Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Sense & Sensibility, Volume III, chapter 7 (ch 43)

Marianne is still sick.

First she is ordinarily sick for a few days. Sick enough to need the apothecary (who is NOT a doctor; use of apothecaries was quite common in Austen's time). Sick enough to be contagious, so the Palmers decide to leave with their baby. That's right - they are leaving their own house.

Then she is seriously, distressingly sick for a couple of days. So sick that Colonel Brandon makes a run to Barton Cottage to fetch Mrs Dashwood. So sick that Mrs Jennings and even Elinor begin to worry she won't make it until Mrs Dashwood gets there.

Then she starts to get better.

And then Willoughby arrives.

I defy you not to turn the page.


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Nice surprise

I came across a recent review of the BREAKING WAVES anthology. The review was written by Helen Gallagher at Seattle PI. You may remember that my poem, "Troubled Water", is part of that anthology to benefit Gulf Coast clean-up efforts.

As Gallagher says:

American history for 2010 will record the devastation of the Gulf Coast oil spill. We all in some way were and are touched by the devastation and its lasting effects on the environment. As editor Tiffany Trent says, quoting a friend, “Jesus Christ. We broke the ocean.”

Gallagher says nice things about the anthology, but the part that made me squee was this:

"This large collection ends with a powerful poem: 'Troubled Water,' by Kelly Ramsdell Fineman."

SQUEE!

I am so sending the link for that article to my mommy.


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Monday, November 29, 2010

Sense & Sensibility, Volume III, chapter 6 (ch 42)

What does not happen in this chapter:





That would be Kate Winslet as Marianne in the 1995 movie version. She has hiked to the top of a hill to see Combe Magna, Willoughby's house, and to recite from Shakespeare's sonnet 116, which you can read (along with my commentary) in this National Poetry Month post from 2009 if you're so inclined. Of course, Combe Magna is thirty miles away from Cleveland Park, so Marianne couldn't actually have hiked there. Nor is there any mention of Marianne reciting sonnets, although it certainly does seem like something she might do.

What also does not happen in this chapter:
I'm referring to what happens between about 3:30 and 6:40 in particular - the part prior to that includes last chapter's painful meeting between Elinor and Edward. The part after that continues into what is actually next chapter. My point is, there's nothing particularly dramatic in the text about how Marianne gets her cold. But Emma Thompson made it memorably dramatic in the 1995 movie version (sorry I couldn't find film footage of Alan Rickman staggering in the door with a sodden Marianne and collapsing to his knees - SO swoon-worthy). She has Brandon go out into the rain and carry a drenched Marianne home, effectively reprising Willoughby's "rescue" of Marianne from earlier in the book. Only this time, Marianne is well and truly helpless and her rescuer sets out on purpose after her, instead of stumbling (almost literally) across her. Andrew Davies knows a good thing when he sees it, so he nabbed Thompson's idea and sends Brandon of on a white horse to find Marianne. And then he has Brandon nearly strip her when he gets her home. Because everyone knows Austen needs sexing up - or at least that's Davies's apparent belief, and he is fond of making his heroes wet.





What DOES happen in this chapter:

Elinor and Marianne head to Cleveland Park, home of the Palmers, along with Mrs Jennings. Colonel Brandon and Mr Palmer follow behind. Brandon tells Elinor that he's visited the parsonage at Delaford, and he explains the repairs and improvements he intends to make for Edward's benefit. Mrs Jennings continues to believe that Brandon has a thing for Elinor. Elinor realizes it seems as if Brandon might have a thing for her, since he treats her as a confidante and they converse easily, but she notices that he watches Marianne carefully and shows extreme concern over her health when she comes down with a head cold.

The Dashwoods plan to stay there for a week or so, then return to Barton Cottage. We'll see what happens now that Marianne is ill.


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Sunday, November 28, 2010

Quoteskimming

I found this quote from Henry Van Dyke over at Donna Marie Merritt's Facebook page, and liked it so much that I added it to my commonplace book:

"Use what talents you possess; the woods would be very silent if no birds sang there except those that sang best."

And my friend Pamela (aka ) tweeted a link to an interview question for Billy Collins, whose work I happen to love. I have to say that I find the question to be inartfully phrased at best (and quite possibly disrespectful or impertinent at worst); rather than bristling, however, Collins answered it with some words of advice that I think might be useful to authors as well as poets:

The Rattle Bag: Why are the beginnings of your poems uninteresting?

Collins: I tend to start simply. I don’t want to assume anything on the reader’s part. So, I start with something that everybody knows or a simple declaration, like I am standing here at the window with a cup of tea. You could look at that two ways: I am luring the reader in by giving the reader something easy to identify with, or I’m expressing a kind of etiquette – I don’t want to get ahead of the reader. I want to keep the reader in my company. If you look at the first three or four lines of many of my poems, they are pretty flat and ordinary. The hope is that having started with something simple and common, that gives the poem potential for improvement (laughs) so that it can get a little more challenging and move into more mysterious areas as it goes along.

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Friday, November 26, 2010

If music be the food of love . . .

Ordinarily when I'm writing, the predominant noise involved is the tick-ticking of my keyboard. (I can type very quickly indeed when I have some idea what it is I want to say.)

However, as of last night, part of the sound of my writing involved guitar chords and singing. That's right, I'm writing a song. Written from the perspective of the male lead in my YA novel. And no, I'm not saying much more about it just yet, but I figured out that I need to write probably three or four songs for this guy - in part because I may end up quoting some of his lyrics in the book. Then again, maybe not.

Meanwhile, it seems I'll be (re)developing callouses on my left fingertips over the next week or so. Fortunately, they don't take all that long to turn up. I'm not looking forward to the peeling that I know is coming, however.

And now I return you to whatever it is you were doing, while I head back to the second verse of this particular song (and Chapter Six of the novel).

Edited to add: SUCCESS! I finished the second AND third verses, which have a musical bridge in between them as well. And I am a wee bit in love with my creation.


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Thursday, November 25, 2010

Sense & Sensibility, Volume III, chapter 4 (ch 40)

Mrs Jennings and Elinor talk at cross-purposes

Mrs Jennings believes Elinor and the Colonel are engaged; Elinor assumes she knows that the Colonel is offering the living at Delaford to Edward. Fortunately, the confusion only lasts this chapter, and doesn't spread to anyone else. Say what you will about Mrs Jennings, but when she's asked not to share news, she keeps it to herself. And both of them are vastly amused at the end of the day when they sort out what was really going on and what the other person was thinking.

Poor Elinor! Elinor and Edward talk at cross-purposes, too

Poor Elinor is trying to figure out how on earth to phrase a letter to Edward when who should appear but the man himself. He was there, dropping off his card as a leave-taking, as Mrs Jennings headed to her carriage, so (operating under the assumption that Elinor wanted him to perform her wedding to the Colonel) Mrs Jennings sent him on up to Elinor. SURPRISE! Let the awkwardness commence!

Edward: Wow. So, uh, this is . . . awkward. But Mrs Jennings sent me up. And I am actually glad to see you prior to my leaving town, since I'm heading to Oxford and we might never see each other again.

Elinor: Well, whenever and wherever you go, you would have taken our good wishes with you. So, uh, Colonel Brandon asked me to offer you the living at Delaford. Unfortunately it's only going to pay about 200 pounds a year.

Edward: Colonel Brandon?

Elinor: Yes. Colonel Brandon. He means it as a way of expressing his sympathy for the fact that your family is a bunch of assholes - a sympathy that Marianne and I share, of course. And besides feeling sorry for you, Colonel Brandon wanted to give you the position to show his approval for your upstanding conduct.

Edward: Colonel Brandon wants to help me. Are you sure?

Elinor: The unkindness of your family makes you shocked to find other people are still nice.

Edward: Not to find that you're kind, even though it's more than I deserve. I'm sure you must have talked Colonel Brandon into this.

Elinor: Dude, you have got this so very wrong, but obviously you are going to misconstrue the relationship between the Colonel and me.

Edward: Regardless of what you say, I am going to misconstrue the relationship between the Colonel and you. Which is why I'm going to tread perilously close to wishing you every happiness in your married life with him.

Elinor: I hope you really like the Colonel, since you'll be living near his house. Where I won't be living, but as we've already agreed, you won't be listening.

Edward: I kinda wish that my future rectory wasn't so close to Delaford, since I assume you'll be living there with the Colonel.

Elinor: *in an aside to the camera* I told you he wouldn't listen.

Elinor: *to Edward* I wish you every happiness.

Edward: FML. But at least I'll have somewhere to live. *mopes off into the sunset*



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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

TANGLED

A retelling of Rapunzel that develops an intriguing backstory for why the witch wanted to keep Rapunzel to herself for all those years, coupled with a lovely "releasing floating paper lanterns" tradition that is gorgeous and with the addition of a guy who isn't just skulking about in the woods but is actively trying to escape the law adds up to a winning movie combination, or at least that's what M and I decided after we spent a rather enchanting evening at the local cinema laughing and swooning our way through TANGLED. We opted not to see it in 3-D because M really doesn't like 3-D all that much. There were a few scenes that would've been completely awesome in 3-D, I think . . . and I may end up putting that theory to the test.

