“Writing, like life itself, is a voyage of discovery.”
~Henry Miller

Lately, I have:

* Finished the first – and most major – round of edits on WATERCOLORS. Actually, let’s say that again and add in some more excitement. As of yesterday, the second draft of this book is officially complete!! Whoohoo!! The story is 16,000 words shorter, but as is so often the case with writing, it’s also reminded me that less can be more. The revision process has been entirely different this time around. Instead of my finger taking up permanent residence on the ‘delete’ key, I’ve actually gotten to add a good amount to the manuscript. Before I started, it was a bit daunting. I knew there were so many things to change, so many things to rewrite or rework, and I wasn’t sure how to approach the task. But once I sat back down at my desk and opened the Word document? It was instant adrenaline and excitement. For the first time, I can honestly say that editing has been a totally joy-filled experience. It was such fun to watch the story grow – even as it shrunk – before my eyes. Being unsure about some points as I drafted was tough. Knowing how I wanted to strengthen them during revisions was inspiring. We always say that each writing journey is unique, and this was such a great lesson in that. Never would I have thought that I’d enjoy editing more than drafting – and maybe this will be the only time it happens – but I am grateful for taking another path this time, because it’s helped me see new things.

* Spent the day in NYC with a wonderful group of friends, including my kindred spirit in writing. Words can’t express how much I was looking forward to this day, and even though it went by way too quickly, I had a blast. There’s nothing quite like getting to spend time with people in person when you normally have to rely on the phone, computer, and mailbox for contact. Times Square, Mister Softee, Rockefeller Plaza, Simon & Schuster (because it’s a rule that if writing sparked your friendship, you must take a picture outside that building), Vynl (coolest restaurant, fyi, if you’re ever in Manhattan), and Junior’s for the best dessert … it was fun not because of what we did, but because of who we shared the experience with. I wish I could rewind time and do it all over again!

* Read my first Nicholas Sparks book. I know, I know, what rock have I been living under all these years? Actually, it’s been a deliberate choice to stay away from his novels, because I know they normally have sad endings and I tend to look for happier ones in my reading choices, but a friend recommended THE LONGEST RIDE, so I gave it a try. I am so glad, too, because I loved it. Yes, it was sad, but in a touching way. I loved the characters and the stories, especially the one primarily set in the past, and still find myself thinking about them, even days after finishing.

What have you guys been doing lately?


What …

“Everybody’s reaching for something
Every day pulling and tugging
Always wanting a little more …”
~Melinda Doolittle, “Give”

What I’m listening to: Remember when I wrote about Melinda Doolittle’s fabulous and inspiring new song? Well, this past Tuesday she released an equally fabulous and inspiring EP. It’s called YOU’RE THE REASON and is full of wisdom-filled lyrics, beautiful melodies, and Melinda’s powerfully resonating voice. I love it so much and am learning something new from the tracks each time I listen.

What I’m watching: Anyone else a fan of Shark Tank on ABC? I find the premise absolutely fascinating and am always so intrigued by the products people create. There are so many reality shows out there, but this one is unique and – pardon the pun – inventive. And can we talk about Grey’s Anatomy for a minute? HUGE kudos to the amazing Sara Ramirez for last night’s Callie-centric episode. Talk about talented.

What I’m reading: Actually, this should probably be entitled “What I’m immersed in to the neglect of everything else.” Seriously. Allison Winn Scotch’s new novel, THE THEORY OF OPPOSITES, came out on Tuesday, and oh my gosh, you guys, it is excellent. I’m three-quarters of the way through and will write a full review when I’ve finished reading, but for now I’ll just say that it’s already made me laugh out loud, already made me nod my head in agreement, already made me think and reflect and feel.

What I’m writing: I moved on to character sketches for my new book this week and am truly having such a blast getting to know everyone. So far I’ve hung out (that sounds weird, huh, talking about characters like they’re real?) with Eden, her future best friend Serena, and her love interest Wilson. I’m growing more and more excited about them, about their stories, about the journey we’ll all go on together. There’s still some planning to do, but I can’t wait to start drafting in a couple weeks.

