And Da Winnah Is…

Perhaps you have noticed that as of yesterday I made some changes to the layout and contents of the blog. Nothing major or important, really, I just moved some of the items in the two columns to the right around, added one new category/image/link, and replaced the old NaNoWriMo “Participant” emblem with a “Winner” badge. Yep, itʼs true. I “won” the National Novel Writing Month challenge yesterday afternoon, certifying my 50,520 words about 3:50 PM.

Donʼt believe me? Click here and check it out. (The winner badge over there under the book title works as well.) I feel relatively pleased with myself. I did not really believe I could do it, especially on an entirely new project about which I had planned or thought almost nothing whatsoever. Moreover, I also got the blog up every day, too, and only have 31 further daily posts to go to fulfill that other, but-partially-acknowledged goal… But back to the November novel project!

I donʼt have a finished novel, as I suggested recently. Slaves to the Lesser Moon is going to run considerably more than NaNoWriMoʼs 50,000 words. In fact Dylan Hunter (I finally came up with a first name for him, one which the reptilian folk of Tysriel could conceivably pronounce, unlike that surname, which at one point I have a native mangle as “Humʼterh”) is currently, in the midst of Chapter 12, stranded in a city (Batsuʼyillogh) of baddies, the Boʼmghtsaly, having just fought a forced duel with another prisoner/slave, after nearly a full month in a dungeon dug in the earth a long way underground. Heʼs got a lot ahead of him (no bird-people yet, no Travelers, although I had about three paragraphs written out of sequence on them). As a potential series, itʼs got (many) ways to go. Even so, I am delighted to have written that much in one story. Unfortunately, I have just as much and more to go.

So one of my changes yesterday was to move the NaNoWriMo badge (switched out for the winner status) to a more prominent spot. The other was to add an indication of my gratitude to the software that made Slaves (and I hope much more soon) possible — Scrivener, the ideal program for writing long books, fiction or nonfiction. Lots of programs put Microsoftʼs Word to shame, but Scrivener leaves all the rest choking on dust as well.

I want to credit writer Gwen Hernandez, who was one of my instructors on the use of Scrivener with her “Tech Tuesday” posts and other observations about writing technology on her blog. Thanks to Scrivener Facebook updates directing me to her insightful essays, she gave me more information than I have yet used on the ins and outs of this fascinating and worthwhile piece of software. Furthermore (and more relevantly for this paragraph), in reading her blog, I grew envious of her cool “A Mac Writer Using Scrivener” badge, which I appropriated (borrowed?) and tagged with the Literature & Latte URL some time after 4:00 yesterday afternoon. I hope she approves because without the program, I am sure I would not have written so much, and I would like to honor its role in my writing.

Not that Slaves to the Lesser Moon doesnʼt need work. In fact if you check the “Novel Info” tab on the NanoWriMo site and read my little sample from Chapter 4, “A New World,” you can see right away that I was not merely overwriting wildly (at least sometimes) but throwing away words that would serve no purpose except to get cut — to wit, “I was alone on a strange world where the most horribly hideous creatures swam the upper air and apparently craved my flesh for food.” I can live with the alliteration of the “flesh for food,” but only horrible or hideous can remain to describe the flying lizard monsters Hunter will later name pterodaunts, thus reducing the word count from just that sentence by three words (as “the most” is unnecessary as well): “I was alone on a strange world where hideous creatures swam the upper air and apparently craved my flesh for food.”

I should create a Longer Items page for Slaves Chapter 1 that I have posted here, but I didnʼt take the time yesterday. I also have edits on things that I have noticed (like problems with “Mantorville” and perhaps a Longer Items entry for some of the essays I have stretched over days of posts previously, including “Whereʼs Your Head This Morning” — godawful title, that, Tarzan and the four parts about Religion and the First Amendment). And thatʼs pretty much my changes (mostly discussed just so I can brag, at least to myself, that I did it). Maybe now I can read something other than my own scrivenings — although I did get all the way through rereads of A Princess of Mars, Tarnsman of Gor and City of the Chasch as nightly research this past month, plus opening chapters of about a half-dozen other planetary adventures, including the first third of Dragonflight.

