Thursday, March 30, 2006

New England Yankee Rednecks

Don't let people tell you rednecks are only in the South.

Based on 30 years of residency, here are my personal criteria.

1) public crotch scratching
2) loud opinions
3) pulling down pants and hitching them up in post office parking lot (see 1)
4) tree stumps for teeth

I could go on but they're probably all variations of the above. Some of the crankiest of them live here in picturesque New England with a million dollar home on one side and their own rattletrap shack on the other. That's because schizophrenics run the zoning boards. I know because I've got the cast of Deliverance around the corner from me.

Neighborhood lore has it that they kill dogs in the house I'm talking about, but I doubt that. My son once trick or treated at their house and fled when the old man came to the door. He didn't see any dog carcasses.

Someone said these people defecate into a big hole in the living room, but surely that isn't true either. I'm gullible, though. We know that. When the weather's good, you can see the oldest son out sunning himself on the "porch." He is a free and luxurious crotch scratcher and sometimes holds a beer can in his hand. There are days I envy his leisure.

For a while they had a mangy-looking herd of cows and I felt sorry for the cows. They were always escaping too, no doubt trying to evade their owners.
PLEASE HELP US. The house looks literally as though it could fall over if you leaned on it. Odd thing is you see a red light on there sometimes when you drive by at night. Brothel? It's possible. Prices must be low, though, and no rest rooms. Probably got the cows in there doing tricks.

Anyway, they're my neighbors and they're okay.


Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Christmas Returns

I am writing a scene about Christmas right now. It's particularly festive in New England because so many people leave their decorations up for so long. You can see wreaths on the doors until spring and some houses have brown withered holiday garlands stuck in peculiar alcoves into the summertime. Seriously, you can be driving along and see a barn with a wreath way up in the corner near the roof. Whose idea was that? How will they ever get it down? I guess egg nog makes people do strange things.









I am meeting one of my classes after almost two weeks (spring break has just ended). I also gave them the "bring in an editorial" assignment. Let's see how many of them remember it. Maybe I will accidentally turn into an ogre, as in Shanna Swendson's book ENCHANTED, INC, snarling and puffing in front of their eyes. What a sight.

A bientot

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Social Butterfly

That was me yesterday. I had breakfast, lunch, and dinner out. I did okay on the diet until the very end when I was cleaning up birthday cake here at the house (it was my son's BD) and I savored some of the frosting. The devil made me do it. It was a pretty pathetic sight, me scarfing down leftovers from other people's plates. But I can vouch for the hygiene of all of them, I think. And thank god the cake got sent out the door or I probably would have violated it in a serious way.

Here's how pitiful the restaurant scene is in central Mass. My son picked Bertucci's in the mall for his birthday dinner (sentimental favorite, I guess). Personally, I think B's has gone down sharply in quality from a few years ago, not to mention they've been hurt by Olive Garden, which I am indifferent to. I used to love the Classico Antipasto at B's and it used to have chicken on it and some delicious pasty thing and both of those items are missing now though the price is higher. Can you believe this? When we got there around 7:30 we were told that the wait was ABOUT AN HOUR. For BERTUCCI'S? So we stood outside the door and discussed our options. No one could come up with a good suggestion. Some said 99, but we all eat constantly at the 99, especially my son and his wife who practically live next door to one. So that met with a tepid reception. TG Friday's in the same mall? Probably the same wait, we guessed. Checkerboard Pizza? That seemed a sorry excuse for a celebration dinner. THERE'S NOWHERE TO EAT AROUND HERE AND THAT'S THE TRUTH.

Oh yes, so as we stand there debating, out walks the Bertucci's manager, a smiley young man who says, "How would you like to be seated right now?" I thought there was some catch, like we'd have to buy insurance from him or something, but he was good to his word. He took us in and we were served. Maybe he didn't like us standing out there complaining.

I should hit 45,000 words today on Victory. I need to go back and add in a bunch of details so I'll feel more comfortable with recent plot lines. I would say the thing is about half done or maybe a little more. I still need a good title.

