At my office/coffee shop/bookstore, sitting at the computer bar at the side of the room, laptop plugged into an outlet beneath, iced Atzec mocha against the wall where I hope it won’t spill, two industrious critique partners on my right.
I am scrimshanking.
The spell checker says scrimshanking isn’t a word. That’s what it knows.
Scrimshankingis a word, because I saw it on Dictionary.com five minutes ago, just in time to use it.
We are sixteen days into National Novel Writing Month. Writers following the plan are 26, 762 words into their projected 50,000-word novels.
I am 75,000 words behind.
I DO NOT WORK THE NANO WAY.
Someday that will sink in.
It sinks in every year, but someday it will sink in.
Laura Oles celebrates doubly this month–today her debut novel, DAUGHTERS OF BAD MEN, was released by Red Adept Publishing, just a week after Austin Mystery Writers’ LONE STAR LAWLESS, in which Laura’s story “Carry On Only” appears, was released by Wildside Press. Here’s what I posted about these publications at Writing Wranglers and Warriors. Laura will be along presently to tell you more.
I’ve been in AMW for six or seven years–can’t remember exactly–but membership is one of the best things that’s happened since I began writing for publication. Examining others’ work and hearing their comments on mine has made me a better writer. Members have become my friends. Together we’ve enjoyed workshops and lunches and weekend retreats.
And I’ve acquired a new virtue: I’m genuinely happy when other members get their work published.
My skin turns Shrek green, but I’m happy.
Offsetting today’s greenish tinge over Laura’s debut, I’m also happy to announce that AMW’s second…
NaNoWriMo –National Novel Writing Month–the month* in which participants vow to write a 50,000-word novel–and some of them do–began yesterday.
The goal–if you want to reach 50,000 words and win NaNoWriMo (which from this point on will be called NaNo), you need to write an average of 1667 words a day.
I’ve registered for NaNo–there’s a website–at least three times, maybe four. Unfortunately, every year, as soon as I signed on, I became claustrophobic and began to hyperventilate. Mentally, not physically, but mentally is bad enough. There was something about having to write a novel in a month that made me feel the walls were closing in, as if I had to do something I didn’t want to do, as if someone were forcing me to write that novel in a month. No one was forcing me, but seeming can feel a lot like being.
For example, consider what Hamlet** says to his mother the first time we see them together. He’s been going around wearing customary suits of inky black day after day, and suspiring all over the palace, and although his mother knows he’s grieving for his dead father, she says everybody does that at one time or another, and asks why he seems so much more miserable than others in the same situation.
In other words, this isn’t put on, he’s genuinely perturbed. Of course, there’s more to it than he lets on: After his father died, before the funeral baked meats, like the casseroles and tuna sandwiches the neighbors brought in, had been consumed, his mother went and married her husband’s brother, who doesn’t have much to recommend him. That would make any prince suspire. And Hamlet must be irritated that his mother is so clueless. She asks a silly question, and he sasses her. “Nay, it is; I know not “seems,” is, in modern terms, something like, Well, d’oh.
Anyway, back to NaNo. The mere act of registering gives me a serious case of the fantods.
Hamlet could have addressed his fantods by confronting his mother and his uncle and asking straight out what in the world they thought they were doing, but instead he takes the passive-aggressive route and pretends he’s unhinged.
I, on the other hand, have, every year, faced my dilemma head on: I’ve dropped out. No novel, no problem.
This year, however, I’m confronting it by plowing on through. I shall, and I will, write 50,000 words by November 30. I’ll go from beginning to middle to end, I’ll submit my scrambled manuscript through the NaNo website, and I’ll win.
On the basis of my experience, both past and present, I’ve come up with some helpful hints I’m happy to share:
After you register for NaNo, be proactive. Fill out your profile. You don’t have to use your real name. Title your book. It doesn’t matter what, just name it and record it on the website. Join a community. Then write a synopsis. If you don’t have a plot, wing it. Nobody’s going to read it, and it might end up working out. Complete these steps and you’ll receive badges. I got one for filling out my profile, one for joining my community (I told them where I live), and one for “creating” my novel. I take issue with that creating business, but if it makes them happy to think so…
Badges make you feel better, so award yourself some for personal achievement. I gave myself a Plantser badge, because I usually have to write for a while before my characters tell me what they want to do (flying by the seat of my pants, or pantsing), but then, once things get going, I come up with a rudimentary framework (plotting). Plotter + pantser = Plantser. I also gave myself a Rebel badge to declare myself a NaNo Rebel!, state my belief “that rules are meant to be broken,” and admit that on November 1, I’ll “start writing anything but a brand new novel.” I could not have phrased that better myself. Plantser and Rebel might seem contradictory, but who cares.
