Good News for My Most Recent Novel, The Price!

After writing my blog this morning in which I discuss writing and success, I learned that The Price has been awarded an Indie BRAG Medallion. I’m very happy because The Price is the third book in a series and the other two — Savior and The Brothers Path both had won this award. I’ve been wanting to publish them for Kindle as a series, one huge file, and now I can.

When readers evaluate a book for the BRAG Medallion they fill out rating sheets. I’ve read some non-fiction books and the process is detailed and the standards are high. I was very happy to read the ratings for The Price. They were both gratifying and helpful. Because of them I felt less discouraged AND I got a heads up about a few minor problems in the text that I had missed.

Here are the comments:

  1. The book could have used better formatting. Not to be too picky, but sometimes the chapters started on a fresh kindle page, and sometimes they started on the same page the previous chapter had ended. A small detail, but one that I noticed. There were a few other mistakes, although I can’t recall them now. The cover could have been better – maybe with the image of the people making their way to the new world. It would help readers connect with the charactes in the story. Overall, though, I loved the book. Its point of view of the immigrants who first settled in the US was fascinating; the conflicting feelings they would have had about leaving were heartbraking (sic); the trials they endured something I cannot even imagine living through on my own. The characters were ones I could connect with, the writing was well done. The issues I mentioned above were minor, but detract from an otherwise wonderful story.
  2. Well written and an attention grabber throughout the book and how these immigrants made it in the new world
  3. The Price deserves to be considered a classic, along with such novels on immigration to America as Giants in the Earth. It is a book that should be taught in schools and read by every American, especially those who have forgotten their immigrant origins. I have given a slightly lower rating for style: the opening couple of chapters do not have the polish and professional tone of the rest of the book. I’ve also given a lower rating for copy editing. Too often words are missing, and a couple of times it looks like a spell checker may have substituted the wrong word for what was clearly intended. I recommend one more careful edit, for the importance of this book, one more careful edit is well worth it.

Some of the “typos” I cannot fix — they are in quotations from materials printed in the 18th century when printers used abbreviations for words such as “which” (wch), but the few real problems Amazon also caught on the upload of the newly formatted version. Which brings me to more good gnus…

I got some good software, finally, for making books to read on eReaders — so far I’m only publishing on Kindle, but the software is good for other formats, too. Formatting for Kindle has been a huge challenge for me because, first of all, I don’t use an eReader and, second, I had no really good software for formatting them. I used it first on the work in progress, As a Baby Duck Listens to Thunder and today I reformatted both The Price and The Brothers Path. I’ll be reformatting Savior, Martin of Gfenn and My Everest.

My Grandma’s Trunk

I found a trunk very similar to my grandma’s trunk on an auction site, though it’s larger and in slightly better condition with the original paper covering still in place. It has patent dates of 1865 which seems pretty likely to me for my old trunk. It means it’s likely to have belonged to my grandmother’s grandmother, Phoebe Copenbarger, the daughter of Elizabeth Snavely (Schneebeli) the last person in my family to have the glorious Swiss name of Schneebeli. Phoebe very likely bought it new and took it with her west from Wythe County, Virginia (See The Price) to Iowa by covered wagon in the 1860s.

The other posts I’ve written (that will certainly make this one less cryptic and provide needed context) are here

“Schneebeli” means “Little snowball” and the family actually had/has a crest. This is really, “Schneebeli von Baden und Affoltern am Albis.” I’m afraid if I saw three snowballs on a shield I wouldn’t be sure whether to laugh or fight, but yeah, this is legit. But I guess it means any fight they fought was a snowball fight…



Cold morning out here in the real west (no surprise). I’m sad that one cup of coffee is (for good reasons, not the least of which the second doesn’t taste that good) the limit. That one cup is so good…

The chilly draft in my 90 year old house swirls around my wool-socked feet. I have two manuscripts on the table here, and one has been printed into a book. The best part of that is that I spelled the faux title of my own novel wrong. Never mind it’s the name of members of my own family. I’m an endless sense of amusement and frustration to myself.