One of the things we loved most about the movie was how hot the male main character is, who we will call Flynn Rider since it's the name he's introduced by (and the one on the WANTED poster he's holding in the picture below). And yes, M and I are both well aware that he is an animated figure, voiced by the talented Zachary Levi (star of TV's Chuck). The character is both physically attractive and charming and sexy, and neither of us see anything wrong with that. So there. Also? Zach Levi can SING - he performs a duet with the female lead and he did all his own singing. Also-also, Zach Levi said in an interview that he was told Disney tried to make his character the most attractive hero ever. So M and I aren't wrong for agreeing that he's hot. (Right?)

We also loved the extremely feisty Rapunzel, voiced by Mandy Moore. Everybody already knows she can act and sing, so I'm not surprised at her successful vocal performance. The character was adorable and clever and resourceful and all the things I like to see in a heroine. The scene in the period equivalent of a biker bar (think hoodlums and thugs) was excellent and amusing. (Not quite as amusing as the song about Gaston in Beauty and the Beast, but close. Man I love that song - " . . . and every last inch of me's covered in hair!" or "I use antlers in all of my decorating!" or "I'm especially good at expectorating!" But I digress.) The music in this, as in Beauty and the Beast and many other recent (i.e., in the last 20 years) Disney films is by Alan Menken (although to be truthful, none of the songs made me want to clap like a seal the way I wanted to for Beauty and the Beast, Little Mermaid, Aladdin or Enchanted). The lyricist was Glenn Slater. Donna Murphy in the role of the witch (called Mother Gothel) was terrific (I'm pretty sure I saw her on Broadway in They're Playing Our Song back in the late 1970s during a high school field trip. Why yes, I am that old, thanks), and M and I also loved the ever-vigilant Maximus (a horse), who, like the rest of us, succumbs to a fondness for Rapunzel.



Seeing the movie at an early (6:45 p.m.) show proved to be great, because the belly laughs from small children and overheard comments merely added to our enjoyment.

For Chuck fans and people interested in reading more about Zach Levi's role in the movie and/or in seeing more stills from the movie (I guess "stills" works as a term, yes?), you can check out this interview at SheKnows.com.


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Sense & Sensibility, Volume III, chapter 3 (ch 39)

This one could be subtitled "Colonel Brandon: Man of Action, Man of Honor". At least, that's how I think of him, and I doubt I'll get much argument from any of you reading this. (Feel free to surprise me, however!)

Having heard the rumors in St. Petersburg (and no, that reference to the song from Anastasia never, ever gets old to me), Colonel Brandon arrives to engage in a tête-à-tête with Elinor, in which he asks her to summon Edward Ferrars and to convey Brandon's offer of the living at Delaford. As the owner of Delaford, it is within Brandon's purview to assign the living of the local church, and he is happy to be able to offer Edward the position of vicar (which, as discussed in yesterday's post is to be preferred to a curacy.

The living will only provide Edward with about £200 a year, which won't be enough to constitute a competence (remember the discussion between Marianne, Elinor and Edward about this issue back in Volume I, chapter 17? Well, Austen sure does - she's already started to round up all the chickens scattered through this manuscript, and this is one of them), but it will be enough to support Edward in his bachelor state until he can find a better position or some other form of income.

Oh, Mrs Jennings!

I love Mrs Jennings. She's been shipping Brandon and Elinor for a while now - at least since Marianne's breakdown - and she thinks that Brandon wants to offer Elinor his hand in marriage, so she moves farther from them (and closer to the pianoforte) so as not to eavesdrop, then keenly watches them in an attempt to suss out what's going on. She overhears just a few words here and there between Marianne's songs to cause her to believe he has just made Elinor the least romantic proposal ever, when that is decidedly NOT the case.

Poor Elinor!

She is left with the entirely unenviable task of summoning the man she loves to a private meeting in which she will offer him the Delaford living at Colonel Brandon's behest. We have a deliciously awkward meeting ahead of us in the next chapter. I can hardly wait to turn the page!

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Happy Thanksgiving and Safe Travels

I'm sure many of you are celebrating Thanksgiving this week, whether on the day or (in the case of my expat friends) on the weekend, and I wish each and every one of you a happy holiday. We may all have been sold a bill of goods about Thanksgiving when we were children (happy Pilgrims in grey and taupe and black consorting with Native Americans who were only too happy to show up with food, etc. - almost all of it manufactured out of gossamer - including the grey and tan clothing, since the Pilgrims weren't actually averse to wearing bold colors, but I digress), but the idea of giving thanks for what we've got is a very good one indeed.

Even on those years when there's precious little to spare and there isn't much in the way of happy events to celebrate, focusing on what you do have is a good thing to do. I am thankful this year for my family - thankful that Mike has stayed cancer-free so far, thankful that my dad made it through last year's heart attack and is doing well, thankful in so many ways for my kids, who are some of the brightest spots in my life. I'm thankful that Wally the dog is up and walking and continues to improve, and that our older pets, Katie the dog (13) and Mojo the cat (14), continue to be with us and happy.

I'm thankful too for friends, and that includes quite a lot of you out there in blog-land, some of whom I've met in person and some of whom I've not yet met. But it is lovely to have you as part of my life. I'm especially thankful for my writing partner, Angela De Groot, and for the lovely women and men with whom I email almost daily about writing and industry things - my Poetry Princesses, my fab KidLit friends, the Guys Lit Wire crew, the CYBILS family and so many of my individual writer friends with whom I correspond: you all keep me going, even when the going gets rough, and I adore you for that (even on the occasional day when I want to shake my fist at you for pushing me along).

I'll be back later today with another Sense & Sensibility post, and will post one tomorrow and Friday as well, but for those of you who are checking off the internet: Safe travels to you, and a happy holiday!




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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Sense & Sensibility, Volume III, chapter 2 (ch 38)

On the plus side: Marianne has figured out that she's been a mopey whiner.

On the minus side: Instead of trying to buck up and behave better, she's added self-flagellation to her bag of tricks.

Poor Elinor:

First, she meets with Miss (Nancy) Steele in the park and has to hear all the details that (it turns out) Miss Steele learned while eavesdropping through a keyhole - Edward stayed away from Lucy for three days, then turned up to offer her the opportunity to call their engagement off, given his change in circumstances.

Next, she gets a letter from Lucy Steele, telling her that Lucy offered to let Edward off the hook and he wouldn't hear of it. (Cue Miracle Max's wife hollering "LIAR! LI-AR!!")

Edward is up a creek

His mother has disinherited him. His annual income is the interest on 2,000 pounds, which is not a whole lot of money to live on. On the plus side: He is going to be a minister after all - he said early in the book that if he had his way, he'd enter the clergy, and now it's pretty much going to be a necessity. On the minus side: His mother has said she'll do what she can to thwart any profession he seeks, so it seems likely he'll be stuck with a curacy, which isn't even a permanent position. A vicarage was a life estate in a particular parish, but a curacy meant that someone else was actually possessed of the living, but they didn't live there - instead they allowed another cleric to live at the parish and perform the job functions, but for much less money than they'd have gotten if they'd held the actual living. Further on the minus side: Edward is still saddled with Lucy Steele, whom he still doesn't love. This is a downside for Edward as well as for Elinor.


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Monday, November 22, 2010

Sense & Sensibility, Volume III, chapter 1 (ch 37)

Have you heard? There's a rumor in St. Petersburg London!

Turns out Edward Ferrars and Lucy Steele have been secretly engaged, and Fanny Dashwood completely flipped the shit when she found out. The description of the antics at the Dashwoods' house is hilarious, and is extremely reminiscent of things from Austen's juvenilia. I offer the following into evidence.

