5 Firsts and Lasts

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!

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!


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!


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!

Meg Donohue's 5 Firsts & Lasts

All_the_summer_girlsToday's guest: Meg Donohue Why we love her: We crowned her a Lit IT Girl after reading her sparkling debut, How to Eat a Cupcake.

Her latest: All the Summer Girls

The scoop on it: In Philadelphia, good girl Kate is dumped by her fiancé the day she learns she is pregnant with his child. In New York City, beautiful stay-at-home mom Vanessa finds herself obsessively searching the Internet for news of an old flame. And in San Francisco, Dani, the wild child and aspiring writer who can’t seem to put down a book—or a cocktail—long enough to open her laptop, has just been fired… again.

In an effort to regroup, Kate, Vanessa, and Dani retreat to the New Jersey beach town where they once spent their summers. Emboldened by the seductive cadences of the shore, the women begin to realize just how much their lives, and friendships, have been shaped by the choices they made one fateful night on the beach eight years earlier—and the secrets that only now threaten to surface.

Our thoughts: You know we're suckers for any novel that tackles the complicated bonds between female friends. Meg handles this flawlessly in this book. We highly recommend you add this book to your beach bag this summer!

Giveaway: TWO copies. Just leave a comment to be entered to win and we'll choose the winners on Sunday, May 26th after 12 PM PST.

Fun fact: You can read the first two chapters here!

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



First:  Surely my first kiss was from my mother or father in the moments after my birth. Did you expect something steamy? A good Philly girl never kisses and tells!

Last: Well, okay, maybe just this once: After a week of not kissing for fear of passing the flu to my husband, I am finally healthy and we shared a sweet kiss without the specter of plague attached. I hope.


First: It’s not the first book I read, but I remember being particularly enthralled by Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson. I don’t recall the story, but I know I thought it was beautiful and very sad. I wonder if that was one of the first times I enjoyed the experience of reading something that made me sad? It seems like a monumental, and mature, moment in one’s life as a reader. (I just went online to read the summary of Bridge to Terabithia, and got something—ahem—stuck in my eye. So turns out I’m still carrying around a little seed of sadness planted by this book twenty-five years ago.)

Last: Speaking of beautiful and sad, the last book I read was Life After Life by Kate Atkinson. This book haunted my dreams over the course of time that I read it. I found it to be quite devastating, in part because Atkinson’s characters are so vivid and whole.


First: I think some of the earliest risks I took were with humor. Being funny takes guts—you put yourself out there, and hope your sense of humor will resonate with others too. Sometimes there’s nothing scarier for a kid than just opening her mouth and speaking; fear of rejection can be a muzzle. Looking back, I realize that the jokes that fell flat (and there have been many over the years) were actually confidence builders. The world didn’t end when I swung and missed. I learned to laugh at myself and the cricket-filled dead air that follows an unsuccessful stab at humor, and that ability to laugh, shrug, and move on has served me well.

Last: My last big risk was when All the Summer Girls was published. I spend a long span of time working on a book in private; releasing it into the public sphere is both scary and exciting.


First: When I was in graduate school for creative writing, the Gettysburg Review published one of my short stories. It was the first time I was paid for my fiction, and the story attracted the attention of a couple of agents. I remember feeling very much like it was the start of my dream coming true. I was right, if only in that the experience gave me the confidence to continue believing in myself. Last: In April, my husband and I left our kids with his parents and went to Palm Springs for my birthday. We read for hours in the sun, swam, hiked, ate delicious food, and had Bellinis every morning. It was glorious. Hell ya!


First: During a back-to-school shopping trip with my mom when I was in middle school, she asked if I cared what brand my clothes were. The truth was that I did care about the brand of my clothes—I wanted to be cool, sue me!—but just my mom asking the question was enough to remind me that the coolest kids are the ones that march to the beat of their own drum, the ones that do things their own way, in pursuit of their own brand of happiness. Her question has served as a bit of a touchstone over the years.

Last: I’m in the early stages of working on my third book, and while I have had the general story arc in mind for a while, it has taken some time to feel like I have a handle on the important details that take a story from an idea to a novel. Lately, I’ve had a few breakthroughs, my protagonist is revealing herself, and many of the more intricate plot points are finally coming together and taking shape. I’m excited!

