Friday, June 29, 2012

Summertime... and the living is easy?

July is right around the corner. The big Fourth of July festivities (and crowds, and traffic) start this weekend. Are you ready? AM I?

My house and yard are finally in order - bring on the houseguests! My kids are settling into their various summer jobs and activities, and my new editor says I should hear from her soon with a first round of edits on SON OF A MERMAID.

Somehow, though, it still feels like there should be two more weeks of June before the Fourth. Where did it all go? I didn't even realize I missed putting up a post on Wednesday - it came, it went, didn't see it whiz by. So much to do, so many things going on the calendar, appointments, classes, lessons, parties...

Does any of this sound familiar to you as well?

It's time to take a lesson from the simple and ancient horseshoe crab, and SLO-O-O-OW DOWN. Now, I'm not saying I want to get washed ashore with the tide and lie there on my back, baking in the sun with my legs wiggling uselessly until I die. No.

More along the lines of taking life as it comes and seeing where the current takes me. In retrospect, last summer went by in the blink of an eye. This summer, I really want to take more time to just enjoy the beauty that is Cape Cod. That's my plan and I hope to stick to it.

What's your plan for summer? Do you have one yet?

Monday, June 25, 2012

Book Review: Summer Rental

I'm so busy right now that I have no business sitting down to read anything, (except maybe the manuscript I'm supposed to be editing for a writer who's paying me...) but when my mom handed me this book, I knew I was going to make time.

Summer Rental is a 2011 release with the tag line: Sometimes, when you need a change in your life, the tide just happens to pull you in the right direction...

The back cover blurb goes like this:

Ellis, Julia, and Dorie. Best friends since Catholic grade school, they now find themselves, in their mid-thirties, at the crossroads of life and love. Ellis, recently fired from a job she gave everything to, is rudderless and now beginning to question the choices she’s made over the past decade of her life. Julia—whose caustic wit covers up her wounds–has a man who loves her and is offering her the world, but she can’t hide from how deeply insecure she feels about her looks, her brains, her life.  And Dorie has just been shockingly betrayed by the man she loved and trusted the most in the world…though this is just the tip of the iceberg of her problems and secrets. A month in North Carolina’s Outer Banks is just what they each of them needs.

Ty Bazemore is their landlord, though he’s hanging on to the rambling old beach house by a thin thread. After an inauspicious first meeting with Ellis, the two find themselves disturbingly attracted to one another, even as Ty is about to lose everything he’s ever cared about.

Maryn Shackleford is a stranger, and a woman on the run. Maryn needs just a few things in life: no questions, a good hiding place, and a new identity.  Ellis, Julia, and Dorie can provide what Maryn wants; can they also provide what she needs?

Five people questioning everything they ever thought they knew about life. Five people on a journey that will uncover their secrets and point them on the path to forgiveness. Five people who each need a sea change, and one month in a summer rental that might just give it to them.

Okay, honestly? Reading that blurb made me not want to read the book. Especially that last paragraph. I think they should have worked a little harder at this, but then again, there are 5 different storylines going on here, and a bunch of back stories that need to be filled in for the readers, and a whole lot of heads to hop through... anyway, I bit the bullet and started reading it in between errands and projects.

I'm glad I did.

I love Mary Kay Andrews breezy style, and I hadn't read one of her books in years. She writes great beach books (even the Christmas-themed one!) Easy, breezy, engaging characters who make you root for their happiness...  If you haven't heard of her books, you should check out Hissy Fit, Little Bitty Lies, Savannah Blues, Savannah Breeze, Blue Christmas.... and she has 3 other books I haven't read yet.

Summer Rental engages the reader from the start, despite the large cast of characters. Andrews draws them each distinctly, and deftly weaves in each backstory so that the reader gets to know and care about each of them. The women are well drawn, each unique in their problems and outlooks. The landlord Ty isn't as solid a character as I would like, with too many contradictions in his behavior, but he's engaging enough to keep the reader wanting more.

Besides, it's really a story about women. Who they are, who they want to be, the tough decisions they need to make in each of their lives.

