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Even in a little thing

2nd June, 2015. 11:25 am.

Life is progressing apace. Very much apace. Lots of little news.

I have a change to my Continuum schedule. I ought to give people the updated version before the event itself.

GUFF is still open for nominations (we decided to give it a few more days) and there isn't a single UK candidate. Why isn't there even one UK candidate? Don't you want to visit Australia and meet us all in wonderfully warm Brisbane in the perfect season for Brisbane? All the details here: http://rantalica.com/1859/the-race-is-still-on-guff-nominations-deadline-extension/

My thing that I was worried about has resolved itself very nicely, and I'll make an announcement when I can, which will hopefully be in a few weeks. Alas, it's not a job, but it's the next best thing and it entails finishing something big, which means some of you will have worked it out already.

The Beast is in its final stages before release. The print version has been checked by Amberley and it looks lovely. People keep asking if it was influenced by Mortimer's book, which shows that Marketing at Amberley know their stuff. The Beast actually came first and has a different focus, but it's been packaged in a way similar to Mortimer's book.

Katrin and I have started writing guest blog posts for our blogtour. If anyone would like to be a part of this tour, please say. it has two versions: the one for the UK market, which starts in a few days, and the one for the international market, which starts in a couple of months (to allow books to reach Australia).

I still haven't found a blog owner who really, really wants me to talk about how I came to know so much about Old French insults or who wants a photo blogpost explaining how pictures help research a novel, or how one can write a book like the Beast from 10,000 miles away (this song is now my earworm, and deservedly so - on a related note, how on earth do the US signers who do this song get ten thousand miles for their journey? do the ships get lost or go round in circles on the Atlantic? and some of the words in this version are not the words that I know, which is par for the course - I seem to always know weird variants, which is one reason I don't join the singing folks*).

I just looked at the time. Other news will have to wait. I have an hour to complete the three tasks that need to be done by lunchtime. Today is Day of the Deadline.



*ignoring the fact that I can't actually sing.

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31st May, 2015. 10:37 am.

How have I not posted for so long? I suspect I might have been busy.

Of the various tasks I have to do by Tuesday lunchtime (and started on very late on Thursday) I've completed half, which is good.

With my books, I've seen a picture (several pictures, in fact) of the Beast, for the first copy reached my editor safely and in plenty of time and it looks rather more impressive than I expected. It also looks just the right size. In about two weeks it'll be out in the UK and writers will be able to get their hands on it. There will no longer be any excuses for making a wholly modern Middle Ages in fiction. IF any of my friends does this hereafter, I will know that it's either on purpose, or that it's pure laziness. It's going to be so nice to be able to tell students "You need this information? Good, it's in one volume now. Read it and then ask questions." It doesn't have everything (no book can have everything) but it's the introduction writers have needed for a fair while.

Various writers have already asked me if I'm going to do volumes for other periods or other places and the answer is "Only if I'm paid an awful lot of money." The Beast was undertaken because so many people wanted it so very much, but it was a one-off. I suspect I'll be talking about why it was good for me as a writer during the blogtour we're doing around its launch. If anyone wants to participate in the blogtour, please feel free to wave your hand at me.

I still can't talk about the things I couldn't talk about three days ago. Soon, though, I hope, I'll be able to. Maybe. In the meantime, I need to get back to work. I have to finish the whole week's work by early Tuesday afternoon because the combination of teaching, eye check, Continuum and various other things mean I won't have much time to attack my heap of papers during the week or next weekend. Although I could just skip sleeping. Possibly not wise...

If you think I sound unagonised for someone who's so busy and who is back in the land where swords of Damocles again are too abundant for comfort, this is because I finished a story yesterday. Fiction keeps me (relatively) sane. I don't know how good a story it is (one never knows, when it has just been finished) and I need to get it to the editor by Friday (so not much time for overthinking) but the sheer act of finishing it let a whoosh of tension out of me. The tension where the editor thinks about it and decides it's the wrong story for the publication is a different one and perfectly dealable-with. I want her to want it (of course I do) but I got over the worrying side of short stories-with-editors a long while ago. If she doesn't want it, then I'll find it another market. This market is my ideal one for this story, of course, but the editor and I have to agree on that.

