Everybody’s Irish!


My husband’s Austrian mother believed that everyone could claim to be Irish for St. Patrick’s Day. And sure, why not?!

If you’re local, please come to Stillwater Books in downtown Pawtucket, Rhode Island, on Saturday, March 16 to celebrate Stillwater’s first year of business! I’ll be there at 2:00pm to sign copies of my latest novel, April in Galway.

And if you’re not local, but want to read the book in its digital format, you can win a Kindle copy! Just leave a comment below telling me one of your favorite Irish traditions (real or imagined) and I’ll draw a few, because I’m feeling especially generous!

Then, next month, I’ll be in Warren, RI, at Ink Fish Books on Saturday, April 13 at 1:00. Introvert that I am, it’s unusual for me to do these two events, but I am excited about both events – and as much as you can support your local bookstores, please do.

Sláinte!

A New Chapter


retirement

It’s official as of yesterday.

Then again, I’m an author. So I’m never really retired, just able to devote more time to this thing I love. I know people who quit working at a much younger age, and I know plenty who will continue working, either by choice or necessity.

When I walked away from the lucrative job I had as a fraud investigator, I did so because the job, the toxic environment in which I worked, threatened my health. For the next three years, I did not work outside the home. But I tried. I looked for work. I was able to see how much the employment landscape had changed. Back in the 80s, I would revise my resume and send it out with a well-written cover letter to the head of personnel at a company. Ha! Five years ago, I applied online for a variety of jobs, trying to hide the fact that I was over 50, but I knew that whoever or whatever program sorted out applications, mine was likely tossed early.

Then I had an interview with HopeHealth (formerly known as Home and Hospice Care of Rhode Island). Here was an agency that actually valued experience! Here was a place that understood what I could offer. I worked part-time for Hospice from June 2014 until yesterday. I worked at the front desk in the Philip Hulitar Hospice Center in Providence, where old friends and colleagues were admitted at the end of their lives. I assisted in Medical Records, ensuring a patient’s file was complete. I helped out in Quality Control, doing tasks that added to the agency’s compliance with so many federal and state guidelines. All through it, I worked with smart, professional, dedicated people who truly put others before themselves. The years I spent working for Hospice helped to erase the  bitter memories of my previous job.

And now it’s done. I’m 60 years old, which to some of you might seem young for retirement. But my time at Hospice has taught me that life can change in an instant. Sometimes circumstances dictate that we keep working, past the time we’d like to have stopped. My husband and I saved aggressively while we worked full-time, and we don’t live large. I don’t know how many years I have left on this earth – thirty? Eighteen? Three? My goal is to keep writing novels, cherishing a day at the ocean, a cup of coffee, the sound of my old dog snoring.

Here’s to my new chapter.

February in Flux


Feb

Do you feel it, too? It might be the middle of winter (by the calendar), but I think the changes are palpable. Longer days mean more daylight, as we march toward June. (Then, ironically, the longest day is the first day of summer, and from that day forward, the days grow shorter. How cruel.) Here in southern New England we had a brief taste of spring yesterday, but reality has touched our cheeks with icy fingers this morning.

February, this year, is so busy! Already it’s the 6th day of the shortest month, and I looked at our wall calendar (yes, we’re old school that way) – it’s filled with Sharpie notes and appointments. The dentist, the eye doctor, our accountant, our financial advisor. Book events, and a little research getaway. Days flying, and hoping for no snowstorms.

I mentioned in my last blog post (sorry to be such a recalcitrant blogger) that I’m participating in the 85k90 challenge and it’s working for me, for the most part. I’ve lost a few days due to not feeling good (allergy? sinus infection? cold? whatever, I feel lousy), but have stayed on track, and by today, the 37th day of the year, I’ve written 31,928 words of my new novel. It’s fewer words than I’d hoped for, but after I post this, I’ll return to the work-in-process, still untitled, and hope to log in another two thousand words.

 

And I’ve managed to read a few books, too. I finished What If I Fly? by local author Jayne Conway. It’s a good first novel by a local author, and I’m looking forward to reading more of her work. Then I stayed local and read One American Robin by E.A. Mann. It’s got a gorgeous cover and that really drew me in. Finally, I finished Seventh Heaven by Alice Hoffman in two days, because I couldn’t put it down. Brilliant!

Anyway, there are still 22 days left in this month – lots to accomplish, changes afoot (I’ll write more about them once things settle), and we should all try to stay healthy!

The 85K90 Challenge


January usually brings a feeling of renewal. The days are getting longer (they are!). It’s a new year. We have a chance to start fresh, whether that involves your eating habits, exercise routines, spending and saving and investing, or, for me, starting a new novel, January is an opportunity.

As some of you know, I try to complete a novel every year, and because the Association of Rhode Island Authors, a 300+-member group to which I belong, holds its annual RI Author Expo each December, I like to debut the new novel at that time. So January is a chance for me to get started.

