Summer of the Turkeys

I have been taking a blogging break for the last seven weeks. I gave myself permission to do this based on reading the blogs of some of my favorite authors. Apparently, writers sometimes just wander off and write. Of course, this goes against all the rules in the blogging books. You will lose all your followers, they warn you. Writers are by nature a little odd, (I should know) and they are usually forgiven especially if they produce a great new book.  I am trying…

I have been writing these last few weeks, but my characters have been misbehaving lately, twisting the plot to their own ends, so this weekend I put them all on a thumb drive and took myself off to Bailey Island, Maine to think about how much of this mutiny I intend to let them get away with.

This is the thirty-second summer that I have spent on Bailey Island. Unlike the rest of the landscape of my life, not much changes from year to year. Bailey Island still boasts only four restaurants, a general store and one much visited gift shop, aptly called Land’s End. These summers have blended together in a mist of lobsters, melted butter, laziness, glorious sunsets, frigid water, beloved dogs, too much reading and long conversations with friends. There have been a few that have stood out.

There was the “Summer of the Canasta Game”. That was the year, now long ago, that my daughter, aged six, learn to play this endless game with too many cards. At the end of the summer she had won $712. Fortunately, we were able to buy her off with two stuffed animals and  a monkey (also not real) on a stick purchased at the wonderful gift shop down the road.

We also had the “Summer of the Kayaks”.  After much research, and, in my case, purchasing of appropriate gear and hat, my husband and I each bought a kayak. My husband actually did kayak around the island numerous times. I, on the other hand, did not. The last few years, every Memorial Day, we talk about getting the boats out, and then the thought of hauling them down and over the rocky coast of Maine in front of the house seems to put the project off for another day which has then proved to be another year.

This is the “Summer of the Turkey” or unfortunately, turkeys. One, or even two, picturesque turkeys I was able to live with. They made for interesting party conversation. “Oh yes, we have two turkeys at our house in Maine…” Three years ago, we had two turkeys. Two turkeys that apparently knew each other very well – in the biblical sense, I mean.  There are now nine, three enormous, nasty toms and six nervous hens. My neighbor keeps scaring me with tales of numerous chicks but they stay hidden. I pretend they don’t exist and I am sure you can see why. This herd (really, they are too loud to be called a flock) of  turkeys was around last year but they were not as big as they are this summer. “Been a mild winter,” is what the islanders told me in the way of explanation. It certainly must have been absolutely balmy based on how big these birds are.


One turkey is quaint.

These nine turkeys live at my house. Fortunately, they do not live IN it, yet. I have nightmares about that because the two trees they roost in are approximately six feet from my bedroom window. Watching them get into those trees every night is truly something. It gives new meaning to the saying, “like a big-ass bird”. The turkey powder room also doubles as my lawn. They talk to each other when they are not thundering through the woods. That cute “gobble-gobble” that you entertain your children with in November is less charming every morning at dawn.


More than two are too many!

Last weekend while the rest of the world watched the remaining events taking place in London, the Bailey Island Turkeys lined up to watch the two fools who clean their bathroom sneak around in the rain. What were we doing, you ask? We were skulking about trying to snap the best turkey picture of the summer, a competition we started in May to distract ourselves. Here are some of the results:


Turkeys - Male

The Toms - Arrogant, aren't they?



Two of the girls

I have not told the turkeys that my brother-in-law, the Great White Hunter, has offered to swing by on his way back from fighting bears this fall to dispatch them. I don’t have the heart to say yes. People ask me all the time, “Where do you get the ideas for your books?” The answer is: outside my bedroom window.


On the lookout for trouble





What I am reading – So Far Away

All the art of living lies in a fine mingling of letting go and holding on.”  – Havelock Ellis

Meg Mitchell Moore tells a story within a story in her novel So Far Away, seamlessly integrating the past with the present. This is a book about women. The men are consigned to play supportive roles. The writer effectively captures the voice of each generation even though these voices span more than a hundred years and cross social classes.

A story of mothers and daughters, one who has lost her child and one who is losing hers. This book will ring true with any mother, but especially single mothers, who have raised a teenage daughter alone.

Kathleen Lynch, the main character, is an archivist working at the Massachusetts Archives in Boston when Natalie Gallagher, a lonely teenager from Newburyport, walks into the Archives looking for information for a school project. Kathleen lives a small life that is centered around her job, and her aging dog. She is not getting any younger herself and is haunted by the loss of her daughter, Susannah. A loss she feels is somehow her fault. In her mind, she is constantly trying to figure out what she should have done differently.