What I’m smiling about: A sweet new bundle of baby joy for a friend, a good report from my biennial cardiology appointment (for my heart murmur), a burst of (relative) warmth sandwiched in between the cold weather of late fall, and some wonderfully invigorating chats with some equally wonderful writing friends.

What are you listening to / watching / reading / writing / smiling about this week?


“Our birthdays are feathers in the broad wing of time.”
~Jean Paul

birthday cake

I’m not gonna lie: even with the lessons learned last year on my birthday, I still wasn’t especially looking forward to this one. Thirty. There’s no denying that it’s a milestone, a birthday that somehow feels bigger than the others. And that should be good. It should be a celebration, not a critique – but, as with most things, that’s easier said than done. Entering a new decade always feels like a marker of sorts. How can it not? And so I let myself reflect: on the things I’ve accomplished, on the things I’ve yet to achieve, on the path I’ve travelled thus far and how different it is from the one I once imagined I’d take. Are there things I’d change if given the chance? Of course. But my friend Karly said something last week that has stuck with me and really helped my mindset to do an about-face: that none of us are ever “where we thought we’d be” at any given point. How true is that? Nobody’s plans pan out exactly as they hoped. That’s simply not how life works.


So, instead of focusing on the things I’m not happy with, I made a conscious decision to do the opposite. No, I’m not a published author yet, but I’ve written five books and savored the experience each time. I don’t have an agent yet, but the feedback I’ve gotten from people who have read the novels, especially SOT, has touched my heart and made it soar. I’m not working in journalism, where I used to picture myself, but that’s because I’ve found a greater love, a deeper passion. I’m not married yet, I don’t have kids yet, but that doesn’t mean it won’t happen in the future. There have been a few eye-opening experiences lately when it comes to different people in my life, and though they were difficult to process at the time, I see now that I’m better off for it. Tough times occur so we can appreciate the lovely ones. People disappoint and hurt us so we can appreciate those who are always there, always supportive. Dreams take a long time to come true so we can appreciate the journey, as well as the destination.


That’s where my thoughts are now. Instead of seeing thirty as a roadblock, I’m choosing to see it as an open road with limitless possibilities. I had a marvelous weekend celebrating – dinner with friends on Friday, family on Saturday, and a trip to the shore Monday through Wednesday. I spent my actual birthday in Atlantic City, where Charlotte and Nolan’s half of SOT is set, and oh my gosh, it was so fun – and so special! – to visit all the places they call home. Steel Pier, Fralinger’s, the Atlantic City Beach Patrol headquarters … it was, truly, like living in their world, and it just made me very happy, very thankful, very hopeful. I even found a picture-perfect miniature conch shell right by the lifeguard stand in Atlantic City. It’s going in the ‘message in a bottle’ on my desk so it’ll officially hold a piece of AC inside. So … I don’t know what thirty has in store, but of this I am sure: I’m looking forward to it and am blessed to have some wonderful people along for the ride.


Here’s hoping for many wishes-come-true for all of us.

Road Trip.

“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.”
~St. Augustine

I mentioned last week that, even in the midst of my writing frenzy, I’ve been finding time each day to squeeze in a couple chapters of Claire Cook’s TIME FLIES. Not only do I relate to the main character’s fear of driving on highways (I am totally that person who will go an hour out of the way if it means avoiding the interstate) and love of anything shore-related, but I also adore the idea of two friends going on a road trip to their high school reunion. It reminds me of a road trip I took with my friend Sara back in 2009, a two-week journey full of sightseeing, disobedient GPS navigators, and, above all, wonderful memories. Nearly four years later, I still think about it often and it never fails to make me smile from ear-to-ear.


Charleston (WV), Nashville, Atlanta, Charleston (SC), Savannah, Charlotte, Charlottesville.

