March 30, 2013

book review: all he ever desired

A man has a second chance at winning over his first love in Shannon Stacey's All He Ever Desired.

Ryan Kowalski, the second oldest of the famous -- or infamous, depending who you ask -- Kowalski children is back in his hometown to help repair his family's ski lodge. The owner of a successful construction business in Boston, he hopes his expertise, and even a little of his funds, can get the lodge back up and running successfully. The biggest obstacle to him completing this as quickly and patiently as possible appears in the form of Lauren Carpenter.

Ryan and Lauren grew up together, and she married his childhood best friend, even though he always harbored secret feelings for her. After he made her an offer she had to refuse, he has been absent from her life for more than a decade. Now divorced and seeing him as more than the ex-BFF of her ex-husband, the two find themselves spending more time together and having increasing difficulty keeping their eyes and hands off of each other.

But elements from their past and the unknown nature of their future continues to cause rifts in their otherwise wonderful relationship. Both will have to decide what kind of compromises they are willing and able to make if they have a shot at forever.

Though I liked Lauren well enough, the real star of this book, for me, was Ryan. He was a perfect mix of broody, gentlemanly manners, dedication and overall adorableness to keep me interested in the story. Despite his outward confidence and apparent self control, he also showed nervousness and even a little shyness where his leading lady was concerned. Like I said: adorable.

Another highlight of the story was Ryan's relationship with his family members. They are a tight-knit bunch, and many of them had their own love stories shared in previous books in the Kowalski series. Along that grain, even though there are previous books in this series, this was written well enough as a stand alone that I did not find myself confused about anything that happened before. That is a definite strength. At the same time, because I enjoyed this story and the characters enough, I am interested in going back to read some of those books to see how their love stories unfolded.

The obstacles in this book were believable. More and more people come from failed past relationships or marriages, have children and complicated professional situations. To make a relationship work, both people must be willing to compromise and find a middle ground to travel together.

And though this story has a happy ending, which you expect with a Harlequin novel, the sacrifices Ryan and Lauren are willing to make for each other keeps it from being clear cut and perfect. The realism of that tied into the romance made it a different kind of perfect.

Rating: 4 of 5

For More Information Visit
Harlequin's Website
Author's Website

Buy the Book


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March 29, 2013

interview with the author of 'love in translation'

Today, I am pleased to have Sara Palacios, author of Love in Translation (read the review here), stop by Change the Word on her Chick Lit Plus blog tour for an interview. She was also kind enough to share an excerpt from her debut novel. 

Sara is one of the kindest people I've encountered on my literary adventures, and it's exciting to see her writing career take off.

Thanks for joining us, Sara!

Change the Word: How did you come up with the title for this book?
Sara Palacios: Coming up with a title actually took forever. Originally the book was called Summer to Remember, but it just didn’t feel right. I actually spent quite a lot of time brainstorming with my husband and eventually settled on Love in Translation. He was a big fan of Love is Better Fried. Ah, the things that could have been.

CTW:
Were there any surprises that arose while you were writing this story?
SP: Actually, yes. I didn’t plan on having Steven fall in love with Emily at first. But, when I was writing his character, it somehow happened. I guess that is the way love works, right?

CTW:
Do you share any traits with the MC in your book?
SP: Only a few.

CTW:
What kind of research did you do to write this story?
SP: I did a lot of research on the Spanish language. I also spent a lot of time getting into character and listening to Spanish music. It was a lot of fun.

CTW: What other planning and prep work did you do before you wrote? Are you a plotter or a pantser?
SP: I am a little of both. I typically have a rough outline but let the details fall together as they will. I find that it gives my characters more space to grow.

CTW: How do you balance your time working, writing and raising a family?
SP: It is definitely a balancing act, one that I sometimes fail at. My family comes first and working comes second since I need to have a way to pay my bills. So, unfortunately, writing has taken a back seat. I try to squeeze in writing in the evenings after the little one has gone to bed, but that is easier said than done.

CTW: What is the best piece of writing advice you ever received?
SP: Read as much as you write. There is seriously no better form of research than reading in my opinion.

CTW: If we took a look at your bookshelf, which one would be the most worn out from reading and re-reading?
SP: Probably Lord of the Rings. Is that dorky? Probably. Oh well.

CTW: What's up next for you and your writing career?
SP: I am just starting my next book and am hoping to have it finished by the end of the year. Keep your fingers crossed for me please.

CTW: Is there anything else you would like to share?
SP: I have had such a fun time visiting with you and I am so thankful for the wonderful writing/reading community that I have stumbled upon. Thank you so much for your time Laura!

Excerpt of Love in Translation
I spot Andres as we pull up to the park. He has his back turned as he examines the trail map by the entrance.

I get out of the car and then walk over to the other side to secure Sammy’s leash. After he gets out of the car, he looks around and immediately begins smelling things. He sees a bush, pees on it. Sees a tree, pees on it. He sees grass, pees on it. The cycle continues as we make our way over to Andres. He is wearing gray cargo shorts, the same shirt from this morning, and a navy and white bandana tied around his head. He is carrying a backpack as well.

“Hello,” I say, accidently startling him.

He jumps. “Hi!” he says as he turns. “I was just looking at the trails. ¿Tienes una preferencia?”

My Spanish has really improved. I’ve understood most of what he’s said today, even this morning. 

“No preferencia,” I shake my head, secretly hoping that the trail is relatively flat because I haven’t been hiking in quite some time. That aside, I know I am going to enjoy myself. I am here with Andres, and oddly enough, the weather is beautiful today — slightly overcast with a cool breeze. I am thankful that I won’t have to spend the entire day basking in my own sweat – at least, I hope I won’t have to. 

“So, this must be Sammy.” He bends down and offers the back of his hand. Sammy licks Andres’ hand and then rubs his nose against his calf. He takes an instant liking to Andres and I completely understand why.

“Did you bring water?” he asks as he continues to pet Sammy.

Damnit. How did I forget to bring water?

Reading the look on my face, he says, “That’s okay. I have plenty to share. Are you ready?” 

Sammy is now whipping his tail anxiously back and forth. He barks loudly in anticipation.
We make our way toward the trail that is designated for beginner hikers, according to Andres, and into the woods. We take breaks every so often to let Sammy take a sip out of the river, or to appreciate the beautiful scenery. Everything is so green.

After nearly an hour, we find ourselves in a field of wildflowers, where Sammy rolls around on his back, indicating the ultimate canine contentment. We stop briefly to appreciate the Bluebonnets and Indian Paintbrushes before Andres leads us through some tall shrubs in the opposite direction of the dirt trail.  He points into the distance. “I want to check out a spot over there,” he says, lifting up a large branch for us to maneuver under. I follow carefully as he leads me along a slippery river bank giving way to a breathtaking waterfall just across the water.   

