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...


Wednesday, May 24, 2023


Last Saturday was complicated. 

One of the crazy benefits of our town is the annual town wide yard sale. When we moved here in 2018, we'd been here less than 2 months, and honestly, felt like we died and gone to heaven driving around our mile-square village with at least two participating houses on every block - selling good stuff. 

It didn't happen during the pandemic, but last year it came back. And it was still good. This year's yard sale was scheduled for 5/20, and I've been saving my money and looking forward to it.

Then, the night before, I got a phone call. A vendor wasn't able to make it to the Swarthmore Farmers Market, and did I want to fill in?

Swarthmore is less than 15 minutes up the road, it's a great town, with customers I've known for years, and I always do well at any appearance there. Also, I have a policy of never saying no to requests like that unless I'm already booked. So I said yes. Better to make money than spend money, I figured.

The forecast said rain late in the day, but the market was only from nine until noon. It was gray and drizzly when we left the house at eight, and stayed that way. Until it turned into a downpour. I had to put my books back in the car, because the covers were curling, and all three of my tables were shoved together under the center of the tent because, to make things better, it had gotten windy.

It was some of the most miserable time selling I've had since I started out. I made enough money to buy us lunch - except that by the time I was done, the only place I wanted to have lunch was under a blanket, in heavy socks, and at home.

Only one good thing happened. The vendor organizer, who owns a small shop in town, stopped by to thank me for showing up despite the weather, and fell absolutely in love with the new dressed critters I'm making. Her shop is more art then craft, so I've never had work in there before, but she left the tent toting an armload of animals and we're now talking about a special consignment for the holidays.

When I got home, I was wet and miserable. Later, I was dry, and cranky. It continued until late, when, because I had taken a crankiness-induced nap, I was up until three in the morning. But that point it hit me what a positive it had been - by showing up in crap weather, keeping a smile on my face, and doing what needed to be done, I've gotten a stockist I haven't been able to get in years, which will bear future fruit.

I would have rather made money than spent money. I didn't do much of either, but I have consolidated some future income from it, and that's not bad.

Also, the rain canceled the town wide yard sale and it happened on the next day. Win/win.

Wednesday, May 10, 2023

Back to my old ways

Sunday was the first craft show of my 2023 season. It should have been the previous week, but a combination of a rainy forecast and the show being located on the other side of the Broad Street Run, which would have entailed driving completely around the city and entering from the opposite direction from where we live, made it an unappealing prospect. And then the forecast made them cancel, and I've never celebrated a rainy day so much in my life. And it did rain. Those poor runners.

This past weekend, though, while some people were still recovering from getting up far too early to watch the coronation, I set up my table in Swarthmore and got back to what I once thought might turn into a full-time job.

Making is not going to keep a roof over my head, I understand that now. It probably never was, but with the changes over the last few years, it's gotten even more unlikely. That being said, since it doesn't have so much weight on it, I really enjoyed getting out there and talking to people and letting them by all my upcycled goodies. They bought books.

Some shows wouldn't have allowed me to set up that book rack, because the jury process states that you can't sell anything not in the initial application, but other shows are more flexible - and after all, I did make them. 

My next show isn't until June, unless I can find something to pop in between, but certain things sold well enough on Sunday that I'll be busy restocking between now and then.

Wednesday, May 3, 2023

Artificial Intelligence


My color-coordinated child
Have you heard about ChatGPT or the other artificial intelligence programs out there? They've been in the news because there's a lot of fear that AI will replace real creatives and there will be no market for writers or artists anymore, it will just be people pushing buttons and spewing out whole books or pieces of art, and trying to pass them off to an unsuspecting public. 

I'm sure there will be people who will try to do that, but I think finding an audience won't be as easy as learning how to work with the AI. It may be different for art, because visuals are used differently, but I honestly wouldn't understand why a writer would use it to write books. Writing is the part that I enjoy. If someone comes up with a gadget to do the parts I don't enjoy or am not good at, I'll jump on that train.

