10 Books That Have Stayed With Me


Yesterday I was asked, by a friend on Facebook, to list 10 books that really moved me. My first thought was, ‘Only 10?’ But the idea was not to overthink it, just to come up with a list of books that really made an impact. Don’t think too long about it. So I did. Here is my list:

  • The Yearling, by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings. Jody and Flag – do you remember? It was the first book that made me sob uncontrollably.
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. I’ve read it at least a dozen times. Each time it’s better. Harper Lee only wrote this one book, but wow. Just wow.
  • The Color Purple by Alice Walker. I saw the movie before I read the book. The movie, starring Whoopi Goldberg, was mesmerizing. The book, inspirational.
  • The Hour I First Believed by Wally Lamb. Published in 2009, this is the most recent book of the ten. I read it just last year, and was moved beyond words. Lamb taught me, as a writer, about the delicate balance between hope and despair.
  • The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough. Published in 1977, I read this book in 1978, while a student abroad in Switzerland. It’s possible that every one of my classmates read the book as well, since none of us had much money, so books were passed around and shared.
  • A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway. A young writer in Paris? Well, of course it resounded with me! Paris in the 20s, beauty and innocence, and Hemingway’s style.
  • Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell. If I needed a dose of reality after the previous book, Orwell provided it. I read this one while in Europe, too, and even though I was there decades later, in totally different circumstances, Orwell’s novel of poverty and society stayed with me.
  • A Room with a View by E.M. Forster. Another instance where I saw the movie before reading the book. The movie remains one of my favorites, and the book, in Forster’s gentle writing, is lovely. I wanted to be Lucy Honeychurch!
  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Required reading in high school and again in college. Decadence, excess, hypocrisy, all wrapped together in Fitzgerald’s beautiful writing.
  • In Cold Blood by Truman Capote. I don’t think I read this book until I was in my 20s. A gripping narrative about a quadruple murder in Kansas in 1959 still sends shivers down my spine.

What about you? What book or books have really stayed with you? Inspired you? Given you nightmares? 😉


The Prolific Writer



adjective \prə-ˈli-fik\

: producing a large amount of something

Apparently that defines me as an author. Since August 2012, I have published four books. Four! In sixteen months. Recently, I watched this interview Charlie Rose did with author Donna Tartt. She just released The Goldfinch, about 10 years after her last book. One book in 10 years! She says she’s tried to write faster, but doesn’t enjoy it.

I can’t even imagine taking 10 years to write a book. Then again, I wasn’t writing when I was in my 20s (or 30s, or…). When I started writing two years ago, I was already past the midpoint of my existence, and still had a lot of stories to tell. So, yes, I write fast. I slow down to edit. But this is what I do (I’m sure Ms. Tartt isn’t waiting tables on the side, but she must subsist on something other than what I imagine is a pretty good advance). This is my full-time job. So I think I’m producing what I should be producing.

Chocolate Fondue was written in November 2012 during NaNoWriMo, and edited in the months after that. Bits of Broken Glass was written from March through June of this year, and edited for three months before its publication in September. Bittersweet Chocolate, the new book, was written during Camp Nano (which is National Novel Writing Month in July) and edited this fall.

I do understand authors who take more time to write. Mostly, they have a lot of other balls to juggle: parenting, working, traveling. Life is complicated! Author Adriana Trigiani (can’t wait to meet her tomorrow!) has written 13 books, and I think her first one came out in 2001.  Author Ann Hood had her first book published 25 years ago, and has about 20 books in print. She has stated that it takes a year or two for her to complete a book, and I understand, because she travels and teaches and parents. Author James Patterson has written a ton of books (click on his name to see). He’s written 95 novels since 1976 – that’s prolific!

Self(less) Publishing


Today is a better day than yesterday. Yesterday, I read a post from a writer who claimed, “I can’t believe it. TWO DAYS and I can finally say I’m a real published author!” She said this because, after self-publishing her début novel, she had connected with a self-described “team publishing platform and a social marketing engine for books.” She’s ecstatically happy about it, and good for her. Each author should publish her books the way she wants.

The problem I had with that statement, though, and previous statements made by the writer, is the implication that a self-published author is less than one who is traditionally published. I commented on that post, and the writer attempted to backpedal, posting “I think you’re a real writer if you write and you’re a real author if you finish a book, but a published author is someone who’s been published by someone else. So, I was a real author before, but not a published author because I didn’t have a publisher. It doesn’t mean my work is any better or worse.”


Ha! Okay, whatever. Hugh Howey, Jasinda Wilder, and Catherine Ryan Hyde might disagree. I disagree. I am both an author and a publisher, and very real at that. I publish my own books, so how can I not be a published author? I’ve established tremendous relationships and friendships with self-published authors online – I wouldn’t think of even one of them as anything other than a (real) published author.

