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"Roundheads and Ramblings"

July 2011

It's the Little Things that Get You!


I'm going to spend several days this week going over tips for doing your own preliminary editing. Not that I'm at the editing stage of the new book yet -- far from it --but maybe if I think about the rules now,  I won't have so much work to do in October.

"One of the best things you can do to improve your writing is to just read through all of it and get rid of all the little words that you really don't need."

Now there's a fine, wordy sentence for you.  What does it say? How about: "Improve your writing by removing unnecessary words."

Yes, you're right.  That's going to reduce your word count, which is why I don't worry too much about wordiness while I'm doing NaNoWriMo exercises.  But while reducing your word count, it's also reducing your reader's irritation, and that's a good thing.

  Here's a list of little words you don't need:

SO (as in "I was so glad to see him.")  There's an exception here: "so" is acceptable only when it is followed by a "that" -- as in "She was SO short THAT she only saw people from the waist down."

VERY (as in "I was very, very tired.")

THAT (as in ("I thought that I should leave." )

ALTHOUGH ("Although, I'm not sure I should."")

YET ("She hasn't arrived yet.")

RATHER ("It seemed rather rude.")

JUST ("I was just waiting for an excuse to leave.")

NEARLY ("I was nearly exhausted.")

EVEN  ("Even the other guests were bored.")

SORT OF ("The milk was sort of soured.")

ALMOST ("The roast beef was almost burned.")

IN SPITE OF  ("I was irritated in spite of myself.")

PERHAPS ("I could, perhaps, take a nap.")

QUITE ("I was quite tempted to do it.")

FOR A MOMENT ("I hesitated for a moment.")

THEN ("Then I walked out.")

SUDDENLY ("Suddenly I stopped.")

I copied the  list from another blogger several years ago, and I've used it ever since.  Once your manuscript is complete,  go to the "find and replace" function in your word processor,  and scan the whole manuscript for  each word. That means you'll go through the whole manuscript about 18 times, but you'll be surprised at how many other errors you'll spot along the way.

Every time you find one of the words on the list, ask yourself if the meaning of the sentence changes when you take the word out. If it doesn't, drop it.  Now granted, the sentences above sound a bit choppy once the "little words" are gone, but you can always add a more inventive phrase when you need to.

One final caveat: Don't just do a blind "find and remove."  You have to look at each instance and make a conscious decision.  The word "that," for example, is necessary in many places.  (This one is spoiled; THAT one is not.)

And sometimes these words make an important point about your character.  If she always states her opinion by prefacing it with "perhaps," we realize she is unsure of herself. In her conversation, leave it in.  In your narrative, take it out.




Civil War Friday (or Saturday)

I'm still sweating over the transfer of materials to my new iMac.  I did a stupid (read: smart-ass) thing in the Apple store, telling the clerk that I knew what I was doing and I didn't need to pay him an extra $100 to copy my files from my old computer to the new one. Sigh!  This is day four, and I'm not nearly done.  I have, however, made good friends with several helpful customer service people in their telephone service department. So while I continue to flounder in payment for the sin of pride, here is an article I've been meaning to post.

TENNESSEE’S 2011 CIVIL WAR SESQUICENTENNIAL SIGNATURE EVENT ANNOUNCED
(COOKEVILLE, Tenn.)

In commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War, Tennessee's Sesquicentennial Commission announces the state's second Sesquicentennial Signature Event, taking place Sept. 6 and 7 at Tennessee Tech University in Cookeville. The theme for the event is "Civil War in the Borderland."  Kix Brooks, country music artist and owner of Arrington Vineyards, is slated to make a special appearance for the event.

"The Civil War Sesquicentennial will focus the world's attention on this pivotal time in our nation's history," said Commissioner Susan Whitaker, Tennessee Department of Tourist Development and co-chair of the Tennessee Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission.  "We expect thousands of visitors to make their way to Tennessee to learn about the state's role in the war."

The event will consist of historical discussions, musical performances, stories and living history demonstrations. TTU joins the Tennessee Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission, Tennessee Civil War National Heritage Area, Tennessee Historical Society and the Upper Cumberland Civil War Roundtable to sponsor a series of distinguished speakers and other events in Cookeville.

"Tennessee is creating a national model for how to plan and commemorate the Civil War Sesquicentennial by sharing how the war impacted families, farms and towns across the state as well as leaving tens of thousands of brave soldiers dead on its 38 designated nationally significant battlefields," said Dr. Carroll Van West, director of MTSU Center for Historic Preservation and Tennessee Civil War National Heritage Area and co-chair of the Tennessee Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission.

 Dr. Gary Gallagher of the University of Virginia will kick off the keynote address on Sept. 6. Gallagher's presentation, sponsored by the Upper Cumberland Civil War Roundtable and Tennessee Tech University, will feature Understanding the Civil War: Causes, Meaning and Memory After 150 Years.

