Novel Critique Groups and Writing for an Audience of One

It’s been a NaNoWriMo type of November. I can tell because I have an extra 50,000 words added to my novel and next to no pictures taken during these past 30 days. It wasn’t all writing and no socializing though. When I went to vote, I ran into old friends. I had a chance to talk to Maureen Lee and Kimberly Moritz after the SGI school board meeting – conveniently held in Colden this month. Springville Journal’s esteemed Max Borsuk was there, too. Five out of five Friday nights saw me in the Comfort Zone for the Hamburg Writers’ Group plus Husband and I went to see the movie “Knives Out.” The first snow has fallen and occasionally, it’s a pretty thing to admire as long as shoveling isn’t involved.

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After a gap when Mary Akers, Gina Detwiler and I pursued other writing projects, we each had new work to share so we reconstituted our roving novel critique group meetings. First stop: My home. Why yes, it was fun cleaning the whole house in two days and make quiche and cauliflower nuggets and two types of sweets because I wasn’t sure either would turn out. Dog went to a new groomer before the meeting and was far too sexy for a photo session.

I know, it’s a cheat to take pictures when he’s sleeping, but isn’t that the cutest Thanksgiving bow-tie? Thank you everyone at Paw Spa!

Anyways, I want to say that I’m still surprised that every book I write ends up being written in a different way. Last time, it was a ton of flashes that expanded into a whole. This time it was a lot of wasted writing trying to find a proper beginning. Regardless, once I found it, a lot of the themes and ideas I wanted to explore fell into place.

On and off through October, I worked on the blurb and the first chapter. I searched thumb drives for the abandoned bits and plumped out a catchall file with those meanderings called LineAboutMarriage. I know, it’s not a snappy working title, but it is a little more descriptive than NewBook17.0

I had sent the semi-polished first chapter to the amazing Nina Fosati and Prisoner for their take. Each were happy with it. When I revised it a bit more and sent it to Gina and Mary with no introduction to what it was about, I received my first negative response. It was a kind assessment of how she couldn’t tell if it was a romance or a mystery or what. And that was okay. I had been working at “genre” the last two books after I sent the dark literary “Ellie’s Elephants” to twenty agents and didn’t get more than a few requests for partials. “Blue” and “Near Eden” – the genr-y books had requests for fulls, but again, no agent took them on. For this novel, I’d abandoned the genre slant and wrote it for me.

Lots of people I’ve met have self-published. Some are lovely and I enjoyed them. A few people I’ve shown my early novel attempts liked them. I could have put them on CreateSpace when that was a thing, but my goal has always been to have an agent who will help with the process. Ideally, I’d like to be published by a big house. Making the long (or short) list for first-book awards would be a pleasant surprise, too. If I had self-published, I wouldn’t be eligible to strive for a lot of the goals I set out to reach from a young age. At heart, I’m still the 12-year-old who read “Peyton Place,” saw Grace Meticulous on the back cover in front of a typewriter and wanted to BE her.

But I don’t write like Grace Metalious. Or Nora Roberts. Stephen King, Douglas Adams, Madeleine L’Engle, Toni Morrison, or anyone else. I write like me and while I hope as I work through the rewrite of this crappy first draft, you and others will like it, in the end, the only thing I really want is for it to be a manuscript I want to read repeatedly and be happy to call mine. I’m writing for one person. It’s taken years to understand this oft-mentioned piece of advice

In the meantime, I appreciate you and the time it took to read this post. My new assistant is waiting patiently, so I must be off…

 

Thank you for stopping by and for the read!

Happy Halloween aka National Novel Writing Month Eve!

The competitions I was waiting to hear about last time all resulted in being long listed. Not bad, but not great either. Thank you to everyone involved in the Fiction Factory Flash Contest and the Brilliant Flash Fiction’s “Feed Me” contest for considering my work.

Tomorrow is the official start of NaNoWriMo. I’ve signed up. The book I’m working on needs focus to get it done. If I start with the pages I have, and add daily, perhaps I’ll complete my aim of a needs-little-editing first draft. I know, I know, people dismiss NaNo, but for me, it’s a matter of conditioning. I’ve done it so often, I can sense when I’ve made the midpoint of the 1667 words each day. Also, Husband and friends know I’ll be writing then and leave me to do the work.

Fewer blog posts is but one symptom of my seemingly having dropped off the face of the earth. I haven’t been to my writer’s group or to the Wednesday morning write-ins in weeks. I put off having people over. I’ve not followed up on getting together with others. It isn’t depression as much as stress and feelings of being overwhelmed. A lot of it can be pinned on Ben. And as of Tuesday night at 9:10pm, Ben is no longer in our lives.

