Ultimatum Received

“All right then,” he said.  He remained in the shadow, his face hidden by the way the light from the hallway was obstructed by the half open door of the office.  “Time to come with me.”

I looked up from the computer, where I’d been making minor alterations to a trunk story.  “Uh… Why?”  the time was six thirty am, give or take a few minutes.  And my visitor was a bulky man with broad shoulders and wearing something… strange.  It could be armor or a space suit.  Or something.  I thought of the boys down the hall, and that they’re both studying for finals and therefore by definition a little loopy.  “Robert?”

“No.”  He sounded impatient and the voice had a faint hint of undefinable accent.

“Marshall?”

“NO!  I said come with me, woman.”

My mom taught me, before I was out of my pram never to go anywhere with strange men, much less strange men like this one.  The more I narrowed my eyes and looked, the more it seemed that he was rather unsubstantial and I could sort of see the panels of the door behind him.

“I don’t think so,” I said.  “I have these stories that were published in the suburban fantasy anthologies to edit, and then I have to write one where they go out to Vegas and get married by zombie Elvis.  And the cat box needs doing.  And I have two novels that need editing, and one I’m copy editing.  And I have friends novels to read for quotes.  And besides,” I said, with finality.  “I have a witlow.”

I got the impression he’d scrunched up his face in a frown. This was quite a trick, considering I couldn’t see his face and wasn’t even sure he had one.  Something appeared in his hand.  It might be a trident or a lance.  He hit the floor with it.  “And yet, surely you must come.  The forgotten demand it.”

“The… what?”

“The forgotten.”

“They’re not forgotten.  They’re lying to you.  I gave them food this morning while I was making tea.  If the bowl is empty, it’s because Havey eats as much as all four other cats combined, and that includes Greebo, look you.”

There was a hiss from the figure, which strangely didn’t make him seem more catlike, but rather, strangely like a tried-beyond-endurance human.  “Come.”

He struck his lance again, and like in a dream, I found myself standing beside him at the window at the end of the hall.  But instead of looking out onto the roof of our garage, our horribly neglected (as in nothing alive) garden, or even the neighbor’s houses, I was looking at a nebulous landscape wreathed in thick fog.  Here and there, pieces of landscape emerged, like wrecked ships on a shallow sea.

“There,” a huge hand pointed at a patch from which something like Greek architecture emerged.  “Is your pre-Mycenaean epic.  The character has agreed to let you give him … er… her a sex change operation.  What are you waiting for?”

“Well, you see, the resear—”

“And over there.” He pointed at a gloomy bit with French renaissance look about it.  “Is the vampire musketeers.  I mean, the second book is three days away from completion.  THREE days.  Why haven’t you done it?”

“There have been—”

“Over there.”  He pointed at the same architecture but more cheerful.  “Is the musketeer mysteries.  You still get letters every week asking for more, don’t you.”

“Well, I’m editing the second, so we can—”

“And there.”  He pointed out a patch of green wreathed in Kudzu that could only exist in the American South.  “When are you going to finish that charming Southern piece?”

“As soon as I—”

“There—”  The mountainous landscape of Goldport Colorado.  “What’s up with not finishing the thing with the chick and the ghost of her dead lover.”

“A week, at most, I swear.  I just have to find a week.”

He next pointed at a futuristic landscape with monolithic public buildings, “I thought you meant to bring out The Brave And The Free on the fourth of July?”

“Well, I did, but then I got sick, and…”

“And what about Winter Prince, a space opera in a completely different universe where you—”

“Oh, that.  I really want to do it but I…”

“Then there’s A Flaw In Her Magic.  Remember how much fan Austen fanfic used to be?”

“Yes, but I had more time then.”

“And orphan kittens.  It’s waiting for you. They all need to be done.  You can do a novel in a month, and you know it, but you’ve wasted almost six months now doing nothing.”

“Not nothing.  There’s editing and publishing and family stuff.  And I was sick.  And before I do any of the others, I must finish the two books under contract for Baen.”

“Yes, those must be done too, but that’s not an excuse.”

