Watertown Neighbors

There is a new local magazine just starting to make the rounds, called Watertown Neighbors. The publication brands itself as: “A community magazine serving the residents of Watertown.”


WT mag1


I recently had the chance to write a book review, which appears in the current issue.



In keeping with its community-oriented theme, I chose to review a book by local author Emma Tharp (actually the pen name of a prominent Watertown businesswoman). What About Her is a romance-mystery that focuses on the supposed death of college student Willow Peterson, her best Kate (who refuses to believe Willow is actually dead), and River McEwan, the young man who captures the hearts of both girls. It’s not the type of book I normally read (being a horror lover), but the ending was so shocking, I immediately bought the sequel, What About Us!

Published by Best Version Media, Watertown  Neighbors has a small circulation right now, and is mailed out to certain homes. Take a look at their Facebook page here:




As for Emma Tharp’s exciting novels, you can find them in The Reading Room Bookstore in Salmon Run Mall!








Every two or three years, the sickness hits me. My heart starts to feel heavy, my mind drifts off to a faraway place, my lungs cannot fill with adequate air. The walls seem to be drawing closer, and the ceiling lower, by fractions of millimeters each day, until I’m struck with an almost paralyzing fear that I’m living in a coffin. I run outside before the lid can slam shut. However, the air outdoors isn’t breathable; it is stagnant and suffocating. The faces I see are familiar. They have names attached to them that I should know, but just can’t seem to recall. They smile paper smiles and wave their mannequin hands at me, in gestures of false friendliness.


And I know I have to go.


The inevitable question people ask when I tell I’m going back home for a visit is: “Do you still have family out there?” The answer is “no.” I have zero family members back home, me being an only child, and my parents and grandparents being deceased. The asker will look confused when I tell them this, but I don’t bother to try to ease their confusion with an explanation. They’d never understand.


Home IS my family. My family IS my home.


When I set foot on the sidewalks of my childhood, my heart is filled with a euphoria that I thought I would never find again. Twenty years of disappointments, illness and loss disappear. My body feels young and strong. The whole world seems so much brighter, it hurts my eyes to look at it. My smile returns.




It doesn’t matter that strangers now live in the house where I grew up, while other unknown souls dwell in the houses that belonged to my neighbors. Or that only two of the ten shops on the quaint Main Street of my little town still bear the same names. My old school is much bigger, but those are the doors I walked through as a teenager! This is the curb where I stepped off the schoolbus! The same concrete under my feet.


The very air is different here; unlike any other in the world. There is no way to replicate the salt air smell that arises from the Bay and the Sound. It’s my favorite smell in the world. I swear, it has healing properties, like a vitamin. It soothes my soul, calms me to the core, and lulls me to sleep at night.




Look! The ice cream parlor is still there, where my father used to take me to get a sweet treat in a Dixie cup. And there is the theater, where I saw so many scary movies with my best friend. And the pizza parlor (with a different name now) where that same friend and I would argue over what songs to play on the jukebox. My dad and my old friend, are both gone from this world, but Home is still here. No matter how much it changes, I’ll always recognize it.


I’m not so sad when I must leave, to fly back to the Place Where I Now Live (I’ll never call it “home”). I’ve dusted off old memories so that they shine like new, and taken countless snapshots of the scenery with the camera of my eyes. I’ve collected so much joy that I have an abundant supply of bliss, which I can eke out in small doses over the next couple of years. Just enough to keep me going…


Until it is time to go Home again.



sienna beach


“Homesickness is nothing. Fifty percent of the people in the world are homesick all the time.” ~John Cheever

Go on Living

I’ve been going through boxes of family mementos, unearthing a hodgepodge of my own memories, and mysterious, black and white photographs from long before I was born.

One item I found caught me by surprise. It was a poem I had written long ago. I haven’t thought of it in years. Although there were no notations, including a date, I remembered exactly when I wrote it, and who it was about.

In the summer of 2001, a dear friend of mine took his own life. We used to write songs together and record them. He was a brilliant musician & recording engineer, and a dear friend. I loved him. I’d harbored hopes that someday he and I might be more than friends.  Unfortunately, his demons stole him from this world.

