Friday, December 30, 2016

Doing A Lot of Stuff

Today was the last day of work for 2016 for me. I was all by myself in suite 2 at the office and accomplished quite a bit, but it's never enough. I hate leaving loose ends at the end of the year, but I can't kill myself trying to get it all done when it's basically an endless flow of stuff coming down the pike, so to speak.

Tonight we took down Christmas. I was going to strip the ornaments off the tree and leave the tree another day, but hubby is a creature of habit and chugged along dismantling the tree, which meant after a long day of work I then had to vacuum the living room to pick up all the needles and glittery crap that dropped off the ornaments. I did not want to vacuum tonight which was why I wanted to leave the tree up, but I am the ignore minority here.

We discovered that when a large glass pot lid slips off the counter and hits the floor handle side down it shatters and sprays tiny bits of glass all across the kitchen and into the hallway! It looked like glittery diamonds strewn near and far. It cleaned up pretty easily, but the kitchen rug was glittery with tiny bits of glass so into the washer it went before little cat paws could find them. Another unexpected chore after working all day.

My husband still hasn't told me that he didn't get the job he'd applied for and was hoping to land. Disappointment and depression just radiates off him, and he goes all sulky and silent, so it's not like I can't figure out what happened easily enough. I know he sees it as another personal failure, but it's not him. It's big business. But let me tell you there's nothing worse than a man who wants to work, who doesn't know how to do anything else but work to lose his job and pin all his hopes on landing a job in the same pay range. I'm more realistic so it's frustrating for me to watch him send off resume after resume, have interviews and then get turned down. There's only so much more of this watching him slide deeper into his pit of self pity I can take. He needs to go get a job at Home Depot and be happy working in a big box store full of guy stuff!

Meanwhile, I'm nearly finished the final edits of Black Knight, White Rook. I'm looking forward to getting that done.

I'm also reading another author's YA novel to review as a favor. And reading another of her books pre-publication to help her look for continuity errors, grammar, verb tense, etc boo-boos. I LOVE doing that sort of thing and have done it for another author in the past. It's really an honor to be asked to help in that capacity.

I have to meet with another author ASAP to help him get organized. He is going to write a novel this year if I have to extract the whole thing from him word by word with tweezers and tongs. That's the kind of good friend I am! (Forgive him, darlings, but it's been 8 years since his last novel...!! Holy moly! I can't imagine not writing a hundred novels in that time span!) Anyway- he's got an acerbic wit, a dark side, a moderate degree of eccentricity going on, a sense of fun, and I hope, a sense of adventure, because asking me to help always leads to an adventure of some sort! No Section 12s have ever been a result of working with me, I assure you!

Kelly is heading to eastern MA tomorrow. That's like traveling to a foreign country. They even have accents there and strange customs unknown and unfamiliar to us western MA natives. I wish her well among the tribes of Raynham. (She might even get to drink water from a bubbler! If that is not an option she may stop by a convenience store for a tonic. Really! I kid you not! That's how they talk! I should know, because my college roommate and best friend is originally from Peabody, and she introduced me to eastern MA. I should also add that I have led her like a lamb to the slaughter into "the sticks" of rural western MA where she was literally terrified to drive in the dark along the unlit Daniel Shay Highway through dark villages and woodlands that encroached upon the winding road.)

I need to clean my house.

I need to put my feet up and relax.

I wonder which one I will accomplish during this three day weekend?

(My money's on neither, by the way!)

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

A Journey to Barnes & Noble

In my family we are all readers. As we've grown older we've done away with the searching for just the right little doodad for Christmas since our homes are literally stuffed with stuff we've given one another. Now we gift one another Barnes & Noble gift cards at Christmas. Everyone is deliriously happy traveling over the mountain to Holyoke to visit the bookstore. My brother-in-law heads for the CDs at the back. My sister peruses the movies and British TV series boxed sets. My brother reads mysteries. My husband applies his GCs to his account to purchase books for his nook. My daughter heads to fantasy/mystery/sci-fi. I hunt for books with certain subject matter- circuses, carnivals, magic, pirates, ghosts- not necessarily modern. I also like books set in Victorian times, but only certain books. I occasionally indulge in a movie or a British TV series. Only rarely do I buy music.

Anyway- I got home from work this evening and Kelly asked me if I wanted to go to the bookstore with her. That's like getting off a plane and asking the first hungry squirrel if it wants your little bag of peanuts. Duh! We ate dinner and hit the road in her Honda HRV since I've been having trouble with night vision due to medication I'm on for RA.

The parking lot was practically a ghost town. We're due for a snowstorm tomorrow so everyone is jamming the grocery stores because one can never have enough milk and bread to survive that eight hours before the plows come along to clear the roads. I've heard horror stories about how people starved to death because they didn't have bread and milk for breakfast and woke to find themselves snowed in for a couple hours! Good God- they almost had to eat the goldfish they were so hungry! The other place that was hopping was the gas station near the highway. I guess you need to be able to syphon gas from your vehicle to ignite the hardwood floor you tear up to keep your house warm during a nor'easter because all that money you pay for oil, natural gas, electricity, propane, cord wood, pellets, etc. has been for naught. It has always been a curious phenomenon to me this lemming like rush to the grocery store and gas station in New England whenever there is a hint of storm on the horizon. When we lost power for eight days in 2011 my husband and I didn't roast the cats over a fire in the garage in order to survive. we ate cold cereal, moved all the food out of the fridge and freezer, burying it in the two to three feet of snow to keep cold, made peanut butter sandwiches...and waited for the power lines to be repaired, the trees to be cleared off the roads and stores to reopen, life to continue on.

Well- there weren't many people buying books (which theoretically can be burned if need be since book burning is a long standing tradition in some cultures). I found a new novel by Carol Birch titled Orphans of the Carnival that is right up my alley, so grabbed that. Nothing else on the second floor caught my eye, so I took the escalator back down to the main level and poked around in bargain books, finding a tall heavy book about Magic! Yahoo! Another good find! Circling around and poking further I came across a book called Where Do You Get Your Ideas? A Writer's Guide to Transforming Notions into Narratives by Fred White. I have no idea where the ideas for the 22 books I've written and published so far have come from. I have more novels and stories lounging on the dining room table basking under the glow of the ceiling fan light at the moment enjoying their idle time before they to have to go forth and entertain readers. I thought it might be interesting to find out where ideas come from since I have no clue. The final book that captured my attention was Who's (Oops) Whose Grammar Book Is This Anyway- All the Grammar you Need to Succeed in Life by C. Edward Good. Maybe I need to read this book in order to be a tad more successful in life. I'm going to hold Mr. Good to this promise that it's actually ALL the grammar I'll need to succeed. I do take things quite literally and do not like to be disappointed by false promises.

Kelly actually found the one book she was looking for right off the bat. I was looking at Orphans of the Carnival, had just lifted it down from the shelf under the fiction new releases header when she came over to show the book to me. I looked at her and asked, "Well, does that mean we're leaving now, or can I look around a little more?" She just rolled her eyes and walked away- I am my daughter's mother after all!

She found two additional books.

On the way home we passed a house on Homestead Avenue that had a plastic Mary, Joseph and Jesus in the manger lit up alongside their driveway. My brother had given me a plastic light up camel lawn ornament he found in someone's FREE box alongside the road. (I collect camels). I said, "I wonder what would happen if I put my camel there with Mary and Joseph. The King just ran down to the corner store to grab a coffee or something, he'll be right back." She just shook her head, but when we got to the corner on the left side is Twin Stop mini market, and on the right is KING mini market. Then she said, "Oh, look. He must be the King who brought the gold and he invested it in a mini mart. The Frankincense and Myrrh Kings are still trying to pawn their stuff because it doesn't have any real market value these days."  When you put two writer's together you get two creative people feeding off one another- and it can get pretty crazy very quickly!

No wonder my husband zones out when he drives when she and I are in the car with him- although on rare occasions he'll jump in with his two cents!

National Lampoon's Family Vacation has nothin' on us!

Sunday, December 25, 2016

The Cat Who Loved Ham Kielbasa

Several times a year my husband journeys over the mountain to Chicopee to purchase a ham kielbasa from a little Polish deli called Bernat's. They make a variety of sausages and kielbasa's/ Kelly and I do not like super spicy meats so John chose their ham kielbasa for us one year. It has a mild peppery ham flavor we like, so ham kielbasa has become a holiday staple in our home.
    And then there is Riley Beans, our little gray cat who turns his nose up at "human" food. However, about three years ago when he was about two years old he showed some interest in what we were eating, so John offered him a bite of ham kielbasa...and it has been a love fest ever since. John will cook it the day before a holiday in the frying pan in water. The moment its aroma begins to permeate the house he has a little gray buddy in the kitchen begging for a piece of kielbasa. The only problem is that he doesn't like it hot or warm. He prefers his kielbasa chilled.
    Riley sits up and begs for this treat! He maxes out after three thin slices cut up into little bites. But he's back for more later on if the plate of ham kielbasa and deviled eggs comes out of the refrigerator for another round of appetizers.
    So, Merry Christmas to my little kitty who loves his ham kielbasa! (By the way, Revere will not touch the stuff!)

Monday, December 19, 2016

So Much To Do!

