February 14, 2017

the jane to my lizzy

In honor of Valentine's Day falling on a Tuesday--the day I am (theoretically) supposed to write a new blog post--I planned to celebrate great loves. I'm talking Darcy and Lizzy, Rochester and Jane, Logan and Mary Anne (I'm so not over that--SPOILER ALERT--breakup).

But when it came to time do it, another love came to mind. One that is just as complicated and wonderful and beautiful as all the great romances. A real one. This week, I felt called to write about the love between sisters.

Growing up, our parents made every holiday fun. It's why I love them all. We grew up treating Valentine's Day as a day where we celebrated our love for each other as a family. So it only feels fitting to celebrate one of my great loves--my little sister.

I've written about my sister before (some of my favorite mentions are here, here, here, here, here, and here), but basically I struck gold/hit the jackpot/insert your favorite cliche about luck when it comes to sisters.

My sister is two years, ten months, and 26-ish (I'm too lazy to do the actual math) days younger than me. As such, I don't recall much of my life without her. I do have a few memories, and the strongest was in the weeks--maybe months--before her birth. I remember knowing they were going to have a baby, and even though they planned to be surprised, I just knew I was going to have a little sister. Maybe I wished it into reality, but a few weeks before I turned three, my little sister was born.

That's another early memory. One that's only a flash I remember being at the hospital and standing at the nursery window and being as happy and excited as an almost three-year-old can be knowing that my little sister was there, nestled in a crib on the other side of the glass.

From then on, I don't really have any memories that don't include my sister. Not just because she's my sister--though that would be enough. She's my best friend. She's been my ride-or-die since before I knew--or had heard of--the whole ride-or-die concept.

She's the person who played school with me when I wanted to be the teacher and need a student. (She also gave me regular reality checks early on by deciding she was over the game when I assigned too much homework and became too bossy.)

She's always been my favorite companion for real and imaginary adventures. Like when we created the characters of Annie Anna Jones and Annie Anna Jones Jr--two archaeologists excavating our backyard in search of treasures before they could fall into the wrong hands.

She was my first roommate and also my first co-worker when we had to spend what felt like every Saturday cleaning our room, because we had way more books and clothes and toys than shelf or drawer space.

She's the first person I talk to when I have a new story idea. She helps talk me through plot problems--and also up off the floor when I'm having a dramatic meltdown and saying I have no business being a writer.

She's the person who knows me best. The person I would trust with my life. (And--hopefully this is never tested--I'd alibi her on anything, no questions asked.)

That's not to say every day is lemon drops and gum drops or braiding each other's hair while we talk about boys. We're sisters. We fight. There's no one who can rip my heart out more than her. (And, incidentally, there's no one who I regret hurting more than her.) There are a couple of stories from our childhood--where each of us plays the villain--that I could share to back that up. But its not Christmas or Easter, when those past sins are usually trotted out for the amusement of family, so you'll just have to take my word.

But we get through it. Like I said, we're ride-or-die.

She's the Jane to my Lizzy. So much so that I'd love nothing more than for us to find--and fall--for a couple of handsome BFFs, who we'll marry in a double New Year's Eve wedding before we settle in neighboring estates--err . . . houses. I would seriously love all of that. So much that I'm keeping this dream alive no matter how many times my sister rolls her eyes and sighs when I tell people about my plan. Sorry, not sorry, little sister. It's totally happening, and you can thank me for it later when it becomes our reality and it's completely awesome. (I'll try not to gloat.)

I love my sister--more than anything else in the world. She has a huge heart, a great sense of humor, and a true wish to make herself and our world better--even if we're both still figuring out how to do that. But here's the deal--the total truth. My world is better, because my sister is in it, and because I get to be in hers.

Happy Valentine's Day, little sister. I love you.

*** 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. I post new videos on YouTube every Thursday and 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. ***

February 13, 2017

#chicklitlove hop

Join 49 chick lit and romantic comedy authors in celebrating friendship and romance in the #ChickLitLove Hop on Facebook. We'll honor Galentine's Day on February 13 and Valentine's Day on February 14 with giveaways, freebies, and entries for the chance to win the grand prizes of SpaFinder gift certificates.

Here's a list of the participating authors:

GALENTINE'S DAY (Monday, February 13)

VALENTINE'S DAY (Tuesday, February 14)

Check the Facebook event page (click here to join) throughout the days of February 13 and 14 for prompts on where to hop next and how to enter to win prizes. Be sure to check out the Galentines and Valentines shared on each the pages. You'll learn more about your favorite characters and meet new ones. Plus, you never know. Maybe you'll find the perfect way to say "I love you" to the loved ones in your life.

