Monday, December 30, 2013

Sadly, It's been a Slow Year by Jacqueline Luckett

My reading list is very different from years past. Typically, it’s filled with fiction and a sprinkle of non-fiction books—all hardback and paperback.

Three things changed this year: I focused on books on writing craft, I read several books on my Ipad, and, since I spent a lot of time, in my car I “read” audio books (unabridged versions).

Here’s a sampling. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.

Audio Books
Chitra Banerjee divurakuni
The Palace of Illusion

Isabelle Allende
Island Beneath the Sea

Walter Mosley
The Fortunate Son

Dennis Lehane
Moonlight Mile

Harlen Coben
Live Wire

Luis Alberto Urrea
The Hummingbird’s Daughter

S.J. Watson
Before I Go to Sleep

Matthew Quick
Silver Linings Playbook

Jacqueline Luckett is the author of two novels: Passing Love and Searching for Tina Turner. She's currently working on her third novel, and though she resists sharing both the topic and the title, she admits that it will be as much fun as her first two books.

Sunday, December 29, 2013


by Barbara Claypole White

How are you celebrating New Year’s Eve this year? I’ll be sipping champagne, enjoying a roaring fire with friends…and ignoring the loop-the-loops in my stomach. December 31, 2013 is release day for me, which means I get to kiss goodbye to THE IN-BETWEEN HOUR and wave my book baby off into the big wide world of one-star bashings and five-star raves. And, well, I’m having a little separation anxiety.
Maybe I never learned to share in the sandbox, but I want to hold THE IN-BETWEEN HOUR close and say, “Back off, people, this one’s mine.” You see, writing THE IN-BETWEEN HOUR helped me through a difficult moment in my personal life. That moment is long gone, but something about the journey of my quirky, messed-up characters still feels like a locket worn close to my heart.
The inspiration for everything I write comes from being the mother of a brilliant son who has battled obsessive-compulsive disorder for most of his life. OCD frames my world, even though it has never held back my son and has never defined him. (What can I say, the British war mentality flows in his genes.) But while I was working on THE IN-BETWEEN HOUR, he slipped into a dark place, and my mind stuck on the little boy who cried on my lap saying, “Make it stop, Mommy. Make it stop.”
As I watched him claw his way out, my son’s struggles reminded me that even in the darkest moments of anxiety and fear, there’s always hope. THE IN-BETWEEN HOUR is a story of hope.
The setting is my corner of the North Carolina forest. The land surrounding our home speaks to me. It echoes with history, with real-life stories from the past: there’s an old path worn smooth by Native American moccasins, a family burial plot, and a tumbled down homestead that’s surrounded by daffodils every spring. This is a place of memories, of hidden beauty, of deep shade and dancing light.
My favorite time in our forest is that magical hour at the close of day called the gloaming. An in-between time—neither day nor night—this is when the birds call each other home, the shadows grow long, and the sinking sun hits the treetops. For me, that golden light flickering between the leaves epitomizes hope, and it’s a recurring motif in the novel.
THE IN-BETWEEN HOUR is a story of light shining through the trees. My characters come from two broken families each battling unwanted memories and invisible disabilities—severe grief and clinical depression. Yet their coming together brings healing. Their story gives hope for a better tomorrow and isn’t that what we all wish for on New Year’s Eve?
In celebration of THE IN-BETWEEN HOUR’s release, I will be giving away one signed copy (North America residents only). To enter, just leave a comment below.
Happy, happy 2014, everyone!
Barbara Claypole White is the award-winning author of THE UNFINISHED GARDEN, a love story about grief, OCD, and dirt. THE IN-BETWEEN HOUR is her second novel. Visit her at, or follow her on Facebook or Twitter.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Writing With a Beginner's Mind

This Christmas I spent far too much of my time with scraps of fabric and my sewing machine, constructing flannel gift bags.  I'm not a seamstress.  Not one inch of my ego cares about being considered one.  Thus, I think, I found myself released to enjoy the activity as a child does.  

