Colorado Book Award Finalist: Her Perfect Life

I’m happy and honored to announce that HER PERFECT LIFE is a finalist for the 2021 Colorado Book Award this year in the thriller category.

You can find the link to the full list of finalist here.

You can also attend virtual book readings by the finalists. The dates are broken out by category so you can attend them all, or just your favorites. The schedule is here.

The reading for my category will be held on May 26th at 7:00 (Mountain Time). If you’d like to sign up to watch that, here’s that link. I hope to see you there.

If you’ve yet to get your copy of HER PERFECT LIFE, please consider ordering a copy through our local independent bookseller, Bookbar.

Writing My New Book Longhand

I got about ten thousand words into my new book and decided to make a switch.

I have always written the majority of my books on my computer (and specifically in Scrivener, which I love). From time to time, I would write a scene in longhand if I had an idea while somewhere random without my computer but the bulk of the writing happened with a screen and keyboard.

Just lately though, I find it difficult to make myself sit in front of my computer screen outside of my day job hours. Additionally, I find that my eyes are feeling pretty fried up all the time because of excessive screen use.

It has helped tremendously getting off of social media since I’m no longer tempted to pull my phone from my pocket every five seconds to see what new nonsense I may be missing. But when I think about sitting for more long hours (beyond the long hours I already spend staring at a screen at work) I just can’t.

So I started writing the next chapter in my new book in a notebook. With a pen. Which is obviously a completely different experience from getting into the flow state at my desk but was rather enjoyable just the same.

Plus, my eyes felt like I was giving them a vacation.

So we’ll see how long it lasts. Maybe I’ll only be able to stand writing this way for a few chapters, or maybe the whole book will get finished this way.

Who knows?

Being Pickier About The Books I Read…And Buy!

So I recently finished reading a book that I was certain I would love. It was a psychological thriller with a description right up my reader alley. It has glowing reviews from other big-time authors. A positive review in Publisher’s Weekly. And it’s one of the BIG book club selections.

I thought yes, for sure I’m going to love it. I also purchased this book for two of my book loving friends. That’s how sure all the book industry support made me feel. I mean, how could all this praise and recognition be wrong?

Well…they were wrong.

This book was unnecessarily long.

The main character was terribly miscast.

The scenes, of which many were repetitive and completely unnecessary, were poorly drawn.

Then there was the writing slapdash toward the finish line, as if the author too could not wait to finish this book.

I did not like this book, not at all.

I did finished it. And it had a fantastic concept–great concept, mediocre execution.

And no, I won’t be sharing the title and dogging the book publicly here. As a writer myself I have zero interest talking negatively about a specific book. So sorry I won’t be saving you from making the same mistake I did.

However, I will say that my experience with this book, and several others I’ve read that similarly benefited from a lot of industry support, have made me now cautious, and skeptical, about how certain books get selected. And as a reader, I no longer have any trust in these “list” books.

So as I said in an earlier post, if you see me talking about a book on my blog, you can know for sure that I thought it was excellent and it comes highly recommended by someone who is a little tired of buying and reading books that are all hype and no substance.

Book Recommendation: The Push by Ashley Audrain

So I’ve decided that a few things will change around here when it comes to featuring other books or authors on my site.

From this day forward, if you see a book here it’s because I read it and LOVED it.

I didn’t like the book…I LOVED it.

Because this is how I operate in the real world with my word-of-mouth recommendations to my in-real-life friends. If I LOVED a book I text them about it, email them about it, go on and on about it over a charcuterie board at lunch.

And while I read many books every year, there a only a few that actually capture me in this way and really remind me that, at my core, I’m a reader and lover of great books above all else.

So when I now tell you that the latest book I’ve read, you’ll know that I hand to heart LOVED it.

Today that book is The Push by Ashley Audrain.

Blythe Connor is determined that she will be the warm, comforting mother to her new baby Violet that she herself never had.

But in the thick of motherhood’s exhausting early days, Blythe becomes convinced that something is wrong with her daughter—she doesn’t behave like most children do.

Or is it all in Blythe’s head? Her husband, Fox, says she’s imagining things. The more Fox dismisses her fears, the more Blythe begins to question her own sanity, and the more we begin to question what Blythe is telling us about her life as well.

Then their son Sam is born—and with him, Blythe has the blissful connection she’d always imagined with her child. Even Violet seems to love her little brother. But when life as they know it is changed in an instant, the devastating fall-out forces Blythe to face the truth.

This book hits all my sweet spots as a reader starting off first and foremost with complex characters that kept me glued to the page both wondering and fearing what they will do next. The family history, trauma, and long-term psychological impacts were wonderfully executed and authentic. The thriller/mystery elements turned and turned again and were always born from and driven by the nuanced and multilayered characters at the heart of this fantastic novel.

