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.