Lightning Round


The clock is ticking ever closer to the start of the FORGE book tour, and the available hours to get everything done by then are becoming perilously few.

So I am going to turn this blog into a lightning round.


Last week: the Scroggins book banning kerfuffle. Lots of interviews. Said “Scroggins” a lot. This made me think of Charles Dickens. That was nice. Quick trip to Denver to talk to independent bookstore folks there.

Weekend: Hung out with Revolutionary War geeks at Ft. Ticonderoga. Drank spruce beer.

This week: waiting for Magic 8 Ball to deliver verdict on possibility of writing time. Hoping I don’t get BH’s cold. Hoping that the chickens lay eggs soon. Writer’s group tomorrow. Possibility of hibernation after that.

Ideas for you:

1. Join the Speak Loudly Community! (Many, many thanks to David Gill and Paul Hankins for setting it up!)

2. Add a SpeakLoudly Twibbon to your Twitter or Facebook profile pic.

3. Contact bookavore if you need an incredibly good copy editor for academic papers or fiction writing.

4. If you live in Republic, MO, drop me a line and let me know how the Scroggins’ banning attempt is proceeding.



And more Abigail

This round of historical detection is ending. This is the house that Abigail and John Adams lived in after they returned from Europe. They called it Peacefield.

I found much material to make me ponder and start planning a different research trip to some obscure archives. I adore primary sources, don’t you?

Chicken Update & suitcase

The chickens continue their nuclear growth. Now they have tail feathers that look like a Victorian lady’s bustle. Here’s a quick clip filmed by Queen Louise of me in the temporary play yard with them.

I’m off on a research trip for my Abigail Adams picture book. Not sure if I’ll be blogging or vlogging from the road, but I’ll try!

Listening to ghosts

I’ve been reading the diary of Benjamin Gilbert, who was an American soldier for the entire Revolution. Most of the diary is filled with one or two line entries about the weather.

May 1778
the 3rd Sunday. Fair Pleasant day.
the 5th Fair and Clear.
the 6th. Fair.
the 7th. Clear and warm.

You get the gist.

Then there are the entries about his health. He may well have been suffering pellagra or beriberi because of vitamin deficiencies, as well as thrush.

November 1778
the 11th I am not so well this Day.
the 12th I had a Very sick Fitt and Puking.
the 13th I am Very Poorly this Day.
the 14th I was Very Poorly in the forenoon

His illness continued.

December 1778
the 25th Christmas. Very Cold. I am still Poorly. At Night snowed.

It’s not all weather and pukes, however. He was long stationed on the Hudson River and talks about standing guard, preparing for attack, and punishments for soldiers.

August 1778
the 17 This Morning one Smith formally Belonging to Colo Greatons Regt [regiment] was Shot to Death for Desertion and Inlisting severall times.

March 1779
Richard Ford of Capt Goodales Compy [company] was Whipped 30 Lashes for selling his shirt.

And a few interesting action/consequence sequences

May 1778
the 9th At Nigt. Serjt. Cook got home his whiskey and we kept it up very High. [i.e. they partied all night long]
the 10th Serjt Cook Got under Guard [arrested] for Selling Liquor.

I could go on and on, but I wanted to give you a flavor of some of the primary sources I read when I’m working on a historical novel. So far, I have not found any scenes in Gilbert’s diary that I want to borrow from for my novel, but I am adopting several of his phrases and medicinal remedies.

If you’re interested in reading the diary yourself, ask your librarian to track down a copy of  A Citizen-Soldier in the American Revolution: The Diary of Benjamin Gilbert in Massachusetts and New York. Edited by Rebecca D. Symmes, pub. The New York State Historical Association, Cooperstown, N.Y., 1980.

running forward

Many, many thanks to everyone for the kind notes and condolences for my sister and her family. They are muddling through the best they can, and the love of others sure makes a big difference.

It was actually very nice to have work as a distraction. So I am drawing the curtain across the lingering grief, and running forward.

Well, shuffling forward.

I flew to Boston late last week to be one of the dinner speakers at the New England Children’s Bookseller Advisory Council (as part of the New England Independent Bookseller’s Association conference). I had a lot of fun giving the speech, but the best part for me was listening to my co-presenters, Jeanne Birdsall and Norton Juster. I was thrilled to meet PW ShelfTalker blogger and Wellesley Booksmith buyer Alison Morris, and reconnected with Elizabeth Bluemle of The Flying Pig Bookstore in Shelburne, VT. (Thank you for the wonderful introduction, Elizabeth!)

That is Jeanne, me with the goofy grin, and Rebecca from Odyssey Bookshop in South Hadley, MA (where I’ll be speaking on November 7th). I am wearing an IndieBound shirt. You would look good in one, too.

After a busy Boston day, I flew to my adopted hometown, Philadelphia. Can I just say again for the record how much I love this city? Got off the plane, walked through the terminal, hopped a SEPTA train and was in Center City in a flash. BH drove down from the tundra and met me there.

We visited the National Constitution Center (which you must visit).

Image and video hosting by TinyPic I hung out with my homeboy, George.

While BH mingled with the Signers of the Constitution, looking ponderous and grave.

Afterwards I partook of a Philly sacramental meal.

And, thus refreshed, we pushed on to the African American Museum in Philadelphia. You should REALLY see this one, too! I wasn’t allowed to take any photos, but we were fascinated by the exhibit on Alpha Kappa Alpha, and blown away by several levels of art and history about the Afro-Mexican experience.

After a good night’s sleep, we woke bright and early for the Philadelphia Distance Run, 13.1 miles (aka a half-marathon). The weather was gorgeous and everyone was friendly and enthusiastic. We ran with more than 16,000 other crazy people. Most of them were faster than us, but they were very sweet about it.

The course took us into Center City, past Independence National Hall (yes, I blew kisses and muttered the opening words of the Declaration as we passed by), then out the west side of the Schuylkill River, over a bridge, and down Kelly Drive on the east side of the river to the Art Museum. Most inspiring to me were the bands along the route, particularly those who played the Eagles’ fight song. There were plenty of water stops (plus Cytomax, which is my new favorite fluid because it did not upset my tummy) and one gel station. And port-a-potties! Yes!

As BH and I overtrained for the Lake Placid half-marathon in June, it makes perfect sense that we undertrained for this one. We were saved from humiliation by an incredibly flat and forgiving course. We made the finish line in a respectable time and, most importantly, really enjoyed the run. Our feet may have shuffled, but our spirits soared.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic Here is BH and me at the end of the race with our bling (finisher’s medals) around our necks.

After a long hot shower and a nap, we hobbled to an Italian restaurant known for serving large portions.

BH consumed most of a vat of ziti.

I ordered a piece of lasagna as big as my head and almost ate the whole thing.

Now that we overtrained for one race and undertrained for another, we are looking for a third half-marathon for which our training will be just right. Can anyone recommend a race in February 2009?

I’m in Philly for a few days of research, then headed back to the north country to tuck all of this research into the proper chapters of my new book. Wish me luck in the archives!