Sunday, December 22, 2013

6th, 5th, 4th, 3rd, 2nd, 1st Book of Christmas

6.) The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry 5.) The Dinner 4.) After Visiting Friends 3.) The Woman Upstairs 2.) Dear Life 1.) Transatlantic

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The 7th Book of Christmas.

Book clubs looking to discuss morality will need to schedule two meetings to cover this book. Shocking. Devastating. Surprising. Lengthy.


Everyone's been LICKING my Facebook page, but I really need more people to like it. Okay, Back to the books.

Friday, December 6, 2013

12 Books of Christmas, Day 2.

Sometimes you want something fun, with heart. NOT frothy and silly, no no, just not heavy and homework-y. Here 'tis. (I'm your elf.)

Monday, November 18, 2013

5 Reasons I'm A Writer

1. I hate getting dressed up. 2. That annoying girl in middle school who always had to find out everyone’s secrets? Yeah, that was me. 3. I like high-risk, time-consuming hobbies, but moto-cross is too dusty. 4. Straight As in Typing. 5. Making up stories and saying them out loud to strangers on the bus was not working for me.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013


Last year, because we were traveling over Christmas, I made a book tree out of all the books that have influenced me. It's here, in case you doubt me, of ye of little faith. I'm kind of ashamed to admit that because of the year I've had, the furious busy-ness, the illness, the sadness, and yes, the leftover laziness, that tree remained up until today. Seriously. So why not just keep it there right? No, this year, of all years, we need a real tree. A real tree because we're home, and I love them, and because I just finished a novel set on an evergreen farm. This year, we need to pay homage to the evergreen. Finally, today, I did what needed to be done. I put the books back on the shelves in the living room, in the cabinet in the den, in the curio on the landing, in the huge bedside tables. Yes, we have books in every room again. But instead of storing the lights, I put them up a little earlier. Still lazy, you see.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Dance, Halloween Style.

It's the finished first draft of new novel Happy Dance. So glad it's not a thriller or anything.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Readers of women's fiction rock. And fetch. And play.

It's been a roooough 18 months. Cancer, rejection, rejection, cancer, cancer, death. (Yes, even the dog has cancer. More on that later.) We are doing fine, but I had trouble making decisions about my writing. Wrote a couple books that went astray. I feel like I'm on track now, almost finished with a great one. But in the midst of this, come three emails from readers, all saying the same thing: PLEASE KEEP WRITING. And one of them sent me a photo of her cat, toying with a feather, in honor of THE BIRD HOUSE.
Sometimes people say just the right thing at the right time. xoxoxo

Friday, September 20, 2013

Full week.

I rode my bike twice, took 3 walks, drank 2 green juices, danced, ate 3 meals with friends, bought a pair of jeans, saw a movie, sent 4 gifts, read a book, and made breakfast every morning for my girls. Usually at the end of a week I think about how many pages I've written, how many campaigns I presented, how many meetings I went to. But this time I decided to tally the joy. Sometimes being happy means doing a bit more, not a bit less.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Working From Home.

In the living room, I'm writing a scene in a novel. In the dining room, my daughter draws in charcoal. She doesn't know the scene I'm writing is about an artist in her studio, and that I am grateful for the ch-ch-ch sound effect she provides. Our cat, perched in the hallway between us, watches her, not me. Should I add a cat to the scene, and make this the most meta morning of my life? No. My characters are dog people, and I can't change them now. There's no going back.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Can you handle your own truth? A FREE book for one lucky writer.

Oh would-be writers of memoir, rejoice. Beth Kephart, National Book Award Finalist and U of Penn memoir professor has gathered all kinds of advice for you in her new book. Leave me a comment here and I might pick your name and mail it to you. (And leave a link to where you've reposted my blog entry and get special consideration.) Or just buy yourself a dang copy here. and get started pronto!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Gardening vs. Writing

We don't have a garden. Shame, shame, a yard and no garden. My vegetables are purchased and my flowers run wild along the stone wall, like dirty, colorful, unwatched toddlers. I tell myself this is because I write, because I staked my claim of how my time will be spent, how priorities are seized on free mornings and afternoons. But I also *bites fist* don't like to garden. I don't mind the dirt or the digging. (That's like writing.) It's the sunburnt wheelbarrow-y repetition. It's the dull tedium of the rows. (That's like sending out queries.) And it's the waiting. (Argh, like going out on submission!)

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Reading and researching.

While I'm taking it easy this month, I have a lot of reading research to finish up for my next novel. Since this novel involves approximately a bajillion subjects I know nothing about -- farming, sailing, genealogy, Afghanistan, amputees, and interfaith marriages -- I am making excellent use of a color-coded filing system given to me by my research Jedi master, novelist and memoirist Beth Kephart. I don't know if her new book about memoir, Handling The Truth, covers her crackajack organizational skills or not, but I'm sure looking forward to its debut this week.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Horseshoes, clovers, rabbits feet.

