Forty years ago today, I boarded my first airplane and began a year abroad that would forever mark my life. The thirty or so students who went with me might well have the same thought – we all were impacted by a year in Switzerland, with no internet or cell phones.
My first novel, Chocolate for Breakfast, was (very) loosely based on that year. Like Bernadette Maguire, I was 20, naive (yes), and hopeful. Unlike Bernadette, I did not have an affair with a married man, nor did I get pregnant with his child. 😉 I recall explaining that to friends, who took my storytelling literally.
I’ve returned to my beloved Switzerland often – in 1981 to work as an au pair (there’s a book I should write), again a few years later, multiple times in the 1990s, and most recently in January 2017, where I was inspired to write Villa del Sol.
But the year that began on 28 September 1978 was my year. I don’t have any Cardinal beer to drink, no Giandor chocolate bar, and the Café Chemin de Fer is now, I believe, an Indian restaurant. Things change, even in Fribourg, Switzerland.
“Mesdames et messieurs, it is time to go sleep!” 🇨🇭🇨🇭🇨🇭
My first novel, Chocolate for Breakfast, was published on August 12, 2012 – nearly four years ago! (It was republished with a new cover in April 2013.) In those four years, I’ve written and published six novels, all of which have given me tremendous pride and a sense of accomplishment. I’m doing what I’ve always dreamed of doing, and that is sufficient. Well, pretty much.
New novels can trigger a sales flurry, but sales drop off after a time, even for beloved best-sellers.
So….for the coming week, every one of my six novels will be discounted to 99 cents for the e-book (Kindle version). I have no control over the print price, but if you come to the RI Authors Book Expo on December 3, 2016 http://www.riauthors.org/riexpo/ , I’ll have print copies available for a great price.
You can grab a three-book series, described by one reader as “writing (that) draws wonderful pictures of the characters and allows you to really ‘fall into’ the book ~ which is one of my favorite things about reading.” Or read about a group of classmates readying for their 25-year high school reunion and visiting old grievances. A novel about a young woman pursuing her dream of becoming a best-selling author, only to face a harsh reality check. And finally, a lighter story involving two friends who gamble on a dream of turning a rundown farm into a premier wedding venue. If you’ve already read these books, here’s a chance to give some gifts. In any event, I’m grateful – so very grateful – for all the positive feedback and encouragement I’ve received, from friends and strangers new friends, over the past four years.
My friend Brea lives in Missouri. She’s never been to Rhode Island. So when I first mentioned a ‘spinach pie’ in written conversation, she thought I meant spanakopita. Now, I do love spanakopita, especially at the Greek Festival every year, but no, the Rhode Island spinach pie is completely different. It’s more of a calzone, stuffed with spinach, garlic, and sometimes black olives, pepperoni, and mozzarella cheese.
Another thing my friends across the country might not understand is the Rhode Island clam cake, or clamcake. My friend Jeanette in Texas wasn’t sure what I meant – after all, clams and cake? It’s a fritter, but we don’t call them clam fritters. They’re clam cakes, and they’re meant to be eaten (sometimes dunked) in chowder (the debate over red, white, or clear is for another post). Here’s a recipe in case you want to try making them at home.
Finally, the pizza strip. Everyone knows pizza – and everyone knows there are many varieties and toppings, right? But Rhode Island pizza? Sometimes called party pizza or bakery pizza, you can buy a box of it (sold at room temperature) at the supermarket or a single strip wrapped in plastic from your neighborhood convenience store. It’s bread – focaccia or pizza dough with herbed tomato sauce or paste on top. That’s it. Sometimes a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese, but it’s not necessary.
So – what’s your pleasure? And Rhode Islanders, past and present – where are your favorites?
I know this is a locally-directed post, so I’ll keep it short.
This Saturday, February 8th, from 11:00 to 1:00, I’ll be selling and signing copies of my four novels at SWEET TWIST in East Greenwich, Rhode Island.
The Murphy sisters, as I call them, were very gracious in inviting me to their lovely boutique to sign my books, and the Chocolate Trilogy will be front and center. Yes, I’ll also have copies of Bits of Broken Glass, which I can now label an Amazon #1 best-seller, as it held that lofty position this past weekend in three separate categories on Amazon.
Stop by if you’re in the area, and while you’re there, check out the fabulous assortment of gifts at Sweet Twist. Besides Vera Bradley accessories and John Medeiros jewelry, they have delicious chocolates for Valentine’s Day. You know, there were many years that I was single and Valentine-less, and I never once denied myself something sweet on February 14th. Indulge! Life is too short to skip chocolate. And I hope to see you on Saturday!
Who else is happy to see this month end? You, Atlanta? New England? Fargo? I get it. We’re done with January 2014. Onward!
The month that seemed to drag on forever, with long icy fingers that tightened around our throats, is fading away. We move into the shortest month now, with longer days. Here in Rhode Island, the sun rose this morning at 6:58. It sets at 5:01. Yippee! By the end of February, the sun will rise 36 minutes earlier, and set 34 minutes later. Seventy more minutes of daylight.
