The Day He Fell

My son, Christofer ran down the hall.

My son, Christofer had a great fall,

All the skilled surgeons,

Fine women and men,

Couldn’t put Chris back together again.

I woke with Humpty-dumpty running over and over in my head. Annoying. Strange. Then I got to my daily journal and saw the date–the day he fell. He was fifteen. We thought it was a simple “pop it back in” dislocation. No one had any clue it was the beginning of the final countdown. But it was. Five years of pain, loneliness, fear, and frustration that segued into five years of drugs, chaos, anxiety, more loneliness, and death.

There were good times. He wasn’t always sad, but I do think he was always lonely. He lived way too much inside his head.

I’m not going down this rabbit hole. Not now. Not today. My silly Humpty-dumpty verse wouldn’t stop turning over and around in my head, so I’m leaving it here.

Sit, Ubu, sit. Good dog.


Filed under Uncategorized

Blowing off the dust…again

On January 24, 2020, my youngest daughter texted me this pic. It’s a real flyer, done up by a real person somewhere in Brooklyn, NY. I’ve cut the email address from the pic, as well as the $10,000 “reward” for the perfect match to “protect the innocent.”

I thought it was fabulous, so I posted it up on Facebook. Rachel Kahan, my editor at WilliamMorrow for The Bar Harbor Retirement Home for Famous Writers (And Their Muses) said, “Someone needs to write me this book.” So I did, only the Jersey Italian version.

At the time, I’d been working on another book–a fantasy–so this story got put on hold. It nevertheless percolated in the back of my brain, as stories so stubbornly will. I wrote notes periodically. It always started with Vicky, the haunted, antique Victrola. Sylvia, Varina, Donatella formed and reformed. Davide, Dante, Paulie. Them too. The whole, huge, smothering, loving family emerged, one by one by one, until I had something that looked like Moonstruck and My Big Fat Greek Wedding had an illicit affair and produced the Palladino family.

I’ve written three other books in the four years since selling Bar Harbor…etc. So far, none of them were right for that all-important second book. I persevered. I kept writing. Books I love! I was given all kinds of advice about what I should do, but I knew what I wanted. The career I wanted. I was fully prepared for it to never happen! But it has, and now I am taking the next steps on that path.

Is Your Grandfather Single and Looking for Love? will be published by WilliamMorrow (HarperCollins) sometime in the winter/spring of 2023.

I’m excited to work with Rachel again, and with the whole WilliamMorrow team. The experience of publishing Bar Harbor…etc. with them has been the stuff of magic and dreams, and continues to be, three years after initial release.

It’s going to be a fabulous, fast year and a half-ish until the book releases. All the fun, behind the scenes stuff is to come. The anticipation is almost as good as the afterglow. Almost. I know this is a tough business, but–damn, I love it.


Filed under Writing is Life

Tissue Paper

Sometimes it slams into me before

I can brace, and so I can only

lean into it, let it

take me

tumble me

leave me breathless, heart pounding, out

of sorts, searching for words that

will bring breath

back to my lungs, shock my heart

back to rhythm, mend my soul of the

momentary tatters healed over again

and again.


A bone broken heals

harder. Stronger. A shredded soul isn’t as

durable, but it knows how to layer each tatter,

one over the other, creating a

tapestry bound by sorrow, and the

promise of joy.


Filed under poetry

Blowing off the dust…

It’s been a while, so long that the whole format in here is changed. I’d blame the election or the pandemic or both, but the truth is, I’ve had nothing much to say, at least, in this space. Today, I do.

Thanksgiving was strange for everyone, this year. If you stayed within the guidelines of the CDC, you were probably as alone as Frankie D and I were. If you didn’t, if you gathered with family despite this plague, it was still different, because there were those guideline followers missing. In the back of your brain, you worried or you scoffed. Either way, it was different.

For me, Thanksgiving was kind of awesome. I love the huge, family gathering at my brother’s house, my parents, all the nieces and nephews, my sibs, my kids, all the spouses. It’s always chaotic but absolutely wonderful. And it makes me sad.

These family gatherings always put a huge spotlight on the fact that one is missing, and always will be. I see my kids gathered and, yup, one missing. I see my nieces and nephews goofing around and, yup, one missing. There are absences every year–who can’t make it, for whatever reason. But they’ll be there next gathering, next holiday. Next. The potential is there, even if they never show up. Except for the one.

This Thanksgiving, it was just me and Frankie D sitting at our table, eating our feast. No karaoke. No games. No noise. Just us, eating, watching dumb Christmas movies, playing Mexican Train. And not once did I look up from whatever we were doing and get slammed in the gut with, “One is missing.” Everyone was missing this year. My heart stayed in one piece, on a day that typically, silently shatters it. It feels strange to say, but it was nice, for a change.


