Monday, October 26, 2015

O, Creature, My Creature

Came up with this Halloween '59 essay a while back and was thrilled to record it for Wisconsin Public Radio. Copy and paste the link to give it a listen. Hoping it brings back some scary, funny memories to those of you old enough to remember the good old days.

Monday, October 12, 2015


Just had to share this wonderfully insightful and beautifully written review of WHISTLING IN THE DARK that I received from Ginger on her fantastic website: 

Sunday, August 30, 2015

What's Cookin?

Wear Ever 10" Covered Jumbo CookerAccording to Yahoo News: "Miley Cyrus Identifies As Pansexual."

I don't really care if Miley Cyrus wants to have sex with cookware. Maybe not so much a "whatever" thing, but a "Wearever" thing.

What do you think? 

Should she keep a lid on it?

Sunday, August 2, 2015

A Day Maker!


I am 63 years old and retired 2 years ago looking forward to having time to read books again. I remember when I was younger finding a bookthat I just loved and putting it down for long stretches just to savor the experience.

When I first retired I bought 6 books including 
recommended books from Oprah's Book Club.
I began reading each one but could not finish or
if I did it was forced. I had lost my love for reading
and it saddened me deeply.  That is until now, two years
later I tried one more of those books and it was
"Whistling in the Dark".  It just took the right book.

Thank you for giving me back my Love for Reading.
I will now have many years in retirement looking
forward to a good book.


Deborah Ott

Wednesday, July 22, 2015


I have been meditating for over thirty years. It's benefits are vast and too numerous too list. I tend toward classical meditation, but, this week, I began throwing this one in the mix to keep my soul in balance.

Friday, July 3, 2015


When something happy-making happens to me completely out-of-the-blue, I gotta shout out a joyful, "Hallelujah!" because, damn, I just adore those heaven-sent Gotchas!

I'm so enormously thrilled and honored that the American Booksellers Association has chosen The Resurrection of Tess Blessing for their prestigious SUMMER 2015 INDIE NEXT LIST for READING GROUPS. Considering how much I love independent bookstores and book clubs, I couldn't feel more grateful!

 Thank you . . . Thank you . . . Thank you!

Tuesday, June 9, 2015


The absolutely best part about writing a book, hands down, is when readers get in touch with me to tell me how much they love the characters. The response to the young Finley sisters featured in THE UNDERTAKING OF TESS has been so rewarding and amazing! Thank you!

So here I am in my little farmhouse, at my desk, a warm summer breeze blowing through my front door, hard at work coming up with the Finley girls' next story because I love them as much as you do. These saucy, irreverent, scrappy girls make me laugh. And relieving my childhood is always sweet, except for . . .well.
Sister Margaret Mary, wherever you are, I bet you would've been a lot nicer to this ten-year-old kid if you'd known I'd grow up to be a writer, I am thinking with a big fat smirk on my face:)

Monday, April 27, 2015


When I wrote THE UNDERTAKING OF TESS and THE RESURRECTION OF TESS BLESSING, I had this half-baked idea that I might touch some of the 40 million people who deal with anxiety, and the feelings of alone-ness that ensue. One can never take reviews, either stellar or cruddy, too seriously, but still, I can't help but be discouraged some days, and flat out pissed on others by readers who describe Tessie as a "whiner" or "wimp", when, in fact, the old gal is the strongest character I've ever written. I know these kinds of remarks are ignorant and fear-based, but shit, it gets old.
This article explains the other side of the coin of the anxiety struggle. And why Tessie feels as deeply as she does. Can you relate? If you can't, that's fine, but at least, for God's sake, entertain the idea that others' journey may not be as cut and dried as you'd like to kid yourself into thinking yours is.

Sunday, March 8, 2015


Publishing the highly personal THE UNDERTAKING OF TESS and THE RESURRECTION OF TESS BLESSING a few months ago just about did me in. I felt deflated and drained, eroded by a business that has become less about getting thought-provoking, soul-stroking stories into the hands of readers and more about sales tracks and book to movie deals. And while I love and deeply appreciate the generous emails and touching feedback I've received from readers about how my stories have made them laugh or cry or less alone, I found that after forty-some years as a dj, actress, restaurateur and author, I'd had it up to here with the flip side of being in the public eye. I found I could no longer stomach, literally, my blood, sweat, and tears being critiqued by some Tom, Dick, or Harry asshole on the internet.

