caper_est: The grey wolf in the red gloaming. (golden kate)

Killer-Kate and Luke Lackland: No words, but Golden Kate storming up to me in a blaze that burns away all the clutter and dither about her and the Young Duke in the forthcoming chapter.  Once again my old wolf demonstrates that however big of a bitch she may be to anybody else, this is nothing compared to how savagely she's prepared to use herself in their cause.

I don't think I need to worry about the Duke's looking weak any more, or the resolution looking stagey.  Geez Louise, woman!

caper_est: caper_est, the billy goat (Default)
My computer, such as it is, has been tediously persuaded to work with me again for the duration.

Tonight I investigate the current state of Ubuntu, just in case.
caper_est: caper_est, the billy goat (Default)

My wretched Windows installation at home has crashed spectacularly, and my breaks at work are apt to be short and sweet, as the Autumn Term is now taking off in earnest.  So there won't be a lot of news from me until I've fixed things up again.

Killer-Kate and Luke Lackland: Pulled together the shape of the current chapter, and of course there turns out to be bloody well two of it.  Shorter ones, admittedly.  I'm now going to cut it on the edge of the Night Without Stars.

Ciao now!
caper_est: caper_est, the billy goat (Default)
My relationship with Nonny, the underrated Muse of Folksong, is generally a delightful one.  Sometimes she'll return from the slopes of Parnassus in melancholy mood, and breathe over me the breath of Carrie Grey; sometimes she will be ribald, and bring me Kyra from Kazandry; sometimes she will be both, and bring me De Ville's Toast to His Friends.  And other times she will be so completely off the wall, I haven't even any description for the result that is shorter than singing it.  Always, she will break in upon me like a wave where no sea was hitherto apparent, and not cease until I've worked her latest inspiration into safely-recorded words and music.

This is often inconvenient, but almost always worth it.

And then sometimes she will come back totally monstered on bad nectar, and afflict me with I've Got Badgers in Me Nadgers.

caper_est: caper_est, the billy goat (Default)
Stone and cloud from the Schilthorn

Just back from a week's goofing off in the Bernese Oberland of Switzerland. Mountains such as the Ogre, the Monk, and the Virgin I never saw before, nor their high glaciers and the streams that tumble from them. It is also something strange to see hills feathered by great stands of conifers, each rising up to a third or half of the hill's own height. As for the most formidable meals, the mountains are plainly necessary in order to walk them off.

Killer-Kate and Luke Lackland: The Family Fight chapter has not so much split, as required me to step back in time and write another chapter from the Young Duke's viewpoint in Alland, simultaneous with all the late shenanigans in Langdale. Better far than trying to infodump it into Kate's big return scene, whose flow I now follow a lot better. The Duke can here emerge as the man I began to develop in the middle chapters, rather than the vain and callow boy of my vaguer original vision three years back. The tragedy he teeters on the verge of is just as wrong-headedly catastrophic as it was then, but much less stupid and more interesting.

He will need his runup for that, though; and the Puffin Superior, moving onto the board at last, gets to establish herself in some serious action before her fateful collision with Kate. And so the last of my important characters walks on stage.

Also I composed a folk ballad, Two Fair Maids of Alland, which has been earworming me all holiday and which I can at last record and drive out again. This one I can't post any time soon anywhere, because despite its wild inaccuracies it contains a major spoiler for the Family Fight.

A more friendly family meet-up for me now, and more travels immediately afterwards.  Then a summer which should see the... resolution... of the mortal struggles in Allingdale, and then only one last full-on chapter to go back to work on: the climactic showdown with the Big Bad, and its epilogue.  I'm working on the assumption that the first draft should be done and dusted by October, and the intense revision phase finished by the end of the year.

This is quite consistent with the pace so far.  It is also a very strange feeling indeed.

caper_est: caper_est, the billy goat (goat)

I was getting a distinct impression that Three Katherines of Allingdale had grown into a book disproportionately dominated by female characters - that is, above and beyond the deliberate focus suggested by the title and associated choices of perspective.

