Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year!

Here's a favorite moment of mine from 2008. (It's in Cornwall, but there were others like it in Maine.)

May 2009 offer many sunlit days with books, for all of us.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Pondering Mickeycide

I am a heartless woman. Why, just this afternoon I was sitting at the mechanic's hoping he'd suck a mouse into his vaccuum cleaner. (Some friends of mine actually did that with mouse babies once. They didn't recommend the experience. That's why I was hoping it would be the mechanic's vaccuum cleaner, so it would never be mine.)

A mouse seems to be living in my car's heating system, decorating. It's a busy mouse, Pete the mechanic says, one of the Many Very Energetic Mice (who) Jumped Slowly Under Neath Peter when I was trying to remember the planets back in grade school, back when there was still a Pluto.

My car smells like an untended hamster cage and the heater fan sounds like a jet engine eating a streetlight. I've been in twice to have Pete vaccuum out clumps of mouse architecture, and the fan sounds normal for a day or two before it sucks more m.a. into itself. No idea whether the mouse is still making his/her (their? oh lord) way back to the nest, or whether this is all the handiwork of autumn. (Or maybe of summer, since it seems to me the fan was slightly noisier than usual in August.)

I'm going to have to get mousetraps, and place them in the engine, and then hope to hell I remember to take them out before driving away. (What are the chances of that?)

I know, I know, I could get a have-a-heart trap. We've used them in the house, catching the critters and releasing them a fair distance away in the woods. Surely, we thought, they'd be distracted or eaten on their way back. Then Rob started to see a strong family resemblance in the mice we caught, so he painted the current one's tail red. Sure enough, the next mouse in the trap had a red tail.

I suppose we could drive them off in the car and dump them far, far away. (That's assuming I remember to take the trap out of the engine.) But the next question is whether a have-a-heart will even fit in the engine anywhere.

I suspect that Mickeycide might be easier, if less pleasant.

Don't suggest the cat. She's an indoor cat, because of all the coyotes and hawks out there. I know, it's nature's great plan--she rids my car of mice, a coyote exacts revenge. But if we send her to her death, who will scratch the woodwork for us? And it's no less Mickeycide if you let the cat do it. (Sort of like extraditing the mouse to another country for less humane treatment, to introduce a somber note.)

Lessee. Cheese or peanut butter? If you were a mouse, which would you prefer?

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Eye of the Beholder

I've been meaning to link to this for a while but kept forgetting. Since I bad-mouthed Rhode Island corruption when the Blogojevich thing broke, it's only fair to point out that, statistically, other states are much worse than Little Rhody.

Notice the charts beside that story, though. Although other states scored higher on "number of guilty officials" and "guilty officials per capita," when you ask state house reporters how much corruption they see around them, Rhode Island wins (or loses, depending on your point of view).

So I guess that means Rhode Island officials do all the same things Floridians do, but manage not to get caught. Which explains why corruption stories in Rhode Island have such a fond, humorous tone. There's nothing as endearing as a dextrous attitude left over from our frontier days, possibly.

Friday, December 26, 2008


Mentioning no names, someone within the sound of my voice--someone within the sound of my brain, actually--is going to have to get reacquainted with her NordicTrak, and right quick. The sad thing is, we still have tons of cookies left, plus half a squash pie.

I'm just grateful that the scale is upstairs, and I'm still showering downstairs so I don't get on it anymore.

Here's why I am girth-enhanced:

First, a tableful of good cooks, replete with each other's bounty, yukking it up in the postprandial segment of our neighborhood Christmas feast. There were 13 of us for dinner, 17 for dessert, at Cope's and Greg's house. That's Cope at the end of the table in blue, next to Rob. I decided not to use the previous shot, which was better in some respects except that Rob was flipping the bird at the photographer. Ah, forever young.

Nancy and Viv serve pie, while Tim and Greg salivate.

The young-uns plus Greg, whose wonderful daughter Golda is on the right. Also in the photo are Andrew and Luke (seated) and Josh, Golda's estimable partner.

And finally, in the true Christmas spirit, Cope and I blur out. (Boy, do I need a haircut.)

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Santa Sightings

Santa is in Gori, Georgia, as I type.

Oops, nope, just checked again, and now he's in Azerbaijan.

I know because NORAD tracks him using "radar, satellites, Santa Cams and fighter jets," and broadcasts video of him on-line.

What an utterly cool thing to do. Thanks, NORAD.

And, in case I don't get back here, Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Lovely, Dark, and...

Pissed off.

This applies only to Rob, who had to scoop and shovel all 18 inches of snow singlehandedly because His Beloved is a knee jerk. All I managed to do was clean off the cars, which seemed like it wouldn't involve much knee action.

I was so thrilled by it all that you'd almost think I was capable of skiing. If I were permitted to ski, I'd be insufferable right now.

Here are some shots, because I can't help myself:

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Season's Greetings, a Minor Rant

Happy Hanukkah/Yule/Solstice!

Speaking of which, I've had it with the Happy Holidays/Merry Christmas debate. I keep seeing letters to the editor griping about how this is a Christian Nation (huh?) and how anyone who says "Happy Holidays" is somehow dissing Christmas. (The same way gay marriage is an attack on straight marriage, I guess.)

If you want to wish me a Merry Christmas, by all means do so, and I hope we both have a wonderful holiday. But don't complain when the rest of us acknowledge that other important cultures have celebrations at this time of year, too.

In cold climates, late December is a dark time, greatly in need of light and cheer and the promise that Old Sol hasn't gone for good. We're all in this together, so stop letting the dark win, OK?

It may be that Maine newspapers get more letters on this subject than elsewhere, so pardon me if my tone seems overwrought. On the other hand, I've noticed that TV newscasters are tending to say: "Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!" Which seems like a neat response to the problem.

In other seasonal news, the annual carol sing at the Rockbound Chapel (pictured at left) got canceled by this afternoon's snow. It's a big disappointment, but a wise decision considering the number of older folks who turn out. Here's what the carol sing looked like two years ago:

That's my friend Leslie with the red scarf in front. I hasten to add that I wasn't including her in the "old folks" comment. Nor myself. Heh.

The wind's starting to howl out there. I have to admit, I'm glad I won't be driving home from the Rockbound Chapel in half an hour. Perfect weather to brew up a nice cuppa and settle down with a good book. Rob's making chocolate chip cookies as his contribution to the annual sack of cookies we give the neighbors, but of course I won't have any.


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Catastrophe Delayed

I spent a productive hour with the third grader I'm working with at the school. World leaders will be relieved to know that we did not work on the Evil Albert Einstein story, so our villain did not get a chance to destroy the human race.

Instead, in an effort to understand what it feels like to actually finish something, we worked on two super-short stories. One was about a carnivorous computer attacking the house of a woman called Gate. She lures the attacker away from her house by sneaking out to the street and impersonating several Fat Old Ladies, the computer's preferred snack.

The second was about a man called Writing a Formal Piece (I think...that may not be quite right) (it's Formal for short, I do remember that) who discovers that his daughter, a cannibal alligator disguised as a girl, is about to kill his wife. He sees this as a problem because his wife had been planning to make him his favorite meal for dinner.

I don't think any of us should ever worry about whether our stories are too scary for children.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


Well, we did the lights up on the maple tree with a maxiumum of teamwork and minimum of unnecessary profanity. We used only the profanity that was absolutely necessary.

Rob's early Christmas present is that I've decided we won't have an indoor tree--at least, not a fir tree that we cut down and bring inside. I'll string some lights on the lemon tree inside the front door, which will appreciate the attention. We're postponing our annual New Year's pot luck until later in the winter, because just now I'm living in the dessert room. So it seems silly to have a tree just for the two of us, especially when one of us is an unrepentant Grinch. (Even if the other of us is Cindy-Lou Who.)

At the post office, mailing a package to other Cindy-Lous, I rediscovered the game of Telephone, small-town style.

