The Long, Compound, Subordinate Sentence

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I had a discussion the other day about sentence length. “High tension prose should use short sentences, and languid prose should use long sentences,” we initially agreed. But then I thought and I read. I won’t deny that long, languid sentences are useful in more passive prose, but not all long sentences are languid. The compound, subordinate sentence is often used to heighten tension, not only heighten it but hold it for a length of time and make the reader squirm.

I am going to use an analogy some might find offensive: sex. The best sex follows [surprise] a standard story format. It starts out slow and playful, languid foreplay slowly triggers the more intense responses, then as the couple prepares for the climax, they engage in the short strokes, that one long sentence held and repeated that maximizes tension but refuses to release it. And then bang, it’s over.  Over course even better sex has multiple events of this nature – that heightened tension held and savored but pulled back before release, an even stronger buildup for the next engagement and eventual climax.

An example of such an encounter is Martin Luther King’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail. It begins with a slow, reflective buildup, then about a quarter if the way through, he hits us with one of his most his famous sentences:

But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six year old daughter why she can’t go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see ominous clouds of inferiority beginning to form in her little mental sky, and see her beginning to distort her personality by developing an unconscious bitterness toward white people; when you have to concoct an answer for a five year old son who is asking: “Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?”; when you take a cross county drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you; when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading “white” and “colored”; when your first name becomes “nigger,” your middle name becomes “boy” (however old you are) and your last name becomes “John,” and your wife and mother are never given the respected title “Mrs.”; when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next, and are plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of “nobodiness”–then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait.

Now the tension is ready to explode, but he brings us back down a notch and holds us there. He engages us with a series of smaller ups and downs, a long, slow, heightened engagement. Then at the end he hits us with another zinger. It is written as a series of sentences, yet given the repetition, the whole paragraph could likely have been constructed as a single sentence. It has the same effect, the long, heightened tension followed by the quick release, the climax, the conclusion.

I wish you had commended the Negro sit inners and demonstrators of Birmingham for their sublime courage, their willingness to suffer and their amazing discipline in the midst of great provocation. One day the South will recognize its real heroes. They will be the James Merediths, with the noble sense of purpose that enables them to face jeering and hostile mobs, and with the agonizing loneliness that characterizes the life of the pioneer. They will be old, oppressed, battered Negro women, symbolized in a seventy two year old woman in Montgomery, Alabama, who rose up with a sense of dignity and with her people decided not to ride segregated buses, and who responded with ungrammatical profundity to one who inquired about her weariness: “My feets is tired, but my soul is at rest.” They will be the young high school and college students, the young ministers of the gospel and a host of their elders, courageously and nonviolently sitting in at lunch counters and willingly going to jail for conscience’ sake. One day the South will know that when these disinherited children of God sat down at lunch counters, they were in reality standing up for what is best in the American dream and for the most sacred values in our Judaeo Christian heritage, thereby bringing our nation back to those great wells of democracy which were dug deep by the founding fathers in their formulation of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.

Another example is in the Bible (There are many examples in the Bible). Proverbs 1 sets the purpose and theme of all the proverbs with this wonderful sentences.

1 The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel:

for gaining wisdom and instruction;
for understanding words of insight;
for receiving instruction in prudent behavior,
doing what is right and just and fair;
for giving prudence to those who are simple,[
a]
    knowledge and discretion to the young—
let the wise listen and add to their learning,
and let the discerning get guidance—
for understanding proverbs and parables,
the sayings and riddles of the wise.[b]

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge,     but fools[c] despise wisdom and instruction.

This is not languid but a heightened plea to listen, read on, and save your sorry soul.

If we can revisit my first assertion: “High tension prose should use short sentences, and languid prose should use long sentences.” As demonstrated by King’s second example, we can read these long sentences as a series of small, incomplete sentences held together by common themes and repeating prefixes (anaphora, considered a literary technique for adding emphasis). The take home: don’t assume length equals tension.

I’ll leave you with a musical example, Dragonette’s Live In This City’. Notice half way through, at the 1:30 mark, the singer repeats key phrases over and over (the bolded lyrics), almost in the form of a compound subordinate sentence. It does not use anaphora but an implicit epiphora (epistrophe), a repeating ending — ‘You can’t live without’ sung in the background seems to fill the role. The section acts as a long, tension holding sentence before down-trending into the ending. You could write them as Kings of the indie rockers, you can’t live without m; top of the toilet choppers, you can’t live without me; riots and rebel rousers, you can’t live without me; high roller phantom powers, you can’t live without me; kings of the indie rockers, you can’t live without me; top of the toilet choppers, you can’t live without me; riots and rebel rousers, you can’t live without me; high roller phantom powers, you can’t live without me.” Marvelous technique!

