Archive for the ‘Defending Irene’ Category

U.S.A. vs Colombia at 6:00 pm Eastern and 3:00 Pacific!

August 9, 2016

During so many events at the Olympic games, the local crowds have tended to cheer against the U.S.  But will they feel the same about the women’s soccer team? We’ll see. One fan thinks that Tobin Heath is secretly Brazilian.  And there are rivalries in South America. My Peruvian sister-in-law is always happy to cheer against Brazil.

For me August 9th is a day of undiluted soccer happiness. My 2004 novel about an American girl playing on an Italian boys’ soccer team is being released as an e-book.  B&N has an excerpt.


Defending Irene was Released as an E-book Today

August 9, 2016

My soccer novel about an American girl playing on an Italian boys’ team in Italy was released as an e-book today. Since DEFENDING IRENE originally came out in 2004, a few sections will undoubtedly read more like historical fiction. But so many things hold up. Italian women and girls are making slow but serious headway against the perception that they shouldn’t be involved in such a violent, brutal sport. In fact, they just missed qualifying for the Euro Cup this year. Barnes and Noble has an excerpt of the first few chapters of DEFENDING IRENE on its site at the bottom of this page.  Amazon customers can go here, but there’s no excerpt so far.


Italy vs. German: Euro Cup 2016

July 1, 2016

My name and heritage might be German, but I’ll be cheering for the Azzurri this Saturday, July 2, at 3:00 Eastern time and noon Pacific time on ESPN 2 when the Italians take on Germany in the Euro quarterfinal match. After all, once upon a time, my American son dreamed of playing for the Italian World Cup team.  He’d lived in Italy from pre-school through second grade and attended the local schools.  The whole idea of citizenship thing wasn’t quite clicking for him, and he’d once mistaken a dollar bill for a Deutchmark.

While we lived in Italy, I had the opportunity to watch a local Italian-speaking team play against a local German-speaking team while doing the research for my soccer novel, Defending Irene. So I know some of what will be shouted from both sidelines.

“Schnell! Schnell! Schnell!” from the Germans.  (Fast, fast, fast.)

Dai!, Dai! Dai!” from the Italians. It sounds like “Die! Die! Die!” which might have been a bit unsettling to English players even though they undoubtedly expected it. I don’t have a really good translation for dai, but it’s similar to “Come on!”  I’ve heard “Ma dai!” used as a protest.

If you’re curious about just how passionate Italians are about soccer, consider checking Defending Irene out of your local library. It’s also available in hardcover at Amazon.  The Kindle edition, while available for pre-order now, will be released on August 9th. I’ll include an excerpt from the first chapter in the coming days.

A Few International Reads

December 11, 2015

On my bookshelf, I have all sorts of outdated Rick Steves guidebooks from the days my husband I roamed around Europe with our kids. Product Details In one of his books, he recommended that parents have their kids watch movies to help get them excited about different locations before they arrived.  I remember picking up the Italian-dubbed version of Anastasia at the library in Merano where we lived.  My Saving the Griffin could be a good choice for kids visiting Tuscany. While most of the book is set at a villa there, several chapters take place in Siena.


Here are a few titles that really brought me back to France and Italy after I returned to the U.S.:




Product DetailsProduct Details


A Cabinet of Earths by Anne Nesbet (Paris)
A Box of Gargoyles by Anne Nesbet  (Paris) Previous book’s sequel


Product Details

Black Radishes
by Susan Lynn Meyer (Opens in Paris)





Product Details

The Thief Lord (Venice)

Product Details
Bloomability by Sharon Creech (Much takes place just north of Italy, but there’s a trip to the Dolomites)


Finding a Way to Win

July 17, 2011

I”ve been watching the U.S. Women’s Soccer team with delight.  Less than 10 minutes after this blog post goes up, I’ll be plopping myself in front of the TV to watch them take on Japan.  Both teams arrived at this moment because of their skill, determination, conditioning and desire.

