Friday, July 28, 2017

Bending Birches

I haven't fall off the face of the planet.

I've been plagued by health issues since the beginning of the year including rheumatoid arthritis, polymyalgia rheumatic, diabetic neuropathy, right hip bursitis, and sacroiliitis-all very painful when a person is also allergic to the medications nonallergic people can take like ibuprofen, Aleve, and other analgesics in the NSAID class, and the biologics that are available for RA like Enbrel and Humira. Oh yeah, did I mention I was allergic to prednisone and cortisone shots?

It's discouraging and sometimes I get a little depressed about it so that just getting up every day and going to work can be a monumental challenge. I'm not ready to retire. I want to stay as active as I can because if I just sit around it would all get much worse. Therefore, most nights lately I haven't felt like writing or doing much of anything, but then I get angry with myself for not accomplishing something and push myself harder...which can also not be a good thing because a big part of RA is the chronic fatigue that can make a person feel like they're pinned down in place, too tired to move.

However- I'm not a whiner or complainer (really!). I just carry on, maybe not at full speed anymore, but I move forward, and do what I can.

While unable to sleep one night recently, I thought of a novella that I'd written a couple of years ago- Bending Birches. It's set at a fictionalized Mount Holyoke College (called Bircham College in the story), but in the very real towns of Hadley, Amherst, and Stockbridge, MA with mention of Lenox, MA, Hancock Shaker Village, The Red Lion Inn, The Mount, and Friendly's just off the Mass Pike in Westfield, I used the area I've lived in all my life-beautiful, scenic western MA (AKA "The Sticks"  or "The Boonies" by friends from eastern MA. My best friend from Peabody thought we were taking her "into the wilderness" when we brought her to Westfield for the first time from Fitchburg along the Daniel Shay Highway! She was really very nervous as my mother flew around those unlit corners with what must have seemed like rash bravado to Carol! Recently, Kelly and I took her friend Bethany from Bridgewater to exotic, uncivilized towns like Granville, Southampton, Deerfield, and Wyben- a rural part of Westfield at the edge of" "the Hilltowns.") What western MA kid hasn't learned to drive at night with confidence on streets without streetlights and wanted to slap on a pair of sunglasses when reaching an area with those lights on sticks? It's a rite of passage, and also perfectly routine and normal, something we grew up with when we went for night drives with our parents on sultry summer nights with all the car windows rolled down and mosquitoes whining in our ears, the wind whipping our hair into wild tangles.

Bending Birches explores a developing relationship between an English professor and a soon-to-be-graduating senior who has been working  on the college arts & literary magazine since her freshman year, when she was a student in Professor Lockwood's Dickens class. Just as he begins to make his more personal feelings toward her known, a sex scandal erupts in the English department. It's Jordan James' elderly landlady who quietly plays matchmaker for the professor and the graduating senior, and Professor Lockwood who takes Jordan to Stockbridge to try to land a job as a photojournalist/staff writer for Berkshire Life magazine. Lockwood has to act before Jordan graduates and decides to return to sunny southern CA where she is originally from.

I partially wrote the sequel novella set nearly seven years later. Reid is still a professor at Bircham College, living in his restored Victorian house in Amherst. Jordan is living at the couple's Victorian Stockbridge cottage and working on the magazine full time while raising the couple's now three-year old son, Charlie (named after Dickens). Reid spends the summer with them in the Berkshires because he teaches a summer course at Wisteria Academy and either produces or directs a play at the Stockbridge Playhouse. Jordan reaches a cracking point as a stressed out, basically working mom. On the night that Reid hosts the department staff meeting at the Amherst house, Jordan has had enough that same night, loads Charlie in the car and heads home on the Mass Pike. Meanwhile, a former classmate of Jordan's, now a professor at Bircham, has stayed late to "help clean up" after the meeting and she sets about seducing Reid. He receives the call from the state police before things go too far, but they've gone much farther than they should have. The remainder of the second novella, Seventh Year Itch, has Reid and Jordan grappling with their issues and working out the problem of their living in two places because neither wants to lose the other-so compromises must be made if they are to survive as a couple and a family.

My late button collector friend Pauline Johnson is fictionalized in Bending Birches as Jordan's landlady, Mrs. Thayer. I promised her before she passed that when I was missing her I would write her into a story- and through her character, I would hear her voice once again and not miss her so much. It's my way of letting her know I love her and always will- immortalizing her in my writing.

