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Friday, September 30, 2016


I met Ellen at an Irish festival near Boston, Massachusetts and was instantly intrigued with her book. A trove of forgotten letters in a dusty attic ignited her desire to learn more about the role her family played in the Civil War. Ellen and I shared the linkage of Irish ancestry and a desire to tell Ireland's history through our books. I know you'll enjoy meeting Ellen here. If you're in the Boston area, come meet us both at Dorchester's Irish Heritage Festival.

Ellen Burke: A Hero on the Home Front

My historical novel is entitled, Yours Faithfully, Florence Burke and it is based on my great, great grandfather’s Civil War letters.  Florence Burke, a strapping, determined man, is an Irish immigrant volunteering for war in the place of a wealthy banker in exchange for a piece of farmland. He needed land in order to improve the lives of his beloved family and in order to apply for citizenship. Florence became a soldier for the 37th Mass volunteers. While he was fighting in Virginia he wrote love letters to his wife Ellen and his three children back home in West Springfield, MA. There’s no doubt that Florence was a hero to his family, enlisting to improve the lives of those he loved.

But there is another person, a quiet, unlikely hero named Ellen Burke who is thrown into an unimaginable situation and emerges as a strong, resilient “guardian of the home front.” When Ellen learns that her beloved husband Florence has volunteered for war without her knowledge or approval she is shattered and frightened. How will she keep her children safe and well through the harsh New England winter? How will she manage a new farm on her own? How will she support her embattled husband? How can she do this alone?

After Florence heads off for training camp Ellen manages to put aside her resentment and concentrate on providing food, shelter and love for her children.  She is alone now and must make all the decisions for her family. But the battles on the home front have just begun.  Ellen faces winter storms, thieves, disparaging rumors and illness. Through it all, she remains steady and confident, and acts as a strong mother and “stand in” father. Besides family and property management, Ellen also finds herself battling with the prominent town councilman who promised her husband a deed to a parcel of land in exchange for his conscription.  

In Florence’s absence she must fight for this legal contract and other specific trade agreements. Ellen has never even entered her city’s Town Hall and now she finds herself in a man’s world, fighting for what is rightly owed to her husband and her family.  Standing on her own and taking responsibility for all the household duties, Ellen transforms from a meek, na├»ve woman, to a strong, self-confidant mother, wife and friend. She even manages to rise above her anger and feelings of betrayal toward her husband, Florence. She focuses on staying strong for her children and using her mental and physical strength to cultivate her farm and keep her family consoled.

Ellen uses every resource available to her in order to survive during war time. She seeks help from neighbors, friends and family and the advice from local professionals.  She’s a strong Irish immigrant whose wit, fierce determination and unconditional love see her through many difficult times. To her children, neighbors, and friends—and especially to me, she is a true hero!


Ellen B. Alden is a dynamic first time author who began the journey of writing after discovering an old leather box filled with nineteen Civil War letter in her attic. The letters were written from her Irish immigrant great, great grandfather, to his wife and children at home in Western Massachusetts. Ever since that day Ellen has worked tirelessly to learn their story and bring it to life through this novel. She travelled to Ireland several times to meet with a local historian, to explore her ancestry and to research the Great Potato Famine.
Ellen is a graduate of St. Michael’s college in Vermont. She earned a teaching degree from Pepperdine University in Malibu, California and then attended Merrimack College Graduate school of Education. She has worked as an elementary school teacher and she has also dappled in the wine business. She earned wine certificates at Boston Universities Elizabeth Bishop Wine Resource Center and worked as a wine consultant for several liquor stores and a winery.

After living in Los Angeles, London and Boston, Ellen calls Andover, Massachusetts her home.  She lives here with her husband Michael, her three children Nathan, Liam and Jillian, and her two dogs Moxie and Frosty.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

When Hearts Open

I packed my little girl off to college and didn't shed a tear. 

Well, I did get a little misty, but real tears? Nope. Not one.

It helped that I've been through the ritual with my two boys, so my perspective is shaded by optimism and accomplishment. She is in the right college with a terrific roommate surrounded by professors and friends I could not have done a better job choosing than if I had hand picked them myself. 

I cleaned her empty room and lined up the stuffed animals thinking it was time to cull the crop. The downsizing list grew. The clutter shrank. No tears. Not one.

And then my husband told me folks were arriving to buy her wooden play kitchen. Pots and pans, too.

Wait. What?

She was three years old when I found the kitchen of my childhood dreams. Cabinet doors. Shelves. Knobs that turned. Oven and burners. Heck. It even had a sink that could pump water. 

