Sunday, October 16, 2016


     I haven't blogged directly about the presidential election until now.  I felt that there were many very smart people who were expressing my sentiments better than I ever could.  But I'm posting about the election now - not because I think I'm brilliant, not because I think I'm articulate, but because I'm haunted by fear and I just need to talk about it.
     Donald Trump is a serial abuser of women, and if that's what brings him down, I'm glad.  His attitudes and behavior towards women and girls are degenerate.  In his twisted mind, he has kingly authority over half the human race because he possesses wealth, power, and a penis.  The fact that we as a society have finally advanced to the point where such Stone Age views can actually cost someone an election is heartening, but even that result isn't a sure thing, and of course if it does happen it's pathetic to even count it as a triumph.  Still, no one will be happier than me to watch Trump crash and burn on November 8th because some diligent reporter discovered that 20-year-old videotape.
     But I am very frightened whenever I consider all the revelations about him that haven't, even potentially, brought him down.  When Trump was a young man, he and his father were charged by the government with racial discrimination in their hiring practices, and former employees have given statements indicating that the policies did indeed exist and that they were blatant and deliberate.  He has mocked a reporter with a physical disability, and reportedly referred to the actress Marlee Matlin as "retarded" because she is deaf.  He proposed a ban on all Muslims entering the United States, and comes very close to equating all Muslims with - one of his favorite phrases - radical Islamic terrorists.  In a supreme irony, he calls Mexicans "rapists."  He is an outspoken fan of Vladimir Putin, whose critics in his country have disappeared with alarming regularity.  In fact, Trump has invited Russia to hack into Clinton's emails - an invitation Russia appears to have accepted.  He has threatened to jail Hilary Clinton, and makes no effort to silence his supporters when they speak of executing her.  His major theme is that, due to the machinations of a vast ring of conspirators, virtually everything is wrong with this country, and that he alone is strong enough to fix it.  In short, he is an ubermensch.
     Is it just me, or does this man remind you of anyone?  Trump is proud of his ignorance, which does not mean that the rest of us can forget history.  Have we learned nothing in this century about the dangers of following narcissistic, populist cult leaders/demagogues?  Is it a coincidence that white supremacists and neo-Nazis deem Trump the first mainstream politician to whom they can pledge wholehearted support?  Is it a coincidence that both Trump and his son have reposted items from white-supremacist websites?  IS ANYONE LISTENING??
     I don't believe that it can't happen here, in this bastion of democracy.  I believe that this country is in grave danger from Trump, his supporters, and the do-nothing bystanders in the Republican party.  And I can't remember ever having felt so afraid.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016


Give me your tired - your poor -

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free -

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore -

Send these - the homeless, tempest-tossed - to me.


     Official blurb:  Her father died before she was born, but Ella Benton knows they have a mysterious connection. When an eerie handprint appears on her mirror, she wonders if Dad’s warning her of danger as he did once before. Could her new too-good-to-be-true boyfriend be responsible? Or the grieving building superintendent? As the unexplained events become more frequent and more sinister, Ella becomes terrified about who—or what—might harm her. Soon the evidence points to Ella herself. What if, like her father, she’s suffering from a breakdown? Ella desperately needs to find answers, no matter how disturbing the truth might be.

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     Full disclosure: I'm very proud to say that Yvonne Ventresca is my friend.  We've known each other for years through attending SCBWI conferences.  Yvonne has been a big supporter of both me and my writing for a long time, and I hope I've done half as much for her.  But even so, I wouldn't lie about her book!  There won't even be white lies in my review  below!  (And I didn't lie in my review of her previous YA novel, PANDEMIC, either.)

