The Squeak Who Roared!

The difference between a successful person and others is not a lack of strength, not a lack of knowledge, but rather a lack in will.”― Vince Lombardi Jr.

Among the many treasures my marriage brought to me were eleven nieces and nephews. My blog today is about one of them: Brigid McEvilly Wilson.

Her uncle nicknamed Brigid and her younger sister, “The Squeaks” because like most little girls they talked in high-pitched voices when they were excited.  Despite the nickname, Brigid tended to be on the shy side. While she was reserved, in everything she did, be it Irish Step Dancing, swimming, or her beloved horseback riding, she always participated with her whole heart.

One day I was sitting on the deck with my mother-in-law watching a swirl of grandchildren racing around and she leaned over to me and said, “Kathleen, you watch Brigid.”

We offered all of our nieces and nephews the opportunity to go to Outward Bound when they turned sixteen. Brigid was one of the kids who decided to go even though it involved getting on an airplane something she was terrified of and avoided whenever she could.

My husband and I picked her up at the end of her course. I was horrified to see a raw and painful abrasion on one of her legs extending from her ankle to mid-thigh. At that point it was several days old and it still looked awful. We asked her what happened.

“I slid down the rock face and scraped it. They said I could go home but I promised Gib (her grandmother) I would finish. So I stayed.”

Yesterday, she participated in the Timberman Ironman 70.3 in Gilford, NH. There were 2000 participants competing in an open water swim, bike race and half-marathon. Watching to see her as she came out of the water after her swim, I was slapped smartly on the arm as she flashed by me as if to say, “Hey, pay attention.”

Waiting for her to finish the bike race, the chair next to me was unoccupied, as her yellow bike streaked around the turn, I thought I heard her grandmother say,“Kathleen, you watch Brigid.” Her grandmother is gone now and when I turned the chair remained empty.

Brigid finished her race with a time of 5:57:48. We had such a wonderful time watching with her dad, Eamonn McEvilly and her husband, Todd Wilson, our brave and beautiful Brigid.



What I am Reading – The Irresistible Blueberry Bakeshop & Cafe

Romance is everything.” – Gertrude Stein


I am sitting here on Bailey Island, Maine writing this recommendation. Emails from friends at home tell me the temperature hit a hundred degrees today in New Hampshire. Here on the island, we have an ocean breeze and I would call it pleasant. I can see the hammock overlooking Mackerel Cove from my writing room window. It is only natural that the book I am recommending for you is set in a place called Beacon, Maine.


The Irresistible Blueberry Bakeshop & Café by Mary Simses is the perfect read for a hot summer day. Successful corporate lawyer, Ellen Branford, arrives in Beacon to fulfill a promise to her recently deceased grandmother. She is there to locate an old boyfriend of her grandmother, Chet Cummings, and deliver a letter as she had promised.

The Irresistible Blueberry Bakeshop & Café is Simses’s debut novel and she follows the writing standard of making something happen early in the story, by having Ellen fall through the rotted boards of an old pier into the frigid Maine ocean waters in the first paragraph. She is saved from drowning by a sexy carpenter who leaps into the water to rescue her.

The story unfolds to reveal all is not as it first appears, not Ellen’s grandmother, Ellen’s savior, or Ellen, herself. To say too much more, would spoil it for you. It is fun to watch Ellen, now known as “The Swimmer” in Beacon, slowly shed her uptight Manhattan attorney outer skin and evolve into someone quite different from the young women who almost drowns in the first two pages.

The Irresistible Blueberry Bakeshop & Café is a fun novel. Mary Simses does a great job with her supporting cast including Ellen’s fiancé, Hayden, her mother, and Roy, the man who rescues her. This is Maine at its best, right down to those blueberries. I hope you enjoy it.











Facebook’s Siren Song

“One can be absolutely truthful and sincere even though admittedly the most outrageous liar.”  – Henry Miller

It is considered a “Best Practice” of blogging to end each post with a question. The point being, if you end with a question, you will stimulate your readers to make a comment. I admit that I haven’t had much luck with that, and as was recently pointed out to me by the anonymous blog reader I live with, I haven’t been doing it in my last few posts.

Today, in an effort to change things, I am going to start with a question. How soon after you get out of bed do you log onto Facebook?  You get up, brew your coffee, and log on. Right?  Okay, maybe you don’t, but the chances are great that you are “on Facebook” at some point because you are reading this blog.

Writers are funny. We are just like you, each with our own unique pluses and minuses; we also are constantly observing and taking notes.  What I have noticed is that Facebook provokes a whole spectrum of reactions. From what I have observed, people fall into three general categories: Love, Indifference, and Terror.

