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Even in a little thing

28th November, 2015. 11:14 am.

I have a bit of a virus. Not a bad enough one to take time off, but certainly one that means I am on go-slow until it passes. I've decided it will pass by the end of the day, for I've had it since Tuesday night and it's most definitely used up its welcome.

I've done everything for November except one last editing job, and that editing job requires eyesight and I get maybe one hour in four clear due to the sniffles, so it's going slowly.

Also, I just reminded friends on Twitter and elsewhere, but 'Black Friday' has a different meaning to me than to US friends. It's the name given to a really nasty set of bushfires that hit the part of Victoria my family lived in, in 1939. Dad was at school in Melbourne by that time, fortunately. And my grandfather managed to burn his shop down quite independently of those fires, which was so much a thing of astonishment to his local townsfolk that when my cousin went back to live in that particular town in the 90s he was greeted with "You're Zel's grandson! He's the one whose shop burned down." My grandfather had been dead for 30+ years by that stage...

I haven't followed the sales, for I keep thinking of the bushfires. I didn't think of them so much when the sales were purely US, but now they've reached Australia my local memory has been triggered.

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25th November, 2015. 3:16 pm.

Thank you for the printer advice! I've taken it on board and will try again when my brain stops melting down. It's melting down because the aircon wasn't working this morning in the classroom and the classroom got all the morning sun, so it was somewhere between 28 degrees and hot. In the end I gave my students writing exercises to do in a cool place of their choice, for we were all starting to show effects of the heat. Most adjourned to the cafe downstairs.

It wasn't a small morning. I sent my book on its way, but haven't heard back yet from the publisher. Time differences are not my friend for this kind of thing - it must have reached them at the very end of the work day.

I had coffee with a friend and got home and since then have done a quiet meltdown. It isn't just the weather (the temperature is only 30 degrees, but it's a drying heat and I possibly need to drink more, and the classroom stuff has left me fractious) but I came home to another unexpected and large bill left over from the very cold winter. I would like to live in a place that has those solar panels, please, so that I'm not faced with big bills when I move into my unfinancial time of year! I can pay this one, but it leaves me a bit shorter than I would have liked for the summer, which means I need to be cautious, even with all this extra paid work. In fact, thank goodness for the amount of paid work this year, because I would be in much trouble otherwise. Still, that, and the difficulty of keeping a fractious class learning, and the weather and the getting the manuscript across just a few days early have put me in meltdown. I think I shall take the afternoon quietly and worry about most of my work after dinner, when it's cooler. Dinner will sort the meltdown, for friends are coming over. We shall drink to the end of a very big research project!

My only remaining inescapable bit of work for the day, in fact, is reading a book for the novel (time to move ahead with delayed research), so me melting down due to heat, stuff, and incipient weather change is not actually a problem. I'm just so used to doing so many things in a day that it annoys me when I can't. It doesn't annoy me when other people can't. I dealt with the difficulty of the classroom today by bringing forward the pickled children by a week, and by teaching memoir-writing skills instead of the rather harder lesson I had planned.

All is well. Or all will be well when I've had the world's biggest cup of coffee and vegetated for an hour or so.

One of the reasons I"m dealing with more equanimity than I would have a few weeks ago is because I can now read close to my normal speed. If I can do my other work, read a research book for the novel and then read a book purely for fun (today's is by Saladin Ahmed) then the world is a much better place. This is my minimalist day. It's a nice one, despite the need to find a cool corner and pretend the world doesn't exist for an hour or two.

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24th November, 2015. 10:36 am.

I think my printer just died. It won't accept new drivers, and the power goes on properly and the cartridges slow into position before it tells me it's sick. The computer can't see it and it can't see the computer. It's not the motor and it's not the driver (or if it is the driver and I can't update it, then it's the drivers but not in a solvable way).

This is not the best timing, but it's not the worst. I will have to find a way of printing things out for the next few weeks, for I can't buy a new one immediately. That's the 'not the best'. The 'not the worst' is that all the work I know about for the next few weeks can be done using the screen. Some of it would be better for printouts, but they're no longer as critical.

