It’s two o’clock in the afternoon—time for General Hospital if this were Monday and I were at home. But no, it’s Sunday, and I’m at Wellspring Retreat House, staring out the window over my laptop at a bleak vista of leafless trees and ground carpeted by fallen leaves in shades of brown and red.
I’m starting a week-long writer’s retreat, and the snow has just started to fall. They’re predicting a major storm—up to a foot of snow, maybe, unless it turns to freezing rain. Either way, I’m prepared to hunker down for the duration, armed with ample supplies of food and drink. I’ve been here twice before, and although I enjoyed both stays, they didn’t prove very productive. I’m hoping the third time will be the charm.
The brochure for Wellspring House describes it as “a quiet place to be creative…in the hill country of Western Massachusetts, between the Berkshires and the Connecticut River Valley.” Located in the tiny town of Ashfield, it’s a rambling old carriage house, “renovated with an emphasis on private and quiet spaces.” And indeed, the quiet is absolute, except for the never ending crickety sounds of my tinnitus.
When I was last here, I was working on a sequel to my vampire soap opera thriller, Hope Dawns Etermal. I described that week in two blog posts from August, 2015. Rereading them now, I decided to repost them within the next couple of days. The first contains a vivid description of Wellspring and its proprietor, the retired professor Preston Browning, and both reflect how the killing of my favorite soap opera character, Dr. Silas Clay as played by Michael Easton, sent my week into a chaotic spiral of devastation.
I never did finish that sequel to Hope Dawns Eternal. Like my two other thrillers, I thought my soap opera novel would lend itself to at least one sequel. That’s how the most successful novelists build their brands, after all—they create characters compelling enough to inspire readers to follow them on their further adventures in endless series of books. Many of my favorite authors come to mind—Lee Child, Patricia Cornwell and Tess Gerritsen, to name a few.
But I’m not built that way. My mind is too restless to mine the same territory over and over—unless the subject of my writing is me. That’s why lately I’ve been concentrating on memoir, and specifically on my work in progress, Subdural, which explores the brain injury that almost killed me last year, and its relationship to family history, especially regarding alcohol. That’s the project I’m here to explore this week. I’ve got lots of pages written, but there’s much more to go.
I plan to start work on a proposal for Subdural, so that I can start querying agents and publishers in January. I self-published my three novels, and they’re all available on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle format. I don’t regret my choices in that regard, but I believe this project will be my best yet, and my most marketable. Hey, I’m only 78, and it’s never too late to scale new heights of success—until suddenly it is, and that’s why I can’t afford to wait. Especially now—two new inches of snow have fallen since I began this post, and it looks as if I’ll be snowed in for awhile.
Tomorrow I’ll repost my 2015 blog about Wellspring. If you’re a writer, it may inspire you to come here, and there are plenty of vacancies in the winter months. Please subscribe to this website so you won’t miss it. And please leave a comment so I know you’re out there!
Wellspring House in summer