Circling Round Insomnia

Hello Everyone! I see we have another hoar-frosty morning in this part of the province. A bit of wind on Saturday dusted most of last week’s collection off the trees and shrubs, but a fog rolled in last night and touched them all up again. Very unusual for November.

I’m glad for another Monday morning, a new week ahead. I’ve some specific goals to meet and posts I’d like to write. And it’s December already! 🙂

Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day is CIRCUMVENT

There are a lot of things one might try to get around, usually rules or taboos, but this morning I’m thinking of circumventing (getting around) insomnia. If such a use is permissible.

Sometimes I imagine counting things, or working on an assembly line. Usually I read. Not just a boring, soporific book, but something that draws relaxing images in my mind; my favourite choices are poetry and haiku. Ron Evans, a good on-line acquaintance once sent me four slim books by Peter Pauper Press, the Japanese Haiku Series, with poems by various haiku teachers and poets of past centuries — the “old masters.” I usually have one of these by my bedside, along with an old Friendship Book of Francis Gay.

Trouble is, as I’m reading I get inspired and soon have to get up, find pen and paper, and record what comes to me. Oh, well. Here are several haiku that came to me Saturday night:

her reflection on the pond
rippled by a water bug
hurrying somewhere

footprints in the snow
I gaze down the sidewalk
wondering who

the bird notes soar
and I try – but my tune
has no wings

Ads and Fried Termites

Word of the Day prompt this morning: IMAGINATION
Merriam-Webster’s word of the day: AUDACIOUS
Fandango’s One-word-challenge: TRAP

I posted this article years ago, but will post it again this morning, as it fits the above prompt words.

As you all know, a writer’s mind is a constantly swirling inkwell. I see, hear, read, experience things – and my mind traps this new info, wanting to turn it into stories or articles. It’s in my genes; I come from a long line of storytellers. After all these years I’m still trying to decide if this swirling process is pearl or peril. Is God sending these inspirations, wishing to speak through me – or is it that “muse” some people speak of that’s made chaos of what could have been my well ordered life? 🙂

I have dear friends whose minds seem to turn in orderly rotations around the fulcrum of “clean and neat.” It’s deep in their genes and I admire the results they achieve in their homes. Many times I’ve decided to give up writing in favour of having a sparkling house like some others. I may spend hours editing, trying to achieve “clean, neat, and in order” in the articles I write but this doesn’t leave me time to give my physical surrounding that same care. ☹

Some women look at the world with their eyes, where I tend to see the world with my mind or imagination. For example, if I walk through my house and see light shining in the windows, I might think about doing an article on light versus darkness; my friends will see that the window needs cleaning and get to it. Or they make a mental note to do it later–and remember.

I make notes, too, but they get lost somewhere. (The fate of many of my literal lists as well.) Then there are times when some really brilliant or audacious idea pops into my head, but I can’t drop what I’m doing. I try to snatch a moment to rush to the computer and type in a title –and maybe a few lines– before I forget it. When I’ve finished what I’m doing, I’ll get back to that file and let the creative juices flow. If I remember.

A few weeks ago I noticed a file in my hard drive entitled “Ads, ads, and termites.” I stared at the screen for a minute. What kind of ads was I thinking of? Kijiji, perhaps? But why the repeat? And how do termites fit with ads? I was mystified and didn’t bother to open the file.

Yesterday I saw it again and the fog started clearing. “Ads, ads” wasn’t advertisements; this stood for adjectives and adverbs. I was thinking about adverbs and adjectives, then read something about termites, and somehow a comparison popped into my head. I’d been reading a missionaries’ letter –they are working in Cameroon– and they wrote something about termites. But what? Sigh…

I opened the file; here’s what I’d typed in:
Adjectives, adverbs, and fried termites. (Fried termites?)
The almost-pure-white butterflies flipped and flopped in lazy circles over the crisply sun-burned lawn, searching for a choice bit of vegetation on which to lay their tiny greenish-yellow eggs.

I know adjectives and adverbs have fallen into disfavour these days. You’re supposed to cut back on them and rather choose strong nouns and verbs. Like “The ivory-coloured butterflies winged figure eights over what once was lawn, searching for some living green on which to lay their eggs.”

