Tuesday, December 28, 2021

2021 Roundup

I used to do roundup posts, way back when this was my sewing blog, and it was a good way to keep myself organized and accountable. I think I'll start doing monthly posts this coming year and see if, by announcing it publicly, I actually get everything done that I plan.

This year, continuing pandemic weirdness notwithstanding (or perhaps because of), was a pretty productive year.

I submitted Lady, in Waiting to my publisher and finished edits.

I finished a solid draft of my 1930s book, My Sister's Child, which I'm editing now.

I got my rights back to Songbird and A Wider World, and I figured out the formatting and self-publishing process and got both of them back up before the end of the year, and I've actually sold some books!

In non-writing, I did a few craft shows, and apparently it felt as good for customers to be back out again as it did for the crafters, because they were overall good experiences, plus - again - I sold some books!

Since it's almost the new year, I'm trying to get a few more odds and ends tidied away, not to mention actual, physical tidying of our house, which looks a bit like a craft store exploded in the downstairs. Which is not good, since the sewing room is upstairs.

What about you? What's your biggest accomplishment for 2021, other than making it through with sanity mostly intact, and hopefully still liking the people you share space with? Let me know.

Back soon with my goals for 2022.

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Happy Holidays. Get some rest

I'm happy to announce that both Songbird and A Wider World are now available again in paperback from all the regular online venues, and if you so choose, you can order from your favorite brick-and-mortar bookstore or even ask your library to purchase either or both. Did you know you could do that? You can still read them - for free - and I'll still get a royalty! Win/win!

Aside from the technical hijinks (which are beyond my capacity to explain at this point) of getting the books back up for sale, and the inevitable slippery slope to the holidays, not much has been happening here. (Though books and holidays are enough).

I did do one local craft show in town, well managed and with Covid protocols in place, and then a quick appearance at the local farmers market. Sales were good, and it was enough to reinforce that while I enjoy making and selling and interacting with customers, I enjoy writing more. But writing isn't going to pay the bills anytime soon, so I'll still be doing both, as and when the world allows.

Happy holidays to everyone. Signing off until the new year, when I'll have a roundup of what I've managed to accomplish in 2021, pandemic notwithstanding, along with a snippet from A Wider World that will lead directly into February's release, Lady, in Waiting.

Happy holidays, everyone!

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

What a long, strange trip it's been


This thought occurs with increasing frequency. I just passed the third anniversary - December 6 - of pitching the manuscript for Songbird for the first time on Twitter. It was a pitch event called PitMad, where you tweet a pitch to your book, and the only people who are supposed to like it are agents and publishers. 

I got three likes on Songbird's pitch. Two were agents, one of whom hasn't gotten back to me yet, so I assume she changed her mind. The second agent wanted the book drastically rewritten in a very different voice and I turned her down. The third like was from my former publisher, and if you've been following along for some time now, you know that went pretty well.

But now I'm on my own, and looking back at these three years, I see how much I've accomplished. Not discounting the help of the publisher, I still produced Songbird and A Wider World, both the writing and the editing, and participated in the process of publishing. Not liking Songbird's first cover, I commissioned and paid for the new cover (and then the cover for A Wider World), because I felt they suited the books better. This was good, because when I left my publisher, I owned the rights to my covers and only had to have their logo removed. 

I wrote, and edited, and prepared Lady, in Waiting (book 3) for publication, which, now that I'm independent, will be coming out in February, rather than April, 2022. I've also completed a very workable draft of my 1930s novel, My Sister's Child. This will be completed and ready to release in October, 2022. 

It really boggles my mind that I worked on Songbird for such a long time (it existed pre-internet) and yet once I started showing my work to the wider world - no surprise where that title came from! - it turns out I can produce much faster in a way that does not, at least in my view, take away from the quality of the work. One of the first things I posted on this blog when I began to talk about publishing was the statement "get out of your own way." 

I keep learning, over and over again, just how much I was in my way, and how even now, there are still ways for me to step aside and let me get more done.

Monday, November 29, 2021

I did a thing!

I've been obsessing lately with tweaking my book covers, gathering a few more reviews for the back cover, rewriting the blurbs (again) and almost anything except actually getting the damn books online so they can be purchased.

I have a love/hate relationship with technology. But it's not actually hate, it's just a bone-deep distrust and discomfort. It's never as bad as I think it's going to be.

And on Thanksgiving, when we were at home (Mario's mom is in a nursing home and not allowed visitors, so we decided to keep it small), I sat down at the computer and decided, "This is it. I'm not getting up again until I figure this out."

Of course, once I did that, it wasn't that bad. My books are "wide," which means they're sold everywhere, not just on Amazon, so they have to be uploaded in more than one place to reach all those sites. I uploaded individually to Amazon (not as complicated as I feared, other than figuring out pricing in all their territories), then to Kobo (big in Canada, and has an enormous reach in other countries), and Draft2Digital, which both formatted my ebooks (free) and then, as an aggregator, will put them up for sale in whatever places are not reached by Amazon and Kobo and will skim a percentage off whatever royalties I make for the privilege. (It's worth it - those royalties will be the smallest, and it's a matter of time vs. money; I was willing to upload and do tech three times, but more than that starts eating into writing and other admin time).

So, the big news. The books are up for pre-order and will be fully available again on December 3, 2021. And I am excited. I was excited to be a published author after decades of thinking about it, and so having my books disappear, no matter that it was for a short time and at my request, was unnerving. 

Lady, in Waiting just needs final corrections (I formatted her and did a read-through on my Kindle, which always finds things that I can't see on a computer screen) and then it will go on pre-order sometime in January, for publication on Valentine's Day, 2022. An appropriate day for my dysfunctional married couple.

Monday, November 15, 2021

ISBNs, or how to commit highway robbery

We've all heard of ISBNs, right? It's an abbreviation for International Standard Book Number, and a published book has to have one. Actually, it has to have one for every format, so ebook, paperback, hardback, audio...each one needs its own number. 

If you publish through Amazon exclusively, they'll give you a number of their own. But it's theirs, not yours, and you can't sell on any other platform with that number. 

Most aggregators (companies who help with formatting and distributing your book to sales platforms) can assign an ISBN as part of their fee, and while technically you've paid for it, I don't like the idea of tying my work to a number purchased by someone else. Companies can go under, and it's a worry that's not worth adding to the pile of my day-to-day worries.

