December 31, 2012

a quick look back at 2012


Another year is almost over, which means it is time for me to take a look back at my sometimes hot mess of a life and reflect on the past year. I'm pleased to say that, in general, I didn't screw up too badly this year and am proud of many of my accomplishments.

But before I get too deep and ponderful, let's take a look back at some of my favorite things.

Books
In addition to my Top Reads of 2012 (you can read them here), I read (or listened to) a bunch of wonderful books. There are a lot of talented up and coming authors out there, and I am thrilled I had a chance to check out some of them.

TV
We'll say good-bye to one of my favorite shows, but I also found some new loves. Some shows added new babies and had major characters hook up, but still avoided jumping the shark. Here's hoping they can bring just as much awesomeness in 2013. Here are my Top TV five shows of 2012: 30 Rock, Bones, Castle, Downton Abbey and Parks and Recreation. My favorite new show is The Mindy Project.

Movies
I'll admit I didn't see a whole heck of a lot of movies this year -- especially not new ones. I had a bit of a love affair with my brother's Netflix account, which kept me pretty busy. Regardless, my favorite movies of 2012 were: Breaking Dawn - Part 2, The Dark Knight Rises and The Hunger Games. Wow, I really need to catch up on my movie watching.

Now, for a look back at 2012. This has been a good year for me. While I may not have accomplished much from my list of resolutions (you can read them here), I am still pleased with my progress. I have a new and amazing job. I have two books nearing the point of being publishable. I've changed my attitude toward self publishing. The blog is going great (I think, right guys?), and I know there are a lot of great possibilities for the future.

I also made some great new friends this year. Thanks to blog tours, Twitter, Facebook groups and so on, I have expanded my network of writers and each day brings new information or motivation to keep me going.

I have a lot to be thankful for and a lot of dreams I will work toward. Plus, by tonight, I should be all caught up on my book reviews for the year (nothing like getting a year's worth of book reviews done just before midnight, ey?), so look for a few more book reviews. I also have a start on next year's reviews, which is super thrilling for the procrastinator in me.

This past year had its highs and lows, and the same can be predicted for 2013. I'm determined to make it the best, though.

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December 30, 2012

book review: the cinderella search

A disillusioned-with-love woman unexpectedly falls into the arms of Prince Charming in Judy Griffith Gill's The Cinderella Search.

Lissa Wilkins is the might manager of the Madronna Inn, located on a British Columbia island off the coast of the mainland. She left the big city life two years ago to help her father manage the inn, which was in her family for years before her dad lost it in a game of pinochle. With any luck, she and a group of locals will raise enough money by the end of Madronna's annual festival to buy the inn back.

An obstacle comes to life when the realtor informs them a third party is also interested in buying the inn. Steve Jackson, son of the Jackson Resort chain tycoon, arrives in town simultaneously, a coincidence too big to overlook. Lissa and her colleagues go out of their way to scare off Steve before his family can swoop in to take their beloved hotel.

But Steve has other interests on his vacation. His biggest is finding the owner of the pair of legs that fell through his room's ceiling one night. Not only does he want to find the culprit who has bugged his room to make noises and rumble his closet and doors, but he found the legs appealing, too. He has his hunches they belong to Lissa, who he is already growing increasingly interested in becoming better acquainted. Motives are kept secret even as Lissa and Steve's attraction for each other grows stronger.

This newly re-released novel offers a quick and entertaining read for romantic comedy fans. Fast moving with plenty of action, this story was so cute I wanted to pinch its cheeks. The situational comedy drew laughter even as a few of the characters tugged at my heart strings.

As a retelling of a fairy tale story, it did a solid job of drawing on classic elements of Cinderella: a hard-working woman in service, a dashing prince and a lost shoe without a known owner spearheading widespread search. At the same time, it had plenty of unique elements that made it a story of its own.

The budding relationship between Lissa and Steve was both adorable and sexy. The sexual tension between these two was huge throughout the story and the payoff worth the wait. Steve in particular had such a fun and decent nature about him paired with good intentions, no matter what the locals thought. I had a big enough crush on him within the first few chapters, I wanted to shake some sense into Lissa.

Basically, I was totally Team Steve.

At times some of the local townspeople could be a little annoying. They meddled when they weren't needed, and their actions often complicated the main characters' lives to the point of conflict. That is neither unexpected or unusual in a story set amongst people with such close ties and deep history. Despite their cliched behavior, it was enjoyable to watch them work together toward common goals, even if their motives were sometimes incorrect.

There were also times it became apparent this story was several years old. Though nothing in particular dated it, the lack of cell phones, Internet or other modern norms quickly gave it away as being a book several years old. This was by no means a bad element, but something to keep in time.

This almost contemporary retelling of a fairy tale story was an enjoyable and light read for killing a couple of hours.

Rating: 4 of 5

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December 28, 2012

book review: short stories for busy adults

Emily Benet offers readers an eclectic mix in Short Stories for Busy Adults. Each of the 10 short stories carries its own unique plot with a noticeable tone linking them into a cohesive collection.

Varying in perspective, voices and plot, the stories range from twisted or dark comedy to just plain dark. Set predominantly in Great Britain with a few trips south to the Continent, characters range from an anxiety-filled queen to an aimless young man coping with a breakup and lackluster life.

Here's a quick rundown of each of the stories:

Waterloo
An unlikely, but funny, account of Queen Elizabeth II hiding in the bathroom sipping tea to avoid the festivities surrounding her Diamond Jubilee.

Camouflage
While making a paper mache iguana with her boyfriend, a girl images the ultimate and somewhat elaborate downfall of their relationship.

Natural Selection
A person contemplates killing his or her seemingly waste of space neighbors as a form of the survival of the fittest.

Conchita and the Mating Pigeons
A controlling older woman deals with separation anxiety related to her daughter and investigates ways to tighten her hold.

Just a Scratch
A child deals with an overly protective germaphobic mother more obsessed with reports of viruses than what her child is doing.

Lemon Drizzle Cake
Three flatmates fight for the attention of the same girl and use various methods to woo her, but there can be only one victor.

The Leopard Man
An elderly woman invites the "leopard man" into her home to dispel it of a lingering negative energy, closer to her than she realizes.

Harry 
While painting his mother's walls white, a man examines his life, the people in it and what his future holds beginning with tonight's New Year's Eve festivities.

They're Shooting a Horror Film in Our Living Room
A girl, who has written a horror movie for her brother to direct, sees the pressure of filming a convincing murder scene take its toll on everyone involved, especially the actor playing the murderer.

The Repossession
After learning he will lose his long-time home, a widower explores other options for an alternative lifestyle.

As someone who mostly reads novels, I'll admit it took me a couple of stories to get into the mindset of vignettes rather than full features. Eventually, I found myself more intrigued with the stories and connecting better with the characters as the stories continued.

Each character or story has a secret to reveal, some more deep than others. All featured characters with issues to resolve. Some were told from the perspective of -- for lack of a better word -- the baddie, which was particularly interesting. Even as these villains shared their story, you could kind of understand where they were coming from.

