Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Bette's list of things to fix:

Page 42: Que sera sera. Need feminine: ma petite

Page 48: That was not a sign.

Page 50: flourescents

Page 51: cliché

Page 56: They were close to the ball field (drop comma) now.

Page 63: She walked over to the other car. Opened the door. Sat down. (Maybe move her into the car. Could be she just sat down on the ground.)

Page 64: He said nothing. Then he said, "Nothing (nothin’)." ???

Page 76: Bottom of page - But release me from by (my) bands with the help"

Page 91: Middle of page - Pamela should be cooking supper (drop comma) about now.
Middle of same paragraph - need space between break for eating out and She’d have on her
Very bottom line: he imagined her peeling potatoes (drop comma) now

Page 92: Into the kitchen works better for my ears than door onto the kitchen. Moot point.

Page 106: It brushed the back of her neck

Page 119: Need discreet for discrete / Pentecostal for Pentacostal

Page 124: She eyed at (drop) the carpet

Page 125: seems to be an extra page

Page 126: first line - drop comma between Escambia and River

Page 127 - top line - don’t think you want "which"

I’ve never seen anyone construct an ellipsis the way you do - but I ain’t fixin’ to question such a pro

Page 131 - middle of the page: She had sought to protect her little girl from the harshness of the world in her childhood . . . I’m certain you mean Willodean’s childhood - but is a hint confusing

Page 133: Just below the middle - decap Daddy

Page 136: seems to be an extra page

Page 138: Toward end of 3rd complete pp - ignited a fire inside (the) walls
bottom line - opened at (in) both of the churches - Moot point

Page 141: opening line - Is it just me or does that line present a bit of a pov problem?

Page 142: I thought barbershop poles were red and white - and have never seen one with blue. You know the history of them - right? Barbers used to be surgeons - or at least that’s the old saw I learned - hence the red and white.

Page 146: 1st sentence - last full pp: Willodean recalled how Jake used (to) close his shop on Thursdays, as if the day was (were) a holiday Willodean might think "was" - so also (yet again) moot point

Page 151: LOVE "casket the color of history"

Page 152: four lines down: need inscribed for enscribed End of that pp: eyes to the carpet between her toes (sounds barefoot)

Page 153: middle of the page - Do you need a space between Lord-uh! And Brother John? Looks very close - but may be just my eyes

Page 154: need ? At end of last full pp

Page 161: just below middle: Sometimes in the night, it would come back to him as if it was (were) yesterday

Page 165: just above the middle - decap Daddy

Page 170: Or maybe the Devil had simply recalled how many years he had promised the Centennial Man for his birthday (on that long ago birthday?).

Page 177: 2nd line - short too short

Page 178 - 1st full pp - Piney woods and river swamps were good for nothing else but the cutting. Cain’t cut them river swamps, ol’ buddy. Or maybe you can - but it stopped me.

Page 184 - bottom of 1st pp - need sunlight for sun light

Page 188: Now this one kinda made me really smile. End of 2nd full pp - sounds as though you’re referring to the droppings of the four horse-riders Last full pp - need gaiety for gaity

Page 189: Please read that last sentence of the pp that begins "I saw a pale horse." If he doesn’t hear her cry, he can’t hear the echo of her pain.

Page 195: right above middle - Sweet Potato (Queen) costume ???

Page 205: Please read line that starts "Sheldon drives home, but his wife’s car . . ." - then "He keeps driving." Think you need to move him out of the driveway first. Last line on that page - and the man says something to (the) boy that Sheldon

Page 206: 3 lines up from bottom - Sheldon tells Wally how he had her passed (how he had passed her) on the road.

Page 209: 2nd pp - Century, Florida (drop comma) is real Clear as mud is a cliché that you aren’t allowed. Sorry.

And my reply...

There are good days and bad days. It's been a bad day for the last few months now, but your letter has made a big difference. Thanks so much. As to moving "Midnight," I'm sure you're right about it. It needs to come after Jack and Gil talk about time, as alluded to in the "End of a Century" segment, and it certainly takes the ideas another step "out there." Again, I'm probably just overthinking it.

And another note from Bette...

Hmmmm. Interesting thought about moving that segment. I don't know. Now I'm thinkin' I need to keep the manuscript a bit longer
and get a feel for that change. Off the top of my head, I'd have to say I prefer it where it is. The word "gonzo" keeps slipping through my mind - and I liked that sort of falling-off-the-planet mood where it is. Maybe I'll do this: Make a list of what I spied and send that to you - and keep the manuscript for a bit longer.

Yes, I'm positive you're correct about the writer's eternal curse - but please don't go second-guessing yourself. You and I both know it's counter-productive. Truthfully, my only real problem with the novel is the prologue. I didn't find it inviting - but rather a bit off-putting. The sequence thereafter moved well for me. The prologue worked much better for me after I'd read the manuscript. That may well be just me, though.

And stop with the comparison foolishness. This is your voice - the
unique and totally yours Tony Simmons voice - and it's splendid.
I'll paste in below a bit what I wrote to the fellas.