Every country has its own rules and pricing as far as ISBNS are concerned. In Canada, for instance, ISBNs are free. In the good old USA, not so much.

One ISBN is $125. Being that they're only available from one place, there's no competition in pricing.


Ten ISBNs, however, are $295. So an abrupt drop from $125 per to $29.50 per. The problem quickly becomes Songbird/3 ISBNs, A Wider World/3 ISBNs, and Lady, in Waiting/3 ISBNs, and that ten is almost gone. What if I want to do a hardcover edition? Or a large print, which would be nice for library purchase? Or a box set?

Enter the jumbo pack - 100 ISBNs for $575. Or $5.70 per number. Can I tell you how much I hate having to overpurchase to get a deal? But if I didn't the hundred, I'd be paying even more for twenty, which makes absolutely no sense at all, except that the ISBN people make money hand over fist and we writers panic at the vast expanse of numbers ahead of us, wondering if we'll ever be able to use them all before we're too old to remember how to write.

And no, before you ask, they're not transferable. I checked. They can be purchased by a group of writers who hold themselves out as a publisher, but that means you have to share a press name (and potentially house style, and absolutely tax consequences) with other people, and I've just gotten everything back tog act independently, so that seems counter-intuitive.

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

A matter of style


Maraschino style
Last week I began exploring different ways to self-publish my books. It's something I've been looking into for a while now, because I had always planned to self-publish my 1930s novel, but with the reversion of rights to my two Tudor novels, that day has come a bit sooner.

I started with ebook publishing, because there is less structure there, and different expectations. Everyone knows what a paper book is supposed to look like, and that is what I need to learn to format. But ebook publishing starts with learning how to properly format your Word or Google doc with headings and styles, because the programs that assist with ebook formatting take those styles into account and you don't have to do things like build tables of contents from scratch.

I'm using Draft2Digital for my ebook formatting, and for the bulk of my ebook distribution. D2D provides formatting services free of charge, and you can simply download your ebook (epub, mobi and PDF formats) without going any further with them, or you can continue on to their distribution channels. I'll go over distribution in a separate post, but for now I'll say that D2D will be doing distribution in specific areas only. They take a percentage of royalties for any sales made through their channels, but again, the formatting tools are completely free.

There are other ways to format, but I chose D2D because it was free, intuitive (and I'm not tech savvy) and there were a lot of built-in styles that I liked the look of (styles are things like drop caps, headers, scene separators, etc). You upload your finished manuscript and the program does its magic in formatting it, and then you can click on different style tabs to see what it would look like.

The illustrations here show the first page of Songbird in Maraschino and Royal styles. I'd originally selected Royal because I thought it suited the Tudor Court theme, but the ornamental scrolls of Maraschino grew on me. Also the scene separators in Maraschino were pretty scrolls and Royal's were a stylized medallion which didn't really fit with the crown (at least not to my eyes). Since you can't play mix-and-match with the styles, I chose the one that had more going for it. 

Still to be tackled: print formatting. Next up, I'll explain the joy of ISBNs and why it would be helpful in this instance to be Canadian.

Monday, November 1, 2021

My second act

So I signed a contract the other day - a contract to terminate a contract.

As of October 28, 2021, the rights to Songbird and A Wider World belong to me.

Three years ago, when I signed with my small publisher, I was a different writer. I wasn't fully educated in the ways of self-publishing, and while I didn't want to go the traditional route of agent/publisher, I did have a need for outside validation. I guess it came from writing only for myself for so long - I needed someone to tell me it was good, and worth releasing into the world.

That has changed. My validation these days comes from within, and from the readers I am lucky to have found. What else has changed is my willingness to do all the work to publish my books myself, and control the way they are published, distributed, and marketed. It came on gradually - first, when I suggested changing the cover for Songbird (because most people saw it and thought 'historical romance,' when I think of it as ' historical with some romance,' the way most lives have some romance). I found a new cover designer, and commissioned the new cover. I also found the voice artist for the audiobook.

When it came time for A Wider World, I already knew where I would be interfering - cover and audio again, and this time I wrote my own book blurb (the description on the back or in the Amazon listing). 

I submitted Lady, in Waiting, the third book in my Tudor Court series, and it was through the editing process in August, 2021, but wouldn't be published until April, 2022, because that's just how publishing works. There are other authors; there are scheduling concerns outside my control; there's a pandemic, which could throw that existing schedule off course at any time.

After much thought, I reached out to the publishers and asked if they would consider rights reversion. I have nothing against my publisher - they were very collaborative and overall it's been a very good experience - but my personality is much more inclined to be a one-woman band. 

My chief reason, as I explained it to them, is that I'm 57. I got a late start as an author, and if I want to make any kind of second act career out of writing, I need to be able to do it on my own schedule, and not hold a book for 8 months because that's when it fits on someone else's schedule. 

They agreed, and within a week everything was signed and my books are slowly being taken down from all the various platforms. Ebooks came down first, which means that's where I'll start in the self-publishing process. My goal is to have them re-published by December 1, so as to catch a few holiday buyers, and to release my new book in February. It's a book about marriage - how could I not schedule it to appear near Valentine's Day?

For those who are interested in the process of self-publishing, and how I'm going about it, I'll post the various steps as I go. If you're not interested in that, I'll still be talking about sewing and craft shows and writing generally, in between.


Wednesday, October 27, 2021

It won't go away if you ignore it

Well, it's been a while since I've checked in here. 

Life is busy - the world has opened up sufficiently that I have a few craft shows leading into the holiday season, and while I didn't miss doing them as much as I expected, I'm glad to be back in this limited fashion. So I've been sewing and organizing for those, and I've been working on my 1930s book since the third book in my Tudor series is basically complete and will be out in the early spring. 

More on that later. 

And in personal news, I had an eye doctor appointment last week. I've been putting it off for some time. My regular eye doctor - who's actually an ophthalmologist, not an optometrist - was the one who found the problem two years ago and sent me to the retina specialist, which ended in me having eye surgery. Shortly after that referral, the doctor's office burned down and he relocated to a nearby suburb until he could find a new location in town. 

He's back now, and I continued to avoid him for some time, because, stupidly, I was afraid he would find something else. As far as I could tell, I'd recovered well enough from the retina surgery, and five follow-up appointments had confirmed that. But my right eye, the eye that was operated on, has gotten blurry - blurrier - and I was concerned. But I was also scared, and didn't really want to know what was going on, so I put it off. 

I'm an idiot. The doctor did find something, but not what I was afraid of. My retina seems to be fine, other than a tiny bit of residual scarring which makes a straight line bobble a bit at the far right field of my vision. The blur, as it turns out, is a cataract. 

He made a point of reassuring me that cataracts are not a disease, they're simply something to be taken care of with a routine outpatient / in office procedure, and my only likely complication will be several rounds of eye drops and a change in my prescription. 

Cataracts do run in my family, though he told me it's not an issue of heredity, but simply aging. So I'm feeling old, and cranky with myself for not dealing with this sooner. Also, because once you know a problem exists, you see things - literally, in my case - I now notice that I see colors slightly different in my left and right eyes. 

At least it's not a time-sensitive condition. He told me it's not a risk, it's an inconvenience, and it's on me to decide when it becomes too inconvenient. Right now, fixing that inconvenience would be worse than tolerating it, but I'm looking to book in with the specialist in January so that I can return to my usual blurry but glorious Technicolor vision.

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

So I recently did an Instagram Live interview with Allison Epstein concerning all things Tudor, historical fiction and other fun topics. I'm getting a bit more comfortable doing these - looking at it afterward (through my fingers) it doesn't look like I'm a seething ball of nerves, nor does it look like I have one ear cocked for my neighbors to start mowing their lawns in the middle of the interview.

Allison, by the way, has written one of my favorite historical novels this year, A Tip for the Hangman. Check it out here.

Monday, August 9, 2021

Tomato Season

It's that time again! This, I regret to inform you, is one morning's take from the back yard. 
Every year, I swear I'm going to plant less tomatoes because I can't keep up, and every year I think, "Just one more. Just in case they don't do well." And then a few volunteer plants show up (thank you, squirrels!) and I'm off to the races again.  I planted three tomatoes this year, and ended up with seven. Even with dropping them off to various neighbors, we have more than we can eat, so today starts the yearly tomato saucing. It's the earliest ever that I can remember, and because I'm going to be doing a heavy can at a friend's house - he has a restaurant kitchen and I'm not turning down that offer - I'll probably end up buying a crate at the farmer's market so I can make enough to feed us for the entire rest of the year.

Also, tomatoes aren't just for humans. Look at this little bugger, sitting there, bold as you please in my neighbor's tree, eating a perfect, red tomato. 

Sunday, July 25, 2021

A Wider World Audio Sample

So I just finished Chapter 70 of the audiobook for A Wider World. I still need to do edits for Chapters 64-70, but they will be minimal. I'm so excited to be able to share this with you!

As a preview, here's Chapter 1, read by the talented Jared Reed. Just follow the link and let me know what you think!

Monday, July 19, 2021

It's a process

There is a strange intimacy with preparing an audiobook. Not only my own words, but the reader’s voice, in my ears, saying words I’ve worked so hard to make right. It’s disorienting, in a way—the feeling those words no longer belong to me.

Which is only right. They don’t. Once a book is published—I won’t say finished; books are never finished—it no longer belongs to its author, but to the people who read it, and who bring their own thoughts and opinions and life experience to bear upon it.

Despite how much effort I’m putting into making this audiobook as good as it can be, I’m not a big fan of the form. I like to physically read a book, and let my mind supply the voices and the pictures. Having someone read it to me takes away a bit of that, and if I’m honest, I also find it hard to keep my attention focused. I’ll hear a good line and start to think about it, and realize suddenly that I’ve missed half a chapter and have to go back and re-listen, ignoring this time the line that distracted me in the first place.

But A Wider World’s audio is coming along so well. He’s finished 66 of 70 chapters, and I’m up to chapter 64 on the edits. I can actually see it being completed by the end of July, which means it will be in the hands of my publisher for final mastering, and will be up for sale sometime (hopefully) in the fall.


Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Mejedra recipe

I wasn't being a deliberate tease with yesterday's post, but if anyone wants to try my favorite mejedra recipe, I've written it out below.

A few caveats: the recipe can be made with either rice or cracked wheat/bulghur. I much prefer cracked wheat, but you will have to adjust the amount of water you use in that step, because it puffs up more than rice.

Also, don't be afraid of the amount of onions. They cook down, mix in, and you'll never realize you've used an entire bag.



2 cups green/brown lentils

1.5 cups rice or cracked wheat/bulghur

1 tsp. salt

4 tsp. olive oil, divided

8-12 onions, 3/4 chopped and 1/4 sliced

1 tsp. ground cumin


1.  Rinse the lentils, strain and place in a large pot with 5 cups of water. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook covered until the lentils are tender but not fully cooked, about 15 minutes. Most of the liquid should be absorbed.

2.  Rinse the rice/bulghur and add to the lentils. Season with salt. Add 2 cups of water (2.5 for bulghur), bring to a boil, then reduce and allow to cook down, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to rest. You may need to add more liquid, especially if you've used bulghur - it's very thirsty.

3. In a separate pan, heat two tsp. olive oil on medium heat and saute the chopped onions until golden brown and carmelized, about 15 minutes. Add to the lentil mixture, stirring in along with the cumin.

4. In the now-empty onion pan, heat the remaining 2 tsp. of olive oil and fry the sliced onions until golden brown, about 15 minutes. At the end, turn the heat up to high so that the onions get crispy. These are your topping onions.

Serve with yogurt, sour cream, hot sauce, or any other condiment that strikes your fancy. It's remarkably versatile. I sprinkle sumac on top because that was how it was always served to me.

Another option to make it more savory is to stir in a pint of plain tomato sauce in lieu of some of the liquid when cooking the bulghur. It doesn't add a specifically tomato flavor, but it deepens the overall flavor of the dish.

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

A piece of my past

Two of the most gloriously technicolor years of my life were spent behind this sign, which read, in its glory days, Middle East.

It was a restaurant, a bar, a gathering place, a dysfunctional man supermarket, and for a while, the place where I felt most at home and alive.

Strangely enough, it had also been a part of my life when I was a kid. The Middle East was my mom's favorite place to go out for dinner. She judged her dates by how they responded to the belly dancers, working for tips, and when she had enough drinks, she got up and joined them. She said she knew she'd had one too many when the Arabic waiters started to turn blond.

I drank there, a lot, but that never happened to me.

Years later, in my late twenties, a friend started taking belly dance lessons. The guy she was dating thought it was cool until she got good at it and wanted to try performing. Then he wanted her to quit, so she quit him. We started hanging out at the Middle East so she could convince them to let her dance there.

It became the slightly out of the way place we would go for a drink after work, and usually end up staying until bedtime. It became the place where I got so comfortable that when the bar phone rang, I answered it if no one was available. It became the place where if I saw a table that needed clearing, I would grab a bus tub and do it. Finally, it became the place where the owner looked at me one night and said, "Why am I still surprised to find you in my kitchen?"

After that, I went on the payroll. I worked the door for their upstairs music nights, I hostessed at the comedy club and at the restaurant, and eventually, when my law firm job got to be too much, I started working days in the basement office, helping to organize a business that looked like it ran well but was total chaos behind the scenes.

I slept a little, drank a lot, ate mostly Middle Eastern food, and was absorbed into a family both real and found. While I mostly worked the upstairs concert venues, it was the Middle Eastern music that had gotten its hooks into me young, and while I never wanted to dance, I can, if pushed, make a mean belly dance costume.

Also, I still love Middle Eastern food. I've been making mejedra all through the pandemic. It's a one-pot meal that I can make on a Monday and that will last us for lunch all through the week.

Monday, June 21, 2021

Dive in

Now that I - and most of the people I know - have been vaccinated, it's time to start thinking about getting back to normal. A new normal, I think, because there were things wrong with the old normal, and if this has not been a chance for a reset, then we've learned nothing.

 I've actually enjoyed the lack of peopling during the pandemic, but that doesn't mean I can avoid them indefinitely. Nor do I want to.

An local acquaintance recently sent out an invite for a party on Friday night. She asked her guests to provide proof of vaccination, so we would be comfortable being around each other, but we could certainly still mask up if that made us more comfortable. She noted that the party would be held both indoors and outdoors, so we could pick the zone where, again, we felt the most comfortable.

When I accepted the invitation and sent my proof of vaccine, I was excited about going. As the day grew closer, it began to feel more like work than pleasure, and by the time I left the house - I still went, despite having reached a level of existential dread usually only provoked by large family gatherings - it was just as likely I would run for the hills as walk the five blocks to her house.

I met up with a friend on my way there, and within a block, we ran into two more women, each walking with a dish, or a bakery box, all of us radiating twitchiness and nerves and a general aura of not having left our house for a year plus.

Thankfully, when we got there, there was a full bar, because there were also at least 60 women spread out over the front porch, living room, dining room, kitchen and back deck. I haven't been around this many people in 16 months, and I admit it was really, really unnerving at first.

I wasn't alone in that feeling. There were lots of jokes about not remembering how to behave in public, and reaching up to remove non-existent masks before eating or drinking. It made us all feel a little better, knowing we were in the same unfamiliar boat.

The plan was only to stay for an hour, but I ended up staying for nearly three. The second glass of box rosé really helped, but it was also talking to a lot of women who had been through similar things and were feeling the same conflicted feelings about getting back to normal.

Anyway, I've done it. I've gone to a party, without a mask, talked to a whole bunch of people, and lived to tell the tale. Now that I think about it, it always has been my MO - if I'm scared of something, the best thing I can do is plunge in and think about it afterwards.

What about you? Have you been out and about yet? Does it feel weird? Normal? What is normal, anyway?

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

I did it!

It was 90+ degrees by the time we packed up to go home last Saturday. But before that, it had been 4 hours of near normal - talking to people, selling, listening to music outdoors in the sun, and petting dogs. Lots of dogs. 

It felt way more normal than I expected. Being that the sum total of my conversations for the last year have been with my husband and a few neighbors, I wasn't sure how I would be able to handle the general public, but it was great. We were all a bit dazed, like we've just been let out of cages, and we were all a little more gentle with each other than would normally be the case. Which is good, and I hope is one of the things we've learned in the pandemic that sticks.

The big hits of the day were my toddler dresses - I sold seven of them - and my recycled fabric dolls. 

Being that it was Swarthmore, a liberal college town, the Pride dolls in their rainbow dresses went over particularly well. I also had a small stack of my books with me, in the hopes of selling a few. No luck there, but there were a few interesting conversations with people, and I gave out a lot of bookmarks, so hopefully this will lead to future sales. 

I don't have another show booked for some time, though I am considering doing a 4th of July flea market in the next town over. My stuff doesn't class as flea market, but the organizer said there are so many artists out of work that they've expanded their admission criteria. And it's only a few miles from my house, so hard to turn down.

Now back to writing. I have edits due on the third Tudor book by June 15, and a self-imposed deadline to get at least another 10 chapters of my Great Depression story edited by then. I'm also still working on the audiobook of a wider world, but right now I'm in a waiting phase because my voice artist has a bad case of pollen and I haven't gotten anything new from him in about 10 days. 

So that's where I am. What about you? Have you done something normal yet? How did it make you feel?

Thursday, June 3, 2021

Back at it

Once upon a time, I did a lot of craft shows. A lot. During the season - early April through end of June, and then again from Labor Day through Christmas - I would be out every weekend, sometimes both days. For the holidays, Friday-Saturday-Sunday.

Then came Covid. My last craft show, excepting the informal one I set up on my front patio last Thanksgiving weekend, was the week before Christmas, 2019. It would have been later, but I picked up something viral and unpleasant before Thanksgiving that flattened me until mid-January, and by that last week, I couldn't do any more.

So it's been a long time. And I haven't totally missed it, as it turns out. The pandemic made a lot of people rethink their normal, and I made a few decisions regarding my handmade business - which aren't because of wanting to build my writing business, but simply because it feels time. 

I'm only going to do local shows now, here in town or in several suburbs nearby. They're not only the most convenient (necessary since I don't drive and I hate asking Mario to spend a day ferrying me back and forth; it eats into the profits, as well), but shows here and in Swarthmore, particularly, have always been the most profitable. I'm going to try to rework things to build a more sustainable online presence on Etsy, since right now the handmade shop is only busy at the holidays.

