10/25/16

When the Writer Goes Missing

It’s Gerard,” she called over her shoulder. “St. Gerard Majella. He’s the patron saint of women in trouble in childbirth. My mother was devoted to him.  Brid Sheerin  – Francesca’s Foundlings. 

Two years ago, I wrote a story, Francesca’s Foundlings, about a young woman who developed a life-threatening complication during her pregnancy.  I try to make sure that my fiction is as accurate as possible and I did considerable research on this condition before inflicting it on my character.

Last July, in a twist of fate where life mirrored fiction, my daughter faced this same condition as she awaited the birth of her child. There are 2,986 miles between Boston and Dublin, Ireland. Never have I been more thankful to live in a time of texting and instant messaging as I awaited news of the latest scan of the baby or reading of her blood pressure.

“Do NOT come,” she kept ordering me from her hospital bed during that seemingly endless week when I learned the true meaning of words like: harrowing, terrified, courage, hope and, at last, very early on Friday morning, pure joy.

I spent the month of August in Ireland, watching the swans glide along the Royal Canal, helping one very tiny boy discover the world he arrived in so precipitously. When you are taking care of a newborn, that’s really all you do. Life stands still. It provided me with a lot of time for quiet reflection. Ideal conditions for a writer.

McCullough’s Women and Francesca’s Foundlings are stories of friendships between women. Some are related and others start out as enemies. Maggie’s Girls, the third book in the Lynton Series, continues this theme but also explores what it means to be a mother. Toward the end of Francesca’s Foundlings, the reader meets Maggie Kennedy.

Maggie’s Girls is her story. Holding my grandson, I thought a lot about the bonds that develop between and a mother and her child. I think you will like Maggie. I hope you do.

How this writer feels.

How this writer feels…

Home now, once again thankful for the videos and photos that greet me every morning, I am trying to get back on task and focus on Maggie’s Girls.

I want to thank all of you who kept checking my Facebook page for updates over the last few months. I am sorry I neglected you but as you now know, it was for the best of all possible reasons. I promise to be better about posting on the page. I am excited to get back to writing.

I am also grateful to St.Gerard for hearing our prayers. My mother, like Brid’s, was devoted to him.

07/8/16

How Characters are Made: Meet Jake Kellan

It begins with a character, usually, and once he stands up on his feet and begins to move, all I can do is trot along behind him with a paper and pencil trying to keep up long enough to put down what he says and does.”  – William Faulkner

People are always curious about where my characters come from. I suspect some of them are worried they might see themselves. People are not unique and often share both good and bad traits. We often see these traits mirrored for us in the books we read without them having been stolen from us. We are drawn to characters like us and are often put off by those who are not.

Desmond Sheerin in MacCullough’s Women shares similar traits with other elderly Irish-American gentlemen I have known including my own grandfather. But Desmond is not Pa, although Pa could play the piano like Desmond.

There are a few new characters showing up in Maggie’s Girls. This is what it is like to “trot along behind” one of them.

Cookie Kennedy was Franny’s college roommate. The reader first meets her in Francesca’s Foundlings. Cookie needed a significant other. She’s a wonderful person and really deserves to be appreciated and she’s lonely– her character is based on nobody I know, in case you’re  wondering. It’s about time the right man crosses her path. Jake Kellan stood up to be that guy.

Organized writers, like my friend Sue, begin with a character sheet. And I do applaud them. Goggle character sheets and you will come up with a number of options, ranging from the simple to the complex. One example I saw was nine pages of questions be filled out for each character. Had I answered all the questions asked, I would have had a document stretching to close to five times as many pages as the original template. That’s right, for each character.

I am a “pantser” meaning that I write by “the seat of my pants.” I don’t know if Mr. Faulkner was,too, but he describes the way one writes – as he would– beautifully. I “trot along behind” the character madly typing as we go. An example of this would be that I had no idea Brendan Feeney’s college roommate had an Italian grandmother until I found him making her “gravy” recipe one night in Franny’s kitchen. That’s the kind of information you would find on a character sheet, if I had created one.

