Brainstorming a New Novel

shutterstock_192195917Photo Source: Shutterstock

When Lagging Indicators came out on July 2, 2018, I was creatively drained.  I only wanted to focus on launching and promoting the novel.  I didn’t even think about new story ideas for the next book. Fast forward eight months later: the flurry of activity has settled down and I find myself analyzing everything as a potential storyline.

Since there were thirteen years between the release of my first novel, Uptown & Down (2005), and Lagging Indicators (2018), I understand that I may have missed a key window to build my career as a novelist. Yet, I’m so energized by the opportunities becoming an indie author has afforded me and take nothing for granted.  So, it’s time to get back to writing!  The beauty of publishing independently is that I retain creative control and can set my own publication date rather than follow a traditional publisher’s schedule, which can range from 12-18 months from manuscript submission.  If all goes according to plan, a new novel will hit the cybershelves by August or September 2020.  However, one crucial element remains ambiguous: What will the new book be about?

I underwent a creative drought for about five years after Uptown & Down was published and chalked it up to “writer’s block.”  I do believe a writer can struggle with producing new work and have an artistic slowdown but in my case, the real culprit was procrastination.  Aside from taking care of my family, I preferred doing everything except write: volunteering, cleaning, organizing, driving around, working out, traveling, shopping, decorating, lunching with friends… Quite simply, I wasn’t willing to invest the time and effort it takes to write.

Arguably, many of those experiences and encounters informed Lagging Indicators, but I think I missed out on that book-in-between because I was a little bit lazy and a lot afraid.  I feared my next book wouldn’t achieve the high standards of depth and resonance I had set for myself.  I’m a perfectionist and was terrified of a “sophomore slump.”  Writing is often about timing and the 2008 financial crisis finally triggered thoughts that eventually led to Lagging Indicators.  I had a premise and constantly asked “What if?” in order to create drama and suspense.

After studying other writers’ processes, I finally understand that you can summon the muse.  You can find a story idea, outline those chapters, and craft that scene if you’re not afraid to make mistakes.  Striving for perfection from the outset can be debilitating.  Allowing yourself to go in all sorts of directions is paramount to unleashing creativity.  Revisions will help you polish that story, but you need the raw material first.

For Book #3, I began by asking: What do I want to write about?  I knew that I wanted the story to take place in my adopted country of Sweden, but how would I incorporate that into an interesting plot?  Next, I wondered:  What kind of books do I enjoy?  What do I know?  How do I want to challenge myself the next time around?  Once I had rough answers to those questions, an idea began to take shape, but I didn’t love it. It felt a bit uninspiring, but I figured I could make it work.  Nevertheless, something nagged at me and the storyline didn’t generate the same passion as I’d had with my first two novels.  I stayed awake thinking about it one night when–out of the blue–a new tale appeared in my mind.  It was as though it had been waiting in the shadows, daring me to pay attention.  I got so excited that I wrote the backcover copy the next morning as a starting point.

As of this writing, I’ve completed the pivotal Chapter One, or about 5,000 words, with approximately 80,000 more to go.  I’ve also done preliminary character sketches and an outline.  However, so many scenes and dialogue popped up while outlining that I decided to just write and get that first draft up and running.  I’m cautiously optimistic about where this story will go.  I think it has potential, but who knows?  Most importantly, I’m fired up and that’s a wonderful place to be.

While it felt like an epiphany when the new novel idea surfaced, I did follow a few conscious steps to get my creative juices flowing.  I think it’s important to be in the right mindset and let go of self-imposed limitations.  Here are some methods I used to free my inner muse:


When I can’t write, I read.  Each book, whether literary or commercial fiction, teaches me something important about pacing, character development, etc.  I reread Animal Farm by George Orwell (1945) with my son last week and was floored by how intuitive and relevant that book still is today. The straightforward writing style and satirical narrative were a refreshing break from the works of popular fiction I’ve been reading lately.


My favorites are author interviews and I enjoy the in-depth profiles of Author Stories with Hank Garner; Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books with Zibby Owens; and The Literary Life with Mitchell Kaplan.  Hearing about new books, how writers got their big break, and the creative process motivates and inspires!

Writer Blogs:

Jane Friedman is so helpful when it comes to writing tips and navigating the publishing world.  I’m so excited that she’ll be a faculty member at the Stockholm Writers Festival in May, where I will also be on a discussion panel about transitioning from traditional to indie publishing.  Julia Cameron and her Morning Pages are a great way to start the day and release unihibited thoughts.  Since I’m focused on a current story at the moment, I haven’t been following this method religiously but I appreciate her inspirational quotes and teachings.  I subscribe to Writer’s Digest and while they tend to bombard my Inbox with special offers for classes, there are at least 1-2 emails per week that tackle an element of craft that is relevant to what I’m working on.  

Exercise & Yoga:

In addition to my cardio and weight training, I’ve finally succumbed to the yoga bug. After sitting in front of the computer for hours on end, my shoulders and back ached so much, the only relief was stretching my stiff limbs.  I also wanted to feel more centered and present.  I’ve taken a couple of yinyoga classes and holding positions for several minutes challenges me to breath deeply and focus.  Eventually, my mind begins to clear and I’m less anxious.  I expand and release whatever’s been holding me back.

That sounds a lot like writing.


