Tag Archives: carding vermont

How Long Does It Take to Write a Book?

I was recently contacted by a potential client who’s looking for someone to produce a book for him. In addition to book production, he asked me about ghost writing.
Spiral clock
Generally speaking, I turn down this type of work because I find it difficult to fit in someone else’s writing parameters. But I put in a bid because he asked and we’ll see.

During our discussion, he asked THE question—how long does it take to write a book?

The short answer is: It depends.

It depends on the type of book.

It depends on the amount of research needed and where those resources are located.

It depends on how much information the client provides.

It depends on how clear the client is about her or his ultimate goals.

It depends…it depends…it depends.

Let me share an example with you so you can see why “It depends” is the shortest answer to this question.

Years ago, I was approached to ghost write a book by a man who claimed he had discovered the answer to life’s most persistent question. (It’s gravity, in case you were wondering.)

It was the first time I had considered ghost writing, and it was quite the lesson in the difference between perception and reality.

First of all, the gentleman had absolutely no clue how a book is created. (This is not unusual. We’re surrounded by books but unless you’ve done this kind of work, there’s no way to know what’s involved. Same goes for building a house or learning brain surgery or figuring out how to engineer a car or sculpt in stone.)

It took a while but I finally figured out that this man just wanted someone to listen to him talk. (He once threw out the tidbit that his wife had had to listen to a number of his theories, and I got the distinct impression that she’d grown quite weary of doing that.)

But here’s the kicker—he claimed to have done all sorts of research and to have accumulated all sorts of notes for me to use. When I pressed to see the material, he literally produced three napkins, a few scraps of paper, and a matchbook cover covered in scrawl.

Then he pressed me for an estimate to create a book based on “these materials.”


In general, it’s not out of line to expect to spend a year researching and writing a book. How much is a year of your work life worth?

Same with me.

Let’s just say he was shocked—SHOCKED—to discover that creating a book that was readable (not even good, just readable) was going to cost more than the $1,000 he was willing to spend.

It depends.

Sooner or Later, You Just Gotta Commit

Years ago, my husband and I went to see Taj Mahal in concert at the Lebanon Opera House.
TRU and TOF covers with quilts
It was October and before the LOH was equipped with air conditioning so you would have expected it to be comfortable inside. But it was one of those freak October evenings way up in 70s and we were sweltering.

But no one was moving (or breathing) too much.

The stage was bare except for a keyboard and a spotlight when the big man walked out on stage. (If you’ve never seen him, Taj Mahal is a very tall man.)

He sat down at the keyboard, ran his fingers over the keys to test the tuning, pushed buttons, flipped switches, ran his fingers over the keys again, and then repeated the whole process a second time.

Finally he looked up and grinned at the audience. “Sometimes,” he said, “you just gotta commit.”

I think I’m about ready to do that with the covers of the Carding novels. My friend and fellow quilter, Nancy Graham of Newport, NH, made quilts for both The Road Unsalted and Thieves of Fire. I love them but in these days of thumbprint-sized covers online, I know that I have to keep images simple and the wording LARGE so they can be seen by folks skimming from one book choice to another.

At one point, I was considering photographs for the covers and put together some samples.

But I love Nancy’s quilts.

With Thieves of Fire about to debut, I decided I wanted to put a new cover on The Road Unsalted as well. So over the past two days, I’ve been (metaphorically) running my hands over my keyboard and working on new images that incorporate Nancy’s quilts with simpler graphics.

I’m very close to the printing stage of the publishing process so I think I’ve just gotta commit.

“Author in Aisle Two”

I’ve been in the book biz for a long time. I got my start in 1992 by marketing books for The Countryman Press in Woodstock, Vermont (now a part of W.W. Norton in NYC).

Dan & Whit's in Norwich, Vermont, the inspiration for Cooper's General Store in Carding, Vermont
Dan & Whit’s in Norwich, Vermont, the inspiration for Cooper’s General Store in my novels of Carding, Vermont

It was a good perch from which to watch the incoming and outgoing tides of the industry at the time. (And believe me, not too much has changed on the marketing side of the agenda.)

That’s how I learned that most book signings—the stuff of which new authors’ dreams are made of—are not what they are cracked up to be. In other words, unless you’re Stephen King or Louise Penny or J.K. Rowling, you shouldn’t expect too much when you stand next to a table full of your works-in-print waiting for the hordes to arrive.

Hordes are hard to come by.

So why am I grinning from ear to ear about a book signing I’ve got coming up this Friday? Because it’s in a general store, a very unusual spot for a book signing. And that general store is one of the inspirations for my novels set in the fictional town of Carding, Vermont.

