One Tiny Light Goes Out


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We lost our two week old puppy today. It’s not exactly clear what happened, but he died a terrible death, crushed.

We never held him, or knew him beyond his photographs, but we had named him. He was real. And we were waiting to bring him home to us.

Loving anything means that you can be wounded by its loss, and we already loved this small creature, his soul shining with innocence.

I don’t believe that the universe is indifferent to miracles, no matter how small. His life seems, to me, wasted. But he lived. And somehow that matters.

I need to believe that for even the smallest life, the angels weep.

Island ice


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Putting out a Call


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North of the Tension Line is on the Target website. Would you please give it a four or five star review?

And if you haven’t already done so at Amazon and Barnes and Noble, would you be so kind?

Books that receive good reviews get noticed and re-ordered.

I’d be grateful if you’d bring along a friend, too.

Thank you.

Support your local author!

Praise from an Islander


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Two book series

Some fan letters are particularly meaningful.

I wanted to tell you how much I have enjoyed your first book, although have not yet read the second. It’s always interesting to read something set in a beloved location….although one runs the risk of feeling betrayed. That isn’t the case, here!

I just wanted to tell you that Fiona’s house was owned for a time by my husband’s family, and his Aunt Helen, who was disabled, stayed there for a summer…. 

I, too, am in exile, south of you in Racine. My family is from the Island, as is my husband’s. The lighthouse on Rock is restored to the time of my great grandfather’s tenure there. My grandmother taught in the Detroit Harbor school and ran Central switchboard for a time. My grandfather was a ferry captain, and my son is the 4th generation in our family to work for the Richters. My mom lives in the home my great grandparents bought after retiring from the lighthouse service, and our cottage is on my husband’s family’s land…over 125 years…. 

Thank you for bringing the Island to life for others to see, in a way that preserves the spirit and respects the people who live there…and tells a fabulous story. It’s not easy to do all three.

Thank you.
Kari Gordon

Thank you, Kari.

Two Males, Six Females

On a remote farm in the Midwest-and I mean in the middle of absolutely nowhere-there are eight new puppies. One of them will become our comforter, our protector, and our lifelong shadow. 

We will strive to give him as much as he will bring to us, but no matter how hard we try, even though we will love him with our whole hearts, we will not be able to return the same depth of love to him that he will have for us. 

Happy, lucky day. Happy, lucky us.

Moses, upon hearing the news. 

Puppy Countdown


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Nine days to due date! We’ll see whether Moses evinces the same enthusiasm for his new brother that Pete felt for him.


2012: Pete is thrilled about baby brother, Moses.

The Vagaries of Writing


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I have been procrastinating. It is a well-known, but little understood phenomenon of the writing process.

Every writer procrastinates differently. My method is cleaning and de-cluttering my work space, and finishing up little tasks that distract me. Having a clear, open space, and no little worries helps to clear my mind, and then the ideas that are spinning around my head in an inchoate mess suddenly coalesce into plot lines and sometimes into complete scenes. I know this process, but it is very hard to accept that I need to do it when I feel a deadline looming, and time slipping away from me.

The other night I was driving home from some evening event and suddenly an entire sequence for the new book entered my mind, and I couldn’t get my coat off fast enough to write it all down. It is an odd sequence–a departure from my usual style–and after a few days of musing over it I put it down. It was risky, and it didn’t fit the book. Maybe another book.

Then everything stopped. I couldn’t write much. I couldn’t catch the wind that sails me through my writing. I sat at my desk, restlessly, unproductively, staring out the window, looking at YouTube videos, researching mammals and explosives (not together), and periodically going downstairs to see if I could alleviate my boredom by eating.  Spring snowFortunately, knowing myself, I have purged my kitchen of these kinds of foods, and even though I am a novelist, drinking in the middle of the day does not normally appeal to me. I consumed a lot of tea, and far too much coffee.

So, finally, I gave up. I stopped worrying about it and just got on with other tasks. I cleaned out a closet in the kitchen. I rearranged my office, and made plans for new bookcases. I dusted under beds. I threw a small dinner party, and took the dogs for walks.

This morning I began my day pre-dawn standing barefoot on the patio, loudly and frantically calling my dogs in–no doubt to the amusement of my neighbors who were recovering from their New Year’s Eve revelries–while a fairly large contingent of coyotes barked and yipped and howled somewhere very nearby.

Dogs safe, I sat drinking coffee and watching the turkeys begin their new year from their treetop berths, their big bulbous shapes silhouetted against the pink and orange sky.