My favorites among the stories were "Lemon Drizzle Cake", "Harry" and "They're Shooting a Horror Film in Our Living Room." These ones had more character development, it seemed, and gave me more time to connect with the narrator or characters.

With 10 different stories of mixed lengths, this was a quick and easy read -- especially good for sneaking in a few moments of reading when pressed for time.

Rating: 4 of 5

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book review: her new year's fortune

A man of Fortune sweeps into a knitting shop manager's life after the clock strikes midnight in Allison Leigh's Her New Year's Fortune.

Sarah-Jane Early is most comfortable teaching knitting classes and making patterns to post on the shop's website, but agrees to hostess a wedding reception on New Year's Eve to help a friend. The reception happens to be for the Fortune family, local royalty. She catches the eye of none other than Wyatt Fortune, handsome cousin of the bride and a stud in his own right. Surprised by his interest, she gives him a fake name, certain his attention comes from alcohol rather than true feeling. When they meet again, and he persists in becoming better acquainted, Sarah-Jane agrees to go on a date with him.

Wyatt has his own secrets. A recent disagreement with his father has left him angry and determined to start a new life. The small Texas town seems like an ideal place to set roots, giving him more distance from his home in Atlanta. Sarah-Jane -- or whatever her name is -- offers a perfect distraction from his otherwise hectic life.

Neither counts on falling in love or revealing much of themselves. But as Sarah-Jane and Wyatt spend more time together, they find life has other plans.

I have mixed emotions about this book. It started off quickly and page-turning for me. The idea of two people meeting as the new year starts is sweet, and the added element of a man desperately seeking his mystery girl was intriguing. But it slowed down a bit in the middle and touched upon a couple of plot elements that were never fully resolved, which distracted me from the main goal: getting these crazy lovebirds together.

Her New Year's Fortune is about a handsome millionaire falling for a girl who thinks she is an ugly duck when she is really a swan. While I like this plot element, it's repeated mentioning in this instance made me want to smack sweet Sarah-Jane and say, "Get over yourself. You're hot. Live with it." With so much of her thinking she's not gorgeous and Wyatt saying she was, at some point I wondered what they were doing together. While a little sizzle eventually came toward the last part of the book, a bit more of a hot spark early on would have made a difference. I'm not talking about sex, either, just sexual tension.

A few events that happened during the course of the storyline would have been interesting to see unfold. Instead of having the scene right there for readers to see, we heard about it after the fact like in a Greek drama. At both Wyatt and Sarah-Jane were a little too forgiving of each other and some of the conflicts in their lives. When they happened, the resolutions were ultimately good, but a little more struggle to achieve them would have made it great.

This next point is going to make me sound crazy, but I'm going to say it. For being a book titled after a holiday, I was bummed out by how little New Year's Eve or New Year's Day actually happened in the story. Both holidays were basically brushed over, which is quickly becoming one of my biggest pet peeves. My message to the publishing world: Give me a champagne toast or a kiss at midnight, and I will be a happier girl. Or change the title of the book to something less holiday related. Thank you.

Despite some areas that could benefit from a little more development, I enjoyed this story and found it a cute, light read. The heroine is the assistant manager of a knitting shop, which is unique and awesome. Initially, I wondered what someone with a MBA was doing with a job like that, but realized Sarah-Jane was working for love not money. For me, this fact gave her more character development and showed her strong backbone more so than the tense relationship with her never satisfied mother or her self-image issues.

Until he becomes a bit of a dick toward the end -- and I think he got off the hook a little too easily not once, but twice -- Wyatt earns a lot of redemption for everything he did leading up to it. For one, the man is adorably persistent in wooing Sarah-Jane. He calls around and searches for her and does not quit until he finds her. He shows he can be thoughtful in the gifts and other considerations he shares with her. He also proves to be more forgiving than Sarah-Jane by letting her initial deceit go quickly and actually listening to her explanation for why she did it. He wins his biggest points by constantly trying to get Sarah-Jane to see herself as the beautiful, talented woman she has become.

Ultimately, Her New Year's Fortune was a sweet, light read for romance fans looking to get lost in a story with Southern flare and family roots.

Rating: 3.5

For more information about this book, visit Harlequin's Website.

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December 26, 2012

top reads of 2012

In my journey to become a better writer and published author, I came to realize how important it is for me to read. I have always loved reading, and it has never been a chore, but toward the end of 2011, I realized how important it was for me to read a variety of books in the genres I want to write.

At the beginning of the year, I made a challenge for myself: Read and review as many books as possible. The end result is more than 80 books reviewed and more than 100 read. Some of the books were new releases, some written years ago. Some are by established authors while others were by independent authors. I found a lot of variety, I learned a lot and most importantly I enjoyed myself.

Now that 2012 has come to an end, I feel like I should name my top 10 books for the year. That is easier said than done. Reading is an inherently personal and subjective activity. What makes a book top 10 worthy? Is it the writing? Is it the creativity? The originality or innovation?

It could be any of those elements, but ultimately I selected the books I read this year that stuck with me most. From making me laugh to making me cry, making me evaluate my life to randomly entering my head months after the fact, this list represents the books that left an impression and ultimately changed my world view.

And even though it was tough, I ultimately decided to select 10 books that were either released in 2012 or came to some level of prominence. So with that, I give you...

Change the Word's Top 10 Reads of 2012
In Need of Therapy by Tracie Banister
Dancing Naked in Dixie by Lauren Clark
*Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
What Lies Behind by Cynthia Hill
Fifty Shades Darker by E L James
I've Got Your Number by Sophie Kinsella
November Surprise by Laurel Osterkamp
One Pink Line by Dina Silver
Manhunt by Lillie Spencer
Dog Days by Elsa Watson 

* Remember when I said "came to some level of prominence?" That's my Hunger Games clause. While the books were famous when they were released, the first movie came out in 2012, and I didn't get around to reading them until the weeks before.

Now it's your turn to weigh in: What were your favorite reads of 2012?

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December 25, 2012

12 days of writing 2012


Before we take down the holiday decorations and look forward to a new year, here's a quick look back at this year's 12 Days of Writing series. I can never say how blessed I felt to have so many wonderful writer friends join me this year in bringing you tips.

These talented ladies set the bar high, and I'm glad I have the better part of a year to think about how to make next year's 12 Days of Writing just as special.

I hope you know how much I appreciate your readership and support. So here, for one last time, I present the rundown of Change the Word's Second Annual 12 Days of Writing.

The 12 Days of Writing 2012
No. 1: Eight Tips for Eight Days of Hanukkah by Jackie Pilossoph
No. 2: Make Your Story Talk by Lauren Clark
No. 3: Writin' Around the Christmas Tree by Nancy Scrofano
No. 4: Improve Your Writing by Laurel Osterkamp
No. 5: Challenge Yourself by Tracie Banister
No. 6: Listen Up to Write Better Dialogue by Cynthia Hill
No. 7: Market Your Author Brand by Dina Silver
No. 8: Five Resolutions for Authors by Heather Wardell
No. 9: Find Balance by Kathleen Kole
No. 10: Anatomy of a Book Review by Kaley Stewart
No. 12: Make Writing a Team Sport by Laura Chapman

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book review: christmas in wine country

Contrary to what the title suggests, Addison Westlake's Christmas in Wine Country is more than a story about a holiday in one of America's most scenic settings. It is about a young woman undergoing major transformation in her life professionally, personally and romantically.

