Thursday, March 28, 2013

How To Write A Novel In Ten Minutes A Day

by Samantha Wilde

In New England, if you don't pay attention, you miss spring altogether. Winter lingers, wind keeps blowing, one day the snow melts and then the next day it's ninety degrees and you're sunbathing in a bikini on your front lawn. The time I have in my day to write is exactly like that. If I don't pay serious attention, I've lost if before I can fix myself a cup of tea.

Now I won't say that I don't occasionally envy full-time writers the leisure they enjoy, the luxury of writing an entire sentence without interruption, but the absence of writing time has a few upsides and I want to share them with you. If you are having trouble finding time to write, if you want to write but can't quit your day job, if you want to write but stay-at-home with your children, if you have put off writing until the time in your life when you can do it, I am here to say: if you have ten minutes, you too can write a novel!

LOOK! I wrote a book!
When I wrote my first novel, This Little Mommy Stayed Home, I did actually write the entire thing during my nine month old son's nap times. One hour in the morning, one hour in the afternoon. If you don't believe me, you can ask my son. I don't doubt he really remembers it! Seriously, you can ask my husband. During that time, he worked fourteen hour days except when he worked for sixteen hours so I never actually saw him when the sun shone. All right, you'll have to take my word for it! For my second novel, I'll Take What She Has, I did have a few hours of childcare a week, until my advance money ran out, and then I went back to the nap time routine. More recently, virtually every last word of my third novel got onto the paper after my children went to sleep, after 8:30 p.m. until I fell asleep.

My husband and I watched this movie, Get Bruce, the other night about the behind the scenes writer, Bruce Vilanch, who works with  many of the biggest comedians. At one point toward the end of the film, he makes an astute observation about himself and the hugely famous people he works for (I'm paraphrasing here): to be really big, you have to want it and nothing else.

Here's the truth about writing. No one can make you do it. My six year old will testify to that. If you have ten hours a day to write a novel, you can spend five of it on Facebook and the other five on Tweeter. You have to really, really want to write to make it happen.

You know what else I learned from the Get Bruce film? Comedians work terrifically hard. In a way, this surprised me because I thought, since it looks so effortless, that these were simply funny people who stood up and talked. To the contrary. The same goes for writers. We imagine that a writer magically writes like a robin sings. Not so, my friends. Except for those people who channel enlightened beings, no book has ever really just written itself.

And now you probably want some kind of practical tips.

1. First, let go of the myths that writing needs lots of time and comes easily. You can write in the time you have. Really. You need to believe this. If you don't, say it to yourself. A lot.

2. Get single-minded. If you have only thirty minutes a day, you can't allow yourself to get distracted by the dust bunnies, the inbox, or your insecurities. You must really want to write, then take the time you have, however paltry, and do it like you're dying.

3. Get good at quilting. Not real quilting, writing quilting. In other words, write a patch. Use your ten minutes to write one patch. Later, use another few minutes to write a patch. The next time you have ten minutes, stitch the patches together.

4. Write mentally. When you can't write, work the story/plot/character issues out in your head. Showering is good for this, or driving, walking, or waiting in line, but probably not when you're talking to your spouse.

5. Let the other stuff go. You have to be willing, for the sake of doing one thing, to let go of some of the other stuff. For me, my house is not so tidy most days. I can't tell you I love the heaping pile of clothes at the end of my bed, but I'm willing to neglect it in order to write.

Your turn. Tell me how you've written your book on the back of a grocery receipt or during a PBS fundraiser or in one all-nighter.

Samantha Wilde's latest novel, I'll Take What She Has, was an RT Reviews Top Pick, "With her easy, amusing, narrative style, Wilde speaks the language of women and communicates what lies in their hearts...a gem of a read." Publishers Weekly wrote, "With wit, compassion, and a keen ear for dialogue Wilde explores issues of insecurity, envy, young motherhood, and friendship in this fast-paced work." Her mother, bestselling novelist Nancy Thayer says, "It's almost as good as mine!" The mother of three small children, she's also a yoga teacher and an ordained minister. Like her on Facebook because it makes her feel good. Check out her blog on mothering or find out more about her on her website.

Monday, March 25, 2013

My Creative Process: The Stinky Snoozy Truth by Ariella Papa

I have a friend who is a rock star. She is a singer-songwriter. Sometimes when I turn on the TV, I catch one of her songs in the soundtrack and it makes me proud.
She is also REALLY good about keeping her fans in the loop of what is up with her in an authentic way. I envy that and I feel I have a lot to learn about being  more open and engaging my readers. Recently she sent out a dispatch about the making of her latest album complete with photos of the process. I enjoyed the pictures of the snowy cabin she went up to for the weekend with her gear and guitars and the shots of her and a bunch of cute boy musicians sitting around making music. There was video of some rough jams that still sounded awesome, like an old-school MTV Unplugged. It was all super creative and fun.

