TEN THINGS I DON’T LIKE ABOUT WINTER IN NORTHERN NEW ENGLAND

The sidewalks are buried in plowed snow, so you have to walk in the street. Gotta keep taking the ash out from the wood-fired stove. And it’s dark two-thirds of each day. But that’s not the worst. Just consider …

  1. Slipping on ice and shoveling snow, especially at the end of the driveway where the city snowplows pack us in.
  2. Driving in freezing rain.
  3. Comparing the weather reports to each other and to what actually happens. Rarely does anything match.
  4. Watching the woodpile shrink.
  5. Utility bills.
  6. The house is always cold – and stiff winds make it only worse.
  7. Things break.
  8. Frozen pipes or drains.
  9. Cabin fever.
  10. The rock-hard ground.

~*~

How do you feel about winter?

Sunset over the neighbors’.
Advertisements

WE HAVE TO BEGIN SOMEWHERE

In picking up on the ending of my first published novel as the starting point for my most recent work, 50 years later, I’m given a foundation to build on. There’s a set of central characters (five siblings plus our hippie-boy) within existing situations (the tragic car crash, the restaurant, the campus). Can you also see this as presenting a larger puzzle to work out? How many more pieces will be required? Just how big will it be? Will it really fit on our table?

There’s also a backstory, one that can’t be ignored even when the new book is expected to stand on its own rather than as a sequel. In this case, a backstory with parts I feel need to be downplayed or softened. After all, some of it’s downright embarrassing! Go take a trip with Subway Hitchhikers if you want to know why.

Still, one thing that pleases me with my new novel is how much of that past recedes into the background. This is the daughter’s struggle, after all, years later. What’s Left is ultimately about what’s happening with her as she relates it, even when she’s looking at old photographs or asking questions. Here she makes her debut as an 11-year-old when her father vanishes and moves forward.

Read More »

THE TOWER VIEW

A large Queen Anne-style house with a distinctive witch’s hat tower something like this is the headquarters for Cassia’s extended family in my new novel, What’s Left. If only this one were pink, like hers.

As I viewed photographs of the kind of Victorian house her family would gravitate toward, having a round tower at one corner seemed natural – especially one capped by a pointy roof commonly called a witch’s hat. The idea of living in a tall-ceilinged attic, with its air of private retreat, holds romantic appeal anyway, but having it open out into a circle room with views overlooking the street in both directions strikes me as a plus. How about you?

Read More »

SHIFTING GEARS ON HIGHWAY ‘18

You no doubt noticed a new look at my suite of blogs here at WordPress during the past year. In midsummer I converted to four quite different templates – or what WordPress calls themes – each one a sharp new presentation for the unique material of the blogs. The process also prompted a redefinition of their separate identities.

Much of my literary attention last year focused on my newest novel, which underwent two major revisions and a cleanup reading – along with a new title. You’ll hear a lot more about it through the coming year. In fact, the Red Barn will be engaged in conversations about the many themes running through the big book. Look for the new Cassia’s World category.

Doing that has me anticipating fewer postings here – typically three a week, rather than seven to 10. To be frank, there were weeks when I felt things were getting way too hectic. Sometimes less really is more.

One other refinement: My Tendrils category will be getting more playful. I hope you like it – more way than one.

On the other sites, Chicken Farmer, I Still Love You is settling more fully into its inland New England character. More photos, mostly of historic brick mills, will accompany the serialization of my Big Inca novel, before giving way later in the year to poetry that fits the region.

As Light Is Sown steps up its pace to two postings a week, mostly short entries drawn from my books Religion Turned Upside Down and Stillwater. Consider it provocative inspiration. I hope.

While I’m not anticipating any further big genealogical reports at Orphan George, I am looking forward to excerpting from helpful correspondents over the years as one way of acknowledging their generous assistance. Maybe I’ll throw in some more family photos, too. We’ll see.

Finally, my Thistle/Flinch imprint will explore fresh typographical concepts in six of the new releases – venturing somewhere between broadsides and chapbooks, I expect. This new lineup of free offerings is all poetry.

