Sunday, December 30, 2012

Sports, New Orleans, and the Psyche of Cities

During this school year, some of my students researched British football teams for their term papers. In English IV, we were analyzing all things British.  The students who selected British football teams discovered players like David Beckham, controversies such as the Hillsborough incident, and rivalries between the cities of Liverpool and Manchester.  I explained to those young researchers that to many of the people in those cities, much like New Orleans, their teams represented more to them than a winning team.  They often carried the spirit of the city with them.

In New Orleans, our Saints certainly carry the pride and soul of our city, and we embrace them for it.  God knows that New Orleans has undergone drastic changes over the years, and since the late 1960's, the New Orleans Saints have been part of our history.  At times, the relationship was ambivalent.  The team boasted some players of note, but we lost like poor gamblers in the 1980s, and many fans wore bags over their heads.  Nonetheless, we still flocked to the Dome on Poydras Street, forever hopeful.  We loved them even when they were the "Aints." When Katrina struck, we feared Mr. Benson would move the team to the bowels of Texas, but the final move didn't happen, and Benson's Saints became our city's greatest supporters. We stopped fashioning voodoo dolls in Mr. Benson's image and embraced him as a jocular Pere holding an umbrella in the second line.  Who knows?  Maybe our faith and love united the Saints.  They started to play as a team, and we were Super Bowl bound! "Kick that ball through that f-ing fleur de lis, son, you belong here."  Wow, we know Payton's words by heart.

In the past year, we've suffered through the bounty scandal.  I'm not excusing loutish behavior, but if the NFL bigwigs think we're the only mad dogs in the NFL, they're wearing blinders.  We took our punishment as we must, but the Saints good behavior outweighs their bad behavior.  Our boys visit hospitals, schools, and children's homes bringing cheer to patients and students.  Drew Brees and his fellow players have donated to charitable organizations.  They are visible in the community, shopping at local markets and stores.  We'll be back with our coach next year. (You know, that guy with the good Irish first name). Bless you, boys.

So, yes, I understand the passion people in Liverpool, Manchester, and other English and/or Irish towns feel for their teams.  Teams are often close to their cities because they speak to the cities' hearts and souls.  I understand why Liverpool doesn't like Manchester. We don't exactly love Dallas.  (Sorry, Texas, you guys are nice neighbors, but we don't like your Dallas team!) I understand why the city of Liverpool, its officials, and its club wanted justice after the disastrous Hillsborough incident because their fans were maligned and killed after that terrible event. Katrina inundated our city, killed many of our citizens, and forced us from our homes.  That catastrophe wasn't the result of a football incident but a systematic industrial and governmental failure. But--the Saints gave us a ray of hope in the midst of despair, rescuing us from the terror of loss and the hopelessness we felt as we rebuilt.  Our Saints are close to our hearts because they helped with the resurrection of our city and our psyche in the most damaging of times.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Sex and Intimacy

Recently, a colleague of mine--very much in her cups--said she admired me for writing stories with sex in them because I taught high school and was "unapologetic" about writing my "steamy" romances.  What's ironic is that I don't see my novels as "steamy."  Oh, they contain sex.  I don't deny that, but they are studies in intimacy--spiritual as well as physical--because what makes a truly romantic scene is that union between two people when their bodies, minds, and hearts are in perfect sync.  Call me a diehard romantic, but it's something I've searched for and found elusive.  I believe there can be intimacy without sex, but when the intimacy is a complete union of body and soul, we find true bliss.  Okay, call me a dreamer, to paraphrase John Lennon--but I'm not the only one.

My books contain characters who search for and find that intimacy of body and soul.  In Buried Truths,  a couple reunite after a long, devastating and forced separation that almost ruined their lives.  Never did they find true happiness with anyone but each other and only their reunion could bring them real contentment.  In Pirate Woman, my editor said, "This isn't a strictly boy meets girl story."  She was right. It wasn't. It's the story of Grainne "Grace" O'Malley, the Irish pirate.  It wasn't a straightforward love story because it's the tale of a woman who forges her own life (which I also find important) but who works to find common ground with the men in her life. Her relationship with a handsome Scottish gallowglass is passionate and intense, and her later relationship with her second husband Richard develops into a marriage of body and soul.  In The Doctor and the War Widow, Harley Michel must learn that love can find her again with a man who is not like her first husband but every bit as noble.  Their love affair culminates in the rugged port city of Liverpool.  Probably the characters who embody this marriage of minds, hearts, and bodies are Nuala and Keith in Love at War. So deep is Nuala's love for her husband that she ventures into enemy territory to avenge what she believes is his death, and Keith forgives what some would call her betrayal to hold her in his arms again.  (Check out my books at

I wasn't offended by my colleagues comments.  She meant them as a compliment, and they were uttered with admiration.  What I pray for all of my readers and friends is that they find this kind of fulfillment that my characters do because intimacy can lead to bliss only when the emotions intertwine with the pulsing blood of physicality.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Teachers and the not-so-starry path

I've written too often about tragedies involving violence. Nutty people killing innocents is sadly becoming all too frequent, but today, I'm going to write about teachers.  The adults killed in the Newtown, Connecticut incident were teachers who died trying to protect the kids in their care.

Over twenty years ago, I entered the teaching profession.  My career began as a teaching assistant at the college level, and I had no idea what teaching really entailed.  When I began teaching high school, I was an idealist, and I wrongly believed that I would stand in front of my students pontificating like some guru.  They would sit in rapt attention as I dispensed my knowledge and wisdom. Needless to say, I had a rude awakening. Students were sometimes unruly and did not think me wise, but as the job grew more demanding, my commitment to teaching increased.  Students provided me with a challenge, and I found ways to reach them and teach them.

They pushed me, and I pushed back.  On this rather bumpy journey, I learned about my students as individuals.  Their strengths, flaws, and special needs made them unique people.  I'll remember some of my students forever, and the most memorable were often the ones who required my attention more than did their peers.

Teaching isn't always easy.  In fact, it sometimes is a contact sport. Some students challenge us verbally and/or physically.  Parents sometimes see teachers as adversaries.  So why do teachers enter the profession of low pay and frequent insults?  Teachers show up every day because the rewards cancel out the negative moments.  I continue to teach because students I once taught still trust me enough to ask for my help on papers they are writing for college.  I teach because my students have said, "I hated how hard you were, but I'm really glad now you were.  I aced my college English classes."  Some of my students have told me, "I'm a teacher because of you."  I entered the profession of teaching as an idealist.  Now, I'm no longer idealistic, and my approach to teaching is as a hardened warrior who has seen the horror of war but still loves the fight for right.  I'm now a writer as well as a teacher, but the profession never leaves me.  Two of my protagonists are teachers.  In THE DOCTOR AND THE WAR WIDOW (, Harley is jaded and disillusioned until love helps her reclaim her desire to fulfill her mission.  She leaves her comfortable job to pursue a path even more demanding than the one she has.