The correct story: I had arthroscopic surgery to remove torn meniscus tissue and find out how bad the arthritis really is. I learned that I will have to have my knee replaced sooner than later. I'm doing just fine in the interim, although I retain whining rights.

The story I heard at the post office: I had my knee replaced at great trouble and expense, but the operation was botched and now I'm in torment.

I do love it when this stuff happens. Sometimes, I'm pretty sure I contribute to it myself. Anyway, I eagerly await the next embellishments.

*Sneaks up to attic, rummages around. Mutters to self, "Now, where did I put that horn? I had it just the other... ah, there it is."*

*Whispers: Samantha Clark interviewed me for her Day By Day Writer blog. And Greg Leitich Smith liked my book.*

Horn-blowing? Me? Nah.

In other pressing news, I've read some books lately that I loved, neither of them new to the world. One was Behind the Scenes at the Museum, by Kate Atkinson, which is one of the best books I've ever read. Hysterically funny, but with a compelling sense of history and the march of generations. Not sure when it first came out in England--the mid-90s, anyway--but it won the Whitbread whenever it was.

The other was Cordelia Underwood by Van Reid, a Maine native who lives in Edgecomb. This is the first of the Moosepath League books, and I'd wanted to read it and the others ever since I reviewed the latest one when I was newspapering. Reid originally published them as a serial in a local newspaper, just like Dickens, and they are Dickensian in form and spirit. They're set in Portland and Maine in the 1890s, and I can say with hand on heart that the first and fourth (fifth?) are delightful . Can't wait to read the others.

Off to drink wine with the neighbors, and re-toast Rob's birthday several weeks after the fact.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Ups and Downs

Couple of rollercoaster stops I forgot to mention yesterday.

1. The marvelous and insightful Sarah Shealy and Barbara Fisch, associate publicity directors of Harcourt Children's Books, were among last week's layoffs at Harcourt Houghton Mifflin. They were the biggest surprise of my entire Harcourt experience, because I 'd heard horror stories about this stage of the publishing process, and was not expecting to be treated so kindly and helpfully and all-around professionally. I will miss them and I wish them beyond well.

2. Barrie Summy's book is out! She's the last of the 2k8ers to hit the bookstores, and the book sounds like an absolute winner. Check out her celebration on the 2k8 blog right now.

3. Some bloggers liked my book, bless their calloused little typing fingers. (This'll be the last horn-tooting for a while, I promise.)

On the book-review blog Stella Matutina, Memory thrilled me by praising any book that "introduces interesting ideas and leaves the reader free to come to her own conclusions, " and then adding, "Booraem does this, and does it beautifully at that.” said the book has a “refreshingly philosophical approach to a coming-of-age tale that stands well above the pack.” Over on, Sarah Rachel Egelman called the book “captivating.” She added: “Booraem presents some of the universal themes of children's literature in a new way, and readers cannot help but cheer Medford on as he discovers the meaning of family and friendship, independence, and the importance of art and expression.”

Fairrosa (big spoiler alert if you follow the link--maybe wait 'til you've read the book) said she was afraid all the naming stuff was going to be all symbolic and allegorical and predictable. "And yet, with the blusterous arrival of the Goatman and then all the tangential but significant side trails and events, the story drew me in and kept me highly interested and entertained. I bated my breath, hoping for a satisfying and well paced ending, and was not let down."

*Puts horn back in case. Locks case. Hides it in the attic next to the exercise bike.*

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Not So Much Action as Sloth

We never did put the lights up on the maple tree. It was too mushy out, particularly since part of Rob's role will be to crawl under the deck to snake the extension cord from tree to power outlet. Then it got brutally cold and windy, with snow. The new plan is for tomorrow. Supplications to the good humor gods will be much appreciated.

Life's pretty much of a rollercoaster these days. The publishing industry is having the hiccups, my next-door neighbor has an absess following a root canal (I'm sure he'd prefer hiccups), my knee hurts, and you'll be astonished to hear that there might be corruption in Illinois. (I get to be snide about it because I used to live in Rhode Island.) On the other hand, fellow 2k8er Elizabeth C. Bunce hit the bigtime--her YA fantasy, A Curse Dark as Gold, is a finalist for the American Library Association's William C. Morris Award for best debut YA novel. We, her classmates, naturally feel that our names should be on the plaque, too. (Just kidding, Elizabeth.) Seriously, we're all very excited about this.

There's good news in the mundane world, too, not even counting the numerous opportunities to whine about my knee.

The Horn Book's January/February issue will call the Goatman "an endearing, anarchic figure," adding that the book's "humor and amiable tone make it a highly accessible but thought-provoking read." And Kliatt's November issue, the last print edition unfortunately, gave The Unnameables a starred review that called it "a fantasy novel that stands above the rest; it is fresh, original, and appealing and the kind of book you want to read again, just to spend more time with the characters." That was nice of them.

On a less mundane subject, the third grader I'm mentoring this year is writing a fantasy whose villain is an outer-space insect named Evil Albert Einstein. Today he blew up the moon. Not sure what his next move will be, but it doesn't look good for the human race. Just thought you ought to know.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Lights! Action!

One of the many disadvantages of being knee-crippled is that I can't for the moment use a step-ladder or climb a tree. That means Rob has to help me put the lights on the maple tree out front, an essential operation because a) the lights keep me sane in the dark months, b) they light the path to the front door better than the front door light does, and c-z) they keep me sane in the dark months.

Rob isn't a big fan of Christmas, and thinks the lights drain our precious natural resources for no good reason. Usually, he has next to no hand in putting them up. This year, he will have his entire body in it. Disgruntlement is likely. That's all I'm saying.

In general, I am not adapting well to my newfound reliance on others, and the situation may not improve for some time. The arthroscopy nicely trimmed my torn meniscus, but revealed that the inside half of my knee is as arthritic as it can possibly be, with just about no cartilege left. The logical next step is a partial knee replacement, but I'm going to try injecting something called Synvisc, a goop made from rooster combs that is supposed to lubricate the joint and buy a few months. It only works half the time , though, so I'm going to start organizing a replacement sooner rather than later.

Rooster combs? Rooster combs? Whoever figured out that something wobbling on the head of a rooster would be a good thing to inject into yourself? Same person who figured out you could eat an artichoke, probably.

I have more good reviews to share, but it's time to grab Rob in one hand, lights in the other. Wish me luck.

P.S. My old friend Catherine Stornetta just called--first time I've heard her voice in 25 years at least. In an otherwise delightful conversation, she insisted that she was the one who started calling people freelance ne'er-do-wells, back when we were young and foolish and living in Providence. I vigorously protested and that's where it lies, for all eternity most likely.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Further Catch-up

My father came from Minnesota, and always said New England made him claustrophobic. "I like to see the weather coming," he'd say.

I finally found out what he was talking about when I went to St. Peter, Minnesota, the middle of last month. I'd been to Minneapolis before, but had never seen the Plains, which apparently start just uphill from my friends' house, meaning Peg O'Connor and Lisa Heldke. It's a little like the ocean--the same sense of standing on a planet in the universe, rather than being the universe. Very freeing, in a nervous sort of way. But it would take me a long time to get used to having so much solid ground around me, stetching for miles and miles and miles.

Because there's so much land without buildings--the farms seem HUGE to a New England girl--it's actually possible to imagine hitting that gorgeous, flat, sky-filled expanse in a covered wagon. And getting excited about all that rich black soil.

The people I met were gems. I sat in with a writer's group in St. Peter, then talked to Annette Engeldinger's two seventh-grade advanced English classes at St. Peter Middle School, where the kids were phenomenally engaged and bright and polite. Gustavus Adolphus College was hosting me (thanks to Lisa and Peg, who teach in the philosohy department), so I gave a reading there and talked to two classes: Deborah Downs-Miers's children's literature students, and Becky Taylor Fremo's writing class.

