Two Weeks, Three Rivers


photo by Martha Reynolds

photo by Martha Reynolds

I’ve been working on a new novel, Villa del Sol, for months now. Sometimes the writing comes easily (I have the story in my head, but getting it out isn’t always easy). Life can be a distraction, an inspiration, a temporary derailment. And as much as I had wanted it to be finished in time for the 2016 Expo, that’s looking more and more unlikely. So what’s a writer to do?

Well, last week I was featured locally here, and perhaps it was talking about my grandfather that pushed me back to a project I’d backburnered. In 1924, Earl Handy (my mother’s father) and John B. Hudson (a local treasure and one of Rhode Island’s foremost naturalists), took a canoe trip. Two weeks and three rivers. Earl kept a journal of the adventure. There are photographs. I’d wanted to publish this account, and now I’m determined to do it.

photo by Martha Reynolds

photo by Martha Reynolds

In delving back into this project, I’ve reawakened an interest in family history. I’ve spent days at the library, scanning microfilmed pages of old newspapers, finding articles of note, reading about long-forgotten villages in Rhode Island and Connecticut. It’s fun! And, I hope, will provide for an interesting piece of history. So, stay tuned – my novel will be published sometime in 2017, but Two Weeks, Three Rivers will be ready by December (fingers and toes crossed).

Hi, My Name is….Introvert


introvert-vs-shy

Some of you will read this title and think, ‘Not Martha!’  I know. I play a good game of it.

Last week I attended an event with my pal Lynne. I didn’t think I’d know anyone there. I ended up seeing a couple of former co-workers (people who were actually nice), and I was introduced to a few of Lynne’s colleagues. Smiles and handshakes all around. Nodding at conversation.

And yesterday I attended my 40th high school reunion. It was a very successful day, and, as I’d had a hand in the planning of the event, I received plenty of compliments and positive feedback about the day.

After a few hours, I couldn’t wait to leave.

Now hold on – it wasn’t that I didn’t want to see old friends. I did! And they’re really great people. Yes, we’ve all grown up (way up), and after forty years, much of my teenage angst is pushed back. Maybe not forgotten but certainly diluted by life’s joys and accomplishments. I had a chance to speak with just about everyone, and even led a goofy trivia contest.

Well, that doesn’t sound like an introvert, does it?

But here’s the thing, and I thank Lynne for the conversation last week as we were driving back home from the beach event: an extrovert derives energy from being around people – an introvert’s energy is sucked out by being around others. An introvert may work hard at being sociable, but it’s draining.

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Introverts don’t like small talk – not because they dislike people, but because it serves as a kind of barrier. Introverts sometimes feel alone, even in the midst of familiar faces. Introverts can be excellent public speakers (yes!), but find it more difficult and stressful to mingle with others afterwards. Introverts start to shut down after they’ve been active for too long. And I did, at both events. So, my apologies to my high school friends for leaving the party without saying my goodbyes. I was so grateful to be in your company! And for the ones from my high school class who couldn’t attend the reunion, meeting one-on-one or in a small group would be absolutely perfect. But you knew that.

Hot Songs – 1976


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Next week is my 40th high school reunion (ack!). So I’m reflecting, of course, and listening to music from 1976 – forty years ago. The 70’s gave us some great songs, ranging from the folky music of the early part of the decade to the raging disco music at the end.

Here are some of my favorites from the summer of ’76:

“Love is Alive” by Gary Wright. Peaked at #2.

“Silly Love Songs” by Wings. McCartney answered his critics with this one.

“Afternoon Delight” by the Starland Vocal Band. Hit #1 in July 1976.

“Get Closer” by Seals and Crofts. Sorry about the poor quality (it’s 1976!). S&C’s last Top 10 hit.

“Moonlight Feels Right” by Starbuck. Their debut single and biggest hit.

“You’re my Best Friend” by Queen. Reached #16 on the Billboard charts.

Happy Book-iversary (to me)!


99centsMy first novel, Chocolate for Breakfast, was published on August 12, 2012 – nearly four years ago! (It was republished with a new cover in April 2013.) In those four years, I’ve written and published six novels, all of which have given me tremendous pride and a sense of accomplishment. I’m doing what I’ve always dreamed of doing, and that is sufficient. Well, pretty much.

New novels can trigger a sales flurry, but sales drop off after a time, even for beloved best-sellers.

