Wednesday, December 27, 2023

A merry little Christmas

Low key was the order of the day. My husband is feeling much better but I've apparently started a completely unrelated cold, the kind with the huge surprise sneezes that come with the risk of putting your back out.

We waffled about whether to do our big meal on the 24th or the day itself, but decided to go with Christmas Eve. The meal is important because we don't go gifts anymore, just usually go shopping and buy something fancy and spend the day wrecking the kitchen. Neither of us had the energy for that, so we made paella from a box and added extra mussels and peas, and it was delicious.

The box said four servings. That was probably accurate because we each had two, and then fell back on the couch and moaned about how full we were.

That didn't stop us from going to our local cafe the next morning for breakfast. They were open until noon today and the town came out to support the owner getting up on Christmas morning to take care of us. There were probably a dozen people there, and I knew all of them. One of the perks of being in a small town.

After that, we took a long walk to settle all the calories and then came home. 

Nothing wrong with a quiet holiday. Nothing at all.

Wednesday, December 20, 2023

Positively positive

Well, this was unexpected.

Maybe it shouldn't have been - most of us have either experienced this or been anticipating it since March 2020 - but there are only two positive tests I don't want to see, and the ship has sailed for the other one.

It's not me; my husband went to his office's holiday party at a bowling alley last Thursday, and by Saturday was feeling achy. Sunday he had a sore throat. Monday was a cough and chills. Yesterday was a fever.

I'm clear so far. Not sure how, but I'll take it because someone needs to be healthy enough to ask, "Have you taken your cough medicine? What was your temperature just then?"

He's feeling some better already. Not there yet, by any means, but I think for the most part we've also all forgotten how to be sick. Masking didn't just prevent Covid, it kept all the normal nasty germs and allergens from getting in.

What absolutely astounds me is that we flew to Las Vegas, hung out in a smoky, crowded casino with thousands of people, and then flew home again, and while a lot of attendees did get Covid and RSV and just general con crud, we didn't. 

At a bowling alley. A freaking bowling alley. 

Christmas will be quiet this year. (There's an upside to everything if you look for it).

Wednesday, December 13, 2023


Rufus can always sleep.

I'll be 60 in January. No, I have no idea how that happened, and it's a topic for another day.

What I'm thinking about today - because I haven't slept - is another one of the benefits of aging. How much more I can get done be because I'm rarely tired at bedtime.

Peri- and then full-on menopause has been fun. Not. Would not recommend. Except for the parts that I would, like a better sense of what my body is going to do (gain weight, slow down, ache in random places) and the at-first-insulting but then rather wonderful realization that I'm now mostly invisible to a certain class of annoying people.

Which means I don't have to worry about impressing anyone except myself and the select few I care enough to want to impress. It's lovely.

All this to say, I couldn't sleep the other night. I listened to my favorite bedtime podcast, Nothing Much Happens, where a woman reads lovely, no conflict, low stakes stories that normally relax me and send me to sleep long before she's finished.

Except that night's episode was called The Pantry. It was a simple story about the kind of chores we put off, and how good cleaning and organizing your space can make you feel.

Not a good thing to tell me when I'm lying there, still with my tank half full. I wanted to get up and go down to the basement and organize things. I wanted to scrub the floor. That's how I knew I was stupid tired, because I never want to do that.

And guess what? Next day, did I get any of that done? 


Tomorrow is another day.

Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Representation matters

Stepping away from books agin this week to talk about a custom order I just shipped out on Monday. A woman reached out to me, and said that her four-year-old granddaughter was obsessed with the character of Chrissie from Daniel Tiger. Apparently Chrissy has spina bifida and uses crutches and braces on her legs. The little girl had never seen a doll like her before, and Grandma wanted to know could I do something similar that wasn't exactly Chrissie.

It's high craft show season, so custom orders aren't my favorite, but I took this one as a challenge. I didn't have any pale gray felt on hand, and since this order was already going to take more time than it should have, I wasn't going to run up to the fabric store to buy any. The braces and the crutches are made from felt of another color, covered with light gray cotton which I did have in stash.

The braces are stitched onto the doll's legs, while the crutches have a snap fastener so they can come off her wrists. I was baffled with what to use for the crutches, and then it came to me that straws would work. Of course, I didn't have any of those either, but my local buy nothing group supplied a handful. Really, the hardest part of the whole doll experience was calculating the width of fabric to make tubes for the straws. I left a tab of fabric at the top, to be sewn to the cuff, and the leftover fabric at the bottom was tucked inside the straw using the tube turner.

I can't wait to hear what the little girl thinks of her.

Also, because everything does lead back to books eventually, another reason I wanted to do this was because the youngest daughter in Coming Apart wears braces on her legs, and I tried to imagine how it would feel to her to find a doll that looked like her. Representation matters.

