Women's Fiction blog

7 Seconds in Heaven with...Jon Harrison

The_Banks_of_Certain_RiversOur guest today: Jon Harrison

Why we want to spend 7 Seconds in Heaven with him: We love a man who can not only write about love but do it well.

His latest: The Banks of Certain Rivers

The scoop on it: Neil Kazenzakis is barely holding his life together: ever since an accident left his wife profoundly disabled, he's been doing his best as a single dad and popular high school teacher. He's also been dealing with Lauren Downey, his sort-of girlfriend of the past two years who's pushing for a commitment—and for Neil to finally tell his son Christopher about their secret relationship.

Neil's carefully balanced world begins to fall apart when some questionable footage of him is anonymously posted to YouTube...just as Chris learns about Lauren in the worst possible way. Doubting his own recollection of the events in the online video as he's threatened with the loss of his job and the ability to care for his wife, Neil must find a way to prove the truth to his family, his community, and himself as he struggles to regain the splintered trust of his son.

Heartbreaking, poignant, and written with devastating humor and warmth, The Banks of Certain Rivers is a shattering story of memory, loss, and just how far a man will go to show the people closest to him the meaning of love.

Our thoughts: Warning: This book is unputdownable.

Giveaway: One e-copy. Just leave a comment to be entered to win. We'll select the winner on Sunday, May 12th after 12pm PST.

Fun fact: The fabulous Catherine McKenzie told us about Jon. Thanks, Catherine!

Where you can read more about Jon: Facebook,Twitter and his website.


JH_Olive_768(1)1. Liz & Lisa: What’s your favorite book and why? Jon Harrison: There are so many. If I had to pick one novel, I'd say The Sun Also Rises. For all the ugly behavior of its characters, it's really the spring from which all modern fiction flows. I can go back to Raymond Carver's collected poems again and again. Ditto for St. Augustine's Confessions.

2. L&L: What’s the best thing about living in the Rockies? JH: We get all four seasons, sometimes in the same day. Also, the views can be pretty great.

3. L&L: What do you love about running? Does it help your writing? JH: It's nice to be reminded that there can be something just as painful as writing, and that's running. The great thing about it, though, is that after a run I actually feel good instead of filled with the usual dread and self-doubt. So it's a nice break from my writing routine.

4. L&L: Where’s your favorite place to write? JH: I have a wobbly table in my loft on which there are marked-up manuscript pages, sticky note pads, a brass barometer, a volcanic rock from Mt. Fuji, a baseball signed by Fritz Peterson, a faded Mystery Science Theater 3000 mug filled with pens and sharpies, and my laptop. That's my favorite place to write.

5. L&L: What are you reading right now? JH: A fantastic book called The Rider by the Dutch novelist Tim Krabbé. On the surface it's a spare, tight story about a bike race, each kilometer in the race taking a page in the novel, but really it's a profound trip inside this guy's head that blows me away each time I read it.

6. L&L: Where did the inspiration for The Banks of Certain Rivers come from? JH: A while back there was a thing in the news where a bicyclist in New York City was charged with assault for aggressively charging toward a cop. As it turned out, some tourists had filmed the whole thing, and the cop had actually run out into the street and knocked the guy off his bike. It got me thinking about how, with cameras everywhere, things are so thoroughly documented now, and how easily that could be manipulated.

7. L&L: What’s your biggest pet peeve? JH: People who make a big show of writing in coffee shops.

Thanks, Jon!

2013 Club: Andrea Lochen and The Repeat Year

Repeat_YearOur guest today: Andrea Lochen

Why she rocks:  You'll be hooked on this debut novel from page one.

Her debut: The Repeat Year (Out today!)

The scoop on it: Everyone has days, weeks, even months they wish they could do over—but what about an entire year? After living through the worst twelve months of her life, intensive care nurse Olive Watson is given a second chance to relive her past and attempt to discover where she went wrong…

After a year of hardships, including a messy breakup with her longtime boyfriend Phil, the prospect of her mother’s remarriage, and heartbreaking patient losses at the hospital, Olive is ready to start fresh. But when she wakes up in her ex-boyfriend’s bed on New Year’s Day 2011a day she has already livedOlive’s world is turned upside down.
Shouldering a year of memories that no one else can recall, even Olive begins to question herself—until she discovers that she is not alone. Upon crossing paths with Sherry Witan, an experienced “repeater,” Olive learns that she has the chance to rewrite her future. Given the opportunity of a lifetime, Olive has to decide what she really wants. Should she make different choices, or accept her life as she knows it, flaws and all?

Our thoughts: We loved this story of what you do when you actually get a second chance.

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

Fun fact: Read an excerpt of The Repeat Year here.

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



Andrea_Lochen1. DO'S: 3 things every aspiring novelist should do

1) Learn how to take constructive criticism

2) Find a writing community

3) Say yes to new and interesting opportunities—the more you live, the more you’ll have to write about!


2. DON'TS: 3 things every aspiring novelist shouldn't do

1) Fall so in love with your first draft that you’re unwilling to make any changes

2) Take rejection personally (especially from the people who clearly don’t “get” your book)

3) Make all your characters aspiring writers


3. MUST HAVES: On your desk? A yummy scented candle from Anthropologie, several to-do lists, and a drawerful of my favorite candy (Chewy Spree are my guilty pleasure while writing).

On your Facebook feed?  Grammar jokes, pictures of ridiculously cute animals and babies, updates from my favorite authors.

App on your phone?  I’m embarrassed to admit that I’m probably the last person in the country without a smart phone, except perhaps, my grandfather.  We’ll see how much longer I can hold out on this trend!


4. LASTS: Song you listened to on repeat? Taylor Swift’s “Holy Ground”

Book you read? John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars, which is even better than all its hype!

Time you laughed? I teach creative writing at a university, and my friend recently shared a Tumblr blog with me called “My Life as a College Professor.”  It cracked me up because it’s so true in a totally irreverent way!  It points out professors’ pet peeves, embarrassing moments, little victories, and major failures using hilarious animated GIFs.


5. HOW MANY: Agents did you query before you found "the one?"  More than I care to admit, but Stephany Evans was worth the wait!

Hours do you write per day?  I don’t write every day, but when I do, it’s for a solid chunk of six or seven hours.

Hours do you waste online when you should be writing?  My ratio of hours spent writing versus online dallying is probably 3:1 on a good day and 1:3 on a bad day.


6. BESTS: Way to celebrate a book deal? With my first book deal, I danced around the living room and called everyone I knew.  Then my husband suggested we go out for dinner anywhere I wanted.  I chose Pizza Hut.  True story!  (What can I say?  I love their pizza!)

Trick to overcome writer's block? Taking a long walk, preferably along Lake Mendota in Madison, Wisconsin, but anywhere scenic and solitary will do.

Way to think of a book idea?  I tend to come up with the novel premise first and initially have no idea what it means or who the characters will be.  Therefore, I play the “what if?” game a lot.  In the case of The Repeat Year, my question was, what if a person was given a chance to do-over a year of her life?


7. NEXTS: Show you'll DVR? Downton Abbey; I can’t believe I have to wait until January 2014 for Season 4.  Maybe I’ll have to move to England before then, so I can watch it sooner!

Book you'll read? This is Paradise, a collection of short stories about Hawai'i that debuts this July.  It’s written by my dear friend, Kristiana Kahakauwila, who’s extraordinarily talented.

Book you'll write?  My second novel doesn’t have an official title yet, but it’s about a young single mother who discovers one summer that she can see her four-year-old son’s imaginary friends.

Thanks, Andrea!





Beth Kendrick's 5 Firsts and Lasts

BETH_KENDRICKToday's guest: Beth Kendrick Why we love her: Her books remind us of summer--so fun and entertaining.

Her latest: The Week Before the Wedding (Out tomorrow: May 7th!)

The scoop on it: After enduring a chaotic childhood, Emily McKellips yearns for a drama-free life, complete with a white picket fence. Her dreams are about to come true: She has a stellar career, a gorgeous house, and a fiancé any woman would die for. But as friends and family arrive in picturesque Valentine, Vermont, for her wedding, an uninvited guest shows up.

Ryan is Emily’s first husband from a disastrous starter marriage. They wed on a whim, only to discover that combustible chemistry couldn’t ensure a happily ever after. But Ryan is no longer the headstrong boy she left behind. He’s now a successful film producer who just happens to be scouting a resort in Valentine with his adorable retriever in tow.

As the bridesmaids revolt and the mothers of the bride and groom do battle, Emily is surprised to discover new sides of both her ex and her fiancé. She thought she had life and love all figured out, but the next seven days might change her mind—and her heart.

