July 31, 2013

little laura discovers violence sells

Blogger's Note: Thanks to my family's pack-rat tendencies -- and my vanity -- I've managed to keep documentation of my progress as a writer from kindergarten on. Instead of letting those cedar chest gems go to waste, I figured I might as well do what I do best -- post them to my blog. This is Little Laura Learns the Ropes.

Blogger's Note 2: Little Laura Learns the Ropes as moved to Wednesdays to open room in the line-up for a new feature on Thursdays. 


No. 3: Write about a story you liked.
Date: Winter 1993
Age: 6
My favorite story in My Friends the Frogs was The Gingerbread Man. I like the Part when The Gingerbread Man got eat in.

Aww, Little Laura's first book review.* How sweet...

Speaking of sweet -- At age 6, my favorite part of a story was a sweet, albeit conniving, little man made of processed flours, sugars and whatever else goes in gingerbread, was about to be devoured by a fox. I think it was a fox. Actually, it was probably a wolf.

I don't know what it was, point is in this story the animal ate the gingerbread man after the baked good taunted him into giving him a free ride across a lake. The gingerbread man thought he was so smart by tricking this creature, and he teased him mercilessly. Heck, the gingerbread man hoped the fox-wolf would drown. But fox-wolf didn't drown. When faced with almost certain death, or a snack, he chose the snack.

Is it any wonder I've been completely obsessed with books/shows like The Hunger Games and Game of Thrones?

Oooh, Game of Thrones. The Starks. I've decided the animal in this story is a wolf. (Winter is coming!)


In any case, Little Laura has made excellent strides in improving her grammar and spelling. Sure she capitalized "part," but she'd just finished having a whole mess of capital letters in the title. And she probably could've selected a phrase better than "got eat in," because that's totally passive voice. This is a book review, not a police report, Little Laura. But I suppose this was probably a subject too complex for this chica to grasp. Heck, ditch the passive voice and the word choice is still shoddy.

I can look past these momentary lapses, because for the first time in my writing portfolio, I'm showing some signs of actually being interesting. I mean, Little Laura is kind of a badass, right? I could've picked stories more fairy-tale like (and there were ones that fit the bill in this large book of tales we kids were forced to read). But instead, I identified with and appreciated a story about someone trying to abuse the system and getting his just deserts. (The dessert!)

Which leads me to another point...


At age 6, I believed my reason for enjoying a story like The Gingerbread Man was related to action, adventure and, yes, violence. Years later, I realized it comes from an unhealthy addiction to carbs and sweets.

Dear, sweet Little Laura. If you only knew what this obsession with treats would do to you down the road...

But Little Laura would've never suspected something so sinister as calories or glucose levels at such a young age. No, back then, Little Laura was so optimistic, that even when she drew an illustration of a gingerbread man about to be "eat in" by a wolf, she added a little bit of sunshine poking through the dark clouds.


Wow. Little Laura is deep. I can't decide if I admire or envy her.

* For best results, read this using Carrie's "Awww" from Portlandia.



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July 30, 2013

knowing when to leave the party


My sister posed a question to me last night as we walked into a grocery store for cat food and energy drinks (I know, I'm a baller. Envy me.)

"So you know what I was thinking about the other day? You know at the end of 'Willow' --"

"Let me stop you there," I interjected. "Can I just say how happy I am we're starting a conversation this way."

"I know. But you're one of the only people I feel I can talk to this about."

Naturally. We Chapmans were raised on all of the George Lucas collection -- "Willow," "Indiana Jones," "Star Wars" -- and this isn't the first time a deep conversation has stemmed from one of these classic films.

(Sidebar: If you're not familiar with "Willow," you should stop whatever you're doing and find that movie on Netflix or in a store and watch it. That shit's good. I promise you. But to give you the gist: In a mystical world torn by war and sorcery, a wannabee wizard played by Warwick Davis must take a baby, who is prophesied to be the future ruler of a peaceful kingdom, back to her homeland. Along the way he overcomes peril, becomes friends with Val Kilmer and goes on one hell of an adventure to save humanity. For the extended, but less entertaining description, read about it on IMDB.)

Thrilled at the prospect of nerding out while we selected organic cat food (the kittens have sensitive tummies), I prompted my sister to continue.

"Well they're all happy, but what are they going to tell the baby when she grows up? You know, 'My mom killed your mom.' Or are they going to lie to her and pretend it never happened?"

My sister raised a point I'd never considered. How exactly would Alora Dannon react to the news that her adoptive grandmother put out a hit on her -- when she was a newborn, no less -- and had her mother murdered in her birthing bed? Would she be grateful for the fact that her mother gave her life and willingly sacrificed it to ensure her daughter's survival? Would she appreciate that her adoptive parents moved beyond their wicked pasts and decided to fight on the side of good? Would she hear the story of "Willow," the courageous dwarf who saved the lives of countless people, including herself?

Or, as my sister suggested, would Alora Dannon become a rebel and act out? Imagine Alora Dannon: The Teen Years.

"You're not my real mother. I hate you!"

"Your mom was a witch bitch. I hate you!"

"You kidnapped me from that short guy and planned to hand me over to someone who wanted to kill me. I don't care that you changed your mind. I hate you!"

It has the potential to be bad.

This conversation carried us through our short shopping excursion and for part of the drive home. Aside from having a damned good time debating Princess Alora Dannon's potential teen rebellion or sainthood, I was reminded of an important lesson I heard from a writer. Start your story the day your character's life changes and bow out as early as possible.

In other words, arrive at the party fashionably late and leave before you've overstayed your welcome or it gets boring.

The reason? Because it keeps the reader -- or viewer -- engaged in the story long after he or she finishes the last page or turns off the TV screen. It leaves them wondering what happened next and coming up with their own answers. Plus, who wants to stay and pick up all the empty beer cans and chip bowls?

