Friday, November 30, 2007

Last day of Nanowrimo, wordcount 30kish

Lowered expectations, your key to success. So, in the last week, I decided that if I hit 30k, I'd be happy. OpenOffice tells me I have 31006 words, and the Nano validation tells me I have 30112 words. Abiword says 30044. I may shoot the file over to work and see what Word thinks it is, but the Nano validation is what counts.
I don't get the cute purple bar that says Winner! but that's okay. I feel justified in wearing my Nanowrimo 2007 t-shirt, because I have 30k words that I didn't have in October. Although I may have to trim out about 10k of a secondary plot that doesn't really go anywhere, at least in that story.

And I have an idea for next year! So apparently I'm going to do this again. An 18th c. epistolary novel, letters between two young women in different 18th c. genres. One to be in a Jane Austen / Fanny Burney sort of social comedy (though, obviously, not anywhere near as skilfully written), the other to be in an Ann Radcliffe / Horace Walpole gothick thriller. So one would be hiding in the shrubbery after being snubbed at an assembly, pouring out her grief onto tear-spotted letter paper, the other dashing off hurried bulletins while holding villainous abductors off with her sharp pen-knife.
Mark asked me why they'd be writing to each other. Because they're cousins. Seems obvious.

For the next while, the only writing I'll be doing is Christmas cards and letters. I hope I can find a printout of the address list I did up a couple of years ago, because it isn't showing up in My Documents.
Tonight I'm off to Bremerton for an SCA event on the Saturday, and hopefully spend some time with my amazing apprentice Eileen.
Sunday I'll be trying to get online for the Drollerie Press chat with Rachael de Vienne. This may be difficult, because I'll be in transit for part of it, and I don't have a laptop with all that cool wifi stuff. Maybe I can borrow Mark's?
Ah, technology.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Twentysixth day of NaNoWriMo, wordcount 27kish

I'm mostly posting so that I can update the tickerfactory counter. Self-indulgent, yes. The wordcount here is the count from a .txt file in OpenOffice. When I transfer the text to the Nano wordcount validator, or, apparently to AbiWord, I lose a substantial number of words by wordcount. The first time it was about 500, but as the text increases, it's up to 800 less, give or take.
Which is kind of disconcerting, even though it's just the count, not actual text gone away.
Anyway, for comparison purposes, here's the counter again.

My cunning plan to write a story that required no research other than checking the Motif Index wasn't all that cunning (big surprise). So far I've had to research Northwest Indian tribes, carny slang and the sharecropping system. All because of my inability to just make things up.
However, I did find a very interesting article on gender bias in the Arne-Thompson Motif Index, which made some telling points. I posted the link on the scribblers thread, and realised that I'd reached some pinnacle of geekery just in saying that.
The article is in JSTOR, if you're the same kind of geek that I am, and it's Folklore Heroines and the Type and Motif Indexes, by Torborg Lundell.
And now I believe I'll go to bed, and read a bit more of The Serpent's Egg, by Caroline Stevermer. And be thankful that the author doesn't feel the need to explain the monarchy system when the prince arrives, nor the physiology of horses whenever someone rides somewhere. (Why yes, I am thinking of the last book I was reading).

Saturday, November 24, 2007

intermission: book covers and news

This came up in comments recently, and I think it's interesting enough to mention here. Rachael de Vienne, whose work I first read on OWW, is being published by Drollerie Press (they have really gorgeous covers).
Her book is Pixie Warrior, with the great tagline: Being small enough to fit in your father's pocket is no excuse not to save the world. Which would definitely get me to pick it up and have a look.
And tomorrow, November 25, at 4pm EST, all going well, there will be an online chat with Rachael, through Drollerie. And all going well, I'll figure out how to participate in time. I'd better talk to the kid and get briefed.

ETA: a change of date. The chat will be December 2, 4pm EST. I'm guessing that the 'Chat Room' link will become active when the chat begins--at least that's what my son suggests. Now I need to check my schedule and make sure I'll be home then, or at least online-accessible.

