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Melinda R. Cordell [userpic]

Getting closer.

June 15th, 2015 (01:23 pm)

current location: On the old Plank Road near Chancellorsville.
current mood: creative
current song: "Jine the Cavalry!"

Today was the original deadline day, but my editor is on vacation, so my new deadline is anytime before the morning of June 24.

This is good, because today I am slowly working my way through the battle of Chancellorsville and where one of the women I'm writing about would have been located and what she was doing. I found some new information on her just this weekend so I'm incorporating all that.

I can't talk to anybody but I end up turning the conversation to the Civil War. That's just the way it goes.

Melinda R. Cordell [userpic]

Getting close to deadline.

May 18th, 2015 (03:29 pm)

current location: Get 'er Done Boulevard
current mood: quixotic
current song: "Eastbound and Down" -- Jerry Reed

Less than one month until deadline! On that day the book must be delivered to the publisher -- photos, stories, source notes, bibliography, glossary, front and back matter, and intros. ALL of it.

It's getting done, slowly but surely. I keep printing out finished stories to add to my stack o' manuscript, which is slowly growing into a complete draft. I've been marking it up a little as I go, but will save the lion's share of the work for when I get the WHOLE THING written. Which will be cutting it pretty close to deadline, admittedly. But this is not the time to panic about that.

Just cultivating a sense of slow and steady purpose -- and a lot of hard work. I'm trying to maintain that sense of urgency and I hope I don't get to where I burn myself out. I keep thinking of how good it will feel to have the last story printed and added to that stack. I can do it. It is going to get done.

And I have to remember that it will not be perfect. There will be a lot of dumb spots in there. It can't be helped. I can't let that paralyze me.

Just breathe. One of the writing bosses I worked with at Hamline told me, "Persevere." I think that's damned good advice.

Melinda R. Cordell [userpic]


May 15th, 2015 (08:28 am)
current location: In the blues, baby.
current song: "Riding With the King" B.B. King and Eric Clapton

"I stepped out of Mississippi when I was ten years old
With a suit cut sharp as a razor and a heart made of gold
I had a guitar hanging just about waist high
And I'm gonna play this thing until the day I die."

Melinda R. Cordell [userpic]

A little bit about writing historical nonfiction.

October 21st, 2014 (11:26 am)
current location: In Cowtown, baby!
current song: "Flushed from the Bathroom of My Heart" -- Johnny Cash

I really should update this more than once a month or whatever.

Still moving along on the Civil War book. Pulling in quotes from all over to help with the writing of each story -- other eyewitness accounts of Gettysburg, Chancellorsville, life in the prisoner-of-war camp at Andersonville and Florence, etc. Often the historical record for these women is scanty, so I have to add in details from other sources.

Picked up The Boys' War by Jim Murphy at the book sale -- he does good work in children's books. Never dry, always lively and historically accurate. I'm using that little volume as a writing model to help me along. Also I have McCullough's Truman in the back of my mind (always). David always used so many sources and neat little stories to keep us entertained and learning at the same time. He keeps stopping by the Truman Library and I keep missing him. Dang it!

The thing with writing about these women is that there are so many romanticized stories out there about them, and I have to really dig to find something that's historically accurate. On some of the women, I've found some scholarly articles that give solid facts about their lives, and this is a huge help. But on some of the women, all I have are the newspaper accounts which go on and on about how wonderful this gal is to follow her husband into war, how romantic this is -- and I'm going, yeah, yeah, can we have an actual account of where she was on the battlefield and what she was doing?

The writing is the tricky part -- and that's a reason I don't get on here much, because I know full well I'm procrastinating right now!

Melinda R. Cordell [userpic]

A comment I overheard ....

September 18th, 2014 (11:42 am)
current song: just the music of my amused thoughts

"Okay, rule #1 as a horse-hauler: Don't flush your keys down the toilet at the truck stop! Fish them out! But don't flush."

Thanks, I'll remember that.

Melinda R. Cordell [userpic]

I finally have a book deal!

August 20th, 2014 (11:58 am)

current location: In Cowtown, baby!
current mood: jubilant
current song: "Eastbound and Down" -- Jerry Reed

Guys, I've been running a little bit lately, and that's because I will have a book out in Spring 2016!

Women Heroes of the Civil War, which will be published by Chicago Review Press, will be about the women soldiers, spies, and medics who braved intense fire in the bloodiest battles in America.

