A lonely birthday marred by murder of my favorite soap opera character

The bar at Ashfield Lakehouse (winter snowmobilers, but a similar crowd)

The bar at Ashfield Lakehouse (winter snowmobilers, but a similar crowd)

It’s not often a man strikes up a conversation with me in a bar, but then it’s not often that I find myself alone at a bar in a strange town where I know no one.* New York City doesn’t count—I met my husband at a bar there over 40 years ago, Max’s Kansas City, to be specific. And when I’m in Manhattan for the day, I sometimes treat myself to a libation in the lobby of the Algonquin Hotel or the Marriott Marquis before heading back to Penn Station. But those are elegant upscale establishments with overpriced cocktails and comfy upholstered chairs that invite lounging, so they don’t count.

The Ashfield Lakehouse, on the other hand, is the quintessential blue-collar pub, and the man who asked me about the book I was reading at the bar when I took refuge from the storm was a perfect match for the place—middle-aged and moderately paunchy, with curly brown hair and a ruddy complexion suggestive of Irish origin. I’m not sure he was actually hitting on me. Perhaps he was just being friendly. But when he told me that like Abraham Lincoln, he had kind of an evil side, I decided it was time to settle my tab and make tracks back to Wellspring House, where I’d gone for a writer’s retreat week.

Whatever his intentions, I’ll admit I was flattered, especially since my seventy-fourth birthday was just hours away.

Robb and his motorcycle

Robb and his motorcycle

Back in my room, when I logged back online, I found a Facebook message from my husband wishing me an early Happy Birthday. I poured myself a nightcap, settled into bed with Abe the vampire hunter, and read myself to sleep.

Friday was the first birthday I can recall spending alone in over forty years, and the first day my voluntary solitude weighed heavily on my mood. The dozens of birthday greetings from friends on Facebook brightened the day enormously, but I missed Robb, and I longed to hang out in my garden with my dog Sirius and my cat Lunesta.

Although I had no access to television, I knew Friday’s General Hospital would end in a cliffhanger, and it was hard to focus on my writing. Would they really kill Silas Clay? I thought it more likely that they’d string out the suspense until the next week, maybe close with a pointed gun or an off-screen scream. But no, by 3:00pm the reports started flooding Facebook—he was dead, lying face-down on the floor, stabbed in the back. The only cliffhanger was the mystery of who had murdered him.

Silas Clay, stabbed in the back on my birthday!

Silas Clay, stabbed in the back on my birthday!

At first I felt surprisingly calm. After all, the rumors of the murder had been flying all week. But as I surfed through the messages pouring in, the sorrow was contagious. Women were crying nonstop, some for hours. One had vomited, another fainted. Many swore they would never again watch General Hospital. Like me, many had watched Michael Easton since he played the vampire Caleb Morley on Port Charles, then Lieutenant John McBain on One Life to Live and GH, then Dr. Silas Clay on GH. Fourteen years in all—it was like losing a member of the family, a close friend, a fantasy lover.

Elmer's (photo by Peacebear222)

Elmer’s (photo by Peacebear222)

I drank some wine, went for a swim, then headed to Elmer’s for a solitary birthday dinner. The place was crowded, though with a clientele very different from the Lakehouse. More upscale, dressed in country chic, speaking quietly with their partners—and virtually everyone seemed paired off with a partner. I was glad I’d be checking out the next morning.

I began this post as an exploration of my writing experience at a retreat house, and how it compares to the experience of writing at home in my own office. But I veered off on a tangent—much the way my writing got derailed by a drama being played out across the country in a Hollywood studio.

So in conclusion, I’d say I didn’t give the retreat experiment a fair trial; thus the results can’t be considered valid. If I ever decide to repeat the experiment, first I’ll treat myself to a computer or tablet equipped solely with a word processing program—one that doesn’t connect to the Internet.

*This is a continuation of the saga I began last time, in the post dated August 10th. If you missed it, I recommend you read that one first so you’ll know what I’m talking about.

