Work in Progress: January 2023

The photo upload on this blog is giving me trouble this morning and I’m too unskilled with this photo stuff to figure out what’s going on. (File under ‘It’s Always Something.’) But I’m way overdue for a blog post, so this is going to be as good as it gets for today. For a view of what the project will look like when finished, go here. I’ve somewhat simplified the chart, taking out those figures in front of the house.

I like doing a large project because once it’s organized and begun, I can just keep on keeping on. I feel the same way about writing. Short stories and even novellas are so much more work than novels. I’ve written them–in fact, I did a little collection of stories quite a few years ago. But shorter work always feels unfinished to me, as if there ought to be more, somehow.

At the writing desk. Someone Always Nearby (my Georgia O’Keeffe/Maria Chabot novel) is finished, copyedited, and is in the layout editor’s hands. and in production. You’ll have it in November. I love the cover–hope you like it, too. I decided to do a Reader’s Guide, which will include the research that went into the project and material that didn’t make its way into the novel.  I’ll be sharing some of it on the website over the months before the book comes out.



On the homestead. We’ve had a week of winter already–a record-setting, frigid few days before Christmas, down to 10 above zero with a wind chill of 4 below. It was a good time for a fire in the fireplace, and to burn some of the massive willlow tree that fell across the fence in the meadow. Blossom, our half-longhorn cow, seems to be well winterized, but I was worried about the chickens. I put a couple of heat lamps in their coop, so they made it okay. In fact, they all started laying again on the winter solstice. They’d taken November and most of December off for their annual molt, so it was good to have fresh eggs again. And we’ve had a little rain, enough to bring the bluebonnets up. So it looks like we’ll have some blooms in April.

On the reading stack. I just finished (and fully enjoyed) Marie Benedict’s historical, The Mitford Affair. I’ll blog about it in a week or two. I especially appreciated the way she handled the difficult and very complicated British pre-WW2 political environment in which the Mitford sisters lived. A difficult subject well done. Prompted by that, I’m now reading Wendy Holden’s The Duchess, about Wallis Simpson. It’s hard to write about dislikeable people and make them sympathetic enough for readers to want to stay with them for as long as it takes to finish the book.

Reading note (thinking here of Someone Always Nearby): Telling a story is like reaching into a granary full of wheat and drawing out a handful. There is always more to tell than can be told.
Wendell Berry

40 comments on “Work in Progress: January 2023

  1. I love the Darling Dahlia series so much. Will you be doing more? The characters are really great and I enjoy the mysteries and period details.

    • The Dahlias and I have a story in mind, but it will have to wait until I can finish the current Pecan Springs mystery. Hoping to wrap that up in a few months. Thanks for asking–stay tuned!

  2. I’m loving your cross-stitch.. I notice that you use a Q-snap frame which I do as well. They don’t seem to be very popular and I don’t understand why.
    I love your books and am a great fan. I live in the Austin area so also like your references to Central Texas.

    • I do like Q-snaps, Mary. I usually use a smallish one and also a “grime guard,” so I can fold/tuck the extra fabric out of the way. But for corners and edges, I use a hoop. Everybody’s different–depends on how you work, how much space you have, etc. And of course, whether you have a lap cat. 🙂

  3. I love your Darling Dahlias books ~ such a nice mix of history and mystery. I have been working on my family’s history for several years and have found the same articles, about family members, in several different newspapers. I always wondered about this until I read about Charlie Dickens purchasing preprinted news sheets. Now I know that some of my ancestors made it into national news. WOW!

    • Rita, I’ve run into duplicate stories, too. In the cases I was researching, the multiples were mostly due to the fact that the story was on a wire service, such as the Associated Press (AP) or United Press International (UPI).Which could also be why it got picked up by a preprint outfit. So yes, sounds like your ancestors made it into the national news! 🙂

  4. I enjoy the history and information about herbs you use in your novels. It was 6 degrees here (northwest Alabama) in December and I hibernated with Jennifer Chiaverini’s Switchboard Soldiers book about women who served in World War I but weren’t recognized officially until 1977.

    • Another book to look for! Also in the WWI period – some of the Masie Dobbs series by Jacqueline Winspear. The series continues into the time between the wars and into WWII. The most recent that I read is “The Consequences of Fear” set in Autumn 1941. I wrote Autumn rather than Fall because most of the characters are British.

  5. I am reading Marie Benedict’s “The Other Einstein” for my book club. Started with the Hedy Lamar book. Also read “Carneigie’s Maid” and have “The Personal Librarian” waiting. I enjoy reading historical novels or history, and taught 7th and 8th grade history. Family vacations often included stops for historical monuments.

    • Mary, I like Benedict because she stays close to the “real” biography, where other biographical-fiction authors take liberties with documented fact. Of course, this is fiction and there’s plenty of room for “alternative history,” but I always like to see those acknowledged. And history is story, after all (as you know, as a teacher).