Fully Booked


Photo Source: Shutterstock

Books are back!

This might seem like a funny statement, but for years we’ve been predicting the end of physical books, the demise of the reader, the ascendence of  TV series and other forms of virtual entertainment on our smartphones…  However, 2018 was one of the best periods for the publishing industry, much to the relief of booksellers, authors, and their agents!  According to NPD Bookscan, hardcover sales increased, driven mostly by growth in adult nonfiction titles.  Bestsellers and critically-acclaimed books were in such demand this past holiday season, inventory was low and printers had difficulty keeping up.

Michelle Obama’s Becoming has sold over 3 million copies to date and her book tour continues to pack concert venues.  Bob Woodward’s Fear and Bill Clinton/James Patterson’s The President is Missing have also passed the million-copy mark.  Delia Owens’s debut novel, Where the Crawdads Sing has topped the New York Times Hardcover Fiction List and sold well over 290,000 copies in all formats.

Of course, Owens owes this phenomenal success to her talent as a writer and the unique story she wanted to tell, but she was also bolstered by being the September 2018 pick of Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine Book Club.  Witherspoon’s broad influence has made her the worthy successor to Oprah Winfrey’s groundbreaking Book Club.  Created in 1996, Winfrey’s monthly literary endorsements made her the fairy godmother of the book world.  With her seal of approval, lesser-known authors became household names, sales skyrocketed, and book groups grew into an intrinsic part of popular culture.  Winfrey’s daytime talk show ended in 2011, but through her O Magazine, she continues to recommend books that often deal with race and class.  Witherspoon gravitates towards female-centered narratives and her choices have boosted the careers of Jill Santopolo, Chanel Cleeton, and the February 2019 pick, Jasmine Guillory, to another level.  There’s also the matter of Liane Moriarty’s Big Little Lies which Witherspoon’s production company adapted into an HBO miniseries.  It went on to win four Golden Globe Awards and Season 2 will air in June.

Other celebrities have entered the book recommendation arena, including actress Sarah Jessica Parker with her own publishing imprint; actress and activist Emma Watson; NFL quarterback Andrew Luck; and late-night TV host, Jimmy FallonTrevor Noah of “The Daily Show” along with Seth Myers of “Late Night with Seth Myers” have also gotten in on the literature trend.  Both programs have featured diverse writers such as memoirist Darnell Moore and award-winning authors Rebecca Makkai and Jesmyn Ward.

I have always been a certified book groupie.  I go to as many author events I can in Stockholm and look for ones to attend in other cities when I’m traveling.  There is a palpable sense of awe listening to a writer you admire, not only hearing about what inspires them but also the struggles they encountered before reaching a position of commercial or critical success.  I love meeting other book groupies and discussing a particular author’s work.  As an indie author, these connections not only fuel me, they also provide better insight into the reading public.  What moves readers?  Which book events are the most successful?  Without these points of contact, I would feel very lonely in the literary world.

But what does this sunny outlook say about writing as a career?  Sadly, the statistics aren’t as rosy.  A recent survey of 5,000 published authors (both traditional and self-published) by the Authors Guild, a professional organization for book writers, reports that in 2017, the median-pay for full-time writers was $20,300; $6,080 for part-time writers.  Many factors have contributed to this: the consolidation of publishing houses which have led to fewer deals, smaller advances, and lower royalties; the disappearance of magazines and newspapers which were an additional source of income; and Amazon’s grip on the self-publishing, e-book, and resale market.  For the majority of writers, writing cannot be the sole source of income.  It’s either a side hustle or you have to have a side hustle to pay the bills!

Writing sounds like a luxury–or agony depending on how you look at it.  Nevertheless, I still believe that the pursuit of the writing life is a noble one, even if you don’t get published.  You do it because you love it.  Because you have to.  Because you wouldn’t feel complete if you couldn’t put your thoughts on paper…  So, good luck and keep writing!


shutterstock_789510346Photo source: Shutterstock

I am so grateful for the year that was.  Two-thousand-eighteen was the point at which I recommitted to my passion for writing and pursued a profession as a writer; it yielded growth and learning beyond my expectations.  As a result, I am so excited to tackle new projects and goals in 2019.  I write New Year’s Resolutions fully intending to follow them, but usually have mixed success.  That’s probably because I include things that I’m not fully committed to, like working out five days/week or packing less when I go on trips.  Finishing Lagging Indicators had been on my list since 2014 and I did it–albeit four years later.  It can take time to tick off a resolution and I believe that the effort, rather than a 365-day deadline, is much more important.  With that said, here are my Writer Resolutions for the coming year!

Set Up a Writing Goal.  I would like to finish the first draft of my new novel with a publication date of Summer/Early Fall 2020.  I hope to share some aspects of the writing process with you throughout the year.

Establish a Writing Schedule.  It’s really about showing up in front of your computer and writing.  Self-discipline and a strong work ethic, just like any other job. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but the words, the genesis of a story will eventually come. I think best in the morning, so I’ll start early and dedicate four weekdays to fresh writing and one weekday to edits.  My output goal for both of my novels has always been a chapter a week, not word count, and this system has worked for me.  I want to keep my weekends free to recharge my mind and spend quality time with my family.  Of course this is subject to change as the novel nears completion and the publishing process gets underway.

