Wednesday, December 31, 2014


Here's where I'll be on Thursday evening. I wish you would be there too. Hey! You could make it a New Year's resolution! One you can actually keep!

Milwaukeean Lesley Kagen, author of The Resurrection of Tess Blessing
Thursday January 8, at 7:00 pm

Boswell is excited to welcome Milwaukeean Lesley Kagen, actress and author of six novels, as she presents her latest, The Resurrection of Tess Blessing, for a reading and signing. In this poignant novel, 49-year-old Tess sets forth on a mission to complete her final "to-do" list before what she’s sure will be her impending death after she is diagnosed with breast cancer, never thinking that she may have to stick around to deal with her handiwork.

Among the things Tess feels she must do before her impending death to cancer are making peace with her estranged sister, saying goodbye to her mother’s long-kept ashes that she keeps in the garage, rescuing her daughter from the grip of an eating disorder, helping her son grow-up, and reigniting the spark in her marriage. Grace, the story’s narrator, aids Tess on her quest and lends the story its most brilliant elements: subtle magical realism and deep psychological complexity. Is Grace an "imaginary friend," guardian angel, or a part of Tess who knows better than she? Fans of quirky novels like Where’d You Go Bernadette and Silver Linings Playbook will love this heartwarming, humorous, and slightly magical redemptive story about second chances and realizing what—and who—is really important, before it’s too late.

"Tess' emotional journey makes for compelling reading...a richly detailed, deeply resonant story of a woman of incredible strength."---Kirkus Reviews 
"In The Resurrection of Tess Blessing, Kagen deftly illustrates her gift for blending the serious and the funny, the light and the dark. With a touch of magical realism, she once again creates a story that’s as hopeful as it is poignant. As a reader, I feel safe in her hands." —Diane Chamberlain, international bestselling author ofNecessary Lies and The Secret Life of CeeCee Wilkes 

About the Author: Lesley Kagen is an actress, voice-over talent, essayist, former restaurateur, sought-after speaker, and award-winning, The New York Times bestselling author of five previous novels. Her work has been translated into seven languages. She’s the mother of two and grandmother of two. She lives in a hundred-year-old farmhouse in a small town in Wisconsin.

Monday, December 29, 2014


I was recently informed by my editor that my debut novel, Whistling in the Dark, a surprise New York Times bestseller and Midwest Independent Booksellers Association Choice Award Winner, was about to go into its 16th printing! Besides feeling ridiculously lucky (Do you know the number of sensational books that never get a second glance?) and outrageously grateful (Thank you...thank you...thank a good bedtime prayer) not a day goes by, that I don't think about Whistling's inauspicious beginnings. Got a sec?

Shortly after my daughter flew the coop to attend college many miles away from my nest, I began wondering, as I imagine many moms do---Did I teach her everything she needs to know? How fast can I get to Virginia if she needs me? Are twenty pair of underwear enough? And then I began feeling a little sorry for myself. Started thinking about how hard it is these days to be a mom compared to when my mother raised me in the 50s. Self-esteem hadn't been invented yet, a healthy meal was a Swanson's TV Dinner, and the worst weapons were switchblades wielded by "greasers," which also brings to mind "oleo." In so many ways, they really were, "The Good Old Days." I found myself missing them. And my ten-year-old self. Before I realized what I was doing, I began to peck out memories of living in a blue collar neighborhood on the West Side of Milwaukee back in the day.

Once I'd completed the story, I thought, Hey, this is pretty good. Think I'll try to get it published! (This is somewhat akin to Judy Garland and Andy Rooney saying to one another, "Hey! Let's put on a show!") I didn't have the slightest idea how to go about this, so I headed over to my favorite book store and did a little research. Turned out I needed a literary agent who would act as a go-between me and a publisher, and to get one of those, I had to write something called a query letter, which sounded an awful lot like a pitch letter. An agent? Easy peasy! I'd been actress for over thirty years and had never had a problem finding someone to represent me. A query letter? A snap

I then proceeded to send this query letter via e-mail to agents in New York City because that's where most of them hang out. My quickest rejection was under a minute. Like Mr. Big Apple had just been waiting to shoot down the hopes and dreams of a middle-aged midwestern writer who contacted him. The longest rejection took two month. Some agents asked to see some pages and then rejected it. Two asked to read the whole manuscript and wrote back, "Thanks, but no thanks. It's just not right for us." When I received my 156th rejection, I laid in a hot bath for a week, cried, eyed the plugged-in hair dryer on a nearby counter, and wondered how bad electrocution hurt.

