Thursday, April 24, 2014

A Love Letter to Cleveland

No matter how I do this, it isn’t going to come out right. You’re going to think I hate Cleveland. But that’s not exactly true. I think of it, mostly, with fondness.

That said, let’s get the jokes out of the way first. Here are two, mostly safe for work, videos that you have to watch. I promise it’ll take two minutes of your time.

So that’s Cleveland in a very tiny nutshell.

Next year I’ll publish the first two books in the Casey Cort series, Qualified Immunity, and Under Color of Law which take place in the early part of this century.

When I started to write my first book (why my first book is coming out last is another entire blog post), I had only left Cleveland and it was fresh in my mind. The post industrial city had a lot of qualities that make it an excellent character. As you may have noticed from the videos above, the city suffers from economic depression, gray, gray weather, and a lacking sense of humor.

But my books take place in the past, so I’m writing about a city that doesn’t exist anymore. For better or worse, it has moved on. And what was true in 2003 isn’t true today. I’m doing my best to stick with my vision of the city as it was then. But we all view places through different lenses and I worry that the corruption and damaged legal system my heroine faces will come across like I’m setting the Cuyahoga river on fire a second time. But that’s not the case. It’s sort of like writing about the 1970s in New York City. It was a lot awful, but it was a little great, too.

Did I like going to economic summits on the city hemorrhaging college graduates. No. Did I like watching news reports of elected officials going to jail? Not really.

But I did I love going to the art museum and seeing Lucy at the natural history museum? Absolutely. The best art exhibit and best play I’ve ever seen happened right there in Cleveland.

In fact, Casey Cort is one of my favorite heroines, a little heavy, a little plucky, a lot of fun—to write. She’s facing her thirties and it’s an uphill battle. Cleveland is the perfect setting for a book with a heroine seeking redemption. Little victories are more rewarding when you have to lean against a stiff Lake Erie wind to get them.

Sylvie Fox is the author of The Good Enough Husband, another book about a heroine in dire need of redemption. But at least this one's mostly set in sunny Southern California.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Where I'm At

by Lauren Baratz-Logsted

This cycle at GBC we're talking about settings.

In terms of setting, the books I've had traditionally published break down as follows:

CONNECTICUT: A Little Change of Face; Baby Needs a New Pair of Shoes; Crazy Beautiful; Angel's Choice; Secrets of My Suburban Life; Me, In Between

MASSACHUSETTS: Little Women and Me

ENGLAND: The Thin Pink Line; Crossing the Line; Vertigo: The Education of Bet; The Twin's Daughter

ICELAND: How Nancy Drew Saved My Life

LOCATION UNKNOWN: The Sisters 8 series

When I look back on this, I realize there was no big advance planning in any of it. It was more that I would get an idea for a book and the voice combined with the concept would dictate setting. Plotwise, the books I've set in England could have just as easily been set in the U.S., save for one small thing. When you choose a setting, there's so much more that comes with it than just location. There's all the nuances of accents, tone, cadence, even word choices. If you're writing a contemporary comedy, as a rule, people in the U.S. don't get gobsmacked or feel knackered, and they certainly never say "You stupid cow!" to insult someone, not unless they also want to provoke a bout of anorexia.

There was a lot of deliberation behind my choice to set How Nancy Drew Saved My Life in Iceland. I wanted my heroine to become the nanny to an ambassador in an unusual place; I wanted it to be far away and completely isolated; and I'd been to Iceland.

Similarly, it was a deliberate decision to never identify just where it is The Sisters 8 live. Like the prologue in Book 1: Annie's Adventures says: "And where was this magnificent stone house? Why, it might have been anywhere in the world - even right next door to you - so why quibble? However, if there were octuplets in your class at school, you would probably have noticed by now, so perhaps that's not the case."

The books I've set in Connecticut are mostly set in Danbury, where I live, although occasionally I use other towns. Of course I change things to suit my own purposes. Every time a reader asks if there really is a bar here where a person can shoot pool that goes by the name of Chalk Is Cheap, I have to admit that, sadly, Chalk Is Cheap only exists in my mind.

When you get down to it, I suppose it all comes down to my mind, really. As a writer, it's all about going to the places - physical and emotional and conceptual - that I'm most interested in going to at the time. And I'm the same as a reader.

