Thursday, January 25, 2024

Writing Challenge

Once again I am participating in JeRoWriMo, the New Jersey Romance Writers answer to NaNoWriMo. NaNoWriMo is held every year in November. I've never attempted it because Thanksgiving is in November, which always includes a big family dinner. In addition, with Christmas looming ahead and all the hoopla that holiday involves I know I would be doomed to fail if I set a plan in motion to focus on writing. There are too many distractions in November!

But February's big holiday is Valentine's Day, which need not involve much preparation. February is usually cold and sometimes snowy, the type of weather I consider perfect for writing. I’ve finished several books with the help of JeRoWriMo.. The goal is 30,000 words. I never know if I will make it that far. One year I didn’t. Still, I managed to write more words than I would have without the other members of NJRW cheering me on.

Nancy Herkness started NJRW's writing challenge years ago. It has helped so many writers to accomplish more than they every thought they could. The challenge is open to those who are members of NJRW.

I am looking forward to finishing my current WIP!


Thursday, January 18, 2024

I Remember When the "Good Old Days" Weren't So Good

    My Dad, my sisters, my brother and I by my Grandpa's tractor in Pennsylvania during our usual summer visit to see my Pennsylvania relatives. We only saw my Mom's parents, her siblings, and our cousins when my father had a vacation from work. He drove us out to see all the relatives once a year. That was our vacation. Sometimes we went to the local amusement park in Keansburg. But that was the extent of our get aways. 

    Other than that, my mom wrote letters to her family. Once in a while, during a crisis, she would actually use the telephone to talk to them. But that was rare because back in the "good old days" a long distance phone call was very expensive. The price of a phone call is much, much lower nowadays. 

    We were fortunate since we lived within walking distance of the bay. We spent many days at the local beach. But then came the day when signs were posted at the beach and we were not allowed to swim there anymore due to the fear of getting hepatitis. Big corporations had been dumping chemicals in the water and sewage was spewed out into the water, too. That was before the EPA was created in 1970 by President Richard Nixon. It was designed to protect human health and the environment. And it has. The water is cleaner now. Lots of fish, whales, and seals have returned. (I love the seals.)

    Corporations need to be regulated. Otherwise, we'll go back to the "good old days" when you couldn't get in the water. 

    My father is on the right, working on the news. He worked for the Jersey Journal in Jersey City, NJ. He was an honest reporter and very concerned about the truth as were most newspapers in those days due to the Fairness Doctrine which was enforced by the Federal Communications Council. The Fairness Doctrine mandated broadcast networks devote time to contrasting views on issues of public importance. However, in 1987 President Ronald Reagan vetoed the act. In truth, the Fairness Doctrine didn't apply to cable news. There is NO regulation on cable networks. 

So there was something good about "the good old day." Back then reporters tried to be honest. 

Back in the "good old days" we didn't have vaccinations for most of the childhood illnesses--except for smallpox. Before we went to school, we all had to get the smallpox vaccination and we did. However, we didn't have vaccinations for anything else. Everyone got measles, chicken pox, German measles, and so on. We spent a lot of time out of the classroom due to illness. Some kids got really sick. My youngest sister got pneumonia when she had the measles. I spent time in the hospital at the age of three because the doctors thought I had polio since I suddenly couldn't walk. Fortunately for me, antibiotics had been invented at that point and whatever infection I had was cured. 

    But when the polio vaccine was handed out to children at school, everyone stood in line for it. 

    Covid killed way more than three million people in the world. Everyone in my family was more than willing to try the vaccine. Back in the "good old days" there was no way to combat diseases. I remember when I got the flu while on semester break in college. I spent a week in bed while my mother made me drink hot toddies--a combination of whatever liquor was available, tea, honey, and lemon. 

    I regularly get my flu shot nowadays. 

    I could go on and on about the difficulties of life when I was young. There was no Medicare. We didn't have healthcare except for hospital insurance. 

