Friday, June 12, 2009

Enchanted nursery

Ambleside, central NJ. Okay, so maybe I don't get out enough but I felt like I was in an enchanted forest.


Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Laced With Magic - sneak peek

Chapter 2 is up and waiting for you. Enjoy!

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Our wildlife preserve

See that little guy over there? We spotted him hanging out under the Topsy Turvy tomatoes in the far corner of the back yard. His mother put up a major fuss when we got within ten feet of her baby so we backed off and used the zoom to take the photo.

He's tinier than my thumb. Thank God R spotted him; I'm not sure I would have noticed him in the grass. Looks like there will be no lawn mowing until all the fledglings are established.

Two sparrow fledges popped up on the top step of the deck, all fluttery and open-mouthed as their mother (or maybe father; birds can be egalitarian) swooped down to feed them. I got all mushy inside as the baby birds filled their crops. It reminded me of when we hand-fed Grouch and Squirt years ago. (Insert big sigh here.) There's something about baby birds that's irresistible. Same with puppies and kittens and the little groundhog who trotted across the deck the other day, struggling to keep up with his mother.

And what about the bunny twins (no, not the Hefner kind) who camp out under the bird feeders, sprawled on their bellies, back legs extended, munching seed, talking trash, not a worry in the world.

I love it here. I really do.

Sunday, June 7, 2009


Memory Lane can be a dangerous place to visit. I was going through old journals and photo albums today and pretty much feel like someone ripped my heart from my chest.

I found this photo of my dad and me, taken around the summer of 1951 "between the houses." That's what we called the little private alleyway that ran between the two-family house where we lived and the two-family house next door. It was maybe six or eight feet wide and sometimes we'd set up beach chairs and sit there. A ground level version of the city dweller's Tar Beach.

That's my dad. And that's me. But I'll bet you figured that out for yourself.

And yes I was a daddy's girl. How did you guess?

Friday, June 5, 2009

Mrs. Mike, my rite of passage

Photo: Marko Metzinger/Studio D

That's pretty much how my first copy of Mrs. Mike looked when I married and moved to Omaha many years ago as a teenage newlywed. The badly worn blue cover, the line drawing of the young bride and her handsome Mountie, the pages all creased and bent, stained with hot cocoa and endless tears. Suddenly I was Mrs. Mike on my way to my own adventure far from home. My new husband wasn't a Mountie but he was a man in uniform and the trip from New York City to the plains of Nebraska seemed every bit as exciting.

Someone once told me that the books we read as children are the books that stay with us for a lifetime, the books that most influence the men and women we become, and I agree. Okay, so maybe Nancy Drew (girl sleuth), Cherry Ames (apple-cheeked nurse), and Vicki Barr (post-war stewardess) weren't exactly what she had in mine but there's no denying that inside this 58 year old writer lives all three of those characters.

And, of course, there's Mrs. Mike. I was ten years old the first time I read Benedict and Nancy Freedman's book. A day-dreaming, book-loving only child who liked nothing more than to disappear into a great story. Some kids dreamed of growing up and moving to NYC. I dreamed of getting out. (The truth? I would have kicked the Big Apple to the curb for the chance to live in suburbia.) And you couldn't get much farther away than the Great North. You can keep those sun-swept beaches; give me the Canadian wilderness in the dead of winter with a gorgeous Mountie to push back the blizzards and keep you warm at night.

I'll admit it. I fell head-over-heels in love with Mike Flannigan. The way I remembered the book, he was the perfect romantic hero. In my memory, Mrs. Mike was the love story to end all love stories, the one that swept me off my feet and kept me that way for over forty years. I write romance for a living and I read it for pleasure and nothing I'd encountered, no matter how wonderful the book, came close to the dazzling tale of Kathy and Mike.

And the best part? It was true!

Or at least I thought it was right up until an issue of O Magazine (12/07) hit my mailbox and I devoured Peggy Orenstein's wonderful article Mrs. Mike Changed My Life and discovered that not only was there no Santa Claus, my beloved Mrs. Mike was fiction.

Yes. FICTION. Like Orenstein, I'd paid no attention to that very telling word on the spine of my paperback. I'd swallowed the book whole and made it my own. I believed every word like it was the Bible handed down from the Mount. Mike and Kathy Flannigan were real. They lived and breathed and loved.

Except they weren't. Mrs. Mike was based on Kathy Flannigan's real story but it was still a novel. My heart was broken. Silly, isn't it, to be so invested for so long in a book and feel so betrayed to discover that the Freedmans had plied the novelist's trade in telling it.

So I did what you would probably have done too: I sat down and re-read Mrs. Mike. I expected to be swept up again into the romance of it all same as I had been as a child. I expected to empathize with Kathy, fall madly in love with Mike, make lots of happy friends in my frontier town.

Hey, wait a minute! What's going on? This isn't the sweet love story I remember. This story has hard edges. People get hurt in this story. Children die. Towns burn to the ground. Terrible illnesses sweep across the range. Marriages don't always work out quite the way you expect them to.

It all seemed new to me. Somehow over the years I'd air-brushed the book into a glossy (snowy) love story with the kind of perfect happy ending we all dream about. The kind the fictional Kathy and Mike really didn't get. (Neither did the real life Kathy and Mike, for that matter.)

My memory retained the sparks and the passion and discarded the rest. Yes, I still like the book but do you want to know the truth? Right now I wish I hadn't re-read it. I miss the Mrs. Mike of my dreams.

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Squirrel-proof feeder meets feeder-proof squirrel

Guess who wins?

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Thursday, June 4, 2009

NINC blog post up

I have a new blog post up on the Novelists Inc blog. It's titled Fear Factor and it's about writing scared. I hope you'll stop by and check it out if you have a chance. Thanks!

Visit Novelists, Inc.

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Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Edith Layton

Edith Layton and her beloved Georgie Girl


Monday, June 1, 2009

Superfreaky - a visual definition

Introducing the Daniel Craig popsicle, a limited edition courtesy Del Monte in the U.K.

Talk amongst yourselves. I'm going out to have my retinas repaired.


You Say To-may-toh . . .

. . . and I say WOW! Four -- yes, 4!! -- new tomatoes on one of the deck plants!

Is it possible to love produce a little too much?

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