What I Read this Summer


For the past eight years, my summers have been spent mostly editing and rewriting a novel. Not so much this year – the pandemic and everything else has me stymied, and the new novel I’d started in January has languished. Oh, it’ll get done, eventually. So I read more than I usually do, which is also a good thing. Here’s what I read this summer:

The Last Week of May by Roisin Meaney (2007). One of my favorite writers, Roisin Meaney will remind you of the late Maeve Binchy. Great character-driven stories set mostly in Ireland, The Last Week of May centers around May O’Callaghan and her neighbors in the village of Kilpatrick.

The Daughters of Erietown by Connie Schultz (2020). Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Connie Schultz wrote a novel, although it seems to be based in large part on her own family and life. Like another journalist-turned-novelist, Anna Quindlen, Schultz’s writing style is crisp and uncluttered. Loved it.

Life Happens: And Other Unavoidable Truths by Connie Schultz (2006). This book is a compilation of Schultz’s commentaries and columns. Fourteen years after its initial publication, many of the topics are even more timely today – single motherhood, race relations, voting (or not voting).

The Summer Country by Lauren Willig (2019). My husband gave me this book for Christmas, but I didn’t get around to it until the summer (see first paragraph above). It’s an epic tale about generations on the island of Barbados in the 1800s. Lots of characters, and it’s a good idea to make notes about the relationships as you read (the author couldn’t include a family tree because it would spoil the story). The writing is exquisite.

One Summer by Roisin Meaney (2012). I’m making my way through Meaney’s books, a couple at a time. This one is about a young woman named Nell, who moves from Dublin to the island of Roone, off the west coast of Ireland (loosely based on the island of Valentia, off the Kerry coast). Again, a delightful and quirky mix of characters make for a most enjoyable read.

After the Wedding by Roisin Meaney (2014). This is a sequel to One Summer, so as soon as I’d finished reading One Summer, I downloaded this one. The reader is taken again to the island of Roone, to continue the stories set up in the first book. Meaney’s books are best enjoyed with a cup of tea and a soft blanket (or pet) in your lap.

The Admissions by Meg Mitchell Moore (2015). Wow. This book hooked me right from the start, and the tension didn’t let up! This is a great story about modern-day parents and kids under pressure to achieve. The Hawthornes may look like the perfect family, but underneath the veneer there’s all kinds of angst and desperation, and secrets!

The Last Bathing Beauty by Amy Sue Nathan (2020). I read this one all the way through (because it takes a lot for me to give up on a book), and I liked it enough, but it did feel like there was way too much telling and not enough showing (Writing 101). At time it felt as though I was reading a screenplay.

Cleo McDougal Regrets Nothing by Allison Winn Scotch (2020). I’m glad I stayed with this book, because it was worth it. Cleo McDougal will annoy you – because she’s flawed! But you’ll find yourself totally invested, and rooting for her redemption. I loved it.

Stay by Catherine Ryan Hyde (2019). Another of my favorite authors, it feels as though she writes just for me. What a gift she has for telling a story. This one is set in the summer of 1969 and features a 14-year-old boy, Lucas Painter, at the center. Can I just say that Hyde captures the spirit of this teenaged boy perfectly?

The New Girl by Daniel Silva (2019). Both my husband and my cousin Becky are big fans of Daniel Silva. I had never read any of his books, but after my husband finished it, I decided it would be my next read. Okay, so now I’m a fan, too. I wasn’t sure I’d take to this thriller, but Silva kept my attention through every twist and turn on the page. I will definitely be reading more.

Something in Common by Roisin Meaney (2013). Another by Meaney, this one between aspiring writer Sarah and hard-edged journalist Helen. Meaney doesn’t feel obligated to give us the cliched happy-ever-after. That’s the easy way. Instead, she tells a more realistic story that will challenge you at every turn. She’s brilliant. Full stop.

The Heartbreak Café by Melissa Hill (2011). I can’t remember who recommended Melissa Hill to me. Maybe just as well. I tried, but I couldn’t finish it. There were way too many grammatical errors and the plot was going nowhere. It’s hard to quit a book, but I needed to move on from this.

28 Summers by Elin Hildebrand (2020). Inspired by the movie “Same Time, Next Year,” Hilderbrand creates her own story based on , of course, her beloved Nantucket island. Hilderbrand is called the ‘Queen of the Beach Read,’ with good reason.

