Wednesday, September 11, 2013

the octave of the 3-Day contest

A week later and I am mostly recovered. As you may have noticed, dear reader, I was not able to post updates during the 3-Day Novel contest. That was in part because on Saturday and Sunday, my eyes were closing and my head was tipping forward by 8:30 pm, though I managed to struggle on past 9 pm.
Ah well, I told myself. I'll get an early night and start off all chipper by 5 am (my usual time of getting up). Did I? Nope, I lay slugabed until 6:30 am.
On the Monday night, when I had to chuck it in at midnight no matter what, the story (finally!) came together, I was full of caffeinated energy and could have kept going until 2 am. Instead, I forced myself to let it go at 11:30 pm, with a brief read-through.

Tuesday morning I compiled from Scrivener, emailed it to myself, and spent part of my lunch-hour trying to submit it through the Geist website. This worked better once I realised that the submission page only accepted pdf, doc, docx and odt, and re-saved the file as .doc.
Excuse me while I express astonishment that .rtf is not one of the accepted formats. What the hell?

Then there was more muddling about because I also needed to submit a signed statement from someone that I wrote the whole thing during the allotted time. Or rather, a scan of said statement, saved in one of the admissable formats, which do not include jpg.
The submission directions, by the way, were barely adapted from the hard-copy snail-mail directions, and included an admonition to not send in your only copy of your ms. because it would not be returned. It's been so long since I've seen that note; I don't think I've subbed hard-copy for  two or three years.

So. Anyways. Story.
Wordcount came out short of 15k, which is the lowest I've had, though I've never got much above 18k. Even with the old trick of expandable middle, some scenes are seriously skimped.
Saturday I started out with an exploration, discovering the setting for myself as much as for the hypothetical reader. Little Cressida wanders through the huge, ever-changing house that she has lived in for as long as she remembers. She needs to find someone who will listen to her news:  that she has seen a stranger--a young boy--in the untended gardens. The others who are usually present in the house are the cook, Betta, and the librarian (never named). The other she doesn't know about is Granda, the old woman spinning in the topmost tower. Granda dreams of a dance on the eve of war, and waking sees the smoke of battle and destruction from her high window.
Sunday I picked up the boy's storyline, making him a refugee from an internment camp with traumatic memories of escape. I also inserted segments of two undergrad girls discussing the Heroine's Journey and its application to fiction. I'd meant to have them discussing what was happening in the story, but somehow the talk wouldn't go that way--it felt too blatant, so I went for echoes instead, discussing the books that inspired aspects of the storyline, like The Secret Garden, The Princess and the Goblins, and Gormenghast.
This is where the absence of an outline really hit me. I knew in a vague way that Cressida needed to go through the house, with different rooms providing experiences--a choice of fates or paths--that would take her through the heroine's journey, and that the boy would take different roles in each of them, such as brother, consort, opponent, child. But I couldn't get them started. I set up the scenes in Scrivener, but other than a confrontation with the Sphinx and a ballroom scene, they were barely sketched, and I couldn't get enough of a picture in my head to do the in-media-res opening that I usually do when I don't know what's going to happen (it saves me the work of figuring out how they got there in the first place, which in this case would be by opening a door).
Monday I could see the ending. Cressida, charged with closing off the paths/doors that connected the house with the world, so that it would be protected from the war that was engulfing said world, decides that she won't close off the last one, which is where the boy Alph had come through, because if the house didn't provide a refuge, at whatever risk, it would wither. But how to get there?
Mark, when I went downstairs to whinge, pointed out that I usually wrote the ending Monday afternoon, and why didn't I do that now and see if the middle came in after that. So I did--and the ending expanded, because once Cressida (now about 20 yrs old, as both children grew up in the course of the journey, time being flexible in the house) understood what Alph had come from, she couldn't just let it go. So there was a rescue and escape of those in the internment camp, which I tried to play low-key so that the kinda-magic-realism story wasn't overtaken by an action movie.
Then I whipped back and started filling in the interior journey, full of caffeinated energy (non-decaf coffee supplied by supportive husband, thank you) but time was ticking on, and at 11:30 I had to accept that I wasn't going to finish the fill-in to my satisfaction.

What with low wordcount and skimpy middle, I doubt this one will hit the shortlist. I might take the concept and mess around with it some more, maybe for Nanowrimo. But I can't do Nanowrimo until the Cost of Silver revision is done.
So, back to the salt mines of revision I go.

