life

Portlandia

The template I use for this blog makes links hard to see. There was a link to information about my book in the previous post, I promise. And oops, I just did it again. Look back in this paragraph.

Anyway: Portland. You should understand that we’ve had a crappy winter and slow spring here, and there are no leaves on the trees yet, and when we left for Portland ten days ago the grass wasn’t even green, never mind blooming flowers. Portland though… Portland was sunny with highs in the 60s every day we were there. It was green and lush and blooming. It was… magical.

Beacon Rock, Multnomah Falls, Cannon Beach, downtown Portland, we saw plenty of stuff. And we are totally smitten. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.

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Aaaaand exhale

On April 5, the US Copyright Office’s website was down for maintenance, just as I was ready to file the electronic document copyright for my book. Strike one.

On April 6, I upset a full cup of tea on my laptop computer just as I was doing the final formatting revision on my book. Happily I am married to a former IT guy who knew how to clean it up, but the keyboard no longer works. Strike two.

Later on April 6, while I was in the middle of the approximately twenty-screen progression required to file for a copyright, the internet cut out and I had to start again. Strike three.

I got the book copyrighted and put on Amazon’s KDP that day anyway, though. It took about four hours for it to show up on Amazon, and at the beginning it was only findable by switching to the “Kindle Store” category of Amazon. Now, happily, it is the first hit for both the title and author name on the regular, pan-Amazonian search. I am tickled pink and have started the sequel.

So that little terror is over, and was over before we left for vacation. We went to Portland for a week to scout the area. I have lots of great pictures to show you. It is so ridiculously nice out there. Ohhhhh my goodness.

By the way, this author’s blog sure looks interesting.

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Phew

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Here’s my new bracelet. It’s wrought iron. I bought it from Etsy seller CeltSmith. I am geeking out about how cool it is.

Finished the first draft last night. Got the last little scene screwholed in. I’m going to let it rest for a couple of weeks now, then do a read-through and edit (I’ve been continuously going back to refine things, so I hope there won’t be much left to change). I’ll make my cover art, file for digital copyright, and on to Amazon KDP it will go.

It’s 114K words. For comparison, Lolita by Vladomir Nabokov is 112.5K words, so they’re basically the same length. The industry standard estimates that 300 words go on a page, which would make my book 380 pages long. Actual print editions of Lolita average 300 pages, though, so let’s say my book would be 300 pages, should there ever be a print edition. Of course words per page must vary by author… I’m sure Proust gets far fewer than Hemingway for example…

The first story file was created on February 2 and I finished last night on March 31. Less than two months. I began by just writing at night after Sparks had gone to bed. The last couple of weeks I’ve been a grumpy guts, wanting to write all the time and putting in full days whenever Mimi goes to school. On my most prodigious day I wrote 7,000 words.

I pantsed this book. Writers are either “plotters” meaning they plot the plot ahead of time, or “pantsers” meaning they fly by the seat of their pants. While one or two major incidents of the story came to me early on and drove me forward so that I could get around to writing them, most of the time I would sit down with no idea of what I would write. Stuff just came.

In a literary sense, I’m satisfied with this book. I’m maybe not Steinbeck but I can write a flowing sentence. I think my story is interesting, with a couple of “nuh UH that did NOT just happen” moments. There are some developed themes. There’s conflict. The characters grow and change. Most of all, I absolutely love my book. It’s exactly the kind of book I want to read.

So now I rest. I have a reading list to get through, while I’m letting the text rest and doing the fussy formatting stuff. I need to read The World Until Yesterday. And Pale Fire. And maybe The Clan Of The Cave Bear… maybe. If it seems good right from the start.

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Garter stitch

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Ever since Mimi was born, my ability to concentrate on things I want to do has been impaired. That shouldn’t surprise anyone who’s ever spent three seconds around a small child, but the depth and consistency of it surprised me. I remember the day we brought her home from the hospital. I put her in her bouncy chair and sat down to check my email… “waaaaaaaaah.” And we were off to the races.

It took time to get used to that. As in, maybe I only began to be graceful about it a year ago, and I’m still not graceful about it all the time. I got into a habit of sitting around doing nothing much, because why bother? She’s going to need something in ten seconds anyway. Thus my enormous Pinterest habit…

So maybe you’ll understand why the writing has felt like such a big deal. I’m finally doing something fun that requires big chunks of privacy and concentration. Hooray! But something else inside of me seems to have finally broken under the pressure. I don’t want to just sit there doing nothing anymore. If I’m not writing or psyching myself up to write or staring into space wondering why character A behaves the way she does towards characters B and C, I am probably in the TV room with Mimi knitting.

Garter stitch cowls. That’s where it’s at. I’m using up my gorgeous, beautiful, exquisite, expensive, and completely useless-for-socks Socks That Rock yarn. The dark cowl on top was first. It’s made of Mediumweight and was 50 stitches wide on size US6 needles. The others are Lightweight, 65 stitches wide on US4 needles. I knit back and forth until the yarn is gone, then whipstitch the ends together. End of story. The cowl ends up exactly the right size and stretchiness to puddle nicely around one’s neck. The garter stitch ends up stretchy and springy and squishy and never, ever curls one bit. I luvs ‘em.