     I am so far behind in my usual holiday rat race it's not funny.
     I have an annual Christmas story to write for Family & Friends, a tradition since 1997- and absolutely no idea but a mind full of sheer white panic!
     I did write four Christmas ghost stories in 10 days but I'm not sure any of them would be appropriate for sending along to bring holiday cheer to the people I love! Although I am a Victorian at heart, and the Victorians were the champions of ghost stories!
     My house looks like a tornado ripped through it and left the walls standing.
     Work is insane! It may be the season of giving, but it's ALSO the season of want! Everybody wants something, like yesterday Well, cool your jets folks, I'm one person and I'm still fulfilling the wants of people from two months ago!
      My brother gifted me a plastic light-up camel from someone's discarded outdoor nativity scene. The camel is lying on the back seat of my 2014 SUV, which I finally got back after 6 weeks in the service department for "mouse invasion" decontamination and repairs. I do not believe for an instant that there was not a creature stirring, not even a mouse! Those hyperactive, not to mention voracious, little rodents ate the interior of my car, all the places you can't see like the headliners, wiring inside door panels, filters, insulation, noise dampening foam...otherwise, it looked pristine inside. Got it back this past Thursday and hit 18,000 miles on the odometer on the way home. I'm not sure what to do with the camel...he's too big to display with all the other camels in my house. So, he's my backseat driver for the time being.
     Congratulations to the four Goodreads entrants who've won a first edition signed copy of Yuletide Stories. Books will be going out shortly. This volume has earned a few 5 star ratings. Holiday stories are what I do best.
     Made peanut butter cookies with Kelly yesterday. She ate way too many! Today I copied seven cookie recipes from a friend's recipe book and can't wait to try my hand at making chocolate glazed donut cookies, mocha cookies, double butterscotch cookies, cranberry drop cookies, classis sugar cookies (I've never actually made them except from the Pillsbury roll in the dairy case!). I love baking but seldom have much in the way of free  time to accomplish this.
     I need to learn how to delegate. I'll put that at the top of my New Year's Resolutions List, and then throw the list out on the eleventh of January when I admit that I've never actually done anything on any New Year's resolution list in my entire life and, at my age, that's not miraculously going to change at any time in the near future.
     I want to write a new book...
     I want to see more of the country than New England...
     I want to visit NYC once before I die...but will settle for a hearse ride through the city if I must.
     I want to bring about world peace, but accidentally deleted all my brilliant plans when cleaning miscellaneous files off the computer. So much for that. Years and years of note taking and diagrams, charts, schematics, research...all for naught. Sorry about that, Chief.
     Therefore, I will settle for bringing a little humor and love into the hearts of as many people as I can with my writing.
     Whatever you celebrate this time of year I wish you all the best on that day, and throughout the coming New Year. I'll be having a quiet Winter Solstice, a subdued Christmas, a lazy Boxing Day...Peace


Thursday, December 15, 2016

My Year in Review

I seldom pause between years to reflect on the things that happened , but this year I will take a moment and look back on 2016 before it draws to a close:
    I self published my 2015 NaNo novel Life Skills, a contemporary novel set in the Portsmouth/Hampton Beach/Rye area of NH. It's about two damaged young people who find a common thread in their lives that binds them. Together they forge a path out of the past and into a happier future.
    I was in conversation with a publisher that helps authors self-publish, had a novel written, had some money to get things rolling...and then John's mother passed away at the end of the month.
    MassMutual eliminated over 300 jobs and John's job was among those they got rid of. 5/6 of our income vanished. Life changed drastically.
     John struggling with depression over the loss of his mother and the loss of his job for the past 32 or so years. He attended job counseling sessions that were basically useless. My plans for a more professionally self-published book were shoved so far onto the back burner there was no heat whatsoever left. We needed the money to remain in the bank for living expenses because the job market more or less sucks for people in their late 50's.
     Had a rather dismal 58th birthday but was writing Black King Takes White Queen. Also got myself invited to be one of the local authors at the Artworks event on April 30th here in town. It was my first public appearance as an author. Made some valuable contacts and sold a couple books.
     John got himself on unemployment but the amount they were giving him was less than two weeks salary he'd been making, but it helped pay bills. Edited Black King Takes White Queen. We lost our dental insurance and had to COBRA our health insurance. Kelly had to scramble to get onto her employer's health and dental plans because her father had figured he'd still have a job and she could stay on our insurance until she was 26. I had wanted her to get her own insurance, but she listened to him and was without health insurance for two months for not taking her mother's advice.
     Was one of 10 local authors at the Agawam Public Library's READ LOCA; event. Again, met some other authors and made some valuable contacts. Sold a couple books and donated two to the library. Kelly turned 25 at the end of the month. Black King Takes White Queen was self published using CreateSpace.
      Miserable, long, hot, dry summer. Continued to get up and go to work through RA flares because we could not afford to not have me work. John still looking for work. Contacted Bookclub Bookstore and more! about holding an author event in the Westfield store. Began attending Artworks meetings as a general member representing the literary arts in Westfield.
      More of the same. Was given October 8th as my author event date for Miss Peculiar's Haunting Tales, Volume I. Began attending author events as time allowed at the bookstore.
     Attended Gerald McFarland's author event for A Scattered People. Met a number of local authors and began to form some friendships with them. Was introduced to mystery author Russell Atwood and invited to participate in his upcoming event, Ghost Stories LIVE! Halloween on October 29th.
Also met authors Katherine Anderson, Mike Walsh, and Melissa Volker among others.
     Had my first solo author event on the 8th at the renamed Blue Umbrella Books store. It was a little nerve wracking but my main support group was there. Later in the month I read The Hour of Phantoms at Ghost Stories LIVE! Halloween. That was a fun event. My brother got up and told a real life ghost story at the end of it. Am beginning to be recognized by a certain group of people- those involved in Artworks and Westfield on Weekends plus bookstore regulars. A strange thing that is for a rather private person.
    John's had some interviews but companies are in no rush to hire anyone. Extremely frustrating as his unemployment ran out this month so we're living on my pay checks. I have not had a raise in three years and Christmas bonuses stopped, too. My health is shaky at best...don't have the energy and stamina I used to have. Just thinking about trying to find a better paying job is overwhelming. Working on a new compilation of haunting stories titled 13. Took a brief vacation in Maine just to get away from all the stress. Kelly was able to go with us Decided to  remix Christmas stories putting the very best of them into one volume...but too late in the year for that to go anywhere-so it's tabled. It was NaNoWriMo month so I had to concentrate on my NaNo novel, the sequel to Black King Takes White Queen- Black Knight, White Rook. Held two NaNo write-ins at Blue Umbrella Books and met another area writer, Bree. Completed my novel in 22 days with 4 days taken to write notes on what I'd already written. Wrote 105,542 words in 22 days. Winner for the fifth year in a row! Yea! Kicking around the idea of a second Artworks event in 2017. Kelly said she'd like to buy a house next year. Added two antique charmstrings to my collection. Both need cleaning but that will have to wait. Had a molar pulled a week after breaking it- took three and a half weeks to get through the pain of that difficult extraction. Just took Tylenol Extra Strength- I survived. See too many opioid abusers in my line of work- do not want to be like them. As a doctor once told John, "Pain builds character." I'm just loaded with character these days. My 2 year old RAV4 to Toyota Service due to mouse invasion. Has been there since the 10th.
    Lost ten pounds, dropped my A1C to 6.1 and stopped taking metformin. Controlling my diabetes with exercise and diet. Went to the Images of Westfield art show, ran into Russell and was told I'm a member of the Ghost Stories LIVE! cast and I could write something or read something at the December 17th Yuletide edition event at the bookstore. Went home and thought about ghosts and wrote a story the next day about an angry ghost in the attic of a Victorian house under restoration/renovation who drives a young mother and her daughter out in the middle of the night. Not quite what I wanted. So, next wrote A Christmas Séance about  group of people getting together with a Slavic medium and her creepy little assistant to try to summon the ghost of the young lady's beau who had been about to propose to her when he was thrown off a bridge and drowned. Spooky things happen and when the candle is relit MURDER is written across the young man's brother's forehead. He flees. The gaslight is lit and they find the word MURDER written across the other young man in attendance's forehead. The words on both these men's forehead eventually dissipate. The young lady is upset. She and her mother leave in an open carriage. As they pass a gas street lamp a gust of wind blows the mother's cloak hood back to reveal the word MURDER on her forehead! Too long. Next wrote about an elderly man, a hoarder, getting ready for bed, talking to his dog. They go to bed, the dog barks, waking him up, alerting him to a fire in the kitchen of the house. The man is disoriented in the dark and smoke. The dog leads him to the front door where he manages to escape. He collapses on the front walkway. From the hospital he goes to a rehab facility where his daughter visits him. The dog is with him- only it turns out the dog passed away three years ago. Again, too long. Next wrote The Little Gray Ghost about a cemetery worker who has a ghostly encounter when working late digging a grave. Have tweaked it a few times this week to make it darker, more Victorian & atmospheric. Under 2000 words- doable. This is the one I'll be reading this Saturday. Looking forward to this event. Had some fun Christmas shopping with my best friend last Saturday afternoon, but otherwise I have little Christmas spirit this year and no motivation to shop or even wrap the few gifts I've managed to get. My RAV$ is still at Toyota Service all in pieces, but some progress has been made after a month of frustration with rotating insurance adjusters who couldn't manage to coordinate a meeting with the one person at Balise who specializes in mouse invasion cases. You wouldn't think that would be too hard, but evidently it took a month to accomplish. The staggering cost of living in the woods and not having a garage for one's car- $9300. And that doesn't include the cost of a rental for 6 weeks or more, which is also covered y the insurance for $30/day. I no longer think field mice are cute. Luckily we have auto insurance that does cover mouse invasion. Many car insurances don't! Work is crazy busy, I'm still editing my NaNo novel. Feel tired and overwhelmed still. We did put up the tree on the 4th, but didn't do anywhere near as much decorating as in years past. John's father was in the hospital for a few days. He's 95 now.
  In conclusion- we're still struggling with John's loss of his job, getting frustrated and discouraged by the lack of jobs out there in his field, and how lackadaisical companies are in regards to interviewing people and getting back to them. I'm making some progress with my writing but didn't get anywhere close to where I really wanted to be by the end of this year. Some sales at Blue Umbrella Books each month. I have an amazing group of acquaintances and friends who have kept me going this year when I've just wanted to walk away from everything in disgust and disappointment.
   Hoping 2017 will be better...but the world is a crazy place these days and this country is following suit. Don't know what's going to happen next...guess we'll just have to wait and see.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Holiday Burnout Came Early

My Christmas shopping isn't done. I just finished stamping the Christmas cards after dinner tonight. I have to mail them tomorrow so that maybe most of them will arrive in a timely manner. My house is half-decorated. I haven't watched a single Christmas movie, carton, Claymation, stop action Grinch, no Frosty or Rudolph, no Scrooge...and Miracle on 34th Street. No miracle here...I am full of good intentions, but forgot to take my methotrexate for my rheumatoid arthritis last week, so am suffering for it with aching joints and tendons. I usually take it on Wednesday and thought I had, but when I went to fill my pill box for the week there were Wednesday pills! I took the methotrexate on Monday night after convincing myself I really couldn't wait until this Wednesday. And the snowstorm with black ice following didn't improve matters any on Monday.

