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  • Blog

    2015 a year in review

    12/30/2015

    Writing hits and misses in 2015
    Monique McDonell Books and Champagne Flat Lay2015 is drawing to a close and that means it’s time to reflect on the successes and failures. Goals met or not.

    I suppose one should start with the positive. If I was critiquing someone else that’s what I’d do. (Funny how we much prefer to focus on our own failures and are far kinder to others than ourselves. Or is that just me?)

    I set myself the objective of writing #1000wordsaday. In fact I set up a Facebook group to support other writers with the same objective. The Facebook group has been wonderfully supportive of each other and of me. Having to post the date and my goals has helped me focus.

    One thousand words a day is 365,000 words in a year. Did I achieve that? Actually I did. I wrote two novellas and five novels this year. I didn’t write every day but I had days I wrote more and I had two months where I did 50,000 word challenges so I definitely met my objective.

    I guess that’s my achievement for the year. And it’s not nothing to set a goal like that and meet it so I’m happy about that.
    Monique McDonell Upper Crust Series Banner
    See this pretty series of books above. My goal was to have them all released in 2015 and that certainly didn’t happen. In fact Book 4 which I hoped to release in November and then December will be out next week. And books five and six will be released by April. I’m behind for a variety of reasons and that’s disappointing but they are all written and that’s something.

    I wasn’t a great blogger this year either, I started well but I definitely lost steam so I hope to get a better schedule set up in 2016 to counter that. (I also didn’t do too well with my newsletters but I guess we can discuss that in my 2016 objectives post later this week.)

    The landscape definitely shifted out there this year. Some things definitely became harder for indie authors. Finding traction and visibility is definitely harder than it was for a lot of authors and finding the right balance in book promotion is challenging.

    It will be interesting to see what 2016 brings for me and the industry as a whole.

  • Blog

    December a month of self-doubt

    12/16/2015

    Hearts Afire and Mr Right and Other Mongrels Paperbacks and Christmas DecorationsTime to remember social media is the ultimate holiday brag letter…
    It’s December – the month of celebrations and candy canes. The month of Christmas trees, tinsel and tears.

    Yeah you read that right – tears. It’s the month that people want everything to be perfect and it just plain isn’t. Not because it’s December but because life just isn’t perfect. Not in any month of the year actually but there’s something about the holiday season that has us craving perfect.

    And doesn’t it just look like everyone else is doing it right.? I mean everyone.

    Perfect trees, perfect kids, perfect freaking holiday cookies. Their relatives seem to turn up in matching outfits looking calm and full of cheer. Their kids never bitch and moan. Their husband doesn’t give them a dust buster (and you know they have a husband…everyone has a husband, kids, a holiday home and matching outfits at Christmas right?).

    Oh and then they start reflecting upon the year that was. The raise, the promotion, the climbing of Everest, the losing of the ten kilograms and their new ability to tango.

    And so maybe you were already feeling a bit flat – you’ve lost a loved-one, a job or a dream this year. You have to go to the in-laws and you want to go to your family (sorry even when we love our in-laws this is a BIG bone of contention for many), the Christmas angel you’ve had since you were ten is missing and your burnt those goddamned Christmas cookies (and I’m not even going to mention the gingerbread house) and then you look around and see everyone else’s life and it looks PERFECT.

    So I have one thing to tell you. This is a lie.

    Remember those bragging Christmas letters you used to get? A perfect family’s year condensed into a page? Remember those. Back when I had a small child and had struggled with infertility I advised a friend who was then struggling NOT to read the letters that year. “Don’t do it to yourself.”

    Well social media is the eternal Christmas brag letter and you need to know that. Those perfect Instagram selfies – remember someone worked hard to find one good shot. Those Pinterest handmade gifts – only the well-lit successes make the cut and Facebook, well no one shares a photo of the kid melting down on Christmas morning. No one.

