I am the bestselling author of nine novels, including the Swiss Chocolate trilogy and VILLA DEL SOL, which won the 2018 Book Award in Literary Fiction from the Independent Publishers of New England.
My newest series includes the books A JINGLE VALLEY WEDDING, APRIL IN GALWAY, and ALL’S WELL IN JINGLE VALLEY.
Find my books online at Amazon, locally at Stillwater Books (Pawtucket, Rhode Island) and Ink Fish Books (Warren, Rhode Island).
I hope you’ll join me again this year as I feature a different Rhode Island author every day in November. For the past few years, this has served as a lead-up to our annual RI Authors Expo. This year the Expo will be a virtual event, but the November showcase will be just as much fun, with a couple of great prizes and lots of books to give away!
Each day a member of the Association of Rhode Island Authors will be featured here. You can learn a little about the author as well as their book(s). Many authors will offer a giveaway, and your comment on that day’s blog post enters you into the author’s drawing.
But wait, there’s more! Your daily comment also enters you into our Grand Prize and Bonus Prize drawings. You can get up to 30 entries just by commenting – of course, all of our authors appreciate your likes and follows, too. The Grand Prize is a $200 Amazon gift card, just in time for some serious holiday shopping, and the Bonus Prize is a $100 Amazon gift card.
You can follow this blog by email, and I’ll also be sharing the daily posts to my Facebook pages.
Meanwhile, enjoy the month of October! Due to the rainfall shortage here in New England, we have some spectacular color. But we could use some rain. I know that other areas of the country, especially the West, are in difficult shape, so my thoughts are always with all of you on the West coast. Around the globe, there is uncertainty. Know that I’m acutely aware. I just see this blog as a way to momentarily escape, and it’s my intent to give you an outlet, even if for just a few moments, to step away from the news headlines and negativity. Life continues. Breathe.
For the past eight years, my summers have been spent mostly editing and rewriting a novel. Not so much this year – the pandemic and everything else has me stymied, and the new novel I’d started in January has languished. Oh, it’ll get done, eventually. So I read more than I usually do, which is also a good thing. Here’s what I read this summer:
The Last Week of May by Roisin Meaney (2007). One of my favorite writers, Roisin Meaney will remind you of the late Maeve Binchy. Great character-driven stories set mostly in Ireland, The Last Week of May centers around May O’Callaghan and her neighbors in the village of Kilpatrick.
The Daughters of Erietown by Connie Schultz (2020). Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Connie Schultz wrote a novel, although it seems to be based in large part on her own family and life. Like another journalist-turned-novelist, Anna Quindlen, Schultz’s writing style is crisp and uncluttered. Loved it.
Life Happens: And Other Unavoidable Truths by Connie Schultz (2006). This book is a compilation of Schultz’s commentaries and columns. Fourteen years after its initial publication, many of the topics are even more timely today – single motherhood, race relations, voting (or not voting).
The Summer Country by Lauren Willig (2019). My husband gave me this book for Christmas, but I didn’t get around to it until the summer (see first paragraph above). It’s an epic tale about generations on the island of Barbados in the 1800s. Lots of characters, and it’s a good idea to make notes about the relationships as you read (the author couldn’t include a family tree because it would spoil the story). The writing is exquisite.
One Summer by Roisin Meaney (2012). I’m making my way through Meaney’s books, a couple at a time. This one is about a young woman named Nell, who moves from Dublin to the island of Roone, off the west coast of Ireland (loosely based on the island of Valentia, off the Kerry coast). Again, a delightful and quirky mix of characters make for a most enjoyable read.
After the Wedding by Roisin Meaney (2014). This is a sequel to One Summer, so as soon as I’d finished reading One Summer, I downloaded this one. The reader is taken again to the island of Roone, to continue the stories set up in the first book. Meaney’s books are best enjoyed with a cup of tea and a soft blanket (or pet) in your lap.
The Admissions by Meg Mitchell Moore (2015). Wow. This book hooked me right from the start, and the tension didn’t let up! This is a great story about modern-day parents and kids under pressure to achieve. The Hawthornes may look like the perfect family, but underneath the veneer there’s all kinds of angst and desperation, and secrets!
