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Monday, July 27, 2015

A First Timer's Guide to Visiting New York City

*Though this is certainly not an exhaustive list, these are some of the things I would have liked to know before going to NYC. Some is advice I heard from others and followed, some we learned for ourselves.
  • Get an app for the subway on your phone.
  • Get a paper/plastic map for the subway for when your IN the subway and the app doesn't work.
  • Read the signs!
  • People are nice and willing to help, just ask.
  • The 1 line was our favorite subway route for going from lower Manhattan (Staten Island Ferry) to Times Square, it eventually goes to Central Park.
  • Buses sometimes require a separate "ticket" even if you're transferring from the metro.
  • Read the signs!
  • Buy a one week unlimited metro card at the airport.
  • It's not Florida, but it is humid.
  • North of Central Park felt kinda sketchy.
  • Lower Manhattan was a great place to stay.
  • Right now (2015) the museum at Ellis Island is lame because they moved stuff out after/before Sandy and haven't finished fixing things yet. 
  • The 911 museum at ground zero is a MUST. Stay for 4 hours at least. Worth the $$.
  • Go to the Empire State building after 11:00 pm (last elevator up at 1:00 am) the city is prettier at night and there aren't so many people. Cost is $32/person inside the building (people sell passes outside, we didn't compare.) Some of us felt it was worth the $$, others didn't. They sell great city/subway maps in the gift shop.
  • Read the signs!
  • Eat at the Halal food stands. Amazing food. Cheap.
  • Midtown smells like sewage. 
  • There are SO MANY PEOPLE!
  • Central park is incredible. Spend a whole day there.
  • Ellen's Starlight cafe has really great energy and entertainment, the food is so-so.
  • The Olive Garden in Times Square is a great place to grab a quick soup and salad lunch--lots of tables and you're in and out in about 40 minutes.
  • Eat at The Meatball Shop at least once. This was one of our favorite meals. (Multiple locations.)
  • Pack light. You'll likely be dragging luggage on Metros and busses and wishing for a smaller bag.
  • Eat out! The restaurants in NY are the realization of the owner's dreams and the food is incredible. 
  • Read the signs!
  • Matilda is an amazing show to take the family to. All of us loved it. 
  • Fish in the Dark is billed as family friendly, but was more vulgar than we expected, though it was hilarious. We left at Intermission. A $600 disappointment.
  • There is no metro line at Leguardia airport. Q70 is a direct bus from Leguardia to the 7 in Queens, 7 will take you to Grand Central Station in Manhattan. M60 is a bus that will take you to to 125th street (sketchy area) you can then take the 4, 5, or 6 to Grand Central. Time is similar between both options.
  • People don't look "at" you. Very little eye contact, but few people are trouble makers.
  • Between Grand Central and Times Square, take the S shuttle. Straight shot.
  • Leguardia is a hectic and confusing airport. 
  • The girls in Times Square who look like they are wearing nothing but body paint, are truly wearing nothing but body paint (and a thong.) And there are dozens of them. They came out around 9:00 pm.
  • Don't even think of bringing your own car.
  • Read the signs!
  • The cannolis at Carlo's bakery are 1/4 the size of those at Mike's Pastry in Boston. Just sayin'.
  • Get comfortable waiting. For subways. For restaurants. For everything.
  • Give yourself lots of time to get places, just in case there are delays and traffic and what not.
  • If you run your Metro card through the scanner, you can't use it again for a certain amount of time to prevent people from using the same card. This can be problematic if you go in the wrong entrance, come out, and then try to go in the right one. Most metro stations have an internal way to get to the right train.
  • Read the signs!
  • Late at night, some subway lines will only use the first few cars--the rest of the cars will remain in the tunnel when the train comes to stops. It might seem cool when you are alone in a car--but it might mean you missed some information and as the trains aren't running as often it might take you an hour to undo your mistake and get home. 
  • Don't lose your Metro card.
  • Read the signs!
  • Don't buy a Metro card from a person selling theirs, use the kiosks.
  • If you miss your train, another one will be coming soon.
  • Gratuities are usually added automatically into your meal, even if it's for one person. Not all receipts are clear about this so be attentive so you don't double tip.
  • Don't look too closely at the garbage on the streets. You don't really want to know what it is.
  • Be prepared to walk miles and miles every day if you're doing the tourist stuff. Good shoes are a good idea.
  • Don't expect to see everything in one trip.
  • If there's a preacher on the subway, just close your eyes and enjoy it.
  • Read the signs!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

What is "Listen To Your Mother?"

