Sunday Smatterings

Smatterings - May 19.png

Buongiorno, and happy Sunday! I’ve finally both gotten over my jet lag and shaken the infernal beast of a cold I caught whilst in Italy, so I’m a bit more bright-eyed and bushy-tailed today than I have been in a couple of weeks. There’s really nothing worse than getting sick on a big trip. The whole family was laid low, though, so we definitely had a tank team mentality.

It has been a week of highs and lows. I have some good news that I can’t share just yet, but will very soon. I found out my meniscus is torn and I have an MRI scheduled to see if surgery is necessary. GOOD GIRLS LIE got some serious love from Publishers Marketplace (see links below.) And on the other end of the spectrum, my parents returned home to find their house had been broken into, the car and several other major items stolen. And there was everything in between, just a strange, bouncing-around week emotionally. I literally went from fist-pumping to tears in the same conversation. Maybe it’s the change of season. Maybe it’s the insanity permeating parts of our nation. Maybe it’s just menopause. I don’t know. But I feel your suffering, world. I really do. In my knee, and in my heart.

In brighter news, I crossed the 100,000 work mark for the year. I’d set a goal of 200,000 for 2019, and this has me comfortably on pace.

And… I’ve been seeing the ads for the MasterClass for months now, and I’ve always been interested, though I’ve resisted, for some unfathomable reason. I’ve wanted to see the James Patterson, Neil Gaiman, and Margaret Atwood ones for a while now, but when Annie Leibovitz popped up, it felt fortuitous, as I’ve been using her as the basis for a character in my new novel.  So we signed up for a year’s access, and immediately set about watching... Malcolm Gladwell. As you do.

(Remember, DH is a non-fiction writer, so this was a fitting start for us both.)

I’ve come away from this first Masterclass with a number of takeaways. 

  1. I’m adding Malcolm Gladwell to any future dinner party invitation list. The man is brilliant, erudite, and hysterical.

  2. Listening to brilliant people talk about their work, their passion, is incredibly inspiring. 

  3. “Is there an analogous story to the one you think you’re writing about?” 

This last is a quote from Gladwell that stuck with me, because it’s the perfect way to approach building new fiction. I interviewed Harlan Coben for AWOW a few weeks ago, and he said he had several ideas for RUN AWAY that he wanted to get into the book. (I won’t list them, for fear of spoilers.) They were disparate on the surface, but in the context of the story, made for a rollicking adventure. I was reminded of this immediately when I heard Gladwell’s question.

A great story—a great thriller, especially—relies on the reversal of fortune that catapults the story in new and unusual ways. When you’re thinking about your story, your characters, think about the analogous situation. What’s happening in the story next door, so to speak, and how can you bridge the gap between them.

It’s a great way to conceptualize your story reversals, your characters’ challenges.

And so. With that, let’s check out the links, (which are deep and varied this week, so grab a cuppa before you dive in!)

Here's what happened on the Internets this week:

GOOD GIRLS LIE is featured in the Fall/Winter Buzz Books from Publishers Marketplace ahead of its galley release at BEA. So. Freaking. Cool! And (hint, hint) you can read the first few chapters if you download the sampler, plus see samples of 45 other books. Incredible, right?

Why narrating an audiobook is a LOT harder than you think. "The very best audiobook narrators don’t just read a novel – they perform it." I firmly believe an audiobook is made by the narrator. Tell me some of your favorites in the comments!

Peach and Prosciutto Crostini with Whipped Honey Ricotta. A - Yum. B - If you're not reading Edit Nashville, a new magazine for our town with a great backstory, you should be.

I very much enjoyed chatting with the fine folks at Freedom, the makers of my #1 Productivity App, to discuss creativity in the age of distraction. It’s a cool company and a truly life-changing app.

You Can Book a Fancy Version of Hagrid’s Hut for the Ultimate Harry Potter Vacation. How cool is this?! Quite the upgrade for Hagrid.

