Thursday, December 31, 2009

Good Wishes for the New Year!

A belated Merry Christmas to all, as well as Best Wishes for the coming New Year!

Where to start?

The kids and I have just returned home from a holiday journey South, to visit my parents in Georgia. My youngest sister came with us for the long drive. We also saw relatives in the D.C. area, and visited my grandmother in her nursing home. My husband flew down to join us, and we had cocktails one night with an old college roommate of his, whose parents also live in the same Savannah neighborhood. Oh, and my cousin stayed overnight with us on her way to Florida for a New Years' cruise...

Lots of family... lots of holiday cheer... a whirlwind of holiday fun.

And now we're home. After a long trip, isn't it just the best feeling in the world to wake up in your own bed? With your own pillow? Ah. A little slice of heaven in soft cotton.

Suddenly it's New Years' Eve, time to reflect on the year gone by as well as make resolutions and set goals for the coming new year. Not just any New Years, either, but the end of one decade and the start of another.

As you reflect back on 2009, what stands out?

For me, the highlight was the publication of my first book. But there were other milestones that make me smile - a child in their first play, another child's concert, becoming a magazine editor, birthday parties and get-togethers with friends and relatives, getting back in touch with old friends... it was a pretty good year.

As you think ahead to 2010, what do you wish for?

I'm hoping for peace in the world, and for in my own home as we head into another turbulent teenage year and look forward (!) to the start of the High School Years in September.
I'm hoping for good health for my children and family, as well as for all those who suffer (and I'm still hoping that Congress can figure out our national health care crisis before it's too late.)
I'm hoping for a rosier economic outlook - for the world, for the U.S. and for my own household.

And I'm hoping for more publishing successes for myself and for all the author friends I've made over the last few years.

Peace, Health, Prosperity, Success and Happiness to ALL!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Christmas Candy!

My sisters both came early for Christmas this year. One sister is coming on the trip with us to see our parents. One sister is in the hospitality industry and has to go back to Vermont and work through the holidays.

But last night, she turned my little kitchen into a candy making factory, teaching my daughter how to make all different types of toffee to give as gifts for the holidays. They melted the butter and sugar, and stirred and stirred and stirred.

They poured the mixture out onto parchment paper and added the "extras" - the crushed peppermint, the melted drizzles of chocolate, the toasted almonds... the whole house smelled yummy! And the results (my daughter insisted that I taste each batch) were scrumptious!

After visiting the candy factory last week, I was inspired to try candy-making on my own, but it was just one of those ideas - "Oh yeah, I should do that..."

Last night, it became a tasty reality. We're all still smiling sticky smiles this morning!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Another Good Review for Christmas!

What do I want for Christmas? Peace on earth, the health and happiness of my children, and maybe another good review or two. I've already gotten one of my Christmas wishes!

I got word last night that Unfolding the Shadows was reviewed by the review site, Bitten by Books. And the reviewer enjoyed my novel, giving it 4 out of 5 "tombstones" (their equivalent to stars.)

I'm thrilled, and pleased that this reviewer didn't give away any plot points, except to say:

"Don't expect this story to run the course you expect; it won't. You really won't see where Jillian's life is going until close to the end. This is a good, old fashioned romance. It's all about faith, loyalty, and family in all of their forms, corporeal or not."

To read the whole review, click here to go to And feel free to high-five me the next time you see me! I'll be the one doing Snoopy's happy dance, still excited about my early Christmas gift!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Ghost Tale for Tuesday

Have you ever used a Ouija board? Did you ever feel like you were connecting with someone - some spirit - while using it?

According to Wikipedia:

A Ouija board, also known as spirit board or talking board, is a flat board marked with letters, numbers, and other symbols, theoretically used to communicate with spirits. It uses a planchette (small heart-shaped piece of wood) or movable indicator to indicate the spirit's message by spelling it out on the board during a seance. The fingers of the séance participants are placed on the planchette, which then moves about the board to spell out messages. Ouija is a trademark for a talking board currently sold by Parker Brothers.

Ouija boards as we know them came into existence as a game in the mid-1800’s, when spiritualism and channeling were fashionable. The first historical mention of something similar to a Ouija board is found in China at around 1100 B.C.

Adolphus Theodore Wagner first patented Ouija boards, or “talking boards,” in England in 1854. In the patent, Wagner called his invention a “psychograph” and it was supposed to read people’s minds. By 1861, a Frenchman named Allan Kardac, was describing the Ouija board as a tool with which to open communications with the spirit world.

Modern Ouija boards were developed by inventor William Fuld, who sold his patent to Parker Brothers in 1966. The Ouija boards sold by Parker Brothers consist of a rectangular game board with an alphabet; the words yes, no, and good-bye; and the numbers 0-9. Also included is a heart-shaped plastic planchette.

When I was young, there was a Ouija board in the house we rented every summer at the Jersey Shore. We'd wait for the first dark and thunderstorm-y day, pull down all the shades for good measure, and try to contact spirits with the handy-dandy ghost communicator.

We always got a hold of someone. They answered our silly questions and tried to tell us things that we didn't want to hear. One time when we got too silly, a basketball flew off the shelf and bounced across the room, landing on top of the board. That was the end of it for the day, as you can imagine. But the next thunderstorm... we dragged it out from underneath the bed once again.

To this day, I'm not sure if it really worked or if Anne Weyman was teasing me by moving the piece around the board. But I was hooked.

By the time I got to college, I owned my own Ouija board and brought it with me. One of my roommates thought it was a goof on a Saturday night to Ouija after we came home from the bars downtown.

It was a small town. There were three bars. On two streets. That was the whole downtown. Drinking hard spirits and then trying to contact spirits. Not a whole lot to do in upstate New York. At least, not back then.

Two of the girls who lived down the hall from us were apparently very good at contacting spirits. One - Belinda Katz - told us she had promised her mother that she would never Ouija again. She said there was an "incident" when she was in high school. The Spirits got angry and threw the board across the room, breaking things.

The other girl, Nancy Walker, warned us of the dangers of talking to spirits. She was my guest one day for Ghost Tales, and if you read her post you understand why she was hesitant to "play" with the spirit world. Not all the ghosts Nancy met were benign presences. But we kept at it....

