For mumble-mumble years, I’ve been addicted to sugar. All my life. From the first taste of my mother’s brownies/cookies/pies/cake, I was hooked. I cleaned a plate of meatloaf, mashed potatoes, and even the dreaded peas because I wouldn’t get dessert unless I ate all my dinner.
An early memory: somehow eating everything in my Easter basket during a visit to my grandparents’ house, and throwing up in the back seat on the way home. Halloween candy gone in days. Sneaking Hershey’s Kisses from the candy dish. Sneaking candy all the time.
Then older: eating M&Ms for dinner, or a pint of Ben & Jerry’s, always washed down with Diet Coke. Sugar sugar. Oh, honey honey. And maple syrup. It felt so good – well, of course. Sugar fuels every cell in the brain. And the sugar rush (yes, it’s a thing), pushing glucose into my blood. Too much.
As I learned more and more about the dangers of elevated blood sugar levels and Type II diabetes, I understood how damaging sugar is. And believe me, I’ve tried quitting many times. Those cravings are real.
Finally, it was enough. We all reach a breaking point. I’ve quit you, sugar, hopefully forever. And I am quickly becoming a fan of intermittent fasting. I’ve started slow and easy – 8 hour window to eat (for me, that’s 8:00 am to 4:00 pm) and a 16-hour fast, during which much of that time I’m asleep, anyway. I’m hoping to add in a 24-hour or up to a 36-hour fast once or twice a month.
Intermittent fasting is not a diet. It will help you lose weight, and it will lower blood sugar levels. There’s plenty of research available online, if you’re interested. Check out Dr. Jason Fung.
A few weeks ago, I had my blood work done. My doctor was very pleased – blood sugar normal (A1c at 5.7). I’m determined to keep it that way. Meanwhile, my clothes are loose. My rings were loose – had them all resized. Unfortunately, my skin is loose, too! But I’m working on that, and would still take the looser skin over any of the other health issues.
This Swiss Chocolate trilogy author no longer wants Toblerone or Cailler bars. Give me Gruyère and Emmanthaler cheese instead!
I actually started this blog, MarthaReynoldsWrites, on my birthday in 2012. Now, here I am, nine years later and nine years older. Yikes – how the years pass so quickly. Is it that way for you, too? If you’re young, pay attention! Next time you think about it, you’ll be my age, wondering what the heck happened.
Ah, well. Nothing to do about that except enjoy the days, and for me, the writing. I do still enjoy it, even if editing sometimes makes me want to pull my hair out. But my new novel is now with my publisher, so I will relax…and read. And work a little bit on the next book. And think about the one after that. And next year’s A to Z theme. Yeah, it never ends. And that’s a good thing. As long as I can keep writing, I will.
Meanwhile, I wanted to make this book free for five days (Saturday, July 10 through Wednesday, July 14). If you haven’t yet read Villa del Sol, here’s a chance to download a digital copy for free! It’s a good book (if I do say so myself), and it won the 2018 Book Prize in Literary Fiction from the Independent Publishers of New England. That was a big honor, and I’m proud and humbled that the judges liked it enough to award it the prize. And how about that cover? I think it’s the favorite cover of all of my books, and it was hand-drawn by my dear friend Lottie Nevin, who lives in Galicia, Spain with her equally-talented husband Pete. Jim and I dream about visiting them one day.
So, I hope you’re enjoying summer. Some of us have had to endure miserable heat (in the US) and much-lower-than-normal temperatures – that’s because climate change is real, y’all. The world can be a scary place these days – don’t I know it – but that’s why books are necessary. The right book can take you away from your worries and anxieties and transport you to another place. That’s what I try to do. If you like this book (or any of my others), please consider leaving a brief review on Amazon or Goodreads. I don’t like to ask, but it does help me gain some visibility. You know, it’s all about algorithms, apparently. Either way, I’ll have a new novel for you by the end of this year! It’s called The Summer of Princess Diana and I hope you’ll like it.