The Lost Letter by Jillian Cantor 2017).  I did enjoy reading this book. It felt like it was meticulously researched, and told a compelling story – something a bit different about the Resistance. But…..here’s my pet peeve. When an author uses a phrase or word too often, it settles in my mind and takes away from the enjoyment of reading. In this case, it was ‘a little.’ There are 148 instances of ‘a little’ in this book – too much! Her editor should have picked up on it. Smiled a little, shivered a little, laughed a little. Ugh.

The Reunion by Roisin Meaney (2016). Listen, Meaney’s books are quick reads, that’s why I could tear through them. Plus, I hated to put them down! Returning to a Roisin Meaney novel is one of the best things I can do for myself. I lose myself in her characters, people you wish you knew personally. I indulge in the plot, not cliched or predictable. I revel in the descriptions of places and food.

The Nanny Diaries by Emma Mclaughlin and Nicola Kraus (2002). I returned to this book for research purposes (my new novel is about a nanny). I remember grabbing it from the library nearly twenty years ago – what a delicious read! Still great, if a little dated.

The Matchmaker by Elin Hilderbrand (2014). Some of Hilderbrand’s most fervent fans did not like this book. I loved it. Delving into uncomfortable topics is a good thing – I felt all of it, from Agnes’s relationship with CJ, to Dabney’s relationship with Box. All of it. If you can make the reader cry at the end, to me that’s success! Well done.

An Address in Amsterdam by Mary Dingee Fillmore (2016). It was clear the author did meticulous research for this book. Set in Amsterdam during the World War II years, it tells a story about Rachel, an 18-year-old Jewish girl who sees the atrocities happening to her Jewish friends and neighbors and gets involved in the Resistance. Excellent descriptions of the area (the author lived for a time in Amsterdam). There were a couple of graphic sexual references that just didn’t fit, but otherwise a must-read.

Have You Seen Luis Velez? by Catherine Ryan Hyde (2019). Unusual title, right? There’s a line in the book that really stayed with me: “People judge you by your most controversial half.” The central character, Raymond (17) is bi-racial and wondering where he belongs. His 92-year-old friend Millie was the daughter of a Jewish mother and non-Jewish father, which impacted her young life at the start of World War II. Together they find a way to reconcile their guilt and fear. This is a beautiful story, as always.

Love in the Present Tense by Catherine Ryan Hyde (2007). Early CRH! I found the pacing a bit slow, but I really liked the characters. It’s about the bond between a five-year-old boy abandoned by his mother and the man who ends up raising him.

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett (2020). Well, this book kept me up all night recently. I could not put it down. Wasn’t even sleepy. Yes, it’s that good. Gorgeous, lyrical prose. Some say it’s reminiscent of Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, which I now need to read.

The Castaways by Elin Hilderbrand (2009). Back when she was writing a Nantucket “series,” this was the second book out of three. I didn’t read her books in order, but it didn’t matter. I liked this one a lot, because it brought out the characters so well.

Two Fridays in April by Roisin Meaney (2015). You can see that I read a lot of Meaney and Hilderbrand. Perhaps because they’re both so well suited to summer reading. Every one of Roisin Meaney’s books is a gem.

The Island by Elin Hilderbrand (2010). I picked this one from my library. While nearly all of Hilderbrand’s novels take place on Nantucket, this one actually is set on Tuckernuck, a little spot of land just off Nantucket, owned by its summer residents and lacking paved roads and public utilities. Perfect spot for a mother to bring her two grown daughters and her widowed sister, where, without the distractions of modern-day life, the women are forced into introspection.

The Daisy Picker by Roisin Meaney (2004). This was Meaney’s first novel, and it’s a good one! Main character Lizzie, 41, is stuck in a rut, with a dead-end job and a reluctant fiancé. After seeing a magazine article about regrets, Lizzie decides to pack it in, leave her parents’ home, and drive 80 miles away to start a new adventure. Bravo, Lizzie!

Rogue’s Isles by Thomas Briody (1995). How did I not know about this book?? Thanks to Stillwater Books in Pawtucket, Rhode Island https://www.stillwaterbooksri.com/ I found Tom Briody’s novel, loosely (very loosely) based on the credit union crisis and subsequent disappearance of the notorious Joseph Mollicone on the early 1990s. A great read!