I just want to crawl in bed, pull the covers up and sleep.

It's not's just being overwhelmed by too many things to do, too little time to do them, and health issues that interfere in every aspect of my life which is discouraging and frustrating.

I have an event this weekend where I'll be reading a brand new, just written this past weekend, ghost story, The Little Gray Ghost. I'll have to sleep in on Saturday to conserve energy for Saturday evening.

I'll get things's just going to take me longer this holiday season.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Christmas Shopping

My best friend Darlene and I used to work together at a card, gift and office products store downtown. She left after a couple years to take a job as a medical receptionist and then was moved into he business office. I continued to work at the store until it closed in 2007. Three days after the store closed I was working at the same medical office as a medical receptionist. In July of the following year I too was moved into the business office. Darlene and I had cubicles on opposite sides of the office. Then Darlene was moved into a separate area. Recently I was moved into suite 2 and she was relocated in suite 1. So, although we again work together in the same medical office we don't see much of one another because we're both very busy at our desks. We have lunch together four days of the week.

Therefore, when she asked if I was free to do some Christmas shopping with her this afternoon I said YES! She picked me up and we went to stores in Holyoke, but not the mall where things were crazy busy!

We talked and laughed, and I helped her pick out gifts for all the kids in her life. I have no young children in my family but I still like shopping for toys as long as I don't have to lug them home and wrap them! We discovered an end cap featuring classic Fisher Price toys like the ones we had growing up! She grabbed the FP radio that when wound up plays The Farmer in the Dell, since she lives on a farm and her grandson lives just down the street. A woman who overheard us reminiscing about the toys we had came up to us and we chatted about classic toys for a few minutes. We didn't know her. she didn't know us, but we had had the same toys growing up and shared that connection. In this day and age of cellphone isolationism it was really nice to meet someone face to face and have a little real conversation with them, complete with eye contact, smiles and heartfelt "Merry Christmases!" wished to one another before going our separate ways.

Lunch was at Denny's and there we did some more talking, and much more laughing! Our waitress had recently had her long hair done in tiny cornrows. The woman who did it for her took only 45 minutes to do all that braiding and weaving! Amazing!

Then off we went up the hill to Bed, Bath & Beyond. That parking lot was all traffic controlled one way in, one way out with traffic cones, sawhorses and police officers, but still we found a fairly decent parking lot between the stores on the left and the stores on the right. Again we found what we were looking for fairly quickly. There was a clerk at the bed & bath store who, when asked, was very helpful, leading us directly to the over the door towel bar rack my friend wanted. He certainly was very knowledgeable about the products in the store. We never would have found this item because it was stacked behind other items, but he knew immediately where it was and took us there! Wow! Awesome customer service!

Crossed the sea of cars without getting rundown and ran into Barnes & Noble. Again we found what we wanted so it was a quick in and out trip.

Leaving wasn't as bad as we dreaded it would be, only having to wait two cycles of the stop light, and we were first in line during the second cycle. Zipped across the street to Pier 1 and poked around. Saw some nice things but nothing on our lists.

Sang country Christmas songs on the way home, because when you're with a friend it doesn't matter if you can sing or not, you just do it!

Home tonight, still smiling. I'm not a fan of Christmas shopping season, try to get my shopping done early...but it wasn't so bad going out today at the two weeks before Christmas mark.

Jingle all the way!

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Performance Readings

I am now a member of a performance reading group here in town. The group originated in NYC and specializes in ghost stories, classic and new.

In a nutshell, there is a mystery author who started this group when he lived in NYC. He created a ghost host named Pugsley who presides at the events. The events are called Ghost Stories LIVE! and then whatever edition it is.

My first involvement in the group was this past October for Ghost Stories LIVE! Halloween. I was invited because I am a local author who has written three volumes of Miss Peculiar's Haunting Tales and happened to run into the human host of the event during another author's book discussion/signing event. He invited me to read at Ghost Stories LIVE! and I agreed. Two young men who also have written ghost stories made up the rest of the performance readers group.

The event drew a fairly good sized crowd for it's premiere occurrence here in Westfield. Pugsley the ghost greeted everyone and the event kicked off with a brief introduction and then my reading my The Hour of Phantoms, a piece about a woman who rises from her bed on All Soul's Night to allow herself to be possessed by ghosts from the distant pass who dance in the moonlit cemetery. It's a ritual of hers she performs annually. Arthur Pero and Justin Baillargeon performed their pieces, one telling f an actual ghostly encounter he had and the other reading a story he'd written while in costume, a black robed and hooded figure with glowing red eyes. Then Russell Atwood performed a classic piece about a radio broadcaster on site with a professor of parapsychology who is investigating a house where people have been haunted and driven to drown themselves in the river behind it. As the professor explores the house the broadcaster remains in a downstairs room reporting live-and gradually growing more nervous (bats and mice) and frightened (a thump upstairs, a growing stain on the ceiling, an inability to get a response from the professor), and then driven mad himself. It was a brilliant performance.

The final segment of the night is an open mic discussion about ghosts. My brother happened to be in the audience and got up to talk about the haunted apartment he lived in for about ten years.The ghost actually materialized and walked right through him!

The night was fantastic, and we will be doing another event on December 17th at the same location, Blue Umbrella Books, 2 Main Street, Westfield, MA from 7-9PM, reading classic stories by Dickens and O. Henry and maybe a new story or two. Pugsley will be presiding, of course!

The telling of ghost stories at holiday time was popular in Victorian times when families would gather to read stories by Charles Dickens, O. Henry, Wilkie Collins, Edgar Allen Poe and others. Many writers of that era had at least one or two, often more, ghost stories among their writings.

This event pays tribute to the tradition of the holiday ghost story.

I think the Halloween Ghost Stories LIVE! is on YouTube...I know it was recorded on video.

Meanwhile, we'll be planning the next Ghost Stories LIVE! event if this one is as successful as October's was!

Monday, December 5, 2016

Holiday Ghost Stories

There is an upcoming event here in town- Ghost Stories LIVE Holiday edition. I was a participant/performer in Ghost Stories Live Halloween and have been invited to participate in this December 17th event- doing a reading of something classic or new. The two Christmas ghost stories I have in my files are too lengthy, so yesterday I sat down after a night of thinking about ghosts and wrote a short story with a ghost at Christmas time. I'm thinking it's not the one, that I have 12 days to write something even I'll keep working on it.

I like the idea that the organizer of this event has brought this with him from NYC. We had a lot of fun with it in October and it will hopefully be even better this time around. I was wicked nervous and had to go first. I read too fast. My mouth was so dry I was messing up words. I've never even acted in a play except for when I was a kid and my sister used to write plays for us to perform for our parents' anniversary every year, until my brother and I were old enough to balk at that.. I do not have the actor's ham bone in me...just a lot of enthusiasm.

It helped that the audience was really receptive to the whole concept of performance and readings combined. We had a lot of fun. So, I'm looking forward to this ghost stories event- I just need to come up with something a little scarier!

Off to work on that right now!

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Three weeks later...

My 2014 RAV4 went into the shop due to rodent invasion on November 10th. The vehicle was totally disassembled the very next day. It has been sitting in the service department in pieces ever since while the insurance adjuster and the rodent invasion specialist play a cat and mouse of avoiding one another and coming to an agreement as to the amount of damage from mice that my SUV has sustained.

Meanwhile, I am driving around in a 2017 Toyota Corolla rental car that the insurance company is covering while the vehicle is in for repairs. I bout my first Rav4 in 2009 because I was having trouble getting into and out of my Mazda Protégé due to rheumatoid arthritis and joint pain and stiffness. I had an occasional mouse nest in the engine compartment of that Rav but never had mice IN my vehicle itself.

The 2014 Rav4 design evidently has no barriers between the engine compartment and the dashboard area which allows easy access to every imaginable place in the vehicle to mice. Toyota has admitted it's a design flaw. The mice originally ate through the cabin air filter to gain access. I didn't know I had mice in my vehicle until last winter when I turned on the defroster for the windshield and all these bits of gray foam stuff came flying out of all the vents like monochromatic confetti. That's when John found that the air filter has been eaten. He bought a new filter, built a wire mesh screen around it and things were okay there, but there were other places the mice were getting in. They ate the headliner. They got into the door panels and chewed the wire for the keyless access. I kept finding chewed up Kleenex and paper towels all over the inside, mouse pee on my light colored seats.

Kelly saw a mouse leap out of the front grill one time when I backed out of the driveway and she was waiting at the mailbox to jump in. Then there was a second mouse who also emerged from the grill and was clinging to the license plate holder for dear life.

And then there was the mouse I ran over on Christmas Eve when I got home from work, pulled up too far in the driveway and rolled backwards right over it.

The mouse invasion expert at the Toyota dealership service department estimates $10,000 in damages. The adjuster showed up on a day the man wasn't there, looked at the disassembled vehicle and decided on $2500. Meanwhile, the insurance company is sending us a check when the adjuster hasn't really seen or grasped the extent of the damage because no one was there to point it all out.

