Thursday, April 20, 2006

Deadlines, Destruction, and My Daughter's Duck

For years, when people asked my mother what her daughter did, she'd say, "She lives on a farm in Michigan. She trains horses and gives riding lessons, and she's married to a wonderful guy."

"Mom," I would say, "didn't you mention that I was a writer?"

"Well... No."

I actually got to the point where I said, "Repeat after me: My daughter is a writer. Go on... I'll wait." (No lie.)

Now that actual books bear my name in one capacity or another, my mother is quite pleased to tell people what her daughter does -- which is very gratifying, I'll admit. But now we face a new hurdle: this blog.

"I read your blog," Mom said recently.

"Good. What'd you think?"

"It's all about writing. There's some horse stuff, too, but it's mostly about writing."

"True," said I. "That's the point. I'm pretty clear about that up front, right from the start, on the header page."

"Well I don't care about writing," she countered. "I want to hear about what's going on in your life. I want to read about my granddaughter."

Mom -- this one's for you:

Much happened yesterday. I made a preliminary bid on a new project and followed up on two others in various stages of completion.

I also discovered that a sizeable area of the glazing on our beautiful, antique, cast iron, clawfoot bathtub has been compromised. I called our contractor about it, only to discover that the firm who initially refinished the tub 10 years ago has gone out of business. Getting a new bathtub may actually be less expensive that refinishing the one we have. Neither option will be cheap, I'm sure. He's going to come by early this morning and survey the damage.

Most of my workday consisted of wrestling with the edit of He Who Will Not Call's manuscript. To me has fallen the unenviable task of beating the thing into publishable shape.

I'd actually done a pretty thorough initial edit of the original draft last fall, before HWWNC went incommunicado (a fancy word for "petulantly unreachable"). But there were several instances of gaps or holes in the manuscript that could have benefited from his expertise. Since he's giving us the silent treatment, it has become my joyful duty to write the text that fills the holes.

I finished drafts to plug two of the biggest holes -- two full, missing chapters -- last week. In fact, on Tuesday, I sent those chapters, along with suggested photos, to the photographer who has been hired to illustrate them, so he can get started on the stuff we know is missing from the text.

But as I work my way through the "for publication" edit, I'm running across numerous, nasty little smaller holes. HWWNC could rattle off words to fill the holes without even thinking. But this topic is FAR from my field of expertise.

Filling the holes first requires no small amount of research. Then it requires synthesizing the information in an appropriate way. Finally, it requires that I write the text so that it sounds something like HWWNC's voice. It takes a bit of time. Half the manuscript is edited. Hope to finish the edit and send it to the publisher by the end of the week.

While I worked, Robert finished clearing brush, rocks, snow fence, moderate-sized trees, and other debris from the concrete slab that lies outside along the length of our barn. We don't know if it's salvageable or not. Perhaps some concentrated work and a significant amount of concrete will render it useable for parking farm implements. Or maybe we'd be further ahead to just chop it up and haul it away. Time (and my father) will tell. The first step, however, was to get the thing cleared.

During Robert's one-man slab-clearing party, Cassandra kept herself occupied making mudpies and sand castles at the entrance to the barn.

Later in the afternoon, while I wrestled with unfamiliar terms and tried to become comfortable enough with them to present them in a competent way, Robert and Cassandra carried on in the hallway. A not-so-subtle hint from me that my concentration could use a boost, and they were soon headed to the little lake nearby, where they stayed until it was time to start supper.

After supper, Robert listened to a teleseminar, while my neighbor, Sheila, and I headed out to do some errands. First, we moved a crumby old mattress from one of her neighbor's rental houses onto a trailer filled with treasures headed for the dump (free dump passes start tomorrow). Then we went to Whistler Farm , and picked up an extra water tank that my friend Denise no longer needed. (One can never have too many, I say.)

While we were there, we also got a duck for Cassandra, thanks to Denise's son, Caleb, who is the local poultry expert. Cassandra is terribly excited. As of yet, however, the duck remains unnamed. Further bulletins as events warrant on that front.

On the way home, Sheila helped me pick up an old telephone pole that had been removed from service and discarded near a new house being built just down the road. I stopped there on Monday and asked if they had plans for the thing. They didn't, and assured me that I was welcome to take it. It will make a great addition to the obstacle course I'm building for the horses. More on that later, as the obstacles take shape.

We came home, unloaded the pole, and were all set to get on with our evening... Until Sheila forgot that the door to her truck cap was up, and caught it in the cable run strung for our dalmatian. With a startlingly loud BAM! the window of the cap door shattered in 10 million pieces.

Glass shot everywhere -- forming a circle of shards approximately 40 feet in diameter right in the center of the dog run. Some glass pieces made it all the way to the chicken fence. Others covered the top of the truck, fell in front of the truck, and littered the truck bed. I'm not talking safety glass, here. I'm talking about little black splinters of death raining down from above.

We picked up as much of the glass as we could (shop vacs are lifesavers), until the sun set and we could no longer see. The dog run is still unusable.

Of course I felt terrible. Sheila borrowed our digital camera and took pictures of the damage before we started to clean any of it up. What a mess. When it got too dark to keep picking up shards, she went home.

Cassandra was tired anyway, and the glass explosion scared her. She then proceeded to pitch a full-scale Drama Queen fit about not being able to be outside with us, to pick up glass and play with her duck. Fit-pitchers, she discovered, get put straight to bed without having a book read or a song sung to them. Extended fit-pitchers also receive parental cautions about "sending the duck back."

Just before I put Cassandra to bed, I heard from a Centaur fence dealer, returning my call requesting more information. He was very nice. What's more, he was quite knowledgeable. He asked about the new pasture I want to put in, got some specs from me, and should provide us with a quote later this week.

While a pot of tea was brewing, and Robert was fiddling with his new electronic toy (more on that soon), Karen and I sat down to review the events of the evening... when there was a knock at the door.

It was Sheila, wondering if I'd picked up my camera before she left.

I hadn't.

She had set it down on the side of the trailer while we picked up the glass. Extensive searching proved futile until we meticulously retraced every step since the explosion.

We finally discovered the camera -- a quarter of a mile down the road by my neighbor's. Yes, it was destroyed... but the memory card with the insurance pictures (and photos of Cassandra looking for Easter eggs last Sunday) was intact.

What a day!

Robert, meanwhile, was installing, updating, charging, and initializing our new VOIP phones. It's new technology. He's beyond thrilled. I'm one of those people who would love to just keep our rotary dial phone forever, because it has great sound quality and doesn't require electricity to work.

Getting the VOIP up and working is Part I of the new Grand Phone Plan. Our current number--which is on my business cards, and other professional printouts--will be transferred to the VOIP phone (featuring Caller ID and other nifties) and will become the work / business number. A second, unlisted, number will be used for our private line. I'm all for progress. But really, I meant it about the rotary phone.

I called the jury hotline to discover that the courts of Berrien County have no need of my services, so Denise and I are headed to the Carriage Auction in Topeka, IN. It's an annual spring event. After Wednesday, I think I need a day away.

Denise wants some heavy bobsled bobs. My neighbor Rhonda wants me to look for some lighter sleigh runners. I'd like to find a decent work harness and a singletree for Nehi, my Welsh Cob. (I've misplaced or loaned out my singletree, and can't remember where it is, or who might have it... Not so bright on my part.)

And that, dear Reader, brings you up to date. Now do you see why I prefer to blog about writing stuff?