From Sense & Sensibility:
. . . poor Nancy, who, you know, is a well-meaning creature, but no conjurer, popt it all out. 'Lord!' thinks she to herself, 'they are all so fond of Lucy, to be sure they will make no difficulty about it;' and so, away she went to your sister, who was sitting all alone at her carpet-work, little suspecting what was to come--for she had just been saying to your brother, only five minutes before, that she thought to make a match between Edward and some Lord's daughter or other, I forget who. So you may think what a blow it was to all her vanity and pride. She fell into violent hysterics immediately, with such screams as reached your brother's ears, as he was sitting in his own dressing-room down stairs, thinking about writing a letter to his steward in the country. So up he flew directly, and a terrible scene took place, for Lucy was come to them by that time, little dreaming what was going on. Poor soul! I pity her. And I must say, I think she was used very hardly; for your sister scolded like any fury, and soon drove her into a fainting fit. Nancy, she fell upon her knees, and cried bitterly; and your brother, he walked about the room, and said he did not know what to do. Mrs Dashwood declared they should not stay a minute longer in the house, and your brother was forced to go down upon his knees too, to persuade her to let them stay till they had packed up their clothes. Then she fell into hysterics again, and he was so frightened that he would send for Mr Donavan, and Mr Donavan found the house in all this uproar. The carriage was at the door ready to take my poor cousins away, and they were just stepping in as he came off; poor Lucy in such a condition, he says, she could hardly walk; and Nancy, she was almost as bad. I declare, I have no patience with your sister; and I hope, with all my heart, it will be a match in spite of her. Lord! what a taking poor Mr Edward will be in when he hears of it! To have his love used so scornfully! for they say he is monstrous fond of her, as well he may. I should not wonder, if he was to be in the greatest passion!--and Mr Donavan thinks just the same. He and I had a great deal of talk about it; and the best of all is, that he is gone back again to Harley Street, that he may be within call when Mrs Ferrars is told of it, for she was sent for as soon as ever my cousins left the house, for your sister was sure she would be in hysterics too; and so she may, for what I care. I have no pity for either of them.
And here's an example from Love and Friendship:

From this Dilemma I was most fortunately relieved by an accident truly apropos; it was the lucky overturning of a Gentleman's Phaeton, on the road which ran murmuring behind us. It was a most fortunate accident as it diverted the attention of Sophia from the melancholy reflections which she had been before indulging. We instantly quitted our seats and ran to the rescue of those who but a few moments before had been in so elevated a situation as a fashionably high Phaeton, but who were now laid low and sprawling in the Dust. "What an ample subject for reflection on the uncertain Enjoyments of this World, would not that Phaeton and the Life of Cardinal Wolsey afford a thinking Mind!" said I to Sophia as we were hastening to the field of Action. She had not time to answer me, for every thought was now engaged by the horrid spectacle before us. Two Gentlemen most elegantly attired but weltering in their blood was what first struck our Eyes--we approached--they were Edward and Augustus--. Yes dearest Marianne they were our Husbands. Sophia shrieked and fainted on the ground--I screamed and instantly ran mad--. We remained thus mutually deprived of our senses, some minutes, and on regaining them were deprived of them again. For an Hour and a Quarter did we continue in this unfortunate situation--Sophia fainting every moment and I running mad as often. At length a groan from the hapless Edward (who alone retained any share of life) restored us to ourselves. Had we indeed before imagined that either of them lived, we should have been more sparing of our Grief--but as we had supposed when we first beheld them that they were no more, we knew that nothing could remain to be done but what we were about. No sooner did we therefore hear my Edward's groan than postponing our lamentations for the present, we hastily ran to the Dear Youth and kneeling on each side of him implored him not to die--. "Laura (said He fixing his now languid Eyes on me) I fear I have been overturned." I was overjoyed to find him yet sensible. "Oh! tell me Edward (said I) tell me I beseech you before you die, what has befallen you since that unhappy Day in which Augustus was arrested and we were separated--" "I will" (said he) and instantly fetching a deep sigh, Expired --. Sophia immediately sank again into a swoon--. My grief was more audible. My Voice faltered, My Eyes assumed a vacant stare, my face became as pale as Death, and my senses were considerably impaired--."
If Sense and Sensibility resembles the juvenilia, it's no coincidence - the first epistolary version was written not long after Love and Friendship, so some of Austen's youthful exuberance and love of the ridiculous is more plain than in the "mature" works (Mansfield Park, Emma, and Persuasion, all written when Austen was in her late 30s and early 40s).

I like that Mrs. Jennings sees no impediment to the marriage - of course, her own husband made his money in trade, and her daughters married well because they came with large dowries, so she can be expected to be more accepting of social inequities. I especially like that she thinks Fanny Dashwood and Mrs Ferrars can go hang, for all she cares. (Not her exact words, but close enough.)

Returning to a recurring theme here: Poor Elinor! Now she has to deal with all the public fallout. But first, she has to tell Marianne. As you might guess, this will not go well. First Marianne is ready to throw Edward under the bus (so to speak), which Elinor has to talk her out of, and then Marianne is all set to believe that Elinor never really liked him all that much - which is not at all the case. In the end, we're left with Marianne realizing that Elinor has been seriously unhappy, and promising to try hard not to make a scene - something put to the test when she has to listen to Mrs Jennings praise Lucy, but Marianne manages it. Finally, Marianne has gotten herself under control, at least a bit.

Poor, POOR Elinor As if the horror of listening to Mrs Jennings weren't bad enough, Mr John Dashwood turns up to discuss things. Mrs Ferrars turns out to be every bit as horrible as you might expect - she tried to pay Edward off so he'd dump Lucy and marry Miss Morton. Failing that, she disowns him. John Dashwood has taken her part, of course, and seems to think that Mrs Ferrars was somehow "liberal" in any of her dealings.

Let me say again how very much I love Mrs Jennings. She calls John Dashwood on some of his crap (as much as one can do and not be completely impolite), then clearly indicates her support for Edward - praising him for being a man of his word and saying he's deserving of praise and support. In fact, she wishes she could find him and ask him to come stay at her house because she feels badly that he's in dire straits and has to pay for lodging and meals somewhere.


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Saturday, November 20, 2010

Quoteskimming

A short post this week. I loved this quote from Rainer Maria Rilke, which I found over at Tiffany Trent's blog:

Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us act, just once, with beauty and courage. Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence, something helpless that wants our love.
Since I saw Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows the other night, I got to thinking of one of my favorite quotes from the book by J.K. Rowling , attributed to Albus Dumbledore (which is from the latter portion of the book and therefore not in the current movie). I think it's a lovely thought for everyone, but especially for those of us who write fiction:

Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?
Finally, a quote from Howard Thurman, which I am nearly certain I saw in a blog, but I don't recall whose:

Don't ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive

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Friday, November 19, 2010

Just a few minutes to chat

Well, hello!

I thought I'd take just a few minutes to chat. I feel like we haven't all caught up with one another in a while. Possibly you're at NCTE or some fun "Con". Maybe you've been away somewhere but just got back. Maybe you haven't been anywhere in so long that life is just wearing you down. But I figured that before I sign off the interweb and start my evening writing session, maybe just maybe we could catch up a bit.

I'll tell you what I'm up to, and then you can tell me what YOU are doing in the comments. And I hope you'll also talk amongst yourselves. (I'll give you a topic: Tell us what you're up to.)

Writing-wise, I've been a busy girl. I am still really loving my WIP, which is now around 11,000 words - longer than anything I've ever written, and written in a shorter time than most. Weird, but true. I'm only in chapter five of a planned 23, so we'll see how things fare, but still . . .. I've also sent a few things out on submission - poems to journals, for instance. And Jane to agents. And so forth. Plus I'm working on interview questions for the Winter Blog Blast Tour (WBBT), which is gonna ROCK - I'll be interviewing Marilyn Singer, Linda Sue Park, Sarah MacLean and L.K. Madigan, not necessarily in that order. And I've been coordinating stuff with the poetry panel for the CYBILS - the first panel is still tracking down books (a major task, since some of the larger publishers were unable to send review copies to the panelists this year) and reading, but they've started their discussions, which I'm ignoring, to be frank - I just need to know they're happening, not what's being said!. And I've been tracking down a copy of a Steampunk book I've been meaning to read since it came out because the week after the WBBT is going to focus a bit on works of Steampunk/Alternate History. And I'm working on a few single poems (mostly grown-up ones) and still trying to brainstorm ideas for Picture Book Idea Month, and we have Volume III of Sense & Sensibility to go, and so forth. Lots to do, yet it's all good stuff.

Reading-wise, I've been a bit of a slacker. I've been re-reading books by the folks I'll be interviewing for the WBBT, you see, in order to think up my questions. I've also been reading other interviews of them that I can find on the Web, etc. But I do have Linda Sue's newest book, A Long Walk to Water queued up to read - also part of my prep, but at least it's a new title (and one I'm very much looking forward to reading!).

Other-wise, I've been keeping up with laundry well, housekeeping and cooking only passably, and I really need to make lists for both groceries and holiday shopping. I'm hoping that S gets into James Madison University, since she applied early decision and reallyreallyreally wants to go there. I'm looking forward to Tuesday night, when the kids will both be dancing as part of their school's Spirit Week competition. This year's theme was "classic Nikelodeon shows". S is a senior. The seniors chose first and went with Rugrats. Boy did I love that show. I still quote it now and again, actually. M is a sophomore. They chose third, and went with Rocket Power. I'm looking forward to seeing Love and Other Drugs when it comes out, and thinking that I really, truly need to clean the garage out one of these days.

See how quickly that turned into lists of "things to do"? Weird, isn't it? Yet if I don't make the lists, not all that much gets done, or so I've found. I've also figured out, however, that while I take satisfaction in knocking things off the list once they're done, the things that are really, truly most satisfying are the ones that I've actually dedicated my energy to. Going through the motions doesn't lead to the same bone-deep sense of wellbeing and/or satisfaction. Not that I ever get that particular level of satisfaction from doing the laundry, come to that.

So, tell me: What have you been doing? And what has given you the greatest satisfaction lately?


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Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Spoiler-free comments:

As is usually the case, it's all fun and games until someone loses an eye. Those of you who've read the books or seen the movie know whereof I speak. There were a surprising number of people who had clearly not read the books and were gobsmacked by various and sundry turns of event.

The acting was splendid, the settings were awesome, and the movie is made of WIN!

