Friday, October 31, 2003

What better way to spend a warm, sunny Halloween afternoon than in a nineteenth-century cemetery?

Thursday, October 30, 2003

T.C. Boyle had a heart-stopping op-ed piece concerning his perspective on the California wildfires in yesterday's New York Times. Wonder what he's working on now?

Wednesday, October 29, 2003

Working on next week's book talk for Women During the Civil War. There are so many fascinating stories, it's incredibly difficult to select an hour's worth. I'm definitely going to talk about the war-related activity that occupied more women than any other, the soldiers' aid societies. I plan to talk about the contributions of industrial women, emphasizing the hazards of this work, including the explosion that claimed the lives of many girls and young women ordnance workers at the Confederate State Laboratory in Richmond, the tragedy of the Roswell Women in Georgia, and the devastating fire at the Pemberton Mill in Lawrence, Massachusetts, which brought to the nation's attention the deplorable working conditions of factory women. I'll also discuss the suffering of Southern women and children of all races during the war, a topic that Northerners know little about.

I'll probably also discuss a number of stories and anecdotes about political women--Anna Dickinson, the fiery abolitionist orator; Mary Todd Lincoln and Jessie Benton Fremont who aggressively and controversially promoted their husbands' careers; and Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton who organized the first national political organization of women, dedicated to securing passage of the Thirteenth Amendment guaranteeing the freedom of all African Americans.

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

Boston skyline from Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge

Another huge book event arrives this weekend at the Hynes Convention Center. The Boston International Antiquarian Book Fair draws rare and used book specialists from all over the U.S. and western Europe and is a great opportunity for the bibliophile to view and drool over each dealer's best (and priciest) volumes. I must remember to leave the credit cards at home! Although I'm not a rare book collector, mostly because I cannot afford it, I love having the chance to pretend that I am as I rove from booth to booth, lovingly caressing each special book that catches my eye. Best of all, dealers often can be encouraged to spin yarns about the history of each title--how it was found and who owned it. Great fun!

Interesting tidbit in yesterday's LA Times--a story revealing how the small publisher MacAdam/Cage (which prides itself on discovering new talent) picked Audrey Niffenegger's The Time Traveller's Wife out of the slush pile. This astounds me. It's incredible to me that Niffenegger, a writer of her abilities, would trust burying her work in a mountain of slush. I didn't think that this kind of thing happened anymore. (Scroll down to my entry on October 19 for my thoughts on this novel.)

Saturday, October 25, 2003

I had a blast at the NEBA trade show today. It was the best one I've been to; the last I attended was as long ago as 1998 or so. There were more publishers and they all seemed willing to part with their books. I made a few valuable contacts and talked with sales reps and marketing people, booksellers, and authors.

Trends? Internationalism or globalism seems to be hot these days. Memoirs, fiction, narrative journalism, and scholarly books focused on foreign affairs as well as books dealing with crises and wars in other lands past and present, the immigrant experience, especially the immigration of people to and from countries other than the U.S. This trend bodes well for my next book; in fact it may help me hone my subject. Another popular topic out there in bookdom explores the place that the U.S. and Americans occupy in the world. These titles ask the question, "How do others see us, and why?" This, too, is a fruitful angle for me to consider, especially regarding the role of Americans in Germany in the immediate postwar era.

Right now I'm moving toward writing a book about the experiences of young people aged 12-25? 30? in Germany 1944-1950, at a time when youth of many different nationalities and backgrounds roamed the country searching for food, shelter, family, a home. Jewish survivors of concentration camps, former laborers from countries east, north, south, and west of Germany who were forcibly "imported" by the Nazis to slave in their factories, German refugees from the eastern provinces seized by the Soviets at the end of the war, young "Volksdeutsche" or German-speaking youth living in Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, and Poland, as well as young Germans orphaned by the war.

Back to NEBA, though. I can't believe my good fortune in the books that sales reps gave me. Secret Father by James Carroll (thank you, Houghton Mifflin!)--I've been dying to read it. Then I nearly passed out when a sales rep placed Almost French: Love and a New Life in Paris by Sarah Turnbull (Gotham Books, a Penguin imprint), a book about which there has been only great buzz. Another I've been wanting to read is Khassan Baiev's The Oath: A Surgeon Under Fire (Walker) about a doctor's experiences during the Russians' war with the Chechnyans. I was so interested to meet Dawn Clifton Tripp, author of Moon Tide (Random House), which is set in Westport, Mass. This is her first novel, she has not published before, and she managed to land an agent who sold it to Random. How often does this happen? She's not the graduate of any writing program. How unusual! Good for her!!!

