The Joys of Post-Midnight Character Intrusions

Sometime last night between 3:30 and 4 am, or maybe it was three….I woke up.  There’s the usual “Do I have to get to the bathroom right now or can I have another bit of sleep first” but that issue didn’t seem urgent…what did was being wide awake.  WIDE awake.  I tried my usual “drift into sleep” visualizations and so on, but instead, quite suddenly, I had Ky Vatta in my head, about to enter a room with a prisoner and a guard.  (WHAT???)  Thinking she wished she knew more about the guard, reminding herself she wasn’t in uniform and thus didn’t look official.  Holding a very quiet conversation with Rafe, who was there but waiting outside the door of the interview room, into which he had already inserted certain electronic devices…(WHAT? HOW? WHAT DID HE DO?) and then she went in, as someone not Rafe, and in uniform (kinda blurry) opened the door and waved her inside…she with a file folder of the kind that has cardboardy front and back, and metal strip down the side (not the top) holding things together.

Ky seen simultaneously from inside her head, and from outside, is more scary than either one alone.   I was, briefly, mystified.  The latest work section on the ms. had been untangling yet another time sequence issue, with the first encounter with X, the man in the striped jumpsuit sitting in the corner handcuffed to the desk, then some days behind her and no expectation of seeing him again.  WHAT HAPPENED IN THE MEANTIME? I still don’t know, but I do know more about the man, and Ky.   I know the scene is essential, and if it doesn’t fit in this volume I will have to write yet another Vatta book.  Or deepsix a large chunk of what I’ve already written, the thought of which makes me want to stamp my little (!) feet and cry.  I watched/experienced Ky’s side of the scene.  But I was still tired and needed more sleep, so I told the book “OK, you’ve shown me; I’m going back to sleep.”  “NO.”   “It’s OK, I’ve got it, I’ll remember it in the morning. ”  “You say that but you almost never do, and you never remember the exact words and they matter.  Look at it again.  What’s the man’s first name?”

Deep in my mind, I was muttering, “It’s FICTION, what difference does it make if I remember the name he has now?” and of course I couldn’t.  I watched it again (mental re-run is a handy ability humans have–how many times have you replayed something that happened until you finally had down what you wished you’d said?)  Alex.  The man’s first name is Alex.  Tired, worried, haunted looking eyes, dark hair, lighter than Ky, but not white.  Posture said former military.  “What’s the second word she says?”  Couldn’t remember, then I could.  “Disconcerting”.  But that was internal speech, what she was thinking, not what she was saying.  She wasn’t sure of the guard.  Not being sure of the guard made her feel more alive, more alert.  And the book kept prodding me until I finally rolled out of bed, felt around for my headlamp, turned it on, tucked in my hand, and snuck into the study to turn on the computer. With a side trip to the small tiled room because never start writing without.

It was really dark at 4 am.  I put this scene in a new file since I had no idea *whatever* where it fit in the current ms.  And started with the first thought I found in her head.  “It was disconcerting to be in a small room with a prisoner and a guard she was not sure was a guard.”  And I was off on the ride.  About seven pages later I fell off the ride, ejected from my seat on the merry-go-round,  head empty of ideas but noticing the early light in the sky outside, and wishing I could go back to bed.  Instead, I snuck into the kitchen (YES, snuck.  It sounds sneakier than “sneaked”) and started the small bean/vegetable soup I’d planned the day before.  Because of certain symptoms, I have put myself on a very strict diet (already the swelling has gone down) and a clearly defined bean/vegetable soup, whose per-cup calorie count I calculated myself, will be part of my meal plans.  Today was Day 4.  I’ve been spending way more time than I want doing calculations and figuring out how to get the right amounts of this and that, because I’m not eating any !**! broccoli. (for one example).  So I’m also hungry (not too bad) and the brain, which is used to a steady supply of the glucose it wants at a moment’s notice, the required fuel up there for thinking, is insisting that even the wait for the liver to release stored glucogen is Too Long.   There’s a certain amount of brain fog added to the existing cognitive foul-ups.

