Homemade gravy and hand-built furniture

Traveling. Today we are in Worcester Massachusetts, the town where my husband was born. We’re mostly visiting family but a confluence of scheduling has left us with one night on our own.

Buca“Italian food,” he insists. Worcester was settled in part by Italian immigrants and has long boasted restaurants that rival those in Chicago where we met. “Absolutely,” I agree. He’s heard of a new Italian restaurant located right on the banks of Worcester’s Lake Quinsigamond and we head over eagerly. What do we find? Buca di Beppo, a relatively good Italian chain restaurant that also has a place about five miles from where we live in Texas. We have to laugh. No way.

His phone is dumb and mine is smart but slow, but we have a laptop in the car so we go off in search of internet and a more interesting restaurant recommendation. As we drive, I think about my writing. That is not surprising, I do that a lot. Traditionally published novels are like chain restaurants, I think. Some are okay and some are great but they are seldom awful. You have a pretty good idea of what you are getting. Self-published novels are more like tiny mom-and-pop restaurants. Some are really bad and some are absolutely fantastic and there is no good way to tell the difference from a distance. Good or bad, the contents are always something of a surprise.

PaneraWe stumble on a Panera Bread, one of my favorite chain restaurants because of its wonderful tradition of providing free WiFi to travelers everywhere. While my husband is booting up I order us beverages and it occurs to me to try the human approach. I mean, why not? “Know any good local Italian restaurants around here?” I ask. She knows several, including one called Piccolo’s that is run by the parents of a friend. Perfect.

Minutes later we walk into tiny Piccolo’s on Shrewsbury Street in Worcester. The menu is hand typed, and the Pollo Maria Teresa that catches my eye is described with honesty as being a pasta dish served with chicken and “some lobster”.  I smile at the lack of polish. It’s like homemade gravy or hand-built furniture. One makes either with love and with all the skill that one can.

PiccoloEach one of my three self-published books has been created, edited and rewritten to the best of my ability at the time that I wrote them. Then, because I wanted the product to be better, each has been professionally edited with what I could afford. In my case that was a fine young editor named Joel Handley, who used his journalism degree, sharp mind and experience with one previous book to fix my dashes and semi-colons, address my frequently used words, clean up odd phrases and even make a few general plot and character suggestions. I have learned that Joel provides excellent copy-editing, some good line editing and even a bit of development editing along the way. However, he is no hardened expert from the world of publishing. At my request, he worked with a light touch. Therefore, my three books probably don’t have the polish provided by industry experts who, by the way, generally charge ten times as much. My books are like homemade gravy and hand-built furniture. They make no pretense to be otherwise, even though I hope that they can be enjoyed by those who also appreciate chain restaurants.

The Pollo Maria Teresa arrives and it is wonderful. I smile as I enjoy some of my “some lobster” and I think that it is good to take a chance.

Cease firing for a day: Saturday September 21 2013


“Do Unto Others” by Norman Rockwell

Every year about this time, the world celebrates “An International Day of Peace.”  It goes largely unnoticed, at least here in Texas where I live, and this year I’m putting some effort into changing that.

This 32 year old event is also called Peace Day, and you can read about it here. It’s goals extend beyond the ending of wars between nations and include improving relations among all peoples. The website says that observances range in scale from private gatherings to public concerts and forums where hundreds of thousands of people participate.Hmm, not seeing any of that here in Houston.

candleSuggested activities for the lone individual include lighting a candle at noon, or doing a good deed for someone you do not know. Both are fine ideas, on any day actually. However, my personal favorite is the suggestion to consider Sept. 21 as a day of ceasefire – personal as well as political. One could take the opportunity to make peace in ones own relationships while they wish for an end to the larger conflicts of our time.What a day it would be if a chunk of humanity decided to call a cease fire on their own anger and resentment for just twenty-four hours.

A simple idea. The really good ones usually are.

A short political rant (not mine)

I read a lot of blog posts by other writers. Some are funny, some are informative, and a few are full of themselves and more than a little annoying. None-the-less I learn about my craft from all of them and I am appreciative.

Today I stumbled on a blog by a twenty-two year old English major and aspiring fiction writer who took a few minutes to rant about the situation in Syria. I’ve been pretty conflicted about the whole mess, and I found her analysis succinct and worth repeating.

Why? This blog is not just about my writing,and my novel x0. It is also about the themes behind the book, including empathy and world peace. When someone has something worthwhile to say on those subjects, I am happy to reblog. So please, read on.

A short political rant.