Thursday, April 5, 2018


Bright and early last Saturday morning, my phone went into a public toilet.

It wasn't on purpose. It happened while I was traveling, attending an event at Atlanta's convention center. I entered the public restroom and--as one does before using the facilities--was juggling several bags to keep them off the floor when I heard the splash. Horrified, I fished the phone from the toilet (no, don't try to imagine it...), wrestled it out of its case, and attempted to dry it with paper towels. I told myself to be thankful it was early in the day and the restroom had just been cleaned. There were plenty of towels and the toilet situation could have been far worse.

Surely the phone would be fine. Right? Wrong. It died immediately. As it was a holiday weekend, there was no help to be had. Any fix would have to wait until Monday morning, after my return to Boston.

First thing Monday, I took my phone to the local Staples, who'd replaced the screen for me only five days earlier. A phone I'd had for two years with no issues, and now I'd had two horrors in a week. The screen fix--while not cheap--had been quick and easy, so I hoped this would be, too.

No dice. They changed the battery, used a special dryer, and basically did everything possible to fix my phone, but the damage was too extensive.

The upshot: I ended up going four full days without a phone. It isn't until you're without one that you realize what you do--and don't--miss.

I didn't miss Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, or any other social media. There was one photo I wanted to see that a friend posted to Instagram, but someone was kind enough to send it to me via email.

What I did miss: the ability to check the weather (especially since I was traveling), having my airline boarding passes handy, and having the electronic ticket to the event I was attending in Atlanta. I figured out workarounds for the tickets and passes. Once the weekend was over and I was in the midst of the can-it-be-saved process at Staples, followed by the order-a-new-phone-and-wait process, I missed other things. No audiobooks or podcasts while walking my dog or driving, and no ability to sign up for my gym classes using the app on my phone.

My biggest surprise came on Tuesday morning, my last phoneless day. I always carry my phone while I'm running and debated whether I should go without. I like having it for safety, but I love having it for the music. When the sun emerged, however, I decided to lace up my shoes and run. I had no music, no audiobook or podcast, and no Map My Run to give me my time and distance. I expected a rather boring outing, given that I was completely disconnected, and figured I'd go a couple miles at most. I ended up running nearly six miles, and the time flew. It had been so long since I'd run in silence that I found the routine noise of the neighborhood and sounds of my feet hitting the pavement and trails meditative.

Lesson learned: running without music or GPS can be bliss.

I'm a big believer in disconnecting from technology from time to time. It reduces the noise in my brain and helps me think more clearly. When I travel, I don't buy WiFi on the airplane because I like having a few hours where I'm completely cut off from the Internet and social media. I've taken vacations to places without Internet or cellular service and relished those days. Having an unplanned disconnect--one where I couldn't even listen to a book or music--was an entirely different experience, but a good one, I think, even if it made the trip home from Atlanta more challenging, since I didn't have my boarding pass or access to airline updates. It made me realize that I need to disconnect more often.

On that note, I was fascinated by this article I read recently about Silicon Valley engineers who've chosen to reduce or eliminate their social media and their positive reactions to doing so. Great food for thought here:

Our Minds Can Be Hijacked: The Tech Insiders Who Fear a Smartphone Dystopia

Have you disconnected recently? What was your experience? Was it planned or unplanned? Would you do it again?

I don't recommend throwing your iPhone into a toilet--particularly given the expense--but if it happens, take advantage of being disconnected. It's not all bad.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Oscar Predictions 2018

I've been on the road for much of the last month, so I'm posting this year's predictions close to the wire. However, if you're heading to an Academy Awards party tonight and filling out your ballot at the last minute, you could do worse that cribbing my picks, as I finish near or at the top of my pool each year. The trick is knowing the contenders in the so-called little categories such as Live Action Short or Documentary Feature. Get a few of these, or the sound categories, and you'll be leaps and bounds ahead of those who focused only on the acting categories when making their predictions.

My picks for tonight are in bold. Where I've gone against the consensus of those who do this professionally--say, the gurus at Variety or well-known film critics--I've made a note. Good luck, movie lovers! (And be sure to count the number of Moonlight vs. La La Land envelope jokes tonight. My prediction is four.)

Timothée Chalamet, Call Me by Your Name
Daniel Day-Lewis, Phantom Thread
Daniel Kaluuya, Get Out
Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour
Denzel Washington, Roman J. Israel, Esq.

- The heavy favorite here is Gary Oldman. I’m taking a serious flyer on Timothée Chalamet. If you want the safer pick, go Oldman.

Willem Dafoe, The Florida Project
Woody Harrelson, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Richard Jenkins, The Shape of Water
Christopher Plummer, All the Money in the World
Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri

Sally Hawkins, The Shape of Water
Frances McDormand, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Margot Robbie, I, Tonya
Saoirse Ronan, Lady Bird
Meryl Streep, The Post

- As close to a lock in an acting category as you’ll get tonight. 

Mary J. Blige, Mudbound
Allison Janney, I, Tonya
Lesley Manville, Phantom Thread
Laurie Metcalf, Lady Bird
Octavia Spencer, The Shape of Water

- My heart says Laurie Metcalf, because she is AWESOME. My head says Allison Janney. Want victory in your pool? Janney's your more likely winner.

The Boss Baby
The Breadwinner
Loving Vincent

- Closest thing to a lock you'll see all night.

Blade Runner 2049
Darkest Hour
The Shape of Water

Beauty and the Beast
Darkest Hour
Phantom Thread
The Shape of Water
Victoria & Abdul

- While I adored the look of Victoria & Abdul, hello…PHANTOM THREAD? About a costume designer? It’ll win this category.

Get Out
Lady Bird
Phantom Thread
The Shape of Water

Abacus: Small Enough to Jail
Faces Places
Last Men in Aleppo
Strong Island

- Take your pick between Faces Places and The Last Men in Aleppo. I’m going Faces Places.

