Thursday, August 28, 2008

Galleys . . . and cats

Seb is back.

He and Neely have been keeping me company this week. I've been reading the galleys and looking for typos and things that absolutely had to be changed.

And it occurs to me that if I were given the chance to revise this book now, I can see a lot of things that I could do to make it better.

Can I do them in galleys? Probably not. Not most of them anyway. Sad, but true. A fact of life.

So while I am, of course, still glad of that "no revisions" time I had to myself in May, time I desperately needed for other things as a matter of fact, I do have twinges of regret now that I didn't have one more chance to attack the book, to tweak it (as editors are fond of saying), to streamline it a bit, to sharpen things up.

I'm doing a tiny bit of sharpening now. I'm hoping it helps.

And I'm getting back into Christo's book. Finally.

I re-watched Father Goose the other night to see how it worked as a "Save the Cat" movie. It was a two hour film. At exactly one hour in, Cary Grant made the first move toward getting involved with the kids in the film without anyone coercing him into doing it.

It was the turning point at exactly where Blake Snyder said it would be. Other bits fit, too.

The opening was a masterpiece of a set up. Right there in the first image you saw the single unsteered boat blithely trailing the dinghy toward the dock as the radio blared news of the war. And then Cary Grant emerged, flipped the station to the upbeat song "Pass Me By."

It is a great fun movie. Almost too much fun to watch because I did more of that than analyzing it. But I guess that means I'll just have to watch it again.

One thing, though . . .

If you have a movie with Cary Grant in it, he doesn't have to save any cats.

He just has to be Cary Grant. It's enough. You're already cheering for him.

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Tuesday, August 26, 2008


I've often wondered how other bloggers handle disparate interests on their blogs. They talk about 'writing from the intersection of. . . " which is actually a good idea, if I could indeed figure out where it is my particular interests intersect and, what's more important, enlighten each other.

Mine, of course, fall primarily into two main categories -- fiction and family history -- though some in my family seem to believe the two are essentially the same thing.

Not me.

I like to think I can tell the difference. And when I can't, I try to figure it out.

For instance, this past week I spent days trying to sort of a who's who of men named John Ralph who were born in Cornwall between 1785 and 1787. I've been working on them on and off for the past three or four years. And getting not quite anywhere.

But this past week I threw myself into it -- and I think I got somewhere.

The problem was John and John and John weren't simply born in Cornwall. Cornwall is a big enough place that if one had been born in Penzance and one at Bodmin and one in Polperro, it wouldn't be that hard to tell them apart.

It happens that they were born in an area of Cornwall just slightly larger than my bathroom. And I'm not exaggerating much.

Two of them had fathers named William; one of them had a father named John. All of them had brothers named William. Two of them married women named Ann. One married a woman named Mary. All of them were miners. Occasionally they were also farmers. All of them had children. Each of them had a son John. One of the elder Johns died in 1833. One died in 1840. One died in 1841.

But which?

The process of figuring it out -- and believe me, I'm not given to enjoying those nifty logic puzzles that many people find endlessly fascinating -- has kept me awake night.

The quest took me to records on 3 continents (one of the Johns had two sons who emigrated and went to Wisconsin and two more who went to Australia). It also took me into land records, church records, civil records across several parishes in Cornwall.

It was trickier, in fact, than plotting a book (and plotting a book is, for me, about as hard as it gets). But I'm thinking -- and this is the intersection -- maybe it helps me plot.

At the very least it makes me see how threads that began years (or in this case generations ago) are still playing out and leaving clues to the past a hundred years or more later.

Backstory matters.

If there's one thing that the trio of John Ralphs taught me this week it is how much "backstory" effects what comes later. So I'm thinking again about backstory for Christo.

But I've learned something else, too, standing at this intersection. I'm not going to dump all the backstory in the first few chapters. It might help readers know who the characters are. But just telling them isn't as important as showing them.

And ultimately the way I figured out the Ralph boys was to look at how they behaved, who they hung out with, who they married and what those people also did.

What I learned?
  • Dead relatives didn't live in a vacuum.
  • Nor do live ones.
  • Nor, it seems, do characters in books.
  • Causes create effects and there are no effects without them.
  • Everything is inter-connected.
  • Don't stand in the middle of intersections -- you could get squashed.

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Thursday, August 21, 2008

Gunnar's Winner!

Over on the Tote Bags 'n' Blogs site we discussed (well, I ranted, but other people discussed) books to read on vacation. And I said Gunnar would pick a winner from among the comments.

He chose Maryciao (aka Mary) who offered the suggestion of Dancing With Joy -- a book of poetry that, with a title like that, cannot possibly be a downer.

To illustrate this, Mary offered the poem Blossoms by Li-Young Lee from the book:

"O, to take what we love inside,
to carry within us an orchard"

Sounds wonderful to me. That's what I like about the books I've read -- they are an orchard that I carry within me. They nourish my heart and my mind and my soul.

Gunnar says they nourish his, too.

Thank you, Mary, and thank you to everyone else who participated.

# # #

Happy First Birthday, Ellie!

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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

1000s of words

These are a few of the pics from the week when I wasn't working. I wasn't blogging. I wasn't doing anything but reading and relaxing and basking in the smile of a certain granddaughter.

She'll be one tomorrow, so it seems only fair to put her front and center.

I would write more, except I already wrote (well, ranted really) today on the Tote Bags 'n' Blogs site.

Drop by and comment and win a copy of a book -- your choice if you win (as long as I can find it).

In the meantime, here are pics of Lake Chelan in Washington.

View across the lake from the park.

View from the front porch.

The grand-dog.

The dock.

Dad and daughter at the park.

Dad and daughter on the water.

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Monday, August 18, 2008

Time Flies

I'm not precisely sure I'm having fun (even though time is flying). It may just be that I'm inundated with laundry and housecleaning copyedits and emails-to-be-answered and other sundry obligations and I can't seem to find time to post.

But I'm working on it.

While I'm still working on the shoveling out process and the getting photos downloaded and printed process, I'd be delighted if you would stop by Book Talk with J&J where they are posting an interview with me today.

Leave a comment there and get entered in the contest to win a copy of One-Night Love Child. (If you already have it, we can find a backlist book for you). Or just comment and make me feel as if someone cares!

Promise to be back tomorrow with pics. It's our anniversary so I might have to do something celebratory, too. The Prof might enjoy that. Except school started today, so I doubt he even remembers.


Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Home again! Home again!

We got home at 11 pm last night -- having made our very tight connection, which I'm delighted about as I hadn't really been looking forward to spending the night on the floor at O'Hare (been there, done that more often than I want to recall).

We had a fabulous time. I'll fill you in over the next few days. Suffice to say we had a great visit in San Francisco with Kate Walker and her husband, The Magnet from England, Abby Green (who brought me an Eamon tote bag) from Ireland, and Daphne Clair and her husband who came from New Zealand, a whole contingent of terrific Oz and NZ writers (more later), and too many more to name right now.

Kate has let the cat out of the bag on her blog today -- telling the world that it's my birthday. Yes, it is. And I'm spending it unpacking suitcases, doing laundry, changing sheets, and cuddling dogs who have missed me. A very mundane but perfectly nice way to spend the day.

I'll be downloading photos from my camera later. Then I can bore you with lots of pix of my trip. It was so much fun I don't even know where to start. But right now the laundry is calling, so I'll come back tomorrow with something more substantial.

Hope you had fun with Hugh-in-a-towel while I was gone.

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