Thursday, March 3, 2011

To spring for the dress or not to spring for the dress.

I’m hearing spring birdies in the morning, which means it’s time to get my head out of the sand and start posting again. Hopefully there will be no raccoon stories for you this spring. As much as I enjoyed last year’s nature encounter, I think all I’m willing to cohabitate with this season are a few discreet (and not too “meaty”) spiders.

Aside from general winter ennui, one reason I took a break from blogging is because I’ve been working on a third Cape novel. Unlike the first and, especially, the second, this is proving to be a difficult pregnancy. I’m hoping the baby will eventually come out fine, and without extra digits, bad acne or a pointed head.

Also, on June 1, my first young adult novel will be hitting bookstores. This one is set up around Boston rather than on the Cape. More on that soon but it’s exciting to be working in another genre. Remarkably, I had no problem tapping my inner 15-year-old. Actually, she’s been stepping out a lot lately. Some call it midlife crisis.

Last, thought I’d give you a little insight into the "World of Lynn," just to witness a master of rationalization at work. Take notes, ladies. This all took place in the span of one hour:

March has arrived…time to start thinking about promoting summer books, revisiting the blog, updating website, etc…time to start booking literary events, calls are coming in…time to think about what to wear to those literary events…What’s this in my inbox? Oh, an email for Diane von Furstenberg Vintage Collection spring dresses…OMG, look at that one! It’s perfect…But it’s pricy…But I like it…What the heck…But I really shouldn’t. After filling out the entire order form and staring at the screen for a while, at the last second, I abort (I do this a lot)…Moments later, an email from my publisher…She wants to talk about promoting the young adult book…Is this a cosmic sign to buy the dress?...I fill out the order form (thank God for autofill)…Once again, I seem to be riddled with trepidation, I mean I really don’t need this dress. I abort…Now I’m annoyed with myself. Screw it, I’m going to make lunch…I turn on The View…What!!?? Sherri Shepherd is wearing a top in THE EXACT SAME PRINT AS THE DRESS I’M OBSESSING OVER!!!!!!!!! That’s it! The universe has spoken. I mean, seriously, what are the odds? Surely, this is my sign. I have no choice now but to obey. I make a b-line for my laptop, fill out the order form for the third time and hit SEND. Far be it from me to mess with destiny (like Matt Damon in The Adjustment Bureau).

And so, thanks to a crystal clear and irrefutable cosmic mandate, you can look forward to seeing me this summer sporting the above frock, schlepping my books with uber vintage style. Who knows? I might meet my future husband in this dress. This one dress could change my life. (Oh, I’m good.) As for the literary events, who knows what I’ll talk about? But I know what I’m wearing!

Except for the shoes…

Friday, October 1, 2010

"A wind to shake the world."

 Hurricanes are part of life when you live near the coast, Earl being a recent if soon to be forgotten example. But by now, we all know the drill. We track the little pinwheel on our computers, TVs and smart phones, vigilant for days as the storm either strengthens or fizzles, hugs the coast or drifts out to sea. In the meantime, we kvetch a little on our way to the supermarket to stock up on bottled water, flashlight batteries and canned food. We bring in the grill and the patio furniture. Then we head down to the beach to check out the waves. (Trying to get down to Nauset when Earl hit was like trying to go to the beach at ten am on a weekend in July, with traffic backed up to Grandview. Though I sort of love my fellow Cape Codders for that.)

I’m in the process of researching a new book and I’m not sure any of this will ever see the light of day, but I’ve been reading up on the great hurricane of 1938. Consider how what we know about hurricanes has changed, and how perhaps even what we know now wouldn’t have mattered in the face of a storm so monstrous.

-In 1938, many New Englanders didn’t know what a hurricane was. The word wasn’t even in their vocabularies.

-Before 1938, there hadn’t been a major hurricane since 1869, meaning no one alive had ever lived through one. No Carol or Gloria or Bob, or stories of Andrew survivors huddled in closets as their Florida houses crumbled around them.

-There was no warning. No forecast. No Pete Bouchard. People woke up that morning to sunshine and newspaper headlines about how France and England were caving to pressure from Hitler over Czechoslovakia.

-The arrival of the hurricane of 1938 coincided not just with high tide, but the highest astronomical tide of the year, creating a storm surge that flooded downtown Providence and New Bedford, and left parts of the Cape under 8 feet of water.