How a Canadian Chain Is Reinventing Book Selling.  “It may seem strange for a bookstore chain to be developing and selling artisanal soup bowls and organic cotton baby onesies. But Indigo’s approach seems not only novel but crucial to its success and longevity.” I LOVE Indigo. One of my favorite stops in Toronto.

Emilia Clarke has lost her Spanx. And…I die…

'Here is a story! Story it is': how fairytales are told in other tongues. Language is fascinating! 

Hannah Mary McKinnon (THE NEIGHBORS) invites some of the best and brightest female crime fiction authors to discuss why, exactly, they kill.

Modern Mrs. Darcy’s Annual Summer Reading Guide is here!!! What a great guide, year after year. A true labor of love for the written word.

My lovely cohost Mary Laura interviewed Tim Johnston in this week’s episode of A WORD ON WORDS, and it has the creepiest ending to any show we’ve ever taped.

What I’m Reading:


Leigh Bardugo is one of my favorites, and the Grisha trilogy is hands down one of the best fantasy trilogies out there. RUIN AND RISING has such an incredible conclusion. It's masterful how she has pulled the story together, pulled all the characters together, and kept true to the characters and setting. It's just a magnificent body of work. If you haven't read it yet, you should. If you have read Leigh, tell me what to read next because I'm going to be in a reading slump forever. Or at least until I sit down with KING OF SCARS.

What are you reading?

Enough from me. Leave out a snack for your neighborhood kitty, crack open a bottle of champagne (hey, we all need champagne sometimes), give someone who needs it a hug, viral or otherwise, and I’ll see you next week!

peace and hugs,

Sunday Smatterings

Smatterings - May 12.png

Happy Sunday! And happy Mother’s Day to mothers of all kinds out there, especially my gorgeous mama. I hope your weekend has been lovely. I’m still keeping kindergartener’s hours, trying to recover from this jet lag. The lingering on of this nasty cold on top of it is making things rougher than normal, I suspect. So I took it relatively easy this week, and ended up getting quite a bit done.

I’m working on my secret project, which is going quite well, thanks for asking. I am trying to get it finished by the end of the month. It is fun, and different, and I really can’t wait to share with you.

And I started my 24th novel. I called it novel the 23rd on Facebook, but I need to count the secret project as #23 instead. (Oooh, snap. There’s a small hint…🐉) The fact that I’ve written 22 novels in 12 years kind of blows my mind. It has been a long, winding road with major ups and major downs. But consistent. Consistency is the key to a career. There was (another) controversial article about Danielle Steel this week, who’s written 172 novels over the course of her career. (Her first was published in 1973). It’s said she works 20 hours a day, and she puts out 6-7 books a year. Nora Roberts has written over 225 since 1979, and has been very open about her process. Catherine Coulter has written at least 87 since 1978 (six of those were cowritten by yours truly, but trust me, she wrote them) and I know she sits down at the computer every day at 7 a.m. and writes until 11. In almost the same timeframe as my 22 books, Allison Brennan has written 40, not including shorts and novellas. She writes every day, 6-8 hours a day, and gets a book done in 12 weeks. (Guess who’s feeling a little slackerish now?)

And for the record, don’t bother giving me the quality vs quantity, speed versus depth argument, cause I ain’t buying. You want to have a blockbuster career, you create as much and as fast as you can.

I could go on and on, citing hundreds of authors whose output is incredible. But let me get to the point. What do all of these authors have in common?

Discipline. Rock hard, core strength, no excuses, blood, sweat, and tears discipline.

They don’t indulge writer’s block, they kick its ass. They do the work. Every day. They don't wait for the muse to present herself, seductive and dripping with a cornucopia of brilliant ideas. They take their bow and arrows and hunt her down, screaming, from the forest of their minds.

