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Fear, Courage and the Creative Urge October 25, 2019

Posted by cynthiadumarin in Uncategorized.

I’ve been reading a lot lately about what drives writers to write. The answers vary, and I’m sure you’d get similar answers from artists.

My own drive to write is I’m sure fueled at least in part, by my love of books. As an only child, many times a lonely child, books opened worlds and adventures that enthralled me. Why wouldn’t I want to write?

In school, the many writing assignments came easy to me. But now, as an adult, with the choice of where I should go with the written word, it’s not so easy any more.

I know I’m not alone. The advice I’ve read in so many places, about reading widely if you want to write is not a bad idea. You learn a lot by seeing other people getting it right, or wrong.

But it’s also terrifying. When you pick up a book, and it’s so magical, the prose so beautiful, the characters alive and almost breathing on the page, how can you help but feel you should just quit now, before you even start.

It’s hard in that moment to believe that you have something to offer that will compare. And it’s probably true that what you do won’t measure up to the world that other writer created. But it doesn’t mean that what you do have has no value. If you’re brave enough to start putting words on paper, trusting that your own voice may be different, you may find out that it’s still beautiful in its own way.

That’s where the courage part comes in.

Waking Up October 22, 2019

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When you do something day after day, week after week, you fall into a routine, and it becomes a form of hypnotism. You forget there are other choices. It stops occurring to you that you could just stop, choose to do something else.

I decided yesterday to reclaim my life and cut back my hours at work. The stress, the crazy hours, the lack of sleep and the general malaise permeating the place lately has worn me down. I’m still fighting a cold I caught there a month ago.

Although the extra money is nice, l don’t need to keep working this hard. The extra money just translates into more money being spent to soothe the discomfort of working too much.

As soon as I let myself see that, and really think about it, I felt a great sense of peace, which tells me it’s the right thing to do. Yet even just the day before, I never let myself entertain the thought, which begs the question, how much else do we endure, not ever thinking to examine the idea of other possibilities? How many traps are we caught in that we could break out of, if we just let ourselves think about it?

We are creatures of habit, mainly because habit brings a level of comfort. But that is a double edged sword when it keeps us caught in a place or a practice that doesn’t really meet our needs, or worse, one that beats us down and makes us forget how to dream.

Returning With a Rant October 21, 2019

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I’m angry today. I feel used. It seems like sometimes enough is never enough, and no matter how much you give or how hard you try, someone always wants more.

And worse, if you don’t yell, hit back or carry on, your restraint is not taken as maturity or strength or self control, but instead as a sign that you can be pushed.

I never wanted to be one of the squeaky wheels. Whining and complaining doesn’t solve problems or get the job done, but I’m starting to see some wisdom in ranting and raving instead of just sucking it up and battling bravely on, trying to do your best in the interests of being a good team player.

Today I’m firmly in the squeaky wheel camp. I’ve done my best, pulled my weight, sucked it up and I’ve done it without complaint and with a smile on my face. I’m done now.

Don’t take my choice to behave with grace and self control as a sign that I’m not smart enough to recognize intimidation tactics when I see them.

Push me today. But get ready. Today I’m pushing back.

Cold Wars Part Two February 26, 2013

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So it’s been a fun winter. After my recent foray into frozen pipes, self destructing kerosene heaters and propane heaters that require being disassembled before being lit, I thought I was finally home free. Roughly $1000 in the hole and the house was warm, my naked dogs were no longer shivering and I had just about recovered from the trauma of it all.

I had just, a few days before, made a trip over to  my handy dandy oil company and and forked over another $600 plus for 100 gallons of propane and 100 gallons of heating oil. Deliveries were made and I basked in the knowledge that I could go to work and not worry that my pipes or my animals were going to be frozen stiff when I got back in the morning.

Wrong. I walked in at 7am, after a grueling night at work to find that my house was cold. Naw….must be my imagination I thought. I checked the thermometers and found that NO, it was not my imagination. I felt the baseboard heaters…cold. Went and clicked the thermostat, thinking maybe it was stuck. Nope… no signs of life.  Went down the basement, which was now toasty because of the very expensive propane I was burning to keep the great outdoors well heated through the cracks in my stone foundation.

Checked the oil tank, and yes, there was oil. They didn’t stiff me and just SAY they delivered the oil. Next back up the stairs to make sure the emergency oil burner switch hadn’t accidentally been flicked off. No… it was in the on position.