Instead of the heartache of a decked out, unreliable Legacy Turbo, we’re now leasing a 2019 Honda HR-V. If car shopping isn’t on the list of most stressful things a couple can go through, it needs to be added. Divorce and suicide were actually considered just to make the process stop. And now it has. Just in time for the snow, but this time in a taller vehicle with all-wheel drive.

It amazes me how a body reacts to stress. A four-month-old travels from Texas to meet a million people in New York and develops a cold. Exhibit A:

When she arrives at our home, I’m exposed to those microbes. I’d been under some stress – not just Ben’s latest costly breakdown. As if in a textbook, two days later I’m not feeling well. The unwellness couples with new pressures and then I’m sick. I was looking up symptoms for walking pneumonia and getting “you must be dying” Google results on Sunday night. By seven o’clock on Monday, I felt a little better. Tuesday, I woke up and could breathe properly. Some colds linger, some are punctual with their symptoms, but all children are germ-spreading carriers of disease. Ah well, what can you do since they are necessary to the continuation of the species.

On the plus side of life is the fact that it is autumn. The leaves are changing color, it’s time to pull out sweaters and mock the pumpkin spice crowd. My red-eyed squeaking bat is suspended from the ceiling. My new novel has a roughly sketched out plot. The battery-operated ghost scares the dog. And our new cat is here. This is Glinda. Middle name Janis as in Joplin.

I hope your October was greater than mine. Thanks for stopping by and for the read!

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In the scheme of things, isn’t less more?

Years ago, at a launch for Queen City Flash, which was edited by Gary Earl Ross, I read my piece and I didn’t do it well. I was stiff, awkward, just awful. I organized and hosted readings at West Falls-Colden Library and when I introduced writers, I did it quickly because I wasn’t comfortable.

I started attending the Hamburg Writers’ Group, and they offered me an opportunity to work on those skills that I lacked. Without the help and encouragement there, I never would have been able to do as well as I did last week. I have so much gratitude to all the writers who cycled in and out of that group. Thank you to all of you!

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And I again want to thank Kim Chinquee for the incredible honor of including me in the Drop Hammer reading series at Buff State.

It was an amazing experience made even better by Christina Francis being there and the surprise attendance of Linda Dinger — both HWG members.

The incredible Gina Detwiler also read and then afterwards, we stayed and talked to Kim’s class about writing, publishing, and writers’ groups. We had a delicious late lunch at Cole’s with Kim and Peter Ramos, then Gina and I extended our “author day” by going to Larkin Square’s Author Series to listen to a conversation between Lauren Belfer and Mark Sommer. Mark’s Book “Rocky Colavito: Cleveland’s Iconic Slugger.” I’m not a baseball fan, but the book sounded intriguing.

Speaking about new books… Last month, I attended Gina’s book launch for “Forgiven” at The Hub in Orchard Park. It mixed music with the presentation and I found it quite fun. Well done, Gina and all those talented musicians!

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The recent running around had me taping shows on the cable box upstairs since the one downstairs doesn’t record. When I went to watch them, I had to deal with Husband’s chair. It was a horrible, cobbled together mess. Office Depot’s had a sale. Now, we can both watch television in a comfortable chair. The old one was broken up and is now stacked on top of the wood pile waiting to go in the fire. Not quite “burning in hell,” but that’s as close as we can get.

Another household change was in my library. Now that the family is scattered, it can really be my library. The pullout couch was moved out of there. The light fixtures with glass covers that had been in there hung low and I feared hitting them with a dumbbell. My request for different fixtures resulted in compromise on going with fluorescents but I also had speakers installed in the ceiling. They have an on/off switch and a volume control. My red chair is in there now, too, so I’m set for reading, writing, and Pilates whenever I want, even if we have company.

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It’s been getting chilly at night and I’d love to start a fire, but Husband has nixed the idea. Other than that, life here has been pleasant as of late. The wood is up and with the back of the woodshed being cleaned out, I’m not as nervous about putting away the swing and benches since there is not only room to store them, but a clear easy pathway to do so. The daytime weather has been a perfect range of temperatures with low humidity. I’ve spent most of this week outside. The front lawn is mown, the trails tended, mulch applied. Yesterday though, was a long, uninterrupted writing day. I haven’t had one in a while and it felt good. I’m still feeling this new book out, but the ideas and characters are swirling. I have a project book where I’m storing character notes and themes I want to explore. I’m generally not a planner, but this book is following its own path into a hero’s journey setup. Perhaps that will help when I eventually have to write a synopsis…

I’ve gone back and forth with an editor on a longer piece recently. I’m waiting to hear whether the last round of changes were enough. I do hope it is accepted for the anthology! I’m reading a ton of submissions at Literary Orphans while I refresh my own queue. Besides the work on the book, I’ve gotten a few new flashes drafted. I’m trying to keep busy so I don’t fret and worry. I’ve submitted to several competitions and many will announce their results soon. Knock on wood, my pieces do well; if not, out they’ll go to other venues.

