Happy editing

Make editing fun

By Emma Palova

Lowell, MI- I liken the editing process to Adalimumab’s 130 patents. You never know what you’re going to discover during revision.

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Copyright (c) 2019 Emma Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved.

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Out of Florida

Thursday, February 21, 2019 3:14 PM

Aboard Allegiant Flight 1600 from Punta Gorda to Grand Rapids

By Emma Palova

In Air- I am leaving Florida eight days later, just like I have arrived, with the rain. In between, the sun and the full moon graced the clear skies.

On the horizon, the turquoise sea touched the blue sky in a magnificent union.

But before the full moon on Feb. 18, a strong morning tide hit the Venice Beach washing ashore shells galore and wracks wrapped in seaweed.

The perfect morning cup inside a cockle shell was hiding the jewels from the sea; small olive and bubble shells, sturdy jewel boxes and translucent jingle shells.

I spent a magnificent week in “Paradise” where the hibiscus bloomed in shades of orange, the banana trees in white and the palms rendered orange ripe figs.

The front yards were tropical gardens with “Birds of Paradise” just opening up their orange beaks.

The sunsets were a splash from an artist’s palate of yellows, reds, oranges and browns.

It’s February- Soak it up, stir an argument

Yoga instructor Elin reminded us this morning to soak up the beach life in February.

“You walked here, laid in the sand, listened to the waves,” she said. “Soak it up. It’s February.”

On Wednesday, Elin held up a large red leaf and said something about mailing it as a postcard. Since, the wind carried Elin’s words into the sea, I missed the details. For some odd reason, I thought it had to be a mangrove leaf.

I picked up some reddish leaves yesterday thinking they were mangrove leaves on the dune banks by Sharky’s. Yellow veins branched into the ripe red leaf. It resembled large grape leaves.

My hosts in Venice were my parents Ella and Vaclav Konecny of Michigan. They made fun of me because I believed in the USPS red leaf postcard program. I asked my dad to take me to the post office, so I could mail the red leaf. My mom Ella was convinced my prized leaf wasn’t a mangrove, and that I shouldn’t pursue mailing it.

“Ask Siri,” my dad said.

When I asked Siri, and she knew nothing about the mangrove leaf USPS mailing program, doubts also entered my mind.

My dad came to the conclusion that it was an April Fool’s joke. In our homeland we used the following prank:

“It’s like going to the store to get mosquito fat,” he laughed. “I am not going inside the post office with you.”

“But, it’s not April Fool’s,” I refused to give up.

I found myself in the midst of an argument over the validity of the USPS leaf postcard mailing program.

“Leave your dad alone, he needs to get some rest,” mom snapped.

“Well, maybe we can wrap up some meat inside the leaf and make rolls,” I defended my grounds sarcastically.

My dad who never gives up suggested that I ask Elin. After my last morning yoga session on the beach on Thursday, I made my way through Elin’s fans to hear it from the horse’s mouth.

“You pick up some sea grape leaves,” Elin said pointing to the banks by the beach house and take it to the post office. The postal workers get a kick out of it. A lady from my class sent out five of them the other day. The postage is under a dollar. Send it out within five days or they dry out and crumble.”

According to Elin, the post office can even put a dried out leaf in a cellophane.

“I told you, it wasn’t a mangrove leaf,” my mom persisted.

“You know they wrap up meat in grape leaves in Greece, right?” I snapped back.

Back home at the writing studio Feb. 22, 2019

Lowell, MI -That was it. I was running out of time to go to the post office, since I was flying out of Florida in the afternoon.

I wrote my address on the sea grape leaf, mom provided the stamps, and dad disguised the leaf in a sac and took it to the mailbox. Dad was convinced that I made a fool out of him.

It remains unknown whether he put the sac with the sea grape leaf in the mail, or in the trash can.

In a bizarre way, we were all right; mom with her contention that it is not a mangrove leaf, me with the sea grape meat rolls and dad with the April Fool’s prank, that he had probably created by dropping the leaf in the trash.

I’ll find out soon.

Copyright © 2019 Emma Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved.

