A Holiday Tattoo


Okay, a temporary tattoo.

Happy week after Thanksgiving and first days of December. I don’t know how your Thanksgivings went. I’m sure they were complicated in more ways than one, but I hope they involved some relaxing, some good moments shared with the ones you love. This is how I’m transitioning from Thanksgiving to the Christmas season: coffee and a temporary tattoo. I wish for you courage and coffee, too.

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The Sully Show … just a little funny for your Tuesday

drquinn2Okay, funny story. And just for fun, because: 2020. Anyone who knows me knows I have a long-standing love (*cough* obsession) with frontier and Native culture, and the real people and characters who’ve populated it, past and present. I wrote an entire historical novel about it.

The last years of the TV show Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman aired on CBS when I was a student at Clemson University. One year, I lived in an on-campus apartment with friends, and our neighbors were college athletes mixed in with us regular folk. Our best guy friends, some of whom were Clemson football players, lived across a concrete courtyard and upstairs from us: close enough we’d leave our doors open and shout for each other. They teased me mercilessly about the show—until they started watching it with me.

They were hooked! I’ll never forget those big guys crowded around our tiny apartment living room, too big for our furniture, jockeying for space in front of the TV. They would yell at me when we lost the remote! But the best part of all was on the nights the show came on, when the door to their apartment would fling open, and some college boy would yell across the courtyard, “Hey, T!” (because apparently “Katie” was too long of a name), “Is the Sully show on yet?”
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History, travel, books, author life & more: Interview with Paper Lantern Writers

PaperLanternWritersHi, folks!

I’m thrilled to be featured today on the blog at Paper Lantern Writers! Paper Lantern Writers are “a collective of Historical Fiction Writers, both published and unpublished,” whose “goal is to tell a cracking good story, using the context of history.”

It was lovely, especially in this wild and woolly time, to be asked fun and interesting questions about history, travel, books, writing, and more. It made me feel like a writer again. I thought the last two interview questions, especially, were particularly thoughtful–and I appreciated the chance to share.

Read the interview, “Words with a Wordsmith,” here.

And have an absolutely fabulous weekend, all!

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What I’m Reading Now: Katherine Arden’s Winternight Trilogy

winternight trilogyOH FOR HEAVEN’S SAKE THESE STUNNING NOVELS BY KATHERINE ARDEN. They make me both want to genuflect at her feet and curse her at the same time. (Every writer knows this feeling.) It’s been a very long time since I’ve read a book I wished I’d written.

Reader, I’m still bewitched by this story, stumbling through a snow-filled, piney clearing while a bonfire cracks nearby in the dark. I don’t feel any review could do The Bear and the Nightingale, The Girl in the Tower, and The Winter of the Witch any sort of justice. Get thyself to dark, snowy, magical medieval Russia forthwith. Steel yourself for a hero named Vasya.

Book recommendations by friends are the best. I’m ridiculously thankful for one of mine, who delivered this world to my door just when I needed it most.

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On the death of a friend: the writer, actor, and educator David Lee Nelson

I don’t really have the right words to properly honor my friend David Lee Nelson, who passed away this week from Stage 4 colon cancer. But the words of his childhood friends, who knew him much longer than I, have rung as sweet and as swift as a note on the air. Every one of them speak to Davey’s kindness, his rare sweetness. Many mention his wit and intelligence; his bright, unceasing energy, his talent, his often wickedly irreverent, unfailingly sharp, and unfathomably big-hearted sense of humor. So many honor his complicated mind, his intellect; his courage and goodness.

Davey and I met as freshmen (Class of 1996) at Wade Hampton High School in Greenville, South Carolina. Over the years we were fellow theater kids, unbelievably lucky to attend a public school full of some of the most talented arts teachers in the country; a school where the arts were funded and where they flourished. Davey walked the halls in classic Chuck Taylors, his fantastic curls bouncing, with a swinging, energetic gait, a wry aside, and kindness in his beautiful eyes.

I struggled to find my place in high school. Inside I was an Arts kid through and through, but I skimmed the outer circles of several different groups, school-sponsored or otherwise. Davey did a lot, and was involved in a lot, but Davey was a theater kid—this is what I think about when I think about him. How singularly focused he was, how committed to his craft. How he tossed himself body and soul up onto the stage. How he knew, with absolute focus, that he was meant to act, to share himself and his stories in this way. This certainty and purpose, at such a young age, is more than talent. It’s a divine gift, and Davey Nelson did not squander it.