Back down the stairs and I approached the oil burner as it sat there silent and cold. I pushed the little dreaded red button, you know the one, the one that says to only push it once…or else.

Nothing happened. Not a click, or a sigh, nothing.

Back up to face the unhappy realization that I needed to call in a repairman, yet again. But that was not the worst of it. The friendly lady on the other end of the line asked how I would be paying for the service. I told her I’d give them a check, and told her I would probably need to post date it by a couple of days, since my paycheck was due to be automatically deposited, and not knowing how much they were going to fleece me, uh charge me for the service, I didn’t want to have the check bounce.

She told me to  hold on, then came back to tell me that I had an outstanding balance of $259.

“What?” I said. I was just in and paid cash for my deliveries. “I asked for 100 gallons of oil, and 100 gallons of propane.” I went to get my checkbook to verify the amounts.

After checking her records she came back and told me. “Oh yes, they made out the work order for 100 gallons of propane, but they delivered 192 gallons.”

At this point I was really getting angry. She was trying to tell me she wouldn’t send a service man out until the propane was paid for, since they were not extending credit to anyone these days. I pointed out that I had paid in good faith, before the delivery, and while I would indeed pay for the unasked for propane, it sure wasn’t going to happen today. Especially since I had no way of knowing what the oil burner fix would cost.

After much hemming and hawing and negotiating of payment dates that coincided with fresh cash infusions to my checking account, she reluctantly agreed to send the service man out.

Thankfully he arrived quickly and he found the problem in only a few minutes… a very expensive part that took him about 15 minutes to replace. $306 later my heat was working again.

So now even deeper in the heating bill hole, I am ready to move to Florida. After I finish paying off the oil company.

Cold Wars February 1, 2013

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So, for those who might have noticed my absence this past week or so, I didn’t fall off the planet, or lose interest in all the goings on here. I have been fighting my own version of the cold war.

I woke up around noon last wednesday, after three hours sleep and thought, “Why is it so cold?” Short answer – frozen baseboard. The north side of my house takes a beating every winter. This time the old stone foundation had a few new chinks, as the creaky old beast settled and the whipping wind in my cellar brought temps down to 28 degrees.

I cranked up the heat, which normally will get the north side to thaw and spent the next couple of hours stuffing up all the small holes and drafts I could find. Plastic bags and tablecloths were tacked up to cut down the drafts. It seemed better.

It wasn’t. Frozen baseboard was followed by frozen water pipes. In spite of having run the water frequently, I wasn’t bright enough to just keep it running. Silly me. I had barely stopped to relax for a bit when my daughter came to tell me that the kitchen sink didn’t work. Or the bathroom.

I ran down to my local hardware store and bought a lovely kerosene heater. $300 and two hours later, the water pipes were running, but the baseboard was still in sad shape. Still, we had heat in the south side of the house, though even with the electric heaters going, in the warmest room it was only 58-60 degrees. But better times were coming. The kerosene heater would get that basement temperature up and it would all thaw out.

Wrong. The God of Cold had it in for me. The kerosene heater crapped out after a few hours. A sudden silence alerted me to the fact that the jet rocket in my basement wasn’t running any more. Back down I went, flicked the switch. We had liftoff. I stood there and watched the line rise on my thermometer then headed back upstairs to huddle under a blanket with my naked dogs.

Ten minutes later, silence.

The rest of the night was spent running up and down the stairs, flicking the switch, up to the kitchen making sure the trickle of water in the sink was still going, back to the bathroom, sink and tub running, a layer of ice forming in my bathtub, telling me things were NOT good.

The manual for the heater was very helpful. It talked about pressure, and adjusting it by turning a screw. Yes, I did that, though it didn’t help. And elsewhere in the manual it had a troubleshooting guide that listed what would cause the heater to keep shutting down. All the options listed major parts that needed to be replaced.

I tried to go on the internet, hoping there would be guidance to be found there, on what I might do to get the heater running well. But at 46 degrees in my bedroom, the computer was not happy and would not connect to the internet.

Around 4AM dark grey smoke started billowing out the back of the heater. Clearly there was nothing to be done to resuscitate my nearly new $300 heater.

8AM finally came, and back to the hardware store. No problem, we’ll make good they said, but first they smiled and dialed the company rep, who asked me questions about how many turns of the screw I had done.

