Monthly Archives: December 2013

Looking Ahead to 2014

Yesterday, I started working on a new novel. I’d already done some preliminary reading for it last summer. Now I’ve started serious research.

I won’t reveal precise details about the subject of an unpublished novel on the Internet, but I can say that this upcoming book will be quite different from The Ambitious Madame Bonaparte. It’s set in a later time period—the 1860s—and in a region that was still frontier. What the two books have in common is that each features a strong female protagonist whose life is affected by war. I’ll need to take a research trip for the new book this summer, but I’ll probably start writing long before then. I imagine I’ll follow the same method I used with Madame Bonaparte—do a couple of month of intense research and then start writing, while continuing to research details as needed.

My rough goal is to finish the draft in 2014 and to have the book published in 2015. I think that may be the extent of my New Year’s resolutions for the coming year.

How about you? Do you make resolutions?

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Marketing Friday

This morning, I have been marketing. I contacted two blog tour services to see about setting up blog tours for The Ambitious Madame Bonaparte. If it works out, I’ll be posting details on the blog as the tours happen.

I have also been cold calling, emailing, and writing to gift shops connected with historic sites that are related to my novel. I’m not sure if there’s really much chance of getting my book placed in those shops, but it never hurts to ask!

Now, having finished that bit of business, I’m going out with my husband to eat lunch at our favorite Mexican restaurant and then go see The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.

Happy Friday, all.

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Book Review: Beautiful Ruins

beautiful ruins

I made it halfway through The Beautiful Ruins without being sure I liked the book. It tells a very nonlinear story, whose chapters jump back and forth in time and focus on different characters. Normally, that doesn’t bother me, but I was exceptionally tired and distracted when I began reading this novel, and I had been looking for something less demanding. Yet, the story pulled me in anyway.

The many characters in this narrative include Pasquale Tursi, who in 1962 is the twenty-something Italian proprietor of a bare-bones inn in an inconsequential coastal fishing village. He dreams of building creating a beach before his hotel and a tennis court up in the cliff wall to attract American tourists.

Dee Moray is a beautiful American actress who has a bit part in the ill-fated film Cleopatra. She has come to Pasquale’s inn to wait for her lover because she thinks she is dying.

Michael Deane is a producer on that film. We see him again fifty years later at the end of his career, which has degenerated into the production of meaningless reality shows.

His present-day assistant Clare left academia to try a shot at the movie business. She’s made a deal with fate: either she finds one great pitch by the end of the week or she’s leaving to for a more serious job. She’s also trying to decide whether to leave her boyfriend, the gorgeous but vacuous, porn-addicted Daryl.

Another episode of the novel presents a chapter of a work-in-progress (written over the span of decades) by Alvis Bender, who wanted to write a novel about his experiences in Italy during World War II, but who can’t seem to stop drinking long enough to do so.

And then there’s Pat Bender, a punk rock musician with an electrifying stage presence but a talent for hurting himself and the people he loves, and Shane Wheeler, a man who thinks he can redeem his life by pitching a movie based on the doomed Donner Party.

Amazingly, all these disparate stories are connected. They coalesce in the last half of the book in a way that not only makes sense, but is moving and redemptive. I found it a stunning tour de force. Beautiful Ruins was one of the pleasanter reading surprises I’ve had in a long time.

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An Inspiring Athlete

This morning, I’m going to share a blog post with you that was written by someone in a completely different walk of life—Bruce Conner, who at the age of 57 is still competing as a world class long-track speed skater. What Bruce and I have in common is that we haven’t given up on our dreams even in middle age. Bruce will be skating in the Olympic trials this weekend.

Bruce and I have been working together on a project lately, and I’ve been very impressed with his approach to life—his perseverance and willingness to do the hard work to continue improving in all areas of his life. Here is the opening of a press release he recently published on his own blog.


At age 57 United Airlines 747 Captain Bruce Conner Qualifies for his 4th US Olympic Trials in Long Track Speed Skating.  Bruce Conner hopes to inspires others.

He has qualified at age 19, 49, 53 and now at 57, the oldest competitor ever.For the 4th time in his life, Bruce Conner has qualified to skate with the best in the sport. Narrowly missing the Olympic team in 1975 at age 19, he retired from the sport and pursued his other passion, flying.  Now at the top of his field as a United 747 Captain, he flies all over the world.  His other full time job is training to compete at an elite level of competition.

To read the rest of his press release, click here.

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The Power of Reading

This image is just a little bit of whimsy I created this past fall to express my belief in the power of reading:

The_Flying_Book

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Betsy’s Circle: John Carroll

JohnCarrollPeale

John Carroll by Rembrandt Peale [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Although Betsy Bonaparte’s family was Presbyterian, she had a Catholic wedding because Catholicism was the religion of the Bonapartes. The man who married Jerome and Betsy was none other than the first Roman Catholic bishop in the United States.

John Carroll was born in 1735 in Upper Marlboro, Maryland. He came from a prominent family and was a cousin of Charles Carroll of Carrollton, one of Maryland’s four signers of the Declaration of Independence. Because there were no Catholic schools in the United States at the time, John Carroll was educated in France and Belgium. He was ordained as a Jesuit priest in either 1767 or 1769. A few years later, in 1773, the pope issued a decree suppressing the Jesuit Order, largely for political reasons. Carroll traveled to England and then returned to Baltimore the following year.

After the American Revolution, Carroll became a leader of U.S. Catholics. In 1789, the Vatican appointed him the bishop of the diocese of Baltimore, which at the time included the entire United States. Carroll was consecrated the following year.

Bishop Carroll oversaw the construction of the first Catholic Cathedral in the United States, which was the Cathedral of the Assumption in Baltimore. He was instrumental in the founding of Georgetown University and the establishment of St. Mary’s College and Seminary. Liturgically, he was ahead of his time in promoting the reading of the liturgy (the formal church service) in English rather than Latin. On the other hand, he was a slave owner and only toward the end of his life did he come to advocate the gradual freeing of slaves.

In 1808, Carroll became an archbishop with jurisdiction over four other bishops in the United States. He died in Baltimore in 1815.

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Goodreads Giveaway

I have a giveaway of The Ambitious Madame Bonaparte in progress on Goodreads. Members can sign up to win an autographed copy. I’ll give away five after the promotion ends on January 15.

If you’re curious about the book but short on cash because of the holiday season, this is a chance to get a free copy.

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