Monday, July 16, 2007

Monday, July 16, 2007
Waxing Moon
Pluto Retrograde
Jupiter Retrograde
Venus Retrograde
Cloudy and coole
r

It was an intense few days. Most of it was great; some of it was sad. My grandmother and great-uncle are quite ill, and it’s painful to watch them fade. All we can do is as much as we can do.

Off to an early start last Thursday. I love to leave early in the morning, because the roads are clear, for the most part, and one can make good time. The drive all the way up to Kittery was pretty smooth. We stopped and did some shopping in the outlets – Lindt chocolates is a favorite. Then, it was on to Stonewall Kitchen, to stock up. Yes, their products are distributed down here, but I love shopping at the Company Store in York. Especially since they sell the anthology in which I’m included, Simple Pleasures of the Kitchen. While we were there, they invited us to a charity pancake breakfast on Saturday, which sounded terrific.

We wound up through into Ogonquit, where we stopped for lunch at The Egg &I. That has become one of my favorite restaurants, and I’m so excited to write an article about them. The food is great, the atmosphere is great, it’s just one of the best eating experiences in the northeast.

We headed back to the highway at Kennebunk and hopped off again at the exit to my grandmother’s. We stopped first at a few places and did a bit more shopping, and went over near Lake Sebago to Standish, where Korner Knitters is located. If you like knitting, it’s one of the best places – and they do mail order. Never fear, I’ll do an entry all about them for The Tactile Muse. Bought some yarn, and then headed to my grandmother’s.

She needed some errands run for her, so as soon as I got the car unpacked, I headed out again, list in hand. Ran the errands, got in some food, and we all had a lobster and clam dinner together. Her Parkinson’s is quite severe now, and she’s uncomfortable going out to eat. She’s always trying to get us to eat out and then she’ll eat by herself, but we’d rather get take-out and all be together.

The next morning, after breakfast, we left bright and early for Boothbay Harbor. What a lovely drive! That section of Maine is so gorgeous – I’ll have to post photos. We stopped at one of my favorite second hand bookshops up there – the bookshop connected to the library. It’s in a frame house in the center of town. They have all sorts of books inside, but outside, they have shelves of paperbacks for only ten cents, and you can just drop your dimes in a small box fastened to the door. It’s terrific. I wrote about the place for The Crafty Traveler a few years ago.

We walked around the town for a bit, including Sherman’s Bookstore, which is a wonderful, huge independent store that has a terrific selection of Maine-based authors as well as everything else. They also have an old-fashioned stationery department, which is one of my favorite things.

We had lunch at the place my friends own, The Townsend Avenue Coffee House and Wine Bar. Another place I’ve written about for The Crafty Traveler. It’s owned by two friends of mine who chucked their lives on Broadway a few years ago to live in Maine and run this place. It’s wonderful – the décor is lovely, the vibe is perfect, the food and drink are delicious. And it was great to visit with my friend and catch up. It made me realize how much I miss him! Turns out, they’ve started to do events with Sherman’s Books! How perfect.

Ran back to Sherman’s to pick up an anthology of Maine authors, called Harbor Journal, Volume I.

We got back in the car (even the parking attendants are nice in Boothbay Harbor) and started back. We stopped in Edgecombe, at the Edgecome Potters Galleries and saw some of the most beautiful pieces I’ve ever seen in my life. I bought two small pieces – I could have easily spent tens of thousands of dollars there. The work is stunning, and each piece is unique. The glazes are magnificent, and the kinetic sculptures – let’s just say that, once I have my house, the cats will have plenty on the walls they can watch!

Our next stop was at Winters Gone Farm in Wiscasset. It’s an alpaca farm. I was interested in going there because I know very little about Alpacas, although I do love the yarn. I fell in love. Those animals are so sweet, so funny, and have such personality. I mean, I fell in love with the breed. And the people who run the place, Skip and Judi Taylor are so warm and so friendly – no wonder the Alpacas are so happy there!

Came back, made dinner for my grandmother and great-uncle, and we had a visit. Unfortunately, they’d been too ill to come along on the day trip – anything more than twenty or thirty minutes is too much for them to handle at this point.

There’s an event in early September that I’d like to attend in Boothbay Harbor – I’m going to see if I can swing it. I’d also like to take a trip on one of the schooners, to see what that’s like. What can I say? I’m getting addicted to the whole sailing thing.

Saturday, we left early and headed back to Stonewall Kitchen in York for the charity pancake breakfast. It was only $3 per person, and you waddled out of there – pancakes or waffles heaped with fruit (blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries) and whipped cream, coffee, and juice. We ended up sitting with people from Rye, NH! Which was funny. It was a great event, and the co-founders of Stonewall, who put it all together (and stood there making the waffles all morning) are just terrific.

