Friday, September 15, 2017

Review for THE SUBURBS HAVE SECRETS by Barbara Wallace


After writing an impressive collection of romantic fiction, author Barbara Wallace decided to try her hand at cozy mysteries. And I'm SO happy she did!

THE SUBURBS HAVE SECRETS is an adorable cozy debut, filled with likable (and bitchy!) characters, a very sexy chief of police, a Boston suburb much like my own, and a lot of coffee from the local cafe.

In fact, this town is so very similar to my own Boston 'burb, I sometimes felt like Barb was in our very own Starbucks.

My town also has the gorgeous blonde mummies in their big black SUVs filling up a French Roast frequently throughout the day.

And I know for a fact they have secrets, too!

Not as exciting as the secrets in Barb's book, however. 

My favorite things about this book?

1. Sadie the heroine

She is a widow who is struggling with a career in real estate and firmly enmeshed in the suburban lifestyle...sort of against her will. She is likable and authentic, and I love her witty and often snarky observations about life in the 'burbs.

2.  Chief of Police Dan Bartlett

Yum! Super yum! The sexy new police chief is a romantic interest for Sadie, and their sexual chemistry is delicious. I love how he gets all protective of her. My favorite kind of fictional hero!

3. The town

I love the juxtaposition of pretty tree-lined streets and Boston 'burb charm with the sometimes sleazy stuff that goes on behind closed doors. Nice contrast. And perfect setting for mysteries!

4. The Bitchy Girls

This is so spot-on it's scary. Tight yoga pants and plenty of mean girl-attitude make for LOTS of possible suspects in a murder mystery. 

5. Sadie's side-kicks: her best buddy Rob and her son Tim

I don't want to spoil all the quirky details in this book, but suffice it to say Rob--who is a flirty British billionaire--has a hilarious secret of his own. And Tim is the son with an interest in prepping survival skills. I hope they get more air-time in the next book. Both have a ton of potential for this series.

6. The fantastic and unexpected twist at the end

IT'S A SECRET I CAN'T TELL YOU.

I loved it.

THE SUBURBS HAVE SECRETS has all my favorite things in one cozy mystery...an intriguing setting, an adorable heroine, pitch-perfect writing and a nice tight plot, lots of colorful characters, spots of snarky humor that made me laugh out loud, and best of all...for this romance-lover!...a budding romance with a delicious and protective hero. SWOONY!

Grade: A

I cannot wait for the next installment!

Off for my afternoon Starbucks French Roast...

Nina/Penny 

Want to buy a copy?

Find it at Amazon!

 

Thursday, September 14, 2017

How I Accidentally Became A Writer Who Doesn't Write, and How It Sort of Saved My life


Folks have all sorts of reasons why they write. Some do it to make a living, some do it as a creative outlet. Some like being part of the community. Some people need it for self-identity.

I do it for the same reason I wrote stories when I was eight-years-old, lugging around my dingy white notebook filled with a first novel about Mandy, the girl who lived in a treehouse.

Because I'm a storyteller.

I actually feel most comfortable with this description of what I do. More so than "author." I get stories in my head and I write them down. Occasionally they win awards or sell a modest amount or make a bit of money. Not a lot. It's never been about the sales/money for me.

I am fortunate enough to have a husband who not only supports our family financially, but he also supports my writing as a creative outlet. 

So how is it that I found myself overwhelmed with deadlines and anxiety and a dread of writing and the publishing world that had turned something I used to love into something soul-crushing?

Well, let's see.

Starting the publishing journey is like rolling down a snowy hill. You start out as an enthusiastic snowflake, gain some momentum, turn into a snowball, roll along gaining more speed, and suddenly this thing that used to be about writing and creativity becomes about promotion and productivity and deadlines and it's not that fun anymore.

And when you have a lot of stress in your life--could be family stuff, other jobs, money, health, whatever--adding more stress because you feel obligated to publish a book every three-six months or get left behind--this becomes the straw that broke the camel's back.

Part of my writing stress is self-imposed. I'm an all-or-nothing writer. Once I dive into a story, I become all-focused. I think about it in the morning when I drive the kids to school, I skip lunch, I skip dinner (families tend to not like that so much), and my brain is pretty much a whirlwind of THE BOOK until it's done. This is just the way my process has always been. I have short intense bursts of creativity--I call it the "punctuated equilibrium" approach to creative writing.
 
What I noticed as I aged was that my ability to deal with stress--my resilience--was starting to crumble. Things that used to roll right off me were causing insomnia and anxiety. My brain was a jumble of stuff to do for the kids, the family, the dog, the house, and the book. 

Guess what wasn't in the jumble?  

Me.

I wasn't in the jumble. 

More specifically, my happiness was not in the jumble.

My days were about to-do lists and I rushed from one thing to the next, not engaged in the moment but focused on getting the next thing done. The next thing to worry about.

We only have so much emotional energy in our lives. If we use up all of it worrying about the kids or family or book, there is nothing left for us.

It's almost impossible to "remove stress" from your life. Being healthy is not really about removing the stress. It's about becoming better at managing the stress.

And so, after pushing myself to finish a holiday romance in time for Christmas (that's a deadline that can't be moved back, by the way), I decided to take a breather and figure out how to manage my stress better.

My initial idea was to take a short break--maybe a month or two--and then slowly work back to a regular writing schedule.

I took a month off. 

I took another month off.

I started to add "WRITE" onto my to-do list. But...interestingly, it didn't happen.

I did this over and over again, feeling guilty each time the day went by and the "WRITING" thing didn't happen. And then...I stopped putting "WRITING" on the to-do list.

The first time I did this, I was giddy! I felt like a kid playing hooky. How could I have a to-do list without writing on it? Impossible!

Actually, it was strangely liberating. I started to figure out stuff that made me happy again.

I made lists that had things like "hike in the forest" "have lunch with the girls" "plant pumpkin patch in the garden."

I told my husband I was stripping my life down to the studs, and then building it back up. I needed to get down to the very basic stuff I need to be happy and healthy, and then add back the extras. Figure out how all these pieces fit.

I spent a lot of time researching simple living and minimalism and Hygge and I came up with a list of things that work for me every day. And my resilience shot up. I became better at managing stress. And believe me, with a 14-year old teenage girl, I have stress that would make your hair turn white. (Yes, my hair is white).

These are the things I do each day to feel centered and happy. After nine months of not writing, I feel...better. Much better. I didn't intend to take nine months off, but it turned out to be exactly what I needed.

Now I'm attempting a new writing process, one that feeds my soul instead of crushing it. I need to find a way to incorporate this into my schedule without it taking over everything else. And I'm ignoring every single thing about publishing and focusing only on writing. Back where I started. Over forty years ago.

This week was the first week back. It felt good to work on my book and to dive back into research and a new writing challenge. But I still managed my walks, cooking dinner for my family, and going out with friends.

It's not uncommon for women to overburden themselves with responsibility and to ignore their own health. I'm talking physical and mental and emotional well-being. We put our kids and family and jobs on the totem pole, but often we don't put ourselves there. Either we're at the bottom of the totem pole, or not on it at all.

I realized this year either I put myself on the damned totem pole, or I'm gonna fail. I needed to replenish my emotional energy.

Most of all, just needed to find my happy.

I found it.

Now I'm ready to write my happy.

Looking forward to a fresh start,

Nina/Penny


Sunday, January 1, 2017

Happy 2017!


Here's hoping all of you have wonderful things coming up this new year...travel, adventure, exploration, simple pleasures.

WE CAN DO THIS!

Love,
Nina