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Taipei Charlie's gone south, ongoingly [11 Oct 2015|10:48am]
Yesterday morning we took as free time, which for me meant hanging in the hotel room, reading the internets, going for a walk by myself, all the usual fascinating processes of the writer's life. Shut up, I like this stuff.

Then we assembled at noon and went back to the book fair, to listen to a band for an hour or so. Very political - abusing the president (we are told), right in front of the governmental palace - and parodic, blending traditional Mexican musical styles into satirical songs; and for all that still a classic rock foursome with a metal edge, and with (ahem) a rock-solid musicality. I loved it, for all that I didn't understand a word.

Also, I discovered that I can no longer stand still for an hour and change without my back having something to say on the matter. Ouchie. No wonder I never go to gigs any more; it's clearly prophylactic.

Back to the hotel for lunch, then hey-ho for the launch of the book we are here to promote. And copies! It's beautiful. Sombra Del Arbol de la Noche, since you ask: a dozen English weird/supernatural/horror stories, translated for the occasion. And distributed free, at the fair and elsewhere. Which may be why we had a queue that wound around the tent, for the signing that followed the launch. I've never signed that many books at a sitting. And people were so enthusiastic, so engaged - it was lovely.

Adriana the translator/editor had half a dozen friends show up, who wanted to whisk her away for coffee afterwards; so she insisted on whisking us too, and we drank moka oaxaca and talked until we had to come back to the hotel to be picked up and whisked further, to a birthday party for the Minister of Culture's sister.

Which is how come I was drinking mezcal at midnight with the minister's girlfriend in the courtyard of her beautiful house in a trendy district of Mexico City. Shut up, I say: I like this stuff.
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Taipei Charlie goes south, day two [10 Oct 2015|10:57am]
I have decided it. A translator works outward, to bring your text to the world; their primary focus is the work. An interpreter works inward, to bring the world to you; their primary focus is yourself.

Adriana is my translator; Fausto is my interpreter. Good. I can work with that. With them.

Since my last report, yesterday noontime:

We wandered the book fair in a writerly pack, with translators and interpreters and organisers all. We saw the tent we'd be gigging in; we saw books in plenty, tho' not yet our own.

Then we wandered off in search of lunch. CDMX is totally a city to walk in, at least here in the centro historico and environs. Traffic's crazy, but apparently I am a native Mexican, born to jaywalk.

We ate enchiladas and damn-I-don't-remember-I-ought-to-take-notes, drank beer, headed back to the hotel. Sat in the lobby and chilled, while I drank more beer from the ridiculous cubbyhole they dare to call a bar.

Then we had to go back to the book fair, because I had a gig.

I have gigged; I am a gigolo.

Beer helped, as ever (seriously, O my doctors: alcohol relaxes me, makes me less anxious and more fluent; you should give it me on prescription, not try to rule it out), but actually it was a tolerably easy event. "La Ruptura de la Realidad" - there were three other people on stage with me, Adriana and the splendid Vicente Quirarte and a moderator asking questions, but it was kinda mostly about me. Advocating for literature in general (my "books matter" attitude) and the literature of the fantastic in particular ("all fiction is fantasy, but"). I may have been a little pompous on occasion; I may have waffled, especially toward the end, but hey. Nobody died. I call that a good gig.

Only then I made the mistake of saying, perhaps a little plaintively, "I want a drink." Who would have thought it would be so hard to find a nice place to drink a beer on a Friday evening in CDMX? We went from the terrace bar that wouldn't serve us without a food order to the terrace bar that had just closed at 6.30, to...

Etc. We tromped the streets for an hour before we settled, by which time of course we ordered food; I dined on quesadilla and chilli-pickled vegetables. Actually mostly chillies. These Mexicans keep trying to tell me that things will be too spicy for me. Snort.

And so back to the hotel, through the district where the young people hang out. Friday night is date night, apparently (in my British youth, at least, Friday night was going out with your mates; Saturday night was always date night). The feral boys they catch-and-release hereabouts have extraordinary bone structure. And excellent skin and immaculately groomed hair, but really it's all about the cheekbones.