I remember that I had a crush on one of my high school English teachers (all the girls adored him) at Westfield High in the mid-70's. I also had a totally cool Advanced Placement English teacher there. Then, I  had some pretty awesome college English professors including a charismatic English professor my freshman year of college (who sort of reminded me of Stephen King, oddly enough) at Fitchburg State. He was from South Hadley. I also had some pretty amazing English professors at Westfield State, but I only worked on the arts & literary magazine at Fitchburg my freshman year. This is not a biographical book by any means. Strictly fiction!

So, if I am behind in beta reading, I apologize. I do what I can when I can after work and on weekends, but I've been moving like molasses lately due to the increased joint stiffness and pain, and a flareup of tendinitis in multiple places which was a reaction to an antibiotic for an infection...can we say train wreck? Recovering, slowly moving forward, but at least feel like I've accomplished something the past two weeks!

The Fairlawn Investigation and The Victoria Wayfarer Investigation, the first two novels in the Amberton Paanormal Investigation Society series were also released as print books and as ebooks on Kindle in the past two weeks. They're my ghost hunting novels. Book 3 is partially written.

I changed the cover of butterscotch, when I made corrections to the story Poppy inside. I got the copy I ordered in the mail today and realized that I forgot to change the font color, so the title virtually disappears into the candies on the cover. Changed it back tonight to the original cover when I was on CreateSpace approving Bending Birches. Why tamper with There's Nothing Wrong With It when there really was nothing wrong with the original- except I added the author photo to the back cover because when you submit a self-published book to a contest they kind of want to see the author on the cover or inside on the bio page- horror of horrors! I do not like being photographed but am using a selfie I shot in a dark room that I'm okay with (as long as you don't blow it up and notice the tiny smear of chocolate ice cream under my lower lip-haha!)

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Project List

I've ticked several items off my Project List this week. Both The Fairlawn Investigation and The Victoria Wayfarer Investigation are now available on and as Kindle books. butterscotch-a collection of stories is also finally available as a Kindle book. It kind of got lost in the shuffle a couple of months ago.

Out is here at the house in its fourth print proof copy version. I did some Gordon Ramsey-type ranting after finding a minor continuity error in the very first chapter, but have calmed down and am methodically prowling through the book in search of any other issues that might still exist. It will be on its way to a real publisher once this final raking over the editing coals is completed. I am giving it a shot, despite my maybe not so well-known OCDism of wanting absolute control over my own work. Maybe I'm ready to let a project go out into the mainstream world. I don't know. If I change my mind, as I am often prone to do, Out will be self-published. I don't ever really know what I will do until I do it.

I have two new novels started, The Lakeside Manor Investigation (3rd in the Amberton Paranormal Investigation Society series) and Cherry (tentative title), and have just finished proofreading and editing a novella, Bending Birches which I might combined with several novelettes or short stories into another book, although I could complete the sequel to this novella and publish them both in one book...that's another option. I just don't remember what I called the sequel, but I did see a typed copy of the story someplace when searching for Lakeside Manor recently.

A few health issues have slowed me down this summer. I'm trying to cope with them and keep moving forward. I've also been doing a little more preliminary work in preparation for WhipCity Wordsmiths, the authors/writers group Kelly and I are launching in September. And I've been doing some beta reading for author friends, and catching up on other reading, too.

Crazy busy as usual despite everything going on! I don't feel as if I am quite on track where I want to be, but I'm not lagging too far behind at this point in time!

Sunday, July 9, 2017

What's New From My Kitchen Table

I'm awaiting the new printed proof copies of two paranormal investigation novels- The Fairlawn Investigation and The Victoria Wayfarer Investigation. Meanwhile, since last weekend I've pounded out a little less than half of the third novel in the series, The Lakeside Manor Investigation. The novels are set in the Burlington, Vermont/Lake Champlain area, but a lot of The Victoria Wayfarer is set at a seacoast inn haunted by numerous spirits/apparitions. Book three is back in Vermont, and will have characters that visited in book one returning for this investigation. Several of these characters are interesting because they are fictionalizations of my office manager and a co-worker. I just asked my office manager if I could reprise her fictional character in book three and received the nod to do so. My other co-worker was on vacation this week, so  I'll have to get her permission on Monday if she's back. Also, in book three I'm working in three characters from daughter Kelly' first novel, Parapsychology. She mentioned the founder of my novels' paranormal investigation group, plus referenced the group in her novel. I just had to look across the kitchen table to ask her permission to include her characters Holly St. Stephens, Milo French, and Jacob 'Jake' Euler, plus a mention of the head of their organization, Dr. Aubrey Winters. My book is set about a year before her book occurs.

