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?




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.



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







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





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.



The Other Guys


The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and conveniences, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy. Martin Luther King

This past Sunday we celebrated Father’s Day. Last year, I posted a blog about my father, Bud Ferrari. In reading it over, I found that I really had nothing more to say. He was a great father. I was lucky to have him for my dad.

I thought I would write a few words about all those other guys who step up, step in and, on Father’s Day as they do on other important days in a child’s life, are gracious enough to take a step back.

If there is a role more difficult than that of a stepparent, I don’t know what it is. No one comes into that job prepared for what will be asked of him or her. A stepfather arrives in a child’s life because of a loss, either of a family through divorce, or of a person through death. It is a relationship that is built upon the fact that someone that child loves is no longer there every day or at all. To say that it is overshadowed by memories of the past is an understatement.

“You’re not my father!” is the ancient battle cry of every stepchild. (Even the man who led the donkey on the road to Bethlehem heard this.) Stepfathers are there when Dad isn’t.

Stepdads apply a band aid, run beside the new two-wheeler, drive the carpool, coach a team, scare away the monsters from under the bed, carry a child into an emergency room, write a check, (or slip a twenty into a willing hand) prevent the mother from killing the kid, arrive just behind the tow truck, run through the streets of Boston in the heat of a late August afternoon to obtain a critical document before the place it needs to be closes, and lug a steamer trunk up five flights of a college dorm.

There. Rarely complaining and often taken for granted. “Not Dad.”

These guys are easy to pick out in pictures taken at family events. You find them standing in the back or off to the side because as they are well aware, they are NOT Dad. They are gracious and self-effacing. They do not presume or assume but make no mistake their contribution can’t be minimized.

What the kids whose lives they helped repair and complete will remember about them is that they were there and in the end what name they were called didn’t really matter. What mattered was that in good times and in bad, they were always ready to reach out a helping hand or offer a word of encouragement.

One of those guys... (Photo Credit: Tom Gibbons Photography)



Happy Father’s Day to all the stepdads, uncles, older brothers, godfathers and friends who step in and make a difference in a child’s life.



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.













Remembering my Mother

Whatever else is unsure in this stinking dunghill of a world a mother’s love is not.” – James Joyce

Last year, I wrote a blog post on Father’s Day about my dad. It makes perfect sense that I would write about him before I wrote about my mother because he was the sun around which the rest of us revolved. My mother was content to stand in his shadow. It wasn’t until after she was gone, I realized that he was the sun because she put him there at the center of our universe.

When I am stuck trying to figure out who a character is, I will take his or her first name and list all the adjectives beginning with the same letter that describe the person I am writing about. My mother’s name was Gertrude, and she hated it. She compromised by going through life known as Gert – never Gertie or Trudy. Here are some of the adjectives that describe her: gentle, generous, gifted, grateful, and gorgeous. But mostly, she was just good.

Picture of my mother

My mother - Gert Ferrari - probably taken around 1941

Good is one of those small, self-effacing word that gets stomped on by more glittery words like “Awesome” and “Amazing”. But it is the right word for her. I have a clear memory of my fourth grade teacher, fingering the collar of my school uniform blouse, saying, “Your mother starches this. She is so good.”

She was a good wife, a good mother, a good worker, a good Nana, and a good friend.

She taught me to always send a thank you note and to bring a meal to a home where someone was sick or bereaved. I still make her “from scratch” brownies because they taste so much better than the ones made from a mix, and because as soon as I begin to bake them, I am awash in memories. I see her carefully trimming the edges – “You never give those to guests.”- and placing the perfectly cut squares into a Filene’s box lined with wax paper. When she was satisfied with how they looked, she would stand back and smile.

She was not quite a year old when her mother died in the 1918 flu epidemic. She inherited her pedal sewing machine as well as her talent as a seamstress. She used this machine, considered to be state of the art when it was first purchased, from the time she was a girl. The sound of her feet pumping that sewing machine was the background music of my childhood. I believe now that she continued to use it, long after it had become obsolete, because it was her one tangible connection with her mother.

My mother sewed beautifully. She made slipcovers, curtains, clothes, doll clothes and supplemented her income for many years by making and selling Raggedy Ann and Andy dolls. She could also knit, crochet, embroider, braid rugs and quilt. She tried her best to pass these talents on to me but I was a disappointment. Much to her frustration, I always had my head in a book. Fortunately, my sister would prove to be as talented as she was and carries on the tradition of making beautiful things.

The gift my mother gave to me was the example of her perseverance. She faced life with determination and grace. No matter how difficult her life was, she carried on, trusting God and her own ability to keep on moving forward, to make it through the day. She wasted no time feeling sorry for herself. Her faith never wavered. During the darkest days of my life, it has been mother ‘s voice, I have heard in my head telling me to get up and to keep going.

I am embarrassed to say I took her for granted, never stopping to realize that she would not always be there. There is not a day that goes by, I don’t think of her, and wish I were more like her.

Like I said before, she was good.




Circle of Girls

Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver, the other is gold.” Lyrics from a traditional Girl Scout song

This was a weekend that reminded me about the joy that comes from sharing our lives with other girls. This circle of friendship, celebrated by countless girls in the song I have quoted above, is the true heart of women’s fiction. This is why I love writing it.

silver and gold

Links of friendship

Much is written today about the culture of “mean girls” and the long-term damage that culture causes, so much that the other side, the positive side of female friendship is often lost. I am the first one to admit that it’s a long time since I was a girl; but the ability to establish those all important friendships with other women, friendships that sustain us as we move through life, begins with the discovery, when you are a girl, of how much fun sharing life with a girlfriend is.

My granddaughter came to visit this weekend. She will be eight years old in September. We had a lot of fun with her father and grandfather but she also insisted that we have “girl time”, carefully shutting the “boys” out, allowing only the dog (a girl) and the cat (a girl) into our inner sanctum. There was dressing up, dancing, yoga, a lot of giggling and sharing of secrets and cupcakes. Everyone wore a hat. There was a lot of pink. It was,  she told me, “So fun.”

picture of a little girl

Feeling the power of being a girl!

Sunday morning, I had more fun with more girls, albeit older ones.

I was twenty-five years old when, shortly after moving into town, I joined the fledgling Bedford Junior Women’s Club. It was still okay then to refer to yourself as a girl even if you were not. I remained a member of “the Juniors” for the next eleven years, only resigning from the club when I went to work.

This was a group of smart, hard-working, compassionate women who strove to make a difference and fill whatever need they saw in their community. They had brains, talent and time. With that firmly in hand, they acted and things got done. They also took care of their own. When my husband died suddenly, the club provided my daughter and I with meals every day for the next month.

Ten of us met for brunch. Two of the women sitting at the table I count among my BFFs. One dropped her kids off with me on the way to the hospital to have her baby. I have not seen the other seven in more than twenty years. After greetings and exclamations about how great we all looked – amazingly true – we stood back and the years fell away. We were “the Juniors” once more.

Around the table we went, one at a time, sharing where our lives had taken us. The stories reached across the spectrum from joy to tragedy. Children and marriages had not always turned out as we had hoped, but grandchildren, exciting and sometimes unexpected careers, and new loves had.

Looking around the circle of vibrant, interesting women, it was clear that we had not only survived, but that we had thrived. We were happy to see and celebrate one another. Such is the power and the secret of the friendship of women; born and nurtured from the time we were girls.

It was, as my granddaughter had told  me the night before, “So fun.”

Cups on the table.