November #Book-a-Day Giveaway Preview


books

Once again this year, I’m hosting Rhode Island authors on my blog during the month of November. Representing a variety of genres, I’ll showcase a different author each day, and every day you have a chance to win either an ebook, a print book, or a gift card. What better way to spend November?!

Here’s the lineup for the month of November:

  1. Barbara Ann Whitman
  2. Tabitha Lord
  3. Denise Flagg
  4. Dana Gambardella
  5. Dana Vacca
  6. Tara Williams
  7. RK Bentley
  8. Mai Donohue
  9. Christine DePetrillo
  10. Jan Cornell
  11. Donna McCarthy
  12. Hilary Salk
  13. Hershey Rosen
  14. Michael Hartigan
  15. Vanessa Paniccia
  16. Dr. Michael Battey
  17. Matt Espeut
  18. Corey Calligano
  19. D.R. Perry
  20. BJ Knapp
  21. Lena Lane
  22. Karen Petit
  23. Paul Caranci
  24. Julien Ayotte
  25. Pat Hinkley
  26. Mark Perry
  27. Karen Gasperini
  28. Alison O’Donnell
  29. Martha Reynolds
  30. Leigh Brown & Victoria Corliss

That’s quite a lineup! Each day you’ll have a chance to win something (the blog post will tell you what’s up for grabs) simply by commenting on that post. Make sure you comment, because there’s a big prize at the end, and everyone who comments throughout the month will be eligible. You have up to 30 chances to win! More importantly, here’s a chance to discover a new author or revisit one of your favorites.

The 30 days of giveaways in November culminates with the Sixth Annual Rhode Island Authors Expo on Saturday, December 1, 2018. Hope to see you there!

Indie with Ease!


IndieWithEase_300

If you self-publish your books (as I do), this new book by my friend Pauline Wiles is a must-have. We who self-publish – we indie authors – do a lot of work to get our books out there. And sometimes the entire process is overwhelming, because it’s not just about writing the book.

As Pauline writes, “Being an indie author should be a delight, not a drudgery. Indie With Ease demonstrates how a blend of clear purpose and steady pragmatism will enable you to thrive as an independent publisher. Through simple self-care techniques and a few mindset secrets, you’ll maximize motivation and minimize author anxiety.”

The book includes contributions and advice from over a dozen indie authors (including me!) and also includes templates, checklists, and trackers – all designed to help you with your writing journey.

I would love to give away a digital copy of this book! Just comment on this post and tell me one reason you’re an indie author (or would want to be!) I’ll choose a winner randomly a week after this date and will correspond with you directly.

Pauline

British by birth, Pauline is now a contented resident of California, although she admits to occasional yearnings for afternoon tea and historic homes. You can find all of her books here.

Forty Years Back


Nice, France

Forty years ago today, I boarded my first airplane and began a year abroad that would forever mark my life. The thirty or so students who went with me might well have the same thought – we all were impacted by a year in Switzerland, with no internet or cell phones.

My first novel, Chocolate for Breakfast, was (very) loosely based on that year. Like Bernadette Maguire, I was 20, naive (yes), and hopeful. Unlike Bernadette, I did not have an affair with a married man, nor did I get pregnant with his child. 😉 I recall explaining that to friends, who took my storytelling literally.

I’ve returned to my beloved Switzerland often – in 1981 to work as an au pair (there’s a book I should write), again a few years later, multiple times in the 1990s, and most recently in January 2017, where I was inspired to write Villa del Sol.

But the year that began on 28 September 1978 was my year. I don’t have any Cardinal beer to drink, no Giandor chocolate bar, and the Café Chemin de Fer is now, I believe, an Indian restaurant. Things change, even in Fribourg, Switzerland.

“Mesdames et messieurs, it is time to go sleep!” 🇨🇭🇨🇭🇨🇭

It is the heat. And it is the humidity.


Nearly September. 95 degrees today. Heat index 104. Just like yesterday.

So who else is cranky? I know (at least) three people who live without air conditioning. I don’t know how they live, though. Our thermostat is set at 74 and I’m hot. But I’m grateful for A/C, especially at night.

I’ve never liked summer best. Fall is my favorite. How about you? Depending on where you live, you might not experience four distinct seasons. But by September, the sun rises later and it’s dark by 8:00 now, so I want that cool air to follow.

Meanwhile, I’ve finished the second round of edits for my new novel, so now it’s off to my trusted readers, who give me honest feedback. I sometimes can’t see a plot hole or a character who uses repetitive language, but they can! I’m still on track to have this book ready by December 1 – the day I’ll be at the Rhode Island Authors Expo!

