Online Appearance: Orbit blog (Plus Revision News)

Posted: July 3rd, 2013 under Life beyond writing, Revisions, the writing life.
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I have a blog post up at Orbit UK.   It relates to some things we’ve talked about on this blog.  I wrote it awhile back, and it’s only now moved to the front of the queue, but it’s apropos to the first chapter of the next book, in spades.

Which is all I can tell you about the next book, except the revisions are rolling right along.    Today has been eaten, mostly, by the MRI thing.   I had to get ready, check to be sure all my clothes had nothing metallic in them (I did not want to lie there in a hospital gown if it could be avoided!),  then drive the 45+ minutes down highways under construction, fill out stacks of forms, have the MRI–which took about half an hour–and then drive the 45+ minutes back in the start of afternoon rush hour traffic on the interstate highway, which ought to be called the intercity congestion.    And then recover by lying down a half hour on something comfortable and eating chocolate ice cream.

My brain is finally coming back online after the experience…lying flat on my back on the moving slab as the muscles in the neck slowly seized up, carefully not swallowing or coughing, while listening to a cacaphony of jackhammers and industrial drills  and so on (actually part of the MRI’s own machinery) was not at all relaxing, though one of my best friends claims she slept through the MRI of her heart.  She’s a better woman than I am.

However…it’s over, and I’m better, so…I’m hoping it will cool off enough I can ride the bike this evening, sore neck and all.  Meanwhile, back to revisions.   Two of the longer insertions are now in place, tacked down, sanded, ready for a finish coat.    Another one’s still rough around the edges.  I may cut it out and try again.  Another one is sort of fading in and out, like bad reception from my plot daemon, which usually mans there’s something wrong with my idea for fixing that particular problem.  My agent liked the idea but it’s not rolling along as it should.  Yet.





  • Comment by GinnyW — July 3, 2013 @ 5:17 pm


    I love your story in the Orbit blog post. It provided a lift on a rather down day. Nothing major, some needed electrical work will cost alot more than I had expected (hoped); a broken piece of hardware has to be reordered. The ink in the printer cartridges gelled and I had to buy new cartridges instead of refilling old ones. And it all took twice as long as I expected.

    My sympathies for the day. You sound as though you came through the MRI like a trooper. Many people have severe claustrophobia associated with it. Others find the combination of noises and the necessity to hold still close kin to torture.

    The revisions sound as though they are going well. Keep plugging! And listening to Plot Daemon!

  • Comment by Wickersham's Conscience — July 3, 2013 @ 7:24 pm


    MRI = noisy, claustrophobic, alarming and grotesquely uncomfortable. And the diagnosis from it always seems to be inconclusive (“Come back in 3 months and we’ll do it again…) My sympathies, based on personal experience.

    The Orbit piece is outstanding. A brilliant, powerful, real-life example.

  • Comment by Kerry aka Trouble — July 3, 2013 @ 7:53 pm


    Excellent post at Orbit. People frequently need to be reminded that heroes are not perfect, they are people, indistinguishable from others until they do something.

    Hm… chocolate ice cream sounds good – shame I don’t have any in the house.

  • Comment by elizabeth — July 3, 2013 @ 11:19 pm


    GinnyW. I prevented the claustrophobia (if I was going to get it) by closing my eyes before being moved into the machine and keeping them closed until told I was about to be let out. That worked well. The noise–was definitely bad and hard to deal with. OTOH, the writer always has imagination to play with. I devised multiple roles (in which I was always the hero, of course) and moved them around to cope with the level and type of noise happening at the moment. There was the “trapped in a space capsule on a generation ship where something had gone wrong” one, where my role was figuring out, from the noises, what had gone wrong, and telepathically controlling the robot–or communicating with the alien mechanic–how to fix it. The grinding giant-drill type noises were useful here, also the high-pitched pings and the odd noises at the beginning of sequences of other noises. There was the “alien music being transmitted containing important code you must break” in which I divided the banging noise into measures, eight bangs to a measure, four measures to a line, three lines per page (adding in other parts) and tried to keep count of how many pages of “music” were in the entire coded message. Unfortunately it was banging really fast, so keeping track (esp. of page turns) defeated me after about five or six pages. The grinding-type noises were useless for this. And then, for the worst, there was the evil interrogator trying to break down my resistance with loud noise and whatever it was that made my sinuses feel stuffed with vibrating beads.

