Francesca's Foundlings

At Last: Francesca’s Foundlings

“I would advise anyone who aspires to a writing career that before developing his talent he would be wise to a develop a thick hide.”  Harper Lee

To Kill A Mockingbird was first published in 1960. The book was awarded the Pulitzer Prize and gave to American literature, Atticus Finch, one of the most beloved characters ever imagined by a writer. A reported forty million copies of the book have since been sold.

Harper Lee never wrote another book after she wrote To Kill A Mockingbird. Her recently published Go Set A Watchman is the original draft of a story that evolved into the book so many of us first read in school and came to cherish.

I realize it might seem very presumptuous of me to compare myself to Harper Lee. However, if Harper Lee hesitated, you can only imagine how hard, indeed, terrifying, it is for the small indie writer to “do it again.”

I have wanted to be a writer since I was in the fourth grade. My father, always my champion, urged me on. Life and a lack of courage intervened. I wrote and published MacCullough’s Women four years ago to see if I could be a writer. Enough people told me they enjoyed it for me to feel good about having written it. I had written a book. “See that, Dad!” I told my long-dead father.

While I was working on MacCullough’s Women, the idea of creating a series of four books set in my fictional little city of Lynton, New Hampshire began to grow. My novels are character-driven and I love my characters. They are almost real to me. As much as I was happy and relieved to finish the book, I also felt a sense of loss. What was going to become of Franny? Were Brid and Neil going to have more than a fling? Would Sofia ever grow-up?

I am happy to offer you Francesca’s Foundlings, the second book in the Lynton Series. Francesca’s Foundlings is the story of an unconventional family, complete with an imperious cat and a grieving Tibetan terrier, created from need and bound together with love. In today’s global world, where individuals often live far from the families into which they were born, you will discover more and more families like this one. Maybe even your own.

Cover for Francesca's Foundlings

Cover for Francesca’s Foundlings

The Lynton Series is about women and the men they love. Women who though flawed, prove themselves to be resilient and willing to change in order to meet the challenges life throws at them. Women very much like those who read my books.

Roskerry Press has just launched the e-book version on Amazon (link to Kindle version).  If you do read it soon, please post a review.

The paperback version will be released later this fall.

Thank you all for your interest and support. My readers (you!) are the best.









Writing Into the New Year

If you get stuck, get away from your desk. Take a walk, take a bath, go to sleep, make a pie, draw, listen to ­music, meditate, exercise; whatever you do, don’t just stick there scowling at the problem. But don’t make telephone calls or go to a party; if you do, other people’s words will pour in where your lost words should be. Open a gap for them, create a space. Be patient.” – Hilary Mantel

People tiptoe around me. A few brave souls actually do ask me brightly in a tone that suggests I might have forgotten I am in the process of writing it, “Hey, where is that second book?” I thought I would let you all know. The answer is, I’m writing it. I am at the point where I am moving people and scenes around in order to determine if the story has been told. Last week out of the blue, the perfect last line dropped into my head when I was standing in the checkout line at my local supermarket. Oh happy, happy day.

I always wanted to write four books in what I think of as The Lynton Series. Not necessarily four books about the same people but four books about the same place – Lynton, New Hampshire. A small city I conjured up in my head along with all the  people living there. This second book, (the one I really am writing) Francesca’s Foundlings, is a follow-on to MacCullough’s Women and has many but not all of the same characters in it. Francesca’s Foundlings introduces a few new ones, too, like Cookie Kennedy and Georgia Deluca. They will have a much bigger role in the, as yet unnamed, third book.

Writing a series has proved to be challenging as it requires telling readers just enough back story for the new book to make sense but not enough that new readers won’t want to go back and read the first one. A task I have discovered is not as easy as it looks. 

The last four months have been hard. The last blog I wrote was about losing Grace. I am constantly reminded of where she isn’t: greeting me in the morning, impatiently waiting for her banana, curled in her basket and waiting for me at the door. It is likely you, too,  have lost someone you loved and you know there is no way to hurry through the process. Grief moves at its own pace and ambushes you when and where you least expect it.  

There are days when my characters cooperate and I know exactly what they are doing and saying to one another and, even more importantly, where they are going. Those are the days I type as fast as I can. Then, there are other days when nothing I write makes sense to me. I stare at the screen and I ask, now where is this going? This is the way the writing life works. It is an affliction that spares neither fame nor talent. Ernest Hemingway is believed to have said, “Writing is easy. Just open a vein and bleed.”  While I have not been driven to self-mutilation, I find myself opening my mouth and putting food in far more often than I should.

