March 31, 2014

lifestyle change

I've heard it takes 21 days to make -- or break -- a habit. Whether or not it's true, I can report that after more than 21 days of eating well, hydrating and exercising, I feel pretty damn good.

Today marks Day 31 of a lifestyle change I've made for myself. I'm not calling it a diet, because diets eventually come to an end and they've never worked long-term for me. Rather than trying a cleanse that promises to make me a total hottie with a body, I'm going another route. What I'm doing is different. It's a major change in the way I think about food, exercise, etc. It feels different.

What does this lifestyle change look like? It means doing some form of exercise or activity every day. During week one I started with daily Pilates. In week two, I added 20- to 30-minute daily walks. In week three, I started going to the gym for 30-minute cardio workouts, still paired with Pilates. Last week, I upped my intensity. This week, I'm following a two-week cardio and weight-lifting plan from a magazine to kick-start weight-training.

I make a point to take the steps instead of the elevator at work. I get up from my desk several times a day to stretch my legs and literally stretch. (Work Pilates, anyone?) I'll go to the bathroom on a different floor to add exercise.

Being this active hasn't been easy. Most days I have to make myself false promises to get myself out the door or on the mat. But I'm doing it. The endorphins from exercising must be working. I'm smiling more. Much as I hate to admit it, everyone who says exercise makes you feel better is right. And it's not just my energy levels and attitude that feel better. My body is firming up. Like I told my sister, I still look like a lumpy sack of potatoes -- but a smaller, fitter one.

It's a similar story for what I eat and drink. I track everything I put in my body and consider what benefit it gives me. Does it have empty calories or high levels of sodium and sugar? Will this support my protein and fiber needs? Instead of salads morning, noon and night, I'm finding healthy alternatives for the foods I love. I'm eating five or six smaller meals throughout the day. I'm avoiding my impulse to binge and portioning out my food and eating slowly.

I feel better than I have in a long time. It's the clean eating. It's the endorphins. But mostly, I think it's me feeling proud of myself for setting a goal and being disciplined enough to follow through.

I've kind of kept quiet about this new project of mine. Unless you're one of my co-workers or besties -- then you've heard enough about this you're probably sick of me. But as of Day 31, I feel OK bringing it up more publicly. After years of struggling with my weight, I'm on my way.

Hopefully this dedication and positive thinking carries into the writing arena when I start Camp NaNoWriMo tomorrow. I'm excited to finish writing the book I started in November and complete the edits on my second book. Because after that, I have a fourth book on deck. It'll be a bit of a departure for me, but it's a story I realize I've wanted to tell for years. Writing it will e another kind of therapy.

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March 24, 2014

coming soon: camp nanowrimo 2014

Source: Daino__16/stock.xchng

On your marks. Get set. GO!

We have one week until the first session of Camp NaNoWriMo 2014 begins, which means it's time for me to share some last-minute plotting tools. Whether you're going into this year's camp hoping to write 10,000 words or 100,000 words, having a game plan certainly doesn't hurt.

Here are a few of my go-to plotting tools, which you are free to borrow for your own adventure.

•  Character Sketch: Give your character a name, description and back story. I cut out pictures from magazines and write out key facts to know about them. Just don't get too bogged down picking your character's favorite flower that you forget to write your novel.

•  Before and After: Use this to figure out where your main character(s) is/are before and after the story. What happens in the middle is the cause that creates the effect. It's also the heart of your story.

•  The 10-Scene Tool: I borrowed this from James V. Smith Jr.'s The Writer's Little Helper. Knowing your 10 main scenes will help with pacing and ensure you drive your story in the right direction.

•  Write Your Sales Pitch: Jot down what you imagine will appear on the back cover/inside flap of your book or what you'd tell an agent if you had 15 seconds on an elevator. Whatever you put there is the most important part of your story. It only takes a few minutes to do and serves as an excellent writing exercise.

•  Build a Working Synopsis: This is your outline for the novel. Whether you write a paragraph about your 10 biggest scenes or a play by play of every chapter, doing this legwork in advance will give you more freedom to focus on generating quality word count during the month. But remember, if something in the story changes as you write it, let it happen. You can always go back and update your working synopsis to reflect the changes.

•  The Ultimate Plotting Kit: What you'll need: index cards, an index card holder, pens and a highlighter. Once complete, you will have a mobile novel kit that can go anywhere with you. One reader mentioned that she set aside each chapter card when she was done with it, because it gave her a sense of accomplishment to see that pile get shorter. I love that idea.

With that -- I wish you the best of luck on your Camping ventures. I'll be (hopefully) finishing the first draft of my third novel. I wrote the first 50K during NaNoWriMo 2013, and it's about time I put the icing on the cake.

March 19, 2014

my march madness

Blogger's Note: In honor of March Madness, I'm sharing a post previously written for Good Humor Girl back in 2012 at the end of basketball season. It was written while I was sharing a house with both of my older brothers, and as the younger sister, it was my responsibility to be a brat whenever possible. Quick note: I understand the difference between the NCAA tournament and the NBA's tourney, which this was written about. But I figured the sentiments are about the same. Enjoy.


The end of basketball season is here. Thank God.

I am a girl who likes her sports. I struggled to write on Saturdays and Sundays during National Novel Writing Month, because football season was in its peak. And even though my beloved Cubbies never do much, September and October have to be some of the most exciting months of sports watching. I even devote hours to watching golf or Sports Center with my broomies.

But when basketball season rolls around, I tune out. Maybe my aversion to the game started when another girl pushed me down and I skinned my knees during my middle school leagues. Maybe I find the constant squeaking and running back and forth exhausting. Maybe I hate having to watch the Lakers game every Christmas. I do not know. Basketball just does not do it for me.

Imagine my horror when this winter one of my broomies announced basketball was his new favorite sport. I know he was bummed by his favorite football team’s lackluster season (he is a Colts fan, poor dear), and our local TV rarely features hockey. I feel his pain, I really do.

But why did he have to make basketball his alpha sport? Was he punishing me for not unloading the dishwasher promptly or mowing the lawn? When I lived on my own, I preferred to leave the clean dishes in until the dirty ones in the sink outnumber them, but I changed. And we renegotiated lawn duty. I pull weeds for half an hour every week, and the broomies will deal with the mowing business. See, living together is easy. All it takes is compromise.

Unfortunately, when it comes to sports, compromise is off the table.

I mourned the NBA settling its collective bargaining agreement at the eleventh hour. For one shining moment, I thought we would have a blissful year free from pro basketball.

I celebrated when both of my broomies’ favorite teams lost early in the play-offs. Apparently, that does not matter. Those boys kept watching, even after one broomie said he wished both teams playing would lose.

Basketball season was not a complete bust for me, though. Being a younger sister, I had years of practice and natural instinct on my side, which enabled me to be as annoying as humanly possible.

For example, during the tournament’s second round, I taught myself Spanish – in the same room they watched the games.

