Love Notes: things to love mid-winter

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This photo was from a much warmer day (last summer), but it seemed perfect for a post about love… 

I meant to get this blog posted yesterday, for Valentine’s Day, but I didn’t, and here’s why…

Another blizzard. More snow predicted. But here’s the thing: it missed us. (Collective sigh, followed by a cheer.) Various predictions said we’d get one to two more feet of snow out of this storm, adding to the four feet of snow already on the ground. Instead we woke up to two inches! Yesterday was a flurry of activity to get ready for the possible power outage, being snowed in, etc. We even succumbed to the “bread and milk” grocery run, except since we were baking bread and I’m lactose intolerant, instead we bought flour and yeast. (By the way, if you haven’t seen the hilarious bread and milk youtube video, here’s a link.)

Here are a few more things I love this month:

For my post on Writer Unboxed yesterday I asked other Writer Unboxed writers to contribute Valentines to Writing. Why and how they love writing. Check out “Writing…Will You Be My Valentine?” to see the twenty wonderful love letters, poems, and words about writing. I loved compiling this Valentine box of words.

At Great New Books this month I posted a recommendation for Roz Chast’s graphic memoir Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant. I saw this book as a long love letter to her parents (as they went through the aging process). The book is at turns hilarious and heartbreaking and Chast is amazing at expressing feelings through her cartoons. I loved this book.

Lately I’ve seen a lot of Common Ravens. These massive black birds, “cousins” of the crow, are larger than a Red-tailed Hawk, and I don’t see them often in Maine. (I don’t think… they are solitary birds so if I saw one alone, without comparison to another bird, I might think it’s a crow—crows weigh about half as much, but without comparison, this difference is hard to see). You can tell ravens from crows in flight by the raven’s wedge-shaped tail. I saw a lot of ravens in the west when I drove across the country, but it’s really spectacular to see them in the snow. The contrast is beautiful and striking. I haven’t gotten a photo of one yet, but I would love to by the end of the winter.

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Winter is far from over. This is a shot of the Cousins Island Bridge, looking toward the mainland.

Winter…which is far from over, despite the lack of snow from this particular blizzard. We are in the deep chill, with temperatures well below freezing (we’ve had thirteen days below zero in February; I don’t love that). I still go out and take photos, but with clear skies, sunrises and sunsets are less spectacular (we’ve had a few good ones), most boats are out of the water, and it’s harder to get access to beautiful areas—the snow banks are huge.

Another thing I really love today is that it’s only 32 days until the Spring Equinox. And even though I’m sure we’ll still have snow on the ground, there’s a lot of hope resting on that day!

How’s your winter going? What do you love this month?

Saturday Six

Here’s what’s happening this week in my world…keep reading for how to enter a giveaway for an ITunes gift card!

1. Fact or Fiction? Today I’m on Writer Unboxed with a post called Gender Bias: Fact or Fiction about three things that got me thinking about whether men have an edge over women in the publishing and writing world. Here’s the beginning:

 Lest you think I’m a ‘man-hating feminist,’ let me assure you I am not. In fact, I like to think that in my day-to-day life mine is a pretty equal world—all things considered. But when I hear things that make me think that women aren’t equal (for whatever reason), I pay attention…

A huge thank you to my wonderful daughter for taking time (on very, extremely short notice) from her busy job to give me her insight and help in editing this piece.

2. Diary of the Fall. This week I also had my first post on the Great New Books blog! I wrote about Diary of the Fall by Michel Laub and translated by Margaret Jull Costa. It’s about three generations of diarists, and it’s an interesting book on many levels—for me it was most interesting in its structure: nonlinear in nature and very short chapters. I hope you’ll take a look at the post, here’s an excerpt.

Lately I’ve been fascinated with nonlinear stories—in fact I’ve been searching them out. That’s how I stumbled onto Diary of the Fall written by Michel Laub and translated by Margaret Jull Costa.

This story of three generations of men—all diarists—is told through the eyes of a single narrator: a forty-something (unnamed) man, who relives and retells the story of a dangerous prank he and other Jewish thirteen-year-olds at an elite school in Brazil play on their one non-Jewish classmate, João. At João’s thirteenth birthday party, the boys decide as a group to drop João during a ceremonial “13-bumps” tradition, and João is seriously injured in “the fall.”