Next week, I'm having surgery, the start of months-long treatment for a wee spot of bother. (Let's think like that, shall we? It's just a blip.) As I was leaving a pre-op appointment yesterday, I decided to stop and buy a couple of lottery tickets. Very unlike me, as my friends know. But why not? When something is caught early, you feel lucky. As the clerk handed me my change, he said, "Good luck with everything." As if he knew. When my eyes met his, he saw the first watery veil of my tears. It's always a good idea to wish people luck. I accept. Thank you. And the same to you and yours.

Thursday, July 11, 2013


Yesterday, this is what I devoured for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Tempted to call it a "perfect light summer read" -- but that's doing it a disservice. It's a "fall in love with these characters and not let them go" kind of read.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013


I keep a list of words I love, and want to use in my writing. In the last few years, I've used frisson and anodyne. Lacunae is still up for grabs. Yesterday I used an old favorite, akimbo. And I remembered the thrill of discovering it for the first time, in a Nancy Drew mystery, about a day after learning another exciting word: Coupe. And I wonder, how old are you when a new word becomes a chore, and not a thrill? Is it 11? 12? I see my daughters groan when I say, "Look it up." But there is an age at which you do not groan. There is an age at which you hold it tight like a shiny coin, wondering when you'll get the chance to spend it.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

How to play solitaire.

I love being the first person up. I hate being the last person up. One is alone and the other lonely. Waiting for the moon to make a sound. Listening for a teenager's midnight tiptoe. Holding my breath as the ambulance flashes its candy lights across the street. My entire life, I've found myself awake while other people sleep. And that must be why the daydreams come. The writer's gift, notions as compensation.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

6 Reasons I love Asbury Park. Number 7: No taffy.

I've wanted to visit Asbury Park for a long time. It has a beautiful beach, a real downtown, rich history, hip stores and restaurants, a GREAT bookstore, WoRds, and of course the music scene. We saw the band Stolen Rhodes who were fantastic. I felt like I was very far away, in California or Austin, Texas. Not the shore. Not the shore at all.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

What do writers major in?

In honor of graduation month, I'm re-running one of my fave posts: IF YOU WANT TO BE A WRITER, WHAT SHOULD YOU MAJOR IN? Major in statistics. You’ll learn the odds of getting traditionally published are roughly three zillion to one. Major in economics. You’ll understand why the publishing companies may never put you on a book tour or run an ad for your book in The New Yorker. Major in law. You can fight Google and everyone else who wants to offer your book as a free download. Major in journalism. Your future will appear so tenuous your parents will beg you to be a novelist instead. Major in history. You’ll unearth enough material that you won’t need to invest in research and travel, which you’ll never make back on your advance. Major in drama. Being rejected during auditions will make being rejected on paper seem like child’s play. Major in forensics. When you inevitably end up writing for a hack TV crime show, you won’t have to work too hard. Major in English. That’s what all the English majors would tell you to do. Major in computer science. You can invent something with a better name than “vook.” And you can charge all your other writer friends to do their e-Book formatting. Major in Spanish. It will help your parents understand your Hemingway-esque desire to run with the bulls. Major in psychology. Trust me --it’s easier to work through daddy issues on the couch than on the page. Major in Phys Ed. Most first-time authors are attractive and fit. (Oh, don’t tell me you don’t look at those author photos!) Major in music. Since you may be singing the blues for awhile, you may as well be in tune. FACT: Writers major in all kinds of things, and have a variety of jobs and life skills that fuel their writing. So go ahead and take that gig as a mall Santa. It will pay off a second time, when you can write about it.

Friday, May 31, 2013

How about you.

How about you? Have you experienced this? Please share. I HATE how all blog posts, no matter how long they are, always end with these sentences. It annoys me almost as much as the emails from POTUS that have "hey" in the subject line. It's a thing. It's what you do. I HATE IT. It's like a phone call with a narcissistic friend, who blathers on about themselves for an hour and then, when you'd chew off your own arm to get off the phone, remembers to ask: So how are you? This is my cat. How about you? Do you have a cat?

Thursday, May 23, 2013


Guess I’ve been working too hard, because I had an advertising dream last night. We were waiting for the clients to fly in from Gibson Guitar. (Since I once worked on Martin Guitar, this fact alone was hilarious to me.) We had a lot of work we weren’t sure about. My art director said suddenly, “what if it’s a rocker who just wants to do an acoustic song? It could start out ‘44 cities.’ “ I took out a pen and scribbled this on the back of a photo: 44 cities. Millions of tickets. And the ache to find one genuine moment of connection. When it’s just you, A guitar, And a lump in your throat, Make it a Gibson. Gibson Guitars. Our world is your stage. I woke up just as the client walked in the room. My stage, for 20 years.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Book Shame.

