My Blog: Artful Fiction

Growing Up “Laura”

Over on Grace Augustine’s blog today I talk about what it was like growing up in West Virginia with parents who were Little House fans. It was fun to take a slow stroll back through the years to hillsides of trilliums and blackberries. Thanks, Grace!

So, it’s a holiday weekend that many celebrate, but most of the ways we celebrate are out this year. How are we all doing? I’m making sausage pancakes today in part to honor the occasion, in part because IHOP keeps sending me tantalizing emails, and in part because my dad used to make them. (Read my guest blog post above.)

In addition, Hubby and I are watching totally random YouTube videos today. I’m such a true crime mystery person, and last night I stumbled upon an unsolved case that I told Barry all about this morning while he made us coffee. We decided to watch the video together because it’s set, sadly, at our favorite Indiana landmark. That led from one video into another…

Victorine Interview with Stephanie Storey!

Y’all, I have been negligent, and I can only blame Raphael, Stephanie Storey’s latest creation which just came out Tuesday for my oversight. I’m more than halfway through, and do yourselves a favor — go get it NOW! (While I understand that getting a physical copy may take some time due to the world’s current shipping issues, no one is saying you can’t, say, buy a physical copy and while you wait for it, download the Kindle version too. Not that I’ve done that, cough, cough.)

This, however, isn’t a review of that fine, fine book by the author of the celebrated Oil and Marble, which is being made into a movie, by the way! If you haven’t read her first novel, buy that as well. If you love art, especially Italian art (wait, is that redundant?), and if you practically swoon at the name Michelangelo as I do, read it. Read it again, especially that bit about the unpolished top of the head of The David. #Lush!

Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that this generous author interviewed me for her blog and posted it the day before her own second novel was released!  Such generosity of spirit, such art-in-fiction camaraderie, considering I well know the unending list of pre-launch tasks, and that an author of her stature would feature me on her website, well, caused me to shed more than a few happy tears.

Would you like to read the interview with her thoughtful questions? Please do! As for me, I have some more reading to do…shhh! 🙂


Please Keep Your Hands and Feet Inside the Ride Until it Comes to a Complete Stop!

The last stop on my blog tour is hosted by Emma Lombard. Thanks, Emma, for having me on your site! You’re a peach.

And many thanks to Mary Anne Yarde for organizing my blog tour. If you ever have need of a blog tour, go see her over at the Coffee Pot Book Club. I truly couldn’t have done it without her.

It goes without saying how grateful I am to each and every one of my hosts for my blog tour. During a time when it’s really not easy to get the word out about a new book, you have all given Victorine a chance. I am so thankful!

I’m also thankful for those of you who have followed along. Merci!

On the Drudge homefront, as Easter approaches, it occurred to me only yesterday that I am behind on all things Easter. So Barry has graciously agreed to do the shopping for us. He’s our designated errand person at the moment.

That means from Easter dinner to Easter goodies such as but not limited to candy and fun things for the Easter baskets, he’s our guy.

What, do you mean you don’t buy your spouse anything for Easter? LOL. In any case. I feel awful that I have him buying his own Easter present. However, I asked if I could buy an e-book for my Easter present, so I guess that’s OK.

What’s that? You want to know what e-book I’m buying? It’s Stephanie Storey’s new book, Raphael. It comes out tomorrow, and I cannot wait! If you’ve read her excellent Oil and Marble, you’ll know what a treat I’m in for.

What spring treats are you hoping for?

Victorine Visits Zoe’s Art Today

Many thanks to Zoe’s Art for featuring my novel today! You’re the best.

I’m hoping to finish reading The Ambassadors today. I must admit, it felt a little slow in the middle. I’m nearly to page 300 now, with about 60 to go, and something has just occurred that has perked my ears up.

Victorine as the Street Singer by Manet

Hubby and I set our 20 for 20 goals at the beginning of the year. Well, I set mine and I asked if we could have a together one. Our goal was to get together/go out with/have people over 20 times this year. Well, that now seems laughable. We did manage to get in, I think, five before all of this, so yay for front loading.

