Recent Romance Recommendations

How do you like that alliteration?

Over the last month, I’ve read several contemporary romances/romantic comedies. This is not unusual, since I read 10-12 books a month, three-quarters of which are usually in the romance genre. However, the level of enjoyment I experienced with this particular consecutive batch is unmatched. These novels were so good that I vacillated between absolute delight in the characters/stories and overwhelming anxiety that my books would never compare. Because I was super impressed with these novels, I decided to share them with you. Although I’ve included snippets from my reviews on Goodreads, you can read my full thoughts by clicking the links.

THE HEART PRINCIPLE by Helen Hoang (8/31).

This book was like a big hug. It was probably the softest book I’ve read in a long time and I loved every single word even as I struggled (sometimes unsuccessfully) to keep my tears at bay. It was a beautiful love story about being accepted by others for who you are and, more importantly, accepting and loving yourself. My favorite of Hoang’s trio.

THE CHARM OFFENSIVE by Alison Cochrun (9/7)

Oh my God…this m/m romance was SO GOOD. It was funny and romantic and so very soft. It was inclusive and educating (but never preachy). The dialogue was hilarious, the love scenes were swoon-worthy, and the grand gesture at the end? No spoilers but my heart was beating so fast in anticipation. I predict this will be a huge success.

THE DATING PLAYBOOK by Farrah Rochon (8/17)

I absolutely adored this book. It was warmhearted, funny, romantic, sexy, and sweet. Rochon’s writing style is so accessible and inviting. I stan Taylor and Jamar so hard!

FIRST LOVE, TAKE TWO by Sajni Patel (9/21)

So much tension in this second-chance romance – sexual and otherwise. This contemporary romance was emotional, funny, romantic, sexy, and fully of witty banter. Definitely going in my top romances of 2021 list!

THE LOVE HYPOTHESIS* by Ali Hazelwood (9/14)

Disclaimer: At the time of writing this post, I am 80% into this novel, but…my goodness, it is delightful! I am crushing so hard on this author’s charming and quirky writing style as well as Adam, the very tall and brooding love interest. I appreciated the demisexual representation even though the author never actually used the label. This slow burn romance is so absolutely delicious that I almost don’t want to finish the book!

And there you have them. Five romances in a row that were impressive AF and blew my mind! You’ll notice that none of these books have been released yet. I was lucky enough to be approved by Netgalley for early copies. But I highly recommend that you mark your calendars and put them at the top of your TBR. You won’t regret it!

Things that terrify me about my traditional debut

I joined a Club House room this past week with the Romance and WF club about fears published authors have, for instance, not earning out, no one liking the book etc. While I participated and shared one of my own fears (keep reading for details), in my mind I was racking up way more worries than I publicly confessed to.

A few months ago, I blogged about all the things I most anticipated with my traditional romantic comedy debut, AS SEEN ON TV. But now that we are less than a year away from the release, fears are beginning to infect the anticipation. *Disclaimer: I acknowledge how fortunate I am to have secured a traditional publishing deal. I worked very hard, but there are many other authors who put in just as much effort, want it as badly, and are just as patient and persistent as I was, who are still querying or on submission with editors. I have such high hopes for all of you! But with each milestone we cross, there are new doubts and hurdles. Here are some personal examples:

What if no one likes the book? Here I am, so proud of finally achieving my dream of traditional publishing and the possibility of a much broader reach, but what if the readers don’t come despite my publisher’s best efforts? Or what if they do come and wish they hadn’t?

My publisher is positioning the book as a romantic comedy and that is how I describe it. The central plot is romance and there would be no book without it, but there is also a lot of focus on my main character’s journey, and the book is told in her single POV. What if the romance community doesn’t think it’s romantic enough?   

What if it’s not funny? I’ve heard bookstagrammers and bloggers complain about novels marketed as romantic comedies that didn’t make them laugh. My critique partner, beta readers, and agent thought it was hilarious. My editor wrote in her offer letter that she snort-laughed while reading. But what if no one else shares our sense of humor?

In my earlier post, I wrote about how excited I was to participate in romcom and authorly panels as an author. What if no one invites me to panels or wants to be “in conversation with me” even at my own launch? Will it be like junior high all over again?

