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.