Confessions of an Indoor Person

Confessions of an Indoor Person

Okay, I admit it. In fact, I readily admit it.

I am an indoor person. I like the indoors. I like doing things indoors, like reading, writing, rewriting, watching Acorn and Britbox. All indoor activities. And I come from a long line of indoor people. You know, the kind whose main physical activity was carrying books home from the library.

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Now, it’s not that I don’t appreciate nature. I do. But looking at it, not necessarily being in it. Like Monet paintings, Renoir – you know, that blurry, romantic take on nature.

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For the last several years, exercise has been a focus of my day. And so most mornings would find me in my car, driving to the Y, where I would climb onto the elliptical machine or treadmill and put in my time. I freely admit that, rather than walk in my highly-walkable neighborhood, I would drive the six miles, park my car, trudge up the precipitous incline to the door of the Y, take the elevator to the second floor, and “walk,” all the while keeping my eyes focused on the closed-captioned CNN broadcast.

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Now that the Y is no longer an option, I was forced to look for other options. The first one was the ancient treadmill that had been relegated to our attic. Whether it decided to show me who was boss, as a punishment for stowing it in a dark, unheated/uncooled area, or whether I just forgot how to turn it on, obviously some magic, inconspicuously placed button, that proved not to be an option. So…. what’s a girl to do?

The outside. Walk outside. In this time of national sacrifice, this I could do. I am not hoarding toilet paper, I only buy what I need, and now…. I could actually walk outside. Which I have done, faithfully.

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I’m listening to birds; I’m enjoying the blooming of the trees and flowers; I have successfully avoided being attacked by two (or maybe by one twice) Canada geese, as well as artfully sidestepping their copious droppings.

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I’ve passed neighbors walking their dogs, patted two cats, and breathed in what must be fresh air. Actually, it’s not so bad. Well, the hills, they’re bad, I’ll be honest.

But I must admit that I’m beginning to look forward to it. This nature thing. I think it could catch on.

Love, Requited and Otherwise…

Image result for image unrequited love

On Love, Requited and Otherwise –

Those Romantic poets – all that unrequited love, beauty held forever, unbesmirched by acne, tired bags under the eyes, or stray hairs that mysteriously appear in places best unidentified.

For what is better than unrequited love? Each of us needs at least one to break our heart. But not more than one. To paraphrase Oscar Wilde, one unrequited love is tragic; two is simply careless, not to say extremely trying to the soul.

But, oh, to keep that vision, that fantasy. What enchanting pain when the indignities of life become too aching to bear. We can delightfully retreat into a fantasy of what-could-have-been and somehow place reality in abeyance.

If only…and we blithely embroider a favorite scenario – a poor man’s fairy tale.

But it’s requited love that is valid, and demanding, and in its way as angst-producing as the one-that-got-away (or the one-that-never-was). Requited love – where we know the other, warts and all, and, even more alarming, they know us. Requited love – where the best and worst are observed and experienced. The mirror held up to us.

Unrequited love is easy. It’s requited love that’s the bitch. It’s a bit like writing – as long as we think about writing, read about writing, believe that we could write if only the time were right, as long as we don’t act, the dream lives.  All those if onlys.

And when we actually move words from head to hand, when we see there, in black and white, our nonsensical, puerile phrases, those that sounded so grand as we lay in our beds, our dreams are splintered. And that’s when the real work of writing begins, when we face our hopes and work to move them from fantasy to a fractured, but tangible, reality.

Like love. Like marriage. Like any honest long-term relationship. When we hear, and say, I love you. The days after.

On Schmierkase, Baltimore, and Mornings After….

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On Schmierkase, Baltimore, and Mornings After….

Last Sunday I baked a Schmierkase. Now for those of you who may not be from Baltimore, for those of you who may not be German, Schmierkase is a very special kind of cheesecake. It is first a cake, and secondarily a cake with cheese – sort of like a cheese Danish on steroids. I posted a picture on a Baltimore Facebook page (Baltimore Old Photos) and received hundreds of hits. Obviously, this is something that touched memories.

Now, I am not a good cook, and I am even less of a good baker. But something called me to research this and give it a try. I’m sure you could find a more authentic recipe, I’m sure that the bakeries that sell them present a more professional image, but I was delighted with how mine looked.

