Thursday, November 4, 2010

New Header Postponed...

...until I return from  the land of the technologically deprived and environmentally-imposed blogging hiatus. Yes, you've seen this picture before—it's where I'll spend whatever quiet time I can steal away from visiting with family and friends in New Hampshire. 

I have been making some progress on the header artwork, and I hope to work on it a little while I'm gone, but that remains to be seen...

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Coming Soon...

After looking at this header on my blog for well over a year (has it been that long?), I've decided that it's pretty much the most boring header I have ever seen. At the time I designed it, I suppose I thought it looked classicsort of simple and understated, (like me). Now it just looks uninteresting and stupid. I don't think I like the title either. The J.B.Chicoine seems okay to me (even though probably none of you know how it's pronounced*), but I don't know about the rest of it...

So, anyway, I've decided to employ my artistic powers and design a new, bookish header, and I'm doing it over at my Unsupervised & at Large art blog...

*Currently, we pronounce it She-kwan'—with more of a silent 'n' at the end. Kinda French sounding, which is what it is. But when we used to pronounce it She' kwin... It's a long story...

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

'Blues' or 'blues'

Okay, this isn't just laziness—it's a matter of grammar that I can't seem to get a solid answer on. When referring to a style of musicblues to be specificor is that Blues (could be jazz for that matter), is the 'B' capitalized, as in a proper noun?
As in:
"She would have paid more attention to the music, but blues always seemed somewhere in the background, such a familiar part of the noise in her head, that she paid it no mind."

Or is it a matter of whether it's preceded by a definite article? 'the Blues' or simply, blues in general?

Any grammar / blues aficionado out there?

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Back to Where I Started?

Well, I’ve been busy putting together something for Notes From Underground, way ahead of time, which is a little unlike me. Actually, I’m not certain that it’s like or unlike me, seeing as I’ve never had to work under a writing deadline. I suppose that if I had to come up with something from scratch, it might feel entirely different.

At any rate, I’ve written a short story based upon a scene from an earlier unpublished novel of mine—that is, from a sequel to my second novel.* When I wrote Girl Running, and then, Portrait of a Protégé, I had absolutely no idea about writing rules and publishing. I only had a high school-level grasp of English—and the benefit of parents who had a fair handle on English grammar. That’s it. I couldn’t even claim to be an avid reader** Oh, and I had a huge imagination!

After several years of mulling over a particular scenario, and coming up with character backstory, I decided to wing it and simply get the story out of my head and into MS Word. I wrote it for my husband and I had a blast doing it! Impressing Todd was my only desire. I even printed and bound it for him—all 150,703 words!*** He’s the one who planted the idea of publishing, so I will blame all my angst, henceforth, on him.

It wasn’t until I began writing Story for a Shipwright that I investigated what the industry considers ‘good writing.’ I jumped through all the hoops. I read the agents' blogs, got beta readers and revised and revised and revised. I like the story—no, I love the story—I think it is sound and I will publish one way or the other. But I wonder if, in all the advice and critiques and revisions, I have somehow homogenized chrome polished down to pot-metal.

So, here I am, between stories, and it’s my first love that still nags me. Rewriting just one scene, utilizing what I've learned, and then writing it with the liberty of doing it how I want has made me seriously reconsider Leila, a girl raised by a couple of mixed up guys—one black, one white—who just wanted to be Blues musicians and had no business raising a child on the road. I think her story as an adolescent on her own, breaking into womanhood, may be worth a complete rewrite—at least it’s a notion I’m toying with…

* I hesitate to claim my very first completed novel of 23 years agoRelative Survivalbut it qualifies in length.
** Yes, I know that’s blasphemy, but if I started reading anything, I did not have the self-discipline to put it down until it was done, and that can really mess up one's life--especially when one has a family. Borderline OCD?
*** the sequel came in at only 123,753 words

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Notes From Underground

Well, now I’ve gone and done it, I entered a contest—which goes directly against what I’ve learned about my non-competitive temperament—and have been selected for the Notes From Underground anthology over at The Literary Lab. That actually happened last week, but I held off posting this in case there was some sort of a mix-up—if there was, I haven’t been notified, so I suppose it’s safe to go ahead.* Mostly, I’m posting this because I didn’t want them to think I’m not immensely grateful, so I thought it proper protocol to publicly say, Thanks Lit Lab! And congratulations to the other 25 brave writers.

