Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve had a wanderlust I can’t explain. Maybe it started because we moved around a lot when I was a kid. I know not everyone in my family loved that, but to me, it was fun. A new house to explore, new friends to make, new restaurants to try, a new school to navigate. Not that it was always easy. As a matter of fact, fifth grade was downright hard. It was my fifth school in as many years. I had actually been home schooled for 4th grade so my mom and I could travel with my dad (now that was awesome!), so trying to fit into a school where all the kids had been together since kindergarten was challenging. I found my place, though, with the pigeon-toed girl with the coke-bottle glasses, the girl from the trailer park and the girl with the sideburns. I’ve lost track of the first two, but the girl with the sideburns no longer has said sideburns — she’s quite a beautiful up-and-coming opera singer.

But I digress…

Top of the Empire State Building on my first trip to NYC at 17

As a preteen it was all I could do to keep from bursting with the anticipation of my first trip to NYC, which wouldn’t come until I was 17 years old. That was a long, tortuous wait. But at 18, my parents loaded up our car and drove me 900 miles from Atlanta to NYC so I could begin my college education. Finally! I was a New Yorker!!

Here I am in Portugal, at the top of some medieval castle

I met a guy who was from Portugal, and every summer my dad would pay for me to fly over to spend 2-3 months with his family and explore the beautiful country. I do lament that I had my head so far up my a$$ over this guy that I never really enjoyed it as I should have. Frankly, I complained a lot that he wasn’t attentive enough to me. Ugh. Young love. But still, it was an opportunity that few get, and even though I wasn’t as grateful as I should have been then, I’m grateful now for the experience. And I know that I’m a better person because of it.

When I met Eric, we were both pretty broke college students. And we would be broke for a looooong time. Ha! But we still found ways to travel, to move, to adventure. Even trips-gone-wrong turned into great memories. Like the time we were supposed to fly to Florida for a long weekend, but the snow cancelled our flight, so we rented a car and headed for a B&B in Vermont instead. For hours we hung our heads out the windows of the car, trying to see the road through the onslaught of snow! It was scary, and needless to say, we didn’t make it to Vermont. Instead, we ended up near Holy Oak, Mass, at a Motel 6, where the hotel staff shared their chili with us and we went swimming in our clothes in the indoor pool.

One of the thousands of pictures we took in London

One of my favorite trips of all time was to London five years ago. We watched the London episode of The Bachelorette the other night, and I was almost in tears remembering the amazing time we had there. I can’t wait to go back and discover more of what that incredible city has to offer.

My all-time favorite non-touristy trip was to Sandals this past February in Great Exuma, Bahamas. Wow. So incredibly beautiful. So much so actually, that in September, we’re moving closer to it! That’s right — we’re off on another adventure all because of a week spent in the Bahamas. And once we’re settled there and saving lots of money as a result of moving OUT of NYC, we’ll be off and running again, putting pins in our map of places we want to visit around the world.

We’ll be moving near to here soon…paradise awaits!

Speaking of pins…Pinterest makes it easy for me to keep track of all the awesome places I want to visit or have visited already. Here’s the link to my Favorite Places & Spaces board, if you want to see where I want to go.

But what about you? Do you love to travel? Do you embrace change, spontaneity and adventure? Or do you prefer to stay rooted in the familiar? What are some of your favorite places to visit or your most memorable trips?

Finding Hope…

This past Saturday night, my husband and I met up with some good friends and joined thousands of other New Yorkers for an evening of Kelly Clarkson at Radio City Music Hall.

Now, we’ve been long time fans of Ms. Clarkson. We watched her on American Idol and voted hundreds of times every week so that she would make it into the finals. When we missed her Breakaway tour at Jones Beach, we vowed we would never miss her again, and therefore, we’ve seen her My December, All I Ever Wanted and, now, her Stronger tours.

And while both of the previous concerts were amazingly mind-blowing, this one meant something more to me…something different.