If true, this seemed out of true with the setting and subject matter.  Apart from the central Three Katherines, I'd have expected things to turn out equally at best. (Fairfields is, in its post-mediaeval way, considerably closer to an equal-opportunity society than our own. Its massively larger parent culture is, as my beta-readers for Katy Elflocks will know already, most traditionally and obnoxiously not.)

But I had reason to suspect that my perceptions weren't accurate, and that active female characters might appear more salient than their numbers or spotlight-time warranted, because they are not the conventional default in this sort of fantasy. On the other hand, so many of my all-time favourite characters from my personal pantheon have always been heroic and/or active women with agency and viewpoint - Cassilde Théret and Lies van Luyt; Kesti President and Kandakay Kaoring, Locket and Sapphire and Tawn; Tindally Myl of Qorth; my fanfictional instances of Nyssa and Tegan from Doctor Who; 'Hacki' Hackenbush and Lib Cody, Lena Rushwell and Temerity Pyke;  the Crocus and Celerian and Lowerry the Red Blade, Katj and Lylat and Savafy Bistirin Yon, to mention only those outside the Kateverse who've marked me most profoundly - that surely, surely any default I have is rather in the other direction?  I'd really be stretched to come up with a roster of men from my universes who come up to that mark!

Still, I thought, it wouldn't hurt to check.

Hoo boy.  Was I wrong, or what?

My dodgiest suspicions are confirmed.  In The Deed of Katy Elflocks alone, women do outnumber men 2:1 amongst the first rank of characters (see again: Three Katherines), but the ratio drops to simple parity when the other significant characters are counted.  In Killer-Kate and Luke Lackland, women still retain much of their 3K edge in the top rank, but adding the much larger secondary cast of this work moves us slightly into a male majority.  So my background is pretty much as I'd consciously visualized it.  Yet even my own perception was of a cast, by guess, two-thirds female.

That's at least a thirty percent overestimate.  And I'm the author, and I knew what I was shooting for in the first place!

I'm not prepared to fix perceptions by the pernicious lie of missing my mark so as to give the casual impression of hitting it.  The setting is painted truly.  It must stay that way.

The only solution I can think of offhand is to be especially vigilant for dullness and sameyness in the sections where a lot of the male characters congregate.  There's one particular plot-knot around the midbook where I had rather too many of them in holding patterns.  That's something I have to address anyway in the rewrite, which might narrow the disconnect between perception and reality.  Other than that, I can only see what my beta team and any future editor will come back with on this.

Still.  Sheesh!

caper_est: The grey wolf in the red gloaming. (golden kate)

Killer-Kate and Luke Lackland: First chapter notes on the sequel to the Battle of Carrowglaze.  Of course the bloomin' thing has immediately fissioned: three chapters and epilogue to go, once more!  Still, it's progress.

What this short transitional Chapter of the Flowers is doing, is letting up the pressure between the recent intensity of the Battle and the coming intensity of the Family Fight.  The latter is just too dense and wracking to follow directly on from the former.  So I'm making a virtue of the contrivance I'm using to get one character where and when I want them; and having Kate's second embassy to Garcastle go the long way around via the lower ends of the dales, between which runs a road that can reasonably bear a carriage.

That gives Kate & Co. a little more time for their grief, and for waking to the strange new world their deeds have brought with the morning, before I bring us to the discord that introduces the true chapter of Mother and Son.  It also lets me move some crowded material about the rival Saturnist revolutionaries in lower Langdale, out of explanations and epilogue.  The Saturnist lollers are... just a bit of a problem, in the sense that militant proto-Maoist Anabaptist friars on crusade might not have been the Diggers' dream allies in the fields we know.  So now we're going to see a little of Luke's response directly, instead of slipping it all into later exposition.  This yarn isn't really about Folk Saturnism at all, but surely is about its wellsprings and about Katy's alternative, so I have to weave a fair deal of that matter into the borders.

I'll start the Flowers directly, while I'm still working out the structure of the subsequent chapter - seeing as I know what I need to feed through already.

caper_est: The grey wolf in the red gloaming. (golden kate)
Killer-Kate and Luke Lackland: The viewpoint for the Assize scene isn't Kate, Narrator, or Chorus. It's Luke.