I’ve edited the original poem. I’m sure there are many of you who can apply it to someone dear in your life.


sunrise sihouette


Go On Living ©2001 Holly Cordova

It was a shock to lose you

No one was prepared

You were everything to everyone

Then suddenly… not there

In my broken heart

I know you haven’t died

For as long as my heart’s beating

You’ll always be alive

I’m reminded of your smile

When the sun is shining bright

And I think about your eyes

When I see the stars at night

You live on in my conscience

I clearly hear your voice

Giving clarity and guidance

So I make the wisest choice

Since you left this world

Each day I take the time

To count blessings, and not worries

And cherish all that’s mine

Although the words “I love you”

Weren’t often said aloud

I know you did, and so I’ll live

In a way to make you proud

I know that you are happy

In a Paradise above

While here, you go on living

In the hearts of all you loved



2017 Reading Challenge, Part 4

I’m still plowing ahead with my promise to read at least 4 books per month throughout 2017… and I’m also trying to expand my horizons, so to speak, by reading some books outside my normal, favorite genres. Here’s a run-down on what I read in April.


The Awakening and the Selected Short Stories– Kate Chopin



Kate Chopin was the author of two novels and approximately 100 short stories, which were originally published in the 1890s. She wrote mostly about race relations in the south, just a few decades after the Civil War. Many of her stories featured independent, free-thinking women protagonists, who questioned societal norms and challenged traditional female roles. At the time, Chopin’s work was considered controversial, even “vulgar.” In particular, critics singled out her novel, “The Awakening,” which was even banned at one point. It was not until five decades after her death, that Kate Chopin’s works were rediscovered by a new generation and praised for their strong feminist viewpoints. Chopin was merely a woman way ahead of her time. Read one of her most powerful short stories, Desiree’s Baby, by clicking on the link.


If Loving You is Wrong– Gregg Olsen

loving you

How funny that I was preparing to write this report, only to wake up to the news that Mary Kay Letourneau and Vili Fualaau have separated after twelve years of marriage. Names don’t ring a bell? Guess you weren’t around in 1997, when the couple made nationwide headlines with their controversial affair. What was the big deal? Well, Mary Kay was married with four children at the time, and Vili was 12 years old. 34-year-old Mary was his teacher. She went to prison twice for her involvement with the manchild and bore him two daughters… the second being born while her mother was incarcerated. A very interesting True Crime read, which delves deep into Mary Kay’s psyche, taking a look back at her childhood and how it may have shaped the desperate woman she became.


Breaking Point- Suzy Spencer


Yes, so I went on a True Crime spree in April… reading-wise, I mean! For those of you who don’t know, I work in a bookstore. A customer purchased this book, and it sparked my interest, as I remember the news story very well. We had another copy in stock, so I was able to read the whole, shocking thing. It is not a book that you should read all at once; it’s barely digestible in small doses. It covers the horrific crime committed by Andrea Yates in 2001. In a fit of post-partum psychosis (or just plain psychosis, maybe), Yates drowned her five children, aged six months through seven years old, in a bathtub. At times I wanted to throw the book against a wall, or abandon it entirely. The portion of this book covering the murder trial is rather tedious. An intriguing read for those interested in abnormal psychology, but too unsettling for most.


The Wicked Girls– Alex Marwood


This was a re-read for me. Don’t want my old books to lay neglected, taking up space, after having only been read once! This British thriller centers on Bel and Jade, both eleven years old when they meet for the first and only time during their childhood. On that fateful day, the “wicked girls” accidentally kill a 4-year-old child left in their care. Both are sent to separate juvenile detention facilities, given new identities, and ordered never to see or contact one another again. Fast-forward twenty-five years. The child-killers, now known as Amber and Kirsty, are grown women living normal (although drastically different) lives. It’s purely by accident that they meet again… Kirsty is a journalist covering a string of murders in the area, and one victim happened to be slain in the amusement park where Amber works. Naturally, with all the media attention, someone is bound to recognize one of the women as the “wicked girl” who killed an innocent child so long ago, and now both Amber’s and Kirsty’s lives are in danger. Highly recommended for its fast-paced thrills, and unpredictable ending!


The Good, Good Pig: The Extraordinary Life of Christopher Hogwood – Sy Montgomery

good pig


I don’t normally gravitate towards animal stories (unless they’re about cats), but a Facebook friend made a post asking if anyone wanted to borrow and read this book. Never one to pass up the opportunity for a good (free!) read, I said “sure.” The premise is simple: It’s a true story, about a runt of a piglet who was adopted by a loving family (the author and her husband) and he grew up to be an enormous hog (750 lbs, to be exact)  with an even larger fan following. This was pre-internet, mind you, so Christopher Hogwood never rose to Grumpy Cat heights. He was, however, featured in national publications, such as USA Today and on National Public Radio. Readers will enjoy tales about the pig’s comical antics, as well as heartwarming stories of friendship and humanity. It’s amazing that a pig could bring so many people together. Many lifelong bonds were formed, thanks to Chris.

