July 20, 2017

see you in orlando?

I don't remember my first book. I'm not talking about as a writer. You never forget that experience. But I don't remember my first story as a reader and collector. Knowing my family, my first book probably came as a gift a baby shower or sometime during my mom's pregnancy. I also don't remember the first story I was read. Again, I can pretty much guarantee it happened within my first days. I was lucky to have big brothers, parents, grandparents, and aunts and uncles who were surely eager to tell me a story.

This all sounds very Forrest Gumpian. I know.

I've been fortunate to be a lifelong reader and book collector. Books have been one of the greatest influences in my life. They've defined me. I'm so lucky. Because I recognize not everyone has easy access to books or people to read them. That's why I'm proud to participate in the Romance Writers of America's "Readers for Life" Literacy Signing on Saturday, July 29, from 3-5 p.m. at Walt Disney World® Dolphin Resort, Pacific Hall. I'll be there along with 400 other authors to support ProLiteracy and the Florida Literacy Coalition.

Truly, I recognize and appreciate my privilege of being surrounded by books and words. That's why I have to do a little something to give back. Everyone deserves the joy of picking out a story at a book fair or from a store. Everyone deserves a chance to escape into a world of wizards, prairies, babysitting, or whatever might catch their fancy.

Everyone deserves a chance to find their voice to tell their story. Every person has a story to tell. True, fiction, or some kind of mixture. The best way to have that chance to tell it is to discover other stories and have the resources to do it.

I'm proud of RWA for passing on the love of literacy to others. And I'm honored to be part of this event.

If you find yourself in and around Orlando on July 29, I hope you'll stop by, say hello, and help support these wonderful organizations. Click here for more information on the event.

I'll have copies of Playing House and The Marrying Type available for purchase and signing. Remember, proceeds will go to support ProLiteracy and the Florida Literacy Coalition.

***Let's take this relationship to the next level. Follow me on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter for day-to-day shenanigans. Subscribe to my newsletter for monthly updates and new release/sales notices.***

July 18, 2017

meeting readers

About a year ago, I made a few goals. I'd just turned thirty. I was feeling pretty introspective, retrospective, and whatever other -spectives are out there. Going into my thirties, I had a lot on my mind about who I am and what I want to make of this life.

That included my writing career. I thought about what I want from and to do with it. Then, I thought about what I needed to do to make it happen. It came down to three main goals:
  1. Network and build more relationships in the industry to broaden my support system.
  2. Develop my craft and storytelling skills.
  3. Interact with readers better; grow readership.
I'll come back to the first two points in other posts, but today let's cover one part of the third goal: reader interaction.

Like plenty of other authors, I lean toward introvert. I have fun spending time with friends. I love exploring and traveling. I like grabbing a drink at a bar and trying new restaurants. Of course, my default mode in these occasions includes people watching (and studying) rather than being a social butterfly. But after doing that, I need to log some serious downtime by myself at home with my cats and Roku.

(Perhaps worth nothing, this seems to be in stark contrast to my early childhood persona when I spent my afternoons at my neighborhood friends' house drinking tea with their moms during nap time. Or maybe that means I've always been more of a one-on-one kind of girl who is a bit of an old soul.)

To make myself step out of my comfort zone, and my house, I decided to do more author signings. They're a great way to have literal face-to-face connections with readers and to meet new people. Since publishing my debut novel, more than three years ago, I've only done one signing. It was just my book and me at the local independent book store. It was nerve-wracking and wonderful, but I held onto the first part and didn't do it again.

That was silly.

So I've made a point to say "yes" when I have an opportunity to participate in a signing. It's not like I've ever had people knocking down more door asking me to do them, but I've paid more attention to listings for upcoming multi-author events. And when I see them, I get in touch.

My first one back on the market was last November. The Ready to Read Romance signing in November was my first after re-releasing my books independently following my publisher's closing.

Here's my set-up:

I really didn't know what to expect, but I set with buttons, bookmarks, and a poster I designed and had printed. I signed up for Square so I could accept credit cards and took along copies of all of my books and novellas.

The day ended up being a lot of fun. I signed copies of my books, met new readers, and had some lovely conversations. I even found the world's cutest couple, who I want to write about (but don't have permission to do so publicly), but let's just say they gave me serious relationship goals.

In April, I participated in a smaller multi-author signing, the Winey Romantics. Held at a local vineyard, I had an author friend along as my "assistant" and a delicious bottle of chilled sangria-style wine to sip on all day. I'd also stepped up my display a bit.

And just Saturday I spent a couple hours at the Nebraska Book Festival signing at the Jane Pope Geske Heritage Room of Nebraska Authors table. It was hot and humid, but I tried out a new lipstick color and talked with other local authors and poets.

At each signing, I learn a little something I can carry forward to the next. Probably my biggest takeaway is to have fun with presentation. Back in November, I was lucky to have a scarf in my bag that perked up the table. In April, I introduced little figurines for signs and thematic ribbons to wrap books up in for taking books home.

I'm not saying it means more sales, but it does perk up the table. And, hey, how cute do these Queen of the League books look with this football field ribbon?