Our thoughts: Loved! Throw this novel in your bag when you take your next vacay!

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

Fun fact: You can read an excerpt of The Week Before the Wedding here.

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


kendrick_headshot_resized (3)200x2201. Kiss:

First: The actual boy next door. Very sweet and adorable. We were four years old, and we made a solemn vow that someday, we would wed.  This vow lasted right up until we were placed in different kindergarten classes.

Last : My oafish red rescue dog, Friday. He pounced on me while I was trying to do sit-ups this morning and slobbered all over my forehead. (Cue Katy Perry: I kissed a dog and I liked it…)

2. Risk you took:

First: After growing up in New England, I decided to head off to a liberal arts college in Minnesota because--wait for the dazzling brilliance of my 17-year-old brain at work here--I wanted to see the Northern Lights. Yep. That was the rock-solid foundation upon which I based my future. And it’s all worked out beautifully, so I regret nothing!

(Fun fact: I finally did see the aurora borealis two weeks before graduation. Had to wait four years, but it was worth it.)

(Fun fact #2: The steamy opening scene of The Week Before the Wedding is actually set at that college in Minnesota. There are these underground tunnels connecting the dormitories, and even though they’re now sealed up and forbidden to students, the hero and heroine sneak in there and…oops, I’ve said too much already!)

Last: I just started working a on a new book. (It’s kind of a spin-off of The Week Before the Wedding; the heroine’s bridesmaid was so fun and irrepressible that my editor and I decided she needed her own story.) Every time I turn in a book, I vow that it will be my last, that now I will shape up and do something “practical” with my life…and then I open a new Word file and start another chapter one. I don’t have a problem, okay? I CAN STOP ANY TIME I WANT.

3. Book you read:

First:  My childhood favorite was Muncus Agruncus, a Bad Little Mouse, and as the title suggests, it’s about a mouse who wreaks havoc on someone’s clean and orderly home.  He floods the bathtub, trashes the dollhouse, tromps through a birthday cake. He’s a renegade rodent who lives by his own rules and escapes to safety at the end. He does what he wants!  I still have the book, I still read it with my kid, and it’s still awesome.

Last: Right now, I’m in the middle of Data: A Love Story by Amy Webb. It’s the funny, fascinating memoir of a tech-savvy journalist who was fed up with the horrors of online dating and figured out strategies to “game” the system so she could search out—and attract—the most compatible prospects. So interesting from a cultural, psychological, and mathematical perspective.

4. Hell ya! moment:

First: There are a lot of these, but one that stands out was buying my first house and finally getting a dog after years of living in apartments with no-pet policies. I scoured Petfinder.com until I found the perfect little terrier named Murphy (it was not unlike online dating, actually). I got to snuggle him on the sofa, I got to train him and take him to the park…and I got to pay his exorbitant surgery bills when it turned out he had a shattered hip from his previous life on the streets. Adulthood rules!

Last: During a recent trip to Disneyland, I went on a rollercoaster that goes upside-down. Normally, I’m loath to commit to anything scarier than the spinning teacups, so this was a big deal. (Full confession: I did it because my preschooler dared me to.) And I loved it!

5. Aha! Moment:

First: I was on a V.C. Andrews kick in middle school (who wasn’t?) and one of the other classroom moms warned my mother that she shouldn’t allow me to read Flowers in the Attic. On the drive home, my mom said, “I’m not into censorship”, and assured me that I was old enough to choose my own reading material. That was a lightbulb moment for me; I realized that language has power, and that my mother trusted me with that power. What I read has an effect on me. What I write might have an effect on somebody else. Use language thoughtfully and responsibly.

Last: My kickboxing instructor recently told the class, “You’ve gotta learn how to take a hit”, and I think this applies to writing and to most areas of life, really.  Getting punched in the face now and then is inevitable.  You can’t duck every jab. The important thing is to figure out how to absorb the blow and pick yourself up, over and over.

Thanks, Beth!



2013 Club: Kimberly McCreight and Reconstructing Amelia

ReconstructingAmeliaOur guest today: Kimberly McCreight

Why she rocks: Her debut is riveting! Think: Gone Girl

Her debut: Reconstructing Amelia

The scoop on it: In Reconstructing Amelia, the stunning debut novel from Kimberly McCreight, Kate's in the middle of the biggest meeting of her career when she gets the telephone call from Grace Hall, her daughter’s exclusive private school in Park Slope, Brooklyn. Amelia has been suspended, effective immediately, and Kate must come get her daughter—now. But Kate’s stress over leaving work quickly turns to panic when she arrives at the school and finds it surrounded by police officers, fire trucks, and an ambulance. By then it’s already too late for Amelia. And for Kate.

An academic overachiever despondent over getting caught cheating has jumped to her death. At least that’s the story Grace Hall tells Kate. And clouded as she is by her guilt and grief, it is the one she forces herself to believe. Until she gets an anonymous text: She didn’t jump.

Reconstructing Amelia is about secret first loves, old friendships, and an all-girls club steeped in tradition. But, most of all, it’s the story of how far a mother will go to vindicate the memory of a daughter whose life she couldn’t save.

Our thoughts: Could. Not. Put. It. Down.

Giveaway: One SIGNED copy. Just leave a comment to be entered to win. We'll select the winners on Sunday, April 28th, after 12pm PST.

Fun fact: Check out the story of how she became a writer here! (She did everything she could to avoid it!)

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

Photo credit: Justin Cooper


DO'S: 3 things every aspiring novelist should do

First, join a writer’s group or take a class.  Good feedback is critical to making progress as a writer.  But please be sure that it’s a supportive group.  Cutting feedback that isn’t actionable—i.e. burn this, immediately—is worse than no feedback at all.

Secondly, read widely.  Being a great writer starts with being a good reader and that includes everything from classic literature to modern thrillers.  Seeing what other people do and how they do it—and what you like and don’t like—will help you find yourself as a writer.

Finally, keep writing.  For some people, their first novel comes out exactly right, for others it takes practice.  I certainly fell into the later group.  Just because your early efforts don’t pan out doesn’t mean that your next book won’t be a whole lot better.

DON'TS: 3 things every aspiring novelist shouldn't do

First, don’t chase trends.  Being aware that there exists a marketplace for books is smart, but deciding that you’re going to write Y or Z because A and B were so successful last year is doomed to fail.  First of all, you won’t be able to write anything good if your heart’s not in it.  There’s also a good chance the trend will have already passed by the time you’re done.

Second, don’t take early rejection to heart.  Every novelist gets rejected at one point or another—by an agent or an editor or a critic.  It’s just a part of the process and the best you can hope for is to learn from it.

Finally, don’t ignore thoughtful feedback.  While you don’t want to be derailed by negativity, you don’t want to ignore helpful insights that could be the key to writing a better book next time or making critical revisions now.

MUST HAVES: On your desk? On your Facebook feed? App on your phone?

On my desk are always a Diet Coke and sugarless gum and I consume far too much of both.  Don’t tell my children.  It’s a terrible example.

My friends are the most important things in my Facebook feed, nothing makes me happier than seeing what they’re up to, especially because some of my dearest live way too far away.

The apps I use most are Hopstop for train directions and WeatherBug.  When you spend a lot of time getting around on foot with two kids, you’ve got to be prepared.

LASTS: Song you listened to on repeat? Book you read? Time you laughed?

I actually have a playlist of about twenty of my favorite songs call “Kim’s Edits” and I play the whole thing on repeat.  It’s a really eclectic compilation of songs that I love.  One I did specifically play on repeat a lot was The Weary Kind by Ryan Bingham from the Crazy Heart soundtrack.

One book I read while revising was 11/22/63 by Stephen King.  His talents are so towering that reading him always inspires me to work that much harder.

And luckily my children keep me laughing all the time.  It helps enormously to have that kind of unbridled joy and deep silliness around when you’re writing about dark things!

HOW MANY: Agents did you query before you found "the one?" Hours do you write per day? Hours do you waste online when you should be writing?

My current agent is actually my third.  Because Reconstructing Amelia is my fifth completed manuscript, I probably queried hundreds of agents over the years with other projects before I landed with my current agent.  But I love her and I know she’ll be my last.

I work from 9-5:30, five days a week, though not all of that is working on my latest work in progress.  Sometimes, I’m doing things like this—answering fun questions—and sometimes I’m researching.

And “waste” time online?  I prefer the term research.  Deciding on a whim to spend two hours tracking down that best friend from fourth grade who you haven’t talked to for twenty-five years, that’s got to be research for something, right?

