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March 4, 2012

Hello my friends! Hot dog, we’ve survived February! The days are getting noticeably longer, and the morning light seems to spread hope along with the increasing BTUs. (British Thermal Units. Don’t ask.) Spring is returning to the world: my garden is full of crocuses and snowdrops, and the winter aconite I planted last year have come up (hooray!) and  the long green fingers of the daffodils are nearly a foot high now. The silly things are even starting to turn over, and three blooms are actually open! This is a dumb thing for a daffodil to do in Scotland at the end of February, but it has been so unnaturally mild here that the plants are terribly, terribly confused. I even have TULIPS coming up, the poor things. I have the feeling they are in for a terrible shock sometime soon.

The book is going slowly, but it is going. The weight loss  is going rather faster. I’ve lost over 35 pounds now since June, and still going down, tra la! The increased energy from not having to carry around all that poundage is amazing. I still have a long way to go to reach my goal, but at least I can see it from here on a clear day. Much like the book, really. I’ve been fighting through murk, and things are finally beginning to clear up a little. Let us all rejoice. As a dear friend once said to me, *these* are the good old days we’re going to look back on. Health, strength, loving family, dear friends – what else is life about? 

Have a grand March, take joy in the coming of the Spring, and remember to tell those you love how you feel.  It’s important.

Wishing you all the same following wind I’m cruising on –

All the best,

January 11, 2012

Hello, my friends. Yes, I’m still alive! And yes, I know my last post was in April. I’ve been trying for quite a few weeks to figure out how to say this without sounding appallingly self-pitying. Here goes.

I suffer from depression. I have avoided mentioning this publicly because I grew up in a time and in a society in which depression was seen as weakness of character, rather than a chemical imbalance in the brain. I have fought against that conditioning, but it is still in me at a very deep level.
My particular flavour of depression comes around every 2-5 years, in an unpredictable cycle, but responds reasonably well to SUIs (serotonin uptake inhibitors). 

This last time it started to hit in December of 2010, but I was not aware of it for a very long time. That’s the problem, of course. Depression is not like measles – you don’t get a rash, or a fever, or anything easily recognizable. It sneaks up like a subtle assassin, draining energy and focus and all positive feelings as though through a tiny open wound, but so slowly that it can take months to realise what is happening. I had some difficult news in December 2010, but instead of getting over it I dwelt on the problem and started to cut myself off from all social contacts. That withdrawal is usually a bright red flag for me, but I missed it (depression can make you a right idiot sometimes). Then in April, in the space of a week, I lost two old friends – the first I mentioned in my last post in April, Jan Buckley, a truly good human being.  The other was Betsy Palmer Whitney, who was a dear friend and mentor when I lived in Hawaii, and taught me so much about life. I had sent her an e-mail to tell her of our mutual friend Jan’s death and heard back from her husband that Betsy had died of a pulmonary embolism a week before. Again, I was devastated rather than grieving, saying farewell, and moving on. In early May I finally began to realise that I was wasting my life. I went to the doctor, who recommended counselling (!!) when I suggested that I needed drugs. I dragged along for another few weeks then went back to the doctor and practically grabbed her by the collar and demanded the medication I knew worked.  She agreed that it was time. 

Within three weeks of starting the meds, I had joined Weight Watchers (having put on a lot of weight in the interim), begun exercising a lot more, and started working on the MS again. I was doing reasonably well by early August, when I was summoned at a few days notice to fly to the US to see my father for the last time. I visited with him and his wonderful wife Carol for two very difficult weeks, then when he seemed stable I went to visit another relative. A few days later I had to return to New Orleans for the funeral. Needless to say, this did not help my attitude to life, but in a way it was a pivotal moment. Because I was (am) still on antidepressants, I was able to cope with a difficult situation without feeling overwhelmed. I had the help of my much-loved big brother Lester, my dear Aunt Sarah and some wonderful old friends – Roy, Sacha, Buddy, you know who you are! – and I have grieved for my father, but not excessively.  In late November my dear friend Anne McCaffrey also passed on, and I miss her something awful, but I’m coping.

That’s what I’ve been doing, folks.  Dealing with illness and with the death of too damned many dear ones.  Please forgive my long silence. I am back to work now and happy to be so. Thank you for your patience, thank you for reading, and for your support.  It really does mean a lot.