I don't know about you, but I'm jazzed by the prospect of one day creating a story that keeps a reader (or maybe a viewer -- you never know!) engaged and wondering what happens next years later.

For those of who missed it on social media, yesterday, be sure to check out my guest post over on Meredith Schorr's blog. To celebrate the upcoming release of her new book Blogger Girl, she's featuring a series of posts from bloggers blogging about blogs. Yours truly was honored to be included. So anyways, check it out if you'd like to know the story behind this blog.

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July 29, 2013

cover reveal for 'stained' by elizabeth marx



Instead of a lot of build-up in a huge post, Elizabeth's publicist thought that it would be best to let the front and back covers do the talking for themselves.

Back Cover:


Front Cover:


All together now!



Stained is due out on August 20th. It tells the beautiful, yet heart-wrenching story of a young woman whose only defense is to run when the going gets tough; and the man who will do anything to help her face her demons, including letting her go so she can find herself.

Add Stained to your GOODREADS want to read list!

About the Author: Windy City writer, Elizabeth Marx, brings cosmopolitan life alive in her fiction—a blend of romance, fast-paced Chicago living, and a sprinkle of magical realism. Elizabeth resides with her husband, girls, and two cats who’ve spelled everyone into believing they’re really dogs. She grew up in the city, has traveled extensively, and still says there’s no town like Chi-Town.

a Rafflecopter giveaway



WEBSITE | FACEBOOK | TWITTER

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July 26, 2013

the writing oasis - part i

Remember the writing oasis I mentioned two weeks ago? The one centered around a refinished wooden loveseat, new cushions and bright flower pots all made for my future outdoor porch/writing spot?

Well I have an update.

I, Laura Chapman, successfully sanded, repainted and finished that loveseat. *applause* Now, don't get too excited. I still have all of the sewing and flower pots to go, but I'm pretty proud about my mad skills with power tools and a paint brush. Lucky for you -- and me -- I documented the whole fun process.

Before I actually got to work on the wood, I spent weeks researching the best practices for sanding and refinishing a piece of wooden furniture. I grew up with a dad who did several projects around the house, but my part in the matter was usually small. "Laura, hold this board in place." "Laura, can you refill our water?" "Laura, stop asking so many questions. You're giving me a headache."

Needless to say, while I felt relatively confident in my ability to work through this project, I didn't have any guarantees of success.

After taking the plunge and committing to starting the project on a Saturday, I spent the night before doing a little shopping. I picked up three packs of sandpaper -- two for overall general sanding (larger grit paper) and one pack for finer details. I grabbed a paint brush, new work gloves, white matte paint and outdoor wood sealant (the kind you use on decks, according to the picture). I had safety glasses at home, otherwise I would've picked up some of these, too. I spent four years writing safety publications. You don't forget the horror stories of people not being properly geared up for work.

The next morning, dressed and ready to go...


I got to work sanding. Here are a couple of before pictures to remind you of what we're working with...



Now, this electric quarter-sheet sander was a dream. I borrowed it from my dad and it was super easy to use. The No. 1 bit of advice I find in all of my research was to follow the grain of the wood. I wasn't quite sure what that meant at first, but trust me, once you get going you know.

Here's a progress shot...


I planned on spending five hours doing the sanding, and that's how long it took -- with a few breaks for hydration, breathing and Facebook. While I'm pleased I managed to stay with my time budget, I didn't count on how tired the work would make me. Even hours after I stopped working, I could still feel my arms vibrating. By Tuesday, I could lift up my arms and stand straight without cringing.

Regardless, I was pretty effing pleased with how that looked. Just a girl, her power tool, clear furniture and a smooth, clean surface...



That same night I started the whitewashing process. Now, I wasn't 100 percent sure this was the route I wanted to go. And once I got started, I realized I didn't like it. I wanted a cleaner finish than the more rustic treatment would give. So, after doing one panel, I gave up and did a base coat.


I finished up the next morning with a second coat and later did some spot touch-ups.

I could've done the wood sealant within 48 hours of doing the painting, but it was so freaking hot, it was more like a week later.

Still, no fuss no muss. I'm thrilled with how clean and fresh this piece of furniture looks, and I'm looking forward to breaking into the fabric stash. Which arrived... how gorgeous is this?



I know, I know, I shouldn't give up my day job, but I'm still pretty pleased. The seat will be perfect for what I have in mind, and it really looks bright and fresh.

Hopefully, I'll have another update for you within the next couple of weeks, and you'll get to see what the full loveseat looks like.

Ooh. One other thing... It was pretty hot while I was working. And though I did some hydrating, I didn't do enough. So, important safety tip -- drink tons of water, give yourself breaks and make sure you don't get heat rash on your face. I'm lucky that was all I ended up with, and it mostly just looked like a small acne outbreak. Gross, I know, but I want you to learn from the error of my ways!

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July 25, 2013

little laura stretches the truth

Blogger's Note: Thanks to my family's pack-rat tendencies -- and my vanity -- I've managed to keep documentation of my progress as a writer from kindergarten on. Instead of letting those cedar chest gems go to waste, I figured I might as well do what I do best -- post them to my blog. This is Little Laura Learns the Ropes.


No. 2: Write about what you like to do after school.
Date: Fall 1992
Age: 6

After school I like to...
play at my hosue. Ride my skate bord. Play ball. Jup rope. Play with frends.
Draw a picture of what you like to do after school.


Sigh. It seems Little Laura still has not grasped the concept of spell-check.

My memory isn't crystal clear, but I'm willing to bet I wasn't totally versed in dictionaries or how to use them. Heck, I don't even know if we had one in our classroom. I'm sure there was one in the library, but who was checking out that mofo when there books about ginormous red puppies and hurricanes to be had?

