THE GENESIS OF A STORY

Success has a simple formula: Do your best and people may like it.

— Sam Ewing.

Well, Sam Ewing, that’s what I did. I hope a few people like it. And for anyone who is reading this now, I would enjoy connecting with you by email or Facebook. Even if you have nothing to say but Hi that’s just fine. Maybe let me know if you’re thinking about reading Cold Morning Shadow or if you have already started it, or anything else. Or just Hi.

Where did this novel come from? The first words rolled from my fingers in late January 2019. By early September I had dashed off the Epilogue. Unlike Fire, Wind & Yesterday, which trickled onto the pages over the course of 28 years, I had a first draft of Cold Morning Shadow down in something closer to 28 weeks.

Starting in September, as I was making the first of several passes through the manuscript to edit it, I began sending queries to literary agents on the remote chance that one might ask to see it. None did during the four months of editing, but that’s normal. I also found a couple of “beta” readers — God bless you, Heidi and Ruth! By January 2020, I was satisfied with the result.

In January I began designing the book cover, formatting it as a printed book, and refining the promotional blurbs that you see on the publisher’s web site, DamnYankee.com, at Amazon, and on the back cover. It’s hard to say enough about the book in such a blurb that it promises what the book delivers but doesn’t give away too much.

So, where did this book come from? I’ll let this portion from the Acknowledgments answer that:

My late first cousin, Janet Hume, a cheerful blonde with ears that could hear everything, moved from Lima, Ohio, to Spearfish, South Dakota, in the 1970s and married Mitch Quilt of the Brulé Lakota.  Cold Morning Shadow bears no resemblance to the story of their tempestuous affair, but their plight set me thinking: What if everything that seems doomed turns out for the better instead?  What if forbearance and the love of human kindness prevail?  What if disaster is not simply averted but vanquished?  I am grateful to Janet, who spurred me to ask those questions. I thank Steph Hoff, my second cousin and daughter of Janet and Mitch, as well, for giving me some perspective on her parents’ lives.  This novel is dedicated to the three of them.

=David A. Woodbury=

FAQ

Q: Is Henry Clay in the novel named for the 19th century speaker of the house and secretary of state, Henry Clay, Sr.? Wasn’t the historical Henry Clay associated with slurs about Indians? Why would an Indian be named after him?

A: Yes, he is named for the American statesman, Henry Clay. There were two major contenders in the 1832 presidential election, the incumbent Andrew Jackson and Henry Clay, the challenger. Jackson, the first modern politician who had carefully crafted an image for himself, was quite popular, an advantage that gave him unusual influence over Congress. His power led to a series of Indian removals in Georgia which he began to champion in his first term. Although the tribes which were removed, the Choctaw, Creek, Chickasaw, Cherokee, and Seminole, were considered the “five civilized tribes” because they owned and farmed their own land and even had some slaves, they were still savages in the eyes of Jackson.

Jackson’s treatment of indigenous people would become a rallying cry for Henry Clay in his bid for the presidency. Although in Clay’s earlier writings he betrayed the sentiment that American Indians — pre-Americans or pre-Ams, as Lionel Comosh refers to his own ancestors in Cold Morning Shadow — were a lower form of life who could never be assimilated with the American people, in the election campaign of 1832 he chose to defend their rights to land and sovereignty.

His National Democratic Party, which would evolve into the Whig party by the next election, emphasized moral issues such as abolition of slavery and temperance, which were mostly championed by women at the time, and made its opposition to Indian removal an issue as well.

Clay and his party used newspapers in their attempts to reach a wider audience during the campaign. An example of this stance can be seen in an article in the Geneva Courier, a pro-National Democratic newspaper, in its weekly segment, “American System. For President, Henry Clay.” This part of the weekly paper routinely praised Clay and denounce Jackson. In the issue of February 2, 1831, the paper criticized Jackson’s sacrifice of the “poor Indians” and warned that removal would bring great shame to the country. Despite the efforts of the paper and other anti-removal campaigns, the issue of Indian removal did not resonate with as many voters as Clay had hoped. In 1832 the Seminole Indians, the last of the tribes to remain in Georgia, were forced out, and the issue of Indian removal played little role in the election. Clay was crushed 219-49 in electoral votes. Still, these accounts indicated that some post-European Americans had sympathy for the Indians’ plight, and many Indians remembered Henry Clay with favor through much of the next half-century, which was the period during which Henry Clay Comosh’s parents were born.

=Adapted from the web site https://historyengine.richmond.edu/episodes/view/4951=

Q: ISN’T THAT LINE FROM THE LONG RIFLE ABOUT “POPPING AT INDIANS,” QUOTED AT THE BEGINNING OF BOOK ONE, INSENSITIVE AND PROVOCATIVE?

A: Yes, it’s offensive!  Among the books in my old-fashioned library that are grouped as “westerns” are many by Zane Grey, Louis L’Amour, and Clarence Mulford.  Alongside these is a single novel by Steward Edward White, a 1932 edition of The Long Rifle.  This author wrote dozens of novels in the western genre and was popular in the first half of the 1900s.

The signature above the map inside the front cover is that of Clarence A. Lang, my wife’s grandfather.

The Long Rifle is the first book in the four-book saga of Andy Burnett about a farm boy from Pennsylvania who runs away from home and heads west carrying Daniel Boone’s original Kentucky long rifle.  There is plenty more about White and his works on the internet.

There is much in American literature that hangs on dubious assumptions about indigenous people.  I encountered much of this in my own childhood in books and television westerns of the 1950s and 1960s.  In what seemed a dichotomy, I learned that American Indians were wise, one with nature, and justifiably suspicious of settlers and devious traders.  Indians were wonderfully welcoming of strangers as individuals and yet, when provoked, brought savage and sometimes indiscriminate retribution on the invaders of their land.