But now itʼs writing time on a Tuesday. A new month looms tomorrow. I should get to dictating the rest of “Mistakes by Moonlight” to Scrivener, and take a look over the few hundred words I penned in the Michaelʼs parking lot yesterday on its sequel, “Death Wizardʼs Vengeance.” And thereʼs at least another 50,000 words to add to push Slaves to the Lesser Moon to a finish. See you tomorrow.

©2010 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

Over the River…

I had a very nice Thanksgiving. My family gathered in Coralville with our Aunt Alaire, my motherʼs sister, as we have done for decades now, every other year. (This means that Christmas 2010 will be with the Norton clan, naturally.)

Front—sister-in-law Nancy and niece Rachel; Back—brother Paul and nephew Tim

Janet and I got started somewhat later than I had intended, leaving Maquoketa just about 10:00, delayed partly by me loafing and partly by unexpectedly deciding to warm both the stuffing and the mashed potatoes we were bringing to the feast, along with the pies I told you about already. And we stopped at Caseyʼs westside for some convenience-store “cappuccinos” to enjoy on the drive to Iowa City, which added a few minutes as well.

We arrived well before 11:30, however (The Lovely One was driving). Everyone else was already present, including niece Rachel and nephew Tim, offspring of my brother Paul and his wife Nancy. Paul is the one who has embarked on a second career this year, becoming a United Methodist minister after many years of training and experience as a “local pastor” in a small town and with Hispanic communities in his home area. Margaret had been staying with Alaire since Tuesday, and David had obviously gotten up much earlier than us, making his drive from northwestern Iowa end earlier than our much briefer pilgrimage. Alaireʼs complex has a gathering room the residents can book, and although itʼs probably about twice the size we really need, the community room beats the narrow confines of her single apartment — comfortable for her, certainly, but nowhere nearly enough room for all of us (especially as some have grown in girth over the decades, meaning me in particular).

We carted in food, drink and presents, and I settled down to chat with everyone, none of whom I had seen in many months (except for perhaps an hour talking to Margaret and David at my Uncle Bill Burrowʼs funeral last month). Tim or David, both readers, brought up the blog, which directed conversation for a long time in many paths, particularly the nonsense of Tighty politics and their blowhard leadership. (One benefit of family is that theyʼre usually the people who can most easily agree with you, regardless of my solitary black sheep status on religion. Or at least tolerate oneʼs rants and foibles.)

The Siblings and the Aunt—Me, Margaret, Paul, Alaire, David

Aunt Alaire decided, pretty quickly, that since we were all there, it was time for the food, even though the turkey had been more or less scheduled to be done at least an hour later — in fact, when Paul and I, elected by default, I guess, started carving the bird, he quickly decided it needed more time in the oven. I was very glad I had stumbled on the tail-end of an Alton Brown show on Thanksgiving turkey and saw the few minutes he devoted to “how to carve your bird.” With Paulʼs guidance and help, we did a fair job of slicing the meat (I even used Altonʼs technique for cutting away the leftovers from the bones, later on).

Once we had let the turkey bake a while longer and actually completed the slicing job, everyone helped to serve up the food, and (to misquote Huck Finn) “wasnʼt there a pile of it and plenty for everyone five times over.” The talk ebbed and flowed on all sorts of things, particularly on childhood memories between Paul and me for a few minutes, while we ate, more diffusely and in several smaller groupings as we cleaned up, and for a while longer between all of us together. Wine flowed (sweet and dry, white and red — predictably perhaps, I enjoyed a few Guinnesses) before during and after the feast itself, but no one imbibed to any large degree whatsoever (although The Lovely One did ask me to do the driving home). Eventually it was time, late in the afternoon, for many to head northward to Minnesota, there to visit with missing brother Stephen (I probably should have gone, but I knew that tasks and other activities awaited for this weekend at home), Alaire to return the leftovers we hadnʼt claimed to her apartment, and for those of us not driving to the state of ten thousand lakes to head home.

