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BECAUSE I HAVE A NEW BOOK AND I MADE IT MYSELF AND IT IS PRETTY AWESOME.
I am not biased at all! Not in the slightest!!
|OMG I MADE THIS with lots of help from graphic designers and people with supernatural powers|
How about that? The first review -- like the first bluebird of spring. At least it was a bluebird and not a Pteranodon come to tear my head off.
|I am a little bluebird.|
I have a little throwaway line in my book, Courageous Women of the Civil War, about when the women of both sides rushed to prepare their soldiers for battle in the early days of the Civil War. Women knitted all kinds of goods for the men, such as socks and mittens. But Quaker women, who were against violence, knitted mittens for the soldiers -- without a trigger finger.
When I first ran across this fact, I couldn't figure out what they meant. But it makes sense that the mittens that the soldiers wore would have to deal, somehow, with that trigger finger.
So a little online searching lead to this:
Peterson’s Magazine, February 1862, Vol. XLI, p. 176.
TO KNIT A MITTEN WITH ONE FINGER. – Cast on three needles sixty-four or more stitches according to the size desired, and knit about two inches of ribbing; then, at the middle of one of the needles, bring in the thread to make an eyelet to begin the widening for the thumb; then knit one round, knitting in that stitch; on the next round, make an eyelet on each side of the first one, and so on every second round, making the eyelet to the right or left of the previous one, widening until about seventeen holes are made on each row; then, take off all these extra stitches on a string, cast on five or six stitches and knit one round, narrow one stitch at each end of the cast-on stitches, and again at the second round; then, knit until time to make the finger, and take off on a string one-fourth of the stitches, dividing them equally on each side of a line with the thumb, cast on four or five stitches to make room between the fingers, knit one round, and narrow one at each end of the cast-on stitches, knit as long as you wish the mitt, then narrow and finish. Thumb – Put on the stitches from the string, fasten the thread at the right hand side, knit on until you come to the cast-on stitches, take up like for the heel of a stocking, knit one round; then narrow at each end of the cast-on stitches until the thumb is reduced to the size desired, knit until long enough and finish. Finger – Take up the stitches off the string, narrow one or more stitches, knit as long as the mitt.
So I have this guy who I finally broke up with for good back in 1990. Thank God. But I don't think he got the memo because he's still there. Always looking at me. Watching. Staring. Like he can't get enough of me.
Writing about the Civil War, and watching the awful events out of Charleston, S.C. (and remembering all the events that took place in that very city in 1861) a few points come to mind.
The problem with the Confederate flag is that it symbolizes two mutually exclusive things.
For some (like folks on here), it is the flag that many brave commanders and soldiers marched under. We think of greathearted men like General Lee, General Stonewall Jackson, winning battles against great odds with a ragtag force who didn't have a whole lot of supplies or medicine, but they put all they had into it. We think of their personal valor with respect, and rather a lot of awe. So there's that flag.
For others, the flag stands for what these men, ultimately, were fighting for (indirectly, for some), which was slavery. Like it or not, that part of "heritage" is attached to this flag.
Now the problem is when some people deliberately fly the flag, not out of pride for the armies, but in order to continue the intimidation of blacks. The flag's revival in the 1950's is a part of that, like it or not. Let me be clear: These are the wrong people to be carrying this flag -- personally I consider it a desecration.
The thing is, if you're black (and even when you are white) it is very hard to tell when the flag is "heritage" and when it is "hate."
If the flag is used to mark the graves of the war dead or flown over war memorials -- if it's used correctly, in reenactments, then it's okay.
When it's on some ... *goes though word catalog for a non-profane word* *gives up* jerk's shirt as some kind of white power thing, oh hell no.
Over a government building? Well, seeing as the building is in America, then the only proper flags for it would be the state flag and the American flag. Because the American flag is the one that many more soldiers have fought for, and died for -- all of us can honor it.
Just my .02 cents.
"It is the same with strategy as with the siege of a fortress: Concentrate your fire against a single point, and once the wall is breached, all of the rest becomes worthless and the fortress is captured."
-- Napoleon Bonaparte
What I hate is when I pick three black jelly beans out of the Jelly Belly jar in the mailroom, and the last one turns out to be coffee flavored. Gaah!
Happy rainy Thursday to you. And now, back to deadline work.
Less than one month until deadline! On that day the book must be delivered to the publisher -- photos, stories, source notes, bibliography, glossary, front and back matter, and intros. ALL of it.
It's getting done, slowly but surely. I keep printing out finished stories to add to my stack o' manuscript, which is slowly growing into a complete draft. I've been marking it up a little as I go, but will save the lion's share of the work for when I get the WHOLE THING written. Which will be cutting it pretty close to deadline, admittedly. But this is not the time to panic about that.
