Monday, January 25, 2016

My Year of Risk-Taking: Bring It On!

I am not a risk-taker by any means. I don't do roller coasters, get nervous going down escalators, am not of fan of sports in which balls get thrown close to my head, and have never rollerbladed in my life. The only area in which I take risks is in my writing. I love to go as dark and twisted as possible, because it is my characters, and not me, who are in danger, and in the last year of revising my novel with my super-sharp agent, I have learned more about writing than I ever thought possible. I have said yes to everything I fear: writing in a genre I have so much passion for but was scared to try, delving as deeply as possible into my mind, learning patience, letting go of controlling everything around me so I can achieve all that I've always wanted to.

As the clock struck midnight and it became 2016, I wondered why I can dive head-first into taking huge writing risks but not in my real life? The answer came to me quickly: I fear losing control. That drop in my stomach before the roller coaster careens down a huge decline never appealed to me. When I look at the bottom of the escalator, I imagine tripping on the moving stairs. I don't want to break my nose playing tennis so I don't. Smashing into a tree on rollerblades scares the life out of me. I admire everyone who tries new things without worrying how they'll get hurt. I watch my kids attack new things with gusto, and I realized I wanted to be like that, too.

While I'm not quite ready to play dodgeball or tackle the Leviathan at Canada's Wonderland, I am going to learn how to ski and might even try snowboarding. I am going to toboggan down a larger hill than the little lump I usually sled on. I'm tossing my to-do list once a week so I don't forget to live in the present because I've arranged my day into thirty-minute increments in the worry I will forget to get something done.

2016 is my year of risk, and all of those stomach-dropping and heart-pounding things I have avoided will hopefully show me that I cannot control every outcome and falling down is okay. I will simply pick myself up and try again.

Thanks for reading! To return to the FICTION WRITERS BLOG HOP on Julie Valerie’s Book Blog, click here:

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The Author Life: Charmed or Cliché? A Guest Post by Laura McNeill

It is a huge pleasure to have Laura McNeill on my blog. I have known Laura for a couple of years through her women's fiction, and we've recently forged a strong connection because of the parallel paths our writing have taken--women's fiction to suspense; from light to dark. I was so lucky to snag a copy of Center of Gravity at BEA this past May, and the buzz has been incredible. Today Laura is talking about the 5 clichés of being an author and the real truth behind the writing life.

Welcome, Laura!

The Author Life:  Charmed or Cliché?

Laura McNeill

When I was younger, I often dreamed about the glamorous life of being an author. Touring different cities, signing books, and attending launch parties. It seemed that many writers live a charmed life, with articles appearing in the New York Times, interviews in glossy magazines, and their books being turned into movies.

Enter college, grad school, family, children, and a career. Enter reality.

Now that I am a working author, I see the writer life in a brand new way. Granted, the publishing world has changed dramatically, and the marketplace is full to bursting with new authors publishing books every day. So is the author life really charmed? Or are writers being challenged to juggle a few dozen tasks at once, the most important of which is writing the next novel… and the next?

Here’s a look at 5 clichés and the real story behind them!

1. The Author Life is Glamorous

I can’t speak for everyone, but most of my friends who are published authors also hold down a full-time job (myself included). To keep things exciting, or because I have simply lost my mind, I added in another master’s degree last year (Hello, graduation July 31st!). Those who are lucky enough to stay home and write full time are often busy with caring for children or their parents.

That said, the writing itself is a solitary job. I stay in my yoga pants and a t-shirt and type in my tiny office, sipping coffee that I made myself. I like to write in the morning until 8 am, when I spring up from my chair and race to grab a shower, find decent clothes, and get to work. In the evenings, it’s Mommy-mode, and I help with homework, take my boys to activities, or do homework.


2. There’s a Road Map for Success

Even if you are with a large publishing house, and deadlines are put in place for editing, revising, and feedback, ultimately, you are the captain of your own destiny. You decide when and where you write, if you write everyday, and you decide how many words you add to your manuscript. The road map for success is yours to map, alone.

Like I mentioned, I write in the mornings. I get up between 5:30 am and 6, make coffee, boot up my laptop, and get writing. On weekends, my schedule is to be a little more flexible with my boys, but I generally get some writing in, spend time on social media or my blog, and try to squeeze in time with friends.

And then, life happens. There’s a crisis at work, one of my boys forgets his lunch, or I have a flat tire. In those moments, it’s okay to drop everything. As an author, you have to be able to step back, take a deep breath, and keep going.


