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!)

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