BESTS: Way to celebrate a book deal? Trick to overcome writer's block? Way to think of a book idea?

I think the best way to celebrate a book deal is with your family.  For us, it was such a long road in getting here and everyone—my husband, kids and myself—had to give up so much to make it happen, that all I wanted to do was share it with them.  The actual night it happened, I think we did something exciting like order a pizza from the “fancy” pizza place.  To be honest, the fact that it had happened was thrilling enough.

I think the trick to overcoming writer’s block is to make yourself write for your allotted hours or allotted page count every day even if it’s all a bunch of really crappy stuff.  Eventually, you stop caring and the stakes will feel lower and the words will start flowing again.  And then you can throw out all the garbage you forced out in those lean days.

Newspapers, nonfiction books and magazine articles usually provide the initial spark for most of my stories.

NEXTS: Show you'll DVR? Book you'll read? Book you'll write?

I’m DVRing Mad Men and I’m looking forward with a heavy heart to the end of Breaking Bad.  I’m excited for the new season of The Killing and I love the Walking Dead, even if it does scare the crap out of me.  I’m looking forward to reading Sonya Sotomayor’s biography, My Beloved World, as well as Lawrence Wright’s Going Clear.

On the fiction front, next up is Meg Wolitzer’s The Interestings and Becky Masterman’s debut, Rage Against the Dying.

As for my next book, I’m about three hundred pages into a first draft.  It’s another mystery with a deep emotional center and a character from Reconstructing Amelia even has a supporting role.  I’m very excited about it!

Thanks, Kimberly!


Alyson Richman's Firsts and Lasts

The_Lost_WifeToday's guest: Alyson Richman Why we love her: She's writes beautifully! Can't wait to read her other novels!

Her book: The Lost Wife

The scoop on it: A rapturous novel of first love in a time of war-from the celebrated author of The Rhythm of Memory and The Last Van Gogh.

In pre-war Prague, the dreams of two young lovers are shattered when they are separated by the Nazi invasion. Then, decades later, thousands of miles away in New York, there's an inescapable glance of recognition between two strangers...

Providence is giving Lenka and Josef one more chance. From the glamorous ease of life in Prague before the Occupation, to the horrors of Nazi Europe, The Lost Wife explores the power of first love, the resilience of the human spirit- and the strength of memory.

Our thoughts: We were sucked in by this engrossing book about love and war!

Giveaway: 5 copies! Just comment to be entered to win. We'll select the winners after 12pm PST on Sunday, April 21st.

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


Alyson Richman the lost wifeKISS:

First Kiss:   My first kiss was on the playground to a boy named Kevin Bisch when I was in the fourth grade.  We were standing in the middle of the grass clippings; he was this lanky kid with great hair, wearing a Doors t-shirt and a pair of wrangler cords.  There must have been some strange fertilizer in the grass that day, because we both ended up being writers.  He's now a screenwriter in LA.  Rumor has it, he's still wearing the same outfit.  Some of us just have an innate sense of style at nine.  Certainly not me!

Last Kiss:  This morning, as I was leaving to take the children to school, I pulled open the shower door and stole one from my husband. He still had shaving cream on his face and a head full of shampoo.


First Risk I took:   When I was sixteen, I tried out for the boys wrestling team in boarding school.  I was never much of an athlete, but I knew that I'd be good at wrestling since that's how I had to defend myself from my two brothers over the years. To get the full effect of this, you need to imagine that I looked very much like Gumby dressed in a Laura Ashley dress.  I'd change in the girls locker room into my singlet (wearing a turtleneck and tights underneath).  I think I won half my matches due to the sheer shock my appearance gave my competitors.

Last Risk I took:   Every book that I undertake has a certain element of risk.  "The Lost Wife" felt extremely risky for me because writing about the Holocaust is inherently very daunting.  You want to make sure that every aspect of the research is done properly.  For the entire book tour, every time a survivor raised their hand, I was petrified they were going to tell me I had made a mistake in the text regarding some historical detail.  You can't imagine how relieved I was to hear how they instead thanked me for writing the novel.


First Hell ya moment:  It has to be the moment my editor called and told me "The Lost Wife" was a best-seller.   For years, I always thought of myself as the writer who'd be driving around in a van handing out my books to whomever would take them.

Last Hell ya moment: Getting my last book contract.  It's so wonderful to now have the support of Penguin/Berkley for my next two books.  To feel like someone wants to invest in your career, after so many years of hard work, is immensely satisfying.


First Aha moment:   With writing, it had to be discovering that what you take out of your drafts is just as important as what you put in.   I always describe my editing process as taking a palette knife and carving out the mud.  For me, writing is very much like painting.  You need to find ways to bring light into an otherwise dense canvas.

Last Aha Moment:  When I was having a nervous breakdown about the first draft of my next book, “Dragonfly,” and I was complaining to my husband all the reasons I was overwhelmed with it.   He looked at me with great sensitivity and said:  "I've been married to you for fifteen years and you say the same thing with EVERY book you write.  It will work out.  You have time.  You can do it."  The boy deserves a medal.

Thanks, Alyson!

Deborah Cloyed's 5 Firsts and Lasts

What Tears Us Apart;Today's guest: Deborah Cloyed Why we love her: We've been fans since we read her debut novel, The Summer We Came to Life.

Her latest: What Tears Us Apart

The scoop on it: Love lives in the most dangerous places of the heart.

The real world. That's what Leda desperately seeks when she flees her life of privilege to travel to Kenya. She finds it at a boys'orphanage in the slums of Nairobi. What she doesn't expect is to fall for Ita, the charismatic and thoughtful man who gave up his dreams to offer children a haven in the midst of turmoil.Their love should be enough for one another-it embodies the soul-deep connection both have always craved. But it is threatened by Ita's troubled childhood friend, Chege, a gang leader with whom he shares a complex history. As political unrest reaches a boiling point and the slum erupts in violence, Leda is attacked…and forced to put her trust in Chege, the one person who otherwise inspires anything but.In the aftermath of Leda's rescue, disturbing secrets are exposed, and Leda, Ita and Chege are each left grappling with their own regret and confusion. Their worlds upturned, they must now face the reality that sometimes the most treacherous threat is not the world outside, but the demons within.

Our thoughts: A powerful novel!

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

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



FIRST KISS:  In third grade, a boy named Brant gave me the quintessential piece of paper bearing the Check Boxes of Like (yes or no), and with my affirmation we were officially in puppy love.  Sitting cross-legged on my parents’ living room floor, we put a blanket over our heads so he could peck me on the lips. Then we giggled like maniacs until my Mom came to see what we were up to.

LAST KISS:  I’m an early riser, my boyfriend a night owl.  He kisses me goodnight in the wee hours, to a groggy mmmmm-hmmmm-luvvvvyoutoooo, and I good-morning kiss him first thing in the morning to a similar refrain.  Which I just did.


FIRST BOOK I READ:  My childhood was a veritable blur of books.  The first one I remember being obsessed with was My Side of the Mountain.  I told my mom I would be living in the backyard from then on.  That she pretended to tolerate.  Cooking acorn pancakes in her kitchen, she did not.

LAST BOOK I READ:  I’m reading The International Bank of Bob, about a travel writer who put $20,000 into Kiva.org, one $25 microloan at a time, then goes to visit loan recipients across the world, including in Kenya (where What Tears Us Apart is set and where I lived before the election violence broke out).  Read this book!  The author performs a soul-searching yet inspirational examination of some of the world’s trickiest problems of poverty and violence.


FIRST RISK I TOOK:  If you ask my older brother, I came out of the womb a reckless risk-taker.  I had a disturbing lack of fear of heights, spiders, the dark, claustrophobia, any of the usuals.   My earliest risk-taking memories, all before age five – of breaking my nose on a jungle gym, getting bit by a snake in a creek, falling out of a tree – it’s hard to remember which came first.  My parents put me in gymnastics and the whole family settled in for a lifetime of worry.

LAST RISK I TOOK:  Well, I calmed down a bit after two near-death drowning experiences in Central America (hence my debut book The Summer We Came to Life) in my twenties.  The risks I take now are of the more mundane variety.  Six weeks after foot surgery, I just hobbled up four flights of stairs balancing a tray of two flower vases, two wines glasses, two pizza boxes (don’t judge), and four coffee cups.  Nothing fell and broke, miraculously.  But in retrospect, that was pretty risky.


FIRST HELL YA MOMENT:  Funny but the first thing that springs to mind is when I learned to read.  As in – WHOA. There’s a whole world inside this book, and I can go in it all by myself. Like an empty amusement park.  And since I was a library junkie from age three, I knew it meant endless solo adventures to come.  I could picture it.  Hell ya.