The thing of printing a manuscript into a book is that it’s very helpful to me in the proofreading process. This isn’t a legit book in terms of formatting and other stuff, but it’s book-like.

It’s been edited professionally, something I wish I had been wise enough to do for Martin of Gfenn. Every subsequent book has had that advantage and it’s major. There’s also the thing (with a self-published book) that each time you need to deal with the manuscript you risk typos. At this point with Martin of Gfenn the typos are mostly spacing problems, still, who wants that?

In any case, yesterday when the book-like-thing arrived I thumbed through it and realized (for the first time) that I like the story. I saw what I have done — I have written a love story that’s not smarmy and predictable. I have created a complex female protagonist with integrity, passion, and genuine feelings. My male protagonist (antagonist?) never overcomes his flaws or sees them; he’s consistently himself and worthy of Aescylus or some guy like that.

When I started this book, I fought it all the way. I didn’t want to write about a woman, and there was nothing about the male hero that I liked.

One thing that happens when a person writes fiction is they soon discover that the people in the stories are not “their creations” at all but the emerge all on their own and demand to be themselves.

But they’re pretty loose about how you spell their names…

Progress… and Audiences

I’ve finished (finished? ha ha ha ha) the edits on The Schneebelis Go to America aka The Price. It’s been a long haul but I don’t think I can bitch with any justification because no one is making me do this and it’s a purely elective and rather minor activity in the grand scheme. In the scheme of my life, though, it’s pretty important, I guess.

I don’t think the book is very good, but I’ve done what I often do, I’ve gone to a self-publishing platform and I’m “publishing” one copy so I can see it as a book and do a read through in a different format than this screen or 8 1/2 x 11 pages.

I’m still not sure if I’ll go to the trouble of trying to sell it. The books I’ve already written didn’t (and don’t) sell so why would I?

Am I discouraged? No, not in the least. Since 1998 when I began writing Martin of Gfenn (that’s 20 years ago) I’ve gone through a very wide range of experiences as a writer. I suppose it’s a kind of maturation. Martin of Gfenn is my best book, but it still has typos. The other two novels benefited from professional editing. And I consider My Everest to be another thing completely.

I can’t answer for why other people write. I write because I like to, that’s the biggest thing. If it works it’s just a lot of fun. When I was teaching, writing was a thing apart from hours and hours in the classroom, and it was something at which I could succeed on some level. Teaching remained a career where I never got tenure and constantly taught part-time — not my fault, it didn’t mean I was a bad teacher, it just made more sense economically for schools to hire part-time vs. tenured faculty. That frustration and relentless impotence about my future was good training for submitting novels to agents.

But there are other audiences and different successes. A few years ago I decided I wanted my one remaining (in her right mind) aunt, the youngest of my mother’s sisters, to know who I am. I had a very intense feeling she needed to know that I was OK, that I have a good life and a little something about what I do. I sent her Martin of Gfenn which she loved. I followed it with Savior and The Brothers Path and explained that those two novels were fiction based on what I knew about my grandma’s family — my Aunt Dickie’s mother’s family. — our family. She loved The Brothers Path and had her church book club read it.

Her last letter to me was March 2017, and in it, she told me how the book club had liked the book and what was going on in her life. And she asked me to keep writing the story of my grandma’s family. Whether this book is any good or not, my Aunt Dickie would have liked it. She died just before Thanksgiving last year.


Slogging Along

Since my hip replacement roughly two months ago, I’ve made a lot of progress. I’m at the point with my Blessed Airdyne that I’m riding 10 miles in about 30 minutes, and I do intervals which is challenging and keeps it from being completely boring. Since the biggest problem I’m contending with now is a knee as bad as was my hip — and the non-surgical solution to that is weight loss (and I’m absolutely willing) — I did some research to find out what I have to do to make the Airdyne a weightloss tool. You know, besides, basically, ride it. 🙂 I have arthritic knees which makes a bike (stationary or otherwise) a perfect tool for rehab and fitness especially as I HATE the other good exercise, swimming. I even found a video of some buff guy working out (doing intervals) on a machine exactly like mine:

But when I researched how FAR I need to ride to lose weight, I got useless information. “Ride 60 to 90 minutes five days a week for weight loss.” This means NOTHING. A person can go 1 mph and that’s not going to work. The question is HOW FAR? (Or, alternatively, how fast for how long).