Read Two Books a Month.  For the bookworms out there who can read 1-2 books a week, I envy you!  I used to be that way prior to having children.  My goal for 2018 was one book/month and I achieved it.  I bought many more interesting books than I had a chance to read, but they’re now included in the 2019 #toberead pile.  Since I’m more alert and productive during daylight hours, I’ll pencil in reading time during the day.  The writer Elizabeth Gilbert believes in a weekly breakfast date at a diner or cafe with a book.  I will heed this simple but beautiful piece of advice.  I may even add a matinee movie in there sometimes!

Do Character/Plot/Scene Outlines.  I did this to a lesser extent with Uptown & Down, but with Lagging Indicators, everything flowed from my head.  My first novel was told from three perspectives while my second one was told exclusively from Mia Lewis’s point of view.  I will be returning to multiple viewpoints in my new work and this will require organization and mapping things out.  I look forward to the challenge!

Be Fearless.  I will block out the noise, hesitation, and self-consciousness and follow where the story takes me.  I will not worry about what other people think or how a story will be perceived.  I am writing fiction, not my autobiography.  I find that when I too closely associate my characters with myself, I hold back.  Writers must dare to ask tough, uncomfortable questions in order to find a compelling, authentic narrative.  Otherwise, we are only scratching the surface and doing a disservice to ourselves and our readers.

Edit, Edit, and Re-edit.  I will be relentless and strive for a tight, flowing narrative.  That old saying “kill your darlings” actually works!  If you love a certain sentence or section of your book, ask yourself if it’s essential to the story or if you’re just admiring your skills as a wordsmith?  I will also enlist other readers for advice, eschewing the embarrassment of showing family, friends, or a professional editor a first draft.

Conquering Writer’s Block.  It’s inevitable.  Hopefully this brain freeze won’t occur in the first stages of a new book, but it’s bound to surface after a significant period of writing time when your mind feels absolutely fried.  To counter this, I will read new books or re-read old favorites.  Digging into other writers’ compositions always invigorates me.  Conducting more research, character analysis, or visiting a location described in the work can also spur ceativity.  I will also engage in more cultural grazing.  This involves experiencing other creative forms such as fine art, theater, film, music… Every cultural connection has the power to inspire and motivate, so don’t feel guilty about putting that manuscript away and getting lost in something else!

Write a Monthly Blog Piece.  This trains my writing muscles and I enjoy it!

Attend a Writer’s Retreat.  This has been one of my Resolutions for several years, but with two busy kids and family obligations, it has not been easy to get away.  However, I have resolved to JUST DO IT and everyone around me will have to adapt.  Now, the big question: Which retreat from this amazing list??

Unplug.  I partake in a lot of screen time.  Time that could be spent reading or writing.  However, most of what I consume is related to the writing and publishing world.  I’ve learned so much through blogs, Instagram, and articles and am afraid of missing out on useful information. But I will sincerely try to block off a fixed amount of time for these pursuits because the fact of the matter is, my listening and focusing skills have diminished from too much screen consumption.  That concerns me and the first step to nipping a problem is admitting you have one!

Be Kind to Myself.  I will try not to feel insecure or depressed if I don’t achieve the aforementioned resolutions.  As long as I’m trying my best, I can feel satisfied.  There’s always the option to reassess and regroup.

Practice Gratitude.  Especially during those moments of frustration.  I am so grateful for the chance to pursue my writing dreams.  I thank my family and friends everyday for believing in me.  I am indebted to the readers who have read my books, given positive feedback, sent text messages, or written reviews.  This wave of support propels me forward :). Happy New Year!







I was thrilled when Gina at Willowday asked me to participate in The Creative Collective Sweden Julkalender/Annual Holiday Countdown!  As a fellow American and ex-pat living in Stockholm, I’ve long admired Gina’s myriad of talents (!) and her passion for creating beautiful objects and spaces.  She’s also a generous, inspiring artist who firmly believes in sharing her platform with other creatives.  When Gina requested a holiday post, I thought of the one treat that always brings me joy: Cupcakes.


Mia Lewis, the fictional, hard-charging Wall Street executive in my novel Lagging Indicators, has a soft spot for cupcakes.  They are her guilty pleasure and she loves to gorge on a box of dainty delicacies from Magnolia Bakery in New York.  She even finds a rustic cupcake café to eat her sorrows away after fleeing the city in professional disgrace. This little character detail–Mia’s love for these sweet, whimsical creations–was drawn from my own obsession with cupcakes.  I love that they’re a study in contradictions; miniature but over-the-top, decadent but designed for portion control.  Cupcakes were also the festive treat my mom baked by the dozens for my birthday.  I waited all year for the chance to bring them to school and hand out to my classmates at snack time.

I was disappointed to discover there was no such birthday cupcake tradition in Sweden when my own children were small.  However, I shouldn’t have been surprised; cupcakes evolved in the United States during the 19th Century.  They coincided with the shift from weighing out ingredients when baking to measuring out ingredients.  Cupcakes were originally cooked in small pottery cups and their “invention” saved significant baking time in the oven.  When muffin tins became popular in the 20thCentury, people began preparing cupcakes in these individual molds, adding to the convenience.

Cupcakes have become nothing short of a cult phenomenon and they invaded Sweden in the last decade.  Swedes call them muffins, which I find rather confusing, but I’m nevertheless thrilled that I’m able to find the baking paper, pans, and toppings needed to bring these small masterpieces to life.  