If you’re a regular reader of my blog, (Hi Alex! Hi Rach! Hi Nina!) you’ve noticed I’m posting once a month instead of twice. I think that’s the way it’s going to go — at least for a while. Let’s face it, it’s better for all involved. Less for you to read, less for me to write and then there’s the possibility I’ll write deeper about things I post.

Anything is possible…Kudos to the Climate Change strikers! You’re inspiring the world to get it together and change!

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As always, thank you for stopping by and for the read. I do appreciate it! And I appreciate YOU!

Photographic proof of a busy time

While vacationing, I found an amazing “in” to the book I’ve been thinking about writing. I started fresh today and I am happy. Writing wise – it’s been a while, so I’m thrilled to know the joy of creating returns.

My July was filled with events I needed to be in the moment to experience fully. It left little time to write so this post is a bit of a cheat, but it’s what I have to offer since the thrill of writing blog posts doesn’t seem to be present. Please enjoy these shots from the adventures I’ve been on recently.

Yesterday was Shake on the Lake. They performed As You Like It in the park.

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Tuesday, I went to the Cattaraugus County Fair.

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Monday, we stopped in the Finger Lakes to see a 6 story tree house.

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It was a conservancy and they took care of broken animals including an owl with one eye.

And a fox.

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We’d been in Essex and stayed at the schoolhouse.

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In Essex there is a wandering Llama. He posed for me.

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I tried to do all the things, meaning I swam in Lake Champlain. (I worked damned hard for this picture)

Embroidered, then tore out my imperfect stitches.

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I went on the hike and made it to the top.

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Went into town for ice cream here.

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Sat around a few bonfires. Ate a S’more thanks to Sam.

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And played croquet with the best people.

Before we left for Essex, there was flooding in our yard. A bunch of lazy men on a crew and the nattering excuse makers elsewhere decide to create a problem by cleaning the ditches on Sharp Street. It rushes down to the ditch between the street and the creek and never clean that. After much complaining, it’s supposed to get done, but still, they haven’t shown up because they are still whining about how, “It’s not our job. Technically, we shouldn’t have to clean the ditch in your yard out.” Idiots. You create the problem, you fix it, Too bad if it isn’t easy. We don’t deserve this:

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Or this:

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When we’re trying to do things like grow these

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to attract these.

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(End of rant about the incompetent, lazy Erie County workers.)

Anyway, the weekend before that was a wedding. And a lot of weird things happened there. Like I danced. There’s no pictures of that as far as I know, but here’s a flower girl. She spun around and danced a lot.

So, as you can see, a lot of life was lived recently. And I’m tired in a good way. Now I’m off to sleep so I can put in more words in the novel tomorrow and the next day and the next until I have a first draft and can start cursing about the revision I know is to come.

Thanks for stopping by for the read!

 

 

 

Views of July

This is the quiet before the chaos. Well, not so much chaos as time-consuming activities – many filled with emotional tugs. Early Saturday morning, I’ll be in Lockport where I’ll be rocking a lanyard and staff shirt. I also have a new skirt for CrabCon. If you’re going, I’ll see you – Gina and I are working the check-in table. The following day, Husband and I will be attending a wake for a dear man. Paul Lawton was a playwright, teacher, and all-round good guy. We both miss his knotty quips and wry humor.

The following week is a wedding and the week after that is our vacation/family reunion in Essex. I’m already closing my eyes and taking extra deep breaths because the sheer number of details associated with preparing for all these things overwhelms me. I won’t make it to Friday night’s writers group this week, next week is iffy and I’ll be out of town the following so that “grounding” will be lacking and Gina will be out of town for weeks, so the Wednesday morning write-ins will also be gone (unless the lovely Mary is up for it – and I have time.) The lack of that structure is unnerving especially when my tablet has been acting up and demonstrably hostile lately. (Why yes, I do love all of my first-world writer problems. They are lovely, aren’t they?) But with all that apprehension, there is also my gratitude…and bugs. This one insisted on having its picture taken.

The bird’s eggs hatched. Here they are hungry on the 4th:

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And this is from today. Look how big they are getting! (The picture is blurry and distant because I didn’t want to get dive-bombed.)

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These bulbs bloomed.