Two days later, wrinkly me received a nice e-mail from an elderly gentleman from a prominent NYC literary agency who wrote, "I find this story delightful and would like to represent, "Whispering in the Dark." He never did get the title right, but he did find an editor at NAL/PENGUIN who felt the same way he did, and I will always be grateful to the both of them for putting me out of my misery.

The moral of this story? Magical stuff can happen when you least expect it, so it's a pretty good idea to believe in yourself when no one else does, and never throw in the towel that's sitting awfully close to that hair dryer.



Tuesday, December 23, 2014


It was the Christmas of '92.  The Christmas my sassy five-year-old son, Riley's, belief in Santa up and went. 

"Only three weeks left, Ri. How's your letter to Santa to coming along?" I said as I set his scrambled cheese eggs and toast down next to his hot cocoa. 

"I'm not making a list this year," he announced. "I don't believe in Santa anymore."

"Really?" I was, of course, heartbroken, and ticked at the third grader who lived behind us who I was certain had blown Santa's cover, but also semi-impressed by my son's bold stance. " sure you want to take that chance, Ri? I mean...what if you're wrong?"

He stuffed a piece of cinnamon toast in his smirky little mouth and said, "I know you and Dad get the presents. Get over it."

"But what about—" I started to protest, when a glimmer of an idea took hold. "Just to be on the safe side, if it was me, I'd pull together a letter with a list anyway, honey. You know, cover your bases. Couldn't hurt, right?"

He rested his case with an eye roll and a disbelieving grunt. But a couple of days later, I found this huffy, smudged note on the kitchen table. Unable to write yet, Riley had asked his eight-year-old sister, Casey, to do a little secretarial work:

Der Santa,

Your not real but this is what I want

1. Mario game
2. WWF reslers like Rock
3. Sled


After I tucked him that night, I told him that he could rest easy because I'd sent the letter off to the North Pole that afternoon. He gave me a look that can only be described as a poor-Mom-how-did-she-live-this-long-without-getting-hit-by-a-bus look.

I played it pretty low key for the next two weeks, didn't breathe a word about Santa until the family was traveling to the American Club to celebrate the holiday. Besides sleigh rides, wreath-making classes, caroling and other assorted seasonal attractions the hotel offered guests back then, there was an up close and extended personal visit with Santa on the venue!  

I mentioned nonchalantly on the ride up about how excited Mr. Claus would be to see Riley. "I bet you're pretty relieved you pulled that letter together now, right? That'd be pretty embarrassing to be sitting on Santa's lap and--

"Bah, humbug," was my whipper-snapper's back seat response. 

While my husband checked us in, I mumbled something about looking around and dashed off to find a hotel employee who could direct me to Santa's Workshop. After a quick chat with the jolly one, I rushed back to reception and arrived just in time to hear Riley tell his father, yet again, "But I don't want to go see Santa. That's for babies."

It was only after much cajoling, bribery, and minor threatening, that later that afternoon our son dawdled through the hotel's hallways, stood grouchily in line with the other, much happier, children. When it was my boy's turn, Santa gave me a wink, and said to my little non-believer, "And who do we have here! Why it's Riley, if I'm not mistaken, and I never am," as he reached into his big ole red furry pants with a hearty ho...ho...ho and withdrew my son's Der Santa letter that I'd slipped him earlier. 

The jaw-dropping look on my little wise guy’s face? 
Worth its weight in gold, incense, and mirth.

Merry Christmas to all. May your belief in someone or something greater than yourself never waver.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

The Visitor

If I had to name one thing that gets to me the most this time of year it wouldn’t be the snotty-nosed children’s choirs, twinkling red lights illuminating snowflakes joining their brethren during an after midnight snow, or misshapen snowmen with gnawed carrot noses. Although loved and time-honored, those holiday traditions can’t hold a yuletide candle to the joy I feel watching usually cranky folks holding doors open for package-carrying shoppers with a shy smile, or the town skinflint tossing five dollars into a bell ringer’s kettle, and the delight that runs through the audience of a middle school production of O. Henry’s The Gift of the Magi.

What is this powerful force that tip-toes into the souls of we otherwise self-absorbed, distracted, and darn right stingy this time of year? What is this…this…spirit that comes to visit for the month of December? From whence does it come? And for godssakes, can’t someone speak to it about taking up permanent residence? 

