Just One Thing After Another

The pyracantha is especially beautiful this spring, and I’m not the only one who thinks so. Here’s a bee, gathering pollen from this prolific early bloomer to take back to feed her friends and ensure the continuation of the hive, at the same time that  she helps to ensure that the blossoms will produce those pretty red berries that can ensure that this plant produces plenty of new plants. This photo reminds me that everything in nature, however apparently inconsequential, has an important purpose. And that everything–absolutely everything–is connected to everything else. It’s just one thing after another, end to end, with all that delicious muddle in the middle.

I’ve been thinking about this process these spring days, because I’ve been hearing from readers who wonder if the Darling Dahlias are going to produce another book or whether China is going to be involved in another mystery. It’s a reasonable question, given that (thanks to the internet) you likely know that I celebrated my 83rd birthday at the beginning of this year. You have every right to wonder what’s going to happen to these characters–friends of yours, if you’ve been a reader for a while. You’re wondering if I’ll retire and leave you . . . well, wondering.

So let me tell you what I’ve been telling readers who write to me. There’ll be one book this year, in November: Someone Always Nearby, which I’ve been working on since well before the pandemic. In spring, 2024, I expect to publish another Pecan Springs mystery, this one called Forget Me Never–I’m working on that now and will probably wrap it up by early summer. The Dahlias and I have some ideas for another book in that series, set in 1936-1937. And yes, I’m mindful that Liz’s story is unfinished. I’d like to know what she decides to do every bit as much as you, so I’m encouraging her to get on with it. If she does, look for that book in late 2024.

After that . . . well, I’m thinking that it might be a good time for me to move to a shorter-than-book-length form. Short stories, maybe, like the little collection I wrote years ago. Maybe to a more interactive platform, like Substack, where some of my writer friends are doing some interesting things. I’m curious about the possibilities. There’s plenty to play with and learn and discover.

And now you know as much as I do. I’m at the point in my writing life where I’m comfortable with that. I hope we’re in the same place.

The cross stitch project continues. I took this photo (the project is adapted from Charles Wysocki’s painting “Quilts for Sale”) on the deck and there’s a shadow–and the mark of the hoop I’m using on this section of the work. You can see what it will look like, finished, here, along with other things I’ve done. This is so much easier with Pattern Keeper. I’m a fan!

And finally, those of us who love books continue to be especially concerned about the politically-motivated book banning hysteria that’s infecting our communities. I’ve been writing about it in a series of blog posts called “Libraries and Politics: A Dangerous Mix.” I’ll be following those developments as the courts weigh in. Please keep an eye on this situation in your communities. Our libraries are no longer safe from people who want to limit our ability to choose what we read–and how we think. We can’t let them have the last word.

Reading note. So much for endings. Beginnings are always more fun. True connoisseurs, however, are known to favor the stretch in between, since it’s the hardest to do anything with. That’s about all that can be said for plots, which anyway are just one thing after another, a what and a what and a what.–Margaret Atwood


42 comments on “Just One Thing After Another

  1. First, sorry to be so late but wishing you a happy birthday and a productive and joyous trip around the sun. I have read and loved all of your series. These are books I go back to reread again and again and I always find something new each time I read them. The Darling Dahlias was the last and I wasn’t sure I would like but it has become a favorite.
    I am delighted to hear that we have at least one more China and one more Dahlia book to look forward to and I understand your plan to write shorter stories which require less effort. I enjoyed your trilogies greatly.
    I definitely share your concern about the direction our country is headed. Banning of books is an ominous sign. Those who want to ban books claim they are protecting children but what they are really doing is promoting ignorance and this world are this time is a very dangerous place to be ignorant.
    Thank you again for all the hours of pleasure and learning you have given us in your books and I hope you continue to enjoy good health and all the pursuits that give you joy.

  2. I read her differently now: her work is “historical.” When I first began reading her, she was “contemporary.” Time passes. 🙂

  3. Cross stitch is my mantra work. It’s the most calming thing I do. There’s nothing better than an interesting cross stitch project and a good book.