“It is so beautiful.”

He agrees. “Want to take a break?” he asks as he takes off his backpack.

I mumble in agreement while still staring in awe at the water.  I am thankful that he is the one who suggested the break. I hope I don’t look as out of shape as I feel. This hike has been far from easy.

Andres fumbles through his backpack, pulls out a checkered blanket and spreads it alongside the river bank. This man thinks of everything.

“Do you think he wants to swim?” he asks, looking at Sammy.

“I don’t know. Maybe?” I am not sure really what to expect from our hiking companion.
He removes Sammy’s leash and throws a stick into the water. Within seconds, Sammy jumps in, retrieves the stick and brings it back to shore, where he drops it at Andres’ feet, tail wagging. Andres throws the stick out once again.

“Well, I guess he likes to swim after all,” I say.

He winks at me playfully. “I thought he might.”   

“You are really good with dogs,” I say observing the way Sammy has taken to Andres, no longer paying me any mind.

“I grew up with a bunch of dogs,” he pauses as Sammy returns again with the stick. This time he throws it out a little further into the water. “My mother used to tell me stories about how they would always follow me everywhere, even into my bed at night to sleep with me. ¿Y tú?”

“We had a few dogs growing up, but I didn’t really ever get to know them very well. This is actually the first time that I have ever taken a dog hiking before.”

“Really?” he asks.

“Yeah. I was pretty intimidated at first but luckily Sammy is a pretty good dog.” I start laughing, “I thought he was going to drag and pull me everywhere, but he hasn’t. I was actually terrified.”

“Well, if you want, I can take care of him for the rest of the hike,” Andres offers. 
I chuckle. I don’t really think that I have very much of a choice now. Sammy is lying next to Andres on the blanket, his head on his lap, taking a break.

Moments later, Andres reaches into his bag and pulls out a sack full of fruit, nuts and granola bars. We enjoy the wonderful assortment that he has packed as we sit in our perfect little spot, hidden away from the rest of the world.

As I fully take in the moment, I realize that I haven’t been this happy in quite some time. It’s odd because I don’t know Andres very well, but it feels good. Being here, enjoying everything with him has been so nice, and things just feel right. Things are simple with him and I really like it. It is a nice change of pace from the way things were between David and me.

Although this is easier, it doesn’t mean that I’m not still incredibly nervous and self-conscious the whole time that I’m around Andres. Everything is intensified: the grass is greener, the trees are taller, the flowers smell sweeter. A simple glance at him is enough to send me into a frenzy. Even though we have been busy most of the day walking and not doing much talking, our eyes have met several times. And each time, I lost myself in his gaze. So, things are pretty intense for me right now as we sit alone by the riverbank with not another person in sight. I wipe my sweaty palms on my pants and am vividly aware of everything he does. It doesn’t help that every time I look over at him, he’s looking at me with those dreamy eyes.

I am such a mess right now and I know that Andres is definitely getting under my skin – there is no denying that anymore. But, apparently, that hasn’t hurt my appetite. Hopefully he doesn’t think I eat like this all the time.

“Do you want some more grapes?” he asks as he reaches into his bag as if on cue.

“No, thank you. I’m stuffed.”

He picks up the remaining food, offers some to Sammy (except the grapes, which he has informed me are poisonous to dogs), and then puts everything into his backpack. He scoots closer to me on the blanket and lies down on his back. He is now looking up through the trees, toward the clouds. “What do you think that one looks like?” he asks, pointing up.
I glance up and but don’t see anything because there is a tree blocking the view.

“You should move closer,” he suggests.

So I do, and now I am so close that I can feel him, even though we are not close enough to touch. I try to act calm and natural, even though my heart is beating wildly. I look up and see that he is looking at a cloud that closely resembles a pumpkin — or at least, that is what it looks like to me.

He laughs loudly, “A pumpkin?”

“Yeah. What do you think it looks like?”

He turns to face me. “A sheep, not a pumpkin,” he says playfully.

I look up and see another large cloud that has come into view, and now it is my turn.

“What do you think about that one?” I ask, pointing.

He looks at it closely, examining it in detail. “I think it looks like a bird.”

“A bird?” I ask.

He turns to look at me, a smirk on his face, “Yes. What do you think it looks like? A squash?” he asks playfully.

I can’t help it, I start laughing so hard I get the hiccups. I try to catch my breath, but it takes me a couple of seconds. “I actually think it looks like a butterfly.”

“A butterfly?” He pauses to think for a second, “What is a butterfly?”

“A butterfly is … una marisposa.”

He props himself up on his left arm, turns his head toward me and looks me straight in the eye. “¡Ah, una mariposa!” he says, “but I think it looks more like a bird.”

I lie there, staring up at him. He is smiling softly; kindly. I could get used to that smile. There is a moment of silence between us where all I hear is my own breathing.
“So, do you notice anything different about me?” he asks, still gazing down at me.
Something different? I wonder what he could be referring to. I think about it and try my hardest to come up with something — something that shows him that I have been paying attention. But after examining everything from his bandana, to his haircut, to his shoes,
I have nothing.

I offer a guess. “Uhmmm, you got a new hair cut?”

He shakes his head.

“You got a new bandana?” I ask sheepishly.

He laughs. “Actually, the bandana is new, but not really what I was referring to.”

“Am I getting close?”

He laughs, “not really.”

This is getting embarrassing. “I give up Andres. I just can’t think of anything different.”

“Really?” he asks. He sounds surprised. “What about my English?”

My cheeks turn a bright shade of pink. “My goodness. You’re right.” How embarrassing. How could I have missed something so important, something so crucial? I hadn’t realized that he had been speaking to me in English for most of the day now. I guess I was too nervous to even notice, or maybe too focused on other things. I would think that if I showed up speaking Spanish the whole time that he definitely would have noticed. I feel so stupid for not catching it.

“How did you learn English so fast?” I ask, trying to recover quickly and thinking back to the first time we met where we hardly said a word to one another.  I thought of his party when he spent most of the night talking to Deana and feeding me bites of food. And then there was the kiss – no talking necessary then. The scent of his skin. The touch of his gentle lips. Thinking of the kiss makes me tingly all over. I shiver. 

“Are you cold?” he asks me.
Busted.

“No, no,” I say embarrassed. I can’t believe he saw that. “So how did you do it?” I ask, trying to change the subject.

