Lu Ann Cahn's 5 Firsts and Lasts

I Dare Me by Lu Ann Cahn Today's guest: Lu Ann Cahn Why we love her:  Absolutely love the concept of this book! Talk about a kick ass way to deal with your life being in a rut.

Her latest: I Dare Me: How I Rebooted and Recharged My Life By Doing Something New Every Day

The scoop: One woman’s quest to do one new thing every day of the year, what she learned, and what we all can gain from her journey...

In 2009 veteran journalist and eight-time Emmy award winner Lu Ann Cahn was feeling angry and frustrated. The economy was tanking. Her job was changing. Budgets were being cut. She resented the new technology and social media she was being asked to embrace at work. In a word, she felt “stuck.”

Cahn’s daughter encouraged her to try blogging, and after some thought, she decided to write about trying something new every day for a year. Little did she know, that "Year of Firsts" would change her outlook on life. For 365 days Cahn made a point of doing something she had never done before, some as simple as performing an old task in a new way, some creative and extreme:

Riding a mechanical bull Eating a scorpion Speaking to a complete stranger on the street Smoking a cigar Shoveling horse manure Zip-lining across a crocodile-infested Mexican lake Spending a day in a wheelchair Walking her dog backwards Taking a drum lesson from a famous 80s rocker

In the process she discovered that "firsts" were the antidote to “stuck.” I Dare Me is Cahn’s journey, but it's more than just a memoir. It challenges readers to confront their own fears, and encourages them to try their own "firsts."

Our thoughts: Be prepared to be inspired!

Giveaway: ONE copy of Lu Ann's book!  Just leave a comment to be entered to win. We'll select the winner on Sunday, December 15th after 12pm PST.

Where you can read more about Lu Ann: Her website


Lu Ann Cahn author photo1.KISS

First kiss? Boy, this is tough.  I think my first "boy" kiss was in the 6th grade. My friend had a slumber party in her basement and a group of guys from school crashed it without her parents knowing. Spin the bottle? I think that's how  I was smacked with my first kiss.  I do remember I didn't sleep that night....delicious.

Last kiss? Easy. My husband insists I don't leave the house or go to bed without a kiss. It's a good policy especially when the you-know-what is hitting the fan.  Those kisses keep me grounded.


First book? The Cat in the Hat.  I'm pretty sure I had every single Dr. Seuss book. I wish I kept the originals. I loved them all.

Last book? I'm reading Elizabeth Gilbert's "The Signature of All Things".  It doesn't matter what she writes.  Her words are "butter".


First Risk I took? When I was in fifth grade I sang "Climb Every Mountain" from The Sound of Music to my class for a "talent day" with no music.  Haha. I  wish we had video back then.  Thank God we didn't though.  I actually thought I could sing and I had no evidence until years later that I couldn't.

Last Risk I took? My book, I Dare Me, is all about taking risks so I try to take them frequently.  The last one that terrified me was about a week ago when I did my first Power Point Presentation. It turns out talking and clicking isn't as tough as I thought it would be.


First AHA moment? In high school I took a creative writing class and the teacher told me I was a good writer.  I believed her.

Last AHA moment? A dear friend of mine just read my book and said it made her laugh out loud and made her happy.  I believed her.


First Hell Ya! moment? When I told my personal story of having a delayed diagnosis of an aggressive breast cancer on TV to all of Philadelphia in 1991 and hundreds of women went to get their first mammogram.

Last Hell Ya! moment? When I walked off the Kathie Lee and Hoda Today Show set with my daughter last week.  I didn't even have a glass of wine but it felt good.

Thanks, Lu Ann!

Mary Kay Andrews' 5 Firsts & Lasts

Christmas Bliss book coverToday's guest: Mary Kay Andrews Why we love her: Because she's Mary Kay Andrews! The best!

Her latest: Christmas Bliss

The scoop: ‘Twas the night before Christmas, and Savannah was breezy

But there's trouble afoot - and it's heading toward Weezie.

Seems BeBe’s been holding a big secret back

that would make Santa’s reindeer stop dead in their tracks.

Can these two best friends wriggle out of these twists?

Will they do it in time to ensure CHRISTMAS BLISS?

Our thoughts: Such a warm and cozy winter read--it feels like a blanket you wrap around yourself to keep warm during the cold weather!

Mary_Kay_Andrews_giveawayGiveaway: One copy of Christmas Bliss, a signed bookplate, a bookmark, a set of recipe cards and an ornament! (US only.) Just leave a comment to be entered to win. We'll select the winner on Sunday, December 1 after 12 pm PST.

Where you can read more about Mary Kay Andrews: Her website, Facebook and Twitter.







Mary Kay Andrews author photoFIRST KISS: Hmm. I must have been a late bloomer, because the first one I recall was from my high school boyfriend. He was a sailing instructor and almost always had a blob of zinc oxide on his nose. He was very sweet—until he dumped me and broke my teenaged heart. I still think of him when I get a whiff of Brut aftershave.

LAST KISS: From my starter husband—of 37 years. After all these years he still revs my rockets.

FIRST BOOK: Probably a big Golden Book edition of SWISS FAMILY ROBINSON. It was wrapped up as a Christmas gift, but I found it early, slipped it out of the wrapping paper, read it and put it back. I remember being entranced with the castaway’s tree house, which started me on a life-long affair with houses—of all kinds.

LAST BOOK: MOONRISE, by Cassandra King, a contemporary re-telling of Daphne DuMaurier’s REBECCA, which is one of my favorite novels ever. Come to think of it, Moonrise, a spooky old mansion in Highlands, N.C.,  is Cassandra’s version of DuMaurier’s Manderley. See—still obsessed with houses after all these years.

FIRST RISK I TOOK: Going off to college to a school in a faraway state, that I’d never laid eyes on, where I didn’t know a soul. It was my 18-year-old attempt at independence. I was miserable at first, missing my then boyfriend, later husband, but I eventually made friends and discovered I liked being out on my own.

LAST RISK I TOOK: Leaving my long-time publisher and beloved editor. I’m a totally risk averse type, and hate change.  I agonized over the decision for weeks, and had many sleepless nights, but in the end, it was one of the wisest decisions I’ve ever made.

HELL YA MOMENT: First: Finally getting my driver’s license at the ripe old age of 21—my driver’s ed instructor terrorized me so badly I was probably the only kid in my high school graduating class to have to hitch a ride to school with my baby sister. When I finally did get my license—the summer before college graduation, I realized I loved being in the driver’s seat—literally and figuratively.

LAST HELL YA MOMENT: Figuring out how to add contacts to my new iPhone.

AHA MOMENT: Realizing I was in charge of my own success—or failure. And that if I didn’t believe in me, nobody else would either.


Thanks, Mary Kay!


Suzy Duffy's 5 Firsts & Lasts + exclusive excerpt & giveaway!

Newton Neighbors book coverToday's guest: Suzy Duffy Why we love her: Her books are so much fun!

Her latest: Newton Neighbors

(Out September 26th!) Pre-order here!

The scoop: Crystal Lake-in the suburbs of Newton-is one of the most desirable places to live in Boston, and Newton Neighbors is a romantic comedy about its colorful residents just trying to "live the dream." Things, however, rarely go as planned. The story starts with two fire trucks and a couple of cop cars getting called to the upmarket road, and that's when things begin to heat up. The Ladies of the Lake: Maria's best asset has always been her hot Puerto Rican body, but she sees the effect a new sitter has on her husband, so she decides to fight back the hands of time. Cathi is Maria's best friend and greatest admirer. Her own life is pretty good, too. Still, she can't help being consumed with ambitions to live on the water. She spirals from persuasion to coercion to deceit faster than you can say 'change of address,' but will she succeed? Noreen may seem like the nice little granny from next door. However, it's the quiet ones you need to watch. While facing forty is a nightmare for Maria, Noreen's living large at eighty. She believes "the only thing worse than a weak dollar is a weak martini." Jessica is in America to study. But when she takes a babysitting job in Newton, she gets more than she bargains for in the shape of fine-looking firefighter. We learn soon enough that not all heroes are good-but is bad better? Thankfully we have Ely, Jessica's crazy roommate, who keeps everyone laughing and partying, too. There's Botox, Bollinger, and a randy Bulldog. We have fireworks, fistfights, and family fiestas. It's a story that stretches from Boston, to London, to beautiful Puerto Rico. Welcome to the wet 'n' wild world of Newton Neighbors.

Our thoughts: A fast-paced, fun read that is the perfect escape!

Fun fact: See the EXCLUSIVE EXCERPT of Newton Neighbors below!

Giveaway: Two SIGNED sets of the New England Trilogy series, which includes Newton Neighbors! Just leave a comment to be entered to win. We'll select the winners on Sunday, September 15 after 3pm PST.

Where you can read more about Suzy: Her website, Facebook and Twitter.

LIZ & LISA PRESENT...SUZY DUFFY'S 5 FIRSTS & LASTS: True confessions and being a plant

Suzy Duffy author photoKISS

First Kiss: Are we talking real kiss??? Oooh, I’m fessing up here, because I don’t even think my husband knows this - yet!  I was thirteen years old, In France - on a French/Irish culture exchange.  I’m not sure how much ‘culture’ my Mom was hoping for but suffice to say I learned a lot that summer…. It was a mid-afternoon disco and I spotted him almost immediately because he was gorgeous - olive skin, blonde hair and blue eyes.  Yes - he could be out of one of my books. His name was Loic and he told me both his parents were math professors. I guess teenagers can’t talk about their careers so they talk about their parents’ work instead.  Thanks goodness I didn’t speak much French because clearly we’d have had NOTHING in common; future rom com writer and math genius – hello/bonjour?? Anyway during a slow dance he kissed me. I had no idea what was happening because I didn’t know what a ‘proper kiss,’ was but math-boy helped me figure it out… I never saw him again, after that day but it’s a fond memory - my brush with genius.

Last Kiss: There’s a new man in my bed tonight and he’s insatiable.  My husband is away so I invited this young gent in.  Just an hour ago – at his insistence – I kissed his lips, his forehead, then both his eye lids and his precious little nose because I know he won’t let me very soon.  My husband is away so my dear sweet four-year-old son is sleeping with me tonight (& I love it!)


First Book:  I was slow to start reading because I wrote my first book when I was seven. I always found writing more fun than reading. That said, Enid Blyton’s Famous five made a huge impact on me.  She made the mysteries sound like such fun that I thought I might be a private investigator at one point.  Then again my overactive imagination might have been an impediment.  I don’t really follow the facts, I make them up.

Last Book:  I’ve just finished Marian Keyes, The Mystery of Mercy Close. She always delivers.


First Risk I Took:  Getting off my bum and learning to walk??? How far back are we going here?  In more recent years; moving my five kids, dog and husband from Ireland to the USA was a massive risk. It impacted so many people too. Here’s the thing about risks. We’ll regret more the ones we didn’t take than the one we did.  It’s almost always possible to retrace your steps if you make a mistake.  If in doubt, take the darn risk! Go for it.  I sure don’t regret moving to the USA.  I’d never have written Newton Neighbors in Ireland!

Last Risk I Took: The biggest recent risk was letting my gorgeous seventeen-year-old daughter travel to Singapore this summer on work experience.  It’s nine thousand, four hundred miles away. She’s never travelled that far from me before and it’s a very different culture.  I’m relying on her to make all the right choices and decisions. I worry, but I trust and love her so much, I have to let her go.


First “Aha!” Moment:  Um, still waiting.  I’m more of a slow-dawn-person than a ping-aha-type.  Things percolate with me over time and I evolve beliefs and plotlines.  I love the garden and the pace of things there.  Maybe I was a plant in a previous life!

Last “Aha!” Moment: Realizing I was a plant in a previous life.


First “Hell yeah!” Moment:   Loic in France, all those years ago.

Last “Hell yeah!” Moment: Right here, right now – writing this blog and thinking about my lovely new story Newton Neighbors hitting the world.  Is it good? Hell yeah! Is it funny?  Hell Heah! Should you buy it? Hell Yeah!

I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did writing it.

Lots of love always,




Rick was annoyed with himself for shouting up the stairs and even more so that the sitter was late. What kind of first impression was that? Then the doorbell rang.

His son and the dog sprinted to answer it.