(Another of those side-notes of which I am so fond: I have known olives in every colour from green through khaki and purple to black. Olive skin is none of those, I am just sayin'.)

Back in the hotel I had to kick and scream to get someone to open the cubbyhole, excuse me, the bar, just to give us poor English writers a nightcap. It was too much trouble for more than one. I gigglingly paid $200 for a round, then worked it out on my fingers at about $12.50 US. Life is cheap, they tell me; they are not wrong.

And so to internets and bed. Where I woke up at 4am to find the bedside light on. On the other side of the bed, which is so wide I have never consciously got there. Taipei Charlie, my travelling self, is known for sleepwalking, but I don't really believe I got up, walked all the way around the bed, turned the light on, walked all the way back and got into bed again. Nor do I believe it had been on all the time; I should have noticed. I'm much more inclined to the notion of a wannabe assassin under the bed, slipping out as I slept, turning the light on to be sure of their prey, seeing me all innocent and vulnerable and shaking their sentimental head, slipping back beneath the bed again. I have conspicuously not looked; I don't want to force their hand.

Last night when we chased our interpreters away, we told them firmly to take this morning off. I have idled in my room, and walked a while alone through the city (I've found a nunnery for Ophelia, should she still need one). Every new city offers jobs I haven't seen before; here every little parking lot has someone - young or old, male or female - standing in the road waving a flag back and forth to attract drivers' attention. Sometimes they get to pretend they're stopping the traffic, to let a customer in or out (tho' as far as I can see this is never actually true).

And now it's eleven thirty, and we must congregate below. To the book fair! For music first, and then the official opening with the Minister of Culture. With whom we are having dinner, Sunday. We are told he will wear jeans and we are to call him Eduardo.
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Taipei Charlie goes south. Of the border. [09 Oct 2015|11:29am]
Yesterday I woke up at 3.30am. This is not in fact at all unusual, it's just that usually I sigh miserably and stare at the ceiling and dwell on all my faults for an hour and then try to go back to sleep again. It's a pattern.

Yesterday it was a lucky pattern, because it meant I could leap out of bed and into the shower moments before the alarm would have gone off.

Then I bade farewell to the boys and made m'poor wife drive me to the airport. Arriving at 4am, the first thing one learns is that the baggage-drop feature does not open till 4.45am, but never mind. Time passed, baggages were dropped. I went through security and drank coffee like it was yesterday, and got on a plane and flew to Houston. Where I ate sushi and noodled on the internet and got on another plane and flew to Mexico City, hereinafter CDMX because I think that's really cool.

So: I am here for six days, courtesy of the Ministry of Culture, for the Zocalo Book Fair. Which is five minutes' stroll around the corner from this hotel, and I plan to take that stroll in a few minutes, so this is just a placeholder post really.

No jetlag, obviously, but last night I was just too shattered to go out; ate in the hotel, emailed with m'wife and was in bed before ten.

This morning, I went shyly upstairs to breakfast alone (I hate, hate, hate walking into restaurants on my own; for a foodie, this is something of a handicap) and had barely found a table before I was hailed by name, and there was Adriana, the editor and translator and onlie begetter of the anthology which is the sole cause of my being here. So we were shifting chairs for a table for two when a voice said hullo, and that was Iain Rowan, another of the Brits in the antho and over for the occasion. Who lives in Sunderland, as it happens; we'd had dinner together, ages back.

So that was fun; and then I trotted down to the foyer to meet up with my translator Fausto (or is he my interpreter, is there a difference? At any rate, he is assigned to me; and would keep company with me twelve hours a day if I would let him). We went walking, all around the heart of CDMX. We went up their tallest building, which is still just about in the list of the world's tallest 50; right at the top is this charming little twist, where you've been up two separate lifts and two floors of a spiral staircase and it suddenly turns around and winds the other way in a serpentine motion. I have never seen that before, and have no idea why they would have done it; it's really disorienting.

Also disorienting, in my room here at the hotel there are two Rothko prints on the wall. Big prints, hung about a foot apart. They are marginally different sizes, and different aspect ratios - one portrait, one as near square as makes no difference - and they're too close together and one is hung a little less than an inch higher than the other, and this is bugging the hell out of me. I nearly got up in the dead dark midnight to rehang them.

