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Monthly Archives: September 2013

Homemade gravy and hand-built furniture

Traveling. Today we are in Worcester Massachusetts, the town where my husband was born. We’re mostly visiting family but a confluence of scheduling has left us with one night on our own.

Buca“Italian food,” he insists. Worcester was settled in part by Italian immigrants and has long boasted restaurants that rival those in Chicago where we met. “Absolutely,” I agree. He’s heard of a new Italian restaurant located right on the banks of Worcester’s Lake Quinsigamond and we head over eagerly. What do we find? Buca di Beppo, a relatively good Italian chain restaurant that also has a place about five miles from where we live in Texas. We have to laugh. No way.

His phone is dumb and mine is smart but slow, but we have a laptop in the car so we go off in search of internet and a more interesting restaurant recommendation. As we drive, I think about my writing. That is not surprising, I do that a lot. Traditionally published novels are like chain restaurants, I think. Some are okay and some are great but they are seldom awful. You have a pretty good idea of what you are getting. Self-published novels are more like tiny mom-and-pop restaurants. Some are really bad and some are absolutely fantastic and there is no good way to tell the difference from a distance. Good or bad, the contents are always something of a surprise.

PaneraWe stumble on a Panera Bread, one of my favorite chain restaurants because of its wonderful tradition of providing free WiFi to travelers everywhere. While my husband is booting up I order us beverages and it occurs to me to try the human approach. I mean, why not? “Know any good local Italian restaurants around here?” I ask. She knows several, including one called Piccolo’s that is run by the parents of a friend. Perfect.

Minutes later we walk into tiny Piccolo’s on Shrewsbury Street in Worcester. The menu is hand typed, and the Pollo Maria Teresa that catches my eye is described with honesty as being a pasta dish served with chicken and “some lobster”.  I smile at the lack of polish. It’s like homemade gravy or hand-built furniture. One makes either with love and with all the skill that one can.

PiccoloEach one of my three self-published books has been created, edited and rewritten to the best of my ability at the time that I wrote them. Then, because I wanted the product to be better, each has been professionally edited with what I could afford. In my case that was a fine young editor named Joel Handley, who used his journalism degree, sharp mind and experience with one previous book to fix my dashes and semi-colons, address my frequently used words, clean up odd phrases and even make a few general plot and character suggestions. I have learned that Joel provides excellent copy-editing, some good line editing and even a bit of development editing along the way. However, he is no hardened expert from the world of publishing. At my request, he worked with a light touch. Therefore, my three books probably don’t have the polish provided by industry experts who, by the way, generally charge ten times as much. My books are like homemade gravy and hand-built furniture. They make no pretense to be otherwise, even though I hope that they can be enjoyed by those who also appreciate chain restaurants.

The Pollo Maria Teresa arrives and it is wonderful. I smile as I enjoy some of my “some lobster” and I think that it is good to take a chance.

 
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Posted by on September 25, 2013 in writing

 

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Cease firing for a day: Saturday September 21 2013

c_norman_rockwell_do_unto_others_2

“Do Unto Others” by Norman Rockwell

Every year about this time, the world celebrates “An International Day of Peace.”  It goes largely unnoticed, at least here in Texas where I live, and this year I’m putting some effort into changing that.

This 32 year old event is also called Peace Day, and you can read about it here. It’s goals extend beyond the ending of wars between nations and include improving relations among all peoples. The website says that observances range in scale from private gatherings to public concerts and forums where hundreds of thousands of people participate.Hmm, not seeing any of that here in Houston.

candleSuggested activities for the lone individual include lighting a candle at noon, or doing a good deed for someone you do not know. Both are fine ideas, on any day actually. However, my personal favorite is the suggestion to consider Sept. 21 as a day of ceasefire – personal as well as political. One could take the opportunity to make peace in ones own relationships while they wish for an end to the larger conflicts of our time.What a day it would be if a chunk of humanity decided to call a cease fire on their own anger and resentment for just twenty-four hours.

A simple idea. The really good ones usually are.

 
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Posted by on September 14, 2013 in peace

 

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A short political rant (not mine)

I read a lot of blog posts by other writers. Some are funny, some are informative, and a few are full of themselves and more than a little annoying. None-the-less I learn about my craft from all of them and I am appreciative.

Today I stumbled on a blog by a twenty-two year old English major and aspiring fiction writer who took a few minutes to rant about the situation in Syria. I’ve been pretty conflicted about the whole mess, and I found her analysis succinct and worth repeating.

Why? This blog is not just about my writing,and my novel x0. It is also about the themes behind the book, including empathy and world peace. When someone has something worthwhile to say on those subjects, I am happy to reblog. So please, read on.

A short political rant.

 
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Posted by on September 12, 2013 in peace

 

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and then you bleed …

blood2I’ve just handed my fourth novel off to the first of my beta readers and I’m taking a little time to reflect, not to mention time to do a few loads of towels and go through the “where the hell did this junk come from” pile on my dresser. I’ll be starting d4 in October, and it now looks like I will in fact write a collection of six books. Wow.

I’m thinking of Ernest Hemingway today. It’s somewhat embarrassing that I’ve never read one of his novels even though I love many of his quotes. Recently I found this one. “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”

Five years ago I would have found that silly and overly dramatic. Today it strikes me as the most succinct and accurate description of writing fiction that I have ever read.  Not that I write as well as Hemingway. He wasn’t talking about good or bad writing, just about the act of pouring yourself intotypewriter a story. No matter how overblown it seems, the truth is that I have pretty much gotten up for three days a week for the last seven months and picked up my lovely new ultralight computer, taken it out to my porch, and bled all over it. And found it fun.

Now that I’m handing the bloody mess off to friends and strangers alike, I have to wonder what motivates such odd behavior. I’m a very private person, yet I’m incapable of creating a story that isn’t filled with my most personal dreams and fears. I’m also incapable of not creating stories. I am aware that this didn’t end well for Hemingway, or for a lot of other writers that I admire. Others seemed to have navigated those same waters and survived and even thrived. What makes the difference?

Maybe while I’m on break I’ll skim a few writer’s biographies and try to figure out how others bandaged up their open wounds in between books. Maybe I’ll even finally read “For Whom the Bell Tolls”. I mean, how can I be writing a collection of stories that starts off with the premise that we are all one, and not have read a book that takes its title from a 1624 quote that says

No man is an Iland, intire of it selfe; every man is a peece of the Continent, a part of the maine; if a Clod bee washed away by the Sea, Europe is the lesse, as well as if a Promontorie were, as well as if a Mannor of thy friends or of thine owne were; any mans death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankinde; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee.

Words worth considering as our world contemplates one more outbreak of war, and as each one of us sits on our porch and tries to bandage our own wounds from the previous day.

injury sign

 
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Posted by on September 7, 2013 in writing

 

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