He looks at me tenderly and then winks. “I guess you could say that I had a secret motivation.”

“Like what?” I ask curiously, wondering if his motivation was anything like my motivation to learn Spanish. He moves close enough for me to feel his breath. There is something in his eyes. “You,” he whispers as he leans in and kisses me — slowly, softly at first.
Then, I feel his tongue trace my lips before slipping inside, feeling its way around mine. Oh. My. Goodness. The kissing grows hungry with each second. We kiss for a long time until we hear a branch break nearby and see another couple making their way to the river, probably to do the same thing we were just doing. Alas, all good things must come to an end.
Unfortunately.

I quickly straighten my clothing and smooth my hair out. I also take a moment to cool down.

Is it hot out here? Or is it just me?

He really is as sexy as he looks; each second with him leaves me wanting more and more. Andres sits up and we share a secret and a smile.

The walk back is quiet, but I am too busy replaying the kiss over and over in my head to notice. It doesn’t matter that it’s almost dark and I can’t really see where I’m going, or the fact that my legs are cramping, mosquitoes are biting or that I have to pee.
Unfortunately for me, I am oblivious to them all. 

When we get back to the park entrance, Andres helps Sammy into my back seat. “My brother is having a party tomorrow. I would like for you to join me, if you are free. And if you would like to.”

“Really?” I ask, a little surprised by his invitation.

“Claro que sí,” he says smiling. “We are going to have to work on your Spanish.”
I blush. “We will.”

“I had a great time with you,” he says as he leans in and gives me a kiss on the lips.
“Me, too,” I say, grinning from ear to ear. “Thank you for a wonderful day.”

About the Author

Sara Palacios is a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin with a major in Advertising and a minor in English Literature. It was during her time in college that she really fell in love with the written word and ventured into writing her own stories. In addition to writing, Sara spends a majority of her time reading the works of other authors.  She reads most genres  – but thoroughly enjoys chick-lit, women’s and historical fiction.

When she isn’t busy reading or writing, Sara enjoys spending time with family and friends. She is happily married, the owner of two precious doggies and a new mom to a handsome baby boy. Sara is also an avid animal-lover, runner, yoga enthusiast, wannabe vegan, USA soccer fan, foodie and fashion blog-lover and Christian. 

Connect with Sara
Twitter: Sara Palacios
Facebook: Sara Palacios
Email: sararpalacios@gmail.com

Buy the Book
Amazon: Print or eBook
Barnes and Noble: eBook
Kobo: eBook


Enter to Win
Everyone who leaves a comment on the main tour page (here) will be entered to win the Love in Translation prize package!

Prize package includes:
Six-pack eau de parfum from Victoria's Secret, $10 gift card to Target and the following items from Bath and Body Works: Carried Away shower gel, 3 oz. Sparkling Blackberry Woods lotion, small stress relief candle and small White barn candle.

Anyone who purchases their copy of Love In Translation before April 1 and sends their receipt to Samantha (at) ChickLitPlus (dot) com, will get five bonus entries. Please note this is open to US 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.

March 28, 2013

book review: love in translation

Breaking up is hard to do, but in Sara Palacios' Love in Translation, the end of a relationship becomes the catalyst for a young woman's path to self discovery and true love.

Unscrupulously dumped by her cheating boyfriend, Emily quickly loses it. But after some mild ex-stalking, a look back at her other failed relationships, lots of red wine drinking, a household purge of everything that reminds her of the ex and time with her girlfriends, Emily comes to a realization. She had been settling for less than true love, and she is determined never to do it again.

That potential true love moves into the apartment across from her in the form of a sexy Spanish chef. Sparks fly as they embark on a sizzling affair. But even as she opens up her heart to this new romance, complications arise when her long-time best friend reveals his deeper feelings toward her.

Emily must make sense of her complicated life and decide which path is the right one on her road to happiness.

As far as characters go, Emily might be one of the most relatable I have read in a while. Not only does she handle her break-up in much the same way as I -- or any of my closest friends -- would, but when she falls apart, she does so with a mix of charm and cringe-worthiness that makes it an entertaining rather than totally painful read.

I also particularly liked her current life status: she teaches fourth grade and lives in an average apartment in a thriving city perfect for a young woman to explore life (Austin, Texas). She has enough quirkiness to make her interesting, but enough normalcy to make her comforting.

I could seriously see Emily and I being good friends, which made rooting for her all the easier.

Her pack of friends also offered plenty of entertainment and intrigue. Her best friends are there to support her and curse the awful ex when she needs them. But they are also there to intervene and talk her down when she slips into a bit of insanity. We could all use friends like Emily's.

The relationships Emily has with her parents and sister are also completely realistic, and the tense relationship with her mother adds additional depth to the story. Plus, her father is adorable and sweet.

Now, let's talk about the boys.

Andres, the hottie from across the hall, and Steven, her longtime best friend, each made solid candidates for Emily's main man. She has to choose between someone who makes her feel sexy and desirable and a person who has always been there for her.

I knew who I wanted to give my rose to early on (that's a reference from The Bachelor in case you've succeeded in never following this show, unlike me), but I could definitely understand the difficulty she faced.

Fast-paced and tightly written, Love in Translation made for a quick, but enjoyable read. After working with Sara on other blog tours and following her career for the past year, I was delighted to see her publish her debut novel and to have the opportunity to read and enjoy it. This was a solid first book, and I look forward to seeing what comes next for this fab author.

Rating: 4.5 of 5

Be sure to check back tomorrow for an excerpt of the book and interview with the author.

About the Author
Sara Palacios is a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin with a major in Advertising and a minor in English Literature. It was during her time in college that she really fell in love with the written word and ventured into writing her own stories. In addition to writing, Sara spends a majority of her time reading the works of other authors.  She reads most genres  – but thoroughly enjoys chick-lit, women’s and historical fiction.

When she isn’t busy reading or writing, Sara enjoys spending time with family and friends. She is happily married, the owner of two precious doggies and a new mom to a handsome baby boy. Sara is also an avid animal-lover, runner, yoga enthusiast, wannabe vegan, USA soccer fan, foodie and fashion blog-lover and Christian. 

Connect with Sara
Twitter: Sara Palacios
Facebook: Sara Palacios
Email: sararpalacios@gmail.com

Buy the Book
Amazon: Print or eBook
Barnes and Noble: eBook
Kobo: eBook


Enter to Win
Everyone who leaves a comment on the main tour page (here) will be entered to win the Love in Translation prize package!

Prize package includes:
Six-pack eau de parfum from Victoria's Secret, $10 gift card to Target and the following items from Bath and Body Works: Carried Away shower gel, 3 oz. Sparkling Blackberry Woods lotion, small stress relief candle and small White barn candle.