But what does that all have to do with fried termites? Whatever the case may be, I fear they will be forever trapped in some crazy mental link-up now! Whenever I hear termites, I’ll think of ads.

Much like the incident my mother-in law told me about. One day while she was still a girl at home her brother Jake asked her a question: “When you see a falling star, do you ever think of onions?”

“Onions! No, never,” she answered.

“You will from now on,” Jake said with a laugh.

Oh, brother! she thought, but she told me his words have proved true: after that day, every time she saw a falling star she was reminded of that dumb joke. And since she told me, I’ve thought of that silly “onions” joke, too, every time I see a falling star.

So be warned. It’s possible that, from now on, every time someone mentions adjectives and adverbs you may find yourself thinking “fried termites.”

Perhaps I’d better find that letter, read it again, find out what my comparison was and tell you, too. Right now the letter is buried somewhere in a pile of correspondence we received, but if I’d clean my house once…

You Gotta Want It

Fandango’s challenge for today is HAPHAZARD

Which makes me think of a certain used bookstore I’ve been in a few times. The senior gentleman who runs it has thousands of books. He’s purchased an old commercial building and has it piled floor to ceiling (think 12 foot ceilings here) with books.

His aisles do not look like this:
Books

No, his aisles look very much like this:
Book stacks

With barely enough room to walk through the tunnels between the stacks, this is not the place to hang out if you suffer from claustrophobia. (Or from allergies.) You’ve got to really want that book!

I don’t know if he buys many new books, but he has many old, rare books, and he usually can tell you about which part of which aisle you’ll find the one you’re looking for. Or the author you want to read. Agnes Sligh Turnbull for example, or Ralph Connor.

So you go to that area he indicates and start perusing the shelves and stacks. Perchance you’ll see exactly the book you’re looking for.
Books in stack

My thanks to to the folks at Pixabay for all the free photos. 🙂

The word HAPHAZARD means “determined by accident rather than design.” It can be stretched to indicate possible danger to the person engaged in something haphazard. Such as a tower of books landing on your head. But our used book seller’s wares seemed to be stacked securely enough.

His merchandise does, however, suffer from the usual fate of many books crammed in a small, poorly ventilated place: they’re musty. And I’m really sensitive to must or mould, so I have to air my purchases outside for hours every day over several days, turning the pages every half-hour or so, before I can read the thing.

For those of us who appreciate books, his store is a real treasure trove of possibilities. someone doing historical research for the 1900s would be in their glory. Sad to say, though, there’s a limit to how useful out-of-date information is. He apparently has a mail-order business, yet I do wonder how many books he actually sells in a month.

Looking through a multitude of used books, or seeing the millions of e-books and print books available today, I recall the never-so-true words of Solomon — supposedly the writer of the Bible book of Ecclesiastes:

“And further, by these, my son, be admonished: of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh.” Ecc. 12:12

Writing Delights

Writing is a delightful pursuit. As some great author once said, “It’s easy. You just sit down at the typewriter and open a vein.”

And then there’s the joy of editing, which I’ve tried to capture in this senryu:

editor slings red ink
bloodied words fly here and there
novel shavings
🙂

Alas! Those days are long gone when writers handed their books to an editor and the editorial staff did the fixing. Now it’s up to the writer to have the manuscript error-free and print-ready. Which usually means hiring a freelance editor.

Self-Publishing Options:
Print-on-demand companies like Amazon make publishing a price-painless proposition. Download a pdf, hit publish, and you’re good to go.

Now comes the joy of marketing. If a traditional publishing company is selling your book, they expect hands-on involvement from you. If you’ve self-published with Amazon, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, or any similar company, your hands are the only ones working the Ads & Sales desk. Unless you have kin and friends who’ll help promote your book, you’re on your own.

Thankfully companies will help in small ways. I recently made a deal with PrairieView Press, the printer/seller of my children’s book, The Rescuing Day, to list it in a flyer they are sending out to bookstores.

Rescuing Day cover.jpg

Plus, I’ve just made an agreement with Amazon.com to do a special free book offer for my e-book, Silver Morning Song.

SMS Cover page
As you see in my side bar, my book will be free on Amazon.com this coming weekend, November 22 to 26. So if you enjoy my blog, with it’s mix of short fiction tales, poetry and micro-poetry, take this opportunity to get your free copy. Here’s the LINK.

