Book-a-Day #Giveaway Featuring Author Michael Hartigan

Leave a comment on today’s post and you’re eligible to win this author’s giveaway. Each day in November that you comment gives you an entry into the Grand Prize giveaway at the end of the month! (Print copies for US residents only, please. If you live outside the US and win, you’ll receive a digital version of the book.)

Stone Angels Michael Hartigan

Traveling on the Page for a New Perspective

Travel and literature go together like Hemingway and Key West. Some of history’s most beloved books are journey tales that send protagonists adventuring from one destination to another, across lands real or imagined. In the travel tale there is always a physical destination, but it is about more than just that – characters embark on internal voyages of growth, be they spiritual, emotional or otherwise. The main character may be seeking treasure or fame but underneath they are seeking love, redemption, revenge or peace. Shakespeare, Tolkien, Hemingway, Steinbeck – the list goes on and on of writers utilizing the journey and rich depictions of a place to drive home their thematic purpose and bring a story to life.

As a journalist – travel writer to be exact – I put great value on these types of stories. And my travel writing influences my fiction writing a great deal, in style and substance. My novel, Stone Angels, is about a young man struggling with an extremely guilty conscience. The setting places him on a road trip, up and down the Atlantic Coast, to and from Spring Break. But the reader is placed inside his head, following his introspective journey from denial to acceptance to possible confession of his many sins and ultimately redemption.

In many ways, Stone Angels is a quintessential journey story, one that embraces the power of travel and the need to get out of one’s comfort zone, shrug off the warm fuzzy sweater that is our daily lives and let the unknown provide a new perspective. Stone Angels does this for the main character and for the reader. My goal was to send readers on their own journey, allowing them to explore their emotional response to this very intimate story and maybe gain a new perspective, like all good travel should do.

Michael Hartigan

Forty Years Back

Nice, France

Forty years ago today, I boarded my first airplane and began a year abroad that would forever mark my life. The thirty or so students who went with me might well have the same thought – we all were impacted by a year in Switzerland, with no internet or cell phones.

My first novel, Chocolate for Breakfast, was (very) loosely based on that year. Like Bernadette Maguire, I was 20, naive (yes), and hopeful. Unlike Bernadette, I did not have an affair with a married man, nor did I get pregnant with his child. 😉 I recall explaining that to friends, who took my storytelling literally.

I’ve returned to my beloved Switzerland often – in 1981 to work as an au pair (there’s a book I should write), again a few years later, multiple times in the 1990s, and most recently in January 2017, where I was inspired to write Villa del Sol.

But the year that began on 28 September 1978 was my year. I don’t have any Cardinal beer to drink, no Giandor chocolate bar, and the Café Chemin de Fer is now, I believe, an Indian restaurant. Things change, even in Fribourg, Switzerland.

“Mesdames et messieurs, it is time to go sleep!” 🇨🇭🇨🇭🇨🇭

I’m Here, Not There

This morning I’m here, not yet there. By tomorrow morning, I’ll be there, not here. For a time that seems not long enough, yet is the only length of time I dare be away. And I’ll be by myself, not with the man who’s been my travel partner for nearly 23 years.

There were a lot of trips abroad, mostly to Switzerland, so I do know my way around. This time, on my own, I have a purpose – to continue with a new novel I’ve only scratched out so far, but have written in my head. And I’ll be meeting up with two women – one I haven’t seen since that first year spent at the university in Fribourg, the other someone I’ve never met in person but who found me through my books. How great is that?!

And on Friday, I’ll be there, not here. Yeah, I’m okay with that, as I had no intention of watching the inauguration. It’s going to happen with or without me. And I’m not going to say anything else about it. Instead, here’s ‘there.’

Happy Book-iversary (to me)!

99centsMy first novel, Chocolate for Breakfast, was published on August 12, 2012 – nearly four years ago! (It was republished with a new cover in April 2013.) In those four years, I’ve written and published six novels, all of which have given me tremendous pride and a sense of accomplishment. I’m doing what I’ve always dreamed of doing, and that is sufficient. Well, pretty much.

New novels can trigger a sales flurry, but sales drop off after a time, even for beloved best-sellers.

So….for the coming week, every one of my six novels will be discounted to 99 cents for the e-book (Kindle version). I have no control over the print price, but if you come to the RI Authors Book Expo on December 3, 2016 , I’ll have print copies available for a great price.

You can grab a three-book series, described by one reader as “writing (that) draws wonderful pictures of the characters and allows you to really ‘fall into’ the book ~ which is one of my favorite things about reading.” Or read about a group of classmates readying for their 25-year high school reunion and visiting old grievances. A novel about a young woman pursuing her dream of becoming a best-selling author, only to face a harsh reality check. And finally, a lighter story involving two friends who gamble on a dream of turning a rundown farm into a premier wedding venue. If you’ve already read these books, here’s a chance to give some gifts. In any event, I’m grateful – so very grateful – for all the positive feedback and encouragement I’ve received, from friends and strangers new friends, over the past four years.

You’re Going to Leave the Country?


In 1980, I was a recent college graduate, intelligent but politically ignorant. I’d first voted in 1976 for Jimmy Carter. My father was infuriated. But I tended to lean left then, even if I wasn’t entirely sure why. I made the bold proclamation that if Ronald Reagan was elected president, I’d leave the country. Oh, how easy! I was 22 and full of ideas.

Reagan was elected, and in April 1981, I flew away. It wasn’t just because of Reagan, of course – I’d desperately wanted to return to my beloved Switzerland, so I bought a one-way ticket and had enough money to last a few months.