The character of Natalie brings to the reader a chilling insight into the devastating impact of cyberbullying. I felt myself overwhelmed by the desire to do something to help this girl but at a loss as to what I, or Kathleen Lynch, could do.

Sprinkled throughout the book is the story of a “bridget” the name by which all female Irish servants were called. The character’s name is actually Bridget O’Connell. A fact her employer finds vastly amusing. Bridget’s story captures the immigrant struggle and accurately depicts the hardships of the life of an Irish serving girl in Boston, as well as both the good and bad characteristics of human behavior that never seem to change.

Apart from the excellence of Moore’s writing, there are personal reasons that So Far Away caught my eye. The main character and I share a first name, I was once the single mother of a teenage daughter, and my grandmother, Catherine O’Connor, was a “bridget” in a large house in Boston.

So Far Away is a nuanced book. Look a little deeper when you read it. I thought the actions of the minor character, Elsie, were especially interesting.  A great book, I strongly recommend it.


Another great cover...


Why I Love Visiting Book Clubs

“The creations of a great writer are little more than the moods and passions of his own heart, given surnames and Christian names, and sent to walk the earth.” — William Butler Yeats

Last week I was invited to meet with the FOSL Book Group in Merrimack, New Hampshire.  I love talking to book groups because it gives me the change to meet with people who have read MacCullough’s Women and to hear what they thought of the book. People are refreshingly candid which I very much enjoy. It also gives me a chance to ask questions that help  me with the work I am now doing on the second book.

Talking to the FOSL Book Group in Merrimack, NH

I have now had the pleasure of meeting with four of these groups. I thought I would share a few of the questions that I have been asked.

Why did you make the background of the story an Irish bar set in New Hampshire? Did you have to research Irish history to write the book?

My maternal great-grandfather, Patrick Sheerin, owned a bar in Boston at the end of the nineteenth century. My paternal grandmother, Catherine O’Connor, was born in County Kerry. I am married to  a man whose grandparents on both sides came to America from County Roscommon and my daughter is married to an Irishman and currently lives in Dublin. Irish History was my area of concentration when I studied for my undergraduate degree. The idea of creating an Irish bar in Lynton as the backdrop to the story seemed like the logical and fun thing to do. I had to do very little additional research with the exception of trying to come up with an elementary grasp of the Irish language. For that I took two sessions of Beginner Irish taught by a nun over from Galway. Even with that, I had a lot of help from my son-in-law’s mother. Irish is not for the faint of heart.

Where did you get the idea for the story?

I was widowed suddenly when I was thirty-five. I spent the next year attending grief support groups. I never forgot how almost everyone I met at these meetings mentioned there was something that they didn’t  know about the person who had died. I thought it was an interesting idea for a novel. The plot of MacCullough’s Women was born from that experience.

Why did you decide to make Brid and Franny become friends?

The idea of a wife and an ex-wife being friends has long intrigued me. If you consider it from the perspective that they have both been drawn to and loved the same man, it makes sense to me that they would have other things in common that would allow them to become friends. What usually prevents a friendship from forming between these women is the presence of the man they both married. In the case of Brid and Franny, Drew MacCullough is dead so that obstacle no longer exists.

I also loved the idea of Brid helping Franny to grow into a women no longer dominated by as she calls it in the book “The Gospel According to Drew MacCullough”.

When writing the book got hard, what kept you going?

I loved my characters. I felt that they deserved a chance to be given life. The great joy I get from attending book groups like FOSL comes from hearing a reader tell me. “I loved Brid.”  Or even, “ I hated Drew MacCullough.”  I gives me great satisfaction to know that I have created characters who are real enough to evoke that kind of reaction in a reader.

What advice do you have for someone who wants to write a novel?

Read as much as you can, join a writer’s group and establish a daily writing practice.



What I am Reading – Wife 22

A journey is like marriage. The certain way to be wrong is to think you control it.” — John Steinbeck

Facebook has become one of the most polarizing forces of our time. People are convinced that society is either being completely connected, or destroyed by the use of social media. No doubt advanced degrees are being earned from dissertations built around it as I type this. I have found almost no one who is either neutral or unaware of it.