The story is set in a version of Australia I'm developing for a novel. I suspect it's currently nudging another one aside (not the 17th century one, the contemporary one I've been planning, the "Stepford Wives meet Dorian Gray" one). This is part of me changing as a writer. Originally I could only write the one thing I was obsessed with. Now I can plan a novel and write it, or I can plan a novel and let it simmer while I write another. It turns out that all one needs are techniques for moving something to the side to focus on something else, and that now I've developed those techniques. This makes me very happy. There are so many novels I want to write: this gives me hope I can write a few more of them.

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28th May, 2015. 10:41 pm.

Recipes have started trickling in for the cookbook. I have maybe forty or forty-five, which isn't nearly enough. Still, the recipes I have are rather magic, and they come from some very interesting places. Also, they include some recipes I really wanted for myself anyhow, form some of my favourite fan cooks (we have the lemon thingies! and Karelian tarts!). All I need is twenty times the number, and I'll be happy.

Right now, we have incoming rain. Of course we have.

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28th May, 2015. 12:36 pm.

Six kilograms of soup bones makes 600 ml of portable soup. 600 ml of portable soup makes 35-40 cups of soup. In case you're wondering. It's not the best portable soup I've ever made, but it's potable. Potable and portable. A total pain to make, but a lot more practical for fantasy travel than the ubiquitous stew.

Some of this is for Continuum. I've made it early, because next week is going to be a bit busy and the last stage of the soup is tricky. I've been making it since Sunday afternoon and only the last stage is tricky, so that's fine. It's perfectly safe to store at room temperature, but I'm going to freeze it anyway.

And today is brought to you by the word 'uninspired.' Too many emotions this week and too many physical and life things to contend with. I've finished some stuff and have til tomorrow to finish some more. I'm not pushing, though, as long as I meet my deadlines, for if I push then the fatigue halfway through term will lead to undesirable consequences. This means I'm permitted chocolate and soup and all kinds of good things. Like portable soup.

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27th May, 2015. 7:31 pm.

More paddling madly underwater with not much visible. More difficult decisions that I can't talk about until they're resolved (if they're resolved). No news on the job front.

All this balanced by two really good classes yesterday and today.

Yesterday's I talked about genre choices and how to make wise ones that lead the writer in the direction their novels need to go. I pointed them towards bunches of good work to help them understand dynamics and shapes. This is a well-read class, and they ask good questions, especially about vexed relationships such as those between character and plot.

Today I worked out a way of entering the whole difficult are of life writing for people whose lives have not been so easy and who really shouldn't be asked to talk about certain aspects. We wrote ticker tape poetry to the future on German streamers and we wrote letters about us to the future and the combination worked like a charm. The class was delighted and happy and took some work home because they wanted to finish it up, and they have all the skills I was trying to impart last week but which didn't quite stick. Sometimes thinking outside the box helps a great deal.

Two more meetings this week. One more class. And I just realised I have fingerlime icecream in the feezer. I need to finish it before winter, don't I?

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26th May, 2015. 12:15 pm.

Getting chocolate for SF conventions isn't as easy as it used to be. I ordered some and it didn't turn up. I've chased the order and I'm waiting for an answer. If they just cancel the order, I will find another way to get that chocolate. it's inconceivable that I turn up to Continuum with no chocolate, even after last year, when everyone got in on the act.

The portable soup continues its leisurely voyage. Some of the recipes I made last year were not potable, so I'm trying a variant to see if this can be made so. The duck one was perfect, so I'm trying something like that method (several hours cooking at a time, then let it sit, skim and etc), because the weather this weekend and even now is perfect for it. For writers who need to know, portable soup is better made when the weather is bitter and you can apply slow warmth to it for long periods without making everyone uncomfortable. It also reduces better in the cold, because skimming is so much easier when fat congeals at room temperature. The big advantage of summer was that the soup didn't trick me by becoming solid at one temperature and then melting at another. I think I've found a way round that, however, by doubling the number of shrinkages I give the soup after the bones are done. The bones are just done, and I plan on the soup being finished by Thursday night so that I can take some into my class. This gives me four sessions to shrink the soup to 20% of its current size. Although I may want 15%. Either way, it's longer and fussier, but if it works, it'll be magic.

This first shrinkage is more to infuse with spices than to make it very low.