So this morning I headed over to my local Barnes and Noble bookstore. It’s minutes away from home and a nice place to visit before the frenzy of Christmas shopping turns it into a circus. I bought a small non-fat salted caramel mocha (no whip) and a copy of the current issue of Poets & Writers magazine. What a great issue! There’s a big section about self-publishing in the current issue – well worth a read. Here’s some of what I took away:

“Both traditionally published and self-published books can be amazing, good, or just plain bad. So it’s an author’s job to do his best to be in the amazing category and blow readers away.” (Jennifer Ciotta, author of I, Putin)

“The bitter reality is that this is a ludicrous way to make money. No creative endeavor – actor, rock star, dancing, etc. – is a plausible way to make money…So if you’re doing it for the money, you’re on a pathway to bitterness. Do it because you love it, you love the process, you love the engagement, you love getting better at what you do.” (Richard Nash, founder of Cursor and publisher of Red Lemonade)

And relating to the term “self-publishing,” as if it existed in contradistinction to “selfless-publishing,” Nash says, “I do hope we abandon the term quickly, so we can proceed to helping individual writers realize their goals, matching their skills with peers and intermediaries without regard for how closely they mimic what was once called traditional publishing. We’re all publishers now. That’s both a desire and a prediction.” [my bold]


This Past Week

What a week, right? Ups and downs, plenty of uncertainty.

govt shutdown

A week ago most people still thought there’d be no issue regarding the shutdown, the debt ceiling, and that so-called cliff. Yes, we have a three-month respite. Other countries can’t fathom that our elected representatives are so petty and ego-driven that they don’t know the word ‘compromise.’ Living in uncertainty. Stress-inducing and it continues.


A day trip to the city of New Bedford on Wednesday. What a pleasant surprise! The New Bedford Whaling Museum is a gem! It’s large, bright, spotless. Friendly and helpful staff, and enough history and artifacts to fill an entire day (at least). The city is clean and navigable, meaning plenty of parking (we went during the week). Shops and restaurants are within walking distance.


Met up with my friend Lynne Radiches, who has agreed to narrate my books! I’m very excited about this, because Lynne is excellent, and we’re both reap the benefits. Adding your book as an audiobook, through ACX, is a no-brainer, and won’t cost you a cent if you opt for shared royalty payments.


My sister is in London! She and a friend flew out last evening. I’m envious, although we spent a wonderful ten days in London about fourteen years ago. There’s just so much to do that a week isn’t long enough (and they’re making a side trip to Edinburgh, too). Next time I go, I want to visit Downton Abbey.

bad reviews

I know that some authors will give good book reviews to other authors, even if they disliked the book (or sometimes even if they didn’t read the book!). But I learned that some writers give a good review because the author is presently reading your book, and you don’t want to risk getting a bad “revenge review.” Seriously??


I love T’s Restaurant in East Greenwich – it’s my go-to place for meeting friends, and never disappoints. Last weekend it was breakfast with my high school (and loyal reader) Nancy, and yesterday it was breakfast with my fab cousins Becky and Cindy. They were the cool cousins when I was a kid, but age gaps shrink as you, well, as you age. I love them both, and we had a lovely time over coffee, omelets, and pumpkin pancakes.


And finally, our beloved Red Sox are once again headed to the World Series! Go Sox!

My Third Novel

Cover Design by StanzAlone Design
Cover Design by StanzAlone Design

In a departure from the “chocolate” series, my third novel, which I’m releasing this Sunday, is about a high school reunion. Here’s the blurb:

How much really changes in 25 years?  Former classmates are poised to find out as their first-ever high school reunion gets closer. Some lives have improved, some have soured, but all remained connected by their shared West Alton High past…

Once the target of ridicule, one-time “ugly duckling” Kellie has transformed in both beauty and attitude, though her fears and fragility remain as deep scars within. Will facing those who once wronged her help or do even more damage to her delicate psyche? Joe was adored by everyone in school. Well…almost everyone. Being gay in a close-minded small town, he knew he had no future in West Alton, so right after graduation, he traded one ocean for another. Now an Oscar-winning Hollywood director, Joe is ready to return. Except that it means having to face the horrific event that ultimately pushed him away… Former cheerleader Cherry planned this reunion to make peace with those she may have wronged in school. But as she faces cancer and stares down her own mortality, will she really be able to make things right again? And then there’s Scott, the West Alton “lifer,” who’s been collecting a disability pension from the town for a suspicious back injury, among other questionable life choices. Are his reasons for wanting to attend the reunion pure? Or does he have another agenda? As the months count down, long-kept secrets will be revealed as the question ever looms… Can you ever really go home again?