I recall from my time in the Boy Scouts the way in which Indian “lore” was treated with reverence and taught as the essential foundation for a boy’s life.  And I recall from most depictions of Indians in literature and on television that it was the arrogant cowboy, the intrusive government agent, the unscrupulous  trader, the town drunk, and the cavalier Army officer who provoked the local Indians to retaliate.

And yes, there were many, in the settlement phase of this country’s history, who regarded an Indian with no more respect than they afforded a turkey or other game animal.  Stewart White, it may be said, was acknowledging that attitude in the opening passage of The Long Rifle, or it may be argued that the remark reflected his own attitude.  The truth remains to be seen by anyone who takes the time to read The Long Rifle.

MORE LISTS, MORE WORDS

In Cold Morning Shadow, Cyleine and Garnette become keepers of words, notably homophones but they made lists of other words with something in common as well.

During the nine months or so I spent writing the novel I made the lists that comprise Chapter 27. I jotted a pair as it came to mind, as I heard a word in conversation, or caught one anywhere else words are encountered. I avoided pulling them from the internet or from books of lists (if there are some; I don’t have any).

It was never my intention to compile a “complete” list of homophones or homographs, heteronyms or heterographs, palindromes or other linguistic phenomena. Be skeptical of anyone purporting to offer a complete list.

Since the book contains only what I was able to think of during that period, no sooner was it published than another pair of homophones would come to mind, or another type of list that I should have included.

Therefore, let this page serve as a place to append such words and auxiliary lists.

In the book, one character includes many approximations to the list of homophones — pairs that almost sound alike or which could be mistaken for one another if someone doesn’t hear a word clearly at first. For example (and these are not in the book):

  • concord conquered
  • diary diarrhea
  • inequity iniquity
  • isolating oscillating
  • pediatrician speedy attrition

Then of course, more legitimate homophones have come to mind since the book came out:

  • readout redoubt
  • reek wreak
  • tare tear
  • tighten titan

And I open this post to readers’ contributions as well. What pairs have you thought of that the books has left out? What other word lists would you suggest?

=David A. Woodbury=

SONGS OF THE TIMES

Several songs are alluded to throughout Cold Morning Shadow, beginning with two hymns sung in Latin and continuing with American country, folk, and pop music as late as the 1960s. Some of these are only casually mentioned while others bear significantly on the story. A reader who did not grow up hearing them or who cannot now call one to mind could miss the influence, particularly the emotional impact, that a song holds for the story.

Therefore, I offer here a list of songs referred to in the book, each one linked to a YouTube video.

Adeste, Fideles – Enya (Chapter 4)

Ave Maria – Maria Soldano (Chapter 4)

Tumbling Tumbleweeds – Sons of the Pioneers (Chapter 4)

Town Without Pity – Gene Pitney (Chapter 5)

Theme from Perry Mason (Chapter 5) — I managed to play these two YouTube cuts in the same browser at the same time on two separate tabs. No, one doesn’t overlay the other like Ave Maria and Bach’s Prelude, but it seems that one inspired the other.

Great Balls of Fire – Jerry Lee Lewis (Chapter 12)

Wake Up, Little Susie – the Everly Brothers (Chapter 18)

Different Drum – the Stone Poneys (Chapters 22 & 30) — Yes, that’s how they spelled Poneys. The name could have flowed more smoothly if they had been the Stoney Poneys. Some think it is evident that they wanted to be the Stoned Poneys but that their record label or promoters had an issue with the name.

I’ll Never Find Another – the Seekers (Chapters 24 & 25)

Daisy a Day – Jud Strunk (Chapter 33)

Unchained Melody – the Righteous Brothers (Chapter 33)

Sweet Sixteen – Perry Como (Chapter 34)

Wedding Bell Blues – The 5th Dimension (Chapter 40)

I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry – B.J. Thomas (Chapter 48)

Wilton Straed’s own song for Cyleine Comosh is described on this page.

MY NATIVE LANGUAGE

Is English the Author’s Native Language?

Comment: Reading Cold Morning Shadow made me wonder whether the author’s first language is something other than English.  It doesn’t sound as though it was translated from something else, and it doesn’t sound British.  It just seems more formal than most American books I’ve read.  -K.B.

Answer: American English is my first language.

My Parents

My mother was born in Ohio in the 1920s and, other than hearing some Pennsylvania Dutch spoken in the family during her childhood, she grew up speaking the English of her Midwestern parents.  She earned a bachelor’s degree in education in the 1940s and was a schoolteacher by the time I was born.  She continued teaching school all through the time I was growing up (as the oldest of six children).

My father, raised in Maine, lost his eardrums and inner ear structures to childhood infections.  He was totally deaf by the time he reached puberty.  From my earliest memories of him — he was 23 when I was born — he was bald, had a full set of false teeth top and bottom, and wore a metal band across his head connected to a bone-conducting hearing aid.

Dad’s pronunciation was actually fine.  He had comical ways of repeating what he thought he heard when someone spoke to him.  What he assumed he heard was often wrong.  Mom and all of his children needed to correct him constantly.  I recall many times being on the sidelines of a conversation and, when he wasn’t sure what had been said — he would stare at me with a look that pleaded for a repeat or interpretation.

It took my dad eleven years, from the time I was five years old until I was 16, to earn a college degree while also adding all those kids to the family and working two jobs at a time.  In the end, he too became a school teacher.

Good Teachers

I was a “good” student throughout my 13 years of public school, kindergarten through twelfth grade.  I was strong in English, especially from about eighth grade onward.  By the time I finished high school I had sat through two years each of Spanish, Latin, and French.  I liked English assignments that called for telling a story, but when I later looked back on those compositions I cringed and destroyed the few pieces I had kept.  Teachers complimented several of my compositions, though, and my junior-year English teacher, Jean Rhodenizer, once told my mother that she didn’t feel qualified to evaluate my writing.

