Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Dear Liberty Mutual Insurance

An open letter from a woman who can parallel park like a boss:

I don't know if anyone outside the tri-state area has seen this commercial, but every time it airs on my television, I have to leave the room before I chew up the couch.

What kind of sexist crap is this? Why don't you show a guy who can't parallel park? And what's with her options? She supposedly knows she's gonna one day hit someone, so she can either 

(a) Take the bus


(b) Get Liberty Mutual Insurance's "accident forgiveness."

What about...?

(c) Find a friend, coworker, spouse, neighbor who does know how to parallel park and have that person take her someplace safe where she can practice 'til she's got it down


(d) Call up her local driving school and pay for one lousy lesson? 

Either option would cost her less in the long run and give her a sense of accomplishment that she mastered a personal weakness. Win/win.

Seriously...parallel parking isn't brain surgery. Nor is it some skill most women can't master because our limbs are too short or our necks don't stretch to the right angle or our boobs get in the way.

You just might be surprised to learn this, advertisers, but I'll let you in on a secret that must have escaped your notice: We're actually fairly capable human beings.

Now, get that ad off my television screen before I rip your bumper off.

No Love,


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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

New Cover. I Haz One

The revamping for the current Calendar Girls series is completed with the release of the newest updated cover for the novella, CHARMING FOR MOTHER'S DAY. 

I couldn't be more thrilled with Elaina Lee's vision for my girls. And believe me, I'm a challenging customer! 

For those who aren't familiar with CHARMING, let me introduce you to the first taste of the little Long Island town of Snug Harbor.

              Ariana stared up at Colin, her honey eyes filled with girlish adoration, as if she’d found her personal Prince Charming. “I rooted for you on the show, Chef Colin.”
She and I had watched “All Star Chef” every Tuesday night, with Ariana critiquing the different contestants’ skills and reporting her conclusions to Sidney every Wednesday.
“You did? Thank you. I appreciate the votes of confidence.”
Oh, puhleez. I had to turn away so he wouldn’t see me roll my eyes, and only faced the crowd again when I had my placid expression under control.
He lifted his gaze from Ariana to me. “That must be why I won. I had two very pretty ladies secretly cheering me on.”
            I winced, knowing what would come next. Sure enough, Ariana speared me with an icicle look. “Mom didn’t root for you. She wanted Chef Christian to win.”
            His hazel eyes, familiar in my dreams, crinkled with amusement as Colin joined my daughter in the staring contest. Target: me. “Did she?”
            My cheeks flamed, but I pulled off a dandy imitation of a casual shrug. “Guilty.”
            “Mind if I ask why?” he persisted.
            Damn him, he should know why. But of course, he didn’t. Why would he? I was just a summer fling—a fact he drove home when he dumped me after a few weeks, going so far as to give me an invalid email and the wrong phone number.
            “She said you were too snotty to win.” Once again, my daughter pushed me under the proverbial bus.
            To my surprise, though, he laughed. “She’s probably right. It’s certainly nothing I haven’t heard before.”
            I didn’t react. On the outside. On the inside, my heartbeat hammered my ribs, and my throat dried to sawdust.
            After several squirm-worthy seconds, he refocused his attention on Ariana. “So, if your mom thought I was such terrible person, why did you want me to win?”
            “I thought you had great knife skills,” she replied with more conviction than a prosecuting attorney. “Even better than Grandpa.”
            “Watch it, snickerdoodle,” Sidney growled then grabbed her by the waist.
            She screeched, and he pulled her against his side for a series of noisy kisses to her cheek.
            Through a riptide of giggles, she amended, “Well, he’s pretty good, based on what I saw on the show. Maybe you guys can have a contest before you move to Florida.”
            My rigid stance relaxed. Oh, thank God. In the back of my mind, I’d wondered why Colin had suddenly appeared at the Gull and Oar. But he must have just stopped by as a courtesy to Sidney before heading south. In that case, I could be gracious to him. Temporarily.
            “Florida, huh?” I said to Colin. “Are you opening a new place down there? Whereabouts?” Not that I ever planned to visit, but—
            “No, Lucie,” Sidney said. “I’m going to Florida. Chef Colin’s bought the Gull and Oar.”