The cover for Zoe Marriott's next book, Daughter of the Flames is also lovely and striking, with more Steven Rawlings art. This cover already pictures the heroine, so it's possible the US printing, by Candlewick, will get the same cover.
Her first book, The Swan Kingdom, has a great landscape cover, standing stones and flowers, and I'm told the US YA market prefers covers with characters. I've seen a draft(?) US cover for The Swan Kingdom, and it's very atmospheric, a darker look at the UK image, with a girl's figure central.

It does give one hope.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Twentysecond day of Nanowrimo, wordcount 22kish

About half of that is a secondary storyline that doesn't really go anywhere, but oh well. It may find its place later. So, parts of this are fun. Last weekend was more productive than I'd expected, so it looks as if I'm faster when I'm banging words out while in a cafeteria or sitting on a dorm bed drinking wine than I am when I'm dedicating specific time to at home.
Or rather, I'm more productive when I can't go online. That's the big time-suck for me. I don't seem to have any willpower that will keep me off FandomWank, or Making Light, or the ABE book forum. By forgetting my password, I did manage to stay off LJ for some days, but that's changed now.
In 2003-4 I was writing and revising the co-written novel on my desk computer, mostly keeping my online time to checking the Modern Herbal and googling things like the date of invention of strike-anywhere matches. But in 2003 my online social interaction was a smaller thing. Some badmovie sites, the book forum, not much else.
Story stuff: My MC is traipsing around N America, accompanied by a very attractive young woman who may be a (fallen?) angel, and a devil in a backpack. The devil is having to walk, currently, because the backpack is full of a wendigo. MC is unsure how to deal with the wendigo, now that she has it, and is asking advice of an old woman who was once an informant for the MC's folklorist parents.
Which has put me in a bit of an ethical quandary. On the one hand, if the old woman turns out to have already been taken over or replaced by the Evil Thing (and there's a cool story about a woman who skins another wife and wears the skin to fool the husband, which works until it starts to rot), we get a plot turn and some cool SFX. On the other hand, it's not the most original plot twist going, and the old woman is First Nations, so I'd be running the risk of the Disposable Ethnic Character, which I'd rather not, really. Plus I dislike the trope of having secondary characters die just to point up the danger to Our Hero--it brings out my Bolshie streak.
So I may jump past that into the next sequence and figure it out later. It would also be good if I figured out what she wants in her own story, so she's not just there to advise and warn the MC in that story.
The ethnicity of the main character is uncertain, since her name is entirely made up, and her sexual orientation seems to be either bi or lesbian. Things you don't know when you start writing.
What I am enjoying about the enforced speed of nanowrimo is that there's no pressure to write in what I call the 'drenched' style, with a lot of sensory detail. The narrative can be fairly stripped down, with minimal scene-setting. Because wordcount is desirable, I don't have to fuss about my character's inclination to ponder, and then muse, and then ponder a bit more. It's all good, and edit in December.
Not that I'll have anything like a novel, even in first draft, by then. My immediate goal is to get up to 25k by the weekend, and see if I can get above 35k by next week. I'm not going to beat myself up trying to hit 50k.
Next year I'll try this with an outline, and maybe try an 18th c. epistolary style thriller.

Arthritis: definitely this would be a flare-up without the meds. Yay meds! Yesterday my left shoulder was hurting, reminding me of this time last year, when I still thought it was a rotater cuff injury, and was hauling out the sling every time my shoulder hurt. Today is pretty good. An awareness, I might say, of feet and hands, stiffness in the shoulders. Nothing to be fussed about.

Not finished reading: Tinker, by Wen Spencer. I'm having problems with this, mostly related to my reading as a writer. I like the character Tinker okay, but she is one heck of a Mary Sue. She's a genius, she's cute, everyone loves her except the elf-woman who's jealous, she wins fights despite (as we are frequently told) she's just a little thing, she's related to the most important people you can think of in that world, and I'm getting the strong feeling she has a Destiny. The narrative is thick with info-dumps, just sitting there like lumps in mashed potatoes. So those aspects are slowing me down. What may cause me to stop is not related to the writing at all. It's my personal squick. SPOILER!! Tinker is turned into an elf.
I've only attempted to read Jack Chalker once, and it was exactly this that put me off. An interesting, imperfect, realistic character changes into a supernatural being. Just because, as far as I could tell.
There's an Andre Norton I didn't enjoy because the character ends up transferred mentally first into a wolf, then into an alien body, because his own body is murdered in the course of torture. I did read that one all the way through, because there was a valid reason for him to be changed, and because the way the story dealt with someone losing his physical self and losing that continuity worked for me. But it still made me profoundly uncomfortable.
Sometime I should examine in more detail why this is a disturbing idea to me. It's not as if I'm that crazy about my physical self. Taller, with cheekbones, and much less body fat would be preferred. Oh, and 20/20 vision and no arthritis. But would I take a completely different body if it were offered? I don't know.
Not that it's going to happen.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

