Undertow by Lynne Cantwell – A Review

Screen shot 2014-03-20 at 8.13.32 PMIt seems fitting that I post this on Thursday, because Lynne posts a review each week for her “Rursday Reads.” Here’s my review for her just-released Undertow, the second book in her new Land-Sea-Sky series.

The second book in Lynne Cantwell’s Land-Sea-Sky trilogy digs deeper into the characters introduced in the first installment. (And if you’ve missed it, or if it’s been a while since you read the first, she includes a really helpful recap.) The tension between and among Tess, Sue, and Darrell in the aftermath of the events of Book One is palpable. Sue’s jealousy that every man she meets seems to like Tess first is poignant and well drawn. I could really identify with her. Tess has her own insecurities, especially the inability to accept the guidance of her goddess, Morrigan. Darrell tries to balance his Potawatomi medicine-man background and his new warrior persona after an attempt to reconcile with his ex-wife fails. I especially like Darrell’s journey in the series so far, with his trickster god Nanabush by his side giving him…well, sometimes advice that makes sense, and some Darrell can only scratch his head at as he tries to do the right thing.

Among the many reasons I liked this book is that the humans are so wonderfully human and so well portrayed. They aren’t always sure of themselves. They try to do what they think is best; they have doubts. So I felt relieved along with Tess and Sue when a new assignment in Virginia Beach pulls Darrell away from the house the three share, giving them all some much-needed space. But the human interaction is only one layer of this story. With her journalistic and precise writing style, Ms. Cantwell twists together a possible terrorist crisis (and a powerful hurricane barreling their way) with the personal lives of three engaging main characters and the divine entities who assist them. Well done, and I’m looking forward to the conclusion.

Sliding Past Vertical: First Chapter Sneak Peek!


Happy Monday, everyone! I’m so excited to share with you this excerpt from Sliding Past Vertical, my romantic suspense novel, which will be published in just a few weeks on Amazon.com. First, the blurb:

Sarah Cohen is a walking disaster. She means well, but with each ill-considered decision, this twenty-nine-year-old graphic artist and ex-diving protégé damages not only herself, but also her fellow Bostonians. Good thing she has Emerson McCann on her side, at least for now. This nursing home orderly and aspiring author is just a phone call away in Syracuse, with a metaphorical mop to clean up the messes of her life. For Sarah, who moved east after graduating from Syracuse University in 1979, it’s become a comfortable long-distance friendship. But it can be excruciating for Emerson. Eleven years after their short and emotionally consuming freshman-year romance, he is still in love with her. When everything goes wrong all at once, Sarah plunges into another rash decision. To correct her mistakes, as her high school coach used to tell her when she flubbed a dive, she must return to the point where she went wrong and start again. So she’s moving back to Syracuse and into a vacancy in Emerson’s rooming house, a choice that has sometimes amusing but sometimes catastrophic consequences. And nobody is safe.

Chapter One
Boston: July 1987 Continue reading

Character Interviews: Liza and Charlie from Don’t Tell Anyone

Dont_Tell_Anyone_200Two characters from my most recent novel, Don’t Tell Anyone, have decided to interview each other. I swear I had nothing to do with this.

Charlie: Hello, today we’re here with the fabulous Elizabeth Barrett Browning Stanhope, star of stage, screen, and…

Liza: My kitchen. Thank you. Pop me a beer, would you?

Charlie (grabbing two and offering Liza one): Our readers are dying to know, Liza. Just what do you see in my brother?

Liza: I don’t know. What did you see in Adam’s best man?

Charlie: I refuse to answer that, because this might be one of those “safe for work” websites. So what glorious surprise are you whipping up for dinner tonight?

Liza: Are you kidding me? I’ve been studying for my Organic Chemistry midterm all afternoon, so I pulled out one of the casseroles the neighbors brought. It might be lasagna, it might be moussaka. I have no idea.