Players like Abby Wambaugh, Hope Solo, and Christie Rampone are experienced international players.  They’re used to listening to the women on the other teams shout out encouragement and orders in a different language.   The first time I experienced something like this was at a soccer match for my son’s club team when we lived in Italy.   I had become used to the sound of his coach shouing “Die, die, die!” at his players. (It was really the Italian word “Dai,” a shout of encouragement.  But it was odd to hear the German coach roar, “Schnell! Schnell! Schnell.”   (Fast, fast, fast.)  I managed to work some of this disconnect into my soccer novel, Defending Irene.   

My guess is that Japan will dominate the time of possession, but that the Americans will find a way to win.  Go, USA!

Reverse Chronological Order/Explanation of Dedication Page

August 30, 2010

One thing about blogs is that people will generally read things from newest to oldest.  So I’m going to work my way backwards from my decision to submit SUSPECT to Peachtree to how I came up with the original idea for SUSPECT in the first place.  It was essentially a ten-year journey from my first scribbles on this YA mstery to its acceptance by Peachtree. 

Some brilliant people like Megan Whalen Turner and Clare Dunkle essentially sold their first novel to the first editor who looked at it.  I started out with a bit of talent and a mantra that I picked up from Jane Yolen: Bone-headed stubbornness pays.  I didn’t really know whether I was any good at writing, but I did know that  could be bone-headed.  Most people can’t get a B.S. in electrical engineering without that. 

So anyway, in the summer of 2005, I asked the publicity people at Peachtree if they’d like me to drive over from Southwest Michigan to the American Library Association national convention in Chicago to sign in their booth.  Some writers on the listserv that I belonged to indicated that sometimes publishers are willing to have you come sign books if you’re willing to do it on your own dime.  In fact, many writers will use this time to introduce themselves to editors during a quiet moment.  I wound up getting the chance to hang out with Peachtree authors Jeanie Franz Ransom and Dori Hillestad Butler.  Jeanie and I had been critique partners since at least 1995.  We knew Dori through a writers’ listserv and had met a few time.

Dori had written two books for Peachtree at that time, SLIDING INTO HOME and a new one called DO YOU KNOW THE MONKEY MAN.  Lisa Mathews, my editor at Peachtree had edited both of them. I knew that the second book was a mystery, but it was great to finally get my hands on a copy of it.  MONKEY MAN had humor, suspense and honest emotion.  That’s what I wanted my YA mystery to have. Moreover, I had learned that Lisa could be downright evil when it came to tormenting characters.   I’ll always remember my reaction to something she came up with for Matteo in Defending Irene:  “That’s evil!  It’s perfect!”

But I knew that the novel wasn’t ready for Lisa yet.  I’d learned a lot of things about writing since I finished the first draft of what became SUSPECT back in 1999.  After making the rounds and collecting a load of rejections, it had gone into seclusion on my hard drive.   I decided to finish work on a current project before sitting down to revise my mystery.   After all, I had a bit of momentum going. 

Jeanie read the new version of my mystery before and during one of our writer’s retreats in Missouri before I submitted the story to Peachtree.  When she finished, she looked up at me and said, “You know,  _____  _____  _____  _____  ___.”  And she was right.  But I can’t tell you what she said because that would give away just about everything.  

Writers who instinctively avoid conflict in their lives need people like Lisa and Jeanie.  And that’s why SUSPECT is dedicated to them:

For Lisa Mathews,
my evil-minded editor
and for Jeanie Ransom,
who knew how this story had  to end. 

Below that, I tucked in thanks to my three kids.   The book that I wrote in 1998 and 1999 probably wasn’t fully up-to-date on high school trends and behaviors.  This one was.  I haven’t been living through high school, but I have had front row seats.  That helped me so much with the details needed to give the appearance of reality.  How about the pink and blue stuff?  Check out the cleaning scene with Jen and Bri.  Gretchen became an expert in how, when and where to use them during the time she spent in housekeeping at the Boyne Mountain Resort.  My other two kids competed in a variety of sports: volleyball, basketball, track, and cross country.  I was able to update my knowledge of those sports that Jen participated in through hours of watching and cheering.

“O Light the Heart that Lingers in Merano”

August 30, 2010

I first heard the songs from the musical CHESS back in college.  One of the guys in my Douglas Houghton Hall dorm at Michigan Tech was demonstrating the astonishing clarity that his new CD player brought to the music.  (And yes, this was the latest thing back in the early 80’s.)  He started with the radio hit “One Night in Bangkok” but then went back to the first disc that opened with a full operatic chorus singing: 

“O light the heart
That lingers in Merano
Merano! The spa no
Connoisseur of spas would miss.”

My friend promised to make me a tape  of the CDs.  I wrote out all the names of the songs in my less than stellar handwriting.  Eventually, I switched over to CDs myself and didn’t play the tape too much.  It did move around with my husband and me to six states.  I could still sing many of the songs on the album, but I confess that the repeating words Merano in the song were  eventually replaced by “La, LA, la. La, LA, la.”  Yes, the tape did lack the clarity of the CD.

When my husband was offered a job in Merano, I read up on it and learned that it was a spa town.  I wrote to a friend and wondered if  “the Tyrolean spa with the chess boards in it” could be where I’d be living for the next three years.  My friend emailed back with the opening lyrics to Merano.  

That song started playing in my head this morning while working on a section of description for Calyn’s story.  I decided that it would be easier to describe the entrance to the walled town of Grissian if I modeled it on Merano. 

It was.      

I used my own description trick of working off of photographs of real places instead of trying to build and design all the sets myself.  While the words didn’t write themselves, I had a much easier time with developing the sense of place. 

I went back and forth between two websites.  At the end of a row of photos, you’ll find the Porta Passiria.  The neighborhood of Steinach was especially helpful in the photo album of Merano site.  Any readers of Defending Irene might find the shots of the Portici and Passagiata to be interesting.  That’s where Irene went shopping and had ice cream with her strict Italian grandmother.

Soccer in any Language

July 5, 2010

I’m sure that it’s difficult for World Cup soccer players to hear each other over the vuvuzelas.  When the words do make it through that drone, they probably have a difficult time understanding their own teammates.  In many matches, they can only guess at what their opponents are saying.  Goal appears to be universal even if the O-sound has a slightly different shading from country to country. 

When we lived in Merano, Italy, I had a taste of this as I watched a team from my son’s club take on a local German speaking team.  The Italian coach would yell things like “Forza!” and “Dai!” (Loosely translated as “Strong!” and “Come on!”)   “Dai” sounds a lot like “Die!” so it took awhile for my American ears to get used to that. About the only word that I recognized from the German coach was “Schnell!” (Fast)   I used this experience for one scene in my girls’ soccer novel, DEFENDING IRENE. 

But if you’d like a taste of what it would feel to be coached by someone in a different language, you can click on this link for a story that appeared in Highlights back in 2006.

Contemporary Fiction

June 25, 2010

Editors warn authors against putting things in their contemporary novels that will “date” the books unless a project is already anchored somehow in time.  As I watched the Italians lose their final game of group playof th 2010 World Cup, I wondered whether DEFENDING IRENE had made the jump from contemporary sports fiction to historical sports fiction.  Soccer isn’t just the national pasttime for Italians; it’s the national passion.  I was pretty sure that Matteo had dissed American soccer at some point.  And naturally, he couldn’t have done that if the Americans had gone on to the group of 16 while the Italians had gone home.  But as I flipped through the pages to some of the key scenes, I saw to my very great relief that he hadn’t. 

Of course, a lot of things have changed since my girls’ soccer novel was published back in 2004.  There’s one section where my main character emails a friend.  These days, Irene would probably be updating her status on Facebook.  But overall, I think that the email still works in the context of the book.

Best of the Best

June 1, 2010

Every year the Bank Street College of Education Book Committee reviews over 6000 titles.  They put 600 of those books into their Best Children’s Books of the Year publication.    The Bank Street College of Education recently put out a list of their  Outstanding Books for the years 1997 to 2008 on their website.  Each  of the books on this list received a star for outstanding merit when it first appeared in the collection of the Best Children’s Books for the Year.   

When I scrolled through the list, I recognized an extremely high number of titles.  The short descriptions of the book would definitely give readers an idea of whether it could make a good title to recommend to a reader. Naturally, I was extremely pleased to find my soccer novel, DEFENDING IRENE, listed in the 9 and up category down in the sports category with the following description: 

Irene, a visitor from the United States, tries to single-handedly integrate an all-boys Italian soccer team.