Posted tagged ‘Obelus’

bits and pieces

June 21, 2021

The photo above is one I took out at Roundrock back in 2007, on a wet July day. There was water on my gravel road, and these bubbles were rising continuously in one small pool. I understand this is tessellation, which is an arrangement of shapes closely fitted together without gaps or overlapping. I didn’t notice until now, fourteen years later, that there is a tiny grasshopper in the photo at the lower left. I wonder what it’s doing today.


I found a sentence I wrote in Obelus that is 238 words long, with one colon, 14 commas, and four parenthetical phrases. The word “pausing” appears in it five times. The narrative voice is supposed to be self conscious and even playful, so I don’t consider this monstrosity to be out of order. Perhaps it’s a kind of verbal tessallation. And it ain’t nothing compared to the 1,287-word sentence in Absalom, Absalom that Faulkner wrote (and I managed to read after two tries).

Also, the word “potentate” occurs four times in Obelus.


The forays into my old journals continue. 1984 was a productive year it seems. I’m getting reacquainted with old story ideas I had, even well-developed plots for novels that never happened. But what strikes me most about these visits is getting lost memories sparked again. I found an entry recounting a particularly vivid dream I had had, and as I read my old account of it, the memory of the dream came back to me as though it had happened only last night. The same has been true with most of the general musings I’d had. I read this or that random thought and remember it fully now. That’s interesting and all, but what’s more interesting to me is that without these triggers, I think those memories would be lost to me forever. And if they were, would part of my make up be erased?


I rode the 26-mile route on the Indian Creek and Blue River Trails on Saturday morning. It was already 81 degrees when I got to the start at 5:00 a.m., and I worried that it would be a bad ride. But the sun stayed behind the clouds most of the time, and by constantly moving, I had a nice breeze, so I was never hot. This was the first time this year that I’d ridden that route. A number of factors had conspired to prevent me before including the weather (flooded/muddy/messy trail) and my pit crew being in St. Louis on some ideal weekends (or me choosing to go to the cabin instead). But all that gave way last weekend and I got going.

About nine miles into my ride, I came upon this:

An immense red oak had fallen in the night and blocked the trail. (We didn’t have bad weather, and the tree looked to be healthy. But it came out, roots and all.) These things happen on the trail, and usually there is a way around them, but this one was more of a challenge. I ended up carrying my bike on my shoulder and stepping branch to branch on the left side of this photo. My feet never touched the ground until I was on the other side. And I only got a slight laceration on my left calf. But then it was back to riding.

I expected to have trouble completing the ride since I hadn’t ridden that distance since sometime last fall, but it all went smoothly. I did get a little tired near the end, but I attribute that to having been away from it so long. My legs never tired (though my quads got very tight and I decided to foam roll them when I got home), and my heart and lungs were in the game the entire time. So now I look forward to riding the route again.


I am still wearing a mask when I go to public places even though I’ve been fully vaccinated. My county, purple in a red state, mostly well educated, and fairly affluent, still reports that less than half of the eligible population is fully vaccinated and just over half have had both shots. I don’t know what that’s about. A neighboring city (well, three hours away) is reporting an upsurge in COVID cases because of prevailing resistance to the vaccination. As the last election showed, they live among us, and they are more common than believed.

Obelus, in the free world

September 14, 2020

On Saturday morning I spent nearly four hours sending the query for Obelus to fifteen potential agents. (And a couple more on Sunday for another eight. I’ve even received my first two rejection declines!) It was exhausting, mentally and emotionally. (I also got the oil changed in my truck.)

I had completed my read through of the 101,000+ words and worked and worked on the wording of the query, and I think I have it in pretty good shape. Of course, it was only when I was preparing the fourteenth query letter that I noticed the typo in it.

It turns out there are very few agents who specify that they are seeking metafiction. Adjectives like experimental, surreal, quirky, and slipstream come up, but I think they’re not quite right. Regardless, I’m pretty sure success at this thing is a numbers game. Send out a hundred queries, and somewhere in there will be the one or two who are receptive to whatever I have to offer.

Anyway, big step achieved.

Also, how do you identify a dogwood tree? By its bark!

Oeuvre becomes Obelus

August 31, 2020

I did some radical surgery on Oeuvre over the weekend. I cut about 21,000 words from the 122,000-word document.

