Friday, July 24, 2015


Putting together The Ultimate New Jersey Playlist was a pretty daunting project.    There are so many incredible performers from the Garden State I didn’t know where to begin – but tying their music in with some of the themes and situations in The Promise of Amazing narrowed it down quite a bit.  The following is just a sampling of the amazing musical offerings from my home state!  It’s a mix of classic and modern, punk and soul and everything in between.  Enjoy!!

It’s My Life – Bon Jovi (Sayreville, NJ)

“It’s My Life” is an anthem for when you feel like no one understands you - which is exactly how Wren feels as the book opens. It’s about listening to your inner voice, standing up for who you are and what you believe in.  It’s also a great song to sing at the top of your lungs. Seriously, try it.

Celebration – Kool & the Gang (Jersey City, NJ)

This song reminds me of my job as a catering waitress. It was the first song the band played after cocktail hour and wedding guests always crowded the dance floor.  The Camelot band would definitely have this on their set list!

Teenagers – My Chemical Romance (New Brunswick, NJ)

I imagine “Teenagers” to be the kind of song Grayson loses himself in when he’s down in his basement pounding out his frustration on the drums.  Especially after Wren walks home from the park instead of taking a ride from him.

Maybe Tonight – Nicole Atkins (Neptune, NJ)

“Maybe Tonight” is an upbeat, wistful song about yearning to meet a mysterious someone again. This is the perfect mood music as Wren pages through her brother’s yearbook to stalk…um…piece together information…on Grayson.  Wren knows Grayson might not be the best person to get involved with, but she can’t help but be fascinated by him. 

Close to You - The Early November (Hammonton, NJ)

Grayson’s attempts to charm Wren keep failing to bring them together yet he’s determined to keep trying.  This song captures Grayson’s struggle to get beyond his past so he and Wren can be together.

One Way or Another – Blondie (Hawthorne, NJ)

The perfect song for Andy’s party - where everyone seems to have a hidden agenda.  Bonus:  Blondie drummer Clem Burke is from Bayonne, NJ!

Summer Wind – Frank Sinatra (Hoboken, NJ)

A classic.  This is the song that’s playing when Grayson tucks a flower behind Wren’s ear and she decides to take matters into her own hands.

Because The Night – Patti Smith (Woodbury, NJ)

Sexiest. Song. Ever.   
Wren and Gray in Guinevere’s cottage.  Need I say more?

Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You – Frankie Valli (South Orange, NJ)

Ah, young love.  You know when you can’t get enough of each other?  And you know how it can’t be that intense for that long, but it’s so great while it lasts?  Yes, that. 

Only a Memory – The Smithereens (Carteret/Scotch Plains, NJ)

Grayson’s past finally catches up to him. That hopeless feeling when you know it’s your fault and all you can do is watch as everything slips through your fingers.  Author confession: The Smithereens are one of my favorite Jersey bands.

Born To Run – Bruce Springsteen (Freehold, NJ)

How could I have a NJ list and not include this song?  This song epitomizes the restlessness of being stuck in a small town that “…rips the bones from your back…” It’s Luke going to Princeton, and what he means when he tells Grayson he’s “getting outta here for good”.   

Having a Party – Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes (Ocean Grove, NJ)

I loved the role Wren’s family and her friends, Jazz and Maddie played in the book, and this song conveys the joyfulness at the end of the novel, when Wren is together with all the people she loves most in the world and everything is fine – even if it’s just for a night. That feeling when you don’t want the night to end!!

Bonus Song:

Sherry Darlin’ – Bruce Springsteen (Freehold, NJ)

Because one dose of Springsteen is never enough in NJ! Little bit of TPofA trivia:  I named Wren’s school Sacred Heart because of a line in this song - “To all the girls down at Sacred Heart.” Yep, really.

Want to win a signed paperback of THE PROMISE OF AMAZING? Enter Goodreads Giveaway here!! Now through August 16th!!  

Thursday, July 23, 2015


*this originally appeared on Mundie Moms 4/15

A book goes through a lot of changes in the editing process and sometimes you are forced to cut a favorite scene.  The scene below did not make the finished copy of The Secrets of Attraction. While I was disappointed to get rid of it, it made sense because the scene doesn’t move the story forward.

I loved it because I thought it showed how nervous Jesse was before he picked up Madison for their road trip.  It also involved “Bart – the guy who could make Darth Vader and Yoda in foam” and I have to say, I loved this guy.  Sometimes a character just pops into your head fully formed, and that was Bart.  I’m not sure why I was so fascinated with him – he’s not even a secondary character, just one of the background players, but I loved his interaction with Jesse.

So, for your reading pleasure, here is a section from the original beginning of Chapter Sixteen in The Secrets of Attraction. It begins as Jesse walks into Mugshot to pick up some provisions for his road trip with Madison. Enjoy!