We took a detour into New Hampshire for a couple of hours in order to take a look at a piece of property. The house and property are great – the location’s not what we want. Which is a shame. Also, having that much land, while it would be great, would mean a bit of a change in life direction from what we expected – not necessarily a bad thing, but it requires some thought and planning.

The rest of the ride home was arduous. So much traffic and so many accidents. We passed at least three fatalities. Cell phones MUST be banned in cars, because people behave like idiots when they drive and talk on the phone – or, I should say, even more like idiots. A $100 fine isn’t enough – suspend the license. Too many people are dying because of distracted drivers. Accidents caused by cell phone distractions have now surpassed DUIs. For crying out loud, most people can’t walk and chew gum at the same time – they certainly can’t drive and talk on the phone.

So tired when I got home, but boy, were the cats happy to see me. I’d bought them lobster-flavored treats in Boothbay Harbor, which they enjoy. Got right back to work on Confidential Job #1, some more pitches, and some more work on the various articles I’m juggling. Caught up on some correspondence. Tweaked the DE website to update the “news” a bit.

This week could be busy and distracting – I got a call from the theatre while I was in Maine – someone’s gotten injured, and I may have to go in and do shows this week as well as juggling the articles. I also have a couple of newsletters to work on, and a few press releases. It’s good to be busy, though, so I’m not (really) complaining.

They’ve found asbestos in this building (gee, there’s a surprise –not), so they’re sealing off the basement to do the removal. I’m looking forward to getting the heck out of this Dodge.

I’m going to work on articles, press releases, Craigslist ads, and newsletters today, and then I want to re-write the end of Chapter ten of Tracking Medusa and, hopefully, move on.

My desk will need to be excavated soon, too. Things are stacking up again so badly I can barely see the screen.

But I’d rather be busy.

A copy of Mark Chisnell’s novel The Delivery arrived – I’m looking forward to reading it.

Oh, and before I forget: “Pauvre Bob”, one of my horse racing stories, will be in the Full Circle anthology, available on August 1. Stay tuned for more information.

Devon

April 29, 2007

Sunday, April 29, 2007
Waxing Moon
Pluto Retrograde
Jupiter Retrograde
Cloudy and warm

It was a good trip, but not an easy trip. Nothing like your family to completely tip your equilibrium!

I received the next assignment from Confidential Job #1, along with the notification that the invoice I submitted was approved. Woo-hoo! Guess they like me! I’m still waiting both for payment from Confidential Job #2 and if they’re going to give me another assignment. Another freelance job asked for samples; I sent them; when I got back yesterday, there was the exact same email asking for samples, so I RE-SENT them, with a pointed email saying that’s what I did.

Icelandair fixed the problems, with many apologies, so it all seems good – provided they actually did what they said they did. I have all the paperwork, so we’ll see.

Wednesday night, I took my friend J. to the PEN World Voices Festival – readings at Town Hall. We went in early enough to have a cocktail at the Algonquin’s Blue Bar (one of my favorite places). I had a sidecar – they make the best sidecars ever.

The event itself was amazing! Tonight’s event was “Writing Home”. Salman Rushdie provided the introduction – and, three times, admonished people to turn off their cell phones and some idiot’s phone STILL went off halfway through! The writers reading from their work were: Steve Martin, Pia Tafdrup, Don DeLillo, Tatayana Tolstaya, Saaadi Youssef, Kiran Desai, Alain Mabanckou, Neil Gaiman, Nadine Gordimer, and Salman Rushdie. Each one was uniquely exquisite.

We left walking on air. What a wonderful way to replenish the soul!

THIS is a writers’ conference. A place where writers share ideas and responsibility and use their talents to change the world, to make it a better place. This is an international organization of writers committed to justice, peace, and making a difference in the world, inspiring everyone with whom they come into contact, and I am honored to be a part of it.

THIS is what a writers’ conference should be, rather than what most are – places where wanna-be writers try to find agents for books that will never be written and go to marketing seminars for work that they’ll never finish. Yes, it’s important for conferences to provide the business protocols on a regular basis, both because of the constant influx of starting writers and those who, no matter how many times they’re told, believe none of it pertains to THEM, but there’s really nothing out there for the working writer. Conferences bring together starting out writers and wanna-be writers with best-sellers. There is nothing for the steadily working writer who’s crafting a career – and a life – in the art form without bestseller-dom or spending 80% of the time marketing rather than writing.

PEN’s festival is about craft and content, not marketing. There was a sense of community, of writers and readers embracing each other, rather than a sense of competition and cliques which pervades so many conferences. These are people who want to talk to those who attend, who want to interact, who give a damn. They are confident in their skills and their work and in their sense of responsibility to humanity at large, but also humble.

It was an eye-opening, soul-reviving, life-changing experience.