A bientot
Eating at home today all three meals,

Friday, March 24, 2006


I so love the NCAA tournament. I so love how every game is IMPORTANT. Switch from a college game to a pro game and in the first minute that you switch, listen how the whole tempo slows down. The sneakers barely make a noise in the pro game. The crowd is quieter. Yikes. You would think the young kids are better, but of course they're not.

I read I AM CHARLOTTE SIMMONS and it is a terrific book. Dickensian you might say in that Dickens told his story across a wave, a rainbow, of different characters of different social classes. So does Wolfe. But it probably ruined me where Duke is concerned. I don't see how you can read that book and not think of Duke. So they're out. Gone. Too bad. Snobs. Fanatics.

Here's how my rooting goes. UMass, not BC (you have to live here to know). Illinois, maybe Villanova, A-10 teams, underdog teams, Midwest teams, never West Coast teams. Big Ten teams are good, ACC no. Arkansas always. Has Bradley lost yet? I was a little kid in Peoria, Ill., and my parents used to take me to the Bradley homecoming parade and it was fabulous. Floats and beautiful girls, cheerleaders and sororities, fascinating to me.

Rather a deflating kind of Friday in that I found out I'm not going to several meetings/conventions I had wanted to attend. Some of them are my fault. For all my good planning, I didn't plan well for some of this. No writing on Victory today and there won't be any tomorrow because, yes boys and girls, I am having breakfast, lunch, and dinner out! Ouch! Weight loss hanging steady at 10.5. I EXPECT MORE!!!

Weather cold. When I moved here almost 30 years ago, this was the time of year that was most depressing. It still is.

Root for Bradley.

A bientot,

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Feel the Love

I am really enjoying my classes right now. That's the sad thing about teaching--you get comfortable with the students and they get comfortable with you and then it's over and you never see them again. Don't get me wrong. It's not that I WANT to see them again, but this friendly little cocoon is enjoyable while it lasts. I haven't had a bad asshole for a long time. Next fall I'm teaching 101 at one of my schools, so that could change. English 101 students in the fall are right out of high school and some are inevitable slackers who are in college because their parents are forcing them, or whatever.

I went over 44,000 words today on VICTORY. I'm still looking for a new name, so if anyone has a suggestion, let me know. The story is about three generations of women who shop at the same grocery (Victory Market). Actually, one works there as well as shops there. Integrity Market? No, I don't think so. What could a grocery be named? Certainly not Hannaford's. Ugh. They seem to have a new crop of non-thank-you-sayers in there just now and some teenage boys instead of girls for a change. Let's see if it makes a difference.

I have some social outings coming up soon so the diet will be challenged. Total loss from Jan. 17 -- 10.5 pounds. I'm still doing South Beach because it's the only thing that has worked even slightly. I have no choice but to keep going.

A bientot

Tuesday, March 21, 2006


I was just reading a thread entitled "Output" on Backspace, a writers' group I am in. Yikes. These people do two, three, and five thousand words per day. I make myself do a thousand. And on days that I work in the mornings, I don't do any writing. Sigh. So figure if a book is 90,000 words or so (for me), it will take me 90 days minimum to do the first draft. I don't just tear through it. I revise all the time as I go. Then comes the second draft, and the third, etc.

Stephen King says in his writing book that he "gets" ten pages per day. I can't imagine that, although that's probably 3000 words and my friends do that. I even make myself stop at 1000 because I'm superstitious. I want to have something to come back to next time if that makes sense. I try never to stop at the end of a scene, but in the middle. That way I can get going on it next time without too much angst.

Writing is a strange pursuit. It's a form of self-love, I think, and sometimes self-hate. The thrill and euphoria of creation. Oh, I LOVE LOOOOOOOOOOVE what I wrote this morning. And then three days later the thrill is gone. I don't love it any more. I might even hate it. And so forth.

My, I'm serious today. I have to go out and mail more copies of CG to various publications and hope that they will review it. Publishing is more or less one humiliation after another.