Which is what I've cautiously done with ChatGPT. I was suspicious at first, but several writers I know, and at least one trustworthy podcast, are very pro 'AI in its place.' 

That means different things for different people. I tried to use it to rewrite my book blurbs, and it worked fairly well, because that's a structure it understands. Certain facts have to be tweaked, because it doesn't understand my book, but it gives me something to work with. 

Where I've really found it interesting is as an unpaid research assistant. I'm working on the third book in my Ava & Claire series, and part of it is set in Paris in 1935. I love Paris. I know Paris relatively well, but I'm not a time traveler, and there are certain things I was not able to find easily with online research.

So I asked ChatGPT. And it gave me what I needed, in seconds. And because several people have told me that they've been given wrong answers to research questions, I've taken to asking it to prove its work - to give me a link or a book title where I could find the information to back up their answer. Obviously if those links or books are out there, I could have found the information on my own, but it would have taken a lot longer - and that's time I don't want to spend for something that is only going to be one sentence of a book. It's much faster to follow the link given to me, confirm that the information is correct, write the sentence, and go on to the next thing. 

That's a research rabbit hole I could have fallen into for hours. So I see a purpose for artificial intelligence in writing, just not to do the actual writing. When writing stops being fun, I'll stop doing it.

And if you're curious, I asked ChatGPT to write a cautiously optimistic blog post about its use as a writer's assistant. My prompt, and its response, are below. It's not bad; it just doesn't sound like me.

Saturday, April 29, 2023

Fifty years


Fifty years ago today, my dad died. How the fuck have 50 years passed? Sometimes it feels like forever, but some part of me still feels like the kid who was taken to the hospital the week before to see him, who flung herself so hard at that beloved man in his shabby blue terry robe that my mom cried out to warn me.

I know it hurt him, understanding after the fact that the cancer had not only damaged his lung but his ribs. I know that hugs for a long time had probably hurt, and also that he wouldn't have traded them for a pain-free existence.

Whenever I was sick, I would tell my mom to keep him away, out of my room. Because I always wanted to be perfect for him. Stupid kid. I was perfect in his eyes.

He sometimes said, when I was sick, that he wished it was him instead of me. I'm glad I was old enough when he died not to have taken that upon myself, to somehow have blamed myself for my ear infections turning into his lung cancer.

A lifelong smoker. An asbestos worker in the shipyards during WWII. A welder. A firefighter in the tin helmets/iron men era, when they called themselves smoke-eaters. 

It's a miracle he lasted as long as he did.

He retired from the fire department around the time that respirators came in. It wasn't the same, and he was getting old - or so I thought, though he was only two years older than I am now when he died.

There's not a day when I don't think about him.

Friday, April 28, 2023



I recently had a great discussion with author Alison Treat on her podcast, Historical Fiction Unpacked

It's been a favorite listen for a while now, giving me more book recommendations than I'll ever have time to read, but isn't that just the way it is?

It's a short episode, only a skooch over a half hour. Here's a link to listen if you're interested. 

Wednesday, April 26, 2023

Spring things


This has been one of those weeks where it feels like a lot has happened, but it's actually just been normal, everyday stuff. Which isn't bad, right? "May you live in interesting times" is something you never want to hear, not after the interesting times we've already lived through.

We're still getting acquainted with Rufus, but he's settled in beautifully. It's interesting to watch him discover new pieces of his environment, like this footstool. Which is right next to the window where he likes to sit, and in full view of the couch, so now that he's found it, he can sit there and look cute and we can sit comfortably and observe his cuteness. Win/win.

It's also been garden heaven. The front yard has gone from yellow (daffodils) to lavender (lilac and creeping phlox), and now that we had some significant rain on Saturday night, pink will soon be creeping into the color scheme. 

The local nurseries have stocked early because of the weather, so I have the backyard veggie beds almost completely planted, except for a few tomato varieties that I haven't found yet. I've tried growing my own under lights in the basement; it doesn't work. I don't know why. I gave the setup to a friend and she's going gangbusters with it, so my brain must see it as a variation on houseplants, something it doesn't want to do.

