MFRW 52 Week Blog Challenge 2018

Win, Lose, Draw and Research #MFRWAuthor

Week 12 prompt: My contest experience: Win, Lose, Get Signed 

Week 13 prompt: What I learned while researching my book. 

NB: I’m combining these two prompts as I really didn’t have enough contest experience to write a full entry for week 12. 

First up, my contest experience. Back before the rise of indie publishing, unpublished writing contests could sometimes be an effective way to get an agent or an editor to look at your work. I only ever entered a few back then, mostly because I never finished a book until 2013 (long after indie publishing became a viable option). I have a vague memory of getting an honorable mention for a merman story but that’s it. Since I indie published, I never really entered any other unpublished contests. I did enter my eligible books for the Romance Writers of America Rita award in 2016 but I didn’t make it to the second round. And that’s about it for my contest experience, sadly.

As for what I learned while researching my book(s), I learn something new every single day. For example, this morning I spent a ridiculous amount of time on Google Maps trying to figure out where to locate a fictional island off the coast of Scotland. Yesterday, I learned about the path to veterinary school in the United States. When writing a contemporary, I tend not to research a great deal before I start a book but will research necessary information as I go along.

When I wrote my dual timeline narrative in The Lost Art of Second Chances, I did an enormous amount of research for Belladonna’s story, including pre-World War II Italy, Italy during WWII, the Monuments Men, and Boston in the 1950s and 60s. I chronicled some of this research in prior blog posts that you may find here:

The Lost Art of Second Chances Soundtrack

Meet Frank from The Lost Art of Second Chances

Visiting Massachusetts

World War II in Italy

Revere Beach

Meet Me Under the Clock


MFRW 52 Week Blog Challenge 2018

If I never had to do this again, it’d be too soon #MFRWAuthor

Week 11 Prompt: If I never had to do this one task again…

A domestic goddess I am not. I’d much rather curl up with a book and read or with my keyboard and write than do any household chore. I’m not a fan of cleaning or laundry or cooking. If I were a bazillionaire like some of my heroes, I’d have legions of staff to handle all that for me.

Since I don’t have a legion of staff and the woodland animals around here seem totally uninterested in helping out (thanks for that disappointed expectation, Disney!), I’m more or less stuck keeping Chez Hunt from squalor and ruin (with a bit of an assist from Fox and the Pilot). I will say that listening to audiobooks and podcasts made my new Whole 30 hobby of loading and emptying the dishwasher thirty million times a day that much more fun.

But, if I had to pick a chore that I’d prefer never to do again, I’d pick my biggest nemesis: grocery shopping. I’ve just never liked it. I can never find half of the items on my list and, at least around here, most of the grocery stores are quite crowded most of the time. I’ve been hit with a shopping cart more times than I can count while debating the ripeness of avocados in Wegmans. If my husband goes to the store, our pantry looks like a junk food apocalypse.

So, guess what? I found the solution. I don’t have to do it any longer! I use Instacart. It’s $150 per year service and they bring the groceries right to your front door. They’ll even do the Costco run for you. Just place an order online or in their app, set a delivery time within the next week, and, like magic, the groceries arrive.

I’ve noticed that we’re tending to eat healthier because we no longer have junk food impulse purchases. I also am doing much better at meal planning. Plus, since I don’t have to grocery shop, I’m much more willing to cook.

If you want to give it a try and get $10 off your first order, my affiliate code is: CHUNT2B412F

Just click here and give it a go! Let me know what you think!




MFRW 52 Week Blog Challenge 2018

Egg in a bowl #mfrwauthor

This week’s prompt was a tough one. I was stuck for ages. Finally, after reviewing some family stories with my husband and my sister, I narrowed it down to this one for the prompt: “Things only my family would understand.”

When I was growing up, three of my mother’s five sisters lived in the DC area. My Aunt Pam had three kids close in age to me and our parents often traded babysitting time. Once, when I was about 6, I attended a sleepover at my aunt’s house.

The next morning, she asked me how I liked my eggs. I answered, “In a bowl.” She blinked but rallied, “Okay, but how do you want them cooked.” Once again, I said, “in a bowl.” We went through this multiple times and I remember her saying, “You can have it in any bowl in the house. How do you want me to cook the egg?”

Finally, desperate, she handed me scrambled eggs in a cereal bowl. These were not the eggs in a bowl my mother prepared but they were tasty anyway.

When my mom arrived to pick me up, Pam was like “What on earth is an egg in a bowl?”

My mother explained that “egg in a bowl” means a soft-boiled egg.

How about you? Does your family have any special names for food?

MFRW 52 Week Blog Challenge 2018


Today’s prompt: What would I invent if I were stuck on an island?

I am not an outdoors-y person. I like my outdoors nicely screened off and preferably at a considerable distance. When I go to the beach, I take residence in my beach chair under a nice shady umbrella and read.

So, let’s be real here, in the zombie apocalypse, I’m going first. The only thing I can think of to invent on an island is a nice raft to get me off it. How about you?

MFRW 52 Week Blog Challenge 2018

A Cautionary Tale #mfrwauthor

Today’s prompt is the worst writing advice I’ve ever gotten. Before I share my story, let me say that writing advice is very much an individual thing. What works for one author may not work for another author or even book. So take what advice you like and ignore the rest because it can really derail you when you get bad advice.

I’ve always been a scribbler but I didn’t seriously pursue my goal of writing a book until after I joined Romance Writers of America (RWA) in 1998. Back then, the only path to publishing was via a traditional publisher which involved papering New York City with query letters, along with a synopsis and the first few chapters. The query process could be quite lengthy–6 months to a year.

Though established authors could query proposals for unfinished manuscripts, unknown authors were expected to complete the entire book and then query. From a publishers perspective, this makes perfect sense. It didn’t make sense to me though, as a writer. I didn’t want to write an entire book, only to have it rejected. It seemed a waste of effort to me. Now, of course, with the rise of independent publishing, a finished book will always be published but back then, I didn’t want to have stacks of unpublished manuscripts lingering under the bed.

So, not wanting to waste time writing a full book that wouldn’t ever see the light of day, I seized upon the advice given to me by an established author to just send a proposal query.  Then, when I received a request, write the manuscript and send it in. What could go wrong?

Well, I banged out my query letter for a vampire romance (they were hot at the time) and sent it off to all the major publishers in NYC. I think I kept working on it but it was slow going back then as I’d never written a book before. Six weeks later, I got requests from not one but three different NYC publishing houses for the completed manuscript.

Which, of course, I didn’t have and had no idea how to finish it. I never managed to finish that book and thus, never managed to respond to my requests for proposals. For years, I felt like I’d wasted my one chance to get published and it was devastating. I didn’t write for years.

To be clear, I don’t blame the established author at all. Now that I have two dozen books written, I could easily have finished that manuscript and sent it off in a timely manner. Her advice would have worked for a journeyman, experienced author. But, as a first-time author, I had no idea how to complete a manuscript and couldn’t do it under pressure like that.

Also, with the advent of indie publishing, I’m glad I never had a contract with NYC at all. The Kindle was truly a revolutionary device, a total game changer in the world of publishing, and I’m much happier being independent.

How about you? Did you ever suffer from bad advice?

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


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.