance piece… also needs a story, but it can be a story wrapped around one lovely image that strikes quickly to the hearts of the audience, whereas if you did that over and over for an hour they'd get bored.

And of course both the marathon and the ballet require strength and endurance, of the type I don't have physically but apparently do, in sufficiency, for novel-writing. That's probably the biggest difference, frankly: for long fiction you have to keep slogging away, and there's always a point where desire and inspiration slows, and somehow you just have to get through it. (I've had that happen in short fiction, too, but at least then it's not too far to the end.) It's a commitment; short stories can be more like a fling. Which doesn't make them less a form of art, or essentially easier to produce. The oratorio or the opera, versus the madrigal or the aria.

I'd like to explore this further, but I think comparisons do start to break down when I think about character or plot development, because of the aforementioned original/fanfic difference. There are also lots of things that are the same no matter the type or the length - [personal profile] pendrecarc mentioned in her question the easy and difficult parts I talked about before, and no, those don't change depending on what I'm writing. Longer just means more of whatever it is.
hedda62: my cat asleep (lewis & hathaway)
[personal profile] brewsternorth wanted me to talk about travel, and name a place I'd like to go someday. Well, ha, fancy asking me to pick a place. Lemme just go on about travel in general for a while and we'll see what happens.

Travel and I have a complicated relationship. If it were up to me alone, I'd spend my life never going anywhere and then regretting it, so it's good that I'm married to someone who loves to travel and that I have family and friends all over the place. I do actually enjoy being in new places, once I'm there, but I hate deciding where to go (on the small scale. My husband is worse on the large scale; we have all these conversations where he says "and while we're in Paris we might as well go to Prague" and then I chime in with "and then it's not far to Delhi and we should take in Cape Town while we're at it" just to emphasize the absurdity of the see-everything-in-five-days optimism. It's the only time I get to be the pessimist, really). And there's making finicky arrangements, and worrying about not speaking the language, and then there are the horrors of air travel and the near-inevitable migraine that swallows the first day after arrival (though that's been better of late). And there's the guilt over the idea that foreign travel is Broadening, but then again there's still much of the U.S. I haven't seen (though I've seen a fair amount), and it's certainly easier to go places where English is spoken and the hotels are predictable, but oh I am a terrible person for thinking that. And I really should speak five languages and I don't.

I've also had too many conversations with people who live in the U.K. (or in continental Europe) who don't quite understand how very much farther and more expensive it is for Americans to travel to Europe, so why haven't we insular savages been there or to the other parts of the world adjacent to it, and I had a running discussion with my English neighbor who'd boast over regularly taking his kids abroad while they were growing up, while we were just going places in the States, and I'd think "you're taking them to visit their relatives, and so are we" (except we also went to many places we didn't have relatives, and their kids have had to wait till adulthood to see their own country). (And speaking of kids, when you have a family of four it's a lot more costly to go places than it is just to take yourself. We're lucky to have the money, but we don't have that much money. And there's the tyranny of the school schedule. Ah, what a revelation it is to be an empty-nester and be able to go places in May and September!)

Then there is the weird writer's guilt over not having visited all the places I've written about (though at least there's the loophole of not actually being able to travel to, say, 17th-century Amsterdam). Probably those I've missed should have been first on my list. Though, you know, I didn't get a research budget.

So, as I said, complicated. That said, hey, I'd like to travel everywhere. You could probably not name a place I wouldn't be interested in going to, as long as it's not currently being bombed. I hope I will get to go to a few of those many places before I die. I'm hoping for Italy next fall, if P. gets to do his semester abroad there. (He's going to Ghana in May, but I don't get to piggyback on that.) On the other hand, it seems we're always going somewhere and saying how much we love it and that we'll definitely come back someday, and we never do, so… I'd like to go back to some places I've already been, too. I'd especially like to go back to that little hotel-of-cabins on Caye Caulker in Belize, and hang out by the shore and eat great food while barefoot and go kayaking. I want to go to Yellowstone again, and stay at Chico Hot Springs, and hike in Zion for more than a couple of hours (short version: we didn't care to spend Easter Sunday in Las Vegas. I do not want to go back to Las Vegas). I want to see much more of Peru than I've already seen (do I want to go to Machu Picchu again, or is one transcendent experience enough? This is a question worth debate). I want to go to Charlottesville and Charleston enough times to feel really familiar with their geography, and ditto San Francisco and the rest of the Bay Area even though I've started to map that pretty well in my head. And last year's trip up the northern California coast was lovely (and the Oregon coast! also wonderful! and the Olympic Peninsula!). I need to go back to Maine, because it's part of my DNA. I want to climb Snowdon again, and trudge back up to Surprise Lake in the Tetons (and not permanently injure my knee this time). And so forth. I've been so lucky to get to see what I've seen, but sometimes once is not enough to have really been there.