Thanks, Meg!



Jamie Brenner's 5 Firsts and Lasts

GIN LOVERSbindupOur guest: Jamie Brenner Why we love her: Her novel immediately sucked us in.

Her latest: The Gin Lovers

The scoop on it: What price would you pay for happiness? For Charlotte, freedom from her marriage might be the one thing she can’t afford.

It’s 1925, and the Victorian era with its confining morals is all but dead. Unfortunately, for New York socialite Charlotte Delacorte, the scandalous flapper revolution is little more than a headline in the tabloids. Living with her rigid and controlling husband William, her Fifth Avenue townhouse is a gilded cage. But when William’s rebellious younger sister, the beautiful and brash Mae, comes to live with them after the death of their mother, Charlotte finds entrée to a world beyond her wildest dreams – and a handsome and mysterious stranger whom she imagines is as confident in the bedroom as he is behind the bar of his forbidden speakeasy.

Soon, Charlotte realizes that nothing is as it seems. Secrets are kept and discovered, loves are lost and found, and Charlotte is finds herself on the brink of losing everything — or having it all.

Our thoughts: Love that it has that "Downton Abbey" feel to it! With a whole lotta sexy mixed in!

Giveaway: Two copies! Just leave a comment to be entered to win and we'll select the winners after 12pm PST on Sunday, May 19th.

Fun fact: Jamie Also writes under the pen name Logan Belle!

Where you can read more about Jamie: Her website, Twitter and Facebook!


Jamie Brenner RGB small crop 72dpiKISS

First: It was September 13, 1985. Yes, I know the exact date because the MTV Video awards were on. It happened at my house. I was standing with my “boyfriend” in the kitchen next to the dishwashing machine. I could hear Dire Straits on the tv in the other room. I couldn’t even enjoy the moment because I kept wondering if my braces were bothering him.

Last: This morning, with my fiancé. My last, my best, my always.


First: Amazing question. I don’t know the exact first book I ever read. I remember reading books in first grade and my teacher telling me they were books for fourth graders. It was the first thing I ever took pride in. The first specific books I remember reading were the Frank L. Baum Wizard of Oz books and the Nancy Drew series.

Last: The Island by Elin Hilderbrand. I devoured it. My next will be one by her, too. I just have to decide between her slew of bestsellers!


First: I wanted bangs but my mother said no. So I cut them myself. I got punished and the bangs looked terrible. I’m just thankful that even though the end results were bad, it didn’t stop me from taking more risks!

Last: Quitting my job to write novels full time. Only slightly more terrifying than the  moment when the scissors cut into my six year old hair.


First: April 6, 1986. The boy I’d liked since 7th grade asked me out.

Last: The day I saw a copy of my first novel, Blue Angel.  My publisher sent me a box of advance copies. I showed it off like a newborn baby. And then I put it on my bookshelf next to Judith Krantz.


First: The boy who asked me out told me he loved me. I was fifteen, and I realized that I was going to have a “life” after all. Things didn’t only happen in books and movies.

Last: When my fiancé kissed me for the first time. I realized that I could still feel fifteen again.

Thanks, Jamie!


Liza Palmer's 5 Firsts and Lasts

NowherebuthomeToday's guest: Liza Palmer Why we love her: We've loved Liza since we read Conversations with a Fat Girl

Her latest: Nowhere but Home

The scoop on it: The strategy on the gridiron of Friday Night Lights is nothing compared to the savagery of coming home . . .

Queenie Wake has just been fired from her job as a chef for not allowing a customer to use ketchup . . . again. Now the only place she has to go is North Star, Texas, the hometown she left in disgrace. Maybe things will be different this time around. After all, her mother—notorious for stealing your man, your car, and your rent money—has been dead for years. And Queenie's sister, once the local teenage harlot who fooled around with the town golden boy, is now the mother of the high school football captain.