3. That giveaway. I’m putting together a new play list for the WIP I’ll write during NaNoWriMo. If anyone can guess what I’m writing about based on this playlist, you’ll win a $10 gift card from ITunes. Here’s a screenshot of the songs I’m listening to in repeat while I’m in planning mode.

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click to enlarge

Not that this will necessarily help you with your guess, but my favorite song so far is “Cool Kids” by EchoSmith. (I never was one of the cool kids, by the way, maybe that’s why.) Seriously, leave a comment and if you guess correctly (or even close!), I’ll send you that gift card.

4. It just goes on and on. We’re still in the midst of one of the most prolonged and beautiful falls I can remember. In fact, we’re just about “at peak.” The colors are dazzling and distracting and stunning…I can’t think of enough descriptors, so how about another photo?

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This sugar maple next to a neighbor’s house is what I’m talking about…dazzling right?

5. King Tide. I missed the lunar eclipse but caught the “King Tide,” the year’s highest astronomical tide, and it was something. I stood on the tiny piece of remaining shore on Cousins Island Beach and let the water wash over my sandaled feet. Yes, it’s still been that warm here…in Maine…in October. It’s amazing and wonderful.

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This is all that was left of the beach during King Tide!

6. Can’t break the habit! MEH (My Engineer Husband) and I gave up cable TV a few years ago—actually right around when I first started blogging. Now, instead, we binge watch TV. (No, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me either, except that we no longer have a cable TV bill.) We’ve gone through Rescue Me, The Guardian, The Mentalist, Castle, The Mindy Project, and now we’re about to wind up Chuck. Any suggestions on what we should start next would be greatly appreciated. Clearly we like an eclectic mix but tend to like quirky and shows that have (at least some) humor and a lot of mystery.

How are things in your corner of the world? What are you writing and watching and listening to? Don’t forget to guess what my new WIP is about, and you could win that ITunes gift card.

Cheers,

Julia

“On little cat feet…”

Yesterday's photo, taken with my iPhone

Yesterday’s photo, taken with my iPhone

(Thank you poet Carl Sandburg for the inspiration behind the title of this post!)

The last few days have been foggy off and on, which is fine with me. I love the fog—and anytime I think it might be foggy, I drive to the water’s edge (we’re five minutes from Casco Bay).

Yesterday, though, it surprised me. Sunny at my house, I drove to the Falmouth Landing—a place I go at least four times a week to take in the sights (and take photos). The dock was socked in. I had only my iPhone, but I still took a picture because it was surreal: thick fog over the water, sun and bright clouds above, dark at water’s edge.

Fog is an enigma. It gives the air a particular feel of both a lightness but also heaviness and weight. It is both lovely and also mysterious…at times it can feel dangerous. As you drive toward the coast, the fog leads you to the sea…with wisps and trails of clouds…and the scent and tanginess of salt. Standing on water’s edge, birds appear out of nowhere and boats disappear in the distance. The sky turns from white to blue gradually or the fog can blow off in seconds.

I hope you enjoy these photos!

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I got out of my car just in time to see this gull landing… and today my camera was all set on the seat next to me

 

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Stray lobster traps often dot the beach at low tide

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Families of ducks float in and out of the fog

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I love the way the islands look in the foggy distance. Casco Bay is sometimes called “the Calendar Islands” (because legend has it they number 365). The US Coastal Pilot says the Casco Bay islands number 136.

Inspiration as Far as the Eye Can See

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Boats as far as the eye can see…

Our house is about five minutes from the coast. If you’ve been reading my blog for very long, you know that for the first year I was blogging, I posted weekly videos of a nearby town beach on Cousins Island, a small island accessible by bridge. (All those videos are still on youtube!)

I stopped posting those videos (I think the winter did us in—that is, MEH (My Engineer Husband) and me—it was just too cold to stand out there in the bitter wind, week after week.), but I still go someplace on the water almost every day—either to take photos for Instagram or just to enjoy the view and observe the activity and wildlife and sometimes just the smell of the water.

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A lobsterman rows to his boat

Most mornings these days I’ve been going to the Falmouth Town Landing. What I love about the landing is that it’s home to commercial fishermen in addition to pleasure boats. In fact, it’s one of the largest boat “parking lots” in Maine, with over 1,110 boats at peak season.

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Lobster traps on tidal flats (at high tide water will go almost all the way to the old boat house in the background)

I never know what I’ll see when I get there—baby ducks and lots of shore birds, people setting off on their sail boats, lobster boats, someone unloading bait for the day’s fishing, dinghies, dogs swimming in the water, children exploring the tidepools, and lots and lots of boats…and that’s just scraping the surface. This morning was no different.