I also got a number of readers' advanced copies of titles that will be published from December to next spring. I'll be reading those after I read the ones I've just mentioned.
Yesterday afternoon, as I was huffing and puffing on an elliptical machine at the gym, it dawned on me that I could tolerate no more of Medwed's The End of an Error. It's too bad that I had to read 210 pages before I figured this out, especially considering that I knew at 150 pages that this book was going nowhere for me. An avid reader and blogger (whom I've forgotten now) once said that one should not give up on a book or persist in reading one after 75 pages. My problem is that I'm always waiting and hoping that the book is going to get better, that the characters will finally develop some depth and that some action will cause the middle-of-the-book doldrums to vanish. When has this ever happened?

The plot of The End of an Error was so predictable; I was five steps ahead knowing what was going to happen as I turned the pages. The characters' relationships were stereotypical, the romance between Lee and her first love Simon was not believable. Medwed never convinced me to believe in the world she created. Worst of all, I knew the climax and resolution a hundred pages before the end of the book. Enough said. If I had known that this novel was a "romance," I never would have picked it up. It should have been published as a mass
market paperback.

Friday, October 24, 2003

Since I've not quite finished An End of an Error by Mameve Medwed, I'll report on another of my vacation reads. All is Vanity by Christina Schwarz was pure fun, a stunning satire. After a decade or so teaching English in a private high school in New York City, Margaret decides to take a year off to write a novel. She has a best friend from childhood in Los Angeles with whom she corresponds by e-mail.

Margaret suffers from every form of procrastination and manifestation of writer's block known, and to exaggerated effect. It's laugh-out-loud funny in places, but while I was laughing, I was in pain, recognizing some of my own foibles.

Margaret doesn't become immersed in writing until she"lifts' the details of her friend's life and incorporates them into her (Margaret's) novel. I will not say more, for fear it will dampen the enthusiasm of a reader who hasn't read this yet. It's worth the time to pick this one up. Writers especially will be amused.

Thursday, October 23, 2003

All right, so it snowed last night and this morning. It still looks like fall, at least. Is a cold winter on the way? I hope so, if only that it increases the possibility of good, ski-worthy snow for my cross-country rambles.

It's been decided that I am going to the NEBA trade show this Saturday as I hoped. I'll have lots of book talk after I return.

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

In the past week, several days of gusty winds have removed all the leaves from the trees in the marsh. I feel so sad when they all go. Yet, away from the marsh, in the neighborhood and throughout town, the sugar maples are in their glory and the oaks are a deep russet. How I wish I had the time to spend the day hiking in the woods.

The last time Sophie and I took a woodsy walk, I guess it was last Thursday, we trekked up to the estate and had a wonderful time walking the trails, on the soft carpet created by the newly fallen pine needles. It'll be a while before we attempt this again because once we were home, I kept finding ticks crawling through Sophie's fur. Ugly! I thought the frosts of the past few weeks would have killed them off by now.

I'm coming up empty as far as photos of the estate, but here's one taken from the bridge crossing the Neponset River in Canton, a stone's throw from the Amtrak station.

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

I'm dying to go to the New England Booksellers' Association trade show this Saturday in Providence. It's the best way for a history writer to find out what's being published now and what each publishing company's marketing executives are pushing. As I begin a new book project, it's an ideal time to scan the field. The trade show hosts zads of publishers, including a multitude of the small presses. The one thing holding me back is that Saturday is the time that Ken and I typically spend together, often with Sophie in tow. I'll have to see how things go this week.

While working on the program for tonight's film and discussion, I've been repeatedly reminded of Eric Schlosser's Fast Food Nation:The Dark Side of the All-American Meal (published in the UK as Fast Food Nation: What the All-American Meal is Doing to the World). [If you follow the link, you will come to a "The Page You Requested Could Not Be Found." It can indeed be found. Enter "Fast Food Nation" into the Search field and go.]