In my first year of college I added a year of Russian to my language inventory.  With no way to pay for a second year of college I enlisted for four years in the Army during the Vietnam non-war, further impelled by the Army’s offer of a year of intensive Russian at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California.  There, for almost twelve month, I was privileged to study under the close attention of several native-born Russians.

One character in Cold Morning Shadow gets a perfect score on the Army Language Aptitude Test, (the ALAT), upon initially enlisting in the Army (Chapter 30).  It’s fiction in the book, but it’s just what happened to me.  The multi-year study of three foreign languages in grade school, the immersion in Russian that followed, the experience of living in Germany for a year and a half, even though I didn’t take classes in German, and my frequent travel in Italy and France during that period, left me undaunted, if not conversant, in seven different languages and fluent in two beyond English.

I have waded ankle-deep into ancient Greek, Hebrew, and Mandarin since then — altogether ten languages using five different alphabets or writing systems.  On top of all this, I’ve taken a couple levels of training in American Sign Language, which has yet another structure for communicating.

(Ultimately, on the journey of a lifetime, I spent two weeks on a solo trip through Russia and Ukraine in the mid-1990s. I would arrive in a town, locate a hotel, and check in before touring the area. Desk clerks would ask: Where is your tour guide? Where is your group? Where is your bus? I’d answer that I’m traveling solo. The next thing each one invariably said was: You are!? in a tone that conveyed: Are you crazy? Then they would say: Be careful! But I emerged from behind the Iron Curtain unscathed.)

That trip, especially the swing through Ukraine, gave me some much-needed reassurance before publishing Fire, Wind & Yesterday.

Bell and ASL

My father didn’t use ASL, as anyone would understand who has learned of the darker side of Alexander Graham Bell.  While it’s true that Bell’s mother, Eliza, was deaf and that, when he was in his late 20s, he married a woman, Mabel Hubbard, who had lost her hearing to scarlet fever as a child, and while it’s true that his invention of the telephone was a product of his experiments with acoustics on behalf of his wife and his concomitant quest to improve the telegraph so that it could transmit sounds, and even though Bell founded the American Association to Promote the Teaching of Speech to the Deaf in 1890, (now known as the Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf), Bell opposed permitting deaf people to marry one another, fearing an unsustainable growth in the deaf population and the demand for a deaf state — a country-within-a-country.

He believed that deafness was a curse upon those afflicted and a burden to any deaf individual, and that deafness could be reduced in the population as a whole by interfering with deaf couples’ freedom to procreate.  He wanted to prevent the birth of deaf children.  To quote from https://www.startasl.com/alexander-graham-bell/, he wanted “to eliminate residential schools, prohibit sign language use in deaf education, and forbid deaf teachers from teaching deaf students.  Bell thought these measures would encourage deaf people to use their oral skills and become more integrated into the hearing society.  These measures could be ‘hidden’ and seen as education reforms.”

Since Alexander Graham Bell had a powerful influence on pedagogy in the United States, it took decades after his death in 1922 for education policy to catch up to today’s reality.  From https://www.dawnsign.com/news-detail/history-of-american-sign-language: “The trend toward dedicated, residential education for deaf children has been replaced by a trend to integrate deaf children into local public schools. This movement became predominant after the passage of the All Handicapped Children Act of 1975 (today called the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).”

Thus Bell has had his way, after a fashion: Deaf children are now taught more in an integrated school setting. But he has lost in another way: American Sign Language has become a universally-accepted and widely-taught visual supplement to oral communication.

In other words, my father, born in the 1920s, grew up during a period when A.G. Bell’s prejudice against sign language still heavily influenced the education of the deaf.  In a remarkable coincidence, he grew up in one of the three New England villages where sign languages in America originated in the early 1800s, in my dad’s home region around Farmington, Maine.  But that was a century before he was born and it had died out, largely due to the inventor of the telephone in 1876.

Dealing With It All

Dad’s family was also slow to acknowledge his disability, and he had already learned to speak normally before he lost his hearing.  In order to function among most other people, who did not use sign language, he was better off relying on speech and making the best of early hearing aids.

Deafness had its stigma when he was growing up, and that lingered well into his early adulthood.  American Sign Language was not widely encouraged among the deaf and their supporters and family members until well into my own adulthood.

My Expertise

None of this makes me an expert on any language but my own.  I paid attention in school, diagraming sentences and learning the parts of speech as I was simultaneously learning conjugation of verbs, declension of nouns, gender and person of pronouns, and the comparable structures in other languages.

Somewhere in my high school education I realized that I was being taught to write according to Strunk and White, the authors of The Elements of Style.  These were the rules that guided my teachers and which are better than mere rules; they also make sense.

I have consulted The Chicago Manual of Style and The New York Times Manual of Style and Usage and have drawn two conclusions, neither of which may be correct but are logically drawn: These guidebooks were initially written for people who composed newspaper reports which were not meant to be enduring examples of prose, and the authors of those manuals were trying to show reporters how to infuse urgency into reporting that was also marked by brevity and even uncertainty.  It was and still is, I suppose, fundamental that a piece of news, however incomplete, be published immediately and that readers be diverted from noticing and inquiring into any incompleteness of information.

I write stories, mostly, not news reports.  I want my words and, as vitally, my punctuation, to leave no doubt what I was trying to convey.  For more on the rules I have imposed upon myself see my article on Discipline in Writing.

=David A. Woodbury=

DISCIPLINE IN WRITING

With five books now published under my name and two more which I edited for other authors, it may interest some to know what rules I follow when I write.  In another article I’ve addressed what makes me an expert in my native language, American English.

Presented as a countdown, here are 25 rules on style, word selection, and grammar that comprise the core of my discipline while writing, whether it’s an email message, a social media post, or a novel.  These rules are in no particular sequence except that number one is truly my number one rule.

I don’t argue that you are wrong if you dismiss any of these strictures.  My objective in following them is to convey my message or my story directly and clearly.  It is not as easy to use all these rules in ordinary conversation because, when I write, I compose my sentences painstakingly, revise constantly, and finish the entire composition before letting anyone see it.  Talking as haltingly as I write would be awkward for everyone involved.