(Yeah, I was really into this book about oceans for the better part of first grade. I grew up in a landlocked state, and the Chapmans didn't travel. That book of photographs was the closest I came to the ocean until I was 11. I probably checked out that sucker a dozen times before I entered my Baby-sitters Club and Scary Stories phase in second grade. "BSC and Scary Stories?" you ask. Why yes. I had a sophisticated literary pallet from the beginning.)

I'm also pretty damn sure my teacher had one of those "Don't ask me how to spell the word, just sound it out" policies. Didn't those piss you off? I know the theory behind it has something to do with teaching children to problem solve or fend for themselves. But when a kid wants to know how to spell "friends" without coming off like a complete moron, couldn't you help a sister out?

It's BS I tell ya. Were you trying to make me look like an asshole, Teach?

Academic politics aside, can you believe I still had four misspellings and one wrong letter?


This is supposed to be my best work, too. Sheesh, Little Laura, you've got to pull yourself together.

As far as the content goes, I'll give Little Laura credit for thinking bigger. We're not just playing with girls and boys anymore. We're stringing together multiple lines of thought to develop something.

By all appearances, I'm also delving into some fiction writing at this point. When I was 6, I did like to play at my house. I did like to jump rope. I played with friends. Dude, I even played ball when it was required at school, or when my parents signed me up for club sports (athleticism is hard!).

But I can recall only three or four instances in my life when I've actually used a skateboard. Oh, I'm sure I wanted to at 6. My brothers had skateboards, and at this point in my life I still figured my two brothers had to be the coolest kids in the world. So, if they rode skateboards, then I'd be cool by association if I claimed to ride them, too.

Some people might consider Little Laura a little liar, but isn't that what fiction writing is all about? Tinkering with the truth to create a whole new story that is better than before? For that invention, Little Laura, I give you a gold star.


Then again, if you take a closer look at this worksheet, the teacher gave me the ideas by including a little girl who skateboards and a little boy who plays ball. Oh dear... I'm starting to realize maybe my falsehood wasn't creative, but lazy writing. Hmm...

Well at least I stayed inside the lines.


I suppose there comes a time in every writer's career when she must work with what she's given to meet a set of standards. And there comes a time when you can choose to be creative or do whatever it takes to finish the damn project. Had I reached this point in first grade?

Poor, Little Laura. Crazy kid never had a chance.

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July 24, 2013

letter from camp - 7/24/13


Dear friends,

We all knew my productive streak had a shelf life.

But halfway through last week my streak of hard work and perseverance hit a big roadblock. I could blame the night of sushi, candy and soda for distracting me. I could complain about having to go to a Toastmasters meeting. I might even be able to say I wanted to spend some QT with my nephew before he finished his summer visit.

The list of excuses could go on and on, but what it really boils down to is me not being in the mood and needing a break.

Props to me for getting through more than 15 days before the ol' lazy bug bit, I guess.

Instead of stressing about, I'm going to enjoy this little hiatus and see what happens when I commit to focusing on my book for the weekend. I'm talking about turning off my cell phone, disconnecting from the Internet and maybe even locking myself into a small room with nothing but my laptop and cell phone for hours at a time. With any luck (Who am I kidding? With focus!) I can make this last weekend count and put down some words.

Heck, maybe I'll pretend I'm really at camp and sleep on the floor (couch) eat nothing but (veggie) hot dogs and s'mores while spinning some yards around the camp fire (laptop). Actually, I might be on to something here...

In slightly positive news, I finally picked up a book again and read for enjoyment this weekend. Only problem -- it's a book I've read a few times before.

Sigh. Baby steps, Laura. Baby steps.

Love,
LC

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July 23, 2013

heat stroke (not key stroke)


"Get to work on your effing novel, Ma!"*

Bingley has no sympathy for my desire to read the latest scoop on the royal baby. 

(What do you think the name will be??? I'm somewhere between George and Henry... Maybe Richard... I like Henry best, and wouldn't mind that name being on trend for a couple of years. Hell, it already kind of is, amiright?)

He also doesn't care that I'm playing serious catch-up on Game of Thrones

(In the midst of season 2, bro. Winter is coming, the imp is getting even sassier, the red witch is turning all Fatal Attractions and that blonde chick has effing dragons. Shit's gettin' real in Westeros.)

The new Catching Fire trailer came out, and I've only watched it five times. "So what?" says Bing.

(Did you see it????? Did you? can we talk about all the awesome??? Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)

He doesn't even give a crap that its 100 degrees outside, and all I want to do is sprawl out with a smutty book and drink chilled white wine in my underwear. 

(Hemingway was a drunk. Why can't Bing's mommy be one, too? Oh dear, I spilled.)

No, my sweet Bing wants me to stop dreaming about being a published author and start living like one. And the most important part of becoming an author is stepping away from the distractions and getting busy with the word count. 

I can't blame this temporary writer's block on the story.

The book isn't boring by any means. Fact: My heroine just met the guy she's ultimately going to win over and sweep off his feet. (I'm a modern kinda gal -- my heroine will do the wooing if she wants!) Their meet-cute is a super fun part of the story, and I'm totally psyched out of my mind to write it down... Eventually.

But it's easier to sit and think about it than it is to make it happen. Especially when tone has the attention span of a fly these days.

Aside from turning off the Internet modem and throwing my iPhone under a moving car, what other ways can a gal get past her heat-induced cabin fever and get back in the writing groove? 

Suggestions and prayers for a cool rain are welcome.

Until then, I suppose I'll just have to tough it out and get serious or suffer Mr. Bingley's displeasure. And I hate the early wake-up calls and piles of vomit that accompany his moodiness. Or as I call it, "50 Shades of Bing."

I know, I know. I lead a sad life when I'm making lewd jokes at the expense of my perfectly sweet cat. Freaking heat wave. Has me doing all kinds of crazy things.

(Like devoting a blog post to my cat's alleged concerns regarding my writing career and likening him to a fictional megalomaniac millionaire with a twitchy palm when the poor dear is obviously yawning in that photo. Adorable, pooky.)

