Love for Blogs this Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day seems like the perfect time to give a shout out to all the blogs I read regularly and love. Thank you for brightening up my days, provoking wonderful thoughts and providing me with constant inspiration!

Blogs I Love // Likes to Smile

(Image via Unsplash by Luke Chesser)

I loosely tried to group them, but check them all out. They are all fabulous!

Design & Blogging:
Allyssa Barnes
Design Lovefest

Near and Far Montana
Leaner by the Lake
Ramblings by Rach
Joyful Scribblings
Adri’s World
Sparkle Meets Pop
Jess Lively
Glitter, Inc.
Perched on a Whim
Oh Hey
Oh Joy!
Birdie to Be

DIY & Interior Design & Crafting:
Young House Love
Simply Fabulous Chic
Lovely Indeed
A Swell Place to Dwell (& her photography blog: FiddleLeaf Photography)
Workroom Social
Style By Emily Henderson
Kristen Loves Design
Hearth and Homefront
Peppermint Bliss
Making It Lovely
There’s a Thread
House of Earnest

Stripes and Sequins
Luella & June
Cupcakes and Cashmere
Sequins and Stripes

Travel & Lifestyle Combination:
Betsy Transatlantically

52 Thank You’s

Kira Elliot
Starbucks Poetry Project

Hope you love them as much as I do!

And you? What blogs do you read everyday?

Happy Valentine’s Day! Until Next Time!


Postscript: If you feel mis-grouped, please let me know, I will happily adjust!

Interview with Renee Rosen

NOTE: There are NO Dollface spoilers in this post. Feel free (and safe) to keep reading even if you are in the middle of the book!

After our ah-mazing discussion of Dollface, I couldn’t turn down the opportunity to interview Renee Rosen about writing, the creative process and marketing.


1. What was: (a) your favorite book as a child (b) the last book you read (c) the book you are currently reading and (d) the book you will read next?

a.) My favorite book as a child was Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey. That book is responsible for my lifelong love of blueberries!
b.) The last book I read was A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra.
c.) The book I’m currently reading is The Beautiful American by Jeanne Mackin (coming out in June 2014).
d.) My TBR pile is toppling over but I’ve promised myself that the next book I’m reading is Letters from Skye by Jessica Brockmole.

2. How did you make the leap from writing ad copy to writing fiction?

I wrote, submitted, got rejected. Rinse. Lather. Repeat. Seriously, it took a long time for me to break in. I can remember getting up at 4 o’clock in the morning so I could write before I went into the various ad agencies I worked for. Then I came home and spent my evenings and weekends writing. I was forever querying agents and forever revising my drawer full of manuscripts. After years of rejection someone finally said yes! And all it takes it one. It was a lot of work, but I can definitely say it was worth it.

3. This is your second novel. What did you know about writing a second book that you didn’t know while writing your first?

I knew to avoid certain publishing nightmares, like including long song lyrics and other licensing traps. I also understood the importance of character arc and pacing better. My first novel was a character driven story whereas Dollface relied equally on plotting as much as character. It was a challenge but a great learning experience.

4. How do you come up with and cultivate ideas?

I’m really into history and usually I’ll turn to certain events that I think would make a particularly interesting backdrop for a story. Once I get a sense of time and place and breathe a certain amount life into my characters, they tend to take over. I never know what’s going to happen or what they’re going to do from one page to the next.

5. How many creative projects do you work on simultaneously? Relatedly, what’s your best time management tip?

Currently I’m jugging two books, though they’re in different phases. I’m still promoting Dollface while finishing up my next book What The Lady Wants. And somewhere in between I am starting to do preliminary research for the next book.

In terms of time management, I think deadlines really help—whether self-imposed or dictated by your editor. Something else that helps is setting daily goals. For me, I try to hit 2,000 words a day when I’m drafting something new. When I’m revising, I’ll set of goal of X-amount of pages for the day. From there it’s a matter of finding what works for you and your schedule. Some people are morning writers, other’s evening writers. Some write in spurts, others hit it every day. There’s really no right way and alas, there’s no shortcuts!