My first event is this Saturday, June 5, where I'll be the featured artist at the Swarthmore farmer's market. It's a short event - only 9 a.m. to noon - so I can ease back into packing the car, setting up/breaking down and, most importantly, remembering how to people. Social re-entry is going to be a little rocky for this introvert, but I'm sure I'll figure it out.

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Anne Boleyn

Another snippet from A Wider World, because today is the 485th anniversary of Anne Boleyn's execution.


“We’re off now, Rob. Are you coming?”

“I thought I’d get some work done.” I hadn’t intended to witness the executions; I lost my taste for such matters as a boy, when I saw the Duke of Buckingham’s trip to the block.

Ned’s eyebrows raised. “We’re all going.”

I took his meaning. Of course, they were going. Cromwell had worked tirelessly toward this for months. He would be in front, in his rightful place in the proceedings. My absence would be noted.

“I’ll be right there.” Part of my hesitation was a strange sympathy for Smeaton. He’d gotten his start in Wolsey’s choir, transferring to the Chapel Royal on the cardinal’s fall from grace. From there, he found the queen’s favor and moved to her household, where, by looks, talent, and breathtaking stupidity, he encompassed his own end.

I hadn’t spoken up for him, of course. What I said to Tom was true—Mark was already dead, and I had no desire to join him in that subterranean chamber with the maiden and the rack and the thumbscrews. Being one of Cromwell’s men would not save me.


     The five men who died that day were guilty, though not of the charges brought against them. They were guilty of the crime of getting in the way of Thomas Cromwell.

     I was torn. I liked Cromwell. He was a man like myself, or Cardinal Wolsey: born low, and achieving greatness by sheer, stubborn hard work. He was arrogant, and rearranged facts to suit his intentions, but I would not condemn a man for my own faults.

     “All of them married men,” Ned said hoarsely. “With children.”

     “The king will not punish them for their father’s misdeeds.” I was almost certain of that, for Cromwell had worked with Wolsey, and had only risen after his master’s death. If one was useful, King Henry looked away.

     Smeaton died last, after the gentlemen, and worst. He was carried to the platform, the rack having done its evil work on his joints. When he saw the block, slick with blood, and the sodden, mucky straw beneath, he cried out and twisted away, so that the crowd jeered.

     Two days later, Anne Boleyn met a similar end. That execution I did not attend, having given myself no time the day before to complete some necessary task for my master. I had never been fond of her, but I could not bring myself to watch her die; if I did, I would have to write that to Bess.

     She was given the favor of a French sword, instead of an English ax. Her black hair was tucked up under a plain coif, and once her eyes were covered, the swordsman struck a clean blow.

     The king was rid of his troublesome second wife, and he celebrated by announcing his betrothal to Jane Seymour the very next day.

Sunday, May 2, 2021

485 years ago today

 Anne Boleyn took a boat ride to the Tower of London. The day before, she and King Henry had been at a tournament. He left early - because he'd gotten his "conclusive proof" that she'd been unfaithful.

It's very unlikely that she was, and certainly not with the frequency and variety of men of whom she as accused, one of them being her own brother.

In Henry's mind, Anne had been the cause of his break with his first wife, his break with Rome (because the pope wouldn't let him divorce his first wife), and a lot of upset with everyone around him. And all she had given him was a daughter.

The combination of miscarrying a son and being less fun to have around (any wonder?) was, for Henry, the last straw.

As I've said many times, the more you know about Henry Tudor, the less you like him.

Here's a snippet about this period from A Wider World.


     One day Anne Boleyn was Henry’s cherished queen, and the next she was imprisoned, charged with crimes that would make a man blush. There was a feeling in the air that anything could happen.

     I accompanied Cromwell on one of his frequent visits to Greenwich to meet with the king. We went by river, and I looked down as we passed under the arches of London Bridge. Despite the profusion of shops scattered across—and built up—along its length, the heads of the executed were still visible, and if they were not, I would know they were there by the circling kites.

     We shot the rapids under the bridge with ease, the size of the barge and the time of day making it less risky. I’d seen smaller boats try the same maneuver during a high tide and capsize, and I frequently walked across to avoid an unnecessary trip on that section of the river.

     It was more difficult to ignore the heads when I walked.

     Cromwell was silent for most of the trip, riffling through the papers he carried in a thick folio. An attack of conscience? It could not be that; he had drawn up the warrants himself. Did the idea of her downfall start with him, or with the king?

     He’d once been her champion, but the king was his master, not Anne Boleyn, and the king was convinced that only a new wife would give him a son. Cromwell had to help or be sucked into the maelstrom while someone else did the king’s bidding.

     As we entered the palace, he turned to me. “I’ll meet with the king privately, Lewis. Find occupation as you will: I know you have acquaintance here. Meet me in the outer audience chamber at four of the clock.”

     Did he know I had acquaintance at Greenwich because of my history, or was there something ominous in his knowledge? Cromwell had spies everywhere, but I never thought to question whether he kept an eye on his loyal clerks.

     Because of that, I kept to myself until after dinner, when I met Bess in the hall. We made our way to the suite reserved for the king’s vicar general, principal secretary, and current favorite, all of whom were Thomas Cromwell. I felt a sliver of pride that she would see the oak paneled room where I worked, with its windows overlooking the verdant lawns.

     She noticed none of it, turning immediately to ask, “How is the queen?”

     “I wouldn’t know.”

     “How could they accuse her of such things?” Her brown eyes were bright with anger. “Unfaithful, with her own brother? It’s madness.”

     I gave her a warning glance. “The king is not mad.”

     “He hunted her like a deer,” Bess said, “and now he has his quarry, he is disillusioned and all out of love. That is no better reason to put her away than he had for Queen Katherine.” Her feelings were evident on her face. “I love the king, but he should try to accept life, as the rest of us are made to.”

     Such words could land her in a cell next to Smeaton. “There is nothing you can do,” I said, “except remain quiet and follow my suggestions. I’ll explain further when Tom gets here.”

     “He is off somewhere.” She peered out the window, then settled quietly before me. “Tell me now.”

    “You are too close to the queen.” It had come to me, while eating the king’s dinner, that more people were at risk than just those currently imprisoned. “I am afraid for you.”

     Bess made the same impatient face I’d seen her make for nearly twenty years. “Don’t be silly.”

     I sat down behind a desk, hoping it would lend me some authority. She took direction only from the master of minstrels, who was also her husband. “The queen is in the Tower,” I said. “Very few people return from that place.”

     “But she isn’t guilty.” Bess popped from her seat and paced the floor. “None of them are. Mark is a stupid boy, but not stupid enough to involve himself with the queen, even if she would be unfaithful to King Henry. Which she would not.”

     I gestured for her to lower her voice. “I know you have sympathy for both of them, but you must be discreet. There are more important things to think of right now.” I looked pointedly at her belly, straining behind her front-laced bodice. “Young Harry and this one here, they don’t care what becomes of the queen. They just want their parents.”

     “And they have them.” She softened at the mention of her boy, and the unborn little one.

     “You should go away, at least for a while.”

     Bess laughed in my face. “This is our home.”

     I sighed. “Maybe it was, but the court has changed since you arrived, even since you were wed. The king will have his way, and if it kills the queen, Smeaton, and any other number of innocents, he will not care.”

     She sat down hard, as if her knees had given way. “He wants Jane Seymour now, doesn’t he?”

     “He wants a son,” I said bluntly. “If Queen Katherine had given him a living son—even one—she would still be queen, and we would still be tied to Rome. People forget the king’s father took this throne. King Henry may look secure, but without an heir, anything could happen.”

     “But he has an heir.”

     I pressed my fingers to my temples. “No, he has daughters. No woman will rule England.”

     There was a knock, and Tom entered without waiting. “I’m sorry I wasn’t at dinner,” he said without preamble. “I tried to see Mark.”

     “How is he?” Bess reached out and he sat on the edge of my desk, one hand on her shoulder. She relaxed at his touch. If I could get him to see sense, she would follow.

     “I wasn’t admitted.” His face showed concern. “The guards said he’s been racked. I imagine he told them whatever they wanted to hear, to make it stop.”

     Mark Smeaton was a stupid boy, as Bess said, and perhaps bragged too often about being in the queen’s favor, but he was no more her lover than was her brother George. “I’ve been telling Bess—you need to get away before either of you are pulled into this.”

     “We are not in so deep as that, Rob.”

     “You are master of minstrels, Tom.” I raised my brows. “Which means you supervised him and should have known his whereabouts. It might even be assumed that you were sympathetic.” I looked at his wife. “It’s well known how close Bess is to the queen. She may have looked the other way when Mark came to her.”

     Bess gasped, and Tom said, “You think they would go so far?”

     “I think an outcome has been decided and all that’s left is to build the case.”

Monday, April 26, 2021

Live Reading Accomplished

On Saturday evening, I locked myself in the bedroom with my phone, my tablet, and a case of the nerves. What follows is a brief intro, the first three chapters of A Wider World, and answers to a few questions after. Also: I survived, and it didn't come out too badly. Let me know what you think.

Friday, April 23, 2021



Just a reminder that the Facebook Live event will be TOMORROW,
Saturday, April 24, 2021 @ 7:00 p.m. eastern

Tune in or catch it later when it's posted on the blog.

Friday, April 16, 2021

And then there was one

Once upon a time there were thirteen cats.

Now there is one.

We had the mobile vet come out today to help Nicky leave the fold. He had been to the vet back in early March for a minor issue, got a clean bill of health - x-rays, bloodwork, urinalysis - but in the last few days, he dropped a ton of weight and lost interest in everything but sleeping. A sudden, massive weight loss is never good, and it can bring on failures of various systems, 

I thought about taking him back to the vet, but decided against it. Nicky was eighteen, more than a good age for a cat, and other than that trip last month, he's needed very little healthcare in his life. Whatever the problem was, whether it was something missed in March or a totally new development, it's unlikely that it would be treatable at his age, and I hated the idea of putting him through more testing, much less multiple car rides to do it. Plus we're still not able to go into the vet's office with him, so he wouldn't have even had the moral support of his people.

The mobile vet was willing to come to the house and euthanize him in the comfort of his own home. It may have been a little too soon - why do we always second-guess ourselves when we try to do right by our animals? - but she confirmed that the process wasn't going to reverse itself, and that there didn't seem to be anything specific wrong other than advanced age.

Now we have one cat, Harriet, who was Nicky's littermate. I never imagined she'd be the last cat standing - and although she's also eighteen, and has some of the same intestinal issues as her brother, she's round and pudgy and bounces around the house like a kitten. So fingers crossed she'll be with us for a while to come.

Bon voyage, Nikolas Vladimirovich von Putintat. I hope the Great Litterbox in the Sky serves abundant salmon and knows that you like it well-watered. You were a good cat.

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Good News


We had our second shots on April 1, and now, two weeks out, we're considered to be fully vaccinated.

That doesn't mean we can hop in the car and drive to NJ to hug Mario's mom - vaccinated or not, her nursing home has rules about those things - but maybe if we're outside we can at least stealthily pat her without worrying about getting her sick.

We're also going to get together soon with a few friends who've also been vaccinated. Honestly, I feel like asking everyone I meet for their papers right now before I'm comfortable enough to sit down and take off my mask.

Speaking of masks, I know we all got tired of wearing them, but is it just me, or did almost everyone seem healthier over the last year, other than Covid? I didn't have a cold, the flu, my semi-regular bronchitis, or any allergies. It's enough to make you understand why they're effective.

It also feels like progress. I admit to getting a bit weepy when I got my second shot, and not from any kind of pain. It really feels like we're coming to a point in this long, hard road where we can actually see an end that's not a mirage.

Sunday, April 11, 2021

Live reading

It's that time again, almost.

A Wider World comes out on Sunday, April 25, 2021, and I'll be doing a live reading - and answering your questions - on Facebook on Saturday night, April 24, 2021, at 7:00 p.m. eastern. You can find the reading by following my page here. If you're not on Facebook, I'll be posting the video within a few days, just as soon as I remember how to do that.

Either way, live or catching it later, if you have any questions about me, writing generally, Songbird or A Wider World, Henry VIII, or something I haven't thought of, please comment and I'll try to answer them all.

Thursday, April 8, 2021

Fun with audio

It's a busy time right now. 

I just finished the final edits on the third book in the Tudor Court series and submitted it to the publisher. While I wait for them to look it over again, I'm working on the audiobook for A Wider World. As I work, I am ever more grateful for my years of volunteering with local theater, because it has given me a pool of actors to barter with. 

