Tuesday, August 28, 2007

dragon ate the moon, I fell asleep

Last night I was up watching the lunar eclipse, at least the partial-to-full part. It stayed full so long that I went and lay down again, figuring to get up for the full-to-partial part. I woke up about 6 am, so I'll have to settle for whatever pics are up online.
Today I am not at my best.
What I noticed was that the more the moon was covered, the more visible the covered part became, till at last, rather than being a black slice, it was a round coal glowing under grey ash. The sky was clear and a great many constellations were visible. It surprised me how much light was coming from the sky even when the moon was quite hidden. Before the eclipse began, the moonlight laid sharp dark shadows across the back lawn, the sort of light that makes people say they could read by it. Once the eclipse was complete, there was still enough light from the sky that I could have walked about, but I wouldn't have trusted my depth perception, and I would have relied on knowing the place well.
Priscilla was confused greatly by my getting up and walking up and down stairs in the night. She charged up and down after me, and rushed outside when I opened the back door. When I sat on the bench outside, she followed more sedately and sat on the grass, near the place she sits in the daytime. Power of habit, I suppose, as I doubt there was any sun-warming left by then.

Has anyone ever come up with an explanation for vampires being able to tolerate moonlight but not sunlight? Given that moonlight is reflected sunlight? Varney the Vampire and Count Ruthven were rescusitated by the full light of the moon. But then I think they (and Dracula?) walked about in the daylight as well. I should see if I can find out when the Killer Sun was added to the mythos.
My astrologer-vampire ruminates about why silver should be harmful to vampires when moonlight is beneficial, given that silver is the metal of the moon. He doesn't come up with an answer.
And what do werewolves do when the full moon is eclipsed? Turn into hairless wolves?

Good news on the arthritis. I went to my second rheumatologist appointment, and it seems I'm having no ill effects from the meds thus far, and I can try dropping the Naproxen to one tablet a day instead of two--my choice as to which one to drop. The hydroxychloroquin stays as before, being the one I can expect to be on for good and all, barring serious side-effects.
I asked about prescription renewal, and my own doctor can do that, which will simplify things. I've entered yet another realm where everyone already present knows stuff that I don't, and they don't know what they need to tell me because none of it's new to them anymore.
I had a few minutes to look about the Arthritis Centre this time. The chairs in the waiting room are designed to allow people to hoist themselves in and out, and have accessories that can be attached to support the arms and so on. A rather queasy mix of relief and guilt that I didn't need those so far, and had biked to the centre on my cool black bike.

The 3-Day Novel contest is coming up, and this time I will be home for it, so my word count should be higher. I don't have an outline, only an assortment of images and motifs that will (I hope) come together into something resembling a storyline.
Yesterday I biked downtown to pick up more ginger teamix and snacky food to carry me through the weekend. On Friday I'll probably get a veggie plate and some other finger-food. Plus the plums are coming ripe. If I need a break I'll prep a few trays of plums for the dehydrator.
Once again, the challenge is to keep typing, to not stop to revise and tweak, to not dither about wordchoice, just to get it down. My feeling is that this will be a collage-y type of story, with different voices, so I should be able to jump around in time, get the beginning and ending down, then fill in the middle. Maybe I'll write a bunch of scene ideas on index cards and pull one out when I get stuck.
No all-nighters, though. I will eat and I will sleep. And I will try not to fuss about whether this story is as good as last year's. It's about the experience, not the judges.
Mark will be at September Crown. So he gets to go to the meetings instead of sending me. Mwa-haha.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

did it rain? was it too bloody hot? of course

With apologies to my (probably imaginary) readers in Pennsylvania, I remain unconvinced that people were really meant to live there without some sort of genetic engineering, the kind sf writers envision for colonists of heavy-gravity worlds or other hostile environments.
Bear in mind that I'm native to the NW coast, and my ancestors came from the British Isles, so my own haphazard genetic engineering suits me to life on mist-shrouded rocks, eating seagull's eggs and raw fish. I don't even do that well, since I dislike shellfish.
Pennsic weather is hot, very hot, and humid (100%). I showered every day, only in order to be bathed gently in fresh perspiration, rather than a mix of old and fresh marinade.
Then it rains. And it does not rain there the way it does on the west coast, no, despite the NW's reputation for rain. A cloudburst, the kind that beats plants flat and drenches you in seconds, in Vancouver or Victoria only lasts seconds. The clouds burst and empty out and it's over. No, in PA it keeps bursting, for ages. Which, if you're under canvas, surrounded by fields, is difficult to ignore. Rain pours down, turns dirt roads into mud roads or rivers, fills tents, washes gravel out of paths. Our tent has a good steep pitch, but there was enough seepage from outside to have the ground 2-4 inches under water, especially where customers had been walking. Fortunately (and not coincidentally) all our camp furniture is raised. The boxes and bed are on legs, the stock is on trestle tables.
Once the rain stopped, the puddles drained away within an hour, at least where we are, up by the barn on the high ground (physically, not morally).
Although the rain is bad for sales, I preferred it to heat. There's something exhilirating about how overwhelming it is, how loud and present, rather like thunderstorms. Which we also had. Not sky-cracking lightning bolts, but flashes of heat lightning lighting up the sky like Jove's own flashbulbs, soundlessly. The NW doesn't really get thunderstorms, not like the prairies, though we get a good storm-at-sea now and then, with waves smashing up over the breakwaters.