On the other hand, Tahiti…
hedda62: my cat asleep (Default)
I cleverly scheduled [personal profile] brewsternorth's request "Things you like/are looking forward to about Sleepy Hollow" two days after the finale, which would be tomorrow, but I'm going to answer it today because WHEEEE. In other words, the delightfulness is fresh in memory, as is the HORRIBLE OH MY GOD HOW CAN YOU DO THAT cliffhanger.

I wasn't prepared to like Sleepy Hollow. As I posted a few days ago, my suspension of disbelief is fully functioning, but there are limits, and this show seemed like it was going to push them (like, out of a skyscraper), and I'm still mad at them for the Middle English thing but… you know, never mind. I can take retconning of American history for Secret Battle Against Evil purposes, and certainly I can manage witches and demons and resurrections and all that, because after all I've done vampires and werewolves and Slayers. The comparisons between Sleepy Hollow and Buffy are pretty obvious; it's just that SH hung up the apocalyptic window dressing a lot sooner. But both shows depend on the chemistry and likability of the leads - they even both have a pleasant British accent dryly commenting on the action! - on teamwork and friendship, on snark, and on tapping a deep essence of what it means to be human, more than they do on the supernatural-heavy plot elements, even if there'd be no show without them. Both of them can be total camp one minute and then get serious the next. And I'm expecting to see an overall evolution from silly to deep on SH as well, hopefully without losing any of the entertaining banter.

The obvious difference, and what's given SH a lot of its press, is the casting; how half of the leads (I'd say more, because despite the opening credits Jenny is a lot more prominent on the show now than Katrina) and a lot of the supporting cast members are non-white, which is great and really refreshing on network TV. It's worth noting, too, that of the main cast the only obvious immigrant is Ichabod himself, and he's an immigrant twice over. So they can play a bit with what would be a really painful stereotype if it was, say, rural Guatemalan comes to live in the U.S. and is baffled by computers and donut holes. Looking at this from the perspective of a time travel writer, of course, that didn't occur to me for a long time; I was too busy enjoying how Ichabod adjusts to the 21st century (the voice mails! I will never not be in love with the voice mails. And in the finale, you can see that Abbie's enchanted by them too, and then he starts complaining that his phone isn't the latest upgrade, oh man, you are part of our century now. And the skinny jeans. And Starbucks. Etc. It's actually a brilliant way of showing how foolish our reality is, which perhaps makes the more spooky part of their reality less ridiculous? After all, it's all magic to Ichabod). They may still be trying either too hard or not hard enough on the social aspects, but they bring up things like race and slavery and sexism and the hypocrisy of the Founding Fathers, which is, again, refreshing.

I haven't dipped into fanfic for SH yet (maybe I'll write some! that could be fun) but I'm assuming that it's one of those shows where slash takes a back seat to the obviousness of the Ichabod/Abbie pairing. Which… I am of two minds about. On the one hand, YES, but… well, first of all, Ichabod's married, even if his wife is a witch and neglected to tell him that and has been trapped in purgatory for centuries and I don't really like her that much. And secondly, I enjoy them as friends and colleagues ("colleagues" is putting it mildly. Fellow Witnesses Preventing the End of the World; stamp it on the letterhead). They are, in fact, absolutely delightful together, without adding even a hint of UST, although it's certainly there. And Abbie is a Strong Woman in that nice complicated sense that means she has a lot of vulnerabilities that don't get fixed by being in love with a man or having a man love her (though many of them seem to, and why wouldn't they). When she talks about loving and losing, it's about her sister and her parents and Sheriff Corbin, and it's her reunion with Jenny that hits the high emotional mark for the season. And that's fantastic. (I found the temptations she and Ichabod faced in the finale really interesting in that respect, but… spoilers.)

Then there are the Irvings, and… how wonderful are they? And I love how beautifully conflicted Frank Irving is, in his evolution through the whole season, right through to his actions in the finale, and how they tie up what might have been A and B plots into a near-seamless whole. (Also, Orlando Jones's full-throttle venture into fandom is delightful in its own regard. But that's a side benefit, akin to the benefit of getting to admire Tom Mison every week.)

I'm not even sure what I'm looking forward to, except more of the same but even better, and did I mention the HORRIBLE OH MY GOD HOW CAN YOU DO THAT cliffhanger? Fall 2014 - how are we supposed to wait that long?
hedda62: Ben Linus, well-bruised (bruised ben)
a.k.a.: January posting meme: bulletproof kinks.

[personal profile] kivrin asked: Do you have a favorite narrative trope or theme? In other words, a narrative "bulletproof kink"? If so, discuss. If not, discuss.