My Rules

25. Start with something to say, respect the reader’s time, organize it, and say it.  I once read about 100 pages of a John Updike novel, (Rabbit something-or-other), and then gave up on it.  I had no idea what was happening or to whom.  Maybe some readers enjoy being cheated of information, but I’m not one of them.

24. I believe in restoring to use words that have slipped from favor. I work such a word into my writing especially when the word that has become more common is less precise or is ambiguous. Recently someone asked whether I had any money “on me.” I replied that I have five dollars and some coins in my pocket. He remarked that most people would say they have five dollars and change. I understand what it means when people say change instead of coins; let them say it. I try to imagine how expressions like that are interpreted by people from other countries who are learning to speak our language.

23. Use the right word.  If I adhered to this in ordinary conversation I would only falter as I speak.  I try to use the best word when talking, though.  I search for words as I speak, of course, but I’ll forge ahead even when I can’t come up with the word that I want, as long as I’ve come close enough to be understood.  What’s more, in a conversation, I can tell whether I succeeded in conveying my message because listeners respond.  They answer, they nod, they acknowledge with facial expressions.  I can corral and lasso the right word and try again if I perceive that I’ve been misunderstood.  In writing a novel, I can’t just give it a try and let it slide.

22. Use the concise form of the right word. When you can say (write) use instead of utilize, do so. A doctor once insisted to me that there is a difference between dilatation and dilation, but he couldn’t explain it. I contended that dilation is a noun derived from the verb, dilate. So, I asked, is dilatation derived from the nonexistent verb dilatate? He snubbed me after that.

21. I avoid the vernacular of the present, especially when writing about the past.  I want someone who picks up my book fifty years from now to understand it.  Even the urban dictionaries of today will be hard to find a half century from now, and what’s more, I’m not urban.  Lest I need to say it, I don’t give a damn about political correctness, either.  

20. I avoid adding up, out, and other tags to verbs that don’t need it. “Did you send [out] the invitations?” “I did, and I used [up] all the stamps in the drawer.”

19. Apparently it has become permissible to trim although to though.  What’s the point of that?  To save two letters?  There is a difference.  It sounds wrong to me, so when I mean although I use although.  There are proper places to use though, though.  In the same way, many writers now trim the first syllable from until.  Usually they cut two letter from the beginning and then double the last letter, saving one character each time they write the word.  There is a different between till and until.  If I want to shorten until — in dialog for instance — I will write ’til.

18. When someone says or writes I thought to myself, I want to ask: To whom else would you think?  I don’t add to myself when I say I think.  I simply think.

17. Many people don’t know whether to use or not after whetherWhether can usually stand alone.

16. The phrase, as far as, (short for as far as I’m concerned), begs to be erased from our lingo.  The same applies to a thousand other phrases that have become mangled in similar manner.  I watch for these mutations and avoid them.

15. What you need to do is you need to stop starting a sentence with What unless you’re asking a question.  The thing you need to realize is (What you need to realize is) that there are variations on that construction and all are awkward.  What I’ve heard when some people start sentences that way in conversation is is is they will say is two or three times before they get to the rest of the sentence.

14. As I write I consider how a translator might need to deconstruct each sentence in order to render it in any other language.  For instance, how would the phrase, as far as I’m concerned, be expressed in other languages?

13. That is why I avoid idioms most of the time.  Where I wrote earlier that I don’t give a damn about something, I used an idiom that it is difficult to replace effectively.  But I always question the literal meaning of an idiom, and if it makes no sense literally I usually look for some way to express the same thing in words that can’t be mis-translated. Once in a while I don’t give a damn and use the idiom as it stands, though.

12. I write in full sentences.  I’ve recently begun reading TransAtlantic: A Novel on my Kindle.  By Colum McCann.  I discovered him when I read an article he had written.  On the internet.  The article was so well-written that I wanted to get acquainted with his fiction.  So I bought one of his ebooks.  Apparently it’s his style.  To write in phrases.  In his novels, that is.  Not complete sentences.  Maybe the story is pretty good.  But my editor’s eye is continually repairing his prose.  To put his phrases together.  Into sentences.  It can be effective in a novel to let a short phrase or even a single word stand as a complete sentence, capitalized and finished with a period.  But it’s effective if done sparingly.  Dropping a period after every third word throughout a book creates speed bumps for this reader.  I don’t like it.

11. I avoid a sentence construction that leads to a he/she or his/her conflict in the predicate or in a later clause.  (“Any driver exceeding the speed limit by more than 30 miles per hour will automatically lose his/her motor vehicle operator’s license.”)  I avoid a construction that some would argue can be resolved only by matching a plural pronoun with a singular subject.  (“Any driver exceeding the speed limit by more than 30 miles per hour will automatically lose their motor vehicle operator’s license.”)  It is always possible and usually easy to unobtrusively rearrange a sentence.  (“Loss of the license to operate a motor vehicle is the automatic consequence of exceeding the speed limit by more than 30 miles per hour,” or “Any driver exceeding the speed limit by more than 30 miles per hour will automatically lose the license to operate a motor vehicle.”)

10.  A pronoun needs a clear antecedent.  As I write, I try to leave no doubt who or what is referred to by every pronoun.