The Last Bathing Beauty by Amy Sue Nathan (2020). I read this one all the way through (because it takes a lot for me to give up on a book), and I liked it enough, but it did feel like there was way too much telling and not enough showing (Writing 101). At time it felt as though I was reading a screenplay.
Cleo McDougal Regrets Nothing by Allison Winn Scotch (2020). I’m glad I stayed with this book, because it was worth it. Cleo McDougal will annoy you – because she’s flawed! But you’ll find yourself totally invested, and rooting for her redemption. I loved it.
Stay by Catherine Ryan Hyde (2019). Another of my favorite authors, it feels as though she writes just for me. What a gift she has for telling a story. This one is set in the summer of 1969 and features a 14-year-old boy, Lucas Painter, at the center. Can I just say that Hyde captures the spirit of this teenaged boy perfectly?
The New Girl by Daniel Silva (2019). Both my husband and my cousin Becky are big fans of Daniel Silva. I had never read any of his books, but after my husband finished it, I decided it would be my next read. Okay, so now I’m a fan, too. I wasn’t sure I’d take to this thriller, but Silva kept my attention through every twist and turn on the page. I will definitely be reading more.
Something in Common by Roisin Meaney (2013). Another by Meaney, this one between aspiring writer Sarah and hard-edged journalist Helen. Meaney doesn’t feel obligated to give us the cliched happy-ever-after. That’s the easy way. Instead, she tells a more realistic story that will challenge you at every turn. She’s brilliant. Full stop.
The Heartbreak Café by Melissa Hill (2011). I can’t remember who recommended Melissa Hill to me. Maybe just as well. I tried, but I couldn’t finish it. There were way too many grammatical errors and the plot was going nowhere. It’s hard to quit a book, but I needed to move on from this.
28 Summers by Elin Hildebrand (2020). Inspired by the movie “Same Time, Next Year,” Hilderbrand creates her own story based on , of course, her beloved Nantucket island. Hilderbrand is called the ‘Queen of the Beach Read,’ with good reason.
The Lost Letter by Jillian Cantor 2017). I did enjoy reading this book. It felt like it was meticulously researched, and told a compelling story – something a bit different about the Resistance. But…..here’s my pet peeve. When an author uses a phrase or word too often, it settles in my mind and takes away from the enjoyment of reading. In this case, it was ‘a little.’ There are 148 instances of ‘a little’ in this book – too much! Her editor should have picked up on it. Smiled a little, shivered a little, laughed a little. Ugh.
The Reunion by Roisin Meaney (2016). Listen, Meaney’s books are quick reads, that’s why I could tear through them. Plus, I hated to put them down! Returning to a Roisin Meaney novel is one of the best things I can do for myself. I lose myself in her characters, people you wish you knew personally. I indulge in the plot, not cliched or predictable. I revel in the descriptions of places and food.
The Nanny Diaries by Emma Mclaughlin and Nicola Kraus (2002). I returned to this book for research purposes (my new novel is about a nanny). I remember grabbing it from the library nearly twenty years ago – what a delicious read! Still great, if a little dated.
The Matchmaker by Elin Hilderbrand (2014). Some of Hilderbrand’s most fervent fans did not like this book. I loved it. Delving into uncomfortable topics is a good thing – I felt all of it, from Agnes’s relationship with CJ, to Dabney’s relationship with Box. All of it. If you can make the reader cry at the end, to me that’s success! Well done.
An Address in Amsterdam by Mary Dingee Fillmore (2016). It was clear the author did meticulous research for this book. Set in Amsterdam during the World War II years, it tells a story about Rachel, an 18-year-old Jewish girl who sees the atrocities happening to her Jewish friends and neighbors and gets involved in the Resistance. Excellent descriptions of the area (the author lived for a time in Amsterdam). There were a couple of graphic sexual references that just didn’t fit, but otherwise a must-read.
