Newsletter #51 — What Is a Mule?
January 15, 2023
Newsletter #51 — What Is a Mule?
A Mule Is Not a Donkey — As one who grew up on a farm, I can tell a goat from a cow, a sheep from a llama, and I can tell a mule from a donkey. Apparently many, many citizens of the US can't. Every time I post something about my mule book on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, I get return comments about donkeys. I get photos of donkeys. I have to assume that most people think mule is a synonym for donkey. They never respond with photos of a horse, or comments about horses: they know that a mule is not a horse. But, alas, they do not seem to know that a mule is not a donkey.
I am hoping that you, Dear Readers, know that a mule is not a donkey. A mule is a hybrid animal, a cross between a male donkey and a female horse. The mule inherits its size and strength from the horse. It inherits its temperament, wisdom, and sure-footedness from the donkey.
During the 18th, 19th, and early part of the 20th century, mules were highly valued in this country (as well as in other countries around the world). George Washington was our country's first mule breeder and kept 57 mules at Mount Vernon. A farmer with a mule could clear more land, more cheaply, than a farmer with a horse or ox. When the wagon trains went west, they were pulled by oxen or by horses, and a very lucky few by mules. And that is because most people could not afford a mule (mules were valuable). A mule cost much more than a horse or an ox.
I could go on and on about the importance of the mule, but that isn't the point. The point is that a mule is not a donkey! Donkeys are little. Mules are large. The average donkey weighs 400 pounds. The average mule weighs 1,000 pounds. If you saw the two standing side by side, you would recognize that A. Mule. Is. Not. A. Donkey!
Thank you for reading my rant. (Mules and donkeys everywhere also thank you.)
Rewriting Exit Velocity — On January 2, the first work day of the new year, I printed out a hard copy of draft #4 of Exit Velocity. Usually twice for each book, I print out a hard copy draft. Almost always the first draft, and then one of the later drafts. In the case of Exit Velocity, I had printed draft #1 and rewritten it, then worked online to write drafts #2, #3, and #4. Now, in order to write draft #5, I felt a strong need for something I could hold and read and scribble on.
This manuscript did not, in my opinion, require major rewriting. But it did require updating of political events, and so that's what I did: updating, and catching any other problems as I went along.
I proceeded at the pace of 50 pages a day. I thought these would take me about 45 to 60 minutes. But no, they took more than twice that long. It wasn't that I made a lot of changes (maybe one or two red marks per page, and some pages no red marks) — it's just that careful reading of text takes a long time.
The manuscript printed out at 431 pages, so I finished on January 13. Now, of course, I have to go back and make all the changes indicated by my red squiggles. I'm hoping I can do thirty pages in an hour. But most likely not.
Just in case you're wondering what kinds of things I caught as I edited draft #4, here are some of the notations I made:
• Correct a scene in which two people stand up from a table they've been sitting at — except that they were last left standing and I never indicated that they sat down. Funny how I didn't notice this the first three times around.
• Decide what the hell to call the Chicago elevated. I've been calling it the "el." But last month I read a current-day mystery set in Chicago and the public transportation was called the L. Wrong, I thought. But then I looked it up, and it appears that L is a correct usage and also that nobody can agree on whether the transportation should be called the L, the El, or the el. Here's a 2019 Chicago Magazine article on it.
• When I wrote the first draft of Exit Velocity in 2020, abortion was legal in the US. Now it is legal only in some states. This affects the scenes in which the main character is going to an abortion-rights rally. In 2020 she was going to demand that the Supreme Court uphold abortion rights. Now the demand must be to restore and protect a woman's right to abortion. There are two or three such scenes, so I have to rethink them.
• Check every single text message and every single protest sign and every single chant in the book, to make certain the typefaces are consistently one style. I started out with Arial bold for texts, but used Palatino bold for protest signs and chants. (Don't ask me why.) I think the manuscript would look better if there were just one such face, not two. . . . Then again, maybe not.
Anglo-Saxon Strength — Read my latest blog here.