Please Join Me: Two Cool Events THIS MONTH

Greetings, readers. My blog is a random hodgepodge of writing, recipes, and every day awkward living, but today I want to do something different. I want to invite you to two awesome events happening here in Grand Rapids, Michigan. They're both thrilling for similar reasons: the support and encourage local writers. FOR READERS


Get out your pen and put it on your calendar (or enter into your iPhone. Whatev.).  Next week, Saturday the 15th from 10-2, please check out the Grand Rapids Public Library Local Authors Book Fair (click title for link), or GRPLLABF.

Uh. That's not actually an acronym, but I like to say it out loud.

I'll be there selling and signing books, along with about 25 other local writers with novels in every genre: YA, mystery, romance, erotica, humor, steampunk, thrillers, etc. Support local writers. Please buy a book (even if it's not mine). Also, Christmas is your mom a hot pirate love novel. She's probably into that. Or, of course, one of my romantic comedies. Everyone needs a laugh, especially an awkward one.



The other event is also exciting, but in a different way. I'll be presenting at the Grand Rapids Region Writers Group first conference! It's called "I've Always Wanted to Write a Book Conference" (click on title for more information).

We wanted a conference title that told exactly what to expect. This conference lasts all day on Saturday the 22nd at the Radisson in Grand Rapids. You can still register. It's $100, which is an investment, but hopefully affordable. You'll hear great presentations, network with others, come home with a goody bag and lots of ideas. There's also a social on Friday evening at the hotel.

It's great for all kinds of writers: new writers, closeted writers, polished writers, and never-written-anything-but-wants-to-be-a-writer writers. If you blog, write novels, want info on self-publishing, epublishing, or just how to get your stuff out there, please join us.

Even if you're just starting to write, join us. This is a great group of writers of all backgrounds and genres. We support and encourage each other.

Here's the schedule for the day:

"I've Always Wanted To Write A Book!" Conference Schedule
Hosted by The Grand Rapids Region Writers' Group
Saturday, October 22, 2011 at the Riverfront Radisson in beautiful downtown Grand Rapids! (There will be an icebreaker Friday evening for attendees)

9:30 - 10:15 Room 1 - Using Relaxation Techniques to Boost Productivity - Dr. Sandra Portko Room 2 - Writing Effective Queries - Michele Paulin, Tanya Eby and Sidney Ayers Room 3 - Writing Mysteries - Maris Soule

10:30 - 11:15 Room 1 - Writing Erotica and Erotic Romance - Abigail Barnette, Temple Hogan, Mia Watts, Suzanne Graham and Bronwyn Green Room 2 - Making the Most of Your Writing Time - Margaret Yang Room 3 - Author Branding - Tanya Eby

11:30 - 1:00 Lunch and Keynote Speaker, Jacqueline Carey

1:15 - 2:00 Room 1 - Writing Romance - Lisa Childs Room 2 - Why the Genre You Write Matters as Much as What You Write - R.A. Evans Room 3 - Everything You Need to Know about E-books- Margaret Yang, Temple Hogan, Abigail Barnette and Suzanne Graham

2:15 - 3:00 Room 1 - Trends in Young Adult Fiction - Tess Grant and Aaron Thomas Room 2 - What a Character! - Harry Campion Room 3 - Authors Behaving Badly - Jennifer Armintrout and Bronwyn Green

3:15 - 4:00 Room 1 & 2 - Q & A with Literary Agent Michelle Grajkowski and Editor Michele Paulin

4:30 - 6:00 Rooms 1, 2 and 3 Booksigning, open to the general public

Slow Down and Read becomes Get Busy and Work (or what I read this summer)

At the end of May, I decided to have a summer committed to reading. I called it my Slow Down and Read campaign, member: one. I've been so busy with life, kids, wedding details, promoting, and writing, that I sort of lost track of my love of reading. This summer I committed myself to reading. I had a goal of five books. How did I do?

Here's what I read from May 28th to August 29th. (I'm including titles I narrated, because I still had to read them. I actually had to read them twice, some of them three times if I did the abridged version.)