So….for the coming week, every one of my six novels will be discounted to 99 cents for the e-book (Kindle version). I have no control over the print price, but if you come to the RI Authors Book Expo on December 3, 2016 http://www.riauthors.org/riexpo/ , I’ll have print copies available for a great price.

You can grab a three-book series, described by one reader as “writing (that) draws wonderful pictures of the characters and allows you to really ‘fall into’ the book ~ which is one of my favorite things about reading.” Or read about a group of classmates readying for their 25-year high school reunion and visiting old grievances. A novel about a young woman pursuing her dream of becoming a best-selling author, only to face a harsh reality check. And finally, a lighter story involving two friends who gamble on a dream of turning a rundown farm into a premier wedding venue. If you’ve already read these books, here’s a chance to give some gifts. In any event, I’m grateful – so very grateful – for all the positive feedback and encouragement I’ve received, from friends and strangers new friends, over the past four years.

People of the Small Point


NarragansettRI.gov

NarragansettRI.gov

Native American names abound throughout the United States, especially here in tiny Rhode Island. A small town whose population nearly doubles during the summer, the name ‘Narragansett‘ is actually an English corruption of the Algonquin tribal name Nanhigganeuck, which means ‘people of the small point.’

East Matunuck photo by M. Reynolds

East Matunuck
photo by M. Reynolds

Matunuck (‘Mah-TOO-nick’) is a village set between Narragansett and Charlestown, whose name means ‘lookout.’ The Narragansett tribe used Matunuck as a summer encampment. The beaches at Matunuck and East Matunuck are both great, with direct exposure to the Atlantic Ocean.

charlestownri.org

charlestownri.org

Quonochontaug (go ahead, try it – okay, it’s ‘QUON-ah-kah-tawg’) might be hard to pronounce, but according to the American Indian Place Names page, Quonochontaug means ‘extended deserted place/two long ponds in succession.’ The photo above shows the breachway, which provides access to both Quonochontaug Pond and Block Island Sound. The pond is a large salt pond with many coves and channels to explore in a kayak or other small boat.

Misquamicut via commons.wikimedia.org

Misquamicut via commons.wikimedia.org

Almost in Connecticut, Misquamicut extends from Weekapaug to Watch Hill (all part of the town of Westerly). The area once known as ‘Pleasant View’ changed its name in 1928 to Misquamicut, an Indian name that means ‘red fish,’ a reference to the Atlantic salmon common to the Pawcatuck River. 

And if you didn’t know before reading this, now you know why Rhode Island is The Ocean State!

When Despair Wins


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When I was in my late teens, a girl I’d known in high school committed suicide. We weren’t close, but it shook me. From what I understood later on, she was distraught over a failed love affair. I think my dad took it harder, especially as the father of three girls (and me in the middle always going through some sort of crisis). She saw no other way, and had no hope that tomorrow could be better.

In college, my best friend learned of a relative’s suicide via telephone. We were on our way to a friend’s house for a weekend of fun with others. I told him I’d stay back with him if he felt it too difficult to attend the party, but we went. When I look at photographs from that weekend, I see a forced smile, eyes full of pain and sadness.

And yesterday I learned of another young person who took his life. I didn’t know him, but I do know one of the people affected by the tragedy of despair. She is left reeling and broken.

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I used to consider suicide a hostile act. I don’t anymore. My heart hurts for the person so consumed and overwhelmed by despair that there’s no room left for hope. The permanent solution to a temporary problem.

An Ell, a Vee, and Three Eyes


I looked at my hands recently and drew back in horror – ack! These are my mother’s hands! Old hands. Veiny. Couple of dark spots. 

My eight-year-old hands learned scales and arpeggios from Mrs. Vivian Fanning of Belfield Drive in Johnston, Rhode Island. Thirty minutes each day at our Janssen console piano. When we moved, my lessons continued with Mrs. Hattie Bowser of East Greenwich, who allowed me to learn pop songs from sheet music (although she nixed ‘Peaceful, Easy Feeling’ after reading the lyric ‘I want to sleep with you in the desert tonight.’). Well, I was only 13. Back to Mozart.


These hands now play a different keyboard. Fingers tap on keys. Letters create words. Words are strung together into sentences and phrases. Phrases become stories, and are turned into books.

My 58-year-old hands will continue to tap out stories as long as they can. Veins and dark spots and all.

