Daily Archives: April 11, 2008

Slogging

That’s Chapter Seven and Eight done. I wish I felt better about it but I don’t. I still have formatting to do, and I know I’m deliberately leaving some places rough or thin enough to be pointed out by the editors. If they do get pointed out I’ll handle them then because I can’t do anything about it now, and the fact that I’m okay with this decision upsets me deeply. I feel like I’m brushing it off, or assuming we can fix it in post-production, or putting the equivalent of a mental sticky-note on it and saying ‘I know this doesn’t work, do you have any suggestions?’… none of which constitute living up to my responsibility.

Everything hurts. My spine is just radiating pain, and that’s made me very short with people today. It’s hard to focus on work like this, because sitting hurts. Focusing is also a challenge because the farther along in the book I go the less structured it is. Part of that is the design of it — the later chapters are disjointed because they’re techniques and recipes and crafts and exercises — but it’s disheartening after having pulled off so much awesome work in the other six chapters. I feel like I’m hacking out rough, rude little approximations of writing and just kind of sticking them in.

Writing a new book sounded like a good idea at the time last July when I suggested redoing this proposal. Sigh.

I wrote my editor an e-mail today confirming that it would be submitted next Friday because I felt I hadn’t been clear when we’d discussed the new deadline (I had proposed the 15th, she suggested the 18th). I also told her about the FMS thing, because I felt I owed her an explanation for not being as on top of things as I have been for the past five years (yikes, has it been that long?). I hadn’t wanted to tell her until I’d handed the book in, because I didn’t want it to seem like an excuse, but I felt she deserved to know on the heels of the juggled deadlines and the proofs.

I’m going to knock off for the day. I’ll do some notebook work tonight. The hard copy has almost reached the point of uselessness because of the fragmented state of the final two chapters. I’ll see what I can do with it. I stopped using it in Chapter Seven because it was easier to do the edits directly in the file itself.

Things would be easier if there weren’t other issues going on behind the scenes here. It’s frustrating that they won’t clear up until the end of next week, which is when I hand in the MS.

Thirty-Four Months Old!

It’s been a long winter, but we’re finally free of winter coats and boots and gear, and no one is happier than Liam (unless it’s HRH and I). He’s so much easier to get in and out of the car now, and handles it very nicely all on his own again now that he’s unencumbered, which is a relief for us. Now the next goal is getting the 40lbs+ seat with flat edges, so in and out is even easier all round.

In the wake of the metres of snow, we have found all sorts of things. He has been cheerfully stomping and shovelling the snowbanks in the backyard with HRH to break them up and help them melt. In so doing he also found his hockey sticks and the whiffle ball, and has been batting them enthusiastically around the yard. Every day when we go out we have to check on the progress of the crocuses coming up in the front garden, and he announces with great energy that “Mama, I’m watching the flowers grow!” He hugs the big maple tree that divides our front yard from the neighbour’s, and usually kisses it too. We saw a robin the other day (“Look, Mama, a robin bird!”) and he asked what it was doing. “I think he’s looking for little twigs to build a nest,” I said. “He’s building a nest?” he said, very interested. “To sleep in?” And then we had to go through all sorts of animals and identify their beds and habitats. I love that he asks so many questions.

With the weather so much milder we’ve been outside a lot more, and the wagon is seeing use again, as well as the new trike. Unfortunately we’ve discovered that the new trike is a bit stiff, which may be why it was in the second-hand shop. Oiling it hasn’t made a difference. I think it has to do with the plastic front fork and the metal hub not playing well together. We’ll look for grommets to line the holes in the fork, and put blocks on the pedals; maybe that will help Liam put more power into pedalling to overcome the stiffness. In the meantime he walks it and pushes it around the backyard quite happily. When we went out to play the first weekend the driveway was clear the passel of boys next door were out too. The eldest, an adolescent, is a really excellent on a skateboard, and his little five year old twin brothers have their own tiny boards they can zoom around on too. Well,Liam saw one of these and abandoned the trike to the three year old brother and went right for a loose board. He kept trying to stand on it, so I went over and held his hands and showed him how to push with one foot and balance on the other. Does anyone know how to skateboard, and would be willing to teach him in a couple of years if he’s still this enthralled? HRH’s knees would pop off and walk away in protest, and the only time I’ve been on a board was in a school hallway outside the chem lab in grade ten; my lips are sealed, and I don’t think there’s anyone else left who can tell the tale.