Thus is the life of mother/daughter authors!

Yesterday I ran a couple of copies of Kelly's new novel, Teleport, downtown to Blue Umbrella Books where author Russell Atwood was behind the counter. He happily accepted the books to sell on the local author shelf at the store. And then he had a surprise for me. He'd recently learned that I collect vintage decks of playing cards. He'd found a deck of Louis L'Amour western theme (gunslinger) playing cards while antiquing. The cards are a poker deck, mint in the plastic inside the box with great cowboy with drawn gun graphic on the box. I was thrilled (and maybe somewhat inspired to include a western in my writing experience in the future?) I was also happy to hear he has some writing projects going now that his schedule has stabilized. I really enjoyed his PI novels East of A and Losers Live Longer (which has an ending I never saw coming!)

This morning I finally got around to setting a radio appearance date with Bob Plasse. I suggested that he have Kelly and me on his program for several reasons- we'll have 30 novels and story collections self published by the time October 24th, the date we agreed upon, rolls around, we're probably the most prolific mother/daughter authors in Westfield, and she and I just established a group for authors & writers in Westfield called WhipCity Wordsmiths which has already had a soft launch with a core group of local authors and writers, but will have its official launch in September after things settle down from vacations, kids out of school, traveling and summer activities and events.

I did find a second version of The Victoria Wayfarer and beyond that I'd been working on years two thirds of it Friday night and yesterday before concluding that while it has a ton of good stuff in it, it wasn't really going anywhere definitive so that must be why I'd abandoned it in the first place. I still won't delete the file, but I will most likely consign the printed manuscript pages to recycle in the near future to downsize the clutter in the dining room.

Otherwise, today we looked at four potential first homes for Kelly- but each one had various issues from the first one needing an entire gut job to the fourth one having a mysterious small puddle on the cellar floor with nothing dripping above it and no crack where seepage could come up through the floor beneath it. Just kind of weird in an empty basement. The second house was cute, but had an open staircase to the basement in the kitchen, and multiple small rooms in the basement that gave it a totally claustrophobic feel, plus tall Dad whacked his head on an oddly place low header which put him in a bad mood. House three was all knotty pine and 70's Aztec gold and would need a ton of reno work to make it suitable for Kelly and her myriad collections- plus it was dark and dingy and smelled weird- like old and musty and damp. Sigh...still looking...

Finally-the fog of RA is lifting so I'm feeling more productive after 5 or 6 weeks of barely being able to haul myself to work and get the editing and revision work on the two paranormal novels done. Feeling more productive!

Had to break out my Dell netbook to post on the blogs today- my HPStream has Alzheimers (memory issues)...not enough memory. I can write on it, but when I try to get into my blogs to post it just sits and spins looking for memory it doesn't have. I'm rapidly reaching the conclusion I need a real laptop with a ton of memory and disc space! I'll put it on my wish list!

Saturday, July 1, 2017

The Search for Amberton Paranormal Society Investigation #3

I am nearly finished with editing, proofreading, and preparing the first two novels in the Amberton Paranormal Investigation series for self-publication. I knew I had started a third in the series and a fourth, but I searched through the computer files and found The Rose Hall Investigation and then the Persian Garden Theater Investigation...but when I opened them, I discovered that they were the same story with different titles. Rose Hall is supposed to be the third novel. Both Kelly and I remembered reading what I'd written so far, and could recall that it followed the events of The Victoria Wayfarer Investigation. We knew how it started and what was happening so far- but we couldn't find the file and were finding too many Rose Hall Investigation and Persian Garden Investigation binders int he dining room-all with the same story beginning in them that was not the right story.

So, I very carefully opened every file associated with this series of novels and read the beginnings. There were, curiously, two Rose Hall investigations saved  and when I opened them they were both The Persian Garden beginning! I was getting extremely frustrated with myself.

So, the other night I very carefully scrolled down the list of titles in my computer files...and found a file titled The Lakeside Manor Investigation- and guess what I found? Yup, this is the story we remembered as being book three, and it even says it is the third in the series under the I guess Persian Garden comes fourth and Rose Hall will be fifth in the series.

I need to get a little better organized around here and not keep putting the same story in binders with the same name and different names!

By the way, Kell and I couldn't find a Lakeside Manor binder...anyway, mystery solved and moving on!