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books, Writing

Writing about Triangles

I like triangles. Yeah, the geometric ones are interesting, but I’m talking about the triangles that can get people into trouble. That’s why I use them in my novels. Yes, The Sweet Spot has a big one.

And to complicate things, one person in the triangle is dead.

So, there is Edie St. Claire, whose last name was Sweet before she married Gil St. Claire right after their high school graduation — much to the consternation of his parents. Theirs is a tender love. But Edie’s life is turned upside down when Gil dies in Vietnam.

The third part of this triangle is Walker St. Claire, Gil’s brother. Years after his brother dies, he takes up with Edie even though he is married and has kids of his own. (There’s another triangle.)

Edie can’t let go of her love for Gil, who by my accounts was a sweetheart of a guy, and finds something to care about in his brother besides the sex. Unfortunately, Walker is obsessed with Edie.

This situation is not going to end well, I will tell you that. The tone in this book is decidedly not comic as was the case in my first novel Peace, Love, and You Know What.

Here is a scene from early in The Sweet Spot. Walker has taken Edie to his lakeside cabin. By the way, Shane and Randy are his twin boys.

Edie dressed as she walked around the cabin. She kneeled on the couch to study the dusty black-and-white photos of men holding dead game and strings of fish. Walker grinned from the edge of the bed, where he pulled on his cowboy boots.

Her face spun toward him.

“It’s Gil and you,” she said.

Walker stood beside her. Two smiling boys, wearing plaid jackets and furry hats flapped over their ears, posed with rifles.

“It’s us alright. Dad used to bring me and Gil up here when we were kids.”

“Look at you two. Just like Shane and Randy.”

Edie studied the photo. Walker cleared his throat. He wanted her to look at him.

“What do ya think it would’ve been like if he lived?” he asked her.

“Well, for one, I wouldn’t be here with you.”

She smiled. But Walker felt his jaw freeze. His words came from the back of his throat.

“What are you saying?”

“I’m saying we would’ve been happily married. I wouldn’t have been alone with Amber.”

“You think so, huh?”

“Course, I do.”

“Sure.”

“Walker, this is silly.”

He clasped her arm tightly and brought his face close to hers. Her smile went flat. Edie cried out, and when he let her go, she dropped the photograph to the floor.

When I think back on the characters in the book, I see other three-pointed relationships, most of which don’t involve intimacy or sex, like Edie’s relationship with her mother and father in-law. Marie is frank about her disapproval of Edie but she puts up with her. Fred has a clear fondness for Edie although his wife runs that marriage.

There is Edie’s relationship with her father and aunt, who like to spar.

And figure in Harlan Doyle, the stranger who moves into town.

Yes, I like things in threes.

The Sweet Spot’s launch, in paperback and Kindle, is expected mid-January, when we’ve all recovered a bit from the holidays.

And here’s the link to Peace, Love, and You Know What on Amazon.

ABOUT THE PHOTO ABOVE: As we ponder the cover, I’ve been researching images of the hilltowns of Western Massachusetts on the internet. I found this vintage postcard of Worthington, where I once lived.

 

 

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cider
books, Publishing

All in Good Time

It’s all in the timing: the punchline to a good joke; getting a deal on an airline ticket; and, for me, the launch of my next novel. I am writing about The Sweet Spot.

As loyal readers know, I’ve been pitching The Sweet Spot recently, saying it would come out very soon. It’s the first of my so-called hilltown novels, which take place in rural Western Massachusetts, where I once lived. Set in 1978, the novel has a big scandal, a nasty feud, and interesting country folk living in the fictional town of Conwell. As usual, I love my characters, including one very flawed man.

Now, I officially announce the launch date of The Sweet Spot will be in January, more towards the middle than the end.

There are very practical reasons for the delay. I kept reading the manuscript over and over and over, forwards and backwards, on the screen and paper. I’m doing this on my own and want to get it right.  Also, Michelle, the book’s designer, has other obligations.

We could have launched the novel in late November or early December, but that seemed like a bad idea, given the pre-Christmas shopping frenzy. Frankly, I don’t think my novel would be on anyone’s wish list, save for a few dear friends and family members.

