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?
Happy New Year! And happy new decade. Wasn’t it just yesterday we were freaking out about Y2K??!
Ten years ago, on December 31, 2009, I was still working as a fraud investigator. My work environment wasn’t good, but it would grow worse throughout 2010 until I finally had enough.
We lost our little pug, Jessie, in May of 2009.
While we were dog-less, we took a trip to Lugano, Switzerland, in September that year.
Then by October, my husband indicated he was ready for another dog, and our little Cavalier King Charles spaniel, Bonnie, arrived in early November.
After I finally quit the job that was making me physically sick, I began writing my first novel in 2011. And here, on the final day of 2019, I’ve published nine novels and one non-fiction journal. And I can’t wait to begin my new book!
Thank you, all of you, for reading these blog posts, for taking a chance on an unknown author, for being a loyal reader, for buying my books as gifts for yourself and for others, for posting reviews, for letting me know that I write books you like to read! I am grateful, so grateful.
A set of postcards from the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts (Dalton, Massachusetts is practically next door!)
a small box of maple sugar candy from Stockbridge
a Vera Bradley zip ID case in Romantic Paisley
and of course, a signed copy of All’s Well in Jingle Valley with a fabulous BookFlip bookmark
and a few more surprises!
There are many ways to earn entries, loyal readers! This giveaway will conclude on Monday, December 23, 2019 at midnight, and I will randomly select a winner on Tuesday, December 24. (NOTE: If you live outside the U.S., I will send you an ebook and a gift card valued at $75)
Here’s how to earn entries:
Pre-order the book no later than November 15. You can email me the link or screenshot. 3 entries
Pre-order the book by December 1. Again, email the link or screenshot. (if you don’t know how to do this, then you can let me know you pre-ordered the book, and I will trust you!) 2 entries
Post a review of the book on Amazon before December 13. 5 entries
Post a review of the book on Amazon before December 22. 4 entries
Share the book and on Facebook (tag me!) 3 entries
Post a photo of the book on Instagram using hashtag #JingleValley 3 entries
As a bonus, I’ve lowered the price of A Jingle Valley Wedding to just 99 cents (ebook) all month, in case you haven’t read it yet. Get your copy HERE
And thank you for your continued support!
Come see me on Saturday, December 7 at Rhodes-on-the-Pawtuxet in Cranston, RI, where I’ll have all my books for sale!
Well, this doesn’t look like summer! It’s September 13, still a week away from official fall. Some of you consider Labor Day the end of summer. And retailers? Ugh. It’s Halloween and Christmas already.
I haven’t packed away my white pants and flip-flops yet, and this is a wonderful time to go to the beach, even if I wear fleece and clutch my travel cup of hot coffee in those early morning hours.
These photos are from my walk today, so maybe it is autumn! I bought apples this week and made applesauce with cinnamon. I’ve been whirling up my breakfast shake with pumpkin purée, cloves, nutmeg. That’s fall, right?
Apparently the neighbors are ready for October! But I’m a lifelong New Englander, so I know the temperature could climb back into the eighties this month. That pumpkin could turn to mush.
This evening I’m barefoot but wearing long sleeves. The windows are open, but I put the big quilt back on the bed. My husband needed his sweatshirt because I won’t close the windows. Come on, it’s 64 degrees at 6:30pm!
So….are you holding on to summer or sliding happily into autumn?
As summer winds down (it’s not over! it’s not over!), so does my reading list. I tried to cram in as much beach reading as I could this year, trying to balance reading with writing. But as edits and revisions took over my life for this new novel, I was only able to read five books. Still, they were good ones:
Elin Hilderbrand (Queen of the Summer Beach Read) released this one in June, just in time for a summer beach read. As the author herself turned 50 in July, she tells a story about four siblings (sisters Blair, Kirby, and Jessie, brother Tiger) who each experience that memorable summer in different ways. The moon landing, Woodstock, and the Chappaquiddick incident on ‘the other island’ are all featured. Definitely a must-read. I bought my copy at Ink Fish Books
I stopped by my other favorite local bookstore, Stillwater Books, and found this one. Looked good, so I picked it up. OMG. This book! As soon as I finished it, I told my husband he had to read it. He’s really into it. It’s a novel based on a real-life scandal, involving the kidnapping of poor children and selling them to wealthy families. Heartwrenching but ultimately hopeful.
She’s probably my favorite author, and I couldn’t believe I hadn’t read this book. It was part of my library’s big book sale (yes, I filled a giant tote bag!). It took me a little longer to be invested in this one, but Quindlen never disappoints me. This book was first published in 2002, and delves into family secrets and why they’re kept. Beautifully crafted, with rich descriptions and characters you can almost feel sitting next to you.
