Goodbye, July

East Matunuck Beach and Jerusalem  photo by M. Reynolds
East Matunuck Beach and Jerusalem photo by M. Reynolds

Look, it’s not like I hate summer. I don’t. But this month was killer, with that heat wave that blanketed us (yes, like a thick, hot fleece blanket on your sweaty skin) earlier in the month. Some of my friends would take that kind of weather all year long. Sure, if you don’t have to go to the office, deal with overheated drivers and cranky, hot kids. Deal with dinner, every night. Know that your electric bill is going to be sky-high because you had to run the A/C all the time. But no, I don’t hate summer.

It’s just that I love fall. That first day when the morning air is…different. Cooler. Drier. You know it’s coming. One of my friends tears up on that day, and again when the first leaves drop from their branches. I dance around the kitchen. I make oatmeal. I open the door to the closet and stare at my long-sleeved shirts, my fleece zip-ups. I open my sock drawer and say “Soon, soon. Just a couple more weeks.”

The other day my husband and I were driving home down a lovely road. The heat had broken and our car windows were open. The road was lined with big trees, leafy and green. And the shadows were long. At five-thirty. He said, “Look! The shadows are long!” We grinned at each other.

So we’ll head back to the beach this afternoon to enjoy another summer afternoon. Because it’s summer, and we’re lucky.

amyandisabelleI finished reading “Amy and Isabelle” by Elizabeth Strout. What an excellent book; it’s still resonating with me. My friend Kim tells me I should do book reviews here. I don’t know, what do you think? I don’t usually read books as soon as they’re released (“Amy and Isabelle” was published in 2000). Maybe highlighting a book once a week would be good practice for me. And I’d be able to share with you a really good book. So, maybe.

Meanwhile, I’m trying to finish up the first draft of my book about a 25-year high school reunion. I’ve set a deadline for myself, because that seems to work. By mid-August, I want to have it out to my beta readers. While it’s out, I’ll revise “Bittersweet Chocolate,” the manuscript I completed this month during Camp Nano. Juggling! But it keeps me busy, and before I know it, September will be here. So goodbye to July for 2013 – and bring on August!

Blog Hop Eggs-travaganza!

Good morning and Happy Easter!

I wasn’t planning a post this morning, and it isn’t about this blessed day, but because I begin the A to Z Blog Challenge tomorrow, I’m posting today. Wishing you a day full of hope and renewal, whether you observe or not.

It’s a Blog Hop Egg-travaganza-elleganza! Thanks to my friend Sandra Bellamy at Quirky Books (here’s a link to her blog) for tagging me.

With CHOCOLATE FONDUE releasing soon (most likely in the middle of the blog challenge, probably around mid-April), it’s now my turn to answer the blog hop questions and pass this on to some hopping good blogs.

  • What is the working title of your book?

CHOCOLATE FONDUE (and is a sequel to my début novel, CHOCOLATE FOR BREAKFAST)

  • Where did the idea come from for the book?

One of my closest friends inspired me to write this sequel when he asked about one of the characters in my first book. I knew that I could continue the story, and I wanted to stay with the chocolate theme.

  • What genre does your book fall under?

Contemporary fiction. A little bit of romance.

  • Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

I’ve always liked Emma Stone as Bernadette, but she probably is better suited to the first book, and the younger Bernie. Julianne Moore, perhaps, for Bernie. Abigail Breslin is a little young, but I think she’d make a great Lucia. Mila Kunis has a good look for Nani. I’m still thinking about Michael and Gary!

  • What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Twenty-three years after giving him up for adoption, Bernadette Maguire unexpectedly meets her son, who is unaware of who she is.

  • Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I am self-publishing.

  • How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

I participated in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) last November, and drafted this novel in thirty days. Then I spent the next three months revising it.

  • What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

I’m not sure. I’m inspired by Anna Quindlen, Claire Cook, Wally Lamb, but could never compare my writing to theirs!

  • Who or What inspired you to write this book?

Well, my first novel, CHOCOLATE FOR BREAKFAST, was inspired by my own year of study in Switzerland. This seemed a natural sequel to the initial story, since I’d brought the character of Bernadette forward twenty years by the end of the first book. But I wanted to write CHOCOLATE FONDUE in a way that, even if you hadn’t read the first book, you could enjoy and understand the second.

