Sunday, July 1, 2018


I have been thinking a lot about memory.  I’m losing mine, it seems, like a lot of my aged friends, but I’m realizing that it is short-term memories that go, not the ones from seventy years ago.

In fact, Blood Sisters, had its beginning in a memory of a 1940’s house, the first house my parents bought, a Cape Cod. No one in my family had ever been East and we were not sure what that meant. Our Cape Cod was a two-bedroomed, unfinished attic and basement, square house with one large plate window in the living room, surrounded by twenty or more similar houses with plate glass windows. It was heaven, for my mother, and a haven for the rest of us. My bedroom in the attic was blue, my sister’s pink, and I smile now at the innocent growing up I accomplished that house.

This year has become an old-peoples’ story:  a sick spouse, an agitated wife, anxious hours of waiting beside a bed. We needed a break, and we decided that we would go to the coast, visit a town I knew well years ago, and of which we owned a part after we married. A return to the past for both of us.

Everything was different. Our favorite restaurant as closed, the old coffee shop was gone, the huge creamery a town away was handing out free ice cream, causing massive highway congestion from which we turned back.

Exhausted, my husband said he needed a nap. I needed to walk on the sand scattered with agates one more time to confirm a memory or two.

Was the cedar cabin on the hill, in the trees, my retreat for a month, the place in which I found myself, part of me at least, after losing a marriage, still there?  I couldn’t remember the street. I only had a guess at how far up the steep roads above the ocean it would be. I remembered patterned siding, a wooden walk to its front door, a small stained glass window, trees hiding the rolling ocean below. I started walking.

 I should have brought my cane. I rested as few times on concrete curbs as I made my way up. 

Ahead of me a man sauntered along with his dog.  I asked him if he knew of an unusual cedar house in the woods. I explained that I had an old, fine memory of spending a month recovering in it years before. He said he might know of a place like that. And minutes later, the house appeared on the left side of the road. I hesitated. He took my arm, led me to the wooden walk. “No one’s here. Do you want to go closer?” I touched the open gate and turned back.  “No, this is enough. It is just as I remember it.”

I made my way down the hill to my next memory, the tunnel through the promontory at the end of the beach. I knew what’s on the other side--monoliths rising out of the sea. I had used a screwdriver to scrape off mussels at their bases, working fast to beat the tide, carried them to the cedar house wrapped in my sweatshirt. The tunnel was still there. Slippery rocks lined its dark path. I took two steps and knew I’d never make it to the exit. Then a man asked if I wanted help. “I just want to see one of the big rocks again,” I murmured.

He reached out a huge hand, took mine in one of his, his lighted i-phone in the other, and said,
“Let’s go.” As we chose our steps carefully, I told him I’d written a novel about these rocks, this place.

The monoliths were still there.  Like memories. We turned back.
 At the entrance I found a waiting husband, who smiled, asked, “Like it used to be?”

“Yes,” I told him, “somethings will never change.” 


Jo Barney Writes

Thursday, May 17, 2018


I have a long morning ahead.  It’s either wash and fold the laundry or sit here in front of my computer waiting for my publisher to send me her decision about the title of my next book. I looked up Blood Sisters and discovered that not one but two other Blood Sisters have been published in the last year or so. Mine would be the third,  triplets, too many for folks to page through looking for a family saga rather than a murder mystery. I complained, but to late. That day I got the proof copy of MY Blood Sisters in the mail, great cover and 181 pages, to read and correct.

Which I did immediately.  I stuck a little tab on a page whenever I found an error, sometimes mine, most often in the typesetting. My book bristled with tabs when I finished. The next morning, I sent an email with the page numbers and the errors to my publisher. That’s why I’m sitting here twitching. I’m waiting for the next step in this process, if not a new title, at least the receipt of the ARCs for the finished book.

ARCs are the e-version of the review copy, just about as perfect as it can be, to be once more looked at, and then, in the next breath, sent to book reviewers who will read the book and maybe write a critique to their blogs, to Amazon, to B&N, etc. When this gets rolling, my book will be available on line and in paperback so that I can carry copies to local bookstores and ask that they place them on their shelves. And offer me a chance to sign, read, and. . .

I’m getting a headache thinking about all this.  Instead of dwelling on the underside of being an author, I’m going to send you a bit of Blood Sisters, or whatever it will be called.  Enjoy.

I close my eyes, my lips. Only my nostrils move as they take in what air is left. Soon, I think. Plastic film stretches taut against my cheeks. Now, I think.
A scream slices through soothing fog, forces my eyes to open.
 “Mom!  Mom!”
I am rolled over. Cool air floods across my face. Not now. You were supposed to come home at dinner time.
                  I watch my son’s face crunch into its usual confusion. “We got finished early. Why are you laying down on the grass?” I feel his arm slip under my neck as I struggle to sit up. “Why did you put on that grocery bag?” 
                  My head on his shoulder, I smell the sweat his anxiety has stirred up. I find the strength to lie. “It was just an accident.” Shreds of plastic dangle from my neck like a tired lei, red duct tape cuts into my chin. No sense trying to tear off the tape. “Go inside and get the kitchen scissors. Be careful.”  
                  Jimmy releases me. I hear his heavy feet on the porch steps. In a moment he’s back, the tool’s sharp ends point at my throat.
                  “Slowly, Jimmy. Keep the scissors away from me and make little cuts in the tape until we can tear this off.”
                  I watch as he fumbles with the wrinkled plastic, brings the blades inches away from my skin. “Careful, Jimmy.” I choke back a gurgle of unexpected laughter.  I might want to die, but I don’t want to be murdered.
                  I hear a click. Then another. “I’m doing it, Mom!” I push the scissors away, grip at the tape on each side of his snips and rip it in two. I am released from its chokehold. “You did good, Jimmy.” I sit up, pick up the remnants of my failed plan, and hand the torn plastic, the tape, the note to my son. “Put these in the garbage can, please, while I fold up the blanket and then we’ll go inside and you can tell me about work today.”
                  Nothing has changed. I am still a mother of a damaged son, the wife of a damaged man, living a life empty of hope.

Jo Barney Writes