It depends on how you define it, I guess. Lots of people will eagerly raise hands and say yes, yes I have one! or two or three, and for me, though I'm not denying they exist, they don't leap so quickly to mind and I end up with broad categories rather than specific tropes. I mean (okay, and I am rereading The Game of Kings, though it is in fact the only thing about Lymond that counts as bulletproof for me) I am always going to go for characters who will not, just once, speak in prose like other people, or who are otherwise quick-witted and agile-tongued. So there's that; blame large doses of Lord Peter Wimsey at an impressionable age.

But beyond that… well, first, nothing is bulletproof when the bullets are bad writing and poor characterization, but if we're beyond that already… hm. Unlikely partnerships grab me, especially between people who are broken in ways that complement each other, and I am equally happy if this leads to friendship or romance. Alice feeling her way into Wonderland makes me sit up and pay attention; if she has to team up with the Mad Hatter I'm all the more pleased. Competence and cleverness are good things, if only because they make a narrative zip, but I think faults and mistakes are interesting too (just don't whine about them). First times and new discoveries and hurt/comfort and food porn. Unconventional weapons.

I could go on, because there are lots of tropes and themes and other stuff I like, but I guess that's the point: no one particular item stands out strongly, and none is indispensable. Also I think sometimes I don't notice what the tropes are, either as a consumer or a producer, which is a cause for wonderment and made me sign up for [community profile] trope_bingo so I can get some practice. :) (Waiting for my card now, with impatience and trepidation. I may end up with no time to write anything, but on the other hand maybe it'll spur me to finish some of the fics I've started and/or explore some new fandoms.)

ETA: I should add, now that I'm awake: redemption.
hedda62: my cat asleep (Default)
[personal profile] enemyofperfect asked: What's a part of writing that comes easily to you, and what's one that's difficult? (Does it depend how ease and difficulty are defined?)

It's a good day to answer this (briefly) because I am writing, and therefore the easy and the difficult (which I think speak for themselves in definition, though there's a sliding scale) are laid out in front of me and tugging me in and out of the file.

Things I find relatively easy:

1) Stopping in the middle of a sentence for twenty minutes while I research something. Okay, that's a snippy answer, but I'm at ease with deciding when to research, how long to research for, what to look for, and how to use it when I go back to writing, which is not a small thing.

2) Usually, dialogue and character interaction. Voices in the broad sense and the narrow one.

3) Glomping on to metaphors and torturing them half to death.

4) Rhythm, sentence construction, word choice. Actually, those are all hard, but I enjoy doing them.

5) Editing. Well, easy-ish.

Things I find hard:

1) Plot, but I'm getting better all the time. Pacing, ditto.

2) Keeping a mental picture of all the characters on stage at once, and using them in active ways.

3) Remembering to put in the physical details that make writing pop. Smells, tastes, the way things feel when you rub your cheek against them.

4) Shitty first drafts.

5) Stopping when it's not going well.

And heh, you asked for one thing in each category, but limiting myself is something else I'm terrible at.
hedda62: my cat asleep (Default)
[personal profile] wendylove also wanted to know if writing and gardening had anything in common, and… this is a question I wish to return to on many later occasions, because I think they have a lot in common, but for now (because I have a lot to do today and because it's quite enough to read on its own) I will point you to my reposted essay on Integrated Pest Management Editing.

Someday I will write an entire book on this topic, yes.
hedda62: my cat asleep (Default)
I'm starting this out with Adorable Cat Tricks: we have learned in recent days that Lancelot is not a morning kitty. He's been sleeping on our bed, and every morning now, when one of us gets up, he moves into a spot between the remaining person and the edge of the bed, as if to say no way, not you too, you are staying here. And he doesn't come downstairs until we're both up, and even then he's not very hungry (I won't go so far as to say he wants his coffee first, but a few bites of food is enough). And although Hotspurr is now sleeping in his favorite Ikea chair downstairs, I suspect so that he's closer to the food he worships, he doesn't come up and wake us just so we can feed him. As Gobi used to do the second either of us turned over or breathed loudly at any point past 4 a.m., with loud meowing and chewing on the bed and being thoroughly annoying.

I say this in affectionate reminiscence, of course. I plan to dedicate Time and Fevers to Gobi, because there are cats in it (my betas wince slightly here) and he helped me write it, and because the first answer to today's question from[personal profile] wendylove - when and how I write - is, I write with cats.