There was widespread sobbing in the theatre - including guys, at least two of whom tried to pretend they were coughing instead. Dudes, it's okay. We all understood why people were upset.


Things I saw in the theatre before the movie started:

Hand-drawn darkmarks on people's arms. Like, really detailed ones.

Death-Eaters in hand-painted masks and black hooded sweatshirts. Just as creepy as it sounds.

Nifflers on shoulders - I spotted a pink one and a yellow one.

A broom.

A large assortment of Gryffindor garb, from scarves to hats to ties to T-shirts.

Multiple people in black school robes. One guy in a Gryffindor Quidditch robe.

One guy dressed as Lupin.

One girl dressed as Hedwig. (There were white tights and quite a lot of white feathers involved.)

Any number of Harrys, Hermiones and Lunas.

Two different Hedwig hand puppets.

Any number of different wands. Some of which lit up. Not sure if the word lumos was required.


Things I heard in the theatre before the movie started:

A guy named Jason bellowing his fan fiction at the crowd. (Quoth M, "You've just got to write more stories and yell 'em at me.")

Someone playing the Harry Potter theme music. On a harmonica.

Extreme laughter over the name of the forthcoming Jon Favreau film starring Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford: COWBOYS AND ALIENS.

Extreme excitement over the forthcoming VOYAGE OF THE DAWN TREADER (evidently, there's a decent fandom intersect between HP and Narnia).

About the movie:

It's good. I thought it was really good, although there were one or two pacing points I quibble with and two things changed or omitted that I wish hadn't been.

There's quite a lot of humor in it, but be warned - it's not a funny movie. It's quite serious. As an avid fan of the books (who recently re-read Deathly Hallows, btw), I was prepared for the things that occurred in the movie. But people who haven't read the book ought to know that it does not end in a happy place. I don't count this as a spoiler, since they've split the final book into two movies, so you have to assume they're leaving off somewhere in the middle of the book, and that in the middle of the book is where the fecal matter hits the fan.

That said, M and her friend and I left the movie excited and overall happy, because the film was SO GOOD. I was really interested to hear what Alexa thought, sinc she did not read the books, and was therefore a bit more surprised by some of the twists and turns in the movie. Although they both said that M essentially spoiled her friends at lunch the other day by talking about the books - she's shocked how many of her friends haven't read the books, as am I.

Man, I cannot believe we have months to wait until the second part!


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Thursday, November 18, 2010

Sense & Sensibility, Volume II, chapter 14 (ch 36)

As Volume II of Sense & Sensibility draws to a close, you can see Austen lifting that other shoe just a touch higher, and you can sense that it is getting ready to drop. Were you reading this in three actual volumes, you would, of course, have to proceed to Volume III, because the stage is set for Major Drama to unfold.

Here, in list form, is the new information in this chapter:

1. The Palmers are parents, having had a baby boy.

2. Toothpick Dandy from chapter 33 (or Vol. II, ch 11) turns out to be Robert Ferrars, Edward's younger brother.

3. Robert Ferrars is every bit as much of a prat as you thought he might be.

4. John Dashwood has just enough conscience to broach the subject of asking his sisters to come stay with them, but not enough spine to support that wee bit of conscience.

5. The Steele Sisters are moving from Lady Middleton's house to the home of John and Fanny Dashwood. Lucy believes it means she'll be in like Flynn with the Ferrars family in no time. Elinor begins to think the same, reasoning that the invitation can't be based solely on Fanny's dislike of her and Marianne. (Elinor is, we know, incorrect - it is PRECISELY to get out of inviting the Misses Dashwood that the Misses Steeles have been invited.)

6. Marianne continues to fare poorly. She goes out, of course, going through the motions that are expected of her, but she continues to be out of it, paying little attention to her surroundings or her appearance. This does not bode well.


Same as it ever was:

Or, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

1. Lady Middleton is vapid. And Austen cannot help but have another go at her:

Though nothing could be more polite than Lady Middleton's behaviour to Elinor and Marianne, she did not really like them at all. Because they neither flattered herself nor her children, she could not believe them good-natured; and because they were fond of reading, she fancied them satirical: perhaps without exactly knowing what it was to be satirical; but that did not signify. It was censure in common use, and easily given.
2. Mr Palmer likes to be contrary. According to Mrs Jennings, he won't allow that his son looks like any of his family members, or even admit that he's the best-looking baby ever.

3. John Dashwood is deluding himself. He believes that he and his wife might invite his sisters to stay with them in the future. He also believes they won't really need to do so, because Elinor will marry Brandon.


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Oops!

I appear to have neglected updating over here for quite some time. Sorry for that, and for what I'm about to do, which is to catch up over here over the next day or two - which means an unfortunate number of posts will be coming your way all at once.

Please know that you're under no obligation whatsoever to actually, y'know, READ them.

Midnight cannot come too soon!

Actually, it could. There's dinner to be considered first. But as I've mentioned before, I have 12:01 tickets for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, to which I am escorting M and her friend Alexa. I AM SO EXCITED! This will be my first-ever midnight opening for a Harry Potter film, and I am making sure to wear comfortable shoes, because we've been told to arrive at least two hours early. (The theatre where we're seeing the movie has six midnight showings, one every minute on the minute between 12:01 and 12:06. Talk about stupid timing - it will mean a HIGHLY congest parking lot on the way out, among other things.)

S is again going to the midnight opening with her friends Ben & Matt (and an assortment of others this time). She will be Hermione, Ben & Matt will be Harry and Ron, and goodness knows what the rest of them are doing. This is now part of a time-honored tradition for S and her two guy friends, since this is at least the third midnight HP opening they've attended together. The theatre they're going to is more sensible than the one I chose, but it's too late to change now - they have their four midnight showings spread out between 12:01 and 12:45.

I'll be back in a bit with today's Sense and Sensibility post. Meanwhile, here's the trailer for Deathly Hallows to keep you diverted:






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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Sense & Sensibility, Volume II, chapter 13 (ch 35)

Take one unpleasant, bitchy encounter between Elinor and Lucy Steele, sprinkle it with a helping of Edward-come-to-see-Elinor awkwardness, and mix it all together with an exuberant Marianne's open comments, et voilà: the perfect recipe for a painful visit all around.

Our scene opens in a sitting room containing Elinor Dashwood, who is thinking that she dodged a bullet in not being able to marry Edward, since his mother is such a horror.

[Enter Lucy Steele]: OMG! Did you see how very, very much Mrs Ferrars likes me? I've got no reason to be afraid of her at all.

Elinor: She seemed very . . . civil to you.

Lucy: Civil? She was practically fawning all over me. And there can be no reason for her to fawn all over me unless she really, really likes me.

Elinor: I have to say that if she behaved like that after knowing about your engagement, you'd have a point, but as things stand . . .

Lucy: I figured you'd say that. But I won't let you spoil my fun. Also, why did you never tell me how super-nice your sister-in-law was?

Elinor: *bites own tongue since an honest response would be improper*

Lucy: Are you feeling sick or is it merely envy of me eating at you like a worm? Because you look like crap. And goodness knows how I'd amuse myself if you weren't here for me to torture!

Elinor: O_o

Lucy: Anyhoo . . . you simply MUST tell your sister-in-law how eager I am to fawn over her. And really, Mrs Ferrars MUST really like me, because man, I could tell she hated YOU by the way she acted, and although I may not be the sharpest tool in the shed, I'd have noticed if she were treating ME that way!

Elinor: O_o

Austen: This is good and awkward, but I'm pretty sure I can make Elinor and Lucy squirm harder.

[Enter a Servant followed by Edward Ferrars.]

Servant: Mr Ferrars here to see Miss Dashwood.

*Edward starts to greet Elinor warmly, then realizes Lucy is in the room.*
A brief recap of the knowledge status here: All three of them know that Edward is engaged to Lucy and that Edward has feelings for Elinor. Edward, however, doesn't know that Lucy has told Elinor. I imagine this playing out like one of those soap opera love triangles, with close-ups of each person's eyes as they look from one to the other. But I'm equally happy with how it's been depicted on film, which I'll share at the end of this post.
Edward: *debates whether to make a run for it, but soldiers on*

Elinor: I am happy to see you, and I'm sorry I wasn't home when you called before.

Lucy: *glares at Elinor, watching her carefully*

Elinor: Allow me to provide a status update by monologue, since Lucy is refusing to play nicely and you, Edward, are obviously too shaken up to function normally. *prattles on for a bit* I'll just pop upstairs to fetch Marianne, shall I?

Austen: *chortling* THIS will make everything still worse!

Marianne: *flies into the sitting room in raptures at seeing Edward, while shooting pointed "GO AWAY" looks at Lucy*

Marianne: Edward! I'm so happy to see you!

Marianne: *makes goo-goo eyes at Elinor and Edward, singing "Edward and Elinor, sitting in a tree" under her breath*

Edward: Are you okay, Marianne? You look a little peaked.

Marianne: Don't think about me. *sniff/breath catch* ELINOR looks wonderful, doesn't she?

Edward: I . . . cannot be allowed to have a response to that.

