My apologies for not being a better blogger. I have some friends who are so steady with their posts, and I am not that person.
My book reviews and blog posts have all been put on hold as I devote my computer time to my new novel. The good news is that my husband, always my first reader, said this could be my best book yet, which means the world to me. He is always kind but will critique me when necessary. I still have work to do (don’t even have a title yet), but I’m motivated to push on (as soon as this blog post is published!).
I took on a couple of editing projects this summer, too, which put me behind my writing schedule. But I do enjoy helping writers polish their manuscripts. Every writer can use an editor, and it’s best to go outside the circle of family and friends if you want objective feedback.
We underwent some needed renovations in the house this summer, too. Disruption! Plaster dust! Noise! Not too conducive to getting writing done, and my library’s computers were mostly out of commission, too, so that set me back. But the updates are finished, the workers have left the house, and the air is cooler.
So enough with the excuses. It’s early September and I am determined to get back on track.
Meanwhile – the Rhode Island Authors Showcase will return in November. If you’re a loyal reader of these blog posts (thank you!), you’ll know that for the past several years, I’ve devoted the month of November to showcasing local authors, and each day, each post features a giveaway, plus some pretty awesome grand prizes (last year we gave away a $250 Amazon gift card, a $100 Amazon gift card, and a $50 Amazon gift card with a special prize of getting your name in a novel!). So stay tuned here, because it’s a fun event that helps you discover a new author.
Okay, I’m done. Thanks for not abandoning me, as I would never abandon you, dear subscriber. I hope you had a good summer, and I promise to post more frequently. And based on the title of this post, I’m including one of my favorite YouTube clips, of the legend Elaine Stritch singing “I’m Still Here.” Enjoy!
Reprinted from an article in the Providence College alumni magazine, May 18, 2021.
The family tradition that is Providence College has been manifested over the decades in many and various ways. Generations of Friars have attended PC. (In my case: my dad John M. Reynolds ‘40, my cousin Kathy ’73, my sisters Ann ’78 and Mary Beth ’84, and me ’80. My husband James ‘79 – even though we didn’t know each other then, and his father Ray, also ‘79.) it’s a family tradition! Many of my classmates have sent their children to PC. For those of us who were students in the late 1970s, there is one event that has, and always will, define us.
To write about the Aquinas Hall dormitory fire of December 13, 1977, a tragedy that ultimately claimed the lives of 10 young women, prompts sharp and difficult memories. Memories of youth and innocence, of traveling back through time to golden days full of promise and hope. And in one night, much of our innocence and sense of invincibility was lost.
In 1977, there were no cell phones, no internet, no texts or Skype or Zoom. There was no Netflix or Hulu, no TSA at the airports, no ATMs, no AIDS. The Berlin Wall still stood, and Jimmy Carter was the president. There was great (and not-so-great) music, and if you were dining in Raymond Cafeteria, you might have heard Donna Summer singing about leaving a cake out in the rain at “MacArthur Park” over the intercom system. We wore clogs and Fair Isle sweaters, and we sported Dorothy Hamill haircuts.
For many young women in the mid-1970s, going away to college was an important part of the rite-of-passage experience. A different state perhaps, a new dormitory adventure, and roommates! For some of us, the entire experience was unfamiliar. And daunting. But that’s how bonds begin. Everyone is starting out and going through the same unfamiliar rituals, to varying degrees. Few of us had cars, so our entertainment consisted of basketball or hockey games at Alumni Hall or Schneider Arena, tipping a few pitchers at the Rat, the occasional concert or lecture at ’64 Hall, or just hanging out in each other’s dorm rooms or in Mural Lounge, where the hot ham and cheese grinder was $1 and an ice cream cone was just a quarter.
There were three dorms for girls (which is what we were in those days): Meagher, McVinney, and Aquinas. Each dorm had its own personality, and all three buildings faced what is known as the Quad — a quadrangle of green space flanked by the three women’s dorms, plus McDermott Hall for boys. There were girls who met each other as roommates freshman year and stayed friends forever. And there were attachments forged through tragedy.
I’ve written about that December day, listing all 10 of the young women, even though I only knew two of them well enough to greet by name. But because we’re so connected, because we’re family, all of us, our Friar community is linked by the tragic Aquinas fire.
When people die young, at the very beginning of their adult lives, one can’t help but imagine what they would have become, how their lives might have turned out. The 10 girls who died in the fire that snowy night will remain youthful in our memories.