1. I hate Shakespeare. Even if my kid's performing in it. 2. When people say "Dickensian" I don't really get what they mean. 3. I read two pages of Middlemarch and said, 'meh.' 4. Yes, I threw The English Patient across a hotel room, upending a $10 bottle of Voss water. 5. When grad students read my first novel for their class, they asked me questions I didn't understand. 6. I never cracked open a spine by James Joyce. I don't deserve to be an author! 7. The Great Gatsby may be my favorite novel because it has small words. It's possible. 8. Footnotes make me want to kill someone. 9. It took me six months to read Bring Up The Bodies because I didn't get who was talking. Huh? What? 10.Told my husband that reading Harry Potter to the kids would cement their relationship. When in fact, I just didn't wanna do it myself.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

So much.

There is so much I don't know. Here is how un-literate I am (as if the use of that word didn't tell you): Until a few months ago, I thought The Paris Review was a daily French newspaper. Yes, I did. Then I stumbled upon a link to an interview with an author, and I thought, wow, they have an English section? And they cover books? Then, perusing the site I Figured. It. Out.

Monday, April 1, 2013

New Audiobook Anthology! Yay!

Are you an audiobook lover? (Many book clubbers are, I know.) Proud that our Liars Club Anthology, Liar Liar, is now in audiobook form, with my story, Shuffle, featured along with 14 others. Mystery, paranormal, and, just well, some skewed views of normal await you. More short stories and maybe a novella coming soon while "the next novel" is being sorted by the people who run the world!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

No, thank you.

The thank you notes from book clubs are wonderful, of course, but nowhere near as fun as the thank you notes from high school students. Yesterday a packet of thank yous from Kerri Schuster's writing class at Sacred Heart High School arrived -- filled with beautiful handwriting, carefully constructed ideas, and lovely admonitions such as "Stay Excellent." Words to write by.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

The road less traveled by.

When my family decided to bury my mother's ashes in her hometown in Illinois, I didn't want to go. It was my hometown too, and I had already buried something else there: my past. My wayward, meandering, I-don't-want-anyone-to-know-this-about-me past. Stressful events in faraway places hold an additional stress for me -- flying, and the potential for turbulence, which leads to full-blown panic attacks that can last as long as the turbulence. A good friend who worked at Amtrak suggested I might enjoy a train trip to Chicago. That trip was a revelation: not only for the sunsets and the views and the sense that I was seeing the backyards of a million people--their flapping laundry, their fertile fig trees, their pets contained by frayed rope--but the people I met. Their amazing stories of what they were running from and to. And I had my story, too: the novelist who is going to her mother's funeral. This story in the New York Times paints a vivid picture about what it's like to travel by train. From a people perspective, nothing beats it. Nothing.

Friday, March 1, 2013


It's the year of the anxiety disorder! After I wrote STANDING STILL, about a woman with panic disorder who fights back against her daughter's kidnapper, so many people confessed to me that they had the problem, too. Many of them were men. This article highlights anxiety's coming out party.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

In thrall.

I knew I'd need a rainy morning to start this book. Little did I know I would finish it in that same morning. Half-memoir, half-mystery. Set in Chicago, a place I know, in the world of newspapers, a place I once thought I belonged. Is that why I loved it so? No. I loved it for its pacing, its writing, its careful release of emotion and longing. Oh, just go out and buy it. But I'm warning you: read it on a rainy day.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Many valentines.

The best part about the girls' Valentine's Day Championship Volleyball (yay!) Slumber Party wasn't the heart shaped pepperoni on the pizzas I baked. (Although they were genius.) The best part was watching a group of 13 girls from many different backgrounds and experiences, from various grades (freshman to senior) shed their cynical teenage selves to sing camp songs and do elaborate hand rhythms and chants at my kitchen counter. Think "Miss Merry Mack" only a thousand times more complicated. Think the cup scene performed by Anna Kendrick in Pitch Perfect. My husband and I were entertained, mesmerized, charmed. Just last week I watched many of the same girls strut off in high heels and tight skirts to go to a black tie party. And then, to see them morph back into girlhood again, braces flashing, hair ribbons flying, brought home the dichotomy of this time in their lives. Sometimes I believe our best selves are our campfire selves.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Here's the first paragraph of an abandoned novel. So many orphans on this laptop. And so many reasons for letting them all go. But when one door closes . . . well, you know the rest. Damn, this isn't bad either. Hmmmm. Jane was never certain if she chose the beautiful things, or if they chose her. She stood in front of her work table, about to begin, inhaling the last traces of ownership in the fabric stacks, the still-hopeful scents and colors of other people’s old clothing competing for her attention, wide-wale legs and cashmere arms curling into shapes that seemed to high-kick or wave at her, when a sharp knock on the alleyway door interrupted her.She frowned and looked over her shoulder toward the divided light window, but all she saw, at first, were wet cobblestones and the blinking spaceship tail light of an old blue Chevrolet.