Marianne: I hate London and you are the only good thing about this place and when we leave, you can keep us company, okay?

Edward: I cannot be allowed to have a response to that either.

Marianne: We had dinner with your mother and sister and it was deadly dull. WHY WEREN'T YOU THERE?

Edward: "I was engaged elsewhere."

Austen: *rocks with laughter, wiping her eyes*

Marianne: "Engaged! But what was that, when such friends were to be met?"

Lucy: I guess you think that ALL young men fail to keep their engagements, huh?

Elinor: *wonders how much damage she can do to Lucy with a pair of embroidery scissors*

Marianne: *answering earnestly* No indeed. Edward is the best of men. *goes on to hit the nail on the head, if she were talking about why he's stuck with Lucy Steele (but of course, she's not, because she doesn't know about the secret engagement - imagine this as Marianne simultaneously pounding nails into all three of her hearers): "I am very sure that conscience only kept Edward from Harley Street. And I really believe he has the most delicate conscience in the world; the most scrupulous in performing every engagement, however minute, and however it may make against his interest or pleasure. He is the most fearful of giving pain, of wounding expectation, and the most incapable of being selfish, of any body I ever saw."

Edward: I can't stand the guilt anymore. I've gotta bounce! *leaves*

Lucy: Ordinarily I'd stick around to make you all miserable, but I've had enough for one day. *leaves*

Marianne: Why does Lucy Steele turn up here so often? And why wouldn't she GTFO when Edward arrived?

Elinor: She's known him longer than we have. I'm sure he doesn't mind seeing her.

Marianne: You know, Elinor, it's comments like that that make me want to hit you for being too damn rational. *leaves*

Elinor: *Hopes Edward doesn't come around too often, possibly while trying to find out where Mrs Jennings hides the liquor*

Austen: *cackles and rubs her hands together with glee*

And now, that film clip I promised, but if you watch it and haven't read ahead, by all means stop at the 4 minute mark (when you see the gold-plated Jordan almonds) It starts during dinner the prior evening:






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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Sense & Sensibility, Volume II, chapter 12 (ch 34)

In which we attend the dinner party from hell. But first, I love how Austen takes her gloves off right at the beginning of this chapter and lets her snark flag fly. Behold!

Mrs John Dashwood had so much confidence in her husband's judgment, that she waited the very next day both on Mrs Jennings and her daughter; and her confidence was rewarded by finding even the former, even the woman with whom her sisters were staying, by no means unworthy her notice; and as for Lady Middleton, she found her one of the most charming women in the world!

Lady Middleton was equally pleased with Mrs Dashwood. There was a kind of cold hearted selfishness on both sides, which mutually attracted them; and they sympathised with each other in an insipid propriety of demeanor, and a general want of understanding.

The same manners, however, which recommended Mrs John Dashwood to the good opinion of Lady Middleton did not suit the fancy of Mrs Jennings, and to her she appeared nothing more than a little proud-looking woman of uncordial address, who met her husband's sisters without any affection, and almost without having anything to say to them; for of the quarter of an hour bestowed on Berkeley Street, she sat at least seven minutes and a half in silence.
Lady Middleton and Fanny Dashwood deserve one another, do they not? And I love that Mrs Jennings takes a few minutes to assess Mrs John Dashwood and determines that she's a cold-hearted bitch. Oh Mrs Jennings, I do love you so!

Poor Elinor - desperate for news of Edward, but desperately hoping not to actually see him. I love this short paragraph so very much:

Edward assured them himself of his being in town, within a very short time, by twice calling in Berkeley Street. Twice was his card found on the table, when they returned from their morning's engagements. Elinor was pleased that he had called; and still more pleased that she had missed him.

Let's get down to the guest list for dinner, shall we?

Our hosts: John and Fanny Dashwood, cheapskates to be sure, but they want to court the Middletons, so here we are

Mrs Ferrars, mother of Fanny Dashwood and the Ferrars boys, Edward and Robert and a caricature of snooty distemper personified

Mrs Jennings added because she's Lady Middleton's mother, of course

The Dashwood sisters begrudgingly added to the guest list since they are staying with Lady Middleton's mother

The Steele sisters, who cunningly positioned themselves for the invitation by starting a house visit with the Middletons a few days ahead of the party

Sir John and Lady Middleton objects of John & Fanny's sycophancy

and our surprise guest:

Colonel Brandon, whom John & Fanny hope will oblige them by marrying Elinor, thereby putting a final end to any possibility of an Edward-Elinor union

How is this awkward? Let me count the ways:

1. John & Fanny Dashwood, along with Mrs Ferrars, believe - based on Fanny's observations at Norland - that Edward and Elinor have a romantic attachment. John & Fanny are determined to bust it up using Colonel Brandon to block. Mrs Ferrars is determined to be an evil bitch to Elinor, thereby making her displeasure plain.

2. One tactic chosen by Mrs Ferrars to lord it over Elinor is a decision to shower positive attention on the Steele sisters.

3. Lucy Steele believes that Elinor and Edward are romantically attached to one another, but since she's been engaged to Edward in secret for a few years, she's in the catbird seat. She is determined to make Elinor suffer by telling her that Edward isn't going to be there, only it makes Elinor happy.

4. Lucy Steele, sycophant that she is, is only too happy to believe that Mrs Ferrars and Fanny like her - they really like her!

5. Marianne, poor, sentimental girl that she is, understands that Mrs Ferrars is being a disapproving bitch in order to try to run Elinor off, but she doesn't know the rest of the story. She therefore engages in a highly public display of support for Elinor, which is probably far more mortifying to Elinor than any of the moves by the bitchy Steele and Ferrars women. I have to hand it to Marianne, though - she rouses herself out of her own misery in a hurry when she worries that Elinor might actually be suffering, and that's the first nice thing I've been able to say about her in aeons. So.

6. Elinor knows that Lucy is engaged to Edward, and that Fanny, John and Mrs Ferrars would completely flip the shit if they found out about it. She knows that Mrs Ferrars intends Edward to marry Miss Morton, something that Lucy doesn't fully grasp. She knows that Brandon is hopelessly in love with Marianne. In fact, she is the only character who totally understands what everyone is up to and, like us readers, has possession of all the information to allow one to fully appreciate the many stresses and strains going on here.

7. Colonel Brandon, as just mentioned, knows he's in madly in love with Marianne. Man of Action that he is, he jumps up and rushes to her side without even thinking about it when she starts to cry. This does not prevent John Dashwood (Ph.D. in Jackassery) from talking smack about Marianne and trying to sell Elinor to Brandon for a very good price.

8. Sir John compounds the horrifying spectacle of Marianne's outburst and breakdown by relating the full gossip about her in a way that means everyone there could hear him (if they didn't already know the story).

I can hardly wait for tomorrow's chapter, when awkward rises to a whole new level!


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Monday, November 15, 2010

Sense & Sensibility, Volume II, chapter 11 (ch 33)

Let me just get this out there right up front: If this chapter had its own title, it would probably be called "the chapter of worthless gentlemen."

Elinor finally convinces Marianne to leave the house, but she limits their activities to a quick errand, refusing to pay any calls. And she is out of it, yo.

Toothpick Dandy

Now, I happen to know this guy's real name, but I don't want to spoil things, since Austen hasn't told us what it is yet, so I'm going with Toothpick Dandy. So you know.

Since Marianne is out of it and the store is full of customers, Elinor has plenty of time to observe the complete git at the jewelry counter. Now, here's the thing: Austen expends three full paragraphs on this guy, and she makes a complete mockery of him in doing so. He's vain, pompous, and frivolous, and we learn all of that without her using those terms. Check out how it's done:


On ascending the stairs, the Miss Dashwoods found so many people before them in the room, that there was not a person at liberty to tend to their orders; and they were obliged to wait. All that could be done was, to sit down at that end of the counter which seemed to promise the quickest succession; one gentleman only was standing there, and it is probable that Elinor was not without hope of exciting his politeness to a quicker despatch. But the correctness of his eye, and the delicacy of his taste, proved to be beyond his politeness. He was giving orders for a toothpick-case for himself, and till its size, shape, and ornaments were determined, all of which, after examining and debating for a quarter of an hour over every toothpick-case in the shop, were finally arranged by his own inventive fancy, he had no leisure to bestow any other attention on the two ladies, than what was comprised in three or four very broad stares; a kind of notice which served to imprint on Elinor the remembrance of a person and face, of strong, natural, sterling insignificance, though adorned in the first style of fashion.

Marianne was spared from the troublesome feelings of contempt and resentment, on this impertinent examination of their features, and on the puppyism of his manner in deciding on all the different horrors of the different toothpick-cases presented to his inspection, by remaining unconscious of it all; for she was as well able to collect her thoughts within herself, and be as ignorant of what was passing around her, in Mr. Gray's shop, as in her own bedroom.

At last the affair was decided. The ivory, the gold, and the pearls, all received their appointment, and the gentleman having named the last day on which his existence could be continued without the possession of the toothpick-case, drew on his gloves with leisurely care, and bestowing another glance on the Miss Dashwoods, but such a one as seemed rather to demand than express admiration, walked off with a happy air of real conceit and affected indifference.




