Wednesday, December 28, 2022

Audiobook Giveaway!


Something new and different for you - Spotify is no longer just a place where you can listen to music or podcasts. They've expanded into audiobooks!

And because my audiobooks are wide - sold on more retail platforms than just Audible - they were automatically loaded onto Spotify for your listening pleasure.

Now here's the fun part. I've got 20 free codes for each book to give away. If you're interested in either (or both), please comment here with your email, or, if you're not comfortable with leaving your email address in public (understandable), then email me at karen @ karenheenan (dot) com and let me know which book you want. 

Whether or not you can have both will depend on the number of responses I receive. Just know that both books are well voiced - two extremely talented actors with whom I've worked for years - and even though independently done, the books passed Audible's stringent controls before being uploaded. (I may not want to sell exclusively through them, but their quality control is the bomb, and I use them as a filter before I upload anywhere else).

Monday, December 19, 2022

Downhill to the holidays

It's coming. The holidays. 

I'm still stupid tired from the last few weeks and trying to remember what I did when I had the house to myself every day. I'm sure I'll figure it out just as my husband's long break starts (December 23 - January 3), and then I'll have to remember all over again.

It's not looking good, but I still have hopes of finishing the first draft of Coming Closer by Christmas. 

The original end date was Thanksgiving, but obviously that got derailed by family stuff, which is why I build wiggle room into all my deadlines. Something always happens, and even when that something isn't as large and sad as the loss of a family member, it's easy to lose time and get off-track.

Since the extent of my holiday decorating is usually looking at the decorations of others - too many years of adventurous cats to ever want to set up a tree again - I thought I'd share my favorite houses on Baltimore Avenue in West Philly. 

Urban legend says it's two sisters in side-by-side houses. They're decorated when there's no holiday going on, but give them a reason and they pull out all the stops. I'm not even sure this is all the Christmas decorations yet. Since they'll swap it all out again for Valentine's Day, Easter, Mother's Day, Father's Day, Juneteenth, July 4th, Labor Day, Halloween, and Thanksgiving, my main question is where do they store it all in the off-season? 

Wednesday, December 14, 2022

Brief update

Just a short post this week because I haven't been around much and I'm just starting to catch up.

My husband's mom has been in hospice, and we lost her last week. Yesterday was the funeral and today is generalized exhaustion and starting to get to all the things that were set aside while we were with her.

Here's a list I wrote for that tires in with my release of Coming Apart - the five best books about complicated sister relationships. If you haven't heard of Shepherd, it's a fantastic place to go for book recommendations. While it does feature specific author's books, in exchange we have to come up with a list of books that work with the theme of our featured book. Complicated sisters was a fun list to put together.

Do you have any books you'd suggest adding to this list?

Tuesday, December 6, 2022

It's a sale!


One of the best things about the holiday season is the sales. One for them, one for me - sometimes that's just how you have to roll to get through it all.

Just in case you haven't treated yourself, and also haven't yet read Songbird, it's on sale (Amazon Kindle only) from December 5 through December 11, for just 99 cents. This offer is US and UK only, because that's how Amazon set it up, but hopefully that covers the bulk of you.

Have a book, on me, and find some time to sit down this season, put your feet up, and escape for a while.

Friday, December 2, 2022

November Roundup

November has been a month, let me tell you.

Figuring out how the launch went. Moving all my books from wide ebook distribution onto Kindle Unlimited (apparently that's where my readership is, because I've gotten more page reads than I ever expected - for which I am very, very grateful), keeping up with all those other November obligations and pleasures (family, holiday, craft shows), and getting ready for the big push at the end of the year.

Plus continuing on with book 2 in my Ava and Claire series, which is titled Coming Closer. The completion of the book is also coming closer, but my original December 1 deadline was derailed somewhat by life, which I will detail, at some point, in a regular post.

One thing I've learned from these roundup posts all through the year. It's absolutely exhausting to sit down ta the beginning of the next month and figure out what the heck you did for the past 30 days. It's either a blur or a cliff looming over your head, ready to topple.

Wednesday, November 30, 2022

December. It's practically here.

How was your thanksgiving? I hope your turkey was juicy your family was well behaved, and you got some decent down time.

We went to my best friend's for Thanksgiving dinner, and you know it's a good meal when you're still not hungry by lunch time the next day. Which was a pity, because she sent us home with leftovers.

Also on Friday was the loading in, setting up, and first day of a two-day event in my town. I've been doing it for 5 or 6 years now, and it's always fun, and since I'm in the lobby of the building, I get to see everyone as they come in and catch up with a ton of people.

Sales were good - my new critters in clothes got some decent love from the crowd - but by the time we loaded out on Saturday dinner time, I felt like a rag that had been wrung out. Came home and fell asleep on the couch.

Normally, we would have gone to New Jersey on Sunday, to visit Mario's mom, but she's having a procedure this week so we saved our drive time to be with her then.

