Giving Thanks By Giving Back

Over the last four years I have spent a lot of energy thinking about how to make our world a better place by helping those who have gotten off to a rough start. The End of Marking Time highlighted just how tragic life can be for kids who don’t find the right kinds of love and support as they grow.

This year I met a man who is helping make life a little easier for needy kids now and in the future by delivering clothes, toys, books, and other important household items. GiftsToGive founder Jim Stevens has created an organization to be proud of with a mission anyone can get behind. I was so impressed, I included Jim and his organization in my latest book, Dinner At Deadman’s to tell people about the great work they are doing.


CJ with Jim Stevens, Founder of GiftsToGive


The genius of GiftsToGive begins with volunteering. I’m pictured below with a Girl Scout troop from Marion, MA. These young girls worked hard to sort donated clothing. Just walking into the building these girls learned a valuable lesson about how many people really need our help. Working to provide that help gave them a feeling of joy that you can’t get any other way.


The Girl Scouts volunteer with a little help from CJ.


Below is a narrow shot of the women’s and girl’s clothes processing area. Area families donate piles of clothing that need to be sorted, washed, and delivered. Because the staff is entirely made up of volunteers, GiftsToGive performs a mountain of work on a tiny budget. The clothing is donated. Volunteers sort, wash, and package it. Social workers deliver the finished gift packages. I feel great helping this cause because everything I give goes to the kids. No one is collecting a paycheck. The entire organization works because they care.


Sorting for women’s and girl’s clothing


This year I’m proud to partner with GiftsToGive to help provide some of the things kids need new. If you’d like to join me and help buy a pair of socks, a toothbrush, or a birthday present for a child who really needs our support, visit my website and buy a signed book for yourself or anyone on your Christmas list.

Signed books cost $18 (delivered in the United States) and $2 of that will go directly to a child in need.

Please join me by buying a book anytime between now and the end of the year and have a very happy holiday season!




The Time Travelling Hero

A few weeks ago I met the most powerful hero you will ever imagine.

Picture this:

A twenty year old man is hooked on drugs, breaking into houses to take electronics. He smashes car windows to steal phones and iPods to sell for cash. Many families suffer for his addiction. He will enter detox fifteen times and never fully recover. Heroin will eventually take his life, but not before he harms hundreds of people on his path to destruction.

An HIV-positive woman sells herself on a busy street corner, infecting dozens of young men who will eventually die. They will all become sick to serve her desperate need for drug money.

A forty year old man stumbles around a dirty, one-bedroom apartment. He screams at his two young children and slaps his wife when she says he is upsetting them. The children cower, but they learn that brute force dominates the home and they will employ it themselves when they are older.

Now picture a mild-mannered eighty-three year old woman who takes away these problems as if with the wave of a magic wand. All is put back in order. The man and the woman lead fulfilled lives and never turn to drugs. Instead they hold down jobs, support families, go to soccer games.

The older man loves his wife dearly. He works hard at his job and he’s good at it. His children receive valuable counsel and occasional discipline when it is warranted.

The old woman takes away these problems too quickly for us to see.

It happens over years and seemingly all at once.

We never know it happened, but the impact is great, multi-generational, and real. She does this because she can see the future and she chooses to make it better.

A few weeks ago I met an eighty-three year old woman who was raising two teenage boys and helping to raise two young children. She has made an enormous impact for our world and it’s a contribution that goes mostly unnoticed and unrewarded. These young men are forever changed. Every interaction they have will be softer, kinder, more helpful, because of the love they received from their grandmother.

Last week I talked with Jim Stevens from GiftsToGive and he told me her story is common. Hundreds of grandmothers are doing this same work all over the city. What these old women are doing isn’t sexy or exciting. It isn’t gossip worthy, but if we could see the two futures side by side—one with their help and one without—we would gawk in awe of their heroic deeds.

And gawk we should!

Here is another superhero.

Her name was Doris West and she helped to save 56 babies from a fate like the one above. Consider how many lives would have been different if these children had been raised in abusive homes. How many people might they have hurt? How would their children have grown and what might they have done?

Mrs. West helped as many people as Superman, flying at breakneck speed from crisis to crisis. But she did more than that. She healed the lives of the criminals themselves. She changed them into happy, fulfilled people. And she did it with a spoon, an apron, and a Wiffle ball.

Today we are a world divided. Politicians left or right are not superheroes. They cannot and will not solve our world’s problems. They merely argue ideology with a microphone and a camera. But they only set the rules. We can’t sit back and hope they will fix things for us. It is up to us to act. We can do more with loving attention and a spoon than they can accomplish with all the cameras and money in the world.

Please remember the true heroes this Thanksgiving. You may just be eating with one.

The Next Big Thing

Ten Interview Questions for The Next Big Thing


My friend Gina Fava tagged me with these interview questions this week. Her timing couldn’t have been better. My latest book is just hitting the shelves. So check it out!

What is the working title of your book?

My latest mystery is Dinner At Deadman’s, where amateur sleuth Lorado Martin sifts through piles of clutter to discover a cold-blooded killer.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

Lorado Martin is my real-life brother. I was looking for a hero for a new series and decided he was perfect. He is a quirky guy who loves junk (he calls the stuff collectible). He also does interesting work with recovering addicts that makes him the perfect entry way into a world that many of us don’t get to see.

What genre does your book fall under?
This is a traditional mystery. Lorado is a funny guy and his humor comes through, but the book is a mystery first.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Lorado is a 320 pound, funny, rugged redneck. Who could master that role? I need help here. I like Naomi Watts for his sexy girlfriend, Roxie.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Junk man Lorado Martin digs through the estate of Mary Newbury and discovers evidence that she’s been murdered. Her affable, recovering addict grandson stands to inherit a considerable sum whether he deserves it or not. (okay, that’s 2 sentences. I cheated)

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I started self-publishing long before it was cool and I’m going to continue.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

I’m not sure how long the first draft took, but start to finish, the book was done in about six months.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

I have to admit that I don’t normally read humorous mysteries. The humor in Dinner At Deadman’s came from Lorado. I’m not responsible. My brother is a really funny guy and the best compliment I’ve gotten on the book so far was from my mom who said, “It sounds like your brother wrote it.”  Since he is the narrator, that’s high praise. of course mom is a little partial.

Who or What inspired you to write this book?

I was inspired to write a book about my brother’s life, but when I sat across the table from a recovering addict, the book took on much more meaning for me.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

Lorado is an expert in antiques and collectibles. Throughout the book he provides ideas to help readers get the most from yard sales, eBay, or even the things in their own attic.

One more thing… I’m a character in this book. My brother needed a side kick and I picked ME. I had some fun with myself being omniscient and all. You can also see how my brother sees me in real life and get some insight into what I’m like day to day.


The new tags are:
Sue Ann Jaffarian
Susan Wingate
Jillian Dodd
Diane Capri
Mike Faricy

And here are the rules:

* Give credit to the person / blog that tagged you 
* Post the rules for the blog hop 
*Answer these ten questions about your current WIP (Work In Progress) on your blog 
*Tag five other writers/bloggers and add their links so we can hop over and meet them.