Isn’t it ironic that the year you plan to be intentional about socializing is the year, well, the universe laughs and introduces you to social distancing? Not that Barry and I don’t enjoy being with others, but we enjoy one another’s company so much and we have so many creative pursuits that boredom is not a word we’re familiar with.

What plans of yours has COVID-19 stomped on thus far? It’s all fine and well to be thankful for our remaining blessings, but it’s also okay to mourn or just be pissed.

Coffee or Tea? And Thomas Hardy, Please! An Interview… drew

Elizabeth J. St. John asked, and I spilled the tea (or is it coffee?) over on her website. Thank you, Elizabeth, for having me over! I enjoyed the interview, especially the lightning round.

Let’s do a check-in: how’s everyone holding up? For me, last night was tough. All of a sudden I became cold and started shaking uncontrollably. I managed to take myself to bed and hubby piled as many covers as he could find onto me, but it lasted about half an hour: finally I went to sleep and it stopped. I awoke a couple of hours later and was too warm, but otherwise felt okay. This morning no fever, no shakes. Although my muscles hurt so badly last night from the shaking that I was groaning, I’m remarkably not stiff this morning.

Alas, we had an opportunity to test out our “quarantine” plan: we had agreed that if one of us becomes sick, the other will sleep downstairs, we will use separate bathrooms, etc. SOMEONE was worried enough about me that he refused to leave the room, no matter how much I insisted. While I love how much he cares…

What was that illness last night about? I have no idea. I have been vigilant about remaining socially distant, only having gone on one grocery run in a week. I honestly don’t think I’ve been exposed to the bad stuff, but I’m still remaining cautious. My husband had an idea as to what might be wrong with me. Although I have never had sympathy pains, if you will, he wonders if I might have become overwrought with the world’s troubles. If maybe I was feeling so helpless that I became physically overwhelmed. I mean, I don’t remember feeling like it was too much, and yet I can’t explain what happened. He and I ate virtually the same food yesterday, so it wasn’t food poisoning. Maybe he’s right.

In any case, it brings to mind this William Wordsworth poem, definitely the title. Since it’s National Poetry Month, it seems fitting to post a poem, anyway.

The World Is Too Much With Us

The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;—
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers;
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
It moves us not. Great God! I’d rather be
A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathèd horn.
Maybe the world was too much with me last night, or maybe my illness was some inexplicable squall, blowing up and leaving just as soon. But it’s true, these days the world is too much with us. And yet, somehow not enough, either. Ironically, nature is the one place we can spend our time besides our home, as long as we remember the six feet rule.
I don’t do well feeling helpless, so here are some things I have done/am doing:
— Sent books to shut-ins
–Put stuffed animals in the windows on our porch for the stuffed animal parade our town has; parents drive their children around and the kids count how many animals they find. I love the idea! Today I’m adding my Easter bunny and my Minion to the mix. (I love Minions.)
–Called my peoples to be sure they’re okay
–Attended online church
–Been in regular contact with my friends and etc. on social media
–Trying to keep at my writing
–Promoted the writing of others
And in honor of Wordsworth, whose poem I think of each spring, here is a picture of some daffodils, evoking another of his poems.

landscape photography of field covered with yellow flowers
Photo by Takao Numata on

A quick update on The Ambassadors: still enjoying it, but my grad school mentors would have had a fit if I hadn’t added more choreography than he has: so many talking head scenes, and yes, he STILL insists on babbling on about one woman and then another to the point that I’m not sure who he’s talking about, and yet somehow he’s keeping my attention. So yes, I’m liking it, but am also mildly irritated.
P.S. Did my capitalizing STILL above remind you of anything else he does??
Be well. Enjoy nature. Truly, we will make it through this. Let me know how you are!

Time for Another Cup of Coffee…

Mary Anne Yarde has welcomed me back to her blog today over on The Coffee Pot Book Club to talk about the life of women artists in the mid-19th century in Paris. As always, I’m pleased to lift a cup of coffee with Mary Anne. May the tour continue!