I’d never been farther south than Virginia prior to this trip, so getting to experience places in Tennessee, Georgia, and the Carolinas was a treat. I fell in love with Atlanta within fifteen seconds of setting foot on its soil – so much so that I proceeded to set three novels in the city – and could have spent weeks soaking up the unique magic in Nashville. Within two weeks, we visited spots like the Country Music Hall of Fame, the Georgia Aquarium, CNN, Stone Mountain Park, the Kangaroo Conservation Center, Amicalola Falls, Rainbow Row, Folly Beach, Monticello, and UVA. We saw Music Row, walked through Centennial Olympic Park, ate cupcakes on the edge of a fountain, took a riverboat cruise, found the most fabulous little pancake house, drove along Blue Ridge Parkway and took in its breathtaking views, and more. We met up with friends, spending hours with some and days with others. We nearly got attacked by a snake at Magnolia Plantation, we fought with an automated ticketing machine that never worked, we circled the adorable town of Marietta forever looking for a place to watch July Fourth fireworks, we mispronounced the name of Demonbreun Street for an entire day until my friend Karly finally asked someone to help. We had an amazing, incredible, buoys-you-up-with-joy, unforgettable time.

And so I must thank Claire for inspiring another trip down memory lane. As Melanie and BJ travel along on their journey, I’ve been getting to relive mine. I’d love to visit the south again someday soon – I always say that if Atlanta wasn’t so far away, I’d move there in a heartbeat – and, similarly, I’d love to explore other parts of the country, too. One day … :)

Anyone else ever taken a road trip? Where did you go? What was your favorite part?

Disappearing Act.

“Livin’ might mean takin’ chances, but they’re worth takin’
Lovin’ might be a mistake, but it’s worth makin.'”
~Kelly Clarkson, singing LeAnn Womack’s”I Hope You Dance”

(AKA: What I’ve Been Up To Lately)

It feels like forever and a day since I’ve posted, but until someone invents a way for there to be forty-eight hours in a day, there’s just never going to be enough time to get everything done. I’ve been in Editing Overdrive lately, trying to do as much work on MTL as possible before we leave for vacation next week, and that hasn’t left much time for blogging. But RevisionLand hasn’t been the only thing keeping me occupied.

There’s been reading:

Kelly concert-going, where she chose “I Hope You Dance” – which just so happened to be my high school graduation song back in 2001 – for her fan request:

Celebrating the beautiful wedding of a lovely couple!

And, of course, lots of time spent in front of the computer, reliving my characters’ journey as I tighten up their story:

19,000 words down; 31,000 to go. I think I can, I think I can…

“Scene” in NYC.

“Practically everybody in New York has half a mind to write a book – and does.”
~Groucho Marx

Question for y’all: how many books have you read that are set in New York?

If you’re anything like me, the answer will be “a lot.” So many novels these days seem to take place in the city that never sleeps, and every time I visit Manhattan, I’m reminded of why. There’s an energy pulsing through it, a unique kind of adrenaline which excites. There are skyscrapers soaring up toward the clouds, courtyard cafes filled with delicacies and nestled among tiny gardens, office buildings overflowing with high-powered employees, tourists taking in the sights of a place that is truly a cross-section not only of America, but also of the world. There are bright lights and bright souls. And, to a writer, the city unfolds a plethora of opportunities. Everywhere you turn, there’s a story idea dangling in the air, just waiting for you to find it. There are publishing houses that motivate, waterfront views that inspire, and parks that provide the perfect spot to settle in with a journal and write, write, write. And, as I discovered this weekend, there’s even more.

There are views like this:

Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir

And this:

Times Square skyline at night

There’s the Museum of Natural History:

Clearly I had to take a picture with this.

And the restaurant I wrote about in one of my books:

Barolo in SoHo

In fact, there’s all of SoHo – my character Lily’s favorite place in Manhattan. Her heart beats for the Big Apple, especially this charming area that’s a juxtaposition of old against new, of traditional against modern.

LOVE the cobblestone streets!

Such unique and historic architecture.

I’d like to live here, please and thank you.

If you’ve read the SHOPAHOLIC series, you should recognize this store.

The SoHo Building.

There’s Central Park:

I’ve wanted to see the reservoir for years!


View from Belvedere Castle.

And Times Square:

M&M Store

Early morning shot.

Outside the GMA studios.

Robin Roberts

There are Red Velvet cupcakes from Crumbs:


And great friends to share the experience:

Whoever invented the self-timer on cameras is a genius.