After taking over responsibility for her major advertising company's annual holiday party at last minute, Lila finds herself in crisis. The company's usual event planner, who is out on maternity leave, accidentally sent the directions for her annual Cinco de Mayo party instead of the company's usually swanky preferences, and the colleague she has secretly dated for two years is all over a French hussy. To make matters worse, Lila can't get over worrying about the potential tripping hazard the icy cobblestone walkway creates. Lila snaps, and after drunkenly singing karaoke and accidentally kicking a party guest in the head, she finds herself without a job and without a boyfriend.

Lila finds herself solo in wine country on the weekend getaway she planned for her ex in wine country. Instead of romance, Lila reconnects with her college roommate, lands a job at a bookstore and finds an adorable apartment that overlooks the water. During the next year, Lila learns to find happiness, discovers good guys are worth waiting for and true friends are the best kind.

This book was a big hit with me. From the get-go, I was instantly bonded with Lila. Imperfect, but in a sweet way, her greatest flaws come from wanting to find acceptance from her mother, resolution with her long-absent father and love with someone who is willing to give as much as her. Sometimes, her efforts to achieve these goals leave her to do somewhat crazy things -- like going on a salad-only diet and bleaching and ironing her hair to impress a man. But haven't we all been there?

The characters surrounding her are charming. Lila has a wonderful relationship with her grandmother, who was completely adorable. Everyone should have such a sweet and supportive grandma to say, "I'm proud of you," in the midst of a personal makeover.

In addition, the townspeople are charming and hilarious instead of overly involved and annoying. Even when some of Lila's new friends try their hand at meddling, it comes off as funny instead of irritating. That's a tough balance to strike, and Westlake did it well.

The romantic element in this story was also sweet. Though it had me worried more than a few times, and I spent a good chunk of the book saying, "get it together already," the payoff was worth it. I am a big fan of the still waters run deep type of leading man, and Jake, the mysterious son of the local vineyard owner, offers plenty of complexity. He kept me curious and suspicious of his motives, even while I liked him. I also enjoyed the douchey ex. He was so much fun to dislike.

This was a fast-paced, fun book to read. With each chapter sporting a title taken from an 80s pop song -- did I mention Lila is a huge fan of 80s music just like me? -- and the year moving quickly, the story started off quickly. Though it did slow down toward the end, the story concluded with a cute and satisfying resolution. 

Though the title of this book drew me to read it -- it is Christmas season -- and the holiday moments were cute, the majority of the story took place in between two Christmases, making it a worthwhile read any time of year.

Rating: 4.5 of 5

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December 24, 2012

book review: romancing the holiday

With plenty to land them on both Santa's naughty and nice lists, Jaci Burton, HelenKay Dimon and Christi Barth offer seasonal stories of love and lust in Romancing the Holiday.

As a connoisseur of holiday movies and romance novels, I was excited to dig into these stories. Each features strong-willed leading ladies and crush-worthy male counterparts, and managed to tell stories about love within a short time-frame.

While offering heart-pounding sizzle, the stories were not as full of holiday moments as those accustomed to Christmas romances filled with sleigh rides, snowball fights or mounds of Christmas cookies might expect.


We'll Be Home for Christmas
By HelenKay Dimon

Lila Payne encounters a few major shocks when she arrives in a small West Virginia town to run her uncles old mountain resort. First: The mountain cabins are less like a resort and more like a pile of wood in serious need of burning. Second: The man she had a three-day passionate affair with at a hotel a few towns over is a local businessman. Third: The man in question gave her a fake name. Despite their shaky reunion, Spencer Thomas is not going to let a little previous deception keep him from making a better impression on Lila the second time around.

Lila finds herself spending more time with Spencer when crews from his family's nursery lend a hand to help her get the cabins presentable by the new year. As they work in tight quarters, the old feelings that led them into bed resurface, but are laced with wishes for romance and forever.

This was a cute story with decent amounts of sizzle, the short format prevented the story from further developing the main characters' histories, which gave them plenty of reservations for engaging in a committed relationship. Each had an interesting back story, filled with betrayal and hurt feelings. While offering conflict, the drama could have been upped by addressing these pasts more head on rather than as a line or two of dialogue.

Though part of a series, each character was explained well enough, I did not find myself lacking from not reading the previous stories in the series. In particular, Spencer's brother and friends were likeable, which in turn revealed the good man hiding behind his distant appearances. While the small town setting offered plenty of charm, the meddling townspeople had the potential to be annoying, but stopped just short of it.

What was most lacking for me in this story was the holiday element. Though it started in Spencer's family nursery that sells Christmas trees and pointsettias, and a few mentions about the upcoming holiday, there was nothing else. While this did not take away from telling the love story, it did diminish some of the good cheer and satisfaction I gleam from watching two characters fall in love while singing carols or sipping hot chocolate.

Still, Lila and Spencer seemed well-suited for each other. The sexy chemistry between them seemed real. When they were in a room together, the pages tingled with sexual tension and ultimately sex. I found myself rooting for them even if they were painting cabin walls instead of building an army of snow people.

Rating: 4 of 5


Ask Her By Christmas
By Christi Barth

Caitlin McIntyre and Kyle Lockhart have been best friends for years. Though long harboring romantic love for Kyle, Caitlin never hints at her true feelings for fear of them going unrequited. She is more than a little surprised when he drops to one knee and asks her to marry him. Unfortunately, before she can say yes and have her dreams come true, she learns he was actually practicing to pop the question to the woman he has been casually seeing for the past few months.

Under direct orders from his father to marry the sleazy heiress he has dated to help their family business, Kyle needs his best friend's help to do the deed justice. Wanting to do his father proud for once in his life, Kyle must ignore the not so friendly feelings he has toward his BFF. As Caitlin helps him plan the perfect proposal, both must decide whether or not they should take their relationship to the next level or end as friends.

Of the three stories in this trilogy, this offered the most in the way of spreading holiday cheer. Within the first chapters, the characters wrapped presents, wore scarves, drank hot chocolate, looked at Christmas trees, went ice skating and window shopped. It was like ABC Family and Hallmark got married, made a baby, dressed it in red and green glitter pajamas and named it "Merry Christmas."

A sucker for stories about long-time friends who become more than friends, I was excited to see where this story went. I wanted so desperately for Caitlin and Kyle to find themselves getting a little too hot under their matching ugly turtlenecked sweaters, which they would be tempted to discard after sipping a little too much egg nog during one of their proposal plotting sessions. Unfortunately, this did not come to be. While I could see their feelings of love for each other were real, a little more spark would have gone a long ways.

