New website...

Hello readers, I have been trying to figure out how to create a link between this blog site and my new website but unfortunately, have not been able to import one into the other. So, my new blog is found at
Hope to see you there!

Monday, February 28, 2011

February 28, 2011--Priceless...

Friday was a messy weather day to say the least-- we must have received another 5-6 inches on top of the glare ice in the parking lot, making the trek to the woodshed a treacherous walk. My cramp-ons only clotted full of snow, causing my boots to rock on the icy ground rather than landing flat and steady like they should have. But, despite the weather, my husband braved the storm to drive home from CT after being in Baltimore for over a week.
Saturday, the morning was spent in slow motion, drinking tea, eating warm peanut butter toast, chatting with my husband and my two older sons once they ventured forth from their respective bedrooms. We shoveled out and after lunch, Yule, Jeffrey and I made the slippery drive to Skowhegan to play pool at Ken's. We met my youngest son in town and headed to play pool until I spotted the bar.
Yule turned 21 while out in Hawaii, so we entered the bar and had a beer together before heading to the tables. We cranked up the old juke box and played for a couple of hours. None of us were that good and that didn't matter. We drank beer, shot balls into pockets, ate french fries and onion rings and had a good time, enjoying each other's company. I walked away from there that night feeling like one of those VISA commercials--beer $24, pool tables $32, pizza, fries, onion rings $25 time spent with my family--priceless.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

February 24, 2011--A personal best...

Today was another good day, not quite so grand as yesterday but productive nonetheless. I hit a personal milestone-page 50 of the same project for the first time ever.
I know it's only one-fourth of a book-length manuscript, but the knowledge that I have actually carried a story this far amazes me. Probably because when I first started thinking about writing a book, the idea daunted me so much that I backed away for a couple of weeks. But, the ideas, the characters would not let me go and so, I began to write. A scene here, a scene there, some transitions to tie them together, then another few scenes and slowly, but steadily, the ideas are getting out onto the page.
I've read enough interviews of published authors in magazines, been to enough readings and attended Q and A sessions to know that the methods of writing a book are as varied as the number of people writing them, so I don't worry that my method is unorthodox. It seems to be working, I am producing pages on a consistent basis and that's good enough for me.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

February 23, 2011-- A good day...

Today was one of those all too rare good days when everything seems to feel just right and the day unwinds in a logical procession of accomplishments. Four hours of work, several cups of tea, a huge load of laundry, and warm sun streaming through the windows comprised much of the morning. Then, a brief lunch, wood hauling chores, a quick walk to feed the neighbor's cat, and a longer walk down a crunchy snowmobile trail for forty minutes or so started off the afternoon. Then, two glorious hours of losing myself in my latest writing project where my characters came to life and made me forget I was sitting in central Maine, in the middle of February. Suddenly I glanced out the window and saw the shadows starting to lengthen, realized that the stoves needed fuel,  and the pot roast for supper had to get in the oven if we were to eat tonight. So, I reluctantly shut down my computer, put on some Shakira, and danced in the kitchen while I cooked a big meal and baked cookies for my sons.
Now, I wait for my boys to arrive, to hear their tales of ice fishing up on Spencer Lake and find out their plans for tomorrow. My hope is to have a repeat of today, but of course, that will almost certainly not happen, so I am grateful for today and every day that comes close to it.

Monday, February 21, 2011

February 21, 2011-- On being alone....