El equipo juega mal.
The team plays badly.

Mi hermano es enojado.
My brother is mad.

No me gustan huevos verdes y jamón. No me gustan ellos Sam que Soy.
I do not like green eggs and ham. I do not like them, Sam I Am.

In the finals, I cheered for the Heat, because, as I told the broomies, ESPN showed footage of Lebron James reading The Hunger Games. I loved The Hunger Games. The annoyed looks I received gave me more joy than anything else all season.

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March 17, 2014

interview and exerpt with faerl marie

Blogger's Note: I'm pleased to host Faerl Marie as she kicks off her Chick Lit Plus blog tour for The Golden Apple. Be sure to check out the rest of her tour stops for more fun.

Change the Word: What was the inspiration for this book?
Faerl Marie: I met someone for the first time, spent a little time working side-by-side with him (in a completely platonic and friendly way) and two days later he told me he was in love. I didn't really believe it and it didn't matter anyway (I was/am married and flew home the day after so...) but it made me think about the possibility of someone falling in love without any real history and then staying in love over a great distance and period of time. Also, I've been married to my first love for many years and I often think about what I would do if my husband died. I'm still young so I hope that I could move forward but I've only ever loved him and I'm sure that loving someone else would be different and in some ways unrecognizable to me. I wonder how I would cope with that and if I could ever feel as deeply in love with another or really trust a different type of love. The novel evolved from those two thoughts.

CTW: What did the writing process look like?
FM: It was very inconsistent. I'd have days were I sat down to write with my first cup of coffee and then got a chill and realized my legs were asleep, I was parched and the sun was setting and I hadn't moved from my laptop. Then there were days were I did everything I could think of to get up from the computer and distract myself from the lack of flow. I'll go weeks without ever having a block and writing everyday because my mind is bursting with it the moment I stop and weeks of ignoring it for lack of inspiration. I'm trying to get more consistent but there are still really easy times and really dry times. The editing process happens in 3 stages for me once I finish the first complete draft (by which time I've edited the previous pages several times already). First, I read the entire thing, going through and adding where there are holes or inspiration strikes and deleting the glaring flaws. Second, I print the manuscript and go through with a pen, edit and then transcribe all the changes. Third, I give the manuscript to a few people (personal and professional) who will edit and share their insights with me, then I transcribe all that. 

CTW: What surprised you most about the writing process?
FM: How one day could be so easy, writing upwards of 6,000 words before lunch and other days it felt like a miracle if I could get 1,000 words before bedtime.

CTW: How do you keep yourself motivated to keep going?
FM: I remember that I'll never be a writer if I don't write and I'll never be a good writer if I don't keep putting works out there. I also keep in mind that I'll never be able to afford all the fabulous clothes, shoes and jewelry that I research for my characters if I don't write well and prolifically. 

CTW: Finish the sentence: I can't write unless I have...
FM: My laptop, a cup of coffee or coconut water (with pulp) and a movie or music playing in the background.

CTW: Who is your biggest fictional book crush? Why?
FM: Mr. Darcy! He is so intent and I like that character in people. I also love that he was willing to look inside himself and admit to his prejudice and make an effort to change that for Elizabeth and  he's confident and sexy! I think my husband shares a lot of Mr. Darcy's traits.

CTW: If you could be any fictional character for one day, who would you pick and why?
FM: I recently read the second Ishmael book by E.D.E.N. Southworth. I'd love to spend one day as Bea. She has more virtue and truth than most others and it seems to be a wellspring for joy in her life. I'd like to experience that for a day to try and replicate it in my life. Ishmael is a really great book that not many people have heard of. I highly recommend it!

CTW: What are the three most worn-out books on your bookshelf?
FM: Pride and Prejudice, The Great Gatsby, and my Bible.

CTW: What else is going on in your writing world?
FM: I'm actively working on two novels--a chick-lit, murder mystery and a more literary piece about three friends who are dealing with the evolving dynamic of their relationship as they become adults with different lives.

CTW: Anything else you'd like to share?
FM: Connect with me on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads and my webpage and buy The Golden Apple!

Excerpt of The Golden Apple
Before her husband died, Poppy had rearranged the furniture every few months—taking tables from one room and moving them to another, repainting walls, changing bed linens. Since he’d gone she hadn’t moved a single thing. The house was a museum to his last few weeks of life, like those houses that are furnished and set to look like they would have been when Benjamin Franklin had walked the halls or Emily Dickinson had written lines.

She didn’t think Josh was coming back or anything quite that delusional, she just wanted to be able to imagine him in their home the way he had actually been. If things changed it was like he’d never been there. He'd never sat on the sofa facing that wingback. He’d never eaten a meal in their kitchen painted blue. They hadn’t slept together under a green duvet. She was ready to leave their home, but not his memory in it. She slept fitfully her last night in their bed, thinking about what her life meant without him. They’d been together for so long that she could hardly imagine who she would be if she weren’t busy being his wife and partner.

It was like her first year in college, trying to decide which major to choose and imagining what her life course would be like if she were a design, business, marketing or public relations major. She would sit for hours in the grass that looked onto the quad and daydream about what her life could look like. Even after she chose PR she would think about all the what-ifs. She couldn’t do that with Josh. He was so crucial, so foundational and critical to what her life and who she turned into that it wasn’t possible to think of herself without him.

Poppy dreamt that she was walking with Josh through their pasture but he kept walking faster and faster. She asked him to slow down but he only turned to her and smiled. He crested the top of a hill and she lost sight of him. She ran to the top and looked over into the valley below but he wasn’t there. She woke up clammy and out of breath.

About the Author
Faerl Marie is a graduate of the University of New Mexico with a Bachelor's degree in Psychology and minors in English and Social Welfare. She has worked as a style consultant, personal shopper and wardrobe curator, among other things. Faerl Marie spends her days writing, dreaming about new stories and characters, walking her dog and adoring her husband. She lives in the idyllic mountains near Santa Fe, New Mexico. The Golden Apple is her first novel.

Connect with Faerl
Website
Facebook
Twitter

About the Book
MEET POPPY PARKER, a recent widow who knows she must move forward but has no idea which direction to take. To start fresh, Poppy moves from her idyllic home in Georgia to the grimy glamour of New York City to open up her own boutique and find a way to live and love without her husband.

Austin Bandy has been in love with Poppy since the moment he laid eyes on her years ago, right before her wedding. Now she is back, grieving and broken hearted by her nearly-perfect husband’s death—not Austin’s ideal romantic situation. He needs to wait for her to recover but not so long that someone else has the chance to move in and sweep his dream girl off her feet and keep him as a “good friend” forever.

Poignant, hopeful and fresh, Faerl Marie’s enchanting debut novel will have you hooked and ready to pursue your own hopes and dreams the moment you turn the final page. The Golden Apple is a charming and fashionable novel about loss, love and moving on without betraying your self, your past or those you love.