I am just so frustrated at this point. I miss my SUV,especially on cold mornings because I have heated seats...but have been afraid to sue them for fear the mice gnawed the wiring and the seats will catch on fire. It's also possible they ate the air bags.

Three weeks... I would have had my car back by now if I'd been in an accident!

I no longer think field mice are cute.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Historic Deerfield

I have lived in western MA my entire life. My mother was born in Colrain, MA. Her brother lived in Greenfield. My father's brother lived in Greenfield. We used to drive through Deerfield all the time when going to visit relatives. So why have I only been to Historic Deerfield maybe three times in my life? I vaguely remember a grade school bus trip there. I bought a small brass lamb, so it was way back when I was still infatuated with lambs (prior to age 9 when I became infatuated with camels).

I remember driving through with John and Kelly years and years ago when she was maybe in fourth or fifth grade.

Today Kelly and I were in Deerfield to buy some butterscotch candies at Richardson's Candy Kitchen. I love butterscotch hard candies, but only the real deal candies, not the cheap grocery store look-alikes. I've had a passion for butterscotch candies since my trick-or-treating days when some of our neighbors would toss a handful of wrapped hard candies in our bags. I always traded for my brother and sister's butterscotch candies, but had to share them with my Mom who also liked butterscotch. Kelly didn't care for them years ago, but she recently tried one and discovered that she likes them now, so we have to make an occasional trip north on 91 and then 5 to get to the candy store.

Historic Deerfield is right across the street from the candy store. Because John thinks a road trip involves pinpointing a destination, going there, and then going home, we left him at home to do yardwork before the rain arrived. Kelly and I are more flexible about road trips- we like to explore. So today I said, Romney lives in a colonial era house in my book. let's see if there's a house alng the street in Historic Deerfield that might be a suitable match for his home. So we shot up the street alongside Deerfield Academy and turned right, driving slowly along the street studying each antique house we passed. It's an amazing street. I wished I had thought to bring my camera along, but it was a spontaneous side trip. Kelly, however, shot some pictures with her cellphone camera.

The Deerfield Museum store was open so on the way back down that side of the street we pulled in in front of the old post office building and went into the store. I found a book on early houses, and one depicting the houses in Historic Deerfield, so those came home with me. I LOVE old houses of that era right up to the Second Empire and Queen Anne era.

We then went to the Deerfield Country Store where we both bought a few things for home, and found the coveted rolls all chocolate NECCO wafers we were in search of (Andy's Variety down the street, our usual stock-up supplier, has been out of these for weeks!).

Kelly said she wished she'd gotten a picture of the old Town offices behind Deerfield Academy. Well, what are Mom's for if not granting their children's wishes no matter their age? I drove her back up the side street and stopped so she could get her pictures.

Then we drove home on route 5, taking some back roads in Northampton so we could pass by my favorite second empire mansion near Smith College. Then we drove past the site of the old Northampton State Hospital, long gone now, through Easthampton where I grew up until my family moved to Westfield in 1973 when I was fifteen years old. We hit some rain here and there on the drive home, but when we pulled into the driveway a sleet squall had just begun. Luckily we made it inside before the clouds opened up and poured sleets down from the north while the sky to the south of us remained a beautiful bright blue with fluffy white clouds!

The sleet squall lasted about fifteen minutes and was enough to begin to turn the lawn white!

I haven't cracked open the books I bought yet. I've been reading Kelly's NaNo novel about a group of paranormal investigators at a college in Halifax. I am amazed at the maturity of her writing nowadays! She's really grown-up and blossomed as an author! I'm enjoying her book!

But the point of this blog is- if you have an historical gem practically in your backyard and haven't visited it in a long, long time- please do so! We had a wonderful afternoon today exploring Historic Old Deerfield!

Friday, November 25, 2016

Approaching 100,000 words

Had a quiet Thanksgiving yesterday, so did a lot of NaNo writing catch-up after taking 4 days off from writing to make handwritten  notes chapter by chapter to look for loose ends to tie up and themes, storylines, etc that were not adequately developed. Caught a few things. Wrote almost 11,500 words yesterday afternoon and evening. Nearly done with this novel.

I was pleased to see that the Western MA writers/authors participating in this year's NaNoWriMo challenge have written close to 4,000,000 words!

Happy to live in this area that breeds creativity!

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Thankful For...

I am thankful to have been born in this country. My maternal grandfather was born here in 1905. My Mom in 1930. Me in 1958. My Italian relatives immigrated here in the late 1800's. On my father's side my Dad was a first generation American born to Polish immigrant farmers who came here in 1886 and 1889. This country gave them opportunities, but they had to work for them. My father had to learn English before he was allowed to go to school (he was sent home from first grade because he couldn't speak English. The following year he started school and could speak English. It's all about wanting something bad enough and working at it.

I'm thankful I have that inborn initiative within me.

I'm thankful for my older sister and younger brother, the only remaining members of my immediate family. Our parents are gone. Our grandparents are gone. We have one living Uncle in Florida. All we have for family is one another.

I'm thankful for my husband who doesn't understand anything about my ability to write, but tolerates the long hours I'm at the keyboard creating whole new worlds populated by interesting people. He never complains.

I'm thankful for the amazing, intelligent, imaginative, creative, interesting daughter we have been blessed with. She's made my life anything but dull. I'm thankful she's a good kid with a good head on her shoulders and who has avoided all the pitfalls many of her peers have fallen into. She's navigated her own path in this world and I'm so proud of her!

I'm thankful to have a roof over my head, food on my table, clothes in my closet, and everything I need to be comfortable and secure. I'm thankful my husband had 32 years of profitable employment before his big business company eliminated his and many other American worker's jobs to save themselves a few bucks. He still hasn't found a new job yet seven months later, but we're doing all right.

I'm thankful for my job because it gives me an opportunity to help people. I'm thankful for all the friends I've made through the nine and a half years I've been there. They make me laugh, have let me cry on their shoulders, have cheered my successes and commiserated with me on my failures. They've been supportive and critical and I love them all dearly.

I'm thankful for this talent I have, this ability to tell a story in written words. My maternal grandfather was an awesome oral story teller. I grew up listening to his stories about the locals- he was so funny!

I am thankful for the Spiit that watches over me and guides me through every day.

I am truly blessed.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Museum Project

I'm a medical secretary and an author. I also have an internet charmstring museum where my collection is featured. I recently acquired charmstring #94 from Texas. It was in poor condition due to storage issues through over 100 years of existence. There was a ton of grime and rust on the buttons, but these things have historic value to me because any of them are also a record of a family's lifetime told by the kinds of buttons that are on the string. I set the string aside for a rainy day project, but a week of not feeling well led me to bring it out today and tackle the cleaning and restoration project.

Sitting at the kitchen table I spread the string out on an old dish towel then got out my supplies- Q-Tips, small squares of paper towel, brass wire brushes, #2 disposable pencils, a tube of Simichrome metal polish, a soft toothbrush, and small cups to hold plain water and mineral oil. I also keep sturdy wire nips on hand to cut off the shanks of broken buttons to remove them from the string without having to dismantle the whole thing, and a small pair of pliers for bending bent shanks back into shape or closing those that have come loose. And vinyl gloves. Lots of gloves because this is grimy, dirty work!

First I examine the string and nip off the broken buttons. There are buttons called kaleidoscopes that were popular back in the late 1860's to 1870's. These consist of a metal loop shank backing that had a foil or paper top on the flat metal base plate. Glued to the base was a usually clear glass top that could be a plain dome or could have a shape to it. There were five bases for this type of button on the string, but no glass tops. The foil was gone from on top of the base plates, so off the string these broken buttons had to come. Next I looked over the rest of the buttons- nothing else was broken or so badly corroded that it needed to come off.

Then the cleaning process started. I begin at one end and work my way to the other end. Brass buttons get a light cleaning with a Q-Tip to remove surface dust and grunge. Then I use the brass bristle brush to clean the face of the button. The reverse side can be black lacquer, brass, or white metal. If white metal there's generally rust that needs to be removed. The pencil is used to scrape the rust off (wear and tear on the graphite is significant, so I go through several twist pencils when cleaning!). Q-Tips and the paper towel squares remove the graphite residue. Then the whole thing is brushed again.

Glass buttons get cleaned with a Q-Tip dipped in water. Some buttons are just permanently stained due to age and dirt getting into fine cracks in the surface. I don't stress about getting them pristine. These are antique buttons and will never look like they did when brand new. My goal is to remove the most surface grime as possible.

Hard rubber buttons get cleaned the same way, however I dip a Q-Tip in the mineral oil, blot it on a piece of paper towel and then lightly rub the pil into the surface to bring out the shine in the button. Then I wipe the button with a clean bit of paper towel and move on.

Horn buttons also get cleaned in this manner- a dampened Q-Tip to remove surface grunge, then a light buffing with a dry bit of paper towel, then finally a light coat of mineral oil and another go with the dry paper towel to wipe off any excess. They look good when done!

Sometimes there's green corrosion on brass and other metal buttons. I scrape it off with the pencil graphite, wipe off the residue, brush the surface of the button with the brass bristle brush, and sometimes give it a dab of Simichrome and a polish to finish it.

Pearl and abalone buttons might have salt deposits on them. This is removed by making a paste of table salt and water and scrubbing with a soft toothbrush. If they're sew through or self shank they can soak in water. It's best not to get metal loop shanks wet, but sometimes, if the button is super filthy I just go ahead and clean it and then wipe the shanks dry, let them air dry or blow dry them on low setting to get rid of the moisture that will corrode the metal. The salt cleaning method works well- the salt is gritty but doesn't damage the shell and actually polishes it. Just don't make it too gritty! Shells come from the ocean, a little salt won't hurt them!

Buttons sometimes have fabric on them or wood backs. These need very careful cleaning! You don't want to get old fabric wet because it'll just disintegrate. Wood can also fall apart. If in doubt, just surface clean with a dry Q-Tip and move on.