He gave me a disgusted look.  For that moment, I could see his face, shifting between the faces of all my characters, male and female.  Let me tell you, it gives you a cold feeling to see Athena Sinistra looking disgusted at you.

“Get sick less, write more.  Hire someone to deal with the other stuff.  Otherwise all the people from those universes will come and make sure you never get a wink of sleep again.”

Like that, he vanished into thin air like a bubble.

And I went back to my desk.

119 responses to “Ultimatum Received

  1. That’s you told then.

  2. Dorothy Grant

    I’d make an intelligent comment here, but trying to get the formatting right in the Scrivener compile has eaten my brain. Just let me get this book out, and then I can start on book 2, and then we can tackle cleaning the basement, and the mail, and the gym, and oh, darnit, dear husband isn’t helping, because he’s retreated to the refuge of working on Book 3 instead of helping me find out how to move a table of contents to the back, blindly trusting I’ll get it right…

    And then there’s the dishes, and the garden, and the laundry, and I think I need a glass of mead Right Now just trying to contemplate it all. I shall certainly bring a good bottle of brandy when next I see you to commiserate on how the person who coined “If you need something done, give it to a busy person” needs to be strung up by their guts…

  3. Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

    At least your characters didn’t lure you into a dark alley to punish you for you did to them. [Evil Grin]

  4. Well that was interesting to read. That the muse come calling? There is such a thing as Jane Austen fanfiction (I had to look that up, mind)?

  5. Coleridge had trouble with people bugging him while he was writing, too.

    • The person from Porridge or something like that?
      There is such a need for justifiable nuisance removal!

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

        There was a time travel short where the time traveler wanted to find out who the “Person from Porlock” was.

        For the longest time he watched Coleridge and the “Person from Porlock” didn’t show up.

        He finally went and asked Coleridge if anybody had come by earlier.

        The way Coleridge responded to the question made the time traveler realized that *he* was the “Person from Porlock” who interrupted Coleridge. [Very Big Evil Grin]

      • Porlock. Poor Samuel Taylor Coleridge couldn’t get his vibe back after being interrupted while writing Kubla Khan. Now, in fiction the person from Porlock has been both reviled for blocking a wonderful poem, and in one book, revered for preventing the destruction of the Earth, but I have wondered if the second unwritten part of that poem would have wound up being more like _Beyond the Mountains of Madness_, with sinister evils lurking in the caves of ice below the pleasure dome.

        • Yeah, that place! I knew I had it wrong, but figured I’d offer up a bit of comic relief. And it was that or Morlock ….

        • Reading that poem as an angsty, geeky teen, I was moved to write a song (not a very good one) about those icy caverns being a place of terrible visions. I suspect that Nix’s Clayr had a significant impact on that fan fic filk*. I still like the general idea, and the intro I could and can hear in my head (a deep voice with slightly aristocratic accents intoning the last four lines over the slow introductory crescendo) almost gives me goosebumps even yet.

          *Not technically filk, but the alliteration was irresistible.

        • Pfft. As if Coleridge was the only, the first or even the last artist to turn in substandard crap and blame it on “interruption.” Any poet dependent on “inspiration” for his craft and who gets that inspiration by burning the “midnight oil” is a hack.

          N.B.: Some slang terms for opium include “O.P.”, “hop”, “tar”, “dope”, “Big O”, and “midnight oil”.

          • Just so nobody starts asking awkward questions about my knowledge of slang terms for opium (and because I assume none of y’all are conversant with sed terms) searchengine “slang: opium”

            • William O. B'Livion

              sed terms?

              like d/ and s///?

              Worse than opium mate. Worse.

              :wq

              • William O. B'Livion

                Oops, at the stuff in the brackets. That should have been:
                d/pattern/ and s/pattern/replacementpattern/ with angle brackets around them.

                • Ain’t it annoying how WP makes it almost impossible to post certain types of jokes? There is great want of a method of indicating brackets without employing active brackets.

                  Otherwise, well played, sir, well played.

          • Actually, as I recall, Coleridge got his inspiration by burning opium.

            • See footnote, prior comment: midnight oil = opium.