I love reading books that take place in different states and regions in the U.S. and I love books from other countries, Some of my favorites, by location, from the past year?

SCOTLAND: Gods and Beasts, by Denise Mina

DENMARK: A Conspiracy of Faith, by Jussi Adler-Olsen

NORTH DAKOTA: Let Him Go, by Larry Watson

ENGLAND: The Hive, by Gill Hornby

NORWAY: Police, by Jo Nesbo

FRANCE: The Mouse-Proof Kitchen, by Saira Shah

SPAIN: Mr. Lynch's Holiday, by Catherine O'Flynn

PORTUGAL: The Two Hotel Francforts, by David Leavitt

MINNESOTA: Ordinary Grace, by William Kent Krueger

So how about you? What's your favorite setting to write about? What's your favorite setting to read about? Or what's the name of a really great book you've read that has a strong sense of place?

Lauren Baratz-Logsted is the author of a bunch of books for adults, teens and children. Visit her at, check out The Sisters 8 at, or follow her on Twitter @LaurenBaratzL

Location, Location, Location! (and a plug for Broken Glamour)

by Maggie Marr

I am kicking off the new cycle at the Girlfriends Book Club and our topic is location. How do we choose where our books are set? Or does the setting choose us? How does setting impact character? These are brilliant questions developed by Sylvie Fox and Laura Spinella and Saralee Rosenberg.

Take a look at my books. All but one are set in Los Angeles. The sole book set outside Los Angeles in Powder Springs, Colorado, a Rocky Mountain town, is Courting Trouble.

My books are not just set in Los Angeles but they are located in the small, industry town that is Hollywood. While Hollywood is a geographical place in Los Angeles, the geographical place is not to what I refer when I write that my books are set in Hollywood. I am referring to an Industry located within Los Angeles but with outposts throughout the world. I am referring to movie-making, TV making, script-writing, directing, producing, and all the executive functions that go with those endeavors.

Hollywood, that small town within a big city informs my characters, their personalities, their decisions, goals, motivations, and conflicts.

Today, Broken Glamour the second book in my Glamour Series publishes. This is the love story of Amanda Sterling and Ryan Sinclair. Amanda grew up in Hollywood, was raised by one of the premiere families in the Industry, while Ryan broke into the Business due to his talent as an actor. I loved writing this book. I loved how tortured Ryan was because of his addictions and how lost Amanda was because of being ousted from her prime spot as part of Hollywood royalty.

Amanda Legend may loathe the entertainment world, but she understands the rules. She also knows Ryan Sinclair, understands alcoholics (she grew up around a few) and now, after being banished from her posh lifestyle, needs a paycheck to get to New York. Amanda accepts the job as sober companion to Ryan Sinclair for his first film post rehab. But Amanda must learn to ignore her attraction to Ryan, because falling for a guy like him would pull her back into a world she desperately wants to escape. 

Amanda and Ryan's love story shows how two emotionally damaged people can take a chance and allow love to grow. This was a story I was drawn to write because of the characters, but these characters were created by their environment. A place that I love and call home: Hollywood.

Leave a comment and tell me one of your favorite places whether it be on a map or not. will select a winner and they will receive a digital copy of Broken Glamour.

Maggie Marr is an author, attorney, and producer. She began her Hollywood adventure pushing the mail cart at ICM where she became a motion picture literary agent. Maggie is the author of the beloved Hollywood Girls Club Series which includes Hollywood Girls Club, Secrets of The Hollywood Girls Club, and Hollywood Hit. The Glamour Series is her new adult contemporary romance series. Hard Glamour published January 2014 and Broken Glamour released today! She has written for TV and film and ghost-written for celebrities. Look for her May 2014 release, book 2 in the Eligible Billionaires Series; One Night For Love, book 1 Can't Buy Me Love is available now. You can find Maggie on facebook and twitter.

Monday, April 21, 2014

My Dog Ate My Blog Post by Karin Gillespie

Not really.

But I forgot to look at the calendar and suddenly... boom. It was my turn.  Who wants to hear about excuses? But frankly it's all I got. Anyway I'll use this time to catch up a little.  A coffee klatch of sorts.