3. Marketing is Not Your Job

Though everyone would love to believe that published authors have a team of marketers at their beck and call, nothing could be further from the truth. I do have a lovely and experienced marketing guru at Thomas Nelson/ HarperCollins, but it’s her job to take care of a dozen other authors as well.

While I was lucky enough to get an advance for Center of Gravity, I spent the majority of one of my checks on an outside publicist to help spread the word about the novel. (Waves to Sarah Miniaci with Smith Publicity). She and I work hard with the in-house team at Thomas Nelson to coordinate publicity efforts. We have a weekly phone call and constantly brainstorm ideas for guest posts, opportunities for interviews, and laugh a lot about our lack of free time.

In the past three months leading up to Center of Gravity’s July 14th release, aside from Sarah and my in-house marketing director’s work, I have talked to bloggers, reviewers, Tweeted, posted on Facebook, reviewed friends’ books, written dozens of blog posts, and scheduled book signings. Yes, my head is spinning. In the end, fingers crossed, it will all be worth it.


4. The Reviews Will Roll In

One thing that I’ve learned as an author in this crazy business, is that no one has to publish reviews. Bloggers are extremely busy, they have their own lives, their own children, and other books to review.

I have met some amazing bloggers and reviewers in the past several years, and am amazed and awed at their generosity. I’ve become close friends with many of them, and I treasure those connections.

If I can offer any advice when asking for reviews, it is this:  Be polite, be respectful, and if a blogger doesn’t like your book, or can’t post the review…let it go. Unless you walk in another person’s shoes, you don’t know what is happening in that person’s life. Be grateful for the reviews you do receive. And say thank you.



5. You’ll hit the bestseller list

Though I had big, glamorous, dreams when I was younger, I write because I love it. I adore crafting stories, I am fascinated with story structure and revisions, I adore talking to book clubs, I love to read, and am awed by the talent of my author friends.

I do not expect to hit the NYT bestseller list out of the gate (though that would be incredible!) and I don’t do this job anticipating I’ll be able to buy a house in the Bahamas next week.

As Ernest Hemingway is reported to have said, “It is easy to write. Just sit in front of your typewriter and bleed.”

So, what are the clichés you’ve heard about the author life?  Any you care to add?

Laura's book, Center of Gravity, releases today from Thomas Nelson, and I cannot wait to dive in!
About the Author:

Laura adores hot coffee, good manners, the color pink, and novels that keep her reading past midnight. She believes in the beauty of words, paying it forward, and that nerds rule the world. Laura is a fan of balmy summer nights, fireflies, and pristine mountain lakes. She lives in Mobile, Alabama with her two sons.

You can find Laura Tweeting @Lauramcneillbks and blogging at After July 14th, Laura’s suspense novel, Center of Gravity, can be found wherever fine books are sold.

Buy Center of Gravity!




Monday, June 8, 2015

BEA 15: Final Recap and How I Got Stuck in NYC

How has a week gone by since I got home from NYC? I must admit that I missed the chaos and messiness of my life, though it took me a full seven days to unpack. I am also so happy to actually be home because I wasn't sure when I would finally get on a flight that hadn't been canceled. But more on that in a minute.

Friday morning I sucked down my coffee and made my way to Skylight Diner to meet Francine, Lynn Marie, and Julie for breakfast. Give me eggs and sausages, and I'm a happy woman, and the sausages were the size of my head. Time sailed by as we talked non-stop and before we knew it, it was almost noon and we had to get to BEA.

There were two things I really wanted to do on my last day there: meet Lynn Weingarten and get a signed copy of her book, Suicide Notes from Beautiful Girls, which will be released on July 7th and looks like an incredible read, and chat with Catherine McKenzie, a Montreal-based author whose novels I have devoured, and grab an autographed copy of Smoke, her upcoming novel.

I managed to do both while Francine hung out with me and Julie attended every seminar she could fit into one day. We schmoozed, laughed, and chatted our way through the afternoon, and then it was time for me to head back to my hotel for my annual steak dinner with Meredith and her friends. A massive hunk of meat, Prosecco, and giggles, and I snuggled under my covers until morning.