This particular gathering was special because we had decided, at Janetʼs urging, to bring most of our Christmas presents to Thanksgiving and turn them over to their recipients then, saving postage. (I say “most” because I screwed up and had send items for my youngest brother, David, and sister Margaret straight to them.) So we did have to do the present redistribution before all taking our leaves, but that procedure was fun as well.

Janet and I were driving home about 4:00, reaching the domicile in time to catch local news and the weather report. We definitely didnʼt want any supper that night (as we enjoyed immensely the PBS broadcast of the Broadway birthday tribute for Stephen Sondheim that Iowa Public TV aired that night)!

The day was cold and quite windy, but the cheer and good harmony were very warm last Thursday for my clan. I enjoyed seeing everyone and talking as best I did with each and all. My family is certainly worth being thankful for.

©2010 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

Planetary Romance, 6

And now, to end the month of November (at least on the day for your weekly dose of bits from fiction), hereʼs the rest of Chapter One, “End of an Affair,” from Slaves to the Lesser Moon. The previous part was here, last Sunday.

Hunter and Birch are talking as Terry passes out in the apartment. Birch is trying to explain Dr. V.J. Fairchildʼs accidental intrusion into the nature of time and space…

“So you push things through your… — gap into another time? Is that it?”

“Kind of, sure. Only the things are the gap, in a way, probabalistically. Theyʼre equivalent with timeless spacetime, only timeless and spaceless, too I guess. See, she was working with some abnormal results published a few years back, in Physics Notes, from CERN, and she realized last year, about now, I guess, a year ago, that if you removed the temporal elements in the equations — she was developing different equations than youʼd have thought — , dividing out the vibrations in the strings, the abnormalities made sense, fit her new timeless equations… but those were highpowered experiments. I mean, itʼs CERN, itʼs the biggest, most-highpowered… Then in second semester last year she realized that the same results, well, similar ones, equivalent, could be reached at relatively low powers, too. Not exactly. What took her attention, what captured her imagination, was the time absence. See? Her idea was that we could manipulate, create an actual gap, thatʼs what I call it, in spacetime, so thereʼs no time, and so I guess no space, same thing, you know, within the radius, briefly.”

He made no sense to me. I donʼt think he did to himself. He acted really frustrated.

“But you did it? You made whatever you are talking about happen?”

“Um, yeah. In a way. I guess. Yeah. We have demonstrated her equations. After Thanksgiving, we used a pencil, then bigger objects. We celebrated New Yearʼs using a mouse I, uh, liberated, from the bio lab.”

Terry mumbled suddenly in his stupor, and I realized I was feeling pretty dopey myself. Maybe what Birch was saying made sense if you hadnʼt guzzled a dozen beers. Thirteen. I looked down at the one still in my hand, heavy, barely drunk at all.

“You used things? How?”

“We, uh, made stuff change their place in time, spacetime.”

“You made stuff travel through time?”

“Uh, sure, although I donʼt think thatʼs really a very good terminology, Hunter. The device creates this spacetime gap, and if we introduce something into the gap, or rather create the gap around the object, well, as the object, really, it no longer occupies spacetime. Itʼs independent of the framework. The whole framework. Thatʼs what Valjean doesnʼt see. Even gravity doesnʼt affect them. Maybe not even dark matter or energy.”

“I donʼt get it. You put things in your machine and they just sit there? How do you know you are doing anything at all? What is it? They donʼt age or what?”

“No. Well, they donʼt. Age, that is. Or rather, they shouldnʼt. Not while they equate with the gap, are the gap, become the gap…” He was losing us both trying to identify just what happened inside their time machine.

“Can I see it?”

“See it?”

“Yeah, Birch. Will you let me see it? Maybe you could show me what it does, you know. Maybe then Iʼd understand…”

I had lit a little fire in him, visible in his eyes. “You want to see what it does…”

“Sure. Show me. Maybe itʼll all make sense then. I want to see what happens to the things in your gap.”

