A Summer Day

After feeding my daughter’s cat while she’s away, I drive another block to the beach to check “whether the ocean is still there.” That’s what I tell my grandson when he’s in the car with me. Cooper is seven-year-old serious and likes his world anchored to reality. When we see the waves curling in and swishing out, he is reassured and chides me for doubting the ocean’s predictability.

Performing the ritual alone on this bright July day, I breathe in the salty air and feast on the summertime sights of the beach. The clean line of the far-off horizon, the ocher-colored boulder a handful of children are climbing, the flapping of the Stars and Stripes on a far-away large rock reachable only at low tide.

Living “inland”—three miles from the water—I often forget the delicious liberating feeling of the beach. Of enjoying this triumvirate of water, sand, and sun. Summertime near the water gives you freedom to live in the moment all day long. Continue reading

I want my K sound back

Whatever has happened to the K sound that belongs in all those words with two Cs? On TV I hear it all the time: “accessorize” pronounced “assessorize,” “accelerate” pronounced “asselerate,” and many more. What”s next? “Access” pronounced “assess?” Wait, isn”t that a word already?acela

This mindless mispronunciation occurs when two C”s are followed by an E.

To avoid making this mistake yourself, remember this general pronunciation rule in English: C is soft before an E or I, hard (like K) before other letters. Like this: cent, cinema (soft), cat, cot, cut (hard).

Having two Cs doesn’t change this rule. In “accelerate,” the first C is hard because it is not followed by one of the two magic vowels. The second C is followed by E, so it is soft. In fact, that”s why there are two Cs. What a compact, elegant way to generate two sounds from one letter.

OK, so its a bit tricky. But still, if you”re on TV you should try to pronounce things properly.
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When I started working at a college book publisher in Boston a few decades ago, my new friend there asked me whether I had been here long. By “here” she meant America. She’d detected a slight accent—an intonation, actually—revealing my foreign origins.

Because she was fifteen or so years my junior, I couldn’t resist quipping back, “Longer than you have,” which, of course, stopped her in her sweetly meant but somewhat condescending tracks (you know, the way you speak to foreigners, in that I’ll-talk-slowly-so-you-can-understand-what-I’m-saying tone). Continue reading

On the Way with Designer Julia

Hey Denise

Joel Friedlander’s tips on self-publishing on his blog, TheBookDesigner, are spurring me on. In his free booklet, “10 Things You Need to Know About Self-Publishing,” he clarified for me the next steps on the road to seeing my memoir of my family’s WWII experience, Bowing to the Emperor: We Were Prisoners of the Japanese, morph into a book.

Joel reminded me that if I want my book to look like professionals produced it, I need to hire professionals—unless, of course, I have those skills myself. He is referring to editorial, design, typography, and cover creation skills.

He goes on to say that four people are necessary in the whole process to make the book all it can be: the editor, the cover designer, the book layout artist, and the marketing consultant.

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Will It Be CreateSpace or Lulu?

Hey Denise,

ducks_smThe fog is lifting. The ducks are lining up, albeit in a somewhat ragged row. Yes, I’m beginning to get the hang of how to shift the gears on that self-publishing bus of mine.

After Googling and reading umpteen more reviews of self-publishing companies, including those in which users relate their experience withmountain_smthe company they had chosen (I shuddered at some of the horror stories), and peeking at the online snippets provided by Mark Levine from his book, “The Fine Print of Self-Publishing” (you have to buy the book for the full story), I narrowed the search down to two: CreateSpace and Lulu.

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Starting the engine on the second Chimera story

Hey Robine,
I’m getting started on the next installment of the Chimera series. This one will be told from Chloe’s point of view.

I envision the series as fantasy adventures that take place in the context of everyday life in a small city in the Berkshires. Chloe, the Chimera, and a few of their close associates are the recurring characters.

As a jumping off point, I’m trying to imagine in some detail what Chloe’s life is like as she starts school in a new town, with a new family, after her mother’s death. She’s got a lot of good things going on, but she also has to deal with her grief and the weirdness of her mother’s transformation into the Chimera.

massmocaChloe pursues her interest in art by volunteering at MassMoca, the contemporary art museum in North Adams, and taking a sculpture class there. Chloe, the Chimera, and their friends are drawn into a mythic adventure through an art work in the museum.

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Tom, CreateSpace, and the Best Ice Cream Ever

ice_cream_sundaeI arrive early at Nona’s Homemade for our meeting. When Tom strides in—tall, confident, two copies of his self-published book in hand—I ready my questions. “Tell me your self-publishing story,” I say.

Tom Donahue, a correction officer, co-owner with his wife of the ice cream shop Nona’s Homemade, and father of four, has somehow had time to write and publish Fraternal Bonds. And he did it without any special “in” or prior knowledge about, or experience with, the publishing process.

Listening to someone’s experience live is different from reading about it. As the minutes fly by, Tom talks book and Kindle sales, brick-and-mortar bookstore visits, reviews, book signings, Facebook, and other marketing avenues he is pursuing. He is revved up. His enthusiasm is contagious.

I am especially intrigued by his use of Facebook to pinpoint his audience. Who knew you could use this social media tool to search for groups and organization—in his case, correction facilities nationwide that might be interested in his crime novel?

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Self-Publishing Step1

Checking “self-publishing” online is a little like starting a research paper by reading about your topic in an encyclopedia. You get a lot of compressed generic information. Different companies, bloggers, and experts pull you in ten different directions until you don’t know whom to believe or what to focus on. Clicking through links sends you wandering down strange paths until you end up on Confusion Lane.

What I wish for as I stroll online through the thicket of information is a magic detector. In my fantasy, sweeping this detector with its attached magnet over the document would cause it to beep rapidly when in the presence of useful information. The magnet would then extract the prized nugget and deposit it in my saved self-publishing info folder, neatly filed in some step-by-step order.


Until such a wonderful instrument is invented, I guess I’ll have to slog along and read andsave as many documents as I think might be helpful. With technology changing every minute and self-publishing models and companies popping up like mushrooms after a soaking summer rain, I’ve decided to focus on information provided in 2011 or 2012. What was cutting edge earlier—say, in 2008 or 2009—may well be outdated by now.

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Chloe, the Chimera, and Me


Earliest known image of a Chimera

Hey Robine,

I just wrote a short story that might serve as a kind of creation myth or back story for a fantasy series. I’d love to know what you think of it after you read it.

In the story, a single mom, Caroline, learns she is dying. At the same time she discovers that she has a mythic connection to the Chimera, a creature with a lion’s body, a snake tail, and wings.

Caroline is all alone in the world except for her 14 year old daughter Chloe. Chloe is desperately unhappy because she doesn’t fit in at school, and she’s being bullied.

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Driving the Self-Publishing Bus

Last night I drove a bus. OK it was in my dream, but the anxiety I felt was one hundred percent real. Sitting up there in the driver’s seat, my left foot barely able to reach and depress the clutch, the loose four-on-the-floor gearshift dancing around as I tried to downshift, I felt wildly out of control.
I failed to make the right turn cleanly at the intersection and ran over the grass strip. I sweated at the thought of stalling it at the next stop sign. And all the while my sister was making unhelpful critical comments behind me. I didn’t see her volunteering to take over. Oh how I wanted to be anywhere but there. Please, I prayed, let me be a passenger and not the driver, not the one in charge.

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