If I Had to Do It All Again…

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You get to a certain age, and you start to think, “If I could go back and start over…” Real life doesn’t give us a “do over,” but it’s nice sometimes to fantasize. I’m at that age, and as wonderful as my life is, sometimes I think about the roads I didn’t take.

I talked about my process for writing A Second Chance House recently. Though my characters started out as two people talking, I had to turn them into characters others would relate to. Otherwise, no one will stick with your story. Think about any movie or book you enjoyed. Part of the reason you liked the characters in that story so much was because you saw a piece of yourself in there. Do you remember the show Roseanne starring Roseanne Barr? Why was that show such a success? Because women everywhere said, “that’s what my house looks and sounds like!” Relatable.

I’ll tell you a little secret. I have a hard time writing women. A strong female lead has to be, well…strong, independent, smart, tough, vulnerable, wounded (otherwise there’s no character arc,) emotional, but not whiny, she can have insecurities, but she can’t be too desperate. That’s a tall order, and it takes me more than one pass through to get my heroine right. (Personally, I don’t like the unreliable protagonist so in books like The Girl on the Train, I just get mad at her repeated poor choices.)

How did I make Grace relatable? It wasn’t easy. In the first draft, when we first meet her she’s in the library crying her eyes out. Ugh.

But Grace became relatable because as I got to know her, she fantasized about a fresh start. Grace gets one, at the exact moment she needs it. Not that she knows that at first. In fact, she doesn’t know she wants a fresh start at all until she realizes she’s a walking cliche and all her planning, following the rules, playing it safe has backfired in her face. She’s also a little stubborn. She wants to prove everyone who told her she couldn’t renovate a house in a town she didn’t know – wrong! Yay for Grace! It’s a good feeling to tell the nay sayers in our lives to shove it. We can relate to that too.

I put Grace in my age bracket because it is in the middle of our lives with as much time behind us as ahead that we start to wonder if this is all there is. It’s also during the middle of our lives when people act out on those what ifs. We’ve seen a lot of bald, paunchy men in red sports cars, no? Just saying. I can relate to women my age, and why shouldn’t women in their forties be the heroines of a love story? They fall in love too. Love the second or third time around is a different love than the first one. I wanted to read about a woman my age who’d been married, had children, wondered what if. I figured other women did too.

So, I now have a middle-aged woman faced with the tough choice to start over or not. She isn’t a risk taker. I’m setting up the conflict for her. Go or stay? She goes. Brava! But when she gets there, she gets more than she’s bargained for. More conflict. And when she meets the sexy neighbor, he is the exact opposite of who she is. What is she supposed to do about that?

What’s great about writing books is I get to control the ending. I can’t control much of anything in real life, but believe me I try. When we sit down and take the journey with Grace, she gets to do the things that maybe we can’t. We don’t always get a second chance to start over. And we can’t predict the ending of our love story. But we root for Grace to achieve her goals and fall in love.

Will the woman who never takes a risk, risk it all – and possibly fall in love? If given the chance, would you be that person?

Music is so important to me and my hero, Blaise Savage. I’m having a book launch concert at Patrick’s Pub, Neptune, NJ, March 28th 7 pm. I’ll be signing books and doing a reading. And right along side me will be fantastic bands playing awesome music. (I won’t be singing. Don’t worry.) If you’re in the area, stop by and say hi.

Thanks to the kindness and generosity of Arell Rivers, I’ll be taking over Arell’s Angels (she’s a wonderful author. Check out her stuff.) on Facebook. April 15th, from 6 -8 pm to celebrate the release of A Second Chance House. Stop by for games and prizes, and to talk about writing, or whatever else you fancy.  We had a blast at the last Facebook party. If you missed it, here’s another chance for some fun.







How I Chose My Author Brand

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When a writer starts attending conferences because, dear Lord you think you want to be published she hears “you need a brand.” What the heck does that mean? I couldn’t figure it out for years. How could I sell myself as something, especially if I wasn’t published yet.

