It's only been forever...
Hi. Remember me? Remember when I used to blog? No? That's okay. We'll just start fresh. I'm trying to make sure I'm more on top of my own things. Since I hired someone to help me with social media and my website, I'm on my website a lot less. Hence, the lack of blogs. Which I'm guessing, you've managed to live without.
But because I fought hard to remember my own passwords (and then had to go through my Facebook account settings) to get in here, I figured I better say something.
How is it possible that the last time I blogged was when my last baseball book came out. Time has a very magical ability to stand still and race forward all at once. As many of you know, I'm now writing under a pen name, Sophie Sullivan. I managed to crack the passwords on that one too. I'm enjoying this very much-- the writing under two names, not the inability of my brain to retain the most basic of information.
My youngest daughter turned fifteen this month. My oldest is eighteen and off to university in September. I still teach full time in addition to writing books and I'm still married to the same wonderful man who provides me with endless food and delicious snacks (including Danish apple bars this weekend).
I'm excited to say that I'm working on a new cozy mystery series for Tule Publishing. I've wanted to work with them for a while now and I'm so excited I'm getting to do another small town sleuthing series. The first book will be out next August. It's called Home is Where the Body Is. I think you'll like Annie Abbott and the cozy little town of Rainbow Falls.
Like all of you, we've been living a pretty low key pandemic life. We're navigating some ups and downs that come with age and life. I'm reading books, painting rocks, and writing as many words as I can. Isn't it funny that I can write a book but not remember my passwords?
Summer is coming close. By the end of this month, I'll be finished my second cozy for Tule which is tentatively titled High School, Homecoming, and Homicide. I'm looking forward to having time with my family, hopefully enjoying some summer sun, and being able to see small groups of people again. We were supposed to go to New York this summer to celebrate my oldest's graduation. We can't, which is sad but certainly not as sad as other things so we'll just hang out this summer and make plans for the next one.
I'm turning 45 this week. I thought I'd feel....not older but maybe more mature. Like maybe I would have more answers than I do. Like my passwords, maybe I should find some and write them down, keep them in a safe place for when I need them. Even if I had a secret stash of reasons for some of the questions my brain goes through daily, I guess there would always be more to know. More to wonder. Am I doing enough? Am I doing a good job? At writing? Friending? Momming? Wifing? Teaching? Definitely not peopleing. I'm pretty sure those skills have been tucked away into a corner. I'll find them eventually, as the world opens up. Hopefully I'll be able to have conversations that aren't a collection of quotes from the shows we've been binging.
Since I last blogged, I feel like everything and nothing has happened to all of us. I have no words of wisdom or identifiable message. I just figured, it's been so long, I should say SOMETHING. Even if it was nothing.
Looking back, going forward
I'm not sure what happened to time. It seems to have morphed into something new and inexplicable, making the days long and the weeks fast. Most of the time, I'm not sure what day it is even when I go to work. I feel, like most people, as though I'm walking around in a haze that maybe, just maybe, might begin to clear up soon.
We're the kind of tired we've never been before. There's a surreal amount of mental exhaustion that goes along with all we've endured this last year. Each of our struggles may have been different over the last several months, but there's no denying that we're all united by the fatigue of it all.
I hate the idea of things being over but I'm not sorry to see this year go. Having said that, along with the bad and the scary, there were many good things too. It's just hard to remember them when the days all run together.
I haven't written on my blog since May 2019. That seems like forever ago. My youngest would have just been turning 13. My oldest would have just turned 16. I was releasing a book with Entangled. I hadn't yet thought about Ten Rules for Faking It which has been the bright spot in many of my moments this last year.
We would have been getting closer to our summer vacation plans-- we went to Oregon that year. We wouldn't have know how lucky we were that we enjoy our time together because we were about to get a whole heck of a lot of it.
