I just got THE COVER!!

My editor just emailed me the current cover for SPITFIRE to get my feedback, and he gave me permission to share, so…..

I’m thrilled with the way it turned out and have suggested just a few minor tweaks (like a slightly bolder title). 

Comments & suggestions are welcome!

Meanwhile…I keep coming back to my computer to look at it.  My book has a COVER!

SPITFIRE Presentation

I gave my first presentation on SPITFIRE on Monday and couldn’t have asked for a more pleasant and receptive audience.  Clinton Community College hosts a teachers’ historical workshop about Benedict Arnold in the Champlain Valley.   Facilitators Tom Mandeville and John Mockry do a fantastic job sharing knowledge about Lake Champlain history and leading field trips around the region. 

I was the after-lunch speaker on Monday.   They had lasagna, and I worried about this, but only one person dozed off a little, and I think I woke him up with my bo’sun’s whistle. (It’s used to issue orders during battle…or to get attention during a presentation as the need arises…)

I presented my PowerPoint about the Battle of Valcour Island on Lake Champlain, the real 12-year-old boy who fought in that battle, and how I researched his life and life on board an 18th century gunboat to write SPITFIRE.   I also gave teachers a sneak peak at my school presentation, showing some of the artifact replicas, articles of clothing, and other 18th century treats I’ll be sharing with students this fall.

I gave my first reading from SPITFIRE to people who don’t live with me, and that was a terrific feeling.  The teachers were kind enough to laugh in all the right places, had nice things to say about my research and writing, and clapped when I was done.

It was a wonderful afternoon, and it was great to spend time with people who love Lake Champlain and its history as much as I do.

What’s in a name?

I took a long drive through the Adirondacks and along Lake Champlain this morning for a research trip to the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum. It was  a perfect day — beautiful weather, fantastically helpful people, and great photographs for my Monday presentation to a teachers’ historical workshop.   Excitement about the new Harry Potter book made me slam on the brakes for a photo op…

Doesn’t this sound like a place where the Dursleys would send Harry to get beat up?    Camp Dudley is actually a beautiful YMCA camp on Lake Champlain, but really… who wants to be named after the mean, chubby cousin?

And how about this road?  Do you suppose real estate values have gone down?  I’d rather live on Dumbledore Drive any day.

Just three more days, by the way!  We spent yesterday making our wands for the midnight release party.  They sparkle, and they really work.  When you flick your wand and shout, “Stupefy!” people go flying dramatically into walls.  (At least at our house, they do…)

Stormy sunrise

Yesterday was the first day in almost a week that we haven’t had storms in the Champlain Valley. This morning, I woke up to thunder again, went down to close the windows on the sun porch, and saw the sun coming up across the lake, through the pouring rain.  I sat for half an hour and watched it rise, then disappear into the bank of clouds spreading east.  I’ve lived here almost nine years and taken lots of pictures, but today was new.  I’m a day late for Thankful Thursday, but I am always thankful for stolen moments like these…

Some updates…

Several people have sent me notes & comments asking about the progress in the Case of the Journal in the Woods.   For now, it remains in the possession of a multi-generational group of Nancy Drew wannabes.  We’ve been told that Kris at the DEC takes care of the old trail logs, where there might be evidence of who hiked the trails noted on particular dates in the journal, and we’ve emailed Kris a list of dates.  He said he’d check it out and get back to us within a couple weeks.  I’ll keep you posted!

As for the powder horns on the roof…  they smell bad.  Yesterday, the rain washed one of them down the roof slope almost to the gutter.  I need to climb out and bring it back up tomorrow so it doesn’t fall onto the car in the driveway below.  A broken windshield would be a crummy end to this experiment.

St. Elmo’s Fire

I boarded the Kings’ ship; now in the beak,
Now in the waist, the deck, in every cabin,
I flamed amazement; sometime I’d divide
And burn in many places; on the topmast
The yards and bowsprit, would I flame distinctly
Then meet and join.

The Tempest (Act I, Scene 2)
William Shakespeare

I just saw the coolest thing ever. 

It was stormy again on Lake Champlain, so even though I should have been working on my new MG historical after the kids went to bed tonight, I was out on my sun porch trying to take pictures of lightning.

About two minutes after I took this picture (in which I caught the cool purple glow but missed the bolt), a distinct glow appeared at the top of the mast of my neighbor’s sailboat.  About two seconds later, a huge, zig-zaggity bolt of lightning came down and, if it didn’t hit the sailboat directly, came awfully close.

The glow was what sailors used to call St. Elmo’s Fire.  It was plasma — gas whose molecules were ripped apart by high voltage to create a glowing soup of protons and electrons.  It’s basically the same thing that happens inside the tube of a neon sign to make it light up.  But tonight, it happened at the tip of my neighbor’s sailboat mast.  While I was sitting on the porch watching. 

I’ve seen this phenomenon before at the Boston Museum of Science Lightning Show.  They have a Van de Graaff generator there that produces an indoor lightning storm, and sure enough, we saw that static-like, sparky glow before the lightning zapped in the Hall of Electricity. 

To see it in the museum was fascinating and thought-provoking. 

To see it in nature was awesome and humbling. 

And just so darn cool.


Today, J and his friend raided the recycling bin and made boats out of milk jugs, water bottles, aluminum cans, fan parts, batteries, paper sails, wooden dowels, small motors removed from broken remote control vehicles, and duct tape.  Lots of duct tape.  They took them down to the lake to race.

E and I perched on the big rock on our beach and pretended to be mermaids and sirens.  We sang songs to lure the boats onto the rocks to be dashed to pieces.  One of them did, in fact, end up dashed to pieces, but I’m not sure it had anything to do with us.  Do you think Homer’s sirens sang “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” and “Somewhere Over the Rainbow?”

Then we had s’mores. 

I love s’mores.  I love recycled, duct tape boats. I love being a mermaid (though it was tough holding my legs still and together for so long) and being a mom. 

Signing off now, to go wash the marshmallow out of my hair….

Things that don’t last~

It was one of those rainy, sunny, rainy, cloudy, sunny, rainy-again days on Lake Champlain.  Which means perfect weather for this:

I love rainbow pictures.  I’ve rushed into the house for my camera so many times that I have a permanent bruise where my shin always slams into the last step on the deck.  We have a little gallery of lake-rainbow pictures in the front hallway. 

And I have a thing for lightning, too.  If you’ve never tried to photograph lightning with a regular, pretty cheap digital camera, you should know that it’s not easy.  I’ll sit through an entire storm on the sun porch with my trigger finger on the camera, just waiting for that bolt that lasts a split second longer than the rest. 

Here’s a shot from a couple weeks ago…

I mentioned my penchant for photographing lovely, intangible things to my very funny and very wicked friend Nancy at an English teachers’ lunch, and she smirked at me.

 “What will you be photographing next week?  Hope?  Serendipity?  Nuance, perhaps?’ 

And that’s when I figured it out.  Capturing things that don’t last,  things that hang in the air but can’t be touched, is the reason so many of us write.  It’s a way to make hope and prisms and jagged flashes of light last forever,  a way to share them and take them home.