Spring Cleaning and Clearing

The garden is slowly, slowly coming along. Weeds, especially creeping charlie, loved the excessive rain last summer. I peeled back some of the fabric in the back yard, simply because the mulch was riddled with weeds.

I have moved 1/3 of the daylilies from the dark plot between the oaks to the back garden near the chain-link fence. I broke up the shade-loving sedum from two of the small pots and moved them to openings between the trees.

This weekend, I bought a new electric mower.

I liked my previous mower, a Toro with a Briggs & Stratton motor. It was multifunctional and started easily. However, it filled half the shed and was too heavy to easily maneuver up/down the step. Last weekend, Big Bro and my youngest nephew picked it up.

I tried the new mower. Wow! It’s so quiet and the bagger works even better than the old one.

The Fairytale’s Truth

When I was a kid, I read Padraic Colum’s The King of Ireland’s Son, which was like listening to my older relatives telling stories and singing songs to us kids. For those who haven’t read it, it’s the story of the titular character but also side-stories taken from Irish tradition, story refrains, and bits of poetry.**

I absolutely loved the book. Parts made my hair stand up; parts made my heart soar.

Continue reading

Final Draft Begins

I had a terrible time writing in April.

By the time I returned from work, I had already reached the limit of screentime. My vision soon blurred. (Luckily, I never suffered a migraine.)

I resolved to print chapters and revise them by hand. However, some chapters weren’t the versions I remembered. A little searching revealed multiple files of some chapters. Every time I opened a file to revise it, I would THINK I was opening one on my flash drive. However, the accursed program – aka “Mightysoft Blerd” – saved a version to whatever cloud storage was available; e.g. OneDrive or Dropbox. It didn’t matter that I’d set the parameters to save elsewhere.

Today I printed three versions of Chapter One to make a final, handwritten version in a lined notebook. When I’m done, I’ll type it into a simple richtext document and upload a copy into Scrivener for formatting.

I’m hoping the low-tech process makes me more thoughtful about the revisions and less focused on wordcount (too long, I fear) and whether the plot points come at exactly the “right” place in the page count.

I don’t know how long it will take. I’ll update weekly.

Egads!

My friend M’e the Fashionista shared the above with me, as her students prepare (or not) for college exams.

However, The Young Human Factory is secular. Our young humans, being purely rational, don’t believe any god or invocation can save them. Their doom is as inevitable – yet far off – as the heat death of the universe.

Sometimes they opine that we teachers, being ancient and less evolved, are pushing obsolete skills like writing with pencils and reading books. If only we were reasonable! Any rational being would know, merely by observing their slouched shoulders and strong thumbs, Young Humans are homo slouchiensis and naturally adapted to use phones to look up answers!

Nearly a MONTH!?!?

The saying is “Time flies when you’re having fun,” not “Time flies when you’re not having fun and not expecting fun in the near future.”

I’m listing things I remember doing (if only vaguely) since March 30.

  • Preparation for/proctoring of state test
  • Administration of International Baccalaureate internal assessment
  • Lots of grading
  • Lots of make-up lessons and materials for absentee Young Humans
  • Made a lemon cake for My Old Man’s birthday Easter (The change involves an ice storm.)
  • Dealing with debris after ice storm/gale
  • Digitizing analogue materials and converting Microsoft documents to Google Docs and PDFs (Understatement: PowerPoint > Google Slides)
  • Three official meetings and two unofficial meetings at The Young Human Factory
  • Set up a composting barrel in the backyard
  • Editing dialogue in the novel – and nothing more

Dialogue – a refresher

I’ll admit that I find the tag “said” rather boring. In Spanish, there are a lot more tags than in English, and I like them. “Added” and “replied” are my favorites. But there’s more to dialogue than tags.

I appreciated Linda S. Clare’s post about necessary elements. Check it out!

When a character speaks, readers need a few markers to orient themselves….

Writing: Dialogue Must-Haves — Linda S. Clare

Cursing, swearing, and hollering

Joe Bunting reposted about real-life dialogue traits and how to use them in fiction. I agree with most of them, except the following:

Some people are very sensitive to curse words, and I get it. But real people pepper curse words throughout their speech, and if you want to write realistically, you need to think seriously about interjecting an occasional D-word in your dialogue.

When I was a teenager, I read a lot of older books. You know what sounded really dated? Not then-current events, which were intriguingly retro. Not the plots, which were often exciting. The so-called “shocking” language, particularly when it seemed like every groovy character was losing his cool, baby. Can you dig it?

Authors who wrote that the character “cursed under his breath” sounded far more modern than those who used exact quotes. It wasn’t because I was sheltered; my childhood friends used terms that would scorch the ears of today’s casual f-bombers. It’s just that the characters were supposed to be tough and/or streetwise. Maybe back then, the salty language came across that way. But nowadays, those same phrases are used all the time by childish, undisciplined people. No one takes them as seriously.

The phrases like “she swore” and “he cursed” leave a lot more room for the reader’s imagination – or lack thereof.

What to do? What to NOT do?

Just popping in to say I’m still alive. But life has become a balancing act of what I’m willing/able to do with my time.

Work has become ridiculous. I had one of the best evaluations IN YEARS from an administrator who observed my class. However, I’m paying a terrible price to meet everyone’s expectations: unsustainable levels of time spent preparing, reading, editing, and conferencing with individual students and/or their parents. The thankless part is creating “retake” forms of assignments and assessments for the same 8-12 students who often fail multiple times. (The easiest of multiple-choice quizzes reveal memorizing aka “knowing it by heart” is a lost art.)

On the writing side, I have rewritten the beginning of the novel three or four times in the last few months. Is it better than the pre-Covid version I sent to my Beta readers? It’s certainly LONGER. I’m considering hiring a professional editor to read the first chapter. But first, I will rewrite it ONCE MORE to include the transition between Favius’s and Argenta’s POVs. To be honest, I’m afraid the editor will hate Argenta because she’s a scaredy-cat in contrast to Favi’s boldness. The crisis occurs when boy-hero realizes how ignorant he is the world and his life depends on allying with Argenta.

I had to rework The Budget. The cost of everything – gasoline, groceries, and dining out – has risen. I packed more lunches when cafeteria prices rose to $5 (January), but I still indulged in Tim Hortons coffee and an apple fritter when running errands. Not anymore. I can still buy a bag of potatoes or apples for less than the price of take-out.

Luckily, La Casa de Tontería is no more expensive than usual to heat and light. The utility companies’ reports show it uses less energy than “efficient” homes in the neighborhood. I credit my love of wool socks and sweaters (“jumper” or “poolohvayr” – not sure how to spell the latter but that’s how it sounds to me in French).