First off I got the rights back to all my novels and am planning on self-publishing so any tips you want to give me is wunderbar. I was initially resistant but now I'm excited about learning a whole new skill set and hopefully making some money along the way. I've always enjoyed the marketing aspect of writing.

Meanwhile I have a novel on submission and have been trying to increase my platform with nonfiction writing.  I actually got an essay accepted at a pretty big media outlet (here's some hints: The nickname is Gray Lady or it is it Grey?) Regardless if all goes well it should be in this Sunday's edition.

Speaking of that novel on sub.  I'll the share the description and an excerpt with you. It's a novel of my heart because it's based on real-life experiences.  Sorry for the brief and hasty blog. I'll be better next time. XOXO


"Girl in Deep" is a coming-of-age novel  set in the seventies about a Midwestern teenager who moves to Georgia and tries to break into the world of Southern gentility.   The novel is reminiscent of  Miss American Pie, Girls in Trucks and Zanesville and is drawn from personal experience.   A description and first-chapter excerpt follows:
It is 1974. Denise Sherman has recently moved from Minnesota to the deep South and doesn’t fit into her new prep school. She’s a scholarship student who doesn’t own a single monogrammed accessory, and shares the same last name as the South’s most despised enemy, General William Tecumseh Sherman.
The majority of her female classmates will lead lifestyles with a predictable succession of milestones: social dance, Cotillion, Spinster’s Club, Junior League, and garden club. For several years, Denise tries to fit into their insular world, but as a middle-class Midwesterner, she isn’t welcome.
Denise assumes she will always be an outsider until she manages to attract the attentions of Nick Kendall, whose mother is doyenne of Southern society. His mother rejects Denise, but eventually the two women bond over a mutual love for poetry.
Adele Kendall indoctrinates Denise in the art Southern social graces, preparing her to be Nick’s wife. However, as Adele’s love for poetry reawakens, she begins to view her traditional Southern lifestyle as limiting and superficial. Adele tries to discourage her daughter-in-law from emulating her past choices but it may be too late. Has Denise delved so deeply into the world of Southern gentility she’s already lost herself?
Girl in Deep is an 85,000 word coming-of-age novel which aims to appeal to readers who enjoyed the collision of social classes and culture in The Yonahlosee Riding Camp for Girls and Prep or those who crave an insider’s view of the upper crust Southern social strata as in Girls in Trucks.  

Chapter One
 “There was a land of Cavaliers and Cotton Fields called the Old South... Here in this pretty world Gallantry took its last bow...
~Ben Hecht