I had just received another glowing (read sarcasm) review on one of my books a couple days before the concert, and as a result, I was having trouble working on my newest project. Doubt wasn’t simply creeping in — it had pitched a permanent tent in my head, and it wasn’t letting go. And the harder it became to write, the more I started to think of myself as a failure. I know, ridiculous based on one bad review, but that old adage about sticks and stones…it’s crap. As a writer, I know the power of words, and they have a lot of power.

So anyway, I had put it from my mind (I’m not the type to wallow, but I am the type to walk away, so this could have been the end of my writing career) and went about my merry life with my family. And went on my way to the concert Saturday night with all the enthusiasm of a 5-year-old kid on Christmas morning.

Before the concert, we grabbed some drinks in the upstairs lounge and as we sat there talking, I couldn’t help people-watching a bit too. And I started to notice a trend…the vast majority of the concert-goers were either homosexual or overweight. This struck me as interesting before the concert, but as soon as the concert started, I had a revelation.

Kelly opened the concert with the song “Dark Side” and she sang it behind a massive screen upon which were displayed article clippings of nasty things people have said about her in the media over the years, and accented with words in giant red letters like FAILURE and FAT. The recurring lyric, “Please remind me who I really am” struck me so hard that I was already tearing up a mere couple of minutes into the show.

So many thoughts were going through my head in that moment, as I reminded myself of who I really am. I’m not my novels. And I’m certainly not my reviews, good or bad. Deep down I know that I am a human being, flesh and blood. I’m defined first and foremost by myself, and secondly by those who know me and love me. In the list of things that I am — wife, daughter, mother, sister, cousin, niece, aunt, friend, employer, philanthropist — writer is waaaaaay down the list. It’s a chosen career. Something I enjoy doing and have been fortunate enough to make money at…but by no means does it define who I am.

And then it made sense why so much of the audience consisted of people who, in some cases, might be ostracized by society. People who have self-esteem problems or who are told they aren’t entitled to the same rights as the rest of us. They can look at Kelly Clarkson and see that she has been hurt and torn down and publicly humiliated, and that eventually, she gave a big giant finger to those who said “you can’t” or “you’re a failure” or “you’re fat,” and then made herself into something beautiful and poignant.

Besides the fact that she delivered some of the most stunning live performances I’ve ever heard, she also delivered something a little less tangible: hope. And not just to struggling 20 and 30-somethings in New York. She’s also giving hope to millions of orphans in South Africa and Zimbabwe.

Halfway through the show, we got to see a video montage of the children Kelly visited on her trip to Africa. Hearing about the 1.9 million orphans in South Africa alone was enough to have me bawling again, and yet another reminder of how insignificant my little Amazon review is in comparison.

So, in honor of my new found hope and my redefinition of who I am as a person, I’m going to donate $5 for every unique comment that’s left on this post to Houses of Hope Africa. All you have to do is comment!

Now go forth and be the best person you can be today 🙂

RWA Nationals: Tuesday Night

Admittedly, I didn’t do any truly conference-related activities yesterday. Eric and I headed into the city around 6 and met my critique partners in the bar at the hotel. We gabbed until it was time to board one of the glass elevators to take us to the Goddess Blog party.

Let me tell you, I’m so glad I’m not in the hotel. I think my commute from Jersey City takes less time. They have the elevators on some kind of odd system. You can’t press a button once you’re inside. You have to “call” for the elevator by indicating on a giant keypad which floor you’re going to. It tells you which elevator to take, and that elevator is programmed to take you to your floor…and to also drop off/pick up about 30 other people that are crammed into that elevator with you. I don’t mind the heights so much, but I do mind the heat and crowding. I was sweating like a whore in church!

The Goddess Blog party was fun. They handed out tiaras, and there was a great spread of fruit and sandwiches. I got to meet Julia London, and Suzanne Enoch was running around welcoming everyone. I briefly got to say hi to Sabrina Jefferies, too. But we had to duck out after our brief appearance because this was our big Critique Group Dinner night.

