Wednesday, November 22, 2023


This is a snippet from Coming Apart, both because its the perfect time of year to re-share and because Im up to my eyebrows in Thanksgiving preparations and so I'll leave you with Avas meal instead.

It is Thanksgiving, 1931, early in the Depression but there didn't need to be a crash for poverty to be felt in Pennsylvania's coal country. Ava's mother has just died and the family is still reeling from her loss and the unexpected return of her sister Claire. They share the meal with their next-door neighbors so that everyone has enough food.


Trudy and I combine forces for Thanksgiving. Her son has not returned, and for a few days, my smiling friend is replaced by a sad-eyed woman who looks ten years older. She pulls herself together because Fritz and Hetty, her remaining grandchildren, need her.

In addition to the moral support, a joint dinner means more food for all. One of Daniel’s friends managed to shoot a couple of turkeys in the woods north of town, and he brought one home in exchange for helping to fix a roof. The house is perfumed with its rich scent.

Carrying the platter across the back porch to Trudy’s kitchen, I think about how this was always Mama’s favorite holiday. She was big on gratitude, giving loud thanks for blessings other people might not have recognized as such. I want to be more like her, but I can’t help but see that we have a turkey only because Daniel gave up his day off, and a meal meant for family must be shared with others for there to be enough.

I hear Mama’s voice, as I often do these days. Family is whoever you choose to bring under your roof. Trudy is family, in that sense, as was Dora, her daughter-in-law.

There are thirteen around the table, which is two tables put together and dragged into the front room: Trudy and Hermann, Fritz and Hetty, Daniel and me and our five, and two of Trudy’s boarders who were invited at the last minute, soft-spoken men whose contributions are a pie and a packet of tea.

“Bless us, O Lord, and these, Thy gifts which we are about to receive from Thy bounty. Through Christ, Our Lord, amen.” 

The room falls silent but for “please pass the potatoes” and “may I have more beans?” For once no one worries about holding back for the next day.

One of the men says something to Hermann, and he repeats it to Trudy. She turns to me. “Hans says at such a meal, his family would go around the table and each person says what they are grateful for. Do you think this is good?”

“It sounds like something Mama would have liked.”

Her eyes crinkle. “Then we shall do it for Lillie.” She explains the idea to everyone and points to the man who suggested it. “Hans, is your idea, so you go first.”

Hans blushes and stammers, but manages—with Trudy’s translation—to say, “I am thankful to be surrounded by kind people when I am missing my family.”

His friend, whose name I didn’t catch, echoes him, word for word.

“I’m thankful for turkey!” Toby waves his fork.

“And pie!” George, not to be outdone, points toward the kitchen.

“I’m grateful for my family,” Dandy says, ducking his head.

Trudy looks around. “I am thankful for my family that is here, and my family that is not here.”

Fritz, his chin quivering, gulps and says, “I am thankful Mama didn’t live to see us separated.” His grandmother says something sharp in German and the boy shakes his head.

“I’m grateful for Granny,” Pearl says, smoothing things over. “I’m grateful we had her as long as we did.”

“So am I, honey.” I put my hand over hers. “And I’m grateful for everyone at this table today.”

“Thelma?” Daniel asks. “What about you?”

She looks up through tousled curls and points at my belly. “I’ll be grateful not to be the baby anymore.”

There is no night shift on Thanksgiving. Daniel and I huddle together under the quilts, listening to the murmur of the kids’ conversation on the other side of the wall. It quiets down soon enough; their bellies are too full for them to stay awake for long.

“You never said what you were thankful for.” I roll on my left side, the only position in which I am comfortable.

He curls around me and nuzzles my neck. “Like you have to ask,” he says. “I’m thankful for you, and our family. I’m the luckiest man in the goddamn world.”

Wednesday, November 15, 2023

It's Vegas, Baby!

We got back Friday night. Five full days in Vegas which simultaneously felt like forever and also the blink of an eye.

I knew, in theory, that Las Vegas would be overwhelming - the lights, the crowds, the noise. Add in a full day of author service vendors, offering services and explaining how they would help and handing out swag, then follow that with three days of intensive sessions on craft, marketing, mindset, different aspects of the industry, and that is a recipe for fried brains.

The Venetian - canals in the desert
My husband went along as a volunteer for the AV crew, because the conference was also livestreamed for those who couldn't come to Vegas. I attended virtually for the past 2 years, but decided to do this one in person. I'm glad I did, but I don't think I'll be back to normal for at least another week. This exhaustion goes all the way to my bones.