Beach treasures

Life on the beach beats in a different rhythm

By Emma Palova

EW Emma’s Writings

Venice, FL- The morning tide washed ashore treasures galore: large speckled cockles, coquinas, calico scallops, whelks, sturdy white jewel boxes, twisted conches, translucent jingle shells in shades of orange, olive and bubble shells.

The yellowish cocquina and turkey shells were still attached holding on tight to each other. The mollusks have long jumped out of the shells digging themselves into the sand.

The warm westerly wind combined with the cold Norte whipped a white foam on top of the waves breaking and crashing to the shore.

The perfect morning cup of jewels hiding inside a large cockle shell was still filled with water. A skilled paddle boarder navigated the wild waves falling only once, and climbing back up again. A sailboat rocked in the waves.

A dead seagull found its resting place on the beach. A trio of pelicans delighted in the wind flying ten feet above the water.

A slippery wrack of branches and seaweed washed ashore will serve later as a buffet for the birds. Wrack communities are native to Florida beaches; it is stuff cast ashore by the sea.

The encounters on the two-mile long morning walk on Venice Beach range from brief hellos to “How long are you going to stay?”

People walking on the beach were not only couples or families, but often a parent with an adult child. Life on beach takes on a different rhythm; time constraints disappear.

The beach walk has inspired the last story in Shifting Sands: Secrets, a sequel to Shifting Sands: Short Stories.

Feature photo: The perfect morning cup of jewels

The perfect morning full of jewels washed ashore still filled with sea water.

To be continued

Copyright (c) 2019 Emma Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved.

Notes from the Beach

Saturday, February 16, 2019 5:11 AM

Venice, Fl- On Valentine’s Day, I went to the beach to live deliberately.

It was 50 F in the morning, and I was still like an ice cube after arriving in the sunshine state from the frigid North. I did yoga with Elin on the Venice Beach including the “palm tree” pose to honor the new palms on Venice Avenue.

I breathed in the fresh air coming from the Gulf waters and watched the seagulls fly over my head.

The lady doing the “cat and the cow” pose in front of me was wearing socks with the following verbiage on the bottom of each sock: “If you can read this, bring me a glass of wine.”

We parked in front of the beautiful Venice City Hall built in the Mediterranean Revival style much like the rest of the historic and Venetian theme districts.

One of my favorite joints in the bustling downtown is Croissant & Co., a French artisan bakery magically transported from Paris.

Even the mousse desserts were decorated for Valentine’s with ornate words in pink and red. My dad professor Vaclav Konecny, who never drinks coffee, ordered café de la maison or house coffee. Mom Ella tried their tarte d’apricot or apricot pie and I had salmon and spinach quiche. My dad with a gift of gab greeted the bicyclists in front of the bakery, and to his great surprise they spoke French.

“He’s a charmer,” said the clerk at the Green Parrot gift shop.

Back at the condo, I noticed figs on the palm and the orange hibiscus blossoms.

It warmed up by 22 F in a few hours.

“ It would take three days to warm up in Michigan,” mom said.

On the beach

Digging my feet deeper into the sand, it felt cool from Wednesday’s rain. On a perfect day, the blue Gulf waters touch the blues of the sky in a magnificent union.

This blues symphony harmonizes with the rhythm of the waves.

I thought the slight breeze from the South should have a name like Zephyros signifying it’s softness, while reflecting the turquoise waters. Water erosion has washed some of the beach away while creating a bank that wasn’t there during my last visit in 2016.

I watched the beach goers with their sifters in search for the elusive black shark teeth. They usually emptied the small cage full of broken shells, but no shark teeth. The sifter rents for $7 an hour at Sharky’s boutique. It seems to me like a very zen thing to do: the water goes through the sifter, takes with it smaller parts and leaves in fragments of shells. If you’re lucky, a three-prong black shark tooth might be among them.

More seasoned hunters appeared by the Sharky’s Pier. This is where hundreds of fishermen cast lines with bait into the water attracting both dolphins and sharks.

I’ve seen schools of dolphins usually around noon lured by the bait. Mom and dad have seen dolphins in the morning at the jetty again with fishermen throwing lines.

