Happy Hallowe’en!

I can’t wait to get into my costume. I decided on . . .

. . . Sarah Palin!

No, really. I found some add-in bangs and just pulled my hair into a twist. My glasses are enough like hers. Now, if I can get that nasal accent just right! “Yay Phillies! Oops . . . that’s Pittsburgh, right?” *GRIN*

Do you think people will notice the diff between MY wardrobe and the one she’s not wearing . . . nah. Or that I’m fat? Nah! It’ll be funny.

If I can find a “Moose” T-shirt, I mean.

I still might haul out the cape and go as Sister Mary Discipline.

Mama is having so much pain (burning in her lungs, digestive tract pain, nausea, leg and back pain, etc.) that we think it’s the new medicine (Advair and an anti-yeast pill that she dissolves under her tongue after the Advair). Hope we don’t have to spend the Trick-or-Treat night at the E. R. with all the people who got into trouble bobbing for apples. She asks for your Good Thinks.

And now, Witchy Women On Film!

If I could look like one of THEM . . . that’d be the ticket.

Apples . . . anyone?


Use only as directed. Do not expose to open flame.

Here’s your William Carlos Williams pastiche for the day.
# # #
This is just to say…

I have eaten
the chocolate
that was hidden
in the cupboard

behind the Pasta-roni
under the bag of rice
inside the empty
ramen noodle

which you probably never intended to share

Forgive me
it was
Not on the head with that frying pan!

[EDIT: Great minds think alike! Mollie Wells has also been busy thinking up a bunch more of these! See them at William Carlos Williams is a really bad roommate, courtesy of .]

Sarah, Plainly Tall

BRIAN WILLIAMS: Who is a member of the elite?

SARAH PALIN: Oh, I guess just people who think that they’re better than anyone else.


I guess SO. Dang those uppity elitists who think semicolons are real and that the Western Canon is a bunch of books and not a thing that fires cannonballs with a big ol’ noisy bang.

Speaking of whom–Sarah baby, not “bang”–some bloggers have taken it upon themselves to shop for her wardrobe and save a lot of cash doing it. Go look at the sites below to see how they have done a great job. I wish I wasn’t a fat blob’o’blubber so I could go steal $2500 from somewhere and get them thingies to wrap around my bod.

The GREAT version

A FAB version

Oh, well. Don’t get me wrong–I like Sarah. I have worked with thousands of women like her. She is like my last few Best Friends (women I worked with or met through various activities). She’s not an intellectual, but she gets by. And when she winks or flirts, the guys eat that right up! It’s a way to live. Not MY way, but hey. Whatever. You can’t say it ain’t entertaining, by gum. But I don’t know if she is going to get to sit in the #2 position; the 8-ball says it looks doubtful. If she DOES, I think John-boy better watch his back, as I also know that women like her are VERY ambitious and not averse to helping things along. *GRIN*

I don’t envy the one who wins. Looks like it’ll be Barack, but there are such high expectations of him at this point that I can’t see how ANYONE could possibly live up to it all. Whoever wins is going to have a helluva mess on his hands, and I am GLAD I WON’T have to do that job. It’s tough enough just livin’ around here and trying to dig out from under MY problems.

And Presidents have no private time at ALL for writing crazy novels. That’s the camel-zapper for moi, anyway.

Much going on . . . but I did find a book that restored my faith a bit

Been out of pocket because we took a little voyage on Thursday and returned late on Friday. Man, I guess I am addicted to the ‘net. I kept thinking, “I could be checking e-mail,” and “I should look that up on the ‘net–oh, yeah, they don’t have it here and I didn’t bring any laptop,” and “If only I could be working on something while I’m stuck here.” Anyway . . . more later on that, if I can gather any coherent thoughts.

MEANWHILE, back at the ranch. NaNo. Hmm.

I do wish they’d stop encouraging EVERYONE to write novels, as it makes it utterly impossible for the old-school novelist who can’t do one that’s like all those others that sell. And there are too many novels showing up in the slushpiles. Still, as long as they’re all doing it. . . .

I’m going to play NaNo in November with a YA that’s kind of silly. It’s all this one particular author’s fault that I got all inspired again to do one of my universally-unwanted tomes.