And if you celebrate a birthday this month, Happy Birthday!
I’m deep in edits for my next novel, and working on another (trying to make up for the deficit from last year, I suppose), but I do find time to read. Here’s what I’ve read so far in 2021:
I’ve worked as editor as the annual anthology of short stories, essays, and poems by members of the Association of Rhode Island Authors for three years now, and as editor, I also get to choose the theme! For our 2020 anthology, ‘hope’ seemed most appropriate. Besides, it’s our state’s motto! This collection showcases the varied talent within our 300+-member organization.
Yes, I read it. I borrowed it from the library, and I was curious. While it doesn’t really offer any new revelations, the former president’s niece offers insights into the man. The greed and dysfunction within the family (headed by Trump’s father) is mind-boggling at times.
In my opinion, you just can’t go wrong with a Cat Lavoie book. This is chick lit at its very best – a modern woman who travels through life with plenty of bumps along the way. Evie is lovable and well-drawn. Really just a very fun read.
If you’re a Rhode Islander, or even if you’re not, you’ll enjoy this book set in The Ocean State. Here’s a romance with an important message about ocean conservation, all set in and around Narragansett Bay. Local author Elizabeth Devlin has done a great job with this first in a series.
This novel is short and sweet, and a very enjoyable read. I believe it’s an introduction to future novels, and I’ll be looking for what comes next. A lovely mother-and-child connection.
If you’re familiar with The Lost Child of Philomena Lee or its subsequent movie, Philomena, then the plot behind this book won’t be a surprise. It’s set in Dublin in 1962 and is fiction, but based on the very real Magdalene Laundries, a Catholic institution that operated from the 18th to the late 20th centuries. It’s heartbreaking but a very good book.
I loved this novel – and I can see why it won the Pulitzer Prize in 2018. Arthur Less is a gay man in San Francisco, dreading his upcoming 50th birthday. To avoid attending the wedding of his ex-lover, he goes on a trip around the world. It’s poignant and funny and sad and wonderful.
Another local author, and I was intrigued. Set in the dying town of West Warwick in 1958, this novel reminds one of the Sam Spade detective series. In fact, the character of Hugh Doherty figures in multiple Kafrissen novels. This story has a good plot, and while it would benefit greatly from a good edit, the author knows how to craft a tale.
This book was published in 2019, so the headlines may have faded, but it shouldn’t matter. Journalist Ronan Farrow writes about the obstacles that were put in his way when he tried to investigate allegations of abuse by legendary filmmaker Harvey Weinstein. It’s about a lot of powerful men trying to keep quiet the stories of sexual abuse and assault against not-powerful women.
Here’s the tagline: “Her marriage is to die for…” Right?? Don’t you want to read this? (Answer: yes, you do). Kabongo is a great storyteller and knows how to weave tension into every scene. I’m looking to read more from her.
Okay, so I wasn’t sure I would love this book as much as I did. A shaky start (for me), but oh boy – once I got into it, I couldn’t put it down. Three girlfriends with misunderstandings that have broken friendships apart, a road trip, and forgiveness. It’s really, really good.
Dr. Zink is a local author, who presents a book of essays, detailing the thoughts and memories of essential workers who helped to get the country through this crisis. If you want to read about the human spirit and its remarkable resiliency, this is for you.
I’ll admit, I wasn’t familiar with this book (even though it spent more than seven years on the NYT bestseller list). My sister told me about it a year or so ago. I finally read it this past spring and OMG. Talk about the best opening lines: “I was sitting in a taxi, wondering if I had overdressed for the evening, when I looked out the window and saw Mom rooting in a Dumpster.” If you haven’t yet read this book, please go find it now.
Maybe it was because I had just read The Glass Castle, but I sought out this book to read. The book is 20 years old now, so some of it might seem dated, but the story remains true, maybe truer now. She went undercover to work in low-paying jobs and tried to see if she could ‘match income to expenses.’
