hedda62: (time travel)
This is entered in the Washington Post Peeps diorama contest this year. Hamilpeep, hee.

My flist has been very quiet and I know I'm part of that, but just wanted to say hi. I have been busy and will be getting busier soon, but still in winter mode and watching a lot of TV, including (since I checked in here last) "The Man in the High Castle," "Jessica Jones," and (in addictive quantities of late) "Scandal." (Which nearly made the subject line here "I will send a fully armed battalion to remind you of my love.")

I am writing! Just very very slowly. I think the problem is that this book is so far lacking an emotional through-line that pushes me where I'm going despite plot obstacles. But I am thinking out the plot, and unlike with previous books I suspect the goals won't become evident until more of the structure emerges, so until then it's just a slog.

I am distracting myself with the Pinterest board for Time Goes By, which is much weirder and more complicated (and larger) than the ones I did for the previous two books. I am really enjoying this novel-as-patchwork concept - although I realized far too late that I should have done it backwards so the beginning would be at the top (maybe I'll manage that with Not Time's Fool), and it's still frustrating that you can't move pins. If I come up with images later that fit in the middle of the book, I guess they'll just have to go at the top, but it disturbs my sense of order.

Hope you're all well!
hedda62: my cat asleep (Default)
For a bunch of reasons I don't want to say much about 2015, and also I have to make a feta-tapenade tarte soleil, so this part of the post is short. (The whole thing will be short; I am not claiming in-depth analysis in the latter part.) Actually, baking something semi-complex that may not turn out is a good symbolic end to the year, and certainly good food has been a lifeline for me, one which I intend to continue hanging on to as 2016 begins. Gardening was perhaps not so satisfying, but I'm hoping to make progress in some new projects, and either the weather will be better (it could hardly have been worse) or I will continue to get used to the new abnormal.

A few things worth mentioning that I really enjoyed this year: I got to see Vienna Teng in concert, I helped my sister get our family's WWII letters up on the internet (if you're interested, it starts here with an introduction my grandfather wrote well after the fact), and I took myself on a road trip through the Midwest and finally got to spend time with [livejournal.com profile] penwiper26 in person. And there's also been the federal grand jury service, which has at least been moderately interesting and has another year to run.

My creative energy, at least writing-wise, was really low this year, and I've made very little progress on The Seed Time (book five), but I did manage to do some good-quality editing on Not Time's Fool, and come hell or high water, which is not a trivial phrase these days, I will get it published by the end of January. I have, however, come round to feeling essentially non-fannish (though I am still enjoying watching and reading lots of things), and have no desire to write fic. For the moment I'm still getting those kudos emails every day, which is nice (new people turning up in the fandoms I wrote in), but I expect that to diminish this year unless something happens. Which it may. Who knows.

Which, ha. The one bit of fannish impulse I have at the moment seems, unexpectedly considering that two years ago I was going to drop it altogether, to be toward Doctor Who - at least, I am spending some of my downtime watching old episodes, and I enjoyed most of this season and the Christmas special. Come at me with your nitpicks and continuity slips, but I thought the latter was fun and charming and sweet, which is a pleasant change of pace, and I have done the fannish thing and looked at River's timeline charts and thought about doing a marathon in chronological order (if such a thing is possible and if I had the time - maybe as a prize after getting the book out). I guess people complain that her timeline is too complicated, but I like that kind of thing (and have written one that's as hard to figure out if not quite as romantically bittersweet). But since I did manage to watch the Library episodes again I started thinking about character arcs and what it means to finish them, or at least "finish" as opposed to leaving them hanging out there unexplained and/or uncompleted. I mean, what if we'd never gone back to River after "Silence in the Library"? Would it have been a worse story, if we'd never known who the hell she was? Yes and no? I suppose, considering that the Doctor's story went on, he had to run into her at some point, so perhaps it's not a fair example, and I know that the whole Steven Moffat Loves Puzzle Women thing is mixed up in this, but on the one hand I am satisfied to feel some closure to the circle and in another way I feel it's Just. Too. Much.

I remember when I wrote the Vorkosigan story "Single Combat," which was a prompt fill and meant to be a one-off, and got a lot of comments about when was I going on with the story - which I did end up doing, but for a while was determined not to, because I thought the open-ended ending was a perfectly good one. I think the urge to go on and finish things, to fill in the gaps, is a fannish urge and a genre-related one - and maybe it's that I have been reading a fair amount of "literary fiction" this year (Jane Smiley's trilogy about the Langdon family is really good, by the way), but I'm getting more dissatisfied with the need to Just Go On (reference not unintentional). Not that I'm going to leave the Waters of Time books hanging without tying a few things up neatly, whether Five or Six is the last one, but (and this goes back to the quote from Ancillary Mercy in my last post) I feel the need to acknowledge that things are not neat and tidy either in real life or fiction, and someday I'd like to write a book that just ends, dammit, and doesn't care where.

