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19 Jan 2009 Beginning with One Step

Pedometer, January 19, 2008I have a new project: 10,000 steps. People who are supposed to know such things say it’s a Good Thing to walk 10,000 steps a day. So I bought a pedometer and tried it. Well, as you can see, so far today I’m a total washout. And this includes our regular walk with the doggies! Clearly I’m going to have to walk two or three times a day with the dogs (cue sound of two beagles baying with joy) or something.

As a side note, I made the Broadcasting Legend™’s day when he walked into my office and saw me shooting pictures of my own hip. He’s still laughing.

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18 Jan 2009 Solitude

I love Walden. When I had to read it for a high school class I hated it. The war between the ants? Oh, please. But later, at my own pace and for my own pleasure, I read it again—and again and again and again—and the intensity of Thoreau’s transcendentalism and love of solitude always delights and refreshes me.

I find it wholesome to be alone the greater part of the time. To be in company, even with the best, is soon wearisome and dissipating. I love to be alone. I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude. We are for the most part more lonely when we go abroad among men than when we stay in our chambers. A man thinking or working is always alone, let him be where he will.

A (wo)man thinking or working is always alone.

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15 Jan 2009 Suicide (No, I’m Not Considering It)

One of the fascinating aspects of writing historical fiction is the never-ending struggle to keep your word choice consistent with your time period, while avoiding distracting “Olde Englysshe” constructions. My trusty sidekick in this battle is the Online Etymology Dictionary.

Take the word “suicide.” Two characters in my book are suspected suicides. However, the word “suicide” itself was not recorded until 1651, about a hundred years after the time of my story. For other words or phrases I could use, I read documents of the time, and mused over Hamlet and the discussions of Ophelia’s death—the Shakespeare Search Engine is another way of checking word usage (in English, anyway) in the second half of the sixteenth century.

Words. I do love words.

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14 Jan 2009 Six Things That Make Me Happy

Tagged again! This time, it’s Bryn Greenwood’s doing. I really have to learn to run faster. Heh.

All right. Six things that make me happy.

  1. My first cup of coffee in the morning. Strong strong coffee with milk. It’s not really lattè because the milk isn’t steamed or foamed, but I call it lattè anyway. So report me to the lattè police.
  2. Taking a siesta after lunch. Piling into bed with both doggies and the Broadcasting Legend™ if he’s not on the road and drowsing deliciously through Everyday Italian and Barefoot Contessa on the Food Network.
  3. Hugs from little children.
  4. Going to church. Singing For All the Saints or one of the other great processionals as the scrubbed acolytes (more little children) and the choir stream into the sanctuary, and almost crying as the sopranos launch into the high, soaring descant on the last verse of the hymn.
  5. Flower scents. Real flowers, not perfumes or oils. Lilies of the valley, lilacs, old-fashioned clove pinks. Our English roses—Jude the Obscure, Eglantyne, Winchester Cathedral.
  6. Standing in the back yard and looking up at the sky. Picking out the constellations I learned when I was a little girl at the lake. Trying to work my mind around the inconceivable distances.
  7. Opening a thick, tantalizing new book to the first page.
  8. Reading Algernon Charles Swinburne.

Oh wait. That’s eight. And I haven’t even gotten to chocolate.

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13 Jan 2009 Revisions

Revisions finished! O frabjous day, callooh callay! It’s fascinating how a few words, or a line, or a paragraph, can completely change the tone and meaning of a scene. So not huge amounts of rewriting. Just a little snicker-snack here and there with my vorpal blade of mimsiness. Or something.

I really like the changes. Now I need to let them rest for a few days, then re-read.

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12 Jan 2009 The Wolf Moon

The Wolf MoonLast night the moon was full—the Wolf Moon, as January’s full moon is called. The moon was also at its perigee, the point in its orbit when it is closest to the Earth, and therefore had good reason to look especially huge and majestic—the largest moon of 2009—as it rose over our back fence and the old-fashioned weathervane on our neighbor’s shed.

According to National Geographic, “Native Americans and medieval Europeans named January’s full moon after the howling of hungry wolves lamenting the midwinter paucity of food.” I wonder if there are moon names in Ferrarese history. Just what I need—another bit of lore to fascinate me. How I ever got a whole book done is a mystery, when there’s so much enticing research to follow. (Scribbles “names of full moons in Ferrara?” in research journal for later.)