Most of you who stop in here know about the anthology—that a shot at being picked required an anonymous submission of 5 pages of literally anything creative explaining why they should give me 10 whole pages in Notes From Underground, writing anything I want! Yes, it’s experimental and feels very risky. Perhaps they’re as nervous as me…

So, I’ve been messing around with some scenes from one of my earlier, unpublished novels, Portrait of a Protégé. Somehow, the familiarity of a beloved piece makes it feel less daunting. Besides, I love editing and the challenge of taking a scene and making it a stand-alone short story. Maybe, if I don’t go overboard with words, I’ll have enough room for some black and white artwork…anyway, I have until December 15th to put it all together.  

*I don't mean to imply any sort of incompetence on the part of The Lit Lab, but I'm just so accustomed to rejection these days that I had a hard time believing it wasn't some sort of mistake...

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Okay, This Has Nothing To Do With My Writing...

...exept for the fact that this is what I've been up to while I wait for a response on my 5th request for my full manuscript of Story for a Shipwright. Besides, I'm entitled to crossblog when I feel like it. At any rate, I updated my watercolor Website with all the projects I've completed on my Unsupervised & at Large blog.

Anyway, in case you feel like it, here’s the link to

Monday, August 30, 2010

My Consolation

Shriveled peas roll from my plate, into the pail where several crusts from morning toast await. Three escape into the sink and I chase them around the basin like piglets in a pen. I have trouble locating them as a shard of light pierces the tattered curtain, yet I can feel them, cornered. My fingers are still nimble enough to pinch and so they join the others.

On my way out, I pass her chair, pushed snug against the table. I stroke its back the way I used to caress the handrail as I stepped onto the porch of her parents’ house, my stomach twisting and turning with new love. Her barn coat still hangs from the old iron hook like dainties slung over the shower rod. Although the sight of it burns my eyes each time I come in or go out, I would die but for the yearning.

Then, the screen door slams behind me, echoing off every corner of the barnyard. On cue, they call to me like eager hatchlings waiting for their share.

Friday, August 13, 2010


Hanging a load of whites should have been a safe task, in spite of the accumulated heap awaiting the first bit of sun I had seen in days. I counted off each clothespin as I clipped consecutive washcloths, end-to-end; eleven in all. And then dish towels; still stained but clean to me. Bath towels next, trying to keep them from wrapping around me as a stiff breeze took control of three corners. Next row: cotton panties and a series of socks; anklets first and then knee-hi’s, each beside its mate. Finally, one last peculiar wad of cloth.

Distracted by the swoop of a barn swallow, I followed its ascent to the telephone wire overhead, amused at how the string of them, perched evenly between posts, resembled my weatherworn clothespins. I smiled, glad that I remembered how, and reached for that last bit of laundry. I didn’t recognize the T-shirt until I shook it out.

Damp. Clean—no, sterile. Not a trace of the man who wore it, and would never wear it again. I had desecrated the last bit of him, bleached out his scent, traded his sweat—the odor of wood shavings and freshly cut grass—for the smell of sunshine and warm breezes and I could not catch my breath over what I had done.

(I asked my husband if he thought I should change this from first person to third so that readers wouldn't think he died or something, and he said, "Nah—leave it as it is. Third person would ruin the intensity, doncha think?")

Thursday, August 5, 2010


Okay, so I’m sitting here at a little café, with my spinach salad and a chilled stout, when this woman at the checkered-cloth table beside me pulls out a sketch pad. Well, maybe she’s just going to look over some stuff she’s already drawn, but no—she rifles through her bag and proceeds to unfold and assemble, right in front of her, a tiny field set of Windsor Newton watercolors—and not one of those plasticy new sets (like mine), but one of the old, out-of-production leather encased arrangements, with well-used pigments.

Oh, yeah, she’s serious—so serious about it that she’s oblivious to my eyes boring through the side of her head, down her neck and bare arm. The brush seems to slide between her fingers as if she held the wing of a butterfly, not cramped and controlled, like some unwieldy timber, not the way I grip mine.

She hasn’t glanced beyond her table and paints-at-hand since she sat. I want her to look at me, so that I can acknowledge what she’s doing, but at the same time, I don’t want her to see—to detect my envy. Now, she’s sipping her water glass down to half-full. She wets her brush between her pursed lips, drawing those fine sable hairs to a point. I wait, watching, knowing what comes next. She stares ahead for a moment, then plunges her brush into her sweating glass. That’s right, she means business.

All at once, I’m overcome with self-consciousness for her. I look around at the peripheral tables, at the others patrons whose eyes dart from their lunch to her and back to their main concern. She appears unaware of any of us as she dabs her brush, loading it with cadmium red and then dispersing it—with four loose strokes, flower petals spring to life from the vase onto her paper…

Monday, July 19, 2010

A Brief Update & A Very Short Story

I thought I should probably post something so the blogosphere wouldn’t think I’ve abandoned ship. First, a few excuses and a brief update: I haven’t been ignoring your blogs, but after 2 three-week-long trips to NH (since my last post) and the current craziness of putting our house on the market, I’m a little distracted.