9.  Words indiscriminately capitalized are speed bumps for a reader.  And yet a word sometimes presents a challenge.  The equator circles the earth halfway between the poles.  My back yard has some good earth for planting an early garden.  The first four planets, Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars, are separated from the rest by the Asteroid Belt.  Consistency is the key when discretion in capitalization is allowed, as it is here.  The compass directions, north, south, east, and west, need not be capitalized, but what if someone comes from the east and wants to live in the West, meaning that region of the USA west of the Mississippi and famous for cowboys and cactus?  I was born in the South, meaning that region of the eastern USA that lies south of the Mason-Dixon line.  What do you do when you want to distinguish the Southwest from the Northeast?  In the song, “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance” is the line: “From out of the east a stranger came, a law book in his hand…”  He merely came from somewhere east of the song’s setting — a compass direction.  I capitalize the commonly-used name of a region but not a compass direction. I’ve noticed, in fact, that, although the West is often deemed a proper region, the east is not. I capitalize the Earth, above, as one of the planets but not when the earth is a substitute for the world — when it refers to nothing outside itself. I apply the principles I’ve given in these examples to other words similarly in question.

8.  People do speak in sentence fragments.  Speech is normally immediate, spontaneous, and sloppy.  Some authors adopt a writing style that imitates speech.  I think that kind of writing belongs in dialog but not in prose.  That’s merely my opinion.

7.  There is a difference between in and into, between on and onto.  Sometimes in can replace into and on can replace onto with no loss of meaning but sometimes not.

6.  There is a trend, borne of convenience, I suppose, to unite two words which seem to belong together.  It has become acceptable to write someday and sometime as we do somewhere and somebody, to write anymore as we do anywhere.  I haven’t yielded to this trend.  I don’t give it any thought any moreSome day when I have some time to kill I may consider capitulating, but it will take some time for anyone to persuade me to do it.

5.  Whenever I read a modern novel (1900s to present) I am almost sure to encounter the words indefatigable, ineluctable, and inexorable or their adverbial forms.  Therefore I have excluded them from my lexicon.  There are a few other “literary” words such as those that I avoid just as carefully, although I usually don’t think of them until the moment comes to decide whether to use them. I also avoid a word when it is not only commonly overused but used without regard for its literal meaning. Two examples are amazing and incredible.

4.  I strive to render every sentence in the active voice.  Sometimes, though, the passive voice works better.

3. I ignore the advice, found in many guides for writers, to omit all adverbs. Yes, they are imprecise and therefore have no place in laws, policies, and regulations. Even though I strive to use the right word, there are some times when the right verb is enhanced by an adverb. Used well, adverbs enhance action as spices enhance food. They can intensify the tone of a verb, contribute an emotional element, or exaggerate something absurd.

2.  When writing dialog, if a word stands in for someone’s name I capitalize it.  “What do you think, Honey?”  “I’m listening, Son.”  “Say that again, will you, Young Man?”  This is merely my own rule for myself.

1.  In the five books I’ve written I’ve had no use for the seriously superfluous word got and its past participle, gotten.  You’ll never find it in my writing, except in this article.  There is always a better construction.
Who’s got the time? = Who has got the time? = Who has the time?
I’ve got a secret. = I have got a secret. = I have a secret.
It’s gotten so dark that I can’t see my shadow. = It’s so dark that I can’t see my shadow.
Got is the word that gives us expressions such as: “A lot of beer got drunk at the party.”
I’ll grant that avoiding got sometimes forces me to modify my intended sentence structure to avoid an awkward construction. So be it. It’s a rule I impose upon myself precisely to improve my writing. Another example:
I haven’t gotten an answer yet. = I don’t have an answer yet. = I haven’t received an answer yet. This is effectively a passive construction. An active construction would be: She hasn’t answered me yet.
If got is simply the past tense of get, you might ask, do I use the present tense of the word? Yes, I do. It’s mainly the common overuse of got that I am intent upon avoiding, so avoiding got altogether serves all purposes.

The Result

I’m sure that I adhere to other rules as well which I may not even be aware of. Following these rules may make my writing sound formal, even archaic. I don’t care, because I believe it results in a quick read that is clear, easy to follow, and leaves no doubt what I intended to say. Assuming that I have an entertaining, informative story to tell, I believe my rules help express it effectively.

Rules such as these partly define my “voice” as an author as well. Voice also includes the ways in which an author juxtaposes words, the degree of intimacy that each character exposes, the hidden elements that a reader doesn’t notice until a second or third read-through, the type of humor employed, the pacing, the sequence in which information is presented and its timing, and much more.

Challenge me on these rules. Did I miss any important ones? Tell me yours. Have you found any instances in my work where I’ve strayed from my discipline?

=David A.Woodbury=

POEMS IN C.M.S.

They pop up in various places throughout the novel — eight poems of varying length and tone. One is attributed to the character, Wilton: the song, “Always Loving You.” The next six are attributed to one or more of the other characters, and you’ll learn who that might be as you read the story.

Here they are according to the sequence in which they appear in the book.

Spider eyes stare down at me.
I stare back at eight with two.
What in my world do those eyes see?
And with six more, what would I view?

Know Me
I prefer fast or slow in a saddle
To the white-knuckle speed of a car.
I prefer sound and odor of cattle
To the olfactory insult of tar.

I am happier sleeping on hillsides
Than in hotels with valets and locks,
And I’m healthier eating wild berries
Than consuming what’s sold in a box.

I’ll take the still hour before sunrise
Over midnight’s interminable gong
And an evening in any small library
Over music and drinks in a throng.

You’ve not asked but I’ve told you what matters —
What I look for in both pace and place
And I’d spend all eternity with you
If, when there, I could see your kind face.

My bubble is sealed in a glaze,
Within it I breathe in a haze.
It neither expands nor contracts,
Nor admits new emotions or facts.

With my mind an unraveling bight
My sad soul's tear-stained spirit's a sight.
And yet, outward I may seem unfazed
In my vesicle fragile and crazed.

Words I Would Say
A voice, and a word crossing space —
A sound, a disturbance in air.
But a word on the air leaves no trace,
You may hear it, but then it’s not there.

If I utter it softly, you hear,
If I whisper, who’d know it was done?
But, if softly and you are not near,
Then both whispered and thought are as one.

I would offer my words to the wind
If I thought they would fall to the ground
And if I could choose who, in the end,
Were the soul by whom they would be found.

