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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.
Statistics for I write for young adults, so take that.
Number of Readers that added this blog to their MyJacketFlap: 11
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
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 Frugoni2) both stories are originally from Franco Sacchetti's Novelle.
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:
We are pretty darn happy about his arrival.
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.
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.|
Perhaps I should be writing my novels instead of writing long-winded blog posts. Yes, that would probably be a good idea.
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."
This is me, writing. I am actually a beagle.
Actually, I wanted to post some chicken pics but then realized that all the chicken pics I have on this computer are old.
This Wyandotte, for example, is full-grown and is now laying nice brown eggs.
This has been a random post, brought to you by Procrastination: For when you should be looking up agent info but want to write a bunch of random stuff instead.
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.
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.
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 have finally hit some luck. (Though technically I worked pretty hard for it!) I sent out my novel, What You Can't Take Back, and right after that, six agents requested the full MS. Crazy!
That pretty much knocked my socks off. With my previous novel, I had 68 or 74 agents pass on it and nobody even requested two pages.
But I have been in a tizzy all last week because BEA was going on and there was just nothing but radio silence from these agents. I keep having to distract myself so I don't have to obsess over this, because obsessing at this time is unhealthy. Even though my brain keeps going THEN I WILL JUST BE UNHEALTHY, THANK YOU VERY MUCH.
Bad brain, go lay down.
I'm just going to have to make myself play it cool. Good things are going to happen, either now or later, though it might be later. But I think I'm going to get an agent this time around. *deep breath* I hope so, anyway.
Okay, back to work.
work! work work work worrrrrkkk! workety-work work! also chickens.
That's about all that's going on here. If somebody could come over and clean my house for me, that would be dandy.
Because that means that I'll get new chicks!
I have only three chickens right now -- two of them are young hens and good layers (they're Black Sex Links) and one is an older hen who is STILL molting, a Buff Orpington. I had two Red Sex Links, but both of them were killed by dogs. Naturally the ones that get killed are always my favorites. At any rate, when the feed store stocks chicks again, I want to pick up two Red Sex Link chicks and see if the Buff Orpington will foster them.
Here's the Buff Orpington:
Here's one of the Black Sex Links. You know why these are "sex links?" It's really cool. With the reds, when you cross a female Leghorn with a male Rhode Island Red, the male chicks are white and the female chicks are red. They're color-coded when they hatch! The same goes for the blacks, except the males are black with a little white patch on their forehead, while the females are all black. So if you want to buy layers only (fearing that a little rooster would probably disturb the neighbors!), that's a good way to go.
"How dare you take a picture of MOI?"
Hee! I'm pretty crazy about chickens. Bet you couldn't tell.
Here's my mopy Boston terrier giving me the mopy look.
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I haven't been over here at this blog for a while because I seem to be doing all my blogging at rosefiend.livejournal.com. I used to double-post on both blogs, but when the last Apocalypse hit I fell out of the habit and haven't gotten back to it since.
Anyway, if anyone's looking for me acting silly, or getting all crazy about writing, that's where I've been doing it at. And you can even friend me. :)
So this afternoon I disgruntledly (?!) went back to my Symphonians MS to start whipping it into shape. I had to shut off the computer that had internet access because I kept messing around on the internet instead of writing. Cripes.
And I'm looking at the first chapter, thinking, "You know, those two stories -- that is, the Kay story and the Symphonians bit -- actually went together pretty well right there." And so I took a bit of the Symph story from the other document I'd saved, and I dropped it into the first chapter. It nestled in all nice and tidy. I said, "Hm!"
So I went looking around in the book for another place where I could put a chunk of story, and what do you know, Wyatt and Kay were playing the same part in band (they play tuba and bass clarinet, respectively), and hey, in this Symph bit, Roderick and Violet were playing a song together on tuba and regular clarinet, so I dropped that chunk in right about there. And it looked nice there, too.
So NOW I have figured out how to fix the problem!
The Symph bits are big enough to give the reader a good idea of what's going on in their narrative, and they're right in Kay's text so she can comment on them. But their narrative is being kept to a bare minimum at this time so Kay can take center stage. But hey, I'm fine with that.
So I guess that sometimes you have to bring the world to an end to make something work. Though in the end it's actually a beginning.
That Time of Year
by William Trowbridge
Leave marvel at how light they've grown, discover flight,
learn the barrel roll, the Immelmann. Grizzlies doze
over their morning salmon.
In Algebra I, it's time for the hard stuff already.