Alice Buckle, the heroine of Melanie Gideon’s novel, Wife 22, is lonely. Alice feels that she is becoming invisible. She worries that her marriage to William, an advertising executive, is growing stale. Their sex life certainly has. She begins to realize that most of their communication is now taking place on Facebook through comments, likes, and chat.

Shortly after Alice conducts a Google search on “Happy Marriage”, a request turns up in her email from the Netherfield Center asking her to participate in an anonymous survey examining the state of marriage in the 21st century. Alice is in, and Wife 22 is born.

The novel is based around what Alice, as Wife 22, reveals to Researcher 101. Their relationship moves from email to Facebook where each sets up a page using the names of fictional literary characters to meet up and chat.

I don’t enjoy books consisting of strings of email messages. However, I found Wife 22 to be an engaging novel containing enough actual prose between the email messages and Facebook postings to keep me reading.

Gideon’s characters are good. It would be hard not to like William, who is fighting his own midlife demons. Nedra, Alice’s best friend, provides the voice of reason as she pulls Alice’s head down from the clouds where it usually floats.

This is a light-hearted book but if you take a second look, it does ask deeper and somewhat disturbing questions. Are we becoming disconnected? Is communicating with the people we love who live in the same house or city with us through social media a good thing? As a writer, I admire Melanie Gideon’s clever use of the tools of social media to create both a good story and to prod the reader to ask those questions.

Last night I went to out to dinner with my husband. We did not have our phones with us. At the table next to us two young women were sitting across from each other, busily texting. I wondered if it was to each other. Either way, they were not talking.

Read Wife 22. If you are on Facebook, you will enjoy it. If you are not, it will give you more ammunition.

Get off Facebook and read it.



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.













Finding a Balance

There’s only one way to stop a MAD WATCH. The March Hare, Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

You probably realize that today is Thursday, not Wednesday, the day I usually post my second blog of the week. I have spent the last couple of months determined to figure out the secret of blogging. In an effort to do this, I have checked out numerous author blogs.

It has slowly sunk in that while bloggers are most certainly writers, not all bloggers are also writing a new novel. This probably explains why not many fiction writers blog three times a week. I have stumbled upon more than one writer’s blog that says, “Please forgive me, I am taking a break from blogging to write. Check back from time to time to see if I have returned.” Another admitted she had cut back dramatically on social media and blogging because she found it got in the way of her writing.

I am in the middle of my second book and my characters are definitely getting restless. It might be hard to believe if you have never written fiction, but they really do have a mind of their own. My crowd is definitely getting ready to run amuck.

After considering everything, I have made a decision to cut back to only two blog posts per week starting next Monday. The clock kept stopping last week for no reason the clock man could figure out. Finally, it dawned on me that it was  the universe telling me to slow down and focus on the new book.


Time to write the next book

I will continue to blog on my writing life on Mondays. On Fridays, I will share with you what I am reading.  For now, I think that will be about the right balance for me.

I have found that I enjoy blogging. I have also learned the following:

  • It is important to set a definite schedule for when you will post a blog. I have a list of blogs that I visit and I have found myself annoyed when the expected post is not there. (So I humbly apologize for yesterday. Life really got in the way.)
  • Bloggers do need to use their own voice, quirky or, in my case, snarky as it may be. Readers who follow a certain blog do so because they enjoy it.
  • Photos are always welcome. Readers like pictures.

One of the questions that you often see in author interviews is: Who is your writer crush? I have a new one. The amazing Anna Quindlen. Stop by tomorrow for my review of her new memoir, Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake.  She is a girl after my own heart.










The Power of Sex

“Writing is like sex. First you do it for love, then you do it for your friends, and then you do it for money.” Virginia Woolf

Picture of a rose

Is there any word in the English language that grabs the reader’s attention more than the word sex?  The only one I can think of might be death, but I doubt it. Sex is on my mind this morning because of the reading frenzy around E L James’ trilogy, Shades of Grey.

A little more than a month ago, I posted about the first book, Fifty Shades of Grey, on my Facebook page. I asked who was reading it. Only a couple of my Facebook friends had heard of it.

Fifty Shades of Grey made the top of the New York Times Bestseller List this morning with the second and third book in the trilogy occupying slots two and three. So a lot of people are reading it now or at least buying it.