We’ve been trying to teach him knock-knock jokes, because he’ll say “Knock-knock!” to get us to pull aside a curtain or blanket. Last weekend he was in the laundry basket (don’t ask) with a blanket over his head like a little pot pie, and HRH and I were sprawled across the bed. “Knock-knock,” he said to get us to pull the blanket away so he could pop out. “Who’s there?” I said instead. “Liam,” he said carefully after a moment. “It’s me,” he added, in case I needed reminding. “No, no, Liam; when someone says ‘Knock-knock’ you say ‘Who’s there?'” I said, and fed him the line: “Knock-knock!” “It’s Liam!” he said, throwing off the blanket with a grin. So we kept at it, and he kept looking at us as if we were crazy. Finally, when I said “Knock-knock!” he looked at me seriously and said, “It’s Liam, I’m very pleased to meet you,” and took the hand that I was dangling over the edge of the bed and shook it politely. We howled until we cried. He grinned and looked back and forth between us, but he had no idea why it was funny. Not that it mattered; he threw himself on top of us in the bed anyhow and laughed along.

Playtime has become quite complicated. His two main toys are his set of metal cars, and his wooden train set. The cars and train have long conversations among themselves, and go through small crises that they solve. It’s very interesting to listen to him. He actively tells us stories at night now, too, instead of us leading him along. It’s a wonderful feeling to walk up the street with him after a day with the caregiver and ask, “So did you have a good day? What did you do?” and listen to him chatter on about what he did, and to understand it all.

Last week we were watching Kids’ CBC and there was a host interstitial about the letter O. Liam said, “Oh, the letter O!” and dashed out of the room. This is not unusual; he is a very busy boy. What was different about this time was that he came running back in saying, “Here, Mama, the letter O!” and handed me the red magnetic letter O from the fridge. I nearly turned cartwheels, but settled for praising him, giving him high fives, and hugging him fiercely. We regularly hear him count to twenty (the numbers fourteen and sixteen optional). Since then he’s been asking “What’s that’s name? (Translation: What is the name for that object?) What’s at the front of that name? (Translation: What letter does it begin with)?” When I tell him I hand him the magnetic letter if I can, because drawing on a sheet of paper doesn’t satisfy him. He knows how to say certain alphabet sequences when given a letter to start from, but not others without their context.

Ceri and Scott brought us all presents last weekend, and he got a book on knights. He opened it and said, “Thank you! I have something for you, too.” And he reached out and took the (empty) gift bag that was behind him, and handed it to Ceri. It was so terribly sweet, even if all that was in it was tissue paper; it had held HRH’s video game, but Liam hadn’t been in the room to see him open it. It was very touching to see him want to give a present to someone else because they’d given him one. In general he’s very polite, although we’re still working on sitting at the table while the parental units finish their meals (or most of them, anyway). Sharing is consistently getting better and better, as is helping to clean up, now that he more clearly understands the concept of hurting other people’s feelings by his behaviour.

Gryff still sleeps outside his door at night and during naps, and when Liam wakes up some times he lies down on his side of the door and plays with Gryff under it, little fingers and paws darting back and forth. The other day he found Hammy, the old cat toy that had been Gulliver’s special toy. Hammy is the terribly imaginative name we gave to the stuffed hamster with a motor in it; when you pull a string it vibrates. HRH had it on a shelf along with Gully’s old collar. Liam saw it and wanted to hold it, and the moment he discovered the pull string Gryff was there too, grabbing for it. The two of them rolled around on the bed together playing with it, and HRH said that yes, Liam could give it to Gryff to play with. “I think Gully would like that,” he said, watch the two of them laugh and romp with it. Bringing Gryffindor home so Liam could have a cat to play with was one of the best decisions we’ve made for Liam. (I am assuming it’s been a good thing for Gryff too, and judging from the amount of purring that goes on he’s very okay with it all.)