Do you wonder what words I would say?
Do you wish that you already knew?
The air may receive them some day
When I want you to hear: ‘I love you.’

[no title]
Cryptic space
No, I can’t stay
Wave me away

Shuffling feet
Slow, yet I flee
You’ve set me free

Pillow time
Near me you lie
In my mind’s eye

Spurning home
Why?  So I’ll know
Where I must go

Something true
Should I tell you
What we both know?

Yearning, we
Yes, and now I
Yield to our tie

See?
See that heap of husks behind me?
Hollow casts of days now past,
Husks that haunt and since remind me,
Shells of hopes that died at last.

See those pots erect before me?
Vessels full with days to come,
Each one dull and bound to bore me,
Each a ringing, vacant drum.

See this gaunt half-soul in tatters?
Sentinel with one intent:
Find the other half that matters;
Mend the halves now flayed and rent.

See the sense in this confusion?
Product of men’s need to reign,
Fostered by the bold illusion:
Follow him!  He’ll quash your pain.

See the pain, not soon extinguished?
How so many who are bruised,
Keep the bed in which they’ve languished,
Unaware how they’ve been used!

The last example of verse in the book is attributed to Tasunka Kokipapi, an Oglala chief of the mid-1800s. Although this verse is entirely fabricated for the book, it is intended to represent his other sayings and advice.

Our lives are as but a day.
Our shadows are as spirits,
Yours touching mine on the earth
Even when we stand apart.

At end of day our shadows become one with night.
We are still here, only the light is gone.
At end of life our spirits become one with all
We are not gone, only no longer seen.

=David A. Woodbury=

WORD LISTS IN CHAPTER 27

Chapter One of Cold Morning Shadow begins with a quiz.  Not a quiz for you, the reader; it’s for the characters in the book who were sitting in eleventh grade English class.  The instructions for the first-day-of-school quiz were written on the blackboard: “For each letter of the alphabet, or for as many a letter as you can, list a pair of homophones that begin with that letter.  No credit will be given for proper names, such as Derry paired with dairy.  Credit given will favor the greater number of letters for which you can list a homophone pair.”

The teacher, Turn-bullet, as he was known, had also written on the blackboard: I see – icy, you’ll – yule, and oui – we.  He told the class that these pairings would not count: matching one word with two — the first example, pairing with contractions, and pairing an English word with a foreign word.

Turn-bullet was concentrating on pairs of words that sound the same but have different meanings and, for his purposes, different spellings as well: muscle and mussel, penance and pennants.  The chart reproduced here, which comes from Wiktionary, illustrates the complicated relationship between words with different meanings whose spelling or pronunciation might overlap.

As the story unfolds, two girls in the first-day English class spend the rest of the school year working together on lists of homophones and other words — heterographs, heteronyms, homographs, homonyms, anagrams, palindromes, and more.  Their lists are included in Chapter 27 of the novel — at the end of Book One.

As the author, I compiled those lists on my own without the aid of reference books or the internet.  I have kept lists of word anomalies, anagram-palindrome pairs, and heterograph and heteronym pairs for years. (See my article about word games that different characters in the story are found playing at one point or another.)  Occasionally, while writing Cold Morning Shadow, I did check a definition or a spelling for one of the lists, but I didn’t need to look up examples of these word pairings.

Being a generous person, I am making Chapter 27 available as a download (PDF) right here.  You’ll have to read the book, though, to understand what’s significant about any of these lists or individual entries in them.

=David A. Woodbury=

WORD GAMES IN THE BOOK

In the story, Cold Morning Shadow, a deaf teenager warmly and confidently perseveres in stitching two families together. Deafness creates challenges in communication but doesn’t prevent it. Words are the units of language and can be written as well as spoken (and heard). If hearing is partially restored with hearing aids, then a deaf person can relate words on paper to words in the air — but often with difficulty.

Someone thus challenged can develop special skills with language if provided special ways to practice it. Here are two word games that are included in the book.

Botticelli

When I was in the Army Security Agency at Field Station Augsburg (West Germany) I was introduced to a word game called Botticelli. I was 22 years old at the time, and I don’t recall asking why Sandro Botticelli’s name had been attached to the game.

In Cold Morning Shadow, Chapter 34, Wilton is introduced to the game as I was. I suppose it could be widened to include more than two players, but I played it only one-against-one.

All you need is paper and a pencil or pen apiece. As described in the book:

There are two players.  Each one chooses a five-letter word that the other must guess.  Assume Player A’s secret word is LIGHT.  Player B proposes a word: AUDIO (or any other five-letter word).  How many letters in AUDIO are also found in LIGHT?  One.  So Player A tells Player B: “One.”  Now Player A proposes the word CRIME to Player B, whose secret word is TACKS.  Player B says: “One,” because one of the letters in CRIME is also found in TACKS.  Player B, who knows that his first proposed word, AUDIO, contains one correct letter, suggests VIDEO, and Player A once again says: “One.”  Player B can’t tell, yet, whether the one correct letter is the same as the one correct letter from before or a different letter.  They take turns thus until either player has proposed enough words and discovered enough letters in the other player’s secret word, and arranged them correctly, to finally figure out the other player’s word.  It gets tricky when a player has chosen a word such as STACK which can also be rearranged as TACKS.  Besides winning the most rounds, a champion Botticelli player is one who can consistently identify the other’s words with the fewest guesses.

I don’t recall playing it with words of any length other than five. If you play it with words of six or more letters, I would expect exceedingly greater complexity in the game. And perhaps you could play it with a five-year-old using words of two or three letters.

I know of no rules for scoring the game, nor do I know the origins of it. It would be fun, of course, to play it in a language different from one’s own — students in a foreign language class might find it instructive.

Latinos

I invented this game, which appears in Chapter 16. Here is a portion of that chapter:

In the middle of a conversation — the subject of which vanished from everyone’s thoughts once someone innocently uttered “Congratulations!” — Garnette blurted: “Hey, did you guys ever play ‘Latinos’?”