Cabin fever brings out the worst in people.  One winter day in 1973 I was cooped up with my brother Eddie, and the way he tells it, I nearly strangled him over a Monopoly game. Actually I barely touched his neck, but he coughed and gagged so much you’d have thought he was spiraling into the bony embrace of Death.
Earlier that morning we woke to an oddly quiet world; the snow drifts against the house were so thick they muffled outside noises. My dad bullied the front door open with his shoulder, and an icicle--long and sharp as a dagger—exploded on the front stoop. My mom was listening to the radio in the kitchen and she said, “School’s closed today.”
We hardly ever missed school over weather. My family lived in Rochester, Minnesota, and I had to go to school when the temperature outside was fifteen degrees below zero. Do you know what happens when it gets that cold? If you take a whiz outside it turns into steam. If you throw boiling water into the air it turns into snow. And if the temperature plunges low enough, say to thirty-five below zero, the diesel fuel in school buses turn to jelly.
That’s when they finally closed the schools.
The mood in our house that day was festive: Mom made hot cocoa, and me and Eddie hung out in our pajamas. Later we watched back-to-back soap operas (“Dark Shadows,”“The Secret Storm” and “As the World Turns”). Around three o’clock, I suggested Monopoly. Eddie was leery; he accused me of taking board games too seriously. But I finally talked him into it.
The game started out friendly enough. I let Eddie have the little dog because it was his favorite. I also let him to be the banker because he took such earnest pride in the task, licking his fingers as he methodically counted out fake money.  What I didn’t let him to do was win. With each transaction I forced him closer and closer to bankruptcy. Just as I was on the brink of my greatest Monopoly victory ever, Eddie up and quit.
Years later Eddie still likes to tell the story. He always says, “If Mom hadn’t come in the den to call us to supper I might not be alive today.”
My brother is such a drama queen. Like I said, my hands barely grazed his neck. Under normal circumstances, I doubt either of us would have remembered that particular Monopoly game. It only sticks out in our minds because of what happened next.
We were gathered at the supper table; Eddie was still smarting over his non-existent neck injury. He kept saying, “Are their bruises? Are their thumb marks?”
My mom ignored Eddie. She’d seemed preoccupied. Earlier she accidentally stirred strawberry flavored Nesquik into my dad’s glass of Schlitz instead of Eddie’s milk.  A few minutes into the meal she said to my dad: “George. Isn’t there something you wanted to discuss with Denise and Eddie?”
“Now?”  My dad used his index finger to jab his dark-frame glasses higher on his nose.
“Can you think of a better opportunity?” my mom said. She gave him an encouraging  nod.
My dad took his time before speaking, methodically sipping his beer, (a fresh one) wiping his mouth with his napkin. “A week ago I was… Is there any more of this Frito hot dish?”
“George,” my mom said, sounding irritated.
“Yes, well…A week ago…”
My mom spun her wrist in a hurry-up gesture.
He eyed Eddie and me warily; my dad was obviously stalling. What terrible news was he about to deliver?
“A week ago I was offered a position as an administrator at a five-hundred bed hospital,” my dad continued. “I was hesitant at first but…your mother and I have discussed it at length, and even though we hate to uproot you kids, we think that…Of course it wouldn’t happen immediately. Not until the two of you are out of school but---”
“We’re moving,” my mom said. “In June.”
“Moving?” Eddie said. “We can’t move. What about Paul? I can’t leave him.”
“Now, Eddie,” my mom said.
“Everybody but Paul Peterson hates me!”
Eddie was twelve but looked eight with spaghetti arms and a pouty bottom lip. His head was oversized like a baby bird’s. My dad hated the way boys were growing their hair long, and he used an electric shaver to regularly give Eddie close crew cuts that made his head look even bigger.
“Nobody hates you,” my mom said.
That wasn’t technically true. Kids continually chased Eddie around the neighborhood, calling him girlie boy.
“You can’t make me go!” Eddie said.
My brother was a couple of lip trembles away from crying, but instead of crying he hiccupped. He frequently got the hiccups, and when he did, he always feared he’d end up like the Iowa preacher in the Guinness Book of World Records who’d hiccupped for sixty years without stopping.
I was almost as shook up as Eddie. Next year I’d be a junior in high school, and I was anticipating a lively social life. What if we were moving to a prairie town in the middle of nowhere? What if the only entertainment were 4-H meetings, Lutheran church suppers and the occasional date with a soybean farmer?
“Where are we going?” I said.
“Augusta, Georgia,” my mom said.
The news was enough to startle the hiccups out of Eddie. I, too, was temporarily stunned.
“Georgia,” I said finally. “As in the deep South?”
“Yes,” my mom said.
“I hate Georgia,” Eddie said. His hiccups resumed. Not that he’d ever been to Georgia. Neither Eddie nor I had been any farther south than Indiana, but I certainly had some preconceptions about the place. Images of Gomer Pyle, Minnie Pearl, and Foghorn Leghorn marched through my mind. And wasn’t the movie “Deliverance” set in Georgia?
“Augusta, Georgia?” I said. “What kind of place is that?”
My dad speared a lima bean with his fork.  “Well….Augusta has a nearby military base. And a famous golf course called the National. There’s also a bomb plant nearby.”
“I hate bombs!” Eddie said.
If my dad was trying to sell us on the place, he was botching it.
“It’s very warm in Augusta,” my mom said. “People actually wear shorts and flip-flops in February.”
Now I was getting interested. In Rochester we couldn’t wear shorts until June. In February we lumbered about in survival jackets with fur-lined hoods that zipped up to our eyes. Our house had a mud room where we peeled off our snowy outerwear and heavy boots before we were allowed into the main part of the house.
“Augusta is also a beautiful city, filled with dogwood and magnolias trees and antebellum homes,” my mom said. “There’s an old-fashioned graciousness there that you don’t see in the Midwest. In fact---”
The power flicked off, leaving us in darkness. Eddie yelped, and my dad scraped his chair back from the kitchen table, saying “I’ll get a flashlight.” The house was quiet without the furnace, and I wondered how long it would be before the cold would creep in. One time last winter the power went out for three hours, and Eddie feared we would freeze to death overnight.
My dad assured him we’d be fine, just as long as we wore layers and put plenty of blankets on the bed at night.  He said when he was growing up in International Falls, Minnesota the bedrooms were so cold his parents used to keep venison under their bed, and it would stay frozen until May.
Seconds later, the lights switched back on, and the furnace rumbled in the ducts. Eddie, still upset about the move, went running off to his room in tears and my mom followed. I stayed at the kitchen table, contemplating our move to the South.
Even though I’d been born in Minnesota, I’d never felt at home there. My tongue tripped over all the Indian names (Wayzata, Mahtomedi, Edina and Shakopee), I wasn’t a fan of lutefisk (fish that is soaked in so much lye it burns your eyes), and I could care less about lakes. (Minnesota boasts 10,000 of them.)  Most of all I hated the bitter cold.
I’d always had an active imagination and when I was younger, I used to imagine that my mother had brought home the wrong baby from the hospital. She’d left behind her own child and accidentally picked up an infant from somewhere sunny and glamorous, like St. Tropez. (It wasn’t that farfetched.  Rochester was home to the Mayo Clinic; we got visitors from all over the world.)
Instead of flying home to a luxurious villa on the white sands of the Riviera, I went home to a split level house, blocks away from a corn cob-shaped water tower. Instead of cutting my teeth on escargot and pungent fromages, I was raised on tater-tot hot dishes, and marshmallow topped strawberry Jell-O.  In my baby pictures I wore a perplexed look on my face as if I was thinking, “Where are the beautiful people?”
Augusta wasn’t St. Tropez but at least it was warm, and it was different. I was sixteen and primed for a new adventure.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Do's and Don'ts of Public Speaking

