MFRW 52 Week Blog Challenge 2018

How Full Is Your Bucket List? #MFRWAuthor

Today’s blog challenge is a fun one. We’re talking about bucket lists. Made famous by a film of the same name, bucket lists are experiences or accomplishments that a person would like to complete before they kick the bucket.

Since I’ve never met a list I didn’t want to make, I have not one but two bucket lists. One for travel and one for everything else. I’m always adding more so the list tends to grow not shrink. I’ve achieved quite a few things on the list–not least of which includes publishing not just one book but twenty and counting! But I’ve still got more to go. I’ll just share five of them with you today–some from each list.

  1. Visit all 50 states. 
    My friend’s father just recently completed this challenge. When my son heard about it, he decided to take the same challenge so now, it’s become a family goal. We’ve got the Eastern seaboard more or less covered (My son hasn’t been to Georgia yet) but we’ve decided to dedicate the next decade or so of spring breaks to achieving this one. This year, we’re off to sunny California 🙂

2) Watch all the Disney animated movies. 

You may recall I started this challenge on the blog but didn’t get very far. I need to watch Pinocchio and get back on track with it. Bonus points if you can tell me what movie the two fairies in the picture are from (answer at the bottom of the post).

3) Take a hot air balloon ride. 

I’ve always wanted to do this one. My husband, who flies private planes for a hobby, is terrified of the idea. I might have to do wait until my son is old enough for this one.

4) Run the Disney Princess Half-Marathon

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m not in the least athletic. And I don’t really like to run. But I’ve always wanted to participate in the Disney Princess Half-Marathon. It just seems so fun with characters along the route to encourage you and ending the race in EPCOT. I even went so far as to register for it a few years ago but was sidelined due to health issues. Maybe in the next few years.

5) Go to Paris (And Disneyland Paris)

London is my actual favorite city in the world. I studied abroad there when I was in law school and loved it. I would love to go back and share it with my husband and son. But I’ve always wanted to go to Paris too. We’re planning it for my 50th in a few years. I’m having a great time learning French via the Duolingo app (If I manage it, I’ll get to check off another bucket list item–learning a second language) too.

How about you? What’s on your list?

*Answer to Disney picture: They are Flora and Fauna from Sleeping Beauty

Uncategorized

Imagine a Literary Dinner Party #MFRWAuthors

NOTE:  I intended to post this on Friday morning but I set it for the wrong year! GRRR! Here it is anyway.

 

This week’s prompt is a fun one. Five authors (alive or dead) that I’d like to meet.

Did I ever tell you all about the first time I met Nora Roberts? As I mentioned in last week’s prompt, reading Nora’s book Partners launched my romance reading hobby. She and her husband own a charming bookstore in the little town of Boonsboro, Maryland, about an hour’s drive from my hometown. So, in the mid-90s or so, my mom, my best friend, Lynn, and I set out to go to a signing.

During the long drive, I brainstormed what question I, as a budding writer, would ask when I finally came face to face with my beloved writing idol. My mom and BFF (who clearly possess the patience of Job) helped and we had a lively discussion. We enjoyed lunch in town and then moseyed over to the bookstore to get in line. All through the line, I’m excited to ask my question and having a roaring good time chatting to all my new buddies in the fairly long queue. My BFF got her book signed first and then I stepped up to the table.

Nora gave me a warm smile and asked my name. I said, “Ummmm.” She blinked and looked up at me again, “What’s your name, sweetie?” I just stared back blankly, overawed to be in the presence of greatness. Finally, my best friend, concerned that I was now breathing like a landed fish, answered for me and spelled it. Nora graciously signed my book and my friend tugged my sleeve to lead me away. Yes, that’s right. I completely forgot my own name, much less my thoughtful and incisive writing question (which I don’t now recall).

Mortifying. So mortifying! Never meet your idols, kids.

Several years later, I won a tarot card reading for La Nora at a writing retreat and we had a lovely chat. She’s always gracious and warm with fans. A lovely person in addition to an amazing talent.

