Blackberry Winter

Sarah Jio's 5 Firsts and Lasts

15848920Our guest today: Sarah Jio Why we love her: Not only do we love all her novels, she's really cute. And nice. And funny too! (Girl crush alert!)

Her latest: The Last Camellia

The Scoop: On the eve of the Second World War, the last surviving specimen of a camellia plant known as the Middlebury Pink lies secreted away on an English country estate. Flora, an amateur American botanist, is contracted by an international ring of flower thieves to infiltrate the household and acquire the coveted bloom. Her search is at once brightened by new love and threatened by her discovery of a series of ghastly crimes. More than half a century later, garden designer Addison takes up residence at the manor, now owned by the family of her husband, Rex. The couple’s shared passion for mysteries is fueled by the enchanting camellia orchard and an old gardener’s notebook. Yet its pages hint at dark acts ingeniously concealed. If the danger that Flora once faced remains very much alive, will Addison share her fate?

Our thoughts: Loved it. Our fave so far!  This is a perfect gift for a friend, or better yet, to yourself!

Giveaway: One SIGNED copy.  Leave a comment and you'll be entered to win.  We'll choose the winners on June 2nd after 3pm PST.

Fun fact: Sarah's last novel, Blackberry Winter, hit the New York Times bestseller list!

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



web-photo-right-newFirst: His name was Andrew. I was in 8th grade. He asked me to a movie, and the only way I was able to go, was because I convinced my parents it was a group thing (true, sort of). But it was a date. My first date. And it would also be my first kiss (a girl just has a hunch about these things). This frightened me. Andrew kept his eyes on me during the entire movie. I could feel his gaze on my cheek, burning into me like a laser beam, and I just kept eating red licorice because, basically, I was afraid of what might happen if I didn't. I mean, how does one kiss a boy?? At some point during the movie, Andrew whispered, "you sure like licorice, don't you?" (Romantic, I know.) When I couldn't stomach any more licorice, he made his move. The kiss was … a little disappointing. He had braces. I had a stomachache. Basically, it cured me of boys for a few months.

Last: Tonight! My four-year-old son, Russell, just ran into my office and said, "mama, I'd like to give you a double kiss!" It ended up being a kiss on the cheek and a kiss on the nose. Russell kisses are the best!


First: Around the age of 7, inspired by an episode of the Smurfs (of course), I tied a pillowcase onto a stick and packed it with all the essentials (bubble gum, stuffed animals) and proceeded to "run away". I made it about three blocks away from home before turning back, when I realized that this was not my smartest move.

Last: Going nanny-less! I have three boys, six and under. Life is wild here, and I have a LOT of writing deadlines. Obviously, I need childcare help, right? We experimented with babysitters and nannies for a while, but honestly, it just wasn't working for me. I tried to work outside the home, but I missed my boys. Then, in my home office, I'd hear them crying outside my door. After many months of trying to make it work with a nanny, I decided to take a huge risk and just be on duty all day, every day. That's right: Zilch childcare. I write two books a year for Penguin, so this is mildly insane, I know. But it's working. I'm mom by day (with an occasional chapter or two or magazine article written during nap hour) and then writer by night. I usually have a glass of wine with my husband, after kids are in bed (we believe in early bedtimes here), and then it's writing time! I actually look forward to this after long days doing art projects, playing legos and changing diapers. In short: What I've realized is that no one solution works for every mother. I'd love to be the type of person who could make the nanny thing work, but I'm not. (At least not right now.) I am much happier when I can be mom during the day, and writer at night. They are only young once, and my job is flexible enough to make this work. Semi-work. (Which doesn't mean I am not tired and grumpy, or that the house is sparkling clean—it's not.) I don't always have the perfect balance, but it's working now. Sort of. But, believe me, I'm looking forward to 2016—the year that all of my boys will be in full-time school and I will once again work like a regular person!


First: Oh goodness, I don't remember the exact book (though I wish I did!). But, I'll tell you about a book I read as a child that I am on the hunt to find—to this day. Every week, my mom would take us to the library, and I remember checking out a series of early reader books, the first of which was titled something like "Primrose Patty." This is only the memory of my 8 year-year-old self (aka, unreliable), and as a result, I have not been able to find the book, which I assume is out of print. But, I remember LOVING these books as a girl. I adored the flower connection, and the primroses, and honestly, I think I will do something with primroses in a future novel because of this book! It left an imprint on my brain.

Last: I just picked up a copy of Christina Baker Kline's ORPHAN TRAIN, and if my kids will let me, I hope to finish this weekend.