Cyleine, Toleda’s parents, and an eleven-year-old brother, Sander, gaped at her blankly.  Cyleine shook her head, more to say Don’t go there! than to answer her question.

“It’s a word game,” Garnette said helpfully.  “You just said ‘Congratulations,’ Mister Aucoin.  And the game is, when you are about to say a word ending in ‘-l-a-t-i-o-n’ or ‘-l-a-t-i-o-n-s’ you change it to ‘-latino’ or ‘-latinos’ before you say it.  So you would have said ‘Congratulatinos!’ if you’re playing the game.  And then you just go on talking — just switch the ‘o’ and the ‘n’ see?”

“That’s it?” Cyleine asked, still worried.

“Nooo!  So if I catch you saying, for instance, ‘violation’ or ‘speculation’ or ‘relations’ — anything with that ending and if you don’t change it to ‘relatinos,’ then I shout Latino! and I get a point!  It can go on for years.  My brother and I play it all the time still.”

“Still?  I haven’t heard you do it.”

“Well, who goes around saying ‘flagellation’ or ‘coagulation’ or ‘ejaculation’ in a sentence every day?  But twice since we moved here I caught Wilton not changing words when he should have said… let’s see, it was ‘emasculatino’ and ‘miscalculatino.’  I’m up to thirteen points in three years and he’s only at nine.”

“Fast-moving game, I see,” said Toleda’s dad.

“You can do it when you’re reading what someone else wrote, too.  We used to do it with magazines while we were riding in the car.  He’d read Readers Digest and I’d look at Look.  You can get twenty words in a magazine, for instance, in a two-hour car ride.  He was better at seeing them at a glance, so he usually won those rounds.”

“He would find, oh… ‘vacillation’ and ‘immolation’ and words like that in a magazine?” Missus Aucoin asked.

“No, more like ‘revelations of past crimes’ or ‘insufficient insulation.’  Things like that.  Me, I’m looking for words too but stumbling over ads for ugly clothes and cute baby pictures, so I’m slower.”

“But if you can get twenty examples in a car ride, why are you only at thirteen or nine points?” Cyleine asked.

“You only get a point if you catch someone forgetting to change it.”

“Don’t you think people of Latino heritage would find that a little offensive?” Missus Aucoin wondered.

“It didn’t seem to bother Javier and Gustavo Muñoz — they were our neighbors, or any of our other Latino friends back in Richmond.  They’re the ones who taught us how to do it.  They found ‘Latinos’ in dozens of English words.”

Missus Aucoin asked: “Did anyone ever find ‘Latinas’?”

Garnette confidently assured her: “There’s only one word that will give you ‘Latinas.’”  She arranged her napkin on the table as if she wasn’t going to reveal the word.  Everyone else waited until she looked up and apprehended their anticipation.  “Oh.  Paul of Tarsus wrote letters to them, the Galatians.”

=DAVID A. WOODBURY=

GO BIG OR GO HOME

Why did I create DamnYankee Publishing Company (DamnYankee.com) in 1999?  My experience with the novel Cold Morning Shadow serves to answer that.  I wrote the book between January and September 2019, all 300,000 words of it — (299,468 to be exact, not counting introductory material that is outside the story itself).

I next trolled my sample chapters in front of a couple dozen literary agents starting in September 2019, crafting each query to the agent’s (or agency’s) format for submissions.  To a person, literary agents make clear that a novel, other than one intended for children or one coming from an “established” author such as Stephen King or Jean Auel, should run between 90,000 and 110,000 words, up to about 250 pages at most.  Studying agency web sites, reading agents’ profiles, and tailoring each letter to the target agent consumed the four months from October 2019 through January 2020.  Submission guidelines are consistent in asking for your manuscript’s word count, a detail that any word processor provides. Without a doubt, when an agent’s secretary saw my word count, three times the acceptable length, my query went into the trash.

I realize that agents are the modern-day gatekeepers for the four or five conglomerates now publishing books under scores of traditional trademarks (HarcourtCollins, W.W. Norton, Houghton Mifflin, Random House, Penguin, and so forth).  If the publishers won’t print a book larger than 110,000 words by an author they’ve never heard of, then of course the agents must meet the publishers’ demands or find another line of work.

Publishers have noticed, one would guess, that adults who read don’t buy books longer than 250 pages.  Sales of longer books must be dismal.  Or is that true?  What agent, after all, with limited time to sit back and read manuscripts, wants to plow through only half as many submissions that are twice as long and collect half as many commissions as their colleagues?

One Alternative

I came close to splitting my novel into two separate volumes for this reason — a series of two, a duology.  Some authors do that and just keep adding to the series.  I couldn’t foresee a third book in the series because I had a story to tell and it concludes at the 300,000-word mark.  And so I did suggest to a few agents that I had written a two-book story arc.  (That’s the industry phrase that they understand.)  Still, 150,000 words was too long for one volume.  Generally, too, each volume should stand alone as a complete novel unto itself.

I had already internally divided it into “Book One” and “Book Two,” so I looked at paring back 40,000 words in each volume and simultaneously bringing Book One to a conclusive end, so a reader wouldn’t need to pick up the sequel.  The sequel, though, in order to stand alone, would need to recreate the same characters for any reader who hadn’t read Book One.  Book Two, therefore, would have to lose 40,000 words and simultaneously let the characters introduce themselves all over again — a redundancy that those who had already read Book One wouldn’t tolerate. Scratch the series.

Of all the literary agents I wrote to, three responded.  (By email — that’s the method now.)  Only one of them replied in such a manner that it was plain she had read my query.  None of the rest did.  With DamnYankee Publishing re-awakened, I formatted the book for print and for Kindle, created the cover, proofread it again and again, edited continuously, and finally uploaded it all to Amazon in February, 2020.