I especially like the women soldiers. Can you imagine living among a whole army of men and hiding from all of them that you were a woman? A number of them made it through the war (or died in action) and were never found out.

It's such a cool topic and I have been listening to Civil War audiobooks and digging through a pile of books and resources just to get all these hooks in my mind to hang all this new information upon. Right now I'm listening to Grant's Memoirs at work and Walt Whitman's journals in the car (he worked as a nurse in Washington D.C. during the war) and chasing down photographs and doing research.

My deadline is June 15 of next year. By that date I have to turn in a full MS with photos and permissions, maps (for the designers to work from), the stories about the 20 women I'm focusing on, as well as sources, a bibliography, and an introduction about the events leading up to the war and the part that women played in it.


I am trying to keep my perfectionistic tendancies at bay so I can get this thing accomplished. "Imperfect action is better than perfect inaction," to quote President Truman.

Wish me luck, guys, because you can bet I'm going to need all the moral support I can get. Immoral support is also acceptable.

Melinda R. Cordell [userpic]

Good news is on the way!

July 31st, 2014 (09:20 am)
current location: In Cowtown, baby!
current song: "Let the Day Begin" -- The Call

I'm always in favor of good news, but I won't report on what exactly this news is until I get some stuff signed. But once that's done, you will certainly hear about it!  :)

In the meantime, I'm still writing stories and scanning in family pics and generally trying to keep up with kids and housework and weeds. (Actually I gave up on the weeds -- my garden tends to go all to hell in July and August. The chickens love it, though.)

I've also sent in some of Dad's slides to ScanCafe to be digitized. They did an amazing job and when this batch comes back, I'll send 'em more. The pics look great, and ScanCafe will email you the digitized files so you get those quickly, while you're waiting for the pics and DVDs to show up in your mailbox.

Here's one of Dad's fellow soldiers in the 588th Engineers in Vietnam in 1967-1968.  I hope I can get his name one of these days.


Melinda R. Cordell [userpic]

The Civil War book may be a go. MAY be.

July 8th, 2014 (08:55 am)
current location: In Cowtown, baby!
current song: "I Still Believe in You" -- Vince Gill

The editor wrote back yesterday: I have some minor revisions to do on the sample chapter, and then the full proposal is going to the editorial board on July 22. Yikes!!

That'll be the day after I get back from Hamline! (I'm leaving for the residency tomorrow.)

Whoo-ee, this is going to be an interesting couple of weeks.

I'm not going to get excited yet. Long experience says, "Let's just wait on that until we have an actual Yes."

I'm off to make my own luck. If you guys could send a couple of good thoughts my way I would sure appreciate it.

Melinda R. Cordell [userpic]

On the road again (or I will be soon).

July 7th, 2014 (08:25 am)

I'm heading back to Hamline to be a grad assistant, so I'll be hitting the road here in a few days. Excited and nervous, both. I like to see my writing buds, but I do hate to leave my little family. The best damn family there ever was and I don't know how we could have come up with a better one without using supernatural powers. It's going to be rough without them, but I will have to persevere. I am going to Hamline to serve and help everybody out and by dog that's what I'm going to do. I'm crazy about those guys, too, and it will be very good to see everybody again.

I have some workshop pieces to go through for Hamline and I also need to get my 15-20 minute reading selection ready to go. I know what I want to read, but I haven't read through it all yet. Probably had better get on both!

Still waiting back on word for my Civil War chapter and a couple of magazine articles and also a few queries I sent out for Shy Gal. Boy, I hate sending stuff out in summer, I really do. As the song says, the waiting is the hardest part.

I hope everybody is staying cool out there!

Melinda R. Cordell [userpic]

Snake rescue!

July 3rd, 2014 (02:57 pm)

Well, this morning I was a little late getting around, so I hurried out to the chicken pen to feed the hens. So I get the scratch and the feed and pour some in one dish, then went to hunt for the other dish. But I found a big gardner snake lying across the chicken yard, perfectly still. Its head is somewhere in the mess of bird netting I left in a heap just outside the pen. Shoot, I need to pick that up. I already had one snake die in the netting, unable to get out.

I touched the snake – and its sides expanded, as if it had gasped. Okay, it’s still alive, I can work with that. So I cursed myself for being late, because now I was going to be even later, and hurried back through the wet grass to the house. I found two tiny scissors in the sewing box and hurried back out again, crouched down by the snake, and lifted a bag of leaves out of the way. Now I could see its head, lost in a snarl of netting, and the thin black strands of netting were tightly clamped around its body.

