Tuesday, September 26, 2017

The Book That Almost Killed Me by Jenn McKinlay

BARKING UP THE WRONG TREE is out TODAY!!!  Take a good look at this cover because this book (oh, this book!) almost killed me.
AVAILABLE SEPT 26th
The book was done. Finished. Ready to go. The plot was a bit out there being the old comedy trope of a wrong bed scenario where two characters end up in bed together who shouldn't be. It was a bit of a modern twist on Move Over, Darling, starring Doris Day and James Garner. I'm not saying I write romantic comedy capers like those fabulous old films but I'm not not saying it either. (Yes, I just winked at you).



Side note: I will always halt traffic, stop the clocks, and put the phone on mute if a Doris Day movie comes on. Seriously, don't bother me unless you're bringing me a bucket of buttery popcorn goodness.

Now my editor and I had worked closely on this book. We were both happy with it, and then the world changed. I won't go into the politics of how or why the world changed (ahem) but suddenly just being female made me feel vulnerable in ways it never had before, and I couldn't go through with the book the way it was. I couldn't let my heroine be victimized, however unintentionally, no matter that a happily ever after resolution awaited her. The scenario no longer worked for me. I called my editor and said I needed the book back. She gave me three weeks.

I gutted that book or maybe it gutted me. Either way, in twenty-one days fifty thousand words (half the book) were ripped out, revised, or rewritten so that my heroine came out triumphant and I came out like a bloated, soggy lasagna noodle. I have since recovered but it was ugly there for awhile. 

Now here's a high point. Barking Up the Wrong Tree is my second romantic comedy in the Bluff Point series and it was chosen as a TOP PICK with 4 1/2 stars by RT magazine: 

"Dive on in to the second terrific book in McKinlay’s Bluff Point series where romance and second chances are definitely in the air! Her newest heroine is a poster-child for being truly commitment-phobic, an attitude brought on by a nasty incident in her past. How the hero and her friends try to break through the heroine’s barriers makes for a funny and warm-hearted story. But the cherry on top of this sundae is the addition of a trio of delightful furry (and feathered) sidekicks, the wonderfully foul-mouthed parrot Ike and the canine crew of Saul and Hot Wheels. McKinlay is definitely on a hot streak!"


Here's a snoot boop from Saul, Ike, Hot Wheels
So that was pretty cool and here's the review of the book from Booklist reviewer John Charles (because he "gets me" and the review made me laugh):



Pretty great, right? And, yes, this absolutely made my three weeks of chocolate milk shake and Frito fueled revision hell worth it! Mostly.

After our dysfunctional relationship evened out, I have to say, Carly Decusati is one of my favorite heroines! A feisty, curvaceous Italian girl, she is unapologetically single and refuses to compromise who she is or what she wants and she makes me laugh. If you're looking for some hilarity and hijinks (much like the ones found in those old fifties/sixties movies), then stop by Bluff Point for a visit. It'll make you laugh and hit you in all the feels, I promise.

So, how about you Reds? What's the book that almost killed you? How did you overcome? If this has never happened to you, seriously, keep it to yourself! 

Oh, and is anyone else a fan of the old rom-com movies, or is it just me? If so, which one? I've always loved If a Man Answers with Sandra Dee and Bobbie Darin -- don't judge me!








72 comments:

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  2. Happy book birthday, Jenn!
    Congratulations on the great reviews . . . “Barking Up the Wrong Tree” sounds delightful and I’m really looking forward to reading it.

    As for the old movies, count me in! ”San Francisco” [Clark Gable, Spencer Tracy, and Jeanette MacDonald] is one of my favorites; “It Happened One Night” [Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert] is another . . . .

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    1. Thank you! It Happened One Night! A forever fave, Joan!

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  3. Happy pub day, Jenn!!! I loved About a Dog, and can't wait to read Barking Up the Wrong Tree! And I would be over the moon on the Booklist review. Fab!

    I have really been struggling with the book-in-progress for some of the same reasons you struggled. I had an idea for a sort of intimate, back to a smaller canvas book--and then the world changed and my plot seemed inconsequential. I've come up with some ideas while in England that MAY help fix that. I hope....

    I love romantic comedies and I certainly think the world needs more, especially if they are as smart and funny as yours! Give me any movie with Tracy and Hepburn, or anything with Cary Grant!

