In Which There Are Two Dilemmas, A Tiger, and A Drive

24 May 2003

Outside, it is dripping. I can't say it's raining, because we're getting one to four drops on the awning in a given minute -- not rain. Just...drips. But it's been dripping since I woke up. The pavement and the tree are wet in splotches.

Silly California.

Yesterday I overestimated how warm 75 would feel again. I think a big part of that was that I was cleaning the apartment for the early part of the day, so that was plenty warm. Then we went and got dinner out (substitute lettuce wraps, wooo!), and it was not particularly warm. I've learned my lesson today, I suppose. That isn't the fault of California weather at all -- I do it every spring at home, too, only somewhat more stubbornly. (In college, I used to shiveringly insist that I was just fine when clearly I was wearing insufficient clothing. Because it was spring.)

This may be a family thing, though. A great-aunt had to call me back after a massive asthma attack yesterday. She rasped that she was doing "just fine" and "you are not to worry." Uh huh. People who are doing just fine usually cough so hard they drop the phone and can't call back for half an hour. Oh yeah. I'm totally unworried. This is the problem with family: they try to use the same lies you use yourself, and of course you recognize them. Or the whole situation in reverse, I suppose. (I don't have asthma, so don't draw that parallel too exactly. I just have the habit of insisting that I'm fine when I'm not. Or sometimes I get sneaky and tell people, "Oh, yeah, I'll be just fine," and don't specify when I'll be fine. Sadly, the people who most often ask me how I'm doing know this dodge by now.)

Mark's birthday is Tuesday. Mom and Dad paid extra for 2-3 day guaranteed delivery that was supposed to get his package here by Wednesday. Today is Saturday. The mail has not yet gone, so there is still hope. And there is hope that things I ordered will arrive today or Tuesday. Still, the USPS is not really inspiring great confidence in me at this point. Sigh.

Yesterday after I finished Dark Lord of Derkholm, I started reading Villy Sørensen's Tiger in the Kitchen, a collection of short stories by a Danish author from the 1950s. Part of my half-assed survey of Scando lit. It's pretty decent. I had a moment with the first story where I was worried that it was going to be all about what-is-reality/what-is-sanity, because two brothers had been summoned home with, "Return immediately, tiger in the kitchen." And then when they get there, their mother has locked the kitchen door, so that they and their father can't verify the tiger. At that point, I set the book down and squinted suspiciously at it. Were they going to hang around in the living room for the rest of the story, with Schrödinger's tiger in the kitchen? Were they going to ponder whether it was the story of one woman's madness or of a visionary who was not believed? Blah blah etc.? No. In short order, they opened the kitchen door and revealed the actual tiger. I breathed a sigh of relief; at that point, I didn't care what they did with the tiger. I just couldn't handle college dorm 3 a.m. "deep" metaphysics with a notional tiger, and I had zero confidence that it would get any deeper than that in this short story.

David asked if I was entirely opposed to notional tigers. Not entirely. Just notional tigers that accompany sophomoric blatherings about the nature of life, the universe -- yes, and everything, too, might as well. And aren't funny. I think if there's a purely notional tiger in a story, chances are good it should be funny.

Anyway, I'm going to finish the Sørensen stories today, I hope, and I'm not sure what else. We may go to a movie or a museum. I still haven't heard from Aunt Dor and Uncle Rudy and the godfathers, so I don't know what we're doing with them, or where, or when, if anything. Yesterday I worked on the Not The Moose and got through one of the harder bits. Also did some edits to Reprogramming and got my main characters more or less together for Karina's and my collab. Which is not going to grow into a novel, we really mean it. We have been taking steps as we go, keeping it corralled into something a bit more manageable and less daunting than that. And it had better listen.

I like my characters. They will be fun to play with. I'd like to go through and develop some secondary characters, too, but I'm going to e-mail Karina about my main people first.