6. Other authors I’ve interviewed have shared that a good portion of the marketing of their book is left in the author’s court. Do you agree or disagree? To what extent have you marketed DOLLFACE on your own?

There’s no doubt that more and more authors are taking on a more active role in marketing their books. And because my background was advertising and marketing, this seemed like a natural for me. But that said, I’ve had tremendous support from my publisher. I came to them with several unconventional ideas and they backed me 100%. Some of those included a gangster tour followed by a speakeasy party just for booksellers, reviewers and local media. Another fun thing we did was team up with the Chicago History Museum for a big blow out bash celebrating the 80th Anniversary of the repeal of Prohibition. We had over 400 people there complete with a band, dancing, mock casino and an open bar and food. It was great. Other tactics were more expected, like giveaways and a lot of social media postings, which is almost always up to the author.

7. What advice would you have for other creatives (like bloggers) on how to market themselves?

Since we live in the digital age, social media presents a tremendous opportunity for self-promotion if it’s done the right way. When it comes to social media I think the key is to be yourself and be sincere. If you’re not being genuine I think people can see right through it. Also have fun with it and let your personality come through. And remember it’s important to strike the right balance between promoting yourself and providing entertainment or information that your followers/readers/etc. will find engaging.

8. What has been your favorite part of the Dollface experience?

Oh my goodness—I’ve seriously enjoyed every phase. I loved the research and writing and loved the editing process but I suppose my most rewarding experiences have been in meeting with readers and talking about my gangsters. I just think material is such fun that I’ve really enjoyed sharing it with people.

9. Dollface featured a cadre of very strong women. How purposeful was this depiction? Do you see yourself in any of the women?

While I don’t see myself in the any of the characters, people who know me say they see glimpses of me here and there. But the decision to have strong women play such a dominant role in the story really came from an editor who encouraged me to move the men to the sidelines and tell this story from the woman’s POV. Once I did that the women naturally grew stronger and bolder.

10. Care to share any details about your next novel, What the Lady Wants?

Oh, I’m so glad you asked! I’m very excited about this next one! What the Lady Wants: A Novel of the Gilded Age tells the story the Chicago retail tycoon, Marshall Field and his 30-year illicit love affair with his neighbor, Delia Caton. Starting with the Great Fire of 1871, this novel covers a lot of ground, including the growth a Marshall Field’s & Company, the Haymarket Riots, The 1893 World’s Fair, the mysterious death of Marshall Field Junior and ultimately the emergence of Chicago as a major city. There’s a lot of twists and turns wrapped around one of the all-time great love stories.

A major thank you to Renee for letting me interview her. Because I’m such a lover of books and because I think crafting a novel is such an amazing (and hard) endeavor, I’m always in awe when I get to ask a writer questions. It’s my absolute favorite kind of celebrity sighting!

And you? Lots of questions for you: what did you think of Renee’s creative process? What did you think of her time management and self-promotion tips? Have you tried those? Do you have tips of your own to share?

And just one more question coming your way: What was: (a) your favorite book as a child (b) the last book you read (c) the book you are currently reading and (d) the book you will read next?

Until next time!


Likes to Smile Book Club – Dollface


It had been so long since I had picked up this book, what with my insane November and December, that when I was in Cancun, I started over. I read it all in one day. Dollface might be my favorite book I’ve read in a long, long time, regardless of whether or not I’m related to the writer (hi, Aunt Renee!).

Which is why, I’m so excited it’s finally discussion day! Should we get this party started?!

Likes to Smile Book Club Dollface Discussion!

