Thursday, November 10, 2011

Winter Storm Alfred

Still two months to go before winter officially arrives and we've already had close to 1 1/2 feet of snow. If you live in the Rockies, you're thinking, "so what?" Well, we live in the Northeast. Halloween weekend is supposed to be about trick or treat and cute kids in semi-scary costumes. Sure, it's snowed on Halloween in the past - a kind of fluffy, wet, and very cold rain that didn't stick to any surface.

In years past, big winter storms were known for when the occurred: Blizzard of '78, Ice Storm of 2009, the April Fool's Day storm, that sort of thing. This one should've been "The Halloween Storm" but instead it got a name, just like a hurricane: Alfred. I just hope Alfred is an only-child-orphan with no family to come following his path!
What late October SHOULD look like in central MA
What October 30, 2011 ACTUALLY looked like
Kind of scary - good for Halloween!
Pretty, too, in an awe-inspiring way

Next post - what to do when you've had no power for 3 1/2 days and little hope of getting it back for at least 3 more.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Hurricane Irene

So by the time Irene reached central New England, she wasn't a hurricane anymore. Tropical storm force winds are still powerful, especially coupled with the rain attacking already saturated soil. Our town got off pretty easy compared to some areas in Massachusetts. Had Irene still been a category 3 hurricane, things would've been nightmarish. Instead, we were inconvenienced.
This is a shot of the tree that fell down the road from our house. It ripped out of the ground, bending down over the lines, then broke up and took out a couple structures. No one was hurt, which is what really counts.

More property damage

Branch on the wires

More fallen trees

Need truck to get through here!
Choppy lake!

Beach? The waterline is usually about 3 feet to the left of that string!

This tree crew (below) was from Michigan. They thought we were all very polite - we were just grateful to have the trees cleared off the power lines.Thank you!
National Grid got our electricity back on just before 8 pm Monday. YAY! We could hear everyone cheering from down the road. Glad to have this first big hurricane over - now on to the first day of school!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Hot Summer Reads!

Welcome to the 2011 Edgy Christian Fiction Hot Summer Reads Blog Tour. Check us all out! There are some great summer reads out there just waiting for you to pick them up or download! To purchase one of these wonderful novels, just click on the book cover.
I’m off to a late start with my blog post. Life is supposed to slow down in the summer – ya’ know, “hazy, lazy days.” Just doesn’t seem to happen when you have kids! Today was the start of swimming lessons, which is apropos for this blog post. Any of my four book choices would be great to take along to the beach. The first two are historical romances, Westerns really, written by me. Each takes place in 1880’s Colorado and were inspired partly by my love of Louis L’Amour Westerns. Each is full of action, a touch of suspense and, of course, romance. 

CELTIC CROSS  - Sometimes you have to forget who you are in order to become who you should be.
Cristeen Latham has spent her life trusting no one – sometimes not even herself and certainly not God. When she arrives at the Donovan ranch clinging to life, Matt Donovan is determined to help even though she is a stranger. But now a madman is on her trail and Cristeen must learn to trust…or die.

CELTIC KNOT – There’s something to be said for familiarity, but it’s not all good.
When widow Abby Finnegan meets ranch hand Kyle Lachapelle, she figures he’s as deceitful as her family. But Kyle is a Secret Service operative working undercover, and Abby has a disturbing connection to his counterfeiting case. Abby’s protecting her heart while Kyle can’t afford the feelings stirring in his. Love is out of the question…or is it the answer?

The third book is one I’ve been wanting to read for a while – what better excuse than a blog tour!

SEASONS IN THE MIST by Deborah Kinnard
Bethany Lindstrom is a history student working who goes back in time to 1353 Cornwall. How it happens, and how Deb Kinnard makes it fit with her Christian world view is fascinating. Once Beth adjusts to her new surroundings, she becomes embroiled in political intrigue of King Edward’s court. She makes new friends and finds love, something she lacked in her modern life. But does she belong in the fourteenth century or the twenty-first? The history and language in this novel are an added joy – I especially loved that no one could pronounce Bethany nor Lindstrom properly. This book is a must read for any fan of historicals or time-travel.

For my fourth book, I chose one by an author a recently “met” online. Dora Hiers first novel, published by White Rose Publishing, is a contemporary romantic suspense. Just like my current WIP. In fact, Dora’s style is much the same as mine: real people faced with a situation just slightly out of the ordinary.

JOURNEY’S END by Dora Hiers tells the story of Chelsea Hammond and Trey Colten. Chelsea is just about to open a camp for troubled teens when, ironically, the son of the man who murdered her husband shows up unexpectedly. He witnessed his mother’s murder;  US Marshal Trey Colten and his partner are sent to protect both the boy and Chelsea. But who will protect Trey from the effect Chelsea has on his heart? The story is well-written, fast paced, with just enough conflict between Trey and Chelsea to keep the pages turning. I highly recommend this novel to lovers of romantic suspense.