I hear other 2022 debut authors discussing blurbs. I’m not quite there since my developmental edits haven’t been accepted yet, but I assume it’s a discussion I will have with my editor in the not-so-distant future. There is no shortage of authors I would be thrilled to blurb AS SEEN ON TV. What if no one wants to? Or what if they agree but can’t think of anything complimentary to say because they detested the book?

What if I get awful trade reviews or libraries and book-sellers don’t take a liking to the book and, therefore, don’t order many copies?

What if I did such a lousy job on my developmental edits that my editor regrets signing me? What if she hates me?

My publisher accepted the detailed outline for Book 2 of the contract, so my editor must have liked the premise, but what if the execution is not up to snuff? I’m in love with it, but would they have bought the book if it had been the one we’d gone out on submission with?

And the one I confessed to in the Club House: what if this two-book deal is a one-off? I am so proud of myself for getting this far, and if the experience begins and ends with this contract, it is still a dream come true. But I’m in this for the long haul and afraid I’ll never sell another book. Publishing is so competitive. Selling once is no guarantee of it happening again. Authors need to bring it every time: great writing, a fresh premise, the right market. I haven’t finished revising book 1 or submitted book 2 and am already thinking about my option book.

I’m sure I could come up with more worries if I tried, but I think you get the gist. Thank you for letting me unload on you! With that out of my system, I am going to thank my lucky stars, get back to dreaming about holding AS SEEN ON TV in my hands, seeing it in a book store, and answering all my fan mail!

Editing with emojis

I don’t typically use my blog for writing tips but I’m making an exception today. Any author who’s ever revised a book is familiar with searching for repetitive words, phrases, descriptions. When you have 300 occurrences of “just” “like” “smile” “shrug” in a 300 page novel, it’s too much. And it is not the fun part of editing—at least not for me.

I’m currently in my last stage of revisions for AS SEEN ON TV before I turn the first round of developmental edits to my editor. I’m at that stage. You know, the one where I’m mortified to discover how many times my characters “suck in a breath” and “widen their eyes.” Many recommend the Emotion Thesaurus for assistance in describing various character’s emotions. I own a physical copy and use it often. But it’s currently in my apartment and I’m…well, not. Also, I have come to the point where I’ve already over-used even some of the wonderful examples suggested in the guide.

My writing strengths are witty banter/dialogue and describing internal thoughts of my characters. Where I struggle is description of objects and faces. During my grueling review for repetition, I discovered overuse of the word “look.” It was easy enough to change some of the verb uses to “peer” and “glance” and “study” and “observe” etc. But I also found too many instances of using the word as a noun: “I gave him a questioning look;” or as a verb in this manner: “He looked at me with sincerity;” “She looked at me questionably.” Which begs the question, how does a face expressing sincerity actually look? How does a skeptical face actually look? (More repetition of the word look even in this blog post. Ugh!)

My first idea was to search various emotions in GIFS for help in matching feelings to facial expressions. It was helpful to a degree except I still needed to describe what I saw…using words. (Wouldn’t it be great if we could just affix images to our books instead??)

And then the answer came to me in an emoji. Yes, an emoji! I turned to Google, where I searched “skeptical emoji” “thoughtful emoji” etc. Lo and behold, along with the image of the emoji I searched, there was a description of the expression on its face! For instance, the paraphrased description of thoughtful emoji is “furrowed eyebrows with the thumb and index finger resting on its chin.” Using these emoji definitions as a guide, I was able to describe a thoughtful “look” with more specificity than simply “he looked thoughtful,” and as a result, I managed to reduce the repetitive language in my novel. I didn’t replace all of the instances of “look” because everything is okay in moderation and I also believe too much showing can slow the pace of the novel, but I changed enough to provide much-needed variety to the manuscript.

In summary, for those of you who, like me, struggle with describing facial expressions or simply use the same ones too often, I highly recommend you implement the “editing with emojis” method too. Obviously, there is more to revising a novel than searching emojis, but it is another tool to utilize when dealing with pesky repetition.

You’re welcome!