Ashley Audrain has an amazing talent and I look forward to seeing, and reading, what she does next. Do yourself a favor and move The Push to the top of your TBR pile.

The Spaces In My Head

Since being off of social media for these last few weeks it’s like there’s been new space cleared up inside my head. I have long suspected while never fully realizing how much the constant noise of the collective chatter on social media had taken up residence in my day to day thinking.

Which maybe doesn’t seem like a big deal until you realize that everything in your life: your own thoughts, behavior, desires, goals are born out of your thoughts.

How much of what we do, believe, work toward is infiltrated by the this constant chatter of others? Do we even know if what we think we want is born from our own wishes for our lives? Or is it some amalgamation of what we think we want overlaid by the pursuits and accomplishments of someone we admire?

And why is it we admire them anyway? Really.

I’m not sure I have able been able to answer these questions truthfully because I’ve never really allowed myself the silence and space to remember who is was I once wanted to be. And why I wanted to be it.

Anyway, in case you’re wondering, leaving social media is not something I’m regretting so far. There seems to be more time (for obvious reasons) but also loads more head space and a sense of working from a center of myself that I’d almost forgot ever existed in the first place.

I Quit Social Media

Hi friends! About a week ago I decided to pull the trigger on something I’ve been mulling over for months.

I quit social media.

Specifically Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. I do still have my few videos up on YouTube (I haven’t decided if I’ll let that go just yet.)

I didn’t think it would be that big of a deal but since then I’ve received emails and text messages from friends worrying over a variety of concerns:

Had I blocked them?

No.

Was I sick?

No.

Was I apart of some social media drama/scandal?

No.

Was I dead?

Also, no.

So I thought I should maybe write a quick blog post to explain that I was just tried of wasting so much time on social media. It had become fairly addictive and I realized I was sort of spending the hours of my finite life here on Earth doing something that had ceased to bring me any real joy or true value.

Also, I was getting kind of freaked out by the number of times I would be TALKING about something IRL and then see ads for that EXACT THING (that I had NEVER searched for) in either the Facebook or IG ads.

Which brings me to the ads–which has become the entire point of social media, to buy your eyeballs.

So will this impact my writing career? Probably. But weirdly, I care less about that than I do about disentangling myself and my life from these personal data mines.

Again…I’m not dead. Also, I don’t hate you and haven’t blocked you.

Pandemic Anxiety: The Ebb and Flow of Emotional Wellness

I was talking with a girlfriend about the pandemic the other day when I uttered this personal fear. “Most days, I’m okay. Working, taking care of the kids, the house, life. But sometimes I wonder…what if there isn’t going to be any getting back to normal? What if this is what life is like now?”

Even though I work in the mental health field, and know many of the tips and tricks for managing my mental state when things are turning blue inside my head, I have, like so many others, struggled to keep my emotional wellbeing above the waterline during this past year.

Like any year, there have been the usual challenges, both personal and professional, that I’ve had to process and work my way through. I’ve reframed the problems. Thought outside the box. Come at my troubles from a different perspective. And even reminded myself that when one door closes… well, you know.

And that is all well and good and important to practice. For the most part, I feel like I’ve gotten pretty good at the mental and emotional gymnastics required to just navigate life while keeping the spirits up. That’s not to say I don’t get overwhelmed, negative, and even indulge in some light self-sabotage thinking at times, because I certainly do. But long gone are those days in my teens, twenties, and early thirties where depression, bottomless self-doubt, and the crushing cognitive consequences of early programming haunted my every thought about my past, present, and future self.

As I approached life as a middle-aged woman, I worked hard to give the girl I had been a goddamn break. To take care of her. Nurture her. Let her know I know she’s been TRYING all these years and that she was already ENOUGH. She always had been. Period.

I had learned along the way of this life that if you hadn’t been given something you really needed by someone who should have handed it to you as you were growing–it was 100% okay to double back in your life and give it to yourself.

You CAN rewrite your own narrative. Upend your history. Give yourself a new back story. From there you are free to live your new present, envision that better future.

These have been VERY powerful, life-changing lessons for me. Hand to heart, both cognitive and behavioral therapy techniques have completely changed my life for the better. And while it’s not always easy, and I’m not perfect and do sometimes slip (negative self-talk, self-sabotage, etc) for the most part I’ve been able to keep my neural activity pointed toward the sun for the past ten years.

Plot twist?

Enter a pandemic.

And suddenly that new present and better future are a whole lot harder to conceptualize. Even though I’ve executed a mental trapeze act that has created a much better life circus than the one I was born into, it now seems the tent poles of our collective existence may be buckling around me. At least it sure feels that way some days.