Filed under Family

A Fun/ny Thing About Being An Author…

…is when a reader takes the time to leave a direct message, letting you know what a disappointment your book was. The one star review left on the book page was not, apparently, enough. That this reader felt it necessary, even helpful, perhaps, to let me know in a message just went above and beyond the call of duty.
Do you detect sarcasm? Good.
I’m not sad or upset. Those who didn’t like Bar Harbor disliked it for the same reasons, and their tastes are their tastes. I have no issue with that. Ever. My healthy ego is still healthy, gentle friends, and because I have the utmost confidence in my skills as a writer and storyteller, I don’t wither because of a bad review, or even a personal message. That’s not what this is about, so please don’t feel the need to reassure me. Honest.
What fascinates me is the mind that felt it necessary to make sure I knew my work was a disappointment. Who is this? Is this person unkind, or simply tactless? What are they hoping to achieve by contacting me? A defense of my work? An argument wherein whatever drove them to that extra step could be further stated? Or maybe, this reader wanted an actual conversation to happen, one in which they could express their disappointment and have reasons why my choices were made. (I’ve done a lot of book clubs. I get lots of those sorts of questions.)
See? Fascinating. At least, it is to me. I spend my days creating people with backstories and motives and internal workings, putting them in environments that enrich or thwart their human experiences. My memory may be shit, but story brain is like dessert belly–it magically provides the necessary room for more. Everything, everyone, every experience becomes fodder, kept in reserve for some later date, to be cannibalized appropriately and, I hope, effectively.
I find the worth in every and all criticism, even this vague disappointment. It made me consider a thought process and character outside my ken. It created something I might not otherwise have considered. It’ll be stored away and used, when needed, because not everyone is a hero/ine, and most things are never what they seem.
What I’d love, honestly, would be a conversation with this person, not to see why they didn’t like my story, but to know why a one star review of regretful purchase/reading wasn’t enough; that a personal message was also so necessary to them. I can guess, conjecture, but I can’t know exactly, and I suppose that’s just tough luck. I’ll have to use my imagination. Poor me. (There’s that sarcasm again…)


Filed under Writing is Life


You were always on the cusp of things; between

Aquarius and Pisces; between

families blended; between

lightest light, and darkest dark; between

feeling too much, and too little. A shield,

perhaps, to guard one from the other.

Or maybe you were the extremes, not

the between; the edges of you far

from the cusps of your duality. I suppose it depends

upon the when of things. The cusp you were born upon pushed,

and pushed, until it had no choice but

to push back, springing with such force you landed

back at the cusp

where you died

on the cusp of spring and summer

on the same waxing crescent of the moon.



Filed under poetry

Learning to Swim

At first, it’s a dog-paddle, all

kicking and flailing and taking on

too much water. Slow. Slogging. It becomes the breast stroke,

less effort. Sustainable. Getting nowhere fast, so you move into

freestyling the long stroke,

poorly. It’s all about rotating your arms and

paddling your legs in time with

breathing. Learning to coordinate all three. Exhausting.

Gratifying, and you backstroke for a time,

catching your breath. Watching the clouds, the water always tugging,

tugging you back. Tugging you down. Making you swim and swim and swim because

there is no end to the water. No land. No shore. No raft or boat or log to cling to,

just the water’s lazy promise, “I will drown you if I can. I promise. Oh, I vow.”

And so you learn to tread water, for

those times you cannot swim. It’s that or succumb

to the water always whispering, always whispering, always





Filed under poetry

Another Beach

We were on the beach again

you and I

I saw you, but only out of the corner

of my eye. When I tried to look you

weren’t there. Not gone, just

not there.


It’s not only on Mother’s Day, it’s when I see mothers

with their kids, brothers

with brothers, sisters

with brothers; my own kids, together. My nieces and nephews.

Thanksgiving and beach vacations and picnics and Tuesdays. It’s

a commercial and it’s

a song. It’s a show you would have liked.

It’s a sceintific article and a law passed and a pandemic you’d

have found fascinating. It’s being too often quiet

with my own thoughts. It’s this time of year.


The beach was empty, but for we two,

the blue sky noisy with gulls and the sea rushing, and you

vanishing somewhere between.

Peekaboo. I see you. Like when you

were little, your naughty grin full of snips and snails and

puppy-dog tails; your blue eyes more like violets

than the sky.



Filed under Uncategorized

The Strange Reoccurrence of Beaver*

*Don’t be naughty! Cheeky monkey.

This is supposed to be Virginia Beach Dollbaby Week, seven days of ocean music and cake, laughter and writing. There is no beach this year, no beach house, no hugs, but we’ve not let that keep us completely apart. Like most of the world, we’re making due with Zoom. Cyber Dollbaby Week isn’t the same, but it’s enough.

Tuesday night was Medicine Card night. My card was Beaver.