Happy New Year, all!
hedda62: my cat asleep (Default)
(Earworm mondegreens are the worst. Although sometimes of narrative interest.)

Things that have happened:

1) Got to have lunch yesterday (as in, fairly hurried consumption of packaged hummus platters, with conversation, with only four other people) with a famous-in-my-world person I've admired for a long time. Who turns out to be simultaneously just as cool as I thought and a bit of a self-centered obsessive, but this is the way things go (perhaps someone will say that about me someday) and I will be floating on the experience for several days, I'm sure.

2) My sister has been posting online a scanned, translated-to-digital-text version of what's known in our family as the Bulletin, WWII letters that were compiled, edited, and sent out as a collection to the far-flung family by my great-grandmother. I read it all as a teenager, but it's much more interesting to revisit now, with a better sense of what it must have been like. The parents back on the farm in central Massachusetts, my great-grandfather commuting to Washington (wartime job as Executive Secretary of the National Apple Institute!), the three sons and son-in-law going off into the Navy (they all survived, despite my grandfather's ship being sunk), the daughter and daughters-in-law having babies and growing vegetables and generally coping. It's all very ordinary and yet has that "can't believe this shit is happening to us" aura fighting with relentless chin-up positivity. It's also fascinating to read with the writer brain in full gear, because it has that epistolary narrative feel and yet it is so very much not a novel: the arcs are not constructed, the foreshadowing is not intentional, the little cultural and historical notes are not placed for illumination, the characters aren't introduced, even the letter snippets are not arranged within the larger newsletter for any kind of effect, and of course often the news arrives out of sync. I could do so much better, you know? And yet it's real, and it has great resonance for me because I remember the players, but also because I get to know them better as their individual voices sing out from their letters. (I have to admit, too, that fanfic-brain occasionally steps in to comment on what offstage action someone might invent for these characters. Not that I think it would be likely to become a favorite source (did I mention the lack of narrative arc?) but I did laugh when one of the great-uncles mentioned a visit from a friend called "Bucky.") It's also fun to have it emerge a bit at a time as my sister gets around to the editing - very much the serial WIP! And of course a work-in-progress was exactly what it was, since none of them knew what the ending would be. Stiff-upper-lip New Englanders, but the tension must have been incredible.

3) It has been chilly and rainy all week, which has slowed our deck construction significantly, along with any other outdoor activities (I shivered for three and a half hours out in the demo garden on Tuesday). I've been busy in other ways and haven't made as much writing progress as I should, but at least I feel like I'm getting in gear again, even if I stop to research things much more than I actually put words down. (Next fact to ascertain: would escaped South Carolina slaves joining the British Navy during the Revolution have been given surnames, chosen their own, or left with a single name? Stuff like that there.) I can't work at home with the banging and sawing going on, so I may end up a lonely Starbucks lover myself. When it's sunny and dry I can work in parks (no wifi, but fewer calories).

4) I've been called for federal grand jury service starting mid-July. If I'm empaneled, this could mean driving to the courthouse an hour away every Wednesday for eighteen months. In practice, probably somewhat less, and I have a high enough number that I may escape. If not, at least it will be interesting, I hope (please no police shootings). It does seem rather unfair considering that long day of trial jury service last July, but it's a different random selection, and I guess my number was up. Still: argh.

5) I should probably just do a massive media consumption catch-up post (I think I have been saying that for months now, though, so perhaps I'm less than truly interested). Of note in the TV world, aside from various season finales, we've watched (unusually for us) a couple of comedies: season one of "Silicon Valley," which I found more interesting than I thought I would, because it has a real business-oriented story to ground it, but I do feel the significant lack of female characters (I know this is a self-aware comment on the industry, but surely they could have remedied the problem somehow); and "The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt," which is delightful on many levels, as long as I keep saying "comedy, comedy" to myself and don't expect deep psychological analysis. Speaking of earworms, though, OMG. They alive, dammit. (Also in cultural penetration news: the "fascinatin' transition" bit quoted in two speeches at the college graduation of son's girlfriend a couple of weeks ago.)

Onwards. Stuff.
hedda62: my cat asleep (Default)
Wrote a post for International Women's Day about my female characters and how much I love them. Yay ladies! *hugs them all*

Aside from that, still having a hard time getting my brain into writing mode for long periods of time, so here's a meme (borrowed from [personal profile] avanti_90). Questions are mostly about fic, so I'll answer them that way unless it makes sense to delve into book-writing. Pick a number; pick two or three and I might answer them all if I have time.

1. Describe your comfort zone—a typical you-fic.
2. Is there a trope you’ve yet to try your hand at, but really want to?
3. Is there a trope you wouldn’t touch with a ten foot pole?
4. How many fic ideas are you nurturing right now? Care to share one of them?
5. Share one of your strengths.
6. Share one of your weaknesses.
7. Share a snippet from one of your favorite pieces of prose you’ve written and explain why you’re proud of it.
8. Share a snippet from one of your favorite dialogue scenes you’ve written and explain why you're proud of it.