Just cultivating a sense of slow and steady purpose -- and a lot of hard work. I'm trying to maintain that sense of urgency and I hope I don't get to where I burn myself out. I keep thinking of how good it will feel to have the last story printed and added to that stack. I can do it. It is going to get done.
And I have to remember that it will not be perfect. There will be a lot of dumb spots in there. It can't be helped. I can't let that paralyze me.
Just breathe. One of the writing bosses I worked with at Hamline told me, "Persevere." I think that's damned good advice.
"I stepped out of Mississippi when I was ten years old
With a suit cut sharp as a razor and a heart made of gold
I had a guitar hanging just about waist high
And I'm gonna play this thing until the day I die."
I really should update this more than once a month or whatever.
Still moving along on the Civil War book. Pulling in quotes from all over to help with the writing of each story -- other eyewitness accounts of Gettysburg, Chancellorsville, life in the prisoner-of-war camp at Andersonville and Florence, etc. Often the historical record for these women is scanty, so I have to add in details from other sources.
Picked up The Boys' War by Jim Murphy at the book sale -- he does good work in children's books. Never dry, always lively and historically accurate. I'm using that little volume as a writing model to help me along. Also I have McCullough's Truman in the back of my mind (always). David always used so many sources and neat little stories to keep us entertained and learning at the same time. He keeps stopping by the Truman Library and I keep missing him. Dang it!
The thing with writing about these women is that there are so many romanticized stories out there about them, and I have to really dig to find something that's historically accurate. On some of the women, I've found some scholarly articles that give solid facts about their lives, and this is a huge help. But on some of the women, all I have are the newspaper accounts which go on and on about how wonderful this gal is to follow her husband into war, how romantic this is -- and I'm going, yeah, yeah, can we have an actual account of where she was on the battlefield and what she was doing?
Getting the writing done is the tricky part -- and that's a reason I don't get on here much, because I know full well I'm procrastinating right now!
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My favorite books are those where the characters spout wisecracks that make me laugh aloud, or those that capture the tiny details of life so clearly that I feel like I’m actually there with the main character, seeing those details. I want to write books like that. But then I look at my draft and get so frustrated because those neat details and wisecracks aren’t anywhere in sight!
Girl: Every day with you is an eye-opener, except I’m all like, “I really wish I hadn’t seen that.”
|This guy is on the lookout for cool stuff -- and you can be too.|
Sixth-grade girl: I told him to bring it. So he brought it! And then he went home crying to his mom!
Boy (running): I can’t stop, Dad, Darth Vader is on my tail!
(Two kids are playing.)Katy: Give me your jacket.Sophie: Not in a million years!Katy (intoning): A million years later….
Husband (at 2 a.m.): Why didn’t Captain Picard ask him to sign that book?Me (half-asleep): What on earth are you talking about?Husband: That episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation where they went back in time and met Samuel Clemens. Picard could have asked him to sign a book.Me (groggy): That would have violated the Prime Directive.Husband: But he could have made a shtload of money!Me: Just go to sleep, dear.
Melissa: I probably broke all the rules of poetry in this poem.Dave: That’s the spirit!
“Remorse, even the greatest, has the nature of a debt; if we could only clear the books, we feel that we should be free. But a deep compassion has the nature of love, which keeps no balance sheet; we are no longer our own.” The Charioteer – Mary Renault
Guys, I've been running a little bit lately, and that's because I will have a book out in Spring 2016!
Women Heroes of the Civil War, which will be published by Chicago Review Press, will be about the women soldiers, spies, and medics who braved intense fire in the bloodiest battles in America.
I especially like the women soldiers. Can you imagine living among a whole army of men and hiding from all of them that you were a woman? A number of them made it through the war (or died in action) and were never found out.
|Emma Edmonds served with the 2nd Michigan, for instance!|
I'm always in favor of good news, but I won't report on what exactly this news is until I get some stuff signed. But once that's done, you will certainly hear about it!
In the meantime, I'm still writing stories and scanning in family pics and generally trying to keep up with kids and housework and weeds. (Actually I gave up on the weeds -- my garden tends to go all to hell in July and August. The chickens love it, though.)
I've also sent in some of Dad's slides to ScanCafe to be digitized. They did an amazing job and when this batch comes back, I'll send 'em more. The pics look great, and ScanCafe will email you the digitized files so you get those quickly, while you're waiting for the pics and DVDs to show up in your mailbox.
Here's one of Dad's fellow soldiers in the 588th Engineers in Vietnam in 1967-1968. I hope I can get his name one of these days.