“Not in the gap. They are the gap. Briefly. Well, not briefly, thatʼs time. But they re-emerge. Before we put them in. Sometimes.”

An exaggeration (for the story)

“Before? Before you put them in? They go back in time?”

“Sort of. Not always. The cat came back, came out right away — “

“You tried this thing on a cat?”

“Valjean found it hanging outside her condo. Brought it in on Monday.”

“But it didnʼt work on the cat?”

“No. It worked. Just — … differently. Itʼs really hard to explain…”

“Youʼve got to show me, Birch.”

“She wanted me to try it on a bigger subject. Living things donʼt behave, react, the same as other objects. Shouldnʼt matter, but apparently it does… And sheʼs not considering the gravitational aspect. She thinks thatʼs an electrodynamic effect that weʼre observing. But it isnʼt shouldnʼt be… Sometimes I wonder if itʼs not  dark energy thing. — I didnʼt want to try it myself, you see. I think thereʼs other issues… She just focuses on the time-negativity all the time, but time is space. I know it. Timelessness is spacelessness, too. That matters.”

He was all worried about something else, trying to make all the numbers add up or something. I wanted to see the machine. I wanted to see something travel through time.

“Come on, Birch. Iʼve got to see this. You have to show me.”

Something clicked in his mind. Something changed. He agreed. “Okay. I can show you, Hunter. Hell,” he looked sly, somehow, “if you ask real pretty, I might even let you try it out for yourself…” He was staring right at me really funny, but I didnʼt register it at the time. He had made me think.

Could I try it out? Go back in time? I suddenly imagined stopping Jen from hooking up with her Jack last summer… It was only a few hours from Pashitakua to Hartford. Could Birch send me that far back? He wouldnʼt want to. Heʼd never want to help me with anything. But if I didnʼt tell him…

“Youʼd let me try it out, Birch?”

“Sure, dude. Maybe. I mean itʼs experimental. But if you see it, and want to try it out. Why not?”

Why not indeed? I started to see it all in my head. I could steal my own car from myself, my old self, and drive straight to her house, the day after she got home. Sheʼd said she didnʼt see that Jack jerk for the first time until the middle of June… Itʼd be real romantic. Sheʼd like that… Sheʼd like that a lot…

“So, Hunter, you want to go? Give it a looksee?”

By now I wanted to do a whole lot more than see. I thought the only hard part would be getting Birch to really, truly let me use the machine. If only I had remembered what he had said when he arrived. But I didnʼt. I just sucked on the beer can instead.

And thatʼs the end of Chapter One, about 5500 words altogether. Scrivener estimates that at fourteen paperback pages. Too long?

The big issue is whether I have had time to finish (or will in these next three days) the final 7000 words to reach 50,000 and thereby “win” NaNoWriMo.

©2010 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

Kitchen Action

…or, “Pies and Potatoes”

I told you Wednesday that I had many chores to complete in preparation for Thanksgiving. I didnʼt get to the raking that day, meaning Wednesday, although I should have (maybe today while The Lovely One decorates some more), but I did do the kitchen work, even as I also pumped out a bunch of posts to cover all the days from Thanksgiving through now (and that means I was writing this post about 2:00 PM last Wednesday).

Can you tellwhich is the apple and which is cherry? Does the apple pie look done to you? (And you also get a glimpse of some of Janetʼs autumnal décor.)

Just before Janet headed out the door to drive to work, I already had preheated our oven and pulled out the two pies (one apple and one cherry) that we were to bring to Thanksgiving, celebrated with my family this year at my Aunt Alaireʼs apartment complex in Coralville. I would like to brag that I made those pies, but actually we had purchased them, “homemade” by the Catholic Daughters here in town as a fundraiser, the previous Saturday. Our neighbor, Vera, asked us if we wanted some last year, and they were so good that Janet went a bit over the top when offered her chance this fall. We bought eight. Apple and cherry, the most obvious and ordinary, were slated for my siblings to consume.

