virtual blog tour

My famiSandiShelton-jlb-11-06-08-6326fly keeps laughing at me when I explain to them that I am actually on a book tour right now and therefore should be treated with the utmost respect.

But I am.

It’s just not a tour of bricks-and-mortar bookstores, where I put on decent clothes and stand up in front of a microphone and read from my book, the way I did when this picture was taken back in November. (My friend Judy Barbosa took this picture of me reading at R. J. Julia Booksellers in Madison.)

Trust me, this is NOT how I dress for a virtual book tour. Right now, for instance, I am wearing a stained, torn sweatshirt with yoga pants, mismatched socks, and mucklucks. My hair does not look like it does in this picture.

So, for those of you who don’t know and who keep asking me what I’m talking about, a virtual book tour is where I go visit people’s blogs and web sites. They invite me over and let me either post something about my book on the blog, or else answer their questions, or get interviewed by them. It gets posted, and then I go back and answer comments and questions that their readers have.

What is the point of this, you ask? I can hear you asking this.

As with any book tour, it’s to get information out there about my new book, to bring it to the attention of people who might not have bumped into it in their regular lives. Some of the blogs I’ll be visiting are often visited by readers looking for new books–and it’s good to get to tell them about mine.

I didn’t create my own virtual book tour. A young woman named Jaime Sylver, who works for www.pumpupyourbookpromotion, run by Dorothy Thompson, made all the contacts and the calls and recruited bloggers who might be interested in having me come for a visit. I’ll be doing this all month, and linking to the blogs where I have landed.

Today, for instance, I wrote a guest post for The Plot, in which I interviewed Nate, the main male character of Kissing Games of the World. Even though I thought I knew him very well, having spent the past year writing about him, I actually learned a few things in the interview. You can read the interview with him here.

I have to say, it’s fun being on tour this way. Last time I did it–back when A Piece of Normal came out, I made lots of new friends in the blogosphere.

And that’s the best part of all. That, and not having to put on real clothes.


I am getting to be quite the party hostess, over here in my little blog. Maybe it’s the holidays, maybe it’s that I’ve learned just how to put out the right tea towels and make the little sandwiches with the crusts cut off…but lately people seem to want to come visit and write things here.

I’m flattered.

Today’s guest blogger is ROBERTA ISLEIB, who just happens to live in the same community I do, but perhaps because we’re both writers who are so self-disciplined that we do not go out in public when we are writing our books, we have rarely had the chance to see each other. Still, she signed on with Dorothy Thompson of Pump Up Your Book Promotion, who so wonderfully managed my own book tour through the blogosphere last May, and now here she is, on my blog.

  Here is a picture of Roberta, on warmer days. (We just had a major ice storm, so even looking at this picture is making me shiver). And here is a picture of her book, Preaching to the Corpse, a murder mystery set right in our own home town. It’s fabulous, believe me. I can’t wait to buy copies for everybody I know.

And here is Roberta’s blog post:


The OTHER advice column novel

About a year and a half ago, a month before I’d turned in DEADLY ADVICE, thefirst book in my new mystery series, I ran into Nancy, a writer friend in town. We exchanged news about our careers and I told her my latest book would be published in the spring.

“What’s it about?” she asked.

“The main character is a psychologist who lives in Connecticut and writes an advice column,” I said. “She’s drawn into the murder investigation of a neighbor who was pegged as a suicide because she feels dreadfully guilty about not noticing anything wrong.”

She congratulated me and wished me luck, as writer friends do. Though maybe her face looked a little funny…

Just a week later I read that Sandi Kahn Shelton would be reading from her new book, featuring AN ADVICE COLUMNIST WHO LIVES IN CONNECTICUT. I realized right then that Nancy had known about Sandi’s book. And she also knew that I’d BUST A GUT once I heard that an ESTEEMED WRITER like Sandi had BEAT ME TO MY OWN THESIS. Every writer’s nightmare. Sigh.

So I went to Sandi’s booksigning, bought her book, asked her to sign it, and slapped it in a drawer where I wouldn’t be tempted to read it and crib every good idea I found. Only after I’d turned in my own manuscript and gotten well along into the sequel, PREACHING TO THE CORPSE, could I allow myself to enjoy A PIECE OF NORMAL. All while trying not to say, “Oh, I wish I’d thought of that” more than once a chapter.