A long long time ago when I was a kid I had like a baby science book. In that book was an illustration of two chairs, both nailed to the floor, each with a feather on the seat. In picture one, a guy (in a toga, no one knows why) struggled to lift the chair off the floor. Sweat sprayed from his face and body (ah, that explains the toga; it helped show how hard he was endeavoring to lift the chair). The other toga-clad lad had lifted the feather from the seat of the chair. THAT was the physics definition of work. He had succeeded in lifting the feather and transporting it somewhere. That stuck in my mind.  The first guy struggled; the second guy worked, so when I googled “How far should I ride my bike for weightloss” in other words how many miles (real or virtual) do I need to move this feather if I hope to lose weight. I got,

As you get comfortable spending more time in the saddle, schedule longer rides during the week. If you do three cycling workouts each week, complete one short ride (30 minutes), make one ride a moderate duration (45 minutes), and set a goal to ride one longtour (60 to 120 minutes) each week

I kept googling questions involving “how far” for both stationary and actual bicycles and kept getting the same answers. No mention of “distance.”

Therefore, to lose body fat, you want to burn as many calories as possible during your stationary bike workouts. Increasing your workouts from 30 to 60 minutes is ideal. According to Harvard Health, a 155 pound person will burn about 520 calories per hour of bicycling at a moderate pace. The stationary bike is not the most effective cardio activity to burn calories, so longer workouts are more ideal.

Added to that absurdity is the phrase “more ideal.” Ideal is the, uh, ideal. There’s nothing above it.

So… long long ago I remember learning an equation that 1 mile walking is roughly equal to two miles riding a bike AT ANY SPEED. Because what matters is how far you take the damned feather.

Soon I’ll be taking the real bike out of the garage and riding it. It’s pretty boring to ride a stationary bike all the time. My dog walks aren’t going to be very far for a while, and I really really really want to put off knee surgery as long as I can.

The other slog is the Schneebelis. I spent part of the morning describing their log cabins and gardens. I have to say this about my upbringing. I grew up out here in the last frontier (other than space)  and log cabins are still common sights everywhere I’ve lived (except downtown Denver and San Diego). All I have to do if I want to see a log cabin is saddle up Bear or Dusty and head across the golf course, so there is a dirth of excitement in this writing about log cabins and pioneer kitchen gardens, but I’m doing it. It must be done and after it’s done it will be edited (yay!) so perhaps readers will not have to slog as I am through the historical remnants of Schneebelian life.

Oh, the cabin in the photo up top was built by one of my ancestors, a guy named Jacob Leber. He was from the mountain area near Lucerne. It was built in York County, PA but moved in the 1980s. He built it over a stream which was apparently a common thing to do. All I can say is the streams back east must be a lot more predictable than the streams out here.

Slogging is OK. I just requires patience and faith. Also the understanding that maybe it won’t work, but at least you don’t have to live without having given it a shot. I’ve gotten pretty skillful at slogging by now.

As for the word of the day? Forgive me but I have no clue what to do with clew in any of its meanings. At least now I know it for if someday I need it.

Schneebeli News

I contacted my wonderful editor, Beth Bruno, about “The Schneebelis Go to America” (working title). I knew something was missing and, deep down, I knew what, but I didn’t want to write it. Sometimes…

I didn’t even know if the book said what I was trying to say — it’s been a tough one to write as the protagonist is unsympathetic, and the destination was not one I would choose. But when I looked at it earlier this spring I saw it is a good story, the people seemed real to me (after months of not looking at it) and I wanted to give my Aunt Dickie the last wish she expressed to me, “Keep telling the story of my mother’s family.”