I no longer own a Ouija board. My kids have never used one, and I'm not even sure if Parker Brothers still makes them. But I've read plenty of spooky tales on the Internet to make me not want to buy one, and not want to initiate them into that particular aspect of the occult.

For a history of Ouija and an online Ouija board, click here.

And happy haunting!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Sunday Morning Christmas Crafts

We live next to the ocean, so it's only logical that our decorations and crafts should reflect our location, right? Or rather, let me wax poetic on the wonders of my hot glue gun...

My daughter is headed out to see the Nutcracker ballet today with friends - I'm dropping her off in her fancy dress and shiny shoes at noon - but she wanted to "do something Christmas-y" this morning as well. So we pulled out the ol' hot glue gun and played for a few hours.

I still have the hardened glue under my fingernails as I type this.

But we had fun. She only burned her fingers once. And she stuck with it for the two hours it took to puzzle all the shells together so that no Styrofoam showed through. At first we talked about who to give it to fro Christmas, but after the first hour we had pretty much decided to keep it.

For anyone inspired to make a similar decoration for their seaside home...

You will need:
About 2 hours of undivided attention
Styrofoam cone form
Circle of cardboard for base
Hot glue gun & a lot of glue sticks. A lot.
Newspaper to cover work space
assorted shells of various sizes: collected, soaked in bleach solution, dried thoroughly
sand dollar or starfish for the top of the tree

10 Easy Steps:
1. Sort the shells by size, type and shape (good job for small child)
2. Glue cone to cardboard base
3. Start at the base, going around the circle to fit shells together gluing on one by one.
4. Continue up the tree. Keep cursing to a minimum if working with small child.
5. Fill any gaps as you go or at the end, or both (as we did)
6. Let child help choose shells that fit from the size piles she/he has sorted.
7. Let child glue some shells, make sure there is cold water for when they get burned.
8. Let child glue star to the top of tree.
9. Argue about whether or not to paint the whole thing with gloppy glitter glue (I may still lose that argument)
10. Find a place to display new family heirloom!

Twelve More Days Until Christmas... !

Thursday, December 10, 2009

A Trip to the Chatham Candy Manor

My Girl Scout troop visited the Chatham Candy Manor this week, where they make their own candy canes. They boil the sugar syrup up to 300 degrees, and then pour it out to cool the sugar down. After they turned off the heat on the kettle but before they pour it out, they add the flavoring. Today's flavor was cinnamon. I can still smell cinnamon in my nose as I type this.

Since they're a little candy shop (the kind that welcomes visits from Girl Scout troops) they don't have a cooling room or even a cooling shelf. They cool the sugar the old-fashioned way, by pouring it from one chilled and buttered sheet to another, until it's ready to set up.

Then they "hang and pull" it from a wrought iron hook hanging on the wall behind them. I am not joking. Fifteen pounds of candy. These women have great biceps.

When it's done being pulled, it's ready to ball up and add the stripes of color. Susan is holding the ball of pulled sugar. The scouts were quick to point out that it was much whiter now that it was cooled. Susan told them it was the oxygen that was added to the sugar which caused it to turn white, not paint as some of them had guessed earlier.
After the colored sugar stripes were added, Susan held the ball while Kim pulled and twisted it out into a rope.
As she drew out long enough chunks of rope, she would cut it with scissors and hand the strips to waiting helpers, that the scouts decided to call "elves."
And the last step in the process - the elves actually twist and shape the pieces of rope into candy canes! How cool is that? The whole trip was really quite fun for kids and grown ups alike.

If you're in Chatham between now and Christmas, I would urge you to check out one of their public demonstrations - I think they hold them every Saturday morning. They will certainly be making candy canes Friday night for the annual Chatham Holiday Stroll, and they also claimed to serve the best hot chocolate on Main Street for the Stroll as well.

Visit their website at

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Christmas traditions

When my Great Aunt died a few years ago, a lot of her things ended up finding their way to my house. Not the valuable things, mind you. Those were divided up amongst the family. The tractor trailer that showed up at my house was filled mostly with the odds and ends of her life that no one else claimed.

Some of the things were old Christmas decorations, kitchy and plastic, but full of sentimental value. Like the mistletoe bell hanging in my living room doorway. Made in Japan right after World War II, when Japan was not the industrial powerhouse they are today.

I remember my mom having very similar ones in the hallway of the house where I grew up, but they didn't have the extra deluxe little elf sitting on the mistletoe ball. I remember kissing my first boyfriend under that mistletoe. Although he protested that it was only plastic and not "real," he still kissed me.

What decorations bring back memories of Christmas past for you?

Do you have ornaments on your tree from your own childhood? Or a snowman sculpture that your child brought home from preschool? How about the wall hanging of a wreath made out of child-size hand prints? And the photos of children crying on Santa's lap - those children who are now too old to believe in Santa but still enjoy the magic of the holidays? Do you have stockings hanging on your mantle that were sewn for each child on their first Christmas?

I have all of these things and more. I like surrounding myself with all the collected memories of Christmases past, remembering all the happy times we've had over the years. From my own childhood right through until today.

My sister makes fun of me, with all my "bins of Christmas" I keep in the attic and unwrap for the holidays. She just called to tell me about a friend of hers who has a special Christmas shower curtain. "There's something you don't have yet!" she cackled. And I'm sure I don't need a special shower curtain just for December.

But who knows? That might be the thing my kids remember most...

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

A Ghost Tale for Tuesday

Have you ever taken a photograph, and found it had translucent Orbs scattered through it? I used to think that the guys at Kodak or CVS were just screwing up my prints. But now we all have digital cameras... and those Orbs still show up. What causes them?

There is lots of speculation that what we see in the photos are manifestations of ghosts or spirits. Ghost hunters spend time trying to capture these images on film on purpose, but many of us just "happen" to catch the Orbs dancing, without even meaning to.

I took the above photograph in the woods while I was on a Cub Scout camping trip at Camp Split Rock in Ashburnham, MA. (Yes, the weather is always bad when I go camping. Blizzard, Hurricane, name it, I've camped in it.)

The woods were absolutely still and silent (all the cub scouts were in the Dining Hall at the time.) I was walking down to the cabin on my own to get something that one of my sons had forgotten and took this photo of the path through the woods.