Someday, Someday, Maybe by Lauren Graham (2013). I remember when this book was released, saying I wanted to read it. Well, seven years later, I got around to it. Graham is best known as Lorelei Gilmore on “The Gilmore Girls” and Sarah Braverman on “Parenthood.” It seems to be semi-autobiographical, and is definitely in the voice of Graham/Gilmore/Braverman. Funny, light (mostly), and touching, it defines the hopefulness of a newcomer in New York City, hoping to make it big.

Modern Lovers by Emma Straub (2016). I had this book at the cottage last week, and spent many days by the pool. I stuck with it, but I did find myself turning pages rapidly, just to get through a chapter. The plot was somewhat compelling, and the characters were okay, but I don’t think I’ll remember much about this book.

Okay, I counted 29 books – I don’t think I’ve read that much in a summer since I was eight years old. How about you? What did you read that you loved? Any recommendations?

Best Seller Repackaged


The-Way-to-Remember-kindle (1)

About four years ago, I wrote a book and called it Best Seller. It enjoyed some success and more than a few kind reviews. It was one of the nine novels I’ve written, and one of my favorites.

Last November, I received word from Amazon (where most of my books are sold) that they had a problem with the book’s title. They deemed it ‘misleading,’ and advised me that unless I changed it in a few days, they would remove the book from their selling platform.

Wait, what? What??? The book was up for sale for years, and now Amazon decides it’s got a misleading title? And by the way, it wasn’t misleading at all. The words ‘a novel’ were right beneath the title. And, in one of many telephone calls I had with staff at Amazon, I assured them that the novel had never achieved its optimistically titled status.

Didn’t matter. We emailed back and forth numerous times, and I spoke with as many as six different service agents, but the answer always came back the same. And a week later, poof! Best Seller, and all of its reviews, were gone.

Now, I’ve re-released the book. It’s got a different name – The Way to Remember is the name of the book the main character, Robin, is working on – and a new cover. The book’s contents are the same, with just some minor tweaking to, I hope, make it better.

For many of you who read this blog, you probably already purchased and read the book years ago, so I don’t want to trick you into thinking it’s new. It’s not, and the novel I’m working on these days won’t be ready until the end of this year (if I can finish it).

However, if I can find your old review (I was able to take some screenshots before it disappeared), I will be reaching out to you, asking you to post that review again. Because reviews are so, so important to authors. I’m hoping you’ll be willing.

Anyway, that’s my news for the middle of 2020. What a year, right? I hope you’re doing okay – physically, mentally, emotionally. It has been challenging, certainly for me on all of those fronts. Be well, stay safe, wear your face covering.

Traveling through the Coronavirus


Image from Pixabay

Notice I wrote traveling through, not traveling with. Although I wouldn’t know if I have COVID-19, the Coronavirus. I haven’t been tested, I’m not showing symptoms, but yes, I could be infected. After all, I was in the midst of thousands of others this past week, at Boston’s Logan airport, Reykjavík’s Keflavik airport, Zürich’s airport, the train from Zürich to Fribourg. Then the markets and coffee shops and restaurants and stores in Fribourg. And, sadly, just a few days later, the packed train from Fribourg to Zürich, a flight from Zürich to Dublin, four hours in the jam-packed Dublin airport, six hours on the full airplane to Boston.

My little vacation and book research trip was cut short after president Trump declared Wednesday evening that, effective Friday, all travel from European countries to the US, was banned for 30 days. That’s what he said, what he supposedly read off a Teleprompter. (Yes, I know that Homeland Security later clarified it, but he’d already stated the mistruth.) I watched the speech, at around 2:00 in the morning in my hotel room, with a sense of dread. I was scheduled to be in Fribourg until Monday, 16 March. Under his directive, I would be stuck in Switzerland for another month. Now, you know I love Switzerland! But I couldn’t stay for a month. So, at 2:00 am Thursday morning, I began packing. I thought, just in case. I sent an email to my husband, letting him know I was awake and aware of the situation.

A half hour later, he called me. After a few choice words for Trump, he implored me to come home. “Do whatever it takes,” he said. “Don’t worry about the money. Just come home.”

By 3:30, I was dressed and packed. I sent messages to my friend Barbara, with whom I’d spent a lovely day on Tuesday, and to my friend Fabiola, with whom I was supposed to spend Saturday. I had friends sending messages to me. ‘Did you hear?’ ‘What are you going to do?’ ‘I’m worried about you.’