So I asked for help.

An editor your hire is your ally. Beth has worked with me on two books — Savior and  The  Brothers Path.  We’ve worked on my manuscripts at all levels. I knew if she could see what I am doing, she would support that. If it wasn’t clear to her, she’d let me know. A good editor is a skillful reader.

Today I heard from her. I am so happy I contacted her. She read what I hoped to write.

…this is a touching story about family with its focus on marriage and how two people in love can still find it impossible to move ahead because their life goals are so different. Love doesn’t conquer all after all. They explore difficult issues of love, loyalty, compromise and taking risks at various choice points in their lives.
The reason I think it deserves a longer ending that allows the story to develop further is that I don’t think enough happens after the family reaches America to give the reader some sense of whether the trip was worth it or not. The fact that their passage wound up being on a death ship only makes letting the survivors cope for a few weeks that much more important. Otherwise, the loss of Verena and Elisabethli is for naught and teaches Hans Kaspar nothing at all. The part about the ending that I do like is seeing Conrad come into his own and go forth into the future with a sense of purpose and readiness to create a family that honors Verena’s memory.
Again, I found myself caring deeply about these people because what they are going through is so real — not only from the standpoint of your wonderful writing but also from the historical truths they portray.


Her edits couldn’t come back to me at a better time, either. My hip rehab has hit the next level which I recognize from last time. I’m at the “I feel pretty good; I get tired and need to nap; I take short walks that wear me out; God this is boring,” moment. My body is interested in healing the physical trauma now that the shock is over. I can fall into a deep nap at any point in the day, “Sorry sweet cheeks, we need a nap,” says the incision, the joint, the bone, “move over.”

Opening of “The Schneebelis Go to America” (Working [or not working] title)

Currant Jelly

“Verena!” Hans Kaspar called through the open door. Inside, he saw Verena and Katarina, the kitchen maid, making jelly. It bubbled in the copper kettle like liquid rubies.

Hearing his voice, Verena’s heart filled the sky. “I will be right back.” She handed the wooden spoon to Katarina. Hans Kaspar stood in the shade of the apple tree, a traveling bag over his shoulder.

“Come with me,” he said. “Now.” He reached for her hand and pulled her close.

“We’re in the middle of making jelly.”

“Jelly?” Hans Kaspar sighed in exasperation. “Verena.” he looked into her blue eyes. “I’ve missed you so much, and — JELLY?”

“Come help us. We’re about to pour it.”

Hans Kaspar followed her, ducking to escape a head-banging on the low lintel. He was useful. He was strong and tall enough to lift the copper kettle high and pour the boiling liquid into the jars.

When they were finished tying oiled paper to the top of each small jar, Hans Kaspar took Verena’s hand and led her outside.“I brought you something.” He held out a linen packet tied with string. “Open it.”


“Open it.”

Verena untied the string. Inside was a shift made of linen so fine she could almost see through it. It was edged in subtle cutwork that had come from Bruges. It laced up the back with a blue ribbon.

“Hans Kaspar. It’s beautiful. Where did you…?” Verena blushed.

“A customer paid me with that lace. I had the linen left from a shirt I made for someone or another.”

It was an intimate gift, saying many things that had not been spoken between them. Verena did not know what to think. He’d thought of her, imagined her wearing this, made it. She held the fine linen to her cheek, feeling deeply happy and deeply confused at the same time.

He took her hand and held it to his chest. “Come with me now, Verena. There’s a meeting in the forest, half a dozen or so people who are also interested in going America. It won’t be long. Then we can go to my rooms.”

Verena’s heart sank. Hans Kaspar had been gone for six months. He’d traveled with his brothers, Othmar and Kleinhans, to help them settle in the Alsace, the first stepping stone to their great plan of life in America. They planned to emigrate within the year. America was Hans Kaspar’s obsession, but he was not ready, not financially, and not yet settled in his heart, so he had come home. Verena let go of his hand.