    People think social media brings us together, and it does in some ways, but it also tears us apart, inside where they demons live. This is our fault too. When you share a perfect photo of your dog in antlers and you get 59 likes. If you say you’re feeling low – no comments, no likes, no one reaches out. We like using social media to create the illusion of connection because mostly we just talk about ourselves – just like in that Christmas letter – but it’s only a true connection if you actually reach out to people in a responsive way.

    What’s the point of this post? Be kind to yourself. Step away from social media and go be social. Phone a friend. Meet someone for coffee or lunch or cocktails, especially if that someone is having a tough time.

    And remember – you do not have to read the Christmas letter.

  • Blog

    A tale of two shoes (or the writing shoes)

    12/11/2015

    Put one foot in front of the other.
    Shoes
    Once upon a time there was a writer who was lucky enough to make some lovely friends. She joined some writing groups and organisations and met lovely writers from around Sydney, across Australia and even around the world.

    One day she took a plane to the Romance Writers of Australia Conference in Freemantle. She shared the journey with one of the lovely girls in her writing group. When they went to get dressed for a pirate themed cocktail party that evening, the writer realised she had brought with her two flat black shoes that didn’t match; a left shoe from one pair and the right from another. She had a decision to make.

    Would she walk with a tilt all weekend or get new shoes.

    She really didn’t want new shoes but she went to the Freemantle Markets and a nice lady there sold her some super soft ballet flats made from goat leather (Yes goat, sorry vegans). And she walked without a tilt all weekend (at least before the cocktails) and for the next two and a half years every time she wore those shoes she thought of the conference and her writing friends and what joy that brought to her life..

    Then on a sunny December morning she headed into the city for her end of year writer’s lunch. She realised she had been in this writing group for ten years now and it was with love in a heart and a spring in her step that she slid the shoes on, her writing shoes and headed out.

    It was a beautiful lunch with gorgeous friends that turned into cocktails beside sparkling Sydney Harbour.

    And then the heavens cracked with lightning and thunder and the last remaining writers ran through a storm to get to the station and our writer and her shoes were soaked. Each shoe contained a small lake at the ball and when she walked she could feel it wash over her toes.

    “How delightful!” She said. feeling anything but delighted by this turn of events as they laughed their way to the train.
    And when she climbed into the car, where her delightful husband was waiting, she knew for certain her writing shoes would never recover and she sighed. And for a brief moment she was sad.

    Then she reminded herself better to have good memories and a story but no shoes, than perfect shoes, no new memories and no story .

    Monique McDonell and other writers at RWA 2015 lunch

    View of the Harbour Bridge and Overseas Passenger Terminal Sydney

    Cocktails

  • Blog

    Time flies and you can’t get it back…

    12/7/2015

    NaNoWriMo 2015 Participant BadgeSo, wow, I just thought – I must do a blog post and honestly I had no idea it had been so long. Short of when I take a vacation this may have been my greatest blogging dry spell since I began.

    For those couple of readers who wait with baited breath (What does that even mean – breath that smells like bait – ah no thanks, have a Tic Tac) I apologise.

    I guess I got busy doing #NaNoWriMo which I did win/complete and then I just got distracted. Sometimes I feel blindingly efficient and then I look around and I think I’m the least competent human on the planet. I’m sure the truth lies firmly in the middle.

    And sometimes life doesn’t go to plan – like the computer just ate half this blog post for a start…that really doesn’t help.

    Anyway, we’re all just doing the best we can. So my November release will now come out in December and that bumps everything back a month but at the pace life moves it seems more important to be present for people than meet an arbitrary deadline because you never know.

    I’ve spoken to several people who have lost people they loved this December and I think that gives you perspective – people need out time and our attention while we can give it to them…if a deadline is bumped or a blog post or two skipped….that’s probably just fine.

    Any Way You Want It - Upper Crust Series - Monique McDonell - Original Cover

  • Blog

    Author visit and an excerpt from Plan Bea by Hilary Grossman

    11/14/2015

    Plan Bea Blog Tour Promo Banner
    Plan Bea Cover
    Today we welcome Hilary Grossman and her new release Plan Bea – Blurb

    How well do you really know the people in your life?

