Tuesday, December 31, 2019

At the turn of the year

Even if you don't do resolutions - and I try not to, because they just ask to be broken - it's hard to see the turning of the year as anything but a time to look back and assess, and to look forward and make a few plans for the future.

2019 was a big year. An exhausting year. An exhilarating year. A year when I tried to stop watching as much news so I could listen to the people in my head (the people on the news aren't going anywhere, there's plenty of time for them). A year of realizing that getting out of my own way is the best thing I can do for myself.

I signed a publishing contract in 2019, after years of wanting to be published. I turned 55. Mario and I celebrated our 8th wedding anniversary. We went to Venice. We worked on our house. I did edits to my first novel, and started a second (and a third). I still did craft shows, though my heart wasn't in it as much this year. My book came out, and I did a Facebook live reading, what feels like far too much promo for my extroverted-introvert self, and I'm making plans for next year.

In 2020, I'm going to continue promoting Songbird, because publishing has changed and authors have to be a lot more involved. I'm going to keep working on my second Tudor novel, tentatively titled A Wider World. I would like to finish the first draft by the end of January, and at this point, it's looking entirely possible. (A first draft is far from a finished novel, but I'll have told myself the story at that point, so turning it into a story for someone else to read is a whole different animal). Once that draft is finished and resting for a bit, I'll go back to working on the Great Depression book that I had started before the characters from A Wider World started talking to me. That one's on draft 2, so closer to completion.

If AWW is as good as I hope, and my publisher likes the idea, I'll sign another contract and maybe have another book out in 2020.

Also, I've got a birthday soon, an anniversary sooner, and my first bookstore event even before that (January 13th!). Mario and I have just made plans to go to Edinburgh in the early spring, which was totally unexpected, but we found an airfare we couldn't pass up, and that's always the biggest expense in travel. I'll have to look around Edinburgh with a writer's eye, not just a tourist's, because it was a happening place in the 16th century, and I'd like to find a way to use it in the future.

At some point I would like to address the fact that I've become a slightly larger person than I was this time last year, but I'm hoping that once the weather warms up and I can work in the garden and get out and walk more, that problem will solve itself.

I also want to do more in my town - there are a lot of volunteer opportunities, and I've gotten involved with some, but our village takes a village, and I'd like to devote more time to it.

What about you? Any resolutions? Plans for the new year? What are you excited for in 2020?

Sunday, December 29, 2019


I was just on Amazon, looking at books - as one does - and their algorithm recommended my own book.

Which, as it turns out, is on sale. I'm not sure if it's Amazon or the publisher's doing, but you can get the paperback version for $8.65 RIGHT NOW. Not sure how long the sale will last. If you've been on the fence, this is apparently the time.

Also, for anyone who doesn't know, you can preview the first chapter by going to the listing and downloading the preview. This is one of my favorite Amazon features - I love auditioning books before I commit to buying.

Happy New Year, everyone, and happy reading!

Friday, December 27, 2019

Santa Claus came to town

In addition to my previous holiday round-up, I wanted to mention Santa.

Lansdowne has a lot of old time holiday habits - fireworks, parades, etc. - but my favorite is Santa on the fire engine.

Growing up as the daughter of a firefighter, Santa always arrived on a fire engine. Or a ladder truck.

Here, he comes in the back of the fire company's pickup, preceded by the ladder and the engine, both with sirens wailing. East side of town in the morning, west side of town in the afternoon. As of today, all sides of town are still covered in the candy canes Santa threw to everyone who came out of their house to wavebat him.

Now Christmas is over.

Holiday roundup

With being sick between Thanksgiving and Christmas, I was a little humbuggy this year. We don't generally decorate anyway - cats are not conducive too holiday decorations, and even though we're down to a low-key final two cats, it never occurs to me to do the tree-and-decorations thing anymore.

This year, though, we picked up two batttery-operated candles for the front windows, and that got me started a little. I was thinking about getting a wreath for the front door, but I left it too late. Everything that was left was either too expensive, too cheesy, or just not my taste.