I try to be thankful for what we have and who we have even when things seem darker. Now that 2020 is coming to a close, it's no easier to picture a day when I'll return to a busy store and not be highly attuned to the sound of a sneeze or a cough. I think, more than we know, we are forever changed. When I think back about this year, I want to remember the good. Yesterday, in my classroom, I wrote one of my daughter's favorite quotes on the board.
So, even though there were some moments I couldn't see the light peeking through, these are some of the people, moments, and things of 2020 that made me feel.
Whether she was bargaining for lettuce or sharing personal heartbreak, Chrissy Teigen was a source of light throughout the last year. I fell down the comical rabbit hole of her Instagram so many times. She has what we all sometimes lack and that's the ability to laugh at herself. She was, for me, a source of inspiration and an example of humility and humanity. I formerly thought of her as the woman who co-hosts Lip Sync Battle or John Legend's wife. There is so much more to her than either of those things. I know this now because she's given us access to who she is as a mom, a partner, a business woman, and a person.
Folklore, Evermore, Miss Americana, Long Pond Sessions...are you kidding me? She's a genius. The way she weaves her words together and how each song is never just a song but a story astounds me. Not just for the epic lyrics but for her ability to create beautiful masterpieces in a time where doing anything was, some days, a challenge.
Books got me through a lot of this year and Guillory quickly became one of my favorite authors. Each book was better than the last and I'm still not sure which of them are my favorite. Good news? She'll be a highlight of 2021 as well.
I read more cozy mysteries in this last year than I've read books in other years. I fell hard for Sofie Ryan, Bree Baker, Lynn Cahoon, and Regan Davis among others. These worlds let me escape with a smile on my face.
One of the best byproducts of writing books and trying to get them out in the world is the fabulous people you get to meet. I feel lucky to call Addie my friend. She's a truly cool person with a great outlook on life and a desire to help others see the positive.
My youngest daughter keeps telling me she misses her friends. I get it. I miss our people; a few in particular but I feel incredibly grateful that over this last year, we've found new ways to "friend". Facetime chats to play Qwixx, Marco Polo to say hello even if it's only that. Messenger, texting, Facebook, Instagram, in person hello's from six feet apart through masks, and that old fashioned way of communicating-- talking on the telephone. We can't be together but we can still connect. While it isn't the same, it's definitely helped.
I've never been more grateful that I both love and like the people I live with. I try to look at this last year as a gift of extra time with the people I love most. There may never be another time that we are forced to spend this much quality time together and while that sometimes comes with challenges, it has mostly been a delight. I live with really awesome humans.
Ten Rules for Faking It
This book is due out in the world 13 days from today. I'm so grateful for the people who have helped me along this path. It felt like a very long journey but finally, it's here and the accolades, the connections, the comments, and kindness I've seen and felt through the last few months has been a constant mood lifter. I have so many people who have been a part of making this book what it is. I won't be planning book signings or anything but somehow that hasn't lessened the happiness, the excitement, and the impact of this release. I cannot wait to walk into a store, with a mask, after sanitizing, to see my book on the shelves.
The Big Bang Theory
I truly enjoyed this series the first time around. I started it on a plane ride back from Disneyland in 2017. After finishing Friends for the third time as a family, we decided to give this one a go. Watching it the second time, with the girls, was so enjoyable. It was an absolute pleasure, a source of laughter, and a comfort to throw off the stress of the day and curl up together with this awesome show.
The words came slow. I beat myself up for this many times. But they still came and the response to them has been good. Falling For Holly was written during an especially intense time when I was really missing people and tired of feeling cooped up. Book three for my Sophie Sullivan books was finished up in September. I returned the edits on book 2 in that series in March. I wrote a new cozy mystery that I may have some news about soon. So, even though I feel like I've slowed down or slacked off (some refer to this as a break but that's new to me), I've produced something and for that, I am grateful.
What are you looking forward to next year and what will you look back at fondly from this year?
