New Release!! LORD OF HER HEART

A charming village, a struggling hero, a woman who risks heartbreak for a second time….

Some stories write themselves. Some stories fight you.  I posted about this back in April (here) as I struggled with reworking LORD OF HER HEART. Optimistically, I hoped then the book would be out in June. Ha. Even after I revised it, it still needed so much editing! Yikes, I began to think it would never make it out into the world. But as of today –it’s out!!

LORD OF HER HEART is the start of my new “Tales of Little Macclow” series. “Book Two” in the series is already out—my Christmastide holiday story, LORD OF MISRULE, inspired readers to ask for a series set in the fictional village where there may (or may not) be a bit of magic. The story actually takes place eight months after the action in the new book, so if you haven’t read LOM yet, I would say you’ll enjoy it even more if you read the new one first!  The stories stand alone, but there is a continuing chronology that is going to link the series together.

Here is the blurb for LORD OF HER HEART:

An unexpected return. A new risk for old friends.

As Little Macclow prepares to celebrate May Day, Tom Hepston’s arrival stirs expectations and speculation. Tom left the village fourteen years ago. Now he is back, but he hasn’t come willingly and he has no plans to stay. While he’s proud of the naval career he has left behind, he believes the physical and mental wounds that ended it have made him a madman no woman could—or should—love. Can he leave again before everyone sees the broken man he has become?

Sally Royden’s young heart broke when Tom left the first time. After years of hoping for his return, she now leads a full life caring for her sister and serving as the village seamstress. Tom’s experiences have changed him. Can Sally dare hope for renewed friendship? Or more? Or will her heart be broken twice—by the same man?

Little Macclow—tucked away and maybe touched by magic…. Village tales of love’s triumphs.

I’ve done “wounded heroes” before and bad memories are necessarily a part of them. (If you love this trope, I hope you’ll love Tom Hepston!) But I’ve never attempted one struggling with true PTSD before, which is so much more and can be so complex. I took an entire course on PTSD and did a lot of additional research in order to attempt writing Tom’s character. I had to learn some of the ways it is treated now—so I could figure out ways Tom might recover in a time period when the disorder didn’t even have a name, never mind any sort of therapy. Part of the proceeds from sales of LORD OF HER HEART will be donated to the Wounded Warriors Project and other non-profit organizations that support those struggling with the challenges of PTSD.

Do you like the wounded warrior trope? How about second-chances, and friends-to-lovers? One thing that makes this book different is that the main characters are not aristocracy. They’re not even gentry. Are you willing to read about characters who aren’t wealthy, and never will be? Tom & Sally are at the opposite end from those millionaire dukes who are so popular. I hope you’ll see that their HEA future is just as solid as those earned by those wealthy, high-ranked kinds of characters. And I hope you’ll want to visit Little Macclow again for more books in the series!

The book is available for Kindle and in print through Amazon and in other ebook formats through Smashwords.

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Juneteeth

Sorry this post is late, but in the fog that is our current existence, I hadn’t processed that my post day was Juneteenth until last night. So I scraped the “historical tea” post I had planned and got up to write up something new today.

The Emancipation Proclamation


I think we’re all familiar with the Emancipation Proclamation. I was always taught that by this act, Lincoln freed “the slaves”. But this was not true. He freed only the enslaved people in the Confederacy, and there were slave states that stayed in the Union or were under Union control at the time. Enslaved people in Delaware, Maryland, Kentucky, Missouri, Tennessee, parts of Louisiana, and those counties of Virginia that were soon to form the state of West Virginia were not freed January 1, 1863, but had to wait until the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment in December of 1865.


In the District of Columbia, compensated emancipation had been enacted in April of 1862. The District’s 900-odd slaveholders were forced to free their slaves, with the government paying owners an average of about $300 for each (it also paid each emancipated slave $100 if they agreed to immigrate to Haiti or Liberia), so the Emancipation Proclamation did not apply there, either (which is important it terms of the Fugitive Slave Act still being enforce for those still enslaved in the Union states and controlled territories).


And as we know, the proclamation was unenforceable in the states that seceded, leading to enslaved people to remain in bondage until the Union gained control. In Texas, General Gordon Granger announced federal orders on June 19, 1865, proclaiming that all people held as slaves in Texas were free. And today we celebrate that delayed justice.