The experts say, what makes you unique? I’m not an expert in anything. I don’t have a fancy degree in rocket science. In fact, I hated science in school and in college took classes like Writing A Review (we went to the movies!) and Film Form and Analysis, Theater Appreciation, Public Speaking (easy A for me) and stuff like that. I don’t have a strange hobby that I partake in like sword fighting or shark diving. Being the rocket scientist shark diver author was out of the question. Now what?

The first books I published were geared for the middle grade crowd about magical places with talking animals, and three teens running for their lives. Okay, my log line became “Where Fantasy and Adventure Collide.” Until a guy at a bar in New York City pointed out that line sounded like porn. Thanks, dude.

Let me back up a little. When I decided to take my writing seriously for the first time in my life, the book I wrote was a women’s fiction novel about a woman with a secret. I couldn’t get any traction with that one so I wrote another women’s fiction about a family whose child has a serious heart condition. (I think I had read one too many Jodi Picoult books at that point.) After that I wrote a romantic suspense with dead bodies, and ghosts. My heart was in the adult market.

Instead, I published those middle grade books for reasons we’ll discuss another time. I didn’t know what my brand was. Then I wrote A Second Chance House. And my brand hit me between the eyes. (Pardon the cliche. My writer’s slip is showing.)

me and angel
At a school visit in 2015. Mrs. R is one awesome teacher. That’s book one in the middle grade series. The cover came out cool. 

The thing all my characters have in common across every one of those books is a dysfunctional family.  In the middle grade books, Gabriel our hero, has two very messed up parents. In A Second Chance House, Grace has a father she never knew. They both are searching for a family to belong to because we can’t pick our parents. As I wrote the second book in the women’s fiction series (the Heritage River series), A Bridge Home, my heroine Harley, was dumped on the doorstep of her aunt and uncle because her mother didn’t want her.

I knew what my brand was without doubt. Family. Home. Second Chances. My log line changed to Family are the people who love you when you need them. You don’t have to be born to that family. Sometimes we pick them up along the way. (Please tell me that doesn’t sound like porn!)

I’m an expert in weird families. I’d rather be a concert pianist playing at Lincoln Center, and maybe some day I will be, but for now, it’s weird families. Lucky me.

I’m still not completely comfortable branding myself. (Makes me think of cattle and a hot branding iron.) Publishers used to need to know what shelf to stick a book on, so it made sense to know where you fit in, but now the shelves are disappearing, and with the aid of technology I can add keywords to my books that are specific to that book. This way, when someone searches, women’s fiction, home, family, second chances, sexy washed up rock star drummer, my books will come up. Do I really need to tattoo myself with a hot branding iron that will leave a scar? That sounds painful, no?

How would you describe yourself if you needed a brand? Maybe you have a brand already. Tell us how you decided to label yourself?

A Second Chance House is available for pre-order in digital format. The print version will become available March 7th from all major online retailers, and here on the website.

I’m hosting a Facebook party on March 7th from 7 – 9 pm in honor of the release. There will be games and prizes.

And since music is so important to me and my hero, Blaise Savage, I’m having a book launch concert at Patrick’s Pub, Neptune, NJ, March 28th 7 pm. I’ll be signing books and doing a reading. And right along side me will be fantastic bands playing awesome music. (I won’t be singing. Don’t worry.)




What Does Music Mean To You?

In 1982, I discovered Van Halen. As far as music was concerned, I never looked back. I knew the words to every song on every album. I could drum solo right along with Alex. I studied everything I could get my hands on about them. (Oh, how the helpful the internet would’ve been.) I stayed up until all hours of the night listening to radio interviews. In my high school year book senior year, we had to list what we would be in ten years. I wrote married to Alex Van Halen. I was obsessed.  (The video above is “Respect the Wind” by Eddie and Alex Van Halen. Enjoy!)

As the years passed, and logic and reasoning formed in my brain (thankfully) some of the obsession died down. (I have seen every American tour since 1984.) I still enjoy their music, but mostly the stuff with David Lee Roth singing lead. Sorry, Sammy Hagar. He seems like a cool person to hang out with. I prefer the harder sound with Dave.