interlude: what's your story about?

The Willow Knot: As mentioned previously, I've been bunging the Willow Knot file out to my Deeply Appreciated beta-readers. In the course of making sure that the file hadn't undergone some strange transmogrification while being transferred (the Star Trek transporter beam cock-ups are nothing compared to what I can do pushing a file through three different OSs), I did a bit of a read-through before sending it out. Then I had to stop, because I'd be wanting to tweak and smooth, and fix some of the problems I know are in there.
But since the point of this exercise is to get feedback on what needs to be in the story and what doesn't, doing cosmetic repairs would be a waste of time.
It would be helpful, of course, if I knew from the start what needed to be in the story. To do that, I'd need to know what the story is about. This may be what's called 'theme'. I'm not sure. Theme is sometimes stated as a sort of moral lesson--"possessive love leads to loss" for instance--that reminds me inescapably of the Snakes and Ladders board we had when I was a kid, which was all moral lessons. Sometimes theme is stated in a single word, like 'courage' or 'endurance'. Some writers have their themes in place before they start writing, others find out partway through. And I suppose some wait for the critics to tell them what it was.

If I have a theme, and my body of work may not be sufficient a body of evidence to argue for that, I think it might be: It's more complicated than you think. And messier.
One of the ideas (I hesitate to consider it a theme) that I seem to be working with in Willow Knot is the idea of one's own story, or of how stories intersect.
Myl is in the Maerchenwald, the Folkloric Woods, the Enchanted Forest where the stories live, where they begin and often end. She doesn't know whether she's in her own story or someone else's. After all, she's the older sister, and stories usually belong to the youngest child. Maybe she's a walk-on in someone else's story, and she does seem to play that part. She's even the Supernatural Helper in one, or seen as such. Other characters pass through, having their own stories to follow to the end, touching the edges of her story.
Which is a concept that appeals to me, and ties in with one of the Viable Paradise lessons, that every piece on the chessboard thinks it's a queen. But that concept fights with another one, that everything that stays in the story needs to be necessary to the story in a clear and straightforward way. Which would mean that only those scenes that belong to Myl's storyline should stay. The scenes that belong to the idea of 'the forest harbours strangeness', for instance, don't need to be there.
It depends what the story is really about. At this point, I'm going to ask the readers what it's about for them.

Nanowrimo: pretty darned slow. The weekend was not as productive as I'd hoped, and this weekend I'll be in transit for some part of it, and at an SCA event for part of it. Saturday will be booked, at least. However, I'm taking the laptop, and hopefully I can get some use out of the travel time, and afterwards be able to pry the text out of the laptop again and push it into my desktop.
And perhaps those circs will allow me to recapture the panic and urgency of the 3-day. Man, it's hard to have the longer time stretching out, and the foolish confidence that one can catch up, by just oh, doubling or tripling one's wordcount. Well, difficult for me. Other people, I see, finished their 50k last week.
The event I'm attending is the Tir Righ Investiture, and the reason I'm going is that it's the Principality Arts & Sciences Championship, and supposedly I'll be doing some judging, though the details seem to be a bit up in the air.

Palindromic rheumatism: hands, particularly the left hand, stiff for the last couple of days. No difficulty in moving them, no problem typing, just discomfort. It takes conscious effort to close my left hand into a fist. My guess is that if I weren't on the meds, this would be a flare-up. On the Monday the knuckles of my left hand were a bit swollen, but not painful.
Hm. In December it will be a year since I figured out that there was something going on with my joints that wasn't a rotator cuff injury. Happy anniversary, mm?