    Annabel O’Conner has the perfect husband, two adorable children, an amazing job, and the mother from hell! Annabel doesn’t like it but has come to terms with the fact that her relationship with her mother, Bea, deteriorated to the point of forced and strained communications. However, an unscheduled call from Bea turns her world around and makes Annabel question everything she believed about her life.

    Despite the fact secrets, lies, and misplaced blame have destroyed the women’s relationship; Annabel reluctantly agrees to help Bea plan her wedding. Little does Annabel know the impact of her decision.

    In this Women’s Contemporary Fiction novel, Hilary Grossman explores the complex relationship that exists between mothers and daughters in a light-hearted and relatable manner.

     

    Excerpt from Plan Bea

    Two hours passed and we still didn’t select an invitation. I wondered if the search would ever end. While I didn’t expect this to be a quick task, I didn’t anticipate it to be an all-day affair either. I swore my mother was determined to look through each and every book. I already had found ten invitations I thought would have been perfect. Every time I showed her one she’d just hand me a sticky and instruct me to mark it for later. She wanted us to narrow down our favorites.
    “Excuse me?” I asked the bored looking girl behind the counter. “Exactly how many more books of invitations do you have?”
    She paused for a second. “You’re in luck. There are only five more so you’re only looking at another hour or two before you can leave here.”
    “Thank you.” Turning to Beatrice, “Mother, we need to speed up this process. I don’t have another two hours to sort through all these books.”
    “Why? Do you have somewhere to go? A plane to catch or something?” she asked, her eyes never left the books.
    “Mother, it’s already a quarter to four. I have to get home and prepare something for dinner so I can feed the kids.”
    She cocked an eyebrow, “Isn’t Cole with them?”
    “Yes, but cooking isn’t exactly his specialty.”
    “Really?” She said as she continued to flip pages of the book. “I pegged him for the cooking type. He does make a marvelous martini, you know. Walter, on the other hand, sure knows his way around the kitchen let me tell you! It’s probably from all those years he lived as a bachelor. He’s an excellent cook. He makes the most amazing shrimp scampi with just the perfect amount of garlic. He’s completely the opposite of your father. Do you recall your dad wasn’t even capable of making toast? He tried to once and nearly burnt my house to the ground.”
    “Yes, I remember mother.” At first I wasn’t going to say any more, but then anguish filled my heart. I stared at her. “Don’t you think that it’s sad I’ve been married to Cole for almost twelve years, yet you barely know anything about him? He makes a good martini because he had to work as a bartender in order to pay for college. Connie and Patrick didn’t have money to send him to school. He worked his ass off in order to get his degree. He was so determined to become an architect. In fact, as a little boy he drew blueprints for fun. Connie once showed me some of his drawings, she saved them you know. They were amazing. He was so cute…” I paused as I pictured the little boy my husband once was. “His dad was doing the plumbing for a nursing home that was being built and he took Cole to the site almost every weekend. Cole was fascinated by the building and started drawing his own blueprints. They were so detailed.” I smiled. “But the really cute part was while he was able to do such intricate work, he titled the drawing senior citizen home and spelled citizen s-i-t-e-z-e-n.”
    She marked another invitation. “That’s sweet,” my mother muttered, without so much as a glance in my direction.
    “Well, nothing was going to stop him from his dream, especially a lack of funds. When he graduated, he was so in debt he continued to bartend for years after on weekends just to pay them off. Which is why he makes such a mean martini.”
    Beatrice didn’t comment so I continued, unable to keep inside what I had kept bottled up for so long. “Of course you didn’t know any of this. After all, you never once tried to get to know him. You never made any attempt to get to know anyone important to me. Whenever you’ve been with Cole’s family you barely manage to be civil. I wonder if you even know his sister’s names. Do you have any idea how hurtful this is to me?” I bit my lip in an attempt to hold back my tears.
    “Oh, Annabel. Don’t be so dramatic.”
    “Dramatic? I’m just trying to express my feelings, Mother. You know, I have feelings too.” I sighed. I felt so defeated.
    “Mmm, hmm.”
    The girl behind the desk no longer looked bored. Her gaze was fixated on us as I debated if I should say more. For far too long I’ve held my tongue, the words I wanted to say stuck in my throat. They choked me. I finally had to get my feelings out in the open.
    “How do you think it makes me feel knowing you have no interest in my children?” I closed the book of invitations in front of me with probably more force than was needed. “You never spend any time with them. Forget about going to one of their sporting events or recitals, you’ve never even played a game with them. You have no idea if Violet plays baseball or soccer. You don’t know what Harley’s favorite food is or that he’s allergic to strawberries. The fact that you don’t know any of this, Mother, is what is tearing me apart inside.”
    “Are you done with this little outburst?” She asked as she tucked a caramel colored lock of hair behind her ear.
    “You know what Mother? Yes. I’m done. I have been done for years. I don’t know why I didn’t realize it sooner. But I guess better late than never. I’m sorry.” I reached into my pocketbook and pulled out my car keys. “I’ve got to go. I wish you all the best picking out your invitations. I hope you find happiness with Walter. He really does seem like a lovely man. But I can’t do this anymore. I can’t continue to walk on eggshells around you hoping and praying to gain your affection and your forgiveness. I’ve done nothing to be forgiven for, despite what you may think.” I got up from the stool and started to put on my coat. As I zipped it I remembered my car was parked in her driveway. Leave it to me to ruin my grand exit with a lack of transportation. I really hoped I would be able to catch a cab by the train station down the block.
    Hilary Grossman
    Author Biography