Dragonette
“Live In This City”

I start it up
Turn it over like a general motor
And come down heavy
‘Cause I drop it like a Tomahawk chopper

I gotta keep on doing what I’m doing
‘Cause we’re clapping our hands now
Yeah I found a lipstick that I like
And so I’m walking it downtown, downtown

[Chorus:]
But I only live in this city
Live in the city
I only live in this city
Live in the city
I like to keep the place busy and I do it for free
Cause this city can’t live without me
Can’t live without

Me and my gang and some blonde defender
We wind it up around the center, roll it over to Camden
Just so you know that queen with the face that you call my little pony
We basically invented this place,
That’s why it’s standing room only
Standing room only

[Chorus:]
But I only live in this city
Live in the city
I only live in this city
Live in the city
I like to keep the place busy and I do it for free
Cause this city can’t live without me
Can’t live without

Kings of the indie rockers
The top of the toilet choppers
Riots and rebel rousers
High roller phantom powers
(You can’t live without)

Kings of the indie rockers
(You can’t live without)
Top of the toilet choppers
(You can’t live without)
Riots and rebel rousers
(You can’t live without)
High roller phantom powers
(You can’t live without)

Kings of the indie rockers
The top of the toilet choppers
Riots and rebel rousers
High roller phantom powers

[Chorus:]
I only live in this city
Live in this city
I only live in the city
Live in this city
I only the place busy
Keep on working for free
Cause this city can’t live without me

[Chorus:]
I only live in this city
Live in this city
I only live in the city
Live in this city
I only the place busy
Keep on working for free
Cause this city can’t live without me
Can’t live without me
Can’t live without me
Can’t live without me
Can’t live without me
Yeah I only live in this city
Cause this city can’t live without me

 

The long, compound, subordinate sentence is powerful. It is the short strokes of the story. Used with anaphora and epiphora, it brings tension to near climax with its series of dependant clauses and holds it there until finally driving home the resolution or major point with its trailing independent clause. It is not the slow, languid, reflective sentence but in fact a mesh of tightly packed short, punchy fragments. Use it with care!

*as an exercise, find the lyrics to some of your favorite songs and read them as such sentences where the lyrics are the subordinate clauses and the refrain is the pointed, complete clause or conclusion.

Reading Update – 1st quater, 2015

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I’ve been a busy reader this year. I have set a goal of reading fifty books this year, and I am on pace to achieve it. Yay!

Last year I set the same goal and only reached 34 books. Boo!

So what’s different with this year? Well, I am keeping a journal. In the front, I write notes about the book: new or nebulous words, interesting lines, examples of technique, and general notes about the novel and the author’s writing. In the back of the book I maintain a to-read list and a daily log. I work this list from back to front. When the back meets the front, I will start a new journal. I have shelves full of unused journals I’ve picked up over the years.

Best Book

The Bluest Eye. This book still sits with me.

Enjoyed The Most

Orphan Train. The American immigration story, engaging.
The Fault In Our Stars. A simple story and trite writing, but Green knows how to create and maintain tension.
Carnival.
Rawi can write!

Enjoyed The Least

The Crying Of Lot 49. Maybe if I was an adult in the 60’s I might catch on to it. It’s an unresolved conspiracy story. Like Lost or X-Files, you never find truth. A frustrating read.

Worst Book

Hunting Badger. This must have been released by mistake. Disastrous gaps and redundancies.

Learned Most From

Toni Morrison, hands down.
Rawi Hage is a first rate writer.
I made lots of Atwood notes.
Crummey is a fantastic, modern literary writer.

