Nothing is Ever Simple or Easy

Nothing is ever simple or easy.  Remember that when writing a novel.

It might seem to you that you’re torturing your characters enough.  This is never true.  In real life, things ambush you when you’re down.

Take Through Fire’s release.  None of the issues would have happened if I’d been keeping track of the calendar and had gone — around October — wait a minute! It’s scheduled for February and I haven’t seen copyedits yet, let alone any other edits.

But around October, I was spending my entire time looking at houses, or collapsing, exhausted, while trying to keep up with smaller deadlines (like short stories) and getting used to Robert moving out.

When I did get anything on it, it was January, and I was having serious issues because of this offer on a short sale (which we just bought) which went in and out of my radar for 6 months, seeming impossible, before coming through, at the WORST POSSIBLE TIME.

Then just before I left for TVIW I was told that I had to move by end of March.  (We were month by month but landlord knew we wanted to move end of May.  BTW he wanted us out so house could go up for sale.  It still hasn’t gone up for sale.) Which meant that I had less than thirty days to pack everything and consolidate the stuff just moved from the house we sold in November, as well as the “use” stuff we’d been using in the rental (You can’t sell a house with four cats in it.)

If one of you — thank you Cal Spriggs! — with a house he could rent us for three months and no objections to pets, hadn’t contacted me and offered, we’d have been in a hotel for three months.  Might not have been much more expensive, but Good Lord, the stress.

And then sale came through end of May.  Yay.  Except it’s a short sale and there’s about 20k of stuff we need to do to house.  Still a good buy, mind, but not extraordinary.

And then our movers — ONLY movers who haven’t lost or broken anything in a move and a half — told us they had to do it over three days WIDELY separated.

So I’ve been madly unpacking since two Saturdays ago, so they have room for new boxes.

And then we ran into issues because of older son’s medical issue and un-postponable appointment which means we have to go to Portugal for about 12 days right after Liberty con and we’re having trouble booking.

And then, yesterday, just as my facebook fan group exploded, I found water in the basement.  Of course you immediately think “Fortune in plumbing” or “foundation in issues.”  It doesn’t seem to be.  More a “stupidly engineered” and the fix should be fairly easy and the trickle of water REALLY only a problem during super storms like the one we just had.  BUT

But that’s how to pile things on a character.  All this while I’m trying to finish Darkship Revenge AND Royal Blood.  If.I.Just.Get.A.Few.Hours a day.

Whether the Author will give me that, that’s the question.

24 thoughts on “Nothing is Ever Simple or Easy

  1. Except as brief respites in the action, things that are simple and easy are boring to read. Or to write. (But sometimes they would be really nice to live…)

    1. If you’re reading a book and the respite is great, you know you’ve just been through a really awful scene, awful enough to appreciate the respite.

      1. Yep. The first scene in Rivendell after Frodo almost fell to the Nazgul is all the more idyllic because of what just happened. (And thus it is all the more shattering when the idyll is broken and the ominous signs return.)

        1. Diana Wynne Jones (who took a class in narrative from Tolkien) wrote a Very Useful essay on how Tolkien set up a pattern of adventure and rest, and then spent the rest of LOTR messing with the pattern and thus the reader. (He did something similar in The Hobbit, but less powerfully.)

          Of course, a lot of Seventies and Eighties fantasy copies the pattern without the usefulness. (And of course similar patterns existed in literature long before Tolkien.)

          Re: Tolkien’s narrative class, Wynne Jones talks a lot about it in her essay, but here’s the short description from an interview she did for Foundation magazine:

          “When I was a student I imagine I caused Tolkien much grief by turning up to hear him lecture week after week, while he was trying to wrap his series up after a fortnight and get on with The Lord of the Rings (you could do that in those days, if you lacked an audience, and still get paid).

          “I sat there obdurately despite all his mumbling and talking with his face pressed up to the blackboard, forcing him to go on expounding every week how you could start with a simple quest-narrative and, by gradually twitching elements as it went along, arrive at the complex and entirely different story of Chaucer’s Pardoner’s Tale – a story that still contains the excitement of the quest-narrative that seeded it. What little I heard of all this was wholly fascinating.”