I stopped in the dollar store for something unrelated and saw the wreckage of the Christmas aisle, and decided to see what was left. I came out with the batteries I'd gone in for, plus $8 in supplies (4 mini wreath forms, 4 packs of poinsettias, two packs of white berries, and a sleeve of gold plastic balls), and picked up a pine cone on my walk home. That, combined with zip ties and duct tape, created the masterpiece (!) you see on the door. It works for me; it just looks like hell on the underside. When I take it down, I may stabilize it for next year. I really like seeing it there, especially since most days I keep the door open during the day.

The dolls were my last order of the year. I didn't take the order willingly. The customer came through Facebook, didn't want to order on Etsy, sent me 32 (really) emails detailing what she wanted, and it took so long that she ended up having to pay rush charges to get them by Christmas. They're supposed to be her and her husband, for their granddaughter. Cute, but honestly, people, do not do this on December 20.

We made dinner for ourselves on Christmas Eve - leg of lamb, potato gratin, and broccoli, and on the day we drove to NJ for lunch with the in-laws. No one wants to cook over there, so we went out for dinner. It was nice enough, but I like eating at home for holidays, even if I'm not a big celebrator-of-them.

So that's my update: finishing up the cough, working on the next book, cleaning up the sewing room so that I can find the floor and the tables.

Do you get a break over the holidays? What are you up to?

Monday, December 16, 2019

Down Time

My self-medication/presents from the craft show -
Aziraphale & Crowley and Phoebe Waller-Bridge
Of the unintended variety.

I had a two-day craft show after Thanksgiving, and I woke up on the Friday with a sore throat. No problem - we'd done family dinner the day before and it was probably just scratchy from talking too much. I wasn't getting sick.

I don't get sick often. It's an odd point of pride. I'm not Holly Hygiene; I avoid antibacterial hand stuff like it spreads the plague, and generally I get through the winter with no issues. Not this time.

We loaded into the venue in the afternoon and Mario went off to do things while I set up and hung out with the other vendors. Somewhere around the 4:00 p.m. opening, I started to cough. Not. Getting. Sick. Dammit.

Saturday. Sick. Sore throat. Cough like a German shepherd. Headache. Eight hour craft show with no backup - Mario already had plans and there was nothing to be done about it. At least it was in our town so if I was at less than my best, my neighbors would forgive me.

It's been over two weeks. I've coughed and hacked and cursed and consumed several gallons of cough medicine and orange juice and it's finally - FINALLY - breaking. I didn't go to the doctor, because a) I don't like to go to the doctor, and b) this has been my life.

Growing up with two chain smokers, my childhood was yearly bouts of bronchitis. When I grew up and moved out, it changed to once-every-five-years. Now it's apparently longer than that, because Mario may have seen me get sick before, but he remembers nothing as alarming (and noisy) as this.

Better now. My head no longer feels like a bowling ball that's going to fall off and roll around the living room. It's been annoying, too, because it's hard to write when you can't think straight, and I've been on a nice roll with the new project. So instead I've been doing social media and marketing stuff, the only level my brain would work at. But now it's clearing, and there are no more craft shows, and I can roll into Christmas with something resembling a sense of normal.

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.

Monday, November 4, 2019

What a rush

So I did it. I survived reading my book live on Facebook. It still feels a little surreal - first the fact that on Saturday afternoon, while I was pacing the living room and muttering under my breath, the UPS guy bangs on the front door and throws a big box on the front step.

I run out, ready to yell at him because he's always delivering my neighbor's packages (she's also named Karen, and I guess it's just easier to deliver all mail to one address), but the box was from Ingram Spark, and contained 24 copies of my book.

Twenty-four. That needed to be spelled out.

Twenty-four books with my name on them. With my picture inside. With words from my mind written down on paper, words that make sense and tell a story and expose large pieces of my heart and mind that I've kept hidden for years.

If you want to read my book, you can find it here: books2read.com/tudorsongbird, which will get you to any online retailer that carries it. Songbird is available in ebook and paperback as of now, with an audio book to follow shortly. More about that later.

I know from Facebook and Twitter and other messages that I've received that some of you have already downloaded Songbird and have started reading. This is simultaneously thrilling, gratifying and terrifying.

For everyone who has already purchased, or who intends to, thank you. Your support really does mean the world, and if you watch the video to the end (yikes), I say that it takes a village these days to make a book. Thanks for being a part of mine.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Facebook Live

So here it is. I'll be doing a live reading of Chapter One of Songbird on Facebook this Saturday evening, at 7:00 p.m. eastern.

