Sunday, December 8, 2019

Time passages.


As alert hearth/myth readers know, I'm in the home stretch of my career of working full-time for someone else. In mid-November, I clocked 20 years with my employer, WilmerHale. And yesterday, I turned 62 -- old enough to begin receiving Social Security benefits.

I can't quit yet. For one thing, I haven't applied for Social Security yet (and everything I'm hearing indicates it's a good idea to apply sooner rather than later, as the government has been known to screw up paperwork -- hard to believe, I know). Also, the lease on our apartment runs through July, and I can't afford the rent here without the current job.

But hitting that 62nd birthday is a milestone, even if it's mostly psychological right now. I've been counting down to the date for a few years. I even installed a countdown app on my phone so I could keep track as the days dwindled down.

Of course, hitting a milestone isn't the only effect of passing time. We got our Yule tree today, and while decorating it tonight, I weighed whether this ought to be the final year for our three elf ornaments.

These guys have been hanging on our tree every year since I was a kid, which makes them at least 50 years old. Originally, the wide-awake fellow's costume was a bright green. His has faded the most, but all three of them have lost some of their vibrant color. And the red guy has nearly lost his head several times over the years; we've braced his neck with toothpicks and glue each time, but what if, next time, there's nothing left to brace?

And what if I decide not to bother with a tree next year? By the time I went off to college, I was mostly in charge of putting up the tree. I'd assemble it, Mom would put on the lights -- those old-fashioned C7 lights with the sockets hooked up in series, so that when a bulb blew, the whole string went out -- and then I'd put up the decorations and she'd do the tinsel icicles.

Eventually she let me do the lights, too, but she didn't trust me with the tinsel. She let me do it one year when I was in junior high, I think. I put it on in handfuls instead of strand by painstaking strand. She took one look at my handiwork, yelled at me, and went back to doing it herself. That tinsel is out of fashion now, and good riddance.

Anyway, by the time Mom hit 60, she was over the whole Christmas tree thing -- and now that I'm there, I can kind of see her point. It's a lot of work.

On the other hand, when I turned on the lights tonight for the first time this year, I let out a little gasp of pleasure. They're so pretty.

And those elves are still cute, even if they're faded. I guess I'll pack them away again when the holidays are over this year and see what happens.

***
These moments of timely blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell.


Sunday, December 1, 2019

Retconning the Elemental Keys.

Part of the fun of writing a series of novels is making sure events in the current book follow logically from events in the last book or books. Or as Stephen R. Donaldson once said, "Internal consistency is a bitch."

The quote came to me several times while drafting the fourth and final Elemental Keys book during NaNoWriMo. Fun fact: NaNo concluded yesterday, but thanks to the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, I was able to reach 50,000 words on Friday. The book is tentatively titled Astride the Wind. I have a cover image in mind but it needs some work -- I'll post it soon.

Another fun fact: It's December, y'all. How did that happen when I wasn't looking?

Anyway, back to NaNo. Several weeks ago, I posted a question here: If you had to envision a Tool of Ultimate Destruction, what would it be? You know why I asked? Because at that point, I didn't know what the Tool of Ultimate Destruction would be, let alone what form it would take. I'd written three books in which my characters went haring off after a villain who was after a Tool of Ultimate Destruction, and nobody knew what it was, least of all me. And I was supposed to be driving.

Here's another secret: Before I started writing the five books of the Pipe Woman Chronicles, I meticulously plotted each book's overarching theme and place in the cosmos. By book 3, I had the final showdown half-written in my head. Did I develop a similarly meticulous overarching theme and stuff for the four-book Elemental Keys series? Haha, nope. The whole thing amounted to, "Let's go on an adventure!"

I did draft an outline for each book, and I hit the high points of the outline in each book, but not necessarily in order, or in the way I initially envisioned doing it.

So when I started writing Book 4, I knew I would have to clean some of that up. I found myself spending a lot more time than usual going back to scenes in the earlier books to make sure I had the details in this new book right. And when I finally fleshed out the scene for the final showdown, my brain did sort of a half-gainer and changed up a few crucial things, which made the ending make better sense but which played havoc with stuff that had happened before. I actually wrote in my notes at this point, "So let's retcon this revelation."

Retcon is short for retroactive continuity. It happens a lot in comic books, but it has migrated into other types of longform storytelling. Basically, it's when the creator of a series inserts new information about a character or situation that gives a different interpretation to earlier events. For example, retconning is how we got the most recent Star Trek reboot. (TV Tropes has an article on retconning that goes into more depth.)

In the case of Astride the Wind, I had to explain why an assumption that everybody made at the end of Rivers Run wasn't true. I won't say much more than that, because spoilers. But keep in mind that in Treacherous Ground, when the River Nore told Raney, "It is our understanding that you are meant to stop the door from opening," the river spirit's understanding could have been wrong.

***

I realized after I won NaNo that while I was rushing headlong for 50,000 words on Astride the Wind, I left a couple of things out. So I need to fix those before putting the book aside to ripen. I'm thinking February or March for publication. I'll let y'all know.

***
These moments of bloggy plot twists has been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell.