Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Plague: Day Seven

I am on day seven of the plague. And it is a very great evil. I was supposed to be better today.  I was supposed to be well by Monday. I assumed that I’d be well last Sunday. Instead I’m stuck with a cough that reminds me of something from a Jane Austen book. “Oh, yes, Miss Connie, poor dear, she suffers from consumption.” Actually consumption is tuberculosis, which I don’t have. But it sounds good. 

What have I done with my time? I burned out on Netflix last week and haven’t streamed a single thing since. Instead, I’ve been making my way through boxes of Kleenex (yes, I realize that’s plural). I’m filling trashcans full with scrunched-up tissues. And I’m pondering how many gallons of herb tea I’ve consumed.

The most challenging thing has been getting the housework done. Yesterday, my minions (namely Matt and Jake) discovered if one goes outside, then one cannot be assigned “laundry duty.” LD is, according to them, a method of torture, which consists of emptying the dryer, putting what’s in the washer into the dryer, putting a new a load in the washer, and most heinous of all...folding the clean laundry and putting it away. Of course, my boys, being the unpaid/slave laborers that they are, aren’t too concerned with doing a good job. At the end of the day, Luke complained, “I got dad’s underwear, Ariel’s socks, and Jacob’s jeans.” I explained that if he started getting my bras, I’d look into the matter. Otherwise, he needed to cope. Beggars can’t be choosers. (Don’t you love it when moms start quoting clichés? That’s what happens when you watch too much Netflix.)

What else have I done besides rot my brain and drive my boys crazy? Not much. I decided to start a synopsis for the platypus (my current novel). A synopsis is supposed to be 2 to 4 pages, double spaced. Seven years ago when I first wrote the platypus, I wrote a synopsis. So I thought that I’d pull it out, dust it off, and it would be ready to go. So I pulled it out. And blinked several times. My synopsis was seven pages, single-spaced. What was I thinking when I wrote this porky thing? I’d need to edit out four and one half pages, minimum.

As of this afternoon, I edited out two pages—a line here, a phrase there, etc. I was feeling proud of myself until Ariel saw the pages, picked them up, and read them. She informed me that the synopsis made my character’s emotional journey seem shallow. I blinked. Yeah, I sort of knew that. But it’s the fever’s fault. When it’s gone, I’m sure I’ll whip that synopsis into shape. Or, maybe I can get my slaves to write it. I’ll say, “Laundry duty or synopsis writing. Pick your poison.” That LD is looking better and better.

Monday, March 28, 2011

I'm Not Sick. Really, I’m Not.

After you’ve been sick for a couple of days (actually, by the time you read this it will be five days = 120 hours = 7200 minutes), there’s nothing more provoking than taking your temperature and discovering that you still have a fever. Okay, my head hurts, my nose runs, and I cough up nasty stuff (sorry, too much information), but I feel like I’ve done the sick thing. I want to get up, do the dishes, cook meals, and fold laundry. Yes, my family is doing these things, but, well, I do it better and more efficiently. Hmm. I’m probably missing a lesson that I’m supposed to learn.

And I’m sooo tired of Netflix. I’ve watched an entire miniseries, a documentary on the world of modeling (very creepy—some of those “women” are 12!!), and some detective tv shows (the plots become extremely redundant). I’m entertained out of my mind and bored silly. Normally, I read or write when I’m sick, but my eyes were too bleary. So I had an entertainment overdose. (Sadly, for some reason, I can’t sleep when I’m sick.)

I have amazing respect for those who struggle with chronic diseases or disabilities. Especially the ones I know who bear up without complaint. There appears to be a lesson for me to learn there too. Hmm. I think this rant means that I haven’t learned that lesson yet either.

In the meantime, I’ve decided that the thermometer must be wrong. Yeah, okay, on Saturday I asked Cal to buy a new thermometer because I decided that all our new-fangled battery-operated ones had to be defective. He brought home one of the old-fashion glass kind. But it’s still not telling me what I want. I’m sure it’s the thermometer’s fault. It’s difficult to come up with a reason why it’s “broken” since I can’t blame it on batteries or electrical components. However, I’m a writer so it’s my job to be creative.  Here are my top five reasons why I really don’t have a fever.

1. My normal body temperature is abnormally high.  So it’s not really a fever.

2. The thermometer doesn’t measure in Fahrenheit. (Downside to this—the only other heat measuring units I’m aware of are Kelvin and Celsius. Neither of which help. I could make one up...)

3. The numbers painted on the side of the thermometer are wrong.

4. I have a fast metabolism so holding the thermometer in my mouth for three minutes gives too high a reading. Thirty seconds should be more accurate.

5. *Imagine me stomping my foot and channeling my inner two-year old* “It’s wrong because I’m tired of being sick.” 

Friday, March 25, 2011

Appeal to Fear

Have you ever taken the time to participate in one of those political phone surveys? I usually don’t. I have too many things going on, someplace I needed to be or a child that needed me.  And so I always wondered how accurate those surveys were. After all, busy people didn’t have time.

But a month or two ago, on a quiet evening when everyone was gone, I got one of those phone calls. And instead of saying “no,” I thought that I’d like to have my voice heard. So I participated. And it started out normal enough. The first question was whether I approved of the way that the President was governing. Talk about your opened-end question. Um, on which issue? It seemed to be a popularity question. But that’s what politics has become. So I answered the question.

And after a couple more questions like that, things got a bit surreal. My favorite question (to the best of my ability to remember it) was “Don’t you think that it’s unfair that the city is forcing police officers who live outside the county to leave their vehicles at the county line?” Talk about your leading questions. Talk about swaying opinions by the way questions are phrased. I had a year of stats in college and my prof’s favorite exercise was to bring in front-page-of-the-newspaper scientific studies and show us why the results were meaningless because the statistical formulas used had no bearing on the studies’s data. While this wasn’t “scientific,” I’m sure he would have had a field day with this poll.

Again the pollster pushed me on the question. I said, “You know, I really don’t know enough about the issue to answer the question.” Nothing had been in the newspaper about the issue. As it turns out, the city no longer wants to pay for the gas, etc., for policemen who live outside of the county (it’s a large county) to drive their vehicles home. Now maybe there’s a good reason for them to drive their vehicles home, but I don’t know what it is. The police weren’t willing to make their case in the press. And I can certainly understand why the county doesn’t want to pay for the gas for a police officer who chooses to live a long way away. And unlike the mental image created by the pollster, there probably wouldn’t be scores of abandoned police cars lining the county line.

At the end of the poll, it was obvious that the police department and the mayor were skirmishing. Since then, it’s turned in a full-blown war. Nasty, name-calling billboards, where the police threaten that they won’t deal with gang violence unless the mayor gives them what they want. Um, hello, what happened to “Protect and Serve?” Maybe the police have a good reason for their anger, but punishing the citizens isn’t the way to go. And when the newspaper tried to talk to the police chief about the billboards, he refused to comment.

Perhaps someone needs a lesson in logic. My son Matthew is taking logic right now, and this whole fiasco had been an excellent example of ad hominen abusive, irrelevant goals and functions, and argumentum ad baculum (appeal to fear).

At this point, I’d really like the police chief and the mayor to write some editorials because I’d sure like to know what’s going on. In the meantime, Matt’s learning about politics and putting his logic skills to good use. 

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

In Which I Don’t Leave Well Enough Alone

One of my spring break projects was to paint the bathroom ceiling, window, and window frame. And I did. But then, I had a paint brush in my hand, and the trim looked pretty skanky... So I painted the trim. No problem. And then the trim looked so fresh and clean. But the baseboards looked horrendous. So I thought, “I’ll paint them too.”

Now in the spirit of full disclosure, I knew that something might be up with the baseboards. I hadn’t really inspected them, and Matthew is the one who mops the bathroom, but I suspected that the baseboard project might not be the ten minute job that it looked like. I got down on my hands and knees with my paintbrush and discovered that the baseboards were covered with several inches tall of caulk. Kind of odd. But since old caulk needs to be removed, I removed it.

People tend to use caulk to hide something. In this case, dryrot. Behind the layers of caulk was nothing. The caulk was gooped there to hide the fact that the wood was disintegrated. So I got some wood hardener from the basement and soaked what remained of the baseboard. (Wood hardener is amazing stuff. If you buy an old house like ours, invest in wood hardener, Great Stuff, and Bondo—you can fix anything.)  

