Showing posts from 2015

Sorrow's Ashes

Well, we've finally done it.  After years of writing, editing, rewriting, soliciting agents, researching self-publishing, and formatting our book to suit the publisher, the novel my husband and I started together is available in paperback form.  Along the way, I've had to learn a lot of new things. I built a website, and I switched to an entirely new word processing program.  I've converted all sorts of files and studied advice on working with digital images to get the right results in the final print.  In the story, we've had to adjust some of our original ideas, and the book that's published now is a little different than the early manuscripts we distributed to friends and family for review.  But I think, all in all, it's a stronger piece.

And it's fatter, too.  I honestly didn't realize how thick it would get when we converted it from standard letter sized pages to a 6 x 9 trade paperback book.  Still, it was a very satisfying feeling to hold the pro…

Community Reaction

Americans are well versed in cop stories.  We've been telling tales of crime and justice for a very long time through books, radio, TV and movies.  I guess you could add video games to that list as well.  And it's not just Americans, either.  Stories about police solving crimes and chasing bad guys are popular everywhere.  Still, since I am going to discuss recent events here in Fox Lake, Illinois, I'll begin by saying we Americans are pretty familiar with cop stories.  We know how this is supposed to go.  There are heroes, and there are villains.  Every crime comes with a set of clues that ultimately reveal the truth, and the criminal is caught before too long- half an hour maybe, or at least before you turn the final page.  We know the rhythm of it, and we know the characters.  While there may well be a twist in the investigation, we know it won't be too complicated and we'll be satisfied with the justice in the end.  Since we are so familiar with the way th…


Up to now, Fox Lake's claim to fame was that it was a favourite vacation spot for some of Al Capone's gang who spent a lot of time drinking and gambling at the Mineola Hotel.  Otherwise, it's a generally quiet place with some pretty scenery.  Working class families live here.  Neighbors might have weekend barbecues, and you have to take it slow on the side streets because it's not unusual to encounter packs of kids playing ball or riding bikes.  There's been a different tone since Tuesday.

I say "here" not in the just-passing-through way you may have heard reporters use on the news lately.  No, "here" is where I live.  Fox Lake has been my home for around 20 years now.  That abandoned cement plant they referenced in the early reports of this crisis is the very same I posted about here (though it's now devoid of its cheerful graffiti.)  I passed by it on my way to work only about 10 minutes before the crime that day.  While I did not know Lt.…


Writing is, by its basic nature, a solitary activity.  There's only enough room for one at the keyboard or the notebook page.  To write, you're taking things out of your head and transferring them to paper.  Nobody is going to do that better than you because only you have the front row seat to that show.  You can try to get someone else to share your vision.  That's pretty much the point of writing.  But no matter how good you are at describing your ideas, the succeeding versions will always be just a little different.  It's just the way it is, and it's not a bad thing.  I've commented before on the nature of art being a collaboration between artist and audience.  Half the magic is in what your reader brings to the experience.  Still, to draw this back to my original point, nobody else is as close to the source of your story as you; so you write alone.

At the same time, writing's basic nature is social.  Yes, authors are often stereotyped as odd, reclusive …


You see a lot of bookmarks when you work in a library.  For one thing, they're a particularly useful tool for advertising upcoming classes and events.  Each one is like a mini flyer, easily tucked into books or displayed temptingly for the taking.  It's kind of a natural fit because, for all the wonderful things a library offers these days, people do still come looking for books.  And, despite the urge to finish some books in a single sitting, most of us just don't have that kind of time all in one block.  In today's busy world, bookmarks are a necessity.

In addition to the ones programming librarians create to promote their offerings, library workers also get to see a lot of bookmarks accidentally left in the returns.  These can range from manufactured types, lovely things purchased or received as gifts, to homemade crafts, to some creative substitutes.  Anything handy becomes a bookmark when you've suddenly realized you were lost in another world and didn't …

Toad Space

I encountered a toad the other day as I was preparing a garden bed for planting.  He nearly went unnoticed, being the same size and colour as a clump of the soil I was working.  But he hopped, and dirt doesn't do that.