That sums up my literary adventures for April. I went a little crazy in May… We’ll talk about it in a future post!

Mom: A Mother’s Day Lament

Mom ©2017 Holly E. Gaskin


You hated having your picture taken.

I guess that explains why there are only three photographs of us together when I was a baby. One, when I was in your tummy, just days before entering the world.

mom preggers

Mom and me (in utero) in late 1971 or January ’72. I made my debut on 1/31/72

A second picture was snapped when I was just a few days old, snugly wrapped in your bathrobe-clad arms.

newbie me

Seattle Washington, 1972. Check out my full head of hair!


And a third, when I was 16-or-18-months old. I was dressed in a bright red jacket with a pointy hood, and you looked beautiful, all made up and donning your best wig.


Greenport, NY, near the locally famous “67 Steps” that lead down to the beach

Looking through the photo album of me growing up, a stranger might assume that you died shortly thereafter that picture was taken. Because you never appeared with me in another photograph until my wedding day, some 31 years later.

I understand now that you were ashamed of yourself, and that makes me sad. I realize that you were a prisoner in a morbidly obese body that so humiliated you, that you chose to lock yourself in your bedroom and hide whenever I had friends over. You wouldn’t meet my friends’ mothers, because you compared yourself to them and you were embarrassed. I guess that’s the same reason you would drop me off at church, but never set foot inside yourself. Instead of engaging with me as a parent, you chose to lose yourself in an alternative world. Namely, the ABC soap opera lineup, and piles of tabloids, like the Star, Globe, and National Enquirer.


Even though I was smiling in most of my childhood photos, I was extremely lonely. I was an only child, one with few friends, with an absentee father, and a stepfather whom I feared. You didn’t care. You merely cooked for me, but you nourished yourself and fed your feelings with Suzy Q’s, potato chips, and (once, when you were really drunk), raw hotdogs. Day after day, you were curled up on the sofa, dressed in your nightgown and bathrobe in the middle of the afternoon, watching All My Children and One Life to Live. I’d try to cuddle up next to you, and you LITERALLY  pushed me away.


hey there lonely girl

Hey There, Lonely Girl… 1982 or ’83. A candid shot probably snapped by my teacher.


By that time (I was about 10 years old), I was writing in a diary, and creating my own stories, plays and poems. But never once did I write about the way you treated me, or how it hurt. At that young age, I did not yet have the words to express such a profound, deep despair.


When I got to be a teenager, I suffered the exact opposite affliction as you; I became anorexic. Eventually, I got down to 68 pounds. I was in a hospital in Amityville for four months. You acted like it was a chore to come see me every weekend. Even my counselor confronted you, asking: “How come you never ask about Holly’s treatment plan, and what we’re doing for her here? Do you think we’re working magic to make her better?” You just shrugged and blushed, an imbecilic expression on your face. I felt humiliated and resentful. After all… You LET me get down to 68 pounds!!!! It was only when a dermatologist I saw became alarmed at my skeletal appearance, and insisted that I be admitted to a hospital, that action was taken. Otherwise, I would likely have died. 


Years later, I moved 400 miles away to Watertown, NY. After we’d spent a couple of years apart, you moved up here to escape the high cost of living on Long Island. You got into real estate, buying several rental properties. I couldn’t help but notice there was something different about you. You were less shy, more carefree, funnier. You made bold decisions (like buying the income properties) that you never would have done before. You made new friends, especially with Gloria, your gambling buddy. One day I looked at you closely and noticed that one corner of your mouth drooped a little. When I asked you about it, you reluctantly admitted that you “might have had an incident…” A what?  “Maybe a mini-stroke,” you said, and changed the subject.


While that alleged mini-stroke did not cause any permanent physical damage, it changed you… for the better. It switched off that part of your brain that caused you to be painfully shy, soft-spoken, and submissive. For the first time in your life, you had spunk and confidence. I really, really loved the New You! For the first time in our lives, we were Friends. In May of 2004, looking glamorous in a royal blue pantsuit, you gave me away at my wedding.


mom and me wedding day

Here comes the bride, Mom at her side.


I wish I’d been able to spend more time with that fun-loving stranger who gave birth to me, way back in 1972. We enjoyed some cool casino trips and concerts together, and family gatherings with my then-husband and his folks. But, Fate being the cruel monster that she is, robbed you from me in one, heartbreaking instant. A car accident, two weeks before Christmas… and also two weeks after we had our final photograph together.


Me and Mom

Thanksgiving, 2006, Adams Center, NY

I love and miss you, Mom. But I’m still angry. Angry at you for taking more than thirty years to be the Mother I’d always needed. Angry at God for taking you away without warning. And angry at myself, for not being able to just “let it go.”