As soon as I exposed the snake, it started trying to crawl farther into the netting, though the many strands held it fast. Boy, how was I going to keep it from crawling in there and getting more tangled? I took hold of the snake’s body, but it squirmed more and tried to get away, and then it started wrapping its body around my hand, trying to constrict it to death, and I pulled my hand out of there. I started cutting the strands around her. (I can’t sex a snake so we’ll just say it’s a girl snake.) She pulled her tail up toward the netting as if she was going to send her other half into the netting, just to complicate matters, but as I kept snipping, she began to wind her body around my other hand. Well, fine, at least I’ll be able to keep her from running deeper into the netting that way. She wound and wound around my hand, squeezing all the while, until the tip of her tail lay on my wrist, and it shook a little like it was trying to help squeeze my hand to death. Actually it wasn’t very tight, just a nice squeeze, like a handshake.

Of course this now meant I could only snip and move netting aside with my right hand. “Okay, if that’s how you’re going to be,” I said, and kept snipping. At least now that she was curled around my hand, she was still, and it was easier for me to carefully work the tiny scissors between the snake’s scales and the black strands of netting that bound her. I was so afraid of hurting her because the netting was cutting into her body, it was so tight, but I’d work the blade of the scissors between and snip, and then snip again, and that would release a little bit of her, and then I’d snip through the snarl of netting all around her, trying to open up some more space to work. She hissed softly now and then, and occasionally she’d try to squirm her head and neck (this was all firmly trapped), and her unblinking yellow eye would watch me. Or she’d squeeze against her bonds, only cutting them deeper into her scales and skin, and I’d say hush hush little snake, it’s going to be all right, trying to calm her.

My hands and scissors were getting a little muddy – it had rained last night – and she hissed and wriggled when I snipped away the netting around her. She was scared. But more and more of the black cutting threads were being cut loose. Then I eased the scissors under a couple of threads and snipped, and all that was left were about two strands around her thin little neck.

She started to unwind from my hand, and she flipped over in the strands, trying to break herself free. “Hold on, honey, this really is not helping,” I said, trying to squeeze the scissors between the belly scales and the threads that still held her fast. But finally I managed to do that without nicking her and I cut the two threads free and pulled her out and got up with her in my hands.

And she opened her mouth and threatened to strike me!

Of course with her pale pink mouth so wide open like that, it was obvious that she had no teeth, and all she could do was gum me to death. But still I was a little offended. Hey, I just saved your snake butt, not that you actually have a butt!

But I was scared by her trying to strike, and she was scared because she was in the hands of a predator, so I understood. I leaned over the fence of the chicken yard and set her down in the grass on the other side. She immediately coiled and pulled her head back over her body, flattening her head into a triangle shape so she’d look like a rattler or something poisonous, staring at me.
“Now you stay away from the netting and wire, okay?” I said. “I don’t want to have to cut you out when I get home tonight.” But she went on looking ferocious, and I didn’t have more time to lecture her – because obviously lecturing a snake works – so I retrieved my muddy scissors and let myself out of the chicken pen.

She oriented her head to face me as I stepped out. I felt a little shaky from the encounter when headed back to the house. I washed my hands with a lot of soap (snakes are stinky) and got some food and raced off to work.


Melinda R. Cordell [userpic]

A short entry to say "I'm still here!"

June 19th, 2014 (08:32 am)
current location: In Cowtown, baby!
current song: "Maybe It Was Memphis" -- Pam Tillis (I think)

Still working on the sample chapter about the Civil War and a short article about marine farming in the future. I need to get those sent off ASAP but I've been dragging my feet. The problem with having plenty of time to write is that I waste a lot of it.

I'm also looking through my stories, trying to figure out which one to work on for Camp NaNoWriMo in July. I have one story that is eating at me, which I have to handle with tongs, and a second story that my daughter really really wants me to work on. The first story, which I'm calling Basilisks, is one of those stories that I need to write but I dread to mess with it because it really messes with my head and heart. The other one is my Seraphim Changelings story, about the girl who turns into a raccoon, and it's a lot of fun. I should switch between them both so I can stay on the level.