Fribourg train station
Thursday, 12 March 2020 5:45 am

I checked out of the hotel. Four nights unused, and although the guy at the desk said he’d look into it, I don’t expect a refund. I walked through dark and quiet streets to the train station (that brought back memories of my student days!), purchased a ticket from a smart machine, and rolled my bag up a ramp to track 3. The 6:04 train left on time – of course – and filled up at Bern, its next stop. Every time I heard someone cough near me, I pulled my scarf up over my nose.

I arrived at the airport by 8:00 and traveled up escalators to the departures area. When I inquired about where to find the Icelandair check-in desk, I learned that Icelandair doesn’t have a desk in the airport. (Note to self regarding discount airfares: sometimes you get what you pay for)

I was sent to FinnAir. I tried calling Icelandair and was told I was number 76 in the queue. After twenty minutes, I was number 72. I asked the woman at FinnAir if Swiss was flying to Boston that day. She directed me to another counter, where a very nice man looked up flights available Thursday to Boston. It was 8:30 in the morning. I was operating on zero sleep, one cup of coffee. I had last eaten at 4:00 Wednesday afternoon. He told me my best option was on Aer Lingus, Zürich to Dublin, Dublin to Boston. $1,397.00

I handed over my Visa card. The crowds at the airport, my understanding of exponential growth, and my intense desire to be home propelled me to the Aer Lingus check-in counter and down to the waiting area.

Both flights were full. Two women who had arrived in Prague on Tuesday and were flying back to Seattle, a nine-hour flight. “We had one day, yesterday,” one of them said. Four male college students on spring break, heading home early because their parents were “freaking out,” one said. When I defended the parents’ concern, they grinned and acknowledged it was the right thing to do. Most of the passengers, it seemed, were there because of the speech. Even the officials at passport control understood.

Only one time I was asked if I’d been to China or Iran. No one cared that I’d been in Switzerland, where there are nearly 650 cases and 4 deaths. That was on Wednesday. One day earlier there were only 500 cases.

I am home. My husband was at Logan last night to pick me up. I’d been awake for nearly 48 hours straight. I’m going to self-quarantine while I monitor myself. I hope others do, but many won’t.

Photo M. Reynolds

As for Fribourg, it’s been in my memory for over 40 years. It’ll stay there, even if some of those memories aren’t quite as sharp as they once were. And the book? It’s still going to be written. A self-imposed quarantine gives me plenty of time to write.

Spotlight on my Happy Ever After series!


I managed to sneak in a blog post before the end of a January. Sorry for not being more consistent, but January finds me deep into drafting my new novel. And I write it out in longhand (with my favorite pen) in a spiral-bound notebook my dear friend Lynne gave to me. I’ve written twenty-four chapters so far – yay, me!

Meanwhile, the three books I wrote as my “Happy Ever After” trilogy are being featured on various book blogs over the coming weeks. This is a way to let readers who may not know me learn about my books, and there’s a giveaway of the trilogy as well. You can follow THIS LINK to find out about all the tour stops and enter the Rafflecopter giveaway.

Hey, if you know me, you know I’m big on giveaways. Belated congratulations to Geri C. in Indiana, who won my big December giveaway box. I’ll have another one coming up in the spring.

Like all indie authors, I could use more reviews on Amazon. Yep, you’ve read this before. But I’ll keep asking because it truly helps. Just a few words will do, and I’d rather have honest feedback, even if it’s critical. It helps me be a better writer.

Back to the new novel. The year is 1981 and the setting is…..wait for it….yes, it’s set in Switzerland! That means I need to go back and research. No, really, my husband insisted. So off I go in March to visit with my friends and refresh my memory. Expect this new novel in late November – I’m already excited about it! I’ll share more as the year progresses.

We’re living in uncertain times, my friends. Each day provides us with opportunities to be kind. I don’t want to miss those chances, do you?

Martha’s Big December Giveaway!


JINGLE VALLEY GIVEAWAY!

My 9th novel, All’s Well in Jingle Valley, is available for pre-order HERE and it will be released officially on Monday, December 2.

Cover All's Well in Jingle Valley SERIES Book 3

To celebrate the publication of this third book in The Happy Ever After series, I’m giving away a big box of prizes to one lucky winner. Here’s what’s included:

  • a black Eccolo journal with magnetized closure and a fancy pen to record your brightest thoughts (maybe this will be the year you write that novel?)
  • an Almond Cookie gift set from Carol’s Daughter, featuring Almond Cookie Softening Body Wash, Almond Cookie Frappe Body Lotion, and Almond Cookie Nourishing Hand Cream
  • A $10 Starbucks gift card
  • A set of postcards from the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts (Dalton, Massachusetts is practically next door!)
  • a small box of maple sugar candy from Stockbridge
  • a Vera Bradley zip ID case in Romantic Paisley
  • and of course, a signed copy of All’s Well in Jingle Valley with a fabulous BookFlip bookmark
  • and a few more surprises!