His local grandparents came to stay with him so HRH could attend my last concert, and it was really nice not to have to rush or try to plan out complicated car scheduling. When HRH and I were getting ready to go he looked up at me and said, “Where are you going?” “I’m going to my concert,” I said. “Mama is playing her cello for lots of people tonight.” “Oh, you’re going to your concert? Can I come?” And it felt so good to say, “Next time, yes. This summer you can come watch Mama play her cello in a big, big church. And then we can see fireworks.” On Sunday morning I suggested that we play our cellos and he was all for it. He set himself up very well and started playing his baby cello, and I quietly brought out my music stand. “Why do you have that, Mama?” he said, as he’d never seen me use it before. I explained what it was and what it was used for, and then I started playing ‘Sampo’, the opening title song from the Totoro soundtrack (reading it in treble clef, thank you very much, go me). He looked up right away and said, “Mama, that is Totoro music! You’re playing Totoro on your cello!” It was very gratifying to have him actually recognise what I was playing, and to see him so happy about it. I think I am now officially the coolest mom on the block because I can play Totoro music (thank you, Joe Hisaishi, for making your themes easy). He didn’t even let me get to ‘Kaze no Torimichi’ or ‘Tonari no Totoro’, though; he ran off to bang on the bathroom door and tell his father, who was trying to shower, what I was doing.

I am so thankful to have such a happy and enthusiastic boy. Life is a lot of fun. I’m looking forward to having this book done with for a while, so we can go back to spending more time together. Besides, we only have two months in which to plan the three year old birthday party. I’m thinking that this one’s going to have to be split into two: one for the kids, because they’re all old enough now to do the party thing, and one for the adults at a different time to celebrate the awesome parents he has.

Other Liam posts this month:

a hero shot of Liam
Liam discovers the metronome
Liam’s new tricycle!
– and the 34-month the teaser post

Thoughts On Writing And Reading And Reviewing

Michelle Sagara talks about being a reader (as opposed wearing her writing hat) and not particularly caring about how long it took someone to write something, or if writing’s their career or something they do at night and on weekends:

But confusing my concerns as a writer with my concerns as a reader is something that I don’t do. There are books that feel interchangeable, and I read these for fun and light entertainment, although I admit I often confuse them in the muddle of my brain (and attribute the titles to the wrong authors because I am sometimes stupid like that); there are books that no one but the author could possibly write (anything by John Crowley comes to mind instantly). I am happy for both; I do not privilege one over the other because I don’t have to; as a reader, both are there, and I pick up the one that suits my mood and my needs at the time.

And Elizabeth Barrette talks about ways in which you can support your favourite authors beyond buying their books (because how you buy those books matters, and all the other stuff has an impact too):

Readers love books, and most readers have favorite authors. You wish they would write more. You may also wish for them to be happy and prosperous.

Well, authors have to put beans on the table. For some, that means writing whatever sells. For others, that means squeezing in time to write around a day job doing something else. Maybe they get paid a fair rate for their work, with a decent contract; maybe not. Often the end result is that they don’t put out as much writing as you or they would like.

Here’s the key: YOU can do something about this. You are the audience; you are the consumer. Your choices an individual, and the behavior of you-all collectively, can make a tremendous difference in the livelihood of your favorite authors. The more profitable something is, the more time they can afford to spend doing it. Do you value that reading material they create? Does it teach you things that will save you time and trouble, or things that are just fun to know? Does it give your mind a much-needed vacation to places you love, in the company of characters you enjoy? Does it lift your spirits, rouse your sense of wonder, or at least remind you that your life could suck a whole lot more than it does? If so, consider the following list of things you can do to support your favorite authors. […]

Finally, over at SFNovelists.com Mike Brotherton talks about the common sense steps involved in reviewing books, namely, match the reviewer to the book (although there’s more that follows from that first point):

Guideline 1: Reviewers should stick to reviewing the kinds of books they like.

Look, I think nearly every book published is a good book. Editors and publishers aren’t stupid. There are certainly a lot of books published I think are crap, but some of them have audiences. Large audiences. People LOVE some of the books I HATE. I shouldn’t review those. I’m not the target audience.

And that’s okay.

It’s infuriating as a writer to see someone leave a comment somewhere, or, worse, a complete review, about how much your book sucked when it is clear that they don’t like the kind of book you’re writing. I had this happen with Spider Star. Someone wrote how awful the sample chapters were on a forum, and, when pressed (guilty), admitted that [the books] read like Jack McDevitt and that they didn’t care for McDevitt. Personally, I do. So…

Guideline 2: Reviews should describe what the book is like, and not just represent a visceral reaction of the reviewer. […]

Check them out.