Which is why I've been spending hardly any time fretting over the book business, and more time with my beloved g-babies, bird-watching, playing with my pooch, praying, hiking, sleeping, meditating, having tea with friends, going to the movies, watching TV, and anything else I can dream up that'll add less turmoil and sadness and more peace and joy to my life, and to the lives of those I love with all my heart.

Bottom line? While I'd never say never, I doubt I'll be jumping through any publishing hoops anytime soon---unless some twenty-year-old in a garage in Northern California comes up with a pain-free way to go about that. But writing? That's a whole 'nother ball of wax. I'm in love with it, and I'll probably always want to share it, the same way you want to share with others something nice you made.

So here's the first chapter of The Mutual Admiration Society--PARTY POOPER, which is what I've been messing around with every morning other than my dog and running out of the house in my pjs to chase red-tail hawks:)

FACT: I, Theresa Marie “Tessie” Finley, private investigator, blackmailer, eavesdropper, liar, shop-lifter, cat burglar, president of a secret society, and poison pen writer extraordinaire, hereby confess that on the night of September 28, 1959, instead of keeping my mind open, my ears glued to the ground, and my eyes peeled for suspicious goings-on in the neighborhood, the way I swore to do on the Holy Bible last week, I screwed up really, really bad. So now on top of everything else that’s not going so hot around here, my soul is probably gonna go to Hell in a hand basket even faster than it was in the first place.
’Cause I’m the brand new owner of a secret detective and blackmail society, I’d love to shrug it off and tell myself that my dropping the ball was a rookie error, but I can’t. Making excuses doesn’t cut the mustard when a crime is being committed, no matter how I’d like to slice it. Not if I’m gonna make a go of the only way I can think of to make a stack of money, which I really, really need to have.
Any private dick worth their salt would’ve at least poked their head out their bedroom window to see who was hollering loud enough to wake the dead at Holy Cross Cemetery at 1:47 A. M., “I’m warning you . . . watch your step! You’re treading on dangerous ground!” But what did I do?  I committed one of the most terrible mistakes a detective can make. According to Chapter 5 in the best book written on the subject, Modern Detection, you’re never supposed to assume you know something without having proof and that’s what I did. I assumed the yelling voice in the cemetery belonged to none other than Mr. Howard Howard, who shows up at the grave of his wife once in while in the middle of the night to shout at God for taking her away, which I completely understand. I miss my daddy with every tick of his watch, and sometimes in the wee hours, I get completely fed up with the Almighty too. So I went back to working hard on my Edgar G. Robinson, “You dirty rat” impression, practicing a couple of jokes, and singing My Favorite Things, the song I’m gonna perform for the talent portion of Miss America someday to honor Daddy, even if my right ear sticks out so far that you could hang a hat on it.
 It wasn’t until I stopped to take in a deep breath in the middle of, “I simply remember
my favorite things and then I don’t feel so bad,” that it dawned on me that it couldn’t be Mr. Howard Howard shouting in the cemetery. I know what he sounds like from his solos with the church choir and my once a week visits to case his jewelry store out that I might have to heist someday if things go from bad to worse around here. He never sounds as gruff as the voice in the cemetery when he tells me to, “Scram, kid,” after he gets sick of me going rabid for his rubies or slobbering over his sapphires. He is an Irish tenor not a bass. So it also made sense that the screech that came flying through our bedroom window after the yelling stopped didn’t belong to Mr. Howard Howard either. That high-pitched scream belonged to a soprano.
I’m not even close to finishing the Modern Detection book that Miss Peshong over at the Finney Library dropped on top of my stack after I told her I was interested in becoming a private investigator, but thanks to Chapter Four that teaches about the importance of making a positive identification: def. Knowing who a culprit is without a shred of doubt, I’d learned enough to know what to do after my assuming screw-up. I had to grab the double Dutch jump rope out of our closet, tie it to our bedpost, and monkey down. And as soon as my feet hit the ground, I’d run to the black iron graveyard fence with the pointy spears on top and do my King Kong climbing the Empire State impression, so I could eyeball the bad guy in person, which might be easier said than done.
             From all the time the Finley girls spend over there, I know a lot of Holy Cross by heart,
but no matter how much I loved and adored the cemetery, or how important it was to get to
the scene of the crime ASAP! the idea of heading over there in the dead of the night? All by my lonesome?  My mind would really love to find a murder getting committed, but my tummy thought that was a pretty sickening idea.
I looked down at my snoring sister and partner in crime and wished I could shake her awake and we could head over there together, but I knew from years of experience that there wasn’t a snowball’s chance in H e double hockey sticks that I’d be able to get Birdie up and running at 1:59 A. M. She has always been much more of a night owl than she is a rooster.
