Chasing your dreams

“Self-confidence is the surest way of obtaining what you want. If you know in your own heart you are going to be something, you will be it. Do not permit your mind to think otherwise. It is fatal.”  ─ George Patton

What is it that you haven’t done, that you always wanted to do?  Or is there something that you used to do and enjoyed doing that you no longer do because you: are too old, not in good enough shape, don’t have the time or the money to do or are afraid of looking foolish?

I am a firm believer in two things: evaluating where you are and reinvention. As we move through life we all make decisions that direct our path. Some are trivial and some alter it completely. It is easy as time passes to tell ourselves that we have let something slip beyond our reach. I have wanted to be a writer since I was a teenager. I have talked about (and no doubt bored friends and family!) writing a book for years. I always let something get in the way. Last winter with some help from my best friend, who also happens to be my husband, I realized that the time to do it was now.

 I had been working on MacCullough’s Women for a number of years but it still needed polishing to finish it. And it was WORK; getting up every morning, being in the chair (before reading email, or Facebook) by six and writing until seven thirty when I start  my day job.  Initially, this was hard. I am a “dawdler” by nature. My dad used to call me “The Gonna Girl” as in “I’m gonna do it.” After a few weeks it became second nature.  This last month, getting MacCullough’s Women out the door, has been crazy and I have not been able to write. I find that I miss it. The point is that I wanted to write and publish a book and now I have rather than relegating that dream to the “I wish I had done that but…” pile that it is so easy to build as we live our lives.

Winning the Bike in July 1958

Kath winning the bike contest (July 1958)

This got me thinking. Was there something that I wanted to do that I hadn’t done or no longer did because…Riding my bike immediately came to mind. I am fortunate to live in a pleasant neighborhood without a lot of traffic. I decided to do what I am calling social bike riding. It is easier to explain what this is NOT. It does not involve bright colored spandex with writing up the side, bike clips, special shoes, anything with the letters ATHON at the end. Unfortunately it does involve a red helmet because I think it is wrong to give a bad example to the little kids I pass and because I need all the protection I can get. I remember with longing the days of flying down the hill without a helmet.

I have a two mile loop that I ride every morning. I confess that I spend at least five minutes in the empty parking lot of the neighboring temple practicing because it has been a long time since I rode a bike. Yes, I know that saying “It’s just like riding a bike.” The truth is that I was never very good at riding a bike. But I am doing it again and loving it.  So what is it that you still want to do? Or to do once again?


Cover Story

Cover for MacCullough's Women“A picture shows me at a glance what it takes dozens of pages of a book to expound.”  ─ Ivan Turgenev


Here at last is the cover for MacCullough’s Women. Tina Foss Hickman has taken the place I created using words and given it a true face. It was a thrill to see it and I couldn’t be happier. My editor, Lisa Jackson, suggested Tina for the cover when we met to go over the edits. We all knew each other in another life. Tina and I had even talked about doing a children’s book together about my dog, Halsey. We both got busy with other things and it never happened. When I contacted Tina she remembered me and told me she was interested in doing the cover but first she wanted to know something about the book.  And then she asked what for me was the critical question: Can I read the book?

There is nothing more annoying to me than when the cover turns out to have no relation to the content of the book or, worse, reflects things that are not true. An example of this would be: the dog in the story is a chocolate Lab and the dog on the cover is black. I read a lot of books across genres and I see it often. Tina read the book and liked it. We exchanged several ideas, the first of which was a cover with all of the women (Brid, Franny, Lorie and Sofia) on it. We both decided that was too many faces on one cover. Choosing only one woman seemed to me to be misleading. You will have to read the book yourself to see if I am right. Our next thought was to put Drew MacCullough on the cover but, wait. The book is about the women, isn’t it?

I took a step back and analyzed the covers of the last fifteen books that I have read.  I was surprised to see that most of them did not have people on the cover. Instead, there were pictures of places or objects connected with the story. This turned my thoughts toward a cover with a picture of the bar on it. Tina did the rest. I consider myself very blessed to have Tina agree to draw the cover for my book. Most books today use photographs rather than actual art. Check out Tina’s portfolio.  Isn’t she great!

Ceol agus Craic, the Irish bar and restaurant, owned by Desmond Sheerin, on the corner Main and Dock Streets in Lynton, New Hampshire is the scene of much of the action that takes place in this story. This is not a Christmas book. We decided to depict the bar as it would look in winter because the story begins and ends in December a year apart.

I look at this illustration and I want to open the door and find out what is going on in the bar. I hope you do, too.


Molasses Cookies and Pistachio Ice Cream

“There is no use trying,” said Alice; “one can’t believe impossible things.”

“I dare say you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was your age, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”  ─ Lewis Carroll

August is here and with it, the launch date for the e-book version of MacCullough’s Women. The last ten days I have been tweaking the story and “straightening the collar” like the nuns in grade school used to do with our uniforms. This requires reading the book again and again because every time you add or subtract something you run the risk of leaving an extra “the” or “him” in your wake. It’s a lot like walking to the end of the diving board, looking down and then turning around and walking back. But, as I have not yet had my breakfast, like the Queen quoted above, I believe that I am finally ready to jump. The cover designer has told me that the cover should be available next weekend so we are on schedule. The book will go to an independent proof reader the end of this week who will hopefully catch any stray left-overs that I have not caught.

I am launching the e-book version first to take advantage of the rapidly changing world of publishing. This makes sense for a first time writer because it allows me to offer the book to readers at a much lower price than the print edition which will be coming out in October. If you don’t own an e-reader there are free applications that you can download that will enable you to read the book as an e-book. More on how to do that later…

I have been told that I have been a little cranky and distracted as I have slogged through this last phase of writing. Not to worry though, a scale check this morning assured me the self-medicating I have been doing with ice cream and molasses cookies is working! This weekend I decided to take a short break and read once again (Yes, I am a re-reader of books and have read this one several times.) one of my favorite book, The Shell Seekers by Rosamunde Pilcher. I love this story. It encompasses everything, that as a reader I look for in a book, and as a writer I admire. I read many, edgy, critically acclaimed literary novels that have been awarded big publishing prizes. I am often left thinking that while I certainly admire the talent, and the imagination it takes to write one of these books, I would not have wanted to be the one to have sent that story or those characters into the world, not so with The Shell Seekers. I think I love this book because it is about very believable people, people like you and me, each with their own strengths and failings, who are doing the best they can living lives that just might remind you of your own.  First published in 1987, this is a wonderful way to spend your languid August days. I highly recommend it along with a plate of molasses cookies and a dish of pistachio ice cream. Enjoy!

                                                Molasses Crinkles

            1 cup brown sugar                                1 teaspoon cinnamon

            ¾ cup shortening                                  1 teaspoon ginger

           ¼ cup molasses                                    ¼ teaspoon salt

                 1 egg                                                    ½ teaspoon cloves

              2 ¼ cups flour                          2 teaspoons baking soda

Mix brown sugar, shortening, egg and molasses.  Mix in dry ingredients. Shape dough into walnut-size balls. Dip tops in granulated sugar. Place on greased cookie sheet and bake for 12 minutes at 375 degrees. Makes @ four dozen cookies

This recipe was given to me by magical my godmother, Viola Duggan, who could have stepped right from the pages of The Shell Seekers.