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The captain of the Nicolle Marie readies for a day of lobstering

It was busier than I’d ever seen it. Lobstermen were loading traps onto boats (the tourist season is heating up). I talked to a few of them about their day (and mine…we’ve had a lot of clouds and rain lately and they all commented on what great weather it is for photography).

After an hour at the dock I was (kind of) ready to come home to tackle the writing day… although I’d be lying if I didn’t admit there is a part of me that wishes I could stay all day to watch and soak in not just the sun but the flavor of life on the dock. One of these days I just might!

What are some of your favorite places to go for inspiration?

Cheers,

Julia

p.s. If you’re on Instagram and want to follow me (or even if you aren’t on Instagram, and you just want to check out my photo gallery) I’m @juliamunroemartin

 

 

 

 

Lucky 7 with a Twist


A huge thank you to Hallie Sawyer and Karen Wojcik Berner for tagging me in the Lucky 7 challenge! This challenge allows a glimpse of other writers’ WIPs or latest book. And the rules for this challenge are simple:

The Lucky Seven basic rules

1. Go to page 77 of your WIP or latest book.

2. Count down seven lines.

3. Copy the 7 sentences that follow and post them.

4. Tag 7 other authors.

The Twist

Nonetheless, I’ve decided to break the rules, twist them, and sometimes I think that’s okay, especially when it involves building suspense. My just-completed The Cottage on Quarry Island is women’s fiction with significant revelations, reversals, twists and turns, when main character Annie moves to a small island in Maine. Page 77 reveals a significant plot turn, a spoiler if you will, so, instead I’m using page 7.

Page 7, 7th line down, 7 sentences from The Cottage on Quarry Island

      And it was on these small items I staked my future: the letter, the photographs, the business card. I closed the door to my father’s house in Boston, I got in my car, and I drove to Maine. And then once I arrived in Bertie’s Cove and made my way down Main Street to the real estate office, several of my would-be neighbors smiled and greeted me, and I imagined myself as a new citizen in the most welcoming town in Maine.
After caring for my father for six months, nursing him through cancer—I desperately wanted respite. And the small picture on Deb’s business card of the harbor of Bertie’s Cove—with its tiny boats and houses, wispy clouds on bright blue water—looked ideal.
Buying the cottage? A sudden, precipitous decision based on a whim after a half-day kayak tour around Quarry Island.

My Lucky 7 authors

I think I’m a little late in the game to Lucky 7’s, so please forgive me if you’ve already been named… or if you don’t want to participate. (You won’t hurt my feelings one bit!) But if you do participate, please let me know when you post—I want to have a chance to read what you post, too!!

Cheers,

Julia




p.s. Today I’m also guest blogging about what it means to be a Third Culture Kid and how it impacts my writing. Check it out at the blog of my wonderful friend Emma Pass in my post: Word-by-Word, Scene-by-Scene, Chapter-by-Chapter.

The Nature of Words

One of the things I like about my current WIP is the integral connection of nature with the main character. “Annie” moves to an island in Maine, searching for refuge and gets caught up in a mystery.

Annie spends a lot of time on the beach, walking, searching, and finding answers. In the meantime, she observes the moon and the tides and the water. And she is also working outside in the elements.

While Annie has wandered the beaches, I’ve searched the Internet and in libraries—and I’ve done a ton of research for the book. In fact, I have an entire file box full of information and background, backstory.

I’ve learned about the tides: ebbtide, flood tide, ebb and flow, high tide, low tide, clam flats—and much more—about what each of these things means. And my proximity to the coast (five minutes from the type of beaches Annie would walk on) helps me fuel my research and imagination.

And I’ve researched the stars, planets, and the cycles of the moon—I have a calendar where I’ve sketched out when high tides and low tides are and how they interact with the phases of the moon, waxing and waning, sunrise and sunset times. These heavenly changes add to the richness of Annie’s story.

In addition to these terms, I also have researched gardening and house terms—what plants bloom when on the coast, what might be left of a garden from long ago, how to insulate a house, what kind of wood is used for building—intricate details, many of which will never make it into the actual novel, but are the backdrop of Annie’s (and now my) life.

I’ve also researched the history of Maine islands and houses, of bridges and ferries, and people who have lived on the coast for centuries.