Why do I teach?  I teach for the reason many teachers do.  There was some teacher who inspired them. In grade school, I was  a fat, shy kid with buck teeth until Mrs. Linda Pappalardo made me think I was special.  In high school, I was a bookish but uninspired student until Sr. Martha Maguire ignited my love of literature.

So, why do I and many of my fellow teachers continue to work in a profession too often like a contact sport?  We teach because we remember those inspirational people who moved us, and we hope to move others as we were.  We want to help young people reach the stars, but that path is not always a star-filled sky.  We sometimes must discipline our students. We sometimes are called to protect them even when they don't want our help.  More and more, teachers are even required to lay down their lives for their students.  The pictures of the dead children in Newtown, Connecticut were devastating, but  I was most moved by the picture of the dead teachers.  Victoria Soto was around the age of many of my former students who now teach.  She died protecting the children in her charge. Her young life is also cut tragically short.

The path to helping students realize their goals can be a dark, starless night, but then, the stars emerge--the stars that beam youth and beauty.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Christmas: The Spirit of the Season

In the novel A Christmas Carol, Scrooge is a miserly soul whose only concern is money and gain.  Ironically, Scrooge does nothing with his vast wealth, not even making himself comfortable until he is visited by three spirits who show him the error of his ways.  Of course, some would argue in this era of crass commercialism that some cynicism is in order.  After all, we are bombarded with ads for expensive goods at the holiday season, and all of these ads seemingly only want our money.  Any of us would have to be millionaires to afford all of the products pushed by vendors. I, too, become disillusioned with the commercial aspect of the holiday.  At times, Christmas buying has resulted in violence, even death.  Remember a few years ago in the States when customers at a Wal-Mart pushed through the doors before the store officially opened? A security guard was trampled, and the shoppers were upset when the management closed the store so that EMTs could tend to the dying man.  Where was the true Christmas spirit in those people as they ran over their fellow human being?

It is because of the vastly commercial nature of modern Christmas that I referenced Dickens' tale.  When I feel that I am becoming like Scrooge, I think of Dickens' amazing story and its lesson.  Some people scoff at the story's piety and unapologetic mysticism, but what the story shows is that the season should be a time of generosity originating from the soul.  I don't think Dickens--or God, for that matter-- would advocate such reckless spending that we all go bankrupt, but I do think that the season is a time to give what we can to those we love and to those in need.  Often, that is not the most expensive toy or item in the store. Sometimes, it is the gift of time and of love.  If we can give, we should think of those in need who may have less this holiday season and spread cheer.  Sometimes that gift may be money but sometimes it may be a smile or an hour of our time.  Yep, this comes from me--the author of historical romances that are often violent. In fact, some people may think it's ironic that I'd be writing about Christmas cheer when Red Rose Publishing is going to publish one of my stories, a story about love gone wrong at a Christmas Eve party, but my story shows how the stress of the season can lead to hurt and humiliation.

People of many faiths celebrate their holidays for various reasons, and those celebrations hold importance to the celebrants for a variety of secular, religious, and sentimental reasons.  Most people remember good times with families and friends at these times in addition to the sacred meaning of holidays like Christmas or Hanukkah.  (I don't mean to leave out any holiday, by the way. Those two have come to mind eaisly). Some of us hurt during the holidays because of losses we've experienced, but these religious holidays should be times of giving from the heart--giving of our love and our treasure if we can afford it.  This season, I've decided I will give to charities providing for needy children.  I'm no millionaire.  I can't give much, but  I will give what I can to help someone.  I also will be more tolerant of the people in my life and tell them I love them, and on Christmas Day, I will light a candle in church for my parents--two people no longer here but who gave me so much.

My prayer for my family and friends is that the joy of the holidays fills their hearts with peace and love.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

E-publishing and the Old Guard

I've listened with interest to the debate surrounding e-publishing.  Many traditional publishers and literary critics mourn what they sometimes call the "death" of the traditional print book. They frequently look upon e-published books as the bastard sister that has stabbed her more sophisticated and desirable sibling in the back, even stealing her boyfriend.  Another scenario:  According to traditionalists, the paper novel is the $5,000 a night professional while the e-book is a pay-by-the-hour working girl, standing on the corner flashing her coarser wares.

What many people don't seem to realize is that writing and the production of artistry through writing have evolved throughout the ages.  Change is nothing new.  The earliest people wrote crudely upon cave walls, communicating their thoughts to those no more advanced than they--but maybe in their times, they were very advanced.  When we discovered how to place the written word onto paper tablets many years later, human beings' ability to disseminate their thoughts was still sorely limited.  We hear much about Medieval monks copying by hand biblical stories as well as documents relevant to their culture, but those who could benefit from such writing were a limited few--other religious and the wealthy, who could afford such masterpieces.  Johann Gutenberg's perfection of the printing press  revolutionized the publishing industry, making books more accessible to millions.  The Protestant Reformation made reading and writing essential to biblical study.  Books, however, were still costly luxuries for the few.

The book continues to evolve as does what fascinates readers.  In modern times, we've seen hardback books and softback books. The price of both has risen substantially over the years. Critics have bemoaned that people "no longer read."    Readership has declined, but many people still do read.  They simply cannot afford to buy a luxury purchase. Many have flocked to libraries instead.  Let's look at how expensive books are.  My high school paper copy of Pride and Prejudice was $.50. Such a book would now be at least $5.  Hardbacks around the same period were $8-12.  Now, those books are $25-30.  Many people want to read, but the books are not affordable. What we enjoy to read has also changed, but change is nothing new in the literary world.  For example, I looked at a textbook of poetry  produced circa 1932.  Several poems by Samuel Taylor Coleridge's son Hartley are in the volume but not one of Coleridge's master works.  Yet, only a few years later, Coleridge's poems are in texts but none of Hartley's.  My point is that what is considered important literature shifts with community tastes. Critics said that children no longer read and certainly wouldn't read a huge book.  A British woman named J. K. Rowling proved them wrong.  Still others said even adults didn't have the patience with big books or complex plots, but a Swede named Stieg Larsson made us care about a girl with a dragon tattoo.