Over the past year or so, I had become a bookstore-reluctant. I hated to even go in, because when I walked around, all I seemed to find were books with clunky prose–today, it is ALL about story, but the stories weren’t reaching ME–or books that just didn’t appeal. Then I ran across an ADORABLE YA that reminded me of Roald Dahl and all the books I used to love. Looks like the sequel will suffer from sequel-itis (preview shows the usual problem with informing new readers all about what happened in the prior book when he SHOULDN’T Do That–I know from experience), but the original book inspired me to write the one I had been thinking about since last NaNo. Waste of time, I know, but I can always post mine as a free download on my website for fans of the other book.

It’s not fanfic that I’m writing, mind . . . I only mean that the book that inspired me is like an old-fashioned BOOK book, with a Dahlesque tone/voice. It made me feel that my story about April and June should be finished after all.

It was WELL WRITTEN. The prose is cadenced and sounds like an old-fashioned children’s book . . . it isn’t all slangy and it isn’t all formal. The author DOES come at us from an omniscient POV–which I almost never see in modern fiction!

The book that did all this firing up is _The Mysterious Benedict Society_, if anyone’s inclined to Google. You’ll enjoy it if you can still put yourself into the mindset of a youngster–and apparently that’s where I still live. I finally did Google the book and others have said it’s Dahlesque. It was a best-seller as a pop fiction selection *and* got literary praise. What else IS there??

So what’s MY book about? It’s more like something else entirely. I think I must’ve mentioned it last year when I sort of did NaNo.

Here’s my NaNo page blurb for my NaNoNaNo-vel.

~APRIL, MAYBE JUNE. YA/paranormal adventure in the vein of all the books I used to love. April and June Bliss (no, REALLY) are sucked into their elder cousin Arlene’s troubles when Arlene is picked up by the police and bailed out by their parents–and before Arlene runs away again to escape being sent to BootCamp (one of those kid reprogramming/torture things), she leaves a journal-style book for April to use to “solve these math equations for me” (April has a Talent there, and these are Advanced Problems indeed, but there’s a hitch, as the journal is a magickal tome) and gives June a spoon ring to wear on her thumb that connects her to the same magickal movement that Arlene is working for. They’re going to try to steal April’s math talent and sell it (they do this) and they’re going to get June as one of their crazy lackeys, unless April can turn the tables on them. This romp takes the girls (14 and 13, as close together as their mama Sheridanne and daddy Lynwood could have them) on an Amtrak train to Chicago and then on a bus to NYC where they find their cousin, but can’t get the effects of the ring off of June (shades of “Help” and Ringo, eh?) and risk April’s mind and her talent when they confront the magickal group. It’s all going to be fun and written in the voice/vein of a modern-day “Harriet the Spy” or whatnot, for somewhat older readers. If you’re TOO old to enjoy it, whatever your chronological age, then I guess you’re limiting yourself (grin).~

If you’re doing NaNo, go “buddy” me. (Make me your buddy, I mean. It’s like friending on LJ. I swear, verbing weirds language.)

To those who live in or visit NYC

. . . exactly HOW dangerous is NYC for a woman traveling there alone? Say, if a person has finaled in a contest (not a writing contest–something physical) and has the chance to go there for the contest itself, all bills paid, would it be that dangerous for a female to go alone? Consider that this is a broken-down fat old hag we’re talking about, not a young pretty thing, but then again she’s not a tough old fighter either (she’s such a dumb bunny that she always gives a dollar to beggars on the street and lets the cashier swipe the “$1 to charity” card when she checks out at the grocery store.). <-[NEED I EVEN MENTION THE UGLY PUNCTUATION ISSUE–AAGH]

They aren't gonna let me go. Hubby says he hates NYC and won't go with me and furthermore won't let ME go because "it would cost money–you'd end up buying some of your own meals and taking cab rides over that weekend." Sigh. I know I won't take the big prize in this contest, but I think it would be a trip to remember anyway. I'd better stop being delusional, though, and face reality. Even if y'all tell me it's safe, that won't matter. Who are we kidding?