1.  "Split Second" by Alex Kava (narrated)

2. "The Silent Girl" by Tess Geritsen (narrated)

3. "Sucker for a Hot Rod" by Joselyn Vaughn

4. "Only Mine" by Susan Mallery (narrated)

5. "We Need to Talk about Kevin" by Lionel Shriver

6. "Only Yours" by Susan Mallery

7. "The Tiger's Wife" by Tea Obreht (listened to the audio version)

8. "Matched" by Allie Condie

9. "Carry Yourself Back to Me" by Deborah Reed (narrated)

10. "Only His" by Susan Mallery (narrated)

11. "A Visit from the Goon Squad" by Jennifer Eagan

12. "Robopocalpsye: A Novel" by Daniel H. Wilson (listend to the audio version)

13. "Christmas at Timberwoods" by Fern Michaels (narrated)

14. "Before I Go To Sleep" by S. J. Watson (listened to the audio version)

15. "Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children" by Ransom Riggs

16. "Lotte's Country Kitchen" by Lotte Duncan

17. "The Fiction Class" by Susan Breen


I also read 358 pages of "Sarum: The Novel of England" but that mofo is 900+ pages long and I just can't finish it.

All in all, this summer was a huge success and reconnected me to storytelling and words. My favorite books this summer were "We Need To Talk About Kevin" #1 and then "A Visit From The Goon Squad" #2. I also really enjoyed the YA book "Matched". "The Fiction Class" was a sleeper hit for me and I really connected to the simple yet elegant story.

Reading isn't over for me, but I'm thirty days from a wedding, two chapters from finishing book #4, starting teaching again, and in general Back To Crazy. But, oh, what a summer.

What did you read? Or what's on your list? I'm going to start reading up on women and madness in literature, just in case I get to teach the class I'm hoping to next semester. And who doesn't appreciate a good crazy woman, especially in a fine novel?


Ah, Summer. No work. No income. Gah!

Around noon today, I’ll finish narrating the last novel I’m booked for. That means at 12:01 today, I officially begin my summer vacation. Well, sort of unofficially. I still have one day left of teaching, but that’s just exams and grading. I don’t have to plan anything. So. Summer vacation. Two months of not teaching…and no narration booked. Part of me is having a panic attack, I have to admit. Usually with narration I have something lined up, but nothing yet. It’s entirely possible I could go two months without work or income. I’m a little bit terrified. Both of not working (how DOES one relax?) and not getting paid.

At the same time, I’m really excited. I have two months to focus on reading, writing, and just recharging. It’s time to get my writing house back in order, and slip into some good novels. I’ve already started “Sarum” (a novel about England). When it came to me in the mail via Amazon, I opened the box and was shocked to find out that that muther is almost 1,000 pages of very small print. 1000 pages! And it begins with like the Ice Age or something. I guess there’s a reason it’s called the Novel of England. If I make it through that, I think I’m going to read some Carson McCullers and some other classics.

I should be excited. I really should. And I think I am it’s just…well…trying to find a home for the cats is depressing. There are no takers yet. My daughter is heartbroken, so is my son and Kealoha. Where are the Crazy Cat Ladies when you need them?  And then the concept of two months without an income is terrifying to me. What if I’m never hired to narrate again? What if teaching falls through? What if I can’t write a single word in my new literary novel?

I’m trying to tell myself to shut up. I talk too much. I worry too much. But then I just start talking again.

I’m trying to use that whole ‘affirmation’ thing and remind myself that this is just a vacation. I can take a vacation. And someone, someone will want to give my cats a home. And my kids will start getting better. And Kealoha and I are going to have a great wedding. And I’ll lose the five pounds I’ve been trying to since I broke my foot. And my mom will find an apartment that works for her and she’ll stop stressing me out. And I do believe in fairies, I do, I believe in fairies so much that I’m just going to clap my hands right now! clapclapclap

Yep. I’ll just repeat these things endlessly until I get so tired of listening to myself obsessing that I just plain shut it.

I’m thinking that’s going to be at 12:01 today. At 12:01 today, I’m going to sit outside and just breathe for a while and enjoy the start of my vacation.

And I’m going to turn the next page in my book.


Review of "We Need To Talk About Kevin" by Lionel Shriver

For the summer, I've committed myself to my own plan to "Slow Down And Read" and I have a list of ten books I'm working on. They're a combination of romance, literary, mystery, historical, and just plain entertaining. This morning, I finished reading "We Need To Talk About Kevin" by Lionel Shriver. Here is my review (as posted on GoodReads)

We Need to Talk About Kevin (P.S.)We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a brilliant novel. I don't say that lightly. I mean it. It's brilliant. And I think Lionel Shriver is a genius. Her work is like reading a mixture of Virginia Woolf, Sylvia Plath, and Dorothy Parker. She is relentless, fierce, and writes about the underbelly of the psyche. She is also lyrical. "We Need To Talk About Kevin" is not an easy read. The subject matter is daunting (a woman reflects on the signs in her son's life that would lead him to committing a massacre at her school); the voice is ruthless (with lines like when my son was born "I felt nothing"); and still, the piece is utterly compelling.