How does that link to e-publishing?  Tastes evolve and so does the technology through which we produce books.  The technological revolution, as well as ecological concerns about tree conservation, have led to changes in how we read books.  In the West, we are fast-moving societies.  We travel and sometimes even take mass transit while we work  or play.  For that reason, many people love their e-readers.  They can carry a small device that easily fits into a purse or briefcase.  They can go on vacation and take several books.  With the birth of technology, authors can now reach a generation of young people reared on technology.  Technology also has opened up new avenues for authors.  Traditional publishing is highly competitive and somewhat closed.  Many people are now publishing their own books through avenues like Amazon.  I'm not saying everyone should publish a book.  Some people can't write, but some people are very good writers. They have self-published or sought out e-publishers, many of whom are more open about accepting promising authors.  Where many traditional houses only take "established" authors or "slam dunk" books, e-publishers are often more open and willing to take a risk on someone who is up and coming.  And while not everyone publishing is great, many new authors are very talented.  Their work is well-written and researched.

I am not saying that print publishing is dead.  I also like print books, but I don't think that traditional publishing can ignore the impact of technology.  Even print authors now host blogs and have Facebook pages.  Promoting oneself is essential, and the means of promotion cannot only be through print media. I think print publishing and e-publishing can grow together in healthy respect.  Long live writing! Long live the written word!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Movie Lincoln and Superb Acting

Yesterday, I went to see the movie Lincoln.  Bravo, Steven Spielberg and the cast!  The scenery and images were superb, and as always, Spielberg had assembled a stellar cast.  Tommy Lee Jones was superb as Thadeuss Stevens, an avid supporter of racial equality.  That proud Texan and Harvard grad never disappoints.  Sally Field also was amazing as Mary Todd Lincoln, a woman holding onto sanity amid the pressures of a wartime White House and the loss of a young son. The actor at the heart of the drama, however, is Daniel Day-Lewis as Lincoln. Day-Lewis' Lincoln spellbinds. Whenever he is on camera, I can't take my eyes from him.  He dominates the screen as only he can.

I first saw Day-Lewis in the 1980s.  He'd played a gay tough in My Beautiful Laundrette and an effete aristocrat in A Room with a View.  Both films emerged in the same year, but Day-Lewis is unrecognizable in each role.  He embodied the characters, and many people were shocked but impressed to learn the characters been portrayed by the same actor.  He is a man who lives the fates of his characters.  When playing Christie Brown, the crippled Irish actor, Day-Lewis lived in his wheelchair and learned to write with his left foot.  He so channeled the role of Hamlet that he had to leave the role when memories of his late father, the poet Cecil Day-Lewis, began haunting him. Day-Lewis has never failed to impress.  He is convincing as the lecherous doctor Tomas in The Unbearable Lightness of Being and as the tortured Puritan farmer John Proctor in The Crucible. He is a scout in The Last of the Mohicans. He is a wrongfully convicted Irishman in In the Name of the Father and a ruthless oilman but doting father in There Will Be Blood. While filming The Crucible, Day-Lewis formed a lasting friendship with Arthur Miller, and soon, the son of a man of letters married Rebecca Miller, the daughter of a man of letters.

And now Lincoln.  Day-Lewis ably portrays Lincoln's kindness and humanity while still showing the steel within the man.  He converses with African-American soldiers and tells anecdotal tales to his staff.  He is a loving father to his sons as well as a tolerant husband to his unhappy but loving wife.  However, Lincoln also is a determined man.  He argues the law with the acumen of men more educated than he and is willing to use subterfuge to gain passage of an amendment he deems fair and essential to the survival of the country. Through it all, Day-Lewis lets the appropriate emotions grace his face.  Spielberg's lighting and direction also illustrate the isolation as well as humanity of the man.  We see every doubt as well as kindness on the man's well-lined visage.  We also see him walk down a long hallway, his back to the camera as he deals with conflicts within his family, his party, and his country.

Bravo to a talented cast and director!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Into the World of Celts, England and Beatles

I've always loved travel.  Even before I ventured beyond my own city, I loved reading of different places and eras.  One reason I'm a novelist is because I loved reading about different places and people when I was a child.  I hated being rooted to one place--even one era--and oh, I liked having a place to which to return, but I hated feeling rooted.  Wanderlust has never deserted me.

My first trip out of the country was to London.  That was a revelation.  I was enthralled by the Strand, the British Museum, and Trafalgar Square.  The West End theatre scene was a delight, and I attended as many plays as I could.  While attending a production of THE PIRATES OF PENZANCE, I caught a glimpse of Ringo Starr and his wife Barbara Bach in the audience.  They cut out immediately after the show, but my celebrity sighting was thrilling nonetheless.  When I visited Westminister Abbey, the graves of the literary dead and late politicians transported me to other eras of adventure and daring.  What was it like to live in Elizabeth's day, to be her lady-in-waiting?  A side trip to Stratford transported me to Renaissance England.  The carefully preserved structures serve as illusory tricks, and the observer almost expects to see gentlemen and ladies in period clothes.  The theatre there astounded me. I saw Derek Jacobi as Prospero in THE TEMPEST. His ringing soliloquy at the play's end had the audience on its feet clapping, and the stage went black when he broke the staff above his head.  Of course, one of my fondest personal memories is of walking back to the hotel on New Year's Eve.  I'd ventured out alone and couldn't find a taxi. The streets were filled with revelers, and I'd left THE MOUSETRAP.  I had no alternative but to walk.  When I came to Trafalgar Square, wild revelers were  jumping into the fountain.  Hell, when in Rome. . . I did, too!  Then, I walked back dripping wet and cold but very happy.  When I returned to New Orleans, my mother asked me why my coat was so dirty.  I gave her some lame excuse, but I don't think was fooled.

That wasn't my only sojourn into the land of Shakespeare.  I've returned several times, but the most memorable visit to London was when I was a scholar, finishing my doctorate.  I spent time in the British Library--so much time that I thought I'd become a library rat, hiding in the stacks.  I had to surrender my possessions when I made my way to the desk.  I donned gloves to touch some of the work my Blake.  While I was there, I looked for some books that no one could find.  One young man said, "It may have been lost in the war, ma'am." An alarm went off later, and we had to vacate the building.  The reality of war, and by extension terrorism, became very real.  This was before 9/11, but the British filed out the building very calmly.  KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON. This was a country that had been bombed extensively, and I realized the price of war.  When my mother died, I read her own brothers' letters home while they were stationed overseas.  It was then that I began to formulate the plot of LOVE AT WAR, but when I write, my influences are only subliminally in my consciousness.  It is only later that I realize their impact, and my travels to England, being steeped in its history, also contributed to parts of the novel.