      • I read Carnegie’s Maid some years ago and really enjoyed it
        It felt “real”! Don’t know why I didn’t look to find more by Marie Benedict, but the titles you mentioned are all people I’ve been interested in, so now I will☺️👍🏽❣️ Thanks!

  6. Your comment about granaries and wheat brought back fond memories of my grandparents who lived in rural central Texas. They had barns with granaries and when I visited them, would play in the barns and help get wheat from the granary to feed the farm animals. I enjoyed the feel of wheat running through my hands when putting it in the trough. I also participated in the local library summer reading programs and read a lot, always finding a quiet cozy place to read which sometimes was in the barn hayloft. So thanks for the memories! I have always liked history and applaud you for the research you do. Your historical information is wonderful! I enjoyed The Cottage Tales, Robin Paige and The Darling Dahlias. The Darling Dahlias reminds me of things my mother told me she lived through during those years. We also have a few Bluebonnets up and as a 5th generation Texan look forward to their blooms each year.

    • Meg, I had to smile at the image of you reading in the hayloft. I liked to read in the catalpa tree outside my upstairs window. I got to it by climbing out on the porch roof and hauling my books up in a bucket. Couldn’t do that now! 🙂

  7. Love the cover of Someone Always Nearby! I have several photos and a painting of Georgia O’Keefe’s Mountain-Pedernal and was even able to drive past it on a trip to Ghost Ranch! She would be pleased!

    • Her paintings of that mountain are lovely, aren’t they? She always said that God told her if she painted that mountain often enough, it would be hers. Others might take exception to that claim, but she stuck to it. Her ashes are there.

  8. Just placed a hold on The Mitford Affair through our local library system (something like 16 libraries participate, so always a good chance of finding a book!). I totally love historical fiction and am looking forward to reading this one. I did just finish Alan Bradley’s The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches. Wow — just wow. Stay warm and enjoy the rest of your winter!

      • Me, too. The beginning of the first one, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, where Flavia has been locked in a cupboard by her sisters made me more than certain I’d found another favorite character ❣

        • Alan Bradley’s Flavia series was delightful for so long; I was sad when it began to wander astray. Did he just run out of story? Did Flavia grow too old to be the cunning and delightful child that she first was that made everyone want to cuddle and protect her — while keeping a good eye out for a hidden bomb, etc. The boarding school books have lost all that charm.
          Is Bradley still writing them?

          It is such a delight to see this blog and find people who share my tastes and opinions.

          • I haven’t read that series–but certainly admire those titles (my favorite: A Red Herring Without Mustard). And I do know how hard it is to manage a long-running series. The author (who lives with the book for much longer than readers do) wants to try new things, while readers love the storylines they’re used to. I have the same problem with China! (Not complaining, of course. It’s a good problem to have.)

  9. Always a pleasure to read your blogs and see what’s new on the home front. Looking forward to the release of your new book. I like historical novels because you can learn while being entertained. I’m currently reading Marie Benedict’s The Only Woman in the Room about Hedy Lamarr. Very interesting to learn about people (especially women) that generally get very little attention.

  10. Love the cover and the juxtaposition with the title. Really looking forward to the book; I’ve spent some time in O’Keeffe territory.

    • Lovely territory and New Mexico has such a multi-layered history, even more so than Texas. And you’re very right, Penny–there is a certain irony in that title, given the image O’Keeffe created of herself.

  11. I love reading your blogs and books! Your most recent piece of needlework reminds me of my old stomping grounds in Wethersfield, CT. There are many homes and barns like these, and the old Comstock Ferre &Co seed company which (thankfully) has been purchased and is being restored by the folks who own Baker Creek Seed company. (Jere Gettle and family). I used to wander around Comstock Ferre in the early 80s picking up seeds and plants…. your needlework brought the place freshly into memory

    • Thank you, gardenfloozie. Let’s do a shoutout to Baker Creek. Great place to visit, onsite and online. The more access we have to heirloom veggies, the better! Oh, and they have a farm near Mansfield MO, where you can also visit the Laura Ingalls Wilder farm and museum.

        • Linda, next time you’re in the area, visit the Laura Ingalls Wilder farm. Interesting story behind that place.

  12. I often take to heart the book(s) you’re reading and comments. Today I noticed in addition to women as a focal point is that you seem interested in history. Please, continue sharing.

    • Yes,a long interest in history. In fact,my historical series (Robin Paige, the Cottage Tales, The Darling Dahlias,and the historical standalones) outnumber my contemporary work. These give me a chance to indulge my passion for research. Sometimes readers say there’s too much history in my mysteries, but I’m okay with that.

I love hearing from readers, so let me hear from YOU!