Years ago, I truly hated being alone. My sons would be off with their dad for a week, my husband would leave town to visit his family, and I'd find myself alone in the house, wandering from room to room, at a loss as to what to do with myself. Often, I'd wind up in the easy chair by the wood stove, curled into a ball, crying...seriously...then would spend hours writing in my journal, trying to figure out why I hated to be alone in my own skin.
But, that was then. Now, it's all different. I am home alone and it's nice. I lie in bed in the morning, watching the sun break through the trees and think about all the time ahead of me, about how I will spend my day, and it feels good. I know that all the chores, like filling the wood box, splitting kindling, and doing the dishes are solely on my shoulders, but that's okay as the rest of the time is mine. Of course, I still have to work, which takes quite a chunk out of the day, but then, it's free time.
I can't remember the last time I lay down on the couch for an hour after work and read a book, eating a few potato chips and having a nice drink, without the need to carry on a conversation with anyone or to rush off and prepare a large meal for dinner. The cats and I were quite content with scrambled eggs with chopped tomato and broccoli for supper.
I don't have to feel guilty for rushing up to my desk and computer to write, leaving anyone downstairs on their own. The cats are sleeping by the stove and could care less if I sit at my desk for the next three hours.
They will join me once I move into bed and we'll settle in for another night.
I'm not sure when this new attitude towards aloneness really told hold, a few years ago, I think. But, it's comforting to know I can be comfortable by myself. Now, it feels like an intrusion into precious time when a neighbor suggests I stop by for lunch or an afternoon drink. It's nice of them to offer, but I decline, preferring to stay home. Solitude is a good thing; I can hear myself think these days and what I hear, I like.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

February 20, 2011-- When things fall apart....

When things fall apart, why does it always happen 1) when it is extremely cold and 2) when I am home alone and not sure how to fix it?
We live off the grid, relying on solar panels, a series of batteries, and an inverter to power the house. On cloudy days, or when we've used too much power or need to run a power tool like the vacuum that requires extra zoom, we have a generator to provide the juice.
Which is great when it all is running well. But, then there is today--not only does the inverter not want to accept a charge from the generator, but the generator is the older one we have and with it so cold, is impossible to start. I spent twenty minutes yanking on the cord, with the choke on and off this afternoon, trying to start the darn thing only to pull it off the little platform it sits on to keep it level. Which required me to haul it back onto the platform, pulling something in my lower back in the process....
So, I am sitting here by candlelight and the light of my computer screen contemplating ways to continue for the evening. I think I will continue to write until the battery goes dead in this computer, then crawl into bed and read the new book I bought by Rosemary Mahoney called Down the Nile: Alone in a Fisherman's Skiff. If this woman can row the Nile in a seven-foot boat all by herself,  I can survive the next few days with no power in the house.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

February 19, 2011-- Mayans and Hawaii...

The Mayans and Hawaii are on my mind today--The Mayans because I have taken the day off from my paying job to work on my book, which is centered around the Mayans. And Hawaii, because my oldest son is flying in from Hawaii to Boston today, then taking the bus to Portland where I will pick him up.
I lose myself in writing another scene for the book only to glance at the clock and realize I have several more hours to wait before leaving for Portland. It is a strange, giddy kind of day, kind of like the blustery wind that blows fiercely, then dies off for a few moments. I write rapidly, then stare vacantly out the window until another burst hits me. I think about Hawaii, how crazy it is to leave that warm sunshine for the wild winter and snow we are experiencing right now and yet, am glad that my son has not lost his taste for Maine and all its various seasons. He is eager to go snowmobiling and ice fishing; I would rather lie on the beach, go snorkeling and watch him surf board! But, that will happen in June, when I am determined to go see him in HI. As a reward for finishing (I hope) this new book among other reasons.
Meanwhile, the sun has come out, enticing me to venture farther than the woodshed for more fuel for the stoves. But, I think I will sink back into the Mayan jungle and see where my characters will lead me next.

Friday, February 18, 2011

February 18, 2011- Rewards...

Several of the writing blogs and magazines I read have all had articles and comments on how important it is as freelance writers to remember to reward oneself from time to time. To set goals, big and small, and when one is reached to do something as a pat on the back. Since we work for ourselves, we have no boss to give us that pat, that bonus for the week, the gold star on the forehead like I used to give my kids when they were little and being home schooled.
I think it's especially important to remember to reward yourself right now, when we are still stuck in winter, with mountains of snow out every window. The next season is mud season and frankly, that can be far worse than the snow.
So, since I finished another chapter in my book, I  took own advice. I went and got a haircut yesterday, then went to Borders and bought a new book and magazine. I feel extremely pleased at the bookstore purchases as I get something new to read, the author of the book makes a little moola, the magazine has some needed support and bankrupt Borders gets a little cash, too. And, I am grateful that the Bangor store is not one that is closing, which says something about readership in central Maine.
How will you reward yourself this weekend?