I am keeping this short because I really need to leave the internet and, I don't know, write! But I did want to wave at everybody and say hi.

Melinda R. Cordell [userpic]

Some possible good news in the offing.

May 13th, 2014 (12:43 pm)
current location: In Cowtown, baby!
current song: "The Mission" -- Rush

I took a look at my LJ just now and clicked through a few things before I realized, hey, my LJ page isn't wonky any more! I can post on here and look at my comments without scrolling through a bunch of nonsense.

How nice it is to be back.

In other news, I sent off some nonfiction pages just now -- a decent stack of work -- to an editor. Let's see what she says about them. I may be a little teensy bit excited because these pages may lead to me actually writing a book for publication, but I've been burned enough times to where I'm not letting myself get my hopes up. But so far all seems good.

We shall see, little grasshopper.

And now back to work because I'm giving a presentation about "The Elements of Surprise" at the library tonight and the presentation is, er, not quite finished. I probably should get right on that, yes!

Melinda R. Cordell [userpic]


May 1st, 2014 (08:37 am)
current location: In Cowtown, baby!
current song: 3rd movement, Brahms' Requiem

"Imperfect action is better that perfect inaction." -- Harry S. Truman

Hi guys! I've been MIA but I hope to have some news for you here in about a month, if all goes well. Don't worry, I think it should be good news. If not then you will probably hear about it.

I don't know what is wrong with LJ on my computer but the whole setup is insanely nuts and it's hell to navigate, which is why I haven't been on here much. Not sure how to fix it.

I hope everybody is getting some spring wherever they are!

Melinda R. Cordell [userpic]

Camp NaNoWriMo hijinks!

March 31st, 2014 (09:13 am)
current location: In Cowtown, baby!
current song: "Dog-Gone Blues" -- Canadian Brass (I'm not sure how this got on my brainradio)

Hey guys!

Who is doing Camp NaNoWriMo this year? I am! I'm going to revise the hell out of Shy Gal and make it un-putdownable to agents (I hope), as well as various other writing tasks that I will throw into the word count for the month.

Who wants to join me? I'm rosefiend on the Camp NaNoWriMo site. I am in a cabin with some very interesting and exciting writers, #campbeta if you want to get squirted with virtual shaving cream and also keep up with word counts.

It will be fun!

Melinda R. Cordell [userpic]

(no subject)

March 25th, 2014 (09:46 am)

My page is acting all wonky when I look at it in Explorer and I hope this posts.

I'm not doing the rare diseases book because the terms were not very good. Too bad. But I'm looking at other places now and hope something good comes of that.

Things have finally slowed down and I have gone back to living a normal life again! Whatever "normal" is. And I have also been starting to get back to work on Shy Gal, which has been sorely neglected over the last few months due to overtime. Trying to get my head back in the game on that.

This has got to be the book that gets me an agent. So many near-misses for so many years. This time I have got to get it right.

Wish me luck, guys.

Melinda R. Cordell [userpic]

I might be writing a new book soon!

February 25th, 2014 (12:24 pm)

current mood: chipper
current song: "The Cowboys Overture" -- John Williams

February is the worst month of all because we are trying to get the sale catalogs out for all the spring sales and I've been putting in 60 work-weeks. Not a lot of writing going on!

But I did turn in a short proposal for a book on emotional abuse (it's work for hire). That proposal is under consideration, but in the meantime they want me to do a book on rare diseases, so I'm going to write a full proposal on that one.

So I guess I'll be writing a book for someone!

Which hasn't really sunk in because, hey, I'm only turning in a full proposal and it's not like they've given me a contract yet. I guess I'm saving the celebrating for when I get an actual contract signed and turned in. I've been burned so many times on the agent front that I'm just taking things slow.

Anyway, it's some actual progress on the book front -- kind of nice!

It will make things so much easier if things start to slow down in the workplace. Overtime is nice, but getting stuff done at home and getting some writing done is also nice.

Melinda R. Cordell [userpic]

gaaaah still working.

January 28th, 2014 (12:30 pm)
current location: In Cowtown, baby!

I have been trying to write an outline for a book on emotional abuse, which is shedding all kinds of light on my Shy Gal novel -- not to mention an old relationship I once had. I hope to get a little more done on it tonight. Little by little, bit by bit this time of year.

Not much work going on with Shy Gal in light of this but I drop a word in now and then. It's nice to be working on two books that play off each other. It's like the time I took Sociology and Government during the same semester and those two subjects at the same time were really bringing up all kinds of new insights in my mind.