Wednesday, November 29, 2023

It's the most exhausting time of the year

Every year, I think it will be different. I'll get through craft show season, thanksgiving, and craft show season part 2 without turning into a puddle of goo on the living room floor. 

And every year, it happens again.

This year, we actually hosted thanksgiving. It was just the two of us and my sister-in-law, but still. Butternut squash soup, roast turkey breast, duck fat potatoes, Mac and cheese, broccoli, cranberry sauce - from the can, as God intended - with crackers and cheese before and wine throughout (SIL's contribution). Everything came out as intended, and we were flat on the couch by 4:00 p.m.

Which was good, because Friday and Saturday I had a two-day craft show in town, and while it's not the hardest show I do all year, because of the timing, it's one of the most wearing.

But it went off well. Sales were decent, though not as good as previous years - but it seems to be that way across the board with all the crafters I know. I think despite the economy picking back up, we're not all entirely trusting and are sitting on some of our disposable cash. I can't criticize, because I'm doing it too, I just wish it weren't the case.

Now I've got until December 9th to catch up on everything I've let slide since before Las Vegas. That should be fun.

I'm very glad that our Christmas gifts to each other generally just entail buying expensive ingredients and making a complicated, delicious dinner.

FYI: if you're interested in buying paperbacks of any of my books, or complete trilogies, I just got a new shipment of author copies and books are available. Leave a comment with your email, or reach out to me on the website's contact form.

Wednesday, November 22, 2023


This is a snippet from Coming Apart, both because its the perfect time of year to re-share and because Im up to my eyebrows in Thanksgiving preparations and so I'll leave you with Avas meal instead.

It is Thanksgiving, 1931, early in the Depression but there didn't need to be a crash for poverty to be felt in Pennsylvania's coal country. Ava's mother has just died and the family is still reeling from her loss and the unexpected return of her sister Claire. They share the meal with their next-door neighbors so that everyone has enough food.


Trudy and I combine forces for Thanksgiving. Her son 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 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 and points at my belly. “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.”

Wednesday, November 15, 2023

It's Vegas, Baby!

We got back Friday night. Five full days in Vegas which simultaneously felt like forever and also the blink of an eye.

I knew, in theory, that Las Vegas would be overwhelming - the lights, the crowds, the noise. Add in a full day of author service vendors, offering services and explaining how they would help and handing out swag, then follow that with three days of intensive sessions on craft, marketing, mindset, different aspects of the industry, and that is a recipe for fried brains.

The Venetian - canals in the desert
My husband went along as a volunteer for the AV crew, because the conference was also livestreamed for those who couldn't come to Vegas. I attended virtually for the past 2 years, but decided to do this one in person. I'm glad I did, but I don't think I'll be back to normal for at least another week. This exhaustion goes all the way to my bones.

But having him there was great, because when we both got done around 5:00 p.m. each day, we could step away from the conference center and walk or go out for dinner - an expensive proposition - and just talk over the different things we'd learned. He may not be a writer but he is creative and he does write, and many of the sessions he got to witness were right up his alley in terms of topic.

I came home with a notebook packed full of notes and ideas, which I'm still transcribing (legibly, this time) and trying to sort out. I think this conference will be career-changing, once I can organize myself and begin to implement some of the ideas.

Outside of the conference, some of my favorite things: 

The Dale Chihuly glass ceiling at the Bellagio; 

The food court at the Horseshoe, where we stayed - site of many author meetups and middle of the night insomnia writing sessions; 

Chihuly ceiling at Bellagio
The interior of the Venetian. The shopping area has an artfully painted and lit ceiling, so that it looks like outdoors. There are canals with gondolas - ridiculous in the desert - but I was impressed that they got the distinctive green-blue color of Venice's water absolutely correct; 

Mon Ami Gabi, the French restaurant at the base of the miniature Eiffel Tower at the Paris casino. We had our Thursday night splurge dinner there before leaving on Friday and it was delicious;

Possibly most important, the teeny tiny travel coffee maker I bought for our room. The hotel gave us a fridge, but no coffee maker or microwave because they want guests to come downstairs and spend money. I'll come downstairs when I'm caffeinated, thank you very much. 

Have you ever been to Vegas? What did you think? Was it fabulous? A nightmare? Some winning combination of the two?

Wednesday, November 8, 2023

Gone Fishing


Can't wait to tell you all about it when I return!

Wednesday, November 1, 2023

Meet Ava & Claire

So Coming Together launched into the world this time last week, and I'm blown away by the response. Thank you all so much for your purchases, for your comments and reviews and reactions. 

Since I'm not capable of much yet, I thought I'd share something I've been playing with. Recently, my computer updated and gave me Dall-E for AI image generation. I wasn't going to try it but I was so mentally exhausted from book launch activities that I gave it a try.