Every year in December we stop to remember, because we can’t ever forget. When I return to the Providence College campus, I pause to look up at the fourth-floor windows of Aquinas and offer a prayer for the girls who perished, and for their family members. But I also pray for the girls who survived. One of those survivors told me that for many years, she tried to figure out why she was saved, what was her purpose. Was it her marriage? The birth of her child? She said it took decades to realize she was saved for many reasons, and she tries, even now, to understand. It’s a question that is beyond comprehension, she said. So she focuses on what matters in her life: kindness, expressing to loved ones how much they mean, letting go of anger, cherishing friends.
All these years later and the memories can be as sharp as yesterday. That’s the thing about memory, even as we grow older. Now in our 60s, we often joke about forgetting the most meaningless things, yet none of us can forget the fire. I can remember a conversation with Katie, or the last time I saw Debbie.
Life is filled with moments — some so happy you’ll swear you must be dreaming, and some so tragic you wonder, for years, why they occurred. But if I can learn a lesson from my friend Kim, it is to find joy in small moments, to express kindness, and forgiveness, whenever possible, and to give thanks to the tightly knit community that is Providence College.
Martha Reynolds McVeigh ’80 ended an accomplished career as a fraud investigator and in the past 10 years has written ten novels. Her novel, Villa del Sol, was awarded the 2018 Book Prize in Literary Fiction by the Independent Publishers of New England.
Welcome to the Rhode Island Authors Showcase! Each day in November, this blog will feature a different Rhode Island author. Read the post and leave a comment and you are eligible to win this day’s giveaway!
Leave a comment every day this month for over 30 chances to win either our Grand Prize (a $250 Amazon gift card), our Bonus Prize (a $100 Amazon gift card), or a Cheer-Up Prize (amount to be determined), just in time for holiday shopping!
A winner will be randomly selected one week after the publication of the blog post, and the Grand Prize and Bonus Prize winners will be randomly selected on December 7, 2021. For the daily giveaways, the author will contact you directly to coordinate delivery.Print books for delivery within the US only, please.
So, as this is the first, day, I thought I’d kick it off.
I am Martha Reynolds and I write mostly women’s fiction. Born and raised in Rhode Island, I spent a year of college in Switzerland, the memories of which inspired my debut novel, Chocolate for Breakfast, and its sequels, Chocolate Fondue and Bittersweet Chocolate (find the series here: https://tinyurl.com/fchwkhzp). I have traveled back to Switzerland numerous times, and continue to be inspired.
I have written ten novels, including the Amazon #1 bestsellers Chocolate for Breakfast and Bits of Broken Glass. My novel Villa del Sol was awarded the 2018 Book Prize in Literary Fiction by the Independent Publishers of New England. My writing has appeared in Magnificat magazine and my very short poem was read by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Connie Schultz during National Public Radio’s “Tell Me More” poetry challenge.
My latest novel is titled The Summer of Princess Diana and is based on true events. And I’m presently working on a thriller – something different!
The Summer of Princess Diana follows the story of Diana Driscoll, who manipulates her wealthy father into funding a trip to London to attend the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer in the summer of 1981. There’s no way she’d miss the wedding of the century, and the thought of bagging her own prince along the way has crossed her mind once or twice. She stops off in Switzerland to visit her best friend, who’s attending school there.
But when her father is arrested and his assets are seized, Diana’s credit card is rendered useless and she’s stuck in Switzerland. What she once thought of as an idyllic area has now turned into her nightmare. Without funds and options, she takes a job as a nanny to a dysfunctional family. To make matters worse, she has to live with them. In this coming-of-age story, Diana learns that fairytales only exist in books, and life’s lessons don’t come easy.
While it’s not necessary to win, I would greatly appreciate your follows! You can follow this blog, if you’re not already doing so. Here is a link to my Amazon page: https://tinyurl.com/wssy6fje
For today, I’m giving away a $25 Amazon gift card. And I’ll toss in a copy of The Summer of Princess Diana, too (print copy for US only, please). All you have to do to be eligible is answer this question: What is the worst job you’ve ever had?
Meanwhile, be sure to comment on each day’s blog post for additional entries into our Grand Prize and Bonus Prize drawings!
Join us on SATURDAY, DECEMBER 11, from 9:00am to 3:00pm at the CROWNE PLAZA in Warwick for the 9th Annual Rhode Island Authors Expo!
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 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.
About four years ago, I wrote a book and called it Best Seller. It enjoyed some success and more than a few kind reviews. It was one of the nine novels I’ve written, and one of my favorites.