I found several web sites that talk about and show orb photographs, including:

On the one website - - the photographer was told that Orbs are just particles of dust caught in the camera flash. She and her husband experimented with throwing dust in the air to try to recreate the Orb phenomenon. She shows the results - the dust looks like dust.

The way I found it explained on another website was that the Orbs are Life forms that travel in groups and are believed to be the human soul or life force of those that once inhabited a physical body here on earth. Psychic claim to talk to them on a regular basis, and ghost hunters encounter them quite frequently."

So what do you think? Are Orbs a spirit manifestation or dust motes in the air? Have you captured some on film yourself? What's your theory on Orbs?

Monday, December 7, 2009

Time for Christmas Cookies!

Baking Christmas Cookies is one of my favorite things about the holidays. Ever since I was a little girl, it's been the thing that's made December extra sweet in so many ways. But it's always more fun to have a helper in the kitchen with you. Look at the Keebler elves. Are they ever baking alone? I think not!

My youngest sister used to help me bake cookies, right up until the point where the dough was all blended together. She'd eat some of the raw dough and then disappear, with no interest in finishing the baking or decorating. She just liked the dough.

When my boys were small, they liked to help - they'd even invite friends over to bake cookies! It was messy but a lot of fun. My oldest has a December birthday and had a Gingerbread Man theme party for his fourth birthday (his idea, I swear!) I made ginormous sugar cookies shaped like gingerbread men for the kids to decorate with oodles of candy and frosting... we played pin the giant M&M nose on the giant gingerbread man and threw cookie-shaped bean bags into Cookie Monsters mouth... there were other games, but you get the idea.

He's 14 now, so this year he and his friends are going to play lazer tag instead. *sigh*

My daughter still likes to bake with me, so there's hope. We can play the Christmas carols with the stereo volume turned up to 11 and get out the flour and rolling pin... One of our favorite cookies to make are the Holiday M&M cookies. Dangerous for me because I love M&Ms, but she doesn't like them at all. Go figure. But she does like to decorate cookies with them, so it all works out...

Holiday M&M cookies

2 sticks butter
3/4 cup white sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 large package of M&Ms, divided

Cream first four ingredients together. Add eggs, stir until smooth. Add dry ingredients, mix together until well blended. Stir in half of the bag of M&Ms, save the other half of bag in a bowl for decorating. Spoon dough out onto cookie tray in dollops, press at least 4-6 M&Ms in top of each dollop. Bake at 375 degrees for about 10 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on wire racks.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Deck the Halls...and Windows...

My daughter and I have been putting the decorations around the house all week. We decided not to get a tree, since the kids and I are going to visit my parents (and my husband could care less if there's a tree or not, bah humbug) But the rest of the decorations must be unpacked! And we had to find creative ways to hang the ornaments (did I mention there's no tree?)

This year my Girl Scout troop made cinnamon cookie ornaments to sell at the Holiday Stroll. My daughter made a few extras for us to keep, as you can see in the above photo of my kitchen window. I'd first found this recipe when my oldest was still a preschooler, so they're good for any age group.

My daughter helped decorate them after they were dry, using fabric paints to look like royal icing and dots for m&ms. The cookies look cute and smell delicious, but aren't really edible. They're also fairly simple to make - just make sure to use simple shapes for the cookie cutters or they tend to break... all the lobster-shaped ones lost their claws and ended up in the trash!

Cinnamon Cookie Ornaments

3/4 cup applesauce
1 bottle (around 4 oz) ground Cinnamon

1. Mix applesauce with cinnamon to form a stiff dough.
2. Roll dough to 1/4-1/2 inch thickness. (thicker cookies are more durable but take longer to dry)
3. Cut with cookie cutters, using a straw to put a hole near the top.
4. Carefully lay on rack or waxed paper to dry - takes a few days to dry thoroughly, turning occasionally.
5. Decorate with fabric paint/puff paint (or glue on sequins, gems, etc. depending on shape)
6. Thread with ribbon or chenille stems for hangers.
7. Hang on your tree or give as gifts to smiling grandparents.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

White Rabbit, White Rabbit!

Happy December!
(in more ways than one!)

And congrats to all you NaNoWriMo winners out there, who plugged along throughout the whole month of November, or sprinted to the finish at the very end (like I did) We did it! We survived a month of having that constant nagging feeling of "I really should be writing now instead of vacuuming/doing laundry/cooking dinner/sleeping..." And it's over! (insert happy dance here)

We had a wonderful long Thanksgiving break, and hope you did too (although having yesterday as an additional day off from school was almost too much for me!) My middle child almost cried this morning to have to go back to school! The other two were excited for the new month to begin: my daughter has her first public Chorus Concert on Friday at the town tree-lighting ceremony, and my eldest starts a week of basketball team try-outs after school today.

Sorry there was no ghost tale last week, and no ghost tale this week either - my creative juices flowed in one direction only for the past seven days...into NaNoWriMo, of course. But, in related ghost tale news, my first real honest to goodness review of Unfolding the Shadows is now posted online at Romance Reviews Today. Click here to read the whole review - she makes it sound like an episode of Desperate Housewives with all the unanswered questions!

Here's hoping for a month of good friends, good times, good luck, good news, and good reviews to all! Happy Start of the Holiday Season!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

What I'm Thankful For...

Thanksgiving morning 2008, cooking up fun in the kitchen

When we think about Thanksgiving as a holiday, we tend to think Turkey, Stuffing, and Cranberry Sauce. But the original meaning of the holiday was for the Pilgrims to literally Give Thanks for surviving a long hard year in the New World. They were giving their thanks to God and Mother Earth for providing an abundant harvest and letting them live to see another year.

When I count my blessings tomorrow at the Thanksgiving table, my family will be at the top of my list. My mom and dad and sisters, who traveled to visit us last November to celebrate the holiday, as well as my husband's family, who we'll be traveling to visit with tomorrow. My kids have lots of aunts and uncles who love them, and a fun bunch of cousins to play with. They have grandparents who dote on them as well as get silly with them (note the holiday mustache on my daughter in the photo...)

