Year’s End in the Forest

Things have been a-hopping in the Forest for the past week as we’ve been enjoying all kinds of family gatherings and celebrations.

We hung eleven stockings by the chimney with care (including one for each dog). No, the chickens did not get stockings. However I decorated their coop with big red bows and made sure that they had lots of yummy chicken treats. They rewarded us with eggs that made the most spectacular eggnog ever tasted in the North Country!





Queen Louise and I enjoyed our traditional screening of Elf.








My Beloved Husband did not exactly “enjoy” the movie. He tolerated it. More or less. Actually, less. He is a bit of a Scrooge about my favorite film. It’s the South Pole elf in him. But he was extremely festive about everything else, so we forgive him.






One of my favorite things this season was making a gingerbread house. Then I realized that the house standing alone looked lonely so I made a band of merry elves from gingerbread and marzipan.


(Gingerbread house recipe was courtesy of Martha Stewart.)






Here’s a close-up of the elves building a fire (foreground) whilst another skates on the pond behind them. If I ever stop writing, I may become a full-time elf creator.







I’m not sure how much blogging will happen between now and 2011, so please allow me to convey our best wishes to you and your loved ones for a healthy and happy New Year.

Peace, my friends!!

playing catch-up

I will be using today’s subject line a lot in the next four months!

Life is busy – good busy. I am so incredibly blessed to have all this fun stuff to do! Right now most of my time is spent working on the new book (it’s a historical that continues the adventures of the characters introduced in CHAINS). My goal is to get the first readable next to my editor my early next month. The tentative publication date is the Spring of 2010.

I’m also gearing up for the crazy CHAINS book tour that starts on 10/21. I’ll be posting more details about that soon. Counting a few events before and after the actual tour (NCTE/ALAN and a couple of bookseller trade shows), I’ll be spending 40 days on the road, and visiting 27 cities (in several places, I’ll be in town for two days). I am a little overwhelmed by the thought of this, but mostly am so excited that I am giving off sparks.

And there is the very advance publicity work I need to do for WINTERGIRLS, my YA that will be published in May, 2009. I hope that the WINTERGIRLS book tour will cover some of the regions of the country (i.e. West Coast) that I won’t be seeing on the CHAINS tour.

Oh – and the other thing about next year? Next year is the tenth anniversary of the publication of SPEAK. More details about any festivities later.

This afternoon is the big meeting with the folks at my mother’s rehab facility spa to discuss her discharge date, and that is the most exciting news of all. She had gotten back much of her strength and is beginning to walk with a walker. If they leave her there much longer, she’ll reorganize the facility, so I suspect she’ll be home soon. Thank you everyone for the prayers and warm wishes. They have meant a great deal to our family.

The sad thing is that I’ve been so busy that I haven’t been able to can as much food as I had hoped, and my garden is showing signs of neglect.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic But my pumpkins are comfortably resting on their cozy beds of shredded manuscript draft.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic And my Beloved Husband has finished splitting and stacking almost 25 cords of wood to heat the house this winter. (You can’t see it from the photo, but the stack extends to the far wall of the garage.)

What have you been up to?


Not only have I worked on books every single day this year, but I posted to the blog every day in July, too. That’s so much blogging, I think it qualifies as blahhhhging. I have no idea how people do this regularly.

I will not be posting as much in August. The new book is whining for more attention and the tomato harvest is beginning to roll in which means I’ll be canning. (Yes – photos – I promise!) I welcome any and all salsa and zucchini recipes!

(One food preservation question – has anyone frozen zucchini?)

So blogging will be sporadic this month. Come September I’ll revert back to my obsessive ways, I promise. CHAINS will be published on October 21st and there will be lots of tour madness to share.

But now, serenity.

The first sunflower out back just bloomed.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Happy August, all. Good Lammas, too.

down to the wire pesto recipe & WFMAD 30

The Goddess of YA Literature ventured into picture book territory yesterday and reviewed a number of recent picture books, including INDEPENDENT DAMES. It is an honor and a hoot to have the book compared to the MAGIC SCHOOL BUS books, which I love.

