The Journey Begins

“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.” ― Ursula K. Le GuinThe Left Hand of Darkness

Two confessions to begin with: I have a writer’s crush on Ursula LeGuin and I have never read her fiction (yet).

I spent the weekend reading her latest book of essays published last month – No Time to Spare: Thinking about What Matters.

Ursula LeGuin is an inspiration for any writer but at eighty-eight, this is especially true for writers like myself who begin to write later in life.

January is traditionally the time of year for both reflections and new beginnings.

If I were to pick a word to describe my writing in 2017 it would be MIRED. I could also us STUCK (as in a hole) but I prefer mired. I tried my best to salvage Maggie’s Girls but in the end, I came to the realization that Maggie’s Girls is not the third book in the Lynton Series.

I had elective surgery in September. I knew I would be stationary for at least six weeks as a result and I had planned to write, write, write. The joke was on me. Between the drugs and the aftermath of surgery, no writing took place.

Instead, “laid up” as I was, I re-read the novels of the writers I view to be the best of my genre: Jo-Ann Mapson, Katrina Kittle, Barbara Samuel and Rosamunde Pilcher- the writers I love. I returned to the lives of the Wilder sisters, Penelope Keeling, Luna McGraw and Cami Anderson. All old friends waiting on my bookshelves to meet once again.

Series are tricky and probably not the best place for a first-time writer to start. It is too late now and so I continue to write on. I love Maggie’s Girls and hope to publish the story as a stand-alone novel but now I have to return to the journey and work on Book Three, as promised.

I flew to Ireland for Christmas. Leaving my Kindle at home, I brought two paperback books with me to read on the plane: MacCullough’s Women and Francesca’s Foundlings.

The Lynton Series Book One and Book Two

It was a unique experience. I have read a lot books on airplanes but it was admittedly a tiny bit thrilling to sit there reading one I had written. It was also the first time I had read the books one after the other the way a reader would.

Finishing Francesca’s Foundlings, it was clear to me that Book Three will be Franny and Nick’s story, even if I am not sure yet what their story will be. Most likely readers will also see more of Lilah and Dave and, of course, Brid and Neil.

Signs turn up where you least expect to find them. We had a small party at the beginning of the holidays and one of my neighbors sent me a lovely thank you note.


At the bottom she wrote: “Looking forward to the next sequel of MacCullough’s Women.”

Book Three does not yet have a name but it does have a working first line: “So it’s true. You really do play with dolls.”

I leave you to wonder who it is that says that to Franny.

The Muse and I wish you a Happy New Year.

The Muse and I

I am looking forward to the journey.




What I am Reading – The Circle

“Big Brother is watching you.”     George Orwell

I can’t remember the last time a book captured and held me with the force of The Circle written by Dave Eggers. I read this book based on the recommendation of a writer I admire and follow on Facebook. Where else? Like me, while she writes women’s fiction, she reads everything. Since reading The Circle I have thought a lot about my relationship to Facebook and also the person I become when I am using it.

The Circle follows a young new-hire name Mae Holland at a mysterious Internet company of the same name as she strives to fit into the company culture. The company’s goal  is universal global transparency beginning with TruYou – one account, one password, and one identity. Soon Mae is bewitched and is willing to give up everything including her ability to think for herself in order to make this happen. She commits herself to becoming the person the company wishes her to be.

The Circle is a deceptively easy book to read. Mae, her friend and sponsor, Annie, Mercer, her former boyfriend, The Three Wise Men, who founded the company, are not deeply drawn characters. With the exception of trying to figure out who the mysterious Kalden is, there is not a lot of plot to follow. Eggers does not travel far into his characters heads or hearts. The reader sees what everyone at the company sees.

Privacy is verboten. No act is too intimate, craven, carnal or sad to not be recorded and then viewed by all. It’s all about transparency. The characters, in turn, strive desperately to produce what the company wants to see on its SeeChange cameras in order to obtain the desired approval of the viewers.