But anyway. People here are lovely, they are taking ridiculous care of us, I am taking a ridiculous quantity of photos (some of which I really will get around to posting, yes, one of these days; I still have photos of Filoli gardens to go through too), and now I must go below to face my actual mission here...
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It's my journal, I'll grouch if I want to [07 Oct 2015|01:22pm]
So tomorrow at ohgodawful early in the morning, I have to catch a flight to Mexico City.

So today I need to type in three hundred pages of corrections on an OCR'd manuscript, to have that done and off before I leave.

So this whole morning has been consumed by stupid fucking medical stuff. The insurance company wanted metrics and a barrel of tests, by a deadline; we've been scrambling to achieve that, between LA last week and Mexico tomorrow. And I fucked up, because I didn't realise the nicotine thing was a test, I assumed they'd just take my word for it. So that's probably cost us hundreds of dollars in a premium discount that we won't get now.

And my old doctor has disappeared, and my new doctor wants to put me on new meds. I feel fine, but she thinks it's important that I take a medication that may cause severe muscle pain, may cause liver damage and will certainly ruin my quality of life, because alcohol is contraindicated. You-all can guess how I feel about this.

Oh, and when I come back she wants me to wear a blood-pressure monitor for 24hrs, to see if she wants to medicate that as well. With a presumptive new list of side-effects and contraindications.

And I still feel fine, apart from, oh, depressed and pissed off and gloomy and not looking forward to the future much at all.
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One last push! [01 Oct 2015|04:05pm]
Karen and I are in LA, supposedly on holiday, so I have spent all day proofreading (my own work, for once: I am cleaning up the scanned-and-OCR'd text of Paradise, for a BVC edition coming at the end of this year; which reminds me, I can show you the cover and everything, but that should be in a separate post, because:)

My lovely Patreon project is currently poised on $161 per month. If it reaches $200, then we flip over into the first stretch goal, which means more stories and more fun; so if you've been thinking about it at all - girls' boarding-school stories! on Mars! - now would be a really good time to sign up.

And there's still a random door-prize waiting for someone who commits to supporting this, between now and that $200 point. It's secret, so I can't tell you what, but you will like it. And your support can start from as little as $3, which is less than a decent cup of coffee. C'mon, you'd buy a guy a coffee, wouldn't you? Once a month, if it came with free fiction? Read more about it, and then sign up, right here...
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Hush, dear, Chaz is learning [26 Sep 2015|04:53pm]
In words never said of me before, I have planted a campanula.

We went to Filoli Gardens last weekend, Karen and Julie and Laura and I; and I may have come back with some flowers. I want to learn about flowers, for I know next to nothing; I can point at a rose. That's about it. And the best way to learn, I reckon, is to plant some and hope to acquire knowledge enough to prevent their dying.

So, let me introduce you to the Sackville-Bagginses, Otho and Lotho; they are of course lobelias. Or Lobelia's.


And the campanula at their feet, of course, is to guard the teaspoons.
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In which I, a British man, send American dollars to Australia [26 Sep 2015|04:07pm]
It is a part of my pact with myself and the world that I will use some part of the Patreon funds (wait, what? You didn't know I had a Patreon project on the go? My dear! Where have you been? The Chalet School! On Mars! Click here! Some happy subscriber in the next sixty-seven dollars wins a door prize!) to fix the holes in my roof Chalet School collection. For I do indeed have copies of every book - but a depressing number of those copies are the bowdlerised Armada paperbacks, which honestly will not do. They were cut savagely, ignorantly, almost at random: entire chapters taken out wholesale, sometimes, with no thought to continuity.

It's hard, though, trying to fix this problem here in the US. Even the Girls Gone By reprints seem not to be commonly available (ie I can't find them on Amazon.com). Still: we choose to do the hard thing not because it is easy, etc.

Besides which, honestly? It ain't that hard these days. Where Amazon don't go, we always have Abe. (I have always pictured Abe, I must tell you, as a lumberjack: check shirt, big beard, axe, the works. Log cabin. Log cabin lined with books, which he carefully packs up and carries over snowy mountain slopes to the nearest post office, oh yes.)