Happy Friday everyone! Hard to believe that my first cozy mystery will be out in the world on Tuesday. Hope you'll give it a try. I've been thinking a lot about how much emotion songs invoke and how, sometimes, it takes a whole book to do the same. When I have teasers made, I always think the image and words together capture that similar kind of emotion. Like a snapshot of the powerful moments in my books. I just wanted to share some of those images today because I like looking back at them and remembering that I created those moments in print even though others helped me capture the meaning with their artistic wizardry (talking to Tanya and Nicole here ;)
I've been on spring break for the last two weeks. I actually just typed years...because that's what happens when you're on a break. Your brain stops working. It's been awesome and in fourteen weeks, I'm going to do it again. For ten weeks.
It's hard for me to transition from break back to work. Not just because I'm a little lazy, but I really like staying home with my family, staying up too late reading, spending the days alternating between writing and watching Friends on Netflix. I'm, unfortunately, one of those people who think that obsessing over time can actually allow me to control it.
Alas, I am not a wizard. I am also not rich, so back to work I go. We're working on "changing our mindset" in my house. A house full of girls/women who all have anxiety makes for some interesting fun for my husband (don't worry, he has craft beer), but we're going into the last part of the school year with the goal of being more positive, seeing things differently, and focusing on what's actually happening rather than what might happen. What does this mean? It means we're going to try to be more grateful. I am grateful. Let me just say that up front. I'm incredibly grateful for everything I have. The top of that list includes a family and friends, a roof over my head, and a good job, along with a pretty decent writing hobby. But I'm not actively grateful, if that makes sense.
For me, and hopefully my daughters, it means we're going to devote more active time each day thinking about the things that make us happy and lucky. Changing conversations to realize, in Old Dominion's words, "It's what I have, not what I had", or in our case, what we wish we had or worry we might have. I'm not going to list all the things that make me grateful on a personal level, but I thought it would be nice to share some of the things that have made my spring break great, outside of my family and Netflix. So, channeling my inner Jimmy Fallon, here's my own version of "Thank You Notes".
Thomas Rhett, for being adorably in love with your wife and having great lyrics. Very helpful while I'm writing books with mushy, romantic moments.
Cadbury mini eggs for making me feel like I'm only eating a little bit-- it says MINI right in the name. And for being this amazingly delicious burst of chocolate in a candy coated shell.
Facebook for giving me somewhere to turn when I'm easily distracted and need to write all the words.
Book contracts for getting me out of having to help clean out the garage with my family this break. Seriously. Thank you.
Diet Pepsi for keeping me awake and tasting good.
That's all for now. Lots more to be thankful for, but you get the idea. Have a wonderful April everyone.
What's on the way?
It feels strange, after the hustle and bustle of Christmas and my latest release, LET IT BE ME, for it to already be the end of February. I've barely gotten used to writing 2018. I'm really happy with the books I released last year and am so happy that people enjoyed them.
So what will 2018 bring? Well, next month (or next week if you're keeping track of the calendar) I'll be giving away the second Cooper & Ellie story via my newsletter. I released their first story, SOME KIND OF CHRISTMAS, in November. This new story, SOME KIND OF LOVE, is about both of them being ready to take their relationship to the next level.
Those of you who read my books know that I'm a closed door sort of writer. Which made writing a book where the character's main goal was to sleep with her boyfriend a little difficult. But I think I pulled it off and stayed true to my style. You can sign up for my newsletter here and you'll get your instafreebie link on March 1st. I'm eagerly waiting to see my cover for it, which is being designed by the lovely Tanya Baikie.
What then? I'm in the middle of edits (a.k.a rewrites) for book 2 in the LOVE UNEXPECTED series: NEVER EXPECTED YOU. This is Stella and Zach's story and I'm really hopeful people will enjoy it. Hard not to enjoy a hot, former army sergeant veterinarian who comes home and falls in love with the lovely and jaded small town woman who is just trying to keep her head above water. This one releases on September 24th, 2018. I'm doubly excited about this date because my good friend, Christina Hovland, is also releasing her book that day with Entangled. You guys are going to LOVE her book.