A former professor at the university where I’d spent my junior year of college helped me answer a couple of ads. One was local – a couple needed an au pair for at least the summer. The other was at the prestigious Monte Rosa boarding school in Montreux. One paid very little, one paid considerably more. I heard back from the couple first, and, needing to secure employment, accepted their offer. (The Monte Rosa contacted me a few days later, and, trying to be honorable, I turned them down and another American took the job.)

The husband of the family interviewed me at the hotel where I was living. We sat outside, at a tiny table, and drank strong coffee. His Italian-accented French was easy to understand, and we conversed without problem. He said to me, “You Americans, you’re always saying, ‘We’re Number One!'” He demonstrated with his index finger while smirking at me. I answered, “That’s because we are,” and grinned back.

I’m reminded of this exchange, and that long-ago summer, as I hear and read about people – adults my age – saying they’ll leave the country if Donald Trump is elected our next president. I’m sure some feel the same way about Hillary Clinton, the presumptive nominee on the other side. It’s not that easy to move to another country, and you know it. Unless you’re loaded with money and extraordinary connections, relocating for at least four years is nearly impossible. My life abroad in 1981 lasted less than six months. The Swiss government made it clear that my ‘visit’ was coming to an end.

If you go, be sure to send me a postcard!

Following Three Rivers

I’m in final edits for my new novel, Bittersweet Chocolate, which is the third and final book in the trilogy that features Bernadette Maguire, Karl Berset, and Jean-Michel Eicher, among others. Presently the manuscript is with a couple of readers for feedback, so I have a non-writing day planned for tomorrow – something that will lead to a new book.

In June 1924, my grandfather, Earl R. Handy, and his pal John B. Hudson set off for a two-week canoe and camping trip along three rivers in Rhode Island and Connecticut: the Moosup, the Quinebaug, and the Pawcatuck. This was two years before he married Dorothy Kenyon, my grandmother. Locals hikers are familiar with the name John Hudson – there’s a hiking trail named after him. Hudson and Handy did a lot of hiking and camping in this area, as well as up in New Hampshire. As a child, one of my fondest memories is traipsing through the woods behind their house in Perryville, a marked route we called the ‘bunny trail.’

"Hemlock Hill" Perryville, RI
“Hemlock Hill” Perryville, RI

My grandfather kept a journal throughout the two-week trip, and I have it. Tomorrow I’m going to trace the route – not by canoe, of course, but by car. We’ll head west through Rhode Island, following the Moosup River into Connecticut, then follow the Quinebaug as it heads south all the way to New London. We’ll continue along the shore, passing Groton, Mystic, all the way into Westerly, where we’ll pick up the Pawcatuck and head back north toward Bradford and Worden’s Pond, following the Pawcatuck to Thirty Acre Pond, next to the URI campus, where the journey ended. I have some old photos from 1924, but I imagine whatever pictures I take will look nothing like what these two men saw from the water nearly ninety years ago.

So that’s the plan! Something a little different to work on, and I hope to publish the book in time for the 90th anniversary of the trip.

GIVEAWAY! If you haven’t read my most recent book, Bits of Broken Glass, you can enter to win a print copy here via Goodreads. I’m giving away five copies and a couple hundred people have signed up so far. You can enter up until December 2nd.

Snapshots of My Mother

This photograph, which I’m guessing was taken around 1940 by my grandfather, shows my grandmother, Dorothy Kenyon Handy, enjoying a day with her children, Joyce, John, and Carter. And some four-legged friends. My mom would have been about twelve in this photo.

Dorothy Handy with Joyce, Carter, John (around 1940)
Girl Scout
Girl Scout

My mother died six years ago today, although my sisters and I had lost her long before that, to the ravages of dementia, a disease that is not as cruel to the victim as, say, cancer, but that torments the loved ones who watch it take away memory, recognition, speech. The loving but stricter-than-most mother we knew had become a passive childlike woman who smiled nearly all the time. Her eyes seemed to recognize us, but she was unable to speak any of our names (at one point, she thought my name was ‘Fizzy,’ another time, “Swamp’ while she could still say a few words).

The summer I turned twenty-one was also the summer I returned from a year abroad, and the summer after my father died (three months earlier). A difficult time for everyone, especially for my mom and me, navigating our way through a too-empty house together, me wanting the same freedoms I’d enjoyed in Switzerland, she, probably afraid when any of us was out of her sight for too long. She was a widow, younger than I am now, with three daughters, one still in college, one yet to go. A woman who attended college but whose greatest joy was being a wife and mother. Intelligent, she set the bar high for her children, and didn’t tolerate bad manners, bad language, or kissing a boy in a convertible parked in the driveway late on a sultry summer night. She and I found our way eventually, as mothers and daughters do, and one of my fondest memories is of a trip we took in the early nineties to Switzerland (her second time there). Days were filled with train trips to points around the country. I had a rare opportunity to teach and translate. At night we played cribbage and she won every single hand.


I watched her take control of her new life as a husbandless woman. The invitations to parties and bridge games on Saturday night vanished. She learned what her assets were and how to manage them. She traveled, eventually, seeing places she might only have dreamed about.


Dementia takes its sweet damned time, and my mother lived with the progressive disease for more than four years. It didn’t surprise me at all that she waited until her three daughters and two sons-in-law were gathered around her bed before she took her last breath, as morphine helped her wind down just like a clock.

But today, instead of focusing on that one moment of loss, I’ll finish a crossword puzzle and make a Rhode Island chowder in her memory.