Have You Seen Luis Velez? by Catherine Ryan Hyde (2019). Unusual title, right? There’s a line in the book that really stayed with me: “People judge you by your most controversial half.” The central character, Raymond (17) is bi-racial and wondering where he belongs. His 92-year-old friend Millie was the daughter of a Jewish mother and non-Jewish father, which impacted her young life at the start of World War II. Together they find a way to reconcile their guilt and fear. This is a beautiful story, as always.
Love in the Present Tense by Catherine Ryan Hyde (2007). Early CRH! I found the pacing a bit slow, but I really liked the characters. It’s about the bond between a five-year-old boy abandoned by his mother and the man who ends up raising him.
The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett (2020). Well, this book kept me up all night recently. I could not put it down. Wasn’t even sleepy. Yes, it’s that good. Gorgeous, lyrical prose. Some say it’s reminiscent of Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, which I now need to read.
The Castaways by Elin Hilderbrand (2009). Back when she was writing a Nantucket “series,” this was the second book out of three. I didn’t read her books in order, but it didn’t matter. I liked this one a lot, because it brought out the characters so well.
Two Fridays in April by Roisin Meaney (2015). You can see that I read a lot of Meaney and Hilderbrand. Perhaps because they’re both so well suited to summer reading. Every one of Roisin Meaney’s books is a gem.
The Island by Elin Hilderbrand (2010). I picked this one from my library. While nearly all of Hilderbrand’s novels take place on Nantucket, this one actually is set on Tuckernuck, a little spot of land just off Nantucket, owned by its summer residents and lacking paved roads and public utilities. Perfect spot for a mother to bring her two grown daughters and her widowed sister, where, without the distractions of modern-day life, the women are forced into introspection.
The Daisy Picker by Roisin Meaney (2004). This was Meaney’s first novel, and it’s a good one! Main character Lizzie, 41, is stuck in a rut, with a dead-end job and a reluctant fiancé. After seeing a magazine article about regrets, Lizzie decides to pack it in, leave her parents’ home, and drive 80 miles away to start a new adventure. Bravo, Lizzie!
Rogue’s Isles by Thomas Briody (1995). How did I not know about this book?? Thanks to Stillwater Books in Pawtucket, Rhode Island https://www.stillwaterbooksri.com/ I found Tom Briody’s novel, loosely (very loosely) based on the credit union crisis and subsequent disappearance of the notorious Joseph Mollicone on the early 1990s. A great read!
Someday, Someday, Maybe by Lauren Graham (2013). I remember when this book was released, saying I wanted to read it. Well, seven years later, I got around to it. Graham is best known as Lorelei Gilmore on “The Gilmore Girls” and Sarah Braverman on “Parenthood.” It seems to be semi-autobiographical, and is definitely in the voice of Graham/Gilmore/Braverman. Funny, light (mostly), and touching, it defines the hopefulness of a newcomer in New York City, hoping to make it big.
Modern Lovers by Emma Straub (2016). I had this book at the cottage last week, and spent many days by the pool. I stuck with it, but I did find myself turning pages rapidly, just to get through a chapter. The plot was somewhat compelling, and the characters were okay, but I don’t think I’ll remember much about this book.
Okay, I counted 29 books – I don’t think I’ve read that much in a summer since I was eight years old. How about you? What did you read that you loved? Any recommendations?
I had my first COVID-19 test on Sunday morning. After staying home for the past six months, my husband and I are taking a little vacation to Maine this week, and we both needed tests before traveling. I scheduled it online – easy – for 9:00 in the morning on a Sunday. I thought we might be the only ones there. Nope.
By registering online, I’d already provided our names, birthdates, address, telephone number, health provider information. We showed up at 9:00 on Sunday and found at least ten cars ahead of us in line. This was in Providence, at the designated facility in the Convention Center garage. Windows up. Camouflage-wearing National Guards patrolling. We inched along. I looked to my right and noticed another line of cars, but they seemed to be moving. I realized that the National Guard volunteers (thank you) were working the two lines, only the line to my right was being run very efficiently – a volunteer was walking up and down the line, taking pertinent information, and slipping a test kit under the driver’s windshield wiper. Our line didn’t have anyone walking up and down the line, so nothing happened until we reached the head of the line.
