On Writing Take Me Home

Take Me Home is a straightforward love story of finding love late in life. It travels from Rhode Island to Florida then across the country to Idaho and back east to the North Fork of Long Island – all in chronological order. It is a knee jerk reaction to some of the reviews of The Reverse Commute. I didn’t want to confuse the linear readers.

Josie Wolcott has lived a different life than I have. She was an unwed mother, a single mom, a divorcée. However, Josie and I do share a common profession and a restless need to wander. We also both possess a not always rational belief that life might be better somewhere else. Josie puts it this way:

“Oh, I’m very familiar with that struggle. When things go wrong, I tend to run, as if life will be better in a new place. The problem is, the place may be new, but I brought myself along on the journey. I still have to deal with her, the restless eternal wanderer.”

After I wrote Take Me Home I didn’t spend a lot of time promoting it. Two months later, Life Is All This came knocking on the door. Florida had a fertile sense of place. The sights, the sounds, the lifestyle.

Recently reading this book and re-editing a bit, I have once again fallen in love with the story I wrote. Josie is an extremely thoughtful character. She has a lot of insights I still find to be true.

After Rich and I sold the house in New Hampshire, I left for Florida and he stayed behind for two months to finish a job he was working on. He was offered a housesitting opportunity at a large old farmhouse with an apartment above the barn. It was directly across the Squamscott River from our old house. A very good friend of mine from Rhode Island joined me on my road trip to the Sunshine State.

When I arrived in Florida, I stayed with another friend for almost a month. She had offered me lodging until Rich arrived but it didn’t work out as expected. There were numerous complications I won’t get into. By the first of March, I found myself alone in an apartment that was not quite what I had imagined my Florida life to be like.

I had started a new novel shortly after I arrived in Florida but I was constantly being offered advice on writing a sequel to The Reverse Commute. I wasn’t sure how that story would lend itself to a sequel. It made no sense to me. I was just beginning to live my real life sequel to the story. I had no idea how the Florida experiment would work out. Should I write about Ray and Sophie running a B&B? Rich and Sheila would run a B&B but that was two years off in the future.

So I started a story about the young girl and the Best Boy living in Los Angeles. It was a mess. My sister basically told me to trash it. “You’re not in the right environment. This story makes no sense,” she told me.

Alone in my apartment, some random stand alone scenes came to me.

The apartment was dark and stuffy. She stroked her hand along the kitchen wall until she felt the light switch. The room looked empty and forlorn. Who lives in a place like this, she asked herself, looking at the two folding chairs and the bare walls with no pictures.

sports chairs

Who was this woman? What was she doing in Florida? I had no idea, but I kept writing. I was experiencing single life for the first time in years. I was far from home, alone, thinking about what it would be like to be divorced or widowed.

I wrote down the story of the scary mammogram I had back in New Hampshire.

There was an insomniac living above me, opening and closing the deck door all night long. I wrote that down, too. At the time it was just She. Josie hadn’t fully formed yet. Her son, Luke, did not exist.

  Despite being exhausted, Josie had a hard time falling asleep. The apartment didn’t feel like home. Luke’s presence didn’t change the feeling of dislocation she often felt. She closed her eyes, listening to the peepers.

  The sound of the sliding door opening to the deck above jolted her out of an uneasy sleep. Rolling along the track, the sound rumbled through the apartment as the door slid shut with a thud. Every few minutes it happened again, and again, and again. She mumbled, “Goddamn it.” The door slid shut, punctuating her thought. They must be crack addicts, cokeheads, neurotic chain smokers. Some nights it went on until three, starting up again at five in the morning. She turned on the light, stacked her pillows, and picked up a book by the side of her bed.

I took more notes on observations I made and people I met. The exchange between Josie and the Middle Eastern woman, regarding Josie’s parking skills, did happen to me one morning when I was leaving for work.

When Rich arrived, we did enjoy the Florida bar scene at first, but it quickly became old and expensive. We started to take day trips, sightseeing and walking the beach or the Great Florida Birding Trails. Wakadatchatchie became a favorite bird watching excursion several nights a week. I spent a year blogging about my Florida walks. The pleasure of walking made its way into the book. So did the bar scene with its two-for-one happy hours.

Josie’s boss in Florida was based on a man I worked for in Exeter, NH when I was temping during a fourteen month lay-off. I have had so many temp jobs and worked with so many clients when I ran my own bookkeeping business I have been able to accumulate an entire library of characters.

The idea to make Andy Radcliffe an optometrist came to me when I talked to an old friend at a funeral we attended back in New England. His optical shop was struggling due to competition from Walmart and Lenscrafters. When his son thought he might like to take over the business, our friend advised against it. It was a side of the changing economy I had often thought about. A friend of mine’s first husband owned a local hardware store and he too had to sell his business because of the competition from Home Depot and Lowe’s. I’m always aware of the zeitgeist and these observations make their way into my stories. I’m writing about the times I live in and how ordinary lives are effected by circumstances beyond our control. It relates to a topic I’ve been posting about on Facebook; a topic you never hear politicians talk about. One of the many reasons why so many Americans don’t have sufficient retirement savings.

While I was still alone in Florida, I watched the Delray Beach St. Patrick’s Day parade from a bar stool on Atlantic Avenue. Bar stools are fertile ground for collecting stories. A man from Chicago who once played the saxophone for a living and belonged to the musician’s union told me his story and it ended up in the chapter when Josie goes boating on the Intracoastal.

“So what do you do, Josie?”
  “I’m an office manager for a builder. How about you?”
  “I manage a golf course, but in my heart I am still a saxophonist. I used to work in a band, playing nightclubs, weddings, bar mitzvahs, all over Chicago. We marched in parades, too. I did that until I was in my early thirties, back when the musicians’ union had a lock on the jobs. You couldn’t march in the St. Paddy’s Day Parade unless you were a union band. But that all ended, they busted the unions, so I moved on to golf course management. I got a job as a superintendent at a country club outside Chicago then the recession came along and hit the golf industry hard. I lost that job, too. So, Florida’s the place to be if you work on a golf course, right? I moved down here five years ago and I love it.”

Jacob may be entirely fictional but his dialogue comes from stories Rich shared with me after his long days working construction in the hot Florida sun. My husband is the one who taught me about cracking foundations and rebar. He also told me a second-hand story of a plumber who pissed in the kitchen sink of a mansion on the beach.

From a drywall contractor in Pompano Beach to another temp job during my year of unemployment during the Great Recession, I myself have done bookkeeping for many guys in the building industry. In Hampton, NH there was a wonderful guy who kept beers in his fridge for his crew to drink at the end of the day.  Jacob is a compilation of many men I have known.

  “Hey.” He pointed to a guy at a table to the left of them. “Doesn’t that guy look like Alec Baldwin?”
  “No way. Alec Baldwin is much better looking. That guy’s nose is hideous.” Josie laughed.
  The bartender walked by. Jacob swirled his hand over their drinks, indicating they wanted another round.
  “You really think he looks like Alec Baldwin? He’s not even wearing a toupée, he’s wearing a wig. He’s gross.”
  The guy in question, the supposed Alec Baldwin look alike, had a bulbous red, bumpy nose.
  “Maybe one of his younger brothers?” Jacob asked.
  “No, not at all,” she said.
  “Okay.” Jacob pushed the second margarita toward her. “But after a couple of these, Hollywood will come to you, too.”