I began to imagine what it would be like if someone was here documenting my process and how different it would be. What exactly would these masochists documentarians find? Many days, if I am writing, the only thing cute around here is the dog and she distracts me with her adorableness so much that I can't possibly figure out how to work through that slow middle section. Though I do have an actual desk, I write a lot of it from the couch. My battered computer is my only real gear. Truly a lot of the pictures would just be of me staring into space waiting, wondering, hoping that the ideas will flow. The photographer would probably get a number of shots of procrastination–be it checking my Amazon status, going to the fridge for my fifth slice of Colby Jack or just a teeny scoop of hummus and of course the ever constant google searches which might start with how to spell an Italian expression   and end in video tutorial of how to make Korean short ribs. 

Like, I guess, Tori Amos on her piano, I do sort of bang on my keyboard when I get going. This makes people think I am a fast typer, but no, nope just a loud one. But maybe this would be something for the videographer. Music, if you will. (I know, I know, you probably won't, though you might if you were going down the search engine rabbit hole and couldn't figure out how to end the chapter.) 

And then just when the deadline is really looming, I hunker down, I actually move to the desk and forgo the constant snacking. When I'm in the weeds, I  stay in my jammies, not brushing my hair or really thinking about what I might smell like. That would be one for the fans.

What about YOU? What's does your process look and sound like? What great tidbits have YOU uncovered about the universe when you should have been making your dialogue sound more real? And is that the smell of creativity or just forgotten deodorant? Let's discuss.

Ariella Papa is the author of Momfriends and more. Her latest novel, A Semester Abroad, will be out very soon.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Interview with Susan Blumberg-Kason – Author of “Good Chinese Wife” – by Wendy Tokunaga @Wendy_Tokunaga

I’d like to welcome my client and friend, Susan Blumberg-Kason to The Girlfriends Book Club today. Her debut memoir, “Good Chinese Wife” has just been sold to Sourcebooks and will come out in Spring 2014…

Tell us briefly what “Good Chinese Wife” is about.

It’s a memoir of my five-year marriage to a man from central China. We met during my first semester of grad school in Hong Kong almost twenty years ago. At that point, I was twenty-three and had already lived in Hong Kong for a year in college. So when we met that fall, I thought I was an Old China Hand. But as I would find out, I was grossly mistaken, especially when it came to Chinese family life. My memoir chronicles the culture—and personality—clashes I experienced with Li. The story is mostly set in Hong Kong, Mainland China, and San Francisco. I’m probably the only person in the world who had a rough time living in San Francisco!

Walk us through your road to publication. About how long did it take from when you first started writing the memoir and when you got your book deal?

I could write a book about how not to go about publishing a memoir! The whole thing took five years.

Back in 2008 when I had a few chapters I’d written here and there, I found a database of agents on and sent out a dozen letters. Within a few days I received several requests for the first fifty pages. I eagerly awaited my offer of representation! But after several months of rejections (of my query letter, but also sometimes after an agent had requested fifty pages), I decided to look for an independent editor. I worked with a few, but then I stumbled upon your novel, Midori By Moonlight, and checked out your website (and also found you on We worked together until the winter of 2011 when it seemed like the manuscript and query letter were as polished as could be.

Just after the New Year, I sent out a dozen query letters to agents. Before the end of January, I received an offer from Carrie Pestritto at Prospect Agency! Carrie explained early on that finding an editor was a lot like searching for an agent. It takes time and patience and probably several rounds of revisions. And that proved to be the case. After a couple rounds of submissions and more revisions, by early 2013 we felt like we were in a great place with the manuscript. Carrie waited for Valentine’s Day to submit to a new batch of editors. Ten days later we had an offer from Sourcebooks! I’m thrilled to join their fabulous list of memoirs set abroad. I also love Sourcebooks because they work closely with their writers to publicize and market their books.

What made you decide to write this memoir? Did you ever consider turning it into a novel?

When I was feeling alone and desperate in my first marriage, I sometimes searched for a memoir about someone going through a similar experience. I knew there had to be other women (or men) out there who struggled with marriage to a person from a foreign country. But I found nothing in the library or on Amazon. It was after my divorce attorney asked me to write about all the problems that occurred in my marriage (in case we went to trial) that knew I could write that memoir. I didn’t consider turning it into a novel, even though other writers and editors suggested that a couple of times. I thought the story would seem more compelling as a memoir, and I wanted other women or men to know that if they were in a similar situation, they might be able to turn things around before it was too late. My agent agreed that we should keep it a memoir.