“Cody, you wanna get that?”

Rick was joking, because there was really no way to outrun the ten-year-old. Cody was going through the first-to-be-everywhere phase. To add to the chaos, the Labrador started another of her barking frenzies.

“Quiet, Orga!” Rick yelled at the dog, but it didn’t do any good. He could still hear Alice wailing, and her protests were getting louder not softer. The ruckus downstairs would only unsettle her more.

Damn. He headed for the kitchen to grab a bottle of something to bring to the party. The sooner they got out the better. They needed a break.

Cody had been sulking around the house all afternoon, telling everybody who would listen that he was too old for a sitter. He claimed some of his friends didn’t even have sitters anymore, but when Rick had talked it over with him, it turned out it was the ones with older sisters. Cody had eventually decided if any of his friends found out, he’d say his mom got the sitter for his little sister. Rick agreed that was a great idea.

Rick decided to bring a bottle of champagne to the party because it was a birthday celebration and it might earn him some brownie points with Maria. Then he headed back to the hall to meet the new sitter.


The first thing Rick saw was Cody smiling and the sitter laughing at something his son had said. She was gorgeous. Long blond hair, big eyes, striking features. Rick had met many sitters over the ten years of his son’s life. They had been a normal mix of pretty, plain, fun, dull, but this one was a real beauty. She could have been modelling instead of watching kids.

He pushed the notion out of his mind. “Hi,” he said, his voice a little too jovial. Take it down a notch. “I see you’ve met Cody already.”

The dog was still barking.

“Orga, be quiet.” The hound started sniffing the newcomer instead. He moved the champagne bottle to his left hand so he could shake with his right. “I’m Rick, Cody’s dad.”

“Hullo, I’m Jessica Armstrong.” Her smile was timid, cute. “And I’ve met Cody and Orga.”

Rick felt uncomfortable and his face was hot. Was he blushing? He wondered if that was even physically possible. Wasn’t there an age limit on blushing? The last time he’d glowed this hot, he was in the fourth grade and Judi Schillawaski had—without any warning—kissed him.

This girl was more beautiful than Judi Schillawaski.

“Maria’s upstairs with Alice. She just woke up.” Rick winced when the baby let out another wail. “You might need to play with her for a while. Alice, I mean. You might have to play with Alice, the baby, not Maria, my wife.”

Just stop talking, you idiot!

Jessica laughed. “I’m the eldest of five and love babies, so really, I’m happy to play with Alice.” She glanced at Cody who was surreptitiously studying her. “And I love playing with big boys, too,” she said.

Now it was Cody’s turn to blush. He turned away. If it hadn’t been for his own discomfort, Rick might have felt sorry for the boy. He had clearly spotted that the new sitter was a beauty. The kid was growing up.

Orga started barking again.


“Cody, will you put that damn dog out in the backyard? I’m sorry, Jessica. She gets excited, but she’ll calm down in a few minutes. It’s just because you’re new.”

“Not a problem. Honest, I love dogs, too.”

With the boy gone, they were alone, and Rick felt his body tense. What in the hell was his problem? He was usually good with meeting new people. This one was different.

“Let me show you around,” he said, but the words felt awkward. Until this evening, the sitters had been little more than kids themselves. He’d never felt wrong-footed or goofy like he did now. Get a grip, he chastised himself, and then he gave best his corporate smile. “I’m thinking that’s an English accent?”

“Yes. I’m English, from a town called Dorking, in Surrey. It’s just south of London.”

“Yeah? My wife, Maria, is from Puerto Rico.” Why did I say that? Act normal, you ass! “What are you doing in Newton?”

“I’m over here for a year. Studying at Wiswall College.”

“Oh, that’s cool. It’s just down the road.”

“Yes, it is. I’m so sorry I was a little late this evening. I got lost, but I assure you, Mr. Sanchez, it won’t happen again. That is, if you want me back.”

“Please, call me Rick.”

Jessica had enormous dark blue eyes which seemed bigger now that she looked anxious. He got the urge to reach out, but that would have been ridiculous. Inappropriate. Against the law?

He laughed louder than he meant to. “No problem about being late. We’re pretty relaxed in this house. If you keep the kids content, Maria and I will be more than happy.” They walked into the living room.

“Oh, an Xbox.” Jessica grinned at Cody, who was back from putting the dog out. “How good are you on this thing? Because I have to warn you, I’m an ace.” She winked at the ten-year-old. Cody’s eyes lit up, and he lunged for the controls.


“You’ve just secured a place in my son’s heart, Jessica. Xbox is his life. If you’re as good as him, he’ll never want another sitter.”

She sat down next to Cody and took the other controller. Then she glanced at Rick. “Call me Jessie.”

He nodded. There was a time when something like this—seeing an incredibly good-looking woman—would have fired him up. Rick would have had all the witty one-liners, all the charm he required, but time had softened him. Eleven years of marriage, two kids, and the fact he spent more time at the country club than the nightclub all meant he’d lost his edge. How could he have let that happen?

Rick watched the two of them settle onto the sofa. Seeing the gorgeous young sitter with the game controller was a reminder that he was ancient in comparison. She had more in common with Cody than with him.

Lucky kid.

Rick and Maria were heading out to yet another fortieth party, but the stunning blonde on his living room sofa made him think it would be a lot more fun to stay in than head out.

Would you get a grip? You could almost be her dad—almost.

Thanks, Suzy!

Yona Zeldis McDonough's 5 Firsts and Lasts

Yona Zeldis McDonough Two of a KindOur guest today: Yona Zeldis McDonough Why we love her: Her writing hits the right note!

Her latest: Two of A Kind

The Scoop: Ten years after losing her husband, Christina Connelly has worked through the pain, focusing on raising her teenage daughter and managing her small decorating business. But her romantic life has never recovered. Still, it’s irksome to be set up with arrogant, if handsome, doctor Andy Stern at her friend’s wedding. If he wasn’t also a potential client, needing his Upper East Side apartment redesigned, she would write him off.

This is never going to work, Andy thinks. Still grieving his wife and struggling with a troubled son, he’s not looking for a woman, and certainly not someone as frosty and reserved as Christina. Their relationship will be strictly business. Yet to everyone’s surprise—including their own—these two find themselves falling in love.

But if reconciling with their pasts is difficult, blending their lives and children to create a new family is nearly impossible. They’ve been given a second chance…but can they overcome all the obstacles in the way of happily ever after?

Our thoughts: Perfect for your Fall reading list!

Giveaway: One copy!  Leave a comment and you'll be entered.  We'll choose the winners after Noon PST on September 8th.

Fun Fact: Yona had studied to be a ballerina before attending Vassar College.

Where you can read more about Yona: Her website and Twitter!



Yona Zeldis McDonoughFIRST: My kiss was shared with a boy named Seth Cohen on Sadie Hawkin’s Day in 1967. I was 10 and he was 11 or 12 and we were running around a bungalow colony in upstate New York with our pals.  My best friend Nancy had a crush on his handsome older brother Mark but I liked Seth, the sweet, kind of awkward boy with the sleepy eyes and slow smile.  Since I nabbed him, we went off to a secluded area in the woods for the kiss. I can still remember how nervous I was: heart hammering, blood rushing in my ears.  But we did it and I felt so smug and grown up afterwards.

LAST: My last kiss was deposited on the snout of Holden, one of my two Pomeranians.  He’s quite the gentleman and sleeps peacefully at the foot of the bed every night.  This morning, when I woke up he had walked over and put his face very close to mine.  Impossible not to kiss him.

Book you read

FIRST: book I read cover to cover was some school-issued reader (who out there remembers those?) concerning Dick and Jane’s plodding and wholly pedestrian exploits.  In fact, it was so dull that I read ahead, vainly hoping for some drama or excitement. My first grade teacher got wind of this and I was punished for not sticking with the program and reading at the same glacial pace as the worst readers in the class.   Fortunately this did not sour me on reading!

LAST: Elena Ferrante’s The Lost Daughter, which is a short, exceedingly blunt novel that lays bare some of the most unattractive feelings about motherhood I have ever seen in print.

Risk you took

FIRST: When I was about 10 or 11, I saved my allowance money and took the bus to a jewelry store on Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn where, without my parent’s consent or even knowledge, I had my ears pierced. It was such a rush that I thought I might take up sky-diving next—that’s how fearless and empowered I felt.

LAST: I was wounded by an offhand but cruel remark a friend had made and I took the risk of calling her out on it.  She did not respond well; in fact, she did not even understand the hurtful nature of what she’d said and she did not apologize. The friendship is now over but I am not sorry I spoke my truth; to have remained silent would have been corrosive and dishonest and the friendship would have come to an end anyway.

Hell ya moment

Stuck in the house for what felt like a month with some long illness and bored out of my mind.  A box the size of a washing machine arrives and unbelievably, it’s addressed to me. My mother helps me open it and I frantically tear through the paper and stuffing.  Inside is a Raggedy Anne doll so big that her clothes—blue flowered dress, white apron, white bloomers--actually fit me (I wore them for Halloween that year.)  She was a get-well gift from my grandmother and what a swell gift she was—woo hoo!

Aha! Moment

FIRST: I was in graduate school studying art history, a pursuit that had become increasingly meaningless and joyless to me.  Aha moment came when on a whim, I signed up for a fiction writing workshop (I was allowed to enroll without paying anything extra for the course) and I thought, OMG, you mean I could spend my life doing this?!

LAST: Realizing that the template of beauty does not have to remain fixed at 25 and that I could finally stop coloring my hair.  What a revelation and a relief to be done with all the foul chemicals, drippy potions, and tedium of the colorist’s chair.  Now I’m defiantly, proudly silver (please don’t call me gray!) and loving every minute of it.


Thanks, Yona!

Lori Nelson Spielman's 5 Firsts & Lasts

The Life List by Lori Nelson SpielmanToday's guest: Lori Nelson Spielman Why we love her: The premise of her book is so unique! We loved reading every page.

Her latest: The Life List

The scoop: In this utterly charming debut—perfect for fans of Cecelia Ahern’s P.S., I Love You and Allison Winn Scotch’s Time of My Life—one woman sets out to complete her old list of childhood goals, and finds that her lifelong dreams lead her down a path she never expects.

1. Go to Paris 2. Have a baby, maybe two 3. Fall in love

Brett Bohlinger seems to have it all: a plum job, a spacious loft, an irresistibly handsome boyfriend. All in all, a charmed life. That is, until her beloved mother passes away, leaving behind a will with one big stipulation: In order to receive her inheritance, Brett must first complete the life list of goals she’d written when she was a naïve girl of fourteen. Grief-stricken, Brett can barely make sense of her mother’s decision—her childhood dreams don’t resemble her ambitions at age thirty-four in the slightest. Some seem impossible. How can she possibly have a relationship with a father who died seven years ago? Other goals (Be an awesome teacher!) would require her to reinvent her entire future. As Brett reluctantly embarks on a perplexing journey in search of her adolescent dreams, one thing becomes clear. Sometimes life’s sweetest gifts can be found in the most unexpected places.

Our thoughts: Who doesn't have a bucket list? We loved this charming debut about a woman learns valuable lessons while accomplishing hers.

Giveaway: Two copies! Just leave a comment to be entered to win. We'll select the winners on Sunday, August 11th after 12pm PST.

Fun fact: The film option for the book has already been purchased!

Where you can read more about Lori: Her website, Facebook and Twitter.


Lori Nelson Spielman author photoFirst: I was a late bloomer, and horrified that I might be ‘sweet sixteen and never been kissed’. Lucky for me, Nick Nicol (yes, the same boy from the book!) saved me from that mortifying plight. He pulled me aside at a party and planted an unexpected kiss on my lips. Then he walked away. It’s the only time in my life I remember actually feeing dizzy from something that didn’t spin.

Last: My husband. This morning. Nice.


First: The first chapter book I fell in love with was The Boxcar Children, by Gertrude Chandler Warner. My third grade teacher read it to our class, and I was completely and utterly captivated.

Last: I just finished The Glass Wives, by Amy Sue Nathan. It’s terrific. The premise is so fresh—an ex-wife takes in her husband’s new wife and child after he dies.