On the drive to Pennsylvania, I had an entertaining new manifestation of the arthritis, starting with stiff ankles and ending with swollen feet and calves. If my legs were sausages you would have been grabbing a fork to poke them. As for my feet, well, if you remember elderly ladies wearing open pumps, and how their feet sort of swelled over the edges of their shoes, that would have been me, if I hadn't been wearing sneakers. Hi-top sneakers.
Not painful, though the stiffness was mildly uncomfortable, and it looked distressing enough to my companions to score me that night sleeping in the front seat so my feet could be up, instead of semi-reclining in the back (single) seat. After about 3 days it went down and my feet looked their regular bony selves.
We didn't take any pictures or I'd put one up here. By the way, I don't recommend googling for images of 'feet edema'.

A few days into Pennsic, we had the first rainstorm. It started during the evening, and the market streets emptied as everyone ran to their campsites to put things under cover. Some merchants shut their tents up and did the same, while those who camp in their sales tents hunkered down.
Cerridwen next to us, who sells hats and bog-coats, came in to ask if we knew how to get hold of the potters across the street, because their roof was filling up with water and there wasn't anyone in the tent. After yelling, we went in and poked the tent roof with a stick to tip the water out.
The pottery itself would have been unharmed by rainwater, but tents falling down on breakables is another matter.
It kept raining. Another set of pottery-sellers across from us turned up to check on their tent (which was okay) but no one knew where the needed ones were camped. So Cerridwen and I took turns invading their tent through the night, poking water off the roof until about 2:30ish am, when the rain faded out.
I confess, there's a certain visceral pleasure in this, for me at least. The pale sagging canvas bellies, sometimes with a line of drops running down the lowest part; the soft squishing resistance of the water-pouch to the stick; finding the right spot to push from so that the water goes off the edge and not sideways into the section I just emptied; the sudden give and gush of water over the wall of the tent and splash to the sodden ground. Like peeling a scab without the ouchiness.
Add to that the setting--rows of pale tents on dark ground, the rain thickening the air to mist, lights around the barn glowing greyly through the slopping canvas; fatigue making everything a little removed, even my wet feet.
But I paid for my fun, waking up with a snuffly cold that lasted most of the war and made me sleepy all the time. So I never did do any volunteer-time at the gate or at A&S Point. I put in a few hours at the A&S display, giving feedback and so on, and that was it for justifying my existence. The nights of doing gate (troll, it's called in the East, a name that makes me twitch slightly) from 2 to 6 am may be over for me. Alas.

The next morning the potters reappeared, and responded to news and helpful suggestions about their tent setup by speaking bitterly of the friend who had made said tent, and how each centrepole was already propped up on two cinderblocks and couldn't get any taller. After they had opened up again Mark observed that no word of thanks had been spoken.
Cerridwen, a kind person, suggested they were distracted by worry over their tent and by annoyance at its design. She hadn't been thanked until she prompted one of them.
Consensus was that nobody would be getting out of bed to poke tents on another night. Fortunately, one of them slept in the tent after that, so no crises of conscience were experienced by their neighbours.

My cold became more miserable, and I would have slothed about in bed during the day, if it could have been done without drowning in my own sweat. But perhaps there is something in sweating out an illness, because I did recover. Cerridwen's Ansteorran campmates fed me the Known World's best leftover chicken stew and beef soup, The Practical Goose brought me ginger teamix (gratefully received, because I'd somehow only brought a single packet!) and I felt weak, cherished, and grateful.
By the next serious rainstorm, foreshadowed by an evening of near-constant but silent heat-lightning, I was becoming chipper (storms have this effect on me anyways, so that probably helped). The storm hit after dark, with less intense rain but some serious wind. The tent-roof lifted off the poles, straining against the ropes, and the poles shook. We spent a few minutes working out whether we'd be able to drop the ridgepole without the centrepoles taking out too many tables.
Whether philosophical detachment, storm-euphoria, or just lack of sleep, I couldn't summon up any concern or even fear. It would happen or it wouldn't, however I felt or fussed about it.
Parenthetically, the problem with easy-ups and Costco garages, increasingly popular for SCA camping in the west, is that people forget that tent-ropes have two functions. They hold tents up, and they hold tents down. Owners of Costco garages forget that they need ropes (and not the dainty things sometimes supplied with the kit, either) until winds come up and send their tent lumbering or rolling along the road, taking out other tents as it goes.