The directions said to paint the top with milk or egg mixture (ordinary skim milk, for us and therefore for my family, too)  and then slit the top crust a few (five or six) times, and Janet adjusted that to poking with a paring knife about a dozen or fifteen tiny slits. Meanwhile the oven was preheating fully to 450° into which, on a baking pan to catch seething juice later, we placed a pie at a time (each pie was supposed to get an hour altogether). Apple went first, after I had dusted the top with cinnamon and a little sugar, and after the first fifteen minutes, per directions, I lowered the temperature to 350° for the next forty-five minutes.

Then I went down to the basement to finish checking what I still had on the drives for the two old computers (and the extra SCSI hard drives) in order to have them gone by the festive holiday on Thursday, a deadline my beloved had imposed so she could use the table for her decorations. I had carted the PowerMac 7100 out to the truck when the timer went off. Checking the pie, I thought it still looked pretty pale, and the surface even seemed doughy, so I gave it a further ten minutes. That gave me time to extricate the monitor and printer and take them to the garage (I still donʼt exactly know what I am going to do with them; I hope Goodwill or the local Community Services store wants them). When the ten-minute timer chimed, I looked again. Still uncertain, I removed the pie, cranked the oven back to 450°, and got the second one, the cherry pie, ready to go in. Then I came into the office to check e-mail and Facebook updates.

When the bell tinkled to indicate the oven was warm enough to insert the second pie, I did, likewise turning down the temperature to 350° a quarter of an hour later. This time, however, still concerned about the unfinished look of the first pie, I set the timer for only thirty-five minutes, intending to return the apple pastry for perhaps ten more minutes then, if it still looked like it needed it. It did. In fact, both pies, the cherry working better than the apple, required about twenty minutes longer than the directions suggested. Even leaving the apple pie in for ten or twelve minutes longer than that left it feeling soft on the top, but I decided I was done. (By this time it was nearly 11:00, and I had finished clearing the former residence of the old, never really used computers, too.)

Does this look like ten pounds of mashed spuds to you?

Then I wrote about 1500 words on the novel, followed by the posts for Thanksgiving, yesterday, today and Sunday. Sometime around two, Janet called for some advice on a letter (which hasnʼt happened for perhaps close to a year now), and that prompted me to interrupt my literary labors and get back in the kitchen. I had to peel, boil and mash ten pounds of potatoes for Thanksgiving dinner, as well as chop up celery and onion for The Lovely One to use in making stuffing. And I did. The potatoes were a chore to peel, but I cut them into pretty small pieces, filling our largest pot (except the ten-gallon soup pot), seasoned with some herbs, garlic and onion powder, and some pepper, and once covered in water twice (I read somewhere you can reduce the starchy element by washing your potatoes repeatedly), set to merrily build to a boil. Meanwhile I got out the big chefʼs knife and started work on the celery, which almost half filled a big mixing bowl. The onion was almost instantaneous by contrast, and when that job was done, so were the potatoes.

I dumped them into a huge colander we bought just a few years back (and which was exactly what I needed for this job), shook out the excess water, and dumped the potatoes into two bowls (the huge on in the picture and a smaller one) to mash (using Janetʼs grandmotherʼs old hand-masher) with skim milk, margarine and some cheddar cheese. That only took perhaps fifteen more minutes, so I recombined all the mashed potatoes into the one larger bowl and came back in here to finish this post.

Now itʼs after 5:00. I am going to take a few pictures of pies and potatoes to illustrate this sad little post and, at halfway between 900 and a thousand words, declare it done. Itʼs pouring rain (supposedly perhaps freezing up toward and around Dubuque — drive carefully, Janet), and I forgot ever to go out and get the mail. Oh, well.

Oh my. The word count once I moved the post over to WordPress for finishing touches, says weʼre over a thousand even before I tack on this note. Interesting. (Are there that many words in the photo captions?)

©2010 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

And “The Season” Begins!