I have another signing coming up in two weeks. This will be my first out of state and the largest. I'll be at the Romance Writers of America's "Readers for Life" Autograph Signing on Saturday, July 29, from 3-5 p.m. at the Walt Disney World® Dolphin Resort, Pacific Hall. It's a thrill to be signing alongside so many other authors and even better to know proceeds will go to good causes.

I'm still figuring out how best to do signings, but each time, it feels a bit easier.

***Let's take this relationship to the next level. Follow me on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter for day-to-day shenanigans. Subscribe to my newsletter for monthly updates and new release/sales notices.***

June 7, 2017

the monster at the end of the book

It's been a while, but please join me in the trust circle as I reveal one of my deepest, darkest secrets...

I don't remember how it happened the first time. Actually, I don't even remember the first time I did it. But once upon a time, I picked up a new-to-me book and found myself flipping to the final pages for a little skim.

It always starts as a skim.

I just want to make sure everyone lives till the end. I hate when my favorites don't make it till the end.

Of course, I mostly read romance--and romantic comedies at that--so it's kind of rare for me to encounter a major bloodbath in a book. Still, even romances can have bad endings.

I'm just checking to make sure this ends well. I need to make sure there's a happily ever after--and that its a good one. 

When you have a to-be read pile that grows faster than you can keep up with--and you're a re-reader to boot--there's an added pressure to make sure you're in it to win it before you read a story. At least, that's one of the many other excuses I tell myself as I check the last couple of pages.

Still, the last couple pages alone don't do much. A few key words or phrases will pique my interest, and I'll find myself desperately needing the context. So I flip back a few more pages. Maybe just to the last chapter. By now, I'm not even skimming, I'm full-fledged reading. And I'm full of questions, so I find myself flipping through other pages. Again, it starts as a skim, but I end up reading full passages, even chapters, before I've really even started the story.

And, yes, while we're at it, I am one of those people who looks up spoilers for TV shows. I do remember the first time I did that. It was the last season of Gilmore Girls, and I felt like I had no ability to enjoy the show as long as I didn't know everything was going to work out (the way I wanted) in the end. Then came The Bachelor spoilers and Bones and Parks and Recreation and so on.

It's disgusting. I know. It's depraved. I get it. I've been told as much by teachers, friends, and fellow readers. "How can you spoil the ending of your story?" "As an author, how could you do that to another writer--ruin their story by reading the ending first?" "Why are you this way?" "What's wrong with you?"


The short answer: I don't know.

I really do hope I'm not destroying any other authors' lives out their by admitting that unless I'm listening to an audiobook, chances are better than not that I've at least read the final ten pages of their books before I've finished the first chapter. And I wish I knew why I did it. Because even with the explanations I've given, I can only think of a few cases where reading the ending put me off of picking up the whole book in general.

Maybe it's just a character quirk. Kind of like someone who always blows a kiss at yellow lights as they speed through before it turns red. (That's another one of my quirks, actually. One I stole from a friend.)

I'm guessing it's something more telling. That it says something about who I am as a person.

I'm not really one for surprises. Or rather, I enjoy a surprise if I don't know there's one coming. Like, a year ago, when my good friends teamed up with my sister to surprise me with a trip to Disneyland. That was a fun surprise. One I loved. But I've never really liked knowing that something was coming (even a good surprise, like a Christmas present) and not being included on the details. That's not even hating surprises. That's more like a serious case of FOMO. Maybe I'm just super controlling.

I also like to know where I'm going. When I get into my car--or arrive at the airport--I like to know my exact destination, when I need to be there, and what other obstacles might arise along the way. If something comes up, I can--and will--adjust, but I still have to know where I'm headed. I have to have that goal to look toward.

Perhaps it's some combination. Like, with all the uncertainty we face in the world, I like to control--and know--what I can. Even if it takes away some of the fun. Whatever it is, that's one of my deepest, darkest secrets. I wish I could say that now that this is out in the open, I'll change my ways. But who am I kidding?

Are any of you end-of-the-book-reading monsters like me? Why do you think you do it?

*** Let's keep in touch! You can find out what's going on in my world between blog posts by following my daily adventures on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram. You can subscribe to my monthly newsletter here. You can also find out more about my books by visiting my website, www.laurachapmanbooks.com. Whew. ***

June 5, 2017

romantic summer reading challenge

Hey, book lovers! Remember those summer reading programs from when we were kids? You would read a certain number of books and get a pizza. Or maybe if you completed a list of books you received a certificate and a prize from the librarian. Why should the fun end just because we're adults? Join us this summer for the inaugural Romantic Summer Reading Challenge

Now through midnight (CDT) September 4, read all ten books on our reading list to win prizes. This year’s featured books include:

How does it work? When you finish each book on the list, leave a review on Amazon or Goodreads. Then, once you are done with all ten, copy the links on the entry form, complete the rest of the information, and submit it. After September 4, everyone who completes the challenge will receive a free ebook from one of the authors’ backlist. You will also be entered in the drawing for a chance to win one of ten prize packages created by the authors (valued at $20 each) and the grand prize of a $100 Amazon gift card. (No purchase necessary to win. Prize packages limited to U.S. residents only this year.)