My time in London didn't end my traveling.  Ireland is the ancestral home of many long gone relatives; I first visited Galway and the Aran Islands.  Never had I seen land so green, so lush.  The people were friendly, generous, and open. The local music scene in Galway pulsated.  In the Aran Islands, sheep sometimes blocked traffic, and I climbed Dun Aengus with people who would become close friends.  During the day, I explored the city and village.  At night, I listened to my friends Danny and Misha crank out amazing Irish music.  When I stood by the Cliffs of Moher and looked at the rugged but beautiful land, I think I knew even then I'd write a book about this place.  Years later, when I went to Dublin, I learned more about the grit of my ancestors.  As I explored the famous General Post Office and the National Museum, I discovered more about the "terrible beauty" that formed this great country. I attended Mass in the Pro Cathedral and toured St. Patrick's.  I put back a few pints of Guinness and loved being in the land of Joyce and Yeats.  Oh, let's not forget Heaney.  And I loved the connection to the sea.  Whenever I thought of the West, I wanted to celebrate that land, and I think PIRATE WOMAN, my book about Grace O'Malley formed then.  She was the ultimate rebel woman who embodied the dangerous and rugged existence of this country and its people.

My musical taste has always been eclectic, and I've journeyed twice to Liverpool, reveling in the history and spirit of the people.  I ventured into the preserved homes of John Lennon and Paul McCartney.  I toured Beatle haunts like the Grapes as well as the resurrected Cavern.  I was moved by the White Feather exhibit, Julian Lennon's tribute to his father, but I soon learned that Liverpool had even more to offer than Beatles memorabilia.  The Tate Liverpool contains some amazing artwork, and the Maritime Museum celebrates Liverpool's contribution to Britain's naval history.  Most moving was the exhibit on slavery and the many stories of young people still sold into slavery of one kind or another. I toured St. George's Hall and imagined the fate of criminals in the 1800s.  I strolled a street called Penny Lane and then ran my hand along the gates at Strawberry Field.  The ideas flowed.  THE DOCTOR AND THE WAR WIDOW is set partly in Liverpool, and my main character accepts a marriage proposal there.

Where will my nest journey take me? I don't know, but the other part of my family is German.  My mother used to tell me of my great-grandmother Katherine who came from Baden, Germany. She went to work in a butcher's shop and was so small she had to stand on a box.  No child labor laws then! I wish I'd known Katherine. I wish I'd learned German at her knee.  Maybe Germany should be next--or Italy. I like Italian men. Both would be great places to set stories.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Origins of Buried Truths

On October 18, 2012, Red Rose Publishing will reissue my first published e-book BURIED TRUTHS.   Another publisher, now defunct, initially released the novel in 2008, but the story made an even more circuitous journey from my brain to my pen.  (Yes, I still plot with my pen.)

The idea developed from an encounter I had with a young woman in a local book store. As I was leaving, the rather confused clerk shyly asked if she could pose a question to me.  When I said yes, she indicated that a friend of hers was looking for her birth mother.  According to the young clerk, I was a dead ringer for her friend.  Had I produced a baby and given her up for adoption? I told the young woman that I hadn't given birth to a child. Andrea, the employee, said she hoped I wasn't offended.  The girl's embarrassment was palpable, but I reassured her I'd taken no offense.  As I walked to my car, the wheels inside my brain began turning.  What if someone had been asked that question and it were true?  Of course, the hypothetical person would deny it to a stranger, but what would she do when she was alone?

In BURIED TRUTHS, a book store clerk asks Heather Kerry that question. Did you have a baby and give him up for adoption? In this case, the young woman is inquiring about her husband's birth mother, and Heather, like my hypothetical person, denies having had a child.  Of course, that's a lie.  Heather gave her son up for adoption twenty-three years before. After the encounter with the pretty bookstore employee, Heather returns home, pours a stiff drink, and then calls the man she hasn't seen since she surrendered her child to strangers.

In BURIED TRUTHS, Heather and Wesley, her former lover, must confront their pasts and see if they still have a future, and I sometimes think of that young woman searching for her mother in New Orleans. Did she find her birth mother? Did they have a future? My protagonists have to search for people they lost.  Did this young woman search and find what she sought?

Sunday, September 9, 2012

The Danger of Holding onto the Past

I'm tired of listening to people who are mired in the past--as if everything about bygone times was idyllic and halcyon.  Nothing remains the same, and life is made for moving onward.  Years ago, scores of Americans who deemed themselves upwardly mobile abandoned their roots to live in cheap suburban tract houses.  They consequently condemned their children to fantasy lives of privacy fences and manufactured domesticity.  Many of them were quick to condemn those who wanted anything other than what they deemed a conventional, domestic life.  They lived their lives as they wanted, and that was fine for them if they wanted such a life.  However, no one should by judged or condemned for rejecting the white picket fence or suburban living.

We all should have lives that work for us, and sometimes that means abandoning the socially conservative ideas of the past.  Not all of us are comfortable living the lives of others or adopting their often judgmental values. Don't misunderstand.  I enjoy nostalgia. It often reminds me of the good times in my childhood.  I love old pictures as well, and I belong to Facebook groups like "Ain't Dere No More," but I'm not--and should not be--bound to some outmoded concept of what others think is "the good life." To one generation, that may have been a white picket fence in the burbs.  For another, that might mean living a Bohemian life Uptown, in the French Quarter, or in an artist's flat in Paris or New York.  No narrow-minded individual should have the right to judge other adults for their lifestyle choices or think that they even have the right to an opinion.  Of course, some misguided and narrow people think they have such a right.

I am first and foremost the bootlegger's daughter.  I do what I must to survive.  My father forged his own destiny, and I recently finished a manuscript based--somewhat loosely--on his life.  As a kid, my father delivered ice for the still existent Pelican Ice Company.  When the Depression claimed the life of his first wife, he bootlegged so that the family could survive.  The Depression killed his wife, so he wouldn't play by any governmental rules.  He later booked and trained racehorses.  In that way, he is very much like Jude Mooney, my protagonist.  My father didn't regret the past, but he didn't idealize it, either.  When people said to him, "I remember when an apple was a nickel," my dad would clip back, "Who the hell had the nickel?"  Both of my parents forged their own destinies.  My mother, my father's fourth wife, married him even though the neighbors told her he was a "racketeer."  My mother didn't care.  She knew what she wanted.  I'm not saying her life was always easy, but she told me she didn't regret anything.  She'd really liked "the old bugger."  Daddy was seventeen years older than she.  Like my parents, I respect the past, but I don't make a shrine to it.  Some people think doing so is the only way to honor the dead and feel that moving on is almost sinful.