It goes like this:

First you write the thing. That's the fun part (har) There can be some humiliation here depending on who your critique partners are and what they have to say.

Then you send query letters to agents who humiliate you with their rejections.

This can go on for months.

Then you actually GET an agent and have one night of ecstasy.

Then the agent sends your work out to various editors at various publishing houses, who humiliate you with their rejections.

This can go on for weeks or sometimes months.

Then you actually GET a book deal and you have one night of ecstasy. Maybe two.

Then you try to get "blurbs" for the back of your book from well known authors, who humiliate you with their rejections.

This goes on for weeks.

Then you GET a few and you have an afternoon of moderate happiness, because how important is it really?

Then you start getting reviews which can be humiliating (I don't have any yet). People make comments which can be humiliating. People look down on your genre which can be humiliating. I will continue this serious discussion at another time, boys and girls. And now continue with your regularly scheduled program....

Je m'appele Becky

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Sunday, March 19, 2006


Today I attended a meeting of the New England chapter of Romance Writers of America. I feel like a fraud attending because my books don't have much romance in them. In fact, after lengthy analysis, I'm worried that this is a problem.

Anyway, we listened to each other's "pitch" sessions, when you have a certain short length of time to impress an agent or an editor. The first one we listened to was about werewolves and I think it was pretty good, but I don't know my shape shifters the way I should. I had never done this before and tried to "pitch" Victory instead of CG. I figured what the heck, CG is already sold and doesn't need pitching. The three people who listened said it sounded good (women tend to be polite) but then said the title didn't do anything for them.

They're right. VICTORY sounds like VICTORY AT SEA or some war novel. What can I call it? They said VICTORY MARKET sounded better. I wonder if I would get sued for that one. It's a fictitious town, but of course based on a real one.

THE OPTIMISTIC MAILBOX (one of the plot lines involves a mailbox)

I don't think any of these are good. HELP!!!

I'm having my favorite salmon dinner tonight. Tomorrow is weigh-in day. Fingers crossed, mes amies.

A bientot

Friday, March 17, 2006

The Tupperware Laugh

The Tupperware laugh, as I may have already explained, is the laugh one gives when asked to host a Tupperware party. It's a big hearty belly laugh, involving ho ho ho and ha ha ha and can go on for several minutes. It is a laugh unto itself.

Other laughs are peculiar to the laugher, of course. I have a strange whipoorwill kind of laugh I do in polite situations. It starts in the low registers and then ends way up high in a silly kind of bird twittery sound. I also have a a robust kind of har har laugh, the kind you use when something is being made fun of. Those aren't real, though. I can do them right now as I sit here without any provocation. A real laugh you can't conjure up. They only happen, well, when you're really laughing. That kind is deep and cleansing and clears your head and brain. I'm privileged enough to have friends who make me laugh like that. Also my brother. I'm old enough to know it's one of life's great pleasures.

I just arrived at 39,859 words on Victory.

Biggest worry: Some chapters are long and involved. Some seem too short.

Biggest hope: It makes sense.

FYI: The scale showed an additional one and one half pound loss yesterday. So of course I'm swanning around in seventh heaven. That's ten pounds lost since the very beginning, five on South Beach. It's such a long and arduous path.

What if John Lennon had written the song that way--"A Long and Arduous Path"? Possibly not the hit it was.

Sacre Bleu!

Wednesday, March 15, 2006


I don't like it when the wind blows. I always think my windows are going to come flying out. AUNTIE EM! AUNTIE EM!

Spring break is going well so far. It's not exactly like spending it in Key West or Cancun, but hey, three days off is good. I finished an extra chapter in Victory and plot lines are snowballing and mushrooming in my head. That's what you like to have, so much material that you have to pick and choose. I always tell my students that too. You don't want to be in the position of not having enough material. That always shows to the reader.

After tomorrow I will have 30-some papers to read, all about art and artists. I think all of us actually learn something when we do the art paper. I know I do. Out of 17 students in one class yesterday, only 7 showed up with a rough draft. I think the other class had an equally high and frightening proportion of no-shows. Whatever.

