Pre-order Dreaming in Chocolate

I’ve been pretty quiet on my blog since the release of THE SECRET INGREDIENT OF WISHES because I’ve been busy writing up a storm. My next book, DREAMING IN CHOCOLATE, is now up for pre-order. It will release on February 6, 2018, but you can pre-order now it at these stores: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Indie Bound | Powells

You can also add it to your To Read list on Goodreads. If you’re interested in knowing a little more about it, here’s the official description:

“Come for the life-changing chocolates and opinionated apothecary table, stay for the enchanting eight-year old and complicated secrets.” ―Amy Reichert, author of The Coincidence of Coconut Cake

At twenty-seven, Penelope Dalton is quickly ticking off items on a bucket list. Only the list isn’t hers. After her eight year-old daughter Ella is given just six months to live, Penelope is determined to fill Ella’s remaining days with as many new experiences as she can.

With an endless supply of magical gifts and recipes from the hot chocolate café Penelope runs alongside her mother in a small town nestled in the Appalachian Mountains, she is able to give her daughter almost everything she wants. The one sticking point is Ella’s latest addition to her list: get a dad. And not just any dad. Ella has her sights set on Noah Gregory, her biological father and the only person Penelope knows to have proved her true love hot chocolate wrong.

Now Noah’s back in town for a few months―and as charming as ever―and the part of her that dreamed he was her fate in the first place wonders if she made the right decision to keep the truth of their daughter from him. The other, more practical part, is determined to keep him from breaking Ella’s heart too.

But as Ella’s health declines, Penelope must give in to her fate or face a future of regrets.

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Countdown to The Secret Ingredient of Wishes: 2 Months to go

The Secret Ingredient of Wishes Giveaway

Guys, my book comes out in two months. TWO! MONTHS! How amazing is that?

I am beyond excited to have this book out in the world come September. (A little freaked out too, but we’re not going to talk about that now. Now is for celebrating and getting other people as excited as I am. Okay, maybe not that excited but I’ll settle for somewhere close to it.) So to celebrate, I’m giving away a signed ARC! For those of you who don’t know what THE SECRET INGREDIENT OF WISHES is about, read on…

26-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.

Sound like something you want to read? If so, enter the Rafflecopter giveaway! (You can also pre-order it online or from your local favorite indie store if you’re so inclined. Pre-order links are on my website.)

How She Lived (a magical story of life…and death)

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I just spent the most amazing week with some of my best friends at a reunion retreat at Djerassi Resident Artists Program in Woodside, California. It was a week of writing and laughter and being inspired and sharing stories over glasses of wine. On the first night, sparked by one of the writers being instructed not to get murdered while away, we decided to write a short anthology in which we all die while on the retreat. A little twisted, I know. But trust me, it was one of the best decisions we made all week.

The order in which we died was randomly selected. I died first. (That’s a heck of a lot of pressure, by the way.) I spent days trying to figure how I would die. And then halfway through the week, I got inspired by Djerassi itself–the art, the mist, the magical feeling of just being there–and I really kinda love what I wrote. So I thought I’d share it. Don’t worry, it’s short.

The girl had been waiting, waiting, waiting. Waiting so long she thought her chance to be real, to be flesh and blood and laughter and thought, might never come. Big green eyes. Pert red lips. Bare feet perfect for sneaking around unheard. She’d tied her hair back to keep it out of her eyes, but wisps of it pulled free anyway to tickle her cheeks while she kept watch in the dark.

With the way the human girl liked to dream up fantastical—unbelievable—things, she worried she’d somehow be found out. That she wasn’t just ink and near-perfect lines tattooed onto skin. That she stole pieces of the human girl’s soul, siphoning a little bit more every day, making her stronger and the human girl less and less herself.

The other humans here knew her well enough to notice something wasn’t quite right.

“Susan looks tired,” they had said.

“Maybe she’s had too much wine.”

“Maybe the mist is messing with her head. It can do that you know. Make you go a little crazy.”

“The mist. That’s how we all die,” Susan had said.

Then they laughed and laughed. And they forgot they were ever even worried.

But they were right to suspect the mist. To fear it. The chilly shroud of dancing water droplets and slowly swirling air held a secret of the mountain. Creative souls could be taken here, and given to art to grant it life.

The girl held her hands behind her back, the look of innocence frozen on her face. The human girl never even questioned what she was hiding. Her fingers caressed the warm ball of energy nestled in her palms. It pulsed like a heart, and the girl could feel her own growing, growing, growing. Coming to life as she teased the last blue-white tendrils of soul from flesh. She peeled away from the human girl’s arm tangled in the bed sheets. She became whole and vibrant and alive—just as she was always meant to be—and the human girl’s breaths slowed, slowed, then ceased altogether.

No one would know until morning. By then the girl would be deep in the redwoods, discovering what other secrets the mountain had to offer.

Looking down at the human girl’s lifeless body, all she could do was laugh.

And it was the most exquisite sound she’d ever heard.

Wishes and Pies: My Pitch Wars Novel Inspiration

My Pitch Wars novel, WISHES TO NOWHERE, is full of magic. The idea came to me as the opening lines of the manuscript, which haven’t changed much in the three years since I first wrote them as part of a NaNoWriMo novel:

Birthday parties made her nervous. Itchy. She didn’t mind the screaming kids, puddles of melted ice cream or even the clowns who twisted dogs out of skinny, colored balloons.

It was the birthday candles and subsequent wishes that did it.

Wishes tended to complicate life for Claire McCallie.

I knew from the start that this was a story of a girl who could make wishes come true just by thinking about them. I knew that this ability would have some serious consequences, you know like accidentally wishing her brother out of existence and having no way of getting him back. I also knew that fate would play a big role in the story because I am fascinated by how fate and human nature play off of each other.

What I didn’t know was that my love of the delightful—and cancelled too soon—TV show Pushing Daisies would infuse the story with even more whimsy and magic. (Oh yeah, and pie. Because you can never have too much pie. Seriously. Go check out my Pinterest board for this novel for some fun pie recipes.)

At its core, this book is about loss and guilt and regrets. It’s about family bonds and accepting who you are and moving on. And it’s about finding happiness once thought lost forever.

But as I started developing my characters and plotting how these things would fuel Claire’s story, it became clear that the things I’m drawn to most as a writer—and as a reader/TV-watcher/story-consumer—are quirky, out-there ideas and characters. And that’s exactly what I wanted to put into this book. What I want to put into all of my books, really.

So I created the town of Nowhere, North Carolina, which is a magical lost and found where emotionally lost people wind up so they can find whatever they are looking for; a spit-fire old woman who bakes the towns’ secrets into pies to keep them from getting out; fruit trees that have personalities like people and can be generous and jealous and loving and spiteful and stingy and a whole host of other things depending on their moods; and wishes that pop out of thin air on small slips of paper and refused to be ignored.

I used these different magical elements to add a whole ’nother layer to Claire’s story, providing even more tension and conflict and emotional upheaval along with the inherent whimsical flair. And they gave me some of my favorite scenes in the whole book.

Pitch Wars Blog Hop

If you want to hear the stories behind some of the other Pitch Wars books from mentees and alternates, click on the links below:

Carleen Karanovic: HOPE ON A FEATHER | Heather Truett: RENASCENCE | Tracie Martin: WILD IS THE WIND | Susan Bickford: FRAMED | Rachel Sarah: RULES FOR RUNNING AWAY | Amanda Rawson Hill: GRIMM AND BEAR IT | Charlotte Gruber: CODE OF SILENCE | Kip Wilson: THE MOST DAZZLING GIRL IN BERLIN | Mary Ann Nicholson: CALAMITY | Nikki Roberti: THE TRUTH ABOUT TWO-SHOES | Anna Patel: EXODUS | A. Reynolds: LE CIRQUE DU LITERATI | Ron Walters: THE GOLEM INITIATIVE | Rosalyn Eves: THE BLOOD ROSE REBELLION | Ashley Poston: HEART OF IRON | Mara Rutherford: WINTERSOUL | Janet Walden-West: Damned If She Do | Kazul Wolf: SUMMER THUNDER | D. Grimm: WITCHERKelli Newby: THORNVAAL | Tara Sim: TIMEKEEPER | Elliah Terry: POCKET FULL OF POPPIES | Alessa Hinlo: THE HONEST THIEF | Rachel Horwitz: THE BOOTLEGGER’S BIBLE | Whitney Taylor: DEFINITIONS OF INDEFINABLE THINGS | Lyra Selene: REVERIE | Natalie Williamson: SET IN STONE | Robin Lemke: THE DANCE OF THE PALMS | Stephanie Herman: CLIFF WITH NO EDGE | Shannon Cooley: A FROG, A WHISTLE, AND A VIAL OF SAND | Ruth Anne Snow: THE GIRLS OF MARCH | Elizabeth Dimit: PHOEBE FRANZ’S GUIDE TO PASSPORTS, PAGEANTS, & PARENTAL DISASTERS | Gwen C. Katz: AMONG THE RED STARS | Jennifer Hawkins: FALSE START | Kelly DeVos: THE WHITE LEHUA  | Gina Denny: SANDS OF IMMORTALITY | Natasha M. Heck: FOLLOW THE MOON | Esher Hogan – Walking After Midnight | D.A. Mages: THE MEMORY OF OBJECTS

NaNoWriMo 2014: Plans for Finishing a Novel

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Yep, it’s that time of year again. You know, NaNoWriMo. 50,000 words in 30 days. This will be my sixth NaNo, and I have to say it’s as daunting as ever. Don’t get me wrong, I’m super excited about it. But this year I’m doing things a little differently than normal. Instead of starting with the shiny, new YA idea that’s floating around in my head (it’s The Parent Trap meets Fringe), I’m going to work on a novel already in progress.