AS SEEN ON TV: wishing and hoping

I don’t have a release date yet for my upcoming romantic comedy, AS SEEN ON TV, but the tentative publishing season is Summer, 2022. Despite it being what feels like a very long time to wait, I find myself day dreaming about exciting things to come. It’s easy to do while anticipating releases from other debut authors and seeing their Twitter and Instagram feeds in a frenzy of activity. There is no guarantee all of these things are in my future, but I’m wishing and hoping. Putting my dreams into the universe can’t hurt so, without further ado, I’ve listed below some of the things about my traditional debut I most anticipate.

Forever does amazing things with covers, both illustrated and not, and am dying to see what they do with mine. My comps at the imprint (so far) are Abby Jimenez, Farah Heron, Farrah Rochon, and Helena Hunting. Their illustrated covers are fabulous and fingers crossed mine will be reminiscent of theirs.

Keeping the same “creative” vain, I look forward to seeing fun artwork and graphics to match my cover, like new banners for my social media and my newsletter, maybe even animations!

I can’t wait to participate in romcom and other authorly panels, both virtual and hopefully-by-then live. Instagram takeovers with other authors and bookstagrammers. These scare me because of my lack of experience but I embrace the challenge.

Forever has an amazing Instagram presence and I watch the stories each day, salivating over upcoming releases I want to read and dreaming of the day I’ll see my own book there.

This is definitely wishful thinking, but I’d love to see AS SEEN ON TV chosen in one of those Twitter feeds comparing romance book covers to cupcakes or flowers!

Another dream that may not come true is seeing my book on lists: most anticipated this, best romances to (insert activity) etc. but, again, never hurts to dream big!

I can’t wait to receive my box of books and film my unboxing!

I can’t wait to work more closely with my editor(s) and the publicity team at Forever.

There are so many more but none of us have all day, so I will skip to my “last but not least”: seeing AS SEEN ON TV in a bookstore, signing copies of it in a bookstore, meeting readers in a bookstore where my book is on sale! AS SEEN ON TV is not the first book I’ve ever written or even published, but it is my trade paperback debut and releasing with a Big 5 imprint is a world of difference from anything I’ve experienced before. It is my first novel with a print distribution and the first time my book will be in bookstores and libraries rather than available only via online platforms. This is a dream more than ten years in the making. I worked hard. I endured rejections. I didn’t give up. I practiced patience. I persevered. For those of you who share my dream, never give up!

That’s it for me on this rainy Saturday morning. Before I go, I want to ask if you’d like to sign up for my newsletter. I will continue to post blogs here for a while but as my release date approaches, I will be sharing more news about the book (sneak peek cover art, important dates, giveaways etc.) on my soon-to-be redesigned newsletter. Join me?

Happy weekend all!

RIP: RUTH BADER GINSBURG


Millions of hearts broke last night over the death of liberal giant, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

RBG was only the second woman appointed to Supreme Court Justice and she fought tirelessly for women’s rights and same sex marriage. Her legacy will be remembered forever and the loss is huge.

I was eating outside, celebrating Rosh Hashanah with friends when the waiter delivered the devastating and heartbreaking news. The celebratory, optimistic tone of the night ended with those words and the rest of the evening consisted of expressing our fear for this country.

I urge everyone to vote for Joe Biden in this presidential election. The future of women’s rights, the United States of America, and life as we know it depends on it.

March 15, 1933-September 18, 2020

Book News!

This will be a short one, but the sweetest blog I’ve posted in…well…ever!

I was offered and have accepted a two-book publishing deal with Forever, the romance and women’s fiction imprint of Grand Central Publishing.

Here’s the official announcement from Publisher’s Marketplace with the elevator pitch for the first novel in the deal – AS SEEN ON TV.

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Ever since I started my first novel, JUST FRIENDS WITH BENEFITS, in 2008, I dreamed of signing a traditional print deal. It took twelve years, but it’s happening and I couldn’t be more thrilled. I can’t wait to work with Leah Hultenschmidt at Forever on making AS SEEN ON TV as strong as possible before it gets into your hands, and I am so appreciative of my kickass agent, Melissa Edwards, for helping make this happen!

Thank you to all my readers who have waited a very long time for my next book. You’ll have to wait a bit longer since the book won’t be out until 2022, but I hope the love story between Adi and Finn will be worth the wait!

More details to follow when I can.