If you’ve read The Road Unsalted, you’ve visited Dan & Whit’s in Norwich, Vermont. It rambles. You can get lost among the nooks and crannies if you’re a newbie. The floors are uneven. It’s heated by a wood-burning furnace in the basement. There’s a small coffee corner toward the front of the store, and it is THE spot for local news of the live-and-in-person variety.

It’s also the fundraising hub for the 19 Days of Norwich effort to stock the food pantry shelves of the Upper Valley Haven.

So I’ll be there on Friday from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. with copies of The Road Unsalted, pre-order forms for Thieves of Fire (the next Carding novel), and the wonderful seasonal gift of American Patchwork: True Stories from Quilters. And in the spirit of the event, 10 percent of all book sales on Friday night will be donated to the Haven effort.

If you’re inclined to stop by, please come find me in aisle 2 and say hi. I would sure love to see you.

It’s sort of like life inspiring art inspiring life.

The Balm of Work

Haven hats on heads 1 shcom
A chorus of Haven Hats

I remember waking up on a December morning in 1980 to learn that John Lennon had died. It was one of those times when the whole world felt united in grief.

In the days that followed, I read a story about how Lennon’s widow, Yoko Ono, had already returned to the recording studio and plunged into making an album.

The work, she said, was the only balm that eased her pain, the only thing that made any sense to her.

Work is a funny word, don’t you think? Depending on the vocal inflection we give it when we speak, it can be a word of pride: “That’s my work!” Or it can be a word conveying disgruntlement: “Boy, that’s a lot like work.”

I think, too often, that we give work a negative connotation that it doesn’t deserve. To me, work has become a word of celebration because I express my creativity through what I make whether it’s a book, a dinner, a quilt, a nonprofit organization or a crocheted hat.

My family has lost two way-too-young men in the past month, my cousin Andy Luey (age 60) and my brother Mark Hakala (age 57). Their deaths were shocks to our system, as death is for everyone who loves. Without thinking about it, I realize I’ve plunged into the balm of work as I finish up my second Carding novel, Thieves of Fire, and crochet hats to keep my hands keep busy while my husband and I catch up on Dr. Who via Netflix.

Which brings me to the pictures I’ve posted with this blog. I developed the pattern for these hats a few years ago. I kept it simple because for me, crochet is a meditative process and I don’t want to have to pay too much attention to my stitches. I just want to fly. Here’s a closeup of one of them so you can see the curls I use instead of a pompom on the top of each hat.
HHat-gree-white stripe-closeup-1 for web
I call them Haven Hats because I donate them to our local homeless shelter, the Upper Valley Haven, just before Christmas and if I’ve got more, again around the end of January. Here is a link to the pattern so that you can make them too: Haven Hat pattern

Last year, Dan & Whit’s, the general store in Norwich, Vermont, started a fundraising drive to support the Haven. It took place over the first 19 days of December and by all accounts was a great success, stocking the Haven’s well-used food pantry through Christmas and beyond. This year, patrons of this great store (the inspiration of the Coop in my Carding novels) will be greeted by eight plexiglass snowmen wearing Haven Hats.

I’m also going to be signing copies of my two (yes, two, Thieves of Fire WILL be done by then) Carding novels on December 5. More on this as the time gets closer.

So work, yeah, the balm that gets you through.

The Morning Walk

Autumn 2014 is going to go down in Vermont’s weather history one of the best so far this century.

Cathedral of trees
Cathedral of trees

The weather has held, staying (sometimes too) warm. We haven’t had any major storms to shake the leaves from the trees.

And the color—gasp! Just phenomenal.

Just wanted to share part of the trail that we maintain along the White River that we reopened this year. We had to let it go after Hurricane Irene because there were just too many other things to attend to.

And we missed our tree cathedral, a lot.

There’s still one last part of the path that stretches down to a rocky hook that we call the North Point that remains closed. It’s where the main debris pile of trees, building parts, and other detritus built up during the storm.

It started off twelve feet high but through composting and time, it’s now “only” six feet high, and the local flora and fauna are doing their best to recycle it. (It’s quite the bird sanctuary.) But it remains impenetrable to two-footed mammals for now.

Still, having the path back this summer was so, so good.

If You Go Out in the Woods Today…

…you’ll probably get to see one of my favorite plants, Indian (or wild) cucumber.

Indian cucumber
Indian cucumber

I never noticed them before we moved to the shores of the White River and opened a trail that meanders along the water.

These spiny babies grow to about the size of the palm of your hand and when the seeds are ready, the moisture inside pops the bottom open so the plant can drop six to eight watermelon-shaped seeds to the ground.

We grew them up the front of the house one year and were fascinated by the springs they use to fasten themselves to their preferred climbing surface. If you look carefully, you can see one of them coiled below the seed pod.

When the wind blows, the whole vine structure flexes with the breeze.

Somehow when I get to observe plants close up, I feel like humans are so far behind. How long did it take us to catch up with this idea?