Friday, December 19, 2014


My daughter and I have a long-running argument, I mean lively discussion, on whether of not the time-worn tradition of an Elf on the Shelf is a good idea. Casey thinks it's hilarious and enjoys hiding the dang red man all over the house. I like that part of it too. It's the part when this smirking little rat fink reports back to Santa everyday if my always wonderful g-baby is minding his p's & q's. A tattle-tale. That's what that elf is. In my old know what we'd do to a snitch? My attempts to procure a teeny tiny concrete raincoat have been fruitless, so I'm seriously considering kidnapping the snack size stoolie. 

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The G.G.

I spent last Friday morning with my Charlie and his chums at Maple Leaf Preschool reading B.J. Novak's hilarious, The Book with No Pictures, and talking about how books come to be. Fantastic teacher, Barb Gould, has assembled the stories the kids told me into a book their parents will receive at Thursday's holiday party. Kudos, children, kudos! 


This week I had the pleasure of sitting down and chatting with your children about what authors do. I explained to them that books were just stories people thought up in their brains and wrote down on paper. One by one they joined me to share what tale was uppermost on their minds. Some of the kids needed prodding; others were disappointed when their turn was over. All of them were delightful and wonderful. I hope you enjoy their debut short story collection as much as I enjoyed recording them.
             —Lesley Kagen, New York Times bestselling author and Charlie Fleming’s G.G.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Double Scoop

I generally do not put a lot of stock in book reviews. Too subjective. Some folks like chocolate ice cream and some like strawberry. But when the notoriously cranky Kirkus gives you one like this...well, it's better than a cookie cone in the eye.

"Tess' emotional journey makes for compelling reading...a richly detailed, deeply resonant story of a woman of incredible strength." 
--Kirkus Reviews

Thursday, December 11, 2014


Five Books that Inspire Me


“It changed my life. A timely story, beautifully written. Harper Lee captured Scout, Jem, and Dill’s voices perfectly. The setting speaks to me. The depth of the characters floor me. It’s perfect in every way. I often listen to the soundtrack of the movie when I write.”
to kill a mockingbird


“And everything else written by Amy Bloom. I am humbled and awed when I read her. She’s a writer’s writer.”


“Alice Sebold’s masterpiece.  I love her courage, her ability to reach into the depths of her soul and capture the essence of a character.”
lovely bones


“Absolutely adored this novel of a young man with autism attempting to solve a crime. Mark Haddon is a genius.”
the curious incident


“Abigail Thomas’s profoundly beautiful and darkly comic memoir remains to this day, my favorite. Exquisite writing.”
a three dog life

Monday, December 8, 2014

Happy Birthday

Thirty-one-years ago today, I managed to get it right. From the moment I held my daughter, Casey Dineen, in my arms, I was besotted. And with each passing day, I cherish her more, and am filled with boundless pride. Love you, baby.

Friday, December 5, 2014

"Sisters, Sisters, Such Devoted Sisters"

Woke up this morning to find the O'Malley sisters of WHISTLING IN THE DARK hanging out with the Finley sisters from THE RESURRECTION OF TESS BLESSING on Amazon's Top 100 Women's Fiction/Sister list!! Color me VERY happy!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Blessings Upon Me

I am absolutely THRILLED, and couldn't be any prouder to announce that The Resurrection of Tess Blessing has been chosen by the Midwest Independent Booksellers Association as a January Connections Pick!!! You can learn more here!

For all of you who know me, I am a long-time advocate for indie bookstores, which makes this selection doubly sweet! And also historical and wonderful in another way.

Years ago, the fine booksellers who belong to MIBA were kind enough to select my debut novel Whistling in the Dark as the winner of their year end fiction award. Without a doubt, Whistling would never had garnered the attention, made the New York Times list, or about to be going into its 16th printing without the support, care, and magnificent hand selling that indie bookstores are so famous for.

I am humbled. And grateful. And so damn excited to be working with these booksellers again that I can't stop happy dancing!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Author! Author!

       With the release of my newest novel, The Resurrection of Tess Blessing, coming up on December 9th, one of the things I'm most excited about are book events. When my first novel, Whistling in the Dark, was declared a break-out hit and New York Times bestseller, I was utterly bowled over.  Especially after the invitations came pouring in from readers who invited me to their monthly book club discussions, and the bookstores that’d set aside evenings for me to speak.  Almost overnight I, a fifty-seven-year-old menopausal woman who felt lucky to remember where she’d parked her car, had magically morphed into a sought-after author. 