NOTE: I wasn’t given the option to list this on Amazon.ca, so I’m not sure if you’ll find the FREE COPY listed there. If you’re a UK reader, I plan to make the same offer on Amazon.uk next month.

And of course, if you do pick up a copy, I’m really hoping you’ll leave an honest review on Amazon. Even a couple of sentences will help. Thanks much!

Risks in Writing

My response to Fandango’s prompt for today: DANGER

Writing, as we all know can be fraught with hazards.
There are PLOT HOLES and SAGGING MIDDLES.
Our CHARACTERS may lack depth or interest.
The editor may say, “TOO MUCH LIKE one we just published.”
A reader may give us a BAD REVIEW even when we’ve done our best.

And there are editorial errors like
MUDDLED PHRASES and WANDERING MODIFIERS
that keep us from getting our message across.

I just finished a series of three cozy mystery books, written by A.G. Barnett. The series is subtitled, “A Brock & Poole Mystery.” Books in this series are:
#1. An Occupied Grave
#2. A Staged Death
#3. When the Party Died

These are police procedural mysteries, not so much danger and high tension like writer Charles Todd’s books, but quite satisfying in regard to plot and likable, believable characters. However, the editing in the first two books leaves something to be desired now and then. For example:
“He stood, looking down at the man that was waving his arms theatrically about him, arms folded.”

Edit #1: a person man is always a who.
Edit #2: Move that wandering modifier back where it belongs and snip a bit:
“He stood, arms folded, looking down (he was really tall) at the man who was waving his arms theatrically.”

The writer was quite inclined to switch to pronouns, so there were times during the first two books where I had to stop and think, “Who does he refer to?”

I’ve written an example to illustrate what I mean:
Roddy has a little monkey and he loves to climb trees. He calls him Timbucktu but he has a bad habit: he never comes when he’s called. When he’s being really stubborn he offers him a banana and he usually comes right away and grabs it.

I was happy to see that by the third book Mr Barnett, or his editor, had caught on to this problem and cleared up most of the confusion.

More Examples of Wandering Modifiers

We watched the avocets poking around in the pond with their long beaks through our binoculars.

Driving by in the car, the falling snow sifted down onto the shrubs around the abandoned house.

And one of my all-time favorites in the Muddled + Mystified Dept:
A social assistance recipient, providing information to her case worker about her two newest dependents, wrote, “According to your instructions, I have given birth to twins in the enclosed envelope.”

WHAT BRINGS THIS TOPIC TO MIND?

In the course of emptying book cases and moving books around, I came across a thin paperback written by Saskatoon columnist Bill Cameron. The title of this sort-of-memoir:
A Way With Words: A Light-hearted Look at the Agony of Writing.
©1979 by Bill Cameron
Published by Western Producer Prairie Books, Saskatoon, SK
I really enjoyed reading it, though it may be out of print and unavailable now.

Mr Cameron points out to wannabe writers that the biggest danger is not saying what you mean. He gives a number of humorous examples showing how reporters and others have strayed from Say-what-you-mean clarity. (To keep things straight, I’ll post his comments in green.)

This snippet from a tourist brochure gives visitors to SK a curious picture of travel here:
“If you pull off the highway…and the first car to pass waves and the next one along stops and chats, you’re in Saskatchewan.”

“Cars that wave? Cars that stop and chat! And all this time, I thought it was the people of SK, not the automobiles, who are friendly.”

According to Cameron, this once-upon-a-time General Motors press release “set off chuckles and cackles all over the newsroom.”
“Some 800 employees…were furloughed for a short re-tooling period.”

“I presume furloughed is a weasel word for laid off. More important, I hope it was the factory which was re-tooled, not the workers.”

Even the universe is somewhat amiss, according to one news item:
“Ranging in size from dust particles to giant comets, interplanetary space is full of debris.”

“Nonsense. If space was full of debris there wouldn’t be any space, and Armstrong and Aldrin could have walked to the moon.”

An editor must read the news article carefully before committing it to the printer. As this Canadian Press headline from the 60s demonstrates:
“Alberta Catholic Women’s League delegates passed resolutions calling for tighter legislation against abortion and pornography at the group’s annual convention.”