Growing up music made me believe anything was possible. Music sat right beside me while I wrote my first novel at twelve, and every novel since. (I have play lists for all my women’s fiction books.) Music soothed my heart the first time someone broke it. No one understands the broken heart better than a musician. Except maybe a romance novelist. Music makes me dance any place any time. Music transports me. Every time I hear AC/DC’s Hells Bells I’m at the start of a high school football game. High school was a long time ago.

I don’t play any instruments, but 2018 is the year I change that. I can’t sing, but I dream of being on stage in front of thousands singing my heart out. (Possibly in leather pants. And I’d love to do a duet with Jennifer Nettles. I love the quality of her voice.) If I had to go back and do it all again, I’d study how to play music. I love writing, and I wouldn’t change being an author for anything. (Though I’d like to make more than a cup of coffee for doing it.) But I also love the sound of an orchestra. And much to my son’s dismay, I love soundtrack music. The music in a soundtrack evokes emotion often times because the dialogue and the actor’s facial expressions can’t. Being in an orchestra is my kind of team sport.

An artist puts his or her mark on the world. The way rockers played guitar changed because Eddie Van Halen hit the scene. He revolutionized the way guitars were made too. I often hope with my books that I can leave my mark. I had a beta reader say to me recently, “I’m sobbing.” My words moved her. What an honor and a thrill to be able to touch someone deeply. Now I have to find more readers like her otherwise my mark is just one. That’s no easy job.

If I could go back to 1982, I think I’d sit myself down and say, “don’t give up. Don’t listen to what other people say. Deep inside you is a talent and a passion. Sing. Dance. Play. Write. I’ll be waiting for you.”

What does music mean to you?

What passion burns inside you to come out?

Who influenced you the most?

A Second Chance House is available for pre-order in digital format. The print version will become available March 7th from all major online retailers, and here on the website.

I’m hosting a Facebook party on March 7th from 7 – 9 pm in honor of the release. There will be games and prizes.

And since music is so important to me and my hero, Blaise Savage, I’m having a book launch concert at Patrick’s Pub, Neptune, NJ, March 28th 7 pm. I’ll be signing books and doing a reading. And right along side me will be fantastic bands playing awesome music. (I won’t be singing. Don’t worry.)


The 5 am Work Out


Happy New Year! Another calendar is turned to January. When I worked in an office, I always loved those desk calendars. I’d make notes all over it. By the end of the month, the page would be covered in notations, squiggles, or whatever. But when I ripped the page off and found a blank month waiting for me, all possibilities were open again. I’m in love with the blank page. Hence, my career choice as an author.

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We all know I like to exercise. Naturally, I try to encourage the Noodges to exercise too. Noodge 2 does. She works out with a personal trainer for fitness reasons and to help with a medical condition she has. Noodge 1 will exercise, but usually with a little persuasion from me. I want them both to be healthy and happy. Exercise aids in both of those things.

Teens today have pretty tight schedules. The advanced classes they take so their college applications look good require hours of homework. They have extra curricular activities, jobs, and a social life. Noodge 2 wanted to increase her cardio time, but didn’t know how to fit the workouts into her busy schedule. I suggested to workout before school.

I’m an early morning exerciser. In fact, I’m a morning person. My best time for everything is early. Noodge 2 is a night owl like the Coffee King. My early morning exercise suggestion was met with an eye roll.

We belong to the local YMCA. I offered to go to the Y twice a week with her at 5. She agreed. A new habit was formed, and I couldn’t have been more excited. I’m honored my teenage daughter wants to work out with me. Teens usually want nothing to do with their parents unless money is involved.

I will say, getting up at 4:45 (the Y is three minutes from our house, thankfully) to the alarm clock in winter is no easy task. I might do mornings, but I don’t do cold and dark very well. But I won’t bail on her or on Noodge 1 on the days he joins us. (When both of my kids come to the gym, my heart swells.) If they want to skip the gym, that’s fine, but I won’t cancel.