These writers inspire me. I won’t hit their marks, not by a long shot, because 2 books a year is about my limit. But they help me set my goals. 22 novels done between 2006-2019. By 2030, I hope to have another 20 under my belt. By 2040, another 10. That would give me a 34-year career and a total of 52 books. I can live with that.

It may be a strange way to goal-set, but hey, why not, right?

And with that, it’s time for the latest links!

Here's what happened on the Internets this week:

A Space Fit For A Comma Queen. “But really, why even mention the sofa or the slightly raddled wing chair or the loving-hands-at-home sanded dining table. It’s books, to paraphrase the novelist Anthony Powell, that furnish this apartment.” And what a lovely apartment it is.

Chinese Bookstore’s Chandeliers Look Like Sheets of Paper Flying Through the Air. This is so cool!

'Game of Thrones' forgot how to write a real twist. “By ignoring the villains’ perspectives, Season 8 is flatter and less interesting than the world of Thrones’ earlier seasons had suggested.”

So I feel like a mean girl criticizing the show, because I can’t imagine how hard it is for the writers, producers, and staff to be lambasted the way they have been these past few weeks. That said, I decided to draw attention to this issue because A - it’s a real problem and B - it’s a good teachable moment.

Your villain MUST have something to do. And you need to let the story tell the story. One of the fun things about these big adaptations is the “Behind the Episode” interstitial that the producers and writers do at the end. The big problem with GOT now, though, is David Benioff and DB Weiss are forced into explaining to the viewer what just happened, and are telling us what we missed in the context of the show. It is a disservice to the story, the actors, the script, and the viewer. It’s like reading a book that doesn’t have an ending, and in the author’s note, the author explains what happened to the main characters. Big, big no-no. Lazy writing will always come back to bite you. The reader/viewer cannot read your mind. You have to lay it out, and you have to let your antagonist and protagonist do their thing.

If you’re a fan of the show, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this in the comments…

How Does a Person Lose Track of Their Diary? A cool way to tell an interesting story.

How To Get The Perfect Instagram Photo, According To 8 Bookstagrammers. I am NOT a photographer, and happily Assistant Leigh has a great eye and has really helped make my Instagram pleasing to the eye. But I have room for improvement, and these are great tips.

I'm Ana Humphrey, [teenage] Exoplanet Researcher, and This Is How I Work. If this is our future, we’re all going to be just fine. An incredible story, and incredible young lady!

Modern Library Launches Series of Classics Penned by Women. Super cool!

It was such an honor to sit down with my lovely friend Deanna Raybourn to discuss her amazing books and creative life in this week’s episode of A WORD ON WORDS. If you haven’t read Deanna, you should. If you have, tell me your favorite book or series of hers.

Free audiobooks for your summer reading. Modern Mrs. Darcy is a great resource and her Summer Reading Guide is coming soon!

Donations Help Rebuild Libraries in Paradise, Calif. This is wonderful!

What I’m Reading:

THE OTHER WOMAN by Daniel Silva

Daniel Silva is one of the finest writers of my generation. That's a big statement, I know. But he's a big writer. He tackles topical, frightening subjects, never shies away from the pain and horror and joys of life, and does it all at a hurtling pace. THE OTHER WOMAN is different from his earlier books, structurally and thematically, and I'm always fascinated to see an author with a remarkable track record try something new. Plus, Gabriel Allon is one of my favorite heroes, ever. A wonderful book, a wonderful series. Highly recommended.

What are you reading?