Anyone who purchases their copy of Love In Translation before April 1 and sends their receipt to Samantha (at) ChickLitPlus (dot) com, will get five bonus entries. Please note this is open to US 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.

March 27, 2013

book review: rapunzel untangled

A classic fairy tale comes to life in the present in Cindy C. Bennett's young adult novel, Rapunzel Untangled.

Rapunzel Gothel is the only child of a mysterious and overly protective woman. Told she severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID), she is kept in a tower away from the rest of the world, seemingly for her protection. Her long blonde hair also holds power to save the world -- or so she is told. But as she has grown older, Rapunzel begins to question her solitude and becomes increasingly curious of the outside world. Thanks to Facebook, she befriends a charming boy named Fane.

Though a modern retelling, complete with interaction via instant messaging, the writing of this novel still managed to capture the fanciful and storybook tone of a fairy tale. This was unexpected for a young adult novel, and created a greater impact. Though I do not have a lot of experience reading fantasy stories, I imagine this tone would sit well with fans of this genre, without alienating strangers like me, which makes for a universally solid story.

This story was fast-paced, filled with plenty of unexpected twists and turns while ultimately leading towards the happily ever after necessary with a fairy tale.

The character of Rapunzel was well-modernized, but like the writing, still kept those elements of mysticism and intrigue that belong with a fairy tale. Often naive and sometimes foolish, though incredibly intelligent and strong, her characterization was believable given how isolated she has been throughout her whole life.

As a fan of Disney princesses, I appreciated the little friendships she creates with some of the animals she comes across while living in her tower. This was a great nod to the traditional tales most of us are familiar with, while leaving plenty of room to introduce new ideas.

The love interest provided with Fane was equally believable, and his appeal, especially as seen through her eyes, was understandable. He represents the outside world and modernism that she has been kept from. Pair that with his sense of humor, good looks and intelligence, and he makes for a solid leading man.

One of my favorite parts of the story was Rapunzel and Fane becoming acquainted with each other early in the book. He tries to guess what the RG in her screen name stands for, and makes a reference to Rumpelstiltskin, which was one of my favorite stories growing up. For whatever reason, I have often paired these two stories together in my head -- likely because they are named for characters with fantastical names beginning with F -- and it was a nice nod to the existence of fairy tales, even if the traditional Rapunzel story does not exist in this world.

Their romance was a perfect mix of the fairy tale fantasy and modern teens that had some sizzle without crossing any lines to shock young readers.

This modern adaptation of Rapunzel succeeds in paying homage and consideration to the well-known tale, while introducing enough new plot elements and details to become its own unique story. Fans of fantasy, fairy tales and young adult stories should find an enjoyable and solid read in this.

Rating: 4 of 5

For more information visit the author's blog here.

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March 26, 2013

interview with the author of 'someone else's fairytale'

Blogger's Note: After reviewing E.M. Tippetts' Someone Else's Fairytale yesterday (read it here and an excerpt here), I'm pleased to welcome the author to dish on writing this book, fairy tales, inspiration and more.

Change the Word: How did you come up with the idea for this book?
E.M. Tippetts: The idea was too funny to pass up. A woman who is down to earth and not easily impressed has the most famous actor on the planet eating out of her hand? There was so much possibility there, but what sums up the idea is the scene in which Jason Vanderholt, the Hollywood A-lister, shows up on the doorstep of Chloe Winters, the main character, with a carton of ice cream that he wants to spoon feed her. Millions of women dream about this, but for Chloe, it's awkward. It'd be like having some total stranger show up on your doorstep with this offer.

CTW:
What is your planning and research process like?
EMT: I first figure out what kind of story I want to write, and then I do some limited research before I begin the first draft. The key is *not* to do all your research up front because you can research just about anything endlessly. For Someone Else's Fairytale, I read up a little on the film industry, but then I just started to write scenes and as I wrote them, I noted down what I needed to know, i.e. how a set is organized, what kinds of services the extras are offered, the way the stars are treated, that sort of thing. Anything that was central to the plot I'd stop and research as I came to it, but a lot of what I needed to know was just window dressing, so I finished the first draft and then spoke at length to a friend who did her MFA in film at UCLA and worked on a feature film set. I also spoke to Laura Mixon Gould, who's husband's book, Jumper, was turned into a film. She told me what it was like to attend a premiere, how things were organized, that sort of thing. And I'm sure I got things wrong too, but I did my best, and if I get movie stars calling me up to complain, I'll think, "Wow! I just got called by a movie star!!!"

CTW: How do you stay motivated to keep writing?
EMT: My situation is a little unusual, but not unheard of. I have the mild obsessive disorder that dictates I have to write, or I'm not a happy person. Now, I don't have to write well, or write stuff for other people to read, but I do need to sit down and talk to my imaginary friends on paper every single day. My desire to write things that can sell is due to the incredible frustration I'd feel devoting that much time to writing and having nothing to show for it. I'm a pragmatist that way. I figure I might as well turn it into a source of passive income, and that's what drives me, the knowledge that I'll be sitting down and writing whether I really want to or not, so why not make the words count for something.

CTW: How do you avoid distractions while you were writing?
EMT: Because I'm a stay at home mommy with two little kids, I can't get distraction free writing time. It just doesn't exist, so instead I've had to learn to write despite distractions. Corey Doctorow put it best... only I don't remember his exact words (sorry Corey). The gist of it was, he began to sell stories when he made himself write every day, no matter the circumstances, even when he was in an airport in Southeast Asia and the only electrical socket was under a massive table pushed up against the wall. He crawled under that table, plugged in his laptop, and got to work. I imagine him when I've got children screaming in my ears.

CTW: Are there any must-haves for you while writing (snacks, music, etc.)?
EMT: I get into the habit of using the same computer. I angered a minor computer deity sometime in my past (on accident, no idea what I did) and thus have the worst computer troubles of anyone you'll ever meet. No, really. My husband learned this the hard way when the laptop he'd used with a very modified form of Linux to run complex models proceded to die when we restored it to the factory Windows settings for me. The font got permanently changed to Wingdings, for everything, and there was no way to change it back, and when we took it in to have it looked at, they lost it for a week. So then my husband built me another computer, but we couldn't install any operating system on it, for no reason that he could discern. Might I remind you that he's an engineer who does his own Linux modifications and really complex modeling? Finally we managed to find a way to start installing Windows on it, but during the installation the power went out and damaged the hard drive. That is a normal kind of story for me. My poor husband just about lost his mind.