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    1. Thanks, Debs! I feel for you. I've always been fairly sure-footed in my writing so this was a growth moment for sure. I'm sure your book will turn out amazing - they always do!

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  4. Congratulations, Jenn, on living through the birth of this book! 50,000 words in 21 days is epic. I think it's harder to rewrite under those circumstances, and make the new middle fit the old beginning and end than it is to crank out new words at that pace! I can't say that I'm much of an old rom-com movie fan, simply because I've never taken the time to watch many, but you definitely have a talent for the book version. My copy doesn't arrive until tomorrow, but when it gets here, I plan to dive right in.

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    1. Thank you, Gigi! You're very kind. It was arduous but worth it!

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  5. Congrats, Jenn! My current book has been more of a struggle than some, but I think I finally worked it out - and I did NOT have to rewrite 51000 words in three weeks! That makes my head hurt to even think about it. Lovely reviews, too.

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    1. Thanks, Edith. I'd gotten used to the bothersome middle that seems to happen every book but this was, well, bigger than that.

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  6. Congrats Jenn--have been waiting for this book and going to the bookstore today when I take a break! My book is about to kill me today:) so i'll keep this short--where did you get the chocolate milkshakes??

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    1. Thanks, Roberta! I made them myself! In my nutri mixer thing-a-ma-jig (yes, that's the proper name) with vanilla gelato, cocoa powder, milk, and ice. Come over, I'll make you one.

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  7. You are SO BRAVE, Jenn, and true to yourself. Brava!!! And those reviews are fabulous.

    My favorite romcom a triangle... The Philadelphia Story with Katharine Hepburn, Jimmy Stewart, and Carey Grant. Also loved What Is It About Mary? And of course You've Got Mail.

    Doris Day? Hunh. I'll have to go back and watch one of her movies.

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    1. Hallie, The Philadelphia Story was great and a big favorite of my mom's.

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    2. Thanks, Hallie! It didn't feel optional, if you know what I mean. It felt like a moral imperative to change the story. I have no idea what I would have done if my editor said no. LOVE The Philadelphia Story!

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  8. Happy Book Birthday, Jenn. I love the dogs and parrot picture. And I'm sorry it almost killed you. I guess that's what you get for barking Up the Wrong Tree?

    I haven't read or watched a romantic comedy in eons. Perhaps I should, would be good for the soul.

    However, thank you for going the extra 50,000 words to make your book speak to our new world order. You too, Deb. I am noticing this a lot in books now, and I am not sure that I would continue to read an author whose work doesn't reflect my politics and philosophy. Different strokes and all that, but all media eventually reflects the response of its public.

    Milkshakes off to Lucy/Roberta. Watch your mailbox.

    In fact, milkshakes for everyone!

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    1. Thank you, Ann! LOL on the pun! I am in the same position as you. I want to be open minded but then I hear things that make my hair stand on end and I lose my cool. Ah, well, we live in defining times.

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  9. Congratulations on the latest book, Jenn.

    Holiday. Every time. 1938. Where Cary Grant nearly marries the wrong sister. (You can tell she's not right for him by her hat.) Fortunately, he finally comes to his senses and goes off to Europe with Katherine Hepburn, plus two of the best friends a rom-com couple ever had.

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    1. YES! Cary Grant is my perfect man. Always has been always will be. When I met the Hub he was going through his "suave" phase, playing a lot of rockabilly in local clubs and wearing suits. *swoon*

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  10. Wow! Hats off and milkshakes galore, Jenn!!! Fantastic reviews!! There has to be lots of 'com' in my 'rom' or it doesn't hook me--in a movie or a book. Love love love the trio of fur 'n feathered friends!

    Any movie with Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn (Susan D--oh yes, Holiday!), Doris Day and James Garner, Doris Day and Rock Hudson, Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant, Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck... you get the picture. One of my absolute faves--'Truly, Madly, Deeply'. I feel a marathon coming on....

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    1. You are my people, Flora. My uncle lived down the street from Katharine Hepburn on the shore in CT (I used to stalk her when I was a kid). She was lovely.

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    2. Jenn-- you used to stalk Katharine Hepburn as a kid??? Is there a story in there, waiting to be written?

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  11. HUrray! ANd "Irresistible" is pretty fabulous.

    I will stop in my tracks for Working Girl. My fave contemporary-ish romcom. For Bringing UP Baby. For Pillow Talk. For The Philadelphia Story--and High Society, too! Desk Set. Yes, Holiday! Anything with either Hepburn and Cary Grant or Rock Hudson Yes, indeed.