My prompt was: "Please make a b/w photo of two women in their mid-30s, dressed in clothing from the 1930s. They are obviously sisters. Woman on left is taller, slightly thinner, prettier, with light blonde hair. Wearing a v-neck dress & pearls. One on right is shorter, light brown hair, not as pretty, not as well-dressed but not shabby. Both women have pleasant expressions and are obviously close."

Everyone, meet AI Ava and Claire. I'm not sure what to think. It's a bit glam for Ava (and there's not enough of their Irish mother in these faces) but the result is still so much better than I expected. I may continue to play with this as I reassemble my brain and start work on what's next.

Wednesday, October 25, 2023

Plot Walking

Last week, in addition to a book release, I had a visit from my friend Marian Thorpe, whose books I've spoken about here before.

Marian is one of my favorite writers, and also one of my closest friends. She drove down from Canada and we spent the better part of four days eating and talking and walking off all the food while talking some more. We both have our next books fairly firmly in mind because of all that plot walking.

One day we spent at the John Heinz Wildlife Refuge. Another was spent at Longwood Gardens, which I have somehow managed to never visit before this. I think part of me had waffled because of the $25 admission fee, but we ended up spending more than five hours there, so it was certainly worth it. All the photos here are from Longwood, because I forgot to take any on the other days.

It was absolutely perfect October weather - just cool enough, just sunny enough, leaves just beginning to turn.

By the time she went home, we had worn ourselves out. But is there any better way to be tired than from spending time with friends?

Wednesday, October 18, 2023

Today's the day!

Coming Together is officially out in the world, and I'm so happy and excited and exhausted and proud to bring you this last book of Ava & Claire's adventures. A few early reviews are in, and I'm going to share them with you and then go and collapse in a corner. 

Wednesday, October 11, 2023


It's been a week, folks. I might not have had a craft show this past weekend, but I had an order of custom bears, several Christmas stockings, and a doll to get finished, along with finishing a slightly overdue freelance editing job - the client understood because he hadn't been scheduled, and he was fitted in around another job and the completion of my own book.

But it's been a lot. Still, Coming Together is now ready for its release on the 18th. I just got the paperback files loaded, and the hardcover is almost done. I just need to get the full wrap cover from my designer and that's the last thing checked off the publishing list. For now.

All this to say I don't have much to say, so I will leave you with a link to a really cool historical fiction blog. Tony Riches had me on last week to discuss the fun and challenges of writing a series set in my hometown, and I got to blather on about all the interesting things I learned about a place I thought I knew well. Check it out.

Wednesday, October 4, 2023

Not as young as I used to be

This was a big weekend. And I wasn't happy about it.

For the most part, I no longer schedule back to back craft shows because they just beat me up too much, and usually by the second day I don't have the strength for people. 

But this weekend was an exception on several fronts.

One of my best friends turned 50 this past week, and her party was Friday night. They were having a house concert, so we decided we would eat dinner at home, stop there for about an hour, and duck out before the music started. Nothing against potential music we didn't know, but it always feels rude to leave before it's done and I wanted to get home early.

Instead, we went early, assuming we would scavenge food there, enjoyed the entire concert, and hung around chatting afterward. needless to say, I woke up Saturday morning with a sparkling rosé induced spike in my forehead. I can't believe I used to do that for fun up until 20 years ago. Also, just like 20 years ago, I didn't eat enough.

After breakfast and much coffee, I set up in West Philadelphia for show number one. It had rained the night before; it was chilly and damp; I didn't get a single sale for the first hour. And then the sun came out and the customers came out and it was bedlam until 5:00 p.m.

That evening, I was supposed to go to an art opening in my town - where my pandemic lap quilt was on display - but because craft show number two was the next morning, I decided that it even vaguely intelligent woman would stay home, reload the car for the next day, and get some decent sleep. Which I did, except for a bit of last-minute sewing.

Sunday was busier, and yet less profitable than Saturday, in part because the Eagles game overlapped nad then went into hyper-dramatic overtime. But it was in my town, so that meant when it ended at 6:00 p.m., our car was loaded by 6:15 and we were in the driveway by 6:30.

Dinner and a glass of wine later, and I was ready for bed. I unpacked the car Monday morning as Mario was getting ready for work.

I'm definitely getting too old for this, and yet I have two more doubleheaders scheduled before the end of the year. Yay me.

Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Bonus Content Question

Have you signed up for my mailing list? This isn't a request that you do sign up (although I would appreciate it) - I'm just curious, for those who have, what you thought of the bonus content delivered at the time you signed up. Currently, it's a prequel novella to the Ava and Claire stories.