If you read my post here yesterday, you know I was just beginning to read Henry James’ The Ambassadors. I’m now about halfway through, and up until that point, I’d really been enjoying it. There are some exquisite, sweet passages. I’d share them with you but I’m tired this morning. Maybe tomorrow?

I picked the book up again in the middle of the night after waking from a dream in which I was being delighted by pet squirrels doing fun tricks and where I was contemplating buying one. (I care just a little too much about squirrels, I fear. I partially blame my dear friend who sends me pics of the squirrels outside her workplace on the reg.) And then I was so tired while trying to read that I got angry at James for taking three pages to say what could be said in one, for forcing me to go back two pages to see who the hell he was talking about! I don’t mind some obfuscation in the right measure, but dammit, man, give me something a bit clearer, would you? (To be fair, it was a passage where the main character wasn’t entirely clear on what was going on, either. So the writing reflected that, but was that on purpose?)

squirrel on wood
Photo by Toni Ferreira Ph on

I still highly recommend the novel thus far, and I am sad that I can’t seem to find a movie based on it, because it seems highly cinematic to me. Am I just missing one that’s out there, dear reader?

I’m not sure what today holds, but I’m hoping part of it holds more reading…because I have a feeling things are about to take a turn…

What are YOU doing today during these uncertain times?

Stay well!



Five Fun Facts — Blog Tour Edition

Many thanks to Mary Ann Bernal for hosting me over on her excellent blog.

If you want to know how I feel about roller coasters, go take a look:

In other news, Hubby and I are busily plotting and planning bonus episodes of our podcast, Writing All the Things, to get us all through this time. We put one out yesterday, featuring a short story of Sandra Cisneros, Barbie-Q, and Barry breaking down a song he wrote for Victorine the album. 🙂

I’ve been blessed to be a guest on several podcasts lately, but sometimes I forget to mention our podcast. Here’s the bonus episode: I hope you enjoy it.

The podcast duo. 😊

Today’s Stop: Manet and Fashion

Right this way to today’s stop: The String’s the Thing: Manet and Fashion.

Many thanks to Deborah Swift for hosting me over on her blog this morning. Today’s stop offers Manet and Fashion: the String’s the Thing. If you notice, in many of the paintings Manet does of Victorine, she wears a black choker. I’ll let you go over to Deborah’s site to learn more about my thoughts on this.

Observe the string/choker here Manet paints onto Victorine.

How are we doing? It occurs to me that this pandemic is the perfect time to journal about how life is going, how life has changed, and our thoughts and feelings about it all. Not only will it be a way to express ourselves, but it can also be a record for the future.

Sure, we’re all recording our thoughts and experiences on social media, but what if someday those particular forms of social media no longer exists? Just a thought. Stay well! And feel free to share your observations on current life here.

Who Needs a Read? Here Ya Go!

Many thanks to the kind-hearted Judith for hosting an excerpt of my novel over on her blog today during this latest stop on my blog tour. I’d be honored if you’d checked it out.

In other news, yesterday wasn’t so great. It started with bad news about a family member, followed by an announcement that my favorite coffeehouse is closing for at least a week. That place has been the last semblance of normalcy in my life, and I had tears in my eyes when I read the post to hubby.

Add in miscommunications, lost mail, unmerited snarky emailed responses, my headache of two days, sore throat…and rain. There was more to the “how to fashion a bad day” recipe, but isn’t that enough?

I reached out. I told my friends on social media how I was feeling. I told the hubby first and foremost, I should say, and claimed more of his sympathy and time than I had a right to. To cope, I rescheduled everything I could. I read. I watched Tiger King (IKR!). And I ate free fudge.

Sure, I could’ve kept up a brave face knowing a good night’s sleep and a good read would eventually help, even if it wouldn’t change what had come before. And it has. My head still hurts, but I’ve processed most of yesterday.

But had I not told others how I was feeling, I wouldn’t have received their kind comments and texts, their show of friendship. A reader over on Twitter shared that she’s immersed in my novel and really enjoying it. I needed to hear that!

It’s not as if I share my bad day every time I have one. I seldom if ever do that, but right now we must. We must collectively be vulnerable. We must gather around one another, even if it’s just for a moment.