Charlie: Did you leave the cover on? Or else Mom’s gonna go bonkers again. She keeps yapping that the noodles will dry out and I’ll break my caps.

Liza: Yes, Charlie, I left the cover on. Your dental work is safe.

Charlie: 350 degrees?

Liza: Would you prefer to cook and I’ll ask the questions?

Charlie: Suit yourself.

Liza: Tell me about that mystery man who keeps calling.

Charlie: That, my dear Lizabelle, is the man I’m going to marry. Don’t tell anyone. God, especially my brother. He’ll freak.

Liza: So what else is new?

Charlie: I’m guessing the anger management program was a wash?

Liza: Adam hasn’t put a fist through a wall lately, so I consider it a success.

Charlie: I noticed the place looked a little less…Swiss-cheesy.

Liza: How’s work?

Charlie (shrugging): Eh, the usual. Four divas talking about Prada and health care in front of the camera and wanting to kill each other behind it. Hey, did you know that Joelle’s adopting another Russian orphan?

Liza: Is that the one with the big hair or the one with the bad collagen job?

Charlie: The one Mom keeps calling “Joel.”

Liza: I still have no idea what they’re talking about.

Charlie: Watch the show once in a while. You might get some grooming tips.

Liza: You might get some extra-crunchy surprises in your lasagna. Or moussaka. Or whatever the heck this is.

Charlie (leans over to peer into oven): Is that one of Cara’s dishes?

Liza: I think so.

Charlie: Well, just call Wal-Mart; I’m sure they’ll tell you the ingredients. So here’s another question the world is dying to know: how do you manage to write for the newspaper, go to school, and still have time to play referee between a Jewish mother and her eldest son?

Liza: I’m a good multi-tasker. I record everything. Trouble is, I have to be careful not to mix up the recordings or I could be making my midnight press deadline with an essay about mitochondria and the sodium-potassium pump.

Charlie: It would still be more entertaining than most of what’s in that paper.

Liza: And my chemistry professor might be baffled by my story about school board allocations. Here’s one for you. Back when we were in college, did you ever think you’d be catering to four daytime divas instead of becoming the next Geraldo Rivera?

Charlie: I seriously hate his mustache.

Liza: You’re dodging the question, Mr. Trager.

Charlie (shrugging): It’s a living. Meaning they can’t live with out me. At least you get to be Lois Lane once in a while. Where is Superman, anyway?

Liza: Taking Estelle to get her hair done. You know how much he loves that. God, I hope we have more beer.

Interested in reading the story? Through July, you can grab Don’t Tell Anyone from Smashwords at half off (about $1.50) Go to http://bit.ly/a5Q90ZG and use code SSW50 at checkout.

Would you like to know when my next book, Sliding Past Vertical, will hit Amazon? Join my mailing list. I promise I won’t spam you.

Sneak Peek from Sliding Past Vertical

Typewriter - Once upon a timeHappy Friday! It’s raining like mad here, but I’m a happy little duck. I have a title for the new book (more about the meaning of that in a later blog), Husband and I are working on the cover, and the manuscript is going through beta readings. Meanwhile, I wanted to share a bit. If you’d like to sign up for my mailing list and be one of the first to know when the book hits Amazon, hop over here and leave me your e-mail address. Thank you! Continue reading

Drawing Breath to Help Cystic Fibrosis Foundation

Click on the photo to learn more about cystic fibrosis.

Many of you know that I wrote Drawing Breath as a small way to honor a friend who lived into his thirties with cystic fibrosis. Although each person who is diagnosed with the disease experiences a unique level of severity, there is still no cure, and management of the symptoms can require a great deal of time and expense. Often this hits families hardest; since the disease is genetic, multiple children can be affected, like the ones my character, Daniel, meets in the hospital.

Since May is Cystic Fibrosis Awareness Month as well as the anniversary of the release of the book, I wanted to do something special, and I hope you’ll be willing to help me. All proceeds from sales of Drawing Breath over the month will go to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. This amounts to $4.00 per print book (please purchase print copies through CreateSpace directly, because they take less of a cut) and $1.00 per e-book.