I started THE PROBABILITY OF FATE, an adult magical realism romance, earlier this year. I love this story and have about 30,000 words already done and revised. So I probably have another 50,000ish left to go, which works out perfectly with NaNo. This story is actually a combination of my second NaNo novel, which didn’t work as I had initially written it, and a new idea spawned from an apothecary table of my mom’s that I’ve been coveting for years. The original MS was too complicated and full of parts that didn’t fit together. (I actually cannibalized other parts I loved from that MS for last year’s NaNo novel!)

Here’s a quick run-down of the new story:

In Malarkey, North Carolina, a hole-in-the-wall town nestled in the Appalachian Mountains, residents rely on the magical chocolates at The Chocolate Cottage to help them find love. Twenty-five year old Penelope Dalton has always believed in the power of the chocolates she makes alongside her mother. But the first time she drank the Corazón hot chocolate to reveal her true love—and dreamed of Noah Gregory, the rough-around-the-edges ex of her best friend—she realized some fates were not meant to be.

Now eight years later, Noah’s back in town for a few months and sexier than ever. The part of her that dreamed of him in the first place wonders if she made the right decision to ignore her fate—and him. The other, more practical part, is determined the keep him firmly on the bad-decision-boyfriend list. But as things heat up between them, she can’t help but wonder if the chocolates were right all along.

I blogged my progress with this book over the summer through Ready. Set. Write! but I haven’t worked on this MS in almost three months while I’ve been focusing on my Pitch Wars MS. I didn’t realize how much I’ve missed these characters until I started prepping for NaNo and I am thrilled to get back to them, to finish their story. Fingers crossed I have enough words to carry me through another year of intense NaNo writing!

Accepting the Magic in Magical Realism

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One of the things I love most about magical realism is that there does not have to be a reason for the magic. It just is. People in the stories know about it, they accept it without question (or at least with very little question), and they go on about their lives without getting too caught up on the why or the how of it.

As a reader, I know sometimes our analytical brains take over and want a reason. We want explanations of where it came from and how it works and why it’s there at all. But isn’t the point of reading fiction to get lost in another world (whether realistic or fantasy) and just enjoy the ride?

As a writer, I struggle with how much to explain and how much just to let be this nebulous magical thing. I think about what does the reader HAVE to know for the magic to work within the confines of the story? What MIGHT the reader want to know that adds an additional layer of complexity to the story and makes it feel more organic to the setting, characters, and plot? What detail pushes their ability to suspend disbelief too much so that all they can do now is pick holes in the magic until the story itself is pushed to the wayside?

I think about all of these things. I have answers to them and long drawn-out explanations of how the magic works and how it started for that particular character. All of these things are what make the story to work, even if not all of them show up on the page. In my mind, the reader needs just enough background that they aren’t confused and believe that this particular magic is real for these particular characters.

I think Rainbow Rowell said it very well recently when promoting her latest book, Landline. The following is bits of what she had to say about the magic phone in her book at her launch party on July 8. (I pulled the quotes from Twitter, so I’m not claiming they are 100% word for word what she said since I wasn’t in attendance, but you’ll get the point.)

“There’s a magic phone in this book. Try not to get too hung up on it—I didn’t!…And then I decided not to explain the magic phone at all. So this magic phone shows up—and don’t be that guy. Don’t be the person who’s like ‘Yeah, but…how did the magic phone get in there?’ Don’t be that person. Nobody likes that person. Ever.”

Not everybody is going to be okay when a magical element turns up in an otherwise realistic story. And that’s okay. If everyone read only the same types of books, the world would be so very boring. All I’m saying is try to give the magic a chance. Accept that it’s a part of the story for a reason and it just might surprise you.

This post is part of the Magic Realism Blog Hop. Twenty blogs are taking part in the hop. Over three days (6th – 8th August) these blogs will be posting about magic realism. Please take the time to click on the link below to find out about the other posts and remember that links to the new posts will be added over the three days, so do come back to read more. And Check out the #magicrealism tag on Twitter!