     In keeping with its cover illustration, the novel opens in a cemetery.  Ella is visiting the grave of the father she's never met, and her sadness permeates the reader's introduction to her like a mist and lingers through the pages.  For the almost sixteen years of Ella's life, she's had only one utterly reliable person at her side: her mother.  But in a few days, their two-person team is about to be broken up.  Ella's mom is less than a week away from establishing her own new team; she's getting remarried.  And as much as Mom tells Ella that no matter what, her daughter will always be Number One to her, Ella knows that as soon as Mom marries Stanley, things are going to start changing.
     In fact, the wedding hasn't even happened yet, and things are starting to change already.  Ella and Mom have always talked to each other about Dad, but now when Ella brings up the subject, Mom seems impatient, as if she just wants to move on with her life.  Easy for her!  She's embarking on a new chapter, but Ella has never felt more alone or more vulnerable.  From her perspective, it's not the perfect time for Stanley's son Blake, the new 18-year-old stepbrother Ella's never met before, to arrive from California as a houseguest, just before Mom and Stanley get married and then fly off to Paris for their honeymoon. 
     It's not that Ella has no plans for the week.  She's going to sleep at her friend Grace's house every night, and during the day she'll be continuing with her regular summer activities: working at Mom's bookstore in town and volunteering at the local animal shelter.  And Blake seems friendly and con-siderate; he even seems to want to hang around with her sometimes while waiting for his freshman year to start at NYU.
     Everything is going okay until the night before the wedding, when Blake gets Ella alone and tells her that he wants the two of them to be completely honest with each other.  And to set that course, he reveals a secret that Stanley has told him.  Ella's dad didn't die in a car accident, as Ella's mom has always told her he did.  He died as a patient in a psychiatric hospital.
     Mom would never have lied to Ella about something so important - would she?  Why would Ella believe a stranger over her own mother?  It's ridiculous. But Blake produces proof. And once Mom and Stanley leave for Paris, inexplicable things start happening to and around Ella.  She's always believed in the supernatural to some extent, but these events are terrifying, and they leave her questioning not only Mom's truthfulness, but her own sanity.  After all, isn't mental illness often hereditary?
     Ella goes through what feel like a lifetime of changes during the roughly two-week period that this book covers, but she never for a moment stops being a believable teen character, and the plot never bogs down.  Your heart will be in your mouth as you gallop toward the conclusion, but you'll want to stay in the saddle every step of the way.


     YOU’RE INVITED! Yvonne is celebrating the release of Black Flowers, White Lies with a book launch party at Words Bookstore in Maplewood, New Jersey, on Sunday, October 16th at 2 p.m.  Here's a link to the evite:    

      But because you won't want to wait until then to buy your own copy of Black Flowers, White Lies, here are the links: Indiebound | Amazon | BHYPERLINK ""&HYPERLINK ""N | AmazonUK | BAM

 You'll be reading in distinguished company! Black Flowers, White Lies was recently included at the top of BuzzFeed’s new "must read" books: 23 YA Books That, Without a Doubt, You’ll Want to Read This FallI quote: "This suspenseful psychological thriller definitely won't disappoint."


Yvonne's debut YA novel about a deadly bird flu outbreak, Pandemic (Sky Pony Press, 2014), won a regional Crystal Kite Award from the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. Her other credits include a short story in the YA dystopian anthology, Prep for Doom, and two nonfiction books.

To connect with Yvonne: Facebook | Twitter | Blog | Instagram | Pinterest | Goodreads

Monday, October 3, 2016


Because that's when I'll be participating in Yvonne Ventresca's blog hop to celebrate the release of her new psychological thriller,

... and it won't be the same without you there!!!!

Wednesday, September 21, 2016






     Any questions?

Sunday, August 28, 2016

I SPENT THREE DAYS AT A MAGIC LAKE HOUSE (and all you get is this lousy blog post...)

     My friend Julie the Nomad agreed to touch down long enough to spend three weeks house-and-dog-sitting for her family friends while they're traveling, and she invited me to visit her at the Magic Lake House for a few days for our own exclusive little writing retreat.
     You may ask: what made a lake house into a Magic Lake House?  The main requirement was for me and Julie to decide that it was, because both of us had hit snags in our writing and really needed some magic.  But there were other components too: remoteness, quiet, and beautiful surroundings.

and dogs.

and kayaks.


and a koi pond.

     Julie had already set up her writing station, which I call Still Life with Paint Cans, in the kitchen

and she graciously ceded the master bedroom to me for two nights and moved herself into the guest room downstairs.  And the Magical thing about the master bedroom was the attached sitting room.

That's where I wrote, and this was my view from the window as I wrote:

     And every bit of it was Magic.  We both wrote steadily.  I solved a major problem with my book that had been frustrating me for weeks.  And Julie and I talked about our books and our writing ambitions and a whole lot of other subjects too, and we cooked and swam and petted the dogs, but mostly we wrote and we helped each other write.
     And I took a lot of pictures because even though I'll probably never visit this MLH again,  I'm going to carry this visit with me in my mind and heart for a very long time.