I was supposed to have my first craft show of the season this coming Sunday, but there's been a complication. We live west of Philadelphia, and this Sunday is the Broad Street Run, a race that goes the entire length of Broad Street (a long street which completely bisects the city) and my craft show is on the other side. We could take the long way - over an hour - and go around the city and come in from below, but that would be a long ride, and my husband would have to leave immediately and reverse the whole thing because he'd planned a meeting at his West Philly office to keep him occupied while I was working. So the poor guy would spend almost 4 hours in the car while I was spending 6 at a craft show.

Thankfully the organizer is a sweetheart and has let me roll over my payment until the fall show, so I'm not out any money. He'll go off and do his thing on Sunday and I'll stay home and either write or make more pieces for my now-first craft show, which will be Sunday, May 7.

Wednesday, April 19, 2023

Coming Closer is here!

Yesterday was the launch for Coming Closer, the second book in my Ava & Claire series. The ebook and paperback are out in the world and I'll be adding a hardcover option as soon as the cover designer and I get done with our tweaking.

The launch went really, really well, and I'm only slightly feeling the champagne we had last night to celebrate.

Sometimes it hits me out of nowhere that five years ago, none of this had happened yet. In April, 2018, I was still 8 months away from getting any interest from a publisher, and it was October 2021 when I split with them and republished Songbird and A Wider World myself.

I regret nothing. It's been a huge adventure, and the learning curve just keeps curving, but that's also part of the fun. There's always something new to learn, and I thrive on input, always have.

For those who have already ordered their copy of Coming Closer, I want you to know how much I appreciate your support. (I'll also appreciate any review you choose to leave, but that's your choice - a writer can only hope).

For those who are on the fence about ordering, here are a few snippets from some advance reviews on Goodreads:

With the historic background and descriptions of Philadelphia in the 30s masterfully woven into the story, Coming Closer is as compelling and immersive as the first book in the series, Coming Apart. Ava and Claire are characters to care about, their personalities fully realized. Heenan’s prose is tight but evocative, and the story flows naturally. Highly recommended.


Coming Closer is an engaging story, well written, and you just cannot put it down. I was fascinated by the inserts of the historical background of the Inauguration of President Roosevelt...and the visions of the the remnants of the Great Depression’s impact on the city. I’m familiar with Philadelphia so I enjoyed the author’s references to certain landmarks and streets. As the sisters attempt to establish themselves in the community, they have to deal with the pressures of family, relationships and their shared past.


Wednesday, April 12, 2023

A night out

We had a night out this past week - Six was playing at Philadelphia at the Academy of Music and we treated ourselves to tickets. They weren't "Broadway" expensive, which is always good for the budget, but they were worth every cent. And the Academy is one of my favorite venues and will appear in the third of my 1930s books, so I looked around and took notes while I was there. 

I wasn't sure how I'd feel about it, actually - since I've been steeped in Tudor history since I was a kid - but I enjoyed every bit of it. Like Hamilton, it's bound to get new people interested in that period of history, and also like Hamilton, it's full of catchy songs that I'm still humming a few days later.

From the first note, the lights and costumes and sheer energy of the show made me smile. I wasn't sure about my husband - he's very tolerant and actually well-versed in Tudor history these days - but going by the audience, this was going to be an absolute estrogen-fest. Groups of girlfriends, mothers and daughters, much squealing and shrieking.

It was fabulous. (And husband survived quite nicely).

It does make me wonder how the wives would feel about being remembered in such a way. Honored? Annoyed? Confused, definitely. They might not understand what a musical was, they definitely wouldn't understand this musical as "music" as it was defined in their day, and they might be offended at some of the portrayals (though they were definitely based on well-known facts, just well-known facts might not be quite factual for some of these ladies).

But still.. almost five hundred years later, they're remembered. And as one of the key questions goes near the end of the show, are they remembered simply because they shared a husband? Or is their husband remembered because of them?

Wednesday, April 5, 2023

And then there was one... again

This was his adoption photo

When we lost Harriet earlier this year, I didn't intend to get a new cat right away. I'd never not overlapped before - I've had cats for almost 40 years, without interruption, and I wanted to see what it felt like. Also, with all the eye stuff going on, I didn't want strange cat hair floating around, getting in there.

But according to the eye doctor, I'm healing, and it certainly feels like it. And late last week, my local animal rescue posted a photo of an orange tabby named Garfield, and that was it. I talked to Mario, we thought about it for a day, and then we went to visit him on Friday night.

I've met his foster before - I had attempted to adopt a cat from her back after Nicky died, but Harriet wanted no parts of a new sibling. When we went down to her basement, where Garfield was hanging out, we couldn't find it. Turns out he had climbed into her ceiling and had to be tempted down with a box of treats. Worrisome, I thought, but we don't have ceilings a cat can get into.

He made a nice impression, affectionate, cute little chirping noises, letting us pet him. After we came home, we talked some more, and decided he would be a good fit. I took an extra day to clean, set up litterboxes, and make sure I took up all the glue traps and mouse traps - hopefully any residual mouse problem will be taken care of by our new child.

Watching Marie Antoinette.
Did she say cake?

We picked him up Sunday, brought him home, opened the carrier, and I carried him to the basement to show him the litter box. He then investigated the rest of the basement, climbed a shelving unit, banged his head on a ceiling tile, and climbed into the ceiling. Oops.

He came down pretty quickly. He's food motivated, which helps. And he's fitting in rather nicely. By that evening, he was watching TV with us, albeit from the coffee table. He's since discovered the couch, and I'm hoping that we'll soon be complaining about how much room he takes up in bed.

Also, his name is no longer Garfield. Everyone, meet Rufus.

Wednesday, March 29, 2023

A little gratitude

Apparently you CAN take them apart
Thank you all for indulging my whining last week. I'm better now. Not everything has improved, but I had my day or two to wallow and I've shoved the problems in their own little boxes, and now I'm dealing with the boxes, one by one.

First box: vision. My follow-up with the eye doctor went well. He's pleased with how my vision is clarifying, and doesn't want to see me for another 3 weeks. At that point, we may be able to discuss a new eyeglass prescription. Fingers and toes are crossed!

Second box: sewing machine. Replaced that bad boy, then sat with my husband in the living room and took the broken one completely apart and realized that so long as you are careful in separating the two pieces of the machine body, you can get in there and do a lot more cleaning and probably make the machine last longer. English muffins don't have that many nooks and crannies.

Third box: the oven. That's next up. I was just not in a mood to deal with the phone calls and service visits when I was still feeling blurry, but I have no more excuses. Making calls today.

Miscellaneous writing box: I've pretty much finished edits on coming closer, I've started drafting the third book, and for any UK readers who haven't tried the Tudor Court series, Songbird, the first book, will be available on Amazon for 99p for the month of April.

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Raining stones

Warning: may contain whining.

2023 has had more complications than all of 2022, and possibly 2021. I started this whole journey toward cataract clarity in mid-January. The plan was to be finished by the time my birthday rolled around on the 31st. Ha! 

We know how that's gone. I had my second procedure last Tuesday, and as far as the actual cataract removal went, it was the picture-perfect operation that the first one should have been. Ten minutes, done. The thing nobody explained to me, and I didn't think of myself, was that with my eyes original lenses being removed with the cataract, and being substituted with distance lenses, I lost all close vision.

Imagine, if you will, my reaction when, not seeing my phone clearly, I brought it up to my face and it went completely out of focus instead of the reverse. Panic ensued. Loud, annoying, somewhat frantic panic.

Add to this that my sewing machine died last Monday. It was a 6-year-old inexpensive Brother machine, so not worth repairing. I ordered another one, and it came yesterday. We're getting acquainted - I have the seam allowance marked with blue painter's tape so I can see where I'm going.

Beyond that, our oven has decided that it will not go to any temperature above 100°. It did that once last week, and we turned it off and reset it at 350° and it worked, but the other night, we decided to put a pizza in the oven and the oven laughed. And laughed.

I will deal with that later.