Now I just heard thunder. Or it could have been Fort Devens war games. There it goes again. It sounds like explosives. Maybe my neighbor is on a rampage. The poor guy is barked at incessantly by his other neighbors' dogs, so I wouldn't blame him.

No further loss on the diet. See how good I am about keeping quiet about it? Not whining? Don't worry. I am on the inside.

A bientot

Monday, March 13, 2006

Spring Break

Yes, that's right, I'm on spring break and I will be this week and next. I've decided to see the glass as half full. I get three days off this week and two next week, so yee ha!!!

I spent the morning working on Victory. I wrote a skunk scene that I enjoyed. Now I'm worried that I have so many events crammed into each chapter that it will be confusing.

FIE UPON THAT. I'm going forward, no matter what.

Hey. If you're writing skunk scenes, how bad can it be?

I see that Catholic Charities, rather than place a child who needs a home with a loving gay couple, is getting out of the business. Way to go. Sheesh. Joan Vennochi in the Globe has it right--when will liberal Catholics pick up their things and get the hell out? It's way past time. I did it long ago.

So enough of the ethical/moral/political commentary. I'll leave that for Jon Stewart, who had the funniest line at the Oscars when he said, "You know, I think it just got a little easier out here for a pimp." I howled.

A cat was just in my back yard. My parents get terribly offended when cats come into their yard. My dad suggested a year ago that he was going to set a trap and catch the cat and take it out to the country and let it go. I said dad, that would be really cruel to the cat and to the owners, wouldn't it? Yes, but we don't want it in our yard, he said.

The caregiver told me she is taking him to see an oncologist. That has me worried, of course.

Off to more spring break fun. Cleaning the kitchen.

Sacre Bleu!

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Eating My Words

Naturally, after my last post I got up the next day to a two-pound loss. So I'm less surly and violent. It's still not a GREAT performance but better than one pound.


Okay. We are finally having some warmish weather and it's superb. We New Englanders are like lizards, crawling out from our cold winter habitat (most of us live under rocks) and absorbing the sun's rays. Although in truth, I don't see the sun, as in actually SEEING it, but I can sense its presence.

I'm also relishing the prospect of three days off next week. Since my two schools have different spring breaks, I don't really get a spring break per se, but I will get five days off spread over two weeks. I'll take it. It will allow me to plow forward on Victory. Driving to work yesterday I was listening to Sports Radio WEEI and it gave me what I hope is a very good idea for my book. It has to do with gangsters, that's all I want to say.

I used to listen to WEEI quite a bit, but then tired of it. Jerry Callahan and John Dennis in the morning are the only ones worth listening to, and their neanderthal rants get my goat sometimes. Dale Arnold and Michael Holley are too boring for words and the Big O show in the afternoon has too many people on it, all yelling into the microphone and interrupting each other. I like people to be polite.

The NCAA is getting going this weekend so I will start to pay attention to that. It's so much more fun than the pros. UMass will probably never get there again, but I can still root for Illinois and various others. One policy here at COUPONS FROM THE EDGE is that we don't root for West Coast teams. They already have the good weather and they don't need other gratification. So. Stay tuned.

A bientot

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

South Beach Diet Doesn't Work

My total loss in a week and a half is one pound. ONE!!!! I had lost another one and a half, but that loss has been erased. AND I'M STICKING TO IT NIGHT AND DAY!!!! It's one thing if I'd been cheating...

The book says you will lose 8-13 pounds after the first two weeks. I will settle for three pounds. If I don't get that, I'm bailing. I can get the same effect for a lot less trouble and cooking and dishwashing.

Okay, sorry for the rant. I think I was boring in class today. Every now and then I will see a student almost falling asleep right in front of me. I consider that my fault, not the student's. But then I don't really know what to do. Start jumping up and down and crossing my eyes? SAY HEY YO!!!!'S'UP DUDE?

My slightly obnoxious student is behaving himself most of the time. One of his favorite things to do is yawn loudly. (everyone's now thinking--GOD, SHE REALLY IS BORING] I told him today I wished he wouldn't do that. He's always very apologetic and then does the same thing again. His idol is Che Guevara, believe it or not and he wears Che tee-shirts all the time.

