Five O'Clock Somewhere

Welcome to Five O'Clock Somewhere, where it doesn't matter what time zone you're in; it's five o'clock somewhere. We'll look at rural life, especially as it happens in Rio Arriba County, New Mexico, cats, sailing (particularly Etchells racing yachts), and bits of grammar and Victorian poetry.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Visitor 27K

At least it wasn't somebody looking for you-know-what song lyrics

The 27,000th visitor to this site appears to be a sailor, or at least somebody interested in sailing. This was a person from Australia, who came on a link from Tillerman's Worst Sailing Mistakes post.

In other news, I'm going to be finishing NaNo with more than 57,000 officially counted words, although I have a way to go before I actually finish Murder at the Family Reunion. I had a really good run down the homestretch, including a rather steamy scene that now leaves my main character wondering for the rest of the book whether she is pregnant (a question to be answered next year in the next book in the series).

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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

A NaNo win again

Fifty thousand words and counting

Once again, I have overcome the obstacles, beat the odds, (insert cliché here), and created fifty thousand words of not necessarily great prose in less than thirty days. I have succeeded in the National Novel Writing Month challenge.

Toward the middle of the month, I had my doubts. Sure, I’ve completed the NaNo challenge of 50,000 words in each of the previous years that I’ve participated, but I had fallen farther behind than I had ever done before.

Then I rallied, and I came back with a couple of 5,000-word days. I reached the 50K mark Monday night on a surge … in more ways than one. From about 49,500 words to 50,500 words was the most emotionally complex piece of erotica I’ve ever written. Yeah, NaNo is supposed to be about quantity, not quality, but I’m especially fond of those last thousand words.

Wait, I hear some of you saying. Wasn’t I writing a mystery novel, sub-genre “cozy”? You know, the kind with all sorts of sweet eccentric characters, and not too much blood and gore, and definitely not any sex other than that which is obliquely referred to? Well, that’s the kind of thing that happens in NaNo – novels break out of their bounds, and end up going someplace outside of the proverbial box. I knew my cozy wasn’t going to be so cozy when not just one, but two characters showed up with really big handguns of the sort that show up in hard-boiled detective novels. (For the gun aficionados out there, both were Webley-Fosbery .445 automatic revolvers – a really sweet piece of steel, and not an oxymoron in this case.)

No, the novel isn’t finished yet; I figure there are about 20,000 more words I need to reach the conclusion and tidy everything up – except, of course, the burning questions that are left for the sequel.

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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

No, I am not dead

or, as Mark Twain used to say …

“Reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.”

Now it may seem from my relative inactivity online that I have departed this realm, the reality is that I am still here. I’ve just been enslaved by my National Novel Writing Month project. I had a couple of big piles of papers to grade that ate into my NaNoing time, and then I had a bad case of writer’s block that left me six days behind on my wordcount. Then I had an inspiration, and now I’ve been cranking out the words maniacally with the goal of catching up, which I have almost done.

For the Thanksgiving holiday, we’re all up at Five O’Clock Somewhere – me, Pat, Tadpole, and even Dulce. When we got here, we found that tons of messages had been left on the answering machine. Most of them were responses to a help wanted ad in some newspaper: “I’m interested in the full time, part time EMT positions …” Apparently, some newspaper, somewhere, ran the ad but misprinted the phone number, so potential job applicants were calling us. That’s rather a pity for whoever was doing the hiring – I know that there’s a shortage of good EMTs.

That reminds me of another instance of a misprinted phone number. A very long time ago, Pat and I lived in a small town. There was much rejoicing when a Domino’s Pizza franchise opened. But the Domino’s Pizza phone number was only one easily mistaken digit different from ours (I believe the last 4 digits of the numbers were 7700 and 7770, or something of the sort).

Worse, the local newspaper had a typo in the big ad announcing the Domino’s grand opening, so our number was there in inch-high digits. This was before we had an answering machine, and it was hugely bothersome. I took to answering the phone, “Hello, this is not Domino’s Pizza.”

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Saturday, November 10, 2007

Very quick weekend update

Gotta keep it short; there’s word count to be kept up

Headed to T or C Friday evening, got a room at the hotel that happens to be the closest one to the football stadium, where a game was going on that would determine whether the local team would win the district. Apparently the Tigers won; there were fireworks going off at the end of the game.

Saturday, we made arrangements to meet Desert Blue at the boat ramp area so he could come sailing with us. There we found Twinkletoes and Dumbledore waiting at the mast-raising pole; they were waiting for Twinkletoes’ big boat to arrive. The boat has spent the past year out of the water, getting much work done as well as waiting for the new mast to arrive.