You can buy the book here:

CreateSpace (print)
Barnes & Noble

The foundation is working to increase awareness, help support families, find better treatments and, one day, hopefully, a cure. Thank you, in advance, for your help and support.

The DREAM BIG Blog Hop

Here’s the pitch, courtesy of Cody Martin:

“Writing is largely solitary, and sometimes a lonely endeavor. Sure, you talk to friends, experts for research, discuss what works and what doesn’t with your editor, and bounce ideas off of fellow writers. But in the end it’s one person pounding the keyboard or twirling the pencil. But what if it didn’t have to be completely alone? Who would YOU work with if you could work with anyone on your favorite project?

“In this post, that’s what I’m asking. Choose a person for each category and tell why you want to work with them. If you want, feel free to post their picture, a piece of their work, or a link to something about them. The only rule is that the person must still be alive.

“Writers dream. Now it’s time to dream BIG.”

1. You have the opportunity to hire anybody as your cover artist. If you write children’s books or books that are heavily illustrated, who would you get for the interior artwork?

Illustration by Elwood Smith

Illustration by Elwood Smith

This may give me marital tsuris because my husband is a fantastic illustrator. If he is not available, I want my next cover done by Elwood Smith. He’s a local guy. I met him once, and worked frequently with his partner, Maggie, on some projects. His illustrations are quirky and done with a great sense of humor and style. When he addressed a networking group I used to belong to, someone asked why his little characters often wore hats. He shrugged and said, “I don’t know how to draw hair.” Gotta love a guy who says that.

DownloadedFile2. Who would you co-write your next novel with? What genre? Why?

I want to co-write my next novel with Janet Evanovich. Because she’s funny. I need to write some humor right now. Very badly. The universal forces that supply me with novels to write are apparently not complying with my request to lighten up a bit.

janeane-garofalo3. Your publisher wants to do an audiobook version of your novel and they’re not sparing any expense. Who do you think can narrate your masterpiece?

Sweet. I want Janeane Garafolo to narrate The Joke’s on Me. She has the perfect sarcastic bite without becoming insufferable after a few hours.

4. They’re really going all out! Your novel is getting a full soundtrack. Who should compose it? If your novel uses a lot of songs, list your compilation here.

Yikes, I don’t know. I don’t think much about music when I write. Suggestions, anyone?

5. Congratulations! Your novel is being turned into a major motion picture. As the creator of the original work, you get to pick the director.

Jason Reitman. Because I loved Juno. I think he’d do a good job with Drawing Breath.


6. The director has some ideas on who to cast, but you get to cast one character. What role/character is it and who portrays them?

I’ve always pictured Kathy Bates as Jude, Frankie’s sister, in The Joke’s on Me.

7. You’ve been hired to write a novel based on a preexisting character or franchise from another medium. Which character or franchise is it?

I’m dying to know how things worked out for Harry and Sally. You know that honeymoon has to end sometime. Probably the three hundred and tenth time she asks for her salad dressing on the side.

8. It’s the anniversary of your favorite literary character’s debut. You’ve been hired (yay, work!) to write an anniversary novel. Who is the literary character?

Anna Karenina. But this time, she pushes her husband under the train.

Tag, Ellie Mack. You’re it.

Why Would Anyone Want to Read a Novel about Cancer?

Ballet-2When I write the first draft of a novel, I normally don’t think much about marketing. I tell the story that falls into my head, the one that has the most energy and won’t leave me alone until I finish writing. And then I think about how to sell it.

Even while I was writing Don’t Tell Anyone, which I’d titled The C Word at the time, I knew I’d face some serious challenges once I published it. But I still felt compelled to complete the novel and release it, hoping it would find an audience, secretly terrified that even if it came out well-written, thought-provoking, insightful or whatever good adjective you want to plunk on it, people would hear the word “cancer” and run. Continue reading

Never Look Back?