First: As a teen, I was pretty mischievous, but I don’t think I’ll go there! My biggest risk ever, one that I struggled most with, was saying goodbye to a wonderful man who loved me. The feelings just weren’t there. He was the Herbert in my life, if you’ve read The Life List, the man I wish I could have loved.

Last: My latest risk involves live, on-air radio interviews—I’m someone who is terrified of public speaking! Just as I was beginning to breathe during these 15-minute segments, crisis hit. Yesterday, I called into the station three minutes prior to the show, as instructed, and received that annoying message telling me my call could not be completed as dialed. What?! Long story short, I was given the wrong area code! I finally connected with about 90 seconds remaining in the show. The host was ticked, I was a wreck, and my cred was completely shot. So much for that PR blitz!


First: In high school I was voted Best Personality, basically, the equivalent of Miss Congeniality in a beauty contest. Some might prefer the title of Best Body or Prettiest Eyes. But me? I said, “Hell ya!”

Last: Last winter, I approached a local bookseller about doing a book event in July. She was skeptical, saying debut authors don’t draw much of a crowd, it’ll be summer and everybody’s on vacation, yada yada yada. Two days ago, I had the event. It was their biggest debut crowd ever, 100+ people, standing room only. They sold out of books at both their stores. Hell ya!


First: Several years ago I heard Anderson Cooper say that his mother, Gloria Vanderbilt, advised him, “Follow your bliss.” This little phrase resonated with me. I immediately thought of my writing, and vowed to follow Gloria’s advice—and my bliss.

Last: Author Julianna Baggott offered this tip to debut authors: “You are not your book.” Since then, I’ve tried to call The Life List “the book” rather than “my book”. Whether it’s wildly successful or withers on the shelf, I am neither a superstar nor a failure.

Thanks, Lori!


Jess McConkey's 5 Firsts and Lasts

The-Widows-of-Braxton-County-199x300Our guest today: Jess McConkey Why we love her: You may not know this, but we love a book with some good ol' mystery in it!

Her latest: The Widows of Braxton County

The Scoop: Family secrets can bind and destroy.

Kate is ready to put her nomadic, city-dwelling past behind her when she marries Joe Krause and moves with him to the Iowa farm that has been in his family for more than 140 years. But life on the farm isn't quite as idyllic as she'd hoped. It's filled with chores, judgmental neighbors, and her mother-in-law, who—unbeknownst to Kate until after the wedding—will be living with them.

As Kate struggles to find her place in the small farming community, she begins to realize that her husband and his family are not who she thought they were. According to town gossip, the Krause family harbors a long-kept secret about a mysterious death that haunts Kate as a dangerous, unexplainable chain of events begins.

Our thoughts: Tired of the same ol' same ol'?  Then pick up this mystery!

Giveaway: One SIGNED copy!  Leave a comment and you'll be entered to win!  We'll choose the winners after 8am on Sunday, July 28th.

Fun Fact: Jess also writes books as Shirley Damsgaard!

Where you can read more about Jess: Facebook!


Jess Mconkey author photoKiss

First: As I recall, it happened in the neighbor boy’s sandbox when I was approximately 5 years old and was the result of a dare issued by his sister. Always one to rise to a challenge, I planted one on his rather gritty cheek. He yelled “Yuck!” and promptly left the sandbox. So much for my first experience at romance.

Last: I’ve been single for a number of years, so unless I count the peck on the cheek from my five year old grandson, I’m sorry to say that I can’t remember!!

Book read

First: My mother always read Little Golden Books to me so I’m sure my first book was one of those. However my favorite book as a child was THE LITTLE RABBIT WHO WANTED RED WINGS by Carolyn Sherwin Bailey. Many people now say that book discourages children from being individuals, but that isn’t the message that I remember…the message I received was about the importance of being yourself, of accepting who and what you are. Must’ve stuck because that’s basically what every book I’ve ever written is about too!

Last: My taste in reading is all over the board, so as long as a story has a good plot, spunky protagonists, and snappy dialogue, I’m in!! I recently finished The Maggie MacKay: Magical Tracker Series by Kate Danley and really enjoyed it. Another favorite recently read is the latest in Ruth Downie’s Medicus Series--SEMPER FIDELIS: A NOVEL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE (MEDICUS). Great mystery series about a doctor serving in Rome’s Legions and stationed in Britannia in 122A.D.

Risk Taken

First: Since my life’s philosophy has always been “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead,” it’s hard to say what the first risk was. I do recall the time, as a preschooler, I climbed to the top of my swing set just to see if I could do it then being too scared to climb down. My mother finally heard me screaming and rushed out to rescue me. Then there was the time I rode my pony up the loading chute to see if he’d fit…What can I say?? I’ve often thought an appropriate epitaph for me would be “It seemed like a good idea at the time!”

Last: Going camping with my family over the 4th of July weekend. That might not seem like much of a risk, but it involved six children ranging in the age from 3 to 15 years old; sparklers (several articles of clothing now have burn holes in them courtesy of the three year old who thought he’d see what would happen if he touched someone with a lit sparkler); and four dogs. We were the family no one wanted next to them!

Aha moment

First: Do not put a Shetland pony into a loading chute without dismounting first. (See response to first risk taken.) Unfortunately the “aha moment” came a bit too late and I successfully trapped myself and the horse in the chute. (He was so fat that my legs were pinned against the side of the chute.) Once again it was Mom to the rescue and, except for a few tears, neither child nor horse were damaged in the operation.

Last: The last “aha” moment involved five grandchildren, the tip of a Star Wars light saber, a knife, and a bottle of dish soap. It seems one of my 11 year-old grandsons has inherited my curiosity and decided to see if his finger (the middle one…of course) would fit into the broken end of a light saber. It did…quite well. In fact, so well that I thought it was going to take a trip to the emergency room in order to remove it. The “aha” moment came when I thought of the dish soap. Unfortunately the end was closed so it was necessary to saw off the tip as the other four children gathered round, staring intently. They were no doubt wondering if Grandma was going to get the tip of the finger as well as the tip of the light saber, and if she did, they didn’t want to miss it. The story ends well…the tip was removed (the saber, not the finger) and soap was squirted into the remainder of the tube. A few wiggles later, and voila, the offending object slid off.

Hell ya moment

First: I’m sure there were others before this, but the most memorable “hell ya” moment came when I received author copies of my first book. Fist pumping and a happy dance were also involved.

Last: Not to be redundant…but receiving author copies of this book! But I’m cooler now and don’t dance around the house.

Thanks, Jess!


Anton Disclafani's 5 Firsts & Lasts

Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls book coverToday's guest: Anton Disclafani Why we love her: Her narrative is addicting, her debut novel is CAPTIVATING.

Her debut: The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls

The scoop: It is 1930, the midst of the Great Depression. After her mysterious role in a family tragedy, passionate, strong-willed Thea Atwell, age fifteen, has been cast out of her Florida home, exiled to an equestrienne boarding school for Southern debutantes. High in the Blue Ridge Mountains, with its complex social strata ordered by money, beauty, and girls’ friendships, the Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls is a far remove from the free-roaming, dreamlike childhood Thea shared with her twin brother on their family’s citrus farm—a world now partially shattered. As Thea grapples with her responsibility for the events of the past year that led her here, she finds herself enmeshed in a new order, one that will change her sense of what is possible for herself, her family, her country.

Our thoughts: Top book of 2013 for sure--whether you love, hate or totally judge Thea, you won't be able to put this one down.  An Absolute MUST READ. 

Giveaway: Two copies. Just leave a comment and be entered to win. We'll select the winners on Sunday, July 14th after 3pm PST.

Fun fact: She currently teaches creative writing at Washington University.

Where you can read more about Anton: Her website, Facebook and Twitter.


Courtesy of Nina Subin


First:  A red head (the first and last time I ever kissed a red head.)

Last:  My husband (I hope I can say that for the rest of my life.)


First:  Charlotte’s Web is the first book I can remember reading by myself and loving, in second grade.  My parents, eager to get me reading for life, paid me 10 cents a chapter.  They stopped paying me, but sometimes I think of how much money I could have accumulated if they hadn’t!

Last:  Belle Cora, by Philip Marguiles (it’s out this January).  It’s long, and totally engrossing.  It felt like Deadwood (one of my favorite TV shows) come to life.


First:  Hmm…I was a pretty shy, reserved child, so everything I did felt like a necessary risk.  I remember being particularly scared of the first day of school each year.  It’s still a relief, when September comes around, to know I don’t ever have to go through that again.

Last:  Riding a gigantic horse.  I rode all throughout childhood and adolescence, and then I started again a year ago.  I’m much more aware of how far I am from the ground this time around.


First:  Convincing my mom to buy me the neon pink skirt from Limited, Too, and wearing it to school in second grade.  I was so proud.

Last:  Running three miles without stopping.  I have a love/hate relationship with running, and it took me forever to build up to that distance.  I’m a master at convincing myself not to exercise, so tricking myself into actually doing it feels great.


First:  at 16, walking into a grocery store with my filthy riding clothes on--I was working at a barn that summer. I was so tired I didn't care if people noticed...and, to my surprise, nobody batted an eye. I was pretty shy as a child, and that was the first time I realized that NO ONE cared. It was pretty liberating.

Last: getting on a horse again after ten years. It was scary and amazing and thrilling all at once.


Thanks, Anton!


Mia March's 5 Firsts and Lasts

Finding Colin FirthOur guest today: Mia March Why we love her: Her books hit all the right notes.

Her latest: Finding Colin Firth

The scoop: After losing her job and leaving her beloved husband, journalist Gemma Hendricks is sure that scoring an interview with Colin Firth will save her career and marriage. Yet a heart-tugging local story about women, family ties, love, and loss captures her heart— and changes everything. The story concerns Bea Crane, a floundering twenty-two-year-old who learns in a deathbed confession letter that she was adopted at birth. Bea is in Boothbay Harbor to surreptitiously observe her biological mother, Veronica Russo—something of a legend in town—who Bea might not be ready to meet after all. Veronica, a thirty-eight-year-old diner waitress famous for her “healing” pies, has come home to Maine to face her past. But when she’s hired as an extra on the bustling movie set, she wonders if she is hiding from the truth . . . and perhaps the opportunity of a real-life Mr. Darcy.

These three women will discover more than they ever imagined in this coastal Maine town, buzzing with hopes of Colin Firth. Even the conjecture of his arrival inspires daydreams, amplifies complicated lives, and gives incentive to find their own romantic endings

Our thoughts: LOVED it just as much as Mia's delightful debut, The Meryl Streep Movie Club!

Giveaway: TWO copies-just leave a comment to be entered--we 'll choose the winners after 3pm PST on July 14th.

Where to read more about Mia: Facebook and Twitter



First kiss: For two summers in a row at my sleepaway camp, I had a very serious crush on a tall, skinny boy named Milo who played the drums in the camp band. Finally, the summer I turned 13, he asked me to the ice cream social and leaned over and kissed me on the lips while waiting for our butter pecan cones (both picked same flavor, which I of course thought meant we were destined for each other). It happened so fast I almost missed it, so I kissed him. A counselor came over wagging her finger at us, but we sneaked in a few more over the next hour. A nice memory. I have no idea what became of Milo.

Last kiss: I recently adopted an adorable beagle mix with the cutest face ever, so I kissed her on the snout just moments ago. I kiss her velvety ears all the time too.


First book: The first book I remember reading is Caps for Sale: A Tale of a Peddler, Some Monkeys and Their Monkey Business by Esphyr Slobodkina. I loved those tsking monkeys in the trees. When my son was very little, he’d ask for that book every night at bedtime and couldn’t wait to get the pages with the naughty monkeys.

Last book: I just started The Engagements by J. Courtney Sullivan. The story of how the slogan Diamonds Are Forever came about it is so fascinating!


First risk: The first real risky move I made involved moving from New York City to Maine almost ten years ago. A city of eight million to a town of eight thousand. I wasn’t sure what small town life would be like, but turns out I love it and was meant for white picket fences all along. Or maybe just now.

Last risk: This does not sound all that risky, but adopting a dog (as a first time dog owner) from a local shelter scared the beehoosus out of me. As a cat person, I didn’t know anything about dogs except that they barked and required potty walks. But one look at that precious beagle’s face at the shelter, and I fell in love. She was so mellow and gentle and sweet! Three months later, it’s as if she was always with us. She may be the only dog (and beagle) who rarely barks.


