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.









What I am Reading – The Cuckoo’s Calling

“As for the pseudonym, I was yearning to go back to the beginning of a writing career in this new genre, to work without hype or expectation and to receive totally unvarnished feedback. It was a fantastic experience and I only wish it could have gone on a little longer.” J.K. Rowling


I need to tell you two things in the interest of full-disclosure before I begin: I love Harry Potter and reread the entire saga at least once a year; I have the utmost respect for J.K. Rowling as a writer and as a person.

Having said that, I didn’t like The Casual Vacancy. I didn’t like the characters – not even one. Rowling chose to throw out a word in the first fifty pages that I abhor and would love to see eradicated from the English language. My friends reading this know it must be bad because I am known for using a few choice words when I feel the situation calls for them. In my humble (and I am very humble in the case of J.K. Rowling) opinion, she didn’t need to use that word. I stopped reading the book about a third of the way through. This is something I allow myself to do now that I am “mature”.

As a result, I almost didn’t read The Cuckoo’s Calling. I am sure that you probably know this, but in case you don’t, Rowling published this book under the pseudonym, Robert Galbraith. Mr. Galbraith’s debut detective novel received a lukewarm reception. Welcome to the world of the first-time writer, Mr. Galbraith.  And then, thanks to the transparency of social media, in this case, Twitter, it became known that Robert Galbraith was actually J.K Rowling. The book became an overnight sensation.

I love detective stories and have been reading them forever. I was only about eight years old when I started reading The Bobbsey Twins. Not long after that, I advanced to Sherlock Holmes who is still my benchmark. I am always on the lookout for a good detective series and I am hoping that more books will follow The Cuckoo’s Calling.

Trust Rowling to get it right. Her detective, Comoran Strike (Yes. Comoran Strike. Isn’t that a wonderful name?) Is deliciously flawed, as all good detectives are. His reluctant assistant, Robin, is definitely not. His office is a disaster. It doesn’t help that he is actually living in it. There is a lot more including his crazy ex-girlfriend but I am not going to spoil it for you. Rowling did a lot of research, which shines through, in order to support both the creation of her pseudonym, Galbraith, an ex-special forces officer, and her detective who served in Afghanistan before ending up camping out in his office. She doesn’t back away from using profanity in this book, either, but at least it made sense to me. The characters in whose mouths she puts the words probably do talk like this.

Strike is hired to find out if London supermodel, Lula Landry, known to her friends as Cuckoo, really did commit suicide. He finds himself blundering through a world of rock-stars, paparazzi, druggies and multi-millionaires. I couldn’t help liking Comoran Strike, even though in the footsteps of Conan Doyle, Rowling gave him almost more bad points than good ones.

If, like me, you love detective stories, I think you will enjoy The Cuckoo’s Calling.


The Cuckoo's Calling

The Cuckoo’s Calling





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.










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




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.



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


What I am Reading – Tapestry of Fortunes

“You must remember, family is often born of blood, but it doesn’t depend on blood. Nor is it exclusive of friendship. Family members can be your best friends, you know. And best friends, whether or not they are related to you, can be your family.” ― Trenton Lee Stewart, The Mysterious Benedict Society


My recommendation for you  today is a radical change from last week. I am recommending Tapestry of Fortunes. I have always loved Elizabeth Berg’s books. I think it is  because she is writer who brings the bits and pieces of her own life experiences into her writing. A nurse before she became a writer, her background informs and influences many of her books, perhaps most notably Talk Before Sleep, her poignant novel about a woman dying of breast cancer. You see it here in this latest book as she describes her main character’s work as a Hospice volunteer. Her books are about women facing issues most women can relate to. Her plots are not complicated but her characters are always layered and never boring. It doesn’t hurt that we are the same age, which places us well beyond cute and perky and encourages me in my own efforts to write books women will enjoy reading.