I’m still in the middle of MINE TO LOVE edits, and the next book I’m planning (yes … the next one … I like to think ahead) will be set somewhere along the coastline, but after that? I think it’s time for a character of mine to call Manhattan home. Or maybe not. Maybe that character will belong in a different city, or a quaint suburb, or a sleepy town. But whatever the case, I’ll continue to be inspired by those big lights. Because though New York may be a place where dreams are made, other spots can be, too. It’s about how we work for those dreams and how dedicated we are to them.

(That said – if the time ever comes when my books sell, I am totally celebrating with dinner at Barolo. One day …)

Know vs. Don’t vs. Want.

“Before you begin to write a sentence, imagine the scene you want to paint with your words. Imagine that you are the character and feel what the character feels. Smell what the character smells, and hear with that character’s ears. For an instant, before you begin to write, see and feel what you want the reader to see and feel.”
~Othello Bach

Last week, I had the pleasure of spending a couple days in New Jersey with my friend Christina, her husband Tom, and their beautiful daughter Jane. It’s hard to believe that sweet baby girl is almost ten months old – she was just born! Where does the time go? She is so full of personality now, so charming, vibrant, and eager to explore every single thing about her world. We read stories (because this honorary aunt couldn’t resist buying her some books!), played out in a fresh coating of snow, walked and walked and walked even more (seriously – how is she old enough now to be able to cruise around only holding on to someone’s hand?), and, my favorite part, shared lots of snuggles. Pretty sure my heart melted when she scooted over, cuddled against my chest, and gave me a kiss. Love, love, love that little honey.

Seeing how she’s blossomed made me think of the baby I wrote about in Dear Ellie. Not having a child of my own yet (oh, but the baby fever!), I did a lot of research for that book about the different milestones, characteristics, and behaviors of infants. It was such fun, and I genuinely loved writing about that little miss and her interactions with the cast of characters. But even as I worked, I couldn’t help wondering sometimes: is this true to form? Having never been in this situation myself, how can I really know how a new mom would react? How an infant would give cues and bond with her parents? It was a dichotomous journey that involved a balance between research, understanding my characters’ personalities, and imagining how/why they would act in certain ways. So whenever I get to spend time with sweet Jane, it’s always interesting to me to see how my fictional Ellie compares.

My conclusion? What every parent already knows: each baby is different. There are similarities, sure, but each little one is their own person. They discover things in their own way, in their own time, and that’s what makes it so special. No two parenting experiences will be the same. No two parenting experiences should be the same. The all-encompassing, high-flying love, though? How your heart opens up in ways you couldn’t understand before, how everything is brighter, deeper, fuller? That seems universal. Even without a baby of my own yet, I get that. All this has me wondering: do we write only what we know, what we’ve experienced and lived? Or do we delve into the unknown and craft stories about things that are unfamiliar, lives that aren’t yet ours?

Personally, I like to incorporate both. With my first manuscript, there was SO MUCH about my main character that I could relate to, and even though I hadn’t ever been in her particular circumstance, her motivations were completely understandable. With my second – and, subsequently, its two sequels – the premise was one I really couldn’t relate to at all, and the main character differed in many ways. Kaitlin can attest to how concerned I was at the outset, worried I wouldn’t be able to do justice to Sofie and her journey. Know what? Writing that book turned out to be one of the most amazing, inspiring experiences of my life. I will forever be grateful that I decided to take a leap of faith and go for it. It’s been more than a year and a half now – two finished manuscripts and one in-progress draft – and the thought of not having this cast of characters take up residence in my head is kinda unfathomable.

Is it helpful to write what we know? Sure. It brings an authenticity to the words, a feeling and emotion that’s inherent. But when we write about what we don’t know, what we want and hope – for our characters and maybe even for ourselves – there’s a magic in that, too. So who says it has to be one or the other? Why not a combination? As much fun as it is to tie-in real-life events in fiction writing, it’s equally enjoyable to create new ones. As much fun as it is for me to set three of my four manuscripts in Atlanta – a city I fell in love with after visiting in 2009 – it was equally enjoyable to make the island of Nantucket, where I’ve never been, an important part of the story, too. As much fun as it is to write what we know, it’s equally enjoyable to explore what our characters know, what they live and what they want. What their dreams, hopes, and ambitions are. And isn’t that what writing’s all about?