That's how I once felt about writing.  That's how I feel when I paint, or draw, or sing out loud to the radio.  Because it's not how I define myself, not how I accumulate credit in the part of myself that's keeping track of my so-called life, I can enter it with an open heart.

My yoga teacher says everyone should, each class, enter with a 'beginner's mind."

This is my hope for my writing in the year 2014.  That I can somehow cast off all the expectations I've created for my words, and simply try to approach my work as getting to the heart of what it is I'm needing to express.  When we focus on that bit that's slightly elusive, that shimmering fish just below the surface, that's when we get into the flow.  When we tell the worry-wart on our left shoulder and the inner critic on the right to please pack up their things and depart for another location, that's when we can find our way back into the reason we, as writers, fell in love with the craft in the first place.

So this is what I wish, for myself and all of you out there, trying to create.  Become a beginner each day.  Focus only on getting it right, or a little more right.  Or, as Leonard Cohen puts it:

Forget your perfect offering.
There's a crack in everything.
That's how the light gets in."

Sheila Curran is the author of Everyone She Loved, about a woman’s efforts to protect her own family even after her own expiration date has come and gone.  Her first book, Diana Lively is Falling Down, was a romantic comedy Jodi Picoult called warm, funny, inventive and original and Booklist called ‘a gem.’

Sunday, December 22, 2013

THE BEST BOOKS OF 2013 by Lauren Baratz-Logsted

Sure, you could get your Best Books of 2013 lists from the New York Times or the Guardian, but why would you want to when you have ME???

I've read 157 books to date this year. And while in the remaining week or so I may read another great book, what follows is my list for...


SO FAR AWAY, Meg Mitchell Moore




DRIVING MR. YOGI, Harvey Araton (nonfiction)

LUTHER, Neil Cross







DEAR LIFE, Alice Munro

THE NEXT TIME YOU SEE ME, Holly Goddard Jones

LIFE AFTER LIFE, Kate Atkinson


THE DINNER, Herman Koch





Z: A NOVEL, Therese Anne Fowler











SURE SIGNS OF CRAZY, Karen Harrington (YA)

LET HIM GO, Larry Watson

THE HIVE, Gill Hornby


A HUNDRED SUMMERS, Beatriz Williams

And...drumroll, please! The single best book I read this year is...


So...that's my list! Did you read any of these and love them too? What was your favorite book of those you read this year?

Lauren Baratz-Logsted is the author of over 30 books for adults, teens and children. You could make her really happy by buying one. Or not! You can also visit her at or follow her on Twitter @LaurenBaratzL

Friday, December 20, 2013

The Diabolical Plotting of a December Date

By Laura Spinella
Don’t you love it when your name turns up on the GBC December calendar? For as much as we ALL love the GBC, I bet you cringed a little if you saw your name on this month’s weekly reminders. Are they kidding? I’ve barely started my shopping.  There are 47 various school and social functions to attend, not to mention kids coming home from college. Holiday cards are compounded by holiday food, and don’t even start with the house that needs to be scoured before Aunt Clarabel visits. And, sweet Jesus, DO NOT let me forget to put the cushy toilet paper in the guest bathroom. Did it sound something like that in your head?

