Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Cinema Systers Film Festival 2022


The 2022 Cinema Systers Film Festival was held in Paducah, KY, over Memorial Day weekend. Wife Nancy Manahan and I attended for the first time and were impressed with the production quality and subject range of the movies. 

Film lengths varied from under ten minutes to full-length features. While many films were from the U.S.A., other countries were represented, including the U.K., Germany, South Africa, and Canada. Three theater venues, all in the historic riverfront area, screened films. 

In addition, the festival sponsored receptions, workshops, dances, singer-songwriter Be Steadwell, and the comedian Mimi Gonzalez. 

Paducah, a UNESCO Creative City, has a lot to offer with restaurants, art galleries, bike trails, spectacular murals along the flood wall, and the National Quilt Museum. Next year's festival runs from May 25-28, 2023. Check it out at Cinema Systers.

Thursday, June 16, 2022

Maryknoll Nuns, Nonviolent Climate Warriors

Nancy as a Maryknoll novice
Last month, I found myself with twenty-five Maryknoll Missionary Sisters in a five-day Zoom conference. I had had no contact with my old convent since the fiftieth anniversary of my 1986 entering class at the Maryknoll motherhouse in Ossining, New York in 2016, when I donated copies of Lesbian Nuns: Breaking Silence in various languages and sold several of the new 2013 edition to current and former sisters.

At that reunion I joined Full Circle, the official group for ex-Maryknoll sisters.

This spring, Full Circle members were invited to a conference on climate change. I registered, apprehensive that it would be too religious, that I’d feel alienated, and that the nuns would shun the ex-Maryknoller responsible for that blasphemous book!

However, I was warmly welcomed. Aurelia, my classmate in the novitiate Zoomed from Peru, where she has served for 45 years and was happy to see me. If some sessions were too theological, I took what was inspiring and left the rest.

Cover of Laudato Si'

The conference was inspired by Laudato Si’: Care for Our Common Home (written by Pope Frances in 2015, available on Amazon), a plea addressed not just to Catholics but to “every living person on this planet.” 

Each day, presenters from countries where Maryknollers are climate activists explored one or two chapters of Laudato Si’ (Italian for “praise be to you”). Neither they nor Pope Frances mince words about the global disaster we are facing. For example, Frances writes that efforts to reduce climate change have been deeply inadequate because they “seem mostly to be concerned with masking the problems or concealing their symptoms” (LS 26).

Here is a brief summary of the six chapters of this remarkable document:

1. Devastating pollution, climate change, water scarcity, loss of biodiversity, and global inequality/poverty.

2. Past attempts to justify human domination of other species are “not a correct interpretation of the Bible.”

3. Human responsibility for the ecological crisis.

4. A way forward? Integral ecology, a holistic economic, social, ethical, and spiritual global challenges.

5. International agreements to protect the environment and assist low-income countries, inclusive/transparent decision-making, and economies where everyone can thrive.

6. The importance of an ecological conversion or “falling in love with Nature” to motivate and sustain our commitment to the Earth.

I am grateful that Maryknoll not only works for a just society in a healthy world but also embraces those who left the convent decades ago. Although I’m glad I left, these highly-educated, courageous, global feminist nonviolent warriors continue to amaze me.

Nancy Manahan

Friday, May 20, 2022

Nancy's Story of "Inspirement"

Nancy's half-hour interview for Women Over 70: Aging Reimagined is now live. This weekly podcast showcases women between the ages of 70 and 100+ to shatter the myth that we become irrelevant as we age. I encourage you to listen to other inspiring episodes of Women Over 70. Mine is the 118th interview they've done.


Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Glowing Review of The Santorini Setup


D. Donovan, Senior Reviewer of the Midwest Book Review, wrote a glowing review of The Santorini Setup. Here it is:

Readers of thrillers, romances, and suspense novels are in for a treat with The Santorini Setup, which represents a winning combination of all three genres as Britt Evans finds her idyllic working holiday changed by the death of a photographer on the Greek island of Santorini.

Although the death is supposedly accidental, a suspicious American Embassy woman believes otherwise, and taps Britt to delve deeper to find out what really happened.

 As Britt navigates an intriguing Mediterranean world and culture and moves ever closer to the truth, she finds her own life in jeopardy as she contemplates a setup whose impact could affect a wide circle of people.

 Enter Cassie Burkhardt, a computer engineer who also finds herself involved in dangerous circumstances beyond her control, from a budding romance to becoming caught in the snare of a Greek intelligence operation gone awry.

 As Cassie and Britt find themselves on the same side to solve a puzzle which increasingly envelopes them in a dangerous situation, so they find their mutual attraction growing.

 The Santorini Setup creates a fine juxtaposition of love and death, moving through Greek culture and the worlds of Athens and Santorini's history as two women confront forces influencing both sides of the investigation.

 With so many elements intersecting, it could have been easy to find the story a challenge to absorb. Becky Bohan does a fine job of cementing the criminal and cultural elements of her story with strong psychological profiles of characters who find themselves connected by more than just circumstance.

 This attention to strong characterization blends nicely with a sense of place to bring The Santorini Setup to life, crafting a mystery that brings the two characters ever closer to one another and a truth that could threaten them both.

 Mystery, suspense, thriller, LBGTQ, and romance collections alike will welcome this multifaceted story of evolving connections and dilemmas. It remains satisfyingly unpredictable and moving to the end and deserves a place in any library collection strong in women's adventure stories.