    I have no idea why people think things were terrific when they were young. There were big problems. There are STILL big problems. But if we work together, I'm sure we can fix them. 





Thursday, January 11, 2024


    Every winter, from November to April, harbor seals spend time lounging around in New Jersey. They migrate from colder areas in the north and enjoy the somewhat warmer winter in New Jersey. A large colony usually hauls out of the water near Sandy Hook, which is part of the National Park Service. 
     I enjoy Sandy Hook in all seasons of the year, but I go there in the winter specifically to see the seals. Sometimes, I get lucky—like last year. But this year I haven’t seen them though I’ve been there three times so far.
     The park now has specific parking spaces for those who hope to view the seals. You can usually tell where the seals are expected to be seen by the horde of people grouped together with large cameras. 
      Typically the seals haul out at low tide. But lately the weather has not been conducive to seal sighting due to some nasty storms. I tried to see the seals yesterday but the wind was so strong, I thought it might
knock me over. Lately, the seals are reported to haul out in an area visible from Officer’s Row, the former housing for officers from the time when Sandy Hook was the Fort Hancock Army base. Some of those houses are being repaired but some are in a state of severe decay. 
     Yesterday, any smart seal would have found a small cove somewhere where there wasn’t any wind. Disappointed, I headed for home. On the road out of the park, I saw a fox who apparently wanted to cross from one side of the road to the other. I stopped the car and grabbed my camera. I took off the lens cap. The fox crossed the road. I pushed the power button. The fox turned to look at me and I tried to focus on him. But he turned around and went on his way. I got a picture of his back end.
     I thought I might be lucky and get a few photos of the deer in the park, but they weren’t in their usual areas. They, too, probably found some nice cozy spot away from the wind.
     I’ll be back though. 


Wednesday, January 03, 2024

Be Patient, Dear Readers

I have enjoyed many classics over the years and I continue to read them. Many years ago, after our trip to Great Camp Sagamore, I realized I never read The Last of the Mohicans. I read many of James Fenimore Cooper's books, but not that one. I immediately downloaded a free copy. Yes, his style is--at times--slow. However, I've found with every one of his books it takes a while to settle in, but once there, you've got a good story.

The first line of the book is:

"It was a feature peculiar to the colonial wars of North America, that the toils and dangers of the wilderness were to be encountered before the adverse hosts could meet."

A bit plodding, perhaps. In today's world, writers are told to make sure their first line is intriguing enough to draw the reader into the story. In reading the reviews listed at Goodreads, I found a lot of readers who hated the book. There where many who never finished it and some who didn't think it had been written in English. 😳

It seems there are a lot of impatient people in today's world. They may have been raised on too many crazy action films. Opening a book is not like walking into a theater. Slow beginnings are found in many of the classics.

Here's the beginning of Wuthering Heights:

"I have just returned from a visit to my landlord--the solitary neighbor that I shall be troubled with."

Go to Goodreads and read some of the negative reviews on that one. There are readers who thought it was horribly dark. Well, yes it is. That's the point.

Admittedly, there are many good reviews, too. There are still some patient readers in this world and I applaud them.

I enjoy light and breezy novels, too, at times. But I find it enriching to immerse myself in the past as well. Sometimes I may even have to use the dictionary and look up a word--and I love that! It's great to find some wonderful antique word that nobody uses anymore.

Here's the first line from The House of the Seven Gables:

"Half-way down a by-street of one of our New England towns stands a rusty wooden house, with seven acutely peaked gables, facing towards various points of the compass, and a huge clustered chimney in the midst."

Obviously, the reader can guess he or she will be reading about the house and its inhabitants. Again, if you look up negative reviews on Goodreads you will find plenty of dissatisfied readers, those who did not finish it or those who claim it took them an inordinate amount of time to finish it.

I find it terribly sad that some of our great classics are being disparaged by those who simply want something they can read in a few hours using very little cerebral action. Be patient, dear readers. Those old classics are time machines. Sink into the past.