"Roundheads and Ramblings"
Here's the opening scene, written at the beginning of my NaNoWriMo exercise this month. Comments, please?
urged him to have Hector bring the surrey around
and drive him to school, but Jonathan preferred to walk. Even though the sight of a white man being
driven by a slave was the norm in Charleston, Jonathan found it disturbing. He
understood the need for slave labor on the plantations and around the large
households of the city, but he refused to ask another man to do those things he
could do for himself. Besides, he felt energized after a brisk morning stroll,
and that energy kept him alert and enthusiastic in his classroom.
was beautiful in the mornings. The cobblestone streets still sparkled after
their overnight cleansing, and the sidewalks were still empty of loiterers. The
white steeple of St. Michael's Church made a sharp contrast with the deep blue
of the sky. Breezes ruffled the palm fronds only gently, and newly-opened roses
and azaleas pushed their way through iron fence posts to share their fragrance
with the city. The morning stillness was interrupted only by the occasional
clatter of a milk wagon, or the sleepy calls of awakening birds. The graveyard of the Circular Church offered
deep shadows softened by the green-gray sheen of swaths of Spanish moss. Then came the market area, enlivened by the
musical sounds of slave voices chattering in Gullah and the shouts of purveyors
unloading their merchandise. Jonathan breathed deeply, relishing the sights and
sounds that inspired him.
steps quickened as he approached the new Charleston Apprentice's Library
Building. He took great pride in the theory behind the school's founding: that
even common laborers would benefit from a broad education, not only from
learning their mechanical skills but through the heightened awareness that came
from the study of literature and history. The Apprentice School drew its
support from civic-minded businessmen in the city. The students attended for
free, needing only a recommendation and released time from their family or
employer. Jonathan loved teaching the young adolescents who came into his
classroom still fresh-faced and eager. They challenged him to offer the kinds
of knowledge that would help them become better citizens as well as better
morning, however, Jonathan's usually springy steps slowed as he caught sight of
a small figure crouched on the steps of the school. "Declan?" he
asked. "Declan McDermitt? Whatever is wrong? Have you been crying?"
boy scrubbed his fists furiously into his eyes, refusing to look up at his
dropped his book satchel and sat down on the step next to the boy. Gently, he
caught the boy's chin with two fingers and turned his head to face him.
Declan's red hair usually complemented his creamy complexion, but on this
morning, his cheeks were flushed with an angry red, and a deeper blue and
purple bruise surrounded one eye.
happened to you?"
had a fight. Doesn't matter." The words were soft and betrayed by their
you are definitely not the fighting sort!" Jonathan said. "Who hit
boy jerked his head away, his lips pressed tight in an effort to control their
trembling. Jonathan waited, understanding the boy's distress.
Grenville, why are you a damyankee?" The words came out in a rush,
although the boy still kept his head turned away.
caught his breath at those words coming from a fourteen-year-old child. For a
few moments he could not find his own voice.
His heart hammered as he realized the implications behind the simple
makes you ask that?" he said once he could trust his own composure.
"Where did you hear it?"
Da says that's what you are. You're a damyankee for telling us things in class
that aren't true." Declan was angry now and ready to confront this man he
had idolized for so long.
did I ever tell you that was untrue?"
said that congressman from South Carolina was wrong to attack Senator Sumner.
You said states do not have the right to defy the federal government. You said
slavery is wrong and needs to be abolished. You said . . ." As his anger
sputtered to an end, so too did his words.
did say all those things, Declan." Jonathan admitted. "I said them
because I believe them. But . . ."
I guess that's why you're a damyankee . . . .whatever that is. You said them,
and I believed you, and I went home and told my Da that I believed them, too,
because you said they were true, and he hit me. That's the whole story. And now
my Da's inside there talking to the headmaster and telling him that I can't go
to school here anymore because you're a damyankee." Declan's lower lip
trembled and tears welled in his eyes.
Just in case you've been wondering what I'm up to, here's the final report on "How I Spent My April."
Yes, despite a pledge never to do one of these marathons again, I decided that I needed to do something drastic to jumpstart my next book. April writing camp seemed promising because they let us set our own goals this time. Mine started out at 35,000 words. Here's what my day by day progress looked like:
If you look closely, you'll see that I actually wrote every day, except for the weekend of April 18-19, when I was away managing a two day meeting of the non-profit I'm responsible for. Today I topped out at 37,244 words, although there are two days left in the month. Actually I'm in such a writing rut now that I'll probably go right on for the next two days and try to hit the 40,000 word mark.
Do I recommend this approach? Yes and no. This time, it worked for me, and I'm looking at the first 40% or so of my next book. Even better, when I read over what I've churned out, it sounds pretty good. I learned a lot along the way. My characters took over and changed the story a bit. They also changed the title about half way through.
Part of the secret is that NaNoWriMo [That's National Novel Writing Month] encourages you to sit down and pound out the words without overthinking it too much. You're not supposed to worry about spelling or typos. All those corrections come later. It's the ideas that are important. I really have trouble ignoring my typos, particularly because the letter T on my keyboard sticks and I keep leaving that letter out. Still, it's been a fun exercise, and now I'm energized and ready to go on with the rest of the story.
Curious about what that story is? Well, maybe I'll give you a glimpse of it in the next couple of days. Then I'm off on vacation for a week, which may bring this whole motivation thing to a crashing halt. If it does, though, I'll know what to do about it. There's always another NaNoWriMo.
I've fallen behind again in my postings about the Civil War in Memphis 150 years ago. But here's the news from last week:
n recognition of the Civil War Sesquicentennial, “ War-Era
Memories” features excerpts from The Memphis Daily Appeal of 150 years
ago. The Appeal is publishing from Jackson, Miss. Perspective from our
staff is in italics.