              The high school I attended required The Rime of the Ancient Mariner in 9th (10th? one of those) grade. Nice pome but not something to inflict on high school English classes.

              • Did it in 8th grade. Hard slogging.

              • William O. B'Livion

                I wonder if that’s where the band got it’s name.

                The lead singer should have stuck to singing. He’s f*d up every post he’s had since. Caring isn’t enough, you got to be able to THINK too.

              • Yeah, Was that there the first time I read it? I had a rough time with my 13 weeks column this week (http://pjmedia.com/lifestyle/2013/05/11/13-weeks-and-the-envelope-please/ [Adv]) and was reading that on maybe 3 hours sleep.

                Speaking of cranky muses.

                • The last month, my writing has been like rolling a stone uphill… both ways. I think I’ve been ill, but nothing I can put my finger on. (I’ve also not done much of anything else.) So, I’m going to say “hormonal insanity.” — there are other reasons to think this, of course, including the fact that it usually is.

                • Geeze, I wish I could retro-edit these thimgs! Mit my flingers these wou;d be unredable mitout spellcheck!

                  The slang term was new to me — in my days of youthful experimentation opium wasn’t something that held any interest for me, and I quickly sussed that the problem with doing illegal drugs is you found yourself associating with train-wrecks in waiting.

                  Congrats on the dietary voyage. Having been through the Type-II transition myself I know the trip. After a while you lose the interest in forbidden items — keep in mind that most of those tempting things aren’t actually very good once you’ve reprogrammed the palate. It is the idea of cupcakes that tempts you; the actual thing will always disappoint.

                  For exercise, try audiobooks while walking or treading the mill. Find what kind of material works for you — non-fiction, thrillers, mysteries, SF, whatever — and you will hardly notice the walking because you get absorbed in the reading.

  6. Hmmmm, couldn’t have been me nagging, I don’t have broad shoulders … besides, I have a different “To Do” list for you …

  7. Yes, it’s always fun when your characters make demands of your time and efforts. Just a few months ago I had Guy Fawkes tellling me, “Okay, you wretched anglophilic bastard, you’ve put me in Hell, now at least you can finish writing the story so my current torment can be completed and I can find out haw badly it ends for me this time.” Writing my story for the anthology, Dreamers in Hell was a rather long drawn out torturous process and many sleepless nights, as I dug deep within myself to put as much agony and angst into the characters’ experiences. It was , I think worth it in the end.

  8. I was going to try and write something witty but that would take too much time and I just don’t want to concentrate that hard now. I am busy mastering the fine art of procrastination while appearing industrious to outside observers. The next level is to become a Master Procrastinator where you have advanced to the point where not only do you not feel guilty about putting off whatever it is you are putting off. The recipients of whatever was promised by a certain time actually feel ashamed to remind you of approaching or missed deadlines. Alas, I do not think I shall ever achieve Master Level because it requires oneself to go into politics.

    • Au contraire, some forty years ago, in a fit of I don’t know what, I actually officially declared my major in college to be Procrastination and Deviation. It being a fine old Quaker school and, well, forty years ago, no one questioned this, nor did anyone say a thing about having to go into politics. Of course, I had been actively organizing since I was fourteen, so, sadly, I had already bitten that apple, so to speak. (I was headed into history with political science, a kind of family tradition, but what I put down on the all the forms was Procrastination and Deviation.) Appropriately, I have yet to finish the degree.

      • William O. B'Livion

        Eventually you’ll have earned doctorate, but no one will bother typing it up.

      • Appropriately, I have yet to finish the degree.

        I resemble that! I have the credits for a double-major: History and Earth Science. I don’t have a degree, because I’ve never spent enough time in one college to satisfy residency requirements… 8^(

        • If you are looking for something to waste time on while getting the inspiration to do some high-end procrastination, the Battle of the Nations 2013 is on Youtube. Yep, 6 to 8 hours of armored bashing. Three days worth so far. Some of those teams aren’t playing.