Friday, August 30, 2013

ideas in the blender

The 3-Day Novel Contest looms above me, scarcely an hour away. In other time zones, 3-Dayers are scribbling happily away, having started as the stroke of midnight wavered away to echoes. But I'm going to go to bed right after this blogpost, and start fresh in the morning. I'm too old for those all-nighters.

What with one thing and another, I haven't done any outlining, research, character creation or, well, anything. The most I can say is that the house is well stocked with Healthy Snacks, veggies to take for lunches, oatcakes and scones and such. And tea. There's lots of tea.
In desperation, I'm pulling out a number of half-formed ideas, themes, tropes, characters, situations and images that I've meant to do something with at various times, but which never gelled.

-The decaying Gothic (or carpenter Gothic) mansion or castle, with unnumbered rooms
-An old woman with memories unstuck in time
-A neglected young girl in an empty house
-The heroine's journey, encountering avatars of the masculine (I've joked about this before - the Mary Sue's Journey).

So I'll see if something comes together from this. It's likely to be a Big Bag of Tropes, so I may throw in interludes with undergrad students discussing symbolism and motifs if I can remember enough of the jargon from my two years of English lit.
Now I'll go to be and hope that I dream a good opening scene. If I can work the Lovecraftian archaeology dream into this, I will.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Cyclopean dreams

Warning! The following blog post contains references to a dream that I had, though I attempt to avoid a full narration of it, because other people's dreams are boring.

I can tell that I've been away from steady writing for over a week, because my dreams are getting more complex and plotty and the sets are more elaborate. When I'm writing every day (as I should) my dreams are more fragmentary and disconnected. Or at least I remember them that way. The other night my dream segued from a jumble of recent events into something fairly plotty, with impressive matte-painting sets.
The setting was an archaeological dig along the ridges of sharp mountains, with dozens of small teams excavating particular areas. I was part of a three-person team, two dark and dour scholars (male and female) and one fair and lively one (female). All three were in their twenties and had been involved with each other in ways that caused underlying tension during the dig. They worked in a hollow of crumbling earth (presumably once fertile but now barren) set amidst sharp rocks that rose up like a spiked crown around them. They must have been close to the top of the ridge, because they could look across and down at the other teams scraping away.
The excavation was of a long-gone city, and it was becoming clear that the builders had not been human (size and shape of doorways, etc.). The life of the city had abruptly stopped; there was no evidence that the builders had migrated or resettled, and it was unclear what had caused the change.
Our team had unearthed a cache of small oval objects, about the size to fit in your hand, and had laid them on a tarp below their site. My dream-character then had her own dream, in which she understood that these objects were eyes, open eyes lying there helplessly, and it would be a terrible thing if dirt fell into them. She got up and moved the tarp to a safer place, and began cleaning the objects. This activated one to display a stored memory--like a film, but surrounding the viewer rather than in two dimensions.
The memory was of several non-human, vaguely octopodish creatures playing a game that was oddly similar in look to Oranges and Lemons. The two tallest picked up the smallest (which my character understood to be the youngest, although it looked much more like a fat starfish than an octopod) and held it up between them while the middle-sized ones processed under it, singing.
It all seemed very happy and homey, until they paused and 'looked' up. The song changed and was understandable as 'He is coming'. The octopod-people rolled up and shrank into the eye-objects, and my character understood that they stopped themselves to freeze the moment so that He never arrived.
Looking down across the excavation site, she realised that all the teams had stopped what they were doing, and were looking up as the octopod-people had. At her feet, the eyes were extruding little feelers from one end, like sea-anenomes tentatively opening, and 'He is coming' was singing across the mountains.

I woke up then, thinking how Lovecraftian that was, then fell asleep again and dreamed of a zombie outbreak at an airport.
Maybe my subconscious is reminding me that the 3-Day Novel Contest is almost here and I don't have a plot, characters, or opening scene yet?

Sunday, June 16, 2013

thinking about other stories

I've been trying to figure out whether the lure of other stories (ie. stories by me that aren't Cost of Silver) is a distraction or a relief. I used to work on two or three stories at a time, working on one file until I ran dry or wrote myself into a corner, then saving it and pulling out another. This year it's been pretty much working on Cost of Silver, then mucking about uselessly on the internet, too tired to produce anything useful like a blog post or another story.
I wonder sometimes whether I'd have more energy for writing if I wrote other things, or whether I'd just be wasting the energy that I do have. Theoretically, if I needed a break / change, I could just work on another scene or the other storyline of CoS, which is what Scrivener allows me to do easily. So why is it so hard to buckle down and do that?

