Borrow an Author



As I have mentioned before in these pages–no doubt to the accompaniment of wearied sighs from you–it can be difficult for an author to break through. There are so many things to read, and so many ways to read them, and the big publishing houses can pay magnificent fees to promote their wares on Goodreads and Facebook and in bookstores. For the rest of us in the Indy world it’s a bit of a slog.

Having said that, one of the fun things about promoting a book is meeting with readers. It’s fascinating to hear people’s theories about characters and to listen to them talk about why certain things happen–or don’t.

So, if you have a book group somewhere within reasonable driving distance of Milwaukee, you can borrow me for an afternoon or evening to meet with you.  Contact me via this website, or through my publicist, Felicia Mineva at

The release of The Audacity of Goats,  Book Two in the North of the Tension Line series (available here, and here, and  here, and here, or at your favorite bookstore) is imminent, and my calendar is starting to fill up.

Come on, it will be fun!


Singing Your Own Song

We went to see a world premier play at the Milwaukee Rep last night: American Song by Joanna Murray-Smith. It was beautifully written and moving, and performed by only one actor, the talented James Devita, whose career I have been following since we were both students in Milwaukee. It was a powerful theatrical experience about which I have only one quibble. But this is not a theatrical review blog, and what matters is that you should go, if you can. You will weep.

But what actually came away with me on the deepest level, former English major that I am, was the long and loving reference to Walt Whitman.

This sounds a little silly, but I had forgotten about Walt Whitman.

I grew up reading Walt Whitman, often, and with gradually increasing understanding. At first I just loved the rhythms of the poetry. I was carried along by his passion. Then I fell in love with what it was.

I am annoyed by people who ask: “What is the poet trying to say?” My slightly irritable answer is: He’s not trying to say anything. He’s saying it. The poem is what he says.

And this is why imbuing a message in art which is not intrinsically involved in the art itself can be dangerous. But Whitman was not delivering a message. He was writing poetry. The poetry IS the message. At least it is, if it’s done well.

I taught Whitman’s poetry as a high school American Lit teacher. And even now, I am a great–possibly overly-enthused–re-reader of many things. But Walt Whitman has not entered my thoughts for too many years now, and last night I re-encountered him with a fresh heart.

The play quotes a line from Leaves of Grass, in which the songs of people in different lives sing out in their own voices to make the joyous melody of freedom, of individual value and dignity: Each singing what belongs to him or her and to none else…singing with open mouths their strong melodious songs. I loved that Murray-Smith celebrated that celebration of America.

Pali, the poetry-writing ferry captain in my books, is a man who sings songs, whose work vibrates with a unique and beautiful voice. The question is: whose voice is it?

I love this question more than any of the others. The mysteries of life delight me.


Book Signing at BEA Chicago

Signing at BEA New York, 2014

The Book Expo of America is coming to McCormick Place in Chicago this year, May 11-13.  I will be signing free special edition copies of my new book, The Audacity of Goats, on Thursday, May 12th, at 11:30.

There are a limited number of copies available, so come early.

And stop by at the Midpoint Trade/ Beaufort Books booth #1020 to pick up some The Audacity of Goats swag. You may find me there, and I’d be delighted to meet you.


New Date for Door County Book Launch Party!

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Image courtesy of GalleyCat

One of my favorite new friends in the world of books is Peter Sloma at Peninsula Bookman in Fish Creek, Wisconsin. He is a serious book person, with a serious store: the kind you can’t get out of without buying half a dozen things you didn’t know you needed. He has been particularly supportive in offering advice and connections to a first time author, and he has included in me in his Wisconsin Writers’ events, which are worth coming to, and not just because I’m there, although that’s certainly a key element.

Peter has been kind enough to host the Door County launch of my new book the weekend of the Door County Half Marathon. So, if you are on the Door on June 4th, 2016, please stop by that evening to celebrate the publication of Book Two in the North of the Tension Line series, The Audacity of Goats.  You can come to meet me (in case you want to), and, more important, to support one the world’s increasingly endangered endeavors: a local bookstore.

And I’m sure he’d be happy to accept your order for a pre-sale!

Mark your calendars. More details to follow.