Schlosser vividly describes factory farms and food-processing plants, pointing out how huge, often multinational corporations control agriculture and the food we eat in the U.S. He especially highlights the grueling, backbreaking, dangerous labor of the workers employed by these companies and the slave labor wages they pay.
I'm so glad this book is on the bestseller list again. Maybe America will wake up.
I can't believe I just lost 20 minutes' worth of text on today's entry when I clicked on a link and the pop-up box said, "Do you want to save this?" I clicked "Okay," which usually saves it! But it didn't save it!! And now, because of the film tonight, I have no time to reconstruct it. I will get something up tomorrow.

Monday, October 20, 2003

So busy today trying to give every aspect of my life some time that I'm frazzled. Reading Safe Among the Germans: Liberated Jews After World War II by Ruth Gay (Yale University Press, 2002) for the postwar Germany project. Studied German for nearly an hour and a half. Physical therapy and a work-out at the gym. Then research to help me with the discussion I'm supposedly going to lead tomorrow night following the film the Social Action Committee is presenting as part of our film series, "Are We Achieving Economic Justice?" Obviously we know that the answer to that question is that we are not. Nafta, despite its creators' good intentions, has only wrought more misery. The World Bank and its policies, while cloaked in its language of do-goodism, is designed to put money in the deep pockets of multinational corporations without care for the farmers and the economic status of the countries it has invaded. Farmers all over the world are starving, making much less money than they did 25 years ago, and this includes the U.S. I'll bring information about the latest activism Oxfam America is underwriting as well as that of the National Campaign for Sustainable Agriculture. The film we're showing is "Strong Roots, Fragile Farms" which connects the struggles of farmers in the U.S. with those of farmers in the Phillipines and in Mexico, farmers everywhere failing to achieve subsistence due to recent changes in global economic policies.

We're hoping that our publicity will attract at least a couple of new people to our fold, but, for the most part, our congregation and the community does not appear to be
moved by these issues. Alas.

Sunday, October 19, 2003

The sample entries on the Women During the Civil War website have proven to be different than the ones I listed on Friday. The web designers ended up using several of my back-up suggestions because they didn't have enough space. So, in addition to the book's introduction, the sample entries are: "Louisa May Alcott," "Bread Rebellions," "Guerrilla War," "Sanitary Fairs," and "Mary Surratt." I have to admit I'm getting excited as the publication release date approaches. Books should be available by the first week of November.

I'm now starting to select stories that I want to tell at my booktalk on November 6 at the Westwood Library. That's my project now, to prepare a juicy, fun lecture and there's plenty of rich material!

At long last, a photo of Sophie. Yesterday we took her to Elm Bank on the Wellesley-South Natick line for an hour of romping and tennis ball-chasing, her favorite sport next to swimming. We brought her shopping with us to the Natick Outdoor Store after that. (I'd called ahead to make sure they allowed dogs). She was thrilled with the sock section and sniffed through the entire collection.

She seems to love the Outdoor Store, and gives it a higher rating than Petco and Brookline Booksmith. Her difficulty with the latter is that she does not yet understand the concept of browsing. It also tends to be quite crowded on the weekend, which is when we usually go. She complains she doesn't have enough room to stretch out. She loves the dog biscuits, though!

New Book:
I finished Audrey Niffenegger's The Time Traveler's Wife late last week and was not sorry to return it to the library. Although its reviews have been glowing, I found it lacking in several respects though I did enjoy the story. After all, the plot is highly original and intriguing.

Henry has a genetic disorder that has caused him to travel backward and forward in time, mostly to key events in his life and in the life of his true love, Clare. Narrated in the first person from both Henry's and Clare's viewpoints, the reader gets a front-row seat to the hazards, heartaches, and delights that this travel affords. But it wreaks havoc on Henry's life and mars his union with Clare. Henry is frequently absent during the years of their marriage, and from the selection of events Niffenegger chooses to relate, the time travel prevents them from developing their relationship. The reader sees Henry hop backward and forward in time, but doesn't observe the ups and downs of their interpersonal relationship. Nor does Niffenegger develop Clare's character. I found her annoyingly accepting--placid almost--in the face of Henry's condition. Clare accepts everything like a saint. She is one-dimensional; she does not struggle ever. She is boring.