Buy the Book
Amazon

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March 14, 2014

daydream a little dream

Source: Pinterest

When I read Mindy Kaling's memoir, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (and Other Concerns), one part spoke to me more than any other. It's the section when she explains how she motivates herself to work by pretending her husband has been murdered and she's out for revenge, or something like it. Earlier this season on The Mindy Project, she uses rescuing Michael Fassbender from an earthquake as the inspiration to keep working out.

Who wouldn't find saving Fassy motivation to pump iron?

A couple of months later, I read Brea Brown's Daydreamer. Libby, the main character, often finds herself building a fantasy life with anyone from Colin Firth to Jude, the sexy new architect in her office. By the time she finds herself actually getting to know Jude, she's already built-up a completely different outcome in her head.

These bits would have made me laugh on their own, because they're funny. But what struck me most is how much I felt like I was looking in a mirror. Like Mindy and Libby, sometimes my imagination elaborately gets away from me when I'm stuck doing the mundane. We single ladies have to improvise.

Source: Queue Talent

It started while I was living in Carbondale, Ill., for a newspaper internship during summer 2008. This was the first time I'd been on my own. When you don't have anyone there to talk with at the end of the night, you're your own best friend. While I washed my underwear in the bathtub (did I mention I was on an internship and earning an intern's salary?), sometimes I'd imagine laughing about this later on a date with someone like Justin Timberlake or Robbie Williams, my major celebrity crushes at the time.
"Justin, I had to twist the water out of my underwear before hanging them on any available surface in the motel room -- from the shower curtain rod, on my dresser top, everywhere. You would have laughed at me."

"Can you believe how common I used to be, Robbie? Washing my own knickers."
(In this version of the fantasy, I became an ex-pat and moved to a charming estate in the British countryside with my international pop star boyfriend.)
More than five years later, I still get lost in these fantasies. They strike at any time and usually involve me being rescued in a completely anti-feminist, damsel-in-distress kind of way. The me who nearly minored in women's studies during college shakes her head. But the middle school me who used to borrow romance novels from her friends gets it. She understands that a girl can be swept off her feet without giving up her independence.

She'd understand how even the simplest, most mundane of tasks can trigger a mental vacation starring one of my favorite leading men. Each is more elaborate than the last.

Making My First Cup of Coffee
I stumble out of the bedroom. Eyes barely open, fingers grasping for a light switch I make it to the kitchen without tripping over either of the cats.

Coffee. I need coffee.

I fumble for a coffee filter and stub my toe on the refrigerator door. "Damn it."

Joseph Gordon-Levitt arrives in the kitchen moments later and flips on the light switch. "I told you I'd make coffee."

"I can get it," I insist. "I'm up."

In one swift movement, he takes the bag of coffee beans and gently grasps me by the shoulders and turns me out of the room. "Go back to bed. I'll bring you a cup. And some oatmeal."

Who am I to argue with a little chivalry this early in the morning? Besides, he's better at brewing coffee.

Cleaning the Kitchen
It's early on a Sunday morning, and I'm on my hands and knees scrubbing the floors. I've gone far too long without tidying up, and I need to stop living like I'm in college.
How do I let them get this bad? A ball of cat fur rolls by and I have my answer. I adore Jane and Bingley, but they sure make it hard to keep a clean house. Then I find a chunk of white sweet potato from one of my latest culinary adventures. I suppose I can't blame the mess entirely on them.
Brad Richards/Aaron Rodgers (depending on the season) gapes at me from the doorway. I freeze mid-motion. Oh, God. I must look terrible. He recovers before I do.
"You know I appreciate how independent you are." He crouches down next to me. "It's part of why I'm crazy about you."
"But..."
"But I think it's time you let me hire a maid service."
"I don't need a maid."
"No," he agrees. "You don't, but I'd feel better about being away so much if I knew you were busy working on your next novel instead of scrubbing floors."
He makes an excellent point. He holds out a hand, and after a beat, I give him the sponge. He stands and extends his other hand to help me rise to my feet. I hate feeling like I need someone to do my work for me, but I despise cleaning.

Source: Books with BettieLee

Reading Late at Night
The words blur on the page. I shake my head and blink, but the effort does little more than make me see spots. This is what I get for staying up all night reading. But I have to finish. I only have two more chapters to go, and the heroes life is in danger. Will the feisty heroine, who happens to be the love of his life, arrive in time to save him from almost certain peril?

I have to find out, which is why I'm burning the 3 a.m. oil. Only, my damn eyes don't won't seem to work properly. Maybe I need glasses.

"What are you still doing awake?"

I glance up to find a sleepy Benedict Cumberbatch standing in the entryway. I hold up the book hoping we can make this conversation quick. Not that I don't want to have a nice long chat with him -- with that voice, who wouldn't? I just really need to finish this chapter before my eyes cross.

"You're almost finished, then?" 

I nod, blinking hard. I once again try to focus on the page to no avail. I'm about to give up when a thought occurs. Could I ask him to do this for me? Should I? It's a fantastic idea, but it feels a bit manipulative. 

Before I can say anything, he crosses the room. Lifting my legs at the edge of the couch, he sits and settles my feet on his lap. Reaching out he waits for me to hand him the book.

"You don't mind?" I ask.

"Why would I? Now," licking his thumb he turns a page, "shall I read this as Rickman or play it straight."

"Surprise me."

Making the Bed
Bed skirt tucked under my arm, I bend over to pick up a corner of my mattress. The skirt slips out, and I fumble to catch it, dropping the mattress in the process. 

"Shit."

I glance around, raking my brain for ideas of how to do this. I try holding the skirt between my knees. It seems to work until I reach for the fabric, but the material won't come unless I ease my grip on the mattress. I try grasping on to the skirt and the mattress simultaneously, which seems to do the trick. 

Until it's time to spread

Ryan Gosling strolls into the room, freshly showered and shirtless, towel drying his hair. Catching me in my awkward state, he shakes his head, chuckling. 

"I told you I'd help make the bed after the shower."

"I got impatient."

"So I see." He toss the towel aside and crosses his arms, giving me a pointed look. "Are you willing to admit defeat and let me help you?"

"You expect me to raise the white flag?" He nods. Possible arguments run in and out of my head. None of them would sound anything but petty. Not that I can do much thinking when he's standing there, beads of water still clinging to his shoulders. With a sigh, I step away from the bed, picking up the skirt, which has once again fallen on the floor. Waving the fabric in my hand, I thrust it at him. "You win. I need help."

He takes the linen, his fingers brushing against mine. "See, that wasn't too bad."

I shrug, trying to keep the annoyance off my face. But, like usual, he sees through the act. With a laugh, he throws an arm around my shoulder and plants a kiss on my temple.

"What do you say we make this bed so I can take you out to brunch?"

My resistance slips. Ryan always knows what to say.