9. Which fic has been the hardest to write?
10. Which fic has been the easiest to write?
11. Is writing your passion or just a fun hobby?
12. Is there an episode above all others that inspires you just a little bit more?
13. What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever come across?
14. What’s the worst writing advice you’ve ever come across?
15. If you could choose one of your fics to be filmed, which would you choose?
16. If you only could write one pairing for the rest of your life, which pairing would it be?
17. Do you write your story from start to finish, or do you write the scenes out of order?
18. Do you use any tools, like worksheets or outlines?
19. Stephen King once said that his muse is a man who lives in the basement. Do you have a muse?
20. Describe your perfect writing conditions.
21. How many times do you usually revise your fic/chapter before posting?
22. Choose a passage from one of your earlier fics and edit it into your current writing style.
23. If you were to revise one of your older fics from start to finish, which would it be and why?
24. Have you ever deleted one of your published fics?
25. What do you look for in a beta?
26. Do you beta yourself? If so, what kind of beta are you?
27. How do you feel about collaborations?
28. Share three of your favorite fic writers and why you like them so much.
29. If you could write the sequel (or prequel) to any fic out there not written by yourself, which would you choose?
30. Do you accept prompts?
31. Do you take liberties with canon or are you very strict about your fic being canon compliant?
32. How do you feel about smut?
33. How do you feel about crack?
34. What are your thoughts on non-con and dub-con?
35. Would you ever kill off a canon character?
36. Which is your favorite site to post fic?
37. Talk about your current wips.
38. Talk about a review that made your day.
39. Do you ever get rude reviews and how do you deal with them?
40. Write an alternative ending to [insert fic title] (or just the summary of one).
hedda62: Waterfall, with the words "water metaphors" (water metaphors)
I wish I could do the "Share three passages from three WIPs" meme in the spirit in which it's probably intended, but it doesn't mention fanfic in particular, after all. So, have something from the fic I hope to finish someday, plus a bit from early in Not Time's Fool (which counts as in-progress because I still have plenty of editing to do) and the opening of Book Five.

1. "They got all this out of our heads?" he wondered. "I mean, it's not very Betan, all the water. But…"

"If it was the Barrayaran seaside the waves would be bigger and colder and there wouldn't be… pelicans? Albatrosses? Whatever those are."

"Exactly. Where in my subconscious or yours did those come from, I ask you."

"Simon, dear. Don't be more paranoid than you… obviously require yourself to be. It's a generic Earth fantasy, I expect. Collective ancestral memories." She smiled. "Adam and Eve. Aquatic and geriatric version thereof. I have to say," she added, looking down at herself, "it's pleasant to negate the effects of gravity somewhat."



2. cut for length )


3. The muffled oars whispered secrets to the river as the boat slipped downstream at dawn, returning Major John André to the safety of the Vulture.

Rinaldo’s back and arms ached. They’d already done the long pull to and from the British sloop once; yes, it had been hours earlier, and he’d killed some of the boring and uncomfortable wait with a nap while André and Benedict Arnold had their chat, but the shoulder muscles he’d strained fighting the current were screaming at him now. He tried imagining just how good it was going to feel when Pasha had him facedown and naked in their bed, kneading at every sore bit of him with enormous and clever hands, but it was a dream, another world, the imaginary future it should have been to the man rowing the boat. The muscle strain was pretty much real; the boat wasn’t, and neither was the Hudson, even though he could taste its spray on the wind and feel it splashing on board when George’s oar cut into the water at the wrong angle.

They must have put the chilly splashes into the program on purpose, along with the tedium and the uncooperative current, just to weed out those rookies who expected time travel to be a non-stop adventure, instead of painful, cold and mostly dull. No wonder the Colquhoun brothers, who’d done the first leg of this horrible trip in real history, had balked at repeating it; no wonder it had been so easy to talk them (or their computerized avatars) out of the honor of influencing the outcome of the American Revolution. And here, provided with the bona fides required to pass as slightly more enthusiastic but equally gullible patriots, were George Merrill and Rinaldo Dickinson in their places.
hedda62: cover of Time for Tea (time for tea)
Big honking post on the author blog (as requested by [twitter.com profile] sea_otter3) on how I construct plots, or rather books, as I can't really regard them as separate things. Which for once I will reproduce here under the cut. No spoilers. Also, along the way, I tracked down in my beta group listserv the post where I counted up the characters (named, speaking, or otherwise influential) in Time Goes By. There are 70 of them, ha ha! Not shy with the character-creating, me. Oy vey.

with analogies involving space debris, clay sculpture, and of course plants; plus an exercise program )
hedda62: Harold Finch, half in shadow, text: Oh, Mr. Finch (finch)
1) Got Younger Son delivered to Allentown and his stuff into the off-campus house he'll be in this semester. A whirlwind of Target and Thai food and frigid temperatures and hotel with paper-thin walls and music all the way up and back.

