I’ve got homework; maybe you can help.

I am taking an eight week online writing course: Outlining Your Novel. The course began this week. I’m already an outliner. I use a dedicated spiral bound notebook to outline each book before I begin writing. I write out the purpose/theme; character descriptions and motivations; setting descriptions; and so on.

I want to be a better writer and thus I want to try out different outlining methods. One of the course outcomes is an outline of a novel. I plan to work on the third book in the Star O’Brien series. I’m excited about being able to move from the outline right into writing the book.

So this all brings me to my first homework assignment: write a review of my book as if I’m a reader of the series. This is a difficult one but I’m working on it today. Here’s where those of you who have read Death on Clare Island might be able to help. If you have time, maybe you would post a word, a phrase, or a sentence saying what you liked.

Thank you.

In the meanwhile, keep the love going, Martha

Sometimes life is like a puppy’s dilemma.

Sometimes life is like a puppy’s dilemma. I use that phrase with a touch of humor this week. A lot happened. My good friend and author, Nick Johns agreed to read and provide feedback for Death at Ashford Castle. This is the second time Nick will spin through all 70, 000 words. He’s detail oriented so I know he’ll provide valuable feedback. And, if you like to read survival, apocalyptic type novels, check out his book The Darkest Winter on Amazon.

While Nick is busy with his review, I printed out all 245 pages and began reading them aloud to Bill. I’m using post-its in a variety of colors to make notes on each page. Next week I’ll update the current version with what I found during the read through. By the way, Bill likes it so far!

Then, the cover designer, Robin Vuchnich, sent me two cover design options to consider. It’s a difficult decision! Both of them are absolutely beautiful. As an Indie author, I’ve been told that cover design makes a big difference in readership. So I’m really taking my time with this decision. A few of my friends looked at them and so far it’s a tie. Dang! I was hoping for a tiebreaker to make my life easier.

And, we are noodling on an image for each book cover that would alert readers immediately that this is a Star O’Brien mystery. I have an idea that’s related to Star’s search for her mother. Maybe it will work. By the way, you can check out Robin’s web site at:

So, as depicted in my puppy’s photo here. There’s a lot to do and decisions to make. It ain’t easy. As Turlough’s face seems to say: do I stick with the sock or my avocado stuffed toy? It’s a dilemma. And, it’s also all something I’m grateful for and love to do!

Turlough seemed to have a dilemma. First, he was caught in the act! Second, he had to choose: the sock or his avocado toy.

In the meanwhile, keep the love going.


Book Fright!

I have to admit that I’m suffering from “book fright”. The second book in my series is drafted, it’s been edited once by an author colleague, and I’ve made substantial changes. The cover designer is working on the cover. But for some reason, I’m worried about sending the revised draft to my author colleague and another editor for the next set of revisions and review.

All kinds of questions and self-doubt are lurking around every corner. Is the character strong enough? Is there enough mystery? Is it easy to solve the crime? How much should Star’s character grow in this second book…after all it is a series and there’s more to come. Does Star face enough challenges in her life? Everything cannot be easy!

Everything cannot be easy! Not for Star and not for me. I guess that’s my answer. I’m growing my expertise and credibility in the craft: being a published indie author of mystery novels. It won’t be easy; I knew that from the beginning. I’ve been taking classes, joined Sisters in Crime, participate in an author’s group. I struggle to find the time to write for long periods each day (I’m a caregiver).

But it is all so worth it because of the family and friends who are supportive. Because of the readers who love Star and want more. Over time, Star will build more readers and I will get over this book fright. The book will be launched and Star’s journey will continue in book three.

In the meanwhile, keep the love going.


The Cottages Left Behind

Yesterday my Facebook author’s page featured a cottage in Ireland. Today, Bill and I went to see the Downton Abbey movie. In the very last scene of the movie, Charles makes the observation that 100 years from now Downton Abbey will still be there. The picturesque cottage on my Facebook page and Charles’s declaration caused me to recall a conversation with my mother, many years ago, in which she noted, with sadness, the empty cottages, some still intact and some just a crumbing pile of stones in Ireland. Homes from which many left to find work and life in another country. Homes where the family line has extinguished.

