Monday, December 2, 2019


Last year, when I started seriously getting back into writing, I started listening to podcasts.

Now I've been a podcast fan for some time - I love the variety of topics out there, definitely something for every interest. But up until last summer, I hadn't thought about writing podcasts. I started in with one called The Worried Writer, and expanded from there. Podcasts on craft, style, technique, marketing, and other tips, tricks and knowledge I still don't have a use for, but find interesting anyway.

The thing about podcasts over books or articles on writing is that you're listening to real people - like yourself - talk about writing, and it makes it all seem doable. Which I always knew that it was, I just got away from it for a few years, and it was starting to bubble under the surface again.

One of the many podcasts I listen to is Wayne Kelly's Joined Up Writing Podcast. I responded to a couple of questions he'd posed on a show, and we got to emailing, and when I mentioned that my book was coming out in November, we arranged to record an episode together that aired on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving.

I think we were on the phone for over an hour, so he did a really nice job in cutting my blathering down to a solid twenty or so minutes, but I had a lot of fun talking with him, and I hope that my story is inspiring to someone who needs to hear a "real person" talking about how they got somewhere.

You can have a listen here, if you're so inclined.

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Thank you

I'm a little late for Thanksgiving, but that doesn't stop me from still being grateful.

It's been quite a month, folks. I can say that, now, on December 1st. Songbird came out on November 3, and while I don't know how many copies I've sold thus far - I'll get numbers from my publisher soon - I already have THIRTEEN five-star reviews on Amazon, and more than a few of them are from people I don't know.

So there's that.

That's not nothing.

There's also the fact that I've got a book event set up at a local library in December, and another one at Shakespeare & Company's Philadelphia store in January, both of which I find mildly terrifying and which I will manage to do anyway, because I can.

The draft of the next book is progressing nicely, though because it goes beyond the death of Henry VIII into the reigns of Edward and Mary, I'm having to do a lot of reading. Right now I'm knee-deep in a biography of Thomas Cromwell, which would be fascinating if I wasn't doing what Mario calls "readsearch" which is exhaustive and exhausting because I'm taking notes while reading, and it slows down my enjoyment of the words.

I'd already found Cromwell interesting from reading Hillary Mantel's fabulous Wolf Hall - oh, how I'm waiting for the third installment in March! - but the reality isn't much different from fiction in his case. The man did a lot in a relatively short life (died in his mid-50s) and my main character in the next book spends a significant chunk of time with him, so I need to know a lot so I can only put in the important bits. It's surprising how much you have to know to understand how little you need to include to give the flavor of a time period, or a person. The first draft is definitely an info dump, at least for me.

I hope you all had a wonderful holiday, that your families - if you were with them - weren't too annoying, that your turkey was moist, your cranberries were in whatever format you prefer, and there was adequate pie. If your Thanksgiving was solo (I did holidays alone for years and loved it), I hope the wine was good and the Netflix entertaining.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Next book - details and deadlines

The internet is a strange and wonderful place. It gives so much and it takes so much (time) away.

Every once in a while, when I fall into a hole online, something useful comes out of it.

This is the inspiration collage for my next book, tentatively called A Wider World. It's not a sequel to Songbird, but it does involve one of the secondary characters, Robin Lewis - a character I wasn't fond of at the time, but who reached out a few months ago to justify some of his behavior and tell me his story.

And it's a good one, so far. It's set over a much longer period than Songbird, so I'm researching fun things like the Dissolution of the Monasteries, Thomas Cromwell, Renaissance-era libraries, and the reigns of Edward VI, Jane Grey and Mary I (of which I know the basic facts, but not enough to hang a story from).

I'm giving myself a deadline of January 31, 2020 (my birthday) for a completed first draft. Which doesn't mean it will be published anytime soon, but after how long it took me to get my act together the first time, I'm pretty sure this will move much more quickly.

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Book Reviews

Is anyone interested in an occasional (maybe twice monthly) book review? I've been reading a ton of good stuff lately that I'd like to share, and I'd also like to hear your feelings if you've either read these books or your recommendations to share.

Let me know!

(Most books would be historical fiction, but I've been known to dip a toe into fantasy, romance, contemporary fiction, and more non-fiction than I can probably list in tihs space.)

Thursday, November 14, 2019

The more you know

Did you know there were black Tudors? Not the royal family, but people living in England during that period? 

I wasn't aware, and this video, from historian Miranda Kaufman, is very interesting. Some of what I learned here may be included in my next book, if the right character finds me.

I've seen black characters in some recent historical productions (The Spanish Princess comes to mind), but I think these have been taken a little far - while Katherine of Aragon may well have brought black servants with her from Spain, it's very unlikely that one would have been her lady-in-waiting. That wouldn't have been a race issue, but the fact that ladies-in-waiting were generally high-born young women, maneuvered into those positions by their families to get them close to power, powerful men, and advantageous marriages. 

On the other hand, as noted in this video, Henry VII (big Henry's dad) did have a black trumpeter named John Blanke, so while there weren't likely black courtiers, there were black people at court.

This is one of the things I love about history - you keep finding out new and interesting bits that you hadn't expected, and they keep leading you deeper and deeper.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Not all sewing, either

Around this time last year, a pre-Christmas ad came out featuring Elton John and some clips from the biopic. I watched it at the office (I was working hard) and aside from getting teary - it's one of those commercials - it struck me that I'd never seen Elton John live.

BTW, before you read further, watch the ad. It's worth it. I'll wait.

I'd come close to seeing him in concert with Billy Joel when they were touring together, but my boyfriend at the time (who had access to tickets to almost anything) passed them by because he didn't think I'd want to go. I did say 'boyfriend at the time', right? Yeah, that's the kind of thing you ASK about.

So I looked to see if/when Elton would be playing Philly, and it turned out the farewell tour wasn't coming until this November. In a leap of faith that we'd all still be here, I bought tickets 13 months in advance, and we went to the concert Friday night.

It was everything I'd hoped for, and more. Some artists can play live and sound like their records. Some, like when we went to the reunion concert for the Police a few years back, sound like 3 talented musicians on the same stage, playing the same music, but alone. (You could really tell they didn't want to be there).

Elton John's music doesn't sound the same live, because the man - and his band, many of whom have been with him for his 50 years of touring - have so damn much enthusiasm that they just take a song and run with it, adding a lot more instrumental bits and having, apparently, the time of their freaking lives. 

The show ran for a solid 3 hours, with only a 2 minute stage darkness (which still had audio and lights) while he changed his clothes from a fabulous beaded jacket to an equally-fabulous floral print with hot pink pants.

At the end, the stage went dark and the musicians disappeared, but they came back out for an encore, with Elton in yet another outfit (a long robe), that he took off at the very end to reveal a track suit, which he wore as he stepped into the backdrop and walked off down the Yellow Brick Road.

It was good. It was so good.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

It's not all writing

Just so everyone remembers I do stuff other than writing, a photo from this past Sunday's craft show. I had a serious book-release hangover, but I somehow managed to make it through and be pleasant to everyone and have a decent sales day besides.

I wanted to share the cutest customer of the day, who gravitated immediately to the doll whose hair matched her jacket. Her parents tried to convince her she wanted a doll who looked like her, but nope, lavender hair for the win.

When I made my schedule for fall/holiday shows, I actually managed to keep in mind the fact of the book coming out, and possible event scheduling there, so craft shows are pretty light...and I'm okay with that. My next one isn't until November 18, but then I have the Friday, Saturday and Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend.

I'm going to be thankful for Monday.