This one I downloaded through my library’s program (I don’t think Hilderbrand needs the money, so why not spend on local and indie books?). Maybe I missed it, but this is part of a series. The ending left me feeling unsatisfied, but that was because there’s a sequel coming. Apparently the sequel drops in early October. Still a good book, but if you’re a fast reader like me, maybe it’s better to wait until all the books are out.
I also downloaded this one through my library. It’s a collection of essays, with recipes. Unfortunately, I knew most of these stories already, and they seemed somewhat disjointed (introducing us to her grandmother Mama Rose once was sufficient). The recipes were fine, although a chapter devoted to butchering a pig was, to me, revolting. Still, Hood can write, and many will find this book charming.
So, no more “What I Read” posts for a while. I need to get this book done!
However, if you love reading as much as I do, and if you’re on Facebook, we’ve got a great event coming up November 18. It’s a Rhode Island Authors Showcase featuring a variety of authors. Each one will have something to give away, and the Grand Prize is a $250 Amazon gift card, just in time for some serious shopping. You can find the link HERE and it’s all online. I hope you’ll join us!
Even though I’m still not finished with rewriting and revising my new novel (I know, I know! But it will be ready for late November, I promise), I’ve been reading as much as I can this summer. So here’s what I’ve read in July:
I worked with Judy Davis, and when I discovered she’d written a book about her cross-country bike journey, I grabbed a copy. You can get a copy HERE.
Starting at the Pacific coast in Oregon, Judy rode all the way to Providence, Rhode Island, and raised over $70,000 to fund a swimming program for children. Along the way, she kept journal entries and took photographs, which make for a most interesting book.
I was attracted to this book by the cover, and I thought it was terrific. Stephanie Land writes a true-life depiction of poverty in America. It’s real and it’s difficult. And the author is remarkable – through determination and willpower, she does everything she can to keep her daughter. You can buy it at your local bookstore (do that first!) or here.
My husband picked this one up at one of our favorite bookstores, Stillwater Books in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. And while he was reading it, he’d say “Martha, you’re going to love this book.” My reply? “Well, then, hurry up and finish it!” He did. I did. We both loved it – all of it, even the ending! Can’t wait for the movie.
There’s a reason Elin Hilderbrand is called the “Queen of the Beach Read.” Here Hilderbrand ventures into murder mystery, but still set on the island of Nantucket, and still with a cast of memorable characters. I haven’t yet read all of her books, but I’m working on it! Pick up a copy here.
Did you love Orphan Train? I did, and it introduced me to the marvelous Christina Baker Kline. I also read Sweetwater and grabbed this book when I found it. If you’re familiar with Andrew Wyeth’s painting “Christina’s World,” then this is the book for you. Described as “stunning and atmospheric,” A Piece of the World is a fictionalized tale of Christina, the subject, and Andy, the painter. Meticulously researched and written so beautifully, I loved this book. You can purchase it here.
This one was fun. As a native Rhode Islander, I could relate to the names and places DeSilva sprinkles throughout his story. But even if you’re not familiar with Little Rhody, you’ll enjoy this ‘hard-boiled mystery.’ I picked up the hardcover at Stillwater Books.
More Hilderbrand! And why not, I’ve been slathered up with SPF50 and reading on the beach (when I’m not jumping waves or walking the coastline). Loved this one, too. Reminiscent (slightly) of “The Parent Trap,” this book visits both Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard (locals have strong ideas about their favorite island!). Although you can buy it online or at your favorite indie bookstore, I actually downloaded this one from my library (shout out to the West Warwick Public Library!)
Yes, it’s summer, and you may not be ready to think about autumn. But this book was a true delight! Set in New Hampshire and smack in the middle of fall, Beth Labonte has written a sweet and endearing romance. Loved it. Get yours here.
To finish out the month of July, I visited my other favorite Rhode Island bookstore, Ink Fish Books in the lovely small town of Warren, Rhode Island. Have you been there yet? Don’t you LOVE it? I picked up this one on the recommendation of a woman who was in the store, and I’m so glad I did! Set on Block Island (Nantucket and the Vineyard may belong to Massachusetts, but we have Block Island), Meg Mitchell Moore has woven together the stories of three individuals. I couldn’t put this one down, it was so good. Looking forward to reading more by MMM.
So, how about you? I’ve got six hardcovers and tons of digital books in my ‘to-be-read’ pile, but edits are calling to me. So, it’s back to my work-in-progress for now, but I always make time for reading in the afternoon.