  9. Hmm. Random character casts “Summon Author”.

    Actually, that would be a pretty powerful (and dangerous) thing – to be able to capture the writer of your story for some nefarious purpose. 😛

    Random character: You think the fact that we’re imaginary is any protection? Heh, heh, heh.

    • Hmm. Random character casts “Summon Author”.

      Oooh, that’d work rather nicely as a metaphor– Forgotten Realms type god, rather than yanking Himself’s attention, since things aren’t in control of a lowercase G and many authors seem to not be really in control….

  10. Ok, then – your characters have spoken.
    Speaking of which, mine are reminding me that I have only about three more chapters to go on the current WIP.
    http://celiahayes.wordpress.com/2013/05/03/from-the-work-in-progress-the-quivera-trail/
    Usually, at this point I have a Scathingly Brilliant Notion, which requires me to go back and extensively re-write in order to accomodate it.

  11. just to be clear. I love the way your brain works.

  12. When you prioritize everything you prioritize nothing. Pick one thing (roll dice if necessary) and work it. Then move to the next. Tell everyone else to sit down, shut up, and read a goram book.

    I must say, the pre-Mycenaean epic sounds interesting.

    Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a dirty kitchen, laundry that hasn’t been folded for a year, and a box of stuff from my Afghanistan trip two years ago to ignore.

    • Yes, I’ve come to the conclusion that’s what I need to do.

      • Don’t underestimate the power of a coin toss in decision making. Not as a random bit generator, but an impromptu Rorschach test. Assign heads and tails, then flip the coin. If your initial reaction the the results is “OK” then do that. If your first thought is “best two out of three” then you really want to do the other thing, so do that.

        • Advice that I desperately needed!!! I’m going to try out the coin toss today.

          • I coin toss when I’ve got a battle. It determines who lives and who dies. Unless I need two out of three . . . which I take to mean my subconscious has need of that person later on, so he survives.

            • Jeff Gauch

              In a similar vein (and it may have inspired the technique) I would recommend Asimov’s short “The Machine That Won the War.”

              You know, for a man of the Left, Asimov seemed to intuitively understand that collectivism couldn’t work as long as people were in charge.

        • I have a 6×8 matrix Combat Results Table I can loan you ….

          • Jeff Gauch

            I can generally trust my subconscious, it’s just that sometimes I have to trick it into talking to me. He’s kind of an ass.

            • My subconscious is an OK guy. Its my conscious that’s an ass.

              • My problem isn’t multiple personalities. I have different aspects of my personality nattering on in my head. The problem is that my personality is an arrogant, condescending, jackass prone to passive and active aggressive outbursts.

                • I think mine is a b*tch on wheels, but I’m trying to convince myself I’m just passionate…

                  Yeah. Passionate. That sounds good.

                  • I take comfort in the fact that I’m an equal-opportunity ass. I may be an ass to you, but if I decide you’re my responsibility I’ll be an ass for you, which isn’t nothing.

                • You’ve my sympathy. Unlike you or those fortunate folks here with multiple personalities, I have no personality (‘ey – somebody has to go short to keep the averages reasonable!) I had to borrow them as a kid, or one if I had a little spare money. Finally I was able to buy one, used, from this second-hand personality dealer in a back-alley in Cairo. I think it might have gotten damaged in shipping, and the conversion from metric didn’t go quite so well as I hoped, but whattya gonna do? I’ve installed a few after-market apps to juice it up a little, but sometimes they seem to conflict and cause … quirks (I think that is the socially polite term.) A little judicious tapping with a ball peen hammer, some paint and polish and I get by, even if the upholstery is looking a little worn.

                  • I’ve found ethyl alcohol to be quite effective as a personality lubricant. Care is required, since at high concentrations it can become explosive.

                    • I have tried that and find that there are system flaws which cause the OS to crash.

                    • You’re either not using enough or using too much. Lubricants can be tricky like that.

                    • Unfortunately most forms of alcohol go straight to headache for The Spouse. Not polite little headaches, but great big rude ones, so then The Family all suffers. No, we do not in anyway place the blame upon the sufferer. Dearest Friend really does his best to keep it to himself. One of the shortcomings of that faulty cut-rate personality with its various patches is that it leaks.