One of the reasons I started this blog was because of my love of words (wordsxo loosely translates into word love)—and every piece of research leads me to new words. Just this morning, on a final read through of my manuscript, I was looking up the words “by in large,” an expression I’ve used many times. And when I did, I found out the actual expression is “by and large,” and much to my happy surprise it is nautical in origins—from World Wide Words:

“The phrase by and large in sailors’ parlance referred to all possible points of sailing, so it came to mean “in all possible circumstances.”

And while by and large does not play a large role in my novel—in fact just three words of over 80,000—it’s a well chosen word that I hope adds interest and authenticity to my work.

Further, every word and every piece of information I’ve gathered while writing—much like the shells and sea glass my characters collect on their walks—has shaped this novel, steeped in love of not just writing and research but also love of the beauty of nature along the coast of Maine.

Are you (like me) fascinated with the origin of words? How they’ve changed in meaning over the years? Can you share examples? Writers: How are your research and word choices entwined with your main character’s personality and journey? Have you collected information and done research for your WIP that enriches your life?

Cheers,

Julia 

This is What 1 Degree Looks Like

(Sunday, January 15, 2012, 7:35 a.m. EST, 1 degrees F)



“How long does it take to get frostbite?” I asked MEH (My Engineer Husband) as we came back to the car after shooting the video on the bridge. 

I asked him this question because MEH wanted to walk a little farther, to get one more photo. He threw me the car keys.

“Get in. I’ll be right back.”

I got in the car and cranked up the heat.

The predicted low for this morning was 0 degrees, but we didn’t quite make it. It was 1F degree as we crossed the bridge; a disappointing 2F degrees when we parked the car—but it was windy to make up for the warm up.

It’s not the coldest temperatures I’ve ever been in, and on the way home MEH and I talked about it. Forty below zero my freshman year in college in Minnesota, I said. I was from California, and it was the coldest temperature I’d ever heard of let alone walked outside in. My friend from Connecticut told me her dad once said if you get colder than 0 degrees it all feels the same. It didn’t.

One of the photos MEH took while I was in the car:
“Ocean on the Rocks”

MEH lived in Anchorage, Alaska, for a while. The story he likes to tell is that he took a year off from college and went back four years later. One winter he worked in a gas station with no heater, and it was thirty below zero on a regular basis. His shift was midnight to eight o’clock in the morning, and he spent the night running up and down the parking lot to keep warm. He pumped the gas so the customers didn’t have to get out of their cars. The first night he tried to wash a windshield, but the washing fluid froze to the windshield and the driver was not happy with him—so he stopped. He never had more than 10 or 15 customers any night. He did a lot of running.

Today will be a good day to edit at the dining room table. MEH will write some software at the kitchen table. His sub-zero running days are over.

How’s the temperature in your neck of the woods? What’s the coldest weather you’ve ever been outside in, and how did you cope?

Cheers,

Julia

January Thaw

(Saturday, January 7, 2012, 3:36 p.m. EST, 40 degrees F)




In comparison to last week’s video, this week’s video looks like it’s in black and white! Although it looks colder, it isn’texactly the same temperature after dipping into the single digits mid-week. Today we stood on the bridge without gloves or hats and amazingly we were warm. The air was still and calm. Two kayakers paddled up to the beach on the glassy water just out of camera view. It felt more like April than January, and it seems Spring is just around the corner….a dangerous feeling in the middle of a Maine winter.
This could be what’s referred to in Maine as a “January Thaw,” except we have barely any snow on the ground. Most years in January three to four feet of snow banks line the streets. I’m not going to lie—I hope it remains a low-snow winter and we get an early start at gardening.

How’s winter in your neck of the woods? Ready for Spring?

Cheers,

Julia

Happy Shiny New Year from the Coast of Maine

(Sunday, January 1, 2012, 10:59 a.m. EST, 40 degrees F)


We stood on the bridge at exactly the time of low tide for this first video of the new year. It felt and looked more like April than January. A kayaker paddled up to the beach right off view, then carried his kayak up the hill to the parking lot, joining a group of other people in a festive atmosphere. Loud music played from one of the cars, dogs frolicked, and one woman shimmy-danced with her scarf—I kid you not.
Being the introvert I am, we made the movie then made a quick getaway in our car, anxious to enjoy a more quiet entry into 2012: returning home to bake a pumpkin pie—my daughter’s favorite—for a first-night dessert.

How do you celebrate the new year? Are you more of a quiet baker like me or a shimmy dancer? Or maybe somewhere in between?