I'd like to think I'm independent enough not to need a man. And I don't. I make my own coffee, scrub my own kitchen floors, read my own books and even figure out a way to put the bed skirt on the box springs. I manage, but sometimes, when I'm particularly vulnerable -- or maybe have spent a little too much time on Netflix -- these thoughts pop into my head.

Am I a crazy fan girl? I certainly hope not, but who am I kidding? We all get a little weird sometimes, right?

(I figure I can't be completely out of my mind, because I do recognize that these are fantasies and in no way, shape or form an actual possibility. That has to count for something in the ol' sanity department, ey?)


Source: Reading Rambo

In the grand scheme of things, I'd probably be as satisfied having a personal assistant or cleaning service tackle these jobs. Sure, they may not come with the good looks, charm and sexual energy my celebrity crushes ooze, but they'll still get the job done.

Until then, I'll just schedule another Netflix marathon for this weekend and let my imagination do its thang.

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March 12, 2014

interview and excerpt from traci andrighetti

Blogger's Note: Text. Check out the rest of Traci's tour here.

Change the Word: What was the biggest challenge you faced?
Traci Andrighetti: Not knowing the basic components of a chick lit mystery. So, I enrolled in an online chick lit writing class, and it was one of the smartest decisions I’ve ever made.

CTW: How did you come up with the title?
TA: I was inspired by the titles of Italian author Gabriella Genisi. She writes this amazing series about a sexy police inspector named Lolita Lobosco, and her titles always have fruit in them. So, I decided that I wanted to have an Italian liqueur or wine with a color. Once I decided to start with Limoncello, the Yellow was a no-brainer.

CTW: How do you get in the mood to write?
TA: With a double soy latte! Unfortunately, I can’t drink coffee very often. So, I have it once a week on Saturdays when I sit down to write. And it really gets me going!

CTW: If you were stranded on an island (with no electricity), but could take three books to read to pass the time while you wait for rescue, what would you pick?
TA: Andrea Camilleri’s Il cane di terracotta (The Terracotta Dog), Janet Evanovich’s One For the Money and Johann David Wyss’ The Swiss Family Robinson

CTW: What literary character would you like to be your best friend?
TA: Oh, Bridget Jones. Without a doubt. I would freaking LOVE to party with her in London.

CTW: Who is your literary crush?
TA: No particular character comes to mind, unless you count the crush I had on Nancy Drew’s boyfriend Ned Nickerson when I was twelve. LOL! But as a devoted royal watcher, I have a secret crush on Meg Cabot’s The Princess Diaries.

CTW: What is the best book you've read recently?
TA: I lost years of my pleasure-reading life when I went back to graduate school to get a PhD. So, right now I’m catching up on a lot of “older” books that I missed. I just finished Kyra Davis’ Sex, Murder and a Double Latte and loved it

CTW: What inspires you to keep writing?
TA: I just really enjoy doing it. After working all week as a writer and editor at my day job, I can’t wait for the weekend so I can write—i.e., let off pent-up creative steam.

CTW: What's up next for you and your writing career?
TA: Well, I signed a two-book deal with Gemma Halliday Publishing for the Franki Amato Mystery series. So, right now I’m writing the second book, Prosecco Pink. Check out the book blurb on my website: traciandrighetti.com!

Excerpt of Limoncello Yellow
As I surveyed the scene at what looked eerily like the Bates Motel, I was shaking so badly from the cold and fear that I was afraid the gun in my holster would fire on its own. I longed for the cozy fire and protective embrace of my boyfriend that I'd felt as we'd exchanged Christmas presents just hours before.

"Folks, you need to go back to your rooms immediately," Officer Stan Stubbs announced to the crowd of curious motel guests that had gathered.

When the onlookers began to disperse, the woman in room six began moaning again. According to 911 dispatch, she had been in distress for at least half an hour.

I gave an involuntary shiver and wondered what kind of animal would want to cause a woman pain that produced that sort of moaning.

"Something about this doesn't feel like a regular domestic abuse situation," Stan said, drawing his gun. "We need urgent backup, Franki."

I nodded and grabbed the radio from my belt. "I have a 10-39 at the Twilight Motel on Manor Road. Request backup."

Stan began his approach to room six.

I put the device away and drew my gun. Then I hurried over and took my place on the opposite side of the door from Stan.

"I'm goin' in on the count of three," he said in a low voice. "I need to get to the john, and quick like."

I gasped. "Now, Stan?"

Stan was my partner on the Austin PD. As a rookie on the force, I'd been paired with a seasoned veteran of the department. Even though we'd spent the past six months together, I'd learned little from Stan except that he had a "wifey" named Juanita who worshipped the ground he walked on, he valued his handgun collection more than he did his now adult children, and he suffered from chronic gastrointestinal distress. And despite his self-proclaimed "legendary instinct" for cracking cases, he was perpetually baffled by his stomach issues even though the culprit was clear: a steady diet of jelly donuts and chorizo, bean and cheese breakfast tacos that he washed down with a gallon or so of coffee and Gatorade (Did I mention that he was also chronically dehydrated because of the diarrhea?). Needless to say, he spent the better part of every shift visiting the nearest men's room.

Ignoring my concern, Stan grasped his gun with both hands and slammed his right shoulder into the door. It flew open instantly, and he stormed into the room. "Police! Hands in the air!"

As I rushed in behind him, my gun drawn, the woman let out a hair-raising scream.

"What in the hell?" Stan shouted.

I followed his gaze to the bed, and a chill went through my body.

"Why, it's just a couple goin' at it," Stan scoffed.

I blinked hard. Was it my imagination playing tricks on me at 4:30 a.m., or was one member of that couple horribly familiar? As in, exchanging-gifts-by-a-cozy-fire familiar.

"Vince?" I said, my voice barely above a whisper as I stared at my boyfriend of over two years.

He looked at me like a deer caught in the headlights. "Franki?"

Make that, like a cheating rat caught in the act.

Stan looked from Vince to me. "You two know each other?"

I nodded, unable to speak. The chill that I'd felt initially had turned to a dull aching pain, and all I wanted to do was run from the room and cry. But I couldn't because I was on duty.

"I'll let you take it from here, Franki," Stan said as he rushed into the bathroom and slammed the door.

No sooner had he left the room than the woman leapt from the bed—all 6' 5" or so of her—wearing nothing but her outrage. "Zis invazion iz illegal in Deutschland."

"All right Franki," Vince began in a patronizing tone, "no crime has been committed, so why don't you put the gun down? Then we can all talk about this like rational adults."

No crime? Rational adults? The dull pain was quickly turning to red-hot anger. Before I could think it through, I shouted, "If you think for one minute that I'm going to sit down to chat with you and your German whore here—"

The furious fräulein kicked the gun from my hand, and I watched in what seemed like slow motion as it flew under the bed.

"Be careful, Franki," Vince warned. "She's here from Munich on a semi-pro wrestling tour."