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    1. Thanks, Hank! Love Working Girl. And Desk Set (librarians!) is one of my all time faves!

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  12. And may I take a moment to applaud you, Jenn? It's fascinating how "easy" it is to fall into the "woman as victim" or "woman as silly" mode. (Long and separate story: I rewrote my entire PRIME TIME to make Charlie smart, not ditzy, and sophisticated, not self-conscious. It's such a massive difference,and colors my writing still.) SO, hurray. And it's such fun to see the ensuing glory!

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    1. Ha! I will always accept applause :) I hear you about character traits in a female protagonist. I never saw my heroines as passive but my entire life I've been a pleaser who uses humor to charm and disarm and my heroines do, too. I didn't realize this made them (or me) seem passive but it does! So now I'm writing funny heroines with spines of steel and a hard right hook if necessary - so that's fun! LOL!

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  13. Jenn,

    Happy Book Birthday! I wish you success with your new novel and may the great reviews continue to roll in. You know the old saying, "Everything happens for a reason." Perhaps having to do a major rewrite was your subconscious telling you that it had an even better idea for your story. Obviously, you have come up with tremendously engaging tale.

    As for old movies, I grew up watching them and know them better than I do contemporary ones. I can talk about old movies all day long. For me, any time a Cary Grant or Gregory Peck movie is on you will find me in front of the television. The same goes for always wonderful Audrey Hepburn. Of course, there are so many other wonderful actors from that era: Greer Garson; Grace Kelly; Irene Dunne; Richard Burton; Stewart Granger and many, many more. It is rare these days that you have movies of the same caliber.

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    1. Hi, Daniella. Thank you! I'm looking forward to your visit on Thursday! Like you I know the old movies better than the modern. I can't even count how many times I've seen Errol Flynn play Robin Hood. Love that rogue.

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    2. Jenn,

      I, too, am looking forward to a return visit to Jungle Reds. As for your piece today, ah, old movies, a delightful escape. How would we survive without them?

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  14. Happy book birthday, Jenn!

    I'd have to say the book I am finishing (hopefully this week) is The One That Almost Killed Me. I wrote the raw draft during NaNoWriMo 2013. I critiqued it through my then-critique group. I hired a developmental editor. I queried it for over two years with two "almost but not quite" bites.

    Since I had changed critique groups, I decided to run it through the new one and see what needed to be tightened.

    Turns out the whole book needed to be gutted and rewritten.

    The basic story is the same, but how I got to "The End" is very, VERY different. There were multiple times I wanted to throw it against the virtual wall and scream, "I quit!"

    Of course it turned out to be a much better book in the end, but the getting there? Oy!

    Mary/Liz

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    1. Oh, Mary, I hear you. The massive rewrite felt like I was trying to do surgery on myself from Youtube instructional videos. Agonizing but, yes, a better book in the end. Good for you!

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  15. Well, only two books in, I have to admit (at the risk of Jenn's wrath :) ) that neither of them have come close to "killing me."

    The first one was hard because first ones are hard sometimes but, to be honest, it was harder than it just being the first one because writing it required me to let down walls that had been built up for decades. Both my mentor and the book were patient but firm with me any time I tried to take the easy way out. It's not perfect and it's definitely not the best book written but it's the best I could write at the time. Even if it felt like it hated me and wanted me dead.

    Book #2 was written during a year of annoying, nagging health problems with my sinuses and inner ear. For most of it I had to take my medication, wait for it to kick in, write until it wore off, and then nap. I did that for five months. It's a better book than the first so maybe writing it medicated was the trick. ;)

    I suppose I have to look forward to The One That Wants to Kill Me. And I'm okay with that.

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    1. I like that you are embracing the possibility of future agony - like a pro! Good for you. Looking forward to your debut!!!

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  16. Brava, Jenn, for not taking the easier route. I'm very much looking forward to reading this book, especially knowing the backstory now. Strong women appeal to me much move than the hapless victim type.

    The world was a vastly better place when the number of romantic comedies at the local theaters (and drive-ins!) far outnumbered the shoot-em-up/blow-em-up mega productions. I'm still much more attracted to that genre, even today.