Oh, those other stories. So enticing in their open-endedness, their possibilities of plot and plot twists. Those characters I don't know yet, who might do anything. Those settings I would need to research, and research a little more. Mmmm.

Then there's my stack of unread books by other people. But let's not talk about that. I have to go and write some more now.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

welcome to June!

And associated panic as I try to fill gaps and mend inconsistencies in this draft of Cost of Silver before the end of the month when Self-Imposed Deadline looms.
I'm having the usual issue that what I'm writing now feels so much flatter and duller than what I wrote previously. It's some help to know that this always happens and that I haven't actually forgotten how to write evocative prose in the last month or so. Some help, but not a remedy.

And yes, still wrestling with (though it feels more like being pushed around by) body-image issues. A positive change though as I found a pair of trousers I'd put aside to the rag-bag several years ago (because they'd worn thin on the inner thigh where the bike seat rubs) and they fit perfectly, which they wouldn't have, say, two years back.
It suggested that this body isn't a shape-shifting alien or some kind of reverse-possession, but a body similar to one I had before and had forgotten about. An old friend who's been away that I can get re-acquainted with, rather than a potentially threatening stranger who needs to be propitiated with gifts of clothing and protein bars.

Odd to think that at this time last year I was stuck in an immobilizer and posting pics of my x-rays. I have full extension back, but not full compression in the right leg. I can't sit back on my heels or fully kneel, and very occasionally I get a sort of wobble to the right as if the knee wants to bend sideways. But thanks to my keeping up the calf raises and squats, my legs are otherwise much stronger than before my fall.

May was a busy month, including a trip out to Sidney Island to help build a permanent, non-portable cob oven. I'll try to do a post with pictures to liven things up a bit. The garden is threatening Nature's goddamn bounty to come, with rhubarb flourishing, raspberry canes shooting up and the apple trees getting through caterpillar season relatively unscathed. Despite our three little cherry trees, I'll be pleasantly surprised if we get any cherries this year, but I have some hope for plums and pears. In this lull before fruit starts to fall on me, I'm trying to make the most of time for writing. Wish me luck.

May was also a month of being tired and sleepy. Exercise and weight loss continue to not live up to the promises made about them, as I conked out by 9pm, slept fairly well and could barely drag myself out at 5:30 am, not to mention nodding off at 2pm for that impressive face-on-keyboard moment.
The remedy is allegedly to eat more (wait, what?) protein, like peanut butter and cheese, and to eat several small meals through the day, rather than 3 regular meals.
It seems to be working, but I don't think I'll ever accept how effing contradictory this healthy-diet business is. Eat less fat--eat more protein (but they're the same foods!). Don't snack--eat several times during the day (how is that not snacking?). It's like a series of koans you have to act out, but with no promise of enlightenment at the end.
The fatigue is my excuse for not posting. My mornings went to struggling with revision, and when I sat down at the computer in the evenings I most often found myself typing with one eye closing. This I took as a sign that I needed to go to bed. But, knock on wood, I seem to have a little more energy this week, so you may see more of me.
And how are all of you?

Monday, April 22, 2013

still working on that

Packed up some more too-large clothes for the charity box, and again failed to rejoice at it. Several items I had bought new--not going to do that again.
Contrary to my previous habit, I've been turning on the light and looking at myself in the full-length mirror every morning, trying to pin that image down as the actual me, and not a stranger or alien shape-shifter.
It occurred to me that getting some clothes that fit might reconcile me, so I spent a couple of weekends hitting the thriftshops, especially Community Thrift, which has terrific $1 racks plus random sales (once, everything green in the store was half-price--not green tags, anything coloured green). That was fun. I bought myself a few books as well as skinny tops and hoodies that weren't my usual style. Because if a shirt is only a dollar, why not try out a different look? I particularly liked the black hoodie with a heart composed of tiny laughing skulls. Maybe I should have picked up the pink-and-white skull-pattern pyjamas too, but I prefer nightshirts to pyjamas.
One trip netted me a dozen items for $21, another one was eight tops and two pairs of trousers for $30. I was fairly satisfied until I realised that I was engaging in Retail Therapy and buying into the whole consumption will make you happy thing. Okay, it's pretty low-end consumption, and I could make a case for it being environmentally innocuous consumption, but still. Retail therapy is avoidance of addressing the real issues. Or of figuring out what the real issues are.
a) That I'm still struggling with revisions of Cost of Silver
b) That I'm doing fitness/weightloss wrong or I would be happy
c) That I'm having vitamin/iron-related depression again
d) All of the above
e) That our culture is so weird about women's bodies that there is no way to win.

