Summer schemes

by | May 20, 2018 | The Writer's Life | 8 comments

S. Lee Manning: It’s the end of May, and since I’ve been traveling, I’ve experienced spring three different times: California, New Jersey, and now Vermont. In Vermont, spring comes late. It was thirty-four degrees last night, and when I drove past Stowe, there was still snow on the top of Mt. Mansfield. Still, the trenches of mud that mark early spring have been smoothed over on my road; the lilacs are budding; the daffodils dance in the breeze; the bears have been rooting in the garbage, and the black flies are biting. It’s finally spring, and by the end of June, it’ll be summer.
Spring planting in Vermont – but not in my yard.

Yeah, end of June. It’s Vermont.
But given the proximity of summer, even in Vermont, and the fact that it’s the topic of the month, should we choose to write about it, it’s time to discuss my summer plans.
Another aside – didn’t you hate that essay when you were a kid?
Okay, back on subject. My summer plans. I have a few concrete plans. A weekend in Maine for Maine Crime Wave in the beginning of June, a lovely spot and a good time last year; Thrillerfest in New York in July again, always great fun. Many of us Rogues will be in attendance at Thrillerfest – and we’re doing a panel together. Come say hi.
But except for those weekends, I’m having a hard time planning my summer. I will be writing and editing, of course, but when I’m not, I don’t know what I’m going to do. So here’s some of my possibilities.
Maybe I’ll plant some roses. I’ll need to recruit Jim to dig the holes, because I suck at digging holes,  

and I’ll plant dozens of rose bushes. Okay, not dozens, the yard’s not that big and I’m not likely to talk Jim into digging dozens of holes– so maybe five – but they’ll be edible roses. Actually, all roses are edible unless you spray them with stuff to kill beetles and diseases, which limits what kind of roses you can grow to those that are disease resistant and able to survive winters with temperatures of 30 below in the winter. It’s Vermont. So, there’re maybe two different varieties of roses that fit the criteria. Okay, so I’ll order two of one, three of the other, and then I’ll make rose petal jam, rose petal liquor, and rose petal vinegars. I’ll become the Vermont queen of rose products.But that will leave me little time to write, and anyway, I’m not really all that good at growing things – or cooking for that matter. So maybe I’ll plant five rose bushes and enjoy how they look.  Or maybe not.

 Or maybe I’ll take a long bike ride all around the Eastern Provinces of Quebec, passing forests and farms, stopping at small towns to eat perfectly prepared French food and speaking in perfect French. But that would mean leaving the cats for days, which I don’t want to do, not writing, which I do want to do, and sunburn. So totally unrealistic, especially the idea of speaking perfect French. More realistic: maybe one afternoon sometime over the summer, we’ll load the bikes, drive north an hour to cross the border, take a four or five mile ride, have dinner at a great French restaurant in the country – and manage to order in our broken French.
Maybe I’ll get through the stacks of books that I’ve accumulated and want to read. Do people ever get to the bottom of their stacks of books? I remember doing so as a kid. It was part of the allure of summer: Long hot days on the front porch, curled up with a book, but the stack was smaller –because the library only let me take out five at a time – and there were only three television stations. Yes, I’m that old. So maybe I’ll read some of the stack, but I’m not getting to the bottom, especially since I restock every time I go in a bookstore or to a conference.
So, I’m back to the fact that I don’t really have much in the way of summer plans.
Truth is, I don’t want to plan the summer.
The view from my porch. Not bad, eh?

Truth is, I want to wake up to my cup of coffee, watch the news, and write. Sometimes I’ll take afternoon walks up the mountain road or shop at farmer’s markets. I want to eat freshly picked raspberries and chicken burned to a crisp on our grill. Sometimes, I’ll splurge on a soft swirled vanilla and maple syrup ice cream. As the spirit moves me, I want to read, or play my guitar. And sometimes, I’ll sit on my screened-in porch overlooking the garden, watch the sky darken into a glittering display of stars, and taunt the mosquitos buzzing outside the screens and hungering for my blood.

So, maybe I do have plans after all. And they sound pretty good to me.
How about you? What do you plan for the summer?

Don’t Miss a Thing!



  1. Karna Bodman

    Summer plans? Let's see — first on my list is getting together with you, our other Rogue colleagues and tons of great thriller writers at ThrillerFest the second week of July at the Grand Hyatt in New York. It's a wonderful place for established writers to get to know – and encourage — aspiring writers, attend workshops, meet editors and learn so much from the pros. There's also a "bookstore" set up where anyone can come in, buy books from attending authors and have them autographed. See you there!

  2. Robin Burcell

    Karna, you're making me wish I was going to ThrillerFest this year! Alas… summer plans don't include this. Yet. (There's always time to change my mind!)

  3. Robin Burcell

    Summer plans… Sounds delightful. I have nothing exciting on the horizon, except writing. Oh, and my kids dropping in and out as their plans shift and change. We just moved, so we're unsure of what the summer will bring to the new house. It has a different exposure, the backyard faces north, and I'm looking forward to summer breakfast and coffee on the patio. (Still a little chilly for that. I can sit there, but my coffee gets cold too fast. Expect that to change in the next few weeks!)

  4. Lisa Black

    Wow, summer. I hate to be a wet blanket, but I live in Florida. It’s always summer here, and actual summer summer is not always something to feel happy about. It monsoons every day and is oppressively humid 24/7. It never cools off, not even at 2 am. The only advantage to summer, and it is an advantage, is that traffic gets light and you can go to your favorite restaurant on a weekend without an hour wait. Every summer I tell myself I’ll go to the beach, because I can actually get to the beach in 45 minutes instead of 2 hours.
    Down here the winter is when everything happens, when the state is full of tourists and snowbirds. That’s when the libraries have speakers and book festivals and writer’s groups have meetings and conventions, and your social life picks up because you want to go out with and throw dinner parties for visiting friends. This is ‘season’, and the ‘height of season’ is January, February and March. For the past two years I’ve written books during this three month period and I really mean it this time when I say I’m not doing that again. I will start a book during summer, when nothing else is happening. As soon as I finish my current WIP, that is, and as soon as I get some tiny sort of idea for what the heck the next book is going to be about.
    Incidentally there is no ‘off season.’ There’s just season, and not-season. Don’t ask me to explain that. I’ve only been here 18 years.

  5. S. Lee Manning

    Hope you'll change your mind, Robin. It'll be fun. Karna, as always, looking forward to seeing you.

  6. S. Lee Manning

    I agree, Lisa, that summer in Florida is less than thrilling. I like Florida in January and February when Vermont is in the minus thirty territory, and it's lovely. I have friends thinking of spending summers in Vermont because of the heat of the summers in Florida. So are they maple birds as opposed to snow birds?

  7. S. Lee Manning

    Sounds about what I'd like for my summer. it's nice when the kids come by.

  8. Lisa Black

    That makes sense!