I had not heard of this event until a friend suggested I audition. I followed the link and read up on it, then watched some of last year's presentations, all of which are on youtube. I was impressed with the concept and began to work on an audition piece, but I still didn't feel like I fully "got it." A couple of weeks ago we had a rehearsal, where several of the 12 of us who were chosen for this year's show read our pieces to the rest of the presenters. Holy moly! When it came my turn I had to pass in order to get myself together; I was so touched by what I'd heard. I also asked more questions of the woman who heads up the Northern Utah Show in hopes that I could better explain this to people I know. This is what I learned:

A few years ago, Heather Johnson--the founder of the Northern Utah show--was up late with a baby and stumbled upon the youtube videos of Listen To Your Mother, a live show in New York where women and men and even some teens gave a 3-5 minute talk about some aspect of motherhood. Some were from the perspective of the mother herself, some from the perspective of child, or spouse, or even general observations. All of the pieces had been auditioned and chosen for both the message they had, but how well they went with the other presentations. Each person then read their piece before an audience and a camera at a performance the week of Mother's day. The presentations were then put on youtube to benefit anyone who would find them--and Heather Johnson was one of those women. She was so touched by the show she tracked down the founder and asked her if they had ever considered doing the show in other cities, that she would love to help put one together in Utah. At that time, expansion wasn't a priority, but Heather asked that she be remembered so that if LTYM decided to move into other cities, they would come back to her. She was absolutely certain this would happen, but she didn't know when. Just a year or two later the founder called Heather back and Heather began putting together a show for Utah. 2015 is the third year that LTYM has taken place in Northern Utah, and yet most people still have never heard of it. When they do, like me, they don't really understand what it is. So, this is what it is: Twelve presenters celebrating the hardships and beauty of motherhood.

At the rehearsal a couple of weeks ago I was instantly humbled by the experiences of the other women there. I laughed, I cried--and cried--but left that experience with a connection to these women and a sense of validation and purpose in both my involvement with this group but also my role in the lives of my children. The things shared were truly beautiful, but not in the way where I felt diminished or "Not enough" as so easily befalls us mom's who are so critical of ourselves. I didn't feel like it was overly "praising" or overly "Angst driven." It was just . . . truth. And it was beautiful.

When I got home my husband asked me how it was and I fumbled and bumbled in my attempt at explaining it. I didn't make a lot of sense, but I ended with "I want the whole family to go." I have had a lot of opportunities to present things in the past, to teach or talk about personal growth or goal setting or any number of topics. I have never wished my kids were there like I did that night. So, for my mother's day gift this year I will have my children in the audience. Not just to hear what I have to say, but to hear what this collective group of women have to say about moms. The good. The hard. The crushing. The beautiful.

I hope that you will look into this program and see if it isn't something that might speak to your heart. I hope that you will consider attending. Watch past videos, read up on the mission and goals. 

Hopefully, you'll mark your calendar so that on Thursday, May 7, 2015, you will be at Thanksgiving Point to share in the experience. Tickets are on sale and only $9.99 each. It is suitable for all ages so bring your mom, your friends, your kids. You won't regret it.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

What Does a Starred Review Mean?

I'm not new to writing or traditional publishing, but with my newest book -A Heart Revealed - I am stepping into the national market for the first time. I've never had a book reviewed by the industry trade journals so I was anxious and eager and freaked-out and excited about how A Heart Revealed would be received by national critics. 

Not every book submitted to publishing trade journals gets reviewed. The journals can be picky and, then, the reviews aren't guaranteed to be positive. In regard to Publishers Weekly (PW), there's concern that they tend to lean away from conservative fiction, which is what I write.  The next biggest player with the trade journals is Kirkus, who is known for not being as nice as PW. After PW and Kirkus is Booklist, Library Journal, and a handful of more regional journals whose reviews matter in regard to national exposure for good or bad.