Thursday, February 17, 2011

February 17, 2011--Does anyone else notice..

Does anyone else notice when there are glitches in television shows and movies? I'm talking about the verbal equivalent of a typo or editorial mistake in writing. I find those all the time when reading, whether its the newspaper (the biggest culprit for typos and just plain poor writing), magazines or books. One time, I bought a second-hand book from a thrift store and found a woman had written on the inside back cover,  in neat Spencerian handwriting, a list of all the typos she had found in the book, each mistake with its corresponding page number. But, I digress.
It bugs me when I watch a movie and notice that so and so's shirt was wet, then dry two minutes later or the cup that the person drained in the first scene is now half-full again seconds later. Those glitches irk me.
The same is true for television. Now, I don't watch much t.v., in fact, I am only really watching one show right now-V on Tuesday nights. I like anything with vampires or aliens in it; this show has aliens, lizard-like creatures covered with a human skin, so they look like us, but underneath are these kind of green, slimy things with hidden tails and tons of teeth. Anyway, this is the one show I seemed to be hooked on at the moment. Last week's episode had the head alien, Anna, telling her subordinate that the human teenage boy whom she has been trying to convince to mate with her lizard daughter was no longer that necessary for the aliens plan of attack on the humans. Now, this has been an underlying theme for the entire season, that  this kid, Tyler, is vital to the V's and their domination of the human race. So, it came as a surprise that suddenly Tyler was not needed, as there were other humans in line for the job. Okay, that came as a surprise, but I was willing to go with it.
Then, this past Tuesday's episode had Anna telling her subordinate that Tyler's parents needed to be killed somehow so that Tyler would turn to her, Anna, for comfort, at which point she could lead Tyler to the daughter as he is vital to the alien attack. That switch was not cool and I realized that somewhere, some writer/editor did not keep track of an important thread in the overall arc of this story.
It's sloppy mistakes like that one that make it hard for me to continue with a show or in the case of a book, reading it to the end. I stopped reading Stephen King for years because I found so many editorial mistakes in his book, The TommyKnockers.
Does anyone else get bugged by stuff like that or am I just being picky?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

February 15, 2011--Flexibility is a must...

I think the biggest strength a person can have is flexibility in this day and age. Life changes so rapidly, sometimes hour by hour, that if a person isn't able to flex with the flow, then that person winds up being hurt, either emotionally or physically or both.
Take for example the events in Egypt--did any of us think this would happen a month ago? Did any of the Egyptians? Probably not, but thanks to people being flexible, that country is hopefully on the road to something better.
Having kids, trying to meet their needs in amongst your own or those of a spouse all requires flexibility. So many times, especially when my boys were much younger, I'd make a plan for the next day only to throw it all away as one of the boys would be sick in the night and need special attention the next day.
Flexibility is needed in this writing life we are all struggling with, too. Days planned for writing or revising suddenly get sucked up by other factors, unavoidable things that can't be put on hold, so the writing goes on later at night or earlier the next morning. It still gets done, just at a different time slot.
I wonder what the world would be like if everything had more of a give and take to it, if all people could flex a bit more, if things had more of a plastic, fluid motion to it than some of the rigidness we find ourselves in at times. I'd like to think it would be a better world, but maybe that is just wishful thinking on my part. It feels like it would be more harmonious,  more in tune with nature--I guess I'm thinking this because the wind is blowing fiercely tonight and yet the tall maples, white pines, and birch outside my window just flex and bend in the stiff breezes; they don't crack and break off instantly the minute the first gust hits them. People could take a lesson or two from that.

Monday, February 14, 2011

February 14, 2011-- Happy Valentine's Day....