First: (Can I just say, this is such a fun category!) OK, my first hell ya moment was cutting off my very long dirty blond hair to a short pixie and dying it platinum blonde. I know! I did this when I was 16. I paid for the cut and color at a fancy salon (not cheap) with my babysitting money. When I came home, my parents' jaws dropped. And I got equal reactions the next day at school. But I loved that I did this. I loved that I could be bold enough to make such a dramatic change and own it. Honestly, looking back, short hair wasn't my BEST look, but I'm proud that I had the guts to do it. (And of course, it was right after a breakup with a boy!)

Last: Running my first 10K! I love to run, but I'm not a competitive or a particularly long-distance racer. (Read: I won't be running a marathon anytime soon, and am happiest keeping my 4-times-weekly jogs to about 2-3 miles: bliss.) But I signed up for a 10K with my dad last year, and I although it kicked my butt, I finished (without passing out). I felt pretty awesome for weeks later. I thought about running a half-marathon for about 2.5 seconds, but then came to my senses.


First: I probably had plenty of aha moments prior to this date, but one of the most transformative moments for me came after college when a close friendship of mine crumbled into a million ugly pieces. While my life was going well, this friend could not be happy for my successes (a new husband, new house, new job, etc.). She was there for me when I was down, but she couldn't be happy for me when I was … happy. What I took from this experience is a reminder that it's surprising easy to be there for someone who is in a difficult place (in other words, "my life is fine, but I can pat the back of someone who is going through a rough time), and yet it is much harder to cheer for someone who is achieving her dreams. True friendship transcends all of that. Look back on the history of your friendships and it's likely that the truest friend are the ones who could be happy for you when you were experiencing your greatest successes. I think it's a test of character, and friendship, to watch a pal experience crazy success/dreams-come-true and still cheer for her even when things aren't so peachy in your own life. If you have a friend like this in your own life, or you are one, xoxoxo.

Last: I have what I call a blessing and a curse: an overabundance of novel ideas. (I writer friend of mine calls this a chronic disease, and I agree!) I've learned over the years, in my sea of new ideas, to only stick with the ones that keep me up at night and haunt me by day. The theory here is that if a novel-in-progress can't excite me, as the writer, I can't expect it to do the same for a reader. Sometimes I'll get to chapter three, four or six before I realize that it's just not working. And, though it's painful, I'll ditch the work-in-progress. My rule-of-thumb is to only continue on with projects that I'm 100 percent into. Obviously, no project will be exciting all the time (after all, writing is work), but if, after a bit of time, it fails to grab me, I'm done. Onto the next idea!

Thanks Sarah! 

Sarah Jio's 5 BEST EVERS

We are so excited to have our friend and incredibly talented author, Sarah Jio, kick off our brand spankin' new feature today! We'll be asking authors about their "Best Evers" and the why behind them.  And don't be afraid to chime in with yours too! Our guest today: Sarah Jio

Why we love her: We fell in love with her debut, The Violets of March, and have been girl crushin' ever since!

Her latest: Blackberry Winter

The scoop: Seattle, 1933. Single mother Vera Ray kisses her three-year-old son, Daniel, goodnight and departs to work the night-shift at a local hotel. She emerges to discover that a May-Day snow has blanketed the city, and that her son has vanished. Outside, she finds his beloved teddy bear lying face-down on an icy street, the snow covering up any trace of his tracks, or the perpetrator's.

Seattle, 2010. Seattle Herald reporter Claire Aldridge, assigned to cover the May 1 "blackberry winter" storm and its twin, learns of the unsolved abduction and vows to unearth the truth. In the process, she finds that she and Vera may be linked in unexpected ways...

Our thoughts: Sarah does a beautiful job of weaving mystery into this thrilling tale. And we loved every page of it.  What are you waiting for-go grab a copy!

Giveaway: FIVE copies!  Leave a comment and you'll be entered to win.  We'll choose the winners after 3pm PST on Tuesday, October 2nd. Good luck! Remember, our giveaways are US/Canada only.  Thanks!

Fun Fact: Sarah rented a houseboat to write her next book.  Check out the pictures here!

Where you can learn more about Sarah: Her website, Facebook and Twitter.