I've got one more craft show this coming saturday, back in West Philly, and I also just got in a wholesale order, so there's a bit of frantic sewing in addition to a bit of frantic writing on the second book of my Ava and Claire series. I know what's happening, but the voices in my head were getting a little loud, so I guess I need to write it down.

What did you do with your long weekend? Are there craft shows in your area? What's your favorite thing to shop for?

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Happy Thanksgiving!

For Thanksgiving, I'd like to offer my take on Thanksgiving, 1932 in the combined households of Ava Kimber and her friend and neighbor, Trudy. Times are hard, but they can still find reason to be grateful, and it's the one day of the year where no one worries about leftovers.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“It sounds like something Mama would have liked.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She looks up through tousled curls. “I’ll be grateful not to be the baby anymore.”

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

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

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

Saturday, November 19, 2022

Going down with the ship

When I joined Twitter in 2017, it was basically to see what was happening in the world in real time - a fast way to catch the news and to see what the latest stupid was in the world that people were talking about.

Then I found my people. The writing community, which has been a generous, welcoming, inspiring place to hang out for the past five years. I've made friends - real friends, who I've met in real life, and some faraway but just as real - and I've learned a lot and hopefully shared some interesting bits for others.

I found my old publisher through a pitch event on Twitter. I've had actual conversations with writers and performers who I'd never have the guts to speak to in person. I've indulged my current obsession - currently Ted Lasso season 3 fan theories - and found new ones.

And the way it looks now, that all might be gone, because one very rich man couldn't think of anything better to do with $44 billion than to buy something and break it, with apparently no thought for all the people for whom Twitter is actually their connection to a world they can't reach any other way.

I'm still hopeful, though. I'm rearranging my deck chair to sit near my favorite people and keep up the conversation until the lights go out.

** Apologies to all those who lost their actual lives on the Titanic. No disrespect at all, this just feels like we're watching a ship sink in real time and there aren't enough lifeboats and everyone is getting into a different one (Mastodon, Tumblr, Instagram, try this beta, try that one, let's all just go back to Facebook). 

I never imagined that the potential loss of a social media platform could make me sad. But it does.

Wednesday, November 16, 2022

Finally Fall!

It's beginning to feel a lot like November. Finally. 

I don't mind 70 degrees, but it's a little jarring when we're rapidly approaching Thanksgiving and I'm doing holiday craft shows.

Besides frantic sewing, family visits in NJ, and cleaning up the garden so I don't have to do it in the spring (which happens almost every year), I'm trying to get the first draft of my next book done by end of month. It's not scheduled for publication until April, but if I finish by December 1, I can let it rest for a while and then start in on edits in the new year. 

It's a luxury to have that resting period between writing and editing, because (1) edits always take longer than expected, and (2) after my first readers have gone over the book, they always find typos that spellcheck and I didn't catch. And then I always find something to change at the last minute. Always.

But the cover is done, and the blurb is at about 90%. When I have that coherent, I'll share it here.

How's your fall going? Is it fall where you are? If it's not, is it because you're down under or because Mother Nature just isn't ready to let go of shorts weather yet?

Wednesday, November 9, 2022

Something old, something new

I'll bet some of you thought I'd stopped sewing. But no! Craft show season is in full swing, heading toward the holidays. 

Or are the holidays heading toward us, somewhat like a speeding train? Either way, what better time to work up a new pattern to add to add to the table? 

I've always been the Crayola kid, all the colors, all the time, but I've been feeling the need for something more restful, and these pale creatures - still working on a name for them - fit the bill. And I still get to dress them up in all my brightly-colored remnants, so it's all good.

I had a show yesterday and had seven for the table. Only one sold - they seemed to appeal more to parents than children - but I had interest from two stores who want to discuss wholesale orders, so I consider that a success. 

Of course, I'm supposed to sew wholesale orders when? I'll think about that in January. I'll think about all that in January. 

Sunday, November 6, 2022

Alternate Endings: Samantha Wilcoxson and Reginald Pole

Yesterday I talked about Princess of Spain, my story in the Alternate Endings anthology.

Today I have as my guest Samantha Wilcoxson, whose story, Tudors with a Twist, imagines alternate endings for both Mary and Elizabeth Tudor.

I'll let Samantha tell you more:

Reginald Pole, King of England?

 When I began writing, I was obsessed with the Wars of the Roses – all the drama, betrayals, and what-might-have-beens. It was such a tragic time in history with plenty of unknowns to keep a historical novelist busy. I hadn’t planned to write a series, but I ended up expanding into the early Tudor era, where the historical figures that intrigued me most weren’t the popular ones. Plenty of people wrote about Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII. I was more interested in Margaret Pole’s family and the often overlooked and misunderstood Queen Mary.