But, to be more specific. I've been lucky enough to have time to write, and a varying but flexible schedule, so "when" is usually "as it fits in" but with reasonable regularity. I don't usually have a problem with settling down to writing, though sometimes I have periods when I just can't, and then there is never any lack of something else to do. Among the many bits of writerly advice that make me growl is the paternalistic privileged nonsense of "writers write." Well, actually, writers want to write, but sometimes a writer has stuff people are asking her to do without regard to her set-aside writing time, or sick kids, or migraines that go on for days, or depressive spirals (oddly I can write through these unless they get really bad, but plenty of other people can't), or jobs with unpredictable hours, etc. etc. I have never been able to say "I will write every day from 7 to 11 am" or "Tuesdays and Thursdays" or anything like that, because nothing's that regular in my life. But I want to do it, and it gets done.

It would be interesting to track whether the stuff I produce at 3 a.m. (after waking up, not staying up) is different than at 3 p.m., and so forth, but it's not like I'd ever make a note of that. I do know that most of Not Time's Fool was written while I was having unpleasantly regular insomnia, which is probably why there are so many scenes in it set at night and "Nessun Dorma" figures prominently.

I'm assuming the "how" part of the question refers to physical things more than mental, so: on a laptop, at least for the last eight or nine years; I can't write longhand and produce anything worthwhile. I don't have a desk (so any *headdesk*s are to be taken figuratively) and these days I usually write while sitting on a loveseat in the living room with my feet up (plenty of room for cats). I should undertake some method to do more work while standing up (don't think a treadmill desk will fit either in the house or in the budget, but even a surface at the right height for being upright would be good for my back and my waistline) or on an exercise ball. I should also get up and stretch and walk around more often. (Sometimes I keep a suggestive yoga mat on the floor nearby.) I certainly don't require complete silence to write in (is there such a thing?) but any noise with words in it will distract me to the point where I can't think. This includes music, and I don't usually write to music without words either, though there have been exceptions (particular scenes that need the rhythm or harmony or counterpoint provided therein). I have written in coffee shops on occasion, and behind the desk of a yoga studio, and in hotel rooms (including in a large closet so as not to disturb others with light), and in parks (mostly editing in parks. Editing is a whole other subject). Et cetera. Flexibility is all.

I'm trying to snack less while I write. Tea is good, though I am terribly inclined to forget that it's steeping and end up with something lukewarm and bitter, which is probably not what I want the words on the page to be either. Sometimes booze is good too, in very small amounts. No Hemingways here.

Probably I have forgotten things I should add? But that's enough to be going on with.
hedda62: my cat asleep (Default)
1) The honeymoon phase of book release is here. When one's used to the quick turnaround of posting fic and getting feedback (like, minutes, sometimes *is amazed*), or even the slightly longer pause between sending book chapters to beta readers and getting thoughtful replies, the delay between publishing a book and people actually reading it (and telling you so) seems to last forever, but I had enough early adopters in there to keep me happy, and now it's Christmas (some weeks after actual Christmas, which has a lot to do with people not reading instantly right now what are you waiting for?). I was grateful to get a couple of DW/LJ signal boosts this week, but what's really surprising me is the response among my RL acquaintance, and it is so thrilling to go to a Master Gardener speaker's group preview meeting (which was really good on its own, actually) and not only have three separate people tell me how good my book was (one said she was up to 3:30 am finishing it, which - yeah, it's long, budget your time wisely), but watch two of them keep talking about it while I went out of the room. And then they followed me and kept saying nice stuff and wanting the next one now and asking questions and speculating on plot twists (and, huh. That particular misconception never once occurred to me. Wow). And I may have sold a couple more there, too; I'm glad I had business cards printed. Then home to get FB message from son's girlfriend's mother saying how much she was enjoying it. Harder times to come, I know, but for now, whee!

2) Both cats are sometimes now occupying the same room for periods of time, so progress. Boy, do they have different personalities, though. Should have named them Introvert and Extrovert.

3) Caught up on The Good Wife, and oh, do they keep hitting the gold. Perfect balance of comedy and dramatic tension, all the way through. My only complaint is that they don't quite know what to do with Kalinda this season, though I'm glad she and Cary are reigniting their whatever-it-is.

4) On a related note, I got a pedometer for Christmas, and am using Elsbeth Tascioni as a model for how to use it. 10,000 steps, here I come!

5) Watched the premiere of Intelligence (I like Josh Holloway; what can I say. Also Meghan Ory) but I doubt I'll keep watching, because it switches to its new time tonight - and okay, I will be watching Sleepy Hollow before, so who knows, but I doubt I can deal with another 10 pm show. And it was okay but didn't grab me in a big way. Also, that is so not Rock Creek Park.