Vision-wise, I had a follow-up appointment the day after surgery and badgered my eye doctor into giving me an interim prescription that I then ordered from one of those 24-hour eyeglass places - which do not deliver in 24 hours, but it's still better than waiting the potential several months until all the residual inflammation goes down and I have a steady prescription. 

In the meantime, some of the inflammation has gone down, and I am able to read and function at a closer level than I was immediately after surgery. There's still a fair amount of swearing involved, but I'm not sure if that's frustration or just me.

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Watch this space

I finished my final edits this week, formatted the ebook, then formatted the paperback. Then I cracked open the ebook file and found... a typo. And that's why I have other readers, because you can't see everything, especially after going over a book this many times. 

So I'll keep reading same make those few final final tweaks, and turn my attention to Coming Together, the final book in my Ava and Claire series.

It would be so much easier if I could make an outline and write in order, but that's not how my brain works. I've fought against it, but we've come to terms, my brain and I. I'll respect how it wants to give me the story, and it will keep giving me stories.

Because I write historical, there is obviously some outlining that can't be avoided; I need to hit certain historical marks or the books won't be taken seriously. So I put the points on the timeline that can't be ignored, and figure out what other things - often smaller or local - will impact my characters, and they go in, as well. Then I can think about the larger points of the story. For this series, I have a triple timeline, going down the page in three columns: one for Ava, one for Claire, and one for unavoidable history.

Once I have those events noted down, I let my mind wander. The book comes to me in snippets, often conversation or locations. I'll write it all down or dictate it, and later I'll try to put these bits in order. Most don't fit, yet. So I have an actual book document and a second document for snippets, which holds all those brain bits. I pull from that when I get stuck and need words.

At my worst, I've had 30k words in the snippet document. The challenge is to use all of them, in one way or another, in the final manuscript. For Coming Closer, I ended up with less than 50 words left in the document, so major win. Not all of them were used - some were rewritten, and some deleted, but all of them were thought about.

The third book will happen now. I know this because when I formatted the ebook for Coming Closer, I put an order link for the final book in the back. I can't do that without putting it up for preorder. If it's on preorder, it exists, I just have to make it happen.

Watch this space.

Wednesday, March 8, 2023

Small Things

This will be a random update post, because a lot of small things are happening. First, and not small, actually, is my second cataract surgery is scheduled for March 14. I got my sutures out last week - which was a surprising non-event, considering how terrible it sounds - and the doctor said I had healed well enough that it was time to do the second eye. I didn't think I'd be up for it, but I'm at the point of wanting to get this whole procedure over with. Not only that, but season 3 of Ted Lasso premieres the next day, and I operate on a reward system. 

Second thing, it's contractor season. We had a warm day last week, and I was outside cleaning up the garden. In the side yard, I found a chunk of concrete. Which turned out not to be a chunk of concrete, but a chunk of stucco off the top corner of the house. Monday afternoon, the stucco repair guy came to fix that, and several other cracks. The day before, the electrician was in because the light switch in my sewing room was stuck in the off position. At least if it had been stuck on, I could have turned it off by way of the chain on the ceiling fan. But, no...

We're on the slippery slope toward craft show season, so I've been doing a lot of sewing of my new critters, whose name, I think is going to be Pet Frocks. It was suggested by a neighbor, and even though there were other suggestions, it's stupidly perfect. 

And last, but far from least, I am four chapters from the end of final edits of coming closer. Then I send it to my proofreading friend and do a final read-through on my Kindle, because I see different mistakes when I read in a different format, and then I'll upload it for publication on April 18. Despite all the delays caused by the eye surgery, I'm right on time. 

How are things going in your neck of the woods? Are your houses behaving?

Friday, March 3, 2023

Fabulous Fashion Friday #5

This snippet is from From This Day Forward, the prequel novella to the Ava & Claire series, available only as a signup bonus for my newsletter. You can find it here. To explain the difference in style, this was a 1918 wartime wedding.


Claire is calm this morning, as calm as a girl can be when her entire life is about to change. I’m glad the strange nervousness that kept her wakeful last night has faded. I wanted to stay up and talk, but the rare combination of silence and a soft mattress was irresistible, and I did not wake until nearly six.