Writers – do you gravitate toward what you know, or do you explore different worlds? Readers – do you prefer books that take you on similar journeys to your own life, or ones that transport you somewhere else entirely?

Tuesday’s Tunes: The Stronger Tour.

“This is not my surrender
I’m not runnin’ for cover
I’m right here
I know you see me
But your words no longer defeat me…”
~Kelly Clarkson, “The War Is Over”

Warning: this post will contain excessive excitement, enthusiasm, elation, and, yes, exclamation points. Because Sunday? It was the BEST. DAY. EVER.

We headed down to Atlantic City around noon and then proceeded to stalk (erm … visit) the Taj Mahal box office for our Meet & Greet passes. First we were told they’d be there at 3:30, then 5:00, then 5:30, then … well, you get the picture. They weren’t brought down until nearly 6:00, but that’s okay because while we were waiting, we got to listen to Kelly’s soundcheck. The doors were closed, but it was still really awesome to hear her and the band practicing – especially because one of the songs was a new addition to the setlist and something we hadn’t heard her perform live before! The passes arrived shortly thereafter, and to say we were thrilled is probably the understatement of the year. Decade. Century. How did we show that? By taking a zillion pictures with our passes, of course.

Our instructions told us to meet by stage right at 7:30 – when the opening act started – but we got there fifteen minutes early, just in case, and were met by the head of Kelly’s security, who checked our passes and separated us according to group. I love that they save the fanclub meet and greet for last because it means you get more time with Kelly. They took us backstage (literally behind the stage – we saw the dressing rooms, catering, band area – SO NEAT!) and Kelly’s security head explained how things would go. Everyone with RCA passes would see Kelly first, then the radio winners, and then us … which meant lots of nervous and excited chatter as we (im)patiently waited our turn. It’s funny: we’ve known for a week – some of us longer – that we had the passes, so you’d think that would be enough time to process it, but standing backstage was still so surreal. It’s like we were floating in a bubble of happiness and the air around us was just fizzing with energy and adrenaline.

I was the first of our group of six to talk with Kelly. I made myself a notecard again, complete with a reminder to actually tell her my name this time (go on and laugh!), but I was (slightly) calmer than the first time four and a half years ago so I decided not to use it … and then forgot to say my name AGAIN. Oops? That’s alright, because I said everything else I wanted to. Before I even got over to her – as soon as she was finished with the person in front of me, actually – she smiled and called over, “Ooh, I love your sweater!” That almost made us all crack up, because I seriously made myself nuts trying to find the perfect outfit. I went to four different stores, had five different possibilities, and didn’t decide until about an hour before we left. Boy, am I super glad I chose that one!! :) I thanked her, she hugged me, and as she pulled back I was instantly struck by how intense and expressive her eyes are. I remember that from before, too – she holds your gaze the entire time you’re talking with her and you can just tell she truly, genuinely cares. She doesn’t do the M&Gs because she has to; she does them because she wants to, honestly and sincerely. The first thing I told her was that I’m a writer and how I build a soundtrack/playlist (though I’m almost certain I got flustered with her two inches away and called it a setlist, but whatever – she knew what I meant) for each book, and that for the one I’m starting now, the main song on that list is her new one, “Stronger.” As soon as she heard about me being a writer, she said “Oh my God, that’s so cool!” and she broke into this huge smile when I mentioned her song being the inspiration for my characters and their upcoming journey. She said that it’s one of her favorite songs and totally empowering to sing – and I know there was something else she said, too, but it is SUCH a blur when you’re up there with her that I cannot for the life of me remember what it is.

The other important thing I wanted to tell her … well, it was more of a thank you than anything, for her song “The Sun Will Rise.” I told her that it was one of the only things that brought true comfort and peace to me after our family went through such a horrible time last year. I swear, I’ll never, ever, ever forget the look on her face – and in her eyes – when I told her what happened with Gram. There was such empathy there as she said she was so sorry, and Mary Kate said she looked really touched by what I’d said. How many celebrities do you find who so fervently and compassionately care about their fans like that? It was just very, very sweet and very, very special. She told me that they were going to sing TSWR that night, but had replaced it with a different one for the acoustic set. We took our picture next – I asked for a hugging one, she said “sure!” and grabbed me – and before it was time to leave, she called out this loud “good luck with your writing!” SO UNBELIEVABLY COOL and something I’ll remember always. And our picture? It is definitely getting framed and hung up immediately!!!!