While that was drying, I moved on to baseboards behind the toilet. Inches of caulk here too. I loosened a section and pulled. And up popped about forty octagonal floor tiles. Apparently when the tiles came loose, the previous owners decided to spread caulk all over the floor and shove the tiles into the caulk. Do you know how heinous this is?  All the tiles have to be scraped and scrubbed. Then the old grout had to be knocked off with a hammer. (Ariel helped me and claims that she’s lost feeling in her fingers.)  Then the tiles all have to be properly set and grouted. And now they look amazing and the baseboard has been painted.

But then the tiles, the ceiling, the window, the trim all looked great. But the tub, well, the caulk on that looked vile (the caulk that the previous owners used—a pox on them—wasn’t mildew resistant). Plus the dry rot was coming from drips from the tub. So I removed the caulk—layers of caulk. They’d just put new caulk over old caulk. Last night, I re-caulked. And the tub looks fantastic, at least comparatively. But now...the cabinet doesn’t look so good. And the knobs are dated. Hmmm. I have more paint and five knobs would be cheap.  I think I hear another project calling my name.

P.S. (On a totally different topic) For those of you interested in the progress of my platypus, here’s the latest. My final beta reader gave me a “thumbs up.” Unlike a lot of writers, I don’t send out my novel to several betas at the same time. I dole it out one by one. So my first beta gives me suggested corrections. And I make the changes. Then my second beta reads it, and I make her suggested changes, etc. So by the final beta read, I’m hoping that the book is good to go.  Now the only thing that remains is to write a letter of introduction (i.e., a query) for my platypus. I need to convince prospective agents that they don’t want a duck, they want my platypus, which has the nicest bill, the warmest fur, and the coolest venomous spurs. 

Monday, March 21, 2011

How to Train Your Dragon, er, Lab

Every day early in the morning, I make a pot of dark roasted coffee in my French press while Calvin takes our dog Jezebel (a black Lab) for a walk and training. I never thought much about the training until Saturday.

Saturday evening a dog, a foreign dog, wandered into our yard. This causes a deep emotional crisis for Jezebel. Some no account uncontrolled animal has crossed into her territory.  At this point, frenzied barking commenced. Normally, I would tell her, “Be quiet.” She would bark a few quick barks and then moan in frustration.

But instead, I glanced outside as saw that the foreign beast was raising a hind leg. This is a heinous evil to me. At the front of my yard I have a beautiful hedge of red knock-out roses that bloom all spring, summer, and fall.  The neighbors from all around come to tell how lovely the roses are or to take photos of them. The elderly in the complex across the street thank me for brightening their day with my roses. Now imagine my ire at was unfolding before me. This dog planned to pee on my roses and maybe kill one of the bushes. I already have one bush that I have to transplant because some irresponsible pet owner failed to control his/her dog.

I yelled imprecations at the dog. I was ignored. Calvin opened the door and said, “Jez, go.” Jezebel shot out the door like (I know this is a cliché, but it’s exactly what she looks like) she shot out the door like a bat out of hell. And she took off after evil dog.

Evil dog takes off down the street with Jez on his tail. First, I’m worried that Jez will hurt him. She didn’t. She just stayed right on his heiny. Then, I panicked. At the end of our street is a very busy thoroughfare. I envisioned Jez getting hit by a car. I said, “Cal, she’s going to get hit.” Cal said, “No, she won’t.” Then he yelled, “Jez, come.”  Jez stopped on a dime, ran back home and sat at Cal’s feet.

I had no words.  Our neighbor who was sitting on her porch laughed and laughed, delighting in Jez and watching the fun.

Stupid dog came back. Jez flared her nostils, the hair on her back stood on end, and a nasty rumble started deep in her chest. Stupid dog stepped into the yard. Jez glanced at Cal with begging eyes. Cal said, “Go, Jez.” And again, Jez flew after the dog chasing him down the street until Cal said, “Jez, come.”  And she trotted home, placed herself at Cal’s feet, and Cal said, “Good girl.”

I guess he knows how to train a dog. 