On the positive side, I should note that I do enjoy working out with weights. It's not a team sport, so there's nobody to hate me for letting the team down. It's just me and the machines or the free weights, and I can set my own pace and schedule. I like having stronger arms and core muscles, and I'm getting used to those non-fatted calves.
I don't even mind the shower room, where lean and smooth-skinned young women rush through on their way to or from the pool. I figure I serve a useful purpose as a sort of Memento Mori to them, a reminder that work out and wax as you will, to this favour will you come.
It goes with the skull hoodie, I figure.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

too damn picky I guess

I was reading a back issue of Fantasy & Science Fiction recently, and thinking once again that it had an old-fashioned feel to it. Retro, maybe. One story I enjoyed for the most part, because it had a very Edward Pangborn vibe:  enigmatic old man with Biblical name arrives at early-settler-type village, befriends adolescent narrator, reveals knowledge of advanced tech and lost history of colonisers of alien planet, is feared and accused of witchcraft by less-enlightened, lights out for territories with adolescent narrator. You see what I mean.
The Pangborn echoes kept me reading on, though after a while I started to wonder why far-future colonists would revert to a 1600s American Colonial sort of social structure, and why they would fear witchcraft (why would they know about witchcraft?) without the sort of pressures and fears that were present in the 1600s? Since there was a hint that the colonists were multicultural, why not revert to clans or tribes or monasteries? But yeah, okay, pick one, and the author did pick one.
And when the village crops depend largely on a steam-powered tractor that's a piece of ancient tech, why is knowledge of ancient tech suspicious? I get that fear-of-tech is a common trope in post-catastrophe stories, but they didn't fear tech, they'd just forgotten how to maintain it.

Near the end of the story, a sentence just jumped out at me. A sympathetic character says that our adolescent narrator will reach adult status and "choose a bride".
Wait, what? Choose from where? Because other than the narrator's dead mother, there were no women in this village. The speaking characters were all male, the named secondary characters were all male, the un-named tertiary characters were male. (Come to that, the only non-adult character was the narrator.) The enigmatic old man scores points by teaching the locals how to make devilled eggs and to add "aromatic herbs" to the stewpot (yeah, might want to be a bit more specific about which ones, this being an alien planet and all). He tells this to the men because there are no women present in the narrative. I skimmed quickly back through the story, and didn't spot any women.
I think I figured out why your colony isn't doing too well, fellows. And it's not just because you forgot how to fix machinery and make devilled eggs. (Speaking of which, where did they get the pepper?)

The more I thought about this story, the more worldbuilding problems I began to see. The villagers live apparently at the brink of starvation, one bad harvest and they have to start eating each other. Again, I don't think devilled eggs are going to solve that problem, and if hunger means you routinely pop wrongdoers into the stewpot, making stewmeat tastier is not the big issue. They have 'bottles' in which they could preserve food (hey, where did they get bottles? who made them? Is there a glass foundry somewhere nearby?) but don't bother to do so until the enigmatic old man suggests it.
Okay, maybe the lack of nutrients in the native plants or starvation because of climate change is making everyone stupid, as in some theories about what happened to the medieval Greenland colony
By the time I reached the end of the story, I was so distracted by background questions I had to re-read the last paragraphs a couple of times, which only made the problem worse.

It wasn't badly written. And I was prepped to enjoy a Pangborn-style story. But there were so many loose threads that I couldn't resist pulling on one, then on another, until it all came apart. I don't know if there's a moral here, unless it's Don't have picky readers.