Score another piece of evidence for Meyer's Law:

In all emotional conflicts the thing you find hardest to do is the thing you should do.
- John D McDonald, Pale Gray for Guilt.

H/t Travis McGee and Me for letting me get at the original wording without a major series-mining operation. A speculation on why Meyer's Law might be a good rule of thumb appears here in Psychology Today. It's plausible as far as it goes, though I don't know that it gets to the heart of the matter.

I wonder what Luke and McGee would make of one another.
caper_est: The grey wolf in the red gloaming. (golden kate)
Killer-Kate and Luke Lackland: No words, but the structure and sequence of the Assize and Battle of Carrowglaze - which take up this whole chapter between them - finally laid out properly. Now to walk around it until I see, feel, and smell everything I need for the next transitional scene, until I can take it to the beginning of the real action: Enter the Bad Baron.

It's going to be a long, hard, and eventful chapter, with a lot more than the originally-planned action pack going on in it. I'll be well satisfied if I can conclude it by the end of the month.

caper_est: caper_est, the billy goat (Default)
Only for 85 words this morning, but after weeks of "I got nothing!", that feels like a bigger deal than it sounds.

Been quietish as well as story-dry lately - partly through a sort of bloggetty exhaustion, partly due to RL stuff of the mostly-good kind. I may mention some of this biz at a later stage: can't just yet.

But I can hear the Muses singing...
caper_est: caper_est, the billy goat (Default)

The year really is turning fast now.  Today I saw the first rat of Spring.

It paused about its business as I passed it on the pavement, gave me the evil eye, and said, as nearly as I can translate it, "See this ineffable object I'm holding in my forepaws?  Well, you can't have it, so  bugger off!"

And I did so with a free good will.

I think the ineffable object might have been my wordcount for this weekend.  My house was beginning to look a bit ratty also, and I was obliged to do a thing or two about it, before collapsing into a book, specifically one written by somebody who is not me.

Every time I think of Kate's Speech, I feel an overpowering urge to dash off a multi-decker space opera instead.  Must be strong.  Must finish...

Censused!

Mar. 30th, 2011 10:26 am
caper_est: caper_est, the billy goat (Default)

So last night I took time off from being a free man, in order to become a number.  My number was not Number 6.  I consider this use of my time to be rather a pile of Number 2 - albeit in various happier worlds I would contribute the same information gratis and with a good will.  At least the UK Office of National Statistics is a pretty straight branch of government, as such things go.  Filling in the form gave me a couple of thoughtful moments.

Biggest surprise was on the 'national identity' question, where multiple identifications were very wisely allowed for.  I discovered that I do, in fact, positively identify both as English and as Welsh. 

I don't identify as British, at least not in the same way.  Britain-the-polity is my nation in the tepid sense that other nation-states are very much less so; English, with Welsh running a strong second place behind, are more like personal tribal affiliations (and map increasingly poorly either to race, or even to 'ethnicity' in its day-to-day use - another thing the ONS got right).   I have a separate and much stronger affection for Britain-the-place, which is my island home; and for my fellow-islanders, and our near neighbours, and the customs and institutions that have grown up among us; and also for that large and diffuse cultural community called by some the Anglosphere.   And I have other tribal and kinship affiliations which are not ethnic or national at all: some of these are at least as important to me as my pervading Welsh-rippled Englishness.  It's bogglingly complex when one draws back from it a moment, and sometimes it takes the inherent simplification of a poll or a census to remind me how much so.

And then there was the one voluntary question on the survey: religion.  My usual policy, when somebody compels me to do something for their convenience, is to provide them with as little of what they want as I can get away with.  But in this case, I decided there was a better case for volunteering my  census-simplification of the true answer, viz. "No religion".  Religion is the sort of energetic concentrated interest-group to which governments and other folk are often tempted to defer.  "No religion," though, is a category which says little about one's actual philosophy or even zeal, but provides a broad hint that one will be unsympathetic to future religiose nudgings from the asker. 