Delightful, quirky, witty – everything you’d expect from Irish author Marian Keyes. A woman with a rare disease (Guillain-Barre syndrome) is hospitalized for months, only able to communicate by blinking. As she struggles with her identity (before and after the illness), relationships get complicated.
Just so you know, Eve is the granddaughter and Boop is her grandmother. The road trip is essential, not only for their relationship, but for their respective healths (both physical and mental). It’s full of Southern charm and sayings, but is poignant and sweet at the same time.
This is actually last summer’s big read, but I just got around to it (and now I can read Weiner’s next book, That Summer). The character of Daphne Berg is lovable, and this story – about female friendships and fallen-apart relationships, is classic Weiner.
Did I save the best for last? Oh, this book. Given to me by my pal Lisa at Ink Fish Books, it took me weeks to finish. But that’s not a bad thing. With possibly the most exquisite prose I’ve ever read, this novel – and it is a novel, it’s fiction – imagines the aftermath of the loss of William Shakespeare’s only son, Hamnet, from the bubonic plague at age 11. Now, it’s true that Shakespeare’s son Hamnet died in 1596 at age 11, but little was known about the boy. O’Farrell took what she did know and constructed a gorgeous novel about parents and children, grief, loss, and love.
So, there you are. I need to return to writing so I can have (at least) one book for my readers this year! Feel free to let me know what you’ve been reading in the comments. And be well, everyone – better days are here.
Welcome to Pride Month! Annually in June, and to honor the 1969 Stonewall riots, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people – and those who love them – recognize the ongoing work to achieve social justice and equity for all humans.
If you don’t know about the Stonewall riots (also known as the Stonewall uprising), they happened at the end of June in 1969 in response to police raids that took place at the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village (Manhattan), a traditionally gay bar. Lesbian and gay patrons, their supporters, and folks sympathetic to the movement pushed back against the violence, harassment, and persecution perpetrated by members of the police against gay and lesbian patrons. The uprising was seen as the beginning of a movement to outlaw discrimination against people based on their sexual preference. It’s been 52 years. Have things changed? Yes, in some ways, and for the better. However, discrimination and hatred are still with us, in many forms.
The movement continues, as does the fight for equality for all people. Perhaps it’s even more important now. The brave men and women who fought for freedom over 50 years ago didn’t risk (or in some cases, give up) their lives so that a select few groups could wield power and exert dominance over others.
To that end, I’m making one of my books free for the next five days. Bits of Broken Glass is about a small group of high school classmates who reunite 25 years after their high school graduation. It features diverse characters, all of whom carry baggage from their younger days, and all of whom fear some of the ghosts of the past. Bits of Broken Glass was an Amazon #1 bestseller a few years ago, but if you haven’t yet read it, now’s your chance. Download a copy for free, or pick up a paperback copy for about $10.00, either through Amazon or from your favorite bookstore. If your bookstore doesn’t have a copy in stock, just ask them to order it for you! And that title? Yes, it’s a fragment of a lyric from one of my favorite James Taylor songs.
After the annual A to Z Blogging Challenge, which ended on April 30, I generally take a break from blogging. Can you blame me? Although most of the work is done during the months of February and March (so that I don’t have to blog each weekday – believe me, I learned the hard way!), still, I keep up with the April posts, catching little errors here and there. Also, I like to visit as many blogs as I can during the month of April, so little else gets done.
However, again this year I was chair of an annual project involving my fellow Rhode Island authors. For the sixth consecutive year, the Association of Rhode Island Authors (ARIA) will publish an anthology of stories, essays, and poetry by Rhode Island authors. This is my third year chairing and editing the project. It’s always exciting!
For 2021, I chose the theme of GREEN. I do believe an anthology should have a theme, something to tie together the submissions, and GREEN can be interpreted in many ways. There were stories and poems about GREEN in its many forms – envy, money, grassy areas, green eyes, ecology. The was memory and fantasy and baseball! We have a multitude of talent within our group.