(First, a couple party pictures…)

Amy de Trempe and me 🙂







Heather Boyd, Samantha Grace and Jodie Pearson








Eric and I led our group of 14 several blocks down to Dallas BBQ. This place is huge and cheap. They had no problem seating all 14 of us immediately. And when I say immediately, I mean, we never really even stopped walking. This place is a well-oiled machine. The guy at the entrance gets your headcount and sends your party up the escalator, where another guy is waiting for you. That guy sends you to the girl on the other side of the restaurant and she leads you to your table that has been expertly set up in the 30 seconds it’s taken your party to get up the escalator.

Our fabulous waiter, George, was so sweet and super patient. The only real snafu came when they tried to put 4 racks of ribs (with fries) in front of Eric.

George: Didn’t you order 4 racks?
Eric: Ah, no, man. Just the one.
George: Oh, man. I could have sworn you said 4 racks.
Eric: (realization dawns) Oh, no! I said full rack. Not four.

Lol. Hopefully some of the incredibly hard-working staff got to enjoy the other 3 racks of ribs.

Everyone really seemed to love the food, which was a big relief. It’s no easy task planning a dinner for 14 people. But I was hopeful that the Texas-sized margaritas would make up for any food-related drawbacks 🙂

But alas, all good things must come to an end, and Eric and I were on a time crunch to get the nanny home by a fairly decent hour. Unfortunately, we didn’t leave quite enough time to make our train, despite the fact we were in a full sprint (with me in brand new sandals) for about 5 blocks. Thank god for our 5K training last fall or I never would have made it. But even at that, we missed our train. We stared longingly and out of breath as we watched it pull out of the station, while we were still on the other side of the turnstiles.

Ah, well…we caught the next one and sent nanny home in a cab. We’ll know to leave an extra 30 seconds next time.

RWA Week: Lady Jane’s Salon

I was SO excited for this amazing Lady Jane’s event last night. The hubby and I were there for the inaugural LJ salon more than two years ago, and we went every month until I got too pregnant to waddle into the city. This was our first time back since the baby was born, and boy, was it a crazy night!

The typical “salon” has around 30-50 people in attendance. It’s quiet, and intimate, and pretty romantic, which is why the hubby and I always loved to go for a date night. Last night was a little different though…

I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that the head count was close to 200. It was a mad house! There was barely room to move, and I was literally pushing people down to get to the bar. Ha! We arrived right at 7pm to find my critique group ladies (who I haven’t seen in at least a year, some of them 2) huddled on couches in the atrium area of Madam X. Everyone looked wonderful, though that “glow” they had could have been sweat – it was roiling!

We had plenty of time to catch up (read: laugh like hyenas) while we waited for the readings to begin. Up first was Leanna Renee Hieber – she’s one of the founders of LJS, and an extraordinary reader, to boot. Of course, her background is in theater, and fittingly, her first book is being adapted into a Broadway musical.

Next up was Karen Rose, whose reading elicited a lot of “Ewww”s and “Blech”s from the audience. She writes crime novels, and she’s quite good with her descriptions…maybe a little too good!

Last up before intermission was Sarah Maclean. Her Regency voice is fun and frivolous, and she has a wonderful sense of humor. She’s definitely going on my TBR list!

Now it’s confession time…even though I told everyone to eat before they came, they didn’t. So at intermission our little group ducked out to get dinner next door at Jane (and I’m just now getting the irony in that). So yes, we missed the headliner – Eloisa James – but at this point, I’ve heard her speak about 5 times so it wasn’t a big deal to have to miss it. She’s wonderful, by the way, so if you haven’t heard her speak or read, I highly recommend you find an opportunity to do so 😉

So all in all, it was a fun night and I was thrilled to see my wonderful friends and critique partners again. I’m so glad I have another 4 days with them!