Expect more regular updates from here on in. Partly because I owe it to you for your kind patience, partly because it’s fun, and partly because Hans my webmaster will kick me if I don’t.  ;)

A happy New Year to you all – may 2012 see use all healthy, happy and prosperous!

All the best

April 4, 2011

My dear friends,

Ye gods, time flies when you’re over 50... I meant, in all good conscience, to post in March.  Oops.  Never mind, haven’t missed it by that much!

First, a huge thank-you to the kind people who have been posting on my now-no-longer-empty guestbook.  I can’t tell you what it means to hear from you, folks.  Thank you for reading, and I’m delighted that you have enjoyed my work and that you have taken the time and trouble to tell me so.

Hand Report: I’m off to the physiotherapist today.  He/she is going to have a look, presumably give me exercises, and try to find out why my ring finger is still half numb.  It is very odd, as for a week after surgery it was just fine.  Sigh.  I remain optimistic that I will eventually get the feeling back.  It would certainly help my typing.  Otherwise I’m well recovered. 

The Book is coming along slowly, but it is coming along.  I’m still feeling out the shape of it.  Think of me as trying to start a car that has been sitting idle for far too long in a cold winter.  The sounds are encouraging, but the engine hasn’t quite caught yet.  Working on it.

This is not helped, alas, by the sad news I received this morning.  My old friend Jan Buckley, who looked after me when in was in a very dark place while I lived in Hawaii, has finally succumbed to lung cancer.  Her health has always been lousy but she never let it get to her.  Now there was a woman who lived life to the absolute full despite everything she had to deal with.  On her son’s FB page are dozens of tributes from people whom she rescued/ encouraged/ loved and cared for, from all walks and stations of life.  I can give her no nobler encomium.  Rest well, my sistah – aloha nui loa..

Never forget to tell your loved ones that you love them while they are still with you.  Really.  It’s important.


February 6, 2011 

My dear and very patient friends,

I have recently had it brought to my attention (Hans has been kicking me to no avail for about a month now) that I have been singularly uncommunicative since – oh dear.  August.  Yeep!

Here’s what’s been happening.

In September 2010, just over two months before I was to take part in the International Sweet Adelines competition (I had been asked to join my old chorus, Forth Valley, as an Ooter [out-of-town member] just for the occasion), I realised that I needed to put in some serious work to get up to the standard of the other singers. I concentrated like crazy for about 6 weeks, sang the part, practiced the choreography, and generally prepared for the trip. The competition was to be in Seattle, I had just turned in a completed manuscript (more of this anon) and was waiting to hear from my editor, and I threw all my energies into singing to take my mind off just waiting to hear. Yes, I did try to work on the next book, but I wasn’t happy with the manuscript I’d sent in, especially the ending, and the next book was to follow directly on from there.  I thought I’d just wait and start again when I got back from America and heard what my editor had to say.

On October 14 I got on a plane for Seattle. I was nervous, excited, and worried that I hadn’t heard from my editor.  However, as I’d  been late with the manuscript I figured I’d missed my slot and she was very, very busy. I decided to let it all go and just do the Sweet Adeline thing for a few weeks. I had a wonderful time in Seattle. I hadn’t been there since I was a child, when my family travelled up to Alaska. [Brief aside: my Navy dad had ticked off some Washington folks and his punishment was to be stationed in Kodiak, Alaska. He considered it a hellish political exile, my mother the Southern Belle considered it purgatory, and my brother and I thought we’d died and gone to heaven.]  Seattle is fabulous. I did tons of walking up and down hills, pootered about in Pike Place Market and basically had a ball. We sang lots, rehearsed every breath and every comma, got coaching literally an hour before we were to go onstage, and then – there we were. I walked onstage as a delighted guest member of a brilliant chorus. We sang in front of – oh, about 2000? -  people. I thought I’d be nervous, but no. I was more focused than I had ever been, apart from writing. It was almost as if I were, quite literally, living a dream – bringing the vision into solid reality. It was astounding.  (Singing at International is a big deal, Sweet Adelines-wise.) I sang my heart out, thinking the whole time, anticipating tricky vocal jumps, putting in all the tiny new vocal twists, and absolutely adored every second.  We were onstage for six minutes. It was amazing

