Right on cue, the Pacific Northwest has donned its winter cloak . . . and on these dark, cold, rainy mornings, you can find me at my writing desk overlooking Skagit Bay here in the upper left corner of Washington State. What I do here at my desk day in and day out is not the glam of author headshots or book tours; here you can find me in fleece leggings, a long sweater, and thick socks with a cup of strong coffee and a head full of ideas. I really do have a dream job. Here I am in the spring of 1975 as editor of my high school literary magazine, Etcetera, in Huntington, N.Y.


After 2,380 miles traveling through Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, and Utah in late September and early October, and now armed with a plethora of research books and links to myriad Internet sites, I’m already deep into my fourth novel, tentatively called Irish. Based on my great-grandmother, Mary Agnes Coyne’s, story, the novel is growing in ways I didn’t see coming just two months ago. That’s the beauty of novel writing—all the twists and turns it takes to get to where the characters are ultimately going. It’s fiction, after all.

My critique partners, Gretchen Cherington, Shelley Blanton-Stroud, and Debra Thomas, are on the front line of this first draft. In the spring, I’ll ask a handful of early readers to join in the critique process. The only thing missing is a long put-off trip to Galway, Ireland, where my great-grandmother was from, which we plan to take in 2023. Can’t wait! And the best news—I’ve got a publishing contract for Fall 2024 through She Writes Press.


Hardland continues to rack up great reviews, this one from the Historical Novel Society:

“Sweeney’s stunning portrayal of this tough-minded woman is both compelling and memorable. The fast-paced and intense narrative reaches far beyond the classic Western genre for a wide range of readers who value survival, honesty, and love.” —Historical Novel Society

Hardland is up to 35 reviews on Amazon, and I’d love to see that number jump to more than 50 by Thanksgiving. If you’ve read Hardland and can offer a 3-, 4-, or 5-star review (it can be as short as one sentence), I—and Ruby—would appreciate it. Fifty is the “magic number” for Amazon; after 50 reviews, Amazon promotes novels on a higher level. Seeing as Ruby is in the hands of more than 1,000 readers so far, I’m hoping that you’ll offer an honest review to help boost Ruby’s story in the marketplace. (Visit Amazon here to post your review!)


Hardland picked up its first award earlier this month in Phoenix from the Arizona Authors Association. It was great to meet other Arizona authors who I’ve only “met” virtually over the past three years. Answer Creek won the organization’s 2020 literary award, I’ve served as a judge for two years in their unpublished novel category, and this last year was honored to judge in the poetry category. I’m also columnist for the organization’s bi-monthly newsletter with a column titled, Back to Basics. Stay tuned for more contest news over the next year.


I’m offering a $10 Starbucks gift card to the reader who submits the winning name of the fictional ranch where Mary Agnes Coyne works outside of Colorado Springs in 1891. Here’s a picture of where I’ve chosen to set it. What do you think? Reply here with your entry.


Book now for your 2023 book club! I only do 12 book club events in a given year, and I’m booked for three already for Hardland. Depending on timing, I can travel within Western Washington or Southern Arizona during different time of the year; otherwise, let’s do a Zoom event! Email me for details.


Demon Copperhead, by Barbara Kingsolver

The Bookseller of Inverness, by S. G. MacLean

Hester, by Laurie Lico Albanese

Fire Season, by Leyna Krow

The Saints of Swallow Hill, by Donna Everhart

The Sharp Edge of Mercy, by Connie Hertzberg Mayo


As we roll into Thanksgiving (a vegetarian’s favorite meal of the year: ALL THOSE VEGETABLES!), I’m reminded to give thanks for so many blessings of this life. Will you take a moment to give thanks for the blessings of your life?

Until next month, Happy Reading!


PS You can still catch me at one last live book event for Hardland from 12 noon-2 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 26 at Watermark Books in Anacortes, Washington. This is a signing only, so pop in anytime. Note that the Saturday after Thanksgiving is Small Business Saturday—if you can’t make it to Anacortes, be sure to visit your local indie bookstore to stock up on holiday gifts!