2) Writing is occurring! I have more than a page of Book Five done and am settling into a new character's head (Rinaldo, if you're interested. So not a new character, I mean, but a new headspace). Making notes and having thoughts about where I'm going with the book. (Cryptic words about rivers and traitors, ha ha.)

3) And doing research. Finally finished reading the section of A People's History of the American Revolution on African Americans, made note of a bunch of sources I can find at U.Md., got a JSTOR account (I had been under the impression that you needed an academic affiliation for this, but no) and shelved a journal article on enslaved people in Virginia being recruited by the British and so forth. I think this will figure in the book; not sure yet, but it's a place to start. (Well, André on the Hudson is a place to start, but it's all going to be thematically tied together, I swear.)

4) Got a couple of really nice bits of fan mail. :)

5) Kind of but not looking forward to POI tonight. Well yeah I am, but glutton for punishment, oh ow show. Have spent too much time on Tumblr this week wallowing in it all. Just reblogged a gifset of various character-killing explosions over the course of the show (tagged it "an inherent cultural passion for things that go boom") just because it was SO PERFECTLY TYPICAL. They do tend to repeat themselves thematically (and explosively) when it comes to killing people off, but it still manages to be freshly painful each time. Still need to write that essay.

6) Also, as counterpoint, still enjoying Miss Fisher a lot; nearly done with the second season I think, well past the Phryne/Jack temporary estrangement and up to the adorable Dot/Hugh stuff. A show with just enough pleasant tension but no real trauma is really just fine with me thanks.
hedda62: Ben Linus, well-bruised (bruised ben)
I thought it might be good to do a year-end roundup regarding writing, now that nearly all the holiday fuss is done with (including finally getting Younger Son and his girlfriend home yesterday, a full day later than they were supposed to arrive, how dare there be snow in Frankfurt in December).

So, let's divide this up:

Fanfic. I've enjoyed doing the fanfic end-of-year memes for the last several years, but it would be stupid to do one for this year, since I posted a total of three fics (two Person of Interest, one Lost) all in January. It's not even possible to call this a cyclical writing drought, because really 2011-2013 was a new explosion of fic-writing for me, due to not being caught up in writing books, and this year I wasn't even writing a book, so I don't know what's going on exactly, but I hope 2015 will bring more writing of both sorts (well, I must get the book written, but perhaps there will be leftover energy for fic). I had new fandoms this year, and continued interest in previous ones, but just no inspiration for putting down words about them. It may be that I have a hard time switching between writing mode and editing/publishing mode, and clearly I was in the throes of the latter all year. So we'll see.

Thanks to new people coming into fandoms, though, I still get a kudos email nearly every day, and occasional comments, which is nice. Mostly POI (despite canon-outdatedness), with some Vorkosiverse flurries, and rare but appreciated hits on the others. So at least I have stats to report. under the cut because stats )

Yet again I did not participate in Yuletide (even in good fic-writing years the final months are not productive for me) and was smart enough not to take on any other exchanges or challenges; it just would have meant failure. I also failed at fulfilling previous commitments, but someday, [personal profile] philomytha, I really am going to finish that Alys/Simon-at-the-Orb story still lingering on my hard drive. I do think about it occasionally, I promise! - but nothing inspiring jumps out at me.

I'm not reading as much fanfic, either; the two seem to go together.

Waters of Time Series. I just got through my first year as a self-published author, and I have learned a lot. Particularly about formatting, it seems. I just did the painful thing and trashed (well, recycled, since I am environmentally sensitive and all) the various misprinted/typo-filled hard copies that I stupidly paid money to have printed and shipped to me (authors don't pay for content but do have to pay CreateSpace's costs), and I still regularly have little panic attacks over people reading inferior editions. Turns out I am weirdly sensitive to this: hopefully much more so than my readers. But I think I know most of the necessary Word tricks now (in time to forget them before next November when Not Time's Fool comes out) and I have learned a whole new skill in cover creation, moderately well.

I'm also on my way to learning the sort of patience and tolerance that publication of original fiction should teach, particularly as opposed to fanfic, which (not always but often) has the goal of providing speedy gratification to both readers and writers. I had a comment recently on "Children of an Idle Brain" that irked me in a particular way illustrative of my feelings about fannish entitlement; it wasn't all that different from other comments I've received, but the way the commenter said (nagged, perhaps) "I don't like to see Root and Shaw together in any way" just made me want to yell back "Well, did I ask your permission?" (Of course I didn't yell; I was very polite and thanked them for telling me that there were some nuggets to be admired in all the crazy dream-writing and ill-advised proto-shipping.) Aside from the occasional gift story, I don't write fic to other people's specifications but to please myself, though of course I appreciate that others enjoy the results. But the culture seems to assume otherwise; the number of people who have essentially told me that all my stories should be "The Rest Is Silence" is… well, irritating.