We'll see you at the party!

February 2, 2017

coming soon . . . playing house

Coming to an e-reader/bookshelf near you...

She's a work in progress . . .

Bailey Meredith has had it. As an assistant at a prestigious interior design firm, she’s tired of making coffee and filing invoices. She’ll do just about anything to get out from under the paperwork and into the field for real experience. Then she sees an ad for a job that seems too good to be true. 

He's a fixer upper . . .

Wilder Aldrich knew she would be perfect for the crew the moment he saw her. His hit home improvement show only hired the best, and Bailey had potential written all over her. It isn’t just her imaginative creativity and unmatched work ethic that grabs his attention. There’s just something about her. 

With chemistry on screen, it’s only a matter of time before sparks fly behind the scenes as well. But with Bailey’s jaded views on romance and a big secret that could destroy Wilder and everyone he cares about, are either of them willing to risk it all for love? 

Writing this book was a bit of a departure for me as it's my first sexy romantic comedy. (Sorry, not sorry, Mom and Dad.) It was also crazy fun. Plus, I actually had permission to binge-watch hours and hours (and hours and hours) of my favorite HGTV shows, because, hey, research! Thank you to my friend, the super-talented Katie Nieland for creating this gorgeous cover (and doing it for someone who kept saying, "How about we try..."). Love it.

You can pre-order Playing House now on Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo now for $2.99. You can also add it to your to-read shelf on Goodreads.

If you are a blogger, vlogger, bookstagrammer, or podcaster and would like to join the Promo Team for Playing House, please click here to sign up. I will send out the marketing materials and Advanced Reader Copies before the end of the month.

January 31, 2017

the blah, blah, blahs

My brain is on vacation or hiatus. It hasn't told me which or where.

They're called the winter blues for a reason. Something about being cooped up inside and missing out on sunlight, which depletes our energy and gives us a funk. (It's science.) I've always found this to be an interesting sort of explanation, at least for me. While I definitely get the winter blues, I find it hard to believe it's all weather related. I mean, it's not like I'm an outdoorsy person in the spring or summer. So am I really getting that much less sunlight? (Maybe I am. I'm not a scientist.)

It's no surprise that in the final days of January, with the distance between the holidays and today growing bigger and bigger, I'm pretty drained. Unmotivated. Maybe even a little bummed--or bored. It's hard to say. It's not like I'm unhappy. Not even fully exhausted. Just ennui with a touch of apathy.

Yes, it's true. I have the blah, blah, blahs.

This really became more apparent to me yesterday when a fellow author/friend mentioned how nice I make the writing life look on my Instagram feed. It's true, I usually try to highlight the nice, because I truly feel lucky to be telling stories and have anyone want to read them. But it isn't always pretty and filtered. And maybe I'm not being honest by only showing the good in my attempt to be positive.

So here it is: honesty. The past few months have been hard for me as a writer.

For any number of reasons, the words just aren't flowing as nicely as I'd like. For one, my head and heart are full of thoughts and feelings that have little relevance to the stories I'm trying to tell. I could try to ignore them, but they're too important to erase. Also, as I mentioned, it's winter. I'm not outdoorsy, but I miss the sun and not wearing a coat or gloves. I'm also probably giving into temptation to buy donuts and cookies at the store too often (which is either a lack of willpower or an attempt to give myself short bursts of energy and excitement through the ennui). These and other issues are all swirling together to make me a bit of a pile. I'm an author pile.

I've tried all of my usual practices to get myself out of this funk: going to a favorite cafe, reading other stories that inspire, re-working my outline/character charts, drinking more water, taking baths. When those have failed, I've tried new approaches: ordering a writing desk to try writing in bed before work, carving out specific time to relax, etc. These attempts haven't been a total failure. I still managed to write some words this month. But each word feels hard fought. I feel like my head is full of cobwebs or slush.

Then there are the comparisons. Even as I'm painting a pretty picture of my world via photos and quirky posts, I'm comparing myself to others. If I could change one thing about myself, it would be that I'd stop holding myself up against others in an effort to see what they have that I don't have. That's not healthy. Admiring others--appreciating their successes--is okay. But looking at them to try to find some magical spark about them that proves why they're better than you isn't good for anyone. It's unfair and unkind to myself and to everyone else.