However, I did not expect what happened when I got off the stage. There was about a day of anticipated letdown, and then it was like someone had flicked a switch. There was no more barbershop in my soul. Realize, I’ve been singing this style of music since 1996!  Maybe 15 years is enough. Who knows, the switch may flick back to ‘on’ sometime, but for now, I’m done with it.  It’s very odd and I don’t understand it, but for me, it’s time for a change

My husband Steven joined me for two weeks and we had a grand time in the Pacific Northwest – one of my favourite parts of the world – visiting old friends George and Margaret Lynn Harshbarger, dear to both our hearts, whom we hadn’t seen for ten years. Too damn long, but it’s a heck of a journey across that water. We also dropped in on musicians Mike Freeman and Tania Opland (click here to find out more about their marvellous music) and brilliant writer Elizabeth Ann Scarborough and her cats (her website is here) while we were there, not to mention the kind, considerate angel Lea Day, who picked me up at Portland airport when I arrived in October, took me shopping (whee!) and generally looked after me for a few days until I could look after myself. It was so splendid to see you all!  Miss you more now, but the visit was worth the pain.

We got back on November 3rd, and both promptly got the standard winter cold, the usual coda to a trip overseas, but it was marvellous and I loved every minute.

We had Thanksgiving here in Scotland with friends – you realise I’m still waiting to hear from my editor – and then I panicked. I begged my dear friend Deborah Turner Harris to look at the manuscript for me, which she did.  We then had a productive four hours or so in St. Andrews in early December while she helped me see exactly what was wrong with the book. Lots. I then wrote to my editor, who fully agreed that Debby had nailed the problems, and we worked out a way to get through. 

I have to say – I’m a wimp. That session and my editor’s agreement floored me. I knew there was something wrong with the book, but I was WAY too close to the trees to see the forest and had lost my way. Essentially, it means a very, very deep re-write. I had to get my head around the fact that I needed to write a different book. It has taken a while, but I managed it, and have been sorting it out in my head ever since, while recovering from – oh, yeah –

January – carpal tunnel surgery on left hand. I found this deeply daunting, as I’m left handed. The surgery was 13 January, I had the stitches out on the 28th (just over a week ago) and I’m only just back to being able to type for more than a few minutes at a time. It’s still painful, but I’m working through it. 

The new version of the book is coming very slowly, for mechanical reasons, but I have a good feeling about this.  I’m sorry I have been so bad about communicating, but I went into quite a depression in December (having realised that I’d written the wrong book) and am only just coming out of it.  Oh, I’ll be able to use large chunks of the first manuscript, with modifications, so it’s not like starting again from scratch - but oh boy, am I gonna be busy!

Thank you for your patience, thank you for checking in now and again, and my apologies to all you lovely folks who have posted in my guestbook for the last several years. In case you hadn’t heard, the guestbook got hacked early in January, and the evil so-and-so deleted ALL of the posts! (Curses have been uttered.  If you see anyone walking around with no fingers, it was probably the hacker.) Hans has now fixed the security, so that won’t happen again, but all your lovely encouragement over these last years has disappeared into the ether. Rest assured that I read (and sometimes re-read) all those posts and want to thank you all for writing - I genuinely appreciate your taking the time to do so, even if I’m not sufficiently organized to reply to everyone. The guestbook is now up again, so if you happen to be passing, do say howdy.

Watch this space, my friends. Onward and upward. I hope you all have a grand New Year (hey, it was Chinese New Year on Thursday, I’m starting again!) and I’ll try to be better about staying in touch. 

Back to Kolmar.  I’m saving the evil laugh for later.


August 8, 2010 
My friends – no, I’m not dead. Just recovering. I know my last post was in April, and I apologise for the long silence.

I never did make it to the Netherlands in April – I was one of the thousands who lost out thanks to the unpronounceable Icelandic volcano doing its thing. Grrr! My husband Steven was already in the Netherlands for a work meeting, and Hans and his kind wife Marjon took Steven around to all the wonderful places they had planned for us both to see. They also looked after him when he was stuck with no way to get home. I cannot imagine more gracious hosts. Bless you both.