As I dug into this part of Tudor history, I kept coming back to one person, who seemed like they really tried to make a difference, and I naturally wondered if he could have done more. Reginald Pole was one of Margaret Pole’s sons. She was the daughter of George of Clarence, who had been executed by his brother, Edward IV. In other words, Reginald had more than a few drops of royal blood running through his veins, enough that his older brother, Henry Pole Baron Montagu, had been executed as part of the supposed Exeter Conspiracy.

Reginald had been in Europe while most of this was going on. Henry VIII sponsored Reginald’s education early on before the king’s lack of sons made him jealous and paranoid about his cousins. From this safe distance, Reginald, a cardinal of the Catholic church in 1536, spoke out against the actions of Henry VIII and attempted to convince the monarch to repent of his sins and reunite his kingdom with Rome. Since Henry Tudor was known for his calm demeanor and willingness to accept rebuke, this all went over really well….

Henry was furious that Reginald did not support his separation from Katharine of Aragon, marriage to Anne Boleyn, and split from Rome after all that Henry had done to raise up Reginald and the rest of the Pole family. After executing Henry Pole, whose son also mysteriously never left the Tower of London, the king sent assassins to Europe to deal with Reginald. Thankfully, they were unsuccessful, and I would not have wanted to be them admitting their failure before Henry VIII!

Here is where my Alternate Ending comes into play. When Princess Mary and Reginald were much younger, their mothers had been great friends. Margaret Pole even served as Mary’s governess until Henry sent both Katherine and Margaret away. These friends thought a match between their children would be ideal and would be one more link healing the divisions caused by the Wars of the Roses. They had a common ancestor in Richard Duke of York and, if no sons came, Englishmen might accept Mary as queen with a nobleman like Reginald at her side.

This plan came to nothing as the king refused to make marriage arrangements for Mary or consider her his heir. Then he did have a son, so it didn’t seem to matter. Until Edward VI died and Mary claimed her crown.

In reality, Mary chose to wed Philip of Spain. He was untrusted by her English subjects and did not treat her well. Protests against Spanish rule melded with those opposed to the burning of protestants, stirring up a well of rebellion among a people who had recently declared Mary their chosen queen.

I couldn’t help but ask myself how much better things might have gone if Mary had selected Reginald instead. In Europe, Reginald had attempted to find common ground between Catholics and reformers, and he was even almost elected pope in 1550. Might he have made a more acceptable king?

Instead, he did return to England, where he served as Mary’s Archbishop of Canterbury – the last Catholic to hold that position. He served as a spiritual advisor, but I have to wonder if he wouldn’t have made a better husband. I mean, it would have been difficult to have been a worse husband than Philip of Spain!

Mary probably still would have struggled with infertility. Elizabeth probably would have still inherited the throne. And Mary and Reginald would have still died on the same day, 17 November 1558. But what else might have changed if Reginald Pole had served as King of England?

Read my story in Alternate Endings to find out!







Amazon Author Page

Saturday, November 5, 2022

Alternate Endings: The Inspiration Behind Princess of Spain

So my submission for the Alternate Endings anthology is called Princess of Spain, and in my mind, it rights a certain number of historical wrongs.

What if Arthur Tudor hadn't died? What if he'd stayed married to Catherine of Aragon, consummated that marriage, had children? What if - because he was a different man than his brother - the war in Scotland had ended differently, and he stayed on good footing with his sister Margaret's husband, instead of leaving her a widow? What if there hadn't been a war with France? What if Thomas Wolsey's role had remained as priest and advisor, instead of being promoted to chancellor and cardinal and all-around-fixer?

What if Henry Tudor stayed in the place that history had intended for him - as Arthur's younger brother, bound for the church. Archbishop of Canterbury or York, maybe someday a cardinal's hat. A good place for an ambitious man, but not as good as the role history gave him when Arthur died of what was probably the sweating sickness.

When Henry became king, he married his brother's widow (touting that unconsummated marriage), warred with Scotland (his brother-in-law, the Scottish king, killed in the process), warred with France (expensive and not tremendously successful, though battles were won), but failed to have a living son with his queen, leading to five more wives, the break with Rome, the dissolution of the monasteries, and the execution of many people (good and bad).

I wanted to explore what might have happened if Arthur, the brother who had been brought up to be a monarch, actually had the chance to live out the history intended for him. It also gave me the chance to rehabilitate a few people (in addition to Catherine) whose lives might have been very different if there had been a King Arthur.

And okay, I also wanted Henry to get a little of what he deserved, but what lover of Tudor history doesn't want to see Henry get what he deserved, really?

Alternate Endings is available here - not only will you get Princess of Spain, but seven other stories, including another one set during the Tudor era. 

Wednesday, November 2, 2022

October Roundup

October was a sufficiently crazy month that I forgot to even do my roundup until this morning. How's that for busy?