Today we woke to gray skies that let loose slow drifting flakes of snow. But, that did not put a damper on the day, it being Valentine's and all. According to my mom, who should know, I was conceived on Valentine's Day--a planned pregnancy, right down to the day. So, I have always had a soft spot for this romantic holiday. And, I was not let down today. I stumbled down the stairs, still a bit bleary-eyed from lack of sleep as we stayed up to watch the Grammy's last night, to find a miniature red rose plant at my place at the table. As well as a bag of Ghiradelli dark chocolate and raspberry candies, two Danskin purple shirts to wear while exercising and a card. The card happened to be the exact same one I had picked out for Jeff! Which was not unexpected as the picture on the front is of two cats, all snuggled together. And, at the time I bought mine for Jeff, I thought he would wind up seeing the card and getting it for me. We had a good laugh over the whole thing while munching on chocolates after lunch. And this afternoon, I donned one of my new shirts to wear while riding my exercise bike and watched the snow continue to fall and thought about where I will start a miniature rose garden in the spring, now that we have two plants in the house.

Friday, February 11, 2011

February 11, 2011--Friday at last...

At long last, it is Friday. I am not sure why this week has seemed so incredibly long. Maybe because I have things I want to do, but can't because of work, shopping chores, shoveling and the like, all of which draw me away mentally and physically from the many ideas I have playing in an endless loop in the back of my head. I am afraid I will forget some of these brainstorms before I have time to write them all down, so have snippets of paper all over my desk with ideas scribbled on them. Just a word or two is all it takes to catch the idea and hold it until there is time for something longer.
Last night's poetry reading was a delight. Despite the bitter cold, the need to drive 2 and a half hours round trip to listen to an hour's reading; it was well worth the effort. Not only did Erika Meitner read well but her poetry was accessible at the reading. I wasn't left wondering what the hell she was talking about as there weren't obscure references to long dead white men in anything that she read, nor obtuse referrals to Greek and/or Roman mythology. I liked that. I came home with my head reeling with the sweet sounds of words playing against one another  in long rhythmic waves that rocked me on the way home and spurred me to jot down some lines of my own once back in the house and in reach of a pen and paper.
As always,  I purchased a book last night and had it signed. So, now I can curl up in bed, under the fluffy down comforter, with pen and paper close at hand and read again the poems we heard last night. I am curious to figure out the arc of this book, which is divided into two parts. On first glance at the titles, there is no really obvious arc, but it is there, I am sure. Wishing you all warm thoughts on this cold night.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

February 10, 2011-- Thursdays...

Thursdays can be some of the most irritating days during the week. It's not Monday, when one is psyched up to go back to work, it is not Wednesday when one feels the week is half over and it's not Friday when one can relax, knowing the work week is done, the evening and weekend lie ahead in a seemingly limitless number of  luxurious hours. No, it is Thursday, just another day to be done with, with yet another to go before the horizon of possibilities opens up. I think I really dislike Thursdays!
Good thing tonight there is a poetry reading at UMF that we are willing to venture to, despite the cold and late hour we will return home. I am not sure what the poetry will be like, as I have not read this woman's work, but that is part of the appeal of going-- a surprise package on an otherwise dreary day. Although, the sun was out, so that was good. The poet is Erika Meitner. I will probably buy one of her books, I usually buy a book and have it signed. It is a great way to increase my library, I get to personally hobnob with a published author (which renews my faith that getting published can be done) and by having a signed copy of the  book, I am reminded of the evening again whenever I happen to crack the spine again. Plus, all the authors I have had sign books in the past have been very generous in their comments, usually directed towards my own writing and wishing me luck. Although one young writer's comments did raise my husband's eyebrows as the man thanked me for a wonderful evening. Several interpretations could have been read into his comments, none of which, I rapidly assured my husband, had any significance to what actually transpired that night. So, off for a glass of wine, a bit of roasted chicken, warm bread and a stir fry of veges before braving the wind and cold for a (hopefully) good reading of some fine poetry.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

February 8, 2011--Tamales...