Two months ago I learned that my book had been sent to all of these journals and my publisher expected reviews to start coming in mid-February. I asked my publicist to read any reviews before sending them to me because a bad review can set me back for weeks. I would have expected that poor reviews would get easier as time marched forward in my writing career, but that has not been the case for me. I’ve published more than twenty novels over the last fifteen years, but rather innocuous comments like "Kilpack's writing has improved since the first book in this series" or "This isn't the kind of book you'll skip dinner for" on Goodreads can create a pit in my stomach that is as illogical as it is real, no matter how many good reviews I read to remedy my reaction to the negative. So I avoid reading reviews. Unless someone sends me the link with an indication that it's positive, I will rarely dare to read them. My ego has become fragile, go figure.

Where was I . . . oh yeah. . . two weeks ago.

On Tuesday, February 17th, my publicist sent me the link to the recently published PW review, not only a review but a starred review! Because she promised the review would not send me into a downward spiral, I was able to read it and WOW, it was so complimentary. My whole body tingled in response to the few sentences of praise that followed the basic retelling of the storyline (standard practice.) I could not have been more thrilled and immediately went online to learn the difference between a starred review and a regular review.

PW does about 10,000 reviews a year. Of those, about 500 will get starred reviews which means "A book of outstanding quality." Another percentage will get a "Blue Title" which means that the book didn't get a star, but it does have unusual commercial appeal. A starred review influences sales—especially by retailers and libraries—and by way of validation, it was HUGE! To-the-moon-my-cheeks-hurt-from-smiling HUGE! You can read the full review HERE.

That was Tuesday. On Wednesday, I received another email from my publicist with her encouragement to read the review for A Heart Revealed from Kirkus. Two national trade journals in two days? Not only that, Kirkus gave A Heart Revealed a starred review as well. Kirkus does 8,000 to 10,000 reviews a year, and approximately 10% of those reviews are starred. A Kirkus star is "awarded to books of exceptional merit." Additionally, recipients of a Kirkus star are automatically eligible for the Kirkus Prize, a $50,000 prize awarded to the winning books published and starred in the given year. I'm not holding my breath for a Kirkus Prize, but I won't give up hope either :-) You can read the Kirkus review HERE.

And so, what does this mean for me and my book? It means more industry people will buy it. It means more libraries will stock it and more readers will read it because it will be available. It means that I’m entering the national market with a couple of important reccomendations next to my book title. It doesn’t mean the book will be bestseller. It doesn’t mean that readers will enjoy it as much as the reviewers did, and it doesn’t mean that books without starred reviews aren’t excellent, but, dang, it’s a really great start for this new phase of my career. I'm so grateful to my publisher, Shadow Mountain, for having enough confidence in this story to send it off with the hopes that we would get this kind of feedback. I am so blessed to be part of such an exceptional team.

To wrap this up - I'm in a great place right now and I am trying hard to maximize it to the height of it's potential. Publishing is full of hills and valleys, the key is to soak up the sun when you reach the peaks. I plan to! 

A Heart Revealed is available for pre-order through, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble


Sunday, January 04, 2015

"Wedding Cake" Giveaway!

Wedding Cake, book 12 in the Sadie Hoffmiller Culinary Mystery Series, and
Sadie's Little Black Recipe Book are online and on shelves! It has been such an amazing journey, going from one stand-alone story to a 12 book series and a cookbook and turned my writing into a career. It has also been the introduction to so many people and places and yummy recipes—I can not express what a powerful experience this series has been in my life. To celebrate the completion, Shadow Mountain and I are hosting a giveaway—winners get their choice of any one copy of my books, including an ARC (Advanced Reading Copy) of A Heart Revealed, a regency romance coming out in April. You can enter in the following ways:

  1.  Go to my Facebook post about the contest (Author Josi S. Kilpack) and follow the instructions. (no need to come back to the blog, the Facebook portion of the contest is self contained) 
  2. Leave a review for any book I have written on goodreads,,, and/or You can leave as many reviews on as many sites as you like, then come back here and leave a comment that includes the total number of reviews you left. You will get an entry for every review (this does not count for past reviews, only those done between January 4 and January 10)
  3. Post a status update on Facebook or Twitter regarding this contest and include the link to this blog post. Comment below to tell me where you posted; one entry per social network.

