You may say a cat uses good grammar. Well, a cat does — but you let a cat get excited once; you let a cat get to pulling fur with another cat on a shed, nights, and you’ll hear grammar that will give you the lockjaw. Ignorant people think it’s the noise which fighting cats make that is so aggravating, but it ain’t so; it’s the sickening grammar they use.
~ Mark Twain, A Tramp Abroad
Ernest Davis-Waller on back of recliner
I’m sitting in my recliner, feet up, laptop on lap, Ernest Davis-Waller stretched out on the wide overstuffed armrest to my right. His left foreleg stretches down so his paw rests against me. He’s making biscuits on my leg. Clothing doesn’t protect me: his claws pierce my flesh. I take his leg, move it up to the armrest. He reaches down and resumes making…
The Royal Mail is observing the occasion with a special stamp issue focusing on six of Christie’s novels. Each stamp contains clues and features related to a specific book. “As the solving of mysteries is the focus of Christie’s art,” said a spokesman for the Royal Mail, “it is fitting that the public have to turn detective to find the hidden words and images in each stamp.”
I published the following post on Whiskertips in January 2010.
The night before leaving for New England, we stayed at the Millennium Hilton, across the street from where the World Trade Center had stood.
The hotel was damaged in the 9/11 attack and at one time was believed to be in danger of collapse.
I sat outside that evening with my journal, not writing, just looking across the narrow street. Blue panels hid all but the booms and jibs of cranes. Passing pedestrians seemed to take no notice. Except for signs identifying the area, it could have been any other construction site.
I wondered whether any of the current hotel staff had been working on 9/11. I wanted to ask but felt the question would be an invasion of privacy. The building has been repaired, but people who experience that kind of horror aren’t so easily healed.
The next morning, I took photos of the site from our room.
Earlier this evening, I had an idea for a post. I knew the first line. I was confident I could write the middle without too much suffering. I didn’t know how it would end–I never know the ending when I start out–but I believed what I’d already written would lead to an appropriate close.
I opened WordPress to the Add New Post screen and put my fingers on the keyboard. And wrote–nothing.
I’d forgotten everything: topic, first line, the whole shebang. I think the topic had to do with a comment on a post novelist Terry Shames put on Facebook, but I’ve forgotten which comment. Re-reading her post didn’t help.
I stared at the blank screen for a few seconds, then moved on. Obsessing over memory lapses guarantees the thought won’t return. It’s more effective to go on with life and wait for the universe to cough it up.
I added a few words to the WIP (work in progress) but then realized the ending I’d planned will not do. So far I haven’t worked out an alternative ending, but that’s all right. The universe will cough one up when it’s ready. If the universe doesn’t, Austin Mystery Writers will. That’s what I keep them around for.
have a blast visiting with Kaye George at this week’s Austin Mystery Writers meeting.
The Paris Librarian is on my list of 20 Books of Summer. It’s a pretty good book. That’s pretty good as in I-sat-up-until-two-o’clock-this-morning-reading-because-I-had-to-know-who-done-it. So there’s one I can check off my reading list.
Concerning #2 above, I had a blast visiting with Kaye George at the BookPeople coffee shop last Thursday. Conversation meandered through a number of topics, but we kept coming back to (more Blatant Self-Promotion) Austin Mystery Writers’Murder on Wheels and the Silver Falchion award it won for Best Fiction Short Story Anthology at the Killer Nashville conference. To those who’ve read about the Silver Falchion before, I apologize for bringing it up again. The excitement hasn’t worn off yet.
If I read both books, I’ll have finished seven of the twenty I set out to read by September 5. Of course, I didn’t really set out to read twenty. I got a late start and set out to read what I could. Seven, or six, will be what I could. I fear I’ll not have Mark Twain’s Autobiography and Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex read before Monday, but Tuesday is another day. I read The Second Sex in graduate school. It’s worth reading again, but not this week.
And so ends this post. As a writer who forgot what she intended to say, I think I’ve done well.
She flew into town last week to visit grown children and to see us of course, her Austin Mystery Writers “branch” of the family.
We met at our BookPeople haunt last Thursday to hug and laugh and talk about many things, most of them involving writing. And a lot of other stuff.
I first met Kaye George several years ago through Kathy Waller, who had just joined Austin Mystery Writers. Kathy asked Kaye, who was the head poohbah, if I could join as well. It was a critique group with several members. But, as is often the case with critique groups, members faded away for various reasons, and at one point the group consisted of Kathy, Kaye, and me.
I remember the vicarious thrill I felt when Kaye’s mystery novel, Choke, received a publishing contract. After ten…
If you’ve already heard about the award, my apologies. I’ve spread it all over Facebook. That’s called BSP–Blatant Self-Promotion–but self, in this case, refers to everyone involved in the anthology’s production. We’re surprised–we didn’t know we’d been nominated until three days before the awards ceremony–and honored and excited, so we’ve announced it at every opportunity.
I like to think that someday I’ll develop the air of dignified detachment that is the hallmark of the professional writer. Maybe I will. Maybe.
