Search Chandra's Blog
Blog Tags
"Apparition" "Art of Spiritual Warfare" "Best in Show" "Body of a Girl" "Exposure" "Gone with the Wind" "Half a Life" "Husband and Wife" "My Foreign Cities" "Myth of You and Me" "Open Your Heart with Gardens" "Stiltsville" "Substitute Me" "Temptation by Water" "The Bird Sisters" "The Book Thief" "The Guardian Angel Diary" "The Heroine's Bookshelf" "The King's Speech" "The Language of Light" "The Love Goddess' Cooking School" "The Mobuis Striptease" "The Peach Keeper" "The Provence Cure for the Brokenhearted" "The Wednesday Sitsters" "This House" "Unintended" 50th Book Club Prize Pack act 'as if' Adam Levine adoption adventure advice Alpha Male Ann Hood Anna Cole Atlanta attachment parenting authors autism babies babywearing bad reviews bats beach house believer Ben Bethany Hamilton Betty Smith Big Nate birderd birthdays biting Blizzards blog hopping blog tour blogging blogswap blurb body image book book clubs book tour Books and Books Boudreaux boys breastfeeding Bridget Asher brothers Buffalo News Caeli Widger cake California cancer caramel oat bars Caribbean Carol Shields Carolyn Haley cats Cayman Cayman Compass Ceausescu chameleon Charles Bukwosi Cherry Cheryl Chick Lit Plus Chickens childhood CHOP CHOSEN Christina Shideler Christmas Christmas cards chuffy Cinderella clothes coconut water color Colorado comedy community connected contests cooking co-sleeping cow milking craft criticism Crown Publishers cry it out Dakota Darin Strauss David Lipsky dawn Dawn Chorus Daybreak 27 Destined to Fail Diana Abu Jaber Diane Lockward DOG BLOG Dog Whisperer dogs domestic ritual Dr. Anna Leahy Dr. Karen Monroy Dr. Oz Due Uve editing editor education eggs Elizabeth Scarboro Emily Kennedy Erin Blakemore evening walk expeditionary learning Exposure Facebook fake it til your make it Falcor family family bed fan mail fans farm life favorite books feminism Fon Wang Forrest Free stuff friends friendship gardening geography gluten-free goats God Grand Family Grant Schnarr grey hoodie grief guest blog Gyllian Davis Hannah Shelton Harper HarperCollins Hayden HHarperCollins hockey Hoffman's Natural home homeschooling homework Hondiuras Honduras horses hospitals Huffington Post Huffington Post divorce editor ice hockey Ilie Ruby inspiration International Women's Day iPhone island living 'It Takes a Village' Ivan Jungé J Jane Austen jasmine tea Jeffrey Eugenides Jenna Blum Jessica Keenan Smith Jessie Jonah journals Judy Blume Julianna Baggott Kelly Simmons Kid History kids Kristin Kimball Labrador Laos Leah Stewart least favorite word letting go Lincoln Pierce Linda Davis Linden Lisa Belkin Lisa McKay literary agent live in the now living with less Lois Alter Mark Lori Odhner Lori Tharps loss Lost Boy love language love story Lucky jeans Maggie Nelson magic Maria Massie marriage Martha Beck Max Maya Ziv meat Meg Waite Clayton Melissa McNallan Melissa Senate memoir menagerie mentor Michelle McGee micro fiction mindfulness miracle Miranda July modern living mojitos momstinct money mothering MoxieMomma nachos NAIBA New Year Newfoundland Newfoundlands Nichole Bernier NRA Nutella NYTimes NYTimes Motherlode ocean Opening Heavens Doors optimistic orphanage paint Paleo Comfort Foods parenting patience Pay it forward persistence Perthes Disease Peter Pan phobia Piper pizza plot poetry ponies Portland Psychology Today publication publishing puppy puppy breath puppydom Pushcart Prize Q&A quilts Quinn readers reading Rebecca Gyllenhaal Rebecca Rasmussen Remy resolutions retreat review reviews revision ritual rockclimbing romance writer Romania running Sally Kim Samantha March Samoyed Sampson sangria school SCUBA secret confessions security senior project Sept 11 serendipity sewing sexting sexy SheKnows Book Club PIck of the Year SheWrites shopping short fiction SImon&Schuster simple life sister sister-cousin sisters slings smells snow snow day songs Sophie space exploration Spain Spanish spiders sshort fiction Starbucks stuttering style Summer reading sunset Susanna Daniels Swedenborg swimming teens Thanksgiving the climbing tree The Four Ms. Bradwells" The Grain Exchange The Name Game Thelma Zirkelbach Therese Fowler THUMOS TIME magazine tingarita Tourettes tradition travel Twitter two lives ugly dolls unschooling Utila wedding whale sharks white wine William Faulkner winter Wisconsin worry write your life writing writing and parenthood YA Fiction yoga Zulu