There's a definite upside: I will be able to win the paper war, for I can't produce more paper. The downside is it means my systems are awry and I need to rethink them. And if there are any contracts (which there may be, for a chapter of something) then I'll have to hope the person at the other end will print it out.

And I have a bunch of cartridges that I will probably not be able to use.

I was going to take it into the computer shop and get it fixed, but it's just out of warranty (of course it is) and a single repair will cost more than a new printer, even factoring all those cartridges in. If anyone local wants to drop round and take a look, be my guest. I can promise chocolate and hot drinks.

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23rd November, 2015. 8:08 pm.

I have some unexpected catch-up time this week, for random administration tasks and to do some research. This is because a task I was going to finish about lunchtime tomorrow now doesn't have to be done til Saturday. This is going to make a big difference to life next week, which was going to be dominated by admin and rather less exciting than normal. Now I can do a bit here and a bit there and have breaks in between and generally be calmer.

Calm is essential. This is another of those years. I've already been told that Christmas is secular, regardless of how people with my particular background regard it. And I've already had the conversation about Chanukah not being a Christmas- equivalent except in terms of the US gift-buying season. In fact, I've had that conversation four times already. Last time I had it this many times this early, people were wishing me Happy Chanukah on Christmas Eve. This makes the wisher feel good (for they remembered my festival) but since they seldom actually remember my more-important festivals, it doesn't help me feel comfortable. This year I think I shall thank them kindly when they give me Chanukah wishes after Chanukah is finished and tell them I'll carry the kind wishes over to next Chanukah.

The good news is that, despite all this, I'm getting some joy out of the festive season. Chanukah is pretty well sorted. It's going to be just a few friends this year, and online gifts for everyone else. Your first gift was my grandmother's recipe. I also get to celebrate with friends, their Christmas. They always celebrate my festivals with me. This is what sharing is, and telling me that it only goes one way is not the same thing at all. So it won't be as bad as some seasons have been. It may have some moments, however.

I love sharing celebrations. I feel very uncomfortable when they're forced on me and I'm told "This is what you must think for all Australians are alike and all think in this way."

And on that note, I'm going to collect all my papers and sort them and see what must be done this week. My system depends on piles and the piles were disrupted by all the travel, which is not a good thing. I have til 7 December to reduce the piles to decorous proportions and have finished all the work held on those papers, for that's when I need to be able to light candles without burning the place down. I'm going to try mostly computer-based work for most of December.

On an almost-related note, I've been invited to the menorah lighting at Parliament House. I'm not going, and the reasons are complex*. I think it's on a teaching night, too, which helped me make the decision. It was rather nice to be invited, though.

*Danby is one of the sponsors and he and I shared a stepfather but have never actually met. I'm not even sure he knows I exist except as a theoretical entity. I ought to go, in honour of Les and the Danby sponsorship, but I really don't want that conversation with Danby: "Yes, you have a kinda sister in Canberra and yes, I've been here for over two decades and yes, Les told you about me." I don't want that conversation. I also don't want to tell Mum "I met him and didn't introduce myself." I don't want that conversation either. Really I don't.

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21st November, 2015. 3:22 pm.

For the next few weeks I'm taking time out in between projects. I don't have quite the fury of deadlines (only two deadlines this weekend, in fact) and things will pick up again around mid-December, so I'm working very hard then reading and seeing friends and pretending I am normal.

Harry Hartog (the bookshop) has 'blind dates' with books. You buy a book in a brown paper wrapper. The wrapper tells the the genre and gives you a couple of keywords about the content. Each of these is carefully selected by one of the staff members: they're not the books that won't sell, they're the books we will enjoy. It's a lot of fun. You get to untie the ribbon and to rip open the paper and to discover the joy of a new book inside. I bought one for today's break. It said "YA fantasy", and "libraries" and "darkness". it sounded good and so I willed my finances to the third frozen hell and bought it.

It's Rachel Caine's Ink and Bone and it's very good. I have two problems with it, though, and they're both niggly and probably annoying only to me.