Tonight we’ll be hitting up the Goddess Blog party and then we’ll have our annual critique group dinner. I promise to post pictures!

RWA Nationals: NYC Eating, Shopping, etc…PART 3

Okay, now we come to my second favorite thing to do (eating is number one, people!)…shopping! When you’re in Times Square, you’re at the crossroads to everything, including awesome places to shop.

Head about 10 blocks south of the hotel, and one avenue over, and you’re at the legendary Herald Square, home to a Macy’s so big you’ll want to have your GPS with you to navigate it!

But Macy’s isn’t the only game in town!

In case you forgot a t-shirt or a comfortable sundress, the flagship Old Navy is on 34th Street between 6th and 7th (150 W 34TH ST)

Forgot to bring extra panties? Victoria’s Secret is at 34th and 6th (901 Avenue of the Americas)

Looking for something trendy and hip to wear to your pitch session? H&M has you covered (435 7th Avenue at 34th Street, but there’s also one right next to Victoria’s Secret on 34th Street, but maybe it’s new and that’s why I can’t find any info on it???)

What about a super unique shopping experience? Visit Muji! This Japanese housewares/clothing store is all the rage right now. From beautiful pens and notebooks for writing down your story ideas to spherical ice cube makers to make round ice cubes (yes, we own them, and yes, they’re awesome!), this place will surely have something to tickle your fancy! (620 8th Avenue @ 40th st.)

Sanrio…This ain’t your mama’s Hello, Kitty! store. Visit the Sanrio on 42nd Street and you’ll feel more like you’re in a Juicy Couture. They renovated this place several years back and it went from playful kiddie store to chic boutique. It’s easy to waste time here, and yes, your jaw will drop when you discover that pretty little Hello, Kitty! necklace under the glass is a whopping $1,000!!

When you walk out of the hotel, you’ll see plenty of other places to get your shop on: Sephora for all your makeup needs, The Gap, Ann Taylor Loft.

So we’ve covered clothing, but what about finding a way to get in  helpings of the most important food group? Don’t worry, you’ll be able to find plenty of candy right up the street from you!

Hershey’s has a beautiful and fun store at Broadway and 49th Street. They even put chocolate scent in the A/C (something I’ve been trying to convince the hubby to do for years!)

And no trip to NYC would be complete without visiting M&M World. You can’t miss it – the green M&M hangs over 7th Avenue, larger than life! Inside, you’ll discover 3 glorious floors of everything M&M.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more NYC stuff! 🙂

RWA Nationals: NYC Eating, Shopping, etc…PART 2

Okay, yesterday I talked about eating on a budget in Times Square…now let’s talk about if your not on a budget…or if you’re looking to drop just a little more dough on “an experience.” I’ll start at the lower end of things…

Havana Central (151 West 46th Street, Between 6th and 7th – .1 mile from hotel)
With delicious food and live music, this is definitely the place to get your salsa on! You feel like you’ve stepped into Havana itself in this classy theme restaurant. And honestly, the food isn’t terribly expensive. Look to pay $12-$20 for an entree. I recommend the Arroz con Pollo, but then again, I’m not a terribly adventurous person 😉

Carmines (200 West 44th Street – 79 feet from hotel)
This staple of New York group dining is not to be missed. The massive restaurant serves massive plates of food (which you order off of a massive billboard on the wall) to massive tables of people celebrating everything from Birthday parties to anniversaries to weddings. And while bigger doesn’t always mean better, in the case of Carmine’s, you can’t get enough. The food is fantastic! But be warned, the wait can get very long, and sometimes they even turn you away if you don’t have a reservation already. This tends to run us about $30/person whenever we go, but it can be more or less depending on alcohol consumption 😉

Vinyl (754 9th Avenue @ 51st St – .6 miles from hotel)
This place may be a little off the beaten path, but it’s super cool. You feel like you’re in a 60s/70s disco with mirrors and records hanging everyone. But the best part is the menu. There is literally something for everyone. Fried chicken, mac&cheese and other American favorites, spaghetti and meatballs, Pad Thai, Masaman Curry or General Tso’s chicken…seriously, there’s something for every palate. And it won’t break the bank either. Plan to pay around $12-$20/entree.