 

There are many ways to earn entries, loyal readers! This giveaway will conclude on Monday, December 23, 2019 at midnight, and I will randomly select a winner on Tuesday, December 24.  (NOTE: If you live outside the U.S., I will send you an ebook and a gift card valued at $75)

Here’s how to earn entries:

  1. Pre-order the book no later than November 15. You can email me the link or screenshot. 3 entries
  2. Pre-order the book by December 1. Again, email the link or screenshot. (if you don’t know how to do this, then you can let me know you pre-ordered the book, and I will trust you!) 2 entries
  3. Post a review of the book on Amazon before December 13. 5 entries
  4. Post a review of the book on Amazon before December 22. 4 entries
  5. Share the book and on Facebook (tag me!) 3 entries
  6. Post a photo of the book on Instagram using hashtag #JingleValley 3 entries

 

As a bonus, I’ve lowered the price of A Jingle Valley Wedding to just 99 cents (ebook) all month, in case you haven’t read it yet. Get your copy HERE

And thank you for your continued support!

Come see me on Saturday, December 7 at Rhodes-on-the-Pawtuxet in Cranston, RI, where I’ll have all my books for sale!

What I Read in July


beach reads

 

 

Even though I’m still not finished with rewriting and revising my new novel (I know, I know! But it will be ready for late November, I promise), I’ve been reading as much as I can this summer. So here’s what I’ve read in July:

Just Keep Going I worked with Judy Davis, and when I discovered she’d written a book about her cross-country bike journey, I grabbed a copy. You can get a copy HERE.

Starting at the Pacific coast in Oregon, Judy rode all the way to Providence, Rhode Island, and raised over $70,000 to fund a swimming program for children. Along the way, she kept journal entries and took photographs, which make for a most interesting book.

MAID I was attracted to this book by the cover, and I thought it was terrific. Stephanie Land writes a true-life depiction of poverty in America. It’s real and it’s difficult. And the author is remarkable – through determination and willpower, she does everything she can to keep her daughter. You can buy it at your local bookstore (do that first!) or here.

Crawdads My husband picked this one up at one of our favorite bookstores, Stillwater Books in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. And while he was reading it, he’d say “Martha, you’re going to love this book.” My reply? “Well, then, hurry up and finish it!” He did. I did. We both loved it – all of it, even the ending! Can’t wait for the movie.

Perfect Couple There’s a reason Elin Hilderbrand is called the “Queen of the Beach Read.” Here Hilderbrand ventures into murder mystery, but still set on the island of Nantucket, and still with a cast of memorable characters. I haven’t yet read all of her books, but I’m working on it! Pick up a copy here.

a piece of the world Did you love Orphan Train? I did, and it introduced me to the marvelous Christina Baker Kline. I also read Sweetwater and grabbed this book when I found it. If you’re familiar with Andrew Wyeth’s painting “Christina’s World,” then this is the book for you. Described as “stunning and atmospheric,” A Piece of the World is a fictionalized tale of Christina, the subject, and Andy, the painter. Meticulously researched and written so beautifully, I loved this book. You can purchase it here.

Cliff Walk This one was fun. As a native Rhode Islander, I could relate to the names and places DeSilva sprinkles throughout his story. But even if you’re not familiar with Little Rhody, you’ll enjoy this ‘hard-boiled mystery.’ I picked up the hardcover at Stillwater Books.

The Identicals More Hilderbrand! And why not, I’ve been slathered up with SPF50 and reading on the beach (when I’m not jumping waves or walking the coastline). Loved this one, too. Reminiscent (slightly) of “The Parent Trap,” this book visits both Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard (locals have strong ideas about their favorite island!). Although you can buy it online or at  your favorite indie bookstore, I actually downloaded this one from my library (shout out to the West Warwick Public Library!)

pumpkin Yes, it’s summer, and you may not be ready to think about autumn. But this book was a true delight! Set in New Hampshire and smack in the middle of fall, Beth Labonte has written a sweet and endearing romance. Loved it. Get yours here.

