patinagle: (Default)
I posted this elsewhere, but wanted it in the Comonplace Book.  Recently someone asked to see a picture of my writing chair. This is my view of the chair from my business/internet desk in my office. When I'm doing all that busy-ness, the chair is there reminding me that the first and foremost activity of my career is writing.

When I go over and sit in the chair, I'm disconnected from all the distractions of the business arena. There's a mug of tea beside me, and the petting couch for my furry muses right next to the chair. I have a shawl to keep my legs warm on cold days. The bulletin board with pictures to inspire my writing is more for when I'm at the desk—an additional enticement to go over and write. I can't actually see it much from the chair.

A window to the right overlooks my back yard, where I've put up bird feeders and am developing a butterfly garden. Mountains in the distance. At night, I like a cozy cave-like environment, so I usually only have the stained glass lamp on.

The chair is a recliner and I write on a laptop. This allows me to avoid the physical fatigue problems that come from working on a laptop with more conventional furniture. My arms and wrists are supported.

My writing laptop never connects to the internet. This is crucial—email is a tempting distraction. Even more insidious is research: "Oh, I'll just look up this one detail I need..." and half an hour later I wake up, having meandered down the primrose websurfing path.

It took me a while to put together this environment for my writing. I gradually assembled the separate writing computer, the side table and lamp, and found the perfect chair which a gift from my dear departed mother-in-law helped to pay for. My writing corner is perhaps eight feet square, and it's one of the most important areas in my house.

Every writer needs a good writing environment. Some like to write in coffee shops, others at the kitchen table. Kris Rusch, in her blog series for freelancers, has some good general recommendations about setting up a workspace. Her advice is not specific to writers but certainly applies, and she describes her own writing environments.

conned out

Aug. 24th, 2008 09:23 pm
patinagle: (aurora)
Back from Bubonicon, a fun weekend. Two cons almost back to back and I'm pretty pooped. At Bubonicon, I had drinks with Debbie Lynn Smith and her husband, Paul. She and I agreed that sf cons are an interesting phenomenon from the writer's point of view. Most writers (not all, but most) are introverts, but for a convention, a whole bunch of them come together and pretend to be extroverts for several days. By the end of it, we're pretty much fried and have to crawl back to our garrets and hide for a while.

That's about where I am at the moment. Good weekend, not enough sleep, and I need some alone time.
patinagle: (Default)
The slow days of summer are here. Fellow writers are grumbling about the lack of activity in the mailbox. Editors and writers are attending conventions, and not much is going on between.

For me, it's been a busy year so far and I'm actually enjoying the chance to catch up a bit. I have notes from my editor on fantasy novel #2, so I'm not lacking for work. I'm starting to put together some promotional efforts in support of fantasy novel #1, which has been scheduled for release in March 2009, right around the equinox.

To get a break from the summer heat, my spouse and I drove up to Telluride recently. Wow, what an incredibly beautiful place! Everywhere you turn in this tiny mountain town there are spectacular views. This one is of Bridal Veil Falls, visible from pretty much anywhere in Telluride. Just stunning. I love the mountains and this was a nice shot of inspiration for me for the settings of my ælven fantasy world. (My characters are mountain folk. Fancy that.)

Another thing that's kept me busy this summer is work on the Novelists, Inc. website. I (foolishly) volunteered to help with redesigning and reorganizing the site. It's actually been a lot of fun, though also a lot of work. Not much of it can be seen yet as the webmaster currently is at work converting the site to the new design, but the new Ninc Blog is off to a great start. Check it out!

Tomorrow I'm off to Worldcon. If you're going to be there, stop by my signing Thursday afternoon and pick up an ælven bookmark.
patinagle: (Default)
Well, the Broadway stage hands are going back to work already. Different story for the writers in Hollywood (and New York, and elsewhere). They are in it for the long haul, looks like, and I'm rooting for them. I have to. It's the rights of ALL writers they're fighting for, ultimately.

This is a fun video promoting a cool idea: send pencils to the moguls in Hollywood who are trying to deny writers their fair share of Internet revenues:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2GggokNW-4c

And here's the link where you can go to send a pencil--or a dozen--to said moguls:

http://pencils2mediamoguls.com/

And here's another video which is just HILARIOUS, and points out WHY said pencil...moguls should be inundated in protests. Fill 'em full of lead! Er, graphite.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PzRHlpEmr0w

4 pages today

Points in The Race:
26 for short stories
16 for novels
----------------------
42 total

Catharsis

Sep. 17th, 2005 09:16 pm
patinagle: (Default)

Major tragedies send me into my cocoon, where I continue safely spinning tales. That's where I've been since Katrina.

