girls of atomic city

Nook sale! "Signing Their Lives Away" ebook is just $2.99!

2019-4-19-11-STLA-Memorial Day Sale.png

Our publisher just let us know that the bestselling book Signing Their Lives Away: The Fame and Misfortune of the Men Who Signed the Declaration of Independence —written with my husband and sometimes co-author Joseph D’Agnese—is on sale. The special Nook ebook price is $2.99, so if you’ve been meaning to check it out, now is the time.

The deal is supposed to run through Memorial Day weekend, and end late on 5/27. If you are traveling or have plans for the holiday weekend, don’t take a chance. Carpe that freaking diem.

Snag the deal here.

Quick reminder: Signing Their Lives Away tells the often quirky stories of the 56 men who signed the Declaration of Independence. We think it pairs nicely with summer, frosty brews, a slab of ribs, a beach umbrella, and a red-white-and-blue muumuu. Get your patriot on.

Meanwhile—if you need another reminder: The Girls of Atomic City is still on sale for $3.99 through the end of June 2. Yay.


Colleen, I miss you.

Colleen making her  NPR  debut.

Colleen making her NPR debut.

Into the lobby of Greenfield Assisted Living stepped a vision of sassy Christmas cheer. She was bedazzled in glitz, animal prints and smiles with a blinking holiday-light necklace draped around her neck and antlers sprouting from her head. Now burned into my memory like some nuclear-powered yule log, this was my first glimpse of the force of nature that was Colleen Black.

Colleen entered my life as a potential interview subject for the book I was writing at the time, The Girls of Atomic City. She was surprised I wanted to talk to her about her role in the Manhattan Project. After all, she assured me, she had no idea what she was working on at the time. While she couldn't imagine why I would want to hear about her adventures as an 18-year-old single gal living and working in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, during World War II, I couldn't imagine this vibrant 80-something-year-old not having plenty to say once I'd sat with her for a bit. Boy, was I right.

Long after interviews were logged and the manuscript edited, Colleen and I stayed in touch. We wrote and called, and I often visited whenever I was in town for an event. If I didn't get a hold of her beforehand, I always knew I could find her holding court at Panera's after morning mass, where their old-timer's coffee klatch often turned into impromptu book signings for Colleen. Friends and strangers often approached and asked her to sign their copies of The Girls of Atomic City. Colleen would write to tell me about these and other "celebrity" experiences, as she called them. She was Skyping with book clubs across the country, speaking to school kids down the road, and charming everyone in her path with her ration tales, wartime songs and Irish country wit, all wrapped up in that Tennessee twang.

I have a collection of collages Colleen has sent me over the years, most of them given to me long after the work on my book was done. Photos casually snapped in her apartment showed up in my inbox and mailbox, draped with historic news clippings and photos of the other atomic city "girls."  She was always there with a daily joke or up-by-your-bootstraps encouragement, with remembrances and prayers for my own mother, who is next to me as I type this, sleeping, waking and sleeping again, nearing the end of her own time with me. Colleen's daughter Suzanne called me earlier today to tell me that Colleen had died this morning. We had been in touch, Suzanne and I, two daughters waiting and watching as the mothers they loved began to move on from this world.

She is a collage all her own now, my Colleen. My mind today is a visual mish-mash of leopard-spotted, fuzzy-slippered, sing-songy snippets of chats—both on the record and off— and babblings over cheap wines with goofy or naughty names that gave her a giggle. (Fat Bastard was a house favorite.) Colleen died as she lived, surrounded by family and song and love, held close in the hearts of many of us who knew the joys of her friendship. I will lift a glass of  Marilyn Merlot in her honor. I can almost hear her laughing.

Paperback Tour for "The Girls of Atomic City"

Yes, it’s about that time to hit the road. Here are the cities I’ll be visiting in the coming months. Check back for additional dates. Hope to see some of you out on the road!

Monday, February 24, 2014

New York, NY

Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism

*Event Closed


Saturday, March 1, 2014, 9:15 AM

Long Beach, CA

Long Beach Festival of Authors

Long Beach Convention Center, 110 Pine Ave.