Tomorrow I’ll meet Nancy and Karen for breakfast, both high school pals. I haven’t seen Karen since we graduated – a long, long time ago. But through the miracle of social media, we’ve seen pictures of each other. Karen and Nancy are both ageless. Isn’t it something that when you look into the face of a friend from more than 30 years ago, you don’t see crinkles at the eyes, or silver at the scalp? You see the girls you whispered and giggled with. I treasure these times.
And from what I’m seeing, there could be a mini-reunion the following Saturday. I’m signing copies of my novels at Sweet Twist in East Greenwich, which is owned by three sisters, one of whom I remember from high school (this is what happens in Rhode Island – two degrees of separation). With a trilogy of chocolate-titled books (and one about a high school reunion!), Sweet Twist is a perfect venue. And, as an author/publisher who’s had some difficulty getting my books into independent bookstores (I don’t get that – you’re indy, I’m indy, can’t we work together?), I’m grateful for the chance to showcase my books in a beautiful boutique that sells, among lots of other things, chocolate!
And before you know it, February will be blowing through and dragging March in. It would be lovely if we were done with snow this winter, but the way things have been, I doubt it. The Great Blizzard of 1978 occurred in early February, and we’ve had plenty of snowstorms in both February and March. Either way, it sure feels good to say goodbye to January. And just one last note to the folks who live down the street from us: you can take down your Christmas ornaments. You know, the ones you hung in the trees and along the roofline. Really, it’s time.
Are you an author/publisher? I am. I’ve written and published four novels, three of them in a trilogy. And while online sales have been steady, I’ve wanted to get my printed books into bookstores, especially indie bookstores. After all, we’re both independent, shouldn’t we work together?
Ah, but it’s not that easy. Bookstores are wary (perhaps rightfully so) to take on self-published books, for different reasons. Perhaps they once featured a local author prominently, whose books turned out to be poorly written and unedited. Not good. Perhaps they dislike Amazon so much that they’re unwilling to take on any writer who sells exclusively through Amazon. I think that was the case for me with one indie bookseller. But it’s too bad, because I love indie bookstores! And I write good books. And I have a pretty good network of readers, contacts, friends, and colleagues who could help draw business to that bookstore. But it does no good to whine about it.
Instead, I’m….(hold on, I hate this expression but I’m going to use it anyway)….thinking outside the box. If the bookstores don’t want you, where else would your books be noticed? For me right now, it’s at Jennifer’s Chocolates, a fabulous shop in the Wakefield Mall in beautiful Wakefield, Rhode Island. Making artisanal chocolates for over 15 years, Jennifer’s Chocolates infuses both flavor and technique into every bite. All of their chocolates are handcrafted in small batches using blends of the highest quality imported and domestic chocolate.
How great is this?! They also sell single copies of each of my three books in the series (Bits of Broken Glass didn’t seem like such a good fit). Even if you’ve already devoured the books, stop in for a sweet or two (recommending the dark chocolate peppermint bark!).
On Thursday, December 19th, from 6:00 to 8:00 pm, I’ll be participating in “Discover a Local Author” night at the Jesse M. Smith Memorial Library in the lovely town of Harrisville, RI. It’s an opportunity to meet other authors and readers, and I’ll have my books available for purchase. If you’re in the area, please stop by!
So, what creative ways can you think of to sell your books? How will you stand out?
Wow – not much! I track my reading progress at Goodreads, and apparently I haven’t finished many books in the past couple of months. But it’s understandable, as I published a book in late September and another last week. I have a few books open, though, and hoping to catch up in December.
So what did I read?
Merry & Bright, six tales of Christmas cheer by some fabulous women authors. It’s available in digital format from Amazon, for just $2.99 and is a light, easy read.
Merry Chick Lit is another anthology of short stories (six of them!) and is only $0.99 for the e-book. PLUS! All proceeds from the sale of this e-book go to Rocking the Road for a Cure, to help women with breast cancer. It’s a buck! Go get your copy.
Oxygen, by Carol Cassella, a real-life anesthesiologist. This book was, as I like to say, unputdownable. While I found the story of Dr. Marie Heaton the anesthesiologist gripping, it was the inner story of her fractured relationship with her father that really moved me.
Fifty Ways to Leave Your Husband, by kc wilder. No, I’m not planning anything! This book was a lot more than I expected. Well-written and captivating, it
follows Eve Wolcott on a journey of self-discovery. There’s laugh-out-loud comedy, memorable characters, and plenty of delicious sex in this book (definitely for adults). But there’s also a glimpse into Eve’s heart, and the author skillfully lays bare all of Eve’s doubts, fears, and second-guessing.
In fact, I’m joining author kc wilder tomorrow for an afternoon of “Chick Lit and Cheer” at her home in Wakefield. The house is open from 11:30 to 3:30, so stop by if you’re in the neighborhood (message me for address and directions). We’ll have nibbles and noshes (how about a block of chocolate cheddar – yep!) as well as our books, but mostly we’d love to meet you!