A self-published novel that was quickly labeled “mommy porn”Fifty Shades of Grey centers on BDSM (bondage and sadomasochism) – in essence SEX, albeit a very specific type. I believe the phenomenal success of this book is tied to the fact that it was originally published as an e-book. This made it possible for readers to download it privately. Many of these readers would never dream of carrying the physical book through their local Barnes and Noble and sliding it across the counter or having the book in their homes. You can buy the books now at Barnes and Noble. I saw a huge stack of all three there last week. Social media drove the success of the first book by sending out the clear message: “You have to read this book!”

Let me tell you about my experience with sex. I enjoy it but I don’t like writing about it. It’s not easy to do it well. If you don’t believe me, try it. Everything that you put on the page comes into question. “Do you think she does that?” or “Nobody does that!” When I write about sex, I immediately see the faces of a number of people I would prefer didn’t know I was even engaging in it, never mind writing about it for all the world to see.

Why do it then? The flip answer is that it sells books as has just been proven by Fifty Shades of Grey. The more thoughtful one is that I believe it is a huge part of most women’s lives and deserves its place in the books that women are reading. The question remains. What is the best way to actually write it?

MacCullough’s Women has a sex scene in it. I like to think of it as a love scene where two characters are enjoying some pretty good sex. The first time I had to read that scene to my writers’ group we were still meeting in my living room. The only way I was able to do it was to turn my back to the group. Now we meet on the phone and  the next time will be easier. I have had three specific compliments from readers on this scene but I have also had a number of requests to put MORE sex in the next book. I don’t treat sex like commas and sprinkle it everywhere, so we will have to see what the characters decide they want to do.

As far as Fifty Shades of Grey is concerned, the impact of its success in terms of sales and buzz generated cannot be understated. Once again, despite disclaimers, we are reminded that social media marketing is a force to be reckoned with and that self-publishing, like sex, is here to stay.

Okay, I will dare to ask. Who’s read Fifty Shades of Grey and what did you think of it?

Picture of the cover










Chatting with the Writer

“A character is never the author who created him. It is quite likely, however, that an author may be all his characters simultaneously.” Albert Camus


Coffee Cups on a tableI thought I would answer the top three questions that readers ask me:

1. Where do you get your story ideas? Do you write about your own life?

Never lose sight of the fact that all writers are poachers. This is a kinder, gentler word for thieves. Nothing is safe around a writer. Bluntly stated, we steal things: a name, a laugh, an overheard conversation, and the color of the wing chair in the local funeral home. Rosemary Sheerin’s ankles actually belonged to my own mother.

The plot for MacCullough’s Women draws heavily from the stories that I heard while attending support groups as a young widow. Those tearful conversations were full of surprises. The storyline in the book is an old one, used many times before, and still playing out today in front of the world in a courtroom in North Carolina. It explores human frailties and where they lead us.

2. Do you have a favorite character?

I am the mother of an only child and she is my favorite. I never understood how it could be true when I would hear mothers of more than one (including my own mother and my mother-in-law) say that they did not have a favorite. Now, as a writer who created several characters and sent them into the world, I understand. Some of my characters make more sense to me than others, but I love them all.

3. What is the most difficult thing about being a writer?

The most difficult thing for me is finding the time to write. I have a day job, a house, a husband and a very demanding English Cocker Spaniel. I also have a sad list of shoulds: exercise, garden, learn French, ride my bike, do yoga and meditate.

Once again, being a thief is helpful because I steal time to write, fitting it in whenever I can find an empty minute. I get up very early and write until it is time to go to work. I try to add a couple of pages at lunch and I edit in the early evening.

The second most difficult thing about being a writer is where to put the commas. The last time I counted, I owned nine books on grammar. All purchased with the intention of teaching me comma usage. Still, I am editor’s despair, as my first instinct is to treat this particular punctuation mark like chocolate chips and fold them in everywhere.


You can never have too many grammar books






Silencing Simon aka The Voice

“As a writer, you can’t allow yourself the luxury of being discouraged and giving up when you are rejected, either by agents or publishers. You absolutely must plow forward.” Augusten Burroughs

Do you hear The Voice? An insistent hissing in your ear that reinforces every negative message you have ever heard throughout your life: “You can’t, you won’t, you don’t, you are not, you never will, you’re too old, so why don’t you just quit?”

We all have these voices following us around because at one time or another we have all heard one or more of these messages from someone, even if they were not deserved and even true. Often people feel the need to say negative or hurtful things to others because of something that has nothing to do with the situation they are commenting on. Usually, it’s about them. Unfortunately, the damage is done and The Voice files away what it hears to be used at a later date. So be prepared.