That’s all for now. I’m taking my newly-styled self to the gym to get healthy, and you should, too. Take a walk, drink a big glass of water, take a minute to do some square breathing, and I’ll see you next week!

peace and hugs,

Sunday Smatterings

Smatterings - May 5.png

Happy Sunday, friend. Have you had a good weekend? I’m currently sitting in the Delta Lounge at JFK, on my way home from my birthday trip to Italy. Many good times were had. Vineyards were visited, museums and churches and abbeys paid deference to, and many, many miles navigated with Waze at the helm, in a minibus we nicknamed Van Gogh. (We travel one of two ways - plop down in one city and explore in depth, or base camp in a few different areas and travel to many. This trip was many.) We hit Pinerolo (where my family lives) for five days and visited Torino, Barolo, Barbaresco, Saluzzo, and Asti, then moved on to France (Chambery and Annecy) then to Switzerland (Geneva and Lausanne) then back to France for lunch in one of my favorite spots, Chamonix, then to Sala Comacina on Lake Como, where we took the boat all over the lake with stops in Varenna (stunning) and Bellagio (too touristy for me), then down to Milan. I spent my birthday on a lovely terrace and a boat on Como, with a fabulous dinner capped off with fireworks. Not a bad way to enter a new half-century.

Unfortunately, everyone got sick. My mom was first, then my brother, then me, then Randy and my dad. My nephew fought valiantly, but was sniffling by the end. I still don’t have a voice — laryngitis befalling the one Italian speaker on the trip was only moderately disastrous. By the time we made Como I was totally silent, and sitting on the boat floating around was all I could manage. I rarely get ill when I travel, so this was a rough way to spend the time overseas. But we still managed to have a good time. It was a memorable birthday in many ways.

I was very, very pleased with my Italian this trip (as were most of the Italians we encountered.) I am self-taught, have used language tapes and Rosetta Stone and Duolingo, but I added in the audiobooks from Paul Noble before this trip and I can’t say enough good things about his methodology. If you’re looking to learn a new language fast, you will love this method. It’s similar to how my favorite French teacher, Mr. Mann, taught French in junior high. (I still pronounce oui “weigh” thanks to his southern French accent.) We were in France and Switzerland for a couple of days and just when I’d transitioned to French we were back in Italy, so that messed me up. But so many Italians speak excellent idiomatic English now, as do the French. It’s amazing how global we’ve all become. It’s very possible to manage without much more than a buongiorno and grazie and arreverderci. And trust me, when you’re in a foreign country, if you try, even a little, to speak the language, to use the basic niceties, many doors open that are otherwise slammed shut. Like any other part of life, you get out what you put in.

I’ll pull together some of my favorite photos and wines sometime this week, once I’ve slept for a few days. It’s going to be good to be home. I miss my cats!

With that, let’s take a look at the latest links!

Here's what happened on the Internets this week:

These books spark joy: The bursting, beautiful shelves of famous bibliophiles. Which one is your favorite?

You NEED This List Of The Best Beach Reads For Summer 2019 Like Now. I love a good summer reading list and they included Mary Laura Philpott’s incredible book I MISS YOU WHEN I BLINK!

Is the bookstore crawl the new pub crawl? I would like for this to become a thing beyond Independent Bookstore Day. More books, please.

How To Find A Book By Description. Great tips for when you’re trying to track down a book and you can’t remember the title or author! 

These Are The 21 Dreamy New Romance Novels To Read This Spring. Assistant Leigh is looking forward to a whole bunch of these! Which ones look good to you?

Award-winning libraries rewrite the book on good design. These libraries are incredible! 

Do Crime Like a Victorian: 11 Nonfiction Recommendations. Such a popular era…

Netherlands makes trains free on national book day for those who show a book instead of ticket. Can all trains please do this?

What I’m Reading:

YOU by Caroline Kepnes

I started reading this so I could freely watch the TV show of the same name. Once I was well in, out of curiosity, I watched the first episode. Holy cow! I had to all-stop and wait for DH; I knew this was a show/story he'd dig. Crazy, twisty, ends-justify-the-means type of story. Highly recommended.

What are you reading?

That’s all for now. Learn a few words in a new-to-you language, have a nice glass of Barbaresco, and I’ll see you next week!

peace and hugs,

Sunday Smatterings

Smatterings - April 28.png

Happy Sunday! I hope this week’s missive finds you healthy and happy. I’ve been thinking about my health, and the health of those around me, this week. I’m fast approaching a rather major birthday, and of course, one must assess one’s physical and emotional status at this point in one’s life. Ahem.