Mind out of gutter, Laura.

* Artistic license taken. Mr. Bingley is nothing but a gentleman and would never dream of cursing me out. For serious.

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July 22, 2013

highlights from clc: the debut year

Thanks to everyone who turned out for last week's Chick Lit Chat discussion about the debut year. We had writers at all stages of the game, from just starting out to well established, and we had some great discussion about everything from writing to marketing.

As a writer preparing to release her first works of fiction I truly appreciated being able to confide some of my greatest fears. At the same time, I learned more about the process of being a debut writer from a great bunch of people.

Because it seems selfish to hoard all of the information for myself, and because we had a lot of good feedback come out, I figured I'd share some of the highlights from the evening for you here.

My Takeaways

When asked what most surprised first-time authors:
Lilian Darcy (@liliandarcy)
How everybody instantly thought *they* would now write a book - if I'd done it, it must be easy.

Tracie Banister (@traciebanister)
How supportive and helpful other authors are. I never expected to make so many great writer friends thru self-pubbing.

Tami Akin (@AuthorTamiAkin)
I'm surprised most about how much I'm learning, the authors & bloggers I've followed have been amazing!

Meredith Schorr (@meredithschorr)
Coming on my 3rd year as a published author. What surprised most is how little I knew about promotion!
I rushed into publishing. Wish I'd done more planning for the release now.

After sharing my concern that readers won't like my work (or me):
Lilian Darcy (@liliandarcy)
Be prepared, cos they won't. So funny how ALL the 1 stars for JK Rowling's crime book posted after she was outed

Meredith Schorr (@meredithschorr)
That's totally normal. My skin has gotten thicker since it really is impossible to please everyone. Please yourself!

Biggest lessons learned from pubbed authors:
Laura Amos (@LauraRaeAmos)
Don't pub in the summer, lol! So slow! ;)
It's just very hard to reach people in summer. Everybody's out doing things, reading books they already have.

Samantha March @samanthamarch23
Don’t pitch a book reviewer on social media. Email them or use their request form if they have one.
Blog tours are great tool! *Cough* CLP Blog Tours
Rafflecopter is a great giveaway tool that can help you get more Facebook or Twitter followers.
A cute prize pack is a good thing to give, especially if you can base it around any themes in your book!

Patricia Mann (@patriciamann11)
I've learned in-your-face doesn't work, but if you don't mention your book, that won't work either!

Lydia Laceby (@NovelEscapes)
The things you think will work, don't, and the things you think will flop actually fly.

Tracie Baniser (@TracieBanister)
Proper blogger etiquette! And make sure you research what blogger wants to read B4 submitting!

Gale Martin (@Gale_Martin)
One thing I learned is how few book reviewers actually follow through on reviews they've promised. Find reviewers who deliver

Meredith Schorr (@meredithschorr)
One piece of advice: don't just promote your book; promote yourself. Show your dazzling personality & readers will follow.

Samantha Bailey (@perfectpen)
It's hard to put yourself out there, but worth it.
Finding an amazing group of fellow writers for support is key.

S. J. Pajonas (@spajonas)
Fake it till you make it ;)

There's way more good information than what I included here. You can still look for it by searching the #chicklitchat hashtag on Twitter and reading backlog, which I definitely suggest. You can also check out my last post about the topic, which includes links to other sources with good info.

I'd love to hear some of the takeaways from my fellow chat attendees. Feel free to share them in the comments below.

Thanks again to everyone who came last week. Please join in the conversation on Twitter this coming Thursday at 8 p.m. EST when the fabulous Tracie Banister hosts. I'll be speaking at a quilt guild meeting (I know, I'm kind of a big deal. JK), but I'll do my best to pop in for some of the discussion. Be sure to use the hashtag #chicklitchat to join in the conversation.

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July 19, 2013

interview with the author of 'tales from the laundry pile'

Change the Word: I'm pleased to welcome women's fiction author Kathleen Kole to the blog, today, as part of her Chick Lit Plus blog tour. Let's get the interview started, shall we? What was the biggest challenge you faced writing this book? How'd you overcome it?
Kathleen Kole: I think my biggest challenge, and I tend to have it with all of my books, is sitting for hours and hours on end. I am not a natural sitter, so I often drag myself from my office lamenting about how this writing life is going be the demise of my back, neck, joints etc. etc.

As for overcoming it, I tried another way once and created a treadmill desk. Epic fail. Turned out my natural pace was way too quick to be conducive to walking/writing and because I needed to walk more slowly to facilitate walking/writing at the same time, I ended up straining my lower back. Boo. Sooo, I now manage it via massage (my husband is THE BEST and willingly massages my shoulders and back whenever I bellyache.) And I have a fantastic Chiropractor who keeps my joints in tip-top shape. I will survive to write another day.... :-)

CTW: What's one trait you share with your main character?
KK:
That’s a tough one! My characters are so themselves that I don’t see myself in them. However, if I was to look at it, I’d say from time to time I share Claire’s trait of feeling: If I don’t do it, it won’t get done and the proverbial “house of cards” will fall. It’s a funny trait and I know I’m not the only mother/wife/woman who feels that way. It’s the woman’s condition! haha!

CTW: Now, let's talk laundry... Do you separate your lights from darks? Or do you have some other elaborate method?
KK: Ha! This made me giggle. Yes, I definitely separate lights, darks and colors.

Elaborate method, you ask? Possibly. I have three baskets, one for darks, one for lights and one for colors. Don’t know if it’s elaborate, (I’ll let you be the judge) but I do know it makes laundry time a whole lot faster.

CTW: I had a feeling you'd have some fancy method! Any special tricks for getting nasty grass/mud/wine stains out of clothes?
KK: Hmm... grass and mud are a part of my past (thank goodness). And wine? Well, if it’s spilled, heads roll!