So who is Jake Kellan?

So who is Jake Kellan?


Here’s Jake talking to Cookie on their first date in the current draft of Maggie’s Girls:

             For the first time, Jake seemed uncomfortable, almost guarded. “Well, I’m a pretty boring guy. No Made-for-TV movies in my past.” Cookie just smiled and said nothing.

            “Fine. I can see this is the only way I can get back to the aunts.” He took a sip of his scotch, appearing to gather his thoughts. “Well, here are the basics I imagine most women want to know: I am forty years old, not married, have never been married, no children. And yes, I like girls. I was born here in Manchester. I have a younger brother and sister. My brother lives in Manhattan. My sister lives in Bedford. I have three nieces and a nephew. My mother still lives in the house where I grew up. My father owned his own company here. He died last spring.

I know. Boring, right? Except that Jake has a couple of definitely NOT boring twists in his past. I think he may be one of those characters interested in dragging me into writing a sex scene, too.

You’ll just have to read the book to find out.

 

 

 

07/1/16

Between the Sheets: When Characters Want to Have Sex

“In essence, a good sex scene is usually a dialogue scene with physical details.” ―Diana Gabaldon

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“I really liked your book,” the reader told me. “I hope the next one has more sex in it.”

The book she was referring to is McCullough’s Women. There are two sex scenes in the book. One ends abruptly and the other plays itself out, as sex scenes do, across four pages employing all the required words: naked, suckle, nipple, tongue, climax…and more. The first time I read it aloud to my Writers’ Group, which consisted of four women and two men, I had to sit in a chair with my back to them. And even then, my face was scarlet when I finished reading.

I have been a prolific reader since I was nine years old, sometimes reading as many as four books every week. I am often reading two books at the same time, picking up whichever one is closest to me. Over the course of my life, I have read across all genres. I can safely say that, starting with those first sneaked “dirty” books as a young teenager – which in hindsight weren’t really that sexy – I have read a lot of sex scenes, some of which were more pornographic than “romantic” or “artistic”. Reading them in the privacy of your bed or a secluded chair is one thing. Writing a sex scene for other people to read with your name attached to it, is quite another and not for the faint of heart.

My theory as a writer is that when it comes to sex, less is more. This explains why there is not a lot of sex in my books. I try to get the characters into bed when they really need to be there for the sake of the story. I am huge fan of Gone With the Wind. I consider it to be the great American novel. Margaret Mitchell believed in leaving things to the imagination. Here she writes the beginning of what remains one of the most romantic love scenes ever brought to the screen.

The following excerpt is taken from Gone With the Wind:

 “He swung her off her feet into his arms and started up the stairs…Somehow, her arms were around his neck and her lips trembling beneath his and they were going up, up into the darkness again…

 And after that, Mitchell leaves you, the reader, to imagine the rest.

We live in a world were every human act is documented and displayed for the world to see. You don’t believe me? Check your Facebook newsfeed this morning. Sometimes it is hard as a writer to resist the urge to put in “more sex”. Everyone does it after all, or if they are not doing it now, they most likely have. And readers certainly seem to want it.

There are two complete sex scenes in Francesca’s Foundlings. And there are four couples in Maggie’s Girls who would love to climb into bed together. I guess you will have to read the book to find out who makes it there. I suppose this must mean that my writing is getting steamier.

I have been told I do good job writing about sex. The problem is whenever I finish writing one of these scenes my first thought is, Thank God my mother is dead.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

06/29/16

In Pursuit of Balance

“Writing is not a matter of time, but a matter of space. If you don’t keep space in your head for writing, you won’t write even if you have the time.” ― Katerina Stoykova Klemer

Trying to find the balance...

Trying to find the balance…

These last few months I have been struggling in every sense with space and balance. This year has not been a good year in a life that can only be described as never having been known for either. Starting last September, I took three spectacular falls. Once you receive your Medicare card, which I did this June, the concern is that falls may be caused by cognitive issues. Oh, no!