"Oh, so now you're worried about my well being, Vince?" I asked, backing away from the German giantess. Now that I'd mentioned it, I was a little worried about me too. She was squatting down low with her hands raised, like she was going to make mincemeat of me.


About the Book 
From debut author, Traci Andrighetti, comes a tale of murder, mayhem, and meddling Sicilian grandmas...

Francesca "Franki" Amato is a tough-talking rookie cop in Austin, Texas—until an unfortunate 911 call involving her boyfriend, Vince, and a German female wrestler convinces her once and for all that she just isn't cut out for a life on the police force. So Franki makes the snap decision to move to New Orleans to work at her friend Veronica's detective agency, Private Chicks, Inc. But Franki's hopes for a more stable life are soon dashed when Private Chicks is hired by the prime suspect in a murder case to find out what really happened to a beautiful young boutique manager who was found strangled to death with a cheap yellow scarf. When she's not investigating, Franki is hoping to seduce handsome bank executive Bradley Hartmann, but most of her time is spent dodging date offers from a string of "good Italian boys"—make that not-so-good aging Italian men—that her meddlesome Sicilian grandma has recruited as marriage candidates. As Mardi Gras approaches and the mystery of the murdered shop girl gets more complicated, Franki must decipher the odd ramblings of a Voodoo priestess to solve both the murder and the mystery of her own love life.


About the Author
Traci Andrighetti is the author of the Franki Amato Mystery series. In her previous life, she was an award-winning literary translator and a Lecturer of Italian at the University of Texas at Austin, where she earned a PhD in Applied Linguistics. But then she got wise and ditched that academic stuff for a life of crime—writing, that is.

If she's not hard at work on her next novel, Traci is probably watching her favorite Italian soap opera, eating Tex Mex or sampling fruity cocktails, and maybe all at the same time. She lives in Austin with her husband, young son (who desperately wants to be in one of her books) and three treat-addicted dogs.


Connect with Traci
Website
Blog
Facebook
Twitter
Goodreads


Buy the Book
Amazon
Barnes & Noble
iTunes
Kobo
Smashwords


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March 10, 2014

drink on it

Blogger's Note: The weather is growing warmer in Nebraska. For some, that means planning a garden, scheduling a summer vacation or getting the grill started. For others, it means dealing with the fact that hot temperatures equate more skin exposure, which means getting in shape. I originally posted this on Good Humor Girl two years ago and thought I'd share it with you, today. I've added in a few musical selections to motivate you as you put these work-outs to work for yourself. Enjoy!

Source: arinas74 (stock.xchng)

Swimsuit season is upon us. If your body is beach ready, congratulations. You can proudly wear a bikini and relax by the pool without worrying about everyone judging your flabby underarms or cellulite-ridden thighs.

If you are like me and have never met a basket of French fries you did not like, join me for a drink. I know it sounds crazy, but exercise and alcohol are a great mix. After a night at the bar I discovered boozercise, and I want to share the benefits with you.

Quick disclaimer: I am not a licensed or unlicensed health or fitness professional. What I am is a twenty-something looking to shed a few pounds while remaining a regular at my favorite bar. I do not condone having more than one or two drinks before or during your workout. I also suggest avoiding heavy machinery, including cars, during and after boozercise.

Now on to the work-outs.


Exercise 1: Beerlates 
Beer plus Pilates

A great introduction into the boozercise world, Beerlates is both relaxing and invigorating while working your core. Follow a standard Pilates routine, which you can find for free on Hulu or at a local library. Begin with arm exercises, and hold a closed bottle of ice cold beer in each of your hands. This adds a little bit of weight giving you a great work-out. After completing these routines, open one of the bottles and sip in between sets. For a 30-minute work-out drink one beer. Allow yourself up to two during a 60-minute routine.  The number of calories you burn-off will vary depending on your choice of beer and the intensity of your work-out.

Calories burned an hour: Between 270 for beginner and 500 for advanced workouts.
Calories ingested with two 12-ounce drinks: Between 200 calories for a light beer and 500 for a dark beer (go light).


Exercise 2: Vodba 
Vodka plus Zumba

This one is super easy, and the rewards definitely outweigh any cons. Take two shots of vodka before beginning your Zumba routine. This will loosen you up and give you the confidence to shake your booty. Perhaps my favorite of the boozercises, you will burn a lot more calories than you ingest. You can do this easily at home with a dance DVD.

Calories burned an hour: 500 to 800
Calories ingested with two shots: About 110 calories



Exercise 3: Jogtails
Cocktails plus jogging

This will sound crazy, but I never feel more motivated to go for a jog than after a couple of happy hour drinks after work. Load up your favorite bar tunes on an MP3 player and hit the trails. Feel free to sing along. Just ignore the stares from your fellow runners.

Calories burned an hour: 350-plus, depending on your pace.
Calories ingested with two drinks: This depends on what you drink. Stick to vodka sodas and you will log about 150 calories total.


Exercise 4: Walkabout-and-over
A hangover plus walking and lots of water

This one might be the most painful, but it is ultimately the most beneficial. After a night of drinking, grab a couple of bottles of water and go for a walk. Go ahead and play some music, but select soft tunes. Sunglasses are also a must. You will feel much better after sweating out the booze from the night before.

Calories burned an hour: At a pace of 3 miles per hour, expect to burn between 250 to 500 calories. If you are faster, you will burn more.

Calories ingested with two drinks: Zero. Water is a zero-calorie miracle.

See, it all comes down to science. By burning more calories than you ingest, you are certainly no worse off. You can get a nice workout and a buzz. Now remember, drink responsibly. Two drinks in one hour is plenty.

Feel free to experiment and find our own favorite combinations for exercise and alcohol. If you find one you like, please share.

Good luck!


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March 5, 2014

excerpt of 'storm in a b cup'

Blogger's Note: Lindy Dale is on tour for her novel Storm in B Cup. I'm pleased to share this excerpt with you, today. Be sure to scroll to the bottom for your chance to enter the Rafflecopter contest.

About the Book
“It’s my funeral. If I want you to play Bon Jovi as they wheel my body away to be cremated you’ll do it.”

The horrified look on Brendan's face says he'll do anything but. “People will laugh.”

“I want them to. I want a funeral where everyone stands around and remembers the funny things I did, and then they get really pissed."


Sophie Molloy has Breast Cancer. She didn’t think it was cancer to begin with, she thought it was another cyst. She also didn’t think it would be the catalyst for a series of life changing events, none of which involved chemotherapy. Within months of her diagnosis, Sophie loses not only her right breast but her boyfriend of three years, her house and her best friend. Her life spirals from great to bad, then ugly. Nothing can make it better, not even the crazy care packages her mother keeps sending from Melbourne.

To make matters worse, Sophie fears she’s developing a crush on the plastic surgeon that will be reconstructing her breast. Dr. Hanson has the bedside manner of an angel and the looks to match. He’s so caring and compassionate, Sophie begins to believe he cares about her in a most non-doctor-patient kind of way. But he doesn’t, of course. He’s merely her doctor. Or does he?