As with most endeavors, the proof is in the tasting. So, that night, we had it for dessert. Alas, a disappointment. A bit over-baked, and not-quite-sweet-enough, even for my most-things-are-too-sweet palate. Undeterred, I, now with one attempt under my belt so to speak, pledged to try again.

But the morning after – ah, how often can we savor this? – the morning after, I cut a square (for a Schmierkase is traditionally cut in a square or rectangle) to go with my cup of black coffee. And, eureka! What a difference. I don’t know if it was sitting overnight; I don’t know if it felt my disappointment with my efforts; I don’t know if a cleansed palate is what you need, but it was delicious. And what a great way to start a day. A culinary disappointment turned around.

And I thought about mornings-after, how so often they are filled with recriminations for folly. Maybe we need more folly in our lives. I intend to work on that one. And I will try another Schmierkase. (And thanks to the Facebook reader who gave me the correct spelling.)

Here’s the recipe if you’d like to try it (along with my observations, of course):


For the cake:

2 c flour

2 tsp baking powder

¾ c sugar

½ c canola oil

2 eggs, room temperature

Pinch of salt

For the filling:

16 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature

(I know, real Schmierkase calls for cottage cheese, but try this – and use the brick kind, not the tub spread)

12 oz. evaporated milk

¾ c sugar

1 T flour

2 tsp vanilla

3 eggs, room temperature

For sprinkling:



Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Mix all of cake ingredients together – it will look more like a dough than cake batter; press into a 13×9 baking dish, covering all the bottom and half-way up the sides.

In another bowl, mix all the filling ingredients until smooth – I used my immersion blender and this made it so much easier. The batter will be thin – pour over the cake and sprinkle with cinnamon.

Bake 60-70 minutes (when I do this again, I am taking it out at 60 minutes on the dot!) It should NOT be browned.

Cool, then cut into squares – or rectangles as the Schmierkase experts say!

Enjoy – and do let me know how it goes for you.

And if you like novels set in historic Baltimore, please visit my webpage and check out Another Sunday and Echoes from the Alum Chine.





On Writing and Selling Same – Redux


On Writing and Selling Same

Dorothy Parker is credited with saying, “I hate writing. I love having written.”  I agree. And let me add: “I hate selling. I love having sold.”

If this sounds a bit familiar to you (to those who memorize my blog posts), it’s because I wrote a post with this heading not too long ago – while agonizing over marketing my first historical novel, Another Sunday. And here I am again, back in that same misery, only this time with Echoes from the Alum Chine. And so, with this post, I once again share my wretchedness.

I’m in the midst of marketing (a less odious term for selling), setting up readings, sending out press releases, posting events on Facebook, and, I must add, writing blogs. It’s a nasty business, this marketing is, for those born without a silver tongue and a thick skin. Fortunately, as with most writers, I’ve had the opportunity to develop a relative resilience, born of a myriad of opportunities to be ignored or rejected by journals, literary and less-so, agents, and publishers, the latter holding the manuscript for months.

So not hearing back from some book sellers, high-tone reviewers – well, nothing ventured, nothing gained. And hurray to those who reached out, said yes, welcomed me and my book warmly. It makes their percentage-take a bit more palatable.

Marketing involves a great deal of planning, implementation, and waiting – there’s a long lead time. It is also a very left-brain activity. And I thought, hoped, that I had left all that “business stuff” behind when I decided to devote my days (and nights) to writing. Well, not quite.

Now, finally, after immersing myself in selling, pardon me, marketing, these activities are slowing down – not ending, but I’ll take slowing down as a gift.

This week, I returned to writing — another book, this time, as far as I know, set in the 40s and 50s, a new period for me. As I carried my files to the dining room table, I felt that I was coming home. Not that it’s easy. Having written is still way preferable to writing. But I’m loving it. And the research – Wikipedia, the Greensboro Library, and I are best friends again. And I do hope that no one ever investigates my web searches.

So, I would be delighted if you’d read my book, thrilled if you’d buy it, print or e-book. If you can make it to one of my readings, well, that touches my heart; if you would post a review to Amazon and/or Goodreads, I will sing for you.