I'm at 32,000 words now on VICTORY. Plus I finally sent off advanced copies of CG to my two alma maters. I hope they get read. My talented friend Jihyon is going to help me update my web site soon. What I really need is to learn how to do it myself. I suppose that is in the future. It will be absolute heaven not to work in May and June, even though I'll be traveling.

It's hard out here for a pimp.

A bientot

Monday, March 06, 2006

After One Full Week.......

The total loss is 1.5 pounds. Not that great? Yeah, that's what I think too. I actually gained a pound since yesterday after being on the diet all day long. Total loss since diet began on Jan 17----5.5-7 pounds.

I don't want to talk about it. I'm staying on, though, don't worry. I have no choice.

So did you watch the Oscars? I was doing a crossword and occasionally looked at it. It wasn't very funny. The only thing I laughed at was Jon Stewart when he said after the performance of "It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp," "I think, yes, it just got a little easier here for a pimp." What a terrible song. The other ones were blah, but that one was really terrible. John Williams must feel insulted, but he's won a few, so roll with it, Johnny.

Reese Witherspoon will be ridiculed for her speech. It may contend with the old Sally Field "you really like me" speech.

The Oscars are sort of like the Olympics now, with all the various groups and ethnicities rooting for their side. I didn't see Brokeback Mountain, but the clips I saw were snoozers. That Edward R. Murrow one looked like another snoozer. The most boring Hollywood movie I ever saw was Gandhi. The two people I was with literally slept on either side of me.

How did Ang Lee get to direct a Western?

Must run,
A bientot

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Day Six

I've made it this far and I think the news is going to be good on Monday when I weigh in. Okay, I weighed myself yesterday but I'm going to save the announcement for Monday. With my luck it will get reversed, but I don't think so.

That puts me in a good mood. And I did skip the cake the other night. It wasn't hard to do. I knew I was getting a rocotta creme when I got home. Yum. That is the reward I strive for on most days.

I didn't buy nearly enough greens, so I guess I have to go out for a rogue head of lettuce this afternoon or I won't make it until tomorrow.

I made good progress on VICTORY this morning, but I fear I may end up deleting most of the morning's work. Every now and then I have to ask myself hard questions. Such as is anything HAPPENING in this scene? Such an inconvenient requirement.

I'm still imprisoned in puzzle land, but also in class prep land and grading paper land. Groan. I have to do fifteen of the suckers today. The one I just did didn't have a single change made between rough draft and final submission. Yeesh.

A bientot

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Day Four

Okay, so I made it to Day Four of South Beach Diet. It's good. It's okay. In a way, it feels like all the diets I've tried. I sort of have that sense of holding my breath. You get all kinds of snacks, though, so that will help me. What happens when I get into a "situation"? I'm celebrating a friend's birthday tonight. Am I supposed to decline a piece of cake? What about on Friday when I normally go out to lunch?

Other problems? You really have to take a grocery list with you so as not to forget all the little doodads. It's somewhat expensive too and I didn't buy nearly enough greens. My weekly bill is usually around $45 just for myself and it was $75 or so last Sunday. I am practically out of everything now and I don't shop again supposedly until Sunday. So better planning is in order.

Plus what's with all the preparation? Yuck. I don't like to spend time preparing food. So I make a lot of easy substitutions (legal, I swear).

So enough about that. I've been really enjoying my classes lately. Who knows, I might be enjoying them and my students might be groaning. Big ton of papers came in on Tuesday and I graded ten of them yesterday. I was harsher this time. They should know better on some of these things. We tried to pick some vocabulary words yesterday and my students did not know "curt" or "visage" or even "twitter." I started imitating "twitter," you know I said, it's like chirping, chirp chirp, and they cracked up.

I have to order postcards soon. I want to enjoy all the book events, I really do. But I can tell in a way I will be so nervous I will dread them. We humans. We're so predictable.

Le chien est sur le table