Genre Breakdown:

Literary: 8
Craft: 3
Historical Fiction: 1
YA: 1
Crime: 1

Rating Breakdown:

5 star: 5
4 star: 3
3 star: 5
2 star: 0
1 star: 1

Difficulty Breakdown:

5 star: 4
4 star: 3
3 star: 3
2 star: 4
1 star: 0

Sex:

Male: 8 authors
Female: 6 authors

The List:

Finished Title Author Sex Country Genre Rating Difficulty
Apr-10 A Handmaid’s Tale Margaret Atwood F CA Literary *** ****
Mar-29 The Bluest Eye Toni Morrison F USA Literary ***** *****
Mar-18 Orphan Train Christina Baker Kline F USA Literary *** **
Mar-13 Sweetland Michael Crummey M CA Literary ***** ***
Mar-06 The Crying Of Lot 49 Thomas Pynchon M USA Literary *** *****
Mar-01 Reading Like a Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and for Those Who Want to Write Them Francine Prose F USA Craft ***** *****
Feb-24 The Fault In Our Stars John Green M USA YA **** **
Feb-18 Beloved Toni Morrison F USA Literary ***** *****
Feb-04 The Trade Fred Stenson M CA Historical Fiction **** ****
Jan-31 The Maples Stories John Updike M USA Literary **** ***
The Career Novelist: A Literary Agent Offers Strategies for Success Donald Maas M USA Craft *** **
Jan-17 Carnival Rawi Hage M CA Literary ***** ****
Jan-17 Bird By Bird Anne Lamott F USA Craft *** ***
Jan-05 Hunting Badger Tony Hillerman M USA Crime * **

Atlantic Lotto to ban Americans from winning

Originally posted on The Manatee:

Moncton — Atlantic Lottery Corporation (ALC) announced today that Americans living in New Brunswick will be forbidden to win Atlantic Lottery games.

In defense of the decision, New Brunswick Premier Brian Gallant stated: “Too much of the winnings are being paid to the IRS, and it’s costing New Brunswickers jobs. They may continue to play though,” Gallant said. “We are not a cruel province. Our intent is not to deny them the ability to bet on American football and baseball. They just won’t be able to take home the payouts.”

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2012 NaNoWriMo Version 5 Completed!

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I feel drained. The 80cm of snow we’ve received since last Wednesday (this is Sunday) have something to do with it. 50cm more are due tomorrow. That’s 52 inches of snow. That’s enough snow to bury children and animals, not to mention cars. I literally have nowhere to shovel this snow. We are talking about cancelling our car insurance for the next three months because we won’t be going anywhere in them.

Middle Of Second StormMiddle Of Second Storm

Still, it doesn’t compare to the stress I’m feeling as I finish this edit of the novel I’m working on, my fifth major version in two and a third years. I know there are changes to make: too many ellipses, thinking verbs, rhetorical questions, voice transgressions, theme continuity issues, and story line consistencies. And these are only the headers of my shopping list. Yet the need for input from others outweighs these abstract objectives. At the end of this edit, as I reviewed my notes and made a few more changes, I felt myself sinking into Johnny Weissmuller quicksand.

I think a writer needs to edit from a good place. We cannot be fighting our visions. I feel my story is a piece of art. I feel my story can be an attractive read for millions. Seriously. But I am finding the doubts creeping in. Every page I read makes me question my sanity, my ability to write. I have made so many mistakes! Of course what I need is time away and some concrete feedback.

So I sit here typing this post as the first printed copy of my V5 manuscript prints. It is 126k words, which at font-10 and 1.5 line spacing equals 277 printed pages. I am printing double-sided this time. My previous manuscripts were just too thick. And I did not make the decision alone. I checked with my primary readers for their preferences, and they are fine with reduced note making space. The next steps are to distribute copies to 6 to 8 readers. One EPUB version is already out.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

In a month or so, I’ll need to gather the herd. I’d like to take my readers somewhere for at least coffees. I’m thinking a Starbucks on a snowy Sunday morning. I might even rent a room at the library and bring in some pizza. If I host them at home, I could also serve beer. We’ll see. If I get a constant message that it sucks and there is zero hope anybody would want to read it, then they’ll be getting nothing ;)

Post your FATCA/FBAR/CBT article here!

Originally posted on Post it Here: Why FBAR/fatca/cbt is All Wrong:

If you are tired of the USA’s FBAR, Citizenship-Based Taxation (CBT), and FATCA—this is YOUR place.

If you want to make a post of your own, send in a comment with simple instructions.  Instead of approving your comment—I will copy paste it in to your own post.

Give your instructions as to whether you want to be anonymous, input a nom de plume, or want to put in your real name. I will publish your first name but we must talk by telephone in order to publish your full name.

We invite all affected by this nightmare—including those in the banks and governments who have to deal with this mess.

Many people don’t have their own blog site, and many people want to be together on one site.

Post it here.

I’ll do my best to timely put it up and send a twitter announcement!