Although most of America is probably spending today, having already been up and out for hours perhaps, even at the early hour I schedule these posts to appear, local Iowa (Central Standard) time, The Lovely One and I will not be joining the throngs at all those chain stores across the nation that opened their doors for the recently invented “Black Friday” sales (and it was recent, regardless what Wikipedia says: neither of us had really ever heard the term used until maybe five or six years ago; Janet says even more recently). The experience would rank close to my idea of hell.

Of course, I am not altogether thrilled to my toes with the actual events that will fill our day (at home) today. Annually, once the excessive turkey feast is mostly digested and partly eliminated, meaning the following day, today, Janet starts decorating for winter and Christmas (and sheʼll take most of it down and pack it away almost as soon as New Yearʼs Day arrives). As she does most of this decorating herself, I get to pull it all down from the garage attic (and load back up the “autumn” items), including the fake tree, which weighs almost as much as I do. And it is my job to get the tree assembled and up, with colorful lights installed (and thatʼs the reason that we purchased a pre-lit fake tree several years ago, maybe almost a decade now).

I guess (one of Hunterʼs qualities that I have only made mild use of yet, in Slaves to the Lesser Moon, is an extraordinary talent at making good guesses) that desperation to devise something to say for another month of daily posts may prompt me to wander around the house taking some photos of The Lovely Oneʼs decorative creations, so weʼll all look forward eagerly to that (or those). Today Iʼll just discuss the basic concept of what we are doubtlessly doing.

Although I have some years made abortive efforts to join the energy-waste of outdoor lighting (and however much I enjoy the lights — and I really do — while driving on wild winter nights, these pagan displays are kind of a pointless waste of expensive electricity), sometimes putting a rectangle of lights around our picture window (from the inside) in the living room, sometimes putting lights along the railing of the steps to the front door, with a few exceptions, our winter/Christmas decorations are an indoor phenomenon. We have our tree (in the family room, although with us hosting Christmas this year, for Janetʼs family, weʼll see if we stick to tradition) and its hundreds of ornaments, including my name ball from earliest childhood, a miniature vest that The Lovely One gave me one year, and literally dozens and dozens of special items of unique importance to her. She also adorns my bookshelves in the basement with jolly greenery and other stuff. Upstairs, she undoes the autumn items and gets greenery (some of it real, once-living pine or fir or whatever-evergreen branches), snowmen (one of her favorite wintertime decorations) and other things on pretty much every available surface.

(Now that I really have a plan to do a picture-post or two or three on the decorations next week — I have to wait until theyʼre done, after all — I donʼt really have a lot more detail to add. An early Yule gift for all of you — a relatively brief post!)

My efforts usually only take a few hours total, and that includes the time we spend together putting ornaments on the tree. Her work, on the other hand (I havenʼt used that phrase on the blog in quite a while, I believe), usually fills the whole weekend, starting later this very morning. So I am hopeful I may be granted a few hours this long weekend to peck and poke on the wireless keyboard and perhaps get my November novel done. We will have to go out to RonAnnʼs Floral Shoppe for the greenery (when I will snatch a cookie or two, even at my current enormous weight), and there will be supper to prepare each night, but a good part of my responsibility this weekend is to stay out of her way except when she wants my “help.”

So, letʼs get at it…

©2010 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

Quietly Grateful

I admit that I am one of those people who take Thanksgiving for granted. I shouldnʼt. As a teacher I appreciated the few days off before the wildly mad rush toward Christmas that, even though the saturnalian holiday wasnʼt the end of the semester in those olden days when I was an active educator, December always became (mostly because Thanksgiving always marked the start of the large group speech season: if we hadnʼt at least gathered the various groups once by the break, we had fallen behind). If my room at school wasnʼt a messy disaster area following the fall play, it become in the pre-Christmas days the uncontrolled residence of piling masses of stuff that I would never get cleared away until June of the next year. So for thirty-five years, I was always busy at this time of the year.