So: the first pluggable hole in my collection will be Three Go To The Chalet School (first appearance of the ineffable Mary-Lou and the delightful Verity Anne, hurrah!), which currently lies about eight books ahead in my reread. I have ordered a nice clean hardback reading copy from Australia, as there are none to be had in this country, not even for ready money. Will it get here in time? Probably not, the rate I'm going through 'em, but hey. I'm not short of reading matter.
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Authorial echo-location [25 Sep 2015|10:40am]
So I mentioned t'other day that I felt as though I were writing the very book that Joey Bettany her own self would have written, if only she'd written science fiction?

Well, in my (entirely work-related!) current re-read of the series, I'm into Jo Returns to the Chalet School [featuring Hildegard Mariana Sophonisba Heriot, aka Polly, but that is by the way, except that m'cat Sophie was properly Sophonisba, just so's you know] and in Chapter Five, "Joey - The Authoress", we read this:

Then came a certain morning when, on reading all she had done to date, Jo made the appalling discovery that she had mixed up two of the prefects, and, consequently, she must either rewrite one of the early chapters, or else the five succeeding ones.

"Oh, bother - bother - bother!" she groaned, when she found this out. "That's what comes of being too lazy to make out lists. Well, I'd better do it now and save all this trouble for the future. And then I suppose I'll have to rewrite that blessed chapter. Where's my note-book?"


Ahem. And I'm only on Chapter Four. But yes: one girl was moaning about a prefect whom another girl defended, and I had entirely confused my prefects and had to go back and sort the tangle out. And then make lists. And it isn't really any defence to mutter that half the point of my trying Scrivener was to make the list-making easier, so it's really the software's fault for being too unstable to use, so...

I now have a file in my Crater School folder, called "School Roll". Which, come to think, I should probably update already...
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Every day's just like the rest, but Thursday's best [24 Sep 2015|05:18pm]
People, I speak to you now from my Thursday happy place. This may not last; I am tolerably sure to enter my Thursday stressy place sometime in the next hour or so, and after that things can go downhill very rapidly - but right now life is good.

Thing about Thursdays is, it's the day that people come to dinner. This has been a moveable feast, happening variously on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays hitherto; but it seems to have settled on Thursday as its chosen place to be. And it's no longer attached to yoga, with its concommitant will-they-won't-they; now it's just dinner. People come, they eat, they drink, they talk. (Oh boy, do they talk. I don't know how they do that. Me, I focus on the drinking more.) I cook.

I don't usually know before the day begins, what I'll be cooking. It comes down to what's in the market, what I've seen that's new by way of recipes (that I can find again), what Karen and I have been eating in the week, how long it's been since I last made curries: that sort of thing.

So I tend to mull that over in the morning, while I do my regular work stuffs [which at the moment my regular work stuffs are proofreading a new edition of Vonda N McIntyre's Dreamsnake for Jo Fletcher Books - how can this book not be in print already and forever? I keep having to remind myself it first came out nearly forty years ago, it seems so au fait and a propos - and of course playing with the whole Crater School thing. That sculpture I posted yesterday on Facebook? Totally Stealing That); shop in the early afternoon; and then cook and work and clean in proportion and as necessary and where there is time to do that. And I often hit this happy place about now, where the big foods are doing their thing (there is a Hunk o' Pork in the slow cooker, gently disintegrating in a Chazian/Chinese fashion with soys and vinegar and rock sugar and I-didn't-have-any-rice-wine and star anise and chillies and why-didn't-I-put-any-garlic-in-there?; and the rice is cooked and cooled and dried; and the chicken is leftover and ready to be perpetrated with leeks'n'such; and the rest is vegetables, and can wait) and I can pour the first beer of the night (thanks, Greg!) and maybe do an hour's work before people come. Or maybe just noodle on the internet, because hullo. It's Thursday! Thursday is like the New Testament, none of the old rules count any more...
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Sales! [23 Sep 2015|09:32am]
So I was a little teasy last week, but we have now signed the contracts and done the edits and everything, so I can declare openly that my story "In Skander, For A Boy" will be published in Beneath Ceaseless Skies, which makes me very happy.

