Archive for May, 2010

Last Full Measure

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May 31st, 2010 Posted 8:25 am

As we pulled out of the abandoned housing development I picked up that scent again and started barking.

“Yeah, I know,” Bernie said. “I don’t want to go to Vegas either.”

We were going to Vegas? Was that why I was barking? No. It was the scent. I barked some more.

“Easy, boy,” said Bernie. He glanced over at me. “Hungry, by any chance?”

Actually, I was. I stopped barking, began thinking of different kinds of food. What a world, just chock full of different kinds of food, although chalk itself turned out not to be food, as I’d discovered once, and then again, and maybe a few more times.

Soon we parked at a convenience store. Bernie went in and got milk bones for me and a roast beef sandwich for him. And part of it for me, when it ended up he couldn’t finish, or something liked that. “I see the look in your eye,” Bernie said. Roast beef: what can I say?

We drove to Vegas. Bernie was very quiet and a bit sad. That doesn’t happen often. I squeezed a little closer to him. He gave me a pat. “Memorial Day, Chet,” he said.

We remember.

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Sundays With Ingrid (2)

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May 30th, 2010 Posted 9:02 am

The history teacher didn’t show up Wednesday morning, which meant one: a sub, in this case Mr. Porterhouse, gym and health teacher, and two: an automatic extension on the Whiskey Rebellion paper, a lucky break for Ingrid who’d forgotten all about it once, remembered in the picnic area at the falls, and then somehow forgotten again.

“What,” said Mr. Porterhouse, reading from a note card, “is the significance of the Boston Tea Party?”

No hands went up.

“C’mon, you sports,” said Mr. Porterhouse; he called everyone “sport.” “The Boston Tea Party – dawn’s early light, rockets’ red glare, big big big.”

Ingrid, who thought she’d had a pretty good grip on the Boston Tea Party until that moment, now wasn’t sure.

Still no hands. Mr. Porterhouse fingered the whistle that always hung around his neck. Was he going to blow it?  “Know what they say about them that – those that forget history?”

No hands.

“They’re totally – “  Mr. Porterhouse stopped whatever he was going to say, backed up. “They’re in the cra – in the toilet, is what.” He paused to let that sink in. “So, Boston Tea Party, significance of.”

Brucie raised his hand. Mr. Porterhouse didn’t see him. Brucie waved his hand around like a red-carpet celebrity. He was invisible to Mr. Porterhouse.

“’Kay,” said Mr. Porterhouse. “Baby steps. Where did it happen?”

Where did the Boston Tea Party happen? Was that what he was asking? Ingrid sat up: this was starting to get interesting.

Mr. Porterhouse suddenly whirled and pointed straight at Dustin Dratch, sitting beside his twin brother Dwayne; easy to tell them apart – Dustin had the cauliflower ear.  They were the biggest kids at Ferrand Middle by far, partly because they were fifteen, having been held back twice despite the social promotion rule in Echo Falls schools.

“Tell the people, Dustin,” said Mr. Porterhouse.

“What people?” said Dustin.

Dwayne made a snorting noise, its meaning unclear.

“These people, Dustin,” said Mr. Porterhouse. “Your fellow scholars.”

Dustin looked around the room, squinting a bit, as though trying to spot something cleverly hidden. “Tell ‘em what, again?” he said.

“Whereabouts of the Boston Tea Party,” said Mr. Porterhouse.

From where Ingrid sat, she could see Dwayne nudge Dustin under desk level, and maybe whisper something quickly too, although they might have just relied on twin telepathy. Whatever the message, Dustin passed it onto the class. “They had it in a restaurant,” he said. “Like, where else?”

(From Into the Dark)

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Putting Our Heads Together

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May 29th, 2010 Posted 10:08 am

“A guy like Foster doesn’t leave money on the table,” Bernie said. We were sitting in the car at the empty housing development; a big scrap of pink insulation blew by. I didn’t like the smell of insulation, not one bit. And the wind was also carrying this other scent, very faint, but –

“I mean, money’s his raison d’etre, right?” Bernie said. Raisins? Were raisins coming out? Not my favorite, but I was pretty hungry at the moment, would settle for just about anything. But Bernie didn’t reach into his pocket, or the glove box, or anywhere else raisins might be. Also, did I smell raisins? No.

“On the other hand,” said Bernie, “there are probably underlying psychological motives with the Fosters of the world. And certainly with the Albies. Although maybe not the Nuggets Bolliterris.” Hey! I remembered Nuggets. Did he actually eat that light bulb? Hope he was doing okay now in his orange jumpsuit.

“Sure would be interesting to know whether Foster’s really headed for L.A.,” Bernie said. Would it? Didn’t seem interesting to me, but if Bernie said it was then that was that. “But the only way to approach that problem is to check the one place he definitely won’t be if his story is straight up.” Bernie sighed. “I just hate going there, that’s all.”

I waited to find out where, or to find out what he was talking about in general, or for a snack of just about any kind. There’s a lot of waiting in this business.

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No Post Today

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May 28th, 2010 Posted 8:11 am

Because it turns out to be real busy. Why, I’m not sure. And where’s my breakfast? Here’s something from the Extras as the end of the paperback of Reality Check.

Enid’s Laws (by Enid, circa 1957; annotations and #7 much later, not by Enid):

1. Organization is everything.

If the story isn’t organized, what have you got? A mess. To be organized, you have to make some big decisions from the get-go, such as: What’s the POV? One character? Multi? Tell it in first person? Third? How about the tense? Tone? I’ve got a nice beginning but will it lead to an end? Getting stuck without an end is bad. Make sure an ending is possible, and “the world blows up” doesn’t count. There are maybe 10,000 decisions in writing a novel. Accept that.

2. Fiction is about reversals.

Just like high school or college wrestling (meaning real wrestling). It’s much more fun to watch a back-and-forth match than a blowout.

3. Torment your protagonist.

Or, flipping it the other way, don’t fall in love with your characters. And the main one – perhaps hero, perhaps not – needs to be tested.

4. Push everything as far as you can without contriving.

Get everything you can from your ideas – don’t leave the gold mine only partly dug. But stop before you do anything that makes the reader feel your behind-the-scenes presence and think that terrible thought: That couldn’t happen.

5. Always advance the story.

Sometimes when you’re writing you’ll come up with a lovely little passage, a description of sagebrush at sunset, say, and a white dove gliding low. Does it move the story forward? No? Then out it goes. Shoot that dove!

6. Be original.

On every page! In every paragraph! No boilerplate! Ever!

7. (added much later) Be playful.

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