Relax. Getting all het up won’t help. By Thanksgiving you’ll be so antsy your family will make you take your plate and eat out on the porch.
Now for the Don’ts:
On November 1, don’t let a podiatrist operate on your foot. It won’t hurt, but it’ll take a chunk out of your day that you should spend working on your novel.
On November 1, don’t have two meetings, even if they promise to be interesting and you want to go. See #1 regarding chunks.
On November 1, when you want to quit, don’t. If you feel the queasies coming on, follow Eloise’s lead: Say, “Pooh pooh to you,”*** and get over it. (Eloise and Hamlet’s mother have a lot in common.)
Don’t schedule the Sisters in Crime chapter newsletter you edit (and write) to post on November 1. Before you post, you’ll have to tweak, and you’ll tweak everything, even things that don’t need tweaking, and you’ll add content, and it’s already too long, and it’ll be 9:00 p. m. before you press Publish.
Don’t download the trial version of Scrivener**** that’s available to every NaNo participant. Even if you’ve used it before, you won’t remember how it works, because it’s big and complicated, and you don’t need it right now anyway, you can get it later, and MS Word is sufficient, and if you have Scrivener, you’ll open it and work out how to color code, and then you’ll spend the rest of November color coding everything from plot points to red herrings to subplots to your cats, if you can figure out how (blue for Ernest’s gray coat, much of which currently adorns my sweats, and rust for William’s elegant cream tabbiness).
On November 2, don’t open your email. Don’t open Facebook. For goodness’ sake, don’t open your blog. Opening your blog will lead to writing a post, any post, because you’ll do everything in your power, even write, to get out of making up 1667 words, which by now have increased to 3334 words because you had surgery and two meetings and a newsletter on November 1. Email might not pose a problem– it depends on how popular you are–but Facebook will take you directly to Candy Crush and you’ll be lost. (Candy Crush Saga, Candy Crush Soda Saga, and Candy Crush Jelly Saga, all of which you sneered at during the years sanity prevailed.)
There are other d0’s and don’ts, but I’m too tired to remember what they are. Except for the one about getting enough sleep. Last night, I didn’t. A nap is inevitable, but there goes another chunk of writing time.
Anyway, that’s my take on NaNoWriMo. Contrary to the what you’ve read here, I have a positive attitude. I’m going to make it.
Because I want to call myself a winner. I want to experience the satisfaction of a job well done. I want to finish a novel so I can go back to short stories where I belong. I want to be a winner. I want a tee-shirt.
But above all, I want Scrivener. I want Scrivener when I create, plot, organize, research, file, write, revise, prepare a final document. I want to join the legions who say Scrivener is the greatest gift to writers since the eraser. I want the 50% discount on Scrivener that winning will earn me.
But above all else, I want Scrivener so I can color code.
* A man invented NaNoWriMo. We know this because it takes place in November.
** For a quotation, an example, a whatever, go to Hamlet. Hamlet and Mark Twain. Everything you need is there.
*** I think Eloise says “Pooh pooh to you.” Somebody says it.
****Scrivener is a sponsor of National Novel Writing Month.
I’ve now written about 1370 words. Only 1964 to go before midnight and I’ll be caught up. Blog posts don’t normally count, but if your main character participates in NaNoWriMo and writes a blog, they do.
My second missed-the-deadline poem written for Nicholas Kristoff’s Trump poetry contest. Sonnet #1 appeared last week. For those who have forgotten, the reference to Stephen Dowling Bots is explained below the sonnet.
How do I love Trump? Let me count the ways.
How do I love Trump? Let me count the ways. Uh… Well… Okay… I’m thinking… But I’ve got
A mental block… I’m sure I have forgot
A word, a speech, a gesture with some grace
Or beauty, decency; a turn of phrase
That doesn’t irritate or make a knot
Form in my gut; a tittle or a jot
That doesn’t jar or send my cheeks ablaze.
I’m sorry that he sets my teeth on edge.
I’m sorry that I do not love him lots.
I’m sad I wish he’d crawl into his shell,
Throw up the sash and climb out on a ledge,
Or, like the storied Stephen Dowling Bots,
Depart D. C. by falling down a well.
Thanks to Elizabeth Barrett Browning for “Sonnet #43.”
Last month,New York Timescolumnist Nicholas Kristoffannounced a contest for Trump poems. Guidelines called for verses written from any political stance. I wrote two sonnets but forgot the October 8 deadline for submission. It seemed a shame to let them languish on the hard drive, so I share them here. The first appears below. Views expressed are mine alone and reflect my rights as set out in the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. President Putin would call them disrespectful, but he is not the boss of me.
Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? Thou art too blowy and inelegant.
Sweet-scented, like the darling buds of May?
Thou art like offal sans refrigerant.
Thou’rt graceless, racist, foul-mouthed, cold, and mean,
Misogynistic; driven to inflame
Rank passions: malice, hatred, spite, and spleen.
The sun doth blush and hide his face in shame.
A tweeting fool a-twitter in our ears;
A braying donkey sends forth sweeter sound,
And tells more truth, than thy bleats breeding fears.
The Ship of State thy bullying runs aground.
But when bold Mueller plays his final card,
Thou’ll find thyself hoist on thine own petard.
Formula One weekend begins today. To commemorate the event, I’m rerunning a post that first appeared at the first Formula One event, in November 2012. It received oodles of hits as well as some comments that suggested I am not a nice person and that I should get a life. I suspect commenters did not read the post carefully, or maybe at all.
So I’m giving y’all a second shot at it. I’ve added links to some websites not in the original post. Before you comment, please read to the end. It helps to know what a post says before you comment. If possible, enjoy. If impossible, complain away. Just remember this is a family friendly blog.
Hint: Parts are written with tongue-in-cheek. Which parts I’ll let the reader decide.
I wasn’t one of the gathered, but after reading and listening to friends, and complaining about the Circuit of the Americas for the past couple of years, I’ve put together enough information to comment in a semi-reliable fashion.
According to its website, CoTA is a “world-class motorsports and entertainment venue,” “designed to be the only purpose-built facility in the U.S. to host the FORMULA 1 UNITED STATES GRAND PRIX™ through 2021 and V8 SUPERCARS from 2013-2018.” It covers 375 acres and lies fifteen miles from downtown Austin.
Politicians have been just tickled pink–or maybe green–because the track will bring money into the city and the state and will create jobs. Can’t complain about that. Money and jobs are good.
And such a Big Deal, covering months of negotiations and construction, helps drive away
the water shortage,
rising property taxes,
feral hogs, and
how much will remain of San Antonio after Texas secedes from the Union and all those military installations have packed up their guns and airplanes and headed for Iowa,
from the headlines to page 3 of the classifieds, right below Doonsbury.
I haven’t shared the politicians’ or anyone else’s enthusiasm. I’ve railed against CoTA ever since it hit the six o’clock news:
paving pasture- and farmland,
wasting fossil fuel,
spending state tax money to fund what should be a private venture,
plopping the facility down in an area with inadequate infrastructure and expecting taxpayers to fund repair and upkeep,
causing land values and property taxes to skyrocket, and
other objections too numerous to mention.
However, on Saturday, while the elite, who the night before drunk gold-infused champagne at Austin’s finest hotels (I didn’t make that up) were descending from helicopters onto a former pasture near Elroy, our friend Millie shared with the Fifteen Minutes of Famewriting practice group some facts that tempered my pessimism. She said the CoTA will eventually
be open 365 days a year,
host concerts, charity runs, sports events, and the like,
create hundreds of both full-time and part-time jobs,
attract a million people a year,
pour oodles into the economy, and
promote research that will influence medicine, transportation, and other areas we can’t yet predict.
After listening to her reassurances, FMoF members gave Millie a round of applause and left in better spirits.
Circuit of the Americas Chairman Bobby Epstein said, “Now the teachers win when F1 makes money and when new dollars come into our state as a result of the Grand Prix.”
Consequently, I have become Formula 1’s biggest fan. I will say kind words about it, I will look for it in the sports pages, I may even subscribe to Sports Illustrated. Whatever I can do to promote Formula One racing, I will do.
I’ve already X-ed out the piece I wrote last week about a dystopian future when we run out of fossil fuel and CoTA descends to hosting chariot races.
But there’s another however: TRS stated, “To be clear, F1 is a completely separate company that is unrelated to Circuit of the Americas, which will host an F1 Grand Prix race near Austin in November 2012. None of the Teacher Retirement System of Texas, CVC Capital Partners, or Formula One Group has any ownership interest or business relationship with the Circuit of the Americas.”
So while I cheer for Formula One, I’ll continue to wail about the paved-over paradise on which my pocketbook depends.
And I’ll be watching to see how much of the money Texas rakes in goes toward shoring up TRS and the public schools of Texas.