There was very little wind, but we decided to try to sail anyway, since Desert Blue had come all the way from Albuquerque for the day to sail with us on Black Magic. We left Tadpole to help Dumbledore and Twinkletoes, launched, and sailed – or, rather, drifted, for the next five hours, to the Rock Canyon Marina, where we rented an overnight slip, since the weather prediction for Sunday looks much better for sailing. At Rock Canyon, we met Carguy, who has been working hard on his boat; we helped him for a while, and then we got a ride with him back to the Marina del Sur mast raising pole, where Tadpole, Dumbledore, and Twinkletoes had been joined by Ross, and the four of them were still hard at work putting the boat together. The night before, Zorro had said he would be there to help, too, but there was no sign of him.

As the sun was setting, the boat was rigged enough to launch, and with the assistance of a truck and an extension trailer from the boat yard, it was launched. Twinkletoes gave me his camera, and so I have now documented “how to launch a VERY LARGE sailboat.” After mooring the boat, we all headed to dinner; as thanks for all the help, Twinkletoes treated.

Now I’m a day behind on my NaNo word count. I’ll spend the rest of the evening catching up.

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Monday, November 05, 2007

Grammar Moment: How to tell what part of speech a word is in

I’m always willing to respond to public interest

This evening, I was looking over statistics about this blog, and I found that a recent visitor had arrived on a query of “How do you tell what part of speech a word is in?”

That final word is semantically most meaningful.

First, let me say that, no matter what pedantic grammarians may have drilled into your head in the past, it is not – I repeat, NOT – wrong to end a sentence with a preposition. As long as the preposition has a clear object, either implied or planted earlier in the sentence, it is perfectly acceptable to end a sentence with one. As testament, allow me to quote John Masefield: “All I ask is a tall ship, and a star to steer her by.” Yes, by is a preposition, but since the preposition’s object, star, is already mentioned in the sentence and is clearly what the preposition refers to, this sentence is correct.

What’s meaningful about the in at the end of the question asked above is that it is there in the first place. Most people would ask the question “How do you tell what part of speech a word is?” and leave out that last little preposition. To ask the question that way is to imply that a word is always going to be a particular part of speech, and that’s that. To ask the question with the preposition at the end is to acknowledge that words are slippery things. They may play different roles, and so sometimes something that looks like one part of speech is actually playing the role of a different part of speech.

For example, a verb that ends in -ing may not be a verb at all – yes, it has been created from a verb, but it is really a noun. If I say, “I love sailing,” the thing that looks like a verb, sailing, is really acting like a noun; it’s saying what I like, and anything that answers the question what is a noun.

So to determine parts of speech, you need to look at the role the word is in, and not just what the word is.

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Friday, November 02, 2007

A writing exercise

or a NaNo scouting technique or something

This week, I was working with my students on paragraph development. In an academic essay, short paragraphs are not, as such, bad. In fact, effective rhetorical development may involve short paragraphs: The writer may have several longer paragraphs, and then when she wants to emphasize a particular point, she may hit the reader with a short paragraph. In that situation, the short paragraph goes bam, and the reader takes notice.

But if all or most of the paragraphs in an essay are really short, that’s a symptom of inadequate development. Usually, the writer has presented a broad, general idea, but additional details or explanation is needed in order for the reader to get a clear idea exactly what the writer means.

As an exercise in developing supporting details, I gave my students a topic sentence, and then I told them to develop that sentence into a paragraph with at least ten more sentences to give details supporting that topic. I told them that if they reached ten sentences and were on a roll, they were certainly permitted to keep writing. Here is the topic sentence that I gave:

As soon as I woke up, I knew it was going to be a ____ day.

I told the students to pick an adjective of their choice to fill in the blank.

Many students struggled to come up with so many sentences. For many, the general idea was all: “Oh, well, you know what I mean, so I don’t have to explain it.” No, I don’t necessarily know what you mean, especially if I wasn’t there that morning. You need to tell me enough that I really will know what you mean.

And then there was the opposite. In each of my four classes this week, I had at least a couple of students who rose to the occasion and wrote really effective pieces – not only did they have plenty of supporting details; they had emotionally engaging details. In 15 minutes or so, they produced vivid, compelling narratives of 100 to 120 words.

Then there was my grand champion. In just 10 minutes, he produced 407 words of coherent, vivid prose, while also surfing off to other websites when he thought I wasn’t looking. I told him he ought to sign up for National Novel Writing Month; for him, it would be a breeze.

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