Merci Beaucoup!

Thank you to everyone who came to The River Is Everywhere book launch event on March 22. It was amazing to actually see the room full, and I still can’t believe the books sold out! Special thanks to the Dracut Library for hosting the event, and to the Lowell Book Company for handling book sales. Thanks as well to Kevin Harkins of Harkins Photography for taking photos. I very much appreciate all the support.


Book Release Event

Just a short post to announce that the book release event for The River Is Everywhere will be held on March 22 at 6:30 p.m. at the Parker Memorial Library in Dracut, Mass. I’d love to see you there if you are in the area. Special thanks to the Lowell Book Company for helping me make it happen. Now I just need to remember how to speak in front of group of people.


Lost World

The other day, I was sitting at my kitchen table eating pistachios. The small pile of shells that formed as I ate them triggered a memory of my mother, something I hadn’t thought about in a long time: When I was two or three years old, before my younger sister was born, I used to go with my mother to buy pistachios at the department store candy counter. Unlike today, you couldn’t just walk into a grocery store and buy them. Pistachios were a luxury. You had to make a special trip to get them.

The woman who worked at the candy counter was an older lady. She wore her gray hair pulled back into a bun and sometimes had a Band-Aid stuck to the side of her nose. I never knew what the Band-Aid was for, but I always found it fascinating. A Band-Aid on your nose!

The woman would ask my mother if she wanted the red pistachios or the natural ones. They had both kinds on display, piled up into mounds behind the glass. My mother always chose the natural ones, just one pound because of their price. The lady would scoop the nuts into a white paper bag with red stripes on it. Then she would place the bag on a scale to weigh it, and would either add more nuts or remove a few until the amount was just right.

The candy counter also sold balloons. These were not filled with helium, just regular air. Because they couldn’t float on their own, the balloons were attached to long wooden sticks so that you could carry one around and it would look like it was floating. Sometimes when my mother bought pistachios she would offer to get me something, too. I never wanted candy. Always, I chose a balloon, preferably a red one.

When we got home, my mother would sit in the living room and eat her pistachios while she watched her favorite television shows. These were mostly soap operas, nothing I found that interesting. After making sure my balloon was stored in a safe place, I used to sit on the floor and play with my toys or look at a book while a small pile of pistachio shells formed on the coffee table.

At the time, my mother was the same age that my daughter is now.

My mother died of lung cancer in September 2020. She was a lifelong smoker. She never quit, even after she was diagnosed with cancer. Up until recently, I’ve mostly been angry with her about it. But sometimes an old memory comes back to me unexpectedly, and the anger disappears.


New Novel Coming Soon!

This is just a quick post to let everyone know that, at long last, The River Is Everywhere will be released on March 14. The book is currently available for pre-order on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. I should have information about the book’s launch event soon. When I do, I’ll post it here.

In the meantime, you can check out some of the book’s early reviews on Goodreads.

Once the book is launched, I will be available for readings and to meet with book clubs, either in person or virtually. For more information about either of these, send me a message via my contact page and I’ll get back to you soon.

If you are a member of the media who would like to write a review of The River Is Everywhere, send me a message and I will arrange for you to receive an advanced reader copy of the book.


Et Tu, Brute?

When I was in high school, we read Shakespeare’s Othello, Hamlet, Macbeth, and Julius Caesar. As freshmen, we cringed and wrung our hands after learning the fate of Thomas Hardy’s Tess, the main character in his masterpiece tragic novel, Tess of the d’Urbervilles, who, frankly, never had much of a chance.

My sophomore year, we spent weeks discussing the suicide of Willy Loman, the sad sack protagonist of Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman. I’ll never be able to forget Melville’s unfortunate Billy Bud, hanged by his neck from the yardarm for a crime he didn’t commit, or the murder of Jay Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s lovesick millionaire, shot to death in his own swimming pool.

These works of literature and others like them can be tough to read. They’re sad, and those who read them often find themselves feeling sad, too.

But as Aristotle wrote in Poetics, his famous essay on Greek drama, the purpose of tragedies is to “arouse sensations of pity and fear, and to purge [the audience] of these emotions so that they leave the theater feeling cleansed and uplifted, with a heightened understanding of the ways of gods and men.”

Anyone who’s ever listened to the blues knows how this works.

And yet, sometime over the last thirty or so years, tragedies fell out of fashion. Perhaps this is a result of the general backlash against anything even vaguely intellectual that’s run rampant in the U.S. for the past few decades, or maybe it happened as a consequence of the current trend of not making students read anything that might “trigger” their emotions.