And also, this morning's breaking news: Oscar Wilde, on Mars, in Mandarin! My story "The Astrakhan, the Homburg and the Red Red Coal" will be translated into Chinese, for publication in Science Fiction World, which as y'all know is the world's highest-circulation SF magazine.
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Guesting elsewhere, and pointing further yet... [22 Sep 2015|10:10am]

Because obviously my own platform is not enough for me (sometimes I remind myself of Mac the cat, who needs to claim possession of both the scratching-post/plinths, for fear that Barry might occupy the other one), today I am being hosted by m'friend Catie, otherwise known as the rather brilliant C E Murphy, over on her own blog "The Essential Kit", where to nobody's surprise at all I am talking about the Crater School project, because I can't really talk about anything else right now.

Except for pausing to mention that m'friend Steph, otherwise known as the rather brilliant Stephanie Burgis, has just revealed the cover for her forthcoming historical fantasy, which is lush and operatic and I am looking forward to this rather more than I can say.

And in other news, I am thinking of instituting a new metric, to be known as Earworm of the Day. It need not necessarily be musical: as witness, last night I dreamed of a country pub somewhere in the south of England being converted to a posh eaterie, as are half the pubs of Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire. And so of course I woke up with "Adlestrop" running through my head, over and over. But it's okay, I have an immaculate defence against earworms these days; I merely evict them with a quick chorus of

Red, red, white and blue
These are my colours and my fealty too

- which is of course the unofficial anthem of the British on Mars, and entirely earwormworthy, because that's work.

(Also, it is to trigger a rather beautifully neat plot-point in Three Twins at the Crater School, which will reference another work of fiction from the same reality, and I thought of this yesterday and am quite ridiculously pleased with myself.)

(Also also, most of you won't know this, but Elinor Brent-Dyer was clearly deeply imbued with a love of music, which covered not only classical but also folk songs and particularly carols from all across Europe. Which I have always found rather lovely, and am now enjoying a whole other way, as it is clearly my obligation to write traditional folk songs and carols for the people of Mars. I have a new folder for them and everything.)
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Leaps and bounds, people. Leaps and bounds. [18 Sep 2015|12:11pm]
Well, this is exciting. My Patreon in support of the Crater School project - the Chalet School on Mars, if you haven't been paying attention: English girls' boarding-school stories, on that old Mars that English schoolgirls of the time dreamed about, with canals and atmosphere and Martians and everything - has pinged through two door prizes in the last twenty-four hours, and we're already halfway to the first stretch goal.

Inducements are fun. So here's another: somewhere between where we stand now (at $100 a month) and that stretch goal of $200, one new patron will earn a door prize. Can't say which; it might be any of you. Selection will happen entirely at random, at an indeterminate time in this unpredictable process. It may have something to do with cats, and boxes. I may hold auditions for the role of Schrodinger's Sandcat. (Did I mention sandcats? Mars has sandcats, that's established. You can be tolerably certain of a sandkitten showing up at the Crater School, in the not too distant future.)

Door prizes so far have been the right to name a teacher at the school, and her subject. Since you ask. The next prize might be entirely otherwise. Who can say? Only those who play...
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Patreonyms [17 Sep 2015|05:08pm]
"You're not really writing YA, of course. I suppose it's middle grade."

Me, I always stumble over these divisions, because I didn't grow up with 'em - we used to read children's books, until we were let into the adult library at twelve (or until we started filching our elder brother's adult library books five years earlier), after which we read both children's and adult books, as indeed I still do.

But then I double-stumbled over this one, because I have not thought of the Crater School books in terms of writing for children at all. My only notion of an established market is the grown-ups I know who still love the Chalet School books. If kids these days read 'em at all, I struggle to imagine it.

So I was thinking about that; and then I thought no, what I'm actually doing? I'm writing the books Josephine M Bettany (first pupil of the Chalet School, and a proud authoress in her own right), Joey Bettany her own self would have written, if only she'd written science fiction. She'd have loved these.

And in related news, you yourself could be the very person to tip the Patreon project over the $50 mark. Might be a door prize there. Might want to hurry...
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I'm Chaz, patronise me... [14 Sep 2015|04:25pm]
Properly, I suppose that subject line should read "Patreonise me", but hey.