And while the build-up in this story was great -- I mean, Caitlin spends weeks helping Kyle try to woo another woman -- it ultimately resolved itself a little too easily. She should have made the guy work a little more for it, especially after he royally biffed it on a few occasions. In particular, he made one big error, which I am not sure I would have been able to forgive so quickly. I also wonder how two people who are so in sync with each other could miss the fact that they want to get naked on a bear-skin rug in front of a fireplace. Or something like that.

If you have dances of sugar plums wafting through your head at night, though, this story will live up to the expectations for a holiday love story.

Rating: 4 of 5


The Best Thing
By Jaci Burton

Tori loved Brody Kent from afar since high school. For the past four years, she has loved him from within smacking distance as the office manager of the construction company he owns with his brothers. Things have been tense between them since they locked lips at the company Christmas party the year before.

After Brody confronts Tori about her distant behavior, the two find themselves embroiled in a passionate affair. With Brody's family members interfering at every opportunity, both worry about hurting the other while living in constant fear that they will be the one with the broken heart.

From the first pages of the story, it is easy to understand the tension between Brody and Tori. Not only do the two work with each other, but they each are holding back feelings for the other. Though Tori loves Brody, she does not want to end up another notch on his bedpost. At the same time, Brody somewhat resents the presumption that he will use than leave her. Once they finally get it together, this story became seriously steamy.

Family creates plenty of obstacles for these two crazy kids when they're not getting hot and heavy under the sheets. Tori has a history of being let down and abandoned by her family, and is slow to trust. For Brody, his family's love can be problematic. They are constantly involved and watching the couple's next steps, asking about marriage and babies before they have even been together a full quarter. It was easy to understand and feel for the poor guy as he tries to figure out his feelings.

Well-developed as a stand-alone story, Tori and Brody's romance also effortlessly and effectively gave updates on relationships told in previous stories. As someone who had not read the first books, though, I did not find myself struggling to understand what was going on or how everyone related to each other. At the same time, someone who has read the other books will not be bogged down with too many details they have already encountered. We're given what we need to know and nothing more.

Though not overflowing with holiday elements, the story does involve moments of planning the next company holiday party, tree decorating and this year's holiday party. So Christmas was there, but not as there as it could be. Ultimately, this was the strongest of the stories.

Rating: 4.5 of 5

It may seem like I am a little too caught up on the holiday elements, but that is what makes a Christmas story a big hit with me. While I liked each of these books in their own rights, I probably would have been a bigger fan if all of them would have been a bit more full of yuletide cheer.

Each was fast-paced. Each had good characters. And all of them were worth the few hours spent curled up with this collection.

If you're looking for a somewhat seasonal read that sizzles, Romancing the Holiday is a quick and light find. Each of the stories offers a different take on love in December and characters who must overcome aspects of their past to build a future with the person who makes their heart pound.

Overall Rating: 4 of 5

For More About the Author and Publisher
www.carinapress.com
Jaci Burton's Website
HelenKay Dimon's Website
Christi Barth's Website

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December 21, 2012

naughty and nice prize package

Blogger's Note: In time for the holidays, I'm pleased to share this special offer with you readers. Enjoy.

As a special holiday gift for everyone, Here, Home, Hope and All the Difference are 99 cents for your eReader now through Dec. 31, so if you haven’t had a chance to read both of Kaira’s novels, now you can!

About the Books
Here, Home, Hope
Desperate Housewives meets The Middle Place in a warm, witty tale of one suburban woman’s journey from midlife crisis to reinvention, with the help of friends.

“Witty and uplifting, a charming debut that explores the courage it takes to reshape a life and how to do it with a dash of panache.”
~ Beth Hoffman, NYTs bestselling author

All The Difference
A novel of suspense and choices with a nod to Susan Isaacs’s tales of suburban murder.

“An intriguing cast of characters and an untimely death set the stage for a chick-lit, murder mystery. A light, engaging read that keeps readers guessing until the end.”
~ Kirkus

Buy the Books
Here, Home, Hope: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B004YKTEHC?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creativeASIN=B004YKTEHC&linkCode=xm2&tag=chlicethbl-20
All The Difference: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B007MOY8ZA?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creativeASIN=B007MOY8ZA&linkCode=xm2&tag=chlicethbl-20

For More About Kaira
Website
Facebook
Twitter

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no. 12: make writing a team sport

Blogger's Note: Ginormous thanks go out to the 11 amazing and wonderful guest bloggers who shared their expertise with us during the past three weeks. Thanks, also, to all of you for following this year's 12 Days of Writing series and for all of you who shared the post with your friends, fans and followers on social media. My cup seriously runneth over, y'all. Now, be sure to leave a comment on this post so I can enter you in a prize drawing.

Alone, we are determined and talented writers.
But when our powers combine, we become, like, super awesome and powerful.

No. 12: Make Writing a Team Sport

By Me!
Founder of Change the Word, aspiring author, social media junkie and occasional hot mess

I went to a writing conference a few years ago, and one of the tips the guest author made was this: writing is something you have to do by yourself. You're going to have to say no to social outtings and shut yourself away from the world to meet your writing goals.

When I decided to get serious about becoming a writer, I took this advice to heart. I would shut myself away from people for weeks at a time, barely hanging out on my beloved social media. But just like every time I have tried to make extreme changes to my diet (like cutting carbs) or waking up at 5:30 for an exercise regiment, I quickly burned out. What can I say? I'm a relatively social person. I need to be around people to be inspired and happy.

So I started this blog. Using it as a platform, I reached out to others who shared my interest in reading and writing via Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads and so on. Slowly, but surely, I built up my network of readers and writers, and every time I make another connection, I add another person's experience to mine.

Through social media, our world has become even more connected. Instead of boring your existing family and friends to death about a new development for your character or your struggle to come up with a title, you can turn to your writing entourage to help you.

The 11 other writers who shared their tips the past three weeks are evidence of the wealth of knowledge waiting for any aspiring or working writer. They're also an example of the supportive community out there for writers. When I had the idea to open the 12 Days of Writing to fellow writers this year, I hoped I would be able to find enough people willing to help out to fill half the days. Imagine my thrilled surprised when everyone said yes.

Here's the big kicker: They only represent part of my writing entourage. How cool is that?

So my advice to all of you, based on trying the writing game solo and as part of a team is this: build your network, make friends and never be afraid to ask help. Join an online writing community like Savvy Authors or World Literary Cafe. Start or join a Facebook group for writers/readers in your genre. Participate in Twitter networking opportunities like Chick Lit Chat or publishers' Twitter pitches. Get on Goodreads.

Follow the writers you admire -- both big name and ones beginning their careers -- on all of these social media avenues. If you are a fan of someone's writing, don't be afraid to tell them. Heck, I tagged E L James in a few tweets last May when I did a Reading in the Kitchen series based on foods in her Fifty Shades trilogy. She not only retweeted me, but sent me a couple of nice messages.