As far as Story for a Shipwright goes—I’ve had 2 requests for the full manuscript, and 2 subsequent declines. I’m just so tickled that someone found the premise interesting enough to ask for that much, but a little disappointed that I didn’t receive some sort of feedback with it…Oh well, that’s okay—we all know that’s the biz. So, rather than second-guess the entire project and assume it’s my writing that sucks, I’m getting ready to send out another round of queries.

I’ve also started a new WIP, but for now, all I have to post, literarily, is the result of a 7 minute prompt, provided by a fellow writer, (which I couldn’t post without turning into an hour-and-a-half revision).

The Prompt:
Evening sun reflecting off a ripe peach sitting on the porch rail.
(the picture probably gave it away)

It’s not as if I heard the porch boards creak or caught the fleeting shadow of a goldfinch darting from its nest in the corner lilac bush—it may have only been a flash of radiant hue from the setting sun that beckoned me. Whatever the impulse, it drew my attention from the single dish I had just set to drip-dry, and brought me to the front screen door, my damp hands patting my cotton skirt. I certainly didn’t expect to find anyone out there, nor anything for that matter. Why, scarcely anyone but the faceless mailman knew I had taken up residence in the secluded old farm house, with painted clapboards checked from the Southern heat.

I didn’t see it immediately. Not until I sat in my lone rocker did I discover it at eye level, within arm’s reach in front of me, on the railing. Ochre blazed against the viridian and burnt umber background, so perfect and ripe, absorbing and reflecting light as if the sun itself had studied that spot for an eternity before planting itself right there. Rather than scrutinize the bushes for a broken twig, or the dirt walkway for a footprint, I stared in astonishment for an eager moment.

Reaching for it with both hands, my fingertips met its downy texture. Fondling it, brushing it against my upper lip, I breathed in its summertime scent. In seconds, I pierced its skin sending a dribble down my chin, escaping from a smile I could not restrain. Abandoning my self-consciousness, I devoured the peach like an undisciplined child, and sucked any remaining flesh from the pit. The way I used my bare wrist for a napkin and smacked my lips would have earned the scorn of any mother.

At last, I held up the pit for inspection. Who had left such a delectable gift?

Perhaps the college student working a summer job at the paint store, who wouldn’t meet my eyes, but raised his feathered brow with intrigue when I objected to too much yellow: “No,” I had told him, “too apricot. More peach—a fleshier, more succulent tone.”

Or perhaps the old spinster lady with fingers bent at painful angles, tending her fruit stand, holding out the peach that would be past ripe by tomorrow, as I clutched a pint of dark, dew-laden cherries, while counting my very last pennies.

Maybe the John Deere-capped and pepper-chinned farmer on the road, whose mud-caked boots shuffled along, halfway between town and his truck, and declined a lift because, he said, “It’s a beautiful afternoon, and I ain’t as broke down as my ol’ Chevy yet! But you’re a peach for offering.”

Or, I hoped, the azure-eyed gentleman at Stan’s Art Supplies, with crisp white sleeves, twice folded, exposing thick forearms, who asked if I was interested in purchasing the Summer Peach watercolor. When I said, “No—I’m simply studying the technique,” he handed me an enrollment application for an upcoming workshop, which I filled out, even though I loathe classroom settings.

I then placed the naked pit back on the rail, wondering if I ought to plant it, or if it might sprout, right there, overnight, of its own volition.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Some Quiet Time

Well, I’m headed off to the hills—to the land of the technologically deprived and environmentally-imposed blogging hiatus—for a few weeks. Happily, I will have plenty of time to work on a new project or two…in a pretty little office…

See you all when I get back...

Thursday, April 1, 2010

ABNA Feedback

Well, in case anyone’s wondering—I didn’t make it through to the quarterfinalists of the ABNA. Disappointing, yes—but surprisingly, a relief. I won’t have a tense month, laboring over whether or not I made it through to the next round, worrying about a good or bad review from Publishers Weekly. One thing I’ve confirmed is that I do not have a temperament that fares well with competition.