  4. Good to hear from a reader of the trilogies. They were fun to do, and challenging (my mind seems programmed to aim for 85k words). Hope to do more of the shorter stuff.

  5. I do worry about the growing threats to freedoms to read and speak, especially in the schools. I treasured the teachers (and the librarians and authors) who opened windows for me on a world that was much wider and more complicated than the one imagined by my parents and their church. We can’t allow our legislators to close those windows.

  6. Yes, all relative. One of the privileges of being a writer is that readers tend to identify us with our characters, who are forever as young as they are in their latest books. 🙂 China is stuck somewhere between 40 and 50 and so am I!

  7. Good to hear from another Ngaio Marsh reader–she’s been on my shelf since I was 10 or so and my father brought home one of her books from the library. Well worth the effort of reading them all. Agree about the challenge of Medicare volunteer counseling, especially these days. Kudos to you for 20 years of service! What will you do “instead”?

  8. Age-appropriate goals. Helpful term. Also maybe life-stage appropriate? Career-stage appropriate? I find myself being glad that I don’t have to go back to mid-life and meet all those mid-life challenges. And I so admire the brave early- and mid-life women who are coping with all of it. Lots of changes since I was there.

  9. It’s nice to hear from a reader who enjoyed the Victorians. The Robin Paige series is older–I’m delighted that it’s now appearing in audio. And that audio publishers are beginning to turn to backlists and get them out for new readers. Even the very early Pecan Springs books are now coming out.

  10. I’ve learned that you can lead an intellectually active life without leaving the house. My mother and grandmothers couldn’t say that. Aren’t we lucky, to live in an era/place where we have so many resources?

  11. One of the things I love about the internet, Jeanette: We can create our own neighborhoods and surround ourselves with people whose viewpoints are diverse, interesting, challenging. We’re no longer confined to the places we live. I love our life in the country–but I’m glad to belong to a community of online people who love to learn–broadly. And yes, we probably read too many books!

  12. Thanks. the colonial knot does look more difficult . I don’t have an appropriate project right now – maybe later.

  13. Believe it or not, Diane, that’s even harder–since most herbals are compiled with a specific purpose (the field is soo large) and audience. I suggest that you start with a list of 10 or so medicinals (like this one: https://www.botanicgardens.org/blog/top-10-medicinal-plants). Then cruise the web, looking at the plants and searching for the information and images that spark your imagination. The internet is much more resource/full than a book, and self-directed research will yield what YOU want–as well as give you new ways to imagine what you’d like to do. Sounds like a fascinating project–good luck! (And let me know what you turn up.)

  14. For now, I think I would just like to see the plants and read about their properties. I do calligraphy and like to draw so I thought it would be neat to work on some type of compendium for my education and practice (I don’t want to plagiarize) but maybe do a short poem or something with an image. At some point I would love to grow more herbs but for now I just use pots – other than my rosemary plant.

  15. Diane, re books on herbal remedies. There are dozens. Can you tell us (since others are reading this) whether you want to grow, grow and use, or purchase/use prepared therapeutics? That will begin to narrow our choices. Somewhat. 🙂

    I like what you say: blinders simply make people blinder.

  16. Happy Birthday Susan! You are my very favorite author! Eagerly awaiting your next books.

  17. I only discovered the China Bayles books last summer and loved every one of them. I’m looking forward to the next one. I wish you good health and I’m excited to see what you do next. I too am an octogenarian!

  18. Love Charles Wysocki’s work – my office walls have numerous saved puzzles – the cross stich is lovely. As a librarian and having worked for a very conservative government in Texas, it is frustrating to see this new wave of closed-mindedness to different types of stories. I like to think that my exposure to a variety of literature has made me a more empathetic and thoughtful person. Blinders don’t make you safer – just blinder and banning to me is a type of blinding – those who want to dictate what someone sees/feels must live in a constant state of fear (how sad is that). I would love to find a really good book on herbal remedies. Any recommendations are welcome. Love the China Bayles series and learning about plants and their uses.