As a writer, I've forged my own way as well.  My female characters often defy the conventional roles and stereotypes.  Nuala in LOVE AT WAR and Grainne in PIRATE WOMAN throw aside the roles ascribed to them by society,  Nuala becomes a covert operative during WWII to gain vengeance on those who killed her husband.  Grainne defies the traditional role of an Irish chieftain's daughter, running her husband's sea interests.  Of all my heroines, Harley in THE DOCTOR AND THE WAR WIDOW was in some ways the most tragic to write.  She is mired in grief for a past that is dead.  Only when she lets go of that past can she breathe again.

Monday, September 3, 2012

The Illusion of Safety

I'm writing this after Hurricane Isaac roared into coastal Mississippi and Louisiana, destroying lives and property.  Many these days feel frustrated or fragile.  Some judgmental people in other parts of the country wonder how we can live where hurricanes strike.  We wonder how they can live around tornadoes, earthquakes, and crippling snow.

 For all of us in this world, safety is an illusion we foster to keep ourselves sane.  Of course, there are things people can do to minimize hazard.  In areas prone to hurricane damage, people can evacuate to higher ground. They can raise their homes.  In places prone to tornadoes, people should drill to find safe havens in the event of such a natural occurrence.  All of these things are sensible precautions, but they are only that--precautions.  For most of us in this world, we live with the belief that our lives will
drone on in a mundane fashion until we die in our beds.  We rise in the morning, pack the kids off to school, head to work, and then head home in the midst of rush-hour traffic.  Most of us also are not willing to face a stark reality: Our concept of safety is a manufactured idea.  No matter what steps we can take to minimize danger, it is part of our daily lives.  Some people live in the grip of war, fearing for their safety every day, and the reality is that any of us could find ourselves in the midst of war.  All someone has to do is bomb us or fly planes into an iconic building, and we, too, are at war.  Other people live in the grip of grinding poverty and crime.  Our self-created concept of safety is as transient as the proverbial moth consumed by flame.  We live in a world that is the antithesis of safety.  Mad people walk into movie theaters, shooting innocents who have gathered to watch a film.  Others walk into houses of worship, intent upon murder.  Still other cold morons abuse their own children, placing those kids on a path to self-destruction. Other idiots pit dogs against each other in cruel fights.  (I'd love to see them in the path of a hurricane with no shelter!)

My dad died when I was quite young.  We had to leave the home I'd known since I was a child.  Early on, I learned that things change and that things can be taken away from us.  In my books, my characters also face this reality.  In LOVE AT WAR,,  Nuala puts herself in harm's way to avenge the death of her husband.  So determined is she to avenge his death that she willingly places herself in the arms of the enemy.  For her, facing death is second to obtaining her revenge.  In PIRATE WOMAN,, Grainne O'Malley faces other pirates and stares down the gun barrels of her British oppressors in order to defend her family and clan.  In THE DOCTOR AND THE WAR WIDOW,, Harley Michel faces a less tangible danger--danger to her heart.  As a grieving widow, she must decide if she'll risk loving again.  She places her soul and sanity at risk when she enters an internet dating site and meets a man who holds both promise and danger.

All of my protagonists faced risks, but they chose to take those risks and live life to the fullest, and that's my point in this post.  We never know when danger will find us, but we have to live life fully. As Tennyson said in the persona of Ulysses, "I will drink life to the lees."

Friday, July 20, 2012

Tragedy in Colorado

This morning, Americans awoke to news that has echoed around the world.  An armed gunman marched into a Colorado movie theatre during a midnight showing of "The Dark Night Rises" and fired into the spectators, killing at least twelve people and injuring at least fifty more.  The news is horrific, and everyone--from politicians to the media to ordinary citizens--is expressing shock.  When I checked Facebook this morning, friends from as far away as Australia and Europe were sending prayers to those affected.

When such a tragedy occurs, it is natural for us to theorize about why such things happen.  We want to find a reason for an act that is so senseless, but no reasonable answer can be found in so terrible an act.  We want an answer because this senseless violence makes us fearful for our own safety.  How many of those people in that theatre imagined they would die while attending a movie?  The very thought reminds us of the fragility of our own lives.

When we ask why, we have to acknowledge that violence surrounds us in the world.  War engulf large parts of the globe.  Violence in our streets has taken the lives of many innocents, and as a society, we have become less tolerant, more violent, and angrier as each year passes.  We care less about others' feelings and well-being, worrying only about our own needs, feelings, and opinions.  Drivers scream at other motorists. Politicians  snipe and cast blame but don't work together.  Common citizens insult each other on the Internet--on social media such as Facebook, Twitter, and blogs.  Very few debates take place with respect.  We're all too busy attacking each other's morals or opinions to listen to anyone's point.  We don't think we can or should respect anyone who isn't our carbon copy.  Our collective mantra is, "I'm right, and you don't matter.  You are only something to be crushed or shot down."

Remember a few years ago when rabid Walmart customers trampled a guard at Christmastime in their quest to be first in the store?  Their goal: collect some lame gifts and beat the other shoppers to it.  Why are we so shocked about Colorado?  It's typical of what we as human beings are becoming.  Our collective mantra: "I'm pissed, I don't like you, and I don't care if you're hurt!"

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Change and the Times Picayune

Barring a miracle, New Orleans will lose its daily print edition of the New Orleans Times Picayune by fall.  The decision by the new management has resulted in angry comments and no shortage of heartache.  A number of respected journalists have lost jobs, and we will be the only major metropolitan area without a daily print edition of the paper.

The new head of the organization has assured us that the paper will appear in print on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays--in a more "robust" form., its digital counterpart, will become more "user friendly."  Today, the paper launched a full-length story about how digital media had spread the word about Katrina when the city was drowning and that the reality of the digital age made this change necessary.  I fully realize that the world has changed.  I, for one, publish books in an e-format.  Today, many of us find a great deal of our information online.  We google and tweet.  We receive "mail" via our computers and pay our bills online. I am usually one to embrace change, and I fully understand that a business (which a newspaper is) has to bring in revenue.  However, change should not disenfranchise those in a modern society.  Many elderly people are not computer-savvy.  Many poor people, marginalized already, will be even more so.  Of course, most people with wealth don't care about them, anyway.  Not all people have ready access to a computer.  I also am not saying that those who prefer the digital version shouldn't have that avenue provided.  This is an age of choice--or should be-- but many people will only see the stirring headlines and compelling pictures if the paper remains in print.  When I wrote Love At War, (, I researched old newspaper clippings about the outbreak of World War II.  Today, as I work on a Depression/Prohibition era manuscript, I definitely will look at old clippings of the TP from that time.  However, I know I am more fortunate than some.  I can navigate around a computer.  Not everyone can.