Often back then, Davey would talk to me, or look at me in a certain way as he listened, and I fizzed over with my own uncontained energy, and I would wonder what he was thinking. I wish I’d asked.

We reconnected several years ago, when Davey and another high school friend and classmate, the director Adam Knight, brought their fantastically fun and sharp-as-hell one man show, The Elephant in My Closet, to Greenville. My husband and I drove down from the mountains and met up with some of my best high school friends to watch. Afterwards, we went out downtown together. Sitting in a semi-circle, our non-stop conversation steamed up the glass front wall of the bar. We laughed and joked and recounted, smiles and commentary zinging through the air between us. That night, Davey had owned the stage. He’d been brilliant. He glowed. We were all just so damn happy together; it was one of those nights when you’re grateful beyond words to be alive and with these exact people, in this exact moment. I’ll never forget it.

Over the past two years, Davey and I reconnected over his writing of Hope in the Time of Chemo, a memoiric book of essays, based on his well-loved blog. Right now I’m trying very hard not to regret time lost being a better, closer friend to him, but instead to know, and be thankful for, the fact I knew him at all. He was an incomparable human, and people like Davey Nelson never leave you. I hope his parents, his sisters, and his wife, Jaimie—all of whom he loved fiercely and well, and who brought him incredible joy—know how much his friends grieve with them, and how thankful we are that they shared him with us.

Friends, please give to Fight Colorectal Cancer or your favorite cancer-fighting organizations, read Davey’s words here, buy his hilarious and touching book here, and hug your loved ones extra close tonight.

 Photos: Our Advanced Production Theatre class, 1996-1997, Wade Hampton High School
Bottom row: Davey winning all the things (I think this was for Senior Superlatives)


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Show & Share Wednesday: What I’m Reading, Listening to, & Watching Now

Hi, friends! I sure hope y’all are hanging in there.

Here we are, already in September, and our world has changed in ways not many of us (even those of us with very willing suspensions of disbelief) could have imagined. I don’t know about you, but I’m doing my best to stay open, and curious, and kind–and heaven help us, to remain hopeful. Some days I’m like a concave, curved line on one of those math graphs: sinking. Others, I manage an upswing. I figure: one foot in front of the other. (I know, I’m mixing metaphors. This is life in 2020.) 

Here are three things I’ve been into lately. They are a piece of writing, a podcast, and a TV show which has struck me in some way, whether by its beauty or agony, its hard truths or easy delights.

1. Jesmyn Ward’s recent essay in Vanity Fair: “On Witness and Respair: A Personal Tragedy Followed by Pandemic”

I don’t have the capacity to describe the power of Ward’s story, her courage and sheer mastery in the telling. You really have to read it for yourself. If you read one thing this week, read this.

HopeHist2. Hope Through History, a new podcast narrated by historian Jon Meacham. I’m a history buff, and right now, I need history more than ever–as a reminder of what is possible, and also what is imperative. The first episode discusses another challenging time in American history–the Great Depression–and how the people, and a president, rose to the occasion.

3. Sleep has not come easy since the Covid-19 pandemic really began back in March. I’ve tried everything: meditation, diurnal sleep sounds and music, no screens, legal CBD oil (which has been helpful in other ways; more on that later), Benadryl, and prayer. Nothing has worked well, except for listening to audio books as I fall asleep.

Books rarely put me to sleep when I read at night. In fact, reading at night is one of stilllife2my favorite daily habits–it’s something I do no matter the time I finally am able to climb into bed. But for some reason, when I listen to an audiobook, no matter the audiobook, I drift off. Lately, I’ve been rereading one of my favorite series of all time: Louise Penny’s novels set in the Canadian town of Three Pines, starring the cerebral, brave, and kind Chief Inspector Gamache. The novels are layered with themes, details, and startling craft (I’m in awe of Penny’s powers as a writer). Start with Still Life, the first in the series. I own many of Penny’s novels, so I’m listening via my Libby app through my county library. The audiobooks are narrated by the late, wonderful Ralph Cosham, who won an Audie Award for his narration of Penny’s series.