So, since I’ve already met her, I’d pick the following for my fab 5.

Anne Lamott. She wrote one of my all-time favorite books on writing, Bird by Bird, plus, she’s just a hoot. Here’s her amazing TED talk which you should go listen to right now. 

Chuck Wendig. He’s the author of the writing blog, Terrible Minds. His amazing piece on writing 350 words a day helped me to form a writing habit, after years of struggle. Plus, he wrote the Aftermath trilogy so I think we’d have a grand time chatting about Star Wars.

Jane Austen. I’d definitely want to hear more about that unfinished manuscript (The Watsons). She wrote three of my favorite books–Persuasion, Pride and Prejudice, and Sense and Sensibility.

Agatha Christie. Love her mysteries but what a life story too! I’d love to hear more about her life in archeology digs. Her autobiography is a great read, if you haven’t read it yet.

J.K.Rowling. Adore Harry Potter and would love to meet her. I’ve got questions too 🙂

Honorable mention: Hemingway. I’m not a fan of his writing other than A Moveable Feast. I’d love to walk around Paris with him. What a tour that would be!

 

How about you? Who would you pick?

MFRW 52 Week Blog Challenge 2018

You never forget your first (romance novel) #MFRWauthor #MFRWBlogChallenge

First, a brief Pinewood Derby update. Thank you all so much for your good wishes and pixie dust last weekend. My son (and his devoted Gramps) took 3rd place overall in his Cub Scout pack and first place in his den with Okie II. We’ve been calling him #1 bear ever since. 🙂 They were thrilled!

Now, on to the #MFRW challenge: A book that has influenced my life.

Books are like potato chips! I can’t pick just one!

I suppose it would be cheating to say my own book(s), right?

The late great Ursula Le Guin had a great answer to this here but I’ll give it a shot.

So, there are many, many, many books that I could choose here. I can’t remember a time before I could read. If you listen to my sister, I spent my entire childhood with my nose in a book. Truthfully, not much has changed. I read constantly, listen to audiobooks, and spend a lot of time finding new books to stockpile–that is to add to the TBR (To Be Read) pile that is teetering near my bed and cluttering my Kindle.

But, if I have to choose just one book that influenced my life, I’m going to pick Partners by Nora Roberts. It’s an old “Language of Love” Silhouette category romance title of hers. It was published in 1985–making me probably about 13 when I swiped it from my mother’s library bag. It’s not her best. I can’t honestly recommend it as a great read but it was the first romance novel I ever read.

 

It was set in New Orleans and centered on two journalists figuring out a murder. It’s crazy sauce. I can’t recall much about the plot other than there were copperheads as part of the swampy resolution. Interestingly, the leads were Matt and Laurel. I suppose my subconscious had a grand ole time naming the hero in Forever a Bridesmaid (Matthew Westbrook) and the heroine in Once a Bridesmaid (Lauren Bennett) but I never realized that until I just read the summary on Goodreads. Weird, huh?

Since cracking that first romance over thirty years ago, I’ve been a life-long romance reader and now a writer. This book, though it’s not Nora’s best by a long shot, holds a special place in my heart for being the one that influenced my life the most. How about you? What books influenced you the most?

 

 

2018 Sugar Free

2018 Year of Living Sugar Freely: January Report

I promised to keep you posted (and myself accountable) for my 2018 resolution to give up sugar in this post. So, I thought I’d pop in and tell you how January went.

First, I did get some questions on exactly what I meant by “sugar-free.” I meant no added sugar as opposed to naturally occurring sugar, such as in fruit. Basically, I’m using the Whole 30 definition of sugar:

  • Do not consume added sugar, real or artificial. No maple syrup, honey, agave nectar, coconut sugar, date syrup, stevia, Splenda, Equal, Nutrasweet, xylitol, etc. Read your labels, because companies sneak sugar into products in ways you might not recognize.

So, how did it go?

