In the writing room right now ...

In the writing room right now ... I have taken down the brown "butcher" paper that held ideas, photos, drawings, and my hand-drawn maps and plot outlines for the past five or six books. I've placed all those items into three-ring binders, and cleared the deck for paintings and photographs that involve courage, as I move forward in GHOSTKEEPER, the new novel set in Lyndonville, Vermont. My 1850 Vermont adventure THE LONG SHADOW is under contract with Five Star/Cengage -- I will give you a publication date as soon as I know! Scribbling lots of poems, too. And there's a possible route to publication of the "Vermont Nancy Drew" novel I built on Wattpad (see right-hand column). Yes, I guess I do like multi-tasking! How about you?

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Country Life in March -- Mud Season, Gardens, and Big Plans

When I'm planning a novel, I start with a lot of fragments: moments and phrases and bits of the landscape that shine, with that soft sort of gleam you get after polishing a silver teaspoon (not as "glaring" as the shine on a freshly cleaned smartphone screen). They tug at me, insisting that they belong in a story. And those are just the inanimate items. The characters and their lives, as they grow rounded and real, bump into me more and more often in each day -- while driving, while waiting for the oven timer to ding, while in the shower (one of the very fruitful moments, except for the necessity of holding the character's action in mind until my hands are dry enough to grip a pen and scribble things on paper without dripping).

Right now I'm in chapter 2 and chapter 5 of two different novels, so my mind and my writing room are cluttered with tidbits that have to fit someplace. I don't always know why, but I know they belong.


Yesterday I drove about 40 minutes north of here to a gathering of the Northeast Kingdom Rug Hookers Guild. I enjoyed watching the dynamics of this group of strong, creative crafters (including a boy maybe 12 years old who pounded out classical music on the piano in the room across the hall; he was someone's son). Many of the rugs featured wool, cut into thin strips, being "hooked" into the backings to create images. Some used yarn; one came from slivers of T-shirts.

Two rugs in particular featured sheep, and sheep have been on my mind. Like the rugs, I don't think the sheep are moving into either of the novels (but they might!). Instead, I can feel them moving into my garden plans for the year.

I should clarify: It's the last weekend of February, and March is about to roar into place. In this part of Vermont, the Northeast Kingdom, March weather means chaos: abrupt rainstorms, unexpected snow deliveries that often add up to a foot or more, and most of all, the insistent bright sunshine that heats the frozen ground, creating thick layers of mud where the roads and gardens expose the naked ground to the new seasonal warmth. We call it Mud Season.



It's also the season for ordering seeds to plant, which means some notion of this year's vegetable garden must emerge from the winter fog. And for those with active animal housing, it's lambing season, and time to order chicks (they arrive via the mail carrier, a dozen or more to a box, peeping), and more calves than usual arrive in the dairy barns.

So as all the sheep and wool items around me cascade, like bits of an upcoming novel, I start to wonder ... should I be planning a lamb into my garden this year? A couple of sheep? I can almost picture them grazing the surrounding lawn. Then I start to add up the daily feedings, the care of hooves and ears, the vet visits, and I remember that our shed isn't a good enough barn.

No, just as for the novel-in-progress, some ideas need to be set aside. Admired, yes. But declined this time. It occurs to me that it might be a good nod to March, though, to visit some local sheep breeders. And goat herders. Ah, that fits better. In fact, I think there's a tie to one of the twists in novel #1 in such a visit.

That's what I like about country life. Keep something around for a while, and it will come in useful. One way, or another.

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Below: Sheep article from Vermont History News, Sept.-Oct. 1983