The e-book will drop at midnight, and pre-orders for the paperback are open now, as well, which means it should arrive pretty quickly thereafter. Since I'm with a small press, they do print-on-demand through a company called Ingram Spark, which means no one - publisher, bookstore or writer - gets stuck with a pile of books they possibly can't sell. (Not that I want that to happen, but none of us have money to burn, so I love this option). POD books happen just about as quickly as regular books, and if you're an Amazon Prime member, as most of us seem to be (free shipping or Prime Video, they get us coming and going), you'll get free shipping as well.

Tune in if you can. Or if you can't, check out the video on my Facebook page later. It'll stay there, for posterity, or until I can't take it anymore.

Friday, October 25, 2019


Well, this makes it feel more real.

Amazon is spamming me to buy my own book.

Hopefully I'm not the only one.

Upwards of 20 pre-orders so far. Hoping for more - Amazon promotes books more heavily if they have pre-orders.

But then again, 20+ already. I'm not complaining. I'm actually a little verklempt, if you want to know the truth.

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Pre-orders are up!

I have the enormous (really, enormous) pleasure to announce that pre-orders are up on Amazon for the e-book version of Songbird. The paperback pre-order should be up shortly (I've seen the finalized paperback format, so it's probably just a matter of Amazon getting all their ducks in a row).

But it exists. In my head. On paper. Online. On Amazon.


Join me in a happy dance, will you?

Friday, October 18, 2019

And then there were two

We knew this day was coming, I just really hoped it wouldn't be this soon.

Annie has been doing okay, but yesterday the tumor started to get in her way for the first time. I heard her crying in the litter box, and when I went downstairs, she was squatting in the box. She was able to pee, but I think the position was causing pressure on the tumor, because once she finished and came upstairs, she was normal again.

Normal is a relative term, though. She's been sleeping way more than normal, and on the couch, when she would normally wedge herself between us in the bed.

I called the vet yesterday and booked her in for this morning. She probably had more time left, but not much, and at nearly 19, I think she was entitled to leave the party before it got painful.

Harriet and Nicky have noticed her absence, but that's it. I'm not sure how much of a behavioral shift there will be now that there are only two.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Friday, October 11, 2019

Me. Live.

Over on my Facebook writer page, I recently asked for question so I could do a test run of Facebook live. This is not my choice, but I need to do a live reading on November 3, and I don't want to discover how technology Works - or doesn't - on publication day.

So this afternoon I tried it out. I didn't warn anybody, because I didn't necessarily want anyone to watch it while it was life. I don't care if that makes me a wuss.

Here's a link to the video, which I have not been able to insert. I'll try again later, when I'm on my desktop.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Blurb Alert

I have a blurb!

A blurb is basically the back cover copy for my book, something I looked forward to writing about as much as I looked forward to my recent eye surgery.

Boiling down several hundred pages of text and plot into a paragraph or two is even more difficult than it sounds. Thankfully, my publisher took that in hand, and I think they did a great job.

The complicated thing about blurbs is that they are supposed to be long enough to entice people to read, but leave out most of the things that keep them reading once they get there. It's a fine line.

FYI, the art attached here is not my final cover either. This is a photo of a pair of wax figures at Hever Castle, where Anne Boleyn grew up, which I manipulated in a photo editing program to look like a vintage book cover. Because it's fun.

Saturday, October 5, 2019

Forwarding Address

Per my publisher's instructions, I need a website.

After several hours of swearing at unfamiliar tech (I'm married to a computer genius, but I only call in tech support when I'm totally lost), I have acquired a domain name and my original blog now redirects to this.

Just in case of future mishaps, you might want to change your bookmarks to www.karenheenan.com but I'm pretty sure this is going to work.

I'll be back soon with another snippet, a garden report, and a photo of some really cute recycled sweater animals I made this week.

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Snippet Galore

Life at court is a series of meetings and partings.

I hope I'm not burying you all in snippets. I'll have something more to release soon - I just approved the final cover design, and got the blurb/cover copy from the publisher.

It is amazingly hard to boil an entire book down  into a paragraph.

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Another snippet

I'm going to feed you this book in bite-sized bits.

This is Bess's first look at the King.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Free at last!

