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The only Salt and Pepper Shaker Museum in the country is located in Gatlinburg, Tennessee and it’s a must-visit!

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vicki lawrence and “mama’s family” by cathy chester

Mama's Family portrait

There are dysfunctional families, and then there are DYSFUNCTIONAL families. [Read more…]

"Speaking of Beauty" with Holly Fulger

To us, beauty is more about what someone looks like on the inside than on the outside. So, we were excited to learn about actress Holly Fulger’s new web series, Speaking of Beauty, which focuses on empowering women by sharing real-life stories and fostering real conversations about important issues that are on all of our minds. To introduce you to this ground-breaking show, I had a conversation with Holly. Once you hear the promise she’s making to all women, you will definitely want to tune in!

Holly FulgerI love the idea behind Speaking of Beauty – that “real, lasting beauty is an inside job.” What inspired you to do this now? Why this format?

This show was truly inspired by my friends. In many of my conversations with them, I found that we all had so many of the same fears, insecurities, and doubts about beauty, aging, and navigating that territory. [Read more…]

Talking About Mail Order Brides with Kelly O’Connor McNees, Author of "In Need of A Good Wife"

I am always fascinated by different periods in history, and how people lived then. I’ve vividly pictured the mail order brides Mark Knopfler so eloquently sings about in “Prairie Wedding” (see video below) so I eagerly gobbled up Kelly O’Connor McNeesIn Need of A Good Wife, a rich novel about women of the nineteenth century who left New York City to marry strangers out west. Why would they leave big city life for the desolation of the prairie — not to mention moving in with men they didn’t know? I was thrilled to be able to ask these questions to Kelly herself and to participate in the blog tour for In Need of a Good Wife. [Read more…]

Fishy Fishy Chief Fun Officer Marci Phillips on Porter’s Stowaway Tavern, Cute Bartenders and "Revenge"

Last month, I was invited to Southport, North Carolina to visit the set of Safe Haven, the new movie based on Nicholas Sparks’ bestselling book. I had the best time, met some fantastic fellow bloggers and got to interview the prolific Mr. Sparks and meet Safe Haven stars Julianne Hough and Josh Duhamel. I’ll share all of that with you closer to the release date in February but meanwhile I want to tell you about one of the surprising side benefits of the trip. I got to eat at Fishy Fishy Cafe, where my favorite TV show, Revenge, was filmed!

Fishy Fishy Cafe

I loved picturing Jack at the bar and the Amanda docked outside. The food at Fishy Fishy is delicious but the best part of being there was getting to meet Chief Fun Officer Marci Phillips, who gave us a little tour and let me bombard her with questions about Revenge! Can’t wait to visit again, and hope she’ll save me some hushpuppies and coconut almond shrimp. Yum! [Read more…]

Kim Alexis on Modeling, Mysteries and "Beauty To Die For"

We’ve been a stop on a variety of book launch blog tours lately — What the Heart Remembers, An Echo Through the Snow, The Booby Trap — and today we’re joining the tour for supermodel Kim Alexis, who has co-written a mystery, Beauty to Die For, with Mindy Starns Clark. Here’s what she told us about the experience:

Beauty to Die For isn’t your first time as an author. You wrote A Model for a Better Future back in 1998, which was a very different kind of book. What inspired you to write a mystery now? Is that a genre you’ve always enjoyed reading?

Kim AlexisI have always loved to read. I read Nancy Drew and Agatha Christie when I was young. I enjoyed figuring out “Who done it?” I was approached to write a book by my publisher and things just fell into place. The book is special because it’s fun but also filled with wisdom to help the reader learn life lessons. I personally like to learn by having fun while I’m doing it. [Read more…]

Debra Ginsberg Talks About Cellular Memory, Baking Cakes and "What The Heart Remembers"

Debra GinsbergThere’s nothing better than when an author you love comes out with a new book, so we happily accepted the invitation to be part of the blog tour for What The Heart Remembers by Debra Ginsberg. Debra has written three important memoirs – Waiting: The True Confessions of a Waitress; Raising Blaze: A Mother and Son’s Long, Strange Journey into Autism; and About My Sisters. She’s also written a number of novels including The Grift, which we featured in one of our first summer reading lists.

What The Heart Remembers is one of those books you want to read in one sitting.  It’s the story of Erin, whose life completely changes after undergoing a heart transplant. She gives up her home and her fiancé and finds herself mysteriously drawn to Darcy, a young widow who befriends her and offers her a place to live. You think you know where the story is going, and then it twists and turns and keeps you holding your breath until the last page. [Read more…]

Andrea Thalasinos on Dog-Sledding and Her New Novel, "An Echo Through the Snow"

An Echo Through The Snow by Andrea ThalasinosWe were thrilled to be invited to participate in the blog tour for Andrea Thalasinos‘ debut novel, An Echo Through the Snow.  I loved getting under the covers at night and getting lost in the beautiful story of two women and the dogs who impact their lives and mysteriously connect them a century apart. The story combines history, family, love and dogs, and will make you long to get on that sled and let those gorgeous Huskies take you on their journey.

