Pet Portraits: A Positive Pandemic Trend

Things are looking up this week, with the Biden/Harris inauguration on Wednesday and the new administration’s vow to get the pandemic under control its top priority. Few humans alive today have been through anything like 2020: a year when pain and suffering were at their worst, yet we couldn’t gather physically with friends and family without risking a potentially fatal infection. If there’s a definition of hell on earth, that may be it.

And so, as the weeks and months wore on–delivering loss, sadness, and anxiety at every juncture–people took comfort in both new and familiar pets, who provided unconditional love, snuggles, and support at times when most other companions were available only via phone, text, or Zoom. I’ve always loved having animals in the family, but since last March, I’ve felt a more intense appreciation for our dog and cats, and have snapped more photos of them than ever before. So I wasn’t surprised to learn that professional and artistic pet portraits are currently enjoying newfound popularity.

Humans love decorating their homes and offices with pictures of loved ones, so why shouldn’t images of beloved pets be displayed too? Hence, when I discovered a company called West & Willow–which makes custom pet portraits–I was intrigued. I scrolled through the website and was quite impressed with both the ease of ordering, and the quality of the pictures. Instructions and specifics–as well as tips and answers to most questions you may have are here–but the bottom line is that if you send W&W a digital picture of your pet (or pets), the digital artists at the company will follow your instructions and create an adorable, framed picture for you.

Below are the snapshots of our pets I sent to West & Willow…

…and here’s the framed, customized, 12″x16″ portrait I received last week. The light at the top is the flash from my camera, and I chose not to have the animal names included in the portrait. The background color is dusty pink, and the frame is walnut. What’s your opinion? I like it a lot.

Now, if you’re seeking something more “fine art” in nature, you may want to consider commissioning a painter, sculptor, or other artist to create an original piece for you. My friend Kabir Shah is a painter who enjoys making different types of art, including animal portraits. I’ve been fortunate to get to know Kabir because he’s designed three gorgeous book covers for me, and I’ve become a huge fan of his work.

Here are a few examples of Kabir’s fine art animal portraits. All of these have either been commissioned or were done as gifts for family and friends.

If you’d like to check out more of Kabir’s animal portraits and his other work, there’s a great selection here on his website. And if you’re interested in talking to him about commissions, he can be contacted here.

Finally, both Kabir and West & Willow also do memorial portraits of cherished animals who’ve passed away.

Do you have dear pets who’ve helped you get through the pandemic? If so, please tell me about them in the comment section and/or post a photo.

Thanks so much for reading, and stay safe. I hope we can all get vaccinated soon, and return to something like normal existence in 2021.



Posted in 2020, animals, art, beauty, COVID, dogs, paintings, pandemic, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Virtual Launch for IT DOESN’T HAVE TO BE THAT WAY Part 2: Featured Books and Authors

Hello again!

If you saw Part 1 of this post, you know I recently held a virtual launch for my novel, It Doesn’t Have To Be That Way, complete with a raffle, featuring cool literary prizes. Unfortunately, due to a bunch of planning errors on my part, there wasn’t enough time to adequately promote the authors who generously donated books. Several people who attended the online launch asked for a list of these authors and their books, as well more info about them. So, here it is. Please read on to learn more about these wonderful writers and get two more chances to win a Kindle copy of It Doesn’t Have To Be That Way.

Oh, and if you read any of these books–whether by winning a copy or by purchasing–PLEASE consider writing an honest review on Amazon and/or Goodreads. In our commercialized world, reviews are incredibly critical to indie writers for so many reasons. Thank you!

1.Willful Avoidance by JT Twissel

Willful Avoidance by JT Twissel

According to the tax man, it’s a crime to trust your husband. A crime that could cost you everything but your skin; particularly if you are intelligent enough to know better.  Maya Bethany is a young woman with two children accused of that crime (willful avoidance) but, instead of compromising with the tax man, she decides to fight.  Two men enter her life, both claiming to want to help.  This book is really about navigating the post-divorce minefield with the added burden of an unfair tax debt.  Extra bonus is a bit of info about tax law and Innocent Spouse Relief which every married woman (and man) should know. The book is currently out of print, but check out Jan’s blog, Saying Nothing in Particular. So much thoughtful writing. Sometimes funny, sometimes sad, always poignant. ___________________________________________________________________________________________

2. The Passion Thief by Anne McCarthy Strauss

The Passion Thief by Anne McCarthy Stauss

The Passion Thief, published by Booktrope, 2014. The Passion Thief is a story about the one who got away. Strauss injects humor into the tragic situation of a woman torn between a boring marriage and her still-exciting first love. She keeps you guessing until the book’s extraordinary ending.

Order on Amazon here.


3. Love Notes from Humanity by Various Writers, Feminine Collective

Love Notes from Humanity

Donated by Julie Anderson, founder of Feminine Collective.  The writers of some of these poems are award-winning authors, journalists, bloggers, and activists, while others are previously unknown artists. The poems are a collective made of a global community; the writers are from Australia, Canada, Central America, The United Kingdom, The United Arab Emirates, Pakistan, South Africa and The United States.

Order on Amazon here.


4. Elevator Girl by Kim Hruba

Elevator Girl by Kim Hruba

Elevator Girl is a romantic comedy about a woman who steps into an elevator and comes face-to-face with her high school nemesis – which normally wouldn’t be so bad until two things happen: One, she gets assigned to work with him. Then she realizes that he has no idea who she is.

Order on Amazon here.

Also, check out this awesome blog (Wannaskan Almanac) to which Kim contributes regularly.


5. Ferry to Cooperation Island by Carol Newman Cronin

Ferry to Cooperation Island by Carol Newman Cronin

Loner James Malloy is a ferry captain—or used to be, until he was unceremoniously fired and replaced by Courtney Farris. Now, instead of piloting Brenton Island’s daily lifeline to the glitzy docks of Newport, Rhode Island, James spends his days beached, bitter, and bored.

This salt-sprayed fourth novel by 2004 Olympic Sailor Carol Newman Cronin celebrates wilderness and water, open space and open-mindedness, and the redemptive power of neighborly cooperation.

Order here on Amazon, and check out Carol’s blog here.


6. Secrets and Lies by Julie Anderson

Secrets and Lies by Julie Anderson

Julie’s memoir is a brave, vulnerable look into the truest parts of her desires, longings, and shame while struggling to understand who she is: a beautiful, powerful, soul. She uses poetry and a bit of prose to take us through this epic, often ugly & heartbreaking journey, which includes being thrust into the modeling world at a young age, sexual assault, eating disorders, and being shamed by ones who are supposed to love us. It’s also about her desire to break free from that baggage and soar. And soar she does. Because ultimately, there is hope and active, powerful self-acceptance, self-belief and self-love, like a goddess clawing her way out of the flames.

Order on Amazon here, and check out Feminine Collective here.


7. The Shape of Us by Jacqueline Cioffa

The Shape of Us, by Jacqueline Cioffa

“Beauty lies in truth, hardcore, from the depths of the soul. Jacqueline Cioffa’ takes us there, brave, raw & unfiltered.” – Sandra Bernhard

The Shape of Us celebrates the complexities and authentic beauty of real, everyday women. Cioffa’s essays and poems are intimate and relatable; they are a deep dive into the roles of being female. Unapologetic, triumphant and poignant, Cioffa doesn’t shy away from complex mother-daughter relationships, sexual and physical abuse, body shaming, insecurities, self-worth, and complicated friendships, while celebrating the empowerment and admiration of the delightful and dirty business of being female. Self-discovery, self-love, and pearls of wisdom only discovered after a life in the trenches of modeling, fame, aging, and a nervous breakdown. The Shape of Us boldly asks and answers the question, what it means to be a strong, opinionated, independent woman.

Order on Amazon here, and check out Jacqueline’s blog here.


8. A Medical Affair by Anne McCarthy Strauss

A Medical Affair by Anne McCarthy Strauss

After suffering a life-threatening asthma attack, Heather Morrison ends up in a NYC emergency room, and opens her eyes to the handsome man she perceives to be the knight in hospital scrubs who saved her life. She falls instantly for this very married doctor, and ends up involved in a torrid affair that violates medical ethics and legal mandates…and that’s only the beginning.
A Medical Affair could be a game changer for many women as it exposes the truth behind her doctor’s behavior and Heather’s subsequent civil suit. Although a work of fiction, A Medical Affair warns women of the prevalence of and reality behind doctor-patient affairs.

Order on Amazon here.


9. Raw & Unfiltered by Various Writers, Feminine Collective

Feminine Collective, Raw & Unfiltered Also donated by Julie Anderson, this is a collection of bold poems and essays about relationships: authentic, honest, and at times self-deprecating and humorous. First published on Feminine Collective from 2014 to 2015, the women (and a few men) bravely share their unfiltered realities. This collection represents new and emerging writers, most of whom were unpublished before Feminine Collective.

Order on Amazon here.

Check out Feminine Collective here.


10. All the Tomorrows by Nillu Nasser

All the Tomorrows by Nillu Nasser

Akash Choudry wants a love for all time, not an arranged marriage. Still, under the weight of parental hopes, he agrees to one. He and Jaya marry in a cloud of colour and spice in Bombay. Their marriage has barely begun when Akash embarks on an affair.

Jaya can’t contemplate sharing her husband with another woman, or looking past his indiscretions as her mother suggests. Cornered by sexual politics, she takes her fate into her own hands in the form of a lit match. Nothing endures fire. As shards of their past threaten their future, will Jaya ever bloom into the woman she can be, and will redemption be within Akash’s reach?

Order on Amazon here, and check out Nillu’s blog here


In conclusion, I’ll add that we raffled off various versions of my own three novels, Leaving the Beach, Living by Ear, and It Doesn’t Have To Be That Way (new, beautiful covers by Kabir Shah.) If you’re interested in ordering a paperback or ebook or any of them, please visit my Amazon Author Page , your local bookstore (you may have to ask the bookseller to order a copy for you), or wherever you purchase books online. You can also always email me at, and for help, or more info about any of the books on this page. Audiobooks, narrated by the wonderful Gryphon Corpus, for Leaving the Beach and Living by Ear are also available on Audible, Authors Direct, Apple Books, and other audiobook retailers.

Want a free Kindle copy of It Doesn’t Have To Be That Way? Please leave a comment below (any comment at all!) and you’ll be entered in a raffle to win one. I’ll pick two names on Friday, October 30th. Good luck!  xo, mary

leaving_the_beach_evolved_cover final_for_publivingbyearebook IDHTBTW_updated_cover

Posted in book launch, Book release, book reviews, books, contests, COVID, events, giveaway, Jim croce, Leaving the Beach, living by ear, new fiction, pandemic, party, promo, promotion, Uncategorized, virtual book launch, women's fiction, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

A Virtual Book Launch for IT DOESN’T HAVE TO BE THAT WAY, Part 1 (Includes Video from Launch)

2020 will always be remembered as the year hijacked by COVID-19. So much suffering, so much confusion, so many deaths.

And plans? Well, with pretty much all indoor events involving more than a few people getting postponed, moved outside, canceled, or held virtually, making plans hasn’t been the same in the U.S. since March. So when it became apparent that the in-person launch I’d envisioned for my third novel It Doesn’t Have To Be That Way, (September, 2020, Evolved Publishing) wouldn’t be possible, my first instinct was to scrap the whole thing and hope for a better situation if I ever managed to write and publish a fourth book.

But a dear friend encouraged me to consider an online launch with a simple agenda, with no pressure on anyone to attend. And the more I thought about it, the more convinced I became to try.

I researched virtual book party and found a great post on Jane Friendman’s blog by Carol Newman Cronin—writer and Olympian—who’d launched her novel, Ferry to Cooperation Island, on Zoom. And—happy coincidence—it turns out that Carol and I are both represented by the wonderful literary agent April Eberhardt. Carol shared some great tips, many of which I employed (thank you, Carol!)

For several reasons, however, I didn’t want to do a Zoom launch. Luckily, I came across a really cool streaming platform called StreamYard, which integrates well with Facebook Live and offers cool features like screen-sharing and featuring guests in your virtual “studio,” even if those guests are on another continent (or just across town.) I won’t go into the techie stuff, but if you’re interested in doing an event using StreamYard, here’s a terrific tutorial to get you started. And if—like me—technology isn’t your strong suit, you may want to enlist some help. My husband Mike offered to produce the event and did an excellent job. Thank you, Mike!

Once I had a handle on the logistics, I thought about the event itself and decided on a few things:

  1. The event would last an hour, and guests would be informed of that time allotment at the very beginning. They would also be told that they could leave the “party” at any time, and/or come and go as they pleased. No one wants to feel trapped or locked into an event, especially during the pandemic.
  2. It would be structured as much like an in-person book launch as possible. IE: greeting guests and introduction, followed by a brief reading from It Doesn’t Have To Be That Way, followed by a bit of Q & A.
  3. In the remaining time (20-30 minutes), we’d raffle off some books by authors of women’s fiction, including me. Guests could win literary prizes, and I’d do some low-key author promo. And (with a bit of luck) it’d be fun too.

I sent out snail mail invites to friends whose addresses I knew and invited everyone on my FaceBook Author Page to message me if they’d like to attend. Every invitation that went out via snail mail contained a door prize number (for the raffle), and I also assigned door prize numbers to each person who replied to the online invite. I created a spreadsheet of people who’d been mailed invites and added all who replied online, crosschecking for duplicates. To me, this seemed like a good way to make sure everyone had a chance to win during the raffle, but it ended up being the biggest problem we encountered at the party. (I’ll explain why later.)

Next, I contacted some author friends who write women’s fiction. With apologies to pals who write in other genres, I wanted to stick to one genre, due mainly to time constraints.

Then, a really cool thing happened. I was talking to Gryphon Corpus, the incredibly gifted voice actor and narrator of the audiobooks for my novels Living by Ear and Leaving the Beach, and she offered to read a passage of It Doesn’t Have To Be That Way at the launch party. Spoiler alert: Gryphon’s reading was the highlight of the party.

So how did it work out? Well, I was nervous as hell, which is apparent in the video (below). Technically, it went well, thanks to Mike. If you’re interested in using StreamYard for a presentation of your own, you can scroll around in the video and see some of the screen-sharing options it offers.

Video from It Doesn’t Have To Be That Way Virtual Book Launch, 10/8/2020

The raffle, as mentioned earlier, had some issues, because the snail mail invites containing door prize numbers didn’t all land in the hands of their intended recipients. (Some mailing addresses were incorrect, etc.) Of course, some recipients were unable to attend, while others didn’t realize that the small piece of paper with a handwritten number on it was intended for use in the raffle and discarded it. Mike and I made some last-minute adjustments during the launch, resulting in some prizes ending up with zero winners, some ending up with one (yay!) and some ending up with two. Also, too much time got spent figuring out who (if anyone) had won various books, and far too little was spent promoting the books and authors. In Part 2 of this post, I’ll do my best to rectify that!

And to anyone else planning a virtual book launch (or any event involving a raffle), I recommend waiting for guests to RSVP before assigning door prize numbers.

To learn more about the books and authors featured in the raffle and take a chance to win a Kindle copy of It Doesn’t Have To Be That Way, please check out Part 2 of this post tomorrow, October 26.

Thanks so much for reading! As always, questions and comments are welcome.

Posted in 2020, book launch, Book release, books, COVID, events, Jim croce, new fiction, pandemic, promotion, publishing, Uncategorized, virtual book launch, women's fiction | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Change, a New Novel, an Author Talk, & Free Audiobooks

IDHTBTW_updated_cover It’s September, and like every month since March 2020, things don’t feel normal or safe. COVID-19 rages; police continue to brutalize Black and Brown people; far too little is being done to combat climate change. In 2016, the majority of Americans believed we lived in a democracy that–although far from perfect–was doing all right. Now, in 2020, many of us fear that without a regime change in the November election, American democracy will die. So please vote for change if you care about preserving our democracy

Anyway, in the midst of all this, my novel, It Doesn’t Have To Be That Way, will be released by Evolved Publishing on September 14th. Set primarily in Arlington, MA in 2012-2013, the story isn’t about racial injustice, global warming, or contagious illness.

It is, however, filled with flawed characters facing serious challenges, and it delves into themes like sexual assault, sexual harassment in the workplace, mental illness, the invisible scars of war, intergenerational friendships, and feelings of isolation in elderly AmericansOn Wednesday, September 16th, from 6:00 p.m. until 7:00 p.m., I’ll be giving a free, virtual Author Talk on some of these issues, with a focus on how women in all three of my novels deal with sexism, sexual harassment, and sexual assault. Many thanks to Ginger Galaini of the Dale City Neighborhood Library in Virginia for making this opportunity possible. If you’d like to participate in this interactive discussion, please click on the link above.

It Doesn’t Have To Be That Way has been superbly edited by Jessica West, and the cover art and design are by the wonderful Kabir Shah. It also includes lots of references to the great Jim Croce, whose music provided the soundtrack for much of my youth.

Here’s the back cover blurb:

Molly keeps rushing into relationships with the wrong men, brought about by a violent incident during her teen years, which skewed her judgment. Now she’s drinking too much, taking foolish risks, and allowing a predatory male to sexually harass her at work.

A chance encounter with Fred Flaherty, her 72-year-old divorced neighbor, leads to a tentative friendship. Fred, a Cold War veteran and ham radio operator, has suffered considerably over the decades, but also dreams of a better future. As summer becomes autumn, the two neighbors share stories of personal loss, bond over their passion for Jim Croce’s music, and develop trust and mutual respect.

This is fortunate, because winter is about to bring on challenges neither could have predicted.

And in the spirit of giving back to readers, I’d like to offer some free audiobook coupon codes for my other two novels, Leaving the Beach,* and Living by Ear.* Both are narrated by the amazing Gryphon Corpus, who possesses the unique gift of breathing human life into fictional characters. As I listened to Gryphon’s narration of these stories, I was so mesmerized that I often forgot I’d written the words.

I hope you’ll check them out! If you’d like a coupon code for either audiobook, please tell me in the Comments section below, or email to: mary(at)pocomotech(dot) com

*Both audiobooks are sold on Audible and various other audiobook outlets. However, the free codes I can offer for Leaving the Beach can only be redeemed on Audible, and the free codes I have to offer for Living by Ear are redeemable only on Authors Direct. The good news is that redemption and downloading are very straightforward. And if you need assistance, I’m most happy to help!



Posted in 2020, author talk, Book release, books, giveaway, Jim croce, Leaving the Beach, life, life experiences, live events, mental health, music, new fiction, pandemic, promo, promos, promotion, promotional items, publishing, sexism, sexual assault, sexual harassment, Uncategorized, women, women's fiction | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Book Review: It Doesn’t Have To Be That Way by Mary Rowen

I’m incredibly grateful to Book Club Mom for taking the time to read and review my new novel, It Doesn’t Have To Be That Way, due to launch on September 14, 2020.

Book Club Mom

It Doesn’t Have To Be That Way
Mary Rowen

Molly Dolan dreams of a steady relationship. At twenty-five, she’s floundering, drinking too much and making poor decisions. The only good thing going is Molly’s job. She got in on the ground floor at FSI as senior marketing writer, but she’s just learned of a big a change.

Molly’s relationship problems began in high school. When her one close friendship ended tragically, she tried to suppress her feelings, but the burden of loss and regret led to reckless decisions and she has carried that burden into adulthood.

Molly’s neighbor Fred Flaherty is alone at seventy-two. Divorced for many years, he listens to Jim Croce records and talks to buddies on his ham radio. But his failed marriage and the recent death of his younger brother, Davey weigh heavy on him.

When Davey was born, Fred’s awkward and lonely childhood turned…

View original post 199 more words

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2020: A Year to Stay in the Moment. And Wear a Watch.

Nordgreen watchI’m hearing it everywhere, especially from middle-aged people and seniors: 2020 is a year unlike any they’ve ever experienced. Sure, some years are really difficult, while others seem to fly by. But 2020? How can it even be described? And how can we keep up with the ever-evolving daily news, let alone get anything else done? And this year is far from over.

New Year’s is the number one holiday celebrated around the globe because of its universal and non-denominational nature. All you need to celebrate New Year’s is a belief in the calendar and a little hope for the future. And since 2020 also began a new decade, this past New Year’s Eve seemed particularly significant. If you raised a glass and declared that 2020 would be filled with lots of change, well, you were correct.

But who could’ve predicted the types of change? And the speed at which those changes would occur? Who thought as they rang in the new year that our world would be united again in just a few months, not in celebration, but by a global pandemic that would sicken and kill millions? Or that the people gathering, cheering, and enjoying firework displays in iconic locations would soon find themselves locked down in their homes, afraid to venture out in fear of contracting the deadly virus? Or worse, mourning the loss of loved ones to COVID-19?

Who could’ve imagined on January 1st, as they kissed, called, and texted friends with wishes of health, peace, and prosperity, that in late May, the world—now wearing facemasks, social distancing, washing hands as often as possible, and accepting lots of new normals—would once again be shaken to the core by the horrific murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer? And that this would be the year when America would finally, finally begin to actively acknowledge—as a nation—the existence of systemic racism in our culture? That we’d finally, finally begin to listen—as a nation—intently to the millions of voices of people of color in our country and finally, finally begin working for real, structural change.

Emotions, are, understandably, all over the place. Speaking on a personal level, I find myself in desperate tears one moment, only to be crying tears of joy at images of the thousands of peaceful Black Lives Matter protests all over the world and believing in my heart that this could be the year everything changes for the better. Nothing can ever make up for the unspeakable injustice the U.S. has inflicted on people of color for centuries, and nothing can ever right the wrongs of lives lost and destroyed, but the hope that the future will be brighter is truly encouraging.

Hope alone, however, won’t bring about change. Change only happens when humans dedicate time and energy to it, and that’s where we all come in. I don’t need to mention the names of the appalling, disgraceful American leaders—one in particular—who must be removed from power in order for systemic change to happen. And in the months leading up to the November election, every moment will be critical. This time around, no American can say, “it doesn’t really matter who wins,” or “both parties are essentially the same.” These statements are categorically untrue, and it’s critical that all Americans are allowed to vote and vote safely. Unfortunately, even this fundamental American right is being challenged right now. In other words, before we get to celebrate New Year’s Eve again—perhaps in a less racist world, with a vaccine for COVID available or right around the corner, and a new American president—we’ll need to stay in the moment, prepared to work.

So I’m going back to wearing a wristwatch. That’s right. Because I’ve recently realized that I spend a ridiculous amount of time out of the moment, primarily on my smartphone. Ever since embracing cellphone culture, I stopped wearing a watch, because who needs two timepieces when one will suffice? Me, apparently. I pull out the phone to check the time and end up scrolling through social media, responding to non-urgent texts, reading non-urgent email, or going down some other unfulfilling path seductively offered by my smartphone. Don’t get me wrong: humans absolutely need to take breaks, but the number of smartphone detours I allow myself on a daily basis is excessive.

I was actually in the process of looking at watches online when Nordgreen, a Danish watch company approached me to ask if I’d write an honest review of their product in exchange for a free timepiece. I did a bit of research and agreed. And I’m glad I did. For starters, the watch is lovely. Nordgreen allowed me to choose from their extensive collection of styles and colors, so I was able to find exactly what I’d been hoping for: a good-sized face (the watch I chose is actually recommended for a man, but I’ve always favored large, chunky jewelry, and my eyesight isn’t what it used to be either) and a clean, minimalist design. I’m no fashionista, but since I plan to wear the watch a lot, I wanted something I really like. This one fills the bill. The chief designer at Nordgreen is Jakob Wagner, who’s well-known for collaborating with brands like Bang & Olufsen, and has a fixed collection at the MoMa in NYC. At the top of this post is a photo of me wearing my choice, The Pioneer Chronograph, a recent winner of the prestigious Red Dot design award.

As for functionality, the watch works great, it’s very lightweight, and I really like the chronograph (stopwatch) feature. It feels smooth on my wrist, and the leather strap is soft and comfortable. I also like that it’s water resistant up to 3ATM, and rain resistant. And the strap is removable/replaceable, so I hope to be able to wear it for years to come, even if the strap breaks or I want a change in the future. It comes with a limited 24-month warranty.

Also, as someone who does her best to preserve our environment and buy responsibly, I admire Nordgreen’s commitment to sustainability in both its packaging and products. They use cardboard paper from responsibly managed forests, and felt cushioning made from upcycled plastic bottles. They also claim to plant enough trees (thousands) to offset carbon emissions from their offices in Copenhagen, as well as their global shipments. In addition, they partner with overseas manufacturers (the watches are made in Asia) to ensure that all production facilities adhere to high standards and Danish labor practices.

Finally, Nordgreen has established a Giving Back Program, which partners with three reputable NGOs: Water for Good, Pratham, UK, and Cool Earth. You can read more about these excellent NGOs by following their links, but here’s the bottom line: After you receive a Nordgreen watch, you enter its unique serial number on Nordgreen online form, and choose the NGO that speaks most to you. Then Nordgreen makes a donation to that NGO.

What’s not to like? As a new Nordgreen aficionado, I’m giving this watch 5 out of 5 stars, and hope to enjoy it for years to come. I also hope it helps me become a more productive, “in the moment” person as 2020 inevitably presents the world with new and important challenges.

Wishing you peace,


Posted in 2020, Black Lives Matter, COVID, living in the moment, Nordgreen, Nordgreen watch review, Nordgreen's, pandemic, racism, Time, Uncategorized, Watches, wristwatch | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

COVID-19 Cannot Cancel Earth Day


Earth Day Flag (public domain image)

Regardless of where you live, your life has almost certainly been drastically affected by COVID-19. Whether you’ve fallen ill, lost one or more loved ones, lost a job, have begun working or studying from home, and/or lost countless hours of sleep worrying, nothing will ever feel quite the same when this pandemic is over. And if you’re a first responder or healthcare worker, I can’t even imagine how you get through the days, and can only offer heartfelt gratitude.

Collectively, however, we can take comfort in the knowledge that the best scientific minds on the planet are working tirelessly on vaccines, reliable testing, and effective treatments for this horrific virus, and that at some point in the not-too-distant future, life will slowly start returning to something resembling normal.

For most of us, that day can’t come soon enough. The ability to share physical space with friends, family, classmates, and work associates sounds like a huge luxury. And hey, now that we’ve witnessed the significant atmospheric results of burning less fossil fuel, we’ll even be inspired to drive less and walk or use public transportation more often. What a silver lining it would be if these dark months of COVID-19 actually taught humans to take proper care of the earth. Time will tell.

On the other hand, it’s almost definite that when we start getting out and about again, we’re going to want to celebrate, and when humans celebrate, we often dress up in new clothes. So in the spirit of Earth Day, here’s something I hope you’ll consider: try to buy at least one of your “new” garments secondhand.

Now, if you know me, you may know how much I enjoy thrift shopping. But my initiation into the world of used clothing didn’t spring from any great desire to save the environment; it was strictly financial. In other words, when I, as a college student, attended a semi-formal dance party in a faded khaki jumpsuit purchased for a song at the local Army-Navy surplus (and accessorized with lots of thrift-shop jewelry) it wasn’t because I liked it better than the more typical outfits other women wore. But the price was right.

Over the years, though, I developed an appreciation for well-made, vintage and unique garments. Thrifting became a hobby for me, as did transforming old jeans into skirts, and sewing funky, homemade patches on worn-out items. But until recently, I bought most essential clothing and gifts at traditional retail outlets.

Then, in the fall of 2019, I re-entered the conventional workforce after almost twenty years of freelance writing and parenting. As you might imagine, that decision invoked a fair amount of personal anxiety. Which only increased when I landed my first job interview and realized I didn’t own a single pair of professional trousers. So I headed for the mall. But every pair of slacks I liked was also quite pricey. I had a bit more luck at Nordstrom Rack, where I found and bought the one pair of pants that fit both my taste and budget. But, of course, I knew I’d need more slacks when I actually started working.

Luckily, a few days later, I came across an online ad for and checked it out. Wow! In a few clicks, I was staring at the exact same pants I’d recently purchased—gently used—at a far lower price. The site made it super easy to search for brands, sizes, and colors too, and I ordered two pairs of trousers on the spot, which arrived on my doorstep about a week later. I found the entire shopping experience simple, rewarding, and enjoyable.

But the reason I’m writing this post is because of a letter from James Reinhart—founder and CEO of thredUP—which was included in the shipment. It talked about the tremendous amount of waste generated by the fashion industry, and the disastrous effects waste is having on our environment. It went on to say that if every American bought just one used clothing item in 2020—in place of something new—we could eliminate nearly six billion pounds of carbon emissions.

Of course, I did more research, and was most distressed by what I learned about so-called “fast-fashion.” This is trendy clothing (usually made from synthetic fibers) designed to last one season at best. After several washings, fast-fashion garments tend to fall apart and lose their fresh look, so they end up in the trash and then in landfills (along with millions of tons of other discarded textiles), leaching dye and other chemicals into the groundwater. And if these garments are incinerated instead, they release CO2 into the atmosphere. The fashion industry alone is responsible for a huge amount of the emissions responsible for climate change.

Sobering, for sure. But the good news is, we can start improving on this situation right away, if we’re willing to change our attitudes a bit. Many of us were raised with the belief that special clothes (and gifts of clothing) are best when they’re brand new. We Americans have a love affair with “untouched” and “unworn” items. Perhaps it’s a cleanliness thing. But let’s be honest: as soon as clothing or shoes are worn on the street—much like automobiles—they’re no longer new. But that doesn’t mean they’re not fabulous!

So, as you prepare for post-COVID reality, please join me in a pledge to purchase at least one secondhand clothing item instead of a piece you’d normally buy new. You’ll do the planet a favor, save some cash, and probably have a little fun as well.

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LIVING BY EAR–3rd Time Charm

livingbyearebookAfter I “finished” writing Living by Ear in 2012, I “self-published” it in 2013.

Little did I know that LBE was not complete. And “self-published” was far from an accurate term, because so many amazing people were involved in that endeavor. Without the members of my original writing group—who became the manuscript’s initial editors and cheerleaders—I never would’ve moved forward with the writing. Nor would I have known the first thing about sending a book out into the world without the lovely people at IPNE (Independent Publishers of New England), who selflessly provided essential publishing advice. And I’ll forever be grateful to Cate Barr, who designed LBE’s first cover, and my mom, Joanne Rowen, a one-woman marketing force in my hometown of North Andover, MA.

About a year later, I met my wonderful literary agent April Eberhardt at the Grub Street writing conference in Boston. By then, I was shopping a second manuscript (Leaving the Beach), which April brought to a hybrid publisher. That publisher offered a contract for Leaving the Beach, and then, shortly thereafter, published a revised version of Living by Ear as well. Once again, I believed LBE was complete. But no. Although I made dozens of terrific friends—authors, editors, marketers, and designers—at that publishing company, it closed its doors in 2016, and my books went out of print.

2016, however, brought about far more significant changes than the closing of a small book publisher. And, like so many other Americans, I began focusing a good deal of attention on matters of national and world politics. Then, in 2017 and 2018, my family and I faced several unexpected health challenges. Thankfully, we’re doing better now. Here’s to excellent doctors, great family, friends, and faith.

My writing has been given another opportunity too, thanks to Dave Lane and Evolved Publishing. Evolved kindly offered a three-book contract for Leaving the Beach, Living by Ear, and a brand new novel called It Doesn’t Have to be That Way, which is due out in April, 2020. So these days, I get to work with brilliant editor Jessica West, and phenomenally gifted and generous cover designer Kabir ShahLiving by Ear is now in its third incarnation, and I really do hope it’s finally complete. What a journey! I’m truly grateful for every twist and turn.

But I’d be nothing without the angels who were in my life before Living by Ear existed: my amazing parents, siblings, in-laws, extended family, and friends. And of course, precious Mike, Walter, and Maggie. I love you all.

Posted in books, books about music, Leaving the Beach, literature, living by ear, marriage, music, new fiction, novel writing, Uncategorized, women, women's fiction | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 15 Comments


leaving_the_beach_evolved_cover final_for_pubReaders, I have some exciting news to share: after being out of print for almost three years, my novel Leaving the Beach is available once more, thanks to the wonderful people at Evolved Publishing. Leaving the Beach took an unplanned vacation when its previous publisher shut down, but it’s back now, freshly edited and sporting a gorgeous new cover.

I couldn’t be more grateful to Dave Lane at Evolved for believing in this novel enough to give it a second chance. And for the warm welcome I’ve received from Evolved’s amazing community of creative individuals. I’m beyond thrilled to be working with editor Jessica West and cover artist/designer Kabir Shah. And if that’s not enough, in September, Evolved will release a newly edited, newly designed version of my other previously published book, Living by Ear. Then, over the winter, they’ll publish It Doesn’t Have To Be That Way, my newest novel. If you see me out and about today, please pinch me. I really do feel like I’m dreaming.

Here’s little more info about Leaving the Beach from its Amazon page:

“This is an outstanding novel… Erin is a perfectly flawed heroine.” ~ Semifinalist, 2017 BookLife Prize (10 out of 10 in All 5 Categories Judged)

Erin Reardon gets her first kiss from Jim Morrison and loses her virginity to David Bowie. When she flunks out of college, Bruce Springsteen comforts her, and Elvis Costello breaks her heart in Europe. So what happens when she finally meets a rock star in the flesh?

Erin’s a lonely misfit with an eating disorder and a wild imagination. She believes she was born to save—and love—at least one tortured musician, and is willing to risk almost everything to fulfill that destiny.

“…gracefully grapples with several important issues, including alcohol and drug addiction, loss, grief and sexuality… There are also many entertaining pop-culture references to offset the weighty themes… An intriguing novel that looks at the ways that people cope with the pain in their lives.” ~ Kirkus Reviews

So if you enjoy contemporary fiction and novels about regular people learning about life through lots of trial and error, please check out Leaving the Beach.

Thanks so much! And do stay tuned for news about readings and other events. I hope to get some dates on the calendar soon.






Posted in books, books about music, Leaving the Beach, life, new fiction, novel writing, publishing, read, reading, summer, summer reading, Uncategorized, women, women's fiction, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

What’s That Book? Leaving the Beach by Mary Rowen

Many, many thanks to book blogger extraordinaire, Book Club Mom, for this generous, thoughtful review of my novel, Leaving the Beach. I highly recommend checking out the Book Club Mom site if you’re looking for something new to read.

And while we’re on the topic, I’d like to announce that a brand new edition of Leaving the Beach will be published in early summer, 2019. Please stay tuned for additional news on that–and more–soon!

Book Club Mom

TitleLeaving the Beach

Author:  Mary Rowen

Genre: Fiction

Rating:  4 stars

What’s it about?  The story of Erin Reardon and her search for happiness. Told in the first person and set in the working class town of Winthrop, Massachusetts, readers get to know Erin in alternating time periods—in the 1970s and ‘80s as an awkward teenager and college student, and in the 1990s as a young adult. As a slightly overweight teenager, Erin struggles to fit in, but finds comfort in music, to the point of obsession, as she latches on to a string of rock stars, certain that they are the only ones who understand her: Jim Morrison, Freddie Mercury, David Bowie, Bruce Springsteen and the fictional grunge rocker, Lenny Weir, Erin’s main obsession. But Erin has major problems. Trouble at home and feelings of guilt and inadequacy lead to an eating disorder, alcohol…

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