GIVEAWAY: Signed copy of THE SECRET INGREDIENT OF WISHES & Anthropologie apron!

untitled-designTwo years ago I mentored an author for PitchWars — an online writing contest where authors looking for agents (and publishing deals) get to work with mentors to shine and polish their manuscripts. I’ve always loved books with magical realism, particularly ones that also include food (think Sarah Addison Allen), and was tickled when I came across Susan Bishop Crispell’s manuscript. It’s a story where secrets are baked into pies, wishes that float on tiny pieces of paper come true, and it’s full of all the things I love in a great magical realism story.


I worked with Susan on that manuscript (well, she worked — HARD), and while it wasn’t a direct line from PitchWars to book sale, I’m thrilled that Susan’s debut, THE SECRET INGREDIENT OF WISHES, just hit shelves this past Tuesday.


So to celebrate I’m giving away a signed hardcover copy of Susan’s book, along with this lovely (and book cover matching!) apron from Anthropologie that I wish I could keep for myself. For readers who also love to cook or bake, or who like to look stylish while pretending to chef it up in the kitchen, this is the giveaway for you!


I’ll choose a lucky winner next Saturday, September 17th, via random draw (open to U.S. and Canada). Please visit Susan’s website and give her a little love on Facebook and Twitter if you’re so inclined. And good luck, everyone!


If you want to know more about the book, here’s the synopsis:

51t-vfynk1l26-year-old Rachel Monroe has spent her whole life trying to keep a very unusual secret: she can make wishes come true. And sometimes the consequences are disastrous. So when Rachel accidentally grants an outlandish wish for the first time in years, she decides it’s time to leave her hometown―and her past―behind for good.

Rachel isn’t on the road long before she runs out of gas in a town that’s not on her map: Nowhere, North Carolina―also known as the town of “Lost and Found.” In Nowhere, Rachel is taken in by a spit-fire old woman, Catch, who possesses a strange gift of her own: she can bind secrets by baking them into pies. Rachel also meets Catch’s neighbor, Ashe, a Southern gentleman with a complicated past, who makes her want to believe in happily-ever-after for the first time in her life.

As she settles into the small town, Rachel hopes her own secrets will stay hidden, but wishes start piling up everywhere Rachel goes. When the consequences threaten to ruin everything she’s begun to build in Nowhere, Rachel must come to terms with who she is and what she can do, or risk losing the people she’s starting to love―and her chance at happiness―all over again.

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DIY Bucket List

bucket_PNG7764In Come Away With Me Tegan and Gabe — still reeling from a horrible tragedy — embark on an Eat Pray Love-type of journey to three destinations from a wish list they came up with in happier times. The inspiration for this part of the story came from my own wish list, which I started when I was 17. It now has about 120 items on it (including my goal of writing and publishing a novel *CHECK!*), and has motivated and kept me looking forward for years. I love adding to it nearly as much as checking items off.


Maybe you have your own list – and maybe you’ve even written it down somewhere…if you could only remember where you put it…sound familiar? Or perhaps you want to start a bucket list but have no idea how. It sounds simple — write down the places you want to go, and the things you want to see and do — but like so many things simple doesn’t always = easy.


I believe a lot of people have bucket lists inside their heads, just waiting to be put on paper. So the first thing I would say is WRITE IT DOWN. You don’t need to go overachiever on your first attempt and make it one of those “100 things to do before you die” kind of lists. Although if that’s how you think about it, go for it. When I started my list it had about 15 items on it. And I just kept adding to it. Now it’s much bigger and categorized by Travel, Goals, and Experiences, which works for me.


So if you want to generate your own list, or dust off one you’ve already done, here are a few tips for creating it AND checking items off:


  1. Start with a top 10. You could even do top 10 in different categories, like Travel, Health, Family, or Hobbies, for example.
  2. To generate ideas, ask yourself questions: If I could quit my job, or take an extended leave, with no financial consequences, what would I do? Where would I go? Why is that important to me?
  3. Break the list up, regardless of number of items, into the top 1-3 things for a specific time period (like six months or a year). It’s much more likely you’ll get traction on at least one item if you look at it this way.
  4. Revisit your list every month (put a reminder in your calendar!) and keep it convenient to add items as they come to you. I have a hard copy in a journal my mom brought me back from Thailand, and a copy in a file on my laptop.
  5. Find a bucket list buddy. Invite friends or family in to join you. This makes you more accountable and there’s nothing like a shared experience for fun and lasting memories!
  6. Tell people what you’re doing. Putting it out there keeps you accountable for doing what you say you’re going to do, and you never know who can support one of your goals!


Along with these tips I have two must-haves for creating a wish list:

Make sure everything on your list is within your control.

Only write items down that either really excite or really inspire you.


Finally, write a list of 10 things that scare the living crap out of you but that intrigue you at the same time. I guarantee those are things you HAVE to do.

Come Away with Me – News updates …

Excited about a few upcoming things…

Bucket List Contest! My amazing publisher, Mira/HQN, is running a bucket list contest where simply posting your top 10 list items gives you a chance to win one of them! Up to a $5,000 value, how can you not enter this contest? Runs until August 27th.

BookExpo America (BEA) – I’ll be attending BEA in New York City this year, and will be signing copies of Come Away with Me!

Come Away with Me was chosen as a PublishersLunch Buzz Books (Spring/Summer 2015)!

I’ll be doing a reading at World Literacy Canada KAMA Reading Series – I’m both honoured to have been asked to contribute to such an amazing, worthwhile event, and terrified at the prospect of doing my first, official reading!


In Case You’re Looking for Me

I’m writing/talking about all things debut author over at The Debutante Ball — I have abandoned this blog, for now, because a girl has only got so many words in her that aren’t ones currently under contract!

