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Viewing Blog: I write for young adults, so take that., Most Recent at Top
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My short story, "Angel in the Whirlwind," won 2nd place in the Smartwriters.com Write It: Shorts contest and will be published in an anthology in 2007. At last! Also, an article on alfalfa will appear in the Aug./Sept. 2006 issue of Organic Gardening. Have also been published in Cicada, Cricket, Highlights, and I'm a staff writer for Practical Gardener.
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Number of Readers that added this blog to their MyJacketFlap: 12
1. New website!

I have a new website, guys! Still a few bugs that I need to work out (i.e. the page for ordering books is not going to be live until I iron out shipping and tax details) but I'll get 'em as I go.

Go visit me here!

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2. Good review on the Cannonba!! Civil War blog

Frances Clayton in her cavalry uniform. She was a badass.

GUYS! Take a look at this review for my book. Scott L. Mingus Sr., Civil War author (dang, he has a lot of books to his name), says good things about my book, Courageous Women of the Civil War: Soldiers, Spies, Medics, and More.

He writes, "Cordell has effectively used primary source documents, as well as period accounts of battles, events, and the sociopolitical climate to craft this well-written, fast-paced collection of individual stories, which she places in their proper historical context."

I am very much relieved to hear this from a proper Civil War historian. Careful scholarship and a good understanding of the age was crucial to me, because I have an eye toward the adult market as well as the YA market -- and remember, I was most recently a horticulturist and then a proofreader, with no schooling whatsoever in writing history! I'm glad my book as passed the test so far.

Mr. Mingus wraps up the review with these lines: "This is sure to be a popular seller among teens who are looking to learn more about the role women played in the Civil War and, hopefully, will cause several readers to seek a deeper understanding through perusing some of the more comprehensive works that Cordell suggests as further reading. The author is to be complimented for a job well done in this fine new book, which she dedicated to her late father, a combat engineer in Vietnam."

That last clause might have made me a little bit teary-eyed.

 A thousand heartfelt thanks to Mr. Mingus for his excellent review.

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3. Up next on "Pimp Your Headquarters"

Are you encamped a million miles from nowhere and need a photo frame? Use hardtack for that natural look! Will keep your picture protected in a shatterproof (very shatterproof) frame. Your decorating flair will be the envy of the camp! And if the supply trains get captured by Stonewall Jackson and you are reduced to half-rations, simply eat the frame. It never spoils!

Hard-tack! Hard-tack! Hard-tack!

Fun fact about hardtack -- These hard crackers (also called tooth-breakers) really do last a long time. At the end of the Civil War, all the hardtack that had not been used was put into storage -- then issued as rations during the Spanish-American War, 33 years later. Mmm-good.

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4. New review from Publisher's Weekly!

Loreta Janeta Velazquez, "whose life (under numerous aliases) as a mustachioed soldier, spy, and thief reads like a picaresque narrative."

From the review

"Cordell provides both a general understanding of the varied roles of women at the time and how the individuals she profiles (photographs of whom appear throughout) relied on their ingenuity, bravery, and integrity to survive and even thrive during a turbulent chapter in American history."

Their description of Loreta Janeta Velazquez made me chuckle. I'm liking these review very much. Well, so far, so good!

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Let it all hang out, why not.

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6. Harriet Jacobs -- Author, Aid Worker, Abolitionist

Harriet Jacobs in 1894. This is the only known portrait of her. Used with permission.
A lot of folks haven't heard of Harriet Jacobs, and that's just wrong -- they should hear about her. Born into slavery, Harriet escaped from her so-called "master" and hid in her free grandmother's house, in a tiny space only 9 feet long, 7 feet wide, and 3 feet tall. Her grandmother's house was under constant surveillance after Harriet's escape, and Harriet seldom was able to leave that tiny space -- so there she stayed, for seven full years.

She suffered health problems for the rest of her life due to her years of living in the cramped room. Harriet later said, “It is painful for me, in many ways, to recall the dreary years I passed in bondage. I would gladly forget them if I could.”

Harriet finally got a chance to escape to the north, a perilous journey, where she found employment. Harriet wrote a book about her experiences: Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Written by Herself,under the name of Linda Blair. This has been the only known example of a slave narrative written by a woman. "I want to add my testimony to that of abler pens to convince the people of the Free States what slavery really is," Harriet wrote. "Only by experience can any one realize how deep, and dark, and foul is that pit of abominations."

When I came across Harriet's story, I very much wanted to write about her, but most of her personal history -- which takes in a lot -- happened before the Civil War. My book was supposed to be about people during the Civil War. So what was Harriet doing then?