After that, I'll be sharing a release date with another author (and friend) that I absolutely adore; Sarah Fox. We are both releasing cozy mysteries. It'll be my first, but not hers. If you haven't read any of her stories, you really should. Sarah and I are trying to hang out on our Facebook page: Cozily Ever After. Come check it out.
In between edits and writing, I've been working on proposals for new books and developing ideas that I hope, one day, come to life. It'll be a big chunk of time between sharing my Cooper and Ellie story and my next official release, so in the words of Glass Tiger, "Don't forget me when I'm gone", because I will definitely be back.
Do you wanna read a story?
I'm so excited to be part of Entangled's Under the Mistletoe event. There are some excellent titles on sale this month and More than Friends is one of them. What I love most about this is the timing. This time last year, I was just getting ready for the release of Owen and Gabby's book, unsure how anyone would feel about the first book in my first series with Entangled. It's been an excellent and fun year in the book world, which included the second and third books in the series. If you didn't get a chance last year, start your holidays with a sweet story about unrequited love that ends up being not so one sided after all.
More Than Friends is an exceptional and fun, holiday romance novel.
The timing and pacing of these relationships just felt right; the family interference appropriately stifling and #goalsworthy and, most importantly, the connection between geeky (*swoon* I love a geek!) Owen and artsy Gabby simple and genuine.
Excited to share...
I've been working on a book for a couple of months now. I tend to write quick so when I'm dragging on words, it makes me kind of antsy. I don't think writing quick is better than not. Every author has their own style and I'd say, with some certainty, that writing quick often leads to needing heavier edits-- at least for me. However, it is what I'm used to so I get frustrated when the words stumble over each other instead of making coherent sentences.
So what do you do when something is bugging you? Walk away. Or, if you're me, write a mini short story about your favorite holiday season. Make sure that it's super full of sappy, emotional, holiday spirit and voila, you have a side project. Then, you ask the lovely and talented Tanya Baikie if she'll make you a cover. I don't know if this path will work for everyone, but it's the one I took and because of that, I'll be releasing a very short, very sweet story on November 6th from Amazon. It will be the first in a series of four shorts about the same couple. I'm very excited about this. And the best part, it got my words moving around again.
Jody Holford's debut DEADLY NEWS, the first in a new series featuring a woman who arrives in the sea side town of Britton Bay to take over the role of newspaper editor, ends up headlining in a major story after finding one of her not so friendly reporters dead, and gets to know the residents in town by poking around to find out who wanted the crotchety old man dead and why, to John Scognamiglio at Kensington, in a three-book deal, for publication in Fall 2018, by Frances Black of The Literary Counsel (World).
I am absolutely thrilled to be working with Kensington and with Mr. Scognamiglio. I am eager for you guys to read the first in my trilogy: DEADLY NEWS. I'm working on book two right now.
Speaking of books...
My first book in a new series from Entangled Publishing will be out on January 29th, 2018. I love Megan and Adam. They are a quirky, opposites attract, meant-to-be couple that I think you'll enjoy. Can't wait to share the cover and more for this one.
One last thing...the group I'm part of, The Romance Chicks, has been having fun on our Facebook page and we're ready to celebrate our one year anniversary. We hope you'll join us!
Space to Write
For the past four to five years, I've written in multiple places. Mostly at the kitchen table, but I've also started and completed novels on the couch, in my bedroom, sitting in bed, on the floor, and in my car. At the start of summer, we moved and after a series of decisions that are never really as simple as they seem, my beautiful office became an actual thing.
I have a Pinterest board titled if I ever get an office. I truly wasn't sure I'd ever have one and because I'm a big time self-doubter, I wasn't sure I needed/deserved one. After all, an entire room in our house dedicated to me putting words down on the page not only sounded indulgent, but...nerve-wracking.