Me too.  And I send out the GBC reminders.
I could have easily rigged the calendar with a replacement name. I confess; I thought about it. I could have slipped Maria Geraci’s name in instead. Maria’s so helpful and smart. But then I remembered that in addition to being a fabulous author, she also works fulltime as a labor and delivery nurse. And suddenly it seemed, well… unfair. Barbara Claypole White crossed my mind too. Barbara’s handy with a sticky widget. Is that British? Because Barbara is… British. She once told me I could use an ARC of hers to “balance a wonky table leg.” I still laugh at that.Then I realized Barbara is 11 days out from the pub date of her stunning new novel, THE IN-BETWEEN HOUR. I know this is a fact because I was privy to an early read. Privy.  Privy’s an English word, right?   Anyway, I figured Barbara has enough on her mind between her pub date and trying to get rural North Carolina to buy into Boxing Day, December 26th. According to Barbara, most Americans think Boxing Day is England’s homage to fisticuffs via a boxing ring. Made sense to me. But she assures me this is not the case. It’s the traditional day that house servants received “boxed” gifts from their, uh… masters?  Heaven knows, with the success of Downton Abbey, all North Carolinians may catch onto Boxing Day by the end of season four. 
Desperate and short on clever, I considered a hot-potato pass to Karin Gillespie. Karin is probably one of the nicest people I know and I’m, well… not. Surely, she would have graciously picked up my slack.  Then, yesterday, I read Karin’s brilliant GBC post and realized I was in twice as much trouble as I previously thought. I couldn’t be that insightful if I was sentenced to six months in solitary with nothing but a copy of THE GOLDFINCH, legal pad, and an entire Rosetta Stone series on How to Be a Better Writer.
 I even considered getting sneaky and inviting Susan McBride over to guest blog. Of course you all remember Susan, a card-carrying GBC member for a long time. With the birth of her sweet Emily and busy days, Susan moved on from the GBC, though we’d all love to hear from her. (See us waving from the GBC, Susan!) Then I remembered what it was like to have an 18-month old around during the holidays. Okay, so I don’t exactly remember, but there is video from that era that involves me and a spirited New Year’s Eve celebration. On occasion, my kids still threaten to hand it over to child welfare.
So here you are, stuck with me.
Originally, I had an elaborate post worked out in my mind. It had something to do with envisioning yourself as a writer in another time period. Do you see yourself as a Jane Austen imprint, Harriet Beecher Stowe wannabe, Flannery O’Connor, S.E. Hinton, Alice Walker, or Sylvia Plath? Well, maybe not Sylvia Plath. We all know how that ended.  But instead of an inspired piece about authors from other generations, I succumbed. I fell victim to the calendar and Christmas cookies and one of those college kids who turned up just in time to make my upstairs look like a ratings-sweeps episode of Hoarders.
In the end, I almost opted for the default blog. I do have a new book out. It’s a credible platform from which I could drone on about PERFECT TIMING and the incredible PERFECT TIMING giveaways going on right now. But since this is a season of merriment and giving, I’ll only direct you to my Events page and the above discreetly mentioned giveaways. So from here in New England, this is my December 20th blog. I wish you all a joyous holiday season and a Happy Christmas! Happy Christmas… That’s British, right?
  Laura Spinella is the award-winning author of BEAUTIUFL DISASTER and the author of PERFECT TIMING, a love story about friendship, honor and a rock star. Visit her at 

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

How Long Should it Take to Write a Novel? The Answer Might Surprise You

By Karin Gillespie

How long should it take to write a novel? A couple of years? One year? A few months?
 I’m reading Donna Tartt's latest novel The Goldfinch, and I’m determined to savor it, because she always takes ten years to write a novel. At that rate I won’t be enjoying another Donna Tartt novel until 2023.

A decade is a very long time. Long enough to age single malt scotch and serve a prison term for armed robbery. Long enough for James Patterson to write 100 novels. So long that I can't but wonder:
Why the hell does Donna Tartt take ten years to write her novels?

In her defense, The Goldfinch is 748 pages. That’s a hefty book; in fact it was so heavy my wrists got tired holding it up. But let’s 
do the math. Seven-hundred and forty eight pages is approximately 187,000 words.  To write a novel that length in ten years, you would need to eke out only 51 words per day.   

Now I realize Donna Tartt is considered a very accomplished writer; her words are like precious diamonds. Compared to how long it takes the Earth to make real diamonds, (a few billion years) Donna Tartt is a speed demon.

Still it’s hard to justify ten years particularly since Donna claims she isn’t on Twitter and rarely uses the Internet. Additionally  she has never been married and works exclusively as a writer, thus family and work concerns are not getting in the way of her output.