~*~

What are you looking forward to in the new year?

 

Here’s the latest at THISTLE/FLINCH.

 

BRACING FOR THE NEW YEAR

Much happened in my life in the past year that I haven’t mentioned in the blog. My attention was largely focused on the new novel, which underwent three major revisions, completely changing its focus from, first, what Cassia discovered about her hippie father to, second, what she discovered about her Greek-American family through his photos to, third, finally the way she emerged from the emotional loss and grew stronger and wiser as a consequence. Now that What’s Left (the third title, by the way) is finally released as an ebook (Cheers!), you can tell me if it was worth three years of angst, fasting, and flagellation on my part.

One personal accomplishment was my reading the Bible straight-through at the beginning of the year. I started with Everett Fox’s extraordinary translation of the Five Books of Moses and ended with David Bauscher’s translation of the New Testament from Aramaic, while covering most of what’s in-between in the New Jerusalem version. Wanted to hear it all afresh. My notes from the experience will probably fuel an upcoming series, likely at my As Light Is Sown blog.

Also on the religious front, I attended the entire Holy Week (what they regard as Passover) services in the Greek Orthodox tradition. Outwardly, it’s about as far as you can get from my quietist Quaker aesthetic, but again, it was a powerful way of hearing the story afresh. With the shortest service running about an hour-and-a-half and the longest well beyond that, the closest comparison I could come up with would be Bach’s St. Matthew Passion (nightly) or Wagner’s Ring Cycle, which runs shorter in time and isn’t repeated the next morning. It was a miracle the priest and psalmists had any voice left by Easter. And the final services border on chaotic, wax-dripping celebration. Well, that’s the short take. My one regret is that I’ll never again be able to experience this for the first time.

In late spring, I felt called to assist our neighboring Indonesian immigrant community as a number of Christian refugees face deportation to a land where they fear profound religious persecution. As many of us have found, accompanying them to monthly immigration appointments an hour from home has been a life-changing experience. The vigil outside the federal building has been the biggest ecumenical gathering in the state, with clergy and laity blending together. I’m getting teary simply typing this. A last-minute federal court stay has us hopeful, but nothing’s certain as we await the final rulings. I am so proud that my Quaker Meeting has stepped up to this challenge, supported by at least a dozen other congregations in our corner of the state. Whatever action we take, we cannot do alone, but we feel God’s Spirit leading.

At home, our garden flourished, especially with an unprecedented fall in which the first frost didn’t strike until November 8 — a full month later than normal. We still had our own tomatoes up to New Year’s Day.

Read More »

CAN YOU REALLY STEAL TIME?

Rubato is not the only approach in music, stealing a bit of a beat from one note to give it to the next. Fermato – the bird’s eye – stops the count altogether, however briefly.

As if time in daily life is all that mechanical. Some days, after all, after longer than others. Or some minutes seem to go on forever, unlike others that leave us breathless.

Now, back to that matter of Rubato

~*~

Poetry
Rubato

For these poems and more, visit Thistle/Flinch editions.

 

AND NOW, FOR A COVER!

Thanks to everyone who responded to my earlier invitation for comments regarding a few possible covers for my newest novel.

The survey ended in mixed results and prompted some heated in-house discussion, ultimately sending me back to the drawing board for a more compelling design.

Just what do we want as a cover, anyway? Are people’s faces a help or a distraction? Does a jacket work best if it somehow reflects a scene in the story, as my earlier mock-ups attempted to suggest? Or is reaching for a less constrained, emotional reaction more effective?

What’s Left

As you see, I’ve opted for the later. Here the image invokes a sense of being broken out from a protected shell and falling through space. It’s also appropriate for a family that owns a restaurant – food being a theme running throughout the story. Will this cover encourage a browser to open the book to discover, in effect, just what happens to the yolk? Where it will land?

That, of course, is my goal. To see if it fits, go to Smashwords, where you can order your own Advance Reading Copy for free. The offer will expire after 90 days, when the first edition comes out at $4.95, so act now.

Your early reactions will be most welcome in preparing for that release.