That said, my new character, Dr. Rebecca Butterman is a 30-something, freshly single woman living in Guilford, CT. She has a complicated family history (don’t we all) that colors her reactions to her life and her work.

And she’s still raw from her recent divorce. Which puts her in the funny position of giving advice to the lovelorn in Bloom! Magazine and conducting a psychotherapy practice, while struggling with her own issues. All realistic enough, I hope.

The excitement in the new book begins when Rebecca’s minister wakes her up in the middle of the night, about to be charged with murder. He begs her to join the committee charged with hiring a new minister. There she uncovers cutthroat church politics rather than the joys of the holiday season. It seems that “thou shalt not kill” has been qualified: “…unless thou art eliminating the competition.”

Rebecca has strong relationships with two women friends and her younger sister. She’s an amazing cook and much of her detective work is done while enjoying a good meal, either at home or out with friends. In fact, I can imagine Rebecca and Lily getting together for lunch one day. Maybe Claire’s in New Haven, or the Hidden Kitchen in Guilford. Anyway, I’ll leave that to them. I think they’ll like each other though…

I hope you’ll enjoy reading about her as much as I’ve enjoyed the writing.

Thank you thank you to Sandi for writing wonderful books and being such a good hostess!

Roberta Isleib

I have never had a guest blogger before. I felt like I should clean up the joint a little bit, maybe do some dusting and vacuuming before she arrived, put out the fresh hand towels. At least get the internet connection to behave itself.

But of course everything went wrong–and after fighting with the internet for the better part of the morning, I’m pleased to introduce DIANA HOLQUIST, whom I met when she hosted me on HER blog last May. (Her blog was very spiffy, with plenty of clean hand towels, I might add.)

Diana is on a virtual blog tour with her new book, THE SEXIEST MAN ALIVE, published by Warner this month…and I would just like to say that it is a genuinely funny book, waaaaay above what you might be thinking just from the title alone. Lots of good, strong, solid characters and true situations and dilemmas. It combines the best of both worlds: it’s a fun book to escape your troubles with, while you loll in the bathtub with candles and a glass of wine (yeah, right)…and something you want to read because you love good characters.

And it’s so funny! (Nice cover, too!)  ;-0

I am so pleased to turn over my blog to Diana today. Just step over all the dog hair, if you don’t mind. We’re trying to train our golden retriever not to shed, but so far he’s not getting the idea.
Hi, Diana! Welcome to my blog.
Your book is hysterically funny and really elevates romantic comedy to a whole new level of fun. Do you have any secrets to getting humor down on the page? Does it usually come in the first draft, or do you have to inject it later on, with special Humor Infusers? And…well, do you have to be in the right mood to write funny, or does it just happen easily for you?


Thanks for having me, Sandi. It’s great to be here. Secrets to writing funny? I’ve got one word for you: beer. No, not really. Well, sometimes. Anyway, I never try to write funny; I think that’s the trick. Most of the time, my characters are being completely serious, but they see the world in such unique ways, it turns out funny. Here’s the biggest secret to writing funny that an amazing critique partner once told me: no character may EVER react to humor on the page. If you type, “He smiled” or “he laughed” you’re dead in the water. Watch old classic movies and you’ll see, the humor is NEVER acknowledged. I think that’s the best advice I’ve ever gotten as to writing funny.


I love to hear how other authors get themselves organized to write their books. You’re a mom. Are you writing books between soccer games and ballet lessons, or between 2:30 and 4:30 a.m…or is your whole family trained to let you write every day, whenever you need to?


My kids are super old now (8 and 10), so they’re pretty independent. They trot out the door at 8:30 and don’t reappear until 4:00. It’s magical and lovely. I am carpool mom all afternoon, but to tell you the truth, I’m spent by then anyway, and I need the break. I spend at least half my day writing ad copy for various freelance clients. Then another few hours doing promo for myself: MySpace, blogs, videos, whatever. I maybe write two hours a day if I’m lucky. But when I have a deadline, I can up that to six or seven hours a day by cutting back on other stuff. Honestly, I do that maybe two months out of the year. But don’t listen to me. I’m considered a VERY slow romance writer, only turning in a book every nine months. I feel quite lazy compared to other romance writers, where two to three books a year is average.