It's been a tough year for a lot of people. Downsizing, economic woes, stock market fluctuations, the ongoing war efforts, health issues and insurance tangles, bad grades on last week's report cards... but even with all the bad in the world, we still need to make time to smile. To be thankful for those things that are good in our lives.

What are you most thankful for? Take a moment to think about what really matters to you this year. And give thanks for whatever it is that makes you smile.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Holiday Issue of CapeWomenOnline

The Holiday Issue of CapeWomenOnline is here!

Visit to read all kinds of fun holiday stories and recipes.

I've written an article on why people should be asking Santa for ebooks this year, as well as an environmental story on choosing eco-friendly gifts from local Cape Cod stores.

My fellow author Marissa Doyle has a great article on Victorian Holiday traditions, and my good friend Nicola Burnell tells us why women really want handmade chocolates for Christmas. Yum!

Take a few minutes to check out these articles, and the great recipes for the holidays. You won't be disappointed!

Monday Morning Musings

NaNoWriMo word count: 32,198

I've been writing this morning, and feeling better about reaching the 50,000 word goal by next Monday. I should be able to wheedle out writing time between now and then, right?

In the meantime, I though we could talk cranberries. We have several active cranberry bogs here in town, believe it or not. Real estate may be at a premium with million dollar beach front homes, but the cranberry bogs are down the middle of Cape Cod, where you can't see the ocean anyway. They are beautiful in their own right, and if you bike or walk the Cape Cod Rail Tail, you'll pass by a number of them. Stop and take a moment to appreciate their beauty.

Some of them are official Ocean Spray Cranberry Growers, with signage to that effect. So their berries get turned into the can-shaped gelatin that my kids and husband prefer. My husband actually likes it to be served with the can lines still visible. Whatever.

Before we moved to Cape Cod, my middle child had a preschool teacher named Mrs. Tripi who taught the kids about Massachusetts cranberries and how to make cranberry sauce from scratch. They started with fresh berries, of course. We've made it in our house every year since. My sister the chef just called last night for his recipe, so I thought I'd share it here for everyone to see how easy it is to make your own cranberry sauce for the upcoming holidays.

Except, of course, fresh sauce doesn't have the fun little can stripes on the sides.

Mrs. Tripi's Cranberry Sauce

1 cup water
1 cup sugar
1 pound package of cranberries
2 oranges (Mandarin, Clementine, or Navel)

Wash and sift through cranberries, removing stems and bad berries. Peel oranges and take off as much of the inner peel as possible.

In saucepan, stir together water and sugar. Bring to boil. Add fruit to saucepan, and bring to boil again. Reduce heat to low boil for ten minutes. Stir occasionally. Remove from heat and let cool completely at room temperature. Refrigerate for several hours or overnight.


Sunday, November 22, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving Week!

NaNoWriMo wordcount: 28,168

I had set aside Friday to catch up with my word count for the month. I got everything else done, and was cracking my knuckles over the keyboard when the phone rang.

Daughter in nurse's office with fever, had to be picked up immediately. "The best laid plans..." as Steinbeck said. And, as Jillian's father points out in Unfolding the Shadows, Steinbeck was already paraphrasing from Robert Burns...

I didn't get much writing done.

And now the run-up to Thanksgiving. The kids have half days on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, then no school Thursday, Friday, or Monday. And there goes the rest of the NaNoWriMo month of November.

Last night I had an idea for the plot twist, and sat down and banged out a stream of words, right up until I killed off one of the characters. (someone should die in a romantic suspense, don't you think? so far it's been all character and situation building, and a little conflict as well as sizzling kisses.)

But after typing the part where a character proclaims, "He's dead" my fingers stopped flowing across the keyboard. They slowed down to a mere trickle of letters, not words, and every one had to be deleted. After several false starts, I decided to call it a night.

Today the sun is shining, and the sky is already blue. Should I rake the leaves and mow the lawn one last time, or figure out how to get my heroine out from under the cloud of suspicion that has descended like the Chatham fog... Is this really a question? Well, yes, keeping in mind that the kids are home from school today, being Sunday and all.

I guess I'll try to write until it's no longer an option. Part of me is dreaming of the days in the future when I'll be sad that all the kids are grown and moved away from home, and all that I have to keep me busy is my writing. Doesn't sound so very sad at the moment...

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Ten Days left of NaNo...

There are only 10 days left in the month of November. Ten days to accomplish the NaNoWriMo challenge that I signed up for... and I'm still making my way through the corn maze, trying to find the words I need to find my way to The End.

I'm at 25,261 words. More than half-way, but not nearly close enough to the goal line.

But it's not like I haven't been writing. I have a cool new story I'm thrilled with. I had to take time out from the new story to work on finishing revisions to my Mermaid middle grade book, in order to send the full manuscript to an agent who requested it from a partial. I also renewed and then completely revised my website, since supporting my online presence is part of being an author. And worked on CapeWomenOnline magazine.

I also survived a Girl Scout sleepover and planned two other Girl Scout meetings with my daughter's troop (one of which is tonight) as well as attended the Veteran's Day ceremony with the scouts. I've helped with middle school math, moon journals, tide charts, essays... I've driven to guitar lessons, kids' hair appointments, band practices, voice lessons... I even went to a dinner party off-Cape (without kids, what a concept!)

So should I consider it an epic-fail if I don't make it to my NaNo goal?

I don't think so. I'll still have accomplished all of those other things. And I'll still have the first hundred pages of a new manuscript all ready to work on. But I think I'll keep trying to finish anyway, to make it through the maze to the finish line, even if it really isn't possible.

Because the only real failure would be to give up and not try.

As long as I try, I win.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

A Ghost Tale For Tuesday

I'm falling behind on my NaNoWriMo word count, and am still working to get the Holiday Issue of the magazine online... and I didn't think to line up a story teller for this week. Darn! I've had a few people say "Sure!" and sound enthusiastic, but then... nothing. If you have a true-tale ghost story you'd like to share, please email me! I'd love to share it here on a Tuesday....

On Friday the 13th, my daughter's girl scout troop decided to join their old Brownie troop for a camp out. Thank goodness it wasn't a tent-out, because of the Nor'easter that blew across the Cape Friday and Saturday. No, it was the annual mother-daughter sleepover, held this year at one of the local churches, a big old wooden building that's been standing on Main Street for at least two hundred years.