What advice would you give writers who are writing memoirs?

Unless you’re a celebrity or have amazing clips, I wouldn’t worry too much about your proposal and would instead concentrate on finishing your manuscript. Agents these days usually sell memoir the same way they sell fiction. In other words, they send out the full manuscript instead of a few chapters and a proposal. I probably queried a hundred agents during those four years and was only asked for a proposal once. It’s a good idea to create one just in case, but don’t overthink it or spend too much time on it.

I’m also slightly obsessed with memoir structure these days, so if you have a creative way to present your story, that will only help. I have to say, though, that I’m getting tired of chapters beginning with random quotes. There are ways to be more creative than that.

What are the challenges in writing memoir?

For a long time I had trouble self-reflecting and sharing intimate details, things I couldn’t even tell my friends and family for many years. As a reader, I find it extremely frustrating when a memoirist holds back. And it’s easy to detect; if the reader has any questions at the end of the story, the memoirist hasn’t done her job. So I tried to keep that in mind when I wrote, yet it was difficult to be so forthcoming until this last round of revisions. I think it’s safe to say that I cover all grounds now!

Did you consider self-publishing your book? Why did you want to pursue traditional publishing?

I didn’t think about self-publishing “Good Chinese Wife” because in 2006 and 2008, I self-published a guidebook to drinking tea in Chicago ( “All the Tea in Chicago” ). I felt rushed to publish those books before someone else beat me to it. Of course I didn’t know back then that it’s not a bad thing to publish a book that’s already been done. When my tea books came out, there were three dog guidebooks for Chicago! A good idea can spread pretty thin and still work. Self-publishing my guidebook was a fun and rewarding experience, but I wanted to try something different for my memoir. I was hopeful for a publisher that would help me with publicity and marketing. In Sourcebooks, I’ve found just that!  

What advice would you give to writers in searching for an agent?

Stay patient. It only takes one person to fall in love with your manuscript. If you continue to receive the same comments in rejection letters, incorporate those suggestions into your revisions. And if you receive requests for chapters or the full manuscript, that’s a good sign. It means you should persevere and work on your manuscript until you get an offer. If you don’t receive any bites from agents, you’ll need to rethink your query letter, story, or maybe both. Don’t be afraid to seek out an independent editor or a writing partner. And never take rejection personally. 

What is your favorite Chinese restaurant in the U.S. and why is it your favorite?

You saved the most difficult question for last! When I lived in San Francisco, Yank Sing was my favorite. It was so elegant and pricey that I could only go when my parents visited from out of town. Their dim sum was so fresh and beautifully designed. Although in Hong Kong I enjoyed eating at grungy Cantonese coffee shops, I have a thing for elegant Chinese restaurants. Maybe it’s a way to escape. Yank Sing has beautiful décor and certainly took me away from the chaos at home when I ate there a few times in the 1990s. I’d love to hear about other favorite Chinese restaurants!

Follow Susan on Twitter: @Susan_BK  and check out her blog and website at:


Wendy Nelson Tokunaga is the author of the novels, "Midori by Moonlight"and "Love in Translation" (both published by St. Martin's Press), and the e-book novels, "Falling Uphill" and "His Wife and Daughters," and e-book short story, “The Girl in the Tapestry.” She's also the author of the nonfiction e-book, "Marriage in Translation: Foreign Wife, JapaneseHusband." Her short story "Love Right on the Yesterday" appears in the anthology "Tomo," published by Stone Bridge Press, and her essay "Burning Up" is included in "Madonna and Me: Women Writerson the Queen of Pop." Wendy holds an MFA in Creative Writing from University of San Francisco and teaches for Stanford University's Online Writer's Studio Novel Certificate Program. She also does private manuscript consulting for novels and memoirs. Follow her on Twitter at @Wendy_Tokunaga, friend her on Facebook and visit her website at:

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Book Giveaway! Enter to Win

The Sunshine When She's Gone by Thea Goodman

When Veronica Reed wakes up one frigid January morning, two things are “off”—first of all, she has had a good night’s sleep, which hasn’t happened in months, and second, both her husband and her baby are gone. Grateful for the much-needed rest, Veronica doesn’t, at first, seriously question her husband’s trip out to breakfast with baby Clara. Little does she know, her spouse has fled lower Manhattan, with Clara, for some R&R in the Caribbean.

Told through alternating points of view, The Sunshine When She's Gone explores the life-changing impact of parenthood on a couple as individuals and as partners. Thea Goodman brings us into intimacies made tense by sleep-deprivation and to losses and gains made more real by acknowledging them. Here is the story of a couple pushed to the edge and a desperate father’s attempt give them both space to breathe.