Mama was already washed and dressed, sitting by the window. Her hair was still in its braid, and I got up to brush it for her. “Should I do something different?”

Her brows knit together. “Whatever for?”

I brush and twist and pin, and soon she is the mother I have always known, with a tight knot at her nape and a tatted collar around the neck of her new dress.

She talks to Claire while I wash. I emerge in my corset cover and petticoat, not wanting to wrestle myself into my new dress in the bathroom.

“Let me.” Claire drops it over my head and does up the buttons, smoothing the green fabric over my hips and straightening the high collar. “You look beautiful.”

“Look who’s talking.” My gaze sweeps over her gown, hung now on the outside of the wardrobe, waiting for her to put it on. The heavy ivory satin is like nothing I’ve ever touched, and the clever bodice, wrapping over a front panel of beaded lace to join with the hip sash, is a marvel of construction. The skirt is straight, with an asymmetric overskirt and a short train.

It is simple and elegant, not at all what I would have expected from Claire, who never met a ruffle she didn’t like. 

Wednesday, March 1, 2023

And that's probably a good thing

I'll be back on Friday with another update - and maybe some more Fabulous Fashions - but today I'm back off to the eye doctor again, this time to have the sutures removed from the first surgery 6 or so weeks ago. It's just an in-office procedure, so it shouldn't be a big deal, but I'm not actually sure what's going to happen. And that's probably a good thing.

Friday, February 24, 2023

Fabulous Fashion Friday #4

Another snippet from Coming Closer, from later in the book. Claire decides that her sister needs a little something pretty and Ava, proud as always, wants to refuse but is unable to once she gets her hands on a pre-war Japanese embroidered kimono which Claire got in Paris after her honeymoon.


     It’s a robe... no, a kimono. The word floats into my mind. I didn’t even know that I knew what a kimono looked like, but this is certainly one. “It’s beautiful,” I say inadequately.

     It is a pale, dusty pink, a color once called ashes of roses. I don’t know if that’s the right name now. Without thinking, I rub the fabric between my fingertips, judging. Silk crepe, the best quality I’ve ever felt. 

     Flowers spill over the shoulders and down the open front of the kimono, with pale tendrils ending just above the hem. The inside is a darker pink, making me think again of roses, though that’s not what these flowers are.

     “Cherry blossoms,” Claire days, reading my mind. “It’s Japanese.”

     “I thought you said it was French?” I take the kimono from her, spread it across my lap. It is simultaneously weightless and substantial. The embroidery is heavier on the back, pink-and-white flowers massed across the shoulders, interspersed with vivid green leaves. The silk thread has texture under my fingers. The flowers are so lifelike I almost expect them to have a fragrance.

     “We bought it in Paris,” she says patiently. “It’s from Japan. Stand up, let’s try it on.”

     “It’s too nice—” I try to fight her off but I’m afraid she will damage the kimono in her enthusiasm to dress me up. “Fine.”

     Putting it on, I look at myself in the triple mirror I normally avoid. The dampness outside has loosened my hair, and it falls in waves to my chin. My cheeks are flushed, my eyes bright. But for the telltale tightness around my mouth, I am almost unrecognizable.

     “I can’t wear this.” I slip it off regretfully, trying not to think about how it felt. How I looked.

     Claire bundles it up and thrusts it into my hands. “You have to.” She reaches into the box and throws the sash—pink on one side, green on the other—on top of the pile. “If you don’t take it, I’ll put it in the rubbish.”

     “You wouldn’t.” In spite of myself, I clutch it to my chest.

     “I would, Ava, and I will.” Claire laughs delightedly. “Now, will you take it?”

     It is the most beautiful thing I have ever touched, and I want it so badly I can barely breathe. I think of the skill and the hours devoted to the embroidery of all those blossoms, the many thousands of miles it has traveled to reach my hands; I can’t let her destroy it, and she would, just to prove her point. 

     “Fine,” I mutter. “I’ll take it.”