All posts by Margaret

Historical Fiction Fans, Here I Come!

In a bit of a dream come true, the Historical Novel Society is having their annual conference in Portland, OR this year!

hist nov soc 2017

This organization exists to promote the enjoyment of historical fiction, to which I lightly pound my wooden desk and say, “Hear, hear!”

They’ve got all sorts of fascinating panels in store for this week’s conference, including:

  • Regency & Victorian FOOD
  • Victorian FUNERALS
  • Regency WIT & VOICE
  • Writing CELTIC
  • Writing with TWO STORY ARCS

hist nov soc logo

Basically, it’ll be a huge nerd-fest, with all different periods mixed in for fun. And the coolest, or maybe most frightening? is the Regency Ball, where there will be an instructor from JASNA to teach dances of the time!

jane austen dance figures regency

It will be my first time at this conference, so if you are going, do please send me a message if you’d like to meet up with someone beforehand. I want to see so many of the panels, but am forced to choose–perhaps we can share our notes?

Here’s to shooting for the stars, ladies and gentlemen.

Enjoy your trips back in time…

Another Memorial

Remember the fallen today.

Those who’ve given their lives in the long slog toward justice and equality…

I know some veterans, but I have never known someone killed on a battlefield.

This Memorial Day, I am thinking of a different kind of soldier, because two of those were just killed in the city where I lived: Portland.

“Three US men [were] attacked while defending a Muslim teenager and her friend on a train. Taliesin Myrddin Namkai-Meche and Ricky John Best were killed and Micah David-Cole Fletcher was severely injured in Portland, Oregon on Friday. They…intervened after a man launched into a verbal tirade against the teens, one wearing a hijab.” [source]

I was a little shocked by the closeness of such a crime, but it was only my friend Claire’s words of warning becoming visible: Portland is still infested with the white supremacists that founded this state. Then when someone I knew had known one of these fallen heroes, it hit me even closer to home.

I am tired of the metaphors of war. I doubt their effectiveness, even as they continue to mobilize parts of the population. But this war–on ignorance and prejudice, on arrogance and insecurity–is being fought everywhere. From the MAX train to my family’s Thanksgiving dinner table:

black lives matter yellow button

I’d been to a rally after the disastrous election and picked up a Black Lives Matter button. I had it on a puffy vest, and though I hesitated wearing it home for the holidays, I felt my hesitation as cowardice, and left it on the vest, packed into my suitcase for the cold weather.

When I wore the vest, the first glance of my brother-in-law, a former Marine and current Republican, produced a leaden silence. Then, my sister: “Really? I would’ve thought if anything you’d have an ALL Lives Matter one.”

How close can you get?

Me with my Americorps service, my international living, my frequent travel, my peacenik views… but I fallback on the simple analogies that explain the Black Lives Matter movement, and its reason for existing: black people’s lives are disposed of much more cavalierly than white people’s in America.

All lives do matter, but we don’t need to champion that message for some of those lives.  Black Lives Matter Just As Much.

And Muslim lives.

And Queer lives.

Everyone. Deserves. To Live.

Here’s to America finding its way back to Liberty and Justice for ALL.

Faith of a Different Kind

What is the relationship between faith and expectations?

I just finished Christine Hassler’s book, Expectation Hangover, after having it in my TBR queue for a loooong time.

One of the points she makes that rings true is about having a long period of adjusting and learning after each bout of disappointment (which she brands as a ‘Hangover’).

Days, months, years, even.

carl nightingale quote time will pass anyway pinterest

But it gets shorter and less deep each time, because you get better at processing, detaching, and learning.

The years are needed because this is when you develop faith, the kind I’m talking about, faith in yourself.

“Faith is not developed in times of certainty, but rather in the vast sea of the unknown.”

Last year I struck out to sample how a full-time writer’s life might look and feel. I had oodles of free time, most of which I spent at home alone. I could frame it as the life of an aristocrat, or the poor church mouse, because at different times I felt like both.

But when it came to the tasks I had set myself to accomplish: getting a professional author photo, updating book covers, submitting proposals for speaking gigs, etc–I labored in the dark, with too-big rubber gloves.