  • What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

It’s really a love letter to Switzerland. I would hope it would spark an interest in visiting this beautiful country. And it may inspire a little chocolate fondue creation!

Now I’m passing this along to…drum roll please…

This Past Week

What day is it? Ah, Sunday night, eight minutes until Monday. Yes, I stay up late – writing, editing, playing my turns in Lexulous and Words With Friends.

So Thursday was Thanksgiving, and our small family was missing one this year. My 80-year-old father-in-law opted out; he hadn’t been feeling good all week anyway, but I believe the hour-long trip to Westerly (wait, you say, we live in Rhode Island – but anything over ten minutes is a long trip to us) was daunting to an old man tethered to a portable oxygen tank (by the way, if you’re still smoking, please stop).  We were six in total, but what a lovely day. I hope every hungry child had a full belly on Thursday.

The weekend brought Small Business Saturday – did you participate? American Express had a terrific incentive for cardholders. I registered my card and found a listing of participating retailers in my area. And as much as Sweet Twist in East Greenwich is a favorite, I chose to do business in my town, West Warwick. The businesses in town could really use a boost, so I visited the Matos Bakery and stocked up on all kinds of wonderful Portuguese food, mostly for Jim. Sardines, hot red finger peppers, and pickled herring. Quince jam and honey. And the best Portuguese sweet bread. Spend at least twenty-five dollars and Amex credits back twenty-five bucks to you. Seriously, unless you absolutely have to go to the big-box stores (and I know, sometimes you have to), consider patronizing the small businesses in your area.

Finally, NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) winds down this week. I’m at over 61,000 words (still plenty of editing to do), so I’ll “win” the challenge this year. It’s been a blast, mostly because I planned and plotted my story ahead of time.

November is mostly browns and grays around here, which suits me just fine. Advent begins next week, adding the light of one candle in the midst of darkness.

NaNo Week Two

As you know from reading these posts, I’m participating in National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, or just NaNo. I’m trying to get a very messy first draft of a novel written in thirty days. And after the first week, I am proud to admit that I’ve written 34,800 words so far, way ahead of schedule. Yay!

Now, NaNo’s mission is to get you to write 50,000 words in a month. That’s a pretty short novel, in my opinion. CHOCOLATE FOR BREAKFAST was about 70,000 words and has been reviewed as “a quick read.” So I’m aiming for about 100,000 this time around.

I know the story I want to write, which helps. Last year, I wanted to take part, but had already begun CFB and the idea of NaNo is to start something new. I didn’t have something new. This year, I’d already begun another novel, “The Reunion,” and have written about 50,000 words. I decided to put it aside while working on “Chocolate Fondue,” the sequel to CFB.

But NaNo can consume you! I’ve done little else besides write. Well, those dirty clothes don’t wash themselves, so yes, laundry, cooking, a bit of housework. But writing this draft is really foremost for me these days; hence the occasional blog post.

If you read CFB, you’ll remember that it ended with Bernie seeing a handsome young man behind the reception desk of the hotel where she and her aunt were checking in, upon arrival in Fribourg, Switzerland. Bernie is convinced this is the son she bore and gave up for adoption twenty-three years previous. She has no proof, and decides she doesn’t need any. “Chocolate Fondue” begins on that same day, after Bernie and her aunt Joan have taken the elevator up to their room. You’ll get to know Jean-Michel and his family. You’ll meet his co-workers at the hotel. And you’ll be happy to learn that Bernadette may finally find love that lasts and is meaningful. If she doesn’t screw it up!!!

So, it’s back to writing. I can’t imagine spending my days any other way.