I adore making cupcakes for the holidays.  My specialty is pepparkaka, or gingerbread cupcakes, and I embellish them with a variety of Christmassy flavors and decorations.  My recipe is semi-homemade since I rely on the Kungsörnen Pepparkaka cake mix.  I’ve made gingerbread cake from scratch in the past and can honestly say that it didn’t taste any better, so I put all of my focus on the icing and garnish.  I use a base recipe for buttercream frosting from Domino’s Confectioner’s Sugar and convert the measurements, working with the Florsocker found in Sweden. 

My favorite holiday glazes are vanilla, cream cheese, and peppermint.  In addition to the standard red and green sprinkles, my toppings reflect a Yuletide motif: candy-cane shavings; pepparkaka cookie crumble; Hershey’s Kisses; Christmas M&Ms; mini-marshmallows; powdered cardamom; marzipan figures; metallic and winter-themed trimmings… Deep hues of red velvet, evergreen, and hot chocolate transform a humble cake into a sparkling gem.  Small in stature, but big on imagination, I think holiday cupcakes embody the magic and merriment of the season.  GOD JUL!

Marzipan figures from Thelins Konditori.


Bibliophiles can be tough customers.  It’s not easy shopping for books or literary-related gifts for people who are well-versed in authors and have specific thoughts about what they will or will not read.  Many bookworms I know are a fussy lot who take great pride in their esoteric tastes.  This is why it’s so much fun to shake things up with snazzy presents that will take them out of their dusty book zones!  Here’s my roundup of holiday goodies that will (hopefully) bring a smile to the most manic bibliomaniac among us.

Books are the most obvious place to start, but why not give a beautiful coffee table book with illustrations of literary people, places and things?  Or what about a cool tome that chronicles the edgy underground scene of writers, artists, and performers in New York during the 70s and 80s?  The Writer’s Map is a clever atlas of the fictional, inspirational, and real-life journeys that storytellers have narrated in their books–perfect for Harry Potter or Treasure Island fans.  I think that libraries are near-sacred spaces and Massimo Listri takes us inside the world’s most extraordinary temples of knowledge and information.  For the writer who loves fashion and books?  Legendary Authors and the Clothes They Wore will satisfy their sartorial and literary cravings.  Plus you can’t go wrong with Joan Didion on the cover!

I work better when I have good gear.  Blame it on the neurotic Virgo in me, but an organized desk breeds and organized mind.  But that doesn’t mean my desk accessories have to be boring!  Practicality and aesthetically-pleasing can go hand-in-hand.  Why settle for a plain stapler and tape dispenser when these marble gems can be found at Target?  I’m always searching for my phone or favorite pen underneath the papers on my desk and this valet tray would keep essential items in a designated spot.  The Hay Beak Scissors are a whimsical Danish design classic.  Swedish Svenskt Tenn’s weighty Alpha Omega bookends are a heritage piece that can be passed down from generation to generation.  The pewter Syltkruka Vase, also from Svenskt Tenn, is the perfect container for storing pens and pencils or filling with a small bouquet of flowers.

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I received this Smythson planner as a gift last year and I used it so much–despite being so dependent on my iPhone for managing appointments and notes. There was something so tangible and satisfying about writing stuff down and I found that I was less forgetful.  I’m treating myself to a new diary for 2019 and because it is such an investment piece, I handle it with care.  Smythson also has wonderful small notebooks to catalog a writer’s free-flowing thoughts!

While we’re on the subject of organization, I can’t seem to keep all my cords, devices, passport, etc together when I travel and am always frantically searching for something.  I think a Shinola Tech Travel Folio such as the one above would solve the problem!

Reading for pleasure is a cozy, self-indulgent exercise.  Why not take it to the next level and burn this divine, aptly-named Byredo Bibliothèque scented candle while enjoying the new private label Lost in the Stacks Coffee or Enchanted Library Blackberry Tea from Strand Book Store in New York City?  Drink from this New Yorker mug with a groovy illustration of the Strand itself!

These retro-inspired tee-shirts of classics from Out of Print would get even the most screen-obsessed person in a reading mood.  They’re also the perfect gift for the bibliophile who has one or two or three favorite works of literature!  Since 2010, Out of Print’s mission has been to spread the joy of reading by transforming literary classics into bookish apparel and accessories. With every purchase, you help them to donate books and support literacy programs around the world.

I love John Derian’s vintage aesthetic and these trays with decoupage images of fonts and phrases are a lovely way to bring the writing and book-loving theme to your home.

John Derian paperweights are stylish decorative objects to keep on your desk.  They also look great in a coffee table vignette or as part of a shelfie!

I don’t know about you, but I get the munchies if I sit too long at my desk and oftentimes the best energy-infusion is something sweet!  The holiday season brings with it a host of tempting flavors and colors and there’s no need to break the bank either.  Give classics like M&Ms or Hershey’s Kisses and popular peppermint bark in a glass jar or small basket to your writer and reader friends. Tie a ribbon around it, pair with a book you’ve already read and like, and they’ll be so touched and thankful!