Once I finish the series - October 18, coming soon! - I'm debating between an epilogue which didn't fit in the book, or a PDF of photographs of locations used in the books, paired with snippets of text and/or local history.

If you were to sign up for a mailing list, which would be more interesting to you, having read the books?

Wednesday, September 20, 2023


Most people, looking at this photo, would see oil on the ground. Pollution, or a car in need of repair.

I see magic.

When I was little, my dad told me a story about a fairy ring in Ireland. I asked whether there were any fairy rings where we lived, and he said he'd never seen one, things worked differently here.

Not long after, we were coming home from the supermarket on a rainy day and I pointed out a rainbow on the surface of the wet parking lot. He told me that was where the fairies hid when they had to live in cities.

So next time you see a rainbow on the ground, tread carefully. There are fairies underfoot. 

Wednesday, September 13, 2023

What happens in Vegas

Writing is weird. I'm surrounded all the time by imaginary people, but there aren't a whole lot of real people I can talk to about my writing. When I find them, virtual or in the flesh, I tend to hang on.

A few years ago I joined a Facebook group for writers called 20Books to 50K. It's a weird name, but the explanation is this the founder wanted to make enough money on book sales to retire to Cabo. He figured he could do that on $50,000 a year - but rather than put all the responsibility on one or two books, he did some advanced writer math and realized that if he wrote 20 moderately-successful books - books that made $7.50 each per day - he could make that $50,000 without having a runaway bestseller. So it's a retirement plan specific to one writer, but a group of writers have grown up around it, most of whom have found various ways to get where they want to be. 

It's extremely motivating. In two years, I still haven't worked my way through all their online content, but I'll get there eventually. But the big deal - the big dog, as it were - is the yearly conference in Las Vegas.

You can pay for a virtual ticket and watch the live stream, which I've done for 2 years. Eventually the videos end up on YouTube and I can watch all the presentations I wasn't able to see at the time. But like any event, much of the important stuff happens outside of the presentations and classes, meeting writers you admire, comparing notes with someone on your level or just above.

So I've wanted to go, even though I knew it would be massively overwhelming. I couldn't justify it last year, and I had pretty much talked myself out of it this year until they put out a call for volunteers to handle the live streaming of the presentations. They hired professionals last year, and it didn't go well, so this year they decided to go back to volunteers - and those volunteers would get a conference pass, a free room, and a food stipend. I convinced my husband that with his background in communication (job) and film and TV production (in college, but still) he would be an ideal fit. Then I could share his room and his food stipend, and all I would have to pay for would be my conference fee and the airfare.

Also, we haven't had a vacation since 2018, which is one of the reasons I put off going to Vegas last year. Our March 2020 vacation was canceled, obviously, and two rescheduled trips since then had to be put off because of other issues. This isn't a trip to Paris, but we can go and stare at a fake Eiffel Tower if we're not too tired.

This is the only way I would ever want to go to Vegas. That much noise and lights and crowd is enough to send me into a hole but only if I could pull it in after me. And I will do that, the very evening we land back in Philadelphia when the conference is over. My introvert self will suck it up for 5 days, retreat to the room when necessary, meditate in the toilets, do whatever it takes to get the best experience possible out of this.

What happens in Vegas won't stay in Vegas. I'm going to bring it home and implement it and hopefully take my writing career to the next level.

Wednesday, September 6, 2023

Tomato season. Again.

For the last week, I've been hearing skeins of geese flying over at night. It seems early, but maybe not? The fruit trees bore heavily, I'm drowning in tomatoes, the fig looks like it's been decorated for Christmas, and old wives tales - which exist because they've been right more often than not - say that a heavy yield is a harbinger of a hard winter.

It's hard to believe that right now, as it was 95 on Labor Day and we made it even hotter by canning some of our overabundance of tomatoes. Again. I already did a day in a friend's kitchen last week, doing quart jars, which are just too big to deal with in our kitchen.

Not that we didn't already have plenty of our own, but I got a call from a friend who runs a food pantry on her front porch. She had most of a crate of plum tomatoes that were at risk of going bad because everyone was taking the cherry and slicing tomatoes and leaving the ones that involved labor and sweating. So we drove down and got them, and because my husband is Italian and thinks that sauce should only be made from plum tomatoes, we've made a separate batch from them.

There's absolutely no difference, but he spent the holiday standing with me over a boiling canning kettle in a boiling hot kitchen, so I'll let it figure that out for himself.

Because my single jalapeno plant has also exploded, I made a batch of pickled jalapenos. That's a new one for me, but I've already got close to a dozen jars of cowboy candy, so I thought I'd try something different.

