Writing? What Writing?

Posted: February 22nd, 2014 under Editing, Life beyond writing.
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There are still bits of good writing news I can’t talk about yet, and thus am required to look carefully blank about when asked.  But I can say that besides dealing with many other things yesterday, a Paksworld story sold to an anthology showed up with Editor’s marks and comments and would I please get it back to Editor by the 28th.  It went back last night.   Editor did a good job of pointing out some things to fix, one of which I really wish hadn’t been necessary to fix, but…Editor had a point. 

That said, the story was mostly OK and I still like it a lot on re-reading it.    It’s better with the changes Editor asked for (and two others I made on my own.)  The new character created for this one intrigues me, and is already in two other stories that I haven’t finished yet.

Meanwhile, yesterday.  Yesterday almost deserves a whole post on its own.  It started with a power outage shortly before dawn and the slow recovery of enough stable power to make  the computers, UPS, and DSL modem happy.    The power outage began with the frantic beeping of the UPS to my husband’s computer,  soon followed by sirens heading north out of town.    My interpretation–a wreck involving a power pole or (since construction guys arrive at the road construction site before dawn)  someone stuck a backhoe into a buried cable.

The whole town was blacked out.  In about half an hour, the power started coming back on, feebly: lights were dim and the refrigerator’s compressor was very, very quiet.  But it was OK to open the door and get the milk for cereal.  When it got light enough in the house to knit next to a window (and the DSL modem was still down) I knit for awhile.   Then the lights brightened, the refrigerator hum picked up to normal,  and I turned on the computer.   Husband took off for his weekly trip to the city to pick up our son,  take him to a movie, and then bring him here for two nights and a day.

I found the email from the editor about the story.  OK.  Pulled up the file, read through the Track Changes stuff, started working.   Doorbell rang…it was the septic tank service.   Luckily for all concerned,  Mr. Flores had the BIG truck, with the 200 feet of hose, and the hose reached all the way from the street around to the back of the house where the septic tank is.  He was delighted to see that my husband had cleared all around the tank, giving the pumping crew as easy access as possible.

There will be another post about the plumbing, because there’s more archaeology and more useful bits for both period writers and readers, but the point is that for several hours my time was divided between being invited out to look at progress, answer questions, and ask advice related to the goings on, and trying to work on the story edits.   Then Mr. Flores regaled me with his family history, which is extraordinary (and part  of it I knew from reading Texas history…but the history books don’t get it all right.)  That will come out in the other post, later.   Interactions with people like that are invaluable research, not only because of what they say,  but how they say it.  Listening is one of the essential skills for writers.

When the septic tank truck rolled away bearing unmentionables in its innards, I settled down to work, taking what was supposed to be a brief break to knit on some socks for a friend.   (No, wait, the first thing I did was take pictures of the work done…THEN I called the cat in from her hiding place in the hay barn–she had fled from Mr. Flores and his helper–and then I started knitting.)   My first “outside” pair of socks, and having to work without that handy gauge on the end of my leg, the actual foot going into the sock.  J-‘s feet are much smaller than mine.    This was interrupted by the cat, who had hidden in the hay barn while strange people were in the yard, and had come back inside cautiously,  deciding to go wild in the living room.  I stopped knitting and removed the cat, closing various doors.

And checked email.  And found some that were business related and had to be answered.   Since I was there,  I did all the small bits on the story but was still unsure how to tackle the big things.   Knit some more.  Husband came home and we went out to look at the plumbing situation, now much better,  of course.  What struck both of us (had already struck us) was how big the piles of dirt were, and what the weather forecast was, and how much work we were going to have to do to get the dirt into the holes (dirt that had taken, in all, about 10 days of work to remove from the holes, not counting days with no digging in them).    That led to this:


and this:


The two of us together, alternating using the shovel,  got that hole filled up to the level of the top of the septic tank (covered with a nice new plastic tarp,  so the gaps between the three top cover slabs would no longer be sifting plain old dirt down into the tank, nor can rainwater come pouring in .  I duct-taped hospital-bed corners onto the tarp.)    It was a bit fiddly, trying to get the dirt back into the narrow trench that went around the septic tank.  That shovel-full of dirt seen falling past the electrical line in the second picture fell neatly into the trench on this side of the tank.   Husband is good with a shovel (he dug all the holes, too.  Impressed Mr. Flores.)

When we were both too tired to move more dirt,  we came in and I went back to the story editing.   By then I had the solutions in mind, and the story went back to Editor last night.  Then I knit some more on J-‘s socks.    Then I went back to the computer and stayed up too long answering more business-related emails, catching up on Twitter and this blog and another and…so on.  Then sleep.

Today, more dirt moving.    The pile of dirt behind me in the first picture is what came out of the kitchen drain-grease-trap hole.    We might get rain on Monday (they said we might get rain this past week and nothing happened.   We need it.  Unlike England.  In a happier world, some of their flood would have been our seasonable rain.)   Tomorrow, singing two services at church, probably followed by diving into bed for the usual Sunday afternoon nap.