CTW: Liquid or sheet fabric softener? Why?
KK: Liquid AND sheet! Liquid in the washer, sheet in the dryer. We appreciate soft clothes. (Or, we’re delicate.... Hmmm...)

CTW: Do you ever line dry or is it all modern appliances?
KK: Eeep, line drying is not for this gal! I have a front loader washer and dryer and that’s the way I want it to stay.

CTW: I appreciate a fellow modern gal who likes modern luxuries, like throwing wet clothes in a machine! Do you put your laundry away right away or does it sit on your bed for two weeks forcing you to sleep on your couch? (I'm throwing that out as an example, not from experience, of course.)
KK: Haha! While, admittedly, the clothes do often get re-fluffed in the dryer (this girl doesn’t iron) when they are finally retrieved, they are folded and put away immediately. No lounging sock or shirts in this house.

CTW: What's one fun tale from your own laundry pile?
KK: I have a story about a certain child who shall remain nameless and decided to find out if powdered laundry detergent would act like snow. A word to the wise, it doesn’t. And, when it’s all over the laundry room floor, it is hellacious to clean up. (Needless to say, I now use liquid....)

CTW: I love it, I love it, I love it. Now, back to writing... What's up next in the world of Kathleen Kole?
KK: I just finished the dirty draft of my next novel and will probably be sunk into the second go-around by the time you post this on your blog. I won’t give anything away quite yet, except to say that it’s a great story with new characters to meet in Boxwood Hills and it has a bit of everything - some laughter, some tears, some drama and some romance.

CTW: Anything else you'd like to share?
KK: Yes! I’d like to share my thanks to you, Laura, for allowing me the privilege of being on your blog. I appreciate your support more than words can say and am sending you a great big hug for being a part of the tour! xxx

Be sure to check out my review of Kathleen's fab book.

**Everyone who leaves a comment here will be entered to win a four print books from Kathleen! Titles are: Breaking Even, Dollars to Donuts, Favorable Conditions and Tales from the Laundry Pile. One bonus winner will win a $20 Amazon gift card! Anyone who purchases their copy of Tales from the Laundry Pile before  July 29 and sends their receipt to Samantha (at) ChickLitPlus (dot) com, will get five bonus entries.**


About the Author
Kathleen Kole is the author of Breaking Even, Dollars to Donuts, Favorable Conditions and her new release, Tales from the Laundry Pile.

Kathleen lives with her husband, son and dog in the beautiful Okanagan Valley in British Columbia, Canada. 

Connect with Kathleen
www.kathleenkole.com

Buy the Book
http://kathleenkole.com/kathleensbooks/tales-from-the-laundry-pile

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July 18, 2013

little laura struggles to spell good and do other things good, too

Blogger's Note: Thanks to my family's pack-rat tendencies -- and my vanity -- I've managed to keep documentation of my progress as a writer from kindergarten on. Instead of letting those cedar chest gems go to waste, I figured I might as well do what I do best -- post them to my blog. This is Little Laura Learns the Ropes.



No. 1: Kindergarten Freestyle
Date: May 12, 1992
Age: 5

I lIke To Pla Waf girls nad boys.

Clearly my heart was in the right place as a kindergartener. Not only was I promoting equity by crossing gender lines for my friendships, but I went so far as to dent the glass ceiling by putting chicks before dicks.

Well done, Little Laura. Well done.

Aside from making a bold, and progressive, statement, the whole work fails to otherwise impress me. Let's be honest. This work is a little shoddy, isn't it?

I can overlook a couple of errors in a short story, but three misspellings and misplaced capital letters?


Come on, Little Laura. This is kindergarten, not amateur hour.

Also, this isn't the most original idea, is it? "I like to play with girls and boys." Where's the imagination? Where's the prose? Where's the passion?

And, hello, Little Laura. Isn't 5 a little early to start penning a memoir? What have you actually accomplished by this point in your life? Sure you've watched The Little Mermaid and An American Tale at least 50 times each. And maybe you've learned how to correctly space your letters. But what innovations have you made? What's the hook? Why do people care?

I will give Little Laura props for accurately depicting a boy and a girl in the accompanying image.


Though, I'm a bit concerned by a couple elements. Namely, what's with forcing the little girl to wear a dress, Little Laura? Didn't you just challenge gender norms?

And, most troubling, why are both of your friends blond(e), blue-eyed creatures with missing limbs? Props for befriending handless, feetless kids, but why not get a little more diverse?

Still, I appreciate the effort. Help yourself to a slice of American cheese or a Popsicle. No, not the ice cream, one of those little Freezies. Yes, you can have a grape one. No, you can't have the cheese and the sweet. You'll spoil your dinner. 

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clc: the debut year

Congratulations! You're a published author. Now what?

Happy Thursday, Chick Lit fans. It's time for another installment of Chick Lit Chat on Twitter hosted by yours truly. This week, we'll discuss the Debut Year.

Before we get into the details, let's cover the basics. What exactly is a Debut Year? The Debut Year is the first year following a new authors first release.

You're like a debutante at her first ball. You're dressed up and ready to party, but feeling a little nervous. Will people like you? Will you make it? Will you fail or succeed? Does this dress make your butt look fat? (Okay, maybe that's just me.)

You and your writing career are in the honeymoon period of a new marriage. Only, instead of figuring out your mate's quirks, having your first fights and bouts of make-up sex, you're learning what it takes to be a successful author. You might make some mistakes and face hardships along the way, but ultimately you come out stronger in the end with lessons learned.

I first learned about the concept of the Debut Year when I attended WriteOnCon in 2011. Lindsey Leavitt, author of Going Vintage, Princess for Hire and more, spoke about her Debut Year in a post that really stuck with me. You can watch it here:



(Here's a link to that blog post she mentioned from Lisa Schroeder. It's targeted for YA and MG, but I think it's still applicable for Chick Lit, New Adult, etc.)

