Saturday, December 26, 2015

Ruby's Gift: A Christmas Story

by Carrie Anne Noble

Some people called Ruby a bad dog, and it was kind of true.
The summer I turned eleven, my brothers, sister, and I found Ruby on our porch. She was sitting there like a fluffy, black-and-white, tail-wagging package left by the UPS man. A really smelly package.
On the spot, five-year-old Janie named the dog Rubella Polio (words she’d learned from pamphlets in the pediatrician’s waiting room, being too advanced a reader for Highlights magazine). When I suggested we call the dog Ruby for short, the big fur ball jumped up and gave me a slobbery kiss.
“You’re welcome,” I said, wiping the doggy drool off my cheek with the hem of my t-shirt.
Ben and Doug, my three-year-old twin brothers, let the dog into the house before Mama could object. Not that Mama would have. Mama didn’t do much objecting back then. She didn’t do much other than stare silently at the kitchen wall. If Daddy had come back from the Afghanistan war instead of going to heaven, things would have been different. Before, Mama laughed and sang half the day away. Before, Mama spent hours cooking exotic dinners with unpronounceable names. With Daddy gone, it seemed to take all her strength to boil potatoes.
So, the boys and I gave Ruby a good scrubbing in the downstairs shower. Afterwards, she smelled like coconuts and wet dog, and she was ours.
The next day, Ruby started bringing stuff home. Not stuff you might expect a dog to drag home, like cheeseburger wrappers, dirty diapers, or other dogs’ chew toys. No, Ruby brought home gifts.
The first thing Ruby brought was a bag of barbecue potato chips. (We hadn’t told Ruby they were Mama’s favorite, or that it was Mama’s birthday.) We tied a bow around the chips, sang “Happy Birthday,” and made a party out of it. Mama smiled for three whole minutes.
Two days later, Ruby brought home a pair of Janie-sized, pink, polka dot socks. Janie wore them on her first day of kindergarten, and swore they were the reason she made three new friends before lunch.
In September, Ruby brought home two boxes of my favorite macaroni, several damp comic books for Ben and Doug, a one-armed doll for Janie to nurse, a coupon for free doughnuts, and a yellow scarf. Ruby’s tail slapped the porch with doggy joy whenever she presented us with her findings, so we didn’t have the heart to tell her stealing was a sin.
When Grandma came to visit in October, she called Ruby “a giant, germy, mongrel pest,” and said she’d take her to the SPCA first thing Monday morning. But Ruby ran off and didn’t come back until Tuesday--after Grandma’s Cadillac left the driveway.
Sometimes that fall, I’d catch Mama petting Ruby’s soft head or scratching under her chin. I thought it was a sign Mama was getting a little better. And even a little better was a big deal to me.
When Thanksgiving rolled around, Ruby brought us a voucher for a free turkey from George’s Market. She also brought home the head from the Flynn family’s plastic pilgrim lawn decoration. We buried the head in the garden while Mama stuffed the turkey. Next, Mama got out her fattest cookbook and made sweet potato casserole and green beans with fancy sauce. After dinner, Mama said she was thankful for us kids and Ruby, and she only cried a little.
In the beginning of December, Ruby brought home a snow shovel with a bent handle, and three mittens.
But then, Christmas Eve, Rubella Polio did something very, very bad. That dog brought home the baby Jesus statue from the Oak Avenue Presbyterian Church’s front lawn.
Ben and Doug loved that baby Jesus all morning. They wrapped him in towels and sang him “Away in a Manger” over and over. They tucked him into their old stroller and gave him a wild ride through the entire first floor, laughing so loudly that they woke up Mama from her Saturday morning sleep-in.
When Mama saw baby Jesus, she knew right away where he’d come from. Her face went whiter than milk and then redder than ketchup. She scolded Ruby and sent her slinking out the door and onto the snow-covered porch. And then Mama went and put on the dress I’d ironed hoping she would take us to the Christmas Eve service.
“Mind your brothers and sister,” she told me as she buttoned her green wool coat and clutched baby Jesus to her chest.
When she came back an hour later, Mama looked different somehow.
That afternoon, we strung popcorn and cranberries, and Mama got the musty plastic Christmas tree down from the attic. The twins sang “Deck the Halls” and messed up the words so badly that Mama couldn’t stop laughing.
Tucked in my bed that night, I heard Mama open the front door, followed by the click of Ruby’s toenails on the wood floors. Not long after, I smelled the heavenly scent of Mama’s Christmas-only, orange-cinnamon rolls baking—the ones she was too sad to bake last year.
Christmas morning, bits of wrapping paper flew as we tore into our clumsily wrapped gifts. We kids had given each other things Ruby had “helped” us get, things we’d kept hidden until then: a rubber ball, a pencil case, an eyeless teddy bear, a miniature book of Shakespeare’s sonnets (slightly warped), a satin pouch of Canadian nickels. Mama had wrapped special gifts for each of us, too--although none of hers came from Ruby. She gave Ben and Doug each a tiny glass elephant from her collection. Janie got one of Mama’s flowered teacups, and Mama gave me a book of French recipes.
Breakfast came next, with a lively discussion on how reindeer flew. We were licking the orange icing from our fingers when we heard Ruby barking on the porch.
I opened the door. Holding a red leather leash with Ruby attached was Reverend Craig from Oak Avenue Presbyterian. He was smiling like he’d won a million bucks.
“Merry Christmas,” the pastor said. “I think I found your dog.” He wasn’t looking at me when he spoke. He was looking at Mama. I’d never noticed how handsome Reverend Craig was before, or that he looked about the same age as Mama.
Mama smiled and blushed. “Would you care for a cinnamon roll?” she asked.
Reverend Craig stayed all Christmas day. He came back three times that week, and four times the next.
Like Ruby, he usually brought gifts: a box of candy, a board game, a DVD for us to watch huddled together on our long sofa, a bucket of fried chicken.
The funny thing was Ruby never brought anything else home once Reverend Craig took over. Maybe she knew we finally had everything we needed.
All story rights reserved by Carrie Anne Noble.
Carrie Anne Noble is the author of The Mermaid's Sister, winner of the 2014 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award for Young Adult Fiction. This story was inspired by her family dog--a naughty German Shepherd mix that brings home many truly icky things she should not. 
Find The Mermaid's Sister here on Amazon!