Also, your videos–the headless sexy guy and headless author, and the one about your publisher not letting your husband be the model for the sexiest guy alive, made me laugh so hard I spit tea all over my keyboard. Now that my keyboard has shorted out and I can’t write anymore—no, no, never mind that. It was worth it for that kind of laugh, believe me. What I want to know, what all writers want to know is: Are those kinds of videos hard to do, and do you notice that they bring in readers?


Ah, video. Since my background is advertising, I find video very easy. Much easier than, say, writing a book. I maybe spend two hours on each one. But I don’t think that’s the norm. I do think that every writer has got to learn how to concept, write, and edit video. It’s the future of book promotion; I’m sure of it. My videos have been watched thousands of times all over the web. That has to make a difference—although as we say in adland, half of advertising is effective, we just don’t know which half. That’s why you’ve got to do it all. Sorry about your keyboard…You can watch my newest video, “Conversations with the Sexiest Man Alive” at


What kinds of book promotion are you doing for your book, and what seems to be working the best for you?


I think MySpace is the single most effective tool out there. I spend about an hour a day on MySpace, wishing “friends” happy birthday and blogging and such. I do a few romance-specific website promotions, but they’re hit and miss. I love video, and I’m starting to really push that by including other writers in my videos to spread the word (see Interactive is the key, I think. I always try to engage readers. Of course, I read all of Dorothy Thompson’s blogs religiously—I’ve learned SO much from her about the web and how to promote. And yes, I only do the web. It’s where the readers are.


Hey, what’s the deal with psychics? Any clues into that world? Was it fun to write the character of Amy, or did she show up and try to boss you around and take over the whole plot? She is such a dynamic character–I’m sure it was hard to make her stay in her place.


Yeah, Amy is a piece of work. I had to “rehabilitate” her for my next book, Hungry for More, and it wasn’t easy. I don’t believe in psychics except as a metaphor for empathy and understanding. I see Amy’s psychic power as emotional insight, and her struggle with her power as a struggle with herself. I loved your book, Sandi, What Comes After Crazy, by the way. Another psychic character who won’t stay in her place. They steal the scenes, and it’s tough to keep them balanced with other characters, especially in a romance, where the hero has to play an equal role.


Thanks so much for coming! And I beg all of you reading this: do go to her you-tube links. But make sure you aren’t drinking anything near your keyboard when you watch them. Go to her blog at to see even more of her videos.

…and suddenly everything gets a little serious.

That’s what is happening right now, and it’s the reason I haven’t been posting in the blog lately.

The news is not good. My mother–who is 76 and lives alone in Florida–has just been diagnosed with colon cancer. And even worse, the cancer has already spread to her liver.

Right now she is in the hospital, having had the obstruction removed from her colon, and I have spent the last 24 hours making arrangements to get down there to see her.

I’ve written about her before, how she has done so many wacky, crazy things–finger-painted her refrigerator, taken out a whole grocery store display by riding her scooter directly into it, gold-leafed the toilet seat. But I haven’t been able to truly explain what she’s like, how she can be both funny and impossible in the same second. The bad things: she has a quick temper, and she quite simply doesn’t have even one tiny scruple about anything. Ever. For instance, she has never bought a pair of sunglasses in her life; she simply walks into a store and trades her old ones for new ones, and is amazed when you tell her that’s not such a good idea.

The good things: She’s hilarious and adventurous and will do absolutely anything. She has had about a billion best friends in her life because she’s extremely talented at drawing other people to her. One time her then-best friend told me that being out in public with her was like walking around with a movie star: “Men just come over and try to give her things, try to help her with anything she needs, try to get her to go out with them. Now me, I could fall in the gutter and lie there with two broken legs, and there isn’t a man in the world who would even notice!”

Like a lot of mothers and daughters, we have not always gotten along. I always wanted her to be a little less insane than she perhaps was capable of being. And she always wanted me to just understand her the way she was and to laugh with her at all her antics and also to wear more eye makeup so that people wouldn’t guess that she was old enough to have a daughter my age.