What is probably most disturbing is the attitude of the new management to the concerns of the citizenry.  The concerted protests of residents do not matter.  We are collateral damage in the new management's greedy quest for revenue.  Many prominent people have offered solutions.  Some entrepreneurs and businesspeople have proposed buying the paper at a fair price.  He whose name we do not speak has said it doesn't matter how much "noise" we make.  Well, we are not some local yokels.  Maybe our local advertisers should boycott you. Maybe we should make Howard Avenue a protest ground.  Thank you for walking over us.  Maybe you raised our consciousness as never before.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Heroism and the author's challenge

James Baldwin has said that "a real writer is always shifting an changing and searching."  Like James Baldwin, I believe a writer should grow continually.  Some people ask me why I write in so many different genres, and the reason is simply that I like the challenge.  Historical fiction challenges me as a researcher.  In grad school, I was one of the people from Mars who loved the challenge of research.  On the other hand, writing a mystery is like solving a puzzle.  The pieces have to be in place in order to solve the mystery and reveal the criminal. Contemporary romances reaffirm the principles of true love and sacrifice.  

After my mother died, writing became more than a hobby. The need to write was embedded in my very being--an escape and refuge in a sea of grief.  It also became a way to channel energy after a year that was academically stifling.  I reveled in the journey into another time, losing myself in people who faced challenges but who rose to the challenge. 

Christopher Reeve has said, "a hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles."  Nuala, the protagonist in LOVE AT WAR (, evolves from a rather sheltered girl into a covert operative, skilled in the art of weaponry and deception.  She doesn't think--at the beginning of the story--that she ever will be called upon to perform any acts of heroism, but within the course of the novel, Nuala grows in ways she never would have imagined.  At the start of the story, Nuala is a rather innocent girl living a sheltered life with her working class New Orleans family.  Love transforms her in ways she could never foresee, and when her husband is supposedly killed in action, Nuala joins covert operations, intent upon seeking revenge while she destroys the enemy.  Nuala, her husband Keith, and her brothers were heroes--not because they were extraordinary people--but because they faced a challenge, accepted it, and fought the good fight (to paraphrase St. Paul).

After LOVE AT WAR, I sought yet another challenge.  My fascination with Ireland has grown since I started to research my family's past.  My ancestry is largely German and Irish; the history of Ireland is tragic, turbulent, but always thrilling.  My first experience in the Emerald Isle was with Galway, the gorgeous West of Ireland. I'd never seen a land so beautiful or experienced people so warm.  The land held history, mystery, and breath-taking lyricism.  I was with a group of Irish musicians, and the native music stirred my soul.  

I've always wanted to celebrate Ireland in my writing, and when I came across the legend of Grace O'Malley, I knew she was the type of heroine to come alive within the pages I would create.  Like Nuala, she is an unlikely heroine.  Born the daughter of a successful chieftain, she defies convention, heading to sea against her father's wishes.  Grace is not only the equal of the men she encounters but their superior.  She ably represented the maritime interests of two husbands while simultaneously protecting her clan's interests against British incursion.  Grace (or Grainne) was the ultimate PIRATE WOMAN, ( 

I've always loved heroines who could defy convention, hold their own, and thwart their adversaries.  Nuala and Grace do just that.  

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Ireland and A Certain Pirate Woman

I first visited Ireland after a very hard year at a job I hated. A friend of mine was touring his native country, bringing his brand of Irish folk music to the West of Ireland. I joined him, his fellow musicians, and a group of friends on a tour of Ireland that took us to such places as Galway, the Aran Islands, and Sligo. I reveled in the land and its people. This was the land of my ancestors, and I loved being in a place that was still bathed in ancient lore and timeless beauty. The people were warm and kind, wrapping me in the embrace I sorely needed after a terrible year. I danced in pubs, drank Guinness, and sang Irish folk songs.

The land itself also enclosed me in its protective womb. The windswept countryside held a siren song I couldn't resist. I climbed Dun Aengus, stood against the bracing winds of Croagh Patrick, and stared in awe at Kylemore Abbey. I'd never seen a country so green. Sheep climbed mountains and stared at us, unafraid as they munched on grass. I stood in awe as people swam in what to me were freezing beaches. Standing by Yeats' grave in Sligo was an almost mystical experience.

I've returned to the West and to Dublin since my first visit, and I've always wanted to write a novel about that amazing place, but I didn't know how to express the spirit and appeal of so gorgeous a place. It took me years to stumble upon Grainne (Grace) O'Malley. I was researching something else when I learned of a woman who embodied everything Ireland was in all its fierceness and beauty. As I studied secondary sources, my admiration for Grainne (Grace), the woman pirate, grew. Grainne was a woman who fought for her family and her clan. She compromised when she had to do so but often bested her opponents and survived. Grainne lived through the British incursion on her land, imprisonment, the birth of one son at sea, the brutal murder of another, and the deaths of two husbands. This woman commanded her own ships into her seventies. From the life of this extraordinary woman, my novel PIRATE WOMAN, was born.

Go to the Red Rose Publishing website at Read the excerpt and answer the following questions on the "Questions" section of my website at The first three people to respond will win a free download of PIRATE WOMAN.

1. What mountain towers over Grainne as she runs to the water? (Hint: It contains a saint's name.)

2. What flower does Bruce Donnel refer to Grainne as?

3. Who is the friar Grainne fears meeting?

Sunday, March 4, 2012


No, I'm not writing about the new comedy that's recently been released in the States. Rather, I'm commenting on the desire to travel that hits me often--some people would say too often, but many of my family and friends are rooted to the earth like plants. I love 'em, but that's a fact. I, in fact, am happiest when I'm removing my shoes at Louis Armstrong Airport and boarding a plane to Anywhere.
So into travel am I that I experienced a moment of delight when a colleague who sponsored the school's European trip needed bypass surgery. Knowing behavior such as vying for her role might be ghoulish, I controlled myself and didn't run to the principal, begging for the role of chaperone and moderator. This sounds awful, but I was actually sad when I learned she would recover. The trip will take her, the students, and another lucky chaperone to France and Germany. I'm dripping green envy juice. Okay, I know I'm going to Hell. (By the way, I really didn't wish my colleague any harm. i don't wish ill on my fellow creatures).
Maybe my love of travel is the reason I write historical fiction. I live a very ordinary life by most standards (aside from the steamy scenes I put in fiction). I think most of us live dull lives. For me, historical fiction helps me disappear into another time and another world-- at least within my head. I've created WWII spies and soldiers who fought the good fight in Europe and Asia. My soon to come manuscript is the life of Grace O'Malley, the Irish pirate, and even my contemporary heroines engage in affairs with exotic, foreign men.
Wanderlust! I feel you calling. I hope summer comes soon.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Diary of a Sheltered Girl