     I’m deeply grateful for all the time I’ve spent talking to readers who share their wine, tasty treats, and feelings. While many of their reactions to my books have moved me to tears, it’s not always been a smooth sail. Here are a couple of the more intriguing ones along with my responses that I may or may not have spoken aloud.

          This from a woman at a Milwaukee library event during a discussion of Whistling in the Dark,  “I like the book and everything, but I grew up during that era and I think you should’ve tried harder to be more accurate. You do know that there were no homosexuals in Milwaukee during the nineteen-fifties, don’t you?”

        Me: (Stunned.) “Ahhh…are you suggesting that gay men weren’t invented until 1967 in San              Francisco?”

       When absolutely nobody showed up to hear me speak in a bookstore in Michigan, the sweet manager tried to cheer me up by telling me, "Don't feel bad. Everyone's probably at the grand opening of the new Dollar Store. They're giving away combs. You wanna head over there?"

        Me: (A woman who hadn't had a drink in over thirty years.) "Will we be passing a bar along the way?"

        This last encounter took place when a publisher's representative, let's call her Sylvia, and I were lunching together before the release of my first novel. This gal, who was supposed to be my book's biggest supporter, had just inserted a dinner roll into her mouth when I asked her what she thought the chances were that Whistling in the Dark would be selected by the independent booksellers highly coveted BookSense list.
      Her: (Snort-laughing so uncontrollably that the dinner roll became lodged in her throat.)

      Me: (sitting in the ruins of a burst bubble.) "Oh, gosh, Sylvia. I do believe you're choking." I reached across the table and barely patted her on the back, just a graze, really. "I used to know the Heimlich maneuver, but gosh, my memory just isn't what it used to be. Have you seen my keys?"


Monday, December 1, 2014

Dear Book Clubs

I'm excited that book clubs across the country are already getting in touch with me about getting together to discuss THE UNDERTAKING OF TESS and THE RESURRECTION OF TESS BLESSING! You can find out how we can chat too. Here:

Sunday, November 30, 2014

A Second Act

Thrilled to do this interview with Brandi Megan Granett at Huffington Post. (She's such an awesome writer:)

Click here for the scoop:

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Can You Believe this Crap?

Right about now, you’re probably enjoying the crumbs of Autumn, preparing for Thanksgiving, and trying not to think about what's next. Winter. Remember last year's ? That really depressing one that knocked even half-glass full people on their cheerful behinds?

I freely admit that I’m not the most chipper person,writers rarely are. In fact, most of us are generally skirting the edges of the kind of cliff that one normally sees on the covers of Gothic romance novels. But thanks to years of mental health tinkering, I recognize the warning signs that pop up before I’m about to go around the proverbial bend. So when I began to experience flashbacks from Stephen King’s The Shining last February, I suspected that I’d come down with a profound case of Cabin Fever courtesy of Mother Nature. (It always gets down to our mothers, doesn’t it.)

My therapist’s advice? Get out of the house. Socialize. ASAP!

Well, this is a bitter pill to swallow for one who has found that the best way to cope with winter is to hibernate January through May. Why should I leave my cave? God invented Pea Pod so my groceries could be delivered to my front door, seventeen thousand television channels provide me with semi-entertainment, and I know how to build a fire better than most Boy Scouts.BUT…in the interest of not being found ranting and raving in the Springtime with Redrum scribbled across my living room walls, I did as my therapist prescribed and headed toward my local coffee shop, where I hoped that someone not too perky—really happy people give me migraines—would ask if they could share my table. I’d absorb the atmosphere, make chit-chat, gulp down a cup of hot cocoa, and leave the shop feeling that I’d been a good patient.

After driving the three blocks to town—a feat I likened to competing in the Iditarod—there I was, cozied up in the corner of The Roastery, when a very, very elderly woman approached the empty seat at my table. I stifled a moan and steeled myself to be assaulted by some over-the-top grandchild beaming and bragging, but as the woman un-wound her five foot long scarf with her knobby fingers, much to my surprise and delight, she suddenly jerked it up like it was a noose, and said out of the side of her mouth, “Can you believe this crap? I was counting on dyin’ before I had to go through another one of these shitty winters.”

I found myself smiling for the first time in months. Turns out that not only therapists know best, so do authors. Misery really does love company, eh, Stephen King?