I've always enjoy tomato season and putting up food for winter, but there's a lot extra going on this year and it's beginning to feel really personal, every time I open the back door and see bright red shining back at me from the plants that have taken over the backyard. I'm actually looking forward to cooler weather - frost, even - so that I can cut them down, take them out, and add them to the compost which will enrich next year's garden.

Circle of life, right?

Do you do any preserving? What's your favorite thing to can or preserve?

Wednesday, August 30, 2023

Who's in charge here?

A photo of my great-aunt Margaret
and some lost-to-time beau, 
used for the cover of Coming Together

Last week I wrote about finishing my draft of Coming Together, and that was true. But I didn't finish it in the way I had originally intended, and I thought it would be fun to share what happened along the way.

You see, I don't write to an outline. I know where my story starts, and I have a few ideas of what happens along the way - nails on which to hang the plot. Generally, by the time I'm about 20% in, I know how the story should end, but only in a loose way. It takes longer to work up the exact scene.

I wrote the ending to Coming Together about three months ago. I knew there would be edits. There are always edits. But it said what I wanted it to say, it gave a nice circular finish because it happened at the same time of year as the beginning of the first book, and it cleaned up so many dangling plot threads.

What could go wrong?

My characters could go wrong, that's what. Well there are three main characters in the series - Ava; her sister, Claire;and Pearl, Ava's daughter - Ava is the main main character. And that final scene / epilogue was from her point of view. Which made sense, because the books always begin and end with her.

As I got down to the end, I made a list of scenes that needed to be written. The last scene was Claire's, and it would tie things up until the Ava epilogue. Except that when I wrote Claire's scene, Ava spoke up and insisted she had to have a scene on top of that. Which would mean that she would have the final scene and then the epilogue, and I didn't want that.

But Ava's scene was good. It said what I wanted the epilogue to say and it tied in with the preceding scene. So what to do with my epilogue?

I tried to rewrite it from Pearl's viewpoint. Pearl started out writing diary entries in the first book, but she came into her own voice in book 3, and I have a sneaking suspicion that someday Pearl will have her own book. But not today, Pearl. So giving her the epilogue could make sense. Except that it needed to be her mother. There are things necessary to that epilogue that Pearl doesn't know, or doesn't know completely.

What I've decided to do is to finish the book with Ava's scene, as she insists. The epilogue will now become bonus content for newsletter subscribers who have read all three books. It won't make much sense any other way, but I can't stand for it just to remain on my computer.

Wednesday, August 23, 2023

Oops, I did it again


Book six, or book three of Ava & Claire, Coming Together, is DONE.

Well, not done done, but the draft is done and ready to edit. I'll leave it to rest for a week - difficult but necessary, and also I have a freelance editing job to work on during that period - and then I'll get down to it.

I'm on track for the scheduled preorder date of October 18, and even though I'll miss these characters, I'm really excited to share this last installment of their story.

Coming Apart was supposed to be a standalone novel but, as with my previous series, it just kept going. This was way more challenging to write, though - the Tudor books all had different main characters, and I could wrap up their stories and have them appear again later with no harm done. The sister books are consecutive, the second one starting only days after the first. There's a lot more to keep track of, and an even more riding on whether or not I can tie the story up properly, in a way that does justice to these characters I've lived with for so long.

Hoping I've stuck the landing. And I can't wait to hear your reactions when the time comes.

You can pre-order Coming Together here.

Wednesday, August 16, 2023

Weather report

It's been another hot week. I got a call on friday, asking if I was up for vending at the Farmers Market on Saturday, because the artist of the week had canceled. I never say no - afraid to cut off the flow of requests, I guess - but it was hot and muggy and started to rain at the end. Add to that a near fistfight between the musicians performing and a few rowdy audience members, and it was four hours I'd have just as soon spent at home, though I wouldn't have made as much money.

I did a little bit of work in the back garden when I got in. Of course the rain stopped as soon as we packed the car. After a really late start because of inconsistent weather, the peppers and tomatoes are coming on strong. The photo here could have been taken any day over the past two  weeks. I should can some of those tomatoes, but the idea of steaming up my kitchen is enough to send me out of town again. And I can't make sauce at the shore.

I'm so close to being done this draft of Coming Together. Only a few scenes left, and then I have to let it sit for a few days and then reread to start tying it all together. I don't think there's going to be a lot of structural work, but standard edits and proofreading take time, and then I have to get it formatted for the October launch. I'm glad I bought the cover in advance; that's one thing I don't need to deal with.

After I finish that one, I have two editing jobs I'm working on, and at some point after that, I want to return to my Tudor historical series, but I may be slightly off my 6-month schedule because I'm starting to smell my brain frying. 

While it turns out I can write faster than I ever thought possible, I also don't want to completely burn out by putting myself on an unnecessary schedule. It may be June 2024, instead of April. We'll see. The minute I decide I can't do it, I'll decide I have to.