And while we're doing a little pre-chat research, here's another great blog post (don't mind the profanity) about debuting as a published author.

For tonight's chat, I've asked a few published authors to pop in and share some experiences from their debut year. I even have some comments saved up from authors who won't be able to make it, so we should have some good tips to discuss. If you're an author with a story to share, consider this your invitation to attend and tell us the ups and downs from your debut year.

If you're a newbie author just starting out, or someone planning your first release, consider this your invite to come learn from the best.

If you're a reader or blogger, please feel free to stop by and share what you like to see from new authors. What makes a good first impression? What's a turn off? What earns a permanent place in your heart?

Join us tonight on Twitter at 8 p.m. Eastern/ 5 p.m. Pacific. Use #chicklitchat to ensure your tweets are viewable by others. Come prepared to dish, learn and make new friends. See you there!

And because I can't resist DJ-ing any party, here's a little song to send you off into the world.



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July 17, 2013

letter from camp - 7/17/13

Dear friends,

This will be a quick letter from Camp NaNoWriMo. We're at the halfway point, and I'm so busy!

Here's the good news: I'm on target to reach my goal of 25,000 words by the end of the month.

Here's the interesting news: I managed to hit the halfway point goal even after I took a three-day hiatus from writing and fell more than 2,000 words behind!

Toward the end of last week, I unconsciously decided to take a couple of days off from my book to spend with my family. My nephew is only in town for another week, and he comes first when he's visiting for the summer. In addition, I started working on the loveseat I'm refinishing for my outdoor writing oasis (the one I blogged about last Friday). Sanding the wooden loveseat took more than five hours and painting a couple of coats took even more time. While it was fun and somewhat therapeutic work to do, it also left me exhausted.

By the time Sunday evening rolled around, I was beat. I was also more than 2,000 words behind schedule. Figuring I'd still have to make up word count throughout the week, I took my nomadic writing self away from the house and to the bar where my sister works. This is a different one than I used to visit on Sundays, and I've only recently made this a routine again. In the four hours I was there, I not only caught up on my word count, but I gave myself a couple hundred more words of wiggle room.

Here's my theory on how this works. For one, having a couple of drinks while I write puts me in a good mindset. Now, keep in mind I only have a couple, and absolutely no shots. If I overdo it, I'm worthless to my writing. I don't know how Fitzgerald and Hemingway managed to write blasted, because it's not for me. I just want to dance.

The other reason why this works? This is still a slightly new writing venue for me. In addition to lacking WiFi, which was aplenty at the other bar and the cafes I visit, I also don't know all of the regulars as well. But even as I get to know them, they recognize that I'm there working on a book, and they seem to respect that. They're nice and friendly toward me, but they also make sure to give me plenty of room to work until I'm ready to fraternize.

I kept the momentum going strong on Monday night and gave myself a little cushion. I basically took off last night to introduce my nephew to sushi and hit up a candy and soda store (awesome, right?), but that interlude only puts me a couple of hundred words behind. With a couple of hours free between work and Toastmasters, I'll have good time to do some more writing.

More importantly, I'm pleased with the direction my story is taking. I'm not doing as much editing as I go at the moment, but when I take a look back at the end of the month, I think I'll be happy with my results. I'll also have less work to do in the revision arena. (And when I say arena, yes, I'm likening it to the violent place where tributes in the Hunger Games are thrown together to fight to the death. Edits can be Hell.)

Oh, and I gave my main character a new name. I wish I could tell you, but I'm a little superstitious about it -- at least until I finish the first draft. But I love her name -- it might be one of my favorites.

Wow, this update was a lot longer than I meant to go. It's also a little less articulate than I'd probably like, but that's okay by me. Like I said -- I'm not in revision mode at the moment.

I'll be back next week with another update. And be sure to check in tomorrow for not one but two new blog posts. I'll have a preview of tomorrow night's Chick Lit Chat, which I'm hosting, and the debut Little Laura Learns the Ropes post. See you then!

Your friend,

Laura

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an excerpt of 'vacationista' - happy release day!

Blogger's Note: Today, I'd like to wish a happy release day to Tara Simone. Her new book Vacationista is now available. Enjoy this preview of the book as a way to celebrate. Congrats, Tara!


Vacationista by Tara Simone

VC1800x2700A broken heart. A ticket to paradise. A resort full of honeymooners ... the last thing newly single Patience De La Rosa needs if she's to find a candidate for a casual rebound. Her luggage catching a flight to Mauritius instead of Maui doesn't help matters and a maxed out credit card doesn't buy a girl a fresh pair of panties. Then there's the annoying weird guy, the one who's married to his laptop, sitting beside her at the pool.

Odds for a fling improve when three single, sexy and willing candidates cross her path. Though Patience's luggage may be M.I.A., her breakup baggage crossed the Pacific with her. Will Patience cast it aside, throw caution to the tropical winds and indulge in island debauchery? Or will a tea leaf reader's prediction about her romantic excursions come true in unexpected ways?

"Vacationista is a sparkling romantic-comedy gem with one of the wittiest heroines I have read in ages! Full of zingy one-liners, clever quips and some of the best dialogue ever!" -NYT and USA Today Bestselling Author Lauren Blakely

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000448_00020]

Excerpt from Vacationista by Tara Simone

The hotel phone rings and shakes me from my rage. Please let it be good news. Please let my luggage be here. I am so sick of wearing this peach tank top, what I wouldn’t do for a basic cotton tee. I cannot believe this shirt was ever my favorite. I answer the phone.

“Hello?”

“I need help,” a voice mumbles.

“Who is this?”

“The albino guy with the sunburn.”

“It’s six o’clock in the morning. How did you know I was awake?”

“I didn’t. I need help.”