6) I suspect this week's POI will be both a relief from the recent tension (in the crisis-of-the-week sense) and a gut-wrenching reminder of it (in the John-Reese-front-and-center sense). I still don't entirely trust the show, but maybe it can win me over again? Amy Acker and Sarah Shahi are so fantastic that I want everything to be written as well as Root and Shaw are, and there are lots of intriguing things going on, just… wish I had time to write fic to make Reese make sense, because I think that might do it. But this week, no. I don't think.

7) Rutabaga curling is a thing that exists. This makes me happy.

For the January posting meme, [personal profile] philomytha wanted to know what was the earliest fiction I'd ever written, and I'll try to answer to the best of my ability )
hedda62: my cat asleep (laura hobson)
[personal profile] eris asks: Who has been your favourite POV to write (in any canon), and why?

Oh dear. *clutches head* I am perennially unable to pick favorites in anything, so this is going to be hedged like a field of hawthorn. I love all my adopted children! (And my self-created children, too, but I'm sticking with fic for this one.)

Naturally I started by making a list (under the cut) of all the POV characters I've used, some of them a lot and some only for a tiny bit, organized by fandom but in no particular order under that, and excluding the few original character POVs I've had, and also anything that got posted on my journal but didn't make it to AO3, because I'm lazy that way.

look at them all! )

So, because I can't pick one, I'm going to pick five in no order of priority. Some of my fics (Children of an Idle Brain, Imperial Bedrooms) have short snippets from different POVs, some of which I enjoyed writing greatly, but I'll cross them off for these purposes because it didn't give me a chance to get to know the characters well enough; some of them are just short fics, so ditto. Which still leaves a really broad field… well, let's see...

And the winners are, with no explanation other than "*smooshes them*":

Laura Hobson, from Lewis

Harold Finch, from Person of Interest

Aral Vorkosigan, Simon Illyan, and Gregor Vorbarra from the Vorkosigan Saga

But, but, but…
hedda62: Harold Finch on ecstasy, dancing (drugged finch)
So for today [personal profile] philomytha very kindly asked me to explain how I was ambushed by birds in the course of writing the Waters of Time series. I should say first that although I am quite fond of birds, and feed them so I (and the cats) can watch them out the window, and find them fascinating in all their dinosaur-descendant weirdness, I'm not what you'd call a bird enthusiast. But in the back of my head where lurk all the serendipitous oddities that create writing coincidences, there must be a bird name repository. Not that this explains everything that happened bird-wise.

I did make one bird joke on purpose in TFT, and that was Eagle Costuming and its employees Phoebe Black and the unseen Robin (in TAF there's also Ava). I believe I decided at the time that the owner was a Mr. Bob White, though that's never actually stated. I also named a character Brant, although this is not because he's a goose. George's surname, Merrill, was chosen for its watery referent, but as I discovered when looking up the etymology while writing TAF, it can also be derived from French merle (blackbird, Latin merula, Dutch merel). I think at this point I had already named Lena Vogel, but only afterwards decided that this was a pseudonym and her real last name was Raaf (Dutch for raven). In that book I use as a character a real historical personage, Adriaen Pauw, whose surname is Dutch for peacock.

And I think that was it until I got to Time Goes By, which has an entire scene set in an aviary because I needed to work off my feeling of being followed around by birds. There's a sequence of George's dreams in the book that involve maritime figures that all look alike and are associated with time travel devices, and the first one is explicitly a ferry captain in Boston Harbor (the Americans' Tim), so when I had him dream about the Russian equivalent I then decided that their time machine is named Perevozchik, which does mean Ferryman - but when I looked it up I found it also meant sandpiper.

There's also a minor plot point involving passenger pigeons, and I know there are cormorants out of Andrew Marvell, and a fairy tale with giant birds that steal things, and probably some others I'm forgetting (besides the utter bombardment of real and symbolic fowl in the aviary). Anyway, you can imagine how I felt when I started watching Person of Interest and encountered Finch and his many bird aliases. I have a character with many names as well, though his all have to do with peace - and I decided that before I realized that he'd need to own many things emblazoned with doves.

So there you have it. Chirp, flap.
hedda62: cover of Time for Tea (time for tea)
[personal profile] yunitsa wants to know: What was the original genesis of the Time books? Did you start with the time travel, or the characters, or…?

Ah well, not so much genesis as evolution. I started out with a fierce desire to write a novel, in 2001 when I was a couple of years into online fandom (mostly mailing lists, at that point), and decided that I'd write about the fans of a particular SF book series, a possibly-diverse (mostly in political and religious terms, I expect, though I hope in race and gender and nationality and so forth too) group of people, and how they interacted and came into conflict and used the matter of the books to express themselves and solve difficulties, because I was seeing all that for the first time and it was fascinating. (I still think this would make a great book, even though I didn't write it, so feel free to steal the idea.)

