Tag Archive | These Foolish Things

Character Study: Millie Wentworth

This is the fourth post in a series that examines the stories behind the characters in “These Foolish Things’, such as their back story and the inspiration for them.

This will be, by far, the hardest post to write. Second hardest comes next.

Millicent Wentworth (Millie) is Liz Gardner’s best friend. They’ve known each other since college, played their school’s softball team, have had each other’s backs for years. Basically, Millie is the sister Liz never had. While Liz went into an office job straight out of college, Millie continued her education, graduating from law school and working on patents. Liz was studying humanities while Millie studied mathematics and computer science. Millie has no problem telling Liz when she’s acting like an ass, but she’d take a baseball bat to anyone else who went after her friend because she knows that Liz will do the same without question. Loyalty, determination, and a warm heart are what characterize Millie. One of her favorite expressions is “Good friends help you move. Best friends help you move bodies.” Angie DinNardo accepts Millie as one of “her kids” and by extension, Milkie’s boyfriend, John Reynolds, an assistant prosecutor. This means they both get hugs and head snacks from the DiNardo matriarch.

If “These Foolish Things” had been made into a movie in the 1940s, this would be Millie:


In the 1990s:




(I love Rosie?. Her “Heartfelt Special” that just started airing on HBO is vintage Rosie O’Donnell standup. She lost her mom to breast cancer and her involvement in fund-raising is part of the reason I got involved. If you don’t like her, oh well)

Currently, who would I cast? No freaking clue.

Millie is based on Nancy Kurrelmeyer. She was my soul sister (she had a sister of her own, I have two sisters). This is the two of us at UVM’s Oktoberfest in 1979:


(The only time in my life I’ve ever been described as whooping it up with a cow. The caption is backwards; Kurly had the full-on clown costume. I talked her into doing this)

Kurly studied mathematics at UVM and earned a Masters from Ohio State. She was smarter than I am, knowing enough to get into computer science after graduating. She came from a family of scientific minds; her grandparents were physicists and her dad was a highly successful attorney (and called me his “Deputy Daughter.” She was an honorary member of my family, too. She was tech support for my mom and felt at home quarreling with my sisters. She was an invited guest for the landmark birthday and anniversary parties)

Millie’s love of hiking in the White Mountains is pure Kurly. They were her playground. By the way, she approved of Millie (but I made a mistake in naming Millie’s man John. She didn’t care for the name, but she liked the character). We did drive over the border into Canada a couple of times to get Brador beer at the duty free shop. Back in the day at UVM, when the legal drinking age in Vermont was 18 (which was a draw for the out of state party hearty students), Brador runs were a regular occurrence. We were continuing the tradition.

Kurly was also a writer. She wrote some truly haunting poetry and a series of spy novels (which is where I got the idea she liked the name John). As I wrote “These Foolish Things,” she held my feet to the fire to finish the story, reading sections as I finished them and essentially editing on the fly for me. I did the same for her and her books.

Where Millie was a champion softball pitcher, Kurly was a golfer. She used me as a hundred yard marker more than once. And she did offer to take a 9 iron to various people on my behalf. That’s what friends are for. At the same time, our conversations with each other had a pretty high “Fuck you” content (said affectionately). On the other hand, each other’s triumphs were celebrated with “AWRIGHT!!!”

When I was in New Hampshire for law school, I gave her a key to my house and I could come home from school to see her car in the parking lot, her shoes by the front door, her stocking feet on my coffee table and “The Peacemaker” on my VCR.

We walked together in the annual Making Strides Against Breast Cancer  5 mile walk in Boston. The first year, she pushed me in a wheelchair because I had managed to sprain my foot pretty badly the week before. The last time we did the walk together, she pledged $100 per mile if I didn’t say a word the entire time.

And now we come to why this particular post is so difficult.

In early 2002, shortly before I moved from New Hampshire to California, Kurly was diagnosed with breast cancer. The surgery to remove lymph nodes was successful and she underwent treatment. Usually, if I called her, I got voicemail. On. January 31, 2003, she picked up the phone. We talked for a couple of hours about all the stuff we loved and everyone else considered weird or odd (“Fuck them”).

February 1, 2003. I can still hear her sister’s voice on the phone saying, “Sue, um, Nancy died this morning.”

A day hasn’t gone by that I haven’t missed her. As is only right and proper, “These Foolish Things” was dedicated to her memory. And she will live on in Millie Wentworth.








Character Study: Angie DiNardo

This is the third in a series of posts exploring the roots of the characters in my books These Foolish Things” and “At Last.” Today, we examine the adoptive mother of Liz Gardner, Angela DiNardo.

I conceived of Angie as the heart of the family next door to Liz. Angie has no daughters of her own and she was warm and welcoming to Liz whose own mother was a disappointed and difficult woman.

My writing method , if it is such a thing, is to watch a movie in my head and then write it out. You need actors in a movie and my starting point for Angie was Anne Bancroft.


Anne was stunning as a young woman and all age did to her was add a few lines and changed her hair color. Onscreen, she displayed charm, intelligence, could show compassion or ruthlessness, and humor. It was indeed a great loss when she passed.

Angie’s son, Joey DiNardo, is a lifelong friend of Liz’s. I never really decided on an origin story for Angie beyond a vague idea of her coming from East Boston. I worked for Fidelity Investments for years and encountered a number of Italian ladies from East Boston. Some were co-workers, some were bosses. My supervisors could act motherly when needed and while actually hitting us wasn’t permitted, we’d hear things (said affectionately) ” I swear to God, if you do this again, I’m gonna knock you out.” I got called a. dumb shit” a few times (not professional, but I didn’t care). I learned how to make calzones (not the enclosed pizza, but a version of various deli meats and cheeses rolled in a pizza dough and baked. I was assured it was a genuine calzone. I don’t think Palmi Ciulla would have lied to me), how to summon St. Anthony, and that they had our backs in Customer Service. I am forever grateful to these women.

As Liz grew up, she’d frequently be at the DiNardo house. No one in the house criticized her for being overweight, awkward around boys, or any of the other constant nitpicking that Liz’s mother would subject her to. Angie just accepted and loved Liz.

Angie will kiss, scold, or smack her “kids” (which also includes Liz’s best friend, Millie Wentworth and her boyfriend, John Reynolds) upside the head. She does not like profane or vulgar language and seems to have superhuman hearing. She can hear a “Bullshit” or “damn” in the next room, even if quietly spoken.

Angie and her husband, Vinnie, run a small ristorante in Hyannis. Vinnie and their younger son, Tony, work out front and Angie mans the kitchen. Liz spent a lot of summers in that kitchen learning cooking from Angie. As an adult, Liz will go down to the Cape for a weekend and help out again. Vincenzo’s is a well-regarded local establishment. Just don’t ask for ketchup for your risotto,

Since the DiNardos regard Liz as their own daughter, they are wary of Ty Hadley and his intentions towards “their girl.” Knowing the heartaches Liz has experienced, Angie is especially protective. She makes it clear to Ty that if he hurts Liz, she will come after him without a second thought. She has access to big knives.

Angie herself has experienced turmoil and heartache in her own life. She is a recovering alcoholic, as is her son Joe. I would reveal more, but that’s material for more stories.

Every author plays the “Cast the movie” game. With the passing of Ms. Bancroft, and the passage of time since I originally wrote the book (in 2013, I split the original manuscript into 2 separate stories), I’ve played this game myself and come up with possibilities to play Angie:

Why not? I can see Cher doing this.

Or Rita Moreno


Or the Divine One


In the end, what I tried to create in Angie DiNardo was a woman who I would want to have in my family, a source of compassion, love, and strength.

Character Study: Ty Hadley

I am dedicating a series of blog posts to the main characters of my novels “These Foolish Things” and “At Last.” Today’s focus is our leading man, Tyrone Hadley.

Cards on the table: the physical description of Tyrone Hadley (did I give him a middle name? I don’t think so) begins with one George Clooney.


WHEN there is a movie, version, I think he’s got a little too much snow on the roof, but back in 2000, he was fine by me.

Yup. That’s me.
The Tyrone came from a remark his aunt, Rosemary Clooney, made the first time People made him Sexiest Man Alive. I think she said, “Who knew he was going to grow up to be Tyrone Power?”

People have been naming their kids after their favorite celebrities, so why not have Ty’s mother name him after her favorite movie star?

Casting now (unless Clooney dies his hair):

Michael Fassbender

Hugh Jackman

Henry Cavill.
(Two X Men and Superman. Time to lay off the superhero movies)

I wanted to create a love story that I could see myself living. The characters had to be engaging, had to be flawed in ways, but realistic. Granted, maybe not people you’d meet everyday, but not impossible to find.

I also mentioned in yesterday’s post that I’d read “Gone With the Wind,” “Pride and Prejudice,” “Jane Eyre,” and “Wuthering Heights.” Besides concluding that the Brontes were nuts, the men in these books impressed me with their intelligence, passion, and strength (they had the rich and handsome thing going, too) However, all four had one thing in common:
Rhett Butler: asshole (but one you could count on). There was kindness and generosity in him, but he was sharp enough to see his way to turning a profit out of the Civil War and did so without compunction.
Fitzwilliam Darcy: asshole (but he gets off his high horse after encountering Lizzie Bennett. There’s some dumbass out there trying to link Christian Grey to Mr. Darcy. Oh, HELL NO). “Maybe it’s that I find it hard to forgive the follies or vices of others or their offenses against me. My good opinion, once lost, is gone forever.” Oh yeah, let’s party with this guy,
Edward Rochester: bigamist asshole. Yes, he got saddled with a mentally ill wife, but in his own words, he “meant to be a bigamist” when his wedding to Jane was stopped. Of course, he paid for it in the end after said lunatic wife burned down the house (she died, so he could marry Jane without being a bigamist)
Heathcliff: asshole, and a scary vengeful one at that. I never really like him, but then, the Brontes had some screws loose.

I digress, but these fictional men have held up as romantic ideals since their stories were published.

“As Good As It Gets” came out in 1997 and Jack Nicholson’s character (a romance novel author. And asshole) had the most memorable line,”You make me want to be a better man” it’s a good line. And that’s what I wanted; a couple who,brought out the best in each other.

Ty Hadley is a driven successful man in his early forties. He had a tough childhood because his father was a driven workaholic stockbroker who neglected his family in favor of his career, he would try to buy forgiveness from Ty’s mom by buying her expensive gifts, but she left him (and Ty) when Ty was in his teens. His father remained bitter about it the rest of his life, which wasn’t long. Mr. Hadley died the day Ty graduated from high school.

Ty is an attorney specializing in class action cases. He’s at the top of his game and as much of a workaholic as his old man was. There is an obnoxious saying in the legal community, “the law is a jealous mistress.” While graduates of the top law schools can step into six figure jobs right away, they’re spending upwards of 90 hours per week to earn it.

His job is his life and has been. He doesn’t have relationships because he doesn’t want the time and energy drain he believes them to be. The women in his life are bed mates for when he needs them, he doesn’t have any real friendships; just the younger, hungrier attorneys at his firm who see him as a role model and the king to be pushed off the hill. Ty spends his time fighting like hell to stay on top of that hill. And he succeeds, but at a greats cost.

I am a lawyer (non-practicing). Substance abuse, including alcohol, is prevalent in the legal community. I could see that some of my classmates had a head start on alcoholism while we were in school. There is alcoholism on both sides of my family tree. I know what it’s like to live your life walking on eggshells. Like I said yesterday, this is something I can describe.

The stereotype for a love story is one of rescue. However, it’s not always the woman who needs to be rescued…or the man who does the rescuing.

Character Study: Liz Gardner

If you’re reading this blog, you should be aware that the title, “These Foolish Things,” is the title of my first published novel. Part of the function of this blog is shameless self-promotion for said book and its sequel, “At Last.” ( I like old classic songs. Deal with it). And, well, any other books coming down the pike. I have a small fan base (I would like to say rabid, but they are, for the most part, very polite. Unless you smack talk a Boston team). I am thinking that perhaps, if you should be reading this blog, I may be able to pique your interest in my books by talking more in depth about the characters, the inspiration behind things. If not, I practice my writing, I have something appropriate for the Twitter co-promotion group I belong to, and I’m no worse off than I was before I typed this.

Let’s start with our heroine, Elizabeth Gardner.

A local blogger/reviewer (Deliza’s Dirty Dramas review)) has suggested that Liz should be played by Laura Linney in a movie.


When I wrote the book back in 2001, I was thinking more Julianne Moore:


Or Cate Blanchett:


A little background (and I’m probably repeating myself): in my teens, I read Harlequin Romances and Barbara Cartland and Regency romances until they came out my ears. They were all the impossibly gorgeous heroines, handsome, dashing, wealthy heroes there to rescue them. Or whatever. (with the historic novels, I was more interested in the descriptions of dresses, which, if you saw me and heard what some folks have to say about my wardrobe, is kind of a head-scratcher. I read Vogue, but don’t have the body or budget for the wardrobe. And stilettos are out. My right knee and frequent ankle twists say so).

As I got older, I read “Gone With the Wind,” “Jane Eyre,” “Wuthering Heights,” and “Pride and Prejudice.” My idea of ideals changed. While the heroes of these books were take charge kind of guys, the heroines weren’t sitting around waiting to be rescued, even if they were in trouble, I liked that. And the stars of these classics were not perfect. (Physically attractive, but the emphasis was on their internals: passion, intelligence, courage. The things that don’t fade)

Jump forward to 2000: I’m no longer a twenty something who thinks her life is going to be fantastic and is relatively pretty.


That was me at 20. Relatively pretty.

At 39, I was heavier, had been through a lot of life, and was no longer confident that I would find a significant other. I had had friends tell me that they had family members fall in love and marry for the first time in their forties. I didn’t see those stories being shown in the media. I didn’t see women like me; older, wiser, more self-possessed who were capable of rescuing themselves, if necessary.

I was also telling myself that if I wanted to be a best selling author, I needed to actually, I don’t know, write something.

Enter Elizabeth Gardner. The last name (as stated in previous posts) came from a town in Massachusetts.. Elizabeth? I like the name. I’m a British history buff and a fan of Queen Elizabeth I. I like the name and it’s variations (Isabelle, Isabella, Betsy, Beth). Was I thinking of Elizabeth Bennett? Perhaps on a subconscious level. Her middle name is Duer and for the life of me, I cannot remember where that came from. Sorry.

Liz is NOT me. I gave her some of my physical characteristics (blonde hair, blue eyes. I like having blonde hair and blue eyes). She’s nowhere near as heavy as I am. I wanted someone who wasn’t a heart-stopping lay gorgeous specimen and someone who was more of an undiscovered jewel. I wanted her to have the determination, wit, and heart of my heroines from the classics.

I gave her some of my life experiences because I remembered them well enough to describe them (strained relationship with parents, struggling with the bar exam, no real love life, but hopeful while being wary). I was a decent batter for my company softball team. After freshman year of high school, I have never been part of an athletic team; I gave up on myself in Algebra, my GPA was below the school’s minimum for extra-cirricular activities, so…

As for breast cancer: from 1997 to 2006, I did some pretty good fund raising for Making Strides Against Breast Cancer (American Cancer Society), the Massachusetts chapter. I raised somewhere in the neighborhood of $10,000 all told.

Liz is a breast cancer survivor. I am not. I have friends who have gone through the disease at various ages, including as young as thirty, and have had treatments ranging from chemo taking care of everything to mastectomy + chemo + years of terror waiting for it to come back.

I wanted to create a heroine with whom women “of a certain age” could identify. Someone whom a reader would want as a friend or co-worker.

There are fashions and trends in romance literature: vampires yielded to kinky billionaires who have now yielded to time travel (“Outlander’s” success has spawned imitators) and motorcycle gangs (“Sons of Anarchy has inspired a lot of of fan fiction). Not passing judgment on the writing. They’re all escapist in that the average reader is unlikely to encounter those kinds of characters.

Who knows? If enough folks like Liz, maybe I’ll start a new trend.