So Happy Juneteeth. May you and yours be safe in these uncertain times, and may justice prevail in the many cases of state-sanctioned violence against black citizens that we’re still seeing today. If you’d like to support a black author and read a great Juneteeth story, I highly recommend Kianna Alexander’s historical novella Drifting to You.


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Black Lives in Regency England

This week has been one of drama, tragedy, and protest following the death of George Floyd from the choke hold of a Minneapolis policeman. Floyd’s last words were, “I can’t breathe” and they became a rallying cry all over the nation and the world while thousands of people demonstrate to show, once and for all, that BLACK LIVES MATTER. To acknowledge this important piece of history in the making, I am going to tell about some Black lives in the Regency.

If you read our books, it is sometimes easy to imagine that the Regency was inhabited by a homogenous group of White people. That was not the case. Especially in the cities, the population was diverse. Some articles estimate as many as 15,000 Black people in England at that time. Most were servants, but they could also be tavern owners, tradespersons, businessmen, sailors, musicians–all walks of life.

Joseph Antonio Emidy, sold into slavery as a child, eventually became a virtuoso violinist who performed, taught music, and composed many works. He lived in Cornwall, had been married, and fathered eight children.

Dido Elizabeth Belle was the topic of the 2013 movie, Belle. Her mother had been a slave; her father, the son of a baronet. As a baby, her care was entrusted to her uncle, the 1st Earl of Mansfield and she was brought up as a member of the family and inherited enough money from the earl to see to her comfort for life. The earl’s will also specifically documented her freedom. She married a Frenchman who might have been a gentleman’s steward. They had two sons.

William Davidson was the natural son of the Attorney General of Jamaica and a Black woman. At 14 he traveled to Scotland to study law, but after being apprenticed to a Glasgow lawyer, he was press-ganged into the Royal Navy. After his discharge, he started a cabinet making business which eventually failed. He eventually became involved in radical politics and was one of the Cato Street conspirators. He was executed for that crime.

Tom Molineaux and Bill Richmond were both former slaves who had success as professional boxers.

Cesar Picton was enslaved from Africa at about 6 years old. He became an exotic page boy to Sir John Phillips a baronet and became a favorite of the family. With a legacy of one hundred pounds from Lady Phillips, Picton set himself up in business as a coal merchant. He became wealthy and died a gentleman.

These are only a few of the diverse Black people who lived during “our” time. I found several examples of others. Most were once slaves or were born to slaves, but against great odds developed successful lives and deserve their place in history.

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Regency era people you’d like to hang out with

I’ve been running an Artist’s Way group (doing the program based on the book by Julia Cameron).  We’re currently on Week 3, and one of the week’s tasks is to list five people you wish you could meet that are dead.

It made me think about which five people from the Regency era I would enjoy meeting. Here’s my list. Maybe you’ll share yours in the comments?

Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797), the author of A Vindication of the Rights of Woman. I think we could have some great conversations about feminism then and now.

Jane Austen (1775-1817), an obvious choice but for a good reason! I would be afraid of being too fan-girly and making a fool of myself, since she didn’t seem like one who suffered fools. But if I could keep it together, maybe we could have a good conversation about the craft of writing. Perhaps she might be interested in learning about the enduring popularity of her stories, many times and how many ways her books have been turned into movies and mini-series, and all the spin-offs.

Mary Anning (1799-1847), who found an ichthyosaur fossil at age 12 and continued to collect, sell and study fossils throughout her life, making significant contributions to paleontology. When I was a child, I wanted to be a paleontologist, so a fossil-hunting expedition with Mary Anning would satisfy two of my passions.

Harriet Leveson-Gower, Countess Granville (1785-1862), daughter of the 5th Duke of Devonshire and the famous Duchess, Georgiana. I have read her letters in Hary-O: The Letters of Lady Harriet Cavendish 1796-1809, and she seems like someone I’d really enjoy talking to. She seems to have been quite grounded despite the drama of her parents’ unhappy marriage and various intrigues. Despite marrying her maternal aunt’s lover, she had a happy marriage and loved her children dearly. I also enjoyed her observations on society, including from the time that her husband served as British Ambassador to France.