LAST HELL YA MOMENT:  A cozy, snuggly Easter Sunday, with yummy food and good company, topped off by the Game of Thrones premiere?  Hell YA.


FIRST AHA MOMENT:  Thinking this through, I realize my first aha moment is the same as my first hell ya moment.  Such is life.

LAST AHA MOMENT:  I’ve been banging my head against the wall, working out the plot for my next novel.  Finally, last week sitting on my porch, I had the AHA moment I’d been waiting for.  An AHA that will make this an incredibly fun, eerie, epic book to write.  But that’s all I’m saying… for now.

Thanks, Deborah!


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!

7 Seconds in Heaven with Mike Greenberg

15818396Our guest today: Mike Greenberg Why we want to spend 7 Seconds in Heaven with him: Not only does All You Could Ask For rock, but Mike is donating 100% of the proceeds from the book to breast cancer research!

His latest: All You Could Ask For

The Scoop: Brooke has been happily married to her college sweetheart for fifteen years. Even after the C-section, the dog poop, the stomach viruses and the coffee breath, Scott always winks at her in just the right moments. That is why, for her beloved, romantic, successful husband’s fortieth birthday, she is giving him pictures. Of herself. Naked.

Newlywed Samantha learns of her husband’s cheating heart when she finds the goods on his computer.

High-powered career woman Katherine works with heartbreaker Phillip, the man who hurt her early on in her career.

Brooke, Samantha, and Katherine don’t know each other, but their stories are about to intertwine in ways no one could have imagined.

And all three are about to discover the power of friendship to conquer adversity, the satisfaction of unexpected delights, the incredible difference one human being can have on other lives--and that they have all they could ask for, as long as they have each other.

Our thoughts: One of our very favorite books we've read in 2013--Greenberg's writing is insightful and will grab you from the first chapter. Make sure it's next on your TBR list!

Giveaway: FIVE copies! Leave a comment and you'll be entered to win.  We'll choose the winners on Sunday, April 7th after Noon PST.

Fun Fact: Our husbands have crazy man crushes on Mike--he is a hugely popular co-anchor and radio host at ESPN.

Where you can read more about Mike: Facebook and Twitter.


mikegreenbergL&L: How does an ESPN anchor host end up writing *gulp* WOMEN'S FICTION? How are your colleagues there taking the news?

The book was inspired by the real life battle with cancer that my dear friend Heidi Armitage went through in 2009. One minute she was a healthy, vibrant, sexy, fun soccer mom, the next she was a patient. In seven months she was dead. It was the most horrific and unjust thing I have ever seen a family endure. I knew I needed to do something, and so I wrote this book in her honor and am donating all of the author’s proceeds to fund Breast Cancer research. My wife and I formed a foundation called “Heidi’s Angels” and 100 percent of the author’s proceeds from the book will be donated to The V Foundation For Cancer Research in her memory. So, it’s a departure for me, for sure, but in a way it makes all the sense in the world.

L&L: We loved ALL YOU COULD ASK FOR! The narrative for the three women was very insightful.  What women in your life inspired you?

MG: The best advice I received was from my friend Jane Green who told me: If you know your characters they will write themselves. And so each one is based on someone in my life, though distantly, I’m not sure they themselves will recognize that. But their voices, mannerisms, etc, are alive in my head. Again, the stories are completely fictitious, but the voices are real.

L&L: We host a *few* good men here, but CLIND is usually a big ol' lady party!  Tell us why women will love your novel.

MG: Well, I am hopeful that anyone would like it, because I think the subject matter, which is about the power of relationships to transform lives, is universal. But perhaps women are more inclined to be open about those emotions than men are. I hope that men and women will both like it.

L&L: What's your fave book of 2013 so far?

MG: I just finished Tom Wolfe’s Back To Blood, which I liked very much, though it took me forever to get through it. Last night I opened the new Virgil Flowers novel by John Sandford. I love that series.

L&L: Many aspiring authors swing by the site--what advice would you give them?

MG:Don’t give up. This is the third novel I’ve written, neither of the first two ever got published. That was crushing to me, both times. But here I am now and it feels great.

L&L: What's up next for you? More women's fiction?

MG:I am working on my next novel now. It is narrated by a man this time, but I hope it will appeal to women. It is about a guy who feels his marriage is falling apart and in order to figure himself out he needs to go in search of his past, which he has denied all his life. It sounds more dramatic than it is, the whole thing, I hope, is very human and relatable to both women and men.

L&L: Liz's husband listens to your show each morning and has a serious man crush.  He demanded we ask who you believe will win the NBA championship!

MG: I would bet on Miami, for the next three years!

Thanks, Mike!


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!


Anita Hughes' 5 Best Evers

MarketStreetToday's guest: Anita Hughes Why we love her: Her books provide the best escape--dive in, read and forget!

Her latest: Market Street (Out today!)

The scoop on it: Cassie Blake seems to lead a charmed life as the heiress to Fenton's, San Francisco's most exclusive department store. But when she discovers her husband, Aidan, a handsome UC Berkeley professor, has had an affair with a student, she flees to the comfort of her best friend Alexis's Presidio Heights mansion, where she wonders if she should give their marriage one more chance.

Whether or not she can forgive Aidan is not the only choice Cassie has to make. Cassie's mother is eager to have her oversee the opening of Fenton's new Food Emporium, which Fenton’s hopes will become San Francisco's hottest gourmet shopping destination. Cassie’s true passion has always been food, not fashion, and Cassie suspects her mother might be trying to lure her into the Fenton's fold by entrusting her with such an exciting opportunity. And then there is James, the architect designing the Emporium, who is quietly falling in love with her…

Giveaway: 2 copies! Just leave a comment to be entered to win. We'll select the winners on Sunday, April 1 after 12pm PST.

Fun Fact: She was born in Sydney, Australia!

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



BEST BOOK:  Old Sins by Penny Vincenzi. Penny Vinenzi is a British author who writes big fat books that move so fast you open the page and you are lost. I admit to having read Old Sins three times (and all her other books) and I can't wait for her new one.

BEST MOVIE: Les Ripoux starring a young Thierry L'Hermitte. It's a French movie about two detectives and was one of Thierry L'Hermitte's early roles. I admit it wasn't the movie as much as his blue eyes and French accent. He went on to star in Le Divorce with Kate Hudson - another of my favorite movies.  I still remember Les Ripoux and I have probably written at least one  male character who bear a resemblance to the male lead!

BEST SONG: The One by Elton John. I remember listening to it, driving from Santa Cruz to San Francisco with the top down and the Pacific glistening. Every time I hear it I can see myself in that car. It was a time when I had few responsibilities and a lot of dreams.

BEST LIFE MOMENT: When you're married with children it is impossible to pick one moment, but there is a time that stands out in my head. I had just arrived at Bard College and didn't know anyone. I enrolled in a class in 20th century Women's Fiction and the first book was The Group by Mary McCarthy. I remember sitting on the grass reading The Group and suddenly not worrying if I made friends. I was reading a great book and getting to sit around a big oval table discussing it with my professor and other students. I knew I was right where I belonged!

BEST ADVICE: I think you receive advice at different times in your life that really resonates with you. The best advice I've had recently is to write the book you want to read next. I love to travel to gorgeous locations but with children in school I don't get the chance. So I set my books in beautiful settings - Laguna Beach, San Francisco, Lake Como, and it's like taking mini vacations when I write each day - I hope my readers feel the same when they read my books!

Thanks, Anita!

Ellen Sussman's 5 Best Evers

ParadiseGuestHouse_o-1Today's guest: Ellen Sussman Why we love her: She hooked us with her engrossing novel, French Lessons!

Her latest: The Paradise Guest House (Out March 26th!)

The scoop on it: A riveting and poignant novel of one woman’s journey to Bali in search of love, renewal, and a place to call home—perfect for readers of Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love and Alex Garland’s The Beach.

It starts as a trip to paradise. Sent on assignment to Bali, Jamie, an American adventure guide, imagines spending weeks exploring the island’s lush jungles and pristine white sand beaches. Yet three days after her arrival, she is caught in Bali’s infamous nightclub bombings, which irreparably change her life and leave her with many unanswered questions.

One year later, haunted by memories, Jamie returns to Bali seeking a sense of closure. Most of all, she hopes to find Gabe, the man who saved her from the attacks. She hasn’t been able to forget his kindness—or the spark between them as he helped her heal. Checking into a cozy guest house for her stay, Jamie meets the kindly owner, who is coping with a painful past of his own, and a young boy who improbably becomes crucial to her search. Jamie has never shied away from a challenge, but a second chance with Gabe presents her with the biggest dilemma of all: whether she’s ready to open her heart.