The first few weeks were lead-up to the release of Coming Apart, which came out on October 18. Also included in that were four podcast interviews, which I will add to the Articles, Interviews and Podcasts tab.

Because nothing succeeds like excess - and because I wasn't involved in the scheduling - the Alternate Endings anthology also dropped on November 1, so there's been a lot of marketing directed toward that, as well.

Add in some family medical drama (mostly resolved), a few craft shows (more to come), and working away at the sequel to Coming Apart (hope to have a full draft by end of month), it's been... a blur. Hoping for more clarity in November, but thus far it's not looking promising.

How was your October?  

Aren't they pretty?

I got my author copies from Amazon a day or two after the book launch, and I fully admit that I tore into that box before I thought to set up my phone to take a video. 

Oops. Author excitement is real, folks.

I've got more than a few craft shows coming up heading into the holidays, and I've learned that while they aren't the best venue to sell books, books do sell at craft shows. People are interested to see what else the maker makes, and it's always an interesting conversation.

In addition to a cover that I'm absolutely in love with, I designed bookmarks for Coming Apart (actually for the eventual whole series) that incorporate the three family photos used on the series covers.

All this to say that paperback copies of Coming Apart are available through this website for $16.99, which includes postage, autograph (if you want one), and one of my handy-dandy bookmarks. Please leave a comment here or email me at karen . heenan @ (without the spaces, obviously).

I look forward to sharing Ava and Clarie with you.


Wednesday, October 26, 2022

Take a break

Last week was a little insane. 

I had a community craft show on Sunday, plus my writing friend Marian Thorpe arrived from Canada that evening and we went to dinner with her. 

On Monday, she and I met up after breakfast and drove out to the Brandywine Museum, which houses a lovely collection of art by the Wyeth family - N.C., Andrew, and Jamie. 

Personally, I'm a sucker for the old N.C. Wyeth paintings, because I remember them as book illustrations and I've always been a fan of that era.

But the pig sculpture below is based on a painting of Jamie's, and he's rather lovely. We wandered through the museum, had lunch there, and then drove over to Ridley Creek State Park to have a proper walk-and-talk. When Marian and I get together, we spend most of our time discussing our current projects, our characters (and since we talk frequently, we know each other's characters almost as well as our own), and our next projects. Hours passed. Stories were plotted.

On Tuesday - book launch day - we met at my favorite local eatery, an Irish diner run by a Mexican family, which serves a stellar menu of both cuisines. Once full of breakfast, we went to the John Heinz Wildlife Refuge for more of the same walking-and-talking, and wore ourselves OUT. That was an early day. She went back to her hotel and I went home to watch my Amazon dashboard (all the pre-orders don't come in at once, but all throughout the day, and so I kept checking to see if/when they arrived).

Wednesday was a later start. We had coffee, then drove into Philadelphia because Marian was doing a presentation on world-building in fantasy and I wanted to ride along and listen. My first college class! It was a great time, with engaged students asking good questions. Afterward, we drove around the city a bit and I gave her a tour of some sites that appear in Coming Apart.

We got back to the house in time to swap cars, pick up my husband, and go to dinner in West Philadelphia at another favorite place. By the time we got back home, she and I felt absolutely drunk, and there had been no alcohol involved. Just so much good conversation, plotting, brain work, and fresh air over several days. 

It took through this weekend to fully recover and to type up all the weird and random notes I made into my phone about Ava and Claire's books 2 and 3. We did this same thing last November, with the same results for both of us. Having another writer brain to bounce ideas off is invaluable.

Wednesday, October 19, 2022

It's here!


Thank you to EVERYONE who made Coming Apart's release the best one ever!

For those who ordered ebooks, they should have arrived on your devices promptly at midnight. Paperbacks may already be in your hot hands - I opened that for sale a bit early so I could get some reviews and lure in potential readers.

Still feeling my celebration a bit - champagne will do that - but I'll pop back in later in the week with a few more podcast links and (when my copies arrive) a giveaway for a paperback of Coming Apart.

Thursday, October 13, 2022

Podcast - Authors Over 50

Popping in for the third time this week with a little announcement - I told you earlier that I was a guest on the Authors over 50 podcast, and here it is!

You can listen/watch the episode here on YouTube, but if you'd rather have us in your ears while you're out enjoying the fine fall weather, you can download the episode from Amazon Music, Spotify, Apple podcasts, Google podcasts, or wherever you choose to listen.

If you enjoy the episode, I'd highly recommend you subscribe to the podcast to have weekly interviews delivered right to your ears. Julia is an excellent interviewer, and I enjoyed our conversation so much.

I hope you do, too. If you listen, leave a comment and tell me what you thought.


Wednesday, October 12, 2022

What if?

And now for something a little different.

A few months ago, I was asked to participate in a historical-themed anthology - the topic/era was my choice, but it had to be a historical "what if?"