I've lived a sheltered life, apparently. Someone I know recently said that, and the comment, quite plainly, pissed me off. After reflecting a bit, however, I considered the source. For most of my family and many of my friends, independence, career, and world travel are considered Verboten for women. Most of my family and friends are not world travelers, and while a few have achieved college--even advanced degrees--most have been content to live their lives in what I consider stale conventionality. For most of my family, life means losing oneself in a spouse and children. I'm not criticizing that option, mind you, but I was not destined to live my life in that manner.
In some ways, I have traveled a very conventional road: college, work for a while, and then graduate school. For many of the people I knew, graduate school for a woman was an anomaly. A friend's mother said, "Five years? It's going to take five years?" She then rolled her eyes in disbelief. Hell, I was going to be five years older anyway. Why not work on a degree. Still others said, "You don't want to meet a nice young man and get married?" Still others said, "Why would you want to live in the outpost of College Station, Texas?" I did finish the degree, but I knew academia wasn't for me. Nonetheless, I loved the ride, the adventure. The most fun I had was living in a fourplex with engineering majors, foreign students, and a gay hairdresser. At night, I read Kant, Foucault, and Schiller with my British Romanticism and loved every second. Of course, many of my friends and family couldn't understand why I wasn't yearning for a house in the suburbs with a car, husband, and three children. Why, after all, would I subject myself to such rigorous brain activity? Why hadn't I just gotten the standard MRS. degree and popped out babies?
When I settled on teaching, I decided I would travel frequently. The sheltered girl has crossed the Atlantic several times and has visited many places in the States--even on my limited funds. The first time I crossed the Atlantic, I did so with friends who were determined to take in London theatre and night life. I worked my way through college, so why not? What the hell--it's always been my motto. One night, I dodged my friends for an afternoon out. (I always was a bit of a loner). New Year's Eve was in full swing, and on the way back to the hotel, I encountered many revelers at Trafalgar Square. Scores of people jumped into the fountain. I was in an amazing white coat, but then, my motto kicked in. What the hell? I jumped in, too. When I returned, my mother took one look at the coat and said, "I see you had a good time." I cold only sheepishly giggle and say, "Yes, ma'am." She raised her eyebrows, suppressed a smile, and said, "Take this to the cleaners, for God's sakes." Mama, God rest her. She had a sense of humor and knew me when many people did not--and apparently still don't.
I'm offering one of my giveaways. Go to my website at Check out the slideshow, interviews, etc. The first two people who post comments on the "Questions" section about my blogs or the website will receive a free PDF version of LOVE AT WAR. Be sure to post your e-mail.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Additions to the Website and reflections on life

Recently, my talented webmaster Judah Mahay added a slide show to my website ( As I combed through the family album in order to select the pictures, I began to assess my past, present, and future. Much of who I am has been shaped by those who went before me, but I also had to embrace my past in order to transcend it and form who I was.
The pictures brought the people I've loved and lost back in the bittersweet way only memory can. I love the pictures I chose of my parents. My father's signing a boxing contract. He was a trainer and manager at one time. Later, he was a horse trainer/bookie and a restaurant/bar owner who began life driving an ice wagon. My father was a survivor of the Depression. He would straighten nails to erect a new fence, and he never glorified the past. When someone would say he/she remembered when apples were a nickel, my father would quickly retort, "Who in hell had the nickel?" He learned early how to hustle and survive. Not much was left after his death, but when he was alive, we instinctively knew all would be well. My mother's in the slideshow, too, standing on Canal Street with her best friend Terry. They were so gorgeous and classy. I miss my parents so very much that it's sometimes like bile in my throat.
My most recent book is LOVE AT WAR, and the experiences of family members during WWII inspired me to write that book. The picture of my Uncle Willie in his Navy uniform brings back bittersweet memories. He began life as a merry prankster, loving women and life. He returned from the Pacific theatre a changed man, good-hearted but hardened by war. When I wrote the character of Nuala's brother George in LOVE AT WAR ( and Amazon), I initially didn't think that he would play such a huge part in the novel, and after I'd written a substantial amount of it, I realized I'd recreated my uncle in George. Not that Willie's experience mirrored George's, but he was a man like George--wild, daring, and brave. In the novel, George becomes as much a hero as Nuala and Keith. The picture of my Uncle Russell standing with his wife and baby rends my heart whenever I see it. I never met Russell. In fact, his only daughter doesn't remember him because he never returned from Germany. His wife was a widow at twenty-three, and their passionate letters to each other are more moving than any novel. His experience also doesn't simply mirror what happens in my book, but the spirit of these people permeates the book. The spirits of these people surrounded me as I wrote.
Those pictures, however, are my past. I had to find myself in the midst of genetics and family lore. Following the road of my own destiny is a long one, and I'm know I've not finished the journey. Th slideshow also contains images of my trips to places like Ireland and England. I've forged fond memories of those places, an they will figure prominently in future, coming novels. Stay tuned!

Monday, January 23, 2012

I read the news today: Little Murders leading to Mayhem

Reading the newspapers could destroy our sense of security and completely annihilate our faith in humanity, but staying abreast of world and local events is imperative. We cannot avoid the world in all its turmoil. I find the inspiration for many of my plot lines there. As a writer, I often explore the darkness of humanity; the cruelty, inhumanity, carelessness, and plain rudeness of people never fails to amaze me. In LOVE AT WAR,, I depicted the cruelty of battle, but local and even petty crimes exist as kin to the kind of destruction marked by war.

What makes people murder, rape, rob, and engage in all sorts of cruelty? Every day we read of public officials who betray our trust, criminals who shoot acquaintances or foes, and sports fans who are just downright rude. The same kind of hatred that sparks petty but vicious acts is at the root of the more destructive and cruel behavior that results in murder and genocide. LOVE AT WAR portrays the brutality of WWII. Soldiers and civilians died in that mayhem, and human beings carried out horrific atrocities upon each other.