    Some Like it Hot is still my Numero Uno favorite, and always will be--Tony Curtis is the only star I ever had a crush on, and my twelve-year old heart fluttered like mad whenever I had the chance to see him onscreen.

    More modern favorites are Something's Gotta Give (which has fantastic music, by the way), and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. Keep the funny and sweet coming. We need that way more than we need another cinematic explosion, thank you very much.

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    1. Karen, I loved The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. When I posted on my Facebook page that I found the movie quite charming, I took some heat from some of my female friends because I'm usually not interested in the touchy feely movies these days.

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    2. Jay, wasn't it refreshing to see grownups in a love story? That's also why I like Something's Gotta Give, too.

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    3. Karen,

      Yes it was. Plus it had a few actors in it that had appeared in Doctor Who and other shows I liked which was the initial draw for me.

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    4. Thank you, Karen! Shockingly, I haven't seen the Marigold Hotel yet, but it's in my queue!

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  17. I've read some books that damn near killed me to get through. Some I had to stop reading because they would've killed me for sure.

    Then there is The Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks. It took me three tries to get through that but it ended up paying off because I became a devotee of the Shannara series. But it was an extremely tough start.

    Given that I grew up with a mother who thought movies made after 1970 (for the most part anyway) were no good, I saw a lot of old time movies (and now have her large collection of them on DVD). I always enjoyed Desk Set with Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn. Does the original Sabrina count as rom/com? If so, I loved that one too.

    I'd have to think and/or scan the DVD collection to see what other ones I've enjoyed over the years.

    And Happy Book Pub Day, Jenn.

    I know this would've been a big bookstore day for me but thankfully I know who to butter up and the two books I'd planned to get today were in my possession over this past weekend.

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    1. Thank you, Jay! I know what you mean. I have a very low threshold of prose patience. Engage me or I'm outta there! And I adore Sabrina - yes, it absolutely counts!

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  18. I love Doris Day movies, especially Pillow Talk, The Thrill of it All and Please Don't Eat the Daisies. Congratulations on your book rewrite and release!

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  19. Doris Day made a slew of rom-coms. My favorite male star for that ilk, actually any ilk, was James Garner. That man nailed it every time! Cary Grant also. Remember Houseboat with Sophia Loren? And how many movies did Tony Randall play the annoying friend/co-worker/neighbor in? Jenn, I loved the first book and can't wait to read this new one.

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    1. I love JG, too. Adored him in Rockford Files, natch. He just had charm by the bucketful with a nice dash of knuckle dragger maleness. Thank you, Pat D, for the kind words. You're lovely!

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  20. Congratulations Jenn! It exhausted me just to read about what you went through to get this book completed. I have a few more days on medical leave and I'm in the mood to read something funny, so I know that I'll be making a trip to the bookstore in the next few hours! (The surgeon told me not to do housework and I am happy to comply. Thanks for helping!)

    As for rom com movies I'm always in the mood for anything with Cary Grant! I wouldn't even mind watching one of those movies with the sound muted!

    DebRo

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    1. I hope your recovery is going well, Deborah! By all means rest and read - best prescription ever. Cary Grant is the man!

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  21. I feel as if I really MET you today, Jean. I admire what you did with the book and am going to buy it THIS MINUTE.

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    1. Thank you so much, Denise. One of the things with always going for the easy laugh is that I usually have my guard up. Very few people know the real Jenn, but I did consciously part the curtains just a smidgen today so thank you for noticing and accepting me in all my flawed glory. XO

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  22. OH Jenn, good for you not being content with something that didn't feel right for you. It looks wonderful. And I used to love those old movie comedies.. Dorus Day, Goldie Hawn, so harmless and sweet. And Rock Hudson! I swooned over him as a kid but of course I didn't know!

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    1. Thank you, Rhys. And I swooned over Rock, too. I still think he's the ideal man. Seriously, he is chiseled good-looking perfection. Sigh.

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  23. Jenn, what a wild, wonderful journey! Congratulations on your book, the glowing reviews and living to tell the tale. :) Fifty thousand words in 21 days is mind-bogglingly (is that a word??) amazing. I'm neck-deep in edits that I'm convinced will kill me, but you've inspired me so much!

    I absolutely love classic movies, and The Philadelphia Story definitely makes my list of faves. The oldish movie I'll always stop in my tracks for is Romancing the Stone. I want to be Joan Wilder! :)

    Congrats again!