    Hilary Grossman loves to find humor in everyday life. She has an unhealthy addiction to denim and high heel shoes. She likens life to a game of dodge ball – she tries to keep as many balls in the air before they smack her in the face. When she isn’t writing, blogging, or shoe shopping she is the CFO of a beverage alcohol importer. She lives on the beach in Long Island.

    Book Links

    Amazon US: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B016E6FS4G/
    Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B016E6FS4G/
    Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/26230669-plan-bea

    Social Networking Links

    Blog: http://www.feelingbeachie.com
    Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/HilaryGrossmanAuthor
    Twitter: https://twitter.com/feelingbeachie

    Comment

    Hilary
    11/13/2015 04:35:37 am

    thank you so much for welcoming me to your blog and featuring an excerpt of Plan Bea!!!!

  • Blog

    And the winner is….

    11/7/2015

    Monique McDonell Upper Crust Series Banner
    Thanks to everyone who has participated in the Any Way You Fight It book tour. It’s been wonderful to stop by so many blogs and it has been extra lovely to have the support of so many bloggers and authors.

    Releasing a book is a weird experience and I appreciate the support of readers and other authors on my journey.

    The winner of the $20 Amazon Giftcard is Renee C.

  • Blog

    Last chance to enter the Any Way You Fight It Blog Tour Giveaway

    11/4/2015

    Any Way You Fight It - Upper Crust Series - Monique McDonell - Original Cover

    Only one day left to enter the Any Way You Fight It Bog Tour Give- Away. There’s $20 Amazon gift card up for grabs so go on and take a chance.

    Any Way You Fight It
    Matchmaking came easily for Cherie . . . unless she was matching herself. A successful realtor, Cherie could sell a piece of property with ease, she could match up her friends with their perfect mates, but she couldn’t seem to find love for herself. Heck, even her seventy-five-year-old Nona was dating again! Cherie had the perfect love once, or so she had thought. But that was a long time ago, and yet, Luke was the standard by which she measured all potential mates.

    After matching her two best friends and watching them live their happily ever afters, Cherie decides it’s time to make a change and get back in the game. Now all she needs to do is balance what she wants (a Luke-alike) with the demands of her crazy Italian family (a good, Catholic Italian boy).