Anyway, back to your question, I get used to working on the same computer so it's the closest thing I have to a must have. I'm most comfortable working on the same machine, be it laptop, desktop, or even just a little netbook, day in and day out. Having to switch slows me down. That's my only must have, really.

CTW:
What is your favorite fairytale story?
EMT: Shrek II, the one that affirmed that true love is the ultimate fairytale, committing to the right person is how you get happily ever after, and asserted that everyone, no matter how hideous, deserves their Cinderalla moments. As for the classic fairytales, I'm not a huge fan of the genre.

CTW:
If you could trade places with any Disney princess, who would you switch with and why?
EMT: Belle from Beauty and the Beast, because of that library he gave her. Most Romantic Gift EVER!

CTW: A lady after my own heart. Have you ever had a real-life fairy tale moment? If so describe.
EMT: I've had one that other people might consider a fairytale, and is likely part of the subconscious inspiration for my book. I won't name names, but I had a favorite author growing up and as an adult, I began to correspond with him. Through a series of random events, I got to know his son and dated him for a while, and I remember thinking that this is the kind of thing they make fairytales out of, but that such fairytale moments are wasted on me. It was a funny coincidence, nothing more.

CTW:
What advice do you have for aspiring writers?
EMT: Get training early and often. It's my one regret, that I didn't sign up for creative writing courses in high school, but since I did get training in my twenties, I can see how much it's helped me. Obviously, it isn't something I'll ever stop acquiring, whether it be from workshops, writers groups, articles, essays, books, etc. but it really can make a significant difference to the quality of your work.

CTW: Anything else you would like to share?
EMT: Just a sincere thank you for the opportunity to have this interview!

Don't forget to check out my review (here) and an excerpt of the book (here).

About the Author
E.M. Tippetts grew up in New Mexico and now lives in London, where she raises two boisterous toddlers, designs jewelry, and writes novels. A former attorney, she used to specialize in real estate and estate planning, specifically literary estate planning. She currently has five novels out, Time & Eternity, Paint Me True, Someone Else's Fairytale, Castles on the Sand, and Nobody's Damsel (Fairytale 2).

Connect with E.M.

Buy the Book
www.barnesandnoble.com/w/someone-elses-fairytale-em-tippetts/1107900208?ean=9781467940153



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March 25, 2013

book review: someone else's fairytale

Some times a dream beyond your wildest imagination come true, and others one closer to home does, too. In E.M. Tippetts' Someone Else's Fairytale, a young woman discovers this fact.

Chloe Winters wants few things in her life: to graduate at the top of her class from the University of New Mexico, enter graduate school in a year and pursue a career in her dream profession: forensic science. After growing up on the wrong side of tow, the illegitimate daughter of a high-profile dentist and his long-time assistant, she has little wish of anything else -- especially when it comes to romance.

All of that changes the day she shows up as an extra on-set of a moving being filmed near her college campus as a favor to a friend. She catches the eye of Jason Vanderholt, the local boy who sprang to stardom after a successful run on a Disney show followed-up by blockbuster success. Even as he falls harder and harder for Chloe, she faces a constant war between her heart and her brain as she also finds a way to reconcile the demons of her past with any hopes for her future.

Chloe makes a solid main character and narrator of the book. Within pages, I was drawn to her and wanted to know more about her life -- in particular the mystery surrounding her past, which has left her emotionally and physically damaged. As we, the readers, learn more about her and the wounds she carries, it is easy to understand her caution, especially with matters of the heart. She dreams of a normal life, and is completely unimpressed by Jason's lifestyle, which created a lot of good moments in the story.

Jason is no slouch as a character, either. At first, like Mary Poppins, he seems practically perfect in every way. As the story progresses, we also learn more about his past, which turns up plenty of flaws that make him intriguing instead of boring, ultimately making him a delicious dish to crush on. And despite all of his baggage, he genuinely seems like a good guy, which makes rooting for him a treat instead of a task.

The supporting characters in this story also stood out as shining elements. From Jason's well-meaning, but often overly involved family, to Chloe's self-absorbed mother, to their friends that range from a Texas good ol' boy to somewhat sleazy action stars. Perhaps the most intriguing of these characters is Jason's step-niece Kyra. Her character development and subplot enriched and progressed everything going on between Chloe and Jason in a clever way.

On top of that, this new adult novel with elements of chick lit and romantic comedy -- with a toe dipped in thriller/mystery -- offered plenty of intrigue and tension that kept me reading more. Even though a lot happens in this story, and there are many characters, it was easy and enjoyable to follow.

I stayed up late reading this story, and after reading the first two chapters of the sequel, I went ahead and made it an all nighter to see what happened next in Chloe's world. I'll delve into my thoughts on book two more deeply in May when I officially review Nobody's Damsel (sorry, y'all, the book isn't on tour until then), but I mention it now to let you know how caught up I was in these characters.

Tippetts provides a fun twist on the concept of finding fairytales in everyday life, while offering up a character-driven story that creates a solid foundation for future stories to come.

Be sure to check out an excerpt of the book here.

Rating: 4.5 of 5

Check back tomorrow for an interview with the author!

About the Author
E.M. Tippetts grew up in New Mexico and now lives in London, where she raises two boisterous toddlers, designs jewelry, and writes novels. A former attorney, she used to specialize in real estate and estate planning, specifically literary estate planning. She currently has five novels out, Time & Eternity, Paint Me True, Someone Else's Fairytale, Castles on the Sand, and Nobody's Damsel (Fairytale 2).

Connect with E.M.

Buy the Book
www.barnesandnoble.com/w/someone-elses-fairytale-em-tippetts/1107900208?ean=9781467940153



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excerpt: someone else's fairytale

Blogger's Note: Before I share my review of EM Tippetts' Someone Else's Fairytale with you later this morning, here's an excerpt of novel
I turned around, and found myself face to face with Jason Vanderholt. He was just like his publicity shots, blue eyes, tanned skin, toned physique. He looked at me, one eyebrow slightly raised. Around him were several guys with cellphones out. An entourage.

 “Yeah, hi,” I said.

"Hey. How are you?" He was wearing a t-shirt and holding a paper cup in one hand, which he raised to his lips. I watched him shake something into his mouth, which he then crunched between his teeth. “It's ice,” he said, with his mouth full.

The sun wasn't up yet and it felt like we were standing in a giant refrigerator. This guy was crazier than Lori.

He gave me a wry smile. “You want some?”

“Aren't you cold?”

“Freezing. Gotta do this between scenes so my breath doesn't steam when I say lines. See?” He was right. His breath did not steam as he spoke.

