Tuesday, June 30, 2015

It’s almost unbearably . . .

green outside today. 
A brilliant, verdant green with more shades than you could possibly imagine even as it is dazzling your eyes.  From the dark, shadowy green of the young pear tree leaves to the shiny, almost neon green of the light coming through the poplar leaves outside my window.  And the greens themselves change their hues as the sun slips in and out of the clouds.

I’m at the cabin in the woods and it’s been raining for the last two days in thunderous pouring cloudbursts that last for hours.  It’s a jungleish tangle out there, vines seemingly reaching out to trip me as I walk.  I can smell the green.  There’s no other way to put it.

I spent an hour this morning trying to tame one tiny patch around and in the old asparagus bed.  At the rest, I can only shake my head.  It’s too far gone to be rescued by anything less than a professional company.  The grand experiment is no more.

I’m tempted to tear down what’s left the fencing and let the deer and the rabbits have at it, then raze what’s left to the ground and open the landscape back up.  The trees and bushes will survive the deer, or not.  Let it be out of my hands.

But I can’t quite go there yet.  I’ve put in so much time, so much energy.  The gardens need to be worked. This land needs to find its new right person.  There’s a fit out there somewhere, a perfect fit.  Someone who wants this place as much as it needs to be wanted.

So instead I wander the boundaries, picking wild blueberries and searching out the first of the ripe wild raspberries.  There’s going to be a good crop along the mile of driveway.  And all this rain has popped out the coral chanterelles on the muddy bank they favor.  They are barely more than pinhead sized this morning, but by the middle of the week when I come back for the first of the raspberries, they’ll be big enough to pick.

And my book, the one my publisher declined, well, that’s starting to get a bit of new life around the edges as well.  Maybe it’s the deluge of requests for Coyote Summer that you guys sent out to your local libraries.  Maybe it’s the slight but definite increase I’m seeing in sales on Amazon.  Maybe you haven’t done anything yet, but just the fact that you thought about it has caused a stirring in the space/time continuum.  Perhaps it’s all of the above.  But I’ve been clearing out some old negative energy, making some space.  I’m going through and taking those steps I hadn’t bothered with when I had a publisher: chapter outlines, a synopsis, a cover letter.  I’m going through those first three sample chapters with a fine tooth comb I would’ve left to my editor.

I’ve put too much work into this new manuscript.  It’s done.  It might need a little pruning around the edges and there might be a fair amount of general cleanup inside.  But I’m not ready to raze it to the ground.  Not yet.  Somewhere out there is someone who wants this book.  I just have to put it out to the universe.

under a tree
moss on a log
moss on creek stones
and then there's the creek itself
new growth ferns

Monday, June 15, 2015

It’s crazy . . .

crazy hot out today.
It’s even crazy hot up here at the cabin. Which is pretty crazy for the middle of June.
Are you sensing a theme here?

I am up at the cabin because, aside from the fact that it’s supposed to be cooler, (which it’s not) and quieter (which it definitely is) than town, it’s supposed to be relaxing. There aren’t any chores that need to be done up here. Cleaning this cabin takes approximately seven minutes. Don’t ask me how I know this. I have a garden plot the size of a very small flag behind the porch that is weeded and mulched to within an inch of its life.

There’s no TV to watch, no Internet to play around on. Nothing to wash or cook, no way to do any of the 10,000 things with which I normally fill my days.

I could be resting. Resting and reading, spending quality time with the dogs…

Except for that damn brick sitting in the middle of the room. The dogs don’t seem to notice it but I have to step over it every time I get up from my comfortable chair. I’ve tried pointedly ignoring it. The brick doesn’t budge. I sat down across from it and explained to it my resentment at its existence, especially on such a hot weekend. I told it about the pain in my hands. Brick was unmoved. Just sat there, a smug expression on its rough red face. Well, ok. What was actually on its face was a nasty bad word.

That’s right. I’ve got the dreaded SHOULD brick right in the middle of my weekend.

I’d managed to whittle it down a bit by reading half of Empire Falls and watching Birdman. Then I heard a college friend had just won a prestigious children’s book award and the damn brick gained 20 pounds and actually pushed one of the dogs off the rug.

It’s not that I begrudge my friend his award. He’s worked very hard and he’s published a lot more than I have. It just comes at a bad time. Because my latest book recently got turned down by my publisher. Not enough sales by the first one in the series to justify publishing the second one. In their opinion. Even though they told me in the same letter that middle reader sales take time to develop and Coyote Summer is barely a year old.

And while Coyote Summer is a good book, this new one is so much better. And I have already put in so much work on promotion. I’ve got the webpage, I’ve got this blog. I’ve got a writer’s Facebook page. I’ve even tried my hand at twitter. I’ve sent out thousands of requests for reviews, sent copies to other people’s blogs for giveaways.

Don’t worry, I’m not giving up.

After all, I sent Coyote Summer out to exactly one publisher. So I’ve got a lot of places left to send out the next book in the series. I should get to work compiling that list. And then I should start sending out query letters. Which I still have to write. As well as an outline, and a synopsis. I should be doing everything that I tell people to do when I give my writing talks.

But I have to admit I’m annoyed because I feel like I’m not the only one who should have a should brick in the middle of the living room. My publisher should have taken the second book and you, gentle readers should have at least a chip off the should brick hanging around your house. Or maybe it’s a little could rock. You could help me out here. You could make my publisher sorry they didn’t take this new book. How? Funny you should ask –

I’m not asking you to buy a copy of Coyote Summer, although if you have a ‘tween in your life I can highly recommend it. It appears to be very well written.
No, all I’m asking you to do is go to your local library branch and request it. Heck, you don’t even have to go in person. A simple phone call will do. If they tell you they don’t have it, which they probably will, ask them if they will order it for you.

Of course when they call you to tell you the book has arrived it would be a nice gesture if you actually went and picked it up. And since you are already going to that much trouble, you might as well read it. You could even leave a review on Amazon or Goodreads.

But all I’m really asking is that you make the call. I’d love to find a publisher for the second book after sales of the first one have gone up enough to show my old publisher they were wrong. You do your part, and I promise to whittle away at the should brick in the middle of the living room until it’s nothing more than a pile of brick dust.

No matter how hot it gets.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Memory . . .

It’s nine a.m. and still cool up here at the cabin. In town I’d have had to walk the dogs before seven to beat the heat. Here we just came back up the road.

It’s green up here too, a lush, almost tropical kind of green, different, more varied than the green of my yard in town. I can just see a slice of the side of Big House Mountain through the cut made 17 years ago by the power company stringing new line onto the land. A month ago almost the whole mountain was exposed, visible through the budding trees.

Living in town now, I miss the cool here. I miss the dried leaf and rich loam smell of the forest.  And I miss the quiet punctuated by birdsong and the hum of insects. In town we have a mockingbird that imitates 47 birds outside in the old apple tree, but it’s not quite the same. It’s been two full summers and I am still not used to the perpetual and constant sound of mowers, weed whackers and leaf blowers that punctuate every daylight hour from April to September.

This mountain land is far more overgrown now than my OCD self used to keep it. The forest is encroaching into the clearings and my hand-manicured gardens lie in disrepair. No longer able to handle the workload or the drive into town, I have retreated to the little writing cabin nestled at the edge of the woods. My partner and I come up as many weekends as we can manage. We are trying to make this space our refuge.

The larger cabin where I spent most of my first 17 years in Virginia – only a few hundred yards away - is occupied now by renter/caretakers whose busy lives spill out onto the porch and surrounding grounds. I know I am incredibly blessed to have 2 places to lay my head, when so many don’t have even one. This knowledge runs through me, as much a part of me as the pain and fatigue that forced me to abandon my 68 acre dream in the woods for a more realistic and manageable third of an acre in town.

I know.

The sun is out now, glinting off the wire enclosing the tiny stand of fruit trees, beginning of my now abandoned orchard. From my perch on a stool at the tiny drop down table I can the wild blackberry patch. The vines have dropped their petals since I was last here and are beginning to fruit out, as is the elderberry gifted to me years ago and the wineberry vines that have taken up residence in one of the gardens. In the creek the watercress still flourishes, as do the wild mushrooms that spring along paths and old roadbeds when rain is plentiful.

Perhaps it’s ok that so much of what I did here is reverting back into wild. I shall have to spend time, money and precious energy cleaning it up if or when I need to sell, but for now, instead of cultivated asparagus and blueberries, I will teach myself to be content with wild berries and mushrooms. I will learn to rejoice in the wildflowers that bloom in glorious profusion from seed strewn long ago onto naked red clay banks along the road instead of mourning choked out gardens of carefully tended perennials brought from a local nursery. I will transplant those I can to my gardens in town and let myself be surprised by bursts of color peeking through stands of green at odd intervals throughout the summer.

I will.  

And I will carry away with me each time I leave the memory of the taste of blueberries and asparagus, and the sight and scent of those gardens. The way I’ve kept the memories of my travels in these intervening years.  The memories are good.  And I can keep them safe from the encroaching forest of daily life, the leafy, twining march of forgetfulness that comes with time. This work I can still do.

Times change, people change, but the song remains the same.
That might not be strictly accurate, but it’s the way I remember that phrase.

And it’s the memory that’s important.