Monthly Archives: April 2015

Apartment hunting

Yes, I’m apartment hunting, even though I have lived in my current apartment for only 13 months. My landlord is evicting the 75 year old woman from the downstairs apartment and is planning on renting to college students after rehabbing the place. I have two issues with this. First, I have no desire to spend the summer above a construction site. I am a busy writer, and would find the noise unbearable. Second, the idea of three college students under me chills me to the marrow. I moved into this apartment in part to get away from the student ghetto in which I was living. (A very secondary reason. The primary reason was to get away from a landlord who, although obligated, did not clear the ice from the walkway for the full three months following my fall on the ice that resulted in a badly broken arm.)

I have found what looks to be a wonderful place, a bit smaller than I would like, but I can afford to downsize again. I make this determination from looking at the pictures of the apartment. I will not see it until tomorrow night. I have communicated with the landlord, who allows cats in his apartments (yeah!) and who thinks the apartment will go fast. This may be wishful thinking on his part, but the location and quality of the apartment lead me to believe otherwise. He says the applicant who first gets him a deposit check wins. Needless to say, I have that check squirreled away in my pocketbook as I write. He requires a bank check or a money order, and i have such a check.

To the extent possible I have dotted all my “i”s and crossed all my “t”s. Now I just have to hope. I am eager not only for the location but also for the large kitchen with the new fridge and stove, with room for a table. Heaven on earth! Wish me luck!

Cats and other things

My cats don’t understand that I am busy writing about their distant cousins, the felixities, cat people who inhabit the world I have created. Accordingly, they demand attention, particularly on nights like this when I come home late from an evening at the writers workshop I frequent. I gave them their dinner and they were quiet for awhile, but now they are demanding their evening snack, even though they ate dinner less than forty five minutes ago.

What I learn from this is that the felixities must have either inherited this hunger, or have figured out a way to socialize it out of themselves. I believe it is the latter, since they have shown the ability to march long distances on short rations, and that is not consistent with the sort of demands my cats are now making on me.

I’m going somewhere with this, if you will bear with me. I have always claimed  writing fantasy allows me to write all the rules of the world that I am creating, But I am constrained by what readers might find credible or reasonable. If, for example, my felixities, intelligent cats that walk on two legs, started barking like dogs and panting, I would understand if my readers were upset or offended by this characterization. They would not be acting consistently with the cats people know and love (or hate).

This thought did not spring out of thin air. Twice today I spoke with women at my workshop about some of the elements of the story I hope to publish this summer. Each brought their own sensibilities to what I told them, and I got completely different reactions from them. One was ready to curl up on a pillow with a comforter around her to listen as I spun my tale. She is a fiction writer. The other told me that I was describing a world with religious elements, and that many of the events in my world were metaphors for sexual relations. She writes nonfiction.

What am I to make of this? I will be workshopping this novel on June 4, and will know that evening whether a publication in July is possible. But if two listeners can take such different attitudes to what I am writing, to whom do I market the book? I confess what started as an adventurous tale has developed into somewhat more than a simple story, and has become a statement of more global principles than I thought or initially intended. I suspect it can still be read as an adventure for those of a mind to that kind of fantasy. But I now believe the scope has broadened and that some may take much more than adventure from it.

The full message will not come out until the sequel. Or perhaps the second sequel. I can’t do too much about that. There is simply too much information to put it into one book. I tried and was universally advised to split it up. I will have more about the sequel shortly, since I have already written about half of it, and am chomping at the bit to get on with it. I hope you will come along for the ride.

A grammatical peeve!

I’m sure we all have grammatical peeves, and one has been blatantly in my eye for some reason over the last several weeks. It’s in the press, in supposedly well written fiction, and all over the place in emails and comments on Facebook. At what point did it become acceptable to leave out the apostrophe that connotes possession? I saw “in Jesus name,” “Harrys dog” and “the boys baseball equipment” in one three hour stretch yesterday. I won’t even go into the more arcane rule of the “someone’s knowing” construction, because even many literate people don’t recognize it.

One of the issues that writers must face is whether to use the current vernacular in writing or to correct the grammar as a model for better usage among our readers. Speech is almost always more free form than the written word, and I have no difficulty using the “now” language in dialog. But to adopt it in the expository writing of a document is to say that it’s acceptable, a position that I decidedly do not adopt.

When I review works presented at my workshop, I make the corrections as needed but have no way of knowing if the writer accepts my comments. I even saw grammatical errors in the “fixes” my late editor (of whom I have written elsewhere) made to some of my sentences.

Is grammar dead? Or only being loosened up in the professional writing community? I suspect that young writers had so little grammar education in their youth that they can be excused somewhat for their failure to know the rules. But editors, whether of books or of news articles or journals, should know them.

Just saying.