And now that's more than anyone needs to know.Except, of course, that this'd be a very handy recipe for a post-apocalyptic world, for being able to cook and then have storage without a freezer or any special equipment is a handy trick.

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25th May, 2015. 5:53 pm.

I have worked out why I am just a bit on the edgy side at this hour, today and why my life feels uneventful. Our daily temperature drop (typical of the Canberra region) started before dusk. Dusk has passed. This is normal. What is not normal is that it's just over five degrees. This is Australia, folks, and winter may well be coming, but it isn't here yet. Why is it five degrees before 6 pm?

I'm going to make up a hot water bottle and take myself to bed for a half hour to warm up. Then I shall finish my two afternoon tasks. Then I shall have a hot both and *then* I might be able to contemplate my evening work. I shall be using my down dressing gown and my special felt slippers as work dress (one must dress for work, after all). And all my work will be completed before I sleep... but not until I'm just a little warmer.

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25th May, 2015. 5:18 pm.

I'm spoiled for choices, right now. I carefully set up a story so that my characters have equal choices at the end, and so they do. Working out which choice they'll actually make is far harder when the choices are genuinely even.

And in other news... there is none. Or there is and I've forgotten it. If you feel I ought to have news, please feel free to invent some in the comments.

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24th May, 2015. 4:46 am.

I was going to wake up in 20 minutes and watch Eurovision. Now I'll have blogged before watching Eurovision. This is because the cold I predicted has happened. I thought it was yesterday, but tonight is colder. My body hasn't yet acclimated to the sharp nights, so sleep was something I wasn't going to get until the temperature either stabilised or warmed up. That'll be in 2 hours time.

I'm rather lucky: yesterday I had the market when this happened (and about 4 hours sleep) and today I have Eurovision (and about two). Normally I work. I did that until about midnight, only. This will be the big test as to whether it's lack of sleep that makes me less-than-useful the day after a seasonal shift like this, or if it's the shift itself.

Now that you know all that useful stuff, you must excuse me. Eurovision starts in 17 minutes and I don't yet have a cuppa*.

For all those friends who don't get Eurovision, you have my sympathy. For all those why don't get it, haven't seen it, and want to tell me how stupid it is, I am making rude gestures in your direction. My excuse for the sudden rudeness towards such explanations is partly because they were one (or two, or three) too many this year, but mostly because I could possibly have done with more sleep. Now that I know that sleeplessness brings forth rude gestures, I might try it again before a day when I need such gestures.

In other news, I only have one work task that has to be done before 2 pm and then I get hot chocolate with a friend! I'm so wildly social!!



*I shall play drinking games using tea, since 5 am is really not a vodka hour.

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23rd May, 2015. 5:28 pm.

I just deleted an evil Eurovision post. I love Eurovision and a friend told me how puerile it was and I decided to write a post that would annoy as many people as possible. Instead of doing a minor Gillian variant of what we've seen far too much of recently (Sulky Puppy Syndrome) I shall enjoy myself. Tonight I am watching the repeat of the semi final and first thing tomorrow is the final. Lest this fall into the unheard of category of 'time out' I shall forthwith do a vast amount of work.

In the background, you can hear the sound of my washing machine and of water boiling. I've started on the several-day process for portable soup.

And in my backbrain (for I finally saw Interstellar today) I wonder why the foodish assumptions in Death of Grass will ever be replaced in SF as a metaphor for the world going to pot. There are better ways of starving humans to death than by killing corn and wheat. It reminds me of the localised famines in the Middle Ages which turned into total ruin of population in fantasy novels loosely based on it. The concepts of diverse foodstuffs and wild harvesting and regionalism hasn't changed the trope yet. This is a shame, for I spent quite a bit of time at the beginning of Interstellar calculating how something other than corn could be humankind's salvation and how 'clean' countries like Australia and NZ would deal. What's worse, I kept thinking about the public policy side of it (for I worked on international grain policy stuff for a couple of years way back then) and realised that the whole movie was going for the symbolic and thus went for individual redemption above the solution paths we already have. Less drama in public sector solutions, after all, and way less agony. Having thoroughly destroyed the basis of the movie in the first minutes, I sat back and enjoyed it.

I've run out of excuses not to work. See you on the far side.

ETA: The washing machine has nothing to do with the portable soup, just to clarify. Also, the bones are Galloway. And I fear I need a cuppa.

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