Saturday, May 26, 2018

Unintended Hiatus

From January to Now...Strange Days

I can't believe that one of my favorite activities got sidelined for almost six months. I took an unintended hiatus from Postcards from Mississippi, because I was busy with editing jobs and travel, and I was sidelined with a cold (or something) that left me feeling depressed and drugged up on OTC, symptom-relieving medicines, and sleep. In that interim, the house next door to me was totally renovated, the cold winter came to a close, and most of a cold and rainy spring is giving way to summer. Now we're within a month of summer, and I hope we get more rain than usual.

Also during that time, alas, the start-up "Books and Boards" bookstore in downtown Columbus went out of business, leaving The Three Sisters Pie Company inhabiting that entire space. Cliff and I try to go to the pie company semi-regularly to visit with Rachel, the owner, and to partake of her excellent pastries and pie. Customers still play board games in the location (a holdout from the bookstore days) as well as attend and participate in open-mic night. Open Mic Night has been a way for me and other writers to interact with the audience.

I edited a massive manuscript from January through March/April and another manuscript in April, which allowed me some interesting easy-chair travel to both mid-nineteenth-century Spain and Ireland of the latter half of the nineteenth century, from the end of the Great Hunger and nearly the end of the 1800s. Both writers are excellent in their own ways. The novel set in Spain is so well-written and researched, and the settings and culture so intimately described that it broughtSpain to life; I can shut my eyes and imagine what it must have been like. The heavily researched political book on Ireland also allowed me to experience Ireland (northern, mainly) in a way that continues to make my blood boil at the way the Irish were treated by England and Ireland's absentee landlords. Add to this that in 2007, I actually traveled to Ireland to accompany the author of her first book on the Great Hunger on her book tour. That was the first time in my life I had ever been off the North American continent. A world traveler I am not.

Part of Downtown Rosebud, Tx
And then Cliff and I took a trip to Rosebud, Texas, to visit with his family and to celebrate Mother's Day with his mother. Rosebud is just on the edge of the Texas Hill Country, near Austin, Texas, and even closer to Waco, Texas. It was a trip I dreaded but had to take, and I'm glad I went. I had to leave my twin calicoes in the capable hands of my neighbor, Sharon. She also took care of Cliff's (and my) thirteen-year-old calico, Julia. We traveled all the way from eastern Mississippi (seven miles from the Alabama border), across Mississippi, across Louisiana (via Shreveport), and almost three-hundred miles of east Texas. While the scenery was green and beautiful on the entire trip, the miles from Tyler, Texas, south through rural east Texas (and a million small towns) we were anxious to finally get to Rosebud, and since I had a cold, I have to describe those last three hundred miles of driving as "soul sucking." But worth it, after all. Cliff's parents' small cattle ranch is a beautiful and soothing place, out in the country, dark at night and quiet, except for the sounds of Nature and the horses, cattle, miniature donkeys (Elvis and Conway), a miniature horse, Pistol, three outdoor cats, and coyotes. There used to be chickens...but coyotes. Rosebud is the quintessential small Texas town, still alive and kicking but with a loss of population. Nearby towns include Marlin, Texas, Temple, Texas, and Cameron, where Clay and Angie have bought and renovated a downtown building, where Angie has opened her massage and facial business and rented out the other side to tenants who run a hair and nail salon, along with clothing. Just as in Mississippi, people who live and move to these small towns sometimes renovate downtowns and open businesses, hoping for some revitalization; quite often they are successful and give the small towns new life and flair.

One of the delights of the trip to Rosebud was stopping in Vicksburg, MS, at a riverside restaurant called Rusty's Riverfront Grill—and man oh man was the food delicious. The restaurant is in a strip of businesses in historic downtown Vicksburg. Anyone going through Vicksburg should definitely stop there. Across the street and within clear view is a riverboat moored on the Mississippi River. The area boasts cafes, coffee shops, bookstores, art galleries, and is a delightful respite for travelers.

No, this six-month hiatus from writing "Postcards" was unintended. I say these were strange days from January through May. I've been knocked off my focus and feel I am just now getting it back. Two years in Mississippi and I have just scratched the surface. Getting out of the state for a week was a good thing, because my spirits soared as we were crossing the Mississippi River near Vicksburg. We still had hours to drive before we entered Columbus. Note that Columbus is just on the edge of what is considered the Mississippi Hills National Heritage Area of Mississippi, unlike the Delta but rich in heritage and culture. Enjoy the Video:

Monday, January 1, 2018

New Year's in Columbus, Mississippi

Bitter Cold in the Deep South...

I know...I've said it before. I did not expect the Deep South to have cold, really cold, weather, even in the winter. But on this New Year's Day, 2018, the temperature outside is only 14 degrees with a low tonight of 12 degrees. My furnace in my 112 year-old house is losing ground, even with the thermostat set to 67 degrees, it lost degrees, and it's down to 59 degrees in the house.

Ellie (left) and Mae (right) eating. They're well over
a year old in this picture.
Really, I'm not complaining, especially when compared to places in the US that are -40 degrees  below zero. Not only that, despite the cold, the sun will shine today, and if the girls are smart, they'll be able to sun themselves in the south-facing windows. I brought them from New Mexico when they were barely weaned and I think they probably have little memory of their lives in the warmer desert. They love the greenery, the wet days, and Mae likes to play in water and they both think nothing of standing in a puddle outside if it means studying something nearby. So cold or not, they'll adapt to the few days of very cold weather.

Cliff and I have been invited to a New Year's Day lunch at a friend's house. Rebecca has invited other people we know and we're taking cole slaw. I'm looking forward to the visit over lunch.

Anyway, Happy New Year to my readers. I trust that 2018 will be better politically for those of us who are not part of the extreme right wing in politics. I'll not go any further than that, except to say that I'll be glad to see the back of Governor Bryant, here in Mississippi. The people I've met here belie the extreme right wing GOP that currently runs the state, and despite that Mississippi is known for the religiosity of its people (everyone goes to church, it seems) I don't feel the pressure to declare either my religion (none) or attend church (ever).  And on this first day of the new year? I'm only looking forward to a "warmer than usual" winter that we've been promised. I can't think much beyond that.

This is from our only snow storm of a couple of weeks ago, before winter came round. I hope we don't have a repeat, not that the tiny bit of snow we got proved  to be unpleasant (it was gone by the afternoon), I just prefer the rain, which is supposed to be heavier in the winter than the summer. I've made no resolutions, but I do plan to get the fall and winter exfoliation removed from my yard and driveway and get the whole place looking tidy before spring.

If anything, a new year inspires me to look forward to doing things, committing myself to continue my writing, meeting more people, and just maybe kick-starting my editing a bit more than it has been lately. I currently have a nice editorial evaluation job from a long-time friend; but beyond that I need more prospects.

If you've been putting off readying that manuscript of the great American novel or have a suspenseful mystery story tucked away in a drawer, now is the time to bring it out. Take a look at my editing web site: Two Brothers Press or my writing/editing blog. Contact me directly at my email address.

Writers who are reluctant to have your work "criticized" or "edited" might find my article on The Pitfalls of Freelance Writing of interest. In this article I talk about how editors should handle "disturbed" writers and how writers should handle editors with a god complex—all to the good, however, and not quite as bleak as you might think. Writing is a solitary business, unless you're like nineteenth-century writers who liked to sit for hours in a Parisian coffee shop and declare to anyone who would listen on your novel that you've been working on for ten years. Ten years is far too long, unless your novel is massive and nearing perfection!

Wow I got off on a tear on writing, but I'm inspired as I indicated because it's a new year.