P. S. One of my objections was that state and city tax money had funded CoTA. The CoTA website (not found 10.20.2017, but quoted here in 2012) and the Heritage Office Suites (January 27, no year found) include this note:*
“NOTE: To date, State money has not been paid to the developers of Circuit of The Americas and no local community, including the City of Austin, is providing incentive funding to the developers. As is the case with the Super Bowl, NCAA Final Four and other large-scale events in Texas, the Formula 1 event is eligible for expense reimbursements from the state’s Major Events Trust Fund. This reimbursement is performance-based and may be applied for after the first event in November 2012. Any state reimbursement is based on the amount of incremental tax revenue generated, Friday, January 31, 2014
If organizations that bring major events to town are reimbursed, I hope the Texas Library Association is reimbursed for its annual conference. That’s major.
Other sources provide information, most gathered after 2012. In (approximately) reverse order:
“The planned 2012 United States Grand Prix at the Circuit of the Americas near Austin, Texas, on Tuesday afternoon suffered another potentially catastrophic blow when organizers announced that they have stopped construction on the new racetrack.
“The announcement came just hours after the revelation by Texas state comptroller Susan Combs that no money from the state’s Major Events Trust Fund will be paid before the race takes place, apparently meaning that there is no state money available to pay Formula Oneboss Bernie Ecclestone’s $25 million sanctioning fee, at least not prior to the race as planned originally. And, if history is any sort of measuring stick, anyone who follows F1 knows Ecclestone and his traveling circus do not show up until he has been paid in full.”
If you read the October 15th post on my personal blog, you know my husband’s video “Invisible Men Invade Earth” won 1st place ~ Judges’ Pick at the What the Fest (hosted by Weresquirrel and Pocket Sandwich Theatre) in Dallas Saturday night. What only my husband and I know is that I had a panic attack, or maybe just a little panic, when I realized I’d missed my October 14th post deadline for Writing Wranglers and Warriors.
I had it all worked out that the 14th was the next Tuesday, but it was really yesterday, Saturday, and I’d missed it completely, and blah blah blah. How would I ever make it up because the October 15th person had already posted, and I couldn’t post after that one, and more blah blah blah.
1st place certificate. The white stuff is popcorn thrown at…
We arrived at Pocket Sandwich Theatre in time to hear the last scenes of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Judging from the chorus of boos and hisses and the popcorn blanketing the floor, the audience had a rollicking good time.
Not as good a time as David and I had, of course.
Only one thing is missing. William and Ernest, who made it all possible, couldn’t be with us. Or, more accurately, wouldn’t be with us. Since that ill-fated trip to the vet last June, the sight of a suitcase sends them flying under the bed. A vet tech now comes to the house twice daily when we’re away to feed them and give William his insulin injection.
They like her. After eight years of hiding from company, William sashayed out, snuffled her hand, and invited her to give him a tummy rub. They agreed to star in “Invisible Men Invade Earth,” but that was when they were young. They have since given up the stage. Awards mean nothing to them.
David and I, though, are officially chuffed. And we’ll stay that way for the next couple of days at least.
*In truth, David’s video was declared winner early this morning. The program started at 11:15 p.m. last night and it comprised twelve videos and one intermission plus intros and miscellaneous talk, so the awards portion didn’t roll around till about 2:00 a.m.
Isabel did read Italian; if she had any difficulty with La Repubblica, it was with understanding the complexities of Italian politics. But that, she suspected, was the case with everybody’s politics. And it was not just a linguistic difference; she could never understand how American politics worked. It appeared that the Americans went to the polls every four years to elect a President who had wide powers. But then, once he was in office, he might find himself unable to do any of the things he had promised to do because he was blocked by other politicians who could veto his legislation. What was the point, then, of having an election in the first place? Did people not resent the fact that they spoke on a subject and then nothing could be done about it? But politics had always seemed an impenetrable mystery to her in her youth. She remembered what her mother had once said to her about some American politician to whom they were distantly related. “I don’t greatly care for him,” she said. “Pork barrel.”
Isabel had thought, as a child, that this was a bit unkind. Presumably he could not help looking like a pork barrel. But then, much later, she had come to realise that this was how politics worked. The problem was, though, that politics might work, but government did not.
Why? Because–A friend, calling to confirm David and I would meet her and her husband the next day at the Harry Ransom for the Edgar Allan Poe exhibit, reported her house was being leveled for the second time in three years. “There are thirteen men under my house.”
I hooked up Edgar Allan Poe with “thirteen men under my house” and wrote the following. It may be the best thing I’ve ever written, and Halloween approaches, so I’m posting it again. If you’ve read it before, feel free to move on.
Note: Maven means expert. I looked it up to make sure.