Often there are military buttons or uniform buttons on a string from family members who served in various wars or organizations. These are usually brass, and some have a thin layer of gold on top of the brass- a gilt layer. Surface wipe away the grunge and grime with the dry Q-Tips, brush with the brass brush, wipe again, then polish using the Simichrome and buff to a nice shine!

Some buttonologists use a Dremel tool with brass brush wheels to clean buttons. I like the hands on approach better due to the control I have, and less chance of severing a fragile cotton string with the spinning brush wheel!

This string had an old Navy button with the left facing eagle (on May 14, 1914 an order was made that the eagle was to face right, so left facing eagles on buttons are prior to 1914. This Navy button is from around 1854 or before. Officers continued to wear these buttons up to 1902. There was also a Civil War era brass infantry button (identified by the capital letter I on the shield on the eagle's chest.)
You can find buttons dating back to Revolutionary War days on some strings! Or Colonial era pearl buttons and metal buttons including brass and copper.

This string also had a lot of hard rubber buttons, popular from just before the Civil War and after. There was some small colored charmstring glass buttons, a lot of black glass buttons and about five ruby red glass buttons.

Every charmstring is different and tells a different story.

I carefully document where I obtain each string, when and how much I paid for it. Each string is given a number and tagged with the basic info- date purchased, number of buttons on the string, price paid and location where it came from. I then photograph the string. I list the more interesting buttons ont he string and keep a binder with a picture and the description of the buttons in it.

Kelly helped me set up the where the majority of my collection is shown. I need to catch it up to date- have been busy with writing projects for the last year, so not all of them are there yet. There are also pictures of other charmstrings people have given us to post on the site, some articles about charmstrings, and some old pictures of young ladies with their charmstrings.

That is my other passion besides writing- button strings! I collect as many as I can find to preserve them for future generations to marvel at, because you just don't see buttons like that anymore in today's disposable society! Buttons were cut off clothing when the clothes wore out and reused on new articles of clothing. That's where the button box came into play. From the 1860's to early 1900's young ladies raided the family button boxes to find buttons to add to their charmstrings. Other buttons came from friends and acquaintances. It was a fad, a hobby for girls, much like collecting and trading marbles and baseball cards were for boys.

Many charmstrings have fallen victim to age- falling apart. Others have fallen victim to button dealers who have dismantled them in order to sell the buttons individually. My goal is to find and preserve 100 of these nostalgic relics from the past. I have 94 of them at present so am getting closer to my goal!

Maybe one day I'll write a book about charmstrings- I certainly have enough buttons in my house to illustrate the book with!!!

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

XRAYS and Waiting

I went to the doctor today for the back pain and muscle spasms. After being poked and prodded and doing range of motion twists and turns I was sent to the hospital for a series of xrays since no one has ever done any xrays of my spine and these episodes of muscle spasms happen once a year for no apparent reason (but I have had a major fall down my cellar stairs when both of my feet just went out from under me and I landed on a corner of the stair hard enough to see stars and give myself a technicolor butt and two bad falls down the back deck stairs due to ice since living in this house). I also have rheumatoid arthritis and have odd flares in single joints, so this could be related to that. Or I slept wrong? I don't know. But I had about eight or nine xrays taken today from thoracic spine to tailbone plus SI joints (hips). The doctor should have the report back on the films tomorrow or Friday at the latest. I'm hoping nothing bad shows up...but today I am doing better. No humongous back spasms and I was able to climb up and down the stairs to go to my appointment. I really need to sell this house and move to an all one level flat on the ground house so I can get in and out of it without killing myself! I'm going to try to go back to work tomorrow...we'll see how it goes.

Off to do a little NaNo writing before bedtime.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Low Back Pain

I've had low back pain for years, and episodes of low back muscle spasms that have resolved in a couple of days...and I have been guilty of rolling my eyes and ridiculing people who use pain medication as a crutch, but after three days of severe low back muscle spasms and a huge disruption of my day to day activities and LIFE I am ready to admit that I have been wrong. Back pain is legitimate. I still am NOT a fan nor an advocate for opioids which have ruined the lives of many much like opium dens ruined the lives of many in Victorian and Edwardian times. I am not one who wants my jaw to rot away and my teeth to fall out from opioid abuse. I am for muscle relaxers, but not for people driving around while on this medication- the one I am currently on gives me episodes of wooziness and weird visual effects- like jumpiness. I also seem to lose short stretches of time in the blink of an eye...inattention or actual conscious blips in the space time continuum? I don't know. It's rather freaky, but better than the truly horrific nightmares I had on the previous medication. I also can sleep the entire day away on this medication.

I am tired of feeling like I have shockwaves rolling down my spine and kicking me in the butt whenever I move.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Collections: Bears, Books, Buttons, Barbie, Bottles and Camels

I was an avid collector of teddy bears in the 1980's through 1992. I sold off much of my teddy bear collection after Kelly was born to make room in the house for a baby and all the things baby's require as they grow into active children, teenagers and young adults. I repurchased some of my bears and now have a limited collection of my favorite Steiff mohair bears and Hermann mohair teddy bears.

Another passion of mine is books. I collect books by my favorite authors. I have them in hardcover, paperback and as Nook books. I also have a passion for books about words- dictionaries, thesauruses, and word origin books as well as backwards dictionaries, books on antonyms, synonyms and homonyms. Unfortunately I'm married to a man who wants to build things but won't drive a nail into the wall to hang a bookshelf. My library is stored in file cartons in the basement where I cannot access them- a huge disappointment and frustration. My dream has always been to have a library in my home...but I don't think that's ever going to happen.

My third 'B' passion is buttons. I began collecting vintage and antique clothing buttons in 2003. I used to collect all sorts of buttons but over the years I've focused my collection to Victorian and earlier buttons, but do like some Edwardian era buttons. I also have focused my collection on charmstrings. A charmstring is a long string of beautiful buttons. The fad was popular from the mid-1800's to the early 1900's. It was popular with young girls who collected buttons from family members and friends for their memory or charm strings. They could not buy buttons, they had to swap and trade and try to have all different buttons on their strings. Those called memory strings also included small objects like hand-carved miniature peach pit baskets, tiny metal doll spoons, rings, bits of broken jewelry, love token, commemorative tokens, coins with holes drilled through them for easier stringing, and other odd objects, such as a bear's claw. The goal was to string 999 buttons. The 1000th button would be given to the girl by the man she was destined to marry. Many strings didn't reach that length. Some grew even longer. Many were divided between sisters who each took a section with them when they married or moved away. Most ended up being dismantled, but there are some still in existence found in old estates in trunks in attics, wrapped in fabric and stored in unusual places. I have charmstrings and the containers they were found in- one was found in an oblong leather soap box, another in a hand-thrown, three-handled bean pot and a third in a chocolate wafer cookie tin. Some strings have little scraps of paper attached with info on individuals who donated the button- such as 'button from grandmother's wedding dress'. Occasionally there's some information about the string. In 1877 Kate Turner collected 1000 buttons and mounted them in a pattern in a shadow box frame decorated with red cording around the inside for an exhibition of some sort. The framed buttons must have been hung on a wall for some time as the hard rubber buttons had turned brown from light exposure, except where covered by another button...leaving curiously black and brown buttons.

Today I attended the Massachusetts State Button Society show in Three Rivers, MA. I came home with three Colonial era metal coat buttons and five Japanese Satsuma porcelain/pottery buttons. Until today I had zero of each of those types in my collection, and no interest in Satsuma's whatsoever, but today the patterns on them caught my eye. I chose four medium and one small. I also snagged another peacock eye button- glass with shimmery blue and green foil underneath. It'll go on a charmstring I plan on making soon.

My other 'B' hobby is vintage Barbie. When I was little my first Barbie doll was a 1962 titian ponytail doll in a red jersey bathing suit. (Prior to Barbie, or maybe it was simultaneous to her?) I had a red-haired Pebbles Flintstone doll. My maternal grandfather loved redheads. I have a picture of him holding Pebbles but not Barbie. Of course the photo is black and white, but I know he's holding my doll because she's a redhead! So, I'm thinking I inherited that trait, an affinity to redheads, from him? Many of my characters in my books have female main characters with red hair. That gets commented on a lot. But here's what that's all about- my goddaughter is a redhead. Every time I write a female lead with red hair it's a wink to her to let her know I love her.

My other hobby starts with a 'C' and that's camels. Ever since I was a little girl I have had this things for camels. This originates from the nativity or manger scene our small town put up every year on the town green. There were three camels and I loved them! They were so exotic and noble looking. When I was like eight or nine years old my mother asked me what I wanted for Christmas and I replied, "A camel." I received a plastic toy camel from Italy. I still have that camel, and many more besides- plastic, plush, bisque, chalkware, china, brass, etc. I also have a replica camel bell from when the army used camels out west as beasts of burden, and then released them in the desert. I think that wads just after the Civil War? I own two lamps with camel figurine bases, a small standing camel ink well and a large lying down camel ink well, both brass. I prefer dromedaries (one hump) over bacitrans (two humps). My weird obsession with camels led to the Christmas story Bruce that is published in Together for the Holidays. Tying my two hobbies together- I've managed to put together five collector cards of various camel buttons. You wouldn't think there'd be that many buttons with images of camels on them, but there are, from UK livery buttons with the head of a camel, or a full body camel on them to buttons that look like dollhouse miniatures of vintage Camel cigarettes package (oddly enough, my great-grandmother lived with us in her own apartment and smoked unfiltered Camel cigarettes, so that might also be why I like camels, gazing at the camel and the pyramid on her cigarette packs).