Queenie's new job, cooking last meals at the nearby prison, is going well . . . at least the inmates don't complain! But apparently small-town Texas has a long memory for bad reputations. And when Queenie bumps into Everett Coburn, the high school sweetheart who broke her heart, she wishes her own memory was a little spottier. But before Queenie takes another chance on love, she'll have to take an even bigger risk: finding a place to call home once and for all.

Our thoughts: We love her witty writing. And this story is the perfect blend of heart and humor.

Giveaway: 2 copies! Just leave a comment and be entered to win. We'll select the winners on Sunday, April 14th after 12pm PST.

Fun fact: Check out her blog where she reveals behind the scenes details about her books (including  the town her latest novel was based on) and her life.

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




My first kiss was probably with some poor unsuspecting neighbor and my most recent kiss was… the same, some poor unsuspecting neighbor.

Book you read

The first books I read were some combination of Miffy at the Zoo, Fletcher and Zenobia, Where the Wild Things Are and Goodnight Moon.

And the last book (play?) I read was Much Ado About Nothing.  (And the Joss Whedon movie version…hello?!  Can it surpass the Italian tanned loveliness of the Branagh version?  WE SHALL SEE.  Here’s what I do now:  Fillion will definitely do better than Keaton as Dogberry.  “Let it be known that I am an ass”… I CAN’T WAIT.)

Risk you took

The first risk I took was my entire childhood.  My Mom has informed me that she should have invested in a ceremonial plaque that saved her preferred seat in the Emergency Room.

The most recent risk I took was ordering the Cobb Salad at the Westside Tavern.  It’s hard to do a good Cobb.  (Verdict?  Loved it.  Highly recommend it.)

Hell ya! moment

My first Hell Ya moment - I actually asked my Mom about this and she said, “What about when you decided not to go to Kindergarten.  Walked in through the front door and right back out the back.”  I asked her what brought me back – what convinced me to stay.  And she said they’d just started this new pilot program where kids could dictate stories and teachers would write them down and make books out of them.  I didn’t know that… very cool to know writing has always been there for me.

My latest Hell Ya moment?   I mean, that Cobb Salad was pretty great, but…  it was probably when Nowhere but Home came in the mail.  The package was on my stoop and I thought maybeeeee – tore it open – and there it was.  I got emotional immediately and I haven’t let it out of my sight since. There’s just nothing like holding that finished book in your hands.  Yes, I’m kind of crying even writing about it.  (NERD)

Aha! moment

My first AHA moment – I mean, you are giving little kids and moreover people’s memories a lot of credit here.  Okay, isn’t a baby’s first AHA moment just Peek-a-Boo?  Oh, there’s my mom!  She’s not gone… wait, she’s gone again!?!?  So, first AHA moment was playing Peek-a-Boo with my Mom.

My most recent was that I just needed to shut up and be happy.  I will over think everything and I realized (after over thinking it, of course) that I was thinking my way right out of pleasure and happiness.  To balance out the instability of publishing and writing, I had to make a concerted effort to take in beauty, get outside and shut my brain off.  Yes, that’s a beautiful sunset.  No, you don’t need to write an entire blog post about it or take a picture of it for Instagram.  Just… enjoy it.

Thanks, Liza!

Mary Kay McComas's 5 Firsts and Lasts

Something_About_SophieToday's guest: Mary Kay McComas Why we love her: Her writing is soulful...

Her latest: Something about Sophie

The scoop on it: Answering a call that summons her to a stranger's deathbed, a reluctant Sophie Shepard is too late to hear what he was so anxious to tell her. What was so important that a dying man would think of her in his final moments? With the help of Dr. Drew McCarren, Sophie begins to dig into her past, setting off a chain of events that chills the quiet town of Clearfield, Virginia to its roots.

With part of her wanting nothing more than to put Clearfield behind her and run back home, Sophie knows she won't rest until she discovers the truth. But growing closer to the residents also means uncovering their dark secrets: about the woman who gave her up for adoption, the mysterious part these strangers played, and the life she never knew she nearly had.

Something About Sophie is an unforgettable story about the power of love...and the things people will do, both right and wrong, to protect it.

Our thoughts:  A must read on your Spring Break!

Giveaway: 5 copies. Leave a comment and be entered to win. Winners will be selected on Sunday, April 7th after 12pm PST.