All in all, I feel good. I have all my teeth. I can run a (very) slow mile. I have much more blond than gray, love glycolic acid, and I still can manage a night of revelry as long as lots of water accompanies the wine. I’ve birthed 22 novels and a small publishing house, and have been happily married for more than half my life to the same guy. I have my parents, both of whom are healthy; a wonderful family; fabulous friends; a career I adore, and I have the great privilege of making these assessments from a lovely, albeit undisclosed, location.

In other words, I am utterly, completely blessed. I don’t take a single thing on this list for granted. And as I march into the next year, I do it with gratitude, and a true sense of peace. I can’t wait to see what the second act has for me. But big birthday… 🙀

(Everyone join me in a big, deep breath. Hold it. Blow it out. Ahhhh… Doesn’t that feel good?)

With that, I bid you a fond adieu until next week. Let’s take a look at the latest links!

Here's what happened on the Internets this week:

How to Host a Book Swap Party. What a fun idea!

50 Must-Read Crime Novels on Shelves April–June 2019. Because we all need more books to read, yes?

The Dos and Don’ts of Being a Library Superstar. Great tips!

Ten Books Featuring Complex Mother-Daughter Relationships. So cool seeing TEAR ME APART included here!

The Rise of Elective Sobriety. As an occasional tee-totaler and total lightweight, I find this interesting and encouraging. Then again, I've never felt pressure from the people around me to drink. Maybe this is a Southern thing?

Serial Killer As Instagram Influencer? On Killing Eve's Cool Girl Assassin. “A female Instagram influencer weaponizes her femininity in a corporate sense; for Villanelle, the act is chillingly literal.” 

In Denmark, long opening hours for unstaffed libraries. This is wild! 

How Walking Fosters Creativity: Stanford Researchers Confirm What Philosophers and Writers Have Always Known. “As great walkers of the past and present have made abundantly clear—anecdotally at least—we observe a significant link between walking and creative thinking.”

Apple News+ Is a Total Mess. And that’s putting it nicely. Apple would be well-served by ditching this interface and simply rebranding the Texture app, which is a far, far better experience. I’m sure they’ll make real improvements soon enough.

What I’m Reading:


Y'all know how much I love Sarah Maas. I finally allowed myself to read book four as a reward for all of my hard work the past several months and it did not disappoint. It's fascinating to see her growth as a writer and a storyteller. Maas's books showcase my favorite kind of story: the extraordinary female lead who inspires loyalty and love and is fearless in the face of adversity. I can't wait for her Crescent City series to come out!

What are you reading?

That’s all for now. Have an espresso, take a walk around the block, pull out the photo album and revisit some of your happiest memories, and I’ll see you next week!

peace and hugs,

Sunday Smatterings

Smatterings - April 21.png

Happy Sunday, and a blessed Easter to those who celebrate. I wish you peace and joy, today and all days!

It was a rather crazed week here. We have a vacation coming up, and the preparations coupled with the fact that I haven’t been able to do much outside of write, edit, promote for the past several months means I’ve let too much go around the house, too. Friday I did one more massive Goodwill run, and I can breathe easier. Re-homing my former treasures is one of my favorite things to do.

All of these “things” I’m juggling pale in comparison to an experience I had last week. As you may have heard, A THOUSAND DOORS was chosen for a very special bookclub in Iowa, Changing Lives Through Literature. The program has been geared toward men in the Iowa corrections system; this particular group was for women only, the first of its kind. Its members are women on parole, their parole officers and residential advisors, and the wonderful librarians who scouted this book for their book group. Over the course of the reading, many of our authors Skyped in with the group to discuss their individual stories. I participated as well, on the final day. The ladies brought me to tears a couple of times with their frankness, openness, and humility. An experience I will never forget.