That's me on the left with my little sister, sporting our
homemade holiday gear for our sixth annual ugly sweater
contest, held last weekend. I won best worst dressed lady!
At the same time, I've kept in touch with each of the authors and bloggers featured in this series, because I admired their work. Each of them has come back to help me at some point, even beyond writing a guest post. From sharing my blog posts with their followers to shooting the breeze with me about what hunky man they'd like to case in the screen adaptation of their film (Spoiler alert: It's often Ryan Gosling), they're part of my community.

Start a local book or writing club. Participate in National Novel Writing Month. Hold write-ins with your writer friends at home or coffee shops. Mob mentality has its moments.

Do whatever it takes to find people to share the journey with you. You'll find you are just as excited to hear when one of them lands a book contract, receives a great review or gets a new job as they are for you when you do the same. They'll be your coach, your teammate, your cheerleader and your fan. It's a wonderful feeling to know you are not alone.

Yes, there are still evenings where I have to turn off the phone and Internet to get some writing done, but you better believe I'll be commiserating with one of my writing buddies the moment I go on break.

So with that, I'd like to share the links to the other posts in this series in case you missed them, and offer you my sincerest wishes for a safe and happy holiday season and new year to you and your family.


The 12 Days of Writing 2012
No. 1: Eight Tips for Eight Days of Hanukkah by Jackie Pilossoph
No. 2: Make Your Story Talk by Lauren Clark
No. 3: Writin' Around the Christmas Tree by Nancy Scrofano
No. 4: Improve Your Writing by Laurel Osterkamp
No. 5: Challenge Yourself by Tracie Banister
No. 6: Listen Up to Write Better Dialogue by Cynthia Hill
No. 7: Market Your Author Brand by Dina Silver
No. 8: Five Resolutions for Authors by Heather Wardell
No. 9: Find Balance by Kathleen Kole
No. 10: Anatomy of a Book Review by Kaley Stewart


***CONTEST INFO***
Comment on this post by 12 p.m. CDT Sun., Dec. 23 for one entry in the week's prize package. Each pack includes at least three print books and other swag. You can comment on each 12 Days of Writing post to increase your chances of winning.

BONUS ENTRY: "Like" Change the Word on Facebook and/or leave a note on the wall. If you already like CTW, go ahead and post a message for your extra entry.

The winner will be announced here on the blog, on FB and on Twitter Dec. 23 at 4 p.m. CDT. You'll have 24 hours to get in touch with me or another winner will be drawn.

Check back the rest of this week for more chances to win the week one 12 Days of Writing Giveaway.

***Contest limited to U.S. and Canada residents, only***

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December 20, 2012

no. 11: re-writing: the gift that keeps on giving

Blogger's Note: I had the chance to review Romi Moondi's Year of the Chick (read it here) and Last-Minute Love (and here) this year while also bonding about our mutual love of Ryan Gosling. The funny lady she is, I'm thrilled to have her participate in the 12 Days of Writing. Be sure to leave a comment on this post for your chance to win a prize package of books.


No. 11: Re-Writing: The Gift That Keeps On Giving

By Romi Moondi
Author of Year of the Chick and Last-Minute Love

I’m guessing you either thought A: the post’s title was sarcastic, or B: you thought it was for real, and now you want to punch me in the mouth. Let me be clear: no, and PLEASE no!

Thanks to Laura I’ll have the chance to explain throughout this guest post, and by the end I hope you’ll agree with the title!

I’ll admit it, first-drafting is definitely the most “go wild, let’s party!” exciting part of writing. It’s like when your eyes perk up after that third Red Bull and vodka when you’re out dancing with the girls...there’s no telling where the night will take you! On the other hand, the re-write is traditionally seen as the point where you “buckle down,” pull out your writing sheriff’s badge, and banish all the crap one layer at a time.

But what if you looked at it another way? What if the re-write was truly all about what you PUT BACK IN?

Because guess what: it is!

This became clear to me most recently, when I started the first re-write of my adapted screenplay Year of the Chick (which is based on the first book in the series). I’m still in the process of completing this monster task, but in some weird way it excites me (is that sick?). I think it excites me because I’ve listed off the various layers of “minor surgery” needed, and that really helps me see what good will go back in once I carefully take out the crap. This is something I’d highly recommend for novel-writing too, so hopefully all you book writers find this process useful:
  • Make a notes page, and then list the type of editing needed one bullet point at a time, sometimes in the form of a question. For example: Has the setting come to life to be a character in the book? How? Then go through the screenplay or book, proving to yourself that you’ve done this, or deleting where it’s bland, and adding in the stuff that answers YES to the above question.
  • Highlight each bullet point in green once you’ve completed that particular edit. Green means good and correct and go and St. Patty’s Day...all great things! In other words the more green you see on the page, the more you’ll feel like you’re getting somewhere on the re-write! (Red is banished from this page; don’t we already see enough “red equals wrong so change this” in our writer lives?)
  • Reward yourself with each completed bullet point. This could mean a peanut M&M, a Sour Patch Kid, five minutes on the Internet...whatever your vice!
As you go through this process, you’ll notice that a lot of it involves cutting, whether you’re screenwriting or writing a book; it could mean cutting dialogue, long descriptions, or even entire sections of a chapter that don’t move the plot forward. The cutting sounds like work, but the magic happens almost immediately after. It’s everything you strip away that identifies what actually works, and when you see little glimpses of that, you’ll be able to add and inject way more of this goodness when you do your next read-through. It’s like getting in shape and using Botox (trust me this totally makes sense). There you are, doing all this cardio to drop the fat, only to inject it back in so your face looks ten years younger (though frozen). It’s like magic!

Okay fine, that analogy kind of fell off the rails, and I promise never to use it in a book.

Most of EVERYTHING ELSE I told you made sense though, didn’t it? Re-writes aren’t evil if you focus on the green instead of the red. Stripping out the crap is like digging for treasure; the closer you get the more exciting it is, and when you finally unlock how great your story can be, you’ll find it a lot easier to add the shiny, priceless stuff that makes your story truly sing.

Happy re-writing and happy new year!


About the Author
I don't want to spend too much time writing a biography in this box, otherwise you won't buy my autobiography when I one day narcissistically write it.

Therefore I will only divulge three facts:
1. I've been pooped on by a pigeon twice
2. A homeless lady in New York once told me "You're just a bitch on vacation with no money!"
3. I wrote a column in my high school newspaper called "Dr. Teen Angst." It was kinda mean.

For More Information About Romi
Amazon: http://amazon.com/author/romimoondi
Barnes & Noble: http://www.nook.com/ (search "Romi Moondi)
Kobo: http://www.kobo.com/ (search "Romi Moondi")
iTunes: available in every iTunes store! (search "Romi Moondi")



***CONTEST INFO***
Comment on this post by 12 p.m. CDT Sun., Dec. 23 for one entry in the week's prize package. Each pack includes at least three print books and other swag. You can comment on each 12 Days of Writing post to increase your chances of winning.

BONUS ENTRY: "Like" Change the Word on Facebook and/or leave a note on the wall. If you already like CTW, go ahead and post a message for your extra entry.