Monday, April 11, 2022

How Carol Informs A Light on Altered Land: An Interview

Deborah Kalb interviewed me about A Light on Altered Land. We spent some time discussing how Patricia Highsmith's classic novel, The Price of Salt (renamed Carol), informs my book. Here is a link to Deborah's book blog post. Deborah Kalb interview

If you haven't seen the movie based on Highsmith's work starring Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara, do so. It is a moving account of the struggles women in the early 1950s faced, and how they didn't even have the words to describe their love for one another.

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

The Santorini Setup: The Back Story—Part One


Kitty Johnson, a dear friend from Minneapolis, brought a gift on her recent visit. She had found a 1993 St. Paul Pioneer Press article about my just-published novel, Sinister Paradise and had framed it. (See photo.) Coincidentally, at the publication party of The Santorini Setup two days earlier, I had mentioned that my new novel is a rewrite of Sinister Paradise.

So, what is the back story of SP/TSS? In 1979, I strapped on a backpack, donned Red Wing steel-toed boots, and flew to Athens. I was in that sweet spot of life—I’d finished my Masters degree and had not yet started a career. A six-week solo jaunt in Greece, my spiritual touchstone, seemed the perfect way to celebrate my freedom before finding a job.

A few days into the trip, I was sitting on a curb studying a map of Athens, when a young woman stopped to see if I needed assistance. She was a student at the American School. A lesbian. She invited me to spend a few days at her place in the upscale Kolonaki neighborhood. She was renting a room at the apartment owned by a photographer who worked for the State Department traveling around the Mediterranean taking pictures at U.S. embassy functions.

“Is he CIA?” I asked.

“That’s my suspicion, but he’d never admit it,” she said.

Through the apartment owner, I met other embassy staff as well as the son of a wealthy Greek industrialist who owned an 80-foot yacht. (Alas, I never stepped foot on it.)  I spent several days absorbing the exclusive lifestyle of the foreign service and American students, an experience few tourists have.

The following week I took a ferry to Santorini and walked up the zig-zag steps to the main town of Thera. Donkey rides were available, but I was pinching drachmas and took the free route—my legs. I stayed at a quaint B&B at Kamari Beach with black sand so hot it could burn feet. I explored the archaeological site at Akrotiri, visited the ruins atop Mesa Vouno, and generally bummed around the beautiful but eerie island, a remnant of a massive volcanic explosion over 3000 years ago.

Back in Minneapolis, I got a job with Control Data’s Education Company. One project involved writing short stories for a reading program. Lesbian literature was starting to flourish and given my forays into fiction at work, I thought I’d try writing a lesbian novel. I loved suspense and mystery books, so I settled on a suspense story set in Greece using bits from my travels. Writing a novel was harder than I had anticipated, though. And I needed more data!

Four years later, in 1983, I returned to Greece to gather more information. For several years, I continued to work on the story in fits and starts. Finally, I took two suspense/mystery writing classes at The Loft Literary Center and joined a writing group that emerged from those classes. With the group’s encouragement, I finished my novel, and in 1993, Madwoman Press published Sinister Paradise.

See the next entry for Part Two of how my first book turned into my fifth book.

The Santorini Setup: The Back Story—Part Two


 Jump forward almost three decades to 2020, when I self-published A Light on Altered Land. Creating an eBook was relatively easy with Kindle I learned, so I decided to turn my two out-of-print novels from the 1990s into Kindle books.


I didn’t have the computer files for Fertile Betrayal, so each page had to be scanned. Scanning introduced errors, however. For example, the scanner often read “rn” as an m. After several rounds of proofreading, I published Fertile Betrayal pretty much word for word.  


Next, I turned my attention to Sinister Paradise. Sara Yager, a Carefree friend and graphic designer, scanned the pages as she had for Fertile Betrayal. As I was proofreading the book, I got so caught up in the page-turner I forgot to mark any errors. What a strong plot, I thought. If were writing the story now, however, I’d make it much more romantic.


While I was proofreading, Sara was mocking up a new cover. My jaw dropped when I saw it. I knew immediately I had to make Sinister Paradise worthy of her stunning cover!


The first rewrite increased the romance and reduced the violence. The second rewrite upped the female energy even more—US embassy official Richard Marcello became Susan Marcello. (Former U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice of the Clinton administration was my inspiration.) This new, sizzling character infused the story with another layer of mystery and sexual tension.


I had the book where I wanted it…except set in 1990, the story seemed dated. No cell phones. No digital cameras. No Google. Another rewrite to bring it into the 2020s was daunting. And so much had changed. For example, the Athens Plaka had been developed with a new subway station, and some of the action happened in space now occupied by the stupendous Acropolis Museum.


But why not let this story reach its potential? With Nancy’s encouragement, I set to work on a third rewrite. 


The passage of three decades made this chore challenging. Luckily Nancy and I had visited Greece a few years earlier (see picture of Nancy and me on the Acropolis). And I had Google, Google Maps, and Google Street Images. However, during one of our last read-throughs, Nancy opened Google Maps on her notebook to follow the action and said, “Why are all the ferry lines running to Athinios and not Thera?” As it turns out, Thera is now the cruise ship port. Yikes! I had to move crucial scenes set at Thera south to the Athinios ferry docks.


Cell phones are a challenge for any suspense and mystery writer. It’s easy for characters to warn others of approaching danger. More scenes were torn apart and reconstructed to accommodate modern technology.


By the end of all the rewrites, except for the basic plot, the book was about eighty percent different. I renamed it for three reasons: 1) I didn’t want it confused with the original novel, available through second-party vendors on Amazon; 2) I wanted a title that placed the action on the tourist destination of Santorini—a hook for people who have visited that island; and 3) The Santorini Setup is such a better book than Sinister Paradise!


So, that’s the story behind The Santorini Setup.  It’s available as a paperback or eBook at Amazon. Your local bookstore can order the paperback, too. For more