IMG_7257
audio, books, reading

Reading While Driving

Nah, I’m not that stupid. So, I do the next best thing. I listen to someone read the book to me while I drive to and from work.

I love to read, and frankly, all those years when I couldn’t write, that’s how I learned when I finally got over that 25-year writer’s block. I was a regular at the public library wherever we lived, hauling home an armful of books. (I did this when I was a kid, too.)

Then, I got into collecting first editions. As I’ve written before, I typically buy these books at places that don’t value them, so I get great deals like the first edition but not first printing of Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man for a buck. I shop online and go to fundraiser book sales. My most recent score was at a local library’s sale, where it appeared someone dumped their collection of Dennis Lehane’s first editions, including a signed Mystic River. My cost? A buck a piece.

But I digress.

My job as editor-in-chief at a daily newspaper — the Greenfield Recorder — takes up a lot of my time. I won’t bore you with the hours I work, but suffice it to say my reduced free time makes me choose between writing books, specifically the fourth in my Isabel Long Mystery Series, or reading them. Then, I thought, why not listen to books?

I used to listen to audio books when I had a 45-minute commute to a newsroom years back. My current commute, at eight miles, is a lot less than that, but it’s enough time. Besides, I’m tired of listening to depressing news on NPR, and the local stations don’t interest me.

So, I went to my local library, did the paperwork for my card, and checked out Stewart O’Nan’s The Odds, about a couple in financial and marital trouble who go to a casino at Niagara Falls. It took me a bit to get used to the narrator’s voice, but he kept me entertained, even doing a woman’s voice, during my commute. I’d say it was a successful experiment.

The next audiobook, Tony Hillerman’s The Sinister Pig, was a disappointment that I returned before I even finished the first disc. I couldn’t get into the marble-mouthed narrator. So, I traded it in for something else — Isabel Allende’s The Japanese Lover.

Our local library has a limited collection, but I can order books through the inter-library system. I am also going to try the much larger library at the city where I work.

I believe listening to someone reading a book is as good as my reading it myself. So, mission accomplished. I can use my free time to write instead.

ABOUT THE PHOTO ABOVE: A scene at Acadia National Park on a recent camping trip.

MY BOOKS: No, I don’t have audio books. (My attempt to do it on my own failed despite by best efforts.) But I do have books in print and digital form, including the first three books in my Isabel Long Mystery Series. Get thee to Amazon. Here’s the link: Joan Livingston books

 

 

 

 

 

Standard
IMG_7310
books, friends

Books I’ve Kept All These Years

I moved around a lot —more so when we were younger and restless. Six months or a year or two in one place and we were ready to find somewhere else to live.

That changed when our children maxed out at six. We were settled in Worthington, a hilltown in Western Massachusetts, and stayed put for 25 years although we thankfully did move from a cheap, funky rental to finally our very own home we built. Then it was Taos, New Mexico for 11 years, and two years ago we returned to Western Mass., first in a rental and then the home we bought in Shelburne Falls and renovated while living in that apartment.

Nothing like moving, especially 2,400 miles — twice — to keep your belongings pared down. But in all those years, I have held onto certain books. I thought about this today when I was surveying my bookcases, which contain mostly first editions of authors I love and for the most part got super cheap. It’s a hobby of mine.

But here are the ones I’ve kept for oh-so-many years.

FUNDAMENTALS OF POETRY: I bought this slim book, almost a pamphlet really, in fifth grade through my grammar school for a buck and it has every part of speech a wanna be poet would want to know. This is the oldest.

THE YALE SHAKESPEARE/MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM: The book, dated 1923, actually belonged to my seventh-grade English teacher, Mrs. Lima. She held the book while she recited the play from memory, a remarkable performance. I gained possession of the book when my mother found it in a yard sale and mailed it to me, unaware of its significance. Susan Lima’s name is written in perfect cursive inside.

ROOTS AND WINGS/CONCEIT: These were the literary magazines from my college, now called Bridgewater State University. They contain my poetry, from when I was a fledgling poet, and later when I was the editor. My sister, Christine, mailed them to me. I had long ago passed them on, and am grateful she held onto them for me. One of them even has a clipping from the college’s newspaper that has my column: Hot Schmaltz by Ethel Schwartz. I did a sarcastic review of Rod McKuen’s poetry — in poetic form. Funny story there. A bunch of my hippie guy friends were hanging around outside the administration building. They decided the next woman who turned the corner would be named Ethel Schwartz. Yes, it turned out to be me.