I guess this may be one of the reasons why some of us, me included, feel a deep connection to where our family comes from. Our roots. It’s one of the themes in my Star O’Brien mystery series. Star longs to find her mother or at the very least what happened to her. She’ll never believe her mother abandoned her. In her search for her mother, Star hopes to find herself and ultimately feel firmly rooted in who she is.

Isn’t this what we are all looking for? Isn’t it what we all hope for?

In the meanwhile, keep the love going,


Rainy Days

“But peace and quiet were the last things we were to have.”

Narrator in “The Moving Finger”

Raining here today in Florida-one of those peace and quiet days. It’s the kind of day I like because we’ll be indoors so there’s lots of time for writing. I’m working on the synopsis for Death at Ashford Castle. The cover design project kicks off on November 11 and the designer wants the synopsis as input to her work.

A rainy day on the walk around Loch Corrib, near Ashford Castle.

I also love rainy days because I get to catch up on reading. Today it’s Agatha Christie’s The Moving Finger. I love the Miss Marple novels. Although Star O’Brien is no Miss Marple, Star does get pulled into some murder cases.

What are some of your Miss Marple favorites? I’d love to hear from Star’s fans.

In the meanwhile, keep the love going.


The Mystery Genre ain’t Easy

“Ideas are easy. It’s the execution of ideas that really separates the sheep from the goats.”

Sue Grafton – Author of the Alphabet Series

I had the privilege of attending two writing workshops this weekend. On Saturday, Valerie Harris, ( presented a two-hour workshop about how reader expectations of a genre drive things like writing style, story themes, cover design, and the overall look and feel of a book. Valerie’s presentation was amazing.

Then on Sunday, I was at the Citrus Crime Writers (a Florida Chapter of Sisters in Crime) meeting. I’m a member. Yea!! Today’s guest speaker was Luci Zahray, also known as “The Poison Lady”. What’s your poison? Strychnine? Arsenic? Let’s just put it this way….I wouldn’t want to eat anything Luci baked. (JUST kidding). But Bill was with me and he didn’t want the pumpkin zucchini bread I baked tonight. Oh my! Is it the zucchini or something else?

Here I am enjoying “The Poison Lady’s” Presentation

It was a fun weekend. All in pursuit of becoming the best mystery author for Star O’Brien’s fans. I’m thankful to everyone involved: Valerie, Luci, and the Citrus Crime Writers for sharing their love for writing and reading. I hope you all had a great weekend too.

Keep the love going,


My Newsletter has Popped!

Just thrilled that my first newsletter for Star O’Brien fans is out the door. I hope you love it. Let me know what you think!

And, if you haven’t already subscribed, you can visit my web site,, and sign up for the next one which will probably pop just before my next book in the series, Death at Ashford Castle, is published.

In the meanwhile, keep the love going,


What do you want to know?

It’s Saturday. The day I usually spend some time writing a blog post. So…here I am wondering what you, my readers, would like to hear (or know) about today. Most of my writing time this week has been spent on editing the second book in my Star O’Brien series. It’s probably the third time, I’ve been through the book. There are still some chapters/scenes to add to the book’s mystery timeline. I know some of you are waiting to read what’s happening in Star’s life but I want to make sure everything about the book is top-notch.

I’ve also been doing some thinking and research about what to include in my newsletter. So far I’ve identified the following categories to include in the newsletter: a snippet of background information about Star from the Star O’Brien bible, pictures of real places that will be in the second book (exclusive to the newsletter), maybe snippets from my blog pages (in case someone who signed up for the newsletter doesn’t read the blog). What do you think? What would you like to read about in the newsletter?

I’m getting started on this post a little late today. Our Schipperke, named Turlough, started coughing yesterday afternoon. We took him to the vet early this morning. He’s on a short course of cough med and antibiotic to clear it up. He was sick during most of August with a cough also. He’s still a puppy, just eighteen months old. Right now, he’s resting on the dining room floor. We are trying to keep him from barking or running along so that he can rest.

I call this picture of his tail “question mark”. Isn’t it beautiful?
This is me and Turlough in May when we were visiting Blairstown, NJ.

That’s all for me this week. I hope you all have a great week.