-This storm had sustained winds of 121 mph, with recorded gusts of 186 mph. That’s like an F3 tornado.

-The death toll was about 700, and nearly 60,000 homes were damaged or lost.

It’s just rather humbling, and something to think about the next time you’re feeling safe because your car’s gassed up and you have enough peanut to last two weeks.

Monday, September 20, 2010

What I learned from a tick.

Last week, after a nasty bout of what I thought was the flu, I was diagnosed with Lyme Disease. I started a 3-week course of doxycycline on Thursday night. Today, ten days after my first symptoms emerged, I have rejoined the human race. In the meantime, here’s what I’ve learned:

That something this big " . " can completely kick your ass. People, make no mistake. Lyme makes you sick. Long spells of convulsive chills followed by high fever. Sleepless nights. Headaches (see below). Muscle aches. Sensitive skin. Extreme fatigue. They even list depression as a symptom. Ya think?

The difference between an ice pick headache and a migraine. With migraines, I thought I had the market cornered on painful headaches. Enter, the “ice pick” headache, which lasted 3 days, was unresponsive to most pain medication and felt just like the description, as if something sharp had been driven into my temple. And every now and then, dear Yukon Cornelius would tap it in a little further.

You don’t always get a rash. I think I’d remember seeing a large bullseye on my body. Wait, maybe that’s why people were kicking me that day on the beach.

What "herxing" is.  Short for the Herxheimer reaction, which occurs when large quantities of toxins are released into the body at once. So with Lyme, it’s when you start treatment and the little spyrocetes start dying in large numbers and flooding your system with neurotoxins.  In short, it gets worse before it gets better.

All medical professionals are not created equal. I might have been diagnosed three days earlier had my regular NP recognized that my symptoms meshed with Lyme. Three days later, I went to a walk-in clinic and the symptom-based diagnosis was almost immediate. So the best advice is to learn the symptoms for yourself. Note what I experienced above, add the telltale rash and joint pain. Or Google away.

A lot of people have had this and live to tell the tale. Once I mention Lyme, it seems everyone has a story. (And a few bad tequila jokes.) It seems many have had it or known someone who’s had it. Some have even had it multiple times. Sure, there are horror stories. (Bell's palsy.) For most, the antibiotics were the end of it. Sure hope that’s the case for me.

What menopause is going to feel like. Night sweats. Not fun. Fortunately, I have many, many years before I have to worry about such things. (Delusions, another symptom.)

Doxycycline is a great diet plan.  Most people would mind if their meds made them really nauseous. I’m looking forward to fitting into my skinny jeans.

That I’m going to need a better preventive measure than tucking my pants into my socks. Because that’s not going to happen. Just saying.

Sorry, Kiele. I’ll walk you again in November.

PS. Sorry I went A.W.O.L. for a while. I took a little break after my summer book tour and then had a tight editing deadline on my Young Adult book coming out in June. More to come on that, and living on Cape Cod in the off season.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Getting it right.

In Summer Shift, there’s a young girl who dies at the beginning of the novel after crashing her car into a tree on a winding road. We later learn that the main character’s husband died in a similar senseless way. I was not writing from any personal experience here. Like everyone else, I had come across numerous roadside memorials and had always been struck at the harsh, arbitrary suddenness of such deaths; how tragic and unforgiving. How many times have each of us come within inches and been spared? Why some and not others? And so being something I could neither reconcile nor compartmentalize, I chose to explore the subject through writing, which is what writers do.

Today, a dear friend, one whom I’ve known only a few years, told me she was enjoying my novel, though those early scenes in the book took her back to the death of her own teenage son who was killed instantly when his car struck a tree on a winding road in 2005. My initial reaction was horror, that something I wrote might cause this kind person additional grief. She shared with me a website memorializing her son, and I saw photos of him as an infant in his mother’s arms at the hospital, pictures chronicling his childhood and teenage years, up to the photograph of the place where the accident happened, the tree itself with the missing bark, and the place where his ashes now rest. Having a son about to turn nineteen myself, all this tugged at my emotions to say the least.

I was also struck, perhaps truly for the first time, with the enormity of the responsibility authors have to get it right.