Song: I have so many songs that are meaningful to me because of their significance at various times in my life, but a favorite would have to be something from U2, and it would probably have to be "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For." I love the intro to this song, and I love how it tells a story of always being excited about what's around the corner in life, and the message to keep moving forward to be your best self and to accomplish new things. It's an incredible challenge, actually. (On a side note, if I ever make it into the big time, I want to make a significant contribution to Bono's One foundation--which is especially focused on improving the lives and health of the impoverished in Africa--and I would not be sad if he wanted to thank me by playing a teensy tiny, improvisational acoustic concert in my backyard for my closest family and friends. A girl can dream, right?) On that note, I also love, love, love "Here's to Life" by the great Shirley Horn. She sings, "I've had my share, I've drank my fill, and even though I'm satisfied, I'm hungry still, to see what's down another road, beyond a hill, and do it all again. … I've learned that all you give is all you get, so give it all you've got … So here's to life, and every joy it brings. So here's to life, to dreamers and their dreams…" When I'm 90 years old, I want to feel this way. I want to look back on my life and think, "yes, that was absolutely awesome." And then I want to put on some great shoes, and go out to a great restaurant, have a glass of wine and savor another amazing day.

Book: Maeve Binchy passed away recently, and honestly, the news hit me pretty hard. I began reading her books in high school and they resonated with me then, and now. I always look back on those reading experiences and credit her with teaching me so much about character development, story, plot and heart. She was a one-and-only. And her books "Tara Road" and "Quentins" will always be on my favorite list.

Movie: Absolutely and positively "Sleepless in Seattle." I'm going to tear up here, as Nora Ephron, the amazing woman who wrote the screenplay, also recently passed away. (Which means that I've lost two of my icons this year.) I think I was in junior high when I first saw this movie, and it was spellbinding for me—not only because I grew up in a community right outside of Seattle, but because of the beautiful love story of hope after great loss. I watch it every year, and it always has the same effect on me: wow. In some ways, it inspired the direction of my fifth novel, recently sold to Penguin, which takes place on a houseboat in Seattle. My husband, very generously, offered to rent me a houseboat on Lake Union in Seattle (just across the water from the actual houseboat where 'Sleepless' was filmed) as my writing "office" until New Year's, where I can sneak away and work on the novel. I'm loving it!

Life Moment: Wow, such an important question, and one that has many answers, so I will cheat and give you a mini-movie: The day I met my husband, and the day I married him; the day my first baby was born; the day that my grandfather died; the day I learned that my ovarian cyst was not cancerous; the day my son's blood test for leukemia came back negative; the day I stepped foot in Paris for the first time, all alone; the day I bought my first house; the day I walked into a bookstore and found my first novel on a shelf.

Piece of Advice: There are many mottos and words of wisdom that ring true for me, but in my writing life, I've learned to live by this very important principle (so, aspiring writers, this one's for you!): I'm a big idea person and am always (always!) coming up with a new novel idea (it's a blessing and a curse), but I learned a long time ago to only stick with a works-in-progress that a.) haunt me by day, and b.) keep me up at night. A story can be good, or it can be really, really good. And I've learned to differentiate the two by how much my characters grab me. If they just aren't, then I move on to another project. My reasoning is this: If a story can't hold my interest wholly and completely than I can never expect it to capture my readers in the same way. I truly take this to heart in my daily writing life, and I've given up on many novel starts for this very reason.

Thanks Sarah! xoxo, L&L

Sarah Jio's 5 Loves and a Dud

Happy Holidays!  We can't believe this is our final author post of 2011.  And just in case you were wondering, we saved the best for last! Loyal visitors of CLIND probably already know that we crush HARD on Sarah Jio.  We loved her debut earlier this year, The Violets of March(Lisa has it on her Best Books of 2011 list!) and we were VERY excited to get our hands on her latest, The Bungalow. (out on Tuesday, December 27th so be sure to pre-order TODAY!)  And to our delight, it was just as wonderful as we'd thought it would be. Romance with a bit of mystery and hot men in uniform equals YUM!

It's been chosen as a Pulpwood Queen book club pick, a Target “Recommended Read” and a Kroger featured title for January. And her third novel is on the way! Blackberry Winter will be published on September 27, 2012.

We think Sarah's pretty easy to crush on. Not only is she a fabulous author and so freakin' adorable, she also writes the popular health and fitness blog Vitamin G  over at  C'mon, admit it, you're crushing a little bit on her too!  So you understand our excitement when she agreed to share her 5 Loves and a Dud with us. (PS, We TOTALLY agree with her dud!)