“To suggest, as this does, that abortion and pornography go on at the annual convention…not only doesn’t say what the writer meant; it’s close to slander.”

Then there’s the famous one about Yogi Berra…a line that has been picked up by more than one gag writer since its original appearance.
“After he was hit on the head by the pitched ball, Berra was taken to hospital for X-rays, which showed nothing.”

I understand there are grammar checker programmes available now that will go over our writing and zero in on these zingers. Have any of you others bought one already? I’ll think I will be ordering one shortly. 🙂

Ten More Days in Review

Or: Life in the “I-Can’t-Keep-Up” Lane

Skipping the “time flies” lament, I’ve been occupied with several projects lately: turning the office upside-down — dear Hubby did most of that — emptying and refilling bookcases, and cooking at the Villa.

Last week I did Monday dinner, Tues & Thurs supper, Wed, Sat & Sun all day. Just one of those “seasons.” I only have three more single meals and one full day during the rest of the month. But when I am working so much, the place tends to occupy me even when I’m not there officially. One morning I did some grocery shopping for the place, plus I like to spend time helping the folks to put together jigsaw puzzles. When I go to the city I hunt for more puzzles for us to work on, mainly at Value Village. 🙂

As I said, Bob shifted some furniture around in our office. This started last weekend when we had hot water heater woes. Our hot water tank being in a cubbyhole inconveniently right beside where my desk sat. Desk must be moved. Then we decided to empty the one office bookcase and put it in the living room. Which meant removing the quite small bookcase I’d just put in the living room, and then moving the six-foot one four inches over, so the office one would fit in the newly-made space.

By the time this was done we had books piled all over. While rearranging the office, Bob decided to move his file cupboard (actually another bookcase) to where the office bookcase had once stood, then move his 2-drawer filing cabinet to that newly-vacated spot. The new small bookcase went where the filing cabinet was and my desk was given a quarter turn. On Friday, my day off, I decided to clear out some shelves in yet another narrow bookcase/cupboard because we have more books than places to put them.

During all this and between shifts at the Seniors’ Home, I managed to squeeze in six loads of laundry plus misc. housekeeping & food prep tasks. I also attended Sewing Circle Tuesday morning. Totally fell behind with blogging — and sometimes wondered if I should just take a long break. I decided to “light one candle” this morning and see how far I get.

Nanowrimo started Nov 1st at 12:01 am, but I’m giving it a miss this year. An e-mail acquaintance wants to see his book in print; I was brought into this project by a friend who asked me to edit it. I did that last year, but the book is stalled and I’ve been asked to see that it gets into print via Amazon Kindle Direct, like I did mine. I now have the manuscript, author bio and illustrations, so need to get working on this.

I’ve submitted two of my “Winnie and Raylene on Vacation” stories to the Critique Circle and they’ve been well liked, for the most part. Now I need to polish a few more, write a few more, and post them on CC. I’m finding it interesting, through critique comments, how some words call to mind certain pictures for readers.

For example, in one story I’ve posted, a couple of teens have stolen a car and, chased by police, crashed into a garage beside a residence. Police were at the crash site directing traffic. One writer couldn’t figure how it was crash site because crashes happen on roads. Another critique writer couldn’t get it that a high speed chase would ever go through a residential area. High speed chases only happened on busy city thoroughfares. I wrote “garage” and some people are asking, “Like a service station? What’s a service station doing in a residential area?” So I’m learning to be more precise. 🙂

One question really made me laugh. I’d written that the weather was abnormal in FL and “The odd snowflake was falling when Winnie and Raylene got off the plane in Tallahassee.” A critiquer from Hawaii asked, “What was odd about the snowflake?”

I explained that “the odd —“ is a colloquialism. (Only in Canada?) For us, odd means unusual, but it also means infrequent. “There was no crowd; only the odd person showed up at the Grand Opening.” Or, “She took the odd afternoon off to visit her mom at the nursing home.”

Is this an odd (i.e. strange) usage where you live?

More than the odd snowflake is falling today. We definitely have winter with a powerful wind from the north plastering us with fine snow. Our cats have ventured outside the odd time this morning, but only for a few minutes. They come in dusted with snow and are generally NOT happy.

Well, this is enough rambling for one post. Have a good week, everyone.