I bought a Mega Millions ticket for tonight. If I can match five numbers or some combination, and get $2000, maybe I can go because then I would have "my own" money. But that doesn't happen. . . .

WRITING: or is it just funny marks of ink on a page

Continuing the discussion of distillation and its dangers/its potential.

I wasn’t completely clear in the previous post. When I wrote, “I know that kind of ‘fixing’ would be a voice-destroying catastrophe with books like mine,” I was referring to the strategy I’d just mentioned, the strategy of deleting half of every sentence, half of every paragraph, etc. Now, I believe that the agents who suggested this were just waving their hands, thinking that I could extrapolate from there and that the easiest way to explain it would be to tell me to work on percentages like that. However, the strategy (even if it does bring you back under the wordcount) doesn’t take into account how important it is to choose WHAT you keep and WHAT you delete. Sometimes, an entire paragraph should stay as is, and sometimes an entire paragraph or two should go. Other times, you have to pick and choose which parts are part of the story and which aren’t, and there’s the rub. Tightening is never as straightforward as some left-brained strategies seem to imply.

I once took a book doctor up on an introductory offer. She offered to edit three pages as an example of what you’d get for your money. She had worked as an editor in NYC, but had moved on (and seemed much happier freelancing and working a day job in public relations, from what I could tell). She took the “cut half” idea literally, writing in the margin by each paragraph the number of words it’d had to begin with and the number it had at the end. SOME of the sentences she edited seemed improved, but MANY of them had experienced a change in meaning that I couldn’t ignore or discount, and SEVERAL of the edits took out important information that should have somehow been retained, either by rephrasing or whatever. That’s what I mean by saying you can’t just take out half of this and half of that, by the numbers, as recommended. The edit she did, IMHO, was destructive to the point that what remained wasn’t interesting to read and wasn’t even a story. That’s how I knew that our styles wouldn’t mesh, and I was thankful I’d taken her up on that introductory offer. (It wasn’t free. But it was lots cheaper than going with a full edit of however-many pages.)

Green_knight commented (on the previous post):
>>I’ve found that there isn’t anything I’ve written that could not be sharpened up, condensed, taken up another level.<>Of course, you can say that everything you’ve written is perfectly polished<[T]hink how you can distill things to their essence, without destroying the voice or the character interactions or anything at all.<>You’re missing something important in your rewrite of the scene between the siblings. The first version is wordy; but the second lacks telling detail.<>”You shouldn’t be scrapping at school.You’ll get in trouble.”
“Scrapping. Hah. He told Coach I was behind his stupid prank, and Coach told me unless I apologised, I’d sit out the season on the bench. A man’s got to protect his honor.”<>the point is that you look at the things that reveal something about the character. In your rewrite, Julie’s line is superfluous, because it could relate to so many situations. In the first example, both characters dance around the topic, but the information content is higher.<<

True! (Again, my example was just tossed off, not the exact lines that the radio people were saying. Their version was WAY better. I just didn't catch anyone's name or the show name, alas.) This points up another of the pitfalls. When you do this distillation, you will sacrifice some of the specific informational content and will rely on readers to Read Something Into This Bit. Can you trust readers to say, "Oh! That's because she feels insecure," or "Aha, he's got a hidden agenda," or will you just get readers scratching their heads and saying, "Huh?" That's always been my problem in critique circles, as half the group would "get it" and not want any further explanation, and half the group would be completely lost and want a full explanatory paragraph inserted. *GRIN*

Here's an example that I came up with years ago when the WRITING echo was very active. Say you've written, "He slowly walked into the room." Okay, let's get rid of "slowly." And while we're at it, we know he's coming into the room because our POV character sees him walking in, so it can become "He walked in." But how else is he going to get in? Unless he crawls in or rides a unicycle, just assume that readers know he's *walking* in. That's like the bit about defaulting to a normal room unless there's something unusual about the room (which was a piece of instruction given to me by Patrick Nielsen Hayden of Tor at the Viable Paradise II workshop when several of the crit circle asked me to add lots of detail about the apothecary shop that Dulcinea's dad ran, right there when it is first mentioned). So we know the guy walked in. "He entered." Furthermore, who else would it be but him? So delete the whole sentence. Voila! Um . . . but . . . now we don't have the action happening at all. That's progress by deletion (as they used to say in defense contracting)!