Anyway, writing for money is a bit of a different game, but I basically have the same philosophy: I write what pleases me, though with the goal of pleasing others too, and I try to accept that some readers won't like what I write. Though it's nice when the majority do, as appears to be the case so far. Reviews are great, by the way, whether they are positive or negative; those inclined to say positive things are of course particularly urged to get them down in writing, just saying.

So, I have made what's probably a reasonable though not staggering number of sales for the first year and three books; most of the people I've heard from who read the first book have kept going through the second and at least intend to read the third, though I haven't heard back yet from anyone who's finished it (it is, indeed, very long). Aside from the panic attacks, I'm finding that I enjoy knowing my words and characters are out there and making an impact on readers. I've fielded compliments (and a few critiques) and I'm enjoying writing things on the author blog (and know a few people are reading them). Keeping the marketing bandwagon moving is far more tiring than any aspect of actual writing, and I'm not very good at it yet, but I think this is pretty much still the word-of-mouth stage anyway. I don't actually know everyone who's reading my books, which is kind of cool, even if many of those I don't know are friends of my mother.

I'm still disappointed in the apparent lack of response/sales among the fannish community - many of you who are long-term friends have bought and read, thank you! but it's very hard to spread the word through Tumblr or AO3 or even DW/LJ, and I think the aforementioned fanfic entitlement/gratification culture does not bode well for sales even if I can make the [personal profile] hedda62/Erica H. Smith connection in people's minds. Why, after all, should you pay for (long) books about characters you don't know when you can go read stories for free about characters you do know, by the same author or not? I may yet be surprised by procrastinators or a slow spread of awareness, but in the meanwhile there are the Real Life Friends who are unexpectedly kind and enthusiastic and surprisingly don't mind all the trauma I inflict on George and Olivia and cohorts, although the literal cat-bashing was not well received.

My current to-do list is heavy on the GET STARTED WRITING BOOK FIVE DAMMIT elements, so expect some updates in that regard soon. And who knows, maybe some more fanfic someday as well.

Happy New Year!
hedda62: my cat asleep (Default)
1) Post up on visiting places you write about (the why and the maybe why not) at the author blog. With reference to Venice, because.

(Incidentally, I am gathering that as with Twitter, so with Wordpress there is a method whereby bloggers like, follow, and/or post empty comments with the intent of getting you to follow them back; see comment about my interesting post on travel writing which is not what I wrote about but is what the commenter does. Sorry, I have you all sussed out now and I'm not going there. So to speak.)

2) Things I need to do in the next few days: upload teaser chapters for Time Goes By; decide on a not-stupid About the Author blurb for that book, and also whether I should have a dedication; start formatting the print version; do a temporary price cut for TFT and TAF ebooks (month of November, buy 'em now); send out email announcements as well as posting on the blog; get ready to agonize over cover design. Plus other things in other spheres of my life.

ETA: Also have to come up with a blurb for TGB a little more extensive than the placeholder ("Adventures extending over five centuries, three separate continents, and one world-convulsing war"). OMG how.

3) Am attempting to catch up on TV missed while away. Caught up on Person of Interest, which continues to be fantastic this season (all of you who gave up last season, you should come back!); on Castle, which is still entertaining if stretching it a bit with the amnesia plot oh please; on Sleepy Hollow, which is just absurd but completely lovable and doing interesting things with interpersonal relationships; on Doctor Who, which… I just don't know, really. Others to follow.

4) I read, over the course of the trip, several books but two in particular that I'd really like to review together if that were possible anywhere, just because they resonated as if unrelated objects struck and vibrating in close harmony. One is Jo Walton's My Real Children, which I loved as a transformation of the mundane extraordinariness of life into the fantastical (old woman with dementia in nursing home reflects on two entirely separate lives she remembers having lived in two versions of the 20th and early 21st centuries (neither of them ours)), and the other is a memoir by my second cousin Ann Hedreen about her life and that of her mother who died in her 70s of early-onset Alzheimer's, called Her Beautiful Brain. The resonance is close in the description of confusion and forgetting and disintegration, the life choices faced by women, the poignancy of loss and ordinary living, the portrait of a period of time; the format is different, of course, but I think Walton's book has a lot of elements of memoir (there's a lot more of "and then this thing happened, and then the other thing" than I thought I could put up with in what has to be categorized as speculative fiction) and it certainly reads as a real person's story, or stories. (But it's a different sort of person who chooses to write about their own life rather than those of invented characters. I didn't know Ann very well before reading her book; now I almost feel I know her too well. Memoir is not a choice I'd make for myself, even if my life was interesting enough to merit one.) Also, I had no idea before I started Walton's book that it had so much to do with Italy, so that was fun.
hedda62: my cat asleep (Default)
New post up at my author page - Something Alarmingly Plausible, No Doubt: Writing the Past - about how I approach my version of historical fiction. I'm just going to do one more "update" post, tomorrow or the day after, and then leave the blog alone until I get back from Italy.