Sure, having a favorite coffeehouse close sounds like a first world problem, but what if that’s the place you’ve written parts of your one and a half books? It’s more than just a place to get a pot of tea to me! It’s an extension of my house. I meet up with my friends there; hell, the baristas are my friends as well!

And that thing at the beginning of my post that I yada-yada’ed over, that was nothing small and it’s not going away any time soon. But we all have such moments and we can be there for each other. That’s one of the beautiful things about this moment.

Be ye well! And if we’re up to it, let’s be there for someone having a worse day than us today. (But sitting in your pj’s eating fudge is perfectly acceptable, too, if needed. I’ll let you know where I’ve landed once the ibuprofen has kicked in.)

A photo of Victorine from one of Manet’s albums.

Next Stop? Excerptville!

Many kind thanks to Elizabeth Keysian for hosting an excerpt of Victorine over on her excellent blog Seduction, Scandals, and Spies. Please pop over and leave a comment while you’re there. Bloggers are authors’ best friends right now, in a time when in-person events are well nigh impossible. Show them some love!


Painting of Victorine by Alfred Stevens

How are you holding up? Are you making time for self-care?

No, I don’t mean just doing your work, although do that. But are you drinking water? (Not enough over here.) Moving? (Ditto.) Are you making time to not just veg in front of the TV but choosing material that moves and inspires you, rather than whiling away the hours as if you are in a jail cell? Because these, these days and hours are also part of the weft and warp of our lives. Don’t discount them. Use them to their full advantage. Let me qualify that.

Today I have put “read for an hour” and “write for an hour” on my list. Sure, being this nigh the other side of publication means I am still doing plenty of PR. This week alone I am recording three interviews with podcasts, which I am appreciative for, but they take time and courage.

Pair that with mailing out books to friends, teaching and related activities, reaching out to friends and family to be sure they’re all doing okay emotionally (some aren’t, which is totally natural during these uncertain times), aspiring to launch a whole new outreach journey which will require trial and error, and more, and I am not just bored at home. (I’m never bored anyway, but I’m particularly not now.)

But is it well with my soul?

In ways I’m very content, but I tell you, though I am grateful for those guest blog posts I will be polishing and handing in this week, the lack of creating is beginning to show. I need to make something all mine, with no expectations on it.

I’m finishing up a novel, except I haven’t written on it in weeks. I have two new novel ideas, except I’m not sure which one to go with, and if I choose one of those, what about that other, simpler, idea? Do I let it go or pursue it as the fast burn I suspect it will be?

Is it well with my soul?

I had a cathartic hour’s call with a friend yesterday. We both needed to vent about life. Today I have scheduled a phone call to someone in quarantine; she isn’t allowed any physical contact for a few more days. My life is so much better than that right now, and yet I haven’t let my creativity out of quarantine.

My to-do list is no shorter than it ever is, showing I am not taking the time to embrace what’s going on in our world. That I am itching to do a thorough cleaning of the bedroom tells me that my priorities are out of whack.

And yet, for me, I know what I need. I need to pull up my WIP and write, for God’s sake. I need to sit down with that new book on Vonnegut and writing (Pity the Reader) that I’m speeding through when I do allow myself reading time.

I need to adjust my expectations. Maybe I can’t achieve twenty things on a list in a day. Maybe I shouldn’t try. I mean sure, I want the upstairs bath to be cleaned, but we aren’t exactly going to have company over. I’d like to get that overdue birthday card out to my sister, but I did call her on her birthday, so if it waits one more day, that’s fine.

What does your soul need today? What goes beyond self-care and into soul care for you today? I’d love to hear from you. Let’s both pledge to do better about that. If our bodies and careers are preserved and not that which makes us who we are, what is the point? Nourish the best in you today.

If we were in church, here is where I would end my “sermon.” I would ask for a few seconds of silence before adding on my words of thanks to Elizabeth for featuring Victorine on her blog. After all, Victorine is a prime example of allowing a creative impulse to fully engulf my life for a time. And Elizabeth is doing me the favor of calling it worthy of a share. Thanks to her, to art, and to and for you.