Everybody kept telling me Minnesota students wouldn't discuss or ask questions, and that was not my experience at all...they asked a hell of a lot more questions than I ever would have in college. But then, as I kept telling everybody right back, I take after my father, who was from Minnesota. So I guess this was my spiritual home.

On another tack entirely--a jibe, in fact--here's a cautionary tale about copiers and working too late.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Catching Up

Here's the dog-ate-my-homework disclaimer: I started this post Monday, got pulled away, tried to get back and then the power went off for a day. Then it was Thanksgiving, then a day spent doctoring and cavorting around Ellsworth. (Sort of a minimalist cavort, on crutches.) And now I'm back.

I'm feeling a little better about Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State. Still wish she could be Health and Human Services or AG, and still fear that Bill's going to make an ass of himself trying to use her as a marionette, not that she'd let him. But the talking heads say she's respected worldwide and can work for Obama even if she disagrees with him, so I'm going to stop fretting about it now. (And the cry rings out across the land, "Oh, phew, another half-crippled neophyte kidbook writer from Maine is on board. Let's move on to the next thing.")

I am not feeling better about my lost camera, which seems to be well and truly lost. And will continue to be so until the moment when I take delivery on a new one, which will be sometime next year with any luck.

So I will write 1,000 words instead. (Not really.)

Eastport, Maine, where I visited earlier in the month, is spectacular. I had no idea, never having made it farther east than Cobscook Bay State Park. The town's main street burned down in the last 1800s, apparently, and got rebuilt in beautifully designed brick. A big surprise for those of us who were expecting a cluster of tiny white clapboard buildings trembling on the water's edge. (That's where I ended, after a lengthy search for a picture of Eastport's brick main street. That's it on the left, although I suppose the flat rooftops aren't the most scenic angle. More of a seascape below right. Now I'll continue jabbering on for a while. I borrowed the shots from the Eastport web site, by the way. Lots more where they came from.)

I'd been invited to talk and read to a library book group (kids) at three o'clock, but my neighbor Marilyn and I decided to make a day of it and drive out early. It's a three-hour drive, one way, but a gorgeous one, with blueberry barrens and seascapes and white houses and pockets of despair. I once again felt that pull to settle someplace more empty and ornery than Hancock County, although I know I'd be miserable if I ever left here.

After lunch, we befriended Donald Sutherland (the sculptor, not the actor), who let us into the new arts center even though it was closed and under renovation. Then we visited his studio, which he'd just battened down for winter with tarps hanging everywhere to keep the drafts out. Largish kiln, which must heat things up a bit. To make up for all the cool art, as you'll see on his web site.

And then we went to the utterly charming Peavey Memorial Library (pictured at left), where I read and talked to a select group ranging in age from kindergarten to adulthood. I was concerned that everything that came out of my mouth was scudding over the little kids' heads, and then damned if the first very good comment afterwards didn't come from one of the littlest. Who, by the way, noticed that I was trying to be funny in a place nobody else has caught. (Don't know if this tells us something about her mental age or mine.) The older kids were just as smart and polite and engaged.

In general, if I were to leave Brooklin and not move to Portland or Providence, RI, or someplace in England, I'd definitely move to Eastport. I certainly plan to visit again.

Out of time. Subsequent posts will deal with St. Peter, Minnesota, and the continuing joys of knee surgery. (Actually, I'm feeling fine.)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

B's Knee

I have masses of things I should be writing about--Wonderful Eastportians! Wonderful Minnesotans! Whether Hillary Clinton should be Secretary of State! (Quick answer: Huh?)

But all has been subsumed in the Great Move. I'm having my knee operated on this afternoon, (arthroscopic, to repair a torn meniscus) and will have to avoid stairs for six weeks. So ever since I came home from Minnesota I've been furiously moving office and clothes and all other necessities downstairs to the guest room. Fortunately, it's comparatively huge (compared to my office, for example) having been my mother's home for three years.

Still no word on the camera, not surprisingly. So still no Minnesota pix. But I'll write a little more about it after I get over being cut open and manhandled.

Wish me luck!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Life Is More Than a Lost Camera

Despite having left my camera on a plane bound for Kansas City and beyond (see post below), I am singing happy author songs.

First of all, yay for Kirkus Reviews, which included The Unnameables in its Best Children's Books of 2008 special section.(That's a pdf link, by the way.) The section recommends 31 kids' books for the year. [Edit: Actually, a closer look tells me it's more like 50, if you include a couple of separate lists I thought were ads. They offer about ten each of favorite series books and books mentioned on other lists.]

The book also is on the Indie Bound Kids' Next list for Winter 2008/2009. This is 59 books recommended by independent booksellers.

School Library Journal says The Unnameables has "a style and charm all its own," and the American Library Association's Booklist says "Patient readers who like a little quirk in their fantasy will enjoy this stick-it-to-the-status-quo romp." I'll be posting the full reviews on my website, possibly later on today.

Slight Technical Delay

It's official--Rob needs to pin a note to my sleeve when sending me off on a plane anywhere.

A couple of years ago, traveling to Florida with my friend Shelly, I allowed my wallet to fall out of my backpack during the flight and sashayed off the plane without it. Since it contained my only ID, life became somewhat fraught. Shelly had to pay for everything because I had no credit card and no ID for traveler's checks. We both had to go through Super Duper Ginormously Paranoid Yet Oddly Jolly inspection upon returning home. (This included the puffer machine, which somehow detects explosive residue by blowing air up your shirt. I'd do that one again in a heartbeat. )

This time, I left my camera on the Minneapolis-Detroit plane, and only realized what I'd done minutes before my Detroit-Bangor flight left. So today I began the phone trek from lost-and-found to lost-and-found, not the slightest bit optimistic because I had not taken the precaution of putting my name and address in the camera case.

Figuring, of course, that only a dunderhead with a nearly fatal level of dunderity could possibly lose a digital camera. Which, as it turns out, is true.

So, I have no pictures of the lovely seventh graders and college students with whom I visited.

There above, in lieu of them, and possibly as a placeholder for them if the planets align in exactly the right way with intercession from Saint Dunder, is a picture I stole from Wikipedia of the Gustavus Adolphus College "Old Main" building, where my friend Lisa has her office. Nice building, isn't it? I think that's Lisa's window to the left of the front steps. She has a great view of St. Peter, Minnesota, and environs, but I can't show it to you because a) my camera's gone and b) I didn't actually take a picture of it.

And c) I'm a dunderhead.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Really REALLY bad blogger

And it's because I'm in Minnesota, whooping it up.

Since Wednesday, I've been in St. Peter, Minnesota, talking to students of various ages (I'm the guest of Gustavus Adolphus College, where my friends Lisa Heldke and Peg O'Connor teach philosophy, but I also visited classes at the local middle school and sat in with a local writers group).

I did, for once, remember my camera and, miraculously, did remember to take pictures. (Oops, just remembered I forgot to take my camera to the last class at Gustavus. Rats.) I'll post them when I get home.

I never did write about the election. First time I ever cried in front of Jim Lehrer, but I'm sure he understands. Oddly, I did not feel "triumphant," as I'd expected. It was a quieter feeling, a wash of relief. I discovered that the current administration had actually had a physical effect on me...all of a sudden, my stomach lining is intact.

But we do know Mr. Obama is human, right? He's not going to solve everything, and certainly not right away. Anyway, it'll take years to undo what the current folks have done to our constitution and national morals and morale. But the longest journey starts with one election.

Monday, November 3, 2008

One More Day

My Obama sign lives! Wish I could say the same for the poor ex-tree, the rotten stump of which you see to the left of the Obama tree.

Didn't used to be able to see all the dead stuff in back there. More chain-sawing for Rob. *sigh*

But back to the issue of the day, which is that I'm such a quivering bundle of nerves that I'm getting practically nothing done. Tomorrow I spend the day getting out the vote, and Wednesday I go to Eastport, so it would have been nice to have been more productive today.