Bond 45 (154 West 45th Street – 299 feet from hotel)
Okay, this place is no joke. You can’t see in the windows and the gigantic sign reading BOND 45 is so intimidating that we didn’t step foot in this place for years – we thought only people like Al Pacino would be allowed in. However, when we finally did go, we were thrilled, and we felt so important. This is a fine Italian steakhouse. The food is amazing, the service impeccable. But be prepared to break the bank with this one. They don’t list their prices online, so you know they’re expensive. It’s been a while since we visited, but the entrees are definitely upwards of $20/entree. Of course, if you go for steak or seafood, you’ll spend more. But if you have some cash to burn, I highly recommend you check it out…or if not, maybe just stop in for drinks.



RWA Nationals: NYC Eating, Shopping, etc…

Hi all!

Well, the time is drawing nigh! Nationals is upon us…just a few more weeks until 2,000+ romance writers descend upon my hometown of NYC. I can’t wait! In preparation, I’ve been compiling lists of places to eat, places to shop, and things to do while you’re visiting us. Hubby and I were on our way to see a show the other day, and I started taking notes of all the great places there are in Times Square and the surrounding neighborhoods. Places that are often forgotten about if they aren’t right in front of your face. So, without further ado, here’s my list of stuff you might want to know about…

Budget Eating…

Just because you’re on a budget or in a hurry doesn’t mean you have to eat at McDonald’s! Here are some spots that offer what I consider upscale fast food…

Chipotle Mexican Grill – this one is a mere .3 miles from the Marriot! My favorite thing here is the veggie burrito bowl – it’ll run you about $7, but you won’t have to eat again for 3 days! Ha!

25 West 45th Street

New York, NY 10036

Cosi – This is a great sandwich/soup/salad place that turns into a full-service restaurant at night, with booze and everything. The Signature Salad is TDF, but just FYI – it’s not at all waist-friendly! If you’re looking for the Weight Watchers-friendly meal there, get the half Turkey Light sandwich and the half soup (I l.o.v.e. the artichoke soup!). .3 miles from hotel…

1633 Broadway

New York, NY 10019

Baja Fresh – .2 miles from the hotel, this Mexican cantina is a favorite from out west! With light, fresh fare, you’ll be walking on air as you walk down Broadway!

1441 Broadway

New York, NY 10018

Famous Famiglia – Looking for that famous NY slice? Pop on up to this legendary pizza joint, just .2 miles from the hotel. 1 slice, 1 order garlic knots and 1 diet coke (to off-set the calories in the pizza and knots, of course) and you’re good to go!

1630 Broadway at 50th St.

New York, NY 10019

Dallas BBQ – if you have a little more time to spare, but still don’t want to break the bank, this BBQ staple of NY is even good enough for this southern gal! My favorite thing here: Quarter rotisserie chicken (white meat, honey basted) with yellow rice and corn bread (slathered in butter, of course.) It’s more food than you could possibly eat for $7.50 (plus tax+tip) Oh, and if you want to get your drink on, go for a Texas sized Strawberry Margarita…yum! .2 miles from hotel…

241 West 42nd Street

Jamba Juice – if you’re really in a hurry or not terribly hungry or just want to drink your fruits/veggies, Jamba Juice is there for you! It’s .1 mile from the hotel, and it’s open until at least midnight every night!

712 7th Ave.