That was a bulk cut, not a judicious paring of extraneous words here and there throughout the manuscript. Oeuvre has four parts. The first two are the substance of the story; the second two are more like commentaries on it, alternative histories and interpretations. I had originally wanted to include them because four novellas figure in the story, and I thought it would be magically meta to have four parts to my novel as well.

But those latter two parts had their weaknesses. Much of it felt forced and didn’t really add to the story. I’d been feeling uncertain about them for about a month, especially when I wrote a synopsis for the two sections and felt underwhelmed with what I had, so I thought I would try cutting them and seeing how I feel with the result. I’m now in the process of seeing how I feel with the result.

I did retain one bit of the excised text, having an appropriate place to slip it into the surviving story. I liked the bit and would have been sorry to lose it since it was a nice scene for a nice character.

Honestly, I don’t think the work suffers from the severe editing. I’ll watch how I feel in the days ahead.

I was also never in love with the overall title Oeuvre. I thought it was otiose. The title of the third section was Obelus, which is, among many other meanings for the word, a typographer’s symbol to indicate that a passage is spurious or doubtful, and that ties in nicely with the theme of the story. So Oeuvre has become Obelus.

And I think I that at least three of the pieces from the deleted fourth section, Olios, can stand alone as short stories. Once I feel fully confident that my change is good and permanent, I’ll probably begin shopping those around. (Actually, one of them began as a short story, and it was what inspired me to write the novel, so it has a nice pedigree and evolution.) My other novel, One-Match Fire, which is in circulation and getting periodic rejections, has twenty-four chapters, and I managed to get ten of them published as stand-alone stories. Then I began to hear dire judgments that I had forfeited the first publishing rights to them and could never get the novel published as a whole. I did a little research, and even asked a few agents and editors if this was true, and I was assured it was not. (There is so much contradictory conventional wisdom in this world of writing that I am convinced I must just keep my own counsel.) Anyway, I’m still a little cautious about trying to get those three pieces from Olios published until I am certain they will not be part of Obelus any longer.


Any WordPress experts out there? I am getting messages saying that the autosave function will not work and that I do not have permission to save my own blog posts. I poked around in my settings, and even changed my password, and I seem to have found a workaround. But if anyone knows what is wrong or how to fix it, I’d be glad to hear.


July 13, 2020

For those of you following my Ouroboros writing saga, I can tell you that I have the third part of the collection “finished.” I wrote the last 1,000 words of Obelus over the weekend. It comes to 13,000+ words, which is sufficient (since it qualifies as a novella).

I think I mentioned that the word “obelus” has a number of meanings, and my use is of the meaning of the typographer’s symbol of a dagger to indicate that a passage or reference is of dubious reliability. There are eleven parts in my Obelus, and their intent is to upend everything that comes before it in Ouroboros and Omphalos. (The shifting nature of identity and even reality is a major theme in these works. The fact that “obelus” has so many possible meanings feeds into this nicely.)

I say it is finished, but I’m sure I’ll come back to it. As phrasings or character traits or tropes come up in the other three parts, I may revisit Obelus to reference or develop these. I may also find that I want to write about a whole new matter — a twelfth part — to slip into Obelus. Thus I fully expect the word count to go up, maybe a little, maybe a lot. But if not, I do consider it sufficient as it stands.

The hard part comes now. Olios is part four, and it will involve altogether new writing. It’s going to be a collection of short stories and other writing referenced in the other parts, and I have to write them. (I half believe that the first three parts existed “out there” somewhere and I was just taking dictation as they were revealed to me. I don’t truly believe this kind of thing, of course, but it does come up in one form or another in the story.) I have one finished and another well on the way. But I need about four more to do justice to the section and the whole collection.

This work has been a beast. In the first six months of this year, I couldn’t get it written fast enuf (and I’m thinking of changing every “enough” in the work to “enuf” just because it is intended to be very self-conscious writing), but the days of 9,000 words written in one sitting are gone. I was happy to get 1,000+ words down last weekend. I’ll apply myself and get the work done, reaching at least the 10,000 minimum to qualify as a novella. But I must write these pieces in different styles, with different voices and vocabularies and even different (fictional) audiences, so I’ll have to find a different motivation than the momentum of the frenzied days.

I hope in the end it adds up to something worthwhile.