I’ve made encouraging my children’s interests part of my mothering goals. I attend the opera because Noodge 1 wants to go. I’ve attended the Pride Parade in NYC with Noodge 2 and three of her friends because she wanted to see that parade. Have you ever been to the Pride Parade? I have certain images burned on the back of eyelids I can’t unsee. Growing up in my house our whims weren’t exactly indulged. I wanted to do things differently for my kids.

Hence, the 5 a.m. workout.

aruba2018beachchairsRecently, we vacationed in Aruba. I love Aruba. “One Happy Island.” Put a visit there on your bucket list if you haven’t been. You won’t be sorry. Of course, the resort had a gym. And Noodge 2 and I found ourselves on the treadmill several times that week. Me and my girl. I grew ten feet tall when I looked over and saw her working out – with me.

That’s the key. She wants to be with me. My children are about to embark on the real world. Noodge 1 is only months away now. Even though he must go, I will miss him dearly. In the meantime, while they are still mine, I get to soak up the small moments in their company. And if that company is 5 a.m. in the gym, bring it on.

With this new year in front of us, remember to hug your kids a little more. Make time for the things they like to do even if you don’t. Tell them they are amazing, because they are. And if you have to, set the alarm clock and go to the gym. At 5 a.m.

Happy New Year. Love to all.

Favorite Christmas Films

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I’ve been driving my family crazy since the end of October watching Christmas movies. I can’t help it. I love them. To me, movies set in the winter in some sleepy little town where Christmas is the most important time of the year, and anything is possible, put me in the holiday spirit.

Christmas in the movies is magical. Dreams come true. Dysfunctional families see the light, or get on the right meds. (Oh, how that only happens in fiction.) I watch every chance I get.

Here is a list of some of my favorite Christmas movies in no particular order:

A Christmas Carol (Starring Alastair Sim He’s the best Scrooge.)

Miracle on 34th Street The 1947 version. Not that remake. Who would remake a classic like that?

White Christmas

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year (Hard not to like something with Henry Winkler in it.)


The Family Stone (Here’s a dysfunctional family trying to be on their best behavior for the holidays.) I like movies with large families. Not sure this is in my top ten Christmas movies even though it’s set at Christmas time.

What are your favorite Christmas movies?

Don’t Be Afraid to Be a Jackass

Have you ever seen the movie Serendipity? The movie stars John Cusack as Jonathan Trager and Kate Beckinsale as Sara Thomas. I love that film. It’s one of my guilty pleasures. It’s a rom-com about a couple who met by accident, and felt an instant attraction to each other. Four years later, days before his wedding to someone else, Trager begins a search for this mysterious woman, Sara, because he has to know for sure if she’s the one. At the same time, Sara searches for Jonathan.

serendipityimageDean Kansky, played by Jeremy Piven, is Trager’s best friend. (Piven also happens to be Cusack’s best friend in real life.) While searching for the mystery woman, Kansky tells Trager he’s a jackass  and goes on to quote Epictetus; “be content to be thought foolish and stupid.” Trager doesn’t care how searching for a strange woman on the eve of his wedding appears. His heart leads the mission logic cannot defy.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to live our lives as jackasses? Not to worry about what other people think or how they might be judging us. A benefit to getting older is having the ability to care less about the opinions of others; to throw caution to the wind, to coin a phrase, and finally understand life is what we make of it. To live a fulfilled life, we must not worry about being foolish or stupid, but run through the sprinklers with wild abandon, with the sun on our backs, the grass between our toes, and laughter in the air.

Guess who can’t follow Epictetus’ advice? Teenagers. (And a few adults, but let’s talk about the teens for a moment because they can’t help themselves. The adults – well, that’s another story.)

I’m in the thick of raising teens, and like every stage of parenthood, this one has its pluses and challenges. Here’s one of the challenges: teens spend an exorbitant amount of time worrying how others perceive their behavior. They believe the whole world is watching them, because they have magnifiers and bright lights pointed on themselves. They worry that the world around them will judge them; tell them they aren’t good enough, smart enough, fast enough, strong enough.