                  • sigh. I’m going to end up writing this…

                    • Sorry – I ought have mentioned this before, but the day has been a busy one. Be aware, when you purchase a pre-owned personality, that “TV personality” does not necessarily mean you’re getting one that was on television. No, I do not want to talk about it.

      • I am not an Expert by any means, but I know a thing or three about the Minoan and Cycladic civilizations. To the extent anything can be known about them.

        Some of the weird details I’ve run across are good story fodder. For instance, the Cycladic people (apparently) made a bunch of statues, put them on boats, traveled miles away to Keros, and smashed the statues to pieces. Maybe they suffered plagues of iconoclasts.

        Poorly understood civilizations have some of the disadvantages of historical novels (lots of research, lots of waiting on the interlibrary loan system, sometimes very difficult research using poorly machine-translated articles from foreign journals (or “2 years of the language in school a decade ago” translated), the lure of anachronisms, future discoveries may make you look foolish, prophetic, or both) and some of the disadvantages of fantasy novels (lots of making-stuff-up, the difficulty of faking a viable civilization that “feels” right without just blatantly copying a real one). So naturally one of the settings I’m working on involves people kidnapped from several(!) poorly understood bronze age cultures and transported to another planet. Fortunately, I have a few centuries of history on the new planet to hide the worst of my errors.

  13. If I may suggest:

    Tell your characters that you are not their chambermaid. Remind them that you and they are not a democracy. Suggest they research the concept of ‘gatekeeper’.

    Tell your visitor where to shove his trident.

    • 1. Disclaimers: a.) I am no fan of George Soros. b.) Nothing herein is a substitute for the sound, experienced, common-sense advice others have offered.

      2. But I hate following instructions blindly, even if I am sure they will work. To my frequent regret, before doing anything I too often insist on understanding why they work.

      3. Anyway, Soros said/wrote that he experienced a crisis after his business took off. He developed the feeling that his firm was an entity which was demanding not just all his time, but his soul. To establish that the business was a subsidiary instrument of his human aspirations, he surmounted a period of struggle.

    • I usually scoff at pop psychology but, of course, when I do it, that’s different. 🙄

      Pure speculation:

      Possibly your meta/un/subconscious mind is confronting the leap to the next level of craftsmanship, and gathering itself or shying away.

  14. Thankfully my online class does not know how to manifest itself in my kitchen to nag me … as grades are due this weekend …

  15. Just a suggestion: prioritize them by the money they will bring in over the short and the long term (1, 3, 5 years). And then do them in that order, and as soon as they are bringing in said money, hire yourself whatever help you need – which will guarantee the others will get your attention, because you CAN pay someone else to rotate the cat, but you CAN’T pay someone else to do your writing.

    I’m assuming here you can choose what to work on if you want. Health you can’t buy, but having less other stuff to do MIGHT also help there.

    You have so much good stuff out there, it is only a matter of time.

    • Dorothy Grant

      Other than knowing shorts bring in less money per sale and less sales volume than novels, do we have enough data to be able to say “The pre-Mycenaean epic will slot into the historical/fantasy fanbase that came for Ill Met By Moonlight, so it’ll bring in roughly X dollars, and anything Goldport can be timed to the release of Noah’s Boy, so will bring in Y, but the orphan kittens will require attracting a different audience than the shorts and the shakespear currently provide, so it’ll only bring in Z dollars until she gets book three out?”

      Indie is so precociously new, it’s hard to have good short-term data trends, much less long-term ones.

      Not to sound like I’m disparaging your suggestion, ma’am. I’m more desperately procrastinating while trying to find the KDP cover image pixel requirements, and avoiding scrivener’s compile while shooting it wary and hurt looks.

      In digging out of debt, there are two major strategies on credit card / loan repayment. The first is to pay off the highest-interest debt first, because that will save the most money to then apply to the next-highest-interest debt. The second is to pay off the smallest debt first – no matter whether others are more expensive, the reward of having cleared one burden off your back, and having one less thing to worry about, gives enough mental strength and fortitude to tackle the next-smallest. If we changed that from money to time, I couldn’t say which strategy is better for our Dear Hostess, either.