 "With at least one Civil War battle fought in each of Tennessee's 95 counties, this state was a crucial location for both the Union and the Confederate armies," said TTU President Bob Bell "We're proud that TTU, 150 years later, can be the location for a commemoration with such a rich heritage and historical significance."

For the first time, Tennessee State Library and Archives will host the Looking Back: The Civil War in Tennessee event as part of the Sesquicentennial Signature Event on Sept. 6 from 10a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Cookeville History Museum. The Looking Back project allows Tennesseans to digitally preserve Civil War photos and memorabilia to create a permanent, public archive online.

 A series of four speakers have been lined up for a symposium Sept. 7. They include:
 • Dr. Charles Bryan of the Virginia Historical Society, who will present a regional overview of the Civil War
 • Dr. Connie Lester of the University of Central Florida, who will speak about Lucy Virginia French's Civil War and the southern plateau perspective
 • Dr. Brian McKnight of the University of Virginia's College at Wise, who will speak about his recently published book, Confederate Outlaw: Champ Ferguson and the Civil War in Appalachia
 • Dr. Larry Whiteaker of TTU will detail the Civil War in the Upper Cumberland region.

 Tennessee is the only entire state designated by the U.S. Congress as a Civil War National Heritage area. Another important Sesquicentennial initiative is Tennessee's Civil War Trails program. The program is part of a multi-state Civil War Trails initiative which interprets and creates driving tours of both the great campaigns and the lesser-known Civil War sites. Tennessee, ranking in the top two states for Civil War battlefield sites, joins four other states in this important project. The entire program has been identified by the National Trust for Historic Preservation as one of the most successful and sustainable heritage tourism programs in the nation.


Registration for Tennessee's Sesquicentennial Signature Event is free and open to the public. For more information, please visit tncivilwar150.com.


Book Award Winner!

I did not expect to publish a blog today, because I'm drowning in the process of transferring materials to a new computer.  However, this news is too good not to share.  In this morning's email, I received the following:

 Dear Carolyn

Congratulations!

Your book has been chosen one of the NABE Pinnacle Book Achievement
Award Winners for Summer 2011.

The Pinnacle Award Sticker Logo in JPEG format is attached to this e-mail so
you can use it at your website.

You can order the actual Pinnacle Award stickers to place on your book
as well as Pinnacle Book Achievement Award certificate at this URL:
http://goo.gl/HNzvL

We also have a Pinnacle Winners page on our website that you can visit at

We will  be doing publicity about the winners in the next issue
of Book Dealers World, which will be coming out in about 10 days.
A Press Release will  be sent out across the internet.

Pinnacle Book Achievement Award Books will  be featured as winners at the
upcoming book trade show exhibits. This is a bonus for publishers who have signed
up for the showcases. If you have not signed up for the shows, please
do so as soon as possible and take advantage of this extra showcase benefit.
Here's the URL:
http://www.bookmarketingprofits.com/TradeShows.html

Thanks again for doing a great job on your book.

Gullah Wednesday: Recipes from a Slave Cabin

Gullah Grub is a matter of making something great out of whatever  you happen to have on hand.  In the case of the South Carolina Low Country slaves, it involved this general set of instructions.

Take a big pot (you probably only have one), and sizzle some bits of salt pork, both for the grease and for the salt. Then fry some onions (from the patch outside your cabin door).

Add whatever starch is available. This is usually rice or hominy (grits) because those are the local crops.

Add some vegetables (tomatoes and okra in the summer, dried field peas of some kind in the winter, and greens in the spring and fall).

Toss in an old chicken that quit laying eggs or whatever you can fish out of the local waters -- oysters, clams, shrimp, croakers (that's a fish, not a frog, although in a pinch a frog might work), or even a turtle.
 
Season with some kind of hot pepper if you have it.

Cook it all into a thick stew that you can eat, using oyster shells for spoons.

You probably don't need any other recipe, but here are a couple of examples of how the basic dish changes with the seasons.

 Hoppin' John

. . . .is a traditional Southern feast on New Year’s Day. It’s a wonderful blend of rice, black-eyed peas, and ham that will bring you luck all year.


  • 1 1/2 cups dried black-eyed peas

  • 6 strips salt pork or bacon, diced

  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 
2 cups cooked rice
  • Salt and pepper to taste

  • Dash of hot sauce

  • 1/2 cup minced green onions, including tops


Rinse peas and pick them over. Cover with cold water; add 1 tablespoon salt and let stand overnight.

Drain peas, discarding water, and place in a 6 to 8-quart stockpot. In a 10-inch cast iron skillet, saute salt pork or bacon until crisp; add it to the peas, reserving the drippings.