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Just a quick note

This is fun!

Popsugar lists The Mermaid's Sister among its 200 best books of 2015 for women. I'm ignoring the fact that they seem to have forgotten O'Neill is a guy. :)

There are lots of good books on the list & a few I'm adding to my personal TBR pile.

Check it out here:

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Book Signings Ahead!

The Mermaid's Sister, Bookstore Visits,

& a Star Whale

Below, you'll find a press release for a book signing I'll be doing in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania at Barnes & Noble at Bucknell University. I thought I'd post it here because it contains a little bit about the book (The Mermaid's Sister)and the author (me!)--in case you don't know us.
If you're in central PA, please come & meet me at Webster's Bookstore & CafĂ© on November 6, 2015, during State College's First Friday events. I attended Penn State there, so I'm very excited to be revisiting its hometown.
Check out my events page for more info on signings & appearances, including links to the stores' websites. I hope to meet you soon!

Lewisburg Bookstore to Hold Signing for Award Winning Author

LEWISBURG, PA- On Friday, October 2, Barnes and Noble at Bucknell University (400 Market St.) will host a book signing event with Carrie Anne Noble, winner of the 2014 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award for Young Adult Fiction. Noble will sign copies of her novel “The Mermaid’s Sister” from 6 to 8 p.m.

Opening in Pennsylvania’s mountains in the 1870s, “The Mermaid’s Sister” tells the tale of Clara and Maren, 16-year-old foundlings adopted by an old healer woman. When Clara discovers shimmering scales on her sister’s side, she realizes Maren is becoming a mermaid—and there is no cure for being who you truly are. Because mermaids cannot survive long on land, Clara, Maren, and their best friend O’Neill undertake a journey to deliver Maren to the sea.  But no road is ever straight, and they fall prey to an evil family of traveling performers. Clara and O’Neill must find a way to save themselves and the ever-weakening mermaid Maren before it’s too late.