“What?” I said, “It was 3 o’clock in the morning. You think I was counting turns of a screw? Did your manuel SAY how many turns of the screw were needed, or that I SHOULD be counting turns?” I was, by this point, just a bit short with him.

He backed right off, but I agreed I would go back and double check to make sure I had turned the right screw. The one with the hole, not just the straight notch.

Back home I grabbed my flashlight and screwdriver, ready to inspect screw heads, hoping against hope it would be an easy fix. When I shined the light I saw the screw with the straight notch. Good. I had been turning the right one. But the right one was looking a little funny now, like metal curlicues on the head, instead of the straight notch with the hole in the middle. I touched it with my screwdriver and the whole screw disintegrated – cooked by the heat that had been generated. At this point I was just thankful the damned thing hadn’t burned my whole house down.

Back to the hardware store. Money refunded, graciously. They would send a man over to drain the kerosene from the heater and remove it from my basement. He arrived not long after I got home, armed with a siphon the diameter of a ballpoint pen. Two hours of crouching down in my 28 degree basement,  trying to siphon four gallons of gas through a 7 foot straw, we finally succeeded in draining enough kerosene off to get the heater out without spilling fuel all through my house.

Now it’s 12:30. I decide maybe we can resurrect the old propane heater in the basement. I call my local fuel company. At 4PM they deliver propane. I have amused myself with running taps and continuing to do miniscule loads of laundry to keep laundry room pipes from freezing. Now I go to have more fun with heating units. An hour and a half later, I still have not had luck in getting the propane heater to run.

I call the emergency repair service. By 6:30PM, after disassembling the thing, he gets the propane heater to run. At this point, I haven’t slept since I got up at noon on Wedsneday. Now it’s Friday night and I’m looking at going in to work at 10PM. I try to call out, since three nights with no sleep will not a nifty employee make. But no, they wouldn’t hear of it. It was fine if I was on zombie mode. I was a warm body. I needed to be there.

At this point, the propane heater had thawed everything out, water was running, north side baseboard was heating. Even the layer of ice in my bathtub was melted. So I showered, dressed and headed out to work.

I got home the next morning, happy to see my house was warm. Exhausted, I fell into bed. At 2PM a knock on the front door woke me. They had sent someone from work to let me know I could stay home that night. How nice. They woke me up to tell me that. But still. Life was good. The house was warm.

I stayed up for a bit, then back to bed. I slept for 18 hours and woke up and thought, “Why is it so cold?”

Yes, folks. It all froze again. I had one room with heat. At this point I just sat down and cried. Ten minutes of feeling sorry for myself and then back at it. On the phone to the heating repair service (which I probably should have done at the start of all this). Four servicemen showed up. A short time later, after using this nifty little gadget that gave them temperature readings, they determined I had frozen baseboard. Gee, ya think?

They lugged a huge propane tank into the basement, hooked it to a ginormous blower. Then told me I had to basically move every stick of furniture in the house so they could disassemble my baseboards and take blow torches to them.

A couple of hours later, thankful that they had not ignited my house on fire with the cavalier way they waved those torches around, I finally had heat. My whole house was torn apart, but my baseboard was splendid. Thank you very much.

I asked what I could do to prevent this happening again. “Move to Mexico,” they told me. “I hear it’s about 90 degrees there now.”

They did suggest spray foam insulation in those little cans. So off to the hardware store, again, for a bunch of cans of that stuff and tarps to attach to the outside of my house to cut down the wind.

So now, so far, it’s warm. Of course it got up to 55 degrees yesterday. Naturally.

There’s a couple of lessons in here somewhere. One – don’t buy old farmhouses. Two – especially in the state of Maine. Three – If you’re foolish enough to ignore one and two, rip out the baseboard heating in favor of just about any other choice. And four, just cut to the chase and call the damned repair guys. Even if you DO have to sell your first born on ebay to pay the bill.

February 1, 2013

Posted by cynthiadumarin in Uncategorized.
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This made me laugh because it is so true. My characters are very real to me. I carry them with me as I do the day to day stuff of living, as they poke and prod and whisper, urging me to get back to the computer, to listen to what they have to say, to capture their stories.

On a good day, they carry me right off into their world, and my own is swept away as they have me in their thrall. Does that make me crazy? Perhaps. Maybe all writers are, in a way. We see the world in a different way I think, more fluid, less solid, malleable, and full of possibilities. It’s what writers and artists have in common with those who were locked away in asylums in days past.