Islanders To finish out the month of July, I visited my other favorite Rhode Island bookstore, Ink Fish Books in the lovely small town of Warren, Rhode Island. Have you been there yet? Don’t you LOVE it? I picked up this one on the recommendation of a woman who was in the store, and I’m so glad I did! Set on Block Island (Nantucket and the Vineyard may belong to Massachusetts, but we have Block Island), Meg Mitchell Moore has woven together the stories of three individuals. I couldn’t put this one down, it was so good. Looking forward to reading more by MMM.

So, how about you? I’ve got six hardcovers and tons of digital books in my ‘to-be-read’ pile, but edits are calling to me. So, it’s back to my work-in-progress for now, but I always make time for reading in the afternoon.

See you soon for updates! Keep reading!

What I’ve Read So Far – June 2019


As usual, I’ve been spending a good part of this year writing, not reading. That’s what happens when you hold yourself to releasing a new novel every December! But reading is important, too. I’ve managed to get through a few books since the beginning of the year. Here’s what I’ve read so far:

Fly

Hurt by the people closest to her, Julia decided long ago love isn’t worth the pain. When she meets Will, she fights her attraction to him, unwilling to risk her heart, but is unable to resist their passionate connection – until a ghost from Will’s past surfaces and forces them apart. Two hearts shattered, Julia and Will’s paths diverge – until fate steps in one sunny September morning, offering them a second chance at true love. But is love enough? Can they break free of their painful past and allow their love to take flight?

This was a fine first effort by a local (Rhode Island) author. Looking forward to reading more from her.

Robin

Robin— twenty-five, lonely, aimless— is drifting through summer in Providence. It’s the worst recession in generations, but she’s got bigger problems. For starters, her father is losing his mind to dementia. (He also might be falling love, which is nice, but begs the question: is it adultery if you can’t remember you’re married?) 

There’s more, a lot more, and I thoroughly enjoyed this story. Multiple typos distracted me, and I do wish the author had hired a professional copy editor, but the story is very, very good.

German Girl

Berlin, 1939. Before everything changed, Hannah Rosenthal lived a charmed life. But now the streets of Berlin are draped in ominous flags; her family’s fine possessions are hauled away; and they are no longer welcome in the places they once considered home. A glimmer of hope appears in the shape of the St. Louis, a transatlantic ocean liner promising Jews safe passage to Cuba. At first, the liner feels like a luxury, but as they travel, the circumstances of war change, and the ship that was to be their salvation seems likely to become their doom.

This book was released in October 2016, and I’d heard a lot about it. It’s well worth your time, especially if you’re a fan of WWII fiction. I was drawn in to the dual story lines, and the fact that this is based on true events was all I needed. Wonderful!

Im Fine

Wife. Mother. Breadwinner. Penelope Ruiz-Kar is doing it all—and barely keeping it together. Meanwhile, her best friend, Jenny Sweet, appears to be sailing through life. As close as the two women are, Jenny’s passionate marriage, pristine house, and ultra-polite child stand in stark contrast to Penelope’s underemployed husband, Sanjay, their unruly brood, and the daily grind she calls a career.

The title alone grabbed me (right??), and the story inside held me captive. Loved it, all of it. I don’t want to give anything away, but this book grabs you early and keeps you reading.

RoisinBehind the brightly colored doors of Miller’s Avenue live people with very complicated lives…

Do they ever! From possibly my new favorite author (it’s pronounced “Ro-SHEEN”) comes one of her earlier books. I just couldn’t get enough of these characters and can’t wait to read more from Roisin.

becoming Finally! My husband gave me this book for Christmas and I just finished it this past weekend. It’s easy to set aside and easy to pick back up. Kudos to this remarkable, brilliant woman for her honesty and inspiration.

And what I’m in the middle of now:

Far Field My good friend Lisa Valentino of Ink Fish Books recommended this book, and I just started it yesterday. Read the first hundred pages without taking a break. Yes, it’s that good. And how about that gorgeous cover?!

 

So, how about you? Summer’s here – what’s on your must-read list?

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!

jingle april

It is the heat. And it is the humidity.


Nearly September. 95 degrees today. Heat index 104. Just like yesterday.

So who else is cranky? I know (at least) three people who live without air conditioning. I don’t know how they live, though. Our thermostat is set at 74 and I’m hot. But I’m grateful for A/C, especially at night.