Friday, March 18, 2011


Yesterday was the major project day of spring break. After some cups of coffee, Luke and I started sanding the bathroom. Of course, we had the wrong grit of sandpaper—too fine. When I thought my arm would fall off, I found some courser sandpaper in the basement. Everything went well. Until I could no longer stand on a stool on top of the counter.
I wanted to sand the ceiling above the bathtub. Luke was sanding there, but it was the worst area so I decided to help. I put a barstool in the tub and then put a smaller stool on top of the barstool. Luke said, “I don’t think that’s a good idea.” The walls of the tub are sloped and the barstool rocked a bit. I said, “It’ll be fine.” And it was. Until it wasn’t. And then, I fell. Into the bathtub. And my arm bumped the faucet handles on the way down. So when I landed, cold water streamed out of the shower head on top of me.
Thankfully, Luke waited until I said, “I’m okay” before he started laughing. So I picked myself up, wrung out the edges of my shorts and tee-shirt, adjusted my goggles, and sanded the window frame. I let Luke finish the ceiling since he’s 6’1” and only needs to stand on a barstool to reach it.

Here are some photos.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Oh, the Places You Won’t Go

Two of our kids are on spring break, and two aren’t. Which means no vacation. It means we stay home, instead of visiting friends (Darren and Maggie, we’ll be by in August). But I can’t let an opportunity pass.  Luke + Ariel + vacation = slave labor.
Luke is the official dissection director. I did enough dissection in high school and college, plus I did dissection with Luke and Ariel. Now Luke is the teacher. He’s on his second student, Matthew. Apparently it’s going quite well and Matt is taking pictures of all the organs. EUW. 
Ariel is my spring break cruise director. She insists that I do fun stuff even though I’m not on vacation. She highlighted my hair. I did hers. I discovered that they give you those plastic gloves for a reason. At first my fingertips turned white. Eventually the color came back. But now they’re slippery. And I find myself wondering if you could use a peroxide-based chemical cocktail to “burn” the fingerprints off your fingers... Imagine.
Federal agent 1: Hmm, no fingerprints here. But there are traces of hydrogen peroxide, potassium persulfate, and sodium metasilicate.*
Federal agent 2: Sir, this must be the work of the nefarious highlighting terrorist.
Federal agent 1: Let’s stake out the nearest drugstore.
Of course, I have more plans for tomorrow. The bathroom ceiling needs to be sanded and repainted. (Note to Luke—this means me and you.) The only problem with this is that the ceiling is at least ten feet high. And our ladder won’t fit in the bathroom. So I’ll probably stack pieces of furniture on top of each other until I can reach the ceiling. At which point, Luke will explain to me why I am taking ridiculous chances. I will explain that it doesn’t matter because I have really good balance. Luke will say, “Does Dad know that you’re doing this?” And I will say, “Hey, Dad’s the one who does wiring without turning off the electricity.” Luke will sigh heavily and wonder how he can be the offspring of two such parents. But he’ll help me anyway.
I’m not sure what else Ariel has planned, but I’m sure it involves chocolate chip cookies, lattes with whipped cream, and dark chocolate. Which just goes to show you that you don’t need to go anywhere to have a perfect spring break.
* (I have no idea what that means. I just copied it off the box.)

Monday, March 14, 2011

Give Me Your Cup and No One Gets Hurt

My name is Connie, and I’m a gardener. I bought my first plant 25 years ago, and I can’t stop. Seriously. Only this year, I’m doing seeds instead of plants. Cheaper. Definitely not easier. I’ve done seeds before so I know what I’m talking about.
Here’s the thing. The only way it’s cheaper is if you don’t spend money on fancy seed starters like peat pots, etc. Yeah, I covet them, and they’re easier. But we’re doing cheaper. That means I need cups to plant the seeds in. And since I’m not buying them, it means I need to mooch them. Providentially, our church had a luncheon yesterday. After the luncheon, I went dumpster diving. Okay, not too literally, I only picked a few cups out of the trashcans. Most cups I grabbed just as people were throwing them into the trashcan. It went something like this.
Me: Can I have that cup, please?
Person 1: Uh, sure...
Me: I want to reuse the cup (scoring points for environmental consciousness) to plant my garden seeds.
Person 1 (realizing that I’m not a lunatic): Right, okay.
But not all my experiences were quite so straightforward.
Me: Can I have that cup, please? I want to reuse it. (I was trying to cut down on odd facial responses.)
Person 2: Oh. (He looks at the Styrofoam cup oddly.)
Me (wondering why I’m still getting odd looks): I’m going to plant seeds in it for my flower garden.
Person 2 (laughing): I thought you wanted to wash it in order to use it again for the next luncheon.  I thought it was your Dutchness coming out.
Me (smiling, not offended at the reference to pecuniary Dutchness because said person’s wife is also Dutch): No, no. I don’t think I’d do that. (Maybe I would at home with my kids. But not with other people—they’d have non-family germs.)
So I brought my used Styrofoam cups home. And proceeded to say, “Ariel, let’s soak the seeds!” She gives me a languid look and says, “I don’t know why you think that I’m excited about this.” My shoulders droop. Ariel then remembers all the times that I’ve pretended to be interested in some obscure matrix theory and says, “Okay, fine.”
She watches while I label the cups, pour in the seeds, and add water. Her contribution to the process beyond watching is to say, “Euw! Those hollyhock seeds look like fleas!” Indignant, I say, “They do NOT look like fleas. Fleas are much smaller.” At that, Ariel gives me her triumphant look. I grumble. Then she announces that when she gets a home of her own, she’s going to hire me to do her gardening. I think that I’m going to be way too expensive for her to hire. She can pull her own weeds. 