Please make it clear that you do…

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2015 Reading Log

In 2015 I am keeping a reading log. Last year I kept track of books I read at a couple of web sites: Goodreads and Harper Collins’ 50 Book Pledge site. But looking back, and these were issues I had uncovered during the year anyway, I determined I needed more.

I review books for myself. I read literature not only to enjoy but to learn how to write better. I make notes when I read: new-to-me words, interesting lines, interesting technique, criticisms and questions, and even the occasional error. Last year I discovered errors in four books, including Neil Gaiman’s “American Gods”, the epub version.

I am also in a couple of book clubs. Notes do not raise their ugly heads during the library discussion. We have a dozen or so members, most of whom cannot hear well anyway, and if they can hear me, have no idea what I ramble on about anyway. It is led by a librarian who loves to hear herself talk, and she chews up a big chunk of our hour. There is not much point in using notes to help you say whether you enjoyed it or not and give an example of what you liked. Seems I used the same logic at school decades ago. But I am also in a small, men’s book club. There are four of us. We are all keeners and we like to drink. We only read four books a year, but so far they tend to generate hours of discussion and drinking. We take turns supplying drink, preferably something related to the book in question. We’ve only read three books so far: Crime and Punishment, Fifth Business, and One Hundred Years Of Solitude. We’ve drunk Russian vodka, Canadian whiskey, and South American wine. Our next read is Beloved by Toni Morrison and my turn to bring the booze. I bet you can guess what I will be bringing for drink. Anyway, making notes of books is pretty much required, unless you just want to sit and drink.

Particularly with these three chosen books but also with others, I discovered that note taking and deep thought when reading slows down your pace. It took me two months to read Dostoyevsky and two months to read Marquez. Other books also hung around too long on my desks and tables. I pledged 50 books for 2014 and I only made it to 34. I dilly dally, and I need help keeping on track. I need more granular goals and record keeping. Oh, your a half-book behind pace? Pick it up! I decided to try logging how much I read each day.

Then there are craft and technical books. I read a Unix book last year. It required extra time. I read five or six writing craft books. You cannot breeze through the stuff. You need to read slowly and take it in.

You know what else? I have a shelf full of notebooks and journals I will likely never use. I want to buy more, but how do I justify it? By using them up.

This is January 6th and the day is not done. This is what my next to last page looks like:

1    The Progress Of Love (finishing)                                    12    /    12
2    Hunting Badger [HB]  [275 pages]                                 77    /    89
3    HB p163                                                                      86    /   175
4    HB p217                                                                      54    /   229
5    HB 275                                                                        58    /   287
.     Bird By Bird [237 pages plus 21 Intro]                           21    /    308
6    BBB    Ch 1                                                                  15    /    323
.    Carnival by Rawi Hage [Cl] [289 pages begins @ 3]         17   /    340

So as of right now, I have read 340 pages in the first six days of 2015 and completed one book. Yay! But this begs the question: how much should I read a day? And can I pick up the pace? I read slowly due to eye issues and desire to absorb. Due to the need to scratch this notebook with notes. I am on page five of notes, and there is no way one book will suffice at this pace. But Hunting Badger was abysmally written, or should I say edited. I made a lot of notes from it, the bulk of the note-taking so far. I am running with fifty pages a day. That’s 350 pages a week. At that pace, as long as I don’t attempt too many Tolstoys, I should achieve my fifty book target. My current pace is 56.67 pages a day and I still have seven hours left on today’s clock. Though Hunting Badger’s word count per page was quite low, around 250, and his writing was simple and terse. Carnival’s is more dense and lyrical, but it too is about 250 per page. Some books are around 333 or even 400. I just read Rabbit Run and some of its pages must have 480 words [40 lines x 12 with no white space]. Yeah, fifty a day works. The density will average out.

So where does this get me? It gets me to the concrete goal of reading fifty books a year, employs use of a goal-setting and measurement tool, which frankly I could use elsewhere as well, and keeps me on a pace to publishing.

Oh yeah, publishing. My Jan 15th goal of editing 477 pages is about on track. I am on page 222. I started this around Dec. 19th, and the holidays were not real productive. Two scenes lopped off the list today with more tonight.

An Expatriate’s 2016 Election Mantra

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I am a self-proclaimed centrist. As my friend Dave says, “fiscally competitive combined with socially responsible.”

Any government involvement in business is anathematic to me. Government “control” has never worked. Yet complete free-market systems haven’t either. Living in Canada opens your eyes to other ways of doing things, other ways of failing. No, Canada has not done it very well either. Think Tom Peters.