Happy New Year!

Julia

Happy Holidays from the Coast of Maine

(Friday, December 23, 2011, 4:11 p.m. EST, 36 degrees F)



Hope you enjoy this last video of 2011, which I’m posting a couple of days early so we can spend Christmas Eve and Day with our family!

Happy Holidays with love from Maine,

Julia & MEH



Deep Blue Cold

(Sunday, December 18, 2011, 1:04 p.m. EST, 24 degrees F)

We’re in the deep chill, with a high today around 24F degrees. With a brisk blowing wind it felt much colder than that while we were standing on the bridge overlook.  There were a few ducks and geese swimming in the frigid water right off the sandbar, but it’s hard to see them in the video because the camera was being buffeted so much by the wind. Although it was cold, the view was incredible—with the intense deep blue color of the water and a set of solo prints on the sandbar—and for the first time ever you can also see the shadow of the bridge.

I hope it’s warmer where you are!

Cheers,

Julia

45 Degrees of Separation

(Sunday, December 11, 2011, 7:08 a.m. EST, 22 degrees F)

Full moon setting: this photo was taken 45 degrees to
the left of where we stand to shoot the video, toward the mainland

I visit this spot on the bridge (at least) once a week. This morning we arrived at sunrise—at 22 degrees the coldest since we started to record the videos. The beauty was absolutely breathtaking, captivating, magical; so phenomenal that words truly cannot describe. A full moon setting, the subtle pinks rising and reflecting from the water, a flock of Canada geese floating on the water just out of video view.




So beautiful that, after taking the video in the usual direction, I turned the camera about 45 degrees and took another. Now you can see the more intense pinks, the flock of geese congregated and warming up before they take flight.





Despite the frigid temperature, we stood on the bridge for almost ten minutes and then we walked more, in another direction toward another vantage point, to take some still shots toward islands north of us.


When I watched the videos at home, what struck me most was the incredible stillness interrupted by the cars zooming by. I marveled at the fact that the people in those two cars (and others we didn’t record) drove by the stunning beauty without even slowing. And it made me remarkably glad that I started making the videos—so that for at least the time it takes to make the video, I am required to stand and just observe and truly see what I might otherwise pass by. And it made me wonder…..what masterpieces of nature do I drive by or take for granted every day?

Are there places and things you pass by everyday that you never really notice? Are there times you force yourself or take the time to really slow down and see and observe?


Cheers,
Julia 

From Sandbar with Love

(Sunday, December 4, 2011, 11:06 a.m. EST, 45 degrees F)

Last week, after the weekly video showing the astronomical high tide, one of the commenters said this (after two weeks running of high-tide videos): “Dear Sandbar, I miss you. Love, Sara.” Thank you Sara Grambusch for that comment that made me smile! Sara’s a favorite blogger of mine, and you can read her posts here at her blog.

But first,watch the video—I don’t think you’ll be disappointed because even though it’s the beginning of December, at 45 degrees it’s still warm enough to enjoy a walk on the beach. And there are three people and a dog doing just that. And thanks to Sara I made a point of going to the beach overlook at lower tide!

I really enjoyed going out to the island this morning—connected to the mainland via bridge, the one we stand on to make the video. Not only was it beautiful as always, but it was wonderful to get out of the house. I’ve been working long hours editing at the dining room table, and the fresh air and sunshine felt really good.

But more than that, my WIP that I’m in the process of editing, takes place on an island in Maine. Getting out to a spot that is very similar to the one I’m describing in my book is just what I needed. I’m really happy with the progress I’m making, and the story is in the forefront of my mind all the time. That mini-working-vacation on the bridge is just what I needed to keep me on track and give me some writing inspiration.

Hope your writing is going well too—where do you go for inspiration?

Cheers,

Julia

Happy Almost-December (!?) from the Coast of Maine

(Saturday, November 26, 2011, 10:56 a.m. EST, 53 degrees F)

We went to the beach overlook today about 15 minutes before high tide (forecast for 11:11). An astronomical high tide of 11.8 feet was predicted, and I wanted to see what that looked like. (Flood stage in nearby Portland is considered 12 feet.) An astronomical high tide is caused by gravitational pull alone—not meteorological forces like wind or storminess.

As you can see in the video, absolutely none of the sandbar is showing. The small sliver of shore land beach usually there during high tide is not even visible. The video shows the serenity and peacefulness of water and you can hear a few birdsbut the cars on the bridge were omnipresent this morning, and it took us 15 minutes to get this short video clip without car sound in the background!

