September 04, 2009

Go Ahead, Stimulate My Economy! (part I) posted by Jeanne Munn Bracken We New Englanders consider ourselves to be hardy stock. Sure, we complain about the weather, but we must secretly enjoy it or we'd all move to, say, California. This year, though, has been a bit of a challenge. So far in 2009 we've had Winter with Ice, Spring with Monsoons (which lasted until the end of July) and Road Construction. Apparently our various governmental agencies have had work piling up waiting for funding, and the Economic Stimulus Plan seems to have provided for the current spate (gush? tidal wave?) of road construction. First off, I live on Goldsmith Street, which has been legendary in our town for really, really bad potholes, frost heaves, and mud puddles. A few years ago some wit posted a sign over one of the more notable bumps: "Goldsmith Gulch." Another guy put a big sign up on his lawn: "Fix Goldsmith St. It's embarassing (sic) to our town." (Personally, I thought his spelling was embarrassing to our local school system, but nobody asked me.) This spring when a bunch of fifth graders in town were asked what their wishes were for the summer, several said "Fix Goldsmith St." I have a feeling they were coached, but so be it. In sum, it's been a huge problem and plans for its total reconstruction have been in the works for years. After a hearing at least 3 years ago when the town showed what trees would have to be cut, the project was placed on the list for 2013, if I recall correctly. So I was pleased to learn that the federal government had agreed to pay for most of the new street. Since we plan to put our house on the market next year, we figured the construction would be finished, dropping one objection from our property. The work started this spring. So did the rain. And the rain continued. The work continued, too, sort of, although the initial phase that involved tearing up the whole street and moving around mountains of fill and stuff was not a whole lot of fun. I learned to drive to town the other way, a couple of miles longer but at least my little SUV wouldn't bottom out on the newly created gorges, ravines, and other bone-rattling temporary afflictions. Add to that the daily detours. I have driven streets I haven't seen since my days pushing cranky babies in strollers--and the younger of them is now 27. (Although, come to think of it, she still fits the cranky description.) The lower part of the street is now paved, which means the whole mess will be approaching our address soon. Can't wait. The Goldsmith Street Experience ($5.2 million for 1.45 miles) has been so awful that the fellow who had the big "embarassing" sign has changed his tune. His billboard now reads "Fix Goldsmith? What the **** was I thinking?" And it's not just our street or our town, as I will note next week.
Whatever Motivated Me? By Guest Blogger Lisa Bork Four years ago I put my youngest child on the bus for her first full day of school—and was left with seven hours of time to fill. Or should I say “kill”? I decided to write a book. A murder mystery. It seems like a big leap, but I love to read and write, and in college, I majored in English. During my career, I’d written human resources and marketing manuals, very dry but nevertheless important communications. Along the way, teachers and managers had said, “You know, you’re a very good writer.” I decided to put that to the test. With time on my hands and old compliments ringing in my ears, I started to write. I wanted to write a mystery series, because I read a lot of them and thought I knew the elements of a good one. From Lorraine Bartlett, I learned about the Sisters In Crime chapter, The Guppies, an online mystery group with critique group opportunities. I signed up immediately, craving feedback. I made all the classic mistakes with my first mystery. I wrote characters like people I knew and spent lots of time describing real places. The only person in my first critique group willing to read my story said, “Something has got to happen.” I took this to heart. I packed up my characters and moved them to a golf course. With positive feedback from my new critique group, I finished a novel. During one of her contests, the infamous Miss Snark gave me positive feedback on my one line pitch. Then an agent read the first chapter and asked for the whole manuscript. Was I ever excited! He rejected it within a week. One more partial request and many more rejections followed. I made the rookie mistake of getting excited over form letter rejections that said my work “showed promise”. Still, I felt like I had something to offer. But I didn’t try to fix that book. I started something new. I wrote a standalone book. A few agents requested partials. One west coast agent made some snippy comments based on the synopsis. I decided to avoid her in the future. A New York agent requested two chapters, then two more, and ultimately rejected it. I made note of him, because he was responsive, professional, and liked my writing. Then I hit on the idea for my Broken Vow mystery series. Ideas and words flowed. I leapt up from the dinner table and out of bed at night to get them down. With all day to write, I had For Better, For Murder completed in four months. This time, I had ten people critique it before marketing it. A couple months after the end of my second year of writing, I went back to the New York agent who had expressed interest in my standalone book and offered him For Better, For Murder. He responded quickly and positively. I knew it was a match. What joy! All the positive feedback from my critique group and manuscript swap partners had me fired up enough to complete the second book in the series. Finding an agent guaranteed I’d finish the third immediately. My agent worked almost a year to find For Better, For Murder a home. But in the end, when he contacted my publisher, an offer was made within days. The contract took a little longer to hammer out. Never the most patient person, I’d tabled writing and accepted a part-time job near the end of the year I’d waited to find a publisher. Good thing, too, because actually getting published took eleven more months of waiting. My job killed the days and hours. This week, four years later, For Better, For Murder is on the market. Kirkus Reviews said, “Bork juggles multiple puzzles deftly in her witty debut.” Such a thrill! I’ve resigned my part-time job. Now I’m motivated to write some more. ----------------------------- Lisa Bork’s debut novel, For Better, For Murder, hits stores this week. It’s the first book in the Broken Vows mystery series from Midnight Ink. Lisa has a BA. in English and a M.B.A. in Marketing, and she worked in humans resources and marketing before becoming a stay-at-home mom and author. For more information, visit

Lorraine Bartlett

Five women, five weekdays, many surprises.

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