Bart, the guy who could make Darth Vader and Yoda in foam, was sweeping the floor when I stormed through the front door. He stopped mid-stroke.
“Dude, what are you doing in so early? I have the morning shift.”
The place was empty, the first readers and walkers and neighborhood regulars not even out yet. Bart had the roaster going and the smell of coffee was strong and smooth, filling the café.
“I’m not on today, just came by to get some drinks. Road trippin’.”
“Awesome, where?”
“Um, Pennsylvania. Kind of a birthday picnic sort of situation.” Behind the counter I could not for the life of me remember how to start a Mexican hot chocolate. Or should I make her a chai? My hands shook. I wasn’t even with her and my hands were freaking shaking. Jess, for real?
He looked blank. “Picnic?”
“This girl is—”
“Say no more. I get it.” He leaned on his broom and smiled. I stood in front of the cappuccino maker, hands in my hair.
“What are you trying to do?”
“Mexican hot chocolate, her favorite. Or chai? Can’t decide.”
“Cold, crisp morning . . . go for the chocolate . . . elixir of the Mayan gods . . . you can’t go wrong.”
“Okay.” I grabbed the milk. Bart put the broom aside and shuffled next to me, holding out his hand for the steaming container.
“Jess, let me. Breathe, dude.”
“It’s that obvious?”
“Nah, what else are you putting together in this breakfast . . . picnic . . . thing.”
“What have we got?”
I looked in the bakery case. We had the usual—three types of muffins with healthy-sounding names, croissants made with a stick of butter, and an array of pastries that could induce a sugar coma five minutes after being consumed. Not that I was looking for healthy, just . . . I had no clue what Madison liked to eat.
“What kind of bagels do we have today?”
“No, you are not eating a bagel with this drink. You need something . . . delicate.”
I almost laughed, but he was serious. I’d rarely worked with the dude, but he never struck me as someone who would have opinions either way on what sort of food was delicate or not. Watching him make the hot chocolates with the same care and concentration I used to tune my guitar, made me think otherwise.
“Ohhkay, what’s delicate? Croissant?” I said, taking some wax paper and getting ready to grab one.
“Nah, too prosaic. I’d say beignets, but they’re best when they’re hot. With this? I’d go with . . . the brioche. Plain. Simple. Perfect.”
I grabbed two brioche, and a croissant just in case. Then I grabbed some of the to-go containers with crackers, cheese cubes, and grapes.
“What do you think of these?” I asked, holding them up.
“Add a bottle of San Pellegrino and you are in like Flynn.”
“Um, what?”
“The girl will love it,” he said.
I packed up the baked goods and the containers into a paper bag and grabbed a drink tray. I started tallying it up on the register. Bart stopped me.
“Dude, that’s about thirty bucks’ worth of stuff.”
He smiled. “I got it. Just go. Enjoy the day.”
“Thanks, I owe you.”

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Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Some of the real life inspiration behind THE SECRETS OF ATTRACTION!

The old standby “write what you know” can get a little tedious, but there are times, I can’t help but have real life creep into my fiction.  Putting in specific details can bring life to a story and make it more authentic.  Here are a few of the real life inspirations behind the food and places in The Secrets of Attraction.

Sacred Heart Academy

Sacred Heart is loosely based on my old, now defunct high school, Holy Family Academy.  It wasn’t intentional, but when I went back for a reunion and roamed the halls, I realized it is very much the high school in my head while I write. This is the hallway that Madison leads Jesse down to get to the gym during the Sadie Hawkins dance.

The Good Doughnuts

While I don’t name the particular bakery in my book, I definitely had a certain delectable treat in mind.  In Bayonne, Judicke’s sprinkled doughnuts are a staple at every school function and party.   You can order different colored sprinkles for any occasion!  The above picture was from my high school reunion and matched our school colors of purple and gold.

Mexican Hot Chocolate

There is a place in Asheville, NC named The ChocolateLounge.  Think about that for a moment.  A lounge.  Devoted to chocolate.  Smiling yet? I was working on the first draft of Secrets when I tried their hot drink called Oaxaca – Mexican style hot chocolate with chocolate, almonds, cinnamon and milk. It was love at first sip. When I was thinking up an alternative to coffee for Madison to order, I drew upon this as inspiration.  Sweet with a little kick, kind of like Mads herself.

The Park

One of my favorite scenes in the book is when the Mads, Jazz and Wren scope out the St. Gabe’s lacrosse practice.  It’s just a fun, silly scene, where Mads and Wren are there for morale support as Jazz approaches a guy she wants to ask out.  We have a gorgeous park in our town that has a playground, jogging trails and lots of sports fields.  Good-natured stalking of a crush was definitely the kind of thing my friends and I did in high school!

Tortilla Espanola

The first time I had tortilla espanola was at a writer’s retreat, made by fellow writer Kip Wilson Rechea.  It’s a simple, yet satisfying meal.  Add a little crusty bread and your beverage of choice and instant comfort food.  Here’s the recipe:   You know a dish leaves a lasting impression on you when you want to include it in a book!   (And thanks Kip for letting me include it here!!)

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