The weather’s unusual pattern continues. After our Halloween storm, we had a long stretch through November of unseasonably warm weather—receiving no more snow until the day before Thanksgiving. Then, just in time for our family coming home for Thanksgiving, we received another 6 inches of snow. Remarkably, as we made our way down to Boston to pick up our daughter at the airport, the Interstate pavement was dry and snow free within 20 minutes of home! Our travel was uneventful, and her flight was actually early!

Now today and for the week ahead, we have temperatures forecast in the 50s! And the snow is beginning to melt again. Happy Almost-December?!

Meanwhile in the garden, here’s the view we had out our window for our Thanksgiving feast…we are having a lovely Thanksgiving weekend, and I hope you are too!



Things in the Sky

Bonaparte’s Gull











This morning I woke up when it was still dark outside and looked out of the skylight over our bed to an amazing sight: a few wispy clouds drifting by a crescent moon surrounded by some very bright stars.


“Amazing view,” I said to MEH (My Engineer Husband), who was still sleeping because he’s a little less enthusiastic about early mornings than I am.


Nonetheless, MEH had to see. And we looked at the beautiful sky view together.

“A crescent moon, the bright stars, and a satellite,” MEH said sleepily.

“A satellite?” I looked up and saw what looked like a moving star, crossing the sky framed by the skylight window.

“Yeah, I think it’s the Space Station.”

Sure enough, when I looked at NASA’s website, the ISS (International Space Station) crossed over southern Maine at 5:01 a.m., this morning, visible only for 4 minutes. And we happened to see it—what are the odds: a cloudless morning in Maine, we happen to look up through a very small window just for the 4 minutes the ISS is traveling 17,500 mph, about 240 miles from Earth. (By the way, if you’ve never seen the ISS before, check out this NASA website to see when it will be in the skies near you—it’s an amazing and extraordinary experience.)

“Bye guys,” I said to the 6-member crew as the ISS sped from view.

A very exciting way to start the day.

(Sunday, November 20, 2011, 7:04 a.m. EST, 49 degrees F)



Less than two hours later, we stood at our usual bridge overlook to make the weekly beach video, and we witnessed another flying thing we’d never seen before. If you look closely in the video, through the Birch tree on the right, you’ll see a white bird flying close to the water. We’d never seen this bird before, so despite the high tide, we walked down to the water’s edge to get a better view.

When we got home, we compared our photos to our bird books and online resources and discovered we’d seen a first-winter Bonaparte’s Gull. This lovely bird stayed very near shore and let us take as many photos as we wanted to.

Goose, Goose, Goose, Goose, Crow

(Sunday, November 13, 2011, 7:14 a.m. EST, 44 degrees F)




Our lovely stretch of weather continues! And in addition to the lovely scenery, this video provides a rare opportunity to hear the voice behind wordsxo. Yes, at about 37 seconds into the video, I have a very brief conversation with a passer-by, and you cannot avoid hearing my voice. 
“Pepper Pete” in better days.

Aside from this novelty, primarily geese and ducks dominate this week’s video! Also—more notably to MEH (My Engineer Husband) and me—you will see a crow fly through the video toward the end. We’re big crow fans; you can read about that in the post I wrote about MEH and the crows. And watch for more posts about crows coming up very soon!

Meanwhile in the garden…. You may recall the large potted pepper plant, nicknamed “Pepper Pete.” We had hopes of wintering the plant in the house and putting it back outside next spring. But a few days ago we discovered “Pepper Pete” is infested with aphids. So “he” has been put out to pasture on the porch. There are still peppers to harvest, and the weather has been mild enough that we may still get a few peppers! In mid-November in Maine, this is unheard of, at least in this gardening family!

Our other news is that we’ve been getting the bird feeding station ready for winter—squirrel proofing it—and putting out suet and thistle, too. We also put out corn for the squirrels and chipmunks, because I’m a fan of all woodland creatures!


This was the birdfeeder yesterday before we squirrel-proofed it. “Mr. Grackles,” as we call all
squirrels, could empty this of seeds in a day. This is the view I see out the window over my desk.

But don’t worry, Mr. Grackles is still being well fed! 


                                                                 

Happy Snowtober Nor’easter Video

(Sunday, October 30, 2011, 1:32 p.m. EST, 41 degrees F) 





You can’t really tell from the video but we got our first snow last night—“only” about six inches where we were, but 18 inches in other parts of Maine and 26 inches in other parts of New England! We got off easy with this one. The media is calling it “Snowtober,” a rare October snowstorm.