Until then, I’m reading a lot (what are you reading?). I loved How to Walk Away by Katherine Center and Crossing the Bamboo Bridge by Mai Donohue (her memoir of growing up in Vietnam – you won’t be the same after reading it). I’m almost done with How Hard Can It Be? by the hilarious Allison Pearson, just started Alternate Side by the wonderful Anna Quindlen, and The Pendulum’s Truth by the very talented writing team of Leigh Brown and Vikki Corliss. Vacation next week means lots of reading!

Autumn will get here, eventually. You won’t hear me complain about the cold. Not me.

Five Questions for Hannah Colby


Today is the US release date for A Place of Springs, the sweeping epic novel from author Hannah Colby. Published by Unicorn Publishing Group in the UK, the novel is now available for American readers, and is highly recommended as a masterpiece of “love, loss, and the transcendent power of music.” I am so enjoying this novel – the writing is first-rate and you are transported into the lives of Daniel and Irena. I do highly recommend it.

A Place of Springs

Q. Tell us a little about yourself. I was born in Norwich (about 100 miles northeast of London) during World War II. My parents divorced and my brother and I were brought up in London by our mother.  She was an artist, and taught me to paint and draw, a little easel set up beside her own. At 17, I went to Paris, first to a traditional “finishing school,” then to study French Civilization at the Sorbonne.

I’ve written this novel under the pen name Colby – my maternal grandmother’s maiden name. She was an American from Newton Center, Boston, who married a highlander from the Isle of Skye.

I married young, had four children, and continued to paint. My first husband and I set up a day center for young disabled adults, which I ran for seven years. My present husband and I lived in London and southwest France until we moved to Norwich. Six years ago I began to write the novel that has become A Place of Springs.

Q. What inspired you to write A Place of SpringsThe inspiration came from a lifetime of interests and experiences which seemed to demand expression. First, the horror and shame of the siege of Sarajevo between 1992 and 1995 and all the appalling violence of the Balkan Wars. Then, a legacy of my London school, where I studied the piano and viola, my joy of classical music.

The story began to take shape when I was attending a creative writing course. From a collection of photographs, I picked up one of a young girl playing the violin. Without knowing anything about her, I decided she was Irena from Sarajevo, and wrote a short story for my homework. I continued to write about Irena and Daniel for the next six years.

Q. Can you tell us a little about the book? A Place of Springs follows the fortunes and misfortunes of concert pianist Daniel Danuczek, from the time he goes to teach at the Sarajevo Conservatory the year before the siege of that city in 1992. He lodges with Adam and Finola Vidaković and their young daughter, Irena. The tranquil opening chapters end when Daniel must return to London and the peace that Sarajevo has known is shattered.

Having had no news of his friends, Daniel returns to war-torn Bosnia. He learns that Adam and Finola are dead and Irena has disappeared.  Finding her becomes an obsession as he comes and goes between London and Sarajevo. His quest ends abruptly on his hotel balcony when he is shot by a sniper.

Daniel’s injuries force him to re-evaluate his career and change much about his playing if he is to return to the concert platform. His sister and his agent play important parts in his painful and emotional recovery. The main part of the book is written in three voices: the narrator’s, Irena’s, and that of Sam, one of Daniel’s pupils. During this time, Irena’s aunt writes from New York, where she is caring for Irena, now very changed after two years of brutal and abusive captivity.

This is, of course, a love story, but it is played out against a background of several elements. Music is a constant theme, as are ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, and friendship.

To me, this book is about acceptance, forgiveness, courage, and the artist’s dedication to his art. But above all, its subject is healing.

Q. What genres do you like to read? I mainly read art history, ‘pop’ science and psychology, nineteenth and twentieth century novels, modern poetry, cookery, and travel books.