Our thoughts: Big fans of Eat, Pray, Love, we also loved this novel about a woman searching for love.

Giveaway: 1 signed copy! Just leave a comment and be entered to win. The winner will be selected on Sunday, March 24th after 12pm PST.

Fun fact: You can read an excerpt of The Paradise Guest House here.

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


Ellen_SussmanBEST SONG: Hey Jude. The Beatles. Who else? I was a crazy Beatles fan when I was a kid. I carried Paul’s photo in my wallet and told everyone he was my boyfriend. And then I grew up with them, changing my musical tastes with each of their albums. When Hey Jude came along I was knocked out by it. I played it over and over again until I had it memorized. It still plays in my mind in the middle of the night.

BEST BOOK: This is the hardest one for me. Every year I’ve got a few new best ever books. As a kid it might have been Nine Stories by JD Salinger. Let’s go with that one because it was probably the most influential. I learned so much about writing by reading those stories. And I read them many times, waiting for their secrets to be revealed.

BEST MOVIE: I’m going to cheat a bit here. My husband’s favorite movie is The Usual Suspects. He has watched it so many times that he knows every line by heart. I don’t re-watch movies – I see them once, love them and let them go. So I’ve seen Usual Suspects more than most movies (just to keep him company once in a while) and I’m wowed by it each time. Beside, I’m a little in love with Gabriel Byrne.

BEST LIFE MOMENT: My first day in Paris. Age 33, husband and baby in tow, second baby in the oven. Crazy time to move to Paris but why the hell not. I remember walking down those gorgeous streets, ogling those beautiful people, and thinking: this is my home. I live here.

And it felt like that almost every day for five years.

BEST ADVICE: Go Big or Go Home. A student of mine said that in class; I think I was the only one who had not heard the expression before. In my life I go big. In my writing I wasn’t challenging my characters to go big. So this one became my writing mantra.

Thanks, Ellen!




Jane Green's 5 Best Evers

Family_PicturesToday's guest: Jane Green Why we love her:  We've been in love with Jane since Jemima J, one of our all-time favorite books.

Her latest: Family Pictures (Out today!)

The scoop on it: New York Times bestseller Jane Green delivers a riveting novel about two women whose lives intersect when a shocking secret is revealed.

From the author of Another Piece of My Heart comes Family Pictures, the gripping story of two women who live on opposite coasts but whose lives are connected in ways they never could have imagined.  Both women are wives and mothers to children who are about to leave the nest for school.  They're both in their forties and have husbands who travel more than either of them would like.  They are both feeling an emptiness neither had expected.  But when a shocking secret is exposed, their lives are blown apart.  As dark truths from the past reveal themselves, will these two women be able to learn to forgive, for the sake of their children, if not for themselves?

Our thoughts: Jane Green's best novel yet! 

Giveaway: 3 copies! Leave a comment and be entered to win. We'll select the winners On Sunday, March 24 after 12pm PST.

Fun fact: Jane was once our mystery author and made a special video just for us!

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


BEST SONG: Go or Go Ahead by Rufus Wainwright. Somewhat obscure, I know, but this was the soundtrack to the freedom I felt after my former marriage ended. I used to drive around the Connecticut countryside in my old pick-up truck, and whenever the terror threatened to strike I'd turn Rufus up loud, and feel a soaring wave of optimism.

BEST BOOK: The ones I turn to again and again when I need to feel comforted and in the company of old friends are the Tales of the City series by Armistead Maupin. It makes me want to live in San Francisco in the 70's and 80's, and failing that, at the very least pack everything up here and go and live in California.

BEST MOVIE: I'm not a huge movie-goer, so anything I mention is likely to be at least ten years-old. I always loved Mr Blandings Builds His Dream House with Cary Grant, and continuing along the theme of dream houses, must have watched Something's Gotta Give at least twenty times in a bid to mimic the interiors of that glorious beach house as closely as I could.

BEST LIFE MOMENT: Marrying for the second time. My first was a huge white wedding, at Claridges, filled with tons of people I barely knew and didn't care much about. My second had 19 people, six of whom were our children. This time I was marrying for all the right reasons instead of all the wrong ones, and it was a tiny, intimate, cosy wedding filled with love and warmth, and all the people we love best in the world.

BEST ADVICE: Trust your instincts. I have always prided myself on having excellent intuition, but sadly common sense or good manners too often got in the way, and I ended up ignoring those initial feelings of distrust or uncertainty, only to have myself proven right in end. One of the great gifts of growing older has been learning to trust that intuition - if someone, something, feels 'wrong', walk away, however ridiculous you think it may be.

Thanks, Jane!

Amy Hatvany's 5 Best Evers

Heart_Like_MineToday's guest: Amy Hatvany Why we love her: She's not only a wonderful author but a lovely person!

Her latest: Heart Like Mine  Out tomorrow! March 19th!

The scoop on it: Thirty-six-year-old Grace McAllister never longed for children. But when she meets Victor Hansen, a handsome, charismatic divorced restaurateur who is father to Max and Ava, Grace decides that, for the right man, she could learn to be an excellent part-time stepmom. After all, the kids live with their mother, Kelli. How hard could it be?

At thirteen, Ava Hansen is mature beyond her years. Since her parents’ divorce, she has been taking care of her emotionally unstable mother and her little brother—she pays the bills, does the laundry, and never complains because she loves her mama more than anyone. And while her father’s new girlfriend is nice enough, Ava still holds out hope that her parents will get back together and that they’ll be a family again. But only days after Victor and Grace get engaged, Kelli dies suddenly under mysterious circumstances—and soon, Grace and Ava discover that there was much more to Kelli’s life than either ever knew.

Our thoughts: Our favorite yet. It was also the first book we put On Our Radar!

Giveaway: 3 copies. Leave a comment and be entered to win. Winners will be selected this Sunday, March 24th after 12pm PST.

Fun fact: Amy offers great tips for writers on her website.

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


Amy_HatvanyBest Song: This is a ridiculously hard one to pin down! Okay, outside of pretty much every single hair band song from the 80’s, I love Pink’s F***kin’ Perfect. The first time I heard the lyrics, they totally choked me up and made me think about how rough I can be on myself and how damaging that is to my psyche. The lyrics also made me think about my own daughters - we sing them at the top of our lungs in the car (swear word and all when we listen to that version – bad mom moment?) because I want so much for them to be inspired and believe deep down in their souls how very perfect they are, flaws and all.

Best Book: I thought this would be the most difficult to answer, but then I realized that it has to be Elizabeth Berg’s TALK BEFORE SLEEP. It is the book I read when I was twenty-four, stuck in a horrible, boring job, completely unsure of whether or not I had what it takes to write a novel. It is a spare and poignant story – her style spoke to my heart and I thought, “This is the kind of book I want to write.” Emotional, affecting, full of simple truths. I am proud to have a signed first edition, and it is my go-to read when I’m struggling and need to be reminded of how much I love what I do.

Best Movie: I think “Juno” is one of the most smartly-written, brilliantly-acted films I’ve seen in years. The characterizations and dialogue were just so perfect, the relationships and struggles completely authentic. I love it.

Best Life Moment: This is going to sound totally cheesy, but honestly, it was the day I married my second (and FINAL!) husband. We had a party in my mom’s backyard where we just happened to get married – it was relaxed, easy, and I don’t think I’ve ever felt so right about a decision in my entire life. Our children were part of the ceremony (we had a Bouncy House!), and at the end of the day, my niece took a video recording of Stephan and I dancing and singing “I’m a Little Teapot” together  like the total goofballs we are. (I think we did it on a dare, and I’ve never laughed so hard.) He is truly my partner in every sense of the word.

Best Advice: This is one I’m likely going to have to keep re-learning for the rest of my life, but it’s so, so true: “What other people think of me is none of my business.” When I was younger, I tried to please everyone – I couldn’t stand it if a person thought poorly of me (whether it was for good reason or not) and I would do everything in my power to try and change their mind. It was exhausting…and pretty pointless.

After going through some fairly rough circumstances in my life, where there were so many people judging me and trying to tear me down that I wasn’t sure I would make it to the other side, I realized something very simple – I cannot control what other people think of me. Their perceptions, their beliefs systems are just that – THEIRS. The only thing I can control is what kind of person I am and how I choose to treat people. Their response to me is totally up to them.

Thanks, Amy!