Oh shoot, lunch is almost over. I hope you guys are staying warm. Especially my northern buddies!

Melinda R. Cordell [userpic]

Work work work! workety work!

January 24th, 2014 (12:24 pm)
current location: In Cowtown, baby!

That's been my workplace over the last few days. Last night I had to leave early (i.e. "at the regular time that work ends") to pick up the baby due to everybody else at his babysitter's falling ill -- well, this is going to be fun -- and I was so tired that all I did was feed the kids and then lie around trying to go to sleep while baby crawled all over me and his sister played video games that were just loud enough to keep me awake. But finally everybody crashed and hooray for sleep!

On the bright side, when I'm proofreading numbers and layouts, I've been able to listen to audiobooks. I'm getting through U.S. Grant's memoirs right now, which are surprisingly enjoyable. Due to all the work that's on my desk, too, I'm making good progress. He just finished up with the surrender of Vicksburg and now he's giving us the stats.

If I didn't have audiobooks here my brain would implode.

I hope I will get back to my writing soon but hoo-boy it's been nuts.

Melinda R. Cordell [userpic]

Writing in the cracks of time.

January 13th, 2014 (12:53 pm)
current location: In Cowtown, baby!
current song: "Police Squad" theme, for some reason.

I've been trying to get the words written, though it's busy at work and busy at home. What does not help is that I've been tired as hell, due to it being busy at work and busy at home.

One of those no-win situations!

Well, I gave myself reading time yesterday so I didn't totally burn out. Read through all of Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor -- an awesome book that's well worth the re-reading -- and today I feel better for having given myself that time.

I used to complain that I had only these three to five hour chunks of time to work in and it wasn't enough. Ha ha! That was before I had a kid or two! Though, okay, back then I was working 35 hours a week and taking 15 hours of classes. But kids are way more effective at breaking up your day than classes, it seems. These days I just get settled in and bam, there's some blowup or kerfluffle somewhere in the house that I must investigate. Or else I hear the sound of little feet coming up behind me, and here comes this little happy guy who likes to sit in Mommy's lap -- and hit the shutdown button on her laptop. Nooooooo!

These days I've been writing in the cracks of time. Here's a couple of minutes -- let's mark up this page of revisions. Here's my 15-minute break at work -- let's get these words down. I'm proofreading and think of a few lines -- I write them down. When story-work piles up, I'll stay an hour after work, clock out, and write at my office desk where it's quiet and my little guy can't shut down my computer when I'm in the middle of a paragraph! Also, baby's naptime = my writing time!

Every little bit helps. And it feels good to keep moving forward, even if I am moving slowly. After all, progress is progress.

Melinda R. Cordell [userpic]

Writing about gaslighting, emotional blackmail, & compassion

January 10th, 2014 (12:32 pm)
current song: "Way of the World" -- Genesis

Overtime city here at work! I'm writing in the bits and pieces of time to get Shy Gal finished.

What is my Shy Gal novel about? Basically, "what do you do when your boyfriend threatens to commit suicide if you leave him?"

Learning a shtload about emotional blackmail, BPD, and gaslighting. I've figured out that these things don't need to be in your face to be effective. Gaslighting is most effective when you don't even know it's taking place -- otherwise duh it doesn't work.

Though emotional blackmail -- "if you leave I'll kill myself" -- tends to be in your face to the point where you can't make a decision without its influence. Which actually becomes no decision, because, you know, he might carry through with his threat.

In this situation, you know you're being played, but you're afraid to leave him because he just might be for real.

My big challenge is figuring out ways to write from that old compassionate view that got me in over my head with this guy in the first place. (In later years, somebody mentioned that quick wariness I carry into social encounters -- I kind of wonder if those years that I'm writing about now fostered that wariness.) But the other day I was listening to "Hurt" by Johnny Cash when I suddenly found Kay's worldview right there in that song. Thanks John, you are a stand-up man.

(I know, NIN did that song first, but dammit Johnny is pretty awesome.)

But writing this story now, I wish to hell I'd had the internet when I was Kay's age, and maybe I would have broken away sooner. Or, maybe not.

"Who's to say if you had that second chance, you wouldn't do it again?"

This post is probably incoherent but I have no time for editing. alas! maybe someday.

Back to work.

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