Keeping a positive mindset can be hard under normal life circumstances. Given our current reality? It can feel naive, irresponsible…downright impossible when nothing is as it was and the only sure thing is that nothing is sure right now.

It’s no longer simply a matter of bolstering and shoring up my past self; It’s every day working to assuage the fear of what lies ahead. The road that is now unfamiliar, poorly lit, and of unexplored length. Striding down it with a healthy dose of self-confidence suddenly doesn’t feel like the most relevant of mindsets.

No. I suspect what is actually needed right now is courage, faith (the blinder, the better), a metric ton of hope, and a dizzying degree of overt kindness (for others, yes, but also for ourselves.)

Some days, the day I confessed my fear to my friend, my courage is failing me. I worry about everything: my kids, our jobs, the entirety of society as we once knew it. I lose faith in the hope of vaccines. I doubt in our ability as a society to ever work together again. Worst of all…I can’t envision what our future will be. Not mine. Not yours.

In those moments I’m all ebb, no flow.

Thankfully, learning to manage my personal demons over the years has left me with some skills for also corralling these external dragons.

First of all, I recognize I’m spiraling in the first place.

Next up, breathing. Deep, long, chest filling breaths. It’s almost a guarantee that if I’m starting to freak out about something, I’m either unwittingly holding my breath or taking shallow breaths.

Finally, I wrangle my thoughts. Typically they have flown out the window and are riding the updrafts and death drops of anxiety. I challenge my catastrophic thoughts, one by one if I have to, and lay to rest the ones that have ZERO supporting evidence or are completely based on “what-if” premises.

Honestly, usually 95% of them can be resolved this way.

For the other 5%, objectively real-world problems, I find that these are usually much more amendable by real-world problem-solving solutions once they aren’t being super fueled, and confounded, by the catastrophic thoughts and “what-if” fears. Work problems, kid problems, finance problems, house problems, problems that I feel capable of developing a plan of action for once my brain is no longer hijacked by fears along the lines of:

THE WORLD AS WE KNOW IT IS COMING TO AN END!

Other things that help:

Taking walks

Listen to, calming, music

Meditating (I KNOW…but it works)

Taking a bath

Playing/snuggling with my pets

Hugging my kids and telling them I love them

Hugging my husband and telling him I love him

Cleaning my house (I don’t think this is just me, when my spaces are clean and organized, my anxiety goes way down)

Reading books (written by OTHER people)

Watching fun, non-news related, TV and/or movies

Journaling (specifically about what I am grateful for)

Zooming with friends

It’s true, we are not living in easy times right now. It is unrealistic, and probably unhealthy, to imagine we won’t feel anxious, afraid, uncertain…maybe even terrified at times. But also we don’t have to lose ourselves entirely to the fear and worries either.

It’s normal to experience these emotional ebbs and flows right now, but we should never forget that we have ways of managing the tide.

My Recent Reads

So far, I’ve read three books in 2021 and I can honestly say that I feel like I’ve hit nothing but home runs with them. If you are considering buying any of these titles, please support your local bookstore!

In order of reading:

#1 The Last Flight by Julie Clark

(Sidenote, Julie Clark and I share the same publisher, Sourcebooks Landmark)

Claire Cook has a perfect life. Married to the scion of a political dynasty, with a Manhattan townhouse and a staff of ten, her surroundings are elegant, her days flawlessly choreographed, and her future auspicious. But behind closed doors, nothing is quite as it seems. That perfect husband has a temper that burns as bright as his promising political career, and he’s not above using his staff to track Claire’s every move, making sure she’s living up to his impossible standards. But what he doesn’t know is that Claire has worked for months on a plan to vanish.

A chance meeting in an airport bar brings her together with a woman whose circumstances seem equally dire. Together they make a last-minute decision to switch tickets—Claire taking Eva’s flight to Oakland, and Eva traveling to Puerto Rico as Claire. They believe the swap will give each of them the head start they need to begin again somewhere far away. But when the flight to Puerto Rico goes down, Claire realizes it’s no longer a head start but a new life. Cut off, out of options, with the news of her death about to explode in the media, Claire will assume Eva’s identity, and along with it, the secrets Eva fought so hard to keep hidden.

#2 The Midnight Library by Matt Haig (audio edition)

(I listened to this one on my commute to and from work. I thought the reading, by Carey Mulligan, was wonderfully executed.)

Somewhere out beyond the edge of the universe there is a library that contains an infinite number of books, each one the story of another reality. One tells the story of your life as it is, along with another book for the other life you could have lived if you had made a different choice at any point in your life. While we all wonder how our lives might have been, what if you had the chance to go to the library and see for yourself? Would any of these other lives truly be better?