Intrigued? Here's some praise:

The Sunshine When She's Gone is a fresh breath of fiction with rich characters and an engrossing plot, in which Goodman makes the drudgery of new parenting seem utterly exciting. . . . a fast-paced, riveting story out of the pitfalls of new parenthood.” – Shelf Awareness (starred)

"Manhattanites, lovers, parents, readers: This gorgeously human novel is not to be missed."-- Redbook Magazine
"On the one hand ... a comedy of manners. . . .On the other hand . . . a darker, raw look at what happens to a person’s identity when nobody’s looking." –, a Book of the Week selection
“A page-turning portrait of a couple in crisis.”— 
“. . . This book is so good. . . Goodman’s language has an understated poetry to it, particularly in illustrating the relentlessness of raising a baby. . .  She is at her best in describing the selfish, often bewildering feelings of new parents handicapped by sleep deprivation, when the constant buzzing irritation of wakefulness twists and magnifies a spouse’s shortcomings into fatal character flaws.” – Chicago Magazine

“Sprightly . . . Like every comedy of errors, this novel makes us wince, then grin with relief.”—More Magazine

"Thea Goodman shines in The Sunshine When She’s Gone."—Vanity Fair
"A deft account of love and its sacrifices."—Marie Claire
"[An] exhausted-new-parent fantasy. . . Readers…laughed a lot."—Elle "Readers’ Prize" Pick, March 2013

LEAVE YOUR NAME and EMAIL ADDRESS IN COMMENT SECTION TO WIN. USA ONLY PLEASE! Winner will be contacted Sunday night after 9 p.m.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Spring Unsprung...Or Maybe It's Just Me...

It's Spring!  Well, it's supposed to be Spring.  I think it is going to be 2 degrees outside tonight, buy hey - the calendar says it's Spring!  Gotta look for that silver lining wherever you can, am I right?

So, I'll forget the snow and ice outside and pretend it's a balmy 68.  Spring gets my head in the game as a writer.  I spend the late fall through winter months hibernating - lurking on loops and blogs, trying to find excuses to stay in my flannel sheets all day...that kind of thing. 

But Spring makes me want to launch stuff.  I'm getting ready to launch a short story collection featuring my Bombay Family of Assassins Series...but I'm also trying something new...

I'm going to post a serialized funny sci-fi book, starting with the first 100 pages, in April!  GASP!
This book may be the true book of my heart.  I'm a sci-fi geek and I LOVE funny sci-fi - Douglas Adams, Terry Pratchett (well, more fantasy) and Jasper Fforde.  I'm launching a book I've been working on for years.

My publishers said, 'funny sci-fi' won't sell.  My agent loved it but said that funny sci-fi won't sell.  Another agent who sells to a major sci-fi publisher looked at it and said it was funny, but it won't sell.

It's not hard sci-fi as much as it is more satire.  I love it.  My critique partners love it.  My author friends love it.  We shall now see if it will, actually sell.  I'm setting the bar pretty high - 10 sales to people who are not my mother - nor who were strongarmed by my mother to buy it.  Ten sales (ten thousand would be nice) that give good reviews on Amazon, BN, whatever.  Ten strangers who take a chance on it and love it.

That's all I need for validation.  Then I'll do my 'nyah nyah nyah nyah nyah' dance.  I promise to let you know how it goes.

In fact, here on this blog, I'm giving you the world premiere first sneak peek of DR. AWKWARD: A Bob Palindrome in Space Adventure!  Here you go:


Chapter 1

Do geese see God?


            Bob Palindrome sighed.  Time to save the world.  Again.  Using his rude, middle finger he depressed the green, wailing button for the seventh time this week.  As the siren stopped, the planet returned to its previous state of not-being-in-danger. 

            Not that there was much to saving the world.  All you needed was an appendage of some sort, a small amount of pressure to push the button and the will, or at least, the interest to do so.  A decidedly dull venture.

            Eve stuck her extremely large and swollen head (which at this point was the size of a dishwasher, if dishwashers were oval in shape) through the doorway.  “All good then?”

            Bob nodded and his grotesquely perky cousin removed her head, giving the doorway the appearance of correct size again.  Rising to his feet, Bob stretched his athletic, six-foot-five frame to full length.  How had he gotten talked into this job?

            He was utterly bored.  All he did was sit and push the damn button.  It wasn’t like he was saving lives or anything.  Oh, wait – yes it was.

            It was all Eve’s fault.  Okay, well it really wasn’t her fault that the planet was so silly it required constant button pushing to avoid obliteration.  That was actually the fault of the Python Templars – the pilgrims who settled here.  And their line of reasoning for the button?  It seemed like a good idea at the time. 

