The 85K90 Challenge


January usually brings a feeling of renewal. The days are getting longer (they are!). It’s a new year. We have a chance to start fresh, whether that involves your eating habits, exercise routines, spending and saving and investing, or, for me, starting a new novel, January is an opportunity.

As some of you know, I try to complete a novel every year, and because the Association of Rhode Island Authors, a 300+-member group to which I belong, holds its annual RI Author Expo each December, I like to debut the new novel at that time. So January is a chance for me to get started.

This year, I’ve decided to participate in the 85k90 Challenge. Haven’t heard of it? If you’re a writer, or aspiring to be one, this is a terrific place to start. Started as a small Facebook group in 2016, the idea is simple – write 85,000 words in 90 days (January, February, March). I like the year-long plan, because it helps me to plot out the months. Unlike NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), which asks you to write 1,000 words a day for a month (usually November, although there’s one in the summer, too), this 85k90 project is more realistic.

First of all, 30,000 words is not a novel, it’s a novella. I participated in NaNoWriMo twice, and I finished, but I was nowhere near done with writing. This year, if I can write (at least) 85,000 words by the end of March, I’ll be ready to step right into first edits. That’s the plan. Second, thirty days goes by quickly. If life interrupts your writing schedule, it’s difficult to catch up. With 85k90, you have more time. You’re still writing about 1,000 words a day, but there are many days when you’ll write more than that, and it gives you a little cushion for the days that maybe you can’t get to it.

The founder of 85k90 is Julie Valerie, a friend and fabulous writer. I’m so grateful to her for her vision and dedication to this project, and I’m right on track to get the new novel written.

And here’s a tiny bit about that new book – It’s going to be a sequel of two different novels. Yep, I’m writing a sequel to April in Galway and combining it into a sequel to A Jingle Valley Wedding – and it’s working!

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With All the Madness in my Soul


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I’ve mentioned to a few people that it’s worth subscribing to Netflix just to watch “Springsteen on Broadway,” his almost one-man-show that ran at the Walter Kerr Theatre from October 2017 until a couple of weeks ago. On the day it ended, December 15, Netflix picked it up. And either before or after you watch this program, read Michael Hainey’s article about Springsteen in Esquire magazine. Even if you think you know Springsteen.

As a songwriter, he’s on par with Bob Dylan. As a performer, I’m not sure there’s anyone better alive today. Springsteen’s fans will recount their attendance at his legendary concerts.

He’s 69 now (and before you catch your breath on that, remember, as I did, that we’re all older) and he stands before you, the longtime fan, the new fan, the casual observer, and talks about his life. About his hometown, Freehold, New Jersey, the place he couldn’t wait to leave. About his parents, especially his father, who viewed the quiet, sensitive boy as a sissy. About the father-son relationship (“he was my hero, and my greatest foe”). Spoiler alert: it turns out okay in the end, and it might should make you cry a little.

His first breakdown occurred when he was thirty-two, years after he’d already enjoyed tremendous success (six million copies of Born to Run sold in the U.S.). It was hard to explain. He says, “All I do know is as we age, the weight of our unsorted baggage becomes heavier . . . much heavier. With each passing year, the price of our refusal to do that sorting rises higher and higher. . . .”

As a society, we’re talking more about mental illness these days (thankfully), and Springsteen’s candor must be helpful. As Hainey writes, “Springsteen’s desire to share his demons, and to argue for the need he believes all of us have to confront our own—this is one of the show’s great powers. We ignore our demons, he says, at our peril. . . . This is the work of a man revealing his flaws so that he can inspire us to redeem ourselves.”

Hainey and Springsteen discuss pieces of lyrics (brilliant lyrics) that are so much a part of Springsteen (about the line ‘the lies that leave you nothing but lost and brokenhearted,’ Springsteen says, “Everybody carries those things with them. It’s a line that always penetrates. It still penetrates for me when I sing it each night.”)

And finally, those two lines from “Born to Run,” – “Together, Wendy, we can live with the sadness/I’ll love you with all the madness in my soul”

He was only 24 when he wrote those words, years before he had his first breakdown. And they’re possibly the most self-describing lyrics he’s ever written.

Go watch “Springsteen on Broadway.” And let me know what you think.