Online sources tended to focus on her life up to the time of the war, but mentioned that she was doing relief work in Alexandria, Virginia. There you can find an amazing story that is all but ignored.
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When Harriet went to the city in late 1862, the situation was dire.

“Very many have died from destitution. It is impossible to reach them all,” Harriet wrote. The Union barracks, called Duff’s Green Row, was crowded with people, many of whom had measles, diphtheria, scarlet fever, and typhoid. There was little medicine and no medical staff at the barracks to comfort the sick and dying, though as many as ten people died every day. Harriet wrote. “I did not meet kindly, sympathizing people, trying to soothe the last agonies of death. Those tearful eyes often looked up to me with the language, ‘Is this freedom?’”

She found people "packed together in the most miserable quarters, dying without the commonest necessities of life.” Some former slaves lived in an old foundry that hardly had a roof. “The sick lay on boards on the ground floor; some, through the kindness of the soldiers, have an old blanket. I did not hear a complaint among them. They said it was much better than it had been.”

Imagine living in a roofless old building in the middle of winter, sick and maybe with a blanket -- and saying you'd prefer this to your former life.

Every day, Harriet would check to see how many had died over the last 24 hours. One morning, when looking at the bodies ready for burial, she “saw lying there five children. By the side of them lay a young man. He escaped, was taken back to Virginia, whipped nearly to death, escaped again the next night, dragged his body to Washington, and died, literally cut to pieces.” The master’s rope was still wrapped around the man’s ankles; she cut off that hateful thing. “I could not see that put into the grave with him,” she said.

She grieved for the refugees, because none, not even the little children, would receive the dignity of the burial rites that even the poorest dead were given. “There they lie, in the filthy rags they wore from the plantation. Nobody seems to give it a thought.”

Harriet went among families with smallpox, walked among the dying, helped mothers in childbirth, found clothes for the people who needed them. Her work was best exemplified in the teachings from the Sermon on the Mount:

"For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’”

More here in the next few days ....

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7. Civil War photo goofiness....

"Oh, darling, don't you know that saxhorn is breaking up our happy home?"

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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

I have a copy of the actual book at home but I don't have the pics for my book on this computer so I will have to make a separate post and add exclamation marks to it.

It's due out on August 1st but if you preorder my book today, you can have that all done and then forget you preordered it and then in August you can be pleasantly surprised when a package shows up in the mail and it's my book. It would be like Christmas! Or whatever happy celebration day you celebrate if you are from a different faith tradition.

Here is a link to the evil empire Amazon --

and one to Barnes and Noble --

and Powell's (no pic on their site -- I hope they fix it soon)

and from Chicago Review Press (my publisher, yo).

and from some really incredible folks, to boot.
“These women faced down the guns of the enemy, or the disdain of the surgeons, at the same time they were facing down the racial and gender prejudices of their society. The research in this book is very good, and the selection of biographies is excellent—a nice mix of both well-known and obscure heroines.” 
—DeAnne Blanton, coauthor of They Fought Like Demons: Women Soldiers in the Civil War
“Much of what Melinda Cordell presents here is new, often persuasive, always interesting, and testifies to the desire of women of the war era to play their part in their nation’s greatest moment.” 
—William C. Davis, author of An Honorable Defeat, Breckinridge, and Battle at Bull Run

"The impressive research and impeccable storytelling brings these amazing women to life on every page. I loved so many things about this new volume in the Women of Action series, the sidebars, the thorough background information, and most especially the riveting stories of the female soldiers, spies, and nurses so rarely written about in Civil War history accounts. What a contribution to women’s history and an inspiration to young and older women today." 
—Claire Rudolf Murphy, author of My Country Tis of Thee: How One Song Reveals the History of Civil Rights

"The biographies include photos of some of the women and provide a fascinating and engaging look at their activities, motivations, trials, and later lives. Excellent, detailed backmatter adds to the volume's usefulness. A solid resource." 
Kirkus Reviews

So far, so good.

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9. A good review in Kirkus for Courageous Women of the Civil War

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.

 The review is from Kirkus, and though I've heard they can be pretty harsh reviewers, my book got an even-handed treatment and I find that a good thing.

The last sentence of the review: "The biographies include photos of some of the women and provide a fascinating and engaging look at their activities, motivations, trials, and later lives. Excellent, detailed backmatter adds to the volume’s usefulness. A solid resource."

Here is the full review. O happy day!

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10. Trigger fingers in mittens!

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:

(The pattern is from World Turn'd Upside Down if you want to read more about this -- with actual mittens knitted from this pattern.)

Would you like your own pair? Here are directions!

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.