When we write, our brains often allow us to go to places we can’t fathom in our own lives. And as we explore subjects, we tap our empathy and imagine what it might be like to walk in the shoes of others. We do some research. We talk to people who’ve had similar real-life experiences. But as I journeyed through this young man’s life eerily preserved in cyberspace, I prayed that I had not in any way trivialized the circumstances of the accidents or victims in my book., that God forbid I may have reduced such real life tragedy to something clich├ęd.

Based on my friend’s comments, I don’t think that was the case. I hope in some way I was able to write something she could relate to and, as the story progresses for her, hope that I might provide some insight or comforting perspective on her loss.

But the lesson learned here, and one which I will carry forward, is to be mindful that what may be simple exploration of a subject for the author is inevitably harsh reality for others.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

In honor of "Shark Week."

Today I learned there are some big fish swimming off the coast of Chatham.

“The great fish moved silently through the night water, propelled by short sweeps of its crescent tail.”

I was twelve years old when I read that.

"The mouth was open just enough to permit a rush of water over the gills."

I was at Nauset beach, lying on my belly, facing the water. I had on my baggy swim team bathing suit, the straps tied together at the back with a shoelace.

"…The land seemed almost dark as the water, for there was no moon."

My sister had gone off to collect shells at the water’s edge.

"...All that separated sea from shore was a long straight stretch of beach—so white that it shone."

Normally, I would have gone with her. But I was enthralled.

"...The woman laughed and took his hand, and together they ran to the beach."

I stopped reading to look up to the intense blue vastness, and the line that cut across the sky.

"A hundred yards offshore, the fish sensed a change in the sea’s rhythm."

Is that a fin?! No, no, just a duck resting on the surface.

"...The fish turned toward shore."

I’m almost positive it’s a duck.

"...The vibrations were stronger now, and the fish recognized prey."

Where is my sister? Did she go in?

"...The woman felt only a wave of pressure that seemed to lift her up in the water and ease her down again."

The beginning of Jaws continues to haunt me in ways that few books have, the words having somehow lodged in my impressionable gut, forever safe from my reasoning brain.

In the mid- 1970s, there were no great whites off the coast of Cape Cod. All that happened after the break in the Outer Beach, and once the seals established themselves. Now, when the waters warm, annual sightings are a common occurrence. Though no one has ever been hurt. Keep in mind, there has been no fatal shark attack in Massachusetts since 1936. But it doesn’t matter, does it? You read the book too. You know what I mean. The damage is done. Razor sharp triangular teeth imbedded in our psyches.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Eau de Lobster

This weekend I joined some friends on the outer beach for a clambake. Aside from the much-needed rain that pelted us for about an hour, and how, when it finally stopped, the gnats attacked, in my opinion it’s still the best restaurant in town.

Of course, after such a primitive feast, you come home sticky and sand-coated, with very big hair, cheeks plastered with corn kernels and lobster goo. It isn't pretty. With nothing but seawater to use to wash up, I’m guessing I didn’t smell so great either.

Then again, maybe I did. Enter Demeter’s Lobster Cologne, “not for the faint of heart. Probably our most obtuse fragrance but it is ‘dead on’ so to speak….a combination of the sea, sweet meat, and a hint of drawn butter.”

Dab a little behind the ears and you’re good to go. I’m not sure where but come the dead of February, when I start longing to be out on the beach on a balmy, moonlit night with a plate of red claws on my lap, I just might need to give this a shot.

(Other notable scents: Cocktail Party To Go, Crayon, Glue, Suntan Lotion, Between The Sheets and Daddy’s Little Helper…can’t even begin to go there on the last one.)

Thanks for the link, Linda!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Recipe for a happy July.

Anyone can publish a novel but how many people have friends kind and talented enough to create for you your very own cocktail? This summer, belly up to the bar at the Saltwater Grille in Orleans and order a “Summer Shift.” Or have your own party.

(Please rest assured this recipe has gone through rigorous testing.)

The "Summer Shift"
1 part premium vodka (Ketel One, Stoli, Grey Goose, etc.)
1 part cranberry juice
Splash of Cointreau or Triple Sec
Splash of sour mix
Generous splash of key lime juice
Fill to the rim with soda water
Garnish with fresh lime

What's more, starting this week, you'll be able to sample the dishes at the back of Summer Shift at the Saltwater Grille. Clambaked Oysters, Hopkins Haddock, Proud Mary's Portuguese Mussels, and more. (And if you order a salad, chances are my kid will make it.)

Have a safe, happy summer!