Blog of the Month: Chick Lit Plus

clp headerWe're excited to announce that we've selected Chick Lit Plus as the Blog of the Month for March! We love the ladies behind this blog: Samantha March and Sara Palacios! Welcome!

The 411:

Samantha March started Chick Lit Plus in October of 2009 as a seed of an idea – to help her become a published author. Already an avid reader, she loved expressing her views about books and talking about writing, so it seemed obvious to jump on the blog explosion. She first started reviewing books she found at the library, and after only one month of blogging was offered to interview Jackie Collins. Since then, Chick Lit Plus has expanded to include two associate reviewers, a blog tour company CLP Blog Tours, and a publishing company, Marching Ink.


Why do people love Chick Lit Plus?

Chick Lit Plus celebrates many aspects of books and women in general. We love giving shout outs to authors and bloggers alike, and we love to encourage people to make your own opportunities!

What is unique about Chick Lit Plus?

Chick Lit Plus doesn’t just focus on books and writing – this is where the “Plus” comes in. We also write articles on celebrities, fashion, beauty, and fitness.


Where to read more about Chick Lit Plus:

Facebook and Twitter

What inspires you?

Knowing there is no glass ceiling anymore. We live in a world where we make our own opportunities and strive to remember that every day.

If you were stranded on a desert island, what celebrity would you want to be with you?

Samantha: Channing Tatum – how obvious is that one, ladies?

Sara: Do I have to pick just one? I would go with Tim Duncan (Go Spurs Go!), Emily Giffin (huge fan) and Paula Deen (because there might be buttah on the island).

What's one inanimate object you can't live without?

Samantha: Laptop  - it is my life.

Sara: My iPhone. Hands down.


What books are you adding to your bookshelf this year?

Samantha: Waaaay too many list! I’m excited for Allie Larkin, Sarah Pekkanen, Sarah Jio, and Anita Hughes. Also I’m hoping to add another from Marching Ink’s Cat Lavoie, CLP’s own Sara Palacios, and possibly even myself this year!

Sara: 2013 is going to be a big year for Chick Lit and I am so excited for the following titles: The Accidental Husband by Jane Green, Covet by Tracey Garvis Graves, Revenge Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger and The House We Grew Up In by Lisa Jewell


Thanks, ladies!

Colette Freedman's 5 Best Evers

TheAffair_coverToday's guest: Colette Freedman Why we love her: Her writing draws you in immediately and keeps your attention until the very last page.

Her latest: The Affair

The scoop on it: Playwright Freedman presents a realistic and deft tale of infidelity, miscommunication, and conflicting emotions in her structurally compelling debut novel. She relates the same story from the perspective of the wife, the husband, and the mistress, respectively, to reveal each party’s gaps in understanding. Robert Walker is torn between two women; he has been with his wife—and business partner—Kathy for 18 years, and though he loves her, he feels as if they’ve grown distant and disengaged. Meanwhile, his vibrant, exciting mistress of 18 months, Stephanie, loves him but wants more. In the days leading up to Christmas, Kathy begins to suspect the affair and, through a colleague of theirs, soon discovers that it is true. Robert had chosen to leave Kathy and marry Stephanie, but Kathy shows up at Stephanie’s house to confront her, and the women talk. When Robert appears with gifts for his mistress, the women confront him. It becomes clear that Robert and Kathy still love each other, but face a communication impasse that they must fix. In this resonant, enjoyable tale, Freedman demonstrates a keen understanding of relationships, and her formal choices enrich the narrative, allowing readers to sympathize with each character.

Our thoughts: We read this book in one day. A deeply satisfying read about love and trust.

Giveaway: 5 copies! Leave a comment to be entered to win. Winners will be selected this Sunday, March 10th after 12pm PST.

Fun fact: Freedman is a former playwright with over 25 produced plays! With Jackie Collins, she co-wrote the play: Jackie Collins Hollywood lies which is gearing up for a national tour.

Where you can read more about Colette: Her website and Twitter.


Colette_Freedman_307BEST BOOK- Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl. This is also about a marriage gone terribly wrong; however, it takes the premise in a completely different direction. I love Flynn's razor wit and her thriller masterfully keeps one on the edge of one's seat the entire read.

BEST MOVIE- Little Miss Sunshine. A dysfunctional family on a family road trip screams black comedy, my favorite genre. Everything from the writing to the acting to the directing came together in a singular vision which was quite fantastic. Michael Arndt is one of my favorite screenwriters (he also did Toy Story 3) and I'm excited that he's penning both the next Hunger Games film Catching Fire and the next Star Wars installment.

BEST SONG- Kelly Clarkson's Stronger. Every time I hear this song it makes me smile. It could be Kathy's theme song for The Affair.

BEST MOMENT- Spending a month at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, acting in my play Sister Cities. There is nothing better than acting in a play with five of your favorite people and feeling the laughter and applause of an appreciative audience, especially at such a prestigious festival.

BEST ADVICE- "Writing has laws of perspective, of light and shade just as painting does, or music. If you are born knowing them, fine. If not, learn them. Then rearrange the rules to suit yourself." This is a quote from Truman Capote which is essentially saying, learn the rules and then break them. Some of the greatest novels, plays and screenplays don't follow conventional rules; however, the writers clearly have a strong grasp of the rules before taking their own liberties with the material.

Thanks, Colette!

Cathy Yardley's 5 Best Evers

Temping_is_hellToday's guest: Cathy Yardley Why we love her: We've been fans since we read her non-fiction book, Will Write for Shoes.

Her latest: Temping is Hell

The scoop on it: WORST. JOB. EVER. Kate O'Hara can't wait until this temp assignment is over. The woman who hired her is a psychotic pageant queen, her coworkers are convicts-turned-clerks, and it's so boringly corporate it makes her skin crawl. Even her sexy-as-sin boss, famed billionaire Thomas Kestrel, isn't enticement enough to keep her there. Once she makes enough to pay off her bills, she's out. Or so she thinks...

WHAT THE HELL? Next thing she knows, she's accidentally signed over her soul. Literally. And she's discovered Thomas's real mission: to kill thirteen bad guys in one year, in order to get his—now his and Kate’s—souls back.

IT'S NOT JUST A JOB. IT'S A MISADVENTURE. From learning to boost the morale of some paper-pushing demons to navigating her way through blood-red tape, Kate has to work closely with her super-hot supervisor and get her flaky act together, before somebody clocks her out—permanently!

Our thoughts: Such a fun and entertaining read! A perfect book for a cold, winter day!

Giveaway: 5 e-copies! Just leave a comment to be entered to win. We'll select the winners after 12pm PST on Sunday, March 3rd.

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


CathyYardlyBEST SONG:  I think it’s got to be Block Rockin’ Beats, by the Chemical Brothers.  It reminds me of my club days, in a good way – and it’s now something I can rock out to with my six year old son.

BEST BOOK: Ever read the quote by Neil Gaiman, who says (I’m paraphrasing) that choosing a favorite novel is like choosing which limb you’d most like not to lose?   Still, if I’m going to say one – I’m still going to cheat! It’d be a series: specifically the Dresden Files series, by Jim Butcher.  A little bit of a slow start, but by the time he hit the fourth book, SUMMER KNIGHT, I was sunk.  Now, I rush out to buy them in hardback, muttering “My precious! My precious!” and stroking the dust jacket.  The guy is frickin’ brilliant.  He’s still unfolding a story/series arc, fourteen stories out, and you let him.  He’s still developing characters, still raising stakes, still introducing new information while keeping old characters lively.

Genius. Jim Butcher is my homeboy.  He’s also the main reason I decided to match my chick lit voice to Urban Fantasy in my latest novel, TEMPING IS HELL.

BEST MOVIE:  The Avengers.  It takes all the love I have for Joss Whedon, and mashes it up with my adoration for Marvel comics.  It’s heaven.

BEST MOMENT:  Part of me feels like I should say the birth of my son, but I’ll be honest – that was a twenty-four-hour drug addled thrill ride of doom, and while funny in retrospect, not so much “yeah, that’s my favorite! I’d do that again in a hot second!”  (As in prescribed drugs.  Wait… okay, I’m not helping my case here.)

Anyhow, my favorite life moment  would probably be when I moved to Seattle – which is funny, since it was such a tiny moment.  I was standing in the kitchen with my husband, it was midnight or so on our first night in the new house, and I just felt this moment of yes, here, I am finally home.  Like I’d spent thirty-five years to finally find out where I was supposed to be.