When I mentioned this to my sister, she said, “What about that time I watched you walk across the cafeteria and throw your used lunch bag in the trash and then fall flat on your face?” She was fourteen and I was seventeen. Reviewing the long list of times I ended up on the ground over the course of my life, I suspect this year of epic falls were a combination of my not paying attention because I was thinking of something else —like what a character should or should not be doing— or because I am and always will be a klutz.

“Incidents” that I bounced back from earlier in my life with nothing more than a bruise or two now require weeks of ice packs, elevation and physical therapy. Something I have not found conducive to writing.

The latest fiasco occurred in April. I fell down the basement stairs. Really, this should not have been a big deal. I was carrying the cat’s bed in one hand and hanging onto the railing with the other and then I missed the last two steps. I slid down and slapped my left foot on the cement floor. Hard. Should not have been a big deal and would not have been a big deal once upon a time but now involved great drama including a trip to the ER, x-rays and disheartening orthopedic “stuff” i.e., knee immobilizer, walkers, canes, etc. It wasn’t funny. I did learn a new medical term “acute effusion” which is a complicated way of saying “swollen” which I filed away to be used in some future novel.

The balance Katerina Klemer is referring to comes down to finding the time and the space to write. I have the physical space – an office I am delighted with. Finding the mental space and the time continues to elude me. I understand why writers leave home to seek refuge in libraries and cafes to write. Home presents too many distractions. I am working at eliminating those. When I retired from my job as a corporate training manager, I (foolishly) thought I would have so much time I might be bored. Ha, ha. The joke was on me.

I try to write every day. There are days the writing does not happen because other things crowd in. I’m working on Maggie’s Girls, the sequel to Francesca’s Foundlings. I’m struggling with finding balance in this story, too. Writing a series is challenging. You need to include the characters from your previous books and introduce new ones to keep the story interesting. I’m trying to find the balance of who goes and who stays. They all beg to be included. The plan is to bring all of them back together in the fourth book currently planned as the series finale.

Meanwhile, in an effort to keep myself balanced, I have been practicing Tai Chi. I am doing the shorter form of 24 -Yang Style Chuan. I love it so much that I think you will see a character take it up soon.

I wonder which one?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

03/7/16

Where the Names Come from

“A rose by any other word would smell as sweet.” –  William ShakespearePicture of a rose“So where do you get the names for your characters?” People ask.

The answer is, I beg, I borrow and I steal them. I also make them up.

Here are some examples:

Desmond Sbeerin

I love the name Desmond. We have a dear friend who lives in Dalkey, Ireland with that name. I borrowed the name from him and he was gracious enough to let me. I chose Sheerin as the family name because, while not as well-known as Murphy, or even Malone, it is an Irish name. Once again, I borrowed it. My maternal great-grandfather, Patrick Sheerin, owned a bar or “saloon”, not unlike the original Ceol agus Craic, in Boston around the turn of the last century. From the first moment I envisioned this character I knew his name was Desmond or Des Sheerin.

Francesca Chiesa

Francesca Chiesa was my paternal great-grandmother, my father’s beloved Nona. I always loved the name.  I asked permission of the “senior” cousin on that side of the family to use it. I am happy to think that Nona’s name lives on in my novel.

Nick Benincasa

Nick’s name is stolen, from a saint, no less. Di Benincasa is the family name of St. Catherine of Sienna. I thought it was a perfect name for a plumber of Italian descent.

Drew MacCullough and Lilah Patch

Two examples of names that I made up from thin air. I wanted a Scot name as a counter-point to Brid’s name, which is Irish, and I liked the sound of MacCullough. The character was neither an “Andy” nor an “Andrew” and thus Drew McCullough was born.

Lilah was conceived in a moment of whimsy with a nod to a dynamic lady I once worked for whose name was Lilla. I liked the way the name sounded and I think it fits this character.