I write simply what I hear, what I see. I keep these stories in journals. They are stories I feel need to be shared, like the demise of unions and the changing economy of big box stores putting the sole proprietor out of business. These are things that happen to the very real people I meet along my journey through life. Like this line from the man from Chicago I met at the St. Patrick’s Day parade. I wrote it down on a cocktail napkin after he left the bar to join the St. Paddy’s day revelers out on the street.

“There used to be a time when a guy could support a family playing the saxophone. I still see myself as a musician. It’s a part of my self-image, even when I’m researching fertilizer options and arguing at town meetings over run-off.”

In Take Me Home the reader is left to make of this what they will.

Josie’s stories of traveling through Europe are one of the few things that are actually my stories. When I was alone in Florida I read my travel journals. Mrs. Erna Sommers at the B&B in Rothenberg and Mrs. Penock and the train ride to Amsterdam are both true stories.

“Among the invisible tools of creative individuals is their ability to hold on to the specific texture of their past. Their skill is akin to that of a rural family who lives through the winter on food stored in their root cellar.” ~ Vera John-Steiner

I have been to Edinburgh but Josie’s story of her time there is pure fiction.

Other than the backpacking tales, the story of  Josie’s Aunt Maddie is the only other literal truth plucked from my own life. I had a great aunt who lived with my paternal grandparents in Providence. She never married but she did have an engagement ring in a shoebox in her bedroom closet. Aunt Maddie’s story is my Great Aunt Josie’s story (and that is how Josie, my character, got her name).

James Salter once said: “There comes a time in life, when you realize that everything is a dream; only those things which are written down have any possibility of being real.”

What would happen to my Great Aunt Josie’s story if I didn’t share it?

So I got to a point where I had these random chapters and no idea where they were going. Then we took a vacation out west to drive our daughter from her college campus in Denver to Yellowstone National Park where she was working that summer. We stayed at a fishing lodge along the Snake River in Idaho.

Upper Mesa Falls Ashton, ID

“Good evening,” he said. “Beautiful country, isn’t it?”
She looked up, smiling. “Yes, it’s lovely.”
“I think I’m going to have to try my hand at that.”
He pointed to the river where a fisherman was casting his fly. It was a lovely sight with the late day sun scintillating across the water’s surface.
“Are you visiting from Australia?” she asked.
He scoffed. “No, no. I’m a Kiwi. Home’s Dunedin, New Zealand.”
“Sorry, I thought your accent was Australian,” she said.
There it was again, her chronic apologies.
“Well, I’ll let you get back to whatever you’re doing. Time to shower up. Did you enjoy the falls?” he asked.
“Yes, I did.”
She turned the laptop toward him to show him a shot of the trailhead to the falls. It was taken from an old inn, the photo framed by the posts on the front porch.
“Nice eye,” he said, abruptly turning to go back in his room.

I had seen this man earlier in the day when we hiked to Mesa Falls. He did shout out to me to use the men’s room. Coincidentally, he ended up in the room next to us. He and I had this conversation while Rich and Michelle napped in our room. The rest is pure fiction.

Josie was becoming a living, breathing character. She was constantly on my mind; she was traveling with me on this western road trip.  So naturally I thought, “What if  Josie ran into this man? What if she was moving to Idaho to manage a fishing lodge?”

At the time, I thought the Kiwi would be a major character until I got to the end of the chapter and the story took a different turn. I was on the road, traveling through the West and my imagination ran wild.

To quote James Salter once again: “There is no situation like the open road, and seeing things completely afresh. I’m used to traveling. It’s not a question of meeting or seeing new faces particularly, or hearing new stories, but of looking at life in a different way. It’s the curtain coming up on another act. I’m not the first person who feels that it’s the writer’s true occupation to travel. In a certain sense, a writer is an exile, an outsider, always reporting on things, and it is part of his life to keep on the move.”

The story took off.  Jacob, the good ole Florida guy, evolved. The character of Andy Radcliffe developed. He and Josie had quirky families. Josie’s son Luke was easy. Sense of place has always been effortless for me.

Then along came Andy’s dog, Fergus, who I constantly had to worry about. I only had dogs when I was growing up. I never owned them in my adult life. I had to figure out what to do about Fergus when Andy was traveling around. While writing this book I realized this is why I had cats. Dogs are a pain in the ass.

Luke had an evening class so he left a key under the doormat. A lack of feminine upkeep was apparent upon entering the apartment. Dirty dishes were in the sink, the fridge empty except for a carton of ice cream and a twelve pack of Avalanche beer. Crushed beer cans and glasses were strewn around the living room. All signs pointing to the absence of Melanie.
  “Oh no, I think Luke broke up with his girlfriend. Do you want a beer?” she asked.
  “Sure,” Andy said. “Except for living in a college dorm, I never did get much of this bachelor pad experience at a young age,” he said, wistfully glancing around the room.
  “From the looks of it, you weren’t missing much,” she said.
  The spare bedroom appeared to be occupied. She lifted the cushions on the sofa, it wasn’t a pull out.
  “I think we may have to find a hotel room. I can’t believe Luke didn’t tell me what was going on.”
  “He’s a twenty-two-year-old guy, how much does he tell his mother? It’s okay,” he said, searching through his phone for hotels and finding a room right in town that allowed dogs.

  It’s hard looking back and trying to remember how the story took shape. How did I write these sentences? How did I create these people?

The landscape of the west spoke to her spirit, which she had neglected for so long. The grandeur of the mountains and the waterfalls, contrasting with the intimacy of a delicate columbine growing at the base of an aspen tree. Small tableaus set amidst the large dramatic scenery, waiting to be found on her daily walks. The big meaning of life explained within the story of a daily ritual. A hike in the woods to a waterfall with a man who was changing her outlook on life.


And of course there was always music.

  “Is this your song?” Josie asked. “Because I was expecting some disco.”
  “No, my song should be next. Listen, I have to tell you something. I think you may be shocked by this.”
  “What?” she asked, concerned.
  “I know how to dance,” he said. “I realize this may come as a surprise to you, but I’ve been told I’m actually quite good.”
  “Did I say you couldn’t dance?”
  “I’m pretty sure you were assuming that, as you haven’t asked me to dance all night.”
  She smiled, guilty as charged. The Stones were wrapping up their song. Mick was crooning, “You make a dead man cry.” Andy took her hand and led her to the dance floor.
  “This song’s for us. Now remember, the guy leads.”
  “I know that,” she said.
  “Yeah, well I’m thinking sometimes you might forget.”
  His laugh was sweet, his eyes crinkled with a smile.
  The opening notes from a steel guitar set the beat. He tapped his foot to the music, reached around her waist and took her right hand in his left as she reached for his shoulder. Lyle Lovett started singing Private Conversation as they moved across the dance floor. He wasn’t kidding, he really could dance. And he meant it when he said he would lead. With his right hand firmly on her back, he got her to spin around, facing the opposite direction while somehow turning himself so he was facing her, the two of them changing positions without a hitch.


***Take Me Home is available on Amazon in Kindle and book editions. If you’ve already read the book, reviews are always kindly appreciated***




We Are America: Stories From the Women’s March on Washington

It’s coming up, ladies. on January 20th, Women’s Marches are planned all over the country, from Montpellier, Vermont to Bozeman, MT. It’s impossible not to find a march somewhere near you, even if you live in a red state.