Strangely, I was on a panel at a local conference on Sunday, August 27, the day before Katrina made landfall on the mainland. The panel's topic was "Heros post-9/11." This digressed to the more general subject of writing post-9/11, and one of the questions the panel was asked what what effect 9/11 had on our writing.

It wasn't a question I'd thought about, but I knew the answer at once. I kept writing. I'd like to say it's discipline but there's more to it than that.

Writing is my escape from the horrors on the news. When I write, I'm in control and the hurricanes only do what I want them to.

For some time now (almost a year) I've been writing a minimum of two pages each and every day. It's a little challenge I've had with myself, though I got the idea from another writer who's been doing it much longer.

I continued writing at least two pages a day all through that terrible week of Katrina. Some days two pages were all I managed, but other days I wrote more, even more than my normal six daily pages. I found myself putting in pages on a back burner project with an emotional atmosphere that resonates with the tragedy that's been unfolding in New Orleans.

Writing is a maddening compulsion, but it can also be therapeutic. I'm sure that's nothing new to you, dear reader.

Two pages today. It's the weekend.
patinagle: (Default)


Silent Companionship - Survey Results

OK, the tallies are done and here's what I've learned about the fuzzy muses:

Cats are definitely in the majority, 77% of the critters reported. Dogs were the other 23% - no one told me about other pets.

The ratio of pets to people was 3.7 to 1. Wow, lots of purr power!

Several people mentioned pets coming into the office to "work," one kitty even has its own cubicle under mom's desk. My own kits sit close at hand and are often in the office ahead of me, ready for the hard work of lying in the sun and being petted while I'm thinking.


Gotta Read:
Anyone with an interest in publishing should read Wired's article "The Long Tail" by Chris Andrerson. This piece is full of surprises and gave me renewed hope for the survival of the majority of authors (i.e., those who don't have bestsellers).

Five pages today. Five and a half, really - end of a chapter.
patinagle: (Default)


It's wonderful when one's creations continue to grow long after leaving the creative...hive, nest, whatever.

Not long after I posted about "The Merrie Dwarves!" I received a lovely email from Christiana Quick-Cleveland, who teaches music to future Waldorf teachers at the Rudolf Steiner College in Fair Oaks, CA, and who found "Dwarves" among the materials at the college. She kindly asked my permission to publish the song in a collection of "Songs for the Elementary Classroom" in both booklet and CD. I was delighted to give it. (The booklet and CD are for sale - you get 26 other fun songs along with "Dwarves." Teachers and other interested parties should contact Christiana for details.)

This version of "The Merrie Dwarves!" is yet another variation on the lyrics, sort of halfway between the original and Christine Lavin's cute Christmas version. The dwarves are short, not dumb, and they are being merry in the woods. Fascinating.

I'd love to find out how they got to Rudolf Steiner College, and where along the way they got short. I'm also tickled that the song is being taught to children. It'll probably be here after I'm gone, and that's cool.

Six pages, two pots of tea today. The mountains were socked in and it was chilly this morning. I wore my slippers to work.


(PS - still collecting data on Silent Companionship (see post below). So far the trend is holding. WRITERS: tell me about the pets who keep you company as you write.)
patinagle: (Default)
Oh, dear. It is dusty in here!

May was busy and then there was that server hiccup. I lost a post in that . . . I'll try to recreate it. Meanwhile, I've been musing for a while about writers and their pets, and a recent conversation among writer friends reminded me of the subject.

Aimée Thurlo, who lives not far from me as the crow flies (though rather farther by land as there are some mountains between us), was recently quoted as saying that she needs silent companionship while she writes. She and her husband are collaborators, they write mysteries together, but they have separate offices. Aimée's silent companion of choice is a rat who lives in a cage on her desk. Mine are cats.

Here they are, lounging on my chair and hassock with inspirational picture of William H. Macy in the background. (The picture's caption is "Never be afraid to take a hit.")

I do find their company soothing (except when they climb in my lap while I'm trying to work). It's nice to be able to reach over and stroke a warm, furry critter while I'm thinking.

Anyway, some writer friends have been speculating that a majority of writers own cats. Some smaller percentage own dogs, and a few have other pets or none at all.