But like it or not, the president of a secret blackmail and detective society has got to do what the president of a secret blackmail and detective society has got to do, even if they thought they might toss their cookies at any second. So I sent off a quick prayer to St. Daniel, the patron saint of bravery, slid my hand under our mattress and wrestled my flashlight free, grabbed Daddy’s Swiss Army knife from under my pillow, and didn’t waste more investigating time than I already had getting dressed. I didn’t have to. I never wear a nightie ’cause, take it from me, it’s important not only for Boy Scouts to BE PREPARED, so I already had on black shorts, a navy blue T-shirt that matches my eyes, and filthy sneakers.
I jiggered my legs out our bedroom window and looked over at my final destination one last time to get my bearings and lo and behold! My prayers had been instantly answered! I saw a svelte man slip behind the Gilgood mausoleum with a body in his arms!
So there I was, without a minute to loose, about to monkey down the double Dutch rope and dash toward the black iron cemetery fence to begin my snooping better late than never, when my wiggle over the sill was interrupted by even more sounds ripping the seam out of the black velvet night.
Not more mad-shouting coming out of the graveyard or another goose-bump-raising
screech or even a cry for Help! Help! I’m getting perpetrated on over here!  
These new noises were even more blood-curdling.
Elvis Presley was warbling, “You ain’t nuthin’ but a hound dog,” and a few minutes after
that, the red hot-rod that belongs to our mother’s new boyfriend what’s-his-name laid squealing
rubber down Keefe Ave.
I swear, that woman. She couldn’t be more of a party pooper if she was getting paid a dollar seventy-five an hour to do so.
I barely had enough time to scramble back into bed, yank the sheet up to my chin, and slow my breathing down before Louise came through the front door of our small two-story wooden house that looks about the same as most of the other small two-story wooden houses that beam out in blocks from St. Catherine’s Church and School like rays on a holy card.
 2:19 A.M After our mother climbed the stairs, she stopped in the bathroom to take off her make-up with her Noxzema cream and tinkle out whatever she wet her whistle with at Lonnigan’s. (I miss going up to the bar with Daddy so much. Birdie and me just adored playing the Arabian Nights pinball game, laughing along with the customers at all of his jokes, and watching him break up brawls.)
2:25 After Louise kicked her high-heels off in front of our bedroom door, she tip-toed into the Finley sisters’ room. All she probably wanted to do was hit the hay after her big fat date, but she had to check and make sure that Birdie and me were where we were supposed to be and not sneaking around the neighborhood spying and snooping the way we do anytime we get the chance. (For a woman who blew out twenty-nine candles on her last birthday cake, Louise is kinda gullible. She’s fallen for the old stuff-pillows-under-your-sheet prison trick six times. In the last month.)
I kept my eyes shut, but I knew she was looking down at Birdie and me. I could smell the
Pabst Blue Ribbon beer and salty peanuts wafting off her the same they did when Daddy would come home from working his late-night shift at the bar. Only he wouldn’t just stand next to our bed and give a long-suffering sigh. “Good time Eddie Finley,” would belly-flop onto the mattress between my sister and me, gather us in his bulging muscle arms that he got from being a boxing champion, press his prickly cheek against ours, and belt out the famous song, “We belong to a mutual admiration society, my baby and me.” Only he’d change the words to, “We belong to a mutual admiration society, my babies and me.” And on other nights, the funniest and handsomest, smartest and sweetest man in the whole neighborhood would lean his ladder against the house and crawl through our bedroom window with a pillowcase over his head and a toy gun in his hand. “This is a stick up!” he’d growl like a bandit holding up a bank, only a lot slurrier. “Give me all your hugs!” When Birdie and me would pull the covers over our head and fake-scream if we were ready for him, or really scream if we weren’t, he’d laugh his head off and shout, “Ha . . . ha . . . ha! Gotcha!
My daddy loves loved jokes of ALL kinds, but he really went nuts for the ones that practically scared the poop outta you most of all.
 PROOF: After we got home after trick or treating last Halloween, Daddy was waiting to tell Birdie and me this gruesome bedtime story that he made up called, “The Butcher of Keefe Ave.” After we said our prayers and he smooched us good night, I checked under the bed for the Boogeyman the way I always did, and still do, so I can tell Birdie the coast is clear and . . . and . . I almost fainted when I saw that dripping with blood raw hunk of meat! I didn’t know then that it was Daddy playing one of his great scary jokes, so I grabbed Birdie and we ran down Keefe Ave. screaming, “The Butcher is on the loose! Run for your lives!” It wasn’t until we stopped to catch our breaths on the next block over that we heard our father howling hilariously back on our front porch.
FACT: If Daddy hadn’t borrowed The High Life motorboat off his pal, Joey T, so we could fish together on Lake Michigan on August 1, 1959, and if after he slipped on the bottles of beer rolling around the bottom of the boat, hit his head on the motor and fell overboard, I hadn’t sat there laughing my guts out ’cause I thought at any second he was gonna splash to the surface and say, Thought I was a goner, didn’t you Tessie. Ha…ha…ha. Gotcha! Birdie and me wouldn’t be able to see the edge of his gravestone from our bedroom window.
2:37 A. M. After our mother pressed her warm lips against Birdie’s and my foreheads, and closed our bedroom door behind her, I rolled over, nestled my sister in my arms, and broke out my biggest grin.
Birdie is better at arithmetic than me, so I’ll check with her in the morning, but the way I figured it: mad yelling + screeching + a person slithering behind a mausoleum in the middle of the night with a body in his arms—no matter how many times I added it up, I came up with the same answer.
The Mutual Admiration Society had hit pay dirt!  