The Past Week

Misquamicut Beach, photo by Mark Reynolds of the Providence Journal
  • Monday brought Hurricane Sandy to Rhode Island. We celebrated our 18th wedding anniversary waiting for the power to go out (it never did), watching some coverage on television, and reading (I finished “Every Last One” by Anna Quindlen). Fearing a loss of electricity, I made a chicken soup early in the morning, so we ate a lot of soup on Monday. Our dear friends in New York and New Jersey have a long road ahead of them, and our thoughts are with them as they struggle to rebuild.
  • Hallowe’en was uneventful. When we moved to a condo six years ago, we lost out (if you want to look at it that way) on dozens of children parading around the neighborhood, from sundown until we turned the lights off. One year, I remember three way-too-old teenagers showing up just before nine o’clock. They just stood there on our front step: no chirpy “trick or treat!” They were a little scary looking. I think one of the girls may have had a cigarette dangling from her lip (not a prop, it was lit). I acted cool and handed them the rest of our candy, locked the door and turned off the lights.
  • The roller coaster life we live with an elderly parent continued. A couple of months ago, my husband and I decided that it would be smart if we sold our condo, put his father’s house on the market, and buy a new place where his father could live, independently and privately, but with us (that would be either a duplex or a house with a separate in-law apartment). For numerous reasons, this was a good idea, although we knew we’d be making some sacrifices. And for all of you who have the struggle of dealing with an elderly parent, you will understand that there is a lot of emotion involved. My husband is an only child, so the responsibility falls to him alone. When dementia first took hold of my mother ten years ago, my two sisters and I joined forces to share the burden (and I use that word with love) of taking care of all the issues that arose.  Well, my father-in-law at first dismissed the plan, then embraced it. Then, this week, he dismissed it outright and last night he was ready to embrace it again. My husband, so wise, so good, gently told his father that we were scrapping the idea, that we wouldn’t put him through it, and everything would remain as it was. <sigh> At this point, with an unhealthy, 80-year-old father, this is probably the best decision.
  • And then National Novel Writing Month kicked off on Thursday! Last weekend, I took my notebook (no, the kind with paper in it) and pen to my local Barnes and Noble bookstore, bought a “grande” Salted Caramel skinny hot chocolate (looked it up online after – 310 calories, 3g of fat, 66g of carbs, 2g of fiber – really?), and began to plot out my new book. I’m still writing “The Reunion,” and am hoping a different, catchier title comes to me at some point, but I wanted to start fresh for NaNo. So I decided to write a sequel to my début novel, “Chocolate for Breakfast.” I’m moving right along, trying not to edit as I go, and I’m having a blast!
  • Finally, some very good chicken escarole soup for a chilly weekend where we gained an extra hour of sleep last night. No wonder I’m so rested!

What is NaNoWriMo?

It sounds like something Mork from Ork would say. No, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month ( and is a fun approach to novel-writing. It begins this Thursday, November 1, and for the next 30 days, until the end of the month, the goal is to write a 50,000 word (about 175 pages) novel. Daunting? Maybe, but the idea is to write. Just get it out of your head and on paper, or your computer screen. Edit later.

The reason NaNoWriMo is attractive to me is that I’m a seat-of-your-pants kind of writer. I get these ideas for stories and create characters, then I sit down and write a story. Some people spend a long time plotting and outlining. Perhaps I should, but I don’t. Yes, it means a lot of revising and editing, and sometimes, the story takes a wrong direction. For this project, I am plotting, just so I can keep some control (maybe!). And, I have a tendency to edit as I write; working on trying not to do that. NaNoWriMo will make me just write it all out.

According to the NaNoWriMo website, there are about 300,000 writers who take part in this event. Not everyone will finish (last year I really wanted to do this, but I’d already begun writing CHOCOLATE FOR BREAKFAST and didn’t want to start something new). This year, I was hoping to finish up my current work-in-progress so I can begin writing the sequel to CFB. As it’s Tuesday, I can see I’m not going to finish THE REUNION (still a tentative title), but that’s okay. It probably needs a little breather. I’ll head back to it in December.

I’ve already connected with some of my writer pals, and we’ll give each other support and encouragement as we navigate our way through what is already a very busy month. If you’re participating and want to connect with me, I’m up there as Martha Reynolds.

So, 50,000 words in 30 days? Can I do it? How about you? Do you have a novel inside you, one you’ve always wanted to write? Then join me in the madness! In 2011, NaNoWriMo had 256,618 participants and 36,843 of them crossed the 50K finish line by the midnight deadline (11/30/2011), entering into the annals of NaNoWriMo superstardom forever. They started the month as auto mechanics, out-of-work actors, and middle school English teachers. They walked away novelists. Whether you make it or not, getting there can be just the push you’ve always needed. I’m ready!