Here are some general guidelines I use when choosing a name:

  • Match the name to the nationality or ethnicity of the character or use names popular at the time the character was born.
  • Don’t use weird names unless you want the character to be viewed as weird, in which case, a weird name fits.
  • Make sure you offer an explanation if the name is unusual or out of time or place. An example of this would be Franny explaining to Nick why her name is Francesca.

I was still working in corporate training when MacCullough’s Women was published. My boss congratulated me on my great pen name. I laughed and asked, “What do you mean?”  He said, ” Your name, Ferrari. Like the car. Great choice.” I said, “I am Kathleen Ferrari.”  He said, “I know. Great pen name.” I tried again. “No,” I said,”I was born Kathleen Ferrari. It’s my name.” He couldn’t get over that.

I have been married twice. Both times I have taken my husbands’ surname as my own. Shortly before I was married the first time, I needed to get a passport in a hurry. This required a trip into Boston to the federal building for immediate processing. My father drove me “in town” as he, a Boston boy, always referred to the city. The plan was for me to take the train home. At the last moment, my dad decided he would stay with me. Luckily, as it turned out, because the birth certificate I had with me did not have the seal of the city where I was born embossed on it.  “This won’t work,” the man behind the counter told me. At the sight of my dismayed face, he looked at my father standing next to me and asked, “Is this your daughter?”  He then explained that if my father signed an affidavit swearing that I had been born where and when the birth certificate I had with me said, they would accept that as sufficient proof to process the passport request.

We then had to wait for them to make the actual passport. I fretted that my name on the passport would not be the same as my soon-to-be married name. My father’s patience was wearing thin. He turned to me and said, “Listen. You’ll always be Kathleen Ferrari.”

I smile when I see the name on the books covers. He always believed I could be a writer. Using the name he bequeathed to me is my small way of thanking him for having faith.

 

My Dad

My Dad

 

Is there a fictional character whose name you particularly like or will never forget?

03/2/16

Along Came The Muse. Enter the Tibetan Terrier

My theory is you shouldn’t apologize for believing in an idea-channeling muse. You should just be sure to feed her.” ― Laurie Seidler

Dogs.

The dogs of my life. I counted them one day and I came up with eleven. Twelve if you count Teal, the dog who dropped in for a visit and left four years later. As she was the one my husband liked best, I think I do need to count her, too. Twelve dogs who trotted gaily thorough my life strewing joy in their paths, beginning with Teddy who showed up shortly after I learned to walk. More than once we had several living with us.

“You know, I think I like dogs better than I like most people,” I once told my Aunt Joan. She studied me carefully for a minute as if to make sure I hadn’t lost my mind and then said, “Who doesn’t?” So now you can see that I am one of those writers who will always slip in a dog or two.

Two years ago in September we made the decision to let Grace, our English cocker spaniel, go. It was a hard decision but in the end it was kind. “Never, never, never again. No more dogs,” I said, through my heartbroken tears. My husband actually snorted. Really, he snorted.

We went to Ireland in November and there in Phoenix Park, Dublin we met a dog.

Murphy the dog from Phoenix Park

Murphy the dog from Phoenix Park

“Is that a miniature sheep dog?” I asked the gentleman at the other end of the lead.

Clearly affronted, he drew back and told me with no small degree of umbrage, “No. He is a Tibetan Terrier.”

Never having heard of the breed, I asked. “Is he friendly?”

Disgusted now, the man said, “Murphy, go say hello to the lady.”

We came back from our trip and I began to hunt…not that I wanted a dog but…there was something about these Tibetan Terriers.

Some times things happen as they are meant to. In December, I discovered Gamine Tibetan Terriers in Blandford, Massachusetts. Cute dogs…very cute dogs. But there’s more. Gamine Tibetan Terriers are neighbors of my husband’s cousin…really. And there’s more. A litter had been born the very day I checked the Gamine website. An unusually large litter so, yes, I could have a puppy.