This year, I’ve decided to participate in the 85k90 Challenge. Haven’t heard of it? If you’re a writer, or aspiring to be one, this is a terrific place to start. Started as a small Facebook group in 2016, the idea is simple – write 85,000 words in 90 days (January, February, March). I like the year-long plan, because it helps me to plot out the months. Unlike NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), which asks you to write 1,000 words a day for a month (usually November, although there’s one in the summer, too), this 85k90 project is more realistic.

First of all, 30,000 words is not a novel, it’s a novella. I participated in NaNoWriMo twice, and I finished, but I was nowhere near done with writing. This year, if I can write (at least) 85,000 words by the end of March, I’ll be ready to step right into first edits. That’s the plan. Second, thirty days goes by quickly. If life interrupts your writing schedule, it’s difficult to catch up. With 85k90, you have more time. You’re still writing about 1,000 words a day, but there are many days when you’ll write more than that, and it gives you a little cushion for the days that maybe you can’t get to it.

The founder of 85k90 is Julie Valerie, a friend and fabulous writer. I’m so grateful to her for her vision and dedication to this project, and I’m right on track to get the new novel written.

And here’s a tiny bit about that new book – It’s going to be a sequel of two different novels. Yep, I’m writing a sequel to April in Galway and combining it into a sequel to A Jingle Valley Wedding – and it’s working!

jingle april

With All the Madness in my Soul


springsteen1

I’ve mentioned to a few people that it’s worth subscribing to Netflix just to watch “Springsteen on Broadway,” his almost one-man-show that ran at the Walter Kerr Theatre from October 2017 until a couple of weeks ago. On the day it ended, December 15, Netflix picked it up. And either before or after you watch this program, read Michael Hainey’s article about Springsteen in Esquire magazine. Even if you think you know Springsteen.

As a songwriter, he’s on par with Bob Dylan. As a performer, I’m not sure there’s anyone better alive today. Springsteen’s fans will recount their attendance at his legendary concerts.

He’s 69 now (and before you catch your breath on that, remember, as I did, that we’re all older) and he stands before you, the longtime fan, the new fan, the casual observer, and talks about his life. About his hometown, Freehold, New Jersey, the place he couldn’t wait to leave. About his parents, especially his father, who viewed the quiet, sensitive boy as a sissy. About the father-son relationship (“he was my hero, and my greatest foe”). Spoiler alert: it turns out okay in the end, and it might should make you cry a little.

His first breakdown occurred when he was thirty-two, years after he’d already enjoyed tremendous success (six million copies of Born to Run sold in the U.S.). It was hard to explain. He says, “All I do know is as we age, the weight of our unsorted baggage becomes heavier . . . much heavier. With each passing year, the price of our refusal to do that sorting rises higher and higher. . . .”

As a society, we’re talking more about mental illness these days (thankfully), and Springsteen’s candor must be helpful. As Hainey writes, “Springsteen’s desire to share his demons, and to argue for the need he believes all of us have to confront our own—this is one of the show’s great powers. We ignore our demons, he says, at our peril. . . . This is the work of a man revealing his flaws so that he can inspire us to redeem ourselves.”

Hainey and Springsteen discuss pieces of lyrics (brilliant lyrics) that are so much a part of Springsteen (about the line ‘the lies that leave you nothing but lost and brokenhearted,’ Springsteen says, “Everybody carries those things with them. It’s a line that always penetrates. It still penetrates for me when I sing it each night.”)

And finally, those two lines from “Born to Run,” – “Together, Wendy, we can live with the sadness/I’ll love you with all the madness in my soul”

He was only 24 when he wrote those words, years before he had his first breakdown. And they’re possibly the most self-describing lyrics he’s ever written.

Go watch “Springsteen on Broadway.” And let me know what you think.

We’ll Muddle Through Somehow


broken

For many, this truly is the most wonderful time of the year. Some folks find joy in the frenzy of the season. But for others, there’s the exhaustion, the feeling of overwhelm at trying to do it all, in a limited amount of time. Clean, decorate, shop, wrap, bake, toast, mail, smile…. No wonder you’re stressed out.

And for many people, this is a sad time of year. Maybe it’s due to loss – of loved ones, pets, friends. Financial worries. Not enough sunlight (yes, it’s a thing). The loss of meaning in an ever-increasing material world. Or perhaps it’s something harder to pinpoint but can only be described as an all-encompassing feeling of melancholy. We’re living through harsh times, let’s face it. All of this can make you wish you had a river you could skate away on.

Social media is peppered with photos of smiling faces and sparkling trees. Of course it is, no one ever wants to share a photo of themselves feeling blue. And there’s nothing wrong with feeling festive! Celebrate! But if you have a friend or co-worker who opts out of the festivities, just accept it. Let it pass. Because for those who struggle through this time of year, all they wish for is to muddle through, somehow.