Chandra's Blog


Entries in blogging (6)


Finding Another Voice

It has been a little quiet here in the writerland, but I am still constantly tinkering with words. I have been teaching literature and helping students find their passion and voices for the past few years.

In that capacity, I continue to read and edit and hopefully, sometimes, inspire. I am brimming with excitement over my postapocalyptic fiction class in Spring 2017, (#itstheendoftheworldasweknowit255) and excited to tinker with my syllabus for Writing 202--response to literature.



But what about the dawn chorus, and morning writing of my own?

What about creating my own characters, and watching them navigate a plot, and spout dialogue and spin theme and meaning, instead of just teaching it?

At the end of the last semester, one of the students questioned me on my recent publication history.

"Well..." I told him, "I had some foreign translations of my novel published in 2013."

He frowned and asked, "But, what are you working on?"

I listed three projects--a widow/widower love story for the book club set, a coming-of-age story about an elite tier one ten-year-old hockey goalie who feels the weight of the world on his shoulders, and a YA novel in a flawed, health-based utopia that my agent insists needs a female narrator, instead of the high school senior boy in the original draft.

(Out of superstition, I don't mention my current work on submission--a twisted tale of two women on either side of the same man.)

"But, so you are saying, it has been since 2011 since you've had an actual book published in the US?" he countered bluntly.

I nodded. The conversation ended.

The truth is, though I am still writing fiction, quietly, I am shifting my focus to creative nonfiction. I am writing more about our dogs and rescue kitten, about horses and our flock of chickens. As they grow and develop their own online lives, I tend to visit the topic of my kids-in-specific less, but still spend plenty of time on the subject of parenting in this strange new age. I am trying my hand at Hoffman's Natural, a lifestyle blog that celebrates the suburban granola family, lessons learned from a simple life during our year on an island, and products that we create, use and love.

If you care to follow me there as I try out a new voice of my own, here is the link: HOFFMAN'S NATURAL

And when there is fiction writing news, I promise to come back here and shout it from the ever-loving rooftop.

* *** *







The Next Big Thing Blog Hop

I was invited to this blog event by Dr. Anna Leahy, author of Generation Space. You can read her post here on her Lofty Ambitions blog. Anna has also been a guest blogger on my Writers on Wednesday series--click here to read her past post. Thank you Anna, for inviting me! 

While there is a part of me that is superstitious about talking about work that is out with editors, (documented in The Submission Jinx by Jennifer Haupt at Beyond the Margins) I'm going to throw caution to the wind and dish. 



What is your working title of your book?
The Summer After
Where did the idea come from for the book?
I was on book tour for CHOSEN in a hotel room in Santa Monica. I went to bed with the windows open to hear the ocean and I dreamed the plot of this beach story in the night. It was tricky, though, because I had my three kids with me on tour and we hit the ground running the next day--our promised day in Disneyland and then I had a book club that night. It's a scary thing, trying to hold a story in your mind before you can get it down, like carrying a plate full of steaming, slippery spaghetti, and worrying the whole thing will slip off and be lost. I had to hold that dream until we were on a red-eye the final day to dash down the details of the story. The summary is below: 
 Dean Adler flies to Grand Cayman when his teenage son is involved in a tragic accident on the island; Juliet has been sent there at her family's insistence--an urgent change of scenery. The summer after the loss of their spouses, this widower and widow meet over the sandcastle friendships of their children in the sweltering sun of the Caribbean. 
As Dean and Juliet navigate the tentative steps out of grief, love blossoms among the hibiscus. But the quietly brewing storm of Juliet's secrets threaten the tenuous bonds and their tranquil summer.  All vacations must end, and their love story has a built-in expiration date. When the past catches up with them both, a pending hurricane forces an answer to the question--is the greatest tragedy the loves that they lost, or the potential devastation of what they just found?