About twenty girls and their moms in total attended the event, and we spent the first three hours creating holiday crafts for our winter money-making sale in early December. The cacophony of the Fellowship Hall was almost unbearable. Then we settled the girls down just a smidgen to have a ceremony, learn some camp songs, and put on a few skits. Typical girl scout stuff. By eleven o'clock, most of the moms had gone home (not wanting to sleep on the hard floor, and who can blame them?) and those of us left sent the girls to wash up and get ready to go to sleep.

There were four of us left in the Fellowship Hall, sweeping up the glitter and feathers, and chatting. The girls and the other mothers were at the far end of the church, too far away for us to hear them, or for them to hear our gossip.

I swept up the stage area, and I closed the stage curtain and the doors on either side. I knew there was no one left in that area, although at that moment my only thought was never to bring feather boas to an event like this again. The mess...!

As I finally sat down to take a rest, we heard noises coming from behind the stage curtain. "Did someone come back upstairs?" I asked. I walked quietly to the stage door, and opened it, looking for the girls who should really be in bed. The lights were still off. No one seemed to be there. The noises had stopped. I got a little chill, and decided to just close the door without further investigating.

Just as I sat back down with the other moms, the noises started again. It was as if they were echoes of the prior cacophony. Not voices, but jumping and scraping and folding chairs being pushed about. Another mom (braver than I was?) jumped up and went to the door. She flipped on all the lights and the sounds again ceased. We heard her walk slowly along the stage, hidden by the curtain but her footfalls echoed clearly. She came out of the far door, turning off the lights as she exited. "No one," she said, her eyes a little wider.

I was very glad that we were sleeping in a different room, down the hall and down the stairs, and away from where the spirits were playing. Ghosts of girl scouts past? I unplugged the portable organ, just in case. Didn't want them firing up the camp songs in the middle of the night...

Friday, November 13, 2009

Happy Friday the 13th

Friday the 13th is here once again...
Oh, stop rolling your eyes...

Don't think of it as a bad-luck day. My kids think of it as our family's good luck day, actually. My husband was born on a 13th. Colgate University's lucky number is 13, the school where my husband and I both attended college. My husband even belonged to a singing group called the Colgate 13. They still call themselves Thirteeners... We have a lot of 13s all around us.

We need to embrace the number 13, just as we've embraced vampires, evil faeries, wizards and werewolves. Maybe there's a book in there somewhere...

Enjoy the day!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

NaNoWriMo Update...

NaNoWriMo word count: 22,331

I've finally surpassed the number I entered accidentally by using the word-counting bot last week. Yeah!

Life is all about timing, as one of my characters in Unfolding the Shadows likes to say.

Being a mom, a writer, and a magazine editor is hard to do all at the same time. My life seems to be about more than mere "timing" at the moment, though. It's all about the scheduling, and how to fit all the pieces of my life together like a happy jigsaw puzzle, and still get a recognizable picture without anyone ending up in tears. Not my kids, not my co-workers, and not me.

I'm sorry to say that I've let my frustrations get in the way of my relationships lately, and need to work on this piece of the puzzle a little more. Just getting something done isn't enough if people are still unhappy. Not unhappy with the result, per se, but unhappy with life.

Meeting deadlines shouldn't be our goal in life. They are guidelines to live by and offer structure as we travel down the road, but they shouldn't be the goals. Having happy, healthy kids, and having friends who support you are more important things to strive for.

If I make it to my NaNo goal, great. But not if I have to miss my daughter's Scout sleepover to do it. And I know the magazine will go online when its ready. I need to let go of some of my control issues, and trust that eeryone will play their own parts in the musical of life.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

My First Review!

I received an advance copy of my very first review today! The email says it will be posted at the review site in mid-November. I guess I can stop holding my breath!

Most of the review details the characters and plot, but the reviewer from Romance Reviews Today concludes:

"An enjoying and entertaining read, UNFOLDING THE SHADOWS is an appealing paranormal romance. The tale moves along at a good pace. It has interesting characters and a good storyline, with everything tied up nicely at its conclusion."

(I can't stop smiling!)

A Ghost Tale for Tuesday

My middle child really got into Halloween this year. He's had his costume idea since August, when they started showing ads and music videos featuring Heath Ledger as the Joker from The Dark Knight. He executed on it beautifully. They did fun Halloween activities in middle school as well - not dressing up and eating cupcakes, but writing creepy tales and watching scary movies.

The following story is one he wrote for Language Arts, using as many of the week's list of spelling words as he could. I'm not going to underline the spelling words, though - you'll have to just guess at that part. The names have been changed to single letters, at the author's request. Enjoy...

Halloween Night, an untrue story...

Once upon a time, on a Halloween night, I was running through the extensive woods near our home. The pervasive clouds tried to block out the sparse light of the full moon in meager attempt at total darkness. The moon still found a course through the accumulating clouds and mist. This has surpassed my expectations, I thought.

It was true; it was a perfect Halloween night.

As I ran, I finally came upon a small barren area surrounding a house. My brother S waited by the house. When I got to him, he called my sister's name and T got there in a moment. "Is this the house?" she asked.

"Yes," S answered. I wasn't sure, but it looked like it could be haunted. I hoped it was, or else this was a waste of a Halloween.

I had found the house three weeks ago, and we were sure of two things. One: it was abandoned. Two: there was a reason. So we'd been planning to sneak in since I found it. Now that we were here, I wasn't so sure.

We tried the door first. Locked. We tried the windows second. Boarded up. S searched around the house for a back door or something. When he got back, he told us that there weren't any back doors or secret doors. Then he said we should give up and leave. Strange, S wasn't a person who gives up easily.

T and I went around the house. T saw it first. "What are you talking about, S? There's a door right here," she said as she reached for the door knob.

"It's locked! Don't even bother!" S said, slapping away her hand. For some reason I don't know my hand shot out and turned the door knob. It opened easily. Then a wave of nausea hit me. It passed in seconds.

Sean made a strange screeching sound and lunged at me. He punched me in the nose, then started strangling me. Then he let go and acted as if nothing happened. Next I heard a sharp hiss. T and I went through the door, S following.

