Talking To Myself While Shopping

POWELL'SYesterday I went shopping.

I hate shopping. The crowds, the lights, the noise, and all these pant sizes that I am SURE have shrunk in the last year.

I am not into fashion and I can’t find anything unless my daughters pick it out and tell me what to wear.

Unfortunately, I needed to get something to wear to my presentation at Powell’s Books that night and Rebel Oldest Daughter and Rebel Youngest Daughter are away at school.

Way to wait until the last minute, right?

I dragged a bunch of dresses into the dressing room at Macy’s. It was like entering fashion hell for me, complete with a hot flash and bad lighting that emphasized cellulite and a grumpy face.

I groaned and whined and moaned.

I didn’t realize I was talking OUT LOUD to myself in the dressing room until I heard someone thunk the wall between us. I’m sure she thought I was an utter loon.

I should have been embarrassed at talking to myself at such loud volume, but I am too old for embarrassment anymore.

These are the things I said before The Thunk.

1) That dress looks good on your boobs but not on your butt.

2) You need Spanx.

3) Where do we buy Spanx?

4) Would Spanx give me a hot flash? I don’t want to have a hot flash at Powell’s.

5) Your butt is too big.

6) How did your butt get that big?

7) Please stop eating chocolate.

8) You look like you’re sort of pregnant.

9) Why are you even trying on this dress? What are you, Pollyanna?

10) That is way too expensive. We’re not buying that!

11) Take that off. Just take it off.

I know. Pathetic.

I didn’t find anything to wear for Powell’s.

what I remember Most 350I called my friend, Karen Calcagno, who I was supposed to meet for dinner before the presentation. I canceled because I was going to have to raid my closet for something decent to wear. Karen and I have been friends for twenty years. We have seen life together. Lots of it beautiful, some of it harsh and sad, and it has knocked us on our butts.

But we laugh  a lot and it has been a staple of our friendship. Karen is also very wise. She told me after I had blubbered on and on, “Cathy, go home. Put on your favorite pair of jeans. Put on a t – shirt. Get that beautiful lace shirt you have and wear that. Be comfortable.”

And that’s what I did.

I was trying to find something fancy to wear to Powell’s, but I don’t do fancy. I do jeans. So I wore my favorite jeans and the lace shirt to Powell’s, exactly as Calm Zen Karen told me to do.

I spoke about my latest book “What I Remember Most.” Lots of people came. They were all friendly and fun. My journalism teacher from high school was there, as usual.

I don’t think they cared what I wore, but I felt better in my old jeans than a dress, that is for sure. I would have felt like I was suffocating and hot flashing in Spanx.

Once again I learned my lesson: Be you. You’re best being you.


(If you were next to me in the dressing room at Macy’s and you heard me talking to myself, don’t be alarmed! I talk to myself, and my characters, all day long. I am safe to be around, now don’t you worry.)


USA Today on What I Remember Most

Thanks, USA Today and Joyce Lamb!  This is pretty darn exciting for me! I shall now go out and celebrate with a piece of chocolate cake. It is as good of an excuse as any!

— Cathy

We’re talking ‘The Good Lord Bird’ and ‘what ifs?’

Today’s featured authors: Cathy Lamb (no relation to Joyce that we know of!), author of What I Remember Most, and Lecia Cornwall, author ofWhat a Lady Most Desires. They’re talking keeper books and what helped inspire their writing.

Cathy Lamb, author of What I Remember Most

Three books on my keeper shelves:

Now that is a mind-boggling question. Limit my favorites to three? Is that even fair, Joyce?

All right. If I must. But I’ll break the rules and switch it a bit. These are a few of my favorites from 2014.

• The Good Lord Bird by James McBride. National Book Award winner and well deserved. One of the best voices ever.

• Whistling in the Dark by Lesley Kagen. Reading this book put me behind on my own writing schedule because I could not put it down.

• City of Thieves by David Benioff. World War II. The siege of Leningrad and the brutality of the Nazis. Finely drawn characters, gripping plot.

My new novel, What I Remember Most, is about a woman named Grenadine Scotch Wild. Yes, she’s named after the syrup that goes into Shirley Temples and hard alcohol. As soon as I had that unique name in my head, I felt like I had the story … at least part of it.

New What I Remember MostGrenadine, a collage artist and painter, is on the run. She has been on the run before, the first time when she was six. She remembers her panicked parents yelling, “Run, Grenadine, run!” on a foggy night in the mountains, but not much else.

Although her present-day story is told through her eyes, Grenadine’s childhood, spent in foster care after that disastrous dark night, is told through Children’s Services reports, police reports, report cards, letters, and a court transcript.

Grenadine was falsely accused of helping her new husband, an investor, steal and embezzle money. As she says, she can’t even balance her checkbook, so how could she embezzle money? After a raucous stint in jail where she gets in a fist fight, she heads to the craggy mountains of central Oregon with $521, cash, and ends up living in her car for weeks, in winter. She eventually finds work as a bartender and as an assistant to a smokin’-hot ex — L.A. gang member/furniture maker with a huge heart and talented hands.

Living under the threat of serious time in the slammer, Grenadine builds a new life, finding an apartment to live in above a red barn, making new friends, one of whom she is willing to sacrifice her freedom for, and piecing together a past she can’t remember.

And, oh yes. She falls crazy in love.

What I Remember Most is about memories, the old and the new, starting over, and daring to live.