Niffenegger is skilled at creating memorable, evocative scenes, rich in sensory detail. For this element, the book was worth reading.

Friday, October 17, 2003

Sample entries from Women During the Civil War are now online!
My publisher's web designer has told me that the site for Women During the Civil War will be complete sometime early next week. I selected the sample entries yesterday. Now it seems I've misplaced the scrap of paper listing the ones I chose. In any case, I do remember that "Bread Rebellions" was among them, as was "Louisa May Alcott," "Guerrilla War," and "Mary Ann Shadd Cary." The fifth is "Vicksburg," which is about women's experiences during the siege.

Thorough article in this morning's New York Times about the sweeping changes revolutionizing the recording industry. I've grabbed a little bit of time to play with the new Napster, but it was not enough to get beyond the user guide! Things have changed since Pressplay, and I'm trying to be careful navigating Napster so I don't rack up charges inadvertently. I will give a complete review when I have finally figured everything out. One thing I have noticed: some tracks unavailable on Pressplay are present on Napster.

View of the marsh from my bedroom window on Columbus Day. Colors slightly past peak.

Thursday, October 16, 2003

Just found out that Drop City by T. Coraghessan Boyle has been nominated for the National Book Award. I'm thrilled that finally this sensational novel is getting some recognition. Of the novels I've read this year, it's definitely in the running for best book of the year.

His metaphors are so richly descriptive--they're intricate and downright Dickensian, which I love. Boyle's vocabulary is prodigious; I wish I'd kept a dictionary by my side as I was reading. I just fell into the world he created and relished every minute spent. All of his characters, even the lesser players, are so well-drawn, with a startling depth. The story? A commune of 1960s hippies in California must abandon their land. They travel en masse to Alaska, to a site deep in the forests of Alaska where they come head to head with several homesteader/ survivalist types. Boyle is the first writer I've come across--of fiction and nonfiction--to accurately evoke the spirit and the "feel" of the late 1960s. Some critics have said that T.C. Boyle satirizes the sixties in this novel; I suppose there is a grain of truth to that. But Drop City is not a satire by any means.

Drop City is a novel for fiction writers to keep on the bookshelf for inspiration on adding enriching details to a narrative.

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

On Monday, Ken and I were wracking our brains trying to think of a fun place to hike and take photographs in the Wellesley area. Out of the blue, I remembered Guernsey Sanctuary on the Wellesley-Needham line off of Winding River Road, right in the area where I lived as an adolescent.

What I loved most about the place was Sabrina Lake and the history of the entire area. In the 19th century, a wealthy businessman owned hundreds of acres here. He created a resort of sorts, including paddleboat rides on the man-made lake, carriage paths for those looking for a nature escape, and a zoo with all kinds of animals. Eventually he built a hotel, which burned down in 1891. According to the stories I heard, in caves near the lake, trained bears danced. I remember hearing that a local historian offered tours of the caves, but I never learned of them in time to go on one. In any case, I was enchanted with the entire place. I loved the woods and the lake there. And as I walked the paths, I enjoyed imagining men, women, and children from the late 1800s frolicking there. It amazed me that I could detect no trace of this resort from long ago.

This year the Wellesley Historical Society is showing an exhibit of "Ridge Hill Farms," as it was called. I'll have to go
and see the photographs that they have on display. (Click on the link for some history).
Must correct my error in yesterday's entry--Carolyn Heilbrun's Writing a Woman's Life was first published in 1988. I read it in the late 80s, not the late 70s, as I indicated yesterday. Oh, well, I was only off by ten years!

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

I was saddened to learn that Carolyn Heilbrun died. Touted as a "feminist scholar" by the press seems to diminish her brilliance somehow, particularly since the term is now uttered with scorn in many circles, especially among young people. I soaked in Writing a Woman's Life when I read it in the late 70s--loved it so much I ran out to buy a copy and for the next ten years dreamed of writing a biography myself. I didn't get to it until the mid-90s when I wrote Susan B. Anthony: A Biographical Companion. Writing a Woman's Life is still influencing me today. I have never read one of Heilbrun's mysteries, which she wrote using the pseudonym Amanda Cross, purportedly because she didn't want her academic colleagues to know about this aspect of her writing career. I think I'll try to get a hold of In the Last Analysis, her first mystery and the first featuring Kate Fansler.