In addition to the snow, it was also very cold…26F degrees, our coldest temperatures this year. It was especially cold in our house after we lost power. The temperature in the house hit 54F degrees right before power was restored at a little after noon (a huge thank you to the wonderful crews of Central Maine Power). Today the snow has stopped, and much has melted away; all that’s left is high winds up to 35 mph.

You can really see the winds buffeting the camera in today’s video. What a difference from last week’s tranquil sunrise! And I think you can see some snow on the distant shoreline (high tide is hiding the sandbar beach).



We planted the garlic yesterday!

Meanwhile in the garden…. yesterday when we knew the storm was coming, we quickly went out and planted garlic—knowing it would be our last chance to plant this fall. Then we mulched it with straw, and sure enough today the garden is covered in a blanket of snow.

And covered with straw!

And this morning…. WOW!!
What a difference a day makes!


Canada Geese Take Flight on Casco Bay

(Sunday, October 23, 2011, 7:32 a.m. EST, 40 degrees F)



This morning we timed it to get to the beach overlook a little after sunrise. A few weeks ago I was there at sunset, and the sun reflected oranges and yellows on the water. It was beautiful! It was high tide, and I was hoping to capture the rising sun on the water and the same effect as I observed a few weeks ago.

Unfortunately it didn’t work out quite the way I planned, and although the video is beautiful (and I love the flying Canada Geese!) it wasn’t quite the finished product I was hoping for. As always, I do my best to plan and predict how the “video shoot” will go—to do that I always check the tide table the day before—and decide whether I want to take a video at low-, mid-, or high-tide. Then I check the time of sunrise and sunset.

But still, sometimes I can’t pull off a video I’m pleased with. And that’s how it goes in writing, editing, and in life too—no matter how much we plan and try to make things happen a certain way, reality often intervenes.

Today it was the non-reflective water, a guy sitting nearby in his truck playing loud music (at sunrise! I don’t think you can hear it on the video), lots of cars going by so it was hard to squeeze in a video when a car wasn’t going by (we stayed there for 10 minutes to get about 40 seconds of video), and finally the battery going dead on the video camera so I had to stick with a piece of footage I was less than thrilled with instead of trying again.

This week with my WIP it was the same way: I planned and thought I could predict how things would go. I had everything all set up on the dining room table. But when it came right down to it, I was distracted and had lots of things to take care of in my house and in my life. So the editing of my manuscript had to take a back seat.

This afternoon I’ll sit down with my notebook and try to make a realistic plan for the upcoming week—building in room for distractions and unexpected things that may need my attention. Then tomorrow I’ll sit down and try a little harder.

And meanwhile…. Autumn continues to wane, with the leaves “past peak,” we’re starting to see a lot more bare branches, a reminder that winter is just around the corner!



Windy Sunrise on the Coast of Maine

(Sunday, October 16, 2011, 6:56 a.m. EST, 52 degrees F)

This morning we went to the beach overlook at sunrise—6:56 a.m. The eastern sky was streaked with beautiful pinks, oranges, and yellows. (Unfortunately we don’t face east when we take the videos; we face north!) It was very very windy this morning, so much so that it almost sounds like rain, and there were small waves cresting along the sandy point.

As we stood on the bridge, waiting for the best light for the video, our dog kept pulling MEH (My Engineer Husband) toward the path to the beach. Finally MEH relented and headed down to the beach while I took the video from the bridge…which means on this week’s video, you can see MEH and Abby strolling down the beach. While MEH was down there, he took some amazing photos of the sunrise!

As I took the video, I was excited to see a lobster boat with what we think was a “steady sail” on the back! A steady sail keeps the boat from rolling when it gets windy and the seas kick up—certainly the case today. And believe me, the wind had a definite chill to it, yet another reminder that winter is heading our way. Soon we’ll be standing on the bridge taking videos in the snow and ice, just like in our very first video postcard, Perfect (Maine) Beach Weather.


Finally, here’s one of the photos MEH took of the sunrise. Greetings from the coast of Maine!




Indian Summer on the Coast of Maine

(Saturday, October 8, 2011, 3:44 p.m. EST, 80 degrees F)

 

This week we had two nights of frost—a definite shock to my system. But today’s temperature was back up into the 80s—hitting 87 degrees at one point!