Hurricane Darleen and Hurricane Randy try the Swim,
the Tighten-Up, the Mashed Potato.
In the face of thirty-seven straight defeats, the Plattsmouth Eagles
Booster Club decrees a two-story homecoming bonfire,
which spreads through downtown.
The new moon's back at it, trading colors with the pumpkins.
In Halloween XXXII, Michael Meyers thins out another group
of tiresome though basically good kids, slashing every girl
too big for an A cup. Hitler is played by Frankie Avalon.
Rain-soaked patios and lawns just stand around, forlorn
as abandoned pets. A water gun settles under forsythia.
The 700 Club and the NRA lobby for a bill banning Halloween
as a Satanic feminist holiday and allowing gun owners
to shoot trick-or-treaters out after 9 p.m. The President will veto
unless a warning shot's required.
Dark as ever, our lost hour returns from daylight savings time,
tasting like icicles used to.
Inside the Mall of America, now petitioning for statehood,
it might as well be spring.
Opened once more, the steam pipes clank out their ghostly signals.
From The Four Seasons, published by Red Dragonfly Press. Reprinted with permission.
First, a weather report: KNIM reports we've had six inches of rain since it started on Saturday.
When I opened the mailbox yesterday (we just got back from Omaha), I said, "Aww!" There was a big ol' envelope in there the exact same width as my Symphonians novel.
But, a very nice letter on top from the boss:
Dear Ms. Cordell:
First off, you have done a wonderful job revising THE SYMPHONIANS. It is an incredibly honest and moving protrayal of adolescence. You have turned Kathy into a believable and relatable heroine. It is easy to see in her facets of millions of teenage girls -- her hesitant speech, her constant internal monologue of self-correction, her daydreams of having the right words to correct any problem. Her painful awkwardness is clear in the narration -- bringing the reader to not only sympathize with Kathy's frustration with her inability to get her words out but also to root and hope for her happiness.
(Hooray! I'm getting there.)
Nevertheless, I still have reservations about the manuscript. It still feels overlong, and I can't help but think it might be nice if it were about 75 to 100 pages shorter.
(She's right about that ... I got nervous printing it because I was using so much paper!)
The Symphonians trouble me. I liked and cared for them very much as characters, but I wish there was a clearer transition between Kathy's life and their story. A disconnect of some sort exists -- I felt like I was reading two separate stories that were thrown together simply because they both deal with domestic abuse. Granted, there are points in Kathy's narrative where she wishes she could be like one of her characters -- but she wishes to possess aspects of their personalities in situations that don't have anything to do with domestic abuse until the end of the manuscript. As a reader, I desperately wanted some tangible connection between the two stories that I could hold on to -- I wanted to know the events that triggered the manuscript to transition from Kathy's narrative to the Symphonians and back.
(I've had other people say the same thing, too. I thought I had finally dovetailed the small novel into the larger one -- apparently I haven't yet.)
There are problematic areas of connection in the manuscript ... and several nagging questions left unanswered (Do Noel and Kathy get together? Does Kathy finish the Symphonians's story because she no longer needs to fill the emotional space in her life with their presence now that she has friends like Yvonne?). Important characters like Noel and Kathy's mother are not developed enough. I wanted to see some sort of positive interaction between Kathy and her mother (I couldn't see any sort of connection between them -- highly unrealistic for a mother-daughter pair who appear to be trying to figure one another out) and Kathy's father is relatively non-existent (odd for a man who is said to have spent an entire morning helping out his parents next door repair a shower rod).
(She's right about that too.)
Then the letter details some smaller issues that need work -- a couple of places in the MS that seemed author-engineered, not organic; a soap-opera-like moment; some odd quirks in Kay's character that seem too odd. And then the final sentence, "If you do choose to revise again, please know that I'd be happy to reconsider this."
So I have that going for me.
Anyway, here's where you-all can help. Does anybody know of any books that feature a novel-within-a-novel? I need some models. Also, if you know of any writing books that address the narrative-within-a-narrative issue, point them out to me. I could really use some guidance on that front.
I'll go over the Symphonians today and tomorrow (it is a big tome) to try and see the story through fresh eyes. Then back to work on the raccoon story until the end of the month, just to keep my momentum up on it. I'm not tired of working on it yet, so I'm reluctant to put it aside. And that'll give my unconscious mind time to mull over the Symphonians and work up some ideas.
So ... not good news, but not bad news either. I can deal, though I'll moan and groan under my breath when I start figuring out how much work is really in store for me!