Overall, I think I did pretty darn well. It was actually easier than I expected it to be too. All my life, I’ve thought I could enjoy things in moderation when it turns out I’m actually what Gretchen Rubin calls an abstainer. It’s easier for me to give something up entirely than it is to just have a bit.

It wasn’t a perfect month. I got an almond milk latte at Starbucks, only to discover three days later that Starbucks uses sweetened almond milk. I ordered Brussel sprouts instead of fries in a restaurant, only to discover they were coated in maple syrup before being roasted. And my office is sugar central so it’s hard to resist there. Twice, I didn’t bring quite enough of my own food to work and ended up giving in to the temptation to have a fistful of jelly beans and one chocolate covered pretzel. Even that was an improvement though. A vast improvement.

I mostly follow a paleo or modified whole 30 way of eating anyway, especially at home. So that wasn’t too tough. But, over the fall, I’d gotten addicted to my PSL (Pumpkin Spice Lattes) and Peppermint Mochas. That was where most of my sugar intake was coming from before 2018 plus some holiday treats too.

I read two books about quitting sugar this month. One was a memoir called Year of No Sugar by Eve Schaub. She and her family, including her two young daughters, gave up sugar for a year. She did bake with dextrose though (corn sugar) so I’m not sure how much help that was. It was well written and interesting though.

I also read The Case Against Sugar by Gary Taubes. It’s very dense and meandering. I’d recommend just reading the article it’s based on instead. Still, it’s interesting to think of the parallels between tobacco use and sugar addiction. Also, it’s helpful to me to think of sugar as a toxin when I’m trying to avoid it.

My jeans feel just a bit looser. But the real improvement has been that my joints aren’t aching anymore and I’m sleeping better. So, overall, I declare it a win for January and onward to February. 11 more months to slay my sugar dragon 🙂

MFRW 52 Week Blog Challenge 2018

If I couldn’t be a writer, I’d… #mfrwauthor

It’s time for another #MFRWAuthor blog post for my 52 week blogging challenge. But before we get to the prompt, Fox is competing in the Pinewood Derby this weekend. If you know anything about Cub Scouts, you know this is one of the biggest events of the year. He and his grandfather have worked so hard on their car, named Oaky II. Please keep your fingers crossed and send pixie dust our way tomorrow.

Today’s prompt is what would I do if I couldn’t be a writer.

This is actually incredibly hard to imagine as writing has been such a huge part of my life since I was very young. I can’t remember a time before I could read. My mother read to me from an early age. Story was always a huge part of my life.

I suppose I could be doing something “writing adjacent” but I’d be spectacularly ill-suited for any of them. I’d be a dreadful teacher and an even worse editor. I can’t really see myself working in a collaborative or visual medium such as film or stage.

 

But, I think my answer would be to be a lawyer, which I am already, so it’s rather a boring answer. But, other than an author, it’s the only career I ever really considered. So, there you are.

MFRW 52 Week Blog Challenge 2018

Me but not me #mfrwauthor

I’m having a great time writing Marina and Dylan’s story in Never a Bridesmaid but I’m taking a quick break to participate in the MFRW blog challenge.

 

Today’s prompt is how much of myself is in my writing.

I’ve been told that I write like I talk. I think I have a fairly strong contemporary voice and that my voice is basically true to my personality. Once I tried to participate in a historical romance round robin writing contest. Though I love to read historicals, my voice sounded way too modern for the characters.

But as for characters? It depends. I think different characters are like me. I think Erin from Forever a Bridesmaid is a more extreme version of me. I’m very introverted and quiet so I often struggle with writing more extroverted characters, like Dylan from Never a Bridesmaid. I’m less like other characters–like Lauren from Once a Bridesmaid–than others. But, interestingly, I didn’t have a hard time writing Lauren. When I’m actually writing the character, I’m not thinking how I’d react in any given situation but how they would react, say, act, etc.

Of the Lockharts, Patrick is the most like me, by far. I often defaulted to his POV and had to consciously choose to write in Zooey or Joe’s point of view sometimes. He was also the first character I developed for the Cupid’s Coffeeshop series.