And OH WOW fantastic episode of POI last night, perfectly grim and poignant and intimate and funny and laying the foundation for who knows what. I loved it all, and all of them in it, but number one was Fusco's glee-face. Friendly acts of revenge: better than falafel.
hedda62: my cat asleep (Default)
1. Just finished a post called "Writing the Future" over on the author blog. I think I could have polished it up with more examples and the like, but I was getting that OMG-long feeling (along with the OMG-going-away-tomorrow one, see below). This will be followed eventually by the others I mention therein, the one on historical fiction, and the one on race. Eventually.

2. We are going to Cape May tomorrow for a few days, a typical vacation for us, meaning the sort you decide on and plan a week in advance. Then I am going on a road trip in the middle of September, me by myself, looping down to Charlottesville VA first for the Monticello Harvest Festival, and then proceeding northwards as far as Maine, taking in on the way some theatre and lots of gardens and a couple of historical markers (the John Andre-Benedict Arnold ones), and hopefully some undisturbed writing time. And picking up a bunch of nostalgically important books, the ostensible purpose of it all. I am foolishly more excited about this than about the October trip to Italy and possibly Croatia, visiting P. on his fall break (which, though we have more time to plan, still falls under the typical-for-us category. We were going to go in December, but this makes more sense in the end. Better weather, too).

In any case, it's a lot of being away from home. And a lot of logistics.

3. Should probably pop to the library so I have something to read at the beach. I was going to save Hild, but I finished it over the weekend. Loved it, and hope to articulate why at some point (when I catch up on Goodreads, if that ever happens).

4. This post about white privilege worked for me as an analogy, not perfect in some directions but extendable in others, and thoughtful, which is the most important thing.

5. Fingers still numb. Should call PT.

6. Many tomatoes! Speaking of which, lunch now...
hedda62: my cat asleep (Default)
Miscellany: writing, cats, TV, etc.

1) I wrote the first sentence in Book Five last night:

The muffled oars whispered secrets to the river as the boat slipped downstream, returning Major John André to the safety of the Vulture.

Which should alert those familiar with the incident that something weird is going on, but never fear, I will explain what and why and how very quickly. I haven't written any more yet, but perhaps I'll get time to do that today; I do know how it goes on. For a little while, at least. And am very glad to get started, and impressed that I've written something considering my mental state a couple of weeks ago.

Also got a laugh when I reviewed the history and saw what the name of the sloop was. Birds, I tell you: following me around.

(The next line in the "How to Suppress Women's Writing" litany goes: She wrote it, and then she wouldn't shut up about it. Sorry not sorry.)

2) Cats! I said I'd write about cats, and I haven't done an update in ages. We still have Lancelot and Hotspurr, and they are well. Hotspurr is now an indoor-outdoor cat - I swore this wasn't going to happen, after losing the last cat (plus others, previously) to outdoor threats, but he had other ideas, and as soon as spring arrived he began scratching and whining constantly (I mean, for hours at a time) and shooting out the door whenever we opened it, and we eventually gave in. (Tried the leash thing first - nope, not going for it.) He's five years old, so he had fully-developed habits before we adopted him, and clearly no one ever denied him anything, including access to the outdoors. He's also refused to wear a collar (he lost six of them outdoors before we stopped putting them on) but he does have a chip at least. And he's smart about what's out there, though I'm reconciled to the possibility that some of it will eventually kill him. He'd just be miserable inside all the time; some cats just are The Cat Who Walks By Himself, and that's how it is. He's done two all-nighters out so far, and been caught out in several thunderstorms, though he tends to curl up on a chair and sleep the whole next day.

Lancelot is still an indoor kitty, because I don't trust him to avoid danger outside, and because the only reason he seems to want to go out is because Hotspurr's there. They bonded nicely in the winter, but while Hotspurr is fond of Lancelot, Lancelot loves Hotspurr, and now he spends days waiting by doors and windows for his friend to come back. We are seriously thinking of getting a third cat, if we can find one guaranteed to prefer the indoors.

3) I'm kind of liking the break from TV in the summer (though the POI preview clip from ComicCon looked awesome), which we are filling desultorily with episodes of "Borgen" - it's a Danish political drama about a female prime minister in a coalition government, and it's intriguing and fun and poignant in a way that's more "West Wing" than "House of Cards" (or "Yes, Minister"), and blends the political and the personal in a balanced way. We're about halfway through the second season. In Danish with subtitles - which means I can't watch it if I'm sleepy, because my eyes will close and I'll have no idea what's going on, but it's been interesting. Neither of us speaks Danish, but I know a little German and J. used to be fluent, so some of the roots are familiar and occasionally we'll pick up a word here and there. We concluded pretty quickly that a lot of sounds get seriously elided, because when there's something you know they should be saying (because it's in the subtitle and not likely to be a mistranslation) you still don't hear it. And then occasionally there will be phrases in English - there are whole scenes in English, I mean, when they're talking to people from other countries, but also just little bits of jargon or idiom that apparently have been adopted into Danish parlance, which is kind of weirdly endearing and startling. Only available here on DVD - which, wow, when was the last time we watched one of those?