I found myself thinking about the characters while driving, and while painting the bathroom ceiling the other day - I almost quit painting halfway through so I could finish one more chapter. (I decided instead to use it as my carrot to get the job done.) And in the end, I woke up at 5 a.m. Saturday for some quiet time to finish reading so it wouldn't distract me for the rest of the weekend.

Looking for a book to slip into your beach bag? Summer Rental fits the bill.

What have you read lately that would go well with this summer heat?

Friday, June 22, 2012

Check Out the Summer Issue of CapeWomenOnline

Photograph by Amy Riley
Painted Light Photography

The Summer 2012 Issue of CapeWomenOnline is available now at
and is chock-full of interesting stories to make you smile, think, and get up out of your beach chair to see some great events. Seven sections plus event and class listings, all for your reading pleasure.

Our Literary Women section is especially full with great articles. Nicole Bouchard from the Write Place at the Write Time Literary Journal gives part one of her advice for new authors (part two will come in the fall.) Candace Hammond, Joan Walsh and Anne Sessions Barber share their stories of bringing their books to life, and Yvonne deSousa has a few book recommendations for us.

The article I researched and wrote for this issue was on The Last Gasp fundraiser - a full-day, 62-mile bike ride, boat ride and clambake, which is one of the premier fundraising events on Cape Cod each year. I was truly inspired by the women (and men) who make this trek... I personally prefer using the bike trail at a more leisurely pace, with one of my dogs towing me along if possible!

Another cool story is by Diane Kovanda, a local yoga instructor whose students gave her the gift of bees - there's even a short video of the bees arriving at her yard.

And in the category of I learn something new every issue... we have an article about local folksy artist Elizabeth Mumford  - - I've loved her whimsical style for years, and never knew that our web designer, Jane, was friends with her! Jane spent the day with her recently and I love this interview!

Check it out - and Happy Summer!

P.S. Oh and By the Way.... if you're not a "subscriber" to our free magazine, please enter your email in the subscriber box at the top of the page. We're actively working this summer to up our subscriber numbers - and even though we know tons more people read the magazine than "subscribe" - our advertisers want to look at those numbers, too. By entering your email address, you'll receive notifications of new issues (5 times a year) and a few important notices of CapeWomen events and special calls for submissions.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012


My middle child graduated from middle school yesterday. The ceremony was called "Out of the Middle" - fitting for him, especially, as he always feels in the middle.

First, the school band played "Achievement" while the 8th graders entered the courtyard. The 8th graders who are/were in the band (including my son, on bass) obviously didn't get to take part in the procession. They also played America the Beautiful, and the chorus sang the National Anthem.

The graduating students were a bright sea of color from this week's field day teams - the class chose to wear their team shirts, which they created themselves at field day. My dad was a little confused that none of the kids "dressed up" for the event, but they did, in a way.

Each department handed out awards to the students who stood out in those classes. My son didn't win any of those awards, but did receive a Presidential Award for Academic Excellence, for having straight As (nine A+'s, as he pointed out, more than once.)
Then the students were called by name to receive their "certificate of completion" and a "high school survival kit" that the 8th grade teachers put together.
All in all, it was a nice ceremony, and a pleasant morning. My parents took us all out afterward to a local lunch spot to celebrate.

So why did my son spend the rest of the day in a terrible funk? Even at lunch, I watched his enthusiasm fade until he couldn't even finish his food - french fries untouched on his plate! (Soo unlike my teenager, let me tell you!)

Transitions are hard. They're still hard for me now, at my age. I can remember back to being a teen and having big changes happen, like when my parents moved to Vermont to buy an Inn. Change is scary when you have no frame of reference.

My own 8th grade graduation was a "bigger deal" than this one - evening ceremony, long dresses for the girls, suits for the boys (well, that was a more formal time, I guess. And it was New Jersey.) I was going on to the local regional high school in the fall, with all my friends, but I still felt anxious all summer long in anticipation. I spent a lot of time taking stock of myself - how people perceived me and how I wanted to be perceived.  Who I wanted to be. I was ready for a change. I think he may be, too, but hasn't had time to think about it.

Transition and change are part of life. Things don't stay the same. And most of the time, we don't really want them to stay the same. Little transitions help us prepare for the bigger changes and challenges we'll face as we grow up.