For the past several days, I have been craving tamales. Not just any tamales mind you, but the ones from Doña Ámes tamale shop on one of the side streets in San Cristóbal de las Casas in Chiapas. I had the good fortune to be part of a research team that went down to Chiapas last June for two weeks. We had our base camp in downtown San Cristóbal and ventured out into the surrounding towns to do research on fair trade coffee and its effects on the local population. Most of the time we were there it was overcast and several times, the whole group was caught in torrential downpours, as June is the start of the rainy season. And it means business high in those mountains. They build the sidewalks over a foot off the ground for a reason we discovered as the streets quickly filled to flash flood stage in a matter of twenty minutes or so.
It was after one of these torrential rains, when the skies had lessened a bit that I ventured out for a walk.I needed a break from entering survey data into the computer and we needed food for dinner that night, so I set out to find Doña Ámes tamale shop, as we had read about this place in our guide book.
Keeping my book handy in my backpack, I dodged huge puddles of water, wandering the streets, looking for what turned out to be a tiny place behind huge wooden doors. If I hadn't smelled food cooking, I probably would have walked right by the place. Inside, a man was wiping down tables with a small rag, while behind him, large stainless steel pots sent up bursts of steam. The tamales were still cooking; I needed to come back later, when they were done. Disappointed and now facing a wet walk home, I had another crew member return to the site later to actually collect the tamales. But, because they were so good, we wound up having them again and this time I arrived at the right time.
Doña Áme herself was behind the bubbling pots this second time and I watched while she picked out a sortido of tamales. Some were wrapped in the traditional corn husks and tied with pieces of corn husks while other tamales were wrapped in banana leaves and tied with string. Like a chocolatier knows the flavor of the insides of a chocolate by the design drizzled on its top, Doña Áme knew which tamales were which based on the wrappings.
We wound up with an assortment of house specialties. My favorite turned out to be the pulled chicken, fig and green olives bundled inside the sweet, steamed cornmeal. Others were spicy combinations of roasted pork in a fiery red chili sauce that was just a bit too hot for me to fully enjoy and a mild chicken and cheese tamale. Really, they were all good and at about 80 cents each, how could any of us complain? Combined with a salad a friend invented of thinly sliced onions, chopped tomato, sliced avocado,  and sliced mango drizzled with fresh lime juice and a pinch of salt, it was a colorful, flavorful meal that will not be easily forgotten.
And because I have been reading a lot lately about the Mayans, doing research for a new book, I discovered that tamales were/are one of the staple foods of the Mayan people, just like tortillas were/are for the Aztecs and Mexicans of northern Mexico. Which led me to thinking about those tamales we ate in Chiapas and my longing to eat some again...

Monday, February 7, 2011

February 7, 2011--The difference between a groove...

Okay, sorry I didn't write for a couple of days--just too much going on this weekend...
So, I've read a couple of blogs by fellow writers and several times now have found that they complain of their writing, what a slog it is to write anything,  how their thoughts are unimaginative, etc. I wonder why they feel the need to express all this in their blogs--are they hoping for sympathy from their followers?
All this got me to thinking about the difference between a groove and a rut.
The slang definitions of a groove are "a very pleasurable experience." Or "a settled, humdrum routine; rut."
And the definition of a rut is "a fixed and usually boring routine."
Now, those writers who keep complaining about the staleness of their work are in a rut. Nothing works for them and they are in a mode of self-doubt, stuck with their wheels spinning like so many cars have been this winter with all the storms we've experienced.
The writers who are working steadily on various projects are in a groove-writing is a pleasurable experience. They are sailing along with the top down with a crisp clean blue sky overhead, a favorite tune on the radio, with the open road stretching limitless ahead of them.
I am somewhere in the middle right now, not quite in a groove, but no where near a rut. I think it's because when I get stuck on something I'm working on, I just switch to another project and let the one that was bugging me simmer by itself for a bit. It eventually calls to me again and I go back to it with fresh ideas and a better sense of direction.
Writers are bound to fall into both categories at different times; it's part of the whole process, I think. The only thing you can do in either scenario is hold on tight and keep on writing. Either you'll pull out of the rut and regain smooth ground or eventually touch back down to ground once you worn out that groove.