Whatever the reason, in tragedy’s absence we have created a culture that worships at the altar of Hallmark, with all of its films’ hollow characters and contrived happy endings. As a society, we are perhaps more uncivil to one another than we have ever been. We kill one another in the streets; gun down schoolchildren in cold blood, and yet claim not to have the stomach to read Elie Wiesel’s Night.

It’s time we brought tragedies back.

We need to read and understand tragedies because they alone are capable of helping us understand the human condition in a way that evokes empathy. They can help us learn to forgive one another’s imperfections, and to recognize, even rail against, injustice, regardless of the sex or color of its victims. Tragedies teach us that life is unpredictable and unfair; time is precious; love and loyalty are often stronger than the forces that seek to undermine and destroy them, and that it’s possible to be resilient when confronted by forces beyond our control.

One of my favorite novels is Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities. I read it in my tenth grade English class and still think of it often. Set during the French Revolution, the book tells a dramatic story of true love, monstrous corruption, and unjust death in a way that only Dickens can. I cried when I made it to the end of the last page, not because the ending was sad, although it was, but because it felt all too real.


Cover Art

I don’t usually like to write posts that have no purpose other than to promote things I’m doing, even though I suppose that’s kind of the point of having an author website. Keeping that in mind, I’m very excited to share the cover of my second novel, The River Is Everywhere, which will be published in March by Vine Leaves Press.

A friend and fellow author told me that the cover was “me” when she saw it, which made me laugh because it’s kind of dark and moody, and a little mysterious. I’m definitely prone to the first two, and maybe the third, but I don’t think I’m the best judge of that.

Anyway, I think the cover is perfect. The folks at Vine Leaves did a great job taking the ideas I sent them and creating something that really conveys the mood of the book, and, I guess, me.

I’ll post updates about The River Is Everywhere as I get them. Thanks again to everyone who follows this blog, and to all the people who have helped the book along its journey to becoming a real, tangible thing.


The Sound of Silence

I don’t like loud or repetitive noises. In fact, a lot of sounds bother me, regardless of their volume. I especially dislike electronic devices, household appliances, and toys that beep, buzz, or talk unnecessarily. I have disabled the sound-making capability of just about everything in my house that I can. I mute videos on social media. I’m one of the few people I know who can sit in the car for hours without the radio on without even noticing that it’s been turned off.

When my daughter was a toddler, I took the batteries out of her talking Cookie Monster toy and told her it was broken. I still feel kind of badly about it, but I was a stay-at-home mom who was often alone twelve or more hours a day while my husband was at work. It was either a quiet Cookie or a nervous breakdown.

I even removed the whistle from our tea kettle, which drives my husband crazy. “How am I supposed to know when it’s boiling?” he asked. “When a lot of steam comes out of the spout,” I said. “You just have to watch it.”

I’ve always been this way. A couple of years back, I learned that there’s a name for my supersenstivity to sounds, an issue I also have with bright lights (I’ll save this for another post): sensory processing sensitivity or SPS.

Sensory processing sensitivity is an inherited trait, just like being tall or having blonde hair. People who have SPS are born with hypersensitive nervous systems. SPS is one of the traits common among highly sensitive people, of which I am one.

One of the most problematic issues my SPS causes is an aversion to the sound of my own voice. I don’t usually notice it if I’m having a conversation with someone because most of the time I’m concentrating on what the other person is saying. But I have a real problem with things like public speaking and reading aloud.

When I was in school, the issue was most noticeable in my foreign language classes. I always did well on written exams and homework, but could hardly ever bring myself to say anything out loud. I think it’s one of the reasons I’ve never been able to effectively learn to speak French even though I’d really like to.

My second novel, The River Is Everywhere, will be published this March. Among the things I need to do to market the book is plan author readings at bookstores and libraries, events that will require me to both engage in public speaking and read aloud. Although I know how important these types of events are, I’m dreading having to do them.

I’ve asked other authors I know for advice regarding this, and most of them have told me the best thing I can do is practice reading aloud from the book, and keep in mind that anyone who comes to a reading is there because they want to hear what I have to say. This makes a lot of sense, but I know it won’t be easy. Still, I’m going to give it my best shot.

Until then, I’m going to enjoy living and working in my quiet house.