So Jane Resh Thomas says, "Go to where the white-hot center is. Write about what you fear the most." So I've been working on a new story which, as I've said, I'm not going to talk about yet because: fear.
I have been throwing down as many words as I can. This is not a draft where every word is made of precious precious gold. I’m just diving into the big swamp and digging like a crazy woman in hopes that I’ll find something precious – a bog woman with lips still red -- a sunken treasure -- even a little trail through the pit of despond, which is where I am at, a trail that will lead through the swamp and around the quicksand and water moccasins and out to the other side and the sunny uplands, though technically we don’t have uplands here. Ask mama if she cares; that’s a Churchillian phrase.
Is it brave that I’m going this route? More like foolhardy. But that’s where the fire and the fear is. And then I take it and splash it all over the page, knowing that someday I'm going to embarrass the hell out of myself but shoot, maybe by the time I get through with several drafts, we won't even recognize anybody. That's my hope, anyway.
But, unlike my other book, I have got to remember the seed of this book and where its heart is, and keep that fear and passion at the center of this book. The MC doesn’t give in to temptation, and there’s going to be a lot of sad along the way, and you know, there’s not going to be a happy ending, though there will be the satisfaction, such as it is, of sticking to your moral compass, insofar as possible. At least that's a plus.
My gosh, I could have written all this about Shy Gal Runs Screaming from Love. That's probably why it's my favorite story.
Once upon a time, I used to hang around the biggest sourpuss in the world.
This morning I was up with baby, who is 10 weeks old now. He's getting pretty good at the smiling thing and has figured out how to bring his hand to his face to suck on his fingers, but he hasn't quite figured out how to move his thumb away from his hand. He keeps trying to suck his thumb but it just stays squished against his palm and he's going, Aw, come on! and I give him a pacifier but he spits it back out because he wants that dang thumb.
But I was just singing an Earth, Wind, and Fire song to the kid and he was grinning and grinning and it was pretty awesome.
And then I had to go to work! which was not so awesome, but ya gotta eat.
I got stuck on Meira's story because I still have no idea what the plot is and I don't know where anything is going, or how these dual narratives -- actually more than two -- are fitting together. I'm working again on Butterfly Chaos, and have been flailing at it over the past couple of months, but I am FINALLY starting to get deeper into the story and it's like, holy cow, it took long enough.
I'd like to get Butterfly off to agents soon. I hope it works out this time. At least I won't be submitting stories whilst hormonal and pregnant, because geez, that just sucked! Shoot, I'm just glad to be unpregnant! Also I
can tie my shoes.
Well this was random.
Here's our newest resident, born Sunday, Aug. 5:
Sometimes when you go walking in the woods, you're ducking under pawpaw trees and dodging gooseberry tangles, which is normal, but then you came to a big fallen limb all overgrown in a thorny tangle and it's blocking your way. So you have to backtrack, or go off to the side until you find a way around it, and then you move forward again. And then you come to a place where the hill is too steep and you don't want to slide down the thing on your butt, so you backtrack and go off to the side until you find a way to go forward again.
That's what writing the beginning of this new story is like. I write for a little bit, but then I come to a halt and the story is just not going anywhere, okay, so what would happen if I backed up a few paragraphs and changed this? And then I go forward a little way, and then errk! Stop! This is not working. And then I'm like, well, instead of Eyestar standing next to the door fighting the grasshopper army, why not have the main character there instead? So I back up and rewrite that bit, and it is cool, and then I'm going forward again.
And just like walking in the woods, I know the direction I'm going, but I don't know what I'm going to see along the way so I keep my eyes open for birds and mushrooms and animal tracks and wildflowers and look for surprises. And despite the little trailblocks, or the occasional tick crawling up the inside of my jeans DIE EVIL TICK, I know I'm going to have fun while I'm out and about.
I'm still on the internet after an hour of looking around at websites and basically screwing around. I'm getting ready to write a whole new story and I hate jumping in.
It's like when I was at the pool yesterday with the kid and her buddy. I'd stand on the edge of the pool, hot, wanting to jump in, but hating the shock of the cold water, so I would stand around for about five minutes, watching people, until I got out of my own way enough to hold my nose and just step in.
So much fuss over something so easy. And yet I'd do it every time.
As I am now.
All the same, I hate wasting my own time. I think about President Truman working those 18-hour days in the early days of his Presidency, and what am I doing here but screwing around because I'm scared to start. "Imperfect action is better than perfect inaction," as Truman used to say.
So let's do it.
I want to write strong novels that are exciting and fun and sell a million copies. Just like everybody else in the world. Scary thought, ain’t it? Not to mention that it will never happen.