In early May, I went with my barbershop chorus to the annual competition. Alas, we did horribly this year, not really sure why. Never mind. Onward and upward.

In early June I had carpal tunnel release surgery. This slowed down my productivity, especially as it didn’t quite go to plan and I couldn’t type for weeks. Never mind, I can type now.

My real news is that, 3 ½ months after I last said it – the book is actually done. Well, first-pass done. In April I sent a mostly-complete MS to my editor. She wrote back and told me that she’d just had four other books land on her desk and wouldn’t get around to reading mine for a while, so I might as well finish it off properly. May all the gods bless my editor Claire! Because of the hand surgery it has taken me far longer than I would like to finish the book, and no doubt she will request changes in a few weeks – this is standard, if one is lucky enough to have a good editor, and it always improves the work – but at least the draft has been completed.

I’ll be having another celebration when it is accepted (i.e. when I make the requested revisions and Claire is happy with the book), because after that it’s just a question of checking the galley proofs. This writing biz is a long process, but I’m grateful for it – it gives me enough time and perspective to make my books as good as I can make them. They are never as good as the books in my head, alas, but I hope to improve on that with time.

I’m going to take a week’s holiday to clean the house (it is currently a tip, as when I’m in full writing mode I tend to utterly ignore housework), sort out a few closets, paint the church door, that kind of thing – then on to the next book! I can’t wait, I’m all excited about this next one, it’s quite a departure for me. Heh heh heh...sorry, sorry, didn’t mean to let the evil laugh slip out. Pay it no mind.

My only other news is that next Sunday I’m going to be visiting with pal and fabulous writer Jane Yolen. She’s having a party for the local fantasy writers and I can’t wait. What a grand chance to visit with old friends and meet new colleagues!

Thanks for your patience. I’ll let you know a provisional publication date when I have one.Now lemme at that closet!

Cheers, Elizabeth

April 14, 2010 
Done. That's it, done. The first book of the new contract is finished, at least for the first time of asking. I have some bits to add in, some bits to move, polishing, tidying, all that lot. I'll get it done asap for my editor, but that might mean the middle of next week. And I will go through the editing process again, once the blessed Claire Eddy has been through and pointed out where I need to improve the text. Claire is such a complete star, she always makes me work harder and get it right. I utterly trust her instincts. Oddly, part of the difficulty has been knowing where to *stop* this book. You'll see...
And I realise I shouldn't say this, but the NEXT book is ready to write itself! I am so jazzed! However, for the rest of the week I'm doing all I can to get this one in shape, because on Friday my darling husband and I are off to the Netherlands (well, he's there for work already). It'll be my first real visit and I am so excited about it! My Fabulous Webmaster (TM) Hans van der Boom has invited the two of us to stay with him and his family, and we're going to the Keukenhof Gardens outside Amsterdam at the weekend. Wheeee! What a wonderful way to celebrate The Book Being Finished. 
Thanks for your patience, my friends. The book should be out about summer/autumn of 2011. I'll keep you posted!  And honestly, thanks also for the good wishes. You've no idea how cheering it is, when in the midst of the hard slog, to realise that there are actually folks out there who are looking forward to the next installment. 
I'm going to bed. I may not be able to sleep, but I'm going to bed. 

March 15, 2010 

It is now mid-March. My deadline is looming larger every day, which is not good for my blood pressure, but Lordy, it does focus the mind! I’m presently re-writing one of the more “Ewww!” moments in the book, so taking a little break to clear my head and get over being grossed out. 

First bit of news – I was down visiting a dear friend a week ago. We were drinking buddies at Uni, so that should give you a hint as to how long we’ve known one another. He has always taken a kindly interest in my writing, but for some reason this present series appears to be hotwired to his imagination. He has been invaluable in helping me get the plot sorted out, and as it is wildly complex (for me), that’s no mean feat. He has made specific contributions this time as well.  I just hope he doesn’t take up writing books.  He’d be bloody brilliant at it, and I’d hate to have to go be polite at his book signings and watch as his sales soar past mine...

I do have some other news, specifically related to my singing, but ultimately everything is related to the writing in any case so I guess it’s fair to mention it.  