All at once, the spinning stopped, and the words began again in my head. My refusal to accept the strange sequence as part of the novel had shut me down. I suddenly knew that it did belong, and that it had to be the beginning of the book. And then everything began to fall in place in my mind, like the tumblers in a lock falling into place.

There it is. Not all of it. But the main points of it.

Time to write.


Moving toward the Sun


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I love winter. This past week of snow and bitter cold delighted and invigorated me. I can’t quite explain why. Maybe it has something to do with the light and the transformation of the world into a different place.

But getting up in the dark is very, very hard. This morning as I awoke, the great horned owls were still singing to one another deep in the woods, and the dogs startled the deer who like to browse in the darkness.

Today, however, even though the sunrises will keep getting later and and later, the hours of light begin to lengthen. In deepest winter we find ourselves thinking about the path we are beginning to the longest day in summer. In summer, the joy of that long day is tinged with sadness that the days will begin to shorten. Now, the darkness is enlivened by the hope of spring.

Two of our friends have lost parents this week. They are deeply religious people, so I imagine their grief is filled with this same mixture of despair and promise: the paradox of faith. As they gaze out on this new and alien landscape of their lives, may they find the consolation of light and hope.


Big News!!!


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Pete and Moses are getting a baby brother. He is due to be born on January 11th, and we hope to pick him up in early March.

Oh, and there’s this book thing. Also a third of its kind: Book Three in the North of the Tension Line series. It’s still gestating. But it, too, is due in 2017.

Puppy might be cuter, but the book won’t require a bigger car.

The Faith of Justine

I almost had a student whose life I changed. But she changed mine instead.

Justine came into my high school Speech class on the first day of a soggy August afternoon and sat in the front row. She was quiet and serious, and she didn’t seem to have a lot of interaction with the other students. She wore the thickest set of glasses I have ever seen. And I realized almost immediately that she sat in the front because she could see almost nothing.

She was an eager student who came to class, joined in discussions, did her work, and clearly wanted to learn. She was highly intelligent and motivated. I didn’t realize at first that she also eagerly wanted to be in mainstream classes with her peers. But that was not to be.

A few weeks after school had started she was removed from my class, and Justine came to ask my help. The administration—a good one, by the way—had determined that she should be in another class that would be more helpful to her. Justine wanted to be in my class. I wanted that, too.

I did what I could, but we lost that battle. And maybe we should have. I’m still not really sure. But I do know now that even if it was the wrong decision, it was not enough to stop her.

I lost track of Justine. I left teaching to do other work; and she went on with her education. I heard of her now and then. She was at a private university and doing well. She was a member of a society run by and for the visually impaired, and was an advocate for their work.

Years passed, and one day I met Justine at a banquet for the society she belonged to. She didn’t remember me. But the next day she sent an email apologizing. She couldn’t see my face, and in the noise of the banquet hall she couldn’t hear my voice well enough. But now she remembered. As I do with all the former students who contact me, I invited her to lunch.

I picked her up at her public housing apartment, silently worrying about her safety there. Justine described for me her passion to help the poorest of the poor in Africa. She told me of her missionary visits to Africa, of her plans for her master’s degree, of the small consulting firm she started to assist with the work she dreamed of doing. She was leaving in a few weeks for a new city, and she was going all alone.

Her vision was worsening. All she could see now were hazes of light and, if she turned her head a certain way, a small window of fuzzy images. She spoke about how difficult it is to function in an unknown place without the ability to see what’s around her. What was in the shadows? Was it something about to fall on her? A curb? A dangerous insect? Someone lurking in the dark to harm her?

Justine told me that if she wanted to, she could imagine in the darkness that there were dragons, and insects, and poisonous snakes. She could see dangers around her everywhere and all the time. But she chose, she said, to imagine other things: tall trees; flowers blooming; sunlight; and gentle creatures. Armed with these images, she goes alone into the darkest corners of the world and manages to survive. She seeks these journeys, and she seems to require them.

Faith…is about the stories we tell ourselves when we are in the dark.



Listening to her speak, I realized that faith is not just about a belief in God. It is about the stories we tell ourselves when we are in the dark.

I have lost touch with Justine again, but her steady vision has stayed with me. When I quaver in my incredibly easy life, I think of her somewhere in the dangerous world with only a cane to help her: patiently, quietly, and with unimaginable grit, making her way through the darkness, seeing only beauty all around her.

This is the faith of Justine. It is a stronger and richer faith than most of us could ever possess. The curse of her circumstances created the necessity, but it is the quality of her character that made it into a great and unwavering gift.