A fictional tale, based on the author's medical journey with the disease, Storm in a B Cup is a warm-hearted glimpse into the world of a Breast Cancer sufferer that will have you laughing out loud.

Excerpt
About an hour later, Brendan arrives home late from squash to find me surfing the net on the new TV. Having located the last stash of chocolates — which I’d hidden so well even I couldn’t find them in the first search — I’ve demolished the lot, washing them down with a bottle of red. I’m feeling a little bit tipsy. Or it could be a sugar rush.

Raising his eyebrows at the coffee table, which is littered with wrappers and bearing a couple of wine rings, Brendan screws the papers into a tight ball and takes them and the empty bottle to the kitchen. He returns with a sponge, which he uses to wipe the table before returning it to its plastic bowl under the kitchen sink.

“Are you drunk?” he asks, returning to the room.

“Possibly.”

“Is that wise?”

“Probably not. I’ll have a massive hangover in the morning.”

“That’s not what I meant.”

“I realise that.”

I glare at him. Since the first traumatic days of my diagnosis, Brendan appears to have returned to his old self. Yes, he’s sporting a lot of new ties and at odd moments, I catch him studying me with a sad look on his face, but I think he’s trying to support me as best he can by acting as normally as he can. Which would of course, include chastising me for drinking too much and making a mess on his coffee table.

He walks around the sofa and flops down beside me. His body is clammy from his game of squash and his hair is standing in jagged spikes on top of his head. Somehow, he still manages to look devastatingly handsome.

“What’s this?” Brendan picks up my To Do list.

“A few things I need to sort out.” I try to snatch the list away but he holds it at arm’s length and begins to read.

“You’re planning your funeral? Jesus, Sophie!”

“You don’t think I’d let you be in charge do you?”

With the piece of paper in his hand, Brendan gets up and heads for the fridge. He pulls out a bottle of water and drinks half before wiping his mouth on the back of his hand. He slings an arm over the open door. “Why are you planning your funeral?”

“In case I die on the operating table.”

“You’re not going to die on the operating table.” Shaking his head, he finishes his water and takes a three point shot at the recycling bin.

“I know, but in case I do, I’ve left you a list of requests.”

Brendan comes back to the sofa and picks up a second piece of paper from beside me. It has a heading entitled ‘Sophie’s Funeral’ and a page-long dot-pointed set of ideas. His eyes scan the page and he shakes his head again.

“I’m not playing Bon Jovi at your funeral, Soph.”

“It’s my funeral. If I want you to play Have A Nice Day as they wheel my body away to be cremated, you’ll do it.”

“But it’s a rock song.”

“I know. I want people to be happy. That song makes me happy. Speaking of which, I want U2 as well. Walk On.  And P!nk, Bad Influence while you do the photo montage.”

“People will laugh.”

“I want them to. People shouldn’t cry because I’m gone. They should have a wake where everyone stands around and remembers the funny things I did and then they get really pissed. I do not want crying and I definitely don’t want you to sprinkle my remains in some tacky rose garden somewhere.”

“Where will I put you then?”

“In an urn on the mantel. Then I can heckle you when you put the moves on a new woman.”

He looks horrified.

“Joke.”

He takes another look at the list. “They can’t sew your boob back on after you die.”

“Why? It's no good to anybody but me. The surgeon’s going to sew me up anyway, so I don’t see the difference.  It doesn’t have to be neat sewing. It just needs to be there so I’m complete and look nice in my death outfit.”

“Maybe you should discuss that with the doctor next Thursday.”

I snatch the pieces of paper from him. “All right. I will. I might get a sensible answer from her.”

“Hmm.”

I put the list aside and glancing at my watch, I pick up the phone. I scrawl another item while I wait.

Eyebrows.

“Hello? Anna? This is Sophie Molloy. I was wondering if you could fit me in for a full body wax, mani-pedi and an eyebrow wax and tint before next Thursday?”

Brendan’s mouth has hit the carpet. “You’re going to hospital, not the Oscars,” he hisses.

“Shhh!" I hold my hand up and turn away so I can't see him making faces at me. "One o’clock will be great. Thanks Anna. Yeah, see you then.” I hang up the phone and calmly scratch an item off the list.

“Sophie.”

The only thing I need now is luggage. I really need luggage.

“Sophie!” Brendan snatches the remote from me and turns the TV off. I can see he’s getting annoyed, so I try to give him my attention.

“Yes?”

“How much have you spent? So far?”

I do a quick tally. “Roughly eight hundred.”

“You do understand that’s two plane tickets to Melbourne?”

“Says the man who spent a small fortune on technology the other day.”

He gives me the look.

“I’m going to hospital. I need to look my best. People are going to see me naked.”

“I’m pretty sure they’ve seen naked people before. They won’t care if your toes aren’t buffed."

"I know, but I will. If I’m going to be unconscious in an operating theatre with a bunch of people I don’t know, I won’t be giving them any excuse to talk about me, except to say how pretty my hair is.”

My lip starts to wobble when I hear how incredibly shallow I sound and I collapse into Brendan’s arms. Sobbing.

“It’s okay. I understand. You can’t control the cancer, so you’re trying to control everything else in your life. You don’t like not being in control.”

“Are you saying I’m a control freak?”

He pauses for a minute, knowing that his sex life hangs in the balance here. If he says the wrong thing, I could cut him off. For a very long time.

“I’m saying you like to be organised and this has thrown you for a loop. You can’t orchestrate this part of your life. You have to let the professionals do their job.”

I understand what he’s saying and he’s perfectly right. I am an organiser. But I like things to be a certain way. That’s me. I reach up and peck his cheek. I feel so much better now I know I’m not having some sort of pre-op breakdown.

“Brendan?”

“Yeah?”

“If you don’t play Bon Jovi at my funeral, I’ll come back and haunt you while you’re having sex.”

“That sounds kinky.”

“Don’t bet on it.”

About the Author
Lindy lives on acreage in country Western Australia where she spends her days teaching, writing, walking and looking after orphan lambs. (See Daisy Darling)

She’s a hopeless U2 and Bon Jovi fan - as judged by her collection of tour t-shirts. She’s also rugby union fanatic, coffee and champagne lover, chocoholic, over-exaggerator, trashy TV, music and iPhone addict.

Lindy has been writing in the genre of Chick Lit & Women's Fiction for the past ten years but has also tried her hand at a paranormal romance in the book, Angel’s Bend. Chick Lit remains her main love.

Connect with Lindy
Website
Facebook
Goodreads
Twitter

Buy the Book
Amazon
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March 3, 2014

the slump



More like quit playing games with my head.

Writing is hard. I never imagined it would be easy, but this is much harder than I imagined. Some days, writing seems virtually impossible. It's not a matter of not having the time. I carve out time daily to work on writing, re-writes or editing. It's making the time count that becomes the problem.

