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It is with great pleasure and excitement that I announce a contract for a new book with Fire Star Press.

A Menacing Brew is a cozy mystery set in fictitious Kirkwood, near the equally fictitious Silver Lake.

Amy and her aging-hippie mom, Barbara, are chalk and cheese.  But when a visit to Barbara’s old college friend reveals murder, with Barbara the main suspect, they must find a way to work together to unmask the real killer.

I’m hoping readers will take to Barbara and Amy the way I did.  I’ve long envied writers who say their characters came in a dream, or popped into their head fully-formed.  Now, though, I understand that sentiment, if not that reality.  Barbara and Amy really did seem to appear with every trait and quirk in place.  It was fun to watch them interact, doing what came naturally, or surprising me, by turns.

Fire Star Press will release A Menacing Brew early in 2020.  Watch this space for updates.  And lift a glass with me in celebration!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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beach 2018

A few years ago, I realized I’d become a writer who wasn’t writing.  I needed some time and some space and a room of my own, just as Virginia Woolf said.  But in our suburban ranch home, that wasn’t possible.

Then, it dawned on me I had access to a room without walls or a ceiling.  A room that stretched from one horizon to another.  The beach at Lake Michigan, just a few minutes from my house.

By carving out the time and scheduling it like any other important appointment, I found four hours every Thursday when I could head to the lakefront.

Now, it’s my favorite habit.  I keep my tote—packed with my current writing project, lots of pens, sunscreen and a big hat—right beside the door, so I can be off in a flash.

The peace I find watching the waves roll endlessly in to shore gives me the free space my mind needs to be creative.

This gift from my inland sea is a treasure beyond price, my most precious one of all.

blur close up composition craft

Photo by John-Mark Smith on Pexels.com

 

Letter-writing month

A chance to catch up with friends

Through paper and pen

 

Did you know April is National Letter-Writing month?  Neither did I until I saw a post on Facebook telling me so.  The Official USPS blog gives the details, too.

What a wonderful idea!  One tailor-made for me, I think, since I love to put an actual pen on actual paper and send off news and thoughts to friends and family.

Just a week or so ago, I fired off three lengthy letters, full of big news, trivia and lots of other stuff.  And within another week, I’d gotten letters in return.

It isn’t every day a trip to our mailbox makes me smile.  Usually those make me groan, since they bring only bills, junk mail and a bunch of coupons we never use.  But, when there’s an envelope with handwriting you recognize among that stack, it feels like Christmas.  The gift of a letter is truly a gift.  In fact, I’d venture to say letters are even more of a gift than fancy-wrapped packages.  It takes more time to sit still, think and write than it does to wrap a box.  Opening your heart and your thoughts is a generous act that guarantees a friendship will deepen and grow.

As a writer, I enjoy staying in touch through the written word.

As a friend, I love tying heartstrings together the very same way.

Watch your mailbox!

Adieu, Winter

two bare trees

Photo by Todd Trapani on Pexels.com

While I will cheerfully wave farewell to the polar vortex and any temperature below zero, I must admit there are a few things about winter I will miss, once spring is in full swing.

First off, the silence.  While the rest of the year is noisy with human sounds (radios, motorcycles, lawnmowers), winter days are much quieter.  Most people are tucked up in their houses rather than out in the world, making it possible to hear what I call silence, but what is really the sound of nature.  The song of the cold wind whistling through a giant larch.  The hoot of an owl in the backyard, beginning his night’s hunt. The squelch of fresh snow beneath my footstep.  The stars are silent all year, of course, but they seem closer when viewed in the quiet darkness of a winter night, when no fireworks compete for attention.

I’ll miss the beauty of winter’s color palette, too.  So white and blue and restful.  I’m constantly amazed at how intricate and intriguing the landscape can be when dominated by white.  The dark outlines of trees stand in such stark contrast to the snow, drawing the eye to engage, to appreciate the portrait presented, especially when the setting sun tosses those deep blue shadows long across the ground while pinking the clouds above. Sometimes, when I am walking home from work as dusk falls, I have to stop and just watch for a moment or two, awestruck as usual, by the vision that never grows old.

And then there’s the cozy quotient. Coming into the warm house, my cheeks pinched by the cold, feels like a hug from someone dear.  The scent of fresh coffee and a hot meal make homecoming even more of an embrace.  Snuggling up in my soft flannel pjs, feet tucked into fuzzy slippers as the cat sleeps nearby, I know a contentment unique to the season.  Surely I will have a good book to read, too, completing my winter dream.

(Of course, to be honest, I almost always have a good book close at hand, and there’s nothing I love more than reading on the patio on a summer’s afternoon that turns into a lovely summer evening.)

Every season has its beauties, its wonders, its singular joys. So now I will bid adieu to winter and greet the spring, knowing winter will return soon enough, just when I need it.

