Tag Archives: Memoir

I said launch, not lunch!

Fans of Bob Denver and Sid & Marty Krofft will certainly recognize the title of this post as a twist on the opening sequence of Far Out Space Nuts, a zany live-action Saturday morning ’70s sitcom featuring two NASA janitors accidentally sent into space.

Clear evidence that it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to write for television.

Or write a book for that matter.

It’s launch day for my latest memoir (you knew I was going somewhere, right?): Church Sweet Home: A Renovation to Warm the Soul is available at major booksellers worldwide.

CSH Book Front Cover Only

Back in 2017 when I was rarely writing anything here at Minnesota Transplant, I blogged everyday over at Church Sweet Home about turning an old church into a showplace home. That raw material became a book. If you’re looking for a true story about how a Minnesota native and a Bears fan turn a sow’s ear in southern Wisconsin into a silk purse, then you’ll love this book. Plus, it’s the perfect choice in the middle of a pandemic when you need to be reminded of how wonderful home can be. Here’s the official blurb:

After buying an old Methodist church to renovate into their home, a plucky fifty-something couple who gets excited by reclaimed wood and deals on Craigslist goes to work, undaunted by risks to their marital relationship, creaky bodies and bank account.

The 126-year-old structure has been stripped of pews, the altar, even the kitchen sink. The wiring is a Frankenstein mix of early 20th century knobs and tubes, copper wire and modern Romex. And the seller discloses the 40-foot bell tower is “rooted,” which the intrepid homebuyers Tyler and Monica take to mean as “rotted.” Friends wonder if there are bats in their belfry, literally and metaphorically, as the pair spends months juggling contractors of varying dependability, wandering around a thousand home improvement stores and sanding miles of wood floors, laboring to prove the doubters wrong.

Based on the real-time memoir Monica blogged by night, Church Sweet Home chronicles the amusing, exhausting and ultimately satisfying fixer-upper follies of turning a derelict community treasure into a dream home.

Given this strange COVID-19 world, I’m not having an in-person launch party. I’m throwing a virtual one! Join me for a Facebook Live book reading at my author page. One of the main characters (wink, wink) will be there, too, and we’ll be toasting with tequila (we’ll explain why, but if you had tacos for lunch because it’s Cinco de Mayo, why not tequila for happy hour?). Here are the details:

If the link doesn’t work, try searching for “MonicaLeeWriter” on Facebook to find my author page (go ahead and “like” it while you’re there).

And if you want to read the book, well you can get Church Sweet Home: A Renovation to Warm the Soul everywhere there’s wifi.

The paperback is $12.49 on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Prefer ebooks? You’re in luck. The ebook is $4.49 and available at Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble Nook and Kobo.

Travel Tuesday: Water, water everywhere (and a freebie, too!)

Whatever it is about waterfalls, they demand attention. Maybe it’s the racket, as noisy as they are. Maybe it’s the danger (nothing like a sheer rock face to put a little scare into one’s soul). But it’s probably the beauty. Waterfalls can be so pretty.

I’ve had the opportunity to see quite a number of lovely waterfalls in my travels around the country this year, and I thought I’d share a few today.

Yosemite valley

This is a long shot (because the view is that beautiful), but in the center of the photo you can see Bridalveil Fall in Yosemite National Park.

washington falls

We found this strange place hidden among miles and miles of grassy bluffs. Palouse Falls is the only major year-round waterfall remaining from the Ice Age floods that carved the landscape of southeastern Washington state thousands of years ago. The falls plunge nearly 200 feet over layers of exposed basalt that make up the Palouse River Canyon. Check out that eerie rock formation behind and to the left of the falls.

yellowstone falls

In a place like Yellowstone National Park, the falls are probably among the least interesting sights to see, but I caught a rainbow in the mist at the falls of the Yellowstone River.

Cascade Falls

The St. Croix River cutting between Wisconsin and Minnesota north of Stillwater is really quite beautiful. Cascade Falls in Osceola is breathtaking. I got to see these during a lingering Saturday afternoon drive earlier this summer. The hike to the bottom is worth it (and the steps back to the top are worth it, too, with a little ice cream at the top).


This is more of a fountain than a waterfall, but you take what you can get when you’re visiting central Wisconsin. I snapped this picture last weekend while I was was Fawn Creek Winery near the Wisconsin Dells. The fish in the pool at the bottom liked the liquid libations as much as I did.