"What if?" Isn't that every historical writer's dream? We look long and hard for all the right facts for our writing, but every so often, our minds ask... "what would have happened if this hadn't?"

Alternate Endings is coming November 1, when eight authors from the Historical Writers Forum answer their favorite nagging questions, from "what if Caesar had never conquered Gaul," to "what if Arthur Tudor hadn't died and Henry was just his younger and overambitious brother" (mine, no surprises there) to "what if Abigail Adams had convinced her husband and the other founding fathers to give women the vote?"

I'll share the order link as soon as I have one. I've read most of the stories by now, and it's a really fabulous collection!

One more week!!

It's almost here!

You know how you look forward to something and it's forever in the distance and then, all of a sudden, it's RIGHT HERE and you feel barely prepared? 

That's me right now. I've been working on Coming Apart for so long, and then planning the launch, organizing podcast interviews (more about that soon!), getting advance reviews in order so that potential readers who don't know me will have some idea about the book, releasing the paperback a bit early (surprise!) so I could order author copies from Amazon, and, now, scheduling an in-person launch event. (More on that also later, when I've got it together).

So that's really all I have to say today. A podcast episode will be dropping tomorrow, so I'll post a link to it then - it was a really good discussion on a podcast for writers who've taken up the craft (or taken it up as a profession) after the age of 50. 

Which is me. Somehow. (When did that happen again?)

Monday, October 10, 2022

Lemonade (or as close as I can get)

So last week was the vacation-that-wasn't, and I really think that karma should have taken note of our sacrifice (willing or not) and given us at least a bit of decent weather so we could do fun, staycation=type things. 

Because of hurricane Ian, we got 5 days of rain and wind, which canceled the craft show I had jumped on and basically kept us in the house the entire time. Again, not the worst thing in the world, considering what that hurricane did to the southern US, but still. I'm allowing myself a small gripe.

We couldn't even do the home improvement projects we'd had vaguely planned because every time we tried to go to Home Depot, it was bucketing down and I wasn't up for wrangling a sheet of drywall into the car and having it melt in my hands, or trying to get the new vanity out and into the house without turning into two drowned rats, which would then entail mopping the kitchen.

Nope. I stayed in and wrote, worked on an editing job, did some completely recreational reading, caught up on sewing projects for myself and craft shows, and gazed out the window at my garden, watching my tomatoes split from excess water.

At my instigation, my husband kept his days off from work because if we're not going on an organized trip, he hardly ever takes off and ends up losing time every year. He did whatever he does on his upstairs computer for hours on end, emerging at dinnertime filled with information and podcasts and YouTube videos of old obscure sci-fi shows, and we'd eat and then settle in on the couch.

It was a bit like lockdown in March 2020, but without the same level of fear, and without having to wipe down any groceries we managed to get out to buy. Time together is never a bad thing.

Wednesday, October 5, 2022

The queen is dead

Forgive me, but as a reader and writer of historical fiction, the death of Hilary Mantel is more upsetting than the death of Queen Elizabeth who, at least, was 96 and in frail health and although upsetting, was certainly not a surprise to anyone.

Hilary Mantel was 70, and as far as we knew, healthy. She had many more books in her - and apparently at least one in progress.

Her Wolf Hall books are an amazing achievement. They changed the way I looked at Thomas Cromwell and the writing of history generally.

My only consolation is that she has quite a back catalog that I have not read yet, so until I do, she isn't truly gone.

Sunday, October 2, 2022

September Roundup

Well, this was a month, wasn't it?

Much of September was spent in either prepping for the release of Coming Apart or working on the sequel. Both are coming along nicely, and there are only 16 more days until Coming Apart is released!

In prepping for release, I've been working on marketing graphics, guest blog posts, and I did two podcast interviews (with another one coming on October 6). They haven't aired yet - they'll be out the week of release - and I'll make sure I link to them if you're curious to hear me blather on about the project.

I shouldn't say blather. It's disrespectful to both me and my work, but occasionally I do. Blather.

It was an interesting month for sales, because generally 70-75% of my sales come from the UK, and when the queen died, those sales fell right off a cliff and are still recovering. At one point I looked at the nice little pie chart that Amazon provides on my publishing dashboard and thought, "Wow, look how many more US buyers I had this month," but actually it was probably the exact same percentage as always, it just looked better because 15% of my UK sales vanished in a puff of royal smoke.

Still. I can't count on UK sales for Coming Apart. I imagine Pennsylvania during the Great Depression will be a bit of a harder sell over there - not to say that I won't try.

One of the podcast interviews I did asked why I chose self-publishing. Aside from the fact that I'd already tried everything else and it didn't suit me, it's because of the trying. When I'm not in charge, there's only so much I can do. If it's all on me, I have to try. Again and again. Until I find something that works.

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

The best laid plans

Often end up going very far sideways. 