“I’ll see you tomorrow, Hans Kaspar, if you come by, and I am home.” She handed him the shift and turned toward the house.

“Verena, you are unfair,” he called after her, grabbing her arm. “I do not say I’m going to America, but I have pamphlets and letters for those who are. And this is yours.” He put the package back into in her hands.

She shook her arm loose from his grip, but she took the linen blouse with her.


Hans Kaspar lifted Verena’s long, brown hair and kissed the back of her neck. He found her hand, entwined his fingers with hers and pulled her down beside him. She sighed deeply in the warmth of love returned.

He held her close on the narrow bed in the cubby in his room upstairs from the tailor shop. “Would you, Verena? Would you come with me to America?”

Shaken from the warmth of their intimacy, she sat up.

“Verena, please! If you truly love me, you would want us to share this adventure. Our children growing up in a new world, free to worship and to live as they please. We could be happy there, Verena.”

“How can you think that I could leave my father, Hans Kaspar?”

“He can come with us.”

“He is old, Hans Kaspar. He would not survive the voyage. We might not survive the voyage. Why can’t we be happy HERE?”

“If you would but read the words of Mr. Penn.” William Penn’s promise of religious freedom and land appealed to these people who — for six generations — had been hounded, imprisoned, killed; their property taken.

“I have read those promises. We all have. Father says if something seems too good to be true then it is too good to be true. How is risking your life that way better than taking your chances here? Your father is rich. You have a trade. With your brothers in America, you will be the only son still in Affoltern. Your father will need you.”

“Maybe you just need to think about it.”

“I have thought about it.” Verena sat on the edge of the bed.

“Let’s not think talk about it now. Come to sleep, my love,” he said, reaching for her. “Now we have each other, and we are alone.”

But for Verena the bed had grown cold.

Hans Kaspar had not even twenty-four hours for her and only her. She blinked away tears of frustration. Her beautiful linen shift, untied at the top, the remaining deshabille from their night together.

“Next time I’ll make you one that’s easier for you,” said Hans Kaspar in a soft voice, gently joking as he tied the laces himself.

Verena opened the curtain.

“Where are you going?”


“I thought you understood.”

Understanding is not enough,” she thought, pulling her shawl close around her.

“See you later?” he called out as Verena closed the door behind her.

“Not if I can help it,” she thought.

She ran down the stairs and stepped outside into the low fog of early morning. She was soon out of the village, on the road toward home.

Though the ash, alder and linden were still in summer green. The mist swirling from the hollows promised autumn. A pile of rocks overgrown with vines, all that remained of a long-fallen castle wall, marked her turning. The road led to her father’s half-timber farm house on a hilltop that dropped into a wide meadow, a barn and corral.

Verena hoped the long walk through the forest to the farm would soothe her aching heart, but anger had sped her along, and she’d had no chance to think. The sun broke in earnest against the horizon.

She sat down on the pile of rubble, took off her cap, and shook her hair loose in the breeze. The bottom of her skirt was soaked in dew. She picked up a loose stone and threw it at the rotting trunk of a fallen linden tree. “Who would care for my father? There is no one else. Hans Kaspar asks too much. He should stay here, care for his father and make a home with me. Why does he think America will fix anything?”

You have nothing left with which to persuade him,” whispered her heart.

“Oh why did I not hear him the first time?” she said, throwing another rock.

You did not want to,” said the same small voice.

Quotidian Notice, 4.5.1a — Bidness as Usual, Again…

I just want to wake up some morning, look at the news and NOT see something completely wack and absurd coming out of the Twittering “mouth” of the whatever that is occupying the White House. I say this without even being a liberal. I don’t ‘understand why anyone complains about His Grossness being at Mar-a-Lago playing golf.