Q. Do you have a “Top Ten” or “Top Five” book list? This is difficult, but here are some that spring to mind:

  • Middlemarch (George Eliot)
  • Jude the Obscure (Thomas Hardy)
  • Fortunes of War (Olivia Manning)
  • Alexandria Quartet (Laurence Durrell)
  • Short Stories (Katherine Mansfield)
  • My Mother’s House (Colette)
  • The Pursuit of Love (Nancy Mitford)
  • A Room of One’s Own (Virginia Woolf)
  • The Glass Room (Simon Mawer)
  • The Unbearable Lightness of Being (Milan Kundera)
  • Flaubert’s Parrot (Julian Barnes)
  • The Color Purple (Alice Walker)  [note: my favorite!!]
  • The Jews (Roger Peyrefitte)
  • Midnight’s Children (Salman Rushdie)
  • Things Fall Apart (Chinua Achebe)

You can purchase a copy of A Place of Springs here

Woman of Heart and Mind


If the title of this blog post sounds familiar to you, then you, too, are a Joni Mitchell fan. I’ve been reading David Yaffe’s biography  of my favorite female singer/songwriter (Reckless Daughter: A Portrait of Joni Mitchell) and so often I’ve interrupted my reading to listen to one of her songs.

for the roses

The very first album (yes, I’m old, and albums were wonderful) I ever bought was For the Roses, Joni’s fifth studio album. I was 14 years old. For those of you who know me, and thought my first album purchase would be something by James Taylor, Mud Slide Slim was my second purchase. Those two sufficed for a long time. While I could stare at the cover of Mud Slide for hours, it was Joni’s lyrics that really resonated with me and my teenage angst.

mud slide

joni and james

I started collecting Joni’s earlier records, and reveled in “Cactus Tree” (‘she’s so busy being free’), “Michael from Mountains” (‘there’s oil in the puddles in taffeta patterns’), and “Carey” (‘maybe I’ll go to Amsterdam, maybe I’ll go to Rome’). By the time I was in college, I listened to her constantly, finding meaning in exquisitely-crafted lyrics. As a painter first, Joni crafted lyrics the way a painter creates art. In 1978, I was in Vienna with my friend Peter on Christmas Eve, and I think both of us were missing home separately. I wrote the entire lyrics to “California” on the bathroom wall of our hostel room. I apologize for the vandalism. I’d not yet traveled to California, but the words to this song felt right for that year abroad:

"Sitting in a park in Paris, France, reading the news and it sure looks bad
They won't give peace a chance, that was just a dream some of us had...

...Oh, it gets so lonely, when you're walking
and the streets are full of strangers
All the news of home you read just gives you the blues
Just gives you the blues...

Joni’s nearly 75 now, and after a brain aneurysm in 2015, she’s been reclusive. However, she did attend a James Taylor concert last month at the Hollywood Bowl. You Tube has many of her recordings, concerts, and interviews. And it’s comforting to know that her songs are timeless – from the folks songs of the Sixties to her jazz efforts in the late Seventies and forward*, this self-described “painter derailed by circumstance” has created works of art with her lyrics and melodies. I can’t possibly pick a favorite song, but one of the best, in my opinion, in this one (written about the baby girl she gave up for adoption – mother and daughter reunited years ago):

*By the way, I don’t mean to discount any of Joni’s brilliance post-Court and Spark. I marvel at her talent and can lose myself in her later recordings. But the earlier lyrics spoke volumes to me in my youth.

The Year of Living Minimally – Week Fifty-two


mini

Well, that year flew by. I seem to be saying that all the time lately.

A year ago, inspired by The Minimalists (Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus), I decided to begin my own journey toward living a more minimal, and more mindful, life. If I blogged about it every Friday, I’d be more accountable, and maybe if I had a flash of insight, I’d share it.

It began by cleaning out a drawer, then another. Then a cabinet and a cupboard, and another. Closets, multiple times. I began to look at possessions differently – all those collectibles that my husband I had bought through the years of our marriage, little trinkets of remembrance. Some Many of those items are worth keeping – like the prints and paintings that remind us of a special trip. Other things just take up space.

I’m not done. This is an ongoing project, and I never did clean out the garage as much as I’d wanted to, so I’ve marked that as a fall project. We still have our beloved dog, Bonnie (thankfully), so the well-worn furniture that she claims as her own stays, for now.

My friend gave me this wonderful bracelet for my recent birthday – how thoughtful she is, especially knowing how I feel about plastics and ocean pollution. Please click the link for more information about how you, too, can help. Gifts with purpose!!

If you’re overwhelmed with clutter, know that if you want to change that situation, you can. And if you look around and think you can never live more minimally, start small (like I did). Start with one drawer. Or, start on August 1 and get rid of (meaning, recycle, repurpose, or toss out) one item. On August 2, do the same with two items, and go through the month that way. You can throw out an old tube of mascara on August 1 and donate a worn but still wearable pair of shoes on August 2. Yes, you can do this.

So even though I won’t be blogging every week about my journey, the journey continues.

mini2