A Natural Divide

Cold Morning Shadow however, does neatly reach a stopping point, as opposed to an ending, precisely halfway through — so precisely, in fact, that, in the print edition, Book One, Lucky Diamond and This Guy, ends on page 346, and Book Two, Half-soul in Tatters, ends on page 695. Take out the three blank pages between the two halves and they’re truly equal in page count.

Book Two picks up right where Book One leaves off and does not re-introduce the characters. However, there is a different framework and a different tone to the story from that point onward. Where Book One took place all in one setting, Book Two literally goes around the world.  The second volume returns to the setting of Book One again and again as some characters have remained in that location while others have begun traveling.

The Characters Drove It

As I was writing Cold Morning Shadow I gave no heed to its length.  I just wrote until it was finished.  No doubt there is some fluff.  Not every sentence is as succinct as a proverb in the King James Bible.  I began with a two-dimensional image of each of four characters.  I introduced them to each other.  I let them develop themselves.  And they did indeed develop themselves.  Within a few pages I became a reporter barely able to keep up with all that they were doing.

But I was prescient, even God-like. As I was learning about them, they were making choices and, as the publicity blurb for the book says, they were laying the cornerstones for lasting friendships.  That doesn’t happen in a page and a half. I’m not O. Henry, and there’s more at stake here than who’s kidding whom. Because their future was foretold, though, I mostly needed to nudge each one page by page so that they would make the next necessary decision among many possible choices in order to move the story toward its foregone conclusion.

Long Books Don’t Sell, or Do They?

If long books don’t sell, it baffles me how the books in the list below made it past the industry’s gatekeepers during the era in which each one was published.  All but the Clancy and Clavell books on the list sit on the shelves of my home library.  (Debt of Honor and Shōgun, then, must each include about 20 pages of extra material, comparable to the differences between story page count and total page count for my own book, but I’ve listed them according to their page counts found at Amazon.)    The rest of the books below are arranged according to the page count on the last page of each story.  That I know because I pulled each one from the shelf and checked.  I can’t vouch for the word count of any but my own.  Roots, as you see, comes closest to my own page count.

pgs – title – author
688 Roots (Alex Haley)
695 Cold Morning Shadow (David A. Woodbury)
709 Northwest Passage (Kenneth Roberts)
727 The Fountainhead (Ayn Rand)
756 The Sotweed Factor (John Barth)
836 Oliver Wiswell (Kenneth Roberts)
866 Come Spring (Ben Ames Williams)
868 Alaska (James A. Michener)
870 Rabble in Arms (Kenneth Roberts)
874 Bleak House (Charles Dickens)
909 The Source (James A. Michener)
912 Debt of Honor (Tom Clancy)
937 Hawaii (James A. Michener)
969 The Covenant in 2 volumes (James A. Michener)
973 The Pillars of the Earth (Ken Follett)
979 The Fiery Cross (Diana Gabaldon)
985 Fall of Giants (Ken Follett)
1152 The Stand (Stephen King)
1312 Shōgun (James Clavell)
1514 House Divided (Ben Ames Williams)

Never mind War and Peace.  My copy of that one, in Russian, spans two volumes.  Never mind Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix at 766 pages.  Don’t mention Don Quixote at 344,665 words (in English) and 992 pages in one currently-available edition.  I’ve seen a copy of Ulysses at 768 pages and The Brothers Karamazov at 776. I read the latter book recently and it didn’t drag. I wasn’t asking myself: Will this ever end? Other books by authors mentioned in the above list, and innumerable additional books by other well-known authors, have reached wide audiences even though they exceeded 700 pages.

Amazon’s page count for my book is 719, which includes pages for the title, copyright notice, dedication, acknowledgments, table of contents, and the About the Author pages at the end.  The story itself, as most books do, begins the page count at the start of Chapter One and ends at page 695.

My paperback copy of Fall of Giants, by the way, although 290 pages longer than Cold Morning Shadow, is the same dimensions as my book: 6 x 9 x 1¾ . Both seem massive compared with the old Dell paperbacks that you used to be able to buy new for 79¢ — Remember Clan of the Cave Bear? Follett’s big tome fits those dimensions because it is printed on lighter paper than mine.

Why So Long?

You can google longest novels, longest American novels, and so on. It is clear that not every good story can be told in 250 pages. An author has the freedom (in some countries) to tell any story in any number of words that it takes. It’s true that a traditional American publisher has the freedom to pass it over. It is true that anyone in the U.S. can launch a publishing company and begin publishing anything with any content whatsoever. No law (yet) requires a publishing company to turn away manuscripts that aren’t “inclusive” enough or that meet any other totalitarian restrictions. You will not find a License to Publish on the wall of any newspaper office or publishing house in the country. The First Amendment is the Constitutional license to publish. One must, of course, avoid libel and plagiarism but not much else.

The Second Amendment is the Constitutional license to carry a weapon, but now that that has been successfully infringed in many states thanks to a complicit Supreme Court, the First Amendment is vulnerable too; but that’s a separate matter.

I don’t compare my writing to that of any author in the list.  Perhaps it is as good as some.  Perhaps my story is as interesting.  So is my book worth the time?  For me it was.  It has been on the market barely two weeks — just long enough for someone to read it if they have done nothing else in that time.  My beta readers praised it, so that’s all I have for information so far.

If you want a fast book, treat yourself to a snappy short novel but don’t expect to get well acquainted with more than one character.  I can suggest my juvenile novella, The Clover Street News. At 21,000 words it’s hardly more than a short story. Or try my short-story collection, Tales to Warm Your Mind. Or pick up a volume of O. Henry — a short-story writer whose gift I envy but who left us no example of what he might have done if he had a big story to tell.

As for a book that follows four people (and a few others) through a crucial period in their lives and loves — a saga, it can take a lot longer to tell. Cold Morning Shadow follows the examples set by the authors above — Go big or go home.

=David A. Woodbury=