The first is that she didn't do quite enough Latin and so half her Latin tags demand that I reach for a red pen. She might have a masculine agreement with a feminine noun, or she puts the verb in the wrong place. The Latin is not over-used, but it's critical to the world building. There doesn't seem to be any explanation for the forms, which is a shame, for she could easily have said that it was the Latin of the Library and had someone scold another for Classical usage. In other words, there's an intellectual way out and she doesn't use it and so every time the Latin is worrying, I get thrown out of the book. (And might as well be Greek, not Latin, given the book's premise, and that would be better for me, because I lack Greek.)

The other thing that bugs me is cultural.

Her whole world is posited on the assumption of unique volumes, handwritten. It's a lovely idea. It should be a perfect idea except... she's obviously not worked enough with manuscripts. She assigns them the same lack of individuality as printed volumes and their uniqueness is ignored.

This makes sense for part of her world build, for there are reasons for the uniqueness to be ignored (there is a form of photocopying, so manuscripts can be precisely duplicated) but it makes no sense when someone announces that there's a copy of that book already in the Library. When one is talking manuscripts, even if the title and the content are the same, one can never assume that they're exact copies. In fact, it takes special training to achieve exact copies.

If the whole world is based on manuscript (which it is) then this essential quality they have is terribly, terribly important. You can have one hundred and forty two copies of a book and each one will read a bit differently. This is why I (and so many others) have learned to do stemmas and to work out manuscripts' relationship to each other.

I hope that this is a lapse by the characters and that she doesn't fall into the error of considering all books the same as the books we use everyday. If she has fallen into that error, that will make problems for her world-of-the-book and those problems will compound in later volumes. To give a modern model, it would be the difference between three collected bunches of diary entries of Anne Frank, copied by hand to smuggle them out. Some of the entries might be duplicated, but you don't know until you check if the whole is an exact copy. If they all are the same entry, they might differ in content: Anne's father may have edited some, to show his daughter in his preferred light, or Anne's misspelling might have been silently corrected in her earlier entries where she was younger and less knowledgeable. The headings could be the same and the content could be mostly the same, but each volume might have critical differences. It's only when scholars compare those differences that we understand the book.

In other words, with handwritten volumes, the codex one is looking at may not be the book. The book may be lost and the codex may be a copy, or the book may be a composite, or it may be edited and have the thoughts of others in it, or someone might have left off two lines and made a nonsense of it. With manuscripts, you get a whole new set of insights when different versions are compared. (with different versions of the same printed work, likewise, but it's not every book, it's every group of books.)

To assume that there is one perfect ideal version is wonderfully metaphysical, but it doesn't reflect what manuscripts actually are.

This is one of those problems that looks nit-picking, but is actually essential to the operation of the world of the novel. It's not an issue of 'most readers won't notice' (because they won't, and whether they notice or notice is irrelevant) because it's fundamental to how the political and social system in the novel operates and also to the basic drive of the plot.

In a world that rests on manuscripts, ignoring their fundamental nature is problematic. The problem's not about the reader's knowledge of manuscripts: it's about the physics-equivalent for the universe. How Caine handles it will make a big difference to whether the whole series remains as good as the first volume.

PS Why does spellcheck always give me 'Wehrmacht' instead of 'whether' when I mistype? Is there something I ought to know about hidden realities?

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19th November, 2015. 11:33 pm.

I took the evening off. I had a booklaunch to attend and some friends and I went out afterwards. This means catch-up work tomorrow, but I DON'T CARE. An evening off mid-week is such a wonderful thing! We were at the National Library (and the new book is by LJM Myles http://blog.booktopia.com.au/2015/10/29/prefer-your-crime-fiction-with-an-archaeological-twist-l-j-m-owen-author-of-upcoming-archaeological-mystery-olmec-obituary-answers-our-ten-terrifying-questions/ , in case you want to know).

For all it's only November, we have midsummer temperatures. Today was hot (well, warm - 34 degrees) and tomorrow's going to get hot and blustery then comfortable again. This means I'm best working late tonight anyway and then not working when it's 36 degrees. This is my excuse for taking six hours off, and I'm sticking to it!

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19th November, 2015. 12:03 am.