In a recent profile piece, Donna tries to explain why it takes her so long to write her novels.  She compares her journey to an astronaut or a polar expedition. She also says she writes in longhand and claims “she can happily move around a comma ‘for hours.’”

 Fine… But ten years? Seriously. How much comma moving can one person do?

 But then I discovered an older interview with her, and she quoted John Gardner saying, “Write as if you have all eternity.”

Suddenly it all made sense to me. She wasn’t talking about daily work count or the laborious chore of handwriting 750 pages; she was talking about a mindset, one that is a vital part of the writing process, especially if we want to produce quality work.

Nowadays so many writers feel the need to rush, rush, rush. If they are published, the pressure comes from agents, editors and readers. If they are unpublished, they feel the need to catch up, to prove themselves, to justify all the time they spend at the keyboard.

But the longer a person writes, the more they understand that a well-told tale sometimes takes a while to reveal itself. We’ve all heard of instances where an entire novel comes to an author in a glorious rush over the span of a few days, but that’s the exception instead of the rule. Typically it takes a much longer period of time for a story’s nuances to be revealed, nuances that can’t be uprooted in one abrupt swipe of a steam shovel. Instead they must be unearthed teaspoon by teaspoon.

Anyone who has ever written a novel knows that it is frequently a mystical process. Insights into character and structure usually come in small, unexpected flashes, typically when we are far away from our desk. The insights also tend to build on one another, and there is no hurrying the process. When we encounter the inevitable snags, we must resist the temptation to force a solution. A better strategy is to take a long aimless walk or fold laundry or watch a cardinal pull a worm from the ground, all the while having faith that the knots we’ve created will eventually loosen.

Brenda Ureland understood the process well. She says, “… the imagination needs moodling – long, inefficient, happy idling, dawdling, and puttering. The people who are always briskly doing something may have little, sharp, staccato ideas, such as: “I see where I can make an annual cut of $3.47 in my meat budget.” But they have no slow, big ideas.”

Donna Tartt may have spent many hours rearranging commas and writing in longhand, but it’s my guess she also spent a good portion of those ten years moodling. In The Goldfinch one of the characters restores antique furniture. His methods are described in such painstaking detail I suspect the author has restored a piece or two herself and has also spent hours in dusty and dimly lit antique shops, inspecting old secretaries and chifferobes, and well… moodling.    

It’s crucial to allow ample time for moodling, even when writing something as short and simple as a blog post because sometimes it takes a while to figure out what we really want to say.

For instance, two days ago I intended to write a cute fluffy piece about Donna Tartt’ and her feet-dragging ways. I thought, “I’m pressed for time because its Christmas and everyone’s going to be too busy swilling eggnog to read my post. A funny little post will be just fine.”

 But, as usual, I was not satisfied. I kept telling myself, “There’s more to this. Dig a little deeper.”

Wednesday I was skipping around the internet, hoping for inspiration, and that’s when I found  Donna quoting John Gardner. Finally I knew what I wanted to say. And instead of merely making fun of Donna’s pokey methods, I found I could learn something important from her--something I’d want to pass on to others.

We’re all different in the way we approach our work. Unlike Donna, I don’t think I’ll ever take ten years to write a novel, but she has inspired me to be more respectful of the process and not become impatient, constantly prodding my work forward like a reluctant mule.

 It’s so tempting to settle for a facile manuscript, one that goes down easily and amuses the reader for a few hours, but often the work is swiftly forgotten. At the time, it may seem good enough. We say to ourselves, “Haven’t I put in enough time already?” or “I just want to be done.”

When we start thinking along those lines, it pays to remember we might be only one revision, one month or even one year away from something far more meaningful. And the extra time we put in is almost always worth it.