Back at the pier, a kid caught a baby shark and proudly showed it off for a photo op. Then, he threw it back into the water. The kid with the shark scene reminded me of the white Egret with its yellowish beak showing off in front of cameras by the light posts on the pier waiting for his reward. If the heron doesn’t get its shrimp, he flies off.

One evening, we walked on the pier to watch one of the magnificent sunsets. It looked like an artist tipped his or her palette with the yellow in the middle and the oranges, the reds and the browns running away from it; the yellow explosion was flanked by the shades of blue on top and bottom.

Sunday surprised me with crowds; hundreds of people flocked to the beach with everything you can imagine.The sandy shore speckled by beach umbrellas, parasols and tents looked like a circus, only without animals.

If a colony of seagulls found a spot in between, they would invade it.

It’s not unusual to hear French or Russian in this area with authentic restaurants.

To be continued

Copyright © 2019 Emma Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved.

Writing Away 2019

Florida retreat brings inspirations with excerpts

By Emma Palova

EW Emma’s Writings

Lowell, MI – I am getting ready for my annual writer’s retreat in Florida. Each year in February, I head down south to the Gulf coast to get some sunny inspirations for my writings.

It has become a tradition since the late 2000s to visit with my parents, who winterize in Venice. Each year brings different insights; from dolphin sightings, chats with fishermen to encounters with beach painters and sand castle builders.

Two of my favorite memories are of course from the beach. I was walking on the beach, when French-speaking tourists asked me where is the west. The sun was just setting on the horizon to our right. So, I pointed in that direction.

“Oui, merci,” they shook their heads laughing.

The other one is from Sharky’s Pier. I walked on the pier boardwalk to watch the sunset.

It was getting increasingly dark in the orange glow on the Gulf side, but the shore was glistening in silver with the rising moon in the east. The contrast between night and day was striking much like the characters in my stories. Some are dark and shady from the very beginning like chief Will in the story “Chief” from my new book “Shifting Sands: Secrets.” Copyright (2019) Emma Palova. Other characters like manager Ricky go awry with time. Some characters shine bright throughout the story like the Belrockton matron Doris in the story “Silk Nora.”

Nature with its changing faces has always inspired me, as long as I can remember.

A heart and a cross made from sea shells overgrown by beach grasses is a close third runner up in the circle of inspirations.

“Start asking yourself questions,” one of my former editors said.

Many years later, I ask myself: “Who made that statement in the sand and for whom? How come it lasted?”

Then, there are golden nuggets from the Floridians who have never left sunny Florida.

“You mean to tell us there is snow on the ground in Michigan?” guys asked me in disbelief.

“Plenty of it. We have to stake the driveway for the snow plowing,” I said.

I am looking forward to chatting with my parents about out immigration saga, now spanning three generations.

I love yoga on the beach with Elin Larsen and hundreds of her followers. Her DVDs help me get through Michigan winters.

“Just move,” Elin encourages.

Excerpts from the “Chief”

And now this mess just before the holidays. In earlier years, he would light up to fight off the anxiety. He couldn’t even do that anymore. Nervously, he tapped his fingers against his thigh. He noticed he needed new pants.

Ricky in the meantime was staring blankly into the Monday rain on Main Street. The rain mixed with a few snowflakes, and his short drive to work was awful. And he wasn’t a good driver either. His strategy was as always to wait out until the other side spills out all the information putting him at the advantage. But this time it was taking longer than usual. Ricky was afraid of eating the whole pencil. Plus, he had a long day ahead of him with a meeting in the evening.

“I got a letter,” said the mayor pulling out a folded sheet of paper.

Ricky looked directly at the mayor fidgeting.

“Did you want to read it to me, Carl?” asked Ricky, “or you just want to tell me?”

The mayor too knew how slick Ricky ​was from previous dealings​ with him. He decided to be careful this time.

“It’s about the chief,” he said softly.

Of course, Ricky should have known right from the get go that it was about the police chief. The other day when he was getting a haircut at Salon 111, he overheard a conversation from the neighboring chair.