4) Subject line is one of my favorite bits of Vienna Teng, from "In Another Life":

In another life
I was married at thirteen
You were killed at twenty-one
On a minor battlefield


which I just think is genius in the "adding insult to injury" way. Minor battlefield, ha. It's the sort of thing Rinaldo would like, and since that's his POV up there in the first line of Book Five (which still has no title) I am particularly inclined to attach to it. (Last book used all female POVs; this one will be all male, which makes it the first book without Olivia's interior perspective, though possibly I'll give her the epilogue.)

5) I've been having shoulder panics. When you've had two frozen shoulders, any lasting pain or stiffness in those joints leads to worry (which probably doesn't help in terms of loosening up) about the possibility of losing most of your range of motion, plus any ability to exercise (because of extreme pain on jarring), for a year or so. I am just back in the swing of things where exercise is concerned, after the frustration of the knee problem, and having that go away again would be devastating. But I'm hoping it's just the temporary result of doing too-speedy hand-weight lifts in Jazzercise. Lots of stretching is in order.
hedda62: my cat asleep (Default)
A few random remarks post-romance rant (okay, it wasn't really a rant, but I wish alliteration), things best said in this forum if only for my own sake, and hopefully somewhat more relaxed, good-natured, and self-deprecating. (Although the last makes me contemplate again the expectations placed on female writers, that we will speak (seldom and in modest tones) of our little scribblings that no one needs to take seriously. I wish that the ability to contradictorily take things seriously and not seriously at the same time was more widespread, but until that miracle occurs I'm gonna self-promote like hell.)

1. One thing that irritates me about the offhand critique of romance, especially when it's expressed (as it often is) in the form "You are free to write whatever satisfies you, but I don't read that stuff," is whatever amount of love story may be present in a work (when written by a woman, at least of the sort not reviewed by major newspapers) is assumed to always be a form of wish-fulfillment, self-indulgence, and pandering to the (female) masses; there's nothing wrong with any of that in moderation, of course, and I certainly find writing romantic storylines fun. (Where it comes to wish-fulfillment, I'd say that the ability to memorize large amounts of poetry and learn languages with chemical assistance is far and away the most-longed-for gift of which I have written.) But even if that's one's intent, doing the job well is hard work, and being dismissed with a pat on the head is condescending to say the least, and makes one's teeth ache with grinding, even when it's well-meant.

2. I did think of claiming in the course of that post that my books are romances in the older sense (the medieval and allegorical, possibly, but at least the more heroic and marvelous and less snuggly), but left it out because I was talking about modern publishing categories and because it would sound pretentious (and insufficiently researched). I really do need to read Sidney's Arcadia all the way through at some point.

3. However, it did make me think again of the somewhat-accidental linking of each of the books (with the possible exception of Time Goes By) to a form of literature, and led to the head-smacking moment of realization that people think of Time for Tea as a romance novel because it's wrapped around 18th-century romance in form and substance - making fun of it, quite often, but also using its modes and its language. I think I am okay with this.

4. Along similar lines, I had a critique of Time and Fevers recently that talked about faults in structure (conflating style and construction, I think, and probably affected by a temperament averse to both the mode of romance and multi-book arcs, but never mind), and after wrestling with that awhile, I've decided that, yes, some of the faults exist, partly because of that much-regretted alternate-chapter-POV choice and partly because the literary-linking as described above wasn't thought out enough. cut because spoilers )

5. And, to pursue this further, I had a think about Not Time's Fool (Book Four), and since the literature-link there is fairy tales, I pushed a little harder on the one arc that still doesn't work quite right, and reshaped it from the "happily-ever-after-but-then-what" concept into an echo of the transformation-type tale that I use in another arc, and I believe that editing with that in mind is going to help, both with the story as it stands and with the weirdly-floating section in the (again) long denouement that leads into Book Five's arc. Well, one of the weirdly-floating sections. I have well over a year, and plenty of writing time on Book Five (*knocks on wood*), to pull it into a shape that makes sense.

6. Which leads me to consider what Book Five, with its conspiracy theories and historically-linked politics and tests of loyalty and male POV characters, needs in terms of a literature-link, and it could quite possibly be medieval romance, but I won't know till I get started.

7. I am going to have to write more at some point about how the structure of the more-than-book-length arcs works for me, and why I like the technique of (so to speak) pulling the camera back gradually as the action moves along, but that'll make more sense after Time Goes By.