To G. and M. in celebration
of their tenth trimester
of home improvement,
Forgive me for making
mirth of melancholy.
Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a rapping,
As of someone gently tapping, tapping at my chamber floor.
“‘Tis some armadillo,” said I, “tapping at my chamber floor,
Only this, and nothing more.”
Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the dry September,
And my house was sinking southward, lower than my bowling score,
Pier and beam and blocks of concrete, quiet as Deuteron’my’s cat feet,
Drooping like an unstarched bedsheet toward the planet’s molten core.
“That poor armadillo,” thought I, “choosing my house to explore.
He’ll squash like an accordion door.”
“Tuck,” I cried, “and Abby, come here! If my sanity you hold dear,
Go and get that armadillo, on him all your rancor pour.
While he’s bumping and a-thumping, give his rear a royal whumping,
Send him hence with head a-lumping, for this noise do I abhor.
Dasypus novemcinctus is not a beast I can ignore
Clumping ‘neath my chamber floor.”
While they stood there prancing, fretting, I imparted one last petting,
Loosed their leashes and cried “Havoc!” letting slip the dogs of war.
As they flew out, charged with venom, I pulled close my robe of denim.
“They will find him at a minimum,” I said, “and surely more,
Give him such a mighty whacking he’ll renounce forevermore
Lumbering ‘neath my chamber floor.”
But to my surprise and wonder, dogs came flying back like thunder.
“That’s no armadillo milling underneath your chamber floor.
Just a man with rule and level, seems engaged in mindless revel,
Crawling round. The wretched devil is someone we’ve seen before,
Measuring once and measuring twice and measuring thrice. We said, ‘Señor,
Get thee out or thee’s done for.'”
“Zounds!” I shouted, turning scarlet. “What is this, some vill’nous varlet
Who has come to torment me with mem’ries of my tilting floor?”
Fixing myself at my station by my floundering foundation,
Held I up the quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore.
“Out, you cad!” I said, “or else prepare to sleep beneath my floor,
Nameless there forever more.”
Ere my words had ceased resounding, with their echo still surrounding,
Crawled he out, saluted, and spoke words that chilled my very core.
“I been down there with my level, and those piers got quite a bevel.
It’s a case of major evolution: totter, tilt galore.
Gotta fix it right away, ma’am, ‘less you want your chamber floor
At a slant forevermore.”
At his words there came a pounding and a dozen men came bounding
From his pickup, and they dropped and disappeared beneath my floor.
And they carried beam and hammer and observed no rules of grammar,
And the air was filled with clamor and a clanging I deplore.
“Take thy beam and take thy level and thy failing Apgar score
And begone forevermore.”
But they would not heed my prayer, and their braying filled the air,
And it filled me with despair, this brouhaha that I deplore.
“Fiend!” I said. “If you had breeding, you would listen to my pleading,
For I feel my mind seceding from its sane and sober core,
And my house shall fall like Usher.” Said the leader of the corps,
“Lady, you got no rapport.”
“How long,” shrieked I then in horror, “like an ominous elm borer,
Like a squirrely acorn storer will you lurk beneath my floor?
Prophesy!” I cried, undaunted by the chutzpah that he flaunted,
And the expertise he vaunted. “Tell me, tell me, how much more?”
But he strutted and he swaggered like a man who knows the score.
Quoth the maven, “Evermore.”
He went off to join his legion in my house’s nether region
While my dogs looked on in sorrow at that dubious guarantor.
Then withdrawing from this vassal with his temperament so facile
I went back into my castle and I locked my chamber door.
“On the morrow, they’ll not leave me, but will lodge beneath my floor
Winter, spring, forevermore.”
So the hammering and the clamoring and the yapping, yawping yammering
And the shrieking, squawking stammering still are sounding ‘neath my floor.
And I sit here sullen, slumping in my chair and dream the thumping
And the armadillo’s bumping is a sound I could adore.
For those soles of boots from out the crawlspace ‘neath my chamber floor
[Forgive me. This post is longer than I intended, but once I got started, I couldn’t stop. I had no idea I’m so enlightened. If you stop reading before the end, I’ll forgive you. But you’ll miss the good part.]
My husband once told me that when I tell stories, I should start with the headline. So here it is.
My CT scan twelve months after completing radiation treatments was clear.
The first time I posted about having cancer, I said I would write about the experience. I am a writer, I said, soI will write, or words to that effect.
The statement dripped with drama. You can practically hear the rolling r‘s: I will wr-r-r-r-r-r-ite.
Such overstatement is normal. We newbie writers are always trying to reassure ourselves. We’re just starting out, we haven’t published much (or anything at all), we…