We’ll Muddle Through Somehow


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For many, this truly is the most wonderful time of the year. Some folks find joy in the frenzy of the season. But for others, there’s the exhaustion, the feeling of overwhelm at trying to do it all, in a limited amount of time. Clean, decorate, shop, wrap, bake, toast, mail, smile…. No wonder you’re stressed out.

And for many people, this is a sad time of year. Maybe it’s due to loss – of loved ones, pets, friends. Financial worries. Not enough sunlight (yes, it’s a thing). The loss of meaning in an ever-increasing material world. Or perhaps it’s something harder to pinpoint but can only be described as an all-encompassing feeling of melancholy. We’re living through harsh times, let’s face it. All of this can make you wish you had a river you could skate away on.

Social media is peppered with photos of smiling faces and sparkling trees. Of course it is, no one ever wants to share a photo of themselves feeling blue. And there’s nothing wrong with feeling festive! Celebrate! But if you have a friend or co-worker who opts out of the festivities, just accept it. Let it pass. Because for those who struggle through this time of year, all they wish for is to muddle through, somehow.

What I Read this Year


Not enough! So many books, not enough time. But perhaps there are a couple of books on my list that didn’t make it onto yours, and maybe you’ll want to add them to your TBR pile:

fire and fury Fire and Fury – Inside the Trump White House by Michael Wolff lived up to its hype. I don’t know that there was anything startling in it, because this administration has been reported on every day. And by now, there’s just so much more…

Galway Stories Galway Stories by Kevin Barry and Mary Costello really helped me understand more about Galway, the setting for my most recent novel. Sometimes gritty, sometimes delightful.

No Excuses No Excuses by Yolanda Alvarez. Let yourself be uncomfortable as you read this stark memoir. My bet is that your upbringing was very different from the author’s. Still, in spite of all the negatives that can be associated with Alvarez’s childhood, she survived. And thrived. And succeeded. Her story will fill your heart.

The Paris Wife The Paris Wife by Paula McLain. This book is about Ernest Hemingway’s wife Hadley Richardson. Written mostly from her perspective, this is a must-read.

This Unfamiliar Road This Unfamiliar Road by Jill Fague. Fague’s first-person account of her battle with breast cancer will move you. With clear and honest writing, she details not only the procedures but all of her emotions.

Thirteenth Star Under the Thirteenth Star – an anthology of writing by Rhode Island authors is the Association of Rhode Island Authors’ second annual anthology. Inside you’ll find a variety of selections from some of Rhode Island’s best.

corey I’m Still Here by Corey Calligano. Another young woman who battled breast cancer. Calligano writes in an honest voice, holding nothing back. A brave and compelling journey.

Damiani Il Bel Centro by Michelle Damiani details her family’s year abroad in the small town of Spello, Italy. Written with humor and introspection, you’ll follow the Damiani family from their home in Virginia to their new home in Italy.

Whitman Have Mercy by Barbara Ann Whitman. Using her extensive knowledge as a family support counselor, Whitman created a novel based on a young girl in the foster system. You’ll feel as if you know Mercy as she navigates the complex road to adulthood.

Matilda Messing with Matilda by Cat Lavoie. Lavoie is one of my favorite romantic comedy authors, and for a sweet escape, pick up this one. Actually, read everything Cat has written!

How to Walk Away How to Walk Away by Katherine Center. Give me a book about hope and despair and I’m hooked. This one ticks all the boxes, with wit, raw emotion, pain, heartache, and ultimately, love and acceptance. Probably the best book I read this year.

North Haven North Haven by Sarah Moriarty. I’ll admit, I picked up this book because I lived in North Haven (Connecticut) for a short time as a small child. This story, however, has nothing to do with Connecticut and everything to do with an island in Maine and a family vacation home. It’s a great summer read.

Hood The Book that Matters Most by Ann Hood. Hood’s early works are magnificent, but like The Obituary Writer and An Italian Wife, this one left me less than thrilled. It’s somewhat autobiographical, and the ending was so far-fetched I was left disappointed.

Stranger Stranger or Friend by Silvia Villalobos. This thriller will grip you from the beginning. The writer uses tension skillfully in her scenes, and if you’re a murder-mystery reader, grab this one.