William Wordsworth (1770-1850), one of the famous Lake poets. I spent a long weekend in the Lake District, and would love to ramble around there again with the famous poet as a guide.

What Regency era people would you like to hang out with?

Elena

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Happy May Day (and more)!

Sumer is icumen in,
Lhude sing, cuccu;
Groweth sed
and bloweth med,
And springth the wode anu;
Sing, cuccu! (words from a 13th century song)

Happy May 1st 2020! I’ve been steeped in May Day customs recently as my next book to be released (which alas I am STILL finishing) revolves around the preparations for May Day in the village of Little Macclow. LORD OF HER HEART is a prequel to my December 2018 Christmas book, Lord of Misrule. If the book was ready now, this post would be a great way to call your attention to it!

However, instead I’m going to beg your indulgence, as today I am starting a month-long “write-in” to do a deep dive into finishing that book and working on several of my other works-in-progress, under the auspices of my local writers group. While writing a new blogpost could ramp up my starting word counts, that’s not really the point of the exercise. <g> So instead, please enjoy a May Day post I originally shared here five years ago, when May 1st also fell on the first Friday!

For most of us, today is not an official holiday, but given its long history, I think it ought to be. Who’s with me? Bonfires? Dancing? Flowers? What’s not to like? In medieval times it was a huge holiday. And while celebrating it was not prevalent among the fashionable during Regency times, many of the traditions were still observed in the rural villages of England, and especially in Ireland, Scotland and Wales. I think it is more fun to talk about than say, the opening of Trout Fishing Season today, or that today (Friday before the 1st Monday in May) is also the traditional “private viewing day” for the start of the Royal Academy’s Summer Exhibition!

Celebrating this date, or the night before, has traditions in cultures and belief systems that date back into the mists of time, even before the Romans and their spring Floralia festival. The ancient Celts welcomed summer on the eve of May 1st (which is why “Midsummer” falls on the solstice in late June), with the festival of Beltane. The smoke from Beltane fires was supposed to have protective powers, so there are many traditions built around passing through the smoke, including jumping over the flames, and taking home embers or ashes to spread the luck.

Early Irish texts relate that the Druids would build two fires, and that cattle would be driven between them to purify them and protect them before putting them out to summer pastures. The fires connect symbolically to the sun, an essential ingredient for a successful agricultural and pastoral season. Wiccans celebrate Beltane, so the night’s association with witches is understandable.

The night before May 1st in Germany is Walpurgisnacht, also called Hexennacht (literally “Witches’ Night”). Celebrations usually include bonfires and dancing. There is some evidence the “Witches Night” association in Germany may be of a much later date than the Christian saint St Walpurga for whom the festival is named: the 17th century German folk tradition of a meeting of sorcerers and witches on May Day eve is influenced by the descriptions of witches’ sabbaths in 15th and 16th century literature, and was embraced by authors such as Faust and Thomas Mann. But Walpurgisnacht actually dates back to the 8th century, and has more to do with us than you might think.

St Walpurga was English. Did you know that? She was born in Devonshire, of a family of the local aristocracy. Her father was St. Richard the Pilgrim, one of the under-kings of the West Saxons, and her mother was Winna, sister of St. Boniface, Apostle of Germany. Walpurga’s two brothers were saints, too!

She was educated at Wimbourne Abbey in Dorset, before she ended up in Germany, where she and her brothers were sent to help their uncle working among the pagan Germans. She could read and write, and wrote a biography of her brother Winibald and also an account of his travels in Palestine. Because of these ancient works, she is often called the first female author of both England and Germany. Her festival is May 1st because that is the date she was canonized by the church.

The most common pagan-derived May Day customs practiced in various parts of Europe involve various ways of “bringing in the May” –an excuse to spend as much of the day outdoors as possible. In medieval times, May Day was a true holiday, a day of rest from labor and for celebrations, with much time spent in the fields and woods, searching out blooms (or lovers’ trysts). The “May” meant any kind of tree or bush in bloom by May 1st. (This was easier before the calendar change of 1752, of course.) Hawthorne is the acknowledged favorite, but sycamore, birch, and rowan trees are in the running among others.