Marissa was next to meet her, then Sara, Mary Kate, Julie, and Daniel. It was so wonderful to watch them all with her, especially everyone who was meeting her for the first time and having their dream come true. The joy was truly palpable and there are no words to express how elated I am for them that they finally got to have this experience. Seeing them with Kelly made my heart so happy. Seeing all my fabulous friends with her did.

I think the best way I can describe meeting and talking to her is that it feels like a bear hug. Like Mary Kate was saying yesterday – when you’re with her, she makes you feel like you’re the only person she cares about at that time. It’s a really special, genuine quality – and she is so humble and down-to-earth. Marissa, Sara, and Mary Kate talked to her about dancing, teaching, and delivering babies, and her response was “Man … writers, teachers, dancers, nurses … y’all are talented! All I do is sing!” She meant it, too. She’s just so gracious and personable, always treating her fans like friends. And, honestly, I believe that’s how she views everyone. The gratitude and appreciation goes both ways, and that sets her apart from so many others.

As soon as we got back to the arena, we shared a group hug and bounced around in excitement. To be blessed enough to share the M&G experience together was and will forever be such a gift. And the concert! It was FABULOUS, a celebration of her ten-year career (looking forward to the next ten!) that included lots of songs from every album. She even did a song in the audience right from the row behind us! She is so personable and spunky – stopping to chat with people in the audience and teasing the spotlight guy who couldn’t seem to find her for half the show – and she seriously has SO much energy, it’s crazy. I can’t get over how she can sing while twirling, spinning, jumping, and bouncing everywhere. As for us … we danced/jumped/sang so much that we left the casino barely able to walk or speak. Oops? Such a truly fantastic time, though, and I loved getting to experience it together with my family and friends. It made it so very special.






Julie & Daniel



This week’s Tuesday’s Tunes? Concert videos, of course!

“I Forgive You”:

“The War Is Over”:

It’s no secret that Kelly’s been a gigantic inspiration to me for years, and I will be forever grateful for having the opportunity to talk with her again. She’s such a special person, one who truly makes the world better for being in it, and there really are no words for how very much Sunday meant. To be able to thank her for her music, to explain what a chord it strikes, how deep an impact it has, and how strongly it helps give us faith when we need it the most … and to see her reaction to my writing … and just to have a conversation with each other, to be reminded yet again of how graciously and whole-heartedly she cares about her fans, it was truly a treasure to cherish. It was a ray of sunshine, a cloud nine to settle on, and a starburst of hope. It resounded. It resonated. Kelly’s heart is as big as her talent, and we are the luckiest ever to have gotten to experience it again. Some people wait a lifetime for a moment like that.

Why this week rocks:

“Happiness always looks small while you hold it in your hands, but let it go, and you learn at once how big and precious it is.”
~Maxim Gorky

When your week begins like this, it’s not exactly a ringing endorsement for how the next seven days will play out. Luckily, a trip to the Apple store + the return of my multi-colored planning pens + some really exciting news has done more than enough to balance out the computer troubles. So, you may ask, why does this week rock?

Reason #1: Seeing the MacBook Pro in person and getting to explore its features? Made me want to buy one instantly. Despite the insanity of the Apple store (wow, do they need a space that’s double the size), the employees were all so friendly and helpful, and beyond that, the computers are just … awesome. If only I were a millionaire, I’d have snapped one up in a nanosecond. But since that’s not the case, I’m now weighing the OMGIWANTTHISLAPTOP voice in my head with the one that reminds me how much more affordable and reasonable a PC would be. Only … we can’t be reasonable all the time, right?

