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.