Summer of Our Discontent


AAheadlines

Getty Images

Three weeks into summer, and don’t you wish it was New Year’s Eve already? There’s plenty to be grumpy/sad/depressed/angry about:

Donald Trump. The politician who spews hatred and racism is not going to ‘make America great again.’ He’s not. And we learn that this man who cares more about winning than just about anything else may not even want to be President. He wants to win. And he does not care about you.

Hillary Clinton. Do not assume that #I’mWithHer, just because I’m most definitely not with him. I’m not. I don’t think she deserves the presidency, based on her careless, selfish, and unwise choices regarding her role as Secretary of State.

Terrorism. Libya, Iraq, Burkina Faso, Nigeria, Baghdad, Somalia, Turkey, Brussels, Pakistan, Kabul, Congo, Yemen, Orlando (Florida), Cameroon. Just this year, and these are only the ‘major’ attacks (in which more than 30 people have died).

Rio. The 2016 Summer Olympics, the leading international sporting event, are being held in a city that is known for its violence. With the opening ceremonies just weeks away, news headlines out of Rio have been dominated by muggings of athletes, body parts washing up on the shore of Copacabana, and a murderous shoot-out in a hospital. Police officers have gone on strike. A drug-resistant super-bacteria has just been discovered on the beaches, possibly caused by all the raw sewage being dumped in the ocean. And don’t forget Zika.

Black Men Being Killed. Based on a tally from The Washington Post, Philando Castile was the 123rd black person to be shot by police in 2016. The day before Castile was killed, Alton Sterling was shot by Baton Rouge police, while he was on the ground. And this past Thursday night, a 25-year-old black man killed five Dallas police officers, aiming for white cops in particular. This has to end.

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That’s a lot to despair about. So we need to find hope. Perhaps in your children’s eyes. They’re looking to you for guidance – so teach them what’s important. Do you pray? (You should!) Prayer isn’t just about asking for something. It’s also a way to express thanks.

Please enlighten my mind with truth

Inflame my heart with love

Inspire my will with courage

Enrich my life with service.

Pardon what I have been

Sanctify what I am;

And order what I shall be.

Amen.

Let Freedom Ring!


Did you know that Rhode Island is home to the nation’s oldest Fourth of July parade? That’s right, the town of Bristol, RI hosts it.

source: Wikipedia

source: Wikipedia

The annual Fourth of July celebration began in 1785. It’s not known exactly when the parade started but it’s thought to have evolved from the procession of community members walking to patriotic exercises (according to the Bristol Fourth of July website). The parade, held on the 4th, is a 2.5 mile-long walk through Bristol.

source: July4thbristolri.com

source: July4thbristolri.com

source: july4thbristolri.com

source: july4thbristolri.com

If you go, get there early! The parade begins at 10:30am. You can’t camp in ‘your spot’ overnight, either – no setting up chairs or blankets before 5:00am. Your best bet is having a friend who lives on or near the parade route. In years past, we drove to a friend’s house (she lives about a quarter-mile from the route) and walked. Attending the parade is definitely something to do at least once if you’re local.

What will you do to celebrate America’s independence? It’s 240 years, you know. Whatever you do, enjoy and be safe!

 

God Awaits You at the Door


That’s a quote from Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez. It seemed appropriate today, as I learn of yet another colleague gone too soon.

goodbye meme

I’m nearly 58 years old, and it’s not unusual for my friends’ parents to pass away. Just this past week, the father of a high school friend died. I’ve attended plenty of wakes and funerals for men and women in their 80s and 90s. I try to prepare for the day that my father-in-law, now 84 and tethered to an oxygen tank, passes.

But when it’s a contemporary…well, it’s sobering. Difficult. Sometimes tragic. Steve never smoked a cigarette and died of lung cancer. Lucy’s husband killed her and then hanged himself. Danny had but three months from his cancer diagnosis to his death. Sue, Tom, Steve, Jack, Tim, Elaine, Kathy, Susan, Ellen, Sally, Lili. And now Jeff.

Working for Hope Hospice, I’m not immune to death. In the two years I’ve been there, I can’t tell you how many familiar names I’ve seen on paperwork. Death is inevitable, of course. We hope that it comes when we’re ready, but does it? Nothing is promised to you in this life…except that, one day, it will end. Rest in eternal peace, Jeff.

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