Last November, I received word from Amazon (where most of my books are sold) that they had a problem with the book’s title. They deemed it ‘misleading,’ and advised me that unless I changed it in a few days, they would remove the book from their selling platform.
Wait, what? What??? The book was up for sale for years, and now Amazon decides it’s got a misleading title? And by the way, it wasn’t misleading at all. The words ‘a novel’ were right beneath the title. And, in one of many telephone calls I had with staff at Amazon, I assured them that the novel had never achieved its optimistically titled status.
Didn’t matter. We emailed back and forth numerous times, and I spoke with as many as six different service agents, but the answer always came back the same. And a week later, poof! Best Seller, and all of its reviews, were gone.
Now, I’ve re-released the book. It’s got a different name – The Way to Remember is the name of the book the main character, Robin, is working on – and a new cover. The book’s contents are the same, with just some minor tweaking to, I hope, make it better.
For many of you who read this blog, you probably already purchased and read the book years ago, so I don’t want to trick you into thinking it’s new. It’s not, and the novel I’m working on these days won’t be ready until the end of this year (if I can finish it).
However, if I can find your old review (I was able to take some screenshots before it disappeared), I will be reaching out to you, asking you to post that review again. Because reviews are so, so important to authors. I’m hoping you’ll be willing.
Anyway, that’s my news for the middle of 2020. What a year, right? I hope you’re doing okay – physically, mentally, emotionally. It has been challenging, certainly for me on all of those fronts. Be well, stay safe, wear your face covering.
Every mother-daughter relationship is unique. Complex. Some of these relationships evolve over time, if there is enough time to evolve.
I looked up to her, then I didn’t. I resented that she was so strict – my friends’ moms seemed so much cooler. More permissive, certainly. By the time I got to college, I distanced myself – I could do what I wanted without her constantly looking over my shoulder. I was free to screw up as much as I wanted.
I asked if I could spend my junior year at the University of Fribourg in Switzerland. It was a program offered by my college, and many of my friends, all of us liberal arts majors, were going. Surprisingly, my parents said okay, and off I went.
On the day after Easter that year, my father died of a massive heart attack. My mother was a widow at 50. Three daughters – my older sister just out of college, me overseas and unreachable, and my younger sister still in high school. A widow at 50. Her parents were still alive. She had two brothers, but they both had their own issues. She was forced into doing all the things her husband had always done. Lawyers, accountants. Who will mow the lawn, service the car, pay the bills?
She learned to live on her own. Eventually her daughters moved out, she moved to a condo, and loved quilting. Her membership in the Narragansett Bay Quilters’ Association gave her purpose in her newly-single life. But she missed Jack every day.
It was around 20 years ago that my sisters and I noticed some changes in her behavior. She had no recollection of an event that we had participated in just a couple of years earlier. My sisters and I finally got her to agree to a test, and the diagnosis was fronto-temporal dementia. How cruel! This brilliant woman, who did crossword puzzles in pen, who taught me to love language and words, who majored in mathematics at Pembroke, was slowly losing her memory and cognitive abilities. I’m grateful that we, and my husband and brother-in-law, were able to surround her with love as she passed.
I think one of the reasons our relationship was a challenge (before I grew up and it wasn’t) was that we were more alike than either of us could admit. As she became more childlike with her disease, it fell to her daughters to be the caregivers, to mother the mother. We did, all three of us. We are Joyce’s girls, always.
Notice I wrote traveling through, not traveling with. Although I wouldn’t know if I have COVID-19, the Coronavirus. I haven’t been tested, I’m not showing symptoms, but yes, I could be infected. After all, I was in the midst of thousands of others this past week, at Boston’s Logan airport, Reykjavík’s Keflavik airport, Zürich’s airport, the train from Zürich to Fribourg. Then the markets and coffee shops and restaurants and stores in Fribourg. And, sadly, just a few days later, the packed train from Fribourg to Zürich, a flight from Zürich to Dublin, four hours in the jam-packed Dublin airport, six hours on the full airplane to Boston.
My little vacation and book research trip was cut short after president Trump declared Wednesday evening that, effective Friday, all travel from European countries to the US, was banned for 30 days. That’s what he said, what he supposedly read off a Teleprompter. (Yes, I know that Homeland Security later clarified it, but he’d already stated the mistruth.) I watched the speech, at around 2:00 in the morning in my hotel room, with a sense of dread. I was scheduled to be in Fribourg until Monday, 16 March. Under his directive, I would be stuck in Switzerland for another month. Now, you know I love Switzerland! But I couldn’t stay for a month. So, at 2:00 am Thursday morning, I began packing. I thought, just in case. I sent an email to my husband, letting him know I was awake and aware of the situation.
