April Showers Bring…A Leaky Roof

The other day one of my dear reader friends on Facebook said she gets a kick out of my nickname for my house. It’s called the Money Pit, after that old eponymous movie about a guy who buys a house that is falling apart.  My husband and I bought this house on the spur of the moment when we moved here eight years ago. Our house out of state fell victim to the 2008 recession and sat on the market for nine months. When it finally sold, we had 30 days to make a cross country move and this house was the best we could do on short notice.

Since moving here, we have replaced the fencing, the carpets, the AC and heating system, the garbage disposal, several light fixtures, the water heater, the microwave, a set of French doors, and the kitchen faucet. Then last month the rains came and the sun room roof which we had just finished repairing leaked again. Happy to say it has since been repaired again, and in the last rain, the sun room stayed dry.  I’m hopeful we are finished with repairs for a while.

On the writing front, I’m gearing up for the June 14th release of my first biographical novel, Mrs Lee and Mrs Gray. Writing it required a different creative process and a host of decisions about what to put in and what to leave out. I’m sure there will be some critics who will question those choices, which were guided by my reasons for writing the book ( you can’t please everyone)  but the pre-publication reviews from the major review journals have been lovely and RT Reviews has chosen it as a Top Pick.  I’m looking forward to sharing the story of Mary and Selina with my readers.

I’ve been working on some new novels and planning a couple of short summer breaks to decompress. The weather here in my little corner of the world has been delightful so far and I’m taking advantage of it to spend time outside playing with Jake and catching up on my reading. I recently finished reading three contemporary novels, ( I know–shocking!)  Sisterland by Curtis Sittenfeld, Inside the O’Briens by Lisa Genova, and The One and Only by Emily Griffin. I enjoyed them very much indeed but now I am back to historical fiction, reading Ellen Marie Wiseman’s Coal River.

What have you been reading lately? Leave a comment and share your favorites.

March Madness

An old love song by the Oak Ridge boys contains these lines: It takes a little rain to make love grow…where the sun always shines there’s a desert below…it takes a little rain to make love grow.

searchI think these lines apply to life as well as to love. March at my house had quite a bit of rain of both the literal and figurative kind. We had a leak in the roof of the sunroom that damaged a window casing, dirtied the floor, and ruined some of the pillows on the sofa I keep in there. It’s fixed now but supervising the repairs left me little time for reading this month.

It’s just as well, as I’ve been feeling unsettled these past weeks, waiting for news about a new book I’m working on, and making decisions about how to launch Mrs Lee and Mrs Gray which comes out in June. And I have been profoundly saddened by the death of one of my favorite writers, Pat Conroy. He was such an example to me of how to treat one’s fans and readers. He genuinely cared for them and they loved him for it. At his funeral last month the church overflowed with his family and friends and with people who knew him only through his work, and who wanted to say goodbye.

He was the quintessential son of the South, our own Prince of Tides.The world is a darker place without him in it.

Here’s to a happier April!

February In Review

It’s March first as I’m working on this post and still we have had no winter here in my corner of Texas. Yesterday the temperature hit 86 degrees, squelching my dream of reading books beside the fire with a hot cup of cocoa. Time to make lemonade and dig out my flip flops. Jake, too felt the hotter days and wound up with a nasty hot spot that required a trip to the vet. Happily he’s on the mend.

img_2840This week we spotted the first of the bluebonnets, our state flower. Our wildflower experts say we should have a good showing of all our spring flowers, thanks to some good winter rains and now these warm temps.

I didn’t let the hot winter interfere with my reading, though. Last month I read a few books for research for a forthcoming book, and rewarded myself by digging into the books of two authors new to me. I wanted to introduce you to them in case you haven’t met:

Colm Toibin is an Irish writer with a resume a mile long, but because I specialize in writing about the 19th century, and most of his books are closer to contemporary times I was unfamiliar with his work until I saw the movie trailer for Brooklyn and discovered his novel by the same title. Set in 1950’s Brooklyn it’s the story of Eilis Lacey, a young Irish girl who comes to America to find work as a bookkeeper and assimilates into American culture,  including falling in love with Tony, an Italian boy. But just as they plan for a life together, Eilis is summoned home to Ireland, changing everything. Toibin’s spare prose and masterly evocation of mid century Brooklyn held me spellbound. I can’t wait to read more of his work.

Tiny Little Thing by Beatriz Williams is the story of a 1960’s family that bears a striking resemblance to the Kennedys, Christina “Tiny” Hardcastle is married to Frank, a rising star in Massachusetts politics, a handsome and charismatic man who showers Tiny with jewels and beautiful clothes even as he becomes more emotionally distant. Frank’s father is a ruthless manipulator who will do anything to ensure his son’s rise to power. But both Tiny and Frank are hiding explosive secrets that could ruin everything. Williams does a great job of evoking the details of life in America during the mid 60’s. But I had a hard time caring about Tiny’s problem, and the author left a couple of loose ends but perhaps this was by design; Tiny Little Thing is a sequel to an earlier book. Perhaps she’s planning to write more about the Hardcastles. If you enjoy books about the glitz and glamour of life in the spotlight you will find this book fascinating.

Foodie Fix: We wanted to explore a different cuisine last month. Here in Texas the temptation is to stick with the familiar which means an endless supply of Mexican food. So we visited two Thai restaurants. At a place called Lemongrass we tried the curries and I had a shrimp dish that came with a wonderful ginger sauce that had that gingery bite I love. The next week we went to Pacific Moon. Honestly there was nothing on the menu that jumped out at me, so I ordered a salad that came with grilled chicken, apples, grapes, and brown rice wonderfully flavored with sesame oil. We didn’t order dessert at either place. Maybe next time.

Wishing you a beautiful spring wherever you call home. Till next time,




January Round Up

I’m a few days late with my regular monthly update but I have a good excuse–I had my left hip replaced at the end of December and I’m now in the middle of a months-long recovery, going to physical therapy three days a week. It’s proving very beneficial to my regaining mobility but it cuts into my writing time.

51imExjlyUL._SX321_BO1,204,203,200_Books read:  I received Stacy Schiff’s book about the Salem witch trials as a Christmas gift and wow, is it an interesting read. I’m not a fan of the Colonial period so I haven’t read much nonfiction about that time, but I’m learning a great deal about societal beliefs and the psychological factors that turned ordinary teenagers and older folks too, into “witches.” This book is not a light read–it’s very detailed and scholarly but if you are a fan of the colonial period in America, you will enjoy it immensely.

On a much lighter note, my friend and colleague Robin Lee Hatcher sent a copy of her latest novel. Keeper of the Stars is the final book in her Kings Meadow series and it’s every bit as good as the others. Readers who have enjoyed the series will be delighted to revisit some favorite characters and to meet new ones.

I usually report on great food I enjoyed but sad to say mostly it has been hospital food and frozen entrees that can be prepared while hobbling about, first on a walker and now with a cane. I’m looking forward to getting out to check on some great new foodie places here in SA.

Writing stuff: Just after I came home from the hospital the page proofs for Mrs Lee and Mrs Gray arrived. The novel will be published at the end of May and is available now for pre order and delivery in mid June. This book is a departure from my usual work. It’s a biographical novel about the 50 year friendship between Mrs. Robert E Lee and her slave, Selina Gray. It’s a remarkable story of loyalty and courage that crossed racial lines during the most turbulent period of our nation’s history. I spent months poring over letters from Mrs Lee and Mrs Gray, journals, and articles and dozens of biographies of General Lee, pulling out the tidbits about his wife. I was captivated with this beautiful and poignant true life story and I hope readers will be, too.

Now I’m working on more story ideas and looking forward to completing my recovery and getting back to work.

I hope you all had a lovely Christmas and New Year and that the year ahead will be your best ever.