Here are our questions:
1) Every Likes to Smile Book Club discussion starts the same way! Let’s cast the book! Which actors should play Vera, Shep and Tony? Feel free to cast any other parts, as well.
2) There were many friendships portrayed in the book. Which was your favorite?
3) Likewise, there were many relationships portrayed in the book. Which was your favorite?
4) The women portrayed in this book were incredibly strong. Who did you relate to the most?
5) Vera spent a lot of energy trying not to become her mother, only to end up taking over the family business. Did you foresee this or were you surprised when you read it?
6) What was your favorite part?
7) What question did I fail to ask that you are dying to discuss? Propose it in the comments and we can all chat away about it!

I’ll answer the questions here and you can answer in the comments. Feel free to comment on one another’s answers and get a discussion going. And if you leave a comment, I promise to respond.

My answers:
1) CASTING THE BOOK: I choose Amy Adams for Vera; Chris Noth for Shep (or Dan Bucatinsky); and Matthew McConaughey as Tony. I also cast Leighton Meester as Basha.

2) FAVORITE FRIENDSHIP: Basha paired with almost anyone. Basha was very pragmatic, she knew exactly the world she was in and she made no apologies for it. She also understood the emotions that came with being a “gun moll” in said world and just knew when to show up, pour a drink and be supportive. I was captivated by her in every scene she appeared in and found myself eager to discover what she might say next.

3) FAVORITE RELATIONSHIP: Shep and Vera. Despite knowing from almost the get-go that there was no way those two would have a “hollywood-happy-ending,” I found myself rooting for it throughout the book. As he walked into the Clark Street garage, I kept whispering under my breath, “Will you just listen to her?”

Shep also had a code of honor I admired, albeit a very twisted code. He really believed it was his job to protect and care for his family. He also treated his family with a great deal of respect. I never got the sense that he was one to have a girlfriend on the side.

4) FAVORITE FEMALE: Vera. That girl has grit. And gumption. I was particularly taken with how she managed to pull herself and Evelyn into an illegal business to find the money she needed for herself and Hannah. Her brain was set on making it happen, and so she did. I would never involve myself in an illegal business, but I enjoyed watching her go after her goals (no matter how misguided those may have been).

5) ON BECOMING HER MOTHER: This is precisely why I felt it was the best book I’ve read in a long, long time. I did not foresee it coming at all; but when I read it, all I could think was “of course, that makes sense.” The author left breadcrumb after breadcrumb, leaving the perfect trail to the end. And still… I didn’t see it coming. The first hint was left in all the discussion of her dreading that lifestyle, the smell, and the dirty fingernails. But then, when she became a boot-legger herself and noted that she learned negotiation from her mother…

Following the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, I knew that no one would take care of Vera (especially after discovering her relationship with Tony) and I wondered how she would fare now. Still, I hoped it wouldn’t turn to her running her family’s business. But, “of course!”

Somewhere during the reading of the book, I fell a bit in love with Vera and my heart broke for her that she ended up working for Abramovitz Meats. It felt like a cruel twist of fate, even for a girl who got caught up in a world of gangsters.

6) FAVORITE PART: How do I pick just one? I think my favorite part was the depiction of 1920’s Chicago. Just imagining the era was riveting. What it must have been like to have been a flapper and to be taken to all those restaurants and speakeasys! Didn’t it just make you wish you were there to witness it in person?! It was easy to find compassion for how Vera (and Evelyn) could so easily get themselves caught up in that lifestyle. I was caught up in it from the novel alone!

7) YOUR TURN: Propose a question!

And you? What did you think of the book? I cannot wait to read your answers in the comments! That others read Dollface and came to participate in a Likes to Smile Book Club Discussion warms my heart. Thank you!

Until next time!



It’s no secret that I love to read. What seems to be an unknowable secret (at least to me) is what took me so long to sign up for Goodreads?!

Join Me on Goodreads // Likes to Smile

(Image via Unsplash by Charlie Foster)

A social website dedicated to readers?! HELLO! That is the place for me! Between Likes to Smile Book Club and my decision to join Allyssa in her goal of reading 50 books in 2014, obviously I need multiple places to track my progress! Plus, I love to chat about what I’ve read.