Just ask Donna Tartt.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

A Hollywood Hit

by Maggie Marr

Today is a Pub Day!  Which for me, means a number of things, but first, and best of all, Pub Day means that I have a new book out.  Today, Hollywood Hit, the third book in The Hollywood Girls Club Series publishes.

This last year, the ladies of the Hollywood Girls Club were back in my head with a new story to tell.  A story that involved Cici Solange's niece, Nikki Solange, a murdered D-lister, and hot bad-boy boy-toy name Rush Nelson.  Who am I to refuse to write such a lush tale?  So here is Hollywood Hit:


Super charged, full of mystery, foul play, and sex--(yes--there is lots of sex)--Hollywood Hit has everything I love about the Hollywood Girls Club Series

I have such a special place in my heart for this series.  Hollywood Girls Club was my first published book.

I wrote HGC late at night, while I was still a motion picture agent, when I couldn't sleep because the characters wouldn't leave me alone.  Those ladies were relentless: Cici Solange, Lydia Albright, Jessica Caulfield-Fox, Mary Anne Meyers.  They drug me straight out of dreamland nearly every night and told me their tales of their fabulous (and sometimes not so fabulous) lives in the Industry.  An Industry, in which I am still lucky enough to work.

Next in the series came Secrets of The Hollywood Girls Club, because in Hollywood who doesn't love a sequel? 

Cici and Lydia and Mary Anne and Jessica were once again in a horrible mess--a mess that only good friends can help you clean up.  Secrets involved sex tapes and blackmail--your typical day in Hollywood.  

Hollywood Hit is the latest Hollywood Girls Club Series.  The book has Nikki Solange and Rush Nelson, trying to sort out who, if anyone, is trying to kill Nikki.  

The second great thing Pub Day means is CELEBRATION!  Over the next week, a number of fabulous bloggers are helping me celebrate the release of Hollywood Hit with a raffle.  We are giving away an Amazon gift card!  Please visit their sites and enter to win.

Finally, as part of the celebration, Hollywood Girls Club, the book that started the entire Hollywood Girls Club Series is on SALE!  From December 17th until January 6th you can get your digital copy of Hollywood Girls Club for .99 cents! 

Thank you to all my readers!  I hope you enjoy reading Hollywood Hit as much as I enjoyed writing the book.  Please get your copy of Hollywood Hit!

Happy Reading!  xoMaggie

Maggie Marr is an author, attorney, and independent film producer.  Hollywood Hit is the third book in her much loved Hollywood Girls Club Series.  As with any Hollywood Girls Club book, all names have been changed to protect both the innocent and the guilty, but if you read closely enough, you can sort out who you are...  Maggie lives and works in Los Angeles. 


Saturday, December 14, 2013

Hungry for Good Eats, Great Reads and Girlfriends? Come to the First Annual Girlfriends Holiday Dinner By Ariella Papa