INFORMAL POLL: If you're a writer, do you own cats? Other pets? I'm curious to see if my circle is anomalous or indicative of a wider trend.
patinagle: (Default)
It's wonderful to create something that has legs. It's humbling, and food for thought, when one's most enduring work (to date, please heaven) is something that began life as a throw-away.

My dear friend Rob recently sent me a happy and excited email informing me that a song I wrote years (oh, dear--decades!) ago--a little catch, actually, or more accurately a rebus--had, after considerable metamorphosis, appeared in yet recognizable form on an album recorded by Christine Lavin.

Rob thought this was wonderful. I, being a person who relies on my intellectual property for my income, had rather more mixed feelings about it.

Friends of Ms Lavin, fear not. I'm not coming after her with lawyers. This is not the first time this song has been co-opted. In fact, it's been recorded before (once that I know of) and published in a songbook (once that I know of). Neither of the perpetrators asked my permission, but then, they probably didn't know how to find me. The song travels by the ancient and honorable oral tradition, in which attribution is at best an afterthought.

But, for the record, here is the actual origin and history of "The Merrie Dwarves!" which appears on Ms Lavin's The Runaway Christmas Tree album as "Elves." (By the way, a rebus is a musical joke, so if you can't stand to have jokes spoiled for you, go and listen to Ms Lavin's version here - scroll down to the samples and click on "Elves.")

A tiny bit of background. I wrote the song to make playful fun of an SCA household made up of very large, burly men who found it amusing to call themselves Dwarves and play games like "Rock" and so on. I'm not going to explain the SCA - go look at their website if you want to know more. If you want to know about the Dwarves, Google on "dwarves of atenveldt". I don't play SCA any more, but in my carefree youth I did, and my name in that group was Elinor Aurora of Rosewood.

Here is an image of my original manuscript, extracted from my musty files at an early hour of the morning. (Sealed bids for this valuable original may be submitted by email.) It's written in pencil, and judging by the hand I guessed it had been written about the time I was in high school, which would be 1976-1978.

Also in the musty files I found my copy of The Dwarven Hymnary, put together by Mistress Irminsul the Improbable, also undated, in which my song appeared in this form:

Note that I was at least given credit for creating the song (thank you, Mistress Irminsul), though the attribution is, very appropriately, to my SCA name. The Dwarven Hymnary, and indeed, my song, are referenced in this history of the First Dwarven Invitational Tournament, held near Shadowskeep (Española, New Mexico) on 29-30 July A.S. XIII (1978). So the song had been borrowed once already (by dear Mistress Irminsul) by that date.


In case these images are difficult to read, here are the original lyrics:

Hi ho, cry the merry Dwarves!

It's off to war we are

To strike our foes both blind and dum



The rebus, or joke, comes when all three parts of the catch are sung together, with appropriate rests, to form the line, "Dwarves are dum."

Mistress Aelflaed of Duckford (my dear friend Sandra Dodd) recalls the night I first taught the song to a group of SCA folk. Her guess on the date is close--probably a year late. With her kind permission, here are her reminiscences:


    I think it was 1978, July. I remember VIVIDLY the night you taught it to us, though. It was a dark night in the Jemez mountains and we were around a beautiful, big campfire. All eyes were on you as you taught us the new song you'd written. I remember how it sounded, and how you first went through without the rests, and we sang it through a couple of times and at the last moment you said that there was one more little thing, that the second line had a rest and the third line had two rests. (Don't remember the words exactly but I remember the explanation and thinking "got it" but not predicting what the trick would be.)

    It was perfect. One of my best memories. It was fun, and I'm glad I was there.



Some years later I learned (possibly through another alert friend, I don't recall) that my rebus had been recorded, without attribution, on a home-produced cassette of filk music titled Not Necesarily Medieval Songs, We'd all like to sing, perpetrated by one Yonatan Von Schwartzüberflek (Google on "Yonatan Von Schwartzuberflek" if you want to know about him, or if you just like typing "Schwartzuberflek").

Actually, there was an attribution, sort of. It said, "I have no idea, but thank you whoever you are."

Herr Von Schwartzüberflek didn't put a date on his cassette, either. (Really, what a sorry lot we all are! You'd think none of us had ever heard of defending copyright!) I tracked him down and informed him that I had written the song he called "Dwarves," that it was in fact "The Merrie Dwarves!" and that I would like to be properly credited in future. He gave me a copy of his tape for free, and promised to be good, and that's the last I heard of him.