Last year I flew to DC and marched with my cousin, Ann Marie Mehlert, who is my friend Kathy’s sister. We tried to meet up with a group of friends of mine but the march was so much larger than anyone expected.

I arrived the day before by plane, train, and subway. I saw with my very own eyes that the crowd that showed up was so much larger than the one the day before. Inauguration Day.

Months later women showed up in the suburbs of Virginia and Alabama and learned we can change politics as usual.

I don’t know what happened during the passage of the tax bill but it was a lesson that we need to be ever vigilant.

This is the year we take back the Congress. This is the year we let the world know We Are America.

This year I’m meeting that group of friends I couldn’t find on the streets of DC last year. We are rendezvousing in New York City. Mothers, sister, college friends, daughters, friends who met while we raised those daughters. We’re cramming into a couple of hotel rooms and we’re taking to the streets. We’re angry and we’re heartbroken.

Share your Women’s March stories in the comments below. Where were you last year and where will you be this year?

“Women are the true architects of society.” ~ Harriett Beecher Stowe

Sheila Blanchette

Loyalty to the Nation all the time, loyalty to the Government when it deserves it” ~ Mark Twain

we-the-people We The People

January 21, 2017. We started the day with bagels and coffee and a stop at CVS for poster board and magic markers. The shelves were almost empty. It was another sign the media was underestimating this march. All that was left was a package of ten small multi-colored poster boards and medium size red and black Sharpie pens. Our signs were pretty weak compared to the other signs we would see throughout the day. We decided at our next protest we will plan ahead and make better signs.

my-bad-sign My very lame sign This is What Democracy Look Like

At the Metro the lines to purchase tickets were long. Yesterday I took the subway from Union Station to Tenleytown but only filled my card with enough money for the trip…

View original post 1,445 more words


I thought if I wrote the story readers would understand and empathize with the struggle of the American middle class.

Five years later, Trump was elected and so many people were shocked.

“I didn’t see this coming. How could this have happened?” they asked.

I don’t know. Why don’t you ask Sophie?

Sophie is one of the main characters in my first novel, The Reverse Commute. Her husband is a blue collar worker. She wears a pink collar. They live paycheck to paycheck and struggle to keep their heads above water. Sophie would have seen Trump coming years ago, back when Ronald Reagan was President and busted the air traffic controllers’ union, among other things.

Sophie would not have voted for Trump. She would be a Bernie supporter who then reluctantly voted for Hillary.

How do I know this?

I am Sophie.

I wrote The Reverse Commute for myself. It was an act of self-preservation. I, like Sophie, was on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Truthfully, I was standing before the abyss.

I lived in an old house built in 1728 along the Squamscott River just outside of Exeter, New Hampshire. Three squirrels frolicked along the rafters of my unfinished addition. The boiler blew up, the septic system crapped out, a tree fell on my van, and a year later another tree hit Rich’s truck. I had been laid off twice in my career. Rich’s work declined after the housing bubble burst. There was never enough money.

I drove a dented Hyundai with bumper stickers: New Hampshire for Obama and the Dave Matthews headless fire dancer. And yes, I did drive that car over a beach chair in the garage. My nephew saw this as a perfect metaphor for Sophie’s crushed dreams.

It is possible my entire life could be a metaphor.

I do wish on stars and I did have an erotic dream after watching the movie Blue Valentine starring Ryan Gosling.

My husband, Rich, is an easily distracted self-employed house painter and I worked as an Accounts Payable Royalty Specialist in a cubicle in a large old mill building in Ipswich, Massachusetts, forty-five minutes from my home in New Hampshire. I found the job after fourteen months of unemployment and $1200 a month Cobra payments.

Have I piqued your interest? Are you thinking about buying the book? Or do you need more?

I was friendly with the young man who sat in the cubicle next to me. His mother read The Reverse Commute and emailed to say, “The character Dan reminds me of my son.” Well yes, he should. When I moved to Florida she and I became good friends. We met at happy hours and Tuesday Trivia nights.

My books have continued to lead me to good friends.

My Dad did drive himself to a walk-in clinic while having a heart attack because he thought it was the flu. He told the ambulance driver to take him to Miriam Hospital instead of Rhode Island because they don’t charge for parking.

My friends and I did have weekly wine emergencies.

My dearest friend and cousin, Kathy, died of breast cancer at the age of fifty-one. We were roommates in Boston, we backpacked through Europe, and then the both of us ended up in the same small town of Stratham, New Hampshire.

John Irving once wrote about Stratham in Trying to Save Piggy Sneed:

“He (Piggy) lived in Stratham – on a road out of our town that ran to the ocean, about eight miles away….Now there was a town, Stratham! In small-town life is there anything more provincial than the tendency to sneer at smaller towns? Stratham was not Exeter (not that Exeter was much).”

John Irving also wrote:

“This is a memoir, but please understand that (to any writer with a good imagination) all memoirs are false. A fiction writer’s memory is an especially imperfect provider of detail; we can always imagine a better detail than the one we can remember. The correct detail is rarely, exactly, what happened; the most truthful detail is what could have happened, or what should have. Half my life is an act of revision; more than half the act is performed with small changes. Being a writer is a strenuous marriage between careful observation and just as carefully imagining the truths you haven’t had the opportunity to see. The rest is the necessary, strict toiling with the language…”

The Reverse Commute is not a memoir. It is a roman à clef, which is French for a novel with a key. A novel about real life, overlaid with a façade of fiction. The fictitious names in the novel represent real people, and the “key” is the relationship between the nonfiction and the fiction. This serves to keep the author from incurring potentially expensive libel charges.

Some famous roman à clefs are: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Tender Is The Night, Heart of Darkness, The Sun Also Rises, and The Devil Wears Prada.

I also gave the young girl in the novel some of my stories.

When I lived in Boston, my roommates and I hosted a Dead Celebrities Halloween party.

In another apartment I lived in on Commonwealth Avenue, one of the guys downstairs played the oboe in the Boston Symphony. He and his partner did convert their living room into a Japanese tearoom and invited us to formal tea ceremonies.

I spent a summer during college working on an assembly line at a Bic pen factory. I also called the labor board from a pay phone in the employee cafeteria. It was my Norma Rae moment.

There was some confusion, among some readers, about the alternating chapters. The book begins with a nameless girl on a train. She meets a handsome young man who is referred to as the Best Boy. He is an electrician and has ambitions of moving to Hollywood and working on movies.

The second chapter introduces the reader to Sophie and Ray, a middle aged couple struggling with middle class life during the Great Recession.

After four chapters or so, most readers quickly picked up on the fact that the following chapter would be back to the young girl’s story, then the next chapter would belong to Sophie, and so on.

I don’t know what to say about this other than I have changed the synopsis on Amazon and now introduce the book as two stories in one with alternating chapters. I didn’t want to change the concept of the nameless young girl and the Best Boy.  By the end of the novel, a majority of readers understood why I wrote it that way, and they didn’t have a problem following the story once they adapted to the rhythm of it.

The tricky thing with editing after the fact is that once you’ve seen the bad reviews you tend to overcompensate.