Add onion, a little salt and 2 cups water. Bring just to a boil, lower heat, and simmer until peas are tender, about 20 minutes. A small amount of the cooking liquid should remain; if liquid is absorbed too quickly, add fresh water by1/4 cups.

Stir in 2 tablespoons of the reserved bacon drippings, salt, pepper and hot sauce to taste. Cover and simmer about 15 minutes longer so flavors combine and rice absorbed some of the remaining cooking liquid.


To serve, garnish with green onions.

Limpin' Susan

This Low Country dish combines okra, rice and shrimp for a hearty one-pot meal in the summer. Legend has it that Limpin’ Susan was the wife of Hoppin’ John.

    •    1/4 cup green bell pepper, diced
    •    1/4 cup yellow onion, diced
    •    2 cloves garlic, minced
    •    1 pound okra, stems and tips removed, sliced 1/4 inch thick
    •    1 pound shrimp, peeled
    •    3 tablespoons vegetable oil
    •    1 cup long-grain white rice
    •    2 cups chicken stock
    •    1 teaspoon salt
    •    Ground black pepper and cayenne pepper to taste

In a 12-inch cast iron skillet over medium heat, saute the the onion and pepper in the oil until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and saute for 2 minutes, being careful not to burn it.

Add the rice and stir well with a fork until the grains are coated and cook, stirring often about 3 to 4 minutes or until rice is opaque.

Add the okra, stock, salt, and black and cayenne peppers and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and and simmer, covered, until the rice is tender and the liquid has been absorbed, about 20 minutes.

Adjust seasonings, stir in the shrimp and cook until the shrimp curl and turn pink, about 4 to 6 minutes.

Transfer to a bowl and serve.

Projects Multiplying Like Rabbits

MONDAY'S RBOC EDITION:

I just filled out one of those profile pages for a new bit of social media, where I stated my occupation as "Retired." Who am I kidding? I'm not  usually one to keep lists, but how else will I ever keep tract of this?

1. Breaking News: The electronic editions of Beyond All Price are now free on Smashwords. (111 copies have been snatched up already!) Just download and start reading.  Please.  I've entered the warm-up phase of getting ready to do an anniversary re-launch of my book. That will happen around mid-August, but in the meantime, I'd like to build up a slightly larger reader base.  This is an absolutely cost-free way for you to sample the book and see if you like it.  If you do,a short review would be extremely helpful.  I'm also hoping that AmazonKindle will follow suit (since they usually price-match) and put their edition on their "free Kindle" list. That should boost the sales figures. I'll be sure to let  you know if the Amazon price drops.  During the re-launch, there will also be a huge sale on the trade paper edition, but for now free e-books are the way to go.

2. I'm getting ready to put out a regular newsletter for subscribers to my e-mail list.  Publication of the first edition is still a couple of weeks out, so you have time to get on the list.  Just leave an e-mail address in the comment section below.

3. I'm still working on NaNoWriMo (Summer Camp edition).  My plan is to finish the first 50,000 words of The Road to Frogmore by the end of July, and then be ready for a final push during the regular NaNoWriMo month of November. How's it going? Well, my pace is slowing down, but I'm still ahead of the curve. I've written 31,107 words, which leaves 18,893 words to go and 13 days left in camp. I promise to get back to work today.

4. Lurking behind me on the futon are three accumulating piles of "stuff." I am first vice-president of a non-profit -- Mid-South Lions Sight and Hearing Services,  which provides free vision and hearing care for indigent residents of a four-state area.  Our biggest fund-raiser is a charity auction, which will take place the first weekend in August.  ((Donations gratefully accepted!)  My home Lions Club is gathering items for three baskets to be part of our silent auction, so I have all their contributions for "Home Handyman", "Klever Kitchen," and "Picnic and Patio" baskets.  Must get them put together soon.

5. Along with the auction, we'll be holding our quarterly meeting, so I'm getting ready to host a two-day Hospitality Suite, and overseeing plans for decorations for our Auction Casino Night and Dinner. Can I still wear multiple hats? Keeping fingers crossed.

6. In my "spare" time, I also serve as president of my local Lions Club.  My 2011-2012 budget is due a week from today.  And that involves, among many other things, some long-range planning for our 40th anniversary dinner and project.  We're hoping to begin fund-raising for a Sensory Garden to be installed in a new City Farm, which is just now on the drawing boards.  I'm really excited about the idea.  It would provide a place where everyone (but particularly the visually-impaired) could go to explore the use of all five senses.  We would have strongly scented flowers and herbs, along with the barnyard; various textures, from rough tree bark to snail slime; sounds of running water, wind through reeds, and of course birds and insects; and a carefully-controlled tasting lab for herbs, fruits, and vegetables grown on the farm.

So that's my world.  Blog posts fit in there somewhere, of course. But what's happening in  your world?