Monday, August 22, 2016


   I signed up for author Stephanie Faris's blog tour to help promote the two first books in her new middle-grade Piper Morgan series, both of which were just released from Simon & Schuster a couple of weeks ago.


Aren't those great cover illustrations?  Piper looks like she's ready to charge (or get pushed!) right off the page!  What middle-grader would be able to resist buying the book to find out why Piper is riding an elephant or (evidently) running an office?  I'll give you a hint, since you're probably not a middle-schooler so this can't count as a spoiler:  Piper and her mom make up a two-member family.  They move around a lot, and Piper's mom keeps getting interesting new jobs in each new place.  But although Piper has to deal with the same difficulties all kids do when their families relocate often, she also gets a lot of opportunities to get in on the action in each new setting.

I e-met Stephanie when we both participated in the Blogging From A to Z blog tour over the last few Aprils.  This is Stephanie: 

And here's her bio:

     Stephanie Faris knew she wanted to be an author from a very young age. In fact, her mother often told her to stop reading so much and go outside and play with the other kids. After graduating from Middle Tennessee State University with a Bachelor of Science in broadcast journalism, she somehow found herself working in information technology. But she never stopped writing. 
     Stephanie is the Simon & Schuster author of  30 DAYS OF NO GOSSIP and 25 ROSES. When she isn't crafting fiction, she writes for a variety of nonfiction online websites.  She lives in Nashville with her husband.

And here is my interview with her!

 1. Hi Stephanie! So, in real life you write articles about information technology, and in unreal life you write middle-grade fiction.  Is that how you manage your left brain/right brain split?


Good question! Maybe so. I do feel that the variety keeps things interesting. If I was just doing one or the other all day, every day, I don’t think I’d appreciate my “fun writing” as much. (Fun writing is the fiction stuff, in case you’re wondering!)


2. Piper Morgan is a little girl whose mom sounds like a free spirit, flitting from place to place and having adventures everywhere she goes.  I read on your blog one recent Mother’s Day that your own beloved mom sounded a lot like Piper’s.   How much of the Piper series is a love letter to your   mom, and how much of it is something else entirely?


I think being raised by a single mom definitely gave me a background to pull from as I wrote Piper’s story. We didn’t move around as much, but we did move a couple of times when I was younger. It was interesting that no matter where we lived, my mom made it “home.” I’ve realized, as I’ve gotten further into writing this, that this is really what the series is about. Piper is always longing for a place she can call home, but over time, she’ll come to realize that “home” has little to do with where a person lives.


3. Which comes first for you in writing a story: characters or plot?  Can you give a thumbnail sketch of your typical book-inventing process (if you have one)?   Ditto for your typical writing day (if you have one)?


I’m one of those “pantsers” you hear about, who flies by the seat of my pants when I’m writing. I wish I could be more of an outliner. However, once you’re published, your agent needs a partial to pitch your book to your editor. So I’ve developed a habit of writing three chapters, then writing the synopsis. That synopsis can then serve as an outline if they buy my book and I get to write the rest of it.


I wish I said I had a daily routine. I usually have every intention of writing 1,000 words or so in the morning, but I end up responding to emails and doing blog sorts of things until around lunchtime, when I go to the gym. When I get back, I realize I’m behind on my word count for the day and I write my butt off until bedtime! I always have writing assignments, and I try to do three to four a day, which means writing around 2,000 words a day, not including my book writing.


4.  Piper starts out with a bang by joining the circus!  Any hints about future exciting situations in which she might find herself?


She gets to work in the circus and a principal’s office in these first two books. In the third book, coming out in November, she works with puppies at a rescue shelter. The one that’s scheduled for next spring is set in a pool and spa shop and includes a TV commercial shoot. We’re still working on ideas for book number five, but I’m thinking it will be event-planner themed.

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     If you'd like to find out more about Stephanie and her Piper Morgan series (and why wouldn't you?), you can check out any of the following links:







And make sure you enter Stephanie's Rafflecopter giveaway!!

The Olympics might be over, but for Piper Morgan, the fun is just beginning!