Up before dawn

Downstairs by four. Reading. An old Mary Stewart romance: The Moonspinners.

I have a new mental touchstone. Not quite a mantra, but close. At odd times during the day I remind myself that I am having a day that my mother did not get. She did not live to be 63 1/2. A day she did not get.

The next week, at least, will be very busy. The editor and I spoke for close to an hour yesterday. At last! We got into the weeds: chapter heading formatting, the improper use of single quotes, when to italicize.

Also addressed some content: Why Saffron has no African name when the other characters who made the Middle Passage do. Where to cut in chapters of secondary characters (Eliza’s father, Melody’s first owner). And voice. That’s a biggie. An author’s note at front was recommended to address the fact that none of the enslaved characters would have had the English vocabulary I’ve given them.

17 thoughts on “Up before dawn

  1. RainSluice

    Very exciting FINALLY about your first in depth meeting with this hot-shit editor! To have such a person pour over your own novel, focused and engaged seriously, with your work and only with you – wow. It is not lost on me how much courage this takes on both sides. I really will hold you in the light as you go through this process. I often use that phrase because I don’t understand prayer per se. I will light a candle each evening and send my love while meditating on the flame. Those inner circles of thought moving outward from me, to friends, to the world, to the universe. I am not Buddhist but I love the concepts and find it grounding when I practice it. Hopefully the vibes reach you and lend strength through the atmosphere.
    Your mom died younger than I thought, really I imagined – because I’ve learnt that imagine a lot when people I know pass on. We were so young. Your boys were babes! (Big sigh…)
    I too cherish the sweet predawn, the birds, the sky, the soft light. Ride this deep sea, Dee, with all your glory, no matter how tumultuous the waters – well you already are on your self-made yacht and your crew is heeling into the big wind – whaaaahoooo!! This gift of time and expertise are yours to take and on and carry forward.
    Part of me says,”Does Dee really need an editor?”. I know, every writer needs an editor. Right there, now was my question mark supposed to be inside the quotation marks because it was a question that already occurred? Please don’t bother to answer that question. xx

    1. deemallon Post author

      Thank you for your thoughts, Maggie. It means a lot to me that you would do this. I was thirty nine when my mother died; twenty six when Dad went. Somehow because I only recently reached an age of outliving my mother, she is more on my mind these days.

  2. Joanne

    I have years to go before living longer than my parents- though they had very unhappy lives. I have outlived all but one sibling. My husband has outlived parents and sibling. Editing. Don’t we all self edit our lives? Why not our words..

  3. Mo Crow

    Yay for this good critique from your editor, you have me wondering what is the ‘proper’ use for single quotation marks and italics?

    1. deemallon Post author

      Well italics for all book titles. I had used italics for the names of ships and newspapers but for some reason put all the book titles in quotes. All words attributable to a character go between double quotes even if not actually spoken in dialogue.

      1. Deborah Lacativa

        I so want to fight about that one. I have many instances where I’ve used single quotes because something was not spoken or thought. I’ve been advised that, since I plan on self-publishing, I can make my own rules as long as I abide by them consistently. Still, I’ll probably knuckle under with this one just to keep the grammar police at bay.

  4. Nancy

    Oh Dee! What a wonderful post this is! To have the time and focus to work with with someone so closely, this is grand! Oy, the grammar part…I am awful, especially since now most of my writing is blog related and so viewed by me as art and ‘talking’. This means I do whatever I want with punctuation! I’m excited for you and proud of you. This is a grand adventure you’re on! I to think of my mama in regards to my own life, but in a different way as she lived to be 80. Take care.

    1. deemallon Post author

      There is something to journal writing that I’ve always liked — it’s casual immediacy, especially.

  5. Acey

    I love that video! Thought maybe it was the nearby beech tree but then the leaves looked like oak. loved, as a tween, the walt disney movie version of the Moonspiners with Haley Mills. “well I daresay my shoulder could be more comfortable than the ruins of ancient Crete.”

    Another synchronicity path-crossing moment via Mary Stewart. Just around the time you were making that video I pulled out The Stones of Florence which I always like to free range read around this time of year. Anniversary of the dates when I was there for that magical overnight experience from the collage

    really though the lede is your time with the editor and all that was covered. Was particularly interested in the suggested author’s note addressing the vocabulary scope you gave your characters. You must be psyched!

    (My mother died two months before her 53rd birthday. Remember having a check in for truly crippling headaches with my primary care doc and revealing I was two days shy of the age my mother had been when she died. Doc responded “now see that scares me.” I laugh now every time I think about it but at the time I had to bite down on asking how she thought *I* was feeling about it..)

    1. deemallon Post author

      I remember bits of the Haley Mills movie as well — though certainly not enough to quote the film. I’m impressed!

      The trees were maples and the big black walnut out front. There might be an oak over by my neighbor’s side yard but I don’t think so.

      We were supposed to go to Florence in March this year, just as the pandemic was revving up there. I’ve never been 🙁.

      To be working closely with the manuscript is very exciting, especially with someone so very skilled and so laudatory.

      My dad died at 54. K’s mom was 52. Those are young ages! I’m not surprised you had a symptom at the anniversary. Sometimes our bodies are way ahead of our minds!

      1. Acey

        it’s not that impressive. I only remember that one line. Salted it away because 12 year old me thought it was a sexy kinda snappy comeback and hoped someday to be able to use it. Finally could about a year ago because we watched it with a young friend and he laughed at the line so I knew he’d remember it long enough to appreciate what I was actually saying when I used it.
        another life goal achieved against all odds …

        ‘way long before that I went through a phase in my later teens where I enjoyed imagining I was the one who heard rather than said the line. From David Bowie. In Ziggy Stardust garb, natch.

  6. Tina

    I’m excited for you and this fascinating journey of writing to publishing a novel. This journey is one that so many can only dream about. Now if you could only sleep through the night.

    1. deemallon Post author

      We shall see. We shall see. No matter what else happens, I have written a novel. No one can take that away from me. Never thought I had it in me. Not sure why, given that tons of people write novels every year. For me, it was a big deal.

  7. Michelle Slater

    Glorious that night sky pre dawn and the video with bird song. It is my favorite time of day. Happy to hear you are marching on with your book. Such industry and dedication is admirable. Thoughts of mother…mine gone since 1979, father since 1953 and my ‘little’ brother December 1919. No family now but my sister in law and we wee never close. Recently I thought ‘Jay was wise to leave the planet before Covid 19’ and smiled at his mass card. Meanwhile my isolation is intense. I almost like it though occasionally miss contact with dear friends afar. People are so often a trial that this separation feels like a relief from the effort. I do spend a lot of time on Zoom sessions with my Buddhist Zendo and treasure them,
    May all go well for you.

  8. Deborah Lacativa

    About that vocabulary. I wondered about it a little in the beginning but as you gave each character a clear voice, I was easily willing to suspend disbelief regarding the language. Otherwise, how to tell their stories?

    I have a dye color called Deep Space…that night sky is beautiful. Have you seen the comet yet?


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