In other news, I’ve resolved the question of the protagonist of my novel-in-progress. I think I knew all along, I just had reservations because I just don’t much like the guy. BUT what makes him unlikeable to ME is the same thing that makes him an interesting, compelling, character, so I am slogging along, trying to balance the background information my readers  need while (hopefully) writing an interesting story and creating, replicating a world. Always the problem of someone who writes historical fiction. It is not always fun. (What? Not always fun?)

Fortunately, I have my assistants to keep me on the right track and remind me that the really important stuff is feeding them, cleaning up the yard after them, taking them for a walk and generally arranging my life for their convenience. 😉

Mindy T

Mindy T.,

Polar Bear Yeti T. Dog

Polar Bear Yeti T. AND


Dusty T. Dog



If you think humans communicate primarily in words, well, you’re mistaken. For most of the 200,000 years we’ve been around, we’ve communicated with things. In a way, words are one of the things we’ve devised to speed up communication. Enduring words are found on “things.”

Long ago (1959) my mom tried to communicate with me with this thing. This thing is an old trunk (duh). When I first met it, it was in my grandmother’s cellar and it was filled with books. Cool books, too. My mom’s books from an earlier, more dreamy, period of her life. One of those books had a huge impact on my life, and I wrote about it here. As time passed, the trunk came to our house and my mom started trying to figure out what to “do” with it. She thought of using it as a planter and had a custom metal box made to sit in the top instead of the old and broken wooden one (I don’t even know where that metal box went — but here’s the wooden one, where it’s been for well over 100 years). She got some Formby’s (the furniture refinisher of the day) and cleaned all the paper covering off the outside. She tried to repair the hinges in the back (they are still broken — unscrewed from the old wood, permanently, I’m afraid).

This thing. “You’ll inherit your grandmother’s sewing machine and the trunk.”

“What,” I thought, “will I do with that? I’m a world traveler, not an acquirer of stuff!!!”

Everyone acquires stuff, and this is my stuff now. I don’t know exactly what my mom was trying to say with the trunk. I know she felt it was important. I know she believed it belonged to my grandmother’s grandmother, one Phoebe Copenbarger. It could have come with my grandmother’s father’s mother, a Stober. My grandmother had HER Stober grandmother’s first name (Harriet).

All this leads to the question — who WERE these people and why should they matter to me? They didn’t matter to me much. All of that was so long ago, a dim past and memories that even my mother didn’t have…

My mom was convinced, however, and often said, “It came with Phoebe Copenbarger from the old country.” She didn’t even know what “old country.”

But I do…

Now that I’m writing a novel that is a VERY fictionalized account of the actual people in the actual old country I look at this trunk and wonder what influence it’s had on my life. My mom was interested in her “roots.” We went chasing after them when I was a kid. It was a lot more difficult back in the 60s to find out anything (and, in a way more interesting since it could involve travel and going to newspaper offices and libraries, not just sitting in front of a lap top and typing something in a search bar). Her work actually added something to the known facts of these obscure people. On a distant second cousin with whom I used to work has posted photos of our family that she got from my mom. Phoebe is the VERY old lady in the lower right corner…


So, the trunk. It could have come from the “old country” but Phoebe didn’t. She came from Virginia. The “old country” was four or five generations away from Phoebe. She is the daughter of the last person in my ancestry to have the name “Snavely” or “Schneebeli” — the name of a family from Affoltern am Albis, many of whom emigrated in the mid-18th century from Switzerland and the Alsace. I don’t think it’s very likely that the trunk came with the Schneebelis.


The hand-painted lithograph in the lid doesn’t say much — but my experience studying and writing about Godey’s Lady’s Book, and looking at thousands of images throughout the 19th century, puts it in the early-mid 1800s. Phoebe Copenbarger could have used it — but where. Maybe just to come west. I will never really know. I am sure, however, that when my grandmother, grandfather and their little family came west from Iowa to Montana in the early 1900s, grandma used the trunk.

I wish I knew the true story of this trunk. In any case (ha ha) it’s gone from being an annoying burden to tote around for the sake of “family” to an interesting relic that has been, maybe this whole time, trying to tell me something.