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Monday, October 20, 2014

Release Day - A Lizard's Tail

Happy release day!  Today Bish Denham releases her story, A Lizard's Tail featuring a sassy lizard who travels on an adventure outside of his home and comfort zone, while learning lessons in humility and the importance of friendship and family.   Bish has a musical style to her prose that makes the reader feel they're following right along during Marvin's quest to save his homeland from a feral cat. I finished this delightful story in one go.  I only wish my daughter were young again, so I could have  plunked myself down on a rocker and pulled her onto my lap, so we could experience this story together.

http://www.amazon.com/A-Lizards-Tail-Bish-Denham/dp/0986049433/ref=sr_1_7?ie=UTF8&qid=1413024573&sr=8-7&keywords=A+Lizard%27s+Tail

Here is Bish's blurb:

When a feral cat threatens the lives of all who live at Stone Wall, Marvin knows his destiny has finally arrived. But how can a vain young lizard get rid of such a dangerous enemy?

A Lizard's Tail is available on Amazon.

Congratulations to Bish!


Monday, October 13, 2014

A Past Present

We had a weekend away, taking the five-hour ride back to our college campus where Mr. Middle Passages and I met, for the wedding of his roommate's daughter who also attended our alma mater. Roommate's wife also graduated from there, and the four of us have a long history together.  Too many stories to tell, but let's just say this wedding and beautiful beginning, in a place that holds so many heart-shaping memories delivered mega doses of nostalgia.

We hadn't been up there in nine years and things on campus had changed a lot.  Other things, not so much.

For starters, the view of the Adirondack Mountains across Lake Champlain, from Burlington, Vermont still reaches down and plucks deep inside of me.

There is the view from across campus.  That hasn't changed.  I used to be able to see this from my dorm room.  Imagine those peaks covered with snow, as they were, for most of the school year.

Back on campus, there's a word garden now.  They've placed all manner of words etched in stone for visitors to arrange in contemplative and meaningful ways.  This was the first set I saw.
 

Okay.  I couldn't resist.  Our daughter will be making caramel apples for parents weekend at school.  I heeded the advice from the picture above this one, and sent her this photo as inspiration.


The view along Route 7, in Shelburne, VT.  That hasn't changed either.


On the way back, we stopped in my home town and took a walk to stretch our legs.  Here's a place where beauty remains constant.  So many memories...I learned to swim in this lake, but the little beach where I learned is long gone.

Keeping with the "way back" theme, we had dinner with all manner of family in the house where I grew up.  Brother and sisters, aunts and uncles, cousins catching up cousins from as far away as Australia, and another long walk after  dinner.  When we woke up today, I downloaded my pictures, and found this.

 My contribution to the word garden.  Seems fitting to end this way.

Wishing you a wonderful week.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Extra Benefits



Back when I started what I call my new phase in life, post layoff from a long-term employer, I walked.  A lot.  Two or three, sometime four miles, five days a week.  I took my camera, often I listened to music, on occasion the only thing I listened to was my own brain.  Whatever.  For the longest time, I felt like I was seeing the world for the first time.  I stumbled on so many things I’d never experienced before, inspiring things.  Things that helped me to write.

But then, as is so often the case, life got in the way.  Bottom line, in the past year, I've barely walked at all.

Until two weeks ago.  My employer offered us an opportunity to take part in a twelve week heart healthy class for free, and I signed up.  During the first class, we were each given a pedometer, which we are to wear every day.  Now, here's the thing.  It may be called a pedometer but it's more like a conscience.  Knowing I have that thing strapped to me has forced me to be aware of how much (or little) activity I’ve been getting.  To that end, I’ve started walking after work. It eats into writing time, but I guess I call that a compromise.  I mean, you have to be alive to write, right?  The first week, my cumulative count was nineteen miles.  As I write this, for the second week, I'm approaching twenty-two.  That includes all the walking I do during day. But still.  From zero to twenty in under two weeks. That's what I call traction.

And so, during my afternoon perambulations, I’m back to taking pictures, albeit with my cell phone instead of the camera.  Not great quality, but the results offer up another reason why walking matters.  I get to see cool stuff. 