I am looking forward to finishing and publishing  Francesca’s Foundlings this year.  All I can say to those of you waiting to read the next book is, “Be patient.”


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




The Joy of Daughters

A son is a son until he takes a wife, a daughter’s a daughter the rest of her life. Old Saying – Anonymous

 I am old enough to watch what I say, or in this case, what I write. When I started blogging again, I promised without fail to blog twice a week. I really should have put some conditions on that promise. As I didn’t, you would have been justified in wondering where I have been the last ten days. And also being annoyed. Once again, I have broken the first rule of blogging: Show up when you say you will. I am offering this explanation on a day I normally would NOT be posting a blog in an effort to make it up to you.

My birthday is June 4th.  My husband insisted he wanted to have a party for me. We don’t usually go in for birthday parties for adults and I was less than enthusiastic but he persisted. The day before the planned gala there was a lot of “toing” and “froing” that should have alerted me to the fact that something unusual was about to happen. In my defense, the first weekend in June was hotter than the hinges of hell here in New Hampshire. Running around getting ready in my non-air conditioned house, my brain was hovering on the edge of damage from the heat, so I missed most of the signs.

Mid-afternoon  the day before the party, my husband disappeared on a mission to find me the perfect gift. He returned around 7:30 to a less than enthusiastic welcome. I had evacuated to the bliss of a neighbor’s central air. Five minutes after my husband’s arrival, the doorbell rang again. I looked up to see my daughter striding down the hall toward me. It may sound strange but I had a flashback to the first time I saw her take a step. She was ten months old, dressed in a pale yellow smocked Polly Flinders dress with a white collar embroidered with rosebuds.  One minute she was sitting on the grass and the next she was walking determinedly across the lawn without a backward glance.

Her name begins with the letter A. I have blogged before about how I use the first letter of a character’s name to come up with the attributes that define the person I am creating.  My daughter is: assured, awesome, amazing, audacious, and assertive. A true Leo, she has the heart of a lion.

Four years ago, she left New Hampshire to build a new life with her husband in Dublin, Ireland. We live in a global world. I know I am not the only mother whose child lives far away. I am also reminded of my great-grandmother who more than a hundred years ago sent four of her children from Ireland to Boston never to see them again. Today with Skype, Facebook, and big silver Aer Lingus planes with names like Siobhan painted on their noses, mothers can keep their children much closer.

I wanted a daughter. As all mothers know, I would have loved and cherished a son but the truth is that summer that I waited for her birth, long enough ago that there was no option of knowing if the baby I carried was a boy or a girl, I wanted a daughter.

Her visit was a whirlwind of parties, shopping, and talking late into the night or in one case early into the morning. Blogging and writing were far from my mind. We had a wonderful visit and my husband did in fact bring me back the perfect gift for my birthday.

She has gone back home to Ireland and I miss her. I have turned once again to my other babies:  Brid, Franny, Sofia, and Lilah for distraction.

This visit reminded me of what I have known since the day she was born. I am so lucky to have a daughter.



The Perfect Gift

The Perfect Gift







Why Create a Series?

And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise.  The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt. — Sylvia Plath

I am a huge fan of series. I think this is because my love of reading began with them: The Bobbsey Twins, Nancy Drew, The Five Little Peppers, The OZ books, Sherlock Holmes, Cherry Ames. I could go on and on. Once I discover characters I love, I want to read more about them. I eagerly await the next books from the authors whose work I follow hoping they will bring back familiar characters. Remember, the Harry Potter books are a series.

My goal is to write a series of books about the lives of several multi-generational characters living in a small city similar but not exactly like the one I live in – Nashua, New Hampshire. It was with this in mind I launched what I called The Lynton Series. Lynton is the city where most of the action in my books takes place. Why make up a city in which to set your novels when you have so many real cities available to you?

I love novels which evoke a strong sense of place such as Tana French’s Dublin, Linda Barnes’ and Robert Parker’s Boston. Readers love being where the action in the story takes place. The reason I decided to make up my own city – Lynton, New Hampshire – was because I thought it would be fun and it removes the imperative of making sure I put the First Church on the correct corner. People are very protective of places they know.

Lynton is a small city in southern New Hampshire that has lot of the traits seen in Manchester, Nashua, and Portsmouth. Formerly a mill city, it has struggled to find its purpose now that the mills are closed. Even though it is a city, among the businesses and institutions on Main Street, there is a small town feel and camaraderie. I loved creating McGonagles, The Boulangerie, The Sheerin Gallery, Namaste, Caroline’s Kitchen and, of course, Coel Agus Craic. I will be adding a few more businesses to downtown Lynton including a jewelry store and an Italian restaurant as the series continues to grow.