            No, Eve needed help and since Bob was currently (and rather unfortunately) free of work at the moment, here he sat.  And with his Ford space truck down in the bay for repairs and the U-net on the fritz, he hadn’t heard from Lola, so there was no hope for escape from the monotony of saving this stupid planet.

            Bob rubbed his eyes and thought of what usually came to mind at these moments – his father.  It was Otto Palindrome who invented this parallel dimension, which he named Mad Adam, and the planets that existed here.  He stumbled upon the simple equation that allowed him to create a new universe while cleaning bird shit off of his minivan.  Something about the splatter pattern spoke to Otto and by the end of the following day, he had invented the parallel universe.  By the end of that year, all 1001 planets had been delivered, custom ordered by 1001 special interest groups.  And it was because of his father that he was doing this instead of what he really wanted to do.

            “Care for a sandwich?” Eve shouted from the other room sounding strangely like a rusty bell ringing.

            “Sure.  What the hell.”  Bob shouted back.  He could hear his cousin shuffling around on the other side of the door. 

            Being that she was his relative, Eve Palindrome usually drove Bob to the brink of frustration, somehow managing to pull him back before he hurt anyone, or himself.  They got along okay and she was fairly decent to work with.  It was just that swollen, misshapen head.  That really annoyed Bob.  Not because it was so large, but because it was kind of his fault.

            Eve had helped Bob a couple of years back on the planet S. S. Enterprise – a planet consisting of four million Trekkies (which was 3,999,999 more Trekkies than Bob thought was necessary in the universe, but that was beside the point).  The planet wasn’t such a bad place to visit, once you A) got past the hundreds of thousands of Captain Kirk-a-likes and their appalling over-acting, and B) realized you didn’t have to stay there – in fact – never had to visit again.  The planet Earth even awarded Bob’s dad the first ever Key To The Planet for finding a home for these people. 

            No, the worst part was when some idiot decided it would be fun to re-create the Great Tribble Invasion from the television show.  Cloning the furry lumps turned out to be ridiculously easy.  Apparently you just needed salt, Mexican jumping beans and the DNA of a long-haired guinea pig.  Within minutes of creating the first one, Adrian WapCaplett (after screaming “It’s alive!  It’s alive!” over and over and thus annoying his neighbors) discovered that the creatures were asexual and could reproduce once they were exactly five minutes and thirty-two seconds of age. 

            The Tribble infestation commenced after three hours and within a week, every heating duct, sewer system and phone line (Bob never did figure that one out) was clogged.  And, every human being was horribly allergic to the little beasts, causing an impressive mucus problem followed by a disastrous tissue shortage. 

            Bob and Eve spent several days on the problem before they discovered that Tribbles melt when you accidentally spill Diet Coke on them.   By the following Thursday, the Tribbles had been reduced to a slimy, yellow goo and the crisis was averted.

            Bob’s allergic reaction to the Tribbles cleared up immediately upon return to Earth, but Eve’s exposure caused her head to swell on and off to rather alarming sizes.  Several doctors worked round the clock so her skull wouldn’t burst.  It wasn’t until the application of several space leeches that she began to look normal, although she still experienced the occasional relapse.  Bring her within twenty yards of an Abyssinian Guinea Pig and her noggin would swell up to the size of a Macy’s parade float.

Well, there you have it!

Wish me luck!

Leslie Langtry

Wednesday, March 20, 2013


Judith Arnold

This month, the Girlfriends are blogging about “Spring Fling.” A perfectly appropriate topic, given that rumor has it spring is indeed flinging somewhere. In my little corner of New England, spring has flung more than six cold, heavy inches of snow onto us. Last week, before our most recent snow storm, enough snow had melted to allow me a glimpse of the pointy green tips of my daffodils breaking through the soil. Now, alas, they are once again buried beneath icy mounds of white. But I have faith that eventually beautiful yellow daffodils will grace my front yard like the floral equivalent of sunshine.

My certainty that my daffodils will return each spring could be a symptom of dementia. At least this year, when we’ve received significantly more snow than usual, folks in this part of the country might be forgiven for believing spring will never ever ever arrive. But I’m a writer. You can’t be a writer if you don’t possess a hefty streak of optimism.

Our books start as nothing, after all. They have no life, no reality. They come into existence only because we—their authors—believe in them, believe enough to do the hard work of cultivating them, coaxing them out of the earth and into the air. We fertilize them. We prune them. We fuss and fret over them. We yank out the weeds that threaten to choke them. And if we’re lucky, they blossom.