Mai Crossing the Bamboo Bridge – Memoirs of a Bad Luck Girl by Mai Donohue. You’ll find it difficult to pause your reading of this riveting memoir. From her forced marriage in a Vietnamese village to her escape and survival, against extreme adversity, you’ll come to admire this remarkable woman.

truth The Pendulum’s Truth by Leigh Brown and Victoria Corliss. The writing team of Brown and Corliss make team-writing work so well, you’d think they were just one person. They convey emotion with excellence and tell a great story that you’ll truly enjoy.

How Hard How Hard Can it Be? by Allison Pearson is a laugh out loud funny, brutally honest account of how women of ‘a certain age’ find themselves being pulled from both directions. So relatable to women dealing with work, kids, aging parents, and marriage.

Fear Fear by Bob Woodward. I probably didn’t need to read another book about the chaos in the White House, by the chief chaos creator, but it’s Bob Woodward. This account of the Trump presidency is spot-on, but it’s not like you’re going to feel any better after reading it.

print A Printer’s Choice by W.L. Patenaude. I’m not typically a reader of science fiction, but I was thoroughly engrossed in this well-written novel about the classic battle between good and evil.

A Place of Springs A Place of Springs by Hannah Colby. Colby’s big book was years in the making, and her dedication to scene and detail is evident. An epic tale of love and loss, despair and hope, against a backdrop of the horrific Bosnian War.

Alternate Side by Anna Quindlen. How I missed this one is beyond me. No wonder she’s one of my favorite authors.

Well, that’s it! How about you? What was the best book you read in 2018? What book are you looking forward to?

Welcome to the Holly Jolly Chick Lit Hop!


The holidays are just around the corner, which means it’s time for Chick Lit Chat HQ’s annual Holly Jolly Chick Lit Hop and this year it’s bigger and better than ever! 63 bestselling and award-winning authors in the Chick Lit and Romantic Comedy genres are participating in this fun-filled event and each one is doing a fantastic giveaway. Books, author swag, gift cards, and other assorted holiday treats are all up for grabs.

But wait! There’s much, much more. On the hop’s Facebook group page, you can enter to win our Grand Prize—a large holiday gift box filled to the brim with a fabulous variety of holiday and winter-themed goodies (the darling, KitschNStyle gingerbread house apron, Snoozies! sherpa socks, Calvin Klein cashmere pom-pom beanie in petal pink, Too Faced sugar cookie eye shadow purse palette, Sally Snowflakes mug by Bella Pilar, Well Read Women: A Reader’s Journal, and handmade chocolate soaps shown in the graphic below are just a few of the items included in the box!).

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We’ll also be handing out four Runner-Up Prizes. Each one is a pair of Fitz & Floyd holiday mugs that will be accompanied by a canister of Williams-Sonoma classic hot chocolate as well as a tin of The Republic of Tea’s Hallmark Channel Countdown to Christmas Tea. So, you’ll have delicious, warm beverages to keep you cozy all winter long!

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The celebration runs from Monday, Dec. 3rd through Sunday, Dec. 9th, so head on over to the Holly Jolly Chick Lit Hop Facebook group for some lively conversation with both authors and readers, incredible prizes, and lots of holiday fun! You’ll find each day’s featured authors, along with the links to their pages/giveaways, in the pinned post at the top of the group. We look forward to seeing you there!

3rd Annual Holly Jolly Chick Lit Hop Schedule

Monday, Dec. 3rd

Rich Amooi https://www.facebook.com/author.richamooi

Tracie Banister https://www.facebook.com/tracie.banister

Beth Carter https://www.facebook.com/authorbethcarter/

Susan Hatler https://www.facebook.com/authorsusanhatler

Holly Kerr https://www.facebook.com/HollyKerrAuthor/

Jennie Marts https://www.facebook.com/JennieMartsBooks/

Robyn Neeley https://www.facebook.com/RobynNeeleyAuthor/

Melanie Summers https://www.facebook.com/MJSummersAuthorPage

Avril Tremayne https://www.facebook.com/avril.tremayne/

 