Back in the Before Times, in late 2019, my husband and I scheduled a trip to Edinburgh for late March, 2020. We all know what happened next. 

 In May of this year, I tried to see when our airline credit would lapse, and was informed that it already had - but if I booked then, I could use it. So we quick-planned a trip to Dublin, which was the only thing close to being in budget since gasoline, Airbnbs, and everything else has gotten more expensive. 

Less than 2 months out from the trip, our Airbnb canceled on us. She had a valid reason, but trying to find another affordable stay on such short notice wasn't easy. We ended up going with a hotel, because if I wasn't going to have a kitchen, I wasn't going to share a toilet with a stranger, not at the same price. 

This past Friday, we got a phone call that my husband's mother had just been taken to the hospital with renal failure and possible pneumonia. She's been in a nursing home since right before Covid, and her dementia has really taken a turn for the worse because of all the isolation. We drove to New Jersey, waited while she had a procedure done to insert tubes into her kidneys, and then sat with her in the ICU. We went back again on Saturday and Sunday, and even though she's improving - they moved her out of the ICU this morning - neither of us feel good about leaving the country when she's in this state. 

It's difficult enough worrying about her when long distance only means crossing the river and driving 50 miles. Walking around a foreign country and trying to enjoy a vacation while one part of your brain is waiting for the phone to ring is just not a prescription for a successful trip. So we're staying home. My husband will still take the time off from work that he had scheduled, and we'll do a few things around the house, obviously drive over again to visit, and, selfishly, I will now have time to do the pre-publication stuff that I was supposed to have done on the Friday through Sunday while we were at the hospital. 

Although it wasn't the best planned vacation, it's a disappointment. But we've talked it over, in a non-ghoulish way, and have decided because of her age and frailty that we're just going to hold off on long trips for the time being. When it's safe to travel again - and I mean safe in every possible way - we'll go to Paris. That was where we'd wanted to go post-Covid anyway, but the fare was too damn high. By then, we'll have earned it.

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Lightbulb moment

I don't know anything about brain science, and if I tried to learn, my eyes would probably glaze over. Which is not to say I don't respect the hell out of how our brains work, and I think some of it will never be figured out by science, no matter how hard they try. 

I'm working on the second book in my 1930 series, and it's been going well. The plot line involving Ava, my primary main character, is basically complete, even if I haven't written all of it. For Claire, the secondary main character, I can't say the same. I know how she starts and I know where she ends. But until recently, I had no idea how to bridge that gap. 

The other day, I forgot to have my morning coffee. Then I forgot to have it in the afternoon, and by the time I made a pot for after dinner, I knew it would either have no effect or it would keep me up all night. I was good with either. 

It seemed like it wasn't going to work. I went to bed at midnight, my normal time, got into bed, closed my eyes, and the answer to all those plot questions slammed into the front of my head with the force of a speeding car. I got a full explanation of what goes wrong, who's involved, who's behind it, the reactions of the key characters, and how it leads to the ending I already had in mind. 

None of this had (knowingly) existed in my brain up until that point. 

I didn't want to get up. I laid there for a good half hour, telling myself the story, repeating the best phrases, hoping I would remember it come morning. And then I remembered - I never remember that stuff come morning. So I got up, went downstairs and turned on the lights, and wrote eight pages of notes.

Then, of course, I was too wide awake to go back to sleep, but it was nearly two. So I flopped on the loveseat downstairs, and turned on an author interview podcast whose host has a very soothing voice. When I'm up and walking, I enjoy the interviews. When I can't sleep, she takes me out in minutes. 
And it worked. I slept until five, when the birds started to sing. Then I went back to bed for two more hours. When I got up, I was afraid to look at my notes, for fear they weren't as brilliant as I thought, but they were good. Not brilliant, maybe, but solidly plotted, and now that I know what's coming I have no qualms about writing this midsection of the book.

Writing isn't the problem. Filling in those occasional blanks is the problem.

And if someone can explain how my brain can deliver a fully plotted section of story out of the blue, complete with dialogue, I'd really appreciate it.

Also, could it maybe choose a more convenient time of day?

Wednesday, September 14, 2022

Better than coffee

I know my entries lately have been all 1930s, all the time, but my abiding love for the Tudor period hasn't flagged, just gone a bit dormant. 

Until this morning, when I awoke to the news that Lady, in Waiting had won gold in the Tudors and Stuarts category of the Coffee Pot Book Club Book of the Year awards!

That'll get me moving in the morning.

I'm particularly happy about this because it's the third book in the series, and now all of them have placed in the CPBC awards - Songbird got Book of the Year in 2020, and A Wider World got an honorable mention (or honourable, since it's a British site) in 2021. Three for three, and it feels pretty darn good.


Friday, September 2, 2022

August Roundup

August feels like it's been all new book, all the time.

Probably because it has been. 