Yet we need safety nets. We are humans and we supposedly live by human values. We care about each other, and that means caring for each other. I have type one diabetes. It is not my fault I got sick. It is not my fault I am a financial burden. I am one of many such cases: mental illness, physical disability, rare diseases, accidents, etc. We cannot throw people off the bus, and we shouldn’t hide them. Abolishing Obamacare may seem fiscally responsible, but it merely hides expenses. Sick people still need treating. I’d rather make the expenses visible. The conservative in me says we can only manage what we measure, and hiding “charity” healthcare inside large tax buckets is wrong. Obamacare may not be right, but doing nothing is wrong.

2016 will be a different election for me. 2012 was a scary election. I was not happy with President Obama, but the whackadoodles lined up on the right made me shiver. I couldn’t pull the GOP trigger.

In 2016 I care not who runs. Let it be Clinton. Let it be another Bush or a Christie or even a Ryan from my home state of Wisconsin. *good lord, please don’t let it be Ryan. I have made up my mind that I will vote for the party most likely to abolish citizen based taxation, FBAR, and FATCA. If you’ve read any of my other postings along this theme, you will understand I think America’s tax treatment of us expatriates is wrong. I call it stupid, and while I can tolerate wrongness, I cannot tolerate stupid.

The Democrats have been stupid about this issue. There is absolutely no logic behind making me file taxes. I owe them no money. Never have and never will. The majority of us never have and never will. We are not tax avoiders: we pay taxes in the country of our residence. Skimming revenue off American-foreign country tax differences is merely regulatory arbitrage. It is a technique practiced by scum-bag corporations. It hurts our investment options. It takes away our ability to minimize taxes within the countries we live in. “Oh John, if you invest in Tax Free Savings Accounts, you’ll just have to pay the saved taxes to America.” What The Fuck! How does a tax policy like this make any sense? How come I cannot save for my retirement the same as my neighbor can? Just ask Boris Johnson how he feels. No taxes on the sale of your primary residence? Too fucking bad, America doesn’t agree with the UK’s tax policies, so fuck you Boris.

In 2011-2012, Senators Tierney (MA) and Honda (CA) took runs at our foreign income exclusion (over $90k of our earned income is excluded from being taxed, the one saving grace to expats). This weighs heavy on me. It seems obvious that Democrats have no understanding of our issues. Oh, and FATCA and this whole crusade at ending the long-standing practice of us ignoring the homeland is a child of the Democrats. They only care about money and votes.

Yet Republicans have not stepped up to the plate. I had lunch a couple of years ago with an extreme right-winged whackadoodle who helped fund the Terri Shiavo case. Complete ignorance of my hurt; complete uncaring. I should be out setting up pay-for-view websites and making money like a real Republican. “We can’t let tax evaders have free reign!” No. No, we can’t. The Pubs do seem to be in the lead, though. At least it’s on their agenda to discuss. See: “J. Non-Resident U.S. Citizens”

It is very early in the race, but at the moment the Pubs are clearly ahead of the Dems. The score? 1 to -3? I don’t know. As the election nears, as more and more of us expatriates attempt to make these issues visible, hopefully I can clarify the race more. But hear this: ignoring us is not an option. I will vote for the best chance to end this madness, regardless of how much I feel it hurts the rest of America, regardless of how opposed to the candidate is for other reasons. This is a one-issue election for me and the over seven million expats out in the wild, the abused foreigners with a very low voting [7%?] turnout.

We will be heard. Hopefully we will be voting.

Novels High School Teachers Teach: version #4 is in the books

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In The Books

I am writing novels. I wrote a novel just this November for NaNoWriMo. No, it is not a readable let alone publishable story. I think I know the differences. My November drafts are forays, experiments, and practice. I pick a rather random idea and write to it. I do some structural planning, but I do not put much thought into them. This might seem bad, but for me it is good. I have no limits when I write, no outline to guide my creative process. I follow enough scene-level form to keep me on the straight and narrow; I don’t need more.

I have five novels in the works, 2010 through 2014. I ran for a year with 2010 just because that was all I had in the hopper. It grew to 80,000 words and I am still fairly happy with its characters and ideas. But it takes place in Newfoundland, and it makes me uncomfortable. What right do I have to write about that province and their peoples’ events? If you have read February by Lisa Moore, you might catch my drift. By the way, she is coming here in February 2015 and we are so excited!