So, look for our anthology, coming soon. It’s presently with the publishing company we use (https://www.stillwaterpress.com/). Copies will be available both online and through Stillwater.
And if you’re looking for past anthologies, check them out here:
It seemed appropriate this year to feature a theme that kept me close to home, so I give you my A to Z within the small acreage that is Rhode Island. I tried to be creative (you’ll see!) but I hope you learn something about Little Rhody, too. Whether you’ve lived here all your life, grew up within the boundaries, or have never set foot on one of our many beaches, come along for a virtual tour.
Ninigret, who was also known as Juanemo according to Rhode Island founder Roger Williams, was a sachem, or chief, of the eastern Niantic tribe in New England. In 1637, Ninigret allied with the colonists and the Narragansett tribe (“N” is for Narragansett!) against the Pequots. The photo above is of the entrance to the wonderful Ninigret Park in Charlestown, Rhode Island.
According to history posted at Ninigret Park, after the glacier receded, indigenous peoples lived here in the warmer months, moving inland in the winter to villages surrounded by forest. A mound of oyster shells, called a midden, dating from thousands of years ago, is located in the Ninigret National Wildlife Refuge, which is adjacent to Ninigret Park.
The area was farmland from the mid-1600s until the beginning of World War II.
During World War II, the federal government acquired the land for a naval airfield. Former President George H.W. Bush trained in 1943, and ultimately 1,500 personnel were stationed at the base. In 1944, Navy pilots trained in night fighter operations. Training was dangerous, resulting in 62 deaths from airplane crashes off the coast and in the nearby woods and swamps. The airfield was decommissioned in the early 1970s. In 1979, the property became the Salt Pond Unit of the Ninigret National Wildlife Refuge.
According to archaeologists, Native people were the first to live off Ninigret Pond and its surrounding lands, taking advantage of the abundant supply of fish, shellfish, and other animals that the pond had to offer.
You know what day it is. But how much do you know about St. Patrick? Maybe you know that this is the day he died, in the fifth century. Maybe you know that this is a religious holiday in Ireland – it’s celebrated differently than here in America. Because March 17 usually falls within the forty days of Lent, no-meat restrictions are waived for Catholics so that the Irish can eat bacon and cabbage.
But did you know that Patrick was born in Britain, when it was ruled by the Romans? Did you know that he was kidnapped and brought to Ireland as a slave when he was just 16? He is credited with bringing Christianity to the Irish people.
Remember, too, that up until the mid-1800s, most of the Irish immigrants in America were Protestant. When the Great Potato Famine hit Ireland in 1845, close to 1 million poor and uneducated Irish Catholics began pouring into America to escape starvation. These new immigrants were despised – for being Catholic, for speaking strangely (we love the brogue now, don’t we?), and most of them couldn’t even land the lowest level menial job. They’ve been portrayed as drunk and uncouth.
Today is a day to celebrate, whether you have Irish ancestry or not. Be mindful of social restrictions and please, don’t drink and drive. I’ve got corned beef and cabbage in the crockpot – it’s not my favorite meal, but I’ll follow tradition once year. After all, I’m a Reynolds. And here’s a long concert from The Dubliners to round out the day. Sláinte!
I have had five passports. Whether I’ll need another is unknown, but many of us are hoping – dreaming – of being able to travel freely again.
Oh my. I was 20 years old and just months away from the adventure of my life. I flew (for the first time) from Boston to Zürich and spent my junior year of college in Fribourg, Switzerland. My passport has stamps from Switzerland, France, Germany, Italy, Greece, Belgium, and The Netherlands.
My first passport was soon to expire (it was good for just five years back then), so I renewed it, in anticipation of a trip to Morocco. A few years later, I returned to Switzerland, then again, then again. I brought my passport with me on a long weekend to Montréal, but I don’t think I needed it. There was also a vacation to The Netherlands.
HAHAHA! I was just a few months away from getting married, but I wasn’t as scared as I look in this photo. We were going to St. Lucia for our honeymoon, so I needed to renew my passport. We traveled to London on this passport, too.
