June Update

In the Back Yard

Summer has finally arrived here in the Twin Cities after what seemed like a VERY long winter. The grass is green, dandelions are popping up all over, and the purple magnolia (Magnolia Ann) in our back yard survived its first Minnesota winter, no small feat. The picture above is from a month ago, mid-May, when the flower buds were just starting to emerge. (As to the yellow spots in the yard, well, if you have a dog you know what they are!)

Book Update

There’s now a complete first draft of Book 1 of the new series, best described as a mystery series with speculative elements. For now I’m still sticking to Dogwood as the title, though that might change later on. Luckily, unlike the rest of what goes into a novel, it’s the one thing that can be settled on at the last minute and mulled over and over in the meantime. I find that my brain likes to play with potential titles in the quest for a more catchy one or one that better captures the essence of the story or has some mysterious it factor.

At the very least, I’ll be adding a subtitle… A Peculiar Botanist Mystery, Book 1 is the front runner for now, though I’m not sure if it conveys enough of the speculative part of things.

Travel News

We have two family trips planned this summer, both of which I’m very much looking forward to, and then in September I’ve signed up for a writing retreat, something I’ve wanted to do for a while now but the timing never worked out before. It’s the Writing Excuses Workshop and Retreat 2022, which will take place on a cruise ship sailing the West Caribbean.

The plan is to take along a near-final draft of Dogwood to edit, along with a second goal of planning the structure of Book 2. And then goal three, which might be most important one, to hang out with and meet other writers! And four, enjoy the sightseeing and the ship and hopefully avoid getting seasick… I’ve been on short boat rides but never on a cruise, so I won’t know until then and there about the seasickness part, wish me luck : )


Pics from Pompeii

Just returned from a local-color and fact-gathering weeklong trip to Pompeii for the book I’ve been working on. I’ve been wanting to go for a while now and the stars finally aligned. It was extraordinary to walk on the ancient paving stones and to see the places I’ve spent the past year, on and off, reading and writing about. Travel time from Minneapolis was about 20 hours and the jet lag weighed me down a bit, but I returned having met some great people — Italians and co-travelers from Britain, New Zealand, Spain, and California, not to mention our trusty tour leader Tony O’Connor, who patiently answered all my questions about what life in ancient Pompeii might have been like — and with a camera full of photos and some good notes.

Here is a picture of me in the Forum, with a notepad, camera, hat, backpack, and shades:

Venus in a shell
HAVE = Welcome
Villa Oplontis

Floor mosaic with geometric design.
Vesuvius, framed between two pine trees. 

The picture below was taken from Vesuvius looking in the direction of Naples, though it’s hard to get a sense of scale. To get to the summit, you take a local bus for a somewhat hair-raising drive up a narrow two-way road with blind curve upon blind curve, followed by a walk up to the crater on a steep gravelly road. The views are well worth it. We thought we saw a bit of steam drift up from the crater and smelled sulfur at one point, after which we had to rush downhill so as not to miss our bus.

I even took an afternoon off to relax by the hotel pool, with its cliff-top views of the bay and lemon trees for shade, and sat in a lounge chair doing light edits of the manuscript. Writing is hard work.


View from hotel in Vico Equense. That’s Vesuvius across the bay.