Sunday, October 12, 2003

Working, working, working on learning how to upload images. A perfect activity for a rainy day. I'm so annoyed that it's peak foliage time at the marsh and it's a washout. The same thing happened last year; we missed the peak entirely because the weather was so bad. So I've dug into my photo archives for a colorful shot--this one of Redwing Bay in Needham, taken while canoeing the Charles.

Saturday, October 11, 2003

To correct my post of last night, HijackThis is a program available for download from the Spywareinfo site. Definitely try it if you've been hijacked; it worked for me. I can now access Google in a flash.

I loved every minute spent reading Haunted Ground by Erin Hart, a book I thoroughly enjoyed on my September vacation in the Adirondacks. It's a double murder mystery, one set in the past, one in the present. At the beginning of the book, a woman's head is discovered perfectly preserved in a peat bog in western Ireland, in Galway, a two-and-a-half hour drive from Dublin. A down-on-his-luck detective, a woman historian and archivist, and an archeologist all converge as they try to unravel their respective mysteries. Hart pays extraordinary attention to details: historical, forensic, architectural, and the setting particulars are painstakingly wrought. I appreciated this aspect the most, I think. The characterization is strong and the unfolding of the mystery is skillfully done. This first novel deserves special mention and wider circulation. I have not heard much buzz about it at all.

Friday, October 10, 2003

"You've been hijacked bad!" That was the note left for me this morning by my resident computer nerd. Fortunately, with the help of Hijack This, which can be downloaded from Download This, the problem was solved. Actually, my problem was that I could not access Google at all, not nohow. Ken has been working on the problem off and on for days, and finally found the smoking gun, all pointing to an IP that now appears to be defunct. I will provide a link to Download This tomorrow, but it's late and I am so tired, I cannot stay here any longer.

Thursday, October 09, 2003

Wiped out. Just spent the day in Boston going to the Boston Athenaeum and the Boston Public Library. Right now I'm involved in the search for books relating to my current book project concerning the situation of German civilians at the end of World War II and during the occupation. I discovered a small, thin volume In Germany Now: The Diary of a Soldier by William Peters, published in London in 1946. It's jam-packed with details about life in Germany just after the war, beginning in August 1945. I was glad to find it because it offers the experiences and viewpoints of a British soldier recording his impressions at the time without the contamination of hindsight editing 20-50 years later. A little gem. I found that at the Athenaeum. I don't think the Athenaeum's collections are going to be helpful on this project, but I need them for my inter-library loans--it's so difficult and potentially expensive to get all the books and articles I need through a public library. Problem is the Athenaeum's membership is going up to $200. Gulp. Help!

I'm excited about what the BPL has to offer, but 85% is in German. Too bad there's not a faster way to learn a language. I still haven't exhausted all the possibilities yet and I don't have a complete grasp on what's available, so I shouldn't get worried yet. Found a volume of letters written by a major in the U.S. Army who was the officer in charge of a displaced persons camp in Landsberg, Germany, where 80% of the inmates were Jewish survivors of the concentration camps, Dachau mostly. Can't wait to get more into that, but unfortunately that book doesn't circulate. Have to get back to the Research Library as soon as I can.

On the lighter side, just for fun, I borrowed Mameve Medwed's An End of an Error, a newish novel.

Had lunch with Steve at Scoozi, a charming little cafe and restaurant on the corner of Newbury and Fairfield Streets. Steve ordered the pizza, which looked terrific. I had a salad, but I'll have to take Ken to try out the pizza sometime. Last night at the Westwood Public Library twenty people attended his booktalk on his latest, Transatlantic. That's a good turnout for a small town. I'm speaking there about my new book Women During the Civil War: An Encyclopedia on Thursday, November 6 at 2:30 p.m.

Wednesday, October 08, 2003

Just found out Michael Moore has a new book--Dude, Where's My Country? I haven't read it or seen a copy yet, but evidently after discussing many of the ways the U.S. has done the world dirt, he focuses on a call to action, informing readers on how to do something to institute change. I'm so glad he's doing that, because I think he has enough power over people's imaginations to gode them to take steps to shut the tv off and get off the couch and take power in their own hands.