Real-life soap drama shatters idyllic writing retreat

Wellspring House. Photo by Julie Lomoe

Wellspring House. Photo by Julie Lomoe

“Wherever you go, there you are.” That’s the most significant lesson I brought home from my week at a writing retreat in the Berkshires the last week in July. You can change your surroundings, plop yourself down in an idyllic setting with maximal solitude and minimal distractions, but it’s fiendishly difficult to jettison your habitual ways of frittering away the hours you ought to be writing.

My husband had spent a couple of highly productive weeks at Wellspring House in Ashfield, Massachusetts, so I decided to give it a try. My goal: to get a good running start on Sunlight and Shadow, the second in my vampire soap opera series. In particular, I wanted to get inside the head of my heroine, Abigail Hastings. Hope Dawns Eternal, the first in the series, is told entirely from the point of view of the hero, Jonah McQuarry, who fears he’s being possessed by a vampire played by the actor Mark Westgate on a long-cancelled soap. This time, I plan to alternate between Abby’s and Jonah’s viewpoints, especially since that will give me more freedom to describe Jonah in more explicitly loving detail.

Michael Easton as John McBain

Michael Easton as John McBain

Wellspring is a beautifully restored, rambling old two-story house run by Preston Browning, a retired English professor. There are bedrooms for from eight to ten writers, each nostalgically furnished in New England bed-and-breakfast style, each with its own writing desk and chair. There’s no television, and the spotty cell phone service works only if you have Verizon, which I don’t, but they do have WiFi. A shared kitchen, but no set mealtimes, and you’re responsible for your own food.

The atmosphere is quasi-monastic. Talking isn’t forbidden, but people tend to speak in hushed voices, and if you encounter someone in the common areas, it’s perfectly okay not to speak. Since people spend most of the time in their rooms, presumably writing or confronting the reasons they can’t write, it’s possible to spend an entire day in silence.

Preston Browning, proprietor of Wellspring House

Preston Browning, proprietor of Wellspring House

I booked a five-night stay and arrived Monday evening, vowing to write at least 2,000 words per day. Only after a full day of successful writing would I allow myself to tap into the box of Almaden Pinot Grigio I’d brought along. But Monday was practically over and I was tired after my drive, so I decided to take the night off and get an early start on Tuesday.

I settled in with wine, cheese and crackers. I’d brought a few library books, so I cracked open Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith. Next thing I knew, it was two in the morning—an all too common bedtime, I admit—so I slept till ten, then went out for a leisurely breakfast at Elmer’s, the restaurant down the street. Back in my room, I whiled away a couple more hours with Abe, rationalizing that the book counted as research into vampire lore. When I finally buckled down to work Tuesday afternoon, I was delighted to find myself back in the flow. Jonah and Abby were trading lustful glances and barbed witticisms in their favorite bar, and I was happily channeling their words as fast as I could type. I felt good about meeting my word count for the day.

Wednesday morning, I was still in the flow. Around noon, I decided to take a break and check my email. As usual, my inbox was dominated by Facebook notifications from the General Hospital fan groups I belong to. I clicked on one of the links and brought up my Facebook page. Within moments, I was clobbered by devastating news: Michael Easton, my favorite actor on General Hospital, was leaving the show, and Friday would probably be his last day. Although he’d signed a three-year contract renewal in March, the news didn’t come as a total shock. His character, Dr. Silas Clay, had been given increasingly crappy story lines, and recently, he’d barely been seen at all. But had he quit? Been fired? I surfed from one site to another, checked out all the soap gossip columns I could find, but nowhere could I find an explanation.

Michael as Dr. Silas Clay with Ava's baby, January 2015

Michael as Dr. Silas Clay with Ava’s baby, January 2015

This called for more than a cursory lunch break, so I headed to Elmer’s again. I ordered a  Chardonnay and silently toasted Michael, whereupon Wednesday morphed into an official day of mourning and goofing off. I hung out at the beach, did some leisurely swimming, showered and changed, then decided to dine at the Ashfield Lakehouse, a boisterous blue-collar pub. What the hell, this was hardly the time to count calories, let alone words. Their sandwich of fresh mozzarella, tomatoes and basil pesto went fabulously with the house red wine. After dinner, I retreated to my room and lost myself in the memoir of a classical pianist who had been molested by her father until I drifted off to sleep.