Traveling Along the River

On August 4, I lost my friend Mario to cancer. He was the third friend of mine to die of the disease this year. His death wasn’t unexpected. He was diagnosed with late stage pancreatic cancer in July 2021, and the last time I saw him, this past April at another friend’s funeral, I barely recognized him. Still, Mario was one of those larger-than-life people you can’t imagine not being in the world.

Without meaning to, Mario became the center of attention in any room he walked into. He was intelligent, talented, had dozens of friends, and a heart big enough to make Santa Claus jealous. I met Mario more than 30 years ago, when I was 18, when we were both freshman in college—kids. We didn’t see each other all the time, but it’s still hard for me to imagine my life as an adult without him in it.

I was in the middle of working on developmental edits for my second novel, The River Is Everywhere, when Mario died. (The book will be released in March 2023 by Vine Leaves Press.) Before sitting down to work on it near the end of July, it had been more than a year since I’d looked at the manuscript. The book’s main character, Ernest, is a 16-year-old high school student who loses his best friend in an accident. He spends much of the story trying to make sense of his friend’s death.

I wrote the book years ago, before any of my friends had cancer, before I could have imagined any of them ever meeting such terrible fates. And yet, when I was re-reading the manuscript, I found myself drawn into Ernest’s world: Here was someone who was dealing with the some of same feelings that I was. The fact that I had made Ernest and his story up didn’t seem to matter at all.

As hard as it was at times to motivate myself to get my butt in the chair, working on the book helped me begin to heal from the loss of my friends in ways I hadn’t expected. At its heart, the novel is a coming-of-age tale and adventure story. When I wrote it, helping readers deal with loss and grief wasn’t one of my intentions.

I suppose that’s one of the things that makes art so important: Often, it’s much more powerful and meaningful than it appears on the surface.

This experience has made me hope that someday The River Is Everywhere might help someone else in the same way it’s helped me.


Hotter than Georgia Asphalt

Released in August 1990, Wild at Heart, directed by David Lynch, is the only film I’ve paid to watch twice. I went to the theater to see it the week it came out, the summer after my freshman year of college, with my then boyfriend. I was so amazed by it that I went back and watched it again the next day by myself. Since then, the film has remained among my top 10 favorites. I’ve watched it dozens of times on DVD.

Based on a novel by the same name by American writer Barry Gifford, Wild at Heart won the Palm d’Or at the 1990 Cannes Film Festival, the event’s most coveted and prestigious prize. It features an all-star cast including Laura Dern, Nicolas Cage, Harry Dean Stanton, Diane Ladd, Crispin Glover, Isabella Rossellini, and Willem Dafoe.

Part coming-of-age story, part road movie, part crime drama, and part morality tale, Wild at Heart glamorizes and celebrates the underbelly of the American South in fluorescent fashion. It rivals a Bosch painting in its surreal and often grotesque depictions of everyday life, especially when it comes to the meaner things.

The film is chock full of hot, gratuitous sex and features several violent, blood-soaked scenes, some of which are steeped in a sort of grim humor. It’s populated by the larger-than-life oddball characters Lynch is known for: A Voodoo priestess who wears a leg brace and walks with a cane; scores of little people; pyromaniacs; a prostitute harboring an impressive hoard of assault weapons; grossly obese porn stars; and a mysterious organized crime boss named Mr. Reindeer who never seems to get off the toilet.

Dafoe plays Bobby Peru, an unhinged ex-Marine and Vietnam vet who is far and away one of the most disturbing characters ever captured on film. And although he’s only in one scene, Glover’s character, Dale, a mentally challenged young man who believes he’s being controlled by aliens, provides one of the movie’s more memorable highlights.

The story begins in Cape Fear, North Carolina, when one of its lead characters, Sailor Ripley, played by Cage, kills a hit man hired by his girlfriend’s mother, Marietta (played by Ladd), in self-defense. After being incarcerated for nearly two years, Sailor is picked up at the prison gate by girlfriend, Lula, played by Dern. Within 24 hours, the pair embarks on a cross-country joy ride headed for “sunny California” in an effort to escape Marietta’s meddling.

At first, it seems that Sailor and Lula will make it as they joyfully race along deserted highways and sunbaked backroads, making a steamy pitstop in bawdy New Orleans. But as they travel through Texas, things take a turn for the worse. They begin to run low on cash, come across a grisly car wreck, and eventually get stuck in down-and-out Big Tuna, where Sailor gets tangled up in a botched bank heist. The spirits of Elvis and The Wizard of Oz loom over all of it like omnipresent but indifferent gods. Occasionally, one of them rears its head unexpectedly, such as in one implausible but fantastic scene where Sailor sings Love Me to Lula on the dance floor of a crowded rock club.

