Star-crossed Love


I had to stop at a store yesterday to return something, a task I detest, but which you might think was among my very favorite activities, given how often I find myself doing it.

The clerk and I started chatting, and one thing leading to another, I mentioned my two dogs in the car. “What kind of dogs?” she asked. I gave my standard answer: Pete, an Indiana Spotted Dog (Pete is a rescue from a kill shelter in Indiana, and of indeterminate breed, but with a speckled coat that looks like granite), and Moses, a German Shepherd.

Her attention was instantly riveted by the words “German Shepherd.”

“I had a German Shepherd,” she said. “But I had to put him down.” I felt a wave of sympathy. The shortness of dogs’ lives is a looming loss for those of us who love them, and the thought of it can shatter me if I linger on it.

She knew what I have learned: that there is something different about German Shepherd Dogs, no matter what other kinds of dogs you have had or how much you have loved them. I told her what the vet told me when Moses was a tiny puppy: “Nothing and no one on earth will ever love you as much as a German Shepherd will.”

Her eyes filled with tears, and mine did, too. She told me how true that was, and how smart her dog had been, and what a clever jailbreak artist he was. She told me that even when his hip dysplasia had made it impossible for him to walk she had cared for him until his pain became too much.

She seemed so sad. When I suggested that somewhere in the world there was a dog who desperately needed someone like her to love him she shook her head. No. She could never endure that loss again. It was too much.

The store was busy, and people were waiting for her attention, but I wished I could have taken her out for a cup of coffee, and brought her over to meet Moses and Pete, waiting patiently, if a bit odoriferously, in the car.

I have writing to do, and I have to go to Washington for work tomorrow, and I don’t know how I’m going to get everything done before I leave the house at 5:30 in the morning.

But Moses and Pete and I are going for a ramble. Life is all about priorities.

Coming soon: The Audacity of Goats


Dear Readers:

Are you still there? I apologize for the long silence, but I was getting my life in order so we can put book two to bed and start work on book three.

Book two in the North of the Tension Line series, The Audacity of Goats, will be released by Beaufort Books on April 29, 2016. It is available now for pre-order at your favorite bookseller.

Watch for some sneak previews coming soon.

Working now on final proofs, and then it’s on to Book Three.

I promise to be a better correspondent.


Special Giveaway: North of the Tension Line


It’s cold out. There’s not much to do, so why not enter a contest to win a free autographed copy of North of the Tension Line?

Submit a comment to this post explaining why you should receive a copy. Wide readership and/or a willingness to be a shameless shill are highly recommended.

Winner solely determined by the author’s whim. All decisions are final.

TNBBC’s The Next Best Book Blog: Where Writers Write: JF Riordan

Exile desk

TNBBC's The Next Best Book Blog: Where Writers Write: JF Riordan.

TNBBC is a blog that features small press and indie books and their authors in varying playful question formats. Among these is the request for writers to show where they write. I was pleased to be asked, and was deeply tempted to discuss the drinks of choice for the characters of North of the Tension Line, but in the end I settled on a photo essay on where I write. I recommend heading to TNBBC for the chance to meet some great under-appreciated writers and their books. Believe me when I say we will all be grateful.

Last Day North of the Tension Line

January sunset

Today is my last day on Washington Island. The ferry leaves tomorrow at 8 am and we’ll be on it.

Normally I like to walk the deck and chat with the crew, but the dogs are with me, and there’s something about the ferry ride that scares them. So we sit together in the car, and I talk and sing to them. They like that, and they usually sing along. Pete, who is undoubtedly the coward in the family, is mostly unbothered by the motion, but that is enough for Moses. When we hit the ice fields the noise frightens them both and they tremble. It seems to get worse each trip.

Last night I walked home from a dinner party in the dark with the wind screaming from the lake. Its noise and power were awesome–in the old fashioned sense of the word. The dogs leapt with joy to see me, and we went out again to hear the wind and look at the moon and the clouds. They ran ahead of me through the snow, sniffing at deer tracks. The wild remoteness of the Island is oddly comforting to me, and I feel safer here than anywhere else on earth, even when the wind leaps and howls as if it would tear us off the ground and spin us into space.

I like to say I live in exile from Washington Island, and most people think it’s a joke. But leaving this place tears at me, and even though I will be happy to be home again, a part of myself will be missing.

28 Lessons We’ve Learned from Pride and Prejudice

Today is the 202nd anniversary of the publication of Jane Austen’s masterpiece, Pride and Prejudice. I doubt, when she wrote it, that she expected it to endure for two centuries, and I wonder how many of our contemporaries realize how perfectly modern–and perfectly biting–its humor is. If you haven’t read it, now’s the time.

Here’s to Pride and Prejudice. May it long endure.

Bas Bleu Bluestocking Salon

Pride and Prejudice 1895 edition illustrated by Hugh ThomsonJanuary 28 marks the anniversary of Pride and Prejudice’s publication in 1813, a cultural milestone that almost never was thanks to a dismissive publisher who rejected Jane Austen’s manuscript First Impressions in 1797. Sixteen years later, Thomas Egerton bought the rights to Pride and Prejudice for just £110…and the rest, as they say, is literary history. So today, the twenty-eighth day of January, in honor of P&P’s birthday, Bas Bleu is sharing our list of twenty-eight life lessons we learned from Miss Austen, Lizzie Bennet, Mr. Darcy, and, yes, even Mr. Wickham.

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The Big Question

I am beginning to sense a pattern. I’ve been on the book club circuit recently and it has been great fun to have total strangers engaged with my characters, asking about them and why they do the things they do. Readers have come to own my story. It’s theirs now as much as it is mine, and they want to engage with it. Some people have theories, and I listen to these with great interest because they often surprise me. There are also certain questions people ask routinely, and the answers to these questions have become a bit routine, as well. People want to know what Elisabeth sees in Roger. They ask about Roger’s mental health. They love Rocco. They pretty much all hate Stella and want her killed, and many people comment on developing cravings for scotch.

But there is one question–the one I get most–that I have no routine response to: What happened to Robert?

I believe that this is the kind of question that a reader must resolve alone, and I have steadfastly remained silent, even though the sequel to North of the Tension Line is nearly finished.

This is driving one of my friends crazy. In a bid to draw me out she recently sent me an article from the Washington Post with a map of all the goats in the United States.

There was just one question accompanying the link: Is he here???