Truth is, no one is paying that much attention because they’re busy worrying about what other people think of them. One of my favorite quotes by Eleanor Roosevelt:

You wouldn’t worry so much about what others think of you if you realized how seldom they do. 

Teens just don’t understand that. I feel badly for them. They worry about things that don’t really matter in the grand scheme of life, but matter a whole lot to them. If they could let go of the fear, they’d probably enjoy the ride a lot more. (Again, same applies to adults.)

But teens have to be teens. They make decisions based on emotion and not logic or reasoning. So, when I’m trying to be logical with my teens about something that is purely emotional to them, I lose.

I’m learning not to argue. They have to come to their decisions in their own way, and that’s a life lesson for them. Soon they will be out in the world all by themselves and I won’t be there to wave logic in their faces like pom-poms. “This way. Look over here. Pay attention to my wisdom.” I want to shout, but can’t. Their lives. Their choices. I’m only the GPS if they need me. And they need me less and less.

Often I find myself thinking, I’d love to go back to being a teenager with the knowledge I have now. I’d have the great time I was too afraid to have back then. And often, I find myself wanting to say to my teens, “don’t be afraid to be a jackass.”

Since I can’t go back, alas, then I have to live the example now that I want for my teens. Be fearless in the face of fear. Be willing to be thought foolish and stupid. Have a blast.

Are you a jackass?

Why The Gas Cans


A friend recently asked me if my publisher for my women’s fiction/contemporary romance series would be marketing for me. Common question. As much as I enjoy working with my publisher, and my editor rocks, the majority of the marketing is my responsibility. Doesn’t matter who your publisher is; one of the big five or yourself – marketing your book is your job.

And that’s no easy task. Not only am I not experienced in marketing ( I was a director of special events before I had kids) I don’t have enough hours in the day to write multiple books, and market them well. But I’m trying. Believe me.

What I am is creative. Creative people think outside the box because usually their box looks a lot different than the standard, beige, cardboard, rectangle with four flaps.

I attend many conferences for writers and readers. Often the conference offers a “goody room.” The goody room is a place for authors to display promotional items to get buzz out for their books. I’ve seen everything from pens to candy penises. I don’t know if any of this stuff sells books. Especially the pens, bookmarks, and chocolate. (I love bookmarks. Don’t get me wrong.) Personally, I won’t read your book just because you gave me a nail file for free. I have a nail file.

At the RWA conference in Orlando this past July I wandered the goody room and saw pretty much what I’ve seen before. I even passed over the candy penises attached to a card for an erotic romance. Yeah, I get it, book with explicit sex and a penis made of chocolate. Boring. Next.

Later I thought – if that chocolate penis had been attached to a card for a contemporary romance whose cover had a vase of flowers, a cute dog, and colored in pastels then I might pick up the book and say, “what’s this all about?”

I knew I had to do that for my book A Second Chance House. It’s a women’s fiction/contemporary romance coming out in early 2018. The cover shows a wrap around porch and a porch swing. What could I create to make someone say, “what’s that all about?”

I needed a light-hearted scene from the book. I needed a promo item that wouldn’t cost a fortune and would get people’s attention. My heroine runs out of gas. She’s mortified because the hero comes to save her, which is exactly what she didn’t want. I had to find gas cans. Nothing else would do.

I brought those bright red cans attached to a card with my cover on the front and the excerpt on the back. I heard, cute, clever, I love it, who came up with that for you? (I tried not to be offended. I don’t think she meant it maliciously.) All my cans went. I was very excited.

Will my gas cans sell my books? I don’t know. I can only hope that someone said, this author is creative and when her book comes out I want to read more.

For the second book in the series, A Bridge Home,  I’m thinking a men’s razor. Or maybe a kit for stitches. That chocolate penis might work too. We’ll see. I’ll keep you posted.