Thanksgiving, most years, was just a time that I spent with relatives (of mine then Janetʼs) while I was worrying, thinking about other things, school things (or burying my nose in a book and reading, as I hadnʼt really been able to do enough to suit me since the summer had ended and school started). Distractions, preoccupations…

Thanksgiving always meant travel, too. I had my second automobile accident driving north from Ft. Madison to my parentsʼ home the very first Thanksgiving I was teaching, 1975 (the first accident had been only the spring before when I got blown off the interstate, in an inattentive moment, while passing by Ft. Dodge on my way to my very first educational job interview, at which I arrived several hours late, driving a rental from the garage that had towed in my dadʼs smashed-up VW bug; in those days before cell phones, even getting word to my prospective boss about the problem and the delay wasnʼt easy; needless to add, I did not get that job in Ringsted). Our first big snow of that (not quite) winter had arrived during the day on pre-turkey Wednesday, and I foolishly drove my brother Paulʼs huge old Chevy “home” to Mt. Pleasant. The snowfall just thickened as the darkness fell, and I hadnʼt gotten far, just on the western edge of West Point, in fact, when the car suddenly, simply went sliding sideways, circling away into the ditch.* I donʼt remember today how I got out (I may just have rocked and accelerated and made it, or perhaps somebody with a pick-up or tractor came by and helped out — all three situations have happened to me over the years**). Later on, I drove myself to my folks from Jackson County, later to Janetʼs parentsʼ house in Anamosa or my Aunt Alaireʼs in Iowa City (alternatively, because we do Thanksgiving with one side of the family and Christmas with the other, rotating sides for each holiday).

As a child, even from Michigan or somewhat closer, we apparently always drove, usually on frozen roads and through fallen or falling snow (donʼt try to deny to me the climate has warmed since the Sixties; I lived it, and I know better) for hours to my Burrow grandparents, and frequently on to Fredericksburg for the whole clan to celebrate at my dadʼs Bock sisterʼs (my memories always have us going to Bremer County, although I know we had to have visited my maternal grandmother, too). Much as I enjoy driving, few of those required appearances have completely positive associations, particularly the long, cold pilgrimages.

And third, I always eat way, way too much, ever since childhood. And naturally we bring even more home with us, leftovers, so we can overstuff at least twice more in the next week. Sigh. I tell myself, “I wonʼt do it this year,” but I apparently canʼt resist. (I am not going to eat too much today. I am not going to eat too much today. I am not going to eat too much today. I am not going to eat too much today. Uh huh, sure. — Iʼll let you know how it goes someday later…)

So self rules too powerfully for me to be truly appreciative of my blessings. Wrong but sadly so. And the whole point of todayʼs post is not to defend myself or rationalize such behavior/attitudes. Rather to criticize both myself and my preoccupation. For my attitude isnʼt right. I am blessed (albeit from my point of view by circumstance and nature, not some Old Beardy in the Sky), and even if I must submit to the social obligation to take this day to contemplate the multitudes of boons and anti-afflictions I enjoy, itʼs better to join the crowd for that than stand Satan-proud independent and take it all for granted.

Nothing is granted. We should all appreciate whatever (a little, a lot, or too much) that we have, that we enjoy, that we share. It could all be gone before I finish this sentence. Probably any of you realize this notion more clearly and powerfully than I, but itʼs worth remembering, more frequently than merely on the single sanctioned day each year.

I enclose the e. e. cummings poem as todayʼs picture, appropriately, because the real poet said it so much better.

And there are so many “things” for which I am endlessly grateful —

  • The Lovely One
  • the past sixteen or seventeen months (time to write and rediscover myself)
  • family (both present and departed)
  • friends (and that includes former students and Facebook-friends, too)
  • a home (expensive and drudgerious, cool neologism, as it is to maintain)
  • our English language which I love and in which I revel and delight
  • selfishly, my mind — imagination and acuity of thought and perception
  • my health (even with my right calf painfully interrupting my morning runs for three weeks, even if another ocular migraine occurs today, even if I am thirty pounds overweight… I am healthy)
  • The Bill of Rights (particularly that First Amendment)
  • freedom

…And Iʼll see about possibly doing better next year. Right now, there are a thousand things I really should be doing…

* I should have been, and I am, grateful that I skidded out of control to the right, without crossing into the lane of oncoming traffic.

