winter garden

Kristin Hannah's 5 Do's and a Do-Over

It's no secret that New York Times bestselling author Kristin Hannah is one of our absolute faves. Any author that can make not one, but two self-proclaimed robots like us cry is a true talent! (You might recall that Firefly Lane really did us in.) And now this uber-talented author has just released her - wait for it- NINETEENTH novel- Night Road. And we loved (and *cough* may have even cried again) over this powerful, complex and very emotional novel. Synopsis: The central plot revolves around two very different families living in adjacent shorefront towns in Washington State, and the bond that ties them together in the face of horrific tragedy. Jude Farraday is the happily married mother of two bright, happy twin teenagers, Mia and Zach, who devotedly oversees every detail of their near-perfect family life together. Into the Farradays's world arrives Lexi Baill, a former foster child from a neighboring working class town, who immediately befriends Mia and eventually falls in love with Zach during their senior year in high school. Recognizing that Lexi has become inseparable from her own children, Jude welcomes her with open arms into the Farraday household. Everything changes one night when, after a graduation party, the three teens are involved in an accident and fingers of blame are pointed at Lexi- even Jude's.

And here's the part we know y'all are waiting for...If you leave a comment, you'll be entered to win one of five copies of Night Road. We'll randomly select the winners on Friday, April 15th after 6:00 pm. We know it will feel good to win something on Tax Day!

We're thrilled to have Kristin back again. She first visited us after the release of Winter Garden to share 5 Things We didn't Know about her (we are still in shock that she hand writes her novels on a LEGAL PAD) and now she's revealing her Do's and a Don't (her secret to success in life).



1. DO see as much of the world as you can. I am the daughter of a wanderer. As much as I hated this when I was young-and boy, did I hate it; we were always moving, changing schools, being the new kids---I see now the incredible value in seeing different places, experiencing different cultures. You learn profound lessons about the world and yourself when you travel. I was fortunate to study abroad in college, and I truly believe that a year in London changed my life and opened my eyes to the world.

2. DO have a positive outlook. I don't want to sound like some self help guru, but I truly believe that we have the power to shape our reality. We don't choose what we see, perhaps, but we choose what we focus on, what we care about.  I think nothing creates a positive life like a positive outlook. 3. DO make time for yourself. We women do a lot in our lives. WE work, we care for our children and our families, we run households; we are the glue that holds our families together.  Because we have so much to do, we often forget about our own needs. I know that when my son was young, I was often too tired at the end of the day to do much more than plop onto the sofa with a good book- and I was too "busy" in the middle of the day to go out to lunch.  What a mistake.  Make time for your girlfriends! Nothing can keep you afloat and change your outlook like an afternoon with friends.  And believe me, when your kids are teenagers, or when they leave home, you'll need those friends.

4.  DO get your parents and grandparents to tell you their stories. I was young when my mom passed away, and it wasn't until years later--when I became a mother myself that I realized how many questions I'd never asked , how much I didn't know. With the loss of my mother, I lost all the stories of her family, my family. I wish I'd found a way to gather those histories when I had the chance. Hand your parents and/or grandparents a tape recorder and have them talk about what they remember.  Better yet, sit with them and write it all down.


5. Don't be afraid of anything. Reach for the stars and dream big. It's a big, beautiful, wonderful world out there, and it's waiting for you.  Too many people are afraid of failing, but failing is really just another way of revealing your path.  Better to jump high and fall than to stand on the ground, afraid. When I first started writing, I never imagined that I would someday be a published author of nineteen novels. I just had a dram and went for it, one word at a time.  No matter how often I failed, I got back up, dusted myself off, and tried again. I honestly think it's the secret to success in life.

To find out more about the amazingly talented Kristin Hannah, visit her website and become one of her THIRTY FOUR THOUSAND (and counting) fans on Facebook.

Thanks, Kristin!




Writing Wednesday- Query Quandary

Some might say climbing Mt. Everest is an accomplishment. Others might argue that a true victory is winning a gold medal or being awarded an Oscar.