Saturday was present shopping day for my kids and lunch with Glynis Astie. Well, I was very proud of myself for making it to Times Square (and wondering what I'd been thinking making lunch plans on a Saturday in the midst of the crushing muddle) when I realized I had no clue where I was meeting Glynis. A quick, "Where do I go???" phone call and I was eating a not-so-healthy Caesar salad with one of my favorite people. Being around Glynis is like bathing in sunshine, and I was sad to say goodbye to her outside Grand Central.

Dragging a giant Toys R Us bag (and being serenaded with the store's theme song by amused pedestrians), I got back to my hotel, changed, and with Meredith and Julie leading the way, we took the train to Long Island for a barbecue feast at Francine's. Steak, chicken, and lamb chops plus a dance party? It was a perfect night.

I'd had the most amazing time, but I was ready to go home. Yet NYC had other plans for me when, as I waited at La Guardia, thunder clapped, lightning bolted through the foggy sky, and every flight to Toronto was canceled. Thankfully, Meredith came to my aid immediately, and I made it back to her apartment for another night of bonding. I wanted to appreciate the extra time I had with her. Until I discovered that every flight to Toronto the following day, except the last flight out which I was booked on, had all been canceled. Would I ever make it home? Would Meredith have a new, messy roommate to contend with?

I headed to the airport on Monday, ready to hop on an overnight bus if I had to because I wanted to cuddle my kids so much, sat on the airport floor as flight after flight was canceled, and stared at the schedule until everything was one big blur. I bonded with the other passengers who just wanted to get home, and together we released a collective sigh of relief when we boarded the plane bound for Toronto.

And as the plane made its descent, I smiled. My trip might have been over, but my journey has just begun because I now work on revising my next novel until it is the best damn thing I can write, I get to forge new connections and treasure the ones I already have, and I am home where I belong.

Until next year in Chicago!

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

BEA 15 Recap: Day Two

After such a busy day, I'd wanted to sleep in a bit because with two young kids, I don't often get the chance to loll in bed. But my eyes flew open on Thursday morning at 7:45 a.m. I can't function without my wake-up cup of coffee or three, and my hotel kindly hunted down a coffee maker for me. With my comfy hotel-issue waffle robe, straight hair (which is normally wildly curly) tucked into a shower cap, and jolt of java in hand, I looked out the window at the gorgeous, sunny day. Then I read a few chapters of a book, finally took a shower, and meandered out the door to meet Melissa Amster and Julie Valerie for lunch at the Javits Center.

My hotel was close to Meredith Schorr because we'd be spending so much time together but far from BEA so I hopped into a cab, which moved at a turtle's pace. Maybe it was the construction or the time, but it took an hour for the taxi to brake its way to where I needed to be. I vowed never to complain about Toronto traffic again. By this point, I was starving and had to pee (a usual combination for me), and I was so happy when I met up with Julie and Melissa and munched on my ten dollar sandwich. We sat on the floor, chatting about books and writing and then went our separate ways to do what we had to.

I had a few goals for Thursday: grab a shot of Sonja Yoerg's upcoming novel, The Middle of Somewhere, which had been a giveaway at the PenguinRandomHouse booth and thanks to Sonja, was already on my e-reader. I wanted to take a photo of Laura McNeill's forthcoming novel, The Center of Gravity, from Thomas Nelson, because Laura couldn't make it to BEA, and I wanted to meet Mary Kubica, author of the international sensation, The Good Girl, and see her soon-to-be-released novel, Pretty Baby, from Harlequin MIRA. I also wanted to stroll the aisles and breathe in the books on the shelves.

Sonja's books were all gone -- no surprise there. I found Kaley Stewart, which wasn't hard because she's about a foot taller than me, and she takes a much better photo than I do. So she snapped this pic of me holding one of the last copies of Laura's book, which is now waiting for me on my shelf!

BEA is huge, but it's amazing how many people you run into. I was so happy to see Mark Leslie Lefebvre, director of self-publishing & author relations at Kobo, a friend and huge supporter of mine, and an author whose book Tomes of Terror: Haunted Bookstores and Libraries was being given away at the Dundurn booth (I managed to score a copy of that after seeing him, which was awesome). I then realized that as much as I wanted to attend Mary Kubica and Pam Jenoff's signings for Pretty Baby and The Last Summer at Chelsea Beach, I had little time left to get back to my hotel to change and meet Meredith and Francine LaSala and be ready for a home-cooked dinner at Eileen Goudge's apartment. Eileen is one of the best cooks I know, and there was no way I could be late for that. But I couldn't leave without meeting Mary and Pam so I ran over to their signing booth, where a huge line had already formed. I managed to say a quick, garbled hello. They are both so lovely, and I will absolutely be buying their books when they come out.

