All Set

It took a lot of finagling and hair-pulling, but I finally have my computer set up the way I want it. I ended up uninstalling MS Office 2013 and installing 2010, which if I had known I could activate on more than one device to begin with I would never have bought 2013 at all. Ugh. The sticking point for me with 2013 is their insistence on the creation of a Microsoft Account and its attendant cloud storage of all files to “back them up.” Nope. Not gonna happen, and the more you try to bully me into it, the more likely I am to delete all your fucking programs and go completely open-source software.

Speaking of open-source software, I am happy to report that I did not lose any of my hard-won GIMP skills in the 10 months since I have worked with the program, and mastered a new task quite easily with only a minimal tutorial; I think I am at last working within the logic of the program. Project at hand: I am finally working on the new covers for my Twelfth Night novellas, for which I took photographs last December and which I have not yet had (made) the time to put together. I won’t get them finished tonight – still have to do all the typography, which will be its own brand of hell, I think, given I need a way to create linking elements between these two and A Christmastide Courtship (which cover I need to tweak, so the sticking point is creating the common element rather than just implementing one already in place) – but I am pretty pleased with the overall look and feel for them so far.

After I redo all the covers I am going to redo all the ebook files. Christmastide has a few typos I found on a re-read over the summer, plus the formatting on the Amazon version came out with wonky paragraph spacing, and the novellas were completely bare-bones presentations to begin with. I may only be able to work in drips and drabs right now, but these are projects made big by a long list of tasks, not because they are single tasks that take long stretches of concentration…thus they are highly suitable for evenings after work and baby-tending.

I have not been writing much since my last posts. Hard to say if the words have dried up, as I simply haven’t had time, or the mental energy the few times I’ve had time. Baby went through another sleep regression where he wakes 1-2x per night, and so unless I’ve gone to bed with him at 7, I am simply too exhausted to get up and write before work, and always too tired to try in the evenings. Plus I had a minor sewing commission and a big family visit. And this week is the big week when baby starts day care full time and the family-nanny departs, and suddenly I will have to find time/energy for ALL the household chores instead of just some of them.

On the bright side – husband and I are leaning very strongly towards relocating to the countryside, and one of the benefits therein would be my not having to work outside of the home. No plans are made, so this might still be a year or even two off, but the possibility heartens me on the days I am burned out on being a working mom.

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More Fun with Old Lexicons of English: biological

The concept tripping me up linguistically today is how a man of the early 1800s might have expressed “biological child” when referring to making sure a baby born in wedlock was, well, his. The term “natural” would not be appropriate because it would imply illegitimate biological child. “Biological” is unusable because it did not enter English in a provable way until 1819 (given that my story is set no more than 10 years previous, and the term had been coined in German and moved to French by then, it might have been used in spoken English amongst educated persons and just not written down in a record that survived). I don’t want to use a phrase such as “child of his body” because in the context of the flow of the sentence I need a one-word adjective. Using “blood” doesn’t quite work.

In the end I settled for no adjective at all, and perhaps it’s an argument for letting the words just say what they have to say: “…make sure any babe born of the union was his–and therefore the marquess’ grandchild.”

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Dear Microsoft,

Windows 8 fucking sucks and you are all a bunch of ripe turds for putting it together.

You should have made two versions (or modes within the same version), Windows 8 for mobile devices/tablets, and Windows 8 for desktops. The two forms of usage are discrete, and you cannot serve both. You made a choice to serve the tablet market. You chose…poorly.

I should not have to uninstall and reinstall programs I intend to use in order to decouple them from the requirement of being linked to a Microsoft account.

I should not have to give a separate command (beyond non-maximizing a program) to my GODDAMNED LAPTOP in order to make it function with more than one window open on the same screen – you know, as a fucking computer and not a mobile device.

I should not have felt the need to investigate whether a change to a different operating system was in order.

I should not be contemplating purchasing apps from third parties to restore your fucking system to the functionality that I require.

I am not a luddite. I am someone who uses my computer as a computer, not an entertainment consumption device, and you have basically shat all over my needs as a customer with this OS. I hope that by the time I need to replace my hardware again, all the industries with which and within which I work no longer require the use of Office, at which time I will happily give you two birds and embrace another company’s product.

For now, you have me caught. But now it’s on sufferance and not by choice. So fuck you all.

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Novel concepts addendum: Eureka!

I figured out what the rough-drafted novel’s second theme is, and it seems so obvious now I have it that I want to smack myself for not seeing it last weekend when I was writing about this: choice. Split loyalties and choice. The hero and heroine both choose one another, despite having other loyalties and obligations, and despite having other options.

Remains to be seen if this keyword theme expression will help in the revising process, but I finally have my new computer so I can actually access all files and, you know, work on that revision.

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At its most conceptual

…what is your novel about? Can you sum it up in a one- or two-word phrase?

I have seen this exercise written up before, but this weekend my brain of its own accord (not because I saw a recent article about this) just sort of started filing some of my stories into categories of character/scenario dynamics. For romance I found I wanted two concepts: one for the external reason the characters were pushed together/held apart and one that best described what their relationship was about.

For example, for A Christmastide Courtship I came up with duty and acceptance. Duty is what draws Piers to court Catherine, but what they are each looking for – and find with one another – is acceptance.