And along came The Muse.IMG_1303

Her name is actually Arleigh Burke. Yes, I know it’s a man’s name but we thought we were getting a boy and then suddenly it was The Muse, already exerting her powers.

My husband retired from the Navy with the rank of commander. All three of our dogs have been named for U.S. Navy admirals: Halsey, Hopper and now,  Arleigh Burke, because, of course, an admiral outranks a commander. Every single time.

I have loved all my dogs and they each retain a special place in my heart but The Muse is the smartest. She is also pretty cute.

Her role in my writing process is to show up and inspire.

The Muse inspiring

The Muse inspiring

Midway through writing Francesca’s Foundlings, a black and white Tibetan Terrier whose name is Thatch trotted into the pages while I was writing. You will have to read the book to find out more but I credit his appearance completely to the powers of The Muse.

In Tibet, these dogs were known as ‘the little people” and believed to bring good luck. We treat The Muse like a little person, one with a lot to say, and she has certainly brought us good luck.

You will be seeing more of The Muse here on this blog. So stay tuned.

 

The Muse

The Muse

 

 

 

 

02/29/16

The Hard Part of What I Do

A person who publishes a book willfully appears before the populace with his pants down. If it is a good book nothing can hurt him. If it is a bad book nothing can help him.” ― Edna St. Vincent Millay

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For me, what happens now is the hard part. Francesca’s Foundlings, the second book in the Lynton Series, is available for order on Amazon. And I am supposed to market the book. I looked up “market” to be sure I understood what the verb form of the word meant. The dictionary gave this as the definition: to advertise or promote.

This is a great segue into two things I definitely did not discuss in 2011 when I published my first novel, MacCullough’s Women, although I am sure observant readers have already figured it out. If, however, you have not, here is the great reveal: I self-publish my books and I will be sixty-five in June. As I will explain, they are interconnected.

Five years ago, I began querying agents in an attempt to find someone willing to represent MacCullough’s Women in order to publish the “old school” way. Many books and blog posts have been written on how to write the perfect query letter. More than one writer has been known to say, “Writing the book was easy compared to writing the query letter.”

The world of publishing was changing at a rapid-fire pace when I was ready to publish MacCullough’s Women. There was less money available in traditional publishing and the competition for it was fierce. The role of social media was moving to the forefront taking the writer, who once was a black and white photo on the back page of the book jacket, with it. It was harder to sell a book, especially a first book by a sixty year-old writer. As one independent bookseller told me, “Ageism is rampant in this industry.” Well, I’m sixty-five and I’m okay with that. I hope my readers are too.

The Muse and I

The Muse and I

My husband attended a conference on independent publishing and came home convinced self-publishing was the way we should approach this. We would set up our own publishing company and produce the book. And so we did, creating Roskerry Press.

Along the way I learned that many traditional writers resent writers who self-publish because they feel these writers have “cut the line”, and not paid their dues. Part of me understands but self-publishing is evolving rapidly leaving the stigma of “vanity press” behind. Increasingly, we learn of traditionally published writers who have left their publishers to publish their own books or backlists simply because they can and at the same time retain far more control of the profits and their books.

For me, the major downside of being a self-published author is that the “advertising and promoting” aspect of selling the book rests squarely on me. There is no marketing person at the publisher doing this for me.

I “advertise” and “promote” the book on Facebook, Twitter and here on this blog.  None of it comes easily to someone who spent eight years as a Catholic schoolgirl being told “Don’t break your arm patting yourself on the back.” I recently gave a copy of MacCullough’s Women to a classmate at Tai Chi. She said she loved it.

Having finished Francesca’s Foundlings, as well as becoming both older and I hope wiser, I have discovered that what I really love to do is write the books. I enjoy my characters and discovering what they will do next.I have received enough feedback from my readers to know they like the books, too.

If you have enjoyed reading MacCullough’s Women, and Francesca’s Foundlings, I am asking you to take the time to tell your friends about them and — this is me “marketing” — please review the book on Amazon and “like” my author page on Facebook.Every review and “like” helps me grow my platform and increase my readers.