That was another bad habit in his portfolio: eavesdropping coupled with gossip.[EP1] 

“The chief was trying to change something in a file and he got caught,” said the cute redhead hairdresser leaning over the head of the lady in the chair fluffing her blonde hair.

“What was he trying to change?” the blonde raised her eyebrows looking at herself and at the redhead in the mirror.

Both of them stared into the mirror, as if the answer was inside that piece of glass.

Ricky rubbed his forehead, as he tried to chase away that scene from the salon from his mind. He knew it was going to be a long day and a long week in Riddleyville when the salons and the bars start buzzing with tidbits from the city hall.

“What about him?” Ricky looked up at the mayor. “He called in sick or what? I know it’s Monday and he worked the Ladies Night Out and the weekend. I don’t have a problem with him calling in.”

As always Ricky was trying to steer the conversation in his preferred direction.

“Somebody else can fill in for him tonight at the meeting,” he said. “I’ll take care of it.”

Copyright © 2019 Emma Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved.


Creative Endeavor Project

Michigan News Agency supports local authors with Creative Endeavor Project

By Emma Palova

Kalamazoo, MI -I had the pleasure of meeting Dean Margaret Hauck, owner of Michigan News Agency (MNA) in downtown Kalamazoo on Saturday. The old-time newsstand with hundreds of newspapers, magazines, paperbacks, comics, souvenirs, candy and tobacco has been around since 1947.

The newsstand is emerging as a “literary hot spot.”

Most recently Hauck started the Creative Endeavor Project to support local authors.

“We will sell your books as a pass through and return all of the money to you, authors,” Hauck says. “The News hopes this will encourage our writing communities to strive to do your work.”

Hauck turned to me and said:

“You’ve done your work.”

I found my book “Shifting Sands: Short Stories” in the Creative Endeavor Project section up front by the window. I will soon have the second book for MNA and others: “Shifting Sands: Secrets.” (c) 2019 Emma Palova.

Book cover for “Secrets” aka the Face of Gossip.

There are 150 different titles included in the Creative Endeavor Project.

The MNA displays books in a special section up front and on their website http://www.michigannews.biz

All of these are recent titles.

The address of the newsstand is 308 W. Michigan Avenue, Kalamazoo. To talk to Hauck about your book call 1-269-343-5958.

Hauck is very encouraging:

“Hey–all you aspiring writers–come talk to me about your artistic creations.”

Copyright (c) 2019. Emma Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved.

In the dark

Day four of power outage with excerpts from “Waiting for Snow”

By Emma Palova

EW Emma’s Writings

Lowell, MI – I have just finished cooking Sunday dinner, as Ludek ran back in the house shouting, “Everything is back on.” I could finally hear the air coming from the heating vents, as the house came alive with sounds.

During the four-day long power outage, I had to learn how to ration the energy from the generator; it was either the water pump or another appliance on top of keeping up the house temperature to prevent the pipes from freezing. I had to fill jars with water.

Even brewing a cup of tea became an unsurmountable task, because the kettle was taking too much power.

I could either use the stovetop or the oven, but not both. Then came the issue with “potty breaks” and not enough water beyond two flushes.

After a while, the oven knocked out the generator due to overload. It managed to maintain the heat in the house while we were using the woodstove as a back-up when the generator went out.

We had the last power outage of this magnitude during the spring ice storm of 2003. The generator got its test run.

This morning we ate hot breakfast at Saint Pat’s parish hall. On our way back, we finally spotted the Consumer’s trucks working on power lines near the Franciscans.

“They’re getting closer,” I said.

“Close is not good enough,” Ludek said.

Last night we returned from the new production of Phantom of the Opera at the Miller Auditorium in Kalamazoo to our house and neighborhood pitched in black. I thought I was back at the opera with the phantom lurking in the surrounding woods and singing “Angel of Music:”

“Angel of music, guide and guardian………”

The worn-out generator stopped running and Ludek had to fix it again-something about spark plugs. The house was still warm, so the generator must have been running for most of the afternoon.

As of yesterday, the Celebrations Cinemas started offering free movies for people to warm up.