The soup is good, though not as good as my soups with meat in them–I think I have a bit too much corn.  R- and I each ate two cups of it; he liked it a lot but he got to put a gob of shredded cheese in his second helping.  (Whine…I LOVE shredded cheese in soup!).  So four quarts dwindled to three, and the three quarts are now stored in the fridge as if I were going to freeze them, but I’m not.  I don’t think.  In the meantime, thinking about the book.

I’m not telling y’all the guy’s last name, because Ky meets a lot of new people in this book and I don’t want you to know which ends up in a prison/official interview room with her yet.  You should get to read the initial interaction ‘cold.’   But here’s a bit:

Ky:  Well, Alex, why don’t you tell me how you got into this situation?

Alex, furious: Give me my rank!

Ky: (gently but firmly)  Alex, you know I can’t do that.  You’ve been court-martialed; you aren’t in the military anymore.


And so, after lunch of three slices of deli ham wrapped in one slice of toast, I finally got some sleep.  And when I’d done feeding the horses, the soup was done and we enjoyed it.   The horses were in a bit of a mood, but Rags did not run over me or try to push past when I made him wait at the gate rather than following Tigger in too closely (which triggers a kick in Rags’ direction.)

Have a good evening, everyone.

21 thoughts on “The Joys of Post-Midnight Character Intrusions

  1. Wow – what a kick. Tell Ky to let you have a good nights sleep. I too suffer from the incredible shrinking cookbook for we elder folks although for different reasons. But it sounds like things are slowly getting better. Spring has finally sprung up here in New Hampshire.

    Stay safe and stay sane


  2. How infuriating of Ky! She must function in a different time zone to people in Texas. But I do know what you mean about waking in the night and wondering whether one will have to get up before going back to sleep…. usually, one has to!

  3. Interesting, when I’m awakened in the middle of the night with thoughts that won’t let me go back to sleep it’s usually some genealogy search idea… Have I looked at an earlier census? Did I look for land records? Maybe they got married in an adjacent state. As now we look in Nevada for people from California, 100 years ago they went from Oklahoma to Texas.
    So, reading this, Alex must have outranked Ky previous to the court martial. And here I am, hoping Ky will leave you alone because I really, Really, REALLY need to know where Dorrin was needed north of wherever she was. And the most vexing question of all: little Arvid, how did his life go?

      1. The easy “why Dorrin went north” is that her new mount took her to where she was needed. The more difficult “why” would require writing it to find out. And right now, with the plotting module limping along on one spitting-n-sparking thingie-whopper I’ve forgotten the name of (capacitor–that’s it–capacitor. I think….) there’s insufficient power to get such questions answered in a timely fashion. We’ve had internet problems for a week now, and the dropouts from websites look like my brain sometimes feels. “Click her for………….timed out, please restart your device.”

        Young Arvid, now…he’s a couple of years older and looks to me that he’s entering a stage of excessively righteous and judgmental smugness as he’s been happy and safe for awhile now. Arvid’s down south and east of Fin Panir, having taken over that grange (and doing a good job of Marshaling) and young Arvid’s really-really proud of him and of himself for how fast he’s learned to read and so on. But there’s a stormcloud coming his way. Is Arvid-the-former-thief-now-Marshal really his father, or does someone else have a plausible claim?

  4. Great stuff! The book seems to grow richer each time. Eager to read the finished book but more than willing to let it take as long as it takes to ripen —after all, LOTR wasn’t written in a day either

    BTW, have you already seen a version of this neat story about the Shire mare entering training to become a Drum Horse with one of the posh British regiments? (hope this link works)

  5. The new stuff about Ky may never make it into a book, but the May 20 post is worth the read and a jolly way to start my day.