  19. A belated Happy Birthday – and I wish you many more. I’m glad to hear that there will be another Dahlia and China book, some of my favorite books, they are friends! I have always loved reading and it scares me about the book banning in the country. Have been accused by a neighbor that I “read too many books”! Unfortunately the area where I live is with people believing in all types of conspiracy theories!! I try to keep a low profile, it is safer that way and I have my flowers and wildlife to enjoy. I tell myself “you can’t fix stupid!” I wish you continued good health and look forward to the next books.

  20. Hi I am totally blown away by all your Crosstitch projects they’re absolutely stunningly beautiful!!! of course I love all of your books and have read them all, peace to you and yours, Charline.

  21. First….happy, happy, happy birthday! 83 years young and still fabulous. From what I’ve read in the comments, your readers (including me) have great respect for you and your extraordinary writing career thus far. Although we might miss full length China tales and ongoing adventures of the Darling Dahlias, I think shorter stories in a series is a great idea. I loved “The Pecan Springs Enterprise Trilogy” and believe that whatever you do, it will be the same quality as everything else you write. Do what’s best for you. Do what feels comfortable and fulfilling. Just do you and that will always be better than good enough. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, feelings, and stories with us.

  22. Every comment so far could also have been mine (well, except for the embroidery knots about which I know nothing!). I do know a good read and excellent writing when I see it and YOU are among the very best! Thank you so much for your books AND using your voice about our freedoms to read, learn, and think about the knowledge we’ve acquired.

  23. I love the Darling Dahlias!!!It is hard to loose a favored author, or series. Enjoy china Bayless as well. Do what you want and need to do we appreciate your stories.

  24. I love your books! I am amazed to hear that you are 83. You seem so young! Of course all that is relative- i will be 70 this summer and that is young too! I will read whatever you write and in whatever form you choose. You have really added to my literary life and i thank you for that!

  25. I hear you Susan. I turned 89 in December and have told my co-ordinator that I will retire Sept 30 from my volunteer (20+ years) Medicare counseling duties. I love giving this service but no longer want to take on the stress of fall annual open enrollment period. Perhaps I’ll venture into helping at the local Joy Soup Kitchen. You will never lose your reading public — when authors retire we just start the series over with the first one and do it again! That’s what I’ve currently been doing with Ngaio Marsh, somewhat complicated by finding the books, so far–between local library ad kindle–have found all but one. I’m looking forward to the next installments you have planned. Thank you so much for acquainting me with all your wonderful characters–through them you will go on forever!

  26. I knew you had celebrated a birthday recently, but I wasn’t sure what the mile marker was. I wish everyone (especially some politicians) were as diligent as you about self-examination and where they are on their life’s timeline. I will continue to look for and will read anything you have to offer us, and I commend you for the bravery and honesty involved in setting what-we-educators-would-call age-appropriate goals. Thank you for everything. And I will hope for you, and all of us, many more productive and highly-satisfying years.

  27. Whatever you decide after the next books, I’m happy with. Rereading your Victorian series is great fun, and eventually I’ll reread China and the Darling Dahlias, too, along with the Beatrix Potter series. You’ve given us a treasure trove of wonderful books throughout the years! Thank you!

  28. I live in NW CT where Spring has suddenly happened. Th daffodils are blooming like crazy. They are early this year.

    No bees yet. We used to have two hives and it was fun to watch the bees on the various plants. Have many wildflowers in the yard.

    I agree that we are all connected.. It will come out fine in the end. Sometimes we don’t think so, but it will..

  29. I love your books and hope that when I reach 83 years young, I am as active as your are. (I am 67)!

  30. BTW, if you are not fond of French knots, have you tried Colonial knots instead? Much tidier.

  31. I do hope yup continue in good health for a long, long time. Thank you for all your books.

  32. You continue to blossom! Keep it up because so many people enjoy all your writing. Can’t wait to read your next books,

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