A few reviewers wrote that the ending was too perfect. The last chapter is titled Happily Ever After? The ending is meant to be ambivalent. I contemplated changing the chapter to Happily Ever After?????  Maybe some readers missed the question mark??? But the fact of the matter is, by the end of the book the reader knows what’s going on here, or should know after reading the chapter titled A Day Just Like Today. So the two endings – the young girl’s and Sophie’s with a question mark – again I don’t know what to say.

Maybe the book is meant for dreamers and magical thinkers. Read the book and then you tell me what you think about happy endings.

There were reviews that left me feeling sucker punched and ambushed.

“Throughout the story the liberal viewpoint is continually espoused. It sends the mistaken message that if only the government would take more action in the lives of the citizens, then everyone could live happily ever after. I kept waiting for the plot to show how their political ideology would actually help them attain their goals but never saw it.”

Of course, this woman also wrote:

“I guess one could say the book had happy endings but it seemed almost contrived.”

She was apparently another one who missed the question mark. I think she also missed the true spirit of the young girl’s story.

She wasn’t the only one to say the ending was contrived and I believe these reviewers were referring to a tragic event that takes place at a company picnic. Unfortunately, the company picnic that is a turning point for both women in the story was not contrived. It was real and if you link to this news article you will see yellow police tape in the photo. I was picnicking just beyond that cordoned off area when the accident happened. Like Sophie and the young girl, it was a turning point in my life, too.

I’ve thought a lot about why I wrote The Reverse Commute. I was after verisimilitude. The life I was living, and still am living in so many ways, is similar to a majority of unheralded American lives. Much of the dialogue and many of the scenes are based on real events. In all my novels I am writing about the world as I experience it in real time.

Flash forward five years. Trump is president. And here we are rolling back financial  regulations again. 57% of divorced couples cite money problems as the primary reason for the demise of their marriage. Do I really have to come right out and say a society that doesn’t take actions to improve people’s lives has dire consequences on said lives? Can’t the day to day struggle of the characters speak for itself? If the reader doesn’t understand the effect a nation’s politics has on its citizens’ lives, is it my fault?

I believe it is the job of the novelist to not just entertain but to observe the world and share the truth. The truth was always there in The Reverse Commute. After many blogs, pieces for the Huffington Post, and three more novels I felt I could do better by this little book. The love story with a message.

Over the past two months I have gone back to the original manuscript and the journals I kept that were also filled with sticky notes on which I scribbled things down in my cubicle. I wrote and I edited. The sentences are brighter and cleaner. The politics are back. The story is the same but closer to my original intent before the first edit I made after the nasty reviews. At that time I corrected the typos and removed some of the politics. I hate to admit it but I was intimidated by the bad reviews and the personal attacks. I am a much more confident writer now and I see this story for what it was, a middle class American shouting, “Hey, I’m out here struggling. Pay attention.

I learned to write in public, on my own. It’s not easy to speak up in a very divided nation. As one reviewer noted, “The other reviews were like republicans and democrats voting on a bill, “love it”, “hate it”. Wow, I had to see if this book sucks or is great. It’s great.”

I have no publisher to defend me, to prop me up when I get shit kicked. I don’t have a New York Times book reviewer to interpret and explain my positions. All I have is a passion, a drive, and a belief that for the reader there is a lot to be learned by imagining how another person lives when walking in their shoes for 300 pages.

I wanted to write a story about a woman who was trying to hold onto her marriage during difficult financial and political times, because that is what I was trying to do and I knew I wasn’t alone.

Let me be clear on something. This is not a book about politics. It is a real life love story with characters who have opinions and sometimes express those opinions.

I have reconciled myself with the fact that I may not sell a lot of books in my lifetime. I have never really understood the zeitgeist of the times I live in. I’ve always felt like an outsider standing in the snow looking through a window into a well-lit McMansion in the suburbs.

My younger sister and I discussed this. I told her I would leave the books to my daughters and maybe decades from now they could find a wider audience of receptive readers.

She replied, “In a different environment they will be found.”

I will admit it was not easy when I finally let the new edition go to the formatter. I must have read it twenty times then hesitated and checked it for the twenty-first time.

After I hit Send, I read an article in the New York Times that reminded me of a scene in The Reverse Commute. It’s in the chapter titled Tilting At Windmills. The young girl has just returned to work after being on vacation. Her co-worker tells her a sixty year old woman named Joan, who has worked at the company for sixteen years, has been let go.

For the record, I worked with this woman during my time in the cubicle. Joan’s story is truth. Months later she read my book. She is one of the readers who got it. She is also not the only ’employee at will’ who lost their job during my time in the cubicle.

“What? How can he do that?”

“He just can. It’s called an employee at will. She called Mandy at home later that night and told her all about it. She went in his office and one of the women from HR was there. That’s never a good sign. He had a list of his complaints against her, a review of her work so to speak. They went over COBRA and unemployment, which apparently she will be able to collect. At least he gave her that. Called it a layoff instead of a firing.”

“Oh, gee, that’s nice of him. She’s been here sixteen years. Suddenly she’s too slow?”

“When they were done dropping the bomb, Lou and the HR lady walked Joan to her desk. They gave her a box and watched her pack her belongings, the pictures of the grandkids and other personal items like those bobbing dashboard ornaments she collects. Then they had her hand over her door pass and escorted her out of the building….
Needless to say, morale is low right now and everyone’s scared. No one knows who’s next. We better get back to our desks, our fifteen minute break is almost up.”

When she got back to her cubicle she wasn’t scared, she was angry. She googled employee at will and discovered that it was a part of American law that stated either party could break the relationship for good cause, or bad cause, or no cause at all, as long as the company had not recognized a collective bargaining group or union.

Five years after writing that scene, the article I read in the New York Times addressed this very issue:

Bosses hold all the power in the at-will employment system that most American workers are subject to, under which they can be fired for “good cause, bad cause or no cause.” Employees who speak up risk everything — their jobs, their reputations, their livelihoods — while facing the unfair legal burden of having to prove their boss’s intentions. Until workers have the freedom from unfair firing, too many workplace rights will remain unfulfilled.

The alternative to at-will employment is “just cause,” which is the principle that an employee can be fired only for a legitimate, serious, work-performance reason.

The “just cause” system is typically part of union contracts. However, today only about 6 percent of private-sector employees are covered by a union contract. And there is a concerted effort to strip public-sector employees of many of their traditional rights and protections.

Similarly, workers may have a right to organize a union and collectively bargain, but in reality workers are often fired for organizing, and the laws against such practices — like all protections against unfair terminations — place the burden on employees to prove illegitimate intent.”

It took the election of Trump and the #metoo movement to get the Times to write this article.

I actually had another Amazon reviewer write this: “Don’t get her started on at-will employment.

I’d like to reply: “Oh no, please do get me started. I’d love to educate you.”

My oldest daughter called last night to tell me she road her bike ten miles to work at a country club where she waitresses. It was a slow night and after an hour they sent her home. I googled the minimum show up law in Colorado and discovered they don’t have one in the Rocky Mountain state.

Workers’ rights aren’t on the agenda in most places; only eight blue states have minimum show up laws.

My daughter biked the ten miles back to Fort Collins on a cold, snowy January night after making $9.30, the minimum wage in Colorado. If you want to know what this real life story’s connection is to The Reverse Commute,  Buy the Book. It’s in the chapter titled, A Backyard Wedding, that includes my story of the assembly line and the phone call to the Labor Board.