Hope you’ll visit me and my fellow debut authors — we’re fun (or so I think), and we have plenty of writerly tips and tricks to offer, as well as guest author posts and book giveaways — and I’ll see you back here from time to time, when I have book news to share.

Happy writing, happy reading.

PitchWars 2014 is here. Have you Got what it takes?

I’m going to keep this as short as I can (which probably means not short at all), mostly because I’m currently running “Mommy Camp” (summer break = no break for mom) and my six-year-old daughter tends to prefer playing outside versus watching me tap at these keys (shocking, right?).  So if you have a Women’s Fiction, Literary, or Marriage Thriller book, and it’s fresh and shiny (to be clear, to me “shiny”=POLISHED, not first draft material) and you’re simply BURSTING to get a solid critique, PRETTY PLEASE SEND IT TO ME. No, really. Go to the submission form (on August 18th), put my name on it, and hit SEND. For everything you need to know about how to submit, including the amazing agents playing along, head on over to Brenda Drake’s blog.

But Karma, I can hear you saying — why would I choose you over any one of the other amazing/talented/accomplished/(and likely funnier and more clever with their bio) mentors? I’m so glad you asked.

1. I may be the most thorough critique out there. Well, perhaps I’m overstating this BUT my critique partners talk about my “cocoon” of notes. Meaning I line edit, focusing not only on the bigger things like themes, pacing, tension, and characterization, but also on the little details. I promise you a manuscript riddled with track changes. I am a, um, tough critique (consider yourself warned), but isn’t that exactly what you want out of an experience like this? (If you answered, “not really” to this last question might I suggest a different mentor?) Together we will make your manuscript the best it can be — if you’re in, I’m in. (Also, check out my mentee’s success story from the last PitchWars!)

2. I’ll be there for you after the contest ends. Seriously, ask any of my #TeamGoodKarma mentees from last year, and they’ll tell you we still exchange emails, and I’m happy to offer advice, give feedback, and tweet the heck out of their good news. Writing can be a lonely, isolating endeavour, so the more we can stay connected to one another and support each other the better.

3. I’m an avid reader, and a focused writer. While I write upmarket women’s fiction, my reading tastes vary from young adult, to (light) urban fantasy, to everything in between. I also read A LOT, even when I’m on deadline, and I think I might shrivel up and die if I couldn’t read. Is that melodramatic? Maybe, but it’s true. Which means I also love reading the books my critique partners write, and why I can’t wait to read your manuscript! As for my own writing, I get up nearly every morning at 5 am (if you’re an early morning writer and on Twitter check out #5amwritersclub — that crew has kept me going many an early morning) and write for a couple of hours before I have to put on my mom hat.

Want to know a bit more about me? I live near Toronto, Canada (if you would like to know the appropriate way to insert ‘eh’ into a conversation, I’m glad to help), am happily married, am mom to a beautiful daughter and an equally handsome labradoodle named Fred, and love to run, read, bake, and drink coffee (another one of the great pleasures of life). I also wish I could go to Hogwarts, am addicted to chocolate-covered jujubes, and haven’t slept in past 6am in, oh, six years. My day job is freelance writer, and I write mostly lifestyle/parenting articles for magazines. I’m also an 11-year cancer survivor, and pretty damned pleased to still be here to say that. I’m represented by Carolyn Forde, who is the most supportive and determined agent an author could ever ask for. I’ve blogged the twists and turns of my road to publication, in case you’re interested. My debut novel Come Away with Me will be out next July (Mira/Harlequin), and my second book will come out about a year later.

Me and the mini. This is pretty much how you’ll find me on any given day, unless I’m writing!

Now how about a wishlist? If I were to generalize, the books I’m most drawn to have complicated issues, big hearts, and pretty words.

What I’d love to see:

  • Women’s Fiction — think book club/upmarket (commercial with a literary feel, including those with magical realism, and in a perfect world, magic AND food): WHAT ALICE FORGOT (or anything by Liane Moriarty), AFTER I DO (Taylor Jenkins Reid), THE PILOT’S WIFE (Anita Shreve), ME BEFORE YOU (Jojo Moyes), WHERE’D YOU GO BERNADETTE (Maria Semple), GARDEN SPELLS (Sarah Addison Allen), LIKE WATER FOR CHOCOLATE (Laura Esquirel), PRACTICAL MAGIC (Alice Hoffman)
  • More literary (still with a commercial feel) — LITTLE BEE (Chris Cleave), THE DINNER (Herman Koch), THE NIGHT CIRCUS (Erin Morgenstern)
  • Marriage/Psychological Thrillers — GONE GIRL (Gillian Flynn), THE SILENT WIFE (A.S.A Harrison), and though it’s still on my TBR pile, if your book is anything like Natalie Young’s SEASON TO TASTE (look it up, trust me when I say this is a strange and compelling idea for a book), I would love to see it. I also just finished THE GOOD GIRL (Mary Kubica) and have determined I’m a psychological thriller fan. In truth, it’s pretty hard to scare me away with a concept!

What’s probably not for me (though you never know, I am open to having my mind changed…):

  • Fantasy & Sci-fi
  • Romance
  • Crime
  • Anything boring or not polished (wait, did I say that out loud?)

Also, if you own a tattered copy of ON WRITING by Stephen King, and have at one time or another mentioned something about “killing your darlings,” we are sure to get along.

I’m trying to curb my GIF addiction, but will leave you with one of my favourites (<= note the Canadian spelling) — this will be me, opening the submissions and finding THE book (your book?) I can’t wait to read and critique.


Don’t forget to check out the other mentors’ blogs — click below and start doing your homework …

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