 “Fascinating,” I said.

He chuckled. “You look really familiar.”

“Never met you in my life.”

“What's your name?”

“Chloe.”

“Chloe what?”

“Winters.”

His eyes popped wide with recognition. “Like Chris and Beth! Okay, okay, now I know why I recognize you. You're... what? Their cousin? You gotta be related.”

My pulse edged up a notch and I wrapped my jacket more tightly around myself, as if its insulated fabric were an invisibility cloak. “You know Chris Winters?”

“Heck yeah. He was in my class in high school. His dad was my dentist.”

“He was?” My pulse edged up another notch. I felt stupid. I'd gotten after so many other people for making up tenuous connections to this guy that I'd overlooked the fact that he really was from town. Had grown up here and known people.

“Yeah. When I was a kid... Something wrong?”

“No.” I said it too fast. “No, it's just, I don't really know him, his family. I'm not a close relative.”

“Really? But you look so much like Beth.”

I shrugged. “I'll take your word for it.”

“But-”

One of his team of guys put a hand on his arm and said something into his ear. “Okay,” he replied. “Chloe, right?”

I nodded.

He held out a hand. “Jason. Vanderholt.”

“Yeah, I know.”

He grinned as if that was a clever, witty reply. We shook. His hand was like ice, his skin dry. I let go and he moved on down the line.

As soon as he turned his back, I sank down to the ground and gulped the rest of my hot chocolate, which was now almost cold. Lori stared at me with wide eyes. “He knows you?”

“No.”

“Who's Chris Winters?” said Matthew.

I looked at him, then at Lori, then at him again. “I don't want to talk about it. I'm sorry. My family's a little messed up and-”

“Say no more,” said Matthew.

Be sure to check back later, today, for my review, and tomorrow for an interview with the author!

About the Author
E.M. Tippetts grew up in New Mexico and now lives in London, where she raises two boisterous toddlers, designs jewelry, and writes novels. A former attorney, she used to specialize in real estate and estate planning, specifically literary estate planning. She currently has five novels out, Time & Eternity, Paint Me True, Someone Else's Fairytale, Castles on the Sand, and Nobody's Damsel (Fairytale 2).

Connect with E.M.

Buy the Book
www.barnesandnoble.com/w/someone-elses-fairytale-em-tippetts/1107900208?ean=9781467940153


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March 24, 2013

book review: highlander most wanted

Maya Banks' Highlander Most Wanted tells the story of love prevailing over pain, set in the picturesque Scottish Highlands.

A year ago, Genevieve McInnis was kidnapped en route to her betrothed and taken prisoner by Ian McHugh, the cruel son of a laird, who was determined to have her for his own. Not only did he take her captive, but he cruelly made her his mistress, an object of ridicule amongst his clan and left her beloved parents to think her dead. As an extra blow, he scarred her once perfect face, telling her no man but him would want her. After he is killed for crossing the Montgomery clan, her only wish is escape to a convent where she can live the rest of her years overcoming the shame.

Plans change when the beautiful ladies man Bowen Montgomery enters the scene. He is instantly intrigued and captivated by the still lovely woman with pain in her eyes, but strength and dignity underlying it. He quickly falls in love and vows to give her a life free from the suffering she has endured.

But with many obstacles standing in the way of their happiness, can Bowen and Genevieve ever hope of building a future together?

I went into this read with high expectations. I've loved a good historical romance set in the Highlands since reading Julie Garwood's Saving Grace when I was twelve, and after devouring the rest of her historical Scot books, I've been hard-pressed to find another series that met the standard set by them. Highlander Most Wanted was a quick read with loads of appealing characters that pretty much lived up to the hype.

This book had a lot working for it. There's a damaged, but strong heroine in need of heeling. There's a flirty rake in need of reformation. There's cruel clansmen, kind clansmen and meddling family members. There were horses, a battle scene, hunting and bathing in a stream. There was questionable pasts, hidden motives and a passionate love affair.

In short: Highlander Most Wanted is everything a fan of historical romances set in the highlands of Scotland could want.

Genevieve was a strong heroine with more flaws than you often find in a romance novel. In addition to the physical marks left on her face, her perceived damaged reputation and some of the questionable choices made in her past, she is also strong, caring and self aware. Watching her rediscover happiness and self worth made this book worth the read.

And can we talk about Bowen? This guy has a heart of gold, depth and serious stud qualities, I lost my own heart to him during the reading. Though there can be only one love for him, he proves himself a prince of the universe by putting Genevieve's needs above his own.

Like those puns I worked in from Highlander? I know, I know, I just proved how witty and cool I am. I might as well figuratively drop the mic and exit the stage, because I'll never top my cleverness now. But first the review's conclusion...

Highlander Most Wanted was a solid read that made me want to devour the other books in the Armstrong and Montgomery series.

Rating: 4.5 of 5

For more information about this book click here.



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March 22, 2013

interview with the author of 'the wisdom of hair'

Blogger's Note: Today, we welcome Kim Boykin, who is on tour for her book The Wisdom of Hair. Thank you for joining us, Kim.

Change the Word: How did you come up with this book?
Kim Boykin: I met a woman who was raised in Appalachia. She told me how hard her life was growing up, how she had a succession of drunk "daddies" her mother brought home, and how she knew she had to get out of that situation and if she ever wanted to make something of herself. She left the mountains and went on to become a teacher.

CTW: What research was involved in the planning?
KB: I wish I could say I poured hours and hours into research, but no. Stories just come to me, I don't plot or outline. I just hear my people's voices and start writing. In earlier versions of The Wisdom of Hair, about one third of the book was about Zora's hard mountain life. But the story really begins when Zora decides she has to leave home to find a better life. Starting the story there gave it more traction. Agents and editors were asking to see the whole manuscript, so I knew I was on the right track.

CTW: What challenges did you face writing it?
KB:
The biggest challenge for a Southern writer publishing a book for the masses is to make sure that the Southerness can be understood by anyone who reads it no matter where they're from. For instance, if you say "beach music" anywhere but here in the Carolinas, people think The Beach Boys. But beach music here is music groups like the Tams, the Drifters, General Johnson, who toured up and down the Atlantic coast for years. Now knockoff bands have take their places so that Carolinians can get still their shag (the state dance of SC) on.

CTW: How do you stay motivated to keep writing?
KB: I've done this for so long, I wouldn't know how to not write. Occasionally, I'll hit a snag with a plot element. In those cases I have  some great girlfriends who are fabulous writers. We brain storm and laugh a lot until I'm back on track again.