This seasonal confusion can only mean one thing: Indian summer. NOAA defines Indian Summer is “an unseasonably warm period near the middle of autumn, usually following a substantial period of cool weather.”

But here’s the thing…even though the temperatures can almost fool me into believing it’s summer again, I know it’s too good to be true. Several days ago I blogged about winter coming….today I’m taking a video of the beach looking like it’s summer. Later this week it will be fall again. Then perhaps we’ll have another dip into winter before switching back to fall once again.

Such are seasonal changes in Maine, one step forward then two steps back. On one hand, it gives us plenty of time to prepare for the next season—on the other hand, we get almost enough time to get used to one season before it changes again. Of course this can only go on so long before the inevitability of winter settles in.

Meanwhile in the garden, the zinnias have now been hit by a heavy frost, so their colors have faded to brown, but the tree leaves are starting to change colors in earnest. So we continue to have color in the garden!

Great Blue Heron on a Rainy Beach

(Saturday, October 1, 2011, 8:10 a.m. EST, 61 degrees F)



It’s been raining off and on this week, and this morning we went to the bridge overlook in the pouring rain to make our weekly video. Usually we take our videos on Sunday, but tomorrow a half marathon road race will close roads and make it impossible for us to get to the bridge.

What a difference a week makes—last week the beach (and bridge) were totally socked in with thick fog. This week, it was a beautiful, albeit wet, view. We timed our arrival with very low tide in hopes of seeing and recording some seabirds, and we were not disappointed. If you look above the tree on the left, you’ll see a Great Blue Heron (GBH) standing in the water.
But wait for it—at about the 17-second mark the GBH takes flight. It took me a few seconds to figure out why. And then I saw a dog, running down the length of the beach chasing the bird. The dog’s owner comes into sight a few seconds later. I couldn’t help but feel disappointed that I didn’t get a longer look at this beautiful bird.

Meanwhile in the garden….we haven’t had a hard frost yet (which will kill most of the vegetables) so we are still harvesting the few non-blighted tomatoes, peppers, and beans. Swiss chard will survive a hard frost, and we’ll be harvesting kale until it’s buried in snow (and if it’s like last year, it will survive until next fall!).

We also had a surprise! A small crop of late new potatoes—which we combined with green pepper, spring onions, eggs, and cheese to make one of our favorite breakfast scrambles!



Do You Enter the Zone?


This week I’m knee deep in editing the first draft I finished a couple of weeks ago.
And I’m in “the zone.” I actually did a google search to figure out what was going on—was I the only one? I started by searching for “writer becomes character.” Because a weird thing is happening: almost every time I sit down to work on this book, I start “seeing” my main character’s world, feeling her feelings—entering “the zone.”

After a few minutes of searching, I finally stumbled upon an older post called “Getting Into Character: Fiction Writing Exercises.” (This post also has some great exercises for helping you get in the zone.)

“Many artists and creative people talk about entering “the zone.” This is a state of mind in which you’re running on automatic pilot. Your right (creative) brain is fully engaged and your left (logical) brain is snoozing with one eye open. It is in this state that people often get lost in an activity, lose track of time, and produce some of their best creative work.”

When I am in the zone, I am quiet, more focused. I’m watching and hearing things in my mind: a conversation, a vignette, a scene. I can see places and people. I visualize walking into my main character’s kitchen and from the kitchen to the left, past a peninsula to the main room, a bank of windows straight ahead overlooks the water—to my right a staircase leads upstairs.

Sometimes, if I’ve been working intensely for several hours and I need to run an errand, go out of the house, I am silent and anti-social. I don’t want to leave the world I’ve created in my mind and now on paper. MEH (My Engineer Husband) says he can tell when I’ve entered the zone because I have the same look on my face I get when we’re in a restaurant and I’m listening to others diners’ conversations, like in this post. If I talk about someone—he feels he needs to ask: “Is this a real person or someone in the book?”

Getting into the zone is not always easy. These days it usually happens right when I sit down to work. I’m there. But sometimes I need to go somewhere to trigger the feelings. When this happens, I’ll go and sit in the spot I imagine is the view my character sees from her window. I sit on the rocks and I wait. I think about that place in my mind, that other place in another world, and my view shifts away from what’s in front of me—and into the world in my mind.
When you’re deeply involved in your stories, your characters, are you overwhelmed by their presence like I am? 

Do you enter “the zone”? 

Cheers,

Julia