The winner will be announced here on the blog, on FB and on Twitter Dec. 23 at 4 p.m. CDT. You'll have 24 hours to get in touch with me or another winner will be drawn.

Check back the rest of this week for more chances to win the week one 12 Days of Writing Giveaway.

***Contest limited to U.S. and Canada residents, only***

Receive Change the Word's latest updates in your Inbox. Subscribe by entering your information under "Follow by email" in the sidebar. Follow me on Twitter @lmchap or "Like" Change the Word on Facebook.

December 19, 2012

no. 10: anatomy of a book review

Blogger's Note: In addition to the sleuth of wonderful authors I have had the opportunity to get to know on this adventure, I have also had a chance to befriend other book reviewers. One of those reviewers is the super awesome and fun Kaley Stewart. Since "meeting" on Twitter, we've become virtual besties, and I'm glad to have her share her perspective as a reviewer and blogger.


No. 10: Anatomy of a Book Review

By Kaley Stewart
Creator and editor of Books Etc.

I was so happily surprised when Laura asked me to take part in her 12 Days of Writing. After all, I’m not a writer so what kind of tips could I provide? Then I got to thinking, well, I have a blog. How do I write my reviews and why do I write them that way? That led me to this post: a break down on how I review books on my blog, Books Etc.

Let me start off by saying that every reviewer is different. Some like to recap the novels, others will copy and paste the synopsis. Some reviews are short and sweet and others are more in depth. Some are only about the book and others include little stories from the reviewer’s life that relate to the book. I’m going to go through how I write reviews but this is by no means the Rules of Book Reviewing. The thing that makes blogging so much fun, and other blogs so great to read, is that each review is different.

So how do I write my reviews? Cue, my beautiful diagram:


I think it’s pretty self explanatory, but let’s break it down. First, you need a title. When I first started my blog I got into doing “Just Finished: Enter Title of Book Here” and it’s sort of stuck. Keep it simple and move on to the next thing… The photo! Who doesn’t love pictures? I always make sure I have a picture of the cover of the book I’m reviewing (or a photo of the author if I’m doing an author post or interview).

Instead of jumping straight into the review, I like to give a short intro sentence or two. I’ll always mention the title of the book I’m reviewing (with a link to Amazon) and the author (with a link to their website or blog). If the review is part of a tour, I’ll mention that as well (and link to the main tour page). Then, I write a line that gives an idea of what I thought about the book. Did I love it? You’ll know right away. Was it only so-so? I’ll let you know that, too.

I don’t like recapping the book so I always include the synopsis, which I usually take from Goodreads. I’d rather not waste my time trying to reword what the book is about. This also helps me stay away from spoilers. If it’s not in the synopsis, I tend not to mention it.

Then we get into the good stuff! My reviews tend to be on the longer side, especially if I have a random story I want to share. As my own personal rule, I’ll always try to have two paragraphs of thoughts about the book. I’ll talk about if I liked the characters, the plot, the structure, or the flow of the story.

Finally, it’s time to wrap up. I’ll do a one line summary of my thoughts (yes, I liked it or no, I didn’t). Sometimes I’ll say whether or not I recommend the book and to what group of readers (romance, fiction, chick lit). I also always mention the title of the book and the author again in this section.

Ta-da! I have just walked you through one of my reviews. Pretty straightforward, right? Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn’t. I always find it’s hard to write about a book that I really loved as well as ones that I didn’t like at all (thankfully, that’s rare). Here are a few more random tips that I would like to pass on:
  • Avoid spoilers. Some may disagree but I personally hate having a book ruined for me because of someone else’s review.
  • Make sure you’re enjoying blogging. I’ve heard this from so many bloggers – once you start disliking writing or feeling stressed out by your blog, it’s time to take a break.
  • Be honest. So you didn’t like a book. Big deal, it happens. Don’t make the book sound better than it was just because the author sent you a copy to review. Which leads to a sub-tip: always mention that you received a copy to review. I admit I didn’t do this for a long time but now I include a line at the end of my posts saying where I got the book.
  • Be critical, but not cruel. Again, you didn’t like the book. That’s ok. But that doesn’t give you the right to tear apart the author. There’s been a lot of drama in the blogging world because reviewers are attacking authors (and vice versa). Write what you feel but don’t take down someone else while you do it. 
  • Always be yourself. Write the review how you want to write it. Not how everyone else does.
And that’s it! This makes it seem like there’s a lot that goes into reviewing books, and maybe there is, but we all do it because we love reading and talking about books. It’s as simple as that.

Thank you so much to Laura for including me in her 12 Days of Writing. Happy Holidays, everyone!

About the Blogger
Kaley has been surrounded by books for as long as she can remember. She started off as an avid reader and eventually got her first job at the public library in her hometown. After returning home from her first year of university, she started working at bookstore and continued working there all the way through school. She started Books Etc. as a way to talk about her favourite thing (books) without someone telling her to be quiet or seeing someone’s eyes glaze over because they were bored. After two years, she decided to make a go of it in the book world and began taking some publishing courses while working full time at a nonprofit. This has just recently paid off and Kaley will be a publicity intern at Random House Canada starting in January.

For More Information About Kaley
Blog
Facebook
Twitter


***CONTEST INFO***
Comment on this post by 12 p.m. CDT Sun., Dec. 23 for one entry in the week's prize package. Each pack includes at least three print books and other swag. You can comment on each 12 Days of Writing post to increase your chances of winning.

BONUS ENTRY: "Like" Change the Word on Facebook and/or leave a note on the wall. If you already like CTW, go ahead and post a message for your extra entry.

The winner will be announced here on the blog, on FB and on Twitter Dec. 23 at 4 p.m. CDT. You'll have 24 hours to get in touch with me or another winner will be drawn.

Check back the rest of this week for more chances to win the week one 12 Days of Writing Giveaway.

***Contest limited to U.S. and Canada residents, only***

Receive Change the Word's latest updates in your Inbox. Subscribe by entering your information under "Follow by email" in the sidebar. Follow me on Twitter @lmchap or "Like" Change the Word on Facebook.

December 18, 2012

interview with the author of 'the seven steps to closure'

Blogger's Note: After sharing an excerpt of Donna Joy Usher's The Seven Steps to Closure (read it here) and reviewing it (see it here), I'm pleased to let you get to know the author a little bit better in today's interview as part of her Chick Lit Plus blog tour.

Change the Word: How did you come up with the idea for this story?
Donna Joy Usher: It started with a really vivid dream. I woke up and started writing, with no thought for where the story was going. Not surprisingly, seventy thousand tedious words later I still had no plot and was forced to stop and rethink the situation. (All right, I admit it; I stopped for a couple of years.) Finally I invented new friends for Tara - my protagonist, developed a plot using a lot of my earlier work as history, and eventually The Seven Steps to Closure was born.

CTW: How much planning went into your book before you wrote?
DJU: A heap of planning went into The Seven Steps to Closure. I know some authors are capable of writing a book without fully developing their plot, but unfortunately I can’t work like that. I develop all my characters, my plot, my timelines, the different parts of the book and then map out all of the scenes on their own cards, and only then, when I have the entire book sitting in a pile of scene cards, do I start to write. This way I never have writer’s block because I always know what I am writing.