It leads one to look at the root of evil. Is evil incarnate or is it created? Is a sociopath born or made? Should a child (essentially) be held accountable for his own monstrosity?

It also echoes fears every mother possesses from gestation to the adulthood of a child: What if I give birth to someone who is damaged? Is it my fault? How much of a child's behavior is because of the mother?

The novel plays on fears, but it also explores our own humanity.

A few years ago, I was booked to narrate Shriver's "A Post Birthday World". It was, like this novel, challenging but in the end, thoroughly rewarding both intellectually and emotionally. I haven't been booked to narrate another of her books (though I so wish I would be), so instead I'm vowing to read everything she's ever written. She is not a writer that makes you feel good. No. She challenges you. She gets in your face and makes you uncomfortable. She demands that you analyze your own life and your own choices. For this reason, I can't seem to put her work down. I'm completely, reluctantly, enthralled.

View all my reviews

Slow Down and READ


One of the things I realized lately is just how much time and energy I’ve been putting into promoting my books. It’s been good and all, but so much of my time has gone into promoting, that I’ve lost touch with literature. And I miss it. I’m not even talking about writing it…I mean…I miss reading. So I’m going to do something radical. I’m going to slow down and read.


Let me repeat that.


This summer, I’m going to slow down and read. I’m going to kick back, unplug, put on a ridiculous hat and sit in my backyard and read.


This is where the idea came from:


This weekend, Kealoha and I took a walk with the kiddos to the park and it was so relaxing to be outside, to feel warm, to hear kids laughing and throwing fits. I barely checked my email or Facebook or Twitter all weekend. Maybe I lost some followers, but I found a little bit more of ME. And one of the things I’ve been missing is time to spend quietly with a book, outside, sitting on the deck. I used to read a book a week. It’s been two years since I’ve done that.


So what did I do? I immediately posted on Facebook and Twitter that I was looking for suggestions for my summer reading list. (And yes, I recognize the irony.) My goal is to read 14 books in the warm months…May through August. 7 classics and 7 new books.


Doesn’t that sound lovely?

Here are the suggestions I received. I’m keeping the names private because I don’t want to just post people’s info without permission. If you want to claim your suggestion, just leave a comment (of course, then you’ll have to do math).




“Closing of the American Mind” by Allan Bloom

“The Bookseller of Kabul” by Asne Seierstad

“Out of the Silent Planet”, “Perelandra”, and “That Hideous Strength” AKA “The Space Trilogy” by C.S. Lewis

“Bloodroot” by Amy Greene

“Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen

“The Handmaid’s Tale” and “Alias Grace” by Margaret Atwood

“My Antonia” by Willa Cather

"Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs" by Chuck Klosterman

"Love Is A Mixtape" by Rob Sheffield

Anything by Sarah Vowell, like "Radio On" or "Assassination Vacation"

The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam

Neil Gaiman: Neverwhere; The Graveyard Book

Henry James: The American; Princess Cassimassima

“The Castle” by Franz Kafka

“Sarum: The Novel of England” by Edward Rutherfurd

Laural Hamilton's Merrideth Gentry series

“Watership Down” by Richard Adams

“BONK” by Mary Roach

“Sucker for a Hot Rod” by Joselyn Vaughn

“To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee

“Appointment in Samarra” by John O'hara.

“Punished” by Brynn Paulin

"Watch" series by Sergei Lukyanenko

“if on a winters night a traveler” by Italo Calvino

“The Haunting of Hillhouse” by Shirley Jackson

“We Need To Talk About Kevin” by Lionel Shriver

“Bridge of Sighs” by Richard Russo

Anything by Nick Hornby


(The last three are my suggestions. I claim them.)


Where to start? Where to start! This is by no means a complete list. I’ll be gathering suggestions for as long as people give them to me. Right now, I’m just excited about all the potential. In fact, I’m going to start this weekend, even though I have an audiobook to prep and classes to prepare for. I always find time to be online, so for a few months, instead of making the computer and promotion my top priority, I’m going to focus on characters and plots and beautiful words (that have nothing to do with me).

What’s on your list?