Thursday I tried my best to write, but I never got back in the zone, never reentered that state of creative flow where the words spill onto the screen of their own accord. I kept clicking back to the web, searching for the rest of the story of Michael’s departure, trading conspiracy theories and wallowing in collective grief on the fan sites. Rumors were flying that Silas Clay would be murdered on Friday’s show. What choice did I have? I headed back to the Lakehouse for a repeat of that yummy mozzarella sandwich.

Ashfield Lakehouse. This is exactly where I was sitting when the rain started pouring down.

Ashfield Lakehouse. This is exactly where I was sitting when the rain started pouring down.

Although storm clouds were threatening, I chose a seat out on the deck overhanging the lake. I was midway through my mozzarella sandwich when a drenching downpour let loose. The waitress helped carry my stuff inside, where I found a seat at the bar. I was back to Abe the vampire hunter once more, trying not to drip cheesy grease onto the pages, when a man asked what I was reading. When I told him, he grinned and said, “I think Abraham Lincoln had an evil side. I have kind of an evil side myself.”

(to be continued)

Ashfield Lakehouse, where I took shelter from the storm at the bar.

Ashfield Lakehouse, where I took shelter from the storm at the bar.

Me and My Shadow

Here I am, reading at McGeary's

Here I am, reading at McGeary’s

I haven’t been writing much poetry lately, but I love reading at open mics, and I’ve got lots of conflicting feelings about launching my new book, so I wrote this for Poets Speak Loud, the monthly open mic at McGeary’s Tavern in Albany. The applause was music to my ears. My shadow side is set in italics.

Me and My Shadow

HOPE DAWNS ETERNAL! That’s the title of my brand new book, available at last on Amazon. My state of mind is sunny too.

Watch out, Julie. Hope is just one step shy of mania. Trust me, you don’t want to go there.

Small likelihood of that. I haven’t been manic in years.

Oh yeah? You still dream of being a best-selling author, don’t you?

Of course, but this time it’s totally within the realm of possibility. It’s not like the time I thought I’d collaborate with the President of Bard College and Robert Rauschenberg to save the Hudson Valley. A vampire soap opera thriller – how can it possibly miss?

Vampires have been done to death.

I beg to differ – they’re immortal. Hence, HOPE DAWNS ETERNAL.

There’s nothing new to say about them. Besides, your writing is pedestrian – you’re no Bram Stoker or Anne Rice.

I’m as good as the Twilight author, and a hell of a lot better than that British broad who wrote Fifty Shades of Grey.

Touche. Her writing’s an abomination and her heroine’s an idiot.

Yes, and an insult to liberated women everywhere. But reading trash that terrible gives me hope.

Cling to your pitiful delusions if you must. But soap operas are going the way of the dodo bird – they’re practically extinct.

They still have millions of fans, and that’s my biggest target audience.

Good luck with that – those soap fans don’t read books.

You’re stereotyping a bunch of people you don’t know. Anyway, lots of people don’t read books these days. Even elitist snobs like some of my so-called friends. People who claim to support the arts, but only patronize the artists vetted by the New York Times or the New Yorker. Shell out $11.00 for a friend’s book? Fuggedabout it, as Tony Soprano would say.

Hey, wait a minute, Julie. I’m your shadow side, your Debbie Downer. You’re sounding every bit as negative as me. I thought you were upbeat.

Maybe your cynicism’s catching. Or maybe it’s my Scandinavian heritage – I’m three-quarters Norwegian and one-quarter Swedish. Depression’s in my blood.

Speaking of depression, didn’t you fall into a suicidal funk after your first two books came out and failed to set the world on fire?

Yes, and I can’t afford to fall into that death spiral ever again. That’s why I’m marketing like crazy.