    Just when she is ready to shake off her past and move forward, her past walks through the door of her favorite local pub with her best friends. Luke is back, looks better than ever, and still has eyes for Cherie. And Cherie can’t control the heat she still has for him. But as with most long-lost loves, he has a past as well, and that past just might prevent Cherie from finding her happiness despite what her Nona’s visions predict.

    Can Cherie and Luke make peace with their pasts and look forward to a new life together? Or will this be the final good-bye?

    a Rafflecopter giveaway

  • Blog

    Author feature – Cat Lavoie with her new release Peri in Progress

    11/4/2015

    Peri in Progress - CoverIN PROGRESS- a new release from Cat Lavoie

    You know what they say about best-laid plans…

    After a disastrous thirty-first birthday party where she gets stood-up by a man she isn’t supposed to be dating, Peri McKenna decides it’s time to change what hasn’t been working—which is pretty much everything. Her love life is going nowhere fast, she’s bored to tears by a job that makes her the office pariah, and the lifelong junk food addiction that used to be somewhat quirky is now positively problematic. To top it all off, her newly-purchased home is falling apart and wishful thinking hasn’t done much to fix the leaky roof.

    It’s time be an adult now that she’s officially ‘thirty-something.’
    But when the first step of Peri’s self-improvement plan backfires, she starts to wonder if change might be overrated.

    Enter Milo Preston, an up-and-coming chef who’s in town to take over a local restaurant. When Peri and Milo begin working together, she finds it hard to ignore his easy charm and captivating emerald-green eyes. Since Milo is her best friend’s estranged brother, Peri has to keep reminding herself that he is completely off-limits. As they grow closer, Milo introduces Peri to new foods, the joy (and pain) of jogging, and makes her think her luck might finally be turning.

    But when the past catches up with them, Peri finds herself back at square one. Will she be able to sort herself out—or will the roof cave in on her once and for all?

    Cat LavoieAbout the Author

    Cat Lavoie lives in Montreal, Canada with her tempestuous cat, Abbie. She is the author of BREAKING THE RULES, ZOEY & THE MOMENT OF ZEN, and PERI IN PROGRESS.

    If Cat isn’t reading or writing, she’s most likely watching too much TV or daydreaming about her next trip to London.

    To find out more about Cat and her books, please visit www.CatLavoie.com and follow @Catenabi on Twitter.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    SOCIAL MEDIA LINKS

    Website: http://www.catlavoie.com/
    Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/CatLavoieAuthor
    Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/Catenabi

    Instagram: http://www.instagram.com/catlavoie4

    Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/catenabi

    Purchase Links for PERI IN PROGRESS

    Amazon: myBook.to/PeriProgress

    Kobo: https://store.kobobooks.com/en-ca/ebook/peri-in-progress

    Barnes and Noble: http://bit.ly/1jIEbDv

    Comment

    Cat Lavoie

    11/2/2015 04:54:17 pm

    Thank you for featuring PERI IN PROGRESS, Monique!! 🙂

  • Blog

    Sometimes taking your own advice is the best advice of all

    10/31/2015

    Writing Laptop and NotebookI’ve been at this writing game a while now and I’ve managed to get a book or two published. In order to do that you have to learn a few lessons along the way, even if you’re a really slow learner you publish eight books and you will learn a thing or two.

    (Some of the things you learn are more about yourself and your temperament than anything else, maybe those are the hardest lessons of all.)

    As a result of hanging in there so long people do sometimes ask for my advice on all manner of things from how I structure my time, how do I get my ideas, how do I manage my social media…lots of different things about the writing life…and I try and give practical answers.

    There’s a lot of aery fairy information out there that isn’t super helpful. Telling someone to find their muse for example, what does that even mean? And where should they look for her? And when they find her, then what, do you offer her a warm beverage?

    I try to give people more practical advice for while I have the soul of a fairy godmother and would love everyone to be able to make three wishes and have them come true, in life I’m a fairly practical soul. My advice is practical usually and actionable.

    People often respond with “Oh that’s such a great idea!” so I figure some of what I tell them is useful.