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Come Out...Come Out Whoever You Are! It's Mental Health Awareness Week!

A stranger stopped me in a grocery store parking lot the other day in the midst of a snow storm. "I recognize you from that picture they ran in the newspaper,” she said. “I liked what you had to say in the article, so I went right out and bought The Resurrection of Tess Blessing. I just finished it this morning."
Authors are supposed to, but I don’t really it like when this sort of thing happens. These impromptu meetings…anything could happen. And has. I tried to get a feel for her, but the snow coming down in blankets was interfering with my reader radar. People nowadays, seems like they’ll say just about anything and I am not good with either adoration or criticism. But I had to say something. I live in a small town in Wisconsin. If I ran away, that would get around.
I flipped the hood of my Arctic parka up, steeled myself, and said, "How nice. I … um …did you enjoy it?"
She averted her eyes and shivered. "Well, I don't know if enjoy is the right word. I . . . I . . . ." and then she stumbled on a bit more, which is never a good sign. I'd learned long ago that when I sense ambivalence from a reader the best response is to grin, express gratitude that she took the time to read the book, and be on my not-so-merry-any-longer way. This is exactly what I was attempting to do, when this woman cut me off at the pass. She pushed her cart in front of mine and said, "Why did you write it?"
A thorough response would be long and complicated. But since it was cold enough that I didn't have to worry about my peas and fish sticks thawing out in my cart, and she cared enough to ask, I figured, fuck it, because sometimes my fear can turn into anger in a snap. She’d shelled out good money for the book, I told myself. Quit being such a wimp. Yes, I decided, she deserved an answer, albeit an abbreviated version since frost bite is a bitch.
"I wrote the story because I would very much love it if we could all speak more authentically about what we're dealing with instead of feeling the need to "present" ourselves to one another the way Tess Blessing did most of her life. Like we're all competing in some sort of who can be happier, who can be richer, who can parent better, who can be more successful, better-looking, who can be the most normal big fat lie. If we're struggling, be it with breast cancer, eating disorders, parenting, our marriages, and especially mental illness . . . it'd be a relief to come clean."
I was prepared for her to give me a jittery smile and bustle away because I, who have spent most of my life monitoring myself for signs of whacky behavior, was well aware that I’d escalated into ranting in a grocery store parking lot in the midst of a building snow storm and I really couldn't blame her under those conditions.
But the grocery cart wielding middle-aged woman surprised me. She did not purse her lips or flee in terror the way I'd anticipated, which was all the encouragement I needed. "Did you know that one in three of us struggle with panic attacks, depression, phobias, obsessive-compulsive disorder, addictions, and other forms of mental illness sometime in our lives? Tess Blessing is a woman dealing with almost unbearable pain that she's kept hidden for most of her life for fear that if she was found out she wouldn't be loved. That she'd be ridiculed or shunned or— " That’s when it occurred to me that when she'd asked me why I'd written the book I'd completely misread the situation. Maybe she, like almost every human who can type, had written a book and wanted to know the name of my agent. That happens all the time.
