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"Roundheads and Ramblings"

June 2015

NaNoWriMo Summer Camp 2015




Go ahead. Call me an idiot. Label this as another failure of a 12-step Addiction Cure.  Call it a prime example of "drinking the Kool-Ade." I know I swore I would never do another one of these masochistic, self-hate inducing writing marathons. But here I am again, needing something -- anything -- to push me over the final hurdles to the end of Yankee Reconstructed

My goal for the book has always been to finish it at approximately 100,000 words.  At the moment, I have written 78, 704 words, which puts me at the 79% finished mark.  Only 21,296 to go, although you know (particularly if you're a writer) that I'll need more than that when I get to the editing and pruning stage of the manuscript.  The usual goal for a NaNoWriMo participant is 50,000 words, so I'm setting my own personal goals much lower than normal. If I manage to write 800 words a day for the month of July, the book will be "finished."

Can I do 800 words a day? Sure! Easy, provided I manage to get seat of pants into seat of chair every day.  But that's the problem, of course. It's summer and my office is hot and stuffy. There are other things I'd rather be doing. I'm treading some unfamiliar territory by the time I reach 1876, so  I need research breaks. I promised to work the Lions Fishing Rodeo on the 4th of July. A friend wants to meet for lunch. You've heard the excuses before and you'll hear them again. But somehow, I'm going to make myself do this.  And if all the silliness and hype of NaNoWriMo  helps me do it, GREAT!

Today and tomorrow will be preparation days. I've already been to the grocery store to stock up on Hershey's kisses, which will become my rewards.  I've laid in a supply of frozen lunch entrees so that I won't be tempted to go off on some wild cooking spree in the middle of my writing day. I've gone through the house and replenished supplies of toilet paper, kleenex, bottled water, toothpaste, cat food, stamps, printer cartridges, sticky notes, and colored pens. (Not taking any chances on being lured away by a desperate need for one of life's essential elements.)

I've cleaned the house (well, most of it!), tossed out some penicillin-producing left-overs, paid all the bills, pulled the weeds and dead blossoms off my little row of front porch planters, and poured this month's supply of baking soda, vinegar, and boiling water down the drains to make sure they don't clog up on me.

Tomorrow I'll tackle my writing office, blowing away the month's accumulation of cat fur, emptying the trash, picking up cat toys, finding all my vital reference books, and bringing my new July calendar up to date with the deadlines I've set myself.

What else do I need before the marathon starts? Well the NaNoWriMo camp counselors will be assigning me to my writers' cabin sometime in the next 16 hours, and I'll learn who my cabin mates (competitors) will be. These are the people I will report to each day as we strive to see who can get the most done.  The last time I did this, I ended up in a cabin full of silly teenagers writing werewolf fantasies, and they all got homesick and went home after the first week. This year I've asked to be assigned to a cabin of either  people my own age or other writers of historical fiction. We'll see what happens!

And you, dear readers, will also have a role too play. Feel free to cheer me on or nag me when I need it. Blog posts will keep you up to date on successes and failures. Off we go!

My New Car Is Smarter than I Am




The weatherman promised that we would not be under a heat advisory until this afternoon, so I set out early this morning to get some errands run: to the pet store for 40 pounds  of cat food; the bank to make a couple of deposits; the office supply store to find a desk calendar that starts in July; the gas station for Sadie's first fill-up, and then Costco to restock some of the supplies that they sell in bulk, like plastic garbage bags and paper towels (and popcorn in little 100-calorie portions.)

All was going well. The attendant at the gas station had to help get my gas cap off for the first time, but I think he really just wanted a closer look at the car. I was having a great time. I even managed to find a classical music station on the radio. And I love some of the new-fangled gadgets this car has, particularly the keyless feature. All I have is a key "fob" which I keep in a pocket or in my purse. As long as I have it on me somewhere, I can just open the door, even though it is locked to anyone else, get in and start the engine, etc. without ever seeing or handling the key fob. This is going to sound silly, but it gives me the feeling that the car is recognizing me as its owner. It doesn't take a whole lot to please me these days, so I like it!

By the time I came out of Costco, it was HOT! And I had forgotten that my little trunk already had 40 pounds of cat food stashed in it. So there I am, struggling to shove everything into the back. Eventually I succeed and push the trunk lid closed.  It makes a funny sound and pops back open. I figure there's something blocking the latch, so I push and shove a little more and then close the trunk again. It closes, it latches, it makes a funny sound, and pops open again.

And that time it opened wide enough for me to see the problem.  I had laid my purse on top of the cat food bags so that I had two hands to unload the cart. If I had had my way with that trunk, I would have locked my purse (and the key fob) inside. I wouldn't have been able to open the door to trip the open-trunk  latch or start the engine.  Poor Sadie. She did her best to save me from my own stupidity.

She's smarter than I am, and that's a good thing!

Charleston

I'm giving over my blog today to Peggy Noonan's comments in the Wall Street Journal. She echoes what I felt as I read about plans to ring all church bells on Sunday to honor the victims of Wednesday's shootings.

A Bow to Charleston

A Northerner bows, deeply, to the South: I have never seen anything like what I saw on television this afternoon. Did you hear the statements made at the bond hearing of the alleged Charleston, S.C., shooter? Nine beautiful people slaughtered Wednesday night during Bible study at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, and their relatives were invited to make a statement today in court.

Did you hear what they said? They spoke of mercy. They offered forgiveness. They invited the suspect, who was linked in by video from jail, to please look for God. There was no rage, no accusation—just broken hearts undefended and presented for the world to see. They sobbed as they spoke.

