Tag Archives: novel manuscript

In person

Look who came to visit! After years of FB messaging, sharing online reading, exchanging chapter reviews and comments about sewing, Deb Lacativa and I met in person. It felt as though we’d known each other for decades.

Deb was in town to deliver the key note speech at a writers’ conference in Salem. Her talk was what you’d expect: at once earthy, humorous, and inspirational. I was proud to be her plus-one.

During her visit, I made a bland chili, an alright chicken and potato dish, and an okay spinach salad. Why is it, sometimes, that my renditions of tried and true dishes disappoint when I have guests?

Oh well.

It rained one day but that was okay. Deb joined my class that morning and wrote along with us. That was fun. She also blew everyone away by reading a portion of her manuscript.

Regarding my own draft: conversations at the conference about word count have me all fired up. Today, I printed out a list of chapters and highlighted those that I either love or deem essential. That left about half as dross. Half! I’m eager to see a leaner, more narrative version.

The world is rather rusty and yellow right now. Still quite a lot of raking to do.

The collapsed vegetation offers the rough beauties of decay.

A faux tree made of road ribbons!

Dogged effort 

I tried to download a Countdown Clock to help me focus on an arbitrary deadline (to finish a first draft). But it’s too complicated, so I’ll just tell you. An October 30, 2017 deadline means I have 109 days left.

That’s pretty sobering and I guess that’s the idea.

A quick check in on progress —

— revising an early chapter when Eliza’s father and his newly purchased Barbadian slave sail back to Antigua, where the Lucas family lives.

“How long would that take?” was a question that suddenly needed answering.

Ugh, I spent an impossible amount of time trying to find out. First, determined the distance between islands was 492 kilometers. Then converted kilometers to nautical miles (a nautical mile = 1.8 km). Then learned that American nautical miles and British nautical miles are not the same and decided not to worry about that. Also decided not to worry about wind speed or direction, in part because I can never remember what ‘a northerly wind’ means — as in, does it blow IN from the north, or TOWARDS the north? (I’m pretty sure it’s the former).

My rough calculation: three days. For some reason, I’d been operating under the assumption that it was an afternoon’s sail.

So, now I need to think about: What else would have been on that schooner? Would a newly purchased slave be allowed to wander about at will? Where would she have slept? If there was human cargo on board, what would it’ve been like for her to see them, chained in irons in the dark hold below? And, if she was unable to see them, would she have been able to hear them? Would she have had any conversations with her new owner and if so, what about?

My character is musing about the power and variety of lies (in part because she understands that the stated reason for her purchase is a lie), but something needs to happen since pure musing gets boring.

Yesterday, I revised a chapter where skunk bones figure heavily. An enslaved man recently arrived on the Lucas plantation in South Carolina, is a trained priest (babalawo) from Ife and grieving a brother who died during the Middle Passage. He wishes to remain apart, hidden, even. But when he finds an entire skunk skeleton, he takes it as a sign that he cannot walk away from his power.