What genre does your book fall under?
Mainstream/upmarket womens fiction--the kind of book you would want your book club or sister to read and chat about with you. I always say that I aspire to be a Jodi Picoult, only with a little more grit, slightly edgier, less formulaic. 

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
Oh I love this question! The guy in my dream looked exactly like Martin Donovan, who played Nancy's dead DEA husband in Weeds, which I was watching back then. There is something so sympathetic and St. Bernardish about him that the character of Dean grew out of him. I want the reader to feel worried for Dean and the goodness of his heart as Juliet's story unfolds. For Juliet, Sandra Bullock comes to mind. Or Claire Danes, because I want her to play all of my characters, but I don't think she's quite right for this one. 
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
The Summer After -- a dark past catches up with a widow and widower stumbling through grief and threatens their quest for love the second time around.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency? 
I am represented by Maria Massie of Lippincott, Massie, McQuilken. This work is currently out with editors.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
It's funny--I was working on another book and while that manuscript was going out, I dreamed this one. I threw together the above blurb and editors got more excited about this story than the one I was clunking away on. I backburnered the first project and wrote this in about six months. It was a new experience, going back and writing from nothing after years of revision on both CHOSEN and the book in the middle. It was a huge relief to see that I could still sit down with a blank screen and create a world.
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Nicholas Sparks SAFE HAVEN
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
Two things, really. I'm at the age where a lot of friends are navigating the grief of loss, and the challenge of love the second time around. It's hard and heartbreaking and hopeful all at once. I wanted to write happy love stories for them all, but then there's always the past, and the rub, and second time around, often the kids. It's complicated. I love digging around in messy domestic stuff and encouraging the reader to root for a good outcome.  
I also use stories to write love letters to places I have loved and left. I've been waiting for the right story about Grand Cayman, where I was living when I met my husband. Because of our history with the island and the years we lived there, I knew I knew my Cayman story had to be a love story, but there also had to be some drama. This feels right.
the exact spot where I met my husband
What else about your book might pique the reader's interest?
The pace of the book is a little faster than a typical love story. Plus there's the setting--who wouldn't want to live out on the remote Rum Point in Grand Cayman for a summer, even if it's only a virtual visit? 
* *** * 
Tagged authors:
Emily Kennedy
Hannah Shelton
Michelle McGee




Writers on Wednesday--Thelma Zirkelbach

This week I welcome romance writer Thelma Zirkelbach and her guest blog; the story of how she and writing finally found each other...


A Writer's Meandering Path

When I was four, I composed a poem that went like this:

            Happy as a chicken,

            Happy as a pig,

            Happy as a rabbit

            That danced a little jig.

I announced that when I grew up, I would be a writer.  My parents showered me with praise but they never believed for a minute I would become anything but a wife and mother.  In my day, that was the only option open for a girl.  However, I did intend to become a writer…someday.


Did I scribble poems in the margins of my school tablets?  No.  Did I pen stories after the rest of the family went to bed?  No. I did win third place in an essay contest about Texas statehood when I was in fifth grade, but that was the extent of my writing life until I was grown and had become the housewife I was destined to be.


One day in a bookstore I discovered a book called Someday You’ll Write.  I bought it, read it and put it aside for “someday.”


Days came and went, and I occasionally gave writing a nod, to no avail.  I was busy with babies, organization work, cooking, bridge games, carpools.  Then I got a divorce, went back to school for a Master’s, went to work, remarried, opened a private practice in speech pathology and became busier than ever.  “Someday” was a long way off.