I did a few final edits to the Coming Apart ebook file and got it uploaded and ready for pre-order. (The paperback file is still waiting for one advance review to come in, for the inside front page - if I don't get it by Labor Day and/or one reminder, I'll do without). 

Many marketing graphics were made, many marketing tweets and FB posts were scheduled. 

I sent out a newsletter alerting subscribers to the pre-order on August 18. (Are you a subscriber? You'll not only have access to even more of my ramblings, you'll get a FREE prequel novella to Coming Apart which gives even more insight to the characters. Sign up here.)

Aside from the new book, I worked on an editing job, wrote about 20k words on the new WIP (sequel to Coming Apart, because the sisters weren't done talking to me), and made an attempt at recording the audiobook for Lady, in Waiting. I think it will work, with a bit more practice, but I'm going to hold on the project until cooler weather - it's pointless to try to record anything during lawn care season; I'd have to stay up until all hours to get peace and quiet.

I've also been experimenting with advertising on Amazon, and I think I'm finally getting the hang. I tweaked some ads and the other day I set up ads in Australia and Canada. I get very few sales there - I've had more sales in Germany than I've had over our northern border.

I also prepared for and had a podcast interview - Authors Over 50 - which will air sometime in late September. I'll share a link when it comes out. It was a really fun interview, some about the book but mostly about the experience of starting a new career over 50, what took so long to write that first book, etc. I really enjoyed it!

Lastly, a fun bit. (Well, it's all fun, really - I have a weird sense of what's fun). The other Saturday I attended a Zoom social of historical fiction writers. We met on Twitter under the tag #HFChitChat, and while there's a fairly steady conversation going online, it was nice to get together and see each other's faces. Several of us have books out recently or coming soon, and we got to prop each other up, soothe nerves, and cheerlead for each other. 

It takes a village to make a book these days.

Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Women's history

Most of the histories we read are about men. There are women, of course - all those men had to marry and someone had to bear their children to continue the family line - but much of history is silent on women beyond those roles.

That's the history I grew up reading

The history I grew up hearing was told by women about women, centering them and their daughters and sisters and mothers. 

Men - feckless husbands, charming but disappointing sons, some simply dead before their time - were peripheral to the stories I was told.

My grandmother Madeline - Maddy or Nan - had two husbands (divorced, separated) and three children (Margaret, Violet, and Harl, my grandfather - who managed to be simultaneously charming, feckless, and disappointing, and he died young).

Margaret had two husbands (and two divorces) and one child, Betty. 

Betty had one husband (magicked away from his wife, Margaret's neighbor and friend) and no children.

Violet had one husband (well managed, predeceased her) and no children. They would have interfered with her social activities and her clean house.

Harl had two wives (Jenny, my grandmother, who died by suicide with a laundry list of reasons and diagnoses, including the fact that her husband brought his mistress home for Sunday dinner, and Freda, the mistress, who brought two children from her first marriage) and three children: my mother, Genevieve Madeline (Gene) - after her grandmothers - by his first wife, and Richard (Dicky) and Minerva (Micky) by his second wife. Although Micky wasn't his, and he probably knew it and respected a solid revenge plot.

Gene had three husbands (divorced, died, predeceased) and one child. Me.

I was raised to consider husbands as pleasant, useful, and often short-lived additions to the family. Is it any wonder I waited until 46 to get married?

But the surprise ending of this history is my own surprise. That husbands are pleasant, useful, and hopefully stick around for a good long time, because I happen to like mine very much.


Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Coming Apart Now Available for Pre-Order

So Coming Apart is now available for pre-order from this link. The book will release on October 18, 2022, and if you've pre-ordered, it will arrive on your Kindle at midnight. As an added inducement (isn't that a nice way of saying bribe?), the book is priced at $3.99 for the first month of the pre-order, so all you bargain shoppers can save a little and get a lot.

In case I haven't mentioned it before, here's the blurb:
A woman who's lost everything. Her sister, who has everything. And a baby who means everything - to both of them.

Ava has always been poor, so she doesn't think the Great Depression will change anything. But when her mother dies and her coal miner husband loses his job, Ava's certainty falters. The last thing she needs is a letter from her estranged sister, asking for the impossible. 

Claire has everything she could ever want, except the child she promised her husband. When her sister's life falls apart, she reaches out to help - and finds the missing piece of her own marriage.

With everything at stake, Ava must choose: give up one child to save the rest or keep the family together and risk losing it all?
At this point, it's Amazon exclusive, and the ebook will stay that way for a while. I've been curious about Kindle Unlimited but never tried it before, and it seems easier to set it up from scratch instead of withdrawing the book from sale on all the other platforms to do it.

I hope you'll consider ordering Coming Apart. I'm so proud of this book - there's a ton of my heart in it, and a not inconsiderable amount of my friends and family's stories, as well. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

It's almost here!

The pre-order, that is. Not the book.