Monday, November 12, 2007

Twelfth day of NaNoWriMo, wordcount 11Kish

Disturbing lack of gold rings, partridges, noted. Action due.
Well, I was social yesterday. At Mark's urging I biked over to the Black Stilt coffeeshop for the 2d meeting of Victoria's Nanowrimo group. It was lively and entertaining, more than a little geekish and excitable. In-jokes and running gags are well underway. I was almost certainly twice as old as any other person there. Presumably there are other members my age, or at least in their 30s. They just weren't present that afternoon. Fortunately no one seemed to mind (or even notice) my demographic oddness, though there was a comment that I seemed to know rather a lot about zombies.
But doesn't everyone?
I'm thinking of adding a talking cat to Sack of Lies. It would up the repartee quotient. And Charles de Lint put one in Mulengro, for reasons never clear to me. Okay, what I couldn't buy was not so much the cat talking (explained as a side-effect of too much ambient magic) as the cat giving sage advice and snarky comments with human intelligence. Jeez, why not have a talking witty gay neighbour instead? It would be lower entropy.
I know, I know, long tradition, going back to Saki's 'Tobermory'. I'm now tempted to have a talking cat that only talks about cat stuff, like food and naps and licking itself.

So far I prefer the 3-Day's burst of manic activity. Nano is closer to the slog of regular writing. Get up, write, come home from work, write. Mind you, I'm not getting the full experience yet, since I've been fussing about getting WK's draft 2 out - you don't want to hear about me, three different OSs and two (three?) wordprocessing programs, do you?
I didn't think so. I will only mention that the SMF .rtf turned out to be too big to get onto a single floppy, and that Mark had the joy of walking me through the ftp thingy on my Thinkpad 380something. Which I love deeply and only wish had a usb thingy so I could transfer files without so much rigmarole.
Rigmarole is 'rambling or meaningless talk or tale' apparently from 'ragman roll' a list or catalogue. In case you wondered (because I wondered, so I checked). I may have a subtitle for Sack of Lies: a rigmarole. Instead of 'a novel'. Though Ragman Roll would be a cool title too. I wonder if it's taken?

I'm trying to stay away from the Making Light strikeplate thread, but I don't think it's working. The rays are seeping through the internet at me, and the tinfoil is useless. It could be a repeat of the first big distraction from writing, which was the Nanowrimo Wank detailed here on Fandom Wank (definitely on the Big Three of my shouldn't you be writing sites).

Back to the (not terribly productive) salt mines. I'll post something about the actual story later.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Fifth day of Nanowrimo, wordcount 3kish

Things done list:
1) Seven hours of teaching accomplished on Saturday. The Survey of Medieval Arts ended up being taught by Mark and me together. The students seemed to appreciate it, especially the collection of ancient and reproduction glass, pottery, bone comb, brooches, buckles, manuscript pages etc. to be looked at. The body of the class was nearly 300 slides, and we had a 5 minute break every half-hour or so, so people could come up and touch the real things.
Nobody said a word about Mark being there--I suppose that's the unexpected benefit of the blacklisting being secret. Anyway, I'm done, there. Mark is already thinking of ways to improve and fine-tune the class, which will be useful if another Ithra campus asks for it. But I've decided I'm only going to co-teach it with him, so I'm probably free and clear for local commitments.
2) The Peel Affinity proofread--though not impeccably, because Alicia found a repeated word in the first chapter, after Mark, Daniel and I had all gone through it. Pity there wasn't time for her to do the rest of it.
The Peel Affinity isn't related to the Avengers tv show (thanks Bart! but I do have a proof copy of the biography of John Steed). It's a living history book about the life, lands and household of a 14th century knight, through one year. The illustrations are photos of the reenactors, showing everyday life and tasks in peace and war, as the knight joins the war in France. I appear as a painter, with Chris as the apprentice grinding pigments, and Mark is shown peering into a bake-oven (actually a pottery kiln). Several of the photos imitate well-known manuscript illustrations, so part of the fun is to spot the source. Froissart! Christine de Pizan!
3) Sunday visit to M-- to see how she's been fixing up the house and garden. This went from 4:30 to 10ish, which did in what might have been a fair chunk of writing time. I did manage to get in about an hour after getting home at 10:30, which impressed me, because I'd been near nodding off during the visit.
She did share the cheering news that she's started writing again, a short story about a young woman who may be delusional but whose delusions change her behaviour for the better, because she believes she's affecting the lives of others, and begins to feel less helpless and more responsible. It sounded interesting, and the wobbly balance of whether she's mad or sane reminded me a bit of athenais's snow-woman story. We talked a very little bit about writing; it seems she talks about it with Irene, and mentioned this to me because Irene didn't like the ambiguity.