Find out more at cathylamb.org.


Excerpt from “What I Remember Most”

My book, What I Remember Most, is out this week! Here’s an excerpt…


New What I Remember MostChapter One


I hear his voice, then hers. I can’t find them in the darkness. I can’t see them through the trees. I don’t understand what’s going on, but their horror, their panic, reaches me, throttles me.

They scream the same thing.

Run, Grenadine, run!

It’s them.


Chapter Two


I needed to hide for awhile.

To do that, I had to change my appearance.

I went to a cheap hair salon and had them cut six inches off, to the middle of my shoulder blades, then I had them cut a fringe of bangs. I went home and dyed my hair back to its original auburn color, from the blond it had been the last ten years. I washed it, then dried it with my back to the mirror.

I turned around and studied myself.

Yep. That would work.

For the last year I had been Dina Hamilton, collage artist, painter, and blond wife of Covey Hamilton, successful investor. Before that, for almost twenty years, I was Dina Wild. Now I would be Grenady, short for Grenadine Scotch Wild, my real name, with auburn hair, thick and straight.

Yes, I was named after ingredients in drinks. It has been a curse my whole life. There have been  many curses.

I am cursed now, and I am packing up and getting the hell out of town.



Central Oregon was a good place for me to disappear from my old life and start a new one.

I drove south, then east, the fall leaves blowing off the trees, magenta, scarlet, gold, yellow, and orange. It would be winter soon. Too soon.

Rose Garden July 2014 019I stopped at the first small town. There were a few shops, restaurants, and bars. It had the feel of a Main Street that was barely holding on. There were several storefronts that had been papered over, there were not a lot of people, and it was too quiet.

Still, my goals were clear, at least to me. Eat first, then find a job.

I had $520.46 total. It would not last long. My credit and debit cards, and my checking, savings, and retirement accounts for my business and personal use, had been frozen. I had the $500 hidden in my jewelry box and $20 in my wallet. The change came from under the seat of my car. To say I was in a bad place would be true. Still. I have been in far, far worse places than this. At least I am not in a cage. Sometimes one must be grateful for what is not going wrong.

I tried not to make any pathetic self – pitying noises in my throat, because then I would have pissed my own self off. I went to a park to eat some of the non perishable food I’d brought with me.

I ate a can of chili, then a can of pineapple. When I was done, I brushed my hair. I pulled a few strands down to hide one of the scars on my hairline. I put on makeup so I didn’t look so ghastly. I put extra foundation on the purple and blue bruising over my left eye, brushed my teeth out the car door, and smoothed over my shirt.

I was presentable.

I took a deep breath. This would be the first job I had applied for in many years. I started selling collages and paintings when I was seventeen, and I had not required myself to fill out an application and resume.

I looked into the rearview mirror. My car was packed full of boxes, bedding, bags, and art supplies. My skin resembled dead oatmeal. “You can do it, Grenady.”

My green eyes, which I’ve always thought were abnormally and oddly bright, were sad, tired, and beat, as if they were sinking into themselves.

“Come on, Grenady,” I snapped at my own reflection. “You got a moose up your butt? Get it out and get moving.”





IF YOU COULD SEE WHAT I SEE is selling for $2.99 on Kindle through Aug. 24th.


COVER IF YOU COULD SEE WHAT I SEEHere’s an excerpt… Meggie O’Rourke, with her family, owns a lingerie company called Lace, Satin, and Baubles. This is her grandma’s speech at the fashion show they have just put on. Grandma Regan is in her eighties. She immigrated from Ireland as a girl after a disaster and grew up in poverty. Grandma has just revealed part of that past.

“Lace, Satin, and Baubles is not only about lingerie and negligees. It’s about women. It’s about how we want to live our lives. It’s about what we think about ourselves and how we think. It’s about valuing ourselves enough to wear something stunning, something lacy, not to show it to someone else but because we know that we deserve it. We know that we can get out into a world that is sometimes cold, and sometimes dangerous, and be someone in it. We can become who we dreamed of becoming, we can leave a bad past behind, and we can look beautiful doing it.

“I am not defined by my body or what has happened to it. I am not defined by beatings or an arching whip or a dangerous man, or by the wreckage of prostitution. I am not defined by my age. I am not defined by what others think of me. I am defined by myself. I will define myself to me. I will live, I will laugh, I will love. I will not be silenced. I will not be invisible. I will be me until the very end. And I will look beautiful.

“I dared. I dared to found a company that would leave a legacy. I dared to live the way I damn well wanted to live. I dare you to live the life you want to live and to leave your nightmares behind you. I dare you to dance, I dare you to sparkle, I dare you to wear gold tassels. I dare you,” she shouted, “I dare you” – she pointed to the audience – “to be you.”


How Would You Describe Yourself?

  • New What I Remember MostHow would you describe yourself? Be daring and honest and do share! 