Then I thought, Remember back when I was a kid? I wrote because it was exciting and I loved to make things happen. I loved writing just as fast as Emily the raccoon ran as she fled the coon hounds, my pencil barely keeping up with her flight. I was a kid who wrote adventure because she WANTED adventure. In my stories, I ran like crazy everywhere I went. It was great.
Then I read So You Want to Be a Wizard when I was in junior high. Holy crap. This exciting, complex world of magic captivated me. The dark world that Nita and Kit fell into was this incredible intense place that they had to fight their way through. Talking stars and predator sports cars and everybody running like hell all the time. I’ve been reading it again and it’s still crazy awesome great.
I want to write stuff that calls up this same quivery excitement I had back then.
The nice thing is that I’ve been writing in earnest since 1995, so I have this huge warehouse full of experience, plus years of writing stories and articles and beating deadlines. I’ve written 50 million novels, resulting in four finished, salable novels. Since I started at Hamline, I’ve been accelerating, becoming more wily, learning more tricks of the trade.
The problem for me … is trust. Even with my skill, I don’t trust myself to succeed. Why? Because that bossy old-woman brain of mine keeps barging in and saying, Don’t do it like that, this is wrong, this is boring, this’ll never work. You’ll never write strong novels that are exciting and fun and sell a million copies.
Let’s quash that voice. I’m going to start a new partnership, right now. Where’s that kid I once was? Get her in here. Kid, I have a crazy idea for you. You write the stories with me. Give me stuff you’re crazy about, stuff that you’ve always wanted to do. Put it in a story. Make sure there’s lots of running and drama and maybe a few explosions. Mix in some scary stuff. Then you and I will pitch in together and fix those puppies up. You and me, we’ll make these stories the coolest dang thing that anybody’s ever seen.
The way to win is to not be boring.
The way to not be boring is to have a ton of fun.
Not so much fun that the neighbors call the cops, but you know what I mean.
So let’s do it.
I was astonished to learn that my great-great grandfather (Casper Salmen of Sutton, Nebraska) got into an altercation with a man armed with a knife! Grandma never mentioned this.
This might be boring to those of you not related to me. If you would like to see some more exciting posts, esp. those relating to chickens, scroll down.
However, if you would like to see my great-great grandpa trounce this little troublemaker, scroll down to the third selection; that's where all the action is.
Everybody in the whole WORLD is probably going, "Where the heck is Melinda? We are sweating bullets waiting for her next blog o' wisdom!" Well, shucks, y'all, I'm trying to write a story which means "let's try and stay off the internet ... oh crap she's on Twitter again."
Apparently I'm going to give birth to a ninja here in August. He certainly is squirmy, and once in a while he unleashes DragonFist! and then I sit up and take notice.
Perhaps I should not drink two cups of tea per day. But it's soooooooooo good.
In other news, I'm back to revising Butterfly Chaos. I'd like to revise five pages/day so I can get through the whole thing by July 1, when I can then freak out about going to Hamline for my last residency. I will graduate two weeks before baby is due. This should be a very interesting residency.
I'm also working on a story about a girl who turns into a raccoon and acts like a raccoon and does raccoonish things, or at least her human side is working hard NOT to let her do some of those raccoonish things, i.e. eating baby rabbits, trash, or taking a nap in the fridge right in the butter dish. I'm shooting for 500 words/day on that, but having a hard time keeping on schedule with that due to the 5 page/day thing.
|I'm not sure who took this pic but it is a true look at what it means to be a raccoon.|
Most of my waiting is done between 2 and 5 a.m. when my body says, "Hey, I am wide awake, let's get up!" and I try to talk it out of this silly notion, but it will not be swayed, and so I end up eating a bowl of cereal (because my body is always hungry about this time) and looking at the internet (though you would think I'd know better).
If baby doesn't show up by August 3 then we're going to induce. This pleases me very much. I am tired all the time during the day, partly due to this insomnia thing, partly because a squirmy baby inside very cramped quarters is a tiring thing, and ... well, once he comes out that will be a different kind of tired altogether, BUT at least I would be able to lay on the floor and straighten out my back without getting my intestines squished!
Here within a week our home will have a tiny new occupant, and it is the oddest thought in the world. My brain is having a hard time wrapping around it. The house is a mess. My brain apparently is electing to ignore that.
I'm still writing, though the work is sporadic.
I have graduated from Hamline and it was pretty awesome. I'm pretty sad that I won't be going back next summer, though. I really like seeing those guys and I am going to miss the whole crew.
Okay, I'm going to try and go back to sleep, since I am seriously tired and it's 2:30 a.m.