BEST ADVICE:  My grandmother used to always say “Don’t go to hell for a quarter.”  Apparently she meant “don’t get in trouble over something stupid” but my brother and I always took it as “if you’re going to be stupid, be epic in your stupidity.”  As a result, I have quite often found myself in some, shall we say, epic situations.  :D

Thanks, Cathy!


Interview & Giveaway with Melissa Francis

DIARY OF A STAGE MOTHERS DA.JPGToday's guest: Melissa Francis Her book: Diary of a Stage Mother's Daughter

The scoop on it: The Glass Castle meets The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother in this dazzlingly honest and provocative family memoir by former child actress and current Fox Business Network anchor Melissa Francis.

When Melissa Francis was eight years old, she won the role of lifetime: playing Cassandra Cooper Ingalls, the little girl who was adopted with her brother (played by young Jason Bateman) by the Ingalls family on the world’s most famous primetime soap opera, Little House on the Prairie. Despite her age, she was already a veteran actress, living a charmed life, moving from one Hollywood set to the next. But behind the scenes, her success was fueled by the pride, pressure, and sometimes grinding cruelty of her stage mother, as fame and a mother’s ambition pushed her older sister deeper into the shadows.
Diary of a Stage Mother’s Daughter is a fascinating account of life as a child star in the 1980’s, and also a startling tale of a family under the care of a highly neurotic, dangerously competitive “tiger mother.” But perhaps most importantly, now that Melissa has two sons of her own, it’s a meditation on motherhood, and the value of pushing your children: how hard should you push a child to succeed, and at what point does your help turn into harm?

Our thoughts: Completely. Riveted.

Giveaway: 5 copies! Just leave a comment and be entered to win. We'll select the winners on Sunday, February 24th after 12pm PST.

Where you can read more about Melissa: Her website, and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.


melissa_Francis1. Liz & Lisa: Why did you decide to write this memoir?

Melissa Francis: I started writing Diary of A Stage Mother's Daughter when the book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother reached critical mass. The idea of parents emulating that model really terrified me. It actually brought me to tears. It was hard for me to get the book and read through it in its entirety because I am the product of an extreme version of a tiger mom. In writing my memoir, I wanted to warn parents that that unrelenting form of parenting may make some children disciplined, focused achievers. As the author herself says, if you ride children hard early, you don't have to come down on them later. But with some kids, as you learn with my story, it can be wildly destructive and truly rob them of them of their confidence, sending them into a spiral of despair. There is no formula about how to be a parent, and when you see this exemplified as in Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, it doesn't necessarily work. Because all kids are unique individuals, it can be extremely dangerous.

2. L&L: What do you want people to learn from your book?

MF: I'd love for anyone who reads the book to feel that they can learn from a challenged past and whatever has happened to them, and then choose to have a joyous future. I hope that readers realize that a troubled past or a difficult childhood are experiences to draw and grow from later. You know what not to do when you grow up, or you know how you want to live differently. As long as you grab hold of it and take the right lessons out of it, you can decide how to control your own life and your own destiny. You can choose to be happy -- you can choose to have a new life. It is never too late, no matter how old you are. This is the point I make make in the very last scene of the book, where I see a woman I work with crumple into tears -- this incredible, gorgeous, successful woman with a family of her own -- and her mother just reduced her to tears. I said to her, as delicately as I could, "You can be free of that. You're an adult, and it's your choice now." You can choose to be happy and to be joyful and to have a different life. It's not easy, but it's better than the alternative, and within our control.

3. L&L: Do you have a favorite line or passage from your book?

MF: "The texture and color of my love for all three of them has proven to me that I can love, even though I was not ultimately loved myself. It doesn't matter what's come before if I can let go and try to do better. That truth was awakening. My own family is a new beginning."This passage comes at the very end of the book. I cried when I wrote it, and I still cry every time I read the words. I was afraid to have children for so long, because I wasn't sure I could be a better mother. My husband gave me the courage to hope. My family is my joy. And when people ask me why I would show my warts to the world (and they ask all the time), I say that I've broken the cycle and found real happiness, I sincerely want to help anyone else do the same. It is worth it.

4. L&L: As a mom, what have you learned from this experience that helps you be a better parent? (Tell us more about avoiding the "one size fits all, pressure-packed approach that you write about.)

MF: It took me a long time to process and figure out how to parent differently, but the number one lesson was, just because you were parented in a way that didn't work out doesn't mean you have to repeat the same behavior. You also don't have to be afraid to be a parent yourself, which I certainly was for a very long time. I would never tell someone how to parent, but I would suggest that every child is born unique and needs a different approach. Tiger Mothering is extremely dangerous as my story demonstrates. I have two young sons, two and five years old, who respond completely differently to the same type of praise or discipline. They are just hardwired differently. As I have watched them from day one, before I even had a chance to have any impact on them, they were different kids. You can't change that. I think my mom wanted to make both my sister and me into performers and achievers, and my sister wasn't built for that. She had her own fantastic qualities, and, if someone had taken the time to get to know her, could have fleshed out what she would be special and successful at. You have to help children bring out what's best about them and help them manage what's difficult about their own personalities and the way that they were born. Every child has a different path to happiness, and as parents it is our job to help them find their own way.

L&L: What memoir(s) are you reading now?

MF: Not surprisingly, my favorite memoir of all time is the Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls. I've read it so many times for courage and inspiration. We have so much in common: reporting on others as a way to shift the focus from our own lives, a past that is painful but has so much value. Hota Kotb has been a wonderful supporter and I just bought her new book, Ten Years Later. I'm heading on vacation next week and can't wait to start that.

Thanks, Melissa!

Cari Kamm's 5 Best Evers

ForInternalUseOnly_cover_smallToday's guest: Cari Kamm Her latest: For Internal Use Only

The scoop on it: Chloe Kassidy has just been accepted into one of Manhattan's most exclusive art exhibits, Love Through Light. However, with her singular dedication to her career, she soon realizes that in sacrificing her personal life, she has never been in love. A hopeless romantic who is terrified of heartbreak, Chloe begins to enlist the help of her circle of friends to learn about love through their very different stories and experiences.

In Chloe's emotional rollercoaster to having the greatest love story ever told, she'll learn that like her photography she must use the negatives in life to develop and prove that she's a strong woman who found her way to love through light.

Inspired by the notion that women grow up with ideas of true love and destiny, For Internal Use Only approaches those ideas with a decidedly twenty-first century viewpoint. A humorous love story with an edgy and dramatic twist, For Internal Use Only is a vastly entertaining novel that gives each of us a new fairy tale to look forward to: our own.

Our thoughts: We love books with a love story! You'll be hooked immediately as you follow along with Chloe on her funny and emotional journey to understand love.

Giveaway: 2 e-copies. Just leave a comment to be entered to win. We'll select the winners after 12pm PST on Sunday, February 24th.

Where you can read more about Cari: TwitterFacebook and her Website.


BEST SONG: This is a tough one. The only way for me to decide was to check my iTunes account and view my ‘top 25 most played’ list. These are my top four:

Gravity – Sara Bareilles

Cocoon – Jack Johnson

She left on a Monday – Bic Runga

By Your Side – Sade

These songs are often played on repeat for hours!

BEST BOOK: Sophie Kinsella Can you Keep a Secret? inspired me to write. Mark Nepo The book of Awakening. Nepo calls it, "a book to help people meet their days and inhabit their lives.” I’ve read this book for the past three years. Each day has a designated read. This book keeps my perspective in check. It’s definitely a life changer!

BEST MOVIE: I’m a huge fan of romantic comedies. Pretty Woman, Serendipity, When Harry Met Sally and Love Actually are on the top of that list. But, I’m going to go with Big Fish. The main theme in Big Fish is reconciliation. The film is full of color. It inspired me. It reminded me what it’s like to be a child again and to believe in fairytales. A great reminder that our imagination has endless possibilities!

Some of my favorites quotes from Big Fish:

Young Ed Bloom: Now I may not have much, but I have more determination then any man you’re ever likely to meet.

Karl: I don’t want to eat you. I just get so hungry. I’m just too big.

Young Ed Bloom: Has it ever occurred to you that maybe you’re not too big? That maybe this place is just too small?

Will Bloom: A man tells his stories so many times that he becomes the stories. They live on after him, and in that way he becomes immortal.

Young Ed Bloom: You don’t know me, but my name’s Edward Bloom… And I love you.

Will Bloom: [to Ed] You’re like Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny combined – just as charming, and just as fake.