It’s the expression of our madness that saves us. We produce the wild painting or the startling story and the world sees the creative effort as a product of imagination, rather than insanity. And we live in a world that values imagination over madness. There’s some food for thought.

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Fan Tales January 18, 2013

Posted by cynthiadumarin in A Writer's Life.
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Fan Tales

It’s mid January and I’ve been working/struggling with the edit on The Payback Agency. My cheering section, pictured above, loves me, regardless of how well or badly the work is going.

Every writer hopes that eventually they’ll produce a book that pleases both the author and the public at large. To that end, we labor over our notebooks or computer screens, trying to set a vision we have down for the consumption of others.

Some days it seems like an impossible task. That’s when it’s good to have fans who love you for stuff other than your writing skills! 🙂

Slogging in the New Year January 4, 2013

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My one resolution for the new year was to edit my novel The Payback Agency. It’s a mess. The first book I wrote when I started, it’s a good story, but in my newness to the process I wrote it like someone on drugs might.

The entire 450 some pages worth of first draft was done in separate folders on my computer. To make matters worse, the folders were in no particular order or even numbered. Is it any wonder then that I kept putting off editing this gargantuan disaster of a book?

The story is about a woman who gets recruited by a secret government agency that assassinates criminals set free by our justice system. The book is angry and politically incorrect, reflecting a lot of my own anger at having lived many years in New York City playing tag with the criminal element that I rode the subways with. Many times I would have been very happy to have blown away some of the predators I saw molesting other people or even chasing me off a train platform. It’s no way to live and though I managed to survive it, it left its scars. 

So I relate to my main character, though I don’t know that I would actually go so far as to sign on for the job, but I sure can enjoy the thought of it. That’s what makes me really want to finish this book. I think there are probably more than a few people who would get a vicarious thrill from some of the less than pleasant ends met by some of the dirtbags in the story, but I also think there’s enough other stuff in the book to make it worth a read. 

I grew up in a neighborhood that was also home to a well known Mafia figure, who shall remain nameless. But often I would see his goons out on the street in front of the house, dark glasses and dark suits, looking like bouncers waiting for the important man inside to come out.

I have to say we had little crime in the area, largely because they took out anyone they didn’t like, so the other criminal element stayed away, making the Mafia better at keeping the neighborhood safe than the NYPD did. 

Of course none of what I’m saying here will win me any popularity contests. The book won’t either. It’s rude, crude, full of violence and angst. It also has a lot of truth in in. So although it’s going to be a nightmare to finish, I will do it, slogging away one day at a time till it’s done. 

Then I’ll probably duck and take cover.

Happy New Year, Dark of Night, Free Tomorrow December 31, 2012

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To celebrate the New Year I am offering the latest book in my vampire series, Dark of Night free tomorrow, January 1. It’s available as an e-book for Kindle on Amazon.com. Enjoy dear readers and I wish you all good things this coming year!Image

Rise of the Guardians December 29, 2012

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So I just got home from the movies. My daughter wanted to see Rise of the Guardians. It was playing at the small local theatre we have a couple of miles from the house, in our little, as my daughter describes it, podunk town.

I wasn’t real motivated, since I worked last night and it meant three hours sleep, then gulping down a pot of coffee to reanimate myself. But I have to say it was worth the effort and the lost sleep.

This animated children’s film was much more than I expected it to be. First off it had a great cast doing the voice overs. Jude Law was spellbinding as the Boogieman, Hugh Jackman quirky as an Aussie Easter Bunny and Alec Baldwin stole the show, in I think his finest performance to date, as a Russian accented, tattooed Santa Claus.

The premise of the movie was not terribly original. It’s a typical good against evil story, pitting the Boogieman against the Guardians – Santa, the Sandman, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy, whose job it is to protect the children of the world.

The twist to the story was in trying to recruit Jack Frost as a guardian. Jack was invisible in the real world because the children didn’t believe in him. But he joined the others in their battle against evil and found himself in the process. He was so engaging and appealing a character that you could not help but root for him.

The movie was a visual delight, the actors made their characters shine and I have to say, I really loved this movie – enough to buy it when it comes out on DVD. I couldn’t help but think how wonderful it must be for the people connected with the film to work on such a wonderful and creative project.

Though this is a kid’s film, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to adults. There were quite a few in the audience and I think they liked it as much as I did. If you’re looking for a little feel good entertainment, this is definitely it!

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