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!

Is it still summer? Or autumn?


Well, this doesn’t look like summer! It’s September 13, still a week away from official fall. Some of you consider Labor Day the end of summer. And retailers? Ugh. It’s Halloween and Christmas already.

I haven’t packed away my white pants and flip-flops yet, and this is a wonderful time to go to the beach, even if I wear fleece and clutch my travel cup of hot coffee in those early morning hours.

These photos are from my walk today, so maybe it is autumn! I bought apples this week and made applesauce with cinnamon. I’ve been whirling up my breakfast shake with pumpkin purée, cloves, nutmeg. That’s fall, right?

Apparently the neighbors are ready for October! But I’m a lifelong New Englander, so I know the temperature could climb back into the eighties this month. That pumpkin could turn to mush.

This evening I’m barefoot but wearing long sleeves. The windows are open, but I put the big quilt back on the bed. My husband needed his sweatshirt because I won’t close the windows. Come on, it’s 64 degrees at 6:30pm!

So….are you holding on to summer or sliding happily into autumn?

What I Read in August


beach reads

As summer winds down (it’s not over! it’s not over!), so does my reading list. I tried to cram in as much beach reading as I could this year, trying to balance reading with writing. But as edits and revisions took over my life for this new novel, I was only able to read five books. Still, they were good ones:

summer 69 Elin Hilderbrand (Queen of the Summer Beach Read) released this one in June, just in time for a summer beach read. As the author herself turned 50 in July, she tells a story about four siblings (sisters Blair, Kirby, and Jessie, brother Tiger) who each experience that memorable summer in different ways. The moon landing, Woodstock, and the Chappaquiddick incident on ‘the other island’ are all featured. Definitely a must-read. I bought my copy at Ink Fish Books

before I stopped by my other favorite local bookstore, Stillwater Books, and found this one. Looked good, so I picked it up. OMG. This book! As soon as I finished it, I told my husband he had to read it. He’s really into it. It’s a novel based on a real-life scandal, involving the kidnapping of poor children and selling them to wealthy families. Heartwrenching but ultimately hopeful.

blessings She’s probably my favorite author, and I couldn’t believe I hadn’t read this book. It was part of my library’s big book sale (yes, I filled a giant tote bag!). It took me a little longer to be invested in this one, but Quindlen never disappoints me. This book was first published in 2002, and delves into family secrets and why they’re kept. Beautifully crafted, with rich descriptions and characters you can almost feel sitting next to you.

Winter This one I downloaded through my library’s program (I don’t think Hilderbrand needs the money, so why not spend on local and indie books?). Maybe I missed it, but this is part of a series. The ending left me feeling unsatisfied, but that was because there’s a sequel coming. Apparently the sequel drops in early October. Still a good book, but if you’re a fast reader like me, maybe it’s better to wait until all the books are out.

kitchen yarns I also downloaded this one through my library. It’s a collection of essays, with recipes. Unfortunately, I knew most of these stories already, and they seemed somewhat disjointed (introducing us to her grandmother Mama Rose once was sufficient). The recipes were fine, although a chapter devoted to butchering a pig was, to me, revolting. Still, Hood can write, and many will find this book charming.

 

So, no more “What I  Read” posts for a while. I need to get this book done!

However, if you love reading as much as I do, and if you’re on Facebook, we’ve got a great event coming up November 18. It’s a Rhode Island Authors Showcase featuring a variety of authors. Each one will have something to give away, and the Grand Prize is a $250 Amazon gift card, just in time for some serious shopping. You can find the link HERE and it’s all online. I hope you’ll join us!

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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!

Celebrate It All


What would a birthday be without a blog post? After all, I wrote my first eight years ago, on my 53rd birthday.

When I turned 30, an old college friend convinced me to do it up big, stating, “No one cares when you turn 31.” True. So for most of us, these ‘milestone’ birthdays tend to be momentous.

Last year, when I told my soon-to-be-retired ophthalmologist that I was nearly 60, he chuckled and remarked that once you hit 60, those ‘milestones’ are every five years instead of every ten years. Yikes, I thought.

But he was (partially) right. There are fewer decades left. I’ve seen too many friends die too soon, dammit.

My pal Christine DePetrillo asks every Friday online, “What are you celebrating?” Some Fridays I don’t have an answer, but it’s not because I’m a pessimist. Yesterday I thought, well, I’m celebrating my birthday this weekend. Sixty-one is as much a celebration as sixty, maybe even more so.

So, I jumped waves at the beach today with my husband, sang along to songs on the radio, accepted lots of well wishes (thank you!) and will indulge in something sweet after dinner tonight. It’s all worth celebrating.

A New Chapter


retirement

It’s official as of yesterday.

Then again, I’m an author. So I’m never really retired, just able to devote more time to this thing I love. I know people who quit working at a much younger age, and I know plenty who will continue working, either by choice or necessity.

When I walked away from the lucrative job I had as a fraud investigator, I did so because the job, the toxic environment in which I worked, threatened my health. For the next three years, I did not work outside the home. But I tried. I looked for work. I was able to see how much the employment landscape had changed. Back in the 80s, I would revise my resume and send it out with a well-written cover letter to the head of personnel at a company. Ha! Five years ago, I applied online for a variety of jobs, trying to hide the fact that I was over 50, but I knew that whoever or whatever program sorted out applications, mine was likely tossed early.

Then I had an interview with HopeHealth (formerly known as Home and Hospice Care of Rhode Island). Here was an agency that actually valued experience! Here was a place that understood what I could offer. I worked part-time for Hospice from June 2014 until yesterday. I worked at the front desk in the Philip Hulitar Hospice Center in Providence, where old friends and colleagues were admitted at the end of their lives. I assisted in Medical Records, ensuring a patient’s file was complete. I helped out in Quality Control, doing tasks that added to the agency’s compliance with so many federal and state guidelines. All through it, I worked with smart, professional, dedicated people who truly put others before themselves. The years I spent working for Hospice helped to erase the  bitter memories of my previous job.

And now it’s done. I’m 60 years old, which to some of you might seem young for retirement. But my time at Hospice has taught me that life can change in an instant. Sometimes circumstances dictate that we keep working, past the time we’d like to have stopped. My husband and I saved aggressively while we worked full-time, and we don’t live large. I don’t know how many years I have left on this earth – thirty? Eighteen? Three? My goal is to keep writing novels, cherishing a day at the ocean, a cup of coffee, the sound of my old dog snoring.

Here’s to my new chapter.

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