Monday, April 8, 2013

pruning again

The pear tree is in blossom outside my window. The blossoms come before the leaves. Last weekend I was two steps up on the small stepladder, trying to clip the watershoots on the Transparent tree before they bloomed. I put some of the clippings in vases (well, in pitchers, we have no vases) for the contrast between the smooth cupped petals and the rough twisted twigs. Finally hacked back the lilac beside the house, and took some cuttings to watch the tight green leaves open on narrow elegant stems.
If only revising were as clean to do. I trim out characters and scenes in the modern-day storyline, with a vague hope that I may use them elsewhere--drop them into other storylines and see them open up--but then must continue through that scene and the next, making sure no trace remains to jar the reader. More like uprooting blackberries or holly, that send shoots underground to pop up annoyingly in a space you thought was clear. Or, I suppose, more like weeding than pruning, done on your knees, laboriously with eyes to the ground.
What I need to learn is how to keep background characters in the background. I want more than the principal characters to be visible, because I dislike stories where no one seems to be in the room or the building than the two main characters (I keep wondering what passersby or the cleaners or the busboy think of their conversation or their goings-on.) I want passersby or cleaners or busboys, or the guy in the next cubicle, so the story feels more real, or more thoroughly imagined.
But when I write background characters, they move into the middle ground, where they draw too much attention. I don't know whether it's the dread 'hey, I'd rather read about this guy than your boring protagonist', but it's something I need to work on, as I engage in the selective erasing of characters.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Body image and me

I've been circling this post topic for a while, poking at it with a stick and nudging it, but not getting anywhere, and unable to put together anything else thoughtful, because this one was in the way.
So let's give it a shot to get it out of the way, if not gracefully or cogently.

On the whole, I've been pretty lucky with body image issues. Of course I have some--I'm a woman in North America--but being in the laid-back NWest Coast and being too lazy to commit to the whole beauty/diet/pursuit of perfection thing, I've mostly accepted the body and face that I've got.

During puberty I was not happy. Menarche meant lying on the bathroom floor doubled up with cramps and puking, and the awkward messiness of pads. My body went from the comfortably thin and sexless child's body, good for swimming, tree-climbing, biking, horseback riding, to one lumpy with breasts and buttocks (and not even the right kind of breasts etc., but some inferior brand).
The worst part of the body change was thighs. I was used to legs that weren't much thicker than my arms, so to sit down and see my thighs flatten out on the chair seat into these flabby sausage-things was creepy and alarming.
I've mentioned before that body-mod, especially non-con body-mod, is a major squick for me. It's probably because of my pubertal thigh trauma.

Eventually I was reconciled to the newer format, a body that wasn't athletic or beautiful, but that did what I needed it to do and didn't give me many problems.
Pregnancy, which might have been expected to freak me out even more than the thigh-thing, was actually pretty damn cool. Because of walking, martial arts and a pregnancy-fitness class, I was in good shape, and my body was, again, doing what I needed it to do. There's also a certain fascination to growing another human being in an interior lab, I gotta say. Particularly in late pregnancy, when you could actually see the bony little knees and elbows track across the front of my t-shirt.

Zooming to the present and my actual point. About a year ago I started working with weights, aiming to improve my upper body strength, which in my toddler-toting, martial-arts days wasn't bad, but had much diminished. Legs were okay because of bicycling.
Then I cracked my tibial plateau and was on crutches for a couple of months. This was good for my triceps, but left my legs all flabby and wobbly. So, physiotherapy, add leg exercises. I'd lost weight--I couldn't carry anything on crutches, and sitting in a chair was tiring--and I thought I'd try keeping on with the smaller meals and see how that went.

I managed not to be squicked about the flabby pallid calf revealed when the immobilizer came off, and the bruises were actually kind of cool (is my inner child a 9 yr old boy? maybe). But my new model thinner-and-stronger legs, those make me uneasy. I look down and they don't look like my legs. Like the old woman in the song, whose long skirts are cut off by thieves, I look down and think 'Lawks-a-mercy, this is none of I!'
My clothes don't fit. I can shimmy my trousers off without unzipping them, even trousers I really like and was comfortable with. I knew for a brief happy while what size I should buy (since the sizing of women's clothing seems to be entirely random) but not any more.
I went for decades not knowing my weight. Now I weigh myself every damn time I go into the gym. Apparently I can have self-control around food, but not around weighing myself.
I know I should feel better, more attuned to my body. Instead I feel diminished.
All of this bothers me, but has been really difficult to write about because N American culture is so weird about weight and body image that having any negative emotions around weight loss is suspect. I mean, people undergoing cancer treatment have been told that they look great because they've lost weight.
(Side-note: My mother died of cancer when I was in my teens. Yes, that probably influenced my attitudes around weight-loss and health.)