Keep the love going,


To Ireland with Love

Bill and I are back from our ten-day trip to County Mayo, Ireland. It was a wonderful week…got to see many of my cousins and launch Death on Clare Island: A Star O’Brien Mystery on that side of the Atlantic. I couldn’t have done it without the love and support of friends and family. Star’s story takes place in County Mayo, Ireland. And, many of the places in the book are real. Here are some pics from the trip.

French Hill, featured in the series, is a real place.
The view from French Hill Cottage.
Curry’s In Westport where Star and Lucia have coffee.
That’s me….having lunch at Curry’s.
Family and friends at The Castle Book Shop.

If you haven’t already done so, sign up for my newsletter. I’ll be sharing some unpublished pics and info about the next book in the Star O’Brien series. And, extra bonus, you’ll get a map of Clare Island to follow as you read along in the first book.

Keep the love going,


Castle Book Shop is the Best!

Book Signing Event at The Castle Book Shop
Cousins and Friends…I love them!
David and his crew created this amazing welcoming display for the event.
The Castle Book Shop on Castle Street, Castlebar, County Mayo

David and the crew at The Castle Book Shop hosted the Irish launch of Death on Clare Island: A Star O’Brien Mystery Series on Friday, September 13th. What a great group of people and place! I’ve visited the store during my many trips to Castlebar; oftentimes to pick up a mystery book to read while on vacation. And now here I am with my own mystery series. The book shop also hosts a web site that features books (fiction and non-fiction) about County Mayo. You can check it out here: (My book is on it!) Here are some pics from the event. And, if you have time, go on over to the Castle Book Shop on Facebook and show them some luv with a like.

Keep the love going,


Wow! Midwest Radio in Ireland Live Interview

I want to sincerely thank Tommy Marren, host of the Tommy Marren Show on Midwest Radio for hosting me on his show yesterday morning. Also, a huge thank you to Ciara Mannioin, also at Midwest, who coordinated the entire event. If you’d like to listen to the interview, here’s a link to the audio file.

I’m looking forward to listening to Midwest when I get to Ireland next week. In fact, as soon as I can I usually tune the car radio to Midwest to keep me company on the drive from Shannon to Castlebar. I’ve mentioned in other posts that there’s no television in the cottage. I always look forward to listening to Midwest in the morning and then again in the evenings. The opportunity to get away from the wall to wall television here in the US is a restful component of my vacation.

Thanks again to Midwest Radio for your hospitality and demonstrating once again Ireland’s and especially County Mayo’s warmth and welcoming spirit.

Keep the love going, Martha

Céad Míle Fáilte

Photo by Steven Hylands on

Ireland: Land of a Hundred Thousand Welcomes. This lrish saying is something I’ve seen and heard countless times since I was four years old. That’s when I made my first visit to Counties Mayo and Cork with my parents. Over the years I’ve traveled to Ireland many times and have had an opportunity to experience the warmth and welcoming spirit of the Emerald Isle.

For me this saying has a deeper meaning. My mother left Ireland when she was sixteen years old. Fortunately, she’s had an opportunity to return many times. She and my father even lived there for a few years after they bought a cottage.  But my mom was the only one of her siblings who left Ireland. So, for me and my two brothers growing up in New York and New Jersey, it was a special treat to go to Ireland. What a welcome! The excitement of meeting aunts, uncles, and cousins. It didn’t matter how many times I went to Ireland; the welcome was always there, always fresh.

People here in the US would often ask “Aren’t you afraid to travel alone?” Me, “no”. Not when my trip took me to French Hill, Castlebar, County Mayo. There was family to see. Tea to be brewed. (Oh, as much as they love me, they wouldn’t want me to brew the tea…too weak), brown bread and butter to eat. It doesn’t matter where you go in Ireland…someone will always welcome you. There will always be a cup of tea (cupán tae) if you need it.

In September I will be in Castlebar for the launch of my book Death on Clare Island. I will be interviewed on Midwest Radio and hold a book reading at the Castle Book Shop on Castle Street. I’m excited about all of this but the most amazing part of it all: how welcoming and hospitable the radio station and book store owner is. I called and explained who I am and what I’d like to do. And they said “Yes.” They welcomed me and will accommodate my schedule and wishes. This is the sense of openness and community I’ve witnessed in this land of a hundred thousand welcomes throughout my life.