Friday, March 11, 2011

I Love My Platypus

I didn’t make it too far into the literary agency contest.  They told me that “my manuscript didn’t meet their needs at this time.” And they told me that I was welcome to query other projects to their agency. Pretty much your tier one standard rejection. (Not good, but better than “don’t darken our doorstep again, you ignorant hack.”)
I was very disappointed. I wasn’t planning on making it to the “end” of the contest. After all, my book is very different than what they represent. But I’d hoped that I’d at least make it to the next level. What I forgot is that they are a business. They are looking for novels that fit their selling niche. For example, some agencies represent science fiction and fantasy. And no matter how beautifully written your romantic thriller is, they’ll turn it down in the time it takes you to blink.
My novel is historical fiction with pretentions to literary fiction. I called it “women’s fiction,” which the agency does represent. But clearly they didn’t buy it—if it doesn’t walk like a duck or talk like a duck, it’s probably not a duck. And though my book had a duck bill (i.e., it was about a woman) my book is more like a platypus and sticking a bunch of feathers on it (calling it “women’s fiction”) didn’t fool the agents.
So I have to get off my duff, write the query and the synopsis, and find someone who earnestly loves to represent platypuses with waddles.
(Don’t you think the plural of platypus ought to be platypi?)

Wednesday, March 9, 2011


The next few blogs posts may be shorter than normal. I’m in a contest for literary representation. Though truthfully whenever you’re trying to get a literary agent that’s always the case. But this is a special case for a lot of reasons. First the whole thing will be over by the end of the month—instead of the passing months multiplying like rabbits. Second, you don’t have to submit a query letter or a synopsis. (I’m doing the happy dance in my fuzzy socks.) Especially since I haven’t written either one yet. Imagine how cool it would be to land an agent without having had to write them.
Of course, now I’ve decided that the entire novel needs to be read-through one more time. Just in case. So I started. At first it went really well. Then, hyper-anxiety found me.  And any reliable read of my material went out the door. I started wondering if it was all drivel. Now I know what you’re thinking—are all writers such narcissist navel gazers? The answer is yes. But it’s not quite our fault. I was reading the blog of a famous agent who’s also a writer. She’s known for her razor-sharp editing skills and keen nose for greatness. What was she blogging about? The latest crit feedback she got on her work-in-progress. All the plot holes, rotten dialogue, etc.
On the one hand, it’s encouraging. Okay, I can be a writer and have editing angst. If one of the best struggles with editing her work, then it’s all right if I do too.
However, if she can’t always spot her mistakes, what does that say about me? See, now I’m back to the drivel thing.
Where does that leave me? I’m not sure. But I’m not going to wallow in a pity puddle (sorry, I couldn’t resist the alliteration). Instead, I’m “putting on my big girl panties” and picking up my red pen. 