Knit purlbus unum.

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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.

Hooray for masturbatory fantasies, I know, but I have work to do here.  So I told my friends about this and asked their advice.

I have the best friends in the world.

"It's people like this that I wish could be Jedi mind-tricked...or punched in the gonads until they go away. Sigh."

"Sadly, it comes to this: Either go about your business as you normally would, monitoring where you post to keep the comments section jerk-free, or you hide. Forever. To the detriment of your readers, friends, bank account, and self-esteem. Don't hide. Post away. Blog, tweet, FB--whatever you have to do to sell books, strengthen your brand, and live your life. But do not let some piece of shit you haven't seen since the first Bush administration keep you from getting what you need. Fuck that fool."

"Ugh, what a creep. Block him wherever you can, mute him or whatever is easier, and pretend he doesn't exist. The best thing you can do is thrive. Go about your business and talk about your work at your highest level. You now have people who know about this guy, people who will show up to defend if he pops up in comments sections being obnoxious. URGH. You be so successful it makes him ROT INSIDE (is it wrong to feel that way? I DON'T CARE)."

"As someone who dealt with this type of situation in the past I can only suggest that you do what you need and want to do when and where you choose to do it. Creeps like that depend on their mind game tactics to intimidate you. Do not let him get away with it! Ignore him for the rest of your life. Pretend he does not exist. You are a strong woman now and not the young girl he knew and tried to dominate. Take control of your life and live it to the fullest. Don't give him permission to intimidate you for another second!"

"Want me to kick his ass?" "I will be his wingman."

"Sounds like you are getting some pretty good advice. I say go about life and enjoy it to the fullest. Post, blog, tweet promote your book. Block him where you can. However, it doesn't hurt to be prepared. I heard on the news that there is a conceal and carry class for women happening soon. Maybe a self defense class. It would build your confidence and ease your mind."

"I think you might be doing the most effective thing. Let people know. Calmly, factually shine the light on it, and don't take on any personal shame over something that is absolutely no kind of comment on you. I do not offer to whip his butt (in large part because I am not much at butt-whipping), but I do offer to mock his pathetic, ridiculous self."

"You can't fix the mentally ill, only how you respond to them. Borderline personality - or narcissistic. Either way - the more you engage - the more they feed off of it."

Thus my awesome friends. This is only the tip of the iceberg, too. 

Well, I hope this is exactly what you've been looking for, in all your many trips to my blogs and all my other social media, over the past six years, assmunch. One visit per week for six years!!!! That's not creepy at all, no. 

You go on and live your life. I have work to do. 

And if you stalk any other women, leave off them too.

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12. A few words about the Confederate flag.

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.

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13. Writing effectively is like using artillery effectively.

"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

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14. Tricked by jelly beans.

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.

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15. Getting close to deadline.

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.

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"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."

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17. On writing historical nonfiction.

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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18. Secrets of the Trade: The Wisecrack Notebook

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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!

But I have a notebook: A word-hoard that’s packed full of the smart and funny things that people say. And when I get frustrated with my limited attempt, I open that notebook up.
Girl: Every day with you is an eye-opener, except I’m all like, “I really wish I hadn’t seen that.”

People are always funnier, cooler, and crazier than we give them credit for, and our favorite books have characters that reflect that. These books winnow the best and most interesting bits out of life. That's where this notebook is going to be a huge help.

This guy is on the lookout for cool stuff -- and you can be too.

So in this notebook, I write down all those things that I wish I’d said – quotes, overheard conversations, wisecracks, random signs, lines from songs or poems. I will actually take the time to go through my journals and transcribe lines from that notebook to this other one to be sure I have everything I've written down. I'm a disorganized gal, so this is pretty big news. 

“Maybe I can use this in a novel,” I think, and sometimes I can. So here’s a story about a guy who was arrested for bulldozer racing. Or here’s a news article about two would-be carjackers foiled by the mysteries of the stick shift. Or Grandpa Eldon musing, "That Bonnie ... she really knew how to throw dishes." Write it all down, because you never know – maybe your next story will need it.

Sixth-grade girl: I told him to bring it. So he brought it! And then he went home crying to his mom!

When I have a decent draft of a story, I like to go through the manuscript at random. Wherever my cursor lands, I see if I can fit in some lines out of this notebook. If the little bit of funny doesn’t fit in, I take it out and put in a different one. But if it does fit, it makes the language in the story so much livelier and unexpected. Even better yet, once in a while this little throwaway detail fits in just right, and then it branches out through the story in a million unexpected ways.

Boy (running): I can’t stop, Dad, Darth Vader is on my tail!

