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!
Good morning! Today is Theme Reveal Day (like it’s a big drama or something). Anyway, I’m going by the A to Z guidelines, so today I’ll let you know what I’ll be blogging about next month.
This past year has had plenty of challenges, as I’m sure it’s been the same for you. On this day last year, I boarded a flight at Boston’s Logan Airport and flew to Reykjavik, Iceland, then on to Zurich, Switzerland. I’ve blogged about that ill-fated trip, cut short after a few days when COVID-19 concerns had me flying back home just three days later. Since then, it seems that COVID has dominated everything – the news, chats with friends, concerns with family, how we socialize, dine out, shop. And we’re not quite out of it yet, but the days do look a little brighter. (Please get vaccinated when it’s your turn!)
This year I have stayed close to home, and I’ll be blogging from A to Z about places within the 1,214 square miles that make up Rhode Island, my home state and the smallest one of the fifty. Road trips with my husband gave us fun destinations in January and February, as we plotted out our drives. I was able to cover all the letters in the alphabet, even if I did have to get creative with “X” and “Z.” (Don’t we always have to get creative with at least one of the letters?!) There was history to research as well, and not all of it is pretty. Rhode Island was inhabited by Native people until European settlers moved in, sometimes forcefully. The state’s industry was rooted in the mills, and the wealthy mill owners relied on the labor of immigrants. Textile mills turned cotton (picked by slaves in the South) into fabric. Slave trading took place along with the import of tea and spices from far-off lands. I hope to provide you with a little insight into Rhode Island and its Native American and early Colonial connections, as well as our beautiful shoreline. We are The Ocean State, after all.
My theme for 2021 is…
STAY HOME! WEAR A MASK!
So whether you’re a Rhode Island resident, someone who was born and raised here but have since moved away, or you’ve never set foot in Little Rhody, this is a chance to learn a bit about the 13th state. I hope you’ll join me, every day in April except Sundays (when I’ll be catching up on all of your blogs!).
For the 10th year in a row, I’ll be participating in the April “Blogging from A to Z Challenge.” And I would love for you to join me! If you’re a blogger, or even a wannabe blogger, the challenge is a great way to stay with your goals or perhaps test the waters. Details usually come out in March, but you can start planning now.
Typically I begin my plotting and planning in early January, although themes and topics float around in my head all year. You don’t have to have a theme to participate, but I find it helps – and my readers seem to enjoy it. So I think about possible themes. Generally my themes follow what I enjoy – travel, food, music, literature. You blog each day in April (except Sunday), and use each letter of the alphabet as you blog.
When I first decided to take part, in 2012, it was purely by chance. I was following a blog (I can’t even remember whose blog it was), and I learned about the challenge, which actually began in 2009, before I was blogging. I hurriedly came up with a theme (authors, poets, lyricists) and put together a list (A is for W.H. Auden, B is for Bertoldt Brecht…). I used Wikipedia and my own books for research. I felt rushed, but I managed to post every day in April (except Sundays, that’s the rule). By the time I got to Warren Zevon, I was exhausted! Whew! One thing I knew for sure – I’d be better prepared for 2013.
And I was. In 2013, I blogged the alphabet on places I’d been, 2014 was about cheese (yes, it was), 2015 featured musical instruments, 2016 had a beautiful theme about Paris between the wars (1919-1939), when the city experienced a cultural boom of artists, writers, composers, and designers. In 2017, I showcased Broadway (and off-Broadway) musicals, the following year, 2018, featured a look back at the year 1968, accompanied by hit songs from the era. In 2019, my theme was Dylan, and I featured covers of Dylan songs A to Z.
Last year, my theme was “Yes, But Would You Eat It?” – a look at foods of the world.
I’ll be revealing my theme for 2021 soon, in a separate post. But I hope you’ll think about joining me in this challenge – it’s fun! And I’ve met some wonderful people through the A to Z. So stay tuned!
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
Robert Burns, the Scotsman who lived just 37 years, penned the words to “Auld Lang Syne” when he was 29. Burns sent a copy to the Scots Musical Museum in 1788 with a note, saying “The following song, an old song, of the olden times, and which has never been in print, nor even in manuscript until I took it down from an old man.” While it wasn’t originally intended for New Year’s Eve, or Hogmanay in Scotland, it soon became a favorite song for the last evening of the year.
Is it right that old times be forgotten? This is the first question posed in “Auld Lang Syne.” And should old acquaintance, old friends, be forgotten, too? I hope not!
I think of the many connections I’ve made over the years. Some (too many) have passed away, but I’m comforted by fond memories of times spent together. Some have faded away, meaning the connection just isn’t there anymore. And that’s okay, too. A few have shown themselves to be something other than a friend, which is sad, but it happens. But for those that are still with me – thank you. I do treasure you. You matter to me. And while I can’t shake your hand or hug you hard this year, I will raise a cup o’ kindness – to you, to better days, decency, and to good health.