Kelly also has 'B' hobbies- books and buttons are among them, but she also collections vintage and antique soda bottles. She has a nice collection of mid-1800's Buffum soda, mineral water, beer and porter bottles. Originally the first half dozen of those bottles were mine, displayed in the china cabinet with other Buffum items. Then she showed an interest in them and I passed them to her, which gave me more room for my own stuff in the china cabinet which has some glassware in it but no china!

Kelly also collection antique ink bottles and Victorian era fire grenades which are like pretty colored glass bottles in which there was a chemical. They were hung on the walls of Victorian homes and used as fire extinguishers. You just threw the bottle at the fire and hoped the chemical fluid inside would slow the fire until the fire wagon arrived! She also collects vintage trolley and some train photographs and postcards. She inherited two stamp collections that basically fill her closet. Her uncle is a philatelist (not sure of the spelling of that!) She also has quite a few N-scale model railroad cars, some track and accessories, and a train layout table. Her other passion is LEGO- the creator limited edition city buildings and the trains, of course! I hope one day she has a home with a very large cellar where she can set up the entire city street, the haunted house and all the train sets!

I'm from a family of collectors. My husband on the other hand just doesn't comprehend the whole collecting thing. he has very few interests outside of television which he is glued to for hours and hours on end.

Kelly and I thoroughly enjoy our hobbies and have made all kinds of interesting friends because of them. I think it's healthy and informative to have hobbies and to belong to groups where people have the same hobby. There is so much history in clothing buttons. A lot of people collect military and political clothing buttons...not pinbacks, but actual buttons. The George Washington inaugural buttons sell for small fortunes because of their scarcity.

Then, of course, my other hobby is writing. I do quite a bit of that!! (Kelly does to, to a lesser degree)

Friday, November 11, 2016


As I was walking out the employee entrance from work tonight I could hear a young man cursing foully and loudly. I looked left and saw him pacing around in the middle of the exit roadway talking on his cellphone. Straight ahead of me was a car I didn't recognized in the reserved Doctor's and Practitioners area. I headed to the brand new rental car in case the guy was nuts or made because he couldn't get his never know in the medical profession. My co-worker's car was already gone so the Corolla was by itself. I started it and began to back out, but a van came along and pulled in beside me. I recognized it as belonging to another coworker who parks on the other side of the building. She and her sister bailed out and began walking fast toward the employee entrance. I could see the young man now pacing in the parking lot of the building next door, still on his phone. I turned my head to check where my co-workers were because it was just past 5PM and people were coming out behind me. Everyone was bunched up by the door.

An odd smell had followed me into the car. As I turned my head back to see where the guy was I noticed the hood of the car was up and holy smoke! No, great balls of FIRE! Flames were up over the top of the open hood in the entire engine compartment. Now I understood why the guy was flipping out- his car was on fire! (There's also a tree right there where his car was that was in danger of catching on fire because it was windy!) And there I sat in the brand new 2017 Corolla rental car with less that 20 miles on it just a couple of spaces to the right of the burning car...great! In my possession less than 24-hours and already close to a disaster!

Needless to say, I moved the car quickly out of the danger of explosion zone. As I passed the burning car I glimpsed one of the practitioners coming quickly down the long hallway toward the exit because his vehicle was two spaces to the left of the vehicle fire!

Talk about an exiting end to the day!

Tonight when Kelly and I passed by the parking lot on our way to run some errands just over an hour and a quarter later the parking lot was empty. I saw my coworker and her sister at the grocery store and she said the fire was extinguished quickly and everything was under control pretty fast. Good news, except for the poor owner of the burning car!

Wednesday, November 9, 2016


Still recovering from this past Monday's less than pleasant toot extraction. It was a right lower molar with a big, old filling that I'm guessing fractured when I was eating popcorn. I tend to crunch the kernels that aren't quite popped. The following afternoon a piece of the fractured inside corner broke off when I popped a piece of candy corn in my mouth and began chewing. My dentist removed another broken piece a week ago this past Monday and scheduled me for this extraction when it was obvious there wouldn't be enough tooth left to save.

So off to Maine I went for a few days with a  broken tooth and the prospect of a tooth extraction on my last day of vacation. Came home, John took me to the dentist this past Monday. While attempting to rock the tooth out another piece broke, resulting in an alternative measure having to be employed. Let's just say- OUCH. The tooth came out after my jaw was wrenched around, although one of the technicians held my jaw to prevent it from breaking, I suppose. I had one suture put in and was sent home with an antibiotic. I refused pain medication because I'm intolerant of opiods and allergic to of the more challenging aspects of my life.

Mid-afternoon he novacaine began to wear off. Ice packs were applied to try to control the swelling, but still I looked like I'd gone around in the ring and lost. There's still swelling but it's a little bit better. I'm on a diet of mushy foods that don't require chewing. Today's gourmet lunch was Progresso Cheddar, Potato, Broccoli soup. I am not a fan of soup but I was hungry, so I ate it. The potatoes were a little chewy, but the broccoli was just flecks of green floating in the thick, yellow creamy broth. For canned soup it was edible- either that or I was starving.

We've been eating mushy chicken stew since Monday night. John made that for me. I'll bring the last of it to work for lunch tomorrow. Don't know what I'll be able to manage tomorrow,

So I'm recovering...concentrating on writing my NaNo novel, and trying not to smile and laugh too much. Kind of hard for me not to laugh!

Monday, November 7, 2016

Novel Progress

Well, this morning I had a broken molar extracted. It's the last day of my short vacation this year. I came home fromt he dentist around 10:30AM with a cheek full of gauze, which I hate, so to distract myself I worked on my NaNo novel. It sort of became an all day project except for a couple of hours this afternoon when the novacaine was wearing off. I took a nap in the living room recliner with Revere and an ice pack for my jaw. I haven't felt much like eating today, especially soft cold foods which was recommended. I managed some very soft, mashed up lukewarm chicken stew- mostly baby carrots and potatoes and shredded chicken, for dinner, then a bowl of lukewarm cream of wheat cereal because I skipped lunch. No hot coffee. No hot tea today. Just powered by cool water all day.

Tonight I reached 42,005 words and probably could have continued, but I need to get some sleep. Time to pop a couple of Tylenol Extra Strength caplets and call it a day.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Author in Tears

Well, today was certainly a surprise. We got home from a few days of writing in Maine, grabbed lunch then raced off downtown for an official NaNo Write-in at Blue Umbrella Books here in town. Kelly and I were the only two writers to show up, but that was fine. It was the perfect venue for a write-in- a bookstore!

I was writing along and, as usual, I just write and don't know really where the novel is heading at any given time until it reaches its destination. Suddenly I burst into tears right there in the middle of the bookstore because I had just killed off a character- a minor main character, but I didn't see it coming. The plot just twisted that way and caught me off guard.

I teared up again a little while later when another plot twist hit an emotional chord in me.

Two emotional moments in two hours while writing in public...but that's how writers can be. We create characters who become living, breathing people in our minds- and it's a shock when one dies (even though we're the creator and the murderer of the character- although we typically assign that terrible deed to another character we've created to perform that task.) Jessica was funny, she heard me sob, but politely did not interfere. Explained to her afterwards what that was all about.

Back to writing! Having a molar pulled tomorrow...that will stress me out and interfere with the writing! Might just read tomorrow and do a little writing after dinner, depending on how my mouth feels! Need to get as much done tonight as I can!

Saturday, November 5, 2016

21,500 Words in 5 Days

I've been writing like a maniac the past few days while vacationing in Maine. We've done some antiquing and traveling here and there to see the ocean but with darkness falling sooner we've found ourselves returning to the condo sooner and that has meant more writing time for Kelly and me.

I've managed 21,500 words so far. Kelly has reached 10,300 words today. I'm so proud of her for settling down with a good idea and running with it. She's had a few moments of wondering if she can draw the story out to novel length, but I have faith in her ability to bring it home, even if she just reaches 50,000 words. If she meets the goal she will have succeeded.

Tomorrow we'll be writing at Blue Umbrella Books in downtown Westfield, MA. I was thrilled when Jessica Martin jumped right onboard and registered as an official NaNoWriMo write-in site. She has been so supportive of local authors and writers in western MA since opening her book store in July of this year. She hosts author events, read ins, book discussions, provides a location for a local writer's group to meet and work, and so much more! It's an awesome little indie store! We're so fortunate to have her in town.

Five days into NaNoWriMo and we're off to a good start!

Monday, October 31, 2016

As November 1st Approaches

I will be "away" for the month of November. It's time to write my NaNo novel. As of midnight tonight I have 30 days to write a 50,000 word minimum novel. My project this year takes place at a grand resort hotel on the rocky coast of Maine. It has an extensive cast of characters and a lot going on with different character's relationships forming and falling I'll be busy writing in every spare moment I have.

I also have to have a broken tooth extracted November 7th. That will not be fun. It's a molar. Ugh! And Ouch!

I'll try to write here as time allows. We'll see what happens. Last year's novel went over 300,000 words!

Sunday, October 30, 2016

A Bittersweet Moment

Kelly and I usually go out for breakfast on Sunday morning as it's basically the only morning of an otherwise busy week that we have more than a few minutes to see one another.

This morning she initiated a conversation about buying a house for herself. She'll be 26 next June. She currently is crammed into a smallest bedroom in our 3 bedroom ranch, and her floor space is so cramped two people can't walk through the room. Our basement is full of her college stuff plus furniture she bought when she thought she'd be living in central MA, before her current job came through and she moved home to save money.

I'm excited for her, that she's ready to move out on her own. I remember when I moved out pf my parent's home- it was exhilarating to have an apartment of my own and be solely responsible for myself (and my cat that I took with me). I liked having all that room for my stuff, and not having to share a bathroom with anyone else! I liked having an address that was all my own. What took some getting used to was dong my own grocery shopping, coming home from work and having to cook my own meals, but I put together a recipe book of easy things to cook and quick menu ideas and that worked out really well. I went home for Sunday dinner to my parents with the family and often brought home a plate of leftovers for dinner the next day, which might now seem like much, but it helped. Plus Mom usually had cookies or brownies and sometimes whoopee pies that she baked in quantity so we could all take some home to our own places. I'll probably do that with Kelly once she's on her own.