I also ran for a year with my 2011 novel. It is a long Canadian epic at 120,000 words, and it screams for twenty thousand more. My reading suggests publishers want short first novels, something less risky. And lets face it. Two years of fiction writing does not a writer make. I knew I needed to improve my knowledge and skills of this craft. Craft. Let’s all remember that writing is hard and it takes broad and in-depth knowledge and experience. I wasn’t there yet; I am not there now. There are also rumors of grant money for Canadian stories in 2017, the country’s 150th anniversary. I decided to let it sit.

My 2012 story excited me from its conception. I had nothing but an image in my head on October 15th. After two weeks of active brainstorming and diffuse thinking, the premise came to me. W5 plus how. I was excited that first day of writing, and the excitement stayed with me for the month. Yes, there have been ups and downs. I have asked myself a lot of hard questions. I have put my story and my skills up against firing squads. Like Colonel Aureliano Buendia, we have both survived. Unlike the good colonel, I hope to someday emerge from my solitude. I concluded edit pass number four this past week on December 15th, 2014.

So what to do next? Approach an agent? Pass it on to more beta readers? Let is soak? Stick my head into it again? I have two marked up version #3 manuscripts from beta readers I have not even looked at yet. I pouted for a few days, celebrated my daughter’s 25th birthday on Friday, and I printed out the first six scenes, 83 pages. I went to Starbucks, ordered a Venti coffee, and read the cut off MS. I marked it up as I read with a fountain pen I had lost for seven months (we moved) and an ink I haven’t used in a while.

I found myself marking up many words, phrases, and sentences. I clarified some things and unpacked others. Nothing particularly major but every page was becoming marked up with violet ink. Most changes were to make the sentences clearer. I changed “these” to “those” a few times. I removed much thinking, mostly “know” and “feel.” But I also added some literary flair:

He gave up on being a dad before he met Jill, and she had not changed his mind. “I don’t know how to be the father I never had; I can’t become him.”

I refuse to say if it is good writing, but some of my additions made my heart thump. The good part was I was happy with the story structure. My second and third scenes have always been bloated, and pass #4 was designed to remove bloating. Still, most of my changes this weekend were significant enough to warrant another serious pass. I concluded I need to continue with this edit before I let anybody else read it. I am focusing on the writing and not so much the structure; though I have already killed a significant paragraph. Today I updated 40 pages of changes and modified some of the mark-ups.

I am setting a short deadline of January 15th as my drop-dead date. It currently sits at close to 122,000 words, so this will be an intense few weeks. But it should be a fast edit. Hopefully most of the scene shuffling is over with. Hopefully I can focus on the writing and get it to where it needs to be, to where I want it.

Oh, I made a stunning discovery. I have been reading John Updike’s Rabbit Run and I learned it is one of the early, well regarded use of third person present tense which I use in my story. Like me, Updike drifts up and down in his perspectives. I probably drift more than he does, and I incorporate much reflective past tense as well. Unlike Updike who changes perspectives — sometimes it’s Rabbit and sometimes it’s Eccles — mine stays in one person’s head. In only a handful of places at most do I hint at drifting away. 

One of my beta readers made an interesting comment as we chatted briefly about it. “It reads like one of those novels your high school teacher asks you to read and you never forget.” My line of the year :)

Anti-American … Not!

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Lately I have been writing about my situation as a dual American-Canadian citizen. I do not agree with America’s tax treatment of me and other American citizens living abroad, aka expatriates or expats. America is the only country in the world that taxes its citizens no matter where they live. It is invasive of me and the country I live in. It is anything but patriotic and profitable for America. The practice needs to be abandoned post-haste.

I have read lately where other expatriate activists are concerned about their statuses because of their negative views, that maybe they won’t be let back into America, be put on no-fly lists, given hard times at border crossings, and be subjected to over-scrupulous tax audits.

I am not worried about any of these concerns. Maybe I am an idealist, but I still see America as a great nation, the place of my birth, and my home. I write about her negative behavior because I want her to improve. All of my ranting has America’s best intentions in mind, and of course my own as well.

Should any of these fears happen to me or other expatriates, you can be sure our voices will be heard. I’ll be all over America like a Tyvek suit in an Ebola outbreak. Freedom of speech is the American value I treasure the most. We got here by open exchange of ideas. We will only improve if people like me and you speak out about what is wrong and throw our crazy, creative ideas into the ring. When America steps on my toes because of what I write, then my renunciation will be inevitable. When America stops valuing freedom of speech, she will be lost to me.

I don’t see it happening. I hope. Just remember America, I still vote.

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