“The Mermaid’s Sister” was published in March by Skyscape. Praised as “a must read” by Publishers Weekly, and called “engaging and magical” by Kirkus, the novel has received over 900 5-star reviews. Although the book is marketed for teens, readers of all ages have enjoyed Noble’s delightful blend of fairy tale elements and historical fiction.

Noble wrote the first draft of “The Mermaid’s Sister” as her National Novel Writing Month project in November 2012, weeks after the death of her own beloved sister. Writing a fictional “sister story” provided her with comfort and a path through grief to acceptance and hope—themes that lie just beneath the surface of the lyrical fantasy novel.

A native of Lycoming County, Noble has been writing fiction for most of her life. As an adult, she spent a year as a staff writer for a local newspaper, but she much prefers inventing stories of her own.

More about the book and author can be found at For more information about the book signing event, call Barnes and Noble at (570) 577-1128.
It's a Star Whale. If you don't know him, you're way behind in your Doctor Who episodes!


Tuesday, September 1, 2015

A Novel Break Up


Dear Leprechaun Novel,

We've been through a lot together over the last three years. We've spent two nutso, Nanowrimo Novembers holed up in my office, shared many delicious chocolate bars and countless cups of tea, explored (imaginary) Ireland hand in hand, defeated the evil Tooth Fairy and violent Garden Gnomes, and fallen in love.
Well, dear never-ending-work-in-progress, I'm not in love with you anymore.
The feeling has been creeping up on me for months now, the feeling something was wrong in our relationship (in spite of all my desperate work-- four drafts, maybe five!).
The knowledge that spending time with you is no longer a joy fell down on me like a wet woolen blanket. Ugh.
My friends say it's time to put you aside. To start over with another story. Something that will make me giddy about writing again. I know they're right, but I hate breaking up with you. It makes me sad. It feels like defeat, and little like grief. The thought that you could be a "trunk novel" (a work abandoned and tucked away in a trunk forever) is truly ouchy.
Maybe someday we'll get back together. I'll change, and then you'll be able to change. We could still be great, I think. We could still make the hallowed shelves of the school book fair (a precious dream indeed!).
In the corner of my heart, there will always be a place for you, my reluctant Leprechaun. But for now, scurry off and look for your gold without me. I have other tales to tell, other roads to travel.
I'm so sorry.
Your author,
P.S. I'll remember you and your pots of gold whenever I see a rainbow. How could I not?

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Here a book, there a book...

Book Festivals Near & Far

Here are a few photos of the sweet, small town book festival I attended yesterday (August 29, 2015). It was held in a pretty little wooded park near the river in Watsontown, PA. About 15 authors attended-- a few of them dear friends whom it was such a delight to see!

Next stop: The Beaver County Book Fest in Beaver, PA on Sept. 12.  Fifty authors in a circus tent,  and some more outside the big top, as well as food stands & crafts. What could possibly be more fun than fifty authors in a circus tent, I ask you!!! I'll post pictures after the grand event!

First time out for my fancy banner
Pilsner stands guard between images of O'Neill & Clara
Two handsome fellows took over while I was busy chatting with my neighbors (the fabulous writers Joanne Brokaw & Roberta Gore).

The free cookies proved quite popular!
Thanks for stopping by the blog! Come back soon!

You can purchase The Mermaid's Sister here:

Monday, July 13, 2015

June 2015 Adventures

I attended back to back writers' events in June: UtopYA Con in Nashville followed by the St. Davids Writers' Conference in Grove City, PA. Two very different experiences!
UtopYA was a convention for Young Adult speculative fiction fans & writers, and it was a swirling extravaganza of hundreds of people, shiny books, panel discussions, swag giveaways, and signings. To top it all off, I finally met my editor in person.
About 60 people attended St. Davids, spending four days on a peaceful, beautiful, rainy college campus, taking classes, making friends & connections, & eating way too many desserts.
Here is photographic documentation!
One of the UtopYA exhibition halls. The lovely Rysa Walker shared her table with me & 3 other Skyscape suthors.
A few of the authors of Skyscape Publishing:  Jacqueline Garlick, Theresa Kay, Alys Arden, Rysa Walker, & me!
Selfie with Mr. Pew of Grove City College. He's kind of shy.
Nice dorms at Grove City.
Cool doors & relief. I stepped in a puddle
to get this picture, so you have to
look at it!
My roomies at the St. Davids Conference. Fun & talented!