After a few years I began traveling back and forth to Austin to visit my father, whose health was failing.  Because I don’t drive on the highway—I fall asleep the minute the car leaves the city limits—I took the bus.  Nothing is more boring than a four-hour bus ride; I needed reading material.  One day as I walked through the book department of a discount store, I noticed a little book, a romance.  I’d never read one.  I was a literary snob.  After all, someday I was going to write the Great American Novel.  But this book was just the right length to get me to Austin and back, so I bought it, read it, and was hooked.  Every time I went to Austin, I read a romance, and soon I was reading them between trips as well.  The light dawned.  I would become a romance novelist.  “Someday” had come.


I joined Romance Writers of America, began attending workshops and conferences and entered RWA’s national contest for unpublished writers, where I finaled in two categories.  I sold my first book, Blessing in Disguise, written as Lorna Michaels, to Harlequin Superromance and eventually wrote twelve other romance novels.


The death of my husband five years ago propelled me from romance to creative non-fiction.  I’ve written a memoir, Stumbling Through the Dark, about our last year together.  So far it’s unpublished, but someday…


I’ve also written essays for several anthologies and for the past year I’ve become a dedicated blogger.  I hope you’ll visit me at  where I ponder widowhood, review books of interest to widows and sometimes just books of interest.  A couple of weeks ago I review Room, a fascinating new novel that was short-listed for the Booker Prize.  I also post a quote for the week each Tuesday. 


Why do I write?  I answered in a six-word memoir posted at She Writes:  Live to write; write to live.








WRITERS on WEDNESDAY-- Jessica Keenan Smith

Why Blogging is Not Just Blogging


I started my blog a little over a year ago and my goal was to create a platform for my "real" writing. My site, Living Well With Epilepsy ( addresses the wide range of issues that impact the 50 million people affected by epilepsy. But recently it seems my blogging has picked up steam and my readers are letting me know they want more.


Here's the thing though, blogging is not just blogging. Not for me, anyways. For me, it is Gmail, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, SheWrites and other blogs I follow. I use these other social media vehicles to continually spread the message from my blog. I also use these other sites as a way to connect with folks who may benefit from the service my blog offers. Not the hard sell or anything, just as a way to increase my connections and theirs.


Surprisingly, establishing these one-to-one relationships has become the most important component of this whole blog thing. I regularly reach out to folks who have a vested interest in anything remotely related to my topic. I reach out to offer these people and organizations a chance to promote their product or service on my blog (and I write the content). This is a win-win situation. Who wouldn’t want a chance to get free PR and the only work involved is to say yes. 


This type of relationship building increases my sphere of readers, spreads my new contact’s message (not mine), and encourages the person to send other readers to me. The message becomes viral and the benefits are endless for all parties involved.


In the end, what it comes down to for your readers is what will I get from this blog? Does your site provide enough value to me to stay and poke around? Are there other people interested enough to comment on the posts? Are the topics diverse enough that I will find something new every time I visit?


When you are creating a blog it may feel like you are working in a vacuum, but you aren’t. And the people that read your site, they talk to each other, for better or for worse. So make it worth their while. Do that and they will not only come back, they will bring a few friends, too.





 Jessica Keenan Smith is an author, blogger, and an expert in niche marketing. Her blog can be found at Living Well With Epilepsy ( Jessica’s work can be found on,, and in Exhalezine and GoodDays,BadDays. She is an active member of Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) and her work includes essays, articles, blog posts and picture books. In addition, she speaks on living with epilepsy, making the most of social media, and other topics. You can find her on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and SheWrites and of course in the blogosphere.




Meg Waite Clayton's First Books

It is such an honor for me to have a little screen time on sites like Meg Waite Clayton's First Books, a site dedicated to the stories behind the story, how first writers find the courage and incentive to write. 

In the guest blog, I had the honor of shining a light on our beloved "Cherry", Cheryl Gobbetti Hoffman who inspired me as both an artist and mother. 


We lost Cheryl to cancer in Aug 2008--she never saw the book she cheerleaded find its way into Harper's capable hands and bookstores everywhere two years later, but her spirit lives on. 


You can read the guest entry here