Or dirt moving, if all the dirt doesn’t get moved today, which it won’t if I don’t get out there NOW and start shoveling.  I’m already late, in part because I woke up stiff and had the crazy hope that brownies or house gremlins would show up and magically move all that dirt where we want it.   I write fantasy–surely the fantasy creatures should help me out, shouldn’t they?  (A peevish little voice just said, “You never wrote a book about US!  You never made US the heroes.”   So I guess they’re not coming and my doom is sealed.

(Writer sighs deeply and pushes back from the computer.)


  • Comment by AJLR — February 22, 2014 @ 10:49 am


    More Paksworld stories to come! Already looking forward to reading them.

    My sympathies re all the digging. We’ve got to wait, here (SE UK) because we’re still talking semi-liquid mud rather than friable soil. So re-creating a garden after damage from the storm-felled trees is on hold at the moment.

    Sending a stroke to Cleo. 🙂

  • Comment by Kerry aka Trouble — February 22, 2014 @ 1:42 pm


    A peevish little voice just said, “You never wrote a book about US! You never made US the heroes.” So I guess they’re not coming and my doom is sealed.

    You know what? Jim C. Hines DID write a book with one of them as the hero and they don’t do anything for him around the house or yard, either.

    I need to get the septic cleaned out this spring. Still frozen up here, so I will wait until we don’t require dynamite to get the cover off. Especially since the cover is less that 10 feet from the patio door.

  • Comment by elizabeth — February 22, 2014 @ 2:38 pm


    Few things make a person on non-city waste removal feel more confident than a clean septic tank with clear lines running to and from, and a clean grease trap. I’m glad we don’t have to deal with frozen ground. I’m glad we don’t have to deal with floods and what happens to septic tanks in them. I’m really glad I can flush the toilet without wondering if it will come back up, and wash dishes in the kitchen sink again.

  • Comment by Nadine Barter Bowlus — February 22, 2014 @ 8:02 pm


    Three cheers for clean septic systems!
    So, Kerry, according to your post, writing a story about dish-fairies will not make them appear in the kitchen to do the washing up overnight. Darn. 🙂

  • Comment by elizabeth — February 22, 2014 @ 10:12 pm


    At least one cubic yard of dirt moved today, as both of us worked to the point of stiff and very tired. We went out to dinner with friends, which was much better than stiff me trying to cook. Many muscles are saying things to me, most of them on the order of “WHAT did you think you were DOING? Didn’t you ever hear of conditioning slowly to shovel that much?” “Shut up. It has to be done.”

  • Comment by gustovcarl — February 23, 2014 @ 9:08 am


    Yay! More Paksworld!
    Sympathies on the shoveling. Here in Michigan, I’ve been doing much more snow shoveling than usual since November. Good for the muscles(they say).

  • Comment by GinnyW — February 23, 2014 @ 11:32 am


    My sympathies for the shoveling-aches. I am digging around for my yoga book, since our recent snowfalls have made me acutely aware of just how stiff I have become.

    Congratulations on the clean septic tank and trap as well. It really does feel good to have everything drain away smoothly. I hope you get enough rain to regrow the grass – after the dirt is back in place!

  • Comment by elizabeth — February 23, 2014 @ 7:33 pm


    gustovcarl: If I had been in better shape, I’m sure I wouldn’t be this stiff…but I didn’t shovel at all today…came home from church tired(we sang Mendelssohn’s “Psalm 115” at both services…and it rocked the house. Fiendish to learn, but once you know it, very rewarding to sing.) So, a long nap, and I’m not as stiff now. Tomorrow, more shoveling. Next day, tests and doctor visit, day after that, choir practice again.

    GinnyW: Thank you. Shoveling aches will ease in time…won’t they? At least, I haven’t had snow and frozen ground to contend with. I am reveling in the joys of knowing that what goes down will STAY down. And when the rain comes, I won’t be worried about, um, reflux.

  • Comment by GinnyW — February 24, 2014 @ 5:11 pm


    The aches pass. Not all that long ago, I could do things like that without aches. Just a stretched out feeling of accomplishment. So I think I need to be more proactive about staying in shape.

  • Comment by elizabeth — February 24, 2014 @ 11:20 pm


    You will be happier if you’re proactive about staying in shape, Ginny. The older any of us get, the harder it is to regain condition. I’ve lost some again, staying off the bike to try to get the neck thoroughly sorted out, but…boy, am I down three or four notches from September. Time to grab hold and go again.

  • Comment by Mike D — February 25, 2014 @ 9:06 am


    Oath of Fealty e-book is reduced to $0.99 for a bit (not UK, probably US only)

    Comments on Mobileread.com from the benighted who had missed the Paladin’s Legacy series altogether, tut tut.

  • Comment by Genko — February 27, 2014 @ 11:37 am


    Thanks for the tip. Went to order it, not sure whether I already had it, but found that I did. I have it all on my Kindle. Such riches!

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