But there is something about The Circle that may begin to feel very familiar if you are on Facebook or some other social network. The increasing pressure to please, to draw reactions that are “smiles” and not – God forbid – “frowns”, or in the case of Facebook, as many “likes” as you can. The reader is drawn into the escalating pace of messages, e-mails, and texts that constantly bombard Mae demanding that, at all costs, she feed the myth of the woman she appears to be on the company’s screens.

The Circle is a book that should make you pause the next time you open your Facebook newsfeed and your finger hovers over the “like” button. Who likes it – the real you or “Facebook You”? Why do you like it? Is it because you approve of what the post says or because you are afraid not to approve because someone will judge you for not doing so?

I leave you with this question. Do you think that Dave Eggers created his characters to be superficial because so many members of social networks appear to be superficial, living their cyber lives only for show? Are you in danger of becoming one?

If you do engage in social networking, I encourage you to read The Circle. It will make you think about who you really are especially when you are online.

The Circle by Dave Eggers

The Circle by Dave Eggers


What I am Reading – The Husband’s Secret

Secrets are generally terrible. Beauty is not hidden–only ugliness and deformity.” ― L.M. Montgomery

Once again, I have discovered a book about a marriage where the husband has a secret. My own husband complained, “Why is it always the husband? Don’t wives ever keep secrets?” I thought about that and I realized that while wives may keep secrets from their husbands, they almost always tell a friend. A secret revealed to someone else becomes not quite as sinister and loses some of its power. This one, locked in the heart of the husband, does not.

The Husband’s Secret is one of those books that surprises you and despite the terrible secret that one and then two and finally three of the characters carry, I found them, especially Cecilia, mother of three daughters who supplements her income by being a star Tupperware Lady, to be very entertaining and very real. She reminds me of the busy young mothers I meet on walks through my own neighborhood.

While her husband is away on a business trip, Cecilia rummages through boxes in her attic in search of a piece of her own past for a child’s school project.  She accidentally stumbles upon a dusty sealed envelope marked:

                                   For my wife, Cecilia Fitzpatrick

                                  To be opened in the event of my death

Admit it. I have you right there, don’t I? What Cecilia does with the letter, and how the secret it contains spills into the lives of the other characters, is the story. Liane Moriarty cleverly weaves in the lives and subplots of her other characters. Tess, who has fled her own crumbling marriage, and Rachel, the widowed secretary at Cecilia’s younger daughters’ school also carry secrets.

Writing in the third person, Moriarty takes you into the minds and hearts of these three women allowing you to feel their heartache and follow their decision-making. This would be an easy book to spoil for you, so I will leave you with this thought. In the beginning, The Husband’s Secret may feel like a typical “wife who has been wronged” tale,  but it is so much more than that. I found myself thinking about the characters whose lives were impacted by the letter Cecilia found long after I had finished reading the story. This one is well worth reading and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.




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.











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?





What I am Reading – The Widower’s Tale

“In this world it is not what we take up, but what we give up, that makes us rich.” – Henry Ward Beecher

The Widower’s Tale by Julia Glass is the selection for the 2013 Nashua Reads: One City, One Book program. I live in Nashua, NH so I thought I would read it. I am fan of Julia Glass’s writing having read her previous books. I was not disappointed and I am happy to recommend it to you. The Nashua Public Library chose well.

From the writer’s perspective, Glass employs an interesting technique by having the main character, Percy Darling – an unusual choice of name, if you read Peter Pan – narrate his chapters in the first-person and the supporting characters narrate theirs in the third-person. I found it to be an effective way to underline that it really is Percy’s story to tell. The others are there to flesh out his tale and provide the background. Percy is seventy, widowed and set in his ways. A witty grouch, retired from his job as a librarian at Harvard’s Widener Library, at first glance Percy appears to be a stereotyped starched New-England Yankee with a tightly defined worldview. And then he surprises you in a number of bold and endearing ways, proving he is not what he first appears to be. Despite his pretentions and his prejudices, he never loses sight of what he holds dear, namely the people he loves: his daughters, Trudy and Clover, his grandson, Robert, and, his stumbled upon but cherished and younger girlfriend, Sarah.

