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Photo credit: Kim Golden.

This weekend, I am in Skåne in southern Sweden. It’s a beautiful place–especially here in Yngsjöstrand, near Åhus (famous as the birthplace for Absolute Vodka–and yes, the Absolut distillery is still here). Autumn has already arrived here in Sweden–the leaves are turning colors and the air is chilly, the days are shorter… and it’s making me long to get cozy.

So what’s a girl to do? Make a wish list of what she needs to get through the chilly autumn. I think five things could keep me going until Christmas. Yes, I mentioned the “C” word even though we still have a few months until it’s upon us. But these things would keep me happy until that time when we need to think about presents and all the yada yada around it.

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A cozy armchair

I keep testing different armchairs, hoping that I will find the perfect one. The Twist armchair from Mio might do the trick. It looks comfortable enough for a lazy afternoon of reading. And it’s affordable enough that I won’t have to put myself on a ramen noodle diet if I buy it.  A bookworm/writer like me needs a cozy place to sit, to ponder, to come up with ideas, to lose myself in words.

Why not get lost in this armchair? Now…I am not sure about the color. I think I’d want it in a snazzier color like crimson or maybe teal, but I could live with anthracite as long as I had a nice throw pillow in a funky shade or pattern.

So I think I will test it out at Mio during my lunch break.

 

 

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NaNoWriMo

Every year I love planning for NaNoWriMo–or National Novel Writing Month for those who’ve never heard or tried it. During the month of November, thousands of us around the world (yes, I know that makes it international) come together to write a 50K+ novel in 30 days. I wrote my first novel, Snowbound, as a NaNoWriMo project. Maybe Baby and Maybe Forever were also NaNoWriMo projects.

NaNoWriMo is tough but it helps me get through the dark Swedish winter. It keeps me focused and–when I am focused–I don’t get depressed because of the gloomy days. When I am writing stories I love, I don’t feel like Swedish winter is eating away at my soul.

This year, I am not sure which project I will work on. Either my android novel (check out my flash fiction and you’ll see what I mean) or a standalone novel in the Maybe… series, this one featuring another of Mads’s cousins–Ragnar, whose been unlucky in love with a Swedish-Chilean woman and who goes to Italy to figure out what he wants.

Whichever I choose to write, I know I will be happy. NaNoWriMo is a labor of love and it fulfils me.

 

 

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A weekend in Copenhagen

Whenever I need a quick break from Stockholm, a weekend in Copenhagen does the trick. Not only is it close enough that going there doesn’t feel like a chore (it’s only an hour’s flight away), I always get inspired when I am there.

A summer visit inspired Maybe Baby and Maybe Tonight. Another weekend there inspired Maybe Forever. The Danes like to joke that they do it better and maybe they do. They seem to enjoy life more than many Swedes and they don’t take things as seriously. As much as I love living in Stockholm, Sweden, there is something about how laid-back Copenhagen is that makes it the perfect weekend getaway. And even if I sometimes spend most of my weekend strolling with no destination in mind, I always end up seeing or overhearing something that clicks and gives the spark for a new story.

 

 

 

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Every now and then, my five-year-old MacBook Air does something to let me know it wants to be retired. So far, I ignore it. I keep telling myself it can chug along a little while longer. Sooner or later, I will have to get a new one. I am loath to buy a new one. I’ve written four (finished) novels and a few unfinished ones on this one, and I love it. I think I could go a little while longer without buying a new one, but the siren song of a new MacBook Air is hard to resist. For now, I will pretend I don’t hear it, but if my next novel hits the bestseller’s list, then I will feel like I’ve earned a new computer and then I’ll treat myself to one.

 

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A writer’s retreat

I’ve been thinking of treating myself to a writer’s retreat at Retreats for You in Devon UK. It looks so cozy (and I love cozy). I think it would be a great place for an autumn retreat. I know I won’t be able to do it this year, but a girl can dream.

In the meantime, I will save my pennies and then treat myself to a retreat there either next spring or next autumn. Maybe I could start NaNoWriMo there next year. It looks like a great place to sit and write.