John Dashwood

Hello, half-sisters! I've been in London for two full days already, but couldn't call on you because EVERYONE ELSE IS WAY MORE IMPORTANT THAN YOU. But I hear that your hostess is rich, and the Middletons are too (plus Sir John is a SIR), so I insist that you introduce me to them! Also, I hear the house that other people gave you when I refused to do the right thing is awesome. You are so very lucky!

Dear John Dashwood: You are a jackass. I'm just saying.

John Dashwood does indeed turn up the next day in order to suck up to Mrs. Jennings visit his sisters. And then Colonel Brandon turns up to pay a call, and John Dashwood decides that since Brandon and Elinor said hello to one another, they should get married. He graciously wishes that Brandon had four thousand a year, instead of just the two thousand he actually earns.

When Elinor, who knows full well that Brandon is in love with Marianne, says Brandon isn't interested in her, John Dashwood tells her to give him "those little attentions and encouragements which ladies can so easily give" in order to "secure" him, and then he makes a reference to how he and Fanny and his mother-in-law will all be SO HAPPY if she does that, since that will keep her away from Edward, which pisses them off they want to see her happy.

Then, as if he isn't already being a complete dick, John Dashwood tells Elinor that Edward is likely to be married. Turns out that Mrs. Ferrars wants him to marry a Miss Morton for her fortune, and she's willing to display her "liberality" by settling 1,000 pounds a year on him. That is not enough money to support John Dashwood's claim that she's a generous person, and all of Austen's contemporary readers would have laughed at her being described as "liberal". She also handed Fanny 200 pounds, earning John's gratitude because he is a cheap bastard. Who is complaining about expenses and boasting about getting a bunch of cash to his semi-impoverished sister. Again I say "John Dashwood is a jackass."

He further develops his jackassery (behold! I've coined a new word!) by talking about his "improvements" at Norland, where he has torn down a lovely grove of old walnut trees in order to build a greenhouse for Fanny and is busy enclosing the land. I talked about the inclosure/enclosure movement in detail in this Northanger Abbey post. Allow me to quote myself in part: "When General Tilney shows off his vast enclosures, it is because Austen means to point out how he has been enriched by the enclosure movement, and – quite possibly – how he is oblivious to or unconcerned with any hardship it causes to others. Also, greenhouses were particularly expensive to maintain[.]"

And he earns his Ph.D. in Jackass by talking about how Marianne has lost her "bloom", belaboring the (negative) change in her appearance and asserting that she will never look good again. He doesn't enquire after her in an "oh dear, is something wrong?" sort of way, but sort of bemoans her condition in a "how the hell did she let herself go like that?" manner. Then he says, "I shall tell Fanny that it's okay for her to call on Mrs Jennings after all, since she cleans up nicely for a lady whose husband earned his living by actually working for it" and skips off.


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Sunday, November 14, 2010

Final retreat report

I am now at home - have been for just under two hours, in fact, during which time I've had to put away my things from traveling, tidy up other people's messes, do other people's laundry, put clean sheets on the bed, and so forth. It quickly reminded me what it is that is so great - and liberating - about a writing retreat outside your own home: you pretty much don't have to worry about other people. At least, not in the same sort of way, where it's actually your job to worry about those other people, and it's actually part of your responsibility to take care of them by cooking, cleaning, and the like. Your only real responsibility is to take care of yourself and to put your writing first, something that is terribly hard to accomplish if you have a significant other and/or children and/or pets that are relying on you to be their companion/parent/caregiver.

Anyhoo . . . that is how I came to accomplish so very much while away. I'd hoped to complete my "chubby outline" for the YA novel I'm working on by today, but to my surprise, it was completed by Thursday night. Also completed on Thursday was my weekly writing exercise, and I got mostly caught up on Picture Book Idea Month.

On Friday, I wrote interview questions for one of the authors I'll be interviewing for the upcoming Winter Blog Blast Tour, finished catching up on PiBoIdMo, finished reading all of Angela's notes on the Jane Project, transferred the two and a half chapters of my WIP that I'd written before I started the "chubby outline" into Scrivener and reworked the first two chapters.

On Saturday, I wrote about 2400 new words for my WIP - some for chapter two, and most of them to complete chapter three. I also spent about an hour and a half tackling some business correspondence that I had put off for far too long.

Today, I wrote another 900 or so words for my WIP - rounding out some stuff I'd skimped on in chapter three and starting chapter four, plus I wrote interview questions for a second WBBT interviewee.

Over the course of the four day retreat, I consumed something like 25-30 cups of tea, at least eight scones, 4-5 biscotti, and a bunch of snacks (including pita chips, Munchos, goldfish crackers, and chocolate), a brownie, some ice cream, and an assortment of excellent meals that Angela and I made. I also took a walk on the beach with Angela all four days, watched a movie all three nights, and re-read Sarah MacLean's Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake, plus I kept up with posting here at my blog.

Crazy, crazy productive. Now, to hope I can bring some of that momentum home with me and keep things rolling along!


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Quoteskimming

Tara Lazar is again hosting Picture Book Idea Month this month, for those children's authors who are interested in writing smaller books than what you come up with for NaNoWriMo. I hope those of you interested in writing picture books will check it out, whether you are officially participating in PiBoIdMo or not, since there are some great resources to be found.

Tara is also on Twitter, where she posted a quote from Roald Dahl yesterday. When I get home I'll copy it into my commonplace book, but while I'm still in Brigantine, I thought I'd share it with you:

"...The greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don't believe in magic will never find it."


From my friend Jenn Hubbard, who writes some of the most thoughtful, wonderful posts about writing that I'm aware of:

Choosing the story
In any given event, there are many stories.

How do we choose whether to tell Cinderella's story (as an example) from her point of view, or the prince's, or a stepsister's? As that point of view shifts, how do the beginning and ending points of the story change? How does the theme change?

One of those stories will have an arc and a theme that resonate with us. That is my story, an inner voice says. That is the story I have to tell. This is what I believe to be true.

There's a point where we shift from imitation--from telling our myths and stories the same way we've received them--to creation. A point where we take hold of a story and shape it according to our own beliefs and experiences. Having learned from others what stories are, we begin to tell our own.

I was watching the Daily Show the other night, and the guest was Mick Foley, a professional wrestler who is also the author of nine books and a dedicated humanitarian. (Foley first appeared on the Daily Show as "Senior Ass Kicker" in a clip in which he stood up for a young boy who had been bullied in school (and called a "gaywad") for refusing to say the Pledge of Allegiance. You can see that segment here.)

While on Stewart's show to promote his latest memoir, for which he will see no money as far as I can tell - 50% of his advance is going to RAINN (the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network) and the other 50% is going to help stop sexual violence in Sierra Leone - Foley said this about his career as a wrestler, although I like it as a metaphor for life and writing:

"I could not jump high, so I had to jump from high places."


And finally, a quote from J.K. Rowling, and not because the first Deathly Hallows film is coming out this week (SQUEE! I have midnight tickets!! But I digress), but because she said this when she recently accepted the first-ever Hans Christian Andersen Literary Award, designed to honor a living children's author who has created works that, like those of Andersen, hold enduring appeal to children:

Any book that is written down to children, or with one nervous sideways eye on the author's fellow adults, or with the belief that this is the kind of thing they like, cannot work and will not last. Children are not they, they are us. And this is why writing that succeeds with children often succeeds just as well with adults. Not because the latter are infantile or regressive, but because the true dilemmas of childhood are the dilemmas of the whole of life. Those of belonging and betrayal, the power of the group, and the courage it takes to be an individual. Of love, and loss, and learning what is it to be a human being. Let alone a good, brave, or honest one.

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Saturday, November 13, 2010

WEREWOLF HAIKU by Ryan Mecum

Remember ZOMBIE HAIKU, with all its humor and gorey details? Or VAMPIRE HAIKU, with its tour of U.S. history and culture? Well, Ryan Mecum combines the gore of Zombie Haiku with the cultural awareness of Vampire Haiku in his latest outing. This time, it's WEREWOLF HAIKU, in which a mild-mannered mailman is bitten by a (not) dog while on his daily rounds and finds himself a werewolf.

Turns out there are pros and cons to being a werewolf:

I can hear better,
even though both my ear holes
are clogged with whiskers.

Spiders have eight legs,
each of which I hear stomping
on my hardwood floors.

With heightened hearing,
current pop songs hurt my ears
more than they used to.
The poor mailman develops a unibrow and a lot of other hairy areas - ears, chest, tongue. And a tendency to chase cars and rabbits, howl at sirens, and hump legs. He's also become more of an attraction for dogs, which now follow him like he's the pied piper (as if mailmen don't already get enough canine attention).

The descriptions of his killings and digestive issues are hideously nauseating, yet comical in a black sort of way:

When people eat corn
and spot them in their feces--
teeth are that way, too.
Pondering the classic children's tales involving wolves, he arrives at a number of amusing conclusions. I especially like this one:

Those three little pigs
would have been eaten too fast
for a fairy tale.