I’ll get back to reading in December, but first I’m going to finish beta reading a manuscript for a friend (almost done!) and another for one of my favorite authors (cannot wait!). Then it’s back to four books that I’ve started and bookmarked.
Hope you had a relaxing and enjoyable Thanksgiving with family and friends. The holiday can be a struggle for some, and I know not everyone feels merry and bright. Take a deep breath and consider what you can do to brighten someone’s day. It will undoubtedly brighten your own, too.
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!
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.
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.
And today I was a guest on Tracie Banister’s blog. Here it is! GUEST POST – CONTEMPORARY WOMENS’ FIC AUTHOR MARTHA REYNOLDS
Today’s featured author on Books by Banister is the lovely and talented Martha Reynolds. She and I connected on Twitter and Facebook, and we share a love of great books and cute dogs! When she told me that she wanted to write a guest post involving her adorable Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Bonnie, I, and my trio of Cocker Spaniels, thought that it was a fantastic idea! Read on to learn how Bonnie has helped Martha with her work.
What My Dog Has Taught Me About Writing
by Martha Reynolds
1) Be Curious – Bonnie never lets an opportunity pass if she has a chance to sniff. There might be something good there! Similarly, I am learning to explore new possibilities in reading. Although I write what is considered contemporary women’s fiction (romance, mystery, chick lit, it’s all there sometimes), I’m trying paranormal, young adult, adventure. A well-written story will grab me, no matter what genre it’s called.
2) Nap– Unlike me, Bonnie knows when to shut down. Sleep is vital to our well-being, and although not everyone needs eight hours, we need enough. Skimping on sleep will never be good for productivity.
3) Get Outside and Play – When Bonnie hears the words “ride” and “park” in the same sentence, she races to the door, her tail wagging furiously. She knows how wonderful it is to be outside, off-leash, running through grass. For those of us who sit for hours in front of a computer, taking a break by going outside is important. Fresh air, sunshine, even a walk in the drizzle can clear away some of the junk that builds up in our heads. I always have a little notebook and pen in my pocket, just in case an idea forms while I’m outside walking.
4) Learn New Words – No, it’s never too late to teach a dog new words. Bonnie is almost four, but she can still learn something new. And so can I. One of the best ways? Read, read, read. I read both print books and digital versions, and if I come across a word I don’t know, I look it up!
5) More Wag, Less Bark – Yes, the barking is annoying. She wants more food, or she sees a squirrel out the window, or the blasted doorbell rings. Or I’m on the phone. No one wants to hear it. And no one wants to hear me whine, either. Instead of griping about the work involved in self-publishing, or the slower-than-I’d-like book sales, how about I make happy noises about all the blessings in my life?
6) Stick to a schedule – Bonnie gets up, she goes outside, she tinkles and poops. Every morning. Every afternoon. And another tinkle at night. She likes her routine. And so do I. Two cups of coffee and a light breakfast in the morning, then write for two to three hours. That’s my routine, my schedule. And when something throws that schedule off (and something always will), I’m out of sorts. It’s okay, life happens. I just get back on track as soon as it’s feasible.
7) Never give up – Bonnie has one of those toys with a hole in it for hiding a small treat. It’s her job to figure out how to get it. And she gets it every time! Sometimes it takes a long time, but she is persistent. Because she knows, she understands that there is a reward. Same with writing. Feel like you want to give up sometimes? Of course you do. But there is a reward to writing. You finish your manuscript and all its revisions, you publish, or you find an agent and get a publishing deal, but none of this happens overnight. We all know that some of the world’s best and most prolific writers went years before they found success. Some had to die first. Hopefully, that won’t be us! Never give up on your dream.
Thanks to Martha and Bonnie for dropping by Books by Banister and sharing their wisdom with us. Be sure to check out Martha’s very popular and well-reviewed CHOCOLATE series. Details below!
Author Bio: Martha Reynolds published her debut novel, CHOCOLATE FOR BREAKFAST, in 2012. It follows a young woman into adulthood during a year abroad in Switzerland. CHOCOLATE FOR BREAKFAST was voted the 2012 Book of the Year in the category of Women’s Fiction by Turning the Pages Books. Her second novel, CHOCOLATE FONDUE, is the sequel to CHOCOLATE FOR BREAKFAST. Both books are available in digital and print versions. If you haven’t read the first book, you can still enjoy the second, but it’s better to start with Breakfast!
She and her husband live in New England, never far from the ocean.
Book Blurb: Young Bernie (Bernadette) Maguire is in for the journey of a lifetime when her junior year abroad takes her to Fribourg, Switzerland. Ripe for love and adventure, she is seduced by a handsome Swiss banker, but is horrified when she discovers she’s pregnant. Protected and befriended by those who help to keep her secret for as long as possible, this moving rite-of-passage tale will warm the heart as a young woman struggles with an all-too-familiar dilemma. Yet after an unexpected death and the discovery of her pregnancy by a classmate, Bernie’s life takes some unexpected turns that will take decades to resolve. Buy Chocolate for Breakfast:Amazon
Since CHOCOLATE FONDUE is a sequel, I’m not going to post a blurb because it would be spoilery!