I wondered how to write about this without coming off as humble-bragging: oh look, I'm thinner but I'm all modest about it. And no, it's not entirely negative, and I don't want to go back to slow-and-steady weight gain. Eventually I guess I'll be reconciled, the same as I eventually accepted my post-pubertal thighs (which I still have. Yeah.).
But some childish part of me feels cheated by the grand promises that our culture makes about weight loss, that if only you burn enough of your body on the altar, your life will be perfect. So far my pony has not arrived.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

I win at shortlist

The results are in for the  3-Day Novel Contest, everybody!


THORAZINE BEACH by Bradley Harris of Memphis, Tennessee
Bradley Harris

* * *
Winning $500
Embodying Geography by Manpreet Dhaliwal of Surrey, B.C.
* * *
Winning $100
Drift, Disappear by Mallory McMahon of Brooklyn, New York
* * *
Our Top 12 Runners-Up
  • Suicide Season by Jay Bethke of Sioux Falls, South Dakota
  • Fauvel by Kayt Burgess of Aurora, Ontario
  • Recycled Virgins by Dorothyanne Brown of Dartmouth, Nova Scotia
  • Fall of Breath by Anne DeGrace of South Slocan, B.C.
  • The Clothes We Wear by Vanessa Fernando of Montreal, Quebec
  • Doorways by Barbara Gordon of Victoria, B.C.
  • The Pledge by Annie Mahoney of Toronto, Ontario
  • The Jewish Joke Factory by Kelsey Osgood of Brooklyn, New York
  • Werewolves of Vegas by Teresa Perrin of Albuquerque, New Mexico
  • Baselines by Anna Stewart of Bakersfield, California
  • Go Bullet by Rudy Thauberger of Vancouver, B.C.
  • Giant by Ben R. Williams of Basset, Virginia

And look, there I am, in alphabetical order.

Monday, February 11, 2013

putting things away on shelves

New stuff!
For Christmas I got a hand-me-down Mac Mini and keyboard, and a monitor twice the width of my previous one. Through the successive efforts of my son, my husband, and even me, I have Snow Leopard loaded and have downloaded some necessary applications (Scrivener, Bean, Dropbox). This all took a while, because I'm dilatory and disorganised. But here I am now, posting from the new machine.

On the less technologically advanced side... As I bicycled to work one dim grey morning, I was distracted by a looming darkness on the sidewalk. Because I'm a natural scavenger, even of looming darkness, I stopped, and discovered it to be two wooden bookcases (about 7' tall and almost 4' wide, maybe 8" deep) leaning against a power pole. That is tall, actual wood not particle board, shallow bookcases meant to contain books rather than sculptures and curios. Exactly what I need to get the stacked books and papers off the floor of my study.
You'll have noticed that bookcases of that size and presumed weight are going to be awkward loads. I was on a bike. So bungy-cording them, even one at a time, onto my bike-basket was not going to be an option. I stood pensively for a bit, thinking of my sleeping husband, and whether I should bike to work and phone him to bring the van and fetch them, or go home and wake him up to help me fetch them home. And what if someone else came along in the interim? If I'd had a cell phone, I might have called right then, but... Or was I overestimating the eagerness of the visible traffic - people heading in to work in compact cars - to load themselves up with two large bookcases?
Since I'd been on my way to a morning weights session, it was still pretty early. Soon traffic would pick up. Seize the day, I thought, and turned around. I bicycled quickly home, got the van and drove back. The bookcases were still there, hurrah!
Unfortunately, I could only park about 4 car lengths away (see: early morning, people not left for work yet). A challenge. Next question being whether I had overestimated my personal carrying capacity? I tipped the first bookcase and walked it down to horizontal on its side.  Oh good! It wasn't taller than me or my shoulder-height, sideways. I put myself midways of its length, tucked my shoulder under the uppermost side, and lifted.
Good thing I've been working out with weights.
If you find yourself doing this, gentle reader, be cleverer than me and fold something up to protect the bony point of your shoulder. I collected a nice dark bruise to mark the spot. The other bruise I acquired was at the upper curve of my calf, where the lower side of the bookcases bumped with each step. I proceeded to the van with a sort of chicken-hop, unable to take long steps because my knee would bump the shelf (this was on my left, because that's the good knee and I was reasonably sure it wouldn't buckle unexpectedly). Anyway, I understand why chickens don't routinely carry awkward loads on their nonexistent shoulders.
I couldn't set the case down, for fear I couldn't hoist it back up again, so finally reaching the back of the van, where I could prop one end up, was much relief. Pushing it into the van was dead easy. Pant, pant.   Then trotting around to the side door to move Mark's swords & stuff over so they wouldn't be trapped, then climbing into the van to push and pull the bookcase over to where I could slide the next one in beside it. Minor adjustments.
Back out for case number two. With really no excuse now for not having something over my shoulder to cushion, except that I didn't think of it until I found the bruise the next day. Case number two was heavier, subjectively, and I was slowing down. But! I reached the van, rested the top of the case and slid it in horizontally to lean against its twin. Hurrah!
Except that due to the width of the cases, and the aerodynamic slope of the van's back door, I wasn't going to be able to close the door. Not so hurrah.
Okay, we can deal with this. So I climbed into the van, moved the bag of swords again, and started wrestling with the bookcases, trying to lean them over enough that the upper back corner (of their current alignment, not their functional, upright alignment) would be low enough to clear the doorway. If you've ever, in a confined space, tried to manoeuvre two objects larger than yourself, one of which is leaning on the other, you may guess my degree of success. Fortunately, partway into this, I realised that they were both pressed against the back of the passenger seat--which can be moved forward. Hurrah!
So, I drove home, parked the van, and grabbed my bike. It says something about the subjective nature of time that I was still able to fit in a slightly abbreviated workout.
I left both cases in the van, so that Mark and I could share the fun of getting them up the twisty stairs. This involves a sort of slow-motion bootlegger's turn on the landing, with one person backing into the bedroom, then the other towards the bathroom, so that the long object can be aimed towards the study. In, and stood against the wall, repeat with next object.

