Saturday, June 2, 2007


Miracles don’t happen every day. But on Saturday, May 26th, I witnessed a miracle. And I’d like to share it with you.

The story starts way back in 1995—12 years ago. My grandmother—all the grandchildren have called her “Mother” since babyhood—gave me a cutting from her “shamrock plant” because she knew how much I loved Ireland. Mother had the greenest thumb of anyone I knew. All of her many plants were thick with foliage and greener than the beloved land of our ancestry. Even though I was thrilled at her gift, I couldn’t deny I had misgivings, because, folks, I didn’t have the greatest track record on keeping plants alive. But this pretty little shamrock plant was hardy—just like Mother.

For a while, it did well in my house. Every March, it bloomed with delicate white flowers which never failed to warm my heart. Every time I watered the plant, I talked to it, knowing that that was one of Mother’s secrets. However, despite my ministrations, every so often, the plant would start to thin out and look sickly. I’d get on the phone to Mother in a panic and ask what I should do. “Cut it back,” she instructed. “When you give it a ‘hair-cut,’ it encourages growth.” Well, that seemed pretty risky to me, but I trusted Mother. And lo and behold, she was right! The plant came back fuller and denser and greener than ever.

In June 1993, the impossible happened. My 93-year-old grandmother died while sitting in her favorite chair in the living room of her small house in Russell Springs, Kentucky. My great-great uncle who found her said her face was peaceful as if she’d just fallen asleep.

I could never imagine life without Mother. She’d been such an integral part of my childhood—summers spent with her in Kentucky, baking M&M cookies, playing “Barbies” outside with my sister, Kathy, and getting into trouble with Mother (something that happened rarely) because I decided to give Barbie a swim in a bucket of water. And Mother was always there during my adulthood when I went back to Kentucky for a visit. Every time I drove away from her house to return home, my last sight would be of the petite 4’5” sweet-faced woman standing at her screen porch, waving until I was out of sight. Intellectually, I knew she wouldn’t be around forever, but in my heart, I couldn’t imagine being in a world without Mother.

Even now, when I go back to Kentucky to visit my sister and father, we’ll sometimes drive over to Mother’s house which is still in the family, and go in to soak up her spirit. It’s still there—unmistakable. And there’s peace in that. It’s like she’s not really gone.

Over this past winter, though, I noticed my shamrock plant starting to decline. At first, I wasn’t overly concerned. It had sickened before, but had always come back. My hope was to nurse it through the winter until spring when I could move it out to the back porch where it could enjoy the extra light and soft breezes. But when April finally arrived, there was very little left of the shamrock plant—just a few withered tendrils and brown leaves. With tears in my eyes, I plucked the dead leaves away and moved it to the porch anyway, giving it some water and hoping that somehow, it would revive.

Weeks passed, and nothing happened. Even the tendrils were gone. I felt like I’d lost my last physical connection with Mother. Still, I couldn’t bring myself to throw out the soil. Perhaps deep inside, I was still praying for a miracle as I watered the plantless pot week after week.

This past Saturday, as I made my rounds with the watering can, I reached what was left of Mother’s shamrock plant—and I couldn’t believe my eyes. There, poking up above the soil were seven little shamrock-shaped leaves. At first, I thought my imagination was playing tricks on me, but as I examined them closer, I realized what I was witnessing—a true miracle.

And you know what else? It happened within days of the anniversary of Mother’s death. So, as far as I’m concerned, there’s only one explanation. Mother’s green thumb is still at work. J

I have a new chapter up on my website for DOWN BY THE RIVER (new title—MOONSTRUCK COURT.) Be sure and check it out at

Congratulations to Judy Theis from Erie, PA, my May website contest winner. The new contest is up so stop by and enter.

And have a great June!!!



Friday, May 25, 2007

On What Writers Choose to Write

I first heard the word “epiphany” when I lived in Greece some 30 years ago. At the time, I may not have known what it meant, but I had experienced it once or twice—like when I joined the Air Force in 1973 and took my first airline flight to San Antonio. There I sat in luxurious comfort (hey, it was my first flight and it was 1973), feeling like a pampered princess…until I got off the Air Force bus at Lackland Air Force Base and was suddenly confronted with screaming drill sergeants informing me I was the equivalent of something you’d scrape off the bottom of your shoe after a walk through a garbage dump. Now, that was an epiphany.

I had one again recently after the Virginia Tech murders when I re-read the prologue of DOWN BY THE RIVER posted on my website. And it was this: the world doesn’t need another novel about a serial killer. Look, I’m not in favor of censorship, but for years, my conscience has warred with my creative juices as I wondered if what I was putting out into the world could somehow contribute to the ugliness, the hatred and evil acts that are committed every single day all over the world—and especially, here in America. I don’t want that on my conscience. As much as I hate censorship, I can’t help but wonder if the violent movies and video games—and yes, books—are influencing people like Seung Hui Cho to act out his sick fantasy of inflicting bloodshed against the people he felt had wronged him. And somewhere deep inside, I do believe there is a connection. I’ve believed it ever since I read a passage in the ultra-violent novel, AMERICAN PSYCHO by Bret Easton Ellis years ago.

When our children are bombarded by violent images through TV, movies, books and video games, how can they not be desensitized to the violence? Yes, you can argue that 99.9% of the population are sane, responsible individuals who’d never take up arms against his society because of a movie, a game or a book. But what about that tiny percentage of tormented, unstable and mentally ill people like Cho? Shouldn’t we, as artists, think twice before we add this kind of ugliness to the world?

I can’t speak for other artists; only their conscience can tell them what to do. As for me, I can’t do it anymore. No more novels about bombs and guns and psychos and children being shot in the back. I’m not saying I’ll be a Pollyanna, but I won’t be writing any more books with violent themes.

Therefore, I’ve taken down the prologue of DOWN BY THE RIVER. Not the whole book, mind you. I’ll still be posting a chapter on my website each month, but I’m editing as I go, cutting out all references to the serial killer, and adding a new sub-plot. DOWN BY THE RIVER (which, I’m absolutely positive will be getting a new title—suggestions welcome, by the way) will be a book about friendship between women. But I can guarantee you it’s not going to be an easy road, because all of you women know, I’m sure, that our friendships with other women are never without conflict. J Sometimes, a lot of conflict.

I drew a winner for my April website contest, but I haven’t heard from her. So, Paige Sebetic, if you’re reading this, please contact me at and give me your address so I can send your prize out. This month’s contest is a signed copy of UNDERSTUDY and a bracelet from Beautiful Evening Beads. Be sure and stop by my website to enter.

Oh, almost forgot! I finally sold my ice dancing novel—TANGO’S EDGE. Don’t have many details yet, but it will be published by Ellora’s Cave’s mainstream sister, Cerridwen Press. More on that next month.

Have a great May!