So I am going down to be with her. We will try to figure out what’s best for her, when there’s no way to really know. Should she have chemo? She doesn’t want to, but the doctors are pressuring her to do it. Should she leave Florida and come to Connecticut, where at least we could be close to each other for whatever is going to happen? Should she go to stay near my cousin in North Florida, where at least the weather is still warm and where she has some childhood friends left?

And the big unanswerable question: how long do we have? And what do we do with the time we have left?

On the phone she said to me, “I don’t WANT to talk about all that. Here’s what I need you to promise: that when I’m dead, you’ll have me cremated and then I want you to rent a plane. It’s GOT to be a small plane, and you’ve got to rent it, and then I want you to fly across Crosby Lake and scatter my ashes. Don’t just throw them from the shore. I want them tossed from the air. DO NOT LEAVE ME SITTING AROUND IN A JAR. Do you promise?”

“We’ll figure all that out later,” I said. “I’m coming to see you.”

Maybe there will be some gift we can give each other in this awful, scary time. That is all I am hoping for, that out of the fear and the unknown, we can just sit together in her hospital room, grateful for the chance to be there in that moment. Maybe the eye makeup will come off, and we’ll just be who we are, sitting there facing the darkness. Together for a time, before it’s time to go rent the airplane.


I actually wrote the words “THE END” at 6:30 in the morning. (How corny is it to write “THE END”?–but, what can I say, the moment called for it.) I was so tired and shaky that cartwheels were out of the question–as was opening up the bottle of champagne that Nancy had brought over earlier in the week for The Moment of Completion.

It was an odd, but delirious, moment.

The house was quiet. Everybody was asleep, even the Faithful Writing Dog. I had been working all night long…because I needed a long, uninterrupted stretch during which the phone absolutely would not ring, and dinner would not need cooking, dogs wouldn’t need to go in and out, and during which I could carefully listen to what the resolution of this story would be.

I mean, I knew I wanted the end to be. But always there is that tension about the end: will it turn out just right, or will it feel contrived when I get there? Will it make sense, given all that has come before for the characters? Will I get to the end and think, “YUCK”?

Or worse…will it be page 2,460 by the time I wrap this turkey up?

All I felt was a sense of profound relief and happiness. Now, I’ll take a few days off from Jamie McClintock and Sam Goddard and their various children and insecurities and problems. Today I planted petunias and geraniums and pansies and snapdragons everywhere, and then sat in the sun on the lounge chair and just thought about nothing.

Early next week I’ll be ready to go back in and see where just what kind of journey that really was that we were on in this book. No doubt many changes will need to be made.

It’s called “Kissing Games of the World.” I hope they’ll let me keep that title.

And so I have a question for all of you writers who come and visit here sometimes: Is it this way for you, too, when you finish a book? Is it always in the dark of night, after a long stretch of furious, frantic writing–or is it ever broad, sane daylight, after which you go off to resume regular life, the carpool and dinner?

In my experience with my three novels, they always get done in the deep middle of the night, after a push that is reminiscent of childbirth. So my question: How do YOU finish a big project that’s taken a year to work on?

Oh, also–I hope you can come by and visit me at Conversations with Writers where I was interviewed by Ambrose Musiyiwa, a British freelance writer whose blog presents conversations with writers, with a view to promoting writers, reading, literacy, and small press publishers.



I was born right smack in the middle of the baby boom…and so when I first discovered the blogosphere, one of the first blogs that drew me in was one called “Boomer Chick: Musings of an Over the Hill Chick.”

Let’s just say I could relate.

Growing up in both Florida and California in those post-war developments that came about to accommodate the sudden population explosion, I remember thinking that life was just a series of streets with the same kind of cinder-block homes, painted in different colors with perhaps different plantings outside–and scads of kids in every house. I went to an elementary school that was so overcrowded we had to attend in double-session…and there was another elementary school three miles away that was just as crowded!

In my graduating class in California, some 700 kids got diplomas–and I think there were 800 in the class right behind mine, and perhaps 900 in the sophomore class. AND, again, there was another high school within walking distance!

For quite a chunk of my life, I felt as though the entire population was within two years of my age.

