Schpring

Spring Break is here. The children are ecstatic, I don’t have to worry about getting them to school or extracurricular activities, and it’s a perfect time to catch up on that huge pile of work…

…oh, man, I knew there was a catch.

Friday morning was sad, because we had to take Frau L to the airport. Her group was off to spend a few days in San Francisco before flying back home to Germany. It really doesn’t feel like she was here for three weeks. We didn’t get to do half the stuff we wanted to, mostly because of the group activities–with a significant proportion of That One Damn American Teacher Being Consistently Late and Habitually Changing Venues So Everyone Else Has to Scramble. (Can you tell I was underimpressed?) ANYWAY.

We sent her off with snacks and a triple-weighed bag, plenty of pocket money, clean clothes…and yes, I teared up a bit to see her go. (I get attached, you know. And she’s such a sweet girl.) Her parents are anxious to have her home. I don’t blame them one bit, I’m going to be climbing the walls when the Princess goes overseas this summer.

The weekend was all cleaning and piano lessons and weeding, since the weather was nice. Today, as befits the first day of Spring Break, I’m off to a late start. I did put a chunk of candied ginger in my coffee, so there’s that little zing to help me get started. There’s a morning run to get in, another fifty pages of revisions, planning out the next few weeks’ worth of scheduled work, putting in some transcription time…

…crap. Can I just go back to bed? Please?

*staggers away, mumbling*

Inefficiency Bothers Me

sixstringsamuraiicon You don’t change the location of a potluck two hours before the damn thing starts, especially on a work day. Apparently, though, one of the American teachers involved in the exchange program thought that was an appropriate thing to do. This is the same teacher that’s consistently twenty minutes late to every event, and whose indifferent organizing meant that at least three times several of the students were unable to contact their host parents when pickup times changed. *eyeroll* The inefficiency bothers me.

As I’m sure you can tell.

Most of all, though, I’m embarrassed by her. We’re supposed to be putting our best foot forward for the exchange program.

ANYWAY. All of this meant that instead of being able to attend two events for two different sets of kids, I could attend neither because I was busy driving everyone to where they needed to be. In any case, it’s over now, and I am hoping I don’t ever have to deal with this particular teacher ever again.

Revisions on She Wolf and Cub proceed apace. I’m doing a pass for formatting and basic things, since all my italics seem to have been stripped out. (You know how much I love my italics.) When that’s done, I’ll make another pass for details. The setting is so very clear in my head, but that needs to hit the page as well. If there ever was a book where I need to luxuriate in the background, it’s this one. The stacks of towering stone, the endlessness of the sand, the silver and indigo of the dunes at night, they all need to be brought forward.

So that’s my day. After, of course, I get out the door for my long run to sweat out the irritation from yesterday. I can even taste it, thin metal at the very back of my tongue. I never thought, when I started running, that it would be a mood regulator. Just one more benefit, I suppose, along with tiring out Miss B and working plot tangles loose.

Over and out.

On Fallen, and Hedaira

fog lolly When I woke up this morning–sweating from bad dreams–it was clear, but the fog moved in soon after. Veils and bands of cloud drifting silently over pavement, fingering every surface before wrapping itself tight. It has since burned off, and the huge yellow eye in the sky is watching us with a great deal of benevolent non-interest. I have to get out for a run before every scrap of mist is gone, so this will be short.

Someone got here recently by searching for “A’tai, hetairae a’nankimel’iin. Diriin.” Which is, of course, the almost-prayer Japhrimel recites at several points in the Valentine series. He never quite tells Dante what it means, just like he never clues her in on some of the traditional prerogatives a hedaira could expect from her Fallen. In his mind, he has plenty of time to do that later, once she’s grown accustomed to trusting him.

Danny, of course, does not agree. In her mind, Japh should have laid everything out for her clearly from the start. Japh would argue that doing so would give her the means to hurt herself. For example, if she had known during the events in the series that a hedaira can ask what she will of her Fallen as a gift and the Fallen is bound to comply, things could have gone very differently indeed.

You can imagine the fireworks when Dante finally finds out. But that’s part of little Lia’s story, the Hell-on-Earth trilogy I don’t think I’ll ever have the chance to write. One gets a glimpse of it in Coming Home, in the Mammoth Book of Vampire Romance. Lia Spocarelli and Lucas Villalobos have a story all their own, and demons get involved like they always do around born Magi.