4. What to watch? I know there’s a complicated psychological reason why the more options we have, the more difficult it is to choose. But I waste precious time scrolling through the choices of what to watch on television (and arguing with my husband about who gets to pick) most nights. On a whim, I started watching Riverdale on Netflix. It made me remember being a teenager and then college student during the days of 90210, Dawson’s Creek, and Felicity. The Gothic-camp combo, plus the old Archie-Jughead comic inspirations, plus the late and lovely Luke Perry, plus the sheer ridiculous teen-angst-drama of it all, are a 100% escape from reality. And I’m in.

From www.pinterest.com

From www.pinterest.com

What are y’all reading, watching, and listening to these days? I’d love your suggestions!

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New favorite podcast: Hope Through History

HopeHistI am listening to the podcast HOPE THROUGH HISTORY on my walks, in order to remind myself of the America I love and which is worth fighting for, but more for the reminder that there have been and will continue to be presidents worthy of the title.

The first episode is about Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and in it historian Jon Meacham quotes from one of my favorites of FDR‘s speeches: The commencement address at Oglethorpe University. The main reason it’s my favorite: Remember what 1932 was like in the United States of America? (If you don’t remember, egads: Look it up!)

FDR said the following, and so much more:

The country needs and, unless I mistake its temper, the country demands bold, persistent experimentation. It is common sense to take a method and try it: If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all try something. … We need enthusiasm, imagination and the ability to face facts, even unpleasant ones, bravely. We need to correct, by drastic means if necessary, the faults in our economic system from which we now suffer. We need the courage of the young.

Listen, remember, take heart and hope, and for love of country, VOTE.




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Small wonders

IMG_2321One of the small wonders of the pandemic–which resulted in us choosing virtual school for our daughters, ages 11 and 7–has been turning our dining room into a schoolroom. Because we were basically using it as storage (it’s a dark, inner room in a 1940s house), this has been a big change.

It opened the doors of my favorite piece of furniture in the house: a 1700s, Shaker-style corner cabinet, crafted andIMG_2322 built near the North Carolina – Virginia border. The milk paint, the rubbed spot in the door where 300 years of Americans have placed their hands, the fact it was a gift from my beloved in-laws, make it incredibly special to me.

It’s stuffed full of the things once too fragile to leave in the crash-into vicinity of young kids and a puppy–wedding gifts, crystal, china, and more–so I’ve some curating to do. There are so many good stories in that wood.

IMG_2332 IMG_2323

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What I’m reading now: House of Trelawney by Hannah Rothschild

houseoftrelawneyI admit, I reached for this book because of its pretty, impish cover, which reminded me of my favorite adult coloring books. And the fact that I’ll read anything about a house.

Wow, was there more. Here’s my brief take:

Hannah Rothschild’s House of Trelawney is wild, richly funny, beautifully rendered. It is dialogue-intense, breathlessly smart. When it scathes, even, its satire is accompanied by full-hearted affection for this wonderful, awful, meticulously-drawn band of characters. This is a place-based book, and I was seeped in it from the first page. Trelawney is a house like no other. It’s the most unique story I’ve read in years.

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Keowee Valley only 99 cents now through July 31st

keowee graphic (2)Looking for a historical adventure to dive into this summer? Set in the gorgeous, wild, and dangerous Carolina backcountry in the years leading up to the American Revolution? Starring an audacious woman bound and determined to pilot her own life, no matter what it looks like?

My first novel, Keowee Valley, is on sale now until July 31 for only $0.99 (via Amazon, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, Google & Apple).

It’s a bit ego-crushing to call your novel a “debut” when it was published almost 8 years ago and you’ve not published a second novel yet. But this is mine. Happily, Adriana Trigiani called Keowee Valley “stunning,” “evocative,” and “beautiful.” Pat Conroy said mine was “a name that should be remembered,” Tommy Hays said the novel was “sensual,” “gripping, magically embodied,” and Ron Rash said I was “a fresh and valuable new voice in Southern literature.” These are the things I cling to, as a writer and creative, in these creativity-stymied times when all I’m doing is holding my family together by a thread (also when my 7 year-old screams that I don’t understand her as she speeds away on the bike I bought her).

If you’ve not read Keowee Valley after all these years, I hope you’ll take a 99-cent chance on it now, or mention it to your friends. I’m pretty proud to say readers of all genders and stripes have enjoyed the story, and I’m glad folks still read it. If your book club wants to pick it up, let me know. I’m a great Zoom date.

You can purchase Keowee Valley for only 99 cents through July 31 at the following sites:



Barnes & Noble



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