Monday, March 3, 2014, 11:15 AM

Denver, CO

American Physical Society - Annual Meeting

Colorado Convention Center, 700 14th Street

*Registration Required


Tuesday, March 11, 2014, 7:00 PM

South Hadley, MA

Odyssey Books, 9 College Street


Thursday, March 13, 2014, 7:30 PM

Fredericksburg, VA

University of Mary Washington

Dodd Auditorium, George Washington Hall

1301 College Avenue

*Ticketed Event


Saturday, March 15, 2014, 5 PM

Asheville, NC

Malaprop’s Bookstore Cafe

55 Haywood Street


Tuesday, March 18, 2014, Noon

Oak Ridge, TN

ALTRUSA Literacy Luncheon

Oak Ridge High School

1450 Oak Ridge Turnpike

*Ticketed Event


Friday and Saturday, March 21 - 22, 2014, 2:00 PM

Charlottesville, VA

Virginia Festival of the Book


Monday, March 24, 2014, 7:00 PM

Austin, TX

Book People

603 N Lamar Boulevard


Tuesday, March 25, 2014, 7:00 PM

Houston, TX

Brazos Bookstore

2421 Bissonnet Street


Wednesday, March 26, 2014, 3:00 PM

Oxford, MS

Oxford Conference for the Book

Journalism Panel moderated by Curtis Wilkie

Overby Center at the University of Mississippi

555 Grove Loop, Suite 247


Tuesday, April 1, 2014, 7:00 PM

Ann Arbor, MI

Nicola’s Books

2513 Jackson Ave. (in Westgate Shopping Center)


Wednesday, April 2, 7:00 PM

Cincinnati, OH

Joseph-Beth Booksellers

2692 Madison Road


Monday, April 7, 2014, 7:00 PM

Naperville, IL

Anderson’s Book Shop

123 W. Jefferson Avenue


Tuesday, April 8, 2014, 6:00 PM

Wichita, KS

Watermark Books

4701 E. Douglas Avenue


Thursday and Friday, April 10 - 11, 2014

Boone and Hudson, NC 

Caldwell Community College

Details forthcoming

Autographed and Personalized Books for the Holidays


It’s gift-giving-buying season once again. I am, as always, working with my fantabulous independent bookstore Malaprop’s to offer personalized, autographed copies of The Girls of Atomic City and other titles. Signed books always make great gifts and autographing eReaders simply hasn’t taken off yet. I work with Malaprop’s year round, but during the holidays I get lots of questions about wrapping  and shipping and so forth.

Here’s the skinny:

The easiest way to get an autographed book is to call Malaprop’s directly at 1-800-441-9829 or 828-254-6734. The store is chock full of helpful, cheerful folks. Once one of these charmers answers the phone, just tell them…

  1. Which book you want to order and the author’s name. 
  2. How you want the book personalized. To you? To the mother-in-law you’re always trying to suck up to? Do you want it to say “Merry Christmas,” “Happy Holidays,” “For a history buff,” or nothing at all?
  3. Give them your payment information and shipping address.

That’s it! Malaprop’s will get me in to sign and will ship your book out to you or to the person of your choice, autographed and ready to go.

But what about gift wrapping?

Yes indeed, they gift wrap. I told you they were wonderful. So, you can have that autographed book gift-wrapped AND have a gift card slapped on it. That package of holiday reading cheer will be shipped wherever you want and will arrive ready to be shoved under a tree, stuck in a (larger than usual) stocking, placed next to the menorah, or swapped at an office party.

Can I order online?

Technically, yes, but calling is much more efficient and, in the long run, will take up much less of your time.

Which books of yours can I order?

Any of them, really. Here are some of the most popular titles. Others can be found on my website.

The Girls of Atomic City: The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II

Signing Their Lives Away: The Fame and Misfortune of the Men Who Signed the Declaration of Independence

Signing Their Rights Away: The Fame and Misfortune of the Men Who Signed the Constitution

Stuff Every American Should Know

The Money Book for Freelancers, Part-Timers, and the Self-Employed

Happy shopping, and thanks for supporting a local independent bookstore!