People who love Facebook are “on” it constantly. “Wait, just let me check my Facebook.”  Do you say that?  Are you one of those people who live your life in fear that you might have missed “liking” something? Have you ever said, “I can’t believe that she or he didn’t like that!”? Do you often push poignant, patriotic or religious requests to “please like this page or picture” out to you friends?  If you answered yes to these questions, then you love Facebook.

Indifferent Facebook users are people who originally got “on” to please someone else.  They are told, “You have to get on Facebook.” So they do. These people can by spotted instantly when they have no profile picture. You often hear them saying, “Nah, I’m never on that thing. Who has time for that?”  However, they often know or even better, live with, someone who loves Facebook and that person or persons reports back to them all interesting developments. My husband falls into this category. He misses nothing but remains pure. Sometimes these people even check Facebook out themselves. The difference is, they don’t hear its siren song.

Terrified peopled are those who believe Facebook will steal their souls, their spouses, children, pets, home, money, etc. I know some of these people. They believe Facebook is out to destroy them and all civilized society.

My Facebook story began with little fanfare five years ago. I had a friend who was battling cancer who asked me to join and be friends with her. I would have done anything she asked me to; it was not a big deal to signup. I made the usual mistakes like posting what should have been a private message on my page. Fortunately, the message was pretty tame, so no harm was done.

My daughter moved to Ireland in 2009.  Facebook provided me a way to know what she was doing in real time and also chat with her spontaneously. I saw pictures of her new friends and the neighborhood where she lived. It was a wonderful way to stay connected.I have two nieces in Arkansas I have never met, but because their mother post videos of them on her Facebook page, I feel I know them.  After I published my book, MacCullough’s Women, I set up an author page to connect to my readers.

Facebook is not without drawbacks. Like most powerful tools, it should be used with care. The information you place on your Facebook page can be seen by others and may be remembered. People both stalk and lurk, so security and privacy is critical.

I think, used correctly, Facebook is a good thing and brings people closer. I do check Facebook everyday, sometimes before I have my coffee.  What about you? Which category do you fall into?


My Facebook Page

My Facebook Page


What I am Reading – The Glass Wives

Why did God make women so beautiful and man with such a loving heart?”Walker Percy, Love in the Ruins


I was intrigued by the idea that a wife and an ex-wife could be friends when I was working on the plot of  MacCullough’s Women. I wanted to write a novel that explored that idea. I concluded while it makes perfect sense – obviously they have at least one BIG thing in common – the only way it might work would be if the husband in question was dead. I added that element to the plot ; and MacCullough’s Women was born.

I am not alone in exploring the idea in fiction. If you read a lot, you know very few plots are unique. Human behavior being what it is, not all that much changes besides the supporting details; letters written with quill and ink give way to texting. I was intrigued to see what Amy Sue Nathan would do with the idea in The Glass Wives.

The plot of The Glass Wives swirls around the two wives – Evie, the first wife and Nicole, the second –and  the three children of the late Richard Glass. Some of the story is predictable; Richard leaves Evie and their twins for Nicole, his much younger hair stylist, and then has a baby with her. I found it confirming my own theory when Nathan chose to kill off the husband as a means of opening a path between the two women that doesn’t exist while he’s alive. This is not a spoiler; the reader knows he’s dead in the first chapter. Money  – who has it, how much is enough and where and how to get more of it – drives a lot of this plot. This is often the case in blended families and Nathan does an excellent job of portraying its impact on the two women.

 The Glass Wives examines how a family is formed and mutates in today’s world where people are often brought together through divorce and remarriage. The novel is the story of what comprises a family as much as it is about the relationship between the wives. The make up of family, both what it means to be one and what it consists of, is featured in a lot of women’s fiction today. This makes sense to me because historically it is women who nurture family.

I hope you enjoy the book. Do you think wives and ex-wives can be friends?





The Art of Un-Nesting

“If you see an adverb, kill it.”  – Mark Twain

 I have read quite a lot about the art of nesting. What I think we are doing here in the second week of the new normal could be called un-nesting. Viewed through the eyes of a writer, it could also be seen as editing. After twenty plus years together, more than eighteen of them spent in this house,  we have  accumulated and saved too much stuff. Our life is the equivalent of adverbs run amuck.

Once again, I am reminded writers see things differently. This is a politically correct way of saying we are all a little strange. My husband and I made the decision to “unstuff” our lives a few weeks ago. It seems like the ideal time. to do it. We both are free to work on the project. The basement – really in this house, built in 1922, it’s a cellar – is a very pleasant place to work. The attic, on the other hand, is an anteroom of hell in July.