But you hate marketing.

Hate’s too strong a word, and marketing’s a necessary evil. I’ve got to suck it up and grin.

Good luck with that. Anyway, it seems you’re pretty stable all in all.

Maybe that comes with age. Or maybe it’s my meds. Speaking of which, my shrink may be retiring. He wants to work exclusively in nursing homes.

Hmm, that’s interesting. You’re getting up in years, are you not?

Yes, that’s why I’ve christened my publishing imprint Norse Crone Press.

So maybe you’ll get lucky and keep the same shrink when you go to a nursing home. By any chance does he work for The Eddy?

Shadow, you’ve got a warped sense of humor.

You think I’m kidding? I’m just being practical.

Practical’s for dullards. I’m way past practical, and just pissed off enough to banish you from my brain. I order you: begone.

In other words, fuck off.

At McGeary's with my husband, Robb Smith (right)

At McGeary’s with my husband, Robb Smith (right)

 

 

Is Sloth Still a Deadly Sin?

 

Sloth three-toedThis New Year’s morning, I awoke full of good intentions. Rather than committing to the usual litany of resolutions I’ll never keep, I decided to focus on just one goal: I vow to write at least 500 words per day, which comes out to 3,500 words per week. If I don’t reach 500 words one day, I’ll make it up the next day, or the one after that. I’ll cut myself some slack and make the weekly total 3,333. That’s the same goal I set for my GoFundMe* campaign, where I’m hoping to raise $3,333.

At that rate, I’ll reach 173,316 words by next New Year’s Day. That’s the equivalent of two good-sized novels, maybe the next two books in my vampire soap opera series. But I won’t limit myself to fiction. This blog post will count toward today’s total. So will journaling or writing poetry – anything that keeps my butt in the chair and my fingers on the keyboard. Using the mouse won’t count. No more frittering away the hours with Facebook or FreeCell. (That’s worth a resolution in its own right, but it’s one I know I won’t be able to keep, so I’m not making it.)

Can I actually do this? Sounds reasonable, right? I can easily turn out 500 words in an hour or two, so what’s stopping

Sloth (detail) by Pieter Bruegel the Elder

Sloth (detail) by Pieter Bruegel the Elder

me? In a word, SLOTH. Not the cute three-toed kind shown above, but the Deadly Sin variety. Of all the Seven Deadly Sins, sloth is by far my biggest challenge. Here’s what Wikipedia has to say about it:

Sloth is one of the seven deadly sins in Christian moral tradition, particularly within Catholicism, referring to laziness. Sloth is defined as spiritual or emotional apathy, neglecting what God has spoken, and being physically and emotionally inactive. It can also be either an outright refusal or merely a carelessness in the performance of one’s obligations, especially spiritual, moral or legal obligations. Sloth can also indicate a wasting due to lack of use, concerning a person, place, thing, skill, or intangible ideal that would require maintenance, refinement, or support to continue to exist.

Back in the day, those guilty of sloth were sentenced to Hell, and in particular to a pit full of snakes. But these days, those of us who don’t fear hellfire and damnation have a hard time taking sloth all that seriously. Googling the subject, I found a brilliant essay Thomas Pynchon wrote for the New York Times in 1993. Here’s a sample:

Writers of course are considered the mavens of Sloth. . . . there is all the glamorous folklore surrounding writer’s block, an affliction known sometimes to resolve itself dramatically and without warning, much like constipation, and (hence?) finding wide sympathy among readers.

Sloth by Hieronymous Bosch

Sloth by Hieronymous Bosch

Reading Pynchon’s essay, I find I’m guilty of another of the Deadly Sins: Envy. He’s so creative, so hilarious, that I could never come remotely close to his level. This in turn engenders pessimism and an almost irresistible urge to play FreeCell or check my email. Or it could give rise to Gluttony, another of the Deadlies, but I’m still feeling bloated from overeating at Dan Wilcox’s  New Year’s Day open house, so the thought of more food is distasteful.

