Apple Watch, Exercise

My Bossy Watch

I am referring to the Apple Watch I wear, which is a bit of a nag in a helpful way.

The watch was a thoughtful gift from my daughter, Sarah, and son-in-law, John. The device measures, when requested, my heart rate, my blood’s oxygen level, EKG, sleep, activity etc. Before I walk, I click on the Workout app that will measure the distance I go, plus other aspects. Being linked to my other Apple products, it notifies me when I’ve gotten a text or call, plus whatever else I want to check, including weather, time, email etc. It even tells me how to drive home without my asking.

But back to the bossy part. The watch constantly reminds me to get moving and keep moving. If I go inside a store or the library, it questions whether I am still in my outdoor walk mode. Okay, okay, I hit pause, and try to remember to hit resume when I leave.

It advises me to meditate and then times me when I do. It bugs the heck out of me to stand and move a little every hour, which honestly can be a bit inconvenient. My reward? Encouraging statements that I’ve met certain goals and a spinning ring of light to celebrate.

Since getting the watch, I have set a daily walking goal of two miles, which most days I can achieve. I have several different routes in my village, and thankfully, all are circular. As I walk, at a pretty good clip, I note the architecture of the houses I pass. I will stop at the Free Little Libraries to check out the selection. Sometimes, a freight train will be passing through, and I will admire the artistic graffiti on the box cars. There’s the Deerfield River, whose surface and quantity of water depend on the amount of rain and snowfall, plus two bridges, including the Bridge of Flowers that will reopen next month. 

Here’s that red bra.

I pass people, often walking their dogs, or going on a village trek like me. Occasionally, I see something odd like a weird bumper sticker. The oddest? Definitely, the red bra that was hanging at the railroad crossing. What was up with that?

I am usually alone on my walks although sometimes Hank will join me. I would like to expand to other routes — there’s a very hilly one I want to try — and head to the state parks in our area, which will make that more of a hike. That should please my watch.

I don’t take sticks for village walks although each does have a significant rise in elevation, as my watch will note, but I might for those hikes I plan. I recall interviewing Doug Scott, who wrote guide books about Taos, New Mexico. (Hank and I lived there for 11 years.) Doug told me he carries a stick whenever he goes on long treks off trail, typically one he might find on the ground. Doug says he doesn’t intend the stick to be a weapon but it has a definite purpose should he encounter a wild animal. His theory is an animal can’t carry a stick so when it encounters a being who can, it commands respect. The animal knows the human is a level above. It’s an intellectual thing. A magical thing. I will keep that in mind.

Well, back to my less adventurous walks — the only animals I see are dogs on leashes, cats, and plenty of birds, including a few chickens.

Today, March 20 is the first day of spring, the Equinox, but recently we have been hit hard lately with snow, including a large storm last week that knocked out power in the region. (Towns around me got three to four feet. Our village didn’t get that much.) Yesterday, a steady wind enhanced the cold temps. Frankly, it was a bit brutal.

I dressed appropriately with long johns, but I questioned whether I had it in me to take that walk. But that little watch reminded me to keep things going. So, I bundled up — yes, that’s what I looked like in the photo above and no, that’s not real fur. I only passed two people walking. 

And midway on my walk, I was glad I pushed myself to do. Let me rephrase that. I am glad my phone did.

THANK YOU: I want to express my gratitude to everyone who downloaded my novel, Following the Lead, during this weekend’s freebie promo. At one point it was ranked 30th among Amazon’s free books, and readers were buying others in the Isabel Long Mystery Series. Here’s the link to all of my books on Amazon:

free, Isabel Long Mystery Series

Following the Lead: Two Days Free

Good news for Kindle readers: Following the Lead is free two days — Saturday, March 18 and Sunday, March 19. This book is no. 6 in my Isabel Long Mystery Series. I will cut to the chase and give you the link:

So why in the heck am I giving my book away? Let me tell you.

First, I want to express my gratitude to those who bought the Kindle version at the $3.99 price. I appreciate your support. But as I’ve said before, there is writing, and then there is the business of writing. We authors have a lot of competition when you consider the books being pushed by big and little houses, plus oh-so-many people who are publishing themselves. How do you get your book to stand out? Good question. 

One way is to lure writers with a freebie promotion. Hopefully, if a reader likes Following the Lead, they will want to read the others. By the way, while it is part of a series, each book can be read on their own. And yes, the seventh, Missing the Deadline, is way past the half-way mark. 

I am pleased, as I was Thursday, meeting in person a fan who has read the entire series — especially when I totally fooled him about whodunnit on Following the Lead. But since most of my sales are digital aka Kindle, it is rare I will get that kind of experience, except in ratings on Amazon (thank you if you do) and post on social media (ditto).

I love writing my books. I want people to love reading them. But first they have to know about my books.

The Isabel Long Mystery Series is published by darkstroke books, but as a small indie publisher, authors must actively promote their books. I’ve learned to pay for promotions — not a lot — but that has made a big difference on these freebie weekends. My social media presence doesn’t have their reach, which is in the many thousands.