Wednesday, October 1, 2014

IWSG October 2014. The Truth of it



This is my October post for Alex Cavanaugh's Insecure Writer's Support Group and guess what?  Amazing Alex and his minion of helpers will be publishing a free eBook to benefit all writers - The IWSG Guide to Publishing and Beyond and it will include posts from this month.  The eBook will be free and available for all eReaders by early December.

Five years ago, corporate America and family occupied most of my time.  When the grind of the day job got to me, like millions of people, I’d muse, Gee, wouldn’t it be cool to write a novel?  I imagined myself working in a café part-time, so I had time to write the book, which was kind of like thinking it would be cool to win the lottery. And, well,  I don’t play the lottery.

Then, in a workforce-reduction, expense management strategy, corporate-downsizing or whatever buzz-phrase suits your mood, my employer dropped-kicked me across the parking lot, and within twenty-four hours of that pink-slip event, I started writing.  Not a novel. Nothing like a little layoff to call that bluff. No, I wrote personal essaysunemployment therapy I suppose, but so much more.  I wrote blog post after blog post having recognized within hours of my job elimination whatever I did next in life had to involve writing and the only way to get better at writing was to write.

It wasn’t fiction though.

Curiously, during those first butt-in-chair years, I did stumble into a part-time job in a café.  Well, not a café, but pretty close.  A gourmet food and cheese shop selling prepared items and made-to-order sandwiches.  And on the days I wasn't standing on a cement floor preparing panini's, serving up carrot hummus, or lugging cast iron pans to the sink, I planted myself in front of my computer and wrote.
 
But still.  The idea of fiction drifted out there, mist at dawn—until an acquaintance recommended Julia Cameron’s THE ARTIST’S WAY, a book of twelve week-long lessons subtitled A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity.  Don’t worry.  “Spirit” is subjective, and if mine happened to be the ceramic vase sitting on my window shelf, it would have worked in context of this book.
  
As I plowed through the program, each chapter forced me to confront my creative future, to challenge myself to make my dreams happen.  THE ARTIST'S WAY works for anyone, but in my case, each lesson said, you want to write fiction?  You are the only one stopping yourself.  Before I’d finished the exercises in THE ARTIST’S WAY, I began writing a novel, to see if I could get to the end, which happened, though the result was so awful it was impossible to fix. So, more butt-in-chair.  Plus, I read writers on writing.  I gave myself timed writing exercises and scene-stormed.  I wrote a second book and submitted it to agents and received a request for one full manuscript that went nowhere, form rejections and lots of cold silence. I took a Grub Street novel-in- progress course.  And then another.
  
I know.  We’re well into this piece and you expect to read I’ve got a novel coming out. Nope. Not yet.  Lovely word, “yet.” We needed better insurance, so I’m back working in an office, almost full time.  I get up early every morning to write.  If I can, I write after work too.  I’m getting ready to submit my third novel to agents with this perspective. There’s no winning the lottery to it. Standing up in a café all day is brutal work, and writing a good novel is even more difficult.  But thanks to Julia Cameron, I get it.  The only person who can give up on me, is me. 

So, butt-in-chair.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Spell Me a Story



There’s some Facebook meme that’s gone around featuring a paragraph in which the spelling of every word is shuffled and folks are challenged to read it anyway.  From the comments I’ve seen, it appears most people understand it, piece of cake.  The exercise demonstrates how the human brain doesn’t read letter by letter, but word by familiar word.  As a fast reader, I assume that's how I do it, and it's no help at all when I’m trying to catch my own terrible typos.


I spent the last week reading the latest draft of my current work in progress out loud.  If you are a regular reader of Middle Passages you surely probably most likely absolutely may have noted that typing, spelling and punctuation are not my strong suits. I can’t tell you how many times I go back and read a post I wrote then edited, edited, edited and published, only to discover typos.  Argh.  Drives me crazy, because I know you see them, too.  So, anyway, I am aware of my challenges in this regard and trust me.  Over the course of an eighty-three-thousand word draft, there’s a lot of proofreading to do.


Since we don’t speak as fast as our eyes devour a page, reading out loud forces us to slow down, to concentrate on each word, which is when the booboos percolate up.  When I read out loud, I find where I’ve used the wrong tense, forgot a word, or plopped in the wrong spelling.   This week, it also helped me to identify spots where the story is weak, where I need some interior thoughts to help to spell out what is happening in my characters' brains. So I add a sentence here and there. That means more proofing. Ugh.