I felt stuck, and merely kept trying new things, to see if any would shake loose some results, either in terms of book sales, speaking engagements, writing contacts, or some unknown new variable.

Now that I am back in my busiest schedule since college (27 credits and a part-time job? Sure!), I continue to fumble along, no longer seeing clearly my stepped graph of new marketing efforts with each book’s publication.

normal vs my love life graph humor

Substitute “Career” for “Love Life”

My graph has got more complicated, overlapping, looping back, subsiding, sparking unexpectedly. With Book Number Four taking longer, I have had to innovate in different ways.

I still can’t predict which efforts will yield the results I seek, and merely keep on keepin’ on, some days.

This is faith.

And expectations? The way to avoid a hangover, in 3 simple steps:

  1. Reward your efforts, not your results, in healthy ways.
  2. Bolster your sense of self with replenishing solitude and social time with supportive friends.
  3. No matter the rate, don’t quit trying new things and putting in the time to improve.

These are the things I learned on my own, while waiting to read Christine’s book.


Does this resonate? How has your faith changed, or your expectations evolved, over your writing career?


Images via Pinterest

Crafting & Conversation Event at Backstory Books & Yarn

Hi y’all.

backstory books yarn outside view pdxIt may seem like I’ve done a disappearing act, but there have been a couple big posts over on my personal development blog, Taste Life Twice, and feverish activity on the editing and event fronts, here in Portland!




Next up is something unique, for a unique bookstore:


Backstory Books and Yarn is a wee shop in SE Portland. Its owner, Amanda, pours a lot of love into every detail, from organization to stock to display to features, and knows her biz down to the brass tacks! (if I’m not mixing metaphors too much there)

Although I do love to mix and match my metaphors.

And also love aiming for assonance

But back to business

Since Amanda at Backstory had such a fun unique twist on her offerings, I wanted to offer a complementary twist for my event there (twists, spinning, yarn–get it?):

Not just a reading-and-signing, but a coming-together of community to talk about what the community knows: knitting and weaving.

My character Muirne, in The Keening, is a keen weaver. She takes it as a matter of course, as one did in 1822 Scotland, that a wife and mother would know the quickest way to clean raw wool from a neighbor’s flock, the brightest dyes from nature to set color, and the best way to make a social event or a teaching lesson out of spinning and weaving chores.

So for our talk, I am inviting all the crafters to fill me on the modern equivalent of such tips and tricks. Have you ever been to a milling frolic in Nova Scotia? Have you ever visited Pendleton Mills for a tour? Have you used a drop spindle and learned the knack and timing of spinning after long, patient practice?

I bow down.

Please come on down to contribute to the conversation: Saturday, 3/25, 2-3:30. Your presence and knowledge is greatly appreciated.

Also, Scottish baking treats to be provided.

Can’t miss an opportunity like that, can I!

RSVP on Facebook event page so I’ll know how much to bring. 🙂


Images via Backstory Books & Yarn my Instagram feed.

Literary Marketing Workshop for Authors!

UPDATED TIME: Sunday, April 2, 2-4 PM

Guess what, Aspiring Authors?

wear all the hats graphic

(Those who are on the newsletter list already heard, but here’s the general announcement:)

Cal and I are starting a series of workshops focused on the various roles an indie author has to fill in today’s publishing world.

First up is the big bear we all love to hate: Marketing

Wear All The Hats: Literary Marketing Workshop

We both have years of experience reading blogs, talking to other authors, attending panels, and experimenting with our and others’ books. Trust us: nothing is guaranteed, but there are definitely ways to improve your chances of being discovered by the readers who will love your book.

We welcome unpublished, self-published, traditionally published; straight, cis, queer; black, white, multicultural; American, international; any religion and no religion; if you’ve got a story that needs to see the light of day, you are welcome!

bearing an untold story inside you maya angelou quote

We are charging $20 per workshop, payable to either of us, or the bookshop: Another Read Through ($25 at the door, so register this week!).

Sign up through ART, then let your friends know about this opportunity on the Facebook event page! Thanks for your help spreading the word. 🙂

Workshops to follow will touch on topics of Writing, Editing, Publishing, and Bookselling. Get in now, get some new ideas, and meet your fellow Portland-local authors!


Images via Facebook & Surveymonkey