Wednesday, August 9, 2023

Jammin' with the figs


A few years ago, in the fall of 2019, I got a small fig tree from a neighbor. Small. As in houseplant sized small. I put it on an ambitiously large pot, but by the end of the season it hadn't grown much.

Since it was still so young, I brought the pot into the basement - my one exception to survival of the fittest - and tried to remember to water it monthly. In April 2020, it started setting fruit. In the basement. I put it in the soil, and the figs fell off, but by the end of the season it had grown more, and had grown to about 3 feet.

It overwintered fine outside, and in summer of 2021, it made some figs. Not many, and the squirrels liked them.

Last year, abundance. Mario wanted to make fig jam, so we froze them until we had enough. And then we forgot about them until the fig started setting new fruit. Even more.

Sunday we made jam. Lots of jam. Eight pints and 6 half pints, plus one tester with balsamic and a bit of salt.

It was easy. It was fast. And it wouldn't even have been a big deal to clean up if I'd known that we'd run out of dish soap earlier in the day.

Wednesday, August 2, 2023

Getting out of dodge

Somehow it's August. How did that happen?

One of the few unconditionally true things I was told as a kid is that time moves faster when you grow up. It absolutely does; it was just the 4th of July three days ago, I'm almost certain of it.

We've been doing summer things, most of which involves me either gardening or hiding from the heat, which I like less and less as menopause gets its claws further and further into me. I swear my base temperature has gone up by 5°, because I'm a stove, all the time.

This coming Saturday, we're going to do something fun. I'm not sure what it is yet, but it's not the fun our street has planned for us.

A few weeks ago, one of our neighbors knocked on the door, asking us to sign a petition so that she could get a block party permit for her grandson's tenth birthday. I don't want to be a party pooper, so I signed, but I also marked the date on my calendar to find something else to do, because the quiet enjoyment of my house is the thing I love most - and a block party, complete with loud music and bouncy castles and a multitude of over-excited children and their probably moderately drunken parents, running from 10:00 a.m. until 8:00 p.m., is not my idea of fun.

So I'm going to pull all my breakable ornaments out of the front garden, tuck them away, and we're going to park the car in a friend's driveway overnight so we can leave whenever we want and not come home until 8:05 p.m. I think that's better for all concerned, because I guarantee if I was stuck at home with a full blast party going on outside my windows, I would want to write, or work on my audiobook recording, or do something else that required peace, and peace would not be occurring.

Quite a few neighbors didn't sign the petition, but she got enough names for the permit to go through. They can stay home and gripe about the noise. I'm getting out of Dodge.

Wednesday, July 26, 2023

Small World


Her adorable little boy, sitting in
a cardboard box, happy as can be
I was vending at a farmer's market on Saturday - the usual upcycled goodies and a small display of books - and the vendor next to me sold flowers. We got to talking, as usually happens when you're beside someone at a market, and eventually she came over to look at my things and commented on the books. She's a big reader, when she has the time, she says. She bought Coming Apart and said she hopes we run into each other at another market so she can tell me how much she enjoyed it.

I'm really going to be interested in her thoughts, but I won't know them unless we cross paths again because she's Mennonite and doesn't deal much with technology.

But I want to know her thoughts, because: she's 34, with 6 children, ages 15-6 months. Her last baby, a boy, was born on Christmas day.

Ava, the main character in Coming Apart, is 32, with 6 children, ages 14-6 months. Her last baby, a boy, was born on Christmas day.

Sometimes coincidences are just coincidences, and sometimes they feel like a person's been thrown in front of you for a reason.

Wednesday, July 19, 2023


It's been hot and I'm having trouble getting out of my own way lately. I've been writing off and on - trying to get the first draft of Coming Together done by mid-August - but much else. Cruising around town at low speed, doing errands and drinking a lot of water. Brushing Rufus because he sheds like a maniac and in sweaty weather, all it does is stick to me.

Rufus is being his usual slightly-standoffish but extremely handsome self. He makes up for his lack of cuddles by being extremely photogenic, and I've started sharing a #dailyrufus photo of him on Facebook (weekly ones on the writer page) because otherwise my phone is just full of cat photos with no purpose other than showing them to people and saying, "Isn't he cute?"

Of course he's cute. He's a cat. An orange cat. And he's very bendy.

And with that, since I have very little to say for myself this week, have a few stellar #dailyrufus pics.

Wednesday, July 12, 2023

I'm still smiling

 A few weeks ago, I did a Night Market in my town - Lansdowne is very artsy / craftsy / creative  - and in addition to my sewn items, I took along a small stack of books. They didn't stay out long, because it started to rain and I didn't want them to get damaged, but they were out long enough for a woman to buy a copy of Coming Apart.

