As Nat King Cole used to sing, "Roll out those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer, Those days of soda and pretzels and beer ..." Recently, I've been busy with Camp Grandma, hosting three of my grandchildren -- thankfully, not all at the same time, and no beer involved -- for sailing camp here in Annapolis. Meanwhile, twenty-eight miles to the north in Baltimore, my good friend, author Sujata Massey, is thinking about summer, too. Sujata writes:
Summer officially started for me this week. My teenaged son and daughter are at liberty for the next 77 days. I still wake up at 6:30 a.m., but it’s not to rush around coaxing people down to breakfast. It’s quiet time to sit on my front porch in an Adirondack chair with coffee and the newspaper.
The Baltimore summers are known for thick, steamy weather, but the mornings are usually cool with a soft, whispery breeze that runs through the tall, hundred-year-old oaks and maples on our street. Each morning, that breeze seems to whisper that the kids really might sleep till 9 a.m. On an early summer morning, I visit with our beagle. He seems to mumble that he will take a walk with me later. But when I put the leash on him, he won’t stir from the couch. Just as my kids are loathe to depart the house for the pool just down the block or anywhere else.
At a school auction this spring, I foolishly purchased a package of family outings. We now own multiple admissions to Roundtop Mountain, Luray Caverns, Frederick Keys Baseball and the Maryland Science Center. Looking at this package makes me feel like I’ve got a hopeless job.
But who’s really at fault? This summer, I pledged to swim at the pool daily. After that I hope to prepare some incredibly healthy and summery thing for dinner that everyone likes. Some of those meals will be picnics at the pool. I will invite a family or two for a barbecue on the deck. What the hell, we should invite the whole neighborhood to a potluck party with an outdoor film screening of a great classic! Of course, I’ll do all of this after I’ve written four pages of good fiction every day. I will write in the morning, naturally. When everyone’s sleeping!
But that goal seems elusive. And the latest book I’m part of didn’t exactly involve new writing. I’ve slipped one of my backlist mysteries about the perils of flower arranging in Japan—THE FLOWER MASTER--into a book bundle of five previously published mysteries, along with Libby Fischer Hellmann, Christine Kling, Zoë Sharp, and Julie Smith. Because these novels feature brave and energetic women, we are calling it KILLER FEMMES.
Big books seem part and parcel of summer. For a lot of people, this means a Russian novel or something similar they meant to get through in high school. For me, it’s a whole shelf-load of Indian classics. But summer reading also means beloved ‘beach books’ that get warped from water, as well as loads of novels stored on an E-Reader. Both are easy pleasures that you don’t have to leave the porch to enjoy. It’s a delight to find fun older books that are vanishing from libraries as E-books with stylish new covers and every word crisp and intact. Believe it or not, that’s how I’m locating some very old Rabindranath Tagore novels—free because they are in the public domain!
Summer seems long--but like any novel, I know that it will have unexpected twists that I don’t know about yet. And perhaps our family’s lethargy is not exactly laziness. We are living in the moment, gazing with wonder at the novelty of unstructured time. Hanging on the porch feels good.
Sujata Massey is the author of The Sleeping Dictionary, a historical suspense novel set in British colonial India, and ten mystery novels. She is a former Femme Fatale (from the snail-mailed newsletter days), something that may have subconsciously influenced her titling of Killer Femmes, an E-Book at Amazon, Barnes&Noble Nook, iBooks and Kobo.