But instead I check the NYTimes web site every half hour, hoping to see a headline that says, "Obama hits 270 electoral votes in early voting." Or, "McCain concedes, says he didn't really want to be president anyhow." Or, "Time change speeds up rotation of earth. It's really 11 p.m. Tuesday. NBC calls election for Obama."

I'd really like this to be over now, thanks.

A possible distraction: P.J. Hoover is celebrating the launch of The Emerald Tablet over at the Class of 2k8 blog. The book sounds like a hoot and a half and I want it almost as much as I want this election to be over.

Another possible distraction: This extremely funny video. It's been around for a while, but it's still a gift today.

I won't bother to say VOTE because I know you will. It's tomorrow, by the way.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

The Sign's Still Up!

Nailing my Obama sign to the tree appears to have worked. It's stayed up two days now, although only one night. We'll see. Only two nights to go before the election! (Gulp...)

I've signed up for three "get-out-the-vote" slots here in Brooklin. I know, I know...tiny little town, who cares? Hey, for want of a nail...*

I am a nervous wreck about the election. It freaks me out when the pundits start talking as if it were a foregone conclusion. Bad karma, folks...just shut up for two more days, please. (You have to say "please" when you tell someone to shut up. Otherwise it's rude.)

On the plus side, Gail Page and I had a lovely time reading at the Friend Memorial Library in Brooklin today. It was a small but very responsive crowd and I sold out of books, which is great because Blue Hill Books is donating 20% of the proceeds to the library.

Those who follow that link will be thrilled to discover that, thanks to the brainy Barrie Summy, I have learned the code for making links open in a new window. (Won't it be embarrassing if it doesn't work. Talk about bad karma.)

And I end with an annoyance--after looking forward to the McLaughlin Group all day, we discover that it's been preempted by Maine debates we've already heard. Damn. I need a pundit fix...

* "For want of a nail, the shoe was lost. For want of a shoe, the horse was lost. For want of a horse, the rider was lost. For want of a rider, the battle was lost. For want of a battle, the war was lost." Or something like that.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Silly Season

You can tell this area is about to vote Democratic when all the Dem campaign signs start disappearing. My Obama sign went AWOL four days after I put it up--just like last time, when this district and this state went for Kerry. Like last time, I'll try to foil the evil-doers by nailing my replacement sign to a tree. (A neat trick, since the replacement is plastic rather than cardboard. I'll manage.)

This is the humane approach--one of my neighbors is talking about smearing his replacement sign with dog poop. On a more stately level, some local Dems are marrying their replacement signs with hand-made signs pointing out how UnAmerican it is to stifle free speech. I have a small American flag somewhere around here--maybe I'll pin that to my new sign.

Tragically, the tree I used last time to quash sign-theft split and fell over yesterday in a wind storm. It was a lovely spruce perched up on rocks with tangled roots, making our driveway entrance look all elven and dwarvish. Beyond the tragedy is the sheer annoyance--we have at least 20 trees to cut down for one reason or another (growing too tall and blocking the sun being the main one). Naturally, every one of them is smugly upright.

Time to take a break and have a chuckle.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Back again

Bad blogger again. Sorry.

I was in Central Massachusetts and Connecticut last week, doing a panel discussion at various Barnes & Noble stores with four other 2k8ers (pictured, clockwise from lower left, M.P. Barker, Marissa Doyle, me, Courtney Sheinmel (whose book, My So-Called Family, debuted this week on the 2k8 blog!), and N.A. Nelson. We had a blast, and to our surprise actually attracted audiences. We were talking about "Networking for Writers," and obviously the Class of 2k8 and other such writer collaboratives were central to our message.

Michele (M.P.) Barker instigated the mini-tour, and even hosted us at her house--way, way, beyond the call of duty. She also organized a lunch with other writers in the South Hadley area. Jeannine Atkins, author of Anne Hutchinson's Way and other historical picture books, was nice enough to blog about it.

Got home Sunday, rescued MCat from her loneliness, lured an unwilling Callie away from the next-door dogophiles with whom she'd been staying, and sank gratefully into a stupor. Welcomed Rob home from a grueling Quebec canoe trek on Monday, and then did whoknowswhat all week. I sort of started working on another book while Kathy at Harcourt reads my last Filioli revision, but also sort of didn't, mostly because I have a couple more events to prepare for.

On Sunday, November 2, at 2 p.m., I'll join Gail Page (Bobo and the New Neighbor) at Friend Memorial Library for a reading and signing. On Wednesday, November 5, at 3 p.m., I'll make the delightful trek to Eastport to talk, read, and sign at Peavey Memorial Library. And then November 12-16 I'll be in St. Peter, Minnesota, talking to students at Gustavus Adolphus College and the local middle school, and giving a talk/reading at the college's Courtyard Cafe at 4:30 p.m. Thursday, November 13.

That last gig was arranged by Lisa Heldke and Peg O'Connor, who grace the college's faculty in the winter and Our Little Town in the summer. They are expert at guerrilla marketing (witness the flyer at right, displayed strategically around town and making me look like An Actual Author).

They have nothing, however, on my dear friend Shelly from Connecticut, who last week pulled off the Barnes & Noble Altar Caper. She was in NYC delivering a copy-edited manuscript to an editor, and happened into B&N to see the thrilling sight of a stack of The Unnameables on an island devoted to new releases, with one book propped up on a bookstand.

Not thrilling enough, Shelly thought, noting that the top shelf of the island looked like an altar to literacy and my book was on the less august third shelf. So, in a maneuver no doubt captured on the store video camera, she switched my stack with the stack of "some baseball book" on the top shelf.

If the baseball author should read this, please be assured that the B&N staff no doubt corrected the outrage minutes after Shelly left the building. If not, well, the baseball season ended when the Red Sox lost anyway.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

October Ovation

Yesterday morning, I opened up the Bangor Daily News to see that Ilze Petersons of the Peace and Justice Center of Eastern Maine has won an award from the University of Maine as an inspiring woman. (Here's the story.)

I felt an immediate pang of guilt, followed by a burst of elation. The guilt I'll explain in a bit. I was elated because right then I knew what I'd write about today as my contribution to October Ovation, a blog round-up organized by 2k8er Barrie Summy and her cohort Laramie . We're all supposed to write about someone we admire. I was having trouble choosing.

So why the guilt?

I don't know Ilze Petersons. I think I talked to her on the phone once when I was a reporter. For at least a decade, however, I have believed that I would be happier and finer if I were the kind of person who did know the Ilze Petersons of this world. Watching the days tick by in which I still do not know Ilze Petersons, I feel uneasy.

Is this admiration or just self-castigation? For a New England Puritan, I'm not sure there's a difference.

Ms. Petersons has been the coordinator of the Bangor-based Peace and Justice Center for 15 years. The center gets involved in all sorts of causes--opposition to the war in Iraq has been the big one in recent years, but also environmental and social justice issues. Upcoming events include "Considering Democracy: Eight Things to Ask Your Representative" and "Crude Awakening: The Oil Crash."

It's not so much that I agree with the PJC, although I usually do. Nor is it that I approve of their rhetoric, which I sometimes don't. What excites admiration is the fact that Ilze Petersons and her colleagues keep this stuff going even though they're in Bangor, Maine, rather than, say, Berkeley, California.

Maine's Second District, which includes Bangor and my little town, recently has been targeted as a place that might vote for McCain/Palin. Sarah Palin is doing a quick stop at the Bangor airport this week, and her husband was here a few days ago. It ain't easy being an Ilze Petersons in an environment like this. People think you're misguided or nuts or an international conspirator or from Vermont.

And she's been walking around being this particular Ilze Petersons, day in and day out, for 15 years. FIFTEEN YEARS! Nobody holds a job that long, especially when a healthy segment of the population routinely distrusts your motives.