The Counter – I’ve talked about it before, but it bears repeating. This build-your-own burger joint is awesome, and they have a full bar, too! They also have plenty of vegetarian options if you’re not a carnivore. .2 miles from hotel…

1451 Broadway

KFCNo, I’m not talking about Kentucky Fried Chicken, I’m talking about Korean Fried Chicken! This amazing double-fried chicken is like nothing you’ve ever eaten! You’ll never be able to look at buffalo wings the same way again! Ask for a sample first before you order a whole thing of the spicy wings, and if you do go spicy, don’t touch your eyes until you’ve washed your hands at least 5 times. Personally, I love the non-spicy wings the best! Be prepared though…you may have sticker shock when you see the prices, but trust me…it’s worth it!

Try Bon Chon – 207 W. 38th St. New York, NY 10018 (.4 miles from hotel)  or Kyochon 319 5th Ave, New York (.8 miles from hotel.) (The atmosphere at Kyochon is pretty great, so if you don’t mind the walk, I recommend going there!)

Okay, I’ll be back with the next part of my list…

RWA Nationals: Must-Have NYC Apps!

Though I write historical romance and sometimes wish I lived in the 1800s, I’m incredibly grateful that I live in the year 2011 and have such amazing tools at my disposal, such as a smart phone. Whether you have an iPhone, Android, Windows Mobile or Blackberry, these little babies can really come in handy, especially when you’re about to embark on a trip to a new city.

Since Nationals is in my hometown of NYC this year, I’ve scouted out a few important apps for all you iPhone users that you won’t want to leave home without! (Some of these are also available for Android, but I’m not sure about the others. You may want to search for something comparable in your phone’s marketplace, though!)

Up first…NYC Way

This is a pretty neat app, and it’s free! This is kind of one-stop shopping for lots of different things around the city. It uses your location (click Allow when that warning pops up) to locate you and then when you click on, say, the Restrooms button, it will show you the nearest restroom to where you are. They’ll show you coffee shops, dining options,Wi-Fi hotspots, banks, transit, local attractions, and more! Definitely a great app to have when you visit the city!



Okay, so maybe you’re not aware there’s a cupcake craze going on in this country, or maybe you’re glued to the TV every time Cupcake Wars comes on the Food Network, but either way, you’ll want to have this app at your disposal. The City’s 50+ cupcake bakeries are listed by neighborhood, so hop from one to another in an afternoon. It’s a great way to see different neighborhoods while checking out the fun and unique cupcakes the city has to offer. It also has reviews, Editor’s Picks, up-to-the-minute cupcake news, Facebook and Twitter integration, as well as the ability to comment on the bakery and star your favorite spots.

Oh, and did I mention it was created by Yours Truly? That’s right! My husband and I embarked on a cupcake marathon tour last summer and we’ve released the app just in time for Nationals! It’s been a long time in the making, but I’m sure you’ll agree it was well worth the wait! Available for both iPhone and Android AND it’s on sale for Memorial Day! You have until 11:59pm tonight (5/30) to get it for $0.99!…



And last, but not least, Beer Gardens NYC 

I bet you didn’t realize that so many RWA members were whipping up useful iPhone apps, but here’s yet another must-have app for NYC…

For multi-published romance author, Hope Tarr, Beer Gardens NYC was a true labor of love. She and her real life Prince Charming, information architect Raj Moorjani, spent six weeks visiting their initial pool of 50 New York City beer gardens before launching on the App Store in September 2010. Within one month from launch, they received press coverage in The New York Times, The New York Post and Gothamist. Appolicious named Beer Gardens NYC as one of its six “Best iPhone Apps for New York City.” The suds-loving duo recently launched a 2.0 version that includes Foursquare integration, GPS functionality, and even more city beer gardens!

Tarr will be presenting her workshop, “Nobody Cares You Just Had a Muffin: Ten Tips for Using Social Media to Brand Your Books,” at The New Jersey Romance Writers’ annual conference on October 21-22, 2011. To learn more about Beer Gardens NYC, visit the web site at www.BeerGardensNYC.com.


So there you have it, folks! These are my picks for the 3 best phone apps, whether you live in NYC or are just coming here for a visit!  For less than $4 (or $3, if you buy on Memorial Day!), you can have the city at your fingertips!