It sounded interesting, she said, though she'd never been much of a reader and she'd never read historical fiction before. She decided to give it a shot, and as she walked away, I wondered if she'd put it aside to get to someday or if she'd actually read it.

Well, this is the message I got the other day. Not only did she read it, but she LOVED it - in all caps - and we've made a plan to meet up soon so she can purchase the second book in the series. 

I'm hoping we can conduct the transaction at our local coffee shop, because I'd like to hear all the thoughts she referenced in her message.

Moral of the story: if you read a book and you love it, tell the author. You have no idea what it means to get a message like this. I'm still smiling.

Wednesday, July 5, 2023

Long weekend

I had so many things planned for the long weekend - getting together with friends, going out to dinner, a few house chores a lot of sewing, and equal amount of writing (book three is chugging along), and since the weather was supposed to be mostly clear, a few grubby hours in the garden.

What did we do this weekend? Well, the weekend technically started early. Mario works from home Wednesday through Friday, and while he does put in a full day, his hours are somewhat flexible. But in fact he had a half day Friday, all day Saturday and Sunday, a half day Monday, and all day Tuesday.

I had So. Many. Plans.

And we accomplished almost none of them. On Friday, we got together with two friends to go to a new restaurant in town. We met at least ten other people there that we knew, which gives me hope the restaurant will succeed. It's a nice little place - mostly breakfast and lunch, but they serve dinner on Fridays - and they're ridiculously underpriced for the quality and quantity of the food they serve.

Saturday, we walked to the farmers market, but it was hot and sticky and our air quality was bad, due to the smoke from the Canadian wildfires. We had coffee at the cafe and came home. I did a bunch of sewing, a little writing. A neighbor gave us an enormous package of baby spinach, so I sauteed that with backyard garlic and we had it for dinner.

Sunday, we slept in, walked slowly - heat and air again - to our favorite Mexican/Irish breakfast place. When we got home, I wrote and he hung out in his office inexplicable things on the computer.

I finally tackled a chunk of my to-do list on Monday. Laundry, cleaning, gardening, writing, so that I could have some down time with him on the holiday.

Our town no longer has official fireworks, because the organization in charge of them dissolved two years back, a combination of covid, several members retiring after decades of strong arming neighbors to chip in for the entertainment, and no new volunteers coming up. However, The unofficial fireworks have been happening from mid-afternoon until the middle of the night, every single day of long weekend.

Rufus likes fireworks about as much as as he likes the vacuum cleaner. I'm not a fan of the noise either, but it's acceptable behavior for him to go and hide in the basement until the noise is over, while I don't do that. I just grumble and swear.

Looking back, my long weekend was mostly about food. Which is never a bad thing, but on the other hand, I shouldn't be surprised when I look at the scale. A friend told me recently but the heavier you are, the harder you are to kidnap. I think she may be on to something.

Wednesday, June 28, 2023


Government can feel predominantly male, but my small town is mostly run by energetic older women. I imagine it's like that in a lot of places. There are one or two token guys, but the ones who get things done - and the institutional memory - are usually a core group of women from 50 to 75.

In less than a month, my town has lost three of these women, and it's sad and disorienting at the same time.

The first was in early June. I met her shortly after we moved here in 2018, and even at that time she'd been undergoing cancer treatment for a long stretch. Everyone knew she was sick; everyone was surprised when she died because she just been on Facebook the day before, posting political snark, and she'd only retired as the head of the library committee the week before. Her visitation, at the local Catholic church, had a line around the block.

The second, just over a week ago, was the past president of our local animal rescue. She'd been involved in one community organization after another her entire life, and only retired when she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Her death happened swiftly too; she had a birthday party only days before.

Monday morning, I learned that another woman, also associated with the animal rescue - and the one who gave us Rufus - passed away completely unexpectedly yesterday. She was their busiest foster, and in charge of a lot of the admin tasks for the group, so she leaves a big hole. She also had cats of her own, and a half dozen foster kitties, all of which now have to be rehomed.

The town isn't going to be the same without these three women, and a lot of us are going to have to step up in small ways to start taking their places. You can't sit back and admire that group without realizing someday you're going to have to be one of them.

Sunday, June 18, 2023

Father's Day

Slightly early, but I'm up to my ears in edits and procrastinating, so you get this story now. 

I've talked about my dad before on the blog, but this year, I thought I'd share a story about him (and my mom) before I came along.

My dad was my mom's second husband. She married young, and for the wrong reasons: she was 17 and bored and thought marriage meant regular sex and not worrying about money. Then her husband joined the army and was sent to Korea for 3 years and she lost the sex and got a waitress job to make ends meet so she didn't have to move back in witth her grandmother. 