After not having seen Wild at Heart for more than 10 years, I recently re-watched it. More than 30 years after the first time I’d seen it, I wondered whether the elements of the film that had appealed to me as a 19-year-old would still hold true.

I’m happy to say that the film is every bit as wild and bizarre as I remembered it.

Check it out if you have access to Vudu or Apple TV.


Black Tower

Old friends and old wine are best. —German Proverb

I’ve been fortunate to have many good friends throughout my life. Memories of wild parties, road trips, quiet conversations, long hikes in the woods, and afternoon barbecues that lasted into the night help me cope when life gets difficult. Friends have steadied the ladders I’ve had to climb in order to grow and evolve as a person. They’ve made me laugh when I thought nothing in the world was funny, and have sometimes been the mirror I needed in order to see my true self.

Most of the time, I don’t think about the innumerable ways my life is interconnected with the lives of my friends. Like most people who have careers and families, much of my time is spent trying to keep up with my work schedule and make sure the bills get paid. All too often, there’s little time left in the day for my husband or myself, never mind anyone else.

An old friend of mine died recently. Annette’s death was sudden and unexpected, an immeasurable loss that no one who knew her was prepared to face. She was one of the most giving, selfless people I’ve had the pleasure to know, who never failed to offer words of encouragement to anyone who needed them. She was never afraid to stand up for herself or give someone an honest opinion, even if she knew they wouldn’t like it.

Mainstream media outlets have published several articles recently offering tips, and even step-by-step instructions, on how to make friends. People hire friendship coaches to help them figure out how to start conversations at social gatherings. If you type “making friends” into the search bar on YouTube you get several hundred results.

You can also download free friend-making apps to your phone. Applications like Bumble, Friended, and Wink help users meet likeminded people, and guide them through potentially awkward social situations.

Maybe the reason all this is necessary has something to do with COVID-19. Or perhaps it’s because most people younger than 40 grew up interacting with other human beings online rather than in person. It could also be due to the fact that contemporary American culture values individualism so strongly, effectively causing many of us to compartmentalize our lives whether we mean to or not.

Annette and I met at a party when we were in our mid-twenties. She had recently started dating a college friend of my soon-to-be-husband’s and mine. On a warm spring afternoon a few weeks later, we invited them to our apartment.

Annette and I dragged a pair of plastic lounge chairs onto the lawn of our building. We polished off an economy-size bottle of Black Tower riesling, got terrible sunburns, dished up dirt, and laughed all afternoon. It’s a day that stands out in my memory as one of the best. Even though it was decades ago, it seems like it could have been yesterday.

Our children grew up together. I never thought twice about digging through the drawers in Annette’s kitchen to look for a spatula or a Ziplock bag. Although we saw each other less often as we got older and busier, our families always got together around the holidays. One Christmas several years ago, Annette gave me an ornament made from a Black Tower wine label. It still makes me smile every year when I hang it on our tree.

In the days that followed Annette’s passing, I texted or called several of our mutual friends, many of them people I hadn’t seen or talked to in years. Although the reason I got in touch was to let them know what had happened, over the course of our conversations we updated one another about our lives, made lunch plans, and swapped photographs of our kids, pets, and vegetable gardens.

My husband and I stayed up half the night thumbing through old photo albums, looking for pictures to post on Annette’s memorial website. Looking at photographs of our younger selves, together with our friends, made me realize that a hole had opened up in our lives, one that used to be full the hugs, laughter, and steadfast support of people we loved. Over time, we’d become so wrapped up in our everyday existence that we had let that well run dry.

The first tip given by an article on WikiHow titled Easy Ways to Make Friends is, “Make yourself available. If you want to make friends, you first need to put yourself out there.”

Annette’s memorial service was on a Saturday. In order to attend, my husband and I had to cancel a weekend trip we’d planned to celebrate our wedding anniversary. It was disappointing, and heartbreakingly sad. But as soon as we entered the funeral home, our old friends greeted us with open arms.

In May 1918, President Woodrow Wilson gave a speech in New York City in support of the Red Cross. It was less than a year after the U.S. had entered World War I and at the onset of the Spanish flu pandemic. In it he said, “Friendship is the only cement that will ever hold the world together.”

True friendship has the power to heal. Whether we make friends at parties, on Facebook, or with the help of an app, more than a hundred years later Wilson’s words hold true, perhaps now more than ever.