Apr. 15, 1863
Memphis Items / Bold Theft — The “Argus” notices the fact that some
contemptible thief entered the church yard of St. Mary’s church on
Poplar Street and ran off a favorite cow belonging to Bishop Oley. This one amused me because they were so indignant. How would they have reacted if they had been around a couple of hears ago, when some vandals knocked the head off the virgin Mary in that same church yard?
Apr. 17, 1863
Yankees came out on the Hollow Ford Road from Memphis toward Hernando
yesterday, but Col. Faulkner advanced and promptly stopped them.
Movements at Vicksburg — Five Gunboats Pass Down / One Gunboat Burned
and Two Disabled — The Federal fleet made another important movemeCivilnt on
the river last night. Eight gunboats were sighted approaching the city,
and everything was put in readiness to receive them ... A fire from the
batteries was immediately opened, which was replied to by the vessels
with a terrific fire of grape and canister. Five of the boats succeeded
in running the gauntlet. (For more, read the “New York Times” account,
“Moonless on the Mississippi,” from the “Disunion” series at http://nyti.ms/17GENPm
Apr. 18, 1863
Latest by Telegraph — The suppression of the Memphis papers is
attributed to the republication of an article from the “Cincinnati
Commercial” censuring General Grant. The Federal cavalry at Memphis is
being increased for the purpose, it is supposed, of operating in
Letter from Richmond — I have the best reasons for believing that a
battle will be fought on the line of the Rappahannock in less than three
days’ time ... The month of April will be memorable in history. DIXIE
(The Appeal’s Virginia correspondent was right about an imminent battle,
although he was wrong on the timing. The Battle of Chancellorsville was
fought from April 30 to May 6 and resulted in the death of one of the
South’s greatest fighters, “Stonewall” Jackson.)
Apr. 20, 1863
Letter from Vicksburg — It is now reliably ascertained that the late
movement of Gen. Grant was a feint, for the purpose of inducing the
Confederates to reduce their forces here by sending the troops to points
threatened with more imminent danger. I have it also from reliable
authority that the reported arrival in Memphis of the greater part of
Grant’s army was a ruse, got up for the same purpose of misleading and
deceiving our authorities here. Instead of going to Memphis and on up
the river, the troops were simply removed from the peninsula opposite
Vicksburg to Milliken’s Bend, a distance of not more than twenty miles,
and the reinforcements are on the way down, instead of up the river.
What is World Book Night?
World Book Night’s mission is to inspire people who don’t regularly read, or have access to printed books, to sit down and read a great book by giving them one of 30 carefully chosen titles… for free. The books are chosen by a panel of librarians and booksellers, and this year they include:
• Girl With a Pearl Earring, by Tracy Chevalier
• Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury
• The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho
• Bossypants, by Tina Fey
• The Phantom Tollbooth, by Norton Juster and Jules Feiffer
• Playing For Pizza, by John Grisham
• Montana Sky, by Nora Roberts
• A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, by Mark Twain
• Me Talk Pretty One Day, by David Sedaris
• The House on Mango Street, by Sandra Cisneros
• and 20 others (Unfortunately, my book is not one of them, but I'm working on it!)
The books’ authors waive their royalties and the books’ publishers pay the production costs of specially-printed World Book Night editions. Bookstores and libraries come onboard as community host centers for the 25,000 volunteer book givers who will be distributing half a million free books.
While it's too late to become an official volunteer book giver for this year's event, it's not too late to choose to participate in a way that feels good to you.
What can YOU give away (or do) to support readers and writers on World Book Night--April 23rd?
Here are some possibilities. You can:
• Have a book giveaway for one or more of the books you've written--print OR ebooks.
• Go through your bookshelves and "recycle" books you're never going to read again (or ever) by giving them away to friends and family, donating them to your local library, or finding other creative ways of getting them back into circulation, whether into your local or online community.
• Give away services or a product that helps writers write or promote their books, through a contest or random giveaway (that's what I'm doing).
• Blog about the joys and benefits of either reading or writing... or BOTH!
• Brainstorm a totally unique and fun way to support readers and/or writers on World Book Night.
SEND ME AN E-MAIL: firstname.lastname@example.org BY MIDNIGHT TONIGHT
INCLUDE YOUR NAME AND E-MAIL ADDRESS
TELL ME WHICH ELECTRONIC FORMAT YOU PREFER (KINDLE, NOOK, ETC.)
I'LL ENTER YOU IN A DRAWING TO WIN A FREE ELECTRONIC EDITION OF "THE ROAD TO FROGMORE."
I didn't use to believe in trolls who live under bridges, but I do now, because I've met one. And what they say is true. He's ugly!
Perhaps it would be more correct to say that there's a troll living under my blog! For weeks now, I have been getting odd comments on old blog posts. They are usually vague remarks with little or no connection to the topic of the blog to which they are attached.
Their e-mail addresses are also suspicious. The writers never use a recognizable e-mail server like yahoo.com or gmail. I haven't clicked on those addresses because I had nothing to say in response to the vague comments. And I suspect that was a good thing. No telling where those links would have taken me.
In the last few days, however, my little troll has been getting more annoying. At the moment, he is placing bogus ads for fake watches on my old blog posts -- not just one a day, but 10 or 12 of them. Short of blowing him up, I would really like to get rid of him.
So, for the foreseeable future, I have disallowed all comments on my blog. If I get any more comments I will automatically know that they come from a TROLL and I can throw the notification into my spam filter.
I will also be going back through all my old blog posts and deleting all comments, even the nice ones, just in case.
For my faithful followers, I'm sorry. I'll miss you. If you want to leave me a message, please use my regular e-mail address. You can reach me any time at email@example.com
Trolls, however, are NOT welcome to invade my e-mail account. If you send me something stupid or spammy, you can expect to be blocked.