What’s on your autumn wish list? Drop a line and let’s compare notes.

 

IADThanks for joining me today for the International Authors’ Day Blog Hop, hosted by Debdatta Dasgupta Sashay and BookR3vi3ws.

People always ask me who is my favourite author or which book is my absolute favourite–and I always end up saying something different. It’s difficult to narrow it down to one author or one book. There are just so many.

If you’d asked me when I was in high school, my immediate response would have been the Silver Metal Lover…or possibly Days of Grass, both by Tanith Lee. I stumbled upon both titles after school while avoiding my homework. This was back when Barnes & Noble was still on Chestnut Street near City Hall in downtown Philadelphia. I could spend hours there. I spent most of my allowance there.

In college, I would have said either Toni Morrison or Ernest Hemingway (or both). Or I might have said Gabriel Garcia Marquez and then told you how much I loved his short stories in Leafstorm.

Now there are so many writers I love–traditionally published and indie. I get just as excited over new releases by indie authors  like Zack Love, Xio Axelrod, Nia Forrester or Tia Kelly as I do about when Lindsey Kelk, Justin Cronin, Martha Southgate or Andrea Lee release new novels.

I love reading–sometimes I love reading more than I love writing. A shiny new book can distract me from my writing far easier than a TV show. And I love that so many authors want to share their work with the rest of us. We book lovers are an interesting community. We may not actively seek one another, but somehow we always connect. We bond over our favorite scenes, we express our frustration at not having Book 6 in the Songs of Ice and Fire series or gush over how much we love our book boyfriends.  For us, authors truly are our rockstars.

The Maybe series collage

To celebrate International Authors’ Day, I’m giving one lucky winner the Maybe… series (Maybe Baby, Maybe Tonight and Maybe Forever) as ebooks. All you have to do tell me in the comments what is your favourite book and why. I will pick a winner on 18 July, once my flight has landed in the US. 🙂

Screen Shot 2015-06-19 at 18.38.20Instead of spending Midsummer in Stockholm, I am in Matera, Italy brainstorming my next books with a great group of writers at the Locanda di San Martino. These amazing women have helped me figure out how to get past some road blocks that were keeping me from moving forward with my new WIP, Under the Milky Way. I am so grateful for this group and all the wonderful ideas and discussions we share. It’s been amazing! 🙂 Later today there will be a #SundayShare post with a snippet from my WIP.

Maybe Trio

There’s a reason I no longer play sports and concentrate on writing: I have *zero* coordination. Today, while walking, I managed to sprain my ankle. I stepped on what looked like a pretty solid piece of pavement with a bit of gravel on it–turned out to be a pile of gravel–and my foot went in one direction, my body in the other. Yes, it hurts. A lot. And the outer side of my left ankle is swollen and tender as is part of the top of my foot.

I’d take a picture, but I don’t think you want to see my battle-weary foot. I’ve propped up my foot and making sure I do a good job of feeling sorry for myself. 😉

Earlier today I worked on formatting Maybe Forever so that I can get the e-ARCs ready to send out. I still have a bit to do, but I think I should be done in 2-3 days. I hope everyone who loved Maybe Baby and Maybe Tonight will enjoy the continuation of Laney and Mads’s story.

I’m still working on Maybe Tomorrow. Not sure why it’s taking me so long, but that’s the deal at the moment. I’ve set a deadline for myself since I plan on publishing it in July. And I am working on a story board/plot outline for a new idea featuring a companion robot who falls in love. I’ve also got another story idea I am working on that’s a little more down to earth. 😉

Not much else to tell you today, but I hope the rest of you are having a great Sunday.

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Welcome to Scandinavia, where winters are long, men are tall and summer can be absolutely brilliant…or rainy.