Oy vey. Next post will be about cats or zucchini recipes or television shows, I promise.
hedda62: Cover of my book Time and Fevers, with Semper Augustus tulip painting. (time and fevers)
Time and Fevers is now available for purchase in ebook and print versions! Details are at my website (which really needs a redesign, but who has time). Here's the blurb:

Olivia Lake’s search for her missing husband continues, as she and time-jumping partner George Merrill venture into the world of tulip traders, spice merchants and theatre lovers in 17th-century Amsterdam. Meanwhile, new players on the time travel stage make surprise entrances, and the employees of Constantine and Associates face the dangers posed by mysterious conspirators, unanticipated market forces, and their own hearts.

This would be the time to talk up the series, people. :)

Waiting to see if the attempt to link my blog to Tumblr is working any better than the currently-claimed links to Facebook and Twitter - they did work, for a while, and now I have to manually repost everything. I have other strategies in reserve, but still hoping maybe Wordpress will fix itself?

In other news, I'm rereading Christopher Fowler's The Water Room with crossover possibilities in mind - the Rivers of London connection is so obvious it hurts. Need to look at my Trope Bingo card again...
hedda62: cover of Time for Tea (time for tea)
Now that the (absolutely delightful) houseguests are gone, and I can breathe a little in between bouts of exhaustion, powerpoints and seed-starting, I can do a meme.

Gacked from [personal profile] mmegaera: to celebrate Women's History Month, ask me something about my female characters (either my original characters or ones I've written about in fic). Questions can be about the characters themselves (backstory, goals, personality, etc.) or about my own writing choices. (In other words, a female version of "Watsonian or Doylist." Russellian or Kingly?)

It is also a good month to write something spontaneous and profound about women in history and/or female characters, and perhaps I will manage that. The spontaneous part, anyway.
hedda62: cover of Time for Tea (time for tea)
Made a post today on where characters come from, at the author blog, and reproduced here under the cut for convenience. (I don't think I want to crosspost everything from there here, even if I could figure out how to make it happen automatically, but I'll try to link or copy where it's relevant. If you're interested in more you can follow me over there or sign up for email notices.)

And I am editing away on TAF chapter one, pruning still more words and making what's left a tiny bit better.

you're a figment )
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: 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.

Tropissimo

Jan. 20th, 2014 08:43 am
hedda62: my cat asleep (Default)
My [community profile] trope_bingo card:


handcuffed / bound together road trip against all odds transformations fuck or die
au: space bodyswap au: alternate gender norms au: other mind control
sex pollen fake relationship FREE

SPACE
chosen family huddle for warmth
au: fairy tale / myth snowed in au: crossover holidayfic poor communication skills
rivals to lovers reunion trust and vows food porn epistolary


I can see lots of stuff here I'd like to do!
hedda62: my cat asleep (Default)
I don't have an assigned topic for today, but I thought of two things to talk about anyway. :)

So we were watching "Breaking Bad" last night (up through 4x11 - !!!!) and it occurred to me that there must have been someone on the production staff whose assigned task it was to keep track of exactly how much money Walt possesses at any one point. This was extremely plot-relevant at that particular moment, but really all the time (I mean, "having enough" is his motivation from the beginning, and he never does). The show's good at continuity in general, so I'm sure they thought that part out very well.

I don't necessarily notice continuity errors while I'm watching a show for fun, but I think I could pick them out when more emotionally detached (being a continuity supervisor would be a great job). The Person of Interest Wikia lists errors of various types for each episode, and I happened to be looking at the "God Mode" entry the other day and saw a note about spoiler )

I think it would be fun to have a fandom fest in which people write wild and wacky rationalizations for continuity errors and other oddities. For the above one, I offer: and again, spoilers )

On another topic, I had an interesting conversation with an acquaintance at the MG meeting I mentioned where I was being showered with book praise. She took one of my cards, saying that her husband might be interested in reading my book, but that she wouldn't, because she has great trouble with suspension of disbelief and can't read anything that's "unlikely" - including, I guess, all fantasy, science fiction, other speculative fiction, spy novels, and works with too many coincidences in them. She says she enjoys Jonathan Franzen. I am all for people being upfront about what they like and don't like, and it's usually hard to change minds about that kind of thing, especially among older readers, though I always hold out a smidgen of hope.

Anyway, I personally have no trouble with suspension of disbelief within reason, meaning that as both a reader and a writer I allow for at least one major coincidence and/or seemingly impossible technology per book, as long as everything else falls into place logically. But it's interesting to think that some people just lack that ability, in the same way that they can't curl their tongues or deal with brussels sprouts. I've been thinking this as I watch my two cats, one of which adores chasing the little red light of the laser pointer, and clearly has a vendetta against it ("curse you, little red light! curse you forever!") while not suffering any apparent emotional distress over never ever being able to catch and eat it. While the other one watches the light for a moment, and then looks at your hand. If they were bookstore cats, you know which would end up in the mystery novels and which in the nonfiction section.

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