(In case the word falchion isn’t familiar–Wikipedia says it’s a “one-handed, single-edged sword of European origin, whose design is reminiscent of the Persian shamshir, the Chinese dadao, and modern machete.” The Silver Falchion seal, above, displays crossed falchions.)
Third on the list: I’ve completed five days of radiation treatments. That’s five of a projected twenty–25%. I learned today that I’m doing in twenty days what is normally done in thirty. I don’t know why, and I didn’t ask. This is another area requiring detachment, and I’ve found that detachment and too much information don’t play well together. The doctor kept using the word if –“If you do well with this, then we’ll…”–and upset the balance between optimism and uncertainty I try to maintain. If is too much information. So I pronounce the situation good and move on.
(Before I move on, and I really shouldn’t publicize this, but while I’m being unprofessional–since the first of June, I’ve lost twenty-nine pounds. Disclaimer: twenty-nine pounds equals the nineteen I had gained from taking steroids during chemo, and the ten I lost from having no appetite during chemo. The doctor doesn’t like it, and I understand why. It’s a hell of a way to lose weight, but with a net loss of ten pounds, I’m happy, and I’m taking credit for every one of them. I like being able to take my jeans off without unbuttoning and unzipping them.)
Boycotted refined sugar and starches, including starchy vegetables, longer than necessary before the PET scan. Blood sugar was normal. There was no reason to think it wouldn’t be, but still…
Critiqued and returned AMW stories I had at the time.
Wrote and posted on AMW blog, but not exactly on time. I traded post dates with another member, then realized I hadn’t traded. It’s complicated. I posted on the 20th instead of the 15th, but got it in before the Silver Falchion winner was announced.
Have a blast visiting with Kaye George at this week’s Austin Mystery Writers meeting.
Might as well face facts. I’ll dust the piano if I dust it, organize books if I organize books, and shred if I shred. They’re more likely to get done if I don’t write them down.
I dood it was “one of Red Skelton’s radio catchphrases” of the 1930s and ’40s. It was also the title of a song written by Jack Owens for Skelton in 1942, titled “I Dood It! (If I Do, I Get a Whippin’),” and the title of a movie released the next year.
a young boy full of mischief, who typically did things he was told not to do. “Junior” would say things like, “If I dood it, I gets a whipping.”, followed moments later by the statement, “I dood it!”
My mother told me about Skelton’s I dood it line when I was a child. She thought it was funny; I thought it was funny; I still think it’s funny. I never heard him say it–until today, when I watched the movie trailer on Youtube. The first part is devoted to introducing the cast, so it takes a little time to get to Skelton.
Wikipedia refers to the movie’s rather ungrammatical title. I agree: it is, rather.
The idea for MURDER ON WHEELS came from a late-night group e-mail session. As Kaye George explains in her Introduction, she and her husband had taken a ride on a large commercial double-decker bus, the Megabus, that runs between major cities.
“I started thinking that the bus would make a good setting for a murder,” Kaye writes. “There was only one problem–where to hide the…
Sixteen pounds of Ernest lies across my right forearm, pinning it to the arm of the recliner. He’s on his side, positioned so he can turn his head and, with a moonstruck expression, gaze upside-down into my eyes and/or reach across to pat my chest. At present, he’s making biscuits on my upper arm and, head thrown back, pushing with his chin at the mouse, which will soon fall to the floor. It doesn’t matter. With my arm weighed down, my fingers are the only movable part of that appendage, and they’re typing as fast as my brain can make up words. The mouse is purely decorative. I’m surprised to have gotten a whole paragraph down.
Well, no, not really surprised. We do this all the time. I say, “We’ve talked about this. You…
Before airing tonight’s Inspector Lewis mystery, PBS issued the usual disclaimer, something like, This program contains material that some viewers might consider objectionable. Viewer discretion is advised.
Now. Every program contains something potentially objectionable. Objection is a matter of choice. (Why doesn’t the same disclaimer run before afternoon soap operas and tacky prime time reality shows? I choose to object to their content.)
It’s reasonable to warn parents about content they might not want their children to see, I suppose. Some PBS programming does fall into the PG range. Some people might not want their children to see as many murder victims as Robbie Lewis does.At times, I wish a firm hand had turned off the television before I saw the bisected woman in the first episode of The Tunnel.
But the same disclaimer ran when Masterpiece Theatre presented a series of adaptations of Jane Austen novels. What could be considered objectionable about Jane Austen novels?
Well, anyway, that’s one of the questions bouncing around my brain, taking up space that would be better occupied by more pressing concerns. Anyone who has an answer is welcome to leave a comment.
But first take note: They’re boring is not an answer. It’s not even accurate. Jane Austen is not boring. Attempts to change my mind are futile.
Now for #ROW80. The past couple of weeks haven’t been conducive to doing anything, productive or not. I didn’t dust, organize, or shred. But the most important item is behind me.