I don’t think anyone in The Lost Art of Second Chances is particularly like me. People often assume I must be a good cook because Lucy loves it so much. Nothing could be further from the truth! I am a barely competent cook. As for gardening, I’m a total disaster with plants. My house is where plants go to die (which I recognize makes me sound like I’m running some sort of mad plant hospice. I actually gave up hope of raising plants long ago and, should anyone ever send me one, my mother takes immediate custody and scolds me because I’ve over/underwatered it/burnt it to a crisp by placing it in direct sunlight or kept it out of the sun and that’s why it’s a pale green Victorian heroine now. I am a disaster with plants, ya’all.). Belladonna isn’t particularly like me either. None of them are. When I set out to write that book, I wanted to write a second chance love story/childhood friends to lovers which is what Jack and Lucy are. Belladonna just showed up whole cloth and took over.

As I’m a lawyer in my day job, I have quite a few lawyer heroes and heroines. Jack from The Lost Art of Second Chances. Ruby from Cherry Blossom Cappuccino. Charlie from Coconut Iced Coffee. I’ve given other heroes and heroines hobbies of mine-like photographer Kyle from Once a Bridesmaid or jobs I’ve previously had like card shop worker for Val in Cupid’s Kiss.

But then others have had jobs that I couldn’t do if I tried, like cancer researcher Ben in Java Frost, accountants Grayson March and Claire O’Shaughnessy in Lucky Latte, football coach Natalie from Pumpkin Spice. Really, their job is usually directly related to the plot of the story. For example, Ruby is the lawyer handling the Lockhart’s grandmother’s estate. She just happened to get her own story too.

There’s some strange alchemy about ideas and muses that combine to give me the inspiration for any given story, including the characters. But, once I start writing, the story is up to them and so, while they may have started with me, the result is more or less independent of me. It’s similar to the way people peer at a new baby, trying to identify Aunt Mabel’s nose or Cousin Jeff’s chin. There are traces of me in each story, each character, similarities based on heritage, but also something entirely new.

MFRW 52 Week Blog Challenge 2018

What do Bridesmaids, Salem Cigarettes, and Tomato Plants have in common? –#MFRWAuthor

I’ve never been a particularly consistent blogger but 2018 is the year I’d like to change that. To that end, I’ll be participating in the Marketing For Romance Writers (MFRW) challenge. Look for new posts every Friday!

Because I’m joining late, this will be a double post just for this week (answering prompts 1 and 2). After this, it’ll be a single prompt each time.

So, prompt one: Favorite Thing I’ve Written (and why).

Wow. Way to start with the impossible question out of the gate. I’ve loved all my books (and hated all of them too) for different reasons. I think my answer is Forever a Bridesmaid because it was the first book I finished so I’m proudest of it for that reason.

There are a few other lines or scenes that I was really delighted with but I think Forever will always be especially beloved for me because it was the thing I didn’t think I could do, to paraphrase Eleanor Roosevelt.

Prompt Two: My earliest memory

For years I thought this one was my earliest memory. I remember rounding the corner of our brick fireplace into the living room, trailing my fingers along the rough brick. My mother sat in our burnt orange armchair (you remember that popular color from the 70s–like squash caramelized over a nuclear reactor, right?) by the picture window in the living room.  The late afternoon sunlight streamed in, highlighting the ghostly smoke surrounding her dark hair. She was reading a novel and I walked over to her chair. On the arm, an emerald green pack of cigarettes sat next to a cut-crystal ashtray. I read out the letters to her S-A-L-E-M and she said “Salem.” I remember being so pleased that I could read the letters. My mom quit smoking before I was 3 so it had to have been no later than summer 1974.

As I said, this always seemed to be my earliest memory but, several years ago, I picked up a tomato plant at the local supermarket and caught the spicy scent. I suddenly remembered my dad, dressed in plaid Bermuda shorts and a white t-shirt, calling my name and waving at the end of a row of tall tomato plants, their ripe fruit heavy on the vines. When he called me, I tried to crawl to him. According to my dad’s gardening records, that was probably summer 1972 so I would have been not quite one year old. So I guess that’s my actual earliest memory now.