Several years ago, I published a journal article about how to create and live in community. It takes trust, respect, love, and the idea of liability for each other. Yes, we are all individuals but I believe our sense of being also comes from our relationships with others. Those relationships often shape who we are, our spirit, and our mind.

I guess for me all the welcomes, the cups of tea, the love, the support, and understanding for someone who pops into the country once in a while has been a core part of who I have become.

Star O’Brien, the main character in the Star O’Brien mystery series also experiences this welcoming spirit when she arrives in Ireland. I hope that as time goes on, Star will also find that she is part of an amazing community.

Keep the love going, Martha

Reek Sunday and The Pilgrim’s Path

This Sunday, the last Sunday in July, is Reek Sunday in County Mayo, Ireland. What is that you might ask? I cannot begin to explain or describe it all. It is a tradition in Ireland that began at least 1500 years ago. It is a day and the night before of pilgrimage to climb to the top of Croagh Patrick. The Reek is Croagh Patrick’s nick name and is about 2500 feet above sea level. It’s also one of twelve mountains (called the Twelve Bens) that form a mountain range in Connacht.

Now Croagh Patrick is a holy mountain. Patrick, one of Ireland’s patron saints, is said to have climbed to the top where he fasted and prayed for forty days and nights. Thousands of people climb the mountain each year. I’ve heard all kinds of stories of how people do the climb: husbands and wives join hands and arms to climb it together; some people climb in bare feet as an act of penance. There’s a chapel at the summit where Mass is celebrated.

I’ve had a few climbs of the mountain myself. I was sixteen years old the first time. A student in boarding school, I was dating a local boy, Michael Rice. I had no idea the import of the Reek Sunday. All I know is that on the Saturday evening, we went to Murrisk where we climbed to the top of the mountain and when we got down, we went into a church in Westport for Mass.

The next time, I climbed was not on Reek Sunday. It was a beautiful summer day. It was just an opportunity to go for a hike. One of my cousins came with me. I will never forget the view of Clew Bay. The West of Ireland in all its beauty. Its sacredness.

Then when I was much older, one summer I took part in the Pilgrim’s Path. This does not occur on Reek Sunday. It about a 26-mile walk from Balintubber Abbey along the path that Saint Patrick took to the top of the mountain. We walked on roads and through fields. We stopped at a holy well. The priest who led the walk said Mass in a cemetery just as the priest’s did during Cromwell’s times. And, finally we came to the backside, south side, foot of Croagh Patrick. There was no path. No guide. Just sheer determination to climb and reach the summit. And I did it! But how you might ask. With a set intention!

At the beginning of the walk, we each received a walking stick (staff) to use along the way. Our priest guide also suggested that each of us go into the church at Balintubber Abbey, light a candle, and make an intention to guide us through the day. At that time, my father had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. So, I went into that church and lit a candle to the Sacred Heart that I could do this walk for my father. I kept that candle’s light in my heart and soul that entire day.

When we finally reached the summit, we still had to make our way down the mountain on the well-trodden, dry, slippery stone path that is normally taken by pilgrims.

I arrived home that evening at our family cottage in French Hill. My Uncle Willie and Aunt Celia Hughes came by to see how I was and if I’d done it. I was so happy to see them.

That day, for me, was a pilgrimage to a sacred summit. I still have the walking stick. I have wonderful memories of my Aunt and Uncle. They and my father have gone on to another spiritual place. But their love, their guidance, their faith, their light remains.

So…. let us not despair when all seems awry in this world or in our personal lives. There are sacred places and people in this world. We each have our mountain to climb. But light your candle and set your intention. There’s good energy around us. Seek it out. Throw your arms around it. Bring others into it. And, get to the summit.

Keep the love going, Martha

A Cozy Week in Ireland

It’s been another busy week. I put a great deal of time into editing Death at Ashford Castle. A fellow author and good friend, Nick Johns, (you can check out his work on Amazon) reviewed the first draft two months ago. I’m going through the entire manuscript with his feedback in hand. I was happy to read that he didn’t “cop on” to the murderer until the reveal. (Note: “cop on” is an Irish slang phrase typically meaning “common sense”).

Best of all this week, I finally made flight and car rental arrangements to go to Ireland in September. I’m so excited!