I knew I should back-pedal, whip out some well-practiced socially correct response, but when I'd paused to catch my breath, snow flakes had landed on my tongue and gave me kid courage. "I think it’d be kinda great if everyone with problems would feel comfortable enough to quit hiding them. If we did, who knows, we might be able to turn mental illness into—" I took my hands off my cart and made air quotes, which, when you are wearing thick wool mittens, makes you look like you've broken into an impromptu puppet show—"the new gay!"
Thanks to Hollywood, same sex love is somewhat more acceptable now, if you live north of the Mason-Dixon line anyway, but mental illness is still very, very Snake Pit scary to most people, so I was pretty sure that would be the end of the conversation because it so often was when I brought up these kinds of taboo topics. But—and this is one of those times that I really love, and why I probably didn't jump off a bridge when I was in my twenties, thirties, and forties, when my symptoms were at their peak—people can be surprisingly graceful when you least expect it. They can rescue you sometimes. I wasn't at all prepared for this woman to answer my question, "The new gay! Yes...yes...yes!" and reach over and give me a bear hug and thaw my frozen left ear when she whispered into it with her warm breath, "I . . . I . . . loved your book. It felt so good not to feel alone." And then I started to well up and she did too and our tears turned into little icicles. She told me her name was Shirley and we exchanged numbers and promised that next week we would have tea together someplace that wasn’t a parking lot and tell each other all about it.
And on the drive home, as I tried to navigate the icy roads, I vowed that I would stop just jawing about being brave, I'd put my mouth where my money was. I'd have words with the pharmacist at Walgreen's tomorrow. I wouldn't back down from the pill counter who has smirked at me every damn time when I had to explain to him, "Yeah, the prescription is correct. I need to have antibiotics in liquid form because I can't swallow pills." And when he elbows one of his co-workers the way he always does before he sing-songs, "Would you like me to add bubble gum flavoring to that?" I will not feel ashamed or laugh along with him. I will tell him, "That'd be great. And when you're done doing that, I'd like you to call your manager over so we can discuss a lawsuit. You're familiar with the American Disabilities Act, right?"
Maybe I'll even call him an asshole on account of my love for swearing and he is. Whatever I decide to come up with, I'm hoping it will feel freeing because if I, and the other millions of people who deal with variations of this belittling bullshit day in and day out on top of our out-of-whack psyches, don't stand up for ourselves, we're gonna end up staying stuck in the same suffocating closet gay folk huddled in for far too many years.

Time to come out.

P.S Alas, courage can be fickle, and right about now I'm thinking of the night Sally Field accepted the Oscar for her role in Places in the Heart. When she stood at the podium and said,    “ . . . I can't deny that, right now, you like me, you like me!" and how her vulnerability was the butt of jokes for many years. I used to see Sally sometimes pumping iron in the gym when I lived in L.A. I always wanted to ask her, "Do you ever regret being so real?" but I never did. I got too worried that she might've said yes.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Tuesday, January 20, 2015


Last night was my launch party at Boswell Books for THE UNDERTAKING OF TESS and THE RESURRECTION OF TESS BLESSING. That my family, friends, readers, and sister authors will travel from far and wide to come and hear me blather on continues to astound me. Thank you to all for taking time out of your busy lives to give me two thumbs up. Really and truly appreciate it.

And if you live in the Madison area, I'll be doing a reading and signing at the fantastic Mystery To Me Books at 1:00 on Saturday the 24th. Love this article from reporter Jeanne Kolker of The Wisconsin State Journal. She did an amazing job condensing our lively and lengthy phone chat. Kudos, Jeanne.

