I have neglected to update this blog for three months, and believe it or not, I have good excuses! (Don’t we all?) The biggest excuse I’ll share with you is this: Ben and I picked up and moved to Colorado Springs in April. We weren’t willing to have our faces boiled off again through another summer in Palm Springs. Still leaving all of our friends there weighed heavily on our decision.
When we sold our house in Deep Well Ranch in December, we had been assured that the house that we bought in Colorado Springs would be completed by May 1. Well, guess what. Yeah, there’s no question mark in that sentence because you all know what. We are still camping out in a rental house in Colorado Springs with our furniture in the garage and three rooms full of unopened boxes. At this point we still don’t have an ETA for our final move. It is not only frustrating, it's also expensive!
Add to that a minor car accident, a couple of scary health issues (all resolved, we believe), and a snowstorm at the end of May, a few nights out with friends Janet and Barb, and I’ve had lots of help procrastinating, not only in blog writing, but writing in general.
Another reason I’ve not been blogging is hiking! Yes, I’ve been hiking five or six days a week, as I now live within two to three miles of hundreds of hiking trails. Nothing relieves house construction tension more than an early morning hike in the foothills of the Front Range. (Below, that's me on top of Mt. Muscoco, and to the left is a scene from Red Rock Canyon, which is only two miles from our house.) And finally, I spent a few weeks this spring putting together a book of classmates’ memories for our 50th high school reunion, coming soon. It was fun to correspond with so many of them—most of whom I hadn’t heard from in 50 years.
But enough excuses already!
Books, books, books
I’ve still managed to continue working on what I consider my professional duties: reading and writing. Mainly reading, as my writing is handicapped by ergonomic challenges of our temporary abode. I’ve read a dozen books since we got here early in May, and if you are looking for any recommendations from me, let me know. (Both fiction and nonfiction, although my choice of nonfiction usually leaves people shaking their heads.)
Even before The Rebel Nun was published, I had finished writing a second historical novel based in the early Middle Ages. The Candlemaker’s Woman is about a young woman sold into slavery to a candlemaker in Gaul in the fifth century diaspora of the tribes forced out of Germania by marauding Saracens and Huns. After some insightful feedback from my two favorite beta readers, I rewrote it, and passed it along to my agent, who said she liked it better than The Rebel Nun.
Unfortunately, that agent also told me she was quitting historical fiction (too hard to sell unless it’s about WWII, apparently). So, I have been querying, trying to find a new agent. After nothing but radio silence from the two dozen agents I queried this past winter, I rewrote it a couple of times. I’m done with that now. If I get no agent in the next year, I may just self-publish it to get it off my desk. But if you liked The Rebel Nun, I think you’ll like it. Let me know if you’d like to get a review copy, whenever and however it hits the streets.
Meanwhile, I have attended a few book club meetings to talk about The Rebel Nun, which continues to garner reviews on Amazon – everything from one-star to five-star. There are well over 400 ratings so far. I feel lucky that they keep coming as there is little to no marketing underway. The book has more five-star reviews than any other, which is gratifying. The one-star reviews always amuse me (when I build up the thick skin to read them). One complained I didn’t use enough adjectives! Obviously, the reviewer is not a writer. My very first one-star review appeared before the book was released, and my critic had no access to an early copy. He simply didn’t like me or my politics (who knows what they are?) and decided to blast away without the benefit of reading it. Such people are so special.
More recently, I finished a contemporary novel about three generations of women in rural Nebraska. The idea for the novel came from a discussion I had with a friend about intelligent young women who throw away academic or career opportunities because they can’t leave hometown boyfriends. We wondered why that happens to so many. The question my novel raises, though, is a social, not a scientific one: can you save your children from making the same mistakes you made, or do they have to save themselves? The working title is What I’d Do to Save Her.
My two favorite beta readers have returned the (I think it is the fifth?) draft to me, and I have finished incorporating their suggestions. My plan is to wait a month before doing a final read and self-edit before looking for representation for it, too.
Meanwhile, I’ve started work on a two-time period novel. One of the settings incorporates the true stories of three Frankish medieval princesses, cousins, who were betrothed to Visigothic princes in their mothers’ efforts to forge political alliances with the Iberians. All three of the engagements were disasters, each in its own way. The contemporary part of the novel is about a PhD candidate, working as an associate professor in a male-dominated, military-history-dominated department, who is finishing her dissertation on feminism in the Middle Ages.
The idea for this novel came to me as I was processing comments I received from medieval history academics around the world. To a woman, the female historians were very complimentary; while, with one exception, the male historians all thought the idea of a medieval woman wanting power or independence – let’s call her a feminist – was ridiculous. My contemporary protagonist runs up against the same criticism from her male colleagues.
Finally, my landlord is a Swiss native. She's helping me by transcribing some letters written to my great-grandfather by his Swiss relatives after he immigrated to the U.S. from Neuchatel in the 1870s. This has presented the germ for another novel about a Swiss socialist colony in Texas where my great-grandfather went after his son (my grandfather) was born in Iowa. The thing about being a novelist that may not be common knowledge is that the ideas never quit coming. As my friend Sandra Dallas once said, "Ideas are easy; writing is hard." I would add to that: marketing is even harder.
The Good Life
Living in Colorado Springs the past two months has not yet disappointed. The evening skies are
gorgeous, the weather is perfect (Ben thinks it's been a bit rainy, but it is monsoon season), and our neighborhood is full of friendly dogs. I meet more of them every day. I've joined a couple of writers' organizations and hope to make some new friends that way. Life is good.
I’d love to hear from all of you, especially now that I’ve put so much distance between many of you and myself. Are you writing? What are you reading? Got any desire to beta read? Know of an agent dying for medieval manuscripts? Whatever you’ve got to share, pass it along!