Here’s my conversation with Andrea. Read it, then leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of An Echo Through the Snow. For a second chance to win, click here. [Read more…]

25 Random Things About Lois Alter Mark

Lois Alter MarkDo you remember back in the early days of Facebook when people posted all kinds of lists in their “Notes” section? Our all-time favorites were the amazing “25 Random Things About Me” lists — they were so real, so personal and so fascinating.

SoIe thought it would be fun to post my own list so you can get to know me better.  (Uh, I’m not sure I ever told anyone about number eight …) [Read more…]

Author Teresa Link Talks About "Denting the Bosch: A Novel of Marriage, Friendship and Expensive Household Appliances" with Pamela Lear

Denting the Bosch by Teresa LinkOnce in a while, a novel comes along that speaks directly to you, somehow knowing just where you are at a particular time and place in life. If you are lucky, that book is fun to read, insightful and takes you on a journey of possibilities. Denting the Bosch: A Novel of Marriage, Friendship and Expensive Household Appliances, recently came across my desk and was that book. It is charming, while offering a lot of depth and introspection.

This is the story of three women living in southern California, each of whom has grown children who have moved on with their lives, and each of whom is in a troubled marriage. The novel follows their search for peace and fulfillment as their lives take inevitable twists and turns. Through vacations together, marital drama, accidents and medical crises, the friendships ebb and flow in unexpected ways.

At times humorous, at other times contemplative, the novel carries the reader through the friendship of these three women and each of their unique dilemmas. Written in a loving yet very honest tone, the story offers plenty of reason to care whether these characters will save their marriages or pursue other relationships, and made me want to see them find happiness.

I recently had the opportunity to talk to author Teresa Link. Here’s what she had to say about her debut novel:

The chapters alternate from the perspective of different characters, both men and women. Do you relate most closely with any of the characters? Or do you have friends that they were based on?

None of the characters were based on anyone; they all just rose up out of my own sorry self. I am deeply in love with each of them, and have no favorites.

For me, this novel was about women’s friendships and a search for a sense of peace and fulfillment in a midlife stage. Do you think the term “midlife crisis” applies to the characters, both male and female? Are there any particular messages you want readers to take away from the novel?

“Midlife crisis” is an interesting term. My working title for the novel was “Saturn Return,” which is an astrological phenomenon that occurs three times in a person’s life: between the ages of 28-31, 58-61, and, finally, around age 84. These are times of tumult and reassessment for all of us. My friend, Jincy Willett (author of The Writing Class) nixed that title; she said it sounded like a novel about a used car dealership. It was not my intention to drive home any particular message. In my own reading life, the best stories are the ones that touch a personal nerve and keep reverberating.

What genre would you categorize this novel in?

Oh, I don’t know. My publisher calls it “literary fiction.”

Why did you choose Southern California, particularly North County San Diego, for the setting of the story?

San Diego is the land of milk and honey, isn’t it? The pot of gold, the rainbow’s end. We have such expectations of happily ever after, so how shocking to discover that, even with the golden ring clutched to your breast, the uneasiness persists.

What is your writing process like? How long did this book take to write?

I wrote this book in about a year. Once the characters asserted themselves, I just let them battle it out in my brain. Fortunately for me, I have writer friends who read drafts and kept me on course.

I would love to read more of your work. Are you working on another novel or any other projects at this time?

I am about a third of the way into my new novel, which is about my great-aunt and her lover, who was a renowned commercial artist in 1930’s New York.

Read Pamela Lear’s post about Fifty Shades of Grey author, E.L. James, here, her post about World Book Night here, and her reviews of Lima Nights here, The Queen’s Lover here and Fannie’s Last Supper here.

This post originally appeared on my former blog, StyleSubstanceSoul.com.

Dr. Pepper Schwartz on "Hope Springs" and Sex After 50

Dr. Pepper SchwartzI always enjoyed watching relationship expert, Dr. Pepper Schwartz, whenever she was a guest on The Oprah Winfrey Show, because she was so real and direct, and it was very easy to relate to her. She has written about so many aspects of sex, love and intimacy that there is literally something for everyone to learn from. In her latest book, Prime: Adventures and Advice on Sex, Love, and the Sensual Years, she puts her money where her mouth is and shares her personal experiences re-entering the singles market after being married for 23 years.

So, after seeing Hope Springs last weekend, I thought, “Who better to talk about how realistic the movie is than Dr. Schwartz?” We’re thrilled to have her as guest today, weighing in on the movie and offering us some tips to keep our own sex lives sizzling (well, at least warm and cuddly). [Read more…]