First: When I typed The End on the last page of my debut novel. I felt electric.

Last: Is it too boring that it involves piecrust? I’d been working on my homemade piecrust for a while and something was always meh about it until recently. Frozen butter is the key to the hell ya forkful.


First: I was twelve and read Wuthering Heights for English class. Oh, Catherine and Heathcliff! That book started my love of reading the classics—and my love of brooding heroes. In my twenties I went on vacation to England and walked the very moors where the Bronte sisters dreamed up their novels. Those moors and those sisters inspired me to write.

Last: I know I sound obsessed with my sweet little dog (okay, I am), but who knew that having a dog would be this wonderful? (Everyone but me, apparently.) Walking her 4 times a day gives me open space to stop and smell the blue hydrangeas (abundant here in Maine) and contemplate story ideas and plot points. As I type right now, she’s curled up next to me, her chin on my thigh.

Thanks, Mia!



Shelley Noble's 5 Firsts & Lasts

Stargazey Point book coverToday's guest: Shelley Noble Why we love her: She writes the perfect beach reads!

Her latest: Stargazey Point (Out July 9th!)

The scoop on it: Devastated by tragedy during her last project, documentarian Abbie Sinclair seeks refuge with three octogenarian siblings, who live in a looming plantation house at the edge of the world.

South Carolina’s Stargazey Point used to be a popular family beach resort, but the beaches have eroded, most of the businesses have closed, and the crowds have gone. It's the perfect place to hide from the rest of world.

But hiding is harder than she thought it would be. There's a wise Gullah woman who seems to see into Abbie's soul, and an intriguing man on a quest to bring Stargazey Point back to life.

Our thoughts: Loved this story about friendship and starting over.

You should also read Stargazey Nights, the prequel e-novela to Stargazey Point.

Fun fact: Shelley also writes mysteries under the name Shelley Freydont.

Giveaway: Two copies. Just leave a comment to be entered to win. We'll select the winners on Sunday, July 14th after 3pm PST.

Where you can read more about Shelley: Her website and Facebook.


Shelley_Noble_author photoKiss

First: My first kiss was in the cloak room of first grade.  We had just finished Rhythm Band.  I remember because he got to play the triangle and I only had to be happy with the wooden sticks. We’d put our instruments away and had been sent row by row to the get our sweaters and jackets for the playground.  It was fairly dark in the clock room. And I’ll never know whether he actually meant to kiss my cheek, tell me a secret, or what, because as he leaned forward, I turned my head. And our faces bashed together. Luckily it didn’t break someone’s nose.  I should have guessed then that the road to love doesn’t always go as expected.

Last: My last kiss was a twofer. Both my children live across two rivers in Queens and Brooklyn.  They came out to Jersey this past week, both in the same week! And they both kissed me when I dropped them off at the train station to return home.  A perfect culmination of the week.

Book I read

First: My grandmother was pen pals with a lady in England, who always sent me a book for special occasions.  Once when she came for a visit, she also introduced me to toasted pound cake and jam sandwiches.  Yum.  One of the books was a small, beautifully illustrated Sleeping Beauty, the other favorite was the Teddy Bear’s Picnic. They’re both still on my bookshelf!

Last: I just finished The Firebird by Susannah Kearsley. I usually order her books from Canada the minute they’re available, but this year I was so busy with deadlines (yay!) that I didn’t get it until it was available here.  I drove to the bookstore to buy the trade paperback because she always writes the kind of book I want to hold in my hand, read and reread and look at on my bookshelf.

Risk I took

First: I’m not sure whether I actually remember this, or whether it was a bit of exaggeration or a cautionary tale.  But when I was three I would pull a chair over to the refrigerator, climb up so I could open the door, climb down, move the chair closer, then climb up again and steal the butter, which I ate by the stick while still standing on the chair.  Did I think I wouldn’t be caught?

Last: As it turns out, I’m in the middle of a risk taking opportunity.  I’ve been living in the perfect apartment for the last five years.  Now the landlord is selling the house and I’m not loving the new owner.  So I thought, hmm.  Empty nest, work at home,  I could go just about anywhere that I can afford. Uh.  Now what? I’ve been waffling between the town next door, going “down the shore” as we say in Jersey for going to the beach, or even  putting my furniture in storage and taking a year to try different places.  While also keeping a pretty hefty writing schedule?  Maybe the last choice might be more of a pipe dream than an acceptable risk.  I let you know how it turns out.

Aha! Moment

First: My first serious aha moment was the night I arrived at college.  I’m from the south, had always been extremely shy, was seen and not heard, sometimes not seen.  I was very comfortable making up stories in my head.  I also had a very soft southern accent.  I was sitting next to a man (who was not from the south) on the plane and I realized as I talked to him, that I was beginning to sound like him.  By the end of the flight I had changed my accent.  And as I stepped off that plane I realized that if I could change the way I talked, I probably could convince people I wasn’t shy. I could make myself whatever I wanted to be. I’m happy to say I didn’t turn into a con artist but have been a college teacher, a professional dancer and a published author. Every day is a reinvention.

Last: A successful day for me is a lot of a little aha moments. It means I’m paying attention not just going through the day. The kernel of an idea, a blue sky overhead, when I decide not to yell a gypsy curse at the guy who cut me off in the intersection. A few of those each day are enough to make me stop and realize, Wow, how cool is this?

Hell Ya! Moment

First: Before I became an author  I was a professional dancer and toured with several dance companies.  I remember one performance with Twyla Tharp, I think it was Buenos Aires, we were on stage taking our final curtain call.  Bows are taken in full stage light. The “house” lights are dark, so you can only see a few rows of audience.  You listen and feel the response for how much they liked the performance—or not.  But that night, to thunderous applause, the theatre turned on the house lights.  A thousand people, dressed to the nines, were on their feet clapping. They glittered more than we did.  There we were face to face with our own success. There’s nothing like that kind of rush.  Of course we still had to come back and perform again the next day and the next.  But it was definitely a hell ya moment I’ll never forget.

Last: My Hell Ya moment was when my agent and editor both emailed me to say that Beach Colors, my last summer’s women’s fiction, had made the New York Times ebook best seller list. Picture Whoopi Goldberg when she learns she’s the real Santa in the movie Call Me Claus.  It was a hell ya, cool dude, yo mamma moment all rolled into one.

Thanks, Shelley!


Janis Thomas's 5 Firsts and Lasts

Janis Thomas SWEET NOTHINGSOur guest today: Janis Thomas Why we love her: Her writing has sass and style!

Her latest: Sweet Nothings

The Scoop:  Life’s sweetest moments happen when you least expect them . . .

When Ruby McMillan’s husband announces one morning that he’s dumping her for another woman, she’s unable to decide which indignity stings the most: the dissolution of their eighteen-year marriage or the deflation of her white-chocolate soufflé with raspberry Grand Marnier sauce. Without a good-bye to their two teenaged children, Walter leaves Ruby to cope with her ruined dessert, an unpaid mortgage, and her failing bakery.

With only royal icing holding her together, Ruby still manages to pick herself up and move on, subsidizing her income with an extra job as a baking instructor, getting a “my-husband’s-gone” makeover, and even flirting with her gorgeous mortgage broker, Jacob Salt. For as long as she can remember, Ruby has done what’s practical, eschewing far-fetched dreams and true love in favor of stability. But suddenly single again at the age of forty-four, she’s beginning to discover that life is most delicious when you stop following a recipe and just live.

Our thoughts: Holiday weekend reading FOR SURE!

Giveaway: TWO copies! Just leave a comment and you'll be entered to win.  We'll choose the winners on Sunday July 6th after 3pm.

Fun Fact: Janis is multi-talented--she has written 50 songs!

Where to read more about Janice: Her website, Facebook, and Twitter.



FIRST: My first kiss happened on the day of my first wedding. Okay, let me clarify. My first wedding took place in the girls’ bathroom of Anderson Elementary School when I was five years old. I married John Boat that fine morning. He later moved away and I was left to raise our Madam Alexandra dolls all by myself.

LAST: I just gave my daughter a smattering of kisses on her freckled seven-year-old nose. And before that, my husband—or, uh, second husband if you count John Boat—gave me a peck on the cheek as he left for work.

Yes, I know. Bo-ring! See, now, if you’d asked me what my hottest kiss was, I could tell you a wonderful story that involved a restaurant basement and an industrial-strength juicer. Oh well…


FIRST: There is no way I can remember my first book but I do remember the first book that affected me in a cathartic way, and that was The Secret Garden. My mother and I read it together when I was about six.

LAST: My friends and I started a book club this year, which I have wanted to do for ages. There are only four of us, but we still manage to make it a party. Although some of the books have been rather difficult to get through, it’s fun to try new things, and I’m reading books I would never choose for myself. Our book this month is Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (I’m loving it).


FIRST: The first major risk I took was when I moved to New York City right after I graduated from college. I’d lived in Southern California my whole life and I wanted to see how other people lived, to experience different cultures and different ways of life. It should be noted that my first night living in Manhattan, I came face to face with a canine-sized cockroach and a man peeing into the gutter. (It’s a helluva town!) But despite my less than spectacular introduction, the next eleven years were amazing.

LAST: Last risk I took? Um…I’m thinking. I jumped out of a plane…fifteen years ago. What real risks have I taken since then? A few months ago I auditioned for a televised baking competition, but that was more of a lark to publicize my first book, Something New. I recently purchased a PADI certification course for scuba-diving. (And if you saw me in a wet suit, you’d understand just how much of a risk this is.) So although I haven’t actually taken the risk yet, I will be in the near future. Can I count that?


FIRST: My first Aha Moment was probably in fourth grade when I played Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz. Being on the stage and pretending to be someone else and sweeping the audience away into the land of the imagination was an amazing feeling. It’s the same feeling I get with writing.

LAST: I don’t want to sound maudlin, but my last Aha Moment came at my mom’s funeral just three weeks ago today. She was an amazing woman who lived life to the fullest. She touched every person she met and had admirers all over the globe. She loved fully and passionately. She traveled and saw more places than most people dream of. I’ve always been aware of how blessed I am to have had her as my mother. And as I sat in the chapel and listened to my family talk about Mom, as I watched the photo montage we’d put together, I realized that I want to be just like her. I want to smile and laugh as much as she did, see the world with my children, as she did, and touch people with generosity and kindness, as she did. I also realized that life is short, so I better get on it!


FIRST: In eighth grade, I was invited to the annual awards banquet. I figured that meant I might be winning an award, right? Wrong. All I got was a silly little pin for getting straight A’s throughout middle school. Whoopee. I spent three hours watching many of my peers nab various awards while I sat waiting, hoping, wishing my name would be called. It wasn’t. Fast forward four years. I was invited to my high school awards banquet. After having an unpleasant flashback which had nothing to do with rubber chicken, I told my teacher I wouldn’t be attending. She gave me a scathing glare and said, “Oh, yes you will be attending.” And I did. And not to sound immodest, but that night, I spent more time out of my seat than in it. It was a very fun and heady experience. Of course, the next day, I was just me again.

LAST: My most recent Hell Ya moment was last month at my daughter’s second grade play. My daughter was one of the leads, Freida the Frog. She was awesome. Moms occasionally find themselves wondering why they ever had kids in the first place. But seeing my daughter on that stage, singing and dancing her heart out, cracking the audience up with her comic timing, I was proud beyond words. “Hell Ya, that’s my girl!” (And also, I was comforted by the thought that if she makes a fortune on the stage and screen, she’ll be able to take good care of me in my old age. Which is the answer to the question of why we have kids, no?)

Thanks, Janis! 

Tracey Garvis Graves's 5 Firsts and Lasts

UnchartedOur guest today: Tracey Garvis-Graves Why we love her: Her debut, On the Island was fantastic!  And we fell even more in love when we met her last month at BEA.

Her latest:  Uncharted-An On the Island novella! (only 2.99!!!)

The Scoop: When twenty-three-year-old dot-com millionaire Owen Sparks walked away from his charmed life, he had one goal in mind: get as far away as possible from the people who resented his success, or had their hand out for a piece of it. A remote uncharted island halfway around the world seemed like a perfectly logical place to get away from it all.

