Ever since reading Laura Newman’s first collection of short stories, Parallel to Paradise: Addiction and Other Love Stories, in 2014, I’ve been looking forward to more. Her new collection, The Franklin Avenue Rookery for Wayward Babies, is worth the wait.

What do I like most about Newman’s stories? She is a master of showing, not telling. I’d like to know how she can seem to be so familiar with the details of life all over the world. For example, we get to know one of the characters in “Tourette’s of the Heart” as a child in Tibet in 1950. “When…


Margo stares down her enemy

We’ve had and loved German shepherds and shiba inus, but there was this dog who lived in the house behind us. We learned later that the woman of the house didn’t like dogs and was afraid of this one. We just knew that it had to stay outside all the time (unlike our German shepherd Buddy, who was part of our family).

One day when we went to the patio door to let Buddy in, he seemed a little confused — he had a partner. This dog had escaped her yard and come into ours. I had to shut her…


“Pencil shavings around a pencil and a pencil sharpener on an open notebook” by Angelina Litvin on Unsplash

When I started editing books after a career of news, technical and academic editing, my own long-suppressed desire to write fiction resurfaced.

I’d written a few short stories in college decades ago, and writing fiction was something I’d always fantasized about indulging in again someday when I had time. Without revealing my age, I’ll just say that all of a sudden I realized if I didn’t do it now I might never do it. So on the first day of NaNoWriMo last year, I started writing a historical romance novel. …


You can honor the fallen and still enjoy the BBQ

Image by Lucy Heath via @Unsplash

Most Americans look forward to Memorial Day all spring. It gives us the first three-day weekend of summer and has become known as a time for traveling, camping, picnicking, barbecuing and buying things on sale.

But every once in a while someone tells us we’re too ignorant or self-centered to remember the true meaning of Memorial Day. They imply it’s only for remembering our war dead and it’s wrong to enjoy the day off.

I don’t see it that way.

Memorial Day is a good idea. When we stop to…


Peonies by Brigitte Tohm @unsplash

The heroine of a historical romance I just read weaves marigolds into her hair and bathes with marigold soap. Marigold is her signature scent.

The only problem is marigolds stink. Although their essence is sometimes used as a source of essential oil in perfumes, the smell is so pungent that some gardeners grow the flowers around other plants just to repel insects. I’m sure the smell would have the same effect on most heroes.

I love flowers, so my heart beats a little faster when I learn a character in a novel likes to work in a garden, walk in…


Photo by Okamatsu Fujikawa at Unsplash.com

I’ve been binging on historical romance novels for the past couple of years. Regency and Victorian romances are my favorites, and I’ve become addicted to a world in which the heroines don’t have to clean or cook and are pampered by their men and their servants.

They get to spend their time wandering around gardens, shopping (always with carte blanche), riding horses, playing musical instruments, reading, embroidering, attending balls and house parties, and drinking tea. …


Credit: Patrick Tomasso via Unsplash

I was trying to finish this yesterday when an incoming email message blew it up. Booktrope is going out of business and will remove all published books from sale May 31.

I guess I don’t need to be vague about the company I’m talking about now.

My original purpose was to share what I’d learned with other editors who might be considering working for a hybrid publisher, which generally means working for a share of a book’s royalties. When I became interested in doing it two years ago, I wasn’t able to find much information.

A 2014 article at Forbes.com


Mary Ann (White) Spencer 1893

Every time I read my English great-great-grandfather’s obituaries, I get mad all over again — not because of what they say but because of what they don’t say.

He died in Stroud, Gloucestershire, England, in 1909. A lengthy notice was published when he died, and two different newspapers published reports of the funeral.

The opening paragraphs provide the basics — name (Joseph Spencer), date, place, status (“highly-esteemed tradesman”). Fine.

But here’s the biographical information in the death notice:

  • Mr. Spencer was a native of Wotton under Edge, where he was born on the 11th May, 1833. He was married in…


Author’s photo

I’ve always had high expectations for Christmas: A Charles Dickens Christmas Carol Christmas. A Christmas card Christmas. An advertising agency Christmas. But for many years Christmas did not live up to my expectations.

I knew I was missing something growing up. My parents belonged to a nondenominational church that teaches it’s wrong to celebrate Christmas because no one knows when Jesus was really born. We had gifts and a nice meal on Christmas Day, but that was it. No tree, no decorations, no Santa Claus stories, no special church services.

I still managed to learn about the ways everyone else…


All the evidence you need
that you can’t take it with you

Wow! This person had a lot of stuff. I hope I find some bargains.

This is nice! Oh . . . a lot more than I would pay.

Why doesn’t that woman make any effort to control her kids?

Oh, books! But . . . I don’t see anything I’m interested in.

They’re never going to sell all these books. I wonder what they do with the ones they don’t sell?

Does anyone still buy VHS or cassette tapes?

Did this person’s family care about her, or do they just want what they can get from this sale?

Oh, good…

Laurel Busch

Writer and retired editor | Family historian | Gardener | laurelbusch.com

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