The room was empty except for a table. On the table was an open box. Sean hurried over and closed the box. "What?" he asked us as we stared at him. T went over to the box and opened it. S screamed a terrified scream and they both disappeared. I ran to the box. Just as I stopped, I disappeared too.

Epilogue: Three hours later...

S, T and I left the small house as the clouds finally covered all of the full moon. We started running home. Mom and Dad would be worried about us. I was hungry. We all acted as if nothing had happened. After all, nothing had happened. Then, a single ray of moonlight slipped through and shined across our gray eyes. Well, something had happened to S, T and B.

But nothing happened to us.

Monday, November 9, 2009

NaNo No No

I feel like I'm headed for an epic fail for the NaNoWriMo challenge. After breaking out of the gate really strong, I've stumbled, and am having trouble regaining my momentum.

I haven't even opened my novel document today. Not once. Big no no.

I sat down to write last night, thinking I knew what I wanted my characters to say and do. They wouldn't behave. They insisted on saying things that took me down a path I couldn't get off... so I quit and went to bed. It was midnight anyway, so that was probably a good thing.

But now I don't want to go back there, to the scene I don't know how to end.

I've been defending the concept of NaNo on other blogs for the last week (only during my sanctioned procrastination times, of course) But the weekend started to make me wonder if I was going to be able to finish the challenge. November is a busy month. On the outside of things, it seems as if it should be quiet. In reality, Not so much.

I'm not going to quit. I'm 17,000 words into a story that I didn't have written before. I'm excited to be writing a new storyline. But I like to excel, and I'm not sure I'll be able to.

I know the NaNo "pep talk emails" warn of this part of the month, where you beat yourself up and feel like you're the only one destined to fail. I need to get through this and back to the part where my fingers fly across the keyboard with minds and dialogue of their own. And I need to do it before Thanksgiving break gets going...

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

My first NaNoWriMo mistake...

So I'm writing frantically and have been all week. Really. Lots of chocolate Halloween candy fueling the frenzy. (I blogged about that a few days ago, LOL.)

After getting up early and whipping off several more pages AND a blog post, I took a break and went to check out the cool NaNoWriMo website. It's got some cool stuff and encouraging words, and places to customize my own page.

I tried to fill out my "Novel Update" page without uploading any of my actual pages, but when I navigated back to the page my info was gone. So I decided I must NEED to enter the actual novel pages for the NaNoWriMo word-bot to count the words (why take my word for it, right? I could be lying, or misinforming everyone.)

I was pretty proud of my word count this morning, too. I was up to about 7,000 words.

I tried to copy and paste my pages into the word counter. Nothing happened. I tried it again. Nothing happened. I tried a third time, and still nothing. Finally I decided that I must have simply forgotten to hit "send" the first time, and that the page uploading wasn't necessary.

I hit send.

The word counting robot decided I must have written 21,000 words, since i entered my text three times. Argh! Do I look like a cheater now or what? Try as I might, I can't figure out how to undo the word count. If anyone knows how, let me know so I can start over.

In the meantime, I'm still writing furiously and frenetically, trying to catch up with what the word-bot thinks I've already written. I managed to bang out another few thousand words today, even with the regular procrastination and magazine editing and mom-stuff I had to do (my middle child had a classmate over this afternoon to gather materials to make a Mesopotamian brick... really... and my daughter had her first voice lesson with a new teacher...)

As of a few moments ago, I'm up to 11,700 words. A good fifth of the way to my goal. But still 10,000 words short of what the word-bot thinks I'm up to.

Have you heard the phrase "Be the person your dog already thinks you are" ?

I'm trying to be the writer the word-bot already thinks I am.

A Ghost Tale for Tuesday

I'm participating in the NaNoWriMo challenge this month, and debated whether I should take the time to keep posting ghost stories and creepy tales... but I know some of you out there are enjoying these stories (and may only read my blog on Tuesdays...) so I thought I'd try to keep up.

There's a website that collects people's ghost stories - - which I don not recommend reading at night. Only in full daylight. Some of the stories are really creepy. Not that these people are good writers, but the journaling aspect of the tales make them even more "real" somehow.

There are a lot of stories detailing how people have had experiences with lights and appliances turning on and off. In reading the more "scientific" and "ghost hunting" websites, it seems that paranormal investigators consider this fairly normal and obvious, that the spirits are energy and able to manipulate other energy fields. Like turning on lights.

This happens to me on a fairly regular basis. I've gotten used to the lights. My ghost seems to like to turn the light in the t.v. room back on at night, I'm not sure if it's to tease me, that I have to walk all the way down the hallway and cross the whole house to turn it off again, or if he's just hanging out in what used to be his library.

Last night I was sure that I heard the fan on in the upstairs bathroom. I could hear it humming clearly from the downstairs bathroom (they are situated on top of one another) so I sent my son upstairs to turn it off. He came back down and said it wasn't on. I ran to the downstairs bathroom, and no longer heard the noise. As I was getting ready for bed, the light in the hall turned on AND then off again. That freaked me out a little.

There haven't been a lot of "incidents" in the house since last winter. I actually had assumed that the old woman who sold us the house had finally died, and she and her husband were together at last and had gone on out of this realm. But things started up again about half-way through the summer.

The worst - and by worst I mean freakiest - is when the ghost turns on the air conditioner in my husband's office. It always happens when my husband is away for the day on business, mostly when I'm alone in the house. I always check to make sure he hasn't left the air or heat on in his office when he travels (the heat is electric as well) But when the air turns on I can hear it humming from my bedroom, which is directly below. This summer, I finally unplugged the unit completely, and told my husband to only plug it in when he wanted to use it.

The ghost hasn't figured a way around that. Yet.

Do you have ghosts who like to play with your electrical appliances? Turn fans on and off, or play with your t.v. when no one is in the room? Tell us about it!

Next week, I'm hoping to have one of my kids be my guest blogger with his Halloween tale that he had to write using his spelling words. Surprisingly enough, it's a great spooky tale and I can't wait to share it. But right now, I have to go and write at least 2,700 words if I want to keep up with the NaNoWriMo challenge...wish me luck!

Monday, November 2, 2009

NaNoWriMo Begins!