MacCullough’s Women, the first novel in the series, centers on the comings and goings at an Irish bar and restaurant – Coel Agus Craic – which has been on the corner of Dock and Main Street for thirty-six years. Many of the characters in these novels grew up together in Lynton: Brid Sheerin and the undertaker, Jerry McKenna, went to grade school together as did Neil Malone and the jeweler, Jack Blaine, who you will meet in the second book of the series – Francesca’s Foundlings.

Francesca’s Foundlings is about a vintage doll shop that Franny MacCullough opens on Main Street. Many of the characters from MacCullough’s Women will appear in this story including Franny’s own foundlings: Neil, Brid, Sofia, Brendan and Lilah. You will also meet some new characters like Cookie Kennedy who has a much bigger role in the yet to be named third book in the series.

The fourth book is still in my head and as a true “pantser” – a writer who flies by the seat of her pants – I only have a vague idea what it is about although I think one of the cameo characters from Francesca’s Foundlings, Mara Sorrento, is going to have a starring role.

I am asked all the time how the second book, Francesca’s Foundling’s, is coming. I am on track to have the first draft done and out for first review by the end of June.  I hope to have the book available in time for Christmas.

Pictures from the Lynton Series.

A peek at Lynton


The Art of Doing Just One Thing

The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago. The second-best time is today.” 
African proverb

The first of March, I left my job after twenty-three years in corporate training to transition into full-time writing. If you had asked me what I thought that meant I think I might have said,  “I will be able to write full-time without interruption.”  Or something like that – of course I was wrong.

I was lucky in that the decision to leave was mine. I was not kicked to the curb. My managers and my colleagues were very gracious and said they would miss me. I miss them, too, but I don’t miss the need to be awake and engaged for early morning calls with Europe mornings after nights when I had been on the phone with clients in Asia until long after midnight

I began to work full-time in my thirties. I was a single mother of a teenager. We had numerous animals – I think the count at that time was five – and lived in a two hundred year old house with a great deal of charm and two hundred years of dust in the wide pine floors. It was a lot of work to attempt to keep it clean. I was very fortunate to work for a company willing to pay for my graduate degree. Once a week for four years, I drove the thirty plus miles into Boston to attend class at Boston University. Multi-tasking became second nature to me. I needed to multi-task, as so many working mothers do, in order to survive. I am not sure that I ever did it well, but it became second nature to me. It was a habit I carried with me into the current world of Social Media, texting, emails, and Twitter.

Here is what I have discovered since leaving my job: When you become your own boss you can do whatever you want. I have also learned to my chagrin that enforcing your own hard deadlines is tough. My goal was to finish the first draft of Francesca’s Foundlings, which is the second book in the Lynton Series by June 31. I realized this weekend, in order to do that I am going to have to learn a new skill: The art of focusing on just one thing or single tasking.

This means I need to do the following: Turn on the computer (and not look at email, NPR’s homepage, Twitter, my online bank statement, Amazon, or Facebook – all can be huge time sinks), open the word document of my manuscript and WRITE.  This also includes NOT answering the landline, my cell phone or the doorbell.

The second thing I have learned is this: I can’t write creatively all day. I follow several writers on Twitter, Facebook and their individual blogs. Some of them use time to block out their writing period and others use either a page or word count. Currently, my strategy is to write from nine to noon and edit or research (which includes reading Twitter, Facebook and blog posts) from four to six.

I use my evenings to catch up on my email, bill paying, talking to my husband and Words with Friends.

I am always asked, “How’s your new book coming?”  I plan on filling you in on that in my blog post next week. The short answer is pretty well but you have to wait until next Monday to hear about that.

If you have any tips on how to single task I would love to hear them.








The Eleventh Hour

“Why can’t fellows be allowed to do what they like when they like and as they like, instead of other fellows sitting on banks and watching them all the time and making remarks and poetry and things about them?” ― Kenneth Grahame

This weekend I found myself alone with two perfect June days to spend doing exactly as I wished. My partner in crime had gone off to an academic conference leaving me with the gift of forty-eight unobserved hours.

My initial plan, after dropping him off Saturday morning at the Park and Ride, was to be very productive. I had a list. It was long. It had things on it like wash the kitchen floor.