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The pink lilies are still going strong – except for the ones the deer ate.

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These lilies line a portion of our driveway.

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This is to show how tall the yellow flowers are already – and to show off the newly painted roof on the garden shed.

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Oh, this happened, too! I now have garden gates installed!

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The fenced-in tent is up and the back end of the woodshed was finished over the holiday weekend – not that it looks very different, but it’s exciting to have a non-leaking roof.

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The past few mornings, I’ve supplemented my breakfast with blackberries, conveniently planted by birds right by the tree on my way to the mailbox.

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There are pansies in the flower box.

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The moss is doing well.

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I took a lot of pictures to remind myself of the loveliness here in the summer. It’s far from perfect, often in need of weeding and/or mowing, but its home, where I collect my creekside reflections to share on here.

Thank you for stopping by and for the read.

Parting with June

This year, we managed to drive away the robin who kept depositing sticks and straw on top of the air conditioner. The unit is next to our bedroom and there are places you don’t want birds to nest. Another spot we weren’t keen on them living was in the PVC we use to hang our garden hoses. We missed one.

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I was able to take a picture of her sitting on her three eggs.

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She chose a nice spot. I asked her nearest neighbor how he felt about it.

He had no comment, but pointed me to the beauty of his pond.

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(I like this angle of the lily since full on, they look like they are made of plastic.)

And, as it happens, that one glorious unreal stretch of publication news and prize winning was short-lived, but so wonderful. I’m still mildly warm with the afterglow…or is it the weather? I’m not complaining, just saying it’s a bit warm. I’m anxiously waiting on the red lilies to bloom. In the interim, I have baby-pea pods and the amaryllis to admire.

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I want to thank Mary Akers and Gina Detwiler for continuing the write-ins at Spot Coffee on Wednesday mornings. They inspire me so much and the consistency helps me focus on writing new material. I now need something to inspire me to edit. Anything besides deadlines to contests – the only thing I have right now and that just makes my heart thump and palms sweat, which is not conducive to thoughtful rewriting, but it’s all I got. Ah well, I suppose a writer is never truly happy – at least for long. Thank God, Goddess and Spirit of the Universe that I have amazing people in my life to connect with the rest of the time. I’m grateful for you! (Yes, I’m talking about YOU!)

Thank you for stopping by and for the read!

 

June is gorgeous with words and flowers

What can I say? The writing news has been shockingly good recently. In case you’re not bored to death from my Facebook posts, here’s a recap: I placed second in the latest On the Premises mini-contest (#42!), which can be read here. I thought I’d only made the Micro-Madness Long List – and I was so happy with that – but then, last night, I saw that I was shortlisted and published here(June 13)! (And if you’re anal-retentive like me, you’d do the math and see my story was in the top 10!) 101 Fiction Issue 23 was released with my story in it. I wrote it during a Kathy Fish Fast Flash Reunion Workshop. Another one is coming up this weekend and I’m excited as all get out.  I also received an email from the Strands International Flash Fiction Contest…and I’m on the short list. Plus! The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature took a story of mine and it will be out in March of 2020. Like I said, shockingly good news on the writing front which has been quiet the balm for the rejections which have also tumbled in to remind me I’m NOT all that.

The yard and garden have been keeping me on my toes. I had a Disney Princess montage! I went out to plant willow near the road. I put three in and turned around to see a black butterfly with amazing blue iridescent spots. I walked around to the next section and found a yellow swallowtail butterfly on the pale pink lilacs fluttering about. Then, walking to the next section, I heard a ruckus. It turned out to be a duck squawking for the baby ducks to get in line. All of this happened in like 6 minutes. It was amazing. And of course I had no camera at the time.

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This is the pale pink lilac bush. I wish there was a way to have you inhale the aroma. Wild roses are blooming nearby so it’s heady on that path.

Monday, I had a lovely time in Springville at Café 49 catching up with Kim Chinquee and Wednesday morning found me at Spot Coffee in Orchard Park with Mary Akers. I wrote and she worked on Crab Con details. And I got my swag bag!

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Tuesday I did more yard work since the weather is spotty and found the slim irises are also in bloom.

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And back on 31 May, even though I told Husband he didn’t have to, I was honored to receive roses from him to commemorate 19 years of being married/20 years together. (Isn’t he sweet?)

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Anyways, and all in all, this is one of the happiest posts I’ve ever gotten to write. Thanks for stopping by and for the read!

What’s a marriage without an anniversary fight?