Things not quite done:
1) Formatting Willow Knot and sending it out as an .rtf
I admit, I'm still reading through and making sure there's no really stupid glitches or continuity bumps. The sort of thing that becomes blindingly clear when you change the font or layout, or read straight through after you've been writing non-chronologically. Tomorrow. I'll get this sucker out tomorrow.
I wish I could have pulled an all-nighter or two in October, but it turns out that I am too old and decrepit. I'm still tired from the weekend, when I didn't even stay up late.
2) Getting somewhere with my NaNoWriMo. Which is just for fun, and I won't be stressing about it, though I have been stressed at the things I've had to clear out of the way to get to it.

Let's see, can I put a ticker factory countdown on here?

Looks like I can! The little purple dealy is a fountain pen, by the way.
Well, my first-person protag has had her rather sketchily-depicted grad student life disrupted by the sudden arrival of the girl with the devil in her backpack, and they are about to depart on a poorly-understood quest. I decided that her thesis was going to involve comparing the hero's journey to the folktale journey, so that ties in to much of what's going to happen to her. I'm thinking more sarcasm than irony.
No commitments this weekend, except for getting a basketful of apples through the dehydrator, so I should be able to catch up a bit. Though not to the people who already have 20k or so. It's started, that's the main thing.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

First day of NaNoWriMo : wordcount zero

Things to do list:
1) finish the handout for the 4 hr lecture I'll be doing on Saturday, for Survey of Medieval Arts, a class I have various philosophical issues with, right from the start, mostly related to the poor fit of SCA 'Arts' with either medieval or traditional understanding of 'arts'. Fortunately, Mark the Wonder Husband is scanning in pictures for me, in return for the following,
2) finish proofreading The Peel Affinity by Friday, ideally tonight so the pages can go back in time. This isn't too difficult, since the text has been gone over severely already, and I'm just a pair of relatively fresh eyes ('relatively' being one of the words I've been flagging, along with 'substantially' and 'virtually') picking up the odd typo or missing word. But it's slow and somewhat painstaking.
3) format Willow Knot draft two in SMF and make it an .rtf so that the disket (yes, archaic, I'm an old-fashioned sort) can convey the file from my laptop (Windows) to Mark's computer (BeOs) to be emailed to my computer (Ubuntu) because my floppy drive never works. And then I can send it to my lovely, lovely, deeply appreciated beta-readers.

Then I can fall into Nanowrimo with little joyful hungry cries. Or possibly cries of dismay. Sunday morning, I'm hoping.
There was a meeting of Victoria NaNo participants on the 28th, but I didn't make it, since I was busy writing Willow Knot. That may be ironic, I'm not quite sure. Then I missed Robert Wiersema's reading on the 30th, which was more annoying, because I'd been looking forward to that, where the first was more duty. It seems I'm becoming a hermit except for when people come to see me, or else my ability to remember dates is diminishing.

It's particularly kind of Mark to help with this course, given that he's been unofficially blacklisted by the local Ithra campus. But that's a long story, and I have to admit that sometimes I'd be just as happy to be blacklisted as well. But somehow I come across as sweet and inoffensive (the acceptable face of Mark).
Anyway, it's a pain to be toting the barge and lifting the bale for classes by myself here, when other campuses (campi?) want both of us. If two people whom I do respect and like hadn't asked me to teach this one, I would have begged off. I hope, for their sake, that I do a decent job of this, and they get something out of it beyond the required credit for a Lector Artis.