If you've read one of these novels, I'd love to hear your opinion. And don't forget to check out future posts for some great ideas. Wednesday, July 20th, visit ; Friday, July 22nd, it's Tracy Krauss's turn (  

Friday, July 8, 2011

Flower Time!

Perennial plant sales are in full swing at Inishowen Farms - our family business. Between spring fairs, farmers' markets and regular business hours PLUS having to water and care for the plants, I've had very little time for writing.

 Sean and Caitlin have been tugging at my thoughts for the past couple of weeks. To make matters worse, Sean's cousin Randy has started chiming in; he's anxious to get into print so he can finally hook up with veterinarian Gio MacKenzie. Then there's Caitlin's best friends, Janelle and Scott Bartlett, who may get involved in solving a old Naultag mystery. And Randy's sister Jen has found the perfect place to work with horses, helping physically and mentally challenged kids, but there's something strange going on behind scenes. So you see, writing is calling to me :-) I'll be back at it real soon.

Meanwhile, I do manage to find some time to read. The ECFL Hot Summer Reads blog tour began this week and I'll be posting my four choices on July 18th. If you want to learn more, check out Edgy Christian Fiction Lovers.

Here's a few beautiful garden photos to close out this post. I took these last year. This is the back of St. Joseph's church in North Brookfield; it's an inspiring spot, no matter your faith or denomination.  

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Small Towns Then and Now

When I decided to write contemporary romantic suspense, I chose the setting as small town New England. It's where I'm from and what I know. There are things I love about the area where I live. Other things aren't so wonderful. All together they make up a charming community that hovers somewhere between colonial charm and fast-paced, high tech land. Perfect for my novels. And easy to research.

Main Street, North Brookfield, MA (current)
What happens, though, when you have a fictional town set in a long-ago era? My friend and critique partner, Nike Chillemi, has just such a situation. She's writing novels set in fictional Sanctuary Point on Long Island during the late 1940's. I've invited Nike to stop in and share some of what's involved in writing about a familiar location in an unfamiliar time period.

North Brookfield, MA (circa 1900)

Welcome, Nike :D Grab a cup of coffee or tea, pull up a comfy seat, and let's chat. First, what made you choose Long Island for the location in your novels? And why the late 1940's?

NIKE: Tammy, thanks for inviting me to Naultag. What a lovely town you have here, quite a bit like my imaginary village of Sanctuary Point.

I chose Long Island for the setting of BURNING HEARTS because I love the Atlantic Ocean and wanted a village on the sea. Well, what I got was a village on the Great South Bay, which is very large and opens on to the Atlantic. I know the area well. Our family has gone to the beach many summers there so I knew of a spot right between Long Beach and Oceanside where I created my village. It has a wonderful cove, which I needed as the earlier generations of the richest family in Sanctuary Point ran whiskey on their boat during prohibition.

I chose 1946, one year after the close of World War II because it was a time when ordinary Americans had class and dignity. It was also a pivotal time in our nation. So many American soldiers had fallen in the war that America seemed to be losing her innocence slowly but surely. I wanted to create characters who struggled with these issues that framed the America we live in today.

Tammy, what would your two main characters say is the best thing about a small town and the worst thing?

TAMMY: Hmm, that’s an interesting question. Caitlin’s immediate response would be to tell you the worst thing about small town life: gossip. Everyone knows everyone, and they all talk. She’s the victim of mean-spirited rumors in SHE’S MINE, so this is a sore spot for Caitlin. As for the best thing - probably the memories. Caitlin grew up in Naultag, raised primarily by her grandmother, even before her parents’ nasty divorce. Being back in Gram’s house reminds Caitlin of the happier times, when she felt cocooned by love and had a sense of controlling her own destiny.

Sean Taggart left town for college, where he met and became engaged to a woman he thought he loved. She intended to keep him in her world—the big city with its “movers and shakers.” Sean had planned on a career in the financial market but when his fiancĂ© made clear her disdain for “county bumpkins” he realized he was on the wrong path. One of the best things about small town, for Sean, is the friendliness. Everyone knows everyone; you don’t have to lock doors and you can keep your windows open even when you aren’t home. The worst thing is the gene pool – Sean is related to at least half the town! Which means his mother’s matchmaking efforts have included women he would never consider dating, but finding someone who isn’t his cousin is difficult!

I know Erika has lived in Sanctuary Point all her life and likely takes most of it for granted. What would she say is the best and worst about a small town? And Lorne – he’s the newcomer, running from a past he wants to forget. Does he like the quietness small town life offers? Or is he planning on moving on soon?