Susan Henricks, director of the Carnegie-Stout Public Library in Dubuque, Iowa, put this together, and Heather Gudenkauf, one of the authors in ATD, cat-wrangled us all together. You Iowans know how to get things done!

Susan sent me a wrap up, and I asked for permission to share here.

The group has finished now.  During our first session I asked the women to write down what they expected to get out of the group, and on the last day (10 sessions later) I asked them to write down what they got out of the group.  Here are a few of the responses at the end:

  • What did I learn? No matter what choices I make, I can start new every day 

  • Keep pushing, don’t give up

  • I wanted to learn some things I can use in everyday life and I did

  • I got a new perspective on life and that I can change my story at any time

  • Being involved with a program outside of the DRF makes our time together more open to discussion and [helps form] better relationships with the Parole or Residential Officers involved

Thank you for being a part of positive change!

Books change lives. I think we sometimes forget the effect our words have on people. That Mia’s many lives and choices helped real women facing real problems, hard choices that affect their very freedom, their safety, their lives, makes every ounce of labor that went into the project worth its weight in gold. I hope the program will grow to the entire state of Iowa and even farther, because giving women a voice, showing them how their lives can be changed, that they have control and agency, is incredibly powerful.

So you librarians and corrections officers out there — give Susan Henricks a shout and see how she did this. It’s a brilliant program, one that would benefit your patrons.

Let’s take a look at the latest links!

Here's what happened on the Internets this week:

It was an absolute delight to interview the mega-bestseller Delia Owens in this week’s episode of A WORD ON WORDS. She was such a good sport, shooting outside on a very chilly day. #KeepReading

Dutch Artists Transform a Utrecht Apartment Building into a Tri-Level Trompe L'Oeil Bookcase. This is absolutely incredible!

A Bookstore Of One's Own. When you read an article and think to yourself, yes, I would like to own a niche bookstore focused on brilliant writings of lesser-known female authors...

The 12 Best Books of Spring. So excited to see the amazing Helen Ellis’s new collection of essays SOUTHERN LADY CODE on this list. You NEEDS, precious.

‘Game of Thrones' composer looks back on that iconic theme song. Composing fascinates me. I write to scores from both movies and television, and this breakdown makes me love the music for AGOT even more.

OK, this is the coolest - two poems by the great Daphne Du Maurier found hidden in picture frames? Makes me want to slip a little something into one of mine for fun. 

I was on Public Display Of Imagination Podcast last week! Listen in. Mark and I covered a range of topics from TEAR ME APART to the vagaries of social media to the importance of Project Semicolon in our lives.

A Bucks County bookstore is looking to sell its ‘wall of fame’ to keep the lights on. Think J.K. Rowling. What a treasure! But how sad. I hope they get the money they need.

Six Steps for Decluttering Your Kitchen . . . and Reclaiming the Heart of Your Home. Excellent advice. I’m looking at my counters right now thinking they could use a few less items…

13 Game of Thrones-Themed Tours You Can Take Around the World. Because Game of Thrones, y’all! Let’s go!

What I’m Reading:

BEFORE SHE WAS FOUND by Heather Gudenkauf

Speaking of the lovely, talented Heather, her new book just came out! Heather writes intricate, emotional suspense, and her latest, BEFORE SHE WAS FOUND, is hands down her best yet. Told through journals, police interviews, and a stellar narrative, this perfectly terrifying story is ripped from the headlines (there are parallels with the Slenderman case) and layered with Gudenkauf’s flair for small towns and intimate family portrayals. Heartbreaking. Devious. Intelligent. Misleading. Too familiar for comfort. I couldn’t put it down. Have you read Heather before? If not, add her to your list immediately!

What are you reading this weekend?

And with that, I’m off to find some jellybeans. Be kind to one another, take a 24-hour internet sabbatical, bake some cookies, and I’ll see you next week!

peace and hugs,