I watched the disturbing news: An 82-year-old lady made it through the outage by warming up in her car, running back home for a bathroom break. In the evening, she visited with her sister.

“She’s a nun, so I joined the convent,” the lady joked.

On Sunday morning, we passed the Consumer’s restoration time of 3:30 a.m. No power.

But the Facebook posts from people getting back power were very encouraging and enlightening. The smallest tasks turned into accomplishments during the power outage.

Eight states were helping Consumer’s restore power in ice-stricken Michigan around the clock. There were more than 200,000 people without power.

“Thank you, guys.”

Friday, Feb. 8

The temperature in the house is dropping quickly; it’s down to 62 F now. It is 16 degrees outside with winds gusting at 45 mph. The weather advisory warns of large chunks of ice falling from trees and power lines; rain showers will change to snow showers and wet roads will quickly freeze.

We’ve been without power since 10:30 am yesterday, Feb. 7, 2019. During the last two weeks, we got the wrath of the polar vortex, refreeze and now flash freeze. The generator wasn’t working until now, as Ludek had to come home from work early to fix it. He brought me a large cup of hot coffee.

When the power goes out in the country, that means the water pump stops working and we’re without water as well. From the window of my writing studio, I see the snow swirling in the wind. Our spruce tree with drooping branches turned into a green tent.

At the onset of the refreeze on Wednesday, Feb. 6. I experienced strange energy. Eight minutes before the end of my yoga session with Elin, the TV screen went dark. A strange force propelled me to put on my boots, sweatshirt and jacket. I went into the gardens surrounding our country home to take photos. I shouldn’t have. The branches were cracking under the weight of ice. I started feeling dizzy and almost passed out in my little veggie and herb garden. I looked at the frozen Weigela shrub and thought of the novel “Thorn Birds” by Colleen McCullough. The main character priest Ralph de Bricassart dies in the beautiful gardens in Australia.

“Lord, please do not let me die yet until my work is finished,” I said.

Winter strengthens the silence in the country when the wind is not blowing and the branches or power lines are not falling to the ground.

The woodstove now glows with fire and warmth. I am brewing some hot tea by Health King and listening to the struggling generator outside. I realize that we remain totally at the mercy of nature. It is a humbling thought.

As the Chinese say: Water is the most powerful element because of its non-resistance. It wears a hole in a rock drop by drop, and tears away everything in front of it.

“Fallasburg looks like a war zone,” a friend posted on Facebook from the nearby Kent County park.

Others posted that the weather outside and the power outage are romantic, conducive to a simple life before technology. I can see the romance in the ice encased landscape, in the burning wood that was chopped from the trees above the hill over the railroad tracks and in the cup of tea.

As neighbors, we’re used to helping each other in times of need such as this. The garbage hasn’t been hauled away for two weeks in a row. Last week, we were without postal service. The Internet is not working. The school has been out for 10 days. The politicians say that the kids won’t have to make up for lost time. The Consumers gave us no restoration time for power.

Time in all its dimensions is often the subject of my stories. Most recently, I wrote a short story “Waiting for Snow.” Last year, an exhibit at the Franciscan Sisters showcased “Waiting for Spring.” Now, I could write “Waiting for Power.”

My brother Vas, who lives in Paris, MI, complains that he’s constantly waiting for something.

“Wait till Hell freezes over.”

And there is actually a community in Michigan that is called Hell. I’ve never been there. When the snow and ice are gone, I might swing over there to check it out.

Everything is relative to time and in time.

Excerpt from “Waiting for Snow”

It was January in the new year of the Earth Pig, and there was still no snow on the ground. Green stalks of grass and weeds were peeking out of the ground and laughing in the wind at the parked snowmobiles with no riders. Other equipment too was idling.

The eager machines just sat still waiting in the front and backyards. Mother Earth was refusing to cooperate on one side, on the other she released her wrath on the coastal states.

The Midwest was sleeping its winter dream dipped into deep dry freeze and after the holiday blues. A man in the tiny community of Paris put some water in his coffee maker. The year-round Christmas tree was still lit and cast colorful lights on the modest kitchen with a broken cabinet underneath the kitchen sink. He stored a bucket with a rag there for his chores; now this was a habit from the old country in Europe.