CTW: What characteristics do you like best in a leading lady?
DJU: I like her easy going nature and her loyalty to her friends and family. I also like the fact that she’s a little bit of a klutz – it allowed me to add a lot of humour to her story.

CTW: How about in a leading man?
DJU: Geez – what’s not to like in the leading man. Hubba hubba. He gorgeous, funny, nice, a good listener and sexy – they should make more like him.

CTW: What similarities, if any, do you share with your main character?
DJU: Well, I’ve also been in a relationship with a controller. Luckily I realised very early on and was able to exit before I got too entangled.  I am also a wee bit klutzy and I have a heap of really good girlfriends and a great relationship with my parents. I guess as this was my first book I did use many facets of my personality to inject into Tara, but once I started writing she took on a personality unique to herself. That’s one of the things I love about writing, watching these characters develop far beyond your own imagination – it’s magical.

CTW: What was the most challenging part about writing this story?
DJU: I always find the connecting scenes harder to write than the action scenes, because the action scenes are so much more fun.  I have to be extremely disciplined with myself and make sure I write the book in order rather than writing all the fun scenes first. You’ll be pleased to hear I use the same principle with my cake and always eat the icing last.

CTW: What is the best lesson you learned while writing this book?
DJU: You have to give yourself permission for your first draft to be awful. I did a writing course during which I observed a woman so critical of her work that she ended up deleting most of it, sometimes all of it, at the end of the day. That’s not a good way to get a first draft finished. I find that once I have the framework of the first draft complete it is much easier to go back and polish it, than it is to make it perfect from the very beginning.

CTW: When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
DJU: I’ve always loved reading and about seven years ago I started writing. I found the process so peaceful and rewarding that it quickly became a part of my daily routine. A lot of the early stuff I wrote was pretty awful, so I enrolled in some courses and read some books on the subject and finally, triumphantly, completed my first book.

CTW: What is your favorite writing snack?
DJU: Gee – what isn’t one of my favourite writing snacks? During the day I just love a hot cup of tea and a piece of cake (or two). At night I graduate to a glass of white wine and some cheese.

CTW: How do you get through tough-to-write passages?
DJU: Just keep writing, is my motto to myself. Although when I’m really struggling it becomes more of a little song I sing over and over in my head – a lot like the Little Engine that could. (It’s normally time to have a break when that starts happening.) But seriously, I find if I trudge through the awkward parts, often when I come back and reread it I find it isn’t as bad as I thought.

CTW: How do you keep yourself motivated to write in general?
DJU: When I can’t write I think about the next few scenes, imagining them in my head, working out how the characters would react, what sort of emotional element should be present and what I want the reader to gain from the scene. Then when I have time I’m just gagging to get into it. I also find the NaNiWriMo strategy very helpful. Writing 1667 words a day gives you 50,000 words a month, (Normally done in the month of November.) That’s a book in a month and a half. Of course there’s a lot of work you have to do before you can get to that stage.

CTW: Where is your favorite place to write?
DJU: This is really boring I know, but I love sitting at the dining room table. Our dining room is quite large with really good natural light and it makes me feel like I am outside. When the sun is shining I can see the blue sky through the open door and it always puts a huge smile on my face. (Plus it’s close to the kettle, making my tea and cake raids less likely to attract my husband’s attention.)

CTW: What advice do you have for aspiring authors?
DJU: Work out your strategy to get your book finished. Sort out all the elements you need before you start writing and then just go for it. It’s all right to do a horrible first draft. That’s the point of a first draft and it’s often where most of the hard work starts.

Plus I would say to read books on how to write a book and find the way that suits you. I’m a plotter but you may be a pantser, so you have to write the way that suits your personality. And then I would say learn to edit. Learn to be more critical of your work than anyone else and don’t think that every word is sacred. (That was the song playing in my head when I first finished my first draft. After I had cut out 38,000 words that song was long gone.)

CTW: What's next for you and your writing career?
DJU: I’m currently working on the second book of a YA urban fantasy trilogy, The War Faery Series, and have started my next chick lit novel, Coca and Chanel. I’m intending to write and edit the whole YA trilogy before I start publishing it so it won’t be available for a little while. If all goes well though, Cocoa and Chanel should be available by the end of 2013.

CTW: Is there anything else you would like to share?
DJU: I’d just like to take this opportunity to thank you for hosting me on your website. I’d also like to thank any of your readers who end up buying The Seven Steps to Closure, and to remind them to send their receipt to Samantha@ChickLitPlus.com to go into the draw to win one of two $25 amazon gift vouchers.


About the Author
Born in Brisbane, I started my working life as a dentist. After 15 years of drilling and filling I discovered there was more to life, and put pen to paper. Now I drill by day and write by night.

When not doing either of those things I like spending time with my husband and two little dogs, fishing and camping, motorbike riding, traveling, drinking wine on my deck and eating chocolate. Last year I ran my first half marathon and took up paddle boarding.

I have lived in a myriad of places: Melbourne, Perth, England, Rockhampton, Roxby Downs, Sydney, Cairns and am now situated on the New South Wales Central Coast.

Connect with Donna
www.donnajoyusher.com

Buy the Book
http://www.amazon.com/The-Seven-Steps-Closure-ebook/dp/B0082S1WPE
https://www.createspace.com/3881375
http://www.kobobooks.com/search/search.html?q=%22The+Seven+Steps+to+Closure%22

Receive Change the Word's latest updates in your Inbox. Subscribe by entering your information under "Follow by email" in the sidebar. Follow me on Twitter @lmchap or "Like" Change the Word on Facebook.

December 17, 2012

book review: the seven steps to closure

A woman scrambles to piece her life back together after going through a nasty divorce with even nastier attachments in Donna Joy Usher's The Seven Steps to Closure (read an excerpt here).

Tara Babcock has tried everything to get over her failed marriage. She's seen a therapist, had her palm read and most recently went on an all-out drunken binge that leaves her with a hangover instead of any closure. Already in a funk, everything turns worse when she learns her ex-husband is marrying her cousin, the woman he left her for.

With renewed vigor to fix her life, Tara relies on her best friends and the advice of a magazine article to finally find the closure that has eluded her in the past.

More often than not it seems that Tara is a hot mess and her life is a disaster. While initially that fact adds humor and sometimes irritation to the story, it ultimately offers the character development necessary to tell Tara's story fully. Far from perfect, it was easy to feel sorry for Tara, while at the same time wonder how she was going to get it together to ultimately succeed. Ultimately, Tara had my loyalty, and she was like a friend I wanted to see succeed -- even if it meant shaking a little sense into her.

Her relationship with her best friends had a lot to offer. Their willingness to help her move on and the use of the magazine article as a guide made for an entertaining, if not often questionable, journey for them to follow. Having the magazine article's instructions -- for example, "The Sixth Step to Closure - Have Meaningful Sex -- created an interesting outline for Tara's path.