  6. Yikes. How awfully rude of Ky to keep you awake at such an ungodly hour. Doesn’t she know we do not have implants with sleep cycle enhancers? (oh boy would i love one of those, even for the sleep cycle enhancers alone!)
    Take care of you please

    1. Alas, stories and story-characters do not give a fig about the health and welfare of those who write them….though that might make an interesting fantasy if they *did*….hmmm. Thanks for that idea. Would the writers listen to “You really should watch out–that (symptom) could be a sign of (serious condition). Call your doctor tomorrow” or would they eye the approaching deadline and tell the character to “stay in your lane, I have a book to finish”?

  7. In “Number of the Beast” Heinlein alluded to the idea of characters continuing to adventure even when blue penciled by the author… I haven’t managed to make it through “Search for the Pankera” but one reviewer indicated that the author is really the object of the search; another one said they totally understood why it wasn’t published in 1977 when he wrote it. I’d rather read Elizabeth Moon than unedited Heinlein at this point in my life.

  8. Have you seen Friesian Horses on YouTube? The mare Uniek’s foal was stillborn and someone (they don’t say who) had an orphan the same day. Uniek has adopted the orphan. I thought you might enjoy the videos. I tried to paste the url and it wouldn’t let me, if you don’t know about this site, maybe you can find it.

  9. Okay! I was hoping we weren’t done with Ky yet, and this just makes my whole body sing.

    Thank you my friend (nope, you don’t know me – but your books have made you my friend).

  10. Okay! I was hoping that you weren’t done with Ky et al. And this means I can look forward to at least one more book.

    Thank you my friend! (No you don’t know me, but you are my friend for all the hours and joys you’ve given me with your books). May you live long and prosper!

    I miss my horses. But we’re just too old to keep up with horses any more, and while we loved our boys for all the years they lived and all the joys they gave us, we had to let them go when it was time – and we’ve chosen not to replace them…. Being old is good in some ways, but in others…. it sucks.

    Our boys are in horse heaven now – where the grass is long and green, there’s grain in the feeders when they look for it, and the water is sweet and pure.

    And now I’m in tears….

    1. Now I’m in tears too, and sorry not to have seen this earlier. Hugs for you and your horses and the loss of same. These two will probably be my last ones and they are having a lazy time of it until I lose some more weight. 15 down and more to go before I weigh Rags down again. I’ve done pre-planning for both. Being old and having to give up those you love definitely sucks.

  11. I know how annoying these middle-of-the-night communiques from story characters are. And as a reader I am excited to learn more of Ky’s adventures. Looking forward to more of Ky’s next story.

    1. Many of her adventures early in this book are domestic. She’s familiar with spaceships and what they need, but it’s been a long, long time since she’d paid attention to house stuff. There are similarities but big differences. And the house she’s in now, though she spent some time in it years and years ago, before she went to the Academy, has been handled by outsiders–renters and later vandals when it was empty. As a child/teenage visitor, she had no responsibilities for–for instance–the plumbing, including where the stuff in the plumbing *goes* as well as where it comes from. Having laid out some of it in my mind I realized I had not dealt with that very important item for rural residences…the tile field, and its distance from the well. And Ky’s grandfather, who built it, did not build houses the way *my* grandfather did, ahem, ahem, so I think he ran the lateral line to the septic tank *under the driveway*. I mean, you *can* do that, but lateral lines, like every other part of a private waste disposal system, are vulnerable to problems everywhere. We have to dig up only the back yard to get to ours; I’d hate to have to dig through asphalt when you don’t even know how deep the line is. At any rate, Ky’s nostalgia for the place has run into some reality bumps, though I’ve refrained from giving her every possible domestic disaster. So far.

      And I still haven’t gotten that new post-midnight scene inserted where it will eventually go. The scorpion last night led to no new ideas about the book, but some action toward making scorpions feel less welcome. I hope.

  12. Life, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. Why I haven’t been around. Good to see the writing coming like you just described. Though loss of sleep wasn’t pleasant.

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