As we go through our collected files, stacks, and shoeboxes, I think of my father. The week before his sudden death, he cleared out his own papers and other saved objects leaving only neatly rolled socks and folded handkerchiefs behind in the drawer. My mother’s death was not sudden but she handled a life’s worth of accumulated papers and other treasures in the same way. When my sister and I went through her things after her death, we only saw what she wanted us to see and nothing more.

I have also been present when this was not the case. My memories of what happened then are not pleasant ones. My daughter still shutters when she describes what she calls “The Raid” family members made on the possessions of an elderly relative who left it all up for grabs. My husband and I decided we would prefer to do our own editing, thank you very much.

This is not an activity for the faint-hearted. There is a poignancy involved in going back through the years. Each document or squirreled away program, ticket stub, memorial prayer card, or object tells a story. Sometimes, we come across a photograph taken of a happy event, such as a wedding, where the story did not have a happy ending. Even though we are doing it together, it has turned out to be for the most part a solitary task for each of us as we sit sifting through items, awash in memories.

As I have gone through cards, bills, bank documents, report cards, cancelled checks, etc. deciding what goes to the shredder and what to save, it occurs to me the shredder is the green equivalent to the method my father used which was fire. The results are the same. Gone. Hidden from prying eyes and what my mother used to call “cheap talk.”

The writer in me turns back to my characters. I ask myself what would they save and why? What would their choices tell my readers about them?

“Where do you get the ideas for your stories?”  This is perhaps the question I am most often asked when I go to book groups or someone learns I’m a writer. Nestled among the papers my sister and I found when we went through the documents my mother saved was the funeral bill for the sum of fifty dollars to bury my infant brother forty-two years before. It was mark paid in my mother’s handwriting.

The daughter’s heart breaks, but the writer takes note.



Soon to be gone.

Soon to be gone.





Turkeys - Male

Beginning the New Normal

The only sense that is common in the long run, is the sense of change – and we all instinctively avoid it.” – E.B. White

 I am in Maine experiencing the first day of what I am calling the new normal. It is the new normal because the plan is for us to spend equal or more of our time this summer here in Maine and my husband will be enjoying his first summer of working from where we are in forty-five years.

I have owned a home on Bailey Island since 1988 and I have been coming to the island since 1981. Bailey Island is the third in a string of three small islands connected by bridges accessed from Brunswick, Maine, U.S.A. Because you don’t have to take a boat to the mainland, you do not feel completely away but you are still fifteen miles from anywhere like civilization (in the interest of full-disclosure there is a small general store here on the island and a handful of restaurants.)

Our house doesn’t have a television. I can honestly say we have never missed it – although this may not have been true of the friends and relatives who have passed through over the years. We have relied on books, games, one another, and more books to entertain ourselves. This year because of my need to use the Internet we figured out how to connect to that and with it: Facebook, Twitter, and email.

Our day began with what we plan on being a daily walk from our house to the bridge, a four mile round trip march. The plan this summer is for me to write, write, write and finish Francesca’s Foundlings. In so many ways this is the ideal spot to do that. There are few interruptions and time to plot and carry on conversations with people only I can see.

I do have an outline for Francesca’s Foundlings. An outline that both my characters and I rebel against – perhaps it’s because I spent the seventh grade rebelling against the nun, Sister Daniel Joseph, who taught me how to outline. Intensely frustrated, I complained about this to my fellow writer, Mike Robertson, when I saw him in April.  “Just write the scenes,” he said. “Worry about where they fit when they’re all finished.”  It was as if a shadow lifted. This  was exactly the way I had written MacCullough’s Women.  I actually wrote chapter five of that book first.  Some writers strictly adhere to an outline and some, like me, do not. I was back in the writing business.

Last week I read through all the chapters I have already written and I was delighted to discover I really liked the book. There are some new characters along with the ones you have already met in MacCullough’s Women. It is going to be a busy summer here on Bailey Island.


Turkeys - Male

My nearest neighbors on Bailey Island




What I am Reading – The Ocean at The End of the Lane

This is how you do it: you sit down at the keyboard and you put one word after another until it’s done. It’s that easy, and that hard.” ― Neil Gaiman


I think it’s only fair to tell you before I talk about The Ocean at The End of the Lane that I have a huge writer-crush on Neil Gaiman. It happened shortly before all the hype started about this book. I stumbled upon the commencement speech he gave to the Class of 2012 at The University of the Arts in Philadelphia.  I am not sure if it’s the speech or Gaiman himself but I fell in love.