Calia Reed wasn't part of Owen's plans. The beautiful British girl—on holiday in the Maldives with her brother, James—made Owen wonder if getting away from it all might be a lot more enjoyable with a carefree girl who didn't know anything about the life he left behind.

But Owen had no idea how much his carefully detailed plans would go awry. Nor did he realize that a decision he made would have such a catastrophic effect on two passengers who boarded a plane in Chicago.

And when Owen shows up at Anna and T.J.'s door with an incredible story to tell, everyone involved will learn just how much their lives are intertwined.

Our thoughts: We can't WAIT to read catch up with TJ and Anna!  SO excited!

Fun fact: On the Island was picked up by Penguin after it's incredible self publication sales!

Where you can read more about Tracey: Her website, Facebook and Twitter.


Author of On the Island and Covet, Tracey Garvis Graves


FIRST-My 7th grade boyfriend and I embarked on the world’s longest kissing session when we were at a party. Neither of us really knew what we were doing or that we could take a break to come up for air. I mostly remember worrying that I might pass out from lack of oxygen.

LAST -My dog caught me unaware and slipped me the tongue about an hour ago. I’m embarrassed to admit that this happens frequently. Thankfully I also receive daily kisses from my kids and my husband.


FIRST-The first book I can remember reading – and loving – is The Monster at the End of This Book. You can probably imagine my delight the first time I read it to my own children.

LAST-The last book I read was The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer. I am not a huge literary fiction reader, but this book blew me away. The writing is simply gorgeous. I had the pleasure of meeting Meg when I was in New York for BEA. I may have frightened her with my fangirling.


FIRST-I have always been very risk-averse. I have a fearless twin sister who was always the first to try new things, whether it was swimming in the deep end or learning how to drive a car. I have always been the cautious, careful, non-daredevil twin. However, when I wrote On the Island I took a huge risk because the main characters have a thirteen year age difference, and it’s the woman who’s older. She’s also the younger male character’s tutor. I really wanted to write a desert island book, and I knew that I wanted to put two people on an island – two people who should never be together – and see if I could convince the readers to not only fall in love with them as individual characters, but also root for them to be together. I was very, very lucky that readers embraced Anna and T.J. the way they did because it could have easily gone the other way.

LAST-My most recent risk involves following up a contemporary romance novel with a book that fits more solidly in the women’s fiction category. It’s tempting as a writer to write a book that is similar to the one that came before it. It’s safe. It’s comfortable. You know your readers will probably embrace it because you’re giving them more of something they already like. But Covet became the story I just had to tell because it was the one I couldn’t get out of my head.

I know my readers are probably expecting another love story like Anna and T.J.’s, but Covet is about a married couple who live in the suburbs. I remember back in late 2008 when the recession was in full-swing. I was a stay-at-home-mom at the time and my husband was in real danger of being laid off. He works in commercial real estate and it would have been very hard for him to find another job. We were extremely fortunate because he was able to keep his job, but this experience is what gave me the spark of an idea for Covet: What if my husband had lost his job and been out of work for an extended period of time? What might have happened to an otherwise strong marriage if an outside event like this had upset the status quo? I wrote the book to find out the answers to these questions.


FIRST-I have two of them. The first was when my agent informed me that On the Island made the New York Times bestseller list. It was late on a Wednesday night and my kids were in bed and my husband wasn’t home. I was overcome with excitement and there was no one I could share the news with, so I excitedly announced the news to my dog, Chloe. That’s probably why she kisses me all the time. I also e-mailed my dad and stepmom, and I used lots of exclamation points. The second truly surreal moment came when I sold over 100,000 copies of the self-published version of On the Island in one month.

LAST-There have been several recent reviews of Covet where the reviewer really understood what I wanted to do with this book. Covet is a book that I think many women can relate to, because it’s about marriage and family and the struggles and triumphs within. The characters are very human. It’s wonderful knowing that my intentions for this book are being realized, and that I was able to successfully transfer them to the page.


FIRST-A friend invited me to a psychic party about fifteen years ago. It was just for fun and I enjoyed hearing the psychic’s predictions. I saw this same psychic a few more times and even hosted my own party, which was a big hit. But one time she really floored me by saying she thought it would be a good idea for me to write a book someday. She didn’t give me any details other than to say, “I think once the kids are a little older you’ll just want something for yourself.” This was about ten or eleven years ago, and I kind of forgot about it. Fast forward to 2011. I was working full-time and in the final revision stage of On the Island.  I had been spreading myself pretty thin and I was exhausted. My husband was gently chastising me and saying that I was going to get sick if I didn’t slow down a bit. I ranted and raved about how I was so close to being done and so happy that I was about to accomplish my goal of writing a novel. I wanted him to know how much it meant to me so I turned to him and said, “I just want something for myself!” It was then that I remembered that those had been the psychic’s exact words, and my aha! moment came when I realized that it’s okay to want something outside of marriage and children that’s just for you. Who wouldn’t want that?

LAST-This one is fairly recent. In the last year I’ve focused so intently on my deadlines that I’ve let a few important things fall by the wayside, including exercise, regular social activity (just try getting me out of the house when I have a book due), and time to let my brain re-charge by letting my mind wander. My goal is to achieve a better balance because even though writing brings me great joy, there are many other things that make me happy, too. I’m also starting to learn the power of saying “no” when it needs to be said.

Thanks, Tracey!

Jenny Colgan's 5 Firsts & Lasts

Meet Me at the Cupcake Cafe CoverToday's guest: Jenny Colgan Why we love her: She's a new find for us but we're big fans already. We're only sad we didn't discover her sooner. Next up, we read her other 11+ novels!

Her latest: Meet Me at the Cupcake Cafe (Out July 2nd!)

The scoop on it: A sweet and satisfying novel of how delicious it is to discover your dreams

Issy Randall can bake. No, Issy can create stunning, mouthwateringly divine cakes. After a childhood spent in her beloved Grampa Joe's bakery, she has undoubtedly inherited his talent. She's much better at baking than she is a filing so when she's laid off from her desk job, Issy decides to open her own little café. But she soon learns that her piece-of-cake plan will take all of her courage and confectionary talent to avert disaster.

Funny and sharp, Meet Me at the Cupcake Café is about how life might not always taste like you expect, but there's always room for dessert!

Our thoughts: We devoured this delicious novel. It's the perfect book to read over your July 4th holiday!

Giveaway: TWO copies! (Us/Canada) Just leave a comment to be entered to win. We'll select the winners on Sunday, June 30th after 3pm PST.

Fun fact: You'll discover a yummy recipe at the beginning of every chapter in Meet Me at the Cupcake Cafe! Read chapter one here!

Where you can read more about Jenny: Her website, Facebook and Twitter.


Jenny ColganKISS

First Kiss: In a monastery, believe it or not. I went to a catholic school, which had the dreadful idea of taking us teenagers away with catholic boys from other schools for 'religious retreats' in the summertime. Obviously, the inevitable happened.

Last Kiss: Last night my husband took me out to dinner then we went down to the beach to have ice cream as the sun was setting. That was pretty nice.


First Book: My first memories of reading are Frances the Badger. I've read her books to my own children, she's wonderful and can certainly turn a song. The first book I ever read by myself obsessively over and over was Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Again, with my own children the effect is extraordinary, they wrest it out of your hands. It also has that wonderful poem about throwing out your tv and filling your house with books- 'and after, each and every kid/ will love you more for what you did'.

Last Book: I am reading and thoroughly enjoying Tigers in Red Weather by Liza Klaussmann and am just about to start Sisterhood. I think Curtis Sittenfeld is marvelous!


First Risk I Took: I went to Edinburgh University, instead of the local college my parents preferred where I could live with my grandmother. Edinburgh was far off, exotic, and I met people from all over the world instead of just people from my old school. I went a year early, completely on my own, at 16, and it was a real eye-opener.

Last Risk I Took: Ignoring the weather forecast this morning for a run along the beach. I would have achieved roughly the same effect from just jumping into the sea. I kept saying to the children, oh, it's going to clear up, but my four year old insisted on wearing her mackintosh and wellingtons, the full caboodle. She was right and I was wrong. Mind you, in my experience four year olds will wear wellies at any opportunity.


First “Aha!” Moment: When I was 15 or 16 my parents, for whatever reason, let me go to a touring production of The Rocky Horror Show with a friend. I grew up in a very small, insular town where I never felt like I fitted in (I realize now of course that this is not in the least unusual).

Anyway, we got to the little local theatre where I'd seen Christmas shows and summer variety and nothing else, and there were all these people dressed up as freaks in fishnets. They had the umbrellas and the rice and they knew all the funny responses. And I was like, oh my God, all these people are different! And funny! And they live in my town! It gave me just so much hope, that there were people out there who weren't purely concerned with makeup and fighting (the two main pursuits at my horrible high school).

Last “Aha!” Moment: For my New Year's resolution I started accompanying on the piano my friend who took up the clarinet after a twelve year break from it. It's such a pleasure to play with him when we're getting it right. This is, I should add, not terribly often.


First “Hell yeah!” Moment: A relationship ended in my early twenties so I did what you're supposed to, and took an evening class. I chose stand-up comedy. The first time I made everyone laugh changed my entire life in an instant. I was rubbish on stage, but unbeknownst to me apparently I could write funny, and that changed everything.

Last “Hell yeah!” Moment: Ha, this is an American website, so excellent, I can say it. My last novel, Welcome to Rosie Hopkins' Sweetshop of Dreams (to be released in the US in 2014!), won two prizes this year: Best Romantic Comedy and overall Romantic Novel of the Year. I'm British so if we win an award we have to kind of mumble and say oh, no, well, they probably made a mistake, and I’m going to hide it in the toilet. But this is an American site so I can say HELL YEAH! It was brilliant, I was totally thrilled, and here it was!

Thanks, Jenny!


Kitty Pilgrim's 5 Firsts & Lasts

The Stolen Chalice by Kitty PilgrimToday's guest: Kitty Pilgrim Why we love her: We love the way she writes. Her novels are exciting, engaging and memorable!

Her latest: The Stolen Chalice (Out in paperback now!)

The scoop on it:  What links an antique treasure to a sinister group of terrorists? CNN veteran Kitty Pilgrim sweeps us into the glamorous international art world, as lovely oceanographer Cordelia Stapleton and urbane archaeologist John Sinclair return in a perilous new quest.

When Cordelia and Sinclair attend a star-studded gala at the New York Metropolitan Museum, they anticipate merely a pleasurable evening. But as the elite dine and dance in the centuries-old Temple of Dendur, terrorists are planning a deadly assault. The attack is foiled, but it distracts from a massive heist of Egyptian art treasures around the city—among them the fabulous Sardonyx Cup.

The millionaire owner asks Sinclair for help retrieving it, and to Cordelia’s distress, her lover also recruits his old flame, Egyptologist Holly Graham. From a sprawling Wyoming ranch to a Scottish castle, the mysterious canals of Venice, and to Egypt itself, the search leads them to plans for a deadly bio-weapon attack. But could the chalice itself have special powers? Science and the supernatural collide as romantic tension sizzles. And now the three are moving into mortal danger. . . .

Our thoughts: We loved it just as much in paperback as we did the first time around.

Giveaway: Two SIGNED copies! Just leave a comment to be entered to win. We'll select the winners on Sunday, June 30th after 3pm PST.

Fun fact: Check out the trailer for The Stolen Chalice here!

Where you can read more about Kitty:  Her website, Twitter and Facebook.


Kitty PilgrimKISS

First: He was a beast.  And I mean it, bad breath, messy hair, unruly manner, horrible manners at the table.  George would take food off your plate without asking.  His mouth was just awful, spitty, revolting.  He’d been eyeing me all through the meal with a sort of hungry neediness I found pathetic.  His affection was unrequited.  I never really liked him very much at all.  It was just the two of us, alone in the kitchen.  I had just finished a piece of pizza and was enjoying the last delicious bite when it came, an unexpected, unsolicited smack on the mouth, the pink tongue lapping up all the sauce on my lips.  I howled at the invasion.  The sheer effrontery of it all. ( I was two years old.  He was a yellow Labrador retriever.  You didn’t think I would tell you about my first real kiss, did you? That is entirely too sacred.)