I'm thinking that Revere, her cat, will be 6 years old. He became my cat when she was away at college and he sort of still thinks he's mine, so it might be better if she adopts a kitten or young cat that will be exclusively hers and leave Revere here with his brother Riley Beans- the boys would miss one another if we separated them, and would not adapt well to a new sibling. So I think when she gets a home of her own she should adopt a cat of her own and form that bond she doesn't have with Revere like she did when he was a kitten before she went off to college.

As terrible as it sounds I am gleefully anticipating her move so that I can get her double closet. My current closet is the smallest in the house, the same size as our overstuffed coat closet in the foyer. I will also be thrilled to have my hobby room back. It was wonderful when John first built it for me, but then it gradually became the home to Kelly's N-scale model railroad table, extra furniture, boxes of her books and college things, cartons of trains, plus John's air compressor and power washer. I can't even walk through that room never mind sit at my cluttered work bench!

When she was away at college we had a preview of our empty next years. Now that the time is actually drawing nearer it's a very bittersweet moment indeed to think about her going out on her own...little free bird, I know your wings are strong and will carry you far, but I'll miss you!

Friday, October 28, 2016

Power Outage

Nothing stops the world faster than a power outage.

When I got home from work yesterday we had no power in our area due to 3-4 inches of wet snow. The trees with leaves were drooping near car rooftop level along the roads reminiscent of the big 2011 blizzard in October that took down trees and knocked power out here for 8 days, longer in more remote places.

I realized I have some PTSD due to that 2011 storm- stuck in a house with no heat, no electricity, no phone, no gas in the outdoor grill, unable to leave the neighborhood due to roads not being plowed because of downed trees and power lines everywhere. Cold cheese sandwiches and cold cereal for meals, the contents of the refrigerator and freezer in ice chests under the back deck packed with snow, because we had plenty of that! I remember the joy of going to a dark grocery store in Southampton that had opened to allow people to buy what they had for food left on the shelves. I remember the euphoria of being able to get to Denny's in Holyoke on the fifth or sixth night for a hot meal because that area got their power back on. The jobs were jammed with people out buying supplies and looking for hot food.

John had put a leftover casserole in the oven at 4:30PM yesterday afternoon. The power went out at 5:03PM. When I got home it was 5:23PM due to poor road conditions and the need to drive slow, and some difficulty making it up the mountain. Dinner was hot at 5:30PM so before it cooled down we all sat down to eat by LED lantern light.

When our power goes out we lose heat, and phone service. We have Comcast and cordless phones. By 5:30PM my cellphone was at 42% power because I'd taken some pictures of the snow at work. Normally I don't use my phone all day so have about 82% charge left by the time I get home. I don't carry a charger around with me. So my phone was nearly dead. John's phone was off because he has a phone interview today and wanted to conserve his battery. Kelly's phone was about 60% charged.

No phones, no TV, no computers, one LED lantern with a modest residual charge, 4 D cell batteries and a couple of Maglites...doesn't make for a very exciting evening. Kelly read by flashlight or lantern light. The cats ran around the house like maniacs, and Revere spent much of his time sitting on a box staring out the dining room window (he was only 6 moths old during the 2011 blizzard). John and Kelly talked about jobs at UTC. I thought about my NaNo novel and was frustrated that I couldn't see well enough in the near darkness to jot some notes down. And the house cooled from 67 to 61 (at 10:32PM when the power finally came back on).

I went to bed at 8:35PM and was soon joined by Revere who had cold toes. Riley came to bed next. Kelly crashed at 9:40PM...John had just come to bed after my telling him to do so. About five minutes later the power came back on and then he had to get up and reset every clock in the house, start the dishwasher (a fail because this morning it hadn't run so I had to restart it).

The weirdest thing was trying to talk to one another because usually we don't have much to say to one another once we get home from work. We all have different interests and things we do. Conversation? What's that? Technology has disconnected us while we're fooled into thinking it keeps us connected! Not really.

Back to normal today. Snow will melt and be gone. Power's on- the cogs are turning....time to go to work.....

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The Hour of Phantoms

While assembling the stories to be included in 13 I came across a piece I wrote a few years ago titled The Hour of Phantoms. I'd forgotten about it but rediscovered it while picking and choosing from what I had in my files and what was recently written that would go well together in the new collection.

I will be reading The Hour of Phantoms on Saturday night during Ghost Stories LIVE at Blue Umbrella Books, 2 Main Street, Westfield, MA. The event runs from 7PM-9PM.

I was originally going to do a reading from McCleary's Haunt from Miss Peculiar's Haunting Tales, Volume III. It's a ghost story set in an Irish pub.

Then I was asked to read The Fly In The Ointment that I included in a folder of materials I handed out at my author event. It's what I classify as a little piece of psychological unease prose. It's the little voice in one's head talking and it's not a very nice voice. It's a little flip, a little creepy, a lot disturbing, and rather belittling.

Then I came cross The Hour of Phantoms which is a classic-type ghost story. I emailed it to Russell Atwood who is hosting the event and put together the companion anthology that will be available that night. The anthology will include McCleary's Haunt. However, I heard back today that I have the green light to read The Hour of Phantoms instead of The Fly In The Ointment.

All I can say is that it's creepy- about a woman rising from her bed to go to a cemetery where she is possessed by multiple spirits who dance with her during the hour of phantoms and nearly steal all her energy before returning to their graves.

I'm glad I didn't have to choose among the real ghost stories I could tell- I'll leave that to my brother if attendees are allowed to tell their own ghost stories. He lived in a haunted apartment and a ghost materialized and actually passed right through him! He can tell his own story!!

Ordered proof copies of 13 for the final read through because I've learned from past experience not to trust the digital proofreader- it's better to have a print copy to mark up with blue pen. I know Kelly can't wait to attack the interior copy- she loves to circle all her mother's comma errors!

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Total Makeover for 13 Last Night

So, I finished the big proofread and uploaded the revised file on CreateSpace for 13. Then I looked at the cover and literally gagged. It was awful. So, at 11:10PM when I should have been thinking about going to bed because I had to get up at 6AM for work, I instead redesigned the entire cover, front and back, adding the back cover copy I'd more or less skipped the first time around, choosing a new picture (a luna moth-they are like miniature supernatural beings when you see them in nature). I ditched the votive candles. Then I changed the cover colors from orange and yellow(too candy corn) to black and luna moth-green. It made a huge difference.

Off to review the whole project now. Making huge progress for having just sat down this past Saturday afternoon needing a distraction from a novel that was derailing.

Monday, October 24, 2016

One Last Story to Edit and 13 will be done

13 is coming closer to being published. I spent the whole weekend working on it, tinkering with it here and there. A couple of the stories/pieces in this book are outside my comfort zone but every writer needs to take risks now and then. I have 2/3s of a longer story to finish proofreading, and then back to Create Space to upload the revised file and write the back cover copy and it'll be done!

Spent my lunch break today copying notes for Spindrift into the ocean blue moleskin journal to travel with when writing in November at various locations. Will probably do the same tomorrow until all the info is transferred over into the journal from the larger book with notes taken afer various stories were written- the pink book of reminders.

Definitely feels more like autumn out there today. I can tell when the colder weather has arrived when my husband and my daughter don't want to go out to get the newspaper from the box at the end of the driveway- too much effort for them to put on a coat and a pair of shoes. Forget the lazy days of summer, around here it's the laziness of fall & winter!

Back to 13....(13, incidentally is the age I was when I wrote two books of poetry. They are the oldest "books" I still have of my early writing!)

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Coming Soon...13

Well...I have totally gone off plan and put together a volume of thirteen tales of ghostly hauntings, the supernatural, and psychological unease. Some of these stories were going to debut in Miss Peculiar's Haunting Tales, Volume IV, but I've decided to start a new series. Therefore 13 will be the first book in this new series. I've created the cover and put together the interior. I'm doing the final edit and proofread now. I just threw it together yesterday on the spur of the moment because I was frustrated with the direction Black Knight. White Rook had taken, and that usually means I'm on the verge of scrapping the entire book and starting over. I'm 77,000 words into that is a discouraging thought.
    I should have 13 ready by the end of the week in time for Halloween/All Soul's Night.
    And then it will be time to start my NaNoWriMo novel.
   Just have all this energy flowing through me at the moment as I gear up toward NaNo...had to do something. 13 is that something.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

I'm Being Beans!

It started this morning.
     Perhaps it has to do with the abrupt change in the weather. We've gone from 70's and humid to rainy and cool.
     All day long Riley Beans has been stalking me--wanting his ears rubbed, wanting to play, following me from room to room, sitting beside me at the kitchen table, rolling around trying to get my attention, following me into the bathroom, even!
     Really! Is this what a rock star feels like being stalked by an adoring fan?
    Okay, he's my cat. I chose him from the Homeless Cat Project shelter where he was in a cage by himself in a room by himself. He was homely little shorthaired gray cat with big green eyes and the most atrocious breath imaginable. He had issues. He was labeled a chronic. On November 19th, 2011 we took him home anyway. He soon ruled the house, lording it over his slightly older tuxedo cat brother Revere who'd been with us since June 25, 2011.
    Beans was rather aloof and wanted to be alone, but that Thanksgiving he ate turkey guts until his belly looked like it was about to pop, and lounged on the king-sized bed flat on is back all afternoon. At his first vet exam we learned the source of his severe halitosis- he had juvenile gingivital hyperplasia. His gums were swollen, inflamed and growing over his teeth, dissolving his teeth- a very painful dental condition. 've written about this before. His vet lasered Beans' gums back, cleaned his teeth, pulled a couple that were bad and he's been good since with yearly dental cleanings.
    Kelly tacked the name Riley ahead of the name Beans thus making him Riley Beans. She wasn't very fond of him at first, thought he was ugly. But while she was away at WPI in Worcester, Beans transformed into a soft, fluffy handsome boy! His baby picture hangs on her bedroom wall and he truly was not much to look at but for those big green eyes. If he didn't have the same markings you'd swear he was a totally different cat.
    He's skittish, not a lap cat, but he will jump on the couch and lay between John's legs while he lounging ont he couch watching TV. At 10PM sharp he sits up and stares daggers at him until John gets up and goes to bed. Then Riley Beans takes the whole couch for himself. He will also cuddle up in the crook of my arm on chilly nights- but that's usually as far as signs of affection go from him.
    Today (except for when I was running the vacuum cleaner and he bolted down into the basement) he's been sticking to me like glue. If I sit in the living room he stands there staring at me. He doesn't want to sit on my lap. He wants me to get down on the floor and pay attention to (or maybe that should be pay homage to) him. When I was putting together a book of stories this afternoon he was standing on my lap and lounging on the chair beside me, rolling around, vying for my attention. In the bathroom I had to stuff him into the linen closet on a stack of towels so I could have a minute to myself!
     It's got to be the change in the weather. At least I hope that's it.
     Or maybe I just have a feline fan?