 Tapestry of Fortunes addresses issues most women will deal with at some point in their lives: the need to downsize and let go of possessions that no longer make sense, to let go of people we love, try something new, forge new relationships and look back to where we have come from perhaps to return there.

Cecilia Ross, the main character, decides after the death of her best friend to sell her home, downsize her life and move into old Victorian in St. Paul with three strangers. Each of these four women is attempting to understand the personal tapestry she has woven with her life. Each is trying to make sense of where she is now while at the same time to rectify a mistake from the past. Lise wants to figure out where she went wrong as a mother. Joni is searching for a career that will make her happy. Renie desperately desires a “do-over” from a mistake she made in her teens. Cecilia needs to find out if she can rekindle an old love.

This is a happy book. It will make you smile. It is not literary fiction which I rarely read anymore but rather the kind of book it’s okay to get sand in when you fall asleep on the beach. What shines through, is the inherent generosity of women toward one another despite differences in social class or age.

If you missed Talk Before Sleep (1994), I urge you to read it. A funny and at the same time sad book about how the strength of a circle of women guides a friend through the ravages of breast cancer.


I hope you enjoy it.

I hope you enjoy it.




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.








I’m Back

You need three things to become a successful novelist: talent, luck and discipline. Discipline is the one element of those three things that you can control, and so that is the one that you have to focus on controlling, and you just have to hope and trust in the other two.” ― Michael Chabon

 I have decided  — I admit with some trepidation — to start blogging again. Blogging is one of those things that you often hear people say brightly at social events, “I think I might like to do that.”  I know I have said it before in this blog, but it’s worth repeating. Blogging is not for the faint of heart.

You would think that writers would excel at blogging, wouldn’t you? I mean what is it but writing? It turns out as a general rule writers approach blogging with reluctance and a certain amount of resentment. How do I know this, you ask?  I have spent the last five months reading blogs in an effort to crack the secret of being a successful blogger. I focused on writers whose books I like to read. One of the new rules of being a writer is we are all supposed to have blogs. We are also supposed to be thin, young and very photogenic which is even harder to pull off then writing a consistently good blog.

I discovered that with few exceptions, writers have a tendency to break the first rule of blogging — they blog whimsically rather than on a set schedule. Some (like me, I am sorry to say) can go months without a new post appearing. This is very bad blogging behavior. Every course/book on blogging tells you so because it annoys your readers. Guess what?  Take it from me, it does.

Why don’t writers follow the rule? I have read this in numerous places while doing my research. Writers very often resent having to take the time to blog because they would much rather spend their time writing their books.

I may be especially stubborn but I don’t drift away from the offender like the blogging police say I should. I keep checking, often to be disappointed. Fortunately, those writers can’t hear what I say when I discover yet another day has passed without a new post. On days there actually is a new post and I am delighted because when writers do write a blog post, it’s almost always good.

There are exceptions — writers who blog without fail on the schedule they told you they would.There are writers who manage to produce an excellent blog post every day. I think those writers might have “people” who write their blogs. Some writers can afford to employ “people” who manage their social medial commitments.

Unfortunately, I am the only person in this office. I do have a dog, a cat, a goat, a mouthy mandrill named Simon the Snark (who has appeared in this blog before) and a fairy whose name is Kren who also hang out here with me. None of them ever produces a blog post or much else.

One of my "people"

Sullivan the Goat – One of my “people”


My plan is to start with a post on Monday that covers topics such as: my novel in progress, my characters, my writing practice, what’s going on in the world of publishing and whatever else presents itself. There might even be a good recipe or two thrown in. On Fridays, I will recommend a book. I prefer the verb recommend because I don’t really do book reviews. I read a lot of books and I only recommend a small subset of them. I don’t like to condemn the ones I don’t like because I know what it takes to write a book.  It’s like telling someone their baby is ugly. You are smart enough to figure out what’s wrong with a book without my help. I enjoy sharing with you the books I have found to be worth reading.

Please feel free to comment.  See you on Friday.