Last: My son Beau.  All through childhood he was the baby that clung the longest, kissed with the fierce intensity.  Now, an elegant young man, six foot five, 100 percent rock and roll musician, with a cool swagger, he usually pops a quick one on the side of my head as he leaves.  It’s almost as if he were ashamed to be caught in anything so sentimental.  Last Sunday night, we had dinner and were talking about this and that.  He checked his cell phone for texts and then told me he had to go.  An hour or so is all I get these days and I’m grateful for it.  At the door he suddenly reached down and hugged me so hard my feet left the ground, then he planted a kiss on top of my head, the pressure of it was unexpectedly tender.  “By mom,” he said and left me with tears in my eyes.  They grow up so fast.


First Risk I took: It was a really big risk. Monumental. After I graduated from college I suddenly got a contract to work in Japan.  Back then, living overseas was pre-cell phone, pre-internet.  Moving to Asia on the other side of the world.  The only real way to communicate was by letter.  Even making a phone call required making an appointment with an international operator.  But despite not knowing the language, having nowhere to live, no friends, family, and a host of other uncertainties I hopped on a plane and headed off to Tokyo.  I was so nervous, I don’t think I slept a wink in the plane.  Landing in Tokyo was like going to another planet.  I’d never seen anything like it. But I’ve never regretted taking the leap.

Last Risk: I wrote my first novel The Explorer’s Code as a lark when I was an anchor at CNN.  It was just for my own amusement, to keep me entertained on the train commute home.  I spun a fantasy that started at a gala in Monaco and romped through all the elegant watering holes of Europe. Then I added a dollop of good old-fashioned Victoria polar exploration, and a Russian bad guy or two.   It amused me a lot, and I passed it along to an agent.  He told me that it would be a best seller, (he was right) to quit my anchor job at the news network and become a novelist.  And that is exactly what I did.  Never a regret.  I am having the time of my life.


First: When I was a baby, my parents used to put books at the bottom of my crib so when I woke up, I would crawl down there and read for a while until everyone else in the house woke up.  I clearly remember doing that.   But my first heart pounding, oh-my- goodness-book obsession was reading the Adventures of Sherlock Holmes in the third grade.  I was absolutely enthralled, and immediately started writing my own series in a marble copybook, with myself as Sherlock’s helper.

Last: I am reading a series of books for the Nantucket Book Festival, all of them incredible.  I will moderate a panel with these incredible authors, all of whom have written about far away places.  So I am deep in the middle of a series of four books: Alex Gilvarry, From the Memoirs of a Non Enemy Combatant. Madeline Miller, The Song of Achilles No Violet Bulawayo, We Need New Names Vaddey Rather, In the Shadow of the Bayan.


First: I remember in school being distressed over why I didn’t fit in. I was tall (5 11” ) in the 8th grade, skinny, not terribly popular, bookish and shy.  I was not allowed to watch television, so conversations about TV shows and pop culture went entirely over my head.  I didn’t know anything about popular music, movie stars, or much of anything that was relevant in my pre-teen world.  Everyone else seemed so cool, and I was not.   One day, decades later, when I was anchoring the news I realized that the dynamic had reversed.   I was sitting there at the anchor desk, on television, the first to know all about world events, telling everyone else.  I think being so out of the loop in my childhood drove me to find out more about the world.   (And my children were certainly allowed to watch television. )

Last Ah ha moment: I was having dinner with my sons in Williamsburg Brooklyn and feeling very cool.  Here we were at the epicenter of hipness, and I was dining with two fabulously handsome young men: one who is a photographer, the other who is a rock musician.  I was feeling quite smug about my middle-aged coolness, reading over the menu.  My son Beau said  “Mom you should have anything you want.  Don’t worry about your diet.”  I thanked him, thinking he was referring to my still slender figure and the effortless way I have been able to maintain my weight.  My smugness was short lived.  He added in a clueless fashion, “At your age, you don’t have to worry about what you look like.”   You are never really cool to your children.


First: I was always very adventurous and athletic.  Most of my activities were individual sports, skating, riding, skiing, swimming.  By the time I was fifteen I was quite an athlete.   One winter my friends and I were going skiing, and I was nervous about whether I would be able to keep up.  There were a lot of boys along on the trip and I was anxious lest I be left behind on the slope.  We all started off, and I pushed myself to ski well that day, taking each mogul well, and pushing on, not noticing how the others were doing on the slope.  It was a difficult vertical drop and required my entire concentration.  When I got to the bottom, I looked around.  I was the first to arrive at the lodge.  A guy I had a crush on skied up a few minutes later, winded and chagrined.  “You are a fantastic skier,” he said, impressed.  At that moment I knew I would never let gender prevent me from excelling in any endeavor.

Last: Last week I got my diving certification.  It had been a long process of over a year because of bad luck, bad timing and a host of other problems.   I wanted to learn how to dive to better write my character, Cordelia Stapleton, an oceanographer.  If I couldn’t dive, how would I describe her adventures to my readers?  Last year, my scuba pool course had gone well, but when I went out to the open water dive, the conditions were awful.  I had to abandon the effort.   I tried several times and each effort had to be abandoned because of difficult conditions or equipment problems.  I was getting terribly frustrated about the whole thing, but kept trying.  Finally last week I went down and fulfilled all the requirements to become a certified diver.  Now let the adventures begin!

Thanks, Kitty!

Kim Barnouin's 5 Firsts and Lasts

16058654Our guest today: Kim Barnouin Why we love her: She's sassy and knows how to eat right--what's not to love?!

Her latest: Skinny Bitch in Love

The scoop: Clementine Cooper is a born vegan, com­mitted in every way to the healthy lifestyle she was raised with on her father’s organic farm. But how bad could a little butter be? Bad enough to get the ambitious and talented sous chef fired when an influential food critic discovers dairy in Clem’s butternut squash ravioli with garlic sage sauce. Though she was sabotaged by a backstab­bing coworker, Clem finds herself unceremo­niously blackballed from every vegan kitchen in L.A.


Like any vegan chef worth her salt, however, Clem knows how to turn lemons into delicious, cruelty-free lemonade cupcakes. She launches the Skinny Bitch Cooking School in hopes of soon opening her own café in an empty space near her apartment. But on the first day of class, sexy millionaire restaurateur Zach Jeffries puts a fork in her idea with his own plans for the space—a steakhouse. Clem is livid. For a carnivore, Zach is more complicated than she anticipated. He’s also a very good kisser. But could dating one of the most eligible bachelors in the city—and a meat-eater—be as bad for Clem as high-fructose corn syrup? Shouldn’t she fall instead for a man who seems to be her perfect match in every way—like Alexander Orr, a very cute, very sweet vegan chef?

Our thoughts: Fun, fun FUN! Whether you are a foodie or not, you'll be charmed by this one.

Giveaway: One copy! (US Only!)  Leave  comment and you'll be entered to win!  We'll choose the winners after 3pm PST on June 23rd.

Fun fact: Kim is the co-author of the mega NYT bestselling Skinny Bitch books.

Where you can read more about Kim: Her website, Facebook,  Twitter or Pinterest.



First: I was in 6th grade and I had such a crush on a boy named John. We were outside one day and I ran up and kissed him really quick on the lips then ran home! He eventually broke my heart and started "going out" with another girl.

Last: I kissed my husband of ten years, last night to say goodnight. It would have been a morning kiss but he had to be at work really early this morning and our son was in ourbed and he didn't want to wake us up.


First: My mom used to read Winnie the Pooh to me every night when I was little. It was my favorite book for many years. We would read the book in my bed until I fell asleep,as a parent now I'm sure my mom was so sick of reading the same book night after night!

Last: The Shack by William P. Young. It was given to me a few years ago and I had noidea what it was about. It totally shocked me, not only because it wasn't what I wasexpecting but because it was such a fantastic book. The story is so heartbreaking and beautiful at the same time. It will always be one of my favorites.


First: I was probably 15 years old when I got a huge Mohawk. It was in the 80's when everyone was into Madonna and Wham!, and here I was all in black with a blackMohawk. It was risky in my suburban town in Maryland, there weren't many people looking like that. I didn't care what people thought of me, I was just going through my own crazy rebellious phase.

Last: Doing a fiction book! I'm not known for fiction so it was a risk doing something new. I just had a feeling that it was time to do something different. I guess I take a risk each time I write a new book, because you never know what's going to be well received and what isn't.

Hell ya Moment

First: I was about 19 years old and I was modeling part time. I was doing a pretty big fashion show in Washington D.C and I remember walking out on the runway in a black sequined dress and seeing tons of people watching me. It was a pretty big high, I felt like the bomb at that moment. Especially after coming off the Mohawk phase!

Last: A few months ago my son won an award at school for creativity. I was in the auditorium taking pictures and he didn't know I was there. When they called his name Iwas a slobbering mess, and he stood up there in front of everyone looking at his award in disbelief. I was like, "yeah, that's my boy"!

Aha Moment

First: A number of years ago I read the book Real Magic by Wayne Dyer. I remember being completely floored by what he was saying, it is basically about the power to achieve our dreams and to live the life we really want to live. No one had ever told me before that I could do or be anything I wanted. It all clicked for me and ever since then magic started happening in my own life.

Last: I was about to turn 40 and I had heard many women talk about how things really changed for them in their 40's, that it was a really great time in their lives, etc. I was skeptical. Then one day when I was 41 it hit me, I totally got what those women were talking about. I had been feeling such freedom for the past few years, in the sense of being comfortable with who I was as a woman, and in my marriage and life in general. I don't have any of those old hang ups I had in my 20's and 30's. I'm not saying I have it all figured out, but I just feel so much better in my own skin than I ever have in my life.

Thanks, Kim!

Barbara Delinsky's 5 Firsts and Lasts

16045031Our guest: Barbara Delinksy Why we love her: Her books never disappoint!

Her latest: Sweet Salt Air

The Scoop: Charlotte and Nicole were once the best of friends, spending summers together in Nicole's coastal island house off of Maine. But many years, and many secrets, have kept the women apart. A successful travel writer, single Charlotte lives on the road, while Nicole, a food blogger, keeps house in Philadelphia with her surgeon-husband, Julian. When Nicole is commissioned to write a book about island food, she invites her old friend Charlotte back to Quinnipeague, for a final summer, to help. Outgoing and passionate, Charlotte has a gift for talking to people and making friends, and Nicole could use her expertise for interviews with locals. Missing a genuine connection, Charlotte agrees.

But what both women don't know is that they are each holding something back that may change their lives forever. For Nicole, what comes to light could destroy her marriage, but it could also save her husband. For Charlotte, the truth could cost her Nicole’s friendship, but could also free her to love again. And her chance may lie with a reclusive local man, with a heart to soothe and troubles of his own.

Our thoughts: REALLY great--and we love the cover too!

Giveaway: TWO copies!  Leave a comment and we'll choose the winners on June 23rd after 3pm PST.

Fun Fact:  Barbara has NINETEEN NYT bestsellers under her belt--WOW!

Where you can read more about Barbara: Her website, Facebook and Twitter.



First:  His name was Paul, we were dancing in a darkened basement to “The Twelfth of Never” (Johnny Mathis), and he wasn’t the greatest kisser.  Or so I learned.  Which leads me to the following.

Last:  My husband.  This morning.  He knows what he’s doing.


First:  Make Way For Ducklings by Robert McCloskey – at least, that’s the first one I remember.  Hey, I’m from Boston.  What more can I say?

Last:  I just reread F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby in advance of seeing the movie. Starting it, I felt it was unnecessarily dense.  I kept hearing my editor say, “Spit it out, say what you want without getting lost in the words.”  Then I started to love getting lost in Fitzgerald’s words.  I just finished it, and I’m haunted by the tragedy of these characters’ lives.


First:  Daring to write a book.  Actually no, that wasn’t the risk.  The risk was daring to send the book I’d written to New York.  It wasn’t easy.  My book is my baby.  What if I send it to strangers who cut it to bits?

Last:  Switching from PC to Mac.  Nothing about technology is intuitive to me.  Sorry, but my mind just works a different way.  But I needed a new computer and my web designer swore by his iMac.  I told myself that I could do it, and a dozen migraines later, I have!