A half hour later, he called me. After a few choice words for Trump, he implored me to come home. “Do whatever it takes,” he said. “Don’t worry about the money. Just come home.”
By 3:30, I was dressed and packed. I sent messages to my friend Barbara, with whom I’d spent a lovely day on Tuesday, and to my friend Fabiola, with whom I was supposed to spend Saturday. I had friends sending messages to me. ‘Did you hear?’ ‘What are you going to do?’ ‘I’m worried about you.’
I checked out of the hotel. Four nights unused, and although the guy at the desk said he’d look into it, I don’t expect a refund. I walked through dark and quiet streets to the train station (that brought back memories of my student days!), purchased a ticket from a smart machine, and rolled my bag up a ramp to track 3. The 6:04 train left on time – of course – and filled up at Bern, its next stop. Every time I heard someone cough near me, I pulled my scarf up over my nose.
I arrived at the airport by 8:00 and traveled up escalators to the departures area. When I inquired about where to find the Icelandair check-in desk, I learned that Icelandair doesn’t have a desk in the airport. (Note to self regarding discount airfares: sometimes you get what you pay for)
I was sent to FinnAir. I tried calling Icelandair and was told I was number 76 in the queue. After twenty minutes, I was number 72. I asked the woman at FinnAir if Swiss was flying to Boston that day. She directed me to another counter, where a very nice man looked up flights available Thursday to Boston. It was 8:30 in the morning. I was operating on zero sleep, one cup of coffee. I had last eaten at 4:00 Wednesday afternoon. He told me my best option was on Aer Lingus, Zürich to Dublin, Dublin to Boston. $1,397.00
I handed over my Visa card. The crowds at the airport, my understanding of exponential growth, and my intense desire to be home propelled me to the Aer Lingus check-in counter and down to the waiting area.
Both flights were full. Two women who had arrived in Prague on Tuesday and were flying back to Seattle, a nine-hour flight. “We had one day, yesterday,” one of them said. Four male college students on spring break, heading home early because their parents were “freaking out,” one said. When I defended the parents’ concern, they grinned and acknowledged it was the right thing to do. Most of the passengers, it seemed, were there because of the speech. Even the officials at passport control understood.
Only one time I was asked if I’d been to China or Iran. No one cared that I’d been in Switzerland, where there are nearly 650 cases and 4 deaths. That was on Wednesday. One day earlier there were only 500 cases.
I am home. My husband was at Logan last night to pick me up. I’d been awake for nearly 48 hours straight. I’m going to self-quarantine while I monitor myself. I hope others do, but many won’t.
As for Fribourg, it’s been in my memory for over 40 years. It’ll stay there, even if some of those memories aren’t quite as sharp as they once were. And the book? It’s still going to be written. A self-imposed quarantine gives me plenty of time to write.
I managed to sneak in a blog post before the end of a January. Sorry for not being more consistent, but January finds me deep into drafting my new novel. And I write it out in longhand (with my favorite pen) in a spiral-bound notebook my dear friend Lynne gave to me. I’ve written twenty-four chapters so far – yay, me!
Meanwhile, the three books I wrote as my “Happy Ever After” trilogy are being featured on various book blogs over the coming weeks. This is a way to let readers who may not know me learn about my books, and there’s a giveaway of the trilogy as well. You can follow THIS LINK to find out about all the tour stops and enter the Rafflecopter giveaway.
Hey, if you know me, you know I’m big on giveaways. Belated congratulations to Geri C. in Indiana, who won my big December giveaway box. I’ll have another one coming up in the spring.
Like all indie authors, I could use more reviews on Amazon. Yep, you’ve read this before. But I’ll keep asking because it truly helps. Just a few words will do, and I’d rather have honest feedback, even if it’s critical. It helps me be a better writer.
Back to the new novel. The year is 1981 and the setting is…..wait for it….yes, it’s set in Switzerland! That means I need to go back and research. No, really, my husband insisted. So off I go in March to visit with my friends and refresh my memory. Expect this new novel in late November – I’m already excited about it! I’ll share more as the year progresses.
We’re living in uncertain times, my friends. Each day provides us with opportunities to be kind. I don’t want to miss those chances, do you?