Saturday, November 22, 2014


With the surprise early release of THE RESURRECTION OF TESS BLESSING on, I've really been scrambling! To help me keep things straight, I bought myself a new TO-DO pad:)

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Yellow umbrella earrings. Aren't they adorable?!

Like Tessie, I have good luck totems too! I'm wearing my lovely yellow umbrella earrings and praying all goes well for THE RESURRECTION OF TESS BLESSING!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Thomas Wolfe was Wrong

I was fed up with Wisconsin.  Sick of the weather, the provincialism of it all, so when I was twenty-six years old, I threw what little I owned in my car and high-tailed it down Route 66.  Let ‘em eat cheese, I thought. Do the polka. Life in the City of Angels, bright lights, big city— that’s for me. 

And for many years it was. I worked steadily as an actress in Hollywood, fell in love with a man from Milwaukee in Malibu, of all places. We were married and had kids. I should’ve been happier than I was. I was living the dream. Why then couldn’t I shake the feeling that I was missing something? What could I possibly be yearning for in the land of milk and honey?    

Potato rolls. Mama Mia’s pizza and butter-drenched garlic bread. Cream-filled coffee cakes from Meurer’s Bakery, the one with the streusel on top.  Bratwurst. My dreams were a buffet. But it was more than food that I was craving.  Mountains, shmountains.  I missed the predictable flatness of Wisconsin.  The fierce thunderstorms.  The flaming reds and oranges of October. And the people. I missed them, too. The kind of folks who lived in the same neighborhoods they grew up in and took pride in lending a helping hand. 

It didn’t happen overnight. It took awhile for me to figure out that I wanted to run back home. Not just for me, but my kids. I became obsessed with them growing up the way I’d grown up. I wanted to gift them with the same kind of childhood I held so dear.  Eating schnitzel. Drinking out of bubblers. Fourth of July parades. Bradford Beach. First snows.    

I casually dropped the idea of moving back to Milwaukee at a fancy-schmancy cocktail party a friend was throwing in the Hollywood Hills. She looked at me aghast. “Are you kidding?" she said. "Do they even have fruit there?”

My husband, thank goodness, could at least envision the idea. While not missing home the way I was, he understood my desperate need to give the kids what we’d had growing up.  To ground them in the solidness of it all. 

So back we came. 

And ya know, Thomas Wolfe was wrong. You actually can go home again. Everything was right where I'd left it. Supper that night was Mama Mama’s pizza and garlic bread beneath a tree in our new backyard that was on fire with Fall. We fell asleep to a thunderstorm of epic proportions. And early the next morning, after I'd picked up a Meurer’s cream-filled coffee cake, I drove home down the streets I had driven down so many time times before, brushed the streusel topping off my lips, and realized that for the first time in a long time that gnawing feeling in my soul had disappeared.   

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Love is Sent with the Hope that it is Received

Waiting for the release of my new book reminds me a little of how I felt while I was waiting to get the results of my breast biopsy twelve years ago. While writing a story is not a life or death situation, it's the awful not knowing. What will the verdict be?

We all want others to love what we love, care about what we care about, don't we. To become one, just for a little while. Books can do that. And this one means so much to me for so many reasons that I wake up in the wee hours with crossed fingers. Prayers are uttered. Candles lit. And I wait to see how my offering will be received.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Tom T.

Who I saw outside of the Passport Office yesterday eagerly awaiting his turn.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Counting My Blessings...Kinda

And the good news keeps rolling in, which is making me unbelievably nervous! (I'm much, much more equipped to deal with the bad stuff than the good.)

Heard from my publisher this week that my e-novella, The Undertaking of Tess, will be available in paperback around the same time as The Resurrection of Tess Blessing is! (December 9th)

Readers are wondering if they should read the novella before they tackle the novel. While not necessary, I really do think it'd add to your enjoyment, especially if you love back story as much as I do:)

Thursday, November 6, 2014


In some ways, I envy writers who can set books on distant planets, or France, or hundreds of years ago on some remote island.  I can’t do that.  Setting is so important to me and a place needs to feel real before I can convey the sense of it to a reader.  Which is why I always set my books in locations that I’ve spent a good amount of time in. Same goes for the era I set a story in. Whistling in the Dark and Good Graces, my new novella, The Undertaking of Tess and parts of the soon to be released novel, The Resurrection of Tess Blessing, take place during the summer of 1959 on the west side of Milwaukee in a neighborhood very similar to the one I grew up in.  Block after block of Irish, German, Polish, and Italian Catholic families jammed into duplexes. Grown-ups sitting out on their front steps at night with a can of Pabst Blue Ribbon in their hands listening to a cadre of kids playing Kick the can or Red light, Green light. Penny candy at the local Five and Dime, and Saturday matinees at the Uptown or Tosa Theatre. It’s all part of my Fifties childhood known by some as The Good Old Days.  (They weren’t always, there was plenty of bad stuff going on back then, it was just swept under the carpet.) 