In case your memory needs jogging, the other four Deadly Sins are Wrath, Greed, Pride and Lust. It’s curious that drunkenness doesn’t make the cut – probably Thomas Aquinas and the other theologians were too fond of their alcoholic libations. But the fear of spending an eternity in hell for committing one of the shameful seven no doubt helped keep good Christians in line so that the social order didn’t descend into total mayhem and anarchy. Later, as Pynchon points out, the fear was harnessed in the interests of motivating the labor force that drove industrial productivity.

Today, thanks to our vastly extended life spans, most people in our country have the luxury of enjoying at least a decade or two of retirement, with the leisure time to pursue our own interests  – or to kick back and do absolutely nothing. In these bonus decades, can sloth still be considered a sin? Haven’t we earned the right to be lazy? Maybe, but if so, why do I suffer such pangs of guilt and self-loathing when I spend an afternoon immersed in reading a novel or an evening lounging in bed watching multiple episodes of the latest series on Netflix?

I could ramble on in this vein, but it’s almost midnight and I’ve exceeded my 500 words, so I’ll cease and desist. How about you? Is sloth a problem in your life? I’d love to hear from you.

*My GoFundMe campaign was on hold during the holidays, but I’m relaunching it as of today, hoping to raise money to pay for help with cover design and illustration for Hope Dawns Eternal and my other novels. To learn more, visit www.hopedawnseternal.net.

Boschsevendeadlysins

 

 

 

My NaNoWriMo win: I may be a cheater, but I’m not a liar

Trying my best at my own table

Trying my best at my own table

I made it! Last night I validated my National Novel Writing Month (aka NaNoWriMo) score of over 50,000 words, and the site declared me an official winner. They provided a link to an online certificate I can download, with lines to fill in my name and book title, and links to order merchandise, including a black tee shirt with this year’s emblem – a knight slaying a dragon.

There’s just one problem: I cheated. Yesterday afternoon I reached 30,747 words in the document I’d titled “NaNo total word count,” and there was no way I could legitimately come up with another 20,000 words in the last few hours of the contest. Illegitimately, it was easy, with just a few simple commands: Select all, copy and paste. Eureka! All at once, I had a document of 61,494 words. I uploaded it into the correct line in the NaNo form, hit the button marked “Validate,” and voila! I was a winner.

True confession time: this isn’t the first year I’ve done this. I’ve entered NaNo several times. A couple of times I dropped out, butDennys Nano 11-30-14 the other times I used the nefarious means I’ve described above. But this was the first time I solicited other people’s opinions – on Facebook, no less – before taking this sinister turn to the left. Those who replied, including my husband, felt I should take the high road and refrain from cheating. I’d be demeaning the efforts of those who won legitimately, they said. Heaven forbid I break the rules! Those rules are set by genuine human beings, true, but they’re enforced by a computer program. It counts words; it doesn’t read or judge content. Theoretically I could type the same word 50,000 times.

Our fearless leader, Shannon Kauderer

Our fearless leader, Shannon Kauderer

At last night’s final November NaNo write-in at Denny’s, the Albany group’s Sunday night hangout for the past month, I confessed my transgression and asked if anyone else had cheated. No one fessed up. I wasn’t tarred and feathered, but no one told me it was okay, and I didn’t win the plastic diamond our leader passed out to those who had won legitimately.

So am I ashamed? Embarrassed? Yes, to some extent. In the hard light of the morning after, I considered not blogging about this at all, but then I’d feel even more cowardly. Besides, in many ways I consider myself a genuine winner, with some bona fide accomplishments. For example:

  • I’m off to a good start on Sunlight and Shadow, the sequel to Hope Dawns Eternal, and I know where the plot is going from here.
  • I’ve learned the basics of the Scrivener program, which offers new ways of organizing my novel in a more flexible, less linear fashion.
  • I’ve found I can write at night as well as I can in the daytime.
  • My wine consumption has dropped dramatically because of the aforementioned night writing, because my writing suffers when I’m under the influence. Even a single glass makes me noticeably more slow and stupid.
  • I’ve gotten better at just jumping in and tackling a scene rather than procrastinating and waiting for inspiration to strike.
  • I’ve gotten better at banishing my inner critic.

