Thursday, June 28, 2018

Summer Hygge

When I was searching for the meaning of life (*mid-life crisis...cough cough*) I came across the term "Hygge" and was instantly smitten. It's a Danish word that embodies a feeling of coziness and contentment. It essentially evolved as a way of surviving brutal winters without going stark-raving mad. In other words, if you have many months of darkness and cold, you need to figure out a way to embrace that weather and find the good and beauty there. 

Winter Hygge practices may involve snuggling under a cozy blanket, sipping hot coffee in front of a fire, and playing outside in the snow.

But Hygge is more than a season. It's a feeling...a way to live in the moment and find happiness.

Summer is actually the perfect time to practice Hygge, especially if you love nature and being outside.

Here are ten of my favorite ways to slow down and savor the moment during the summer season...

1. Walk outside and enjoy nature. This is probably my favorite outdoor experience. I love the wind on my face, checking out flora and fauna, and the silence and perspective I get away from civilization.

I recommend walking in a forest where it's shady and cool. Or, if you don't mind people (hee hee)...walking near the beach so you get a lovely summer breeze. One of the best summer spots is Sachuest Point in Middletown, Rhode Island. You can bird-watch, walk along the cliffs, and then grab a Del's lemonade on the way home. Bliss!

2. Make sun-tea. This is such a satisfying old-fashioned ritual. Take a clear pitcher, add 6 tea bags (I like Decaf Ginger Peach from The Republic of Tea), add water, and then place in the sunshine. Once the tea has steeped, you can remove the tea bags and add fresh herbs (lemon balm, lemon verbena, mint), or even slices of fresh fruit. Serve over ice. Refreshing!

3. Swim outside. There's a big difference between swimming in an indoor chlorinated pool packed with kids and swimming in a fresh water lake. Swimming all alone. Just you, a view of the mountains, and maybe a couple of fish near your feet.

My favorite and most invigorating swim was at the Basin Harbor in Vergennes, Vermont. The water (Lake Champlain) was freezing cold. Makes you feel alive! Fabulous experience.

4. Cook outside. Summer cooking is simple, easy, and so delicious. The farm stand is filled with fabulous fresh veggies and herbs. Who wants to turn on the oven when it's hot? No one! Time to fire up the grill.

Here's one of my favorite simple summer meals... a grilled veggie salad. Slice up zucchini, red onion, and orange/yellow peppers, grill until they have a nice char, toss with balsamic vinegar and olive oil, salt and pepper. Serve over greens and sprinkle with a bit of feta or goat cheese.

5. Garden daily. Another necessity in my life. It combines beauty, science, and creativity. Not only does it feed my soul, but it feeds my family. Gardening is calming and life-affirming, as well as practical (tomatoes for lunch!). BEST HOBBY EVER

Every day I do a bit of weeding and check out the new developments--what has bloomed, what fruits are ripe and ready to be picked, what herbs are sprouting. I also snip a fresh bouquet to place on my kitchen window sill. I usually add fragrant herbs for a nice scent in the house. I'm especially partial to lemon, so I like to trim lemon verbena, lemon balm, lemon basil, etc.

6. Socialize outside! One year I put white Christmas lights on my deck during the winter, and then after the holidays, I left them there. (No, I wasn't being lazy. I totally meant to do that!) Unexpected discovery: my deck was transformed into a whimsical spot for the summer. Add some bouquets of fresh flowers on the table, a few candles, and voilà! You now have the perfect spot to entertain. Make some summer cocktails, hang out under the stars. You can even create a summer cocktail bar with various fresh herbs from your garden. Party time!

7. Read outside. Kindle, print book. Doesn't matter. Reading is more relaxing when you are hiding in a shady spot with a gentle breeze ruffling your gorgeous silver hair. *wink* Personally, I like to hide under the big umbrella on my deck with a glass of sun-tea and my latest favorite Harlequin Presents. As one does.

8. Plan a local road trip. My only rule about travel...try to make it simple and stress-free. Otherwise, you need a vacation after your vacation. 

My family drove up to Maine recently. It's an easy drive, and we stopped for lobster rolls, to see the lighthouse at Cape Elizabeth, and had an incredible visit to the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens in Boothbay, which is nothing short of stellar. Confession from a Botany Geek: I was so taken with this gorgeous and inspiring spot, I cried. Twice. This garden is a hidden gem of the best kind. If you get a chance to visit, take it! 