That ten-page story
should be a five-word sentence:
"A wolf eats three pigs."
His stalking of the girl he likes is creeeeeepy, and ends in a manner I didn't entirely expect, as does the book. I highly recommend it for anyone who loved either of Ryan's first two books, for fans of werewolves or lycanthropes, for those of you with a sick sense of humor (you know who you are), and for reluctant teen readers of the male persuasion.


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Friday, November 12, 2010

Calling all Cover Lovers!

You know who you are.

You can't pass up a good book cover when you see it.

You quite possibly cannot forgive a bad book cover, either. You know the kind I mean. The ones that have an image on them that has NOTHING TO DO WITH THE CONTENTS OF THE BOOK! (I yelled this in print because it's the sort of thing that M and I yell in person when we find books like this). Maybe there's a girl on the cover of a book with a male main character (this didn't bother me in the case of John Green's Paper Towns, but holey moley, have I heard other people rant about that, both online and in person). Or there's a white girl or guy on the cover of a book with a minority main character.

Or the ones that simply don't convey the era/setting/content/tone of the book adequately - a cutesy cover on a serious book, say, or a Very Serious cover on something that isn't a very serious book, or a cover that skews too old or too young for what's in between the covers or, in some cases, a MISSED OPPORTUNITY (same disclaimer for the yelling). I mean hey - if you've got an awesome steampunk story in between the covers, wouldn't you want to see an image that says "steampunk" on the cover? Scott Westerfeld's Leviathan and Behemoth sure do. So do Gail Carriger's books for the adult market, Soulless, Changeless and Blameless. Not so the books by D.M. Cornish (at least the original coves), Ysabeau Wilce and Jenny Davidson.

So Leila over at Bookshelves of Doom is doing something about it, to whit: A MAKE YOUR OWN COVER CONTEST! Details can be found there, but the deadline is December 15th.

I, for one, cannot wait to see what you all come up with.

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Retreat report

Yesterday's non-writing progress included travel to Brigantine, the baking of scones, a walk on the beach, the cooking of a (rather excellent, if I may say so) dinner, and the watching of Letters to Juliet, which Angela hadn't yet seen.

While that sounds like enough to constitute a pretty full day, there was also writing progress.

I wrote a new poem, thereby completing my weekly writing exercise (another prompt taken from the marvelous Bonnie Neubauer and her book, The Write-Brain Workbook).

I wrote about 2000 words and finished writing my "chubby outline" for my YA novel. Um, yeah. The goal was to finish it by the end of the retreat, but it got done on day one. This is what happens when your entire day can be devoted to the pursuit of writing and you aren't busy interacting with non-writers, a category which for me includes my husband, children and pets. Not having them about for any long period of time is unthinkable, but I must say that not having them around for a few days is tremendously liberating for one's creativity. Especially when one is on retreat with another writer. It makes for an environment that nurtures creativity in inspiring and wonderful ways.

Off to get out of these pajamas and into real clothes, and then? To work, of course.


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Thursday, November 11, 2010

Sense & Sensibility, Volume II, chapter 10 (ch 32)

Elinor tells Marianne all she's learned from Colonel Brandon. It has the following effects on Marianne:

1. It causes her to stop holding a torch for Willoughby, although it leaves her quite depressed. She is appalled at his treatment of young Eliza, and Marianne must now wonder whether he ever intended to marry her, or whether he only intended to seduce her the way he had done with Brandon's ward.

2. It causes her to think far better of Colonel Brandon, whom she now sees as a tragic, romantic figure. Marianne now sees Brandon as a swashbuckling hero (because of the duel), as a stand-up guy (because of his taking responsibility for the care of Eliza and for challenging Willoughby to a duel over Eliza's situation), and as a tragic figure (for his continued melancholy of nearly 20 years because of his own lost love).

Mrs Dashwood, although offstage, is represented through some correspondence and through discussion of her own grief, and of her decision that it'd be best for Marianne to stay in London (even though Marianne desperately wants to come home). Her thinking is that Marianne will be reminded too much of Willoughby if she's back at Barton Cottage. Elinor agrees with that line of reasoning. Marianne accedes to her mother's decision, with her consolation being that Elinor might get to see Edward Ferrars after all - something she thinks would be a good thing, having no idea how things truly stand there.

Mrs Jennings takes a full two days to revise her opinion that Brandon and Marianne will be married by Midsummer. (Remember, it's January.) First she moves the deadline to Michaelmas (early October), and then decides it's far more likely that Brandon will marry Elinor, since the two of them converse so nicely together. (Go ahead and place your bets now as to whether any of Mrs Jennings's prognostications prove correct!)

Poor Elinor Yes, that's a recurring statement around here. While Mrs Jennings, Sir John and Mrs Palmer are all good enough not to so much as mention Willoughby in Marianne's presence, none of them truly seem able to shut up about him when it's only Elinor in the room, so she's stuck listening to word of him all the livelong day.

Also? The Misses Steele are in town. Lucy is throwing jabs at Elinor for having come to town at all, and for staying as long as she has. The wind is taken out of her sails when she implies that they've overstayed their welcome and Mrs Jennings clearly indicates that they've done no such thing as far as she's concerned.

Miss Steele (the elder, less mannered of the pair) is all set to storm up to Marianne's room to see her, even if Marianne doesn't want company and/or is in dishabille. While it's not stated in the book, it's implied in the films (and I think it's a fair implication) that her desire to see Marianne is related to Willoughby's precipitous marriage to Miss Grey's 50,000 pounds. Lucy, already snippy because she's pissed Elinor is still in town, is only too happy to snap at her sister for her impertinence.

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Sense & Sensibility, Volume II, chapter 9 (ch 31) addendum

OMG! I nearly forgot that I wanted to talk about this bit from the conclusion of the chapter we covered yesterday in particular. It is of the utmost interest for a few reasons. First the exchange between Elinor and Colonel Brandon in question, then an explanation:

"Have you," she continued, after a short silence, "ever seen Mr Willoughby since you left him at Barton?"

"Yes," he replied gravely, "once I have. One meeting was unavoidable."

Elinor, startled by his manner, looked at him anxiously, saying,

"What? have you met him to--"

"I could meet him no other way. Eliza had confessed to me, though most reluctantly, the name of her lover; and when he returned to town, which was within a fortnight after myself, we met by appointment, he to defend, I to punish his conduct. We returned unwounded, and the meeting, therefore, never got abroad."
Although it is not spelled out on the page, it would have been glaringly obvious to a Regency era reader that Colonel Brandon had challenged Willoughby to a a duel. They both turned up, neither was injured, and no report of their highly illegal meeting spread through town.

I repeat my earlier refrain that we are dealing with Colonel Brandon, Man of Action! here. He cannot allow Willoughby's horrible treatment of Brandon's ward, Eliza, to go unpunished, so he quite literally calls Willoughby out on it.

Although we haven't done a group reading of Pride & Prejudice here yet, most of you know that story, and know how Mr. Darcy puts himself on the line to track down Elizabeth Bennet's wayward sister, Lydia, and her seducer, Mr. Wickham. Mr. Darcy stands on principle, but he stays within the bounds of the law; his actions under the circumstances are one of the things that establish him as being actually heroic, really. Colonel Brandon, who has always been a Man of Action, goes farther than Darcy by actually breaking the law in order to defend Eliza's honor. To my knowledge, he's the only of Austen's heroes to break the law - and it's such a glamourous sort of law-breaking (especially since nobody actually got hurt).

This is the sole mention of a duel in all of Austen's works. It seems to me highly probable that Brandon and Willoughby dueled with pistols, and quite possibly shot wide on purpose. (Also, pistols at the time were not exactly known for their marksmanship.) I say this because it seems likely that if they dueled with swords, Brandon would have given Willoughby some sort of wound. (Yeah, my money here is on Brandon - he's a former soldier, where Willoughby is merely a gentleman.) That said, I do love the choice made by the director of the 2008 BBC production to go with rapiers; I have mixed feelings about the way the depiction of the duel follows the assembly at which Willoughby walks away from Marianne, so that Brandon's anger seems prompted by that as much as (or more than) it has to do with Eliza - on the one hand, it's kind of extra swoon-worthy, on the other, it's simply NOT Brandon's motivation, although I'm sure the idea of kicking Willoughby's ass for (a) securing Marianne's affections in the first place and (b) casting her off must have held some secondary appeal. (If you want to see the film only as far as the end of chapter 9, stop watching at about the 11:25 mark):





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Hello from Brigantine!

I am nearly certain I forgot to mention my most excellent news, which is that Angela De Groot and I are, at this moment, sitting in a lovely condo in Brigantine, New Jersey, looking out at the ocean.

We drove down just this morning, and are now set up and ready to write:

Laptops? Check.
Hot tea? Check.
Freshly made scones? Check.

We are staying at the same place we visited last year, during that whopping huge Nor'easter. And it felt remarkably like coming home, even though we were only here for four days last year.

I am off now to open Scrivener (which I am loving) and to start work in earnest. I'll be back later today with a Sense & Sensibility post, and to see what you're all up to.