Where I’m at A-Z Pandemic edition

I hope you all had a great weekend! The weather in New York City was beautiful and I went running on Saturday and Sunday mornings. I try to get out early and beat the crowds. That way, I get my fix of fresh air and don’t feel like I’m missing anything stuck indoors the rest of the day. My critique partner returned the first 150 pages of my novel! The good news is she loves the book so far and gave me a lot of constructive feedback and suggestions to make it even better. The bad news is now that I’m revising again, I won’t be posting daily blogs for a while. To conclude this blogging marathon (not forever just “for now”), I’ve brought back an oldie but goodie: Where I’m at from A-Z Pandemic Edition. Enjoy!

I Already wish it was Friday.
I’m Bored with my own company. We’ve been spending a lot of time together lately!
I need another cup of Coffee. Mondays.
I’m Debating virtual Dating. (See my blog last week!)
I’d rather be Editing my 9th full-length novel right now.
Which Face mask should I wear today?
My main character’s last name is Gellar. Her first name is not Monica. Or Ross.
I’m Hungry.
At least It’s almost lunchtime.
Jokes on me. It’s 9:30 in the morning.
Ketel One is decent vodka, but I prefer Tito’s.
Now is it time for Lunch?
Memorial Day is next week—Beaches and BBQs with friends await.
or Not.
Or not.
I might visit my Parents again this weekend.
Quiet, please. I haven’t told them yet.
Revisions are fun!
This post is Silly.
#Truth.
Upload on Amazon Prime was so good!
Did someone say Vaccine?
Work is calling 😦
Xebec. I don’t know what it means, but it’s a word that starts with an X.
You think you can do better?
Zoom used to be at Box 350 Boston Mass 02134. Now it’s in my computer.

dating in the time of Corona

I’m not doing it.

End of blog.

Just kidding. Let’s discuss.

When I thought the restaurant/bar closings, instructions to stay at home, and warnings against close contact with others would last several weeks to a month, dating was something I was happy to put on hold. I didn’t see the point. The idea of spending significant time communicating before meeting, as would have to be the case right now, leaves me cold. Before I am vested in someone—something that doesn’t happen until we meet—I find texting or talking on the phone with them to be boring and time consuming with no guarantee of an ROI. Many enjoy this aspect of dating, but I try to keep it to a few exchanges back and forth to give me some indication of whether we click and, if so, make a date to meet face-to face. I typically don’t rule out giving it one in-person date if the first text exchange or phone call is “blah,” because you never know what kind of chemistry can spark in person, but I prefer to leave it at one phone call/handful of texts. I didn’t enjoy the banter with the guy I was talking to at the beginning of all this enough to continue knowing it would be a long time before we could meet so I let the communication drop off…as one does…and haven’t bothered with the app since.

I regularly receive emails from Meetup groups about virtual singles events they are hosting. So far, I have deleted them all without reading. Now, two months in and with no clear end in sight, I’m starting to wonder if I should reconsider attending these virtual events. Unlike talking on the phone or texting, I will actually “see” these men—their facial expressions and how they react to me in the moment—which may be enough to determine if there’s in-person chemistry. And maybe it could lead to sitting six feet apart at a park with a mask between us for a “real” date of sorts even if that’s as far as it can go. (I’m not risking my life to get naked with anyone right now…) I just don’t know. Not to mention, I haven’t had my hair done, worn makeup, or dressed up in months. I prefer to look my best on dates. Do I have it in me to make the effort?

I’m torn. Am I wasting this chunk of time…this opportunity…to truly get to know someone without the pressure of taking things to another level? The casual nature of dating these days (before the virus) is something I’ve never been comfortable with. This could actually be a perfect time to meet someone, and I have way more time on my hands than normal. Then again, wherever (or whenever) you go there you are. Douchebags will be douchebags even in the time of Corona. Do I want to add dating stress on top of all the other havoc this virus has wreaked on my mental state?

What do you guys think? Should I go for it? Are any of you “dating” right now? Care to share your experiences? Let me know in the comments!

I will not be posting tomorrow or over the weekend, but I will see you back here on Monday. Happy Weekend everyone, and stay safe!

What I most look forward to after a vaccine

A few days ago, I posted my favorite things about staying at home. Today, I want to take a different route. To avoid being negative, I’m not going to list all the things I hate about life these days. Instead, I will take a more positive approach and discuss what I most look forward to when life goes back to “normal.” (I’m using quotes because I fear things will never be normal again.)