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While in Los Angeles for her Becoming book tour, former First Lady Michelle Obama made a surprise visit to the Para Los Niños Tina and Rick Caruso Early Education Center, located in Skid Row, to spend time and read with a group of four-year-old children from an underserved area of Los Angeles. Mrs. Obama’s visit was in Partnership with Penguin Random House and First Book and is a part of Penguin Random House’s one million book donation in the Obama family’s name. (November 15, 2018)  Source

Do-it-Yourself gifts are usually the most personal as are the ones extended in the spirit of giving.  One organization that I support is First Book.  Since 1992, First Book has distributed more than 175 million books and educational resources to programs and schools serving children from low-income families in more than 30 countries.  Books have the power to transform lives and a donation–no matter how big or small–made in your or someone else’s name can have a significant impact.  This gift guide was meant to inspire and entertain, but the true meaning of the holidays centers around gratitude and community; spreading love, peace, and joy.  Wishing you and your nearest and dearest the very best for the season!

Fall Favorites: 2018 Edition

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Changing leaves, the brisk air, apple-picking, cozy sweaters… Autumn has officially begun and it always feels like a demarcation point, not unlike the first day of school.  I want to buy a fresh set of pens, notebooks and get back to work!  Aside from Lagging Indicators-related projects and an outline for my next novel, there are so many new releases and happenings that I’m excited about.  Fall offerings tend to be more sober and cerebral, encouraging introspection and providing deep sources of inspiration.  Creating an inviting home and work environment is also essential to finding energy as the days become shorter and darkness envelops us.  Here are some of the things I’m looking forward to this season!

Since I’ll be spending more time inside, sitting at my desk and working on my computer, burning scented candles will make the space feel less claustrophobic and bring the outdoors in.  Woodsy aromas like these–with a dash of pumpkin–make me feel like I’ve taken a walk in the forest.



Source:  Byredo; Aerin; DiptyqueNest Fragrances

Some trendwatchers have declared that pumpkin spice has reached its peak, but not for me!  I love nothing more than treating myself to anything infused with it. The Swedish pepparkaka is technically a gingerbread cake, but it has a zesty, peppery taste that reminds me of pumpkin spice (and I only bake it in the fall and winter) so I’ve included it in the mix.



Source: Williams Sonoma; Starbucks; Kungsörnen

Although I live in Sweden, I consider it my civic duty to vote from abroad.  I’m looking forward to filling out my absentee ballot and voting in the US Midterm Elections on November 6th.  Don’t forget to register to vote.  You can register from outside the United States too.

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Source: Cleo Wade for Gucci

Now, on the culture!  The arts, entertainment and literary events premiering this Fall are exceptional.  In an ideal world, I would go/read/see everything, but these are my highlights.


If I could only read one book this autumn, it would be Michelle Obama’s Becoming.  She was such an inspiration and role model as First Lady and continues to sprinkle fairy dust on us with her words of wisdom.  I have a feeling that since she and former President Obama are no longer in government, she can be more forthcoming.  I can’t wait to read more about her journey from the South Side of Chicago to the White House! image (15)Source

The Fall reading list is filled with so many other thought-provoking books from favorite as well as debut authors.



Source: Amazon


Settling into a movie theatre with a box of popcorn is one of my favorite Fall activities.  These are a few upcoming movies that have caught my eye:  Creed II, headlined by Michael B. Jordan—also reunites Sylvester Stallone with Dolph Lundgren—will be a fun watch with my kids; Widows, starring Viola Davis, to see with my husband; Bohemian Rhapsody because I grew up listening to Queen and Freddie Mercury’s life story fascinates me; and The Hate U Give based on Angie Thomas’s best-selling novel will be important viewing for the whole family.




Five years ago, the Hilma af Klint exhibit broke attendance records at Moderna Museet in Stockholm.  This groundbreaking Swedish female artist began creating bold abstract paintings in 1906—years before her male contemporaries—but she didn’t get the recognition she deserved. I hope her show at the Guggenheim Museum will be just as popular and introduce her work to a whole new audience.

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The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill was the soundtrack when it came out in 1998.  I’m thrilled she’s doing a 20th Anniversary Tour and that she’s coming to Stockholm on December 10th.  I’ll be checking this one out with my daughter!

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In between all this stimulation :), I’ll squeeze in relaxing weekends by the fire with my family in the Swedish archipelago.  What are you looking most forward to this Fall?  I’d love to hear your thoughts and recommendations!

Two Months Since Release: What I’ve learned so far…


July 2nd loomed large in my mind for months as I counted the days until Lagging Indicators would be released.  When that fateful date arrived, I was nervous but at peace:  I had done my best.  After years of research, writing, and rejections from traditional publishers, my decision to self-publish was the closure I’d been seeking.  I’d been posting teasers on Instagram and this blog for several weeks, generating some curiosity among my friends.  Many had pre-ordered the book and showed me a level of support and encouragement that still warms my heart.  Once the print and e-book became available on book-buying sites, the waiting game began.

