I miss faces.
Craft shows have also been limited this year, as in limited to the ones I've produced on my front patio. In a bastardized version of the words of the Grinch himself, "If I can't find a craft show, I'll make one instead."
I did have one event scheduled, for Thanksgiving weekend here in town. They'd put so much work into it, cutting the number of vendors by half, organizing it so that everyone had 8' of space between their tables, having mask checks and sanitizer stations at the doors, Ikea arrows on the floor so that customers could only travel in one direction...and then the virus numbers for Pennsylvania spiked again, and it was canceled.
Logical, yes. The right thing to do, also yes. A freaking shame, because we all want to get out and pretend to be normal? Yes yes yes.
So I made a Facebook event and invited all my local friends and neighbors to show up on the patio on that same weekend - properly masked and distanced, of course.
Everything was set out on tables for people to paw through. It wasn't as profitable as an indoor show would have been, but it was still good to get out and talk to people again, and I didn't get frostbitten because we have a glass front door and I spent my un-customered time on the couch, finishing Etsy products for shipment. I love a good multi-task.
I also did some writing in between, because of this pesky end-of-year deadline that I agreed to. Which will be met, somehow or other. Good thing I've only promised a "readable first draft" at that point.
Readable, it will be. Can't guarantee much else.
So this was the new normal of my holiday selling season. What about you? Did you get to do any in-person shopping? All online? What do you want to find in your stocking this year, other than sanitizer and masks?
So, this happened.
I'm still a bit over the moon at Songbird being declared anyone's Book of the Year, but The Coffee Pot Book Club is a seriously good book review blog, and an award from them carries weight in the author and reader community.
It also carries some weight in helping to promote A Wider World when the time comes, because one of the prizes is a blog tour, which can be scheduled for early spring, just before the new book comes out. It will coincide with my publisher dropping the price on Songbird to celebrate the pre-order status of the second book.
2020 is still a year I'd rather not repeat, but this makes a lot of it better.
Things have been moving along. Despite - or maybe because of - the oddness of the year, I've almost completed the first draft of my third book. This is good, because I've promised the publisher a readable draft by the end of the year (which would be 11:59 p.m. on December 31, and not a minute sooner), and while it's readable by me right now, I'm not so sure anyone else could make heads or tails of it.
My cover designer has just completed a stunning cover for A Wider World - as beautiful in its own way as the new cover for Songbird. I can't show it off yet, but I'd like to. It's another period-appropriate ceiling, and it's gorgeous.
Despite the fact that it's November and the leaves have turned and mostly fallen, it's been in the 70s here, so it's hard to feel convinced of that. I just finally tore out the last of the pepper plants from the back yard and got the beds ready for winter. My next-door-neighbor gave me a few cinderblocks and an old recycle tub, so I've also set up a new composting system by the back fence, because my dinky little tumbling composter can't keep up. A few of my neighbors who don't compost deliver their food scraps to me, and a chicken-owning neighbor gives me the mucky straw from her coop. (Manure and fresh eggs are what I miss most about having chickens. The chickens...not so much).
Thanksgiving is coming. It's going to be strange this year, because of Covid. We've had Thanksgiving dinner in NJ with Mario's family every year since 2005, but his mom's in a nursing home now, mostly on lockdown (we visit at her window like she's a puppy in a pet store) and his sister works in a hospital, so her hours are inconsistent, and we couldn't sit down together indoors, anyway. Having his mom isolated is difficult, but even Mario is glad we got her placed in February, before all this happened - since she's got severe memory issues, it would have been really hard to feel that she was safe living on her own during quarantine and beyond.
It will get better, eventually. It has to, right? The news of a potential vaccine this week was cheering, as was the end of all the election ads, if not - completely - the election itself.
I just keep thinking, "It's history. I'm living through history." And it's not always fun.
Especially a new book cover, which feels much more like what I'd envisioned from the beginning, and is totally my idea combined with my cover designer's skill and amazing font choice.
I got a box of author copies for an upcoming craft show on Thanksgiving weekend - my town is doing their annual show, with half the vendors so we can be properly spaced, mandatory masking-and-sanitizer, doors open for extra ventilation, and I'm going to take a few copies along in case anyone is interested.
If you don't have your copy yet, and would like this snazzy new design, drop me an email or leave a comment here with your email address. I can even provide gift wrap for the holidays, if you're feeling giftish.
This was a particularly good one. I'm not sure if it's because I didn't overextend myself and try to grow too many things, so that the ones I did plant worked better, or if it was just a good weather year, or the garden was the one part of 2020 that worked out as anticipated.
Whatever. It worked.
I took out the last of the tomatoes the other day, and this was the amount of green tomatoes still on the vines. We've had some colder nights, so the vines were dying back, and I wanted to get the fruit off before they got frosted and squishy.