  • This is how Grenadine Scotch Wild, the main character in my book “What I Remember Most,” out in late August, describes herself:
  • “I’m a crack shot and can hit damn near anything…I’m a collage artist and painter…I used to have a little green house. I sold it. That was a huge mistake…I can smash beer cans on my forehead…I fight dirty. Someone comes at me and my instinctive reaction is to smash and pulverize. It has gotten me into trouble…I have a temper, my anger perpetually on low seethe, and I have struggled with self esteem issues and flashbacks for as long as I can remember…I can wear four inch heels and designer clothes like wealthy women, make social chitchat, and pretend I’m exactly like them. I am not like them at all…”And you? Answers below are from my facebook friends. Come join us!
  • Barb Dowdell MacKenzie I manage a book store and I am a mother. But I was more than that before. I was an abused child who loved to sing. I learned to fight like a boy and later learned to shoot a gun- and fairly well, I might add. I am intelligent, have a great sense of humor and hold my hurts very close to the vest. I was once creative and crafty but when laughed at too many times, I hid it away. I once married someone who did not value me or the relationship and our kids and left me to clean up the mess. I learned that I married that person because when you grow up in an abusive home, you think that is what you deserve. I learned how to diffuse my explosive anger-which was much easier after the last source of my anger left me. I am, now, a force to be reckoned with and never back down. Now, I am nearly content.

Cassie Dandridge Selleck I am a rebel with too many causes, an extrovert climbing the walls of isolation, a voice looking for a welcome place to land. I am the daughter of misogyny and its devastating effects, and I’ve learned to shoot first and to hell with asking questions. I am a bridge burner, a home builder and a road warrior. I have never met a stranger, but I have met some strange! I have a look that kills, a heart that fills, and hands that heal. I answer most questions with, “Well, there’s a story about that…” I am the YaYarazzi – (a grandmother who follows her babies around with a camera). I am Cassie, the unheeded prophetess, Safety Patrol, counselor, encourager. I am also easily annoyed. My mother points that out to me sometimes, and that annoys me. She also always tells me, “Tell ‘em who ya are, honey…” That’s good advice anytime you’re sending your child out into the world. So, I am a writer, poet, artist, scrapbooker, activist, storyteller, warrior, teacher, friend. I am also known for being long-winded. I don’t get it…

Rose Garden July 2014 060Jane Connell Fischel I am a mostly nice wuss. I get a lot accomplished but usually at the last minute. I will do almost anything to prevent a confrontation as I also wear my heart on my sleeve, and most the time cry too easily. I can be athletically competitive, having been trained by only sons about winning and losing but I personally am only average at the sports I have tried. Love being a 3rd generation Californian at my age. Very rare. Will always offer to bring home-made dessert to any event-the richer the better. Can make a mean mess in the kitchen baking.

Juliyanne McLemore I am still cooking

Anne Marie Anderson I am a woman who has recreated herself after being lost. I hold tightly to my Montana roots, which means I love guns and trucks and know how to use them both. I am a lover of the world and fiercely protective of my family and friends (and since I know how to shoot, messing with them would be a BAD idea!) I’m super feminine at times, but can hold my own when it comes to tools. I get my strength from my much loved Montana mountains as well as my recently discovered North Dakota prairies. I am spiritual, but wild, and down-to-earth while up in the clouds all at the same time.

Rose Lynn Beyke I live in the heart of coal country. I enjoy storytelling and front porch sitting. I lived in over 50 homes before the age of 50. I have wanderlust like my father did. I was put under the bed on my birthdays in my grandparents home. (some old custom around here). My great grandfather shot a man through the titty and killed him. Genealogy is a passion for me. I believe in Ancient Aliens. My dogs are rescues. The oddest things happen to me and my daughter. Ocean waves soothe my soul. I have to enjoy each day because I figure I only have 50 years left.

Marta Jackson I am a farm grow KS girl that moved away to find out I will always be a KS girl. I am a rebel that speaks my mind and wears my heart on my sleeve for all to see. I can make a mean cinnamon roll and have since high school. I love bringing my gal pals together for strong female bonding memories.

Amelia Romo Kansas Girls, for the win!

Aron Carleson I am a Gemini. Everything I do comes back to the good twin/bad. Organized/disheveled. Family/loner. Gemini

Judy Waters Gallagher I am quite a feisty redhead battling multiple issues all at once. I have experienced some extreme losses, my beloved sister, father, brother and several friends. I battle several chronic illnesses (they never hit you with just one) but I refuse to give up. or give in! I find great solace and comfort in music of all types and would do anything necessary to protect those that I love and cherish. I raised three beautiful children, along with several of their friends, and love to cook massive meals for anyone who stops by. I was raised in a house with a beloved grandfather who had been in a concentration camp during WWII along with a couple of uncles who returned from Vietnam as changed men, and have dealt with a son who served five years as a Marine on a flight crew with a humanitarian unit who struggles with issues as well. I divorced a horrible husband after 15 years of verbal abuse and have now found my voice and refuse to be silent. I may appear to be mild mannered…..but cross my children or my loved ones, and the gloves are on! I am also a hippie to the core as are my children, and I could not be more proud. I have never met a stranger and will go out of my way to provide any assistance that I can to those that are hurting or lost. But I also have my weaknesses – I spend some days curled up in a ball just weeping…….but not too many people know about that or see it. I am Judy – she who is praised with an inner desire to express myself.

Cathy Lamb I think I’d say that I’m a serious daydreamer. A traveler in my head.

Dana Kennedy Criger I have a smart mouth and a sarcastic tone. I’m open minded and easy going. I love people and cherish my friends and family. I’m responsible and serious yet I love a good joke or prank. My kids are my greatest accomplishment so far. I make things happen when I’m told they can’t. I’m not tall, thin or rich but I feel good about who I am.