In The Midnight Library, Matt Haig’s enchanting new novel, Nora Seed finds herself faced with this decision. Faced with the possibility of changing her life for a new one, following a different career, undoing old breakups, realizing her dreams of becoming a glaciologist; she must search within herself as she travels through the Midnight Library to decide what is truly fulfilling in life, and what makes it worth living in the first place.

#3 The Wife Upstairs by Rachel Hawkins

(A fun, fast paced Jane Eyre retelling. I finished this one in a day! This is Rachel Hawkins first novel geared toward the adult reading market.)

Meet Jane. Newly arrived to Birmingham, Alabama, Jane is a broke dog-walker in Thornfield Estates––a gated community full of McMansions, shiny SUVs, and bored housewives. The kind of place where no one will notice if Jane lifts the discarded tchotchkes and jewelry off the side tables of her well-heeled clients. Where no one will think to ask if Jane is her real name.

But her luck changes when she meets Eddie Rochester. Recently widowed, Eddie is Thornfield Estates’ most mysterious resident. His wife, Bea, drowned in a boating accident with her best friend, their bodies lost to the deep. Jane can’t help but see an opportunity in Eddie––not only is he rich, brooding, and handsome, he could also offer her the kind of protection she’s always yearned for.

Yet as Jane and Eddie fall for each other, Jane is increasingly haunted by the legend of Bea, an ambitious beauty with a rags-to-riches origin story, who launched a wildly successful southern lifestyle brand. How can she, plain Jane, ever measure up? And can she win Eddie’s heart before her past––or his––catches up to her?

With delicious suspense, incisive wit, and a fresh, feminist sensibility, The Wife Upstairs flips the script on a timeless tale of forbidden romance, ill-advised attraction, and a wife who just won’t stay buried. In this vivid reimagining of one of literature’s most twisted love triangles, which Mrs. Rochester will get her happy ending?

Cover Reveal: THE SECRET NEXT DOOR

Today I’m excited to share the cover for my new book, The Secret Next Door, which will be releasing from Sourcebooks on November 9th, 2021.

Subscribers to my newsletter got to see this first. If you’re not already a subscriber, please consider joining! You’ll always get my latest news first and I have special monthly giveaways (like books or gift cards to your favorite book retailers) as a special thank you for subscribing.

Here’s the sign-up form. I look forward to seeing you as a member of that community!

From my publisher:

It’s the perfect neighborhood, filled with not-so-perfect people.

Alyson Tinsdale is giving her son the childhood she never had: a stable family, loving home, and a great school in a safe neighborhood. When they move into the home of her dreams in one of Denver’s most sought-after developments, Alyson works hard to fit in and impress the other mothers.

Bonnie Sloan is the neighborhood matriarch. With her oldest son headed to Yale, and her youngest starting kindergarten, Bonnie is now pursuing her own long-held political aspirations. But it’s her middle child, Elijah, and their private family struggles, that cast a shadow over her plans.

When the open space behind some of the most expensive homes gets slated for development into an amusement facility, the neighborhood becomes deeply divided. The personal pressures and community conflicts ratchet with every passing day, but it’s when a thirteen-year-old is found dead beside the lake, that simmering tensions boil over into panic.

Gossip flows, lies are exposed, and accusations are made as cracks run through the community’s once solid foundations. The neighborhood’s faith in exterior appearances is eclipsed by the secrets every house keeps.

Rebecca Taylor, author of Her Perfect Life, returns with this fast-paced, engrossing novel that reminds us that nothing is ever as perfect as it seems.

Preorder your copy today!

Add The Secret Next Door to your Goodreads “want to read” list!

Add The Secret Next Door to your Book Bub wish list!

Update: The Secret Next Door

I’m excited to share that I have finished with the major edits for The Secret Next Door and we are now moving on to copy edits!

*happy dancing*

I have also seen the concept for the cover design and I’m thrilled to say that I will be able to share the final version within the next couple of weeks. This is the fun part when all those hours and hard work start to come together and I know I’m close to being able to hold the finished book in my hands.

And share it with my readers!

If you haven’t yet added The Secret Next Door to your Goodreads “Want To Read” list, here’s the link.

I know that the October release date seems like a long way off, but that time is really going to fly. Especially once I start working on all the marketing and promotion.

My only wish is that, this time, I’ll get to schedule and attend some in-person signing events since ALL of that got canceled for Her Perfect Life because of the pandemic.

Fingers crossed.

In personal news, it’s looking like I might be up for receiving the vaccine here in the next 1-2 weeks. I can’t wait.