The Day of the Storm

Winter 1

 

I close my eyes and

Lift my face to the north wind.

Sweet kiss of winter

When the dog and I set out, the sky promised snow, but not anytime soon.  The temperature was in the mid-20’s, balmy after the polar vortex low of 20 degrees below zero just a few days earlier.

Before we’d gone two blocks, however, the first flakes drifted down, sparingly, lazily.  I didn’t even notice them in an actual way until another block went by.  Then another, where I could see across the street into the woods.  White specks driving sideways across dark tree trunks, it was really snowing!  Another block we went, turning into a wind grown suddenly sharp and brisk.  We had to watch our step as new snow covered old ice.  More than once the dog or I slid a bit, taken by surprise.

And even as we hurried slowly on, (the dog is fourteen, now), heading back to our cozy house, where the kitchen would smell of fresh-brewed coffee and the heat would gently hum, I was so glad we’d ventured out on an ordinary walk turned extraordinary.  The kiss of the wind on my cheek was sweet, pinching me back to life by this contact with the natural world.

As the dog investigated an especially interesting spot under a tree, I took a deep breath and looked around me—at the stark winter outline of trees, at two crows winging swiftly off on some errand, at the puffs of white climbing up from chimneys even as other puffs of white fell silently down to blanket the roof, the lawn, the dog and me.

To be in touch with nature, even for just the length of a walk, is to remember we are of this earth, as we are on this earth.  Mother Nature’s heart beats in each and every living thing, a gift I’m happy to acknowledge always, but never more than on days like this, when my boots crunch over fresh snow and the dog’s black fur turns white beneath winter’s flurry.

 

silhouette photography of birds in flight and perched on electricity line

Photo by Elizabeth Tr. Armstrong on Pexels.com

Saw the most amazing bird acrobatics on my way up to the library today.  If there was one pigeon, there were thirty, and they burst into view from behind the church steeple, as if by magic.  Then, they soared and dipped and swirled as a mass, their wings flicking from black to white and black again with the movement.  Honestly, it looked like fireworks on the 4th of July—that great big one that bursts into a circle as green, then changes to red, then to white.  I stood there in the middle of the barely-plowed street and watched until they settled at last onto the phone lines that run over the road.  Then, I applauded.  “Bravo!  Good show!”

Another Store Gone

End of an era

The department store closes

And time marches on

I’ve just returned from one of the last trips I’ll ever make to the K-Mart in my town.  The store’s been slated to close in January, as part of Sears’ mad scramble to stay afloat.

This breaks my heart for several reasons.

First off, 75 people will lose their jobs and some of these employees have worked there for years.  What will become, I wonder, of the older woman with whom I’ve often chatted, sharing stories of the time we both worked at different Woolworths?  What of the 74 others?

Secondly, this will create another huge vacancy in our small town within the space of a year.  Earlier in 2018, the only grocery store we had left closed its doors forever.   That big building sits dark and empty now, a hollow echo of better days.  Soon the K-Mart will join the silence and become another hard-to-fill hole in our fair city.

And mostly, I feel the tug of memory.  See, I’ve lived here my whole life.  I even remember the little houses with long driveways that gave way to the shiny new K-Mart, way back when.

I’ve been a frequent customer, walking over from my childhood home and my current one.  I’ve clothed myself for every season from its aisles, purchased nearly every tree and plant in my backyard from its parking lot and filled a few prescriptions with the friendly pharmacist.  How patient and kind she has always been, taking time to explain directions and unscramble insurance snafus.  I’ll miss her, too.

I’ve spent part of every Christmas budget at our K-Mart.  That’s what I was doing today.  One year, I got up really early, to be among the first in line on Black Friday, my eye on a gemstone bracelet.  And I met my mom there, her cart already stacked high with wrapping paper and things for the grandkids.  Oh, how we laughed at the chance meeting which should have come as no surprise to either of us.  That memory always makes me smile.

Today, I wandered the colorful, cheerful holiday aisles, picked up another bracelet for my collection in the jewelry department and invested heavily, as usual, in chocolate. All the while holiday tunes filled the air.

As I flipped through the sweaters (got two!)I was hit by a sudden way of genuine sorrow for what would soon be lost, and had to blink back tears.

For what it’s worth, I’m not spending one dime online this holiday season.  The world has moved on, I know, from brick and mortar and friendly clerks who recognize you, but I’ll not be budged.  I’ll spend my money and my time with actual people, and merchandise I can hold in my hands, in my own community.

I can’t save our K-Mart any more than individual shoppers could save the other 40 or so stores slated to shut down in January, but I can be a loyal K-Mart shopper until the very end.

And, in February, when that store sits dark and cold, I’ll remember the days lights shone brightly in its windows and the big “K” in the parking lot lit the night sky.  And I’ll blink away tears again.