This meant that I needed to invent the book series, and since I've always been fascinated by time travel, that's what I decided on. I was going to have to actually quote parts of the text, so I started imagining scenes and characters and plots and so forth, and eventually it occurred to me that it would be a lot more fun to write actual books than to just pilfer from imaginary ones, and I scrapped the original idea and started in with the much better one.

By that time I'd invented George and Olivia and Bernard (because love triangles are always fun, and I needed a moral conflict for those fans to agonize over). I think Olivia and Bernard were a reaction to the worship of age-gap romances I saw in some fandoms (I started out in Laurie R. King's Russell/Holmes books), and the problems I saw with that. I must have zeroed in on George's love of the 18th century early on, because I think I started with the time period and then worked out a plot from there (where I discovered tea smuggling, I am no longer sure). And Constantine and Associates came out of my own experience working for government contractors.

Another thing I recall about the early germination period (but I think after I'd started writing) was deciding what version of time theory to use, and explicitly choosing not to use the system Connie Willis had for the Oxford History Department books (though she altered it later, somewhat). I love her books, but I wanted more freedom for my characters to jump directly into danger if they so desired (and I didn't want to look like I was copying, either).

It seems like a long time ago, but I can still remember where I was when I came up with some of the essential plot nuggets that are so familiar now. Mostly a) out walking the dog, or b) in the shower. :)
hedda62: my cat asleep (Default)
More from the posting meme. [personal profile] philomytha wanted me to talk about composing prose and choosing words and images, which first of all is a topic large enough for a book, and secondly something I find tough to analyze - writing about the process of writing, so difficult! - but I can probably manage some random thoughts.

I suppose insofar as one is choosing which words to use, which images to project, which themes to wrap it all around, there's head-choice and gut-choice, or decision and instinct if you want to put it that way. In my best writing, I use both, not usually simultaneously but in either order: gut doesn't always precede head. So there's conscious searching for the right words, and serendipitous finding, which is less likely to come at the word level and more at the metaphorical level, and one can lead to the other. Quite often I spend time looking for a perfect word, and then that spurs a whole new train of thought (see, if I say "train" I am immediately running over tracks with occasional jolts and sways and constant rhythmic noises, not that I would use "train of thought" if I could think of an alternative, unless it was in dialogue, and then someone would make a railway pun).

Head-choice is easier to talk about. So, first of all, yes, I do use a thesaurus (online exclusively, now), and I am not in agreement with writing advice that suggests otherwise, although I understand why people say that. You need to know what the words you choose mean, not just pick the coolest-sounding one from a list. English is a ridiculous hotpot of a language, but you can't equate all the synonyms for a word even if it's a long list. Anyway, I mainly use a thesaurus because I'm old and my memory is cranky (actually it's been cranky in this way since I was 30 or so, so I can't blame aging), and sometimes I know the word I want perfectly well but can't get it to the front of my head for access (often because something that sounds a bit similar is blocking the way). But also I'm picky about not repeating words too often; it's a judgment call whether it looks absurd to use a series of synonyms in succeeding paragraphs, and sometimes hitting a word over and over contributes to the sound and rhythm of prose, but other times it feels sticky and boring (and yes, that's me talking about gut-choice: much more difficult to explain).

Because I write time travel fiction (otherwise known as not-quite-historical-fiction), and because I have deep pockets of nitpickiness, I try to choose words (for dialogue, at least) that are appropriate to the time and place - so, yeah, I did look up most of the relevant sections of TFT in the OED, or at least particular words I had questions about. I'm sure I left in some anachronisms, but overall I hope the language choices evoke something of the period. (Plenty of surprises along the way: in one place I wanted an 18th-century character to talk about catching someone on the rebound, and was astounded to find that, with a little variation, it was fine to do that. I suppose that might work against a sense of authenticity, but I couldn't resist leaving it in.) I was a little less picky for Time and Fevers, because most of the period language is actually Dutch translated (in that miraculous novelistic fashion) into English, so I used vaguely 17th-century English but wasn't fussy about details (because, you see, the characters weren't really saying those words. If that makes any sense). Time travel lends a nice duality to all that, because I can have Olivia and George speaking period language to the people around them and then have them converse in more modern English when they're alone, and also let them react to period word choices (my favorite example is Halsey remarking to Olivia after a ride that "I wish I had the mounting of you, Miss Lake," meaning he wants to choose her horse, but, knowing Halsey, probably implying exactly what she first thinks he's saying. I stole that from Georgette Heyer, I believe).