What I Read this Year


Not enough! So many books, not enough time. But perhaps there are a couple of books on my list that didn’t make it onto yours, and maybe you’ll want to add them to your TBR pile:

fire and fury Fire and Fury – Inside the Trump White House by Michael Wolff lived up to its hype. I don’t know that there was anything startling in it, because this administration has been reported on every day. And by now, there’s just so much more…

Galway Stories Galway Stories by Kevin Barry and Mary Costello really helped me understand more about Galway, the setting for my most recent novel. Sometimes gritty, sometimes delightful.

No Excuses No Excuses by Yolanda Alvarez. Let yourself be uncomfortable as you read this stark memoir. My bet is that your upbringing was very different from the author’s. Still, in spite of all the negatives that can be associated with Alvarez’s childhood, she survived. And thrived. And succeeded. Her story will fill your heart.

The Paris Wife The Paris Wife by Paula McLain. This book is about Ernest Hemingway’s wife Hadley Richardson. Written mostly from her perspective, this is a must-read.

This Unfamiliar Road This Unfamiliar Road by Jill Fague. Fague’s first-person account of her battle with breast cancer will move you. With clear and honest writing, she details not only the procedures but all of her emotions.

Thirteenth Star Under the Thirteenth Star – an anthology of writing by Rhode Island authors is the Association of Rhode Island Authors’ second annual anthology. Inside you’ll find a variety of selections from some of Rhode Island’s best.

corey I’m Still Here by Corey Calligano. Another young woman who battled breast cancer. Calligano writes in an honest voice, holding nothing back. A brave and compelling journey.

Damiani Il Bel Centro by Michelle Damiani details her family’s year abroad in the small town of Spello, Italy. Written with humor and introspection, you’ll follow the Damiani family from their home in Virginia to their new home in Italy.

Whitman Have Mercy by Barbara Ann Whitman. Using her extensive knowledge as a family support counselor, Whitman created a novel based on a young girl in the foster system. You’ll feel as if you know Mercy as she navigates the complex road to adulthood.

Matilda Messing with Matilda by Cat Lavoie. Lavoie is one of my favorite romantic comedy authors, and for a sweet escape, pick up this one. Actually, read everything Cat has written!

How to Walk Away How to Walk Away by Katherine Center. Give me a book about hope and despair and I’m hooked. This one ticks all the boxes, with wit, raw emotion, pain, heartache, and ultimately, love and acceptance. Probably the best book I read this year.

North Haven North Haven by Sarah Moriarty. I’ll admit, I picked up this book because I lived in North Haven (Connecticut) for a short time as a small child. This story, however, has nothing to do with Connecticut and everything to do with an island in Maine and a family vacation home. It’s a great summer read.

Hood The Book that Matters Most by Ann Hood. Hood’s early works are magnificent, but like The Obituary Writer and An Italian Wife, this one left me less than thrilled. It’s somewhat autobiographical, and the ending was so far-fetched I was left disappointed.

Stranger Stranger or Friend by Silvia Villalobos. This thriller will grip you from the beginning. The writer uses tension skillfully in her scenes, and if you’re a murder-mystery reader, grab this one.

Mai Crossing the Bamboo Bridge – Memoirs of a Bad Luck Girl by Mai Donohue. You’ll find it difficult to pause your reading of this riveting memoir. From her forced marriage in a Vietnamese village to her escape and survival, against extreme adversity, you’ll come to admire this remarkable woman.

truth The Pendulum’s Truth by Leigh Brown and Victoria Corliss. The writing team of Brown and Corliss make team-writing work so well, you’d think they were just one person. They convey emotion with excellence and tell a great story that you’ll truly enjoy.

How Hard How Hard Can it Be? by Allison Pearson is a laugh out loud funny, brutally honest account of how women of ‘a certain age’ find themselves being pulled from both directions. So relatable to women dealing with work, kids, aging parents, and marriage.

Fear Fear by Bob Woodward. I probably didn’t need to read another book about the chaos in the White House, by the chief chaos creator, but it’s Bob Woodward. This account of the Trump presidency is spot-on, but it’s not like you’re going to feel any better after reading it.

print A Printer’s Choice by W.L. Patenaude. I’m not typically a reader of science fiction, but I was thoroughly engrossed in this well-written novel about the classic battle between good and evil.

A Place of Springs A Place of Springs by Hannah Colby. Colby’s big book was years in the making, and her dedication to scene and detail is evident. An epic tale of love and loss, despair and hope, against a backdrop of the horrific Bosnian War.

Alternate Side by Anna Quindlen. How I missed this one is beyond me. No wonder she’s one of my favorite authors.

Well, that’s it! How about you? What was the best book you read in 2018? What book are you looking forward to?