And although we salute all the incredible people who fall into those categories and agree that those would be amazing achievements, we're not athletic or skilled enough to join them in those ranks so we'll settle for believing that writing a query for our manuscript The D Word is one of the toughest challenges we've ever faced. (Liz would like it duly noted that she deserves a close second for giving birth- twice!)

And to celebrate not only finishing our query, but making it through the process alive (more on that below), we're giving away two $20 itunes gift cards (because music helps us write) and six autographed books by authors who've inspired us-Sarah Pekkanen (THE OPPOSITE OF ME) and Kristin Hannah (WINTER GARDEN). Just leave a comment (you know the drill--we're fabulous, you love us, love the blog, blah, blah...) and you'll  be entered to win.

So back to the query quandary...Condensing the plot of our novel into two paragraphs was only half the battle. Agreeing on what the content of those two sections should be was the other. And although we feel we have an incredibly successful writing partnership, that doesn't discount the cold hard fact that we're both Type-A control freaks who always want to be right.

Let us take you back to the day we decided that we'd each independently take a stab at the query and then reveal our work to the other. In Southern California, it was an El-Nino-esque rainstorm that included a hurricane. In the Chicago 'burbs, it was eighteen degrees, gloomy and included a "delightful" present from Mother Nature- Eight. Inches. Of. Snow.

Cut to Lisa holed up in her house, wrapped in an afghan blanket, tears of sadness spilling down her cheeks as she cried for the sun (okay, so maybe that's a wee bit of an embellishment- there was no afghan). She put in her ipod headphones and typed away as she imagined she was in Maui as she listened to Bob Marley belt out Don't Worry, Be Happy (alright, so maybe she was actually listening to Party in the U.S.A.- don't judge!). When she finished, she smiled broadly. "This is damn good," she said to her fountain of prosperity in the corner. It was time to send it to Liz who was going to be so pleased!

Open email form, attach query, add self-congratulatory quip to Liz, send. Wait....

Two thousand miles away, Liz stared out at the pouring rain, part of her ecstatic that she finally had an excuse to wear her new Burberry wellies, the other half of her semi-panicked that, as a result of the hurricane in SEAL BEACH, her daughter's school was on lockdown. As Jordan Sparks sang in her ears, she wrote fast and furiously, taking the time to pat herself on the back along the way because she was still able to crank out such great content on such a miserable day. It was time to send it to Lisa who was going to be so pleased!

Open email form, attach query, add self-congratulatory quip to Lisa, send. Wait...

I'm sure you see where this story is going. Well, it's safe to say that neither of us were as in love with our partner's work as we were with our own! Lisa got up on her soapbox and actually said the words, "How do you not LOVE this?" and Liz retaliated with, "Um, because mine is So. Much. Better!" For an hour we debated everything- including the true definition of divorce. There was even a particularly ugly moment when someone threatened that both queries should be sent to an "unbiased" party who would decide which one should "win". Finally, exhaustion took hold and the right-fighters agreed to sleep on it.

The next day, with much-needed perspective, fresh attitudes and plenty of caffeine all around, we decided to merge our work.  Over the next week, we methodically deleted, rearranged and reworked until we were as close to satisfied as we were ever going to get. Then, we were lucky enough to have brilliant authors including Allison Winn Scotch, Laura Dave and Sarah Pekkanen agree to review our query and give us invaluable feedback. Thank you, ladies! We are forever indebted to you!

And now as we write this blog post, our query for The D Word is complete and sitting in the inbox of our dream agent.  And now we wait. And wait. And wait some more. And it will probably be harder than when Lisa waited by the home phone (literally) to find out if she'd made the junior varsity cheerleading squad (she didn't-and they FORGOT to call-long story!) or when Liz waited at her graduation lunch for her date  to show up (he never did- even longer story!). But many moons and hopefully more maturity later, we're all about positive thinking- affirmations, fountains and the whole nine yards. And because of that, we know find the right agent to rep us. (That is, if we don't kill each other trying to perfect our synopsis-but that's a whole other blog!)