KORA IN HELL: I ran into a dear college friend years later in Boston. He gave me this as a gift, one of The Pocket Poets Series. The story of Persephone has always resonated with me.

SOME STAY HOME: Poems published in 1977 by a poet/singer Jim Palana. My favorite is about a woman, Miss Ann Gately and her bike.

ENGLISH AS SHE IS SPOKE OR A JEST IN SOBER EARNEST (ORIGINALLY PLUBLISHED 1883): Another gift from a writing friend, Fred, supposedly one of the funniest books about the English language. Here’s a sample.

Of the Man.

The brain

The brains

The fat of the leg

The ham

The inferior lip

The superior lip

The marrow

The reins.

ARROYO: A slim collection of poetry by three friends I knew in college, Bob Sullivan, Jim Palana, James G.H. Moore and myself (when I had a different last name), plus art by Julie Conway. I see a lot of poetry in these books. I stopped writing that way and eventually found prose. But for my last mystery, Checking the Traps, the victim and one of the suspects wrote poetry, which meant I had to do it, too. To tell you the truth it was fun.

TROPIC OF CANCER/TROPIC OF CAPRICORN/BLACK SPRING: I bought these hard-cover books in Seattle and have brought them along on each move since, a bit of a miracle really.

SPEAKING OF BOOKS: Here’s the link to the ones I wrote … on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Joan-Livingston/e/B01E1HKIDG

Standard
IMG_7133
Second-hand stores

My First Choice: Second Hand

I am a huge fan of second-hand stores. So is Hank. Our reasons are identical. We love buying quality clothing and furnishings we can’t afford to buy new but can find in these types of stores. Let me add — if we’re lucky. And honestly, that’s part of the fun.

I will admit a majority of my wardrobe was found in a second-hand store. I like clothing with quality fabrics and classic designs, which I often can’t find new in stores. (Retail outlets used to have good finds until the stores started making clothing specifically for this market.) I feel the same way going to second-hand bookstores.

The best place to find a good second-hand store? Where rich people live and donate what they no longer want.

My technique is simple. I go along the racks, looking at the fabric. If I see something I like, I check the style and size. I also check whether it needs to be dry-cleaned, which might be a deal-breaker for me unless it’s a special garment like the Saks Fifth Avenue silk dress coat and a wool Pendelton dress jacket I found.

When in doubt, I try it on. I also check the discard rack near the dressing room.

But my ultimate rule: I gotta love it.

And a second ultimate rule: sometimes I win, oftentimes I don’t. But to be honest, if I go to a second-hand store a few times and consistently strike out, I won’t be back.

But in my shopping experience, I rank two that are the crème-de-la-crème of second-hand stores.

The first was a consignment store in Northampton, where the owner only carried quality clothing that was less than two years old. That was 15 years ago, and I still wear clothes I bought there. Unfortunately, the store is no longer in business.

The second was Pieces in Taos — the town in Northern New Mexico where I lived 11 years. Hank and I tested our luck at least once a week and over the years got great clothes and furniture like our Stickley couch and lamp.

One of my favorite finds was the set of pinecone candle lamps. That’s them above.

When we think of the things we miss about Taos, shopping at Pieces is one of them.

Alas, I saw a post on Facebook (from The Taos News) that Pieces is closing for a number of reasons. I am sorry that is happening, but I treasure the hours I spent there on the hunt for great stuff at great prices and the stuff I scored.

 

 

 

Standard
checking_the_traps_sitting_at_desk copy
Author Interview, Business of writing, Isabel Long Mystery Series, Writing

Getting the Word Out

First, if you’re a writer, you have to get the words down. Then, you gotta get the word out. Well, that’s the case when you are an indie author competing with other indie authors, and then there are those who have a lot of muscle behind them via a big shot publisher.

Ah, as I’ve said many times before — there’s writing and then there’s the business of writing.

I much prefer the first.