Another thing the ABNA confirmed is that opinions are very subjective, on every level. A few of those who visit this blog have also read Story for a Shipwright—the entire thing. Therefore, I thought I’d go ahead and share the feedback I received from the two Amazon’s Vine Reviewers who read the first 5,000 words of my novel:

Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Reviews

ABNA Expert Reviewer
What is the strongest aspect of this excerpt?
The knowledge of ship building and restoration, and the hints of nautical history, provide an interesting theme -- one that can appeal to both male and female readers. My favorite character in this excerpt is Buck; he is the one who seems most "real" at this point.

What aspect needs the most work?
The main character, Sammy, seems very distant. He will be hard to get to know. I am having difficulty understanding his perspective -- he is alternately dismissive and intrigued.

What is your overall opinion of this excerpt?
This excerpt is a good start, but I don't have a feel for where it might be going. So far there isn't a compelling "hook", or a strong connection to a character, to make me want more.


ABNA Expert Reviewer
What is the strongest aspect of this excerpt?
The mystery that surrounds the characters - who is Marlena and why is she so odd. Why hasn't Sammy been on the sea? What is the relationship between Buck and Sammy? I also found the voice used to be authentic - Sammy has a certain gruffness that you would expect from a single man in rural Maine. The author seems to be true to the region and the people who live there.

What aspect needs the most work?
A few passages seem to be over-written, such as, "As I approached, plodding through deep and unavoidable furrows of softening earth, she glanced up at me with delight" While the prose looks nice it just doesn't seem natural. Ultimately, to me, it serves as a distraction - I am not saying that it needs to be watered down to a 5th grade level, but could be a little less dramatic. Again, this is my opinion, but the heavy prose slows down the plot development.

What is your overall opinion of this excerpt?
My criticism may seem harsh, but ultimately it is minor point. The author has done a great job at delivering an unique and original premise which is delivered in an authentic voice. The msytery surrounding each of the characters quickly captures the interest of the reader. I walk away being very impressed with, "Story for a Shipwright."

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Interested in Your Opinion...

Although I like the cover as it was, I thought there ought to be something I could do to make it a little more 'shipwrightish.' The woodcut version I originally designed accomplished that, but it looks too bland to me now. (However, I do think it would make a nice title page.)

So, this is what I came up with:

Do the ‘boat plans’ in the background look too cluttery, or does it add that little something extra that gives a better sense of the story being about a shipwright?
 Which do you like better?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Just Messin' Around

Yes, this is another cross over blog post. I just thought I'd try out a cover design, for the fun of it. Okay—to be honest, I have no other project I'm working on right now, so this is purely a dilatory maneuver.
Yes, I know, I know—just start typing or pick up the paintbrush…

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Query Progress

Alright, so this isn’t agent news, however, it does pertain to my query. According to advice out there in the writing blogsphere, if one sends out a handful of queries and receives absolutely no interest, she ought to give her query another look before flooding the agent pool with uninspiring slush.

I could have sent my query back over to The Public Query Slushpile, where last spring, I swamped Rick with 5 revisions (and came up with something pretty good), but I couldn’t bring myself to break the record for the most compulsive poster over there. So, I decided to have a look at Elana Johnson’s, From the Query to the Call (which included a critique), and received yet more helpful advice.

At the same time, Weronika Janczuk launched a query contest of sorts, and I submitted my newly revised pitch. And Yay, she liked it, offered a couple suggestions, which I implemented, and she posted it on her blog as one of the Queries that Worked!

So, this is all progress—nothing monumental, (except to me!) but it is incremental success, for which I will be happy, if not bordering on optimistic—at least for the weekend…

...and can I mention that she'd like to read the entire manuscript?

Cover Art?

Okay, this is another cross-blogging post (from my Unsupervised & at Large blog), but it does have something to do with my novel, Story for a Shipwright. I just finished this painting*, Moorings, as a possible cover design element—you know, in case I exhaust every agent in the universe and resort to self-publishing. It puts me in mind of a scene from the story, where shipwright Sam Wesley is sitting in the local diner, looking out over the harbor on Sunday morning…

"It wasn’t truly the best seat, but the corner booth, partially overlooking the harbor and a few lobster boats suited me fine. While Billy perused his options, my attention wandered to the boats in the harbor—many of them were out for the day baiting traps, which is all they’re allowed on Sundays, from June through August. I thought about how consistent lobstermen are—they seem to recognize no distinction of day or season, heat or cold, rain or shine. Glancing around the diner, at old lobster traps hung from the ceiling, and picturesque scenes behind glass, I chuckled at how we who live here take their trade for granted. Funny, how tourists romanticize the industry, carrying it home in calendars or placemats, rarely appreciating the sweat that goes into the lobster on their plate."