Vanessa Mitchell I’m a woman that’s loved too much, given entirely of herself way too often; yet I’ve stood up to adversity and told life to go eff itself because I’m not done.

Silverton Tulips 203Gillian Dorrance Fish I am frequently wrong but never in doubt, play hard but by the rules, and am loyal to all things family and the underdog.

Heidi Schaefer I am a woman that loves God

Joleen Wheeler I NEVER wear heels! I’m 6′ tall! If I wear heels I tetter and fall! If I wear tennis shoes, I am so clumsy, I have to look around to see if anyone is watching me as I trip over my own feet! I laugh at myself freely, I love to laugh, dance, and I work with children all day. Secretly, I feel that is where I can be myself freely being able to let my hair down and love more freely! Special needs children love openly, honestly, and EVERY single day! God bless their hearts! I am the most blessed person on the earth

Simone Gonzales I’m smarter than most, but perfect at pretending I’m not. I am confidence; a leader, but I will follow the right person when necessary… I’m a red-headed spitfire with a temper that I’ve (mostly!) tamed… I’m a midnight run in the rain, and kisses under the stars… I play to win and I’m good at it; I am confident, and I don’t give up… I’m an old penny from the bottom of a jar, shined up and new but still scratched in places… I’m mom of two and a pretty dang good wife… I’ve traveled all over, but I always come home… I live to be outside: sun, rain, snow. Running barefoot one minute, dressed to the hilt the next… I am energy, constantly on the go… I am no part of this world, and that’s exactly how I strive to be.

Katy Shandil I am like a piece of candy….hard and crunchy on the outside, soft and sweet on the inside.


My Goodreads Interview

Enclosed are a few questions I answered for Goodreads. If you would like to ask me any other questions, feel free to ask them here, or go to my Goodreads page and scroll down to Ask The Author.

0Ask the Author: Cathy Lamb

“I love books. I love reading and writing them. Ask me anything…” Cathy Lamb 18 days ago

How do you deal with writer’s block?

Cathy Lamb I don’t get writer’s block.

What I do suffer from is, “I Would Rather Play Than Work Disease.” It’s a real problem. These things are distracting to me, in no particular order: My kids. Innocent Husband. (I call him that because I don’t want anyone to blame poor Husband for crazy things I write or say). Girlfriends. Walking. Running. Daydreaming. Reading. Being outside. Being in our drift boat on a river fishing. Falling down a ski slope. More daydreaming.

So many fun things to do.

If I do feel stuck in a book, I journal. I work it through. I don’t let myself go to bed until things are figured out. I work the problem, twist it around, think it through.

And I write. Even if I know the writing is going to be poor, I write. I can’t fix a blank page but I CAN fix poor writing.

What’s the best thing about being a writer?

Cathy Lamb The best thing about being a writer is that I love writing.

From the time I was sixteen, I knew I HAD to be a writer. I wanted to write a column, write for a newspaper or write books – preferably books. I worked for years to publish, with many rejections and crushing disappointments.

I just couldn’t see myself doing anything else so I kept going. Except for teaching school (I was a fourth grade teacher for almost eight years) there is really nothing else I’m skilled to do and teaching school is exhausting.

I love that I can day daydream and put those daydreams on paper. I love telling stories. I love creating characters and relationships. I love living in my head. I love hearing from readers and how my books have effected their lives.

And, frankly, I have loved being a writer while raising my kids. They probably want me around the house less, though…

What are you currently working on?

Cathy Lamb: I am currently working on my eighth novel.

Here’s a hint: Friendship. Letters. Scotland. Lies.

Where did you get the idea for your most recent book?

Cathy Lamb: Ah ha…

Where did I get the ideas for my most recent book, What I Remember Most, out in September 2014…

Grenadine Scotch Wild is my main character’s name. As soon as I had her name, I felt like I was on a roll, writing wise. Why that name? Whose idea was that? Who likes Scotch?

Grenadine is a collage artist and painter. I decided to make her an artist because I have always wanted to be an artist but have zero talent.

Grenadine is also on the run. Her husband was an “investor” who lost his clients’ money. She was implicated in his schemes, though she had only been married to the jerk for a year and was completely innocent.

A Different Kind of NormalI was interested in what it would feel like to have your whole world collapse, to be arrested and jailed for a weekend, to lose your home and have your bank accounts locked up.

Where would you go? How would you survive? How do you start over? How do you avoid jail for a crime you didn’t commit?

And, I was interested in Grenadine’s back story. When she was six, her parents disappeared on a foggy, scary night in the woods. She was put in foster care and never knew what happened to them.

Though the story is written first person, through Grenadine’s eyes, I tell her back story through children services reports, police reports, a court transcript, police reports and letters. I was interested in writing through a different structure.

Hope you like it!

What’s your advice for aspiring writers?

Cathy Lamb: My advice for aspiring writers is to read. Read fiction, historical fiction, memoirs, non fiction, thrillers, etc. Read all over the place. Also read in the genre in which you wish to publish.

Julias chocolates (1)Then STUDY what you read. WHY did you like the book? Was it the characters? Was there someone you related to or did you sympathize with their journey? Was the pace smooth and gentle or did it grab you by the throat? What did you like about the structure? Why did the plot or setting interest you? What about the language and word choice? Simple or complex? Did you laugh or cry or get angry? How did the author pull out your emotions? Did she make you think?

Conversely, if you did not like the book, why NOT? Study that, too. Was it boring? Were there no characters to grab onto? Was the writing non descriptive?