Bill is coming with me. The airport and flight will be a challenge but we will work through it. Once we get to Ireland, we’ll have plenty of loving and caring moral support from family.

Speaking of family, I can’t wait to see my cousins and good friend. And, to go for one of my morning walks along Barney Road in French Hill. To go to Café Rua on Spencer Street for a morning cup of coffee while reading the Irish Times.

I’d also like to hold a book signing event for Death on Clare Island while we’re there. No promises yet. All I can say is I’m working on it. I’ll keep you posted.

That’s it for this week. Stay in touch and if you enjoyed my book, please tell your friends. If you have time, please leave a review on Amazon. And thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for your feedback.

Keep the love going, Martha

Time for an Update

I know. I haven’t posted in over a week. I haven’t answered emails either. Sorry. I’ve even ignored my TBR. But I’ve been busy.

Followers of my blog know that my love is dealing with what I call “brain blindness”. The medical name is right homonymous hemianopsia. He has it on both sides of his brain. It’s extremely difficult even for me who’s around him all the time to imagine what it is he can and cannot see. And this life event impacts your cognitive abilities.

Two weeks ago, the neurologist wrote a prescription for physical therapy. And so, two days a week, we are there working on building awareness and scanning techniques. At home, I work with him to take longer strides while swinging his arms. This practice will build his confidence and overcome fear of falling.

The doctor also recommended more vitamin D and folate in his diet. So, I’ve been doing lots of research on the Mediterranean diet and looking for simple recipes to make. Initially, this has taken up lots of time. And I’ve had to convince Bill that he loves dishes like broccoli slaw and arugula salad.

But I am also working on the second book in the Star O’Brien series. I love that readers of Death on Clare Island have contacted me about when the second book will be available. All I can say is: I’m working on it. These days I’m going through edits that a fellow author provided. I expect there will be several more rounds of editing between now and the end of August.

So, that’s what I’ve been up to recently. If you’re like me you too are caring for someone you love. My only advice is to take time to do what feeds your soul, if only for a few minutes each day. For me, it’s bringing my Star O’Brien series to life.

Stay in touch and if you enjoyed my book, please tell your friends. And thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for your feedback.

Love, Martha

Clare Island Map

I’ve got this thing about maps. I don’t know where it started. Maybe it began when I attended boarding school at St. Joseph’s Convent of Mercy in Castlebar, County Mayo, Ireland. Geography was part of the curriculum. We spent a lot of time on topography, learning how to read contour lines, elevations, and sea level. On an exam, you’d have to find items and interpret a topological map.

Maps or charts as they are called in aviation, were an important part of obtaining my private pilot’s license. Before a trip, a pilot uses a compass to plot a course on an up to date chart. The chart has all kinds of information such as landmarks to look for from the sky, elevations, radio frequencies, power lines, etc. This was an exciting part of flying-getting out the chart, the pencil, and the compass to plot the course.

Whenever I go somewhere new, I look for a map. Walking maps, hiking maps, any guide that tells me more about the area, gives me the lay of the land. I love to explore and try out hikes and walks that put me into nature, especially in Ireland.

So, I’m happy to share with readers who sign up for my newsletter a map of Clare Island. The island in Death on Clare Island is real. Now you can use the map to follow along with Star as she solves the mysteries of her life.

I hope you enjoy the book and the walk through Clare Island.

We Are Back

Bill, Turlough, and I returned from our eleven-day trek to New Jersey last week. It’s been about a year and a half since we sold our home in NJ and moved to Florida. I was hesitant to take the trip because we were bringing our fifteen-month puppy Turlough with us. And, as I’ve posted about before, Bill is no longer able to drive. Most of all, I didn’t think I’d be able to handle my emotions; I miss NJ so much. But in the end, I rented a mini-van, we packed up, and set out.

And, I’m glad we did. The first stop on the trip was a few days stay with my Mom in South Jersey. From there, we drove north to our old neighborhood and visited with friends. I got to sit in on the Mahwah writing collective group meeting and visit my former town library. We even stopped at our former vet’s office to show off our Schipperke.