Having been brought up in a different time (we barely had television) I appreciate so many of the wonderful things about now— the fairer treatment of children, women’s rights, improved medical care, etc. but I think we all reach a point in our lives when our childhood memories become old friends we would love to hang out with again. We yearn for a time when the days moved slower. If you’re at all like me, you might find yourself looking back at the years in your life when you could lie on you back and search for horses in the clouds for a whole afternoon. Read books in a tree fort. Play ding-dong ditch.  Best of all…remember eating almost non-stop without gaining an ounce?  

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Giving Thanks

Many of us are grateful for our blessings and would like to share with those who have not been as fortunate, but we're sometimes uncertain how to go about it. Here's one excellent way:

Tuesday, November 4, 2014


All of us work off of some kind of daily TO-DO LIST, right? Well, in my upcoming new novel, The Resurrection of Tess Blessing, which, by the way, is available now for pre-order on Amazon, and soon to wherever books are sold, our heroine's list becomes a tad more crucial after she's diagnosed with breast cancer.


1. Buy broccoli
2. Make sure Haddie gets the help she needs from a better therapist.
3. Set up a vocational counseling appointment for Henry.
4. Convince Will to love me again.
5. Get Birdie to talk to me.
6. Bury Louise once and for all.
7. Have a religious epiphany so # 8 is going to be okay with me.
8. Die.

Monday, November 3, 2014

A Fireside Chat with the Good Folks at Midwestern Gothic Magazine

Q. What is your connection to the Midwest?

A. I was born and raised in Milwaukee. Moved away in my twenties to live in Chicago, Colorado, New York, and Los Angeles, but came back in my forties to raise my kids. The Midwest is home. Like Dorothy says, there’s no place like it.

Q. You previously worked as an actor, appearing in on-air commercials, made-for-TV movies, and even an episode of Laverne and Shirley! How have your experiences with dialogue, facial expressions, and movement on the screen influenced your writing
and the way that your characters interact with each other?

A. Writing…acting…they both come from the same place. The ability to understand characters down to the tiniest detail. How they dress, what they smell like, what cereal they eat in the morning, how they respond to certain situations, what they’re hiding and what they’re sharing, what their ultimate goals are. A writer creates characters, an actor portrays them, dialogue between them, whether spoken or written, moves the story along.

Q. Your latest novel, Mare’s Nest, exposes a mother’s spot in limbo between her repression of her own distressing childhood and her support for her daughter’s passion for horses. Similarly, in your first published work, Whistling in the Dark, a 10-year old girl becomes encircled with mystery, family secrets, and murder in her small town, which leads to a loss of childlike innocence. What do you think the role of writing is in dealing with or confronting pain and vulnerability?

A. I think everyone should write, it’s good for the soul.  Be it journaling or a diary, to take entrenched pain and expose it to the light of day can help us see it in a different way, and hopefully, transcend it. But publishing what you write is a whole ‘nother ball of wax. It’s not dissimilar to a person who is passionate about cooking deciding to open up a restaurant. Two completely different animals.

Q. Many of your books are written from the viewpoints of children or young narrators. What advantages does this allow for in your writing? Are there any limitations to this specific voice?

A. Kids emotions are so accessible, their thought processes—disarming, but they’re often unreliable, and as readers we know this and fear for them. When I write in a child’s voice, it affords me the opportunity to expose the young characters to certain obstacles that they interpret in a way that may or may not be erroneous. Kids are also natural comedians, not in a jokey kind of way, but in conveying their misconceptions. I love the way they see the world. The only limitations I’ve found in telling a story through their eyes is that I need to be extraordinarily vigilant that their language doesn’t surpass their development and that their observations are appropriate for their age.

Q. Whistling in the Dark is set in Milwaukee, your beloved hometown. What was your research process prior to or while writing? Did you make any discoveries about the town that you hadn’t noticed before?

