I am sitting in somebody's car while wearing big, pink sunglasses.
books, friends, hippies

From One Who Was There

At first, my friend Fred Fullerton was going to hold off reading my novel Peace, Love, and You Know What until it came out in paperback. But then he couldn’t resist. After all, he makes a cameo appearance.

Fred is one of the party-goers at the three-day graduation bash held at a slummy, college apartment. Joey, a brainy but nervous guy who loves poetry, is one of the roommates. It’s the first night of the bash. Here is the excerpt:

Joey sat several feet away, talking it up with another heavy thinker, a guy who returned to Westbridge on the GI Bill after being stationed in Europe. He was into that expat thing, wearing a beret and smoking a pipe. The two were deep into William Carlos William’s Kora in Hell Improvisations. Joey rushed to the attic to get his copy, dog-eared and filled with his notes. The two passed a joint and read the best passages aloud while the expat’s foxy German wife chain-smoked unfiltered Gauloises.

“Read that line again. I think I heard something new there,” Joey told the expat.

Fred attended Bridgewater State College, now a university, in the sixties. He went into the service and was stationed in Germany before returning to finish his degree. He moved back to Germany after he graduated, but now lives in the U.S.

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Fred shortly after he moved back to German in 1974.

I met Fred during his second go-round at the college. We have remained very good friends since, keeping in contact via letters, emails, and visits when I am back East. Yeah, he’s a heavy thinker with a great sense of humor. He’s also a reader and writer. And, he’s also one of the few people I used directly as inspiration for this comedy from the seventies.

So, although Fred read earlier drafts of the novel, he downloaded the Kindle app to his computer April 18. Then, the emails began.  I am going to quote from the less personal messages.

Here’s the first: I downloaded the Kindle edition of Love, Peace & You Know What and want to read the final version since the last time I read it was while you were still editing it. I chuckled at the party scene where Joey and the expat are discussing and read William Carlos Williams Kora in Hell: Improvisations. I guess I’ll have to read it so I can discuss it with “Joey.”

Yup, Joey is another of my characters inspired by a real person. But this is fiction, not a memoir.

Then, I asked Fred to check the acknowledgements at the end of the novel. He’s in there.

The back and forth began. Fred would read a little. I would find a question in my email, several times a day.

Curious …who was the gay prof at the 3-day party at 221 Winter St.?

He asks about other characters. He recalls dear friends from our tribe who died. I let him know which characters are total fabrications, which are most of them.

I’m having a ball reading this book. Even though I read earlier drafts, this is much improved and really funny! It’s also bringing back lots of memories … the coffee shop (I lived in the boarding house above it my freshman year), and other places. I spent many, many evenings at Westbridge Apartments, which you accurately rename the Roach Motel!

Yes, it was an apt description of the row of apartments that resembled more of a motel than student housing. It’s no longer there. Also, 221 Winter Street is a variation of an actual address. The layouts of the campus and town were as I remember it then. (I haven’t been back since I graduated but I am planning a field trip soon.)

I’m reading your book as if I were drinking a fine wine or whiskey in small sips. At this rate, I might have a review for you by this weekend.

The emails sped up.

I also like how the music at Ned’s [Professor Ned Burke AKA Professor Groovy] memorial service is Edith Piaff’s “Non, je ne regrette rien.” It’s as apropos as his dying “in the saddle,” so to speak.

I listened to her sing that song a few times while I wrote the scene.

On April 22: I love the part where Joey teaches Beowulf to Mack’s class. Yes, Beowulf is a terrific tale. I can’t remember when I first read it, perhaps in high school, but I’ve read it a few times since.

I tell Fred I had to teach Beowulf to high school freshmen when I was a student teacher. I don’t think I was very successful. I only got a B.

You rascal! You put your dad in there as Coach Tony Madrid! 😀

Yes, I used my father for the character of the man who was retiring after coaching generations of high school students. Tim, one of the main characters, is covering his retirement sendoff for a newspaper.