We have indeed wandered many a weary foot in 2020, even if we’ve mostly been at home. I don’t know about you, but I’m wrung out. Of course there have been good days, and laughter (thanks to my husband), and hope (each day dawns fresh), and I remain confident that the coming year will bring about change, (slow) healing, and promise. I have to believe it.
So, as I have have done in the past, I will leave you with my favorite version of “Auld Lang Syne.” Happy New Year!
“The seas between us have roared and swelled…”
Here’s the link to my favorite version of “Auld Lang Syne.”
Happy end of 2020! Who else is glad to close out this year? I know I am.
Didn’t get much writing done this year. Well, I was going strong until March. Other writers I know made such good use of being home – happy for them. I’m hoping to start again in January – new year, same book. And – I’m aiming to finish it and start a new one.
The Mothers by Brit Bennett. I gobbled up this book soon after I’d finished reading The Vanishing Half, also by Bennett, who is one of my favorite authors. From the book description: “All good secrets have a taste before you tell them, and if we’d taken a moment to swish this one around our mouths, we might have noticed the sourness of an unripe secret, plucked too soon, stolen and passed around before its season.”
Anything is Possible by Elizabeth Strout. This is Book 2 in the Amgash series, and I read this one before Book 1 (which I list farther down the page), but it didn’t really matter. Elizabeth Strout is so skillful at digging into human emotions, and all of the stories in this book are connected.
Sing for Me by Maggie Clare. This is the first in a series of three books by Maggie Clare, the pen name of award-winning author and my pal Tabitha Lord. Tabitha, as Maggie, writes steamy romances, and Sing for Me checks all the boxes. A great escape novel!
My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout. Here is the first book in the two-book Amgash series. You can read this one first, but it’s not necessary. I love the way Strout uncovers, layer by layer, the history and deep-seated emotions of each character.
The Land of Last Chances by Joan Cohen. Cohen tells an interesting story in this book, featuring an executive in her late forties who has an unexpected pregnancy. While some unexpected pregnancies can be too, too cliché, Cohen manages to put a fresh spin on the doubt and uncertainly the character experiences.
Woman on the Edge by Samantha Bailey. Wow! I feel as though I’m still catching my breath! Samantha Bailey’s debut novel is a thriller in every sense of the word. Bailey shows us how to begin a story: A total stranger on the subway platform whispers, “Take my baby.” She places her child in your arms. She says your name. Then she jumps…
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. The search for identity, and a home, defines this amazing novel about two Nigerians trying to fit in in the U.S. and the U.K. The writing is absolutely gorgeous and the story will capture you.
Saturday Night Sisters by Kathleen Irene Paterka. My friend Kathleen has written eight novels, all of them good, but I think this one is probably her best yet. Creating four distinct and compelling characters – all woman in their 60s – is not easy, but Paterka does it, and writes a captivating tale that will keep you immersed until the end.
Beach Read by Emily Henry. Don’t be fooled by the title – this isn’t Elin Hilderbrand. But it is a great read. It’s got romance, some heat, and a depth you might not anticipate. Well-drawn characters and a plot that, for me, never got stuck.
I don’t keep track of how many books I read (should I?). I know I read more this year than in previous years (thanks, COVID-19 and staying home). If I’m able to get back to my own writing in 2021, I won’t read as much, so I’m glad I was able to complete as many books as I did this year.
How about you? Do you have a favorite book that you read this year?
We had a wonderful month-long event last month, hosting Rhode Island authors here and giving away books – and I just drew the winners of the Grand Prize and the Bonus Prize.
A total of 31 Rhode Island authors participated in this 30-day event – so one day we had two. I’ll always host as many RI authors as want to participate. We’ve got a lot of talent in this little state, and we covered a variety of genres, so something for everyone.
This blog series has run in November for the past few years, as a lead-up to our annual RI Authors Expo (a virtual event this year), and has grown in popularity. I mean, who doesn’t love free books? It’s a great way to discover a new author – many authors have told me that they’ve found new fans through this event, and authors have an opportunity to reach readers around the world.
All of the book winners have been contacted, and I just drew for the big prizes. Bonnie Karoly won the Bonus Prize, a $100 Amazon gift certificate, and Tashia Jennings won the Grand Prize, a $200 Amazon gift certificate. Both Bonnie and Tashia participated daily, commenting on each author’s post. Congratulations to Bonnie and Tashia!
And if I can insert a little self-promotion here….this week my novel The Way to Remember is a FREE download – through this Friday. Here’s the link https://amzn.to/3lWU6xN For those of you who weren’t aware, The Way to Remember is a re-publish of my 2015 novel Best Seller, because the great god that is known as A>>zon decided, five years later, that the title was “misleading,” and because I couldn’t retitle it and have a new cover completed within five days, they deleted it from their selling platform. Well, it’s back! So if you haven’t yet read it, you can read it for free.
See you next year for the 2021 Rhode Island Authors Showcase and Giveaway!