And now–well, it seems that most people just aren’t. In fact, my friend Alice (who precedes the baby boom by a few years) said it’s been tiring and annoying to watch how the boomers re-claim and re-create every life stage that she’s just gotten through. She got married…and five years later the boomers had re-done The Wedding. She had her babies–and then the boomers came into parenthood and acted as though they’d pretty much invented the whole concept of reproduction. They redesigned car seats, strollers, came up with Snuglis and backpacks, fixed the wind-up swing so it didn’t wake up sleeping babies, said it was okay for women to work and babies to go to daycare, created new educational toys and TV shows. And on and on.

“I’m so sick of your generation!” she says, laughing. “They can’t leave ANYTHING alone.”

The way she sees it, the only saving grace is that she won’t be around to see what innovations our generation comes up with for funerals.

Today, though, I’m proud to be a guest blogger on the Boomer Chick web site, which I hope you’ll go over to check out. Not just for my post–there you’ll find a whole assortment of interesting posts by Dorothy Thompson, who describes very poignantly and honestly just what it was like for our generation growing up. We were perhaps the first generation in which having divorced parents was almost the norm. Like me, Dorothy was moved all the way across the country to California when her mother remarried…and like all of us, she’s seeking to recreate and connect with that past. Best of all, she writes about it without a trace of bitterness or resentment.

Just a desire to know who she is and a willingness to share that journey with the rest of us.  



I am on the Home Stretch of my novel, which means I am hardly even eating and sleeping. Instead, I mostly just type, and every now and then I get up and let the dog out and then I shuffle around and mumble incoherent things and eat crackers.

But what passes as good news came through today: a letter informing me that I’ve won $950,215.

Oh, I don’t believe it for a minute, don’t worry. I’m busy but not crazy. But it cheered me up just the same. How can you not be cheered by a letter that goes like this:

“Dear Winner,

We Apologies, for the delay of your payment and all the Inconveniences and Inflict that we might have indulge you through.

However, we were having some minor problems with our payment system, which is Inexplicable, and have held us stranded and Indolent, not having the Aspiration to devote our 100% Assiduity in accrediting foreign payments.

I wish to inform you now that the square peg is now in square whole and can be voguish for that your payment is being processed and will be released to you as soon as you respond to this letter.”

Like most good correspondence, this one has helped me identify my own emotions. I realize now what that I have been feeling stranded and Indolent myself, and that for a while now I, too, haven’t had the Aspiration to devote my 100% Assiduity.

But…the novel is going to be done in mere HOURS, and that must explain how the square peg is now in the square whole. What a relief that this can be voguish for me.

And speaking of voguish, I’ve been having a wonderful voguish time visiting on other people’s blogs. Please go check out my blog post at Alison Kent’s Blah Blog and my post at Kathy Holmes’s Fiction with Attitude blog.

Hope all your square pegs are behaving themselves!



My cousin Jennifer IM’ed me today. I was sitting on the back porch with my friend Nancy who comes over to write with me. We write together because it helps to have someone notice when you’re getting up too many times and perhaps not writing your novel. If she weren’t here, as I told her today, I would most likely be at the store. Or I might be wanting to plant things in the dirt patch that needs to turn into a garden.

Instead, I’m working, and that’s a good thing.

But Nancy is sitting across the porch from me, and so she doesn’t notice when I check my email or when someone IMs me…and today that someone was Jennifer who reminded me how when she lived in Boston and would come over to visit, we would often make the best chocolate cake anybody had ever heard of.

Every now and then a person needs to remember that there is chocolate cake in the world…and that even though it’s right now nobody’s birthday, you can still make one.

We agreed that we would both go make chocolate cakes, in solidarity with each other. And because it’s spring and we don’t live close together anymore.

And well, because sometimes you need a chocolate cake.

Here is the recipe we’ve always used–and I promise you it’s good:


Buttermilk Chocolate Cake

4 oz. ounces semi-sweet chocolate

1 stick butter

1 cup water

2 cups sugar

½ cup buttermilk

2 eggs

2 cups unsifted plain flour

1 ½ teaspoons baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

1 ½ teaspoons vanilla

Melt chocolate, butter, and water together in a saucepan. Set aside. In a mixing bowl, combine and beat sugar, eggs and buttermilk. Add flour, salt, soda, and vanilla alternately with liquid chocolate mixture. Mix well. Pour into two greased and floured cake pans. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes or until done. Cake should almost cool before removing from pans. Frost as desired.