NIKE: Erica Brogna loves the village of Sanctuary Point until arson at the dress shop where she works kills Ada, her mentor and friend. She becomes heartsick wondering what happened to her village. She thought she could trust everyone who lives there and now, obviously, there's a killer lose. She's emotionally shattered by this. She's always known there are "haves" and those perceived to be "have nots" in her village and that her family falls into the lesser category. The residents whose families have been there for generations go to the well-established church and are mostly of Dutch, Irish, Scottish, or Scandinavian decent. They look down on the recent Czechoslovakian immigrants who go to a small chapel on a bluff looking over the bay. Erica is somewhat of a free thinker. She reads a fashion-forward magazine and has copied a few pair of slacks modeled in its pages. She wears these pants in the village. The daughter of the richest man in the village taunts her about this and starts rumors about her. She's not happy about that, but she's tough and able to fight back.

Lorne Kincade is a different matter. He's not come from a secure background. He came to this tiny village because he's running from the psychological demons of his childhood and from the horrors of World War II where he was an Army Ranger fighting in the European theatre. He inherited a ramshackle cottage in Sanctuary Point and had decided it's time to stop running. The thing that bothers him most is he's treated like an outsider. Some village residents think he's the arsonist/murderer which makes him feel even more isolated. He likes that he can ride his Harley Davidson on the highway and county roads that stretch all the way east to Montauk Point. The wind in his face is comforting and he can stop at any number of beaches along the way and watch the surf come in and go out. This seems to calm his troubled soul.

SHE'S MINE has characters in families who know each other well. These characters may have grown up together. What are these relationships like? How do some of the longtime residents react to Caitlin coming back after a long absence away from Naultag?

TAMMY: Sean Taggart is an only child but his mother’s sister has a large family. Sean spent a lot of his childhood hanging out with his cousins. The Taggart family has been in Naultag since the mid-eighteenth century; it isn’t surprising that Sean is related in one way or another to many residents. He’s gregarious, for the most part, and gets along well with the majority of people he knows...even the relatives.
Main St, E. Brookfield, 1962
Caitlin Harrington’s family, on her mother’s side, has been in Naultag for about 4 generations. Her aunts and uncle married and moved away so she doesn’t have any close relations living in town. But her grandmother, Sophie Baxter, was well-loved by everyone and Caitlin is welcomed back by most people. Except for whoever is leaving the ominous notes stating she doesn’t belong here.

The Harrington family isn’t from Naultag. Caitlin’s father, Jack, was a rising star in the Red Sox baseball franchise until a shoulder injury ended his career. He’s still considered a local celebrity. Caitlin never had a good relationship with her father.

Do you think family relationships play a big part in small town communities? Erica has a wonderful family – mother, father and brother, but Lorne has no one. Are his memories of his mother and father a factor in how he reacts to Sanctuary Point, the arson/murder, and most of all Erica?

NIKE: Something I didn't realize until the manuscript was in editing is that Erica's mom is very much like my maternal grandmother. Both had a great sense of humor and ran a boarding house. Mrs. Brogna is not only the glue that holds her family together , but also a nurturing force for her boarders.

The Dutch characters in BURNING HEARTS come from families that settled on the Great South Bay of Long Island as early as the 1600s. The most prominent family in Sanctuary Point, the MacTavish family, settled in the area just prior to World War I. They made their money smuggling whiskey by boat across the Great South Bay during prohibition. So, there's no shortage of generational sin. In addition many of the more established residents don't appreciate the new Czechoslovakian immigrants who are settling in the northern section of the village. That sub theme builds conflict right into the plot.

Lorne, an outsider to the village, inherits a ramshackle cottage from his uncle just before a house fire breaks out that takes the life of a young widow. The village chief of police is naturally suspicious of outsiders and looks at Lorne as a suspect. Lorne has a nightmarish childhood and his World War II military experiences in Europe have left him scarred. It doesn't help that he's being framed for arson/murder.

TAMMY: Poor Lorne! He’s such a wonderful character. Without giving anything away, I can assure readers that Lorne rises above all the suspicion like a true hero. I hope you’ll all join me in reading BURNING HEARTS, because then you’ll see why I love this novel. Pop over to to buy your copy today!

Nike Chillemi has been called a crime fictionista due to her passion for crime fiction. BURNING HEARTS is the first book in the crime wave that is sweeping the south shore of Long Island in The Sanctuary Point series.

Note about the photos in this post: many of the vintage photos were borrowed from Please visit their site for more wonderful scenes from the past. The E. Brookfield photo is courtesy of that town's website;they have a great Then & Now page. I took the photo of Main Street, North Brookfield shown at the top and the circa 1900's photo is from EPodunk.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Moon over Naultag

The moon this evening was stunning. A big orange ball resting on the eastern horizon. Details of the lunar landscape were easily seen with the naked eye. My daughter spotted the massive orb as we drove home from dropping off her friend. We rushed home for the camera to capture the image.