In July it will be twenty years since I left the United States behind and embarked on an adventure in the name of love in Scandinavia. I only knew a handful of people here–the man I was in love with and his family. At the time, it never occurred to me that this was not something I should do–apply for a residency permit, buy a one-way ticket, sell all my personal belongings, board a plane, take off into the great unknown. There were plenty of nay-sayers. Whenever I told people I was moving for love, they’d tell me I was crazy. More often than not, someone would comment on how I was “giving up my life” to be with a white man–as if the color of his skin had somehow clouded my judgment or made me incapable of rational thought. I tried to ignore their negativity, but every now and then their words would annoy the hell out of me. And they annoyed me because they behaved as though my relationship with the man who would later become my husband was not “real” because he was not black or because he was not American. As if these two factors were the only way a black American woman could be happy.

While all of this was spiralling around me, I was trying to write a novel. I was nearing the end of working on my master’s degree in Creative Writing and putting the finishing touches on my master’s thesis–a collection of short stories I’d worked on for three years, tweaking until each story was a gem (in my eyes anyway). Now the novel, well, it was this unformed thing. I had faceless characters with vague back stories. I had a setting that was probably more detailed than the plot itself. And the plot…well, there wasn’t really one. In short, I didn’t know what I was doing or what I was writing about.

It took several years and a lot of false starts to finally realise that my problem was trying to write about relationships without taking any inspiration from my own life experience. I knew what it was like to be a black woman in an interracial relationship, but I wasn’t really writing about it. And what was crazy was that I was looking for books that featured interracial relationships. They were few and far between at that time. When I found them, I devoured them. I studied them, I thought about what I liked and didn’t like about those novels. The main sticking point was that, in most of the novels, the men were pursuing women who were so hung up on race that they couldn’t accept the love they felt for the man in question because his skin color was wrong. And that wasn’t the interracial experience I knew.

The more books I read, the more i wanted to read a story in which the heroine wasn’t resisting the man who loved her simply because he had a melanin deficiency. Now, mind you, I am being a tad bit snarky here. I know that a lot of it was dealing with the legacy of racism that has left an indelible mark on American society. But I was convinced that readers would love to read a novel about an interracial couple that was not only about their racial differences. I didn’t want racism to be a major part of the plot because I wanted the love story or how the couple fell in love and other everyday problems to be in the focus. So I decided to follow the advice of Benjamin Disraeli and I set about writing the book I want to read.

My first attempt was the novel I wrote to learn how to write a novel. It was called Second Skin, and it was set in my hometown of Philadelphia. I loved writing Melanie and John’s love story, but it was a painful process and the story, no matter how many times I’ve tried to revise or rewrite it, never becomes the story I intended. I’ve never published it, but I am considering simply releasing it and letting my readers decide themselves.

The next novel I tried to write never made it to the finish line. It was a near-repeat of all the mistakes I made while trying to write my MFA novel. No outline, no real plan. It was a meandering mess. Only six chapters of that novel remain. And while there are some great scenes in it, the story itself just doesn’t move me and will probably never be resurrected.

dfw-kg-sb-cover-2-smallFast-forward to when I finally wrote Snowbound. By then, I’d figured out that I like writing very flawed characters. I liked writing about people who sometimes do stupid things, who smoke, who sometimes drink too much, who sometimes fuck the wrong people and have to deal with the consequences of their actions. I wanted Mia to be a character who is not always reliable. I wanted her to be a woman who has fucked up and who is trying to figure out what she really wants and how she can prevent herself from making those same mistakes again. She walks away from the wrong relationship with the wrong guy and ends up meeting the sort of man she never expected–a conflict zone photographer who happens to be a white South African.

A few people questioned my choosing to write about a white South African man. I didn’t initially plan for Jake to be South African. I wanted to write about a man whose experiences with race would be different from Mia’s. I thought it would be interesting to contrast their experiences. A man who’s grown up with the legacy of apartheid. A woman who’s grown up with America’s own divisive legacy. But I didn’t want this to be the main focus. The focus was on finding love. And finding it when they least wanted or expected it. And I wanted to set this story in snowy Vermont. Snowbound wasn’t perfect, but it was close to the sort of story I wanted to read and write.