Thursday, July 2, 2015

The 4:45 Bird

I live in the country. There are birds.
Don't get me wrong. I love birds. They're amazing little creatures. However, every morning at 4:45, a single bird starts singing outside my window.
4:45 a.m.
The sun hasn't even begun to come up. It's still dark. I'm trying to sleep, for goodness sake!
But he sings.
After a while, another bird answers him. As dawn sneaks up, more birds join the birdy choir. By the time the sky is well lit, tweets and whistles fill the air.
This morning (shortly after Bird 1 began tweeting), I thought about What It Means. This one bird's song. So here are my deep thoughts (these are rare occurrences, so pay attention!).
Bird 1 sings alone. He sits in a dark tree and no one is listening to his song. He sings anyway. He makes music because he likes to, because it's what he was meant to do. If he had to sing alone all day, he would.
But then the other birds hear him. They open their beaks and let the notes fly. Bird 1 has inspired them, led them into a great chorus to welcome a new day. Bird 1 has spread the joy through every tree in the neighborhood.
Lessons from the perch of Bird 1:
  1. Sing your song. Or write your words, dance your dance, paint your canvas. Do that thing you know you're meant to do. Even if it's only for your own pleasure. Even if other people don't seem to appreciate it. Only you know your "song." Sing it loud!                                                    
  2. Sing in the dark. Things may look bad, but dawn is coming. Birds aren't very smart, but they've figured this out. Dare to hope that the new day will be bright. And if it rains on you, keep singing anyway. Emily Dickinson wrote:
    “Hope” is the thing with feathers -
    That perches in the soul -
    And sings the tune without the words -
    And never stops - at all
  3. Don't wait for permission to "sing." Don't put off your dreams until the house is clean or you lose twenty pounds or you "get it together." It's 4:45. Go for it with all you have. Who knows what other birds you'll inspire to tweet? Who knows what joy you'll add to the world?

Thursday, April 30, 2015

"Sticky" Books

Any avid reader knows there are books and then there are books.
There are books you read and then forget, and there are certain books that stick with you for the rest of your life.
When I was about 14, I read Mervyn Peake's novel Titus Groan for the first time. Reading has always been my favorite sport, and I began making up stories at an early age...but this encounter with Peake changed me. His rich, somber fantasy was a world unto itself. His characters and settings were odd and fascinating and wonderful--and presented with such skill that although I've not read the Gormenghast trilogy for years, I can still remember Peake's people and places with clarity.  
Reading Peake made me write in a new way. His novels and poetry unlocked a deep love of language in me, a love for the shapes and sounds of words. This love flowed out of my pen and filled my notebooks with brooding teenage poetry (stuff you will never read and that I ought to burn for my own protection!).
To me, Peake's books are books. They are "sticky." They're in me and with me forever.
Titus Groan was a library book, borrowed again and again.
Eventually, I took my hard-earned baby sitting money downtown to Otto's Bookstore and ordered my own copies of the Gormenghast books. They had to be special-ordered from England (which was so romantic!). Once they were mine, I shared them with only my most trusted friends. And without fail, each of them loved discovering Peake's sprawling, magnificent world. I like to think that the books stuck with them, just as they stuck with me.
As an author, my favorite compliments come from readers who sigh about being kept up past their bedtimes by my story, and those who say they can't seem to stop thinking of my characters once they finish the book. Maybe my story is "sticky" too. I hope so.
On Friday, May 1, 2015, I'll be signing copies of The Mermaid's Sister at Otto's Bookstore. I'll remember teenaged me, and marvel at what has happened since I bought Peake's fantastic books in that very place so long ago. 
Here's to sticky books, beautiful words,  and thousands of glorious chapters yet to be written!
Author Mervyn Peake
For more info on the book signing, see my Amazon author page.
The Mermaid's Sister is available here.

Friday, April 3, 2015

10 More Fun Facts About The Mermaid's Sister

Yet more Mermaidy Trivia...