Monday, March 7, 2011

Not the Usual Reasons

I’m not much of a television person. And it’s not because the tv shows are puerile, offensive, or boring—though sometimes they are. I get frustrated even with tv shows that aren’t. My biggest beef with tv shows is the characters. The characters almost never grow. That’s what I love about books and movies. By the end, a resolution has occurred and a character grows. But tv series by their continuing nature can’t do that.
For example, I enjoy the show Castle (it’s about a mystery writer who falls in love with a NYC detective). The show is mostly about solving the murders. But the background is Rick Castle’s love for Kate Beckett and hers for him. Except that they never get beyond their own foibles that keep them apart. Despite the fact that Rick realizes that Kate is his soul mate, he can’t get beyond his philandering ways, which turns off Kate who wants a real lifetime relationship. Now, of course, this may be real life, but in a story I want to see the characters redeemed or, at least, resolved to be separate. But in the constant back-and-forth of their relationship I feel like I’m being “led down the garden path.” I’m not sure there’s any way around it; after all, when the tension between Kate and Rick is gone, where does it leave the story? Though I have some ideas on how to advance the characters and still maintain the tension (call me ABC), but that’s another story.
Maintaining the tension and advancing the characters’ growth is the double edged sword for tv shows. Some shows try to get around it by having their characters do exciting/growing things, but then those choices never change the relationships around them. Their actions have no consequences, either good or bad. And I hate that even more.
There have been notable exceptions like the show Kidnapped in which a child is kidnapped in the first episode and the rest of the season is devoted to finding the child and discovering why he was kidnapped. Of course, the characters who search for the child don’t do much growing, but then the writers had expected the show to continue beyond one season, which didn’t happen (BTW, Netflix carries the show.)
I think part of the reason for the success of detective series beyond the “idea of justice” and “the modern realization of the quest genre,” is that most episodes have closure with a denouement and resolution.
Or am I overthinking it? Or maybe I just haven’t seen any good shows. Any thoughts or shows that you’d like to share, readers?

Friday, March 4, 2011

Ultimate Secrets and Honesty

My son Luke is the ultimate secret keeper. If he doesn’t think he’s supposed to say something, he doesn’t. And there’s not even a hint of it on his face.
So when Luke said that something interesting happened last week, we listened.
Two bits of salient information: One, Luke is a teaching assistant in a chemistry lab at the university he attends. Two, Luke is scrupulously, painfully honest. If you ask him, “Does this skirt make me look fat?” and he thinks it does, he’ll say, “Yes, that skirt makes you look fat.” Luke hates dishonesty, even if it’s “polite.”
So last week, he was helping to oversee a midterm and noticed that a student was cheating. The student had a list of formulae on an index card slipped between his calculator and the calculator “slide.”
Luke reported it to the professor that runs the lab. The prof was a bit hesitant about doing anything immediately. The student had to be caught red-handed, documentation, etc. Luke continued to keep his eye on the student, who continued cheating. At one point, the student went to the professor’s desk to ask a question. Then, Luke grabbed the student’s calculator (everyone has their name on their calculator because they are so expensive), took it to the front of the room, slapped it on the prof’s desk, and pulled back the slide (revealing the crib note), and said to the student, “How do you explain this?”
The student came up with a lame excuse—the head professor gave him permission. The lab professor checked with the head professor, who had NOT given the student permission to cheat. Luke ended up being interviewed by the head professor. And the student was disciplined and had to go to the honor board.
At any rate, it became public today. And professors are now checking everyone’s calculator slide for cheat sheets during midterms.
But what amazes me is that while all this was going on last week, Luke never said a thing. Not one word. Now I wish I had some wonderful, amazing secret so I could tell Luke. But I don’t.
And the moral of the story is don’t cheat and don’t ask Luke if a particular skirt makes you look fat.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

My Early Warning System

I’m almost done with the current revision of my heart novel. I edited, revised, and reread two chapters yesterday. That leaves the climax chapter, which is really long and needs to be split in two, and the denoument (resolution) chapter. I started working on the climax yesterday, noticing that the main character had an emotional swing that while justified isn’t accounted for in the text. So I started to add details to the text to account for the character’s emotional transition.
It went well, until I realized it was drivel. After editing for a while, I reached the creative-insight endpoint and descended into hokey overwrought tripe. I’m sure I’m not the only writer who experiences this. How about you all? How do you realize when you’ve burned through your creative stores for the day? I’d like to know the warning signs so that I can “back way from the novel” before I destroy something good.
I’m considering adding Ellie, my daughter’s hamster, to my early warning system. She seems to befairly talented. Here’s a picture of her reading the text.
Here's another picture of her typing out, “Stop, you crazed woman, you’re ruining the chapter.”