I'll never forget witnessing Moore in action, behind the podium, at a New England Booksellers Association convention in Boston about 5-6 years ago. A mesmerizing speaker, he is uproariously funny on stage, saying such extreme, outrageous things, the things I'd love to blurt out at the top of my lungs, but am too afraid to. So he goes a bit overboard at times? So he's in love with himself? So what? He gets his message across, a message I believe in.

Ken and I watched Bowling for Columbine about two weeks ago when it came on Pay-Per-View. Only once in a blue moon do we use PPV, but we couldn't wait any longer to see it. It was terrific, although nothing can probably ever match his first hit Roger and Me.

Beautiful weather yesterday and it will be today, too, and about ten degrees warmer. Indian summer. Delicious. Jan and I are going for a walk at noontime. I'm walking more and more and so far I'm doing pretty well with the plantar fasciitis--it is getting better. I just have to make sure I do the stretches before I walk. I must be religious about it or I'm going to have trouble. I've got to get ready for ski season (cross-country).

Busy day today. I am working, am also devoting time to learning German. I wish it were a speedier process.

Tuesday, October 07, 2003

"Butterflies are a metaphor for life...beautiful, fleeting, fragile, incomprehensible."
John Murray, from A Few Short Notes on Tropical Butterflies

John Murray's collection of short stories is meant to be read and re-read. His writing is economically precise, clear-cut, no wasted or empty words anywhere. I started reading this when we were vacationing in the Adirondacks, all of it during the onset and beginning days of Ken's illness. I wish I owned a copy, because I'd love to pick it up and read a passage here, a passage there whenever I want. Favorite stories: "The Hill Station," "Watson and the Shark," and the title story.

I was blown away to learn that Murray was raised in Australia, and that during his childhood he spent school vacations working on his grandfather's huge sheep farm deep in the bush. He doesn't have an Australian story in the bunch. Based on all his stories dealing with the Indian immigrant experience, I would have guessed he was raised in India. More surprises about Murray in the Atlantic interview.

Monday, October 06, 2003

It seems possible that I'll be able to upload images before very long. Ken is going to help me work on it this weekend. I get really excited about the possibilities, though I suppose there will be lots of bugs to work out before I get anything approximating what I'm hoping for.

A deep frost last night, and the leaves on the trees in the marsh are already turning. Slow down! It's moving too fast for me. I like to savor the days that it happens.

Pressplay is being morphed into the new Napster over the next couple of days. It will be interesting to see what transpires. It would be great if the service would get cheaper! Will have to wait and see, since they're not giving out many details right now. Premium service, though, is supposedly going to be $9.95/month. Then 99 cents to burn a track onto a CD. Because I'm a subscriber, I get the service free until October 29. I guess they're expecting lots of glitches.

I'm supposed to be cooking dinner right now. I'm doing a tomato and cheese macaroni thing because there doesn't seem to be anything else to cook around here. I head to Bread and Circus tomorrow (sorry, Whole Foods Market--I'll never call it that).

I'm reading Blogging books like crazy, though I'm learning slowly. Essential Blogging is fascinating and reviews the various services and software in depth.
The blogging education is driving me crazy, though. It's hard to find time to devote to it and my work is suffering.

Sunday, October 05, 2003

I've been so consumed by my blogger education, that I have few other thoughts in my head. I'm obsessed with figuring out how to get images uploaded, but it appears, after considering all the possibilities available to me at the moment, it would be worthwhile to wait until Blogger offers a service that includes this ability. What is going on with them? When will they offer a way to do this? I will have to do some research to find out. I e-mailed them a question about this yesterday morning, but they have not answered it yet. Hmmm....

Drab day yesterday--rain, rain, rain. We didn't go to Larz Anderson Park with Sophie as we planned, and therefore, no trip to Brookline Booksmith, the best bookstore in Boston (and it's an independent!). They had a book there, in paperback, that had the facts about what's going on now with the World Bank and the effects of economic globalization on developing countries. I need to find its title, because I think it would be perfect for a book discussion I'd like to lead for people from church. (I'm a Unitarian Universalist.) I'm determined to be a more active member of the Social Action Committee this year. For one thing, I would like to find ways to do something to influence those in power to alleviate the suffering caused by global economic policies.