Huey’s room is actually one of twelve cottages that sit on a small cliff beyond the pool area looking out over the ocean. I use the term cottage loosely. Each one looks to be twice the size of the cottage I shared with Dan in Encanto. Floor to ceiling walls of privacy glass provide an unobstructed view of the ocean. Under a faux thatched roof is a private lanai with hammocks and patio furniture straight from the pages of a design magazine. The door to his unit is unlocked just as he said it would be.

If the outside was impressive, the inside is jaw dropping amazing.

This is ridiculous.

The furniture is several notches above what was in Ted’s room. Really fluffy, deep cushioned cream colored sofas and chairs that I just want to jump onto and crawl up in.

“Huey?” I call out. “I’m here.”

His voice calls out from another area of the house. “I’m in the bathtub.”

Hmmm. Generally if a man calls me to the bathtub I know what to expect. But this is Huey, and even though he is calling me to the bathtub, I don’t expect him to have any ulterior motives. Because it’s Huey. He’s not manipulative. I walk past the living room and through the sliding pocket doors that lead to the bedroom. To my left, a door is half open. I approach it carefully and stand just outside it without looking in.

“What can I do to help?”

“Come in.”

“If you’re in the tub, I’d rather not.”

“Have you never seen a man naked? Or are you just afraid you’ll be so overwhelmed by my sex god physique that you will jump me.”

“The latter.”

“I thought so. That is why everything provocative is covered. You will be safe in my presence.”

I take him at his word and poke my head around the door. The tub is huge. HUGE. It’s one of those Jacuzzi tubs built for two. Huey is in it. His man parts are indeed covered from view by lots of bubbles and a tray that stretches across the width of the tub, on which sits his laptop. This is not surprising to me. What is surprising to me is that he is submerged in water and bubbles the color of dirt.

“Why is the water brown?”

“It’s tea.” He fishes around in the water and holds up three tea bags. “There are a hundred tea bags in here.”

“Why?”

“Because Google said so.”

“For the burn?”

“Yes.”

“Where’d you get the tea bags?”

“Room service.”

“So you called me because what? You need cream and sugar?”

“If I wasn’t in so much pain I’d laugh at your witty observation. But not right now.”

“Fair enough. How can I help?”

“I can’t type. My arms hurt too much to type any longer. And I have to get this done. I need you to type for me.”

“I’m not getting in the tub.”

“I wasn’t asking you to. Though now that you mentioned it, that could be interesting, the tub is built for two.”

“Is it? I hadn’t noticed.”

“Best you not get in, you won’t be able to keep your hands off me. You can sit there and type.” He points to an area of the bathroom out of my view. I step further inside the bathroom. There are two white chaises, just as fluffy as the sofa in the living room.

“There is a living room in your bathroom,” I say. “I can’t fit a towel rack in my bathroom. And you have chaises in your bathroom.”

“Technically, it’s not my bathroom. And if you help me I will buy you a towel rack that fits in your bathroom.”

“Okay, Huey, I’ll type for you under two conditions.”

“And they are?”

“One, I get to order breakfast.”

“For someone so thin, you do eat a lot. The room service menu is on the desk in the bedroom.”

“And two, I’m out of here at ten to sit by the pool.”

“Do you realize you continue to put yourself in grave danger?”

“Of what?”

“M-E-L-A-N-O-M-A”

“Wow. You can spell big words. Impressive.”

“I mean it. Why do you worship the sun? Don’t you know it’s bad for you?”

“I’m twenty-six. I am allowed a vice or two. You’re like thirty-two going on sixty. Would you relax a little?”

“I did relax. With you. In the pool. And look what happened.”

“Okay, if you’re trying to make me feel guilty −,”

“I am.”

“It’s working. I’m going to go order breakfast, want anything?”

“Orange juice.”

“Really or are you being facetious?”

“Orange juice and the buckwheat pancakes with chocolate chips and maple syrup, please.”

I don’t know why he makes me chuckle but he does. He’s so formal and offbeat at the same time. I’m fairly certain he would have been the kid in my high school who had been tormented by the cool crowd. If I had known him then, I probably would have dismissed him, just as I did the first day at the pool. But in his own odd way, he’s kind of cool and fun and funny.

“Hello,” I say into the room phone, “I’d like to place an order please.”

“Yes, Mrs. Anders, what can we get you?”

Why does everyone here think I'm married? Oh, right, because everyone here except me is part of a couple.

I hate this place.

Connect with Tara

~Fun in the Sun Giveaway~

Tara Simone will be giving away a surprise summer tote fitting of a Vacationista, filled with romance novels, including a paperback copy of Vacationista. To enter, Like her Facebook page between July 17 and July 25. Winner will be chose on July 26. Open to continental US residents only. Entries that are outside the continental US or International will have a chance to win $25 Amazon gift card! People who have previously liked my Facebook page, are automatically entered to win.

And there's more! From Tara's Facebook:
Giveway to celebrate release of Vacationista!http://amzn.com/B00DYUDWZ8 In Savannah today, I picked up a fabulous summer tote bag worthy of a Vacationista, it is going to be FILLED with romance novels, including mine. Winner chosen on 7/26. To enter, Like my page AND share this post. Winner will be chosen at random. If winner is from outside the 48 contiguous US states, you will instead receive a $25 Amazon gift card. Want to see what the tote bag in the photo looks like? Share this post!

I'll be posting more teasers about the gift bag in coming days…

I chose a Spartina 449 tote to celebrate/mark my vacation in the South. 


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July 16, 2013

little laura learns the ropes


As I make the transition from aspiring author to published author, I'm reminded of my literary roots. My journey to becoming a writer began long before I wrote the first word of my first book. It began when I fell in love with stories as a young girl.

Learning how to write came later. And it wasn't always easy. In my early days, I wasn't a great speller. I wasn't the most creative. And I often lacked patience.

Thanks to my family's pack-rat tendencies -- and my vanity -- I've managed to keep documentation of my progress as a writer from kindergarten on. Instead of letting those cedar chest gems go to waste, I figured I might as well do what I do best -- post them to my blog.