Ms. Petersons is not the only person around here who is capable of making those around her instantly happy and fine. Sister Lucy Poulin, who founded H.O.M.E., is another one, along with just about everyone who works with her.

But I don't want to cheat. One ovation per customer, please.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Brooke Taylor Puts Me to Shame

But first, this news flash: I finished my Filioli revision! This should not be misinterpreted to mean that the book is "finished." Ace editor Kathy Dawson has it now, and once again will delve deep into my psyche and identify all the places where I ignored The Little Voice and subconsciously told myself "This'll be fine, fine. Just leave it."

The Little Voice now has a megaphone, so I'm just hoping there are fewer of those places than last time. Still...*sigh.*

On to the topic of Brooke Taylor (2k8er and author of Undone) who has the contest of the gods going on at her blog all this month. In deference to the season, it has to do with vampires and ghosts and such. Check here for details.

As a reward for finishing my revision, I'm going to print out bookmarks for next week's events and listen to another chapter of The Graveyard Book. It's a face-paced life, up here in the woods.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Here and There

More mid-revision musings:

1. At the Class of 2k8 blog, you can enter an extremely easy contest to win a signed copy of The Unnameables!

2. I don't know why, but I keep forgetting to send you to Darcy Pattison's blog. Darcy, a writer and writing teacher, has been running a year-long series on 2k8 writers and their revision process. I'm up, this time. It was so nice of her to ask!

That's all. Back to reading aloud and cringing.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Authorial Matters

Too revision-ridden to make much sense, but here are a few current events:

1. Had a lovely time Friday night and Saturday at the Bangor Book Festival, where I was on a panel with Carrie Jones and Monica Wood and saw old friends and new people, and was fed sumptuously.

2. Lyny, featured earlier in this post about the forum that has been my on-line community for several years, gave birth to her second child, Marie-Ange, at 12:18 this morning. Marauders worldwide were in a dither around 8 a.m. EDT because Lyny's stepfather made the sensible decision not to call the news in to Meg in Milwaukee until a decent hour this morning, and we all knew her c-section had been scheduled for 10 p.m. But all's well, and....Happy Birthday, Marie-Ange!

3. I'm celebrating my book launch this week over at the Class of 2k8 blog. The week's offerings will include a tribute to my little town and an interview with Medford, Prudy, and the Goatman (characters in The Unnameables). Don't miss it!

4. I'm on a page with Neil Gaiman! The September/October issue of Scholastic's Instructor magazine, which goes out to 150,000 or so teachers, recommends The Graveyard Book, The Hunger Games, and *drum roll* The Unnameables as "three must-read fantasies."

Back to revision...

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Pub Day!

Today's the official publication day for The Unnmameables! I raised a glass of champagne last night, and read parts of the book aloud followed by celebratory drinks last Thursday.

Other than that, I marked the day by working on The Filioli. Yay for diligence!

But here's a celebration: A video created by Madison Meyer, one of two videographers hired by the Class of 2k8. I love it!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Last Weekend

After all the promises, I've forgotten half of the funny and insightful things I was going to say about last weekend, when Gail Page and I trekked to Boston for the New England Independent Booksellers Association trade show.

It was a hoot. How's that for insight?

The major revelation from the experience is that I'm losing my marbles, among other possessions. When I pulled out of the driveway Thursday, I saw the telltale flash of solid object in the rearview mirror--oops, something just fell off the roof. Sure enough, there in the road was the little case containing eighty percent of the CDs I play in the car. I'd vaccuumed the car the day before, and put stuff on the roof in order to do that, see. I turned around and retrieved the CDs, but I couldn't help feeling jinxed.

That night, Gail and I went to the Children's Book dinner, a highlight of which was the fact that each and every one of us got a signed copy of the latest book by each of the three famous and amazing speakers (Laurie Halse Anderson, Jeanne Birdsall, and Norton Juster). I was extremely excited, so much so that I left all three of my new books on top of the machine where you paid the parking garage, never to be seen again.

Out to Sunday brunch with Larry, with whom I was staying, I ordered a ginormous meal that included a bagel and cream cheese, which I carefully wrapped in a napkin to eat on the drive home. And of course left that behind, too.

I guess I'm lucky I didn't run somebody over during that trip.

I signed books at the trade show for a half-hour Friday afternoon, which was fun and not nearly as humiliating as I'd feared. (Meaning, people did actually ask me to sign books, for which they'd actually paid $2. Each. Hey, at least they paid...)(Among then, however, were Gail and 2k8ers Nina Nelson and Donna Freitas, helping to make me look popular. I returned the favor when it was their turn. Not that they needed me to.)

Here's a picture of me (left) at the signing table with Nadya Guerrero-Pezzano of the Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Marketing Department. Oh, and my book. Innit cute?

Saturday, Larry and I went to the annual field day at Quincy House, the Harvard residential house that Larry administers. Larry got to wear a striped referee shirt; otherwise, he would have had to compete with the staff team.
Events included a three-legged race, water balloon toss, balloon stomp, wheelbarrow race, tug of war, and the most bizarre pie-eating contest I'd ever seen. (The contestants plunged their faces into plates full of whipped cream to find pieces of bubble gum. The winner was the first to blow a bubble.)

Here's Larry pointing out to the multitude that House Master Lee Gehrke had a bubble going. Aren't they cute?

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Waiting for Thirteen

A little groggy today, because an 80-year-old lady here in town got lost walking to the post office yesterday morning (she was seen around 9 a.m. walking through the woods, as any right-thinking person would do rather than stick to the road). She lives alone, but her daughter got concerned when she couldn't raise her mother during the day. Around 9:30 p.m., in torrents of rain, the forest wardens called out the fire department to help look for her.

They were out all night. Rob came home briefly at midnight to get additional headlamps and again at 4 to get a couple of hours of sleep before heading out again. They found her at 7:30, suffering from hypothermia but otherwise alert and cheerful. Giddy relief, since everyone was assuming at that point that they were looking for a body.

As usual, my contribution to the effort was to sit or lie here fretting all night. Sometimes I'm worried about the person who's in peril, sometimes about the firefighters. Sometimes it's just that it still feels weird not to be rushing out to cover the event for a newspaper. Last night it was all of the above, because the weather was so foul.

It didn't help when, around 3:30, the dispatcher said, "Thirteen, do you need assistance?" (Rob's call number is Thirteen, giving you some idea of the cheery fellow I live with.) A few minutes later: "Thirteen, are you going to report in, please?" And a few minutes after that: "Thirteen, respond, please."


Turned out Rob was driving back to the station and had flung his radio into the back seat. He was not about to stop and look for it, so he just kept driving. Thanks for nothing, Bucko.

Tomorrow, if TS Kyle spares our electricity, I'll talk about my trip to Boston. Hey, it's only a week old. But it includes an afternoon at a Hahvid event during which the future leaders of our country threw water balloons at each other. So it'll keep.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Talking to Each Other Would Be Nice

OK, I'm in a snarky mood this week. (Who isn't?) Gotta share this one:

According to a Roll Call story on Tuesday, the Bush Administration has had this bail-out plan ready to roll for weeks, and now is pressuring Congress to push it through in a matter of days.

Here's the offending paragraph: Fratto [deputy press secretary] insisted that the plan was not slapped together and had been drawn up as a contingency over previous months and weeks by administration officials. He acknowledged lawmakers were getting only days to peruse it, but he said this should be enough.

I can understand that this thing would be a self-fulfilling prophecy if you talked about it in public before you had to. But if this were 1982 (I can't believe I'm saying this, since I hated the Reagan era and advocate sunshine at all levels), Ronald Reagan would have sat down weeks ago with House Speaker Tip O'Neill (a Dem) and Senate Majority Leader Howard Baker (also Dem). They would have had a little nip and a little chat and a little debate, and then O'Neill and Baker would have had a private nip and chat and debate with other critical Congressfolk, and when the plan became necessary most would have had time to research it and make thoughtful judgments.