There was an equal amount of red tomatoes, so I threw those in the crockpot and made sauce, which I later canned, but I didn't have the energy to face all these green tomatoes in addition to the number of jalapenos that were left, which also needed to be canned (more candied hot peppers for the pantry).
My local Buy Nothing group made short work of the green tomatoes. The ones that were left moved around the corner to a neighbor's house. She's a distribution point for USDA food boxes, and lots of neighbors put extra food on her porch for "shopping." So she got the tomatoes, and they were gone by nightfall.
Now I can look out at my barren back yard, and start thinking about 2021.
Being somewhere in the middle, I thought I'd show mine. This is the very beginning of Songbird, which you can see on the cover says "Henry book," then "King's Creatures" and "King's Music," two of its early titles.
Songbird was started before I had a computer at home. I'm not sure if I even reliably had one at work, just things with some memory that I couldn't save personal stuff onto, which explains the second photo - a later portion of the book with handwritten, literal cut-and-tape inserts and lots of edits which wrap around the sides.
I thought my handwriting was bad then. There's no way I could draft a book by hand now, I'd never be able to read it.
I'm currently working on my third book, but book 2 is bubbling away in the background, working its way toward publication.
There's no cover image yet, but one of my ways of brainstorming while writing (but not actually writing) is to make collages of the research images I've found. This is what I put together for the second book.
Robin Lewis was a character from Songbird, who we first see as an obnoxious 12-year-old chorister who clashes with Bess, the main character. Their lives touch at several points, and Robin never quite explains his actions.
(Hint: he does, in A Wider World). This is the blurb - the back cover / Amazon copy - at least so far. Everything gets tweaked, multiple times, but I'm happy with it at the moment.Can memories save a life?
Somehow it's nearly October. I know that time has no meaning anymore, but this is getting ridiculous.
I just finished my Readers Group newsletter, with a few changes. I'd been sending it out twice a month, but I've realized that I spend far too much time trying to think of interesting things to put in the newsletter, rather than thinking of interesting things to put in my books. Which is the reason - I hope - that people have signed up for the newsletter. So it's going to once a month after this, unless there's a special announcement, a sale, etc.
P.S., if you haven't signed up yet, you can do so here.
So I have been doing a fair bit of writing, other issues aside. My third book, Lady, in Waiting, is still in the first draft but has passed the 100k word mark. The eventual publication length will probably be about 115k (that's what Songbird and A Wider World came in near), but I'll probably hit 130k and then edit it back down. I know how I work by now.
A good bit of my writing has taken place outside. I've trained myself to dictate my rough first drafts, which I then upload onto my desktop and tidy up, speech-to-text not always being the most accurate technology. Still, it's better than sitting inside when we're at that perfect end-of-summer-almost-fall weather.
If I'm not walking around the neighborhood, I'm sitting on our front patio, which has just recently been redone with four orange vintage chairs and matching tables that I trash picked from a neighbor across the street. They'd been in his garage for 10 years, and he finally gave up on the idea of repainting them and using them on his own porch. Personally, I like the orange, so I got a gallon of metal paint in the same shade and I'll sand and repaint once the season is over.
Garden season is nearly over. We've had a few nights in the 40s, and that means the bigger tomatoes have shut down, along with some of the peppers. The grape tomatoes are still chugging along, producing more fruit than I can use, and my neighbors are beginning to hide when they see me coming, in case of tomatoes. I made a roasted tomato salsa last week which came out well, so I think I'll make a few more jars to shove in the back of the fridge.
What about you? Is it still garden season? Are you making anything with your produce, whether it's from your garden, the farmer's market or the grocery store?
So the audiobook for Songbird is finally up everywhere! It actually arrived on Audible sooner than expected. ACX, the technical name for Audible, has really high production standards and will bounce books that are accepted everywhere else. I was a little nervous, until it appeared.
Then, because things never run completely smooth, it ended up somehow categorized under literature, fiction, and erotica. While there are a few... Interesting scenes in the book, anybody who purchased it looking for erotica would be sorely disappointed, and readers not looking for that would avoid the book, so I waited to really promote the Audible listing until my publisher reached out and had Amazon correct it. We're still not sure how it happened, because I know the categories that the book is in, and since it's a book already on Amazon, the categories should have simply carried over.
Who knows? Technical glitches happen, and this one is sorted now.
All this is to say that I have free codes for the audiobook, and all you have to do - you knew there'd be a catch, right? - is to sign up for my newsletter (which is on the sidebar) and respond to the newsletter email, saying you're interested in being entered to win a copy of the audio.
If you're on Facebook, you could also like and share my author page. I didn't make that mandatory, because I know a lot of people aren't fans of Facebook these days. Truth to tell, I'm not always either, but I have to reach readers where I can find them.
|Kings Henry and Francis "wrestling"|
|Henry's flagship, the Henry Grace-a-Dieu|
|Dad at probably age 10-ish. He was the kneeling|
kid, bottom left.
|An early Easter picture|