(I thoroughly enjoyed it - and smiled my way through most of it. I found it artfully creative, insightful, well-informed, carefully crafted, beautiful characterization and attention to detail, poignant at times - and very, very funny at others. It's highly imaginative, tender, clever - and almost slides toward the gonzo from time to time - thoroughly delighting me.)

I'll work on that list tonight - and speed it your way.
You're the peach!

Letter from Bette today...

6/29/2004 7:44:10 AM
I've been itchin' to tell you how thoroughly I enjoyed your novel. I thought I needed to wait for the fellas, but just must tell you that I love it. I'll drop it by the News Herald today so that you can amend the very few typos that caught my eye. Congratulations on a beautiful job.
Best and warmest as ever -

And my reply...
And Michael said you were tough! I think you're a peach.
Seriously, though, I talked to Michael yesterday and he told me you had finished the book and had liked it. I told him I was getting worried.
So far, reactions have been positive, and I've begun second-guessing everything in it. I go from being really pleased with portions of it to being embarrassed or depressed over it. I read other books and think, "Mine hasn't got descriptions like that," or "Mine doesn't have characters like that," or "Mine doesn't have depth like that." I suppose that's the writer's eternal curse.
And yeah, I've reread it since I sent to Michael, caught a couple of eyes that changed color, and a couple of other problems. I also have considered moving "Midnight on Mars" to the Friday segment, right after "Centennial Man," instead of having it as a postscript. What do you think?
Look forward to seeing you.
Thanks so much for your support. It really is something I appreciate.

Sunday, June 27, 2004

Ephemera: Century in a school book...

The book is falling apart, its cloth cover tattered, its pages brittle, its markings faded.

It has a burned patch near the center, evidence of a fire; it had been consigned to a trash bin with a hundred other old books and ledgers taken from a lumber company storehouse and was one of only a few rescued from the flame.

It contains the elementary studies of a child, Ethel Louise Hauss of Century, from Nov. 2, 1914, to July 5, 1915 — her careful penmanship for lessons in grammar, history, spelling, arithmetic, literature, natural sciences, art and more. Her father was CEO of the lumber company that built Century at the turn of the 20th century.

The book contains her personality, her innocence. It projects her fondness for family and friends. It holds in its disintegrating pulpwood pages the stuff of a child’s life.

She describes her room on the third floor of her home: "From the large window that faces the south and west, I can see the smoke from the mill, piles of lumber, roofs of the houses and the crowns of many trees."

An essay about her cat specifies it has "two ears, two eyes, one nose, one mouth, a tail, four feet" and "can see better at night than in the daytime." And there’s her pet squirrel, Nutkins, for whom Papa had a fine cage made.

"It is cruel to keep animals in cages," she decides, and then adds, "I wish I was one of the Morris children in Beautiful Joe because they have so many pets."

Her friend, Henry, had a large white goat named Billy. They hitched Billy to a cart one day, but the lines broke when the goat tried pulling the children in a cart.

Another essay, The Travels of a Water Nymph, purports to be a tale of Ethel becoming lost in the woods, following a brook, catching fish, and at last coming upon some men building a raft of logs. "We all got on board and floated down the river to the mill," she writes.

She depicts a spontaneous Saturday picnic under a tree: The children asked their mothers for food, and they spread a blanket on the ground. "We had bread and butter, apples, milk, water, cake, cookies and many other things I can’t remember."

She describes the post office — a small building, painted white, with six windows for plenty of light — which she visited every morning. "I want to be a post-mistress," she writes.

Ethel married and lived for many years in nearby Brewton, Ala. She and her husband made significant donations of money and artwork to Auburn University.

She did not become a "postmistress."


(The preceding appeared as my "Undercurrents" column in The News Herald, Sunday, May 9, 2004.)

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Good news from Michael...

...who called yesterday to discuss the book. He'd been gone to Chicago for a book/editors convention and had just begun reading the Century manuscript. He noted the humor, structure, pathos; said the length was probably advantageous (it's short) as a literary novel; wanted to forward copies to two other readers, Lynn Wallace and Bette Powell, who are his partners in publishing.

He event liked the dummy cover, which I am still trying to figure out how to post here.

"This is definitely something I'm excited about publishing," he said, but he also said I should think about sending the manuscript to other publishers and agents, just to see what they thought of it and to see if they would offer me a bigger paycheck than Pottersville Press might see. Further offered to introduce me to an agent that he knows, who is building a client list of literary fiction writers.

"The quality is there that it deserves a broad audience," he said.

Yes, I know this is blatant self-promotion, back-patting of the first degree, to be placing these sorts of things on my own blog. But then, that's what a blog is about, to a certain extent, isn't it?

It's a good time for Michael, after years of struggling. His second mystery novel is about to be released; a mass market paperback company has contacted his agent for rights to both of the first two books in his John Jorden mystery series; he's been invited to speak at the Southern Festival of the Book.