You know I sing barbershop by now, the tenor (highest) part, equivalent to a soprano. I’ve sung tenor for – oh, 13, 14 years? Something like that.  A few weeks ago I had the chance to have a private voice lesson with a visiting genius of a coach, Sandy Marron by name. We started with me singing tenor, and just for fun she took me through my full range. I’m rather proud of my range, it’s decent for an amateur – 3 octaves, though the quality varies wildly – and when she got me down into the lower voice, she just stared at me. She’s a superb tenor, one of the best in the women’s barbershop world, and I was hoping for a few pointers on how to improve my sound.  She had one, alright. 

“Why in the world are you singing tenor? Your tessitura is here –“ she said as she indicated the octave hovering around the E above middle C and the octave below, and several notes below that. I learned a new word that day – tessitura, that part of a singer’s range that is most comfortable, most flexible, and in which the voice sounds best.  “You need to stop singing tenor. You’re a bass,” she said. 

It was a shock. I have always known that I have low notes, I just didn’t realise they were so much better than my high notes!  So I have now switched to singing bass. It feels like cheating. It feels like vocal pyjamas! So comfortable, so much fun, so easy

Imagine thinking you know your capabilities in an art form, then going to an expert and learning that you have been entirely befuddled and it’s time to try the opposite! I’m learning to sing bass now. Many of the principles of vocal production are the same, but there are plenty of differences as well. It’s a challenge, and to be honest I’m kind of ignoring it while finishing off the book, but – well, it’s exciting, scary, challenging and a real kick up the psychology.  Watch out, folks, all things are reflected in the book!

May Spring find all of us (pace you lovely folks in the Southern Hemisphere) soon and gently.  We have a backyard full of crocuses and snowdrops, and they are lovely, but my heart is ready for daffodils and hyacinths. 

Ah, that’s better. I can now approach the unpleasant bits with a calmer heart. Thanks, me dears. I think I can feel that wind on my back – bless you all.

February, 2010 

My friends – I’m sorry I haven’t written in so long.  Ye gods, how did it get to be February?!  My health has been rubbish over the winter – including swine flu, blecch! – which is why I have been incommunicado for so long.  I  am only just back at work writing full time, though I’ve been building up to it for a few weeks.  As I am presently busy throwing boulders at my characters –  best advice I ever had about writing, “chase your characters up a tree and then throw  rocks at them!” – things are a bit fraught.   I sometimes think I should be an actor.  I have to live through the feelings my characters are having before I can write about them believably.  Trust me, when I’m writing for the baddies be glad you’re not in the room.   Thank goodness my husband is a patient man who understands the bizarre woman he has married and doesn’t take it personally!

What have I been doing? Trying to get my head working, mostly.  Oh, and giving thanks on bended knee for my editor at Tor, Claire Eddy, who is so brilliant at what she does that she has made her job an art form.  She has made allowance for my rubbish health and given me an extension on my long-past deadline.  As a result, of course, I will work my fingers to the nub to have a decent book to send her.  Blessings upon thee, Claire!

It is presently snowing, though living near the coast as I do it tends to be much milder here than elsewhere.  I have just put out more food for the local army of starving goldfinches, blackbirds, robins and bluetits and my hands are freezing!  Ho for a hot cup of instant coffee and back to work.  So here I go diving into an emotional maelstrom – anybody got a rope?

Be well, all, and hold on to the thought that Spring is coming...

November, 2009

Sigh.  Most of my news lately is a bit of a bummer.   

Uggh # 1 - My computer died about the 20th of November (-ish), and for various reasons – including the fact that the first brand new computer I purchased was a lemon, though it took a few days to find that out – it took a week and a half to get the new machine up and working.  I had just started to revamp some early chapters when...

Uggh # 2 -  I bloody well came down with Swine Flu.  ARGGH!  It has been just over a week now.  I took the Tamiflu (anti-viral drug) and that seemed to get rid of the scary high fever and unbearable headache pretty quickly, but the rest of the symptoms – like having a really bad cold, but with extra added nastiness if you’re asthmatic like I am – have stuck with me.   Doc has put me on a few days of steroids to clear up my lungs.  Oh joy.   However, in the main I am vastly better, but dear God, what utterly carp timing.  (Yes, I wrote carp.  This is a family website, after all!  And the fish won’t care...)