A toad is a very ordinary thing to find outdoors in spring time, but I reflected that I haven't seen many of them lately.  When I was young, there wasn't a day in the green or brown seasons when I didn't see a toad, a turtle, a crayfish, or some similar small creature up close and personal.  In recent years, these encounters have been less frequent, mostly just during camping trips.  Rarely, there will be some accidental visitor to "human" space.  A few years ago, during a torrential rainstorm, a toad had hopped into the library with the morning deliveries and had to be redirected.  Around ten years past, I rescued a crayfish from a hotel pool.  Still, the daily contact has been missing.

Maybe part of my critter filled childhood was due to liv…

Walking With Ghosts

We live in a world of ghosts.  I've seen them.  One minute, I'll be driving along, and suddenly, there's a younger me pushing the stroller and walking into town on some errand.  It happens in a flash, and then it's gone, faded back into the past.  These spots are all over the area.  Every place I've been has a bit of me attached, and these bits reappear in a flash when I pass a point with a strong impression.  Sure, they're only memories, but it always strikes me odd how vivid they can be, especially when they are the most ordinary moments.  We all expect to remember the big things- a catastrophe, love at first sight, a wedding or the birth of a child.  All these things leave their ghosts because we recognize their importance and press them into our minds for later, or else the emotion is strong enough to burn them in without thought.  But it's funny how some absolutely inconsequential pieces etch themselves on your memory without the slightest reason …

When it All Falls Apart

Well, maybe not as dire as that. I suppose I should start by saying it's not all falling apart, at least not in anything more than the sense that everything is always falling apart.  Nature of the universe and all that.  Still, there have been things I've been trying to do lately that are running through some rough patches, and it's good to remind myself that falling apart is what things do.  If they didn't fall apart, we wouldn't have the challenge of putting them back together later.

Now, this post may be a bit scattered, and it may run over the same ground I've covered before.  Ah, well.  It's kind of where I am at the moment, and the thoughts are worth sharing because I'm sure you've been there, too.  So, enough apologies.  Here goes:

     I've always had a taste for big projects.  There are hundreds of little things that need doing around the house each day, but they hold no attraction like the major task that might take days of back-breaki…

Autocorrect to the Rescue

Many writers are quick to point out an error when they see one in the written form.  Even those who are too polite to say anything are likely to be seething inwardly as they read a mistake in grammar or spelling.  They can't help it.  In the course of embracing their craft, they have fallen in love with the language, and although that means they may take liberties with it themselves, trying risky or adventurous things, they also bristle at others' abuses.  In addition, good writers develop a knack for ferreting out problems with their own work, constantly honing their writing with each reading.  That habit doesn't stop just because they're looking at someone else's work.  Even when there is no real error, a writer may be thinking of some way it could have been said better.
     This almost unconscious editing can be subjective.  Everyone has their own set of rules that are inviolable and others they may forgive being bent or broken.  Some may instantly recogni…

Home for Christmas

For years, I was the one who came straight back to work the day after Christmas, New Year and Thanksgiving, too.  There were things that needed doing, work that didn't stop just because the rest of the world was taking a break.  Somebody had to do those ceaseless tasks, and if it wasn't me, one of my coworkers might have to give up holiday plans to come in and work.  So, I enjoyed the days off while the library was closed, but dutifully returned as soon as the doors opened again.  This year, the work in my new position is not so time-sensitive, at least not at this time of the year.  Taking an extra day after Christmas would have little impact on my department; so I planned to join the ranks of those who disappeared from the workplace and spent an extended holiday at home.  In truth, it was only one extra day off, the Friday between Christmas and the weekend, but the timing worked out that there would be five whole days to spend in merriment with the ones I love.  It would be …