Ways of bringing it in included bringing branches, used to decorate the homes or left on doorsteps, or an entire May Bush, or May Tree, decorated with ribbons and ornaments and displayed outside the home or in a public place. It could also mean bringing flowers, and weaving them into garlands to be displayed. In many places, especially in Germany and England, the crowning achievement was bringing a tall Maypole, to be erected as the focus for games, the selection of a May Queen, and ritualistic maypole dances honoring fertility.

Considered to be a vestige of tree-worship, the intention was to bring home, or bring to the village, the blessings of the tree-spirit. When the church was unsuccessful in banning these celebrations, they tried to make the custom connected to Easter. Did you know that those Easter egg trees people use as table centerpieces connect all the way back to pagan May Trees? J 

The picture at the top shows my local SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism) friends (and me) dancing around a maypole on a lovely (but windy) day in May a few years ago. Did you ever do something like this in school? After declining in the 18th century, May Day customs were resurrected by the Victorians, and these “new” traditions are now revered as old and time-honored, very common all over England.

Although I’m American, my family background is English & German. When I was growing up, my sister and I used to make May baskets, decorated with real and/or paper flowers and containing candy, fudge or brownies, and we would deliver them on May Day to our grandparents who lived in town, or friends and neighbors. We’d leave it on the doorstep, ring the bell and hide. A vestige of the old blooming branches and flowers left on doorsteps in ancient days? Who knew? Adding chocolate was an admirable modern improvement, don’t you think?

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Online Artist’s Way

The Artist’s Way is a program for unblocking creativity developed by Julia Cameron. It’s not just for artists, musicans, writers, etc… It can help anyone who wishes to live a more creative life.

Back in 2002, I did The Artist’s Way for the first time, and it helped me through an episode of writer’s block. Recently, I facilitated a group of friends through the program, meeting mostly at my house, though our last meeting was on Zoom. At our last meeting, we decided that since everyone had gotten so much out of the program, and given the state of the world, we would mentor people through the program again in a Facebook group.

Over 100 people have now joined the group! If you would like to join us, you can request to join the Facebook group, Artist’s Way Sacred Circle. And here’s a link for acquiring the book, The Artist’s Way, by Julia Cameron.

Wishing you all peace and hope.

Elena

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Hello and e-book sale!

Hi!  I haven’t been around for a while, due to life challenges and some health issues—I’ve had a serious problem with my right eye, which is still a bit wonky. I also haven’t been working on romance recently, though I have been working on other things.

Since people may be in more need of books to read right now, I’ve decided to put all my ebooks on sale for the next few months. Most are 99 cents, and my novella, The Wedding Wager, is free. So this is a good time to check out my books if you haven’t already, and if you enjoy my books, let others know. All my titles are listed on the Book List on my website.

I also promise you that I hope to return to romance writing. I still believe in romance. Even though I was saddened by the recent turmoil in the Romance Writers of America (you can Google it if you don’t know what happened) I am now hopeful that the organization is refocusing and moving again towards greater inclusivity. Everyone deserves love, and everyone deserves to be able to read stories with characters they relate to.

I believe in love, and in people working through problems and becoming stronger together. The best romance novels don’t do this by the characters compromising, which to me means having to give up something important to them. The way I see it, and the way I try to write it, lovers figure out solutions that are a win/win, where no one has to give up their health or happiness or change who they are just to fit in with the other’s needs. They might learn that what they thought they wanted at the beginning of the story isn’t what they really need. They might have to let go of old ways of thinking and doing things. They grow in ways that might be uncomfortable, but they become more who they were meant to be.

I also believe that at the end of a good romance novel, things don’t settle down and go back to where they were. Things get better. The love between the characters benefits everyone around them: their friends and family and their communities.

I believe this is true in our lives. There’s a lot of division and strife in our world, but we’re not going to solve it if we believe there are winners and losers. We’re not going to solve it by compromises with ideas like racism or homophobia that mean some people have to suffer so others can benefit. We’re going to solve things by understanding and working toward answers that don’t leave anyone out. I believe that in the Biblical story of the loaves and the fishes, Jesus taught people that if we share, there will be enough. This is the sort of world I want to work for, where love rules rather than fear.

Please take good care of yourselves, and keep on loving.

Elena

www.elenagreene.com

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HISTORICAL BAKING: ROUT CAKES

While everyone is baking sourdough bread for the apocalypse, I thought I’d share something else historical you could bake if all that kneading and proofing isn’t your thing. Out of all the period recipes I’ve tried, the one everyone likes the most, and the one I make pretty regularly, is Rout Cakes.

