All the renovation going on in town

Followers of this blog have seen the ongoing transformation of my small city’s downtown into a residential mecca.

We’re fortunate to be in a part of the country that has appeal based in part on its proximity to the ocean and mountains as well as the big-city attractions of Boston an hour away, without the crowding and cost of living.

The elimination of the bottlenecks between us and Interstate 95 ten miles away has also made Dover a more affordable real estate alternative compared to Portsmouth’s bloated high prices – even though I’m still in sticker-shock-land when I see what the purchases and rentals are going for. (Who can afford this?)

I had wondered, too, what the impact of all the new luxury apartments downtown would have on the older apartments. Would rental prices fall as a result? Some of the places were what you might call sketchy. And some, even only a few blocks from our place, are distinctly slummy.

What’s surprising me is the number of older rentals that are undergoing upgrades. Plumbing, windows, drywall, kitchens, flooring, even the wiring. It seems to be happening everywhere, though largely out of sight unless you start knocking on doors.

I’m still nervous about the economy in general, but it seems Dover’s in a good place to bounce back after Covid.

Maybe this is backwards, but the cover can change the story

This self-publishing field means an author is typically deeply involved in all parts of the project rather than just the writing itself.

In my Smashwords releases, I initially hired a book designer to do the covers, but my current releases have all been created by me. (Someday, I really would like to have an artist design the front, but for now, I’m sticking to photos or existing stock artwork. We’re on a strict budget.)

Still, finding an appropriate image can be a challenge.

Has anyone else had this experience? You come across a picture that clicks and select it – and then you go back into your manuscript to make the visual fit better with the text?

For me, that happened with the portrait I settled on for Promise – the model gave me a clearer vision of my character Jaya. (That novel’s now part of Nearly Canaan.)

More recently, with Yoga Bootcamp, the handstand dog reminded me to keep the story lighthearted and humorous in my final revision. Did my decision to nickname the swami Big Pumpkin and Elvis come after the pooch was on board? I don’t recall now, but it certainly wouldn’t surprise me.

Do tell me about your favorite book cover. Does it influence how you see the story? If you’re a writer, has the art on your book led to revisions?


By the way, I do hate it when the character on the cover is shown, say, as a blonde but is described in the story as a brunette. That sort of thing.

And don’t forget: You better be good to toads!

On one of the frames

Inside the hive, our honeybees build up honeycomb on frames for their queen to fill with eggs, and then seal it with nutrients and a protective covering. There are 20 of these deep frames in the hive. Our honey will come from another 10 short ones atop the hive. (Photo by Rachel Williams)


Now, for some balconies

As construction continues on the renovation of the former Fosters Daily Democrat building downtown, fresh details appear. Here we can see actual balconies added to some of the units. They stand in contrast to the recessed balconies in the adjacent units or the flat wall further on.


Adding two floors to what had been the back of the former newspaper building, much of it windowless concrete block around the printing press, offered several challenges. The first was to open up the existing building to entry from busy Henry Law Avenue and the park and river just beyond. The other was to avoid creating a monotonous expanse while keeping to the tradition brick appearance of the downtown. The design tries to look like a series of independent neighboring buildings, as often happened in New England.

Fourth Street upgrade

The transformation of Dover’s core reaches further than the downtown alone. This former warehouse or factory on Fourth Street, on a site bordering the railroad tracks and the river, is undergoing an upgrade.


Here’s how it looked just a few years ago.


And how it’s looking now.


The biggest surprise is the addition of these six housing units nestled up against the river, sharing the parking lot.

As for that dream house itself?

We’re at a point of downsizing. On a limited budget, at that.

Here’s what’s on my list of considerations.


  1. A pleasing work area: In my case, that’s the writing studio. For my wife (the foodie), the kitchen and pantry plus utility space. And in both, abundant wiring.
  2. A good view: In our dream, we’re looking at the ocean, but a lake or mountain might do.
  3. Wood heat: At least as backup. We’ve been very happy with our efficient Jotul wood stove. Besides, it’s good backup during power outages.
  4. Adequate insulation and heating/cooling: We’re set on New England, after all. Cold drafts are expensive and annoying. And summer is really only six weeks.
  5. Easy maintenance: I’m not a hobby do-it-yourselfer, and I have other ways to spend my time than amateur house repair. Our budget needs to keep calls to construction-industry tradesmen minimal.
  6. Smart use of space for our needs: Think affordable IKEA. Bigger is not necessarily better.
  7. Sufficient and efficient storage: Closets are a recent addition to New England houses. Take it from there. In our case, this would also include expansive bookshelves and a large garden shed.
  8. A three-season porch: Elbow-room, if you want, especially for entertaining guests in all but deep winter or tackling special projects.
  9. Minimal snow plowing: Even a short driveway can be difficult to clear if there’s nowhere to pile the snow. A long driveway can be expensive to keep clear and, for that matter, decently paved. As for parking?
  10. Hot tub? Well, this is a dream list and there is that three-season porch.


What would be on your list?