Here is the frosting I use:

¼ cup butter

2 squares of chocolate

1 1-lb box of confectioners sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla


Melt butter and chocolate. Add sugar and vanilla. Add cream to obtain spreading consistency.


And oh, yes, I’m visiting the Night Owl Romance blog tomorrow (Friday). Lots of hunky guys on the covers of the books.


That’s what a friend of mine asked me today. “What, exactly, are you talking about being on this tour? You’re standing right here!”

It’s true. We were standing in the back yard, while her two zippy little dogs ran around us in circles.

So I figured I should explain about a virtual tour. Until just a few weeks ago, I didn’t know what one was, either.

I know it sounds crazy, but it’s actually a book tour–like authors go on when their books are released, except instead of going to different bookstores and standing there signing books and meeting the public, I am meeting the kind of public that would rather read the Internet at night than go stand in a bookstore. (That’s becoming more and more of us, I believe.)

So what I am doing is visiting well-known blogs, most of them sites that review books or talk about women’s fiction or women’s issues…and in most cases, the blog owner interviews me, and I answer questions. In some of them, I write a blog post about some aspect of my book.

For Wednesday’s visit to Trashionista, for instance, I wrote a post about sisters–how one is always the Together One, and one is always the Flaky One, and how in my book about sisters, I came to see my relationship with my own sister in a completely different way, even to sympathize with her point of view. (She was, in case you’re wondering, the Wonderfully Flaky, Spontaneous Sister).

So, it was a little like visiting a bookstore populated by people who are already interested in fiction (and chick lit) because all the people who read Trashionista religiously will hear about my book.

Exciting, right? For the past few weeks, I’ve been busily answering bloggers’ questions and writing entries for their sites, and it’s been so much fun! And in these days, when something like 180,000 books are published each year, authors can easily have their books just disappear into thin air…so it’s nice to be able to reach right out through the Internet and talk to people who are looking for these kinds of books to read! I hope you’ll go on over to this link:, and check it out. I  know I’m now going to be a regular reader of this blog.

On Thursday I’ll be visiting Julie Kenner’s Writes and Wrongs blog. Julie Kenner is a USA Today bestselling author and a mom, and her blog is such a fun place to read! We’ve had a great time writing back and forth.

So–that’s a virtual blog tour. I’m writing elsewhere on the web, even though I’m really still at home. And I hope that if you have time, you’ll click on some of these links and come along.



I am at the end of my novel…except for one thing. The story won’t stop.

I hadn’t expected this. This is a book that I knew backwards and forwards before I even wrote the first word. I knew where it was supposed to end.

I knew the characters and why they were going to act the way they were. I knew all their troubles and their paranoias and what kinds of things they carried in their pockets, and who gave them their first kiss, and what their parents’ marriages were like, and what color their eyes are, and what kind of cars they drove. These people, I tell you, were like my best friends.

And then–well, now I can’t get them to go away.

It’s a little like houseguests. Rowdy, interrupting houseguests who are constantly telling you more of the story.

But the thing is, I love the things they are telling me. They’ve become deeper and more individualized as they keep explaining more and more. Suddenly scenes that I wrote for them that seemed complete are growing and becoming more multi-dimensional.

I know what you’re thinking. They’re my characters, I invented them, and I could just kick them out. But now I’m curious about them. I want to know more about why Sam hated his father for so long, and whether that hatred really was just a kind of wounded tenderness that he couldn’t express. And why was Harris such a lousy father? Was it really because his marriage was so bad that he couldn’t separate out his love for his son from his dissatisfaction with his wife? Or was he disappointed in Sam’s personality? (He was kind of a whiny wimp when he was a little kid.)

Tomorrow, though, I am going to have to take matters into my own hands. I think I’ll write their very last scene…the one that finishes with the words THE END written just below it. And then I’ll go back to where I am right now in the book, and write up to that last scene. Sometimes that’s the only way to get characters to understand that their story really is, well, done. To just finish it. Give them their closure.

And by the way–Wednesday for my virtual blog tour, I’ve written a post at the Trashionista blog, which is just about the coolest blog going! I am so pleased to be included on their site…and best of all, Diane Shipley, who runs the blog, has told me that she’s going to be posting a review of A Piece of Normal later this week. Please go over and check out Diane’s site. She has interviews and guest blogs by so many good writers! It’s a very fun site.

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