I didn’t read the comics even as a child when my father was devoted to “the funnies” as they were then called. I had never heard of The Sandman Series of graphic novels and was only vaguely aware of Gaiman’s other work. I was completely smitten by that speech, so I began paying attention whenever Neil Gaiman was mentioned. In the last month, because of the publication of The Ocean at The End of the Lane, Neil Gaiman has been everywhere.

I have to confess that I cautiously snuck up on this book. Why? Because I am a “scaredy-cat “and I tend to avoid horror novels and movies. I was in college when The Exorcist came out in 1971. My father said, “Don’t read that book.”  (He had.) I, of course, took that as a challenge. I should have listened to him. I slept for the next month with a rosary. Ever since then, I tend to avoid books and movies that come with the label of “scary”.

I did read The Ocean at The End of the Lane and I can recommend it to you. You need to be aware that it is not a child’s fairy tale even though it is about children and it will linger after you have finished reading it. The book has been reviewed everywhere so I am not going to tell you more than this.The story is about a socially awkward seven-year old boy who lives through books and whose actions accidently release an ancient evil into the world. Suddenly, his life goes all wrong.

The Ocean at The End of the Lane is something special because of Gaiman’s ability to give authentic voices to the two children in the story. Gaiman readily admits to having been that little boy – the premise of the story is based on something that happened to him as a child. Now in his fifties, it is due to his gift as a writer that the reader never doubts the narrator of the story is only seven.

I think you will enjoy The Ocean at The End of The Lane. It might make you a little more understanding of the seven-year olds in your life (and the seven year-old that still lives in you).

Latest Fairy Tale from Neil

Latest Fairy Tale from Neil


Walking with the Ghost Dogs

That’s the trouble with living things. Don’t last very long…And then just memories.” – The Ocean at The End of The Lane – Neil Gaiman

 I would rather walk than run. I admit for a brief time the summer I turned twenty-seven I was a runner. The Complete Book of Running by Jim Fixx came out that year and spent time on the best -seller list. It would end up selling over a million copies. A lot of people took up running because of Jim Fixx. I was one of them. I figured out pretty quickly some of us are built to run, and the rest should walk. I’m definitely a walker. I still love to watch the runners. You always recognize who they are and that God made them to move like that.

I have been walking around this neighborhood for over twenty years almost always accompanied by a dog or two on my strolls. This summer things are different. Grace, the resident dog in our house, can no longer walk too far, although she is more than willing to try. The sight of the leash in my hand is still greeted happily as the signal for action.

She was eleven last January and is now officially an old dog. Life expectancy for English Cocker Spaniels is twelve. So… If she were a person, she definitely would have one of those shiny blue walkers with a basket and a seat. We meander very slowly down one block, cross to the next and then reverse our direction. She stumbles because of increasing problems with arthritis in her back but, being a dog and not a person, she gamely gets up and keeps on going. She often plops herself in a patch of tall cool green grass for a brief rest along the way. Back home, she stops to take a long drink before curling up in one of her numerous beds. I am convinced she smiles at me before she shuts her eyes as if to say, “Great walk, huh?”

I go back out alone. I admit at first I am a little sad and then the strangest thing happens. The Ghost Dogs show up – sometimes separately and sometimes together. As I head down Concord Street toward the park, it’s always Halsey I sense first. Halsey is what is known as “typey” among dog people, meaning that he is an excellent example of the standard of his breed. He’s an English Springer Spaniel and he bears a strong resemblance to his grandsire “Robert” who won Best in Show at Westminster in 1993. He is also comical, brave, and a dedicated chaser of tennis balls and squirrels, his greatest foe. Entering the park, he races ahead of me toward the tennis courts.


If I look closely in the shadows under the mulberry trees, I will see Teal slurping up the juicy berries on the ground. She is another beauty, her glossy coat, barrel chest and blocky head are hallmarks of the well-bred English Labrador Retriever. Her thick black tail waves an exuberant greeting. She loves to eat and it is only reluctantly that she follows Halsey and I down to the soccer field. I stop to watch them chase each other in games of dog tag and make-believe battles.



And then I look again and they are gone. Is it any wonder that I have chosen to let them live again in the pages of my books? I miss them so, and I am grateful to have their memories come join me on my walks through the park. Are there any ghost dogs in your life? If so, when do they show up?


Do you see them?

Do you see them?