As one character in The Reverse Commute says, Let’s not forget, politics do affect our everyday lives.”

Or as Sophie wonders, “Was there a word for the way news events collide with your personal life? When she watched the news, it all seemed so removed. But she knew it wasn’t. The next day you could lose your job, your health insurance, your house, or all of the above. Your local school budget could be cut, bridges might collapse, your drinking water could be contaminated. Why do so many people say they don’t care about politics? Don’t they know they have to care? For their own good?”

All of my books are slice of life stories that contain characters with opinions. They are middle class Americans who have been affected by the politics of America since Ronald Reagan began to dismantle the New Deal. My entire adult life I have been a witness to this era of American history.

My writing is my small contribution at getting people to sit up, pay attention, and to care about politics and the lives of their fellow Americans. There is a new notebook. My daughter’s snowy bike ride has been recorded. Young people from Boston to San Francisco are struggling with college loans, exorbitant rents, and stagnant wages.

I’m here. I’m paying attention. I’m writing it all down. Stay tuned.


***The newly edited version of The Reverse Commute is available now on Amazon. Please buy it and if you enjoy it PLEASE write a review.  This little book needs some TLC.***


A Poor Excuse For a Blog

Below is a Facebook post I put up this morning. I’ve been writing a lot lately. But I haven’t been blogging. I’m questioning a lot of advice I have received over the last five years regarding selling Indie books. The market has changed since I wrote The Reverse Commute and gave away 28,000 free copies.

Let’s just say, I’ll never do that again.

I’d love to hear from other bloggers about how things are going. I’ve tried a few of the email blasts, Fussy Librarian and two others. They didn’t come close to achieving the “sales” of five years ago. Of course, I didn’t offer the book for free.

I have some feelings about readers who only “purchase” free books. I’ll keep them to myself. Let’s just say writing a book is hard work and takes a lot of time. Granted, it is a labor of love and I’m not complaining. I’m driven to write. It’s become a necessary practice. Something I do to keep my sanity in these troubled days we live in. But I also need food on the table and heat in the house during a long cold winter in the Green Mountains of Vermont.

I share small stories on Instagram. I’m not sure that sells books either. It’s a strange yet fun corner of the Internet. Many people “curate” their activity on IG, their word not mine. Most days when I scroll through my feed I ask myself, “Are they living in the same America I am in the year 2017?”

If you’re on IG please follow me. I actually comment and like posts there, if the follower reciprocates. Here’s my latest IG story:

STORIES FROM HIGLEY HILL: A NICE LITTLE HOBBIT HOLE Just got three great reviews on Amazon for Under The Same Sun. The fire is roaring. There’s homemade soup and cornbread cooking in the kitchen, and the Patriots are behind but let’s not forget you can never count them out. Like all of us – it’s an uphill climb with good days and bad but we will succeed. Today was one of the good ones so as we watch the game and drink Bloody Marys I said to my husband, “I love this funky little house of ours.” And he replied, “Yeah, it’s a nice little hobbit hole.” “All that is gold does not glitter, not all those who wander are lost; the old that is strong does not wither, deep roots are not reached by the frost.” #tolkien #keepthefaith #nevergiveuponyourdreams #vermontlife #homeinvermont #storiesfromhigleyhill #thewritinglife #hobbithole #underthesamesun #buymybook http://bit.ly/buyunderthesamesun

A post shared by Sheila Blanchette (@sheilablanchett) on

And here’s today’s FB post:

“If you suddenly and unexpectedly feel joy,
don’t hesitate. Give in to it. There are plenty
of lives and whole towns destroyed or about
to be. We are not wise, and not very often
kind. And much can never be redeemed.
Still, life has some possibility left. Perhaps this
is its way of fighting back, that sometimes
something happens better than all the riches
or power in the world. It could be anything,
but very likely you notice it in the instant
when love begins. Anyway, that’s often the
case. Anyway, whatever it is, don’t be afraid
of its plenty. Joy is not made to be a crumb”

~ Mary Oliver

Some of us here on my FB page have been discussing the short supply of kindness and empathy in America, It’s all greed and power. I got mine, you must have fucked up, sorry – can’t help you. You get what you deserve.

And then there is Mary Oliver..

Many of the poems I share are from First Sip, a daily free email of wisdom and survival that I have found extremely helpful in the terrible days of Trump. You can subscribe to it here:


Lately there are many days I question the value of FB. Does it sell books? Are the connections real? Or is it an advertising tool for Mark Zuckerberg? A way to track our spending habits and political leanings? A tool for Russian interference in our elections?

Then there are days when lively, meaningful discussions happen.

There are also FB friends who become real life friends. People I met here and then met in person. N Frank Daniels and Charlene Wooden – I am thinking of you, They are two of the most recent friends from FB who became real life friends.

Frank is an author I met through Darin Strauss on FB and then met in real live in Nashville, TN during my book tour. We discussed publishing and politics and exchanged books. I am hoping to share a review of his latest book very soon. You can read about that adventure here:


Charlene and I met in Easthampton, MA recently. We sat in a coffee shop for two hours and discussed politics, raising teenagers, and age discrimination in the workplace. Because she’s close by we will meet again.

We all have more in common than we realize. One by one we can change the world. I haven’t blogged much lately. I started to hear from some people who said “I love your blogs. I’ve never read your books.” ??? Well okay then. Here are my books:


The links are also along the right hand side of the blog page.

I’ve stopped blogging for awhile. It’s free entertainment and I’m glad some of you have enjoyed it. I’m currently re-editing The Reverse Commute. That’s a long story and I may, or may not, write a blog about it. I’ll let you know when the edition is ready. I also have ideas for another book swirling around in my mind.

There are only so many hours in a day. Consider this a blog.

My latest book, Under The Same Sun, has an important message. It’s hard selling books these days. Not many people read. Another sad American statistic. Please buy the book.

I need reviews. Some of you have written lovely ones. Thank you! Others have promised reviews. I’m waiting. Someone recently said “you have a lot of reviews. I only read 4 or 5 before I decide whether or not to buy a book.” It’s Amazon I’m after here. I need to get their attention so they help me advertise. The more reviews the better.

Share a recommendation on your FB page. Help me spread the word. Thank you to those who have organized book clubs and Hometown Book Pop-Ups. They have been a success. I already need to place a third order for books!

Happy Holidays!


Under-the-Same-Kindle cover

Notes From A Book Tour: For What’s It’s Worth

The Road-NY thruway

Driving Route 90 – The NY Thruway

My last day on the road I drove Interstate 90 East with the idea of standing on the shore of Lake Erie in early morning light. I could see the Great Lake from the highway so it didn’t seem like much of a detour and I had an early jump on the long drive ahead of me. The cheap motel I spent the night in had a lumpy mattress, a septic smell in the otherwise clean bathroom, and a noisy couple next door getting it on in a squeaky bed.

Hotel room in Erie

My hotel room – Lake Erie, PA

When would I ever be traveling along the shores of Lake Erie again? It could be sooner than I imagined, or never. I veered right and took the exit for North East, Pennsylvania.