xoxo, Liz & Lisa

5 Things Liz & Lisa didn't know about... Kristin Hannah

How lucky are we?  First we kicked off February with our new look (woo hoo!).  And now, we're excited to discover 5 Things we didn't know about NYT bestselling author Kristin Hannah! Although lawyer turned writer Hannah has written a staggering EIGHTEEN novels, we just happened upon her work last year when Liz picked up a copy of FIREFLY LANE.  Blown away by the story of the journey of two lifelong friends, (sound like anyone you know?)  she broke her long standing rule to not read books that make her cry. FIREFLY LANE was so engaging that she couldn't help herself-she was bawling like a baby by page 150. (Damn you Kristin Hannah!)

Hannah's latest novel, WINTER GARDEN, focuses on Meredith and Nina Whitson, two adult sisters who were denied any real affection from their icy European mother while growing up. After their beloved father's death and mother's illness, they attempt to discover the truth about their mother's past through the Russian fairy tales she told them as children. (Click here for a sneak peek!) WINTER GARDEN is in bookstores TODAY and you can buy your copy here.

We LOVED learning more about the lovely Kristin.  Like us, she's addicted to The Biggest Loser and loves The Food Network.  But we were surprised to discover that she, well, how do we say this? SHE WRITES HER NOVELS ON A LEGAL PAD. WITH A PEN. You'll  have to read on to discover why...

Five things Liz & Lisa didn’t know about Kristin Hannah...

1. I'm a Food Network junkie.  I’ll admit it: I love everything about food.  I spend hours watching programs on the food network, as well as pouring over the recipes on their website.  Several times a week, I quit work early and make a recipe that challenges me.  Sometimes they work out beautifully, and sometimes, not so much, but I always enjoy the process.  While I was writing Winter Garden, I focused on Russian food for the first time, and I have to say it was delicious.  I wouldn’t be surprised if readers found that the book made them hungry!

2. The Biggest Loser inspired me to take up spinning.  I know I’m not alone in watching the Biggest Loser.  Honestly, I find the show inspiring, week after week.  Well, after years of watching the contestants sweat on their spinning bikes, I finally decided to give it a try myself.  I was really nervous about it.  The first time I walked into the gym’s “spinning room,” I moved pretty slowly.  I was afraid I’d fall off the bike or sweat so hard, I wouldn’t be able see.  And it was hard; I won’t lie to you.  But when the speakers blared out with Heartbreaker, I was in heaven.  I love it!

3. I write my novels longhand.  I know it seems impossible in these computer-driven days, but I’m an old school girl.  Years ago, I used a computer, but I simply found that my body couldn’t handle sitting in a chair for the hours required to write an entire novel.  Now, I write on yellow legal pads, and I can write anywhere.  On the beach, on my deck, on a boat.  Anywhere.  How great is that?

4. If I wasn't a writer, I'd want to be a Supreme Court Justice. Why not dream big, I say?  Obviously, there’s nothing I’d rather be than a writer.  I absolutely adore my chosen profession.  In fact, it’s almost an obsession.  But if, for some reason, I had to do something else, I’d love to sit on the Big Bench.  I adore the entire idea of searching for justice, untangling facts, and determining how our laws should be written to best protect us and preserve our rights.  Although I’m an attorney, I have rarely gone there in my fiction.  True Colors is the one real exception.  I was spurred to write that novel by a perceived injustice in the current legal system.

5. I'm funny.  Really. I’m still not entirely sure how I became known as a writer of tearjerkers.  I never  set out to write “sad” novels.  Rather, I intend to write emotional fiction with real-to-life characters who face intensely difficult situations; that goal often takes me into dark and complex landscapes, and thus…the sadness.  But I also try to have uplifting, life affirming endings.  Occasionally that kind of ending doesn’t fit the novel, but I try to end my books in a way that makes the reader smile.  Even if she's blinking back tears at the same time.

To read more about the fabulous and talented Kristin Hannah, head on over to her website.

xoxo, Liz & Lisa