The July 27 Buffet
♫♫♫ Complete the edit the AMW story for its (I hope) last major critique I reversed the tampering, re-edited the story. When Kaye George sent her critique, excellent as usual, she added, “OK, stop fiddling with it, OK?” OK. After the other critiques are in. Next stop, the independent editor.
♪Draft the second half of the story “Texas Boss” and submit to AMW for critique I wrote several hundred words in a doctor’s waiting room, then two days later realized that I’ve left no place for the incident that gave me the idea for the story in the first place. I can insert it–I hope. But if I can’t make it work, I’ll have to leave it out, which comes under the heading of Kill Your Darlings. I would prefer not to.
‼Post #ROW80 reports on Sundays and Wednesdays. I’ve already dropped Sundays. This is the Wednesday report, late. The upside: If I’d reported on Wednesday, I’d have had nothing to say about #2.
Visit three new #ROW80 blogs a day
?Take three naps a week I napped. Don’t know when or how often, but I napped. The question: Is it acceptable to count naps I took because I couldn’t stay awake?
Go to bed at by 11:00 p.m. / 9. Cook at least one decent meal for David / 10. Dust the piano. / 11. Get rid of ten things a day / 12. Collect and organize books / 13. Shred
August 7 Buffet
Eat no refined sugar. Eat a minimum of carbohydrates, including starchy vegetables and fruit. (I ate an ungodly amount of sugar over the weekend; had a reason but let things get out of hand; in other words, went crazy). A PET scan is scheduled for Wednesday, and, for the most accurate results, I need to be as sugar-free as possible. Bottom line, I hope I didn’t run up my blood sugar. Shouldn’t have but you never know. Cancer cells like sugar.
Finish critiques of remaining AMW stories and return to writers
Because last night I waltzed up to the watermelon buffet and chose
Complete the edit the AMW story for its (I hope) final major critique
If I’d been taking naps, #1 would be only a memory. But there’s more to do.
Weeks ago, I edited out a couple of sentences but later realized I’d removed a bit of necessary information and created a contradiction. The error would be so difficult to resolve, and the lapse in logic was so subtle and so trivial, and the remaining text flowed so smoothly that I thought about saying, with Walt Whitman,
“Do I contradict myself? Very well, then, I contradict myself;”
and leave it alone and hope no one would notice.
But someone always notices. Sometime, somewhere, some reader would say, But the character says this is going to happen, and this doesn’t happen, or maybe it does, but whatever happened, she never says another word about it, so it sounds like maybe both things happened, and she should have told us…
So I tried a number of fixes, none of which pleased me, settled on one, and moved on. In a few days, I’ll go back and try again.
In moving on, I went from editing/revising to tampering. The official word is polishing, but I tampered: with words–thank goodness for thesaurus.com running in the background; with phrases; with sentence structure… Tampered with things better left untouched.
Tampering–especially when you think you’re polishing–is doomed to fail. It usually takes place near the end of a project, when you think everything is perfect, but not quite. So you make one little change, and then another, and another, and soon, part of your brain–the part where judgment lives–shuts off and you go on automatic pilot. You keep on clicking that mouse, cutting, pasting, copying, deleting, inserting…
Do this long enough and you can drain the life out of a story.
I’m most likely to tamper when I’m tired. I was tired last night. I should have watched Acorn TV or read or, better yet, given in and gone to bed at a reasonable hour. But I didn’t. Hyperfocused on the manuscript, I lost track of time and stayed up long after midnight. Then, in a perverse turn of events, I woke today up at 7:00 a.m.
So, as I said at the top of the page, I am tired.
A deadline approaches. I need to finish that story. First, though, I’ll let it rest. Several days. A week. Until I’m sufficiently rested. Until I don’t hate it with every fiber of my being. Until I’m detached enough to distinguish the good from the bad from the ugly.
The July 20 Buffet
The original Buffet was meant to cover 80 days beginning with July 4, not just a few days or a week. Some haven’t been completed. Number 5 is on-going. So nothing changes.
Complete the edit the AMW story for its (I hope) final major critique Tried but didn’t finish, might have created a monster instead. See above, if you haven’t already.
Draft the second half of the story “Texas Boss” and submit to AMW for critique–Nope.
Finish a very rough draft of “Thank You, Mr. Poe”–Nope.
By September 5th, read at least ten of the books on my 20 Books of Summer 2016 list. (The list appears at Writing Wranglers and Warriors.) Still reading Isabel Allende’s The Japanese Lover, 68 pages toBy Mutari (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commonsgo. I used the calculator to figure that out. I didn’t have to. I can still subtract in my head. But I don’t want to think that hard. Sad.
Post #ROW80 reports on Sundays and Wednesdays. It’s Wednesday and I’m posting.
Visit three new #ROW80 blogs a day.–Nope. I don’t know why, but nope.
Take three naps a week.–Nope. And I’m so sorry I didn’t.
The July 27 Buffet
They don’t change much. The point of the buffet, per shanjeniah, is to have choices and plenty of them. So I’ll add more watermelon.
Complete the edit the AMW story for its (I hope) final major critique
Draft the second half of the story “Texas Boss” and submit to AMW for critique