When I did my original research for these, I found plenty of period references to them (dating from 1807 onward), but no recipes before 1824. Even the recipe in Tea With Jane Austen is from 1840. The recipes I did find bear very little resemblance to one another, especially as there are “drop” versions and versions that sound more like a thin cake batter (which call for icing), some call for currants, some don’t. It seems to be no different from modern recipes, e.g. some chocolate chip recipes call for nuts, some don’t (mine calls for a packet of pistachio pudding mix, but I bet most of yours don’t). Seeing as there’s no one way to make them, I don’t feel an ounce of guild about taking a small bit of creative license here and there.

A New System of Domestic Cookery (1824):

The Cook and Housewife’s Manual (1827):

This 1827 recipe for Kent Drop-Cakes looks remarkable similar to the 1824 one for Rout Drop-Cakes:

So, once again I was left to tinker. I liked the idea of sweet wine (I went with sherry) and brandy. And I think currants are starting to grow on me . . .  I couldn’t find orange blossom water on short notice, so I used a bit of zest. The dough came out at the constancy of Nestle Tollhouse cookie dough, and when baked, the finished product was similar to a modern currant scone (or at least it’s similar to the ones they sell at Peet’s Coffee and Tea here in the Bay Area).

  • 1 cup butter (softened)
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 tsp sherry
  • 2 tsp brandy
  • Zest of one orange
  • OR 2 tsp orange blossom water (if you can find it)
  • OR 2 tsp orange liqueur (Cointreau, Gran Marnier, etc.)
  • 3 ¾ cups flour
  • ½ cup currants

Preheat oven to 350º

Cream butter and sugar. Add egg yolks and beat. Add vanilla, sherry, brandy and zest or orange water/liqueur and mix. Add in flour 1 cup at a time. Add currants with last ¾ cup of flour.

Dough will be cookie-like. Make rounded balls the size of walnuts and bake on a parchment paper or Silpat 20-25 min (until golden). They puff up a bit, but don’t spread so you can put them relatively close together.

My friends’ reactions:

My sister ate the ones I left her and texted “Cookies. Yum!”. Amie thought they were “Medieval, but tasty”. Issa loved them (he’s easy to please). Kristie and I thought they were perfect with a glass of sherry, and would be wonderful with tea. We all agreed that they’d be exceptional with a little orange icing/glaze (orange juice mixed with powdered sugar). Liza’s daughter (who’s just starting to eat real food) ate two (ok, she ate one and crumbled one on the floor for the dogs, who begged for more). Children and pets clearly approve.

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The Speckled Monster

At this moment we are all affected by the Coronavirus pandemic. I, for one, am rather obsessively following all the news about it. I hope everyone is practicing social distancing and staying home, washing hands, and any other measures necessary to keep from spreading the disease.

We all are quarantined, to some degree or another. I hope none of you or your loved ones have contracted the disease. These are scary times.

“Our” era, (Regency England in the early 19th century) was no stranger to feared outbreaks of contagious illness. Smallpox, the Speckled Monster, was one of the most deadly. In 18th century England, smallpox was responsible for half of the deaths of children under age 11.

Smallpox is a viral disease characterized by fever, vomiting, and a skin rash covering the body with fluid-filled bumps which scab over and often cause severe scarring, blindness or death.

Smallpox was present in ancient times, as early as 360 BC in China. It is thought that Ramses V, Pharaoh of Egypt, died of small pox in the 12th century BC. By the 1700s the disease had been spread to the New World, decimating the indigenous populations of North and South America and Australia.

There were no effective treatments for smallpox in the Regency era, although, in 1767, William Watson, a physician at the Foundling Hospital in London tried unsuccessfully to treat it with mercury and laxatives. What was effective was preventative inoculation. Inoculation, pricking the skin with the fluid from a smallpox pustule, had been practiced for a long time in China, India, parts of the Middle East, the Ottoman Empire, parts of Africa, and even in Wales, but it did not become widely used in the West until the 1700s. One of its proponents had been Lady Mary Montagu, wife of the British ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, who had learned of the practice when in Turkey. Her brother had died of smallpox and she herself had suffered the disease. She had her own children inoculated.