Since genuinely religious people will mostly put down their actual religion, and people who know or care very little for religion are notorious for just putting down whatever identity their parents professed, I think it's wiser for people who do care but don't have a conventional religious identity not to let themselves be under-counted.

It is also the fault of this bureaucratic oppression that I only managed 20 words of Killer-Kate and Luke Lackland yesterday, and this is the story to which I am sticking.  But at least, albeit in a small way, I learned about as much from last night's exercise as Mr Trwyn-Ym-Mhopeth did!

caper_est: caper_est, the billy goat (Default)

Yay!  I have my main computer back again!

When that I was and a little tiny boy, I was inspired by superhero comics and my dad's passion for electronics to build my own computer.  So I made me a diagram of circuit symbol salad, corrected it to allow for the rather limited number of components I actually possessed, and built it in a lunchbox.  My prototype boasted a big old screw-top 9V battery, a bunch of wires, and a large space in which to plug in processing unit upgrades.  One wrote out one's questions on scraps of paper, posted them through the lid, and they were answered with robotic and logical infallibility on the reverse side of the paper.

The output feed turned out not to work, so I was compelled to remove the scraps myself.  I then discovered a general output error, viz. the reverse sides were still blank.  So, until I had figured out the details of the improved processing mill beyond "I suppose the Mark II ought to actually have one!", my only way was to calculate what the computer would have written, and fill the answers in myself.  Applying these to reality, I found them to lack computerish infallibility despite the rigorous calculation and the battery, and abandoned the whole project of computer-building in disgust for the next decade.

Nonetheless, I still sometimes help computers to generate oracles for me.  So taking last night's titular message as a broad hint, the rest of the updates are:

Tired of poncing the help off other people at need, and yet still being unable to read Homer or Sappho in the original, a couple of weeks ago I finally began the study of ancient Greek.  It wants a bit of work.  Still, I progress, and already if I ever need unexpectedly to inform Socrates that the pirate is leading the hippopotamus away from the river, I shall be ready to roll.  Had my class been given material like this to work with at school, we'd have probably ended up speaking all the French and German anybody could ask for, not counting that special species of Parisian who could only ask for us not to.

Another hippopotamus in the room discovered for my Libertarian Challenge: OpenOffice added to my 'free stuff I ought to give something back for' list.  The solution to this is not like the others, and I shall post about it presently.

I am still working, or something, on Kate's great speech, because it is hard and my brain is soft.

I have very nearly refined the art of the meat pie to my personal satisfaction.  A dash of Worcester sauce in the mince-and-onion filling was what it wanted.  The pastry is nice enough, but wants some final tweaking.  Also, I want to find some Brussel tops, and see if they're as much better than regular greens as I remember.

Many travels to arrange over the next fortnight.

I need to research a Do The Housework cantrip.  There are clearly not enough hours in the day for other methods to keep up.

caper_est: caper_est, the billy goat (Default)
My desktop at home just died, and I can't bring it back again.  Many things will now be delayed until I've restored or replaced it. 

I am now extremely glad that I bought my external backup drive when I did.

Hog Wild

Mar. 22nd, 2011 08:01 am
caper_est: caper_est, the billy goat (Default)
Back on Sunday from a big family gathering in Gosport, for the seventieth birthday of my eldest aunt - a witty fellow-scribbler who shares something of my penchant for fantasy.  Hampshire is nearly on my doorstep, but it isn't a county I know at all well. What I've seen makes me wish to amend that in the near future... It was a merry meeting, as they say. My mother and I stayed with a cousin who lives on what used to be a small farm, and has made a very fine place of it by the woody banks of a swift shallow river. High-tech comfort within, amiable shaggy wildness without, and dogs of the biggest and friendliest. My cousin, an ebulliently energetic businesswoman of many enthusiasms and a great affection for beasts and trees, is talking about bringing in a couple of pigs in the near future. That would be Hantsome of her!

Continuing with what is going to be a bigly piggy theme, I don't think I've eaten or - especially - drunk so lavishly since the cast-iron digestion of my first youth gave out on me - or had such a liking to do it. It was that sort of gathering. Possibly just because it was that sort of beano, I appear to have escaped any consequences, even a significant hangover. I've noticed such effects before. The eupeptic effects of good company and jolly mood are nearly as underrated as the dyspeptic effects of the reverse are notorious. In the mood for a quiet week now, though.