It’s also a lot of fun watching a book rise in the listings on Amazon.

Enough from me on the whys or wise of a freebie giveaway. Here is a brief synopsis for Following the Lead.

Isabel Long moves quickly onto the next case when a former boss entrusts her with a mystery that has haunted him since he was child. Lin Pierce, then only 11, was supposed to be minding his sister while his mother gave a piano lesson inside their home. But the sleeping baby was stolen from her carriage after he was lured away in a well-executed kidnapping that devastated the family. 

Forty-nine years later, Lin is convinced he met his long-lost sister by chance. Afterall, the woman not only resembled his mother but she had a distinctive family trait — different colored eyes. 

As she works her sixth case, Isabel believes the student taking the piano lesson that day, later a well-known musician, is key to solving it. But meeting him in person proves to be nearly impossible. 

As she did when she was a journalist, Isabel use her resources — including her mother Maria — to follow that lead until the end.

ALL OF THE SERIES: Here’s the link for that —

Isabel Long Mystery Series, The Sacred Dog

Voices in My Head

I don’t mean those kinds of voices, the ones that get you into trouble or treatment. I am writing about the voices of the characters in my books and the conversations they have with each other whether they are adults or children. As you can see from the stack of books in the photo above, I have been doing that for a while.

Right now, I am working on the seventh in my Isabel Long Mystery Series. This one is called Missing the Deadline. I don’t want to give away too much just yet, but I am way past the half-way mark. 

For those who haven’t read the series, it is written in first-person, present-tense so the primary voice in my head is Isabel telling the story. Of course, there are the conversations she has with other people and what she might overhear. There are a number of other characters in the series, many who appear throughout. 

Say Isabel is having a conversation with Jack, the owner of the Rooster Bar and her love interest. Part of their thing is a good-natured back and forth, teasing, you might say. Maria, Isabel’s 93-year-old mother, is the level-headed observer who at times pulls parenting rank on her daughter. Annette Waters, who owns a junkyard and garage, lives up to her nickname the Tough Cookie. Gary Beaumont is always bossing around his brother, Larry.  Then, there are the Old Farts, those gossipy men who hold court in the backroom of the Conwell General Store.

I guess it all started when I was a kid living a sheltered life, which mean I only left our yard to go to school, church, watch my father’s softball team play, or to visit relatives. My siblings and I were big into pretending games. Plus I was a big reader. I loved getting lost in books.

Later in adulthood, when I no longer lived a sheltered life, I was a newspaper reporter. That experience, reporting on the hilltowns of Western Massachusetts, enabled me to listen to how people of all walks of life talked and to write it down. It was great training. Plus it inspired making rural New England the setting for most of my books.

The Sacred Dog, which is not part of the series, is my most recently published novel. That one, a thriller set in rural New England, is written in third-person, past-tense. The Sacred Dog is a country bar where the locals drink and gab, so there is that barroom banter to get right. But I needed to capture what the book’s three main characters would say. Frank Hooker, the owner, hates Al Kitchen, who he wrongfully blames for his brother’s death. Their conversations are terse and tense at best. I “hear” how they relate when Al has the nerve to show up at the bar. The same goes into their dealings with other people, including Frank’s ex-wife Verona, who returns to town with a dark secret, and his young daughter. One of my favorite dialogues happens between Jenny Kitchen, Al’s scratchy grandma, and Frank. 

But back to Isabel Long, specifically Missing the Deadline, who has been inside my head lately? My favorites, of course, like Jack, the Old Farts, Annette, the Beaumont brothers, and of course her mother. But Cyrus Nilsson, aka the Big Shot Poet, plays a significant role in that he hires Isabel for her seventh case. Plus, as this case — my lips are sealed — takes Isabel to another place and people of interest, there are new characters to hear. I will be sharing more about Missing the Deadline in the future.

ABOUT THE IMAGE ABOVE: Yes that’s the books I’ve published so far. Darkstroke books published the Isabel Long Mystery Series and The Sacred Dog. I self-published the rest. By the way, the second in the Twin Jinn Series will be published this year.

LINK: Here’s the way to find my books in Kindle and paperback on Amazon:

The paperback versions of most of my books are also available on Barnes and Noble:

Leonard Cohen

Hallelujah: Listening to Leonard Cohen Again

I first found Leonard Cohen’s music when I was a girl trying to figure out what life meant to me. First he was a poet and novelist, and those creative pursuits carried through the songs he wrote and sang. Naturally, I enjoyed his earlier works like Suzanne, The Partisan, and Bird on a Wire. He was one of the people who provided my musical soundtrack with that ever-so-recognizable voice, one that was unadorned and to some, too even-toned.

Then, I stopped seeking out Cohen. After all, there are so many more people producing interesting music. The one exception was his song, Hallelujah, which has been sung as well by others although I believe Cohen does it best, which is not surprising since he felt what he intended when he wrote it.