Reason #2: Who has a Meet & Greet pass for Kelly Clarkson’s concert this Sunday? ME!! I’m so excited I can’t stand it, so I can only imagine how giddy this weekend will be. And even better – my sister and friends have passes, too. To say I’m thrilled for them to meet Kelly for the first time is an understatement. Sharing the news with everyone yesterday was such fun. Is there anything better in this world than being able to make other people happy? I think not. I truly cannot wait to share this experience with them, and of course to talk with Kelly again. She has been such an inspiration over the years and I’m already planning what all I want to tell her this time. Here’s hoping I don’t ramble on for so long that she has to interrupt to ask my name like she did back in 2007. Ha. Really, though, when Kelly Clarkson is the one you’re embarrassing yourself in front of, it’s all good. All great. All SO FANTASTIC THAT YOU WANT TO JUMP UP AND DOWN!! Is it Sunday yet?!

Reason #3: Most people dislike Monday mornings. This week, I was looking forward to it more than words can express. Why, you may ask? Because I FINALLY got to start working on my new novel! Okay, okay, it’s only been six months since I finished writing the first draft of the previous one, but when writing fills you up like nothing else can, six months feels like an eternity. For as awesome a process as editing turned out to be, nothing – nothing – can compare to the adrenaline and hope of beginning a new manuscript. It’s like a new journey just waiting to unfold. A new adventure just waiting to envelop you in its grasp. A new baby just waiting to be born. Sitting down at my desk, swirling out my multi-colored pens like a rainbow of inspiration, it made this pure, innate joy swell inside. Getting started on character sketches, loose outlines, and research? I know it’s work – and challenging work at that – but my goodness, it feels like such a ray of light. There’s so much faith, so much belief, so much love at this stage of the game. And yes, the characters may be like old friends to me by this point, but their story is constantly spinning and creating new threads in their tapestry. So excited to see what they weave.

How has your week been going? Tell me one reason why it rocks!

GoGoGo … Rest, Rest, Rest.

“Don’t count every hour in the day, make every hour in the day count.”

Boy oh boy, what a week it’s been. That sinus-infection-turned-bronchitis? It decided to morph into a bad ear infection, too. Sometimes it felt like ocean waves were tumbling through my head. Sometimes it felt like bells were ringing nonstop. All of the time, it was incredibly frustrating. Who wants to be sick for over three weeks during the holidays? The good news is that the ear infection was enough to finally get me an antibiotic last Thursday, and even though I’m still not a hundred percent yet, I at least feel like a normal human being again. After spending most of December coughing (and coughing … and coughing), I will definitely take that.

The doctor made me promise to get lots of rest – which I did, because it’s obviously important when you’re sick – but it was challenging this week, what with the holiday and all. Hanukkah is officially over today – yesterday was the last night – and though it was indescribably difficult to get through the celebrations without Gram, I’m still sad to see the holiday go. There’s just something so special about it, something so full of light and love. And yes, there was a heart-shaped hole this year, but as Kristan so optimistically reminded me, it was important to fill it up with heart-shaped happiness, because that’s what Gram would have wanted. Did I get teary-eyed looking at her place on the sofa during our family party? And again when we lit her special candle that she so loved? And again when I put on the necklace she bought me for Hanukkah a few years ago? Yes, yes, and yes. Losing her meant gaining a void that will never close. I’ve been making a point this week to look at her picture even more, to not only remember the beautiful memories but immerse myself in them. It helps, and I like to believe she’s smiling down on us, remembering those special times, too.

It also helps to keep busy – and between holiday celebrations with family and friends, getting lost in a great book (seriously, you can blame my lack of posting on this novel, because anytime there’s a spare minute, I’m cracking open the cover to see what happens next), and reworking/updating my lit agent database, busy has definitely been the name of the game. It’s been GoGoGo, but with time-outs to Rest, Rest, Rest along the way. And really, isn’t that what the holiday season should be? It’s about surrounding yourself with family – both given and chosen – and making new memories that’ll last a lifetime.

From Christmukkah/Friendship Day celebrations with friends …


… to setting up all the Hanukkah gifts …


… to lighting the menorah and Gram’s candle …


It was definitely a meaningful holiday. I hope all of yours were just as lovely. As I jump into writing new queries to send off to agents next week (and then – finally! – starting work on the new novel), memories of this not-as-planned break will float through my mind. What holiday memories will you smile about as you get back to work?