by Maria Geraci

When my first book came out in 2009 to say I was overwhelmed would be an understatement. I was new to the world of publishing and things like cover conferences and copy edits and deadlines were a stormy sea I had learned to navigate partly with the help of my agent and other writer friends, and partly by myself (I don't think anyone can really teach you to dog paddle. There is nothing more motivating than sink or swim.).

What I wasn't expecting, however, were the requests I had for interviews and public speaking. The interviews were easy because other than a few phone interviews and one live meet-and-greet at the local Starbucks, most of those were conducted online. I had time to think of my answers and produce some sort of semi-intelligent, semi-witty response. At least, I hope that's how they came across.

When I was asked by a friend from my Bunco group to come speak to the local Rotary club, I was a little flummoxed.

"Why would they want to hear from me?" I asked.

"Oh, we invite speakers all the time. Don't worry! You'll be fabulous. Tell them how you got published. Everyone is always interested in that."

Okay, I thought to myself. My friend was right. One thing I had learned early on is that most people are always fascinated by how authors get published. I jotted down a few notes on a set of index cards, dressed up in business casual and met my friend in front of the local civic center where the Rotary Club met for lunch and their monthly meeting.

When I walked into the room, my pulse began to jump. It was packed. Full of people in business suits (men and women) busy eating their sit down lunch and networking with one another. I was escorted to the "head" table in front of the room and placed between two gentleman. The one to my left introduced himself as some sort of big shot with the Boy Scouts of America. The gentleman to my right was older (probably early to mid seventies), polite, but a bit reserved. My friend was seated at the end of the table. She gave me a thumbs up and a big smile and told me not to worry. The president of the club, whom my friend had introduced me to earlier, asked me how long my speech was.

How long was my speech? How was I supposed to know? I mean, was I supposed to have timed this?

I shrugged and said something along the lines of, "Oh, not too long."

She frowned. Then said something along the lines of,  "You have exactly twenty minutes and fourteen seconds. I'll be timing you." (Not really, but that's how it felt).

I then learned that I was going to be the 3rd speaker of the afternoon. Which meant I could relax a bit as the other 2 speakers did their thing. This would also be the perfect opportunity to slyly study my index cards.