I’ve never liked summer best. Fall is my favorite. How about you? Depending on where you live, you might not experience four distinct seasons. But by September, the sun rises later and it’s dark by 8:00 now, so I want that cool air to follow.

Meanwhile, I’ve finished the second round of edits for my new novel, so now it’s off to my trusted readers, who give me honest feedback. I sometimes can’t see a plot hole or a character who uses repetitive language, but they can! I’m still on track to have this book ready by December 1 – the day I’ll be at the Rhode Island Authors Expo!

Until then, I’m reading a lot (what are you reading?). I loved How to Walk Away by Katherine Center and Crossing the Bamboo Bridge by Mai Donohue (her memoir of growing up in Vietnam – you won’t be the same after reading it). I’m almost done with How Hard Can It Be? by the hilarious Allison Pearson, just started Alternate Side by the wonderful Anna Quindlen, and The Pendulum’s Truth by the very talented writing team of Leigh Brown and Vikki Corliss. Vacation next week means lots of reading!

Autumn will get here, eventually. You won’t hear me complain about the cold. Not me.

It’s #RIAuthor Month! Meet Leah DeCesare


 

For the past few years, I’ve had intermittent intentions of getting a “real” job, but writing keeps winning out and dabbling in applying for corporate jobs fizzles away. Writing is all I ever really wanted to do and I’m finally living that dream. As I was updating my Linked-In profile and my resume a couple of years ago, I discovered a thread that links my divergent and seemingly unrelated career and volunteer paths: Empowerment. Before recognizing this life theme, I’d written my debut novel which is all about encouraging women to believe in themselves.

 I’ve carried the central idea of this book with me since 1988 when my own father sent me off to college with the advice that my character, Amy York’s, dad sends her off to Syracuse University with: There are three types of guys: forks, knives, and spoons. That tidbit was true and when I shared this silly system with my college friends it took off, with everyone adding descriptions for new utensils and talking as if it were an understood concept, for example, “I met this complete fork last night.” 


That idea sat with me for decades, but there was no story around it, so when I finally sat to write this book, I had to build the characters and their arcs and let the Utensil Classification System (the UCS) become a backdrop and an organizing idea serving the characters and their growth. In the end, I had a story about friendship and learning to believe in oneself.

I feel strongly about bolstering and helping people to have true self-love and confidence, especially girls/women who often don’t get the same messages as boys/men from society, family, and media. How can we step out into the world and grab hold of what we want in life without believing in ourselves? It’s critical.
I’ve been a Big Sister to a young woman, now twenty-three, since she was seven years old and it’s something we’ve worked on consistently. I facilitate leadership experiences for collegiate women, middle school girls, and older women in various life stages and the time we share is often described as “life-changing,” and I know that’s because we all need to hear messages of empowerment and strength. Messages that tell us it’s not only okay to prioritize ourselves and our desires, but that it’s essential to our health and happiness. By going after our own dreams, we in turn model the way and empower our daughters, our friends, our peers.
As I’ve met with and heard from readers of Forks, Knives, and Spoons, I’m proud that I continue to hear sentiments such as: “This should be required reading for all young women,” “Every high school and college graduate should be reading this book,” “I will be getting this book for the young women in my life.” To me, that means the message I hold dear is coming through and being shared and that’s a joy to any writer.

Leah DeCesare is the award-winning author of FORKS, KNIVES, AND SPOONS and the nonfiction parenting series NAKED PARENTING, based on her work as a doula, early parenting educator, and mom of three. 

Leah’s articles have been featured in The Huffington Post, the International Doula and The Key, among others. In 2008, Leah co-founded the nonprofit Doulas of Rhode Island, and in 2013 she spearheaded the Campaign for Hope to build the Kampala Children’s Centre for Hope and Wellness in Uganda. In a past life, Leah worked in public relations and event planning. She now writes, teaches and volunteers in Rhode Island where she lives with her family and their talking cockatiel. 
Visit Leah’s website, find her on FacebookTwitterGoodreadsPinterestInstagramBookbub, and Amazon

GIVEAWAY! The author is offering one signed copy of Forks, Knives, and Spoons  plus one of the T-shirts pictured above (Men’s sizes M, L, or XL). Just comment below to be entered. Winner will be chosen at random and the author will contac you directly. Contest ends one week after publication. US residents only, please.

Meet over 100 local authors on Saturday, December 2! The Fifth Annual RI Authors Expo