My second piece of advice is to write. Write all the time. Think about writing when you’re not writing. Plan on writing time. Stick to your writing goals.

I write 2000 words a day when I’m in the first draft of my book. If I don’t write 10,000 words a week I don’t go to bed on Saturday night. I edit my books eight or nine times before I even send them to my agent and editor. I edit them 12 times altogether.

So, write like your hair is on fire the first time around. Don’t worry about making the word choice and sentences perfect. Just write. Then edit the hell out of it.

the last time I was meMy third piece of advice involves a bit of my own story. Many years ago, for years, I tried to break into category romance writing. I would write a synopsis and mail it to the publishing house. They liked the synopsis and asked for the first chapter. I sent it. They liked it. They asked for three chapters. I sent it. They liked and asked for the book. Then they rejected it. This happened four – five times.


After a rejection when the editor waited about two years, after asking me for many edits and after implying they were going to buy the book and then she REJECTED it, I called it a day on category romance. I was so unhappy I could not do it again.

I then wrote about forty pages or so of Julia’s Chocolates. I sent it to four agents. They all asked for the book. I told my favorite agent, the one I’m with now, that I had to do a “little editing.” It was a tiny white lie.

I then wrote from ten at night until two or three in the morning. I had three young kids at the time and I was freelancing for The Oregonian. I was busy but desperate.

My agent loved the book, I signed with him, and Julia’s Chocolates sold within a couple of weeks.

The First Day of the Rest of My LifeHere’s the moral of that story: If you keep getting rejected in one genre, switch genres. I went from category romance to women’s fiction.

Don’t quit too early, don’t quit when you get a few rejections, don’t quit when you’re having a temper tantrum, don’t quit unless you have done your best and are now unhappy with what you’re writing and want to bang your face against a wall.

BUT, keep in mind that the first genre you attempt to publish in might not be best suited for you. You may well be better suited in a whole new place.

So, read, write, and live life. Have fun. Have adventures. Meet new people, go new places, travel.

Good luck. Truly, I mean it. I hope you publish.



Author to Author Interview: Lesley Kagen

Hello everyone,

One of my favorite books of 2014 is Whistling In The Dark. 

I HIGHLY recommend it. I read the first two pages and felt like I’d been gripped by the neck. I could hardly put it down and only did so to feed my children and meow back at my cat.

Fortunately, the author, Lesley Kagen, now has a new e-novella out called, The Undertaking of Tess, which I have read and also loved, available on Amazon, ibooks, and coming soon to B&N, Kobo, etc. I just had to interview her…

So, Lesley, tell me about The Undertaking of Tess.

lesley 2Thank you for the kind words, Cathy! So glad you liked Whistling in the Dark and The Undertaking of Tess. It means so much when a writer we admire loves our stuff as much as we love theirs, don’t you think?

The novella is a prequel to a book that’s coming out in October—The Resurrection of Tess Blessing. After I finished the novel, I really wanted to further explore the girls’ childhood, so voila! The story is about the Finley sisters, and how each of them cope with loss during the summer of 1959.

Tessie, the ten-year-old narrator, is attempting to come to grips with her father’s death and the guilt she feels after she witnessed his drowning, but her kid sister, Birdie, refuses to believe that their beloved Daddy is really gone. Tessie needs to make sure that Birdie accepts his death before their mom gets wind of how much “weirder” her sister’s getting. Stronger, and more down to Earth than ethereal Birdie, Tessie’s always watched over her, so it’s only natural for her to come up with a plan that she jots down on one of her never-ending TO-DO lists.

If Tessie can’t achieve her goals, she’s desperately worried that their beautiful, but self-occupied mother, might send emotionally fragile Birdie to the County insane asylum.

I loved Tessie and Birdie, my heart ached for them, and Tessie’s voice – I felt she was in front of me telling me her story.  Just her and I. Can my readers have a sneak peek?

Yes! Here’s an excerpt from the first chapter:

We’re bobbing under a sky the color that I always tell my sister is named after her—Robin’s egg blue. We are also sweating a lot because this is a summer that will go down in the record books for being so hot. Usually Daddy and me fish off the banks of the cemetery pond, but today at the breakfast table he leaned over and said to me, “Let’s beat this heat. Feel the wind on our faces this afternoon. Whatta ya think, Tessie?” I thought that I would do anything to make him happy, and it really is steamy, so I told him that sounded like a great idea before I knew that he was gonna borrow the white motor boat called The High Life offa Joey T, his buddy at Lonnigan’s Bar on Burleigh Street, which is where Daddy works.

Maybe my kid sister would be out on the Lake with us this afternoon if Mother only woulda let us nickname her Minnow—birds of a feather and all that—but she always stays away when Daddy and me go fishing because she despises any creature with gills in a way that doesn’t seem normal. Especially crappie, but who doesn’t?
Because Robin Jean Finley was so small when she was born, my fisherman daddy who is a BIG jokester started calling her Minnow after we brought her home to the cemetery house, then that turned into Minnie, but then Mom told us to cut it out because we were going to give her an inferiority complex, so that’s when my father thought it over and said, “How ‘bout we call her Birdie? That good by you, Tessie?” A course, Mom hated that idea too, but I gave Daddy a thumbs up because with her fluffy hair, big eyes, and little bones, that really was a good nickname.

lesley 3You’ve written about sisters twice, in Wisconsin, and the voices are so true, so real for me. I also love the multi cultural neighborhood, filled with people’s problems, quirks, worries, and odd and endearing personalities from a child’s perspective. Tell us about your childhood. Did it influence both The Undertaking of Tess and Whistling in the Dark?