Fun fact: You can read an excerpt of Something About Sophie here.

Where you can read more about Mary Kay: Her website or Facebook.



FIRST: Ugh. My first non-family kiss was an icky wet peck from a boy I didn't really like in 8th grade at our 'Graduation Dance'. We were slow dancing to The Beach Boys' Surfer Girl and to this day whenever I hear it, I get the willies.

LAST: My last kiss was so much better! My husband of 35 years and I kissed this morning before he left for work.


My first book was Dick and Jane. I memorized it: See Dick. See Dick and Jane go. See Dick and Jane and Spot. It was a childhood thriller that kept every first grader of my acquaintance on the edge of their seats. It ends well though: See Spot and Puff run and play.

The last book I read was Captain Vorpatril's Alliance by the clever Lois McMaster Bujold. It's the latest in the Vorkosigan Saga series, all of which are wonderful. And they're science fiction, which is incredible because I never read science fiction ... well, not the space alien, neuro-blaster, shuttleport kind. However, the hero of the Bujold books (many of the secondaries, too) define the word 'character' in its every sense and they're laugh out loud funny as well. Strong, distinct personalities and humor ... my kind of book in any dimension.


FIRST: If this refers my first physical risk then there is an old family story of my dad being up high on scaffolding, painting our two story house and sort of keeping an eye on me at age 3 or 4 playing with my dolls on the lawn below. He got called away briefly -- "for 5 minutes" he always said -- and when he came back my pink baby bed was as white as our house and his paintbrush was in the grass beside it ... and not with the paint can, high up on the scaffolding, where he'd left it. My last huge physical risk was having a 9cm aortic aneurysm repaired a few years ago. It sort of put all my other physical risks in perspective.

But I actually think that emotional risks present themselves more often and have higher stakes. My first clear memory is of my first day of first grade and watching my mom drive away without me -- I didn't die on the spot, so I have to imagine that my first risk came shortly after that when I had to figure out how to cope with the teacher and the other kids. I was painfully shy.

LAST: I do, however, have a clearer memory of my last emotional risk which was to apologize to a friend. Not the 'oops, sorry' kind of apology that's mostly just good manners -- but a real act of contrition for being thoughtless and possibly hurting her feelings. I was fairly certain she'd forgive me but still, it wasn't easy.


FIRST: I was the third of six kids and while I was never neglected I did sometimes feel a little ... overlooked. But I had this aunt who lived in Seattle and from the time I was about 10 years old she would ask me to come stay with her for a few weeks in the summer -- just me, no one else. I mean, ever. None of my sisters or brothers were ever asked to stay with her, just me. I felt very special and it was more than just a hell ya moment for me. Every year it was an Oh-hell-ya!-I'm-leavin'-and-you-all-have-to-stay-home-to-do-summer-chores! moment.

LAST: I think my most recent hell ya moments have involved my children. A college graduation -- hell ya it was worth the sacrifices. A good solid grownup job -- hell ya, you're ready and hell ya, they're getting the best guy for the job! And hell ya, I'm turning your room into my arts and crafts studio!


I think my first Aha! moment -- the one that made the greatest impression on me anyway -- was when I finally realized that not doing well in school doesn't mean you're not intelligent, it just means your talents are elsewhere.

My latest aha! came a few weeks ago -- though I feel I should have pick up on it years ago. It explains SO much. My friends and I were out shopping -- for purses. I hate to shop, so naturally my more fashion conscious pals are responsible for making sure I'm not so tacky they feel they must sneak off and leave me in the ladies room. So ... purses ... they kept trying to foist these big bulky diaper bag looking things on me and I kept gravitating back to the clutch wallets. Finally, our purse guru stepped in and said, "She'll never carry one that big ... she's too tall." We stared at her. She held out her hands, it was Purse Shopping 101 to her. "She already feels like she takes up more than her fair share of space, a big bag only makes it worse." Well, I don't know if her theory is all that sound but the rest of the afternoon, and since then, I have been so aware that big and tall women tend to carry small to medium sized purses -- and that thin and average to short women carry suit cases. Just watch ....

Thanks Mary Kay!