Sunday, January 11, 2015


A few nights ago, I found myself sitting in the home of a complete stranger, surrounded by other complete strangers who, like me, had been invited to discuss my new novel, The Resurrection of Tess Blessing.  I adore book clubs. Really. Who doesn't like to talk about themselves, eat chocolate chip cookies and watch women become slightly sloshed on moderately priced wine? I also love to field the questions. There were the usual: "How did you get started writing?" "What is your process?" "Where do you get your ideas?" But the question that struck me the most that evening was one I'd never been asked. "What does it feel like when you release a new book? It must be so fun!"

I was pretty sure what they wanted to hear, but I offered them the option. "Fantasy or truth?" When they eagerly answered, "The truth!" I asked all of them to close their eyes for a moment and recall a project that they had put their blood, sweat and tears into. "Got it?"  When they nodded in unison, I asked them to further imagine that their heartfelt project would now be posted in a multitude of public forums for the whole world to see." All of them smiled. Thrilled with that idea. "Okay," I said, "now for the plot twist. Imagine that this project that you care so very much about isn't just an expression of your creativity or intelligence, but the thing that will provide you with the funds you need to keep a roof over your head, food on your table, and clothes on your kids backs. It's your job." A few of the women adjusted themselves in their chairs and stopped smiling. "And how much you make at your job will not necessarily be determined by the quality of your work, but by people who view your project on these public forums." (This is beginning to sound a little like what Christians might encounter in the Colosseum in ancient Rome, I thought. Not a terrible comparison.) "I also want you to keep in mind that the people on these forums are usually not qualified in any way to comment on your work, just whether or not they "like" it. Essentially, they're going to "vote" on whether or not your work is worthy enough to be reimbursed, and to what degree. Thumbs up, you get to keep your job, thumbs down...." I couldn't help myself. "Release the lions!"

Whether it was the wine, I do not know, but eight out of the nine women looked like they were about to toss those earlier consumed cookies. The other had begun snoring.

 The following morning I buzzed over to Amazon to check the sales for both THE UNDERTAKING OF TESS and THE RESURRECTION OF TESS BLESSING, my recently released "projects." Both seemed to be doing fairly well, which was nice. It had taken me twelve years off and on to write Tessie, so, of course, I hope that more than a few readers pick it up. I was just about to leave Amazon, when quite by accident, I noticed that two more reviews for each book had been posted by the same book blogger. Three stars, or three thumbs down, for both.

Now, the general wisdom amongst authors is, "For godssakes, don't read the reviews!" Most of the time I heed that advice, but I admit, my curiosity got the better of me. And that's why it killed that cat. The review this blogger had posted for the novella was wildly inaccurate. There was no way this woman could have read the story. Another bit of advice passed amongst authors is, "If you should get a bad review, whatever you do, don't respond!!" While I sat staring at the cruddy review, I knew that I shouldn't, but I felt so outraged that this woman had taken the time out of her life to comment not only negatively, but incorrectly, on my "job." I couldn't stop myself. I pulled up the comment section on Amazon and wrote:

Dear Blogger,

If you wish to review books, I suggest that reading them beforehand might be a good way to go about that. And after you've finished the novella, if you should feel compelled to write a new review, please remember you don't have to like my work, but elevating your game and trying your hardest not to be an asshole about it would be completely wonderful.

As my finger wavered over the POST THIS COMMENT button on Amazon, I tried one last time to talk myself down.Was it worth the time and energy to get this worked up? Was it really such a big deal? Yeah, it is, I told myself as I lowered my finger. Respecting ourselves and our efforts, and expecting at the very minimum that others do the same, might be one of the biggests deals of all. It should be all of our jobs.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Humor is Holy

Sooo...if you have a few's a chat I had about The Resurrection of Tess Blessing with the amazing Dan Harmon of WUWM Radio, Milwaukee's NPR outlet. (Just copy and paste:)

I got my start in radio, so it's always so fun to have the opportunity to be in front of a mic again.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

I love you, Elmer Bernstein

A suggestion for your TO-DO LIST:

1. Wear headphones and listen to movie soundtracks as you move through life.

You will feel like something either epic or scary is about to happen at any moment. Both will get your blood pumping.

Personal favorite: TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD by The Royal Scottish National Orchestra, the composer conducting.