Thank you for the years of support and enthusiasm! Winners will be posted here and on Facebook on Monday, January 12. 

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Update and Blog Hop!

It is crazy to me to reflect on how important blogging was for me a few years ago. I spent hours reading blogs and writing my own every week. Now, I never get here. In a sense it's unfortunate, it was a great way to get into the thoughts of people who took the time to write about their lives. On the other hand, life ebbs and flows and things are always changing.

BUT, now and then a situation comes up that is worth blogging about. My readers have been due for an update and I've been quiet about what I'm doing after Sadie because it was new and different and I 1) Didn't want to take away from the excitement of my final Culinary Mystery 2) Didn't have a contract on my new project. But I have the contract now, signed and filed. And so this was a perfect opportunity for me to kill a few birds with one stone.

As stated in the title, this post is brought to you from a blog hop. Anna Elliott tagged me in her blog and I really enjoyed hearing about her projects and routines. Take a minute to check it out at And thanks for tagging me Anna.

What are you working on?
I am getting my ducks in a row to have the final book in my Sadie Hoffmiller Culinary Mystery novel released this December. The series has been several years worth of work and as it came to an end I was ready to do something new. I had an idea for another clean mystery series, but when I tried to write it my main character sounded too much like Sadie. I decided, instead, to cleanse my palette and write something totally new. I submitted a few ideas to my publisher and the one they liked the most was a Regency Romance. If you go back in time with me to the very first story I ever wrote back in 1995, it was a Regency. It's terrible. But it was the first story I laid out on paper. I have long loved the genre and been really thrilled to see it revive these last couple of years. It was so fun to write something fresh, but in a genre and timeperiod I was already in love with. The title is "A Heart Revealed" and it will come out in May of 2015. I'm also working on a Regency Novella for one of the Timeless Romance Anthologies, as well as making progress on another full length Regency romance that will follow this first one through Shadow Mountain.

How does your work differ from others' work in the same genre?
In regard to my culinary mysteries, I think the biggest difference is the age of my protagonist--late 50's--and my focus on home cookin'. I'm not a gourmet, but I love having the "best" corn bread and the "tried and true" cookie recipe. I think both elements created a broader readership for the books and more relatability to kitchen-cooks like myself.
In regard to my Regency, I think my novel is different in that it is issue driven. Prior to my mysteries, my books were women's fiction or romance, but they were always driven by a modern issue. I guess when you're an author with lots of issues, you naturally put other issues into your stories. I can't give away the issue without giving away the book, but it's set in early 19th century London and Yorkshire and was so so so much fun to write. It is still first and foremost a romance, that's our main story, but I'm hoping that the women's fiction type of spin will be something my readers will both recognize and enjoy.

Why do you write what you do?
There are a bunch of answers to that, so I'm going to put them all down. I write what I write because: I love it (always important :-), the story builds as I think on it (many ideas fizzle out before I get to paper), I think readers will like it (both my mysteries and romances are clean), I think it will make money (I have a mortgage), it "feels" right, it appealed to me as a reader, and I think I can do it. Some days one of those reasons is bigger than the others--some days I'm writing for a check, other days I'm writing because it's fun, other days I'm writing because the story is getting so big in my head I have to let out some pressure.

How does your writing process work?
I am a work in progress when it comes to what kind of process works for me. Until recent years, I never outlined, but the last few mysteries required I make a plan to say on track with the series. I started the regency with just a synopsis, and then was able to stick to it pretty well--I've never done a synopsis before writing the book. I wish I knew what would work for me every time, but maybe that's what works for me--trying new processes and going back on old processes that work. My current process is a very basic outlining before I start and brainstorming sessions before each writing session. I'm writing about 3 days a week for 5-6 hours at a time. It sounds a lot more organized that it really is, but it's working so I'm going with it.