    When told it was over, I opened my eyes, decided the inside of the thing really did resemble (barring the iconic transparent lid, which it didn’t have) a SFnal life support case for cryonic transporting of space colonists. All shiny white inside with a row of lights on either side. And far too close to my nose, on top, but that didn’t bother me by then as the noise (other than a few quieter noises) had stopped. Only instead of arriving on the inside of a spaceship or space station, or better yet a foreign planet, I slid out into the morose gaze of the MRI tech, who really wanted me to hurry up and get steady on my feet so the next victim (reading a book on the bench outside) could be inserted. Thence into the hot Texas sun and afternoon traffic. If you’re going to be stuck in that thing and subjected to all that noise, you should at least end up somewhere that doesn’t involve all-too-familiar traffic problems with ordinary trucks and cars. If I ever have to do it again (which I hope I don’t) I will pre-think more and different scenarios to entertain myself with. In one of Lee & Miller’s Liaden books, Aelliana Caylon was trapped in a Learning Machine by her evil brother and invented an entire solar system to occupy her mind and save herself from brain-burn. I’m not a mathematician at her level (far from it) but perhaps I could devise something else. I did try to work on the stuck revision problem, but the noise interfered.

  • Comment by elizabeth — July 3, 2013 @ 11:32 pm


    Kerry: Yes…the people I’ve known who did heroic deeds weren’t necessarily heroic repeatedly and certainly not continuously…they rose to an occasion and then went right back to being who they were usually. And then I learned (slowly, because it’s how I learn some things) that underneath the “being who they were usually” was a steady, almost invisible, drumbeat of willingness to do the small things that made them capable of the big one or more.

    Wickersham’s Conscience: Yes, on the MRI. Hoping for something definitive on the results, but will find out later. Thanks for appreciating the Orbit piece. Although some professions require the ability to “run toward, not away from, the danger”–and firefighters and so on are justly praised–there are so many cases of ordinary people–including “throwaway people” like drunks and petty criminals and ex-cons and welfare mothers, who are never considered worthwhile–risking themselves for others. It leaves the rest of us with no excuses…and especially no excuses for assuming that the poor, the immigrants, the sick, the disabled,etc. are throwaway people.

  • Comment by Richard — July 4, 2013 @ 1:14 am


    From the reminiscences of a man (later a schools inspector, rising to Chairman and Chief Executive of the National Curriculum Council for England and Wales) who as a student had a summer job as assistant purser (i.e. he sold tickets) aboard paddle steamers on the river Clyde in the 1950s. The occasion: embarking drunken passengers from a Highland Games event.

    “One lurched, lost his footing and plunged into the murky depths. In the inky black, the belting [wooden fender] was crashing against the pier in a way that would crush anyone trapped there to certain death. For once the seamen, usually quick to act, hesitated, calculating the odds. They drew back. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the relief purser, the quietest and gentlest of men, stripping off … [He] was selling tickets ten minutes later and he refused to speak to the press or to be a hero.”

  • Comment by Naomi — July 4, 2013 @ 1:56 am


    Sympathy for the MRI, Elizabeth, hated it myself! as for your trip home, sounds like a trip along the M25 outside London or ‘the mobile car park’ as many call it. I too was in a traffic jam but was listening to last part of ‘Deed’ on my CD player, great thing, you don’t give a damn about other idiot drivers as you’re listening to a great sotry… going to check Orbit now…

  • Comment by Naomi — July 4, 2013 @ 1:56 am


    sorry, finger trouble, can’t type, meant ‘story’

  • Comment by Jenn — July 4, 2013 @ 5:15 am


    Great story.

    I had an MRI once for back pain. I ended up with a back spasm from trying to hold still for an hour while lying in a coffin being buried by as you so rightly called it Jack Hammers. I have decided it was not worth the pain.

  • Comment by pjm — July 4, 2013 @ 5:16 am


    Naomi, it’s funny sometimes the things you don’t notice. I didn’t see any mis-spelling in your #7 until I saw #8, went back, and looked.

    Elizabeth, I hope the MRI provides some good information that leads to an effective treatment.

    I am thankful I do not suffer from claustrophobia, and I have no intention of trying to imagine what it is like in case I induce it in myself. (I have done that sort of thing before – never again please!) I am glad you found a good strategy for dealing with it.