Uggh # 3 – My lovely husband has a hideous cold.  As soon as he gets over it, and I stop coughing long enough, we’re going to take advantage of the long, cozy darkness of this time of year.  And then I’m going to get back to work!  

So for now,  I’m reading and replying to the zillions of e-mails I’ve received, coughing like a TB ward, and trying to think straight enough to get some work done.   It is so frustrating not to be able to concentrate.   I’m giving it a shot, though.  

The good news is, I have put out my Moravian Star, which means it’s Advent.   Whee!  I love this time of year:  greenery, candles, coffee with nutmeg, brown sugar and a wee shot of brandy, bright lights and sparklies, getting gifts for those I love.  I know it’s childish, but hey, everybody needs a good Midwinter Festival.  Especially those of us here in the Northern latitudes.  It gets dark here about 4pm now, and getting up at dawn is no sweat, as the red ball of a sun hauls itself like a reluctant teenager above the horizon by about 8am.   I love the long dark, especially when I go into Edinburgh, or indeed into any town around here – Christmas lights along the streets and in the shops, a real snap to the air, and lots of folks rushing about with parcels and bags.  Mind you, it’d be a bit more Dickensian if they were actually enjoying all of this, rather than just surviving it, but I guess you can’t have everything – and every now and again I will catch someone’s eye, someone else who has seen the joke, and we’ll grin at one another.  That is a lovely feeling. 

Hope all my American pals have had a great Thanksgiving, and I hope you all enjoy the current holiday season.  Especially the music.   Advent always begins with plainsong for me – O Come, O Come Emmanuel...

Wish me a little health, if you would be so kind, and a following wind – and I hope to catch you all before Christmas.   Thanks for reading.

October 9, 2009 - Cold hands and loving it
Autumn is well and truly here.  I adore it!  My hybrid maple tree - half sugar maple, half red maple - is turning even as we speak, in a few days those leaves are going to be crimson.  I'm not even sure why I love this season so much, though I suspect a lot of it comes from having lived in Florida and Louisiana for so long, where it doesn't exist.  Scuffing through fallen leaves is one of the great joys of existence, there's nothing like that sound and the leaf-mould, slightly cinnamon-y smell.  Bliss!

That said - I normally run warm, have done since childhood, but am now pretty much freezing my fingers off.  Not usually a problem, though it does make it tricky to type.  However, I am taking a few hours off from the book (horrors!) to do some baking for a bake sale to benefit my chorus tomorrow (if you're interested, I sing barbershop with Hillfoot Harmony Chorus, in Dollar, Scotland, and also with Forth Valley Chorus in Edinburgh), and am going to take some of the extras around to a dear friend from Australia who lives in Scotland but really misses sun and warmth.  I'm trying to help her love Autumn.  A good album or two and some fresh gingerbread ought to help.

The story of Winds of Change and Shaping just keeps evolving.  This makes me very, very happy.  When I was working on the current chapter last night, I got a very unexpected visit from a creature I never thought to see, so I'm off to write that up in more detail.  Wheee!  I love my job!

September 20, 2009 - "What I did on my summer holidays"
July 4th weekend 2009 – Miracle of miracles!  I planned, actually planned a barbecue in Scotland, and it didn't pour with rain!  In fact it was a lovely day, and the house and garden started to fill up with friends about 3 pm, with my American pals bringing extra goodies like corn souffle and REAL American baked beans.  Seriously yum.

However, the highlight of the day was absolutely the Jane Yolen Lemonade™.  We experimented with lemon, sugar and lime juice, to find the ultimate combination, and when we found it – Jane foolishly asked if she could do anything to help.  She will never ask that again.  She may never let me near her again unless she's holding a baseball bat, because she ended up squeezing TWO bags of lemons in the name of home-made lemonade. With lime juice and sugar.  It was spectacular, I have to say, thanks to the stellar workforce!  And she was even a charming guest (as usual) thereafter, hardly complaining at all about the wrist strain.  A good time was had by all, and we met another Prestonpans writer, Annemarie Allan.  She writes quite good children's books – her website is www.annemarieallan.com.  Check out her work.  She's lovely in person as well, and she seemed to fit right in with all the cheery madness going on.  I love parties.