Through the series Little Laura Learns the Ropes, I will share a writing sample from my K-12 experience. You'll see the cute, the bad and the nonsensical. Heck, you'll even get a look at my first book review! To be fair and accurate, I'll include original spellings, or in many cases misspellings, and illustrations mixed with new commentary.

In the spirit of of #ThrowbackThursday, I'll share each new addition to the series on Thursdays, beginning this week. Look for the "Little Laura" icon.

I hope you enjoy seeing this. At the very least, you'll get to see my fully illustrated stories for the first few years! Who doesn't love picture stories?

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July 15, 2013

book review: tales from the laundry pile

Kathleen Kole is back with another laugh-out-loud story in Tales from the Laundry Pile. I've admired Kathleen's work for some time (check out exhibits A and B, and go ahead and take a look at C and D while you're at it), and I was naturally excited to check out her latest story.

After four years of raising their twin sons in the city, Claire Jamieson and her husband Jake decide it's in their family's best interest to move to Boxwood Hills. Instead of clearing the air and making their lives more simple, Claire finds her stress levels through the roof.

Between balancing a never-ending pile of laundry, meddlesome in-laws who live within walking distance, an eccentric mom also down the street and an endless cast of quirky townspeople, her life is filled with moments to cause her concern.

In Tales from the Laundry Pile, Claire must learn to settle into her new life while reconnecting with the person she has hiding inside.

True to her signature form, Kathleen Kole offers a fun story filled with an entertaining cast of characters that have you laughing and groaning -- and in appropriate doses.

Claire was a character easy to connect with. Even if you're a childless spinster, like me, I found myself completely able to understand where she was coming from. We've all been through moments in our lives where we filled stressed beyond belief. We've all had times when we felt we weren't measuring up to the ideal we'd set for ourselves. And as Claire sinks deeper and deeper, it's easy to cheer for her to resurface.

It was a lot of fun to return to Boxwood Hills, a popular setting in Kole's books. Very much like a character itself, you can always count on something funny and entertaining to happen. Plus, I kept myself turning the pages hoping to find a cameo appearance from one -- or all -- of the characters in previous books.

Tales from the Laundry Pile is a funny and sweet read that moves quickly and is well worth the time spent reading. Congrats to Kathleen on writing another gem.

Rating: 4 of 5


Check back Friday for a new interview with author Kathleen Kole.

**Everyone who leaves a comment here will be entered to win a four print books from Kathleen! Titles are: Breaking Even, Dollars to Donuts, Favorable Conditions and Tales from the Laundry Pile. One bonus winner will win a $20 Amazon gift card! Anyone who purchases their copy of Tales from the Laundry Pile before  July 29 and sends their receipt to Samantha (at) ChickLitPlus (dot) com, will get five bonus entries.**


About the Author
Kathleen Kole is the author of Breaking Even, Dollars to Donuts, Favorable Conditions and her new release, Tales from the Laundry Pile.

Kathleen lives with her husband, son and dog in the beautiful Okanagan Valley in British Columbia, Canada. 

Connect with Kathleen
www.kathleenkole.com

Buy the Book
http://kathleenkole.com/kathleensbooks/tales-from-the-laundry-pile

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July 12, 2013

creating an outdoor writing oasis

I'm a nomadic writer. While sitting at a desk is sometimes the best place for me to crank out a scene, I often do some of my best work writing from cafes, airplanes, my couch or outside. I guess I need the change of scenery to keep my brain active and engaged. With the amount of time I spend indoors at my job, it's good for me to find some time to be outside, and having an outdoor office is a perfect opportunity. 

I'm preparing to move to a new residence (same town) later this summer, and in preparation, I want to make sure I have a great outdoor space to write. While I'd love to have something gorgeous like this:


Or this:


I realize I'm a ways away from having something so elaborate or fabulous -- especially if I'm going to be in a rental for the next few years. So I'll just have to Tim Gunn-it and make what I have work.

My friend recently gave me this great wooden loveseat:

 

It came with these cushions:


Both the wood and the cushions have some wear on them, and I decided that turning them into an indoor/outdoor set would be a great way to give them new life and serve my writing well.

This weekend, I'm going to sand the wood and either whitewash or paint it. Once that dries, I'll seal it and spray it so it can withstand the elements.

I also ordered this fabulous outdoor upholstery fabric to make slipcovers for the cushions:


I'll use the lime green for the cushions and the blue and patterned fabric to make throw pillows. Though I considered creating whole new cushions, I've decided to make slipcovers instead in hopes it will make them easier to clean and maintain in the long run.

I chose the colors based on these planters, which I've had since I lived in Houston.


Unfortunately, one of the blue planters broke and the remaining have some sun damage. Instead of throwing them out, I plan to clean and freshen them up a bit. I'm thinking of doing some stencil painting with favorite quotes or designs. After that, I'll need to decide what to put in them. I don't have much of a green thumb, and I like the idea of them being useful year-round. I'll have to do some thinking.

With the project starting this weekend, I'll be sure to update you with photos and info on how everything unfolds. Wish me luck!

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July 11, 2013

family recipes

One of my favorite reads of 2012 was Tracie Banister's In Need of Therapy (you can read my review of it here). This month, the fab book is celebrating its first anniversary. As part of the festivities, Banister is hosting a whole bunch of fun on her blog.

Here's what she's doing:
  • She's giving away a fabulous prize package. You can enter to win by posting a review of either of her books on Amazon.
  • She's giving away a book on Cuban American cooking.
  • She has this super fun quiz to help readers find which love interest from INOT is best for you.
  • And she's also inviting guest bloggers to write about a family recipe.

Well, today, I'm delighted to share one of my family's favorite recipes: chili and cinnamon rolls. The combo is a Nebraskan favorite, and I'd love for you to pop on over to her blog and read more about it.


Now you can weigh in: What favorite food does your family go back to time after time?

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