Its first years were spent upstairs in our family room. I would fuss around my big kitchen, and she would rattle around hers. Even the boys were intrigued. Like the kitchen in a real home, her little kitchen was the center of laughter and talk. Conflicts and shouting happened, too. But, as in life, resolution and forgiveness was found among siblings hunched around tin pots and plastic spoons.

As she grew, her interests changed and the kitchen was relegated to the downstairs playroom - a.k.a. cellar. The kitchen became something boxes were placed on. Its role changed from main character to supporting player to side-lot extra. 

And then new grandparents knocked on our door and carried it way.

Until that moment, the passage of time had been filled with accomplishments, growth, and possibilities. For the first time, I felt the loss of roads not traveled, time not spent, and doors forever closed. 

My heart opened and the jumble of emotions that is life tumbled out.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Dorchester Irish Heritage Festival


Feeling like your Irish is a mite bit low these days? Come to the Irish Heritage Festival and replenish on food, song, and BOOKS!

Celebrate Irish heritage with song, drink, laughter, and craic. (Don't know what craic is? Well, you have to come and see for yourself!) I'll be at the Dorchester Irish Heritage Festival to sign copies of "The Troubles" and will certainly have copies of "The Charity" on hand for the uninitiated!

Check out the musicians and dancers who will be attending! New England's best Irish acts will be taking the stage for a great way to enjoy your Sunday!

Florian Hall


Tuesday, September 20, 2016

BOOK LAUNCH: Among the Shadows by Bruce Robert Coffin

"Among the Shadows" by Bruce Robert Coffin

Join me in congratulating Bruce Coffin on the launch of his first crime novel!

I met Bruce at a Sisters in Crime event and was struck one fact: He's a cop who can write. We all assume cops are filled with great stories, but when you find one who can spin yarn and write about it in a compelling fashion, we have a winner! Buy his book from Amazon right now!!! What are you waiting for?

Haven't clicked through yet? Well, he's already getting great buzz:

“Compulsively readable, Among the Shadows is that rare cop novel that’s chock full of blood-and-guts detail while taking the reader along on a ride of a lifetime.  Detective John Byron is a great character, and the reader will be eager for the next installment of his story.” – Gayle Lynds, New York Times bestselling author of The Assassins

Bruce's bio:

Bruce Robert Coffin is a former detective sergeant with more than twenty-seven years in law enforcement. At the time of his retirement, from the Portland, Maine police department, he supervised all homicide and violent crime investigations for Maine’s largest city. Following the terror attacks of September 11th, Bruce spent four years working counter-terrorism with the FBI, earning the Director’s Award, the highest honor a non-agent can receive.

He is the author of the John Byron Mystery Series. The debut novel in the series, Among The Shadows, will be released on September 13.

His short fiction appears in several anthologies, including 2016 Best American Mystery Stories.

He lives and writes in Maine.

Read Bruce's short story Fool Proof in Level Best Books, Best New England Crime Stories 2016: Red Dawn, and in Houghton Mifflin Harcourt's, Best American Mystery Stories 2016, scheduled for release October 2016. 

Friday, September 16, 2016

More Short Stories by K

I've told you about K before and today is a very special day for her. She marks a milestone birthday with a limo filled with friends and dinner at a happening arcade and gaming spot.

To help her celebrate, I'm publishing two of her short stories. I've provided images of the pages she gave me and transcribed her words as accurately as I could. Enjoy!


Every Tues. + Wed. afternoon at 2:00 I go to the YMCA because I go to swimming lession w/ a woman name Betsy. This woman is hysterical. What I mean by that is she is very goofy and hysterical and she make these gofy sounds when she's in the pool w/ me and she tells me that's who I am. I had another swim teacher and her name was Chris E***n. She used to work at the YMCA by she was going to come back and teach But she couldn't. I miss Chris alot. I just found out that she will be coming to watch me swim. I'm learning to like this woman named Betsy alot. She shows me different stuff to do in the water like using barbells that I hold on to and kick my feet, kick board, and a noodle, the kick board   I hole onlto kick my feet also blow bubbles in teh water. Sometimes I like to put my face in the water, and also swim under water. Sometimes we swim in the deep end. Sometimes she gives me soemthing to hold me up or I do it on my own. I can float on my back and on my front with help. You have to meet this woman. You will dye laughing. She is Funny!




Theres This woman This woman is a horse handler at Windrush Farm. She comes to Riding Every Wednesdays and she puts a time aside or she set a special time once a week to spend the time w/ me. This woman come to riding w/ her hair up in a pony-tail and she puts her hat on which someone trys to take off. I wish that she would wear it down. She has pretty long hair to cover up a w/ a hat. She has this client who loves to ride horses and this client also loves to trot on her horse around and the barn and she is a star trotter now. She loves to trot that the best part of it all. 