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The Percussionist's WifeBefore Minnesota Wonderer was Minnesota Wonderer (or Minnesota Transplant for that matter), she was The Percussionist’s Wife. I tell the whole story–every sordid detail–in my memoir, which I published five years ago this week. To celebrate the milestone, the Kindle version of the book is free this week. Fans of memoir and true crime might agree with reviewers who’ve called it “remarkable,” “candid” and “compelling,” and more than one “couldn’t put it down”; “it reads like a thriller!” See for yourself. If you like Minnesota Wonderer, this is her origin story. Download it here for free until midnight Friday.

Interviewer turns interviewee

It’s funny when the world turns the tables on you.

For years, I asked the questions. I was a newspaper reporter for a small daily in Ohio, and I spent hours on the phone, in meetings and talking to people, and then I spent hours more turning the raw material into readable newspaper stories.

Final ecover rgb compressedEarlier this week, a reporter asked me questions. She was writing about my latest book, Truth, Dare, Double Dare, Promise or Repeat: On Finding the Meaning of “Like” in 1982.

It’s a story that’s been three and half decades in the making and took, oh, about five years to coalesce into something comprehensible, but you’ll love it if you’re a teenage girl or was one once. Do you remember your first French kiss? Did it change you? This book explores that moment for me.

Ooh, sounds interesting, right? Here’s the book blurb:

In a world before social networks made it a routine act performed with a click, “like” is a state of mystery and meaning among teenagers navigating the halls of Wadena Senior High School. Fifteen-year-old Monica is sure she would be happy if only she had boyfriend, but first she endures a litany of boys who think flirting is accomplished with insults and other shenanigans. After her first kiss, performed on a dare and described in the pages of Dear Diary as “the pits! Gross! Dirty!,” Monica learns the truth about French kissing from a charming outsider. Navigating relationships and learning the meaning of like—or love—is far trickier.

Set in a “hick town” on the windswept plains of Minnesota where a teenager’s social calendar is marked by basketball games, cafeteria dances and playing Pac-Man at the bowling alley arcade, Truth, Dare, Double Dare, Promise or Repeat: On Finding the Meaning of “Like” in 1982 examines the fateful year Monica devotes to reeling in a keeper of a boyfriend like so much walleye. With self-deprecating humor, authenticity and awkward details captured on the pages of the diaries Monica faithfully kept at the time, it’s a story that reminds us what it feels like to be a teenager again, grappling with timeless questions of desire, loyalty and remaining true to oneself.

This book is for every teenager trying to navigate the maze of finding true love, or at least true “like,” and for every woman who grew up in the ’80s who might have forgotten all she learned during those seemingly simpler times.

You’ll feel like you’re sneaking a peek at my diaries (no guilt!). Like my first memoir, subtitled with “sex, crime and betrayal,” there’s little about kissing, a little about a petty crime and a little bit of double-dealing, too.

Set in Wadena, Minnesota, as it is, the local paper took an interest. Reporter Meagan Pitellko chatted with me earlier this week, and the today made the front page of the Wadena Pioneer Journal today. Click here to have a peek. I was impressed that she turned what I thought was small-talk about the weather into the lead of the story.

This was the kind of table-turning I could appreciate.

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Interested in reading Truth, Dare, Double Dare, Promise or Repeat? The paperback is $11.95 and available here.

The Kindle edition is $3.95. If you’re a member of KindleUnlimited or Amazon Prime, it’s FREE! Click here.

Two books: One documents the history of a swamp, the other navigates a quagmire of grief

My favorite assignment in English composition in high school was writing compare-and-contrast papers.

(Only a writer would put “writing a paper” in a favorite things list.)

I like puzzles, and I enjoyed figuring how two pieces of writing were similar or different.

Today on Minnesota Transplant, we shall compare and contrast the two books I finished reading this week: “a book with more than 500 pages” and “a book you can finish in a day,” two check marks in my 2015 Reading Challenge by PopSugar.

The SwampIt took me about a month to read author Michael Grunwald’s The Swamp: The Everglades, Florida and the Politics of Paradise (if I’m being honest, the book has only 458 pages, and that includes 81 pages of footnotes I didn’t read, but this my challenge, and I’m rounding up, OK?). I picked it up because I spent a month in Chokoloskee, Florida, in the heart of the Everglades.

If you think Florida is overrun with traffic, people, gated communities and Mickey Mouse, spend a little time in Chokoloskee. It’s quiet, rugged and close to nature.

I’ll be honest with you: It was nice to visit but I wouldn’t want to live there.