My dad was a regular at the diner where she worked. He was 40. He had a steady job as a firefighter and, as the youngest of 12, was taking care of his aging parents while his siblings married and made lots of babies. The whole family was devoutly Irish Catholic. Dad had dated in the past, but never came close to marriage. 

He was not prepared for the force of nature that was my mom. He didn't know what hit him. 

Six months after they met, her husband came home and she filed for divorce. She picked up her divorce decree and applied for a marriage license at City Hall on the same day, with the same clerk.

Their marriage was happy. She was the center of his universe, and she liked it that way. Then the church got involved. The parish priest showed up one night at their apartment and told my dad he was living in sin with a divorced woman, called my mom a few choice names, and said that any child of such a sinful union would be damned.

Now Dad was the kindest man I knew. And yet - perhaps because he was 40 and had a 20-year-old in his bed and regular sex for the possibly first time - he picked up the judgey father and chucked him down the front steps, never to return.

Dad remained Catholic for the rest of his life - his religion was a comfort during rough periods with his job - but I don't think it was ever the same after that. And he never regretted his choice. Mom made sure of it.

Wednesday, June 14, 2023

A Tudor Discovery!

History lovers around the world have been geeking out for the past week over a new discovery - a book of hours not only owned by Thomas Cromwell, but memorialized in Hans Holbein's portrait of him.

This comes on the heels of the discovery of letters penned by Mary Queen of Scots last year, and the discovery - by some of the same historians - that Henry's first two queens, Catherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn, each had a copy of the same prayer book, printed and bound in France in the late 1520s.

The three books are similar but still very individual, showing just how much hand finishing went into a book in the 16th century. Cromwell's is the only one to retain its original jeweled binding and clasps.

Cromwell's book was located a library at Cambridge University, donated in the 1660s by a relative of Ralph Sadler. Sadler was a member of Cromwell's household since his childhood, and survived his master's fall to serve the king. (What must that have been like?)

I spent a lot of time researching Thomas Cromwell for my novel, a wider world, even though he only made brief appearances. He was, however, the architect of the dissolution of the monasteries, and that event change the course of my main character's life, as Robin Lewis had been raised in a monastery and then returned as one of Cromwell's men. His self-appointed task was to rescue books, so I think he would be happy to know that this book of hours is still in existence.

A man like Cromwell, constantly treading dangerous ground with Henry and the factions aligned against him, must have had a plan for an event such as his arrest. I can only imagine when the news raced back to his house, knowing there was nothing they could do to sway the king's actions, how his household gathered his books and papers and got them safely away where they could not be used to incriminate their employer. How many of them were destroyed on Cromwell's death? How many of them ended up in the libraries of great houses, or great universities, yet to be discovered? 

This is why I love history. It's still happening.

Links to posts by Owen Emmerson Cromwell book) and Kate McCaffrey (queens' books) because they were the ones who made the discoveries, and can speak much more clearly about it than I can. Also a link to the entire digitized book, via the library.

Annunciation page from all 3 books.
L - Catherine of Aragon, M - Anne Boleyn, R - Thomas Cromwell

Wednesday, June 7, 2023

Get out of the chair

I love what I do. 

I love that the stories and people who have been banging around in my head since childhood finally have an outlet, and that outlet is beginning to make an income. 

The issue is that writing, combined with my other source of income - sewing - means I spend a lot of time in one chair or another. And it's really hard, when the work is flowing, to remember that my body needs to get up and move around. 

I try to be disciplined about it, and set an alarm so that for 15 minutes out of every hour, I walk around the house or do the dishes or throw in a load of laundry. It gets me moving and gets a little housework done, which otherwise would only get done when I was procrastinating writing or sewing. 

But sometimes you need to get out of the house, not just the chair. And thankfully there are quite a few good walks in and near my town that I can talk myself into on a regular basis I'll stick in an earbud, put on a podcast, and just go. Sometimes if I'm working out a thorny plot point, a few miles on foot is just what I need. 

One of my favorite walks is up along the Darby Creek, to the Swedish Cabin, which has been there since the 17th century. Recently, a bridge was put in across the creek which leads up a walking trail on the other side. Last week, instead of going to the cabin and turning around, I crossed the bridge, kept going up Sycamore Road to Garrett Road, and then walked all the way down Garrett to where it intersects with Shadeland, which is the street at the top of my block. According to my phone, that was a solid 5 miles, and except for the half-mile stretch when I emerged from the trail on to Garrett where there was no sidewalk, it's a pleasant walk either through woods, a long trails, or through suburban neighborhoods. 

And at this time of year, it is green. Overwhelmingly, almost painfully green. Which I think is good for the soul.

Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Rufus drinks his coffee black

I've never had a cat who liked coffee before. People food - meat and cheese and tortilla chips especially - but never coffee. This one, however...