Instead, everyone's working 28-hour days and running around fretting themselves into a frazzle, and we'll end up with legislation cobbled together by the exhausted and ill-informed. Whoever's the next president has got to stop this baloney. (Not the first word I thought of.)

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Life as We (Don't) Know It

This is just a quick one, to share this link. I've heard the same type of complaint about the U.S. chain stores.

Almost makes you leery of your friendly neighborhood multinational corporation, doesn't it?

Buy local! (Although as a complicating addendum, I have to point out that each Barnes & Noble store has a position called "community relations manager," and that person goes out of her/his way to schedule local authors, regardless of national heft (or payola). I've been in one event so far organized by a CRM, and will do others in October. This is a very smart thing for B&N to do--it gives the stores a homey feel and is great for the authors and the readers. That said...I still love my local independent and want it to survive. We all need the locals to survive, if only so we know about the impoverished books as well as the rich ones.)

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Hot Water Report

Sorry about the hiatus. Lots of stuff to come, because I had an entertaining trip to Boston, Cambridge and the New England Independent Booksellers Association trade show.

But first...the oil man just showed up for his every-57-days visitation, and the results are in. Turning the oil-fired water heater on and off does save oil, and much more than we expected.

Two months ago, we thought we'd switch the furnace on for a few hours every other day. Turned out that sometimes (when we weren't working up too much of a sweat) we could keep it off two days out of three. A pot and a half of water heated up on the stove took care of the dishes on cold-water day two. (It helps that we're not exactly gourmet cooks.) On the other hand, a couple of times we kept the furnace on for several days in a row while we had visitors whom we didn't want to stink out or subject to hardship.

And now (*drum roll*) the results: The previous 57 days, we used 41.7 gallons of oil to heat our hot water. In the 57 days just past, when we were conducting the experiment, we used 25.4 gallons.

Since the price per gallon of oil had dropped from $4.35 to $3.65, this was a happy, jolly visit from the oil man.

The world could use a little happiness and jollity right about now, don't you think?

We haven't quite worked out what we're going to do this winter. We can get along fine without the furnace in the main part of the house, but the addition has to be kept at 50 degrees so the pipes in the downstairs bathroom don't freeze. Plus, I'm going to be living in the addition while my knee heals after surgery in November.

On warm days after The Healing, though, you can bet we'll be flipping that switch.

Monday, September 8, 2008

First Sighting!

As noted in the comments, my friend Sandi in Tennessee found The Unnameables in a Barnes & Noble. On an actual shelf. For sale. To anyone who walks in. Like, strangers.

Oy. It's real. My stomach's in knots.

Here's the great thing about Internet friends...right now, someone at B&N and and someone else at Amazon are scratching their heads, pondering these bizarre single sales in Tennessee, Iowa, Montreal, Tokyo and London, to name just a few. Oh, and Australia. (*Waves to MaraudingDon.*)

This particular group of Internet friends is The Marauders, members of a private forum that started as a Harry Potter "theorizing" outlet...lessee, 2003, the year Order of the Phoenix came out. We started out discussing such weighty issues as whether Snape was good or bad (touchy subject, nowadays), what the triumphant gleam in Dumbledore's eye meant at the end of Goblet of Fire, and whether Dumbledore was gay. (Just kidding--most of us figured Lupin.)

As we got to know each other, we branched out and discussed our lives, politics, other books, movies, current events, you name it. Many of us had alter-ego characters for comic relief--in fact, the character now named Durindana in The Filioli was born as Astrella, an overdressed and hapless fairy who lived in a pub chandelier. (My editor's not thrilled with the name Durindana, so maybe she'll end up Astrella after all.)

It wasn't long before Harry Potter was secondary--nowadays, almost nonexistent--as a basis for the forum.

This became most obvious the day Lyny in Montreal discovered she was pregnant with her first child. She couldn't find her husband, Patrick, so she got on line and told us. As time went on, we saw ultrasounds, belly shots, and baby furniture, and the mothers in the group were free with advice. At last, when Lyny was in labor and having a difficult time, her mother and stepfather kept calling Meg in Wisconsin, who kept logging on to the Marauder site and telling the rest of us what was happening. We were prepared to stay up all night with Lyny and Patrick, but little Etienne was kind enough to arrive at 10 p.m.

Just this past Saturday, a group of Marauders (not me, unfortunately) watched via live feed while Meg got married.

Over the years, many of us have met in person. When Rob and I were in London we had dinner our first night with Andrew (known to us as Aberforth) and his wife, Melanie. Last summer, a bunch of us met for a couple of days at Niagara Falls, of all places. In both cases, it was more like a reunion than a first meeting.

When I joined the Marauders, I had just left my newspaper job and was working alone for the first time in twenty years. In some sense, the forum replaced office mates--if I felt like a break, I'd log on there for a chat.

It's hard to figure what this kind of thing will do to us as a species. OK, each of us is sequestered with the computer, ignoring any actual humans who might be sharing space with us. But we're essentially writing notes to each other, which used to be a dying art and has to be good for some part of the brain. For Lyny in Montreal and Emmalinde in Germany, this is a chance to practice written English. The rest of us now have friends who are furriners or Californians. (Sorry...channeling Tim Sample again.)

Does typing on a computer count as human interaction? Maybe not exactly...but it sure feels that way.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Best Intentions

Our neighborhood observed Labor Day with a backyard barbecue and chatfest two doors down at Greg and Cope's house. The event was supposed to be an energetic afternoon of lawn games: croquet, bocci, horseshoes, and some strange but enthralling game in which you threw a cord with balls on the end and tried to wrap it around a bar.


Here's what the lawn looked like for ninety-nine percent of the day:

Here's what we looked like:

As a neighborhood, it's safe to say we are talkers, eaters and drinkers rather than energetic game players.

Mostly talkers.

Plus, September was starting. We had to rest up.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

You Can't Get There from Here

At risk of sounding like a Tim Sample joke...

Rob went to the general store to get his midmorning cup of coffee, and while he was there some poor tourist poured himself a cup and sat down at the lunch counter next to a regular, Eliot (not his real name).

Poor Tourist: You've got a nice little town here.

Eliot: Used to.

PT: What do you mean?

Eliot: Too many damn people.

*General store erupts in snickers, Rob's included. PT gets up and leaves.*

Oh dear. If you're reading this, sir, please try us again in January.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Contest! And Denver!

You can win a signed copy of Laurel Snyder's middle grade debut novel, Up and Down the Scratchy Mountains, by entering the contest she's running at the Class of 2k8 blog.

The following is an unpaid political announcement, with Astaire allusion:

While I'm linking to things...Michele and Hillary and Bill and Joe may have wowed the crowd in prime time, but look what ol' Dennis can do to a bunch of empty seats at three in the afternoon. Kind of like doing it backwards in high heels. (A gratuitous Ginger Rogers reference to match yesterday's Prufrock joke.)

End of political announcement. Astaire allusion may crop up again at any time.

Wanna hear about my day? No? I don't blame you.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Stuff and Nonsense

I'm taking a break from doing something I didn't expect to enjoy: writing a "movie treatment" of The Unnameables.

My agent, the shoe-obsessed and professionally optimistic Kate Schafer Testerman, asked me to write this treatment so that she and others can dangle it enticingly in front of people who work in LA. Being professionally skeptical, I'm not holding my breath.

But it turns out that writing a film-oriented version of your book is an excellent exercise in "show, don't tell." All the worries and fears my protagonist keeps in his head now have to be out where the camera can see them. I'm considering doing a film treatment of The Filioli before I've even finished it, just to see what it does to my brain.

In other news, The Unnameables has officially been released from the warehouse. I am going to my first event as An Author in a mere two weeks. It's a "Focus on New England" author showcase at Barnes & Noble, 9 Marketplace Drive, Augusta, Maine. Wednesday, September 10, 6 p.m.