A couple of you have asked for my pesto recipe. I mostly wing it, but here is how I made yesterday’s batch:

6 cups basil leaves (I stuff the cups, cram the basil in, so it’s a lot) washed and destemmed.
1 generous cup chopped pine nuts
1 and one-fourth cup grated Romano cheese (you can use Parmesan – it’s worth buying the good stuff)
10 cloves of garlic. Maybe 12.
Somewhere between three-quarters of a cup and one cup of good olive oil

I don’t have a food processor so it takes a while to chop all the basil into a mush, but the smell is worth it. Once the basil is chopped, stir in the other ingredients. Add a dash of salt and two dashes pepper. Make sure everything is well mixed.

Last night I tossed the fresh green beans with pesto. I think I could eat it with anything, including oatmeal. Might experiment with making pesto bread….

Making it fresh in the summer is fun, but I wanted to have some to enjoy when the snow piles up into 15-foot drifts come February.

Step One – freeze small portions of pesto in glass jars.

Thaw slightly to remove from jars.

Stick in vacuum sealer bag.

Suck out all the air and seal (this is really fun to watch).

Voila! Let it snow! Yesterday’s batch was enough to fill seven small jars worth of pesto, plus eat at dinner, plus have enough to munch on for a couple day’s snacking.

How do you make your pesto?


Today’s goal: write for 15 minutes.

Today’s mindset: fantastical

Today’s prompt: Start out with the magic words “Once upon a time….” and write a fairy tale about the upcoming presidential election. Use common devices like villains, enchanted objects, interventions by fairies, etc.


Hero worship & WFMAD 28

Toni Morrison is one of my heroes for many reasons; she’s a gifted, brilliant, powerful author, she lived in Syracuse NY for a while, and now, she’s helping our country remember. (Here’s a non-NY Times link for those of you who aren’t registered with them.)

That bench is now on my Must-Visit list.

I am deep, deep in my research, trying to figure out how to wind the strands of my character’s story around historical events. I’m swimming in a sea of correspondence with historians and preparing to meet a couple of them.

One of the more interesting aspects of writing historical fiction is meeting those historians who have made one tiny facet of your story their entire life’s work. It’s sort of like challenging Kobe Bryant to a game of one-on-one, knowing that he’s not going to cut you any slack, but feeling like you’ve got your game on and you have a chance.

I spent a good hunk of yesterday marshaling my arguments for a historian who doesn’t believe that oxen were used to pull the artillery wagons towards a fort under siege. I’m pretty sure I’m right; he’s wavering, but he doesn’t seem to have any evidence to back up his concerns. If any of you, by chance, have anything to contribute to this conversation, please get in touch with me.

In honor of today’s WFMAD session, I present to you…..

… my desk.


Today’s goal: Write 15 minutes and maybe a little more, because it’s Monday.

Today’s mindset: organized

Today’s prompt: Today is all about the space in which you write. I have written in many, many places (my former writing spaces are an essay waiting to be written) and now I have my own slice of heaven. I work on the third floor of our house, in a loft space tucked under the eaves. I have a giant teacher’s desk from the 1920s that I trash-picked from my parents’ trailer park. I do not have enough bookshelves, but BH is going to change that when I go away on book tour. This is my creative kingdom.

If you are taking your writing seriously enough to try and do it every day, then it’s time to examine your writing space. What else besides writing happens there? Does it say “Dedicated Writer at Work” or “Sure, Go Ahead, Interrupt Me, I Don’t Really Want to Finish This Novel”?

The Guardian has a regular feature on writers’ rooms. I hope they do more.

If you can’t think of anything else to write about, today I’d like you to sketch out or write about the positive, affirming changes you are going to make to your writing space. Do you need to tidy it up? Get rid of visual clutter? Pay the stack of bills? Add flowers or a candle? Is there music in your space?

Extra-super bonus points will be awarded to those folks who actually act on their palns for their writing nook.