Winter photos

This week I thought I’d share some photos with you. We don’t get snow all that often in southern New Jersey, so when we do I like to take the dog outside and get lots of pictures. There are also a few from a recent visit to New York City.

First, the snow.

 

   

The woods near my house

No picture of snow is complete without Orly, who loves it!

Second, New York City.

 Central Park

 

Empire State Building, where I got engaged waaaay back in 1995

 

    

 And finally, because WordPress won’t show the caption for the last three photos, I give you Radio City Music Hall, Midtown Manhattan, and the tree at Rockefeller Center.

This week I’m a little overwhelmed with writing projects, but I hope to be able to share the cover of Trudy’s Diary with you soon. In the meantime, I’ve got to entirely restructure the novel, but I hope to be done with that in less than a week.

Until next time,

Amy

What’s Your Favorite Descriptive Word?

As I write this, the Mid-Atlantic (and particularly my neck of the woods, in Southern New Jersey) is preparing for a foot of snow. When I went to the grocery store this morning to return my movie (“Captain Phillips,” which I highly recommend) to Redbox, I couldn’t find a place to park. I didn’t go into the grocery store, but if I had, I suspect I wouldn’t have been able to find milk, bread, toilet paper, or fresh fruit.

My daughter and I took our dog, Orly, for a walk earlier this afternoon because the dog may be home-bound for the next couple of days. It was already raining when we left the house. We walked in the woods near our neighborhood. The woods are my favorite place to walk Orly; it is quiet and peaceful there, and I love going when it’s raining or snowing because I love to hear the raindrops- and even the snowflakes- falling on the trees and the pine needles underfoot. And when it’s wet outside, that’s when the woods smell the best.

Days like this remind me of the importance of descriptive words in writing. When I’m writing, I sometimes forget that a story is more than plot. It’s also feeling. It’s also lots of other things, but I’m going to talk about feeling in this post. In the rush to get words down on paper (or on a computer screen) it’s easy to hurry past the words that help a reader feel what’s going on in the story. A reader’s reaction to a particular book is not just about the action in the story. It’s about the five senses, too. It’s important for writers to remember to involve at least one or more of the senses in a given scene…seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling, and touching.

What does the air feel like? Is it moist? Dry? What does the ocean look like? Is it frigid? Warm like bathwater? Is it cyan or gray, like the color of slate? Is a particular food sour and puckery? Buttery? What does the air smell like in the summer? Freshly-cut grass? Hot asphalt? And what does it sound like when snow falls in the woods? I would describe it as an almost-silent “shush.”

Ernest Hemingway was a master at using words beautifully and descriptively, even when he was describing something that wasn’t beautiful. He described a rhino as a “dangerous practical joke let loose by nature.” And this is how he began a piece for The Toronto Daily Star in 1922: “We were sitting in the cheapest of all the cheap restaurants that cheapen that very cheap and noisy street, the Rue des Petits Champs in Paris.” You probably wouldn’t read a sentence like that in a newspaper in 2014, but his description has a wonderful quality that allows the reader to imagine exactly what the Rue des Petits Champs looks like.

In my first novel, Secrets of Hallstead House, the story is set on one of the Thousand Islands in the Saint Lawrence River. That setting is rich with opportunities for description, and my hope is that people will read my book and want to visit that area of New York to see its beauty for themselves. My second novel, with a working title of Low Country Twilight, is set on a plantation outside Charleston, South Carolina. That’s another place that lends itself to lavish indoor and outdoor settings. Will it inspire people to visit and learn about the history of the area? I hope so. And my third novel, as yet unwritten and untitled, will be set in Hawaii, a place with a name that conjures up lush tropical scenes and settings. I don’t really think anyone needs a novel to inspire them to want to visit Hawaii, but the very existence of Hawaii inspired me to write a novel about it.

I’d like to hear your favorite descriptive word. Mine is “capacious.” It practically makes fun of itself.

Until next week,

Amy

P.S. The school district just called a snow day for tomorrow. Maybe I should write that novel about Hawaii right now.

Orly (2)

Orly, the snow lover

Lemons Become Lemonade

Mother Nature threw New Jersey a curveball this week in the form of snow (six inches where I live, to be exact).  We don’t normally get that much snow here, and when we do, people quickly divide into two groups:  those who hate the snow and those who love it.

I’m proudly in the latter group.  Sometimes.  There is nothing more beautiful than snow falling and evergreens with their boughs bent gracefully under the weight of the white, fluffy stuff.  Don’t get me wrong, though: I want the snow to melt immediately once it gets gray and dirty, and I don’t want my ability to drive or walk anywhere to be affected.

And don’t even talk to me about ice.  The only way I like ice is in a beverage.

When snow comes to our neck of the woods, there are those who act as if the unthinkable has befallen us.  It’s winter in the mid-Atlantic, though, so what should we expect?  Snow is a distinct possibility.  And this week’s snow got me thinking about things that happen – things that we didn’t necessarily expect or want- and our reactions to them.  These things happen all the time, really.  They can range anywhere from winning the lottery to catching a cold to losing one’s job to a death in the family to being late for a dentist appointment.  Unexpected events run the gamut, in other words.  And not to get all preachy, but the way we react to these events can have a strong bearing on our outlook, our attitude, our health, and perhaps most importantly, our loved ones.

A very mundane unexpected thing happened here last Friday.  My kids had a snow day.  Earlier in the week, I had expected them to have school on Thursday and Friday, but nature decided otherwise.  I could have been angry that I wouldn’t be able to accomplish what I needed to do on Friday, but I’ve been down that road before and believe me, we were all the worse for it and the snow day stunk.  I took a different approach this time:  I told my kids that I needed some time to myself to work and that I would take them sledding later in the afternoon.  You know what?  It worked and everyone was happy.  Frostbite notwithstanding, my kids had a blast sledding.

Here’s another example:  last August we went on vacation to California.  I was waiting for a very important phone call while we were there and when it didn’t come and then it didn’t come the next day or the next day or the next day, I turned all Mommy-Dearest on everyone and very nearly ruined the vacation while I wallowed in my own misery.  I had a headache everyday and I’m sure I gave my family their fair share of headaches, too.  I hope I’ll remember that and respond better the next time something doesn’t happen when I want it to.

Here’s another example, and then I’ll be done.  I promise.  Two weeks ago I was working on my second book when I realized I had some problems that were becoming increasingly difficult to solve.  I was getting frustrated, but I am learning to step back a bit when that happens, and that’s what I did.  I eventually realized that I needed another character in the story…just like that, problem solved.  I could have insisted that no one bother me or that everyone go outdoors so I could think, but instead I’m the one who went for a walk outdoors.  Like I said, I’m learning.

So the next time life hands you lemons (or a snowstorm), do what your grandmother always told you to do.  Make lemonade.  Or go sledding.

Until next week,

Amy

P.S.  How are you doing on those New Year’s resolutions?