Last night I went to supper at my friend Kim's house, joined by her husband, Tom, and Michele Corbeil, pictured in the last post with brownies and knitting. She brought brownies. I ate one. The ecstacy has lasted 18 hours, so far, although I did boost it at noon with a piece of Lindt dark chocolate with mint. (Michele warned that these brownies trigger the binge reflex. I will eat a peach--trousers unrolled--and see if that stops it.)

The trouser bit is a stupid T.S. Elliott joke. Told you I was a nerd. J. Alfred Prufrock, I think, although who the hell knows and I'm not looking it up.

Hot water update: We now find we can get along turning on the furnace for two or three hours every other day. There's enough hot water on the in-between day to do the dishes, although not to shower or do laundry. A cold sponge-bath can be very refreshing, at least in August.

Trouble is: I'm going to have the torn meniscus in my knee repaired just when winter is coming on (November, I hope). I'll have to avoid stairs for six weeks, which means I have to move into the guest room on the first floor, for which the furnace is the only heat source. I plan to make use of space heaters, but still it's a blow to the checkbook.

Monday, August 25, 2008


Our little town held an early harvest festival yesterday, complete with balloons, t-shirts, and a food fairy who made us all eat celery. The festival, called Brooklin Eats, was the work of a "friends and neighbors" group whose other projects include affordable housing and public walking trails. Most of the vendors were farmers from Brooklin and neighboring towns, most of the produce organic.

The town band, a collection of khaki-clad music enthusiasts who chiefly play on the Fourth of July, must have been spending the rainy days practicing like mad--it sounded great, lots of oompa-laden town-band-type tunes.

Here's what it all looked like:

At right is the food fairy (aka Beth Gorski) rocking out to an oompa tune played by the town band. The little bunny bag she's holding had celery and carrot sticks in it. She was forceful about offering them to us all.

This is Tim Seabrook of Five Star Nursery and Orchard, selling organic peaches, pears and golden Japanese plums. He and his wife, Leslie (background, back to camera), sell raspberries earlier in the season and apples later on, as well as making cider. They're also artists, but manage to paint and make prints only in the winter because the rest of the year they're going nuts.

Tim and Leslie and Rob and I buy joint subscriptions to Penobscot Theatre Company in Bangor every year. Otherwise we'd never see each other. Also we'd become axe murderers in February without knowing we had a theater jaunt to look forward to.

This is Michele Corbeil, who works at WoodenBoat Magazine but also is a world-class knitter and baker (notice the brownies, which could kill you but you'd die happy), as well as a pastel artist.

Last September, Michele and I and four other women spent a blissful week in the middle of Penobscot Bay on Bear Island (owned by Buckminster Fuller's family, which rents out selected houses) . I worked on The Filioli out there, writing by hand in a notebook as I haven't done for some 25 years. No electricity or running water, yet we lived like queens in an old farmhouse right on the water.

This year I can't go because everything book-related is at the wrong stage to go off the electric grid. Plus I'd have to leave mid-week to go to New England Booksellers in Boston. (Not complaining, mind you. ) Plus I've got a torn meniscus in my knee and can't walk. (I am complaining about that.)

Saturday, August 23, 2008


The sun is shining and I have a star.

A Kirkus star, that is. Harcourt got an advance copy of the Unnameables review that will be in the September 1 issue, and to my utter amazement it's a starred one. It concludes:

Booraem’s debut is an ever-surprising, genre-defying page-turner. Realistic
characters deal with philosophical problems in vivid, flowing prose that is
evocative and often funny. A sort of combination of witch-trial-era Salem
The Giver, this book offers a treat with nearly every page turn.
I am pumped.

In other news, our friends Linda and Michael just left, heading home for Rhode Island. Being the perfect visitors, they left their weather karma behind. It's supposed to be sunny today and tomorrow, take a brief cloud break Monday, and be sunny again Tuesday.

In their honor, here's a peek into the Further Adventures of Dudley, Bon Vivant:

This (left) is Dudley trying to get to know the cat. All he knows of her is the fur she's left on her little cat door, which leads to the cellar and her litter box. Callie barks her fool head off when Dudley gets out of the car and heads for the house, tipping off McGonagall that it's time to head for shelter. Sometimes she plagues Dudley by huddling just on the other side of the cat door, so he knows she's there but can't see her. Sometimes she sticks her head out for a split second. Anytime a waft of air moves the flap, Dudley freezes in position for a good ten minutes. And still nothing happens.

Here's the cat's-eye view

and the dog's-eye view...

and the recovery (below) on the chair in my office.

Linda and I did some kayaking the past couple of days but (perhaps mercifully) I kept forgetting my camera. Take my word for skies, spruce-covered islands (which someone compared to Don King's hair), tropical-looking (and arctic-feeling) water. You can't beat it.

And I have a star.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Blue Skies and Cheese

Our friends Linda and Michael are visiting from Rhode Island, and once again their weather karma holds. They rent a camp up here for a week every summer--no matter when they come up and no matter how dreadful life is before they come and after they leave, they always, always, always have great weather. This time, our last bits of rain came on Saturday, when they were driving and didn't need it to be nice. The sun came out yesterday, and is predicted to stay out all week.

Last night we ate dinner at their camp, which is on Eggemoggin Reach. At left is one last stubborn cloud rushing off after the rest of the flock.

Linda and Michael's young dog, Dudley, (below) spent the cocktail hour eying the cheese from increasingly close range. Minutes after these photos were taken, when no one was paying attention, Dudley grabbed the cheese and pranced off with it. Being dog-lovers all, we got it back, rinsed it off, and kept eating it.

Today, I feel a strange urge to scratch my ear with my foot.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Rain! Rain! Rain!

Is there anything more depressing than clothing left outside in the rain?

Well, yes. Standing at the screen door, wearing four layers of clothing topped by a layer of fleece, staring out at the rain. With houseguests.

Shelly, my dearest friend since high school, came to visit this past weekend with her husband and son. They drove for seven hours up from Connecticut on Thursday, and Friday it rained all day. Then, oh joy, the skies cleared Saturday in time to take them kayaking on spectacular Eggemoggin Reach.

Then they left Sunday and it's been raining ever since.

Those are Rob's kayaking shoes above left, put out on the deck railing to dry, heh-heh. That's a soggy, moldy flower garden in the background. (I don't even dare sneak down to the veggie garden to see what's happened to the beans and zinnias. I think all we have left down there that's edible is zucchini. Somebody tried to unload a bag of zucchini on me yesterday, so I guess the annual Hot Zucchini Hand-off has begun.) That's my hat at right, put out on the adirondack chair for no reason whatever.

But you didn't come here for a big gripe-fest, now did you?

So I'll tell you about stripping at Wheaton College in 1969. (This popped into my mind after a reunion with Dane and Laura, two of my college roommates.)

There were two oddities about the first week of freshman year back then. One was "posture pictures." We lined up in a featureless cinderblock hallway, went into a featureless room, took off all our clothes, and had our pictures taken. The idea was that someone would examine them and determine what we needed to do to improve our posture, presumably so that we would look nice in a strapless evening gown when we inevitably became Corporate Wives.

Every year, a rumor flew around campus that a Brown University fraternity had stolen the negatives and made placemats out of the photos.

Fortunately, it was the late Sixties and the cusp of the Seventies. Over the previous summer, Wheaton had decided to drop a requirement that students wear skirts to dinner. Wheaton did this because students had begun to quibble about the definition of "skirt" and had started wearing bathrobes. The posture-picture tradition bit the dust soon after my freshman year--in fact, my class may have been the last year to be photographed. Apparently, you didn't need good posture to wear a tie-dyed tunic and ragged bell-bottoms. And fewer and fewer of us were Corporate Wife material.

The other highlight of freshman induction that year was a bizarre test that required you to jump into the pool fully clothed over your bathing suit, take off your shirt and pants while treading water, and knot them and blow into them underwater so they turned into handy life preservers. Apparently Corporate Wives tended to go sailing without the proper safety gear.