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11 Jan 2009 Barbara’s Little Office

The Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary, once owned by Barbara of Austria, Duchess of Ferrara
This is a reproduction of a book that Barbara of Austria actually owned and used. It’s the Officium Beatae Mariae Virginis, or the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Isn’t it beautiful? The original would have been hand-lettered, with the illuminations hand-painted. I look at it and imagine her holding it, turning the pages, saying the prayers.

I want to find a way to work this book into Barbara’s story somehow. Perhaps in the second book. In the first book she’s more concerned with a copy of I Modi, which is a different sort of book entirely.

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10 Jan 2009 And Speaking of Seven, Seven Writing Tricks

Here are seven things that keep me going, day by day, hour by hour. It’s a tough world out there in Hopeful Publishing Land and we all need a little help sometimes.

  1. Writing about what I wish I were writing. I just start tip-tapping, stream-of-consciousness style, about what I wish I could write and all of a sudden I realize—surprise!—I can write it. I want to write it. I probably am writing it.
  2. Taking a shower. I always have great ideas in the shower. As a bonus, I get extra-clean. Sometimes I get wrinkly.
  3. Walking while talking to myself. Or maybe it’s talking to myself while walking. In either case I take one of the dogs so I can pretend I’m talking to the dog.
  4. Cleaning. The grittier, dirtier, and more mindless, the better. I think, “I could be writing instead of doing this.” Pretty soon I am.
  5. My writing talisman. It’s a chunk of llanite from the Llano Uplift. Yours could be a lucky hat, a statuette, special pen, a piece of jewelry, an artifact from a historical era. The more you associate it with your writing, the more it will encourage your writing. Really.
  6. Plants. Fill your writing space with as many plants as you can fit in. They clean the air, and cleaner air means a clearer head. You can talk to them, too, if you don’t have a dog. Even if you do have a dog.
  7. Laughter. Find something that will always make you laugh. I like Cute Overload. Laugh good and hard, until your belly hurts. It truly loosens up all those impacted words you’ve been wanting to write but haven’t been able to.

What are your writing tricks? Enquiring minds want to know!

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09 Jan 2009 Seven Things

I appear to have been tagged by Alex Moore, young adult fantasy writer and cat person. That means I have to tell you seven things about myself that you probably didn’t already know. And that aren’t too dull. Heh.

  1. I was my high school’s Betty Crocker Homemaker of Tomorrow. Really. No, really.
  2. I ended up as a vice president of a radio network. They didn’t have a Radio Network Executive of Tomorrow contest.
  3. My childhood beagle’s name was Tuesday’s Prince Charles. We called him Charlie.
  4. A few years ago I slipped on some ice (ice in Dallas, I know, that’s why I wasn’t expecting it) and smashed my left kneecap to smithereens. The orthopedic surgeon said I’d never kneel down to play jacks again. He meant it as a joke but I learned to play jacks just so I could prove him wrong. (I did.)
  5. I am the first cousin thirteen times removed of Bessie Blount, Henry VIII’s first mistress.
  6. I once dressed up as a manuscript for a Halloween party—I stapled typed pages all over jeans and a t-shirt, and made myself a tall headdress with flowing streamers of stapled-together pages. People really did try to read me.
  7. When I was young and foolish I lived at the corner of Bourbon Street and Esplanade Avenue in New Orleans. Oh, lordy, it was such a great place to be young and foolish.
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07 Jan 2009 Lists

I love to make lists. I live and die by my daily lists—I have a little gadget on my Vista sidebar where I can make a list with checkboxes, and check things off as the day progresses. Another holdover from my corporate days, I suppose, when I kept comprehensive lists of things to do on yellow legal pads, crossing off and dating things as they were done and saving the pads when they were full, just in case. Those pads came in handy sometimes.

This is just a list of things I’m thinking about at the moment.

  • Christmas decorations are put away, all safe in their beds, for next year.
  • No stargazing for the past few nights—it’s been cold, cloudy and rainy. I miss it.
  • Revisions of Duchess are proceeding apace. Some really good stuff is happening, I think.
  • I’m re-reading The White Witch by Elizabeth Goudge. It started to call to me after I wrote up my post about Goudge being part of my fantasy writers group. What an extraordinary book.
  • Time to start thinking about this summer’s garden. Also to order a new rose bush from David Austin Roses. We have a spot where an ancient Peace rose gave up the ghost last summer.
  • Did I mention that revisions are going really well?