I got to Eileen's with Meredith and Francine, and Julie was already there, wine in hand and a huge smile on her beautiful face. We all grinned back. The Beach Babes were together, and we kicked off our shoes and snuggled on the couch, missing Jen Tucker and Josie Brown. After a delicious dinner of lasagna and the best salad I've ever had, we screamed with laughter about the most inappropriate things that cannot be repeated, and my feet were rubbed until I was practically asleep on their laps. These are my girls, and though we only see each other twice a year, when we're together, it feels like home. We tried, disastrously, to take a selfie so thankfully Sandy Kenyon, Eileen's husband and the compulsively watchable movie critic and entertainment reporter for WABC-TV's Eyewitness News This Morning, came home and took a great shot with a camera that was larger than his palm. You know, a proper camera.

With a huge hug for Eileen, Julie, Meredith, Francine, and I left, and after a quick stop to pee and a taxi ride that smelled like a bar carpet at the end of last call, I crawled into my hotel bed.

It had been another incredible day, and I fell asleep with my e-reader in my hand.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

BEA 15 Day One

I've been scribbling stories since I was ten years old, but I really started writing novels twelve years ago. In 2012, when I published Finding Lucas, I became an author and a lifelong wish came true. The last three years have been an incredible time in my life, full of ups and downs, pride and rejection. And when I go to NYC for BEA, all of the work, stress, and fear are so worth it. I get to stand on the streets of Manhattan as a writer. Here's my recap of BEA 15 Day One!

I left early Wednesday morning with a grin that refused to leave my face because the first person I was going to see was my incredible agent, Jenny Bent. I hope everyone has the chance to experience the joy and excitement I did when an eleven-year-long dream actually happened. Yes, I've wanted to work with Jenny for eleven years. Every query I wrote was sent to her first, and the authors she's represented over a career spanning more than twenty years are writers I admire and respect. So, when I got The Call from Jenny and she told me what she thought my next novel could become, I knew that my gut instinct was spot-on. Jenny has been by my side through major revisions and she has helped me, from conception to getting-close-to-completion, write the book I have always been compelled to write. She has supported me in every way to create the best book I can, and I will forever feel tremendously lucky to find someone who just seemed to know what I truly wanted to do.

I sat in a very cool bar waiting for Jenny, giddy and a little nervous. But the moment I met her, my nerves melted, and over champagne (thanks, Jenny!), I teared up a few times because how often do we get what we so want? Jenny is as warm, funny, kind, and smart as she appears online, and I floated out of the bar as though helium had been in my glass. She also taught me how to tweet a picture, which was very appreciated. Here's my ear-to-ear grin while with Jenny:

After meeting Jenny, I booted over to my hotel to see Meredith Schorr. Meredith is like a sister to me, and when I'm in NYC, she always tries to make sure I don't walk in the wrong direction (happens anyway no matter what she tells me), gets me safely back to my hotel, and I love hanging out on my bed in my room with her chatting for hours. We didn't stay long because we had to meet Melissa Amster, founder of Chick Lit Central, and Kaley Stewart, founder of Books Etc. and my Toronto gal, at Jennifer Weiner's "Ladies First" event, which we knew about thanks to the lovely Brenda Janowitz. Being at a party with Jennifer Weiner, Jen Lancaster, and Brenda, and meeting Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke (whose novel, The Status of All Things, is out today!) and Kristy Woodson Harvey was another amazing moment in a magical day. The cookie I'm holding has a photo of Brenda's novel, The Lonely Hearts Club, and I'm sure the book is as good as the cookie.

The fun wasn't over yet! Kaley and I had our birthdays days apart, and holding umbrellas over each other's heads to protect the hair we'd painstakingly styled, Meredith, Melissa, Kaley, and I headed over to a celebratory dinner with Francine LaSala, Amy Bromberg, Julie Valerie, and Lynn Marie Hulsman. I'm still stunned at the beautiful connections I've made with people over the last few years, and I treasure my friendships with the authors, readers, and bloggers I've been fortunate enough to meet. Amy is a sweetheart, and we share not only a love of books but our tiny stature, and Lynn Marie and I can talk for hours about writing. Julie and Francine (who's also my business partner on many editing projects, cooks for me, and lets me crash at her house on my last night in NYC) are part of my Beach Babes crew, who I spend five days with every January at a house in California with Eileen Goudge, Jen Tucker, Josie Brown, and Meredith. They are my family.