As for the author I'm choosing to tag, I hope you will hop over to the blog of my dear friend Nancy Campbell Allen. She is best known for her civil war stories and historical fiction series written under the name N.C. Allen, but is a multi-talented writer with some exciting things on tap. Please check her out at

Friday, May 30, 2014

How Do You Overcome Lack of Confidence?

I received this question via Facebook and as I started to answer I realized it was a little more than a Facebook message, so I decided to blow the dust off my blog and post it here.

The actual question was "How did you get over (if you ever had it) the lack of confidence as you were writing?


I have lacked confidence throughout all fifteen of the years I've been writing. Over and over and over again I struggle to believe I can do what I've set out to be. I doubt my writing ability, I doubt my ability to find time, I doubt that people will be happy with the result. I read reviews that paralyze me, I face discouragements that make me wish I'd never started, I continually fear that my best ideas are already used up and whatever I do next will be lousy. Every writer I know faces it, so, yes, I have certainly faced with lack of confidence--I am right now battling a fear of being able to do something new and getting over a rather stinging rejection that took me away from my computer for weeks.


Start with very small goals you know without a doubt you can accomplish that is not tied to anyone else's efforts but your own. Some examples of the easiest goals would be "Write for 15 minutes" or "Read a chapter in that how-to-write book"or "Look up submission guidelines for one agent." It will feel silly, because you know that you can do it, but that's the point. Most of us (especially women) live in a world of not only "I'm not enough" but "I shouldn't be enough." We compare and criticize ourselves to ridiculous levels about most things in our life. In the process, we train our brain to feel successful only when we are failing. It's neurotic, but we do it. Someone compliments our dinner and we point out that we didn't put enough carrots in the soup. Someone tells us we look nice and we point out that our pants are too tight. My best guess as to why we do this is that we are afraid of appearing arrogant and so we put ourselves down and create an atmosphere where we are more comfortable with our missing pieces than our wholeness. When we then take on something big, like writing, our brain is stuck in old patterns. We've trained our brain to be more attentive to our shortcomings and that's going to be a problem because we need to do well at this if we're to reach our goal. If you stay in that place of comfortable regret, you will never make this writing thing work. You have to allow yourself to be successful, it is the only way to build confidence and without that inner confidence, the outer pressure will crush this dream before it gets off the ground. This applies to much more than writing--in every part of our life it's through the accomplishment of objectives that we grow in our belief that we can do well at things. Set yourself up for success by setting small attainable goals.


When we accomplish those small and attainable goals, we need to celebrate them. In this case it's not a party (though it could be cake) it's simply being conscious that you did what you said you would do. You can say it out loud "I just wrote for 15 minutes!" you can write it down, you can tell a friend. Don't simply set another goal, take a moment to celebrate the one you just accomplished. This conscious practice of celebrating success floods your brain with happy chemicals that help teach your brain what to derive pleasure from. It is pleasurable to succeed at things, but since we're used to "I shouldn't be enough" it takes some training to get your brain on board with this. Find people who will celebrate with you--not everyone will--and share your success with them while inviting them to share their success with you. Many times we surround ourselves with people who are far more comfortable with our whining than our winning. Find people who will allow you to share your excitement and let them celebrate with you.


Failure is both powerful and inevitable. You will face it and it will hurt. There will be some people who will try to spin it into "That wasn't fair" or "They don't know what they're talking about" and while it's nice to have that kind of support, if we don't "listen" to our failures and find out what they can teach us, we won't be better for them. On the other hand, if we let our failures stop us, we are giving them too much power. For me, I have tried to find a balance of feeling the hurt and embarrassment and disappointment for a period of time, and then forcing myself to be objective about it. Look for the truth in the failures and rejections, but don't live there. Remind yourself over and over again that this is a journey. You are not taking it only to accomplish something, you are here to learn. It's been said that you can learn more from your failures than your successes, I think this is true but it's up to you whether or not you approach them that way.

Best of luck. Happy Writing.