The above picture shows exactly how far the annual putting up of the screened-in tent proceeded until we were both hot and sticky, then pissy enough to walk away. That was on Memorial Day; it’s rained every day since then so there the parts lie rusting. I can only hope the canvas isn’t growing mildew. I don’t know why. We put this up annually, it’s the same parts, yet every year we find a way to have it not go together smoothly the first time. This year was particularly awful. Husband was on the ladder, holding the top while I was to run around to all the corners and slip in the posts…and I found we’d assembled the panels incorrectly. Everything needs to be undone and reassembled. Good times…

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The long weekend was productive in that the garden bed I’ll be using is tilled and after years of having them, the gates are all on so I can dump compost in there without the dog deciding that some bits weren’t ready for the heap.

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I missed the blooming of the crab-apple tree, but the lilacs are out and so are these purple flowers though I’ve forgotten their name.

The weekend before the ugly one, we had a lovely time over lunch at Julie’s with Robert Little. He was in town for an impromptu visit from Chicago. Jim and Julie Tuttle joined us, as well as their grandson. (The dumpster photo involves a joke I’m not going to explain.)

I haven’t been writing too much, or submitting, but after a drought, I have an acceptance! Thanks to John Xero at 101 Fiction, my piece born from a Kathy Fish Reunion prompt called “Landscapes” will go live on 2 June 2019. I also received word that “Firstborn” written from a prompt in Kim Chinquee’s Hot Pants office on Zoetrope made the long list in this year’s Micro Madness Contest for National Flash Fiction Day NZ in conjunction with Flash Frontier. I guess my so called writing career isn’t dead yet…or is it? Check back soon to find out for sure!

🙂 Thanks for stopping by and for the read!

May is Complicated with Progress

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Here, spring is transitioning from bleak limbs to an ongoing explosion of colors. Driving to town reveals a profusion of yellow from shrubs and daffodils, then white petals another day, purples a few days after that.

The future green leaves begin in different shades that alter as they grow. Even the hawthorns look lovely.

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I love this time of year for its nuance of hues, just not the associated pollen.

It’s been wetter than hell so the lawn has grown taller than it should be, but there’s no sense mowing when pushing the mower into mud sinks the tires and the blade will not spin. This year, the living room/dining room/ kitchen area underwent an extensive spring-cleaning. I had told Husband I didn’t want to clean and move the furniture around until he cleaned the chimney and stovepipe. Once he did that, boom, I was off on a mission. In the process, somethings were purged,  shelves in the corner were put in, and the big pullout door was installed. Even without the doors, I love the improvements to the kitchen. And yes, there is a light in the cabinet!

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The fabulous Ellen Meister opened a new page for writing prompts on Facebook. Check out Sparks! So far, it’s fabulous and I’ve gotten two new stories written!

Since last I posted, we attended the West Falls – Colden Library Volunteer appreciation dinner and acquired a new-to-us truck. Life changes quickly sometimes, too slow at others. Ah well, at least it’s interesting. So thank you for being interested enough to stop by a read my allergy pill induced post! I do appreciate it very much.

Seeing spring flowers, George Saunders, and progress

Today, I was rudely woken by the racket of heavy machinery. It interrupted a dream conversation I was having with an old friend of mine named J. P. We were discussing the cuff links he bought – they were more expensive than the suit he was buried in. I’d gone to bed last night trying to find the “structure” for the novel I’m working on and had been toying with the ramifications of when the mother dies in the story. I think all of my novels involve a MC with a dead mother. If the mother is alive at the beginning of the new one, is that progress?

I’m writing this in view of these lovely flowers from a person whose book I’m beta reading/editing. When they hate the comments I have and the insights I’ll offer, at least I’ll have picture of this beauty. As a writer, I know that only thing I’m hoping to hear is, “It’s perfect! No changes needed!” when someone (Nina Fosati) reads my work. As an editor, I rarely read anything that doesn’t need a tweak or two…or much more.

Babel’s season ended last Thursday with George Saunders. I enjoyed his talk and the following conversation with Barbara Cole immensely.

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Many thanks to Nina Fosati for arranging and driving there this year. Speaking of driving, the maple dropped red bits on Ben so it looked like he had measles. Actually, he needs another part and will be back in the shop next week. So I guess that’s more “not driving” related than “driving.”

I’ve never had a dog I had to take to a groomers before. They do wonderful magic. Kobie went from this:

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To this:

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The transformation was huge and quick, unlike spring where the changes take time.

And the kitchen renovation. Man, that is taking time, too.

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Ah well, I’m enjoying it all while it’s happening and if it’s possible, I extend the length of beauty as much as I can. Perhaps that’s why I’m dawdling on the new book. It’s a good theory, don’t you think? Beats the easier to believe one where laziness is to blame.

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Thanks for stopping by and for the read!