In Which Work Is the Focus

5 March 2003

It's easier to be optimistic today. I don't know why. It got easier last night somehow. Maybe it was that the calzone dough came out better than it has before, a bit less dry and a lot less sticky-to-the-pan. Maybe it's that I have an appointment with Dr. Bill to make my back better this afternoon. Maybe...I don't know. It just is, for now, and I'm enjoying it while it lasts.

We have nowhere to go for Ash Wednesday where they wouldn't ash us, and for me, ashing seems like shouting piety on street-corners, which is not okay with me. And also, how do you handle the symbolic reminder of your human mortality later? Do you just wash it off? When? What's that symbolic of? Does it change the symbolism if you use soap? How about if you use a damp rag vs. paper towel vs. splashed water? And what if you're a very pale Norwegian girl and the ashes won't entirely go, so it looks like someone tried to erase your forehead, not quite successfully? What's that symbolize, the taint of death that can't quite be expunged?

I shouldn't be let near symbols, I don't think.

I finished writing Chapters 15 and 17 on Dwarf's Blood Mead yesterday, meaning that I only have parts of 16 and 18 yet to go. Rah. This thing is going to need much editing that I can only do in whole draft form, and I'm looking forward to it very much. I'm also, as I've said, looking forward to just having it drafted. That's always such a relief. Something clicks over, mentally, even if I know a lot of the work is still ahead.

I did not yet finish Patriots and Liberators (nor Time and the Gods, either, but I didn't go back to that yet yesterday). I'm a bit bemused: it's clear that other people have checked this book out, but evidently none of them got past page 400, because several of the pages still are joined at the corners, and I've had to rip the tiny piece of paper (narrower than my smallest fingernail) to read those. The thing is, I know this book would be better, more "enriching," if I was willing to read a bunch more similar stuff -- Napoleonic era stuff, earlier or later Dutch history, microhistories of things like peat or porcelain. And eventually I probably will, but right now I'm afraid I'm going to let it languish without more context while I move on to Lord Dunsany and famines and maybe a bit of twentieth century Japanese history. And more sagas, I think. And heaven only knows what else that I find at the library when I go. It's going into a larger pool of knowledge rather than a smaller, more focused one, I guess.

Sometime before we go, I would like to get pictures of the evaporating pools in the Bay (speaking of focused pools). But I'm not sure the effect would come out right unless I had done it from a plane. Hmm. There's something like what I mean at the top of this page. The terracotta area is actually water. It's pretty freaky the first time you see it.

I suppose it's not horribly professional to call up institutions and demand, "Give my husband the job already! You know you want to!" It's probably even worse to call them, "Are you giving him the job now? How about now? Now? Now? Now?" I am squashing these urges very, very thoroughly. But as we all know, I am a big PITA.

When I was little, my folks pronounced that acronym as if it was a piece of pockety bread, and they would refer to one of my aunts as "dear sweet old aunt PITA" or even "Auntie Pete." I thought it was some family nickname. I almost called her that once, casually. Oops. (Actually, I think I had more than one dear sweet old aunt PITA. Hmm.)

Yesterday I ended up withdrawing a story that had been out at Elysian Fiction for a year. The editor had answered my query letter back in November with a planned schedule, but it looks like something unpleasant happened to that schedule. I wish him well, but I can't really leave a story for longer than a year with no hint of when I might hear about it. I hate withdrawing stories, though. And I wish there was some clear-cut etiquette to when a withdrawal is appropriate. I have several stories on which I queried in early February and have not heard back. Don't want to leave the stories languishing if the markets are dead, but I also don't want to yank them prematurely if the editors have been having problems and are getting them fixed. It is to sigh, and so I shall: sigh. Also, I only have 41 short stories out right now. I should get used to that number going down -- it's supposed to go down, because people are supposed to buy my stories -- but for awhile it was only going up. And now between sales and YA stories for which I know no further markets, with the focus on novel work, it's creeping slowly down, and...well, it just seems odd, is what. My brain is shrieking, "More stories! More stories!" But not until after this draft of novel is done.

As Thomas and I have agreed, "write another novel" and "write another short story" are good solutions to many, many problems. Perhaps not all problems. But many.

So. On today's agenda: finishing Patriots and Liberators, finally. Getting my back fixed. Writing Chapter 16 if I can, Chapter 18 if I can't, both if I'm really, really neurotically ambitious (and want to undo all of Dr. Bill's hard work). In case we don't have enough leftovers, making risotto, maybe. Maybe I'll try to do a half-batch. Hmmm. Reading some more of Jenn's book.

It's a plan.

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