9. Open your windows! I'm a fresh air nut. You know how some people love A/C and some love fresh air? I want the air. Even if it's filled with pollen, I still want the air.

After a long tough New England winter, I love getting a summer breeze in the house. I also love the view of my window boxes spilling over with flowers and herbs. It's a nice way to enjoy the weather.

10. Visit a farmer's market. Some shopping I hate: CLOTHES! Ugh. And some shopping I love: antiques, plants, and FARM STANDS. The best! There is something that is quintessentially summer about meandering through an outdoor market.

I just had a lovely time with my mother and sister at the farmer's market in Sewickley, PA. It had herbs and baked goods and pottery and wine and gorgeous plants and food stalls. One of the nicest markets I've seen.

I'm also partial to the farmer's market in Norwich, Vermont, where I used to get salad mixes with greens and flowers and herbs. So charming!

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So, there you have it. Ten of my favorite ways to enjoy the moment during the summer months. There's no reason you can't enjoy that cozy, happy Hygge feeling even if the weather is hot and sunny.

Just take a step outside and slow down your pace.

Hoping all of you have a wonderful summer,


Saturday, June 9, 2018

The Fallacy of Constant Visibility

I'm giving a talk in a couple of weeks about anxiety, stress, and finding ways to be happy in the midst of a writing career.

Twenty years ago, the pace of the publishing world was much slower. You submitted a manuscript (in print, via snail mail), and you might hear back in eight months. Then, maybe you would land an agent, and it would take another year to get a publishing contract. And then another year or two before the book was released.

There was still anxiety and worry and desperation, but the time line was different.

Now, things happen in days.

Thanks to indie publishing, books can potentially be cranked out in days. Not saying that's good, just saying it's happening.

Feelings of desperation and worry and anxiety are so ramped up right now, if you're not constantly in the public eye, you feel like a failure.

I've seen authors recommend staying "current" every 2-3 months in some way. Either releasing a new book, doing a special promotion, something. 

Constant visibility.

And if you're not doing that? You feel worthless, like no one cares, like you are no longer important in the writing world.

I'm gonna call HUGE bullshit on that. Right now.

Something I discovered after doing a Book Bub ad...there's a big difference in readers-addicted-to-cheap-deals and readers-addicted-to-YOU.

Readers looking for cheap deals are looking for daily fixes, and this drives the idea that romance authors MUST-DO-SOMETHING-EVERY-DAY-NEWSLETTER-NEW BOOK-SOMETHING-SHEER PANIC!!!

I sold a lot of books with Book Bub, but did I gain a lot of long-term readers? That's the kicker. I think a bunch of those consumers are looking for a freebie or a cheap deal, and do not necessarily develop author-loyalty.

I'm looking for author-loyalty. Readers who really dig my books, my voice, my vision. 

I know, even if it takes me 1 year, 2 years, 10 years to release the next book, those loyal readers will buy it.

This push for constant productivity and visibility is making lots of money for promotional businesses. It's also encouraging less-than-stellar books on the market. I see plenty of books with no editing at all. 

This is the way I look at it...

For readers who want free/cheap books, and lots of them, and daily new deals, there are plenty of books to choose from. Tons.

For readers who want to read a Penny Watson original, there are books for them, too.

These are two different types of business models, and it's fine to pick one or the other.

But for folks who feel like they are failures if they can't keep up this pace, please stop and think...

Amy Tan had four years between THE KITCHEN GOD'S WIFE and THE HUNDRED SECRET SENSES. Did we forget about her? Did she become irrelevant? No.

Pink, the singer, took time off to be with her kids. Did we forget about her/not care about her? No, she's awesome. We didn't forget.

Maybe, instead of seeing ourselves as a disposable commodity, we should see ourselves as artists. It takes time to create art. It's special and unique and worth-waiting-for. 

It's a different way of looking at this writing business, and it's a different way of dealing with stress and the current push for constant visibility.

I'm not satisfied with seeing my colleagues sell a lot of books. I also want them to be happy and not feel crushed under the stress of this business.

Go ahead and take your time if you need to. We will all still be here when you're ready for us.

You're worth waiting for!

All my best,


Thursday, June 7, 2018

Another Rousing Edition of Penny's Quirky Summer Reading List!

What does "Summer Reading" actually mean?

Mindless? Easy-breezy? Entertaining? Stuff you can read on the beach and it's okay if some sand gets on your pages?