Decades pass and now the web turns up Ms Lavin's "Elves." Same tune, same joke, but made nicer and transplanted to Santa's workshop. That's OK, it's cute and fun, and it still makes people light up and laugh which is the best I can expect, since I didn't grind Herr Von Schwartzüberflek into the ground in the first place. However, Ms Lavin's attribution, "Traditional German, learned from Kathy Miller, New words by Jan Maier, Evy Mayer, and Randi Spiegel," seems rather lame to me. I am not, nor have I ever been, a German, traditional or otherwise. (I have nothing against them, mind, except that they misspell Nagle. I'm even married to one, who spells it right.)

Who knows where else this song has been, or where it'll turn up next? I don't intend to comb the web, though I see that it has made it onto the Swarthmore Round List. That's ironic, in a way, because one of the first people I taught it to, Lady Io Andriane, was a Swarthmore grad.

So, my little catch is alive and well and bringing laughter to people who don't know and couldn't care less who I am. That's fine. Gives me a warm feeling it does.

Now to go write something and sell it. Warm feelings don't pay the bills.
patinagle: (Default)
No, not Chinese astrology (though I did learn something new about that today--and by the way, the post office has some lovely new chinese zodiac stamps - no tortoise, but there is a hare). The hares and tortoises I'm thinking of are writers. Sprinters and methodical, slow-and-steady plodders, if you will. I fall into the latter category, which is comfortable for me and allows me, as long as I'm consistent, to make steady progress. I've been writing most every day for the last year, and writing 2+ pages every single day for the past 121 days. It seems to work. My output is higher than it's ever been, and I like what I'm producing.

Then the sprinters blast by, and I get spun around.

Lately some folks I know are talking about having a retreat in the summer, spending a week together during which they'll each try to draft a 50,000 word novel. That's a shortish novel, but it's still more than I can do in a week. I could probably do it if I had to, but I might hurt myself, and I know I'd need at least another week to recover. Why go through the pain?

Some writers prefer to sprint. They spend time just cogitating (or vegitating), then they pour out a book in a frenzy of red-eyed, caffeine-induced energy. I used to do that kind of thing when I was younger. Now I know I'd have to pay for it.

Relying on a fit of creativity to strike hasn't served me nearly as well as a humble daily goal of x many pages (currently 6). The fits of creativity still come, and it's nice and very satisfying when they do. So much more satisfying, though, when they add to a steadily growing total.

Every writer has to find what works for him or her. Dr. Judith M. Newman, who presents herself as a resource for technical writers, offers an interesting list of advice on writing fast, much of which seems contradictory (e.g., "Writing fast is about uninhibited invention and good organization" and "Allow yourself to be messy—spread paper all over your desk and floor") but most of which will work for one writer if not for another. I've used many of the techniques she suggests myself, and even "invented" some of them on my own (always a drag to find out you're not the only one who's had that terrific idea). I find most of these suggestions have more to do with writing well than with writing fast, but maybe that's just my spin (or me spinning around).

For those who are so anxious to write faster that they want to enlist help, there's even a CD called "Writing Fast" (no link because I'm not endorsing it--if you're that desperate you'll find it) that promises to help you write any project with lightning speed. The website has lots of Catchy Buzz-Words.

I also found a forum on writing fast. Looks like journalists. I only skimmed a few messages. Some of their suggestions start to look very familiar (see Dr. Newman's list, above).

My point is that how fast one writes is a pretty individual thing. For me, six pages a day is pretty fast, just now. Maybe a year from now I'll consider that slow. For some other folks I know, anything less than twenty pages a day is slacking. And I know at least one writer who can spend an entire block of alloted work time revising one sentence in the quest for perfection (like Oscar Wilde).

Writing fast can be an advantage, particularly if one writes the sort of stuff that has short deadlines. But speed is not the only important factor in writing. To me it's not the most important factor. Writing well is more important, and I think that's demonstrated by the advice on "writing fast" that really doesn't have to do with speed. Some kind of organization is generally a part of writing well. So is allowing oneself freedom in appropriate directions, such as going off on tangents, not worrying about editing until a draft is done, etc. In my experience, the one freedom that's disastrous is allowing oneself the freedom to wait for inspiration to strike.

Six pages and a couple of near-misses with the substitute teapot lid. Maybe I'll have to spring for a new pot. (Yes, I have two others, but they're bigger than I need for my daily pot of tea while I'm writing.) Hm. Birthday's coming up. Maybe my prezzie will be a new teapot.

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