January seemed like a smarter move. New Kindle and tablet owners will be looking for novels to read. People will be hunkering down with books because it’s winter.

Michelle and I met last week, now that she’s read the entire novel, to talk about cover ideas. I am going to read the manuscript one last time — I promise — before I hand The Sweet Spot over to her, so she can get it ready for paperback and Kindle. This time, we are releasing both versions at the same time.

During the time leading up to the launch, I will be giving updates, including a peek at the cover and snippets of copy. I will tell you about the main characters, such as Edie, Walker, and Harlan. Then there’s Edie’s old rascal of a father, who runs the town dump, and her outspoken aunt. The Sweet Spot is far more serious than my first novel, Peace, Love, and You Know What, although like real life, it has its comic moments.

When I think about it, January is not that far off.

ABOUT THE PHOTO ABOVE: That is a glass of Harvey’s Raw Apple Cider I bought at the Taos Farmers Market last week, the last time it will be available in Taos this season. Unpasteurized cider is illegal in New Mexico, except at farmers markets. The full-bodied cider tastes just like what I used to drink in New England. Delicious.

 

 

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books, Peace Love and You Know What, Professor Groovy, Writing

I Say Uncle

I am not a quitter. One of my favorite quotes is “Perseverance furthers” from the I Ching. But I finally found a fight no longer worth my time: creating an audio book.

For this project, I chose Professor Groovy and Other Stories, a collection of four short pieces. These stories predate my novel Peace, Love, and You Know What. Prof Groovy has only 10,000 words. Peace etc. has eight times that amount. A piece of cake, right? Uh, no.

I enjoyed a bit of pride learning the Garage Band program on my Mac and getting the settings down. I turned my office into a humble studio using every darn piece of foam in the house. I learned to breathe and read in a pleasant narrative. I figured out how to edit the tracks.

But, alas, no matter my effort, I felt strongly the audio tracks weren’t good enough to sell. I am not a professional, and it showed.

And, worse, I was spending too much time fixing audio tracks and not writing. I don’t even want to guess at the amount of hours spent on this project.

But I will make myself feel better and say I didn’t give up easily. I tried, I really did.

I haven’t given up on the idea that my published books, now and in the future, will also be audio books. But my new cosmic plan is to attract enough bread so I can hire someone who knows what the heck they are doing.

So what have I been doing besides feeling relieved? Writing-wise, I’ve started a new novel, this one a mystery set in the hilltowns of Western Massachusetts, where I once lived. I like where it’s going.

Also, I’ve started the last copyediting go-through for The Sweet Spot, the next novel I will be publishing later this fall. That one is set in Western Massachusetts, too, but in 1978. A lot more on that in the near future.

Finally, another new project: a bilingual novel for adult students taking ESL. I had a wonderful experience visiting the class of Teresa, my friend and collaborator. That experience deserves a separate post.

So I’m an audio book failure. No regrets, however, as I have other creative things to do.

ABOUT THE PHOTO ABOVE: Summer hangs on a bit.

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andrew bassoon
Beatles, books, music, Peace Love and You Know What, reading

Thank You So Very Much

I have been immersed in copyediting, reading the ms for The Sweet Spot forwards, backwards and forwards. Now I raise my head above this task and thank a whole bunch of people.

Brodsky

Andrew Heinrich and Rick Smith at Brodsky.

Andrew Heinrich is the first I will mention. A bassoonist, Andrew expanded his serious repertoire of classical music to grant my request that he play The Beatles at my Sept. 17 reading of Peace, Love, and You Know What at Brodsky Bookshop in Taos. He played more songs than I expected, including one of my favorites, In My Life, from the album Rubber Soul.

Andrew studied the instrument at the Cleveland Institute of Music and New England Conservatory. He hasn’t played in public for a while, so I am very grateful. The audience was delighted. I was, too.

He will have a return engagement when he plays at my next reading, unscheduled as of yet but likely later this fall. That would be for The Sweet Spot, and the natural accompaniment would be Country and Western — pre-eight track. I am talking about the likes of Hank Williams and Patsy Cline. Stay tuned.