Poor Lucas. He never can catch a break.

Anyway, I did say what Japhrimel’s almost-prayer means once, but I should probably say it again. It translates out to something like: Here I stand, hedaira, your Fallen. It is done. The phrase is held to be what the first Fallen said to his hedaira at the very beginning, and was traditionally a promise that a demon had Fallen and would transform his leman as well as restated periodically when a Fallen performed some work, wonder, or act he perhaps did not wish to but knew would please his hedaira. Not only that, but each statement of it was a renewal of the promise, and reassured the hedaira that while a demon could be fickle, a Fallen was ever faithful–in his fashion, Cynara.

Such a reassurance may or may not have been comforting to the hedaira in question, but in any case, the process was irrevocable.

Transforming a hedaira was not, traditionally, done privately as Japhrimel did. Danny sees, in the White-Walled City, the chains used to hold demons during the act so they did not unwittingly injure their chosen one. Dante has no idea how dangerous the process was, and how…well, the best word I can think of is frightened Japh was, though Japh doesn’t really feel fear the way humans do. How much of a risk Japhrimel took in engaging in it alone. There was a very real chance of her being crushed or eviscerated during the process before she was part-demon enough to withstand such physical damage. It’s a mark of Japh’s control and absolute desperation, I suppose.

I often get fan emails asking about the finer points of the relationship between Fallen and hedaira, but I rarely answer them because it is complex. I didn’t get the chance to explain much in the books, mostly because they chose first-person and that POV has its own strictures. I knew exactly why Japh was behaving the way he was all the way through, but Dante didn’t, and the glimpses the reader can catch are all filtered through the lens of her perceptions. For better or worse, that’s the way the series wanted to be written, and I think it’s best. It is, after all, Dante’s story from first to last.

And yes, I know what happens to each group of characters after their series ends. Sometimes I halt a series or a book at a particular point, like the Society books, because in order to continue I’d have to watch a particular character die, and I don’t want to. Besides, some things in the worlds I create are private, and meant just for me. There are mysteries I won’t ever clear up, because the reader’s individual answer is the most important one–and because I reserve some bits of the magic I create for my own sole use and enjoyment.

Now you know a little bit more about Fallen and hedaira, and it’s time for me to head out to chase the last bits of fog.

Over and out.

Autopsy

"Mom, you are enjoying yourself a little too much."
“Mom, you are enjoying yourself a little too much.”

The rice cooker died after many years of solid steadfast service–regular readers will remember there were sparks, scorching, and flipping of circuit breakers–and, being ever curious about how the damn thing worked, I took it apart. (It was non-repairable. TRUST ME.)

Heating element, spring, molded plastic, metal–there was a lot to marvel at. What I liked looking at most was the circuit board. Such tiny things! Brightly colored! I could guess what most of it did, and had fun prying at things. The Little Prince wanted to wield a screwdriver and deconstruct it, and Frau L was fascinated by the circuit board too. The Princess’s favorite part was the spring and the heating element, such elegant solutions to the problem of knowing when rice is done.

Autopsy means “to see for oneself”, and I am fascinated by it in most forms. Gandalf held a great deal of disdain for those who broke a thing to see how it’s made, but he said nothing about sifting through the already broken. (The older I get, the more I think Gandalf was a bit of a cranky Luddite.) Anyway, the rice cooker was full of recyclable materials, and I’ve saved the people at the plant the trouble of breaking it apart to get at them.

There is so much wonder in the world. Even in the broken things.

Dead Steam Soldier

Last night was taco night. I sautéed the dry grains for Spanish rice, put them in the steamer with the diced tomatoes and chilis (and carrots, any tomato-based sauce is better for the addition of a few shreds of carrot) and plugged the damn thing in.

A terrific blue POP! and the fridge died.

It’s on the same breaker as the outlet for the toasters and the rice steamer. I unplugged everything and sighed. The Princess’s eyebrows went up.