      • we actually have no clue what will sell. Robert has a throw-away short story that didn’t sell to publishers, which has sold over 1k copies and made him more than if he’d sold it at professional rates.

        • If you truly have no clue from your sales data and experience on lots and lots of books (I understand lack of data from the trad pubs), then of course the suggestion is useless. Start gathering some on your indie stuff – I’m sure one of the regular commenters would be happy to massage it for you. There has got to be a statistician in the bunch.

          I’m not offering him (he’d look at me as if I were completely nuts), but DH didn’t do much on most of our science fair projects over 3 kids and K-12, as he was working full time, and my energy is always gone by evening, BUT, in the final crunch, he would take all our data – which I was tearing my hair out to make sense of – and apply a bunch of his research skills, and wouldn’t you know, out would pop the relevant things the experiments we designed (sometimes with his help, but not always) actually proved. I’d help the kids take and graph and sort of interpret their data – he’d show them how they had real, good science in there, and had conclusions they could safely make on their reports and presentations.

          Amazing things, statisticians – and they see trends and patterns where the rest of us see chaos.

          And with actual data on well designed experiments, wow.

          • Actually, it’s baffling. I don’t have lots of books out — I have lots of shorts. BUT other than nuns in space there is no consistent “bestseller.” This month, for instance it’s ALL anthologies. go figure.

            • Dorothy Grant

              I look forward to seeing if and how that changes as you get the novels out, G-d willing and the son of death flu don’t rise.

              • so far the flu is quiescent — finally. It’s just allergies and stupid hormonal tricks, now. And even that — KNOCK ON WOOD — seems to finally be receding.

              • I should mention I resumed my exercise program. I don’t know if I resumed it because I’m finally well enough, or if I’m finally well enough because I resumed it — it’s one of those.

                • Dorothy Grant

                  I understand perfectly. The balance between hurting and therefore not moving vs hurting because you’re not moving enough is one of aging’s cruel indignities.

                  On a completely random tangent, did you know that curry is actually a little silvery leaved plant looking not unlike rosemary? Three dollars later, and one is mine all mine!

                  • I’ll agree on the indignities that accompany ageing, and will refer to line The Spouse developed after knee surgery at 26, ‘It isn’t the getting old, it is the getting decrepit that is the problem.’

                    Curry plant, helichrysum italicum, is lovely. It is a native to southern Europe and generally hardy to zone 7a and will withstand drought. It is used for its sent, in potpourri and wreaths, and not in cooking according to The Big Book of Herbs (one of there most comprehensive references available).

                • Re. exercise. It is possible to do crunches around a cat who has marched up and is sitting on your abdomen. Not easy, and probably not productive, but possible. It does tend to annoy the cat, though.

                  • William O. B'Livion

                    Crunches are a waste of effort anyway, unless you’re practicing for a test.

                    Ms. Hoyt: You ought to try swimming regularly. Keeps the sinuses flushed pretty good.

                    • Er… I never learned to swim. Long story.

                    • I never learned to swim either (lol)… I did learn to float on my back though. I sink if I am not on my back btw. *sigh The hubby swims like a fish.

                    • These crunches and sit-ups are part of PT for recurring back problems.

                    • Personally I find the ones from Nestle well worth the effort.

                    • I can swim, but not well except under water. At 66, my body density is still greater than water. Absolutely infuriates some of my doctors who want me to do “water therapy”. I had to demonstrate to one doctor that no, I do NOT get any buoyancy from the water, and therefore it does NOT reduce the stresses on my joints. I still have problems. Most of my exercising is done with targeted isometrics that don’t cause joint pain. I need something for cardio, but there’s not a lot of isometrics for that…

                    • I don’t know about any other joins involved, but those eliptical runner machines are alright for my knees– just need to set them low, and then you float/run for an hour.