Later, I finally drew the name of the winner from the last post. Congratulations to Dee! Your gift card will be in the mail as soon as you decide which you'd prefer - Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts. Thank you to everyone who responded to my question about villian point of view.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

To Villian or Not To Villian...

     ...That is the question! It's not a question of having a villian. Every story needs a villian of some sort, be it another person, mother nature, or maybe the protagonist's own mind. Even a book about overcoming an adversity such as a debilitating disease has a villian - the disease!
     The question today is, should a novel include scenes in the villian's point of view. Specifically, I'm referring to romantic suspense. Some editors prefer manuscripts with only the hero and heroine's point of views. But what about you, as a reader? Do scenes written in the villian's point of view add to the suspense? Or do they give away too many clues?
     In the evolution of She's Mine, I included some scenes in the villian's point of view. Adam, the villian, is a creepy guy. He has a warped view of the world and his place in it. I infused his scenes with all the twisted menace a villian deserves. Adam has set his sights on Caitlin, the heroine, and he's determined to have her no matter what it takes. Here's a sample:
     Adam sat at the edge of the woods, watching. Caitlin thought she was clever, moving earlier than planned. Foolish woman. It didn’t matter when she came back to Naultag, because he’d known all along that she would.
     It irritated him to be stuck here in hiding while she struggled to carry her luggage into the house. He’d do that for her, and so much more. Soon she’d understand his love and she’d come to love him, too.
     He’d failed to convince her that they were meant to be together. If they hadn’t been interrupted he’d have had her. Now she hated the man he’d been that night. She was afraid.
     He could use her fear. 
     He smiled and turned his back, strolling down the woodland path to his parked car. Play his cards right and it shouldn’t take long to make her see that he was her true love.
     “You’re mine, Caitlin.”
      Let me know your opinion. Do you like romantic suspense novels to include scenes in the villian's point of view? Do these scenes give away too much or muddy the waters more (making it harder to figure out who the bad guy is)?

Leave a comment including your email address - use (at) and (dot) for security reasons - and you'll be eligible to win a Dunkin Donuts gift card (or Starbucks, whichever the winner prefers). On April 15th, I'll draw a name at random from all the comments.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Mud Season Is Upon Us!

The snows are melting and the flooding has begun! The road in front of our house is alternately massive puddles or deep wallows of mud. But it's all good, because it means spring is just around the corner!

We live on one of the few dirt roads in town. It's also "technically" a private road, which means only limited amounts of town money can be spent on maintaining/upkeeping the road. The alternative is to pave it but that means widening (and we'd all lose a great deal of our yards). So we put up with the mud in the spring, the dust in the summer and the ice in the winter.

Below is a picture of the pond on Brickyard Road, so named for somewhat obvious reasons. About 200 to 250 years ago, this section of town was involved in the business of making bricks. This pond was once a brick pit - where clay was dug for use in making bricks. Now beavers have moved in, bringing new life to the once almost-still pond. In the spring the water comes within milimeters of overflowing the road.

It won't be long before the trees leaf out and flowers start blooming. Then, driving further along Brickyard Road you'll see this green-canopied lane.

Monday, February 21, 2011

A LONG Winter break

I've been terrible about keeping up with this blog. Originally I envisioned doing posts that would show off this region of central Massachusetts. I still hope to do that but getting the pictures for each post is proving challenging.  I thought having both kids in school would give me more time. I forgot to reckon with my "paying" job! Oh well, it'll get done - eventually.

Halloween Fun!

My daughter's creations

 In the meantime, I spent several months contemplating needed revisions for She's Mine and with the help of my wonderful critique partners the story has turned a corner. It was good before, even if I'm biased in saying so, but now it's on the way to being great. I've also spent time since last May doing critiques for those same partners - being just as tough on them as they are on me. LOL! And I'm helping my pastor polish his YA novel ~ can't wait to announce that one when it's published. His daughter is doing some B&W internal illustrations. I'm excited to see her work, too.
Fall lingered long

Moonlight in December

A skim of ice on the lake

Like most of the country, we've been having a dousy of a winter here in the northeast. Haven't had this much snow in about 15 years. In fact, we possibly have had more snow this year than in the past 10 combined! Okay, that might be a slight exaggeration. At least we're in the country and have places to push, pile or haul the snow away to...not like NYC. Boy, they just can't handle it down there in the Big Apple. One of my critique partners (and partner in crime!) lives in the NYC area and she's had to put up with it all. I'm grateful to live in the middle of nowhere!
North Street, looking north
Woodland Ave

Tractor comes in handy!

At least the kids have plenty of snow for fun!

I'll try to be more faithful about updating this blog site. We had some interesting things happening over the fall and winter that will make nice articles highlighting life in small town New England. And please - THINK SPRING!

To see how our greenhouses and perennials weather the winter see the photo gallery at the Inishowen Farms website.