Now, I didn’t graduate from high school in 1988, but I remember 1988 for many things: a milestone birthday, a new job, a new apartment. Also, a bad relationship, escalating debt, and the frustration over not doing what I wanted to do (write books). Fast forward 25 years (really fast, believe me) and I’m set to release my third novel in a little over a year. Yes, I’m writing quickly (you write quickly and edit slowly) – I’m finally doing what I love, and sometimes it seems I can’t write fast enough!

The book is available through Amazon, both in digital and print versions. I would very much like to be featured in my beloved independent bookstores, too – just sayin.’ Anyway, I hope you like the book. I thought it was an important story to tell.

Chocolate for Breakfast – First Anniversary!

Light tasty breakfast, on wooden table

It’s hard to believe it’s been a year already. Two years ago, I ended a career in fraud investigations, and once I’d healed myself (externally and internally), I began writing the book I’d always wanted to write. At the outset, I thought a story about a young girl who spends a year abroad in Switzerland, living in a tiny attic room, and who experiences the unexpected loss of a parent, would make for a compelling book. That was my story. But it wasn’t really interesting enough. So I let it take flight, using my imagination to create the character of Bernadette and sending her on a personal coming-of-age journey. Thanks to all who have read CHOCOLATE FOR BREAKFAST! And thank you for your positive reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, and for the kind and encouraging messages of support during the past year.

As many of you know, I’ve written and released a sequel, CHOCOLATE FONDUE, and I’m planning to release the third and final (really, last one) book in the trilogy, BITTERSWEET CHOCOLATE, sometime this fall. In the meantime, I’m celebrating the first-year anniversary of CHOCOLATE FOR BREAKFAST by hosting a little party, and you’re all invited!

You can enter to win a great prize here: an Amazon gift card, a copy of CHOCOLATE FOR BREAKFAST in e-book form*, a signed copy of CHOCOLATE FOR BREAKFAST*, or some Swiss chocolate! Just enter through Rafflecopter below.

*If you already own CFB and would like to read CHOCOLATE FONDUE, I’ll gladly make the switch. If you’d read both books, I’ll send you a copy of the new novel when it’s released. Your choice.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

So – I tried to get this Rafflecopter thing to work, but I don’t know if it’s going to take. So, if it doesn’t show up on this blog post, all you have to do is leave a comment and tell me what kind of chocolate you enjoy most. That’s it! If the Rafflecopter widget shows up, use that instead. (Hey, I’m technically-challenged and/or it doesn’t like WordPress.) If Rafflecopter doesn’t work, I’ll use random.org to choose the winners.

Goodbye, July

East Matunuck Beach and Jerusalem  photo by M. Reynolds
East Matunuck Beach and Jerusalem photo by M. Reynolds

Look, it’s not like I hate summer. I don’t. But this month was killer, with that heat wave that blanketed us (yes, like a thick, hot fleece blanket on your sweaty skin) earlier in the month. Some of my friends would take that kind of weather all year long. Sure, if you don’t have to go to the office, deal with overheated drivers and cranky, hot kids. Deal with dinner, every night. Know that your electric bill is going to be sky-high because you had to run the A/C all the time. But no, I don’t hate summer.

It’s just that I love fall. That first day when the morning air is…different. Cooler. Drier. You know it’s coming. One of my friends tears up on that day, and again when the first leaves drop from their branches. I dance around the kitchen. I make oatmeal. I open the door to the closet and stare at my long-sleeved shirts, my fleece zip-ups. I open my sock drawer and say “Soon, soon. Just a couple more weeks.”

The other day my husband and I were driving home down a lovely road. The heat had broken and our car windows were open. The road was lined with big trees, leafy and green. And the shadows were long. At five-thirty. He said, “Look! The shadows are long!” We grinned at each other.

So we’ll head back to the beach this afternoon to enjoy another summer afternoon. Because it’s summer, and we’re lucky.

amyandisabelleI finished reading “Amy and Isabelle” by Elizabeth Strout. What an excellent book; it’s still resonating with me. My friend Kim tells me I should do book reviews here. I don’t know, what do you think? I don’t usually read books as soon as they’re released (“Amy and Isabelle” was published in 2000). Maybe highlighting a book once a week would be good practice for me. And I’d be able to share with you a really good book. So, maybe.

Meanwhile, I’m trying to finish up the first draft of my book about a 25-year high school reunion. I’ve set a deadline for myself, because that seems to work. By mid-August, I want to have it out to my beta readers. While it’s out, I’ll revise “Bittersweet Chocolate,” the manuscript I completed this month during Camp Nano. Juggling! But it keeps me busy, and before I know it, September will be here. So goodbye to July for 2013 – and bring on August!