Heaven Is a Traffic Jam on the 405
Knife Skills
Traffic Stop

Baby Driver
I, Tonya
The Shape of Water
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

- Dunkirk is probably the favorite here, but I’m going to pick Baby Driver.

A Fantastic Woman (Chile)
The Insult (Lebanon)
Loveless (Russia)
On Body and Soul (Hungary)
The Square (Sweden)

Darkest Hour
Victoria & Abdul

- Darkest Hour, because everyone who knows makeup and hairstyling says so. Also, though Gary Oldman manages to transform into a different person with each new role, the physical transformation here is extraordinary.

Phantom Thread
The Shape of Water
Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

- Because I love Alexandre Desplat’s work and frequently listen to his soundtrack for Girl With a Pearl Earring while I write, I’m going Desplat and The Shape of Water.

“Mighty River,” Mudbound
“Mystery Of Love,” Call Me by Your Name
“Remember Me,” Coco
“Stand Up For Something,” Marshall
“This Is Me,” The Greatest Showman

Beauty and the Beast
Blade Runner 2049
Darkest Hour
The Shape of Water

- This category is a tough choice between Blade Runner 2049 and The Shape of Water. I’m choosing the latter, but if Blade Runner 2049 has your heart, run with it.

Dear Basketball
Garden Party
Negative Space
Revolting Rhymes

DeKalb Elementary
The Eleven O'Clock
My Nephew Emmett
The Silent Child
Watu Wote/All of Us

Baby Driver
Blade Runner 2049
The Shape of Water
Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Baby Driver
Blade Runner 2049
The Shape of Water
Star Wars: The Last Jedi

- A heads up: Baby Driver could win either or both of Sound Editing and Sound Mixing. It’s a tight race (so to speak) between Baby Driver and Dunkirk. I’m going Dunkirk.

Blade Runner 2049
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
Kong: Skull Island
Star Wars: The Last Jedi
War for the Planet of the Apes

- Not feeling it for the apes? Then go Blade Runner 2049. These two are in a tight race.

Call Me by Your Name
The Disaster Artist
Molly's Game

The Big Sick
Get Out
Lady Bird
The Shape of Water
Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri

- I’d love to see either Get Out or The Big Sick, but I predict the award goes to Get Out.

Call Me by Your Name
Darkest Hour
Get Out
Lady Bird
Phantom Thread
The Post
The Shape of Water
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

- The top contenders here are The Shape of Water, Three Billboards, Get Out, and Call Me By Your Name, probably in that order. Three Billboards has received a huge push throughout awards season, while The Shape of Water appears to be the favorite. However, I’m going out on a limb with Get Out.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

A Royal Scandals Family Tree

Calling for reader expertise! Many of you have asked for a Barrali/Cornaro family tree. I'd love to put one on my website, but am having trouble designing one that a) works for the web/is easy to read; and b) works for a complex family of fictional people. 

Many of the sites I see require birthdates, death dates, etc., which I don't want.

If you know of a good website or other resource where I can input names and design a family tree that would work for the Royal Scandals series, let me know. I'll get it onto ASAP.

Thanks in advance!


Saturday, December 2, 2017

A Royal Engagement & A Royal Giveaway

Who says I write fiction?

This week's big royalty news was the engagement of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. If you missed it, check out The Royal Family's Official Facebook Page for more details, or watch the video of their first joint interview here:

How much fun is this couple? I love to see a partnership between equals, and these two are both passionate about philanthropy, love travel, and have a knack for seeing opportunities to make the world a better place.

To celebrate the news, I'm giving away the last two uncorrected proof copies of my latest Royal Scandals novel, One Man's Princess, which tells the story of royal daughter Lina Cornaro and the man she loves, Ivo Cornaro. Ivo is biracial (Nigerian/Italian) and a Formula One driver...not exactly the image that pop culture portrays as marrying into a royal family. I loved telling their story and I hope you've enjoyed reading it.

I'll draw two names from random from subscribers to my email newsletter list. If you're on it, check your email to see if you've won. If not...I do these giveaways from time to time, so if you'd like your name in the hat, join the list! All subscribers receive a free copy of the novella A Royal Scandals Wedding (so really, everyone's a winner.)

Thursday, October 19, 2017

One Man's Princess

A new Royal Scandals novel is officially on sale! I'm excited to know you'll finally read about Lina Cornaro, the illegitimate daughter of Sarcaccia's popular King Carlo. You'll get to know Lina, a lingerie designer who's on the cusp of great success when her connection to the royal family becomes public, and the man who once broke her heart, fiery Formula One driver Ivo Zanardi.

When she unwillingly finds herself the object of public scrutiny, Lina isn't sure where to turn. When Ivo appears to save her from the paparazzi, she has little choice but to escape on his arm. But can she trust the man who once treated her so coldly? Here's a quick excerpt to whet your appetite:

"I don't usually appreciate the risks you take, but I'm grateful for that one," Lina said.

She slipped her hand into the side pocket of her handbag and withdrew a set of keys. When she raised her head, a drop of rain landed below her right eye, clinging to her skin rather than rolling away.

Ivo brushed away the raindrop, Stilled as her lips parted and her breath warmed the damp hairs where his wrist extended from the cuff of his jacket.
In that instant, he knew he couldn't let her go. 
The book is set in New York City, Milan, Rome, and (of course!) in Sarcaccia. I can't wait for you to join Lina and Ivo on their adventure.

As always, a huge thanks to all of you who've written to tell me how much you've anticipated their book. And a huge thank you in advance to those of you who share the book with friends and family, and who leave reviews on your favorite retail sites and on Goodreads. Word of mouth has made this series successful and I truly appreciate it.