Tuesday, Dec. 4th

Glynis Astie https://www.facebook.com/glynisastieauthor/

Christina Boyd, plus Yuletide anthology authors

https://www.facebook.com/TheDarcyMonologues/

Whitney Dineen https://www.facebook.com/Whitney-Dineen-Author-11687019412/

Jenny Gardiner https://www.facebook.com/jennygardinerbooks

Amy Gettinger https://www.facebook.com/Amy-Gettinger-Author-1412625005719904/

Virginia Gray https://www.facebook.com/Virginia.Gray.Author

Cassandra O’Leary https://www.facebook.com/cassandraolearyauthor

Jean Oram https://www.facebook.com/JeanOramAuthor/

Janice Williams https://www.facebook.com/booksbyjanicewilliams

 

Wednesday, Dec. 5th

Maggie Aldrich https://www.facebook.com/maggiealdrichwrites

Shanna Hatfield https://www.facebook.com/AuthorShannaHatfield/

Erin Huss https://www.facebook.com/authorerinhuss/

Julie Evelyn Joyce https://www.facebook.com/AuthorJEJ

Maida Malby

https://www.facebook.com/carpediemchroniclesbymaidamalby/

Kirsty McManus https://www.facebook.com/kirstymcmanusauthor/

Diane Michaels https://www.facebook.com/dianemichaelsauthor/

Becky Monson https://www.facebook.com/AuthorBeckyMonson/

Joslyn Westbrook https://www.facebook.com/JoslynWestbrookOfficial

 

Thursday, Dec. 6th

Traci Andrighetti https://www.facebook.com/traciandrighettiauthor/

Alex Bailey https://www.facebook.com/AuthorAlexBailey/

Kristina Beck https://www.facebook.com/krissybeck73/

Angie Ellington https://www.facebook.com/angienellingtonbooks

Hilary Grossman https://www.facebook.com/HilaryGrossmanAuthor/

Daisy James https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100009889775019

Kate Kisset https://www.facebook.com/authorKateKisset/

Tracy Krimmer https://www.facebook.com/krimmerauthor/

Joy Norstrom https://www.facebook.com/joynorstromwrites/

 

Friday, Dec. 7th

Melissa Baldwin https://www.facebook.com/authormelissabaldwin

Aimee Brown https://www.facebook.com/authoraimeebrown

Annabelle Costa https://www.facebook.com/annabellecostaauthor/

Lindsay Detwiler https://www.facebook.com/lindsayanndetwiler

Patricia Fischer https://www.facebook.com/patriciawfwriter

Laura Heffernan https://www.facebook.com/lauraheffernanbooks

Beth Labonte https://www.facebook.com/bethlabontebooks

Monique McDonell https://www.facebook.com/MoniqueMcDonellAuthor/

Meredith Schorr https://www.facebook.com/MeredithSchorrAuthor/

 

Saturday, Dec. 8th

Laurie Baxter https://www.facebook.com/LaurieBaxterAuthor/

Laura Kenyon https://www.facebook.com/laurakenyonwrites

Cat Lavoie https://www.facebook.com/CatLavoieBooks

Nikki LeClair https://www.facebook.com/NikkiLeClairBooks/

Just Call Me “M” https://www.facebook.com/BooksbyJustCallMeM

Natalina Reis https://www.facebook.com/authornatalinareis/

D.L. Stewart https://www.facebook.com/AuthorDLStewart

Holly Tierney-Bedord https://www.facebook.com/HollyRecommends/

Maggie Wells https://www.facebook.com/AuthorMaggieWells/

 

Sunday, Dec. 9th 

Roseanne Beck https://www.facebook.com/RoseanneBeckWrites/

Laura Chapman https://www.facebook.com/laurachapmanbooks/

Karen M. Cox https://www.facebook.com/karenmcox1932/

Rachel Cullen https://www.facebook.com/RachelCullenAuthor/

Hannah Ellis https://www.facebook.com/novelisthannahellis/

Ciara Knight https://www.facebook.com/ciaratknight

June Moonbridge https://www.facebook.com/JMoonbridge/

Kate O’Keeffe https://www.facebook.com/kateokeeffeauthor/

Stacey Wiedower https://www.facebook.com/StaceyWiedower.author

 

*The Grand Prize giveaway is open to US residents only. However, all of the individual author giveaways and the Runner-Up Prize giveaway are open internationally.

Book-a-Day #Giveaway Featuring Authors Leigh Brown and Victoria Corliss


Leave a comment on today’s post and you’re eligible to win this author’s giveaway. Each day in November that you comment gives you an entry into the Grand Prize giveaway at the end of the month! (Print copies for US residents only, please. If you live outside the US and win, you’ll receive a digital copy of the book.)