Hugs. I am so excited for tight bear hugs. I’ve always loved fierce embraces, but I never realized how much I needed them until they become life-threatening. I’m so excited to squeeze the members of my family (my mother first) and my friends. Hell, I might accost a random stranger or go to one of those cuddle parties to get my fix!

Live book launches. I’ve become friendly with many authors in the New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut tri-state area over the last few years and there seems to be a book launch at least once a month. Before, I was celebrating a book release at Shakespeare and Co., The Strand, or Barnes & Noble often. Now, while I will continue support my fellow authors at their virtual parties, I look forward to seeing them live from a seat in the audience and to the time when it will be my turn to be the author-of-honor at my own launch party!

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Rochelle Weinstein’s launch of THIS IS NOT HOW IT ENDS at Shakespeare and Co. earlier this year.

Drinks with friends somewhere other than my apartment and without a device between us. Shout-outs to Shanna and Dee, the two friends I most look forward to clinking glasses with when it is deemed safe, even if it results in a hangover!

Eating a meal out. I still order take-out or delivery once or twice a week to support local businesses and to vary my menu, but I miss sitting at a restaurant and ordering a full-on meal with an appetizer, main course, and cocktail. I don’t enjoying cooking and tend to prepare the same meals at home every week. There’s only so much gluten-free pasta, salad, rice and vegetables, tuna melts, and soup I can handle.

A fully-stocked grocery store. I’ve had all of my groceries delivered from Fairway since mid-March. For every order I’ve made, at least 25% of the products I put in my cart were either replaced or refunded due to being out-of-stock. I had to buy low fat mayonnaise and, let me tell you, it was gross! Until this past weekend, I had saved my last Udi’s gluten-free frozen pizza because I was waiting for a “special occasion.” This is what my life has come to: waiting for a special occasion to eat frozen pizza! I visited my parents this weekend and, lucky for me, the Shop Rite by them had the pizza in stock so I bought a few of them. I’ll wait until I have one left and save it for another special occasion.

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Saving for a special occasion!

Losing the mask. I know essential workers sport face masks every single day for hours on end and I respect, admire, and thank them for it! I do, and will continue to wear one whenever I leave my apartment—aside from my runs where there’s more than enough space to leave it around my neck—but it doesn’t mean I don’t hate it. For one thing it’s hard to breathe, and for another, I have a small head and it always slips. I can’t wait to take for granted the ability to breathe in fresh air without a mask like I used to. I wonder if I will ever take it for granted again.

Getting my hair done and feeling pretty again. I haven’t had my hair done professionally since February and it shows. My hair is probably about 25% gray and while I can easily touch up my roots at home, my stylist uses highlights and low-lights to cover my grays and to give my naturally very dark brown hair a reddish tone that I love. A bottle of Clairol can’t do that. My hair needs a good cut, too, which I refuse to try myself! I learned my lessons from multiple disastrous attempts to trim my own bangs when I was younger. Also, I very rarely bother with makeup these days. My face is covered with a mask when I’m in public and I live alone. Every so often, I put it on a little eye makeup or lipstick for a Zoom video, but usually not. Finally, I can’t wait to wear a dress instead of the rotation of leggings, sweatpants, and shorts I’ve been sporting daily. The phrase “comfort over style” has become a cliché.

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This girl needs a haircut and some makeup. 

 

The resumption of my rowing classes. I only discovered rowing in December, when a Row House studio opened in my neighborhood. I was hooked from my first class. It’s a full body workout that gives me something similar to a runner’s high during sprints. Most of the classes also include a body weight portion. After each class, I feel so strong, capable, and like I can take on the world (slight exaggeration for effect)! When fitness centers are given the green light, I hope the studio will open to smaller classes where we can all be separated by more than six feet.

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The studio gifted me this shirt after my last class and haven’t worn it yet. 

Getting my regular salary back. Like many of us, I was hit with a significant pay cut. Right now, I make up a lot of the money by not getting my hair or nails done, eating or drinking out, clothes shopping, or paying for gym memberships, but it’s still a big loss and I worry about how much of my savings I will have to rely upon to pay my expensive NYC rent. My workload has also dropped by about 25% and I also look forward to being busier.