The first morning cigarette of the day was the best one. He deeply inhaled and let out the smoke in gray circles. One wall of the mobile home was an entire mirror divided into three separate sections. He often walked to the mirror wall to look at himself. But just before looking in the mirror, Colin had to look outside. He pulled aside the checkered racing flag that was covering the window overlooking the front yard with a view on Paris Road.

Colin had to move through a set of obstacles to get to the window. These were large train layouts taking up the entire living room. Colin’s mom called it a fire safety hazard, so would the firemen.

The green and yellow grass lacked the coveted white cover. Colin carefully stepped outside on the wooden steps to make sure there was no snow. He went to the green snowmobile with the new permit and a full tank of gas.

Paris sat on an extensive trail system close to a county park. The community had a motel, a pizza parlor and a general store “Papa’s;” all located on the trail.

Colin, always wearing a train conductor’s black hat, called himself “The Trainman.”

Copyright © 2019. Emma Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved.

Super Bowl LIII Inspirations

January ice blown away by February victory of Patriots; Wind never felt better

By Emma Palova

EW Emma’s Writings

Lowell, MI- After the “unforgiving freeze” in the last week of January, the heated sixth victory of the New England Patriots in this year’s Super Bowl felt like a warm balsam on the rattled nerves. It melted away the ice with the wind, and ushered in inspiration.

As an author, people ask me a lot of questions. My favorite one is: “What inspires you?”

As a freelance journalist, I’ve asked local artists and authors that same question more than a hundred times. I like being on both sides of that question; you never know what answer you’re going to get or give.

Sometimes, inspiration comes in the form of an open space that needs to be filled, as a gap in time while waiting for snow or spring or from a masterpiece game.

I always eagerly expect the answer, but I have to think about my own response. There’s a certain tension in the question itself, plus it’s very timely as I have just found out. The artists most often say that nature inspires them and they have their specific spots they love to paint. For artist Kathleen Mooney, it’s the Yellow Dog River in Upper Peninsula, for others it’s the pretty garden by Ball’s Ice Cream or the dogwood by the Franciscan Sisters.

Authors say that family, parish stories, crime and history have inspired them.

However, I’ve never heard anyone in the artist/author tribes say, “The Super Bowl inspires me.”

On the contrary, I saw posts on writing groups on social media, that they’re not going to watch the biggest American game.

“Superbowl Sunday? No thanks. I’ll write. For the first time in about a month,” Jade states.

“Need to correct American writers tonight; it’s Super Bowl (two words, not one),” Warren responds.

“Proof that I don’t care about the game,” Jade professes his deepest beliefs.

“Superb owl,” Hugo responds. “I mean you’re wasting time on Facebook…”

Regardless, the correct spelling, the big game spurred a dialogue wherever you went; from general stores in the country, churches, main streets to living rooms. Anytime you have a heated discussion, you have a story: real and fiction.

After watching the spectacle on CBS from the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, I beg to differ from reports of a boring game. The opening NFL commercial with John Malkowich from the Roman Colosseum in Rome talking on the phone with Peyton Manning in the USA rocked the boat.

It was a game hard to watch, according to the commentators. Some would call it a nail-biting old-fashioned football game.

“Wind never felt better,” Budweiser touted their use of wind energy in an ad.

And foreign car ads dominated the automobile scene, along with robots like The Transformer.

After 266 games, the New England Patriots won for the sixth time the Vince Lombardi Trophy on Sunday night just around 10 p.m.

“It was a physical game for a physical team,” a commentator said. “Any way you slice it, it was a defensive masterpiece.”

That’s the story twist: a victory in a defensive game. Wind never felt better.

“It’s sweet, we’re still in,” said Patriots owner CEO Bob Kraft. “We’re all patriots.”

Quarterback Tom Brady, 41, is expected to play the top role for the Patriots until 45. In response to the question what motivates and inspires him, Brady, looked around the stadium, and said.

“You, my fans, it feels like at home.”

Ditto, Tom.

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