This book is turning out to be easier than Songbird, probably because it's more recently written and edited, and I don't have to read along at quite the same level this time. I know these words; I've been over them half a dozen times in the last year. Some parts of Songbird were so old that they surprised me when I heard Jen read them out for the first time. 

The actor and I have a system going. He records several chapters and uploads them to a shared Google drive. I download and listen to them through Audacity, which is a fabulous free audio recording/editing software. I do basic cleanup then, looking for background noise or breath sounds, but what I'm mainly listening for are mistakes or mispronunciations or incorrect emphasis. 

I make notes of the sentences that need re-recording and send them back to him. When he does those edits, I can then cut and paste them - just like in Word - into the original audio file. After that, I check the levels to make sure that they're even, divide the files into chapters, and put the correct, Audible-mandated amount of blank space at the beginning and end. Then I convert them into .wav files.

Once that's done, I upload the files into another shared folder (this time with my publisher), and they'll take it from there for final mastering. It's more of a process than many authors with publishers go through, but they understand my control freak tendencies, and I really enjoy being involved in all levels of the production process. 

Eventually, when I self-publish my 1930s book, I want to be able to do all the steps myself - other than logical things like paying for cover art, etc. I might know what I want, and I might know the trends, but I don't have the graphic design background to make it good enough. My time is better spent on words than pictures. Part of being an effective control freak is knowing when somebody else does something better than you do. 

I guess that's also called delegating.

Tuesday, April 6, 2021



I do still sew, in case anyone is curious. Not as much as I used to, especially since in-person craft shows didn't happen in 2020, but I do still enjoy it.

What sewing I did last year was mostly custom work, and this was a job I was happy to get. A former co-worker reached out to me in February. Her mother-in-law had just died and her husband wanted to do something with four of her favorite nightgowns. (She had been house/bed bound for a long time and cycled through the same several gowns, and they were what everybody thought of her wearing). 

Remembering what I used to do on the days when I wasn't in the office, she suggested that I make bears out of them - and then ordered ELEVEN.

She drove out to visit and we had a lovely masked chat on the back porch when she handed over the gowns.

Sewing-wise, I flinched when I opened the bag, because they were all very stretchy polyester, and not even all the same. Some were two-way stretch, and some were four. Some were fuzzy and some smooth. All were going to be a nightmare to make small pieces with.

I decided that it would slow the process initially, but speed things along in the end, and I used fusible interfacing on all of it, then cut out the pieces. It kept them from stretching in every direction at once, and saved me from embedding too much profanity into what were supposed to be nice memorial bears.

A while back I had ordered safety joints for use in future bear projects, and I tried to use them here. First off, I think I ordered them slightly too small, but also, the fabric was just so limp that no matter how I tried, the arms and legs just dangled off the body. I removed them - no small feat with a locking joint - and went back to my original method of stringing them through the shoulders and hips with hemp cord.

The longest part of the process was trying to decide on the fabric arrangement. A red plaid, a pink and gray paisley, an ivory with navy blue toile, and a bright white with red cardinals. Other than the plaid/cardinals, none of it really worked. After some thought, I decided to tie them together by using the plaid in the same place on each one - head panel, inside arms, and foot pads. Then the rest of the pieces could be of the different fabrics, and each bear would be trimmed with lace from the neckline of the "head" nightgown. Each bear got a red ribbon to finish.

She picked them up the other weekend - another coffee/chat on the patio, this time rainy and chilly - and she carried them off to Delaware. They'll be distributed to her husband's various siblings and relatives once it's safer to gather as a family, but judging from the photo she sent, he seems pretty happy with them, and maybe his family should be worried about getting them from him at all.

Friday, March 19, 2021

One year later...

So it's been a while. How can it be hectic when time still doesn't have the same meaning it used to?

So we've just passed the one year anniversary of nearly everybody staying home. Remember when we thought it was just going to be a few weeks? I'm thrilled to be past the rubber gloves and wiping down the groceries phase, and I no longer forget my mask when I leave the house, but the fact that it's been a year astounds me. 

I'm very lucky that I was working from home already and the pandemic has changed my work life very little, other than that I actually got more done than before (having few places to go). I have some guilt about my productivity, but that's not useful, and I'm trying to get past it. 

I'm also extremely lucky that Mario has the kind of job he can do from his office upstairs - and that my office is downstairs. I love him to death, and I always thought it would be nice if he could work from home. I still feel those same things, but when life opens up and he starts going back to work, at least part-time, I'll cope. I read an article recently that talks about "aloneliness." We know that loneliness has been a problem - so many people were isolated who had never experienced it before. But what about those of us who need significant amounts of alone time to feel at all normal? We are "alonely," we're lacking in loneliness. 

Mario's presence in the house doesn't affect me that much, but when I'm working, I like to read my writing aloud, and that usually elicits a "what did you say?" from upstairs. I also sing - albeit badly - to the cats, and eat, or not, depending on how busy I am. It is disconcerting to find that most people want to eat three meals a day, and on a somewhat regular schedule.

All this is to say I have nothing to complain about. We're well, and so are our nearest and dearest. I've known people who've gotten sick, but they recovered. The most fragile people I know have been vaccinated, and even Mario and I have achieved our first vaccinations, with our second shot scheduled in the beginning of April. A local clinic had more vaccine than they had arms to put it in, and put out a call for neighbors because it was almost time to shut down, and the Pfizer vaccine doesn't keep. We grabbed an elderly neighbor and made it in just under the wire. 

I have been terrified of needles my entire life, and was a little nervous about this, but was going to suck it up, because what's worse, a jab in the arm or Covid? Mario finished first and sat on the floor next to my chair and held my hand, but I won't need him to do that for the second shot. What I mostly felt, when it was done was gratitude. It's not over yet but it's finally feels like it's beginning to end. 

And that's enough for now.

Sunday, February 14, 2021

Cover Reveal and excerpt

Well, here it is, folks! The gorgeous cover for A Wider World, designed by Anthony O'Brien and featuring another ancient ceiling. (I'm sensing a theme here).

The book will be released on April 25, 2021, but if you're an e-book reader, you can pre-order it now on Amazon. I can't tell you how much pre-orders mean to the way Amazon decides to promote a book.


Chapter One

November 10, 1558

Winterset, Yorkshire


“They said I would not end well.”