First:  My childhood wasn’t terribly happy, not the least of it being social misery in high school.  So when I started college, I chose a new name.  From freshman orientation on, I wasn’t Barbara, I was Bobbi.  I felt like a different person, acted like a different person.  Hell ya!  I was reborn.  Those college years were phenomenally happy for me.  The funniest thing, of course, was being home over vacations, having college friends call on the phone. and hearing my dad say, “Bobbi?  Who?”

Last:  Several weeks ago, grandparents’ visiting day was held at my grandkids’ school.  What to wear?  I mean, most of the other guests would be dressed like, well, grandparents.  I didn’t want to look outlandish by comparison.  But I do like my purple nail polish.  And my leopard leggings.  And the feather in my hair.  Hell ya!  This is the me my grandkids know.

Thanks, Barbara!

Jessica Anya Blau's 5 Firsts & Lasts

WonderBreadSummerToday's guest: Jessica Anya Blau Why we love her: We literally bumped into her at the Harper Collins party when we were in NYC for BEA. And when she told us about her latest novel, we were immediately intrigued and started reading it on the plane ride home!

Her latest: The Wonder Bread Summer

The scoop on it: In The Wonder Bread Summer, loosely based on Alice in Wonderland, 20-year-old Allie Dodgson has adventures that rival those Alice had down the rabbit hole. Or those of Weeds’ Nancy Botwin.

Allison is working at a dress shop to help pay for college. The dress shop turns out to be a front for drug dealers. And Allison ends up on the run—with a Wonder Bread bag full of cocaine.

With a hit man after her, Allison wants the help of her parents. But there’s a problem: Her mom took off when Allison was eight; her dad moves so often Allison that doesn’t even have his phone number….

Set in 1980s California, The Wonder Bread Summer is a wickedly funny and fresh caper that’s sure to please fans of Christopher Moore, Carl Hiaasen, and Marcy Dermansky.

Our thoughts:  We could not put this book down. A hilarious summer read! (Plus: Doesn't it have like the best cover ever?)

Giveaway: Two SIGNED copies! Just leave a comment to be entered to win. We'll select the winners on Sunday, June 16th after 12PM PST.

Where you can read more about Jessica: Her website ,Facebook and Twitter.



First: I come from a kissy family so certainly I was kissed a lot as a kid. My great-grandmother didn’t speak English (that I had ever heard) and she laid some pretty terrifying kisses on me as she spit out a guttural Yiddish. But my first romantic kiss was when Scott Carpenter said, “Jessica, come here, I want to tell you something.” We were standing at the top of a hill on the cul de sac where I lived. It was a bright sunny day and the sidewalk was chalky clean. Scott leaned in and kissed me quickly on the tip of my nose. I think he was aiming for my lips but missed. Then he turned and ran as fast as he could down the hill and away from me. Matt B. was the first boy who French kissed me and it was a messy affair. There was drool sliding down my neck.

Last: My husband thirty seconds ago just before he walked out of the room.  He’s a kiss-when-you-enter, kiss-when-you-exit kind of guy.

Book I read

The first book I read to myself was a French counting book. On each page was a number with a play on the pronunciation of the word. On the page for the number four it said QUATRE and there was a picture of a cat (the reader was supposed to pronounce quatre as CAT). And on the page for the number five it said CINQ and there was a picture of the cat sinking in a tank of water (cinq was to be pronounced SANK). I loved that book. The next book I remember reading is Madeleine by Ludwig Bemelmans.

The last book I read was Cheryl Strayed’s WILD.  I’m probably the last person on the planet to read it. I can’t wait to see the movie.  Nick Hornby wrote the script and I’m a huge Hornby fan (as well as a Strayed fan, too, now!).

Risk I Took

First: I was a pretty fearful and quiet kid and until around age seven, I preferred to hang out with my mother and read books (she read for hours each day—not to me, beside me) than hang out with kids. So my first real risk was probably when I agreed to sleep over at the neighbor girl’s house when I was five. It was a long, miserable night. We shared a bed and she tortured me by making horse whiney noises with her face an inch from mine. I couldn’t wait to go home.

Last: Every day that I sit down to write, I feel like I’m taking a risk. I’m risking failure, humiliation, rejection, time-wasting, revealing how stupidy-dumb-dumb I am, etc.  I write in spite of these risks. Yet, still, all the perils of this occupation occur to me each time I open my computer.

Aha! Moment

First: When I was a little kid I didn’t understand children. I thought the things they wanted to do weren’t interesting. I liked reading, I liked quietly mothering my dolls, and I liked having tea with the old lady who lived across the street.  Then my family moved to California and I discovered friends who were fun, exciting and imaginative. I suddenly realized that it could be great to hang out with people my age.

Last: Wow, I feel like I have Aha! moments every day. Today I had one when I was wearing a white shirt with a blue and white polka dot bra. (I was rushing this morning when I got dressed and didn’t realize the bra showed through until I was out of the house.) It was a hot day so I thought I could pretend it was a bathing suit and that I was coming from the pool (this pretending was going on in my head since the general public wasn’t discussing the polka dot bra with me!). Then, around six, I met a couple friends at the neighborhood pool.  My one friend said, “Why are you wearing a polka dot bra under that white shirt?” I asked her if it didn’t just look like I was wearing a bathing suit. She said it looked like I was wearing a polka dot bra. And I thought, “Aha! I’ve fooled no one and I just look like an idiot!”

Hell ya! Moment

My first Hell ya! moment was probably when I fell in love repeatedly in sixth grade. The entire class was falling in love and switching up boyfriends weekly.  The whole love stuff was pretty fun and exciting and I remember thinking a version of Hell Ya! when the class went to sleep away camp and my friends and I spent all our energy maneuvering for hand holding or kissing.

My last Hell ya! moment was about thirty minutes ago when my daughter handed me an award she got for a short film she made. She worked really hard on that film (writing it, storyboarding, casting it, shooting it, editing it) and Hell Ya! she deserved that award!

Thanks, Jessica!

Sally Koslow's 5 Firsts and Lasts

9780670025640_p0_v2_s260x420Our guest today: Sally Koslow Why we love her: Her writing is insightful!

Her latest: The Widow Waltz

The scoop: Georgia Waltz has things many people only dream of: a plush Manhattan apartment overlooking Central Park, a Hamptons beach house, valuable jewels and art, two bright daughters, and a husband she adores, even after decades of marriage. It’s only when Ben suddenly drops dead from a massive coronary while training for the New York City Marathon that Georgia discovers her husband—a successful lawyer—has left them nearly penniless. Their wonderland was built on lies.

As the family attorney scours emptied bank accounts, Georgia must not only look for a way to support her family, she needs to face the revelation that Ben was not the perfect husband he appeared to be, just as her daughters—now ensconced back at home with secrets of their own—have to accept that they may not be returning to their lives in Paris and at Stanford subsidized by the Bank of Mom and Dad. As she uncovers hidden resilience, Georgia’s sudden midlife shift forces her to consider who she is and what she truly values. That Georgia may also find new love in the land of Spanx and stretch marks surprises everyone—most of all, her.

Our thoughts: We couldn't put it down!

Giveaway: ONE copy! Leave a comment and we'll choose a winner after 3pm PST on Sunday June 16th.

Fun Fact: Sally's experience working with at the short-lived Rosie magazine inspired her first novel, Little Pink Slips.

Where to read more about Sally: Her website, Facebook or Twitter.



First: Mark and I were 13, at summer camp in northern Wisconsin. A few times over the session the counselors would declare that after taps, there would be a “night walk.” This meant that a boy could ask you to this prom-worthy event. Mark and I strolled around the campgrounds, swatting away mosquitos and reeking of insect repellant as The Twelfth of Never and Moon River blared from the loudspeakers. He kissed me in front of the lake. The slippery tongue was a shock.

Last: This morning when my husband left for work. Robby and I met in college, and have practically grown up together. When I look at him, I see a19-year-old hippie, not a handsome man with silvery sideburns in a Hermes tie.


First: After I graduated from college I wanted a job on a magazine. Unaware that Conde Nast was the ooh-la-la of publishers, I had the audacity to apply there and landed an entry-level position at Mademoiselle. This meant moving from the Midwest to New York City. A friend who’d lived in Manhattan decided to bail, so I took her apartment, not knowing it was in a rough neighborhood, muggers right and left. The first day of work I figured out to get to the office by bus, but I had no clue how to get home. I am grateful to have been gullible enough to do these things at 21 and start what turned out to be a long, satisfying run in magazines.

Last: My agent heard me riff about the challenges of raising young adult children and suggested that I write a book about it--nobody else was reporting on this subject, and she found it interesting. I was skeptical. I saw myself as a novelist—I’d written three novels in six years, although I’d written dozens of magazine articles. Still each one of them was only about 3000 words long. Books are about 100,000 words long, and for this topic, I’d need to uncover hundreds of baby boomer parents and their drifting offspring and convince them to prattle on about frustrations, worries and disappointments. Plus I’d need to charm interview subjects to allow me to use their real names in the book. Daunting. I rose to the challenge, however, and wrote a hybrid of reporting and memoir that was published last year and has recently been released as a paperback, Slouching Toward Adulthood: How to Let Go So Your Kids Can Grow Up. The best part? NBC found the book funny and apt and has optioned it for a TV series. This is a lot like buying a lottery ticket. I am not holding my breath.

Book You Read

First: As a four- and five-year-old, I poured over my Golden Books for the pictures, because I couldn’t read. In grade school I loved the Betsy, Tacy and Tib series by Maud Hart Lovelace; Peter Pan; and volume D of our encyclopedia, with its photographs of dogs as well as “Dolls of the World.” But my favorite was The Secret Garden, which wet my appetite for Jane Eyre, Rebecca and Wuthering Heights when I was a teenager.

Last: Claire Messud’s The Woman Upstairs is one of my year’s favorites. It fully engaged me. Nora Eldridge, the main character and “woman upstairs,” her term for what we used to call a harmless spinster, becomes beguiled by one of her third-grade students and his worldly parents. The language is rich and contemporary, at turns savagely funny and touching, and the ending broke my heart.

Hell Ya

First: I was a kid whom adults exhorted to “smile!” Hell was being forced to call my mother’s friends and ask them to buy Camp Fire Girls candy. So in ninth grade, I was terrified about having to take Speech, where a wry and gifted teacher coached us on how to address a group. To my shock, when I stood in front of the podium, a bolder me emerged--perhaps this is the way an actress feels—and I became the class star. This may be the most practical class I ever took. I’ve had little further media training, yet feel comfortable speaking in front of a group of any size or on television, which I’ve had to do extensively, both as the editor of magazines and as an author. I realized you shouldn’t make assumptions about your capabilities. Let yourself be surprised.

Last: The concept for my second novel came to me at a long funeral for a neighbor I barely knew. By the time I’d left the service, I’d decided to write a novel called The Late, Lamented Molly Marx, which begins with Molly being able to observe who attended her funeral, which I’ve always thought is a fantasy many of us share. This book went on to become a Target Book Club pick and a bestseller in Germany, which yielded my first royalty check. How do you say hell ya in German?

Aha Moment

First: I went east to college, all the way from North Dakota to Wisconsin, where students from the east coast so impressed me with their sophistication that much of the confidence I’d known as a high school student—editor of the school paper, blah blah—evaporated. Still, masochistic as it may seem, after graduation I decided to New York City and got a job at a magazine. Once I worked in that field I grew to consider my Midwestern roots as an advantage, because most magazines readers are not from Manhattan: they are women like those I knew from childhood. I also didn’t take me long to realize that while many New Yorkers have a certain amount of bluster, they are a lot less “sophisticated,” then I’d originally thought. Many can be shockingly provincial.

Last: I felt born to be a magazine editor, so much so that when I lost a great job and then another, both under circumstances that struck me as crazy and unjust, I melted into a puddle of nothing. Joining a writing workshop allowed me to channel my righteous indignation and look at my situation objectively. What I saw was funny. I, a girl from Fargo, became a top editor in New York City, only to lose her job to a batty celebrity. It’s a ridiculous plot line, even if it’s true, but with a big helping of hubris I used it to write a novel inspired by my own misfortune. This became my debut novel, Little Pink Slips. I want to puke when I hear spiritual porn like “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade” but I’ve learned that no one has only career-path that plays to their strengths.

Thanks, Sally!


Liane Moriarty's 5 Firsts and Lasts

31uIso-sJgLOur guest today: Liane Moriarty Why we love her: Her books are BRILLIANT!  And funny!