The other thing I can touch on in without making this too long is what I talked about a bit yesterday, the carrying through of metaphors and thematic material, which is actually a bit too easy for me, because I have a tendency to release the plug on metaphorical language and let it flow; I mean, whole paragraphs awash in various forms of liquid, and so forth. And I've found myself, in the last two books, crafting chapters that read a bit like short stories, with repeated thematic elements; I guess it's okay, as long as they don't isolate themselves from the rest of the book. It works great if I am writing short stories (in my case, mostly fanfic). But driving a metaphor or image to its logical or illogical conclusion is one of my favorite things in writing, and when used judiciously it can be extremely valuable.

The best way to get into details of word choice and so forth is those DVD commentary things (which I have done a few times before and am always happy to do again). It's hard to select the perfect example from an entire novel or set of novels, so I'm going to let my previous reference to deep pockets choose for me, and make remarks about two characteristic bits of prose from chapter 24 of Time Goes By, under the cut.

minor spoilers, I suppose )
Anyway, that was fun, even if it describes my writing process insufficiently. I hope I scratched the surface of the question, which was a good one!
hedda62: Waterfall, with the words "water metaphors" (water metaphors)
From [livejournal.com profile] penwiper26: Talk about water metaphors, and how they came to fascinate you.

WELL FIRST OF ALL this is a terribly appropriate day to discuss this, since it's raining little frigid pinpricks of dismay and despair out there (which may start freezing on things any time now. We don't get the single-digit temps until tomorrow night). Water is an element (in the old sense) and ingrained in our human consciousness and unconsciousness as something that needs paying attention to; it's more noticeable than air and earth and more common than fire, and we all need it, so expressing ourselves using its language is probably instinctual. I wish I could trace my use of water in writing to one source or time and place, but it isn't likely to exist.

However, I do use water imagery (and actual water) perhaps more than the average writer, which I suppose is because a) it's useful, and b) it comes easily to me. (Flows easily. Bubbles up.) I will confess here that despite having written four books full of water metaphors that are in some cases thematically central (time seen as rivers and streams and trickles of possibility, etc.), I hadn't thought about taking any advantage of that until, while putting together my website this fall, I realized that it would be handy to name my series, and then after wittering about that awhile had the head-slap moment when I recognized that "Waters of Time" was the perfect title. So it is possible now that people will go looking for water in the books, and it's there, both literally (the English Channel, the canals of Amsterdam, Boston Harbor, etc.) and in many other ways, including my protagonists' names. I believe that when I named Olivia Lake and George Merrill I was thinking about the contrasts between lakes and seas and how they represent personalities (George's surname could also be derived from merle, French for blackbird, and when I do this meme again in a couple of years someone really needs to ask about birds happening to me all over the place, because it was seriously weird in a deliciously satisfying way). And it's also there in the weather, in dream imagery, in the stories characters remember and tell, in jokes and puns, and in the words I choose to express thought and emotion.

What does water do, after all? It flows and drips and babbles and roars, and feels much the same as when we're being teased and battered and caressed by feelings. It just seems very natural to use water-words to say someone is floating serenely or being tossed on waves of sensation; it's near-universal, and understandable at a gut level. I use plant imagery sometimes too, and enjoy doing so, but I know that not everyone thinks about plants and how they work on a daily basis; we really can't help thinking about water. And it's got some fundamental cultural associations: pretty much the first thing I do in the series is plunge George into cold water, which may not be a literal baptism but expresses something much older about change and development and perhaps the way in which we all emerge from water (or at least liquid) to evolve, to be born. Olivia gets a similar moment later in TFT (since she has more sense, I don't need to do it to her quite so often, though. George gets dunked over and over). And water's both life-giving and life-taking; the dangers of water are implicit throughout the books too. You can drown in love, or in anger, and you can actually drown; you can also die from lack of water, and deserts show up here and there too.

I find tracking imagery in writers' works tremendous fun (I once made a list of all the animal-related expressions in the Vorkosigan series) and I'm amused at how many places I put water stuff in my books, frequently not on purpose. Once I start noticing, it's everywhere: Olivia's father's joke about Minnesota having had ten thousand lakes but now it only has three; a bit in the fourth book about hermits in dry climates and the fear of female sexuality (it makes more sense in context); the number of coasts and beaches my characters frequent; tales of fishermen and sailors; Twelfth Night, which starts with a shipwreck. (And is today; I didn't do that on purpose either.) I'm sure I do it in my other fiction, too, if to a lesser extent. And I'm not likely to stop anytime soon; the river will keep on flowing, one might say - come on in and join me, the water's fine.
hedda62: pay phone with "green roof" (phone)
There are still plenty of empty slots for this meme, if you want to join in.

Today's request is from [personal profile] enemyofperfect: If you could wish a new fannish custom or genre into being, what would it be?