Road in front of my grandmother's house in Ireland

Choices and Consequences

It is our choices… that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.  – J. K. Rowling

 You know how some conversations stay with you to play again in your head at the oddest times? Several weeks ago, I had one of those conversations with someone around choice.  “It’s a choice,” she insisted hotly, “and I make it every day. And sometimes, it’s not easy.” What has stayed with me is not the choice she makes but her awareness that she is making it.

As a writer, choice plays a dual role. I make choices that impact my writing: how long I spend working on my novel each day, whether to include or cut a character out of the story, how many days to blog, what to write about on my blog, what content I put out on social media and the list goes on. I also create characters and they make choices. This is even trickier because I have to step into that character’s head and ask myself what the character would do. Often they make choices I wouldn’t, and at times don’t approve of and because they are living in today’s world, some of them don’t realize they are making choices that will have consequences.

There seems to be a lack of awareness in our culture today that we are making choices. We see this from the highest levels of government down to the shopping carts in our local supermarkets. Over and over again we hear the refrain, “It’s not my fault.”  People seem to be genuinely unaware that they chose to spend the money, take the loan, attend that college, select that career, eat the fast food or avoid the walk. If we struggle with the concept that we have a choice, then the idea of that choice resulting in a consequence is completely foreign to us. How did we end up in debt, under-employed, unable to buy a home, underwater in the home we own or obese?

Yesterday was Father’s Day. Two years ago, I wrote a blog post about my father (Remembering My Father). There’s nothing I can add to it. I doubt my father gave any thought to being a good father. He was our father and he loved us. I am pretty sure for him that was enough and it ended there. Yet he showed us how to live by what he said and how he lived his life.

The summer I was nine I met a little girl at a neighbor’s house who played dolls with me while the adults played cards. She was visiting with her parents. They were my dolls. I had a family of dolls, each with a name and clothes beautifully made by my mother. This child didn’t have a doll with her and I was happy to share mine.  When it came time to pack up and leave, I impulsively offered her one of my baby dolls. “To keep for my own?” She asked.  I agreed she could keep the doll.

Later that night realizing that one of my babies was gone forever, I regretted my choice to give her the doll. I wanted the doll back. My father sat down and explained to me that what I did was a nice thing. He told me the little girl had never had a doll before. He pointed out how lucky I was that I still had several others. I said I was sorry she didn’t have a doll but I wanted my doll back. He stood up and said, “You made a choice and you have to live with it. You can’t ask for the doll back. You gave it away.”  It was just one of so many gifts he gave me. I still miss him.

All choices lead to a consequence.

All choices lead to a consequence.



What I am Reading – The Art Forger

This is either a forgery or a damn fine original!” – Frank Sullivan

 I discovered The Art Forger by B.A. Shapiro this week while browsing the new paperbacks at Barnes and Noble. It’s a gem. The Art Forger was released in hardback in 2012. The story centers on the 1990 theft of thirteen pieces of art worth $500 million from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. The theft, still unsolved, is the largest private property theft ever to take place. I have wandered around “The Gardner” as locals know it, and that made the story all the more fascinating to me.

The main character, Claire Roth, the forger, is guilty not only of using her impressive talent to create an illusion but of succumbing to delusion. Poor Claire makes very bad choices in men. The novel consists of three plots with three distinct timelines. Two are told in the first person by Claire and weave between her first mistake in men three years prior, Sir Isaac Cullion and her second and current, Aiden Markel. In both cases, Claire is convinced that an act that is inherently bad is capable of resulting in an outcome that is good. In both cases, she is proved to be wrong. In both cases, her own desire to showcase her considerable talent as an artist and advance her career plays a role in the decisions she makes. I found myself liking Claire. Each time she does something that leads to disaster, I found myself hoping for the best.

In The Art Forger, gallery owner, Aiden Markel, asks Claire, who has reputation for painting reproductions of paintings by Edgar Degas, to forge a copy of  “After the Bath” one of the paintings stolen from the Gardner Museum – as told in the novel if not in fact.

Entwined within the story – providing the third plot and timeline, as well as the key to the main plot – is the voice of wildly eccentric Isabella Stewart Gartner shown in a series of letters to her fictional niece.

The research behind this novel is impressive. B.A. Shapiro’s knowledge of how art is both created and then forged is more than credible. Her view into the art world from the studios of Boston’s South End to the galleries on Newbury Street and the viewing halls of the MoMA in New York City places the reader there.

The Art Forger is one of those stories I couldn’t put down. The complexity of the three plots and timelines as well as the seamless meshing of historical facts about the art world, both past and present, with Shapiro’s cleverly crafted fiction kept me reading. I finished in less than two days. I hope you like it.