Writers are particularly susceptible because they work alone and are attempting to create something unique. Writing is an uphill slog and unless they happen to be J.K. Rowling or Stephen King, the self-professed writer is often viewed as being just a little bit off.

The Voice reached its peak for me last year as I was completing the final edits for my book. Loud, irascible and snarky with a long (and fairly accurate, unfortunately) list of everything that I had ever screwed up or not finished, The Voice would not shut up.

Around this time I was having a routine test done at the hospital, on my way past the gift shop (which in case you don’t know always has great stuff, so stop in), I found a body for The Voice: Simon, the Mandrill.

Picture of Mandrill

Aka The Voice


Instead of taking the coward’s path, I decided to beat Simon at his own game. I never know when he is going to show up.

Picture of Simon

Simon where you least expect him to be

One of these strategies almost always works:


  • Tell The Voice to be quiet. You know what you’re doing. You’ve done this or something like it before with great success. You’re a rock star.
  • Get up and move. Do jumping jacks. Run the vacuum. Drop and do pushups (I don’t do this but you can.)
  • Do nothing. Sit quietly and start breathing deeply and repeat. “I know that I can do this.”
  • Keep on doing what you need to do. In my case that is WRITE. Focus on what it is you need to do to reach the next step.  And you will.

If all else fails, I have found this to work…

Simon in  a drawer

Get lost, Simon




NH Writers’ Project Writers’ Day – March 31, 2012

If you are destined to become a writer, you can’t help it. If you can help it, you aren’t destined to become a writer. The frustrations and disappointments, not even to mention the unspeakable loneliness, are too unbearable for anyone who doesn’t have a deep sense of being unable to avoid writing.” Donald Harington

Saturday, I attended Writers’ Day sponsored by the NH Writers’ Project. The purpose of this event held at Southern New Hampshire University was to bring writers from all over the state and beyond together to share ideas, learn something new and network with other writers. This was the fourth time I have attended Writers’ Day and it just keeps getting better. The NH Writers’ Project is to be congratulated for doing a great job.

Picture of Writers' Day folder.

My stuff for Writers' Day

The keynote speaker was Archer Mayer, the Vermont-based author of a series of books featuring detective Joe Gunther. He is a past winner of the New England Independent Booksellers Association Award for Best Fiction—the first time a writer of crime literature has been so honored. Archer is a death investigator for Vermont’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner and a detective for the Windham County Sheriff’s Office. He could also make a living as a stand-up comic because he kept his audience laughing even while warning us that most fiction writers do not end up rich. Maybe we laughed because most of us had already figured that out.

I attended four sessions:

  • Your Book Starts Here: Three-Act Structure for Book Writers in All Genres
  • Writing Through Our Fears
  • Your Characters’ Characteristics
  • Networking for Manchester and Nashua Writers

I learned something valuable from each of them.

Your Book Starts Here: Three-Act Structure for Book Writers in All Genres presented by Mary Carroll Moore was most intriguing, providing a new way to look at building plot. The premise behind this is to use a series of questions to plot your story. Ms. Moore did a great job illustrating how to do exactly that with sticky notes. (I love sticky notes because you can move them around.) I immediately downloaded her book (Come on, you knew that I would.)

Mary Carroll Moore

Mary Carroll Moore

In Writing Through Your Fears, Mary Johnson presented strategies for overcoming the terror all writers face sooner or later. Usually, this shows up as a snarky voice in your ear saying, “What makes you think anyone will ever want to read this? Huh?” This annoying voice who I picture as coming from an obnoxious mandrill named Simon can bring me to despair.

Your Characters’ Characteristics presented by Ann Joslin Williams offered a series of writing exercises and charts to help you build your characters by defining things like: what they eat, their greatest fears, favorite stuff, etc.

Networking for Manchester and Nashua Writers brought local writers together and gave us a chance to describe what we are writing or planning to write.

I had lunch with a fellow member of my Souhegan Writers Group, Cherie Konyha Greene, whose novel will be one to watch for, and several other writers I had just met. Informal networking at its best.

Writers’ Day provides an opportunity to help writers strengthen their knowledge of the craft of writing but I think its appeal speaks to something deeper. Writing is lonely, the work for the most part being done alone and rejected and criticized far more often than accepted. Writers’ Day provides the opportunity to do something we all try to do from the moment we leave the protection of our mothers’ arms: Make a friend.