    45+ minutes on the road. Presumably it would be around 30 at 3am. In Melbourne in the 1970’s we had the South-Eastern Freeway, affectionately(?) known as the South-Eastern Car Park. Perhaps unfair – it was quite good the other 90% of the time.


  • Comment by Sam Barnett-Cormack — July 4, 2013 @ 7:09 am


    When I’ve had MRIs, they’ve played music through the ear protectors. Tinny, because they use acoustic tubing rather than speakers in the headphones (for obvious reasons), but helps distract from the bizarre noises.

  • Comment by Jenn — July 4, 2013 @ 2:07 pm


    Happy 4th!

  • Comment by GinnyW — July 4, 2013 @ 4:08 pm


    Happy Independence day to us all (including those of you who celebrate Independence on some other day). May we all use it wisely.

  • Comment by elizabeth — July 4, 2013 @ 5:07 pm


    Ginny W: (again) Thanks for the good Independence Days wishes. Yes, we should be using freedom wisely, and certainly we could be using it better.

  • Comment by becky — July 5, 2013 @ 8:51 am


    MRI’s – I always think of it as tommyknockers singing. Feel better!

  • Comment by Sarah — July 5, 2013 @ 9:47 am


    The following may be amusing to the Author and enlightening to the readers. Very funny account of revising, not outlining, and the anguish thereof.

  • Comment by elizabeth — July 5, 2013 @ 9:57 am


    OMG that is WONDERFUL!!! I had to stop a few paragraphs in to tell you so. Truth! Truth unchained, on the front stoop with a containe of buttercream icing and still in PJs. YES!

    I needed this. I am That Writer.

  • Comment by Genko — July 5, 2013 @ 4:22 pm


    Oh, yes. Can’t lay claims to being a great writer, but discovered, finally, in grad school no less, that I am not a linear thinker. I always thought I was. I can write outlines. That is, theoretically, I know how to write an outline. (Same with lesson plans — I’ve been a teacher, and sometimes still am. Almost never actually write down a lesson plan.) But the times I tried to write a paper in an orderly fashion had me sitting in front of a blank computer screen (not quite blank, I had a title at the top of the page) with not a single thought in my head. No clue where to go.

    We finally did a self-assessment that confirmed that I’m not a linear thinker but a chaotic one (they used the word “random,” which makes no sense to me — I changed it to “chaotic”). That’s why the Internet works out well for me, for example. I tended to write papers and complete assignments either immediately after getting the assignment or right before it was due — sometimes mere hours before it was due. Drives me crazy — still does.

    I did a Dharma Talk (sermon for churchy folks) a couple of weeks ago, and woke up at 3am to pull it together. By 4:30am, I was convinced that it was impossible, and I would never pull it off. And yet, I gave the talk at 10:30am, and it went well. Got good feedback, etc. A completely nerve-wracking process.

    I just shake my head, and try to trust that it will work out. And panic, knowing that THIS TIME I will be shown up for the fraud that I really am. Deadlines are the enemy, and they also make things possible somehow.

    Anyway, I also enjoyed this blog post, and thought the writer did a good job on it. Sometimes you have to write something different. Hope it helps break other stuff loose for her.

  • Comment by Catmadknitter — July 5, 2013 @ 4:32 pm


    Important Tip: Never play Exercises For Independent Sticking on the sides of the MRI machine. It upsets the process.

  • Comment by GinnyW — July 5, 2013 @ 4:54 pm


    Sarah: Great tip! Thank you.

    I am, sometimes a linear thinker. I loved geometry and trigonometry proofs, for instance. I can write an outline, sometimes even a great outline.

    The problem is that when I go to fill in the outline, the resulting paper or talk does not follow the outline. Instead of paragraph B moving gently into a set up for paragraph C, which should have wrapped up section 1 and posed the question that section 2 was going to answer, it doesn’t. It goes off in an entirely different direction. An interesting direction that I would like to pursue further. So the finished paper or talk does not bear any resemblance to the outline.

    If I try to go back to the outline, and force all those interesting but distracting paragraphs into the original mold, it doesn’t work. I end up with a jumble of disconnected facts or observations or scenes that mean nothing and go nowhere. Rather like the beautiful June grove that turns into a pile of brown autumn leaves in November.