People: my Patreon project is live, right here. Bring the Chalet School to Mars - you know you want to!

Seriously, folks. Click here to read the first two chapters of Three Twins at the Crater School for free, and then make up your minds to support this. Or not, of course - but wait, how could you not? A girls' boarding school, in a castle, on a crater lake on Mars! With twins! And new girls with secrets! And oh, so much more to come, if you only drop a handful of dollars in the pot...
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That Was The Weekend That Was [13 Sep 2015|06:14pm]
So yesterday we hosted an impromptu writeathon, here at Murphy Acres. If a thing can be impromptu when you've been talking about it three years already. But midweek Karen said "Let's do this. Let's do it on Saturday," and so we did; and half a dozen folk came with laptops, and after we'd raided the farmers' market for hummus and chips and fruit (for I was forbidden to spend all day in the kitchen; I had to write too, she said, my mean wife), we sat around for hours'n'hours in the cold grey bitter chill of a Bay Area September day* doing working. And me, I didn't actually write much, but I edited more than 20K of extant work and worked myself back into the T E Lawrence-on-Mars story; and so today, when not idling on the sofa etc, I have been writing.

I suppose there must be a philosophy of cartography, but - except of course for "The map is not the territory" - I do not know it; philosophy generally is as closed a book to me as it was to Peter Wimsey**. Still'n'all'n'nevertheless, that is I guess what I am exploring here: what a map means, and how it can represent a state of mind, a state of racial understanding. How a Martian map would differ from a human map of Mars. In point of fact, I am trying to write something cleverer than me; I feel sure that there is a whole level of revelation beneath what I am actually describing, and I'm just waiting for the other shoe to drop. At the moment, perhaps the map really is the territory, and somebody (else) needs to fling the curtain back to show me the land that waits outside.

In other words, I am insufficiently grown-up for my story. But that's a common sense. I am always a disappointment to my fiction, letting it down at the last. And yet, and yet. I do keep doing it.

*Note: not ironic. We've been having a heatwave, but the temperature dropped thirty degrees between Friday and Saturday. I had to wear long sleeves, and was seriously thinking about socks.

**And you should not try approaching me via Aristotle, either.
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Peppertooth [11 Sep 2015|07:21pm]
So every time a Chalet School girl gets toothache, Matron applies "chillie paste" to their swollen cheeks. Externally only, I believe, from context: but even so I was in some doubt, because everybody (else) is always hot on "don't handle hot chillies except with rubber gloves" and so on, so.

So I googled, and yup: people really do recommend pepper therapies for bad teeth. I haven't yet found one that applies externally, though. Mostly they are of the "yes, this will hurt at the time, but you'll feel better after" school of slathering it on the errant tooth itself. Presumably this is just banking on the endorphin rush, to which as we all know I am already addicted. One or two do add a caveat, "This is not for kids! They canna take it, cap'n!" - which clearly Matron was all too happy to ignore.

But my favourite calls for dissolving cayenne pepper in whisky, and applying that. Now if only our lovely dentist hadn't finally fixed all my toothy problems...
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Sale! [11 Sep 2015|04:06pm]
We forge fresh manners on the internet: a modern untried necessary custom-and-practice emerging like the iceberg of consensus, ten percent stated and ninety percent assumed.

So, in keeping with these modern manners, I will say that I have sold a story; but I will not tell you what or where until the contract comes and everything is settled. Because that is what we do when we do this. *shrugs*
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Audible me [11 Sep 2015|12:03pm]
You learn the strangest things, googling your own stuff. For once, this isn't actually ego-googling: I was trying to find online reviews of my long-ago novel PARADISE, to help out the cover artist by giving her at least some hint of what it's about.

Failed totally in that laudable endeavour, but hey, what's this? An audio edition - on cassette, yet! - that I knew nothing about!

Not an occasion to bring down the might of the law upon miscreants, because it's always been the case that publishers can sublicence audio and braille editions for the blind, free of royalty or any recompense - but I do think they ought at least to tell the author. And send 'em a copy.