Her latest: The Hypnotist's Love Story

The Scoop: Ellen O'Farrell is an expert when it comes to human frailties. She's a hypnotherapist who helps her clients deal with everything from addictions to life-long phobias. So when she falls in love with a man who is being stalked by his ex-girlfriend she's more intrigued than frightened. What makes a supposedly smart, professional woman behave this way? She'd love to meet her!

What she doesn't know is that she already has. Saskia has been masquerading as a client, and their lives are set to collide in ways Ellen could never have predicted.

Our thoughts: LOVED this one and could not turn the pages fast enough! Pick it up!

Giveaway: TWO copies! (US only) Leave a comment and you'll be entered to win.  We'll choose the winners after 3pm on June 23rd.

Fun fact: Liane is an Aussie!

Where to read more about Liane: Her website and Facebook.



Liane-Moriarty-credit-Uber-First: In a public telephone box with a six foot, sixteen year old Polish boy.  He was calling his Mum to come and pick us up from the railway station.  It blew my good little catholic girl mind.

Last: On my three year old daughter’s forehead. I’d just dropped her off at preschool, and she was already busy, chatting to her friends, her hands deep in some brown clay.  It didn’t blow my mind, but it was very lovely, so thank you for making me remember it.


First: I have no idea, so I’ll pick one at random and say The Magic Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton. I can’t wait to read it with my own children and rediscover all those wonderful characters: Moonface, the Saucepan Man, Silky, and the slide! The slide through the centre of the tree! You sat on a cushion! For some reason I was particularly taken with the idea of the cushions. So comfy!  Actually, I recently tried to tell my son about the Magic Faraway Tree and the slide and the cushions and the magical lands at the top of the tree but he got that patient, kindly look he gets when I’m being boring or crazy.

Last: Life after Life by Kate Atkinson. I absolutely loved everything about it. She’s a genius.


First: It must have been the moment I used a piece of furniture to haul myself up to a standing position and decided to just…let go. Each time I see a child do that for the first time, I think it must be the most incredible feeling to suddenly be upright and feel your body behaving in such a different way. Like learning to fly.

Last: When I reversed out of my driveway this afternoon to pick my son up from school. Reversing is always risky for me. The last time I took my car to the smash repairers, the boss called all his boys out of the workshop just to see my car. I’m proud to say there wasn’t a single undamaged panel. Today’s risk paid off, just a tiny clip of one side-mirror.

Hell ya moment

First: My mother always tells me one of her favourite memories is walking through a shopping centre with me and my father, after they’d just bought me my first ever pair of shoes.  The shoes were bright red. I was holding my parents’ hands and kept nearly toppling over because I was bent so far forward to examine my enthralling new shoes. Presumably I was thinking: Hell ya, they look good!  I’m still quite partial to red shoes.

Last: Seeing my five year old son score his first goal at soccer. You should have seen it. Seriously. The skill.  The pure athleticism.  The razor sharp concentration.  I did that whole undignified arm-flinging, shrieking, running-around-in-circle thing, as if he’d just won an Olympic medal. And then there was the little self-conscious smile he gave me and his Dad on the sideline. I’ll treasure that memory, in the same way Mum treasures the red shoes memory.

Aha Moment

First: It must have been my first taste of chocolate.  I don’t actually remember it, but I always remember the delirious, revelatory expression on my daughter’s face when she tried it for the first time: Aha. This is what they should be feeding me. This is what I like. Not that other stuff. This. Only this.

Last: I’d never had any interest in golf, but some friends recently convinced me to take lessons. “Aha,” I thought when I first heard that satisfying thwack of my club against the golf ball and saw it soar through the air and on to the green. “This I why people love it.”  And then, just a few minutes later, when I kept hacking away and missing, “Aha. This is why people say golf is a good way to ruin a nice walk.”

Claire Cook's 5 Firsts & Lasts

Time Flies cover Touchstoneweb(1)Today's guest: Claire Cook Why we love her: Not only is she one of our favorite authors, but we just love her--she's incredibly kind & supportive!

Her latest: Time Flies (Out June 11th!)

The scoop on it: Years ago, Melanie followed her husband, Kurt, from the New England beach town where their two young sons were thriving to the suburbs of Atlanta. She’s carved out a life as a successful metal sculptor, but when Kurt leaves her for another woman, having the tools to cut up their marriage bed is small consolation. She’s old enough to know that high school reunions are often a big disappointment, but when her best friend makes her buy a ticket and an old flame gets in touch to see whether she’ll be going, she fantasizes that returning to her past might help her find her future…until her driving phobia resurfaces and threatens to hold her back from the adventure of a lifetime. Time Flies is an epic road trip filled with fun, heartbreak, and friendship, and explores what it takes to conquer your worst fears…so you can start living your future.

Our thoughts: A summer must-read, you will love this escape!

Giveaway: 1 signed copy! Just leave a comment to be entered to win. We'll select the winner on Sunday, June 9th after 3 pm PST.

Fun fact: You have until midnight on June 10th to enter the TIME FLIES Sweepstakes! You and one of your oldest and dearest friends could win an all-expense-paid weekend including airfare at the amazing Lake Austin Spa Resort in Austin, Texas July 26-28 - worth over $4,500! You'll get a chance to reunite with your friend, relax, and attend a party with Claire! Enter on Facebook or at

Where you can read more about Claire: Her website, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest. And catch one of her Time Flies book tour events.


CookClaire1. Kiss

First: We were six. I was a good girl, all about impressing the nuns, which in parochial school basically meant posture, penmanship, and memorization. And then I discovered the lure of the bad boy. We kissed and I think he knocked out one of my front teeth, though I'm pretty sure these were two separate incidents.

Last: My husband and I just received a notice from the IRS saying we'd underpaid our taxes by an amount of money so big that I can’t even type it. I mean, we were seriously going to lose everything we owned. Major, major panic. I scanned and emailed all ten pages of the notice to our accountant at 8:30 at night, and he emailed back about five minutes later saying that it was a mistake. "We don't have to move in with our kids!" my husband and I yelled. And then we kissed.

2. Risk I took

First: My father had taken the training wheels off my bike. My sole training wheel-less experience at that point had been going back and forth across the driveway with him casually resting one hand on the back wheel. But we’d just moved and I wanted to impress my new friend who lived at the very top of the street. So I walked my two-wheeler up the steep hill to her house. When it was time to leave, I thought I’d just ride until I was out of sight, and then jump off and walk my bike the rest of the way home. I could picture it so clearly in my mind, which to this day I still find is the curse of having the brain of a novelist. Things got out of control pretty quickly, further complicated by the fact that I couldn’t find the brakes. Wipeout!

Last: After two decades living in a little beach town between Boston and Cape Cod, my husband and I sold our 1890 Victorian, got rid of almost everything we owned, and moved to the suburbs of Atlanta. Every day is a new adventure, and it’s been great to shake things up.

3. Book I read

First: The Nancy Drew Mysteries were the first books that I fell completely in love with. I can remember telling myself I’d go to sleep after I finished this chapter, but I just couldn’t do it, and would have to keep reading into the night.

Last: The last book I read was my eleventh novel, right before I sent it off to my literary agent. It’s such an odd thing to read your own manuscript at this stage, because you’re so close that you just can’t tell what works and what doesn’t. And you’re on pins and needles waiting for the verdict, doing productive things like trying to come up with Plan B for your life if you find out that between novel #10 and #11 you’ve somehow forgotten how to write.

4. Hell ya! moment

First: Maybe not the first, but the one I’ll never forget is walking the red carpet at the Must Love Dogs premiere and doing thirty-five interviews with everyone from Access Hollywood to Extra. It was the year I turned fifty, and in that moment I knew that midlife could totally rock.

Last: When our 1890 Victorian sold in two weeks. (I give full credit to the home stager heroine of my novel, Best Staged Plans, for the quick sale in a down market!)

5. Aha! Moment

First: I had my first story published in the Sunday newspaper when I was six. It was about Hot Dog, our family dachshund, even though we really had a beagle at the time. I loved the attention. I loved that I’d discovered a way to make things up and not get in trouble.

Last: I should probably pretend this one came from a loftier place, but the truth is it came from American Idol. Keith Urban quoted some music producer as saying, “When you have a hit, you have a hit. But when you have an audience, you have a career.” I think it’s so, so true for authors, and I’m incredibly grateful to my readers, my audience, for giving me the gift of my career.

Thanks, Claire!

Lindy DeKoven's 5 Firsts & Lasts

PrimetimePrincess jacketToday's guest: Lindy DeKoven Why we love her: We loved this juicy debut! Can't wait for her next.

Her novel: Primetime Princess

The scoop on it: Alexa Ross is Vice President of Comedy Development at Hawkeye Broadcasting System. Years ago she worked as an assistant to the sex crazed and obnoxious Jerry Kellner. Jerry fired Alexa for not submitting to his graceless sexual advances. They’ve not spoken since. That is until Alexa is forced to hire Kellner as a member of her staff. Alexa is now her old boss’ boss.

The highest-ranking female executive at the network, Alexa struggles to survive in an old fashioned boys’ club where thoughtless sexual harassment is part of the daily working environment. It’s a culture that Jerry, who has never met a bodacious ta-ta he didn’t want, navigates with ease.

Jerry refuses to acknowledge Alexa’s authority, undermining her at every turn while cozying up to the corporate brass clearly angling to jump over her and get appointed network president, putting him in direct competition with Alexa for the top spot.

Meanwhile Alexa tries to maintain a promising relationship with Gordon Harrison, a sixth grade teacher at the school where Alexa volunteers as a tutor. Gordon supports her dream to shatter the glass ceiling but he, along with her two best girlfriends, are concerned about the sacrifices she’s making and the person she’s becoming.

The drama occurs over the course of one TV development season. The competition to get better shows than Jerry and win the brass ring on the new schedule forces Alexa to a breaking point.

Ultimately, she’s faced with a decision that will not only impact her own future, but that of generations of women to come.

Our thoughts: Her debut novel has been called "deliciously scandalous" and we couldn't agree more! Perfect poolside reading!

Giveaway: TWO copies! Just leave a comment to be entered to win. We'll select the winners on Sunday, June 2nd after 3PM PST.

Fun fact: She was Executive Vice President of Movies and Miniseries for NBC Entertainment and NBC Productions so she might just know a thing or two about what her character goes through. *wink wink*

Where you can read more about Lindy: Her website, Facebook and Twitter.


Lindy DeKoven smallKISS

First: My husband believes my first kiss was with him under the lemon tree in the backyard of his home. So in order to preserve that memory (or fantasy) I’m going to stick with that.

Last: This occurred two seconds ago from my dog, Eddie, who can’t seem to give me enough kisses. Although it’s almost dinner time. So I’m not sure if this is about his undying love for me, or his desire to just eat.


First: Caps For Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina. Does anyone remember this book? It continues to resonate with me because I’ve worn so many hats and peddled so many ideas. I often feel like the main character with a bunch of hats stacked on top of his head.

Last: I just finished Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg. Frankly, any woman who wants to help other women is a great woman in my book. (Literally and figuratively!) So I applaud her efforts.


First: Like Alexa Ross, the character in my book Primetime Princess, who takes a chance on Gordon Harrison, I took a risk and married my husband. I’m happy to say its turned out pretty well. However, because there’s so much curiosity about who Jerry Kellner is based on, my husband would like the world to know that Gordon isn’t based on him.

Last: Bought an orange dress, not the usual black, and despite a healthy layer of Spanx, pray that Sunkist doesn’t slap a sticker on me. Frankly, I think this is a bigger risk than the one mentioned above.


First: That I had the discipline to not read emails, waste time on Facebook and Twitter, or distract myself with the latest car chase. Instead I focused on writing a book and finished it. Latest Aha Moment: That there comes a time in one’s life where one cannot eat like she once did when she was a teenager. Waaa!!


First: I set my sights on one publishing agent and when she agreed to represent me, I felt like I had won the lottery. And I did because she always has my back.

Last: When Chick Lit Is Not Dead asked me to write this post. I managed to write the whole thing without eating one single M&M. (A shout-out to Alexa’s stress meds.) A hellava hell ya moment.

Thanks, Lindy!