    So I just write. What I find hardest is to go back and really read what I have written. Listen to what I was saying, so that the thought moves forward, instead of backward. Backward is trying to fit what has evolved into an earlier conception. For me, the whole process is rather like coming to terms with a cute little cocker spaniel puppy (I thought), that turned out to be a Saint Bernard.

  • Comment by Daniel Glover — July 5, 2013 @ 5:59 pm


    But … but … but … you have to outline as a writer, that’s what everyone is taught as “The Method” in school. 😉

  • Comment by elizabeth — July 5, 2013 @ 10:44 pm


    Daniel: And how many schoolteachers write novels? (Not an outliner. Though I sometimes stop 3/4 of the way to the end and outline what I’ve already done, which helps find missing parts.)

    GinnyW: Yes, there’s more Arvid in Crown. Do leopards change their spots…or their diets? And yes, Luap does evoke that “You IDIOT!” response. Even worse that he’s not actually stupid, in the usual sense, just…if there’s a way to argue himself into the wrong decision, there he is.

    Genko: Also not a true linear thinker, esp. in “create” mode. Loved geometry and trig, though. Odd. A mix of unfocused curiosity (boundless curiosity) and ability to concentrate like a bloodhound on a track when really onto something. Lousy time-sense. (As in, how did it get to be 16 minutes to midnight? It was just 10:15 seconds ago!)

  • Comment by iphinome — July 6, 2013 @ 12:40 am


    @Lady Moon

    re: time sense

    Could you perhaps have been traveling at or near light speed?

  • Comment by elizabeth — July 6, 2013 @ 6:59 am


    I suppose it’s possible that, while thinking I was sitting in a chair here, I actually had a brief exploration of the solar system and returned before I knew I was gone….hmmmm….that’s certainly a more flattering explanation than that my awareness of outside reality was sucked down a small black hole and spit out an hour and something later in a different universe…

  • Comment by H liu — July 6, 2013 @ 10:22 am


    Do you not think the mri machine resembles nothing so mush as an old front loading washing machine. Some of the noises even gurgle like water, at least on mine. Brain washing. Hope the outcome is good.

  • Comment by elizabeth — July 6, 2013 @ 10:29 am


    There is a pump involved with liguid whooshing and gurgling, yes. I knew that was the liquid N coolant. But the banging and grinding–that would be something wrong with the washing machine (oh, in case someone put in an old pair of overalls with the metal ends of the straps banging on the wall. Or maybe half-filled the thing with gravel for the grinding noises. My mother would have spanked all the skin off my backside if I’d put a rock in the old Bendix.)

  • Comment by Genko — July 6, 2013 @ 11:01 am


    Yes, also loved geometry and trig. That’s why I say “chaotic,” which really isn’t random at all, and only APPEARS to be mixed up. And yes, GinnyW, that does seem to be what happens — you have a path in mind, but then it tends to go off in another interesting direction. In Zen we call that “Don’t Know Mind.” Isn’t it great to have a name for it? It allows us to open to new possibilities, and is actually a strength, even when it feels scary and uncomfortable. Takes some practice, though, to get more familiar with it.

    Really, there is obviously (at least in retrospect) an order to the chaos, and even an elegant order. We just can’t always see it as we’re going through it. Oh, kinda like life, I suppose. Probably that’s one of the reason I love these books — because there’s that sense of adventure, of the unknown, and yet some sort of underlying sense of, well, sense.

  • Comment by Vikki — July 7, 2013 @ 8:06 pm


    I don’t think geometry and trig are linear. To me, they are looking at the parts to see the whole. Algebra, on the other hand, is linear.

  • Comment by pjm — July 8, 2013 @ 4:42 am


    When you see a mathematical proof, whether algebra, geometry, trig, or whatever (LOTS of whatever!) it always looks linear, or at worst like a merging tree. You prove this, than that, and they come together to show your main result. Before it is tidied up for presentation it looks much messier. (Been there, done that).

    Elizabeth, I just googled “MRI noise source” and got 2 meanings for “noise”. One was about “signal-to-noise”. The other said banging in a MRI is caused by the sudden pulses of magnetic field causing vibration in the magnetic coils.

    Real rocks might be quieter; the MRI can be louder than electronic rocks/rock music.