Happy Mother’s Day, Mom…. wherever you are.


Mom's Grave



I guess I’m just not tech-savvy enough to be a writer in today’s world. I tried creating a “secret page” on my website. I then posted links on my social media accounts. The idea was to draw readers to the secret page on my website. They’d then be able to click on Door #1 or Door #2 to access a short story. If the experiment went well, I was planning on adding more doors, and more stories. But apparently, the link either led to the wrong page, or the doors didn’t lead to the stories they were supposed to. So… I might just post direct links to the stories here. Soon. Meanwhile, here are some artists’ interpretations of three of my shorts. Stay tuned, folks!


three stories

2017 Reading Challenge, Part 3

I am still keeping my promise to read at least 4 books a month… I’m just a month behind in posting them. So, without further ado, here are the books I read in March.

My Sister’s Keeper– Jodi Picoult


Since Picoult’s novel Great Small Things was my favorite book of 2016, I decided to delve into the author’s vault and check out one of her earlier works. This 2004 novel revolves around Anna, a 13-year-old girl who was conceived for the sole purpose of keeping her sister Kate alive. Kate has leukemia, and Anna is a perfect match for a blood and marrow donor. Nevertheless, Kate keeps relapsing. When Anna is told that she must donate a kidney to save her sister’s life, she puts her foot down. In fact, she goes and gets herself a lawyer to prevent her parents from forcing her to donate her kidney. A very emotional and dramatic story, with a hugely unexpected ending.

Misbegotten Son: A Serial Killer and His Victims– Jack Olsen


I didn’t grow up in Watertown, NY, where I live now, so I’d never heard of Arthur Apparently, he was quite a well-known figure up here. Shawcross murdered two children in 1972. He was only convicted on one murder charge, due to a plea bargain. Sentenced to 25 years in prison, Shawcross was released after spending just 12 years behind bars. He then embarked on a prostitute killing spree in Rochester. He killed a dozen women before he was arrested, and spent the rest of his life in prison.
This book is particularly grisly, even for fans of the True Crime genre, due to its descriptions of what he did with the bodies of some of his victims, and also because of shocking claims Shawcross made about torturing and killing women while fighting in the Vietnam war. However, the book is also an interesting psychological study. Is a killer “made” or born? According to those who knew “Artie” when he was a kid, the boy was never quite right.  

Lincoln in the Bardo– George Saunders


This historical fiction book recently (albeit briefly) made the New York Times Bestsellers list. It tells the sad story of the death of President Abraham Lincoln’s son, Willie, who passed away at age 11 from typhoid fever. The elder Lincoln is devastated, and makes nocturnal visits to the boy’s crypt to hold his son’s lifeless body. (I thought that Saunders made this up for the book, but it turns out that newspapers of the day [1862] actually DID report that the president had been seen entering Willie’s crypt on several occasions!)

“Bardo” is a Tibetan term that can be loosely translated as a sort of Purgatory, where lost souls dwell between life and Heaven or rebirth. This is where poor Willie winds up, not realizing he is dead. He meets quite a scary cast of characters who are in similar predicaments, many of whom, in the author’s words, are “disfigured by desires they failed to act upon while alive.” Sounds depressing, but it’s more heart-wrenching and thought-provoking. 

Dolores Claiborne– Stephen King


I read it a long, long time ago– probably shortly after it came out in 1992. And since I re-read Misery in February (Kathy Bates starred in the movie versions of both books), I decided to give this one another go as well.

This novel is written in a very unique style. The entire book is the testimony Dolores Claiborne gives to police when she is arrested in the suspicious death of the ultra-wealthy Vera Donovan. It basically reads as a monologue, in the sarcastic, blunt, Maine vernacular of Dolores. She insists that she didn’t kill Vera, for whom she was a housekeeper and caretaker for decades. However, there IS something she wants to get off her chest: 30 years ago, she killed her no-good husband. And with good reason.

This is not one of my favorite Stephen King books, as it’s not really a horror story. It’s more of a psychological roller coaster ride… one that sometimes gets stuck, mid-loop. Dolores’s sense of humor saves the book from being completely tedious. 

Stay tuned to my blog for a link to some exclusive original content (very scary short stories) coming soon!

Happy Birthday, Dad.