(In other news, a whole slew of my early novels are coming up on Audible, in commercially available audio form for anyone who wants 'em. I will put a post together, with a list and everything. I will. I promise...)
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Change is the path life takes [10 Sep 2015|02:42pm]
The subject line is a wise little tag that I just recently learned from a new friend's rather good series; but the truth is that I have known this bone-deep for the most of my life, and yet it still surprises me, and yet I still resent it.

It's only a couple of weeks ago I was explaining to Karen how I'd finally figured out why I still hadn't published all my backlist with Book View Cafe, and it was just because I really really hated everything about that process, that forced change from novelist to publisher/promoter/project manager: how none of this lay within my skill set or my comfort zone, and I could only ever conceivably be happy in the old dispensation, in the past.

And today I have been working on cleaning up the OCR'd text of PARADISE, my novel of long ago, and thoroughly enjoying the process of rediscovery, because it is twenty years since I read this book and y'know what? - it ain't half bad; and I have drawn up the contract to commission artwork for the cover of its new release; and I have been working on the Patreon appeal for my Chalet-School-on-Mars project; and I have been working through some ideas that self and colleague are batting about for a proposed collaboration, regardless of how I've been telling everybody for ever how much I hate collaborating; and - yeah. Change is the path life takes, and sometimes that's a good thing. Sometimes it can even feel like a good thing, despite internal resistance.

And in other news:


Barry would like you clearly to understand that this box was giving way at the seams long before he decided to adopt it as his place of rest. *nods*

And my poor Barry: we have begun feeding him on the world's most ridiculously expensive cat kibble (it's basically rabbits and peas, and rabbits are not a cheap meat here in California, oh no) in hopes of dissuading him from licking all the fur off his nether regions; and we were just starting indeed to be hopeful, a few days in and there seemed to be stubble on his tummy and he was spending his days dozing rather than licking - and then suddenly the temperature climbed twenty degrees, and we are in high-nineties heatwave again, and he is lick-lick-lick, and we don't know how much of that is allergy and how much is heat discomfort, and oh I could so have done without this, thank you climate...
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The Chalet School and me [possibly first of an ongoing series] [07 Sep 2015|01:11pm]
So of course I am rereading, now that this is work; and I have reached Eustacia Goes To The Chalet School, number six in the series. It strikes me that this may be my favourite, at least among the early titles. It has what will become the classic storyline - new girl is insufferable, for reasons given; puts everybody's backs up, among girls and staff both; does something stupid and has bad accident as a result; spends time in bed, realises the errors of her ways and is thus redeemed - and it's a fine example of this future trope.

Indeed, right from page one it is full of Brent-Dyerisms.

The opening line: There is no disguising the fact that Eustacia Benson was the most arrant little prig that ever existed. No worries for Elinor about "Show, don't tell" - she's always happy to come down with a resounding judgement, so that we all know just where we stand.

Later in the same para: We have little difficulty in guessing the effect of these theories when we meet Eustacia for the first time one day in November [...] Something else I love about EMB-D, her cheerfully being prepared not only to insert herself into the narrative, but her readers too. Marshalling us all along in a croc, pointing out what we're here to learn. She's an adept.

And then, next para, In the preceding June, Mrs Benson had developed a cold, which she had insisted on treating herself. The result was that the cold rapidly went to her lungs, and, six days later, Eustacia found herself motherless. Again, this is the Chalet School world in a nutshell; common viruses turn lethal at the drop of a nurse's disregarded cap. Only proper medical attention, sought out at the earliest moment, can save you from the consequences of your own folly (and even then, in serious cases, it needs to be backed up with prayer). Wet feet will give you a cold; a cold will turn readily to rheumatic fever or pneumonia. Tuberculosis is only a neglected cough away. (To be fair, Elinor's best friend at school died of TB, which left her with a lifelong anxiety about it: which is why there is always a TB sanatorium just up the mountain from the Chalet School, which is why so many old girls get to marry doctors...)

And to be fairer still, Elinor was not the only one to have sickness on her mind. I myself notoriously turn to her books as comfort reads when I'm sick. I wasn't sick when I started this reread, I was working. I have spent much of the last week on the sofa, feeling vaguely unwell, in what I can only assume to be a classic confusion of cause and effect...
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