** And for helpful fellow citizens, and a tradition of just such genial hospitality that I have accepted and from which I have benefited, let us also give thanks and do our utmost to enliven enduringly in our own hours and days.

©2010 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

And Just How Is That Novel Going, Anyway?

I havenʼt bored you readers with any recent updates on the progress of my NaNoWriMo November novel, but as I have been very diligently writing all day long every time I am able (like both yesterday and Monday), and even with Janetʼs grudging permission churning out at least a few hundred words a day over the past weekend (on Sunday as she was wrapping gifts we will exchange with my side of the family at Thanksgiving tomorrow), I am almost done.

As I type this post, Tuesday evening, I have only 7000 words to go to make my requisite 50,000. Itʼs hard to believe that something which was just a vague idea in the back of my head not only has taken over most of my waking and sleeping thoughts (well, aside from obviously distracting medical issues recently) for a month (and really not any more days than that), but Slaves to the Lesser Moon has become the longest piece of writing I have done, nearly three times longer than the next most protracted pieces.

Not that 50,000 words — which according to lengths I read about years ago, really qualifies as a long novella in the science-fiction world — will complete my story, although I think I will be close or at a kind of cliffhanger climax once I reach that magical number. My full plot is beginning to seem as if itʼs twice or three times as long as the NaNoWriMo goal, which probably means I am taking the events too slowly. On Sunday youʼll be able to read the conclusion, at last, to Chapter 1, which is the average length I am shooting for per chapter, roughly 5000 words.

not my reptile humans, but itʼs astonishing how many "lizard men" Google turns up

As far as the story goes, Hunter gets zapped from earth via the Fairchild Device (and my chuckling apologies to my Fairchild friends and acquaintances, one in particular, for heisting your name for the story) at the end of Chapter 2. He spends Chapters 3 through 6 living on his own in the wilderness on Tsyriel, having all kinds of dangerous encounters and adventures. Chapter 7 marks his first meeting with a native Tsyrielean reptile-human, and he settles into that personʼs village in Chapters 8, 9 and 10. All of this is written.

In Chapter 11, excitement breaks out (there has to be a certain amount of exposition in learning the language and exposing the nature of the nomadsʼ society, so 9 and 10, the shortest individual chapters, are the least adventurous, although I also tried to leave an important plot element to reveal in that section); its working title is “Battle by Night.” And it may be the climax of that chapter, now that my word-count has risen so steeply, that ends the “novel” so far.

I actually have one major scene of about 1500 words written that comes significantly later than the big battle as well as some short fragments from even further on in the overall story (all of which are currently counting toward my full goal). Otherwise, I more or less wrote what I have in sequence, sometimes jumping ahead a scene or two when I felt bogged down or uninspired by the section I was really at, a technique that this month only inspired me to finish what I had lost interest in and fill in the gaps (so I will have to use the same system on things I have to write yet, both in this novel and other things).

I had a lot of fun yesterday making up the reptile-peopleʼs nomadic civilization and information about their language.

Anyway, thatʼs how the novel is going, not that anyone other than I really cares, I realize. Even The Lovely One is somewhat cooler than less-than-tolerant about this endeavor. But I have had fun. Itʼs been a blast actually writing up to 7500 words a day (more on a few days when I count the quotidian blog material, like this).

And with that, having run really verbose throughout last week, Iʼll quit for today, having vegetables to chop for stuffing and potatoes to mash all to be ready for the big Thanksgiving feast tomorrow.


(In reality, for me, itʼs 6:30 Tuesday evening, Janet just called, and itʼs time to make her lunch for today/Wednesday. But the same principle holds, and today/Wednesday I do have the turkey-day preparations to complete.)

©2010 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.