For those who haven't read From this Day Forward yet, for whatever reason - time, fear-of-mailing-list spam (I promise, after the first few signup confirmation emails, it's once-a-month and special occasion only), I offer this final inducement.

This is the beginning of the sisters' story, told from Ava's point of view. Claire gets her own shot at telling the tale later on.


Scranton is no more than ten miles from Scovill Run, but it is a different world from the filthy coal town that has been my home—and my sister’s—for our entire lives.

But no longer. Claire left home almost a year ago to take a job in Scranton, and if I’d been honest with myself, I would have admitted that I knew she was never coming back even then. She had always wanted to escape and now she’s managed it. Harry Warriner will be able to give her all the things she’s never had and always wanted.

“You understand, don’t you?” she’d asked, last time she came home. “He can give me so much.”

“What do you need?” Claire had always pined for the things girls like us had no business knowing about, much less wanting.

“Well, things...” She chewed her lip, her pretty face all puckered with worry that I didn’t understand. “Don’t be like that, Ava. It’s different for you. You have Daniel.”

She was right. I did have Daniel—or I would, when the war ended and the army sent him home from France. I’d always had Daniel, but he would never give me the kind of things Harry could give Claire before their first anniversary.

Miners didn’t spend money on gifts for their wives, no matter how much they loved them. If they had any left over by the time the bills were paid, it was put aside for hard times: leaky roofs, unexpected shutdowns, doctor bills. Kids.

As we rumble along roads that have never seen such an elegant vehicle, I think of my perfect baby boy, who does not know his father. My husband has never seen his son because I can’t afford to have a photograph taken, not when the only earner in the family is overseas and it’s just me and Mama, sewing and cleaning and taking in laundry until he returns.

Daniel’s army pay is all right, but I would rather have my man at my side, particularly when Mama and I get out of this big car and have to pretend we know how to be with people like Harry Warriner’s family. Rich people who think nothing of sending a car to pick up the bride’s mother and sister from their falling-down house.

I don’t know how Mama feels. She sits beside me on the plush seat, her knotted hands folded on her knee, nodding gently in time to music only she can hear. Claire wasn’t her favorite—Mama never played favorites—but as the youngest, my sister had privileges the rest of us never had. Getting to finish school, for example. I would have liked to have gone to high school, but that was the year our father died and Mama needed my help.

By the time Claire turned fourteen, things were a little better. There was never any question that she wouldn’t go to the high school in the next town over, and then try to make something of herself.

“I always knew she was destined for more. She’ll end up fine, you watch.” Her voice bears a hint of a lilt, forty years after she left Galway.

“Do you think it will change her?” I ask.

 “Of course, it will.” Mama turns to me. “But that’s what she’s always wanted, to be someone else.”

I nod and resume my silence, but her words irk me. I never had the opportunity to be anyone else. Certainly, no one ever asked if I wanted to be more than a miner’s wife, constantly worried about money, about my children, about whether or not my husband would come home from work.

Things must have been pretty bad in Ireland if my mother considered this an improvement.

The biggest difference in our situations is our husbands. I’ve known Daniel forever. He grew up across the road in a house just like mine, with parents just like mine. With tragedy just like mine. It was inevitable, and neither of us ever wanted to fight it. My father had his good points, but he grew harder and angrier with age, and he liked the bottle. Our home was never quiet, and none of us ever felt completely safe.

There is anger in Daniel, too, but not the kind that would ever turn toward his family. And both of us were so marked by our fathers’ love of liquor that we agreed we would never have it in our home.

Being in a place like France, there must be drink everywhere. I wonder if he still doesn’t drink, or if fighting has changed him. I can’t imagine his life over there; it was unimaginable enough in the mines, which have always terrified me.

A horn honks and I look up to see another car, too close to ours. While I’ve been woolgathering, dreaming of Daniel, we’ve arrived. The streets are rough but soon we turn onto a wide avenue that runs straight for blocks. We slow at a corner to let a streetcar pass and for a moment I think we have reached the hotel, but it is the train station, which is bigger than any place I’ve ever been, a five-story building with a clock face set above enormous pillars.

“This is the Searle Hotel, ladies,” the driver says from the front seat, as he pulls to the curb.

Ladies! I wonder how much they had to pay him to call us that.

“There’s Claire, waiting for us.” Mama straightens her hat and tugs on gloves that normally are worn only on Sundays. “Doesn’t she look pretty!”

“Claire always looks pretty.” Slighter than me, blonder than me, she is dressed in a dark blue suit with a froth of ruffles at the neck. Her pale hair is no longer in its familiar Gibson girl style but worn in a smooth band across her head, with the rest coiled in a complicated knot below the brim of her hat. She looks like something from a magazine.

If she’s changed this much before she’s married, moving to Philadelphia will take her from us completely.


And there you have it - the beginning of their time together, and the beginning of their separation. Read more by signing up here.