Friday, October 21, 2016

Killed Off Another Character

I was on the fence about this, but he had to go. I killed a character this morning.

The pressure is mounting as Romney and Ivy struggle to hold their marriage together, keep all that they have worked so hard for from crumbling around them, and try to get their three-year old son back from her nasty sister and her truly evil husband before they can be killed themselves.

Ivy's suffered a lot of trauma in this much darker story. Will the gentle white witch/druidess crumble under the stress, strain and suffering she's been made to endure, or will she find a new strength within herself that will allow her to rise above the torment her sister is putting her through and prevail?

Romney is having his own problems as he struggles with abuse from his past, difficulty controlling his fury at having his son kidnapped and his wife assaulted. He has his own PTSD from what he's recently gone through with his sister Rayna killing their father and attempting to kill him.

There are new players on the field of their life who bring their own strengths and weaknesses into play, including a cousin of Romney's, his cousin's girlfriend whom she's abandoned along with their adopted little girl, a spirited black sorceress from the south who's come north to cook and has her own agenda as well.

Caught in the toxic vortex created by Wheaton Trowbridge are old friends of Romney's and Ivy's and new friends...

...back to writing because I don't know how this is all going to end!

(This is a little preview of what's to come in Black Knight, White Rook, the sequel to the self published, well-received novel Black King Takes White Queen this past summer.)

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Dancing Witches

I've seen the Westfield Witches dancing on the "green" in the center of town once recently but didn't think much about it. They were featured in the newspaper a short time later. Still, well, Halloween seems to be a big deal here No big deal. We have the rag shag parade and the dancing witches and now ghost stories at the bookstore and the usual Halloween stuff New England is known for.

Well, I went to get a haircut tonight- same hair stylist I've had since Kelly was about three years old, so that's like 22 years. I was talking to her about the upcoming event at the bookstore, and then she mentioned she was a dancing witch and she thought they were dancing there that night. I vaguely remembered something about dancing witches that night. I never knew she was a dancing witch! But then again she never knew I was an author/writer until last year Her teenaged daughter McKenzie is a writer and has read some of my books.

Funny how you can know someone for a couple of decades and still learn something new about them!

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Ghost Stories LIVE!

I met author Russell Atwood at Blue Umbrella Books here in town. He used to live in NYC and wrote detective mysteries. He worked as an editor for Ellery Queen magazine.

He's hosting an event at the bookstore on October 29th called Ghost Stories LIVE and that is also the name of the anthology he's putting together. He asked me for one of my ghost stories, so I sent him McCleary's Haunt from Miss Peculiar's Haunting Tales, Volume III, with the original plan being that I would read that night from that story.

He attended my author event for Miss Peculiar's Haunting Tales, Volume I and recorded the whole thing. I saw him next at another author event last weekend where he asked if I would mind reading my psychological terror little bit of prose that I had tucked into everyone's folder at my event called The Fly In The Ointment instead. I told him I had no problem with that- it was short and saved me from picking out one section from the other story above any other section.Then I heard him mention he was expecting a shipment of books for the event this week. This would be the anthology he put together.

Curious, tonight I went online to to books and typed in Russell Atwood. And there was Ghost Stories LIVE! You can flip to the backside of the book to read the back cover copy on Amazon, a feature I like. There are several classic ghost stories included int he anthology and then new stories by...and here he includes a list of authors...and there I am!

I'm excited about this because I haven't been included in an anthology in something like 22 years when a story I wrote for Kelly was included in a Children's teaching and healing anthology. The story Monsters No More used humor, creativity and imagination to deal with the monsters under the bed and the monsters in the closet. She loved that story!

I can't wait to see the book in person! It's going to be a fun event- a mix of ghost stories fictional and real life! I have some of both, but will most likely just be reading my little twisted, spooky piece of prose.

Book Buying Excursion

Kelly was eager to get to Barnes & Noble in Holyoke this evening after dinner to see if they had the just released fifth Johannes Cabal, Necromancer novel by UK author Jonathan L. Howard.

We got to the store and went upstairs to look first in mysteries. Sometimes his books are there, sometimes they're located in fiction. His book wasn't there but she found the new Alan Bradley Falvia de Luce novel for me. I also found a Kylie Logan cozy Irish Stewed. I've read all of Logan's button collector mysteries so have started reading this series. Kelly found a Moriarty & Holmes collection. She is a huge Sherlock fan and actually saw quite a few books by various authors with Holmes as a character. She passed up a few but plans on purchasing them during an upcoming trip to New Hampshire where they don't have sales tax.

She wandered off to Sci-Fi/Fantasy and I meandered over to new releases in fiction. I was looking at a book when she came over to show me another book she had found. I asked her if she had found the new Howard Cabal book yet and she reaches past my nose to grab the book right next to the empty place where I had taken the book I was holding from. Duh! That was easy!

I brought home four books plus the moleskin journal I'd tagged along with her to purchase to jot some notes in for my upcoming NaNo novel. I don't usually write any notes first but do skim through my novels and write notes after because some of my books have sequels and basically, I can remember main characters and what they look like, but places, events, minor characters, it's out of my head. So if I need to refer back to something I use the little journal full of notes that are organized by subject matter- much easier than paging through the novels trying to find a tidbit of info that could be easily missed.

Anyway, this year the novel has a huge cast of characters. The grand resort hotel is sprawling with multiple restaurants and shops on the main floor. There are outside locations and a lot of things that will be going on so I need to get organized prior to writing this time around...totally out of the norm for me, but since the novel is what the spinoff The Winter Solstice Ball, a Christmas story in Always Christmas in My Heart is based on (okay, confession time, I once started to write this novel but trashed it. However, I used the location and characters to write the holiday novella...therefore, the characters exist in that story, the location exists and some of the things that will be in the novel are mentioned as having occurred but will be occurring int he course of the novel. It's sort of like backwards. No, it is backwards. Usually a novel is written and then the holiday story evolves afterwards. There was a partial novel but it wasn't going the way I wanted it to so it was discarded. I am starting fresh November 1st. The Winter Solstice Ball was written after the original version of the novel was scraped and can stand alone, but if some sharp-eyed reader says, oh, I know these characters! I want the two to be connected.

What I'm doing is clear in my mind but may still be murky in yours. It's okay- the novel will be typical of me- romance, humor, drama, action, scandal, twists and triumphs.

At least I hope so!

Monday, October 17, 2016

A Treasure Chest Arrived

I work full time as a medical secretary and write during my free time, but I have a few other hobbies and interests that sometimes capture my attention. I've been collecting antique and vintage clothing buttons since 2003. That was the year I first heard the word charmstring, and also the first year I began collecting them. In the past 13 years I've rescued a number of old strings of buttons from oblivion. Many charmstring end up cut apart and the buttons individually sold. I make it my goal to find these old strings of buttons and preserve them for future generations (the ones who currently don't collect or appreciate anything because they've grown up in a throwaway/disposable nothing lasts for very long because there is no concern for quality anymore culture, but one day that will change and people will be back to saving everything because our resources are not infinite.) I've also collected lots of antique buttons and strung some button strings myself. One of them has 999 buttons on it, measures 13' 4" in length and weighs over 4 pounds. Kelly and I strung that one just to see what a charmstring awaiting its 1000th button would look like. It is impressive when laid out in the hallway, but I only had a spool of old carpet string back then to string the buttons on. The weigh of all those buttons puts a strain on the thread, so it doesn't come out of the box very often. A couple strings were gifts from women who were button collectors who have passed on now. They knew that I was saving these charmstrings, also called memory strings, and carefully preserving them, so passed what they had along to me to keep safe.
     Today an old string of buttons arrived from a Texas estate. It's grungy and grimy and will require a lot of careful cleaning, but when I've worked my magic on it it won't be perfect, but the glass will shine and the grunge will be off the metal buttons so the designs can be seen again.
      This string makes 94 in the collection. I set a goal of 100 charmstrings and have nearly reached that goal. I've already told Kelly she can do what she wants with them when I'm gone, but I have also suggested she donate them to the Keep Homestead Museum in Monson, MA. This is a farmhouse museum and the woman who lived there had an exquisite button collection including a mind boggling number of micro-mosaic buttons from the 1800's from the time when people took Grand Tours and brought home souvenirs of their journeys. There are magnifying glasses available at each display so the viewer can marvel at this miniature works of arts. These buttons depict ancient structures, ancient scenes, people, animals, birds, fruits and vegetables and designs.
     So tonight, instead of being a writer I was a pirate poking through a treasure chest and admiring my booty.
     No matter what your hobby may be, as long as it brings you pleasure and joy then it's a good thing!