As a travel enthusiast, I found myself envious of some of Tara's literal journeys throughout the story. In addition to giving the story color, it offered a platform for crucial character and plot development. Add in the character Matt, and I was green with my envy.

In addition to Tara, her entourage and the sticky situations they call life, the story had plenty of other quirks to make it unique. For example, at the beginning of the book, Tara wakes from her previous night's binge to the sound of a parrot reciting totally inappropriate phrases. Little details like that made me laugh out loud, and kept my humor going during parts that could have been a little too serious otherwise.

More than a story about getting over an ex, Seven Steps is about taking ownership of your life and learning to love again.

Rating: 4 of 5

Be sure to check back tomorrow for a guest post from the author of The Seven Steps to Closure by Donna Joy Usher. 

About the Author
Born in Brisbane, I started my working life as a dentist. After 15 years of drilling and filling I discovered there was more to life, and put pen to paper. Now I drill by day and write by night.

When not doing either of those things I like spending time with my husband and two little dogs, fishing and camping, motorbike riding, traveling, drinking wine on my deck and eating chocolate. Last year I ran my first half marathon and took up paddle boarding.

I have lived in a myriad of places: Melbourne, Perth, England, Rockhampton, Roxby Downs, Sydney, Cairns and am now situated on the New South Wales Central Coast.

Connect with Donna
www.donnajoyusher.com

Buy the Book
http://www.amazon.com/The-Seven-Steps-Closure-ebook/dp/B0082S1WPE
https://www.createspace.com/3881375
http://www.kobobooks.com/search/search.html?q=%22The+Seven+Steps+to+Closure%22

Receive Change the Word's latest updates in your Inbox. Subscribe by entering your information under "Follow by email" in the sidebar. Follow me on Twitter @lmchap or "Like" Change the Word on Facebook.

excerpt: the seven steps to closure

Blogger's Note: I'm reviewing The Seven Steps to Closure, today, as part of Donna Joy Usher's Chick Lit Plus blog tour, but first, here's a bit of info about the book and a sneak peek.

The Scoop on The Seven Steps to Closure:
Tara Babcock awakes the morning after her 30th birthday with a hangover that could kill an elephant - and the knowledge she is still no closer to achieving closure on her marriage breakup. Things go from bad to worse when she discovers that, not only is her ex-husband engaged to her cousin - Tash, the woman he left her for - but that Jake is also running for Lord Mayor of Sydney. Desperate to leave the destructive relationship behind and with nothing to lose, she decides- with encouragement from her three best friends - to follow the dubious advice from a magazine article, Closure in Seven Easy Steps. The Seven Steps to Closure follows Tara on her sometimes disastrous- always hilarious - path to achieve the seemingly impossible. A credible and amazingly touching debut novel from Donna Joy Usher, this is a solid, light-hearted and honest read with plenty of laughs.

Excerpt
When we had all eaten, I decided it was the right time to let the universe reveal its chosen destination for me. 'All right then,' I said, hopping up to prepare my decision-making tools. When I had them ready and the girls were seated on the lounges in front of me I began. 'Thank you all for coming tonight. As you are aware the Wedding of the Year is next month, and I have come to a decision that it would be better for my mental health, and everyone else’s, if I was nowhere near Sydney during this time.'

Elaine raised her wine glass. ‘Hear, hear,’ she said.

'So I have decided to finally take Dinah's advice about the psychological benefits of travel and will be venturing overseas for a few weeks during this time.'

The girls broke out in a round of applause, as if it was the first time they had heard this.

'Where are you going?' Elaine asked.

'Well Elaine that is why you are all here tonight.’

‘You don’t know do you,’ she said, shaking her head.

‘No, but I will very soon. I am going to allow the universe to make the decision for me.’

'I knew those self-help books were a bad idea.'

'No seriously, I am opening myself up to the energies of the cosmos and I will let them guide my hand in determining my fate. Here you see before us the prepared tools of divine intervention.' I picked up a world map and, unfolding it, tacked it onto a cork-board I had previously placed on the wall. I was momentarily distracted by how big the map was. Wow, there were a lot of different countries I had never heard of.

‘Are you just going to look at it and choose somewhere?’ asked Nat.

‘No, I am going to throw this at it.’ I held up a dart I had borrowed from Martin and Lil the night before. 'Wherever it lands is where I go. Your job is to witness the honesty of the process and make sure that I allow the energies to guide me forwards. I am distancing myself from the decision-making, because let’s face it, up until now my decisions have been crap.’

'Clever, clever,' said Dinah enthusiastically.

I picked up the dart. Looking at the map had made me realise there were a lot of areas of the world that I didn’t want to visit, and I was starting to get a little nervous. Closing one eye I lined the map up with the end of the dart, and propelled the dart in what I hoped was the direction of Hawaii. The dart missed the map completely, thudding into the wall.

'Looks like you're staying right here,' said Gloria, laughing as I examined the hole I had created.

My next throw hit the Pacific Ocean and we clustered around the map examining it, searching for a teeny, tiny island.

'There's nothing there,' Nat announced officially.

'Bugger, I wouldn't have minded a relaxing holiday lying in the sun by the ocean,' I said pouting.

'Well, why don't you just go to Bali?’ asked Elaine.

'No, no, if I don't do this right, the rest of my life will be a disaster. I just know it,' I said.

'Well you could hang around in a lifeboat at this location waiting to be rescued. Who knows, the rescuer may be hot.'

I stuck my tongue out at Elaine. 'You know I get sea sick,' I said.

'Honey, you threw up on the ferry to Manly, that's not seasick, that's flat water sick.'

‘There was a big swell that day,’ I said defensively, as I pulled the dart out of the board.

The third shot landed right at the top of Mongolia. They looked at me expectantly.

'I don't want to go to Mongolia,' I whined. 'It's cold there and I saw Ewan McGregor in The Long Way Round. He had to eat sheep's balls in Mongolia.'

'Look on the bright side,' said Dinah, smiling cheekily, 'maybe you'll meet Ewan McGregor.'

'That would be nice,' I said thoughtfully, 'but he's probably not there anymore, and anyway he's married.'

Be sure to check back at 8 a.m. CDT for my review of The Seven Steps to Closure.

About the Author
Born in Brisbane, I started my working life as a dentist. After 15 years of drilling and filling I discovered there was more to life, and put pen to paper. Now I drill by day and write by night.

When not doing either of those things I like spending time with my husband and two little dogs, fishing and camping, motorbike riding, traveling, drinking wine on my deck and eating chocolate. Last year I ran my first half marathon and took up paddle boarding.

I have lived in a myriad of places: Melbourne, Perth, England, Rockhampton, Roxby Downs, Sydney, Cairns and am now situated on the New South Wales Central Coast.

Connect with Donna
www.donnajoyusher.com

Buy the Book
http://www.amazon.com/The-Seven-Steps-Closure-ebook/dp/B0082S1WPE
https://www.createspace.com/3881375
http://www.kobobooks.com/search/search.html?q=%22The+Seven+Steps+to+Closure%22

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