Happy 77th birthday to my Dad, Adolph Robert Cordova, Jr.  We spent more years apart than together. There’s no making up for that much lost time, especially taking into consideration his Alzheimer’s/ Dementia/ Paranoid Schizophrenia. Also, the physical distance between us. I hope they did something nice for him in his nursing home in Brookline, Massachusetts. A slice of cake, a scoop of ice cream, a “Happy Birthday” serenade. Last visit was so painful. He thought that I was 15 and that he was 58. Dream on, if it makes you happy. I wish my father peace of mind and the realization that he has family that loves him, even though we can’t be there physically to keep him company (most of his family is far out west, in Wyoming and Utah). I send him cards and letters, plus cookies on holidays. I never hear a word back. I pray for him silently, privately, constantly.

I love you, Dad.


Happy Birthday Dad

Month #2 of Reading Challenge

I  don’t want my readers to think that I have abandoned my self-imposed challenge to read at least 4 books a month throughout 2017. I posted a pretty extensive report of the books I read in January. I don’t have the time or energy to post as detailed a commentary on the books I’ve read in February and March, but here is Part 1 of my two-month lapse. Thanks for your patience!

  1. Hearts in Suspension, by Jim Bishop with Stephen King This was a birthday gift from my bookstore boss. I was surprised and delighted to receive it… and doubtful as to whether I’d like it or not. I’d heard that it was comprised mostly of essays by old friends and teachers who knew Stephen during his days at the University of Maine. I thought the book would be of regional and scholarly interest, for a very limited audience. Fortunately, I was wrong. The thick tome not only contains essays by Steve’s college professors and buddies, but a lot of words from King himself, as well as his novella Hearts in Atlantis, in its entirety. It made me feel as though I’d lived through the tumultuous 1960s myself!

King Cover 2.jpg


2.  Misery, by Stephen King  Most of us have seen the movie with Kathy Bates and James Caan. If you found the movie terrifying, but have not read the book, be prepared to be even more horrified, chilled, repulsed and even traumatized by the novel. NO movie can ever capture the intricacies and grisly details of any of King’s original books.. especially since so much of the text is (literally and figuratively) mental.



3. The Buffalo Blizzard of 1977, by Timothy W. Kneeland, A local history book, mostly photographs, but also full of of fascinating historical facts about the world-stopping upstate NY snowstorm of 1977. The title is misleading, as the book also mentions other areas affected by the storm, including my home city of Watertown.

Feb reads


4. Annie Oakley Comes to Watertown, by Garmon Lord This one falls loosely into the “historical fiction” category, as it’s 95% a true story about the sharp-shooting legend and the time she really, truly brought her awesome skills to the eager Watertown masses (WOW!). Lord takes the liberty of including an endearing short , fictional story about his Grandma as a young girl meeting Annie and even having breakfast with her idol. The story is so convincing that it wasn’t until I read the disclaimer at the end of the book that I was able to separate truth from fiction.

(Both of the books mentioned above were found in the “Local Authors” section of the bookstore where I work.)

5. Unraveling Anne, by Laurel Saville  I had never heard of Anne Ford or Lauren Saville before when I picked up this book I found l found lying on a bookstore shelf. Anne was a model, beauty queen and fashion designer in the wild & free 1960s. Daughter Laurel paints a devastating, heartbreaking picture of what it was like growing up among eccentric adults, more than children her own age, with a mother who seemingly disapproved of her and was unable to provide compassion and love. As an adult, Laurel set out to find the truth about her mother’s life and sordid death.


6. Right Behind You, by Lisa Gardner, A disturbing tale of a long-separated sister and brother, Sharlah and Telly Ray Nash, torn apart by the murder of their parents eight years ago… at the hands of Telly. They haven’t seen each other in all that time. Now, just when Sharlah is in the process of being adopted by an ex-FBI profiler and his wife, more murders start happening, and Telly is a suspect once again.

lisa g


Sarah, Plain and Tall, by Patricia MacLachlan, Simply, this was a children’s book I never read as a child, but always meant to. Sweet, quaint, and reminiscent of Laura Ingalls Wilder.


Take Two

I think readers would be surprised to learn that many authors don’t read their own books once they finish writing them. I’m one of those authors. My reason is, I’m always moving on to the Next Big Idea.

However, there’s always exceptions. Since I made the decision to add new chapters to my 2011 book, Finding My Father, I kind of had no choice. And I am cringing through every chapter. I guess I’ve become a better writer (or proofreader, at least) over the past five years. I see a lot of poor sentence structure throughout the book, and just things I could have said better.

So, in short, the new version of Finding My Father will not only contain all-new chapters, but the original text will be improved!

I can’t say I’m bubbling over with excitement, given the sadness of the topic, but I will be personally satisfied and proud when I’ve completed this project.

This one’s for you, Dad.


Dad and I in 2009