We spent a wonderful day in Blairstown, NJ. We had lunch at the Blairstown Airport Runway Café. Bill and I used to fly our Cessna 172 there for years. We met up with Christine Beegle and Wickliffe Kishpaugh Mott. These two folks lead the Blairstown NJ Historic Preservation Committee. They helped us transition many of Bill’s family artifacts to Blairstown when we moved.

From there we went to Kutztown Pennsylvania. I had coffee and a happy visit with three people that I cherish: Leslie, Stacey, and Danielle.

Then it was on to the Colonial Schipperke Club picnic in Arlington, Virginia. There might have been thirty Schipperkes there. Turlough had a great time. How do I know? Like any kid who overindulged a party, he threw up his carrot in the car later that day.

Finally, it was back home here to Florida. I’m grateful to be home and that we were fortunate enough to take this trip.

Now, it’s back to work making edits to Death at Ashford Castle.

Barrel of Books and Games

Browsing a local bookstore is one of my favorite “get away for some me time” activities, especially if there’s a coffee shop nearby. So, I was thrilled to discover an independent book store, Barrel of Books and Games, in Mount Dora, Florida.

Now, as an indie author, I have an opportunity to host a sidewalk book event in conjunction with the bookstore owner! How exciting! Lots of preparation to complete but I’m looking forward to speaking with people, who might stop by, about Star O’Brien and Ireland.

Life’s Little Ironies

Here I am finally pursuing my dream of writing a mystery series. And, just as it comes to fruition, my love and greatest cheerleader (Bill) cannot read the book.

Just over a year ago, when I began writing this story, we learned that Bill had lost the right peripheral vision in both eyes. Something called right homonymous hemianopsia. He’s no longer able to read print, among other things.

So, today, for my love and for others who might enjoy listening, I’m researching how to create an audible version of Star’s story.

I’ll keep you posted.

There’s a New Character in Town

I’m late in posting this week due to other commitments. I’m a member of a local Sisters in Crime Chapter and we had our monthly meeting today. Ruth Owen, an award winning romance author, was the guest speaker. She did a wonderful job of explaining what to do when developing characters. She also provided a wealth of resource books to look into regarding plot versus character.

Speaking of which…I write mysteries that I plot out before I begin writing. There’s a notebook for each of my stories. There are character descriptions, motivations, and hidden agendas. I call it my Star O’Brien Bible. Sometimes I write just one or two paragraphs that describe the scene which becomes a chapter. Other times, I’ve used mind mapping and diagrams with circles and arrows to plot out relationships between characters, their emotions, and motivations.

This week when I was editing the draft of the second book in the Star O’Brien mystery series, something happened that hadn’t been mind-mapped or decided upon ahead of writing: a new character showed up. Her name is Maeve Baldwin. She’s an older woman. She wears pearls. I like her. She has a minor appearance in this book but I suspect she’ll show up in one of the next books in the series.

In other exciting news, the book cover design phase for this second book kicks off tomorrow. I’ll be sharing updates in the next few weeks.

In the meanwhile, keep the love going,


What are you doing for the next hour?

“The world is too much with us; late and soon, Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers.”

William Wordsworth

That poem “The World is Too Much With Us” has been a favorite of mine since high school. I’ve muttered those first two lines to myself many times throughout my life. Always wondering if I’m following my heart…doing what feeds my soul.

This month is National Novel Writing Month (otherwise known as NaNoWriMo). Taking the advice of a writing colleague, Valerie Willis, I decided to signup this year. Now, the goal is to write 50,000 words in one month which sounds gargantuan until you do the math. It comes out to somewhere around 1600 words a day. For me that equates to about four hours a day which is an amount of time that I don’t usually have at my disposal. So….I’d decided that this wasn’t for me.

But then I received the NaNoWriMo kickoff email from Anne Lamott. She wrote a wonderful book about writing several years ago: Bird by Bird. Her email challenged everyone to put aside one hour a day to write. It can be any kind of writing, a journal, a blog, a novel, play, poetry…So, that’s my goal this month. At least an hour a day. Some days that might mean 200 words; other days it might just be 50.

But that hour is not a waste of my power. It gives me the perspective I need to care for the people in my life; to do the things that I am responsible for.

So, my question to you Dear Readers: What is it you want to do with an hour a day? What feeds your soul? What gives you power? Do it. Take an hour. And, let me know how it goes.

In the meanwhile, keep the love going,