“And so you have not.” The young man has an air of self-importance, something he should have outgrown by now—but perhaps not. He has, after all, arrested me; mayhap he should feel arrogant.

I walk toward the fire, smiling as he moves out of my way. “I did not begin well, I will grant you that. And my middle was…middling.” The heat warms my face, masking any flush of anger. “But my end is not yet accomplished.”

He speaks again, his confidence recovered. “For your nefarious history with Thomas Cromwell, for your role in the destruction of the monasteries, and your attempts to dismantle the one true church, for promoting Luther and the English Bible, Her Majesty charges you with heresy.”

I ignore him. “You, who have interrupted my supper with your warrants and demands, who are here to see me to that end—you have no idea of my beginnings.”

Mongrel, they called me. Bastard. Unloved, I should have withered. I did not. I forced myself to flourish, to prove the world wrong.

“The world did not, early on, consider me of enough importance to care whether I lived or died. Now, I have achieved importance in the eyes of some—though only some see my true value. Whether you come to see it remains to be seen.”

The young man—William Hawkins—snorts. A laugh? A sound of disbelief? He drops into my empty chair, his black boots stretched toward the blaze.

I watch him in the small convex mirror, which stands on the cupboard, a memento of my Venetian travels, just unpacked. “You were told I was clever, to beware my words. I do not appear dangerous, do I?” A man of fifty-odd, dressed in clerical black. Thin to the point of gauntness, though seemingly healthy. A man with few attachments in this life, and those well concealed. “I can see you are interested.”

Hawkins demurs, but his eye stretches at my words, and I continue, “The storm will not abate before morning. It is not solely in my own interests that I suggest you ask your men to stand down.”

Hawkins is unwilling but sees sense in the end. I try not to listen as he speaks to his men. Nine of them—as if I require an army to be brought to justice. They shed their wet cloaks and settle themselves in the hall. I’ll have ale brought out; their goodwill will be more easily won than my captor’s.

I look at him again. He gives the impression of wearing armor, but in truth, he has nothing more than layers of damp wool, like the rest of us, with a well-cut doublet on top to show his status. “We may as well pass the evening in conversation.”

Friday, February 5, 2021

Coming Soon - A Wider World

We not only have a publication date, but we have a blurb!

Mark your calendars for A Wider World, the story of Robin Lewis, the chorister-turned-royal-secretary who first appeared in Songbird. He's all grown up now, and in a rather tight spot, as explained below:

Memories are all he has... 

Now they could save his life. 

Returning to England after almost five years in exile, Robin Lewis is arrested and charged with heresy by the dying Queen Mary. 

As he is escorted to the Tower of London, Robin spins a tale for his captor, revisiting his life under three Tudor monarchs and wondering how he will be judged—not just by the queen, but by the God he stopped serving long ago. 

When every moment counts, will the journey—and his stories—last long enough for him to be saved by Mary's heir, the young Queen Elizabeth?

Monday, February 1, 2021

Book recommendation: Empire's Legacy

Even though I'm supposed to be writing, I still read. A lot. 

My public school education was decent, but it wasn't what taught me to write. Reading did that.

One of the best things about becoming a published author is becoming friends with other writers on social media (and eventually outside of social media, once we can travel again).

I've read Marian L Thorpe's Empire's Legacy trilogy before - in its separate volumes - but because she recently commissioned a new cover for the combined trilogy, I was lucky enough to receive her author copy (she lives in Canada and Amazon has issues, and the post office has issues, and it was just easier for me to review it for her). But that means I know have a whomping big paperback trilogy that she'll soon be giving away to US readers on her mailing list. Which you can join here

Amazon files these books under alternate history / historical fantasy. It's a hard genre to pin down, because to most people, "fantasy" means elves and magic systems, but in this case, it's a variation on post-Roman Britain, with different names, a slightly altered map, and a thoroughly reimagined history, including a society (logically) divided by gender. The history is so well done that I feel like I'm reading about a time period I've just never explored - it doesn't feel "fantasy" in the slightest. Which makes sense - one of her reviewers actually calls it "Fantasy for people who don't read fantasy."

Monday, January 25, 2021

Songbird Book Trailer

My publisher put together a quick trailer for Songbird using some of my reference photos, with Bess's signature song, The Cuckoo, performed by Elizabeth Larsen. If anyone has seen my Facebook live reading at Songbird's launch, I paused the reading to have a small breakdown play this at the appropriate point in the story.

This was a pleasant surprise for me, and I hope you enjoy another look into Bess's life.

Saturday, January 23, 2021

What's been going on

I hate it when I go quiet. I'm assuming you're not fond of it either, dear readers - you keep showing up here, and it would be nice if I gave you something to read.

Things are happening behind the scenes, of course. We're down to just final copy edits for A Wider World. The cover has been finished, and I've scored an absolutely mind-blowing quote for the cover from a Tudor author whose work I really respect. Coming soon, I promise.

I've also completed and submitted Lady, in Waiting before my New Year's Eve deadline, and now I'm doing rewrites before re-submitting. (That first submission was so the publisher could see that I actually had something that could be reasonably wrangled into book shape; now comes the actual wrangling). It's going pretty well, though, and I hope to have this draft done by end of February.

What I'm also doing is recovering from a really good online Christmas this year. While sales were down in my vintage Etsy shop, they were booming over on the handmade side. Being prevented from doing holiday shopping sent people online. Go figure! Even with postal delays, almost everything arrived on time.

I had to end Christmas stocking orders early. I sent a batch to a shop I work with in Philadelphia, and would have sent more, but ran out of the vintage quilts I like to use. It's getting harder to find ones that are in good enough condition to use, but with enough damage that I don't feel guilty cutting them up. Luckily, I scored two on Ebay just after the holidays, and a hunter-gathering neighbor found a third for me.

My favorite order of the season was from a customer who sent me a box of quilted placemats made by her recently deceased mother-in-law. She wanted them turned into stockings for the family, and have a holiday table runner made with the leftover. I'm working on the table runner, because we realized it wouldn't happen by Christmas - especially with the postal difficulties - but I think her stockings came out well. I'm not a fan of precise patchwork (not making it, anyway) but the placemat fabrics really lent themselves to my more random design ideas.

Now I must go back to my other writing. Just wanted to pop in, look around, make sure people were still here. Back soon.