So here's the dealio on The Bungalow: In the summer of 1942, twenty-one-year-old Anne Calloway, newly engaged, sets off to serve in the Army Nurse Corps on the Pacific island of Bora-Bora. More exhilarated by the adventure of a lifetime than she ever was by her predictable fiancé, she is drawn to a mysterious soldier named Westry, and their friendship soon blossoms into hues as deep as the hibiscus flowers native to the island. Under the thatched roof of an abandoned beach bungalow, the two share a private world-until they witness a gruesome crime, Westry is suddenly redeployed, and the idyll vanishes into the winds of war.

A timeless story of enduring passion, The Bungalow chronicles Anne's determination to discover the truth about the twin losses-of life, and of love-that have haunted her for seventy years.

Sounds delish, right?  Then you'll be thrilled to discover we have FIVE copies to give away!  Just leave a comment here and be entered to win, we'll choose the winners after Monday, December 26th at 6pm PST.


1. Nespresso. Last Christmas, my husband got me a Nespresso coffee machine, and I have to tell you, honestly, that it has changed my life. Too strong of words? Let me explain: I’m a mom to three little boys (all under the age of 5), and I am chronically sleep-deprived. A double Americano made with perfect shots of espresso is what I think about first thing in the morning when the baby wakes me up at the crack of dawn, and it’s also the thing I reach for in the afternoons when I need to get 10 pages of my next novel during naptime. My secret weapon is definitely Nespresso. And my pod of choice right now is Indriya.

2. Running. For years, I couldn’t understand why anyone in their right mind would want to run. Then, shortly after my second baby arrived, desperate for a little peace and quiet, I laced up my running shoes and went for a jog. I sputtered and panted—and I think I actually tripped and fell on my hands and knees on the sidewalk—but a funny thing happened: I kind of loved it. It wasn’t until the sixth or seventh time out that I could actually run a whole mile without stopping. Now, a few years, and one more baby, later, I run every day, usually about three miles (four if I’m feeling it). Running has proven to be the single most effective fitness tool for me (I’ve whittled myself down to, almost, my wedding-day weight) and it’s also done amazing things for my creativity in fiction. I’ve imagined new novel titles, thought up entire plot twists and turns and solved character problems while running. I always take my Blackberry with me (in a black Lululemon fanny pack—don’t judge!) so I can send myself emails when a particularly good idea strikes.

3. Jazz. There’s a little jazz station here in Seattle called 88.5 KPLU FM. This station is always on in my house. They don't play any of that modern, elevator-esqu jazz, just the real stuff—old standards and new classics, from Ella to Diana Krall. In fact, music has been a huge inspiration in my novels. The Violets of March was partially inspired by the song “The Waters of March” by the late Susanna McCorkle (a gorgeous, gorgeous song that haunts me), and my third novel, Blackberry Winter, was inspired by the song—you guessed it--Blackberry Winter by the gorgeous singer Hilary Kole. I can’t wait to tell you more about this novel—coming September 27, 2012!

4. The Ergo Baby Carrier.  I’m sort of an old fashioned mama. I like to keep my kids close, bake a lot of cookies, and be the one to kiss their owies. My boys, who are now 5, 3, and 11 months old have spent the majority of their first years snuggled up next to me in the Ergo baby carrier contraption. After putting my back out wearing the Baby Bjorn with my first baby, the Ergo (which is a lot more, you guessed it, “ergonomic”) saved my life. It’s comfy and snuggly, and I have the fondest memories of going about life with my little guys strapped to my chest in a perma-hug position. I’m getting a little sad thinking about the day (coming soon) when my youngest boy won’t fit in the Ergo anymore (sniffle, sniffle).

5. My garden. We live in Seattle, and our city backyard isn’t huge, but I’ve packed it with all kinds of plants that I love: a Japanese maple that my husband got me one Mother’s Day that turns the most stunning shade of orange; a rose bush that I transplanted from the home I grew up in just before my parents sold the house (I have never smelled a rose so fragrant); an unruly herb garden that gives me more sage, mint, oregano and chives than I can ever use; a row of lavender that attracts the most amazing hummingbirds; a fig tree that, every year without fail, produces exactly one fig (we’re thinking about having a party this summer to celebrate our lonely fig). Any vegetables I try to plant, my rascally golden retriever eats (during plum season, she snacks on two Italian plums every morning, and leaves the pits on the deck right before coming back inside.) Anyway, my garden is a source of joy, peace and inspiration to me (in fact, it’s where I first discovered the little purple wood violets that inspired The Violets of March)!

DUD Married men who don’t wear wedding rings: Sorry, but this really annoys me! If you love her, then put a ring on it!

Thanks so much Sarah! xoxo, L&L

To read more about Sarah, head on over to her website or find her on Facebook and Twitter.