  • Comment by Sarah S. — July 8, 2013 @ 6:18 am


    I’m glad the link to Writing Despair hit the spot. I found it on the blog on Patricia Brigg’s website. Huh: she lives on a ranch, with horses, but in eastern Washington.

  • Comment by Sarah S. — July 8, 2013 @ 6:34 am


    and, come to think of it, her first book, before the Mercy Thompson series, was a fantasy about a female mercenary… the sheerest form of flattery…

  • Comment by elizabeth — July 8, 2013 @ 11:49 pm


    More vanishing going on. The revision is moving, but (predictably–it’s my stuff) morphing as I work and spreading out to encompass more of the book, plus I have a story due to an anthology in less than two weeks. I thought I’d be done with the book and its revision by now.

    So…if I drop by, it will be briefly. If someone drops a dead skunk down the chimney, email me at the website contact address, and otherwise play well together, please, until I’ve rewritten what’s increasingly looking like a large chunk of the book. At this point I’m not sure that’s making it better, but we’ll see.

  • Comment by GinnyW — July 10, 2013 @ 9:59 pm


    Sorry about the revised ink spreading through the whole pitcher of story. Perhaps one of the vanishing bits will be the short story you need.

    I meant that proofs are linear (once they are cleaned up for publication anyway). Geometry is not necessarily linear, but it is logical. As life is not, people are not, and the outcomes of their interactions are not. Interesting, fun, challenging, but not logical.

    Does that sound like a whine? It wasn’t meant to.

  • Comment by iphinome — July 11, 2013 @ 3:29 am


    You have given
    an idea
    to a mind
    that adapts

    the work
    of her betters
    who were

    Forgive me
    William Carlos Williams
    and the
    Lady Moon

    *clears throat*

    This Is Just To Say

    I have taken
    the skunk
    that died in
    the driveway

    and which
    you were probably
    I’d not see

    Forgive me
    the chimney’s
    and what stink

  • Comment by Gareth — July 11, 2013 @ 7:13 am


    Elizabeth PLEASE don’t give the children ideas about skunks and chimneys – the extras room takes on some strange scents as it is and you know how Auntie Dorrin’s children like to play… but that one gave some of them nightmares about bad smells from dungeons and we had a terrible job calming them down again…

  • Comment by Jenn — July 11, 2013 @ 2:43 pm



    I can state in all certainty that the smell have nothing to do with the Verrakai children. They are to busy signing autographs or at least convincing people that they want the autographs from their recent stint in Limits.

    I personally believe the Wee thieves to be the culprits.

    On a totally unrelated (to anything) note. I have a demon in my knitting. I am making a sweater for a charity raffle and have pulled out the same sleeve twice now. This is a major color-work sleeve and the first time I finished the sleeve before I realized that I had mist a 7 row pattern half way through. This time I was almost finished when I realized I had the wrong background color so I frogged again. If it happen again I am going to develop an eye twitch! 🙂 Does anyone know how to perform and exorcism on sweater or rather sweater pieces?

  • Comment by Richard — July 12, 2013 @ 5:19 am


    Jenn, yes, I suppose the wee Thieves do smell, coming as they do from the city, the poorest parts of the city, so being members of the Great Unwashed. Nothing like a dead skunk though.

    @Iphinome, *applause*

  • Comment by Jenn — July 12, 2013 @ 7:49 am



    I wasn’t commenting on the hygiene of the Wee Thieves as much as accusing them of stashing a dead whatever in the extras’ breakroom. They are good at sneaking and stashing.

  • Comment by GinnyW — July 18, 2013 @ 2:51 pm


    Jenn, I think that you need at least a Girdish Marshal or Captain of Falk for an exorcism. A paladin would help, and I would send Paks, but at last slight she was drooling over some royal twins, and would be hard to shake without a direct order from the gods. And the gods seem to have need of her in Kolobia.

    That said I have said a prayer for the knitting. It sounds horrendously complicated to me, since I am too-inept-for-novice status as a knitter. Good luck!

  • Comment by Jenn — July 19, 2013 @ 5:48 am



    Thank you Thank you thank you!!!!

    The demon has been expelled and the sleeves have been attached. Now for the collar. I think I am going to grab one of the Marshalls out of the extras’ breakroom before I start it!

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