*based on an image by photographer, Doug Wood, titled, stonington, sunday morning

Thursday, February 25, 2010

My Stomach Doesn't Feel So Good

Okay, I haven’t found an agent yet, but my pitch did make the first cut for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. Probably they canned Story for a Shipwright last year because I pitched it as Women’s Fiction—go figure. This year, I called it General Fiction—“a character driven exploration of our needs versus wants in a world where ordinary converges with extraordinary.”

So, now I have to stave off nausea till the next cut.

Meanwhile, I'm going to paint up a storm...

...and congratulations to Julie Dao and Tiffany Neal, who also entered and made it throught the first round!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Good News

Okay, it's not what you think...
I figure I might as well do something while I’m doing nothing…Okay, I’m not doing nothing—I am querying agents after all. And no, no takers yet, but I’m not going to blog about how many rejections I get. Believe me, even if I get a request for a partial, I’ll post that.

Meanwhile, I’m back to painting, and I’m happy to say I finished another one.

Consider this a gratuitous cross-blog intermission from my writing…

Monday, February 1, 2010

Committing Myself

I’ve made a decision: I shall send my first query off this week! I have postponed it long enough, (although my dilly-dallying has yielded a finished painting [a year-long procrastination]).

There, I have committed myself publicly…

For a little confidence boost, I’m starting off my week with thanks to Mary Anne Gruen, at the Starlight blog, for passing this Superior Scribbler award on to me. I’m not sure exactly what the rules are for this one, but I feel compelled to share it with Glen, my Texan writer buddy over at Differences with the Same Likeness, whose charm and wit delight me not only in his generous comments, but on his blog where he shares anecdotes about his more than ordinary life.

I also want to thank Scott at 275 Words for sending the Happy award this way. I listed my 10 happy things over at my Unsupervised and at Large blog, where I’ve taken my brief reprieve from writing and the impending queries. Technically, I’m supposed to pass it onto 10 (or 15) other bloggers; I will, but I think I’ll procrastinate on that for a little while…

Thursday, January 21, 2010

JB's Querying Blues

Here’s a poem, posted over at The Bilge, by Peter Radclyffe
It really made my day…

There must be some kind of way to publish this, said JB in The Bilge
It’s finished & I must find some way to pay these winter bills
Donn* has already been thru this & this might be his fate
So let us all wish her the best
The hour is getting late
All around the WBF** lookouts kept a view
While sailors, painters came & went
& a few well you know who
Outside in the distance, a Detroit diesel growled,
2 agents were approaching, the wind began to howl

(a little take-off of Bob Dylan's All Along The Watchtower)

Thanks Peter!
*Retired publisher in The Bilge
**Wooden Boat Forum

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

That’s Right, I’m Stalling…

I know I should be brushing up on my query and synopsis (and I have been), but as anyone who’s ever written one knows, they kill brain cells.

Consequently, I have given myself a short reprieve, just to remind myself that life does not—does not—revolve around writing, (and more to the point, getting published). I’ve been—yes, it’s true—painting.

I resurrected this unfinished portrait, and if I’m playing my shame card right, I should make pretty good progress on it, seeing as I’m posting my process incrementally.
Actually, one could draw some nice analogies between developing a character and painting a portrait…it’s all in the layering.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

A Lovely Award

A while back—okay, it was all the way back in December—Liza, over at one of my favorite blogs, Middle Passages, gave me this Lovely Blog Award.

She did, in fact, give me permission to break the rules (which anyone who's ever awarded me with anything already knew I would).

I am posting it now, because it’s January and I was waiting for this particular time (when I’m feeling particularly glumpy) and knew I’d need a boost and a post that doesn’t require any creative output, (all of which is a testimony to my glumpiness and somewhat hard to reconcile with the lovliness of this award).

To be honest, if I had to pass the award on to 15, yes, 15 other bloggers, this would be completely overwhelming given the fact that it is January and I am in a slump. Therefore, I’m going to pass it on to 10 other bloggers whom I have awarded in my Unsupervised and at Large Blog (which actually feels like a better title for this blog lately—perhaps I ought to merge the two…)*

Thank you Liza for the award, and for sharing not only your comments here, but for all your delightful words over at Middle Passages.

* even if you're brave enough to go over there, I absolve you of any obligations incurred from either award, unless you want to dress up your blog...(remember there are no bloggy blah blah blah)

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Has Anyone Seen My W.S.K.?

Okay, I’ll admit it—I’m in a slump. Have I mentioned that I hate winter? I know I had a Winter Survival Kit around here somewhere, but I can’t seem to lay my hands on it…sure wish I could remember what was in it… (note to self: compile WSK next October, before slump has a chance to set in)