Meanwhile, I’m looking forward to drinking whisky with Peter.

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4083 Hwy 42
PO Box 381
Fish Creek, WI 54212



Sneak Preview of The Audacity of Goats


Lars Olafsen had been Chairman of the Town of Washington for going on twenty years, and a member of the town board for five years before that. He was a dutiful man, and a public servant in the old fashioned sense. He had earned the respect of his constituents through his fairness, his honesty, and his innate, steady, Scandinavian calm.

But Lars was beginning to feel the wear of so many years at the beck and call of his fellow islanders, and had begun to yearn for a reprieve. His children and grandchildren lived downstate in Milwaukee, and his wife was continually urging that they spend more time there. And Lars, though he was only in his early seventies, was beginning to feel his energy wane, and his enthusiasm for the job with it.

The major consideration, however, was one he would never admit to anyone, not even to his wife. Although his feelings were complicated, secretly Lars still glowed with a feeling of heady triumph after his out-maneuvering of Stella DesRosiers last spring in her mean-spirited attempt to drive her neighbor, Ms. Fiona Campbell, out of town.  He had stooped to political blackmail, no doubt about it, and he had suffered many moments of doubt about what he’d done. Had it been a violation of the public trust that disqualified him for continuing in office, or a valiant stroke for the public good? Lars had struggled with this question, but he always returned to the conclusion that it had been no more than Stella deserved, and an act of natural justice. Stella had been bullying her fellow citizens for years without any repercussions other than her unpopularity. And while he continued to wonder whether it was wrong to feel proud of it, his career, Lars felt sure, could reach no greater achievement. “Might as well go out on a high note,” he thought.

And so, one Wednesday night at Nelson’s Hall, when a quorum of his regular circle was in attendance, Lars Olafsen announced his retirement. He was immediately surrounded by a jovial, back-slapping throng, and shots were thrust into his hand in rapid succession.

“Lars,” said Paul Miller, his childhood friend, “you can’t retire. We’re too young.”

“You’ve been an asset to us, Lars,” said another old friend.

“You run a tight ship, Lars. Those meetings will take twice as long without you.”

But the real concern was the one voiced by Jake, who had a reputation for cutting to the heart of every discussion. “You can’t leave. There’s nobody who’ll take your place.”

This was true, as everyone at Nelson’s well knew. Being Chairman was a thankless job, and few people wanted to be bothered with it. There was a slew of paperwork and arrogant State officials to be dealt with, not to mention the unceasing need to wrangle volunteers for committees and other public work, and the inevitable squabbles—both petty and potentially fatal. No, particularly in these days of escalating state bureaucracy, you’d have to be a fool to want the job. And the Island was remarkably short of fools, unless, of course, you counted that new woman, Fiona Campbell.

Fiona would have been shocked to know her reputation. Her intelligence, wit, street savvy, and seriousness of purpose were not things shown to good advantage in a small town. Add into the mix her city polish and lack of practical knowledge of rural life—and the evil rumors that Stella DesRosiers had very particularly and intentionally spread—and an average observer might have an impression of a flighty young woman who wore impractical shoes, was oblivious to the first principles of survival and sensible living, and whose morals were, well, not what one would hope.

Fiona was, in fact, far from being a fool, but this didn’t stop the locals from thinking her one. Many of them—particularly the men—had come to feel a mixture of pity and admiration for her, a circumstance that Stella’s rumors had unwittingly created, and one which frequently worked in Fiona’s favor. In this instance, however, Fiona was exactly as oblivious as her neighbors thought, and it may have been just as well. She went about her business utterly unaware of her many critics, observers, and secret admirers.


Like what you’ve read so far? You can pre-order at your favorite bookstore!

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.


Upcoming Appearances

North of the Tension Line is coming home to Door County next weekend.

Peninsula Bookman

Novel poster

September 26

10 am to 5 pm

The Peninsula Bookman–next door to the Oilerie

4083 Hwy 42, Fish Creek, WI 54212

And then back to Lake Country:

Hartland Public Library

October 7

7 pm.

Hartland Public Library 110 East Park Ave.  Hartland, WI 53029

I would love to meet you and sign your book. Stop by and say hello!