So, thank you, dear reader. You are my tribe.

On Sabbaticals


On Sabbaticals

An extended period of leave from one’s customary work, especially for rest, to acquire new skills 

My last sabbatical, now more than ten years ago, resulted in my leaving the world of paid employment, a decision that freed and fed my soul, if not my bank account. Every morning since I’ve given thanks for those gifts.

Now, my novel-in-progress progressed, newly birthed, has been sent to the inboxes of literary agents, waiting to be loved, rejected or deleted without being read by a junior unpaid intern.  I’ve taken this labor of love as far as I can, and, for the next few months at least, it is in the hands of the universe. I’ve released it with love and hope.

But I’m feeling more than a bit untethered without the focus, and burden, of the world of 1913 that I’ve inhabited for so long. So I’m stepping back, trying a self-declared sabbatical. Not from all writing- I’m still committed to my morning pages, and this blog- but I am withdrawing from the world of writing fiction for a while, and I hope that when I return, it will be with a rekindled energy. Another historical novel? Well, yes. Just not now. And maybe a return to poetry.

For the last two weeks, I’ve read and read and read, and semi-compulsively pruned and organized files. But I’ve also watched the birds at the feeder and followed leaves as they fell to the ground. Many books wait on that to-be-read pile, some poetry to savor, to ponder, by poets once loved and those newly discovered. And genealogical research, and Zentangle, and watercolors, and a trip to the beach, a visit to the mountains. And, most of all, lots of time for thinking, for renewal.

Time and freedom – I’ve had both for several years now. But somehow this interlude, this sabbatical, seems especially precious. I’ll keep you posted on my journey. And I wonder if I can go three months without writing. I’ll admit characters for the next book are forming in my head.

On Procrastination


On Procrastination —

Once again I failed to heed my own advice: “Just sit down and write it. A shitty-first-draft, that’s all you need to knock out. It will take much less time and effort than you are using to put it off.”

I know that. I mean I really know that. But, once again, I stewed, I cleaned the sunporch, even tackled ironing that has sat for so many months that the design of the basket that holds it had become part of the cloth’s design. I’d written in my head, at night before I fell asleep, always promising to get up at 4:50 a.m. the next morning and get to it as soon as the coffee kicks in. What I wrote, in my head, was lyrical. I made it even better, again, in my head, as I sat for my morning meditation. But to actually put words to paper? Not a chance. I obviously hadn’t suffered enough.

Well, this morning, waiting in the doctor’s office, that sweet spot arrived. I pulled out pen, found a few scraps of paper, and wrote away. Now it’s not as good as my midnight musings, it falls far short of my meditational rewrite, but it’s a start.

I feel relieved, happy, brighter. Now if only I can manage to take my own advice the next time. And maybe rent a small space in the doctor’s waiting room….

Another Sunday,

On First Drafts and Finishing Same

first drafts

On First Drafts and Finishing Same

Well, this week it happened. I finished the first draft of my novel-in-progress. Thank you Brenda Ueland (If You Want to Write, 1938) and Anne Lamott (Bird by Bird, 1994) for the same freeing advice. Just write, they say, and Anne coined the wonderful “shitty first draft,” which gave my fingers and pen liberty to fly over the keys and page, not stopping to agonize that I had used the same word in the same paragraph, or that I typed lay instead of lie. Time enough later to go back, to fix, to struggle to find just the right word, phrase that is original, unforced, that will say what needs to be said as it has never been said before. Just get the words down, they say. And that is what I did.

While I was writing, I thought my work was amazing, better than I had ever done, better than anyone had ever done. In the cold, cold light of day (you see, I can use clichés here, though not in my book) it looks pretty dreary. Ah well, isn’t it always easier to work from something, to make it better, bird-by-bird, than to have those incredibly poetic words rumbling around in one’s head, but never quite making it to the page.

So, today my words are on the page. Now comes the hard part – transforming them into a work that I can stand behind, that I can be proud of, and, with every hope, one that will speak to my readers’ hearts.

(Incidentally, the draft above is  from Nabokov’s Invitation to a Beheading. This is the very first page of the novel, and if you are having trouble reading it, it’s not just because the page is a mess. It’s also written in Russian.)

Another Sunday,