Returning home, I let Grace out before I officially commenced to get to work. Grace will be eleven in January and she is failing. She suffers from progressive disk disease in her spine. It hurts me to say it, but I suspect this may be her last summer.

She was blissfully unaware of my dark thoughts as I watched her gambol through the grass, nose down in search of Fink, the woodchuck, who grudgingly allows me to have a leaf of lettuce when I beat him into the garden. Satisfied that her fierce presence had forced him to retreat to whatever dark fortress he hangs out in, she threw herself on her back in the sun and rolled back and forth, obviously delighted.

Grace looking for Fink the woodchuck

I thought, “Why not?”  I took my list and ripped it in half. I spent the two days meandering. I deadheaded the roses, and I went for two long walks, one with Grace and one with a friend. I read the book I plan to review this Friday. I sat in the sun and did nothing at all.

The perfect spot

I thought about possibilities for plot twists in Francesca’s Foundlings and about the essay I am thinking of submitting to a magazine competition later this summer. It was an unhurried two days of not doing anything I didn’t want to do. It was wonderful and I highly recommend you try it.

A lot is written today about living in the moment. Sitting on the patio reading and writing, I kept one eye on Grace remembering the advice the dog nanny had wisely given to me when I told her sadly that we were almost at the twelfth hour with Grace.

“We’re not there yet. It’s only the eleventh hour. There will be plenty of time to mourn later, now you should just enjoy the eleventh hour with her while you can.”  So often in my life, focused on the future, I have missed it.

This summer watching my sweet old Gracie, I intend to savor ever moment.

Grace enjoying her eleventh hour


The Start of a New Year

“You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.” Les Brown

Happy Birthday

Today is my birthday. I realize blogging about it might at first glance seem a little narcissistic but I do have a point to make connected to my writing.  So I am asking you to indulge me.

A year ago, we were getting ready to launch the e-book version of MacCullough’s Women. The plan was to go with the e-book in August and follow in October with the paperback.

I was a wreck. As I poured over the final edits alone in my office night after night, I definitely heard voices – all negative.  I wondered if my dream of being a writer was a foolish pipedream. I was terrified nobody would like the book.Was I kidding myself by thinking it was a good story? At one point, no doubt tired of listening to me, my husband said, “Then don’t do it.”  I will always love him for being generous enough to make that offer after all the work we both had done in order to publish the book.

I found that I couldn’t abandon the book. You may not understand this if you are not a writer, but it was not about me, it was about them – Brid, Franny, Neil, Drew, and the others. I felt they deserved a chance.  So we pressed on with the plan.

Last Friday, I was invited to join the Wilson Training Language Book Club at their monthly meeting. It was the third time I met with a group of readers who had read MacCullough’s Women. I have had a wonderful time chatting with each of these groups. I can’t tell you how thrilling it is as a writer to listen to what my readers have thought about my book. The ladies I met with at Wilson understood the characters and they also understood the theme that I hope will be present in all my books: the amazing willingness of seemingly very different women to help one another. And they told me that they really enjoyed the book.

In looking back on this year, I am thrilled with the success of MacCullough’s Women. I am happy to have found that it has touched women of different ages and life experiences because that was my intention when I wrote it.

Publishing and promoting MacCullough’s Women taught me a lot of things that I didn’t know about myself. I hope that I am a better person because of that. I am grateful for the support of so many people: family, friends, friends of friends, women in my neighborhood, women I went to high school with and many others. This was hard for me and their support is what has gotten me through this exciting and challenging year.

There are years and there are years. This was a good one. I received a note this morning from someone who is very dear to me, whose friendship I will always view as a precious and unexpected gift. This is what she said:

Today I am reflecting on what a magical year it has been for you. It’s quite impressive to see you realize some of your significant dreams – and expand on them! I know the next year will be even better. May you have continued good health, happiness, laughter and love!

I do consider this to have been a magical year. Notice that I didn’t tell you which birthday I am celebrating. I considered it. If you have been reading this blog, I have given you enough clues to figure it out. I decided that in the end, how old I am doesn’t really matter. I am old enough to know that some years are NOT magical which allows me to savor this with one. My goal for this upcoming year is to continue to improve my writing and to finish Francesca’s Foundlings, the second book in the Lynton Series.

I am also old enough to look back and realize that I have been given many gifts and blessings in my life. On my birthday, I always think of the one that in the end probably for me made the difference. I had two wonderful parents. They were the best.

Thanks, Mom and Dad for everything.


In case you were wondering what was in the box: garden shears and pearls. What can I say? I have a great husband.