Friday, February 4, 2011

February 4, 2011-- The snow falling faintly....

Egypt and the weather, those continue to be the headlines in the news. Here in Maine, we have a fair amount of snow, about normal actually for this time of year, for this area. I know folks down along the coast have gotten hammered and places like CT and NY have more snow than we do.
And, more snow is predicted for tomorrow night. I am grateful for the snow, for  several reasons. It provides some upper body exercise when I need to shovel the paths, it helps keep the house warm when pitched against the side of the house, and it keeps me glued to my computer, working, when it falls all day long.  It is far harder to remain devoted to my job when the sun twinkles on the snow, urging me outside to walk or snowshoe in the new powder.
When I look out the window, I am reminded of Joyce's story  "The Dead" with all the references to snow. I have always liked the last lines and find them somehow calming in an otherwise chaotic day.
"His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead."

Thursday, February 3, 2011

February 3, 2011-- The needle in the haystack...

Trying to find the right book publisher is like looking for a needle in the haystack--Just when I think an imprint sounds perfect for my latest book, I read the fine print and see "agent submissions only" or "no unsolicited manuscripts, agents preferred." Ugh...
So, what have I been doing in order to find a publisher for the book I finished around Christmas? Laboriously going through my old Writer's Market book, writing down any imprint that doesn't require an agent but deals with the type of book I have, then looking up that publisher's website to check out all the books they printed in the last few years.
On the one hand, it's a daunting task, as there are so many publishers out there.
But, on the other hand, so many publishers have little quirks that make crossing them off the list a no-brainer--they only publish authors in the south or the west or from Minnesota, they only publish authors under 30, they want Hispanic authors or Asian info or stuff from Iran and the Middle East.
My original list of 150 or so in the book is narrowed down to maybe 50 and of those, maybe 5-10, I will actually pinpoint for submitting a query.
Which is not a lot of places for this book-which either tells me that I am not writing to a broad enough audience, or not giving this book the vote of confidence it deserves so that I approach some of the bigger houses or that one of the places on my new list will actually buy the manuscript. Here's to keeping my fingers crossed that the last item is the truest!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

February 2, 2011-- Groundhog Day....

It's Groundhog Day, but I doubt Phil, or any other groundhog popped out of a burrow to see his/her shadow. Any self-respecting groundhog and any other mammal for that matter, including me, knew well enough to stay inside today due to the massive storm that swept across the country.
We watched the evening news tonight, something we do every now and then, as we usually get our news from NPR--somehow it's just easier to listen to the news as I can still do other things, like cook dinner, at the same time. Watching the news on the television requires an investment of time, which is something I am loathe these days to squander. But, lots of things are happening in the world, and weather stories are always great to see, so we plunked down on the couch after a lovely meatloaf and mashed potato dinner.
Egypt was naturally the top news of the day as well it should be. I appreciated the back story they gave at the end of the broadcast on the young man, whose name I won't attempt to spell here, who was beaten to death in Alexandria and  who is really the root cause of this revolution. I hadn't heard of him or made the connection before tonight, so it was nice to know how this all began.
The weather was the second top news story-- I am grateful I don't live in Chicago--well, I am grateful for that regardless of the weather but especially tonight with all the roads closed, hundreds of cars all drifted over with snow, and dangerously cold temps due to blast them all tonight.
Because of these big news items, poor Groundhog Day was forgotten. Often at the end of a news cast, there will be some mention of Punxsutawney Phil and whether he saw his shadow. But, not tonight.
Oh well, from the view out my bedroom window, winter will definitely be around for another six weeks.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

February 1, 2011--Rabbit, rabbit....

Rabbit, rabbit ...We survived another Maine January, the days are noticeably longer in the late afternoon, and we still have produce from the garden to eat (mainly carrots and potatoes and a couple of small squash.)
Seed orders have been placed, a fruit tree order will be going out this week, and it's almost time to be thinking about finding the spiels to tap the maple trees.
A vacation to Mexico might take place in early March, too so things are definitely on the upswing here. I hope all is well with you and yours and hope good luck follows you throughout the month.