While I never seem to be at an end for coming up with story ideas, actually committing them to paper (or screen) sometimes seems impossible. It's something all writers face at times. Some call it writer's block, but that doesn't seem entirely accurate. For me, it's more of writing performance anxiety.
Sitting down to write, I stare at my screen willing the words to flow, but I freeze. I'm back in high school senior year. I'm standing outside the audition room for the state honor band. My hands turn cold and clammy. My chest and stomach grow tense. I can't breathe. I take a deep breath to settle my nerves, but nothing happens. The proctor calls my name. I grab my audition piece and step into the room. 

"Laura Chapman. Millard West. Omaha. Oboe." I lift the instrument and begin to play. Instead of the beautiful melodies I've practiced before and after school for the past few weeks, I miss notes. I start sounding like a duck. I never sound like a duck. I can usually run through my scales and arpeggios at top speeds, but today I have to slow below the recommended audition speed to hit my mark. Even then, I still miss the occasional note. 

I push through the audition, even though I've messed this up beyond redemption. I thank the proctor and leave the room. My mom and band director stand outside the room. No one says anything, but we all know. I blew it.

It's similar with my writing. I can force myself to go through the motions, but it's not right. Something is off. I'm taking much longer than I should, and I'm still missing the mark.

This is by no means a problem unique to me or others, I'm sure. But lately, it seems to be my biggest obstacle in completing any projects. At all hours of the day and night, dozens of questions and concerns race through my mind.
Why isn't this coming out the way I imagined?
How come I can't articulate this properly?
What good is my journalism degree and English minor if I constantly make stupid grammatical errors and typos?
What if people don't like my characters or story?
What if people don't like me?
What if people hate the writing?
What if I royally screw this up?

See what I mean? No end of ideas or thoughts. I haven't talked much about my writing journey as of late, because it's been a painfully slow and frustrating process. I could make excuses. I've been a bit under the weather. It's winter, which means winter blues. I'm tired. But those aren't actually the reasons my progress is muddy at best.

Most of the slowness comes from my fear of failure. A fear of disappointing friends, family, readers and myself. I recognize the futility of such worries. If one of my friends came to me with any of these concerns, I'd have answers prepared to motivate them.
Try a different approach - you'll find the right way to tell this story.
Take a break. Step away from this section and focus on something else.
That's what editors are for. Don't obsess. You can come back later and fix little errors.
Do you like your characters and story? Good. Forget everyone else.
Then they're idiots. Don't worry about them.
You can only do your best and work your hardest. There isn't a single book, TV show, movie or story that every person in the world universally likes.
You'll make mistakes. We all do. But you can learn from them. We're all works in progress.

It's hard to take your own advice, though, isn't it?

Some days, the fear is so debilitating, I consider deleting all of my works and progress, shutting down my blog and ignoring my already published titles. But I can't. Because my desire to tell stories wouldn't go away. And as I look back at what I've written, I'm annoyed with myself. Annoyed because I sound so damn whiny, but mostly irritated that right now I'm playing mental games, and it's pissing me off.

For myself, I probably should have opened up about this sooner. But sometimes, even though the issue is right there you don't want to acknowledge it. This is me admitting I'm having a tough time of this writing gig. I'd like to think this is the first step toward resolving it, but that's not quite true.

Like anything worth having or doing, being a writer comes with its challenges. Right now, this is mine. There's no quick fix. No switch to turn on or off. But finding my way back is something I have to do. And I will do it. It just may take me time.

How's that for a Monday post? I hope it doesn't come off as too self-important or obnoxious, but it's what I have going on. I'd be doing a disservice to telling my writing story if I made it sound like sunshine and rainbows every day. Every journey has highs and lows. I'm at a low now, but I'll get back to the high. Having this low will only make me appreciate it more.

And because I started this post with Backstreet Boys, I have to bring balance to the force by ending it with a somewhat-related, but mainly arbitrary 'NSYNC jam.


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March 2, 2014

the great chick lit ebook giveaway

GiveawayEbook

Enter this giveaway using the Rafflecopter below for a chance to be our lucky winner! We’re offering FIVE lucky winners a bundle of ALL the following ebooks:
After Wimbledon by Jennifer Gilby Roberts
afterw
After 12 years on the pro. tennis tour and four years with her sort-of boyfriend, Lucy Bennett has had enough. She wants real life… and real love.

Her life, her decision. Right? Well, no one else seems to think so. With opinions on all sides, Lucy’s head is spinning. And she’s stumbling right into the arms of long-term crush and fellow player Sam. Shame her boyfriend – his arch-rival – would sooner smash a racquet over their heads than agree to a simple change of partners.

As the Wimbledon Championships play out, Lucy fights for her life on and off the courts. The question is: what will she be left with after Wimbledon?

Amazon.com
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Thirty-Two Going on Spinster by Becky Monson

Julia Dorning is a spinster, or at least on the road to becoming one. She has no social life, hates her career, and lives in her parent’s basement with her cat, Charlie.

With the arrival of Jared Moody, the new hire at work, Julia’s mundane life is suddenly turned upside down. Her instant (and totally ridiculous) crush on the new guy causes Julia to finally make some long-overdue changes, in hopes to find a life that includes more than baking and hanging out with Charlie.

But when the biggest and most unexpected change comes, will the new and improved Julia be able to overcome it? Or will she go back to her spinster ways?

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Kobo

Dangled Carat by Hilary Grossman
dangled Hilary had gotten used to dating the commitment-phobic Marc, thirteen years her senior. They had a great relationship–why rush into things? She saw no need to pressure him for marriage, believing that when the time was right, he would propose.

But after they had been together for four years, their friends decided to take matters into their own hands, pushing Marc to propose and making Hilary realize how much she really did want to marry the man that she loved. Unfortunately, Marc still wasn’t ready–and their friends’ meddling in the form of a faux engagement party led to a disastrous New Year’s Eve that brought their relationship to an inevitable turning point.

In this relatable, light-hearted, and playful memoir, Hilary reminisces about her life before Marc—from the insecure and awkward teenage years she spent in a back brace and dealing with the loss of her father, to her early relationships and, finally, to the day she met Marc and realized that she really wanted to see him again. Through their first date—even though Hilary was technically seeing someone else at the time—and the ease of their early time together until Marc first decided that they were moving too quickly, up until that fateful New Year’s Eve, Hilary shares the details of their relationship and how Marc’s inability to commit led her to find an inner strength and confidence she didn’t know she possessed.

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Conditional Love by Cathy Bramley
condition
Meet Sophie Stone, a thirty-something serial procrastinator. Tesco knickers, Take That and tea with two sugars is about as exciting as it gets. Sophie’s life is safe and predictable, which is just the way she likes it, thank you very much.  But when her boyfriend dumps her on Valentine’s Day and a mysterious benefactor leaves her an inheritance, even Sophie has to accept that change is afoot. There is a catch: in order to inherit, Sophie must agree to meet the father she has never seen.