With the windows up (“Windows Must Stay Closed!” “No Cellphones! No Cameras!” – would someone actually take a selfie at a COVID test? Of course they would), my husband pressed his license to the window, while a guard wrote down by hand all of his information – the same information I’d provided online. Why couldn’t he just scan the license, I thought. Then it was the same for my license. Meanwhile, the cars to my right were moving forward. We waited for our test kits to be stuck under the wipers, then we inched ahead. The test itself took seconds. Yes, I was nervous – all I’d heard was that a Q-tip was pushed up your nostril until it reached your brain. So, that wasn’t the case, and it only took seconds. And that was it. We had instructions for how to find our results online (we’re both negative). All in all, it took one hour from the time we arrived – on a Sunday morning, six months into the pandemic.
So this morning I voted in the primary. My little town didn’t have much of a primary – my representative in the US House of Representatives, Jim Langevin, had an unknown challenger, and there were two men vying for an empty state senate seat. So, two races. But it was right up the street and my husband and I always vote, so off we went. No lines. We were all masked up, as it’s the norm these days, and I walked up to the desk. A Plexiglas panel was between the volunteer worker and me. I took out my license and boom! “Just set it right there, dear. That’s right. I’ll scan it.” See? That was easy. She handed me a pen, that I was to keep (no more sharing pens, right?) and I made my little circles on the ballot, then I fed it into the machine. I was #34 at 9:30 this morning. I’m sure November will be a lot busier.
Perhaps the National Guard couldn’t scan our licenses because we had to keep our windows up? I don’t know, it was just ten times easier to vote today than it was to get a COVID test on Sunday. But the test results are good, and I hope the primary results are as well.
The first six months of 2020 brought enough bad news to fill a couple of decades, right? It takes effort some days to find something good, something that will make you smile. At least that’s been my experience.
So I turned to reading – a lot of books, and I’ll use a different post to write about the books I’ve read these past months. My husband and I watch Netflix and Amazon Prime – choosing travel and food shows, classic movies, documentaries. I’ve been poking around YouTube as well, and last week I found this channel, and I couldn’t be happier.
“Twins the New Trend” is the channel of twins Tim and Fred Williams, 22-year-old Gary, Indiana natives whose musical knowledge was mostly limited to rap. They post their reactions to songs, usually classics recommended to them by their subscribers. (I didn’t know this was a thing! But apparently it is – of course, because everything is on YouTube).
Anyway, on July 27, after their channel had been up and running for months, they reacted to Phil Collins’s “In the Air Tonight,” a song that goes back to 1981, when I was 23 and the twins hadn’t been born yet (possible their mother hadn’t been born yet). Their reaction to the drum solo at three minutes in is priceless. Watch:
Well, that video went viral on Twitter, and within a couple of weeks, the twins have seen their subscriber count rise by hundreds of thousands. What makes these young men so appealing is their honesty and open-minded attitude towards all genres of music. It’s refreshing and fills me with hope. They listen to the song. Watch how they react to Dolly Parton’s “Jolene,” a song that is nearly 50 years old – and country!
Tim (usually seen on the left, or by himself) and his twin brother Fred, are willing to watch anything, and their fans have given them plenty of suggestions. The men have reacted to Luciano Pavarotti, Frank Sinatra, Adele, Eminem, Queen, The Carpenters, and Elvis:
So why are they so successful? Why do they have more than 427,000 subscribers? I don’t know. Maybe it’s people like me watching someone younger react for the first time to a song I know so well. Maybe it’s because they’re young Black men who decided to open their minds (and ears) to something besides rap, and we’re seeing their honest reactions. Maybe it’s because, in their younger selves, we can relive our own wondrous younger days that were filled with songs on the radio. For whatever reason, this past week has given me a few things that have filled me with hope, and the twins are one of them.
As you probably know, I re-released my 2015 novel Best Seller after Amazon determined the title was “misleading.” Yeah, but I’m over it now. The Way to Remember is the same book, tightened up a bit, and with a new title and new cover.
The story takes place in 1976, so I thought it would be fun to make a playlist based on the book. I hope you enjoy this travel back in time!