BEST LIFE MOMENT: Saying Yes. I moved to New York City twelve years ago and immediately connected to a special area in Central Park called Literary Walk. It’s the only straight line in the park, lined with American elm trees and decorated with statues of prominent writers such as Robert Burns and Sir Walter Scott. I had no idea I would be a writer one day and that this landmark would mean more to me today than it did twelve years ago. It’s now a meaningful spot that I will never forget for the rest of my days. On January 27, 2013, I walked there proudly with my new novel in hand, ‘For Internal Use Only,’ and my boyfriend to take a picture with my book. I walked into the park as a proud author and walked out as his fiancé. It was a sparkling moment with all things love.

BEST ADVICE: “Your time is limited, don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma, which is living the result of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinion drowned your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition, they somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.” – Steve Jobs

Thanks, Cari!


Jackie Collins' 5 Best Evers

Power-Trip-HB-USOur guest today: Jackie Collins Why we love her: She is sexy and SASSY!

Her latest: The Power Trip

The scoop: A luxurious yacht in the Sea of Cortez, a birthday cruise for one of the world’s most beautiful women and an invitation no one can refuse.   The Power Trip—take it if you dare.

From Hollywood icon and mega-seller Jackie Collins comes a thrilling new novel, The Power Trip, set on a state of the art luxury yacht off the coast of Cabo San Lucas.  A tropical getaway with a cast of global power-hungry elites turns sour when they find out maybe they don't control as much of the world as they thought . . .

In The Power Trip you will meet Aleksandr Kasianenko, a billionaire Russian oligarch, as he sets sail on The Bianca. You’ll meet his sexy supermodel girlfriend, whom The Bianca is named after, and five dynamic, powerful, and famous couples invited on the yacht’s maiden voyage: Hammond Patterson, a driven Senator, and his lovely but unhappy wife, Sierra; Cliff Baxter, a charming, never-married movie star, and his ex-waitress girlfriend, Lori; Taye Sherwin, a famous black UK footballer and his interior designer wife, Ashley; Luca Perez, a male Latin singing sensation with his older decadent English boyfriend, Jeromy; and Flynn, a maverick journalist with his Asian renegade female friend, Xuan.

You will also meet Russian mobster, Sergei Zukov, a man with a grudge against Aleksandr. And Sergei’s Mexican beauty queen girlfriend, Ina, whose brother, Cruz, is a master pirate with orders to hold The Bianca and its illustrious rota of guests for ransom.

Our thoughts: We can never resist Jackie's books, and The Power Trip is no exception!

Giveaway: FIVE copies!  Just leave a comment and you'll be entered to win!  We'll choose the winners after Noon PST on Sunday, February 17th.

Fun Fact: Want to discover Jackie's favorite recipes?  Click here!


JackieCollins_3_533x800BEST SONG: What's Going On by Marvin Gaye. What a voice! What a man!

BEST MOVIE: ARGO. A brilliant edge-of-your-seat movie.

BEST BOOK:  The Godfather by Mario Puzo. Strong, sexy and gritty.

BEST LIFE MOMENT:  The birth of my three daughters. Magical!

BEST ADVICE: If you want to be a writer stop talking about it and just do it!






2013 Club: Julie Kibler and Calling Me Home

CMH_Cover_small_101112Our guest today: Julie Kibler Why she rocks: She's a fantastic writer & she has great advice! (See below!)

Her debut: Calling Me Home Out today! February 12, 2013!

The scoop on it: Eighty-nine-year-old Isabelle McAllister has a favor to ask her hairdresser Dorrie Curtis. It's a big one. Isabelle wants Dorrie, a black single mom in her thirties, to drop everything to drive her from her home in Arlington, Texas, to a funeral in Cincinnati. With no clear explanation why. Tomorrow.

Dorrie, fleeing problems of her own and curious whether she can unlock the secrets of Isabelle's guarded past, scarcely hesitates before agreeing, not knowing it will be a journey that changes both their lives.

Over the years, Dorrie and Isabelle have developed more than just a business relationship. They are friends. But Dorrie, fretting over the new man in her life and her teenage son's irresponsible choices, still wonders why Isabelle chose her.

Isabelle confesses that, as a willful teen in 1930s Kentucky, she fell deeply in love with Robert Prewitt, a would-be doctor and the black son of her family's housekeeper--in a town where blacks weren't allowed after dark. The tale of their forbidden relationship and its tragic consequences makes it clear Dorrie and Isabelle are headed for a gathering of the utmost importance and that the history of Isabelle's first and greatest love just might help Dorrie find her own way.

Our thoughts: Beautifully written and incredibly touching, we loved this story. Read an excerpt here

Giveaway: FIVE COPIES. Just leave a comment and be entered to win. We'll select the winners on Sunday, February, 17th after 3pm PST.

Fun fact: Julie also writes for Book Pregnant, a group of debut writers who talk about what to expect when you're expecting a book!

Where you can read more about Julie: Her website, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Goodreads. (Girlfriend is social media covered!)




DO'S: 3 things every aspiring novelist should do...

  1. Take your time! It's amazing how quickly it passes.Not selling the first book you write doesn't mean you'll never sell a book. Trust me on that. Starting my first (unpublished) manuscript feels like yesterday now.
  2. Be generous with your time and energy while you're aspiring. Your generosity will be returned to you exponentially when you are launching your first novel! (Host authors on your blog, attend their signing events, buy their books!)
  3. Realize that your novel is not the only thing on everyone else's mind—even if it's ALL you can think about. Life goes on around you. Try to join in as often as you can. Living leads to better writing. I have this lesson on repeat.

DON'TS: 3 things every aspiring novelist shouldn't do...

  1. Assume you already know everything you need to know about writing. It leaves egg on your face.
  2. Compare yourself with other aspiring novelists or published authors. Your journey will never, ever look like theirs or play out in the same way. Comparison is the sure road to killing your self-confidence, little by little. So easy to say, so hard to do...
  3. As tempting and easy as it is with the technology available today, don't surround yourself only with other novelists. When your book releases, you'll wish you knew a lot of everyday readers, too. (Thankfully, I think I did ok with this!)


On your desk? Suave Advanced Therapy Hand lotion. I am an addict. Truly.

On your Facebook feed? Family news. It's amazing how much more I know about my family, especially those who live far away, now that there's Facebook. Things that don't come up in phone conversations often appear in my newsfeed. I am watching my little nieces who live more than 2,000 miles away grow up there! I love it!

App on your phone? Ebook apps—Nook, Kindle, Overdrive, etc. I do about 80% of my reading on my iPhone.


Song you listened to on repeat? "Horses"/Dala (www.dalagirls.com) I missed hearing this group live by a few minutes at the Rocky Mountain Folks Fest a few years ago and have regretted it since.

Book you read? I'm always juggling about four these days. Last one I finished is The Promise, by Ann Weisgarber, an advance readers' edition from Pan Macmillan, my UK publisher.

Time you laughed? I hope I laugh every single day. My clever youngest daughter makes me laugh every day, especially. Last full-on belly laugh? When I was talking to a close friend after I had my first newspaper interview last week, and told her how I forgot the name of one of my minor characters from Calling Me Home. It wasn't funny at the time, but if you don't laugh about things like that, how do you survive?


Agents did you query before you found "the one?" I was very lucky with Calling Me Home. I queried maybe five agents, but Elisabeth Weed was my first choice from the get go. I queried her first with the previous manuscript, too. And she's the best, as is her foreign rights agent, Jenny Meyer.

Hours I write per day: I am a burst writer. I write like crazy when I'm in the midst of a burst. I beat myself up a lot when I'm not. If I'm writing consistently in one of those bursts, it's usually from about 11 p.m. until 3 a.m. I'm the worst night owl you'll never know.

Hours I waste online when I should be writing: Most of them. Yeah.


Way to celebrate a book deal: Chocolate dessert and a peach Bellini. And maybe a thick, juicy steak … Yeah, definitely that. I remember now.

Trick to overcome writer's block: I ask my character, "WHAT do you WANT?" before I go to bed. I can't do this if I need to wake up early, because that voice generally haunts me all night. I'm exhausted the next morning, but I usually know what they want, and that's the key to a good story.

Way to think of a book idea: For me, it tends to happen in the midst of an everyday conversation. Something I hear sets my heart and brain racing, and I'm off and running.


Show you'll DVR? Can you believe I don't own a DVR? We have basic cable. If I could DVR, it would be Parenthood, though the season is over now. I love that show.

Book you'll read? A manuscript from a dear friend who is seeking her first blurbs. I've already peeked at the first few chapters, and I know once I start, I'm in for the duration.

Book you'll write? I could tell you but then I'd have to think of another one, because once I start talking about them, they seem to lose their magic.

Thanks, Julie!