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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Sense & Sensibility, Volume II, chapter 9 (ch 31)

Remember before we started reading this, I mentioned that this was initially an epistolary novel? Well, I hate to say it, but this is one of the chapters that Austen didn't rewrite as well as she could/should have. Check out the length of Brandon's monologue toward the end. It's pretty fair odds that he is now reciting the contents of what would have been a letter in the original Elinor and Marianne. And truly, it makes a bit more sense as a letter than a conversation, because damn, that's a long speech!

Before we get there, however, we have to put up with more of Marianne's selfish and unfair assessments of Mrs Jennings and Colonel Brandon. There are only a few times in life I've wished for the ability to reach into a book and slap a character, but Marianne is one of the character's I'd smack if I could manage it. Anyhoo . . .

I love the way Emma Thompson edited it down, and the way that Alan Rickman delivered his lines, so here. Enjoy:





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Speak Now by Taylor Swift

Those of you who pay any attention to the "music" info at the bottom of my posts may have noticed a proliferation of Taylor Swift songs lately, most of which are from her latest CD, Speak Now, which I purchased the day it came out. In fairness, the copy I purchased shows Taylor in a red dress, since I got the Target edition, which comes with a second "bonus" CD containing a few additional tracks and some video content.

I've been pondering how to write this post since the day I bought the album, and although I'm still not positive this is exactly the right angle, I will approximate what it is I've been wanting to say about it.

First, this is not about the music, per se. I happen to really like her and her music, but that is not what this post is about. It's about her sheer gutsiness in making this particular CD.

Here's part of what she writes in the opening liner notes, which also contain all the song lyrics, by the way:

Real life is a funny thing, you know. In real life, saying the right thing at the right moment is beyond crucial. So crucial, in fact, that most of us start to hesitate, for fear of saying the wrong thing at the wrong time. But lately what I've begun to fear more than that is letting the moment pass without saying anything.

I think most of us fear reaching the end of our life, and looking back regretting the moments we didn't speak up. When we didn't say 'I love you.' When we should've said 'I'm sorry.' When we didn't stand up for ourselves or someone who needed help.

These songs are made up of words I didn't say when the moment was right in front of me. These songs are open letters. Each is written with a specific person in mind, telling them what I meant to tell them in person. . . .

. . .

What you say might be too much for some people. Maybe it will come out all wrong and you'll stutter and you'll walk away embarrassed, wincing as you play it all back in your head. But I think the words you stop yourself from saying are the ones that will haunt you the longest.

So say it to them. Or say it to yourself in the mirror. Say it in a letter you'll never send or in a book millions might read someday. I think you deserve to look back on your life without a chorus of resounding voices saying 'I could've, but it's too late now.'

. . .

I don't think you should wait. I think you should speak now.
Swift's songs have inspired me on a personal level. Here's why: she is quite publicly putting herself out there. One of the songs on which she really does this is "Back to December," which is an extremely public apology to Taylor Lautner, whom she dumped last December. She calls him "the beautiful boy whose heart I broke in December" in the opening liner note, and it doesn't take much to figure out she's referring Lautner, but she goes further, mentioning specific details: "your tan skin, your sweet smile . . . and how you held me in your arms that September night, the first time you ever saw me cry." Given these and other details in the song, there's no way it's not about him. She says she regrets the break-up, and would take it back if she could. She's pretty much asking him to give her a second chance in this song. To use an inappropriate term, it shows real balls. She is declaring herself in an extremely public way, and the romance and riskiness of it - personal and emotional riskiness, that is, not commercial riskiness, in being willing to put herself out there in such a way - is truly inspiring. I think it's her courage in not only writing the words, but in recording them and performing them in public (rumor has it she'll be singing it at the CMAs tonight): she's not only putting it all on the line, but she's doing it in a hugely public way, so that everyone knows that she is putting herself out there. I applaud that sort of gutsiness.

All of the songs have some sort of inspiration to them - at least, they do to me as a writer. There's "Better Than Revenge", in which she calls out Camilla Belle for taking up with Joe Jonas within days of the Jonas-Swift break-up (one of the bitchiest songs I've ever heard) and "Dear John", in which she takes John Mayer to task (as M pointed out, not only do the details in the lyrics make clear that it's aimed at Mayer, but musically there's a guitar "quote" that sounds just like Mayer to hammer the point home). Neither of these songs really says something positive, but I find it inspiring that she's willing to make a fool of herself in this sort of negative way.

It's inspiring to me as a writer to see another artist putting so much on the line. And it's got me thinking about being willing to take risks with my writing. It's something I've done on occasion, as I did in Us, a poem which is the third poem of mine posted in the current issue of Chantarelle's Notebook. The poem is not based in fact, yet it is 100% true - it is an homage to my relationship with my college boyfriend, who was (and I suppose always will be) my first true love. Did we read the Times in bed on Sunday mornings? Drink wine together? Read books aloud to one another? Nope. Yet the poem is not about the details; it's about the emotion.

I'm thinking I should do more of that, whether it's in personal poems or in my new piece of fictional prose. And I owe a big thank-you to Taylor Swift for this album, with its songs and its liner notes and its inspiration.

Gosh, I hope this makes sense to someone else.

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Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Sense & Sensibility, Volume II, chapter 8 (ch 30)

God bless Mrs Jennings, even if she shows a disregard for manners in entering the room as she does:

Mrs Jennings came immediately to their room on her return, and without waiting to have her request of admittance answered, opened the door and walked in with a look of real concern.

"How do you do my dear?"--said she in a voice of great compassion to Marianne, who turned away her face without attempting to answer.

"How is she, Miss Dashwood?--Poor thing! she looks very bad.--No wonder. Ay, it is but too true. He is to be married very soon--a good-for-nothing fellow! I have no patience with him. Mrs Taylor told me of it half an hour ago, and she was told it by a particular friend of Miss Grey herself, else I am sure I should not have believed it; and I was almost ready to sink as it was. Well, said I, all I can say is, that if this be true, he has used a young lady of my acquaintance abominably ill, and I wish with all my soul his wife may plague his heart out. And so I shall always say, my dear, you may depend on it. I have no notion of men's going on in this way; and if ever I meet him again, I will give him such a dressing as he has not had this many a day. But there is one comfort, my dear Miss Marianne; he is not the only young man in the world worth having; and with your pretty face you will never want admirers. Well, poor thing! I won't disturb her any longer, for she had better have her cry out at once and have done with. The Parrys and Sandersons luckily are coming tonight you know, and that will amuse her."
I have to give Marianne some credit in this scene: she actually exerts herself to join the company for dinner. Now, she doesn't exert herself far enough to pay attention to anyone or join the conversation, but the mere fact that she got dressed and went down to dinner is more than I've come to expect from her, so I was pleased to see it.

And again I say: God bless Mrs Jennings. She forbears from mentioning Willoughby at all during their time together, and contents herself with fussing over Marianne like a mother hen:

Their good friend saw that Marianne was unhappy, and felt that every thing was due to her which might make her at all less so. She treated her therefore, with all the indulgent fondness of a parent towards a favourite child on the last day of its holidays. Marianne was to have the best place by the fire, was to be tempted to eat by every delicacy in the house, and to be amused by the relation of all the news of the day. Had not Elinor, in the sad countenance of her sister, seen a check to all mirth, she could have been entertained by Mrs Jennings's endeavours to cure a disappointment in love, by a variety of sweetmeats and olives, and a good fire.
Ah, there's the Marianne we know and love: as soon as she cottons on to the fact that she's the object of pity, she bolts for her room with an exclamation of (capital M) Misery.

And it is then that we get further confirmation of Mrs Jennings's goodness (as if I needed it) - she'd be willing to send far and wide to get something if Marianne would eat it. And it turns out she's held back some of the pertinent information about Willoughby, who has lost his inheritance and is marrying Miss Grey for her money.

So, first-time readers: tell me, do you believe Mrs Jennings is prescient? Will Colonel Brandon have Marianne after all, and be married before mid-summer? What say you?

And I hope you enjoyed the description of Delaford, which is Colonel Brandon's estate. "Stew-ponds", by the way, are ponds that have been stocked with fish. And it sounds delightfully situated, near the church, the parson-house and the butcher and not too far off the road.

Constantia wine: good for whatever ails you I must say that I doubt there's a single reader who doesn't love Mrs Jennings by now. (Do tell me if I'm wrong.) She turns up with a glass of Constantia wine, a sort of muscatel from South Africa that was imported into England in the 18th and 19th centuries. She offers it for Marianne's broken heart, but says her husband used to like it to help his gout. I love Elinor's wry observation, and the fact that she is acknowledging her own heartbreak here.

Colonel Brandon is such a caring soul. He arrives in quite a pensive mood and grows more serious still after receiving confirmation that Willoughby and Marianne will not be getting married. I like what it says about his concern for Marianne that, instead of triumphing as Mrs Jennings predicted, he grew more serious still. Of course, he has something on his mind. You can tell from his halting speech when talking about Willoughby that he is in possession of some additional information, yes? (If not, then I apologize for the extremely short-lived spoiler, since we will find out in tomorrow's chapter just what it is.)

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