PA Vineyards

North East, PA vineyards

On a quiet Sunday morning, I drove past miles of vineyards, pumpkin patches, apples, and signs proclaiming Jesus is Lord. There were dilapidated barns sitting beside dressed up barns advertising wine tastings. Pretty front porches with wicker chairs and sagging porches with peeling paint. Lights were on in kitchen windows, church parking lots were empty, for now.

Guns-better pic

Guns For Sale North East, PA

Guns are sold in a set back building situated between a liquor store and a hydroponic garden center. There were flags and more flags; waving on front porches, telephone poles, and wrought iron fences. Put there as if I might forget where I was, but the gun shop had already alerted me to the fact that yes, despite the hundreds of miles I had traveled over the past two weeks, I was still here, in The United States of America.

Market Place flag North East

On the outskirts of North East, PA

The drive to the lake was taking longer than I thought it would. Then I noticed the sign for Downtown Erie. Damn! I was driving west, not north, back to where I started before dawn.

What am I doing here? I wondered. What wild goose am I chasing this time? Alone in the early morning light on a quiet church-going day my frustration quickly turned inward. Did I accomplish anything on this Hometown Book Pop-Up tour? I’d sold a lot of books and earned enough money for food and shelter on the drive home but none of those sales would register in the records that keep track of bestsellers.  This is no way to make it to the New York Times bestseller list. As an Indie author, I can buy my own books at a discounted price for resale but those sales don’t count toward my ranking. I contemplated giving people who came to my Pop-Ups a bookmark and sending them home to order the book on Amazon but how could I pass up a sale when it was standing right there in front of me? Would they really buy it when they got home? I told myself there was always value in word of mouth, IF I could get the reader to write a review and recommend the book to friends and share it on Facebook.

Huskies Beer North East PA

Package Store – North East, PA

My car was a mess. I hated my pocketbook; a black hole where my phone, my reading glasses, even my overstuffed wallet, were easily lost. And then there was Siri who couldn’t find her way to Lake Erie. “I’m sorry. I can’t help you right now.” Was there anyone out there interested in helping me on this journey?

My Car is a Mess

A whistle blew as a train approached from the east. I turned around in the parking lot of an abandoned office park and headed back to the town of North East. Maybe I’d find some Messages from America on the quiet tree-lined side streets but as in so many other places I’d traveled through on this road trip there were no signs of hope and resistance.

Mammo month North East PA.JPG

Breast Cancer Month – North East, PA

Instead, pink ribbons were everywhere, reminding the women of this small town that October is Breast Cancer Awareness month.

The local election for Clerk of Records appeared to be the hottest race in town. Everyone was supporting the same candidate. I can’t remember his name and for all I know he could be the only guy running for office.

The town had gone back to their lives post-Trump. They had work to do, bills to pay, healthcare issues to worry about. They didn’t appear to be concerned about the obstacles that would create road blocks along the way; the efforts Trump and the Congress are making to cut healthcare, dismantle the EPA, and give giant tax cuts to the wealthy. The President’s lies, the mass shooting in Las Vegas. I saw so many flags at half mast over the past week, but the flags were raised again and life goes on. For the lucky ones.

Town center North East PA

Main Street – North East, PA

I parked the car in front of a wine and cheese shop, and took a walk through town. Around a corner I stumbled upon a magical alley where fire escapes and painted grapevines climbed red brick walls.

Alley 2 Northeast PA

An alley in North East, PA

I left the alley, looped around the block from the opposite direction, and then entered from the other side. I stood there for awhile and took pictures. I don’t know what it was about this alley but it made me smile and gave me a small measure of hope.

Doorway in alley Northeast PA

Doorway – North East, PA

It’s been over a week since I returned home. I’m trying to decipher the notes I took in North East. I’m trying to recall the hope I felt in the alley. I am now in Providence getting ready for a Hometown Book Pop-Up in Pawtuxet Village, my original hometown. The place where I grew up.

Hometown Book Pop-Up Pawtuxet Village

Hometown Book Pop-Up – Pawtuxet Village, RI -Carlos & Tesh at Shastea

Earlier this morning my daughter’s boyfriend, Kyle, invited me to join him on a hike to Ross’s Cliffs, just over the border in Connecticut.

The top of Ross's Trail Killingly CT

The view at the top of Ross’s Cliffs – Old Furnace State Park in Killingly, CT

We took the road I traveled when I worked at the inn and would drive to Providence to help my Dad after the fire at his condo. My mother’s Alzheimer’s was getting worse and times were hard but I enjoyed this ride through rural New England.

Ross’s Trail climbed through sun-dappled trees and I thought about the hikes I took in the Great Mountain Forest when I created Leo Heaton, the first character in Under The Same Sun who spoke to me.

Excerpt from Under The Same Sun:                                                                                                  “I hike a lot and when I’m alone in the woods I notice things. Tonal differences in rocks, peeled birch bark fallen from trees, a twig trapped on a rock in the middle of a swift moving brook. When the breeze blows through the oak trees, leaves dance, and to me it sounds like the rustle of silk. At night when I lay my head on my pillow, it’s just me and my thoughts. I worry about life and what the future holds for my girls. I never expected to be doing this alone so I have a hard time falling asleep, until I let my thoughts drift back to that rocky, primeval forest. Deep in those woods the world is sane and perfect.” 

Sunlight at Ross' Trail Killingly CT

Old Furnace State Park – Killingly, CT

I am having a hard time finding my way into this blog. I can’t remember why I wanted to write about my brief visit to North East. But during the hike, as always happens when I’m out in the woods or walking by the ocean, I found my way.

Maybe what I felt that morning in North East, after getting lost and doubling back to the place I started, was a rapt attention to the world around me. I was transported to an enchanted place where sanity and perfection were possible.

I left North East that day without seeing another soul except those at kitchen windows or in passing cars. I spoke to no one. The stores were all closed. No one walked the streets. The town could be anything I wanted it to be. Then I got in my car and drove an eight hour day, alone, across the entire length of Upstate New York.

Some combination of light, stormy weather looming behind me, clouds and sunlight, created a luminous stunning atmosphere. A glorious light, as if the world had been scrubbed clean and was new again. I could imagine anything. I could imagine America when it was new and full of hope, like a day in Philadelphia when a group of men from thirteen colonies imagined a place where everyone is created equal and there would be justice and the pursuit of happiness for all.

Hoosick Billboard

Billboard at the border at the New York – Vermont border

Just before I crossed the border into Vermont I saw a billboard with large letters that warned of heroin and impaired driving. I had seen similar signs throughout my journey. In Ohio there was even a hotline that drug impaired drivers could use to call for help.

I remember thinking we all share similar concerns and problems. We all have similar hopes and dreams. We truly do live under the same sun.

The problem is, not everyone realizes this. There are too many distractions and hardships, too many opinions, too many tribes that no longer have a shared vision, and too many news sources and politicians that support those divisions.

The hope I felt in the alley was a dream, the American dream, that was signed and sealed on a piece of parchment paper two hundred forty one years ago this past July 4th. We once had a common dream and like in The Wizard of Oz you were there, and you, and you, and me. We were all there.

These days it seems we no longer dream the same dream. Some don’t remember the  dream or misinterpret its message. There are those who are defeated and angry, they lick their wounds and blame their problems on someone else. Someone different. Someone foreign. They are vulnerable to those with enough power and stature to twist the dream to suit their own greed and self-interest.