Pre-surgery. That dark triangle in the center shouldn't be there
Yesterday was my FINAL follow-up appointment with the retina specialist. He poked and prodded and dilated and numbed and finally, FINALLY, gave me the all clear.

He showed me some of my scans and I took pictures, for my own reference and also so everyone can see what kind of weird things your body can do in places you can't see.

I'm at about 90% now. He said I may improve beyond that, and I might not. But I'm no longer at risk of anything becoming detached, and I see just about the same as I did before the surgery. My vision was never an issue - I'm massively near-sighted, with or without other problems.

One thing he mentioned to me today that I thought was interesting, or at least his explanation of it was. My right eye, the one that was operated on, is also a lazy eye. That was diagnosed when I was 9, when I got my first glasses, and they made me do all kinds of exercises like focusing on a pencil and drawing it toward my nose without crossing my eyes. It helped. Maybe.

From another angle. You can actually see the hole at the top
He said it really didn't, and that the only way to completely correct a lazy eye is to diagnose it at a much earlier age. He's actually working on a toddler-age video game that can test vision, for this reason. But he said that my eye is still lazy, and though I think I'm looking through both eyes equally, my brain isn't used to focusing that one, so I need to try harder.

He explained it like meditation. "You're supposed to be emptying your mind, but a thought will creep in. You notice the thought, but then you bring your mind back to the meditation. Same thing - you'll notice that you're not fully focusing with both eyes. Just bring the right eye back, and keep going." His theory is that by doing it that way, I'll build up more of a habit.

9/23 - almost smooth again. It still might flatten out more over time
PI don't know how right he is. I'm just glad to be seeing the last of him, for reasons having nothing to do with him personally.

Monday, September 23, 2019

Friday, September 20, 2019

Coin of the realm

I want you to show you two of my prized possessions. I got these years ago, and they've been hidden away in a box in my dresser ever since, because while they are amazing and cool and I love them, they're all so ancient, fragile, and totally impractical.

The larger coin is from the reign of Elizabeth I, and the smaller one in the badly-fitting coin holder / necklace thing, is from Henry VIII.

I can't believe I own something this old. I like thinking that my characters could have handled these coins. One of these days, when I have the spare cash, I would like to pay a jeweler to make a proper necklace from them, with the kind of holder that allows the coin to float, so it doesn't touch your skin.

Monday, September 16, 2019

Not throwing away my shot

I don't play a lot of music while I'm working - if I'm writing, it's too distracting, and if I'm sewing, not a lot gets through over the sound of the machine.

Hamilton gets through. I discovered the soundtrack a few years back, after the show hit Broadway but before it hit total public consciousness. It started with the King's songs, which I think are the gateway for people who don't think they'll like a show about a founding father, performed in hip-hop (trust me, you will).

Of course I wanted to see it in NY, but I also want to keep both my kidneys, and that's pretty much what the prices felt like. There were road companies, of course, but I figured eventually one of those would make it to Philly.

Eventually, one did.

And we went to see them last week.

And it was freaking amazing.

That is pretty much my review. We were up high, so I couldn't make out faces, but so much of the show is about the spectacle - the stage, the movement of the dancers, the lighting, and of course the music - that it didn't matter.

It was freaking amazing.

Also, one of the things I really love about Hamilton is the same thing I love about historical fiction. It takes an era, a person, something that people might think of as dry or boring, and returns them to their flesh-and-blood reality, full of urges and desires and bad behavior and good behavior - all the things that take them from cardboard cut-outs in historical dress to living, breathing people who just happened to wear funny clothes and live in a different time period.

No one leaves that theater thinking of Alexander Hamilton as some dry-as-dust founding father. I guarantee it.

Monday, September 9, 2019

Seeing red

Last year I didn't can any tomatoes, but then again, last year the garden wasn't knocking at the back door, or leaving tomatoes on the neighbors' porches during the night.

This year, I canned tomatoes.

Even though the other reason I put it off is the bad layout of our kitchen (to be remedied in the new year, once craft show season and book release are dealt with, and I've recovered from what part of the holidays I choose to participate in).

But I did it anyway. Instead of using my ginormous canning kettle, which can only sit on the extra-large burner next to the fridge (which doesn't like the extra large burner and makes resentful clunking noises), I borrowed a high stockpot from my neighbor and canned in smaller batches on the regular burner.