  16. On the one hand, there’s a lot to be said for letting an idea mature until it’s ready for the light of day, or the boil festers until ready for the lance, depending on genre of course.
    On the other, every transition from one task to another involves time lost to reconfiguration of the mindset. The more transitions, the more time lost. It can quickly devolve from productive multitasking into dithering if you don’t stay on top of it.
    I still recommend you create a prioritized list of tasks and post it somewhere you cannot ignore it, then focus on no more than the top third. Or find some entirely different method, but seize control above all else, or get used to frequent visits from that same mysterious stranger.
    Will leave you with an excerpt from perhaps the best lecture on being a writer ever presented, Heinlein’s Channel Markers speech.

    “It means working when you don’t feel like working, even though there is no one to tell you that you must. It means following these rules even when you are disheartened by a long string of rejections and your head aches and your stomach is upset—and your wife thinks you are a fool not to look for a job. It means refusing to see your best friends when you are writing. It means telling your wife and children to get out of your study and stay out! It means offending people who can’t understand that writing must not be interrupted—not for dinner parties, not for birth, not even for Christmas. It means getting a reputation as a bad-tempered, self-centered curmudgeon—and resigning yourself to living with that reputation no matter how eagerly you want to be liked—and writers do want to be liked, else they would not be trying to reach people through writing.”

    • FlyingMike

      Re Lar’s other hand point: Back when I had a Sun Microsystems SunOS/UNIX workstation on my desk (and when Windows didn’t do this yet) I first learned the concept of “Thrashing”: When you had too many processes running at once, the operating system tried to timeshare everything out so each task got at least some processor time, and to make that work it also had to swap each tasks data in and out of memory. Keep adding new tasks and at a certain point the machine is spending all of its time swapping data in and out, with each task getting only a few processor cycles before the OS moves on to the next thing, but everything is moving at a crawl, and nothing is really getting done. This is Thrashing.

      The only way to fix things and regain progress is to drop (the UNIX command is kill) some of the processes.

      Lessons for life from SunOS UNIX.

      • Sadly, I have seen far too many middle management types who will actually foster a work environment markedly similar to what you describe with the UNIX OS. The thing is, everybody “looks” busy under a cursory examination. It’s not until somebody with some insight realizes that nothing ever actually gets accomplished that something gets done to correct what is truly a toxic and unproductive situation. Unfortunately, those at fault have often either moved on or passed the blame to someone else thus escaping responsibility for causing the condition in the first place.
        In a somewhat similar vein I am reminded of one manager who firmly believed that mornings were for drinking coffee, reading the paper, and socializing. Long about mid afternoon when neglected situations had reached a fine rolling boil he would roll up his sleeves and declare, “we must solve the crisis! We’ll bear down and stay until the problems are solved!” I worked a good many evenings fixing stuff that could rightfully have been dealt with as a matter of course in normal hours, but I finally realized that I was dealing with a fire fighter, a crisis junky. Took a good bit of effort on my part, but finally managed to arrange a lateral transfer to an operational division well out of his authority. One of the best moves I ever made.

  17. BobtheRegisterredFool

    Lesse, I’ve a thing for a couple months that only needs a few hours, probably six max, to crank out.

    I have a *mumble* that I should have finished a couple weeks back.

    I have a thing on the big emergency project of the past week and a few days that I really need to find some sense to finish certain portions of before Monday, so I can move forward on getting some of it tied off. (This will probably fix itself, now that I’ve settled the issues that were messing up my sleep.)

    The various creative writing projects, including the recent one that wants to take some of my diatribes and turn them into dialogue.

    All the other things on the various lists, some of them very feasible and some of them not.

    Here and now, I think I need to go eat breakfast, and get ready to go out.

  18. I get haunted by poetry until I write it down. If I write it down quickly, I get more sleep.

  19. Final edits on book 3 of series – in process. Title & cover for book 4 done so I can put them on the website – done. Gotta write chapter 1 of book 4 to stick it in the back of book 3 as a come-on – not so much. At least I have some idea of what book 4 will be about, and a very sketchy outline.

    And, oh, did I mention? I just moved. I have about 300 boxes to unpack in the house. As for the warehouse: 210 bookcases to set up (and eventually another 1200 boxes for them). “Marathon,” she muttered to herself, “not sprint.”