I'm officially signed up for NaNoWriMo this year, and somehow decided not to start on November 1st. All three kids had play dates all over town and I had a Girl Scout meeting to attend. Plus the fact I had to go through the Halloween photos and create cheery little blogs about them...

Okay so I totally procrastinated for the first full day of the writing challenge.

Today I'm writing fast and furious - fueled by chocolate candy stolen from the kids' Halloween piles. I'm trying to steal equally from all three, but my daughter has the most candy, so I've dipped into her stash too much already.

Writing frenzy + Halloween Candy = Guaranteed stomach ache.

On the bright side, I whipped out almost 800 words in the last two hours, not including the emails and FaceBook breaks I took to clear my head. I'm half-way to my daily goal, as they say you absolutely need to write 1,667 words each day to make the 50,000 word goal. We'll see.

Another writer on FaceBook pointed out that November isn't the optimal month for those of us writers with school-aged children, as they have Thanksgiving break as well as all those annoying half-days of teacher-parent conferences. And Harwich decided to schedule a teacher in-service day for the day after Thanksgiving break. The last day of the month. My last chance to finish.

In fact, to have any hope of completing the challenge, I just realized I need to FINISH my 50,000 words before November 23rd, when the 1/2 day and vacation madness begins.

So wait, then I need to recalculate my daily totals. Where's the calculator button?

I need to write at least 2,272.72 words each day to reach my goal. Okay, 800 doesn't sound so impressive anymore.

I'd better get back to writing.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Halloween: One Very Long Weekend

Halloween actually started for us on Friday afternoon, with a party at the town Community Center. There were games, prizes, friends from school and tons of candy donated by our local Shaw's supermarket.

There were some "messy" games, like the mummy toilet paper one...I'm glad I don't work on the clean-up crew! But mostly, the annual event is about connecting with friends.

Halloween: One Very Long Saturday

Saturday morning dawned bright and clear. It was a beautiful morning for the last week of field hockey scrimmages for my daughter.

Halloween: One Very Long Saturday

The Harwich Girl Scouts trick-or-treated during the middle of the day over at one of the nursing homes in town. The nurses and some of the patients handed out candy to the costumed Brownies and Juniors.

Lots of the residents interacted with the Girl Scouts, and were so happy to see the costumes and young faces. The girls chatted with some people, and waved and smiled to others, remembering to say "Happy Halloween!" as well as "Thank You!"

After an hour of smiling, the girls rested in the lobby while waiting for parents to pick them up. This was my daughter's second costume of Halloween weekend. She's the Lawyer on the far right with the yellow briefcase. She told people she only handles
"Kid Cases, about candy and trampolines."

Halloween: One Very Long Saturday

In the afternoon, there were guitar lessons, band, bank party, and trick-or-treating at the Cape Cod Mall (you wouldn't believe all the little kids who went to do their holiday candy collection inside the safety of the mall!)

After all that, we met up with friends and did the actual walking-in-the-dark-of-night "real" trick-or-treating around a neighborhood over in Chatham that is one of the more popular spots in mid-Cape, and then another neighborhood here in town that also had a few really decked out homes. Half the excitement is in walking in the dark, scuffing your feet through the dry leaves. That feels like the Charlie Brown moment to me.

The trick-or-treaters end a very long Halloween!
You can see that for actual trick-or-treat my daughter decided to go with the "Queen of the Night" costume (with her new black tiara from the mall.)
It's better to be something really scary when it's dark out.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Eight More...

As October draws to a close, I must admit to feeling almost as broken as this fence. There seems to be so much stress swirling around my house... the neighborhood... the world... and I seem to be absorbing wa-a-a-ay too much of it. Like a sponge. A stress sponge.

I received another rejection letter in the mail yesterday. I know I can't take it too personally, because it was one of those photocopied "Dear Writer" letters. Not even "Dear Author." Not even really signed by an assistant faking their boss's name. At least it was a clean copy.

As I was walking on the beach with the dogs this dreary morning, I was thinking about this latest rejection, trying not to dwell too much, but still wondering how long until this novel finds a home?

Mere moments after I'd posed this question of "How Long?" to the Universe, a big yellow number eight washed ashore with the waves. No, really it did. It's like a solid plastic house number, with holes to nail it on (although why anyone would want bright yellow house numbers I don't know.)


So what does that mean?

Eight more days? Eight more rejections? Eight more manuscripts? Eight more years?

The Universe didn't give me any way to interpret this sign, just the sign itself.

At least someone's listening.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Can You Hear Me Now?

Writing can be a lonely and frustrating profession. A lot of the time, I feel like no one is listening to what I say. That no one is reading what I write. That what I'm saying has little impact on the world around me.

This is true with my manuscripts that I keep revising and writing and working on. It's true with some of the articles I've written for the online magazine that I edit. It's even true of the book that I've succeeded in having published.

Maybe it's the rain. Maybe it's trying to play catch-up with the real world after being away for a week. Maybe it's my kids telling me that I'm always on the computer wasting time, and not doing "important stuff" with them.

So why do I sit here at my desk, typing away?

Today I guess I'm not sure why I do what I do.

In general, I feel like creating new characters and other worlds somehow completes me, makes me feel like I'm doing something positive and lasting, as opposed to making another peanut butter sandwich for the son who won't stop growing, a sandwich that will disappear in less time than it takes to make.

I received another rejection while I was away, from an agent who had requested a partial from me. He told me the book was not to his taste, and that he thought it was too violent for the age group. Now I am faced with a dilemma: Is it easier to tone down the violence and stick with the upper middle grade range, or ramp up the ages and other aspects to appeal to a more mature YA audience? Should I be worrying about easier?

Something to ponder on this rainy day...

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A Ghost Tale for Tuesday...

I've been absent from the blogosphere this past week, and am still trying to catch up. We had a death in the family early last week and I had to go out of town for a while.

My Uncle Harry was a fun guy, and will be missed. He worked as a car salesman for a lot of years, and found me my first car back when I was in high school. A burnt orange Camaro. Loved that car. Fast and cool. I totaled it in college, of course, when I was on my way down to D.C. to live with Harry and my Aunt Kate for an internship with a PR firm. I wasn't hurt, but the front axle broke. Poor car. Harry drove up to Baltimore to pick me up and bring me back down to D.C. Luckily, you don't need a car in D.C.