I’ve just completed the rough draft of a new book, temporarily titled Kickback. It’s a sequel to my first mystery, Still Kicking, which will be released in late 2013 or 2014. Like Still Kicking, Kickback features as its heroine Lainie Lovett, a fourth-grade school teacher and recreational soccer player. In the first book, Lainie manages to figure out who murdered the husband of one of her soccer teammates. In the sequel, Lainie is confronted with several mysteries, one of which is the disappearance of all the money—a sizable sum—from the bank account of her school’s Parent Teacher Organization. One of the organization’s biggest fund-raising events is the carnival it holds every May. The name of the carnival? Spring Fling! I wish I could say I invented that name for the carnival, but I did not. When my sons attended primary school, their school’s PTO sponsored a Spring Fling every May. I’ll bet many other school organizations sponsor events they call “Spring Fling.” The name just sounds so…spring-y.

So even though the weather outside my window still screams winter, I’ll write about Spring Flings. I’ll wait for my daffodils to fling off the mantle of snow and bloom. I’ll count the days until I can fling aside my scarves and sweaters and dance in my yard (rumor has it there’s a lawn under all that white stuff.) Maybe I’ll have a fling with my husband!

And in the meantime, I’ll remain a mildly demented optimist. I’m a writer. What else can I do?

Judith Arnold is the author of 87 novels, many of which she has reissued as ebooks. On March 25th, for one day only, one of her most popular, award-winning novels, Safe Harbor, will be available at a special discount price of only 99 cents at Amazon, B&N, Smashwords and Kobo. You can visit her web site,, for information about all her releases.

Spring Has Sprung

by Jacqueline E. Luckett

I don’t see spring the same way I used to. I mean that literally, because my current neighborhood is composed of concrete, an estuary, a train station, a few great restaurants and wineries, and restored brick buildings. The few trees around here live in 4’ by 4’ square dirt plots intermittently set between sections of sidewalk. The trees aren’t really the kind that let you know that spring has sprung—they don’t bloom or bear fruit, birdies don’t make nests in them and there aren’t any birds perched on their branches to sing a wake-up song in the morning (neither is there bird poop on my car).

Ahhhh, the pleasures of urban living!

Still, I love spring; even this new iteration of it. Adaptation to environment (Darwin would be proud).  I look forward to opening my eyes and exploring my city for other signs of this wonderful time of year.

How I know spring has sprung:

. . . California false starts: rain and cold on Monday and 70-degrees by the weekend
. . . long days, evening walks when it’s still light outside
. . . the itch to be and stay outside
. . . plum tree blossoms
. . . news stories about the antics of college-kids-gone-wild at spring break
. . . the urge to clean tile grout, reorganize closets and kitchen cabinets (maybe that’s just me)
. . . taxes are due
. . . pussy willows
. . . the smell of cut grass
. . . rhododendrons blooming in my mother’s garden
. . . my car coated with pollen
. . . flea markets
. . . asparagus, strawberries, mint
. . . Easter; rack of lamb, and pastel covered Hershey’s kisses

How do you know it’s spring?

Jacqueline can be found appreciating spring on the streets, hills, and waterfront of her hometown, Oakland. She assures us that there are many. Jacqueline is the author of PASSING LOVE and SEARCHING FOR TINA TURNER.

All photos ©Jacqueline Luckett 2013. Please do not use without permission.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Sowing the Seeds and Trusting They Will Grow
(Or, My Life Since January)
by: Sandra Novack
Dearest Peeps:

Spring has arrived!  Yay!  Last year at this time it was 85 degrees and I went on vacation; this year it’s not even 32 degrees, sleety, cold, and I am writing this to you from my 1914 home, where I have my ass parked on a heating vent.  Hey, I take warmth where and when I find it.  (By the way:  I learned that particular lesson from my cats, particularly Ouija, my fawn lynx-point Oriental, seen below.)

Like our minds and hearts, the seasons have their own atmospheres, too.  Ups, downs, highs, lows, blanched or cold ground, blossoms or blooms.  Always in this is the necessity and beauty of change itself.  It got me thinking: This is very similar to the patterns I often experience in my writing and professional life, as well.

I confess that I’ve been spring flinging.  New people, new relationships, new ideas.  You know the saying, “If you build it, he will come”?  Well, I asked for even BETTER than I’ve been getting in the past, and lately, both people and new energy have just been, well…showing up.  Out of the blue.  With very little effort on my part, or worry.

My spring cleaning started on January 1st, in the heart of winter. I made a list, an actual “manifestation board” (don’t laugh; it works!), of all the things I wanted to happen in 2013.  It was my way of setting the seeds of intention.  I included more support in writing, a new publishing contract, more money, more recognition, and that was just the start.  I let my big, big heart ask, and more importantly, trust

Then I cleaned house, which involved some tough decisions. When I say ‘tough’, I sort of lie, because my gut had been telling me I needed changes for months, yet my brain was worried I would somehow be left in the lurch.  Finally I just decided to validate how I was feeling.  Scary, right?  Well, Yes and No.  It was very exciting, too!  Clearing out the old can open some pretty valuable real estate space for new people/energies/ideas to inhabit.