The Collective Birthday Treat – end of July 2009.  My darling husband's birthday is the day before mine (he's a year younger, my toy boy!), and he turned 50 this year, so we took one another to Orkney for four days as a treat.  It was splendid, the drive up was gorgeous and the weather was frighteningly good.  My previous experience of Orkney in the summer was of horizontal rain and cold winds.  I think we were rained on for about 30 seconds the whole time this trip, and the wind was gentle and warm.  Not that we would have minded either way.  We were both so enthralled by the astounding archaeology that is ubiquitous in the Orkneys that we wouldn't have cared much if it had snowed!  We did the whole tourist thing, visiting the neolithic sites like Skara Brae, Maes Howe, the Ring of Brodgar and the Stones of Stenness, the Tomb of the Eagles, and the much later settlement on the Brough of Birsay – only 10th century, honestly!  The best bit, though, was that there was an archaeological dig going on just between the Stones of Stenness and the Ring of Brodgar, and the archaeologists took tourists around the site twice a day, just letting us know what was happening.  It was utterly fascinating.  I, along with all the other gawkers, was handed a stone axe fresh out of the ground.  We were among the first to touch it after five thousand years.  Boggles the mind, and deary me, when celebrating one's 50th, it IS good to be around things that make one feel like a mayfly.

August contained work, a visit from a dear friend whom I hadn't seen in seven years, and a sea change.  The work was going reasonably well, but then my pal announced that he was coming up to visit from southern England.  I was thrilled to bits.  We've known one another for more than 30 years and I always find his company stimulating.  We ended up chatting into the wee hours, and the poor soul knows my mind so well after all this time that he gave the plot of upcoming Book 2 (Wind of the Unknown) a kick and it re-settled in my mind as something entirely different than it was before.  Better, deeper, vastly more engaging.  I'm still working on the implications for Book 3 (Word of the Winds), but oh my, folks, fasten your seatbelts!  I'm excited and wildly enthusiastic – be glad you're a long way away, and my poor darling husband Steven has to deal with the flak!

In the meantime, Book 1 (Winds of Change and Shaping) is tootling right along.  A few unexpected adventures – I always like the ones that just come along by themselves – and a bit of a surprise plot-wise, so all is going well. 

Oh, my friends, wish me luck and a following wind as I plough into the unknown here…Elizabeth

June 21, 2009 - first day of summer
I adore living in Scotland. Here it is, the first day of summer and it's in the low 70s! The garden is full of little birds, who appear to be inhaling the birdseed like unto so many tiny, feathery vacuum cleaners.  At least they sing cheerfully while - or presumably just after - doing so. It's a good sound.The book is going well. I had hit a bit of a snag, but have now realised that it's because I had skimmed over some really important scenes. I am currently madly re-writing the earlier bits, and working to make the baddies more believable, which is always fun. I am also astounded at the memories that some of these scenes are evoking, completely unexpectedly.  I wonder if normal (I almost said 'real' !) people feel this way.  So much of life has now become grist to the mill.  Everything I have suffered through, everything I have rejoiced in, the good, the bad, the crazy, the glorious - it all ends up in the writing sooner or later.  The good news is that it's all filtered though the lens of the book, and not even my nearest and dearest will recognise themselves. 

I hope. 

Wish me luck and a following wind!

May 21, 2009
Have just waved off two good friends, Tania Opland and Mike Freeman, who were visiting for not long enough, as usual.  Steven and I had a great time catching up with them, and I rejoiced that they brought along the Washing Up Fairy, who always seems to visit when they are in residence. (As does the New Bottle of Whisky Fairy, but I try not to advertise that one.) They are travelling professional musicians, who have many wonderful CDs available, including two produced in association with Anne McCaffrey to put her poetry to music. Those CDs are The Masterharper of Pern and Sunset's Gold, both available through their website: www.opland-freeman.com. Me, I'm a fan of their Cut to Rhythms, but having listened this morning to only a bit of a newly re-released  recording of Tania's called simply Tania Opland and broken down in tears at Rosemary's Sister, I can highly recommend this one as well. 