Not sure exactly, but I'm assuming it's the opposite of "The History of Bosnia" which is--true story--a book my husband once brought to the beach. 

Anyway, I have seen a lot of "Summer Reading Lists" over the last couple of months, so I decided it was time to put together something a little bit quirky and varied and eclectic. 

Time for...PENNY'S QUIRKY SUMMER READING SUGGESTIONS, a weird mish-mash of some of my favorite reads.** 

**Includes horror, mystery, gothic thriller, romance, women's fiction, a cozy, and of course a bonus HARLEQUIN PRESENTS. 

Here we go...


Women's Fiction

Fun and charming tale about a city girl-baker who moves to Vermont. Excellent choice for a foodie fiction lover. Also includes quirky characters, lots of Vermont details, and a meandering story that is summed up with one word: ADORABLE.



This series is absolutely brilliant and so very entertaining. Amelia Peabody is the no-nonsense hilarious protagonist, as well as budding archaeologist and Egyptologist. This series has it all...mystery, romance, history, humor. Guaranteed to get you addicted. You can read the whole series this summer while you work on your tan.

3. GLASS HOUSES by Louise Penny


Book #13 in the Gamache Series. Another entertaining installment of this wonderful mystery series, filled with fascinating tidbits about human nature, history, humor, and poetic prose. I love Louise Penny!

4. INFESTATION by William Meikle


This was my first story by this author, and I heartily enjoyed the fast pace, interesting cast of characters, and horrifying sci fi creatures. Good summer fun for horror-lovers!

5. SILENT IN THE SANCTUARY by Deanna Raybourn

Historical Thriller/Gothic

Raybourn hits all of my high notes with this book. Includes the perfect balance of humor, plot, excellent writing, fabulous characterization, and eerie gothic creepiness. I just love Raybourn's subtle sense of humor and the sparkling dialogue. Recommended to me by my friend Laura K. Curtis, and now I'm addicted to this series. Thanks, Laura!

Lovely book. Read it.


Harlequin Special Edition

A discovery on social media! Carrie is a friend on Facebook, so I decided to check out her book. Low on the angst, high on the sweet romance. Set in New England. Love the family dynamics. Perfect beach read.

7. WANT IT by Elisabeth Barrett

Contemporary Romance 

Love this author's writing and voice. It's fresh and fun and impressive. This series has a bunch of beardy brothers, their distillery business, and some angsty romantic melodrama. It is set in Portland, and includes family drama, lots of laugh-out-loud humor, and sex. Yep, it's pretty sexy. *Penny blushes and tries to look nonplussed* In other words...go ahead, people, say it with meaning...THE PERFECT SUMMER READING! 

Very good!

8. THE SUBURBS HAVE SECRETS by Barbara Wallace

Cozy mystery w/ romance

This is the start of a brand-new cozy series, and it's adorable. 40-something heroine, a very sexy chief-of-police, lots of blonde bitchy mummies in the 'burbs, and excellent secondary characters who pop off the page. It's a winner!

9. SUMMER AGAIN by Julia Gabriel

Contemporary romance

Yeah, you sort of have to include a book with the title SUMMER AGAIN on a summer reading list. 

Fun 2nd chance romance set at a family camp...has a real "Dirty Dancing" vibe which I loved. Very romantic. Swoony goodness!

10. THE HATING GAME by Sally Thorne

Contemporary romance

This book was unexpected and funny and sexy. The beginning has one of the best starts to a novel I've read in the last ten years. Spot-on humor and charming details and LOADS of sexual tension make this one totally worth a read, especially if you're sitting under an umbrella on the beach with an icy cold frozen cocktail. MAKE THAT HAPPEN!


This was a pretty difficult decision, since I've read probably 2,000 HPs over the last year. Geez! But this one is a favorite...



Harlequin Presents

I'm not embarrassed to say I've already read this one about a dozen times. SWOOOOOOON-I-LICIOUS! I have a thing about Russian heroes. Oh boy. This has Russian hero + adorable widow heroine with quirky daughter + scheming grandfather + charming British village, all mixed together with the perfect amount of angst and conflict = The Perfect Summer Treat.

Also, one of the funniest, most awesome "meet-cutes" ever. I laugh every time I read it!

Also...I'm going to recommend you eat some ice-cream...

...and pick some flowers... round out your summer fun.

Badge of honor for list-makers...
Please share with your readers!


Love, Nina/Penny