And now a little something from Book Three, Robert’s Rules.

Book Three of the North of the Tension Line Series is now with the publisher, being made beautiful for publication in the Spring.

In response to some enquiries, here is a brief excerpt.


After breakfast, Pali, who had the day off, came into the kitchen and kissed his wife on the neck.

“Let’s talk,” he said.

“What about?” she asked, envisioning her mental list of the many things she had to do.

“Let’s just sit down together.”

With an inner sigh, Nika followed him into the next room. She never got as much done when he was home as when he was away. She sat in her favorite chair and looked at him with some impatience.

Pali looked down as he began to talk. “I think it’s time we thought about leaving the Island. I’ve been thinking that it might be a good thing for Ben.”

Her impatience forgotten, she focused all her attention on him as if her life depended on it. She forced herself to sound calm. “But we promised ourselves we’d never do that again. We love it here. It’s our home.”

“Nika, we need to think about this. We need to prepare Ben for his life. He’s growing up, and I can’t say I’m liking the way things are going. He can’t hide away here on the Island forever. There’s no future for him here—“.

Nika started to interrupt, but Pali kept talking “—or if there is, it’s a future he can only choose when he knows what else is out there. Think about his life here. He needs to learn about the world. Ben has no experience with the worst of human character. We can’t just throw him to the winds and expect him to fly.”

“But we did. We left and found our way. We were ok.” Her voice was low.

Pali shook his head. “It’s such a different world now. This culture. The lack of values. The pace. Ben won’t be able to keep up if we don’t help him to acclimate. And isn’t it better for him to encounter these things while we’re there to guide him and protect him?”

Nika was silent. Pali could see the tears welling up.

“We don’t have to decide now. We can think about it.” He got up and went over to her, kneeling next to her chair and taking her hands in his. “It’s our decision, Nika. Ours together. But I’m going to start looking. If something comes along, I won’t say yes if you don’t want me to. Just think about it, ok?”

She sat silent, afraid to speak, her heart and mind in a turmoil. She hated this. When they returned to the Island they had sworn they would never move away again. And now, here he was, threatening to rip her away from everything that mattered.

“Well,” she corrected herself silently, “not everything.”

She felt a flash of her old passion for this man who had been her other self for so long. She had always loved him, from the first day she saw him. He was the best man she had ever known. And, when she looked into her heart, she knew, as much as she fought against admitting it, that he was right.

“Just think about it,” he said again.

She nodded.



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.