My thoughts are still with my aunt and my cousins.

Kate and Harry have lived in the Metro D.C. area since they met and married in the 70s, the last bunch of years in Annandale, Virginia, but Harry was originally from Tennessee. At the funeral, I finally got to meet a bunch of his Tennessee relatives, the ones I've been hearing about for years. What a nice group of folks. One of Harry's Tennessee nieces promised me she'd send a whole bunch of Southern ghost stories my way, once things settled back down.

In the meantime...

Last Monday, I was the guest blogger on Writers At Play, talking about my novel Unfolding the Shadows as well as talking about myself. I challenged readers to leave a comment with their own ghost story to win a prize. According to the writer who invited me on there, over 1600 people visited the website that day! There were a lot of good stories - proving to me that a lot of people really do have these ghostly encounters!

The following story was one of the ghost tales posted in the comment section, that I chose as the winner because it gave me goose bumps when I read it - and because "3" is my lucky number... The commenter said:

"My ghost story is a little closer to home - about 2 years ago my sister got up one night to go to the bathroom. She didn’t turn on the light in the bathroom since there’s a nightlight in there and didn’t close the door either. She saw something moving in the hall and said it looked like our dad (he had passed away almost 8 years earlier). She then said it sort of morphed into our Uncle Joe (my dad’s first cousin) who was at the time in the hospital fighting for his life. He died a few weeks later.

After that my sister stopped getting up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom.

Then sometime this past year, she was asleep in bed and something banged the outside wall in her room, shaking her bed and waking her. She couldn’t figure out what it was, but checked her mattress to make sure she wasn’t imagining things and sure enough, the mattress was moved off of the boxspring by about 2 inches."

Did you get a little chill? I'll be sending that scarecrow to this lucky lady today. I meant to do it yesterday, but there's so much to catch up with!

Have a great Tuesday!

Monday, October 19, 2009

A Ghost Tale for Tuesday

Please welcome today's guest story teller, Nicola Burnell. She grew up in the English countryside, and first came to America after graduating college in England. She's been in the States a while now, living in Florida, Vermont, Texas, and now Cape Cod. Her home is across the street from my own.

I first met Nicola one April vacation week, when her youngest son spied my children playing in the yard and insisted on coming over to meet us.

We've been friends ever since.

She taught the writing classes where I first started my manuscript for Unfolding the Shadows, and is currently working to finish her own novel. Nicola is also the Publisher of CapeWomenOnline, the magazine where I serve as the Editor. Neighbors... Friends... and now Co-Workers. Having a glass of wine together serves many purposes.

Over the years, she's told me some spooky tales of ghosts and poltergeists, and all manner of psychic encounters with the spirit world. Today she's sharing a tale from her childhood in England. Take it away, Nicola!

* * *
* * *
I didn't realize I was living with a ghost until I was a teenager. I was so used to the late night banging, creaking and scraping sounds of my red-bricked Victorian home that I never even noticed them. Nor did I question why the hair at the back of my neck prickled whenever I passed a certain area in the hallway, or why I bounded up the stairs like a cat on acid, even when I wasn't in a hurry.

My father, a central heating engineer, had installed the main pipes from the heating system in the kitchen up through the floor in one corner of my bedroom. This pipe then continued up into the attic. The small gap around the pipe in the floor gave me a distorted view into the kitchen below. It was only when my friends, who were sleeping over, asked me about the loud noises coming from the kitchen that I began to understand the haunting going on around me. The wooden stools that lined the breakfast bar were rocking back and forth, loudly!

We all gathered around the pipe, our hearts in our mouths, to listen to the wooden stools banging against the linoleum. We dared each other to creep downstairs to catch the stools in motion. When we reached the middle of the stairway, we all froze.

Something was watching us from the shadows of the hallway below.

That was the moment I recognized the feeling I'd been experiencing my whole life. There WAS something in those shadows and I'd been bolting passed it for years.

I took the lead, as it was my house. I didn't want to let my friends know I was as scared as they were. We pressed our ears to the kitchen door as the stools continued to bang and now scrape across the linoleum floor. We counted to three, then pushed the door open and flicked on the light.

The stools immediately stopped their rocking and a deathly silence smothered us. Every chair was exactly where it should be; neatly tucked under the counter, not moving an inch.

We talked ourselves into believing we'd imagined the noises and wandered back to bed. Later that same night, we were awoken by a loud bang. Once our screams subsided, we ventured back downstairs to find the small square door of the attic entryway leaning against the front door. I replaced the door and secured the latches, recalling as I did so that my father had added the latches because he was tired of having to put the door back every morning.

My friends suggested that we had poltergeist in the house. I laughed. It wasn't poltergeist! It was the lady in the Victorian black dress, with the white lace collar, that I'd seen in the kitchen when I was washing the dishes. The same lady who stood in the hallway, day after day, as I sprinted passed her. The lady who once walked out of my front door, then disappeared when she reached the garden gate. I'd seen this ghost so many times but never really acknowledged her. She was as familiar to me as the wallpaper.

When my mother sold our house, my sisters and I spent the last night sleeping on the floor of the front living room. With no carpet, furniture or curtains anywhere in the house, the sounds our ghost made on our final night were so loud our bones began to shake. The floorboards groaned, the stairs creaked and the attic door shook itself loose from its hinges and found its way down the stairs to rest against the front door one last time.

Thanks for such a spooky tale this Tuesday, Nicola! For more of Nicola's writing, check out . The current fall issue features a memoir piece by Nicola telling of the brush with death fourteen years ago that changed her life. Read it at

Writers At Play

Today I'm guest blogging on the Writers At Play blog. Check it out by clicking here.

I answer all their "sandbox questions" as well as giving a new excerpt from my suspense novel, Unfolding the Shadows, available now from Cerridwen Press.

Leave a comment with a ghost story of your own for a chance to win a cute-n-crafty Halloween decoration, straight from Cape Cod! He's one of those old-fashioned fall down toys - you press the bottom upward, and the scarecrow collapses. Why did people used to think that was a fun toy? I don't understand. Although, when I saw it at the craft show I had to buy it....

See you over at Writer's At Play!