John Clark grateful for weather that allows me to work up a backyard sweat. No matter how much I love to read, enforced inside time results in literary antsiness every so often. Hell, even great coffee gets old when your routines have been shattered by something you can’t punch, burn, or shoot. Desperation can even result in hours of contemplating the veracity of Oxford commas, and vivid dreams the likes of which would have Fellini drooling.
Anyhow, for those who write, every day offers plenty of fodder for dark fiction. I’ve already written and submitted a couple short stories with Covid-19 themes. I’m seeing rumblings that the concept might be overdone quickly, but we might as well enjoy the viral (pun fully intended) opportunities while we can. Imagine a blend of 50 shades and evil particles floating everywhere.
Back to the weather for a moment. Last summer, I battled a line of brush and the Browntail moth rash for over a month. When the dust settled, we were left with a very large maple that had fallen years ago. Most of it was on our neighbor’s property which is a small wilderness of dead trees, piles of brush and leaves, etc. I cut up what I could because it looks ugly and there’s still a quantity of decent firewood to be had. I reached a point where what remained was lying on the ground and I didn’t dare risk getting my saw caught. My 2.5 ton hydraulic jack fit nicely under one thick protrusion and had enough power to lift the remaining trunk sufficiently so I was able to keep cutting until less than five feet remain. The wood has been piled, most of the mess raked and moved back to one of the existing brush mounds and the view is much nicer. I met the fellow who owns the property behind us this afternoon. He’s thrilled to have me cleaning up and blessed my quest to rid that parcel of Asian Bittersweet.
We have stuff ordered for delivery next month to make things look even nicer. Two pear trees, a hardy fig, an early ripening seedless grape (that I hope will love climbing the uprooted maple stump), and ten raspberry canes will join the pair of dwarf Stanley plums we planted last fall.
As you know, I love to read and try to review every book. If you look at my reviews which are posted at Librarything, Amazon and Goodreads, you’ll notice I very seldom give less than four stars. There’s a good reason for that. With so many books out there, I don’t bother to finish anything that hasn’t grabbed me quickly and pulled me in. While some might argue that rating so many books highly lessens the value of the reviews, but I think differently. Readers who like similar themes to what I do can look at what I’m reading/liking and select accordingly.
Another pleasure I indulge in is reading manuscripts that aren’t necessarily ready for publication at Swoon Reads (https://www.swoonreads.com/). If you like YA fiction, or know teens who are readers, this site is a great one to bookmark. Sure, some of the manuscripts are awful, but I find plenty of gems as well. You can create an account, start reading and if you lose interest, simply move on. Readers can catch typos, note poor passages and give feedback at several points. For those with no access to a library during this pandemic, this can be a sanity saver. Another advantage is that teens can learn to be better writers and editors while having fun. I just read two that were quite good even with warts. They were Jersey Revival and I Lost To A Girl. Take a look and let me know what you think. Who knows, you might help someone to become that next great YA author. It’s worth noting that several manuscripts are selected and published by Swoon Reads every year, and submitting manuscripts for readers to access costs nothing.