Afterwards, J. and I went to the Campbell Apartment for another drink and to continue that feeling of well-being (because once we got on wonky, unreliable Metro North, it was hard to maintain).

I’m seriously thinking of writing a book of short stories based on Metro North nightmares. Darkly funny. Because there’s got to be a way to make positive use out of all the pain and frustration this train line causes on a daily basis!

Unfortunately, when I got home, I discovered that I’d broken the little toe on my left foot and it was black and swollen. I knew I’d tripped over something earlier in the day, but didn’t think it was a big deal.

It was. I had to adjust it (all together now – Owww!), ice it, and tape it.

Since I got home after midnight, I had a heck of a time getting up at 4:30 on Thursday morning. We were an hour late starting off for Maine – and I was up, I was packed, but I couldn’t get it together to get out of the house!

The drive up was fine, as always. The Rabbit drives like a dream and loves the highway. We stopped at my favorite Nutcracker Bakery in Newburyport, MA for coffee and a snack, then I nipped in to visit Jabberwocky Books there. If you’re ever in Newburyport, or near it, you MUST visit Jabberwocky – it’s an amazing bookstore and right next to the bakery. Tess Gerritsen turned me on to that place, and every time I go to and from Maine, I thank her for it!

We meandered through lower Maine the way we usually do – did some shopping in Kittery, stopped at the thrift shop in York, the Book Barn in Wells – which is about to close! After 25 years, they are going into semi-retirement and only working online via Alibris. The two lovely frame houses that are the store and the house have been sold to the shopping center beside them. I hope they’re not torn down! I bought my two final books there, and will miss them terribly.

We made our usual stop in Stonewall Kitchen in York. Stocked up on some more of their Wild Maine Blueberry jam, horseradish cream, shallot and champagne mustard, and they had a spicy corn relish that’s so good I bought the biggest jar they carry.

My grandmother had asked us to buy a few things on the way in, so we went to the Wells Food Mart (beside the bookstore) to get things. Then, it was a stop at the wonderful Maine Diner for a lobster lunch, and back onto the Maine Turnpike at Kennebunk. Those Bushes really ought to give the town some money to fix the roads! They can spare it, and the roads are in bad shape!

We got to my grandmother’s, unloaded the car, and filled up the freezer with all the things I’d cooked. My grandmother is too ill to cook anymore, so when I go up, I cook batches of things she and her brother like, put them in microwave containers, and stock her freezer. We also brought her a stack of Large Print mysteries – her eyesight’s failing, so she can’t see to read unless it’s Large Print. I taught her how to run the CD player I’d given her for Christmas so she could listen to the Books on Tape I’d bought (because no one else could be bothered to take the two and a half minutes to figure it out). My grandmother’s cousin and her granddaughter stopped by, whom I’d never met, so we had a nice visit.

We ordered in food from Bob’s Seafood over in Windham, and my great-uncle got a ride in the new car with me to get it, which was fun. We visited and caught up. My grandmother’s Parkinson’s is much worse, but she says it’s better since they switched her medication, so I can only imagine how bad it was in the interim.

My foot was killing me, so I put it up and iced it off and on for a few hours (in ten minute bursts – any more and it hurts the nerves).

Friday morning, I read a colleague’s manuscript (which is GREAT by the way. Not good – GREAT. Any agent or publisher who doesn’t snatch it up immediately is a complete and utter moron and the publishing industry is DOOMED). Meanwhile, I had the laundry going downstairs. We’d brought up two loads of laundry from NY, because we don’t know when we’ll have a laundry room again, and they had some laundry, and since I AM a laundry goddess, I did the whole lot of it.

My grandmother felt well enough to dress and wanted to come shopping. We made a list and went to Shaw’s. I LOVE that store! Ever so much better than many of the stores around here. And everyone’s so friendly and helpful. And it’s set up logically. The matches are with the lighter fluid and fireplace logs instead of in the middle of the dish soap (as in one store here) – and most stores in my area no longer sell kitchen matches “because everyone has a lighter”. So I stocked up on things like kitchen matches and oyster crackers to take back to NY, and got my grandmother’s grocery shopping done, and then ran into Staples to get some 3 hole punch paper (which is hard to get down here, but it’s what I use for drafts because I put them in binders).

Got Grandma back home, the groceries put away, the laundry folded, more work done on the manuscript. Then, it was back to Bob’s Seafood for lobster rolls for lunch (yum). After lunch, I had to head back out because I had to find a place to get keys copied. I have a 30 year old security lock on my door here, which does make me feel secure, but a single key makes me nervous. Down here, key cutters shrug and say they “can’t.” So I thought maybe a more rural area would have more resourceful locksmiths.

I found one, and I learned more than I ever knew about making and matching keys. You know it’s going to come in handy in a story someday. He was absolutely lovely, and I may need to base a character in something on him someday. Of course, I couldn’t test the keys until we got back to NY yesterday, but – they work! Ta-Da!