What if I put time and money into a beautiful space and couldn't write anymore books! Yes, my husband and best friend rolled their eyes as well. We decided, that should that happen...which so far, thankfully, it hasn't, we'll use this space as a lovely little library.
Which, of course, means I need more books. A lot more books because my "library" is now on my kindles. I do have several of my favorite stories on my gorgeous shelves, but nowhere near the number I used to have. I need to remedy this situation because what better inspiration for writing than being surrounded by books?
It's not quite done, but for those of you who follow my author page on Facebook, you've seen the small steps from beginning to middle to...almost close to the end. It still needs a few things: pictures to go up, a couple more shelves over my desk, and as I mentioned, more books, but it is definitely a dream space, even as is. I love it. My cozy couch arrived last week which allowed me to display my cool bookish pillows (also need more of those).
So if you ever wonder where I spend my time while typing out the words, now you know. Though I can't promise that I won't sneak up to the kitchen table now and again out of habit.
Happy Fall everyone.
Summer Wrap Up
It might be early to be wrapping up the summer, but it's passing quicker than I'd like and with a trip to Disneyland coming up, I figured better now than never. Summer 2017 has been a blend of sweet and sad. We said goodbye to one house and hello to another.
We were very sad to say goodbye to our sweet little dog, Lola shortly after we moved in.
Which left our other little pup (and us) feeling pretty down. So very soon, next week actually, we'll be bringing this tiny bundle of fur home.
We've spent our time reading, baking, writing, unpacking, organizing, painting, lazying around and settling in.
Another bittersweet moment was the excitement of my final book in the Kendrick Place Series releasing. I do have another series coming out with Entangled: the For You series, which I'm excited about.
And, in the completely unexpected category, I went up in a hot air balloon!
So what now? Well, I have some very, very exciting news to share that I can't say anything about just yet. But when school starts up, I hope I can share some news about something a little different and a lot fun.
I hope the rest of your summer is great. Anyone have any plans to go anywhere? Any must-reads on your list before summer is gone? My next few reads are below :)
Who's Who Wednesday
Welcome to Jennifer Shirk!
My first Entangled Bliss publication was set to come out December 5th, 2016. My editor suggested I read one of her other authors as a way to get a better grasp on a specific trope. This was my introduction to Jennifer Shirk. Not only is she a great author-- I really enjoyed Wrong Brother, Right Match, but when I reached out on another trope issue....she was so gracious and helpful. I'll definitely be thanking her for her great advice and guidance on the first book in my new series. And I'll remember her telling me (when I wondered how she was SO good at this), it's easier with someone else's book. Here are Jennifer's answers to this week's Who's Who Wednesday. You can connect with her by clicking on the links below. Thanks for joining me on my blog Jennifer.
Who's Who Wednesday with Jennifer Shirk
What you write.
For those of you who don't know me, I write sweet (and sometimes even funny) romances for Montlake Romance and Entangled Publishing.
Who are your influences?
Wow… so many to name. The first and queen of my influence would be Susan Elizabeth Phillips. But I also love Meg Cabot, Sophie Kinsella, and Jill Mansell.
Favorite writing snack and beverage.
A lungo espresso (basically an espresso with more water in it) and either a little piece of dark chocolate or my healthy banana oatmeal cookies to go with it.
Hardest thing about writing?
The actual writing. LOL I should say just getting the first draft down. That's the hardest part for me. But once it's down on paper, the editing and making it all pretty and legible is my favorite part!
What you're working on now.
I'm working on the first book of a new 3 book series for the Entangled Bliss line. This is the premise: In a weakened moment, a depressed woman jilted by her longtime boyfriend has a one night stand with a wedding guest at a friend's wedding only to discover he's the man who recently bought her family's suffering business—and now happens to be her new boss.
Thanks so much for having me!