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    1. Romancing the Stone has been in my top five since I first saw it. LOVE. I wanted to be Joan Wilder, too. Oh -- Being Joan Wilder - I think we have a book there!

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    2. Ha ha! Love it!! Sounds like a best-seller to me. :)

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    3. Ha! Yes.... "Okay, Joan Wilder, write us out of this one."

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    4. Ha ha! Love it!!

      I want to invite Joan Wilder to dinner so I can say "Joan Wilder? THE Joan Wilder?" :) :)

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  24. Karen and Jay, our taste in movies is quite similar

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    1. Ann,

      Well that's my old time movie likes. One of my all time favorite old movies is I Remember Mama. Oh and Pride of the Yankess (which is a little galling for this diehard Red Sox fan but still).

      However, I still love my modern day movies as well.

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  25. If you are that addicted to Doris Day movies, you do know about Diane Vallere's series with a main character who patterns her life on Doris Day, right? Starts with Pillow Stalk. Which I need to read now that I've watched Pillow Talk. My knowledge of Doris Day movies is seriously lacking.

    Congrats on the new book!

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    1. Yes, I love Diane's series! She's fabulous. I'm so jealous that she thought of it first. LOL.

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  26. I didn't think I had anything to add to this discussion, but reading other people's rom com lists have reminded me of a few of my favorites. They're all more modern, but definitely in the tradition. LOVED Cousins, with Isabella Rosselini and Ted Danson. Moonstruck is one of my all time favorites. You've Got Mail. When Harry Met Sally. Oh, and even though it's not really a rom com, I absolutely LOVE the interaction between Jimmy Stewart and Grace Kelly in Rear Window. Though primarily a thriller, that was some hot, flirtatious stuff!

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    1. You added some of my all time faves, Susan. I have crushed on Jimmy Stewart forever. Also, Moonstruck and When Harry Met Sally - the best!

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  27. Jenn, Happy book birthday and congrats on those amazing reviews! I'm blown away that you were able to do the revision in three weeks. I absolutely understand that queasy feeling when what you've written isn't quite right, even if the writing is great. Your name is on the book, so at the end of the day, you have to be happy with its contents. Bravo for having the courage to gut it and fix it!

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    1. Thanks so much, Ingrid. At the time, I was pretty sure I was going to fail so phew! Here's to leaping into the void!

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  28. I am such a fan of Doris Day movies. I grew up on them, and I thought she was the most beautiful, gutsy, good-hearted role model. I'm thinking I need to watch some Doris Day movies again soon. Another favorite is Natalie Woods and her movies, although those are a bit more on the serious side. Love with a Proper Stranger (Natalie and Steve McQueen) remains one of my all-time favorite movies.

    Happy Book Birthday, Jenn! Your three-week revision/redo is amazing. It sounds like a great read, and I'm glad that you followed your heart on it. Have a lovely Publication Day today.

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    1. Thank you so much, Kathy! Natalie Wood was captivating, wasn't she? Probably, I'm just middle-aged but it doesn't feel like stars have that so much anymore. Hmm.

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  29. Thanks,everyone! It is a very exciting day! Sorry I've been absent this morning. Long story short the hooligans, Hub, and I are in an epic IT (the scary movie) prank battle that started yesterday when I thought it would be hilarious to hide red balloons all over the house. Well, the hooligans raised the game. They took the balloons I scared them with and redistributed them (you can see where on my FB page). Ah! They got me! Now I am printing out full size pics of Pennywise (scary clown) and hiding them in laptops, medicine cabinets, ceilings, you get the drift. I'll be back when I run out of toner or scotch tape. Bwa ha ha ha.

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    1. Gee, Jenn, you live in an amusement park!

      DebRo

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    2. I know! I forgot I put a big Pennywise in the pantry and scared myself when I went to get some Fig Newtons! Doh!

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  30. Happy release day, Jenn! Every book nearly kills me -- and takes me right up to deadline to finish! Bringing Up Baby is my very fave madcap romcom!!

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    1. Thank you, Vicki! I love Bringing Up Baby!

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  31. Yes to every book or movie mentioned here! And James Garner just got sexier as he got older. Like Cary, I guess. I forgot how much I liked "If a Man Answers" -- have to go look it up. For nowadays, I still like "Love Actually", but will anyone laugh if I say I still get weepy when Meg Ryan says, "I hoped so badly it was you!" Tom Hanks as a rom hero -- who knew?

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