It’s hard for any of us to believe, but the girlfriends have never all been in one room. In fact, I have only met two of the girlfriends in person. Yet in the few years since I’ve become a “girlfriend”, I’ve relied on their advice and support immensely. Whenever I have a question on just about anything in the publishing industry I know one of them will have the answer.
We’ve all been talking and writing about what we are grateful for and which of our amazing books we are celebrating this year. I thought it would be nice for us all to have a virtual holiday potluck with food (and drink!) based on our work.
Everyone’s invited to come and everyone’s invited to follow the links within this post and try these books out for your own holiday treat.
We start our bash in the mid afternoon. We relax over some tea sandwiches that Ms. Cindy Jones brought. They are inspired by her novel My Jane Austen Summer and the manor house where scenes from Mansfeild Park are reenacted.
Beside that we serve blueberry scones. There’s plenty of booze and sex in Margaret Marr’s Hollywood Hit, but not a lot of food. Luckily the protagonist, Nikki Solange loves a good scone and so do we.
Every girlfriend is all a buzz from the excitement of meeting in person and from the lattes that Hank Phillippi Ryan is whipping up for everyone. Most of us are as grateful for caffeine as Jane Ryland, the investigative reporter in her novel The Wrong Girl. She needs to be awake to get those bad guys just like we need to be awake for deadlines.
Many of us are working writing mothers so you know there is a kids’ table. Thankfully Lauren Baratz-Logsted brought the favorite foods of the Sisters 8 series pink frosting in a can, juice boxes and homemade French fries. (She also brought copies of the books, so those kids can keep themselves occupied while we eat and DRINK!)
And there are quite a few cocktails to be had. Thanks to Brenda Janowitz we have sparkling rose. Hannah’s grandmother tells her in Recipe for a Happy Life, sparkling rose is very Hamptons. We girlfriends love things that sparkle AND give us a buzz.
There’s also hooch that Jess Riley brings to get us beyond buzzed. We balance that with seg, this weird oatmeal meatloaf thing that the inmates eat in her novel, Mandatory Release. She promises there are cupcakes with hacksaws baked in for dessert.
And now dinner is on. We start with Chili from Serendipity in New York just like they eat on the first day it snows in Malena Lott’s BRAND NEW holiday novella Sterling & Sloane.
Thank goodness Marilyn Brant reminds us that carbs don’t count during the holidays because everyone loves her cheeseburgers, fries and Coca-Cola. It’s just like the Rt. 66 diners the hero and heroine stop at in The Road To You as they fall in love and solve a mystery.
There has to be turkey for the holidays. Leslie Langtry makes it deep-fried in honor of her Bombay Assassin Series. It’s crispy and fun to make in the (very assasiny!) boiling oil. Usually people want a nice nap after this, but we are too busy talking about reading and writing.
There are a ton of great sides, but by far the best is Jenny Gardiner’s rice croquettes. These are served in her novel Slim to None and come from an old family recipe passed down from JG’s great great grand-mother. The recipe is in the comments. Jenny also pops some champers. We toast the craft… among other things.
Girlfriends are never satisfied. Believe it or not there are a few more things we’re craving for dinner, but luckily Laura Spinella brought a personal chef inspired by the filthy rich Aidan in her novel Perfect Timing. Anything we can think of he can make. It’s not easy being the only man around these parts. He holds his own.
And now for dessert. So much dessert. No one wants to be the first one to cut into the beautiful cake Sheila Curran makes, but thankfully she slices it for us.  The cake is just like the one served by Lucy to her departed best friend’s daughter to help pull her back to the land of the living in Everyone She Loved.
We also have array of ice cream (ten flavors!) from Samantha Wilde. There is a great deal of ice cream consumption from the mothers and daughters in her novel I’ll Take What She Has and there’s quite a bit here too.
More maternalism. This time it’s chocolate chip cookies thanks to Judith Arnold.  These are baked perfectly and just like the ones the heroine of the upcoming mystery release Still Kicking makes for her young adult sons. You’re never too old to love homemade cookies from mom or from Judith.
And more cookies from Sara Rosset. These sugar cookies are served in Mistletoe Merriment and Murder at the Chrismas cookie exchange. Sara made these with her mom and now with her own kids. She always makes too many. No one ever complains about that.
Hershey’s kisses magically appear on the table from Leslie Lehr. Like most writers in the group the protagonist of What A Mother Knows loves chocolate and these little treats lead to a special first kiss.
I brought some hard cantucci cookies to be dippied in sweet vin santo wine.  I first had this in Siena, Italy which is the setting for my latest coming of age novel A Semester Abroad. I like my endings a little bittersweet.
But it’s not the end!
 No one wants to stop talking, so we hang late into the night and make it a sleepover. The best part about it that Saralee Rosenberg brought breakfast stuff. We eat the breakfast that the president of the Skinny Mom Society devours at her enemy neighbors house in Dear Neighbor, Drop Dead. It includes eggs, hash browns, buttered toast and a slice of chocolate cream pie on the side. Now this is a way to wake up.

Happy Holidays everyone and may there be good books for all in 2014!