Grunwald would probably be happy to hear that. His book is an impressively researched history of the Everglades beginning 300 million years ago and concluding with a complicated pact to “save the Everglades” in 2000 (with a few notes bringing readers up to date in 2006). His premise is that developers, Big Sugar, government and especially the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have ruined the Everglades, and that the River of Grass — the only place like it in the world — would be best preserved in a completely natural state.

Its natural state is a swamp, rife with bugs and crocodiles and perpetual flooding.

Listen, I appreciate birds and clean water as much as the next person, but I have to confess I’m also a fan of supermarkets and paved roadways. I like green spaces, but I guess I think groomed landscaping can be pretty, too.

I learned a lot about the ecology of this unique chunk of land, but the politics, backroom deals, big money and big egos described in the book were far more sickening to me than the loss of thousands of acres of crocodile breeding grounds. I came away from Grunwald’s tome thinking, “Is development so bad?”

Walking Through the ShadowsMeanwhile, I finished Karen Todd Scarpulla’s Walking Through the Shadows: The Year After while traveling from the heart of Florida to Alabama.

Scarpulla tells the story of a single year — the year after her ex-husband died — and how she, her teenage children and those around him coped with his passing. She picks up the pieces after spending a year caring for him as he dies of cancer so their son and daughter can get to know him better. Like the Everglades’ crocodiles and money-grubbing developers, Walking Through the Shadows has a few prickly characters and deceitful twists. Hers is a story of forgiveness and making the best of a bad situation (maybe some environmentalists mourning the death of the Everglades could take notes).

Like most memoirs, Walking Through the Shadows tells one person’s perspective, unlike The Swamp, which covers pretty much every angle. Because it reads more like a memoir, I’ll share a full review of Scarpulla’s book tomorrow on my writing blog.

Environmentalists and anyone who visits Florida (isn’t that pretty much all Americans?) would appreciate The Swamp while memoir fans and anyone caring for someone dying of cancer (unfortunately, that might be a lot of Americans, too) would benefit from Walking Through the Shadows. Bottomline, I liked both books because I learned something from each of them.

Today is someday: I’m an author

Young adult author Judy Bloom published a diary in the 1980s filled with lots of blank lines, quotes from her myriad books and question prompts. As a teenager, I filled four of these diaries with my darkest secrets and wishes.

My copy of The Judy Bloom Diary from 1984 is well-worn and filled with memorabilia.

In June 1984 when I was 17, among the highlights I remembered about June was  the book “A Perfect Stranger” by Danielle Steel.  “Very, very good,” I wrote. “I’d like to write as well.”

While I recall reading a lot of Danielle Steel’s novels, I don’t remember any of the details. A quick internet search sparks my memory: “A Perfect Stranger” is the story of a young woman married to an old man who meets and falls for a handsome acquaintance. The Amazon.com review describes it as the “classic duty-versus-love dilemma.”

One has to love romance novels to admire Danielle Steel, but her popularity indicates she’s doing something right despite an occasional review like “everything about this book is predictable and boring.”

I knew at 17 that writing was part of my DNA. And writers write books, of course.

Today, my 17-year-old self’s wish comes true: I’m a published author. “The Percussionist’s Wife: A Memoir of Sex, Crime & Betrayal” is available for sale.

It remains to be seen if I write as well as one the most popular romance novelists of all time, but my first book, a memoir, might be described as a “classic duty-versus-love dilemma,” too. Here’s the blurb:

“The Percussionist’s Wife” is the riveting story of a writer who marries a drummer. Talented and tortured, the drummer is caught in a compromising situation with one of his drum line students and is ultimately prosecuted for a sex crime. The complete account of the crime and the resulting collateral damage on their marriage are told here. “The Percussionist’s Wife” is a brave portrait of a flawed relationship and the irrevocable damage caused by infidelity.

I’m jumping out of my skin with excitement. When I was living the story, I had no idea how the universe would realign to turn a sow’s ear into a silk purse but it’s not every day one can say, “My dreams have come true.”

Thanks to my family and friends — especially my Beloved husband — who have encouraged me to write, to persevere and to put my story out there.

You can find “The Percussionist’s Wife” in paperback from Amazon for $16.95 and hardcover from Lulu for $32.95. If ebooks are your preferred method of enjoying a good book, you’ll find it on Kindle, Nook and Kobo (for iPad) for $9.95. Kindle versions of “The Percussionist’s Wife” are also available in English from Amazon in the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Spain, Italy and India.