The first speaker was introduced. She appeared to be a teenage girl and I immediately relaxed. I mean, how eloquent could she be? Then she made her way to the podium and that's when I noticed that she had some sort of physical disability. She was there to thank the Rotary Club for their sponsorship to a summer camp she had attended. Her speech was more than eloquent. It was elegant and full of warm gratitude to the group that had financially assisted her to fulfill a personal goal. There wasn't a dry eye in the house when she was done.

My damp palms were now clutching the Index Cards in a death grip.

Boy Scout Guy to my left must have noticed how nervous I looked because he leaned over and said, "You'll be fine."

I nodded numbly.

Then they introduced the next speaker who turned out to be older gentleman to my right. I heaved a sigh of relief. He shuffled his way to the podium and Boy Scout Guy whispered something like, "Yeah, you'll be great!" I mean, how good could this old guy be? Right?

Old Guy took a folded piece of paper out of his jacket pocket and read a small snippet of an article to the audience. The article was about a new form of social media called Twitter (remember, this was 2009). He then began to do an entire bit about his "generation" and social media and Twitter. I laughed so hard I was nearly in tears (as was the rest of the audience).

Then, it was my turn.

My friend introduced me and the audience politely clapped. I clutched my Index cards and began my not-so-prepared speech, fully aware that there was no way I could be as touching as the first speaker or as funny as the second. As I was fudging my way through the talk, I happened to notice someone out of the corner of my eye making hand gestures. It was the club president, tapping on her watch to indicate that my time was up. How long had I spoken? I glanced at my own watch and was horrified to see that I'd been speaking almost 45 minutes, and I wasn't even half-way through my life story! I quickly mumbled a conclusion and found my seat. More polite clapping ensued.

On my way out the civic center, I cornered my friend.

"Be honest, did I suck?"

"No! You were awesome."

Yes, she's a good friend :)

Luckily, I think over the years I've improved my skills just a bit. My own personal Do's and Dont's?


Set a time limit on your speech. No one wants to hear someone go on and on and on and....
Find out about your audience ahead of time.
Pick a narrow topic. Be specific.
Try to maintain good eye contact.
Allow time for questions.
Thank your audience afterward. Mingle, shake hands. And don't forget to thank the person who invited you to speak.


Wear something uncomfortable/unflattering.
Eat right before you speak (unless you can go to the bathroom and brush your teeth!)
Use inappropriate language. Be professional!

Above all: Be yourself and have a good time!

Maria Geraci writes humorous romantic women's fiction. You can check out her website at

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

What doesn't kill you makes you stronger

by Michele Young-Stone, author of THE HANDBOOK FOR LIGHTNING STRIKE SURVIVORS and the forthcoming, ABOVE US ONLY SKY, Simon & Schuster, early 2015.

My dad used to drink beer and piss in the driveway.  My elementary school friends used to laugh and
make fun of me.  My dad never said my name without saying, "God damn it," first, as a preface, like it was part of my name.  He took a belt to me and my sister when he felt it was warranted.  When I got breasts, my dad was disappointed and stopped spending time with me.  I was supposed to be a boy.  I was supposed to be called Eric.  

I was too sensitive...

What doesn't kill you makes you stronger. 

I often think that if it weren't for my dad, I wouldn't understand the world or myself or people as well as I do.  I'm grateful for my father.  I'm grateful for the drama I've survived.  

I won't ever express in words all the chaos I've endured.  I write fiction.  But I know the chaos.  I know the damaged people.  I'm one of them.  That's how I'm able to tell stories.  

I always tell people, "At a young age, I was written off as a future homeless/bag lady."  Nah!  Never listen to anyone who tells you what you're supposed to be--who puts you down.  I'm a writer.  I'm a novelist.  I'm a mother, a wife, and a woman always striving to do the best I can.  

Pursue what you love.  Find your cheese.  Eat your cake.  Live your life the best way you know how. Be happy!


This is my website.


Monday, April 14, 2014

Happy Passover from the GBC!

"Let all who are hungry come and eat."

To all our readers, the GBC wishes you peace, fulfillment and nourishment of every kind. And to our friends who observe this holiday, a zissen Pesach!