The next day the potters dropped off a bottle of Riesling for us and another for Cerridwen. This was presumed to constitute thanks, and the idle discussion about whether another storm might make it necessary to drop their tent to save its neighbours became muted.

Writing: I did write. I got up about 6 or 7 am, before the heat became too much, plugged in my laptop (yes, we had power) and put in my time. A couple of times I typed in the evening as well, when the light didn't bleach out the screen. Priority was going through the first draft and noting what needed to happen in the missing scenes. On the drive in, I'd managed to figure out an easy fix for the weaknesses pointed out at VP (establishing urgency for their running away and laying the ground for Midame as witch), and tucked those into the first chapter.
I admit, I had foolish dreams of getting the revision completed before the VP reunion, finding a copyshop and presenting PNH with a full printout. But that seemed kind of pushy, plus I want beta-readers to scrutinise it before it goes under more critical eyes. In particular, to tell me what parts I can cut.
The VPX reunion was lovely, but more on that in another post.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The relentless spotlight of public scrutiny

Here I am still recovering from 3 days drive back from Pennsylvania (left Pittsburgh 6pmish Aug 12, arrived Victoria 7pmish Aug 15) and what does life demand of me? Being photographed in medieval costume gazing adoringly into my husband's eyes and hoicking up my skirts to show off my shoes and pattens (not simultaneously - it could be a timeline, though).
Mark was interviewed for (in theory) the Business section of the Victoria Times-Colonist, as a small businessman with the more-photogenic-than-staring-into-a-monitor angle of being inspired by medieval art and doing Living History. Which in itself is a fine thing and I approve and support. I just wish it hadn't been scheduled so soon after our return. Consider that Chris had been occupying alone for 3 weeks, followed by our return and the explosion of unpacking over every available horizontal surface. Start with the untidiness of the packing process, left unreconciled, and the remnants of making desperately-needed-linen-clothing, also unfinished, which formed the base level, and well, the kerosene and a match solution had some appeal.
Anyway, Mark and I brought the ground floor at least into a semi-presentable state, with several items getting upstairs and out of sight, though not quite into the attic yet.

The photographer arrived first, and took several photos of Mark's buckles and brooches and knives, some being held and some on the table. Most of the time he took two photos in rapid succession, flash-Flash, reminding me of that handgun-training thing of always shooting twice, to make sure. After a bit of that, we went out to the backyard, where he took several shots that Mark referred to later as 'romance novel covers', with me leaning on him or him leaning down so as to be able to look into my eyes. (He did suggest that I stand on a box, but there didn't seem to be time for me to go and find one.) It differed from the typical romance cover in that neither of us had difficulty keeping the shoulders or chest covered, and flowing locks were not available (mine were under the wimple, and his aren't flowing). We were also directed to look at each other, and some substantial number of romance covers have the lovers staring off in the same direction, as if at some threat or hope of escape.
I tried to pose once as the adoring and vinelike wife from that Gothic German sculpture (if I can find a photo I'll post it) twined about her husband with a rather frightening smile on her face, like a Greek comedy mask, but received no encouragement.
The photographer departed to cover an Incubus concert, protected by his military-strength earplugs, which allow him to not hear the music at all. The reporter came inside, wrote lots of shorthand notes and communicated enthusiasm about this being a more interesting assignment than most. Which is probably true, Victoria not being a hotbed of excitement usually (though allegedly a hotbed of satanism, according to Michelle Remembers).

And after that I was exhausted, and went to bed. It was pretty much as tiring as getting the retinal scan, even though the bright lights were mostly directed at other places than my eyes.
Good thing I'm not likely to be interviewed much, if it's that wearing when I'm not even the subject.

Writing-related: I've become annoyingly paranoid about wordcount. I've got to stop checking wordcount while in process, because it makes me hesitant to spend any words on the latter part of the story, like, say, the climax. Oh no, I think, I'm just under 4k! I'd better scamp the denouement, or else I can't submit to Clarkesworld!
Given that what everyone seems to like about Willow Knot is the kinda-lush (I call it 'drenched') sensory detail, if I keep hesitating to include description and tactile stuff in the last 3d of the book (court and city) because I'm afraid of bumping the wordcount higher, I'm seriously working against myself.
I need to stop looking at the wordcount. It is for me what Amazon numbers are for those who've actually completed books and have them on the market.
Is there another way to measure progress and assure myself that I've actually done something?