Secondly, thanks to Rick Smith at Brodsky for hosting the reading and the attentive audience who came. They laughed at the funny parts. What can I say?

Next, I thank those who have bought my books — in stores and online.

I am further grateful to those who have taken the time to write a review on Amazon. The latest was my friend, Cindy Brown, author of the Taos Hiking Guide. (If you hike in the Taos area, you need to buy her book.)

Cindy wrote in part, “The characters feel real and we get to see into what they are thinking and feeling; really understanding their motivations and doubts. The book follows them through the end of college and their launch into real life — complete with surprises and mystery that makes for a compelling read.”

She messaged me when she filed the review. Then I found a surprise: reviews from people I didn’t know.

Eli Dunn titled his review: Don’t miss this gem! “Funny, funky, and fresh this fictional account of hipsters on campus during the sixties will draw you into their world of sex, drugs, and rock and roll. With a ready-made soundtrack, this novel is sure to be a cult movie favorite someday soon.” (I like that idea.)

Joana wrote: “Well, that was fun. This novel rang true to college hippie life at the cusp of the 70s. I felt like I knew the characters to the point of faces popping into my head, because I met some of their doppelgangers back in those days. Sexy, druggy, yet still a hopeful story of young uncertain people finding their way through their ‘coming of age’ towards love and adulthood. The story is timeless in that sense. Hope we hear more from Ms. Livingston!”

An anonymous reviewer gave it five stars and the comment, “Great book.”

Here’s the link, if you want your shot: Peace, Love, and You Know What on Amazon

So it’s back to work. Later this week, Michelle, who designs my books, will give me a timeframe. Meanwhile I keep hunting for misplaced commas, typos and repetitive words  — now in 50-page increments, my latest device. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read The Sweet Spot, but I still love it. I hope you all will, too.

ABOUT THE PHOTO ABOVE: Andrew Heinrich plays the bassoon. Photos by Cody Hooks.

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books, Peace Love and You Know What, reading

Peace, Love, and The Beatles on the Bassoon

I have a reading of my novel Peace, Love, and You Know What scheduled Saturday, Sept. 17 at one of my favorite bookstores Brodsky Bookshop. If you happen to be in Taos, it starts 4 p.m. Of course, it’s free.

Besides reading about the hippies from the fictional Westbridge State College, I have invited Andrew Heinrich to play a few Beatles songs on the bassoon.

Andrew studied at the Cleveland Institute of Music and New England Conservatory. He typically plays classical music on the bassoon but agreed to add The Beatles to his repertoire for the reading. I left the choices up to him.

And, yes, there will be brownies, sans the ingredient the character Lenora used in the ones she baked in the book. After all, pot ain’t legal in New Mexico.

Copies of the book will be available to purchase.

So, what’s the novel about? Tim and his roommates, Manny, Mack and the nervous poet Joey, plan a three-day graduation bash at their slummy college apartment. At the top of their invite list is Lenora, their queen, who is graduating and splitting for Europe. (Tim, who is a few credits short, is faking his graduation.) Tim and Lenora have been tight friends for four years and he figures this party might be his last chance with her.

The three-day bash is a big hit for every hippie freak — including the rival Roach Motel Tribe — and dirty professor at Westbridge State College. You name it, they do it. Tim does get his chance with Lenora, but so do two others. And graduation manages to go off almost without a hitch.

For the next few years, Lenora lives in a commune while Tim stumbles on a path toward adulthood and perhaps that elusive happiness.

I am grateful to Rick Smith at Brodsky for the opportunity to read from my novel. Brodsky is a small store crammed with books, mostly used but some new, especially from local authors like myself.

The bookshop goes on largely because Smith makes it an experience to visit and buy books. He has a wealth of knowledge about Taos and tells good stories. Then, there is Willy, the shop cat.

Finding something good to read, whether it is old or new, is a serendipitous experience at Brodsky. Here is a story I wrote for The Taos News about the shop. Brodsky story Taos News

I am getting ready for the reading by choosing a few good sections. Oh, yeah, I gotta bake those brownies.

If you live or are visiting in Taos, I hope to see you there.

Here’s the link to Amazon for Peace, Love, and You Know What: Peace etc. on Amazon

 

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