MFRW 52 Week Blog Challenge 2018

Seeking Gold Stars (#MFRWAuthor)

Week 14’s topic is “What I learned from my worst review.”

NB: I’ve missed a few weeks due to travel and illness and will be posting catch-up entries for weeks 11-13 in the next few days. I apologize for the delay.

Courtesy of Susanne Nilsson via Flickr Creative Commons

So reviews. Love ’em, hate ’em, can’t live without them. Of course, it’s always lovely to get a gushing review. Those can buoy one’s spirits for days. Often, a rave review will come in on the days I most feel like throwing in the towel forever and that’s always nice.

Sometimes a review will point out a pattern in my overall work. Reviews made me realize that all my books are sweet in tone, if not sensuality level.

And the ones that provide criticism, if done kindly and constructively, can be wonderful too. It’s all too hard to be objective about one’s work. I appreciate the beta readers and editors along the way who help.

Courtesy of Susanne Nilsson via Flickr Creative Commons

But my worst reviews happened on Pumpkin Spice, the 10th in the Cupid’s Coffeeshop series and actually alerted me to a problem with the file Amazon provided to pre-orders. It allowed me to fix the problem within just a few days. I wish that the reviewers that gave me a 1 star would go back and assess based on the book instead of the technology glitch but they haven’t so that book always has a low average. Still, I appreciate the reviewers telling me so I could fix it.

Courtesy of Susanne Nilsson via Flickr Creative Commons

Authors often fret about reviews, good, bad, and the lack of them. How do you feel about reviews? Do you think they’re important?

Do you read reviews before purchasing a book? Do you rely on them? How important are reviews anyway?

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 Back before the rise of indie publishing, unpublished writing contests could sometimes be an effective way to get an agent or an editor to look at your work.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

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?



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.