I really appreciate it.

02/5/16

What I am Reading

If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.” ― Stephen King

Photo of books

Some of my favorites…

I have used Fridays to recommend books that I have read and hope you will also enjoy reading. I thought as I am trying to recharge my blogging it made sense to explain my thoughts behind the Friday posts.

First, I don’t think of these posts as being critical reviews. Having written a book, I now understand how hard that is. All writers deserve a positive nod for bringing a book to publication even if you hate what they have written. Only once since I wrote MacCullough’s Women have I been tempted to critically dissect another writer’s work. I definitely would not have had anything good to say about that book. And that book has sold 60 million copies.

I was not one of the gifted kids. I didn’t start school reading. I was a ‘bluebird” in the first-grade and began with “Dick and Jane” like thousands of other public school children in the fifties. By the time I was ten, I read anything I could get my hands on, much of it adult reading. I went toe-to-toe with my sixth-grade teacher, Sr. Helena Regis, who insisted I could not have read Gone with the Wind. I had — the first of six times. I was the kid whose parents often said, “Get your head out of that book.” Quite simply, books were my world.

I have always been fascinated by series, beginning with The Bobbsey Twins. I think this is because I am so reluctant to let beloved characters go. I suppose that’s why I am writing a series myself.

I usually read between two and three books a week. I have been doing that all my adult life. I also re-read books I love. I have read across genres: light, dark, horror, classical and dystopian. I find myself no longer drawn to the dysfunctional or the sinister, although here and there I will make an exception. I have just finished reading The Guest Room by Chris Bohjalian. The world we live in seems dark enough to me today and I enjoy escaping into my less fraught fictional worlds. Most of my time now is spent reading either women’s fiction, which is what I also write or memoir. Over the next few months, I hope to share some of these stories with you.

What do I think is the best book I have ever read? Without hesitation, my answer is the book I consider to be “The Great American Novel”:  Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell. The only novel Mitchell wrote, Gone with the Wind was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1937.

If you haven’t read it, you simply must.

02/3/16

To-ing and Fro-ing

“How did it get so late so soon?” Dr. Seuss

I have been doing a little research and have discovered writers in general are infrequent bloggers. Who knew that? I follow the blogs of several excellent writers in my genre and I assure you it’s true. The underlying reason has to be more than the simple fact writers are busy. Who isn’t? I wonder if it is because we so often are making things up that we find it difficult to write about our real worlds. I am not the only writer who breaks the first rule of blogging (Show up when you say you will.)  and goes for long stretches without posting. Writers who actually write their own blogs, (and the really big names usually do not) on a regular schedule are rare.

I have been busy “to-ing” and “fro-ing” and somehow December and January skipped away. I won’t bore you with the details but in addition to the usual holiday madness, we had a couple of other significant life events going on. One of which included answering the question: “On a scale of one-to-ten, what is your pain level?”

We ran into a problem with the paperback version of Francesca’s Foundlings. The issue was with the spacing of the words on the printed page. This required a page-by-page scrutiny to find any and all errors. Unfortunately this was sandwiched around everything else going on during that time and took a while to complete.

Francesca's Foundlings

The Series Continues

Roskerry Press was founded with the purpose of publishing my books. My husband and I are the only two permanent “employees” but we do use a professional artist to do the covers, as well as a professional editor. In addition, there are two dedicated copy editors who read the books when they are still in beta format.

The editing component of this work is not for the faint of heart. It is made even more difficult by the fact that many of the old editing rules no longer apply. The expression “Oh, that’s old school.” is true for all writing/editing today. There is also room for human error. Even the best editors are human. I recently read a novel by a well-known writer where suddenly in the second chapter, the name of one of the main characters changed. It took a second read through the previous chapter to wrap my mind around this. The editor should have caught it. But I understood how it happened. Characters may start out with one name and the writer for a variety of reasons changes it. In MacCullough’s Women, Neil Malone’s name was originally “Raymond”. I lived in terror that, despite obsessively doing a “search and replace”, I had somehow missed an occurrence in the manuscript. I did not. My fault seems to be a tendency to leave off the closing quotation marks when a character is speaking. I am pretty sure all writers are guilty of something.