I want so much to be done.  But I’m not there yet.  Soon though.   I say that a lot.  It’s the only way I can sooth my typo-ridden punctuation-challenged awful spelling will-I-ever-finish-with-this soul. 

What tricks do you use to edit your own manuscript?

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Congratulations!!


A winner has been chosen for the Old Broads Blog Fest.  Stephen T. McCarthy wrote two lovely stories about his favorite old broad...his mom.  His entry can be seen here:
 http://susan-swiderski.blogspot.com/.

and  his blog can be found here,

http://xtremelyun-pcandunrepentant.blogspot.com/.

Here's the thing.  We're old.  It's poetry.  But, you guys, this book is so good.  It's life.  It's real.  And if you doubt you are going to get old...well, God willing, it's going to happen to you, too, and when it does, you'll still be human.  You'll still count.  You will still be you.

To order OLD BROADS WAXING POETIC, click here.  For a good cause.  Or for you.  Whatever works...

Monday, September 8, 2014

Food Families II



As I write this, it’s Saturday night and I’m home alone.  My husband is enjoying his delayed Father’s Day present from our daughter and they’re at the Red Sox game, if the black clouds muttering on the horizon don’t rain them out.  We’ve had our hottest days of the summer over the last week, and since we have no AC, I took refuge at the movies, to see The One Hundred Foot Journey.

I went without knowing the storyline and discovered the film featured clashing cultures, Michelin star restaurants and old family recipes.  I was sold when a few minutes into the picture one of the main characters said, “Food is memory.”  During my year-and-a-half working at a local gourmet food/cheese shop, Mary, one of the owners, used to say the same thing.  There, Robert, her chef/husband made bread pudding and corn chowder that catapulted me back to dinners elbow to elbow with my five siblings at the drop-leaf table in the kitchen where we grew up.  At the cheese shop, I'd close my eyes and moan a little at the emotions these tastes evoked.

But there’s a reason seeing this movie was right for me today.  The story is all about food and passion, and we're living some of that in our family right now.

You see, our daughter took a break from college after two years, arriving home in May of 2013, subdued and struggling.  Two days later, at age 19, she began a grown-up job, working in a well-respected seafood restaurant opening in a new location.  Hired as “line cook,” she started off making salads and desserts.  A year plus later, she’s learned so much, they place her wherever they need her.  She shucks oysters, grills, sautees, bakes, steams and deep fries.  She worked sixteen hour shifts during the restaurant opening, and later, twelve hour shifts, often for days in a row.  She’s arrived home with more burns than I care to contemplate, once with several inches of her arm scalded by blueberry compote when someone in the kitchen thought it would be funny to turn her blender on high.  She’s watched chefs get transferred, people walk off jobs, staff members arrive at work drunk or high, and she’s climbed behind the pile of dirty plates to get things moving when the dishwasher’s fallen behind.  In spite of all that (which I've come to understand can pretty much be the norm in the restaurant business), now when the place is short-staffed, she juggles two stations with competence…and self-assurance. In spite of the heart-attacks her worry-wart mama has had along the way, it’s clear as glass that via this demanding road, our daughter has grown. 

And perhaps, rediscovered herself.  At the beginning of July, she sent in an application to culinary school in Rhode Island and she's been accepted for their baking and pastry program. She’s planning to commute, and today we went down there and picked up her knife set.  By the time you read this on Monday, after a nine-to-nine shift at the restaurant the day before, she’ll  have started this next phase of her life. 
 
So, this post is a tribute to her.  For establishing her own path.  For learning to stand up for herself.  For gutting it out through the aching back and knees, the double shifts on Christmas, Easter and the Fourth of July.  For getting up and going to work after the nights she came home thinking she never could.  For proving to herself what she is capable of.

Here’s the truth.  Wherever her path leads, all I hope, is that this next experience helps her to know food in a way that delivers sublime memory, and that she comes to understand, as her mama always has, that preparing something delicious for those you care about is a declaration of love.

And to Tim, on our 30th wedding anniversary, I’ll cook for you any day.



Don't forget the Old Broads "Broad fest!"   Comment about your favorite "old broad" on one of our blogs by September 12, to earn a chance to win a copy of OLD BROADS WAXING POETIC. Click here for more information.