CTW: With a character who you describe as dressing like Judy Garland, I have to know, what is your favorite Judy Garland movie?
KB: I'm a garden variety "The Wizard of Oz" kind of fan. I knew the dialogue by heart at one time. When my son who is now 23 was about four, he developed a creepy obsession with villianesses. The wicked step mother, Cruella DeVille, the evil queen in Snow White. After he first saw "The Wizard of Oz," he ran around the house with a broomstick between his legs all the time, jumping down the stairs threatening to fly. You can't have "The Wizard of Oz" without the witch. That killed the movie for me for a long time, and today, my son is an actor.

CTW: What book is the most read on your bookshelf?
KB: Had A Good Time by Robert Olen Butler

CTW: What is your favorite recent read?
KB: A Good Hard Look by Ann Napolitano

CTW: What is the best piece of writing advice you ever received?
KB: Figure out what texture is and use it to make the writing rich.

CTW: What's up next for you and your writing career?
KB: LOTS of promotion for The Wisdom of Hair while I await news about the two books on submission with my editor.

CTW: Anything else you would like to share?
KB: I read part of a book the other day that a woman had taken time to write and paid good money to publish. She had a compelling story but didn't take time to learn the craft before she published. Whether you self-pub or traditionally publish, make sure the work is as good as possible. If you can't hire an editor and a copy editor get into a critique group and make friends with folks with those skills, but above all, start learning you craft and never stop.

Read an excerpt of the book here, and my review here.

About the Author
Kim Boykin learned about women and their hair in her mother’s beauty shop in a tiny South Carolina town. She loves to write stories about strong Southern women, because that’s what she knows. While her stories are always set in South Carolina, she lives in Charlotte, N.C., with her husband, three dogs and 126 rose bushes.

Connect with Kim
Website: kimboykin.com
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/authorkimboykin

Buy the Book
Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/The-Wisdom-of-Hair-ebook/dp/B0099CG4XC/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1362342903&sr=8-2&keywords=the+wisdom+of+hair
Book trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vvwjeNhShCU



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March 21, 2013

book review: the wisdom of hair

Steel Magnolias meets Jane Eyre in Kim Boykin's The Wisdom of Hair (read an excerpt here).

In 1983, Zora Adams turns 18 and moves away from the home she shares with her alcoholic, Judy Garland-obsessed mother in the mountains of South Carolina. She moves to the coast where she will study to fulfill her lifelong ambition of becoming a hairstylist.

While there she meets a few people who forever change her life: Sara Jane Farquhar and Winston Sawyer.

Sara Jane is the cherished daughter in a supportive family. A fellow student at the school, the girls become fast and close friends. Winston Sawyer teaches English and is an alcoholic widower still coping with the loss of his wife. She comes to love them both, and each shapes her life in a permanent way.

As Zora endeavors to become the woman she always dreamed of being, she also must deal with the demons of her past and learn to live with the cards life deals her.

The Yankee Girl in me kept making comparisons between this book and Steel Magnolias, as I mentioned earlier.Though I'm well aware these stories are set in different parts of the south, which does not make them the same, I likened it to the movie that I know and love well. This gave me an almost instant interest in digging deeper into this story.

More than the southern roots -- Zora is from South Carolina rather than Louisiana -- I kept making this connection because of the tight-knight community of women (and a couple of men) involved in hairstyling. Though Steel Magnolias was more of an ensemble cast story than The Wisdom of Hair, which has a clear-cut heroine, I loved that same element of seeing women (and, OK, a couple of men) be stronger than they appear and finding comfort and support from other each other.

I also made the connection to Jane Eyre, because like Jane, Zora is practically if not literally an orphan who finds herself drawn to people who can help or hurt her. She must also make tough decisions about the outcome of her life, which are especially difficult given the challenges she is issued.

It was an emotional ride to watch Zora navigate the best decisions for her life. I found myself constantly worrying about her welfare, because I genuinely cared about her. Her missteps were painful to observe, but they only made her movements in the ride direction all the sweeter.

Even without my finding connotations to other stories I liked, I would have enjoyed The Wisdom of Hair for its own sake. Filled with plenty of unique characters, placed in a well-described setting, told at a fast -- but smooth -- pace and complete with believable dialogue, this book was a solid read. I recommend it for anyone who enjoys stories about the complexities of family, love and life.

Rating: 4 of 5

About the Author
Kim Boykin learned about women and their hair in her mother’s beauty shop in a tiny South Carolina town. She loves to write stories about strong Southern women, because that’s what she knows. While her stories are always set in South Carolina, she lives in Charlotte, N.C., with her husband, three dogs and 126 rose bushes.

Connect with Kim
Website: kimboykin.com
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/authorkimboykin

Buy the Book
Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/The-Wisdom-of-Hair-ebook/dp/B0099CG4XC/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1362342903&sr=8-2&keywords=the+wisdom+of+hair
Book trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vvwjeNhShCU



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excerpt of 'the wisdom of hair'

Blogger's Note: I'll share my review of Kim Boykin's The Wisdom of Hair later today, but first, here's an excerpt of the novel. Enjoy!
It was getting dark. I was afraid to stay any longer. I touched his cheek with the back of my hand so slightly; it couldn’t have felt like anything more than a whisper. Then I turned to go.

“Thank you,” he said. I froze. “For the dinner. Dinners.” I stood right by the picnic table and turned to face him in the twilight. I could tell by the look on his face that he didn’t know I’d spent the better part of my nights watching him.

“You’re welcome.” My own voice was so soft I barely heard it myself. I wanted to say something, something meaningful that would cut though the whiskey and stay with him forever.

“Don’t stay out too late. It’s supposed to rain tonight.” I sounded like a stupid weather girl.

“Oh, God.” He tried to sit up but smiled this sweet drunken smile, then fell back in the hammock. “I can’t get up,” he laughed and moaned, like a thirteen-year-old who had just been asked to roll out of bed early on a Saturday morning.

“Can you help me?”

 My heart stopped beating. My breath caught in the pit of my stomach where hope and fantasy pretended I was more to him than a girl from the mountains cooking for my keep. I didn’t answer him. I went to him, leaned over and put his arm around my neck. As I pulled him up out of the hammock, his hand brushed against my breast, but I don’t think he knew that.

“Just help me get to the door, Zora.”

He said my name. The first fat raindrops splattered on us, a preview of the coming storm. I guided him toward the kitchen door. His head drooped so close to my shoulder, I felt his breath on my neck. His scent made me dizzy. When we reached the door, he leaned against the wall with his eyes closed and smiled. My heart stopped again when his hands touched my cheeks and then disappeared into my hair. He fumbled with the clip until it came undone and leaned forward to smell my hair like it was a pretty flower. Smiling, he picked up a handful, held it up to his face, and breathed deeply. Then he disappeared through the door. I could hear him ricocheting off the walls as he walked down the hall and up the stairs to his bedroom.

I wanted to follow him and make him smile again. As I turned to leave, I noticed the Styrofoam plate of food I’d set on the picnic table had a puddle of rain on top of the tinfoil. I didn’t think twice about the rules. I didn’t care. I picked it up, poured the water off the foil, and went into the kitchen. When I opened the refrigerator door, my heart broke. There were six or seven meals I had prepared. Some had taken hours to fix, and he had just shoved them into the refrigerator and never eaten them. I wanted to die.

I ran out of the kitchen and stopped just shy of the stairs to my apartment. I thought about Daddy Heyward, my second daddy, and how he passed out on our couch every single night he lived with us. I hated Mama for fussing over him like a new puppy whenever he pissed himself or worse, and hated her even more for not knowing how to love somebody who wasn’t a drunk.

A gust of wind blew the thick damp smell of summer rain hard across my face. And there was the scent of the moonflowers whose very purpose for existing was to bathe the night air with its own love potion. The combination of the two made the last few minutes I’d spent watching Winston snake around in my mind. I saw glimpses of his hand brushing against my breast and his smile when he touched my hair. I closed my eyes and remembered his earthy scent. He was more than Scotch and a pretty face; I would have bet my life on it. The rain came down hard enough to chase anyone with good sense inside. But I stood there as the downpour washed over me and convinced myself I could have him.
Be sure to check back later for my review of the book and tomorrow for my interview with the author.

About the Author
Kim Boykin learned about women and their hair in her mother’s beauty shop in a tiny South Carolina town. She loves to write stories about strong Southern women, because that’s what she knows. While her stories are always set in South Carolina, she lives in Charlotte, N.C., with her husband, three dogs and 126 rose bushes.

Connect with Kim
Website: kimboykin.com
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/authorkimboykin

Buy the Book
Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/The-Wisdom-of-Hair-ebook/dp/B0099CG4XC/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1362342903&sr=8-2&keywords=the+wisdom+of+hair
Book trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vvwjeNhShCU



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March 20, 2013

tour galore

Blogger's Note: I previously published a version of this post on a short-lived writing blog I shared with friends. It's a topic people have brought up with me in the past year, and with a little updating, this post basically shares my perspective. Enjoy.

One of my favorite roles as a blogger is hosting blog tour visits. Blog tours provide authors an opportunity to promote their material and gain feedback with reviews on participating blogs. It's great for authors. Either they manage the blog tour themselves, they pay a reasonable fee to have someone else do it, or they're lucky enough to have a publicist who tackles the whole thing.

But what's in it for the blogger? He or she is not being paid to run a guest post/interview/etc. or review the book (or they shouldn't be paid by the author/publisher, because that leads to bias). Why do it?

For me it's an easy answer: Blog tours are fun.

Not only do I have the chance to read the latest books from a variety of authors AND gain new voices on my blog, but I'm networking. I LOVE networking.

As a writer, you have to be a reader. In my case, I am fortunate enough to receive blog tour requests predominantly from authors who write books in the genres I most enjoy. This keeps me on my toes and shows me what else is happening in the field.

A majority of the books recently featured come from debut authors. To me, there is nothing as special as reading an author's first book. You see his or her potential and can later say you have followed him or her from the beginning. It has been more rewarding than I can say to watch several of these debut authors become established in their careers. It's truly amazing.

When it comes to having authors contribute guests posts or participate in interviews, I like to make them as informative as possible. This blog focuses on my writing journey and lessons I've learned in addition to sharing book reviews and author promos. Through blog tours, I hope to give readers multiple other accounts of how it is done.

Blog readers aren't the only ones who get educated, because I learn something every time an author joins in.

My favorite part: in some many cases, I stay in touch with the author through social media and email. These authors keep me motivated, and in turn I support them in continuing their career. I owe a couple of book ideas or story developments to authors I met through this. And, because they have been there and done it before, they know just what to say to push me toward my goals. 

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take a walk

Blogger's Note: During my travels the past few years, I had the opportunity to visit various booked-related hot spots. With this month being Laura Ingalls Wilder's birthday month, a LIW post seemed fitting. Originally posted on my now-defunct blog, Lit Adventures, this is one of my Literary Adventures. Enjoy.


Grasslands near the banks of Plum Creek.

Laura Ingalls Wilder fans can walk in the steps of the famous author and her family when they visit their home site in Walnut Grove, Minn. The site is located on a plot of land owned by a family, who generously allows visitors to check out places described in the story for a small fee.

One of the features included at the Ingalls' Dugout Site north of Walnut Grove includes two walking trails.

According to a note from The Gordons:
Check out the beautiful wildflowers.
In Laura's time, tallgrass prairie covered this land as far as the eye could see. Over the past 100 years the banks of the creek have been grazed and some areas planted with corn, soybeans and some wheat. However a few original grasses and flowers undoubtedly remain in unplowed areas. Periodic spring burns have allowed the native grasses such as big bluestem to regain a foothold, especially on the table lands.

We believe that the visitors to Laura's childhood home would like to see it as it was then. It is our intention to restore prairie grasses over time on the farm. In 1999 and 2000 the Minnesota DNR assisted with the planting of additional native grasses near the creek. In 2002 an additional 20 acres have been planted to enhance your experience and to protect the Minnesota watershed from farm run-off. Two hiking paths through the prairie start from the dugout site across the creek.
Signs located throughout the walking path give a map of the area and other information. Each trail takes about 20 minutes to walk. While walking around the area be respectful of the wildlife, which includes a variety of native flora and fauna.

Sign showing a map of the paths.
With the exception of people who live on their own prairie, taking this trail offers an idea of what Laura's world would have looked like during her day.

In addition to taking a walk across Laura's prairie, you are also in close proximity to the impression of the dugout, Plum Creek and other sites mentioned in On the Banks of Plum Creek. Unfortunately, though the area looks much the way it would have in Laura's time thanks to preservation, the dugout itself collapsed many years ago.

The farm is also a short drive from the museum in town, the church housing the bell Pa helped purchase and Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Highway.

The Ingalls Dugout Site is located off the highway north of Walnut Grove. Cost is $5 per car or $30 per tour bus. It is open daily until dusk.

Suggested Reading:
Little House Guidebook by William Anderson and Leslie A. Kelley
Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum, Walnut Grove, Minn.

Here I am channeling my inner LIW and running across the prairie.

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