As we approached the top of Ross’s Cliffs I wondered where the hope that briefly visited me in North East disappeared to. It was so fleeting.


The Top of the Trail – Ross’s Cliffs

We stayed there for awhile. It was a perfect place to ponder. We imagined Mohegans and Pequots standing on this bluff watching for the white man’s approach. So called civilization on its way.

Peace Killingly, CT

Messages From America: Old Furnace State Park Killingly, CT

It could have been that I was hiking with Kyle, a Mohegan Indian, and thoughts of the retelling of history, the mistruths of the Native American story we were told, came to mind.

It also might have been thoughts of the recent visit I made to the slave quarters at Magnolia Plantation in South Carolina where the curators are finally telling the truth about that piece of American history.

Or it could have been the message on the bench where I sat and contemplated the beauty that lay before me.

“This bench is part of what’s left of my soul, that I carried on my back to share with this cliff and with those that are here for peace, and peace of mind. Thank you all who enjoyed it and left your mark, but whoever tossed it over this cliff once…you were seen and you are more than half found.”

It’s hard to imagine someone would hike this beautiful, spiritual place and toss a gift of  handcrafted beauty over the cliff. It’s hard to imagine the mindset of some of my fellow Americans these days.

Contemplating Ross' Trail Killingly CT

I met wonderful people on my book tour. I also heard horrible things on talk radio. I saw Confederate flags on highways in the Carolinas. Las Vegas happened. I came to the conclusion one on one there are many kind and generous people but America as a whole leaves me feeling sad and confused.

I can’t help but wonder if it was only a dream.


Under-the-Same-Kindle cover


Please buy my book, Under The Same Sun. Write a review on Amazon and Goodreads. Tell your friends about it. Take a picture of the book and share it on Facebook and/or Instagram. Tag me so I know you shared it. Send me a message if you use a pseudonym on social media and/or Amazon. Each time you help spread the word you will be entered to win a $50 Amazon gift certificate. The winner will be announced on November 15th, just in time for holiday shopping.


“Few will have the greatness to bend history itself; but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total of all those acts will be written the history of this generation.” ~ Robert Kennedy






Jamestown, SC

Passing through Jamestown, SC


I wrote this blog on the eleventh day after the Las Vegas shooting. It brings to mind a quote I used in my recent novel Under The Same Sun at the beginning of a chapter titled I Heard The News Today .

“A thousand such simple tricks they played,
 and after eleven days returned to themselves again, not remembering anything that had passed.”
 ~ Robert Beverly’s History of Virginia

Once again the news cycle has moved on from another mass shooting. There are fires burning in the wine country of California, Trump is threatening NBC and other news organizations, Puerto Rico is without clean water and electricity, and North Korea looms large.

I don’t know what event Robert Beverly was speaking of. I found the quote after I finished the rough draft of Under The Same Sun. Rich and I had just left the inn after some contentious encounters with the difficult owner. We were recuperating. Rich was painting at a house on the Cape and I was trying to get back into my novel when I found Thoreau’s book, Cape Cod, on a bookshelf in our friends’ living room. This quote jumped off the page and helped me navigate the final chapters of Under The Same Sun.

If you want to know more, you need to buy the book and read it. I’m here to share Part Two of the stories and the people I met on a recent book tour through the South.

Lake Wylie, South Carolina

Lake Wyle, SC

Lake Wylie, SC

I met Cindy a few years ago. Her son and my daughter live together. We became fast friends. Rich and I visited her and her husband Ron last April in Lake Wylie and also at their pecan farm in South Georgia.

Cindy is a Mohegan Indian and was born on the reservation in Connecticut. Her son lent me his signed copy of Medicine Trail:  The Life and Lessons of Gladys Tantaquidgeon by Melissa Jayne Fawcett, the current medicine woman for the tribe. Gladys was the medicine woman until she passed away at the age of 106. I brought the book to Cape Cod where some of the Mohegan beliefs and teachings made their way into Under the Same Sun.

After dinner, Cindy and I watched the 60 Minutes piece on the Hubble telescope. When it was over we talked about the Trail of Life and how the Mohegans may have come closest to understanding our existence after death.

When I woke up the next morning Cindy was already cooking grits and bacon.

“Something really bad happened last night,” she told me as I poured myself a cup of coffee. “I didn’t want you to walk in the kitchen and see it on TV. I thought I’d warn you first. There was a mass shooting in Las Vegas last night.”

I did not expect this to happen while I was promoting my book. I wrote the book because I want this to stop.

Flowers and Books

Flowers from Suzy – Lake Wylie, SC

We ate breakfast and watched the news with sad hearts. A good friend of Cindy’s dropped by with curlers in her hair. Suzy was getting ready for the Hometown Book Pop-Up later that night. She had three bouquets of flowers for us. She told me the story of her grandmother who had started a flower shop and how her adoptive parents kept it going and turned it into a thriving business. It seemed like such a sweet Southern thing to do, making sure we had fresh flowers for our event.

Later in the day Cindy and I stopped at the Market on Wylie wine shop where I met the owner. Barbara moved to Lake Wylie from New York. Her shop is lovely and she has the most amazing prosciutto, racks of lamb, fine cheeses, prepared meals, and wine. Cindy told her about the book. I gave her a bookmark.

“We have to do something together. A wine tasting book event,” Barbara told me.

I loved the idea. We are making plans for my return visit. “It is a win-win for the both of us,” we agreed.

Market on Wylie Wine Shop

Cindy and Barbara at Market on Wylie

The Lake Wylie Hometown Book Pop-Up was a huge success. I sold enough books that my sales carried me through the rest of my road trip.

The next morning I was the bearer of bad news when I met Cindy in the kitchen for coffee. Tom Petty had passed away.

Driving through the Smoky Mountains White Oak NC

Driving through the Smoky Mountains from Lake Wylie to Nashville


I met N. Frank Daniels on Facebook through another writer, Darin Strauss.  We became Facebook friends and chatted about books and publishing. Frank was putting together an online imprint and asked if I’d be interested in representing my generation – the baby boomers. When I mentioned I wouldn’t be far from Nashville during my travels we made plans to meet.

Cindy asked me how I knew Frank. When I told her, she said, “You be careful. Text me when your meeting’s over.”

When my daughters both heard about this they said, “Mom, you don’t meet up with people from the Internet.”

“We’re meeting in a bookstore,” I told them.

“Yeah, but still…..” They went on, continuing to lecture me.

Me and Frank Books-a-Million Nashville, TN

With Frank Daniels at Books-A-Million ~ Nashville, TN

Frank and I met at Books-A-Million. I talked about my book and he shared his first novel, Future Proof, which was originally launched on his Myspace page. The good reviews and a book tour he embarked on, similar to mine, got the attention of HarperCollins who picked up his book and sent him on a book tour to places like Chicago and L.A.

Life got in the way and it took him a few years to write another novel. By this time the publisher was looking for “more marketable, commercial writing”. Frank self-published his second book, Sanctuary, with CreateSpace.

At the time I met Frank I hadn’t heard from Politics and Prose, an Indie book store in DC, but a cousin of mine in Pennsylvania had tried to set up a Hometown Book Pop-Up at his local Indie Bookstore in Collegeville. He was given the same song and dance.

