Plumb Tuckered

by Nancy

My maternal grandfather was a country boy, born on a farm in the Carolina Piedmont when the Civil War was a vivid and comparatively recent memory. He went to college, moved to various cities and towns, and became a certified public accountant. When we cleaned out my folks’ house, we found his certificate–#29 for the State of North Carolina. He also became treasurer and business manager of a college. Among other things, he got the money donated to build the college’s second library (The first, which was much smaller, was endowed by Andrew Carnegie).

Despite all that polish, though, there were some phrases he held onto, like “plumb tuckered,” as in, “I’m plumb tuckered out,” meaning he was tired.

This would be me and my guys and today. Christmas seems to have leaped out of a closet at us and yelled, “Boo! I’m here NOW!” With no warning whatsoever. Of course there was warning. We just felt as though there wasn’t.

Many of you juggle far more than I do and with sharper focus. Once upon a time, when I had a career, I juggled more than this and did it better. I guess that old saying is true, that if you want something done, you should ask a busy person.

Yet it’s a good kind of being tired, the kind that means we had a pleasant holiday even though we maybe didn’t accomplish everything we wanted to. We did the last of the last necessary (as opposed to nice but optional) running around on the 24th. All the wrapping paraphernalia and other holiday clutter came off the table.

Most of the decorations for the house are still in boxes, but we do have a candle tower in the middle of the table, and the dh even found candles for it during his last-minute rush. The tree went up a week ago, giving us our main decoration. We capped off Christmas Eve with a nice meal, using the “good” dishes and crystal on the Christmas placemats the dh’s sister made. Yesterday, we had a leisurely exchange of gifts.

Even Herself had a gift (Hers was easy, straight from the grocery store.). She also gave a few that were purchased, wrapped and tagged for her by her two-legged servants. It’s so hard to wrap packages when you don’t have opposable thumbs.

In some parts of the world, this is Boxing Day. Anna Sugden wrote a terrific post about it on this date in 2007. You can find it if you click here, then scroll down. Or you can scroll down to the bottom of the sidebar, click on 2007, and scroll down to the post (That link has an ominous lot of html in it but worked when I tried it.). For those of us in the U.S., however, today is not a holiday. Today is more like the first day in the denouement of the year, a phase that ends with the year’s last mega-party on New Year’s Eve.

I always look back during this week, trying to see what went well and what I could or should have done better. Of course, some things are beyond our control. Another saying in my family was “Good Lord willin’ and the creek don’t rise,” meaning “unless something beyond my control happens.”

I have no control, for example, over which students enroll in my classes. All I can do is try to reward the ones who’re serious and use drop/add to scare away the pinheads who think taking a science fiction class means watching movies and shooting the breeze instead of reading, discussing, and writing papers. I was reasonably successful in that this year.

I found a good rhythm for writing, increasing my productivity, and honed the technique of writing in different voices for different subgenres. However, I made no headway whatsoever–as one might expect when putting in no effort whatsoever–in mastering the skills that would make Michaels less intimidating.

I’ve been thinking a lot about character and language. Voice, in other words. When I was in college, I interned at a local TV/radio station for a week. This included trailing reporters around. I said something to one of them about a place being “down the road a piece,” good Southern vernacular, courtesy of my grandfather. The reporter’s jaw dropped. “I can’t believe you said that,” he said. “If you want a career in television news, you have to be precise. You can’t say hick things like that.”

Perhaps he was right. I decided against a career in news, so I never tested his advice. That phrase would, however, be a perfect thing for a rural, southern character to say. Or for a lawyer talking to a jury composed of such people to use. It’s a matter of context and impression for people, and for characters, too.

The dh grew up in Colorado. They said “pop” for carbonated beverages, though he uses brand names nowadays (“nowadays” is probably another word that reporter would scorn). In the South, we called them by their names, though I understand some areas call everything “Coke” or, in the deeper South, “Co’ Cola.”

Thanks to Christine and the two Annas, my British characters tend to say “as well” rather than “too” or “straight away” rather than “immediately.”

On a more frivolous note, I scored 180,000 points on Buzz Lightyear at DisneyWorld during RWA. I’m sure there are thousands, if not millions, of teenagers in the world with higher scores, but that was a good one for me. I’m going to take that into 2011 with the resolve to top it if I ever get the chance.

Below is one of my favorite Christmas photos, an old one of someone who now does way better than I do at video games. He and his buddy here are, appropriately, plumb tuckered out from their Christmas. He wasn’t quite a year old when this was taken, and now we’re having the last Christmas holidays that won’t see him pack up and leave at the end. It’s kind of hard to believe, frankly.


I hope you all had a peaceful holiday and are looking forward to the new year. We’ll launch it on Saturday with a look at our great January lineup.

What was good about this year for you? Did you learn anything or work on anything in particular in writing (or any other project) this year? Are there any phrases you like that were handed down in your family or are particular to your region?

A selection of books I picked up at conferences this year goes to one commenter today.

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