Another thing that’s fun to do is to secretly take notes when your target audience is around. This is tricky, because with kids, one or two of them get wise to you pretty quick. But boy, the conversations they have are just about the best you’ll hear anywhere.

(Two kids are playing.)
Katy: Give me your jacket.
Sophie: Not in a million years!
Katy (intoning): A million years later….

You can also have somebody help you write dialogue. Sometimes I ask my husband for good lines and he’ll come up with some zingers that I never would have come up with on my own. And asking somebody else for dialogue help gives your character a more distinctive voice -- because I have a problem with all of my characters sounding like smarter versions of me.

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.

Borrowing from others is a good way for me to stretch myself and get away of the same old stuff that keeps rattleing around in my mind. Poetry readings are great places to pick up great lines from your buddies. Don’t plagiarize, of course – but you can find many diamonds in the rough that you can cut into a style that fits your story. “I experiment with others’ voices because I get tired of my own,” as one of the Gang of Poets said. A noble goal, indeed.

Melissa: I probably broke all the rules of poetry in this poem.
Dave: That’s the spirit!

But it doesn’t all have to be funny. You can collect serious quotes as well – especially if the quotes fit one of your works-in-progress in some way. Often when I’m listening to audiobooks and I hear a quote, I scribble down a short phrase. Then later I do a Google search for that phrase, then copy and paste as much of the quote as I need into a document dedicated to these quotes. (If the book isn’t in the public domain, you might find the quote on the GoodReads website.)

“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

Keep running lists of names you like, first and last, to give you ideas in naming your characters. I also like to collect town names – Hot Coffee, Mississippi has long been my favorite.

Actively collect these things the way a raccoon collects shiny trinkets. Then seed your story with the quotes you’ve collected. You'll win thousands of major awards! Actually, this has not been proven. But you will have fun, and that's a big part of the battle right there.

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19. Still waiting on the baby.

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.

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20. Baby!

Here's our newest resident, born Sunday, Aug. 5:

We are pretty darn happy about his arrival.

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21. Tales of Angry Dante

Once upon a time, I used to hang around the biggest sourpuss in the world.

Grr! said the crabby ex-Florentine.

1)  One time Dante was traveling through Florence wearing armor to protect his throat and arm -- not surprising, because he was a soldier in his youth.  He saw a donkey driver transporting garbage, "who was going along behind the donkeys singing the book of Dante, and when he had sung for a bit, he hit the donkey and said 'Arri (Giddyup).'  Dante dealt him a forceful blow on the shoulder with his mailed fist, saying, 'I didn't put that Arri in there.'"

2)  When Dante was passing through the Porta San Piero, he "heard a blacksmith singing as he beat the iron on his anvil.  What he sang was from Dante, and he did it as if it were a (popular) ballad, jumbling the verses together, and mangling and altering them in a way that was a great offense to Dante.  He said nothing, however, but went into the blacksmith's shop" and started throwing his tools of the trade into the street: the hammer, the pincers, the scales.  The blacksmith cried, 'What the devil are you doing?'  Dante said, 'If you do not want to have me spoil your things, don't spoil mine.  You sing out of my book, but not as I wrote it; I have no other trade, and you spoil it.'  The blacksmith, vexed, gathered up his tools, and thereafter stuck to singing songs about Tristan and Lancelot. (Though I am sure the Tristan and Lancelot line is mere conjecture.)

This is a post brought to you by Procrastination: because the best way to deal with work is to ignore it.

1) from A Day in a Medieval City by Chiara Frugoni and Arsenio Frugoni
2) both stories are originally from Franco Sacchetti's Novelle.

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22. I'm so bad about keeping up with the blogs!

Ya think?

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.

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23. Going to the white-hot center.

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.

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24. Good news on the way!

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.

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25. I finally have a book deal!

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!

It's such a cool topic and I have been listening to Civil War audiobooks and digging through a pile of books and resources just to get all these hooks in my mind to hang all this new information upon. Right now I'm listening to Grant's Memoirs at work and Walt Whitman's journals in the car (he worked as a nurse in Washington D.C. during the war) and chasing down photographs and doing research.

My deadline is June 15 of next year. By that date I have to turn in a full MS with photos and permissions, maps (for the designers to work from), the stories about the 20 women I'm focusing on, as well as sources, a bibliography, and an introduction about the events leading up to the war and the part that women played in it.


I am trying to keep my perfectionistic tendancies at bay so I can get this thing accomplished. "Imperfect action is better than perfect inaction," to quote President Truman.

Wish me luck, guys, because you can bet I'm going to need all the moral support I can get. Immoral support is also acceptable.

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