May has been a distracting kind of month so far. Spent a good 10 days dedicated to rehearsals and workshops and all sorts building up to the Sweet Adelines Region 31 convention (yes, I sing barbershop) here in the UK. It was held in Newcastle at the Sage Center, which has a brilliant stage with great acoustics. The chorus I sing with and help choreograph for, Hillfoot Harmony, came second in the Small Chorus category, and we were all thrilled out of our minds! We came 10th out of 20 overall, which for only our second contest isn't bad at all.  

There is something magical about Scotland in the spring/summer. We went to bed at 10:30 last night, and it was still twilight, a month off the longest day. My Floridian soul was enchanted, as it is every year. OK, we pay for it in winter and February is a bear, but oh, I love the long summer days. 

Ah, well, enough chat. Back to work. I'm bashing away at a very emotional scene for a character who isn't normally the center of attention, and it is hard graft getting him to open up about things! Well, ok, not literally, but you know what I mean. Wish me perseverance and a following wind!

April 14, 2009
What a lovely Easter holiday! My DH and I nipped over to Ireland in early April to visit with Anne McCaffrey for a few days. She and her marvellous minder, Carol, were delightful hostesses and we were treated like absolute royalty, so bless you Anne and Carol and thanks for the great visit! 

Alas, both Steven and I seem to have come back with a mild version of the Irish dysentery, so I am only just back at work. The book is going well. I'm just laying down the bones at the moment, but it is *such* fun writing from the Twins' point of view!  

We spent much of Easter Sunday visiting with our pals Deborah Turner Harris and her husband Robert J. Harris, both much-published writers. They both have excellent solo books out there, and both have teamed up with other writers: Bob has some great YA novels out there written with Jane Yolen, and Debby writes the Templar Books with Katherine Kurtz.  

We had such a great day on Sunday - it was sunny and mild, and we met up with other friends Anita & Alan McFadzean and Mark & Kirsty Nicol (with attendant children and dogs) in the garden of a lovely house in St. Andrews. Thank you so much Aunty Jane! It was absolutely beautiful, but we missed you. 

Hmm - this is starting to sound like a blog. Best talk to Master Hans about that. Oh, well, back to work!

March 24, 2009

Whew! All's well as ends better, as Sam Gamgee said.  I have a contract! WHEEE! (Oh dear. I bet *real* writers don't say WHEEE when they get a contract...). 

I am thrilled, and daunted - the schedule is a lot shorter than I used to take to write a book.  In the past it took me 1.5-2 years per book. This has me writing a book a year! Yipe! 

Never mind.  I'm following Jane Yolen's advice - get your 1000-2000 words written per day, and then the afternoon is yours!  It seems to be working well so far.

The first book is due out in April 2011, barring accidents and acts of God.  Please, my friends, keep your fingers crossed for me, and wish me inspiration, perseverance and a following wind!  I'll try to write a little something here every week or so, just to keep in touch. Thanks for your patience!

March 13, 2009

Hello folks - a quick note from panic central here. My wonderful editor Claire sent me an email on Friday that I didn't get until Sunday night late: she wants a proposal for a 3-book story arc for this week. 


Ok, that's a *good* ARRRGGGHH, but it's an ARRRGGGHH none the less. Am madly trying to gather my scattered thoughts for the second two books! Luckily she has said she doesn't need details, just an idea of where I want to go with the story.  It's great fun, and I'm thrilled, but - ARRRGGGHH!

February 2009 - a new website

Tra la! This website IS the news! My old Elizabeth Kerner site was created and maintained by my friend Sandy Fleming, back when he had time to deal with such things. Alas, real life has intervened and that is no longer the case, he is exceedingly busy and cannot take that responsibility any longer. He only ever did it as an act of kindness, and I would like to thank him here for all the trouble he took over the site.

The good news is, no sooner had I given up hope of ever updating anything, along comes a marvellous offer from another friend! My good pal Hans van der Boom, whom I met through Anne McCaffrey's website, has volunteered to set up this brilliant new site and in the process has made it much simpler to update and is even going to set up a guestbook that he and I can protect from – or at least monitor for – robot spam, etc. Therefore please put your hands together for Hans van der Boom, who has so kindly undertaken this mammoth task. I am much in your debt, my friend. So please delete the elizabethkerner.com from your bookmarks and add www.elizabethkerner.org!

NB – no other mammoths need apply.