Île d’Orléans

I’ve been working on a new novel. Because it looks like I *might* actually have the first draft of the manuscript done soon, I thought I’d write a post about it.

The novel—a wild, suspenseful, character-driven romance featuring strong female characters—is set in Île d’Orleans, a pastoral island in the Saint Lawrence River near Québec City. It’s one of my favorite places in the world.

Many of the houses and churches on the island were built in the 17th and 18th centuries by the original settlers of New France. Development in Île d’Orleans is heavily restricted, so it still looks much as I imagine it has for the last few hundred years. If you suddenly found yourself on the island and didn’t know where you were, you could easily think you were someplace in rural France.

Église Sainte-Famille, built in 1743. This church appears in the novel, which is partly set in the village of Sainte-Famille. Photo credit: Marc Lautenbacher, Wikimedia Commons

Île d’Orleans is home to six historic villages, each with its own unique charm. Since it was settled by Europeans more than 400 years ago, the island has been a farming community. Today, it is famous for the quality of its products especially strawberries, apples, maple syrup, and wine.

Île d’Orléans lavender field. Photo credit: Wilfredo Rafael Rodriguez Hernandez, Wikimedia Commons

I like big, dramatic, steamy romances (think Masterpiece Theatre) but most of the romance novels out there are very poorly written, not to mention loaded with tropes, clichés, and sexist BS, making them pretty much unreadable.

I started writing this book a couple of years ago as a challenge: I wanted to see if I could write a romance novel that I would not only want to read but wouldn’t be able to put down once I started. I figured if I were successful, other people would want to read it, too. So far, I think I’m on the right track. The novel doesn’t have a title yet, but I’m working on that, too.

Île d’Orléans strawberry harvest. Photo credit: Marc Lautenbacher, Wikimedia Commons

I’m considering the idea of making this novel the first in a series. It’s a little early yet to tell if that will be feasible, but the possibility is definitely there.

Stay tuned for news about this exciting new novel as it develops. I hope to have the first draft of the manuscript completed by July and to have an edited version done by the end of the summer.



If you’ve read my bio on this website you know that I’m a big fan of European crime dramas. One of the reasons I like these shows so much is because of how intelligently written many of them are. The best crime series have creative, air-tight plots, lots of nail-biting suspense, and enough twists and turns to make most roller coaster enthusiasts get motion sickness. The acting has to be spot-on, as do the subtitles if the original language isn’t English. A bad translation can really kill the whole vibe.

I also like that these series don’t rely on violence, such as loud, bloody gun battles, to move their plots along. They instead tend to lean on the strengths of their writers and actors to create thrilling, often terrifying, tales.

Sometimes called “Nordic Noir,” the Scandinavians are masters of the genre, especially the Danes and Swedes. One of the best European crime series of all time is The Bridge (Broen in Danish), created in 2011 by Swedish writer Hans Rosenfeldt. The series is so mindblowingly good that it’s inspired several spinoffs, including shows tailored for audiences in the UK, US, central Europe, Russia, and Asia. Don’t be fooled, though. If you’re going to watch this series don’t settle for anything other than the original.

Some of my other favorite European crime series include both the Swedish and BBC versions of Wallander, based on the mystery novels by Swedish writer Henning Mankell. Both versions of this series are worth watching. The BBC series, starring Kenneth Branagh, is a little darker and creepier than the Swedish version, while I think the latter is a bit truer to Mankell’s work.

I’m also a sucker for the American version of the Danish series, The Crime, called The Killing. Although it’s set and filmed in the Pacific northwest, it features a talented European cast and some of the best writing and acting I’ve seen on any television series. The night I started watching it, I stayed up until one o’clock in the morning binge-watching episode after episode, and that’s not something I usually do.

Other European crime series I’ve enjoyed include the BBC’s The Fall, set in Northern Ireland. It stars Gillian Anderson, who plays one of the most bad-ass female detectives I’ve seen anywhere. Broadchurch, also made by the BBC, gets part of its creep factor from its remote setting on the Dorset coast. And if you like creepy, remote settings like I do, you’ll probably also like Shetland, a Scottish crime series set in the Shetland Islands.

The French also make some good crime dramas, though being French they occasionally lean more toward philosophizing than toward crime-solving. One of my favorite French series is La Forêt or The Forest. I’ve recently started watching Mountain Detective, a French crime series set in the Hautes-Alpes. I like it so far.

For as many excellent European crime dramas as there are out there, and there are many more good ones than I’ve mentioned here, there are also a lot of duds. If I don’t like a series after the first episode, out it goes. I’ve even been known to turn a show off after only a few minutes if I don’t think it’s going anywhere or if the plot seems too canned (usually I’m right).

Send me a note if you you have recommendations for new European crime series. I’m always looking for shows that pique my interest enough to make me want to stay up past my bedtime.


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.