Yeah, the setting for both stories is the blue-collar neighborhoods on the west side of Milwaukee where I grew up during the 50’s. Like the O’Malley and the Finley sisters, I lost my father when I was four. That kind of profound loss traumatizes a child forever, and I find myself writing about it often. I still miss him.

Setting is extremely important to me and the neighborhood functions as a character in both stories because it really was! There were so many kids on our block alone—over fifty! Primarily of Irish, German, and Polish descent, we may have had different cultures backgrounds, but the unifying force of the Catholic church brought us together. Unlike now, we were free to roam, which took us all into some interesting and sometimes scary situations.

I’m very sorry about your father. What a terrible loss for you and your whole family. I, like you, was raised Catholic, in a multi cultural neighborhood outside of L.A. for my first ten years and we roamed some, too. I can relate to your childhood.

Tell everyone why you wanted to write about sisters in the same general neighborhood again. 

First off, I absolutely love children, and their perspectives. How they see the world is endlessly fascinating to me. How they deal with problems, how theymanage to navigate through life. Secondly, I do A LOT of book clubs. And
when I visit to chat about Whistling in the Dark, the ladies always tell me stories about their own sisters and their childhoods. That got me to thinking. (Always dangerous.) What if I set The Undertaking of Tess in a neighborhood similar to the one in Whistling in the Dark, but with two other kids? How different would their stories be? Both set of sisters have lost their fathers andhave distant moms because I wanted to write about how the same circumstances can affect kids in differently, but Tess and Birdie Finley are wildly unlike in personality and circumstances than Sally and Troo O’Malley. Except for the mischief they get into.

Mischief can be fun, you know this Lesley, you do.

So, tell us, what’s a normal day like for you?

Lesley 1Writing is one of my two passions—my kids and g-babies are the other—but it’s also my job, and I’m a hard-work-it-pays-off kind of gal. Because I like to stay in touch with my subconscious as much as possible because I believe that’s where the stories live, I’m up early, like 5 a.m.

After I put on my lucky writing jacket, I head downstairs and let The Amazing Gracie, my cockapoo out, make the first of a million cups of Earl Grey tea, and the two of us head over to my computer. I write a minimum of 5-6 hours a day. When my brain begins to melt, I head upstairs for a shower, which serves as a re-entry point into the real world.

The rest of the day, I babysit the grandkids, read, chat with Facebook friends, walk, pray, meditate, garden, goof around with Gracie, and get all my errands done. At night, I watch television or go to the movies. I’m also an actress, so I love both. I hit the hay at 10 p.m.

And your writing process? Mine is sometimes a torture. Tell us about yours.

I try to step aside and let the story do its thing. Writing without an outline or any clear direction is wonderful fun to me, but can also get quite crazy. I can be three quarters of the way through a story and it can take an unexpected turn in a snap, which means I have to go back to the beginning and change anything that needs to be changed to suit the direction the story shifted to. Needless to say, I do a tremendous amount of rewriting.

Me, too. Rewriting and more rewriting and slashing and editing and blah blah blah. It’s endless.

The publishing industry is changing rapidly. Can you discuss your thoughts on this topic? What are the challenges that you see ahead for writers? What are the positive aspects?

I spoke to my agent last week and asked her, “So, what’s up?” She replied, “Do you mean now or five minutes ago?” Publishing is not like it used to be and it never will be again. I was in the record business for many years and what went down in the music world is very similar to what’s going on in the book world now.

I remember standing on the corner of Sunset Boulevard and LaCienega in L.A. in the 8o’s and three record stores stood on the corners. Now there are none. Sad to say, because I absolutely adore independent book stores, I believe that might be the fate in store for many of them. For writers, this means that there are fewer ways to get your books into readers’ hands. But as hard as change is, there’s always a silver lining. Many authors who have felt stifled by the demands of big publishers now have the opportunity to publish themselves. To explore new frontiers. To create other exciting opportunities.

Rose Garden July 2014 060There are many options now and many writers are making a great deal of money self publishing. 

What are the three things you like best about being a writer?

1. The deep satisfaction I feel when I’ve gotten down exactly what I was hoping to.
2. The opportunity I have to positively affect readers with my words.
3. Meeting readers at events. So fun.

 What’s next after The Undertaking of Tess?

The Resurrection of Tess Blessing, the continuing story of the now middle-aged Finley sisters, will be released mid-October.

Oh, I can’t wait!

Now a few shallow questions….What three countries do you most want to visit…favorite things to do on a Sunday…Three TV shows that are your guilty pleasures…

I’m a homebody so my idea of a great trip is watching the Travel channel. Favorite thing to do on Sunday is hang out all day with my family, eat a wonderful dinner together, and a long bedtime book and cuddle with my g-babies, Charlie and Hadley.

I enjoy so many shows, but I am a complete sucker for reality TV. So You Think You Can Dance, the Amazing Race, and The Voice are real favorites.

Thanks so much, Cathy!

Visit Lesley on her website at   http://www.lesleykagen.com/

Buy the Undertaking of Tess on Amazon for $4.99.