Of course, I was eager to see what readers would think, but hadn’t expected all the valuable intelligence and insight I would gain in the process!  I’d shifted gears from a dreamy creative journey to a wild ride through the contemporary book world, picking up a crash course on promotions, marketing, social media, and influential literary websites along the way.  A whole new universe had opened up; one that I had shied away from because of my own struggles as a writer.  Rather than be daunted, it only reaffirmed that I want to do this. Here’s what I’ve learned in these last two months:

  • The reading public is alive and well.  With hectic schedules, we have so little discretionary time and how we choose to spend it is precious.  I was worried that in this Age of Netflix and the surrealness of current events (facts being stranger than fiction), people would be less likely to pick up a book for entertainment.  I couldn’t have been more wrong!  The literary community is thriving.  One only has to look at social media to find book lovers who gleefully post their current reads, reviews, and #TBR lists (a hashtag acronym for “to-be-read” that I just learned).  In spite of all the screens and images to distract, people are still craving the written word.  This has been the most gratifying realization.
  • A community of family, friends, and well-wishers goes a long way.  Even small words of pep made a huge difference in settling my publishing nerves.  As a result, I’ve learned to pay it forward by not only supporting other writers but also artists, designers, entrepreneurs, Ph.D. candidates… I try to lift up anyone working hard and pursuing a dream!
  • Writing may be my passion but self-promotion is my job.  I have to get Lagging Indicators and myself out there.  While I’m a writer first and foremost, I’m also an entrepreneur building a brand, especially as a self-published, indie author.  No one will know about my book unless I make it visible.
  • Engaging with social media is important.  I’m a big fan of Instagram (you can follow me at, but it can be tricky.  You don’t want to appear braggy, pushy or inauthentic, so it’s important to find that balance between marketing and authenticity.  Be yourself!  On Instagram, I can feature all the different things that I enjoy and from which I draw inspiration.  Followers are potential readers too.  Interact with them and ask questions in some posts to create a dialogue. I follow other established writers to see how they present themselves and even New York Times best-selling authors pursue a strategy of connecting with their audience via Instagram.  If Tayari JonesElizabeth Gilbert, and Emily Giffin, can do it, then so can I!
  • Don’t be afraid to hustle.  This can be intimidating if you’re not naturally wired that way.  I’m more of a soft-sell type, but it’s a very competitive landscape and I have to work hard to find a niche.  What makes Lagging Indicators unique?  Why should a reader buy it or a bookseller stock it in their store?  I have my selling points and, luckily, my pitch only gets better with time as the feedback comes in.  While it’s important to understand my demographic, I also don’t want to limit myself.  I’m continuously brainstorming for new, interesting activities and events that I can tie-in with the book.  Giveaways are a great tool to create buzz.  Reposting pictures of real people reading my book has also been alot of fun.  I love getting pictures of the #bookinthewild (another new Instagram expression/hashtag for me).  Ask friends to leave reviews on book-buying sites.  Book clubs and panels are also excellent ways to increase one’s author profile.  For example, my own Book Group event in May has led to inclusion at the Stockholm Writers Festival next spring.  I’ve also sent books to media personalities, influencers and thought leaders whom I admire.  I don’t know if they’ll even open their copy of Lagging Indicators, but I had nothing to lose by reaching out to them!
  • Keep abreast of the industry.  I’ve been educating myself on the contemporary female fiction/women’s fiction genre as well as comparable authors.  It’s crucial to remain up-to-date about other writers, trends, best-seller lists, deals, events, marketing strategies, etc.  It’s a lot to manage at times, but an hour or two each day can yield useful actionable information.  Plus, I love doing this, so I never consider it tedious work!
  • Talk about your work with pride.  Don’t be shy!  This can seem awkward in certain situations but usually leads to really interesting discussions.
  • Carry the book with you at all times. You never know if someone will ask to see it or want to buy a copy from you.  I love taking pictures of the book in different cities, countries, and settings.  Having it with me like an extra limb has become a welcome habit.
  • My skin is thicker than I thought.  I assumed I would fall to pieces over a lukewarm review, but I took it in stride.  It was more like “Hmmmm…” rather than “Ugh!” I see (constructive) criticism as learning opportunities and try not to take it personally.  I won’t become discouraged and will keep writing for my own development.  And no matter how hard I try, I can’t please everyone…
  • I’ve already started to think about my next book.  Given the thirteen years between Uptown and Down and Lagging Indicators, this is big news for me indeed!  But the past year of putting a laser-like focus on my writing, immersing myself in the self-publishing process, and following the book world has given me so much joy and purpose.  Yes, it’s a slog sometimes, but this is where I want to be.  I want to keep this momentum going so that I don’t fall into a slump.
  • Finally, I’ve drawn so much energy and motivation from the feedback I’ve received.  I’m floored by some of the in-depth analysis that pointed things out I hadn’t fully contemplated, opening my eyes to additional themes and issues.  Many readers could relate to Mia’s struggles and were rooting for her.  Others told me that she stayed in their minds long after they’d finished the book.  Some have even suggested Lagging Indicators should be a miniseries and that I should write a sequel.  Stay tuned…




Haiti in my heart…


Last month, my seventeen-year-old daughter, Yasmine, and I took a trip to Haiti.  I was born in New York, but my parents are from Haiti and I was eager to visit the country again and to introduce Yasmine to her Haitian roots.

I spent a couple of summers in Haiti as a teenager.  First in 1985 when dictator François “Baby Doc” Duvalier was still in power and the country functioned in a kind of sinister calm.  I was aware of the repression but was carried aloft by seeing extended family, making new friends and nursing an adolescent crush–generally hanging out in a state of blissful ignorance as teenagers do.  I came back in 1988 after Baby Doc had been ousted from power and fled for exile in France.  Many of the same people and places that had left such an imprint on me were now battered and bruised; homes looted, persons violated, innocence and livelihoods robbed.  Poverty and despair shadowed every corner of the island, but there remained hope that a new leader could lead Haiti out of the rubble.