The supporting characters whose voices also tell the story are all men. Ira, the gay teacher at Elves and Faeries, the preschool Percy reluctantly gives a home to in his barn to provide Clover a job, Celestino the illegal immigrant from Guatemala with a fascinating back story of his own with ties back to Harvard, and Robert, Percy’s much-loved grandson, whose idealistic dreams of saving the world all go drastically wrong. Through it all, I remained a fan of Robert’s.

Of course, the plot wouldn’t be interesting without women and they are there in the story, too. Trudy, the daughter who is the famous oncologist, Clover, the daughter who is the endearing screw-up and Sarah, the artist Percy falls in love with – all multi-faceted and each unique. Even Poppy, Percy’s long dead and much mourned wife, no footnote herself, makes her presence felt.

The Widower’s Tale tackles several large issues – eco-terrorism, breast cancer, illegal workers and covert prejudice against gays – any of which could stand alone as the subject of the book. In lesser hands, they could have gotten horribly muddled. Julia Glass excels at her craft and she deftly entwines them to leave the reader with a satisfied feeling at the end of the story. She is coming to Nashua as part of the One City, One Book program. I can’t wait to hear her speak. This is a wonderful book for the beach, the hammock or a long airplane ride. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.


The book Nashua, NH is reading this summer

The book Nashua, NH is reading this summer



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.






What I am Reading – The Other Woman

Write the kind of story you would like to read. People will give you all sorts of advice about writing, but if you are not writing something you like, no one else will like it either.” ― Meg Cabot


This week I am recommending a mystery for you from Hank Phillippi Ryan. I had the pleasure of hearing her speak at a book signing last week at the Nashua Public Library for The Other Woman.

Hank Phillippi Ryan is a well-known television journalist in the Boston area currently doing investigative reporting for Boston’s NBC affiliate. She brought with her lots of star power – she’s earned 27 Emmys – dazzling the audience who had braved a very rainy Thursday night here in Nashua to hear her speak. I am a Massachusetts girl, born in Somerville, the daughter of Boston-born parents and raised in Littleton. As I told you in an earlier blog post, I love books set in places I know. The Other Woman takes you from the Esplanade to Springfield and back again with stops along the way without a misstep. Ryan gets Massachusetts.

The main character, disgraced television news reporter Jane Ryland, reduced to reporting for a second string Boston newspaper, has been assigned to get an interview with Moira Lassiter, the wife of one of the candidates in the Massachusetts Senate race. Jane is more than a tad over-qualified for her job and in doing her background research she can’t help but notice that a certain woman in a red coat is everywhere Governor Lassiter is. Convinced this is the other woman in the handsome candidate’s life, Jane persists in chasing what she believes will be a scoop that may restore her reputation as a news reporter.

The Other Woman plays out against the subplot of The Bridge Killer who may or may not have serially killed three women and then dumped them under a convenient bridge. The situation causes a growing sense of unease in Boston, a city whose residents are no strangers to serial killers. The detective in charge of the investigation, Jake Brogan, would like to have more than a professional relationship with Jane, who reciprocates the feeling.

I have been reading mysteries since I was a preteen – a long time.  I pride myself on being able to finger the bad guy or guys by the end of the fourth chapter. Ryan stumped me almost until the end of the story with the twists and turns of her plot and her numerous potential other women. The Other Woman is a wonderful kickoff to her promised series.

The Other Woman quite rightly received a Mary Higgins Clark Award for 2013. Hank Phillippi Ryan’s experience in the world of news reporting comes shining through providing the story with clarity and credibility. If you like a great mystery,  I think you will enjoy it.


Great read for a hot summer day.

Great read for a hot summer day.



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.