The old/new/whatever it is WIP (maybe I should just say “the WIP du jour”….sigh…) has themes of familial coercion and trust. The characters are pushed together by family, and the main conflict of the book is that they do not trust one another when they marry and struggle to build it afterward. I might parse the two as “resentment and trust” since the coercion they both submit to in marrying causes resentment, and neither has anyone else to take it out on.

I like the clarity that being able to state a theme in one word offers me as the writer. Being able to do so tells me I have a solid grasp of the work as a whole.

Alas, I don’t, by this rubric, have all my works in progress firmly in hand – far from it.

For the long novel I am revising, I do not know how to distill either side of the story. I am not sure I can even clumsily lay hold of the themes. Maybe it’s because the hero and heroine have opposite themes: living for oneself and not society vs suppression of self for society. The story is in a way about loyalty to family conflicting with loyalty to self. It’s also about the hierarchy of needs, and which loyalties take precedence and whether that can change. The lovers spend most of the book with ambivalent feelings about their growing attraction and where they both fit in each other’s hierarchy of obligations. Their feelings grow into love almost despite themselves. “Split loyalties” might describe the external issues, but I am not sure how to phrase what is happening between them. It’s not the kind of breathless fated love words like “inevitable” or “inexorable” evoke, even though it is the sort of love that can’t be stopped once started, because they are right for each other…it’s more that they find in each other someone to lean on, someone who has their back, but in that specific way such that “trust” or “loyalty” doesn’t really convey the relationship. Fealty, except with sex.

I don’t know. Reading that paragraph back makes me think “split loyalties” covers both dynamics pretty well.

The Christmastide companion piece I would – ahem, Muse, looking at you here – like to finish and get up this fall so as to actually do seasonal marketing for the duology is another I have no effing clue how to distill. Perhaps that is why the muse went for the one story I know well enough to summarize without much thought at all.

…if I can tease out the novellette’s themes, will I find myself suddenly able to write it? I wonder….

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When Closer Is Farther

Maybe I should have titled this post, “Through the looking glass.” Because I sort of feel about the book I just tried to read like I imagine Alice did when she stepped through the looking glass and into Wonderland as place of opposite dimensions and misaligned corners so that something’s very familiarity enhanced its Otherness by virtue of being almost-but-not-quite right.

What happened was that I tried to read The Barrow by Mark Smythie. It came recommended for various reasons, mostly that one of my favorite fantasy subgenres is grimdark adventuretime shit. I will give the sample another shot, when I am less sleep-deprived, and see if it was just a trick of my exhaustion, but last night when I tried to read it…I couldn’t, because his writing was too close to my own. It was like trying to read something I wrote 10 years ago, where the cycle and flow of words would shift within the same paragraph from being exactly how I would say it to…not, but not in a way that felt clumsy and juvenile and would make me cringe to read back now, with my old and jaundiced editorial eye, if it were my own. It was bizarre to find myself going in an out of sync with the guy’s words, and every time we fell out it was jarring and uncomfortable. Like deal-breakingly jarring.

I am not sure I have ever experienced this before. I have authors whose words hypnotize me because they say things in ways I never would but find mesmerizing to hear. I have authors who write things pretty much the way I would, if I were writing that story. I have authors whose books I cannot read because of the very Otherness of their thought patterns displaying in their writing. But I have never had someone who writes two sentences like I would and fumbles the third, over and over again. Just enough to get me into a rhythm and then bounce me back out – and not in a good way, because it’s clearly not an intentional way. It simply is. What is this guy, an ENTJ or something?

Anyone else ever experienced this with someone’s writing?

**Edited to add: I want to make it absolutely clear that I don’t mean to say I felt like the writing was actually clumsy or juvenile. I honestly cannot evaluate the sentences that threw me for a loop objectively, because my issue was more that’s not how I would say that than it was “that was a tragic sentence.” I think. Maybe someone can read the sample for me and confirm it’s either spotty or that this is purely and strictly a Lily issue, because he was writing a funhouse mirror version of my writing.

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100>0

Even if it doesn’t always feel like it.

***

I was going to end this post there, but I need to add: my muse is a ginormous ass. He has decided, for reasons known only to himself but for which I can at least spot an inkling due to what I have been reading recently, to come dragging back from hiatus, hung over from a 4-month bender and grabbing the toast off my plate like an insolent older brother, and focus his gritty, slit-eyed gaze on a story from YEARS ago rather than something current and useful. It’s a story I want to write, but not right ow…the idea that made me decide to try romance, that I have never quite gotten to hang together, that I put aside to write my Twelfth Night novellas just to prove I could finish something and never went back to in a serious way. I have ungodly amounts of notes, scene sketches, and a start that I will not use because it’s simply too slow and cumbersome to run with or even bother salvaging much of. But it was not in my plans to go back to until I finished other things.

Why that story and not the short I wanted to write for Seb and Julia, as a complement to A Christmastide Courtship? Why that story and not last November’s never-quite-abandoned NaNo project? Why that story and not the novel needing a new opening third?

Sadly I know why: because it’s the only story I have started where the characters are at odds as oppose to indifference, and I have been reading too much conflict as courtship lately. But at a work pace of 100 word per day, a short piece is more practical. And I am above all things a practical creature…

…so I guess it only makes sense that I be saddled with a goddamned dilettante muse with a head in the clouds and his feet in the gutter.

100 is greater than 0. Something is better than nothing. Therefore I cannot complain about my 100 words.

But damn, I want to.

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