Still, I keep trying. Because if I've learned anything while living with anxiety issues and bouts of depression, it's that I have to keep trying, to keep moving on. Otherwise I get stuck, which feels worse.

I'm not 100 percent sure what I'm trying to say here with this post. (As I've mentioned, I'm struggling to put my thoughts together at this time--particularly when it comes to writing.) I guess my big point is that it's okay to have down times. It's even better to know when you're managing or when you need to do something more or different. Like for me right now, I'm managing. But that's about all I'm doing.

I've been managing for a couple of months now, and I need to do more than that. Maybe I go back into counseling. Maybe I carve out more time for exercise. Maybe I take more of a break from social media. Maybe I cut out processed sugars. (I really hope I can change my feelings and thinking without swearing off sugar!) Maybe I need to ask for more help. It's okay to ask for help. It's okay if everything isn't always pretty and filtered.

Other point of this post: It's also okay to sometimes write a somewhat (or maybe totally) nonsensical blog post or scene just to keep yourself writing through periods when the words aren't flowing easily. At least that's what I'll keep telling myself too.

*** 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. I post new videos on YouTube every Thursday and 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. ***

January 17, 2017

anticipating the worst

On one of the first frigid mornings this winter, I woke the way I do most days: with my little boy cat, Bingley, scaling my back to come sit on my side. The temperatures had dropped rapidly overnight. Id failed to have the foresight--or maybe motivation--to add a thermal blanket or trade the cotton sheets for flannel, I'd pulled the comforter over my head like a makeshift cocoon. Apparently distressed by his inability to see my face, Bingley went about tugging the covers loose inch by inch. He did it biscuit-baking style, which only made this process more laborious.

This only gave me more time to consider what would happen next. Just what exactly did Bingley have in mind once he'd uncovered me?

Several possibilities came to mind. Most involved him sticking his nose in my eye or ear. He does that last one a lot, and it's basically the kitten equivalent of a wet willy. Only he usually accompanies that with a meow, which means a wet ear AND Bing in surround sound. There was also a good chance he'd lick me. While I'm flattered he loves me and wants to show affection, my friends, there are few things that feel stranger than a cat's rough tongue scraping over your forehead. (Plus, I have enough of Bridget Jones in me to worry that it's a sign I may wind up one day dead and alone, eaten by my cats. How's that for a morbid thought to start the day.) At least I assume he does it because he loves me. The cats always have some dry food and water in their bowls, so that's the only explanation I can come up with. That or Bing enjoys inflicting discomfort on others. It could go either way.

So I stayed there, keeping as still as possible, hoping he might give up on his mission all the while worrying about what he would do. Even though it probably took minutes versus seconds, he never gave up on his quest. The cover came down inch by inch, the cold air greeting my skin, sending even more chills down my spine.

I wonder if he's dreaming about new ways to wake me up.

At last Bingley succeeded. I froze, clenching my eyes shut, bracing myself for the moment he'd get me.

Seemingly exhausted from the effort, he collapsed heavily onto my shoulder. One paw was draped over my back, the other to my chest. His face leaned forward, his light breath chilled my neck. Then, he rested his furry cheek against mine and passed out.

It was maybe the cutest, sweetest moment I've ever had with my cat. Made even better by the fact I'd been preparing myself for the worst only to have him surprise me with a show of affection that I couldn't pass up. Even if it came before dawn.

I've been meditating on this exchange off and on since. I'm sure there's a lesson of sorts to be learned here. Something about how so often in life I often prepare myself for the worst. Maybe we all do that. It's a learned behavior. Something we've picked up after being burned before. It's hard not to worry. It's hard not to be scared when you don't know exactly what comes next. It's hard to forget about past upsets.

I do this all the time. I panicked about my trip to France last April. I acted like a real a-hole to other people and really braced myself for disappointment. It ended up being one of my highlights of the year. No, it wasn't perfect, but missing a train and ending up killing time with a plate of croissants and fresh-squeezed orange juice wasn't exactly a tragedy. I also came up with my current work-in-progress while I sat in a cafe one evening waiting out a rainstorm (and protest) that left us stranded several blocks from our home base.

I mean, seriously. Check out that set-up.
Not a bad way to spend a couple hours at all.

Life is full of surprises. Some of those surprises are sweet. Those deserve just as much consideration (maybe even more) than my always anticipating the worst. It's not easy to change something so ingrained in our personalities (or at least in mine). But it's probably worth a shot.

*** 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. I post new videos on YouTube every Thursday and 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. ***