I used to like to feed my horse carrots + apples. I can't feed him any more because the other horses would be jelious that they would kick or buck or even head butt other horses, but my horse still looks for his treats. Every week after I finish brushing him he would sniff my pockets for his carrots + apples.

One of my dreams is owning my own horse and riding him off into the sunset and having the wind blowing threw my hair.

This client of hers love to trot all over the barn. When it's time to put the horse away in his stall her client would get upset because she doesn't want to leave him there. He wants me to take him away again to go troting again he happy to have me on his back.


Happy Birthday, K. I love you! Your high voltage smile and positive energy are the highlight of my week!

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Sisters in Crime at New England Library Association - Danvers, MA

The Sisters in Crime LOVE their local libraries and librarians, so what better place to show a little love than at the New England Library Association's annual conference? The Sisters (and maybe a brother or two) will be on hand to talk about our speakers bureau, new books, and all things mystery! Signing times will vary, so check in with me for a current list and times.

Monday morning (10/17): 9:45 to 11:45
  • Barb Ross
  • Susan Oleksiw
  • Leslie Wheeler
Monday afternoon (10/17): 1:30 to 3:30
  • Marian McMahon Stanley
  • Kourtney Heintz
  • Connie Johnson Hambley
Tuesday morning (10/18): 9:30 to 11:30
  • Arlene Kay
  • Coralie Hughes Jensen
  • Carolyn Wilkins

Hoping to see you in Danvers!

Friday, September 2, 2016

WOMEN WHO FIGHT by Ursula Wong

I think women are less about violence and more about ethereal power, but when faced with violence, women react. Strong women fight and sometimes they win. A surprising number of stories feature women warriors who by fighting, show how strong they are as women. I’ve talked with Connie about some of these wonderful gals before, including her magnificent Jessica Wyeth in The Jessica Trilogy, but here’s a new batch to consider.

Eowyn, from J. R. R. Tolkein’s The Two Towers, the second part of The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, dresses up as a boy to fight the monsters threatening the lives of the people in her father’s kingdom. Granted, the comforts of a middle-earth castle are limited, but she leaves them anyway for the battlefield. The only way she can do this is to pretend she’s someone else. But when she wields her sword, her actions show core feminine strengths of protectionism and love of family.

Hua Mulan from the Disney movie Mulan, leaves home disguised as a man in order to fulfill her aging father’s military obligation. She fights the misconceptions of her fellow soldiers who ask, “Can she do that?” She fights the opinion that women can’t fight. Ultimately, she decimates the enemy.  (The movie is based on a Chinese ballad which I didn’t read. Please don’t hate me.)

Tania Chermova is a sniper in War of the Rats by David L. Robbins. I admire her single-minded ambition to leave the comforts of home for war.  Among the ruins of Stalingrad, she does her job coolly and calmly. I claim it’s a superbly feminine trait to do what’s necessary, no matter what. Still, Robbins chose to have Tania shot at the end in an ambiguous conclusion and an obvious statement about the unfairness of war.

Ludmelia, the heroine in my new novel Amber Wolf, becomes a warrior to avenge her mother’s death. She joins the resistance to find the Russian soldiers responsible. Still, the act of killing haunts her. Horrible acts shake her to the core. Despite everything, she remains emphatically human with all the self-doubt, confusion, and passion that we all share.

I think women fight because their convictions leave them no choice. The heroines in these novels don’t shrink from their tasks, detestable as they might be. They don’t run back to the comforts of home because their work is hard.

Maybe we admire them because given the right circumstances, we’d to the same things, too.

Ursula is a retired engineer who writes gripping stories about strong women struggling against impossible odds to achieve their dreams. Her award-winning novel, Purple Trees, exposes a stark side of rural New England life in the experiences of a young woman who struggles for normalcy despite a vicious and hidden past. After losing her parents, Lily Phelps grows up fast to find work and build a future, but her secrets threaten every one she loves, and even her very life.

Ursula taps her Eastern European heritage in her WW II novel, Amber Wolf. Destitute after her parents are taken by Russian soldiers, young Ludmelia Kudirka joins the farmers who trade pitchforks for guns in a David-and-Goliath struggle against the mighty Soviet war machine. Rich with scenes and legends of Lithuania, Amber Wolf gets the turmoil of 1944 into the story of a family torn apart by the Soviet occupation.

Her short stories have appeared in magazines and the popular Insanity Tales anthologies. For more about Ursula and her prize-winning flash fiction, visit her on