I still prefer writing in solitude to writing in groups. And I’ll never be as speedy as those folks who can crank out thousands of words a day, but then I’ve never read anything they’ve written. For all I know, it’s total gibberish, but in NaNoWriMo, aside from counting words,  there’s no comparing and no critiquing. That’s why I’ll probably do it again. Who knows, next year I might even win without cheating.

Dennys NaNo Robb

 

The accompanying photos are from last night’s write-in at the Denny’s in Latham. A shout-out to the wonderful staff there, who let us hang out for hours in our very own room, overdosing on coffee and scrumptious desserts.

The NaNoWriMo Challenge – Do you play well with others?

Baldacci Total Control coverWarming up the car this morning before taking off for my Nia class, tardy as usual, I caught the tail end of an interview with the best-selling novelist David Baldacci on WAMC Northeast Public Radio. Joe Donahue, the interviewer on The Roundtable, asked him if he’d ever consider collaborating with another writer. “No,” he said. “I don’t play well with others.” 

Donahue was referring to writers like James Patterson and Janet Evanovich, who have published novels with a co-author listed in smaller type below their names. “Why would I do that?” asked Baldacci. “It would spoil all the fun.” 

I’m with him – I don’t write well in groups. Case in point: National Novel Writing Month, aka NaNoWriMo. I signed up again this month, though it’s been an exercise in frustration when I participated in past Novembers. Writing 50,000 words in a month is a daunting task. It comes out to an average of 1,617 words a day. You post your daily word count on a jazzy bar graph on the NaNo website. The graph and its accompanying chart track your progress and the date you can be expected to finish if you proceed at your current pace. Last night the site told me I’d finish on Christmas eve if I churned out about 2,500 words a day. In other words, I’d lose. 

The Albany area has a large and dedicated group of NaNo participants. There are multiple write-ins at various locations in the Capital Region. For the most part they’re at cafes and coffee houses, and for good reason – the caffeine tends to inspire jacked-up bouts of creativity, and people can hang out for hours nursing a single cup of coffee. Personally, I feel it’s only fair to order some food as well. This usually takes the form of high-calorie, high-fat, high-sugar concoctions. One of my favorites is warm apple pie a la mode drenched in caramel sauce. Denny's French toast ad

That particular diet destroyer is on the dessert menu at Denny’s, where write-ins take place every Sunday night. Writers with laptops descend on the place like locusts at the Latham location, where they’ve taken to saving a separate side room for us. The Municipal Liaison, aka chief cheerleader, is Shannon Kauderer, a young woman with blond hair shading to green, who’s a chemist by day and science fiction writer by night. 

These Sunday night write-ins have an unusual format: folks write silently for 20 minutes, then socialize for 20 minutes, then write, then socialize. And so it goes, usually till midnight, sometimes as late as 2:00 a.m. (The fact that Denny’s is open 24/7 is a major inducement to patronize the place.) 

My husband thrives on this format. He can flail away at his laptop, then get up and stroll around the room, chatting with the other participants, most of whom are several decades our juniors. Then when Shannon sounds the timer, he can sit back down and resume writing right where he left off. Others can apparently write this way, although I have no clue as to the quality of what they’re churning out. Still others ignore the chit chat and write straight through the social breaks. 

Woman Writing, Picasso 1934

Woman Writing, Picasso 1934

I can do neither – at least not well. I work best in absolute solitude, with only my dog or cat for occasional company. No background music, no interruptions except for full-blown emergencies. I’ve learned to write during those 20-minute sprints, but I hate turning my creative process on and off at will. And I never talk about what I’m writing in the midst of writing it. For me, it dissipates my energy and scares away my ever-elusive muse. Huddling silently over my laptop while my spouse enjoys the company of younger women, I may come across as curmudgeonly, but I truly don’t care. Like David Baldacci, I don’t play well with others. 