I’m almost done. Your book is laugh-out-loud funny. I especially cracked up when Manny said, “I feel like I’m in somebody’s acid trip.” You’ve got so much going on in the book. It’s not only a roman à clef but also a Bildungsroman with a good dose of Sturm und Drang!

I tell Fred I still find the book funny after reading it a zillion times.

And on April 23: The review is “alive” on Amazon. It was fun to do!

Yes, you can go to Amazon and see it for yourself. Fred gave the novel five stars. Thank you dear friend.

Here’s the link: http://www.amazon.com/Peace-Love-You-Know-What-ebook/dp/B01E03WMQC/ref=la_B01E1HKIDG_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1461508808&sr=1-1

Peace, Love, and You Know What will be out in paperback hopefully soon. I am going to attempt audio, even with my New England accent.

PHOTO ABOVE: I used this photo once before for my piece about my obsession with Bob Dylan’s music. My sister sent me this photo. I am sitting in somebody’s car while I am wearing big, pink sunglasses. I don’t remember who took it or the occasion. But I like the stray curl.

 

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sangres
family, friends

One of the Good Guys

Our family friend, Ernie Nugent, died Jan. 11 at age 73. He was one of the good guys.

We knew Ernie and his large, extended family when we lived in Worthington, a hilltown in Western Massachusetts. He worked on the town’s three-man highway crew for over three decades, including as its road boss. (He also has a brother named Bert, which has always been a source of amusement.)

nate and ernie

Nate and his buddy, Ernie

Our son, Nate, knew him best. Ernie hayed the farm across the road in the Ringville section where we lived first in that town. He also raised pigs there. They were good buddies.

Through Ernie, Nate got to know the part of country living that was close to the earth — and all about machinery. I know long before he was a teenager, Nate was Ernie’s extra hand, driving a tractor or farm truck. I recall looking out the kitchen window when I was washing dishes to see Ernie take down a hog with one shot, and then Nate helping him get it ready for butchering.

Nate and Ernie had a special bond. He often joined Ernie when he plowed the roads, riding for hours in the cab of the truck. Ernie would stop the truck at the end of our driveway for Nate to join him.

One year, Ernie rigged up a plow to an old rider mower so Nate could clear our driveway. (I guess it stuck. Nate works as a union heavy equipment operator.)

I knew Ernie from when I was a reporter, covering the hilltowns. I’d call the highway departments for an update whenever we had a bad winter storm, or in the midst of mud season or a road project.

Ernie wasn’t a talkative guy. I recall covering one Worthington Town Meeting, where residents were voting on the budget and other items. On the agenda was the purchase of a new dump truck for the highway department.

A smart-alecky newcomer got up and wanted a justification for the purchase. So the moderator asked Ernie whether the town needed to buy a new highway truck. Ernie stood, said “yup” and sat down. And, after a good laugh, the voters passed it.

I moved away from Worthington going on ten years ago. But Deen, Ernie’s wife, kept us informed at Christmas with long letters about the family, their winters in Florida — and Ernie’s health problems. I’m sure they were tough on a man who liked to be so active.

Here’s to Ernie Nugent who lived and worked well. He was the salt of the earth.

There is much more to learn about Ernie. Here’s a link to his obit: http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/gazettenet/obituary.aspx?n=ernest-w-nugent-ernie&pid=177411205

ABOUT THE PHOTO ABOVE: It was a lucky moment when I caught this photo of the light playing on the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. I was leaving the newsroom when I got out my phone to take the shot.

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zack at millicent rogers
family, friends, Taos, Travel, Writing

New Year’s Revolution

2015 was a very good year. It was a creative year — and that is important to me.

Was it a happy year? Yes, except for the passing of my father in September. He will be missed by so many, especially his family. By my measure, Dad, who was almost 93, had a life richer than most. I am grateful we were there to be there with him at the end. Here is the eulogy I wrote: http://www.joanlivingston.net/family/my-dad/

During 2015 I kept writing and rewriting. New projects include the Los Primos bilingual series for young readers written with my collaborator Teresa Dovalpage, the fourth in the Twin Jinn series and a YA novel. I spent time with the novels I finished a while ago — I suppose they’re not done until they are published — to make them better with what I know now.