We did go to Best Buy to purchase a new answering machine. Got a Uniden with a cordless phone. It's cool. Ken had fun setting it up and playing with all its features. Sure is different from our old one--the Panasonic I bought in 1985! Can't believe it lasted this long.

I have enjoyed my blogging obsession this past week. I think the energy created by my worry and anguish over Ken's illness and diagnosis is being channeled into this new adventure. I find myself wanting to stay up late to learn more, but I don't, knowing that a lack of sleep will aggravate my fibromyalgia. I don't need that right now!

Saturday, October 04, 2003

Blogger is messed up today--nothing is working as it should, so I'll keep this entry brief and try to post more later.

Yesterday was an incredibly beautiful fall day. Cool temps, an intensely blue sky, not a cloud to mar it, brilliant sunshine--golden light shining on everything. I was lucky I didn't have to sit at my desk all day and that I had scads of errands to run. Yes, I bought 13 ears of corn at the farm and made it to collect books from two public libraries and Wellesley College. I adore library visits--the possibilities! I found a thick textbook entitled German for Reading, jam-packed with lessons to help students acquire a reading knowledge of German. I need this--pronto. Only a fraction of the books available on my topic are in English. I also found four books on blogging--can't wait to devour them. I'll report on them as I do so.

Friday, October 03, 2003

First frost of the season, undoubtedly killing off the corn growing at the farms in the greater Boston area. So off I go to Volante Farms in Needham to get some of the corn they picked yesterday. The corn lover wants me to buy 18 ears, but since there is not enough room in the fridge for that, I'll buy a dozen. It's two weeks early for the first frost. This ought to make the foliage peak earlier than usual around here.

I also have to visit three of my libraries. The Weblog Handbook has arrived. Maybe it'll help me get more of a clue about how to do some of the things I want to do with this blog. I want to include photos--that's the main thing I want to work on.

Last week, in the midst of my exhaustion from slogging through the hospital and doctors' offices day after day, I collapsed on the couch and read Lucky, Alice Sebold's memoir. I was so mesmerized by it--a transcendent work. It's not only about a brutal rape and its impact on one young woman, it's a story of survival and the struggle to say, "I can make an impact, too; I'm a person, I count for something, I can win." I completely identified with her through the entire book and did not want it to end.

Now I'm reading The Time Traveler's Wife--(can't remember how to spell the author's last name. It's holding my interest, but will have to wait til I'm done to say anything much about it.

Thursday, October 02, 2003

I'm having an appalling attack of the first-day blues.

Since the URL did not work for <em>Women During the Civil War, I'll try again.

Since the URL did not work for Women During the Civil War, I'll try again.
October 2, 2003

The sunlight had such a startling clarity this morning. Sophie and I walked all along down by the marsh where the poison ivy is starting to turn brilliant shades of reds, oranges, and yellows. The first three weeks of October are the most beautiful time of year in these parts. Peak foliage in the marsh runs from somewhere around October 6-16. That's when I have an incredibly difficult time sticking to business. I'd like to be spending all my time hiking, biking, and canoeing in my Hornbeck boat.

But what is my business these days? This is the question that has been perplexing me for weeks. Since I finished writing and editing my latest tome Women During the Civil War: An Encyclopedia (to be published by Routledge, an imprint of Taylor and Francis, at the end of this month), I have been debating what I should dwell on next. The question has been made more complicated by the fact that my husband has been recently diagnosed with a chronic, potentially disabling disease. He is recovering well from an acute attack, so
my mind is relieved for the immediate present. But I realized that my idea to plunge into novel-writing full-time is just not practical. I really need to move along my career path as a freelance historian (I use the term loosely; I don't have a Ph.D.)

So where does that leave me? I have known for a long time that as fascinating a period as the Civil War is, I would like to take a break from the 1860s. For years and years I have wanted to write about civilians in Germany at the end of World War II and during the immediate post-war period. The story there is harrowing, and so surprising as to be shocking. That's the lure that makes me bite the hook every time. If I'm surprised out of my wits, then I know it's a great idea for a book.

I should be running to the cellar to wash a huge load of dog towels. I have none now clean enough to wash off Sophie's paws when she comes in all muddy. Sophie is a
Golden Retriever, 16 months old, and is my beloved buddy. Maybe someday I'll figure out how to get a picture of her on here. More later today? Or definitely tomorrow.