In 1990, former Roman Catholic priest Jean-Bertrand Aristide was elected president in Haiti’s first free election.  A year later, he was overthrown in a military coup.  My last trip occurred in 1996, a few years after US troops oversaw the return of Aristide and the establishment of a UN peacekeeping presence.  Foreign aid had become a daily fixture and this reality would only increase after the devastating earthquake in 2010 that killed anywhere from 200,000-300,000 people.  For years, I’d expressed an interest in returning to Haiti but was discouraged: too poor, too depressing, too unstable…  This time, however, Yasmine’s curiosity and youthful stubbornness overcame any apprehension or resistance.  We set off for the island with my father in tow.

Upon landing, I was greeted by a familiar scent–burning wood swirling through the moist, hot air–and it felt like no time had passed at all.  The airport was less chaotic than I’d expected and I took in the medley of people who had flown over with us.  I saw Haitians, many in their Sunday best, returning home.  Clusters of mostly white missionaries in identical tee-shirts wore expressions of purpose as they prepared to build wells or construct houses.  Yasmine, my father and I comprised another group: the diaspora, Haitians who had left or been born elsewhere and were now scattered in Brooklyn, Miami, Boston, Atlanta, Paris and, in my case, Stockholm.

Our journey began with a wonderful dinner at my cousin’s home in the mountains.  Most of my father’s side of the family had gathered there and I was overjoyed to see their faces and feel the outpouring of positive energy and love.  This is a connection I miss living so far away in Sweden, both from my immediate family in New York and my sprawling clan in Haiti.  Yasmine had never met most of her cousins, but her immediate bond with them only proved that she felt just as Haitian as she did Swedish.

Haiti is a complex, messy, stunning, contradictory, magical place.  Columbus named it Hispaniola after he landed in 1492 and the subsequent cruel introduction of slavery by the Spanish and French permeated every aspect of the island for centuries.  It was the first black republic, fighting for and gaining independence from the French in 1804–still the only successful slave revolt in human history.  That triumph lingers, but  Haiti today is also the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.

The country’s past and current challenges have been well-documented elsewhere, but for me, Haiti is like coming home to a favorite auntie with an abundance of soul, flavor, fire, and passion.  She always welcomes me back with open arms and reserves judgment, forgiving the long stretches of time between visits.  Everything is heightened in intensity too–the pleasure and the pain; the pride, dignity, and resolve amid the hardship.  Yasmine and I absorbed all we could and the snapshots below are our impressions, from where we stood, during our week-long séjour en Ayiti…


We stayed at the Karibe Hotel in Petion-Ville, which provided us with a convenient location between Port-au-Prince, the capital, and the mountains of Kenscoff.  Karibe was very nice with attentive staff, beautiful grounds and a delicious rooftop restaurant.  I enjoyed sitting in the garden and watching the diverse guests.


The bougainvilleas spilling from the walls and entryways were a welcome pop of color on hazy days or when we sat in rush-hour traffic.


Haitians carrying their wares or selling goods in the open-air markets were a ubiquitous sight.


The tap-taps, meaning “quick-quick,” are brightly painted pick-up trucks that have been fitted with a roof and seats and function as a means of public transport.  The graphics usually have a religious significance.


One day we had lunch at the charming Gingerbread Resturant and I indulged in my favorite Haitian dish: griot (fried pork shoulder); pikliz (spicy pepper and onion salsa); bananes pesées (fried plantains); and an icy glass of Couronne–a deliciously sweet and refreshing fruit soda.

The vibrant art of Haiti is world-famous. Talent abounds, both in the “naive art” that can be purchased from street vendors and in those by trained artists found in the galleries.  Yasmine fell in love with this painting below.  I think the confidence and irreverent style of the girl resonated with her!


Revolutionary heroes such as Toussaint L’Ouverture are proudly depicted in the art.  These pieces were exhibited at Galerie Monnin.

We took a fantastic day trip to Furcy.  It was a beautiful region, mountainous and green.  The ride had us driving through winding roads and entering small villages with shops and food stations.  Merchants sold goods while kids played soccer, using rocks or bottles as a ball.  World Cup fever had overtaken Haiti and it was fun to see where their allegiance lay!


We also spent the weekend at the beach and I marveled at the turquoise water, which I could stare at for hours.  The Caribbean Sea was so warm and I didn’t hesitate for a moment taking a swim.

More postcards from everyday scenes around Port-au-Prince.

And, yes, I foisted copies of Lagging Indicators onto my Haitian relatives!

The meatballs à la ABBA on the menu at Totto Resturant, where we went for brunch on our last full day, was a reminder that we would be heading back to our lives in Sweden.  However, as Haiti is prone to do, she laid claim to our hearts and we promised ourselves that the time in between would not be as great.


Days after we left, unrest broke out due to a rise in fuel prices.  That increase has been suspended and I hope there can be far-reaching reforms to bring services and a suitable standard of living for the Haitian people.  We came as “tourists” and relished every experience, but know that daily life in Haiti is difficult.  I still encourage people to visit this intriguing country.  Tourism and investment are the future.  Haitians are warm, multifaceted, determined, resilient, entrepreneurial people who deserve a chance for their country to thrive!