Next up was the new passport I needed for our trip together to Switzerland. I’d been to ‘la belle Suisse’ many, many times since that first journey in 1978, but I was looking forward to showing my husband. Born to an Austrian mother, he’d done plenty of traveling before we met – to Salzburg and England and countless times to scuba-dive in the Caribbean. We took a couple of trips to Switzerland, in 2007 and again in 2009, and drove to Montréal in 2010.
This is my current passport photo – who IS that old woman, anyway? I wasn’t allowed to wear the thick black-framed eyeglasses that are as much a part of me as my blue eyes. And I probably should have worn more makeup. It’s my deer-in-the-headlights look. But I’ve got this passport until 2026. I’ve traveled back to Switzerland twice on this passport, both times alone, both times with the intention of getting a book out of the trip. That did happen in early 2017 – my novel Villa del Sol was a result. But the last trip, in March 2020, was ill-fated, and COVID-19 had me returning home just three days later.
So we wait. For mass vaccinations, for immunity, for the chance to travel again, under circumstances more normal. Until then, I dream.
The first few days of this new year have felt, in many ways, like another year entirely. We were all so glad to be rid of 2020, and then 2021 hit. An attempted coup on our democracy, the pandemic raging and getting even worse, delayed vaccinations. With all the chaos and uncertainty around us, are you able to make plans for this year?
I’ll admit, 2020 kicked my butt as far as writing goes. I’d put about 30,000 words down on my new novel, The Summer of Princess Diana. I’d traveled to Switzerland in early March, and, with the help of my friend Barbara, had found the house where I’d spent a summer playing nanny (au pair) to a toddler. I took a couple of photos of the house and the memories came flooding back. And then, just three days into my trip, the president announced, erroneously, that he was closing the borders with Europe. My husband phoned me at my hotel at 2:30 in the morning (Swiss time, but yes, I was awake and had watched the speech on CNN in my hotel room) and pleaded with me to get the next flight home.
So I did. Because as much as I love Switzerland, I love my husband more. I checked out, took a train to Zurich, and handed over an additional $1,200 to secure the one remaining seat on an Aer Lingus flight from Zurich to Dublin to Boston. I was acutely aware of my surroundings, but I still had to stand in crowded lines and sit very close to people I didn’t know. I’m amazed I didn’t get sick.
So, for the rest of 2020, I stayed home a lot. You’d think I could have written three books, right? The situation affected everyone differently, and for me, I wasn’t able to write.
So here we are in January, anxiously awaiting the removal of the worst president in American history (yes, he is the worst – there isn’t any debate. He incited an insurrection because he couldn’t accept his loss), and awaiting the installation of a new administration that will be faced with daunting challenges. We wait for vaccines for everyone, so we might get back to some sense of normalcy. We hope for our economy to rebound, for people to get back to work, for kids to go back to school and try to make up for a diminished year of learning. We want to dine out, to go to the movies, to travel! Yes, we want to travel. And hug.
I’m planning, because I’m trying to be hopeful. I have been involved in editing manuscripts for others. It’s satisfying work, and the money is good, but I’m still not writing. And I want to write, so I have to carve out some time each day. I’m plotting out my 2021 theme for this year’s Blogging from A to Z Challenge (http://www.a-to-zchallenge.com/) – those posts are written ahead of time, and I’ve participated since 2012, so this will be my 10th year. I’m chairing the Association of Rhode Island Authors’ annual anthology again this year, and that means being busy in the coming months. Editing, chairing, blogging, reading, and writing. And walking! I can’t sit in this chair all day.
I hope you’ve made plans for this new year. Don’t call them resolutions if you don’t want to. But look ahead, continue to have hope (I know, I cling to it sometimes, but hold on tight), and stay with me. I promise to have a new book for you this year.
Be well. Stay safe.
Hope is important because it can make the present moment less difficult to bear. If we believe that tomorrow will be better, we can bear a hardship today. – Thich Nhat Hanh