Why do people commit such awful acts? Perhaps such behavior stems from original sin, but people who commit crimes against others (and against sentient creatures) view others as irrelevant. This week alone, the newspapers reported on a woman who gave birth and left the child exposed to the elements. A man killed the father of his grandchild because they disagreed on the child's upbringing. Local police arrested one disturbed young man for having sex with his pet husky. Another man was arrested for systematically torturing cats. An Alabama fan exposed himself and assaulted an unconscious LSU fan. These tales of deviant behavior accompanied tales of murder, rape, and corrupt politicians and reflect the kind of cruelty that leads to destruction. The people who commit these crimes on the local scene see their victims as irrelevant and disposable.

What do all of these horrible acts have to do with war? In WWII, the Nazis and their allies convinced themselves that some people were inferior to others. People could be eliminated or tortured. In LOVE AT WAR, Nuala swallows her disgust when her Nazi lover revels in revealing his cruelty. As a covert operative, she must convince him of her attraction, but his brutality repulses her and forces her into a situation where she must match his brutality.

Mundane cruelty and thuggish behavior? How does it reflect war time behavior? Human beings have the potential to commit cruel acts as children. Bullies are made in childhood. Who hasn't been the victim of a childhood bully? Those people, unless checked, grown into the Nazis of tomorrow.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Loss and LOVE AT WAR

I've thought quite a bit about LOSS these days. While losing people and/or things is part of the life cycle, that loss does not diminish the devastating effect it has on our lives. My father died shortly before my twelfth birthday. His death devastated my family, tore us apart, and resulted in my leaving the only home I'd known since birth. As is the case with most people, I've lost friends, family, and lovers over the years. Some have simply moved on. Others have kept in touch; others have not. Still others no longer grace this earth, and they live only in the shadowy land of my memory. Most recently, I lost my beloved mother in 2008. Of course, I was lucky to have her for so long. She lived until she was eighty-six, and I was an adult when she died. It was her brothers' letters that inspired me to write LOVE AT WAR (, my own chronicle of WWII and the carnage it created.

Loss can exist on a small and a grand scale. Catastrophic events can result in the deaths of thousands, even millions. For example, millions of people--civilians and soldiers--died in the two world wars as well as in conflicts like Viet Nam. On a large scale, people often suffer the loss of their homes and communities during war, and on the even more personal front, individuals suffer the loss of loved ones they held close to the breast. I'd heard tales of my uncles in WWII. I never met the uncle who didn't come back, but I'd heard of him in glorious detail. He'd built a window fan for my grandmother's kitchen, and he'd saved his own money so that his little brother could have skates for Christmas when money was tight. His daughter is my beloved goddaughter. Listening to tales of his life helps me place him at the metaphoric family table, arousing my curiosity; however, such tales are bittersweet. I'll never know this man. Even his daughter never saw him.

Loss. . .I'd heard tales of catastrophic loss, but I'd never experienced the horror of it until Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast. That tragedy, too, was a war in many ways, and like war victims, we mourned those we lost, shed tears, and then moved on, rebuilding our lives. Perhaps we're like people who have been in war. We now all too well understand the horror of loss. Katrina shook me in ways I can't even begin to describe, but in a positive way, it also made me more in tune to the suffering of others. Pre-K, I would hear of natural disasters, feel some stirring of sympathy, and move on. Now, I feel the loss all too well. I fully emphasize with their plight and remember my own sense of terror when I knew my old life was gone. At one point, we were called "refugees" by our own countrymen. So many people in war become refugees. Now, I know what it is like to be "displaced" and to feel alone. You become the ultimate existentialist--alone, all alone, and seemingly, no one hears you. You are just one person flailing alone in cold water.

LOSS is at the root of war. Young people march into battle, and war is devastating no matter how it begins. Civilians and soldiers die in the carnage, and we, the survivors, can only bleed for their loss, place a bandage on our gaping wounds, and pray for healing. All that remains are memories of the good times we shared with those we loved and cherished. In LOVE AT WAR, Nuala suffers great loss when she believes her husband is a casualty of war, but like many brave souls, she puts a metaphoric salve on our wounds and forms a plan of revenge.

I once asked my mother why my grandmother so seldom smiled. My mother stared at me for a long time before answering. She said that too much had been taken from Grandma. Only until after did I really understand what she meant. LOVE AT WAR,

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Strong Women, Love at War, Pirate Woman

Recently, a colleague of mine quit teaching in thew middle of the school year to live in an isolated area with an abusive man. She would rather live in physical danger and constant harassment than work at a modest job. This woman has such low-self-esteem that she would give up her life in order to live with a man who drinks and who has used her as a punching bag. She doesn't want to be alone, and she is so desperate not to be alone that she would rather live in terror. I've worked with battered women, and I understand that many of them are trapped in terrible situations. However, their dependency shows a lack of self-respect that I personally abhor.

In my writing, I've concentrated on strong women. Nuala, my protagonist in LOVE AT WAR (, is an innocent, pure girl when the novel begins. However, she soon emerges as a powerful woman who braves the perils of dangerous undercover assignments. After joining the military and then the OSS, Nuala parachutes into occupied France, disguising herself as a farm woman and spying on the often stupidly arrogant enemy. Chameleon-like, she then changes into a vixen who seduces a dangerous Nazi. Nuala evolves from an innocent schoolgirl into a daring covert operative, willing to sacrifice herself for her country and for the man she loves. Nuala is so strong that she rises above others' expectations to become the woman who rescues others. No one--not Nuala's overly protective parents or her dominating sister--would have credited her with so much courage.

My latest manuscript, signed by Red Rose Publishing, also tells the story of a powerful woman. Grace O'Malley was the daughter of a powerful Irish chieftain in Mayo. Legend has it that when her parents said she couldn't go to sea with her father's sailors, she cut her hair and sneaked aboard the ship anyway. At eleven-years-old, Grace proved herself to be an able sailor. Throughout her two marriages, Grace also proved that she was a leader within her own family. Often she saved her family from ruin when the men in her sphere behaved rashly or stupidly. Donal O'Flaherty, her first husband, was a brave warrior who acted before he thought. Richard Bourke, her second husband, was more prudent and wily than her first and had the sense to listen to his astute wife. I admire strong women who defy others' expectations.

LOVE AT WAR has now been released over six months, and I'm celebrating. Go to my website at Check out the pics, interviews, and the covers. Go to the "Questions" section of the site and post a comment. Be sure you leave a name and e-mail. The first three (3) people to respond will receive a free PDF copy of LOVE AT WAR.