webgoodreadsBy the time I wrote Maybe Baby, I’d decided that it was time to write about Scandinavia. I’d avoided doing so more from criticism from my writers group. We were all Americans who’d come to Sweden for Swedish partners. And, at the time, no one in the group wanted to read a story about a woman who was in love with a Swede. So I stored it away and, when I was no longer in the group, I decided to write about a love triangle with two very different Scandinavian men being the lovers Laney would have to choose between. I wanted to write about about a woman who was rootless, who was searching for the idea of home. Laney came about, in some ways, because of my own experiences as a black American woman living in Scandinavia. Though my relationship with my Swedish husband was very different from Laney’s with her Swedish partner, Niklas, I knew about the quirks that come along with being with a Swedish man–the avoidance of conflict, the stony silence, how the darkness could affect their moods, the sudden personality change the moment they leave Sweden. I knew I could write about the cultural differences, I also knew I could write about how, for Laney, this would make her feel like she was drifting. I remembered feeling that way when I first moved here. I took all of this and put it into the my writing. And I think that the end result of Maybe Baby is exactly the sort of book I wanted to read but could never find in bookstores. Laney is not an easy character to love. She is indecisive, she is sometimes selfish, but deep down she is vulnerable and lost. And she meets Mads and, though what connects them at first is sex, there is this undercurrent between them–they have both found home with each other. And that’s what love is. And interestingly enough I managed to write a novel about an interracial relationship in which race isn’t a major factor, it’s more the journey to love that is important.

So I guess with all of this, I am trying to say that I write about about interracial relationships to show that they are no different from other relationships. Everyone is searching for love. And the person you fall in love with is the person who makes you feel more alive than you’ve ever felt before. Or whenever you are with them, you feel as though there is no other place you’d rather be. And where they come from or the color of their skin becomes irrelevant.

Spice-Aisle-LogoI’ve had a secret for a few weeks that it’s been hard to keep. No, no publication dates yet…I promise I won’t hide those from you. 😉 No, this is something completely different! Starting tomorrow, you’ll be able to read a new blog I’ve joined–it’s called the Spice Aisle and it’s made up of a group of authors (Xio Axelrod, Veronica Forand, Jami Denise, Sarah Hegger, SC Mitchell, Rhenna Morgan, JR Richardson,  Susan Scott Shelley and yours truly) who all love to write romantic fiction (among other things). We’ll be sharing a little of everything with you there–book and film reviews, recipes…general musings and even snippets of our latest works (or soon-to-be-released works).

So make sure you head over to the Spice Aisle–today is our launch day! Check us out, follow us and let us know what you think! 😀

Ryan Goslng New Year I know this is that time of year when I’m supposed to post about how I reached all of my publishing/writing goals and tell you how great I am and make you think I am super-organized/ambitious/fill-in-the-blank. But…I’m not going to do that.

Why? Because it’s boring. Instead, I thought my buddy Ryan and I would simply wish you a happy new year and let you know that we’ve got some great things planned for 2015.

Initially, I had this really witty post planned, but I’ve been ill with the weirdest cold/flu/whatever-this-is since 17 December and my brain is still not quite unfuzzed from all the cold medicine I’ve had to take to facilitate sleeping and not coughing myself to death. So that essentially means this will be a meandering post. 😉

But anyway, 2015…I’m looking forward to finishing some projects I started in 2014–namely Maybe Tomorrow and my NaNo2014 novel, Maybe Forever. You may remember that Maybe Tomorrow follows Eddy’s path to new love and Maybe Forever picks up Laney and Mads’s story, four years and two kids later. I spent most of Christmas revising Maybe Forever. There are still some scenes that need to be added, but soon it will be ready to be sent to beta readers.

Maybe Tomorrow ‘s draft should be ready to send to beta readers and an editor by mid-January. I’ve already got a cover for it, designed by the insanely talented Arijana K. at Cover It! Designs. I don’t remember if I’ve shared it with you already…hmm. Soon then. I think you’ll love it as much as I do. Arijana’s working on the cover for Maybe Forever as well. 🙂

Someone asked me if there would be more Laney and Mads stories once I finish Maybe Forever. I don’t know. I haven’t really thought about it. There will be a short story about Jesper, Niklas’s son (remember him? He showed up at Laney and Mads’s apartment in Maybe Tonight). I’ve also got some ideas for stories in the Snowbound universe. I’ve got a few other ideas up my sleeve. 😉

So tomorrow is New Year’s Eve and then a few days after that it’s my birthday. One of the first thing’s I’ll do to start off the new year is send my donations to Girls Write Now, Stockholms Stadsmission and Covenant House. This year has been sluggish compared to last year, but I think we’ll still be able to make good-sized donations to all three charities.