Come back next week for prompt #3. In the meantime, what’s your earliest memory? How old were you?

Don’t forget to check out my fellow #mfrwauthors answers to this week’s prompt!

2018 Sugar Free

2018 Resolution

Do you make New Year’s resolutions? I always do but it wasn’t until I came across Gretchen Rubin‘s Four Tendencies framework that I understood why I struggle so hard with keeping them. According to Ms. Rubin, I’m an obliger meaning that I can easily meet outer expectations imposed by others or outside forces but struggle to meet my inner expectations or goals that I set for myself. The way to fix it–turn an inner expectation into an outer by providing outer accountability.

And that’s where you come in.

First, the resolution: For 2018, I’ve decided to give up sugar. No sweets, no candy, no cake, no ice cream, etc for the whole year.

Why? Because I’ve always suffered from a sugar dragon and really want to free myself from it. I’ve done several rounds of Whole 30 and I always feel so much better during one. I’ve already given up dairy and most grains due to sensitivities but sugar has proven to be my tempting bugbear.

Sugar also lurks in a surprising amount of processed and restaurant food. And, as I’m planning to travel and live my normal life, I will still be eating out during the year. I’m not going to drive myself nuts wondering if sugar is hiding in any given plate of food. I think giving up sweets is enough to be getting on with (obviously I’m not going to order something obvious like sugar-coated bacon or anything 🙂

But I need your help to stick to it. So, every month, I’ll be reporting on my success and/or failure here on the blog. I’ll be keeping daily track in my bullet journal.

I gave up diet soda–all soda actually–this year so the no sugar thing should be super easy in comparison, right? **whimper**

How about you? What’s your resolution?

Podcasts

Happy International Podcast Day!

Happy International Podcast day!

Do you listen to podcasts? After my dear friend, Hannah, kindly showed me how to access them about three years ago, I have become a podcast junkie. They are my jam. I listen whenever I can–when driving, cooking, folding laundry, going to sleep…

If you’re interested in podcasts, but don’t know where to start, head over here to Gretchen Rubin’s site for an excellent explanation of what apps you need and how to access the shows.

I personally use Overcast because I listen at double speed and Overcast has some nifty features that allow for that.

So, in celebration of International Podcast Day, I thought I’d share my current “must-listen” list. I’m only including active shows here so my list doesn’t include podcast classics like Serial or the iconic S-Town. I loved them both though 🙂 I’m also not including all the writing podcasts that I listen to because (1) I already did and (2) we’ll be here all day.

Onward to the podcasts!

1) Happier with Gretchen Rubin

You may recognize Gretchen as the author of The Happiness Project. Her sister, Elizabeth Craft, is her co-host on this and it’s the first thing I listen to every Wednesday morning. It’s like a standing coffee date for me! I love the practical, pragmatic advice.

2) Happier in Hollywood

 

Elizabeth Craft’s spin-off from Happier features her talking about life as a Hollywood scriptwriter with her best friend and writing partner, Sarah Fain. Not just for writers though! This one drops on Thursdays so I’m always enjoying my coffee with Liz and Sarah then.

3) How Story Works

Lani Diane Rich, formerly of Storywonk, presents a free college-level seminar explaining elements of story. Not just for writers though–you’ll get a lot more out of books, movies, and TV shows after listening to this.

4) BigStrongYes

Lani Diane Rich hosts this with her friend, Dr. Kelly Jones, as they take a deep dive into three of my favorite books–Rising Strong by Brene Brown, Big Magic by Liz Gilbert, and A Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes. Love this one. Get something new out of it every week.

5) Hidden Brain

 

All about the unconscious patterns that drive human behavior. Fascinating stuff. I just glommed the entire back catalog and can’t wait for more!

How about you? What do you listen to? Tell me what to add to my list!