Who wants to see the new home for the pages of these fabulous characters?
Here ya go. 

Isn't it gorgeous? Don't you just love the colors? 

So what are you waiting for? Do you have your copy? No? Go get it!

Don't worry about cost. CHARMING FOR MOTHER'S DAY is free! All day, every day in all digital formats.

Find it on Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, and NoiseTrade.

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Friday, September 5, 2014

Authors Behaving Badly

Sigh! It's happening again. Every few months or so, something brings out the ugly author. 

Maybe it's lunar. We creative types are often driven by the phases of the moon. Maybe it's the solitude of our craft. We tend to immerse ourselves in our own little worlds, barely coming out for air or human contact--especially when we're on a writing jag or deadline. Maybe it's emotional. I've always said that writers "feel" things differently than other humans. That's what makes us so good at toying with the emotions of our readers.

Whatever the reason, the bats have left the belfry and are flying willy-nilly through the world, wreaking havoc. 

Case in point #1: The case of the plagiarist vs. Rachel Ann Nunes. Although her real name and aliases (and there are many!) have been released to the public, I won't give this one any additional publicity. In a nutshell, the plagiarist was caught copying Ms. Nunes's work to pass off as her own by changing a few words here and there and adding some sexy-time scenes. When the facts started to come out into the open, she took to Facebook, Goodreads and Amazon to besmirch Ms. Nunes's character and belittle her books by posting dozens of one-star reviews. Go to the plagiarist's Goodreads author page (it's still up) and you'll see under the "Quotations" section where she's taking credit for quotes from a book written by another author (with an oddly similar name--coincidence? as her own.

There's a special place in hell (or wherever you believe the dead go after they depart Earth) for plagiarists. They steal not only their victims' words, but pieces of their heart and soul. For profit. In this case, the perpetrator went farther by continuing to attack the victim, even after she was caught. 

Plagiarists are everywhere these days. Today, an author claimed an entire boxed set--no longer available for sale through legitimate channels--was plagiarized by another scoundrel. How do we catch these villains? Generally, it's our savvy readers who first connect that a story seems far too familiar and does the initial research out of curiosity (and a need to stay sane). But it's up to the original author of the story to do the dirty work, which includes hiring a lawyer to sue for damages. The crime itself and the follow-up procedures cost a lot of money, take a lot of time, and rip an author away from her steady writing income. So not only is the plagiarist stealing an author's earnings by claiming the work as his/her own, (s)he's also stealing future earnings, past earnings, and present earnings. It's a vicious cycle. 

Please read Ms. Nunes's story here and here. And if you can, please visit her GoFundMe page to assist with her legal fees here.

Case in point #2: The case of the author diva. Diva girl's Facebook post (again, not providing names because why give her any additional promotion?), wherein she berated her readers for asking her questions that could easily be answered on Google, thereby taking her away from precious writing time, went viral in a twenty-four hour period. Both readers and other writers have been (for the most part) taking her to task ever since for her boorish behavior. Rumor has it, in a previous tantrum, she complained that her recently released book didn't hit the bestselling list fast enough and then proceeded to bash the authors and books that did make the list. She also proudly boasted she didn't care if her words hurt her readers' feelings because...who needs 'em? 

Well, sweetheart, you do. Without our readers, writers don't get paid for our work. Without our readers, we don't catch the plagiarists. We writers create our works to be read. To be enjoyed. We long to touch our readers emotionally. Without readers, we might still have a product, but it's back where it was before we published: under our beds, in a desk drawer, or still in our heads. 

Writers aren't perfect. We make mistakes--sometimes big ones. But we should be honest and put only our own words on the page. And we should respect our readers for their support and love of our work.

To my fellow writers, thank you for sharing the pieces of your heart with us.
To my readers, thank you for loving the pieces I share with you.

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Sunday, August 31, 2014

Ready for Autumn?

I am! I have to admit that autumn is my favorite season. The vivid colors, the crisp air, the comfort foods... What's not to like? 

Yeah, I know, Pumpkin-Everything. For those of us who love pumpkin (me!), it's the most wonderful time of the year. But for anyone who has an aversion to this particular flavor, you have my sincere apologies. I get it. Really. You feel about pumpkin lovers the way I feel about summer's beach-loving sun worshipers. You probably stare at us and stifle a shiver while thinking to yourself, "When will the insanity end?" The answer is, of course, shortly after Thanksgiving when the new insanity becomes all things Christmas.