“I just wanted everybody to know, to you, I forgive you,” said the daughter of Ethel Lance, killed in the shooting. “You took something very precious away from me. I will never talk to her ever again. I will never be able to hold her again. But I forgive you.” She asked that God have mercy on the shooter’s soul. “You hurt me. You hurt a lot of people. May God forgive you. And I forgive you.”

A family member of Anthony Thompson said he forgave the shooter. “I forgive you and my family forgives you, but we would like you to take this opportunity to repent . . . confess, give your life to the one who matters the most, Christ, so that He can change it—can change your ways no matter what happens to you, and you will be OK. Do that and you will be better.”

The mother of Tywanza Sanders, also killed, told the shooter: “We welcomed you Wednesday night in our Bible study with open arms,” she said. “Every fiber in my body hurts, and I will never be the same. . . . Tywanza was my hero. But as we said in Bible study, we enjoyed you, but may God have mercy on you.”

The granddaughter of Daniel Simmons Sr., also killed Wednesday, said, “Although my grandfather and the other victims died at the hands of hate, this is proof—everyone’s plea for your soul is proof that they lived in love and their legacies will live in love. So, hate won’t win. . . . I just want to thank the courts for making sure that hate doesn’t win.”

As I watched I felt I was witnessing something miraculous. I think I did. It was people looking into the eyes of evil, into the eyes of the sick and ignorant shooter who’d blasted a hole in their families, and explaining to him with the utmost forbearance that there is a better way. What a country that makes such people. Do you ever despair about America? If they are America we are going to be just fine.

Afterward, outside the courtroom, people gathered and sang gospel hymns. * * * I just have to say what a people the people of Charleston are. They are doing something right, something beautiful, to be who they’ve been the past few days. From the beginning they handled the tragedy with such heart and love. They handled it like a community, a real, alive one that people live within connected to each other.

From Thursday morning when news first spread everyone I saw on TV, from the mayor, Joseph Riley, to those who spoke for the church, to the police spokesmen, to the governor, Nikki Haley—they were all so dignified and genuinely grieving, and not the pseudo-grief we always see when something bad happens and the leader says our prayers are with the victims. Haley had to stop speaking for a few moments, so moved was she when she made her first statement.

Riley said today, of the shooter, “This hateful person came to this community with this crazy idea that he would be able to divide us, but all he did was make us more united and love each other even more.” I read that quote Friday afternoon in the Journal, in Valerie Bauerlein’s story, and I thought: Riley isn’t just talking, he is telling the truth.

Charleston deserves something, a bow. So too do the beautiful people who go to Wednesday night Bible study in America in 2015. They are the people who are saving America every day, completely unheralded, and we can hardly afford to lose them. There’s only one thing Charleston doesn’t deserve. People apart from the trauma, far away, have already begun to bring their political agenda items to the tragedy and make sure they are debated. Because this is the right time for a political debate, right?

Here’s an idea: Why don’t you leave the grieving alone right now? Why don’t you not impose your agenda items on them? Why don’t you not force them to debate while they have tears in their throats? Don’t politicize their pain. Don’t turn this into a debate on a flag or guns. Don’t use it to make your points and wave your finger from your high horse. These people are doing it right without you. They are loving each other and helping each other. Let them grieve in peace. And respect them as what they are, heroic.


A Break in the Action

It's time for me to quit messing around on the computer and go pack a suitcase. I'm off in the morning for a brief trip to Charleston with a couple of friends. But somehow I find getting ready difficult. {Probably because the last time I was getting ready to do this, I ended up in a nightmare of ambulance rides and hospital stays. )

Anyhow, I'll only be gone for a few days, and I'm hoping the cats won't notice.  They usually love having the catsitter around instead of me because she plays with them and never makes them get off the keyboard. They get to eat more, too!

I'm not going to try any blog posts while I'm gone because I only want to carry my phone and an iPad mini.  Even library note-taking will be limited to one small moleskin notebook.  I'll try, however, to get some new and interesting pictures.

Charleston friends, where is the life-size statue of Wade Hampton?  Is it right there on Meeting Street? He's featured in the book I'm working on, so would like to get a shot of him.

Hold the fort while I'm gone. Tell your friends to read "Damned Yankee" in preparation for a late fall release, and we'll chat next week.

(Lisa and Will: I'm hoping my South Carolina venture turns out to be less exciting than yours has been, but I also know it's not going to be as sweet and beautiful. )

I'm Writing Last Week Out of My Personal Calendar.

In 1582, Pope Gregory XIII authorized the dropping of approximately 10 days in October from the old Julian calendar, in order to bring it more in line with the traditional seasons. Since he established the precedent, I'm recommending that we officially forget about the past week. It's not one I want to remember:

  • The death of a long-time mentor and friend.
  • Spilled coffee on computer desk.
  • Book chapters written: 0, zero, zilch!
  • New blood pressure medicine: causes three days of violent reaction--swollen feet, hands and face, nausea and dizziness, racing heart rate, and really weirdly, the loss of taste buds from the center of my tongue.
  • Friend travels to Lions meeting in SC and gives birth to 2-month premature infant while alone and 600 miles from home.
  • Power surge destroys water pressure (pumps run on electricity) and various appliances all over town. Air conditioner is dead and it's 96 degrees outside.
  • Two hours spent on phone trying to schedule repair before I embark on a trip of my own -- and then another hour trying to cancel that appointment when the  air conditioner decides all on its own to start working again.

I give up on June. Let's just drop the first seven days and start over in the morning. Hey, if the Pope could do it . . . .