In that quiet week, my next job is to finish my festively-delayed chapter, with Kate's rallying of the Blancmange Army against the Bad Baron.  Whose much-despised token is... the blue boar.  The next chapter's events will be remembered in many folksongs, of which I wrote one of the more locally popular - The Hunting of the Boar - late last week.

Finally, with the turning of the year, it's time to begin a personal challenge that I've been working up of late.  I have a political and social theory that liberty can only increase in communities whose members are increasingly practising bounty rather than hoggishness.  In accordance with my related theories that advocates of freedom have less right to preach what they don't practise than advocates of authority, and that libertarians who don't willingly take on more responsibility than statists for general goods are witnesses against their own cause, I've been looking afresh at my own contributions to the common weal - and I am not satisfied with the tale.  I shall be blogging about the nontrivial parts of my solution, and no doubt exhibiting various pratfalls in the process, over the coming months.  More anon!

Eyes Right

Mar. 11th, 2011 08:57 am
caper_est: caper_est, the billy goat (Default)

Follow-up eye examination yesterday, to January's laser surgery for an incipient retinal tear.  Discharged with verdict of complete success, and the strong hint that next time anything suspicious occurs with my eyes, I report straight to the Eye Hospital's casualty unit instead of futzing about through my GP.  Which is certainly not the sort of song UK health managers and their bosses are trying to put on for mood music!

There was a trainee opthalmologist sitting in on the session, and for whom I performed some minor guinea-piggery afterwards.  She was both polite and an obviously enthusiastic learner, so the experience was pleasant in particular, as well as being a very light price for getting ocular medicine immediately and in the next generation.  There was one thing she did not seem to have learned yet, and which I'd never even considered, until then given occasion to think it out on the way home...

Opthalmologists at work should probably array themselves blandly.  All the others I've met, have done so.  Being a negative, this is not something which I found especially remarkable at the time.  But when you're depending on your patient's ability to hold steady focus in arbitrary and often unnatural directions, swirls of colour and glints of silver and cleverly styled cascades of shining and shifting curls are not unmitigated assets.  This is actually worse as an attendant than as a principal actor: I think this is because Butterfly Person is then more often in peripheral vision, where reactions to movement and shiny are less likely to pass through consciousness first.

What I have seen eye doctors use to effect is a stud ear-ring as one convenient point of patient focus - "Look at my ear!" being almost a watchword with these folks under many circumstances.

So I learned a little bit yesterday, too.  And was a very great deal relieved, at the continuing lights of my world.

Writing?  Naw.

caper_est: caper_est, the billy goat (Default)

No words of making: no juice for them, last night or this morning.  Bad case of the Sisyphus about now, thought my brains, and felt my bones.  And lo, much self-pity cheered me on from the sidelines.

And then I had a vision of the old hellion at his long task - a simple one, that yet I'd never met before.  I'd be interested to hear reports of it from elsewhere.

The most obvious interpretation of a guy who must be constantly pushing a rock up to the top of a hill only for it to roll all the way down again is, of course, an image of the pain and futility of mortal life.  But who'd be a futilitarian?

Then there is Camus's notion of Sisyphus as absurdist hero: "The struggle itself... is enough to fill a man's heart.  One must imagine Sisyphus happy."  That is better - but I have no heart to be an absurdist, either.

What I saw: Sisyphus reaching the peak, leaping goat-like aboard the boulder, and madly dancing and whooping on top of it all down that murderous and exhiliarating descent - until it finally comes to rest, and there are only the lifeless dances of Hades until he gets the rock of the world up the mountain again.  So he does that just as soon as ever he can.  And one day his foot will slip, and then he will be nothing more than strawberry jam for Persephone's supper crumpets - but not this time!

The point of Sisyphean labours is neither nothing nor the labours alone.  It is to dance on top of the world, for all of the swift and giddy way down.

caper_est: caper_est, the billy goat (Default)
Killer-Kate and Luke Lackland: No words, but serious problem-solving.