  1. I collected the name "Scarff" from the side of an appliance company van while on a trip to Virginia. I guess there are real people named Scarff in the world. And they travel about fixing washing machines. I wonder if they ever find orphans under apple trees or tucked inside seashells.
  2. Pilsner was almost named "Pilcrow," but it seemed kind of wrong to name a raven something with the word "crow" in it.
  3. The Red Hedgehog Tavern was named after the tavern Johannes Brahms liked to frequent in Vienna (Zum Roten Igel). For more on the bits of Brahms in the book, see the other 10 Fun Facts list on this blog.
  4. Clara Schumann
    The figure in the upper left corner of the book cover is Dr. Phipps, not Scarff, as some have assumed.
  5. Originally, Auntie was supposed to have a stubby-winged pet bat in addition to Osbert the wyvern. I'm kind of sad he didn't make it into the story!
  6. In one version of TMS, Osbert ate Pilsner. To be fair, Pilsner was a very bad birdy in that draft!
  7. Clara was named after Clara Schumann, a fellow musician and the wife of Brahms's best friend. Supposedly, Brahms loved her and took care of her after her husband died.
  8. Maren's middle name is Pearl.
  9. My star beta reader (i.e. person who bravely read & critiqued the manuscript in its semi-raw state and corrected historical inaccuracies) was Amanda C. Davis, author of a bazillion brilliant short stories & co-author of Wolves and Witches, a fantastic fairy tale anthology. Find that here
  10. Many of the final edits were done in my gypsy caravan. Okay, it was a rather sad, old, pop-up camper parked in my yard. Maybe someday I can write in a real caravan. You know, after the blockbuster movie comes out...

Available at  

Monday, March 9, 2015

An Unforgettable Evening


Book Launch Party for The Mermaid's Sister

Thanks to everyone who attended & helped with the party at the
James V. Brown Library on March 6!
It was a great success. I think we really shocked the sweet librarian who helped to plan the event by having 135 guests show up!

Advertising in the elevator. I found it exciting!

The happy author herself
Book signing table
What beautiful books!
Refreshments table inspired by Scarff & O'Neill's caravan of exotic wares


Osbert tote bag--a door prize

College room mates reunited!

Author &  the husband who puts up with her



Special thanks to Cindy Knier & John Noble for taking most of these photos.

Monday, February 9, 2015

10 Fun Facts about The Mermaid's Sister

Stuff you'll probably never be asked about on Jeopardy...

In a spirit of fun (and as a way of procrastinating working on my next novel), I offer you 10 random facts about The Mermaid's Sister--things that even Alex Trebek doesn't know!
Bushy-bearded Brahms, or Ezra Scarff 
  1. O'Neill was named after my friend's neighbor's dog.
  2. Brahms' German Requiem was a major part of my writing playlist. Which leads us to number 3...
  3. O'Neill's looks were modeled after young Johannes Brahms and...
  4. Scarff's appearance was inspired by older, bushy-bearded Brahms.
  5. In an early draft, Pilsner the raven helped Soraya Phipps capture Clara, O'Neill, & Maren.
  6. Maren's name means "of the sea."
  7. Clara's middle name is Amelia, which was my great grandmother's middle name.
  8. The tune O'Neill hums to Clara in Chapter 29 is Brahms' Waltz in A-Flat Major. (Again with the Brahms, I know. But it's such a beautiful piece of music! You can hear it at
  9. The original title of the book was Seashell, Stork and Apple Tree, in reference to the origins of Maren, Clara, and O'Neill.
  10. The first line of the book ("Wishing gets you nothing.") is a direct quote from my dear friend Sunday Parfitt. Alas, she was not spinning a fantastical yarn when she spoke these special words. Instead, she was advising her young son that he'd have to get his own drink!
P.S. More character inspiration images can be found in the Photos & Illustrations section of the blog, and on my Pinterest board:
You can order The Mermaid's Sister here:

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

A Box of Mermaids

"dreams all made solid"

(to quote Peter Gabriel)
That's how I feel about this special package the UPS man brought yesterday.
I gave away my first copy today, to my sweet, bookaholic grandma. She was the first one to read an early version of The Mermaid's Sister--which she still keeps wrapped in tissue paper, as if it were a very precious treasure. I love how she loves the story.
I hope you will read it and share her enthusiasm!
The Mermaid's Sister is a Kindle First pick for February:
and the paperback and audiobook can be ordered here:

Monday, February 2, 2015

O'Neill's "Purple Heaven" Recipe

Grape Pudding for a Snowy Day


In my novel, The Mermaid's Sister, Clara reminisces about a snowy day she shared with her sister Maren and their best friend O'Neill when they were very young.
Clara says:
When Auntie forced us inside, we unwrapped ourselves from our layers of woolens and hung them to dry near the fireplace. And you were the first to notice the heavenly scent of Auntie’s hot grape pudding. Steaming in our soup bowls, as purple as an Easter crocus, with dollops of whipped cream melting into froth. I can still taste it if I close my eyes. Can you?
We ran our spoons around the edges of the pudding to scoop up the part that had cooled from scalding to merely hot. O’Neill giggled when he took his first bite. He said it tasted like purple heaven.
Here's a recipe for grape pudding. It's also called Kram, and my Swedish mother-in-law always made it for her children after the first snowfall of the year. This isn't her secret recipe, though. She's keeping it secret, the little dickens! I was forced to figure it out on my own, with a little help from the internet.

Hot Grape Pudding (Kram)

In a sauce pan, whisk together:
1/4 cup corn starch
1/4 cup sugar
Then whisk in 1/4 cup cold water until the mixture is smooth.
Slowly add 2 cups of grape juice and cook over medium high heat, stirring constantly until the mixture thickens and darkens (about 7 or 8 minutes).
Pour into saucers immediately, and top with whipped cream. Enjoy your "purple heaven!"
Note: The better the quality of the grape juice, the better the pudding will taste!
You can order The Mermaid's Sister here:

Sunday, February 1, 2015

The Beautiful Journey

And the story grew wings and flew far...

A year ago--almost to the day--I entered my novel (now titled The Mermaid's Sister) in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest. I had no intention of winning. I didn't really believe my entry would go far among ten thousand others, although I hoped it would get far enough to win the free manuscript review by Publishers Weekly offered as a prize for quarter finalists. And it did! Seashell, Stork and Apple Tree (the book's original title) received a glowing review from PW. I was thrilled! Mission accomplished.
But wait! The ride wasn't over!
I remember the July day when the phone rang and the caller i.d. said Amazon. I thought they were calling to ask how I liked a recent purchase. Instead, two very excited ladies gave me some of the best news of my life: I'd won the Young Adult category and was in the running for the grand prize. Not only that--they gushed over the book. They loved it. And I had thought that only my grandma would ever love it!
In the end, I didn't win the grand prize. But I did win a publishing contract with Skyscape, and a nice advance.
Today, after a lot of work (and collaboration with wonderful editors, a pesky copy editor, a proofreader, and a cover designer), my book has been born. Because it was chosen for the Kindle First program, it's being read right now in places I will never go.
My book has just been born, but in this digital world, it has instantly become a grown-up child and it has gone off to have adventures of its own.
I am grateful.
I am in awe.
Today, something the character O'Neill says in The Mermaid's Sister springs to my mind. The hope he expresses has been fulfilled for me. I share that sentiment with you and for you.
"And I hope that you will soon see that the world is also more beautiful than you had known, and more full of kindness and love. Perhaps, on our journey, you will find this out for yourself. You will come with Maren and me, won’t you?”
Thank you for sharing my joy.

Monday, January 26, 2015

It's almost party time!

Happy News!

I'm very excited to announce that my local library is hosting a party in honor of the release of The Mermaid's Sister. I've been going to this library for as long as I am able to remember, so that makes my joy even sweeter.
What a dream come true!
I hope to see you there.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Full cover & a lovely review

The countdown to publication is on!

March is just around the corner, I can't tell you how thrilled I am to be able to count the days until I get to hold my very own book in my hands! Talk about a dream come true!
Here is the complete cover:
And here is my first official blurb:
"The Mermaid’s Sister is a lyrical and enchanting debut with enough adventure, magic, and heart to fill an ocean.” —Gwenda Bond, author of Girl on a Wire
As if that wasn't enough county library is going to host an event for me March 6. Details coming soon!