Mia Lewis has officially arrived!


Wall Street executive Mia Lewis is an independent woman at the top of her game, until one false move ushers her spectacular downfall, leaving her disgraced and broke. When an encounter with a handsome single dad ignites feelings Mia had intentionally buried, she considers a new life—until the past comes calling in an unexpected way…

If you’re interested in reading about a strong woman thrown into difficult circumstances, I’m so excited to announce that Lagging Indicators will be released today! It’s available from all major booksellers, including:


EPUB EDITION (all stores—this is a multi-store link)


I’m so grateful for the support and encouragement I’ve received from family, friends, readers and Indie Book Launcher throughout this whole process.  It’s been a long journey, but one I firmly believe was worth the labor pains!

My first novel, Uptown and Down, was based heavily on my personal background and the female protagonist felt very close to home.  This time, in Lagging Indicators, I wanted to create a woman who was so different from me or anything I had experienced professionally or personally.  We share one aspect in common (if you’ve been reading my posts, you’ll know what it is ♥), but that was more for the purposes of explaining what motivated her drive and ambition.  It was so much fun finding Mia’s voice and viewing the world through her lens.  I hope you’ll enjoy reading her story as much as I did writing it!




Becoming an Indie Author

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Whenever I tell friends that I self-published my second novel, I’m greeted by an enthusiastically positive reaction—not in praise of Lagging Indicators (although I do hope they will read and like the book)—but because I was brave enough to follow my instincts and take control of my destiny.  The old-fashioned writer in me finally learned that in 2018, getting out of our comfort zones; shedding rigid, old mindsets; and disrupting our own linear narratives are the new symbols of progress.  Rather than waiting for a traditional publisher to approve the creative content and commercial viability of my book, I believed in the merits of the story and wanted to share it with an audience.  It was a tremendous leap of faith, but one that I don’t regret for a second.

But please understand: this indie attitude didn’t come naturally to me.  I’m typically a risk-averse person and analyze a situation from every angle before making a decision.  I was very fortunate to get a deal with Penguin/NAL for Uptown and Down (2005) and in the span of years it took me to conceive of and write Lagging Indicators, the publishing industry and whatever small place I had in it had changed dramatically.  The number of publishing houses had shrunk due to consolidation and it was becoming harder to break through—even if an author had been previously published.  Frankly, I didn’t even know what types of stories editors wanted; I only knew the types of stories I wanted to tell and hoped they would resonate with someone.  I did receive some kudos for the manuscript, but not enough for a book contract.  Writing—and this unrealized quest for a traditional book deal—left me deflated.  I questioned whatever “talent” or “skills” I supposedly had and looked with a twinge of envy at writers publishing books with the big houses backed by strong marketing campaigns.  Not a good feeling.

Resigned, I decided to put Lagging Indicators aside and began sketching the outlines for another story since writers ultimately write not for publication, but because we feel compelled to.  There are stories inside of us waiting to be told, even if they just end up being piles of typed-up pages in a drawer.  Then it dawned on me that my story about Mia Lewis didn’t have to stay in a drawer.  I could share her with the rest of the world through self-publishing.  People had been urging me to do this for years, but I’d been skeptical and held back.  After extensive research on the Internet, I came across Indie Book Launcher, an independent publishing service that helped me with everything from the cover to formatting the manuscript to uploading on various platforms and guidance with promotions.  They were so professional and just got it.  My publishing adviser knew intuitively what I was trying to convey and consistently took the time and effort to understand my characters, themes, and me as a writer.  The support I’ve received has been invaluable.

Once I made the decision to become my own publisher, not only did my mood soar, my creative energy, passion for books and writing soared as well.  The euphoria and empowerment I’ve experienced in the last ten months have given me profound insight, both as a writer and as a person.  By making my work available to an audience, I’ve benefited greatly from feedback about the prose and plot; commentary that will help me as I continue to hone my craft.  I’ve also learned about so many resources available to indie authors—things that were unimaginable when I was first published in 2005.

I’ve also stopped feeling like an imposter.  Although I’d been published once before, in my mind, it was so long ago that it almost didn’t count anymore.  But I now have two books under my belt.  I managed to create two distinct plots, fashioned dozens of characters and churned out over 200,000 words.  I feel a sense of accomplishment rather than doubt or failure.  We writers are constantly looking for validation.  Ours is a lonely business and there are gatekeepers, juries, and reviewers who wield an incredible amount of influence.  It’s difficult to detach oneself from that long-established world.  I consider myself an author who embraces publishing in all of its constellations and formats, but at this stage of my life, becoming an indie author was the right decision for me.  I’m not only an author but also an entrepreneur and I’m so excited about my new product!  By taking ownership of Lagging Indicators, I’ve realized that the courage and determination I created in the character of Mia Lewis also lived inside of me.

Whatever your artistic pursuit or business idea, there are alternate paths to achieving your goals.  Technology and our interconnected world are changing the rules of the game; we shouldn’t be afraid to explore new options.  I’m so proud to sign off by saying that Lagging Indicators will be released on July 2nd but is available now for pre-order on Amazon and Barnes and Noble!