Inoculation was not without its risks. While most patients experienced mild symptoms, some patients developed the full disease and died. It did, however, greatly reduce the death rate from smallpox.

In 1796 Edward Jenner created a vaccine for smallpox from the much milder disease of cowpox. It had been observed by Jenner and his colleagues that people who had suffered cowpox did not contract smallpox. Jenner’s vaccination was much safer than inoculation with the smallpox virus itself.

Edward Jenner vaccinating patients

Certainly, the push for vaccination for smallpox would have taken place in the Regency Era and our characters would have known of it and likely would have taken the vaccine. It took awhile for inoculation and vaccination to be universal, but wide vaccination effectively erraticated the disease by 1977.

How are you all coping with our pandemic?

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When Books Go Wrong!

Annoyed-looking girl stares out at us (front-view), cheek resting against her hand while an open book lies on table in front of her.

Let’s face it, writing isn’t easy. It LOOKS easy, to our readers, and that’s because we authors work hard to make sure what we eventually deliver to them is seamless, smooth prose that tells a logically believable (and well-researched) tale that’s also emotionally satisfying. But how many drafts did we go through to get there?

Granted, some books are easier than others. Sometimes a story is so clear to us that it very nearly writes itself. Some authors are blessed with many of those. But in my experience anyway, that is rare.

“Think of Olympic athletes,” I often told my students years ago when I was teaching romance writing. “Don’t they make their respective sport achievements look easy?” I used the analogy to provide some perspective, as they often came in thinking the writing would be easy. “Think of how smooth and graceful they are, how effortlessly they seem to flow through the motions of their sport. Watching them is like reading a finished story. Then think of the years of practice and study, the repeated successes and failures, the continued drive to keep getting better that they have invested to achieve that apparent ease. That is also the struggle behind most successful stories (and their authors).”

Pair of Olympic swimmers shown in simultaneous action in parallel pool lanes via underwater camera.

The writing does get easier the longer you’re at it. Practice helps just about anything! Yet every book seems to present its own challenges. Just when you think the process is getting comfortable, the next story comes along with its own unique twist you’ve never needed to handle before. New learning curve, every book.

Not to mention there are so many ways a book can go wrong. And I’m not even talking about the marketing part, here. Bad cover? Bad blurb? Oh, no. I’m only talking about the story here. Every aspect of a story, from the tone to the characters, the plot, the emotional arcs and the structure, the pacing, the dialogue–even the balance of those elements, or the choice of point-of-view characters in scenes, and more –all of these can make or break the successful telling of the story. Readers don’t see this, because we hope that all of those issues are smoothed out before they ever see a page.

You may have guessed I am in the throes of revising a book that has “gone wrong” and that’s the inspiration for this blogpost. Yup. I have been working for ages on a prequel to LORD OF MISRULE and had it at least ¾ done, maybe more. But something wasn’t working. Sent it to several critique partners, and it was clear from their comments that I was right, something wasn’t working. But none of them could quite put a finger on it. Their multiple views did help me to do so, I think!

Sometimes when books go wrong, it’s not just one big thing, but an accumulation of many small things. Kind of like dropped stitches in knitting. You might not notice them when they happen, but later as you look back at the completed rows, there they are. A character’s attitude is wrong, the tone is off or someone’s emotional reaction is missing. Some plot developments may happen in the wrong order. And as in knitting, there’s nothing to be done except unravel it back to the rows that were intact, and redo it.

I hate having to delay this book even longer, but I won’t release a book that I know isn’t right. That’s not to say my books are perfect, but I hope they are as good as I am capable of offering at the time they come out. Alas, I am a “pantser” (meaning I have to discover the story as I go along), so that usually means multiple drafts to sort things out. I have unraveled a big chunk of this book and am busily “re-knitting” it as fast as I can. I hope now to have it repaired and out by June at least. Maybe with a miracle, sooner. But it won’t be in April as I had planned. (sigh)

Have you read books that you thought the author should have “re-knitted” but didn’t? (please don’t name specific titles or authors) If you’re a writer, which would you say happens for you more often, easy ones or hard ones? Do you find there’s any one specific way books most often go wrong for you? If you are a plotter instead of a pantser, what still goes wrong sometimes even though you are following your thought-out plan?

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