This is why YA literature is filled with these kinds of changes - new kid in school, starting high school with new people, family moving to a new town, new state, new planet... reading about how others are also scared and how they deal with it and don't drop dead from fright helps our kids deal with their own fears, and their own scary transitions.

Although, sometimes in books, the changes are truly scary, like finding out there are vampires in your new school. Or that the new girl you have a crush on is really a mermaid...

Change is good. But it can be scary.

What graduation advice do you have for a kid just finishing middle school, headed off to a new high school in a different town where he won't know the kids in his class? What's your key to a smooth transition?

Friday, June 15, 2012

Time to Celebrate....

It's Friday - time to celebrate the end of another week, and make that announcement I teased you about on Wednesday...

You may already know that in addition to writing romantic suspense and editing an online magazine, I've been working on a YA fantasy for a while now... I even did the First Five Pages challenge over at Adventures in YA & Children's Publishing back in October. If you visited my blog during April, you may have read some of the short excerpts I posted during the A-to-Z Challenge... or maybe you've listened to me whine about how much I love this book and why can't I find it a good home?

Well, I finally did it. Found my baby a good home, that is.

I signed the contract this week with Crescent Moon Press and can hardly wait to get started with them to bring my novel to life! If you visit their website, you'll see they have gorgeous covers and a slew of very intriguing books on their shelves... and soon mine will be one of them!

Have a great weekend.. and Cheers!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Rainy Days Can Still Be Sunny...

We used to have a large pool toy that the kids could crawl inside of to float around. That particular summer, though, we had more rainy days than sunny ones. I tried not to let it slow us down, so we got creative. (If you've had your kids stuck inside during summer vacation, you understand. There are only so many board games you can play in a row!)

It turned out that swimming in the rain could be a lot of fun.

They used the pool float to "stay dry" (as if they weren't already in a bathing suit, in a pool....) Keeping the rain off their faces seemed to make the difference between fun and not so fun, sun or no sun.

Today is one of those rainy days. It's warm enough out, and there's no thunder, but the rain is pretty constant. But there is still a lot to be happy about...

My eighth grader headed off with his class on their end-of-year trip to New York City this morning, and despite the rain today, the weather tomorrow is supposed to be beautiful for their big boat trip to Ellis Island and their semi-formal Dinner Dance Cruise in New York Harbor. (Keeping my fingers crossed that someone takes good pics of him in his blue blazer!)

My high schooler has his first day of finals today - the end of the school year is here!

My youngest finished her last project - a paper mache diorama of an opossum - and took it with her in to school this morning - again, countdown to the end of a long and torturous sixth grade year!

And... I have some Big Book News brewing.... I'm not quite ready to share it yet, but *hopefully* by Friday I'll have an announcement to make!

So despite the rain, things here are looking sunny. What keeps you optimistic when the weather tries to wear you down?

Monday, June 11, 2012

Relax and Get Your Paws Wet

All Puppy wanted to do all weekend was go to the beach.

Saturday was beautiful. Sunday even nicer.

Alas, this end-of-year merry-go-round barely stops to let me take a breath. On Saturday, we had our local Girl Scout first-ever Pinewood Derby, work to do in the garden, band rehearsals for the upcoming concert, and important middle school dates at the movies. Sunday I went off-Cape for the day, up to Bentley University where my son has been participating in the HOBY Leadership Conference for the last few days. Each high school in the state chooses one sophomore to send to represent the school, and work on developing leadership skills. Sounded like a busy and empowering 3-days, and my son thoroughly enjoyed it.

Not to mention that summer rules are already in effect at our beach. It's not enough for me to find a spare hour to take her to the beach, the hour has to be during certain early or late time allotments.

Today she finally got there. The summer people went back off-Cape after their busy weekends. The kids went back to school after theirs. Puppy and I got to head to the ocean and get our paws wet.

Sometimes you just need to take time to put your toes in the water and breath deeply. The salt air and crashing waves block out the worries of the real world, if only for a few moments. It helped Puppy's mood, and mine too.

What do you do to relax, when the daily grind wears you down? Puppy and I recommend getting your paws wet. What's your favorite suggestion?

Friday, June 8, 2012

Happy Birthday, Dad!