But my interest returned big time when I recently watched the documentary, “Hallelujah: Leonard Cohen, A Journey, A Song” on Netflix. Here’s a trailer to get you interested:

The documentary focuses on that powerful song, certainly, but it also explores the complexities of Cohen, who died in 2016 at age 82. He was a man who explored the many aspects of life — love, loss, spirituality, sex etc. He was even betrayed by a trusted manager who stole from him, forcing him later in life to go on the road.

So, I started listening to Leonard Cohen again. Luckily, it was easy to do on Spotify. I began with the early albums. Okay, I remember many of those. They’re okay. Ah, there’s Hallelujah. But it wasn’t until I got to his later albums that his music resonated deeply in me once again. (Plus he has those amazing backup singers and musicians.)

So late in the afternoon, while I do a little more writing, this time at the kitchen table instead of at my desk, and while dinner is cooking, I listen to Leonard Cohen, the later Leonard Cohen. I begin with Tower of Song, a song he wrote in 1988 for the album I’m Your Man, with its opening line ” Well, my friends are gone and my hair is grey/ I ache in the places where I used to play/ And I’m crazy for love but I’m not coming on” and just let his music roll through the years as he sings in that golden voice of his about what he’s learned from his experiences and observations. I’ve been doing this for weeks now, a few days each, but I haven’t gotten tired of listening to Cohen sing.

This is the mature Leonard Cohen, and these days, his music largely forms the soundtrack of my life.

ABOUT THE IMAGE ABOVE: That’s the cover to Leonard Cohen’s album, I’m Your Man.

LINK TO A BLOG POST: Miriam Drori invited me onto her website to share my thoughts on writing and working with an international publisher. You can read it here:


Winter Is Here for a While

Suddenly, we have winter again. That’s what it seems like. It began Wednesday night, and the next day we were shoveling snow made heavy by rain and freezing rain. Friday, I had to sand the driveway because of what happened overnight. Light snow was a constant yesterday. We’ll be shoveling for sure today when it’s a bit warmer. It’s 17 degrees F now. The cat, who likes to go outside, sits on the back of the couch, staring at the snow. Actually, this has not been a hard season, and naturally, I think of the ones before it that were. 

I survived tough winters when we lived in the boonies of Western Massachusetts. Snow storms. Ice storms — the absolute worst. Storms that lasted days. Lingering cold. One month it didn’t get above the 20s so road salt didn’t work.

When I was a reporter and worked from home, covering winter weather in the hilltowns of Western Mass. was part of my beat. I would check in with road bosses about conditions, and interview residents, store owners, and in those days, a loyal weather watcher who was the custodian in our kids’ school. People loved to talk about the weather.

Our former home in Worthington, Mass.

Then, I became an editor, which required me to commute from our home in Worthington to the newsroom in the nearest city, Northampton. My route was through three small towns, up and down steep hills. Each time I reached a border I hoped the highway crew had been there before me, and it was extremely rare they hadn’t. I knew their schedules. I left at 6:10 a.m. for work because a plow truck would make a sweep of the steep hill outside our home at 6 a.m. The crews in the towns I traveled were out early, too. 

We had to have our steep driveway plowed, and sometimes I just parked at the top, knowing we weren’t among the first on her list. (Yes, the person who did that was a woman.)

By the way, our middle son plowed state roads during the winter for a contractor. He has his own stories to tell.

If a bad storm came while I was at work, I left at 1 p.m. It wasn’t worth going at noon, because the guys always broke then for lunch no matter the weather. If necessary, I found places to stay overnight — with one of the kids, when they went to school, or with a co-worker.

I stored three buckets of sand in the back of my Subaru for ballast.

I watched the weather constantly.

I waited for spring.

Then, we moved to Taos, New Mexico. We were at the same latitude as South Carolina but at 7,200 feet elevation or higher. Temps had 30-degree differentials between night and day. We got snow, dry stuff, mostly in the mountains where it belonged. 

When we moved there, I swore I would never have a long commute to work again. I was the editor-in-chief of the newspaper there and had a doable 11-minute drive. We had snow-covered roads. But people tend to stay off them so the traffic was light. The crews there used salt and ground pumice to treat the roads. When we first lived there, they used ground glass from the recycling center, which made for a colorful display in the intersections.

View from our front porch.

We returned to Western Mass. six years ago, this time to Shelburne Falls, more northern than where we lived before but at a lower elevation and near a river. Being away eleven years, I see the change in the area’s climate. Winter comes later. Spring comes earlier. This winter hasn’t been very cold, except for brief spells, and not a whole lot of snow. We have a snowblower, but haven’t used it yet this winter because it couldn’t handle the icy kind of snow we’ve gotten. 

Anyway shoveling is great exercise, a mindless one I will add, which means I will be working on my new Isabel Long mystery, Missing the Deadline in my brain. I’m immersed in a great scene. And at 38,000 words, I have officially passed the halfway point. Now that’s exciting.

PHOTO ABOVE: The view from our front porch.

LINKS TO MY BOOKS: Looking for a good book to read? I have six in my Isabel Long Mystery Series and then there’s my new fast-paced thriller, The Sacred Dog, all set in rural New England. Here’s the link to Amazon: