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Changing leaves, the brisk air, apple-picking, cozy sweaters… Autumn has officially begun and it always feels like a demarcation point, not unlike the first day of school.  I want to buy a fresh set of pens, notebooks and get back to work!  Aside from Lagging Indicators-related projects and an outline for my next novel, there are so many new releases and happenings that I’m excited about.  Fall offerings tend to be more sober and cerebral, encouraging introspection and providing deep sources of inspiration.  Creating an inviting home and work environment is also essential to finding energy as the days become shorter and darkness envelops us.  Here are some of the things I’m looking forward to this season!

Since I’ll be spending more time inside, sitting at my desk and working on my computer, burning scented candles will make the space feel less claustrophobic and bring the outdoors in.  Woodsy aromas like these–with a dash of pumpkin–make me feel like I’ve taken a walk in the forest.

Some trendwatchers have declared that pumpkin spice has reached its peak, but not for me!  I love nothing more than treating myself to anything infused with it. The Swedish pepparkaka is technically a gingerbread cake, but it has a zesty, peppery taste that reminds me of pumpkin spice (and I only bake it in the fall and winter) so I’ve included it in the mix.

Although I live in Sweden, I consider it my civic duty to vote from abroad.  I’m looking forward to filling out my absentee ballot and voting in the US Midterm Elections on November 6th.  Don’t forget to register to vote.  You can register from outside the United States too.

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Source: Cleo Wade for Gucci

Now, on the culture!  The arts, entertainment and literary events premiering this Fall are exceptional.  In an ideal world, I would go/read/see everything, but these are my highlights.


If I could only read one book this autumn, it would be Michelle Obama’s Becoming.  She was such an inspiration and role model as First Lady and continues to sprinkle fairy dust on us with her words of wisdom.  I have a feeling that since she and former President Obama are no longer in government, she can be more forthcoming.  I can’t wait to read more about her journey from the South Side of Chicago to the White House! 

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The Fall reading list is filled with so many other thought-provoking books from favorite as well as debut authors.

Source: Amazon


Settling into a movie theatre with a box of popcorn is one of my favorite Fall activities.  These are a few upcoming movies that have caught my eye:  Creed II, headlined by Michael B. Jordan—also reunites Sylvester Stallone with Dolph Lundgren—will be a fun watch with my kids; Widows, starring Viola Davis, to see with my husband; Bohemian Rhapsody because I grew up listening to Queen and Freddie Mercury’s life story fascinates me; and The Hate U Give based on Angie Thomas’s best-selling novel will be important viewing for the whole family.


Five years ago, the Hilma af Klint exhibit broke attendance records at Moderna Museet in Stockholm.  This groundbreaking Swedish female artist began creating bold abstract paintings in 1906—years before her male contemporaries—but she didn’t get the recognition she deserved. I hope her show at the Guggenheim Museum will be just as popular and introduce her work to a whole new audience.

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The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill was the soundtrack when it came out in 1998.  I’m thrilled she’s doing a 20th Anniversary Tour and that she’s coming to Stockholm on December 10th.  I’ll be checking this one out with my daughter!

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In between all this stimulation :), I’ll squeeze in relaxing weekends by the fire with my family in the Swedish archipelago.  What are you looking most forward to this Fall?  I’d love to hear your thoughts and recommendations!


July 2nd loomed large in my mind for months as I counted the days until Lagging Indicators would be released.  When that fateful date arrived, I was nervous but at peace:  I had done my best.  After years of research, writing, and rejections from traditional publishers, my decision to self-publish was the closure I’d been seeking.  I’d been posting teasers on Instagram and this blog for several weeks, generating some curiosity among my friends.  Many had pre-ordered the book and showed me a level of support and encouragement that still warms my heart.  Once the print and e-book became available on book-buying sites, the waiting game began.

Of course, I was eager to see what readers would think, but hadn’t expected all the valuable intelligence and insight I would gain in the process!  I’d shifted gears from a dreamy creative journey to a wild ride through the contemporary book world, picking up a crash course on promotions, marketing, social media, and influential literary websites along the way.  A whole new universe had opened up; one that I had shied away from because of my own struggles as a writer.  Rather than be daunted, it only reaffirmed that I want to do this. Here’s what I’ve learned in these last two months:

  1. The reading public is alive and well.  With hectic schedules, we have so little discretionary time and how we choose to spend it is precious.  I was worried that in this Age of Netflix and the surrealness of current events (facts being stranger than fiction), people would be less likely to pick up a book for entertainment.  I couldn’t have been more wrong!  The literary community is thriving.  One only has to look at social media to find book lovers who gleefully post their current reads, reviews, and #TBR lists (a hashtag acronym for “to-be-read” that I just learned).  In spite of all the screens and images to distract, people are still craving the written word.  This has been the most gratifying realization.

  2. A community of family, friends, and well-wishers goes a long way.  Even small words of pep made a huge difference in settling my publishing nerves.  As a result, I’ve learned to pay it forward by not only supporting other writers but also artists, designers, entrepreneurs, Ph.D. candidates… I try to lift up anyone working hard and pursuing a dream!

  3. Writing may be my passion but self-promotion is my job.  I have to get Lagging Indicators and myself out there.  While I’m a writer first and foremost, I’m also an entrepreneur building a brand, especially as a self-published, indie author.  No one will know about my book unless I make it visible.

  4. Engaging with social media is important.  I’m a big fan of Instagram (you can follow me at, but it can be tricky.  You don’t want to appear braggy, pushy or inauthentic, so it’s important to find that balance between marketing and authenticity.  Be yourself!  On Instagram, I can feature all the different things that I enjoy and from which I draw inspiration.  Followers are potential readers too.  Interact with them and ask questions in some posts to create a dialogue. I follow other established writers to see how they present themselves and even New York Times best-selling authors pursue a strategy of connecting with their audience via Instagram.  If Tayari JonesElizabeth Gilbert, and Emily Giffin, can do it, then so can I!

  5. Don’t be afraid to hustle.  This can be intimidating if you’re not naturally wired that way.  I’m more of a soft-sell type, but it’s a very competitive landscape and I have to work hard to find a niche.  What makes Lagging Indicators unique?  Why should a reader buy it or a bookseller stock it in their store?  I have my selling points and, luckily, my pitch only gets better with time as the feedback comes in.  While it’s important to understand my demographic, I also don’t want to limit myself.  I’m continuously brainstorming for new, interesting activities and events that I can tie-in with the book.  Giveaways are a great tool to create buzz.  Reposting pictures of real people reading my book has also been alot of fun.  I love getting pictures of the #bookinthewild (another new Instagram expression/hashtag for me).  Ask friends to leave reviews on book-buying sites.  Book clubs and panels are also excellent ways to increase one’s author profile.  For example, my own Book Group event in May has led to inclusion at the Stockholm Writers Festival next spring.  I’ve also sent books to media personalities, influencers and thought leaders whom I admire.  I don’t know if they’ll even open their copy of Lagging Indicators, but I had nothing to lose by reaching out to them!

  6. Keep abreast of the industry.  I’ve been educating myself on the contemporary female fiction/women’s fiction genre as well as comparable authors.  It’s crucial to remain up-to-date about other writers, trends, best-seller lists, deals, events, marketing strategies, etc.  It’s a lot to manage at times, but an hour or two each day can yield useful actionable information.  Plus, I love doing this, so I never consider it tedious work!

  7. Talk about your work with pride.  Don’t be shy!  This can seem awkward in certain situations but usually leads to really interesting discussions.

  8. Carry the book with you at all times. You never know if someone will ask to see it or want to buy a copy from you.  I love taking pictures of the book in different cities, countries, and settings.  Having it with me like an extra limb has become a welcome habit.

  9. My skin is thicker than I thought.  I assumed I would fall to pieces over a lukewarm review, but I took it in stride.  It was more like “Hmmmm…” rather than “Ugh!” I see (constructive) criticism as learning opportunities and try not to take it personally.  I won’t become discouraged and will keep writing for my own development.  And no matter how hard I try, I can’t please everyone…

  10. I’ve already started to think about my next book.  Given the thirteen years between Uptown and Down and Lagging Indicators, this is big news for me indeed!  But the past year of putting a laser-like focus on my writing, immersing myself in the self-publishing process, and following the book world has given me so much joy and purpose.  Yes, it’s a slog sometimes, but this is where I want to be.  I want to keep this momentum going so that I don’t fall into a slump.

  11. Finally, I’ve drawn so much energy and motivation from the feedback I’ve received.  I’m floored by some of the in-depth analysis that pointed things out I hadn’t fully contemplated, opening my eyes to additional themes and issues.  Many readers could relate to Mia’s struggles and were rooting for her.  Others told me that she stayed in their minds long after they’d finished the book.  Some have even suggested Lagging Indicators should be a miniseries and that I should write a sequel.  Stay tuned…


Last month, my seventeen-year-old daughter, Yasmine, and I took a trip to Haiti.  I was born in New York, but my parents are from Haiti and I was eager to visit the country again and to introduce Yasmine to her Haitian roots.

I spent a couple of summers in Haiti as a teenager.  First in 1985 when dictator François “Baby Doc” Duvalier was still in power and the country functioned in a kind of sinister calm.  I was aware of the repression but was carried aloft by seeing extended family, making new friends and nursing an adolescent crush–generally hanging out in a state of blissful ignorance as teenagers do.  I came back in 1988 after Baby Doc had been ousted from power and fled for exile in France.  Many of the same people and places that had left such an imprint on me were now battered and bruised; homes looted, persons violated, innocence and livelihoods robbed.  Poverty and despair shadowed every corner of the island, but there remained hope that a new leader could lead Haiti out of the rubble.