The good news is, I am, indeed, back to work as requested this week by a reader on my Facebook page. The paperback version of Francesca’s Foundlings is once again being formatted. The online proof looks clean. I should have the physical proof in my hands by the end of the week. I am hoping it will be ready to go and available next week on Amazon.

The third novel in the Lynton Series, Maggie’s Girls, is a work-in-progress. I will be blogging more about that book in future posts. The novel explores the relationship between mothers and daughters, both biological and stepdaughters. When I worked in the development of technical training we had often used what we called, Subject Matter Experts or SMEs to insure the content was accurate. Having been a mother and stepmother for forty-three years, I considered myself to be an SME on this topic. I am excited about where this book is going.

My plan is to blog regularly about my books, my characters, my writing practice and The Muse, an indolent Tibetan Terrier called Arleigh Burke. I have also set myself the goal of learning how to use Scrivener described as a word-processing program and outliner designed for authors. Stay tuned. This writer is finding it a challenge.

 

The Muse

The Muse

The Muse

 

10/28/15
Tortoise

Going-to Girl signs up for NaNoWriMo

“It’s the witching hour once more – when the Muse comes out to play.” Belle Whittington

 

With some trepidation, I have signed up to participate in National Novel Writing Month known as NaNoWriMo. If you have never heard of it, this is an internet-based creative writing project held every year during the month of November. The goal is to produce 50,000 words – the minimum for a novel – in thirty days.

It took me almost four years to finish writing Francesca’s Foundlings. I had retired from my day job to focus on writing, so this came as a surprise to me, although it shouldn’t have. I am a world-class procrastinator – my father used to call me “The Going-to Girl” because that was my standard answer when asked when I would do something. I am my own boss accountable for my time only to myself – unlike when I wrote MacCullough’s Women. Then, I got up before dawn and wrote for two hours before starting my day job.

In 2007, long before I conceived the idea of the Lynton Series, I fell in love with the idea of writing a novel about a mother and her daughters. This is, of course, a much-loved and familiar theme beautifully done by Louisa May Alcott in Little Women. The twist in my story is the mother has two daughters, one biological and the other her stepdaughter. Yes, I know. Also done before in Cinderella – that wicked, wicked stepmother- by the Brothers Grimm and others.

The vilification of stepmothers is a theme close to my heart because I am one. Trust me a more difficult and less appreciated role does not exist. I wrote copious notes describing characters and potential scenes and then abandoned the story to finish and eventually publish MacCullough’s Women. While I was writing Francesca’s Foundlings, I realized Franny seemed to have no girlfriends. I knew while she was married to Drew he consumed her life but what about BD – before Drew? A light went on and the idea of how Maggie’s Girls could become part of the Lynton Series was born.

Just as Lilah Patch, the catalyst of Francesca’s Foundlings, makes her brief appearance in the Sheerin Gallery in MacCullough’s Women, first Maggie Kennedy and then her stepdaughter, Cookie, find their way through the door of Franny’s doll shop in Francesca’s Foundlings.

Maggie’s Girls will be the third novel in the Lynton Series. The focus will change but you will still find within its pages those familiar Lynton faces, I hope you have come to enjoy.

My plan is to use the discipline of NaNoWriMo to produce a first draft of this novel by –dare I say it? – November 30.

Writers are often a superstitious lot. I am no exception. Before I start a new novel, I like to find a talisman to help me focus on the project.

Yesterday, while treating myself to a visit to the League of NH Craftsmen shop, I found this. I thought it was appropriate for NaNoWriMo. We all remember Aesop’s tale of the race between the tortoise and the hare.

Tortoise