Lesley Kagen is an actress, voice-over talent, former restaurateur, sought-after speaker, and award-winning, New York Times bestselling, author of five previous novels. Her work has been translated into seven languages. She’s the mother of two and grandmother of two. She lives in a hundred-year-old farm house in a small town in Wisconsin.


Inside A Writer’s Messy Mind

I thought you might like to see a glimpse of my writing process.

I wrote my next manuscript, due in December, in non – chronological order.  In other words, I wrote any scene whenever I damn well felt like it, no matter if I was writing the last scene of the book in the middle and the first scene at the end.

I also wrote people’s relationship scenes one right after the other. So, all of the scenes that my main character, Charlotte, has with her Scottsman, well, they were written straight down for twenty or thirty or more pages.

Because of this ridiculousness, I had to print the manuscript out, then cut it apart with scissors, label every scene, highlight the labels, staple the scenes together and put them in order in a messy pile. I then had to cut and paste the document on my computer so it would be a story instead of a literary catastrophe.

What’s that? You hear me screaming? Really?  Does it sound like this, ARGGGHHHH!!!




Excerpt From Henry’s Sisters

I grabbed my lighter with the red handle from the kitchen, lighter fluid, a water bottle, my lacy bra and thong, and opened the French doors to my balcony.  The wind and rain hit like a mini hurricane, my braids whipping around my cheeks.

One part of my balcony is covered, so it was still dry. I put the bra and thong in the usual corner on top of a few straggly, burned pieces of material from another forgettable night on a wooden plan and flicked the lighter on. The bra and thong smoked and blackened and wiggled and fizzled and flamed.

When they were cremated, I doused them with water from the water bottle. No sense burning down the apartment building.  That would be bad.

I settled into a metal chair in the uncovered section of my balcony, the rain sluicing off my naked body, and gazed at the sky scrapers, wondering how many of those busy, brain – fried, robotic people were staring at me.

Working in a skyscraper was another way of dying early, my younger sister, Janie, would say. “It’s like the elevators are taking you up to hell.”

Right out of college she got a job as a copywriter for a big company on the twenty ninth floor of a skyscraper in Los Angeles and lasted two months before her weasely, squirmy boss found the first chapter of her first thriller on her desk.

The murderer is a copywriter for a big company on the twenty ninth floor of a skyscraper in Los Angeles. In the opening paragraphs she graphically describes murdering her supercilious, condescending, snobby boss who makes her feel about the size of a slug and how his body ends up in a trash compactor, his legs spread like a pickled chicken, one shoe off, one red high heel squished on the other foot.

That was the murderer’s calling card.

No one reports his extended absence, including his wife, because people hate him as they would hate a gang of worms in their coffee.

Janie was fired that day, even though she protested her innocence. That afternoon she sat down and wrote the rest of the story, nonstop, for three months. When she emerged from her apartment, she’d lost twenty pounds, was pale white, and muttering. At four months she had her first book contract. When the book was published, she sent it to her ex boss and wrote, “Thanks, dickhead!  With love, Janie Bommarito,” on the inside cover.

It became a best seller.

She became a recluse because she is obsessive and compulsive and needs to indulge all her odd habits privately.

The recluse had received a flowery lemon – smelling pink letter, too. So had Cecilia, whose brain connects with mine.

The rain splattered down on me, the wind twirly whirled, and I raised the Kahlua bottle to my lips again. “I love Kahlua,” I said out loud as I watched the water river down my body, creating a little pool in the area of my crotch where my legs crossed. I flicked the rain away with my hand, watched it pool again, flicked it.

This entertained me for a while.  Off in the distance I saw a streak of lightning, bright and dangerous.

It reminded me of the time when my sisters and I ran through a lightning storm to find Henry in a tree.

I laughed, even though that night had not been funny. It had been hideous. It had started with a pole dance and ended with squishy white walls.

I laughed again, head thrown back, until I cried, my hot tears running down my face off my chin, onto my boobs, and down my stomach. They landed in the pool between my legs and I flicked the rain and tear mixture away again. The tears kept coming and I could feel the darkness, darkness so familiar to me, edging its way back in like a liquid nightmare.

I did not want to deal with the pink letter that smelled of her flowery, lemony perfume.



What’s On Your Bucket List?

I asked my Facebook friends: What are three things on your Bucket List? 

Mine: One, travel extensively, but not to the usual places in the world, and talk to people. Honest talk. Interesting talk. Two, spend more time on our drift boat on different rivers watching Innocent Husband tease the fish while I eat chocolate chip cookies. Three, write in a different genre, or two.