That meant I could only do 5 jars at a time, but they're done.

Since most of my tomatoes were Juliets, which is a large grape/small plum size, I didn't bother to skin skin or core them. I just cut off the stem end, cut them in half and put them in my crockpot to cook down. Once they were mushy, I hit them with the immersion blender, which conveniently clogged with the larger bits of skin, so they were retroactively skinned.  I did two full crockpots of tomatoes, then today I got them into jars.

I also made candied jalapenos for the first time, using both jalapenos and poblanos from the yard, and a few Spanish padrons which had turned red (and hotter). The syrup on those is cider vinegar, sugar, turmeric, celery seed, mustard seed, cayenne and garlic powder. It smelled delicious.

Today's high only hit 80, so the kitchen wasn't the worst place to be, and I won't remember the heat when I crack a jar of tomatoes in February and the whole kitchen smells like summer.

Friday, September 6, 2019

Sometimes old is best

Technology is all well and good, but sometimes you just have to go old school and break out the index cards.

Working on my Great Depression book - currently called Dear Sister - and I got stuck at about the 3/4 point. The chapters were supposed to be alternating between the two sisters, and for the most part had been cooperating.

Then I hit a snag, which I didn't realize until I was 3/4 of the way through my second draft. I'd been so busy thinking about changing the point of view from third to first, that I forgot I had this issue where each sister had two consecutive chapters and they threw the timeline completely out of whack.

The whole point of writing from both their viewpoints is to contrast their lives, and there I was, leaving readers in one place for far too long, with nothing to compare and contrast with. Thus the cards.

Each scene is written on a card, with the character's initial and a general idea of the date. I laid them all out, figured out which dates were written in stone (i.e., something that happened for real) and which were not. Then I drank some coffee and rearranged. More coffee, more futzing. Shampoo, rinse, repeat.

I finally got the storyline where I wanted it and took two days off writing to let the ideas marinate. And last night, before bed, I realized that I didn't actually want the second sister's POV in the book after all. It takes away from the character I really want to write about, and Clare's story, and the all-important contrasts therein, can be shared in their frequent letters, which is where the Dear Sister title comes from.

So, draft 3. I see you.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019


I have an ISBN!

This is another step closer to actual publication, and I did another little dance of joy around the house yesterday when I received the email from my publisher.

Now I've set up an Author Page on Goodreads so you can follow me there if you want to. Songbird is already listed (because it has an ISBN and is a pending book, if not an actual one at this point in time).

The cover here is not the cover that it will be published with - I haven't received proposed cover art yet, but I've made a placeholder that I'm quite happy with. Let me know what you think!



Saturday, August 24, 2019

It's there somewhere

I don't really believe in writer's block. I mean, it happens, those awful times when the words in my head won't come out my fingers and onto the page, but the way I've always dealt with it is to just write anything.

It may not be what I want; it may make no sense in the end; but I can edit words. I can't fix a blank page.

I've just encountered one of those write anything sections in my Great Depression book. I finished the first draft at the end of June, and after taking a few weeks off to let it sit, I started in on revisions. So far, so good, until the 75% mark, where I apparently left myself such a shit storm of "fix it later" that I'm going to have to take another week to figure out how to fix it.

As far as the graphic goes, this really is what it feels like sometimes. The idea is so clear, but the distance from the idea to the finished story is a maze not of my own design.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

How it started

I wrote my first stories on a typewriter like this. Or, rather, I typed my first stories. I wrote plenty before that, but my handwriting has never been all that good, so when I discovered typing, it was the way to go.

My dad was a Philadelphia firefighter, but like most of them, he also had a part-time job (both because such an important job didn't pay enough, and because he wanted to keep me in sufficient toys; I was an only child). His part-time job was a shared maintenance gig at a local college - he and two of his friends split the job between them; the college didn't care who did what, so long as the hours were covered.

He brought home random interesting things that were going to be thrown away, and one day he hauled in this ancient, black Olivetti typewriter, the kind that was completely open on top and had black and white enamel keys.

It was very similar to this one which I trashpicked a few years ago, my old one having disappeared during a later childhood move (thanks, Mom). This typewriter lives in a corner of the room that serves as our library/my office, otherwise known as the house's original dining room.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Garden bounty

You can't afford to look away in August.

Thursday, August 15, 2019


Cats. Walking on books for centuries.
I may not mention it here often, but I'm grateful for this blog, and for all of you who are still out there reading it after all these years.

I would be grateful to the blog, even without readers, because the one thing it has always done is keep me writing. Even when I'm writing nothing else, the blog has been there, keeping me limber.

Once upon a time, before my life was so full, I wrote all the time. Every day after work, or before bed, or in the morning. Whenever an idea struck me.

Then I got older, got busier, got married, got a lot more things to do that I didn't even always want to do, and writing for me drifted away for a while.

But the blog, which I started because I wanted to keep up with my far-flung sewing friends, remained. And I remained faithful to it, in somewhat sporadic fashion, and when the urge to write came back to me, at least I still remembered how to word.

Because of this blog.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Accidental outing

Every other Sunday, Mario and I go to New Jersey to visit his mom. She lives about an hour and a half away. Some days the ride is endless, and others, not so bad. When I'm working on a story, looking at all those trees is actually restful and my mind can drift, and make things up.

Today when we left, it was such a beautiful day, with a bright blue sky and a nice breeze, we meant to come home, but turned in the other direction and drove 35 miles to the shore. We weren't dressed for the beach, but we took our shoes off, walked along the shore and got our feet wet, had a nice early seafood dinner, and then joined the exodus home at 5:30.

It only took 2 hours to get back, and it was totally worth it. I feel like my brain has been washed out with sea water.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Annie sends greetings

Annie is still ticking along, enormous tumor notwithstanding.

I didn't think she would still be with us at this point of the summer. The heat has taken it out of her a bit, but then again, she's 18, and there's a good chance that would happen anyway. (My old vet did say old age might carry her off before the cancer got her, and he may be right in the end).

We were thinking about a trip this fall, but we're holding off. I'd feel terrible if something happened while we were gone, not only for Annie, but our pet sitting neighbor as well. No one signs up for that.

Monday, August 5, 2019

One more thing off the list

So I needed an author photo - for Facebook, for Twitter, for the publisher and all the promo stuff we'll be doing (in addition to my actual BOOK, y'all).

I hate my picture taken. I'm self-conscious about my teeth, and my glasses reflect, and I've got circles under my eyes and and and...

My friend Dianne is a pretty good photographer (she was the only friend who was allowed to take pictures at our wedding, because I didn't want to spend the day flinching at cameras), so I asked her last week if she'd take a few pictures. She agreed, but she's away this week, so...

Here you have a writer in her bathroom with a smartphone.

I took about 60 pictures, got 4-5 that I actually didn't dislike, and then futzed with them in my photo editing software. I didn't do much, really - I am what I am, so I didn't do anything to my actual face beyond smoothing out the lines in my neck and a few uneven patches in my skin. The rest is 55 year old me, happy that I'm going to be published, happy that one more item on the to-do list is checked off, happy that I don't have to wait a week for photos that I probably wouldn't like any better, and at least when it was just me, the phone and my new shower curtain, I could mutter all I wanted about bad angles and just how many colors is my hair right now?

Anyway, that's done. Exhale.

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Garden goodness

I planted some new crops this year, alongside the standby crops of tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and potatoes.

Watermelon (not ready yet), corn (more than ready), and lima beans.

I grew up on canned lima beans and thought they were one of the world's nastiest vegetables, and then a few years ago, we got a small bag of fresh limas at the farmer's market.

Those were a whole different vegetable.

I put in 4 small starter plants in May, and they've now covered their trellis to the point where I have to climb inside it to pick beans. But it's worth it.

Also, I now know why they're so stinking expensive at the farmer's market - there are only 2-3 beans per pod, so it takes a lot of picking and shelling to get enough for a side for 2 people.

As an illustration, the bean photos here - it took 3 bowls of pods to get that single bowl of beans for dinner.

But again, worth it.

And fresh corn, picked right before dinner, is a revelation. Since it's been really hot, I haven't wanted to heat up the kitchen with cooking, but I've found out you can quickly steam corn in the Instant Pot. Also the lima beans. Also the stuffed peppers I made the other night. Instant Pot, where have you been all my life?