This is what happens sometimes when you're distilling. In the given example, of course what the critique circle WANTED to see was the author skipping the whole "he walked into the party as if he were walking into the Oval Office" bit and just having him BE there behind the POV character and startling her when he said, "Pardon me, but do you have any Grey Poupon?" (To which the answer is, "Sorry, but I never eat anything after I Poupon it." Or "if you Poupon it, baby, you gonna clean it up too.") But anyhow, the POINT (and I might have one . . . keep reading just in case) is that you can go overboard with any good technique.

I can point at line X and say that I need to keep it because it reveals character, and a beta reader can point at the same line and say, "No, it doesn't." That's where all this judgement calling comes in. Sometimes we make a call down a nil pointer. Other times, we get into an infinite loop. Um . . . my metaphor seems not to be working, but it's late.

At any rate, I brought up the technique so people could become aware of it and could try it out, with caution. I sincerely believe there are limits to the usefulness of anything like this, because it's so one-sided. When the left brain goes through and cuts down the wordcount, sometimes you find that not only does the tone change and aspects of the voice go away, but also important information gets cut that readers would like to know. The right brain should do a double-check to see where we are losing implication and color or telling details. It's very one-sided to say we're going to distill and make the pacing faster without considering what we're losing . . . that's all I meant to say by way of caveat. I think it's a useful technique, and I love to type about all this, so we can go on with the discussion.

However, there's a limit. The idea that I could go through and distill a 150,000-word mystery down to 95,000 words is appealing in theory, but daunting in reality. To take out half of a book really requires that you take out a subplot or eliminate some thread, and if you can't do that, it really gets tough. Better to start over and write a new book with tighter checks done more often. (Am I putting too much in? Does all this need to happen? Can we please just follow the outline for once, instead of getting all complex?!)

So take everything that people tell you with a sprinkle of salt. Apply what you think is helpful, and ignore the rest. You may hear a bunch of contradictory advice, but find that you can use some of it. The other bits were probably meant for a different person who has trouble with making his/her novel LONG ENOUGH. (Imagine that!)

Now, how did I come to be awake at four AM? Long story. Remind me to bore you with it some other time.

CONTESTS: Why can’t I win them

I suppose I shouldn’t give up just yet. The Hillerman Best First Southwestern Mystery Novel contest doesn’t announce its winner until the end of the month; they say that the winner will be notified by Oct 31 (of course that’s also DEC 25, ha ha. Math nerds laugh now.) I imagine they have already notified their winner so that person can make plans to be at the conference banquet on November 4th to accept the award. ***sigh***

I think the Marfa Lights novel deserves to win. Else I wouldnt’a sent it in.

So many times I see very little hoo-ha around the winner of such a contest. I tell you what, the world would KNOW if I won such a prestigious contest (this one, like the Malice Domestic and others, includes a contract at St. Martin’s Press!). <<— THAT IS SO UGLY . . . DOUBLE PUNCTUATION ALERT

Maybe they don't WANT a lot of publicity. Still, I think it would sell more books, and wouldn't that be the idea?

I also read interviews with the winners, and often they say, "Oh, I just dashed off that book. I am blocked now and have no idea what I will do for the sequel." Or they say they're working on a sequel which never materializes. Is that profitable for the company? Not maximally, IMHO.

Whereas someone like *ahem* me . . . I have several sequels ready to go. I'm sure there would be editorial notes and changes, but heck, there's something to start with that is already finished and polished.

***SIGHHH*** Anyway, if anybody feels like crossing their fingers for me, I'd appreciate it. We had the usual crappy stay-at-home weekend complete with minor ailments and I'm feeling pretty down. A contest win would be just what the doctor ordered. Doctor #5, of course. He's the cute one.

*[About that OCT 31=DEC 25. It's a computer nerd/math joke. Number bases. In octal, the numeral 31 means 3 times 8 to the first power (24) plus 1 times 8 to the zeroth power (anything to the zero power is always 1 by definition, so that arithmetic will work), so that's 25 in decimal (DEC). Ha, ha, ha. Now you know a math joke.]