A. Since the story is set during the Fifties in the blue-collar Milwaukee neighborhood I grew up in, very little research was required. Combing what remains of my memory was the real key and, if necessary, verifying facts that my child brain might’ve misinterpreted along the way.

Q. How do you go about making a story feel authentic? Many writers advice to hopeful authors “Write what you know.” Do you believe in this mantra? If so, how do you make it work for you?

A. All writers approach a story differently. I mine my memory and use my life experience, but others like to write about 16th century England or dystopian tales. I think the most important advice I could give to any newbie is to write what your heart wants you to. What you can’t ignore. What you’re passionate about. If your adore cats, write about cats, if you’re mesmerized by mysteries— go for it. What truly moves and intrigues you will affect a reader the same way.

Q. You recently did a reading at the Cedarburg Library in Cedarburg, Wisconsin. Do you find that there is still a kind of literary community, or pockets of literary communities, despite recent and rapid changes in how books are published, distributed, and read?

A. People will always love and seek out stories. Some will gather together to discuss them. Book clubs are a great example. I’ve spent hundreds of hours with women who’ve read my books and want to share their experiences. Libraries are another great place to hang out with bookies, and indie bookstores nurture reader and writer get-togethers too.

Q. What’s next for you?

A. The Undertaking of Tess, a novella featuring the ten and eleven-year-old Finley sisters, was recently released, and in December 2014, The Resurrection of Tess Blessing, in which we discover what has become of the sisters thirty years later, will make its debut. Very excited, and hopeful that readers will fall in love with the girls.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Monday, October 27, 2014

The Good Old Days

Halloween is not nearly as fun as it used to be. Trick or treating in the daytime? Healthy treats? Ugh. (Somebody dropped organic kale into my grandson Charlie's bucket and I found ground flax seed on the bottom of Princess Hadley's bag.)  

When my kids were young, I saw it as my duty to scare the living hell out of them. I hid in the linen closet once for two hours practicing my moans. I turned our basement into Mommy's Little House of Horror! Enter if you Dare! And our front yard was a cemetery that was so dead-like that it was featured on the local news.

Too much you say? 

"Child's play," according to my pal, Cindy Turner, who one year sent out invitations to a group of banshees, I mean, misguided middle-school girls, who had been tormenting her eleven-year-old daughter, Amy, for months.

                           IT'S A HAUNTED HALLOWEEN SLUMBER PARTY! 

When: October 31 7 P.M. 

Where: Amy Turner's backyard.

What to Bring: Your sleeping bags. 

The enticing invitation also promised "yummy treats" and "an evening you'll never forget!" 
What it failed to mention were the high school boys Cindy had hired to dress up as zombies and throw a  slab of raw meat into the tent shortly after midnight. The boys were also to make sure that they extracted promises from the mean girls that from then on they'd be so very much nicer to Amy before they agreed to shuffle away into the woods.

Ah...the good old days.  When treats were sweet, and the tricks scarred you for life.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

A Holy Card

Bow your head and gaze upon this breathtaking shot and others here: :

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Clogging and Other Ransom Thoughts

October 24th, 2014

Cathy LambTo whomever finds this: HELP ME. My mind is being held captive by my ex-friend and author, Cathy Lamb, who on a recent phone call growled that if I didn't start "blogging" that I think on this, the connection wasn't that great, so she might've said something threatening about "clogging". Either way, Cathy didn't say exactly what hideousness would befall me, oh, no, she's waaay too crafty for that. She's another writer, she knows whatever threat she could come up with wouldn't be half as scary as what's lurking in the dark side of my brain. Friends know stuff like that about you, don't they. Which is why I try to keep mine to a limit. And why I vet them out for approximately three years before I "share" anything more personal than a piece of pie with them. (Note to self: The friend thing...lengthen that to four, maybe five, years.) So please, if you have a shred of decency, buy her excellent new book, What I Remember Most, or send any change you can scrap together to the FREE LESLEY FROM EITHER BLOGGING OR CLOGGING FUND to her web site, which is here: .  

It is my desperate hope that receipt of your small offerings will persuade her to rescind her nebulous, but decidedly wicked, threat before I find myself  investing in a pair of wooden shoes, or in my panicked state, convince myself that you or anybody else would actually give a rat's ass about what's going on in my mind, other than my therapist. (A Word of Caution: Do not be fooled by the cuddly cuteness on Cathy's web site the way I was. Remember the wolf in lamb's clothing story?)