Dad turned 71 yesterday. We celebrated with a middle school band concert, and 2 cakes, and one of my sisters came down from Vermont. She brought the carrot cake. My daughter made the chocolate.

When you're over 70, you should always get more than one cake. You need to indulge every moment. Have your cake and eat it too. Or make that, eat two!

Happy Birthday, Dad

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

How Much Does Editing Matter?

I just received a newsletter from a local nonprofit group, and was absolutely horrified by the editing mistakes I found... and I wasn't even looking for problems. I was just reading it to see what they were doing. Clearly, they are not in the business of editing.

I don't work for them (well, I work with them on projects.) Editing their newsletters or press releases is not my job. And yet, I'm angry that someone actually got paid to send out such a poorly written and poorly laid out communication.

There are plenty of books like that as well, many that have typos and small copyedit mistakes. Sometimes I cringe to find ginormous blunders in the editing, and wonder How in the World stuff gets through the system without someone catching those problems. You know what I mean. We've all scratched our heads at some of these "glitches."

As writers, we work very hard and write to the best of our abilities, but it's very very hard to edit your own work with an objective eye. You're too close to the writing to see where the mistakes lay.

Editors and Copyeditors are essential to the publishing process, for books, for magazines, for newspapers.... and yes, even for newsletters. 

I loved working with my editor on my first novel, Unfolding the Shadows. Meghan was wonderful at pointing out places that needed expansion, or spots that needed to be cut out completely, or when I used the same word 26 times in the first five chapters... oops... but my book was so much better because of her input.

I'm working at the moment as an editor for a woman who's written a women's fiction novel, who thought she was on her final draft when she brought it to me. She's since revised it substantially with my input and suggestions, because there was so much that she "knew" about her characters but wasn't showing the reader. A good editor can get the writer to expand and show the reader things that the writer may take for granted. I'm meeting with her again tomorrow to hand back the last few chapters... she's almost ready to start the query process, and even though it's not "my" book, I take a certain amount of pride in the fact that I've helped her make her book better.

Have you worked with an editor for your writing? Do you appreciate it when an editor gives you advice or points out mistakes? Do you cringe when you read something that clearly needed an editor's touch?

What's the most glaring editing error you've ever found in a published work?

Monday, June 4, 2012

A Sense of Place

How much does the setting matter when you're reading a book?

How much does the setting matter when you're writing a book?

I was thinking this morning that the last three books I've written - and the one I'm currently in the midst of - all take place on Cape Cod. Now, this is partly (or mostly) because I live here on the Cape year round. Write what you know, right?

But it's also because I think Cape Cod makes for a great setting, with lots of faces, different personalities, and endless possibilities.

I enjoy reading books set at the beach, whether the Cape or the Jersey Shore (but not the t.v. show - never the show) or Savannah (I love Mary Kay Andrews and her books!) ...or books set on islands... I guess I like the ocean as part of the place setting. It's like another character, almost. In The Samurai's Garden by Gail Tsukiyama, the ocean separating Japan and China plays its own role. (And if you haven't read any of Gail's books, you should! Beautiful writing!)

Where do you like to read about? What kind of settings add that certain something to the novels you choose? Urban cityscapes... Westerns set in Texas with rugged cowboys... dystopian wastelands.... historical novels set on sweeping English moors... and do you choose "summer" settings, like Cape Cod or Nantucket, just for "summer" reading?

Friday, June 1, 2012

Odd Couples

Is it strange to think that one of Puppy's best friends - dare I say her boyfriend? - is not even a third of her size?

Puppy always liked Forrest the Pug. His owner and I walk our dogs together at least 3 times a week. But when he stayed here for a few weeks they really bonded. And then Puppy stayed at their house for a week while we were in Florida.

Are they an unlikely couple? Definitely.

But is it that unusual to be drawn to someone so different from yourself? Maybe not.

Think of some couples from books you've read lately. Are the male and female leads alike? Or are they different? Are they drawn to each other because of  or  in spite of  their differences?

How many times are the heroes and heroines we read about from different sides of the track, from different classes/stations in life, or literally from different worlds? Why do we like reading this kind of tale?

Puppy can't tell me why she likes Forrest - I just know that she does.