But having him there was great, because when we both got done around 5:00 p.m. each day, we could step away from the conference center and walk or go out for dinner - an expensive proposition - and just talk over the different things we'd learned. He may not be a writer but he is creative and he does write, and many of the sessions he got to witness were right up his alley in terms of topic.

I came home with a notebook packed full of notes and ideas, which I'm still transcribing (legibly, this time) and trying to sort out. I think this conference will be career-changing, once I can organize myself and begin to implement some of the ideas.

Outside of the conference, some of my favorite things: 

The Dale Chihuly glass ceiling at the Bellagio; 

The food court at the Horseshoe, where we stayed - site of many author meetups and middle of the night insomnia writing sessions; 

Chihuly ceiling at Bellagio
The interior of the Venetian. The shopping area has an artfully painted and lit ceiling, so that it looks like outdoors. There are canals with gondolas - ridiculous in the desert - but I was impressed that they got the distinctive green-blue color of Venice's water absolutely correct; 

Mon Ami Gabi, the French restaurant at the base of the miniature Eiffel Tower at the Paris casino. We had our Thursday night splurge dinner there before leaving on Friday and it was delicious;

Possibly most important, the teeny tiny travel coffee maker I bought for our room. The hotel gave us a fridge, but no coffee maker or microwave because they want guests to come downstairs and spend money. I'll come downstairs when I'm caffeinated, thank you very much. 

Have you ever been to Vegas? What did you think? Was it fabulous? A nightmare? Some winning combination of the two?

Wednesday, November 8, 2023

Gone Fishing


Can't wait to tell you all about it when I return!

Wednesday, November 1, 2023

Meet Ava & Claire

So Coming Together launched into the world this time last week, and I'm blown away by the response. Thank you all so much for your purchases, for your comments and reviews and reactions. 

Since I'm not capable of much yet, I thought I'd share something I've been playing with. Recently, my computer updated and gave me Dall-E for AI image generation. I wasn't going to try it but I was so mentally exhausted from book launch activities that I gave it a try.

My prompt was: "Please make a b/w photo of two women in their mid-30s, dressed in clothing from the 1930s. They are obviously sisters. Woman on left is taller, slightly thinner, prettier, with light blonde hair. Wearing a v-neck dress & pearls. One on right is shorter, light brown hair, not as pretty, not as well-dressed but not shabby. Both women have pleasant expressions and are obviously close."

Everyone, meet AI Ava and Claire. I'm not sure what to think. It's a bit glam for Ava (and there's not enough of their Irish mother in these faces) but the result is still so much better than I expected. I may continue to play with this as I reassemble my brain and start work on what's next.

Wednesday, October 25, 2023

Plot Walking

Last week, in addition to a book release, I had a visit from my friend Marian Thorpe, whose books I've spoken about here before.

Marian is one of my favorite writers, and also one of my closest friends. She drove down from Canada and we spent the better part of four days eating and talking and walking off all the food while talking some more. We both have our next books fairly firmly in mind because of all that plot walking.

One day we spent at the John Heinz Wildlife Refuge. Another was spent at Longwood Gardens, which I have somehow managed to never visit before this. I think part of me had waffled because of the $25 admission fee, but we ended up spending more than five hours there, so it was certainly worth it. All the photos here are from Longwood, because I forgot to take any on the other days.

It was absolutely perfect October weather - just cool enough, just sunny enough, leaves just beginning to turn.

By the time she went home, we had worn ourselves out. But is there any better way to be tired than from spending time with friends?

Wednesday, October 18, 2023

Today's the day!

Coming Together is officially out in the world, and I'm so happy and excited and exhausted and proud to bring you this last book of Ava & Claire's adventures. A few early reviews are in, and I'm going to share them with you and then go and collapse in a corner. 

Wednesday, October 11, 2023


It's been a week, folks. I might not have had a craft show this past weekend, but I had an order of custom bears, several Christmas stockings, and a doll to get finished, along with finishing a slightly overdue freelance editing job - the client understood because he hadn't been scheduled, and he was fitted in around another job and the completion of my own book.

But it's been a lot. Still, Coming Together is now ready for its release on the 18th. I just got the paperback files loaded, and the hardcover is almost done. I just need to get the full wrap cover from my designer and that's the last thing checked off the publishing list. For now.

All this to say I don't have much to say, so I will leave you with a link to a really cool historical fiction blog. Tony Riches had me on last week to discuss the fun and challenges of writing a series set in my hometown, and I got to blather on about all the interesting things I learned about a place I thought I knew well. Check it out.