The funniest thing I can report re: the “board”:  On Jan. 1st, I wrote down “Publishing Contract” (as in “for a book”).  Within three hours of that, the mail came, and out of the blue, I opened an envelope and saw the words “Publishing Contract” for a project I put in for months before (and had honestly forgotten about).  It wasn’t a book contact, mind you (maybe I should have been more specific!), but it made me laugh, anyway.  The universe can have a wonderfully sweet sense of humor, too--little things that let you know your intentions are heard, always, and immediately.

It’s March now, and I can report:  So far I have gotten four things already, and one was a very big thing, and involved a major industry name and longtime icon reading my work and loving it and hopping on the “Sandy train.”  For this love, I am truly grateful.  

So: What about you?  What good things do you want in the 2013, beyond spring?  It’s never too late to plant some seeds.  My wish for all of you?  May you know you are always supported and guided, My Sweetest Friends, in and to your highest goals and intentions.  Much love your way, and happy writing!


Sandra Novack’s novel PRECIOUS was a Booklist Top Ten Debut of 2009.  Her short story collection, EVERYONE BUT YOU, was published in 2011. Currently she is feeling some great mojo and love for her newest book.  Visit her at:  

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Housekeeping with Clarabel

By Laura Spinella

I come from the before-moms-went-to-work generation, so keeping house is what my mother did.  She was damn good at it, still is at 84. At my house, on any given day, you could eat a meal off the floor of your choosing. During the deep cleaning rituals of spring and fall, this perpetual state of spotlessness reached a new threshold. They are scrubbed clean slivers of time that I remember well. It’s also something I couldn’t imitate if you threatened to dunk my head in a bucket of bleach. On those two days of the year, we’d come through the front door to a nose full of Windex, every Electrolux attachment on duty, and Mother poised on a step ladder. She wasn’t wearing pearls, but she surely wouldn’t have stood in front of an open window without makeup on or her hair done. By the time we got home, she’d worked her way to the changing of the curtains—kind of like the changing of the guard, only more formal. Years removed, the memory of that gold-tweed fabric evokes the crisp scent of fall, the same way a blooming cherry tree makes me think of bright white sheers. We had beautiful curtains (Mother sewed them all) along with Sunday roast beef dinners and a no-nonsense, “Drink some orange juice, go to school, you’ll feel better,” approach to life. It wasn’t the touchy-feely, my kids are the center of universe, attitude we often see today, but it did manage to get my sisters and me to here.
Bayport, New York, circa 1965. Cherry tree, pre-blossom.
Mother and I are not kindred spirits, which is not a problem, just the way it is. We get along fine, but it isn’t the relationship I have with my daughters. Although, on the right day, my daughters would probably tell you that we don’t see eye-to-eye on everything either. Bill O’Reilly, Nicholas Sparks novels, tiny china teacups and pantyhose are just a few of the things that I can’t get my mind around. Mother, on the other hand, takes exception to my lackadaisical politics, supersize glasses of wine, and often crass sense of humor.  Here, however, is where we sync perfectly: when I think of the way Mother kept house, I think of the way I write. Cleaning was just a broad term for every minute task that went into the maintenance of her home. She would purge and polish, refresh and review with a relentless eye. Dinner was an event, complete with an ironed tablecloth, dessert included, served precisely at 5:30 p.m. on weeknights. On summer Tuesdays the wash hung outside and on Thursdays bathrooms were scrubbed clean—period. Mother did everything she could to make her space—our space—the absolute best it could be. Admittedly, the book writing process is not Mother’s forte, why it takes so long, or why I invest insane amounts of time writing, researching, editing and rewriting. I mean, seriously, isn’t the wash piling up somewhere? But I do have an answer when she questions my all-consuming nature, a dogged insistence on my optimal performance. I remind Mother, “I’m only doing exactly what you taught me.” 

Laura Spinella is the author of the award-winning novel, BEAUTIFUL DISASTER and the upcoming novel, PERFECT TIMING. Visit her at 

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Too Many Cards

by Sara Rosett

A few years ago the constant question at the checkout was, “Would you like to open a ___ account?” (Fill in the blank with the store name.)

Stores wanted customers to open charge accounts. My standard answer was always, “No, thanks. I have too many cards as it is.”

I’ve noticed that the would-you-like-to-open-a-charge-account question is passé. The newest thing is the loyalty card. Now the cashier asks, “Would you like to join our club?”