This is actually really hard to answer, since I've come to assume that fandom has already invented just about anything I could possibly think of. I'm sure there are holidays that have been missed for potential gift exchanges, but at the moment that just seems to add more burden to an already heavy weight of oh god not going to get this thing done on time, and it would be rather self-serving to say "gee, I wish there were more venues to advertise original fiction by fan writers who aren't BNFs."

But you asked me to come up with something, so… I'm not really a huge fan of changed-situation AUs or whatever you call them (coffee shop, high school, etc.), because they often lack the charge and peril of the original and tend toward cliches, but they can be really entertaining, and… sometimes I want my fandoms to cross over more comprehensively, you know?

So… the gardening AU. In some of the fandoms I've written in, this is easy or unnecessary: in the Vorkosigan Saga we already have Ekaterin, and I don't feel the need to wrap everyone else into an AU around her (and I've written a garden design story and an essay to support her profession); and Lewis is going to canonically work his allotment in retirement. I feel fairly certain I could make up some Ben/Juliet/Locke stories set in a university botany department, and I could see Peter Burke as the manager of a large public garden plagued by outbreaks of rare plant theft. And I have written my Neville Longbottom story already, as well as one about devils and heirloom locally-sourced souls.

But what would a Gardener of Interest story look like? Well, they'd have to be guerrilla gardeners, to start with. I'd keep the Man in a Suit, because discussions of what one wears to garden are always interesting. Finch would of course dress way better than P. Allen Smith, though he'd be doing little of the planting himself, instead plotting safe and strategic locations on the computer, and buying everyone ridiculously expensive gewgaws from Williams Sonoma (Reese would order a totally unneeded broadfork just because he thought it was cool; also makes an interesting weapon). Root (who is appropriately named for this AU) would insist on designing the gardens just so, and they would all be part of a larger design. Shaw would say "Shut up and dig" a lot. Both Reese and Fusco would have dark gardening secrets they don't want unearthed (well, Finch would already know all of Reese's). And Finch would have dark secrets of his own, perhaps a background in which he and Nathan had bred lovely and poisonous plants that ended up being used by the government to kill people (including Nathan). Grace, of course, would be a botanical illustrator, and Carter would be park police, slowly coming to realize the beauty of the illegal enterprise.

Well, there you have it. *waves hand* Propagate.
hedda62: my cat asleep (Default)
I'm going to jump into the pool with this, but December just isn't going to work. I don't know why I think I'll have more time in January, but at that distance all I can see is a pretty picture of snow-covered fields and PowerPoint, so why not.

If you would like me to talk (in the sense of "write aimlessly") about any topic, pick a date and tell me what you'd like to hear. Fair game: any book/media fandom I've brushed against, my own books, my fic, and the vast universe of stuff that is not those. With the caveat that I may decide not to talk about some personal topics (but then again, one never knows). Gardening- and food-related questions are certainly up for discussion.

January 1:
January 2:
January 3: [personal profile] enemyofperfect. If you could wish a new fannish custom or genre into being, what would it be?
January 4:
January 5: [livejournal.com profile] penwiper26 Talk about water metaphors, and how they came to fascinate you.
January 6: [personal profile] philomytha. Composing prose and choosing words and images.
January 7: [personal profile] yunitsa. What was the original genesis of the Time books? Did you start with the time travel, or the characters, or...?
January 8: [personal profile] philomytha. Birds and how they ambushed me. :)
January 9: [personal profile] eris. Who has been your favourite POV to write (in any canon), and why?
January 10:
January 11:
January 12:
January 13: [personal profile] philomytha. What's the first fiction you ever wrote?
January 14:[personal profile] wendylove. When and how do you write?
January 15: [personal profile] wendylove. Do writing and gardening have anything in common?
January 16:
January 17: [personal profile] enemyofperfect. What's a part of writing that comes easily to you, and what's one that's difficult? (Does it depend how ease and difficulty are defined?)
January 18:
January 19: [personal profile] kivrin. Do you have a favorite narrative trope or theme? In other words, a narrative "bulletproof kink"? If so, discuss. If not, discuss.
January 20:
January 21:
January 22: [personal profile] brewsternorth. Things you like/are looking forward to about Sleepy Hollow.
January 23: [personal profile] brewsternorth. Travel: a place you'd like to go to someday?
January 24: [personal profile] pendrecarc. How do you approach writing short and long fiction differently, if at all?
January 25: [personal profile] yunitsa. If you were in charge of the Vorkosigan books, what would the next one be about?
January 26:
January 27: [personal profile] pendrecarc. Do you ever reread your own work? Why, and what is it like?
January 28: [personal profile] eris. Is there something you wish had a larger fandom?
January 29:
January 30: [personal profile] wendylove. Do your children know anything about fanfiction? At what age do you have The Talk?
January 31: [personal profile] philomytha. Favourite Shakespeare play.

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