Wednesday, August 21, 2013

We Had a Gowdfish Dat Died

Tremendous thanks to all those who submitted questions in the Ask Jeeves post! I'll be answering those delightful inquiries quite soon, I hope, but I leave tomorrow for some time at the beach (YESSSSS) and shall be away for the rest of the week.  So, to tide you over until I'm gone, I present Summer Snippets.


“Don’t dogs usually just shake themselves dry?” Sylvia mumbled from behind her pile of towels.

“Indeed they do.  Which is why we have to dry Pumblechook because we never know where he’ll decide to shake himself.  One time he got inside the house somehow and did his drying in the living room.  Daddy’s editor was coming over that afternoon and Daddy hit the ceiling.”  Celia giggled.  “After that the absolute rule was that Pumblechook HAD to be bathed in the backyard and dried there.  We’ve all gotten really good at it-- in fact, a few summers ago Alice and Francie started a dog-washing business.  It didn’t get very many customers, but maybe that was because Francie had insisted on naming it the Toodle-Pip Poodle Dip because she thought that was cute.”

~The Rochesters

“Mark, for goodness’ sakes get down from there,” Francie shouted.  “If you fall and break your neck I’ll have to call an ambulance, and you know how I hate talking to strangers on the phone.”

~The Rochesters

Ethan has an incredible talent for waking up with a dirty face.  I’m not sure what causes it.  I mean, I do clean him before I put him to bed.  After every meal, too.  But all the same, he manages to present his bright eyed, bushy tailed self to me every morning with peanut butter or regular butter or toothpaste or who knows what smeared across his nose or forehead or even dabbed around his mouth.  Which is, of course, the area that I clean most thoroughly.  It’s infuriating and also a bit unsettling, because it makes me wonder if maybe he knows how to get out of the pack n’ play and go wandering around the flat to find himself a snack in the middle of the night.  (Hence the mess in the morning.)

I really hope not.  I was thinking I wouldn’t have to deal with random acts of eating at strange hours until he was at least thirteen or so.


“Oh, I hate pencils.”  The lady cheerfully arranged her handbag just so on her lap and beamed at Sylvia.  “Nasty little wooden things.  I’m quite sure you could get a splinter if you hold one the wrong way.  And with my rheumatism I’m always holding things the wrong way.  Besides which, the tips break too easily.  No, give me a good old-fashioned pen any day. Not that I blame you for using a pencil of course, dear.  Young folks will have their fun.”

~The Rochesters

“We had a gowdfish dat died,” said a little girl behind Derek, taking no notice of Mrs. Hennessey.

“Miss Darlene, I have a goldfish!”  Fiona cried.

“We flushed owah gowdfish down dah potty,” continued the little girl behind Derek, inexorably.

“My grammy flushes spiders down the potty,” offered a sober-faced little girl beside Fiona.

“So does my mommy!” shouted a little boy in the back.

“Use your library voice, Brandon." Mrs. Hennessey flipped pages loudly. "Let’s read our story, okay?”


Francie giggled as the screen door banged shut.  “She’s always making promises about being responsible when she’s left at home to be the oldest, and then we come home to find the laundry not done and the dishes sprouting vegetation in the sink.”

“I’m not sure who’s talking about dishes sprouting vegetation in the sink,” said Alice ominously, applying a washcloth with great gusto to certain portions of Timmy’s face.

~The Rochesters

Sylvia regarded the picture.  “Where’s the bear catcher?”

“He’ll be along in the next one.  We’re working on that.  You go ahead and write what they’re saying.”

“The bear, too?”

“Of course the bear, too.  That’ll be easy because you just have to write RAWR.”

Sylvia thought about this.  “How do you spell RAWR?”

Mark laid down his pencil, propped his chin on his hand and regarded Sylvia. “What kind of a school do you go to?”

~The Rochesters

Friday, August 9, 2013

Ask Jeeves

Patsy flew to the phone, delighted that no one older was available to take the privilege.   “Hello, Rochester resident?  Hi, George!  It’s Patsy!”  She always forgot that people on the other end of the phone couldn’t see you waving.  “Alice can’t talk right now, her mouth’s full, but mine isn’t.  What do you want to talk about?”
~The Rochesters

It's kinda-sorta awkward getting back into writing-blogging, you know.  I want to talk about all my projects right now but I hardly know where to begin. So... could you help me?  If I provide you with some general information about the stories I'm working on, could you be a little family of ducks and ask some questions to get me started?

Because, you know, it's so much easier to answer questions than it is to start from pure scratch and try to figure out on one's own what people want to know.  (I borrowed this idea from Jenny Freitag, by the way, and she's had great success with it so I thought why not try it myself.)  But to give you a little bit of Gen. Inf...

First of all there's The Rochesters.  This has been my mere working title for a long time now, but I'm seriously considering making it the for-reals title.  Because titles should tell readers what the story's about, and this particular story is about the Rochesters-- a big, noisy family that names pets after Dickens characters and plans birthday parties in the midst of wedding preparations and goes on picnic breakfasts without a Word of Warning and takes in an orphaned cousin for the summer.  I'm not at all sure that this title is eye-catching enough, but until/unless I can come up with a better one, it's doing very nicely.

Anyway, my goal is to finish TR's first draft by the end of August.  I'm hereby asking you all to hold me to that.   Currently it stands at about 35,500 words but I'm making some rather drastic changes to the beginning and of course intend to add quite a bit to the end as I'm not even halfway through the story.  Heehee.  I anticipate the final draft being some 85,000.  Ish.

I've blogged a good deal about the Rochesters and their quirks already, so you can check out their tag if you want a bit more to go on.  (Do ask questions, though.  Please.  It's the point of this post.  I should hate for the poor thing to go to waste.  Blog posts are people too, you know.)

Then there's the Jennifer story, so named because the main character's name is Jennifer.  I know.  I'm so original.  But hey, Jane Austen named one of her best books Emma, so I'm in good company.  (No, I am mistaken.  That is not good company; that is the best.)  This is one of my first forays into the world of contemporary stories, and I'm feeling quite liberated as I piddle with it.  No need for historical research or attempts at accuracy in the dialogue... nope, these characters live and work and recreate (that's the verb form of recreation, right?  Right?) much as I do.  Except that my main character's circumstances are quite different from mine.

In brief, Jennifer Farnham's parents were tragically killed in a car accident when she was nineteen (my MC's seem to have a running theme of dead parents... I hope that doesn't indicate something bad about me) and she was left with the responsibility of caring for her three-year-old brother Ethan.  Foregoing college plans and balancing a part-time job, keeping the rent paid at a tiny apartment and potty training a precocious toddler would keep her busy enough, but on top of it all she has to deal with her worldly and unsympathetic grandmother, who would like nothing more than to take over Jennifer's life and be in charge of both her and Ethan.   Yay, I have now succeeded in sounding exactly like the back of a cheesy Hallmark DVD.  Score.

Oh, and then we throw in a young married couple who take Jennifer and Ethan under their wings, so to speak, and the guy Jennifer had a crush on in tenth grade who is suddenly back in her life again, and an elderly lady from church with a tongue like a metal spatula (it's like a knife, only not quite as sharp, and it often accompanies cake) and you have a story that I'm having way too much fun with.  In my head, that is.  The amount that I actually have written is sad and pathetic and humiliating.  I'm working on that.  And my plans for August pretty much solely revolve around TR anyway, so I doubt I'll do much work on Jennifer and her crowd, but she's always at the back of my mind and will be waiting for me come September.  So ask questions about her, too.

And of course anything else you might like to know.
Help me?
You're the bestest.
Thank you.