    I woke up this morning with a lot of things to do and realised that I probably haven’t been taking my own advice all that much in the latter half of October. Now I’m in a pickle I could have avoided. Don’t you HATE that? I know what to do.

    Here’s an example. When people ask what is the most important thing about social media I always tell them, be consistent. Yet have I written a blog post in the last 10 days? No. My blog posts load across the social media platforms so I get many bites at the cherry for one task…I explain this to people several times a week…yet I have ignored my own advice.

    I’ve had two books on promotion this week. Did I send a mail out to my subscribers? No I did not.

    You get the idea. I know this stuff, I tell other people to do it and I haven’t done it.

    There a couple of reasons – well maybe lame excuses for this – one being I always forget that I feel a bit flat the week of so after I launch a book…the truth is unless your book goes gang-busters this is pretty common. It’s a huge deal to write a book, get it edited and formatted and published. Doesn’t matter if you’re traditionally published or indie – that’s a whole lot of work. The number of people who tell you how happy for you is high, the number who buy your book or leave you a review is way lower and that always stings a little. It can take a few days to shake that off.

    The real reason I haven’t done all the things I meant to was I didn’t have an up to date to-do list. And there’s no excuse for that. The truth is without a list stuff gets forgotten or shoved aside and things just don’t happen. I know this. I’ve essentially worked alone running a small business for fifteen years. It’s not rocket science.

    There are lots of great programs and apps you can do all this organisation on but I like the feeling of crossing that line of chicken scrawl off in my notebook. (I do use the apps as well).

    So here’s my advice…follow your own advice, sometimes that’s the best advice of all.

    And as part of my blog tour for Any Way You Slice It – I’m running a competition to win a $20 Amazon gift card. Please enter below.

  • Blog

    Getting ready for #NaNoWriMo2015

    10/19/2015

    Time to get ready for National Novel Writing Month
    Hearts AfireHearts Afire http://www.amazon.com/dp/B009V2UKWQ
    I woke up in the middle of the night last night and realised it was less than two weeks to November which means National Novel Writing Month #NaNoWriMo is just around the corner.

    I’ve written lots of blog posts about it over the years including a series on how to prep for the month that went from the practical – preparing your home and meals in advance and your health – to the more emotional aspects of story writing and stamina. Here is a link to the post I did last year which is very comprehensive – 2014 #NaNoWrimo blog post.

    I think this is my 7th time participating in #NaNoWriMo. Not all of the books have been published but Hearts Afire was my first book I wrote during National Novel Writing month and it remains one of my favourite novels I’ve written (and I think lots of readers agree).

    I haven’t quite decided what I’m writing in November – part of the cold sweats last night. I’m either writing a seventh book in my series that ties everything up in a neat bow, a novel from the series I write under a pen name or a chicklit novel set at my local beach. I have a feeling the last one will win out. It means I can take my laptop down to cafe’s and write and call it research. I’m kind of loving that idea right now.

    Also I think it might be a nice change to take a break from the characters who have occupied so much of my time the last couple of years. A working holiday if you will.

    I’m a pretty disciplined writer these days. Not in October I haven’t been but I’ve stuck pretty faithfully to my #1000wordsaday challenge this year but I really like the commaraderie of National Novel Writing Month. Also because Christmas arrives hot on it’s heels and life seems to lose any sense of rhythm in December and January I enjoy knowing I’ve accomplished something.

    So with the two weeks to go it’s time I followed some of my own advice:
    – pre-make some meals
    – decide on a story and come up with a plot (this one is key I think – all the frozen meals in the world won’t help without this)
    – tell the people in my life I’m doing #NaNoWriMo so they know where my free time is going
    – get ready to say no to a few things
    – set the DVR for any shows I want to watch

    So are you participating in National Novel Writing Month? If so what will you be writing?

    Comment

    Nya
    10/30/2015 04:16:24 pm

    Hi Monique, thank you for passing by!
    I’ve enjoyed reading through your NaNoWrimo prep too! Definitely good tips, this is my first time trying this challenge so it will be a real challenge for me. Good luck to you!