The gist of it was, stay the course. Finish the project. Bring the dream to fruition. This, of course, I attributed to Death and the Mason Jar. But…

I’m working diligently. Every day. 10:00-3:00. It’s taking me longer than past manuscripts, but it’s such a conglomeration of all my skills, all my experiences, all my past writing, that it’s taking more out of me, and more out of my brain. Yet Beaver spoke to that part of me feeling like it’s taking way too long, fearing doors closing before this story gets a chance to walk through. But…

I look for connections. Everywhere. I usually notice when they come up, these coincidences that don’t feel like coincidences. As it happens, last week, Frank and I took a drive up Route 7, past the old house on the river, up and up, all the way to Massachusetts. I was amazed by the number of beaver dams I saw along the way. Granted, in the still-wintry landscape, they stood out more, but I noticed them. I pointed them out to Frank, who hadn’t.

Then this week, before Medicine Card night, a sister Dollbaby put up a hilarious video of a woman reading, Barbara’s Beaver Needs a Barber.** And then, a couple of hours later, I pulled Beaver out of all 48 cards in that deck.

I could have let it go there, as an odd but whatever experience. That’s not me. If there’s a connection, what purpose is there in not thinking it through, right? I take Beaver’s point about staying the course, finishing the project, but that was too simple to leave at that. So I did a little more digging, and found a few more messages from Beaver:

  • Seek alternatives to challenges in life.
  •  Refuse to be cornered, trapped, or caught off guard.
  •  Work together. A team effort. Appreciate that the coming together of minds creates a unification that is far more effective than individual efforts.
  •  Family
  •  Strengthen the foundation on which you stand, or build a new one. To continue on old foundations could mean opportunities missed.
  • Beaver is a symbol of never giving up, even going to far as to change its environment to suit its needs, the needs of its family.

Not everything is about my writing, or Chris, even if those are the two places my brain automatically go. While I will finish my project and be true to my dreams for it, I feel like the message here is one I’ve been mulling over since the world changed.

We are in strange times, and it didn’t begin with the pandemic. It won’t end with it either. As Semisonic sang: “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.” When 2020 rolled in, I had the overwhelming feeling that this was going to be a big year. One of profound changes. Then wildfires blazed in Australia, Impeachment proceedings began, a Democratic lineup more diverse than any we had ever seen before (even if it did boil down to two, older white men, and then one) came about.

And COVID19.

The pandemic has changed the whole world in a very universal way. It’s not something happening to someone else, or somewhere far off in the world. It’s our every day. It’s scary and frustrating. We miss our families, our social lives, our freedom. It’s worse for some than for others, but that’s nothing new. Despite all the ineptitude, the selfish deciding there is an expendable category of humanity, the waste of resources and hoarding and fear, I can’t help feeling this tremendous sense of hope.

Humanity may have screeched to a standstill, but the world hasn’t. She spins. She grows. She fights. And maybe this is what Beaver was trying to get me to see, to act upon. To seek alternatives, strengthen foundations or build new ones. Not just me, but humanity at large. Nature is warning us to knock it the hell off. We need to change this current environment to suit ALL our needs, her included. Every animal, plant, bacteria is connected in ways most never even consider. We are family. Every one of us.  Our planet included.

We can make this change happen, now. We’ve proven we can make the adjustments, see through this lens. We can adapt. Slow down. Do without. There are those rallying to keep everything “normal,” to keep others down, to diminish and dismiss anything not in their ken, but they’re nothing new. They’ve been rallying since the dawn of humanity, through every culture, every era. There have been times those rallying were able to do horrible wrong. Let this not be one of those times. Let it be, finally, the time we come together, really together. Compromise and compassion. Creation and assistance. We must respect and support one another in every way we can. Refuse hate and greed in all its forms, whether it be politically, socially, or environmentally.

We are the many. The loving, the compassionate, the respectful, the giving. I truly believe that. I’ve seen it, over and over, even from those who don’t believe the way I do, in the things I believe in. The fools fighting hardest against reason are loud, but I don’t believe they are the majority. They’re puffer fish, peacocks, cobras spreading their hoods to make us think so. It has worked often enough to make us believe in their power over our own. It’s time we stopped letting that trick work.

So, yeah…I got more from Beaver than, “Finish the damn book.”

Your mileage may vary.



**While this one is hilarious, there is at least one other in the series that crosses the line into bigotry, and I can’t in any conscious recommend them because of that.



Filed under Life's honest moments


Last night I dreamed you were

an astronaut, and I

was responsible for hooking you up to

your lifeline. I couldn’t get it quite right.

A plastic barb was stuck in my cheek, but I

had no hands left to pull it out. You were floating



away into the blue, brilliant sky. No lifeline, and

I scrambled, pleading,

begging for the scientists all around to help me.

But for the one who

pulled the barb from my cheek, they

didn’t even look my way. He

held it out for me; I had

no hands left to take it. So

he dropped it at my feet. I

grabbed for it, letting go of your lifeline, and

you flew away.

Sun, sunbeams against a blue sky - cloudless sky

(I 100% had this dream. Not a word of embellishment.)


Filed under poetry