And Melissa has been one of my biggest cheerleaders and dear friends ever since I asked her for a review from Chick Lit Central. She even got me a birthday present!

It had been a long, memorable, unbelievable day, and I hadn't gotten to BEA yet! So, check back if you'd like to hear what happened on day two and three and how I got stuck in NYC and couldn't get home.


Wednesday, May 20, 2015

New Release: THE TRUTH ABOUT ELLEN by Sarah Louise Smith

With the weather finally getting warmer (well, I have the heat back on today, but I have hope for tomorrow), beach reads are here! What's better than a novel with a pop star love triangle? I'm happy to have Sarah Louise Smith and her latest novel, THE TRUTH ABOUT ELLEN, on the blog. Welcome back, Sarah!

Thank you so much to Samantha for hosting me on her blog today. It’s lovely to be here! And thank you for reading this – big waves from a sunny England. If you’ve never heard of me before, I’m Sarah Louise Smith and I’m the author of four chick-lit novels. My new book The Truth About Ellen has just been released, here’s a bit about it –


It’s every girl’s dream to date a pop star...

When Ellen starts dating Tom, a member of the band she adored as a teenager, she can’t believe how lucky she is.

She neglects to mention that she's a huge fan because that just wouldn’t be cool, would it?

Ellen also keeps quiet about how she once spent an evening with Tom’s ex-bandmate/ex-best friend Jasper, her long-term celebrity crush. Tom doesn’t need to know about that, it’s all in the past.

That is until Tom and Jasper get back in touch… and the truth threatens to ruin everything Ellen has ever dreamed of...

Sound like something you might enjoy? Check out the links below. Thanks so much for reading! :)


The Truth About Ellen is available to buy from:



About Sarah Louise Smith


Sarah Louise Smith lives in Milton Keynes, England with her husband, step-daughter, loopy golden retriever and cheeky tortie cat.


Sarah has been writing stories since she can remember and has so far completed four chick-lit novels, all published by Crooked Cat:

Amy & Zach

Izzy’s Cold Feet

Independent Jenny

The Truth About Ellen


Connect with Sarah:




Wednesday, May 13, 2015

New Release: FRENCH FRY by Glynis Astie

I met Glynis one random day on Twitter. 140 characters and we instantly connected. When Francine LaSala, Meredith Schorr, and I were planning BookBuzz in NYC last year, we knew Glynis had to be a part of it. Fast forward one year, and we've bonded over similar senses of humor and the daily debacles that occur when you have two young kids. It is such a pleasure to announce the release of Glynis's third novel, FRENCH FRY!

French Fry

Sydney Durand had finally achieved the perfect life she had always wanted. After a whirlwind romance with a charming Frenchman, she endured the three weddings it required to satisfy the members of the newly formed Bennett-Durand clan. All she had left to do was stroll into the sunset with Louis to enjoy their long-awaited happily ever after.
But everything changed when the stick turned blue. Suddenly, Sydney finds herself facing the daunting task of becoming a mother before she has even returned home from her honeymoon. Keeping a tenacious hold on her hard-won happiness, Sydney is determined not to give up without a fight – no matter what or who is thrown in her path…and that includes an overbearing mother-in-law, a know-it-all father and her own anxiety about having a baby.
Will she finally be able to tame her neuroses for the sake of her unborn child? Or will her hormone-induced panic cause a meltdown of epic proportions? One thing is clear: Sydney and Louis’ nerves are going to fry…
About the Author
 Glynis never expected in her wildest dreams to be a writer. After thirteen years in the Human Resources Industry, she decided to stay at home with her two amazing sons. Ever in search of a project, she was inspired to write the story of how she met and married her wonderfully romantic French husband, Sebastien, in six short months. The end result became her first novel, French Twist. As this was just the beginning of their epic love story, Glynis continued to chronicle their adventures in the sequel, French Toast and the final installment in the series, French Fry.
When Glynis is not writing, she is trying to keep the peace amongst the three men and two cats in her life, finding missing body parts (Lego pieces are small!), supervising a myriad of homework assignments and keeping a tenuous hold on her sanity by consuming whatever chocolate is in the vicinity.
Connect with Glynis!
Buy the book!