200px-Satchel_PaigeOne of my heroes, Satchel Paige, is credited as having said, “Don’t look back. Something might be gaining on you.” When I ran competitively, coaches warned me that every peek over my shoulder was a waste of energy that could have been propelling me forward. Mindfulness meditation taught me to focus on the present. It seems like for most of my life, I have been strongly encouraged to either stay in the moment or look ahead.

But where does writing fiction fit into all of this? It seems to be perpetually looking backward. It allows me to “taste life twice,” according to Anais Nin. Through my characters, I mine past pain for the fiction of my present and future. I return to those old forks in the road and wander down the one I rejected to see if that alternative future might yield rich material, a new character whose story begs to be written.

This week, I looked back at some of my former fiction. An old story, one that I’d abandoned, called to me. Great, I thought, because that’s part of my “writing plan” for 2013. Write a new novel and dip into my Closet of Unfinished Things to complete and publish one of the many first drafts that I’d abandoned.

To my horror and dismay, the Closet of Unfinished Things popped out one really bad, bad, manuscript. (Bad Manuscript! Down, boy!) I barely recognized it as something I’d written. I guess that’s good, because it shows evidence that I’ve improved, but I cringed at every clumsy sentence, every typo, and every awkward metaphor. And that protagonist! I wanted to slap her! She has no spine. She is a dishrag. Every other character in this book—even the ones off camera—are more interesting than this little mouse. Maybe that’s why I’d given up on it in the first place. I adore the story. I love the themes, which are so relevant, so human. But it is not this woman’s story. She simply can’t carry it.

So I recast the lead, and I’m rewriting the thing. I have my doubts: Did this character fall into the wrong novel? Will a new character in an essentially character-driven novel change the story? Maybe. Maybe it will be a better story. There’s only one way to find out and that’s to plunge forward. No looking back, at least for now.

Tell Everyone!

DTA_Print_coverI’m excited to share the news with you…my third novel, Don’t Tell Anyone, has just been released!

When pneumonia lands Estelle Trager unconscious in the emergency room, it ruins everything for the stubborn 65-year-old woman. She’d been keeping a secret—a deadly secret—that she’d planned on taking to the grave. But now her son Adam and his wife, Liza, know about her tumors. Adam is outraged, but Estelle, who watched her mother and grandmother suffer from breast cancer in the days when no one dared speak its name, has no intention of putting her family or herself through the horrors of cancer treatment. Estelle decides there is only one solution: ask Liza, the 33-year-old daughter-in-law she once called a godless hippie raised by wolves, to kill her.

A horrified Liza refuses and keeps the request—among other things—a secret from her furious husband. But she tells his younger brother, Charlie, a close friend from college with whom she shares her own confidences, despite Adam’s serious case of sibling rivalry. Armed with nutrition textbooks and her neighbor, a savvy nurse, can Liza win over her mother-in-law and convince her to consider other options before the cancer, the secrets, and Estelle’s determination to end her life win out?

I didn’t intend on writing another book set into a backdrop of illness. At least not so soon after Drawing Breath, which pretty much wrenched me inside out and had me begging whatever subconscious power supplies me with stories to give me a nice, lighthearted comedy next time. But a death in my own family was still haunting me. And when that happens, I write. So Estelle came into my life. I wanted to know why a woman who knows breast cancer runs in her family would not only conceal that fact from her grown sons, but when she discovers her own lumps, chooses to let nature take its course. And the little apple-cart-upsetter that I am, I let someone find out. Set into a family with its own crazy quirks, closet-skeletons, and almost-healed scars, I sat back to watch how they would handle the situation.

Let’s just say that this isn’t your typical cancer story. I even show you how to make my mother-in-law’s famous chicken soup.

If you’d like to read an excerpt, go here. You can get the e-book from Amazon.com and Smashwords.com right now, and a paperback from Amazon.com shortly.

As always, thank you for your support and your comments. You guys continue to awe and inspire me!