You might think that the economic downturn is the reason for the switch, but it’s not. Long before we stopped charging and started saving, companies were beginning to realize that having information about customer purchasing habits could be just as valuable as being able to charge interest on unpaid credit card balances.

At first, I didn't join the loyalty clubs at the grocery store—I didn’t really want some corporate drone tracking my purchases, but I’ll admit it was the milk that got me to fill out one of those applications. Milk for less than three dollars? I couldn’t resist.

So anyway, I now have a ton of those cards. I filled out the applications to get the initial discounts and frequent military moves have insured that I have just about every card you can think of:  Safeway, Giant, CVS, Borders, Barnes & Noble, Eddie Bower, R.E.I., Winn Dixie, Wegmen's, Vons, Kroger, Staples and Office Depot, PetCo, and even Ace Hardware.

I’ve got so many cards that checking out is beginning to feel like a game of Go Fish as I shift through the plastic that fills my wallet.

But I now shop at a grocery store that doesn’t have a loyalty card. Everything is the same price—so nice!

What about you? How loyal are you? Is your wallet bulging with customer cards?


Sara writes mystery (Ellie Avery series) and suspense (On the Run series). As a military spouse Sara has moved around the country (frequently!) and traveled internationally, which inspired her latest travel suspense books. Publishers Weekly called Sara’s books, "satisfying," "well-executed," and "sparkling."

Visit for more information, or connect with Sara on Facebook, Twitter, or Goodreads.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Spring Cleaning?

Sheila Curran

                I’ve been crushing on simplicity lately.  Mostly this is an Internet Affair, reading about other people’s efforts to purge their homes of unneeded dreck.  The best on this subject is our former girlfriend (Joshilyn Jackson)’s hilarious blog about getting her things in order and (not coincidentally) how her brain works.  I am similarly disposed.  I love the idea that I too could pare down my belongs to 126 items. 

Graham Hill appears even more minimalist (though actually only by 30 square feet per human).  

Both make similar points.  It’s easy to be consumed by your stuff. 

My brain is both obsessed and oppressed by the items in our house that require tending.  Somewhere between a curator and lion-tamer, it’s up to me to notice that the roof is leaking, the doors are creaking,  the toilets need cleaning and the pool is greening. 

I realized, on Sunday, as I wrote down the plague of tasks crowding my brain, a catalog of plebian demands that ranged from medicating the dog to replacing moth traps, that I am married, not to my husband, but to my house. 

That’s why they call us housewives!  Am I the only idiot who never noticed this perfectly obvious and not at all accidental phraseology?

Apparently not, for when I repeated my ephiphany to several women friends, they too seemed gobsmacked by the sinister accuracy of this seemingly tame term.  We hadn’t noticed.  It was as if we’d signed a contract back when we were too delirious with nesting instincts to notice what we were doing.  I can just imagine Snidely Whiplash asking, “But what did you think you were agreeing to, my child?  How much more clear can one compound word be?”

Worse than my giddy dismissal of the terms of the initial contract was my collusion in acquiring the items that now cry for dusting, ditching, folding, or mending.  I had Stockholm Syndrome except it was Ikea Infatuation.  When the Pottery Barn catalog arrived at the house, there I was, panting over it like a teenage boy with the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition.  Both of my kids were dragged to Target, on safaris for Real Simple organizing bins, Shabby Chic sheets and lavender candles, all in the aim of creating a serene environment that once created, would be self-tending and permanent.

That was my mistake.  Nothing is permanent.  Entropy happens.  Towels fray, sheets tear, upholstery wears and paint smears.  It all needs redoing, and all the redoing falls to the idiot who fell for it all in the first place.  When they talk about the great circle of life, they don’t mention the revolving door of daily drudgery a.k.a “Sisyphus does dishes.” 

In other words, maintenance is a bitch.  Whether its our writing or our roof or our dog or even our children, one must give up time and the illusion of perfection to embrace the fact that no one gets out of here without a few dents and scrapes.  The old saying, in the go-go Eighties was “He who dies with the most toys wins.”  Now it’s replaced by a more Eastern outlook, “True wealth is wanting less than you have.” 
I’m all for that, except when it comes right down to it, decluttering takes time and downsizing takes might, and in the interim, I’ll have to settle for imaginary flight to a place in my mind hosting “all you can pretend, all the time.”   Which is why, I suppose, I am a writer of fiction in the first place.  I wander my roost sighing at the facts, all entropic, all the time, circling like gnats or the belfry’s lost bats, seeking containment, a reorganization, into the illusion of story where every thing is meant to be, and it will, at least on the page, remain in its place for ever and ever.

When not moaning about her housekeeping failures, Sheila is trying to finish  her third novel.  She is the author of Diana Lively is Falling Down and Everyone She Loved