Ever since Monday morning, I've been marking up the pages of the Symphonians MS. I'm up to p. 196; I have 131 pages to go. So far I'm mainly looking for stuff to cut, though I've also marked up stuff that needs fixed and have made notes about random things I've noticed about the MS that I need to work on later.
I've noticed that the main story and the story-within-a-story finally start working together at page 199. So I have that working for me. It's just all the previous pages that will give me fits.
I also did a document-wide change: I switched Noel's name to Wyatt. Changed it back. Changed it again.
I did that because I keep mispronouncing Noel. That would look bad on the book tour. Also my husband tells me that Noel is not manly enough. He wanted the MC to be named Wyatt "Gatlin Gun" McStudmeister. I told him that one out of three ain't bad.
I need to set some goals for myself:
1) Extensive character work for Wyatt (Noel) and Justine (Kay's mom)
2) This includes writing several scenes in which Kay discovers Noel's, I mean Wyatt's, blog. Now I have to peruse blogs written by high-school guys without looking like some weirdo stalker.
3) Reading those books that have been recommended to me to apply them to my story-within-a-story.
4) Put more funnies in the first part. In rereading it the other night, I found out that I have a lot more funny stuff in the second part. Gotta fix.
5) What the hell is the focus of this story? There is none! Maybe finding a focus would help me shrink it down a bit!
Okay, that's plenty.
I went through the returned MS and cut every word I could. I did a document-wide search for then and just, which are two words I overuse. I cut most adverbs and even some adverbial phrases. And if there were only a few lines on a page at a chapter's end, I'd go back and find other stuff to cut until I lost that extra page.
Also cut the two chapters that deal with the State Band plot, since that seems more like a tangent. I'll replace those later with more of an exploration of Kay's relationship with Mom and Wyatt "Gatlin Gun" McStudmeister.
I'm on page 200 in the MS and have cut 50 pages thus far.
So little cuts all through the MS will get you a long way.
Both agents that requested the MS said no. I've sent out eight more queries. Nothing yet. Sometimes you catch a fish, sometimes you don't.
I'd like someone to take me on who can help me with this novel-within-a-novel conceit. That's the thing that's kicking my tail right now.
Back to work, since I have to incorporate 127 more pages of corrections. I'm getting there! But man, I wish I could go faster.
Got all the cuts I'd made in the Symphonians novel incorporated in the computer. I busted 327 pages down to 243. 84 pages altogether. Took a whole week to do it. Gaah.
My work's not done yet. Next I need to figure out what's at the heart of this novel. And then I need to rewrite everything toward that. If something doesn't contribute to that overall motion, out it comes.
After that, I have several new scenes to write, too, which will jack up the word count again. Can't win.
I'm actually a little disappointed that I didn't end up cutting more words. I was hoping to cut 100. I'm just 15 pages shy of that goal. I could surely find 15 more pages to cut!
To do the dishes!
As if. No, the other day I got a very nice personal rejection from an agent. She liked the Symphonians, but the Symphonians' novel and Kay's novel seemed, to the agent, to be at odds with each other.
I keep telling myself that I'm going to make these two novels live harmoniously within the same book, but then every time I prepare to sit down and work on this, I end up springing from my chair and running into the street.
This is not a good use of my time and energy.
So last night I made a copy of my Symphonians document. Then I went through and took the whole Symphonians novel and COMPLETELY CUT IT OUT.
Alas, I loved that novel. But those days are gone.
Then I went back and started reading through the MS. It seems to flow better, the pacing's better. And of course the whole document is about 75 pages lighter.
I'm planning on going back and inserting bits of the novel and have Kay actually dealing with her text, instead of setting out these two texts side-by-side and hoping the reader will catch on.
I had such high hopes for intertextuality! But alas, I was not pulling it off. So I'm a little bummed. But not as much as I thought I'd be, because now I feel like I can work with the novel again. I got rid of the brick wall, or radioactive force field, that kept me running away, and now I'm like, "Well, okay, I can manage this."
Not the end of the world after all. Not today, anyway.
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Just this afternoon I got an e-mail from an agent who wants to see Symphonians.
Is my timing great, or what! I'd say "or what."
I told her I cut the story-within-the-story, so she had two options:
1) I put the whole story-within-a-story back and send it to herimmediately with a smile.
2) I take a month to revise the novel and then send it to her with a belated smile.
So we'll see how that goes.
So ... maybe I should get off here and start fixing the novelistic hash so it's, like, readable and stuff? Yeah, I guess I will.