  • Elaine Donoughe Allen I have to think on this, Cathy! lol I am pretty satisfied right now. I use to have a job and didn’t have much time for doing things I love, like reading, so now I read every chance I get, and that’s a lot!
  • Sherie Nash I really don’t have one…just let it all unfold…
  • Geneva Prince I don’t want to give myself aTime .
  • Joan Croxton Carder I’ll have to think on it too. Recently I read in a book “abandon perfection, welcome reflection, nurture connection
  • Janet Castillo 1. Go the Hawaii and swim with the dolphins. 2. Go to Alaska and see the aurora borealis – or however you spell it. 3. Win the lottery so I can retire early.
  • Joan Croxton Carder Good choices Janet!
  • Dusti Douglass 1. Eat *real* Italian food in Italy. 2. Go back to CA and put my feet in the Pacific so that I will have touched all of the waters surrounding the US. 3. See either the Mayan ruins, the pyramids in Egypt, or both.
  • Barb Dowdell MacKenzie Ireland to kiss the Blarney Stone (wanted to do that since I was 9), go to Boston to see a ball game, ride a horse on a beach.
  • Iris Harrison 1.Write my wild radio memoir. 2.Finish my paintings. 3.Travel and visit places and friends that I love and miss.
  • Elyse Sorkin Visit England and tour all those places that I read about in books. Drive through the country side in Italy. Eat all the carbs that I want to in Italy.
  • Cynthia Dix One, finish the next draft/edit on *that* novel! Two, visit Australia and my Down-Under cousins. Three, oh dear, right now Three would be attending Worldcon 2015 in Spokane.
  • Lauren McNeal Zorn 1.) Go to the Kentucky Derby. 2.) Go to the The Price is Right in L.A. & at least be in the studio audience if I can’t get on stage & 3.) go the Isle of Barra in Scotland because that’s the seat of the MacNeil’s & I’m a member of that clan….maiden name McNeal…different spelling but still….& I want to see the Clan castle if at all possible. :o)
  • De Hansbrough Move somewhere amazing, such as Provence. One man art shows.. Publish my book of fairy tales.
  • Tale Thomp Write and publish a series. Go on a vacation with no time limit of when I’m coming back… Just come home when I’m ready. Establish a boarding school for young mothers.
  • Jaime Pommerening 1) Adopt a golden retriever. 2) Get my own home. 3) Find a real/true friend.
  • Jessica Morrell Love your list. Must ponder a bit.
  • Gillian Dorrance Fish not sure if these are possible but am hoping….1) watch the Canada flag raise at the olympics with my daughter on the podium; i would settle for just being at the olympics if she doesn’t achieve her dreams….2) take a year off work and write, 3) learn to paint to see if i can actually channel some of the talent my other family members have
  • Cathy Lamb Wow. So many thoughtful responses. I may have to revise my list….I’m going to do something daring in a minute: I’m going to Zumba class with my daughter. Just to be clear: It is not on my bucket list. I look like an electrified octopus with bad rhythm in Zumba, but I’m going anyhow.
  • Gillian Dorrance Fish zumba was my try something new project last fall. so humbling and truly embarassing but i survived and actually liked it, unless i looked in the mirror. this girl has no rhythm.
  • Andrea Schlegel Kershaw Adopt a dog………..inherit a cottage beach house (ok……I read too many books like that)…………I’ll revise that and stay at the beach for a summer…….and I like what Jaime said, find a true / real friend. Some have become fake and users. Tired of that.
  • Rose Lynn Beyke 1) Move to the country in a tiny house, go solar and become self sufficient 2) Just jump in the car and drive for a month on back roads, the best things and people are found on the side of the road 3) Visit Goblecki Tepe
  • Terri Johnsen Dive the great barrier reef, take a cruise with the women in my family, have another event that you said you come to if I had!
  • Amy Downer 1. Travel to Poland 2. Visit Stonehedge 3. Play the tambourine or cowbell on stage with a blues band.
  • Barb Dowdell MacKenzie OKAY! Should not have read this list–I really want to add France to see the lavender fields, and Eat my way through Italy, shop for Italian leather shoes in my size-or heck, have them made for me!
  • Jaime Pommerening Cathy Lamb:  your post about going to Zumba with your daughter! Hmm, maybe use the octopus and Zumba in an upcoming book?! Lol!
  • Joan Licker Carsten Ride on a motorcycle! Teach spinning classes at the gym! Travel with my family to Europe!
  • Maria Ulery 1. Move to the Beach
    2. Travel – someday a cruise, travel more in Italy see France too
    3. See my son become successful and way later on have a family I hear grand kids r awesome
  • Michelle Maxwell Lisenbee Take an entire summer off and drive cross country in an RV with my husband and kids, take an Alaskan cruise to see the aurora borealis and whales, live on acreage in the mountains and have lots of animals, (I know this is four, but…vacation somewhere tropical and swim with dolphins…I could probably keep going. There’s lots of stuff I still want to do!)
  • Misty Pickering-Eliopoulos Watch the final game of the World Series in a sky box when the Chicago Cubs finally win it……I think I’ll have better luck taking a ride in a hot air baloon which is also on my list
    • Cathy Lamb Sheesh. After reading all of these, I’m definitely going to have to add things to my bucket list. Especially a cruise in Alaska, seeing the aurora borealis, (sp?), and, of COURSE, hangin’ with the grandkids when they come. (But not yet, kids!! Not yet! That’s not an invitation from mom! No grandkids at the moment, please.)
    • Amy Yeager 1. Become a Mom. 2. Travel to Italy and London (Ireland gets crossed of this year :)) 3. Write the book that I’ve been playing with for years and close friends keep encouraging snd pushing me to just do it already
    • Marleen Hoogendam I’m from Holland and went to Italy in May, with the citrustrees blooming and scents of rosemary everywhere, and the paintings of Botticelli and DaVinci inFlorence, oo, and the fabolous leaning tower of Pisa, good choice ladies ( and the teenagers in …See More
    • Jennifer Cramer-Hughes Be happy
      Feel love
      live without fear
    • Rachel Journey Marry the love of my life and have his children. Travel to Egypt and see the pyramids.

Cathy Lamb
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