The title WAS Little Birds. It has been changed to The Sweet Blue Distance.

There is a lot of confusion out there about which novel is coming out next. Here’s the skinny.

If you know my historical fiction, you’re aware of the Wilderness series (six novels, 1792-1824) and the Waverly Place series (two novels, a third currently in preparation, 1883-85).  The Waverly Place novels jump forward to tell the stories of women whose mothers and grandmothers were central to the Wilderness novels.

There IS a third Waverly Place novel forthcoming, but it won’t be the next one published. The next novel (already finished and delivered)  is a kind of bridge novel that takes place in 1857 — after Wilderness, before Waverly. Originally I called this novel LITTLE BIRDS, but my editor and the marketing people just couldn’t live with that. After long and sometimes tense discussion, the title became THE SWEET BLUE DISTANCE.

You probably noticed that the url for this page is saradonati.com/little-birds1857 — but with thee change in title, I have to juggle everything into different urls and spaces.

That will take a while. While I am doing that, basic information about SWEET BLUE will stay on this page, but everything else will disappear on the long journey to the new url:


Things will be messy for a while, and for that I apologize.

About the new novel:

THE SWEET BLUE DISTANCE is a historical novel to be published by Berkley/Penguin in 2024. It is set primarily in New Mexico Territory in 1857.


Carrie Ballentyne is a girl when her life is upended and she must leave Paradise, a small town in the great forests of northern New York State. It is the only home she  has ever known, but a tragedy makes it impossible to stay. With her mother – recently widowed – and her younger brother Nathan she moves to Manhattan.  Her mother remarries, a well-to-do old family friend, and they settle down in a large house on Waverly Place. Carrie never learns to like the city, but she and her brother respect their step-father, Dr. Harrison Quinlan (if not their step-sister Margaret), and school is a welcome distraction.

 At fifteen Carrie enters into a midwifery apprenticeship with her cousin  Amelie Savard  She attends nursing school as well, because her patients and their children need more than one kind of care.

When she has been employed by the New Amsterdam Charity Hospital for six years, the director brings her a letter from his brother-in-law,  of Santa Fe in New Mexico territory. Dr. Markham is looking for a nurse and midwife to join his practice. To the person who can meet his rather unusual requirements he offers a modest salary and room and board with his family. The requirements are unusual but they appeal to Carrie.

Dr. Markham requires someone who is not put off by living far from civilization, with few amenities. The landscape is harsh; the person who joins his practice will have to be comfortable traveling on horseback to see patients. The patients are poor, and most of them have no English. A willingness to learn Spanish is a non-negotiable requirement. The Navajo, Apache and Kiowa and other tribes sometimes attack wagon trains and settlements, so this midwife must be courageous, committed and able to handle weapons. At the same time, she will be living side by side with Indians of many tribes — primarily the Pueblo nations –  and she must be ready to learn about their cultures without assumptions or prejudice.

With Nathan as a traveling companion, Carrie sets out for Santa Fe. The first part of the journey is by train. The rail system reaches only as far as St. Louis, and from there they board a packet on the Missouri River. Once they reach the Kansas Territory border they must join a wagon train.

Carrie will find Santa Fe to be full of unexpected contrasts. It is a town dominated by two forces: first, the Army, which is there to protect the citizens  (but not necessarily all citizens) from Indian raids and to keep the territory under American control.

In the course of the journey west and finding a place for herself in Santa Fe, Carrie finds she can no longer evade the repercussions of the events which made her mother leave Paradise for Manhattan. While she struggles with unresolved loss, she develops a relationship with Eli Ibarra, his father Basque, his mother of the Jemez Pueblo. “Carrie has to learn what it means to be Indian in the west.

In Santa Fe Carrie deals with racial, religious and ethnic conflicts, with slavery and with women’s mental and physical health, and with the political chaos of a nation on the brink of Civil War.


My first novel, Homestead, is set primarily between WWI and WWII and takes place is western-most Austria in a small farming community. Homestead, published under my own name, won the PEN/Hemingway Award.

Homestead, a novel.
Homestead, a novel.

In addition to Homestead,  two novels published under my own name are Tied to the Tracks and The Pajama Girls of Lambert Square, both contemporary and set in the south.

I have written — and still am writing — two series of historical novels, currently totaling eight published novels:


There are two kinds of information here: First, information for readers who have discovered a new interest in American history of this period.  Examples of subjects you will find:

  • the railroad system as it was first established and moved west
  • the Puebloan Nations
  • the fate of those Mexican citizens who became Americans after the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo
  • the great importance and complexity of the chili pepper plant in southwest culture.

Note: this site is just being launched, so there’s very little actually here yet.

Second, you will find a lot of maps and information about the politics of the time.

What you won’t find here

I kept a busy weblog for more than ten years, and that’s the place to go if you are looking for information about writing fiction. There are  multiple discussions of technical and craft issues (point-of-view, narrative voice, how to write sex scenes — a perennial favorite, etc.) That’s also where you’ll find posts about my own storytelling process, how I have dealt with writer’s block (or failed to deal with it); my experiences with the business end of publishing and also a series of autobiographical essays.  If we know each other through some academic connection, there are some posts about linguistics on the weblog, as well as links to some academic publications, also on the weblog, which you’ll find here.  The weblog is very old and creaky but full of information.  To give you a better idea of what you’ll find over there, here’s a subset of posts on the craft of writing fiction:

12 thoughts on “Home”

  1. Can’t wait to read this one. I live in Colorado and have spent quite a bit of time traveling around in this area. A beautiful backdrop for drama.

  2. Thank You for writing another novel. I love your novels, and it is nice to read a good book about historical fiction in a novel that is more than 300 pages. The more pages in a novel, the better! I love novels that are at least 300 pages, as I finish reading books too fast that are less than 300 pages. My love for reading novels with 400 pages or more, was from you, after I read your first novel, Into The Wilderness. I identified with Elisabeth and the Adirondack Mountains of upper New York State, as my family goes there still, every summer. I will pre-order your novel, Little Birds, as I cannot wait to read the next installment of the Bonner Family legacy. Thank You and PLEASE keep these stories coming.

    • Hi Judy — It’s great to hear from readers who really know the area I’m writing about. I’m so glad you have enjoyed the books. And yes, at least on more after Little Birds.

  3. Just saw that “Little Birds” will be coming out in 2023. I am so excited… Gives this old lady something to look forward to…

  4. Looking forward to your new book as I have listened, enjoyed and learn so much from all the others. Is there a way I can get Homestead as a talking book. Does the division of the blind have it?

  5. I’m writing to you from the UK. l have read all your Wilderness and Waverley books and can’t wait for Little Birds. I also intend to now read the Homestead novel too.
    For many years we had a second home in beautiful Vermont and this is where my love of the Wilderness books began. We travelled extensively around the Adirondacks and Lake Champlain so it all seemed so familiar. How we miss those days! So this is really a big thank you to you for the pleasure your books bring.

  6. I am in Melbourne Australia, and wanted to let you know we Aussies LOVE your books. I have read them all twice, the last Wilderness 2 a third time, while reading the Waverley ones – just to refresh my memory. Just love them all and Can’t wait for The Sweet Blue Distance. Thannk you for many hours of pleasure.

  7. Am currently rereading Into the Wilderness and am mesmerized AGAIN. I am just finding out about The Sweet Blue distance. I was wondering are any of Curiosity’s descendants going to appear in the storyline?

    • No, I’m sorry to say there are no Freemans in this novel. One of Lily’s daughters moves across the country, and she’s isolated from everyone.


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