Did some other shopping (like I needed to spend the money). Came back to the house, finished the manuscript, wrote up the notes, and my grandmother’s sister-in-law stopped by, and we also had a nice visit. Then I started the next assignment for Confidential Job #1, fixed dinner, and helped my grandmother go through some things which I took back here to NY to get repaired – since I’m in wardrobe, I know the places that specialize in these kinds of repairs.

Somewhere in all of this, I ended up with a tick on me, which nearly sent me over the edge, but I got it off and stomped on it before it bit me. Two of my friends have had Lyme Disease, and it’s left them with permanent damage. I’m just glad I noticed it before it had the chance to chomp.

Up early yesterday morning, got my grandmother sorted out, packed the car. We were on the road by 7:30, and stopped in Ongonquit at The Egg & I for breakfast. I’ll be writing about this restaurant soon. The short version: The best eggs benedict I’ve ever had anywhere, and scrumptious coffee. Delightful! Not only is the food great and the atmosphere welcoming, but the other diners were all cheerful and interesting.

Back on the road, stopped in Newburyport for gas. Picked up a Boston Globe, but was halfway across the MASS pike before I saw that I missed my colleague Jon Clinch by MINUTES. He was appearing at 10 AM in Newburyport – I’d taken gas at 9:50 only a mile down the road, but didn’t find out about it until I stopped at a rest area and glanced at the paper around noon! Talk about ships that pass in the night! Jon’s book is FINN – if you haven’t read it, read it. It’s a harsh, beautiful book. I would have loved to stop by and support him.

Stopped in Sturbridge, MA, at Earth Spirits, to stock up on incense and oils. Their quality is so terrific it’s always worth the stop.

Stopped at a bookstore down the street from me on the way in, looking for Jill Shalvis’s latest to take with me on the plane on Tuesday. They didn’t have it. They didn’t have ANY of her books. I was NOT amused. I said, “The reason better be that you’ve sold through them and your re-orders haven’t yet arrived. The next time I walk in here, I expect to see an ENTIRE SHELF of her books!” I bought DANCING SHOES AND HONKY TONK BLUES by Luann McLane and SUSANNAH’S GARDEN by Debbie Macomber, both of which look good. That, along with POISON STUDY, should work for the trip.

The cats were glad to see me. I unpacked, finished the assignment for Confidential Job #1, and tried to get settled for today.

Worked on my pre-Derby article, the manuscript critique, and the report for CJ#1. Got the critique done and out; have most of the report for CJ#1 complete. The Derby piece still needs more work, but I have to finish it before I head for the city this morning.

Today, I’m at the PEN World Voices Festival again all day – I can’t wait. It’s like finding an oasis in the desert. I come out of these sessions so inspired and so honored to be in the company of people like these writers. And most of the attendees are pretty fascinating, too.

I had to move the car again when I came back – the brook’s too high, and, even on Friday, there was some concern of yet another flood.

I can’t really go into the emotional impact of the trip. It’s difficult to see my grandmother, who could always run rings around everyone, grow more and more frail. And, on the one hand, she’s appreciative that I come up and do all the things no one else thinks are important enough to take the time to do, but, on the other hand, she’s always harping on me. She’s proud of all the other relatives and what they’ve accomplished, but I’m the black sheep – and only because I’m not married and not popping out babies all the time. She’s finally accepted the fact that I’ll never get “a real job” and that I’m making a decent living in the theatre and now, switching to the freelancing. She’s stopped telling me that, “well, you’ll HAVE to do something you hate if you want to succeed in this world” and I’ve stopped countering with, “I won’t.”

I think a friend of mine is correct when he said that, because she made the choice of duty to “give up her art” (she was a talented artist) in order to devote herself to her husband, and then, after he died and her sister-in-law died, to move back to Maine to “take care” of her brother, she resents the fact that I’ve always refused to make the same decision. I’m willing to support and care for the man in my life – but not to the extent of dismissing or giving up my own writing. I won’t do it. And, according to my friend, whether she’s conscious of it or not, she has to punish me for that decision. And the fact that I can make it work.

Most of the time I get so upset and enraged and hurt that I’m beside myself by the time I leave. This time, I remembered the part of “detachment” that yoga always talks about and decided to apply it. I’m not denying that it hurt, frustrated, and annoyed me. But, this time, I decided it wasn’t going to fester, nor was I going to start an argument. There was far too much to do, too little time in which to do it, and I’ve had way too much to deal with in the past months to have to defend my choices to ANYONE. And I could move through the anger and hurt much more easily by not letting it infect me like a cut that wasn’t properly cleaned. It’s almost as though catching and destroying the tick before it bit me was symbolic of the entire trip.

Off to PEN, to waft on the wings of inspiration for the day.

Devon