What if you’ve already read one (or more) of the books on this list? It still counts. Just post your review and share the link on the form.

If this sounds like fun way to discover new authors, score a free book, and enter for a chance to win prizes, please join us! You can also follow the Facebook page, which will include author takeovers that give you a chance to interact with authors and other readers throughout the summer.

*** Let's keep in touch! You can find out what's going on in my world between blog posts by following my daily adventures on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram. You can subscribe to my monthly newsletter here. You can also find out more about my books by visiting my website, www.laurachapmanbooks.com. Whew. ***

April 25, 2017

visualizing my plot

I'm working on the first draft of my seventh novel right now. This is the first book in what I anticipate being a six-book series (with two spin-offs). Each book will focus on a different pair, but characters will make appearances in multiple stories and the timeline matters a lot.

With this big project in the works, I've done a few new things from a creating/crafting standpoint.

1. I created a series bible.

This is the physical version, but it also exists in a Scrivener file that will carryover from story to story. It includes detailed character sketches for the main characters, my outline, and major beats. But it also includes tools for me to track what characters reveal about their back story and personality--particularly in the stories where they're background characters. This will hopefully help me stay consistent and avoid having someone change eye colors from book to book.

Here's how the content of my physical series bible breaks down:

Section 1: Overall Series (timeline of books, character key (a living document where I will add elements revealed about reoccurring characters in each story for consistency/continuity), setting sketches (my current project focuses around a bar, so I created a floor plan and a small file of photos of different elements that exist in the bar))

Sections 2-7: Separate folder for each story, then within that:

  • Tab 1: Cover image (This is subject to change, but designing it helped put me in the mindset to tell this story)
  • Tab 2: Word count tracker
  • Tab 3: 10-Scene Outline
  • Tab 4: Working Synopsis (scene by scene/chapter outline, which also changes and evolves as I write)
  • Tab 5: Main Character sketches (I have two main characters in each of these stories and the sketches are four pages long, which includes a photograph of an actor/actress who looks a lot like I envision this character)
  • Tab 6: Secondary Character sketches (also contain a photo and bullet points with what we will know about this character in the book--and maybe a hint of what readers will eventually come to know--that are one-page each)
  • Tab 7: List of extremely minor characters who are only mentioned and maybe a one- or two-line description of who they are and their role in the story (this is one I'm working on as I go--I'm still outlining, and rando characters pop up as I write)
  • Tab 8: Setting sketches (with specific scenes being used in this particular story, which include locations that will be one-offs or revisited in one or two stories down the road)

It's so pretty. Seriously. I sometimes just sit and hold my little series bible and admire it to the point that I wonder if it's even necessary to write the book, because I put together such a lovely binder of supporting documents.

Then, I remind myself that I put a lot of time and energy into creating that lovely binder with its supporting documents, so I should probably put it to work.

Plus... at some point during the creating process, one of my kittens must've stepped in something then tracked it across the cover. So now it's decorated with his or her (I'm guessing this has Bing written all over it, though) handiwork too. Love.

If you're curious about making your own series bible, I used a few resources. One was a workshop I attended led by members of my local Romance Writers of America chapter. The other was this blog post.

As for the other tool I'm using...

2. I made a plot wall.

Yes, look at that. Isn't it a thing of beauty? Basically, one of the easiest ways for me to visualize my story line is to jot down a couple of notes about each scene and organize it chapter by chapter. I've done this on a couple of other books, then I use those notes to create a more thorough working synopsis, which I keep in my Scrivener file and my bible.

(If you'd like some tips on plotting out scenes, here's a great resource from Writers Digest.)

This time (also at the advice of a local RWA member) I used index cards to brainstorm conflict and tension that would keep the story going. I asked why can't she/he love him/her? And I focused on what stands in the way of her/him fulfilling their main goals.

It seemed like such a waste to set those index cards aside, never to be used again. And, now that I have my own office for creating, I figured I'd give them new life by hanging them on the closet doors in my office. They're not completely organized by acts, but that's not a totally incorrect way of looking at it. Mostly, there's the beginning. There's the ending. And then the middle is split into two parts that make sense to me and where the characters are on their development arc.

This serves a couple of good points. For one, I can look up at it from my desk and really visualize where I am in the story and what should--and should not--be revealed as I write. Two, I can see it from my treadmill, so even when I'm burning a few calories, I have my story literally in sight. And three... it's just kind of nice to have. I mean, whenever I pass my office, whenever I enter it, there's no avoiding my current WIP.

Down the road, as I write more and more, I hope I'll also be able to look at this and see how far I've come. At the very least, it doesn't hurt anything, right? I'll keep you posted on how this works out.

What are some tools you use for planning and plotting your stories? How do you stay motivated? Feel free to share any tips you might have in the comments.

*** Let's keep in touch! You can find out what's going on in my world between blog posts by following my daily adventures on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram. You can subscribe to my monthly newsletter here. You can also find out more about my books by visiting my website, www.laurachapmanbooks.com. Whew. ***