What If Authors Behaved In Real Life Like They Behaved Online?

Good Lord! I hope I’m not like this. Of course, it’s easier when you haven’t even published yet.

Tara Sparling writes

What If Authors Behaved In Real Life Like They Behaved Online? So listen, kid. We’ve each written a book, see. Now you have to read all of them and tell us why we’re brilliant.

Come with me now on a journey to explore a side of the Internet which is still driving me batty. I know you don’t want to be driven batty, but let’s face it, if you wanted peace, or even sense, you wouldn’t be reading this blog in the first place.

Picture the scene. You’re at a party. You know nobody there, but you’ve been assured that it’s a friendly bunch. There will be no question of you flowering the walls all night on your tod. You get yourself a frothy pink drink, and are soon approached by a middle-aged man with childishly pink cheeks.

Middle-Aged Ruddy Man: Are you a writer?
You: Well, I suppose you could say that. I’ve–
MARM: I’m a writer. I’ve written 3 books about cats on drugs. I have many…

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Spring is springing!

For many of my fellow allergy sufferers, spring is the worst time of the year. After the long cold winter here in the northeast, we have a positive cornucopia of allergens to deal with, now that all of the March ones that didn’t pop when they should have are coming out to join the April ones in droves. I have a lovely cough that can stop a conversation at ten paces as people look for the diseased one. They look doubtful when I tell them I’m not contagious.

Many of my writer friends are making use of the inspiration of blue skies and days when the high flirts with 70. We all breathe a sigh of relief when the weather people tell us the night time low will be above freezing. Spring poems are coming into our space on Church St. for review and analysis, but today has stopped some short.

Being in the home city of Ben and Jerry’s, we are enjoying the carnival atmosphere of free cone day. Some springs, it has not been smiled on by the weather gods, but they played nice today. Low 60s, blue sky with puffy white clouds, long lines snake down the street. They started at noon, and it is nearly 3:30 as I write, and the line has not shrunk all day. As people get their ice cream, new people join the queue, laughing and chattering away. A poor keyboardist has been playing practically non stop since 11:30. It’s a nice background, but he’s not getting the attention he deserves.

I wonder if I will go join the throng and scare the bejeezus out of them with my foghorn cough. Maybe they’ll move me up the line faster to get rid of me!

Sorry for my absence!

It  has been a tumultuous few weeks. My editor abandoned me, which may be a good thing. The leader of my writers workshop, who’s virtues I have extolled frequently in this blog, has taken a job out of state and we have been transitioning leadership in the workshop. As if this were not enough, our landlord told us that our workshop did not fit his vision for his facility since we were not “fine” artists and not suitable tenants.

We had to find a new space, which was quite a search but ultimately partially successful. We have found a wonderful  classy place with one major drawback. And a few minor ones. The major drawback is that it is a third floor walk-up, and the two flights are each horrors in their own ways. As we are trying to obtain federal recognition as a non-profit (the state has already so recognized us), we must make reasonable accommodations for the disabled. we have two easy ways of accommodating individuals, since both the library and the UU Church will be willing to allow us use of rooms for workshops when disabled persons wish to attend. We only ask for  five days’ notice so we can make the arrangements.

The new place has a dishwasher, which was part of its attraction. Writers drink a lot of coffee. First load and we soaked the hall below us. Luckily we have a wonderful new landlord. The dishwasher may be replaced by a full sized refrigerator! I am intentionally eliding over the many trips up and down those stairs in the moving process.

Last Friday we launched the Best of the Burlington Writers Workshop 2015, and I was one of the writers who got to read. But my buddy Peter set me up. He had a box into which people could put potential topics for one of my double dactyls. After I read my poems, he pulled a suggestion from the box, and I was given one hour to compose a double dactyl on that subject. It was “Putin’s War,” about which I have written before. I produced an appropriate offering, and was inundated with requests to write on all of the subjects given me.

Scummily bummily
Putin is fighting a
War with Ukraine, you see,
Without remorse

Shirtless upon a horse
Egomaniacal
Like a big hit man; his
Morals are worse

was the one for that night, but I have already written the first seven of the new ones. I have about 25 more to go. And after the launch, I was challenged to write one on the subject of groceries at our local Hannaford, a local grocery chain.

Grocely procely
Burlington Hannaford
Cookies and sauerkraut
Are there for sale

Cat food and moist wipes have
Merchantability
Seafood and scallops but
They don’t have whale.

Sorry, it was silly but the best I could do on the spur of the moment.

And then to top off the insanity, I helped Peter pack up to move away on Saturday. And I’ve spent last night and tonight working the phones at the UU Church for our pledge drive. So now, I’m writing this, so you won’t think I’ve just been lolling around in the balmy weather we’ve been having. Why, we’ve even broken 40 degrees a few times!