I got out of this test because I had a cold, but the phys. ed. teachers still made me sit there and watch. One of my classmates, half drowned, swam over to the side of the pool and slapped her sodden clothes down at the phys. ed. chairman's feet. "Come on, you can do it," the chairman said (or words to that effect). My classmate gave her a withering look, heaved herself out of the pool, and walked away with as much dignity as you can muster when you've failed to blow up your jeans.

I wonder if she ever regretted her failure. I wonder if I'm on a placemat somewhere.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Rain and Stuff

It's been a semi-yucky ten days or so since that last post. We are having One of Those Summers--it's been raining pretty much nonstop since mid-July. Right now it's not even 60 degrees. I'm wearing fleece and wool socks. I have a sinus headache from the mold that has vanquished the world. I am not a happy puppy.

In nicer news, Carrie Jones has another book out! Although, on the other hand, she has no right to be so prolific, no right at all. This one is Girl, Hero, following on the heels of Love and Other Uses for Duct Tape and Tips on Having a Gay (ex)Boyfriend. She also has a picture book coming out this fall, and Need, a story about a pixie/stalker, is coming out in January with Bloomsbury.

The picture is of Carrie signing books last Sunday in Ellsworth, when she launched Girl, Hero. Congratulations, Carrie!

Surprisingly, the effort to cut down on hot water use has not contributed to my bad mood. It seems to be working quite well, although right now we're forgetting the whole effort while we have house guests. We have the furnace on for maybe three or four hours a day, and some days we don't turn it on at all, but manage to do the dishes with lukewarm tap water boosted by a kettle of boiling water. We'll see whether any of this actually saves money.

I plan to cheer myself up by blogging more. Heh. See you in a day or two!

Monday, July 28, 2008

We Take Action

Here at Ne'er-do-well Acres we are public-spirited to a fault. This morning, we started an experiment of Global Importance.

We turned off the oil furnace.

OK, OK, it's July and it's 75 degrees out, so we aren't sacrificing our comfort. But our furnace also heats our water. The Oil Man came this morning, and we found that since June 2 we had used $181.40 worth of oil for water alone. (That works out to $1,161 a year at the current price. That won't break us, I guess, but still...)

There are three schools of thought (at least) on how to conserve when your water's heated by an oil furnace. One says that you should just shoot yourself, thereby removing the need for any hot water at all. A more optimistic view is that you can save money by installing a timer and heating water only for those few hours a day when you're most likely to need it. The idea is that the furnace wastes energy turning on all day to maintain the perfect water temperature even when you're not using hot water.

Still another school, however, says "Pffft. You'll use just as much oil heating up a tankful of cold water once a day as you would just keeping the water hot all day. We agree with School Number One and what are you using for ammo?"

This being the single time of year when we use the furnace only for hot water, we're going to see which school of thought gets the Ne'er-do-well Medal for Extreme and Utter Truth. At the moment, we're thinking we'll turn the furnace on when we get up in the morning and indulge in a frenzy of showering, laundering, and doing dishes (no, we don't have a dishwasher and yes, the dishes will rot in the sink overnight). Then we'll turn that sucker off again.

One complication is that we have at least two sets of overnight guests coming in August and we're not sure they'll share our thirst for knowledge. But they probably will. (Most of them, anyway--our friend Michael probably is in School of Thought Number Three.)

In the winter, we usually keep the thermostat at 60. Rob heats his basement studio with a woodstove and I heat my office with an electric space-heater, which is off or turned way down most of the day because my office gets a lot of sun and the house is super-insulated. Rob allows his stove to cool down in the afternoon and at 5 p.m. lights the stove in the living room, which heats the whole house more than we want it to sometimes.

This winter, we're thinking the thermostat will stay at 5o. At breakfast, we'll briefly turn on an electric space-heater by the dining room table. Otherwise, the cold in the rest of the house will encourage us to stay in our work spaces, which is all to the good because there isn't much you can do there

What we do about the hot water this winter will depend on the results of this summer's experiment. Let the shivering begin!

Before I go... be sure to check out the Class of 2k8 blog this week. The topic is "How a Story Becomes a Book" --from initial idea to publishing. Authors, agents, and editors will be weighing in. Sounds like it'll be fun and instructive.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Talk, Talk, Talk, Talk, Talk

I'm still revising, and just faced the fact that I have 25 straight pages in which everyone just sits around and talks about stuff. Sure, they eat chicken, they groom their wings, they wash the dishes in champagne, but other than that it's just jabber, jabber, jabber.

This discovery has brought on a massive attack of procrastination, during which I: 1. Ate peanuts; 2. Went outside and stared at everything that needs doing in the garden, which encouraged me to procrastinate on that, too; 3. Patted the cat; 4. Watered the plants; 5. Got started organizing some signings and stuff for the fall, which almost doesn't qualify as procrastination except that you and I both know that it is simply a more advanced form. Ditto writing this blog post.

We've been having a rainy week, but right now the sun is shining, the laundry is drying (after two days of hanging around damp), the birds are chirping, and the snail's on the thorn. Really, it would be much, much healthier to be outdoors, wouldn't it? Don't you think so? Right?

I know. I'm going back to work now.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Excuses, Excuses

Now, why haven't I been blogging this time? First of all, and mostly, there was the Great Filioli Revision (left). I'm attempting to use a method recommended by Holly Lisle --my editor found it on line, and it's intriguing. You spread your manuscript out on the dining room table, fend off the cat, evaluate the manuscript scene by scene, drive the cat off AGAIN, and then ruthlessly delete any scene that doesn't pass a battery of tests. I haven't actually deleted much, which probably means I'm doing it wrong, but I've certainly found a lot that has to change. So that's good. (Incidentally, that's a Rob painting in the corner--one of the 3D ones he used to do. It's about Reagan-era Nicaragua.)

Excuse number two: Fourth of July, and the town barbecue run by the Youth Corps. (That's the tug-of-war through the fire department's spray curtain at right.) The food was delicious, but as usual we were certain of disaster an hour before the parade spilled into the town green at 10:30 a.m. Everybody always wants to eat immediately, even though they probably just had breakfast an hour ago. The kids did all the serving, but we had a ringer doing the actual barbecuing (Paul, the husband of one of our board members, who can cook for a crowd without breathing heavily), so all we had to do was organize, buy, worry, and take money.

And then there's the Electronics Purchasing Frenzy of 2008, plus the launch of my new web site, designed by my next door neighbor, the multi-talented and ever-patient Greg Summers. I have to say, the bio gives me the heebie-jeebies just the way this blog does--never have been comfortable with what an old cohort of mine used to call "the perpendicular pronoun." There probably will be other additions (an interactive map is a possibility), but for now it's ready for prime time.

Having priced business cards, post cards, stationery and the like, I decided it was time to buy an inkjet printer as a companion to the much-beloved b&w laserjet I plan to keep using for most things. After extensive research (yup, I'm a nerd) I got an Epson, resolving to use it as little as possible because the ink prices are INSANE. Might as well print with high-test gasoline.

I also had promised myself I'd buy a flat-screen monitor (seen at left) when I sold another book. Plus, I just got a nice check from George W. Bush, and it was only patriotic to spend it. (Rob pointed out that both my printer and my monitor probably were manufactured overseas. Spoil sport.)

His point was made, however, when I took the monitor out of the box and discovered that I couldn't lower the "tail" to attach it to the base. I ended up calling HP tech support, and talking to several nice people in New Delhi. The first guy and I couldn't understand each other, and then he disconnected me. But the second techie, a woman, was very nice and put me on hold so she could run to the lab to try manhandling a similar monitor. Turns out you have to apply the kind of pressure everyone tells you never to do--I was sure I was about to snap something important. "Don't worry," the Indian lady kept murmuring, "if you break it we'll get you another one." I'm glad I was able to support the Indian economy, anyway.