Hippie bus

We see it parked around town but have no idea about its story.

Sometimes I’m feelin’ funky

My wife found this unusual copper fish at a yard sale and left it on our barn stoop over the summer. On a whim, I brought it inside and hung it in my studio window on the third floor. Nothing fancy, just a quirky reminder of our proximity to the sea. Whaddya think?

I’ve been playing with their magical Meatgrinder

One of the blessings of publishing ebooks, rather than books on paper, is that they can be updated easily – at least at the publishing outfit I use. If you format the manuscript properly, the Smashwords converter – playfully named the Meatgrinder – can turn your text into six different kinds of digital versions in a couple of minutes. It’s amazing.

If you don’t format properly, though, it can output your precious work as garbage or insert characters that will confuse your reader. You want to follow the guidelines carefully.

Ebooks aren’t formatted like traditional print books, especially if you’re planning to issue them simultaneously on multiple platforms like Kindle, Nook, and Kobo. You don’t want to add too many blank lines, they can turn into a series of blank screens. What you get aren’t standard pages anyway – each of the formats is sized differently, as are the reading devices. (You don’t number your pages. Think of those who will be reading on their Smartphones or tablets, while others will be at their laptops or desktop terminals.) I think of the appearance more as a scroll.

By the way, I still can’t design my books to get a new chapter to come up at the top of the next page, though some of the ebooks I read manage to do so. I’ll keep trying.

~*~

About a month ago, I experimented with changing the appearance of the text itself in one novel and was so pleased with the results that I then applied the new look to all of my other ebooks.

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A missed opportunity

One of the delights of my small city is the waterfall at the heart of the downtown. It has powered mills since 1642, and with the addition of the dam atop the cataract, ran the textiles looms that made Cocheco calico world-famous.

The Central Falls and the dam atop it span the Cocheco River where it drops to the tide.

The river – seen here resting at the end of summer – rages in the springtime, with snowmelt and heavy rains, and plunges into the tides that fluctuate eight to ten feet every six hours. Hence, the fish ladder for salmon, herring, and migrating eels.

With the retraining wall on the south side of the site in danger, a new wall was installed during the summer – a major construction project that tied up traffic for months.

The new retaining wall is seen from the Central Avenue bridge.

When the old wall and the ground behind it were being removed earlier in the year, the excavation suggested that a much different design was in the works. Getting a clear view of the falling water has been difficult. The old walkway was charming, but you really wanted to get down lower and closer to the water. I envisioned a set of small terraces stepping downward beside the fish ladder.

 

The fish ladder ascends next to the retaining wall.

 

Here’s how the ladder and wall appear from a pedestrian bridge next to the mill.

Alas, that’s not what happened. We don’t even have the charming walkway anymore.

I’m hoping the new wall weathers quickly. Right now, it strikes me as an eyesore.

They bill this as Fish Ladder Park. No kidding. The tree-lined walkway and quaint lamps are gone.

When home is almost a castle

In my novel What’s Left, the home life of Cassia’s extended close-knit family revolves around a large Victorian house they call Big Pink. It’s just a block away from their restaurant, and sometimes it’s hard to count just how many generations and their guests are living within it.

~*~

This passage, though, didn’t quite fit on their plates:

Baba tells us of a dorm buddy who once bandied about the idea of taking an old house and serving intimate dinners in the various rooms. Be like eating in somebody’s private home, he’d said.

Well, Dimitri says, we have this imposing but monstrous citadel in our project. (Meaning Big Pink.) We could move the restaurant right here, but I rather like it as the center of something better. He reaches for a piece of paper and hands it to Baba.

See, if we enclose the porch, like this, and put a grill in here … uh-huh, they grin as Baba pencils in this creation. An entryway here. Steps leading up to an enlarged dining room, which goes here. The kitchen, you see, builds into this area, and …

Oh, I’m so glad she stopped talking like this! In the final version, she’s pretty snippy and Big Pink remains filled with children.

~*~

As I’ve learned the hard way, old houses demand a lot of repair and maintenance. One like Big Pink could be a full-time job. Fortunately, Cassia’s great-grandfather Ilias left his imprint, and some of her cousins follow suit.

Traveling about, it’s always fun to look at different kinds of dwellings, especially where people have made their signature marks.

Tell me what you’d most want as your dream house.