In 1990, former Roman Catholic priest Jean-Bertrand Aristide was elected president in Haiti’s first free election.  A year later, he was overthrown in a military coup.  My last trip occurred in 1996, a few years after US troops oversaw the return of Aristide and the establishment of a UN peacekeeping presence.  Foreign aid had become a daily fixture and this reality would only increase after the devastating earthquake in 2010 that killed anywhere from 200,000-300,000 people.  For years, I’d expressed an interest in returning to Haiti but was discouraged: too poor, too depressing, too unstable…  This time, however, Yasmine’s curiosity and youthful stubbornness overcame any apprehension or resistance.  We set off for the island with my father in tow.

Upon landing, I was greeted by a familiar scent–burning wood swirling through the moist, hot air–and it felt like no time had passed at all.  The airport was less chaotic than I’d expected and I took in the medley of people who had flown over with us.  I saw Haitians, many in their Sunday best, returning home.  Clusters of mostly white missionaries in identical tee-shirts wore expressions of purpose as they prepared to build wells or construct houses.  Yasmine, my father and I comprised another group: the diaspora, Haitians who had left or been born elsewhere and were now scattered in Brooklyn, Miami, Boston, Atlanta, Paris and, in my case, Stockholm.

Our journey began with a wonderful dinner at my cousin’s home in the mountains.  Most of my father’s side of the family had gathered there and I was overjoyed to see their faces and feel the outpouring of positive energy and love.  This is a connection I miss living so far away in Sweden, both from my immediate family in New York and my sprawling clan in Haiti.  Yasmine had never met most of her cousins, but her immediate bond with them only proved that she felt just as Haitian as she did Swedish.

Haiti is a complex, messy, stunning, contradictory, magical place.  Columbus named it Hispaniola after he landed in 1492 and the subsequent cruel introduction of slavery by the Spanish and French permeated every aspect of the island for centuries.  It was the first black republic, fighting for and gaining independence from the French in 1804–still the only successful slave revolt in human history.  That triumph lingers, but  Haiti today is also the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.

The country’s past and current challenges have been well-documented elsewhere, but for me, Haiti is like coming home to a favorite auntie with an abundance of soul, flavor, fire, and passion.  She always welcomes me back with open arms and reserves judgment, forgiving the long stretches of time between visits.  Everything is heightened in intensity too–the pleasure and the pain; the pride, dignity, and resolve amid the hardship.  Yasmine and I absorbed all we could and the snapshots below are our impressions, from where we stood, during our week-long séjour en Ayiti…


We stayed at the Karibe Hotel in Petion-Ville, which provided us with a convenient location between Port-au-Prince, the capital, and the mountains of Kenscoff.  Karibe was very nice with attentive staff, beautiful grounds and a delicious rooftop restaurant.  I enjoyed sitting in the garden and watching the diverse guests.


The bougainvilleas spilling from the walls and entryways were a welcome pop of color on hazy days or when we sat in rush-hour traffic.


Haitians carrying their wares or selling goods in the open-air markets were a ubiquitous sight.


The tap-taps, meaning “quick-quick,” are brightly painted pick-up trucks that have been fitted with a roof and seats and function as a means of public transport.  The graphics usually have a religious significance.


One day we had lunch at the charming Gingerbread Resturant and I indulged in my favorite Haitian dish: griot (fried pork shoulder); pikliz (spicy pepper and onion salsa); bananes pesées (fried plantains); and an icy glass of Couronne–a deliciously sweet and refreshing fruit soda.

The vibrant art of Haiti is world-famous. Talent abounds, both in the “naive art” that can be purchased from street vendors and in those by trained artists found in the galleries.  Yasmine fell in love with this painting below.  I think the confidence and irreverent style of the girl resonated with her!


Revolutionary heroes such as Toussaint L’Ouverture are proudly depicted in the art.  These pieces were exhibited at Galerie Monnin.

We took a fantastic day trip to Furcy.  It was a beautiful region, mountainous and green.  The ride had us driving through winding roads and entering small villages with shops and food stations.  Merchants sold goods while kids played soccer, using rocks or bottles as a ball.  World Cup fever had overtaken Haiti and it was fun to see where their allegiance lay!


We also spent the weekend at the beach and I marveled at the turquoise water, which I could stare at for hours.  The Caribbean Sea was so warm and I didn’t hesitate for a moment taking a swim.

More postcards from everyday scenes around Port-au-Prince.

And, yes, I foisted copies of Lagging Indicators onto my Haitian relatives!

The meatballs à la ABBA on the menu at Totto Resturant, where we went for brunch on our last full day, was a reminder that we would be heading back to our lives in Sweden.  However, as Haiti is prone to do, she laid claim to our hearts and we promised ourselves that the time in between would not be as great.


Days after we left, unrest broke out due to a rise in fuel prices.  That increase has been suspended and I hope there can be far-reaching reforms to bring services and a suitable standard of living for the Haitian people.  We came as “tourists” and relished every experience, but know that daily life in Haiti is difficult.  I still encourage people to visit this intriguing country.  Tourism and investment are the future.  Haitians are warm, multifaceted, determined, resilient, entrepreneurial people who deserve a chance for their country to thrive!

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