But then an author gets unexpected help. That’s what happened recently when Carrie Healy of New England Public Radio contacted me to be a part of a summer series that featured author on Friday mornings. She requested a copy of my latest book, which in this case is Checking the Traps, third in my Isabel Long Mystery Series. Then after reading the novel, she arranged for a recorded interview, which conveniently took place in an empty office at the Greenfield Recorder. (My day job is editor-in-chief.) She had a list of good questions. I hoped I came up with good answers. I read aloud a bit from the book’s start. (Carrie took the photo of me above.)

I found out Aug. 1 when Carrie sent me a link. She nicely took out the stumbles and the ums. I thought it came out well. I suppose others did too since I had a jump in sales, especially for the first in the series: Chasing the Case. And people were kind to mention they heard me on the radio.

Here have a listen. Here’s the link: http://www.tinyurl.com/yyjsr7fo

Four days later, I gave a reading at a bar in Northampton. It was the monthly event for Straw Dog Writers Guild at the Basement. First a duo played and 10 people in the audience each got five minutes to read from a work in progress, poetry and prose. I thoroughly enjoyed the variety, how 3cef0c4a-159e-4416-a3ba-49dcfb34e7ebpeople use our language to come up with stories and different ways to tell them.

Then, I had my chance to speak as the featured writer. I did less reading from Checking the Traps and more talking about my adventure with writing, how I started as a poet long ago, had a 25 years writers block, and finally found my creative outlet. Yeah, I talked about writing and the business of writing. And, smile, people bought books.

A few days later I noticed on Amazon a bump in sales for the next two books in my Isabel Long Mystery Series. (Redneck’s Revenge is number two.)  I am guessing those who bought the first liked it enough to read the rest. Well, readers, thank you very much.

Here is the link if you want to check out my books on Amazon:

http://mybook.to/chasingthecase

 http://mybook.to/rednecksrevenge

https://mybook.to/checkingthetraps

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Standard
IMG_3916
Life lessons, New Mexico, Western Massachusetts

In Two Years’ Time

Two years ago, Hank and I were driving somewhere in the Midwest as we made our way from Taos, New Mexico to Western Massachusetts. Hank was at the wheel. Our cat sat on my lap for almost the entire 2,400 miles.

I know for sure because Facebook reminded me. I wrote “Adios, Taos.”

We lived in Northern New Mexico for 11 years. We built a home there. I ran the editorial department of the local newspaper. Hank got into the artistic side of woodworking. We enjoyed grand views of the mesa, mountains and big skies. Great food. It was an interesting place to live.

But we had our reasons for leaving.

And a lot has happened since then. A lot of good things.

Having easier access to more of our family is an important one. Four of our six kids and our two granddaughters live in Massachusetts. (You gotta love it when your two-year-old granddaughter calls you Grandma Applesauce.) Then there is my 95-year-old mother and other kin.

We found and bought the style of home we wanted — an arts and crafts bungalow. (My wish then: we find the right house for the right price in the right location.) Youngest daughter, Julia, a real estate agent, negotiated the deal.

The home, built in 1900, has great bones. We had to fix the things the previous owners either did or didn’t do to the home. Luckily, Hank is a skilled woodworker. Me? I was the unskilled helper. The only work we hired out was the roof, floor sanding in two rooms, plumbing and electrical. But as it goes in older homes, there’s still work ahead for Hank.

We live on the Buckland side of Shelburne Falls, a charming village in a rural area. Think small shops, restaurants, and our son’s microbrewery, Floodwater Brewing, which opened last November. And for the most part, friendly people. Folks come from all over to admire the Bridge of Flowers that spans the Deerfield River. We achieved our goal of being able to walk to places from our home — only four-tenths of a mile to Floodwater.

It’s been a productive year for me writing-wise. I’ve published the first three books in my Isabel Long Mystery Series through Crooked Cat Books. I am onto the fourth.

I have a freelance gig copyediting history books for the Ashbrook Center at Ashland University in Ohio. I’ve learned a lot about our nation’s history.

If that weren’t enough, I am now the editor-in-chief of The Greenfield Recorder. I didn’t think I would go back in the biz, but here I am again running the paper’s editorial department. I am glad to say I have a hardworking and friendly staff devoted to community news.

Oh, our cat, Two, who is around 15, is just fine.

Yes, we got a lot done in two years. What will the next two bring? Bring it on.

PHOTO ABOVE: A not very flattering selfie taken somewhere on our cross-country trek with our cat Two glued to my lap. She hated the carrier.

 

 

 

 

 

Standard