Rethinking the end of this chapter, I've now had to face the fact that Bonecold Refugee simply doesn't fit into the Gloaming scene in the same way any more.  In my original vision, she was pretty much literally a lone voice among the crowd, who called out one very clever and cynically calculated thing at a critical moment.  That was her one direct contribution to the whole tale.  But now she's a crucial part of the game herself, and everybody knows it.  It won't work the same way.

So the pebble that starts the rockslide is now some random peasant-woman shouting out the same thing, either with the same motivation or more likely quite sincerely. 

Meanwhile, Bonecold Refugee's job is now to challenge Fiery Younger Sister - who is an awful, awful leader of people who aren't hardened fighters already - so that the row can provoke Kate's great speech itself.

The challenge makes far more sense here than it does in the council scene, where it was partly a character point and partly a dramatic one.  With that out of the way, I can change the emphasis of the council scene a lot - and strip it down to its functional bones, keeping the bulk of the wordcount and drama for the inherently dramatic climactic episode.

Here we go, here we go, here we go...

caper_est: caper_est, the billy goat (Default)
Killer-Kate and Luke Lackland: Luke came down this morning like a thunderbolt back into Langdale, in the 20 words I wrote of my new chapter.

Then on the train journey into work, I detected a stupidity and deleted 17 of them.

But that's nothing.  Last night's plot twist gave me a notion for how to get rid of another 5K or so of my least favourite words during the redraft.  Diplomacy is much more fun on the hoof!

Next job: fix his revised itinerary, and match up the times for the thing he, Kate, and Kate's son are all glimpsing from separate places.  I may have to commit quite a dance between viewpoints in this chapter: all those three, certainly, and probably Elegant Elder Sister, and maybe even Flashy Elder Brother too.

caper_est: caper_est, the billy goat (Default)

Killer-Kate and Luke Lackland: About another 500 words last night, and a field of strange parley.

No new words this morning, because I dreamed that I was stuck for several days at a godforsaken station a very long way from anywhere, even Rhyl, while the train company waited for the rails to dry out in the rain. I whiled away the time by writing a bestseller, which had already been published before the blooming train arrived. It was a pastiche Victorian melodrama with every cliché turned up to 11i, and it might moderately be described as kind of racy.  Amazingly, I remembered the principal plot when I woke up, and spent my breakfast-write scribbling it down before I forgot it.

In extreme nutshell: Villain twirls moustache, swindles hero out of his estates, gets his marriage to heroine annulled by a Wile E. Coyote trick, and constantly attempts to seduce said heroine.  Heroine follows hero into poverty and disgrace.  They rescue saintly matchgirl from certain starvation on streets, and share many hardships, since neither fisticuffs and speechifying (hero) nor weeping and swooning (heroine) prove very lucrative career skills.  Also hero Respects heroine, or something, too much to touch her following annulment.

Heroine ends up accepting villain's proposal, as she comes to appreciate that not only does he Truly Love her, but also that his kinks and hers are an irresistibly good fit.  Hero marries his secret soulmate the saintly matchgirl - who talks exclusively in Dickensian homilies and Sunday school platitudes just like his own - to full angelic choir.   The very-naughty-but-super-nice comic relief characters marry each other.  Heroine and villain live in happy and harmless wickedness ever after.  Hero and matchgirl, with generous funding from villain, sail ecstatically into the sunrise to find their true vocation as missionaries to the benighted heathen.

Everybody has a considerable deal of sex, by no means all of it missionary, but a discerning public buys the book anyway because it is all artistically integral to the plot, especially that scene in the back of the flower-shop from p.134 where the spine always cracks.

I would like to finish by reporting that I am rich and get to live it up also, but in fact by the end of the dream I am still on the train and waiting for my enormous advance, and wishing I was anywhere that was anywhere, even Rhyl.

Should I somehow ever end up writing this and garnering riches beyond the dreams of avarice, I will be indebted to Librivox, Jerome K Jerome's Stage Land, and the fact that I am finding it rather hard to drop off at present.

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