Not a fan of surprises, Sophie would rather not; why not let sleeping dads lie? Besides, her mother would kill her. With interference from an evil boss, bickering flat mates, warring parents and a sexy ex-boyfriend, Sophie has plenty to contend with without an architect who puts his foot in it every time he opens his mouth.

But it soon becomes clear that she will have to face the past and learn some uncomfortable home truths before she can finally build a future on her own terms.

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The Shopping Swap by Erin Brady
shopping
Maggie Andrew has a problem. She needs to convince Richard, her attorney boyfriend of five years, that he’s finally ready for a commitment. How? By planning an unforgettable night starting with a romantic dinner for two and ending in the bedroom. And to help things along, Maggie has spent half of her salary on sexy black lingerie from Crandall’s Department Store that Richard won’t be able to resist.

Except, once home, Maggie realizes she has someone else’s shopping bag and instead of her very expensive lingerie, she’s stuck with a housecoat that wouldn’t turn anyone’s head, least of all Richards. When Maggie goes back to the scene of the swap, she runs into Benjamin Saunders, a tall, dark and handsome stranger, who not only has what she wants but may also turn out to have what she needs.

Suddenly what Maggie thinks she has with Richard is called into question and she’s not sure of anything.

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Zoey and the Moment of Zen by Cat Lavoie
zoey
When coffee shop owner Zoey Everwood takes her obsession with ex-boyfriend Braden too far, everyone—except Zoey—is convinced a bit of fun in the sun at the Moment of Zen Wellness Resort will help her get over him once and for all.

But Zoey’s relaxing vacation turns out to be anything but peaceful when she meets Shane Lawson, a resort guest who bears a striking resemblance to Braden. And things get even more complicated when the resort’s owner starts spilling secrets about Zoey’s aunt Nessa, the woman who raised her. Add a snarky Wellness Coordinator and Nate Holmes—Shane’s grumpy friend—to the mix, and you’ve got the recipe for a perfect tropical storm.

When Zoey comes back home with a new husband instead of tacky souvenirs, she must convince everyone she hasn’t completely lost her mind. As Zoey and Shane struggle to keep the magic alive outside the resort, Zoey discovers that she isn’t the only one having trouble letting go of the past. And when Nate drops a bombshell that changes everything, Zoey must decide if the old saying is true—what happens at the Moment of Zen stays at the Moment of Zen.

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Saving Saffron Sweeting by Pauline Wiles
saving
Grace Palmer’s British friends all think she’s living the American Dream. But her design business is floundering and when she discovers her husband is cheating with her best client, she panics and flees home to England.

The tranquil village of Saffron Sweeting appears to be a good place for Grace to lick her wounds, but the community is battling its own changes. Reluctantly, Grace finds herself helping her new neighbours as they struggle to adjust and save their businesses. However, not everyone has the same opinion on what’s good for the village. The charismatic new man in her life may have one speculative eye on Grace, but the other is firmly on profit. How will she navigate the tricky path between her home and her happiness?

With gentle humour and generous helpings of British tea and cake, Saving Saffron Sweeting explores one woman’s need to define herself through her career and community, before she can figure out who should be by her side.

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Super Natalie by Caitlin McKenna
super
Natalie Dalton can’t hold down a job. It’s not because she is constantly late, has a terrible work ethic or doesn’t try. It’s because she is plagued with a gift she’d rather give back. Natalie can communicate with ghosts—annoying, persistent ghosts who choose to have a word with her at the most inconvenient times, often at work with bosses and colleagues around.

Fired from her umpteenth job and nearly out of cash, Natalie accepts an offer to appear on the low-brow, sensationalist TV talk show, World’s Weirdest Hobbies, to discuss her unusual ability, but more importantly to collect a paycheck.

Unfortunately, a spirit appears as she’s being interviewed and ends up embarrassing the host of the show by revealing a juicy secret. The host goes ballistic and the clip of his attack goes viral, which catapults Natalie into the limelight and lands her a reality series as a paranormal investigator.

With her financial future secure, it looks like Natalie’s life is finally going to run smoothly for a change. Then she meets Ryan Emery, a gorgeous, sweet, funny guy who is working on her new series. Natalie could really fall for him except for the fact that Ryan is a major skeptic. He doesn’t believe in ghosts and never will. This presents a problem when a persistent spirit wants Natalie to give Ryan a message—one that will dramatically change his life. Now Natalie must somehow get Ryan to believe. Can she do it without ruining a potentially great relationship?

As Natalie carefully navigates her precarious situation, she suffers a loss which makes her question her own beliefs. With both of their lives turned upside down, Natalie and Ryan lean on each other and soon learn that what they truly need cannot always be explained with logic and reason.

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Hard Hats and Doormats by Laura Chapman

Lexi Burke has always been a stickler for following rules and procedures. As a human resources manager for a leading Gulf Coast chemical company, it’s her job to make sure everyone else falls in line, too.

But after losing out on a big promotion–-because her boss sees her as too much of a yes-woman––Lexi adopts a new policy of following her heart instead of the fine print. And her heart knows what it wants: Jason Beaumont, a workplace crush who is off limits based on her previous protocol.

While navigating a new romance and interoffice politics, Lexi must find the confidence to stand on her own or face a lifetime of following someone else’s orders. Who says nice girls have to finish last?

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The Great British Date Off by Sheila Brady
greatb
Londoner Maggie Sullivan hadn’t exactly spent her teenage years beating off hordes of panting admirers with a stick. In fact, most of it was spent alone in her bedroom either working on her Spice Girls, Union Jack dress or trying out her dead mother’s heated rollers.

All that had changed in her final year at school. As the object of her all-consuming school girl crush, Steve, had remarked at the time; who would have thought losing a little puppy fat, discovering hair product and investing in a Wonderbra would make such a difference? More than ten years on, he still has ‘plans’ for Maggie … but not until he’s got one or two things out of his system.

Only now Maggie has announced her intention to move to the country and he is not happy; especially since he’s noticed a ‘country toff’ rival ‘sniffing around’. He is more than delighted that Maggie’s move is turning out to be somewhat of a disaster. While she had been expecting village fetes, cricket teas and to be able to finally unleash her inner baker; in reality her cake-making efforts are being described as ‘lacklustre’, her godfather and boss is being referred to in very derogatory terms and somehow an extremely embarrassing photo has appeared in the local paper.

An overheard conversation and a chance late night encounter lead Maggie to conclude that widower and local ‘catch’, Will is responsible and there is a price to be paid, right? How can she know that her day (or rather, intimate evening) of reckoning will set in motion a roller coaster ride of high points and humiliations that will put to the test some of her most long standing relationships and lead her to question everything she thinks she knows about her capacity for love…

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End Date: Midnight 14 March 2014 EST