Still, despite my reservations, I’ll probably show up for another Denny’s write-in. The positive energy is infectious, and I’m getting better at jumping right into my writing without procrastinating. I may make my 50,000 word count after all. Besides, there are lots of scrumptious desserts I haven’t tried yet. 

What about you? Can you write with others around, or do you require solitude? I’d love to hear your comments.

 

 

 

 

 

Drifting downstream in search of inspiration

The Lady of Shalott by John William Waterhouse, 1888

The Lady of Shalott by John William Waterhouse, 1888

In search of illustrations for this blog post about NaNoWriMo and my writing process, I Googled “Woman Writing Painting.” Hundreds of images popped up, and as I scrolled through them, this painting of the Lady of Shalott by John William Waterhouse* caught my eye. The woman is drifting on a river, face tilted skyward, eyes downcast, in an exotic black boat. What is she doing amidst all the images of women sitting demurely in gardens or cozy interiors?

Through still more Googling, I learned that the work is inspired by a poem by Tennyson, in which the reclusive Lady of Shalott is lured by the sight of Sir Lancelot to leave her island and drift downstream in a boat to Camelot. As she floats, she sings until she dies.* But to me she’s a striking image for creativity, drifting downstream, open to whatever comes her way. It’s an image reminiscent of John Lennon’s lyrics too – “Picture yourself in a boat on a river” and “Turn off your mind, relax and float downstream.”

But I digress. Still, that’s the beautiful thing about sitting down at the computer in front of a blankJohn Lennon Imagine illustration screen – you never know where it will take you. In part, this image, labelled as being in the public domain, inspired me to look for other nineteenth-century paintings that might serve as cover illustrations for Hope Dawns Eternal. I’ve launched a GoFundMe campaign to raise money to hire an illustrator, designer and webmaster to maximize the impact of the book when I launch it, but maybe the illustrator won’t be necessary. So far, the results have been underwhelming, but I’m determined to persevere. One way or another, I’ll launch the book before the end of the year.

I’m so convinced of the potential of Hope Dawns Eternal that I’ve created a brand-new blog at www.hopedawnseternal.net. That site will focus exclusively on my vampire soap opera thriller and my route to publication, as well as on the sequel, Sunlight and Shadow. (I’ll be keeping up this site as well, and sometimes you may see me cross-posting on both. If you do, please pardon the repetition, but please subscribe to both.)

I’ve been working on Sunlight and Shadow during this month’s NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) challenge. I’m woefully behind,

Another Waterhouse painting of the Lady of Shalott, titled "I am half sick of shadows"

Another Waterhouse painting of the Lady of Shalott, titled “I am half sick of shadows”

because I’ve devoted the first third of this month to grandmothering duties and to the Memorial Society of the Hudson-Mohawk Region, of which I’m President. (You can learn more about this important community ministry, which helps folks learn more about affordable funerals, by visiting www.hudsonmohawkfca.wordpress.org. )

I’m aiming for 33,333*** words by November 30th, the equivalent of two/thirds of the NaNoWriMo goal of 50,000 words. I know I can reach the 50K goal with the aid of some creative copying and pasting, and by counting blogging and journaling as part of the word count. Strictly speaking, that’s cheating, but who knows – I might even reach the word count legitimately if I can barrel through the doubts and insecurities that are entangling my creative process as I relax and float downstream.

*John William Waterhouse, a British artist born in 1849, the period when the Pre-Raphaelite style was at its height; he adopted the style decades later.

Alfred Lord Tennyson**Tennyson’s poem is beautifully evocative, and I was inspired to learn more about him. The biography at www.poetryfoundation.org describes how he suffered from deep depressions and was fearful of succumbing to the mental illness that ran in his family.

***$3,333 is the amount I’m hoping to raise on GoFundMe. Please help me by visiting www.gofundme.com/gep8ts. Every little bit helps. You can win prizes, too, including signed first editions of my books.

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