Today I taught while under the weather. This didn't really change what I taught, but it did mean there was less energy in the class than usual. We worked on alliteration, on seeing things (which is gradually building into POV work) and on writing things that are hard to say. I then did a truckload of messages and had a chiro appointment. Naomi and I did a big shop, which means I'm mostly set for Chanukah (even though it's weeks away). The rest of all this is that I'm beyond bushed. My cold has turned nasty and I've cancelled everything I can for the next 24 hours. I'll edit and cook and rest until 5 pm tomorrow, when I'll be magically restored to normal whether I like it or not. The editing will be done tomorrow, too, whether I like it or not, for I have two lots of paid editing to do over the weekend.

And so there is nothing really happening...

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17th November, 2015. 10:09 am.

Today is a day of work and administrivia. I try to sequester the administrivia so that it doesn't run interference with work, but I was away four days last week, and that ran interference. I should be done with my paperwork by lunchtime, at least, and can then move on to other things.

The editing side of other things is the bit I most hate about the whole publishing process, and I would skip it if I could but alas, it is critical and must be done. If I never did another academic publication, this would be why. And by my whinge you know that yesterday went in odd directions and I just didn't finish the intended work. I did other things that must be done, instead. I had forgotten that Monday is the day for housework and food preparation right now. I've done a bare minimum of housework and I'm fine with food prep and with shopping lists for tomorrow (for tomorrow is the last big, big shop until mid-January and is the only big shop before Chanukah and is the reason I really need a bigger freezer - I only need it at this time of year, though, so, really, I don't need it at all!).

You've had one of the eight Chanukah presents for this year (the pudding recipe), so the question is what seven presents do people want? I'm open to suggestions.

If no-one suggests anything, I might make it all recipes. I was thinking, in fact, of having recipes that relate to my works of fiction. This is because apparently some people are reading the dinner parties in The Time of the Ghosts and are dreaming of cooking the dishes. If you have a favourite food description by me and need a recipe to match, tell me and I'll consider posting it.

I still owe one friend a cookbook from last year. Her email keeps bouncing. I shall try again this year with that, in the hopes that the internetz are behaving a bit better.

Speaking of cookbooks. the Great Fan Cookbook is still happening, but it's been delayed through reasons beyond my control. Many reasons, actually. Given it can't happen until the end of next year now, I have decided to delay it just a bit further and have it ready for the Helsinki Worldcon. This means that the most number of fans possible can celebrate food together, and it also means everyone has more time to send me recipes. The US is really under-represented right now. In fact, right now Australia and Germany and Finland have the most recipes. I'm still accepting recipes via my web contact form on my website, and I'll continue to accept recipes until this time next year.

And this is all my updates!

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16th November, 2015. 8:45 pm.

I've finally caught up on friends' entries. I thought LJ was supposed to be dead? My friends managed to put up 160 entries in a week. This is why I haven't always commented! You all lead interesting lives, though, and I love knowing all of you!!

I'm going to be haphazard for a while, just until my life settles.

At least I don't get bored.

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16th November, 2015. 10:46 am.

Yesterday was market day and all the nice new produce is busy being nice and new. It's a bad season for cherries, so I stuck with nectarines. I bought leek and am sweating it for either soup or frittata. Dinner tonight and lunch tomorrow will be goose egg frittata whether I make soup or not, for I have many wonderful vegies (and a single goose egg does me for two big meals). I've got some lovely young celery and just have to get okra on Wednesday to make much chicken gumbo. And I have a nice large tub of kimchi. I'll use a little in my frittata (for my frittata will be flavoursome and untraditional).

And that's it. Everything else is salad vegetable!

Next week I'll have more time to cook, and so might be more adventurous. My today and tomorrow and Wednesday morning are a combo of teaching and deadlines, though, so really, I needed to keep things simple. This was quite hard. The market stalls looked winsome and tempting and I had money in my purse. But I was strong, for these are important deadlines.

I'll finish the two different edits by teaching-time tomorrow and then I'll be a happier bunny. I'll do my paid edit later in the week and then the publisher will be a happier bunny. And next week will have more time for other projects!

Speaking of which, while I was away I managed work on both novels (research for one and writing for the other) only a couple of hours on each, but it shows in my level of equanimity today.

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