words in the wind

The life of a writer is nothing if not varied. This weekend I’e2’80’99ve been cutting up pieces of paper one half inch by two and five-sixteenths. This is under the assumption, which may prove mistaken, that the little heavily-accented lady on the phone was telling me the size of the papers she needs, and not some Taoist key code to the universe (‘e2’80’9cTwo, five, sixteen’e2’80’9d she confided briskly.) I’e2’80’99m having Mary Russell fortune cookies made for my launch party in San Francisco, and the Chinatown bakery needs the slips of paper precisely that size to fold inside the cookies.

So first I find a whole lot of really short quotes from the various books including LOCKED ROOMS’e2’80’94’e2’80’9cI was fifteen when I first met Sherlock Holmes’e2’80’9d; ‘e2’80’9cBy God, pig-sticking was indeed a game of games’e2’80’9d; ‘e2’80’9c’e2’80’99We need a Baedeker’e2’80’99s guide, Holmes,’e2’80’99’e2’80’9d I whispered’e2’80’9d’e2’80’94and typed them up so their divisions came to precisely half an inch (this is not an easy thing to do), then retyped them so their ends wouldn’e2’80’99t be chopped off at 2 5/16 inches. Printed them off, went over them with the ruler, then retyped the lot when reality and the screen of my laptop weren’e2’80’99t quite in agreement.

It took me a couple of hours (God I hope my editor isn’e2’80’99t reading this, I’e2’80’99m supposed to be immersed in the rewrite) to feed the pages, no more than three at a time, through the high-tech paper-slicer (no more guillotine styles out there, they finally decided they were a little dangerous around kids. Even the local print shop has gone to these zip-kind, which really don’e2’80’99t work half as well.) Trim the side, then the other side, the top, then zip away at one-half inch increments all the way down, finding that a heavy clip at the bottom end helps keep the pages from shifting that critical sixteenth of an inch. Throwing out a lot of little quote-slips (‘e2’80’9cProlonged stress can take the oddest outlets’e2’80’9d, ‘e2’80’9cHolmes’e2’80’99 upper lip was nothing if not stiff’e2’80’9d) when their upper halves vanished under the blade. The wind coming up unnoticed and the cat maneuvering the door open so the slips (those that aren’e2’80’99t stubbornly welded together into clumps by the cutting of the zip-blade), sensing the closing in of cookie sides, make a sudden burst for freedom across the floor of my study’e2’80’a6

Now, for those of you who play the game, I’e2’80’99ll tell you in a day or two where those quotes come from. Anyone want to venture a guess? Come on, most of them are easy. And it’e2’80’99ll get you in training for the New Yorker contest later this month.

Ah, Jess, that’e2’80’99s a joke, right, about the RSS feed? You know how utterly clueless old LRK is and think, with an evil gleam in your eyes, let’e2’80’99s just throw a technical question at her, then you stand back and giggle maniacally. Well, my dear, I DO know how to use the HELP key on Blogger. Although I admit that the language at the other end of it is pretty thick. Anyway, as far as I can tell, yes, my site is set up to use syndication feeds. Anyone out there using a syndication feed? Or are my settings deceiving me, and you poor folk have to keep peeping in the door to see if I’e2’80’99ve left a message for you?

And, no, I am not touring in Washington, DC this year, or England, or anywhere that isn’e2’80’99t on the Events page of the site. Although I may be in UK this September, and will no doubt stop in various bookstores to sign and chat. If I set up any events there, they’e2’80’99ll be on the events page, so check there from time to time.

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  1. Mel on June 12, 2005 at 2:53 pm


    I’m using a syndication feed–it’s http://www.laurierking.blogspot.com/atom.xml, if I’m not mistaken.

  2. wolfa on June 12, 2005 at 3:29 pm

    Yes, blogger automatically gives you an RSS feed. 8 people read it via bloglines (including me), which has an automagical subscribe-to button for blogger blogs. (And the url that Mel suggests is the correct one.)

  3. Anonymous on June 12, 2005 at 3:37 pm

    The first three quotes are from Beekeeper, the game and O, Jerusalem, respectively.. I was sure the fourth was beekeeper, but maybe not. I’m still pondering Holmes’ upper lip– lovely thought.


  4. Anonymous on June 12, 2005 at 4:21 pm

    For those on livejournal, you can go here: http://www.livejournal.com/users/lrk_mutterings/

    It offers a link for adding the feed to your friends list.

    Can’t wait for the new book, Laurie!


  5. Susan on June 12, 2005 at 5:02 pm

    Shredding paper into precise strips seems the stuff of nightmares (if done for a long period of time)…I wonder if it’d qualify as a cruel and unusual punishment?

    Joking. Joking.

  6. Erin on June 12, 2005 at 9:04 pm

    Fortune cookies?! That’s so cool! Having the launch party to look forward to is getting me through my finals=)

    Completely too late, I know, but you probably could have used the “letters and mailings” option available on most word processing programs to make typing a lot easier. There is an option that lets you print labels and you can set the size of the label you want and however much space in between each. I use it at work for printing file folder tabs, which are about the size you are working with. Not that that would help much with the paper slicing, though.

    And as everyone else has mentioned, the syndicated feed is working just fine.

  7. Jess on June 12, 2005 at 9:19 pm

    Thank you for your response and all the comments from other people using the syndication feeds. I actually *blush* found the address of the feed for livejournal not half an hour after posting my earlier comment, while randoming poking about some of your earlier entries and their comments.

    I suppose the most embarressing thing is that while I will gleefully pester people about RSS feeds and the like, I have no idea of how they work myself. I just want my internet to be pretty and shiny…

  8. Jennifer Ice on June 13, 2005 at 12:50 pm

    Dear Laurie,
    Do Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes visit Chinatown during their stay in “the City”? Are there other famous landmarks in the book besides the Ferry Building? I know I should wait and read it, but I will be touring San Francisco before your book launch. Can you drop any other hints about the book so my trip can be as authentic as their visit? Thanks.

  9. WDI on June 13, 2005 at 5:37 pm

    Wow — I am reminded of a medical school professor I met at a teaching conference who used to do a similar thing in his classes occassionally. In his case, though, he bought bags of fortune cookies, carefully removed the existing fortunes, and replaced them with his own (he was a surgeon — good with tiny little forceps!). I’m also reminded of our 4th grade field trip to San Francisco, which included a visit to a fortune cookie factory. I loved the machine that folded the cookies around the little pieces of paper!

    Sure wish I could be there . . . 🙂

  10. Dianna on June 14, 2005 at 1:49 pm

    I’m using the Blogger RSS feed, but reading it via Havari Xenu in Firefox.

    Aside from that, the Quotations
    1. The Beekeeper’s Apprentice
    2. The Game
    3. O Jerusalem
    4. A Monstrous Regiment of Women
    5. ? If I had to guess, most likely Justice Hall. I’m afraid my reread of the series only got me up to O Jerusalem this summer.

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