In a post I wrote a year ago, I noted I wanted to connect readers to my books. Ah, but as I’ve discovered, there is writing and the business of writing. I let my agent go after four years and am in the midst of other publishing opportunities. (More about that in the near future.)

I launched this website, an improved one for my Twin Jinn series http://twinjinn.com/ and a Facebook author page https://www.facebook.com/JoanLivingstonAuthor/

I found new authors to love. And I got to do more public interviews with authors, including Anne Hillerman and the fellows for the Aldo Leopold Foundation.

As for travel, we saw family — including the debut performance in Boston of our son Nate’s band — and friends around the country. We camped and hiked this fall in Rocky Mountain National Park, where the elk were bugling. (I’ve already made reservations to camp at Yellowstone in August.)

Other blessings: Hank’s companionship, a meaningful job, caring friends, and good health. A productive garden — we just finished the last of the carrots, kale and chard stored in the fridge. We still have beets.

So what’s ahead? I will keep writing and rewriting. I aim to move more and sit less. I will visit family and friends. I will grow our food and flowers.

And, I will embrace the change 2016 will bring me.

ABOUT THE PHOTO ABOVE: That’s our son, Zack, at the Millicent Rogers Museum in Taos, one of three we visited with his friend Suzie during their Christmas visit.

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Wisteria at the gate
books, digital, family, friends, Writing

Please Like Me

A contact I met on Twitter made a request: If I liked his author page on Facebook, he would like mine. I took it as a nice gesture. Ah, but first I needed to create one.

So yesterday after getting a little advice from techie friends, I created a Facebook author page. https://www.facebook.com/JoanLivingstonAuthor

What will I do with my author page? It will strictly be about writing — mine, yours and theirs. I hope to post something every day.

My Facebook profile is for those who call me family or friend.

The digital world has been a wonderful way to reacquaint with people I haven’t seen in years. I enjoy school friends I last saw when I was handed my high school diploma decades ago. I marvel at the lives they have created since. I have Facebook friends who used to be work colleagues and a few from college.

Of course, I have lots of family on Facebook, including my husband’s cousins. I can recall times when it was the fastest way to reach one of our kids.

I have followed closely  from afar as they shared sad news — sickness, death, divorce — and happy news — births, marriages and personal accomplishment. They love animals. They have a wicked sense of humor. Some are religious.

Then, there are those who comment on what’s happening politically. I would say most are leftist-thinking liberals. But I respect, as well, those on the other spectrum. As for my own personal views on politics, as the editor of newspaper I keep them off the Internet.

My hope is my friends, family and others will join me on my author page. That’s simple. Just go there and “like” me.

MORE: I did back-to-back interviews with authors at their readings Friday and Saturday. First, it was Steve Tapia, who wrote De la Tierra The Natural World of Northern New Mexico. Steve is a retired wildlife biologist who writes a column for The Taos News. Steve read from the book, and then I asked questions. He even did the call of a female Mexican spotted owl for the audience.

Saturday’s event was with Hannah Nordhaus, author of  American Ghost. Hannah’s non-fiction book is about a ghost hunt of sorts for her great-great-grandmother Julia Staab, whose apparition has been sighted at La Posada, a Santa Fe hotel, which used to be her home long ago. We had an enjoyable discussion about the book and what it is like to be descended from a famous ghost.

The event, however, was bittersweet. It was the last for Moby Dickens Bookshop, which is closing July 3 after 31 years. The book-selling business has changed. Taos once had 11 bookstores. Now, with the closing of Moby Dickens, it will only have two second-hand bookstores.

AT LAST: The photo above is my wisteria bush in bloom. I planted it four years ago. Each spring I wonder if it will make it, and this year I was surprised to discover it would flower in this harsh high desert climate. How wonderful.

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