I haven't gotten many rejections in the last week or two. Only the one acceptance, though, so it's not that. That would be a great reason not to get rejections, but "it wasn't likely, and we didn't expect it." Oh, and since I'm going to end up being gone for a significant chunk o' time, I have the writing-away dilemmas again. Many of you have listened to me pondering this before in other forms. Here they are:

Dilemma The First: Rejections. Mark will be here for most of the time I'm gone. So he can tell me when something has been rejected via normal mail. Do I want to try to do a list of which stories should go to which markets next and send them out from my various stops along the tour? Would it be better in some way to just let the rejections pile up until I get back and then send them all out in a flurry of paper and pixels? I'm not sure the work of compiling the what-next list and making sure I have all of my short stories accessible from e-mail is worth it. On the other hand, a dozen or more stories to send out when I get back would be a little daunting. More than a little daunting. At Christmas, this became a non-issue: I decided to wait until everything came back, because then I would supposedly have options and could send my favorite stories for each market that doesn't take multiple submissions, not just the next available stories. And then I only got five rejections over that time frame. I'm not counting on that this time, and I have to say, it wouldn't make me particularly thrilled.

Dilemma The Second: Revisions. This is actually not entirely related to leaving town, although part of it is. Here's the thing. I don't know whether I should edit the first bit of the Not The Moose before or after diving into the second bit. Do I take half a long book with me and edit it on the road? Or do I just keep drafting and edit when I get done with the whole shebang? Actually, I'm leaning towards the worst of both worlds: keeping on with the drafting and bringing a different, previous book to run through and start editing. But I can see advantages to editing the first bit (Parts 1 and 2, originally just Part 1) before moving on to the second bit (Parts 3 and 4 and maybe 5 -- I have to look at where the lines go, originally just Part 2). Then I'd have a firm base on which to build the rest of it. On the other hand, I'm still going to have to go back and edit the first bit when I'm done with the second bit, to make them go together just right and all that, and if I have something I need to have happening in the first bit, I can just put it on my retrofit notes page ("poison Robert") and move on. (Poison Robert? Where did that come from? Probably a bad idea, but...worth considering, at least. Hmm.)

Last time I went out of town, I just worked on a mostly-new book. I don't think that's the best idea this time, although it's always tempting. Well, I won't be hauling heavy sweaters and a parka this time, so that should leave more room in my suitcase for manuscripts if it has to...right?

I've been using two to-do lists lately -- one long-term and non-urgent projects, and the other with goals for the near-term. I've been putting the near-term stuff down for the current week and the next week, but now all of a sudden I find that I've got stuff planned for the next month, in week-long chunks. With a lot to do. I still think I can finish the first chunk of Not The Moose in that time, and do all of Mark's birthday and graduation stuff, and finish some edits on Reprogramming, and get ready to go home for a good long time, and finish a couple of short stories for anthos whose deadlines come while I'll be gone. And so on. The nice thing about having a schedule written out like this is that it tells me when I can't or shouldn't try to work ahead. I might as well not worry about the send-out list for when I'm gone, because it isn't going to make sense until closer-to. I can't bake a cake for Dad's birthday or it'll go stale. But I can look at it and think, ah, I'm going to need to be doing these five things that week, so maybe the week before is a good time to get this taken care of.

I feel a little kicked in the butt with this, awakened, scamper-y, but I can do it, and it'll make waiting on other things easier if I can stay busy.

I just got a call from Aunt Dor (originally typed, "I just got a car from Aunt Dor" -- she spoils me more than the average great-aunt, but not that much!), and we're heading up to my godfather Joe's in Napa to grill out tonight if it warms up. The newspaper claims it'll be 76 in Napa, but Aunt Dor says it's none too warm. It would have been nice if we could work things to meet in the middle when my godfather Dave's flight got into Oakland, but it all worked out too early for that, so up we go to Napa for supper.

So I guess I'd better get stuff done this morning, then.

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