    • Dorothy Grant

      Grab chapter one of the next book and…. aieeee! I didn’t think of that!
      *facepalm*
      and now time to rework and recompile, and I haven’t even finished the cover yet…

      Thank you for the reminder.

  20. I’ve had nightmares about stories I’ve been writing (Korean War bio of a POW), but I’ve never had a waking nightmare threaten me.
    You know, Sarah, those prescription bottles have clear warnings about mixing the meds with alcohol!

  21. Voice activation software might be able to deal with the whitlow. But yah, sounds like the randomizer brigade are probably right. Also you need an editor who doubles as a cleaning service.

  22. Writing, not commenting.

    M

  23. Writing Book Three of Four of what was supposed to be a one-shot short novel. Proofing (yet again) Non Fic Vol. 2. Research reading and pre-tour reading. Nursing bod back to health after I got stupid Tues-Wed and am new paying the price. Folks, drink water. Drink enough water.

    • Since you don’t drink, you have me curious as to what you did to remind everyone to drink lots of water.

      • I got dehydrated, just enough to aggravate a chronic affliction, which in turn irritated other more minor problems. This being a PG-13 blog, I’m going to leave it there.

        Grrr. It’s one thing to be miserable due to things outside your control, but it’s another to be miserable while slapping yourself on the forehead going “you dumbass. You know better and you still ignored all the hints, signs, and portents.”

  24. Chad Lynch

    When I was a boy we lived in a town called Newcastle, in the foothills east of Sacramento. Every year around Christmas the valley fills fog for 2 to 4 weeks and the tops of those clouds would come up to the edge of out yard, but no higher. For those couple of weeks it was like living in a floating castle, crystal sky above, ocean of clouds at my feet, and it felt like you could look out across it and almost see the bay 2 and a half hours away.

    This gave me a little of that same feeling. After having another awful dream last night I needed that. Thanks.

  25. I got a white board to organize my stuff. First thing I discovered was that I needed a bigger white board.

  26. Was, uh, that your muse? Because I think our muses have been conspiring with one another. Thank goodness yours hasn’t resorted to the “whips and more whips” methodology yet and simply goes with resigned disappointment.

    • Maybe they’re hiding behind the shed conspiring.
      M1: “OK, my turn. What if . . . I slap him with two great characters that can’t fit into the same book?” M2: “Ohhh, that’s a good one.”
      M3 (taking notes): “Top you. They can’t fit in the same book, but she doesn’t realize it until she’s 100 pages in!”

    • BobtheRegisterredFool

      Looks like a character to me. See, I put together the ancient epic with the maybe-older-than-homeric warrior…

  27. Oh dear. I ought to have suspected that something like this was coming when I got the email the other day about starting to feel better. “Very well – you’re feeling better? Then can I have your attention ‘please’.”

  28. “Get sick less, write more.”

    Easier said than done, Defined.

    “Hire someone to deal with the other stuff. ”

    Uh-huh — and where the money for that coming from?

    Any task is easy when it isn’t you doing it.

    • I have a foolproof plan that will bring Mrs. Hoyt (and anyone else who follows it) unbridled happiness: Suck less. Details are left as an exercise for the reader.

      • Thank you for your delightful and enlightening comment. I shall certainly endeavor to remember and think of it often until the end of my days. :-p

        On Sat, May 11, 2013 at 10:54 PM, According To Hoyt wrote:

        > ** > Jeff Gauch commented: “I have a foolproof plan that will bring Mrs. > Hoyt (and anyone else who follows it) unbridled happiness: Suck less. > Details are left as an exercise for the reader.” >

  29. Wayne Borean aka The Mad Hatter

    Ah, characters getting uppity again. Happens. Just hit them with an interobang. Usually works. Usually.

    Wayne

    • If ‽ doesn’t work, you can always go back to the standard set of persuaders. They come in small, medium, large, and enormous.
      Small = rubber mallet
      Medium = Regular hammer or large mallet
      Large = Sledgehammer
      Enormous = Any device over two tons with tracked wheels

      At least, that’s how we thought of them when I worked construction as a kid…