But back to my love of autumn.

Yesterday was a lot less humid than a normal August day and I took advantage of that weather phenomenon to make a big pot of lentil soup. My husband thought I was crazy. "It's still August," he reminded me. "I know, but it's a cool day and I miss my soups." 

Today, the humidity's back and expected to stay for the rest of the week. It won't last forever. And when it's gone, I'll be ready. So, for those like me, looking forward to their first cup of soup, here's what I made yesterday:

Slow Cooker Lentil Soup

1 cup lentils
32 oz chicken broth
1 cup vegetable juice
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 chicken sausages, browned and cut into bite-sized pieces
1 cup diced cooked ham
chopped carrots, celery, onion
salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a 3.5 quart (or larger) slow cooker. Cook on low for 8-10 hours.


This recipe makes about 2.5 quarts of soup so be prepared to freeze some for later in the month, when the weather turns cooler. 

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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Not So Happy Endings

Going serious here, folks, so if you're looking for my usual entertaining nonsense, you might want to bypass this post. As a romance writer, I'm always looking for the happy ending. But real life doesn't always give you that happy ending. Sometimes, you have to accept closure, knowing that issues are unresolved. You close the door and move on, focused on the future, brushing the past behind you. 

A while back, a wise friend (someone we lost last year) shared some information with me that made me understand the issues I'd struggled with for many years. Some relationships, no matter how hard we try, stay toxic. Too much hurt, too much anger, too many bad feelings have poisoned the well. And when that happens, it's okay to say goodbye and walk away. To protect yourself, to protect your family, and to protect your heart, you have to let go of the bitterness, but also prevent it from returning. 

I've already said my goodbye in this particular case and done my best to prevent all that bitterness from coming back into my life. I wish there could have been a happy ending to this tale, but alas. Real life isn't as predictable as romance novels. And while I'm sure some people will have some choice words about my decision, and perhaps create stories about what a monster I am for turning my back, I know how necessary it was for me to remove a part of my life that made me anxious, insecure, and miserable. 

I made my peace. At this time, I hope they find theirs. 

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Saturday, August 23, 2014

Ah, Progress...

I've officially turned the corner on Week 2 of no caffeine. There'll be no looking back. I couldn't if I want to. Most of the days have passed in a gray fugue-like state. Like one of those "artsy" music videos from the eighties when the camera lens filmed through some kind of gauzy veil.

Health-wise, I'm still a mess, but I have hope. The more I read up on my condition and the symptoms, the more amazed I am that no one put it all together for me years ago. More on that when I actually start to reap the benefits and become the person I used to be.

This past week, I celebrated my birthday with my family. It was a warm and happy time for me, and I'm so grateful to those of my friends who sent me cards and gifts and wishes galore.

To celebrate--and to give back--I'll be setting several of my backlist titles up for FREE download on Amazon. One at a time. Keep in touch. For the next two days, it's my latest release, REUNION IN OCTOBER, Book II of the Calendar Girls series.

Here's a Sneak Peek:

Don’t trust him, my brain scolded. He’ll hurt you again if you let him.
“Oregon doesn’t have you, Francesca. I made a mistake, leaving you behind. You’re more important to me than any job. I realize that now.” His fingers dug into my tense neck muscles, which would normally have weakened my resolve.
Josh’s kiss, still warm on my lips, strengthened me. “It took you five years to figure that out?”
“No, it took me five years to find a way back home.”
“Puh-leez.” Still staring out the window, I blew out an exasperated breath. “You should have called before coming back here. I’ve been busy, living my life without you.”
He dropped his hands from my shoulders and neck, thank God. “Okay. You’re mad. I get that.”
I whirled. “Mad? No, I’m not mad, Michael. Dogs go mad.”
His arms wrapped my waist, and he nuzzled my earlobe. “God, you’re still adorable when you’re angry. My plane landed this afternoon, and all I could think about was getting here to you. To tell you I’m sorry. I screwed up. I never should have left you. But now, I’m back, and we can pick up where we left off.”
I pushed out of his embrace and raced behind the couch, using my furniture as a dam between us. “‘Where we left off?’ We left off twenty days before a huge wedding that I’m still paying for.”
Technically, I’d only paid for my gown and the flowers. The catering hall had offered to hold my deposit for a future date, which my brother, Ronnie, wound up using for his wedding eighteen months ago. Ronnie and his wife paid me back for that deposit after their marriage. So all in all, I’d walked away a few thousand dollars poorer, but wiser in experience. Michael, who’d flown off without a thought about the financial aspect, didn’t deserve to know the truth.
“Really, Michael,” I scoffed. “What makes you think you can just reappear after five years as if I were Sleeping Beauty, lying around, waiting for you to come wake me up?”
“Don’t be silly. I didn’t expect you to wait around for me.” He took a step toward me and braced a bent knee on the leather couch. “I didn’t rearrange my entire life without checking on you first. I spoke to your mom.”
“My mom.” Naturally. The one person in this whole town who would forgive him unconditionally—my mother.
“Of course. I’ve been in touch with her for months now.”
Months. A chill surged through me.
He reached for my hand, rubbed his thumb across my knuckles. “I knew before the plane left JFK that night I’d made a huge mistake in letting you go. And I’ve spent the last five years trying to make it work in Oregon, but I was miserable. Once I admitted to myself I could never be whole without you, I started making plans to come back to Long Island. I’ve taken a job with a firm in Riverhead. I can commute from here so you don’t have to leave that hospital of yours. We can make it work this time.”
“What makes you think I want to make it work this time?” I yanked my hand from his grasp. “What makes you think I’m so gullible?”
His jaw went slack. “But your mother said—”

“If you’re so obsessed with my mother, marry her. Leave me out of it.”

Be sure to grab your copy before it's too late! Starting on August 25, another book will be available.

Enjoy and happy reading!
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Thursday, August 14, 2014

What the Writer Thinks About When She's Not Allowed to Drink Coffee

For health reasons, my doctor insisted I have to give up caffeine (temporarily, thankyousweetbabyjesus). When she first gave me this order, I nearly spilled my coffee, laughing. Why is this funny? Because I'm the girl that has a Keurig on her desk at work. I'm the girl who has more flavors and "recipes" for coffee than Starbucks. I'm the girl who downs an espresso and can fall asleep ten minutes later. I collect coffee mugs. People post cute memes about coffee on my Facebook wall. I *am* Mrs. Coffee. 

Now I had to give it up? Impossible. Ridiculous. Unheard of. Terrifying. 

It's been a week now. I wish I could say it gets better, but I'm guessing my body's still going through withdrawal. Here's what goes through my mind at random times in my caffeine-less state.

Day 1: Okay, I can do this. It's just coffee. I can make do with green tea and water. Oh, who am I kidding? This is gonna kill me. Is it bedtime yet? I'm exhausted...

Day 2: I got through yesterday. Sure, I did it by going to bed at 5 pm, but I did it. I can do it again. But I'm gonna push myself. I won't go to bed til 6 tonight. I'll use the extra hour to get some writing done. Dang, this sucks. I can't seem to put together a coherent sentence. Forget it. I'm just gonna go to bed. Tomorrow's another day, right?

Day 3: This getting out of bed stuff is really taking its toll on me. If a genie popped up right now and told me he'd grant me one wish, I'd wish for eight hours more sleep. I'll go to work because I have to, but I'm not bothering to style my hair or do my makeup. That'll buy me an extra thirty minutes of sleep time. And in just nine hours from now, I can be back in bed. That'll be good.

Day 4: What if all my brilliant ideas for my stories are due to my intake of caffeine? What if I never write a decent sentence again? Maybe I should go to bed and give up for today.

Day 5: My gym partner cancelled tonight's class. Thank God. I don't have the energy. I'm just gonna go home and crawl into bed.

Day 6: Ooh, one of my coworkers has coffee. It smells soooo good! Jeez, my head is pounding. And I can't even take Excedrin because it has caffeine in it. No way I can write with this jackhammer behind my eyes. The minute I get home, I should just go to bed.

Day 7: Hey! I made it through the first week. I can do this. It's just coffee. I can make do with green tea and water. And bed.   

Tell me this gets easier. Please.

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