“Fame” by David Bowie. The song was released in on Bowie’s 1975 album Young Americans. This video is from 1978, a few years after Robin Fortune’s initial adventure.
“Afternoon Delight” by the Starland Vocal Band. It reached #1 on July 10, 1976. Songwriter Bill Danoff (a member of the group) said he didn’t want to write an all-out ‘sex song,’ just ‘something that was fun and hinted at sex.’
“Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” by Elton John and Kiki Dee. Released on June 21, 1976. Elton john and his lyric-writing partner Bernie Taupin originally intended for Dusty Springfield to record the song with Sir Elton, but she was unable to do it, and they turned to Kiki Dee, a British singer mostly unknown in the US.
“Kiss and Say Goodbye” by The Manhattans. This song was released in March 1976 and became a worldwide success, hitting #1 in the US, Belgium, the Netherlands, and New Zealand.
“Love Hurts” by Nazareth. It reached #8 in early 1976. This is the same song that was recorded by The Everly Brothers in 1960, but with a much different sound! (You might want to look into the other version to compare).
Theme from Mahogany (“Do You Know Where You’re Going To?) by Diana Ross. It was released on September 24, 1975.
“Let Your Love Flow” by the Bellamy Brothers, a country duo who achieved international success with this song. It was released in January 1976. Both Neil Diamond and Johnny Rivers passed on recording it.
“Evil Woman” by the Electric Light Orchestra (ELO). This song was released in October 1975 on the band’s fifth album, Face the Music. Lead vocalist Jeff Lynne wrote the song in thirty minutes.
“Get Closer” by Seals and Crofts, released in April 1976. Billboard ranked it as the #16 song of 1976. Carolyn Willis of the group Honey Cone is the featured vocalist.
“Love is Alive” by Gary Wright. Released in April 1976. It spent 27 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, and was ranked the #9 song of 1976.
“Fly Robin Fly” by the German disco group Silver Convention, released 1975. Owing to the success of this song, Silver Convention became the first German act to have a number one song on American music charts.
And there’s your travel back to the mid-70s! I hope you enjoyed this little playlist. And I’m working on a new playlist to go along with my novel-in-progress, The Summer of Princess Diana.
On the day I turned two years old, the Democratic National Convention nominated John F. Kennedy as its presidential candidate (he went on to win that November). The #1 song in the country was “Alley Oop,” by The Hollywood Argyles. Yeah, I don’t remember any of this. But here’s the song:
On the day I turned 12, construction started on the underground metro in Amsterdam. Apparently planning had been in the works for 50 years. I’ve been to Amsterdam, but I walked everywhere. More familiar to me was the #1 song, “Mama Told Me (Not to Come) by Three Dog Night. Here it is:
On the day I turned 22, I was a recent college graduate in search of a job. It was a slow news day. The temperature in Memphis reached 108 degrees. And the #1 song on the Billboard R&B chart was “Take Your Time (Do It Right)” by The S.O.S. Band. I loved this song! Here it is:
On the day I turned 32, Pima County in Arizona considered banning foam products like Styrofoam containers and coffee cups. “Dick Tracy” and “Die Harder” were in the movie theaters. And the #1 song in the country was “Step by Step” by New Kids on the Block. Travel back to 1990 here:
On the day I turned 42, HarperCollins and Warner Books had both bid $7 million for publishing rights to Jack Welch‘s biography. And the #1 song on the country charts was “I Hope You Dance” by Lee Ann Womack. Here it is:
On the day I turned 52, George Steinbrenner died at the age of 80. I remember standing at the entrance to a restaurant on that day, and the news was on a TV screen above us. I said to my husband, “Oh, Steinbrenner died. Well, he was 80.” Two old guys were in line behind us. One of them said to the other, “Hey, Steinbrenner died. And he was only 80.” The #1 song on the adult contemporary charts was “Need You Now” by Lady A. Have a listen here:
And so here we are. I’m 62 today. Yikes. The #1 song as of today (July 9) has been at #1 for the past 17 weeks. It’s “Memories” by Maroon 5 (appropriate!), and here it is:
About four years ago, I wrote a book and called it Best Seller. It enjoyed some success and more than a few kind reviews. It was one of the nine novels I’ve written, and one of my favorites.