  2. Off topic, one character was given a simple spell by a wizard and told that if he learned to use it, the wizard would teach him magic.

    By the end of the book, he finally learned to use it and complained to another wizard about “how hard it was to learn to use it”.

    The other wizard replied “Who told you that simple meant easy?” 😀 😀 😀 😀

    1. *chuckle* When I was young, the difference was explained to me very simply. We had a small block 350 lying around that needed to get across town. The problem was, no hoist. How to get it in the back of the truck to ship it?

      “Simple! Just pick it up and put it in the truck bed.”

      For this (at the time) gangly seventeen year old, simple was most definitely *not* easy.

  3. As I recall, I did a beta read of Through Fire in February of 2015. Good story, needed a solid copy edit.
    The draft got sent in to the publisher in April.
    First response you received was the following January, and late January at that. And I suspect that response was not “good story, needs a solid copy edit.”
    Admittedly, it’s your responsibility to keep track of such things, but still it begs the question, what exactly does an author do with a non responsive publisher? It’s one thing to stew over a slush submission for years at a time, but a work written under contract would seem to be a different issue all together.
    Apropos of nothing in particular, when I worked for the gubmint one of the banes of my existence was what I thought of as the crisis managers. Being the gubmint everything had to pass through the proper chain of command. So certain work orders and other documents were required to be signed off by a raft of people. Certain folks had the “interesting” habit of letting documents sit on their desks for days or weeks, then signing off either on or just before the absolute due date for the matter in question. Thus turning something that could have been business as usual into a crisis. Came to realize that this practice was very important to such folks as it greatly increased their own feeling of self worth. The fact that it hosed everyone downstream in the chain paled in comparison to the kick they got out of taking simple actions and turning them into emergencies.

    1. There are times I think the Trickster is in charge. Fortunately he has limited multitasking abilities, and the entire world appreciates the way you keep him busy, Sarah.

    2. Usually it’s a matter of either bad administration (ie, the person forgets where the file is), administrative problems (ie, the editor has personal problems, three different editors are hired and fired, they all forget where the file is), everything else being further behind and hence higher priority, or sheer procrastination.

      My usual bets are forgetfulness or procrastination.

      These things are easier to remedy if you actually work in the same office, because you can just come over and ask. (I’m a procrastinator, so I assume that everybody else is, too. However, I never had to deal with anyone who was vastly higher up than me, who could be annoyed by me coming over and asking for updates.) I’m also very good at helping the forgetful find their stuff.

      But yes, some people do like holding onto stuff until the last minute.

  4. There’s a game in improv called “What Comes Next?” The players create a scene, then the MC stops it and asks “What comes next?” The audience can shout out suggestions for anything, literally anything. It gets weird sometimes, but it’s a useful technique if you’re stuck on a story. (Maybe pull “I feel lucky” on Google.)

  5. OK, I cheated. I let the MC in the book I just (as in 15 minutes ago) finished live to see his grandkids. After dang near killing him and his wife.

    Now, if the Muse will just give me 24 hours so my poor abused arm ligaments and tendons can rest. . .

    1. “Will just let me/give me,” “if only,” and “surely there can/can’t be,” have always got me in trouble. I begin to think someone up there has a warped sense of humor.

  6. Water in the basement? It took decades to finish dealing with the problem in my parents’ house. First step was a berm to stop snowmelt coming down the hill behind the house, followed by regrading the back yard, changing the roof on a major renovation, adding a french/curtain/foundation drain during said renovation (and getting a variance to discharge into an unused port in the storm sewers, which discharge into local waterways) … and that left a trickle after major rainstorms

    What was the fix for the trickle? Putting long downspouts on the leaders down from the gutters, so the water was discharged five feet from the house. Because of the foundation plantings, these are well concealed. Cheap, If there were no plantings, minor regrading and concrete gutters in the grade would have done the job.

    We also have to keep the gutters clear.

    The house was sold last year.

    I hope your fix is as simple as the downspouts. It’s a cheap thing to try, so long as nobody trips over them.

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