By the way, Socks That Rock Lightweight has a put-up of 150 grams. That’s like 3 small skeins of sock yarn, not just 2, so be warned.

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The last snow day

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Yesterday it was 65 degrees and sunny. We opened all of the windows. We took a walk around the neighborhood. Children played outdoors. The snow was gone from all but the coldest, darkest places. After being down with a cold for ten days, I went to the gym and did my strength training then walked, then came home and did that walk around the neighborhood. Last night I slept for almost nine hours. A few years ago that was my average night’s sleep; these days I’m more often a little under eight hours. Getting old… is real.

This morning it is below freezing, pelting heavy wet snow, and the wind is whipping the trees. Maybe this is the last snow day. Freak snows in April aren’t unknown here, but maybe… maybe this is the last one of this winter.

Mimi has become a little baking monkey. She spends a lot of her tablet time playing baking games, pretending to whip up batter and ice cakes. She just loves to get in the kitchen and bake something for real. Yesterday we did a half batch of choc-oat-chip cookies. I measure, Mimi dumps the ingredients in the bowl. She can arrange sprinkles on top of things, too, and gives stirring the old college try.

Those books about how French kids eat everything and are well behaved? Mostly I just laugh at them these days. I do like to remember the scene about the French three-year-old making cupcakes though. Mine totally does that.

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Dialectic

Here I am up before the sun, drinking my coffee before Mimi is even awake, so let me ponder a bit on dialectic.

This story I’m writing. The characters speak several different varieties of English. Which variety is only important in the case of two characters, one main and one secondary. The other characters need only be not-THAT-dialect. I’m having fun hearing the characters’ own voices in my head as I write dialogue, though, and it’s been interesting to observe when I do and don’t feel inclined to write them in dialectic.

The Received Pronunciation characters I just write, trying to stay away from American idioms. The American Broadcast Standard characters I just write, trying to stay away from British idioms. That’s harder for this American to do than you’d think–I’ve watched a lot of BBC and read a lot of Victorian novels in my life, and I like to think that my inner voice is mid-Atlantic.

By the way, my real speaking voice is pretty close to American Broadcast Standard. I have darker Rs, picked up when we lived in Kansas I guess, and many non-Americans have independently verified that I have a “lisp”, which happens in word-onset sibilants only and is therefore part of my dialect, not a speech problem. Shtreet. Shtar. Shtate. It’s not very dramatic or Americans would hear it too. But I digress.

The characters who venture outside of those two “standard” pronunciations are the ones I have dithered about writing in dialectic or not. Dialectic can be so much fun–cite the Outlander series–but it can also ruin the experience of a book. Cite Ivanhoe, or nearly everything Mark Twain ever wrote.

I’ve been trying not to do it. I’ve been trying to convey, or just hint at, the dialects using sentence formation and idiom instead. It isn’t particularly important that I succeed, like I said. Only two characters matter and I’ve come out and said exactly what they speak, and had other characters with other dialects remark on it.

There are two interesting cases though, one from each side of the Atlantic: African American Vernacular English and Scots. Both of these are officially languages of their own, with grammar and phonology and vocabulary of their own. Both of them can be spoken so as to be unintelligible to RP/ABS natives and that’s one reason they’re considered to be separate languages. Both of them can also be spoken anywhere along a spectrum between that and RP/ABS too though, depending on register and audience and emotional state of the speaker. And both of them have been written as heavy dialectic in different literary works.

So far I’ve chosen not to do it. I’m not writing things out phonetically. It irritates me when people do it to my own accent in its casual register–gonna gotta shoulda coulda woulda. I’m going to be respectful of the other dialects and avoid spelling out their casual registers too. So my Scots aren’t being written down as saying dinna verra, any more than the RP speakers are being written down as speakah writah readah. Which brings me to another interesting point…

There’s dialectic prestige working there, isn’t there. Dialectic tends to highlight the otherness of less prestigious varieties of a language. As an American I’m irritated because ABS dialectic is meant to highlight its otherness from RP. I know that written AAVE dialectic is a touchy subject. And as an American I am completely in love with Scottish dialectic but, well, being ignorant of the ins and outs of its use by others, I’ll stay away from it anyhow.

Vocabulary I feel is fair game though. My dialect can permute into my grandmother’s “north bank of the Ohio River” drawl (not to be confused with south bank of the Ohio River, that’s completely different!) when I think it’s to my advantage, and that changes the vocabulary, not just the grammar and pronunciation. Ain’t and y’all become real words, and there’s no other way to write those out. Relaxed ABS has yeah, could’ve, would’ve, should’ve, and I write those without blinking an eye. And so I figure that it’s fair for my non-ABS characters to also insert their own peculiar words, as long as I do it sparingly. My Scottish characters, relaxed and speaking to each other, begin to say aye, wee, laddie. In one moment of emotional extremity–once in sixty thousand words so far–a character drops a couldnae.

About the aye and wee and laddie. I have an American character with a dialect that is extremely American and extremely easy for me to hear in my head, but being honest with myself, it’s an Old Timey dialect. It’s something that maybe my grandparents would use, more like my great-grandparents. I’ve got vague suspicions that those Scottish words are in the same Old Timey category. I should probably spend more time listening to Scottish people on YouTube to answer that question.

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