“We don’t sell books published by CreateSpace.”

We brainstormed. Frank currently works as a sales rep for a distributor. He delivers food to grocery stores and sets up displays. I told him I once worked for a distributor selling speciality food items. We commiserated about the receivers who rule the back rooms of supermarkets like crazed dictators of banana republics.

He also said, “I won’t ask how old you are because that’s rude but are these the worst times you’ve lived through?”


I told him about my Dad the U.S. History teacher.

“I remember him being upset in 1968. The assassinations. The riots. The Democratic National Convention. He hated Vietnam. I was eleven back then. I think it was the violence that upset him. Now he’s worried about democracy, and I am too.”

“Yeah, me too,” Frank said.

Out in the parking lot we said our goodbyes. He was over a foot taller than me but we managed a hug.

“Be careful out there traveling solo,” Frank said. “Text me when you get to your hotel.”


Louisville, KY

Louisville, Kentucky

I checked into the Fairfield Inn in Louisville at one in the afternoon. Luckily, my room was ready. I asked the woman at the front desk about the waterfront area. She gave me a lot of info and a map.

“I guess I picked the right hotel,” I said.

“You did,” she said. “But don’t be out alone after dark.”

I walked the streets, took photos, then headed to the Riverfront Park. It was a muggy day and I was pretty sweaty when I saw Joe’s Crab House in the distance. It was three o’clock but I had skipped lunch so I walked another half mile, found a seat at the bar, and ordered a cold beer and the best crab dip I’ve ever had.

Ohio River Louisville, KY

Ohio River from Riverfront Park, Louisville, KY

The young woman tending bar told me she was working two jobs to save money for med school. We talked for a long time. I told her about my Messages From America and how I couldn’t find any south of the Mason-Dixon line. She replied, “Oh, you won’t find them. Everyone around here thinks everything’s just fine.”

I asked her about the bridge you can walk across to Indiana.

“It’s a long walk. You won’t be back before dark and you don’t want to be on that bridge in the dark.”

She told me she saw Bernie Sanders there, on the Kentucky side, after he won the primary in Indiana.

“I wanted to vote for him in the primary but I couldn’t because when I was eighteen and still living at home I registered Republican. It was too late to change my party. A lot of kids around here do that, they register Republican like their parents. I’ve since fixed that.”

I paid up and told her I was going to Whisky Row.

“I mean I have to try the Bourbon while I’m in Kentucky. I don’t know if I’ll ever be back, it took me this long to get here.”

I had told her about having visited forty-five of the fifty states and how Kentucky was one of the five I still needed to visit.

“That’s so cool. Just make sure you’re back at your hotel before dark,” she said.

Whisky Row, Louisville, KY

Whisky Row ~ Louisville, KY

Whisky Row was hopping on a Friday night. I met a couple on a pub crawl and asked which bar they recommended. They directed me to Sidebar, a quiet place, not quite busy at five o’clock. I asked the bartender for a local recommendation and he suggested Angel’s Envy. It was smooth and delicious.

I was still hungry and decided to try another bar before it got dark. The pub crawl couple had also recommended The Troll Under The Bridge so I walked over for a nightcap. Hey, you know, there was no book pop-up here in Louisville. This was strictly for me, a night in Kentucky to add to the bucket list. As my friend Midge said back in Isle of Palms, “vacation properly.”

Troll Pub Louisville, KY

The Troll Under The Bridge ~ Louisville, KY

The bar was below street level, no windows, dark and rowdy. The local couple was sitting on stools at a tall table.

“Hey,” he shouted. “Too quiet for you over there at Sidebar?”

“Yes,” I said.

“Us, too,” he said.

I took the last seat at the bar and ordered a Knob Creek and a wedge salad. The man sitting next to me had cerebral palsy and spoke haltingly. He told me he had returned to college at the age of forty and was studying political science at a small school I’d never heard of. He wanted to discuss current events. He was curious about my politics and polite in his disagreement. He expressed interest in my book so I gave him a bookmark although I didn’t think he’d buy the book.

“I better get going,” I said. “Everyone’s told me to be off the streets before dark.”

“They’re right but I think you might be a little late on that.” He looked at his watch. “It’s six-fifteen.”

I went out the door, doggie bag in hand. The wedge salad was an entire head of iceberg lettuce. I climbed the stairs to the dark street. How did that happen so quickly?

Whisky Row was just getting started for the night but one block away the streets were quiet. I had four blocks to walk to my hotel.

A black family turned the corner onto the street I was walking. The older woman used a cane and held her husband’s hand. A young couple walked in front of them. I hustled up behind them.

The older woman turned around and said, “What you doin’ out here alone?”

“I had an early dinner while it was still light and didn’t realize it got dark so quickly.”

“You walk next to me,” she said.

I sidled up next to her and we started a conversation. They were visiting from Atlanta.

“We’re here for the whisky,” her husband said. “What brings you here? You sound like you’re from Boston.”

I told them I had lived in Boston for several years and I also lived in all six New England states at one time or another. Then I told them about how I came up with the Hometown Book Pop-Up, visiting places authors don’t usually go. How I was visiting friends and taking my book to the readers.

“I like that,” their daughter said.

Everyone wanted a bookmark so I passed them around.

“Under The Same Sun,” the matriarch said. “I like that. How’d you come up with that name?”

“Well, like I said, it’s a story about small town America during the recent election and how we’re all in this together. We really do live under the same sun.”

“Oh indeed, yes we do” she said. They all nodded their heads.

We were now at the corner of the street where their Marriott was to the right and my Fairfield Inn was to the left, about a half a mile apart. The daughter looked up and down the street. There was no one around, just an old woman sitting on a lawn chair in front of a liquor store.

“It looks clean,” she said. “But I think we’ll walk you to the door.”

“Oh, I’ll be okay,” I said. “It’s well lit around here and it’s a busy street.”

“We’re going to walk you to the door,” the older man said.

I thanked them when we got to my hotel and told them to contact me when they read the book, the link to my webpage was on the bookmark.

“We sure will,” they all said.

Street art Louisville, KY

Walking Louisville, KY

There is no safe place in America. I didn’t intend to be out after dark but it happened. There’s a passage in Under The Same Sun, a scene where Emily Heaton and Henry Howard plan a camping trip in the woods on a summer night just before their senior year in high school. It’s a special night. They’re both nervous and find themselves talking about all sorts of things. Emily mentions her grandmother’s worries and fears. She tells Henry, “One thing I know for sure, I don’t plan on living my life within the confines of fear.”

A little later Henry kisses her on the cheek and says, “I like what you said about fear. It’s a crazy way to live your life.”

John Steinbeck once said, “Many a trip continues long after movement in time and space have ceased.”

I believe this is also true regarding the people we meet on our journey through life. I believe we carry with us everyone we encounter and all the places we go. They make us who we are. They frame our stories and provide a compass. If we close our minds and judge before we experience we become one type of person. If we open our hearts and listen with open minds we will become someone else.

We live in difficult times that could possibly change us. These days are filled with fear, anger, judgement, and sometimes hate. But my compass directed me to the good people who are still out there. Kindness prevails.

***Please buy the book. Help me spread the word. Write an Amazon review. Support an Indie author. Tell your friends. Together we can make a difference.***


Under-the-Same-Kindle cover