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Everything happens for a reason. At least that’s what co-authors Leigh Brown and Victoria Corliss believe; so much so that they have made it the basis of their recently released novel, The Pendulum’s Truth.

The Pendulum’s Truth is the story of Ava Dell, a protagonist with a twist. Like many people, Ava firmly believes that everything happens for a reason; but unlike her friends and family, she also believes she knows why they happen. She happily shares her intuitive insights with the people she loves providing them guidance and affirmations until the day her awareness fails her. When tragedy results, Ava suddenly finds herself in a moral and emotional dilemma.

The Pendulum’s Truth is the third addition to the growing Brown Corliss Books library of Women’s Fiction. Each book is a story about women, written by women, primarily for women. Studies show that people who read fiction are more empathetic than their non-fiction counterparts, often imagining themselves into the stories and the lives of the characters they read about. Brown and Corliss create “real life” fiction that entertains and engages by touching on topics that resonate with female readers.

Second Chances, their first novel explores the wisdom and consequences of the choices we make in life. All that is good and trying about sisterhood and family comes to life in The Pie Sisters. And now, the popular premise of The Pendulum’s Truth is also striking an emotional chord with women everywhere.

All three Brown Corliss Books titles are available on Amazon, barnesandnoble.com, Smashwords, and select stores in Rhode Island, New York, and Connecticut.

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Writers Leigh Brown and Victoria (Vikki) Corliss are friends who became co-authors in 2009. Soon after, they published their first novel, Second Chances, followed by The Pie Sisters in 2015, and The Pendulum’s Truth in 2018. Creators of women’s fiction, they are often asked: 1) Are they sisters, and 2) How do they write novels together? In fact, they are sisters in spirit only. To learn more about how their collaboration works, visit their website at www.Browncorlissbooks.com, or follow them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/browncorlissbooks.

Vikki and Leigh are giving away a copy of The Pendulum’s Truth. The winner can choose either an ebook or a print copy. To enter, just leave a comment on this blog post.

Hope to see you on Saturday, December 1 at the Rhode Island Author Expo!Rhode Island Author Expo!

 

 

 

 

Book-a-Day #Giveaway Featuring Author Martha Reynolds


Leave a comment on today’s post and you’re eligible to win this author’s giveaway. Each day in November that you comment gives you an entry into the Grand Prize giveaway at the end of the month! (Print copies for US residents only, please. If you live outside the US and win, you’ll receive a digital copy of this book.)

April in Galway is a story about second chances. A couple of years ago, I watched the British comedy-drama series “Last Tango in Halifax,” which begins with former childhood sweethearts, now in their seventies. They reunite via social media, and learn that through a terribly misintentioned event, they were separated. This set-up was the inspiration for April in Galway, though my characters are in their late forties. And while my characters aren’t based on real people, I do know of one very happy couple who were classmates of mine in high school (they weren’t sweethearts then), but found each other later in life and are deliriously happy together! Another character was inspired by a young woman I spent only a few hours with, but who had a profound effect.

As I write, I try to envision who might play the role of a character (so that when the Lifetime Channel comes calling, I’ll be ready – haha). Here are April Tweed, Bill Flanagan, and Connor Whelan as I pictured them:

Rachel Weisz as April John C. Reilly Marcus Wareing as Connor

Rachel Weisz, John C. Reilly, and Chef Marcus Wareing

April in Galway ends with a definite feel for a sequel, and I’ve already begun mapping it out. My self-imposed goal of releasing a book a year is on track, and the sequel to this one, which will tie in to one of my previous books (surprise!), will be ready by next December.

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I’m the author of eight novels, including the Amazon bestsellers Chocolate for Breakfast and Bits of Broken Glass. My seventh novel, Villa del Sol, received the 2018 Book Award in Literary Fiction by the Independent Publishers of New England (IPNE). I’ve written for Magnificat magazine and my very short poem was read by journalist Connie Schultz during National Public Radio’s “Tell Me More” poetry challenge. Find my books online and locally at Stillwater Books.

I’m giving away a print copy of April in Galway to one person selected at random. Just leave a comment on this post and the winner will be chosen in a week.

Hope to see you on Saturday, December 1 at the RI Author Expo!