If you’re on Goodreads, I need friends! And I would love to friend you right back on the site! Please add me or leave a comment here and I’ll add you.

I’m just learning Goodreads, so if you have tips, I would love them!

Speaking of which, I read 5 (5!!) books in Mexico and have updated both Goodreads (complete with my reviews) and my 50 books in 2014 tracker.

One of those books was Dollface, the next Likes to Smile Book Club Selection up for discussion.  I hope you’ll be joining us for the discussion on February 3rd! I can’t wait to chat it out!

And you? Are you on Goodreads? What have you been reading lately? What Goodreads tips do you have for me?

Hope to see you here and on Goodreads!

Until next time!


Postscript: A couple people have asked to hear about my trip to Mexico, so I’ll have that post up for you on Monday! Thanks for your interest! Makes me feel so loved! xoxo

50 Books in 2014

When I read On Writing by Stephen King, the one stand-out from the book was that King reads 70 – 80 books a year. Since learning that fact, I track how many books I read each year to see if I can come close. I usually come in around thirty. I would love to hover around King’s number, but that seems like an awful lot. Allyssa has a better plan.

Let's Read 50 Books in 2014 // Likes to Smile

(Image via Unsplash by Alejandro Escamilla)

Allyssa plans to read 50 books this year and has encouraged others to play along. I’m in!

I’m going to use this blog post as a place to list what I’ve read and to motivate myself to read more.

Feel free to keep checking back in on my progress. So far, I’ve read:

Updated on July 20th. You can also follow along on Goodreads.

1. DOLLFACE by Renee Rosen. This is Likes to Smile Book Club Selection #5. I’m happy to report that I’ve finally read it! I’m also happy to report that I’m ready to officially announce a discussion day: Monday, February 3rd. If you’ve read it (or want to read it), I would love to have you join us for this discussion!

2. KISS ME FIRST by Lottie Moggach. This is the story of how one girl came to take over another girl’s social media profiles. A thought-provoking read that calls into question what people believe about us when they only interact with our online selves.

3. THE LIONS OF LUCERNE (Scot Harvath #1) by Brad Thor. The first in a series of books about Secret Service agent Scot Harvath. In this page-turning thriller, the President has been kidnapped and Scot is on a mission to get him back.

4. GONE GIRL by Gillian Flynn. The wife is “gone.” The question is how. Flynn crafts such complex and believable characters that I stayed up well past my bedtime to learn what happens next. The ending was both wholly believable and entirely shocking. It earned all the hype it gets.

5. LIES YOU WANTED TO HEAR by James Whitfield Thomson. A thought-provoking story of how a classic love triangle (girl, “bad” boy, “good” boy) continues to affect those involved for decades to come. A psychological thriller at its best. Meanwhile, Thomson published this, his first novel, at the age of 67 — kudos for never letting a dream die.

6.  CONTENT EVERYWHERE by Sara Wachter-Boettcher.  I was asked to read this book for work and thought, “eh, ok, I’ll probably learn something.”  Work picked very well! I loved this book.   Wachter-Boettcher begins by discussing the WYSIWYG strategy of yore: “what you see is what you get.”  I was sold!  This book is very much about thinking about how the reader engages with content and how the reader’s wants will change based on the device selected (desktop, mobile, tablet).   As a blogger, I was immediately captivated by thinking about navigation strategies and how the visuals will need to be modified. It also triggered me to think about social media content, as well. I highly recommend this book for all my fellow bloggers out there.

7.  CATCHING AIR by Sarah Pekkanen.  This story is seemingly about two brothers and their wives moving to Vermont to open a B & B.  But long-time fans of Pekkanen (my hand is raised) know that her stories always delve deeper into the ties that bind, questioning whether the families we create through marriage are based on the families we were born into.  I stayed up all night turning the pages, searching for an answer.   (P.S.  We’ve discussed Pekkanen before.)

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