Fortunately, a quick flip of the breaker fixed the outlets, but then I looked more closely at our faithful, steamy servant.

dead soldier

Copper wire heading into the steamer’s body, nice and exposed. A little soot and burnt plastic, too, just to make things fun. Fortunately, I could plop some enameled cast iron on the stove and cook the rice that way, but I have become spoiled and am having longing thoughts of slipping out today to fetch a lovely Zojirushi or something similar. For a bonus, I can take this dead soldier apart and see how he’s made. (Yes, yes, only one Frankensteamer joke per person, please.)

The Princess expected me to be more irritated, but I was just glad the whole wall of outlets hadn’t been fried. In the grand scheme of things, one dead rice cooker is only a minor annoyance. Now, if it would have caught on fire, like the sweet potato in the microwave–which the children are STILL teasing me about–that would be something.

I’m just happy the incident didn’t involve a squirrel.

Proprietary Imperative

victory The mason bees are back! I checked their little house recently and found a female busily filling one of the tubes with mud to seal up her freshly laid eggs. It feels like a small victory, even though I’ve been worried the little fellows won’t have enough to eat since it’s been so warm but the flowers aren’t really out yet. I hope they haven’t hatched too early.

They probably know what they’re doing, and all my worry is for naught. Still, I can’t help but feel proprietary.

Cormorant proceeds apace. Why is it that a book only heats up when I have fifty million other things going on? It’s like the Muse only wants to show up when she knows you only have a few minutes to steal, because time you’ve specifically set aside is so boring. Everyone has that time, but it’s the heart-in-mouth, slightly sweating, sneakthief moments she’s after. Maybe she’s only attracted by that heart-pounding sense of doing something forbidden.

She’s a bitch, but she manages to get the job done.

So we’re down to just the characters for the last half of Cormorant‘s third section, and as far as I can tell, the book is just about to heat up to the point where I can’t think of anything else, the point where I lunge for the end of the zero draft and pretty much everything that isn’t writing (or dealing with children’s critical needs) gets tossed out the window. This book would choose the week we have an exchange student and several events that require my complete (and maybe somewhat grudging) attention.

I keep telling myself I can just stick to the wordcount for each day and not go over, just get up and walk away when I’m finished with the day’s minimum quota, but that never happens in the last third of a book. The goddamn things worm inside my head and beat in time to my pulse, a swollen-sweet pain.

I wonder if that’s how the bees feel when it’s time to hatch. An imperative, so to speak. There comes a time when one has to struggle out of a mud-caked hole and fly, and when that time comes, nothing but testing your wings will do.

There’s no point in staying safe when there’s living–and writing–to be done.

Deep Desire

split infinitive Today, along with the laundry and prepping for our dinner (Frau L is going to show us a German method of making potato noodles and cabbage with bacon) I get to lunge through a bit more of Cormorant Run. I already have an editor asking, “Can we change the title?” and I have to say, “Not this one.” Some books can have their title changed–I’m thinking specifically of Valentine’s Fall here, which I wanted to use very badly for both Dead Man Rising and Saint City Sinners–but with others, the title is an integral part of what’s happening in the rest of the book.

Part of having a longstanding relationship with an editor is that you have to pick the hill you want to die on. I don’t set my heels very often, but when I do this particular editor knows better than to push me. I can be reasoned, and in some cases even bargained, with–but not always. On the other hand, I have to have the sense to know when my editor is right, and the sense to listen. It’s always a balance.

Anyway, today I begin to ratchet up the tension among the survivors in Cormorant. They’re in the Alley now, and that’s a very dangerous place. The sad thing is, no matter how hazardous one’s environment, it’s always other people who represent the greater threat. I learned this early and well, and it permeates much of my work.

There’s also, in this book, the idea that people will fool themselves much more easily and easily than any con artist could hope to. Everyone is in search of their deepest desire, and that desire is rarely ever conscious. Digging down layer by layer to know yourself–and to know that deep, deep wish–is strange, difficult work. Sometimes I think it’s what writing, on its most basic level, is. Each book is a processing of something, even the fun ones. Climb the mountain just a little, to prove that it’s a mountain[1].

Of course, writing is such a multifaceted thing, any time I start thinking “oh, it’s this and only this” I get rudely disabused of the notion. Never get too comfortable, or the Muse will pull out some pins to stick in your behind.

Over and out.

[1] And that’s all the Bene Gesserit I’m going to quote for the day.