Dating. This isolation has motivated me to find a man to spend my life with, if only so the next time this happens, I’m not all alone! (Just kidding. The truth is that I’d rather be alone than stuck with someone I’m not into.) Many people are “virtual dating” but it’s not for me. I’m rethinking it though…More on that tomorrow….maybe (I’m still debating going there.)

What about you? What do you most look forward to doing when things open up and it is once-again safe to go outside?

 

Favorite books to stay at home with

I’m devouring books more than ever due to my complete lack of a non-virtual social life. While many of us are embracing reading during this time, I’ve heard others are struggling to focus on books. By sharing some of my favorite reads over the last two months, I hope I can provide recommendations to those of you who can’t read fast enough, and maybe help others break their lack-of-focus spell.

This list is limited only to books I’ve read since the stay-at-home orders. There’s a nice mix of genres, including romantic comedy, historical fiction, and thriller.

THE DRESSMAKER’S DOWRY by Meredith Jaeger – This impressive debut is a historical fiction novel about—from Goodreads—two women: one, an immigrant seamstress who disappears from San Francisco’s gritty streets in 1876, and the other, a young woman in present day who must delve into the secrets of her husband’s wealthy family only to discover that she and the missing dressmaker might be connected in unexpected ways. (I also recommend Jaeger’s sophomore novel The Boardwalk Summer.)

ONE TO WATCH by Kate Stayman-London – There are many Bachelor-inspired romantic comedies, but this one is by-far my favorite. Plus-size fashion blogger Bea is so likeable and there are enough twists and turns to keep you guessing who will be the last-Bachelor-standing. I was fortunate to get an ARC of this novel that won’t be out until July.

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WE CAME HERE TO SHINE by Susan Orman Schnall – This historical fiction novel is set at the 1939 World’s Fair in New York and tells the story of two women, Vivi the actress and Max the journalist, and the friendship they forged over one summer. The adversity they faced as women made me so frustrated, but only because I was entirely vested. Out next month, this is the author’s second novel in this genre after The Subway Girls (another winner).

HEAD OVER HEELS by Hannah Orenstein – This women’s fiction/romcom crossover is set in the high stakes world of competitive gymnastics and was so much fun! I’m obsessed with Olympic-level gymnastics and with the 2020 Summer games canceled, this novel filled the void a little. I was fortunate to get an ARC of this book that won’t be released until June. (I also really enjoyed her debut Playing with Matches.)

MEET YOU IN THE MIDDLE by Devon Daniels – Pitched as The Hating Game meets The West Wing, this rivals-to-lovers romantic comedy featuring liberal Senate staffer Kate and conservative Senate staffer Ben is spicy, sexy, and full of humor and heart. Throughout the novel is the running theme that sometimes you need to look beyond labels to see the person inside. This novel won’t be released until September, but you can (and should) pre-order it now!

THE SWAP by Robyn Harding – This delicious thriller about two couples and a troubled teenager is the perfect follow-up to Harding’s 2019 release, The Arrangement. I’m sorry to say that, once again, it is not out yet, but it will be released next month.

THE GRACE KELLY DRESS by Brenda Janovitz – I absolutely adored this historical fiction novel featuring three women in three different timelines and the wedding dress that connects them.

THE TWO LIVES OF LYDIA BIRD by Josie Silver- One Day in December was one of my favorite books last year and now the author has blown me away with the story of Lydia Bird, a young woman who’s reunited with her late fiancé in her dreams. Bring your tissues!

THE BOOKISH LIFE OF NITA HILL by Abbi Waxman –I loved everything about this book. Quirky Nina and her offbeat friends and family, the slow but sexy burn of her romance with Tom, and the punchy dialogue stole my heart and inspired me to dig deeper in my own writing.

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TWICE IN A BLUE MOON by Christina Lauren – The second-chance romance between Tate and Sam in this novel was less romantic comedy and more full-on romance. I’m such a big fan of this author duo, and this book demonstrates their versatility. I never really know what I’m going to get from their novels in terms of humor and steam levels, but I’m just about guaranteed to love it.

What about you? Have you read any of the above books? What have you read since this pandemic started that you’d like to recommend?