It’s been a month of ups and downs for me. I lost my dearest friend on Jan. 21 and celebrated my birthday on Jan. 31. In the space of those ten days, I’ve gone from deep sadness to celebration. The kind words of so many friends helped on both those days and the days in between. I also suffer from migraine with aura and was plagued with two bouts of migraine in those same ten days. It’s made it hard to complete my self-imposed writing intensive this month, but I’m happy to say . . .
I’m 20,000 words into my 40,000-words-in-a-month challenge on my work in progress, Irish. A typical historical novel runs 80,000-90,000 words, and I’ll be three-quarters of the way by the end of the month. The story is unfolding and layering, and I’m excited to get to my desk each morning.
Here is the working opening paragraph:
Off Inishbofin, Co. Galway, Ireland
Just past the ship rock off Dawros Beg, the wooden currach slants left with the first rogue wave, salt spray heaving over the splintered bow as they course out into the mouth of the North Atlantic from Ballynakill Harbour. Chilled to the bone already, and not a half-hour into their day, Mary Agnes Coyne holds tight to the gunwales of her granddad’s small boat as he arches his back and pulls with strong hands the oars. Her bottom shifts on the slippery thwart and she catches herself on the ribbing with bruised knees. At her feet, fishing gear, baskets, a packed dinner.
The story will take Mary Agnes, my great-grandmother, to New York and Chicago and Colorado Springs. I’m excited to announce that I’ll be going to Ireland this fall and renting a small cottage near where my great-grandmother grew up in Letterfrack, Co. Galway to put the finishing touches on the novel. As I walk the lanes and beaches near Letterfrack, I’ll try to ignite all my senses and bring rural Western Ireland to the page. I may never want to leave!
Tucson Festival of Books Appearance
If you’re in Tucson on March 4-5, please visit me at Tucson Festival of Books! I’ll be at the Indie Pavilion from 1:30-4:30 on Saturday signing copies of all my books and volunteering at the Women Writing the West booth on Sunday afternoon.
TFB is the highlight of the year for many Tucsonans. Check out the amazing list of featured authors here: https://tucsonfestivalofbooks.org/ The best thing of all? The festival is free!
Book Club News
Reader Tisha O’Neil Smith’s Greenville, S.C. book club, Books ‘N Beverages, read Hardland for their January read. Tisha writes:
“We usually have a theme every rotation, our most recent one being “Food.” Each of us had to choose a book that we could somehow incorporate food into our discussion. We read Lessons in Chemistry and then took a cooking class. For our discussion of The Dictionary of Lost Words, we had an English Tea while we discussed the book. Crying in H Mart took us to the local Asian market for shopping and lunch. For The Summer After June, we had a Southern dinner (Shrimp & Grits was the main course). And for Save Me the Plums, we each chose a recipe out of the book to share during our discussion.
Hardland was the final book of this rotation. After our lively discussion of the book, we went to Jasmine Kitchen for lunch. This is a local “social enterprise restaurant” in Greenville, S.C. that ‘provides job training, employment, and career building opportunities for survivors’ of trafficking, abuse, and addiction. Because of the abuse that Ruby and other women in Hardland are subjected to, we wanted to help women in our own community who are survivors. After lunch, we decided to test our sharp-shooter skills, like Ruby, and went axe-throwing. Only four of the six of us were able to go to the axe throwing, but we all made a Bullseye!
The theme of our next rotation is “Travel.” I’m excited to see where that takes us!”
- Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus
- The Dictionary of Lost Words by Pip Williams
- Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner
- The Summer After June by Ashley Warlick
- Save Me the Plums by Ruth Reichl
Thanks, Tisha (and your book club), for the info and suggestions. I love your themed approach!
Speaking of book clubs, my schedule is almost full for 2023 (November and December only available). If you’d like to schedule a guest appearance at your book club for Hardland, contact me here.
In honor of the upcoming Women’s History Month in March, send me titles of your favorite reads of the last few months that feature strong female protagonists. I’ll include them in my next newsletter and choose one lucky winner to win a copy of my first novel, Eliza Waite, featuring a strong protagonist who travels north from the San Juan Islands of Washington to Skagway, Alaska during the Klondike Gold Rush in 1898. Enter here.
In this season of hearts, be kind to you and yours. Sometimes your words are the only thread between someone’s well-being and a spiral to dejection, desolation, and despair. Words matter!
Until next month, Happy Reading!