All that though was nowt, nowt, to the fun of the next bookcase, oak veneer (if anything is heavier than oak, oak veneer would be it) and more like 5' wide, bought on usedvictoria. Mark and I together could barely get it into the van, and the counsel of wisdom would probably have been to say 'Um, no, this isn't going to work for us, sorry'. But I am not wise and dammit I am going to have bookshelves.
This case was too wide to lie flat in the back of the van, and lay a few inches above the floor, propped by the wheel-wells and creaking gently with the motion of the vehicle. Where it could not stay, for the van was needed immediately for loading other things. We got it haltingly out of the van, along the walk, and up the porch steps, where it stood oakenly.
Fortunately the next night people were over for dinner, and there was enough enthusiasm and muscles to get the behemoth bookcase up the stairs and into my study. Where it effectively blocked access to my desk for another week. But now it is upright, and braced against the wall (all credit to Mark the Wonder Husband), and books are moving into it.

I've thus been able to clear away the boxes of books and papers that were waiting for shelves, and reveal more floorspace. I brought out the blue-and-white oval rug and put it under the blue chair to mark out the reading space as distinct from the writing space, and I can pin up the maps and posters that were waiting for confirmed wall space.

Pics to come.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Can I post photos, though?

This is a test post, my dears. I have this iPad, you see, and it has ever so many photos on it, but so far it hasn't let me actually post them to my blogspot. This app promises it will help. So, with luck, I will be able to post a few photos of, oh, how about Christmas baking?

Or the bird that crashed into our window?

Okay, allegedly I have two photos, which are sitting at the bottom of the screen. How do I get them into the actual blog? I may have to hit Publish and see what happens.

ETA: On another computer, and not using the blogger app, I have moved the pics from the bottom of the post to the correct places within the text.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

This is why I don't read litfic.

Every clause of this blurb further confirmed this as a book I would never, ever read:

Mothers and daughters ride the familial tide of joy, regret, loathing, and love in these stories of resilient and flawed women. In a battle between a teenage daughter and her mother, wheat bread and plain yogurt become weapons. An aimless college student, married to her much older professor, sneaks cigarettes while caring for their newborn son. On the eve of her husbands fiftieth birthday, a pilfered fifth of rum, an unexpected tattoo, and rogue teenagers leave a woman questioning her place.

That last sentence in particular sets up so much... and delivers a crashing anticlimax. The least it could do is finish with 'while standing in the ruins of her burnt-out house.'