Last November, I received word from Amazon (where most of my books are sold) that they had a problem with the book’s title. They deemed it ‘misleading,’ and advised me that unless I changed it in a few days, they would remove the book from their selling platform.
Wait, what? What??? The book was up for sale for years, and now Amazon decides it’s got a misleading title? And by the way, it wasn’t misleading at all. The words ‘a novel’ were right beneath the title. And, in one of many telephone calls I had with staff at Amazon, I assured them that the novel had never achieved its optimistically titled status.
Didn’t matter. We emailed back and forth numerous times, and I spoke with as many as six different service agents, but the answer always came back the same. And a week later, poof! Best Seller, and all of its reviews, were gone.
Now, I’ve re-released the book. It’s got a different name – The Way to Remember is the name of the book the main character, Robin, is working on – and a new cover. The book’s contents are the same, with just some minor tweaking to, I hope, make it better.
For many of you who read this blog, you probably already purchased and read the book years ago, so I don’t want to trick you into thinking it’s new. It’s not, and the novel I’m working on these days won’t be ready until the end of this year (if I can finish it).
However, if I can find your old review (I was able to take some screenshots before it disappeared), I will be reaching out to you, asking you to post that review again. Because reviews are so, so important to authors. I’m hoping you’ll be willing.
Anyway, that’s my news for the middle of 2020. What a year, right? I hope you’re doing okay – physically, mentally, emotionally. It has been challenging, certainly for me on all of those fronts. Be well, stay safe, wear your face covering.
Oh, what a lazy blogger I’ve been. Well, maybe not lazy. Distracted. Discouraged. But determined. I’ve finally returned – somewhat – to my new novel, the one I’d drafted in January and February, the same one that was set aside for the past three months. Isolating at home doesn’t always lead to productivity.
Anyway, I was challenged by my good friend Vikki Corliss, of Brown Corliss Books, to post 10 travel photos over 10 days. I’m limiting my time on Facebook these days, but I did post to Instagram, so I wanted to share them here, for you. For this post, only the photos.
There you have it. I had fun putting these together. The photos go back as far as 1978, and all bring back fond memories.
Every mother-daughter relationship is unique. Complex. Some of these relationships evolve over time, if there is enough time to evolve.
I looked up to her, then I didn’t. I resented that she was so strict – my friends’ moms seemed so much cooler. More permissive, certainly. By the time I got to college, I distanced myself – I could do what I wanted without her constantly looking over my shoulder. I was free to screw up as much as I wanted.
I asked if I could spend my junior year at the University of Fribourg in Switzerland. It was a program offered by my college, and many of my friends, all of us liberal arts majors, were going. Surprisingly, my parents said okay, and off I went.
On the day after Easter that year, my father died of a massive heart attack. My mother was a widow at 50. Three daughters – my older sister just out of college, me overseas and unreachable, and my younger sister still in high school. A widow at 50. Her parents were still alive. She had two brothers, but they both had their own issues. She was forced into doing all the things her husband had always done. Lawyers, accountants. Who will mow the lawn, service the car, pay the bills?
She learned to live on her own. Eventually her daughters moved out, she moved to a condo, and loved quilting. Her membership in the Narragansett Bay Quilters’ Association gave her purpose in her newly-single life. But she missed Jack every day.
It was around 20 years ago that my sisters and I noticed some changes in her behavior. She had no recollection of an event that we had participated in just a couple of years earlier. My sisters and I finally got her to agree to a test, and the diagnosis was fronto-temporal dementia. How cruel! This brilliant woman, who did crossword puzzles in pen, who taught me to love language and words, who majored in mathematics at Pembroke, was slowly losing her memory and cognitive abilities. I’m grateful that we, and my husband and brother-in-law, were able to surround her with love as she passed.
I think one of the reasons our relationship was a challenge (before I grew up and it wasn’t) was that we were more alike than either of us could admit. As she became more childlike with her disease, it fell to her daughters to be the caregivers, to mother the mother. We did, all three of us. We are Joyce’s girls, always.