Well, that’s it for today’s post. I am in the mood to write fiction, so off I go! Happy New Year, everyone! And thanks for your support! 😀

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It started with my parents…

When I was younger, my parents instilled in me the importance of helping those in need. We donated clothing to local shelters, we collected toys for Toys for Tots, donated money to local charities, volunteered at soup kitchens. It made me appreciate what I had, it made me realise that I was not the centre of the universe and that being a good person didn’t simply mean smiling and being friendly or respectful. It also meant showing generosity whenever I could.

Back when I first started my book review site, I decided I would incorporate my desire to help local charities while I was spreading the word about books I enjoyed. I later continued the tradition once I started self-publishing.

So what does any of this mean to you?

Well, for the entire month of December, my Month of Giving, I will be trying to raise money for three charities: Stockholms Stadsmission, which helps the homeless and at-risk women and children; Covenant House, an organisation that helps homeless youth across North America; and Girls Write Now, a US-based organisation that helps empower inner-city girls via the written word.

For every book I sell during the month of December, I will donate 50% of the proceeds to these charities.If you’ve already read my books and liked them, consider giving a copy of one of my titles to friends and family members who share your taste in books as Christmas or Hanukkah presents. Or support the charities directly if you prefer. All that matters is we help those in need.

And since they say it’s better to give than to receive and that Christmas is the time for giving, let’s do what we can to help in any way  that we can.

 

 

 

I did it! 😀 I finished NaNoWriMo 2014 at 2AM this morning. The novel is by no means complete–I still have two chapters to finish–but I reached 50K and the first draft of Maybe Forever is nearly done. I should finish these last chapters by Sunday evening. 🙂

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I’m aiming for a 2015 release for both Maybe Tomorrow and Maybe Forever, so now the editing process begins. 🙂

 

Only one more week until NaNoWriMo and I am nearly done with my outline. I’m getting really anxious to start. I don’t remember feeling this excited last year–which is probably why I didn’t finish my 2013 NaNoWriMo effort.

This year, as I mentioned in my last post, I’ll be returning to Copenhagen and writing about Laney and Mads. We meet them four years after the end of the Maybe Baby and Maybe Tonight. I’ve made a vision board for the novel and it’s been a great help during this outlining stage.

I wasn’t going to share the plot just yet, but I changed my mind. Here’s the gist of the story I’ll be working on:

Add text-2Now married with two kids, Laney and Mads are finding life together is not as simple as it used to be. Laney is struggling with juggling a new baby and her four-year old daughter, Liv, and pressure to come back to work early from her maternity leave. She’s also worried that she and Mads are drifting apart. He’s so caught up in his furniture making business that he’s forgetting promises made to Laney and to Liv. And he’s missing signs that all is not well with Laney…

When the pressure gets too much for her, Laney takes the kids and goes to the US, hoping to find sanctuary with her aunt Cecily, a former school teacher who now teaches yoga and meditation to pensioners and at-risk teenagers in Florida.

Will Laney and Mads find a way back to one another…or is it too late?

Next Saturday I’ll be ready…and I will probably exhaust myself (and my fingers) the first few days, but I’ll keep writing. I’ll also have a temporary page here on the site where you’ll be able to read the very, very rough versions of the chapters I pen. I hope you’ll cheer me on. If you want to follow my NaNo progress, save this link.

By the way, the cover image is just inspiration. It’s not the final cover. I made it just to keep me motivated. When it’s time for publication, I’ll be contacting Arijana at Cover It! Designs for another amazing cover. 🙂

I wonder how many of you will be joining me for the NaNoWriMo challenge…drop a line and let me know! 🙂